This was one of the very best from a recent tasting of pure chardonnay extra-dry grower champagnes.
Maison Fleury was established in 1895 in Courteron, in Côte des Bar, southern Champagne. The 15 hectares are all cultivated biodynamically. In fact Fleury was the first producer in Champagne to be certified biodynamic. Jean-Sébastien Fleury has since 2009 been responsible for both vineyards and cellar. He introduced plowing with horses in the vineyards, and today half of them are cultivated in this way. It was also Jean-Sébastien who introduced the first sulphur-free vintage champagne.
Near to Chablis, the grapes are grown on Kimmerigian calcareous clay soils. Most of the vineyards are located on steep slopes facing south and south-west, where the grapes get a lot of sun and thus high ripening. The grapes are hand-picked, and the wines are spontaneously fermented in steel tanks and in 6,000 liter old oak vats, where they also ripen. Cuvée Cépage Blancs Extra-Brut 2011 is elaborated from 100% chardonnay. 35% is vinified in oak barrel.
Cépages Blancs Extra-Brut 2011(Maison Fleury)
Straw yellow, careful mousse. Lovely complexity on the nose: citrus, green apple, white flowers, brioche, and a touch dried fruit. Persistent acidity, almonds and lovely fruit throughout; and even if it’s a dry wine there is a hint of honey in the finish.
Jura is a small, yet diverse wine region. Stéphane Tissot is one of its most dynamic and creative producers, and boasts a huge varieties of styles. Here he has made a sparkling wine with vin de paille in its dosage. And vin de paille? A traditional Jura thick and sweet dessert wine made of dried grapes.
Indigène ferments with indigenous yeasts, hence the name. Then the second fermentation is begun with vin de paille. This wine has the same grape composition as Tissot’s crémant Normale: 55% chardonnay, 35% pinot noir, the rest poulsard and trousseau. These two wines are separated after the first fermentation, when Indigène is dosed with vin de paille, added daily in tiny amounts. The second fermentation takes six months – and adds to the richness and complexity of the wine.
Straw yellow. Aromas of clementine, yellow apple, spices, dried fruit, bread and nuts. Glyceric, smooth with good concentration, and a long salty finish.
As the rain set in on the rugged coast we wanted a bold wine for the cheeseboard. Luckily this Côtes du Jura was offered by the local store.
Domaine Maire is one of the largest producers of Jura covering 234 hectares of vines, and they sell their wines at affordable prices. The word tradition on the label here refers to a typical blend of the local white grapes varieties ahardonnay and savagnin. Maire’s cuvée comprises around 80% chardonnay and 20% savagnin.
Chardonnay, originating from Burgundy but cultivated in Jura since the 10th Century, has become a native, and is especially well suited on limestone and light soils. The savagnin is typical to Jura and matures slowly on grey marl soils. It’s the ideal grape variety for an oxydative maturing process under a veil of “flor”, referred to locally as “sous voile”. Most of the chardonnay was aged in stainless steel tanks for 2-3 months, the rest on fine lees in wooden vats for the same period of time. A part of the savagnin juices were matured in oak barrels under flor for 8 to 12 months.
Grand Héritage Tradition 2017(Dom. Maire)
Yellow with green hints; apples and flowers (from chardonnay), flor, butter, roasted almonds and nuts (from the savagnin ageing); full in the mouth, good and persistent acidity, meaty.
Food: Comté or blue cheeses, tapas, shellfish, paté, charcuterie
Here is the second part of the report from this year’s Vella Terra. We leave Spain, crosses over to Portugal, then from France and to the east, then to the north of Europe.
Fernando Paiva came with his grandson João Goucha, who studies enology in Vila Real. Fernando’s estate Quinta da Palmirinha is in Lixa, south in the Vinho Verde. He is a pioneer in biodynamic farming in Portugal, uses chamomile flowers to avoid the use of sulphur in his natural wines – and is well covered in this blog. (Read about a visit to the estate here.) His Azal and Loureiro varitals were typical and up to standard. Leviano was made for the first time in 2020, that I tasted in Porto last summer. It’s a loureiro, now in the 2021 vintage, made with 3 months skin-contact. This makes it an orange wine, or “curtimento” in Portugal. Golden to orange; aroma of ginger and flowers; full in the mouth with some structure, and a super, integrated acidity.
João Tavares da Pina is found in Penalva do Castelo in Dão. (Read here about a visit to his estate.) The family’s Quinta da Boavista dates back to 1650 and is found at an altitude of 550 meters on deep granite, quartz, clay and shale soils. These vineyards are ideal for grapes like touriga nacional, alfrocheiro and rufete. And not least for the variety jaén (mencía), a speciality of the quinta.
I love his series Rufia (meaning punk), young, fresh wines. Among those tasted this time, why not mention the Rosé 2020, from rufete, touriga and jaen. Salmon-coloured, with raspberry and wild berries, rounded with a very careful tannin. Very interesting was his Tretas 2020, a jaen and touriga nacional. It was macerated on the skins for 4 days and kept in inox for 6 months before bottling (unfiltered, unfined). Tretas means bullshit in local slang. The wine is serious fun: A quaffable glou-glou, but with depth; cherry red, ripe red fruits and with some structure.
I hadn’t met Rodrigo Melo before, but I understand that this is a producer to watch. Rodrigo is from Brazil, but worked for many years in natural wine distribution in London. In 2018 he started his own project and came to Portugal, where he already knew its terroirs and grapes. He bought 4 hectares of land with 30-year-old vines with organic certification in northern Lisboa, that is Quinta da Ermegeira. He also works with biodynamic techniques, and the winemaking is with very low intervention.
Rodrigo showed interesting samples under the label Selva. Noiva 2021 was a different chardonnay, with botrytis and with some residual sugar. Here we chose Cristovan 2020. It is an orange wine (in Portuguese curtimenta) made from arinto, in a cement tank of 1.700 liters. The colour is light orange after 10 days fermentation on skins, the fruit is lovely and the acidity is refreshing. Only 11% alcohol.
Domaine Balansa is a 15-hectare estate in Corbières, established in 2015. This family project has an organic approach to farming and also runs tourism activities in the most sustainable way possible. I tasted the whole portfolio, various styles from southern French grapes. This time we could maybe focus on one of the more “serious” wines, Can del Rey 2020 from Fitou. It’s made from carignan and grenache, from 100 year old vines on hillsides, made with some carbonic maceration and matured some months in oak. It’s dark in colour, with youngish blue; aroma of wild berries, some balsamic, and slight hint of toffee too; good weight, fine tannins and with a balancing acidity.
The Les Vins Pirouettes label covers seventeen independent Alsatian winegrowers committed to organic and biodynamic farming. Each viticulturist grows the grapes on his own land and makes the wine in his own cellar. It’s an initiative by Christian Binner, and the idea was to give the growers a helping hand so that they didn’t need to sell their grapes to cooperatives.
Many times I have been impressed by the energy and creativity behind the wines and the dedication behind the labels. In spite of this, it can be (for me) many new wines each time. As a general rule, we can say that they are affordable natural wines.
Among the most rewarding wines this time was Saveurs 2018 from producer Rafaël, a fruity, citrussy and juicy silvaner (this label also covers a blend). More slender, but equally energetic was David‘s Riesling Glou-Glous 2018, a fresh appley, citrussy wine. There was also a delicious orange gewürztraminer from Franck, L’Étalon 2019. After 10 days of skin-contact it was only light orange, with apples, pears and a (pleasant) vinegary bitterness towards the end.
Foradori of Trentino has been covered many times on this blog, so feel free to search for it all. (Here is a recent post.) Elisabetta Foradori. Earlier I have met her sons, but this was the first time that I have met the beautiful Elisabetta Foradori herself. At a young age she did remarkable work in cultivating organically, later implementing biodynamic methods, and caring for the native varieties of her area, especially the near-extinct teroldego.
I didn’t taste many wines this time, only some whites, like the all-time favourite Nosiola. I also got the chance to be reminded how good was the Fuoripista Pinot Grigio, now in its 2016 vintage. Grown in sandy limestone, it’s fermented 8 months on skins and further aged in Spanish tinajas (amphoras) for 5 month. It has a reddish hue, is flowery with red berries and herbs, and has a concentrated yet smooth appearance in the mouth.
About Carussin of Piemonte I could say the reverse (than Foradori), earlier I have only met the mother Bruna Ferro Carussin. This time I got the opportunity to greet her son Luca Carussin Garberoglio. It’s a winery that I know well from the Norwegian market, and their economic barbera Asinoi has been a house wine in my house for a long time now. Here I tasted a few wines, among them Tra L’Altro 2020, an inspiring, flowery, dry moscato/cortese. Lia Ví 2017, is a superb wine, a single parcel barbera harvested later than others. It’s made from a 35-year-old vineyard planted by Luca’s grandfather, on the sandy soil just in front of the winery. It’s a concentrated wine that shows that barbera also can do with some structure. Elegant aroma, cool fruits (cherry), herbs and flowers, and a concentrate taste with fine tannins and lovely integrated acidity. And it’s not expensive.
Over to Argentina: Stella Crinita is the natural wine project of Joana Foster and Ernesto Catena in Vista Flores de Tunuyán, Valle de Uco. The Catena family is indeed an important one in the history of Argentine wine, having been responsible for bringing the malbec variety to America, as the story goes.
All fermentations are spontaneous, no SO2 added at any stage, nothing fined nor filtered. These are some keywords. The vineyard has been biodynamic certified since 2012. The soils are sandy and clayey and located at 1,100 meters above sea level.
I tasted interesting pét nats and reds from a.o. malbec, syrah, cabernet sauvignon, and a varietal barbera. Petit verdot can be one-dimensional and dull. Their Petit Verdot 2020 was not. On the contrary this single-vineyard biodynamic wine was a linear, long and quite elegant wine from this somewhat difficult grape. Cherry red, plums and blackberries with spice (nutmeg), fine tannins, fresh fruit (cherry) and also a touch of wood and leathertones.
It was also here I had to travel to meet Martin Bech-Ravn, a Danish cider producer, home brewer and artist based in Ekeberg, a neighbourhood in Oslo, Norway. This is a wine blog visiting a wine fair. But when Bech-Ravn in Solhøi Cider talks, then the analogue to wine is striking. For example, he uses one variety of apples to give fullness, another to give acidity. He operates naturally, without additives. He makes Floating Sunshine, Flytende Solskinn2020, a dry, fresh, flowery, lightly spicy cider bottled unfiltered – in Oslo.
As we enter into a new year we chose a bubbly fresh wine from a promising winery. The obvious choice would be champagne, of which the is a big amount to chose from, also in the natural end of the scale. But no, our choice is from England, itself a promising wine country.
I visited the Tillingham wineryas we entered into the pandemic for the first time, and went straight into a quarantine, according to the rules that had been made while I was there. I will not go into details about the producer, as much is written already. Here is one of the write-ups.
The wines are produced as naturally as possible; which means no spraying in the vineyards, no unnecessary additives are added, and the wines are bottled with minimal sulphur.
This wine is made in and named after the italian method Col Fondo, in essence the same as the ancestral method. The grapes are mostly pinot noir, with chardonnay, pinot meunier and auxerrois. Hand-picked grapes ferment naturally in separate containers. Pinot noir and chardonnay are pressed directly as whole bunches and fermented in steel. Pinot meunier is also pressed as whole bunches of grapes and fermented in large Georgian qvevri. Auxerrois is mainly pressed as whole bunches of grapes and fermented in steel, as well as a small amount of yeast with a day’s skin contact before it is pressed into qvervi. After finishing the alcoholic fermentation, all the components in the steel tank are mixed with minimal amounts of sulphur added, and then the wine is bottled with 8 g/L added sugar. Thus the wine undergoes a second fermentation in the bottle.
Col 2019(Tillingham Wines)
Light golden and somewhat cloudy. Aroma of lime, green fig and white flowers. Light and appealing, a moderate amount of tiny bubbles, with fresh acid, a bit creamy and with a quite long, dry finish.
Food: Apéritif, natural shellfish, white fish, tapas…Perfect for celebrations.
Pedersgata in the main street in what was earlier known as a tired eastern neighbourhood, but is now bustling with energy. Other fabulous restaurants like Bellies (vegan) and Sabi Omakase (Japanese with Michelin star) are also found here. This wonderful wine we tasted at Claes Helbak’s new place Lapin in that street.
One of the wines I tasted at the opening night in March was Wilder Satz 2018, a very clean, pure natural wine from Bockenheim, Pfalz. Weingut Brand is now brothers Daniel and Jonas, 5th generation. When little brother Jonas joined in 2014 the then organic production was taken a step further to natural. In some wines are added a bit sulphur. This one not. Whole clusters of chardonnay, müller-thurgau and silvaner were pressed before spontaneous fermentation. Bottled unfiltered.
Wilder Satz 2018 (Weing. Brand)
Light straw, slightly turbid. Aromatic, yellow apples, lime and orange peel, and yeast. Energetic, with lovely acidity and low alcohol; long.
Loxarel I have met at a couple of artisan fairs, in Barcelona, and as far as I remember, in London too. Masia Can Mayol, the official name, is Josep Medios, fifth generation. When he got in charge of the family firm at a young age he changed the philosophy of this old winery. He started bottling wines, converting to organic, then implementing biodynamic techniques. (Here is another good sparkler from the house.)
The winery is located in Villobí, on a plain not far from Vilafranca del Penedès, but they have also plots in El Pla de Manlleu, higher in altitude and a bit further west.
This winery is among the many that are now abandoning the DO Cava. Among the reasons for this can be a challenging reputation that the appellation has gained over the years, and the fact that it is not dedicated to one specific geographical area. More about this in a future article.
This particular sparkler is made up from xarel.lo 55% (now widely recognized as the best of the “usual suspects” for ageing), then macabeo 30%, parellada 5%, and the rest chardonnay, a grape that I have nothing against, even not here, even not native. I interpret the name a pèl +18 as the time spent on lees (and not skins).
A Pèl +18 Brut Nature 2016(Loxarel/ Masia Can Mayol)
Light straw, greenish tones, creamy mousse. Mild Mediterranean smell of aromatic herbs, yeast, mature lemons and yellow apples. Creamy, tasty, rounded but dry.
Food: Apéritif, Iberian cured ham, light fish and shellfish…
Tillingham is one of England’s most innovative producers. Their minimal intervention approach to winemaking and often surprising presentation have given them a strong following amongst matural wine lovers. This wine was tasted in a local wine club quite recently.
I visited them outside Rye, Sussex in March this year, one of the last days before lockdown and my first quarantine. Ben Walgate and his companion Serena showed me around and explained about their organic farming, also with certain biodynamic practises, and we had a tasting of all their original wines (and ciders) in their own bar and restaurant. In a wet climate like England’s, the threat of mildew is ever-present, so some copper and sulfur-based sprays are often used.
Aside of winegrowing, not only ciders, but also animals are part of the project, so is the bar and restaurant.
While some sparkling wine specialists have “owned” the headlines so far, I am very sure that the recognition of Tillingham will exceed far beyond the natural wine scene in the future. The grapes for this lovely low-alcohol when are müller-thurgau 35%, ortega 32%, bacchus 17%, chardonnay 12% and schönburger 4%, grown in chalky clay soil. There is no filtration nor fining.and minimal sulphur added before bottling.
Tillingham White 2018(Tillingham)
Yellow. Aroma of yellow apples, apricot, some lime. Luscious, light and superbly drinkable.
Read more about one of their rosés here. http://winechords.com/?s=Tillingham
We have also visited nearby Davenport winery. Take a look here. http://winechords.com/still-british/
The savoury pudding called Haggis (containing sheep’s heart, liver, and lungs) has found its followers among Scottish immigrants in many countries, not least Australia.
Patrick Sullivan and his wife Megan are winemakers in Strezleki Ranges in Gippsland, Victoria. After traveling in Europe for two years, Patrick returned to Australia to study winemaking, but soon discovered that he didn’t want to follow the principles of his oenology studies. Instead he took a different turn, and started to study viticulture with botany, as he strongly believes that wine is made in the vineyards.
Currently he buys grapes from organic or biodynamic growers, but his dream is to have his own. In the cellar there is a low-intervention mentality so that the grape material can express as much fruit and origin as possible. All grapes are hand-harvested, a large proportion of whole bunches are used, spontaneous fermentation in used barrels, cement eggs or fiberglass tanks, long skin contact and ripening in neutral containers. Before bottling, there is no filtration and minimal use of sulfite.
This aromatic wine is made from a wide variety of grapes, first moscato 50%, sauvignon blanc 10%, sémillon 10%, and also the reds pinot and malbec with 10% each. Then after the skin-contact a 10% of chardonnay is added also. It’s obviously bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Haggis 2018 (Patrick Sullivan)
Light orange colour, a bit turbid. The aroma has typical muscat notes, here including orange blossom, yellow apples and fresh herbs. Luscious and fruity in the mouth, some volume and a light tannin structure.
Food: The first one to try it with haggis: Tell me how it worked. I have a strong belief that it works.
With a little help from their friends: Welshriesling, Neuburger, Muscat Ottonel, Grüner Veltliner.
The most autochtonal grape varieties with indigenous character. Originally grown on limestone, schist and sedimentary soils. Handpicked, left overnight on the skins and stems, spontaneously fermented in large, old oak casks. Unfiltered. No sulfur added. Pure.
This is the beginning of the back label text, and it sums it all up well.
Gernot Heinrich runs his farm by the Neusiedler sea in a terroir-focused way with biodynamic treatments. His focus is on local grapes, and as such are the main actors in this performance among the minor grapes, the whole farm seen as a whole. It’s not a very small business, but after a more conventional big player start he now shares the principles normally associated with small artisan producers.
Natural White 2017(Weing. Heinrich)
Turbid yellow-green-greyish. Aromatic flowers and elderberry, somewhat yeasty over a layer of apricot. Over all a wonderful glug-glug, full, with integrated acidity and the slightest bit of resistance in form of a peel’ish hint of bitterness.
Food: Apéritif, salads, charcuterie, fried fish
Finally, as the back label advices: Attention: For best enjoyment, shake before pouring!