Wine Club – July 2023
Les Chemins de l’Arkos, 2021
Les Chemins de l’Arkose, helmed by Yvan Bernard and Audrey Baldassin, is a new form of a two-decades old project by Yvan, located smack-dab in the centre of France. They work and harvest from 8 hectares of grapevine scattered around the Puy-de-Dôme, a famous volcano in the Auvergne region whose last eruption was just under 8,000 years ago. (So actually, in geological terms, pretty recent.) There’s a curious mix of soils in this region due to various intrusions and protrusions, but the baseline is a mix of volcanic rock (basalt) and limestone. This Pinot/Gamay blend has all the delicate florals of Pinot, all the meaty fruit of Gamay, all the freshness of a cold continental red, as well as a hint of smoke (volcanic soils) and a beautiful internal tension (limestone). A real smokeshow of a wine!
Bories Jefferies, 2021
One of two wines from British transplant in the Languedoc, Jo Jefferies, in this month’s box. According to mythology, Sisyphus was an ancient Greek king who was punished by Hades to spend eternity rolling a giant boulder up a hill, only for it to roll back down once it neared the top every time. Hard work – and futile. But despite its name, this wine is neither one nor the other. It’s a juicy white with a slightly oxidative quality to it that ups the interest factor and makes it into more of a white for dinnertime. The soils in this particular part of the Languedoc are markedly basaltic, which here shines in a flinty, matchstick quality on the nose and a sculpted mouthfeel. This was one of our coup-de-coeur wines this month and the inspiration for the volcanic theme. So yeah, a wine that’s meant to be savoured.
Cantina Giardino, 2022
Cantina Giardino are natural wine mainstays and have been, for years, defending the unique expression of southern Italian terroir. Their soils are a strange mix, as the region of Campania is dotted with ancient extinct volcanoes that launched lava into the air a long, long time ago, that crystallised into basaltic rock upon cooling. But Antonio and Daniela di Gruttola’s vines are planted in the hilly interior region of Avellino, which is also known for a high concentration of carbon and limestone-rich Karst soils: highly porous and dotted with underground caves. In any case, the joint “terroir” here makes the wine lean towards salty, in the best way possible. A short maceration on the skins brings out the fruit aromatics and a light tannic structure. All in all, it’s an easy drinking wine for seafood and sea breezes.
Bories Jefferies, 2020
One of two wines from British transplant in the Languedoc, Jo Jefferies, in this month’s box. The name of this wine comes from a Bob Dylan classic, A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall. According to Dylan, the song is “one long funeral song” about the schisms and rifts among humankind that cause conflict and warfare. So yes, it’s a melancholy ballad – and though we would never call this wine “sad”, we can certainly say that it’s “contemplative”. It’s a wine meant for tranquil moments on a late summer evening while the barbeque is heating up. The region’s basalt soils bring the wine a depth of flavour but a lightness of being, which feels right in line with Bob Dylan’s oeuvre. Plus, Jo macerated the grapes for six days with skins and stems, making it a vegetal wine, despite the Mediterranean heat that grew it. A smash hit, if you ask us
Longtime T.N.W.C. will remember that we are superfans of Marek Uhnak from Pivnica Cajkov, and what a time for his wines to shine! His vineyards are famously located under the massive, extinct Sitno Volcano (which was once Europe’s biggest). It’s a mythical mountain, sometimes known locally as the “gates to hell”. Its hard, red rhyolitic soils, formed of crystallised magma millions of years ago, are probably why. The resulting wine is a tense, structured sparkling. Marek calls it a “non-traditional method”, not an ancestral or a pet’ nat’, because it’s made from a blend of two different base wines for complexity, re-fermented in bottle with fresh grape must a year later, and released undisgorged. It’s layered, temperamental, and deep at the same time as spicy and fun – which does sounds a bit like a trip to the gates of hell, to be honest.
Suertes del Marque, 2020
Spain’s Canary Islands, an archipelago off the Western coast of the Sahara desert, are the most obviously volcanic of the volcanic wine regions. The islands were formed by a series of volcanic eruptions millions of years ago, and are still known for volcanic activity today. The bedsoil on the islands are purely volcanic rock and ash with more or less organic material based on elevation – and it shows in the wines. Case in point: El Trenzado. It’s a curiosity of a white wine – rich and supple, but salty, delicate, and even austere, with pure smoke and mineral sulphur on the nose. The grapes are grown in a vineyard on the north coast of Tenerife, at about 600 metres above sea level, planted on pure volcanic stone. If you want to clock volcanic wines – this is the prototype. Drink now, or keep to see it deepen.