Wine notes – December 2020
Domaine des Moriers for T.N.W.C., 2020
All hail Bowjoelay Nuvoe, our unofficial version of the annual Beaujolais Nouveau and the first ever vintage bottled exclusively for The Natural Wine Company by Domaine des Moriers. After featuring one of the Domaine’s wines in our September box, the idea of working together was floated; the group of friends behind the label were into the idea of releasing something newer and lighter than their usual reds, one of the partners being François de Nicolay, and we’re lucky to be able to draw on the winemaking traditions of his family, who’ve been producers since the mid 19th century. And so here we have the freshly fermented juice of the 2020 harvest: light, acidic, juicy, and made with grapes from the region of Moulin-à-Vent. The official release of Beaujolais Nouveau is at 12.01am on the third Thursday of November, this year the 19th, and the idea is to drink these wines openly and unsparingly; this is not a wine for keeping and generally lasts for a few months. We’ll be sharing a glass with you.
Far be it from us to play into the whole ‘natural wine tastes like cider’ polemic, but for once we’d have to say it’s a fairly accurate description, as the Kalkspitz by Christoph Hoch takes the kind of barnyard dryness of a French cider and turns it into an earthy yet refreshing sparkling wine. Made with 70% Grüner Veltliner plus a blend of Zweigelt, Sauvignon Blanc, Blauer Portugieser, and Muskat Ottonel, you’ll also find some notes of green apple and grapefruit in the mouth. Coming from the south of Austria, on the Slovenian border, Hoch is taking full advantage of the local soil, which shares a similar make-up to that of the Champagne region—though the resulting wines are not so similar in taste, there’s a depth and quality that you can’t help but respect. We also couldn’t help but include an extra sparkling in the selection for the December holidays, and we hope there’s an occasion for everyone to enjoy it!
Being young enough to remember a period of late-night Marxian debates, the idea of revolution as we learnt it is far removed from the calm and conscientious rebellion taking place within a certain generation of winemakers. Cati Ribot among them, they’re taking over from their parents, setting aside the heavy machinery, and reorienting production towards something more in line with what their grandparents were doing. Cati’s a third-generation producer from the northwest of Mallorca but the first to be making natural wines, taking her cues instead from some fortuitous meetings; first, with Joan Rubió about a decade ago while taking a sommelier course in Barcelona, and, second, with Eloi Cedó, a flagbearer for the island’s natural wine scene who one day asked if he could share her cellar space. The 2019 Son Llebre Negre is only Cati’s second vintage, but it’s already very promising: not too full-bodied and with a very distinct taste, a red mix of Escursac and Callet with a hint of orange in the mouth.
Staffelter Hof, 2018
Staffelter Hof has a fair claim to fame in being one of the oldest vineyards in the world, with records dating it back to 862, but for all the tradition it’s still at the forefront of natural wine production in the Mosel Valley of Germany. This particular bottle is also part of Jan Matthias Klein’s Pandemonium project, which buys in organic grapes from beyond the family’s own estate to support local producers, and the original 2018 version of Papa Panda’s Rising was a blend of two cuvées, one by Jan and another by a friend. The bottle we have here though is a larger collaboration between four different winemakers and includes a blend of the 2018 and 2019 vintages. In a word, it is funky, and for a Riesling it definitely changes from the usual, with a lot of honey on the nose and a strong dose of acidity across the top of the mouth. It settles down once it’s been open for a while, with flavours of banana, tropical fruit, and a savoury undertone.
Joan Rubió, 2019
This is the first iteration of Joan Rubió’s Deix, a wine that was originally intended to end up as his staple white, the Essencial, but instead took an unexpected turn. He says that while the juice was already fermenting he realised it wasn’t at all what he’d had in mind for the Essencial—and so he adapted. Normally Rubió would be sketching out his wines in advance, but this one took shape in the moment and is maybe a case in point for minimal-intervention winemaking and Joan’s ability to listen to what the grapes wanted to do. The question now is whether he’ll be able to reproduce the same wine in future years, but for the moment at least we have the 2019 vintage! The grapes, all Xarel·lo, had 11 days’ maceration and the wine was aged for six months in oak barrels. The creaminess of the oak does come through, but the Deix is an incredibly subtle wine, with very little acidity.
Clos Lentiscus, 2016
It’s December so we’re projecting a festive feel onto the Gentlemant Sumoll and its label, the bubbles-as-snow and Christmas colour palette, even if we’re dealing with a sparkling rosé from the Spanish coast, a stone’s throw from the Mediterranean. In fact, the wine comes with an almost seaweed aroma, but it also plays with a lot of different profiles: the first taste is honeysweet, but that quickly turns into something more umami; ‘an impeccable transition’ is the wording in our notes, and we’re part of the general consensus that says Manel Avinyó, the winemaker at Clos Lentiscus, is at the forefront of all things sparkling right now. Made entirely with Sumoll grapes, still a rare variety in its native Catalonia, the pét-nat is fairly light, as the grapes have only received a few hours’ skin contact, but it’s been aged for three years in the bottle with fine lees, which help to add that touch of extra body.