Wine notes – February 2021
Petr Kočařík, 2018
The Czech winemaker Petr Kočařík has only two hectares of vines from which to propagate his philosophy, and the Tramín is his missive from the east, or the border close to Slovakia where he’s based. It’s a single-varietal made from the Traminer grape, macerated for about two weeks before spending one year in used oak barrels, so there’s no sense of overpowering woodiness to the wine. Instead, we have an orange that rests more on the strength of the grape and the effect of its skin contact: rose and peach on the nose, but with some noticeable minerality and spice in the mouth. Taste-wise, you can also feel the elevated alcohol content, which sits at 14%, but we’re into the end result and it definitely puts Kočařík and his family vineyard on the map.
Maybe once a year on holidays we get used to doing something incredibly pleasant to such an extent that it becomes second nature (having holidayed with a foie gras producer once, it became a daily dietary requirement). The Lèntico pét-nat is that low-key feeling of natural indulgence, a wine that makes you think you should’ve been doing this your whole life instead of on such rare occasions. It’s a blend of Glera, Perera, Verdiso, and Bianchetta—all white grapes typically included in Prosecco and local to the Veneto region where the Morandin winery is based. The grapes are first macerated for three to four days then lightly pressed to help preserve the yeasts, and after a first fermentation in stainless steel, there’s a second in the bottle. On the nose there’s lemon sherbet and apricot, same as in the mouth, where there’s also a touch of lime, and the yeasts add a welcome biscuity savouriness. Above all, it’s refreshing and relaxing, one for every day of the year.
Without wanting to be overly derivative, one way to describe this wine would be like an Austrian Beaujolais, but this time round it’s made from a blend of 80% Zweigelt and 20% St Laurent—two of the country’s most prevalent red varieties. Like its French opposite though, Rét is juicy and fruity, a light-bodied wine that feels very alive in the mouth and does well when slightly chilled. You’ll find some notes of dark berries and cut grass, as well as a little spice; the grapes were fermented on the skins for six days before being partly aged in stainless steel and acacia barrels for 19 months. The couple behind the winery, Alex and Maria Koppitsch, hail from a small town in Burgenland on the Hungarian and Slovak borders and are especially involved in looking for ways to make natural wine production more sustainable—keep an eye on our Instagram to hear more from them on the subject.
La Rural, 2019
Gump’s theory of fate, or the idea that you never know what you’re going to get, comes with the basic caveat that if all the options are good then you’re pretty much guaranteed a good time, and the same goes for the Catalan natural wine scene at the moment: very good choices abound. We came across La Rural quite recently, a small project founded by two brothers, Xavi and Andreu Padró, in 2018 and were keen to include them in the club. They’ve converted their family vines to organic and this is the second vintage of their Ull de Llebre (Tempranillo) to be released. It’s not too full-bodied and with balanced tannins; the grapes have been left to ferment for 20 days but they’ve also been macerated for 60 days more, post-fermentation, in both stainless steel and old barrels—a technique used to bring out a richness in flavour while reducing the bitterness of the tannins.
Domaine Richaud, 2019
Marcel Richaud has been making natural wine in the Côtes-du-Rhône since the ‘70s, so he was not only ahead of the game but basically invented the game for modern natural winemaking. He grew up on a family vineyard selling grapes to a local cooperative but parted ways at the age of 17, starting with his own small parcel and getting rid of all chemicals to focus on the fruit itself. He also helped secure a cru appellation for the area around his village of Cairanne in 2016, officially limiting the use of herbicides, sulphites, and heavy engines in the vines. All this—the light touch that comes with pioneering something for decades—you can taste in the wine: made from 40% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 15% Carignan, 10% Mourvèdre, and 5% Counoise, the fruit is rich and present but balanced with spice and light tannins. Having tasted some of the earlier vintages, this is also a bottle that would benefit from time in the cellar.
Casa Nika, 2019
The Zibibbo di Pantelleria is a pot of sun-cooked goodness, the antidote to January’s hangover and a wine for those who need a break from the darkening sensation that 2021 didn’t start all that differently from 2020. Here we have a wine from the same variety as Gabrio Bini’s Bianco Zibibbo (another Pantellerian great), namely the local version of Muscat of Alexandria; the taste is robust—lots of prune and honey, fairly low acidity, the salinity of the sea—and it can’t help but transport you to some place more paradisical. The grapes spent two days on the skins and a further year on the lees; the young German winemaker behind Casa Nika, Felix Sebastian, has been visiting the island for years and making wine there with his family, and apart from this one he also leads another project in the Moselle Valley of Germany, producing a Riesling, or the more acidic counterpart to the grape we’re tasting here.