Plain Wine Volume 8: The Calling-it-quits Edition
I can’t believe it’s May already, but with time moving fast I at least got to meet new winemakers and drink new bottles. I just realized we have a theme this month around people leaving their jobs to follow their passion. With one electrical engineer from Slovakia, one computer scientist from France and three architects from Italy it is clear people don’t make this kind of wine to get rich and famous but do it out of a simple urge to contribute and change things for the better. I’m especially proud to have scored a batch of the Pet Nat from Jean Maupertuis, which is heavily allocated and actually for a good reason — it’s just too good.
2017/18 Fred #3
Blauer Portugieser, Alibernet, Dunaj
Zsolt Sütó’s family only made wine for themselves during communist times, as every family was only allowed 0.2 hectares of land for winemaking. Nowadays he owns 12 hectares around the village of Strekov and has slowly converted everything to organic farming. For two years now he’s adding no sulfur to the wines and is doing many wines in the Jura style by not topping them off so a flor of yeast can form. This adds a third layer of complexity according to Zsolt. He is also convinced that the top layer of flora and fauna, which he calls the “living space” is more critical than terroir. He might be onto something.
What on the surface looks like a simple wine for quick drinking is actually quite a multi-layered experiment. For this cuvée, Zsolt mixed two vintages and some unusual grape varieties. Half of the wine is made with 2017 grapes of Alibernet and Dunaj which age for 15 months. In February he added Blauer Portugieser from 2018, so you get a very young and fresh wine. It’s a very smooth and quaffable blackberry juice with some proper acidity to make it a straightforward food companion with anything greasy or grilled.
When the three friends and architects Giambattista Titta, Giusto Occhipinti and Rino Strano wanted to make wine in 1980, they did not know they made natural wines. By now they are probably one of the most famous Sicilian wineries and farm 30 hectares. According to them, initially their ignorance led them to make low-intervention wines. After a while, they realized they were onto something and transformed to biodynamic farming and are now making most of the wines in amphoras. They use clay amphoras as they can breathe similar to oak but do not give any taste to the wine.
The grapes for this wine grow on limestone with red clay on top which helps with freshness and balance. The grapes spend one weeks on their skins which results in that beautiful orange color. They are then aged for nine months in concrete vats and receive a little bit of sulfur before they are bottled and left for three months before they are released. The result is an exquisite wine with hints of dried apricot and some herbal notes. Orange wines are food wines, but I suggest you have it with lighter dishes like white pasta sauces or risotto.
2018 Pink Bulles
As a former computer scientist, Jean was always interested in wine and made a little bit of wine on the side. After deciding to study enology, he took over 3.5 hectares and started to farm it organically. After the first project with two partners failed, Jean did it his own way and was inspired by the god of natural wine Pierre Overnoy in Jura. Now he owns about 7 hectares of relatively old vines with ages between 40 and 100 years. He is clearly leading the way for the resurgence of Auvergne as a wine region in France.
Although Jean owns a lot of the slightly different Gamay d’Auvergne, he uses the younger Beaujolais Gamay grapes for the bubbles, as they are more productive. They are left to ferment on the skins just for a short amount of time, and then the juice continues for 8 days until it is bottled. Then they spend a few weeks in racks and are turned to slowly move the deposit to the neck of the bottle before the manual disgorgement. Only a couple of bottles are usually allocated, so enjoy it while it lasts. It won’t be very long but will have aromas of peach and strawberry with a good enough edge to keep it interesting. It’s so good you don’t need food with it, but will go well as an aperitif or with sweets.
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