A light hearted insight into wine with no agenda other than to sniff out wine stories which capture the imagination… follow The Nose…

15/03/2022

In pursuit of excellence

bubbles & bread

Fred Loimer

I am very partial to Champagne – the good stuff, but it’s easy to fork out on Champagne and be disappointed. On the other hand, it’s a joy to discover delicious alternatives to traditionally method sparking wine and fun to share something a bit different with your friends. 

One such wine appeared at my door sent by Fred Loimer who is among Austria’s most applauded winemakers. I tasted his recently released 2016 Grosse Reserva Sekt Blanc de Noir and was rather impressed. Austria may not readily come to mind for its fine sparking wines, but choose carefully and you will be pleasantly surprised.  

In Austria there is quite a wide choice of grape varieties and some, including Riesling, are aromatic. I am not convinced by sparking wines with overtly scented characters. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are ideal, but not very Austrian and thus rather detract from an Austrian sense of identity, but they are an excellent conduit to the terroir.   

But first a  few words about Sekt – Austria’s sparking wine. I have written about this in a previous blog, but just to recap.  It’s pretty easy to understand the label. There are three tiers to the quality pyramid; classic is the simplest category from which you should expect something forward and crowd pleasing. This can be made by the Charmat method (used for Prosecco) and must have nine months ageing on lees. Reserve is a step up to a bottle fermented wine requiring 18 months ageing. Finally the top tier Grosse Reserve should deliver something in the ball part of a really rather good Champagne. 

For each level there are production regulations including hand picking, whole bunch pressing and time maturing on the lees. Like many good producers Loimer goes well beyond the statutory demands. For example his non-vintage Extra Brut Reserve has a full three years on lees. It was no surprise to hear Loimer describing his process of harvesting –  picking the grapes into small boxes which are tipped directly into the press, thus protecting the integrity of the grape. The attention to detail is reflected in his wine.

Loimer Extra Brut Reserve

This is generous, quite full bodied, rather luscious and almost buttery, while having a nice dry finish. The extra lees ageing is responsible for the finesses of the bubbles, but also the richness and depth. This wine delivered lots up front, in comparison with the more reserved Grosse Reserve, but as the wines developed  in the glass, the latter was the clear front runner.

Loimer Gumpoldskirchen Grosse Reserve Blanc de Noirs 2016

A lightly smoky aroma with a hint of burnt toast. This is straight and well defined with compact energy and good length. There is focus and precision. It is quite quiet, but there is power which carries the dry and saline finish. There is also an undertone of appetisingly caramelised, almost bitter umami.   

The Grosse Reserve comes from the ‘Burgundy’ of Austria – and area East of the Alps called Gumpoldskirchen. Loimer describes an East facing limestone slope with the vines planted on the bottom third. 

He arrived in 2013 to plant Pinot Noir and Chardonnay for still wine. At the time he felt Gumpoldskirchen had ‘the perfect temperature’. Now with climate change it is getting a little too warm for Pinot Noir and Loimer picks earlier and includes 100% of stems in his Pinot Noir for freshness. (Although the Pinot Noir for his sparking is whole bunch pressed like a white wine).

Loimer explained that the earlier ripening is not only due to climate change, but to biodynamics. He remarks that the vine’s shoots are shorter and grow more slowly than in a conventionally managed vineyard. “The vine focuses on growth before flowing and subsequently on ripening, which happens earlier. My vineyard will be brown by autumn, while the conventionally  managed will still be green. This has all be measured by the University of Geisenheim.”  

(I’d be concerned that this quicker ripening together with warmer summers might make the region increasing unsuitable to make a base wine for a fine bottle of fizz. But on the positive side it is well documented that biodynamic viticulture producers grapes with good acidity – actually a lower and more stable pH – so it seems likely Loimer’s grapes will retain their freshness.) 

Loimer is a founding member Respekt the biodynamic organisation which I wrote about in a blog last year. He stresses the importance of making his own compost and teas at the domaine to nourish and treat the vines. He finds this enhances the expression of terroir in the wine. The yeasts and bacteria on the grapes are carried to the winery and help to create a spontaneous and clean fermentation and of course the lees influence the character, favour and texture of the finished wine. Both the wines above have an initial ageing in large older oak casks. Both go though a full malolactic, which contributes to the complexity, but also makes them more stable. Hence just a touch of SO2 is necessary at bottling.

Loimer also makes a Blanc de Blanc from Langenlois in Kamtal which lies to the North West. This is a cooler region with a greater diurnal temperature. Here we are told the soil is lighter. The wine is certainly fresh and straight, stylish with a true sense of place. 

Loimer Langenlois Grosse Reserve Blanc de Blancs 2016

Crystalline with a direct, fine, light, vibrant and rather salty palate. The palate is well edged and the mouse fine. I really liked this.  

You will often hear producers of fine wine speaking of their pursuit of the expression of terroir. Even in Champagne, which has a cast iron regional identity and where blending is typical to create a consistent house identity, there is a trend for single vineyard wines. 

Arguably the expression of terroir is more difficult to achieve in sparking wine as the secondary fermentation and lengthy lees ageing distances the wine from the terroir. But where there there is no great tradition of making sparkling wine, it makes sense to home in on expressing the identity of the site. It gives the wine another layer of interest.  

Certainly you will hear producers of English bottle fermented sparking wine extolling the influence of the soil and topography of their vineyards. And why not.  The chalky soils of the South Downs are dotted with vineyards and if you have not tried the wines of Ambriel, you should. Just a few miles away you will find Wiston Estate.

Wiston Estate Blanc de Blancs Brut, 2014

Rich biscuits aroma.The palate is fresh and energetic. I like the brioche notes and slight marmite bite on the finish which is well sustained. (Available from Swig)

While the cool chalky downloads of West Sussex bear some resemblance to the hills of Champagne making them a good bet for a quality fizz, I was intrigued to be presented with a traditional method sparkling wine from Macedonia in Greece. It is made from Xinomavro, a quality indigenous variety with some similarities to Pinot Noir. 

Domaine Karanika, Brut Reserve 2015

This really packs a punch with a dense and rather compact palate. A burly wine for sure. The same domain make a Cuvée Speciate also from Xinomavro, which is lighter and brighter, but less intense and less expensive. (Available from Maltby & Greek) 

This is certainly a sparking wine with the structure to accompany a meal. And on that point, don’t consign a traditional method sparking wine to the aperitif or party slot. In Austria, Fred Loimer explains that sekt is more often paired with food than not. This might be at the beginning of a meal with a first course, but equally as a refreshing wine towards the end of a meal. However a rosé can have the firm structure to take on the main course with the proviso of a low dosage. Often roses are too sweet, but Loimer’s is bone dry at 2g/l. Loimer Brut Rosé Reserve NV has the structure and weight to partner fish and more delicate dishes of chicken. 

This brings to mind a tasting I tootled along to in the orangery in Holland Park last August. It was perfect summer’s day and I went expecting to taste wine, but was presented with an array of delicious Italian food specialities by the specialist importer Cibosano. These were gently washed down with a glass of prosecco. 

Among the tasty treats there were several panettone, but no ordinary panettone. These were made by master pastry chef Nicola Fiasconaro, who was there in person making his panettone into other delicious sweet creations. I had to taste them.

Nicola explained that panettone originated in Milan. However in 1953 his grandfather, Mario, set out to make a truly Sicilian version with local ingredients. These include the hazelnuts of Madonie, a mountain ridge above Palermo, and manna, a sugary sap from the bark of ash trees. 

The Fiasconaro clan live in the Madonie with rather illustrious neighbours – the Dolce family (yes, of Dolce and Gabbana fame). Nicola explains how he and Dolce grew up together and shared a dream to show the Italy – and the world – the very best of Sicilian creativity.

In the fullness of time, having become an international fashion icon, Dolce offered to deign the packaging for his friend’s panettone. The panettone have become every more creative over the years and I can vouch for their scrumptiousness and the sheer delight of the tins designed by Dolce.  

With Easter approaching, it would make a wonderful gift; an alternative to chocolate, but don’t consign panettone to festive occasions. It’s a delicate sweet bread to have at any time of year. I find this light and airy treat is perfect for a warm spring or summer’s day accompanied by a glass of sparking wine.

Just to round things off, I would recommend serving a light airy and buttery slice of Nicola Fiasconaro Panettone with a glass of Loimer Langenlois Grosse Reserve Blanc de Blancs 2016.

02/09/2021

Busman’s holiday, Txakoli

Txakoli – a light, crisp white with a slight sptitz

If you’ve ever been to San Sebastian in Northern Spain to visit the pinchos bars you will certainly have drunk Txakoli – the light, white wine with a slight spritz which the Basque like to pour – with an engaging sense of theatre – into a glass, from an arm’s length. 

My son and I had decided to walk from Irun on the French border to Santiago de Compostela  and Finisterre along the Camino Norte/Primitivo. The Norte follows the Atlantic coast and passes by the pretty town of Getaria which lies about 25km west of San Sebastian. This is the homeland of Txakoli. I had always rather fancied visiting a Txakoli producer and it seemed too good an opportunity to miss.

Now as it happened, one of the few wine events in London held in early summer was devoted to Spanish wine and included some Txakoli. One producer in particular stood out. I swiftly made an appointment to visit. 

Bodega Txomin Etxaniz was somewhat off the camino and the unhelpful GPS delivered us to the top of a hill, at the end of a track leading nowhere. The coastal landscape is beautiful and the terrain in the basque country provides plentiful steep gradients. I must have imagined we’d pick up where were left off last summer at the end of the Camino Frances, but with an appointment to make it was not proving a gentle start to our 1000km trek.

The vineyards, which are steeply sloped, have a thin chalky topsoil and more clay beneath.

Bodega Txomin Etxaniz

The region has misty mornings, quite a lot of drizzle, and monsoon-like downpours as we soon discovered, but not that day. By mid afternoon, it was pretty hot. The rucksacks, which included a tent for wild camping, were feeling increasingly heavy and I began to regret this ‘aside’ into a busman’s holiday. After all we had no where to stay and might have to resort to our tent some miles hence.

With some relief we made contact with Mikel just before my phone battery expired and within minutes he had scooped us up and we were delivered into the cool of the winery.  

The winery is modern, but the Txueka Etxaniz family’s history with wine dates back to 1649 and the founding of Getaria. More recently Mikel’s father was instrumental in establishing the Denomination of Origin Getariako Txakolina in 1989, which is the oldest DO in Getaria. (This bodega is still very much a family affair. Mikel seems to be in charge of the estate, but works alongside his five cousins)

Mikel under his pergola

There are two traditional grape varieties in the denomination. Ondarrabi Zuri (white) and Ondarrabi Beltza (red). Only a tiny quantity of red is produced. Of the four million bottles produced in the DO only 8,000 are red, but regulations demand that white wine should include some 15% of red grapes and that rosé contains 50%. 

The white variety has very high acidity and so the softer red was traditionally used to dial down  the sharpness. The practice was subsequently written into appellation law. These days the vineyards are managed in a way that the white grape is more naturally balanced. 

Most of the vines on the 50 hectares of Txomin Etxaniz estate (it’s the largest of the 32 producers in the region) are trained on traditional parral, which is a pergola system. This keeps the fruit 80cm to 1m above the ground and away from the humidity which is the downside of the Atlantic’s close proximity. 

There are issues with mildew, but once in a while, in the right conditions, this humidity can produce botrytis and when this happens the family make a late harvest wine called UYDI.

UYDI 2017

This has a delicately spicy mandarine character with lively citrus acidity, a touch of grapefruit and a tangy finish. It had about 70 g/l residual sugar so is not super sweet. In found it quite charming and elegant. 

As you might imagine, with the bunches of grapes suspended from a pergola, the vineyards have to be harvested by hand. The vineyards slope away in all directions, so no one aspect is utilised. Where the slopes become perilously steep, they are not terraced to accommodate pergola but espalier is used instead. 

On this espalier system the fruit is more exposed to the sun and gets riper hitting 12%. The fruit from this section of the vineyard is vinified separately, leaving a touch of residual sugar, and aged in 500l acacia barrels for 5-6 months with some batonnage. It’s labelled Tx.

Bodega Txomin Etxaniz Tx 2018

This has a lightly rounded body and showed ripe lemon and petrol notes; there is no oak showing, rather it has  a denser richer profile than typical Txakoli.

So let’s re-cap on the typical profile for a Txakoli. It’s a slim, light white wine carrying about 11% alcohol with a little residual sugar, which you don’t really notice.  The 5-7g/l of sugar  just nicely balance the punchy note of acidity. It has a slight sparkle – about 1 bar of pressure. This CO2 is natural. When the fermentation is over the tank is closed off retaining some CO2 while the wine ages in tank on the lees. It’s a little reminiscent of Riesling in shape, weight and flavour profile. 

As the white must contain some red fruit, the grapes are de-stemmed, crushed and quickly pressed. While for the rosé, the skins are allowed to gently macerate with juice. The skin contact lasts eight to ten hours, or overnight in the press. Rosé represents just 8% of the production and is clearly not what the local market demands 85% is exported. Conversely 85% of the white wine is sold at home, largely to restaurants in Getaria and San Sebastian. 

Bodega Txomin Etxaniz Txakoli

This is the wine which caught my eye in London. At the winery I tried the 2018 which has a vibrant gooseberry aroma that carries onto the palate where it combines with notes of fresh mint. It is bright and tingles with citrus freshness. A light and lively wine. After drinking many a glass of Txakoli on our walk, I can now say that this is a quintessential example of Txakoli.

Bodega Txomin Etxaniz Rosé Txakoli

This pastel tinted wine is light and pretty; peachy and zesty with lively crunch. Just yum.

And even more yummy with food. And so, after the tasting, which followed the vineyard and winery tour, we were able to dive into the delicious morsels we had seen Mikel’s mother bring to the table when we entered the winery. 

Here in Spain the food and wine culture are intrinsically woven and the wines were enhanced by the local specialities. Mikel explained that the anchovies and tuna were prepared and preserved in the traditional way by his mother who buys from the local fishermen. The Atlantic coast here is renowned for its fish and especially for its anchovies. It’s true we were ravenously hungry, but they seemed to be most delicious anchovies and tuna imaginable. The rich tuna made a mellow match with the Rosé Txakoli while the Txakoli was both vibrantly and delicately delicious with the anchovies.    

And suitably sustained, we enjoyed the late afternoon sunshine in Getaria before continuing on the camino, eventually finding a  stunning headland on which to pitch our tent.    

01/07/2021

Biodynamics -Twelve Apostles spread the word

“Sowing another future” Sven Leiner
“A sustainable and holistic approach for plants, our souls and for the family.” Johannes Zillinger

When Christophe Hoch converted to biodynamics did he consider this to be evolution or  revolution? In a candid response he feels his neighbours saw revolution, while for the Hoch family  it was simply an evolution in their 400 year vinous history. 

Evolution through co-operation was the overarching sentiment expressed in a recent tasting organised by two biodynamic organisations Demeter Austria and respekt-BIODYN. This tasting brought together twelve biodynamic producers and discussion centred on the themes of ‘the farm organism’ (self- sufficiency to you and me), building strength in the vineyard (improving your vineyard’s resistance to pests, disease, climate change et al); creating soil fertility naturally in the field (cover crops and composting) and what this can do for a healthier future in general, not only for our wines.

Demeter, which is an international association, dates back to 1928 and was founded to provide guidelines for biodynamic farming based on the teachings of Rudolph Steiner. It was adapted for wine production in the 1990s and has today there are approximately seventy biodynamic wine estates in Austria cultivating 800 hectares. 

Respekt is much newer and smaller ‘community’ set up in Austria as an alternative to Demeter in 2007. It has 25 converts across Austria, Germany, Hungary and Italy who jointly cultivate 850 hectares. It is also based on Steiner principals, methods and preparations, but biodynamics is viewed as a means to an end – to achieve the highest possible quality.  

Initially it seems Demeter wasn’t entirely happy with sharing the biodynamic space, but with their differences sorted, the two organisations are now dedicated to sharing experiences and knowledge to further the understanding and efficacy of biodynamic viticulture and to spread the gospel. As Nikolaus Moser remarks, “Already 3% of the the world’s viticulture is organic and the biodynamic family within this is growing.”  

For those considering a biodynamic conversion, both organisations run seminars which are open to non-members. Nikolaus Moser considers it’s easier these days to take the plunge into biodynamics as many producers are willing to share information. He moved directly from conventional viticulture into biodynamics in the late 1990s without dallying in organic farming first and he recalls learning as he went along. “At the beginning of the 2000s organic viticulture didn’t have a good reputation and biodynamics was seem as hocus locus… now we can still be laughed at, but there is more understanding.” He describes a bitter wind of skepticism in the early days, “while now there is so much shared knowledge and lots of people prepared to help.”

And a quick head ups here – if you are tempted to convert to biodynamics, don’t expect a rapid response from your vineyards.  On average you’re looking at 6 or 7 years.

But it’s clear from listening to the twelve producers that biodynamics reaches beyond cultivating a vineyard and making wine, rather it’s an approach to life or even a philosophy for living.

Clemens Busch spoke of preserving the history and culture of wine. Fifty year ago, on the Mosel’s steep slopes and terraces, every family had a few vines, grew their own food and kept some livestock. Viticulture became more professional from the 1970s and this way of life has all but  disappeared, but he feels the biodynamic approach can help keep the traditional spirit alive. 

Sven Leiner from the Pfalz is particularly eloquent. He describes the biodynamic approach as “creating a new relationship with our cultural space.” He didn’t intentionally set out to convert to biodynamics, but found things evolved step bu step; starting with the soil and then the cover crops, which brought composing within the vineyard. He remarks “you can only make good wine with healthy vines.”

The concept of the farm organism was discussed. Everyone seems to grow cover crops in the vineyards which can be ploughed back as natural homegrown fertiliser. Moreover they cultivate the  plants ‘herbs’ to use for the various biodynamic teas which are sprayed on the vineyards according to biodynamic practices in order to boost the plant’s natural resistance to pests and diseases.

There was much talk of expanding the boundaries of the vineyard. Many, if not all of the twelve producers, manage their land around the vineyards to support the biodynamic ethos. This includes planting trees, keeping chickens, sewing wildflower meadows, setting up insect houses, keeping bees and maybe some cows to use the mature for composing.

Moreover Sven Leiner remarks “It doesn’t end with your property line.” There is impetus to spread the word and convert their neighbours and rationalises that when one’s neighbours become aware of the benefits, for example that wildlife which has not been seen for years begins to return, it will encourage the whole region to become involved. His vision is grand and admirable. “We are sewing another future,” he says.

Herbert Zillinger does not mince his words about conventional agriculture. “Sick exploitation…not good for the soil, the environment or our health. When you change to biodynamics, working with respect of nature, all problems resolve themselves.” 

While some made a starting leap to biodynamics, others took a gentler approach, among them  Johannes Zillinger, by evolving the organic approach of their parents into biodynamics and together with this, the idea the farm organism. And as they look forward to their children’s future, they are upshift again to truly holistic approach. 

“Biodynamics is about allowing the vineyard, the vine and nature to express itself. It is sustainable and holistic – for our plants, our souls and and the family,” remarks Johannes Zilliinger.

Brigit Braunstein talks about an holistic way of winemaking which places every being, animal and plant and the centre of her work. 

While Judith Beck, a pioneer of biodynamics, remarks, “I never expected how life changing this would be. It changed my views on food.. and raising children. It has an influence on all parts of our life. She goes back to the point that Clemens Busch made. Her grandparents had a small holding with animals and she laments how easily this was lost in just one generation. She can’t replace the cows, but sources manure for compost from a neighbouring cattle farmer. While not exactly self sufficient, this does tap into the local community. 

She made an interesting point about cover crops. She had been ‘taught’ that the sunny and dry area of Gols, East of Neusiedlersee, where she has her vineyard, would not support cover crops ,a they would be too competitive. On the contrary.

Others confirmed that a biodynamics approach can be helpful in a drier areas. Herbert Zillinger and his wife Carmen who have a 16 hectare estate in Weinviertel (very dry and warm place) found the biodynamic prep 500 helped increase humus and the water retaining capacity of the soil. “It livens up dry soils,” and adds, “with good work on the soil, we don’t need to be afraid of climate change.” 

It’s widely acknowledged that keeping the soil ‘alive’ and healthy, supports healthier vines and better balanced fruit. Herbert Zillinger has noticed the improvement brought about through biodynamics. The juice has lower pHs (3.2-3.3), higher and riper acidity, more dry extract and lower sugar. And he feels there is more vibrancy in the final wine.

Clemens Busch, who is a member of respekt-BIODYN (quality is the ultimate goal) comments, “People tell me the wine has more structure and depth; more tension and minerality.” 

But what about the economics? I would have thought that yields would be smaller, affecting the bottom line. However not everyone has found this so. Georg Schmelzer saw his production  become more stable after the first 3-5 years. 

Schmlezer is also in the dry Neusiedlesee area. Georg confesses their vineyard is very untidy as they let the cover crops grow untrimmed – sometimes they grow as tall as the vines, but he finds the vines are stronger and healthier and the yield more reliable. There is no copper of sulphur used. 

His neighbours may laugh at this vineyards, but he responds that consumers are attracted by the idea of ‘natural wine,’ and of course he is right. Natural has become a buzz word among consumers, many of whom will be unaware of exactly what it entails, but like the thought of something closer to nature – or something made more naturally – and will purchase based on their ideals. 

Seems to me that biodynamics has a winning combination – an holistic, sustainable approach which can make sense economically and is in step with a wide global environmental sentiment. 

So, by sowing a new future, have these these biodynamic winemakers got it all sewn up?

Ultimately it has to come down to the wine and how it tastes. A biodynamic approach has to produce a good wine. I should ‘fess up that I make some of my wine in Burgundy using grapes grown by one of the finest biodynamic domaines. I am fully convinced by the potential for this approach to encourage the very best from a vineyard.

However, I am not yet convinced that eschewing all sulphur in the making and bottling of white wine produces the best results. I found some wines slightly oxidised and quite cider-like. For me, these natural wines are just a step too far.

*-***denotes the wines I particularly liked. 

**Weingut Clemens Busch, Marienburg Fahrlay GG VDP GROSSE LAGE 2017

Mosel, Germany. Member of respekt-BIODYN. Fahrlay. is a 1.6 hectare cru section within the 18 hectare Marienburg vineyard. It is midway on the Mosel river and has diverse soil types, but this cru is particular for its blue slate. South facing on a small terrace.

Straight, fine and cleanly edged. This has a high and pure line. Just a delicate richness wrapped around the middle palate, but this is essentially a swift, trebble-pure wine. Hits a high and sustained note – the finish is persistent and ringing.  

*-**Weingut Sepp Moser, Riesling Ried Gebling 1ÖTW 2019

Kremstal, Austria Member of Demeter. C16th generation Nikolaus Moser is Lenz Moser’s grandson (Lenz Moser of prolific wine proportions). Nikolaus’s  father Sepp Moser made the first significant change, separating and  focusing on the best 30 hectares of vineyard, but he wasn’t interested in organic viticulture. Niki Moser took up the reins in the late 90s and he went directly to biodynamic. “It was a gut decision to convert to biodynamic faming without knowing much about it.”  Demeter certified since 2009. His vineyards are in Kremstal. He makes the point that the vines in Gebling vineyard were first mentioned in 1284.

Salted caramel with a hint of mint, cinnamon and camomile on the nose. Very intriguing aroma. The palate is smooth and rich and rounded for Riesling with hints of caramelised orange zest. It’s almost exotically floral. It’s supple and silky – smoothly creamy for Riesling. By the second day after opening it, there were ripe apricot and almonds notes on the palate. It is quite spicy on finish, which is dry, rich and savoury. Seductive indeed.

***Weingut Hirsch, Ried Zöbinger Gaisberg 1ÖTW Kamptal Riesling 2017. 

Kamtal , Austria Member of respekt-BIODYN. When the red wine became popular in the late 1990s, Johannes Hirsch pulled out his red wine and planted Riesling and Grüner Veltliner, bucking the trend. Moreover he put the entire range under screw cap. In addition to bio-dynamic practices, Hirsch utilises soft pruning, a method he learned in Alto Adige to minimise the amount of cuts and thus lessening the amount of tissue exposed to disease and old wood near the pruned area. In the vineyards, manure from celebrated cheese maker Robert Paget’s water buffalo and goats, grazing in the pastures in front of the vineyards, is used.

This is powerful, vigorous wine with a keen, straight and slicing palate. Richly punchy, but crystalline with clean cut edges. It finishes on a fine saline finish. Too early to drink this wine really. It should develop over the next 15 to 20 years – so to 2040. Tip top.  Score 17

Weingut Christophe Hoch, Hollenburger Riesling NV

Kremstal Austria Member of Demeter. Christophe’s family can trace their winemaking back to 1640. The bedrock of Hollenburger is limestone. He felt the vintage was in front (dominated) the wine, hence he decided to make the unusual choice of blending vintages.

Cidery aroma. Light, lean and straight palate with a sour-apple note and a saline finish.  

*Wiengut Sven Leiner, Kapelle Weissburgunder 2019

Pfalz, Germany Member of respekt-BIODYN Pfalz had the highest number of biodynamic producers in Germany – somewhere between 15 and 20. Kapelle is Sven’s best site. Note the ladybird on the label.

Fresh, lemony aroma. The palate is lightly rounded, broad and actually quite gusty. Definitely plenty of energy with an earthy intensity with a lively quality. Firm savoury sapidity on the finish; I like the tactile note at the end. It’s tangy. It does needs some time or decanting. When I first opened, it was battened down and took a couple of days to start opening up.  From 2023-28

Weingut Schmelzer, Weissburgunder 2018

Neusiedlersee, Austria Member of Demeter. No sulphur or copper, only home made teas and biodynamic preps. Natural wine.

This has a light apple and yeasty aroma which continues onto the palate with caramelised apple notes, which become lightly orangey. The acidity is quite tart. There are hints of lime on nose and palate. It’s 13 % but feels light light and breezy and it finishes on a nutty and salty note.   

*Weingut Herbert & Carmen Zillinger, Gruner Veltiner Kalkvogel 2019

Weinviertel, Austria Member of respekt-BIODYN Biodynamics can result in thicker skins requiring longer pressing. Not a problem for the Zillingers, who have the time and patience. This wine comes from a barren limestone soil. Herbert feels this is his best Gruner Veltliner. He and Carmen make several. Pressed and put straight into large old barrels. No debourbage and then on year on lees. Low sulphur levels of 30-40pp.

Candied citrus richness on nose and palate. Creamy texture. Lush lemon curd in the middle palate with a lovely balance of freshness. Sherbet-like energy. I really like this natural wine which is uber fresh, unlike some whites in this flight. Such an attractive wine –  vibrant, rich and pure. It is not super complex, but it is certainly yummy. 

Weingut Johannes Zillinger Parcellaire blanc 1# 2019

Weinviertel, Austria Member of Demeter. A blend of Welschriesling and Chardonnay from the coldest North and North/East facing slopes. If I understood correctly the Welschriesling, as whole bunches, is fermented in amphora and  the Chardonnay is kept under flor.

A really rather creamy wine with attractive viscosity. Just nicely rounded with a pretty white peach character; so peaches and cream cut through with quite tart acidity. There is a light fragrance that floats over fruit.  

Weingut Ploder-Rosenberg, Cara 2018

Styrian Volcanoland, Austria Member of Demeter. Maria, Alfred and son Manuel Ploder are pioneers in their region of extinct volcanos. Vineyards on the volcano’s slopes. He uses PIWI varieties – crossings which are fungus resistant – including 30% Souvignier Gris and  40% Bonner. The former has good natural acidity which is important here as the gravelly soils result in high pHs – 3.3-3.5. 

This is a very light, delicate wine with a hint of apple and some salinity. 

Weingut Judith Beck, Chardonnay Bambule 2018

Gols/Neusiedlersee, Austria. Member of Respekt -BIODYN. Gravel soil near the lake. This is fermented for 12-14 days on skins. No sulphur. Judith calls it zero intervention. Chardonnay was the first varied on which she used this approach back in 2011. She presses before the ferment has finished to protect it from oxygen. Aged in amphora for a year.  

This is this the most interesting of the wines with no sulphur. It is quite funky. Full, quite rounded and rich, but with bright acidity. It a bit quirky and finishes attractively saline.

*-**Weingut Birgit Braunstein, Blaufrankisch Thenau 2013

Neusiedlersee-Hugelland, Austria Member of Demeter

An invitingly farmy aroma, showing its more evolved character, mingles with red fruit and I do like the rich and fresh earthiness.  The palate has marked energy. Loads of black fruit with cherry and charcoal notes. It’s snappy in both energy and texture and there’s a real twang on the finish. I expect wine produced using biodynamic approach to exhibit lively energy and this does.   

***Weingut Feiler-Artinger, Blaufrankisch Leithaberg DAC Ried Oberer Wald 2018

Member of Respekt-BIODYN. The texture, which starts smooth and evolves a crisp crunch, is instantly arresting and so is the energy. This is both vibrant and has a vibration. The quivering energy carries to a well sustained finish. I like the ripe, juicy richness of blueberry fruit and the  contrasting lively freshness. Its 14 % but carries it with ease. What a lovely wine. I like it lightly chilled. Now and until 2028.

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