Recently I woke up and realised that the summer has come. And not because of the weather, no. Instead, I felt a sudden desire to swim. Some circumstances make respite on the shores of the Black Sea not the best option, so I figured out an alternative - the White Sea. In other words, a sea of white wines. Luckily for us, the Garage has a lovely beach we can visit. And any decent leisure demands convives, right? So here we are, preparing to step into refreshing waters.
Look, this year was quite active in terms of wine-tasting events. We are only halfway through the year, but we already had more tastings compared to the previous year. This fact pleases me. It pleases Dionysus. It should also please you. But one thing doesn't check. The list of countries we visited through the glass misses a few destinations. And the list of tastes grapes could benefit from new blood.
Yet I didn't want to focus solely on atypical places or grapes. Some of the bottles in my cellar turned into sirens. And being a simple man, I could not resist the temptation. One must be insane to refuse a bottle of 1er Cru from Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey or an older Chenin Blanc from the late Jacky Blot. It's a Mixed Bag, after all. And I am ready to open my bag. Watch my hands:
Pierre Frick Crémant d'Alsace 2019
This wine secured the 🏅 8th place in our wine tasting lineup.
A sudden welcome drink that I am not going to talk about.
Aphros Phaunus Pet Nat Brut 2020
This wine secured the 🏅 10th place in our wine tasting lineup.
Bubbles! That's how you start any evening (or day). Phaunus is a Portugese Pet Nat made of Loureiro and Arinto grapes. Lots of novelties for our events this year.
Vasco Croft is the person behind Aphros. As a teen, he dreamed about becoming an astrologist, yet after some consideration, he decided to study architecture. But after discovering Steiner's philosophy, Vasco went to England to study pedagogy and sculpture, where he discovered an interest in woodworking and furniture design. It was enough for a few years until, in his thirties, he met a Buddhist monk. They shared a bottle of wine. For Vasco, it was a meeting with Dionysus himself. This encounter changed his life. As a result, in 2003, he started a wine project in Casal do Paço, a semi-abandoned property belonging to his family since the 17th century.
The grapes are pressed in inox vats, where the juice ferments between 16 to 18ºC. The wine is bottled before fermentation finishes to trap the bubbles. And after 3 months, it is disgorged to deliver clean wine.
Bott Frigyes Juhfark 2019
This wine secured the 🏅 6th place in our wine tasting lineup.
The Nitra region has a tight connection to Hungary. What can be explained by history can also be seen on the labels of Nitran wineries.
Bott Frigyes is located on the banks of the Danube River, across which lies Hungary. Their vineyards are located further to the East, where Hron River (Bott Rigyes uses its Hungarian name - Garam) falls into the Danube. Approximately 10 hectares of vineyards spread out on the Hill of Muzsla, 250 meters above sea level. A natural triangle formed by two rivers and the hill offers volcanic clay soils; rich in limestone and minerals.
The winery works with Rhine Riesling and Pinot Noir. But they put emphasis on local grapes, such as Furmint, Hárslevelű (Lipovina in Slovakia), Olaszrizling, Juhfark, Kékfrankos and Kadarka (cuttings are incidentally from Balla Géza in Romania, who is also ethnically Hungarian).
The winemaking is structured in terms of technique, although all fermentations are native. There's zero temperature control, longer lees ageing, natural settling, all oak barrels (some amphora), and bottling unfined and unfiltered with a small amount of at bottling as the only addition.
For the reds, they use the "Hamburger" method: a layer of foot-stomped whole cluster, then a layer of whole cluster, then a layer of destemmed and hand-crushed grapes. This achieves a semi-carbonic quality to the wines without developing too much of the banana or bubble gum often associated with carbonic. For the skin contact whites, it's often no more than a week, and they are careful to keep it worked over to prevent VA and other flaws. The winemaking overall is tied to tradition but with a nod to modern hygiene in the cellar.
Weinbau Wenzel Furmint Ried Vogelsang 2018
This wine secured the 🥉 3rd place in our wine tasting lineup.
Weingut Wenzel comes from the free city of Rust in Burgenland, Austria. Michael Wenzel and Sonja Priller operate the winery today. The vineyards are located on the western shore of Lake Neusiedl, 5 km1 from the Hungarian border. The winery owns 10 hectares2 across four sites (Riede) - Kleiner Wald, Pandkräftn, Satz and Vogelsang. The soil consists primarily of clam lime, gneiss, and red and blue quartz.
What is more or less clear - the Wenzel family played and still plays an important role in rediscovering the Furmint variety on Austrian soil. Furmint was once the most important white wine variety in the Danube Monarchy. In the turmoil of the 20th century, it was largely forgotten in Austria - unlike in Hungary, where the largest growing area for Furmint is still to this day.
Despite the dangers of being caught (the Iron Curtain was not a joke), Michael's father, Robert, and grandfather smuggled back historic clones from Hungary in 1984. In addition to the Wenzels, only the old vine nursery Seiler in Rust still had a few wild vines. Yet Robert Wenzel was the first to consciously rely on this old variety. And to this day, the family owns (at least according to Michael) the oldest Furmint vines in Austria.
Since then, Michael Wenzel has cultivated four of the best vineyards in Rust according to bio-organic guidelines. And impressively, Michael owns a ninth of all Furmint vines3 in Austria. And from these 3 hectares, he presses the most extensive Furmint portfolio in the world.
The wine is named after the site it comes from - Vogelsang (bird song), which indicates a diverse bird population. The site is about 25 hectares, of which Furmint occupies only 1.3 hectares. I could not find information on how much of these 1.3 hectares Michael Wenzel owns. In any case, the vines grow on weathered mica schist with little lime and lots of loam.
It seems that the latest release of the 2021 vintage doesn't include Vogelsang. Why? I don't know.
Meh, this was way too long. See what happens when I can't find information?
Domaine de la Taille Aux Loups Montlouis Sur Loire Clos de Mosny Monopole 2021
This wine secured the 🥈 2nd place in our wine tasting lineup.
Domaine de La Taille Aux Loups has an interesting history. Although it's now associated with esteemed winemaker Jacky Blot, he wasn't the one who established the domaine. The viticultural maverick who brought La Taille aux Loups into being was Christian Prudhomme, a man from Bordeaux.
Prudhomme wanted to shake things up in Montlouis-sur-Loire. With experience working in the vineyards and cellars of Château Mouton-Rothschild, as well as at Opus One in California, he acquired 7 hectares of old vines in 1988 and set about making wine his way. This included reducing yields by thinning crops, harvesting into small crates to protect the fruit, and fermenting with indigenous yeasts in barrels purchased from Château d'Yquem. The resulting wines were reportedly a testament to his wild dedication. However, the business collapsed within a year of starting up, for reasons that remain unclear. This was where Jacky Blot entered the story, marking the start of Montlouis' dynamic development, thanks in no small part to his ambitious and active efforts (alongside François Chidaine, another esteemed winemaker from Montlouis).
After working as a courtier for some time, Jacky Blot decided to look for vineyards of his own. The small domaine that Prudhomme had gathered together was available, and Jacky took up where his predecessor had left off, with just those 7 hectares of vines. It was around this time that he met Christophe Mesliand, the son of a viticultural family from Amboise. Jacky hired Christophe as his chef de culture, and the two have worked together at La Taille aux Loups ever since.
Domaine de La Taille Aux Loups is located just 11km from Vouvray, so the house's speciality is Chenin Blanc. However, Blot drew great inspiration from Burgundy, and many of the wines follow a single-vineyard, terroir-driven approach, with a focus on organic viticulture. These whites are known for their precision, length, complexity, and age-ability.
Sadly, Jacky Blot passed away on May 15, 2023. His legacy will live on through the wines produced by his son Jean-Philippe and the teams at Domaine de la Taille aux Loups and Domaine de la Butte (another winery he owned).
Le Clos de Mosny is a single-vineyard cuvée of 12.5 hectares, reduced to old vines of Chenin Blanc from the best geological zone (about 8 hectares). The vineyard is fully owned by Domaine de La Taille Aux Loups, hence the 'monopole' designation. The vines are 40-50 years old. They grow on sand clay soil with lots of silexes on pure limestone (2-3 meters before hitting the limestone). The ageing lasts 1 year on fine lees in barrels (20% new, 80% 1-4-year-old barrels).
Domaine de la Taille Aux Loups Montlouis Sur Loire Clos de Mosny Monopole 2018
This wine secured the 🥇 1st place in our wine tasting lineup.
Lucky us! An older bottle of Le Clos de Mosny. I have nothing to add here. This article is already long enough.
Errázuriz Aconcagua Costa Chardonnay 2016
This wine secured the 🏅 9th place in our wine tasting lineup.
After a few complex and mindblowing wines, I reckon we need a pause before we move to the last planned wine of the evening. And although it's more of a sacrifice that has all the chance to be forgotten in this lineup, Aconcagua Costa Chardonnay by Errazuriz is not that simple.
In my opinion, the history of Viña Errázuriz is not that interesting. Besides, as those respecting their own legacy, they have pretty comprehensive information about themselves on their site. In short, Errázuriz's history begins in 1870, when Don Maximiano Errázuriz founded the winery with 300 hectares (sic!), which quickly expanded to 1300 over just 20 years (double sic!). In 2017, Wine Advocate recognised the winery as the best in Chile. And by the way, Las Pizarras Chardonnay 2017 was the first Chilean wine to receive a score as high as 98 from RP.
Anyways, we are here to taste Aconcagua Costa Chardonnay. People that paid attention to their geography class (not me) could rightfully yell - the highest mountain in the Americas. With its 6961 meters above sea level, Aconcagua is part of the Seven Summits list. Of course, the vines grow a little bit below - in the Aconcagua Costa, about 12 kilometres from the Pacific Ocean.
The grapes for Aconcagua Costa Chardonnay are sourced from the Aconcagua Costa vineyard, planted by Viña Errázuriz in 2005 and 2009. The soil is composed of a thin layer of loamy texture and placed on a base of clay and metamorphic rock (slate/schist).
Grapes were handpicked in the early morning between March 1st and 4th in small boxes and carefully transported to the winery, where they were whole-cluster pressed and cold decanted in stainless steel tanks. The juice is then placed into used French oak barrels for fermentation, lasting 15 to 20 days. Errázuriz uses a mix of indigenous yeasts along with a number of strains (sic!), reportedly for greater complexity (?). After alcoholic fermentation, the wine undergoes 50% malolactic fermentation. Then it ages for 10 months in the same oak.
Bret Brothers Macon-Villages Terroirs du Maconnais 2021
This wine secured the 🏅 7th place in our wine tasting lineup.
A bonus bottle brought by one of the participants.
Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Saint-Aubin Premier Cru La Chateniere 2020
This wine secured the 🏅 4th place in our wine tasting lineup.
Pierre-Yves Colin is one of Burgundy's (and the wine world's) most iconic winemakers. After working as the winemaker at his father's domaine from 1994 to 2005, Pierre-Yves established his own domaine alongside his wife, Caroline Morey. And while they inherited quite a few vineyards from their families, Pierre-Yves had to prove himself before his father, Marc Colin, allowed him to take over the vineyard in Bâtard-Montrachet. Today, it's the only Grand Cru owned by Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey.
His fastidious farming (lutte raisonnée4), incredible attention to detail, use of larger demi-muid barrels, and long elevage - all that makes each one of his bottlings a clear expression of its terroir and a study in mineral-driven Chardonnay. Unlike many locals, Pierre-Yves uses 350L barrels (instead of 225L) and also ages his wines for a longer period of 18 months (vs 12 months).
Santo Wines Santorini Nykteri 2021
This wine secured the 🏅 5th place in our wine tasting lineup.
A bonus bottle brought by one of the participants.
- Michael Wenzel
- Michael Wenzel - HØTOFT
- Weingut Wenzel - wein.plus
- Michael Wenzel - Newcomer wines
- Michael Wenzel - Austrian Wine
- Aphros Wine
- Domaine de la Taille aux Loups - Skurnik
- Domaine de la Taille aux Loups - Wine Doctor
- Bott Frigyes Unfiltered Juhfark 2018 - Danch & Granger Selections
- Bott Frigyes
- Girolamo Russo
- Robinson, Jancis, and Hugh Johnson. The World Atlas of Wine 8th Edition. Illustrated, Mitchell Beazley, 2019.
Some inconsistencies just drive me mad. For example, the official site of the winery states that the vineyards are located 5 km from the Hungarian border. HØTOFT (Wenzel's distributor) talks about 20 km. It's hard to use maps for accurate measures because it's unclear where exactly Wenzel's vines are located. On the other hand, Vogelsang and Satz are the two most Southern sites Wenzel owns vines on, and both are around 5 km from the border, at least according to Austrian Vineyards. ↩
Lutte raisonnée (literally 'reasoned struggle') is an approach to viticulture which permits the application of agrochemicals only when absolutely necessary and not as a matter of routine. Practically, that means no chemicals unless there is a high risk of losing harvest or vines altogether. ↩