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Wine of The Month

A wonderful wine aged in terracotta amphorae. This is one of the oldest aging techniques in the history of winemaking, but here it is being used to make modern accessible wines. Plum and dark berry flavours abound with subtle herbal nuances. One of our favourite wines of 2017 so far.

 

Our Producers

  • López de Heredia (Vina Tondonia), Rioja
  • Rene Barbier, Priorat
  • Eric Texier, Rhône, Brézème
  • Sylvain Pataille, Marsannay, Burgundy
  • Veronica Ortega, Bierzo, Spain
  • La Stoppa, Emilia-Romagna, Italy
  • Telmo Rodriguez, Rioja & Ribera del Duero
  • Enric Soler, Penedes
  • Les Deux Cols, Rhône
  • Artuke, Rioja Alvasia
  • Claus Preisinger, Burgenland Austria
  • Arnaldo Caprai, Umbria, Italy
  • Domaine Vincent Dancer, Chassagne-Montrachet Burgundy
  • Walter Massa, Piemonte Italy

López de Heredia (Vina Tondonia), Rioja

López de Heredia (Vina Tondonia), Rioja

A trip to Lopez de Heredia is to understand the huge significance tradition and continuity can have on wine making. Over the last 50 years there have been great changes in Rioja and most wines made today bear little resemblance to wines made a generation ago. An exception to this are the wines of Lopez de Heredia. They avoid modern wine making shortcuts and stay true to their own time-honoured method of wine production. María José López de Heredia kindly showed me around her families vineyards and winery.

When you walk around the Lopez de Heredia winery you are struck by how little has changed: I have watched them making their own barrels – the only wine maker to do so in Spain. Temperature is controlled during fermentation by the opening and closing of doors rather than through refrigeration. Little has changed, but this is not a quaint cottage industry; it is a serious winery run by an extraordinarily knowledgeable family who are passionate about the wines they produce. Their wines stand out from the crowd because they could not be made anywhere else; that’s one of the reasons they are so special.

Gerard Maguire

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Rene Barbier, Priorat

Rene Barbier, Priorat

Rene Barbier was one of the founding members of the Gratallops group that managed to put their small corner of Priorat on the map because of the quality of the wines they were producing. They used local grape varieties like Cannena blended with imported French varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon. They were largely responsible for the elevation of Priorat to DOC status, the highest wine classification in Spain. Rene established his Clos Mogador estate in 1982.

I climbed through the vineyards with Rene which all have to be worked manually as they are so steeply terraced.  I was interested to hear about the biodynamic methods he is using in the vineyards: These sound curious but clearly produce great wine as I found later at a tasting with Rene.

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Eric Texier, Rhône, Brézème

Eric Texier, Rhône, Brézème

Eric trained under Jean-Marie Guffens in Mâcon , a wine maker for whom I have great regard. He began biodynamic winemaking in 2001 and became certified in 2003. While making wines in several areas his main focus was on the small and little known appellation of Brézème in the north Rhone. Historically the appellation rivalled the great wines of hermitage 100 years ago. Sadly however by 1961 a mere 1ha remained under vines.
Eric is widely regarded as the leading wine maker in the region and while he follows biodynamic principles he is not a slave to the movement. Sulphite is used only at bottling and so qualifies under that rather nebulous banner of ‘Natural wines’

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Sylvain Pataille, Marsannay, Burgundy

Sylvain Pataille, Marsannay, Burgundy

I first met Sylvain at the Natural wine fair in Saumur in the Loire. I had never heard of his wines, but I listened to him present to a Parisian restaurant owner and was impressed by his enthusiasm. When he was finished I tasted through his wines: I was a little surprised that he was showing 6 different cuveés of red Marsannay which could be a diifficult sell! I was very impressed with the purity and intensity of the wines but more importantly how each cuvee demonstrated different characteristics .
I followed his progress over the years and from time to time I would pick up a bottle on my travels. With each vintage, his wines seemed to improve. In January 2017, I flew over and met him in his cellar. He was presenting the entire range to two German gentlemen: He painstakingly went through each of his wines, white chardonnay and aligoté and all the different cuveés of red. When they left I asked who they were and he replied, ‘I don’t know, they wanted some wine’.

Sylvain is the first of the family in recent generations to make wine. The family lost their holdings after the 1st world war. He studied oenology and qualified in 1997 with his first vintage following in 1999. Jancis Robinson was very impressed at a trade tasting in London and said ‘This is a producer who is well worth watching’.

Our first allocation is small so I am in no rush to sell what we have. It appeals to me to see how his wines evolve. He is experimenting with different percentages of whole bunch v whole berry, depending on the site. He works hard to ensure that the wines are as site specific as possible. I like that a lot! These are elegant , focussed wines with a very good tension. They are defined by subtle mineral differences and are age worthy.

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Veronica Ortega, Bierzo, Spain

Veronica Ortega, Bierzo, Spain

Veronica Ortega was born in Cadiz in Southern Spain. Her first interest in wine developed through the first wine of her region – Sherry. She went on to work in Priorat  for Daphne Glorian (Clos Erasmus) and Alvaro Palacios. She spent time in New Zealand & Burgundy learning about viticulture. In Burgundy she worked at Comte Armand & Domaine de Romanee Conti. After a further 2 years gaining experience in the Northern Rhône she moved to Bierzo in Spain to set up on her own. Her first four vintages were vinified in the cellar of Raul Perez. Since 2014 she has had her own space to make wine.

The region of Bierzo has a long tradition of wine making and is interesting  for its geographical location and strong  Atlantic  influence. Veronica has old Mencia vines in her vineyards and is creating new and exciting wines with these

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La Stoppa, Emilia-Romagna, Italy

La Stoppa, Emilia-Romagna, Italy

La Stoppa is an ancient estate with vineyards stretching along the Trebbiola valley, not far from the river Trebbia, in the province of Piacenza. The estate extends over 52 hectares, 30 of which are planted with vines and dominated over by an elegant medieval tower. Over a century ago, the estate’s previous owner planted French varieties, producing both wines of significance, as well as others of curiosity through the addition of Italian styles: Bordeaux, White Bordeaux and Pinot Noir. In 1973 the estate was acquired by the Pantaleoni family who, within a short space of time, had invested in and restructured the vineyards, as well as renewing the cellar. Today the company is headed by Elena Pantaleoni, with the assistance of winemaker Giulio Armani. The naturally low yields (due to the average age of the vines and poor soil) together with the intrinsic quality of the grapes, have made possible the creation of wonderfully characteristic wines, which reflect their vineyards of origin and speak for themselves without the need for excessive reworking in the cellar. This does not mean that no use is made of modern technology or small barrels. On the contrary. However, these serve to accompany the wine towards its full maturity rather than to falsely modify it in any way. Today La Stoppa produces a limited number of wines: some derived from the local varieties – Malvasia, Barbera and Bonarda, others from historically introduced varieties of French origin such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir. The objective is to create modern wines without betraying the history and expression of the territory, manifesting themselves through the subtle tones and unique character of the wines produced.

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Telmo Rodriguez, Rioja & Ribera del Duero

Telmo Rodriguez, Rioja & Ribera del Duero

Telmo Rodriguez is one of the finest Spanish winemakers. Telmo travelled and learnt for many years, perfecting his craft and gaining international recognition before returning home to his family winery in Rioja: Remelluri had always made wines of the highest quality, but this was further enhanced with the return of the prodigal son. In addition he supervises projects throughout Spain and makes superb wines in each location. One of his most acclaimed projects is in Ribera del Duero where he makes wines at Matallana which are amongst the best in the region.

Telmo’s vision of the future of the Remelluri estate is centered around a focus on place. He is changing the focus from one of aging methods, and even varietals, to one of sites. As the estate reclaims vineyard sites, Telmo is handpicking the varietals best suited to the specific microclimate of each plot. He is also refocusing on old trellis styles, such as bush vine training. All plots are vinified separately.

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Enric Soler, Penedes

Enric Soler, Penedes

Enric is an ex sommelier from Il Bulli who is making wines at his estate Cal Raspallet. I visited him in 2016 and was excited to see what he is managing to achieve with his old Xarel-lo vines. Xarel-lo was traditionally used in the making of Cava, but Enric was one of the first to explore its potential in the making of still wine. He has vines which are up to 60 years old with very low yields. He vineyards are cultivated using biodynamic principles and this is integral to his wine making philosophy.

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Les Deux Cols, Rhône

Les Deux Cols, Rhône

For the past 10 years Simon Tyrrell and Charles Derain have been working with one of the most progressive and respected Co-ops in France, Cave d’Estezargues based in the Southern Rhone near Avignon. The Co-operative’ began a small revolution in the ‘Co-op’ world in 1995. The ten growers began a program of vinifying their wines from the best sites, separately. This evolved further when they became one of the first, if not the first, to follow largely ‘natural’ processes in their wine making. They opted to use natural yeasts and followed organic practices. Wherever and whenever possible they shunned filtering and fining of the wine.
Late in 2016 I joined up with Simon and Charles in a new project. We purchased a small 6h/a site near St Nazaire within the Appellation d’Origine Protégée (AOP), Cotes du Rhone. The three of us share an interest in wines that are not manipulated and are ‘of the land’.
After several years we were lucky to locate this small plot on an elevated site, 220 metres. It is surrounded on four sides by forest renowned for wild boar and wild mushrooms. The vines range in age with the oldest being 70yrs. The soils are a rare mix of limestone, loess, sand and clay. The combination of these factors will help us achieve our goal of making wines with finesse and lower alcohol levels. When we acquired the vineyard, it was in poor condition and we have embarked on a careful regeneration of the vineyard, without chemical treatments. We hope to have completed the important aspects, replanting, fertilizing, cutting back invasive tree roots and moving large amounts of soil by the start of the 2018 growing season.
In this our first year we are already following organic principles. Our vines are largely Grenache and Syrah with some Carignan and very old white vines of Bourboulenc and Clairette.
Our first vintage is in barrel and is showing great promise.

Gerard Maguire

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Artuke, Rioja Alvasia

Artuke, Rioja Alvasia

Since 1991 Miguel & Conchi Blanco have been making wines under the Artuke name: This  is derived from the names of their two sons Arturo & Kike who are also involved in the family business. Bodegas Artuke is a 22 hectare  estate in Banos de Ebro, Rioja Alavesa. This region is cooler than other parts of Rioja due to the influence of the Atlantic breeze.

The Blanco’s make wine outside of the strict DOC controls in Rioja as they believe it allows them to express the wines origins and purity of fruit more clearly. This is a huge risk for a winemaker but I think it has really paid off. Artuke consists of five separate sites where grapes are grow. Each has a different soil type and altitude and each of their wines are distinctive and represent their place of origin.

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Claus Preisinger, Burgenland Austria

Claus Preisinger, Burgenland Austria

Wine is in the blood of Claus Preisinger: He comes from a wine making family, studied Oenology at school and college then trained at wineries in Austria, Italy and California. Today he makes wine from a scenic location on the edge of Lake Neusiedl, with 18 hectares of vines spread between three separate villages. All his sites are farmed according to biodynamic principles. He focuses on indigenous varieties such as Zweigelt, Blaufrankisch, Weissburgunder and St Laurent.

Claus’s approach to wine making is very much about minimum intervention in the vineyard and the winery. His mantra is ‘pure, natural and low-tech’ and that is what attracted us to his wines. His wines are a pure expression of the grapes and soil they are grown in but are far from simple.

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Arnaldo Caprai, Umbria, Italy

Arnaldo Caprai, Umbria, Italy

“One of the greatest pleasures in my professional life over the past fifteen years has been the discovery of the wines of Marco Caprai and, through him, the tremendous potential of Sagrantino, at the time a totally unknown grape which no one, even in the wildest stretch of his imagination, could have ever considered a variety capable of giving some of Italy’s greatest wines. Some of Italy’s most important professionals work here”. Robert Parker
His latest mission is “Montefalco 2015: The New Green Revolution.” Started in 2010, Caprai’s goal is to produce a sustainable viticulture protocol, specific to his region and his indigenous grapes, which can be used as a model for others. The protocol focuses on farming techniques, including biodynamic and organic methods. Caprai is also an active member of Symbola—the Foundation for Italian Quality, an important group of entrepreneurs dedicated to promoting Italian excellence.
For all these lofty accomplishments, Wine Enthusiast is pleased to name Arnaldo Caprai our 2012 European Winery of the Year Wine Enthusiast

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Domaine Vincent Dancer, Chassagne-Montrachet Burgundy

Domaine Vincent Dancer, Chassagne-Montrachet Burgundy

The ever-shy Vincent Dancer’s reputation has grown spectacularly since 2010. Yet Dancer remains a private man. I like Dancer for his modesty but I love him for his wines. On my last visit to Dancer I bumped into a Belgian importer when tasting at Domaine Rapet. We talked outside about the sources we buy from. He doesn’t buy from Dancer because Dancer has nothing to sell him. The Belgian said he had been buying in Burgundy for 20 years but discovered Dancer too late. He went on to say that he wished he had an allocation from Dancer more than any other address in Burgundy. Tells you something!

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Walter Massa, Piemonte Italy

Walter Massa, Piemonte Italy

Five generations of Massas have laboured tirelessly to keep the Timorasso flame alight; it’s not difficult to see the origins of Walter’s frustration.  Here on the steep hills just east of Tortona grow the last few hectares of Timorasso in the world.  An ancient variety with tiny yields and immense concentration, it ought to be served by the glass in every restaurant with even the slightest aspirations to a decent wine list.  The Timorasso ‘Derthona’ is initially shy in the glass but develops red apple, apricot and tangerine with time.  Extended lees contact gives it a creamy mouthfeel often mistaken for oak (there is none) and the acidity will keep it developing in bottle for ages.  Last year Walter opened a 1979 Timorasso and it was in rude health.

“I absolutely loved this white wine and found more aromas and flavours, and more pleasure, as I drank it over the course of a few days. My first tasting note was as follows: ‘Very inviting spiced honeyed nose and some creamy, lightly spiced aromas as if it had some oak influence (though I’m told it’s unoaked). Nutty, citrus, with just discernible floral and apricot notes. Full of flavour and yet restraint, cool and fresh and lingeringly elegant and aromatic. Very well made.’ As the week went by, I found even more flavours emerging – white flowers, ginger, mineral and still nutty. I also noted a firmness in the texture but it was still alluringly creamy. Long, powerful and sophisticated with a gently floral finish.”
Jancis Robinson on discovering the rare wines made with Timorasso

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