Pfalz grows some really nice vines and not only of the Riesling kind so I bought an Eymann (a producer I hadn’t even heard of before) Weissburgunder (not one of my favourites grapes) from Alko (ugh, we don’t even need to go there). No need to stress that my hopes weren’t terribly high because Alko usually means that even potentially interesting things will be spoiled by them choosing only the bland, boring, generic yet expensive wines.
Eymann Gönnheimer Weißburgunder Trocken 2015 – Pfalz, c.17€; 13% abv
I’m not so sure I should use such a term but I want to describe the scent as mineral. I’ll crack a ruler over my knuckles as penance for having written that. But the initial nostril sensation was exactly that of sniffing sparkling mineral water. I have no idea what that “neutral” yet so distinctive aroma is so I’ll just go the lazy route and not bother to find out but instead just call it mineral. Yet it also seems very ripe with levels of fruit interest that Weissburgunder rarely has – and the best thing is that this level of ripeness never distracts from the savoury aromas or goes over the top into something sugary. It does feel pretty weighty in the mouth, but it also feels vivacious. Weird. I was expecting a pretty neutral wine and instead I get so much fruit personality that it’s almost too much. But then the structure hits and all is made well again. Very moreish for what seems like a warm year (though I must admit I haven’t paid any attention to wine for a while so I’m just guessing).
Now I haven’t really been paying much attention to wine recently so I have no idea how this is in the grand scheme of things, but at least within the weird, small, uniform selection of Alko this stood out as being quite a bit more interesting than most other stuff available now.
Time to try something a bit different: an Australian red – one that was recommended as a good example of a more elegant style and also predominantly from a lesser-known grape. Well Dolcetto isn’t exactly an unknown variety, though admittedly I don’t often see versions from outside of Piemonte.
Route du Van Dolcetto Shiraz 2012 – Victoria; 13% abv; 79% Dolcetto, 21% Shiraz; c.20€
Slightly earthy aromas, plenty of fruit of a quite dark and spicy type. It’s pleasant enough but nothing really suggests Dolcetto to me – or Shiraz for that matter. Hmmm. Maybe it’s a weird blend where the parts cancel each other out? The palate is very gluggable and really quite moreish in comparison to most other Australians I’ve seen here. Not terribly tannic, nor acidic, but it isn’t too extracted or too concentrated or too fruity so I guess all that helps keep it refreshing. It’s actually kind of fun and I feel like I should like it more than I do. I wonder if this is just my prejudices showing up? Perhaps one to try again at some point if I feel that I might be the problem, not the wine?
I often criticise our monopoly, Alko, for its horrible and limited selection. On the surface it may seem like a wide selection with thousands of different labels. But I’ve often liked to slightly misquote Stravinsky on Vivaldi (“Vivaldi didn’t write 600 concertos! He wrote one concerto 600 times!”) when it comes to Alko’s selections: they don’t have 2500 wines; they have one wine with 2500 labels. But I have to be honest that there are a handful of perfectly enjoyable wines at not exorbitant prices. This Verdejo is one I have enjoyed over several vintages and I would argue that it is still good value even now that it’s gone up to c.13€. (And that’s actually not too bad a price when I did a quick comparison – yes you can get it cheaper, but this isn’t highway robbery from Alko for once.)
José Pariente Verdejo 2015 – 13% abv; c.13€
Why do many people insist on writing about this wine as if it were neutral in aromatics? Maybe I drink too much Muscadet but I did not find this neutral. There is an intense fresh pear aroma that I really like – I should perhaps stress that it’s not at all like the cold ferment pear drop aroma but something very sniffable. That fresh fruit aroma mixed with a herbaceous quality makes this a very friendly and fun wine, especially since all this fun follows perfectly seamlessly and logically onto the palate. It is fairly big and concentrated with lots of dense, sweet fruit but has a really nice electric current of acidity running through it all. And on the finish there’s an attractive, slightly herbaceous bitterness. I probably make it sound more complex than it really is, but the point I’m trying to make is that it is genuinely interesting and it is a lot of fun and it makes me happy. You can’t really ask for much more than that.
It went above 10° C today so we can skip spring and say that summer arrived. That requires some type of white fish with a very simple white wine and mushroom sauce and some light, delicate white wine in the glass. I have always liked Vinho Verde though the good ones have been difficult to find here in the cold dreary north. But I saw a surprise on the shelf of an Alko today: Quinta do Ameal Vinho Verde Loureiro 2015. I remember Ameal as being one of the good ones. Not even the Robert Parker 94 Points -sticker was enough to deter me. It’s about 15€ here, has about 11,5% abv and is a varietal Loureiro, It’s a fun wine and goes perfectly with a simple fish and mushroom dish that requires something delicate but acidic that certainly won’t overpower what is still a pretty delicate meal.
The first slightly odd thing is that is smells very ripe. The whole charm of VV is its high acidity combined with fleeting, gentle glimpses of pure fruit. But mostly it’s the structure and lightness that I so like. But the odd thing here is that it has all that slightly off-beat charm of high acidity, minerality and citrus, but it combines that with genuinely ripe and aromatic fruit of the un-fleeting kind. Hmmm. It is very sniffable and very tasty and very moreish so perhaps I need to refresh my idea of what VV is. On my negative to positive infinity scale this certainly gets a solid +110 points from me. It gives me the same sensations as the best Muscadets except the fruit isn’t so neutral. I like it, though it might not be the most typical VV.
My new grape crush seems to be Teroldego. Possibly. We only have two different ones available here so it’s impossible to make any generalisations. The cheaper one, Mezzacorona, was kind of meh but still kindled my interest enough that I bought the expensive one. But Foradori 2014 – Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT, 12,5% abv; c.30€ is seriously tasty. It has vivid, bright berry aromas of the kind that promise saliva-inducing tartness on the palate. And it is just like that on the palate. Sour and acidic and with pure fruit. This is tasty.
Is the grape always this much fun? Is Foradori typical of it? Which other producers should I try?
I dropped into an Alko looking for something new I hadn’t yet tried. I spied this recent arrival and an acquaintance working in that Alko told me that it’s certainly worth trying and was really nice. Our tastes are alike enough that I will always trust a recommendation from him.
Jean Stodden Blanc de Noir Spätburgunder 2015 – Ahr, Germany; 12,5% abv; 7 g/l RS; c.23€
It’s almost colourless. The first surprise is how aromatic it is. I was expecting something a bit neutral from a still white made from Pinot Noir. But no. Rather it has tantalising, fleeting glimpses of red wine Pinosity: strawberry fruit and even a touch of damp earth. To be clear, it is an aromatic white with spice of the non-oaky kind and crisp forest berries being the dominant scents – but I really never would have expected such Pinosity from a white Pinot. But I don’t know if that’s my mind being biased and thinking that the lack of Pinot’s skins should make it neutral; or whether my mind is putting these Pinosities into my nose when they aren’t even there. I think I should stop writing about wine if I can’t even figure out where my mind is going wrong with this wine.
It tastes quite yummy, too. Ripe and sweetly fruity with playful, joyful acidity that makes it incredibly moreish. The very slight RS doesn’t bother me one bit. Clean, pure and fun. Even knowing the tastes of who recommended it to me, I was still surprised at how much I enjoyed it. It’s just a bit pricey for a fun, crisp, joyful, aromatic white. Take 5€ off the price and I wouldn’t complain.
There are some styles of wine that I have found extremely difficult to get to grips with and that I genuinely very, very rarely like. Sauvignon Blanc (even from the Loire) is such; Amarone is another; Barossa Shiraz one more. Sure I have had nice examples of each of them, but the ones I dislike are in such a great majority that I don’t dare use my own money on them. But I was persuaded to try an Amarone today since I like weird, freaky and natural wine and this is a producer that identifies with that religion.
Tenuta Sant’ Antonio Tέlos L’Amarone 2011 – 15,5% abv; Corvina 70%, Rondinella 20%, Croatina 5%, Oseleta 5%; c.40€
It smells strongly of medicinal herbs and tomatoes/rust/bell pepper; plenty of dried fruit; very dark fruit tones. Rich, concentrated, nicely tannic, slight sweetness (12 g/l rs) and amazingly perfectly integrated alcohol which I never would have believed from 15,5%. Well balanced for such a big wine. You can’t tell this is “natural” wine – it most certainly is not in the freaky end of the “natural” spectrum. It just seems like a typical Amarone except that it is far more drinkable than almost any other I have had.
So did this convert me into Amarones? Nope. But it does seem like a very well made wine and though still far from styles I genuinely love, even I found this perfectly drinkable and interesting enough to post a note here.
But we also received a “natural” white from the same producer that I tried some time after.
Tenuta Sant’ Antonio Tέlos Il Bianco 2015 – 12,5% abv; Garganega & Chardonnay; c.20€
Well this scent is quite weird: it is a right punch up the nostrils, a combination of candied sweetness in the fruit section (well, there’s a fruit aroma so vivid from my childhood in East Africa that Proust would be proud: it’s guava!) and really quite extreme sourness, very much like in those sour sanded candies I so loved as a child. Now I know we’re supposed to differentiate between the scent and the palate and the nose can’t sense such things as sourness and the palate can’t sense much more than structure. But I’m not so sure the brain compartmentalizes things like that but rather looks at the whole so can we just roll with it and not make too much of an issue of this? The whole was strange and unique and it was strange and unique in ways that were fun and exhilarating. Sophisticated? No idea and I don’t care. I think that sometimes interesting, rather than refined or sophisticated, is the new 100 Parker points. But if this is my idea of guava + childhood candy concentrate, it might not be. But that doesn’t make it any less fun. So on my –∞ to +∞ scale this certainly receives a solid +100 points.