Wine Club February 2019

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Hello, and welcome to the February edition of Wine Club! We’ve got a great lineup selected for you, from a brand new semi-exclusive Pét-Nat to a juicy Petit Verdot from one of Australia’s most exciting small producers. Enjoy!

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2018 Wildman Wine Astro Bunny Pét-Nat - Riverland, Australia $30.55

Where

The fruit for the Wildman Wine Astro Bunny comes from the vines of Ricca Terra Farms located in Barmera, Riverland. This unique estate, spread over 70 hectares of land, was originally farmed by returned soldiers from the first & second World Wars. Made up of ten individual vineyards, it is the project of husband & wife team, Ashley & Holly Ratcliff. One of Australia’s leading growers of alternative varietals, their vines are planted to such obscure varieties as Slancamenca Bela and Zibibbo. As is the norm in Riverland, the vines are not far from the Murray River, which provides much needed irrigation.
  

What

Pét-Nat, the original sparkling wine, is back to conquer your taste buds. Made using the méthode ancestrale technique, pétillant-naturel wines have been around for centuries. Long before bubbles came to Champagne, monks in Limoux had already figured out the trick of making wines sparkle. Compared with méthode champenoise, which calls for two fermentations, méthode ancestrale needs only one. The process of fermentation, which converts sugar into alcohol, also produces carbon dioxide. In still wines, it is allowed to escape. When producing Pét-Nat, the carbon dioxide is not allowed to escape, adding efferecence to the wine. Historians think that this first happened by accident when a container of wine was sealed before the fermentation was complete. Although better understood today, the essential concept is the same.

The Astro Bunny Pét-Nat is a blend of handpicked 50% Vermentino, 25% Nero d’Avola, and 25% Zibibbo. The Zibibbo was given 24 hours skin contact to extract aromas from the skins. The Nero d’Avola and Vermentino were pressed together, with two hours in the press to allow for colour to be extracted from the Nero. The first phase of the fermentation took place for four weeks in stainless steel tanks with no adjustments, additions, or added sulphur. With 12 g/l of residual sugar remaining, the wine was put in bottle and capped. Left to further ferment over the winter, the resulting sparkling wine is dry with around 3 bars of pressure. 

Who

British born Tim Wildman runs a multifaceted business that involves winemaking, travel, film, and education. One of very few people to pass the rigorous Master of Wine examination, Tim created James Busby Travel in 2010. This business introduces wine trade professionals (such as our very own Jesse Willis) to the wine regions of Australia. He is also the founder of WineTutor.tv, an educational resource for students studying for their Master of Wine examinations. Add to this the rigours of making naturally made Pét-Nat’s at a new winery in Adelaide Hills, Tim is one busy guy.

Taste

Pale punch pink in colour, this Pét-Nat is all about freshness with aromas of green strawberry and cream. On the palate a pillow of frothy bubbles carries zesty flavours of watermelon, nectarine, and peach bellini. The finish is lip smackingly dry. A touch funky and a lot fun, it is thoroughly gulpable. We would suggest serving this wine well chilled, around 10°C.  

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2016 Boeckel Midelberg Pinot Blanc - Alsace, France $24.00

Where

There are many beautiful wine regions in the world. Even so, few of them are as magical as Alsace. Situated in north eastern, this French wine region is distinguished by charming villages and a strong Germanic influence. A contested strip of land that runs 185 kilometres from north to south on the west bank of the Rhine river, Alsace was at different times in history part of Germany. To the west, the Vosges Mountains play a large role in the region's climate. Providing protection from cool westerly winds, the Vosges block a significant amount of rainfall, making this one of the sunniest regions in France. Colmar, the “capital of Alsatian wine”, is the second driest city in France. The best vineyards are situated on the lower east and southeastern facing slopes.

What

There is an offbeat Franco-Germanic character to Alsatian wines. The only French region to grow large amounts of Riesling and Gewurztraminer, this is overwhelmingly white wine country (accounting for 90% of overall wine production). Labelled by grape variety, Alsatian wines can range from bone dry to luxuriously sweet. They are some of the most characterful white wines made in France, perfectly partnered with the regions decadent cuisine.

A white mutation of Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc is a pliable variety that is particularly expressive in Alsace. The terroir draws out the varieties unctuous true nature. The “Midelberg” Pinot Blanc is made from hand harvested grapes grown in the commune of Mittelbergheim. The vines are planted to limestone soil. Following a slow fermentation in temperature controlled vats, the wine was aged in neutral old oak barrels.

Who

The Boeckel family can trace their family tree in Alsace back to the mid 1500’s. Originally a family of butchers and hoteliers, in 1853 Frédéric Boeckel moved the family into the winemaking business. It was common at the time for most families in Mittelbergheim to own a few hectares of vineyards and make a bit of wine. Today managed by Jean-Daniel and Thomas Boeckel (5th generation winemakers), the estate has a total of 21 hectares of vines in Mittelbergheim and the neighbouring villages of Andlau, Barr and Eichhoffen. A good percentage of their holdings are Grand Cru sites. Farming according to organic principles, in the cellar the estate marries modernity with tradition. Employing the latest stainless steel tanks for fermentation, the brothers age their wines in oak barrels (10 hectolitres to 140 hectolitres) that are on average 75 years old. The oldest of which dates back to 1901.

Taste

Light gold in color, the Boeckel Midelberg Pinot Blanc is a refreshing white wine with creamy texture and fine aromatics. On the nose you find fruity aromas of lemon and pear marmalade. Clean and dry, the palate is lush with flavours of spiced Golden Delicious apples and almonds. The finish is long and a touch bitter. Like a champion athlete with love handles, it is both angular and a little chubby. It is best served with 15 minutes out of the fridge to warm a bit. A versatile food wine, you would do well to serve it alongside the Alsatian classic, tarte flambée. 

 

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2015 Antico Colle Toscana Rosso - Tuscany, Italy $20.50

Where

The medieval hilltop village of Montepulciano lies 124 kilometres southeast of the city Florence, far removed from the tourist hordes crowding the Uffizi. Propped over 600 meters above the valley floor on a limestone ridge, it was originally founded by the Etruscans in the 4th-3rd centuries BC. The current layout and architecture of Montepulciano, funded by the noble Medici family, has changed little since the 16th century. The village is located within the Val d'Orcia, whose rolling landscape is the very picture of pastoral Tuscany. Designated a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2004, it was a popular subject of Renaissance painters. The DOCG of the village, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, sits within the larger Chianti Colli Senesi sub-zone.   

What

As is the case across Tuscany, the dominant grape variety in Montepulciano is Sangiovese. Known locally as Prugnolo Gentile, it is prized for high acidity, robust tannins, and concentrated cherry flavours. In the classic Vino Nobile di Montepulciano red wine, it must account for 60 to 80% of the blend. Labelled under the less restrictive IGT Toscana Rosso designation, this wine from Antico Colle is a blend of 70% Prugnolo Gentile, 15% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. Previous vintages have included some percentages of the local Canaiolo Nero and Mammolo varieties. It was fermented and macerated in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature (no higher than 30 C°) for 14 to 16 days, then removed with a light pressing of the remaining skins and seeds.

Who

The 20 hectare estate of Antico Colle is located at the very centre of Montepulciano’s Vino Nobile wine-growing area. For three generations, the Frangiosa family have been tending their vines on the rolling hills surrounding the village. Their holdings, separated into various strips of council land, sit between 300 and 40 meters above sea level. Plantings include percentages of Prugnolo Gentile, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Canaiolo Nero, Mammolo, and Chardonnay. From these vines, Andrea Frangiosa produces a range of traditionally made wines and grappas. The estate also produces high quality olive oils from the estates olive trees.

Taste

In the glass this wine shows light ruby red in colour with a brickish tinge. The classic appearance of a Sangiovese based wine. On the nose it is fragrant, displaying aromas of bing cherries, licorice, and orange pekoe. The medium bodied palate is highlighted by sinewy acidity and sleek tannins. Sour cherry and sundried tomato flavours are complemented by a peppy raspy finish. All together it is a sincere wine that stays true to its Tuscan roots. When pairing this wine with food look to the humble classics, like finocchiona (a soft sausage flavored with fennel seeds) or salame toscano (sausage studded with pepper and cubes of fat). The ideal service temperature is 14°C to 15°C.

 

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2016 Mas Las Cabes Côtes du Roussillon - Roussillon, France $23.00

Where

Although it is often conjoined with neighbouring Languedoc, the Roussillon region has a distinct personality and history. Positioned next to the Mediterranean Sea in the shadow of the Pyrenees Mountains in southwestern France, the landscape is made up of fertile valleys ideal for agriculture. Vineyard plantings are concentrated in the regions east, as the west is too mountainous for viticulture. Historically the Roussillon was part of the Principality of Catalonia, and is still called Northern Catalonia by Catalan nationalists. Ceded to France in the 1600’s, today half of the people in Roussillon still understand the Catalan language.

What

The majority of the wines being produced in Roussillon are labelled as Côtes du Roussillon. Once a region known for dessert wines, today 3 out of every 4 bottles are red. Although less prominent than in the past, Banyuls, Maury and Rivesaltes still produce vins doux naturels that will rival the best of Ports. Similar to the Rhône, the classic Roussillon red blend typically consists of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre. Carignan and Cinsault play supporting roles.

The Mas Las Cabes Côtes du Roussillon is a blend of 50% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 10% Carignan, and 10% Mourvèdre. Made from organically grown grapes, it was traditionally fermented for 21 days in concrete tanks. Maturation took place in a combination of oak barrels and concrete tanks for 8 months.

Who

Mas Las Cabes is a small estate located near the village of Espira de l'Agly. Purchased in 1990, the winery is overseen by Jean Gardiés, who also manages the families sister estate, Domaine Gardies. Certified “Vin Biologique”, the estate organically farms 15 hectares of vines planted to black marl and friable schist soils. In his holdings Jean tends young plantings (10-30 years old) of Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Cinsault, Macabeu, Muscat and Vermentino. Compared to Domaine Gardies, Mas Las Cabes is geared towards approachable wines that can be enjoyed in their youth.

Taste

Inky garnet-purple in the glass, the Mas Las Cabes Côtes du Roussillon shows great vigor and intensity of fruit. The nose leads with aromas of sweet black currant, shifting towards notes of wild herbs and pepper. The medium bodied palate is supple, with notes of strawberry, black cherry, and olive. Concentrated but not cloying, the tannins are glossy and the acidity refreshing. The slightly smoky herbal finish will particularly charm fans of northern Rhône Syrah. A very well balanced wine that can compete with bottles triple the price. A regionally inspired food pairing would be Boules de Picolat (Catalan meatballs). Serve around 14°C to 15°C.

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2016 Vidigal Coragem - Lisboa, Portugal $20.50

Where

The wine region of Lisboa is a prolific, but lesser known Vinho Regional on Portugal's Atlantic coast. Formerly called Estremadura, it is a long and thin area located northwest of the capital. Within splashing distance of the ocean, the most western vineyards are subjected to windy and humid weather. Further inland, vineyards are protected by the Serra de Montejunto hills that run north from Lisbon. Of the nine officially recognized appellations for winemaking, the areas of Bucelas, Arruda, and Alenquer produce the most compelling wines. Although the areas of Colares and Carcavelos have historic winemaking traditions, today their vineyards have to fight to survive with the scourge of residential beachfront development coming on strong.

What

The modern wine scene in Lisboa is sustained primarily by a group of cooperatives, leaving a small niche for a handful of smaller producers. At their disposal, they can make wine from over 30 different grape varieties. In addition to well known grapes such as Touriga Nacional and Cabernet Sauvignon, you will also find plantings of indigenous grape like Baga and Sercial, to name a few. In the case of the Vidigal Coragem, the blend is 40% Castelão, 40% Syrah and 20% Aragonez. Castelão, also known as Periquita and João de Santarém, can be grown across Portugal and is favoured for its firm tannic structure. Aragonez is the local name for Tempranillo, Spain’s top red variety. To make this wine, grapes sourced from vines planted to clay limestone soil were crushed and fully destemmed before fermenting in temperature controlled stainless steel vats.

Who

The Vidigal winery is a family run estate located close to the city of Leiria, roughly halfway between Lisbon and Porto. Originally founded by a Church Canon in the early 20th century, it was purchased by António Mendes Lopes in the 1990’s. Lopes has over 30 years of experience in the wine industry as a wine importer in Norway. To assist him with winemaking he has employed two oenologists: António Ventura and Rafael Neuparth. The winery has access to around 450 hectares of vineyards in Lisboa through a series of partnerships with local grape growers. Unsurprising for a wine importer, Lopes exports around 90% of the wineries total production.

Taste

Ruby red in color, the Coragem red blend is a fruit forward wine with ripe aromas of wild blueberry, black raspberry, and lavender. The medium bodied palate is a touch woodsy with steady tannins, trim acidity, and curvy black fruit flavours. Finishing with a nice plummy note, this wine is a great everyday option, whether that means serving it solo or with a juicy burger. We would suggest serving this wine at 14°C to 15°C.

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2015 William Downie 'Bill Downie' Petit Verdot - Riverland, Australia $34.00

Where

Located east of the the Barossa Valley, the South Australian wine region of Riverland covers an area of 9,386 square kilometres. Its vineyards are dependent on the life giving Murray River, which provides much needed water for irrigation. Without the river, viticulture would be impossible in this hot and dry place. The mostly flat vineyards see on average 135mm of rain annually and temperatures that can reach 45°C at the height of summer. Luckily for the regions vines, nighttime temperatures drop noticeably. Vine disease is rare and grape ripeness assured, thanks to low humidity and long sunny days.    

What

The Riverland produces more than ¼ of the wine produced in Australia. This makes it the most productive wine region in the country. Blessed with a favorable climate and unlimited irrigation, it produces vast amounts of ripe fruit that typically goes into basic grocery store wines. All of the big producers are here. Do a little looking though and you’ll find that there are a handful of small wineries stirring things up. Winemakers like Bill Downie have injected a sense of place into Riverland wine. The ‘Bill Downie’ Petit Verdot, is his minimalist take on the classic Bordelais varietal. The grapes came from biodynamically farmed vines situated close to the town of New Residence, which were planted to deep red sandy loam soil. Unlike most Riverland vineyards, which are mechanically farmed, this vineyard is tended by hand. Harvesting the grapes during the cooler hours of the evening, it was fermented using indigenous yeasts. Bottling occurred without filtering or fining. In his own words, William has this to say about how he made this wine: “This wine made itself.”

Who

Bill Downie is part of the new wave of Australian winemaking. He has quickly established himself as one of the countries leading producers of Pinot Noir. After years of making wine for leading Australian and French wineries, Downie started to make his own wines in 2003. He built his reputation by making Pinot Noir from three different areas: Gippsland, Mornington Peninsula and Yarra Valley. His home estate, Guendulain Farm, was planted in 2012 to mostly Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc. The farming is completely chemical free without any sprays, and all of the work is done either by hand or horse. In 2017, in partnership with winemaker Patrick Sullivan, Downie purchased an additional 11 hectares of organically grown vineyards in Gippsland. After the 2018 vintage, his entire production will be made from estate fruit. Currently he produces only 1,500 cases of wine each vintage.

Taste

There is nothing petite about this 100% Petit Verdot. Deep garnet in the glass, the nose bursts with aromas of black fruits, lilac, and spice. Round and mouth-filling, the flavourful palate is packed with notes of purple popsicle and black cherry. Leaving you with a purple toothed smile, this wine retains a lively freshness which makes it all too drinkable. More fruit than brute, this wine can be enjoyed on its own or paired with meaty dishes with a good touch of spice. When opening this wine, allow for a short decant of 45 minutes to an hour, with a service temperature of 15°C.