Muscat of Alexandria is a variety that seems to contain an endless stream of generosity. I spent many days and nights in its company on the island of Pantelleria where it goes under the name of Zibibbo.
On a Greek island (similarly vulcanic, roughly six times the size and 1200 km east of Pantelleria) Muscat of Alexandria is also the main ingredient in their wines.
The island of Lemnos.
A native to Lemnos, Manolis Garalis has made wine from Muscat of Alexandria since 2006. Or put in a another way, Manolis has helped his Muscat grapes do what they do best…
Because that’s the feeling you get from the very first interaction with this wine. How on earth can a grape absorb those amounts of sweet summer scents? It is packed… with a colorful range of tropic fruits like tangerine, mango, pineapple, lemon and orange peel.
Its flowery aromas and stony backdrop heightens the experience to a level far above the islands hotel cocktails that may contain the same fruity ingredients but lack the genius of the interpreter (Muscat) and her assistant (Manolis).
In the mouth it crackles and dances and releases the aromas to put the whole olfactory system at work!
My first encounter with this wonderful glass of wine was on a sunny September afternoon.
Not the most complex of wines but everything I needed in that moment. Bright red fruit. Spice. Lightness. A beautiful balance and fast approaching need for another sip.
No.6 Colleita refers to number of harvests it has taken the four cousins at Cume do Avia to reach this point in their adventure. The four guys started from scratch by planting no less than 20 varieties indigenous to their region – Ribeiro, Galicia.
They were determined to plant old local varieties because the safest way to be working without additives in the production is usually to work with the varieties that has stood the test of time (until industrial methods took over the entire region). But different varieties require different care, and when you start from zero it is nice to have someone to ask for advise. But unfortunately asking the local elders for advise wasn’t very helpful, since even the elders were too young to remember the time when those grape varieties dominated their land.
So what you are tasting here is a blank canvas. Plus a few years of preparation. Plus six years of winemaking.
No. 6 Colleita is made from Brancellao, Caiño Longo and Souson.
And it desperately wants to be there by your side when the sun breaks free again.
In Hungary, near Lake Balaton, lives a man named István Bencze.
(Reading time: 1 min, 40 sec.)
István is one of the most ambitious young winegrowers I’ve ever met, and he is definitely the most fast-paced. I’ve followed him for close to four years (including three Hungarian visits) and the progress he’s made is simply astounding.
In short, István works with indigenous varieties (aka names you’ve probably never heard of and/or are able to pronounce) which he grows biodynamically. He adds nothing, he takes away nothing, and a couple of years ago he threw away almost all of his barrels and steel tanks and replaces them with a solid collection of amphorae. Pedal to the metal, no regrets and no looking back!
The exact location of the Bencze vineyards are the vulcanic soils of Szent György Hegy (Saint George’s Hill) in the Badacsony region. You should go there!
AUTOCHTHON 2019 A blend of young vines of Furmint, Hárslevelű and Kéknyelű. A bit of skin contact and aged in amphora. Whether you define ‘natural wine’ as a style or a philosophy doesn’t really make a difference here. This is in the natural category. Bitter grapefruit, lemon juice and a slice of mango brought along with an insisting acidity that touching the volatile kind. If you are not afraid of acidity, you probably like this one.
KÉKNYELŰ 2019 100% Kéknyelű aged in amphora. Grapefruit and lemon is accompanied by a fine minerality that grows into a deeper complexity as the wine slowly opens up. Open this today and finish it tomorrow. And take note of this variety, Kéknyelű. I have a feeling that it’s got a really high potential. Especially if you are a self-declared Chenin fan like István (and me).
Pinot Noir is the queen of grape varieties. So Andreas treats each grape as a little prince or princess.
They have now grown up into charming adult personalities inside their well-proportioned Burgundy bottles. Dressed in simple white shirts, saving all the magic for those who choose to take a closer look.
Andreas Durst makes two almost similar Pinot Noirs. The difference is the ‘S’.
S is for sulphur.
Bottling the wine with a bit of SO2 preserves the wine. For many winemakers the process is merely a safety measure. For Andreas Durst it seems more intentional. I think he wants to make a wine that’s a little more within the lines than it’s wild (unsulphured) sister. Where the fruity nuances are immediately visible and the recognizability of the Pinot Noir is high.
Sure, this choice may sometimes be at the expense of extreme levels of wildness and vibrancy, but in this case I am glad that Andreas decided to make both versions.
Pinot Noir S is indeed still a playful type. It’s pure and clean in nose and mouth, and it’s acidity-driven style highlights every curve of it’s lightly dressed body. It’s as sexy as a German queen gets and will remain so for at least half a decade more.
The smoothness of this wine! A carressing touch of dark berries on a sweet licorice backdrop.
It reminds me of southern France and its suntanned Grenache for which, I must admit, I have a soft spot. But there is something else going on. A cool metallic sense of freshness, a thermostat to tame the warmness of the fruit.
It makes sense of course, because we’re not in the Rhône Valley. We are a thousand kilometers south-west just outside Lisbon. More importantly, we’re just a few kilometers from the Atlantic Ocean and its moderating effect on the warm southern sun.
They call it CLIMA MARITIMO.
They named the wine CLIMA.
Get ready for a soft, generous kiss from Vale da Capucha.
They say that Retsina is terrible. They may be right. But they are also terribly wrong!
Let’s start by getting the facts straight.
Retsina is a (usually white) wine fermented with bits of resin from the Aleppo pine tree. A few thousand years ago the resin was used to seal the ancient wine vessels. Later on the Romans got so skilled at crafting barrels that they didn’t need the resin anymore. But it was already too late. People had gotten used to the piney flavors. And the rest is history…
So here we are in 2021.
In the company of the Georgas family and their take on this (in)famous ancient beverage. Biodynamically grown Savatiano grapes macerated for five days on the skins with a teaspoon of resin. Aged in steel. Nothing added, nothing taken away.
So how does artisanal crafted orange retsina taste like?
Well… if it wasn’t for the strong aromas of pine tree, rosemary and fanzy french lavender soap you could mistake this for serious Chenin from chalky Loire. This will definitely be a one-of-kind experience for many of you. I know it is for me. And I absolutely adore this wild wild beast of a wine.