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LITTLEWINE Club February 2021


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#1 Smith-Chapel Aligoté 2019

By Domaine Chapel | Mâcon (France) £21

Read their story & travel to their vineyards in the Beaujolais via drone by clicking the link below

What's it Like?

We love the balance in this wine. On one side, there's this clean, salty, mineral tang, but after a little while in the glass, there's a plush side to this, too. It's like one of those creative desserts which plays with the combination of sweet and savoury flavours — peach sorbet with a sprig of rosemary and a dash of sea salt perhaps?

What's in it?

Winemakers Michele & David have long been fans of Aligoté - the grape variety too often considered to be the underdog of Burgundy. Being just down the road from some of the great limestone terroirs it favours, they are able to buy some organic fruit from a domaine in Mâcon to create their own expression. At the same time, they're financially supporting this young grower. Win win!

How's it Made?

This is very simple winemaking to allow the fruit to speak for itself. The grapes were whole bunch pressed, after which the juice was left to ferment naturally in stainless steel, in which it also aged for seven months. A sprinkle of sulphites (20ppm) were added when the wine was racked just before bottling; none beforehand.

Domaine Chapel

#2 Wasenhaus Spätburgunder 2018

By Wasenhaus | Baden (Germany) £32

Read their story by clicking the link below

What's it Like?

Is there any other variety capable of quite as romantic a scent as Pinot Noir? We don't think so; and this wine encapsulates its beauty. It portrays the ever-so-slightly sour cherry skin and moss profile of cooler climate Pinot with the heady combination of peonies and roses from the stems. There's a distinct salinity on the finish, too. We can't get enough.

What's in it?

This is Pinot Noir grown on German soils, aka Spätburgunder. As the duo cut their teeth in Burgundy, they know Pinot clones differs enormously, hence they label this by its German name. This fruit comes from three vineyards, all on loess soils & biodynamically farmed. The majority comes from the Kaiserstuhl, with the other two sites located just south of Staufen, on the foothills of the Black Forest.

How's it Made?

2/3 of the fruit was destemmed, fermenting naturally in a large open-top oak vat. 1/3 was left whole cluster (from a vineyard which produces particularly lovely bunches) in stainless steel. Maceration took place for 15 and 19 days respectively. A very small amount of sulphites were added after one year in barrel (10ppm), and a tiny bit extra at bottling (20ppm). Unfined and unfiltered.


#3 Altenburger Skins & Stones 2018

By Markus Altenburger | Leithaberg DAC, Burgenland (Austria) £25

Read his story by clicking the link below

What's it Like?

This is a 'skin-contact white.' This means it begins its fermentation more akin to a red wine (with its skins). However, the period of maceration is between four days and two weeks depending on the variety, so it doesn't quite reach the 'orange wine' category. Rather, it's somewhere in-between, and we think it's the perfect introduction to the world of white wines with tannin. Like a red wine, it benefits from some air - we recommend serving it decanted to explore its full potential, or drinking half on day one, and half on day two, if you can wait that long!

What's in it?

This wine comes from vineyards in the Leithaberg DAC of Burgenland, planted on limestone and slate soils. It's a blend of organically farmed Sauvignon Blanc, Muskat Ottonel, Traminer, Neuburger, Grüner Veltliner and Welschriesling. Quite the mouthful! As it's an unfiltered skin-contact wine, this means there are more of the grape particles & yeasts present here, so its appearance is a little cloudy (just like cloudy apple juice, this contains all the good stuff!)

How's it Made?

Buckle your seatbelts. The Sauvignon Blanc & Muskat Ottonel were co-fermented on the skins for 10 days, then aged in old 228L barrels. Separately, the Traminer also fermented with 10 days' skin contact, also ageing in barrels, whereas the Neuburger had five days' skin contact and aged in concrete. The Grüner had four days' skin contact in a concrete egg and aged in 500L oak. The Welschriesling fermented on the skins for 14 days and aged in 500L oak. Unfined, unfiltered with just a touch of sulphites at bottling.

Markus Altenburger

#4 Alexandre Giquel Huit-Launay 2018

By Alexandre Giquel | Loire (France) £32

Read his story & travel to his vineyards via drone by clicking the link below

What's it Like?

Once upon a time, the Cabernet Francs of the Loire could be slightly on the green and lean side of the scale. But due to global warming, the reds of the region have been entering the spotlight in recent years. Alexandre's is no exception; there are no harsh tannins here, rather this is almost velvety on the tongue. Think cocoa nib, fresh plums and even a touch of cinnamon. What's not to love?

What's in it?

This is 100% Cabernet Franc from an organic vineyard in the Cher Valley near Château de Chenonceau (this was Alexandre's second vintage and he was still in the process of finding his own vineyards, so this was purchased fruit). The fruit was destemmed and only a small amount of sulphites were used at the start of fermentation to ensure healthy yeasts.

How's it Made?

After the grapes were destemmed, the fruit was left to macerate in a stainless steel tank for 10 days, with just a few pumpovers to homogenise the fermentation while avoiding too much extraction. The wine was then aged for 24 months in old French oak barrels and bottled unfined and unfiltered.

Alexandre Giquel

#5 Veronica Ortega 'Versión Original' 2016

By Veronica Ortega | Bierzo (Spain) £32

Read her story by clicking the link below

What's it Like?

We think this is like a top athlete: lean and muscular. It's a profound wine in every sense of the word; only old vines whose roots plunge several metres into the soil are able to translate terroir as accurately as this. Think wild thyme, fennel, bramble and a dash of something that none of us can put our finger on. That mysterious component is the real sign of fine wine, isn't it?

NB: benefits from being decanted!

What's in it?

This is old-vine Mencía (90+years) with a sprinkling of white varieties Godello and Doña Blanca (and quite possibly some others). The fruit comes from the same vineyard as Veronica's top cuvée 'ROC,' but from a parcel at the bottom section where the soils are composed of deeper sand. Here, the clusters and grapes are smaller, giving a more concentrated wine.

How's it Made?

As with all of Veronica's top cuvées, this was 100% whole bunch fermentation (working at the iconic Domaine de la Romanée-Conti has given her a particular love for stems). Maceration was gentle, with pigeage taking place only when necessary. The wine fermented naturally and was aged in a 2,400L oak vat for 16 months. It was bottled unfined and unfiltered.

Veronica Ortega

#6 Wasenhaus 'Filzen' Chardonnay 2018

By Wasenhaus | Baden (Germany) £50

What's it Like?

"Minerality" is often over-used in wine descriptions, but we really feel this has an aroma like sea mist. Given that Baden is nowhere near the sea, where else could that come from? We think it's the limestone, but that's all part of the mystery. On the palate, it's joined by an explosion of lime and salt, with a savoury side. A Pisco Sour, but the fine wine version.

What's in it?

This is organically farmed Chardonnay from two plots on limestone soils. One of the vineyards is planted to a more aromatic selection of Chardonnay, whereas the other is more neutral, creating a nice balance. Usually only one barrel is made, but in the 2018 bumper vintage they managed to make two (yay!)

How's it Made?

As with all their whites, these whole bunches were directly pressed in their old screw press. Alex explains that this grinds the skins and stems a bit, meaning more solids make it into the wine. This allows them to create a reductive environment in the barrel, as well as supplying the natural yeasts with a kind of 'superfood' - both of which are ideal for naturally fermented, low-sulphite, unfined & unfiltered wines.

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