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Wine Club Edition
— August 2021

Happy August!

This month, we're exploring wines from classic regions — from Austria, to France, to Portugal — but made by winemakers who aren't afraid of going against the grain. These are farmers who have helped to craft a vision of true sustainability for the next generation; preserving and promoting biodiversity; and their energy efforts shine through in their wines.

Wines 1-2 feature in the Roots subscription, 1-4 in the Grower subscription and 1-6 in the Cosmos subscription. 

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Wine #1:
Renegado Pét-Nat 2020

What's it Like?

A wine that makes you sit up straight. Super fresh, this has a lightning bolt of acidity running through it. It's high energy, prickly in the best kind of way. With sharp, lively bubbles, this is a straight-down-the-line pét-nat. No funk to be found here — it's all about precision. It combines red fruits with citrus in an intruguing manner that we haven't experienced before, but which makes so much sense. Think strawberry margarita with a squueze of lime, but the wine version. It's the kind of wine you could imagine being served in a tumbler — and why not?

Where's it From?

This comes from an astonishing circa. 30 (!) varieties, many of which are indigenous to this region, and some of which are so rare that they're at threat of extinction. They include Rabigato, Chasselas, Gouveio, Malvasia Fina, Moscatel, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, Mourisco, Tinta, Pinheira (jaen), Touriga Franca, and many more. The grapes come from three field blend vineyards, which are tended organically with some biodynamic methods. 

How's it Made?

The Renegado is the style of wine that Tiago's grandparents (and everybody else in the region at the time) made for drinking at home. All of the varieties were picked together, foot stomped as whole bunches in the lagar (very wide and shallow concrete constructions, almost like baths), with a short maceration period of three or four days to produce something light and drinkable. This pét-nat version was bottled while still fermenting, creating bubbles. Unfined, unfiltered and without additions.

The Winemaker:
Folias de Baco —
The Douro, Portugal

The wine comes from the organic vineyards of Tiago Sampaio, in the Douro Valley region of Portugal (more specificaly the plateau of Alijo, in the Cima Corgo subregion). Although this is a region famous for port (fortified wines) and for its big, muscular red wines, this wasn’t always the case. Just a few decades ago, there were much lighter, lower alcohol wines made here, and Tiago’s mission is to recreate these, while safeguarding the old indigenous varieties of the region, and carrying out an experiment (or two) along the way.

"I wanted to make something that was light and refreshing, that can go with almost any type of food. That made a lot more sense, and that’s why the wines here were so popular, because you can combine them with pretty much any dish. And that’s what I like to drink, too — something light and lower in alcohol."

Wine #2:
Vom Opok Welschriesling 2018

What's it Like?

A wine that truly mirrors the greenness of where it comes from — southern Styria. It has an electric, sappy edge to it that makes you think of vibrant and abundant plant life. And when you see the greenery of the vineyards, it all makes sense. Think fresh cut flowers, lemon pith, even with an edge of lemongrass... this wine simply has bucketloads of freshness. 

Where's it From?

This Welschriesling comes from the biodynamic vineyards of Weingut Tauss, in southern Styria, Austria. As well as being biodynamic, the vineyards are also farmed as hands-off as possible to allow the vines to find their own balance as naturally as they can. The soils are managed according to a no-till policy, meaning they never plough — this is as much about regenerative agriculture as it is about biodynamics.

How's it Made?

This comes from the 'Opok' range (named after the silty clay limestone-rich soils on which the vines are planted). The grapes were macerated overnight, gently pressed and then left in oak barrels to naturally ferment and age for around one year. All the wines at Weingut Tauss are fermented naturally, aged in old wooden barrels, and bottled unfined, unfiltered and without sulfites.  

The Winemaker:
Weingut Tauss —
Styria, Austria

Tucked away in the rolling hills of rural southern Styria, Roland and Alice, his wife, discovered biodynamics in the early 2000s and made new friends with likeminded farmers. This alternative realm of farming changed everything for them, and the Tauss philosophy became centred around life: protecting life, promoting life, enhancing life... with the ultimate goal of capturing this life in a bottle to bring to winelovers around the world. 

"What the human does, what’s growing, what the sun does, how the wind is, how much rain we have… if you drink the wine, that’s what you find — everything that has happened that year."

Wine #3:
Sylvaner Bergweingarten 2012

What's it Like?

A wine that shows the world why off-dry cuvées can be so captivating. Think apple tart with flecks of salted caramel, but light on the sugar and with a bitter almond-meets-grapefruit twist. The perfect wine to drink with spicy food, as the sugar counterbalances chilli — so pour this with ramen or Indian dishes and marvel at how it pairs with fragrant herbs. 

Where's it From?

This comes from Jean-Pierre Frick's vineyard named Bergweingarten; the soils are limestone with sandstone, and exposure is southeast. Their vineyards have been farmed organically since the 70s, and biodynamically since 1980.

How's it Made?

The Frick family prescribes to the notion of "raising" wine, not "making" wine. The winemaking journey has always been very natural here — natural fermentation only, and minimal intervention. This wine was then aged for ten months on fine lees in 100-year-old old Alsatian oak foudres, before being bottled with 16,9 g/L residual sugar. Sulfites only added at bottling.

The Winemaker:
Jean-Pierre Frick —
Alsace, France

is a winemaker who has captivated the world with his philosophical musings and his spellbinding no-sulphur wines. From humble beginnings here in Alsace, his winemaking style and biodynamic farming methods arose from conversations with friends and family, combined with a desire to follow nature’s path, not the advice of ‘wine doctors.’ In the sleepy Alsatian town of Pfaffenheim, Jean-Pierre has quietly and continuously worked according to his polar beliefs of how vines should be tended and how wine should be made. His key ingredient in both cellar and vineyard is a simple one: time. 

“The biodynamic way helps us to rediscover our relationship with time: to become more patient, and to find the balance; the harmony.”

Wine #4:
Mégalithe 2019

What's it Like?

A wine that buzzes with the energy of fresh earth after a short burst of rain. Think those juicy, nourishing and moreish qualities of Gamay, but with a certain roundness, and an earthy, spicy depth. It's a wine for a lazy weekend, for drinking with the Sunday newspaper (or for ignoring the news and choosing a good novel or film instead). 

Where's it From?

As well as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay (and even Syrah), Peter of Domaine de Thalie also grows Gamay. As the region borders Beaujolais, this is where two worlds meet. This Mégalithe cuvée comes from 60/70-year-old Gamay vines. They’re planted on marl soils, which is unusual, as these are cold soils so often you find whites planted there, but this vineyard is south facing and hence a bit warmer — perfect for Gamay.

How's it Made?

The whole bunches were put into a tank, where carbonic vinification took place (but without gas — just with some fermenting juice added to the vat, which created CO2 naturally). It was then left alone for ten days, before being pressed and left to finish fermenting. This is simple Burgundian winemaking at its best; Peter’s vines — and thus fruit — is so healthy that he can simply transform the juice to wine with very little human interference. Unfined and unfiltered with very low sulfites.

The Winemaker:
Domaine de Thalie —
Mâcon, Burgundy, France

The rolling hills of Burgundy’s Mâconnais region are particularly celebrated for vibrant Chardonnay, but there are also excellent Pinot Noir and Gamay vineyards here; some of which are home to treasured old vines. In comparison to the Côte d’Or, it’s generally a little more rural here — vineyards are bordered by herd of goats — and although you’re an hour further south, the additional elevation in some areas means freshness is harnessed. One of the winemakers who found himself enamoured by this microclimate is Peter Gierszewski, of Domaine de Thalie. Previously a chemistry student turned wine merchant, when the opportunity arose to delve in headfirst to the world of farming and winemaking, there was no turning back.

"Some things are just hard to prove. We’re in a period of time where we’ve forgotten to listen. We’re
not listening or using our senses. We need to open
our eyes."

Wine #5:
Miracle 2018

What's it Like?

A wine that makes you think, why isn't more Bordeaux wine like this?! Fresh, full of energy and vibrant, this is the kind of wine that cleanses you from the inside out. With fresh raspberries, cranberries and a touch of pink peppercorn, this is a celebration of the lighter notes of Cabernet. Like juice cleanses? Well, this is like a wine cleanse: we're certain it's good for the soul.

Where's it From?

This is from Osamu's biodynamically farmed 0.60-hectare plot of 30-year-old Cabernet Sauvignon vines situated in the middle of a forest, in the Médoc, Bordeaux. The cellar is situated just around the corner from Mouton-Rothschild and its expensive equipment, but this is the polar opposite: this is true artisan winemaking, with every process carried out by just one man. 

How's it Made?

The wine fermented naturally with whole berries (destemmed by hand!) to instigate a touch of carbonic fermentation. Pumpovers were also done very gently — also by hand — and only when necessary. The wine was then aged for one year in old 500L barrels, and bottled unfined, unfiltered and with just a touch of sulfites.

The Winemaker:
Domaine Uchida —
Bordeaux, France

Osamu Uchida is the grandson of a farmer and the son of a grocery shop owner in Hiroshima. His father had sold artisanal wines, beers and ciders, and he remembers running his hands over the bottles as a kid. That stuck with him, and with agriculture in his blood, he knew he wanted to do something within the farming realm. He moved to France to figure out what that should be, and found a homestay at a winery. This was many years before the terminology of ‘natural wine’ arose, but Osamu realised that this winemaker’s ancestral practices created something that was beautiful in its simplicity. He was hooked, and set up his own domaine. He creates meticulous and pure wines with Japanese soul. These are wines that are about minimalism, not grandeur. Osamu compares them to a French baguette: artisanal, but meticulously made. 

"If you’re sick you take medication. But what do you do if you don’t want to get sick in the first place? You stay fit: you exercise, eat healthily and maybe take natural supplements. That’s what biodynamics is: it fortifies the vine, but it doesn’t happen suddenly - it’s not as simple as that. It takes five or maybe ten years."

Wine #6:
Roter Traminer 2015

What's it Like?

A wine that makes you think of all your favourite scents — honeysuckle, jasmine, even oud and sandalwood. With a little lift of clove spice on the palate, this stays fresh and light, with a touch of that delightful rose-like Traminer quality. A wine for deep conversation — a wine to drink with friends while putting the world to rights.

Where's it From?

This is Roter Traminer (a pink mutation of Traminer, which has more floral characteristics) farmed biodynamically in the six-hectare Tauss vineyard in southern Styria, Austria. 

How's it Made?

The grapes macerated with the juice for around 14 days, during which period the wine began fermenting naturally. The wine then aged in old wooden barrels for two years, and was bottled unfined and unfiltered. 

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