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Wine Club Edition
— August 2022

LITTLEWINE Wine Club July 2022

From Spain to Tenerife 

We think it’s pretty amazing that wine can be made from (almost) every corner of the globe. Whether it’s from ancient vines of the Albillo variety in Spain, or the little-known magical gem that is Listán Negro — found on the Canary Island of Tenerife — the wine world is vast. This month, we’re celebrating its diversity through an array of styles from five drastically different wine regions.
Wines 1-2 feature in the Roots subscription, 1-4 in the Grower subscription and 1-6 in the Cosmos subscription. 

As a Wine Club member, you enjoy exclusive perks — including full backstage access to read about and virtually meet the winemakers. Should you have any questions or feedback, please don't hesitate to reach out to us and we will swing by with our little emergency van.

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Wine #1:
Zwickl 2020

Zwikl

What's it Like?

A wine that gives you a snapshot into one of Austria’s most celebrated wineries (and one of the world’s first biodynamic wineries!) This is nature in a glass, and if Grüner Veltliner were an album, this wine would be the album cover. Think fresh lime juice, a little grapefruit zest, a sprinkling of white pepper and that mouthwatering salinity that makes you immediately crave a second glass. 

Where's it From?

This is Grüner Veltliner, farmed biodynamically in the Wachau wine region, Austria. The soils are composed of loam, loess and paragneiss rock, and some of the vines are located on terraces.

How's it Made?

The grapes were pressed directly, and the wine fermented naturally. Bottled after six months of ageing — on a fruit day according to the biodynamic calendar. Unfiltered. 

The Winemaker:
Nikolaihof — Wachau, Austria

Nikolaihof, with vineyards in Austria’s famed Wachau and Kremstal wine regions, has an extraordinary history. In fact, we can’t think of any other winery in the world which is home to a 1,800-year-old building. Not only is the winery rich in ancient history, it’s also home to vines that represent an important aspect of modern history and indeed modern life — the emergence of biodynamic farming. One of the first wineries to adopt this method of holistic agriculture, the vines and land here have been treated biodynamically since 1971; before biodynamic certification even existed. Today, it is run by Niki Saahs and his partner Katharina Salzgeber, representing the fourth generation of the Saahs family, and hence the modern chapter of Nikolaihof. Together, they are working to fine-tune their farming and cellar techniques, to help the vines withstand climatic hurdles and to bring the already delightful wines to new heights. Nikolaihof demonstrates that history can be respected while simultaneously embracing a forward-thinking mindset. Together, Niki and Katharina bridge the past and the future in the most respectful and sensitive manner.

"I think that in order to work with the place itself, you must know it really well. And then you must be lucky enough to find the right combination of plants and soil that work together. You can have the best plants on the best soil, but if they don't work together, you’ll never be able to produce a wine that tells a story about where it comes from."

Wine #2:
Lovamor Albillo 2021

Lovamor Albillo

What's it Like?

A wine that made us double take when we first tried it. Simply packed with flavour, this is one of the most delicious orange wines we know. Full of apricot and peach yumminess, it also has a bright acidity and a salty tang. Moreish to the max. Even if you’re a newbie to the world of skin contact, this is a friendly style — an orange wine for everybody.

Where's it From?

From a region that is famous for red wine, Ribera del Duero, this is a rare little orange wine gem. From the white variety, Albillo, this comes from high elevation vineyards that were planted over 100 years ago — between 1981 and 1910! — making this as much of a conservation project as it is about making delicious wine.

How's it Made?

The grapes were destemmed and crushed, after which they macerated with the juice for seven days (hence the colour and gentle tannin). The wine fermented naturally in stainless steel and a 2000L chestnut barrel. Aged for a few months outside in the cool Castillian winter to stabilise naturally. No additives (and no sulfites), and bottled unfined and unfiltered — just fermented Albillo grape juice from historic vines. 

The Winemaker:
Alfredo Maestro — Ribera del Duero, Spain

When we first Google Alfredo Maestro, the top video search that pops up is ‘Alfredo Maestro on finding aliens in his vineyard’ and we know instantly that Alfredo is our kind of winemaker. This comes as no surprise to us. After all, we’ve been obsessed with Alfredo’s ‘El Marciano Garnacha’ cuvée for as long as we can remember, so we’re more excited than ever to sit down and chat to the rockstar of the Ribera del Duero region. This region is one of Spain’s most conservative and classical wine regions. It takes serious gumption to work non-conventionally in a region known for its hard-nosed approach to winemaking, but Alfredo works to his own rules and conventions. He starts off by telling us that, although he’s technically within the Ribera del Duero region, he classifies himself as being part of Castilla y León. There’s more of a sense of community, he tells us, and he is not confined to the D.O. regulations of the region. It makes complete sense. These are wines for sharing with friends and family—your community. 

"I didn't have a system for natural wine. I only know my soul and my history as a winemaker. I discovered that I must express the soil, the plant. If the soil has some characteristics, these characteristics are important for my style of wine."

Wine #3:
Muscadet Cuvée Granite 2020

Muscadet Granite

What's it Like?

A wine that shows you in a single sip why Domaine de l’Ecu has become one of the natural wine world’s most celebrated domaines. This gives you that subtle sea spray, lemon rind and hallmark minerality that the region is renowned for, but with extra depth and soul. A wine for drinking and thinking. 

Where's it From?

This comes from the Melon de Bourgogne grape variety, planted on granite soils and farmed biodynamically, as well as with elements of cosmoculture and homeopathy. 

How's it Made?

The grapes were pressed directly, and the wine was not settled, it simply went directly into cement vessels where it fermented naturally without temperature control. Aged with lots of lees, which gives the wine texture. A very small amount of sulfites added only before bottling. Unfined and unfiltered.

The Winemaker:
Domaine de l'Ecu — Muscadet, Loire, France

In the wine world, it would be easy to set up a winery and create a carbon copy of what’s deemed traditional or ‘the norm’ in a region; especially in a region as well established as that of Muscadet, in the western Loire. That, however, was not to be the path for Fred Niger of Domaine de l’Ecu. Instead, this is a domaine that has become home to 40 cuvées, 120 amphorae, and most notably of all, an extraordinary diversity of thought. Domaine de L’Ecu isn’t just about making wine. It’s about enjoying the intricacies of the natural world and working to embrace and to sense these intricacies in the most explorative and sensitive mindset. When we interviewed Fred, he asked us what we thought of Stonehenge. We are fascinated by Stonehenge — in fact we have the latest copy of the National Geographic on our desk, featuring Stonehenge — and we knew at that moment this wouldn’t be a regular interview about winemaking.

"We don’t want to make the best wines in the world. Our goal is to create wines that have a superior vibratory quality to that of yours."

Wine #4: 7 Fuentes 2019

7 Fuentes

What's it Like?

A wine that shows you why one of the world’s most exciting places for vineyards is perhaps also one of the most unexpected: Tenerife, in the Canary Islands. Home to incredibly diverse and ancient vine material, visiting this little island’s vineyards is like stepping back into centuries gone by. Think earthy tones and a splash of black pepper, this is the ideal red for date night (or an evening of self-love!) and a special cut on the BBQ. 

Where's it From?

This comes from the Listán Negro variety, as well as a small amount of Tintilla (Trousseau), planted in vineyards located on the northern side of Tenerife, in the Orotava Valley, at an altitude of 250-750 metres, on volcanic soils. The vines are between eight and 100 years old, depending on the plot, and farmed organically.

How's it Made?

The wine fermented naturally in various vessels including concrete, fibreglass and stainless steel. The maceration period was short, to focus on freshness and create an easy-drinking style, and the wine aged for eight months in concrete and old French oak barrels. 

The Winemaker:
Suertes del Marqués — Tenerife, Canary Islands

Can you imagine creating wines that set a new bar for aroma profile? Wines that make heads turn and that make you & your friends say – hang on, can wine really taste like this? Well, that’s exactly what Jonatan García Lima has done. His work with the black, peppery variety Listán Negro and the white, saline variety Listán Blanco (Palomino) has put these varieties centre stage. In addition, his current experimental work with two plots planted to 25 indigenous varieties of the Canary Islands, among which is the unique Volcanic Torrontés variety, will uncover the story and potential of these rare varieties. Jonatan’s father, from Tenerife, began purchasing vineyards here in the 80s, such as the vineyard that produces El Esquilon, which sits right next to the cellar. Today the family works with 11 hectares spread across 25 plots. They are all planted to indigenous varieties and on their own roots, instead of being grafted onto American rootstock. European vines were ravished by the root-eating louse phylloxera (which almost destroyed all vineyards in the 1800s), so to see them ungrafted is an extreme rarity. You might think of seaside resorts when you think of Tenerife, but there exists an entirely different world up in the hillsides and mountains; an enclave of organic viticulture and ancient vine material.

"When you work the organic way, the vineyards are more beautiful—there’s a spontaneous cover crop and flowers. When you look at vineyards treated with herbicides, they look like a dark desert of dead things."

Wine #5: Sta. Rita Ranch Chardonnay 2019

Sta Rita Ranch

What's it Like?

A wine that gives you California sunshine, while remaining refined and pure. The winemaker, Drake, creates some of the state’s most compelling Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, in a gentle, reflective manner. With its combination of white peaches and sea salt, this is incredibly moreish — the sort of wine that immediately makes you want to see what else Drake is up to!

Where's it From?

This Chardonnay comes from Santa Rita Ranch, from a vineyard planted at 300 metres above sea level on the verge of a riverbed, and farmed organically. The soils are loamy and the climate is influenced by the Pacific ocean with cool nights and sunny days. 

How's it Made?

The grapes were pressed directly, and the juice went straight into old French oak barrels. Fermentation took place naturally, and the wine aged in barrels for 18 months on the lees. A very low amount of sulfites were added before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. 

The Winemaker:
Whitcraft — California, USA

Drake Whitcraft is the kind of winemaker that reminds us that talking about wine needn’t be all business. He grew up around wine—it’s nothing short of second nature to him—but he is also a musician, a dad, and someone who understands, as much as anyone, that life is about balance. It's this balance he also pursues in his wines. Having become a winemaker himself as California's In Pursuit of Balance movement was taking place, it's something that's been imprinted on his own wines. But Drake takes it one step further; these are balanced wines, but there's also a certain rawness to them. They're always whistle-clean, but they're not sterile. They are living, breathing expressions of organic and regenerative California fruit. 

"Everything about wine is so over-thought. There are so many over-made wines, because I think that people often feel that they need to include everything they learned at school. I always wonder: Are you actually supposed to do that, or did someone just tell you to?"

Wine #6:
Mephisto 2018

Mephisto 2018

What's it Like?

A wine that is all about purity of fruit. This is Cabernet Franc in its birthday suit: think blackberries blended with fresh, spicy herbs. Fred, the winemaker, manages to create a Cabernet Franc with soul, which simultaneously has some of the most elegant tannins we’ve ever experienced for the variety. A featherlight masterpiece. 

Where's it From?

This comes from a parcel of 50+-year-old Cabernet Franc vines, farmed biodynamically, as well as with elements of cosmoculture and homeopathy. Unusually, it is planted on granite (it is rare to find Cabernet Franc on granite soils, and the winemaker, Fred, is the only one to have this in Muscadet).

How's it Made?

The grapes were destemmed, after which they macerated with the juice for eight days. After being pressed, the wine was then aged in amphorae. In this case, the wine aged for two years (due to Covid!) so there is even more complexity to be found in the bottle. Unfined and unfiltered. Fred recommends to carafe this wine for two or three hours before drinking, and tells us it will easily age for 15+ years (if you can be patient, that is).

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