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Wine Club Edition
— February 2022

LITTLEWINE Wine Club February 2022

Preserving Heritage

Welcome to the February Edition of our Wine Club! This month's selection is all about inspiration — each winemaker is working tirelessly to preserve their unique heritage, and to introduce winelovers to their lesser-known yet historically important wine regions. They are following their noses, focusing on elegant styles of winemaking, and — as always — farming organically(+) with deep care for their land. We hope you enjoy getting to know them as much as we do.
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:
Fehérburgundi 2020

Kalkspitz NV by Christoph Hoch

What's it Like?

A wine that is a testament to the great potential of Pinot Blanc - one of Europe's most underestimated grape varieties (Fehrérburgundi is its Hungarian name). The grape is a 'true terroir translator' and shows that beautiful quality of 'minerality' that we all seek. It's all about flintiness and freshness, with a subtle creaminess on the palate that keeps us longing for more. Think freshly whipped butter with a dash of sea salt.

Where's it From?

The Pinot Blanc here is grown biodynamically in two vineyards around the Hungarian town of Sopron, named Steiner and Frettner. Back in 1999, the Weningers had intended to plant Pinot Noir in Fettner. When the vines began producing, however, it turned out the fruit was white — it was Fehérburgundi (Pinot Blanc)! This turned into a happy accident, as the potential of the grape variety in this region became clear. More was subsequently planted, and Franz began additional focus on white wines. 

How's it Made?

The grapes were hand harvested, after which they were directly pressed. The juice fermented naturally in big wooden barrels, where the wine aged for 11 months on the fine lees. Malolactic fermentation (the process when the harsher malic acid converts to the softer lactic acid) also occurred naturally, giving the wine its lick of creaminess.

The Winemaker:
Franz Weninger — Hungary & Austria

Franz is a winemaker who follows his nose. His winemaking and farming methods are modified and adapted every year and evolve continuously, in tandem with the development of his thoughts and mindset. He emphasises that the end to his agricultural and vinous education is nowhere in sight. This is part of what Franz loves about winemaking: the cultural journey. Some notions, however, stay the same for him. Firstly, he has defended the indigenous grape varieties of Austria and Hungary since he took over the family estate in the late 90s. He believes that he should champion his local heritage, and that this is the way to build a bridge from the past to the future. Secondly, in the face of global warming, he believes the answer — and the solution — lies in farming. 

"The most important thing about winemaking is finding your character and your personality, and you do this only by learning with people, and by going to different places. You learn much more about yourself this way: and you form your own ideas of what wine should be."

Wine #2:
Ninja de las Uvas 2020

La Perdida O Trancado by Nacho Gonzalez

What's it Like?

A wine that shows that you can achieve elegance in a warm place. This still has all the intoxicating intense fruit flavours you expect from Garnacha, but it has an additional floral lift — think a sprinkling of fresh lavender petals and peonies. With a lovely warm earthiness too, this is the real deal — fine natural wine.

Where's it From?

This is Garnacha from Azeniche Valley (D.O.P. Bullas) in Murcia, Spain. The vines are planted on clay and calcareous gravel soils and farmed organically with regenerative methods — by hand, in the traditional old-school way. The vines are around 20 years old, and planted at 750m elevation (which explains how she achieves such freshness in southern Spain!) 

How's it Made?

The grapes were hand harvested, and 90% were destemmed, leaving some whole bunches to bring additional freshness. Maceration lasted for 15 days, during which time the wine fermented naturally. Aged for 12 months in 500L barrels.

The Winemaker:
Julia Casado, La Del Terreno — Bullas, Spain

How does a cellist decide to study regenerative agriculture in Cuba? And then how does that regenerative agriculturist decide to become a winemaker? Then what do you do when you can’t afford to buy or rent a winery, but you want to make your own wine? Build a modular winery. That’s what Julia Casado did.
And what do you need to have in order to do all of the above things? Determination and a deep love for nature, both of which Julia has in bucketloads.

"I had started to drink natural wines and to learn about the philosophies of those winemakers. Before, at university, we had always drunk technical wines. More and more, I felt that just wasn’t my thing."

Wine #3:
Silice 2020

Chenin Blanc by Intellego Wines

What's it Like?

A wine that brings the freshness of the snow-peaked Alps right to your doorstep. It might seem bonkers to think that Alpine air can be bottled, but this really does smell like the air when you're skiing or hiking through the mountains. Then, on the palate, there's a splash of grapefruit and a dash of lime juice — this is all about brightness. Pair it with Thai cuisine and marvel at the subtle flavours.

Where's it From?

This comes from fruit bought from a friend of the winemaker: organically farmed 50-60yo Jacquère vines (one of the indigenous varieties of the Savoie) on limestone scree and clay-limestone soils in the Apremont appellation.

How's it Made?

The grapes were hand harvested, after which they were directly pressed and the juice was left to ferment in fibreglass tanks. It was then aged on the lees for nine months, and bottled with very low sulfites (20mg/L). 

The Winemaker:
Domaine des Ardoisières — Savoie, France

Domaine des Ardoisières is much more than your regular winery; it is a project of cultural and viticultural preservation. Founded by Michel Grisard, iconic Savoyard winemaker and biodynamic pioneer, who was also the man behind the winery Prieuré St Christoph (now retired), it is has now fully been transferred to the hands of talented Brice Omont. Brice first came to the Savoie in 2003, somewhat serendipitously, and met Michel the day before he was due to return home to northern France. With very little experience (or none, as Brice humbly puts it) it was a welcome surprise for Brice to learn that this was, in Michel’s eyes, an advantage. Michel said to him, “With this kind of farming, you have to forget everything you knew, and start from zero.” And that was that: Michel invited Brice to join him on the Ardoisières journey, and he has never looked back.

"One year, you might understand everything, whereas another year might be totally different. But there’s also magic in that. Every year is different, you’ll come across things you didn’t anticipate, you’ll be afraid… you might make mistakes. In our way of working, there’ll always be risks. Sure, we could add yeasts and make a ‘correct’ wine, but if you take more risks and intervene less, then you have the potential to achieve something amazing; something you’ve never experienced before."

Wine #4:
Marin d'Eau Douce 2020

Pinot Noir Nature by Rieffel

What's it Like?

A wine that is all about lightness of touch. When you think of southwest French reds, you might think of big, tannic, high-alcohol wines. But here, Pauline manages to create something that is super-elegant, but still with all the earthiness and brooding characteristics of the region. There's just something about the silkiness of this wine that we can't get enough of... a masterpiece!

Where's it From?

This comes from organically farmed vines of Fer Servadou and Cabernet Franc (she has been farming organically since she took over the domaine in 2018, thus in the final steps of conversion) in the north of Aveyron. The vines are between 25 and 40 years old, and the soils are sandy and silty on granite bedrock. 

How's it Made?

The grapes were hand harvested, after which she left them to macerate as whole bunches for a semi-carbonic maceration, leaving them untouched to create a very gentle structure in the wine. She did a long and gentle press, and the wine fermented naturally in tanks before being moved to old barrels for six months' ageing.

The Winemaker:
Pauline Broqua, Domaine des Buis — Aveyron, France

In life, sometimes there’s a series of sliding doors scenarios, when things seem to fall into place serendipitously; when life takes you on a path you weren’t expecting. Whether or not you believe in fate, there’s no denying that Pauline Broqua’s passion — combined with meeting likeminded people in the right place and at the right time — led her to where she’s destined to be. That place is Domaine de Buis, in the remote northern Aveyron. Despite initially being a city girl, this remote part of southwest France captured her heart. Soon, she discovered that it was no longer cobbled streets and bars calling her name, but rather fauna, flora and the vines. In 2017, when a vigneron with a small domaine (and without successors) was planning his retirement, it was perfect timing. You guessed it — she hasn’t looked back, and Domaine des Buis is now Pauline’s life.

"My objective is to leave people who drink my wines with an image of the terroir; to transmit that place to the bottle."

Wine #5:
Caravan Petrol 2019

Bourgogne Blanc by Dominique Derain

What's it Like?

A wine that was made by nature lovers, for nature lovers. There's just something about the vibrancy of the raw fruit profile in this wine that makes us feel as if we're eating the grapes straight from the vine. Think fresh pineapple, coconut flesh and fresh lemon juice, with a hint of sea salt. An extremely complex version of the best cocktail you've ever tasted!

Where's it From?

This comes from the organically and regeneratively farmed vineyards of Masseria del Pino on Mount Etna in Sicily. Their white comes from 140(!) year old vines of Carricante, Catarratto, and many other mystery varieties. Federica says, "We don’t even know what kind of varieties some of them are. Some are so old; we ask around but nobody knows. Some even look like little bananas!" 

How's it Made?

The whole bunches of grapes were hand harvested and then very slowly pressed in a basket press. The juice then fermented naturally in two 500L barrels — one French, and one from chestnut wood from the area. Unfined, unfiltered and with no sulfites added at all.

The Winemaker:
Masseria del Pino — Mount Etna, Sicily

Federica Turillo and Cesare Fulvio have a purpose much greater than simply making wine: they wish to retell the stories of the past. Their goal is to return to ancestral methods of winemaking, viticulture and cooperage, to faithfully emulate the wines of centuries gone by. For them, wine has a unique ability to transport you to another time, another place, and to educate you about the cultures of previous generations. And when you taste their wines, you’ll see... 

"We live inside a vineyard, and our bedroom is by the winery. So we live and work in the vineyard, 24/7. When you live this way, Nature feeds you. You become part of it. You learn so much: about bugs, plants, weather; you feel everything that’s going on."

Wine #6:
Spern Steiner 2002

Saint Joseph by Pierre Gonon

What's it Like?

A wine that shows why Blaufränkisch — and indeed the vineyard from which this comes — is capable of producing some of the world's finest red wines. This is structured and brooding; all about bramble berrries, fresh blackcurrants, earth, and that lovely twist of tobacco and leather that comes with age. We're honoured to have this rare older vintage from the winemaker, and hope you enjoy the journey it takes you on as much as we do. 

Where's it From?

Spern Steiner is the old name of this vineyard (it was renamed to just Steiner ten years ago). Franz explains that it was the highest ranked vineyard in the area as far back as 1680, which is why he decided to explore this part of Hungary, which is traditionally part of the Burgenland region (it straddles the border of Austria).  The vineyard is farmed biodynamically, and the soil is composed of mica schist. It sits 150m above Lake Neusiedlersee, facing east. Planted in 1960, during communist times, it has very wide spacing in between the rows (originally so that Russian tractors could access it). Today, Franz comments this gives a lot of space for natural cover crops and diversity to thrive in the vineyard.

How's it Made?

2002 was the third vintage Franz made. He says,

"It was made in a classic way. I used open fermenters, destemmed the grapes and punched them down to create quite a structured wine. It macerated for 30 days on the skins, and the wine was aged in old barrels for two years. It reminds me a bit of very structured Piemonte wines, this shows more of the 'Nebbiolo style' of Blaufränkisch."

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