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Wine Club Edition
— January 2022

New Year, New Discoveries

We wish you love, peace and special memories for 2022, and hope it will be a slightly less challenging year.  Thank you for being on this journey with us. For January's selection, we've sniffed out some fabulous examples of daring, game-changing winemakers creating truly unique bottles. There's no time like the present to make new vinous discoveries, that's our New Year's resolution!

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:
Kalkspitz NV

Kalkspitz NV by Christoph Hoch

What's it Like?

A wine that is so refreshing, it almost feels like the equivalent of going to a spa. It is a "pick me up" sort of wine; a wine that energises your whole body. It almost tastes like the vinous version of a marguerita; fresh lime juice, tangy, with a hint of white pepper and spice too. The bubbles are frothy and almost like sea-foam. If we could go swimming in this pét-nat, we would...

Where's it From?

From Hollenburg in the Kremstal region of Austria, this is a blend of Grüner Veltliner, Zweigelt (together representing 70%), Sauvignon Blanc, Muskat Ottonel and Blauer Portugieser. The vineyards are farmed biodynamically.

How's it Made?

Christoph calls this "a developed or improved version of a pét-nat;" as he also adds some "reserve wine" to the bottling. This reserve wine is a matured wine from the previous vintage, made without additions. He feels this brings in more serious and matured aromas. The final blend is 30% reserve wine and 70% current vintage. He adds this wine halfway through fermentation, directly into the barrels. The wine then finishes fermenting in bottle, pét-nat style. No sulfites added at all.

The Winemaker:
Christoph Hoch — Kremstal, Austria

After going to winemaking school, Christoph set out to find high quality wines that excited him, to learn more. He found that among these, there was often a common denominator; they were farmed biodynamically. He started to research biodynamic viticulture, converting his vineyards from 2014. The first thing you notice when you meet Christoph is that he asks a million questions and he smiles a lot. He is endlessly inquisitive, and his cellar is covered with drawings and ideas on chalkboards; his winemaking is as much about learning as it is about drinking.  On his soil in the Kremstal, Christoph produces sparkling and still wines from Riesling, Grüner Veltliner, Pinot Blanc, Zweigelt, Sauvignon Blanc, Blauer Portugieser and Muscat.

"I've always called my wines projects. I always have projects going on; some work and then they become my wines! I always want to learn something, to take a step forward and to discover what's possible here on our soil."

Christoph Hoch and Julie Ann Hoch Gif swirling wine in cellar

Wine #2:
O Trancado 2020

La Perdida O Trancado by Nacho Gonzalez

What's it Like?

A wine that speaks of memories; of familial and unconditional love. Since being planted, the vines have always been tended organically and the winemaker feels it is his responsibility to continue nature’s work in the cellar. That means zero meddling: this is pure fermented grape juice. It tastes like going foraging: of wild berries and herbs; sage, bramble fruit and a touch of pepper. 

Where's it From?

The grapes for this wine come from the ancient vineyard that Nacho inherited from his grandmother, which is named O Trancado. Organically tended, it is planted to around 70% Garnacha Tintorera — a red-fleshed offspring of Garnacha — and 30% Mencía.

How's it Made?

The grapes were destemmed and foot stomped, after which the juice fermented naturally in 400L tinajas (Spanish amphorae) and old oak barrels, in which the wine was aged for six months before being bottled unfined, unfiltered and without sulfites. The wine was also aged for another six months before release.

The Winemaker:
La Perdida — Galicia, Spain

​Ignacio Gonzalez, who goes by the name of Nacho, used to work as both a vegetable & fruit farmer and gardener. When his grandmother passed away, leaving him a parcel of old vines named O Trancado, he instinctively felt that it was his duty to take care of them. In turn, this meant farming them organically just as his grandmother had, and just as he had learnt on the farms. The notion of selling the plot or of working with chemicals never even came into the equation. ⁣​⁣The same year, he began to discover other old vineyards in the area; whose fate was uncertain and which were likely to be ripped out to make way for simple clones of easy-to-sell Godello. If this happened, all of the genetic material belonging to the old vines would be lost forever. Nacho didn’t want to let that happen, so he took those vines on too. Amongst them are the varieties Palomino, Garnacha Tintorera, Mencía, Godello, Sumoll, Doña Branca and the very rare Mouratón.⁣​⁣

“It was planned in my future. It arose because it had to arise. When I started making wine, it was very clear to me that natural work in the vineyard had to have continuity in the winery. This meant no sulphites, no clarification, no filtering… Only fermented grape juice.” 

Wine #3:
Intellego Chenin Blanc 2020

Chenin Blanc by Intellego Wines

What's it Like?

A wine that joins the club of some of the most exciting South African Chenin Blancs. Hailing from the Swartland, this is from one of the country's most talented young organic farmers. Fine and zesty: almond skin notes and pear skin are joined by a sprinkle of sea salt. It's a wine for both drinking and thinking, and will even benefit from being decanted to watch it evolve with air.

Where's it From?

This comes from a bush vine vineyard (when the vines are trained like little bushes, the ancestral method of planting in hot climates) planted in 2002 on decomposed granite, which Jurgen, the winemaker, rents and farms organically. If Jurgen hadn't so fast to visit the vineyard, the vines would have been ripped out by their owner to make way for grazing land. He is their saviour!

How's it Made?

The grapes were whole bunch pressed and fermented on the heavy lees (all the yeasts and particles of grape skins etc, basically the good stuff!) in old 500L barrels, without battonage (no stirring, hence this wine is less rich than some South African Chenin Blancs), only being racked before bottling with a tiny touch of sulfites added.

The Winemaker:
Intellego Wines — Swartland, South Africa

Jurgen Gouws may only be in his 30s but he has an impressive track record already. From working with Eben Sadie both here in the Swartland and in Priorat at Terroir al Limit, to working in Côte-Rotie and the Roussillon, to eventually working with Craig Hawkins at Lammershoek, he has had an impressive lineup of mentors. Originally from the eastern Cape, Jurgen decided to settle in the Swartland because of the energy of the place. These days, Jurgen leases vineyards to farm organically, as well as working closely with a number of organic and biodynamic farmers from whom he purchases fruit. He is on a mission to use natural methods to ensure his vines live a healthy long life, while producing enough crop to be financially viable. In a region that suffers greatly from drought, this is not always easy, but so far, so good: this is one of the most exciting young farmer-winemakers in Africa.

"From the beginning I fell in love with the Swartland. Number one because of the people - there was this totally different relaxed vibe - they were really chilled. There were no egos. I realised it was possible to work and enjoy life. Too often, Africa can be all work, work work, and that's it. Sometimes we miss out a bit on the good part of life - like sitting down with a glass of really great wine."

Wine #4:
Pinot Noir Nature 2020

Pinot Noir Nature by Rieffel

What's it Like?

A wine that boggles the mind. There is such depth to be found in this bottle, yet the wine is light as a feather. It's like looking at an eagle—a powerful creature yet one that flies with seemingly no effort required. It tastes like the lightest of Beaujolais Crus with its smashable raspberry fruit, but yet it has the undergrowth seriousness of grand cru Burgundy. It's a wine that will make you cock your head to one side; a wine that will stay on your mind long after the bottle has gone. 

Where's it From?

‘Nature’ was first made in 2004, and comes from 30 year old Pinot Noir vines grown on a variety of plots in the town of Mittelbergheim in Alsace, which includes parts of the Zotzenberg Grand Cru. Soils here are varied, and include clay and sandstone silt, as well as pure limestone marl found in the heart of Zotzenberg.

How's it Made?

The bunches were kept whole and left to macerate for 16 days, with the juice fermenting naturally. The wine was then pressed and left together with the lees in old barrels for six months, where malolactic fermentation softened some of the tartness in the juice. Bottled without filtering, fining or sulfites.

The Winemaker:
Domaine Rieffel — Alsace, France

Here in Mittelbergheim, Alsace – just a dozen miles from the German border – Lucas Rieffel is farming and making wines of the future. These are not your typical charming-but-old-school Alsatian wines; rather they are emotive, jolting wines that show an entirely new face of Alsace. It’s like seeing an old friend with an entirely new look. Sylvaner – far too often the underdog – takes its deserved place as Ace of Spades in this hand.What’s more, the humble Crémant produced here might be the quiet one at a table sat next to its Champenois counterparts, but if there’s one worth betting on for pure drinkability and deliciousness–this is it.Why? The answer is much simpler than you might think. In Lucas’ words, "I'd rather be a farmer than a commercial director."

"One year in May, when I tasted my wines from the barrel, in the sun, I thought I would never find that taste in the bottle. But, if you take risks like we do, I believe that you can."

Wine #5:
Bourgogne Blanc 2018

Bourgogne Blanc by Dominique Derain

What's it Like?

A wine that makes our mouthes water just thinking about it. It's a wine that we want to drink all night long with canapés; in fact it's so moreish that we want to throw a canapé party just for this wine. It's lipsmackingly salty with real pizzazz; think pears, quince, lime zest and croissant dough with an almost chewy texture. Basically, yum!

Where's it From?

This is from a young vineyard planted near the Puligny-Montrachet Villages vineyards by Julien Altaber, who has taken the reins of Dominique's vineyards and winery since he retired. It was planted to Chardonnay and a small amount of Pinot Blanc. It has been farmed biodynamically since it was planted.

How's it Made?

The grapes were pressed and the juice was naturally settled for 36 hours, followed by a three-week natural fermentation. The wine was aged in stainless steel for six months on the lees. Bottled with just a touch of sulfites.

The Winemaker:
Dominique Derain — Burgundy, France

Dominique may have officially retired, but he still spends his days in the vineyards and in the cellar, tasting with Julien Altaber and Carole Schwab; the duo who have taken over the domaine. Honouring Dominique, they continue to make the wines under his name and according to his vinification practices, for this is not simply a retired vigneron.Dominique has been a friend, teacher and influence for so many aspiring farmers and winemakers who wish to work without chemicals. Here, it has never been about making fancy, dressed-up wines in their tuxedos, dresses and heels. Rather, this is Burgundy in the nude - it is the skin and bones of these old vines that speak through the unadulterated wines.

"It was my childhood dream: to make wines that I like to drink. If I’ve succeeded in doing that, then I’m happy."

Wine #6:
Saint-Joseph Rouge 2019

Saint Joseph by Pierre Gonon

What's it Like?

A wine that has a special place in our hearts. If you're a lover of peppery red wine, then this is the hallmark, and a wine which year after year reminds us why Syrah is capable of such wondrous things. Tended lovingly by this duo, these are some of the healthiest vines we've seen, and that shines through in the wine — think vibrant straight-off-the-bush blackcurrants dipped in white pepper.

Where's it From?

This is massal selection Syrah (representing ancient and diverse genetic material) farmed organically in St-Joseph by Jean and Pierre Gonon, including very old vines (80+-year-old) purchased from the legendary Raymond Trollat in St Jean de Muzols. 

How's it Made?

This is old school, simple winemaking at its very best. The maceration always takes place with majority whole bunches, and fermentation occurs naturally. The wine ages in old oak barrels, and is bottled unfiltered, with the use of egg whites as a fining agent.

The Winemaker:
Pierre & Jean Gonon — Saint-Joseph, France

Domaine Pierre Gonon, now run by sons Jean & Pierre Gonon, is one of the original game-changers of the Northern Rhône wine landscape. They were the second domaine of St-Joseph to bottle their own wines (as opposed to sell grapes to négociants or cooperatives), and ditched chemicals in the 90s in favour of horse ploughing and organics. These bottles are like finding needles in a haystack. Along with a small handful of independent, organic growers in the Northern Rhône, they are committed to the diversity of Syrah; and to its history; and that means one thing in particular: massal selection. Syrah has been one of the varieties hit hardest by global warming in recent years, but through the dedication of growers such as Jean and Pierre, the future is as bright as it’s ever been for this variety. And it’s not just through massal selection that they’re seeing it thrive, it’s also thanks to an ancestral training technique, which also happens to be one of the most beautiful we’ve ever seen.

“A vine is a plant of the forest. It needs to grow, and it wants to grow. We think the vine wants to express its true nature as a climbing plant; a liana."

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