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Wine Club Edition
— March 2022

LITTLEWINE Wine Club February 2022

Wines of Energy

Welcome to the March Edition of our Wine Club! As we (finally) enter spring, we've picked buoyant wines that are all about energy and a rebirth of ideas. These are wines of both instinct and conviction. From one of the most springlike red wines we know, to light and supple use of skin contact in northern Italy, to working with Palomino as a fresh, unfortified white wine in both France and California, to creating groundbreaking rosé from indigenous Georgian varieties Tsitska, Chkhaveri, Dzelshavi & Aladasturi... this month is all about discovery.

50% of profits per subscription (both existing and new) will be donated to the UNHCR Ukraine Emergency Appeal.

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:
Ramingo 2019

Kalkspitz NV by Christoph Hoch

What's it Like?

A wine that balances freshness with body. Think lemon peel and rock salt, with a touch of freshly whipped cream and toasted hazelnuts — the perfect combination of zestiness, salinity and savoury goodness. A wine for renewal: for feeding the soul. 

Where's it From?

This comes from organically farmed Pinot Bianco (Pinot Blanc) and Sauvignon Blanc from Vicenza, in the Veneto, Italy. The vineyards are planted on limestone and red clay. Simone, the winemaker, says, "Ramingo is the one who wanders without a specific goal. There are several reasons that led to choose this name. The grapes are harvested in two different vineyards, however close they remain a vagrant harvest. The Pinot Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc varieties are thoughtful allochthonous varieties and once again you travel."

How's it Made?

Simone favours a period of skin contact for his white wines, as he feels this helps him to achieve a healthy fermentation and allows him to extract all of the goodness of his labour to produce qualitative grapes. The 2019 cuvée macerated for three days, after which the juice was pressed and continued fermenting in fibreglass, where it also aged. Bottled unfined, unfiltered and with low sulfites.

The Winemaker:
Indomiti Vini — Veneto, Italy

The project of Simone Ambrosini is a microcosm for a greater notion — the big step of a young person to decide to work with the land. In an era when many agricultural regions have been struggling due to younger generations moving to cities, it is endlessly inspiring to see people who come from outside traditional winemaking families take steps to create their own path within farming and winemaking.

“We must also ask ourselves: what do you see when you harvest? That is fundamental. It’s so hard to find the right picking date — and that’s 60% of the job, or maybe more! If you harvest too early or late, there’s nothing you can do. Then… I don’t have a standard procedure, rather my procedure is not having one. It’s the only way if you’re working how I’m working, and if you’re aware of the climate changing. You need to make different choices year after year."

Wine #2:
Cheverny Rouge 2020

La Perdida O Trancado by Nacho Gonzalez

What's it Like?

A wine that is so lively it feels like there's a gymnastics class going on in your mouth. Full of scents of vibrant red fruit: think cherries and strawberries, there's also a serious side here. It might be Hervé's entry-level cuvée but there's a lot going on - you'll notice thyme and liquorice notes join the fruit after you give the wine a moment in your mouth. The perfect red for the grill, whether veggie or meat.

Where's it From?

From Pinot Noir and Gamay vineyards in the Cheverny appellation of the Loire, this is Hervé's négoce wine, meaning he sources the fruit from organic farmers. 

How's it Made?

The wine was naturally fermented and macerated for fifteen days, and aged in old oak barrels. This is hands-off winemaking, as natural and simple as possible, to allow the grape to shine - as Aaron Ayscough writes in the winemaker profile of Hervé:"His Sauvignon and Cheverny rouge are known as craftsmanlike, unshowy references for their grape varieties."

The Winemaker:
Hervé Villemade — Loire, France

We often forget how close the Cheverny appellation is to the French capital: just a 90-minute drive. Many of its winemakers seem marked by a curious blend of rural isolation and urban sophistication. Celettes-based winemaker Hervé Villemade is no exception. His spacious cellar - where he hosts memorable open-door events every December - is festooned with blown-up black-and-white portraits of himself, his harvesters, and his family, taken by photographer friends from Paris. Standing outside, recognizable from Villemade’s wine labels, is a giant figurative statue thrusting its chest skyward, an impulse buy from a sculptor friend. Yet Villemade himself displays little artistic or poetic bent. He’s as normcore as they come, all sweatshirt, overgrown iron-flecked crewcut, and grin. 
By Aaron Ayscough

“I don’t want to change what we do habitually. I like to go gently."

Wine #3:
Les Traverses Blanc 2020

Chenin Blanc by Intellego Wines

What's it Like?

A wine that is all about freshness and brightness — an enigma of sorts — a light wine from a hot place. From beautiful old bush vines tended lovingly by its maker, this is like tasting a little sliver of almost-lost Languedoc history. Mainly from the Listan grape (Palomino), this is salty, savoury and oh-so moreish. Drink it with seafood or mushrooms and marvel at how well it accompanies umami flavours.

Where's it From?

This comes from the Minervois appellation of the Languedoc, southern France, from 70+-year-old vines of Listan and 70+-year-old vines of Terret Gris. The vines are planted at 250m elevation, on clay-limestone soils and tended organically — and gently — by Brunnhilde Claux. 

How's it Made?

The whole bunches were pressed directly, after which the juice was put into the historical concrete tanks of the property where it fermented naturally and aged. 

The Winemaker:
Domaine de Courbissac — Languedoc, France

The southern French Languedoc region is home to a swathe of old vineyards, and hence incredibly diverse vine material. Before the boom of what would become known as ‘international’ varieties (such as Chardonnay, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon), the region was celebrated for varieties such as Grenache, Terret Gris, Cinsault and even Listan (Palomino). These days, the region is slowly but surely undergoing a rebirth; rediscovering its roots; and these varieties are finally being given the limelight they deserve. Through the dedication and hard graft of growers such as Brunnhilde Claux of Domaine de Courbissac, the wine world’s focus is turning to these old vines and lesser-known historical varieties.

“These vines, they’re our patrimony. They’re a true gift. It’s almost unimaginable! They’re amazing. Free standing vines, without wire… to be pruning these 80-year-old treasures, well… these are very special moments.”

Wine #4:
Revoir un Printemps 2020

Pinot Noir Nature by Rieffel

What's it Like?

A wine that feels exactly like spring — printemps — to us. The delightful aromas of cherry blossom and subtle fresh cut grass makes us feel as though we're finally coming out of a long winter slumber. With a bright acid-driven palate and that haunting minerality, this is both rejuvenating and energising. A fresh rosé for fresh weather!

Where's it From?

This comes from the indigenous Georgian grape varieties of Tsitska from the Terjola village, Aladasturi from the Vani village and Chkhaveri from the Vartsikhe village. All these villages are in the Imereti region, and all the vineyards are small, family-owned and tended organically.  

How's it Made?

The juice fermented naturally, with some parts direct-pressed, and others undergoing a period of semi-carbonic skin maceration.  The wine was then aged in a mix of qvevri (the traditional Georgian clay vessel) and old French oak barrels. Only 1000 bottles were made — a special glimpse into a modern interpretation of Georgian history.

The Winemaker:
Ori Marani — Georgia

In one of the most ancient and diverse winemaking countries in the world, Georgia, a Georgian – Nino Gvantseladze – and a Frenchman – Bastien Warskotte – have laid down roots. By combining ancient and rare Georgian varieties and traditions with Champenois know-how, the two are creating groundbreaking wines, unlike anything the world has seen before.

“I want the wines to be clean. Just because it's natural does not mean it has to be faulty. I’m also kind of against the marketing of natural wine. Because what’s natural, and what’s not natural? People are trying to put everything in some form of category, and well it’s a little bit more complicated than this.”

Wine #5:
Raisin City 2020

Bourgogne Blanc by Dominique Derain

What's it Like?

A wine that is dear to our hearts — in fact, it was LITTLEWINE's cofounder who helped to find this vineyard! It's a place with an unusual and wondrous history — this was one of the first biodynamic farms in the US, and the vine material represents an ancient history of California wine. The wine is all about the savoury side of white wine — think almond peel, hazelnuts and rock salt. The ideal wine for food pairing, especially if you're a lover of spice.

Where's it From?

The story of this vineyard is both wonderful and unlikely. Based in Fresno, in an area of California that is close to the aptly named town 'Raisin City,' fruit from this area usually goes to raisin and spirit production. However, it's also home to the remarkable Marian Farms — one of the first biodynamic farms in the US.Lovingly tended by Gena Nonini, this is Palomino planted own-rooted (meaning ungrafted), taken from cuttings that were originally planted by her ancestors, meaning this is really old-school Palomino!

How's it Made?

The wine was naturally fermented, with half of the juice skin-fermented for a few days, and the other half directly pressed and food trodden. Bottled unfined and unfiltered during start of the pandemic, in the city of Los Angeles.

The Winemaker:
The LA River Wine Co — California, USA

Abe Schoener is one of a kind. A philosophy professor initially, he turned to wine during a sabbatical, and the rest was history. His philosophical way of thinking, and indeed his historical and cultural research, has always shown through in his wines. His Scholium Project wines became known as some of the first 'natural wines' of the US, but they were never born out of a desire to create natural wine — but rather through an explorative and curious thought process. When Abe learnt about the complex and lesser-explored history of southern Californian wine, namely in Cucamonga, he set his sights on exploring viticulture and vinification in the south. Our cofounder joined him for the first vintage of what would become the Los Angeles River Wine Company in 2019, and he has since expanded to work with a vast array of ancient and semi-forgotten, often semi-wild vineyards. The goal is to highlight and bring these vineyards to the forefront, so that we do not risk their being pulled up, and hence a great loss of diverse genetic material.

"One of the reasons that it's been important to me to work in a city is to help break down the division, the distance, the opposition... between grape growing on the one hand, and city life on the other. It's a kind of bucolic misunderstanding to see winemaking as being somehow only rooted in the country."

Wine #6:
Lottai Più Forte 2019

Saint Joseph by Pierre Gonon

What's it Like?

A wine that shows why Tai Rosso should be on everybody's lips! This northern Italian Grenache shows us the ethereal, lighter side to this world-famous grape variety. Think fresh earth, and a big bowl of blackberries picked straight from the bush. In Simone's words (the winemaker): "Ancient aromas of wild fruit, primordial drinkability that hits straight to the heart. Antithesis of the opulence. Dedicated to those who believe that the strength lies in vulnerability."

Where's it From?

This comes from organically farmed Tai Rosso (a local biotype of Grenache) from Vicenza, in the Veneto, Italy. The vineyards are planted on limestone and red clay. 

How's it Made?

The berries were destemmed, and macerated with the juice for 14 days. Fermentation occurred naturally, after which the wine then aged for nine months in old oak barrels. Bottled unfined, unfiltered and with low sulfites.

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