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Wine Club Edition
— November 2021

November Comforts

Winter is well and truly here, so we've been on a mission to pick some bottles that feel comforting, and which are food-friendly for all of the warming winter dishes we'll be joining you in cooking. We've also ventured to the Savoie, to bring you a little hint of the Alps — did somebody say Raclette? And as it's the month in which Beaujolais is traditionally celebrated, we've also brought you an iconic bottling from one of Beaujolais' stars, Guy Breton. As always, all of the wines are farmed organically at a minimum, and made artisanally. Cheers!
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:
Morgon 2020

What's it Like?

A wine that could represent Beaujolais in the Wine Olympics, should such a thing exist. From Guy's oldest vines, this fine wine represents everything that Gamay is capable of. At first it whispers to you of white pepper and blueberries, but make sure to give it some time - after a while it will pull you right into the glass, like the most powerful ocean current. It tells the tales of decades gone by, and provides more concentrated aromas of fruit, soil and flowers in one glass than most wines provide in a whole bottle. 

Where's it From?

This comes from Guy Breton's organically farmed Gamay vines in the Morgon Cru of Beaujolais, planted on the iconic granite soils of the region. The vines are trained as gobelet vines, resembling little bushes. Guy Breton, together with three other winemakers (Foillard, Lapierre and Thévenet), is dubbed one of the 'Gang of Four' — together, these winemakers helped to shape a more artisan and organic future for Beaujolais in the 80s.

How's it Made?

Fermentation is always the same for all of Guy's Beaujolais Cru wines, to let the terroir speak, not the winemaking. Carbonic maceration took place in concrete for between fifteen days and three weeks (he learnt how to vinify using carbonic maceration from Jules Chauvet, a revolutionary biochemist and wine merchant). This special technique is one that elevates the fruity and floral characteristics of Gamay and provides a very delicate tannin structure. After pressing, the wine aged in old wooden barrels, bottled the next summer with a tiny sulfite addition (never any sulfites during vinification). 

The Winemaker:
Guy Breton — Beaujolais, France

Guy Breton is a revolutionary winemaker and farmer. Having grown up in Beaujolais, Guy himself admits he didn't even really like wine that much until he met the great late Jules Chauvet and fellow winemaker Marcel Lapierre in the early 80s. From spending time with them and tasting their wines, young Guy developed an obsession for Gamay. Together with a group of other winemaker friends, they made and farmed wine without chemicals, promoting natural farming methods, using natural yeasts only, and vinifying without sulphur. It is no exaggeration to say that from this group grew an entire movement - a movement that is today often dubbed "the natural wine movement," or in French, vin naturel.

"By working with natural yeasts, your vineyards - even if they're just 500m away from each other - will create wines with totally different tastes."

Wine #2:
Jacquère 2018

What's it Like?

A wine that makes everybody smile. A true crowdpleaser, this reminds us of Chablis but with a snow-peaked Alpine twist. Think lemon rind, smokiness, lime juice and a touch of white pepper, this is the kind of wine that 'tastes of more' and is extremely versatile. Drink this alone or with pretty much any dish — we recommend mushroom risotto or fish pie.

Where's it From?

This comes from organically farmed vineyards of Jacquère around the towns of St. Pierre d’Albigny and St. Jean de la Porte, in the Savoie, from vines planted on clay-limestone. Matthieu is also currently undertaking biodynamic trials using locally foraged plants. 

How's it Made?

The whole bunches were pressed directly and very slowly in a large wooden barrel press which dates back to the 1870s! His great-grandfather used to use it. The wine was then left to age on its lees untouched in old Alsatian foudres for 11 months. Bottled unfined and unfiltered with very low sulfites. 

The Winemaker:
Domaine de Chevillard — Savoie, France

The words ‘picturesque’ and ‘scenic’ are used a lot when it comes to rural French villages and vineyard landscapes, but Saint Pierre d'Albigny — where talented young winemaker Matthieu Goury is based — takes the prize for being one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever had the fortune of visiting. It’s a tiny hamlet which looks as though it belongs in a fairytale, and the wines Matthieu is making there fill us with equal wonder.He may only be at the beginning of his path, having completed his first vintage in just 2016, but his wines have already achieved fine wine status. These striking cuvées, almost Burgundian or Jura-like in style, are helping to further bring the joys of the Savoie wine region and its indigenous varieties to an international audience.

“I like to work with our own plants for our sprays — that is the natural way, and there’s something more special about it when you harvest plants that are cut from the same soil as the vines. Plus, the mountain soils here are less rich, producing plants of a higher quality, which are more resistant.”

Wine #3:
Trebbiolo Rosso 2019

What's it Like?

A wine that is unmistakably Italian in the best possible way — this transports you directly to an Italian nonna's kitchen in the countryside of Emilia-Romagna. With notes of bramble fruit and a delicious rustic earthy saddle leather edge, serve this with fresh pasta and get ready for the ultimate comfort pairing.

Where's it From?

This comes from the organic vineyards of the iconic La Stoppa winery in Emilia-Romagna, Italy. The larger berries of Bonarda and Barbera, as well as their younger vines, are chosen for this easy-drinking wine.

How's it Made?

The grapes weree destemmed, and macerated for 20 days in stainless steel and concrete tanks, while fermentation took place naturally. The wine was then aged in stainless steel and concrete also. Bottled with some dissolved CO2, so expect a touch of lively spritz on opening, but this fades in the glass.

The Winemaker:
La Stoppa — Emilia-Romagna, Italy

Listening to Elena Pantaleoni speak feels like soaking in sunlight—you want to absorb as much as physiologically possible, but the reality is that the feeling is fleeting. You can’t bottle warmth, but we can try to get it down on paper. Elena operates beyond the realm of, quote, unquote, natural wine – it’s an expression that she doesn’t use since, well, wine to her has always been natural. Driven by the importance (and beauty) of locality, Elena’s approach to winemaking considers the land and what it represents, above all else. Wine is born in the vineyard, she tells us, and so the driving force behind La Stoppa has always been preservation.

"Now they're known as natural wines, but for us this is just wine. And there isn’t another method to make our wine."

Wine #4:
Aus dem Quartz 2020

What's it Like?

A wine that redefines the idea of an Austrian classic. Spicy, flinty and textured, this is lemon peel mixed with raw almond and a healthy sprinkling of sea salt. We like to dub Furmint as the Chenin Blanc of the East. Give it time to breathe and the wine will unfold incredible layers of depth. A wine that certainly punches above its weight — a real eye-opener.

Where's it From?

Michael Wenzel is renowned for his work with the grape variety Furmint. This cuvée comes from a blend of five of his organic vineyards, and he picks slightly earlier to create something with bright, approachable acidity. Meticulous sorting is done in the vineyard to make sure only the best berries make it into the wine.

How's it Made?

The grapes were pressed directly, and the juice went into stainless steel tanks. The next day, the juice was pumped into used 500L - 1000L oak barrels, where it fermented naturally and stayed there to age for eight months. Unfined and unfiltered, with very low sulfites. 

The Winemaker:
Michael Wenzel — Burgenland, Austria

Michael, a 12th generation winegrower from the Burgenland, Austria, always dreamt of continuing his family’s legacy. When he attended wine school in the late 80s and 90s, he was taught all about the latest methods that came from the new generation of technology. At the time, like so many of his fellow peers, he thought that this was the way forward. However, fast forward to the early 2000s, and he realised that something was amiss.It was around this time that he had a sudden realisation: he didn’t need to use all of these additions and techniques in his wines. Rather, he could return to the methods of his grandfather, learning by doing — and taking things vintage by vintage. And so, the current generation of Wenzel wines were born — a fresh interpretation of ancestral methods.

"I think we need to change our perspective. I am not the winemaker — I cannot turn juice into wine. Only yeasts can do that, so our winemakers are the native yeasts living in the vineyard. We must do everything to make sure that we have a diverse ecosystem, in order to have healthy yeasts."

Wine #5:
C'est Le Printemps 2020

What's it Like?

A wine that makes us immediately relax our shoulders and sigh with contentment, snuggling deeper into the cushions of our sofa. This is as delicious as Syrah gets — think violets, black olives, thyme and rosemary sprigs. Plus, it's a little lighter in body than your average Northern Rhône, so this is immensely gluggable. One sip, two sip, three sips... Gone!

Where's it From?

This comes from organically farmed Syrah vines planted in Mercurol — half from the 70s, and half more recently in the 90s. The soils are clay-limestone and slightly richer than his other soils.

How's it Made?

As with all their wines, this is majority whole bunch and naturally fermented, aged in old oak, usually larger format barrels of 500L. This cuvée is named C'est Le Printemps as it is bottled in springtime, hence a little lighter than the other wines. Unfined and unfiltered, with low sulfites.

The Winemaker:
Dard et Ribo — Northern Rhône, France

René-Jean Dard and François Ribo are the Sherlock Holmes & Dr. Watson of the wine world. Since the 80s, they’ve been fighting for a more sustainably farmed Northern Rhône, while also fighting off the villains trying to steal their vineyards (yes, really). It’s been one very long uphill battle to get where they are today: selling all of their wine preallocated to some of the most renowned restaurants in the world. As we stand and chat with René-Jean, the phone rings twice from trade customers interested in buying their wines. He politely lets them down—there’s none for sale. This happens every day. So how did these two quiet guys in overalls with ponytails become two of the most iconic natural winemakers in the world?

“We had long hair, beards, we didn’t use sulphites, we worked the soils instead of using herbicides. We weren’t like the others. I guess we were considered hippies. And we weren’t the sons of winemakers.”

Wine #6:
Garten Eden 2018

What's it Like?

A wine that is a true rarity, and a labour of love. Hand selected cuttings of the finest Tokaj vineyards were used to plant this organic vineyard, and the wine is meticulously hand-made. The result is a gamechanging fine wine full of mineral notes, clove, spice and subtle apricot notes that puts dry Furmint on the global wine white podium. If you want to try a wine that is made with the utmost dedication — a true artisan wine — this is your bottle.

Where's it From?

This comes from Michael's organically farmed vineyard named Garten Eden, where he grows an ancient massal selection of Furmint vines that he propagated from some of the best vineyards in Tokaj. These vines produce small berries with very loose bunches, so the yields are low. 

How's it Made?

The juice was left with its skins overnight, just to elevate the textural component of the wine. It then fermented naturally in 300-500L old oak barrels, ageing on its lees for around 20 months. Bottled unfined and unfiltered with very low sulfites. 

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