This is autumn and we're in the middle of troubled times with rising prices including for everything related to food, but there's still room for indulging in tasty meat dishes like the one I'm going to tell you about. Energy is also getting a subject we're getting told to worry, and good cooking often often needs to be long. You know I've been a longtime fan of everything off-the-grid and these days are the good time to experiment in this direction if you're still on the mainstream consumer side : all you need is a good old stove upon which you can sit a pan or a pot.
Meat aisle find
Speaking of food prices meat prices have also become much higher and it annoys me because I'm definetely a meat lover and particularly a red-meat lover (I know I shouldn't brag about it, it's become politically uncorrect to love meat, and even worse for red meat, but I'm unrepentant...) but I'll make a concession because of these prices, drop my targetted beef and I chose instead for this story one of these packaged items the supermarkets sell discount because expiration date getting close. How about this rôti de porc without bones for only 3.66 € ? I'm for it ! They like to label these discounted items "anti gaspi" for "anti gaspillage" which in French means anti waste, but that's only to sugar coat the buyer into making him feel he's an eco-minded citizen "saving the planet" when in fact we're only looking for a bargain at the cost of getting a borderline expired product...
Cast iron pot
Now let's rediscover the cast iron pot with it's samely heavy lid : this is the old secret of slow, long cooking of our ancestors and it works fine today just the same.... I started the cooking on the gas by roasting the rôti all around, with just a bit of cooking oil and sliced onion. You turn the rôti until all the sides are gently brown.
The rôti gets browned after a few minutes
After it's getting browned (don't hesitate to do it more than I did, it'll improve the meat's taste, which is needed especially that we're shamelessly using industrial meat here) you add some water in the pot, not too much, about enough so the the rôti bakes half in it, you'll turn the meat from time to time anyway.
Start the long cooking
That's the time to put the iron cast pot on the stove and forget it a few hours (put the lid on, of course), except for an occasional check and turning the rôti on itself so that the cooking is even. I could have started using the stove from the start by the way. If you feel the water is boiling too violently in the pot, just push it on the side of the stove where the temperature is somehow lower, the idea is to get a long, slow cooking. Adding some Provence herbs and laurel leaves is appropriate at this time. You may also add some vegetables at then end as well.
Tight lid on
The long cooking will be gentle if you keep the heavy lid tightly on the pot, these pots and their lids are designed precisely to keep the fumes, vapors and humidity in, baking the meat (even the non-immerged part of the meat gets its fair cooking).
Time to eat !
After a few hours, it can be 2 hours, 3 hours or more (as long as you check the water/juice level in the pot and keep the boiling low), you can treat yourself with this humble-in-price but rewarding dish. You can add a bit of salt during the cooking but leave room for adding a bit more at serving, same for pepper. If you love Sichuan pepper like me [in my opinion unproperly named pepper by the way, as this spice tastes more like crispy mint] you can sprinkle some on your plate. Enjoy !
For the pairing I chose another working class alternative in terms of price in these inflation times, with a dry cider [Brut] as this beverage both pairs pretty well with pork and is so affordable (around 2 € if I remember)...
Cher valley, Loire
I managed to get in time in my Loire hideout just in time for the last days of harvest and toured a few producers, some by myself and some with Lexie Jordan who was at the time picking with Julien Prevel. Lexie is living in Paris mostly and she imports wine for her San Francisco-based company Funk De Funk (actually in Mill Valley, Marin county). Several producers had in fact already just finished picking, some still had a couple parcels yet to be picked, for which they were waiting for a bit more maturity. This story will be most a picture story, first because I/we visited unannounced (in some instances there was no body near the chai/cellar and we'd just move and try our luck elsewhere) and our hosts were busy or enjoying quietness at last after several weeks of stress, and also because the end of harvest is just, like, relax, take your time and pause...
This took place around the 3rd week of september, I know, this is late to post that (even with backdating it) but I keep being busy these days.
I found the parcel easily, Lexie had sent my the GPS coordinates, near Monthou-sur-Cher, it was closer to my place as it is at a distance from Julien's main parcels, this one not being his own, he just purchases the fruit here. Everyone was busy picking when I arrived on my motorbike.
Julien Prevel picking
The pause is when, around 10 am usually, everyone stops picking and gathers at the end of the rows to share what we could name a light meal provided by the vigneron (It's the rule for artisan producers but in conventional vineyard you won't be treated as well), and there's usually his own wine being poured as well (just for that you really want to go picking there !). I always feel a bit guilty when I myself take part to it (even if I'm invited to) because I haven't picked myself and these guys deserve it much more than me, they woke up early and that's a tough job whatever it looks.
Julien checking his own wine
Instants of quiet before resuming work
We then took the road (I had brought an extra helmet for Lexie) and stopped at Laurent Saillard, there was no vehicule there and I was pretty sure we'd find nobody but Laurent was indeed, busy putting the chai in order, cleaning hoses and so on. The havest had finished the previous week and everything was over for good, the wines fermenting/macerating in the tanks.
Tronconic maceration tanks
Tasting a red
What a color ! __ macerating Pineau d'Aunis (half being teinturier type), from a parcel of Julien Moreau
Glimpse into a maceration tank
Tasting a bottle
Tasting from a small tank
Interesting white (Skin-contact Trebbiano, grapes bought in the Luberon in 2021)
At François & Estelle Saint Leger
On the way to Thésée (the bridge on the Cher being unusable because of road work, we had to make a huge detour through Montrichard) we passed along François and Estelle's cellar and seeing the door open I stopped there as well. They were close to the end of their harvest but still had something to pick the following week. Both of them were busy finishing the day in the cellar, cleaning all the stuff and tools.
Pouring a delicious juice
The last touch for an almost-spotless cellar
Standing along the loyal Vaslin
Weighing the juice at Noëlla Morantin
We briefly stopped at Les Jardins de Theseiis and at Domaine de la Taupe (their respective cellar are next door to each other), either they had finished picking or were busy picking a parcel somewhere (in fact in the main street of Thésée I crossed his car which was pulling a trailer). So we went to Noëlla Morantin and they were all in there, busy with various cellar work including repairing the wheel of a forklift.
Lexie could see this beautiful cellar
Kitchen side room
I love this side room along the main cellar, some kind of dining room complete with a fireplace, I imagine the nice time here with staff or clients, sharing a few bottles of wine with charcuterie and cheese...
Then we went to La Lunotte further east along the cher but on the other side of the river, and Christophe Foucher was there with all his pickers, enjoying quietly this sunny september day along the table in the shade. There was indeed a cool ambiance here like usual, some of the pickers were training themselves at juggle, I didn't take pictures so as not being intrusive but it was a very nice scene.
Tasting in the cellar
We didn't go tasting wine immediately but spent time chatting under the tree, always a pleasure to be here, and Lexie was certainly impressed, Christophe
I love how the goose's beak matches with Christophe's scooter
The massey Ferguson 152 ready for the following week
man, that was delicious !
The Berlot at Les Maisons Brûlées
It was maybe 4pm when we left Christophe Foucher and we headed back to Pouilly sur Cher to pay a visit at les Maisons Brûlées. When we were at Laurent Saillard at around noon, he told me he was heading to the Berlot that was taking place at Les Maisons Brûlées but I prefered not to go at that time because the Berlot is foremost a festive event for the pickers and the vignerons, and that'd be weird to kind of invite yourself for this very special lunch focused on those who did the hard work and shared the challenging adventure of the harvest. When we showed up between 4 and 5 pm this was nearly the end of it but everyone was still sitting around the table and having a good time.
La fine équipe
Beatiful moment that we had with them around the table, sipping gorgeous wines from the Gillets, from Laurent and from Jean-Guillaume Caplain (pictured here standing)... Sitting at the table : Alban, on the left, who among other things handles the horses, Paul Gillet and Corinne Gillet. Feel the magic...
Alban preparing the horse for the group photo
Laurent, his son Theo and Lexie watching as the group photo takes shape
The group portrait : great picking team !
Toasting at the end of the Berlot
Separately on a different day I also dropped at André Fouassier and the day I showed up he was busy pressing his Arbois (Arbois is a variety also known as Orbois or Menu Pineau).
The oldest building in the farm (probably from the 1st half of the 19th century).
Gyöngyöspata, Mátra (Hungary)
This was really a quick visit here, we're here at Hoop Wines which is run by two childhood friends, Zoltán Németi and Zoltán Kerekes who make wine from a small overall surface 1,5 hectare, plus from the equivalent of 0,5 hectare of purchased grapes, for a total yearly production of 5 to 6000 bottles. We're here in a family house in the village that was refurbished as a small winery facility by Zoltán Kerekes who had himself a 10-year experience working in a local winery. Zoltán Németi is himself an IT specialist in Budapest and spends his weekends here for this venture.
This small facility has all the hygiene requirements needed for a safe winemaking, mostly there's the main room which we could call the chai (they press inside), and a barrel room on the side which does the job of a cellar. Asked if they got European funding for these investments, they say no, the conditions for these subsidies are difficult to gather and unfortunately they are designed mostly for big wineries, so they funded this by themselves. They're happy to have this facility which is now easy to clean and keep clean, something essential for thoughtful winemaking. Their first commercial vintage was in 2019 (before it was more like experimental and for themselves and friends).
This is the press, Slovenian-made Zottel (I'm not very familiar with this make), but they actually almost don't use it because they mostly work with the free-run juice, not the press juice. They started for their first vintage with Cabernet Franc and now make mostly Kékfrankos (Blaufränkisch)
__ Pink, Pet'nat rosé 2020 from Kékfrankos, appellation on the label is Felső-Magyarország (Upper Hungary) borrégió (wine region) which is a wide regional appellation regrouping Bükk [my favorite camping base when I travel around], Eger and Mátra. This pet'nat was the first recognized as such in this upper-Hungary appellation (If I remember, the appellation board changed its rules recently in order to include these new types of wines). Pressure here is 2,6 bar, it was bottled with between 10 and 15 grams of residual sugar. Bitterness notes but counterbalances well the sweet tongue. They tell me they made their first pet-nat by accident in 2016 when they bottled some Kékfrankos with residual sugar and they liked the resulting bubbly.
We have a look in the barrel cellar, which is a surface room, not underground. There are here barrels of different makes, Taransaud, Nadalie, Seguin Moreau (thry say the latter is doing a good job). They have an ozone generator that works on the evening to keep the air neutral. They plan to buy a new barrel every year, but a new 225-liter barrel imprints too much of an oaky character on Kékfrankos, so they prefer to use older barrels, or a large-capacity barrel for this variety. A 500-liter demi-muid would do the job, they think.
Pet-nat 2021 from Kékfrankos
__ Pink 2021 in the making, we walk outside and they open the bottle, christening the whole place, quite nice scene under the sun ! This pet-nat has not been disgorged, high-pressure bubbles, not yet integrated. Asking about the pressure, I'm told it's 5,5. Very turbid (not disgorged). Not that much bubbly in the mouth actually, very fresh feel.
Speaking of winemaking, it's pretty basic, they say : they work with one-ton open fermenters with spontaneous fermentation which they say is usually slow, taking 2 or 3 weeks to complete. Last year they made only one Kékfrankos red (from the Gereg terroir). So2 at this stage in the barrels is total 30 or 40, with free so2 being almost nonexistant.
Ready ? Kékfrankos red !
__ Kékfrankos 2021, tank sample (the tank in the barrel cellar). Smooth feel, nice integrated tannins already, refined wine, I love it !
__ Kékfrankos from barrel, harsher mouthfeel here, possibly because of the oak imprint. They say the barrel was steamed before filling, which is maybe why. The ratio of the blend will be 9 barrels plus a tank.
__ Zoltán Kerekes from yet another barrel among the 3 from the Gereg terroir : Love it, smooth, delicious. They say they plan to have no fining, but they may have a light filtering.
Zoltán Kerekes' cellar with a Flextank, which has some king of breathing plastic, he is in the process of experimenting winemaking here. Flextank is made in the United States and is imported in Europe through a Hungary-based importer.
__ Kékfrankos Gerek 2020, we taste a first Bordeaux-shaped bottle (not the one on the picture), also a blend. Screw cap.
__ Kékfranko Matra 2019 (pictured above), Zoltán Németi's own cuvée, bottled a year ago. From his own parcel in the Gereg terroir, I mean he bought grapes from a friend of his.Closure is a breathable screw cap (Stelvin Inside), something innovative that may alleviate the demand and pressure on cork producers. Nice nose. He uses a plastic tank with oak staves inside. Vety smooth. Alcohol a bit a bit forward but that's fine, the refined tannins make it. Already ready to drink but I feel it will be bettered after waiting a while. I marvel at the very interesting range of Kékfrankos in Mátra and Balint who joined us says that Gyöngyöspata has the highest number of Kékfrankos producers in proportion to its size, this is really a vibrant (if tiny) wine region... Only Szekszárd has more Kékfrankos producers, but it's a way bigger wine region (if mostly unknown in much of western Europe).
While we were chatting, the wine further opened itself in the glass, it was even better with dust notes and chalky tannins, just delicious !! Professional price is 5 € for this wine, really a terrific deal ! In Budapest you'll pay 4000 Forints on the shelves, or 10 € (at the time of writing). Some is exported to Luxemburg. Asked about so2 here, there were two addings, with 60 total, then the lab said free so2 mostly gone so they added 25 more before bottling.
Gyöngyöspata, Mátra (Hungary) Here we are again in the village of Gyöngyöspata in the Mátra wine region, and it was a short stroll from one cellar street to another and we reached this haven of
quietness where Mátyás Páger, his wife Judit and
his brother's family were finishing their picnic outside one of his cellars (this is the one where he readies and labels his bottles). I had met Mátyás a couple months ago in Budapest at Vinopiano, an excellent wine bar with rebel wines. His day job is working in real estate in the big city but his passion is to make wine here in Matra from a small surface mostly located in the prized terroir of Gereg. His farming is fully organic and in the cellar he doesn't use additives, doesn't filter his reds and uses minimum so2 if any.
Mátyás Páger's yearly production is around 6000 bottles, mostly Kékfrankos (Blaufränkisch) but also Grüner Veltliner, Pinot Gris, Rajnai rizling (Rhein Riesling). Mátyás also uses this tunnel cellar (which has the typical size of old artisan facilities in this country) to age the wine in bottle before shipping. Even for his small production it's a pretty small storage place (happily, part of the bottles were already shipped and we could walk through the place) and he'll use an additional cellar nearby to complement room. the cellar front shack seems to be standing alone on this picture on left but in fact this cellar street overgrown with trees and greenery is also lined with cellars (some like this one having a small building in front, some not), most of these cellars being unused by villagers.
Mátyás in front of his chai
Actually Mátyás had the chance to find other cellars nearby (this one is just a few meters from the other (in the background here) and also the chance that owners accepted to sell [I know places in the Loire where even if locals haven't used their family cellar for decades, they're reluctant to let an outsider use it, even less buy it...]. He uses this one as a chai at harvest time, its front building is barely larger than the other one but all the availing space is used efficiently.
Inside the tiny facility
Walking inside you already feel a cooler temperature than outside thanks to the breathing from the cellar. It's really a miniature chai with a basket press in a corner, a cement tank and the stairs going down to the cellar tunnel proper. These cellars were certainly still used during the years under soviet occupation, as the socialist government had allowed villagers to keep on making wine for family needs from their individual parcel. As I understand, this appeasement measure was mostly granted in order to sweeten the pill of agricultural collectivization which was a hard blow on freedom-loving farmers here.
This is a two-hectoliter press and the fermentation takes place indeed in the cement vat (see other picture above) the old-time way, there's a tap outside the vat to let the juice flow when needed, and there's a metal grid inside to retain the gross lees when you do that. I see many of these cement fermenters also in abandoned cellars in the Loire (see this one for example) and I think they're pertinent even nowadays (when the cement is in good condition) beause of their excellent temperature inertia.
In the cellar
We walk down the few stairs to the cellar, it's really cool in there, there are different types of vessels, plastic tanks and Kadar Hungarian-oak barrels (which he buys new), large-capactity (500 liters and 300), and he usually blends the wine from neutral and oak together. I ask Mátyás about his start and vineyard surface, he started 4 years ago (he went through 3 vintages already), he has two hectares right now and has planted two more hectares which will give way to a total surface of 4 hectares when the latter will be fully productive. At the beginning he used to just buy grapes but today he relies more on his own fruit, and buying grapes helped him know better the varieties he likes to work with and it guided him to choose his plantings.
Tasting in the cellar
__ Mátyás fills a glass from a barrel, this is Grüner Veltliner 2021, a variety which he likes a lot for its very good acidity, he keeps it on its lees without sulfites, adding some (just a little bit) only before bottling. What we're tasting is sulfites-free, the color and appearance is very limpid and clear. The parcel makes 0,3 hectare (it's located at a lower area compared to the Gereg terroir) and he can rent an additional of the same surface, this will allow him to make two barrels of it instead of one. Speaking of the farming it's organic, he only uses sulfur and orange oil in the vineyard. This variety is sensitive to fungi but his other parcels (located on the Gereg) don't have this issue.
__ From a tank : Gewürztraminer 2021, macerated 2 weeks on skins, orange wine. Very nice and expressive wine : fresh, bitterness and acidity in a beautiful balance of the whole feel. Judit joins us at this point, Mátyás says they've been together for 2 years and she takes part to this wine venture (she has also a cuvée of hers in a barrel in another cellar). Speaking of the Gewürz, in 2020 he vinified it half with skin contact then barrel, half with whole-bunch pressing and then tank, and he blended the two parts later.
Pinot Gris from the barrel
__ Pinot Gris 2021 from a barrel. Skin contact also (2 weeks), on its lees right now. Turbid white. Mouth : structured white with what looks like a stonny, rocky feel, love it ! The mouth is generous and it goes down the throat quite beautifully. Asked where he sells his wines he says in restaurants, first in Budapest, then also in Berlin and Prag.
Checking how the wine feels
__ We now taste Rajnai Rizling (Rhein Riesling) from a new barrel (toasting M+), he has also some in a neutral tank and he will samely blend the two parts later. He thinks the wine is still working (it's indeed tickling on the tongue and there must remain something like 20 grams at this stage), the sugar has been going down very slowly, he noticed. At the end of the summer the sugar should be down to 5 grams, he likes to keep it this way. He keeps the door to the chai open now in order to raise the temperature a bit and ease the end of the fermentation.
Tasting a red
__ From a big-capacity barrel in the bottom of the cellar we now taste a red, namely Fekete leányka or "Black Girl" [a variety coming from Transylvania, an old Hungarian province now part of Romania].Mátyás bought the grapes from his neighbor but now he really wants to plant next year some of his own. Very concentrated, jammy aromas of strawberry, very interesting red especially to eat with. He kept the grapes 2 weeks on skins in an open-top plastic tank with 2 punchings per day, then pressing. He says it's not as overtly aromatic as Turan, another local variety which is really dark and for him really over the top in terms of aromatic expression.
__ Pinot Noir 2021, from a demi-muid next to the one with Fekete leányka. Also purchased grapes, from the reknown Gereg terroir nearby, he wants also to experiment with Pinot Noir as he doesn't have some on his own parcels. He destemmed the bunches and kept the grapes on skin contact for 4 weeks with two ,punchings a day. Dark-red Pinot in the glass. Tannin feel but lovely ones, well balanced, very nice for what is indeed a very young Pinot Noir, I feel it to be perfect in two years. He plans to bottle at the end of summer maybe, with one-year bottle aging before release.
__ Kékfrankos 2021 from a demi-muid, made from his own grapes (he has 0,7 hectare of this variety, vines are 9 years old). He says Kékfrankos is the best variety in Mátra, adding that it's because there are both volcanic elements and limestone and with also the cool air going down from the hills around, there is a good gap of temperature between the early morning and the afternoon, plus this daily breeze also that keeps the grapes healthy, it all gets this good acidity in the wines. Very nice and inspiring nose ! Superb wine, fresh, silky with chalky tannins, you just can't spit. He made 700 liters, part is in neutral tank. Pro price to restaurants is 4000 HUF (10,31 €), and 7000 HUF (18 €) for private buyers at the cellar.
__ Pinot Gris 2020 from a bottle, the one that is a blend of skin contact and direct press of whole bunches. What a color ! Orange wine indeed. In the mouth it's both creamy and with a vibrant acidity, a wine that is at the same time horizontal and vertical as Mátyás says. I love it !
Toasting with friends joining the fray (including Bálint)
Kékfrankos rocks !
__ Kékfrankos 2019 in bottle. A bit tighter in the mouth and throat, but you feel the same character from the one tasted minutes ago. Low so2, like 30 mg/liter. Can be found at the much sought-after Borkonyha in Budapest.
__ Kékfrankos 2020 in bottle, here no so2 at all and unfiltered. Bottle with clear uncolored glass. 3 week maceration of whole bunches without punching or pumping over. Such a nose here ! Mouth : super, whole, powerful, fresh, everything. And so easy to drink. Sold out alas. if you come across some remaining bottles somewhere, order them. Can be found in Salt, a restaurant in the classy 5th district in Budapest (link to their wine list).
Geza - these French Bulldogs are so cute
Judit with her wine
__ We now taste Judit's own cuvée, it is made from a local grape variety named kiraly leányka (means King's Girl in Hungarian) a grape which also apparently comes from Transylvania. Instead of what the color might induce, this is not an orange wine. Brisk mouth, it awakes you ! Nice balance between acidity and grape skin flavor, it's precise, straight, really good and surprising white (we ought to have more of these unknown varieties) with a tickling thing on the palate and an alive feel ! No sulfites, nothing added ! Price unknown.
In front of yet another cellar
Here is a renovated cellar where Mátyás keeps a few cuvées in amphorae, this cellar has an elegant front building with pillars and sheltered porch in the style of the old farms throughout Hungary. Bálint who is on the picture also was Mátyás' classmate in school
Tasting a couple of wines from the amphorae
__ Grüner Veltliner 2021, from one of the amphorae (which are Italian made). Zero so2 and he will keep it this way, I thought because the skin contact protects the wine, but actually there was no "regular" skin contact here, but instead an infusion of 20 kilograms of grapes in the juice (the berries are still there inside with the wine). Nice texture feel
A red from the amphora
__ Cabernet Sauvignon 2021 from an amphora, 4-week whole bunch maceration and then pressing, no pigeage, nothing. What an exciting color to begin with ! Like I use to say, it sums up the wine in a glance, such vibrant transparency can't lie... Here is indeed an aeria and fruity Cabernet Sauvignon, very fresh, candy style. The grapes come from the Gereg terroir, indeed a great terroir even if the vinification was a success as well here. Was to be bottled a week later without so2 but sold locally.
Szűcsi, Mátra (Hungary)
We're here in a village named Szűcsi (pronounce sweetchie or something like that) which sits along a gentle slope surrounded by vineyards (see the pic on the left, best viewpoint on the village for Balázs who stops there when he has something to do in his
parcels). The village is located probably
much less than 3 kilometers as the crow flies from Gyöngyöspata and that's where Balázs Palya (who has a day job as electrical engineer) and his girlfriend Julianna (or Julcsi) Mészáros (who works in the logistics sector) started a small wine farm in 2019 with little grapes to work with, part from their garden, part given to them by Julianna's family. This is a passion thing for them and their prime intent when they started this was to remain sustainable both in the vineyard and the cellar, just let the wine express itself by its own. They do everything by hand they have no machine whatsoever in the cellar, no pump and they don't add anything in the wine, not even sulfites, and no fining, no filtration. Balázs understands that to make wine, 70 % of the job is in the vineyard and 30 % in the cellar, and if you have a great soil, you'll get a great vine which will yield great grapes, and almost without doing anything after that the wine should be great.
Their production is about only 1500 or 2000 bottles a year from 1,2 hectare of productive grapes, so it's really a very artisanal thing powered by passion and not a business mindset. The yield is like one or 1,5 kilogram of grapes per vine maximum. The vines are 20 years old on average, let aside the older parcel which is 50. For example the Chardonnay was planted in 2002 and the Kékfrankos was planted the year he was born, in 1997.
8 rows of Kékfrankos (Blaufränkisch)
In this parcel which is named Kekcskekö (means goat stone), they have both Kékfrankos (8 rows) and Cabernet Sauvignon (6 rows), the latter not being his preferred variety, not very local. The vines here stand one meter high from which then the shoots will go up further, being held between the wires. They let the weeds grow by their own (they don't sow anything) and will only mow before harvest. All the work here is done by them two, they don't employ third parties for the vineyard work, be it pruning, taking out buds and leaves and so on. They'll wait the end of july to cut the apex, letting it grow free until then. For the picking they get help from family and friends, this is a good moment and celebration for their party. Asked about the pruning, he says they follow the Simonit & Sirch method which was set up some 15 years ago by two Italian guys who considered faulty pruning ways were responsible for the spread of Esca, a fatal disease that kills a vine very quickly. Bencze also works along this method for his own pruning.
I learn about the art of pruning (but always forget)
Balázs Palya in one of his parcels
I think this is the 2nd parcel we stopped at here, it's named Tavaczfold or spring field, and it was planted in 2002.
They farmed organic their small surface from the start and converted to biodynamic farming in 2021. Their surface is 1,5 hectare with Kékfrankos (Blaufränkisch), Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. They have alqo an old complanted parcel (50 years) with Rheinriesling, Kékfrankos (Blaufränkisch), Welschriesling and another one. He bought this particular parcel 2 years ago but it hadn't been taken care of during more than 7 years, so it took time to have it recover and they make a field blend from it. They wanted to replant it anew at the beginning but the local viticulture laws don't allow it yet because they have to have had at least one harvest from it, that's why they had to first put the vines back on track. They do the biodynamic sprayings along the calendar and make their own compost with the 7 basic preparations. They were about to spray the 501 the following week. Asked where he found the inspiration for following biodynamic farming, he says there are not many people doing biodynamics in Matra but István Bencze in the Balaton region is kind of the initiator in this field [and he also vinifies without sulfites]. He met István as well as Roland Szimeiszter (of Roland Wines), both working with a company, Lees Brothers, which deals with natural wines
In the soil, lots of Andesite mixed with limestone
We passed along this while driving around the village, you can see how it looks beneath the surface, that's such a thin layer of earth, no doubt the vines will get it hard here (and we all know a struggling vine makes great grapes)... Balázs says the earth layers makes 50 centimeters at most in the area, and given the continental summer here is pretty dry, the vines are certainly struggling. Speaking of potential problems for the vines, there's no frost problems here.
Like in many wine regions, there are a lot of fruit trees around here, but nobody's perfect and some village orchard owners are lazy and keep on using herbicide on their tiny plots.
Compost in the making
At one point we stopped where they keep their compost, it looks like a big animal sleeping in the grass, it's indeed warm and alive in there and all this mysterious life will find its way to the parcels' soil and atmosphere one day... I asked Balázs about where he learned doing the biodynamic preps (as it's not very common in Mátra, he says he learnt directly from an Hungarian pioneer in the field, Katalin Kiss, who operates a biodynamic farm in Bátaszék in the Szekszárd wine region (the red patch here, another outstanding wine region in this country) where she also runs a seed bank and exchange. They visited her place in spring and autumn to take part to group preparations because some preparations are made in big volumes and they won't need such volume for their own tiny surface, so it makes more sense to take part to such team training and sharing the resulting preps. he also read several books by Pierre Masson on biodynamics.
Their newly planted orchard near the compost
Here we saw a tractor plowing a vineyard
Cellar street in Szűcsi
Heading to the village of Szűcsi and to their own cellar, we reach what we can call a cellar street, as in Hungary cellars are usually sitting all together in streets outside the village. There are 4 parallel such cellar streets in this village, you must imagine the activity around here back in the times, wether at harvest time or at end of vinification time, when men would gather here with friends to celebrate in vinous libations...
Cellar dug in hard rocky wall
Most cellars got their respective tiny house (which serves as a chai) in front, actually you generally reach the cellar door in the house, but some are just plain simple cellars dug through the rock. Given they have electricity they must have been used for a long time, possibly well into the 2000s.
I walked into this one as the door was open, and it was really small, with just a cement fermenter remaining from its active days, which may have been during the communist era, when villagers were allowed to make wine for themselves from their private rows. many look really abandonned which means there's a chance micro vintners here should beable to find a place to begin make wine.
Cute one with its blue door
More a bunker than a house here
Other construction styles
Here about the one with a wooden door, I'm told the owner is a university teacher from Szeged (southern Hungary) who makes cheese and that's where he does the long affinage of his cheese.
Balázs & Julianna's cellar
We reach their own cellar in the middle of this cute cellar street
When you walk past the door, it's the typical configuration of these family cellars in Hungary, with a first room doing the job of a chai, that's where they press the grapes, and the second room is the cellar itself, usually tunnel-shaped with stabler temperature around the year, that's where the wine will be stored and age if given the time (it doesn't usually take a lot of months to drink the production of a family parcel).
the cellar by itself
Here you can see the hard rock of the hill, it's so hard that you don't need to buttress the ceiling like you would with a soft, crubling stone. And when you look closer you can see the multiple layers of this geology, that must be very informative for people in the know. Balázs says these cellars were dug between the two world wars, often using explosives. Here he keeps a few bottles, and experimental wines as well. Temperature here is a stable 10 C (50 F).
Back to the village
We drive back to the village proper, where Balázs and Julianna are renovating an old house (the one on the left on the pic above) and that's where they actually do the vinification part. On the picture here we're in the backyard looking at the vegetable garden.
Nettle tea in the making in an outhouse
They got this basket press from Julianna's family, it was manufactured in Hungary in 1954 during the soviet occupation and communist years. It was in very bad condition when they recovered it, they had to polish the metal bach and change the basket staves. Balázs says with a smirk that it's all the technology they use here, he says this press is very gentle in the pressing.
You can see here the boxes used for the picking as well as the back sprayer Balázs uses when he needs to spray sufur on the vineyard. Otherwise they bottle by gravity, racking the wine in a stainless tank first, raising it a bit then in order to have the sufficient gravity pressure.
Home-made destemming grids
Fermenters will be clean and ready at harvest time
We don't have these fermenters in France, they're made in Italy, easy to move and go from 50 liters to 750 liters... Their Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 was fermented whole-clustered in such a fermenter, it was Beaujolais style for a kind of Primeur wine. He says he doesn't like how Cabernet Sauvignon is vinified usually and he wanted to show this variety under a kinder, more easy-drinking character. They did a gentle pressing after the maceration, doing the fermentation half in tanks, half in old barrels.
Chardonnay from tank
You'll see these tanks in many places, they're made in Hungary. We taste a first wine from this tank, a Chardonnay, 10 % skin cintact and 90 % whole bunch direct press. He says the 10 % maceration gives the wine structure and stability with the tannins which is important for them as they don't use sulfites. The direct press gives a sweet round side to the wine from what I understand. The wine is turbid, fermentation still going on, they stir the lees to help the fermentation keep on going or restart, he thinks it should be completed by july. The malolactic is over already. In the mouth, a bit perly still very juicy and sweet, the lab (there's a lab 20 minutes from here) says it's something like 10 grams residual sugar (my feel was more like 20). Balázs felt some bretty notes but he says after some time it will get away by itself.
Thas was something !
We're here tasting (drinking should I say !) a gorgeous direct-press red from 2021 if I'm right (just look at this color, you get all you need to know here) I can't tell about the variety, or let's say I forgot what variety it was. It was bottled end of november (30) 2021 and it had been picked october 4th. Color : so nice, gently light, and turbid. No skin contact here, just direct press. I love the mouth, feminine, easydrinking, smooth and fresh. Alcohol : 12 %. Smoky notes but no oak here, comes from a demijohn. He made 120 bottles, let's call this an experimental cuvée...First such cuvée he made from this variety was 2019. And of course, no fining, no filtration, no so2. Asked if he got any accident as they do zero-zero-zero from the start, he says that in 2019 they did add tiny amounts of sulfites but decided to stop for good in 2020, he says everyone gets accidents but you need to work with healthy grapes and at the end the only key that the natural winemakers have is the time, when to stir or not stir, be careful with lunar time windows. Certain things you have to do them in the lowest activity of the wines, which itself is in symbiosis with the one of the moon, and it's a good insurance against the wine getting in a weird direction.
__ Palya Rubicon 2020, this is Kékfrankos, they named this cuvée thinking about their decision to buy parcels
and start this thing, it's like crossing the Rubicon, there's no way back... The wine was bottled in march 2020 with a bit of fine lees after spending its élevage in Hungarian oak (30 %) and plastic tank (70 %), then blending of the two for one month and lastly a gentle pressing. They get only 50-55 % of the juice from a 400-kilogram load, pretty gentle pressing indeed !. No filtration, no fining, no added sulfites. It fermented in a mere 12 days. 30 % whole bunch here in the fermenttion which gives some energy to the whole cuvée. 11,5 % alcohol. Demonstrative wine in the mouth, lovely !.
He sells through the Lees Brothers which specializes in natural wines from the region, and he exports also to Copenhagen (Hoetoft), Poland (Philip Lugowski or Filip ługowski in Polish), Wien (Austria) through natural-wine restaurant Bruder and California through Danch & Granger Selections. Pro price is 3000 HUF for Rubicon (7,6 € at time of writing).
Here we come with the Palya Cabernet Sauvignon 2020, and given the moon situation at the time of this visit, Balázs thought it was better to carafe the wine. I wish every Cabernet Sauvignon were more in this style indeed, and just think Balázs said he was not too fond of Cabernet Sauvignon... The wine is lighly fizzy with an exciting chalky color. Nose in line and enjoyable mouth as well for this 11,5 % wine.
Aromas of morello cherries, also as he rightly remarks, notes of green spices like green pepper. Lovely wine you must try. Pro price is 2800 HUF, shop price will be around 6000 HUF (15 €). He made 400 bottles of this. I recommend the wine, but only 50 or 60 bottles left in the cellar.
It is bottled under a generic Felső-Magyarország [Northern Hungary] label, here also you recognise many natural wines under their humble non-appellation labelling. He says here if you don't do conventional wines the judges manning the appellation commissions (who for some are themselves producers) will not allow you in because the natural wines need to open after opening in order to express themselves fully. In his own view a wine has to be drunk after some time folmlowing opening, and you feel its energy even better if you wait a few hours, while the judges are used to give a verdict 20 seconds after opening a bottle, and a living wine isn't fit for such a hasty judgment. And some of them are big producers and they're not open to a different wine culture & philosophy. The Cabernet here was picked fully ripe, so I'm surprised the alcohol leven is only 11,5 %, and Balázs says this is the same for Kékfrankos, it has to do with 2020 which was an interesting vintage in that regard, very different from 2021 which reached 13,5 %, this is because of the weather.
Note what's written on the back label : Hand-picked, unfined, unfiltered, handly bottled. This is grape. Nothing more, nothing less...
At one point we walked around a small lake lined with cabins where I'm told quite a good number of Germans moved permanently. The place looks like a fisherman's paradise.
former closed zone
We also walked around what was a forbidden zone back in the soviet occupation (which I already approached some 8 years ago), the small road going up to this hill top was close to locals, the former military command center still has its barbed wire fencing but it is now privately owned, even if its owner (who happens to have been recently working in the Hungarian government agency TEK) has to respect certain rules regarding the use of its multilayer underground complex. Next time, I'm sure I'll get inside...
Szűcsi, Mátra (Hungary)
The wine region of Mátra sits on the Mátra hills which, on the way from Budapest when you drive north east to Eger and Tokaj and it grows a majority of white varieties. Mátra is sitting on volcanic slopes as many of these hills were volcanoes I guess (see pic on left, sorry for the pylons in the foreground), and while the wine region keeps a low profile on the international scene (compared to Tokaj and Eger)
I was myself suprised to learn that it is the 2nd largest among the 22 wine regions of Hungary (#19 patch on the linked map). The deep history roots of this region shows up in the many cellars found in every village there, it's pretty easy to spot them because in Hungary cellars are often built just outside the villages and away from the farms (closer to the parcels I guess), with a tiny house sitting in front of the opening, this house being used a a chai, to store cellar tools & basket press, and of course gather with friends and family and drink wine....
Like I've seen in the Loire for example, there's a new generation of winemakers in Mátra bringing in their will to make wine for the love of wine and on small surfaces, they're often outsiders as opposed with the mainstream established who try to keep making commercial wine that kind of lost its connection to truth and terroir. People like András Kovács and his wife Kinga Tóth bring indeed a new life in here beginning with demanding requirements in the vineyard management that like elsewhere you don't often find on commercial wineries. András works in IT in Budapest (he's been also one of the wine writers at A Borrajongó, a rich resource on wine including of course Hungarian wine) and Kinga in urban engineering and they spend many weekends here in Mátra.
Map of the area's terroirs
Andras & Kinga have parcels on two terroirs, one is Meggyes, thar's the one they had to work on this weekend, and the other is Bódics which is on a warmer exposition. You can see the terroirs on this Gyöngyöspata terroirs map sent to me by Andras. The Bódics parcel (red rectangle in the blue rectangle) is located east of the village and that's where they have their productive Kékfrankos. A bit further on the right you can see the Gereg terroir, which is considered the best of Gyöngyöspata (just say Pata like people here if you think it's too long a name).
The colder terroir of Meggyes (means sour cherry in, Hungarian) is in the orange rectanle on the left, it's the one where they worked on the young vines that weekend. Because in part to the different exposure, it's two week behind in terms of maturity window compared to Bódicsi and Gereg. For the anecdote, the lower part of Meggyes is named Úrráteszi which means "makes a lord", like if owning rows of vines there made you a lord in the past...
Working on their parcels (on Meggyes terroir)
András made his first wine in 2018 when he got his first parcel (0,3 hectare) located on a slope with good ripening conditions, then the following year he found another parcel (0,6 hectare) on a colder terroir at higher altitude. Next year they'll plant another 0,6 hectare for a total of 1,5 hectare when the new plantations will be productive. Between the rows here they sowed covercrops like mustard and rye in sprin and autumn 2021 but the weather was very dry and it didn't really come out. Actually from may of last year to april this year there was basically no rain at all here.
The part of the parcel they're working on above was planted in 2018, they're taking down the leaves and buds on the lower part of the vine. the variety is Laska, an old, almost extinct local variety that orinitated in Austria but disappeared there while a few remaing vines can be found in Hungary. It was rediscovered by old-variety pioneer Jozsef Szentesi (a man I like to compare to Robert Plageoles, who did the same pioneer work in Gaillac). Andras of course got the wood from him. There are also a few rows of Kékfrankos (Blaufrankisch) which was a Szentesi/Balint Losonci selection from a 100-year old parcel in Szekszard (another wine region in Hungary).
When they replant, they do it with high density, like 2 meters between rows and 0,8 meter between vines, which makes a density of 6000 vines/hectare. The "old" parcels here in Hungary which are still used by commercial wineries often date from the communist era when they were planted with 3 meters or even more between rows, because soviet-made tractors (like the Belarus which were common here) were wide and not adapted to old-time parcels. And during the communist rule, small old-timer parcels on slopes were abandonned or left to the villagers for private production, and large vineyards were instead planted in the plains, on land unfit for good wine but that permitted industrial volumes.
This new planting above is half Kékfrankos and half Syrah, the Kékfrankos or Blaufränkisch comes from Triebaumer in Austria, it has small clusters and grapes with good concentration. He chose Syrah because he and Kinka like the notyhjern-Rhône wines like Côte Rôtie. They didn't sow plants here on the new plantings because of the potential competition with the young vines. They tilled themselves under the row because you won't find workers to do that properly.
Clusters in the making
the soil seems light and almost sandy in the hand but Andras says that when it rains it gets sticky because that's mostly clay here. It's a type of clay that was made from decompsing volcanic soil. the leaves and shoots seem very healthy
these are the types of stones and minerals that resurface on these parcels, typical volcanic byproducts and very strange outlook and colors. They look as hard and sharp as silex or flint stones, some having tiny crystals, like quartz. One is red like meat, and with the white layer as well you might think that's pork shoulder.
On our way to the village we came across one of thos soviet-era tractors we were speaking about, probably a Belarus, the company still exists and makes tractors today in Minsk. Good to see that also here in Hungary farmers remain loyal to their old, self-proven machines...
Cellars street in Szűcsi
That's when we drove to the cellar in Szűcsi, you can see on this picture a typical village street lined with cellars. These streets are usually located outside the village along a slope where it'd be easier to dig horizontal cellar galleries into the hill. the "houses" were built later, hiding the cellar opening and providing just enough room to store winemaking tools including a small basket press. Oddly, while the socialist regime destroyed the artisanal winemaking culture by replacing it with industrial cooperatives in the plains, they somehow at the same time let the old-time ways to linger a few decades by allowing village families to keep a small parcel (as large as half an hectare) and make wine of it for their own consumption.
What a key !
The keys for these cellar houses are often VERY big, and the reason is that this way, the men couldn't hide the key in their pocket and pretend they'd just walk around or see a neighbor, their wives would know immediately with the protruding key they're in fact heading to the cellar to drink wine there with friends...
Here is the single room of this tiny house, actually a chai where the pressing and vinification takes place on harvest days. It's not big but when you fold back the mobile floors on the left you get around 35 square meters (or 377 square feet) which is enough for their small surface especially given the picking time varies with the parcels. And in the future if this is too small they'll find a way, possibly by using another room elsewhere. Andras told me at one point that they're just amateurs beginning to make wine but this all including the patient vineyard work looks very serious and respectful.
There's no pump in this cellar, they work with gravity. First they do the destemming above the tank, then when maceration they do one pigeage per day, and after pressing they let the juice/wine flow to the barrels or cellar vats through pipes. The press is an old one and Andras just renovated the basket oak staves.
This is a pretty nice cellar indeed, looks very healthy. The walls and ceiling are so different from what I'm used to see in the Loire, here instead of chalk-type limestone you have this hard volcanic stone, it must have been a tough job to dig through. The owner of this cellar is 94 and he still drives. Not all of the ceiling was reinforced with bricks because part of it is hardened volcanic ash and it is very strong and reliable. The cellar was totally black with mold when he got it and he had sand cleaning done because in the 1950s people were growing mushrooms here and the remaining mold might not having been compatible with winemaking. At the end of the cellar you can guess that there was a connection with further tunnels from the neighboring cellars, but this was later closed with a wall.
Tasting a first wine
Kinka is taking a 2021 sample from a 20-liter demijohn, we're tasting a first wine, and indeed a micro-cuvée as it is made from a few vines of Csókaszőlő planted in 2008, yet another forgotten variety brought back to life by József Szentesi. Alcohol here is probably 13,7 % he says. Aromas of sweet spices with thin, enjoyable tannin touch. He says it's very Italian in style in the mouth. The temperature in the cellar is 10 C (50 F).
Straight from a vat
We taste from a narrow grey plastic tank now, this is Laska 2021, a local variety with very little planted surface in the country. Deep, exciting nose. The mouth is a bight tight at this stage. The malolactic didn't start by itself (other winemakers faced this same problem this year), so he used ferments for that, he plans to bottle this in summer, they see good potential with this wine. He added so2 at first racking and after destemming, total sulfites is about 70, which is low. András felt some light mousiness in this cuvée, I didn't detect anything myself.
__ Kékfrankos (Blaufränkisch) 2021, a selection from Jozsef Szentesi which he planted in his warmer parcel. I like that, very enjoyable wine ! Especially for such a young Kékfrankos. He says volatile is at limit level here (doesn't bother me at all).
We taste now a Kékfrankos from a barrel, it comes from the colder terroir (the one we saw above), he says they picked it a bit early, october 2. Alcohol level here is 12,5 % or a bit less. He may blend this wine with the other parcel's Kékfrankos. The nose seemed neutral to be and in the mouth not very expressive at this stage.
Another micro cuvée
We now taste from another demijohn, this is another forgotten variety of the region : Hajnos Kék, resurrected again by Szentesi. I can hardly decipher my notes here, sorry, I wrote something about 40 vines.
Nothing better than a picnic in the shade along the vineyard
More work in the afternoon
The Bodics parcel (pictured by Andras last august)
Le Marais, Paris
This is small natural-wine tasting named Pépites that took place in the Marais on a side street (impasse Guéménée near the Place des Vosges) in a restaurant named Capitaine, I would have missed it if not tipped about
it by Lexie and later Aaron (these Americans are well connected!). This month of april has been mostly fair and sunny in France and in Paris,
with a little breeze that prevented top reach high temperatures. . The terraces of course enjoyed in this spring 2022 a solid rebound after two years of restraints and downright suppression, and parks, gardens & lawns were full as well (pic on left : Place des Vosges nearby).
Tastings have taken the same path, even in small venues, people would elbow their way in cramped spaces without masks and worries. The fee for this professional tasting was a mere 5 €, and guess what you could taste for that humble fee and the great wine people you coud chat with ?? That's one of the reasons Paris still offers opportunities regarding wine that few if any other town can offer.
Video : What a vibrant tasting !
Alice De Moor
Alice of Alice & Olivier De Moor from Courgis, Burgundy, was outside pouring her wines which made a good excuse to begin with
Blanc 2020, Vendangeur Masqué (négoce), Chardonnay. The wine is not chilled but there's a nice ampleness and feel on the palate, well-structured white. Grapes purchased to two growers who are also here at this tasting for their own wine. 20 € (pro price).
__ Chablis L'Humeur du Temps 2020, Chardonnay, bottled in february. Energy in the mouth, almost acidulous, nice balance. 15,5 € (pro price).
Sans Bruit, Vin de France 2020, Sauvignon. Made from one of their own parcels in Saint Bris (that's why the name of the cuvée, which means noiseless in French but sounds like Saint Bris), with a surface of 40 ares. 15 % alcohol (picked very ripe). Some years they made only 1500 bottles from this parcel; now they've replaced the missing vines with 20 % of Sauvignon Gris. The mouth is majestic and demonstrative ! Very atypical Sauvignon, it's powerful with 15 % but it actually goes down so easy with this particular aromatics. 15 grams of residual sugar, you barely feel anything sweet here. 14 € (pro price).
next to Alice, Hervé Villemade made a good match to taste after her whites. My camera inbetween inadvertedly switched to sepia mode before I noticed it but the missed shot was not that bad, so I posted it...
__ Gamay 2021,
négoce wine with grapes purchased in the Loir & Cher and in Beaujolais. Vinified in tanks.
Light-colored red.In the mouth, feels almost like Pineau d'Aunis with both this lightness and at the same time an enjoyable tannic structure. 7,8 €.
__ Cheverny red 2021, blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay. Vinified in both barrels and cement tanks. Super mouth feel, very feminine wine, delicate with discreet tannic touch. Love it. 7,6 €.
__ Cheverny Les Ardilles 2020, Pinot Noir (85 %), Gamay (15 %). Bottled september 2021. Nice glycerol legs on the inside of the glass. 20 % of this cuvée is vinified in amphorae. Alcohol feel in the mouth (13 % on the label). 10 mg SO2 here. 12 €.
__ Cheverny Désiré 2020, in magnum only. Vinified 100 % in amphorae. Nice wine, radiates down the throat to the stomach, love that wine ! Zero SO2 ! Hervé travelled to Georgia in 2012 and works with amphorae since 2014. This wine is very fresh, no spit here. He only begins to pour this wine so that amateurs can discover it. All wines unfiltered. 42 € (but it's a magnum).
More tasting tables inside
Anna Tyack for Estézargues
I stopped at the table of the Vignerons d'Estézargues (which I made a short profile in 2007), this unique coopérative in the south of France that has been vinifying naturally all its wines for quite a long time now, and this was a surprise to meet again Anna Tyack there, we had at Le Nez dans le Vert a few years ago, then in Tokyo at Festivin and it's with her that I had visited and profiled the excellent Piss Alley in Shinjuku. Anna trained in different domaines when she came back in France, , among them Domaine
de la Pinte (Jura), Nicolas Carmarans (Aveyron), Vieux Télégraphe, worked in New Zealand as well and she now works
for Estézargues where she's in charge of the communication. I learn that only 10 to 15 % of Estézargues wine is sold in France, I remember having bought a batch of an excellent cuvée from them, Les Airs rouge, which is impossible to find in France, it's all sold in Japan (mid-scroll to the 4th wine on this page), this wine was so good ! (I still have a couple of cases from it), I'd be jealous if I hadn't managed to get my hand on a few of these bottles, but I'd wish it could be found here for everyone to enjoy !. I also learn that the bag-in-box wines which they sell is also unfiltered. Now the coopérative has 13 growers (10 having a surface between 15 and 70 hectares) for a total surface of 550 hectares, 73 % of the surface being fully organic and 5 % of the production is made of whites.
__ Ephémère Blanc 2021, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Viognier. A bit rich, but the serving temperature may be a bit high. 5.1 €.
__ Carambouille, Vin de France 2021 (the bottle Anna is holding on the picture), this cuvée was vinified by Anna herself ! A rosé made of Cinsault (60 %), Carignan (37 %), Grenache(3 %), with using 25% of direct press. Enjoyable rosé with a mouth that feels both like a red and a white, I guess it's because of the shiller type of vinification. 4,2 €.
__ Les Galets 2021, Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Mourvèdre. The grapes are not organic here but still a nice, fruity wine. 7 €.
__ Domaine Les Genestas 2021, Grenache, Syrah, Counoise, Carignan. Counoise bring the spicy something in this wine. Super mouth indeed ! A must try if you see a bottle ! Very desmonstrative wine, I love it ! 5,1 € (all pro price of course).
__ Domaine de Sarrelon 2021, Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Mourvèdre. The vigneron David here is one of the two growers who converted to organic farming in 2008.A bit angular and some astringency. 5,1 €.
__ La Granacha Sinargues 2021, Grenache & Mourvèdre. Will be fully organic certified in 2023 (in conversion right now). Only old vines here. Eric Solomon of Eric Solomon Selections once during a visit said this wine had to be bottled separately (it was deemed to be part of Les Galets) and so we owe him this great cuvée. Powerful mouth, still a bit young, but charmingly warmful in the throat, keep watch of this wine, very nice.
Video : Ainsi va la vie...
Tasting Villemade's whites
I had tasted Hervé Villemade's reds outside, and Laetitia was pouring his whites inside :
Cheverny white 2020, blend of
Sauvignon (70 %) & Chardonnay (30 %). Bottled july 2021. Quite ripe and powerful. 7.60 € (all prices are pro prices).
__ Cheverny Montcrochet 2020, Sauvignon and Chardonnay, plus a bit of Menu Pineau. Sympa, nice. 12 €.
__ Cheverny La Bodice 2020, Sauvignon (80 %), Chardonnay (20 %). I love that one ! Vibrant, alive !!! Looks unfiltered but I'm told it is. 13,2 €.
__ Cour-Cheverny Les Chataigniers 2020. This is Romorantin of course. Quite concentrated, intense with power, good to eat with some dish.
Les Frères Soulier
This small tasting event is really a gem, now we walk to the table of the Frères soulier (Soulier brothers in French). If you're not familiar with this domaine located in the village
of Saint Hilaire d'Ozilhan west of Avignon in
the Gard (south of France), read Aaron's stories about them and subscribe to his substack for more details, you won't read about them in the mainstream media. The family domaine has a vineyard surface today of 8 hectares, plus 25 hectares of olive trees and grazing land for farm animals. They never use any so2 and always make plenty of vinification experiments.
__ Fantôme 2021, Grenache, juice taken from the beginning of the press. Charles says that the wine is not place yet with a little bit of mousiness. For me, I love this cuvée, silky, discreet, at the same time onctuous and vivid ! 16,2 € (pro price).
__ Les Croses 2020, direct-press Mourvèdre, which subsequently has an élevage sous voile, a rosé which is more vinous, very different style here. Lovely wine with a chalky tannic feel. 16,8 €.
__ Prime 2021, in magnums only, direct press from Cinsault, Clairette Blanche & Clairette Rose, what a pleasure in the mouth, another wonder, sooo good ! 11 % only, you got to try this !
There was also Fanny Sabre in this tasting, it's been a while since I visited her in 2010 and she now works from 7 hectares. I took few notes although I very much enjoyed her wines, I was certainly busy chatting with Lexie.
__ Beaune les Prévolles, Chardonnay 2020. Nice freshness.0 19,50 €.
__ Beaune Clos des Renardes, Chardonnay 2020. Umami feel, I love that ! 21 €.
__ Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2020. Nice inspiring wine.
__ Beaune Clos des Renardes red, Pinot Noir. Very classy Pinot. 21 €.
Cidrerie du Leguer
I then tasted cider from the Cidrerie du Leguer which is located far away from Paris, in Lannion (Brittany) and Cédric Le Bloas who is farmer and cidermaker was pouring. His wife is a Brit and so he's fluent himself. He's making some 12 or 13 cuvées of cider ! Alcohol in his ciders range from 5,5 % to 7,5 %, he started this in 2016 and now produces 45 000 bottles a year including apple
juice, all is organic of course. Link to a few of his ciders.
__ Cailloux. Short mouth but very interesting, with mushromm aromas. 6 €.
__ Barbe, made from apples and also rhubarb. Man that's super aromatics as well ! 5,4 €.
__ Accident. No notes, sorry 4,20 €.
__ Brutbrut. 4,20 €. __ Granit. Surprising aromas in the mouth, stony indeed, something evoking flint sparks, rubbed stones. 3,6 €.
__ Premium. Amber color, like very ripe. They use apples that are bitter for this batch, and they wait [something I can't decipher on my notes] in order not to have the tannic side.
__ Poiré. Wouaouh, this awakes you, just try that ! It's fresh with a light sweetness, you just want to pour yourself another one right away ! 5,4 €. All prices pro without tax.
There was quite a crowd at the table of Domaine Lissner (Alsace), with Theo Schloegel pouring, so many people that I had a hard time getting everything he said about the wines and the parcels.
Pinot Blanc 2016. Richness, nice power, harmonious wine. Théo speaks about the work on the soil when I taste this.9,69 € (pro price)
__ Pinot Gris 2020. Creamy notes on the nose. Hard to read myself for the rest of my notes here.7,89 €.
__ Riesling Rothstein 2020. Nive vibes, love it ! 13,45 €.
__ Altenberg de Wolxeim Grand Cru 2019. Flower notes on the nose, 16,28 €.[unintelligible words for the mouth feel] interesting wine.
__ Muschelkalk Gewürztraminer 2019, super majestic, love this one. 12,62 €.
__ Pinot Noir Reserve 2020. So good, man !! Don't miss it ! Alsace is indeed the dream region for Pinot Noir !!! 12,23 €.
Video : Youthful crowd
Meanwhile outside there was some good vibes as well...
Chef Nobuyuki Akishige (center)
Lots of great people in this tasting, including chef Nobuyuki Akishige with his staff, posing here for me with Lexie. Nobuyuki Akishige is the man behind Restaurant Automne in Paris, a top-notch gastronomic table in the 11th arrondissement, centered on creative French cuisine.
Les Foulards Rouges
You may know that Jean-François Nicq of Domaine Les Foulards Rouges (pictured on
left here) was the one
that put the Estézargues coopératives on its natural-wine tracks. He then started his own thing at Les Foulards Rouges, one of the most vibrant wine farm of his region. It was a pleasurte to sip their wines here. The domaine now makes 18 hectares in surface and is located in Montesquieu des Albères south of Perpignan (near the Pyrenees Mountains).
__ Potemkine 2021, Carignan Blanc and Carignan Gris, destemmed, maceration for 1 week. Fresh wine with a mouthfeel of a white, lovely wine !. 10,45 €.
__ Grenache 2021. Old Grenache vines. Nice tannic chew with good length in the mouth and down the throat, because you don't spit that ! Lovely ! 11,55 €.
__ Glaneurs, Grenache 2021. Younger vines. Carbonic maceration. Well integrated tannins or at least well in their way to be. 11,55 € as well.
__ Frida, Grenache & Carignan 2021. 100-year old vines. A bit angulkar in the mouth, need to eat with that I think. 12,65 €.
Toward the end of the tasting
Man, that's a lot of spitting !
Eric Pfifferling of Domaine L'Anglore in the Rhône now kind of retired and his sons arer in charge, in particular Thibault who is doing both in the vineyard and the cellar (he and his wife/girlfriend should have a baby imminbently now). L'Anglore is for me and many wine lovers a monument for their wines : Rhône wines that are fresh and leave on you a deep, unforgettable imprint.
__ Lirac 2019. Grenache (70 %), Mourvèdre (30 %), some Clairette. What a mouth and throat !! (what you'd miss if you spit and don't swallow !). Superb ! Buy that at first glance !
__ Pierre Chaude 2019, Grenache and Mourvèdre. Old Grenache vines. 2019 was the year with 45 C in june (113 F).
__ Tavel Vintage 2018. Grenache, Clairette, Cinsault. Nice dark rosé like what you expect from a Tavel, dense but fresh, with a mouthfeel close to a white's.
Blurred-but-nice pic of Alice with Valentin Montanet (La Cadette)
Valentin Montanet pouring
I managed to sneak my glass here along the Japanese staff of Automne who were tasting the wines of La Cadette with Valentin Montanet but I didn't have the time to get back to his table before the end of the event.
I also tasted the wines of Mas Foulaquier but somehow forgot to take any picture at their table. Blandine who was pouring the wines manages the wine farm with her husband :
__ Oiseau Blanc 2020, Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris, Bourboulenc, Rolle and Clairette. Waouh, this wine is a white and after my last taste which was a red, it awakes you ! 12,65 €.
__ La Chouette Blanche 2019, same variety blend, but spent time in barrels and amphorae. Nice one. 16,4 €.
__ Orange à la Mer 2021, Muscat d'Alexandrie, Grenache Blanc. Maceration white. I note that I begin to really feel that I had a lot of wines... Nice Muscat aromas, and an acidulous side. 13,8 €.
__ Terre Rose 2021, Alicante Bouschet, an hybrid derived from Grenache, created by Louis & Henri Bouschet in 1855. This is a teinturier variety (was intended to add color) and here with the direct press you have a light-colored red. Not bad ! Quite powerful wine.
__ Les Montagnes Bleues 2019, Grenache. Light-colored red, nice balance with length and intensity, love it ! 8,4 € (pro price)
__Les Calades 2020, Syrah (80 %), Grenache (20 %). Wouah, that's intense and moves your senses, with tannins that are at the same time marked and refined. 14,95 €.
__ Les Amours Vendangeurs 2019, Grenache. Here they put the Grenache in infusion, no destemming, with a stainless-steel lid used to keep the grapes in the juice. Vinified in amphorae, and after pressing, went in amphorae again.. Pretty stunningly good wine, good length with fresh touch on the side of the mouth. Nice astringency. Love it ! 23 €.
Guillaume & Adèle Lavie
My last domaine was Les Vins de Lavie, an 11-hectare wine farm with a 6-generation history, which is located in the Muscadet region (Loire), and Guillaume and Adèle Lavie were pouring their wines.
__ 1930, Gros Plant du Pays Nantais 2021, a vat sample (brut de cuve). Should be bottled by now. Harmonious, umami feel with this lovely wholeness, love it ! Goes down easy, even after having so many wines. 10 % alcohol only ! 6,75 € (pro price).
__ Cuvée Denis, Melon de Bourgogne 2021. Also vat sample. Intensity with freshness, roundness and what I'd say is minerality. Here, deeper terroirs with clay. 6,2 €.
__ Lavie le Vaurien, Melon de Bourgogne 2021 Blend of terroirs on draining soils. Warmful side with a nice resonance down the throat, good length ! 6,5 €.
__ Tribu, Cabernet Sauvignon 2021. 100 % Cabernet Sauvignon, destemmed with maceration 10 days. Vat sample, terroir on gneiss, picked late october. Nose of red fruits, there's a candy style in the mouth, lovely. 6,5 €.
__ Cap au Sud, Syrah (from the Luberon), Cabernet (Corbières), Grenache (Corbières), Merlot (Ardèche) 2019, purchased grapes. Dust notes on the nose. Intensity in the mouth, this awakes you beautifully ! Some candied notes. 6,5 €.
Chançay, Vouvray area (Loire)
Here I am on the outskirts of the charming village of Chançay, sitting against the slopes lining the Loire river valley.
Anne-Cécile and Tanguy who started their domaine in 2009 were initially teachers at the wine school (Lycée Viticole) of Amboise where they met. Longing for the vigneron life instead of merely teaching the skills, they ended making the step, first training their hand on a small
parcel (0.5 hectare) all the while
keeping their day job at the technical school, then later quitting for good as the domaine grew in surface (it now makes about 8 hectares with 7 hectares in production).
Before that, Anne-Cécile (who is from Tours) had done her training in Montpellier [Languedoc] where she got her oenology degree (DNO) and Tanguy (who is from Brittany) got his viticulture/oenology degree in Bordeaux. Otherwise they had no family in winemaking or growing, so their domaine was created from scratched, beginning with a few rentals.
I asked why they chose this area close to Vouvray (and Amboise as well), Anne-Cécile says that Tanguy had worked at Clos Baudouin in Vouvray where one of the staff there [Jean Penillot, not sure of the spelling] who had himself a few parcels lended him one of his own, that's how he and Anne-Cécile started working near here. They looked for other parcels to rent around, bought a few others when possible and that's how they grew step by step, to one hectare, then 2 hectares, then jumping to 4 hectares and so on.
Like often in this region, the parcels are located on plateaus above the Loire river, and the villages are nestled along the slopes leading to these higher-elevation plateaus, on ground high enough to be safe from flooding. The Loire river has always been an erratic, unpredictable river with wild flooding and even change of course, the dikes of the historic Levée de la Loire were built from late 17th century to contain these floods but the villages remained of course on high ground. Anne-Cécile and Tanguy's wine farm sits even higher than the village along a cute road going up through, there's little traffic here, and many trees, it's such a peaceful place to live.
The wine farm
As said, both kept their day job as the domaine's vineyard surface quietly grew, and when they reached something like 7 hectares they gradually quit (at the end Tanguy was teaching a few hours at the wine school now and then) in order to work full time on their parcels and finetune the facility (there was some remodeling of the farm buildings and cellar to do). Anne-Cécile kept her job longer, turning to part-time in 2018 because that's when she set up a négoce for their red wines, ending up teaching only two days per year now. Asked if there's a turning point when they're frightened of leaving a safe, secure teaching job for the moving grounds of a grower/winemaker's career, Anne-Cécile says that yes a bit but on the other hand they set up their winery over time and felt they could do it safely and bear the weight of the investments.
The barn, which is one of the farm buildings
The biggest investment was to remodel the buildings and add extensions to the existing ones. The house had already its cellars right behind in the depth of the hill, plus a couple of outbuildings that were not really suitable if left unremodelled. At first they rented this farm and bought it in 2011. When they moved in here, it had been 10 years since the place had been a working winery, so they had a lot of work to do including for the cellar part. They added the white extension on the left (in 2019) as well as another extension on the other side of the barn, because with 7 hectares they were really in need of additional storage/vatroom surface.
Some of their tractors
Of course buying their own tractors was also an investment, even when good old second-hand tractors like these are pretty cheap compared to the modern equivalents on the market. Right now they keep them along the road in front of the farm but they plan to build a storage barn in the middle of their parcels, this will shorten the distance each time they need to do something in the vineyard. And it's also better to keep them under a roof, rain will not make them younger. Plus, they kind of regrouped their parcels in roughly the same area, dropping the ones which were far-off among their then-23 parcels, thus shortening both the commute and work time. In the past the grower here had his parcels just above atop the plateau but when they bought the farm they were already purchased by someone else.
Anne-Cécile in front of a cellar
They also got this cellar which opens behind the extensions, this particular cellar was used by a local group of hunters to gather, eat/drink together after hunting outings [and from my own experience in the field they certainly cut the game here outside to share it among themselves]. They bought this cellar as well, they'll arrange it inside for a tasting room and occasional lunch/dinner venue for buyers and staff later.
In front of the old cellar they dug up the ground and moved tons of earth away in order to have enough flat surface for an outside chai, the press sitting outside with just a roof over it, this looks simple and functional, making best use of the topography of this narrow valley. The grapes arrive here in boxes or bins and they load the press with the belt conveyor.
Ready for the berlot
I have no trouble visualize the Berlot (called Paulée in Burgundy) at the end of the harvest, this joyous and pantagruelic meal gathering the vigneron, family and pickers, this small cellar has the perfect vibes. You can notice on the right where the basket press would stand a century ago, with the low wall all around to retain the juice. But she says the room is not ready, they'll work on it when the priority works will be carried out. I hope they'll not do too much, seems to me perfect as is...
The ceiling of this cellar is just amazing and tells a lot on the soil on which the vineyards of the region grow : this tuff-stone (tuffeau in French) a chalk-like soft limestone is literally scattered with fossils, mostly large-size seashells dating from the Late Cretaceous (don't ask me how many years ago, that was long, long time ago when a sea was covering all the place...).
We walk inside the new extension next to the brick-and-mortar barn, it's whole new and cleanand already full with vats and pallets. They had it built with a good passive insulation and the temperature is pretty stable. Initially the building was designed for storage but when she decided to set up a négoce to make reds, it became also the vat room for these reds. Her first cuvée of red was a try from an exchange of grapes she made with Olivier Bellanger, it was her first Gamay, in 2017. Then the real start was in 2018. Now they have themselves started planting red parcels (Gamay and Côt) but the vines are not yet productive. She also found a grower ready to sell her some red grapes, Julien Moreau of Domaine Cambalu and there's a good partnership with this domaine, she's sure of getting the same parcel year after year, plus he farms his vines very well.
Really many different shapes of fermenters, I love that. Here if I remember we walk through the door to the old barn, with more vessels in here. Anne-Cécile says that they she works directly in table wine (Vin de France) for here red wines, this way she's not bothered with the limitations of the appellation requirements, for example she likes making single-variety wines and this is not always allowed when you get the Touraine appellation. Plus you get the prospective hurdle of the tasting agreement, these tasting panels being usually manned by mainstream vignerons who, even tasting blind, may spot the nature wines and block their way on alleged defects. Thus choosing the Vin de France label was obvious fro:m the start : more flexibility and less constraints, this way they could work more freely on the wines they wanted to make.
The fermenters on the left are used for the whites, they're made in Italy by Vetroresina Toscana, they bought them new when they had their extension built. They wanted tanks that weren't too tall, with medium size volume and these 25-hectoliter ones made the job. They took 2 with front openings and 2 without and regretted the latter, it's much more practical with the wide openings when you want to clean them. They got the two white tanks on the right from Olivier Bellanger, very useful for storage, they very easy to move when empty.
Vintage bottle cleaner
This bottle cleaner is really an old winery tool from the time bottles were re-used, its plaque says it's made in West Germany in 1974 [Baujahr 74] by Otto Sick Metallwarenfabrik, Mindingen/Baden (Werk Nr 1477)...
Old cement tanks
At this point of the visit Tanguy Perrault joined us and we look at the 4 cement tanks that were already in place when they settled in this farm, these 30-hectoliter tanks were quite old and not in very good condition, so they had the two on the left (one on top of the other) renovated, especially the inside where a new epoxy lining was put in place. Cement tanks are very convenient to store the wine, with a very good temperature stability even in summer. In the future they may renovate the two other tanks as well.
From there if I remember the chronology we walked to the passageway leading to the cellar under the hill, the place is still dans son jus like we say in French, you feel the successive generations of winemakers hovering above us, with as well the multiple layers yeast history hiding behind this brownish soot on the walls and ceilings, this place has a soul, no doubt about it, and the clean cement slab is the only modern fitting I see here...
There's a pallet full of bottles on the way, so we reach the barrel cellar through another passageway on the right, walk along old concrete bottle racks and reach the main room (there are several rooms in here, all interconnected).
Barrel cellar room
This year there's not a lot of wine in the barrels, presumably I guess because of the difficult conditions of last year. They vinify the whites here in the back of the room and on the front part they do the élevage of the reds. Working in these small rooms means that they have to move barrels and stuff quite often but it makes the job. the temperature also is very stable here deep under the hill, something like 14 C (57.2 F). Speaking of their winemaking philosophy, they use of course only organic grapes, be it from their own parcels or when they buy grapes) and in the cellar it's natural fermentation with the native yeast and about the sulfites they're diminishing its use year after year. Apart from a problem with a particular batch (for example at the end of the malolactic) they add sulfur only before bottling. They also test the wines at the open air to see if it's fragile or not. For the reds they proposed the cuvées to their existing buyers who followed up.
View from the other side
It's still dirt ground in this room, I guess it's better for the humidity balance. They get their barrels second-hand, some from Henri Bourgeois, Tanguy checks one of the barrels for its fabrication year, it's 2011, not as old as it looks, but that's the mold imprint of the cellar, barrels often get dark stains in real cellar and it makes them look older. About the sales I'm told that there was a rebound in 2021 and they got good orders from professional buyers, presumably because thye cavistes and restaurants had seen their bottle reserves dwindle along the lockdowns and after postponing their orders to refill their stocks they all sent their orders in 2021 when they felt business was back, Anne-Cécile says this rebound was impressive, they sold much more than a normal year, and to this day they don't see the end of this rebound.
Jumping on the opportunity with our walking through the cellar, Tanguy moves around a few petnat bottles quietly sedimenting their fine lees on a bottle rack. I asked about the wine fairs and events they go to, Anne-Cécile says they may do the Levée de la Loire (even though this year they didn't attend), they do Les Affranchis in Montpellier (and sometimes in Paris as well). they also do the salons off at the time of the Angers wine fairs at the turn of january/february, last time they did it at Olivier Bellanger and in spite of the location being quite far from Angers there was a large crowd of professionals and importer, Anne-Cécile daid they saw many foreigners there. They also did Biotyfoule. They attended also Vinaviva but they think this year will be the last time they go. Anne-Cécile says she also attends the Salon des Vins Naturels de Mortemart (in Limousin). They also go to Natura Vini in Poitiers which is a very nice one, open to the non-pros (that's quite many small natural-wine fairs I never heard about...). For the sales they also have agents who help sell their wines, like Gauthier Mazet of Green Cork for export (mostly the United States). In the U.S. they have an importer per state, like Field Blend Selections for New York, or Potomac Wines & Spirits in Washington D.C. In Australia they sell through Ludovic Deloche of Halle Aux Vins. They sell also a bit to Norway, Quebec (both monopoly and private importers). Right now they sell 1/3 of their wines abroad but it's growing.
Video : Starting the Renault 60
At one point we were outside and ready to taste a few wines together when a fellow grower stopped by to lend their old Renault 60 for something to do (It seems to me it's fitted with a tool to mow the grass), and I watched as Tanguy was explaining how it worked. The Renault 60 is one of these typical tracteurs vignerons, light-weight and narrow, easy to work when rows are close to each other, in short, the "modern" equivalent of the horse for artisan vignerons. Renault 60 tractors were made from 1968 to 1977.
Tasting a few cuvées
I azsked how many cuvées they were doing now, Anne-Cécile needed to think about it twice because they're having quite a lot for their small operation, especially with the reds they added recently. For the whites they have a petnat and 4 still dry whites, a demi-sec, a moelleux and a liquoreux, most of these whites are labelled with the Vouvray appellation. For the reds (which they started to produce in 2018), they have a petnat rosé and 4 still reds, makes a total of 13 cuvées.Asked how they found their first customers for the whites, they say they attended professional wine fairs (they started the winery in 2009 but only began to look for selling their wines in 2011).
Tanguy first opens a petnat (méthode ancestrale) 2018 which they leave sur lattes at least 18 months. They bottle it with around 18-20 grams of residual sugar so as to have something not too bubbly. I learn that in this regard, this petnat would be in the category "pression mousseux", with a pressure at disgorgment of a bit more than 3 bars, this translates into the bubbling volume, but the finesse of these bubble will depend of the élevage length. Here at Perrault Jadaud they disgorge over time (usually batches of 600 bottles) and here what we're drinking went through a 3-year élevage sur lattes.
This Chenin petnat goes down gently, there's an enjoyable richness, Tanguy says that 2018 indeed was good for ripeness. Nice fruity feel, roundness. Anne-Cécile says that on this particular wine half of the wine fermented in barrels, the rest in tanks, and when they began to reach the proper density they blended the two wines, made a few racking and bottled. Bubbles not on the front seat, nice vinous petnat. I'm told that with the indigenous yeast here the fermentation is quite slow which is good to anticipate and take time. Oddly in winter the fermentation doesn't stop though, it just a bit slower before restarting in spring.
Here is Haut les Choeurs !this is a dry Chenin labelled under the Vouvray Appellation. Speaking of the labels, many are made by someone they like the work of, Annelise Bordreuil who is working in another field in Paris but they saw what she could do (without having met her in person) and loved it, so they contacted her to design their labels. Sometimes they contact her for yet another label and she responds gently, they also feel a common sensibility with her label creations, there are good vibes between them, she understands without need for many words what Anne-Cécile and Tangy want in a label for a particular cuvée.
Anne-Cécile and Tanguy have a single hen (if I remember they had a few others but a fox got them) and this charming poultry really loves wine, not only Chenin but also the reds of the négoce. I check that by myself with pouring some Vouvray in a cup, it can't stop, that's crazy. They have to limit her intake because it would pass out as it doesn't need much to fall into ethylic coma... A drunk hen in French would be une poule saoule or une poule soûle and what I witnessed with this video fits well with the following cuvée's name...
Les Grives Soûles
Les Grives Soûles 2019 (means "the drunken thrushes") is a Chenin Vouvray on clay/limestone soil like the petnat and the vines are about 45. The wine is filtered here, with a white-earth filter. This vintage (2019) was quite rich but there was volume and acidity, and the wines thus are not heavy. Goes down well, very enjoyable. I learn it makes 14 % in alcohol but that still goes down well. Typically they pick after tasting regularly the grapes. This was bottled in 2021 because it took lots of time to ferment.
La Grande Grive
La Grande Grive 2019 is a dry Chenin made from a parcel selection (3 parcels mostly) all located on first slopes, with less deep-clay soils compazred to the Grives Soules, here it's more surfacing limestone, rocks come quicky underneath the surface, which means there's water stress in summer. On top of that, the vines are older, like 70 or 80 years old. The wine feels indeed more structured with possibly a solid minerality, quite impressing difference. Vinification took place here in 400-liter demi-muids with the fermentation lasting 2 years. Total volume here is small, like 1000 bottles, with yields of 25 hectoliters/hectare (on a normal year) on small parcels. They got another parcel which is very qualitative and on a nice terroir (near another they were already having) and which will allow them to make a bit more bottles, it's located near their friend Thomas Puechavy, it's abit outcentered from the rest of their parcels but Thomas can help by using his tractor there when needed.
Speaking of the frost risk, Tanguy says they prune à la Malbrough, meaning that in winter they make a first cut on the vines and come back at Easter (that's why the name of this technique, it's related to the poem Malbrough s'en va en Guerre). In the first cut they cut all they don't need and leave the full length of the wood they plan to keep. Then at Easter they come back after the vines have begun to grow buds at the end of the canes, and they cut these ends, thus preventing the potential frost damage on these fragile buds.
Speaking of their sweet cuvées (demi-sec, moelleux & liquoreux) lined on the picture here, they don't make them every year, the weather conditions and maturity of the grapes are the factors that will make them consider this wine style. The last time they did some for example was 2018. Of course sweet wines don't sell as easily than the dry whites, but Anne-Cécile says that the sommeliers may be the culprits as they don't communicate on the pleasure and qualities of these types of wines, and when they take part to wine fairs open to the public, they witness an intense interest for these wines.
__ Les Fauves, Vouvray 2017, a demi-sec fermented in barrels. 23 grams of residual sugar. The feel is just of a light sweetness, I'm told because of two reasons, the acidity of course, and also because since 2017 the sugar had time to somehow integrate in the wine. At this stage Tanguy feels evolution notes on the range of violets, which is typical of Chenin after a while. Sometimes they pass several times in the vineyard, picking for different types of wines, first for the dry then for the sweet, for example in 2011 they did 4 pickings in the same parcels.
Here she goes again
__ Les Ménades, Vouvray 2018, a moelleux fermented in neutral fiber tanks. Tanguy notices some vanilla notes, which is surprising as there's been no oak, no wood at all for this cuvée. Very nice sweet wine, once again I wonder why we don't drink that more while our elders used to have them quite often. Of course, as Tanguy says these sweet wines have been overdosed with sulfites for decades and the public got tired of it. In the 1960s the sulfites reached easily 50 of free SO2 in this type of wine, but today you have the tight filtration (pauvre en germe) which secures the wine without sulfites. The regulation still allows for up to 300 total SO2 for these wines, and of course that doesn't help the reputation of the sweet Chenin. Tanguy says that what is incredible is that you have conventional vignerons who add 50 free SO2 in their wine and on top of that do a tight filtration (pauvre en germe), that's nonsense. I say that this is probably the inertia of having generations of conventional winemakers behind them, but Anne-Cécile says that some technician-consultants are to blame also, with this fear of whatever might happen. Here on the wine we taste there's 2 or 3 grams (per hectoliter) of SO2, which is very little for a moelleux, and with only 2 grams more than that, the wine would be very different.
__ Les Joueurs de Nez 2019, a red blend (Gamay, Cabernet Franc and a bit of Côt) and Vin de France made with grapes purchased to Olivier Bellanger, except for the Côt (it's their own, the first production of their 3-year-old vines). Unfiltered wine (none of the reds is filtered). Elevage in tanks. The color is very light, in the mouth there's an interesting tannin feel that I'm told comes from the Cabernet Franc. The Gamay and the smallvolume of Côt are macerated (carbo) together while the Cab Franc is destemmed with light pumping over and the two juices are blended afterwards. The wine has an enjoyable juicy feel, Anne-Cécile says that she intended to make a wine that would be easydrinking. SO2 is very low, like less of 20 total SO2.
__ Cotillon Rouge, Vin de France 2019, made with Côt coming from Julien Pineau (Cambalu), it's a whole parcel they get each year. The hen turns around to show us she's there but we decided she had enough wine for now, plus mixing sweet white with dry reds won't do her any good... Nose : very exciting, the color is darker and even before tasting I feel there's a velvety style in its appearance. The mouth is in line, I say to the hen that she misses something here ... Velvety wine indeed, glouglou, goes down easy. Anne-Cécile says that here she destemmed the grapes, doing a very very light extraction, she didn't want the carbo style nor getting the stems' tannins. Elevage 8 months in barrels.
__ Et Si... A Gamay Vin de France 2019. Grapes sourced at Cambalu as well, it's a whole parcel as well, and next to the Côt, on the top of a slope along woods. Carbo at the beginning with whole clusters, during 15 to 20 days, then some foot stomping, pigeage and pumping over to get the substance Elevage : 8 months in barrels plus at least one year in bottles to get some sort of patina, which she says Gamay gets easily. Aromas of morello cherries. Volume here like the Côt is about 3000 bottles. Speaking of the prices, the Pro prices are mostly between 7 € and 8,5 €, the sparkling rosé (which I didn't taste) and Joueurs de Nez being below at 6,4 €, and the sweet wines being a bit above.
__ Bacchanales, Vouvray 2018, back to the whites for the sweetest, the liquoreux and its 120 grams of residual sugar. Elevage in barrels. 11 % alcohol. Bottled in 50 centiliter bottles. Golden color, the maturity, and oxidation as well, ans as Anne-Cécile reminds me, the negligible doses of sulfites (high dosages of sulfites gives you colorless whites, that's why commercial sweet wines are mostly colorless, it's because of excessive SO2). Excellent wine which remains fresh in the mouth even with this sugar, there an acidulous feel which is very enjoyable. Anne-Cécile says that the fermentation stops by itself at one point, they don't have to do anything. They often sell this wine in the wine fairs they attend in november or december, when people presumably look for wines to pair with foie gras and other Christmas/New Year delicacies. For me it's a good apéritif wine as well, by itself.
A Parcel of Chenin
After this tasting, I follow Tanguy on my motorbike so that he shows me one of their parcels, this is Chenin of course, and with pretty old-looking vines, but they were planted in 2000. They make the Grives soules from this parcel. Their wine farm and cellars are located on the Brenne valley side of Vouvray while the parcels are on the Loire valley side.He shows me where the loire flows, somewhere down the slope, with Montlouis on the other side. This visit took place somewhere in late march (sorry, was vey busy lately) and the buds were barely beginning to grow. they have other parcels in the vicinity, plus an empty parcel which they want to replant Chenin. They plan also to plan an orchard to have something else than vines growing. The soil has lots of flintstone (silex) surfacing here and there. The region didn't have a lot of rain this winter and spring, and you can see cracks on the ground.
Speaking of the vineyard work they plow, they're going to do the décavaillonage and the rest of the year they use plades to cut off the weeds, using the enjambeur (the straddle tractor). Here they don't have much frost exposure because of the slope. It's near here that they plan to build a barn in order to store the tractors and tools. There aren't woods in the immediate vicinity but they still have roe deers getting at the grapes, it may be also because the parcels are mostly organic here, with several other domaines farming this way here, Tanguy shows several parcels nearing his, which are also organic.
We had in Paris recently the tasting of the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux where the wines of 2019 were poured to the invited professionals. The event took place like usual now in the magnificient setting of the Carreau du Temple.
The event was initially scheduled to take place early february but the rebound of the pandemic
resulted in the postponing to the 3rd week of march, and when we received the invitations by mail in mid-february we were noticed to show a vaccination document (or passe sanitaire) but in between the rules had been lifted. Anyway things seem to go back to normal with spring tastings resuming. This was a monday of course so that sommeliers and restaurateurs could come during their day off. There was a queue at the door at opening time but not that long compared to a few years ago.
For your information, the UGCB is a group created in the early 1970s with the goal to put in the spotlight the 14 Bordeaux appelations with Grands Crus : Pessac-Léognan, Graves, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, Pomerol, Listrac-Médoc, Moulis-en-Médoc, Haut-Médoc, Médoc, Margaux, Saint-Julien, Pauillac, Saint-Estèphe, Sauternes and Barsac. The group orgnizes tasting and promotion events not only in France but abroad, including North America, Asia and Europe.
Video peek on the event
The Bordeaux things are very serious looking, especially when we deal with Grands Crus, but just taste the wines without preconceived idea, like anywhere else, you have nice wines and poorly fairing ones. I'll begin with what I really liked and recognized as great wines, and will sum up the not-so-exciting stuff as well.
Pomerol Beauregard 2019
I began with tasting the Pomerols (it was convenient because the Chateaus were grouped by Appellations), and my first pick was a nice one. I came back after tasting a few other chateaus to be sure this impression was not twisted by the fact my mouth and palate were virgin, and the first impression was indeed right. The young woman pouring was a young American named Paris Pierce. You can see here a few pictures of the cellars and vat rooms at Beauregard. This photo op doesn't work well on me, and if I hadn't tasted the wines first this horse show-up among the barrels and spotless cement tanks would have put me off, poor horses ! [Culturally, I'm really not a Bordeaux guy]...
__ Chateau Beauregard Pomerol 2019. Nice tannins, good length, you don't spit here, it's onctuous and voluptuous !
__ Chateau Petit Village Pomerol 2019. Un peu raide like we say in France, better spit here...
Christophe de Bailliencourt
My second pick was even more fortunate, with this Chateau Gazin's Pomerol
2019 making my day. And to make things better, Christophe de Bailliencourt [here pictured a bit off-focus, sorry], co-owner and manager of the domaine was doing the job of pouring and explaining the wine. I like when even these prestigious domaine keep doing the groundwork and don't delegate these tasks to commercials or house sommeliers. Gazin is a 5th-generation domaine, that makes sense.
__ The mouth is complex, developping in several strats in the mouth. A real pleasure already today. Mr de Bailliencourt says they never do overmaturity and never overextract. Great job, a valeur sûre if you're looking for a Pomerol.
Chateau Franc Mayne
Having moved to Saint Emilion, I stopped at the table of Chateau Franc Mayne, manned by its directeur d'exploitation Pierre Arnald.
__ Saint Emilion Grand Cru 2019. Inspiting nose ! Waouh, that's a majestic wine, and powerful, but in a way that awakes you... Nice wine, very classy. Pierre Arnald says that in 2018 they changed the vinification style, in the years before they were working with Michel Rolland and now they work with Thomas Duclos who looks for wines more on-the-fruit. I read that several other chateaus are switching to Thomas Duclos after having worked with Rolland for years, I understand the trend in the region is less on maturity now. I met Thomas Duclos a few years ago during a dinner-event centered on the oenology consulting firm Oenoteam of which he is a partner (mid-scroll on this story).
Chateau Canon La Gaffelière
Here is this Saint Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé 2019 from Canon La Gaffelière. Stephan von Neipperg was pouring and doing the presentation of the vintage himself in a very elegant way. His father the Count Joseph-Hubert von Neipperg had bought the chateau in 1971 among others and passed away in 2020 at the age of 102. Drinking [good] Bordeaux does make you live longer... The domaine has a vineyard surface of about 20 hectares with clay/limestone/sand soils.
I took no notes on this wine, except for its angular character, still young maybe.
Véronique Corporandy is in charge of the vinification at Chateau Larmande. The grapes for the wine come from a north-exposed slope. This Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé 2019 had beautiful notes of sweet spices in the mouth, very onctuous and harmonious wine ! They use 50 % new barrels plus 2 amphorae with a capacity of 1,7 and 3 hectoliters (also useful for the topping up). They take great care of the picking dates, with the chef de culture (vineyard manager) Olivier tasting the berries every day.
Bunpei Someya tasting Chateau La Dominique
I met or caught sight of several wine people in this event, like a taster-partner of Le Rouge & Le Blanc, wine writer Maryse Sargis, celebrity sommelier Philippe Faure-Brac and here Japanese sommelier Bunpei Someya whom I met here and there along the years including a few years ago in Burgundy...
__ Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé 2019 from Chateau La Dominique : Nice, chiseled and precise mouth with silky tanninsq. Very enjoyable chew, you just ask for more of it and you don't spit !
Blandine de Brier Manoncourt, co-owner of Chateau Figeac was pouring the wine along with Alexa Boulton. This Saint Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé 2019 had its vinification completed in oak barrels along with stainless steel tanks. The wine is quite magnificent with a mouth at the same time delicate and powerful. The nose was not that exprezssive but the bottle had just been operned, the wine needed to breath a bit I guess.
I switched to Pessac-Léognan with this Chateau Haut-Bergey Pessac-Léognan 2019. The domaine which has a vineyard surface of 42 hectares in production (including 2 hectares of white) is farmed biodynamic with both certifications, Demeter & Biodyvin, the only property farmed biodynamic in the appellation.
Nice mouth with tannins still on the front seat. Promising wine.
Overview of the attendees
__I tasted Chateau Picque Caillou Pessac-Léognan 2019 but failed to take a picture of the bottle. I feel the wine is cold through the glass, so I warm it up a bit in my palms before tasting : Not bad, pretty nice wine, well balanced with integrated tannins and freshness. 13,5 % alcohol.
__ Chateau Balestard La Tonelle Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé 2019. 10 hectares in surfce, soil with limestone bed rock. Pas terrible, I'd say, not very interesting.
__ Chateau Cap de Mourlin Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé 2019. Parcels on the north side, on clay/silica. 10 hectare property. Quite interesting wine in the mouth, aromas on the mokka side, quite a good drinkability.
Chateau Larrivet Haut-Brion Pessac-Léognan 2019, a wine with sweet spices feel in the mouth, powerful but flows easy down the throat. Elevage in 2/3 new oak for 14 to 18 months, they use 8 different cooperages. 2019 was a very nice vintage for the chateau, the red got a 94 at Decanter recently. I'm told also by the woman on the picture (sorry for the blurred portrait) that they are having workshops on pairing with chocolate (as it goes very well along it) and do other gastronomy/oenotourism things on the property.
Chateau Malartic-Lagravière Pessac-Léognan (red) 2019. A rather well made wine, with chalky tannins and enjoyable mouthfeel.
Chateau Pape Clément
Chateau Pape Clément Pessac-Léognan 2019. The chateau is owned by wine tycoon Bernard Magrez, one of 42 domaines he owns in France and abroad. Nice attack, good length too for this Pessac-Léognan. Nothing to say, nice job with freshness and the right style of tannins.
Smith Haut Lafitte
He I am at the table of Chateau Smith haut Lafitte, I'm told that this winter was very dry and there are worries about the water deficit deep under. This Pessac-Léognan 2019 has a vibrant mouth that awakes you, the wine is both powerful in the throat [but not that high in alcohol, 14,5 %) and acidulous in the mouth. But at the end my feel was that there was no excitement in the tasting expereience, no magic.
The wines here were poured by Cyril Forget who is the commercial/communication director of the property. This Chateau Maucaillou Moulis-en-Médoc 2019 is all in discretion, but my feel is that this wine has a great potential in store, keep an eye on it !
The wines of Chateau Chasse-Spleen were poured by Céline Villars-Foubet who with her husband Jean-Pierre Foubet manage this family domaine. She says 2019 was asuper vintage, even though at the beginning sales were sluggish because of the pandemic. This Moulis-en-Médoc 2019 shows at this stage a noticeable astringency on the sides of the mouth but overall I trust that it will be fine after a couple of years from now. Moderate alcohol (13,5 %).
The wine of Chateau Kirwan was poured by Stanislas Thierry, who has been appointed development director there since last january. The domaine has a vineyard surface of 37 hectares which translates into 37 separate vinifications/fermenters in the facility, but at the end the chateau produces 2 cuvées yearly.
__ This Margaux 2019 is pretty magnifient in the mouth, it is silky, onctuous and vibrant at the same time. Varirty proportions are 59 % Cabernet Sauvignon, 28 % Merlot, 6 % Cabernet Franc, 6 % Petit Verdot, 1 % Carmenere. Elevage 20 months, 50 % new oak (light toasting), 50 % one-year old (all from 10 different cooperages). He says they're trying to pick at maturity, they use tulip-shaped cement tanks (Italian made) with integrated cooling system. He says thgey changed course in 2016 at Kirwan in their vinification style, going towards a velvety side in the wines.
Chateau Léoville Poyferré
This Saint Julien 2019 by Chateau Léoville Poyferré has an enjoyable intensity in the mouth with balanced, integrated tannins. Good resonance or length, well made wine.
Chateau Pichon Baron
This Chateau Pichon Baron Pauillac 2019 was quite fresh with chalky tannins, in short a beautiful young Pauillac, to grab now in order to drink it in a few years.
Chateau Lynch Bages
Here we are now at Chateau Lynch Bages with their Pauillac 2019, the table was manned by Charles Thuillier who is the hospitality director at the chateau : Dust notes on the nose subtle and evocative wine in the mouth feel that awakes you; majestic wine with chalky tannins that are perfectly harmonious if still noticeable ! 75 % new barrels, the rest are one-year old and the whole made by 7 cooperages. Must be great to eat with.
I tasted also the Ormes de Pez Saint Estèphe 2019 at this table (same owners) but took no notes.
Here is Chateau Giscours with their Margaux 2019. Dust notes on the nose, here is a very very nice Margaux, ready to drink already although I guess it will offer even more splendor in the years to come. The label is bland [in the scale of my tastes of course] but man, what's in the bottle is what counts, no spit, all this finesse, this chalky touch and freshness, Giscours rocks ! I'm told they do routinely 2 passes for the picking, a first one to pick the young vines (there has been replantings here and there to replace dead vines). They also take care to do rackings without oxidating the wines.
Chateau Beychevelle, Saint Julien 2019 : inspiring nose, the wine still feels young in the mouth but promising, you have concentration, freshness (very marqued !) and enjoyable chalky tannins.
You may wonder how I could stand tasting all these wines (given that I usually swallow a bit each time) ? Happily there was a cheese stand in a corner near the Pomerols, and there was also the bakery Chez Meunier that had displayed large plates full of chunks from their whole breads, so delicious I'd come back to the table now and then...
I taste here the Chateau Dassault Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé 2019, it is quite demonstrative in the mouth and down the throat, and in a good way. There is power here (14,5 %) but it is fresh as well. I'm told they studied the variety share in regard to the alcohol level in the wines and changed their planted variety ratio accordingly (to lower it of course).
Another view of the event
A few notes about wines I liked less or didn't like at all (but there are plenty of chateaus I didn't have time to taste, I certainly missed good stuff) : The Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande Pauillac 2019 was a bit high-alcohol it seemed to me.
Chateau Haut-Bailly Pessac-Léognan 2019 : exciting nose, the mouth/swallow is more neutral and bland.
Chateau Latour-Martillac Pessac-Léognan 2019 : a bit too extracted, too much liquorice, and tannins are forward.
Chateau La Louvière Pessac-Léognan 2019 : Tannic mouth, beyond this astringency, not much else I think.
Chateau Canon, Saint Emilion Grand Cru 2019. Mouais... like we say in French, nondescript, high alcohol...
Clos Fourtet Saint Emilion Grand Cru 2019, Mouais... not exciting.
Chateau Le Bon Pasteur, Pomerol 20149. Still young, I spit here.
__ Chateau la Croix de Gay, Pomerol 2019, tasted it juste after eating some Comté cheese, the 1st mouth was so-so, then 2nd pour I enjoyed the refined texture but on the whole no excitement here.
Chateau Rouget Pomerol 2019. Burning feel in the mouth, really not good.
Here is Vinopiano, this wine bar made its debut on the other side of the Danube on Bartók Béla út and was transfered here because from what I understand the investor behind the venue found another location on Pest side along Tűzoltó utca on
premises large enough so that they could fit both a kert(or Biergarten with a ruin pub touch) on the surface and the wine bar in a basement. Wine bars (usually doubling as wine shops) dealing with natural wine have been opening here and there in Budapest in the last few years but this one gets this relaxed approach that makes it more familiar for those of us used to the bohemian laidback atmosphere of the French natural wine bars.
The easygoing feel may also have to do with the location, Tűzoltó utca is off the beaten track, a bit off-center it's not the classy (but rather cold) 5th kerület nor the crowded 7th' party district in the former Jewish Ghetto. It is certainly closer to where young Hungarians live and thus more neighborhoody, but still at easy reach for an ousider : take tramway 4 or 6 to Corvin Negyed and from there a short walk along Tűzoltó utca 22.
The street view of the building shows a nondescript facade but with the backlit stencil signs you immediately feel there's more than that underground. This visit took place in the evening of the 23rd of february, in the night when the Russian invasion of Ukraine started, we live through very dangerous times and hope it stops...
Here are the bottles displayed in the first room along the wall, all natural wines from the region, this makes it an utmost interesting place to visit for a foreigner because we're not aware (in Western Europe in particular) of the growing number of artisan producers doing a great job at bring life back to the winemaking scene here. I understand that the wine portfolio here is changing regularly, with new names and/or new cuvées being offered.
Close up on a few bottles
Here for example you have on the left two cuvées from Vaskapu, a domaine in Mohács (southern Hungary) run by Géza Galán. Read this profile in English. and (on the right) a cuvée from Oszkar Maurer, a Hungarian who makes wine in Serbia near the border, they all vinify naturally from organic vineyards and working with central-European varieties.
A few specials with bottle prices
Reminder : 5000 HUF = 13 € or 14,15 $
We happened to have decided with András Kovács to meet there that evening to discuss wine issues while sipping good wine, and our good fortune was that this was precisely when
the wine bar had scheduled a tasting event with a visiting vigneron (we still managed to exchange before the thing began) like they do now and then, the invited winemaker that evening was Tamás Kaibinger. These tasting evenings cost something like 7000 HUF (about 20 €) and for a few hours you taste the producer's wines while listening him (or her) explain his work and the different cuvées. András Kovács himself works in IT in Budapest but he is also one of the wine writers behind Borrajongo, a mine of informations on Hungarian wines.
And András has been making wine in the Matra region for a few years, his production is not on the market yet, and he drives to his cellar and parcels on weekends to fulfill his passion. He gave me that evenig a bottle of Pinot Noir from his first vintage, 2014. The conditions were awfull that year and he had to do lots of sorting in order to keep only good grapes, so he wasn't sure of what it'd give but the wine turned out to be very nice. This is one of the last bottles he had (7 maybe) and I'm grateful to him for giving one to me. I brought it back to Paris and we opened it with excitement. The color hinted at some evolution with the years but this Pinot Noir was delicious, with a suave, harmonious substance and almond aromas. This first trial had a bit of SO2 added but was otherwise naturally vinified. András told me the malolactic somehow took place in the bottle and this created some CO2 which certainly helped the wine stand these years. He said that while he did some vineyard work himself, the sprayings were made by a local help and they weren't fully organic at this point. I'll visit him there as soon as possible in a warm season.
Tamás Kaibinger (center), the invited producer
Vinopiano's underground room is a typical long cellar, with walls lines with tables with spartan, if any, decoration. You can see here the invited winemaker, Tamás Kaibinger of Unger Bormanufaktúra who is making wine with associate Ervin Stampf in Kőszeg, a small wine region along the Austrian border in western Hungary (map). Tamás is a lawyer in Budapest but he's born in Kőszeg and wanted to do something with the histori terroirs there. He farms biodynamic and vinifies naturally without filtration, his first vintage was 2020.
The world is small and the guy on the left, Attila Földvári is a caviste in the wine shop of whom I bought several bottles recently. Borfalu Bortéka is located at the corner of Bajza utca and Szondi utca, at walking distance from where I'm staying when I'm in town. The wineshop has a good balance of wines from commercial family wineries and artisan natural wines, and on top of that an unpretentious old school feel for a wine shop (many of them nowadays make you feel you're buying jewelry, not bottles of wine).
On the right you can recognize András Kovács.
Soon the long cellar room was full and the tasting began, with Tamás Kaibinger explaing his work and his philosophy be it for the biodynbamic farming or the fully natural approach on the cellar side. This was all in Hungarian which I don't speak of course, as I was the only foreigner in the room that day, but András was kind enough to take a few notes for me, which is why you'll have more content in this story.
The first wine to be poured was a blend of Müller-Thurgau and Chardonnay, a very turbid wine with a bright yellow color. In the mouth, some residual sugar and a nice energy, this is actually a pet'nat in the making, so certainly very different from what the end wine will taste like.
From the notes of András I learn that Tamás works from several parcels near Kőszeg on Vashegy, he partly replanted his surface after beforehand taking out bushes and trees. He farms biodynamic, using only preparations and herb tea. For the soil management he uses cover crops and plants. Speaking of sulfur I spoke a bit with him afterwards in English and he told me he uses one third of the authorized amount of sulfur per hectare in biodynamic certification, which is already considerably lower than what the "regular" organic certification allows...
__ Olaszrizling narancsbor [means orange wine] 2020. The second pour was indeed an orange wine, made with Olaszrizling. Beautiful amber color, in the mouth, nice bitterness notes, very gentle tannins, lovely !
Tamás works with a winemaking consultant from the Badacsony region named Ambrus Bakó, there only destemming, no crushing. Two options usually, either cold maceration outside for 7-8 days and then spontaneous fermentation, or no prior cold maceration. The aim is longer skin contact which shows the terroir better, like 3 to 4 weeks long. Then gentle pressing. No adding of press juice. Racking is made in order to avoid mousiness. 35-50 mg SO2 added whenever mousiness is detected.
__ A red now, a Kékfrankos 2021, a sample as the wine is still not bottled. This is a whole-cluster carbonic maceration with 5 grams of residual sugar (not really detectable), this sugar may go away in the coming weeks. Feels whole and fresh even though having warmed up after a while in my glass. Felt some mousiness at first sip. Tamás says that the weather is cool in Kőszeg, he adds that the wine culture of this small area (which like Vaskeresztes is part of the Sopron wine region) is being revitalized. See this map for location (and to aknowledge the big number of wine regions in this small country), Sopron is the small green patch that dents into Austria on the left. Speaking of this parcels, Tamás says that they plan to plant Pinot Noir and Furmint. they brought some Blaufränkisch from Burgenland, sourcing it from old vines there.
__ A darker red now : Kekfrankos Fiatal Kálvária 2020, exposed south, also a vat if I'm right, from a plastic tank with 1/3 of microoxigenation properties of a barrel. Soil is slate base under which bedrock begins 2 meters deep. If the end wine is like this, he'll make a killing : chalky texture, fresh, obviously unfined and unfiltered, gouleyant like we say in France, nice juicy wine ! We're told that Kekfrankos ripens late and wine has to age somle time before being released, and from what I understand because of that local winemakers switched to Blauburger instead.
Another red, Kékfrankos Birtokbor 2020, looks even darker. Inky notes. Waouh... that's majestic, my stomach noisily approves ! Must be good to eat with this wine but that's fine for me just by itself. Same vinification but aging in barrel, vines planted on the highest altitude. Part went to a normal fermentation, part through cold maceration outside, then the two parts were blended. 10 % of whole clusters.
There was also another vigneron present with his girlfriend at this tasting (to taste Tamas' wines), this was Mátyás Páger of Páger Pince who makes wine in the Matra region. From his website I learn that he works on a 2-hectare surface which he farms organic, he vinifies naturally, without additives or tricks and aims at making wines with low sulfur. His reds which are unfiltered go through a 10-month élevage in barrels. I'll visit him gladly when I go to the extinct-volcanoes region of Matra.
__ Kekfrankos Csúcsos 2020, carafed as you can see. Vinified in 500-liter Stockinger. Very nice substance, and will certainly get even better with time (I didn't get if it was also a sample). Quite powerful, well balanced, nice job ! Refined tannins, goes down very easy. The room applauded as this tasting was over, well deserved indeed !