Fresh Expressions From Natural Wine Masters
We got hit with a terrible round of colds recently that all but prevented us from tasting wine for a few weeks. Now we’re back and excited for the latest crop of 2015 and 2016 wines that have arrived in the shop. This week we go to three different locales: Northern California, Alsace and Mallorca for a taste of three winemakers gaining prominence for their natural winemaking techniques and their embrace of local terroir, often with unusual grapes or blends you wouldn’t expect. The end results? Wines of greater clarity, finesse and life, even compared to previous well-drunk vintages. From bold fruit-forward notes to clean, mineral forward zing to tea like qualities, there is really something for all of the adventurous taste buds.
Les Vins Pirouettes by Binner, Brutal de Jean-Marc (2016)
This wild orange wine, blending Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris and Riesling, is the latest in the Brutal series from Christian Binner, long known for his natural wine approach in Alsace. In the glass, it’s a hazy, pale orange in color and the nose is floral with dried apricot notes. On the palette, juicy and acidic grapefruit dominate but is punctuated by chamomile tea and crunchy earth notes. The finish is dry and manages to carry some of the tannic weight you expect from an orange wine but elegance is the name of the game. Tea like florals creep back, leaving things wispy and complex as it lingers on the tongue.
Mallorca is not the first place you’d go looking for wines but Sistema Vinari are pioneers in using indigenous varietals on this small, rocky island. This red blend features minimal oak gaining and some semi-carbonic maceration to highlight the best qualities of Callet, Manto Negro and Monastrell. Everything about this wine is fun: from the juicy, wild berries and salinity on the nose to the bursting red fruits on the palette to the evolving herbal and pepper notes that build into the mid-palette. What really excites about this wine, however, is the way that tannins build into the finish but are balanced by these pronounced dry floral notes and fruit that reappears. Everything about this wine seems to come full circle.
Haarmeyer Petillant Naturel Chenin Blanc, Clarksburg (2015)
Thanks to Pascaline Lepeltier, the United States is undergoing a renewed interest in all things Chenin Blanc but so little of the grape is actually grown domestically. Producers like Haarmeyer in North California are starting to change that, embracing the grape’s ability to structure Pet Nat sparklers. This vintage has generous, frothy bubbles in the glass, a crystalline straw color and features a fruity, floral nose. Upfront, you get a citric acidity but the wine quickly softens up, featuring pear and guava notes filtering in with a mineral backbone. The finish is clean dry, and the overall package is effortless.
Join us next week as we break taboos by drinking lip smacking rosé in the middle of a snowstorm to a Viogner/Sauvignon Blanc blend that only had 60 cases produced.