Second (2nd) Edition Wine Club
This month we are featuring wines that you would not expect. They are either unusual in that they are utilizing grapes that wouldn't generally be found in that region, or anywhere at all. Perhaps the winemaker approaches vinification with a unique perspective, or has made their way to a place far from home. Read on for more information.
Constantina is located in the Salnés Valley in Rías Baixas, which is in Galicia, Spain, not far from the sea. For many generations, her family has been making wine on the very land that she continues to farm and produce from today. She took over operations of their 2.5 hectares in 1985 when she was in her 20s or early 30s. In 1999 she pivoted the project to reject the standards set but the DOC (the ruling wine body) and make wine in styles not typical, and without intervention in the cellar.
"We are convinced that the land is not ours, and our duty is to take care of it in the best way so that our future prospers with the rich legacy that our ancestors gave us...In our micro-winery, we decided not to make perfect wines, we want our wines to humbly express their uniqueness." - translated from her website
Some of her vines are up to two centuries old and are mostly piè franco (which means ungrafted rootstock. It is a term often employed to designate wines made from pre-phylloxera vines). Her vineyards are primarily made up of Albariño, but she has a small amount of a grape called Caiño, which is what makes up this sparkling red wine. Sotelo utilizes all sorts of techniques and vessels that are not typical of this region including old chestnut barrels, terracotta amphorae, stone amphoras, terracotta bottles and concrete eggs. It is how she differentiates her many cuvées of Albariño.
Caiño, is native to this area, but this is the only wine I have ever seen made from it. It is known for making perfumed, tart, and high acid wines, which this is. This wine is what I'd call "breakfast wine". It could easily be consumed during brunch, or as a apertif in the early hours of the evening. It's tart, like barely ripe red strawberries, perfumed like violets and roses, and low in alcohol. The bubbles are bright and persistent.
Something I find surprising/usual about this wine, and in fact about all her wines, is how goofy the labels are but how good the wine is. Constantina is steadfast in her label art (see: "Constantina Sotelo Porco Bravo" if you're interested in seeing some of the more far-out choices). The importer requested she modify her designs to appeal to a more modern aesthetic and she refused. Just like with books, I don't believe in judging a wine by its label and that's certainly true of her wines.
In 2015 Lapati was established by two Frenchmen named Vincent Jullien & Guillaume Gouerou. They met at the Art Villa Garikula center in Tbilisi. Guillaume was a visiting artist in residence while Vincent was on site already experimenting making sparkling wines using grapes from the villa. They brought their knowledge, gained mostly by working in Beaujolais, to Georgia by teaching local winemakers to make pet-nats. Though they embrace their French roots, all their wines are made using native Georgian grapes and in qvevri. They farm some land, and purchase some grapes, but only ever enough to fill their qvevris.
"Super Ravi" is a play on words -- "Ravi" means "happy" in French, but of course, the cuvee name also denotes the grape used in the wine. Saperavi is unique in that it is what is called a teinturier grape, meaning both the flesh and the skin of the grape is red. Generally, Saperavi makes full bodied, almost black in color wines. In the case of this cuvee, Lapati uses a method called carbonic maceration, where fermentation starts inside intact grapes and extracts fruit and aromatics, but not as much color and tannin. It has a dusty quality to it, with tart acid, herby/green notes and inky dark fruit.
La Cave Apicole is located in an old cooperative cellar in an area town La Tour de France in the Roussillon area of France. Sylvain Respaut, originally a beekeeper, became enamored with winemaking after moving to the area and meeting a number of vignerons. In 2009 he bought a couple of hectares of vines and started converting them to organics, while still working to preserve the local European Dark Bee population. After a couple years he made a friend in Olivier Cros, the son of a conventional winemaker who was looking to do things a different way. They partnered up in 2011 and formed La Cave Apicole as we know it today.
"Tangerine" is an interesting blend of Chardonnay and Vermentino. Chardonnay is most commonly found in, and best known in Burgundy, not southern France near the Spanish border. Vermentino, though slightly more common, is rarely found and I have never seen it blended with Chardonnay in any context. There are notes of sweet citrus (a la the name), dried grass and wormwood, with some bay and vanilla qualities.
"Greska" is 85% Grenache Blanc from Pézenas in Hérault (a part of the Languedoc near Montpellier) and 15% Muscat of Alexandria from Canet en Roussillon in the Pyrenees-Orientales. The Grenache Blanc and the Muscat d'Alexandria were vinified separately. They use a technique called Trempette for half of both, which essentially is a cold infusion that gently extracts flavor and aromatics. The other half is pressed directly (i.e. white wine). This wine was bottled on Thursday December 9, 2021 & 1800 bottles were made. It has all the aromatics that Muscat traditionally provides, but combined with tight salinity and ripe fruit.