Tenth (10th) Wine Club
This Wine Club is centered around the theme of 'concentration'. In wine, when you talk about something having concentration, you're saying it has depth and intensity rather than levity and lightness. But also, we talk about wines with focus, either on the winemaking or the faming side of things. This month's wines exhibit some form of exceptional concentration. They play with the pursuit of balance in their practices and their perception.
"Antonio and Daniela De Gruttola seek out old vineyards in Irpinia, high in the hills of Campania. They champion and preserve the region’s native varietals, old vines and an age old way of tending them.
The vines are set at altitude and are planted over the region’s vibrant volcanic soils. Vineyard work is done by hand, organically and a combination of great farming and low yields results in healthy, characterful fruit. In the cantina, Antonio takes a no-nonsense approach with the intention of letting this terroir express itself in full. The grapes ferment naturally without temperature control and fermentation can continue for months.
Wines are raised in a combination of terracotta amphorae and large casks made from local woods and bottled unfiltered, with no additions at all. The resulting wines are singular, vivid expressions of grape and place.
This remarkable wine comes from eighty year old vines of Greco planted at an altitude of five hundred metres in Taurasi. Four days on the skins, followed by a year resting in chestnut casks has rendered a compact, powerful wine where density of fruit, tannin and acidity exist in perfect harmony, suggesting it will reward drinkers for many years to come." - Tutto Wines
"Simon Busser farms 7 hectares of Côt, Merlot, and Gamay along a meandering stretch of the Lot river outside Cahors, in Southwest France. Equidistant from the Mediterranean sun and the rainy Atlantic of France, this is a region known for earthy and powerful red wines designed for the table. Practicing organic viticulture with a horse-drawn plough and zero-additive winemaking since 2008, Simon describes his style as “traditional” and “non-technical.”
For Simon, traditional refers to a combination of ripe grapes, significant extraction, and then elevage in large wood or concrete vessels—a style that he learned from his father and neighbors in Praysac. Non-technical, though we often hear it invoked by winemakers, has a bit more complicated, quasi-paradoxical meaning. As in cooking where simple dishes with few ingredients—imagine an omelette, a sole meunière, cacio e pepe— require more rigorous practice and attention to detail than food made with tweezers, so in winemaking it is often more difficult to naturally vinify a traditional red than a cloudy pet-nat or an aromatic wine. It’s no wonder that most good chefs are more likely to have a steak frites on their night off than the newest tasting menu in town. In the present climate, where irony is often celebrated more than sincerity, it takes a good deal of nerve to do something simple and do it well, without yelling about it. In our view, Simon’s approach to winemaking will never go out of style because, like a good bistro, its objective is to nourish and bring people together at a table. - Josh Eubank (the importer)
Though the wines of this region typically represent muscular and full bodied reds, this past year was different. Busser's vineyards were hit by late season rain and black rot, with very little sun. The vintage ended up being significantly lighter than what is typical and produced wines that will likely never be possible to make again.
'Printemps' is 50/50 Cot (aka Malbec) and Merlot. It was made using carbonic maceration then the grapes were tread to gain more tannin and intensity. Normally a full bodied red, Printemps this year drinks like volcanic rock and lake water.
Graham Shelton is a rare gem in the California natural winemaking scene. For many years he has been the winemaking assistant to Diego and Shaunt of Les Lunes, helping them farm their ever-increasing acreage in Sonoma and Mendocino. He has an intimacy with the vines that few producers in the state have. In what has become a pivotal memory for me, during an conversation at the beginning of our friendship while Graham was living in a trailer on one of his vineyards he was converted from traditional organics to practices well beyond, he described the changing sounds of the fauna. He said he started to hear lady bugs and crickets return to the vineyard. The green of the leaves just looked different. Then, when he was making the wine, he knew exactly what it wanted to become because he had been with it day in and day out. He'd seen its struggles and the successes throughout the year. It was intimate and innate. The vineyard was part of his everyday life. His wines reflect this intimacy.
Many people don't realize that most of their favorite natural wine projects based in California are made using purchased grapes. Those grapes are farmed and cared for by the vineyard teams who own the property and then are picked and handed off to winemakers the day of harvest. There is a huge barrier to entry when it comes to California vineyards due to the limited availability of land and water and the related costs. Many of the heavily branded wines you might be familiar with are made in what are called 'custom crush' facilities where they're not even made the winemaker you associate with the wine, and instead have a sort of 'ghost-writer' relationship with an anonymous winemaker. Graham, for so many reasons, is not this, and that's something worth celebrating. His wine represents focus and commitment to farming that is unlike most other winemakers I know.
The Zinfandel is coming from a vineyard is he farming alongside Les Lunes just outside of downtown Sonoma.
Domaine in Black
'Chien Noir/Chat Blanc' 2021
Pinot Auxerois/Marc of Pinot Noir
St. Pierre, Alsace, France
Lambert Spielmann is a young musician and former caregiver to the elderly based in St. Pierre, a small town about halfway between Barr and Strasbourg, just west of the Rhine River. He works with 2.5 hectares, and feels that is the most he can farm alone and thus the most he needs. In ever profile I've read of Spielmann, there has been a mention of his kindness and generosity of spirit. He and his partner live above the wine cellar, which is an old garage. He vinifies with little equipment, which he buys as needed.
The depth in these wines feels more like a communication of sensitivity and care. I often refer to wines as 'thinkers' or 'drinkers' meaning they're either wines for pondering or wines for pounding. In the case of the Domaine in Black wines, they tend to be a righteous balance of...both.
On the nose of this wine, you'll get a decent amount of aromatic volatility, but when you drink it, there are lovely notes of strawberry guava and a dynamic electricity, that is both generous and lively. The primary grape is direct press (meaning white wine) from the grape Pinot Auxxerois. The juice is then combined with the marc (meaning the stems/seeds/and other leftover stuff) from Pinot Noir. It drinks like a rose with red fruit and light florals.