Within our shop we have a section dedicated to Natural, Organic and Biodynamic wines - handpicked by ourselves - and here you will find further information regarding the wines we are currently showcasing.
Loxarel, “Xarel.Lo” Amphora 2013
A winery that has been farming organically for more than a decade and which also employs some biodynamic treatments, the winery is basic – they don’t waste money on modern technology or fancy architecture. There are, interestingly, a few amphora in the small barrel cellar, which shows the Mitjan family’s commitment to experimenting with a range of natural wines. They also keep animals, including chickens, a horse and a donkey named Garnatxa.
Xarel.Lo is fermented using wild yeast, present on the grape skins when they arrive in the winery, in clay amphora without the addition of Sulphur. The result is a tremendously fresh, elegant and mineral white wine with notes of citrus fruits and herbs.
Domaine de la Senechaliere, Melon de Bourgogne Vieilles Vignes “Miss Terre” 2013
The domaine comprises approximately 13 hectares of vines, mostly Melon de Bourgogne although in recent years Marc has also been working with Abouriou (q.v. Elian da Ros and Marmandais). The soils are comprised mainly of schist and many of the vines well over 50 years of age; for Miss Terre the vines are up to 80 years old. He works organically, working the soil and opting for essential oils and copper treatments over synthetic products. This ‘natural’ feel continues into the cellar where he uses a minimal amount of sulphur, with a single addition of about 20 mg only at the time of bottling.
What distinguishes the Miss Terre from the rest of his portfolio, however, is malolactic fermentation; not a process generally associated with Muscadet. As a consequence the wine has lower acidity than we might expect from Melon, as indicated on the label where Marc has written “Ce vin est sec, mais pas acide”. The wine is initially muted on the nose, but it soon opens out to reveal some delightfully well-defined and grippy fruit characteristics with scents of pear and citrus pith alongside elements of white pepper and a very faint seam of bright, perfumed almond. The palate is quite exhilarating, with a deep texture, sherbet minerality and a rich, flavoursome mouth-feel. Underneath it all there is moderate acidity in keeping with the malolactic, and it is the bite of the mineral component that contributes most to the structure of the wine. The fruit has a savoury vein, and the wine a bright, vibrant, pithy finish, with an appealing bitterness to the fruit.
Davenport Vineyards, Horsmonden Dry White 2013
Will Davenport has been making wines for nearly 20 years, building from a small start-up to a collection of vineyard sites that total 20 acres. The aim is to make wine of the highest possible quality and which is a true expression of their grape varieties, soil and climate. Will believes that the best way to achieve this is to interfere as little as possible and let nature take its course.
Made from a blend of six grape varieties (including Bacchus, Ortega, Siegerrebe, Faber and Huxelrebe) grown in the original vineyard plot at Horsmonden in Kent. This wine has been made every year since 1993 and has won many accolades since then. It has been likened to a Sauvignon Blanc style and is often mistaken for a New Zealand wine. It is crisp, aromatic and fruit driven with greengage and grapefruit flavours to the fore with pronounced hedgerow accents.
Domaine Le Briseau, Pineau d’Aunis “Lucky” 2010
Christian Chaussard studied and then taught viticulture and oenology whilst running a small estate in Vouvray. For financial reasons he had to give the latter up, but soon decided that he wanted to practise vine-growing and winemaking. Before accomplishing that goal, he met Nathalie Gaubicher, a Swiss actress with an oenologist and sommelier diploma, and they set out to find vines somewhere in France. In 2002, they settled in the Jasnières/Coteaux-du-Loir area in northern Touraine. The entirety of Jasnières covers eighty hectares of vines, and Coteaux-du-Loir about two hundred hectares. The soils are largely all clay and silica over a subsoil of limestone, and Domaine le Briseau was started with four hectares of vines planted mainly with Chenin Blanc and Pineau d’Aunis. In 2007, the estate had grown to eleven hectares. All vineyard work is done according to the principles of organic viticulture (with the certification of Qualité France): no pesticides, insecticides or chemical fertilizers are used; nettle and horsetail decoctions are sprayed on the foliage; copper is used in modest quantity (less than 5kg/ha); the vines are ploughed and grass allowed to grow between the rows. In 2006, the estate started its conversion to biodynamic principles.
Coteaux du Loir means Pineau d’Aunis, a grape as delicious as it is unknown. Their wines have a wonderful way of being carefree, yet beautifully made. A cornucopia of red fruit notes – wild strawberry, raspberry and thimbleberry with a hint of rose geranium, are graced with the characteristic spice of Pineau d’Aunis, revealed as a dusting of black pepper. Lovely just for sipping.
£15 to £20
Arianna Occhipinti, “SP68” Bianco 2013
The SP68 is the name of the main road that passes near to Arianna’s home town of Vittoria in the far south of Sicily. It is here that she has been making wine for the past ten years under the tutelage of her uncle, Giusto Occhipinti of the illustrious COS estate.
All of Arianna’s vineyards are worked using biodynamic principals and the work in the cellar is measured to not push the wine in any way; letting is find its own space. Natural yeasts, no temperature control, no fining or filtration and minimal sulphur at bottling is the order of the day!
SP68 Bianco comes from a blend of Zibbibo and Albanella. The nose offers notes of white flowers, pink grapefruit, lychee, fresh oregano, and spice. It is a deeply aromatic wine that is surprisingly light on the palate despite the slight skin contact which gives a little tannin and an intriguing olive-y note!
Bobar, Chardonnay 2011
Tom and Sally Belford have worked full-time for over 12 years both as viticulturists and winemakers, mainly in the Yarra Valley but also on a fifteen month working tour of France which took them to Champagne, Beaujolais, Provence, Cahors and Sauternes. The name Bobar is adapted from the French word “bobard”, meaning to tell “tall stories”, or extending the truth. Tom and Sally say that they find a lot of “bobard” talked in the wine industry, when people try to prop up soulless wines with hyperbole.
The Bobar Chardonnay is a gentle revelation. Fermented and aged in old barrels with virtually no sulphur it has the purity of a Chablis with that trademark leesy oatmeal, dry honey and cool stone texture and flavour. Normally, we make an oak canoe out of Oz Chardonnay and paddle it up the nearest billabong, but this is a savoury sipper (glugger) of the highest order!
Paolo Vodopivec, Vitovska Amphora 2010
We are far in the small, rugged commune of Carso where two enigmatic brothers, Paolo and Valter Vodopivec have earned an enviable international reputation for their distinctive wines. To discuss the terroir of Carso is to speak more about rock than soil. Carso, in fact, actually means something like “land of rock” in Celtic. Valter and Paolo actually had to physically break up the limestone bedrock to plant their vines. The rocky terrain leaves a firm imprint on the wine with an undeniable acid and mineral streak.
For the aficionados of the amber nectar this is reassuringly, shockingly pinkish-orange and cloudy and biffs you on the nose with a mineral-peach-sage-smoke-honey combo that keeps changing with ever sniff and sip; a wine thrilling in its richness and striking in its textural complexity.
|£10 - £15|
Domaine du Moulin, Cour-Cheverny Rose 2013
Domaine du Moulin is an estate of 25 hectares (17 of which are planted) located in Cour-Cheverny. It has passed from father to son from the installation of Hervé’s grandfather in 1939, Hervé took over the estate in 1995, after studying viticulture and winemaking. In the late 90’s Hervé met Thierry Puzelat (who was then in his second year of organic viticulture) and tasted his wines as well as Marcel Lapierre’s Morgons and was struck by their purity. He decided to turn a couple of hectares organic just to check: no synthetic products, but ploughing and hand harvest instead, and also no-or very-little sulphur. The results proved to him that he should travel the non-interventionist path.
The Rose is 60% Gamay and 40% Pinot Noir hand-picked from low yielding, biodynamically farmed vines aged between 12 and 36 years and has amazing purity and freshness; delicious red fruits providing perfect balance.
Valli Unite, “Ottavio Rube” Rosso 2013
The co-operative was born over thirty years ago at a time in which increasing numbers of people had moved to the cities for factory work. Three young men from local farming families got together to discuss the future of farming in the area. To begin with their vineyards were merged and they built stalls for farm animals so that organic manure could be used to fertilise the fields and vines. This very modern belief in organic farming as the way of the future formed part of the wider project known as ‘contraction’, with the aim of reducing the human impact on the natural environment.
Viticulture here is non-invasive. Old fashioned sickles are used to hoe the weeds, the vines are fertilised with manures from their cattle as well as green fertilisers composed of clover and weeds. Cement vats are used to ferment the wines which are then transferred to old barrels to soften and mature. A blend of Dolcetto (80%) and Croatina (20%), in the glass the wine is an intense ruby red, with a vinous aroma, a dry, pleasantly bitter taste in which there are hints of roses and in which the fruitiness is successfully wedded to the tang of tannin.
£10 to £20
Laurent Cazottes, “Champetre” Braucol Rouge 2013
Laurent Cazottes, artisan distiller extra-ordinaire, who furnishes us with a variety of incredible eaux-de-vies, liqueurs and aperitifs, also makes a pair of wines from indigenous Gaillacoise grape varieties.
The red is from organically grown, naturally fermented Braucol grapes and is bursting with bright, sapid red fruits. Sheer delight!
Domaine Gramenon, Cotes du Rhone “La Sagesse” 2011
These are wines that we have long admired deeply for their purity. Located not far from the village of Vinsobres Michèle Laurent makes some of the most beautiful and compelling Rhône wines. Made with gloriously ripe fruit and bottled by hand without fining or filtration, many of the cuvées are also bottled without the addition of any sulphur in order to keep the yeasts and microflora alive. This is non-interventionist, minimalist wine-making par excellence. Not only are the vines old (there is one parcel of 100-year-old Grenache), but the traditional cellars contain no high-tech equipment with the wine descending by means of gravity to the tanks (to use a pump apparently “stresses the yeasts”) and the ageing of all the cuvées of red wines is in old cask and demi-muids.
La Sagesse is a blend of 95% Grenache and 5% Syrah, an expansive, intensely fragrant Côtes-du-Rhône with a chewy texture and a medicinal flavour.
These are living, mutable wines constantly confounding expectation; sometimes shy, austere, fugitive, sometimes lush, floral and bold.
Les Cailloux du Paradis (Etienne Courtois), “Racines” Rouge 2011
Claude Courtois has created a small farm which exemplifies what biodynamics is all about in terms of biodiversity and self-sufficiency. Recently, he has handed the reins to one of his sons, Etienne, and just kept a couple of hectares for himself. Together they farm a balanced & completely chemical-free 13 hectares of vines in the heart of the Sologne. Courtois also grows organic wheat, which he feeds to his cows who provide the manure for the vines. “Nothing comes into my vineyard,” he says, meaning no chemicals ever. He has created a well-balanced, bio-diversity with trees, fruit trees, vines, woods & fields. No pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, chemical fertilizers, or synthetic chemicals of any kind are allowed on the vines or in the soil of the vineyards. He has his own methods for promoting the diverse life of the soil. The grapes – Gamay, Cabernet Franc, Côt (Malbec), Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc & Pineau d’ Aunis and maybe up to a further forty varieties (ye dare not ask)—are harvested by hand and only indigenous yeasts are used during fermentation. Claude regards the soil on his farm as a living organism. He lives in harmony with nature & the wines he crafts are a pure and vibrantly alive testament to outstanding biodynamic winemaking.
Roots by name and by nature Racines is from hand-harvested, destemmed and gently pressed grapes (Cabernet Franc, Côt & Cabernet Sauvignon from 20 hl/ha). Only natural yeasts are used and the juice undergoes an extended maceration. Vinified in barrel and then aged for 18 months in oak. Deep purple in the glass the nose is redolent with pounded stones, plum, cherries, warm iron and damp chalk. The palate has great depth of dried currant, fig and plum hewn to a deep mineral bed. The wine has lovely acidity, a terrific structure and finishes with red berry fruit and mineral zest. Such vitality as if the roots referred to had sucked the life blood from the very soil.
Bernabe Navarro, “La Amistad” 2013
These are pure, minimal intervention wines at the forefront of Spain’s slow move towards more elegant, terroir driven styles. Bernabe Navarro is based in Alicante, South East Spain, where the climate is hot, humid and Mediterranean near the coast but becoming drier and more continental further inland.
The vines, from a 1.14 hectare limestone and broken granite vineyard, are 50 – 60 years old dry-grown bush vines grown at altitude. Viticulture is always organic and grapes are hand harvested. In the winery they use 80% de-stemmed grapes. After a 10 hour maceration, the free run juice is transferred to 1700ltr French oak casks where it is fermented for 25 days on the wild yeasts. There is minimal addition of SO2, no enzymes, no fining and no filtration. The colour is cherry red, the nose is fresh and approachable with ripe red fruits, with some floral and herbal touches. A fresh, lively, fruity red that is very drinkable with a lovely mineral finish.
Louis-Antoine Luyt, Carignan “Trequilemu” 2012
Louis-Antoine was born in Burgundy and went to Chile in 1998 to work as a somellier. Realising he wanted to make wine he returned to France, enrolled in a wine course and there met Mathieu Lapierre (son of the famous Marcel) and since then has worked every harvest in the Lapierre winery and assisted at their joint project with Jean Claude Chanudet, Chateau Cambon. In 2006 Louis-Antoine returned to Chile, purchased a vineyard in Cauquenes on marly-granite soils (with some vines over 200 years old), which he works with a horse. The wines themselves are fermented with natural yeasts and are neither fined nor filtered.
The Carignan is pure and grippy with notes of undergrowth.
Burn Cottage, Pinot Noir 2012
This is the culmination of much hard work at this farm in Cromwell, Central Otago. The eleven hectare vineyard is composed predominantly of Pinot Noir, with a diversity of ten of the best quality clones and rootstocks to suit each particular soil combination within the site. Along with Pinot Noir, a tiny pocket each of Riesling and Gruner Veltliner is planted.
The Soils in the vineyard are derivative of broken down schist and granite. They are classified as free-draining sandy loams. In the lower elevations the soils are slightly heavier, producing rich, flamboyant wines of real depth. On the steeper slopes the soils contain much more rock and gravel, producing wines of great minerality, finesse, concentration and structure.
Fruit is sorted twice in the winery for the highest possible quality. Each wine is fermented using ‘wild’ yeasts in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks, or very traditional open top Rousseau oak fermenters. Malo-Lactic fermentation occurs naturally in the temperature and humidity controlled barrel room and in most years the wines are not filtered or fined.
This is a dense, chewy and complex bottling which is made in an age-worthy style. The tannins are well integrated on the palate but substantial enough that the wine is only hinting at what we expect it to become. The acidity is bright and 100% natural lending both liveliness and authority to the long finish on the wine.