A medley of whites from the WineMason tasting earlier this year:
Bodegas Altos de Torona Rías Baixas Albariño Torre de Ermelo 2016 (12.4%, RRP €19 – Stockist TBC)
Bodegas Altos de Torona is one of three producers in Rías Baixas who form part of the HGA Bodegas group. HGA have holdings across many of northern Spain’s best wine areas including Rioja, Ribero del Duero and Ribeira Sacra. This wine is from the O Rosal sub-zone, just 3.5km from the Miño River (which forms the border with Portugal) and 10km from the Atlantic Ocean.
Torre de Ermelo is made in a fresh – almost spritzy – style, with floral, citrus and mineral notes framed by a streak of acidity. Great value for money!
Vale da Capucha VR Lisboa Fossil Branco 2014 (14.0%, RRP €18 at Green Man Wines)
If your palate is just used to white wines from supermarkets then this might seem a little alien at first. It bears no resemblance to the usual Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay – but then why should it? This is a blend of three indigenous Portuguese grapes, Arinto, Gouveio and Fernão Pires grown close to the Atlantic coast just north of Lisbon.
The name of the wine is a clue to the vineyard soil type – lots of limestone! There are indeed mineral notes on this wine but lots more besides – soft fruit, herbs and flowers. Overall it’s a dry wine with lots of texture, a fine partner for lots of dishes.
BLANKbottle Moment of Silence 2016 (13.5%, RRP €24 at Green Man Wines, Baggot St Wines, The Corkscrew, Mitchell & Son & Red Island)
This is a very intriguing wine from a very interesting producer. Pieter H. Walser is the man behind BLANKBottle and aims to make wines which highlight excellent South African terroir rather than the variety/ies that they are made from. He buys in all his grapes rather than farming himself. This all gives him flexibility so he can change the components of a blend from year to year or produce entirely new wines as a one-off; it also helps his wines to be judged on their contents rather than preconceptions about varieties.
Moment of Silence is a blend (for this vintage at least!) of 65% Chenin Blanc with the balance split between Chardonnay and Viognier. From 2015 onwards the grapes were sourced from seven different sites within Wellington. This wine is quite round in the mouth with apple and stone fruit flavours. The Viognier influence shines through as a touch of richness, but it isn’t oily. A wine that deserves to be tried.
Rijckaert Arbois Chardonnay 2015 (13.0%, RRP €23 at The Corkscrew, Mitchell & Son & Redmonds)
Belgian winemaker Jean Rijckaert founded his own estate in 1998 based on vineyards in the Maconnais and Jura, further east. Of course the key variety shared by these regions is Chardonnay, which can reflect both where it is grown and how it is vinified. Yields are low and intervention is kept to a minimum – once fermentation is complete the wines are left to mature without racking, stirring or anything else.
Jura Chardonnay comes in two distinct styles, oxidative and none-oxidative, depending on whether air is allowed into the maturing barrels; this is definitely the latter, (ouillé) style of Jura Chardonnay for which I have a marked preference. It’s recognisably oaked Chardonnay but very tangy and food friendly. A great way into Jura wines!
De Morgenzon Reserve Chenin Blanc 2014 (14.0%, RRP €34 at 64 Wine & The Corkscrew)
De Morgenzon translates as The Morning Sun which is a wonderfully poetic name, attached to a wonderful South African winery. Although South Africa is usually labelled as “new world” when it comes to wine, vines have been planted in this part of Stellenbosch since the early 1700s. Wendy and Hylton Appelbaum bought DeMorgenzon in 2003 and have transformed the estate and its wines.
The entry level DMZ Chenin is a very nice wine, clean and fresh, but this Reserve is a step above. The vines were planted in 1972 (an auspicious year!) and interestingly were originally bush vines but recently lifted onto trellises. People often wonder what makes one wine cost more than another similar wine, and in this case the picking in four different passes through the vineyard (to ensure optimum ripeness and balance) shows you why. Fermentation takes place in French oak barrels (with wild yeast) followed by 11 months of maturation on the lees. These really add to the flavour profile – there’s a little bit of funk from the wild yeast, lots of creaminess from the lees and soft oak notes from the barrels (only 25% were new). This is a real treat!
Another Brick in the Wall series: