Led by Venetian Enrico Fantsia, GrapeCircus is an Irish wine importer that specialises in natural, vibrant wines from Italy and other parts of Europe. His wines are stocked at famous Irish cheesemonger Sheridan’s (with whom he has a partnership) and elsewhere. Here are a few of my favourites:
Cantina Roccafiori Roccafiori Bianco “Fiordaliso” 2015 (12.5%, RRP €17.95 at Sheridans Cheesemongers, SIPYS, Mitchell & Son, Green Man Wines)
Umbria is one of Italy’s less-heralded wine regions, but rising standards have caused its wines to be increasingly sought out. Roccafiore is situated in the hills of Todi and runs on a natural and environmentally-friendly basis, even going so far as to use solar power for their energy needs. Fiordaliso is a blend of local grapes Grechetto di Todi (85%) and Trebbiano Spoletino (15%). It’s a dry, crisp wine with Granny Smith apples and fresh citrus zest.
M&A Arndorfer Strass Im Sassertale Kamptal Grüner Veltliner 2015 (12.5%, RRP €18.95 at Sheridans Cheesemongers, SIPYS)
Martin & Anna Arndorfer both come from well respected winemaking families in Kamptal, Niederösterreich, but have become recognised for the purity and originality of their own wines. This is a clean, dry introduction to Austria’s signature grape Grüner Veltliner. Minimal intervention allows the characteristics of the variety to shine through – soft pip fruit and floral notes, medium body and a white pepper kick to the finish.
Roncus Friuli Ribolla Gialla 2016 (12.0%, RRP €22.50 at Sheridans Cheesemongers, SIPYS, Green Man Wines)
Ribolla Gialla is probably my favourite native Italian white grape as it just has so much character. It’s a speciality of Friuli in the north east of Italy, bordering Austria and Slovenia, where local grape Friulano (aka Sauvignonasse, Sauvignon Vert) is also prominent. Roncus’s example has plenty of soft pip fruit but also intriguing aromas and flavours of almond. As I love almonds, perhaps that’s why I love this wine so much?
Domaine Vinci Côtes Catalanes “Coyade” 2014 (12.0%, RRP €31.50 at Sheridans Cheesemongers, SIPYS, Green Man Wines)
Domaine Vinci’s Olivier Varichon and Emanuelle Vinci take a natural approach to winemaking, using wild yeast for fermentation and bottling with no fining or filtration. It seems fitting that a wine from French Catalonia uses grapes also found on the Spanish side of the border – Maccabeu (aka Macabeo, 70%), Grenache Blanc (20%) and Carignan Blanc (10%). Maccabeu can be somewhat
boring neutral, but given some diurnal variation from altitude and sensible yields it can produce interesting, aromatic wines such as Coyade. This is a fresh, mineral wine which would partner well with shellfish and other seafood, but has enough flavour and interest to be delightful on its own.
Tenuta Ansitz Dornach Pinot Bianco “XY” 2010 (12.5%, RRP €38.00 at Sheridans Cheesemongers, SIYPS, Mitchell & Son)
Trentino / Alto Adige has both Italian and Austrian roots, so there’s no surprise that the gamut of grape varieties runs from Pinot Grigio to Müller-Thurgau. However, this Alpine region also makes some classy Pinot Bianco – a grape which is often suited to everyday drinking but is rarely treated seriously. The “XY” cuvée is treated more like a Chardonnay than a Pinot Blanc – it spends at least twenty months on the lees in second use French oak barriques, giving it texture and flavour. There’s a little vanilla from the oak but more nuts and toastiness, all on top of fresh apple and citrus. This is a refined, poised wine which would turn any white Burgundy-lover’s head.