Make Mine A Double

Wine Review: Mazzei Codice V Vermentino and Gérard Bertrand Orange Gold

Whether you call them “orange wines”, “amber wines” or “skin-contact white wines”, these postmodern wines are here to stay. However, are they going to remain a niche curiosity drunk only by the adventurous or will they break out from the independent wine specialist sector into multiples and even supermarkets? Here are two skin-contact whites which are leading the way.

Mazzei Tenuta Belguardo Codice V Maremma Vermentino 2019

Mazzei Belguardo Codice V Vermentino

I previously reviewed the “regular” Mazzei Belguardo Vermentino and found it excellent, so I was keen to taste this pull-out-all-the-stops flagship version. To make the best Vermentino they could, Mazzei started with clones from Corsica, the spiritual home and likely origin of the Vermentino grape. Of course they were planted in Maremma on the Tyrrhenian coast as the cooling effect of sea breezes is important for retaining freshness. The vineyard site is 30 to 50 metres above sea level and is orientated south / south-west on predominantly sandy soils.

Harvesting is all by hand but it’s vinification where things start to get really interesting:

  • 20% is fermented and aged on the skins in amphorae for nine months
  • 30% is fermented and aged on the skins in stainless steel tanks for nine months
  • 50% is fermented and aged on fine lees in stainless steel tanks (I presume for nine months)

The construction material and any lining of the amphorae is not specified.  After blending back together the wine is bottled and stored for a further six months before release.

If someone had already tasted the regular Vermentino then the Codice V would be quite familiar, though they might feel they had been missing half of the story. The nose shows complex aromas of citrus and stone fruit, with hints of smoke. These elements continue onto the palate where they intertwine with mellow savoury notes and layers of mixed peel and ginger. The finish is fresh and mouth-watering.

  • ABV: 13.0%*
  • RRP: €33
  • Source: Sample
  • Stockists: SC Grocer; Martins Off-licence; Clontarf Wines; Sweeneys D3; The Corkscrew; Blackrock Cellar

Gérard Bertrand Orange Gold 2020

gérard bertrand orange gold

I have reviewed Gérard Bertrand‘s wines widely over the years; his impressive range includes whites, rosés and reds from the Languedoc at several different price points, many of which are organic and / or biodynamic.  To those colours he has added an orange wine, a homage to Georgian wines of 4,500 years ago. It is a real blend, being made with seven different varieties: Chardonnay, Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Marsanne, Mauzac, Muscat and Clairette.

When perfectly ripe, the grapes are hand-picked in whole bunches and transferred to vat without any destemming or crushing, as with many red wines. The grapes then ferment, partially in the normal way and partially carbonicly (where the weight of the grapes causes some to ferment within their skins. After 10 to 15 days the grapes are separated and pressed to extract colour and tannin; this press wine is then added to the existing must in stainless steel tanks to finish fermenting. Finally, the wine is put into used barrels to mature.

In the glass (and in the bottle) this is a vibrant gold colour, and could be easily mistaken for a Sauternes or Tokaji. The nose is complex, with apple blossom, marmalade, apricot jam and pear drops – very enticing.  The palate is dry but with fruit sweetness on the mid palate. There’s a real savoury complexity to this wine, and a light saline tang with some tannins on the finish. From one point of view it could be said that the nose and the palate offer entirely different aspects, but that is a truism for orange wines in general. Once expectations are reasonably set I think this is a tasty wine that many would enjoy.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €21.95
  • Source: Sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Conclusion

These wines are quite different, taking different approaches to producing a balanced wine, and a single varietal compared to a blend. Although the number of orange wines available in Ireland is fairly low at the moment it doesn’t mean that any particular wine can represent a whole colour. What they do have in common is that they are both delicious and approachable, while maintaining a savoury character that expands their interest and versatility.

For me the Codice V is the better wine, but of course has a higher price. Due to its fairly widespread availability and lower price I think the Orange Gold is more likely to tempt more casual wine drinkers into trying an orange wine for the first time – but hopefully not the last time!


*Any wine geeks among you may have noticed that the alcohol for this wine is a little higher than the regular Vermentino I reviewed a year ago (13.39% v 12.5% on the respective tech sheets). This is due to vintage variation (2019 v 2018) rather than differences in winemaking; the 2018 vintage of the Codice V also had 12.5% alcohol.


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Single Bottle Review

Wine Review: Pepe Mendoza Casa Agricola Pureza Moscatel Anfora 2019

Pepe Mendoza makes fascinating wines in his home region of Alicante.  To understand the wines we must first understand the region and the man himself.  We will look at the range of wines he makes followed by tasting notes of one of them.

Alicante DO

Where is Alicante?  I wouldn’t have been able to place it accurately on a (blank) map, so here’s an annotated map:

DO_Alicante_location

Alicante wine comes from the province of the same name in south eastern Spain.  As you can see on the outline map above (Credit: Té y kriptonita), there are two separate and distinct sub-regions:

  • Vinalopó which follows the banks of the river of the same name
  • La Marina which is a newer, smaller region by the coast

Monastrell is the major grape planted in Alicante – especially in the more developed and warmer Vinalopó – as it is in other wine regions in this part of Spain.  A long-standing speciality of the area is Fondillón wine, a late-harvest red wine which is left in barrel for extended periods – similar to the way that Tawny Port is matured, though Fondillón is not fortified.

La Marina is cooler and has more rainfall, and so is more suitable for white grapes – Moscatel is prevalent.

Another historical wine style which was once more common is Brisat wines, i.e. skin-contact wines made using amphoras.

Señor Pepe Mendoza

José (Pepe) Mendoza grew up learning about vines and winemaking in his father’s eponymous firm Bodegas Enrique Mendoza, founded in 1989.  Pepe was closely involved in the vineyard and the winery, then the overall running of the family firm with his younger brother Julian.  In addition to this large concern – it covers 500 hectares and produces 250,000 bottles annually – Pepe and his wife Pepa Agulló also founded their own boutique operation Casa Agrícola.

From the beginning of 2021 Pepe stepped away from the family firm to concentrate on Casa Agrícola and a new consultancy business – Uva Destino – aimed at helping “vineyards that strive to express themselves”.

Pepe Mendoza Casa Agricola Wine Range

There are four distinct wine ranges within the Casa Agricola portfolio:

“Landscape” wines

These are Pepe’s entry level wines which blend local varieties and are designed to be fresh but easy drinking:

  • Paisaje Mediterraneo Blanco: Moscatel 40%, Macabeo 40%, Airén 20%
  • Paisaje Mediterraneo Tinto: Monastrell 70%, Giró 25%, Alicante Bouschet 5%

Single Varietal wines

There is currently just one wine in this range:

  • Pureza Moscatel Anfora: 100% Moscatel (see below)

Terroir wines

These are also single varietal wines but made with grapes sourced from a single terroir, one which allows the variety to thrive:

  • Giró de Abargues: 100% Giró from Marina Alta
  • El Veneno Monastrell: 100% Monastrell from Alto Vinalopó

Small Production wines

These are experimental wines which act as an R&D lab for Pepe to try out new styles:

  • Mares de Luz Coupaje: a blend of Monastrell from Vinalopo and Giró from Marina Alta
  • Giró-Gironet Ánfora Velo Flor: 2 different Giró clones fermented under a veil of flor
  • Blanc Brisat Moscatel “La Solana”: a 100% Moscatel skin contact wine aged in amphoras

Pepe Mendoza Casa Agricola Pureza Moscatel Anfora 2019

casa agricola pureza moscatel 3

The vineyard where the grapes for this wine are sourced from is only two hectares in area and was planted in 1943.  It is farmed without irrigation and according to organic principles but is uncertified.  Wine making takes an additive-free approach: yeast is indigenous and there are no enzymes, acid, sugar or other additives used.

The grape variety used is 100% Moscatel de Alejandría (Muscat of Alexandria) which is common all across the Mediterranean.  It is sometimes regarded as inferior to other Muscats – principally Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains – but in the right setting it can deliver very good wines.

The juice is fermented on skins in amphoras of 220, 250 and 350 litres, with macerations two to three times a day.  After alcoholic fermentation of around ten days, the wine is matured in the same amphoras for six months, without lees stirring, then in bottle for a further five.

Although classed by some as an “orange” or “amber” wine, this is more of a deep lemon colour.  The nose shows grapes as expected from a Muscat, but also orange blossom and citrus peel.  When tasted, at first it shows delicacy and poise, dancing on the tongue.  There’s a fleshy sweetness to the mid palate, but this is followed up by some grippy tannins and an oh-so-dry finish.

This is a highly individual and unusual wine, completely out of the mainstream.  It’s not one I would drink regularly on its own – it would surely blossom even more with food – but it’s very well done and deserves consideration for a wine which activates your senses and stimulates your brain.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €29.95
  • Stockists: The Wine Pair; Higgins Off-Licence; Redmonds of Ranelagh; The Corkscrew; Sweeney’s D3; Deveney’s Dundrum; SC Grocer Monkstown
  • Source: media sample

Other Pepe Mendoza Casa Agricola wines available in Ireland

In addition to the Pureza Moscatel Anfora, the following Pepe Mendoza wines are available in Ireland:

  • Paisaje Mediterraneo Blanco 2019 (RRP €24.95) Stockists: Avoca; Baggot St Wines; Blackrock Cellar; Deveney’s Dundrum; Sweeney’s D3; McHughs; SC Grocer Monkstown; The Wine Pair; Thomas’s Foxrock.
  • Paisaje Mediterraneo Tinto 2019 (RRP €24.95) Stockists: Avoca; Baggot St Wines; Blackrock Cellar; Deveney’s Dundrum; Sweeney’s D3; McHughs; Mitchell and Son.
  • El Veneno Monastrell 2018 (RRP €43.95) Stockists: Avoca; D-Six Off-Licence; Redmonds of Ranelagh; The Corkscrew; Sweeney’s D3; Deveney’s Dundrum