This is the final one of my write-ups from the recent "Real Wines" tasting, hosted by Les Caves de Pyrène in London - mostly from Italy, and there were some mightily impressive wines - not to mention a handful of mightily faulty ones....... Once again, the prices shown are the advertised trade prices (so add on a few quid - plus VAT - for possible retail prices);
Carso Vitovska 2007 (£19.55) - Nutty, honeyed, lemon and stone fruit nose. Full-bodied and classically-styled, but not particularly complex.
Carso Malvasia 2006 (£19.55) - A fair dollop of oak on the nose, with floral and buttermint notes. Rich and quite serious. It is a big wine and probably a bit too big for my delicate palate(!) Needs food
Carso Terrano 2007 (£19.55) - Smells like a red Rhone - intense cherry, raspberry and bramble aromas, augmented by creamy oak. The palate is very contrary, as it hits you with a huge rasp of acidity, sour cherry and spangles. It is somewhat savoury, too, but the sourness (not always a problem for me) is a bit too intense. Needs tomatoes/pizza to show its best, I think.
Dario Princic, Friuli
I've tasted one or two wines from this grower on a couple of previous occasions and I have to admit that it took me a while tobegin to understand them. Again, the word "contrary" springs to mind, and it is that very contrariness (is there such a word?) that makes them so interesting. In most instances, the nose suggests sweet, but the palate always says dry.
Vino Bianco Ribolla Gialla 2005 (£18.95) - What a lovely nose! An array of dried white fruits, spring flowers, tea, orange blossom and classy, very subtle oak. The palate is indeed very dry, but oh-so complex, with myriad fruit and tertiary flavours and a hint of toffee.
Vino Bianco Jakot 2007 (£18.95) - The name is actually "Tokaj" spelt backwards, although the grape variety is Pinot Gris. So perhaps (being pedantic) it should be "Yakot".... Anyway, whatever the name, it has a simply glorious nose of sweet, crystallised fruits - a sweet nose, indeed. The palate is of course bone dry, but full of complex fruit flavours and very long.
Vino Bianco Pinot Grigio 2007 (£18.95) - Turkish delight, flowers, vanilla and stone fruits, with an interesting note of gravy/meat stock. The palate is rich but dry, complex and hedonistic. Very contrary and very lovely.
Incidentally, as this tasting was held in the middle of the embargo on air travel, due to the eruption of the Icelandic volcano, very few growers were able to be present, so most growers' wines were presented/poured by various Caves de Pyrene staff, including the Princic wines. I have it on good authority that Princic's wines are "natural" wines (to qualify as natural wines, the amount of SO2 added at the bottling stage must be no more than 10mg per litre and preferably zero). However, the member of staff who was pouring told me that he believes that some SO2 (whatever the quantity) is added at bottling. Whichever happens to be the case, I have to take my hat off to Mr Princic for managing to perform this balancing act with such skill, for these wines were all completely stable and fresh as a daisy, despite the fact that they may well have been open for some time.
Dario Princic - they look cloudy (and they are) but they are delicious!
(And they are made from white/gris grapes, by the way)
(And they are made from white/gris grapes, by the way)
Frank Cornelissen, Sicilia
Here is another confirmed maker of "natural" wines, but they couldn't have been more different. As with Princic, I have tasted Cornelissen wines on a couple of previous occasions. The first one was somewhat unstable - and quirky in the extreme - but really rather enjoyable. The second one (which happened to be the exact same cuvée) was little short of vinegar. Therefore, I was eager to taste the range and give them a fair hearing, rather hoping that the bad bottle was just a one-off. Unfortunately, this proved not to be the case. There were some good wines, but also some disasters......
Munjebel Bianco 4 Vino di Tavola NV (but from the 2007 vintage) (£20.35) - On the nose, some attractive aromas of orange marmalade, flowers and minerals. On the palate, starting tangy, followed by an unpleasant bitterness, and very much on the turn. Not very enjoyable.
Munjebel Bianco Vino di Tavola NV (from the 2009 vintage - not on the list, but served from under the table, so presumably not yet commercially available) - The nose is interesting. Yeasty, lemony, floral, with a hint of rhubarb and vanilla custard. Very light on the palate and again quite bitter. It is interesting, rather than enjoyable, and I wouldn't fancy trying to keep it too long.
Rosso del Contadino 5 Vino di Tavola NV (but from the 2007 vintage) (£11.45) - Reeks of volatile acidity. Hugely tannic, savoury but not fruity, with a tarry finish. So volatile, it was turning to vinegar.
Rosso del Contadino Vino di Tavola NV (from the 2009 vintage - another wine from under the table) - Much fruitier, but so tannic. Spicy and very tangy. Interesting, but I wouldn't trust it to keep.
Mujebel Rosso 4 NV (not sure which year) (£23.95) - This is much better, but so on the edge that I fear for its storing (never mind ageing) ability. Again, a huge rasp of VA, like raspberry vinegar. Curiously enjoyable to drink now - but it must be now.
Mujebel Rosso 2008/09 (yet another wine from under the table) - A dark rosé colour. Soft, baked red fruits on the nose, almost jammy (hot vintage?) The palate is soft, but there's a lot of tannin - surprisingly, given the colour - and warm/hot alcohol. Not smooth, but interesting nevertheless.
Magma Rosso 2006 (£109.75) - Yes, you read the price correctly (the trade price, don't forget). Apparently, Mr Cornelissen sets the price of this wine so highly in order to keep the prices of his other wines so low(!) The nose is fabulous, with a list of aromas from A to Z. In fact, it reminds me of a really fine old Burgundy, in some respects. In the mouth, it starts off almost sweet, and absolutely full of fruit, with additional notes of heavily roasted coffee and armagnac. It is tremendously long, warm and spicy, not so much like a fortified wine as a spirit (it is neither - it is a table wine). I really liked this wine, although I'll never be able to afford to buy it. Impressive.
Magma Rosso 2008 (yet again, from under the table) - This is almost water by comparison. Fruity, but so tannic and harsh. Oh dear.
Frank Cornelissen - a variable bunch of wines, to say the least
Rami Bianco 2008 (£10.95) - Tangy, pithy, orange and honey. Bone dry, but with a lot of fruit. Nice.
Pithos Bianco 2008 (£13.95) - Dark gold colour and a bit pongy, perhaps even a bit unstable. Bone dry ,but rich on the palate. Honey, crystallised fruits and marmalade. Actually very nice, but I feel it needs drinking fairly quickly.
Frappato 2008 (£10.95) - Bramble and tar, with hints of orange (I like that in a red wine). Super clean on the palate, fresh, with lovely acidity and fine tannins. Refreshing and delicious.
Nero di Lupo 2008 (£11.80) - Raspberry and mint on this one. Richer, deeper flavours, with more grip, but still beautifully fresh and lovely.
Cerasuolo di Vittoria 2007 (£12.95) - Traditional, almost Bordeaux-like nose, with notes of cedar/oak. Soft fruits, ample acidity and soft tannins. Despite its similarities to Bordeaux, it is really rather delicious!
Pithos Rosso 2008 (£13.60) - Citrus fruits, red berries, forest floor and a hint of mushroom. This one is almost Barolo-like. The palate is fruity and quite rich, but nicely zesty. But will it keep?
Syre 2005 (£19.85) - This one is rich and (sorry to keep comparing) almost Rhone-like, being spicy, grippy, with bags of dark fruit and chocolate flavours. Very long.
Maldafrica 2007 (not listed - another special addition) - Baked fruits and oak vanillin. Strong, with lots of sweet fruit, but very tannic and almost like a fortified wine. This is entirely different in profile to the rest of the Cos range, and I'm not sure it is a good addition. It is too much of a bruiser.
Cos - almost all delicious
A couple of other Italian wines worthy of note (I didn't taste each grower's whole range);
Paolo Bea Sagrantino di Montefalco Passito 2000 (£38.85) - Perfumed, floral (notably violets), with a soft, velvety palate, but deceptively powerful and rich. I loved it.
AA Panevino Tankadeddu Rosso 2008 (£14.65) - Fruit, flowers, spices, pepper and violets. Super clean and not mucked about with. Soft, velvety, sweet red fruits and excellent balance.
And finally, a couple of Portugese wines that seemed to beckon me.....
Afros Loureiro Vinho Verde Blanco 2009 (£8.00) - Fresh, zippy, zingy and full of stone and citrus fruit flavours and a refreshing spritz.
Afros VinhaoVinho Verde Tinto 2009 (£8.70) - Yummy! I have never seen such a purple wine - it is so purple as to be navy blue, almost black. It was absolutely crammed full of bramble fruits, with some interesting savoury notes, like beef gravy. Oh, and citrus and sweet/sour cranberry. Sounds interesting? It was. Rich but zesty, fruity and spicy. To be drunk young, whilst it still retains all of that vitality and youthfulness. What a lovely wine!
Afros Vinhao Vinho Verde Tinto 2009 - just look at that colour!