“The mother of excess is not joy but joylessness.” Friedrich Nietzsche
The lure of Burgundy is a strong one for any wine-lover. Whilst Bordeaux is perhaps the first stop on one’s fine wine life journey, the mystique of Pinot Noir and its spiritual (and probably actual) home, along with what are considered to be the world's finest Chardonnays, draws one to eastern France sooner or later.
But drinking burgundy to excess will dull one's appreciation for those incomparable wines and certainly one doesn’t have to uncork solely wines from that region when a liquid of finesse, elegance and complexity is one’s heart’s desire of an evening. There are alternatives…and we have pulled together a varied and fascinating shortlist of wines that fit the bill exceedingly neatly.
So for an opportunity to diversify one’s drinking and reach into some of the less frequented corners of the world’s wine production, read on…
[To read more about any of these wines, including Caspar's tasting note, or to add them to your basket, simply click on the wine name itself.]
2013 Le Soula Blanc, Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes
£285 in bond a dozen Drink 2019-2027
This is nothing short of extraordinary. In the 1990s Roy Richards and Mark Walford were importing the Roussillon wines of Gérard Gauby into England. Gerard, convinced that vines in the cooler climate of the Fenouillèdes, high up in the foothills of the Eastern Pyrenees of South West France, had real potential for producing wine of great quality, suggested that they form a partnership to exploit them. Together they bought vines in the best sites, and an old house in the high altitude village of Saint Martin de Fenouillet, in the heart of the vineyards. The house became Soula’s first cellar and from the first vintage in 2001, the red and white wine began to establish its reputation for wines of purity, vitality and individuality, a reputation that remains to this day.
Every time I open a bottle of Le Soula Blanc I am stunned by its complexity and fascinated by the flavours. I put it somewhere between a fine vintage for Vincent Avril’s Clos des Papes and a Chevalier-Montrachet or top Meursault. It really is that good. (And the drinking dates I have given above are on the conservative side; bottles from the early 1990s are still drinking well.)
2017 Archineri Etna Bianco, Pietradolce
£141 in bond per 6 Drink 2019-2023
This is the product of vines grown high up on Etna from which lavic soils the wine gains its intense minerality. Some of the vines are as much as 120 years old and most of which are ungrafted, all of which north-facing. It is 100% Carricante, the white grape of Etna.
We have offered the red wines of Pietradolce a number of times. It is one of the finest wine producers on that unstable mountainside in Sicily.
2015 Millesulmare, Sicilia Bianco, Santa Maria La Nave
£201 in bond per 6 Drink 2019-2023
A stunning oddity, this. From vines planted at 1,100 metres above sea level and, again, north facing. This cannot be called Etna Bianco, since the authorised white grape of the volcano is Carricante and this is made from Grecanico Dorato, a vine I am reliably informed is identical to Garganega.
Those of you familiar with Garganega will know that, in its more celebrated locale (i.e. Soave in the Veneto) it is capable to producing wines of enormous complexity and age-worthiness.
2017 Assyrtiko 34 Ancentral Vines, Karamolegos
£126 in bond per 6 Drink 2020-2025
The modern era for Karamolegos starts in 2004, when the winery started producing PDO (Protected Denomination of Origin) wine using modern equipment. Since then, awards and plaudits have been many and widespread.
This is the culmination of their vinous journey: an Assyrtiko from the oldest vines at their disposal. And if the Le Soula is like a Meursault, aromatically-speaking, this is more Chassagne on both nose and palate, the earthy minerality reminding one of the profound wines of that Burgundy commune.
2015 Calmarossa, Etna Rosso, Santa Maria La Nave
£201 in bond per 6 Drink 2019-2025
Santa Maria La Nave was founded by Giuseppe "Peppino" Mulone in 1954 and crafts extraordinarily delightful wines from the dark, mineral soils of Mount Etna.
This is produced mainly from Nerello Mascalese (85%) and Nerello Capuccio. Nerello Mascalese, due to the style of wine it produces, is often referred to as Italy’s Pinot Noir and is capable – as here – of producing wines of great panache. Some of the vines here are pre-phylloxera.
2017 Corinto, Tenuta di Castellaro
£155 in bond per 6 Drink 2019-2025
If Sicily’s off the beaten track, how’s this: a red from the island of Lipari, one of the Aeolian Islands that lie off Sicily’s north east coast?
Corinto is the grape and Jancis Robinson’s invaluable tome, Wine Grapes, tells me that this is a local synonym for Sangiovese, but it is nothing like any Sangiovese I have ever tasted.
To order these wines, click on the wine names or email Caspar Bowes.