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November 2013

J. Heinrich Blaufrankisch

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Vintage: 2012

Gruner Veltliner is to Austria what Malbec is to Argentina.  Gruner is what people think of when they think Austria, but not all of Austria is Gruner country.  Over in the far east, at the tail that sticks over through the mountains towards Hungary, the climate is totally different.  Here in Burgenland the climate is warmer, the soils denser, and the seasons longer.  The region around the town of Deutschkreutz is sheltered by mountains on three sides and perfect for producing full red wines, as J Heinrich demonstrates here.

The Heinrich family has been here in the vicinity of the town of Deutschkreutz for over 300 years.  Silvia Heinrich started working at the winery in 2002 when she came back from studying wine making in college.   She took over full ownership in 2010 and is determined to produce excellent wines that are classic expressions of this area that is known as "Blaufrankisch land".

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Aroma: The J Heinrich has a fruit driven aroma that's mostly fresh crushed raspberries, but also with some darker blackberry qualities too.  It's pretty powerful and aromatic.  Already from the aroma I can tell this is not a stereotypically light Austrian red.  If you dig a bit deeper the Heinrich Blaufrankisch has some more aromas hiding behind all the ripe fruit; licorice and pink peppercorns!  It's a very inviting aroma.

Palate: This is a big mouth full of ripe black fruit!  Serious blackberry and dark ripe cherries fill your mouth here, but the texture is impressively smooth and elegant considering what a punch of fruit this Blaufrankisch packs.  There's not too much tannin, but the finish lingers in a nice refined kind of way.  There is just the right amount of acidity to make this Blaufrankisch bright and lively, but not too zingy or noticeably acidic.  This is a medium to almost full bodied Blaufrankisch that is so rich and lively that it seems like it's practically jumping out of the bottle.  

This may be Silvia's basic Blaufrankisch, but it's delicious.  The Heinrich Blaufrankisch shows nice balance and elegance while still maintaining it's excitement and verve.  Blaufrankisch isn't a well known grape, but based on what J Heinrich has done with it you should try to get better acquainted with it.  Also, this will be a fantastic and refreshing counterpoint to Turkey!  The J Heinrich Blaufernakisch retails for about $17 and is available at Aurora Provisions, Browne Trading, Rosemont on Brighton, Rising Tide Market in Damariscotta, and Tess's Market in Brunswick


Frank Cornelissen Contadino 10

So much has been written about Frank Cornelissen, a minuscule amount even by me.  I don't want to add much to it, but here's the barest introduction.  Cornelissen is so convinced in what he's doing it's intimidating.  He's trying to make wines that taste like rocks.  He is completely authentic in his passion.  Cornelissen is, not of his fault, the most talked about natural wine maker in the world.  If you want to read more about his mythic trials on top of Mount Etna check out this earlier piece I wrote:

Frank Cornelissen.

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Contadino is Frank Cornelissen's most playful wine.  That's the best way I can put it.  The more expensive and rarer Munjebel and Magma are more serious and profound, but the Contadino is also a super complex, serious, and made with just as much intensity and focus.  

Varietal: Mostly Nerello Mascalese, but it's kind of a field blend that includes traces of some other varieties, including some whites.

This may be the most playful and least expensive ($26) but it's still made from extremely old naturally farmed vines that range from 50 to over 100 years old.  Contadino is wild fermented and has absolutely nothing added.  Contadino is one of the most fanatically natural wines made in the world.

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Aroma: There is so much here that it's hard to pin down, but it's intense and wild.  Every time I put my nose into the glass I smell something slightly different.  There's cinnamon, wait now molasses, scratch that it's slightly over ripe raspberries in the sun, Oh that's red licorice, no it's cherry cola!  There's strong cherries and raspberries, cherries that may have been dropped in a camp fire for a bit, because it's a tiny bit charred smelling.  I don't know if any of that makes sense; just take away that the Contadino is extremely interesting and aromatic.

Taste: The Contadino has it going on.  Actually it has it all going on.  My first impression is that it's big, dark, and wild.  Like some wild animal glimpsed at the edge of your vision in the dark.  You know it's there, but you don't know what it is and have a hard time believing your senses.  Contadino in this 10th release is full, forceful, and has a wild tannic quality that I describe as furry.  There's a lot of dark fruit that lushly fills your palate, while a wild berry acidity rises through he middle of that and then the hard volcanic pumice rock taste of the finish.  Like the aroma there's a ton going on here and it's irresistibly enjoyable and engaging.

Conclusion: I just got the Contadino into my warehouse.  Last year it sold out in 2 weeks.  It's totally unique and very good.  The Contadino will sell out quickly.  If you want any, snag it now.  Rosemont on Brighton Ave, Browne Trading, and Aurora Provisions have it on the shelf, other shops will in a day or so.  You can also special order as long as my supply lasts.


Famille Laurent Saint Pourcain 2012

I have always loved this wine.  I loved the last vintage: the 2011, but it was a bit of a departure from the wine's usual elegance and poise.   Famille Laurent's Saint Pourcain is always a blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay, but the 2011 seemed heavier on the Gamay than usual and the wine was more rustic and gamey.  The 2012 is back to being more Pinot Noir based.  The 2012 Saint Pourcain is still kind of earthy and minerally, but there's more fruit, more elegance, and more balance.  

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I know, this bottle is 2011.  Trust me, 2012 is here and in the shops now.

Saint Pourcain is a small appelation at the head waters of the Loire in France's Massif Central.  It's technically the Loire valley, but geographically it's pretty close to Burgundy and Beaujolais, hence the Gamay and Pinot Noir together.  The Laurent family has been here for over 5 generations now and while they don't have partiularly large vineyard holdings (under 30 acres) they've broken their vineyards into over 20 plots that they farm individually.  

This wine is a stupendous value.  Every vintage the Laurent's Saint Pourcain has fantastic poise, vitality, racy minerality, and supple fruit.  This is the best value for Pinot Noir I've ever found.

Aroma: Lots of really vivid juicy cherry.  There's also some raspberry and a bit of bright cranberry.  The Saint Pourcain's aroma isn't overly fruity though; there's also a whiff of ceder wood, thyme, and maybe a just the ghost of animal fur.  

Taste: Fresh and vibrant and dancing.  This vintage of the Saint Pourcain has smooth black raspberry and cranberry fruit backed up with an energetic minerality.  The Famille Laurent Saint Pourcain is bright and vivid, but also smooth and relaxed at the same time.  

This is under $15 and available widely.  Most shops Devenish does business have this; it's that good.


Gaspare Buscemi ViNero

Gaspare Buscemi got into the wine making business as a consultant when he was just 20 years old. That was in 1959 and he's now in his 70s.  Back in his early days the wine industry in Italy was primarily focused on mass producing large volumes of wine at very low prices; that was where Gaspare started out, but it didn't take too long for him to make up his mind that wine should be more special and unique than that.  He was part of the first wave of young wine makers to rebel against the green revolution in wine making and turn their backs on higher and higher yields enabled by higher and higher use of pesticides and additives in the winery.

Gaspare traveled all over Italy as a consultant wine maker, but settled back in Collio Friuli to start buying his own vineyards and beginning to craft wines in his own personal way.  Buscemi has adopted many practices from biodynamic farming and tries to craft his wines naturally with out any manipulation in the cellar.

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ViNero is a proprietary blend that varies year to year depending on the weather and harvest.  Gaspare never reveals what the blend is, but there must be some Merlot and Refosco; very likely some Cabernet Franc as well.

Aroma: The ViNero has an inviting and relaxed aroma of roses and some fresh strawberries.  It's definitely more of a floral smell than fruit driven.  It's a bright, fresh, perfumed kind of smell that makes me think of bright spring flowers.  It's very inviting and invigorating smelling, not serious, intimidating, or brawny. 

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There was just wine in that glass, I swear!

Taste: Buscemi's ViNero is nice and fresh with bright acidity and a smooth texture.  ViNero is lighter in body and while it may be natural wine making it doesn't seem dirty at all; the flavors are bright and pure.  Very clear fresh raspberry is the primary fruit I get.  There are some tannins, but they're very much in the back ground.  Buscemi's ViNero is delicious, thirst quenching, and very refreshing.  The ViNero seems to really shine after it's had a bit of time to breathe and open up.  If you try this, open it a bit early.  

Buscemi's ViNero is available at Aurora Provisions and the Rosemont Markets for about $15


Kabaj Rebula 2010

Jean Michel Morel was born in Paris, grew up in Bordeaux, worked in Italy, and then married a girl from Slovenia and went to work at her family's winery.  It's enough for several life times, really, and that's before you start talking about his time at a Georgian monastery learning about their thousand years old tradition of making wines in huge clay amphora.  But Jean Michel has finally settled on this life of running a tiny and terribly unique winery just over the border from Italy in the Slovenian town of Brda.  He and the winery: Kabaj have quite a story.  I'm not going to get into all the other stuff here; I'll just focus on this awesome Rebula (Ribolla Gialla).

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The Kabaj Rebula isn't what you expect.  Even if you have no experience with Slovenian whites, still, check your basic wine expectations at the door.  Jean Michel presses his Rebula grapes and then lets them sit, fermenting, on their skins for a month.  That's crazy.  In this day and age where people expect whites to rival grapefruit for crispness and have completely transparent flavors as well as color, this is a whole other animal.  That month on the skins gives the wine totally different flavors as well as a rich orange/browne color.  Kabaj's Rebula falls into the "orange wine" category, although it's more of just a delicious wine and not as crazy as many that have defined the orange wine category. 

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It's not the light.  The wine really is that color.

Aroma: Cinnamon, ginger, lemon grass, creme brulee, sandal wood, acacia.  The Rebula is such an interesting wine! The aroma is so deep.  There are all kinds of aromas that you just don't ever expect in white wine, and yet it's totally integrated and smells delicious!  Like a rich, hearty, American Thanksgiving.

Taste: I definitely get a some cooked ginger, but there are a lot of other flavors such as vanilla.  This wine doesn't have a whole lot of acidity because of it's year spent aging in a neutral French barrels, yet it doesn't taste like that's a deficiency.  This has a very long taste sensation that just keeps changing and evolving.  The Rebula has the weight and texture to completely dominate my palate and yet it's still fun tasting; certainly not too heavy.

Kabaj Rebula is available at Browne Trading, the Rosemont on Munjoy Hill, Hugo's, RSVP, and Caiola's.  It retails for about $25.


Pierre Frick Pinot Noir "Les Terrasses"

Pierre Frick began farming organically in 1970 and then adopted biodynamic methods in 1981, well ahead of the curve and leading the movement in Alsace.  In reading about Frick I've run into quotes describing wine as art, comparing wine to music, and emphasising the cultural importance of wine; particularly regarding the camaraderie and cultural significance of the harvest and his reasons to continue hand harvesting using local workers.  In short his philosophy strongly resonates with my own wine experiences.  Frick is a legend in Alsace and his wines haven't even been available in the US for most of the last decade.

When I saw a 2005 single vineyard Pinot Noir available from Pierre Frick I guessed it must be good.  Actually I wondered if it was a misprint and the vintage was wrong.  Turns out there really was a bit of 2005 available and it is fantastic!

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Les Terrasses comes from a specific plot in the "Rot Murle" vineyard: a location with redish iron rich soil.  

Aroma: I was shocked how much ripe fruit is here for an 8 year old wine!  The Les Terrasses really still smells like lush Pinot Noir in it's prime.  The aroma is primarily of juicy raspberry and strawberry with just a hint of dark woodsey character.  The aroma of Frick's Pinot is very attractive and seductive; perfumey in a natural elegant way.  There's a minor earthy quality here, but it's just a slight accompaniment to the exquisitely balanced fruit and supple texture.  This is an elegant and beguiling Pinot still with voluptuous fruit.

Palate: Bright, ripe, but still youthful fruit with fresh acidity.  The Les Terrasses texture is so lush!  I pick up just a hint of a spicy woody quality on the mid-palate but its really just a shadow behind the relaxed, elegant raspberry fruit.  There's also a tasty slightly salty minerality hidden in the wine.  It doesn't stand out, but it's there getting my palate salivating.  This is gorgeous and exciting wine.  

And for this price!  Pierre Frick has given us this passionate and beautiful Pinot Noir with 8 years age for what you pay in CA and Oregon for bought fruit cuvee wines.  This is a tremendous value.  Unfortunately I only got a few cases before the vintage ran out.  The Les Terrasses Pinot Noir is priced around $35 retail and there are still a few bottles left at Browne Trading, Oak Hill in Scarborough, Local in Brunswick, and Bow St in Freeport.