In The Vineyards With: Isabelle & Jean-Yves Vantey (Les Rouges Queues, Maranges, Burgundy)

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It was on one distinctly grey and damp afternoon in late January that our car wound its way through the vineyards of Burgundy, up towards the small area of Maranges, just south of Beaune.

I was with two of the Maule brothers (producers of natural wine in the Veneto) accompanying them as a translator and willing drinking companion on a short road trip through France.

Maranges is one of the lesser known appellations in Burgundy. Strictly speaking, it’s a Village Appellation in the southernmost point of the Côte de Beaune, and within it are 7 Premier Crus. (These 7 climats are: Clos de la Boutière, Clos de la Fussière, La Fussière, Le Clos des Loyères, Le Clos des Rois, Le Croix Moines, Les Clos Roussots.) Continue reading

In The Cellar With: Alessandro Maule (Veneto)

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The name “Maule” is one of the most evocative for natural wine in the Veneto, north-east Italy.

angiolino maule pico label

The story starts in the late 1980s when Angiolino Maule and his wife buy a small farm-holding of six hectares and start making little-to-no-intervention wines. This small farm-holding, near Gambellara (just east of Soave), included the house La Biancara which subsequently lent its name to the winery.

Famiglia #vinnatur @alice.feiring @filippisoave #angiolinomaule #wine2wine @paolagiagulli @burntcream_hq

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Even from the very beginning, Angiolino had a clear idea of how he wanted to make wine (putting nature first and not pumping it full of commerical yeasts, enzymes and the like) but found that his vision was leaps and bounds ahead of the market. Continue reading

In The Vineyards With: Cristina, Gelmino and Andrea Dal Bosco (Le Battistelle, Soave)

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In my attempt to visit as many of the small, independent wineries in Soave (there are not as many as you might think!) the next on my list was Le Battistelle.

The house and cellar for Le Battistelle are located near the village of Brognoligo, in the heart of the Soave Classico DOC, but on the eastern-facing side of the Soave hills.

Gelmino’s family has been working these vineyards for decades but it’s only been since 2002 that they started making and bottling their wines, rather than selling the grapes to the local co-operative.

He, his wife, Cristina (pictured above), and son, Andrea (below), showed me around.

dsc08049aWithin the first few minutes, you realise that this is a small, entirely family-run entreprise, crafting completely hand-made wines. They have 9 hectares of vineyards of pure garganega, split between four different plots on the surrounding volcanic hills. These vineyards are perched on such steep slopes that most are impossible to pass through with a tractor.

Gelmino and Cristina strive to work without chemicals in the vineyard as far as possible, but are not certified organic because they want to maintain the possibility of using something stronger than copper in a bad year.

The vineyards are so precipitous that they become very dangerous after heavy rainfall (which is unfortunately when bugs and other nasties tend to propagate) and to be doing treatments every other day is simply not realistic.

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This is apparently the “easy” vineyard!

Because the work in the vineyards is so laborious, the vinification in the cellar is very simple. There are just three wines: the most basic (“Montesei”), a reserve (“Le Battistelle”) and one with two days of skin contact (“Roccolo Del Durlo”). When the grapes arrive in the cellar, they are destemmed and pressed. The temperature-controlled fermentations take place in stainless steel with selected yeasts. The top two wines will stay on the fine lies for 6-8 months with regular batonnage.

Gelmino doesn’t have any wooden barrels and he doesn’t let the malolactic fermentation occur, meaning that the wines retain their fresh, fruity character and remain crisp and mineral. A perfectly classic Soave Classico.

dsc08040aWhat I haven’t mentioned yet (I’m saving the best for last!) is the age of the vines at Le Battistelle – some are a spectacular 100 years old! The bulbous base of the plant emerging from the volcanic rock, amongst all the fallen leaves and the pruned branches, was a treat to see.

As I’m tentatively making my way through the vineyard in pursuit of the perfect vine, Cristina tells me about an association (CERVIM) specialised in “mountain and steep slope viticulture.” Very deservingly, two of their single vineyards Le Battistelle and Roccolo del Durlo have been classified as “heroic viticulture.”

As a permanent reminder, the logo for Le Battistelle is a shoulder harness with two baskets, which was used until only very recently to carry out grapes from their vineyards.

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The terracing makes it impossible to go through with a tractor.

Visit the website: http://www.lebattistelle.it/

Le Battistelle are also on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

Visited: 5th December 2016


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In The Vineyards With: Emmanuel Pageot (Domaine Turner-Pageot, Languedoc)

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I could give you the key facts: 10 hectares of vineyards scattered in small plots near Gabian, just south of Faugères. I could tell you about the 7 different grape varieties (Sauvignon Blanc, Marsanne, Rousanne, Picpoul, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah) and 7 distinct soils (amongst which there is limestone, schist and volcanic basalt…) that Emmanuel has in his arsenal of weapons… but that would not do due justice to Emmanuel, nor his wines, nor to my visit on a moody day in mid-August.

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In my time visiting winemakers, and in the three years that I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve had all kinds of different experiences. From Walter Massa (Colli Tortonesi, Italy) who particularly stands out because of his unique blend of originality and downright craziness to Massandra (in Crimea, when that was still Ukraine) for the lab coats and chocolate cake. Going to visit a winery gives an added insight that is simply not possible to obtain by popping a cork or exchanging pleasantries at wine fairs.

My visit with Manu was so distinctive that I have the feeling that I will continue to mull it over for the coming days and weeks.  Continue reading

In The Vineyards With: Marco Buratti (Azienda Agricola Farnea, Veneto)

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“Go round the back; you’ll find the keys in the flowerpot. Let yourselves in. I’ll be back in about 15 mins.”

That was how my visit to Marco Buratti’s house in the Colli Euganei, near Padova, started.

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KEY FACTS

Marco has 2 hectares (~4 acres) of old vines and 3 hectares of woodland, on the volcanic soils of the Colli Euganei National Park, near Padova.

He makes between 8,000 – 10,000 bottles per year of red, white and rosé.

His first vintage was 2007. However, 2010 and subsequently 2011 were both washouts because of a severe hailstorm.

Varieties include: Moscato, Tokai and Malvasia, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and small quantities of another 5 very rare, red varieties.


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We take a seat and wait for Marco to return. The radio is on and David Bowie’s voice is echoing around the room. It’s an absolutely beautifully appointed house; reminiscent of a mountain cabin with exposed stone walls and old wooden beams… but there are a couple of quirky touches: a kitchen which could easily pass for a professional restaurant and in the living room, stylish art nouveau lamps. In pride of place, is the dog basket. Continue reading

In The Vineyards With: Melanie Tarlant (Champagne)

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It’s been a nervous month for winemakers across France. The most notable casualties have been Burgundy, Loire and Beaujolais, but the Champenois are also holding their breath anxiously.

With these sudden high temperatures (24-25ºC) come violent thunderstorms. (Yeah, the weather has gone straight from torrential rain (you can’t have missed the media coverage of all the flooding in France and of the high river level in Paris recently.)

Photo Vineyard Vallée de la Marne (c) Emma Bentley

Even as Mel and I were walking through the ungrafted Chardonnay vines (one of the only ungrafted vineyards in the whole Champagne region!) we saw lightning strike the opposite side of the valley. Micheline, Mel’s mother, had told us not to take too long. Fortunately, she needn’t have worried – for the first time in history, an English girl brought the sunshine with her!

Merci pour le soleil Bella @burntcream_hq ✨

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In The English Vineyards With: My Labrador

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I’ve been saying it for a several years already: the south of England, particularly in my corner of the South Downs in Sussex, is becoming more and more dedicated to viticulture.

According to the English Wine Producers website, at last count, there are currently 4500 acres of vines in England and Wales. That’s approx 1800 hectares.

Whether you believe that English wine is really growing in amplitude or if it’s just an echo chamber within a small community of wine nerds is up for debate.

There definitely is a certain dynamism to the movement and it excites me to witness the start of something new and promising. I’ve been to visit Upperton and Jenkyn Place, I’ve championned the Balfour Brut Rosé in France and I’ve tasted a whole range of cracking still wines with the Exceptional English Wine Company.

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