Meet Unique Indie Wines and the People Bringing them into Ireland
Last month, a headline-grabbing debate divided movie lovers. It all began when Martin Scorsese said in an interview that Marvel movies were not cinema but “theme parks” and shortly after, many industry heavyweights took sides.
Unsurprisingly, those known for grittier or more emotional works such as Francis Ford Coppola or Pedro Almodóvar were quick to help The Irishman director throw superheroes under the bus, while those who have directed Marvel films themselves, including Taika Waititi and Joss Weldon, spoke up favourably about them.
Jon Favreau, of Iron Man and Avengers fame, was probably the one who made the most sense by saying that Scorsese and Coppola “earned the right to express their opinions.” Mind blown.
Now, what does this have to do with wine? There are plenty of “Marvel wines” out there: big brands with even bigger budgets, massive productions that please a lot of people without much depth.
Is there a time and a place for special effects, booms and kabooms in our glasses? Just as with film, it is fair to acknowledge that there is value in something enjoyed by many, however, wines made by smaller producers who favour complexity and character over a quick yum deserve a platform and will often provide a rewarding experience to those who seek them.
In Ireland, one of the best stablished platform for independent wine producers is SPIT Fest, which celebrated its fifth edition last October, and brought together four of the country’s most prestigious independent importers for a celebration of wines with personality, made by an eclectic array of artisan producers.
We spoke with each importer ahead of the festival, on what styles of winemaking you can find from them, as well as what makes the challenging endeavour of working with independent producers so rewarding.
Enrico Fantasia’s Grape Circus has expanded from an Italian wine specialist into a seeker of unique wines from all over Europe, and in less than a decade in business, has managed to grow his portfolio and become known for bringing wines that are unexpected and often unusual.
Most of the wines he brings are “low intervention wines made without chemicals, additives and made without taking any shortcuts.”
For Enrico, working with independent producers “means working with wines with a sense of place, wines that express a terroir, a tradition, and wines that are made with love and passion.”
TWO TO TRY
Zelen “Petit Burja” 2018, Burja
€21 – Available at Mitchell & Son
This Slovenian white comes from the western region of Vipava and it’s made from 100% Zelen grapes, a rare variety grown exclusively here.
Its name translate as “green” from Slovenian which is a clue of things to come in the glass.
A brief skin maceration enhances this wine’s body and structure but still lets the freshness of zesty citrus and a touch os sea-salt shine through.
Primitivo “Miro” 2018, Cristiano Guttarolo
€25.95 – Available at Green Man Wines
Italy’s Puglia offers the Primitivo grape a sunny home, ideal for it to rippen and develop into an intense red. Producer Cristiano Guttarolo is behind this organic, unfiltered example, made following natural principles that give the spotlight to the land.
Expect to find notes of ripe fruit, cherries, blackberries and red plums, in contrast with an earthy character and a herbacious touch. With moderate tannins and a velvety texture, it’s easy to drink but hard to forget.
WineMason focuses on original and distinctive wines for both restaurants and independent retailers, with a highlight on Germany, Austria, Mediterranean Europe, South Africa and California.
Barbara Boyle MW, who co-owns the company along with Ben Mason, speakes about the highlights of this trade: “The wine world is generally quite a friendly hospitable place and being small and independent means that you really do get to know winemakers personally and many of them become friends.”
Businesses with similar scale tend to work better together.”
For her, working on a smaller scale means that while it is important to be very professional, “there are less layers of bureaucracy here. We are also working with much smaller volumes and we have the flexibility to make quick decisions so you can take more risks with wines. Most of those pay off.” For the consumer, this translates in an importer that’s willing to give a chance to wines that are experimental, interesting or a bit different from the more mainstream offers.
TWO TO TRY
Riesling Vom Porphyr 2018, Wagner Stempel
This organic, dry Riesling comes from the German region of Rheinhessen. Producer Wagner Stempel is a 9th generation family estate focusing on organic wines that celebrate traditional winemaking and highlight what’s on the vineyards.
Vom Porphyr offers a delightful balance between the fragrant character fo white blossom, the mellowness of nectarines and peaches, and the sharper notes of lime and citrus peel. All with high acidity and a very long finish.
Chateau Le Puy, Emilien 2016
Set in the Right Bank of Bordeaux, Chateau Le Puy benefits from moderate maritime climate and soils rich in clay nad limestone. This red blends Merlot (the dominating variety), Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere and Malbec, all farmed bioninamically and organically, and matured in oak barrels and casks for 24 months.
Full-bodied and intense, it features a wide range of flavours and aromas, including licorice, plums, cocoa and cofee, along with black currants, blackberries and some toast.
Two sommeliers ventured into Nomad Wine Importers in 2007: Thierry Grillet and Charles Derain. They are now recognised as one of the most prestigious importers of wines from Burgundy and other parts of France.
When asked about the trends wine lover’s can discover at his stand, he spoke frankly: “I don’t follow the trends , it doesn’t interest me.” Instead, he pointed out that good wines come from producers who respect Mother Nature and work with her.
Since more than 10 years I m trying to import wines who have honesty and precision.”
For Charles, the most rewarding element about “working with smaller and independent is the direct contact with the winemaker therefore there is a better bond and friendship. He allowed me to ask any questions and be frank with them.”
TWO TO TRY
Domaine Christiphe & Fils Vieilles Vines
€33 – Available at syips.com
This small estate is located on the steep hills of the Fyé plateau and while it’s been in operations only sicne 1999, it has earned its place among fine Chablis winemakers. This “Vieilles Vines”, French for “old vines”, is made from plants around 60 years of age, vinified in stainless steel tank, which helps preserve the intensity and purity of this fruit.
High acidity and a lean, sharp feel introduce this elegant wine of zesty and mineral (think seawater) notes. It’s intense, concentrated and with a mouth-watering effect.
Alsace Pinot Noir Grand Cru “Terroir” Domaine Zinck, 2016
€43 – Available at syips.com
Philippe Zinck and his wife Pascale produce organic wines in this domaine from Alsace. With a respect for tradition, but an openness to new techniques and innovation, Domaine Zinck achieves elegant, precise wines such as this fragrant Pinot Noir.
Soft tannins and floral character combine into a graceful wine. Notes of violets, fresh cherries and strawberries are sprinkled with a delicate earthy background note. One for Pinot Noir fans and for those that enjoy delicate reds.
Founded and run by Antonio Lorente and Rafael Salazar, Vinostito’s focus is on Spain, but they’ve integrated a variety of exciting wines from other parts of Europe and South America in recent years.
Antonio elaborates about the type of wines they bring to the Irish table: “All styles, reds, whites, sparkling, fortified and sweet wines. Something in common to all of them? Respect to the soil and vines through organic or biodynamic viticulture, and minimal intervention at winery avoiding the use of chemicals or commercial yeasts.”
Working with small independent offlicences put you in the right scale of things.”
Form him, the human side of winemaking is crucial: “it makes you focus in values and details that I think we care more about, and the love that we put in what we do.” This people-first approach means that they work with producers that have interesting stories and produce better wines than the bigger scale producers.
TWO TO TRY
Rafael Palacios As Sortes 2017
Godello is a grape variety that has made a comeback in recent years. Once tought extinct, the native Galician made a quiet return in the eighties and has slowly find its way into wine lovers’ glasses and hearts, often from the DO Monterrei in Spain. This example, however, comes from the DO Valdeorras and offers a taste of Godello’s potential for greatness.
It’s a rich and concentrated white with a full body, enhanced by 7 months of ageing in French oak and created with the use of natural yeast. Notes or ripe yellow fruit and lemon peels converge with a mineral, saline hint and a nutty character.
Finca de los Locos 2017, Artuke
Miguel & Conchi Blanco produce wines in la Rioja Alavesa since 1991. This wine’s name means “farm of the crazy ones”, and it plays with the fact that the land where vines where planted, sandy gravel and chalky, would have been deemed unfit by most, but with creativity, hard work and a touch of madness, it was possible.
It is a blend of 80% Tempranillo and 20% Graciano, aged fro 16 months in French oak barrels. Its tannins are strong but smooth, balanced by a full, velvety body and intense aromas of ripe blackberries, toast, sweet spices and black forest gateau.
ARTICLE BY GABRIELA GUEDEZ