We met the super nice Clotilde Davenne in March when she was one of the six “terrific wine women” who visited Ästad Vingård in Sweden. Then she lined up some superb wines from her wide range. For Clotilde is not just super nice, but also a super skilled winemaker.
Now, this was not meant as an in-depth article on the subject Clotilde, but just a reminder of the beautiful bubbly wine that comes out of her celler after 18 months on the lees: Clotilde Davenne Crémant de Bourgogne Brut Extra. Traditional method and without dosage. Crispy, refreshing with notes of bread, citrus and apples. Lovely mousse, palate filling, mouth-watering acidity and long, lovely aftertaste.
Home for Clotilde is the estate “Les Temps Perdus” just outside Chablis in northern Burgundy. Not suprising, her speciality is delicious Chablis wines, Chardonnay treated with utmost finesse. (It is really not an overstatement to say she has a great experience of Chablis. Before focusing solely on her own label, she was for 17 years winemaker at renowed Jean-Marc Brocard in Chablis.)
Clotilde’s crémant is made of the classic Burgundy grapes, i.e. the same as used in Champagne. The cuvée holds 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay.
Crémant at its very best. A quality that can outshine many basic champagnes. Something to keep in store, easy at hand when cravings for some super crispy bubbles set in. Clotilde’s superb bubbles.
Add makeup-free winemaking to organic grape growing and spice it with personal energy and intuition. The sum will be the Minges wines in a nutshell. A reflection at the same time as I resist the reflex to spit. This Riesling is marvellous. Still, according to Regine, from a medium year, that however later turned into one of the most loveliest vintages.
“Wine is not a ‘head thing’, it is a ‘stomach thing’,” states Regine Minges with a lot of energy in her voice. “That is why our wines are better in the bad vintages. A good vintage, and you think too much, just because you have the time.” There it was, the intuition which pops up quickly when we talk and taste some of the white wines from Weingut Theo Minges, Flemlingen, Pfalz.
The Theo Minges Riesling 2010 from sandstone has so much energy, tight structure and the clear acidity brings nerve. At the same time fine juicy aromas, honey, pollen, bicycle tires, peaches, tomatoes. Superb aromatic length. I find the words ‘can’t stop smile’ scribbled beside the tasting note in my notebook. Guess I must have looked peculiar for Regine, just sitting there silent, with a silly smile on my lips.
The 2010 was the last in a range of impressive Rieslings. The very special Froschkönig Rieslings you could read about in the previous blog post. But the day started, in usual manners, with a basic quality wine, in this case although filled with lovely ‘rays of sun in the glass’. The Riesling Aura trocken 2013 is light, mild with nerve.
“A yellow wine”, declares Regine. I raise my eyebrows and listen curiously. It is the second time in a week I hear someone say they think of wine and grapes in colours. Both of them young female winemakers. Riesling was yellow for Marie Menger-Krug too.
For Regine it does not stop with colours. Wines are personalities, she thinks of them in pictures. Already in her early teens she made drawings of them. One a young girl with freckles, another more like a Renoir painting. Not peculiar that the Froschköning became the Froschköning, the Grimm brothers’ frog king with its golden crown.
Then, entrance for a couple of potent spätlese trocken: First the lively, vibrant Riesling Spätlese ‘Buntsandstein’ trocken 2013 raised in stainless steel. Then the Riesling Spätlese ‘Kalkstein’ trocken 2012 which had ten months in wood barrels. So different from the Buntsandstein with a darker impression, dried herbs, oregano, thyme. High density, mouthfilling roundness. Would be a perfect pairing with white meat or grilled tuna spiced with herbs to match the herbiness of the wine. Can of course be stored some years. Regine and her family drinks the 2008 now.
Weingut Theo Minges is since 2008 a member of the VDP and consequently are the top wines marked GG, the short for Grosses Gewächs, i.e. the VDP Grand Cru-level. The 2012 is Minges first GG vintage.
The GG Riesling Gleisweiler Hölle trocken 2012, is made for a long and beautiful life. The vines grow in a soil of sand- and limestone. Raised in stainless steel on its primary lees. Strong, at the same time soft, fresh delicate acidity. Very dry, mouthfilling, white fruit, citrus, macadamia nuts. Eternal length. Excellent.
The GG Weissburgunder Böhinger Rosenkrantz trocken 2013 confirms our new love for this grape. Regine means it is a feminine wine and compares it with a Renoir painting. The soil of the Rosenkrantz vineyard is loess. In the cellar, stainless steel. Fruity, floral notes, a hint smokiness. High density, lovely creamy texture. Eternal length. Excellent. This is summer, with sunshine flowing and glowing.
Regine explains that the fundamental thesis is to keep a natural approach in the winemaking. The wines should have contact with the lees, but battonage is never used. The respect for nature is high, emphasized by the recent organic certification in 2013. So, to keep things along the whole process natural, sound and sane. I would call the result truthful wines. Regine speaks of sensitive wines and sums up the philosophy with another witty statement: “I like wines without mascara.”
We continue the tasting and the Rieslings are followed by a Burgundy grape. A true beauty, no makeup needed. The appealing Chardonnay Spätlese ‘Kalkmergel’ trocken 2011 with yellow apples and citrus, delicious creaminess, round impression, yet with fresh distinct acidity. Proud and palatable.
Scheurebe is a rather new acquaintance, but an acquaintance that based on today’s meeting has good potential to develop into deep friendship. Regine says the Minges are renowned for their Scheurebe and promises that it will develop beautifully for up to 30 years.
The lovely Scheurebe feinherb 2014, bottled just two weeks ago, shows a charming herbal character, almost dry, fine mouthfeel and good length. Its older brother, the Scheurebe Gleisweiler trocken 2012, is amazing. Complex aromas reminding of boxwood in spring, smokey, dried herbs, fresh, dry, excellent length. Wines to line up and queue for. Only 8% of the production are ‘Scheu’.
A trio of seducing Gewürztraminers completes Regine’s selection for our tasting. The Gewürztraminer Spätlese trocken ‘Edition Rosenduft’ 2013 is medium bodied, dry, delicate with spiciness, roses and herbs. The Gewürztraminer Spätlese 2013, lightly sweetish, delicate elegant with roses, spices, cardamom. Chic ladies, both of them.
Finally, the sweet Gewürztraminer Auslese ‘Flemlinger Herrenbuckel’ 2012, marvellously delicious. Very spicy, litchie, quince, round, attractive body, eternal length.Complex aromas constantly developing in the glass. As Regine says, a wine that needs full attention. And she compares it with the ‘Lavendelzimmer’, the lavender room.
Then we are back where we started. The book traces to the winemaker. The Lavendelzimmer is a book by Nina George, translated into English with the title ‘The Little Paris Bookshop’. Regine recommends it. I’ve just finished it a couple of days ago. Sad and joyful at the same time. That is the difference compared with the wines, they are just joy, immense joy.
Then comes the problem. How should I be able to select which of the joys we shall buy and bring home with us? A sudden impulse and I do something I’ve never done before: “Regine, please, choose the wines for us!” A good choice and almost as Christmas Eve when the boxes are unpacked at home.
A big warm thank you Regine, for sharing your time, wine and passion. We will come back and we hope your next visit to Sweden will be to the beautiful, sunny westcoast.
It is said that Stradivarius had a preference for it. Old builders too. It is about wood, strong wood, cut when it is as driest and the pors as smallest. The romantic name moon wood comes from the point of cutting, made in the first full moon phase after the new year. The Menger-Krug family has cut moon oak and made barrels for wine from it.
The oak originates from Schwaben in the southwest of Germany and was cut in 2004. After drying, the cooper had to tackle it, but at first he was a bit doubtful. The wood was so hard, however the outcome was great. Four barrels, between 1530 and 3460 litres in size. In 2007 they were delivered and ready for the first vintage.
The grapes for the moon oak wines come from Pfalz and the Menger-Krug estate Motzenbäcker, more precisely the Paradiesgarten vineyard. Each year a Riesling and a Chardonnay are made. The must ferments on the moon oak barrels and then gets a rest of about 10 months on its lees. The label says “In mondeiche gereift”, matured in moon oak.
Marie was at first not keen on the idea to put Riesling on the moon oak, but mother Regina was of a different opinion. She won. They tested. The result was excellent.
“The Riesling is not influenced of the wood as a Chardonnay, it does not get that oak character, ” explains Marie. “On the other hand, the vinification accentuates the pure Riesling character and gives more structure to the wine. No expert can say it has been fermented on barrel.”
2012 Motzenbäcker Chardonnay Spätlese trocken, Deidesheimer Paradiesgarten. In mondeiche gereift. Delicate, fine fruitieness where apricots are emphasized in nose and on palate. Good body, fine texture and with a light kiss of oak. The Chardonnay character is clear. Very good length.
2012 Motzenbäcker Riesling Spätlese trocken, Deidesheimer Paradiesgarten. In mondeiche gereift. Pronounced nose with petroleum, complexity, citrus and a very light vibrating hint of wood. Fresh, with the acidity deliciously integrated. Grows and develops in the glass. Very good length.
These are wines that speak to you and develop new dialects when resting in the glass. Real signs of quality. Furthermore, typical representatives of each grape, full of character, slender and with straight backs. Beautiful.
The fact that the Menger-Krugs plans to make more moon oak barrels, confirms that they are very happy themselves with the result.
Our time in the paradise, yes at least in the garden of Villa im Paradies, is coming to an end. Before we say good bye to Marie, we pose a last question: in five years, what has happened then, what is the vision? The answer is long, but we like especially one part of it:
“Have fun with the wine! Make straightforward wines. Play around, more extreme in a natural way.”
Thus, joy and a desire for experimentation. An attitude that promise good for the future.
Previously on Lovely Wine Grapes about Marie Menger-Krug and the wines from the Familie Menger-Krug:
We just couldn’t keep us from opening a bottle. Even if Monika thought it was a wine for autumn and winter. We also agreed that it would win if kept in the cellar a year or two. But we wanted so much, at least in our thoughts, to be back at Siegrist in Leinsweiler.
Hagestolz, the hardworking second son, got several exclamation marks in the note book already at our visit three weeks ago. And he would be a perfect match to our dinner, a large fillet butter-fried cod.
Chardonnay did not have an easy life at the start of its Palatine career. When Thomas Siegrist said he was going to grow the grape on his land in the southern Pfalz people said “You don’t need Chardonnay here! Why do you do Chardonnay here?” Anyhow, Thomas planted it and today Chardonnay is accepted.
The name Hagestolz alludes to the grape’s tough start in the region. In former times, in German farmer families, the “hagestolz” was the second son. The first son inherited everything, while number two had to stay on the farm and work. A hard life.
Siegrist Hagestolz 2012 has got an easier start in life. From Siegrist’s Concretus-line, i.e. the wines above the entry level. Cherished organically grown Chardonnay grapes. 15% matured on new barriques for 6 months. Light yellow. Nuanced with yellow fruit, citrus, butteriness, oak, a little bit of spicyness and incipient complexity. Very dry, pleasant integrated fresh acidity, medium bodied with delicious texture. Very good length. Rich, still with a light touch. Very good. A kind of restrained powerfulness, this son is a success. Delicious already today, but, well, it was a bit early to open. Must admit that. We will wait at least a year, probably longer, before we enjoy the next one.
A good choice to the butter-fried cod with ditto vegetables: fresh onion, tendercarrots andcelery. Yummy!
We visited Weingut Siegrists in Leinsweiler in March 2015. All posts on Lovely Wine Grapes about our visit:
The other day I watched an interesting web-TV show by the Swedish blog ”Uppkorkat”, where Magnus Ericsson from the newspaper Helsingborgs Dagblad visits the Champagne grower Tarlant. Magnus throws himself down on the ground between the vines and digs in the soil. It is dusty. The soil flows between his fingers. There is sand, a lot of sand in the soil.
This little piece of Champagne is subsequently called Les Sables (the sand) and is located in proximity to the village Oeuilly west of Épernay in the Marne valley. Its uniqueness is the absence of the vine louse. No phylloxera vastatrix enjoys this corner of the earth. “It can’t move in the sand,” explains Magnus.
Chardonnay is the grape cultivated in Les Sables, planted in the 1950:ies. And it is ungrafted vitis vinifera vines. The grapes end up in a really dry, Extra Brut, Blanc de Blancs with the name “La Vigne d’Antan”.
When the phylloxera had settled in the south of France, where it first was spotted in 1863, it spread like a plague across the country. 1888 it had reached Champagne and it only took some years before the louse had feasted on vine roots all over the region. However, the growers of Champagne had one advantage. The solution was at that time already known; grafting on American rootstocks.
A more famous louse free setting in Champagne is found with the house Bollinger in Aÿ, just north of Épernay. Right beside the stately main building we find two small grand cru vineyards, le Clos Saint-Jacques och les Chaudes Terres. Of some inscrutable reason, the phylloxera has never found its way to these plots. A substantial amount of sand in the soil can be an explanation. Also a third vineyard, la Croix Rouge in Bouzy, was louse free until it suddenly some years ago was hit by the plague. No one knows why. The ungraftedvines had to be pulled up in 2004.
At Bollinger it is Pinot Noir which is grown in the louse free soils. The vines are propagated by offshoots and have definitively not established themselves in any straight lines. The result is as exclusive as the vineyards. Some thousand bottles of a Blanc de Noirs, with the telling name Vielles Vignes Françaises.
What a dream tasting it would be. Two stories, two styles, two houses – one common denominator. A breath of past times.