After returning from the natural wine fairs down in Montpellier, I'm excited for the year to come. It's been a busy start here at Highbury Library with lots of new arrivals...
First up we have the latest landings from La Ferme des Sept Lunes. This is the project of Jean Delobre in the Northern Rhône. He makes outstanding reds from the Syrah grape in and around the famous Saint-Joseph appellation. His Syrah 2022 , made from grapes just over the border in Ardèche, is his most ready-to-drink cuvée whilst his more powerful but elegant Pleine Lune Saint-Jospeh 2020 (smokey and savoury) and Halo Sur Le Baudet 2020 (slightly more delicate and fruit forward) are already tasting beautiful but will only get better with time in the cellar. Speaking of which, we have one bottle left of Jean's 2015 oxidative Marsanne / Rousanne at a bargain price, Lunatik Ladyland 2015. Don't miss out!
Not too far away in the Jura, Jean-Baptiste Menigoz has been making quite a name for himself in recent years under his Les Bottes Rouges project which produces wines in the esteemed Arbois and Côtes du Jura appellations. We have just received small quantities of two of his white cuvées and one red. Face B 2021 is a rich and round wine made from the Savagnin grape whilst Léon 2021 comes from Chardonnay grapes in Arbois. I thoroughly enjoyed the latter at a restaurant in Montpellier (where it seemed like every table was drinking a bottle of Bottes Rouge) but it was clear it will keep getting better with time. Whilst the whites should never be rushed, I personally think red wines from Jura are best drunk young so you can really enjoy all that delicate fresh fruit. If you are in agreement then reach for Jean-Baptiste's Ploussard cuvée, Tôt ou Tard 2022.
Manlio Manganaro's latest vintage has also recently arrived. If you are yet to try these sun-kissed wines from the western part of Sicily, now is your chance. He only produces 2 cuvées, both from Grillo grapes (from just 1 hectare of vines!!). The White Label 2022 is the softer maceration, more delicate in its delivery of citrus and herbs, whereas the Grey Label 2021, only made in special years, is a deeper, more complex orange wine with an amazing intensity of stone fruits, smoke and spice. We only receive a handful of bottles of the latter so it's an exciting one for us! With these arrivals, we are also pleased to share some 2021 White Label from our cellar along with one special bottle of Grey Label 2020! We have just heard the sad news that 2022 will be Manlio's last vintage so now might be one of the last opportunities to try these special wines.
I'm aware the focus has been on pretty pricey wines so far so now lets get on to some more affordable options. I always enjoy revisiting some of the more established names in natural wine and falling back in love with their bottles. Nothing provides a better opportunity to do this than with Clos du Tue-Boeuf. The Puzelat family have been making wines in the Loire valley with indigenous yeast and without additions since the 90s and because of this, they have a big cult following. This means wines get snapped up very quickly upon release, especially when the quality is so good for the price. Take for example, Pineau de Loire 2021, classy Chenin Blanc (Pineau de Loire is an old name for this variety in the region) for just £26. For even deeper complexity and added finesse, Le Buisson Pouilleux 2022 is potentially the pick of the bunch. This is sublime Sauvignon Blanc from a 1 hectare plot of vines near Tours. Delicate, complex and will get even better with age. We have a red in stock made from the elusive Pineau d'Aunis red variety. If you are not au fait with this unique grape variety, now is your chance. Hard to grow and low yielding but when it works, it really works! Delicate red fruit and floral aromas along with an exquisite touch of white pepper. A favourite of King Richard III apparently! The Puzelat family also buy grapes from neighbouring organic growers and produce a couple of negotiant wines. These offer amazing value and punch well above their price points. Vin Blanc 2022 is Sauvignon Blanc and Vin Rouge 2022, again slightly wilder, comes from Gamay grapes.
Brand Red 2022 has just landed! This juicy, light and wild red wine is always a big hit at Highbury Library so we are pleased to have the new vintage now in stock. Mainly red grapes (Dornfelder, Portugieser and Cabernet Franc) with a splash of Riesling for good measure, this is the perfect wine to drink from the fridge and a bargain at only £22. We expect this to fly once the sun comes out! The Brand Brother's orange field blend Wilder Satz 2022 has also been flying by the glass at the bar. Another iconic wine still available at a great price.
Over to Alsace where we have a new (old) wine from none other than Yann Durrmann. When Pet Nat Blanc 2020 first landed, it was considered a little too wild for release. After time in cellar, things have calmed down and this sparkling white made from Pinot Blanc and Sylvaner is now drinking very well. A great price too.
And finally, some special bottles to end on from our very own shores. We have received the first wines from Sophie Evans that were made with grapes from her own vines down in Kent. Pinot Noir 2022 (light, peppery red) and Pinot Gris 2002 (peachy, skin contact style) have been made in tiny quantities so we are lucky to get our hands on some. Over in Wiltshire at Domain Hugo, a barrel of juice that usually goes into the traditional method, sparkling cuvée was kept for experimentation and then forgotten about. Later re-discovered with a veil of flor over the juice, this has now been released as a special bottling (only 250 made!) of still white wine (Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Meunier), Two Times a Half 2020. We are holding a couple back to see how this ages.
Right! That's more than enough for now. Plenty of exciting things coming soon too.