There are many avenues down which one can learn about wine. WSET, the internet, tastings…I learned a lot from Captain Picard. Starfleet operates the Prime Directive; minimal intervention of primitive yeast cultures. Every week the valiant crew of the USS Enterprise carry out First Contact; skins would be macerated at length to create wines of extraordinary character. Even more extraordinary than actors with prosthetics glued to their foreheads in ever more imaginative ways. This First Contact would go on to create a unique movement in the universe…wines would find their way to the palates of….wait, I think I’ve confused skin contact with first contact. What’s that? Can you hear it? Yes…it’s the bottom of a (old French) barrel being scraped…
The Starprise Entership is a flying wine merchant in space; trying to explore strange new wines and seek out new consumers. To boldly go where no palate has gone before. (Still with me? No. Fair enough) Captain Picard is the stalwart manager; his great knowledge of the universe’s best wines tempered by his ability to diplomatically engage (winks) with almost any customer.
Mr Data is the MW student. He’s got the skills and knows all the stats…RS, TA, pH…but he just wants to be able to actually enjoy a bottle of wine. Unfortunately his enjoyment chip has been lost for the time being. Once returned he’ll unfortunately become utterly insufferable.
Star Trek has always been a vision of the future and as someone once said ‘the future is orange’. It seems that individual was correct although I don’t think they intended it to mean the world would be lumbered with that buffoon who currently resides in the White House. Regardless of this perhaps the future is orange. All this nonsense has come from a couple of skin contact whites I sampled yesterday with my good friend and mentor Ian. Technically neither of them were quite orange wines simply as the length of skin contact was either not 100% or not quite long enough (one of them just about sneaks in though)
The first wine was actually one Ian was Savagnin up for later but we didn’t want the afternoon to Paille into insignificance. After gaining experience making wine in the Big NZ, Argentina and California, Kirstyn and Brendon Keys set up BK Wines in 2007. Based in the Adelaide Hills, Australia there is something decidedly punk about their approach. Not in a spitting in your face, safety pin through the eyebrow kind of way but more in a non-conforming, art for art’s sake kind of thing.
Savagnin is a tricky one to pin down. Best known in Jura it’s related to the original Traminer variety and a distant cousin of Viognier. It’s believed to be well over 900 years old (so surely best drunk from a Methuselah ammiright?) As well as France’s Jura you’ll find it in Switzerland, Germany and Australia. It’s late ripening and gives very low yields. This sterling example spends one month on its skins and the ages in old French oak for 8 months. It was wonderfully textured with such depth on the palate and more weight than its 11.8% ABV would suggest. The oxidative notes were subtle and didn’t get in the way of the buttery, honeyed quince and herb notes. There was a lot here to get stuck into. The bottle recommended decanting but even without doing so it gave up so much. Well worth a look.
Continuing our journey, not so much through time and space as through vintage and terroir we headed for the Vulcan(ic) Canary island of Tenerife. The island has 8,000 hectares planted to the grape vine and has 5 appellations. Land here has become rather expensive and can reach up to 70, 000 Euros per hectare (still nothing compared to Brunello’s 1 million). I’m the first to make the obvious natural wine, mousy, cider joke but this had none of that. It kept changing and evolving; flavours kept weaving in and out with smokiness, flint, orchard, salinity…all dancing around a recurring note of struck match. That’s not a pejorative either…it didn’t at any point dominate and actually felt as if it was just adding something else into this fascinating mix of flavours.
The wine was 100% Listan Blanco, otherwise known as Palomino. Hailing from the northern, humid appellation of Ycoden-Daute-Isora the vines are aged between 70 and 100 years old. Harvested from volcanic sand the vineyards lay at elevations of between 900 to 1200 m.a.s.l. and only 833 cases were produced. The vines themselves are all original rootstocks too. Everything is hand picked and foot trodden. Native yeasts, some whole bunches and only old barrels are involved and sulfur is only added during bottling (if deemed necessary) 25% of the fruit was skin macerated for between 14 and 40 days.
Envinate is a group of 4 winemaking friends who met in 2005 whilst studying oenology in Alicante. Roberto Santana, Alfonso Torrente, Laura Ramos and Jose Martinez focus on the Canary islands and Ribeira Sacra with a view to producing natural wines that completely convey the nature of their terroir. This wine had a fascinating story to tell and still some way to go on its journey but it was filled with energy and vibrance. It stunned me as much as Mr Worf’s phaser blast.
I may not be a wanderer amongst the stars but I am a palate adventurer of the most dedicated kind. Whatever the future may hold in store I’ve still got plenty of new wines to seek out. Once we do make it to travelling around the stars in some kind of futuristic Enterprise I’m going to plant grapes on the moon. Tranquility Red, it’ll be massive. If nothing else, given the moon is made of cheese, at least I’ll have something to eat with it.
Remember: it’s only grapes.