Freaky Advent Wine Notes
Welcome, dear misfits, to day one of the rest of your lives. Let the Grape Witches advent calendar begin!
If you are here then you are a freak among freaks, a Nicholas Cage amongst your fellow Jason Batemans, someone who fashions their pets’ accessories from their own sheddings & watches The Dark Crystal (1982) as their comfort movie. So first we cheers to you, may we howl into the oblivion together!
Meinklang, ‘Foam Vulkan’, Hárslevelü & Juhfark, Somló, Hungary, Burgenland, Austria
Bubbles to begin! But not just any bubbles, the bubbles of a biodynamic legend. Today we greet Austrian star Meinkang’s newest, Hungarian grown pet-nat. Somló is the name of the town, it is also the name of the locally extinct volcano, lounging around & eerily crowned by thousand year old castle ruins (HOT)! The black, basalt bedrock soils give this otherwise breezy bubbles, a fiery, smokey minerality; it is literally grown on the remnants of ancient lava flows, how powerful! A neon go-signal straight out of Beetlejuice with notes of pear drop, lemon curd, kiwi purée & a yeasty, sour, rough n’ rockin’ vibe. Pair with a mixed bag (or two) of gummi candy from the corner store & watching The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Ursa Major, ‘ਦਮ ਮਸਤ ਕਲੰਦਰ' (Dam Mast Qualander), Cab Franc, Oliver B.C.
Shapeshifters drift among us! Is it a light rosé? Is it a Vin Gris? Is it possibly extraterrestrial? A mythological, morphing creature that has taken the shape of a luminous, celestial bear? Maybe through osmosis you will absorb some of its shapeshifting abilities? Winemaker Rajen Toor grew up in the vineyard lifestyle, finding his own path to natural winemaking and helping to convert his family vineyards to organic practices along the way. From a sloping mountain vineyard, consisting of deep sand & gravel soils, we get a soft spoken wine with lightly, freckled minerality. Quick on its feet, similar in colour to a satiny-pink cat’s nose, all while feeling like a jovial, Fabergé egg of shimmering texture. We picture a perspiring muskmelon, honeycomb chunk’d shortbread, rambutan cream, crushed, pink lady apples, mineral water with a hint-of-a-hint of lime margarita run off & falling sunflower seeds. Raj recommends drinking this beauty with the, “classic, classic, Punjabi dish of the people, Dal Makhani”! We would possibly suggest, while stargazing with your favourite pisces.
Keltis, ‘Zan Red’, Zametovka, Blaufrankisch, Kraljevina, Welschriesling, Posavje, Slovenia
A wine fit for a holiday feast of any kind, big, small, short or TALL! Keltis is a wonky & wildly wonderful Slovenian producer we can’t believe you don’t know yet. A big share of their wines are unfiltered, and winemaker Marijan speaks of how they carry life inside of them & along with it, the potential for further development (like parasitic cordyceps – aka ‘zombie’ – fungus, overtaking their ant hosts, freakyyy and delicious circle of life vibes). As dictated by their philosophy, their work with wines is done at the time of the full moon, when the wine is at its peak and can fully express its potential (we can almost hear the howling in the distance as they harvest by moonlight). From 5 hectares on clay-limestone soils, and a quick three day maceration we get Žan. Chamomile crop, baked oranges, salty apricots, sour, white cherries, natural rubber & a porcupine-fine prickle. Pour at ‘friends-mas’, and see who can stand the test of this feral and eccentric beauty.
La Villana, ‘Bianco’, Procanico, Lazio, Italy
A quick lil (858 km) sled ride to Lazio! Like an embroidered, linen, paint-smock, textured & embracing, with a few smudges of genius from projects passed. American winemaker Joy Kull caught the grape bug while working as a sommelier, before picking up, moving to Italy & falling head over heals for the place (& her small town's local shepherd). Grown on volcanic soils that add complexity & a ruched textural dazzle (volcano count 2…we love volcanic soils, can you tell?). 70% of the grapes are crushed by foot and direct pressed, while 30% are macerated for a week to extract supportive and intriguing tannin. Pale n’ rusty gold with laser-like pithy lemon acidity, cherry blossoms, peach, ocean water, cantaloupe balls & honey-glazed pastry for a balanced & beloved mutant. Drink in the afternoon, post larking about in the fresh-packing snow, making snow angels & ice demons!
Les Arabesques, ‘Chopine’, Carignan, Côtes Catalanes, France
Wild, wild ladies for the win! 1-2 PUNCH! Yesterday we gave you the gift of Joy (Kull), today, earth-angel (seriously, xmas tree tops lookout!) & multi-talented winemaker Saskia van der Horst. Beginning as a sommelier, she swiftly moved into working with natural & biodynamic producers (including revered winemaker Alain Castex), before starting her own beloved 4.5 hectare project in 2013. Her penchant for old vine plots aids in accenting and demonstrating her thoughtfulness & skill. The Chopine stole our heart, spicy Carignan from 90-year old vines (!), destemmed, with one week of semi-carbonic maceration for juice factor, followed by 6 months of aging in fiberglass for texture and complexity. Leafy, earthy and salty with intergalactic-violet coloured fruits and a building complexity from the lightness of its lasting acidity, merging to an E.T.-phone-home-esque touch of tannins. Enjoy while contemplating that as late as the 1840s Christmas trees were seen as pagan symbols and not accepted by most North Americans, food for thought!
Scout, ‘Farm Blend’, Apples, Pears, Riesling & Syrah, Cawston, British Columbia
Hybrids have forever occupied our legends from Egypt’s Ambit, a lion/hippo/croc to Hindu’s Matsya, the oldest iteration of a mermaid. Here we have a different type of hybrid to capture your imagination. Welcome to drinkable hybrid heaven, aka ‘Farm Blend’, a west coast collaboration between their two regenerative farms, Scout Vineyard and Snowy Mountain Farm. With over 70 (!) varieties of orchard fruit and berries at Snowy Mountain, they asked themselves, “why are we only making wine from grapes?”. Made with several varieties of heritage dessert apples, cider apples and pears, fermented with Riesling and Syrah juice and skins for a light tannin, savoury, salty & cured note. A Frankenstein, twinkling spritz with a nervy backbone. Expect notes of Flintstone vitamins, fresh picked chamomile, dusty valley road, flashy tangelo acidity, cooled river rock, carrot tops + flowers, darling salted clementine (a serving is two!) & new puzzle box waft. Drink with your favourite merrymaking, cider-loving aunt when you want to really knock her socks off!
Maenad, 'Skin Contact', Muscat, Niagara Lakeshore, Ontario, Canada
Ontario makes incredible natural wine. No, really! Look no further than this categorically delicious and perfectly wild orange wine to gently scare any authority figure in your life. Maenad is helmed by winemaker Yvonne Irvine in Niagara looking to “inspire you to seek out the extraordinary”. Aromatic Muscat was crushed and fermented on skins for 10 days with wild, ambient yeast. An incredibly dreamy, aromatic wine that feels like walking through a wildflower meadow, snacking on toasted almonds and drinking fresh lime margaritas. Unfiltered and bottled with lees for that cloudy, creepy, overcast evening look, you know, when ANYTHING could be roaming in the forest outside your house. A suggestion from Yvonne: “go dance among the trees & feel the warm earth beneath your bare feet”, we also suggest chanting & soaking your crystals under the moon’s intoxicating glow. We have consulted our cauldron, and think the best time to drink this will be the winter equinox (December 21st), but only if you can stand to wait.
Folias de Baco, ‘UIVO Renegado’, Field Blend, Duoro, Portugal
You are blindfolded & rouse in a damp cellar, bound by vines in a dim and shadowy cave of fermentation. "Don’t ask about the grapes”, is whispered from behind a wood barrel. Lol welcome to our Fifty Shades of Grapes, but maybe we agree! Field blends certainly add to the mystery of this Portuguese romance. Innovative, young winemaker Tiago Sampaio began this project in 2007 after spending his formative years scurrying around farms & vineyards with his grandfather. Here, over twenty types of vines cling to angular schist and granite slopes that give dynamic tension and that it factor. Feral vanilla (you heard us), the first pomegranate ever, Campino strawberry yoghurt candies, watermelon perfume, lemon oil & off the charts wet rocks. Drink alongside braiding garlic, fermenting vegetables & molding warm beeswax into small poppets for everyone’s stocking stuffer.
Schmelzer, Grüner Veltliner, Burgenland, Austria
Today is all about reset and we need it, it helps concentrate our powers (magic and otherwise), plus we need time to watch movies and catch up on The New Yorker. This bottle appears to be decked out in a beautiful, hand-drawn, natural still-life, looking like a vintage, Pagan Farmer’s Almanac. This tracks perfectly with Georg Schmelzer, a fourth generation Austrian winemaker who practices revitalizing biodynamic applications such as the utilization of horn manure, ground crystals and herb infusions all in the name of soil health. Yes it’s crispy, classic Grüner Veltliner, but also a wild party animal (Disco Axolotl on acid?). Grown on gravel and sandy soils and bottled without filtering, fining, or sulphur allowing the grapes to express themselves ~ uninhibited ~. Sorrel leaves (think very green, green apple), white peach nectar, citrus rinds a plenty and razor sharp, flinty minerality with hints of lightly cinnamon-ed biscuits. Drink while rolling out a JUMBO half snowman, half dodo bird on your front lawn. You are freaky as heck & we love you for it.
La Ferme des Sept Lunes, Syrah & Gamay, Saint-Joseph, Northern Rhone, France
Say bonjour to spice and that delectably good-STINK – like make your work party think, “wow”, she’s so worldly & interesting, but that SMELL. Think, your lover’s body after a soccer match (sexy), Epoisse cheese (YUM), making your own fish sauce (delicious rot), tending your garden compost (ecofriendly rot) & dumpster diving (not uncommon or to be judged, it is absolutely unbelievable the things that are tossed away)! From ‘La Ferme Des Sept Lunes’ or ‘farm of seven moons’ – sounds like freaky alt universe shenanigans to us! The latest of three generations to farm this 10 hectares of land, winemaker Jean converted to organic and biodynamic agriculture in 1997 & only uses sulphur in his wines when “absolutely unavoidable”. Perched in one of the highest areas of Northern Rhone’s famed Saint-Joseph, bringing acidity and freshness to these moody, savoury wines. Bloody Syrah & fruity n’ floral Gamay give us a fleshy blackberry & grape jelly surprise, with wet porcini mushrooms, spiced blueberry marmalade & violets. Drink while sewing a holiday tube sweater for your pet ferret, Jasper. They deserve the world, and you are so kind as to give it to them.
Šumenjak, ‘Alter’, Riesling, Chardonnay & Pinot Gris, Styria, Austria
For the first time in Ontario, another strange and stellar Slovenian sweetie! Šumenjak farm is a 14 hectare family estate, and in addition to viticulture, they also deal in beekeeping & spirits! Alter is a peculiar blend of biodynamic Riesling, Chardonnay & Pinot Gris that spends five days co-fermentating in open vats to let that good yeast in. Two years in barrel to smooth out its kinks (winky face* not all kinks need to be smoothed out, love yourself & your kinks) & come together as this perfect orange. Orangelo (grapefruit X orange), mirabelle plum, stones in dirt, dried apricots, musky black truffle oil, cognac creamer & Brazil nuts. Drink while watching Parts Unknown, season 11, episode 7, on Cajun Mardi Gras and being so inspired you start making your own Cajun Mardi Gras costume before the episode is even over.
Amor per la Terra, ‘Vinya del Boter’, Monastrell & Friends, Catalunya, Spain
The day has finally come, our last day together, what shall we do? We shall leave you in Catalunya, Spain, to warm your frosty nose, fingers & toes. A red-white blend, somewhere between an intense rosé and a light red. ‘Amor per la Terra’ is a spirited project by friends, Jaume Jordà, Salvador Batlle and Xavi Rutia. We love all their wines, but the Vinya del Boter is extra special. All the red grapes, plus one white grape for fun (and freshness!) grown on ancient, mineral bestowing, calcareous soils, and cultivated without chemical products to avoid adulterating their unique terroir. RASPBERRY, ice cold cosmopolitan, pink peppercorn aromatics, licking a salt lamp, fennel & slurping directly from the apple juice box when you accidentally lost the straw. Our final note, inspired by this wine – love this freaky lil’ earth we inhabit! Every blobfish, oddly human quadruped, sharp-beaked bird of prey & meat eating little-shop-of-horrors-esque plant baby. Sounds like it could be a great basis for an uplifting musical on Bindi Irwin & her wacky family to send you singing into the new year (we’re working on it & think Maya Hawke should play Bindi).