Volume 2, Issue 1: Endless Summer
by Leslie Pariseau
Welcome back. Or, if it’s your first time here, welcome in general.
How about this weather? I’m not quite ready for summer to end, but am very happy to see the breeze chase off the humidity. I miss hearing the locusts at night, but also excited to open the windows again. How do we hold onto this wonderful, ephemeral moment? We should probably drink some wine. So here are a few bottles that will keep you feeling like you’re on the cusp of the season, experiencing each, without having to choose.
Dolores Fernandez Cabrera “La Auracaria Rosado” 2021, Tenerife, Canary Islands
I love these wines. They are in a galaxy all their own, orbiting like weird little planets with an off-kilter inertia that defies physics. The Canary Islands, as I understand, indeed feel like they could be another universe with their old, old vines, trained in long, funky braids, emerging from dark volcanic soils like something from The Dark Crystal. In short, though the Canaries are qualified as Spanish (hello, colonialism), the wines they produce are anything but.
Dolores Fernandez Cabrera is a vigneron on the island of Tenerife who focuses on listán negro and listán blanco, two grapes native to the archipelago that are unrelated to any other grapes in the world. She’s been farming here for many years, fighting to educate the region on sustainable farming practices, and harvesting with a team of entirely women. This deeply pink rosé is made of listán negro. Intensely mineral and savory, it’s wonderful cheese wine. Or steak wine. Or sit in the hammock and watch the trees sway in the breeze wine. Last year’s vintage made me think of Scotch, all ash and camphor, but this year is a touch fresher with evergreen aromatics. (L’Auracaria is the name of an evergreen that grows in the Canaries.)
I wrote about Cabrera for PUNCH’s Inaugural Wines of Right Now list if you want to dig in a bit more.
Meinklang "Prosa" 2021, Burgenland, Austria
Never met a person who didn’t love this wine. It’s pink. It’s frizzy. It has a cow on the label. But this doesn’t mean that it’s without a backbone. Meinklang is made on a biodynamic farm an hour outside of Vienna where wine is just one piece of an incredibly diverse puzzle. “We wouldn’t have the same understanding of the wine without the cows, without the grain,” says winemaker Niklas Peltzer. “The wine is not above the cows or the grain.”
A holistic system, where everything gives and takes in equal measure, Meinklang is a family-run operation that focuses on livestock, grain, and wine. There are 500 cows, 50 mangalitsa pigs, 30 chickens, 8 horses, sheep, and lots of beehives. They grow barley, oats, amaranth, sunflower seeds, and corn among other grain crops with plots rotated each year and let to seed every fifth year. An entire hectare is planted with 200 varieties of vegetables, many of which go to the farm’s new shop in Vienna, and the vineyards are planted with 15 to 20 varieties of grapes, many of which are indigenous—grünerveltliner, welschriesling, yellow muscat, tramina, blaufrankish, and more. Should we all go visit immediately?
This year’s vintage of Prosa—which is 100% pinot noir—experienced a touch more rain than usual, resulting in more acid. It’s juicy, the tiniest touch sweet, like crisp watermelon and tart strawberries. If you could freeze it, it would make a really good granita. When talking with Peltzer, he expressed the idea that wine attracts a lot of eccentric, artistic people, which perhaps means that ego is often involved. But that this is antithetical to the idea of farming. Farming is humble. It’s connected to dirt and landscape and animals that smell funky. When you farm wine you have to leave your ego at the door, let go of the romance, and get out of the way.
Drink paired with this breeze and sun on your porch, in the park, on the roof, or in your bed watching movies with the blinds closed because you got really excited about fall and drank all the wine last night.
Stella Crinita “Omaggio” 2021, Uco Valley, Argentina
Deep in the Uco Valley in Mendoza, Argentina, Joanna Foster and Ernesto Catena farm a plot of land biodynamically and regeneratively (farming for soil health, water conservation, biodiversity in partnership with nature). The story of Argentinian wine is one of modern colonialism with big American corporations coming in, homogenizing land with industrial farming, and making lots of plonk that does little to translate the dramatic terroir of this beautiful country (e.g. generic do-you-have-a-malbec wine). Stella Crinita’s small production releases are the opposite of Big Wine.
Foster has studied and worked in, among other things, Asian culture, NGOs, social justice and environmental sustainability. What she found in common in the natural wine world was almost “a beautiful interaction…almost like a parallel economy.” She, along with her husband who inherited their land two decades ago, have created a super biodiverse ecosystem, including a vegetable garden based on Masanobu Fukuoka’s principles.
“Stella Crinita is the ultimate and maximum fo what our biodynamic farm could produce,” says Foster of the former potato farm, which hasn’t experienced synthetic inputs for many years. They ferment everything spontaneously (sometimes in big concrete eggs, painted with pretty pastiches), use no sulfur, and forgo all fining and filtering. In years past, this wine was a pink and very crisp. This year, the Omaggio pét-nat (i.e. a wine that finishes fermentation in the bottle, trapping bubbles resulting in a soft to zippy bubble) is still 100% cabernet franc, but this time, it’s plum flesh-purple. Where you might expect round fruit, it’s rather dry, but still lively and crunchy. Not terribly far from Lambrusco. Which means, you should probably drink it with pizza. (Hello, Zee’s. Hello, Margot’s. Hello, Pizza D.)
This concludes the first edition of the Patron Saint fall 2022 club. Just in time for October. Stay tuned for limited edition club opps (coming by email soon) and some forthcoming events that may or may not involve pizza testing. .