Volume 2, Issue 3: Timeless

How did we arrive at November? I suppose it was each day turning into the next and the next until we came to this particularly chilly one in November. This is how we humans perceive time. The only way we know how is to see it in relation to the past. Because time is relative.

I always feel particularly nostalgic and philosophical in November. Probably because it is my birth month and because I'm a Sagittarius and because weather and pie and the waning sun etc. etc.

This club is backward-looking in a way, but also very much rooted in the present. Each of the wines is produced in a way that feels classic. Whether in literature or music or wine, we often talk about the classics and hold them up against the contemporary. In wine, at this moment, this can mean any number of things, but for our purposes, I mean that these wines are timeless. They are grown and made in ways that defy innovation or tricks.

The sparkling is a snapshot of wines made in Emilia-Romagna a century ago, while the white is from old-vine vernaccia on land the Knights Templar once occupied. This month's red is from a newer producer that allows grapes from the Levante to sing in a way that feels true to any moment in time.

Happily, timeless wines happen to be crowd-pleasing wines, and will do well with anything you're eating on Thanksgiving, turkey to pho to lasagna.

Bulli “Julius” NVEmilia-Romagna, Italy

I'm drawn in by wine labels the same way I'm drawn in by book covers. Old things always lure me in. And the result is that I spend a lot of money on wine with old school labels and books with old-fashioned covers. Bulli got me with its delightful old world look. Roman numerals. Obscure coin sketches. Bookish, all-caps serif font. Keys to my art historian heart.

Born five generations ago in Colli Piacentini in Emilia-Romagna, Bulli makes sparkling wines in a style that has been around forever: Rifermentato in bottiglia or "refermented in bottle." Capped before fermentation is finished, the bottle traps the carbon dioxide, creating a bubble that is more frizzy than sparky. The phrase is on the bottle along with senza solfiti aggiunti or "no sulfur added," which—though in vogue with the natural movement—has appeared on the label since the 1950s.

This wine, made by La Signora Bulli and her son Leonardo, is a bolle macerato or macerated bubble. Unusually, it's 100 percent malvasia di candia (harvested by local retirees), an aromatic white grape that most often appears in blends. It's macerated with the skins for five days and goes through malolactic fermentation which gives it body and fruit. It's fresh but with depth—the perfect wine for a Thanksgiving aperitivo spread or for sneaking off to the back porch solo with seconds of apple pie.

In review, here we have an organically grown, skin contact, ancestral method sparkling, harvested by Italian retirees, made by a mother and son with no added sulfur—all in the package of a classic Italian wine. I needn't remind you that before "natural" was a thing, it was already a thing.

I wrote about Bulli for PUNCH’s Inaugural Wines of Right Now list if you want to dig in a bit more. 

Montenidoli "Fiore" 2018, Tuscany, Italy

Montenidoli was one of the first wines I bought for the shop pop-up last year. Jenni Lynch at Lirette, one of the city's great distributors, brought it to me with infectious enthusiasm, insisting I go watch its winemaker Elisabetta Fagiuloi on YouTube, discussing the future of wine and harvesting olives on her biodynamic estate in Tuscany. It quickly became one of my favorite producers and remains so today.

Fagiuoli makes wines in a classic style that—yes, it may sound woo woo—contain a kind of spirituality, which telegraphs sunshine, soil, and Tuscan soul with precision and simplicity. On the estate, rabbits are bred and fertilize the land. Vegetable gardens flourish and ancient olive trees run wild. Though she makes beautiful sangiovese, Fagiuoli's old-vine vernaccia is what entranced me. Her green label Tradizionale is a great example of classic Italian skin contact. Elegant but with weight and a quality I always describe as "crunchy gold fish crackers," it's a staple in my wine fridge.

The wine in this club is Montenidoli's "Fiore," which puts on display the finest expression of vernaccia. It's made from free-run juice, which means the juice that literally runs free, expelled by the grapes' own weight before they're pressed. It ages on the lees (spent yeasts) for an extended time, giving it a savory nuance. This wine has fruit and minerality, a subtle brine and striking luminosity. It transports you to the hills of San Gimignano on a cool, sunny afternoon beneath a grove of olive trees. Drink it with a bowl of fall greens doused in lemon, a bowl of herbed pasta, or with charbroiled oysters crusted with buttery breadcrumbs.

Evínate “Albahra” 2021, Levante, Spain

Envínate (en-VEE-nuh-TAY) consistently delivers some of the most exciting wines coming out of Spain (the Lousas labels of Ribeira Sacra) and the Canary Islands (the Taganan and Benje labels). Everything is just the way we like it: farmed without chemicals, hand-harvested and made with little manipulation and lots of attention.

The bottle in this month's club is the perfect thing for your Thanksgiving table. Albahra is Envínate's only release from from the Levante—"east" in Spanish—which occupies the eastern part of the Iberian Peninsula along the Mediterranean from Valencia to Murcia. It's hot and mountainous, which makes it ideal for red grapes that can handle the extreme climate. Albhara is a blend of 70 percent garnacha tintorera (or alicante bouschet) and 30 percent moravia agria. The former grape has a red interior (most grapes are pale beneath the surface), making this wine super inky red, i.e. you may have purple teeth. Despite the rich color, it's not heavy or muscular, but has wonderful acid and a velvety quality that will keep you dipping back in for another taste.

This is what I'll be drinking with stuffing, biscuits, turkey thighs, and whatever iteration of leftovers Tony whips up over the days following.

This concludes the third edition of the Patron Saint fall 2022 club. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. Get in on December ASAP and look forward to some holiday pop-up times that will include pizza slices and lots of good cheer + bottles to keep you going through the holidays.


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