Auxerrois

Apostelhoeve, Louwberg Maastricht, Auxerrois 2010

Considering how well regarded it is Pinot is a fickle, confusing and rather unstable friend. With that statement I don't mean the wine but rather the grape - you stop watching it closely for just a second and, woosh!, does it mutate into something else. It can be so deceiving it will even confuse you when the mutation is over and it has become something else. Take the white Auxerois variety for instance that descends from Pinot: the first South African Chardonnay cuttings were actually Auxerois and when you think you drink an Alsace Pinot Blanc you could be fooled by 100% Auxerois.

The wine you are looking at here is more straightforward in that, as far as we know, it really is made from Auxerois - but with a twist still as it comes from the Netherlands, a wine region with so small a production that even many Dutch have not yet sampled its wine.

Davenport Vineyards, Limney Estate, Brut, 2006

East Sussex may not be the first place on earth coming to mind when thinking of sparkling wine. And yet winemaker Will Davenport has had a lot of success with sparkling wines made in the classic champagne style since he started out with 5 acres of vineyards in Kent in 1991. I bought this wine from a wine bar/shop in South London that specialises in English and natural/organic wines - the Davenport sparkler happens to be both. The Limney Estate wine is made from 49% Pinot Noir and 51% Auxerrois and has been aged on lees for over 2 years, which seemed to make it an ideal candidate for a blind tasting against a German sparkler.

torsten Saturday, 26/06/2010

Friedrich Becker, Cuvée Salomé brut, 2005

Situated in the southern parts of the Pfalz lie the vineyards of Friedrich Becker. Well, actually, he owns a few on the French side of the border too. Maybe this explains (if indeed an explanation would be needed) why Becker is often referred to as a specialist for 'Burgunder-Weine', or 'Burgundy wines': the members of the Pinot family are called 'Burgunder' in German. The sparkling wine we tasted, blind and against an English sparkler, as part of the Wine Rambler birthday celebrations is a good example, after all it is a cuvée of Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, Auxerrois and Chardonnay (the latter two varietals are at least related to the Pinot family). So, here we have a German sparkler with 'French' varietals and made following the classic Champagne method, which includes having spent about three years on lees. So how does it taste then?

Weingut Seeger, Auxerrois, Heidelberger Herrenberg "AS" trocken, 2008

Whenever I drink a lightly (pleasantly!) oaked Chardonnay these days I think of Tom Aikens, a fine restaurant in South West London. I have not been there very often, but single time the sommelier surprised me with an unusual combination of food and wine and also with bringing out my (usually) hidden love for lightly oaked Chardonnay. The wine I have in my glass right now is not a Chardonnay and I am enjoying it at home, without the delight of Tom Aikens' food. Even so, it brings back some good memories. And it is not a Chardonnay, but an Auxerrois. Auxerrois is a relatively unknown and rare grape variety that can be quite similar to Chardonnay and Weißburgunder (Pinot Blanc).

Weingut Aufricht, Auxerrois 2008

Straw-coloured, on the lighter side.

Ripe apricots and other ripe yellow fruit, rich, some perfumy citrus aromas as well.

Very young and fruit-driven in the mouth, nice acidity, peach and grapefruit notes sprayed onto a creamy body.

This is very much a "made" wine (think cultured yeasts, think low temperature fermentation) and although it has substance, polish and even some spice, it could have been made in South Africa, in Friuli, or some other place where very good winemakers know exactly how their wine should taste in the end. Nothing wrong with that, but it didn't work for me just now. I can't rule out that this might have turned into something with more depth and a sense of place with some bottle ageing. Who knows?

Julian Tuesday, 02/06/2009