Notes on tonight’s wines:
Domäne Wachau Federspiel Grüner Veltliner 2018, 12.5%, £9.95
“This is the second vintage for us of this remarkable find, of which the 2017 came out top in our Wine Champions competition. The 2018 is ripe and a little more generous than the taut 2017. With stone fruit flavours and a nice twist of lime, this is a wonderful value Austrian white.”
Where you’ll find the domaine in Austria
Domäne Wachau is situated in the heart of the Wachau Valley, one of Europe’s oldest cultural landscapes. The Wachau is a gorge of only 33 km in length. Steep slopes terraced with dry stone walls, fortressed mountains, vineyards, orchards, rare flora and fauna as well as a rich cultural tradition make this a unique area in all of Europe. For this reason, the Wachau has also been named a World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.
Wine has been cultivated in the Wachau for centuries. Primary rock soil, an exceptional climate and terraces overlooking the Danube River have great influence on the tremendous quality of the Wachau wines.
Close to 440 hectares of vineyards are cultivated by the members of this quality-oriented cooperative – that makes 30 percent of the entire Wachau vineyard area. Oenologist Heinz Frischengruber works together closely with the Domäne Wachau vintners to ensure quality.
Domaine Wachau’s location along the Danube
The Domäne Wachau vineyards are found throughout the Wachau on the steep dry stone terraces on both sides of the Danube River. The costs of cultivating wines on the terraced slopes are many times greater than on the valley floor. If one also considers the extremely low average yield of 5 tonnes/ha, one can understand why the cost of vineyard cultivation in the Wachau is five times higher than in flat regions where mechanization is possible. The predominant grape variety at Domäne Wachau is Grüner Veltliner and makes up 70% of the vineyard area.
A map showing Durnstein, one of the villages where you’ll find Domaine Wachau’s vineyards.
Grapes for Grüner Veltliner Federspiel are sourced from vineyards throughout the Wachau valley. A major part of the grapes are carefully hand-picked from vineyards surrounding the villages of Weissenkirchen, Spitz, Dürnstein, Rossatz-Arnsdorf and Mautern. The wine exhibits a very typical and consistent style of Grüner Veltliner from Wachau with plenty of fruit.
Their baroque ‘cellar palace’!
The winery suggests serving the wine well-chilled at 9°C, and to either drink young or age for up to three years. They say it’s perfect for Wiener Schnitzel, poultry and a wide range of fish dishes.
Corbières Grande Cuvée, Castelmaure 2015, 14.5%, £13.50
"From one of the best co-ops in the business, this is sourced from the Fitou end of Corbières, close to Roussillon. Intense in colour, super-generous, rich and deeply expressive wine, this is especially rich in the 2015 vintage. Outstanding.”
The co-operative Cave de Castelmaure was founded in the 1920s, and today consists of 65 members, 15 of whom are responsible for around 85% of the company’s output.
Corbieres, close to Roussillon
Embres & Castelmaure is the fusion of two villages, deep in the Corbières, surrounded by mountains and adjoining the vineyards of Fitou. This is frontiersman country, wild in terrain and, for most of the year, windswept too. The location may feel like the back of beyond, but the co-operative is modern, innovative and among the best run anywhere.
Castelmaure’s location in more detail
Of the 350 hectares most is dedicated to the production of red wine. 90% of Castelmaure’s production is red, with 80% of this classified AOC Corbières. The company grows the major Corbières grape varieties (grenache noir, syrah, carignan, and mourvèdre). These are grown on a variety of soils: schist, limestone, alluvial river wash and clay-chalk.
Castelmaure in even more detail!
To keep quality levels high among such varietal diversity, the team employs rigorous quality control: the vineyards are split into 760 individual parcels, the details of which are recorded electronically. Each plot is monitored by its own technician, who is responsible for pruning, ploughing, yield- management, sorting and selection, all of which is done with the environment in mind.
The difference between a truly good co-op and a mediocre one is usually the people involved, and Castelmaure is no exception. The president is the dynamic and mildly eccentric Patrick de Marien, who has both vision and flair, and has been the creative genius behind the labels, the cuvées and the names.
His right- hand man is Bernard Pueyo, a burly bear of man, deeply entrenched in the Corbières and the creator of so many delicious wines. Another force has been Michel Tardieu, a lone-ranging Rhône negociant whose consultancy skills have injected winemaking know-how from both the Rhône and Burgundy. So remote is Embres & Castelmaure, yet so open to the world around.
Only top-quality grapes are accepted. These are then processed using excellent modern technology, including temperature-controlled vats and an ultra-modern pressing machine, which contribute to a more authentic expression of the terroir. This wine, made from grenache from 20-year-old vines, syrah (20yo) and carignan (40yo) has spent a year in 220l Bordeaux barrels.
They say it should be drunk at 16°C and not decanted, to accompany grilled duck breast, side of beef or woodcock (if you happen to have one handy!).