A few days ago, The Editor and I dropped via the Clark Foyster Portfolio tasting. We were in a rush as we had a lunch engagement, but we were so glad we popped in.
Clark Foyster are one of my very favourite wine merchants. This is not necessarily because I love everything they sell, but because they have the balls to only sell what they love.
There are no £15 Clarets on the Clark Foyster list, they do not have a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc on there either. That is because these wines do not interest Isabelle Clark or Lance Foyster MW, the brains behind the Clark Foyster operation. Good, they do not interest me either.
Clark Foyster’s list is eclectic and quite Europhile, which must cost them a few quid in these enlightened times. However, when you taste one of the wines from their portfolio, whilst it may be different to what you usually drink, you can tell there is winemaking honesty, real intellectual engagement and quite often a dollop of hedonistic love to them.
I must declare an interest in the Clark Foyster operation as I have known Lance since 1992 – Jesus Shit that is 31 years ago! He ran a small wine merchant just outside Oxford that had the most captivating and alluring range of wines a young wine obsessive could hope to find.
In 1994 I persuaded him to give a blind tasting to the Oxford Blind Tasting Team I was training for our annual thrashing of Cambridge. He gave us the most staggeringly difficult tasting I have ever experienced in my life! To this day I worry that someone is going to hand me a glass of unoaked, declassified white Rioja and expect me to identify it. No! No! Not again…
So, Lance and Isabelle are now my friends. But at Elitistreview I tell it like it is and only recommend 13 out of the 60 wines on show. The others were generally far from being in any way disappointing, but these, I feel, will give you the taste of something a little unusual that burn with explendent quality. Have a read, see what you like the sound of!
NB. I have given the retail price per bottle after the name of each wine.
Axpoint Gruner Veltliner Smaragd 2021, Franz Hirtzberger – £52.24
Normally, after I’ve smelled a Franz Hirtzberger wine, I immediately have to go and run my sinuses under a tap to save them from alcohol-damage. Not this wine, a model of purity and finesse (ok, there is a bit of alcohol there too).
I imagine this is as far from a typical Gruner as it is possible to be whilst still showing a hint of varietal character. It was not all white pepper and an odd gluiness. There was a suggestion of white pepper on the nose and palate, but what this really smelled of was terroir.
The late-harvested grapes that make wine of this, Smaragd, quality level, sucked up the soil and stone surrounding the vines’ roots and the grapes grew ripe absorbing qualities from the microclimate of the site. Franz Hirtzberger must have nursed his grapes through the winemaking process with such care to retail such a detailed, energetic and vivacious expression of place.
Someone I used to know once said, “All Gruner Veltliner yearns to be Riesling, but fails.” This was clearly Gruner and not trying to be anything else. But rather than display the usually abundant unattractive characteristics of this varietal (that make me shudder with resigned disgust when someone pours me a glass. I loathe most Gruner Veltliner – although there are exceptions), the Gruner has unashamedly acted as a rich, ripe fruited and slightly peppery frame to support and show to maximum effect the terroir it has been grown in.
This wine was a liquid photograph of the Axpoint vineyard during the growing season, and what a guapissim year that must have been!
Steinporz Riesling Smaragd 2021, Franz Hirtzberger – £60.35
Just as I pour myself a tasting sample of this Lance tells me that 2021 was the best vintage in Austria in decades. That explains why the tasting the Axpoint was so asteristic.
Being a later-harvest Smaragd this has hints of alcoholic warmth, but on a wine of such honeysome aspect this is completely idoneous. There is fruit appropriate for Riesling, lime and, because it is young, a bit of peachiness.
However, as with the Axpoint these are just here to show how a great vintage can leave the thumbprint of a great vineyard enmeshed in a wine.
It is incredibly stony; you can almost feel the freshly whacked rock chips flying around your palate and up your nose! It has a powerful earth character, earth that is dry and warm to the touch as the sun has shined so very brightly on it.
This Riesling Steinporz simply exudes class and style, it is a brilliant ripe Riesling, a brilliant example of the vineyard and a brilliant advert for the faculence Austrian wines can glister with. Forget the price, this is absolutely amazing. It was with intense egrimony that I had to spit out my little taste.
Balaton Riesling/Furmint 2020, Moric Project – £24.27
A fifty-fifty blend of the two varietals made in a Hungary-based project by the Burgenland’s master of Blaufrankisch. It is certainly a novelty idea.
It is a good idea too, the fresh citrus blast of Riesling is a perfect foil for the rich, slightly furry, Russet apple character of the Furmint. The match of the two varietals is a good one.
It is certainly complex, bursting with ripe character of the two varietals grow in, what one expects was, a warm vintage. There is good energy and vivacity provided by a good slash of acid running through it.
The Balaton is long, with that slightly furry character of Russet apples and a good stoniness persisting long after you have spat (do not spit it, it is lovely).
Want something a bit different to drink? You could not get more different than a blend like this! And it is delicious too! Snap some up.
Pouilly-Fuissé ‘Classic’ 2020, Sophie Cinier – £35.49
It seems the lovely Mme. Cinier can do no wrong with her Pouilly-area whites. This is from vineyards being treated as, but in the pause before they can be called, organic and is given the compliment of being fermented in barrel.
The barrel ferment gives this wine soft roundness and added complexity. Indeed, that softness is greatly appreciated when so many Pouilly-Fuissé’s are so lean and acidic they can be used for etching glass.
None of that character here. It is bright and energetic, certainly, but also has weight and dense structure beyond the acidity. It is very accessible.
There is a nice, long, attractive finish, and it is not heavy or overly rich as can happen in a hot vintage like 2020.
Burgundy is an expensive wine, but this is a good value Pouilly that will show you peaks can be reached with generic vines and thus it provided a lot of pleasure.
Collioure ‘Folio’ 2021, Coume del Mas – £31.57
A blend of Grenache Gris and Grenache Blanc fermented together in barrel.
Collioure is hot and the ‘light coloured’ Grenache siblings can get very ripe. It is no surprise that this clocks in a 14%. However, it is far from only being useful as lighter fluid.
There is great fruit to this wine, peachy, passion fruity, tropical kinds of delights. Quite delicious.
Amazingly, the acidity and bright, vivacious mineral character keep it all in perfect harmony and stop it getting blowsy. It is alive with fruit whilst being energetic and lively.
OK, it is a bit broad, but that is why one drinks Grenache Gris and Blanc! If they both found it easy to sit next to each other on a bus they would be different grapes you were drinking.
This is a lovely example of Grenache Gris and Blanc blended to make an entertaining, highly drinkable and quite balanced wine. Deee-lish!
Vinho Verde Alvarinho Contacto 2021, Anselmo Mendes – £20.44
It is very good that Anselmo Mendes has decided to show lowly Vinho Verde a bit of love.
He has made it from a serious grape varietal and experiemented by giving it 12 hours of skin contact prior to pressing the juice off the skins and fermenting it. NB. 12 hours of skin contact definitely does not make this an orange wine.
There is the expected fresh, vivacious character of Vinho Verde, but it shows greater sophistication of fruit by being made from a serious varietal. It is quite delicious and has more than hints of complexity.
These are enhanced by some astringency from the skin contact, making this a remarkably complex, deliciously fruity Vinho Verde that lacks nothing in terms of the vital energy one expects from such wines. Lovely.
Strathbogie Riesling RS20 2022, Mac Forbes – £30.08
This is not the most complex Riesling in the world, far from it! You would be disappointed if you were expecting that from Mac Forbes’ fighting Riesling.
It is a light, deliciously fruity wine that has enough acidity to keep the 20g/l residual sugar harmonious and the wine perky.
One gets a sense that there is a bit of minerality in there somewhere, trying to add a bit of complexity to the wine, but this is really an easy quaffer for drinking in an uninhibited manner with unabashed pleasure.
Its moderate alcohol level will not tire you out. This is exactly the kind of thing you will want to drink all day on a warm summer’s day by the pool, and everything about the wine encourages you to do so with gusto.
It is yummy, funny and scrummy – an easy drink that presses the right buttons.
Moric Reserve Blaufrankisch 2020, Moric – £43.05
Made from plots of mature vines from different terroirs across Burgenland and matured in large, old oak vats for 18 months.
If you like Pinot Noir with a bit more rigour but are not prepared to go for the full-on tongue leather tannin and acid stomach agony of Nebbiolo, then this is the wine for you.
It was a deep, concentrated nose of delicious fruit, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries. It is highly attractive and quite Pinot in character.
The palate has this fruit but it is also very tannic. So tannic that it is a bit of a surprise after smelling the delicious fruit nose.
The fruit is well supported by the tannic structure and kept brisk by good acidity. It is a touch butch, but the harmony is there.
Undoubtedly a different wine to those of us more used to the softer charms of Pinot Noir, but it is still very good.
Morgon ‘Le Charmeur’ 2020, Domaine Xavier Thivolle – £24.81
No carbonic maceration-bubblegum on the nose, but lovely, layered, rich, dark fruit. Quite ‘Le Charmeur’! I would suggest that coming from a big, ripe vintage like 2020 helps with all the love on display with all this fruit.
With that delicious fruit there is a hint of sandy earthiness, it’s quite appealing! No wood on show, but this nose is structured like a proper wine, rather than some ‘drink with alacrity’ artifice.
The palate doesn’t have much tannin, but there is a good fruit/acid harmony here, and with some wines it is fine to have a structure of this style. This is one of those wines.
There is good concentration of fruit flavours, a hint of earthiness as well. These swirl around with the acid to create a balanced whole that has some complexity and a lot of deliciousness.
A damned good Beaujolais. If you are one of those odd people into ageing Beaujolais for extended periods, this would be just the thing for you. Everyone else can get some and enjoy it with no rush to drink up.
Pinot Noir Yarra Valley 2021, Mac Forbes – £28.35
Made from percribated parcels of Pinot throughout the Yarra Valley and aged for 12 months in old oak barrels.
Mac Forbes makes the perfect Bourgogne Rouge in the Yarra Valley! Why don’t Burgundy producers do this? Release wine young protected by the cleanliness of a screw cap.
And is not it scrupulously clean? And very fruity too, this is exactly what a young drinking Pinot should be like!
The tannins are soft and approachable, the acidity is not too high, and it has low alcohol – just what one wants!
OK, it is not complex, but that is just fine. This is taking on and thrashing almost all Bourgogne Rouges at their own game. It has accessibility in spades and a picture gallery of attractiveness.
Nigh-perfect young drinking Pinot Noir.
Eiswein Goldmuskateller 2019, Helmut Lang – £29.10 (per half bottle, if I recall correctly)
146g/l residual sugar.
Jacques Seysses likes Helmut Lang wines, I like Helmut Lang wines, what sort of antithalian does not like Helmut Lang wines?
Yes, it is pretty god-damned sweet, but there is a bit more to it than that. I say ‘a bit’ because, although Helmut Lang wines are drool-inducingly delicious, they are not terribly complex.
There is good, highly expressive, somewhat floral fruit. Tropical, fun, scrumptious!
The process of the grapes freezing has to remove water from the grape must has also concentrated the acidity in the wine. However, there wasn’t that much acidity in the wine to start with, so this is not as searingly acidic as, say, a Riesling Eiswein.
But who cares? It is affordable, it is nicely sweet, it is charmingly fruity. You cannot go wrong with this!
Vinsanto First Release 2015, Estate Argyros – £49.47 (for 50cl, if memory serves)
Made from Assyrtiko, Aldani and Athiri, sun-dried, 4 years in barrel, 3 years in tank. 240g/l residual sugar.
If the Lang was simple, this is scintillatingly complex – there is so much going on here.
Yes, it is oxidative, with high volatile acidity, but it also has got an abundance of candied fruit aromas and flavours all of which intertwine with good acidity to make a remarkably complex fruity drink.
It is so sweet it might actually go with a dessert (most sweet wines are not sweet enough to do so), and it has enormous persistence of its complex flavours.
Even though it is oxidative and charged with VA, it is very attractive and incredibly moreish and you would have to be weird not to be concupiscentious of this wine. It is just so…. good!
Buy it, be a gulchcup and enjoy it to the last drop. It is so complex and so delicious, enjoy!
Clark Foyster Wines’ website is here.