A Montefalco Red and a Rhone White.
A Superb Pair from Le Caveau.
Tenuta Belefonte Pomontino Montefalco Rosso (DOC) 2019, 13%
Pomontino is not a grape but the name of this blend of two grapes; one is the well-known Sangiovese (80%) and the other is Sagrantino.
It comes, from Umbria, in a light ruby robe, bearing warm rich welcoming aromas of cherry and berry. No shortage of these fruit flavours on the palate but now the main feature of this light and elegant wine is the vivid acidity that helps keep it all balanced on the way to a dry finish where you’ll note some light tannins (mostly on the lips). Very Highly Recommended.
It has been aged one year in large Slovenian oak casks and 6 months in bottle. Native yeasts are used and it is neither fined nor filtered, total production was 16,000 bottles and the recommended service temperature is 16° - 18°C (64°F).
It comes from the small area of Montefalco, part of Umbria perhaps best known for the tannic red Sagrantino. The vineyard expands on it: “The area of Montefalco, and more generally the Umbria region, can boast a deep-rooted tradition not only for reds but also for white wines. Particularly fresh wines, intriguing for their structure and surprising with the evolution.”
The owner Peter Heilbron is a relative newcomer. About 15 years ago, he was the busy MD of Heineken Italy. Then he and his wife Sabina purchased this wonderful 40-ha property and set aside 11 hectares for the vineyard (the rest of the land is dedicated to woodland, orchards and olive trees).
Heilbron designed his winery, completed in 2010, building it into the clay and marl hillside with subterranean porous walls made from gabions, steel baskets filled with stones. The winery is energy independent, using solar panels for electricity and generating heat and hot water by burning vine cuttings in a biomass boiler.
In the vineyards, Heilbron shuns chemical fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides, using seaweed and plant extracts as a kind of vine homeopathy. He has not pursued organic certification because, in rainy seasons, he sometimes prefers to use a sustainable fungicide to fight mildew rather than copper sulfate, which is permitted for organic use but can build up in the soil and be toxic to bees and other organisms. "I prefer to do it my way," he says. And going by this bottle and the white below, his way is working out very well indeed!
You may well be wondering about the Sagrantino grape, a little known one here in Ireland though once it “used to be considered good for convalescents”, according to Grapes & Wine which goes on to say it is found around Perugia in Umbria and makes intense, tannic and strongly fruity wines.
We enjoyed the white relatively recently and you may check it out here:
Chaume-Arnaud Côtes Du Rhône blanc (AOC) 2020, 13.5%
Straddling both banks of the Rhône River, from Vienne to Avignon, the AC Côtes Du Rhône (CdR) includes over 170 communes and 6 departments: Loire, Thone, Ardeche, Drome, Vaucluse and the Gard.
The main white varieties are White Grenache, White Claudette, Marsanne, Roussane, Viognier and Bourboulenc. Secondary varieties are White Picpoul and White Ugni. This is an AOC wine; for the IGP wine, Chaume-Arnaud turn to Chenin, Chasselas and Vermentino. CdR regulations allow the use of some 22 grape varieties between red and white.
This one by Chaume-Arnaud (Le Caveau also import the red) is a blend of 40% Marsanne (hardy, vigorous, generous), 40% Roussanne (delicate, elegant, and complex) with 20% Viognier (hardy, high alcohol, can enrich bouquet).
Colour is mid-straw, clear and crisp. The bouquet is fruity and floral and that transfers to the palate, with peach, pear, apricot prominent, a beautiful texture and, with fresh acidity contributing, a fine and delicious balance. Serve at 12 degrees (according to the label) and you’ll find it ideal with grilled fish, shellfish, fish stew and goats cheese.
It is a really excellent wine. And we shouldn’t be surprised. While the Rhône is best known for its reds, the winemakers don’t suddenly lose their skills when they turn to making whites. Very Highly Recommended.
“Domaine Chaume-Arnaud is biodynamically managed and comprises of 38 ha of vineyards planted on slopes and terraces around the picturesque villages of Vinsobres and Saint-Maurice, near Nyons.
The altitude, between 200 to 450m, and the cool wind from the nearby Alps (the Pontias) keep the temperature lower than the neighbouring villages and contribute to the natural freshness and complexity of the wines……The focus is to have the healthy, biodynamically grown fruits shine into the wines; winemaking is resolutely low intervention and no additives (albeit a tiny amount of SO2) are used.”
Valérie and husband Philipe, and now son Thibaud, are the family behind the chateau: We first chose to work in organic farming, which seems to us to be more respectful of the earth and people, ….Over the years, we have noticed that not only are our soils more lively, but our vines are more vigorous and our wines have evolved towards a more harmonious balance.