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A Good Cup of Tea Makes Great Wine

All too often in the wine world, I see the use of chemicals to stop disease or supposedly improve the soil. The result is usually a wine that does not have a deep connection with its terroir and lacks the authenticity that defines a great wine in my book. I have found that balance in nature creates balance in wine, and this balance is imperative to creating a wine that can be appreciated young while also having the potential for great evolution in the cellar.

This week we have two cellar-worthy wines that are made with this deep care for nature.

Pierre Menard Le Clos des Mailles Chenin 2017($43) is made by a young winemaker who was given a tiny plot of old Chenin Blanc vines carved out from his parents’ vineyard on a steep hillside in Anjou, France. As a Brit, I've always known a cup of tea could solve everything, so I was impressed when I came across Pierre Menard making tea in his vineyard. It wasn't PG Tips, but an herbal concoction made from a maceration of horsetail, nettle, yarrow, wicker, dandelion, chamomile, and fern, which he sprays on his vines to protect against disease and provide important nutrients.

The result is a stunning wine of both breadth and depth. Notes of apricot, quince, Meyer lemon, and spices are held together with a wonderful mineral tension from the blue quartz and schist in the vineyard. Wines like this have a timelessness to them that always inspires me to take a pause.

Pair this with mussels in a cream and blue cheese broth, or whip up some Gourgeres (little cheese puff pastries) and serve warm to friends with a glass of this wine.

Jagini Blaufrankisch 2012($55) is one for the cellar and those special nights indeed. This is another of Roland Velich of Moric's joint ventures, this time with Hans Schuster of Burgenland, whose grandfather was one of the original Blaufrankisch producers in the area. They create just one wine from Schuster's vineyard aimed at showcasing the potential of the terroir. It is a serious, brooding wine with fantastic rich bramble depths that just go on and on. At 9 years old, the tannins are beginning to soften, reminding me of a great Barolo in its structure and complexity. I would serve this with a rare bistecca and some grilled mushrooms. Enjoy it now or put it away to age another 5-10 years.

Note that both of these wines are limited in quantity as only small amounts make it to US shores. For the Jagini there is a 6-bottle limit per person to make sure we have enough to go around.

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