Last week I spent a few days at Frieze Los Angeles, a big contemporary art fair that brings together people from all over the world. It was the second year at Frieze for Wine Friends. Last year Simon and Vanessa poured wine for a gathering hosted by the Walker Museum. This time, we brought wines for the Tate Foundation Americas, a charity that helps the Tate Gallery London acquire important art works.
It was a short visit, but I was privileged to see artist Brigitte d’Annibale’s new immersive art experience in Malibu. Brigitte has transformed an abandoned house into a calming, serene, nature-driven sanctuary with artifacts from all over the world. Her vision was to create a space where people could find relief from the stresses of today's world. I have to say, after a hectic morning, I felt much more calm after my time there.
Talking to Brigitte about her project made me reflect on the similarities between art and wine. The winemaker's palette is the grapes, influenced by the rock and soil on which the vines grow. When blended with skill, the winemaker can create something that -- just like great art -- tells stories, inspires conversation and connects people through the experience. This week Simon, Vanessa and I found some wonderful wines made from great "wine artists" from Austria, Germany and Spain.
The first wine is a Grüner Veltliner that comes to us from Kremstal in the heart of lower Austria. Richard Walzer and his partner Petra preside over this speck of land and farm it using sustainable practices, hand picking the grapes and paying attention to every detail. Their 2017 Gebling Grüner Veltliner is a slightly richer wine in nature, with notes of grapefruits, lemon and yellow fruits, and a concentrated character. This wine is big enough to hold up to rich foods, such as a sumptuous Indian Curry or triple cream brie cheese. Sipping this makes you feel warm at heart, like feeling the spring sun on your face as the flowers start blooming. A treat indeed.
Up to Germany we go for our second white.
This wine is the result of a partnership between two winemaking families whose next generation came together under the project ‘Fio’. Fio is now producing natural wines to challenge the status quo of traditional winemaking. Though natural wine is a somewhat loose term, it does generally indicate that there was little to no intervention in the winemaking process. The natural wine process uses native and spontaneous yeasts to start fermentation, uses no additives, and no funny business whatsoever ;) Lothar Kettern Fio Riesling ‘Teppo’ 2019 is full of voluptuous fruits with wonderful complexity. Bright notes of lemon zest, honeysuckle, and melon. Again, this is a richer wine that pairs beautifully with a Thai-style curry with coconut and lemongrass.
And for our red this week we travel down to Rioja in Spain.
I love this producer. Dionisio Ruiz champions the alternate path. From pioneering organic and sustainable practices in the region to representing the more unknown grapes of Rioja, he is making wines that are unique. This wine is made from a little known Riojan grape is called Maturana Tinto. It is rather hard to find as a single varietal, and is more often used in blends to add an extra layer of character. And yet, upon tasting this, we wonder why it is doesn't take center stage more often. This is a fascinating wine with a lively fruit character. Full of plums, figs, white pepper and cedar spice and not an overly-oaked overtone in sight. Serve this next time you cook up a chorizo and white bean stew with flamenco music playing the background.