Wines with altitude

domaine des muses

Domaine des Muses; image:

Powered by article titled “Wines with altitude” was written by David Williams, for The Observer on Sunday 25th February 2018 06.00 UTC

Lupin Roussette de Frangy, Savoie, France 2016 (from £13.95, Buonvino; Bybo; Joseph Barnes Wines) It may be the suggestive power of all the winter sport on TV at the moment, but the term “mountain wines” has been cropping up with increasing frequency in wine merchant marketing and tasting notes this winter. What does it mean? Well wines from mountainous regions, obviously, although curiously it’s not a phrase that people tend to use for wines from the most famously vertiginous wine producing country, Argentina. Indeed, as Wink Lorch, a specialist in this kind of wine, explains in a typically thoughtful blog at her Wine Travel Media, “mountain wines” needn’t come from high altitude; it’s more of a catch-all term for wines grown on steep slopes in mountainous areas that tend to share a certain freshness, raciness and purity. Lupin’s dry white from the French Alpine region of Savoie certainly has those qualities, deliciously presented with fresh fruit and Toblerone-esque honeyed almond.

John and Mike Favre Petite Arvine de Chamoson, Valais, Switzerland 2015 (from £17.40, Kwoff; Weavers Wines; Bottle Apostle) Switzerland is another source of mountain wines, although in this case “Alpine wines” gives the same sense of their pristine appeal – as well as being the name of the merchant that has done more than anyone to bring these very distinctive and often very high quality wines to the UK. That other British merchants haven’t gone in for Swiss wines in the past is down to price: they’re expensive, in part because of the high production costs on precipitous vineyards, in part because demand for them back home is high. The best are worth it, however, with the local white variety petite arvine a genuine hidden treasure combining that Alpine-stream freshness with peachy opulence in wines such as Domaine des Muses Petite Arvine Tradition, Valais 2013 (from £30, The Wine Society; Alpine Wines) and Favre’s Petite Arvine.

Cantina Terlan Terlaner Classico 2016 (from £17.95, Field and Fawcett; Butlers Wine Cellar; Handfords; Highburgy Vintners) Italy’s finest mountain wines – indeed some of its finest white wines of any kind — are, unusually, the work of a co-operative, whose various wine growing members have their vineyards planted on steep south-facing slopes at altitudes of up to 1,000m in the foothills of the Dolomites in the far northern, Austrian-influenced part of the country known as Alto-Adige. Cantina Terlano has been going for more than 100 years now, making wines that can astonish with their ability to age, and which, when compared to white wines of similar quality not just in Italy but anywhere in the world, are remarkably fairly priced. Certainly there’s a lot going on in their Classico white blend of pinot bianco, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc: tangy exotic fruit, gentle blossomy scents, and a certain smokiness, not to mention that classic crystal-clear, mountain wine freshness.

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