Baga, Loire, Dolcetto and Rhine

Niepoort, Bairrada, Poerinho, Baga, 2015
Dirk Niepoort is a restless winemaker and entrepreneur. His namesake family winery has a stake in every wine region in Portugal. In Bairrada, he naturally looked for Baga, the region’s signature grape. He found his Baga by acquiring Quinta de Baixo and their century old vineyards. This new arrival, courtesy of Eyal Mermelstein, is actually a wine I have drunk before. I bought it three years ago in the Niepoort shop in Porto and I never thought I’d ever run into it again. The winery claims it has aging potential. You can’t always trust a winery site, but it’s true. Like Pinot Noir, this wine thrives on its acidity. It’s a nuanced wine, with 11.5% ABV, yet with surprising, understated persistence. There are fresh strawberries, wet leaves and an ethereal layer of minerals and a finish that combines sweet and salty flavors. Gorgeous.

Domaine des Roches Neuves, Saumur-Champgny, Terres Chaudes, 2018
One of Bourgogne Crown's new imports in 2021. I think this is 'only' one of the mid-tier cuvees but it's serious stuff, anyway. The dark fruit shows a touch of grapefruit, then herbs, as it airs. It's funky at first, but that blows off to highlight dark red and black fruit both, minerals, menthol notes and very good acidity. I drank it over 3-4 hours and the last of the bottle third showed just how excellent this will be. Not that it isn’t already.

Roagna, Dolcetto d’Alba, 2019

How great is Roagna? Their ‘lowly’ Dolcetto is everything new wave hipster producers in Spain, Portugal, Beaujolais et al are trying to put into their flagship wines: bright, racy, lithe red fruit ornamented by minerals, a nose not only complex but whose complexity is emotionally significant. Making a wine out of 45 year old vines in historical Barbaresco vineyards doesn’t hurt. Maybe that’s why the fruit smells and tastes like freshly plucked red cherries and why the nose and finish recall the dust and truffles so prevalent in Nebbiolo, without losing the offhand charm of Dolcetto.

Dönnhoff, Nahe, Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle, Riesling Auslese, 2007 

A truly great Hermannshöhle will knock your booty off with its complexity and tension. It's a great vineyard, but like any vineyard and any wine, it's the bottle you drink that counts. Sometimes the bottle is great and sometimes - less than great. I've drunk at least nine wines from the vineyard. The final bottle was the best, I think.