News January 2024: Reflections on October-December 2023

Admin

I completed the name change of the Company to Same River Twice Wines SAS. All other details, numbers, address are the same. Heliocentric Wines SAS is retired. I aspire to simplicity wherever possible and so it seems simpler to use the name of the wine for the name of the Company. I’ve also got a new email james@samerivertwicewines.com. 

The vines

Harvest finished October 10 for the last ripening Grenache Noir, having started August 17 with the Muscat Blanc à Petit Grains. My partner Laurent has dozens of parcels on around 40 hectares and also looks after vineyards and vinification for other producers so it’s a long stretch for him.  

October started very warm with temperatures in the high 20’s until mid-month and remained in the 20’s all month then turned a bit cooler but still relatively warm with temperatures in the mid-teens through November and even December. It meant the wines were slower to settle down after fermentation and that the vines won’t get a rest until it gets much cooler.

On the other hand we got much needed rain, around 60mm in October, 45mm in November and 40mm in December. Not enough but useful. There were also lashings of wind from time which feel like they’ve become more frequent and stronger albeit not actually menacing – yet.

The wines

2023 is a mixed bag. Until mid August, and despite the drought, the vineyard was thriving with a big, healthy crop which we reduced a bit. Then a heatwave in the second half of August blocked maturity of some vines, particularly the later ripening Grenache noirs. Grapes for the Blancs, Oranges, Rosés came through with plenty of lovely fruit, freshness and purity. I’d eyed up some of this earlier ripening Grenache noir, Cinsault and Syrah for a Chilled Red. So far so good but when I tasted all the reds again in early December I found a combination of slightly rustic, simple and very forward fruit with high degrees of alcohol (around 15%). They’ll be great for some but not for me. So, no Rouge in 2023. 

On the other hand, we made our first sans soufre and certified organic Orange wine. It’s another result of previous years’ trial and error, something we tried and now feel confident to bottle. It’s from 100% Rolle because it was this small parcel which lent itself to the project; and only 6,000 bottles because that was the maximum we felt we could master to ensure stability. I’m bottling it this January 10 in a green bottle for added protection and with a variation on my regular label to signify “natural” (a half moon). I’m really happy with the wine, in particular the structure and outstanding length.

I’m also bottling the Chilled Red on January 10. It’s ready to go. It’s part direct-pressed, part maceration, around 70/30 in proportion, from Grenache noir, Cinsault and Syrah. It looks pale red, feels light and lithe at 13%, with gentle tannins and fresh and lively red berry fruit. It’s also certified organic and I’ll put it in a clear bottle to distinguish it from the regular Rouge. The label says “Chilled Red”.

Blanc and regular Orange 2023 are looking great and I’ll bottle them early March.

Press

I got my first press reviews which exceeded expectation. UK-based Jamie Goode and Tamlyn Currin from JancisRobinson.com both gave glowing reviews and there was even better to come. 

Jamie featured the Orange 2022 on his daily Instagram “vlog” on October 9 and wrote “an interesting series of characterful wines of which this, the orange wine, is the most distinctive”. His audio is a good listen; “the whole range is quite impressive”. I’ll interpret that “quite” in the British sense of “really quite…”!

https://www.instagram.com/p/CyKyNpxqAGN/

Tamlyn Currin wrote on 19 November about all six currently available wines. Her highest note went to the Rouge 2021, 17/20, “This is, quite simply, delicious! It’s complete….; the fruit fills to the brim; the tannins dance; the acidity is precise but curved. It’s fresh. It’s elegant. It’s quiet, understated, kind.” The Blanc 2022 was 16.5, “… everything comes together in a delicious, acidity-carried white-pepper-dusty finish. Really good!”. The Rouge 2020 was also 16.5, “a charming wine with graphite minerality and ripe, gently poached, dark-red fruit. A little twist of pepper on the finish. Like the 2021, understated and elegant.” The Rosé 2022 was 16, “Very pretty”. Only the Rosé 2021, 15, seemed to underwhelm. And whereas I love the cool, vegetal acidity and quiet fruit, Tamlyn found a different character of acidity: “A cheerful rosé with friendly but sour acidity and simple fruit.”

https://www.jancisrobinson.com/tastings/277751 (Paywalled). See my website samerivertwicewines.com for the full complement of notes.

And then, to my astonishment and unbeknownst to me, that most elegant and intellectually challenging of wine magazines The World of Fine Wine contacted me to say the Orange 2022 had placed Top 5 in their tasting of 31 Orange wines from around the world, their first such ever tasting of Orange wines. A big thanks to my British importer for throwing our hat into the ring. I don’t think my Orange is anywhere close to the likes of Gravner’s sublime Ribolla; and it was my first commercial release (following two years trial and error, and many years drinking Orange). But I’m happy to see that my goal of making an Orange that’s both delicious and expresses terroir wasn’t lost on the tasters. The whole piece is a great read; see the tasting notes below. 

(AK is Anne Krebiehl MW. FP is Francis Percival. DW is David Williams.)

See: https://worldoffinewine.com/tasting-notes/skin-contact-white-wines-orang

Same River Twice Vin de France Rhône France 2022 (12.5% ABV) | 92

AK | Golden richness in the glass segues to an almost golden-apricot and peach glow on the nose. Hints of fresh Navel orange and juicy satsuma flesh make this even more enticing. The palate retains this attractive, citric juiciness and enfolds it in a fine web of tannin that adds a lovely dimension to the light, bone-dry body of the wine, ending in a slight almond-skin bitterness. The finish is a lasting note of fine lemon and bitter pith, absolutely mouthwatering and totally versatile. Delicious and so balanced. | 92

FP | Rich deep gold. Sophisticated. This is a very different take on maceration: green raisins and orchard fruit give an autumnal character; there is even a touch of cinnamon. Green apple acidity coheres well with the whole, while the tannic structure takes a back seat. An amiable wine with plenty of charm. | 93

DW | Rich amber-gold color, just leaning into “orange.” Attractive, typically orchard-fruited traditional white Rhône nose; the palate is sumptuously peach-apricotty, the atmosphere drowsy and late-summer garden fragrant, the extended maceration apparent only in the very subtle streak of bitterness that lends contrast to the finish and in the very modest sprinkling of tannin. Fruit-filled finish. | 92

And then there’s music! 

The food of love? In any case, it’s my other essential component to a rich life with loved ones and great food and wine. It was a fantastic year for new music. And I spend as much time with old music; these are fantastic times for discovering and re-discovering music from, in particular, the 1960’s and 1970’s. The end of the year in particular threw up lots of great new music. The following list is a digest of the year. Some earlier favourites didn’t stand the test of even a short time frame; the below did. And, for what it’s worth, these are just my favourites, listened to over and over, and not in any way meant to be a “Best of”. For some comments on selection and the audio, scroll to end. Lists in no particular order and genre in brackets is loose.

Favourite albums of 2023 – New releases

* Lankum – False Lankum (Folk Rock)

* Blur – Best of Darren (Pop)

* Native Harrow – Old Kind of Magic (Country Pop)

* James Yorkston – The Great White Sea Eagle (Pop Folk)

* Gabriels – Angels and Queens (Deluxe) (Soul)

* Sunny War – Anarchist Gospel (Soul Gospel)

* Willie Nelson – I Don’t Know a Thing about Love (Country)

* Jonathan Bockelman – Childish Mind (Jazz)

* Eric Bibb – Ridin’ (Rhythm’n’Blues’n’Gospel)

* Depeche Mode – Memento Mori (Pop)

* Everything But The Girl – Fuse (Pop)

* Eddie Chacon – Sundown (Electro Soul)

* John Foxx – The Arcades Project (Ambient)

* The Vampires – Nightjar (Jazz)

* Brandee Younger – Brand New Life (Soul Jazz)

* The Coral – Sea of Mirrors (Pop)

* Freya Ridings – Blood Orange (Pop)

* Nabihah Iqbal – Dreamer (Club pop)

* Eloise – Drunk on a Flight (Pop)

* Janelle Monae – The Age of Pleasure (Soul)

* Corinne Bailey Rae – Black Rainbows (Punk soul)

* Anna St Louis – In The Air (Acoustic pop)

* Bobby Bazini – Pearl (Jazz pop)

* Jalen Nagonda – Come Around and Love Me (Soul)

* Matthew Halsall – An Ever Changing View (Jazz / contemporary)

* Greg Foat – Dolphin (Ambient Jazz / contemporary)

* The Rolling Stones – Hackney Diamonds (Rock)

* Robert Finley – Black Bayou (Blues Soul)

* Say She She – Silver (Soul Disco)

* Jessi Colter – Edge of Forever (Country Rock)

* Catrin Finch, Aoife Ni Brian – Double You (Classical contemporary)

* Edgar Jones – Reflections of a Soul Dimension (Northern Soul)

* Betty Benedeadly, Braden Guess – At the Institute of Mentalphysics. (Cowboy contemporary)

* Sofia Kourtesis – Madres (Club dance)

* The Lemon Twigs – Everything Harmony (Pop)

* Kara Jackson – Why Does the Earth Give Us People to Love (Folk Soul)

* Paramore – This is Why (Rock Pop)

* Kelela – Raven (Electronic Soul)

* Cleo Sol – Gold (Soul)

* Jessie Ware – That! Feels Good! (Disco)

* Kali Urchis – Red Moon in Venus (Soul)

* Meg Baird – Furling (Country Folk Rock)

* Tyshawn Sorey Trio – Continuing (Jazz)

* Yussef Dayes – Black Classical Music (Jazz)

* Vikingur Olafsson – Bach: Goldberg Variations (Classical)

* Trevor Pinnock – Bach: Partitas (Classical)

* Albrecht Mayer – Bach Generations (Classical)

* Stile Antico – The Golden Renaissance: William Byrd (Classical)

Favourite albums of 2023 – Back catalogue

* Neil Young – Chrome Dreams

* Lindisfarne – Nicely Out of Tune

* Black Heat – Black Heat

* Johnny Hammond – Gears

* Solomon Burke – Don’t Give Up On Me

* Solomon Burke – The King of Rock’n’Soul

* The 24-Carat Black – Ghetto: Misfortune’s Wealth

* Jerry Lee Lewis – Country Memories

* McNeal & Niles – Thrust

* Ike & Tina Turner – Feel Good

* Rita Lee – Rita Lee

* Otis Redding – Complete & Unbelievable: The Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul

* Otis Redding – Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul

* Joe Gibbs, the Professionals – African Dub All-Mighty Chapter 3

* The South Side Movement – The South Side Movement

* The Rhythm Makers – Soul on Your Side

* Led Zeppelin – Houses of the Holy

* War – The World is a Ghetto

* The Avalanches – We Will Always Love You

* VA – Wanted Soul: From Diggers to Music Lovers

* Kenny Durham – Quiet Kenny

* Pep Laguarda & Tapineria – Brossa d’Ahir

* Willie Nelson – Red Headed Stranger

* Hank Mobley – Soul Station

* The Band – Music from Big Pink

* The Band – Northern Lights-Southern Cross

* Can – Future Days

* Dorothy Ashby – Afro-Harping

* Tommy Chase – Groove Merchant

* Marvin Gaye – Let’s Get It On

* Betty Layette – I’ve Got My Own Hell To Raise

* Kenny Drew – Undercurrent

* Joe Henderson – Page One

* Lee Morgan – Search for The New Land

* John & Beverly Martin – The Road to Ruin

* Tony Joe White – The Heroines

* Claudia Lennear – Phew

* Parcels – Day/Night

Input

I’ve listened to hundreds of new albums. I read the reviews quite studiously, in particular in the British music monthly Mojo, plus The Guardian and Daily Telegraph newspapers, on AllMusic.com, and less often Pitchfork, NME and The Quietus;  I listen to friends’ recommendations and look at Tidal’s own “More Albums by…”, “Related Albums” and “Related Artists”.

Output

Tidal is my Streamer of choice. 10 € a month for standard or 20 € for Max Res (up to 24-bit, 192 KHz; which is HiRes Free Lossless Audio Codec (or HiRes FLAC)). I choose Tidal because it pays the artist more royalty than Spotify or Apple and because I prefer the interface to those of competitors plus there’s less AI created sounds pushed my way than, in particular, Spotify; in any case I have auto-play turned off and choose to listen to whole albums rather than moods or Streamer selected playlists. My audiophile friend Mike reckons Qobuz sounds even better but I reckon you probably need his system to tell the difference! 

I’m listening on a Lyngdorf TDAI-1120 Streaming Amp with Dali Rubicon 2 speakers, both Made in Denmark, connected by British Audioquest Rocket 44 cables (Full-range, Banana, Silver).

Happy New Year! With best wishes for 2024 and look forward to seeing you!