Back in April, we went to a very special tasting at the Sampler in Islington. We’d long been fans of the Scholium Project, wines produced by Abe Schoener, an ex philosophy professor turned unorthodox wine maker. He doesn’t own his own winery but instead works with unique vineyards around California that face difficult conditions, producing grapes with thick flavourful skins. He cites the opportunity to break rules as an advantage of making wine in California over Old World regions. Expect something a bit different, funky, earthy, something a bit intellectual (but in a fun way).
Abe doesn’t dogmatically adhere to bioorganic rules, which I think is really important. Biodynamic/organic wines are very trendy at the moment, a natural extension of the craft movement. I agree with the idea of minimal intervention, and supporting smaller scale growers. However no intervention at all isn’t always the best policy, chemicals were developed for a reason after-all.
We went around the room, pouring our own generous glasses of a variety of bottles that he had selected for the tasting, below is a sample:
A high acidity carbonated sparkling wine with tartrates at the bottom of the bottle. There were notes of tropical citrus, apricots, acacia. Abe described it ‘like disco, you can like it and not admire it’.
Prince in His Caves-
This is one of our favourites. I would highly recommend it if you are looking for a wine that’s a bit different. It’s buttery like a chardonnay, but also fruity. It is made using skin and seeds intact, creating tannins like that of a pinot noir. Perfect alternative for a roast chicken!
It is rare for the Scholium wines to use oak. Instead their butteriness is created during the process of malolactic fermentation. This happens during fermentation when the bacteria eat malic acid (naturally present in certain grapes, particularly chardonnays), and produce lactic acid. SO2 and temperature control can be used to manipulate the levels of malolactic fermentation. A longer fermentation will typically result in more complex yeasts developing that add a complexity to the wine, something that Scholium wines have in abundance.
Smells like dry figs/fruit withnotes of chamomile and white cherries. It is pale gold in colour. Tastes like peaches and yeast – created by spending 5 years on lees. It is a late harvest wine with 1% residual sugar and an incomplete fermentation.
Is a clear pale wine that smells acidic but tastes nutty and mellow with a slightly bitter finish. It is more floral than the other wines, with a viscose mouth feel. The terroir is dry and rock, with little sugar.
Smells much fruitier, quite dark for a pinot noir tastes of wood and forest fruits. Even if the wine is of a variety that you are certain you do not like, you should try Abe’s version. I’m not always a fan of pinot noirs, but I enjoy this one.
Smells like petrol, rubber and earth. My advice for approaching this wine is forget the colour, close your eyes and imagine a full bodied white and it will be enjoyable. The Cinsault grapes are grown where the West facing sun meets the cold winds (similar to Priroat wines), and has a silky leather finish.
I ask Abe if he thinks that the new technology being implemented in agriculture will lead to homogeneity of wines. He actually believed the opposite, that by using technology to only irrigate where necessary, it will increase the diversity of plants and lead to people having more power to create individual wines. If more individual wines means more winemakers like Scholium, I am all for it!