FAQ: Unicorn Wines

FAQ:  Unicorn Wines

There are thousand upon thousands of wines out there.  Finding the ones that are unique or scarce is part of the fun of the job.  So in this FAQ, we’d like to share some of the weirdest wines you’ve probably never heard of, but definitely need to try:  

WINE:  Alessandra Bera ‘Tao’ Bianco
WHY: Only a couple demi-johns were ever made, and it was forgotten about for 20 years.

Epiphany in a bottle; prepare to have your mind blown.  The story of this wine begins with the idea of making a passito Moscato, which alas, did not cooperate and fermented itself dry.  Distraught at the thought of having to throw away their wine, the Bera's placed it in glass demi johns and put them under the stairs...and then promptly forgot about it for 20 years.  It grew a layer of yeast and aged itself sous-voile, like Vin Jaune, transforming itself into something utterly unique.  Only 600 bottles were made, and will never be made again because the wine 'made itself'.  Don't be scared.  The results are amazing!  

Orange peel and almond leaf cookie, light honey, but briny and resiny all at the same time.  Completely ethereal.  Completely electric.   Mitch, Codey and I saw this little bottle at the Louis/Dressner tasting and had to try it; out of the 100 wines we tasted that day, this one stole the show.   We had to have it.  So we pleaded with our distributor friends to bring it to CT, and after months of waiting here it is.  This is the most unique wine you will ever have, and will probably never have again.


WINE: Les Tetes Les Parcelles ‘Tete Nat’ Pet-Nat Rose
WHY:  Because it is a natural sparkling wine made from 1 hectare of vines in the Loire by way of an ancient method of producing bubbly.

‘Les Tetes’ aka ‘The Heads’ started with a group of friends (Philippe, Vivien, Baptiste and Nicolas) whose main goal was to make a wine that ‘wasn’t bad for your head.’  Rough translation being: wine that doesn’t give you a massive headache/hangover. ‘Tete Nat’ is hand harvested, uses indigenous yeasts and has no sulfur added.  No sulfur=no headaches.  They make miniscule quantities of this Grolleau and Gamay rose from less than a hectare of vines in AOC Touraine by method ancestrale, or Petillant Naturel. ‘Pet-nat’ means the wine is bottled before primary fermentation is finished, without the addition of secondary yeasts or sugars.  This ancient method produces a simpler, more rustic sparkler than Champagne, one that is traditionally cloudy/unfiltered.

The end product is also unpredictable: Opening each bottle is a surprise, evocative of the time and place where it was bottled.  However, Les Tetes ‘Tete Nat’ is probably the cleanest, least funky Petillant Naturel I’ve had the pleasure of tasting; strawberry, raspberry, orange peel and a little brioche with no funk factor.


WINE:  Olivier Horiot Rose des Riceys ‘En Valingrain’
WHY:  There are only 17 producers of Rose de Riceys, they don’t make it in every vintage and barely any of it comes to the United States

Deep in the southernmost part of Champagne, in the Aube, lies the town of Les Riceys.  The land is graced with the same soils as Chablis, except here the slopes are planted to all Pinot Noir.   In addition to sparkling Champagne, Les Riceys is the source of one of the most scarce and  unusual wines you’ll ever come across,  but only if you can find it:  a still rose wine made in Champagne from 100% Pinot Noir using whole cluster fermentation and often aged for at least 3 years prior to release… called Rosé des Riceys.  To quote one RDR producer,“Rosé des Riceys is a wine of passion.  If you are not passionate about it, you don’t make it.”  It is also one of the only roses you can age.  

Seriously though.  Our current vintage is 2010.  It isn’t Burgundy, but it is a stunning terroir driven Pinot Noir.  Perfumed, smokey and seductive but fresh and alive.  This is a serious rose, meant for sipping rather than gulping (and its’ a good thing because only 5,000 cases are produced each year in the entire region).


WINE: Brendan Tracey Pineau d’Aunis
WHY:  Pineau d’Aunis is the scarcest red Loire varietal, and this one is produced by a native of New Jersey.

Some of you may have heard of Pineau d’Aunis from coming into the store.  Codey has been on a quest to bring in as much of this rare varietal as he possibly can.  Let’s just say obsession isn’t just a perfume (sorry Foster).  Plus side to this is we reap the benefit of his labors.  Pineau d’Aunis is only grown in the Loire, in very small quantities.  It was once widely planted but was mostly ripped out to make room for the more commercially successful grapes (Sauvignon Blanc, Cab Franc, Chenin Blanc). 

At some point during all of this, Brendan Tracey decided to give up his career as a DJ and go back to school in Paris for winemaking.  He settled in the Loire after working with Therry Puzelat (another producer of Pineau d’Aunis) and has been making light bodied, gulpable wine ever since.  Super fresh, notes of violet, sarsaparilla, and a little black pepper with a tiny bit of spritz from carbonic maceration.  Oh, and if you live in CT you can only get it at Ancona’s.


There are many more of these 'Unicorn Wines' to be discovered, this was just the tip of the iceberg. Questions, thoughts, concerns?  Have your own Unicorn you want to share?  Email me or Codey, or stop by and say hi!



Holly Phillips

Asst. Wine Director


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