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Wine of the Week

Modern Mediterranean Monastrell

Let us start with the conclusion this time: This monastrell is a modern, juicy, “gluggable” wine way up the natural road – but at the same time it is the Mediterranean, slightly spicy, Provencal-herbal, hearty and quite recognizeable.

This particular wine is made by 30 year old wine maker María Jover (born in nearby Alicante) who has a modern approach. The vines are between 20 and 40 years old, organically grown, in the old system of “terraje”. This concept involves renting the vineyard to the farmers, who take care of the quality of the vines. As a bonus the landowner in this specific project 7% of the production is given back to the farmer. This is a very common practise in Jumilla for old vines.

The producer owns some 80 hectares, mostly monastrell. The grapes for this wine were de-stemmed, lightly pressed and fermented with indigenous yeasts on steel, before malo-lactic fermentation and a short ageing in cement.

Parajes del Valle Monastrell 2019 (Parajes del Valle)

Dark colour with a young blueish hint. Aromas of dark and red berries, like blackberry and cherry, aromatic herbs (rosemary, thyme), and a hint of lickorice. Juicy in the mouth, it has a coolness to it, like a fresh, natural acidity, but at the same time a serious southern quality hinting to coffee, or maybe tea leaves.

Price: Low

Food: Light meat dishes, bacalao, Murcian paella, pizza, hard cheeses, and almost everything from the grill

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Wine of the Week

Finca Valpiedra Reserva 2001

Finca Valpiedra is a single estate owned by Martínez Bujanda family. They started out in Rioja as early as 1889, and bought this place in the 1990’s. The finca is located in a bend of the Ebro river, between Fuentmayor and Cenicero. From here they launch wines in a crossroads between tradition and modernity, with some initial oakiness. Among the modern features are organic growing, estate focus, and the wines will reach the balance between oak and fruit after only a few years.

Credit: Martínez Bujanda

Tempranillo is the main grape, supported by a little cabernet sauvignon for structure and graciano for aroma. This particular wine also contains a tiny percent mazuelo (cariñena/carignan). The 2001 was a great vintage in Rioja, and the best wines, like this one, will last long.

Marta Martínez Bujanda and winemaker Lauren Rosillo
(in Rueda village)

Here you can read a report from their Rueda winery, where we also tasted their riojas.

Finca Valpiedra Reserva 2001 (Finca Valpiedra/ Martínez Bujanda)

Dark red with hint of brown. Forest fruits (blackberry), plums, thyme and eucalyptus over a thin layer of roast and dried fruits. Quite big, mature fruits in the mouth, with rounded tannins. In an optimal stage of evolution, without the sweetness of oak, still some freshness, the fruit intact, the individual parts integrated but still possible to detect.

Price: Medium

Food: We had it with entrecôte, and perfect with lamb, roast, game, hard cheeses…

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Wine of the Week

Clavidor still flies high

Sometimes when you feel a grape or a wine region has somewhat lost its direction, there are still someone that knows how to use a compass. It’s not that Rueda is completely lost, but the amount of uninspiring wines, often made with artificial yeast, together with the commercial success in the national market has made it one to “hate” for many. Good to know then, that there are people like Ismael Gozalo in the natural wine field. And among the producers working in a terroir-focused way with natural yeast there are a few. One of the leading ones, but often overlooked, is Bodegas Vidal Soblechero. They are mentioned before, and you can read about a visit here.

They are found in La Seca, located in the heart of Rueda, and the Spanish municipality with the most extensive vineyard. Claudio Vidal has tended the 42 hectares of family vineyards for several decades. Some of the plantings are more than seventy years old. With the climate, the old vines and the airing of the high plain, Rueda is a good place for organic farming.

Today it’s Claudio´s son Vidal and daughter Alicia who hold the reins, and founded in the 1990’s a small bodega built for their purpose.

Vidal and horse

The property is based on the verdejo grape, but they also own some viura (macabeo) and tinta fina (tempranillo). I appreciate their focus on small quantities of single plot wines, and tasting through their lines Pagos de Villavendimia (single plots) and Viña Clavidor (mostly estate blends) is a rewarding exercise. You have by now understood that you should consider this producer when searching for the authentic Rueda.

This week’s wind: The vineyards lie to the north of the municipality. In most of the plots they use the traditional bush vine system. All grapes are hand-picked, fermented in steel, only with indegenous yeast. Grapes from bush vines are harvested earlier, and for this wine some trellis style grapes are picked later. After alcoholic fermentation the final blend is left to age some months on the lees. In fact the wine is bottled every month, so the impact of the lees is stronger every time, as they are never removed. While the first bottlings are always fruitdriven, both complexity and ageing ability are increasing at the next bottlings. Only slightly fined and filtered.

Clavidor Verdejo 2018 (Bod. Vidal Soblechero)

Straw-coloured. Aroma of yellow apples and citrus (lemon), slightly yeasty, and a touch of apricot. Quite full and fleshy on the palate, with excellent but integrated acidity, and more to the mineral than the fruity side.

Price: Low

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Wine of the Week

Greek ancestral sparkler

It’s not often that we present natural wines from this ancient country, but here is a good Greek pét-nat. It’s the Kioutsoukis family, originally from the coast of the Black Sea, that brought the knowledge about winemaking with them to Greece. Now, here in the modern world they completed their conversion to naturals in 2015.

The traditional use of herb sprays are used if necessary, but wine responsible Dmitri Kioutsoukis’ ideal is to use as few treatments as possible.

They own 10 hectares of vineyards in the hills of Mygdonia in Northern Greece, not far from Thessaloniki. They have a strong focus on Greek grape like assyrtiko, malagousia, roditis and xinomavro. In the low hillside an all-year northernly wind secures healthy vineyards. The soils vary from clay-sand to small stones and schist. This slightly off-dry (15 grams) ancestral style sparkler is made from xinomavro and the whites malagousia and assyrtiko.

Kamara Pure Pét’ Nat 2019 (Kamara Estate)

Blood orange colour, turbid and quite bubbly. Smell of red berries (raspberry/strawberry), lime, grapefruit and mango. Good acidity, slightly bitter finish that balances the residual sugar.

Price: Medium

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Wine of the Week

Xarel.lo dream

Oníric and Entre Vinyes marks a new organic project from Maria and Fernando Barrena, also partners at Azul y Garanza, with headquarters in Navarra.

The Catalan word oníric means a dreamer and denotes the dream that the couple had, to take over and rescue old parcels and vines that had belonged to their family.

The grapes for this wine come primarily from an old vineyard in the the Baix Penedés with poor soils and naturally low yields. The grapes were pressed before a fermentation in steel tanks. After a 20 days fermentation the wine rests on lees for 6 months. It also undergoes a partial malolactic fermentation. Then it’s bottled with a small addition of sulphites. Unfined, unfiltered. 

Oníric Xarel.lo 2019 (Entre Vinyes/ Equilibri Natural)

Yellow with greyish green. Floral aromas with yellow apple and apricot, a touch of almond. Good volume in the mouth, good acidity and a slightly bitter finish.

Price: Low

Food: White fish and white meat, shellfish, hard and mild cheeses, salads

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Wine of the Week

Heinrich’s Natural White

In the leading roles: Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc.

With a little help from their friends: Welshriesling, Neuburger, Muscat Ottonel, Grüner Veltliner.

The most autochtonal grape varieties with indigenous character. Originally grown on limestone, schist and sedimentary soils. Handpicked, left overnight on the skins and stems, spontaneously fermented in large, old oak casks. Unfiltered. No sulfur added. Pure.

This is the beginning of the back label text, and it sums it all up well.

Credit: Weing. Heinrich

Gernot Heinrich runs his farm by the Neusiedler sea in a terroir-focused way with biodynamic treatments. His focus is on local grapes, and as such are the main actors in this performance among the minor grapes, the whole farm seen as a whole. It’s not a very small business, but after a more conventional big player start he now shares the principles normally associated with small artisan producers.

Natural White 2017 (Weing. Heinrich)

Turbid yellow-green-greyish. Aromatic flowers and elderberry, somewhat yeasty over a layer of apricot. Over all a wonderful glug-glug, full, with integrated acidity and the slightest bit of resistance in form of a peel’ish hint of bitterness.

Price: Low

Food: Apéritif, salads, charcuterie, fried fish

Finally, as the back label advices: Attention: For best enjoyment, shake before pouring!

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Wine of the Week

Wonderful red in white wine land

Here is another wonderful saline red wine from what many regard a white wine area in Rías Baixas. The winemaker is Eulogio Pomares, who has his own series of wines also, much acclaimed. (See for example here.)

Caiño tinto is a native variety of the Salnés Valley, a late-ripening variety that can give fruity wines with high acidity. The grapes for this particular wine come from a vineyard over 60 years old with granitic soil. The grapes are trodden without destemming, with daily ‘pigeage’ for four weeks in an open vat, where also fermentation takes place. It is aged for 8 months in three year old oak, where also malolactic fermentation took place. Bottled without filtering or clarification.

2017 had a hot spring with good flowering, but the rest of the year proved more or less unstable with quick changes. In September though, the temperatures were very mild, and the result was a healthy fruit.

Zárate Caíño Tinto 2017 (Eulogio Pomares/ Zárate)

Cherry colour. Fresh aroma of red berries (plums, raspberry), some pepper. Juicy, luscious in the mouth, but with a “serious” tannic edge, some spice, and a fresh, long acidity.

Price: Medium

Food: White fish, white meat, tapas, mild and hard cheeses

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Wine of the Week

Kreydenweiss Crémant

Kreydenweiss is a leading light in biodynamic Alsace. They perform well in various styles, and you can find several of their wines on these pages. May I for instance bring your attention to this original orange wine. This time we shall talk about a really good economic sparkler, made with half and half of auxerrois and pinot blanc.

It was created by Marc’s son Antoine, who now runs the family estate.

2015 was a year with sparse rainfall, partly saved by some showers in August. They now another crémant, but this remains somehow an entry-level fizz with grapes supplied by their partners. The quality was good, and as opposed to the year before the grapes were completely without rot. Surprisingly, in spite of the hot summer, the wine retain very well the acidity. Because of the hot weather the grapes were low on nitrogen, that feeds the fermentation, so it took a great deal of patience before it started.

Crémant d’Alsace 2015 (Marc Kreydenweiss)

Light straw-coloured, gentle mousse. Aroma of white flowers, lime, white peach and yeasty biscuit. Fresh style, high acidity, still a bit honeyed and quite full in the mouth.

Price: Low

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Articles

A Emoción III: Stars from outside

Here is the last account in this round from A Emoción dos Viños, 10th edition. There were a number from outside of Galicia, from Portugal, even from France – and Titerok-Akaet from even further away, Lanzarote (in the same country though). Here are some great wines from very reliable producers.

Ismael Gozalo is nothing less than a legend within the natural wine world, and famous far outside the borders of Spain. From Nieva (Segovia), Castilla y León, he disposes of centenary pie franco verdejo vines that has been used for the wines of Viñedos de Nieva, and later Ossian. Now he is “travelling alone”, with two lines, one called MicroBio, and the other bears his own name. Well, centenary is here an understatement: Some vines are no less than 280 years old. I have written about his wines many times, so you can search through this pages, and you will find a lot more information. I didn’t taste all the wines either, because I have done so several times. A short post about one of his lovely Nieva York pét nats was published in late May this year (read here).

Ismael met up with Iría Otero (more from a visit to her place in Ribeiro here)

Ismael is a very hardworking, dedicated bloke. But he also like to play with the rock’n’roll myth. Correcaminos is a lovely unpretentious wine, light, unfiltered, open, “mature grapefruity” and thirstquenching. And naturally enough, because of the name (“roadrunner”), it gave name to his “coronavirus tour”. I guess because of the virus there has not been too much touring, but it’s a cool nod to the rock merchandise business anyway. La Resistencia 2019 (an amphora wine from two different parcels and 4 months on the lees) is also slightly turbid, vibrant, with a lovely acidity. MicroBio 2019 (whole clusters, aged in old barrels): Very light in colour; aroma of green apples, flowers; full, rich, juicy, and tasty with a slight touch of sweetness. Sin Nombre is a favourite, and a house wine by me (when available). The 2017 vintage had some colour, golden with green; aroma of stone-fruit, yellow apples, a touch of cinnamon; it’s creamy, a bit buttery, cidery, juicy, and just lovely. I also tasted a Rufete, (don’t remember if it was the Rufian or a sample), delicious anyway, a light red wine, packed with red fruits, before I moved on.

Ismael with his Coronavirus TourT-shirt

Marc Isart was there, both on behalf of himself and Bernabeleva, where he is co-founder and winemaker. I have followed Bernabeleva for some years. They are located in San Martín de Valdeiglesias in the Madrid part of the Gredos mountains. They work the land according to biodynamic principles, and in the cellar they use whole bunch fermentation and ageing in neutral wood. They generally use low extraction, and I would say their wines are among the most elegant in the area. For the records: They also make white wines, mostly from albillo. Highly recommended. But because I know them well, I chose to concentrate on Marc’s own range this time.

His own project is further east in the DO. Vinos de Madrid, in the subzone Arganda del Rey. Here he grows both tinto fino, or tempranillo, and the white malvar between 700-800 meters of altitude, on calcareous soil that contains gypsum and clay.

In the La Maldición line we tasted the Cinco Legua Malvar 2019 from calcareous soil, with 40-50 days skin-contact, made in neutral barriques. Malvar is related to airén, but is more aromatic and has more acidity. This wine is technically an orange wine, but is light golden in colour, has a flowery nose (roses), also nuts, lightly textured and full in the mouth. I also liked the clarete of the same name and vintage, made with 15% tempranillo. The majority of the rest is divided between malvar, airén and various other white varieties. The wine is light red;, with aromas of raspberry. In the mouth it is lightly textured, with fruit to the end. The red version, again with the same name and vintage, has 85% tempranillo and 15% malvar, and was blended in the cellar. Cherry red; dark fruits (blackberry), some spice; very clean fruit, and good structure. Gleba de Arcilla 2018 is a wine only from this local form of tempranillo, with one year in used oak. It’s dark red; again with blackberry, some spice and coffee; round in the mough, with a touch of wood, that will easily be integrated.

Marc Isart, representing himself and Bernabeleva

Germán Blanco makes wine in Rioja and Ribera del Duero. You can read more about this here, in a report from the Simplesmente Vinho fair in February. Albares de la Ribera, just outside the boundaries of the DO Bierzo to the east. Casa Aurora is a tribute to his great-grandmother who handed down the first vineyard. Albares is in a transition zone between the valley and the Bierzo Alto at 850-900 meters of altitude.

Germán grows three hectares of own vineyards. He also buys grapes from two local farmers. These go into the Clos Pepín, a straightforward red fruits-fruity wine that is pure joy, also in the 2018 version that he presented here. Most wines contain many grape varities, including white ones, and I don’t list all of them here. Poula 2018 is a village wine, a mencía blend from various plots. I found it quite fine and elegant, juicy in the mouth with fine-grained tannins. La Galapana is the vineyard handed down from his great-grandmother, almost 1.000 meters altitude. In the 2018 vintage this was darker, with more menthol, but also red fruits, and in the mouth more structure than the previous wines, with an amount of tannins, though very fine-grained. More structured is also Valle del Río 2018, a 60-65% garnacha tintorera: Deep red, blue tinge; red fruits and forest fruits (blackberry), solid tannins and with a vivacious acidity. The most obvious wine of guard among these.

Germán Blanco, Castilla and Rioja

Alfredo Maestro and his wines I have known for some years now. Originally from Peñafiel in the heart of Ribera del Duero, where he has his bodega, but disposes of magnificent vineyards in both Segovia and Madrid provinces. This time I took the opportunity for an update of some of his wines. There is a lot about him on this blog, but I recommend this article as an introduction. El Marciano is a high altitude (1.150 meters) wine garnacha and albillo land, where Alfredo is doing a great job on behalf of the Gredos community. It’s a fresh red-fruity wine, a bit earthy with some texture, generous in the mouth and lovely, lively acidity, and the 2019 is no exception. El Rey del Glam, now in 2019 vintage also, is his take on carbonic maceration. The grapes come partly from the high Gredos vineyards, partly from Peñafiel. There is no pressing, nor destemming. Carbonic maceration is carried out in steel tanks, then malolactic in the same tanks. This wine is also very fresh, with cool, red fruits, and a touch of carbonics in the mouth. It has just a bit of structure, and can be served slightly chilled.

A Dos Tiempos 2019 is from Navalcarnero, a high altitude village in the province of Madrid and the name refers to the fact that the grapes are harvested twice. Alfredo explains that the idea is that the first harvest gives a lot of acidity and low alcohol, while the harvest one month later gives less acidity and a richer alcohol. Then the two are blended and one gets a fresh wine with balanced, ripe fruit and tannins and just enough structure. It was aged six months in used barrels. Here the garnacha is complemented by tempranillo. By the time I got to his table it had been a long day of tasting and accumulated tannins, so Alfredo recommended a taste of his Brut Rosé to rinse the mouth. A delicious strawberry and red fruit-driven sparkler, by the way. Then I tried his classic ribera del duero Valdecastrillo 2018, from various plots between 750-1.000 meters of altitude. This wine had been ageing in half French oak, half chestnut for one year. A super, classic, yet individual ribera; cherry red, potent aroma of berries with a touch of dried fruit (figs), and a long, fruity finish. After this I had decided to leave, but I couldn’t resist tasting a long-time favourite, the lovely fruity, non-oaked Viña Almate. A really interesting one is the white Consuelo 2018, a full-bodied, citric albillo mayor from more than 100 year old vines in Valladolid and Burgos, with 7 days of skin-maceration and fermentation in French oak.

Alfredo Maestro, Castilla y León

After all these Castilians something from Catalunya: Can Ràfols dels Caus I visited in the Garraf zone of Penedès many years ago, when Carlos Esteva was turning his family estate into one of the most dynamic properties of the region. But they have somehow been neglected by me for many years now, for no particular reason. It’s not that I haven’t tasted any wines, but it was nice to get the chance to meet present manager Rosa Aguado for a real update here. The estate comprises 90 hectares of vines, and other crops in addition. The oldest vineyard is one with xarel.lo from 1948. It was in 2008 that they went organic, and at present biodynamic practises are introduced too.

Here is a brief account of some of the wines: Gran Caus 2018, xarel.lo 50%, chenin blanc 30, chardonnay 20:The colour was light golden, citric on the nose, with yellow apples, and quite fat in the mouth. Xarel.lo Brisat 2019: Brisat is a Catalan name for orange wine, and as the name implies this is deeper gold; it has an aroma of flowers, lemon, wax and honey; full on the palate. El Rocallis 2016, from manzoni bianco: Light golden, greenish; aroma of mature apples, aromatic herbs, lime, mothballs; lightly textured, good acidity, long aftertaste with some nuts. Rosa had brought two vintages of their merlot rosé. Gran Caus Rosat 2019 was very light cherry red; raspberry, some vegetal hints in the aroma; very juicy, with a fresh acidity. The 2018 was more towards peach colour; more forest fruits on the nose; and it showed some evulotuion, some “positive oxidation” we could say. Sumoll 2017: “Fine like pinot, rustic like nebbiolo”, I think this was how Rosa described the sumoll variety. The wine showed cherry red colours; red fruits (raspberry, cherry) on the nose, a little spice too; and surprisingly structured in the mouth. Finally Caus Lubis 2004, 100% merlot, one parcel, oriented towards the mountain: Good colour, a bit brick; good evolution, plums, dried apricot, some cinnamon and tobacco; round, complete, still some fruit and acidity. In good shape. “Pomerol del Mediterráneo”, she called it. Not bad.

Rosa,Aguado, Can Ràfols dels Caus

João Roseira of Quinta do Infantado I met for the first time in the late 1980’s, after he had become the first one to break the monopoly of the Porto/Gaia shippers and exported directly from his estate in the Douro. I started this series with Antonio Portela, organizer of this fair. And I round it all off with João, who runs what we can call a “sister” event in Porto, the Simplesmente VInho, where Antonio also participates. (Look around these pages for many accounts, you can maybe start here with a report from this year’s fair.) João admits that it’s difficult to sell port wine these days. But while you are thinking that port is out of fashion, I assure you: Quinta do Infantado is different. The Roseiras, João and now his nephew Álvaro, who has taken over as chief winemaker, want a dryer style. They ferment longer than usual, so there is less residual sugar and more alcohol. Therefore less addition of alcohol is needed, and it is also added gradually. This makes them more dry, and the alcohol is balanced with the fruit. 

I visited his farm in February, so I just tasted a few wines this time. I simply had to re-taste their fabulous organic Ruby Reserva, that you can read about here. Then I sipped to some of the standard reds and ports (among them the organic tawny) while chatting with João about the times, especially with reference to the coronavirus and the destiny of port in general. Other than that I tasted the wines João had brought from 2010, the year. Quinta do Infantado Colheita 2010, the first ever vintage dated organic port, did not disappoint: Red fruits, figs, dried fruit, a vibrant acidity, balanced alcohol.

João Roseira, Porto and Douro

This was a much too short report over three articles from this initiative in the wonderful Atlantic environment. Watch out for small reports, wines of the week and other stuff. See you again!

And the band played on…
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Wine of the Week

Iria Otero’s Ribeiro

I have met Iria a few times at fairs like Simplesmente of Porto (read a little more here). This summer we agreed on a visit on my way to Vigo and the nearby A Emoción fair. She makes wine in both Ríax Baixas and now also Ribeira Sacra, and they are excellent. But she is literally at home in Leiro, to where she moved with the family a few years ago, after having lived in Vigo and been commercial director of Dominio do Bibei.

When the time was right to make those important changes in life, she started with the Sacabeira label from the Salnés area of Rías Baixas. These are very stylish wines, both white and red. Here in Ribeiro Iria and her partner Miguel grow varieties like sousón, mencía, caíño tinto, treixadura and loureiro. They have one hectare on their own, and dispose of two more. Now Miguel is responsible for the work in the field. They are very clear that the vineyard they want is an organic one with little intervention, but with manual work when there is any, and chemicals are a non-existent issue. If the grapes are tasty in the vineyard, the chances for a good, balanced wine is there.

The project name “wines with memory” implies that she wants to show how they were made in the past, and also that the wines reflect the place they come from. She simply uses the time needed, and the respect that every variety requires.

Tasting and lunch in the kitchen

Here is a lot of granite soil, with some slate and clay. They wines have a maritime character, even though we are not as close to the sea as her vineyards in Rías Baixas. This can maybe be because of the varieties, especially caíño can have a saline touch, and Iria thinks it’s maybe more pronounced in granite soil.

Castes Brancas is, as the name suggests, made from white varieties, treixadura, godello, loureiro and torrontés. It was raised in concrete, where it stayed for 6 months.

A Seara Castes Brancas 2019 (Iria Otero)

Light golden; citric aroma, flowers, green apples and tasteful yellow plums, a bit herbal too; juicy and creamy in the mouth, vivid and energetic with a delisciuos natural acidity.

Price: Medium

Food: We had it with a wide selection of dishes, some of them typical tapas, containing both vegetables, fish and sausages. But it goes well to a great variety of light meat, fish, shellfish…

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