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Brighton & Hove: Scenes from an Italian restaurant

Before London’s Real Wine fair I usually go down to Brighton for a couple of days. Here is a new discovery.

After having been a bartender at Brighton’s excellent Plateau wine bar Johan Fredrik Claesson, Swedish-born, took a job in the newly opened Cin Cin in a “chain” of two. Here at Cin Cin Johan has total control over the selection of wines, and the closing time is earlier – that would be the two main reasons that he decided to move.

Cin Cin Hove is a neighbourhood restaurant, in Hove to be accurate, that since 2000 has formed a city together with Brighton. It is an Italian restaurant, with carefully prepared small plates. I had Agnolotti (a type of pasta typical of Piemonte) of garden pea and smoked ham hock and Crème brulée (an exception to the Italian).

Johan suggested a flight of four wines. First came the Arcese 2017 (VIttorio Bera), the name put together from the arneis and cortese grapes that normally make up this wine. It’s a skin-contact white from the Asti area in Piemonte, golden in colour, aroma of white flowers and some peel character, a cool acidity and some carbonic that adds to the freshness. Quite easy to drink, after all. The second was an aged Barolo, Boscareto 2007, that we soon shall give some special attention. Then, the Bianchdùdùi 2000 (also from Bera), a moscato aged like a sherry under ‘flor’ for 16 years. Despite of this it’s very fresh. It shows nice herbal aromas, it’s quite dry in the beginning, it’s full but not heavy, some texture, and with a touch of bitterness in the finish. Bukkuram Sole d’Agosto, a Passito di Pantelleria 2016 from Marsala based Marco de Bartoli, was the last wine according to the original plan. The colour is amber, it’s concentrated and intense, with scents of dried apricots, dates, but also some citrus (orange). It’s sweet of course, but beautifully balanced by a long acidity.

Some “obscurities” were thrown in along the way too, among them Therìa 2017 (Alberto Loi, Sardegna), a yellow coloured wine, slightly pétillant and rich at the same time, with notes of flowers, dried fruits, spice, made from the vermentino grape.

When I started to write this piece my plan was to present the Barolo in my wine of the week column, and I had a look at the background of the producer and the wine. So even if my focus shifted I still want to give it a special mention. Here we go.

Principiano Ferdinando is a young winemaker, third generation, and in charge of the family estate in Monforte d’Alba since 1993. In 1946 the six hectares were planted in Serralunga d’Alba, that were to become the plot where they source the grapes for their top wine Boscareto. In the Serralunga very few take the risk to run the plots organically, but Principiano’s vines stand out. The only treatments are copper, and some sulfur only when necessary. The soils are calcareous, with very good drainage, and various crops are planted to help creating a functioning biodiversity and to add to the health of this south-west facing vineyard. In the cellar only natural yeast is employed for fermentations, and the sulphites are kept to a minimum. The barrels are big and old, Slavonian and French oak.

Boscareto 2007 (Ferdinando Principiano): Developed, cherry colour; intense aroma of mature red berries (cherry), forest fruits, spice and smoke; in the mouth it’s concentrated, yet with fine silky tannins, long. A lovely wine with still some years to go. The price is quite high, but worth it.

Next time in Brighton I suggest you pay Johan and his collegues a visit. It’s less than half an hour’s walk from the city centre, and the buses go west along the Western Road all the time. There are passionate wine people who gladly share of their knowledge and enthusiasm. Recommended.

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Wine bars and restaurants and Wine of the Week

Stay Brave at Elliot’s

Finally I got the chance to visit Elliot’s wine bar in Borough Market, on the south side of the Thames. The occasion was not only that I was in London for the Real Wine fair, but also that I visited the new big sax shop at nearby Blackfriars. In the wine bar I had three wines, among them Testalonga‘s Stay Brave.

Elliot’s opened in 2011 and has from the beginning offered a simple menu based on good ingredients in season. They deal directly with fishermen and farmers, all of them with a focus on sustainability. They cook over a wood fired grill, and the wine list is exclusively comprised of natural wines from small artisan growers.

I had two small plates, first courgette, broad bean & herb salad, then beef tartare with green peppercorn, parsley and smoked Wensleydale (Yorkshire cow’s milk cheese). And several of the waiters have the knowledge to guide you through the wines.

I started with a Catalan white, Nar i Tornar 2017 (Vinya Ferrer), mainly garnacha blanca and some macabeu, a tasty and slightly cloudy non SO2 wine. It showed a slight mouse taint, but was nevertheless good. It was followed by a Côtes du Rhône 2017 (Dom. Aphillantes), an un-oaked grenache-carignan-mourvèdre blend; young, dark fruit, spice (but not the sweet oak style), and luscious, drinkable at the same time that it also has some light fine-grained tannin.

From the “last pour” section (not on the list and changes according to what has been opened) I had a wonderful wine from Testalonga. This is Craig Hawkins’ project in Swartland, South-Africa, and one of my favourites right now (I have two opened chenins of his in my fridge at the time of writing).

Stay Brave 2018 is pure chenin blanc. The names in the producer’s Baby Bandito series come from the encouragements you give a child, and the colourful labels are inspired by street artist. It’s made in steel, with 11 days of skin-contact and bottled un-filtered. It’s a low alcohol (10,5) and high acidity (6,5-7g) wine.

Stay Brave 2018 (Testalonga Wines)

Yellow. Smells of fresh green apples, citrus (lemon), white flowers and gingerb. Very fresh, fruity, quite concentrated, mineral and super elegant.

Price: Medium

Food: Worked well with my herbaceous, green plate. Can go with white  fish, grilled fish, light meat, Asian and a variety of cheeses

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Wine of the Week

French Fusion

I am back in Brighton for the Real Wine fair that is coming up, starting on Sunday. And I am back at Plateau, the natural wine temple close to the city hall. (See one of several write-ups here.)

This time one of the wines is the Fusion 2017, a varietal gamay made by Vincent Marie of Domaine No Control, in Auvergne, some 150 km west of Lyon.

He explains on the website that the wine is named after a music style that he likes very much, in this case it’s the mixing of hip-hop and energetic rock. The wine is pure gamay, but it’s a fusion between gamay from Auvergne and gamay from Beaujolais, and also between two types of vinification.

The parcel is south-facing, and the vines between 15 and 110 years old. The wine is made using whole bunches in two vats of fiberglass. In the first vat the grapes were trodden to make som space in the vat, then maceration of whole bunches. In the second there was carbonic maceration. Then the two were blended, and macerated for three weeks – without any additions.

Fusion 2017 (Vincent Marie, Dom. No Control)

Light cherry red. Fruity, violets, red fruits (raspberry, cherry) and blueberry on the nose. Juicy, kind of soft, but has also some fine-grained tannins.

Price: Medium

Food: Light meat, charcuterie, salads, bacalao and grilled fish

 

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Articles

Visiting l’Empordà

Before the Vins Nus and Vella Terra wine fairs started in Barcelona I took the opportunity to travel around l’Empordà – together with a good friend, Malena Fabregat, wine writer and distributor.

We visited two producers of natural wine, one well-established classic, and one up-and-coming estate, both in the same vicinity – Carles Alonso and La Gutina.

Carles Alonso is maybe the foremost  pioneer of Catalan natural wines, having started back in the late 1970’s. He is certainly not the most well-known figure, but this is only due to the fact that he has never seeked the limelight, and it has not been necessary either, as he has easily sold everything from his bodega at the entrance of the Els Vilars village.

Carles is self-taught, and he hasn’t felt it necessary to join either fashions or denominations. He owns between 4 and 5 hectares of vineyard, and there he works about 10 varieties, most local, but also some foreign that have adapted well in Catalunya. He does all the work himself. -My daughter helps me a bit though, he admits, -and of course at harvest times there are many people here.

The altitude is never really high in l’Empordà. Here we are about 15 km from the sea and at 230 meters altitude. The Tramontana wind is always noticeable in the area. Carles has a lot of knowledge, and likes a good discussion, and some good jokes. After having joked about bad things in France (politics and weather) he gets more serious: -I am from the Mediterranean, born in Barcelona. So this is my terroir. I make strong, thick wines, full of alcohol. I harvest only 0,5 kg per plant, never prune in green, I never move a leaf… And I harvest late (i.e. September). Many look for acidity, and the only thing they get is acidity.

Carles explains to Malena

The wines ferment in clay amphora, and never see any oak. He makes white and red wine. But it’s the sparkling wines from the ancestral method that are the most prominent.

No chemicals are ever used either in the vineyard or in the cellar. The wines ferment with their own yeasts, without added sulfites, or any other additive of any kind.

We tasted his Blanc Petillant (macabeu, xarel.lo, garnatxa blanca, parellada and chardonnay) both 2009 and 2018. It was quite dark at his desk, but the 09 seemed dark yellow towards orange, smelled of pears, plums and mature apples, was rich and with generous alcohol, but balanced and harmonious. -It is its own category in a way, Carles said, and we could well agree to that. The 18 followed the same line, at 13,8% alc., but was obviously younger. Light straw colour; pear, some citrus (lime); full, with some oxidation (a touch of bitter almonds).

-I used to offer fresh wines, he says. -Like make 4.000 bottles of rosé and sell it to tourists. But in 2001, after I discovered how good a mature wine could be. Then I started to lay some years behind, on purpose.

We also tasted two reds, the Carriel dels Vilars Tinto (garnatxa, syrah, cabernet sauvignon, carinyena) 2018 and 2007. The 18 was dark red with lovely fruit, still some carbonic, and obviously still with an ageing potential. The 07 had no oak, -I am totally against it, he stresses. Ok, I see that old oak can work for micro-breathing, but it’s not for me. It was cherry red with mature nuances; smell of plums, cherry and some compote; drying a little in the mouth, but still full of life.

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Wine of the Week

From the Friulian frontier

Castello di Rubbia has been highlighted before. Here you can read more about their Friulian wines and their estate near the Slovenian border.

Just a brief introduction: They are found in Carso, called Kras on the other side. Their village is San Michele di Carso, where they dispose of the 13 hectares historic Ušje vineyard, with its rocky terrain of limestone and red soil. The winery enjoys long macerations and fermentations with indigenous yeasts.

This wine is made from around 20 years old vitovska vines. Manual harvest is carried out quite late, towards the end of September. The grapes are de-stemmed and fermented with natural yeasts in steel vessels and macerated on the skins for around 20 days. While fining is done naturally over a period of 1 to 1 and a half years, the wine also undergo malolactic fermentation. After three years it’s then bottled without filtration.

 

Vitovska 2013 (Castello di Rubbia)

Dark yellow/golden. Intense aroma of white flowers, herbs or hay, dried fruits, and a touch of honey. Full on the palate, good concentration, and a stony minerality.

Price: Medium

Food: Very versatile, and can go well with light meat, rice dishes, omelettes, salads and vegetables, charcuterie, Asian, seafood…

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Wine of the Week

Aragonese macabeo against the stream

I had two wines from Bodegas Frontonio at a tasting this week. They are found in Valdejalón, a non-DO area within a triangle formed by Campo de Borja, Calatauyd and Cariñena – and not far from Zaragoza, capital of Aragón. It comprises the area around Jalón, a tributary to the Ebro river.

(Credit: B. Frontonio)

The people behind the Frontonio project are Fernando Mora (one of Spain’s new Masters of Wine, who started to make his own wine in 2008) and his friends Francisco Latasa and Mario López.

On their website they refer to a local legend from the Roman times, when the head of patron saint Frontonio was thrown into the Ebro near Zaragoza, but later found upstream along the banks of the Jalón in Épila, the village where they are located. They compare this tale to their own story, suggesting that these “garage wines”, made in very small quantities (now 6.000 bottles), are something of a miracle and a result of going against the stream.

Miracle or not, the wines are excellent. Today they have several lines, such as an entry-level range and some single vinyard wines. Microcósmico are their village wines, blended from two or more vineyards. The garnacha has the power and the earthiness of the region, but it’s also very fresh and inviting. This macabeo is made from old vines on a rocky soil. The whole area is chalky with a layer of clay to retain the humidity from the sparse rainfall. There is both continental and mediterranean influence, as the winds shift between coming north-west or south-east in the Ebro depression, but generally speaking this is a hot and dry land. The macabeo is made from 65 year old plants, spontaneously fermented, partly in oak, but mostly in concrete.

Microcósmico Macabeo 2017 (Bodegas Frontonio)

Light yellow with a greenish hint. Aroma of white flowers and citrus, backed by ginger and a touch of smoke. Great concentration on the palate, an acidity that adds to the structure and a long, dry finish.

Price: Medium

Food: Grilled fish, bacalao, tasty seafood, light meat, salads and vegetables (must be delicious with local ‘piquillo’ peppers in olive oil), a variety of cheeses

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Wine of the Week

A modern-traditional wine from Burja Estate

Primož Lavrenčič is found in the Vipava valley about 40 km east of the Italian border, where he owns 8 hectares of vineyards.

His objective is to make a modern wine based on traditional methods. He says that he “controls the temperature and oxidation” in the wine cellar, but “encouraging the rest”.

Burja Estate - photo - Primož Lavrenčič

(Credit: Burja Estate)

He has a holistic approach to both vine, wine and nature. This includes stimulating spontaneous fermentation, because “the diversity of yeast strains contributes to the complexity of the wine and provides original expression of each vineyard”. Some of the old folks would have prohibited the low temperatures, to take the full advantage of the extended skin-contact). So this is maybe then a modern, elegant white with a nod to the traditional orange wines of the area.
The work in the vineyard is done according to organic and biodynamic principles. The grape composition is laški rizling (Italian riesling or Welschriesling) 30%, malvazija (d’Istria) 30%, rebula (ribolla gialla) 30%. 7 days skin-maceration in steel, 10 months ageing in barrel.

Bela 2016 (Burja Estate)

Deep golden. Aroma of mature fruits, citrus, peach, herbs, white pepper. Full on the palate, a touch of nuts and a natural, integrated acidity.

Price: Medium

Food: Light meat, pig, veal, grilled and white fish, tasty salads

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Articles

At the Vella Terra fair, Barcelona

Vella Terra, now in its 4th edition, is organized by Alejandra Delfino and Stefano Fraternali. In Barcelona’s Estació del Nord there were on 10-11th February gathered more than 100 producers. In addition there were several activities linked to the fair. One of these was an Asian-Catalan fusion kitchen with orange wines, presented by the Casa Xica restaurant and held at the festival’s own Garage Bar, and a tasting of natural sparkling wines at the Toto restaurant. Another was a presentation of aged natural wines from the Catalan pioneers, also at the Garage Bar, where I was lucky to get a seat.

I would say that this event has a more international air to it than the Vins Nus, held in the city at the same time. Here were many winemakers from Catalunya and other Spanish regions, but the features from other countries were much more evident. France, Italy, Portugal and Austria were among the well-represented places. Just like the Vins Nus the objective is to raise people’s awareness of natural and organic wines, and to eat and drink healthier. Like at the other fair, the goal is to present wines made by minimal intervention. But I would say that there is a slight difference in approach, and that the producers here are, well maybe not more open, but could we say: less strict in their view of the use of SO2 (to say it simple, or maybe over-simplified).

Vella Terra at the Estació del Nord

There were so many interesting, personal wines, that I can only present some highlights. And again, I will try to limit myself to one wine from each producer, though I know that again it will not be easy.

Antonio Portela

While the albariños of coastal Galicia should be well-known the reds don’t have the same recognition. Forget the images you may have of dark, sturdy, bubbling, bitter wines from the old days! Now there are several producers who show how fine, elegant and cool the coastal reds can be. Two of them were represented here. I will tell more about Antonio Portela later, whom I visited a couple of weeks after this fair. Although he is not far from Cambados, where the headquarters of the Consejo Regulador of Rías Baixas is located, his farm on the Morrazo peninsula is outside the delimitations of the DO area. So he uses terms as ‘tintos marineiros’ (something like ‘reds from the sea’), he uses grapes like espadeiro branco (related to the loureiro), tinto caiño, and he is a defender of the local grape tinta femia (related to the caiño redondo). His low vineyards in or near the beaches are the most atlantic in the whole of Galicia.

His red wines are from the parish of Cela in the town of Bueu, and the white wines from O Hío in the town of Cangas. They are all fresh and vivid – from the  Quereres de Berobreo 2017 (called ‘viño mareiro’, mainly espadeiro blanco), with its light, green apples, citrussy fruit, via the rounder, more mellow Quereres do Hío 2017 (also viño mareiro, albariño-dominated) to the delicious, grapey Area Donón 2017. Donón is the village where the grapes grow, to the extreme west, just before you reach the island of Cíes outside the Ría de Vigo. These are practically wine from sand, from the beach. The red Namorado 2017 (tinto mareiro), fermented and aged for 12 months in used French oak, has all the virtues that this area can offer: It’s light in colour; pure, with fresh, red fruits on the nose; a vibrant flavour, a good natural acidity and in a long saline finish.

Juan of As Furnias hasn’t learned the tongue-in-cheek trick yet

As Furnias is more inland, in the Rías Baixas subzone Condado do Tea. After his studies in enology Juan González Arjones went to Barbaresco, to work with a small family producer, then also in a wine shop in Torino. Then he went back to his native Crecente to start his own project. He has also been managing a vineyard for the reknowned producer Terras Gauda, nearer to the coast in the subzone O Rosal. In 2010 he planted his own vineyard down there. Pícaro 2015 was a terrific red sparkling wine from a variety of grapes (albariño, treixadura, blanco legítimo, brancellao, sousón, espadeiro), with a lovely red fruits nose (raspberry, strawberry), and some tannin. After this came a vertical of his emblematic wine, the As Furnias, in vintages 15, 16, 17, 18. This too is a multi-varietal where each grape gives its contribution; the espadeiro gives both freshness, some herb and mushroom, and some special flavour characteristics (like cherry), while the balsamic notes come from caiño longo, and the spice from the sousón. They are typically made with 12 days fermentation in steel, and with no sulphite additions. The 16 was an early picking from a hot year, but everything went right in 15. As Furnias 2015 had all the best; quite dark, inky colour; pure yellow fruits, red berries, herbs and some menthol; a good tannin structure and a wonderful acidity.

Ismael Gozalo, MicroBio

In my opinion the small settlement of Nieva has long been and interesting spot on the Rueda map. This small, high altitude settlement in the province of Segovia houses producers like the Viñedos de Nieva with their excellent old pie franco vineyards, the Herrero family’s new project, not to say Ossian. Ismael was born here, and he also was involved in Ossian. But now he goes solo, and his project surpasses it all. I have covered some of his whites here and reds here. And there are several other wines mentioned elsewhere on this blog. The whites are a study in the possibilities of the verdejo grape, mostly very old and un-grafted, combined with the extreme climate of this part of Castilla. The reds include tempranillo, rufete and syrah.

This time I tasted two pét nats, the early-harvested (and reductive wine-making) Nieva York 2018 and the younger vine (and oxidative wine-making) Correcaminos 2018, the fresh and citrussy MicroBio 2018, and the Rack 2018. For this wine Ismael has been looking for a reduction. Some gas was added to the musts fermenting in steel to raise the turbidity. No battonage. All this to keep the reduction and the wine’s selv-protection. Not a beginner’s wine, with the green-greyish colour, the cloudiness, the bubbles, the creaminess, and the acid-structured taste. Flowery, citrussy, stone-fruity too, I should add.

Mariano Tabernero, Bodegas Cueva

I didn’t visit Mariano’s table that day, I just took a couple of snapshots as I went by. But later that night I was taking part in a tasting at the Bar Salvage of the Gràcia neighbourhood. I was then sitting next to Mariano and his wife, and they let me taste some wines. More about this soon.

Eduardo of Azpillaga Urarte

The family has a long history in wine in Lantziego, Rioja Alavesa, but it was not untill the 1970’s that they started to make their own wines. It was when Eduardo Pérez de Azpillaga Urarte started in the family company that the way towards an organic, sustainable farming began. So, in 2001 their vineyards finally got their organic certification. Maybe I liked best of all the white, non-DO Viña el Pago 2016 from garnacha blanca. It was macerated with whole bunches at 7 degrees for 72-100 hours, on stirred lees for 4-5 months. The result is a quite dark yellow wine with mature apples, some citrus, aromatic spices and a touch of dried fruits on the nose. In the mouth it’s medium-bodied with some tannin structure. The reds include a carbonic maceration wine with the same name, and an interesting clay aged wine called Fincas de Aztule 2015.  Under the label Naturostean 2017 they had a dark, rich, sweet and quite alcoholic tempranillo, not from dried grapes, but with added alcohol. They stress that this was an experiment. A winery to watch.

 

Friedrich Schatz: The Acinipo will now have a label representing the nettle, or preparation 504

Friedrich, or Federico, Schatz of Ronda has long since established himself as one of the leading producers of table wine in Andalucía. He has been in the avantgarde of organic and biodynamic farming in the area, and uses both international and local grapes. I have visited him several times, and you can read more about his whole range here. Many will know that his wines carry one special letter that together spells his name, and as such they have become some kind of collector’s items. However, this will now come to an end. Schatz presented this time the first vintages that will come on the market without that one letter. In-stead they will carry a drawing of plants used in biodynamic farming.

Other than that, the wines are the  same, full of taste, with a touch of something exotic, and also with a good level of acidity. When asked I have often picked the Acinipo as a favourite, because it refers to the Roman ruins just down the road, and it’s made from lemberger, a grape from where his family can be found – and because it has been a good wine of course. This time I pick the Pinot Noir 2013 (formerly known as C), is made with 12 months of ageing in French oak on lees that has been moved a few times. It has a dark cherry colour, an aroma full of red fruits with cocoa and some aromatic spices. In the mouth it’s medium-bodied, tasty, with a lovely acidity and also with a slight bitterness in the end. The acidity can be said to come from the cool night temperatures, and it was also an extreme year with a lot of rain and snow in winter, and temperatures down to -12ºC.

Jean-Phillippe Padié

I finally got the chance to meet Jean-Phillippe of Domaine Padié whose wines I have known for some time. From Calce north-northwest of Perpignan, Roussillon, he releases one wonderful wine after another. I tasted some samples and some bottled wines. Quickly through the 2018 samples, there was the limestone-blend Fleur de Cailloux, with its yellow colour, mature apple-scent with flowery tones, full with some tannin, the light and luscious Calice, a carignan from young vines in schist soil, the juicy Gibraltar – and finally the Petit Toureau, from older carignan plants in limestone, with its ruby red colour, and very fresh fruit.

Among the bottled wines I tasted the red Le Tourbillon de la Vie 2017, partly own vineyards, partly chosen from others: quite dark, luscioius, plums, red fruits, light tannin. Unpretentious, I would say, but very good. The Petit Taureau 2017, that originates from limestone marls (carignan) and schist (syrah), made with reduction in mind (both the grape varieties and the concrete vats environment). The wines was cherry red, with expressive fruit (red and dark berries), some flowers and herbs, and soft tannins in the mouth with a super and long, cool acidity. Ciel Liquide 2012, from grenache and carignan in equal proportions, from what Jean-Phillippe calls “a mosaic of terroirs” from Calce (limestone, calcarious clay and schist).  and 5 years in barrels of 600 liters, 2 years in tank after that: Ligh cherry red; on the nose there is some warmth, the citrussy notes appear, also stone fruits (cherries, plums); good balance between the elements, with just enough tannins, and super acidity in a long finish.

There were a couple of French producers that I didn’t know, but are worth mentioning. Les Vins Pirouettes were represented by Vanessa Letort. They are winemakers from Alsace who work in close collaboration with around ten small producers, all working organically, some with biodynamics – each producers with his characteristics. Some of the most interesting wines were made by  Stéphane Bannwarth, who is based in Obermorschwihr, south of Colmar. There was a lovely, appley riesling, with great acidity, and a full rose-scented gewürztraminer. I chose the Tutti Frutti de Stéphane 2016 (gewürztraminer, pinot gris, pinot blanc and auxerrois) was a light coloured wine, with a touch of gas, round and medium full, and with a lovely acidity.

Domaine Balansa has 15 hectares in Corbières. I tasted some clean, fruity wines from grenache blanc and gris, and syrah. A speciality was the Muscat 2018 aged in amphora, very light in colour, aromatic (both fruity and flowery), medium bodied, and with just enough acidity. Domaine Carterole was established in Côte Vermeille (coastal southern Roussillon) by Joachim Roque. The 10-70 years old cooperative plots he had bought were transformed little by little to be able to make natural wines. In 2014 he rented a winery in Banyuls-sur-Mer. I tasted a slighty pétillant white Ton Sec 2018, a well-balanced, but a bit on the “wild” side, apple, tea and ginger-smelling Esta Fête Le Blanc 2018, from 90% grenache blanc and the rest rousanne. An interesting wine was Vermentino Amphorae, that was light yellow, quite open, with apple, pear and citrus tones, and a slight tannin-structure.

Andrea Pendin of Tenuta l’Armonia

I visited Andrea following a London wine fair last year, and you can see my report here. He has a creative approach, and makes several styles of organic wines from volcanic terroir in the small settlement Bernuffi (Montecchio Maggiore, Veneto region). His wines can maybe be characterized as inviting, simple, fresh, and very difficult to stop drinking. In spite of that they have a strong sence of place too. He uses biodynamic techniques, green manure and very little intervention, and of course always spontaneous fermentetion. Repeated from my article about them: ‘Basically there are two different lines. “Pop” consists of high quality “easy” natural wines from volcanic soil at a good price. “Cru” is a premium line from native varieties in clay and limestone.” Should I chose only one wine, let it be the Frizzi 2017, a pét nat, or col fòndo sur lie from the “pop” line. It’s simple, un-oaked, slightly bubbly, light salmon-pink, apple and strawberry-scented wine, not very structured, and oh! so delicious. In addition to a varying content of different grapes, here pinot noir 60%, the constant is the local durella, a grape providing acidic backbone, that the vintners in the area are very proud of.

Catarina and Antonino, Valdibella

Valdibella is a small cooperative operating from Camporeale, on the north side of Sicilia. They encourage biodiversity, and they concentrate on native varieties, both for grapes and other crops such as olives. Enologue Antonino Vilardi work closely with the growers. He says they want the whole chain, from grower to consumer, to share the same values, or visions, and to know about how the products are made. Therefore they can appreciate the quality, and they will understand that the products can not have a very low price.

I tasted a couple of interesting grillos, Ariddu 2017, a light, grassy-citrussy wine, Grillo sulle Bucce 2017, (bucce meaning skins), so the colour was light orange, with aromas of flowers, peel, a touch of white pepper, and some bitterness in the finish. Zi bi Bò 2017 (from zibibbo, a synonym of muscat of Alexandria) is an aromatic, rose-mango-scented wine, slightly off-dry. A wine full of character was Dhyana 2017 from perricone, a light rosé of salmon colour; strawberry and redcurrant aromas; some warmth in the mouth, but also with an acidity that carries on to the end.

Niklas Peltzer representing Meinklang

Werner and Angela Michlits of Meinklang are found in Burgenland, Austria, in the village Pamhagen on the Hungarian border. In fact some vineyards are on the other side, and they also bottle a Hungarian wine from the volcano Somló. Here is a perfect biodiversity, vines and other crops between the natural ponds of the area. They fertilize with compost that they produce themselves, using sheep, cow and horse manure and several other components.

Meinklang has a full range of very reasonably priced high-quality wines, and is mentioned in many posts of this blog. Here is one of the wine-of-the-weekend articles, where you can also see a picture of their Angus cows. Today we concentrate on their Hungarian pét nat Foam Somló 2017. The 35-60 year old vines (6o% harslevelü, 4o% juhfark) are grown on volcanic rock with a light layer of loess. The fermentation started in tank, then it was bottled with 10 grams residual sugar, and finished fermentation in bottle. No additives, no filtering. The result is a fresh, vibrant wine, low in alcohol, high in acidity. The colour is light straw, slightly turbid; aromatic, pears and peaches, some spice (white pepper); a certain warmness (or rather: a component of mature fruits like apple marmelade), but kept alive of a long, cool acidity.

Ondřej Dubas, Krásná Hora

This is, believe it or not, another producer that we have covered more than once on this blog. Read here a report on various Czech wines tasted in England last year. I like their sparkling wines, and the Blanc de Pinot Noir 2018 wasn’t bad at all; light, with a slight blush, aroma of apples and red berries, well-structured. They offered an aromatic Chardonnay 2018, and equally convincing as before was the skin-contact, gooseberry-rhubarb-scented Gewürztraminer, now in the 2018 vintage. Our focus will this time be put on La Blanca 2018, a blend of riesling (40%), sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, and gewürztraminer from several vineyards (a total of 40%), and the last 20% is pinot blanc. The wine is partially fermented in old barrels and partly in steel. Only a minimum of SO2 is added. It’s a bit cloudy, light golden; apples pear and citrus on the nose; low alcohol, bone dry, with a steely acidity.

It’s maybe unfair, but there is a limit to how much one can do in one day. There were many producers that I should have spent more time with, such as the locals Clot de les Soleres, Casa Pardet, Cosmic, Escoda-Sanahuja, Gratias, Mas Candí, Recaredo, Can Sumoi, Pepe Raventòs, Laureano Serres and Alfredo Arribas, all of whom I know make good to excellent wines. Elsewhere in Spain there are Sistema Vinari, 4 Kilos, and abroad: Carussin, Casa Belfi, Colombaia, Quinta da Palmirinha, La Cave des Nomades, the list goes on…

This was my first Vella Terra, but I really want to go back, to be a part of the positive vibe that are found in the city these days. And, as Alejandra Delfino, co-founder of Vella Terra, states, “natural wines are not a passing fad, but rather a trend that has come to stay, and something that will continue to increase demand among wine lovers”. Amen to that, and we could add that while the natural wine has been something of a punk movement, I think it’s right to say that the mainstream is now moving in that direction.

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Wine of the Week

As Furnias: The new Galician wave is red

I have met Juan González Arjones at a couple of natural wine fairs, last time this February in Barcelona’s Vella Terra.

Following his enology studies Juan worked at Coto de Gomariz (Ribeiro), then in Italy’s Barbaresco, at a small family winery, and later in a wine shop in Torino. With this background he returned to his native Crecente, in the Rías Baixas subzone Condado do Tea, to start his own project As Furnias.

He has also been managing a vineyard for the more famous Terras Guada in O Rosal nearer to the ocean. It was also down there that Juan planted his first vineyard.

Crecente was historically an area for red wine, with many varieties and soil types. While the focus naturally has been on varietal alabriño, part of Juan’s goal has been to bring back the traditional red wines.

The soils are sandy with granitic origins and a high quartz content.

This wine is made from 40% brancellao, 30% caíño longo, 15% sousón, 10% espadeiro and 5% touriga nacional.

As Furnias 2015 (Juan González Arjones)

Cherry red, slightly carbonic. In the aroma it has many layers, both mature red fruits, but also some fresh berry, like raspberry, redcurrant, and also a hint of earth and underwood. Rounded tannins, herbaceous notes, long aftertaste with a lingering acidity.

Price: Medium

 

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Articles

Salò de Vins Naturales (Vins Nus), Barcelona

10th and 11th February there were two natural wine fairs in Barcelona. Both days the Saló de Vins Naturales (aka Vins Nus, meaning Naked Wines) was organized by the PVN (Productores de Vinos Naturales in Spain), while Monday 11th there was the Vella Terra, organized by Alejandra Delfino and Stefano Fraternali. Both fairs had guided tastings on the side, and there were parties in addition to the main fairs, and Barcelona was simply the place to be!

The 6th edition of the Vins Nus was held in the Nau Bostik building in the La Sagrera quarter, a place for cultural meetings. What place could better house the Vins Nus, that holds a position as the leading fair nationally for Spanish natural wines.

Most producers were Spanish, but there were also some from abroad, especially from France and Italy.

Here I met old friends and familiar producers. And there were some revelations too, of some I had only known the name or maybe tasted one wine.

In this post I can only mention some highlights. And I will try to limit myself to only one wine from each producer.

Lorenzo Valenzuela, Barranco Oscuro

Barranco Oscuro is a true classic on the Spanish natural wine scene, and has also been one of the founders and driving forces behind the PVN, who organizes this fair. From the high altitude vineyards in the Alpujarras of Granada they bring out one wine more inspiring than the other. One of my favourites has long since been the Garnata, a garnacha from the most elevated vineyards now in the 2014 vintage: Cherry red; very fresh, red fruits, clover, aromatic herbs; fleshy, tasty with a mineral finish.

Samuel Cano, Vinos Patio

This is a producer I have known for a long time. There is something intriguing about all the wines. It would be strange to call them cool, because they reflect the warmth of sunny La Mancha. This is Quijote’s land, near some old-fashioned windmills in the Cuenca province. Most wines have Patio in the name, such as the lovely white airén Aire en el Patio and the dark, raisiny dessert wine Al Sol del Patio. I also tasted four of Samuel’s wines at an arrangement at the bar Salvatge a couple of days before, so I limited myself to four wines at his table. A newcomer, or one I didn’t know before was Mic Mac, a delicious, flowery, super fruity blend of airén and moscatel.

This time I chose the white, or more accurately, rosé Atardecer en el Patio 2017 (from the red tinto velasco grape). It’s quite floral, with apple and peach. In the mouth it’s round and fruity, I reckon it must have some residual sugar, and would be perfect for an afternoon (atardecer) in the patio.

Fabio Bartolomei of Vinos Ambiz

I have met Italo-Scot Fabio, former translator, many times at fairs and visits to Madrid and Gredos. He makes many cuvées with variations in time of skin-contact, ageing (varying time and type of container) and so on. All the wines, how different they may be, carry his personal stamp. The focus has shifted from the the vineyards just outside the capital to the high sites of El Tiemblo (Ávila), Gredos, and we might be seeing the beginning of something great, and his albillo real wines from granite soil can be said to bear the torch here. Doré (a synonym of chasselas) is a grape that he has brought to the fore during the recent years. Now the wine comes under the name Doris. The 2018 is yellow-gold, slightly cloudy; smells of mature apples and is also flowery; quite full on the palate, grapey and sapid.

Ramón Saavedra of Cauzón (left)

Ramón was enthusiastic and happy to show his 2018 vintage; the white Cauzón, a lovely strawberry-scented pinot rosé, the four grape Ira Dei and the Mozuelo, a red fruits luscious garnacha. I chose the Duende 2018, a wonderful syrah through several vintages: Dark cherry; fruity, earthy and slightly spicy; fleshy and tasty with young tannins.(Read more about his bodega and his wines in a post from 2017.)

Nacho González, La Perdida

La Perdida is a splendid producer in Valdeorras (Galicia). Nacho uses the traditional grapes godello, mencía and garnacha tintorera, but also palomino, and more unlikely varieties such as sumoll. I like his range on a general basis, such as the palomino skin-contact MalasUvas, the Proscrito, a reddish white from palomino and a small amount garnacha tintorera. The one that I chose for lunch that day was O Poulo 2018, a garnacha tintorera: Dark, fruity, with red berries, some green pepper, very clean and elegant with fruit all the way.

Joan Carles, La Gutina

I visited La Gutina of Empordà a couple of days before (a brief article from that visit to follow), so there was no need to taste the whole portfolio again. But a wine they didn’t present then was Gluglu 2018, a carbonic maceration garnacha, strawberry scented with good volume in the mouth, but also a fresh acidity. Fun and authentic.

Angélica Amo López and Julien Ben Hamou, Coruña del Conde

Ribera del Duero can not be called a stronghold for natural wines. But Coruña del Conde, a bodega in the settlement of the same name outside Aranda, is among the torchbearers. I came across the following wine at the Cascorrot Bistrot in Madrid (read about it here). The latest edition is Don’t panic I’m only natural 2018 #5: Dark, violet colour; fruity with red berries and blackberry; juicy, with smooth tannins.

Diego Losada, La Senda (picture taken the night before at bar Salvatge)

La Senda of Bierzo is another producer that I have been exposed to at Cascorro, Madrid. In my opinion everything from here is good, and I would be surprised if these wines will not be much more in demand in the future. La Senda white, red, all very clean, pure, the right amount of acidity, and with a sense of place. I chose La Senda “1984” 2017, the latter the vintage and the former a reference to Orwell’s novel. It’s cherry red, super fruity, with cherries, plums, medium body, and a lovely integrated natural acidity.

Torcuato Huertas, Purulio

Purulio is a neighbour of Cauzón in Guadix (Granada), except this is found even higher, at 1.200 meters, in the small settlement of Marchal. Most of the wines are interesting and good, marked both by the sunny south and the high elevation, though sometimes I’d wished the oak treatment had stopped just a little while before. The one I liked best this time was maybe the aromatic Purulio 2018 (sample, 5 months in oak), with its berry aromatics, flowery sensations and a quite cool acidity.

Vinotauro 2016, a pinot with the not-too-well hidden wordplay on the label

Josep Dasca (right)

Among this years’ revelations Dasca Vives presented some impressive and different wines from l’Alt Camp, Tarragona province. They work well with the maccabeu variety, that is also the one behind their rounded, maturely fruity Llunàtic and the Vi Ranci. Another speciality is the vinyater variety. (Read here about their wine from this interesting grape.)

Now back to the rancio. This is an oxidized wine, most often from the grenache/garnatxa, and it takes some 8-10 years before it’s “rancified”. This particular wine was made from white grapes though. Josep and Alba explain that some ten years ago they put white wine from the grape variety macabeu in a barrel with a some kind of “dense vi ranci”, that Josep’s father has in a very old and broken barrel. They also added a little of alcohol (it’s the only time that they had done so). Now they have started to sell it. Sometimes more white wine is added, but the barrel is never full, so the wine is always in contact with oxygene. The Vi Ranci had a mahogany colour, nutty aroma (almonds, hazelnut), notes of iodine, reminiscent of a relatively young amontillado sherry. In the mouth it was full and glyceric, with some tannin. My notes say nothing about how sweet it was; if my memory doesn’t fail me I think it was kind of off-dry, anyway there was nothing at all disturbing.

Maribel and Juanjo of Alumbro

Alumbro of Zamora, Castilla y León was another discovery, with their wonderfully expressive wines, from the slightly turbid, fruity-grapey orange wine called Blanco 2016 (verdejo-godello-albillo), via the dark orange, perfumed moscatel Maeve 2018 to a couple of reds. Should I pick only one it could be the truly inspiring Berretes 2016 of albillo real/ godello 50/50: Orange, slightly cloudy; plums, apples, yellow tomatoes; some tannins. Linear, fruity.

Iker García of Hontza, Labraza (Rioja Alavesa) showed that he has something interesting going on. Another one to watch is La Zafra, of Monòver, Alicante.

I’m sorry for all the producers from abroad, that I had too little time for this Sunday. But we’ll meet again, I hope.

Greeted by a Brazilian style percussion band by the Arc de Triomf, on my way to the fair

 

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