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Wine bars and restaurants

Pedro’s Portuguese Place in Oslo

I had just read about the wine bar that Pedro Caiado opened six months ago, when he phoned me to ask about one of the producers that can be found in several posts of this blog. But it was only yesterday that I got a chance to visit his Portuguese place.

Let’s just conclude that he has managed to establish a fabulous place. It’s the kind of wine bar that I like, with a strong focus on natural wines, and small, well-elaborated bites to go with them. Quite unusual is that the food also is mostly organic, and from local producers.

Pedro is from the Portuguese surfer’s paradise of Peniche, where the winds always blow. But love, what else, brought him to Norway. When I was there he was accompanied by Lise, newly employed, who hails from northern Norway, but has been living abroad for many years, mostly London. Lise has specialized in fermenting, she uses it in some of the dishes, and is also planning to offer courses.

Lise and Pedro

The wine list obviously contains Portuguese producers, such as Conceito, Aphros, Mouraz and Pellada. But there are also some of the classics within the natural wine world, such as Cornelissen (Sicilia, Italy), Gut Oggau (Steiermark, Austria), and the French Matassa, Ganevat, Riffault and Robinot, all of whom (Portuguese and “foreign”) should be known to readers of this blog. And there are also up and coming names like the Spanish Ismael Gozalo, Alfredo Maestro and Bodegas Cueva, also well covered here, and Chapuis Frères (Bourgogne, France) and Stekar (Slovenia).

It was a late Friday lunch, and I was going to a jazz jam with dinner immediately after this, so I limited myself to three wines from the by-the-glass selection. To go with them Pedro suggested eggs in olive oil with fresh sour-dough bread, ricotta with basil, sunchokes and stingray.

I came a short while before they actually opened after the break, so I was offered a cup of coffee, a fresh African highland style selected by Norwegian barista Tim Wendelboe.

The first wine was from Moravia, Czech Republic (see a recent post). Gewürztraminer 2017 (Krásná Hora), a 6 months skin-contact white. Not straigh white, that is, it has a red-ish hue. The aromas include gooseberry/raspberry, citrus and some rhubarb, and it has quite concentrated flavours and good acidity.

Next out was Nat Cool 2016 (Niepoort). Niepoort is “everything” in Portuguese wine: The house is a traditional port wine producer, and as such a star within several categories such as colheita and garrafeira, but really not bad (read: average) in the other styles either. Dirk Niepoort has taken it further, and has now establish himself as a top in several Portuguese regions, and abroad too, like the neighbouring Ribeira Sacra of Spain, and in Austria, as his former wife is from there. This wine is from Bairrada, from the variety baga, made in cement. And it’s really is cool: Light cherry red, almost rosé, smells of strawberry and raspberry, and it has a light touch of tannin. It was served chilled too, which is a good idea.

A cool bairrada with ricotta, basil and roasted sunchokes

Vale da Capucha is the producer I talked about in the beginning, so it was only natural that I ended this session with a wine from my friend Pedro Marques, who runs that winery. Fossil Tinto 2015 is the current vintage of this touriga-dominated blend, that also exists in a white version. Fossil is an appropriate name, as the winery is located in the Torres Vedras area of the Lisboa region, only 8 km from the sea, and was in ancient times under water. Dark red, smells of dark and red berries, herbs, and it’s a little spicy too. In the mouth it shows a fine, natural, integrated tannin grip and ditto acidity.

Fossil red and stingray

While sitting in the inner side of the bar I could see Pedro serve all kinds of customers with true respect and patience. I have the greatest confidence that this tiny wine bar has a future place in a city with many good restaurants and bars already.

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Wine of the Week

Le Cinsault at Mas Onésime

Here is another varietal cinsault. This variety can be said to be in fashion today. The reason is probably that many vintners have seen its virtues as much more than a grape for blending. Today it’s used many places, in particular have we seen many interesting wines from South Africa. Here is one from southern France, where we used to meet it most often in the past.

(Credit: Mas Onésime)

Mas Onésime is located in La Liquière, one of the tiny villages in is hillside of the Faugères appellation. The domaine consists of 12 hectares within the village.

Vigneron Olivier Villanueva talks about the many colours of the schists in Faugères, “from ochre and grey to orange with deep blue veins”. This sub-oil is among the oldest, and consists of gravelly schists that date, in his own words “back to the beginning of time”.

Most of the vines at the Mas are fifty years old, in steep vineyards with breathtaking views.

The grapes are harvested by hand, sorted, de-stemmed and brought to the cellar immediately after being picked. The grapes are placed in vats, without pumping and using only a natural gravity. Olivier strives to make authentic wines, with techniques as natural as possible.

This wine is only cinsault, hand harvested, sorted and fully destemmed. The yield was 25 hl/ha. It had 14 days of maceration in stainless steel tank, and also ageing in a tank for 14 days.

 

Le Cinsault 2016 (Mas Onésime)

Ruby red. Aroma of red berries (raspberry, plums), thyme and a touch of white pepper, juicy, luscious, supple in the mouth, with only a slight tannin and a pleasant natural acidity.

Price: Medium/low

Food: Light meat, try also lamb with provençal herbs, ratatouille, salads, grilled fish

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Wine of the Week

Phaunus Palhete of Minho

We have been familiar with Vasco Croft’s Aphros Wine labels for a long time now. Lately he has also been presenting the Phaunus, that ranges from a pét nat to amphora aged still wines.

Vasco went biodynamic from the beginning, in his farm in Ponte de Lima, Minho (Portugal). Here he has 18 hectares, that are fertilized with own compost. Needless to say, all wines are made with natural yeast.

Vasco Croft at Simplesmente

At this year’s Simplesmente… Vinhos (see one of several posts from the fair here), Porto, we could taste all his wines, most of them in the 2016 vintage. They spanned from the light, citric, uplifting Aphros Loureiro via Daphne, a fuller wine from granite soil, 12 hours skin-contact, fermented in concrete eggs.

The old tradition of palhete involves fermenting white and red grapes together, and the result is a dark rosé or a light red coloured wine. Phaunus Palhete 2016 is a blend of 80% loureiro and 20% vinhão (red). The grapes were destemmed, pressed and fermented on skins in beeswax-lined amphorae, and aged on lees for three months.

Phaunus Palhete 2016 (Aphros Wine)

A pale red colour that hints of blood orange, somewhat cloudy. Aromas of stone fruits (cherries, litchis), herbs, and flowers. It comes with a slight tannin texture, a wonderful acidity, and a touch of saltiness.

Price:
Medium

Food:
White and grilled fish, shellfish, sushi, salads

 

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Wine of the Week

Natural Shiraz from McLaren Vale

The original battle of Bosworth was fought on Bosworth Fields, Leicestershire, England in 1485. Joch Bosworth explains that there is also a modern day version, namely his own battle for organic certification, which he acquired in 1995. The winery is found in South Australia’s McLaren Vale, only 7 km west of the sea and around 130 metres above sea level.

This particular wine was made from 100% shiraz, harvested by hand. It was fermented in open tanks, turned around three times a day during fermentation, then pressed and brought to steel tanks. It has seen no oak, and was bottled soon after malolactic fermentation, with no sulphur added.

Puritan Shiraz (no added preservatives) 2016 (Battle of Bosworth)

Dark cherry with blue hue. Mature red and dark berries, plums, balsamic notes, meat. Young, fresh, with a slightly carbonic, yet juicy mouthfeel.

Price: Low

Food: Meat, like pepper steak or casseroles, salads…

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Articles and Wine of the Week

Next stop: Soria

Lately I have been traveling a lot in northern Spain, and many times I have been visiting, or simply crossing Ribera del Duero. I have also been passing the city and province of Soria, without stopping. Now this has come to an end: Just like I did some ten years ago it was time to explore this often-forgotten but interesting high-altitude part of the DO Ribera del Duero.

There is Bodegas Gormaz, the former cooperative of San Estéban de Gormaz, the area’s biggest village. They are the biggest company, owner of many old pre-phylloxera vines, controls over 1300 acres of vines and makes sound and solid wines.

There is Tierras de Guijarral, a private project that makes ambitious wines under the Rudeles label in Peñalba de San Esteban, on the way to Soria capital. Sergio Rupérez, one of the four owners, is the Ru- of Rudeles. He is responsible winemaker. Today there is no fertilizing, and he also tells that he will convert to only organic cultivation and only autoctonous yeasts in a not too distant future.

And there are others too. Our third article in this series will highlight a very promising producer.

Jaime Suárez at Atauta

However, few will deny that Dominio de Atauta is the leading producer at the moment. I will dedicate the next article to them, so I will not give too much about the background here.

When I made a stop (parada in Spanish) to fill up the tank and found the Parada de Atauta in the shelves of the gas station, then I understood that there must be a certain culture here. This is the entry-level wine from the producer’s classical line.

It’s a serious wine from min. 80 year old tempranillo vines, from in and around the Atauta valley. We are almost a thousand meters above sea level, and the soil is sandy and stony, typical of the area. The wine stayed a year in French oak.

Parada de Atauta 2014 (Dominio de Atauta)

Dark purple colour. Smell of dark and red berries (blueberry, blackberry), violets, pepper and some coffee. The palate is also dominated by berries, with a cool freshness, velvety tannins, and a stony minerality.

Price: Low

Food: Red and light meat, rice dishes, pasta, roast vegetables…

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Articles

Exciting Moravian wines tasted, Czech

This year’s RAW adventure had an unlikely start for me. It was down in Brighton, a beautiful seaside town that I use every opportunity to go back to. One of the reasons is the superb wine bar and restaurant Plateau. I can always discuss with the staff what to chose according to my taste and what I have tried before. This time they were excited about their Czech wines. I soon learned that other restaurant in the area had also listed several authentic, exciting Moravian wines. At the RAW wine fair there were also a couple of visiting producers.

Moravia is the most important wine region in the Czech Republic, and borders Slovakia and Northeastern Austria. The climate is continental, with cold winters, and the soils are dominated by loess and limestone.

Many of the varieties for white wines are German or Austrian. The reds are more varied, with an emphasis on French ones, brought to the region Roman Emperor Charles IV in the 14th Century.

(Credit: J. Osička)

My experience is that the quality is in general very good, and there are several interesting individual growers. There is even a movement of natural winemakers, called Autentisté, parallel to groups in other countries. The movement was started by winemaker and winebar owner Bogdan Trojak some ten years ago. Most of the wineries are in Moravia, the most traditional area for vinegrowing in the Czech Republic, with some in Bohemia, and also a few from Slovakia.

Here are some good, authentic wines from the country, all from the Moravia part.

The Osička family at RAW, London

Jaroslav Osička has worked for a long time as an educator at the wine school in Valtice, the largest Moravian wine-growing village in Velké Bílovice. He works completely organically. He says he tries  not to make wine, only to assist in its making. He uses some batônage and enjoys the influence of oxygen along the way.

Chardonnay 2012 (J. Osička)

This wine comes from a small vineyard in the small town of Velké Bílovice, at 200-250 meters altitude, with southwestern and eastern orientation. The soil is loess and loam, and the vines are a little more than 20 years old.

Skin-contact was 6 months, then two more years in old barrels, until it was bottled without fining or filtration. Just 20 mg/L sulfur was added before bottling.

This wine is light golden in colour, somewhat cloudy. Aromas of citrus, orange peel, yellow apple, and some pineapple. Rich on the palate, oxidative tones shine through, but though the vintage was warm, the wine has a fresh, natural acidity.

Pinot Gris 2015 (J. Osička)

Here is a still, dry wine from clay and loess soil. Three days skin-contact in big oak vats, some whole bunch added, then almost a year on lees, before it’s bottled unfiltered.

Light golden colour. Complex nose with pear, melon, lime and some sweet elements (like caramel). It plays with oxidation, especially in the aroma. Quite full in the mouth, but juicy too, and with an integrated acidity.

Tramín Červený 2016 (J. Osička)

Dry, still wine from clay and loess soil, like the previous wine.

Golden yellow, slightly turbid. Flowery, slightly sweet nose. Dry and structured, adecuate acidity.

Modry Portugal 2016 (J. Osička)

Blauer portugieser (here called modry portugal) grown on clay and loess. It’s made in old wood, then goes into fiberglass tanks. It’s bottled unfined and unfiltered.

Deep purple colour. Aroma of flowers, plums, cassis and some spice. Full and juicy in the mouth, fresh acidity. Lovely for glugging.

Dobrá Vinice has 15 ha vineyard in Znojmo in the Podyjí National Park. They use biodynamic preparations, and has a very natural approach, with spontaneous fermentation and only tiny amounts of sulphur added, if any. Extended grape maceration is carried out both in new oak barrels and qvevri from Georgia.

Velinské Zelené Qvevri Georgia 2012 had been through nine months of maceration on skins in qvevri from Georgia. As a result the colour was deep, orange. The aromas were dominated by orange peel and flowers, and in the mouth it had a big texture, with good fruit acidity.

Cuvée Kambrium 2014 is a lovely blend of veltlin (grüner veltliner), rizlink (rhine riesling) and sauvignon blanc. It was fermented 10 weeks in new oak and acacia barrels, then aged for a further 14 months in the same barrels, and bottled unfined and unfiltered.

Lighter in colour, gooseberry dominating the aroma, some citrus, combined with white pepper. Quite light in the mouth, luscious, lovely wine for glugging.

Petr Nejedlik

Two wines from the restaurant scene before we leave: The first one from the Krásna Horá winery was probably tasted at the Noble Rot, near London’s Russell Square, but I’ll find it out for you.

Sekt 2014 (Krásná Hora)

This winery dates back to the communist days of the early 1960’s. Things have changed since then. Now they focus on high quality fruit and individual wines from small parcels, backed by biodynamic principles.

This all pinot noir sparkler is made with the traditional method, and had nine months on the lees. And since it is a 14 it has had some time in bottle after that. It has no dosage. It’s clearly on the fruity side, with apples and citrus, and just a little bakery stuff. A rather simple, appealing wine with a refreshing acidity.

(Credit: Krásná Hora winery)

Back in Brighton’s Plateau I was offered a digestive on the house:

Cerné starosvětské 2015 (Petr Koráb – živá hora)

živá hora means something like living hill, or “Live Hill”, as dubbed by the winery. It consists of 4 hectares of vineyards, some more than 80 years old. This Moravian family of winemakers started their venture in 2006 and took on an organic approach, now supplemented with biodynamic philosophy. Vinification varies, but they try to do what they call authentic and in respect of tradition.

This one is made from frankovska (blaufränkish), a traditional grape from here and over in Austria.

Light cherry red. It smells a little like Christmas: Plums, cherry compote and a touch of marzipan. It’s medium sweet, rounded, but with a fresh and vibrant finish.

These wines could maybe be regarded as a “new” world in the middle of the old, well worth czeching out… Sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun. Anyway, if you get ike chance, please do check them out!

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Wine of the Week

Frick’s Gewürztraminer Macération

Jean-Pierre and Chantal Frick cultivate 12 hectares of vineyards in and around Pfaffenheim, Alsace. Since 1970 the domaine has been organically cultivated, and certified biodynamic since 1981. In fact Jean-Pierre has since long been a guiding light for others who want a sustainable approach to vinegrowing.

Since the beginning of the 80’s they have abandoned the use of additions, clarification and filtration, except for a small amount of sulphur before bottling for wines with residual sugar.

The Steinert vineyard was planted in the 1970’s on limestone, fossil ground and gravel. The fermentation was spontaneous, and the maceration lasted for around one week. Then the wine was aged in big vats of French oak.

Steinert Grand Cru Gewürztraminer Macération 2016 (Dom. Pierre Frick)

Light golden colour. Aromatic, hints of fennel, spices, roses and some tropics like mango and litchis. Quite fat in the mouth, intense, full-flavoured, bone dry, long, and just enough power and acidity to keep the 15% alcohol in check.

Price: Medium

Food: Light meat, seafood

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Wine of the Week

Croatian power chords from Roxanich

I am on my way to Croatia, to perform at a festival on the Dalmatian coast. I don’t know yet if there will be an opportunity to visit some of the country’s many good and promising wineries. Anyway, what could be better than warming up with one of the country’s many wonderful wines.

The Roxanich winery has been a favourite after several fairs for natural wine, most recently at London’s Rawfair. Roxanich is found in western Istria, Bačva area, where they have moved back to their original site in the historic town Motovun, in the crossroads between Venetian and Austrian-Hungarian culture.

They can be labelled low- (as close as possible to non-) intervention, low-sulphites, and they take their time.

Their vineyards are cultivated according to ancient methods and minimal use of technology. The maceration and alcoholic fermentation take place in vats of 55 to 70 hectolitres.

Motovun is famous for its white truffles and its grapes. But there is also a rumour that this is where the oldest amphora filled with wine was found, in the surrounding area of ceramics producing ​​Brkač. Roxanich add on their website, -Motovun is also considered as the most powerful source of positive energy in Istria because it is located at the crossroads of three dragon furrows, which transmit the Earth’s energy and supply it to all living creatures.

As a consequence, they decided to return to that mystical place because they consider wine somewhat of a spiritual discipline.

This week’s pick is a stately, statuesque white from the grape variety mavasia, or malvazija istriana, as it’s called when grown in the peninsula’s red soil. The wine is labelled Antica, and the vintage on the market is 2010. It underwent a spontaneous fermentation, then followed 6 months of skin-contact, then pressed. It was then aged for 6 years in old barrels of big volume. Biodynamically treated, it’s bottled on a waning moon, and without clarification or filtration.

Mato Matić in London, with the Antica to our left

Antica 2010 (Roxanich)

Roxanich plays some power chords here. Amber or bronze colour with some orange hints. Rich aroma of flowers, butter, apricot, roasted almonds, dried fruits and some volatile acidity. It’s full-bodied, tastes wild and strong, it’s dry, but with some sweet hints like roasted apples, nuts and caramel, all tied together with just enough natural acidity and rounded tannins. The finish is rich, with a volatile hint, it plays with your restistance towards oxidation, and should not leave anyone un-touched.

Price: Medium

Food: Roast duck, mixed grills, smoked vegetables (aubergine), cheese board

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Wine bars and restaurants

Verona’s Osteria Nosetta

Verona is located in near vicinity of many recognized wine areas, but I can’t see that it has a lot of dynamic wine bars. One can always go to the Antica Bottega, that boasts hundreds of wines, not least for references, as they present many of the leading houses in several vintages. But I am more attracted to the smaller, distinctive bars with a clear idea, call it underground, avant-garde, rock’n’roll, jazz or whatever you like – especially when the idea is to present organic, natural, artisan wines, that the proprietors and sommeliers have a personal relation to.

Osteria Nosetta is located in the pleasant neighbourhood of Borgo Venezia, just outside Verona center. And Nosetta is the kind of place that I am talking about. The restaurant is intimate and full of atmosphere, the decor is a rustic, retro, and the music was vintage jazz on vinyl when I was there. The food is without limits; their small dishes -locally called ‘cicchetti’- are vegetarian, vegan, and you can have fish and meat too. The kitchen is based on fresh ingredients. The inspiration is from various places though, not least Asian-middle east, and there are some vegan dishes alongside more usual Italo-European stuff. The menu of the day was taped onto page 98 and 99 in an old paperback.

And the prices are undoubtedly to live with.

Andrea and Lorenzo

Lorenzo Folati has been leading the venture until now, but Andrea Venturini and a couple of friends are in a period of taking over.

They have a fine selection of wines and beers from independent artisan producers. I enjoy picking smaller ‘bites’ among those displayed at the bar, to go with a few glass of wines. Some were mint glass, a falafel, various greens, such as the delicious tomatoes, frittered squid, tomato and eggplant sandwich, zucchini with cous-cous, onions, honey and balsamico, and -why not- chocolate salami. The list goes on.

Here are a few of the wines that I enjoyed during my visits. (The order is changed according to “normal tastings logic”.)

Durello 2017 (Calesio dalle Ore) is made with the charmat-method. It’s a light coloured, apples, citrus, and bread scented, light-bodied sparkler with good acidity. Simple and good.

A postcard on the wall-board

Trachite 2016 (Alla Costiera), an unfiltered, yellow and cloudy moscato-prunella-garganega regional Veneto white with a sweet (moscato) sensation, together with flowers and citrus peel, and with a medium body, light tannin, and slightly bitter aftertaste.

Lugana 2015 (Marangona). This is a lugana from 100% turbiana grapes. It’s a fresh, simple, dry wine with light, almost blank colour, with a greenish hint. And the aroma is dominated by pears and citrus.

On the contrary, the next wine, was all but simple. Sassaia 2016 (Angiolino Maule), a varietal garganega showed light yellow, slightly turbid, and on the nose could be found mature apples, flowers, ginger and a touch of toast. Slightly yeasty, quite full and with decently acidity, all in perfect harmony. Maule is a long time favourite, and there is a report from a visit in an earlier post in this series.

Musella is one of the better producers of both standard valpolicella and amarone. Here is a white IGT from the Valpolicella area, biodynamically cultivated as always. Pinot Bianco “Fibio” 2014, from that variety, is a bit more on the wild side. Yellow with green hints, smells deliciously of flowers, yellow apples, and I would say, plays with oxidation.  Quite slender, integrated acidity, very pure, and the fruit shines on to the end.

On to a real rarity: Il Fresco Cesane 2014 (Marco Antonelli), that is from the DOC (sometimes: Cesane di) Olevano Romano, Lazio. Got it? The production area lies in the province of Roma and includes the municipality of Olevano Romano and, in part, Genazzan. The wine was nice enough; cherry red, red fruits, plums, and hints of leather on the nose; smooth, juicy, and with an adequate acidity.

Merlot “Casa e Chiesa” 2015 (Lenzini) is a biodynamic Colline Lucchesi. It’s cherry red, hints of green green pepper, a sweetish element from the oak elevation, and a light tannin on the palate and a touch of bitterness in the aftertaste. (14,5% alcohol, while most of those tasted here were around 12.)

We close the chapter from this gem of a wine bar with another pleasant surprise, nothing sensational, but better than most of its kind, a Moscato d’Asti 2017 from producer Emilio Vada. We are talking about a straw yellow coloured wine with the typical moscato rose aromas, clean, and pure. It’s a lightweight, but it has an inspiring acidity and it’s not sticky sweet, compared to what you often can find in this category. The alcohol here is 5%.

Arriving in Verona centre after a nocturnal walk

 

See the other posts in my Veneto series:

#1 – Maule’s Masieri

#2 – Prosecco in Verona’s Osteria la Manzorla

#3 – Gambellara: Maule and the two Davides

#4 – Zýmē’s Recioto Amandorlato

#5 – Vicenza province I: Tenuta l’Armonia

#6 – Vicenza province II: Siemàn

#7 – A Durella sparkling

#8 – Vicenza province III: Contrà Soarda

#9 – Filippo Filippi, Soave top producer

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Wine of the Week

Fresh air in Toro

We are near the tiny village of El Pego near the southern border of Toro, Castilla y León. Aciano is a 3 hectare vineyard that Alvar de Dios Hernández inherited from his grandfather. The altitude is more than 700 meters, the soils here are sandy, quite special for this area. And for this reason the 100 years old ungrafted vines have survived the phylloxera plague. Aciano was his grandfather’s nickname, so the wine is baptized in his honour. The vineyard practise is organic and biodynamic.For this wine the grapes were hand harvested. 60% whole clusters, 3-4 day pre-fermentation maceration, natural yeast fermentation in big vat, daily soft pigeage, 20 day maceration are other keywords. The ageing was then done for 12-14 months in big, old French barrels, mostly neutral.

Alvar was born in El Pego, but he came in contact with Fernando García and Dani Landi of Sierra de Gredos, and was at a time cellar master for Fernando at Bodegas Marañones. (See various write-ups about the two around this blog; here is one.) Their influence can maybe explain Alvar’s search for coolness in his wines, and for Toro this must be a much needed fresh air.

Aciano 2016 (Alvar de Dios Hernández)

Dark cherry red. Perfumed aroma; flowers, dark and red fruits (blackberry, cherry), a slight touch of coffee. It’s tasty and quite solid, yes, but it’s not coarse-heavy-rough like toro can be, and the acidity is good, natural. The most elegant red from this appellation I have tasted for years.

Price: Medium

Food: Roast suckling pig (traditional Castilian dish), other light meats, game, Villalón and other fresh and hard cheeses

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