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Wine of the Week

Sabre’s Burgundy

Fanny Sabre was thrown into the vineyard, so to speak. Studying law at the university, her father suddenly died, and she took over the estate. Soon she discovered she actually liked the work. In the beginning she got help from Philippe Pacalet, natural wine guru in the area. It was adieu to conventional farming for good, and soon Fanny was ready to walk the path alone, carrying out most of the tasks herself.

Once here stood a local fort, and you see that here is too much history to dive into in a short note like this. So we come back to it in a later post.

Manual ploughing is employed, and no herbicides are used. Red wines, like this one, undergo whole-bunch maceration in concrete vats. Indigenous yeasts work, before the wines are aged for at least a year, without racking or fining and with only one very light stirring. Then they are transferred to stainless steel vats for three to four months, and lightly filtrated.

Monthélie 2016 (Fanny Sabre)

Light, brilliant red. Floral nose, with red berries (raspberry, strawberry), dark cherry and a dark minerality. Quite juicy in the mouth, yet concentrated, with supple berry notes, young and firm tannins, and a fresh acidity.

Price: Medium

Food: Light and read meat, game, tasty salads

 

 

 

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Wine of the Week

Valdibella Àgape Nerello Mascalese

Valdibella is a small cooperative in Camporeale, in the Palermo province of Sicilia. Their cultivation is carried out in respect of nature, and they value native grape varieties.

This delicious DOC Sicilia wine from the nerello mascalese is made in stainless steel. It’s spontaneously fermented and has a low sulphite content (between 45-50 mg).

Àgape 2015 (Valdibella)

Cherry red. Fruit-driven, red berries, lightly spicy, herbs. Light tannin, fresh acidity, mineral finish.

Price: Low

Food: Light meat, lamb, salads, hard cheeses

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Articles and Wine of the Week

Sherry monument: A historic PX from Valdespino

Miguel Valdespino gave me this wine. He became the last Valdespino in the centuries-old company. His two children did not want a career in wine, so he chose -quite surprisingly for me and to many others who followed sherry closely at the time- to sell to José Estévez.

Surprisingly, because Estévez had been more known as a business man than a sherry ‘aficionado’, and furthermore he was involved in the infamous RUMASA fraud.

Valdespino is for me the ultimate sherry producer from the old times. They had unbelievable stocks of treasures in their cellars. And a moscatel from three casks was released a few years ago to a 100 points ovation from American media. But Valdespino was also forward-thinking, and the first producer to mention the vineyard and the ‘pago’ (denotes a larger area) on a label, the fino Inocente from the vineyard of the same name in pago Macharnudo Alto.

 

Some fifteen years after the first removal of the cork the bottle looked like this

I know this is personal, but never mind: I had visited Miguel Valdespino several times as a journalist and lover of great sherry, and he gave me this bottle some 20-25 years ago. I don’t know all the details. But he told that it had participated in the Paris 1889 world exhibition (the one that celebrated 100 years since the revolution), “then as an old wine”, to quote the master. At the time I got it the wine was bottled from a big barrel, a ‘tonel’ with the letters ‘NO’, denoting that it must not be touched. It was clearly not meant for sale, and Miguel put on a provisional label with the company name, and with a name Pedro Ximénez Tonel written by a typewriter of that time. At that particular time I was visiting with my now former wife. When we parted around 15 years ago we talked about sharing this wine, so I pulled the cork. Suddenly I (as I would say) came to my senses thinking ‘this is wrong’. So I pushed the cork back into the bottle. And I admit that until today I have been unsure what happened to the wine when it was exposed to air some 15 years ago.

What do we know for sure about the wine then? It’s made from the pedro ximénez grape variety. It participated at in Paris 1889. Before that it might have been born in a solera, but I’m not completely sure. Valdespino was a leading company at that time too, so it’s very unlikely that the wine was less than 30 years old, I would say probably a lot more. I think it must have been born some time between 1820 and 1850.

All right, this wine does not exist commercially, and it probably never did. But I call it:

Pedro Ximénez Tonel (A.R. Valdespino)

Unctous, thickly flowing wine, motor oil consistency, with dense curtains (‘cortinas’ in Spanish), dark raisiny brown/mahogany with evident green notes (like all very old px sherries).

Aroma of toasted hazelnuts, nutmeg, prunes, figs, coffee and dark chocolate, but also flowers and more delicate fruits (in direction of yellow tomatoes, plums, mango).

Very sweet and concentrated, but somehow also fresh with an rich resonance and great length.

In my opinion it’s unfair and devaluating to a wine like this to reduce it to points and punctuations, figures and numbers. A Portuguese writer once likened a wine to a cathedral. In the same tradition we could say that this wine evokes images from the ancient times and the soldier that the pedro ximénez grape took its name from. And it’s easy to imagine the ‘alcázares’ and the basílica churches of Jerez de la Frontera, and the sun rising over the ancient Valdespino bodega in that narrow street of the old gypsy quarter of Santiago, right in the heart of town.

Price: Priceless

Food: A variety of desserts, such as cakes and cookies, puddings, nuts, cheeses, and even a small sip is something of a meal in itself

 

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Wine of the Week

A Rioja Mazuelo

Mazuelo is the local name for cariñena. And I have a feeling when I talk to vintners that it is a grape on the way up. I don’t have scientific proof that it is a fact, but during my trips to Rioja this year I have myself seen more varietal mazuelos than ever before.

A good example I found in the Irégua valley on Ebro’s right bank when I visited producer Gregorio Martínez and winemaker Ricardo Cantera.

The grape has a thick skin and will often be vinified to a dark colour. Here it’s lighter, due to a very light maceration and the coolness of the place (the La Dehesilla parcel, north-facing at 700 meters).

 

Ricardo Cantera

The grapes were destemmed, the juice cold-macerated in steel for one week at 8°C, fermented with indigenous yeast at up to 16°C. We also ought to mention the partial malolactic fermentation in tank and oak. Total time in used French oak was 8 months.

Finca Mazuelo 2014 (Gregorio Martínez)

Cherry red, a touch of development towards rim. Cherry, plums, herbs. Full on the palate, hint of vanilla, good acidity.

Price: Low

Food: Red meat, game, poultry, hard cheeses

 

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Articles

From the Atauta valley

A few weeks ago I wrote and introduction to the wineries of Soria. Read it here, including a note on one of today’s wines. I will now follow up with two winery profiles.

Dominio de Atauta is undoubtedly the leading quality producer in the Soria part of Ribera del Duero. I visited them again in April this year, and met Jaime Suárez. He is in theory the winemaker, while brother Ismael is viticulturalist. But as he say, they work together and consult each other, to have a greater understanding of the totality. The Suárez brothers and their team draw from the valley’s five hundred years of experience in bringing the best out of the tinto fino (tempranillo) grape. Here are extreme conditions with little rainfall, the wind that blows though the vineyards and large temperature variations. Therefore the winemaking it quite easy, there is no great chance of diseases, so the traditional, sustainable way is good enough. All work is manual. The soil treatment is completely natural, with only animal and plant compost. According to tradition there is only goblet-training in the vineyard.

Soil types (Credit: D. Atauta/ Avante Selecta)

In the cellar there is not much intervention needed either. The vats are of various sizes and from different materials, such as wood, concrete and stainless steel.

Big oak vats in the cellar

Today they also count on the Atalayas de Golbán range. While Atauta is typical of Soria, the Atalayas represent the whole of Ribera del Duero. The distribution is roughly 50% of grapes from Soria, the rest is mostly from the Burgos province. This lets them offer more “typical” Riberas within the styles of joven, crianza, and reserva, that many people are more used to.

A winery neighbourhood, “barrio de bodegas”, beside one of the vineyards. These are underground cellars from the 18th century

The Atauta Valley runs 4 kilometres east-west, and 1 north-south. Here they have identified 25 different terroirs. Jaime points to the bottom of the nearest hill where there are 2 meters of topsoil, and smaller, calcareous rocks. 22 hectares are their own, and they control another 23. This makes a total of 600 plots, all of them really small. Only one of these plots is grafted, the rest is pre-phylloxera.

What is different with Soria then? It’s cooler, in general higher altitude, so the resulting wines have less body and tannin structure, but more acidity and freshness. In Jaime’s opinion this is about it, because the soils vary as much here as they do in the rest of the denomination.

Jaime in the highest vineyard

Atauta’s highest plot is at 990 meters. Here there is 2 meters of clay soil, that gives some structure, but the maturity is low and the acidity high. In contrast sandy soils give higher alcohol and richer wines.

A wine soon to be launched is called La Roza, and will from the 2013 vintage on be sourced from here. That is, from the right part. Note that to the left is another owner, that uses chemicals, hence the light colour, and the “dead” soil

They make three “single terroir” wines. -We can’t say single vineyard, Jaime points out, as there is only made 450-1.200 bottles of each of them. La Mala from calcareous soil (a layer of only 60 cm), just 0,7 of a hectare in total. Still there are 10 plots. From these they first make four wines, age them separately, then taste to find the Mala to be bottled. Then it goes to barrel ageing for 18 months. It takes it name (La Mala = the bad one), because of the extremely low yield that this thin layer gives it was earlier considered unprofitable. Valdegatiles in contrast, has the deepest soil (1.6 metres up to the calcareous rock, and the highest content of clay of all their vineyards. It’s thus a powerful wine, but also with the freshness and the minerality of the area. Llanos del Almendro is made with grapes from sandy soil with cobbles stones on the surface. The temperatures here are higher, because of the cobbles.

-We destem all of it, no pressing, first cool maceration (less than 10 degrees), work them twice a day, pumpover and plunging, then raise the temperature.

A word on fermentations, that are almost always “spontaneous”, but only almost always: -If we can fill a tank from one terroir, we use only natural yeast. If we need to add grapes we use selected yeast. Why? Because we want to control the fermentation. With this operation we don’t want to change anything, we are just interested in completing the fermentation.

The only oak employed is of French origin. -For Parada 40% new, then 3rd and 4th use, for 14 months. For the other wines there are different variations according to what we want to achieve, says Jaime.

A short tasting started with one Atalayas wine, the rest were from the Atauta valley.

La Celestina 2015 Crianza (Atalayas de Golbán) sells for less than 10€ in the shop. The grapes are sourced 60% from Soria, the rest from La Horra, near Roa (Burgos) in central Ribera del Duero. 20-25% is new oak.

Cherry red. Full of fruit; red fruits (from the Soria part), blackberry (from Burgos), a touch of lickorice and pepper. It’s full and smooth on the palate, with integrated wood, the Burgos grapes also give some structure.

Parada de Atauta 2014 is fairly new in the assortment. 50-70.000 bottles were made. It retails for around 18€, and it’s by no means an ordinary entry-level wine. It’s made from minimum 80 year old vines, from sandy/stony soil, in and around Atauta.

Dark purple. Fresh, floral aroma with blueberry and blackberry. Smooth tannins, a cool acidity, and a dark minerality.

Dominio de Atauta 2014 is a tremendous wine from 120-160 year old vines, only pre-phylloxera. This is the final blend of the 25 terroirs, so this is probably Atauta’s most complex wine).

Cherry red (lighter in colour than Parada). Floral aroma, raspberry and blackberry, aromatic herbs, some oak in the back. Good structure with mature tannins, minerals (chalk), a touch of coffee. It’s very long, and you feel the flavours come back in waves.

Valdegatiles 2012 (1,2 ha. 100% clay, fermented in steel with natural yeast): Cherry red, not very developed. Lots of fruit, red and black, tobacco and oak is just a sense or feeling in the background. Powerful structure, intense, and a long, fruity aftertaste.

 

 

 

 

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Wine of the Week

Meinklang’s Burgenland red

Angela and Werner Michlit’s Meinklang farm is mentioned several times on this site. Look here for a short presentation. (By the way, the grüner wine mentioned in the post is now renamed Heideboden.)

Here we shall talk about another of their many good and economic wines, a delicious red wine from their home ground in Burgenland, near the Hungarian border. It’s based on the zweigelt variety (60%), complemented with blaufränkish (30%) and st. laurent (10%).

Zweigelt normally makes ligh, juicy wines, blaufränkish contributes with fruit, tannin and sometimes a spicy character, whereas st. laurent’s most important feature is colour.

The grapes were biodynamically farmed, the wine spontaneously fermented and raised in tank. The alcohol clocks in at a fairly low 12%.

A Christmas edition of the wine

Burgenland Red 2017 (Meinklang)

Deep cherry red. Young, fresh aromas of raspberries, plums, flowers and herbs. Vibrant and luscious in the mouth with lots of pure fruit, light tannin and a refreshing acidity.

Price: Low

Food: Meats on the lighter side, salads, pizza, pasta, but also fish like bacalao

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Wine of the Week

Alsace Grand Cru from Frick

Domaine Frick is an Alsace favourite, for their honest work, sustainable practises and the delicious fruit and the vineyard expression in their wines.

Here is a recent post where you can read a little about the background

This particular wine comes from a vineyard in Pfaffenheim on fossil ground with limestone and some red clay and gravel. It was planted in the 1970’s and 80’s. The grapes were harvested and selected by hand, spontaneously fermented and was subject to a week of skin-maceration. It was matured in big, old vats of French oak. No filtering nor fining. Biodynamic certified by Demeter, an organization that Frick in fact has done a lot to develop.

Vorbourg Alsace Grand Cru 2016 – pinot gris macération sans soufre ajouté (Dom. Pierre Frick)

Amber with red tones. Aromas of raspberry, yellow apples, fennel. Full on the palate, a light tannic grip, integrated acidity, and a salty finish. 15% alcohol is no problem. Needs air, and “grows” in the glass.

Price: Medium

Food: Light meat, such as poultry and pig, white and grilled fish, red fish, shellfish (stronger types such as crab), salads, fresh and mature cheeses. Very versatile, in other words

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Wine of the Week

Argentinian Joker

Just when you needed it you slided a joker down the sleeve. A real surprise it was, from Argentina’s huge wine region Mendoza.

Gerardo Michelini and his wife Andrea Muffato started this venture in the village Gualtallary (in the Uco valley) in 2012, after having worked for a long time in wine. Everything is organically farmed. In general they use whole cluster maceration with long skin-contact. A spontaneous fermentation is carried out in cement eggs, steel or large oak vats. Additions are kept at a minimum.

This is a blend of 50% malbec and 50% pinot noir from a young vineyard (planted in 2006) situated at 1.400 meters altitude in calcareous, stony soils. It’s made in steel, and saw some carbonic maceration. Unfined and unfiltered.

Ji Ji Ji Malbec CO2 Pinot Noir 2017 (Gen del Alma)

Dark cherry, violet hue. Fruity, aromas of dark berries (blackberry, blueberry), stony minerality and a hint of pepper. Fresh, juicy and carbonic with a touch of tannin. The alcohol is low at 11.5%.

Price: Low

Food: Meat (poultry, veal, pig), white fish, salads, fresh and hard cheeses

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Wine of the Week

If natural wines can age…: Ribera del Duero edition

We have seen several natural wines now that really can age. (Here is a good one from Granada, and here an even older wine from Dão, Portugal.)

Let me tell you about one from Ribera del Duero, Castilla y León (Spain). Goyo García Viadero, the man behind it, comes from a respected family in wine. I got in touch with him through Bodegas Valduero of Gumiel del Mercado, where his sister Yolanda is winemaker.

Goyo started to produce his own naturally made wines in 2003. He has three small plots near Roa, with different soil types and at various altitudes. And they are the “toda la vida” kind of vineyards, where white varieties grow together with reds. The idea is to express the characteristics of the vineyard, rather than each grape variety.

(Credit: G. García)

All wines are de-stemmed, fermented exclusively with wild yeast, and nothing is added during elevage, neither any SO2.  The wines are raised in old French barrels in a very old underground cellar in Gumiel.

The Viñas de Arcilla is Goyo’s only mono-varietal cuvée, 100% tinto fino (tempranillo).  It comes from a very old vineyard, clay-dominated (as the name suggests) with some lime-stone, at more than 800 meters altitude. It’s produced with a similar vinification and elevage as outlined above.


Finca Viñas de Arcilla 2010
(Goyo García Viadero/ Explotaciones Valduero)

Deep cherry red, signs of development. Cherry, mature fruits, a bit earthy and peaty. Still some fine-grained tannins, lovely acidity and quite persistent. Not heavy at all, and with none of the oakiness often associated with this wine region.

At a younger stage it is perhaps the most powerful of his wines, with a solid structure, but it’s always juicy and surprisingly open too. Now I would say it’s near its peak.

Price: Medium

Food: The suckling pigs or lambs of the region, any kind of roasts and red meat, and don’t forget the wild mushrooms

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Wine of the Week

Majas’ Cortado

Domaine de Majas is run by Alain and Agnes Carrère. The 30 hectare domain is located in the Roussillon by the village Caudiès de Fenouillèdes. Tom Lubbe from nearby Domaine Matassa helped to change into organic cultivation. The vineyards are at 350-400 meters’ height in slopes with good exposure and drenage. We see around 120 year old vines of carignan, grenache noir and macabeu, and younger (30-35 years) of syrah, cabernet franc, merlot, rolle and chardonnay. The climate is affected by the nearness of the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean sea.

The wines are fermented with natural yeasts in old cement tanks, some steel and a small percentage old, used wood.

Here we experience harsh winters and warm, sunny summers. The tough northwestern wind from the Pyrenees and the wet Mediterranean breeze often follow each other.

Even if the domain lies within the AOC Côtes du Roussillon they often choose to classify their wines as Vin de Pays de Côtes Catalanes, to honour what they consider te be a unique area.

The soil is mainly chalky clay and schist.

The grapes for this wine are grenache 50%, grenache gris 25%, and grenache blanc 25%. They were hand-harvested, naturally fermented in cement and aged there for 6 months.

Cortado 2017 (Dom. de Majas)

Light ruby. Aroma of white flowers, plums, peach and raspberry. In the mouth it’s intense, fruity with round tannins.

Price: Low

Food: Light meat, white fish, salads

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