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Wine of the Week

Štekar’s Re Piko

Janko Štekar is based in Goriška Brda, in the small town of Kojsko, between the Pre-Alps and the Adriatic Sea, not far from Italian Friuli.

His winery is protected from the cold winds from the north, while the mild breezes from the east helps avoiding humidity and thus plagues in the vineyards. The vines are planted on terraces and worked organically.

(Photo credit: Kmetija Štekar)

The wines are made as naturally as possible. He uses just a small amount of sulphites sometimes..

He has two lines of wines, one with skin-maceration and one without. This wine is from the former selection, made from riesling 90% and picolit, and macerated on the skins for 28 days. It underwent a spontaneous fermentation, and matured in 1100L vats of acacia for four years. Very low sulphur, no filtering.

Re Piko 2013 (Kmetija Štekar)

Clear amber. Aroma of nectarines, white pepper, flowers, eucalyptus. light touch of apple vinegar. Full, grapey, some tannin and good, natural acidity.

Price: Medium

Food: Fried and grilled fish, light meat, salads… We had it with panfried salmon and various vegetables

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Wine of the Week

Ribeyrenc, a nearly extinct grape

This is a wine from a private tasting of more or less unknown grape varieties, all beginning with the letter A. Here the official name is aspiran, but Thierry Navarre calls it ribeyrenc, according to local practise. Well practise… This is not a common grape anymore. There was a time when it comprised one third of the vast vineyard of Languedoc. But it was almost wiped away, first with phylloxera, then the extreme weather conditions of 1956.

Thierry Navarre
(Credit: Thierrynavarre.com)

Thierry Navarre’s grandfather managed to keep some vines. And there are two more known vintners, so the total is probably 7 hectares of ribeyrenc in Languedoc today. To be precise, we are talking about the ribeyrenc noir, as Navarre also has a tiny amount of ribeyrenc blanc.

This variety is well adapted to the Mediterranean climate, and in spite of being picked towards the end of September, the alcohol content is often low, in this case 11%.

Navarre is based in the Saint-Chinian, but as his grapes are not allowed in the AOC, the wines come under the designation Vin de France. The vines for this wine are grown on south-east facing slopes of slate, in red soil rich in iron. The farming is organic, the thin and fragile grapes are lightly crushed with stems, and fermented in cement.

Ribeyrenc 2015 (Dom. Thierry Navarre)

Pale ruby colour. Perfumed (violets), with smell of red berries and a hint of herbs (thyme) and white pepper. Mellow and juicy in the mouth, with a slightly peppery nuance and wonderfully balanced acidity.

Price: Low

Food: Light meat, charcuterie, bacalao, salads

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Wine of the Week

Pacalet’s Nuits-Saint-Georges

Philippe Pacalet is one of the most talented négociants. Operating from Beaune since 2001, he works with growers from many parts of Bourgogne. He is not the type that buys in wines, but he works closely with the farmers, giving them his advice, buys the juice and follows and elevates the wines, so that he can put his stamp on them with his greatest confidence.

He tries to minimize the use of sulphur (and only before bottling), but his wines are still ageworthy. He never uses new oak, so there is never any disturbing oakiness.

During the latest years he has been looking outside Côte d’Or, such as Cornas, and he has even bought his own vineyards in Chénas and Moulin-à-Vent, Beaujolais.

He was the one who helped Fanny Sabre out in the beginning (read more here).

Nuits-Saint-Georges 2016 (Philippe Pacalet)

Cherry red. Mature red and dark fruits (blackberry), mineral and tobacco. Some tannin, fresh, concentrated and long.

Price: High

 

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Wine of the Week

Altura’s Ansonaco

Former maths teacher Francesco Carfagna is the owner of the Altura winery on the island of Giglio off the coast of Toscana. It has become a popular tourist destination, but only 600 people are actually living there.

Carfagna has himself revived the former traditions, and makes wines from indigenous grape varieties farmed biodynamically. It’s especially the ansonica (sic!) that has seen a revival in the hands of Francesco. As for today he is the only one who bottles his own wine.

This wine was included in a recent tasting of lesser or -for many- not known varieties.

The wine comes under the designation DOC Isola del Giglio. The soil is sandy granite, and the plants from the small vineyard are of various ages (20-80 years). It’s spontaneously fermented, aged for up to a year in steel tanks. Unfined and unfiltered. Low-sulphur (less than 30 mg/l).

Ansonaco 2013 (Altura)

Amber colour, slightly cloudy. Strong peel character, smells of plums, bitter almonds, slight barnyard. Full, grapey and tasty. Lots of character and charm.

Price: Medium

Food: Grilled and fried fish, tasty seafood, salads, lightly spicy food, light meat, cheeses (try with mild blue cheese)

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Wine of the Week

Col Fondo from Emilia-Romagna

Many people think of Col Fondo as some kind of an old-fashioned, or sometimes, low-intervention/ high-quality Prosecco. But the term is not restricted to that area.

This one is from Emilia-Romagna further down south. It’s made from the grasparossa grape, organically grown. It underwent a natural alcoholic fermentation in steel, with the second fermentation in the bottle.

Falcorubens Col Fondo 2017 (TerraQuilia)

Dark red, with fine bubbles. Dark berries, earthy notes. Youthful and inspiring, quite long with good acidity a slightly bitter tone in the end.

Price: Low

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Wine of the Week

An Escoda red at Bar Brutal

I am in Barcelona for two natural wine fairs (Vins Nus and Vella Terra). And I have just finished a well-prepared meal at the city’s perhaps most iconic natural wine bar Brutal. And what could be more appropriate than to have one of Joan Ramón Escoda’s wines as this week’s pick?

Joan Ramón is one of the owners, and he was the one who brought my attention to this fabulous bar a few years ago, though he has no active role in it.

Waiter Lorenzo Gonelli entertaining the guests

Small plates like tuna tataki and ‘sweetbreads’ (here: pig’s cheeks) and cecina de vaca, lightly smoked ham from cow, were accompanied by several wines: An inspiring, fresh, yellow, barrel-aged xarel.lo Essencial 2017 (J. Rubió) from Penedès, Qvevri, a full thick, earthy, sauvignon blanc from Loire, with some residual sugar (made by a distributor of Georgian wines in France), a terret-dominated blend called Rouge fruit 16/ Rouge de Causse 15  (Petit Gimios), a dark, green herb-scented Minervois. To round off it all I had the floral, yellow and rosa-hued Súpertock Ancestral (Bodegas Cueva), a fresh valencian pét nat from the tardana grape.

But in-between: A timely reunion with the following wine.

The owners have grown their grapes organically in the Conca de Barberà since 1996, biodynamic since 2003 and without additions of sulphur (or anything else) since the 2007 harvest.

This wine is made from the varieties cabernet franc, cariñena, garnacha tinta and merlot. It stays 10 months on the lees in inox, and clocks in at a relatively low 13% alcohol.

Nas del Gegant 2017 (Escoda-Sanahuja)
Dark red. Cherry and blackberry aromas, with flowers and a mineral touch. Lively in the mouth, with a fresh acidity.

Price: Medium

Food: Very versatile; aromatic and light meat, cured ham, cheeses, rice dishes, tasty salads, and much more…

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Articles

La Loba, a new voice in Soria

Ana Carazo is La Loba, “The Wolfess”, a passionate wine woman who loves the work in the field and in the cellar. I met her in Matanza de Soria together with Eduardo “Edu” Catalina Chuti, who is responsible for vineyards, and Gabriel Oprea from Romania, who lends a helping hand.

Ana, Eduardo and Gabriel

Ana, trained at the school of oenolody and viticulture in Requena (Valencia), now manages the centuries-old vineyards handed-down from her grand-father. We walked through the icy vineyards a freezing cold April day. A lot of those vineyards are old pre-phylloxera. There is a great variety of soil in small places, mostly sand, clay and loamy soil. It’s more fine in the “north” (the Matanza de Soria area) compared to the area where we find the Dominio de Atauta and the Rudeles wineries (see an overview here). As Ana explains, “the river Duero marks a border between what we call the north and the south”.

The green door in Matanza, featured on the labels

Matanza is a small settlement. The inhabitants are very few, but the extention is large. The name, meaning ‘killing’, comes from a battle during the Moorish times when everyone was killed.

 

From the vineyard Quintanilla de Tres Barrios

 

Sheep’s wool as “manure”, same vineyard

Ana’s family has 1-1,5 hectares of vineyards. Eduardo counts on 7, that he uses for various purposes, both here, and he sells some to Atauta’s Atalayas project too. He delivers wines with different profiles for the different villages.

Even this cold, in Matanza we have more problems with goat’s kid and rabbit than frost, explains Ana.

Ana’s vineyards are marked by green sticks, while Eduardo’s are orange and pink

We climbed uphill for some magnificent views and a tasting.

The La Loba brand comes from old vines, 90 years+, and only pre-phylloxera. They are very structured, potent and rich wines. Ana calls La Lobita (‘the wolf cub’) “a different concept”. Still structured wines from old vines, but also with a small percentage of the white albillo grape. This wine is fermented in lightly-charred American oak barrels with open top, they are de-stemmed by hand, then a light punching of the cap, whole grapes, and a light pressing.

La Lobita 2016, fermented for 5 months with natural yeast and no manipulation of temperature. The French oak was toasted “al punto” (just enough), 20-25% albillo was used, contrary to the normal 5%. “Every year is a different world, with its own expression, and one has to see what needs to be done”, says Ana.

Cherry red with violet tones; aroma of red fruits, and a slight caramel tone; very fresh in the mouth and with good structure.

La Loba 2011: “This was very special for me”, Ana says, “as it was my first vintage”. Here is only new oak (14 months, 2 barrels were bought), but it was a good year for this oak ageing, a year with a lot of structure.

Some development in colour; still some oak, but lots of fruit, rounded tannins, and freshness and warmth side by side. (14% alc.)

La Loba 2014: Brigh cherry colour; red fruits, some blackcurrant, aromatic spices; lots of taste/power, but also finesse, great elegance, fresh – the most elegant of the lot, even if it has the highest alcohol level (14,5). It spent 10 months in the big barrels.

La Loba 2015: Considerably darker, and with a dense colour; darker fruits, blackcurrant and blackberry, but also spices; still it’s lively and vibrant in the mouth (maybe due to the cold winter, even for Soria), and a long lasting finish. All in all very balanced.

These are short notes, but it was a special time and place: Over an old cellar we were sitting on a tiny veranda overlooking wide plains of the Soria province. Ana and her friends prepared a delicious meal while we were there; cutlets with kidneys and vegetables, from ‘cordedo lechal de Soria’, the young lamb that can be so delicious in this part of Castilla.

Ana down in that old cellar, owned by Eduardo’s mother

As you can see on this map we are near the border of the DO Ribera del Duero, in the eastern part. Most of the Soria province is high-altitude. In Matanza we are 900 metres above sea level. The winters are long and cold, the rainfall is moderate, there can be late spring frosts. In this continental climate the summer temperatures are obviously higher. But the summers are short, and even then the nights are quite cool. This gives a long growth cycle, with healthy ripening and high quality.

The majority of the vines are pre-phylloxera, and the pruning system means that all tasks must be carried out manually. Almost everything is tempranillo, or tinta del país, as it’s known here.

“We always wanted to know what essence came from those grapes of century-old vineyards, that tasted so good”, says Ana, “and that also in oenological parameters they reached optimal points. When we in 2011 were given the chance to started this project, a dream had become a reality.”

Edu insisted on a photo shoot in that clayey-icey vineyard, cold not only for a visitor from the north

 

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Wine of the Week

Texier’s crazy cat

Éric Texier’s Chat Fou (‘Crazy Cat’) is a long time favourite. (Here is the 14 vintage, and here is another wine-of-the-week entry by Mr. Texier.)

Texier has a natural approach, and his wines are always clean and pure expressions of grapes and terroirs.
This vintage was tasted at London’s RAW fair in March 2018. It’s made from a typical Rhône blend, mainly grenache, but with some 10-15% of white grapes, that add to the elegance. Destemmed, spontaneously fermented in steel, matured in used barrel for 10 months. No sulphites added.

Éric and Laurence Texier at the RAW fair last year

Chat Fou 2016 (É. Texier)

Dark cherry red. Aromas of red fruits, raspberry, cherry, chalk, and slightly spicy. Juicy, luscious on the palate, with a touch of fine tannins, just enough acidity, and in fact quite long.

Price: Low

 

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Wine of the Week

Maestro’s Lovamor

Alfredo Maestro puts out one delicious natural wine after another. (Read about a visit to his Peñafiel winery here.) This week’s pick is his skin-contact albillo, here in the 2016 vintage.

The wine stayed 6 days with skin-contact, then on lees for 4 months.

The white Lovamor 2016 is a high altitude albillo real (770-1.000m) from more 100-120 year old vines in Olmos de Peñafiel with one week skin-contact, and due to the cold Castilian winter it didn’t undergo malolactic fermentation.

Alfredo refuses to use any DO, so his wines are labelled VT Castilla y León, whether they originate from the Ribera del Duero/ Valtiendas area, Gredos, or occasionally Cigales or other places.

Lovamor 2016 (Alfredo Maestro)

Gold to orange colour. Apple and melon in the aroma, flowery, and also lovely, light citrus. Quite rich and complex in the mouth, slightly pétillant, and a lovely, lively citrusy acidity.

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Wine of the Week

Chablis, naturally

Château de Béru is located in the small village Béru, to the east of Chablis town. It has been a property of the family of the same name since the 15th century. Athénaïs de Béru has been in charge since 2004, and now cultivates 15 hectares according to biodynamic principles.

Montserre is made from a single vineyard on the flatlands of the valley, where the soils contain mainly limestone with fragments of rock.

This wine was spontaneously fermented, then spent 3 months in steel and 3 months in old oak vats. There was no fining nor filtering, and no sulphur was added.

Montserre 2015 (Château de Béru)

Dark yellow, orange tones. Developed aromas of mature yellow fruits (mandarins, yellow tomatoes, mango), and a slightly bitter peel tone. Round and tasteful, quite powerful, and with a balancing acidity. A cool wine from a warm Chablis vintage.

Price: Medium

Food: A variety of fish (both red and white) and seafood, salads, tasteful cheeses, try with lightly spiced food too

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