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Wine of the Week

Eco from Esporão

Esporão has been among the leading wineries of Portugal since its foundation in the early 1970’s.

The vineyard that gives birth to the Colheita

Not only are they big. Well they are; their Alentejo property is vast, the sales are good, and they have several well-known brands in the market. So when in Portugal, if I’ve had a plain bacalhau at a modest restaurant, there is almost always an Esporão at hand, such as the Monte Velho.

But they are also leading the way with many sustainable projects, such as reducing the bottle weight, fighting to stop the dam at river Tua, Douro, where they have a second winery. But more than this, then have a holistic approach, and in every aspect they seriously take the responsibility they believe that they are given.

I keep coming back to this wine. Made from touriga nacional, aragonêz and cabernet sauvignon in equal parts, the grapes are destemmed, fermented in open lagares for 10 days, and kept in steel. Eco-friendly, eco-nomic.

Credit: Herd. Esporão

Esporão Tinto Colheita 2017 (Herdade do Esporão)

Deep purple. Fruitdriven (mature dark berries), plums, aromatic herbs, some lickorice. Round, juicy, fruity with some acidity.

Price: Low

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Wine bars and restaurants and Wine of the Week

Pét nat at P Franco

Finally I managed to visit P Franco in the Clapton area of East London. It’s small, I don’t know if the workers find it functional. But there is one big table in the middle of the room, so I found it cosy and social. How nice isn’t it to be surrounded by so many good bottles; used bottles from the bar, and bottles from the shop waiting to get a new owner.

The owners also have other venues in town, like the Bright and the Peg. There is always something interesting going on, and many are the guest chefs that have been visiting.

Daniel and the rest of the staff being very attentive

This night I had been in Hackney, and just popped in. No problem to find a place by their one central table.

I had three wines, and I let Daniel and the others decide. For every wine I got the choice between two or three, so it turned into an interesting tasting also.

I tasted, among other wines, a very good natural verdicchio, Terre Silvale 2018 from La Distesa di Corrado Dottori from the Marche, an unfiltered Grüner 2018 from Arndorfer, and A toi nous 2018, from Andrea Calek, a Czech in the Ardeche.

For this post I chose the Silvaner pét nat from 2 Naturkinder of Franken. They have a small production from 30 years old vines on shell limestone by the river Main in Bavaria. The grapes are hand harvested and left as whole clusters. The bunches ferment in stainless steel for two weeks without temperature control. Then the bunches are pressed, and the wine finishes the fermentation in bottle. It was bottled with close to 10 grams residual sugar and the pressure became 2.2 bars. The alcohol is low at 11%, and as for the total SO2 (nothing added) it’s as little as 4 mg/L.

Silvaner Pét nat 2018 (2 Naturkinder)

Orange/brown, slightly turbid. Aroma of yellow apples, white flowers and herbs. Yeasty, with a creamy mousse, grapefruity, with a nicely integrated acidity.

Price: Medium

Food: I had it with “Smoked ivory cauliflower, cacao flower and horseradish” at P Franco, but it should tackle a lot of dishes; white fish, smoked fish, charcuterie, lightly spiced Asian…

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Wine of the Week

Passalacqua’s Puglia project

I am in London, mainly for music. But I never miss a chance to visit some of the many good natural wine bars and restaurants in town. Yesterday I visited Brawn again (see an earlier, more detailed report here), that’s owned by the people behind the classic Terroirs.

At Brawn one of the highlights was the orange wine from Valentina Passalacqua’s Puglia project.

The wine and light logo

Her farm is found inside Gargano National Park in Apricena, Puglia, and has belonged to the family for well over 100 years. The soil consists mainly of limestone rocks rich in minerals, at about 200 meters of altitude. It’s now worked biodynamically. All the wines are spontaneously fermented, never fined nor filtered, and they all come without sulfur addition.

Back label

The “calcareous project” came to life because Valentina felt the need to isolate some plots characterized by exclusively Kimmeridian calcareous soil. These are defined by terroir, the wines are mineral, and full of life. Falanghina is just one of the many varieties that can be called indigenous, but also with Greek influence or inspiration (along with nero di Troia, greco, aleatico, to name a few).

Valentina informs that the numbers indicated on the labels are the atomic number (20) and the atomic weight (40.08) of the chemical element of calcium (Ca). The designation is IGP Bianco Puglia, and it comes in a one liter bottle.

As you already have guessed, the fermentation was spontaneous, and it was macerated on the skins for 7 days, in open vats with manual hat break. It was racked in steel, and bottled without filtering or clarification.

Calcarius Orange Puglia (Valentina Passalacqua)

Light orange, with a reddish tone. Fresh on the nose, citric notes (mandarin), aromatic herbs and oriental spices. A slight touch of fine tannins in the mouth, saline notes and an appealing citric finish.

Price: Medium

Food: White fish, light meat, vegetarian, not too spicy Asian

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Wine of the Week

Bartulović’s Dingač

When coming out of the Dingač tunnel a mighty landscape lies before us. Some of the steepest and most dramatic slopes in the world of wine are bathing in glittering light. Here the grapes are hit three times by the sun; directly, from the limestone rocks and from the sea.

We are in Dingač, the first appellation of Croatia (or rather from Yugoslavia, 1961). And we, we are a bunch of jazz musicians taking a break from the Makarska Autumn Leaves Jazz Festival. Our jazzmobile is parked back at Bartulović (next door to the Kriz winery, see the former post), because here one needs a mountain goat of a car.

Maro Bartulović is one of the pioneers in organic and sustainable farming. The family business got a new start, or a new boost, in 1989, after generations of delivering grapes to the local cooperative.

-We are traditional vintners in the modern world, says Maro. -My kids are the 17th generation.

There are around 3 hectares of vineyards scattered around at 16 different places on the peninsula. Most of the grapes are plavac mali, the equally historic and difficult variety that with its long growing season can’t grow further north than Split, according to our host.

Maro Bartulović in his Dingač vineyards

Maro showed us the differences between the valley and the Dingač slopes in a very good year like 2018, of which we can only wait. Now we can appreciate the 2017, that was a dryer year. The grapes were picked from 17th August. Still there is a lot of sweetness, which results in a high alcohol. Farming practise is traditional, that is completely organic. Fermentation is spontaneaous and the wines are not fined nor filtered. There is never more than 1.200-1.400 bottles made of this wine.

Dingač 2017 (Bartulović)

Deep cherry red. Smells of red fruit and wild berries (blackberry, elderberries), and balsamic (menthol, eucalyptus), and also with a stony minerality. It has powerful tannins, retains some freshness (maybe from the balsamic notes), and it’s a bit raisiny towards the finish.

Price: High

Food: Calls for some powerful meat with a tasty sauce, but stews would be fine, and I imagine that hard cheeses would be perfect

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Articles and Wine of the Week

Križ’s Grk

I don’t blame you if you have trouble reading or understanding the title of this post. But let us first get the basics clear: Križ is the producer, based in the settlement Prizdrina (Potomje) on the Croatian peninsula Pelješac. Grk is the grape variety.

Grk is an indigenous grape, grown mostly on the neighbouring island of Korčula, and to a lesser extent here. There are only 15 hectares of it in Croatia (and the world). The word literally means bitter, but the main characteristics are high acidity, high natural sugar content (because of the sun reflection from the sea), balsamic aromas and saltiness. Although the name hints to a Greek origin, modern studies show that it is a close relative to crljenak kaštelanski (a forerunner to both zinfandel and the Adriatic grape plavac mali).

A special feature is that grk has only female flowers, so to able to produce fruit it needs to be planted alongside another variety. On Pelješac the norm is to plant three rows of grk, three of plavac mali, and so on.

The jazz musicians on tour enjoyed both wine and poster

Vinarija Križ

Just a few words on the producer here, that I visited a few days ago together with fellow jazz musicians taking a break from a festival held nearby. Maja and Denis Bogoević Marušić grow 2 hectares of grapes on limestone in the Postup region (plavac mali) and sand on the Križ hill (grk). Some of the vineyards in Postup are very steep (up to 45°inclination), so it has been necessary to build stone walls. They work by hand. The cultivation is traditional, exclusively organic (with some biodynamic practise), and only natural yeasts are used.

Their grk stays 4-7 days on the skins, depending on the vintage, before a one week fermentation. It’s matured in old oak barrels (not toasted, to give a gentle treatment). There is no sulphur added, and the total is less than 10 mg/L.

Grk 2018 (Vinarija Križ)

Golden colour towards orange. Smells of mature apples, some citrus (mandarins), pine and figs. Dry on the palate, very fine-tuned tannins and with a fresh, integrated acidity.

Price: Medium

Food: It’s very versatile: Fish, shellfish, risotto, pasta, and it performs surprisingly well with tasty meat

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Wine of the Week

Izi going

I am on my way to Croatia, from where I soon will report. From neighbouring Slovenia I tasted a wine from Kmetija Štekar again the other day. Štekar should be quite familiar for readers of this blog. Here is a brief introduction to the winery, and notes about another wine.

This one is more easy and less complex than you would normally get from this producer. It’s made from ribolla with natural yeast, made in steel, unfined and unfiltered.

Izi 2018 (Štekar)

Golden yellow, slightly turbid. Aromas of yellow apple, bay leaf, dried fruit, and a touch of both lemon and honey. Good concentration, yet juicy in the mouth, with a fresh acidity.

Price: Medium

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Wine of the Week

Elena of Jumilla

I visited Elena Pacheco at the family farm some years ago. She runs the business together with three sisters. They have 17 hectares. Monastrell is the main variety, growing in poor, limestone soils at around 500 meters. These are bush vines (‘en vaso’ in Spanish, more than 40 years old. And the wines are certified organic.

This wine made from 95% monastrell and the rest syrah, and is fermented and raised in steel.

Familia Pacheco 2016 (Viña Elena)

Dark cherry red. Aroma of mature red and dark berries (plums, blackberry, aromatic herbs and some balsamic (lickorice). Full-bodied, fresh and balanced; the alcohol (14,5) is evident, but not dominating.

Price: Low

Food: Roast, cheese, murcian paella, tapas


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Wine of the Week

Juicy at Esaias

I met Dido and Jurriaan almost by coincidence in Barcelona. Or to be precise, we were introduced by the organizer of the Vella Terra natural wine fair. I got the impression that their business was just beginning (which is not far from true), and the wine they had brought was just a sample. So it was a big surprise to find one of their wines at the newly opened Esaias in Oslo (next door to, and under the same ownership as the restaurant Bacchus, itself a natural wine haven).

Jur (left) and Dido at Garage, Barcelona

Dido and Jur are from Amsterdam. In their own words, then share a passion: wine, and travelled around the world to find kid right place to make it. They finally chose Alt-Empordà in Spain, where they found around ten hectares of vineyards in the natural reserve of Albera, that they were able to buy by crowdfunding. The vineyard they call Tortuga, because they share them with a nearly extinct tortoise species). It’s already cultivated organically, and they intend to implement biodynamic practise as well. 2018 is the first vintage when they are able to make wine entirely from own grapes.

Worth mentioning is that Dido was doing research for a master in cultural anthropology on the Swartland Independent Producers, a group of young winemakers making natural wines (Craig Hawkins, Jurgen Gouws ao.). Inspired by these people, living out their dream, they decided to do the same.

Along their journey they had worked for both big industrial companies and small artisans. It was Joan Ramón Escoda of Conca de Barberà who really made them realize that wine should be made naturally, with minimal intervention.

Juicy is made from garnacha 60% and merlot. The merlot was destemmed and pressed, then raised in 500L old oak barrels for 4 months. The garnacha grapes were pressed in steel, in whole bunches. There was no temperature control. The wine is unfined and unfiltered, and total SO2 is a mere 5 mg. The soil here is granite and schist., for the records.

Juicy 2018 (Vinyes Tortuga)

The colour we can call strawberry red. Smells of raspberry and strawberry. It lives up to its name, is juicy in the mouth, intensely fruity with raspberry all the way, and an inspiring acidity.

Price: Medium

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Wine of the Week

Nice Job!

At Oslo’s Territoriet wine bar they served this delicious wine. We enjoyed it outdoor in September, my brother and I. It is categorized as a rosé. That is, technically it’s a white wine, because pinot grigio sorts under that category. But many will know that the grape can have many red pigments, and with extended skin-contact the colour will appear.

Villa Job’s 6 hectares of vineyards are located on the Friuli Pozzuolo plateau, 90 meters above sea level. The soils here are complex, with sand, silt, clay, sandstone and marl. These vineyards have been in the Job family for generations.

Today Alessandro and Lavinia Job are farming biodynamically. The wine is made with native yeasts, and very little sulphites, if any. Long maceration in old barrels on skins is necessary to get what they consider to be the best expression of the grape. Here it lasted for 60 days. It’s spontaneous fermented, with natural malolactic fermentation in cement. The wine is unfiltered, and barely sulphured.

Guastafeste 2016 (Villa Job)

Salmon pink. Aroma of strawberry, raspberry and white flowers. Juicy, but also with good concentration, some very fine tannins, and a very pleasant acidity in a long finish.

Price: Medium

Food: Light meat, white and red fish, pasta, salads

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Wine of the Week

Dangerously drinkable from lower Loire

Groslot (or officially grolleau noir) is not in high esteem. But cared for like this it can give dangerously drinkable wines. This one is a real “glou-glou” and has been a house-wine in my house lately.

Domaine Les Grandes Vignes has been in the lower Loire since the 17th Century. Today they have a low-intervention philosophy, and biodynamic certification. The wine is fermented in old barrel, no sulphur added, unfined and unfiltered. It’s low in alcohol (11%), and only around 4 g/L acidity.

100% Groslot 2018 (Dom. Les Grandes Vignes)

Dark, blueish hint. Blueberry and dark cherry on the nose, some herbs and a hint of woodlands. Really delicious in the mouth; fine young tannins, and refreshing acidity, clean aftertaste where the berries dominate.

Price: Low

Food: Salads, light meat, pasta, bacalao

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