Our wine of the week 25th March was an Italian wine from the border zone of Carso. Here is a neighbour, from a Friuli-Slovenia tasting earlier this week. In fact Marjan Simčič’s winery is no more than 100 meters from the border. Another producer from our tasting was Radikon, only 11 km away, surprisingly enough to the east, because the borderline does a bend.
Furthermore Simčič’s vineyards are found in the Brda hills, on both sides of the border.
We are in a crossroads between the Mediterranean and the Alps. The Goriška Brda soil was under water in ancient times, and it’s today a soil rich in minerals.
Here the Simčič family cultivates the grapes the most natural way possible. They respect the vine’s natural capacity and are satisfied with a low crop, with the grapes on the vine as long as possible. The cellar practices are also deeply respectful of what comes in from nature.
Jožef Simčič was a pioneer in Brda. He bought his first pieces of land in 1860. Mirjan is now fifth generation.
They follow tradition and allow their grapes to mature, to produce a balanced aroma and a richer taste. No chemical fertilizers or insecticides are used.
The Selekcija is the second range of wines (the most expensive wines are called Opoka, only produced in special harvests). The Selekcija wines are selected from the oldest vines and matured slowly (2 to 4 years) in casks and wooden barrels of different sizes. None of these undergo filtration.
The ribolla grape is in Italian mostly called ribolla gialla, and in Slovenia also rebula, and other similar spellings. Typically it gives deep coloured but light bodied wines with high acidity and floral notes. It’s not unusual that it develops nutty flavours with some ageing.
We tasted three interesting wines from the winery this wine club evening. Here I chose the “selected” ribolla.
Ribolla Selecktija 2014(Marjan Simčič)
Yellow colour. Aroma of mature apples, bread, herbs and white pepper. Rich and full on the palate, evident but rounded tannins from skin-contact, and a natural and integrated acidity.
Finally I got the chance to visit Rodrigo Filipe, who makes the wonderful Humus wines. He can be found at his farm Quinta do Paço in the village Alvorninha. This is in the Óbidos part in the far north of the big Lisboa region. Here he makes cool Atlantic wines, guided by nature, experience and intuition, more than school oenology.
Before this day I had enjoyed a few of his wines at wine bars and cafés, such as this one. So I felt that I visit was overdue, and I am very glad that I finally made it to the quinta to meet the sympathetic man behind the work.
Quinta do Paço is a family propriety of a total of 20 hectares, of which around 10 are planted with vines. We are about 150 meters above sea level, between the Atlantic and the Serra dos Candeeiros range that enjoys a special soil and climate. The soil is calcareous/limestone with clay. The valley lies in a north-west direction, that secures longer maturation, and more acidity in the wines. Having said that, the wind was also shifting while we were there, so at one point there came a warmer breeze from the east (-from Spain, he joked). But as a whole the cool Atlantic breeze and high humidity contribute to a slow ripening and a high natural acidity.
Coming from a job as an engineer, Rodrigo took over the farm from his father in 2000, and it was from then that the project became more serious. It has been learning by doing, sometimes wrong, but always in a clear direction towards tasty and healthy wines. In other words, Rodrigo had no formal training in wine at the time. And even if he has taken a few courses, to this day he takes many decisions by experience and intuition, such as determing when to harvest.
The grapes are mainly local, or at least of Portuguese origin. -We use the grapes that are best adapted to our place, and the yields are kept lower than normal for the area, says Rodrigo. -We give special treat to the soil, because it must be alive to bring out the best of the varieties.
The beans give nitrogene to the soil
As we walk around the property it becomes clear that Rodrigo is in harmony with his farm and the land, and the farming is just very simple. He fertilizes with natural compost, and of additives there is only occational use of small quantities of copper and sulphur. Fermentation starts by itself after 5-6 days. The white wines are fermented in used barrels, and the reds are destemmed, pressed, fermented in steel and aged in used oak. The wines are never fined or filtered. We believe him easily when he tells that he has great pleasure to make, and share, authentic wines made in a very natural way.
The vigorous touriga nacional grape, here with eucalyptus to the left and cork trees in the middle
As we went along we tasted a few samples. A castelão 2017 was full of red fruits, still a little reduced (like some of the other wines, but it’s fixed with airing), mellow in the mouth, and the 16 (less maceration, 5 days) was lighter with lovely fruit and a wonderful natural acidity.
A touriga nacional rosé 17 (an “acidity year”, as Rodrigo puts it) had a wonderful salmon pink colour, strawberry and floral aromas, quite full in the mouthh, and yes, a refreshing acidity. Among the other 17’s a fernão pires was delighful, quite full and glyceric, with aromas of flowers, herbs and some wax. An arinto had the typical lemony acidity, and both apple and some herbs on the nose.
The barrels used are 10 years old. Chestnut was tradition here, just like clay
A white touriga nacional, a “blanc de noirs” 2017 matured 6 months over arinto skins (how did he come up with that idea anyway?): Yellow with trace of red; appley and grapey with some pharmacy notes. What is more: There is one over fernão pires skins too. Salmon pink colour, this was more fruity, still with apple notes, but flowers and menthol, and with a dry texture. Rodrigo explains, -Chestnut and clay give dryness, the wine “oxidizes” more because of a longer distance between the fibres, while oak can give a reductive tone. Then these two can balance each other.
We tried more touriga samples. Not to bore my readers too much I can say that the samples follow the line of the bottled wines; they are cool, natural with a fresh Atlantic feel.
Rodrigo together with Luis Gil after a long day in the vineyard
Among the bottled wines we tasted the cool and fruity Espumante 2010 and a Rosé (a blend of 2014-15-16, mostly castelão). Then on to the Humus range:
Humus Branco (no added sulfites) 2016 from fernão pires and arinto: Light yellow; it smells of mature apples, it’s also waxy in the aroma (from fernão pires); it’s full on the palate, a bit buttery, and with a good acidity (for which arinto is often a guarantist, but here also the climate). It has in fact more arinto, but the fernão pires shows a lot of influence.
Humus Curtimenta 2016: This is a creative take. The wine has also arinto and sauvignon blanc, that are fermented with skins for three months. This is added to freshly pressed touriga nacional (“blanc de noirs”). The colour thus becomes orange, and with a certain structure. But it’s still in a way soft and mellow, I would say elegant. It has a lovely fruit, on the tropical side, but also flowers, citrus and a nutty touch. This is very pure and lively, full of taste, just delicious.
Humus 2012, a 100% castelão, was ruby red with aromas of red berries (cherry, raspberry) and some darker tones behind it. Likewise the fruit was forward, but there was also a slight tannin bite, and a fresh acidity. Very drinkable, very appealing.
Humus (no added sulfites) 2013: This wine, from touriga nacional and syrah, showed really nice, fresh fruit, violets, dark berries (blackcurrant), a balsamic touch. The tannins were round, the fruit ripe and with a slighly sweet spicy note, and with a long aftertaste.
Humus (no added sulfites) 2011 from touriga nacional and syrah: This is the second year without additions, not even SO2. It was a warm vintage, and the wine showed wild and meaty, on the nose dark berries, flowers and an earthy tone. Rich, with marmelade and spices.
A lovely bunch of wines, all lively, fresh, natural, and with the outstanding creative invention Curtimenta in the middle
London’s Raw fair is over. This wine fair, founded by Isabelle Légeron (now also with meetings in Berlin and New York), is a two day celebration of individual, organic wines with a wide range of exhibitors. But what unifies them is their desire to express their place in their own unique way. Some have a no sulphur approach, while some are more pragmatic to this question.
This year the fair was back at the Strand, in central London, after two years further east. The venue is open and clean with good light, good for wine tasting. Wine bar and restaurant Noble Rot had their stand, and it was possible to savour food of many sorts.
Most of the artisans came from Europe. The bigger wine producing countries like Italy and France, and to a certain extent Spain, had their fair shares of exhibitors. But smaller wine countries were also represented, maybe most surprisingly Romania and the Czech Republic.
Among the more established producers, especially in this context, were Eric Texier (with expressive wines from Côtes du Rhône), the Catalan trio Mas Martinet-Venus la Universal (from Priorat/ Montsant, with increased focus on fruitiness than before), and mainly sparkling wine producers Mas de Serral- Pepe Raventòs and Recaredo-CellerCredo, Frank Cornelissen (who really has become a top Sicilian producer in every respect), not to mention Friulian neighbours Radikon and Gravner with their textbook skin-contact wines.
An opportunity for vignerons like Fabio Bartolomei to communicate directly with their audience
There were many contenders. Aside of the aforementioned ones here producers that I have appreciated for a long time were from France, Dom. Milan (Provence), Dom.de Clovallon (Languedoc); from Italy, Carussin-Bruna Ferro (Piemonte), Corte Sant’Alda (Veneto), 1701 (Franciacorta); Spain, Vinos Ambiz (Gredos/ Madrid); Portugal, both two participants, Quinta da Palmirinha (Minho) and Casa de Mouraz (Dão); Austria, Meinklang (Burgenland).
But not least is this an occasion to be surprised.
Here follow some memorable moments.
Chat Fou 2016(Éric Teixier)
A light entry here: A luscious, inspiring côtes du rhône. Light ruby; red berries, herbal, lightly spiced; juicy, fresh, just a hint of tannins, good acidity. A light, elegant vintage of this wine.
Carles and Montse
Carles Mora Ferrer and his close friend Montse have produced natural wines since 2008; no chemicals, no additives. I chose their cabernet; not pressed, fermented in inox, 20-25 days of maceration. Total sulphites is a mere 4 mg/L.
Cabernet Sauvignon Ánfora 2015(Clot de les Soleres)
Dark cherry, violet hint; red fruits, blackcurrant, green pepper; structured, good acidity.
Mas Martinet has been a favourite for many years, and maybe the most influential among the Priorat “pioneers” from the 1980’s, thanks to both father Josep Lluís’ teachings, daughter Sara’s and son-in-law René’s consulting and general inspiration through their wines. Sara Pérez, current winemaker, was also in the avant-garde when turning to organics in the early 2000’s. Venus is their side project in Montsant. Here I chose their white Venus, a varietal xarel.lo, fermented 20% with skins and elevated in big barrels. No added sulphite.
Venus Blanc 2014(Venus la Universal)
Yellow colour; very fresh, citrus, litchi some balsamic; glyceric, creamy and saline. So expressive!
Ivan and Ana Gómez
Bodegas Gratias of Castilla-La Mancha showed some good wines. I chose a field blend of some 20 varieties, many of them in danger of extinction, a crowdfunding project, “gratias to all those people
(‘gratias mecenas’) who believed” in the project, as they say. Fermentation was carried out in small deposits of 5 hectoliters, with whole clusters. The ageing was carried out no the lees, in oak, jars and steel. No clarification or cold stabilization.
¿Y tu de quién eres? 2016(B. Gratias)
Dark cherry colour; red and dark fruits, a hint of spice; juicy and drinkable, but also with a touch of dryness (from the stems).
Thyge of Bodega Frontío
Here were several surprises at one stand: A new, young producer in the remote Arribes, Castilian area bordering Portugal. Furthermore the man behind the bodega is Danish, Thyge Benned Jensen. I’m learning every year, says Thyge, which is good. But much is already very good: Taste his two-weeks skin-contact Naranjito, another surprise for this region. The variety is doña blanca (even though the label indicates something else).
Naranjito 2017 (B. Frontío)
Yellow with orange tones; mature apples, some peel; quite glyceric, with a supple acidity.
Andrea and Petr Nejedlich of Dobrá
Cuvée Kambrium 2014(Dobrá Vinice)
A wine from the Podyji national park in Moravia, Czech Republic, a blend of veltlín, ryzlink and sauvignon, as the back label reads. Light colour; gooseberry, white pepper; both round and light, but with good acidity too.
See also an article about Moravian wines tasted in England here.
Mladen Rožanić, jazz fan with creative Istrian wines
Roxanich of Croatian peninsula Istria makes powerful natural wines.
This is a field blend including syrah, cabernet franc, lambrusco, barbera, borgonja, malvasia nera. Bottling went without filtration, after 9 years of aging in big wooden vats and barrels. I like the reds. But the white ones, most often orange in colour, really has an unequalled quality. You can read more about them and another featured wine here.
Ines U Crvenom (in Red) 2008(Roxanich)
Red, developed colour (towards orange); a volatile feeling, mature red berries, dried fruits and roasted almonds; weighty, packed with fruit, plays with oxidation.
Fernando Paiva and his importer Ricardo Rodrigues of Portuguese Story
Fernando’s wines are marked by the Atlantic influence. His whites are covered several places on this site. This time he showed that the light (light-weight, not light in colour) vinhão can be fascinating when aged too. So that must be the choice.
Quinta da Palmirinha Vinhão 2012 (F. Paiva)
Dark with violet and some red; incredibly fresh, cherry and tint; round, mineral, with integrated acidity. It has an uplifting lightness, a feeling of weightlessness.
Corte Sant’Alda is a well-known Valpolicella producer, mostly in the more classic end of the spectrum. But the wines are thoroughly made, they are good, and they have nothing of the negative characteristics that the area has become known for in many wine circles today. Their classic wines are good. And Marinella presented an intriguing varietal molinara rosé aged in Tuscan amphorae, a vino de tavola with a total of 2 mg sulphur.
Agathe 2016(Corte Sant’Alda)
Salmon pink; flowers, strawberry and a touch of white pepper; no the palate quite smooth, but also with a surprisingly high acidity.
Lorenzo (left) and Andrea Pendin: Thumbs up for another inspiring meeting
L’Armonia of Vicenza (Veneto), Italy was one of the really great finds at this year’s Raw. Among many good wines I chose this wonderful garganega, from older plants (60-80 years). This is both an early harvest and a late harvest (with some botrytis), then blended. The different harvest times are due to Andrea’s friendship with and inspiration from Sébastien Riffault of Loire. (Read more here.)
Perla 2016 (Tenuta l’Armonia)
Complex aroma of mature apples, nuts, flowers, apricot, towards honey; medium full on the palate, and a salty, mineral aftertaste. Integrated, natural acidity.
No, Juan García is not a footballer in the Spanish second division. It’s a local hero grape variety with some potential for stardom on a national level.
The grape is most likely to be found in western Castilla, towards the border with Portugal, and it’s maybe at its best in Arribes del Duero. There are not many varietals made though. It was traditionally used to strengthen wines from garnacha and other soft-skinned grapes. Arribes is one of the oldest wine growing regions in Spain, with roots back to the Phoenicians. But it wasn’t untill the 1990’s that they started to create a DO region, that today covers only 600 hectares of vineyard.
The bodega is located in Fornillos de Fermoselle, between Salamanca and Zamora. From here you can look over the border to the Portuguese side of the Duero/Douro river. La Setera means she who handles muschrooms (after seta = mushroom). But the winery is equally famous for making artisanal cheese from the local goat and cow’s milk. They have also started to make beer. Patxi and his wife Sarah have six hectares of own vineyards in Fermoselle and the neighbouring Pinilla. It’s almost exclusively old vines, with Spanish and Portuguese grape varieties such as tempranillo, touriga nacional, bruñal, rufete, alongside red verdeja (sic!). They also do some experiments with amphora, resulting in a juan garcía-mencía-bruñal-bastardo-rufete wine called Tinaja Crianza, aged first in clay, then oak.
The tinto joven is made as a joven in steel tanks, to accentuate the fruitiness, and it’s 100% juan garcía. This is really small-scale with only 2.000 bottles made of the young entry-level wine.
Francisco José “Patxi” Martínez in his small artisanal bodega
Juan García Tinto Joven 2016(La Setera)
Dark cherry red with violet rim. Wild berries, elderberry, pepper, stony minerals. It’s very fresh, textural, with evident tannins, carbonic traces and a light bitterness in the finish. You could maybe call it a bit rustic, but I love it.
Food: A variety of meat, such as game, salads and cheeses
Here is another tasty Jura playing with oxidation, this time from Domaine Rolet.
Rolet is found in the historic town of Arbois, Louis Pasteur’s homeplace. The domaine was created in 1942, and with 58 hectares it’s now the second largest producer in Jura. The founder’s four children are now running the domaine.
Key words have always been traditional organic farming, ploughing, hand-harvesting (in those steep slopes), ripe grapes, fine-tuned use of wood, and controlled oxidation to obtain what winemaker Guy Rolet calls “a little hazelnut nose”. In fact some have called Jura’s white wines something between a burgundy and a manzanilla sherry.
This wine was fermented and aged in wood barrels for between one and two years.
Côtes du Jura Le Dent de Charnet 2016(Dom. Rolet)
Deep yellow. Intense aroma, nutty, buttery, with lime and some salty tones. Full and rich with a good tannic grip, and decent acidity.
Normally this oaky character could have been too much, but it’s something with the lightly, controlled oxidized style and the power that makes this work. Furthermore it’s better after some days in the fridge.
Food: Grilled seafood, cheeses like the local comté, salads, light meat
It took an ethnographer to discover this old tradition of dessert wines in Rioja. In fact it was Miguel Martínez’ interest in this particular wine that brought him into vinegrowing. He first made it in 2012, but it was only after a two year battle against the wine authorities that they accepted it. Thus Miguel’s supurao is the first, and at the moment the only sweet wine that comes under the DOC Rioja.
Soon these shelves will be filled with bunches of grapes
Miguel can be found in the small hamlet of Sojuela, his home village, in the slopes of the Moncalvillo mountain range between the Najerilla and Irégua valleys. Miguel says, before the industrialization, men and women from La Rioja went to the vineyards before harvest, picking the best grapes for their own consumption. They were stored on top of the houses, hung in the most ventilated, safe places, stayed there all winter, ageing, concentrating their juices, drying.
In the old days supurao was drunk at celebrations, a tradition Miguel remembers the old folks in his own family talked about. It could also be made in the community, each neighbour contributing with his or her grapes.
For the actual wine the bunches of garnacha and tempranillo were dried in a small shed, with room for 6.000 bunches to make 600 half bottles of dessert wine. It has typically low alcohol (this one is 12%, the previous vintage 9.5), and is light and fresh. After pressing it fermented in steel with part of the skins, then it underwent a slow fermentation, around fifty days, with several rackings, then a couple of months in barrel.
Ojuel is Miguel’s village without the first and last letter, the x marks his respect of tradition
Oxuel Supurao 2016(Ojuel)
Strawberry red. Straight-forward, simple and lovely aromas of mature raspberries, cherries, elderberry, with a sweet touch. Smooth texture, not very sweet and with a fresh acidity to match, there is pure fruit all the way. I barely believe it when Miguel tells it has around 150 grams residual sugar per litre.
Since my previous visit to Vinkontoret (the Wine Office, see here), a nice place to sample wines in Stavanger, Norway, one of the sommeliers has left. Christoffer Ingebretsen, formerly in charge of the restaurant at the town’ concert hall, is now alone. And he is busy, but he handles the crowd, and even remembers most of the wines I ordered two months ago.
Among them were Alsace Pinot Gris 2013(J & A Ganevat): A Jura producer, but also with some negociant activities, like here, where they control the vineyards. A light yellow wine with aroma of yellow tomatoes, a little raisiny, waxy, and a touch of flor. Full, smooth and quite long.
Yesterday another Ganevat, Champs Poids Chardonnay 2014, a Côtes du Jura, was tested:
Back to my March visit, a Grand Cru Sommerberg Riesling 2009(Albert Boxler), was fabulous: Deep yellow. Honeyed, waxy, and herbs on the nose. Full, smooth, and a great acidity contributes to the long finish.
This one was uncomplicated, yeasty and fresh, with a touch of peel and a limey acidity. Côme Isambert 2015 is a quaffable Saumur chenin blanc grown organically chalky, schisty soil and aged on the lees in big barrels. Côme doesn’t own the vineyards, but buys the grapes from four different growers and does the rest himself. Pure joy!
Next order: -It would have been nice with some red wine now. Christoffer: -OK, I’ll bring you some!
Asking for some red wine I was given this selection
Clos Mogador of René Barbier is a wine I have followed through many years, here in the 2013 vintage. René here means both father and son. Taken the lead now has junior, who is married to Sara Pérez, that has exactly the same position in Mas Martinet, also in the municipality of Gratallops. Dark, slightly violet; dark fruits, blackberry, rosemary, and a cool freshness; full and warm in the mouth, lots of tannins and a nice minerality.
The rest in brief: Barolo Riserva “7 anni” 2008(Franco Conterno): Some developed tones; red fruits, lickorice, underwood, mushroom; fresh acidity, evident tannins, but not aggressive. La Guiraude 2015 (Alain Graillot), Crozes-Hermitage. Red, violet hint; fresh aroma, still with youthful charm, red fruits, flowery; in the mouth young tannins, inspiring acidity. Côte Rotie 2010 (E. Guigal): Ruby red with developed tones; meaty aroma, forest berries, some sweet tones (toffee); round, full, well-balanced, maybe at its peak now, but I’m not sure if this is for me.
Worth mentioning from the last visit was also a barbera, La Scarpa La Bogliona 2008, a richly flavoured wine in good balance, with cherry and nuts, and a sweet & sour-like touch.
With the wines I ordered a cheese and charcuterie plate. The cheeses were Swiss, from Burgundy, La Mancha, and Lombardia, and of various styles.
Ok, the visits may seen as a bit of an of an impromptu character, but so what, this is a fascinating place with enough wine to follow your instincts, and many whites can go after a red. Each time at this office is a well worth, rewarding safari – and there’s not too much paperwork involved.