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.
White and grilled fish, shellfish, sushi, salads
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.
Food: Meat, like pepper steak or casseroles, salads…
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 of course Bertrand Sourdais, formerly with Atauta, and his new project Antídote.
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.
Food: Red and light meat, rice dishes, pasta, roast vegetables…
This year’s RAW adventure had an unlikely start for me. It was down in Brighton, a beautiful seaside town that I take 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 restaurants 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 Červený2016(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 have 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 veltlín (grüner veltliner), ryzlink (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.
Andrea and 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!
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.