I tasted Sierra de Toloño’s range of wines again at the Simplesmente… Vinho fair in Porto, this wonderful event that brings artisans from the Iberian peninsula and elsewhere together every year.
Sandra Bravo is one of the younger, independent voices in a Rioja still struggling to come out of its classification system based on wood ageing. From vineyards under the Sierra Cantabria mountains, both on the Riojan and Basque side of the border she takes good decisions on the way from grape to bottle.
This wine, a garnacha from her varietal range, comes from a vineyard planted in 1944, at 700 meters of altitude in Rivas de Tereso. It’s fermented in 300 liter amphoras and stays there for a year before being bottled, unfined and unfiltered.
La Dula 2016 (Sierra de Toloño)
Cherry red. Very floral, aroma of red fruits, cranberry, herbs (thyme). It’s in a way soft, delicate and luscious drinking, but with an incredible tension and lovely natural acidity. Great, pure, classy. Only 700 bottles made.
Food: Lamb, lighter meat, cured ham, vegetables, mushrooms, hard cheeses
Vigo is the main city of Galicia’s southern part. It might be that I don’t know it well enough, but I think that even if it may be the natural centre for those who live and work there, so far that it lacks that “something extra” to make it a major tourist spot. This is if you’re not taking into account that Galicia’s (at the moment) best natural wine bar is there. Malauva is a place you can go to savour delicious organic, biodynamic, natural wines, and the waiters know what wines they are serving, just half a block from my hotel by the harbour. (I visited in a break from Porto’s Simplesmente fair, over the border.) It was Josiño, educated sommelier, and his wife Marina who started the bar, and I hope that sufficiently enough people will appreciate it, so that many like me (natural wine geeks, but not Celta football fans) have a reason to come back.
On a corner just off the harbour
I ordered “Burrata y tomates” and “Canelón de choco”, and as it was not packed with guests this Monday I had the chance to discuss with Josiño which wines to be served next.
I chose to go Galician that night. After a light start, the appley/citrussy Eido da Salgos 2016 (Cazapitas) from O Rosal, Rías Baixas, came the more herbal Memoría de Ventura lías finas 2016 (Pinguela), a Valdeorras godello. On to the reds, Volátil from the
Bibei subregion of Ribeira Sacra were bottled by the Fefiñans of Cambados. Maybe the least interesting wine, a bit warm and oaky, but also with nice dark fruits and balsamic notes. With Silice 2017 of Sober (Amandi subzone of Ribeira Sacra) it started to take off. A cherry red, wild fruits scented, atlantic acidity, elegant wine.
Josiño, ‘taberneiro’ for Malauva wine bar
Our main wine this time is from the team Envínate, that makes wines in several Spanish regions. The four friends started as consultants after oenology studies in Alicante in 2005, but it soon evolved into a wine producing project. Their aim is to explore distinctive parcels and make pure, authentic wines that express the terroir of each parcel. No chemicals are used in the vineyards, only natural yeast, and sulfur is used only prior to bottling and if they think they need it.
Lousas is Galician for the type of slate soil that predominates in the Amandi sub-zone of Ribeira Sacra. Aldea means village. There is 90-95% mencía with other grapes (such as brancellao, merenzao, mouratón [juan garcía], bastardo and garnacha tintorera), in a field blend.
For this wine 40% whole clusters were included, the must was raised in old barrels for 11 months with no racking and no SO2 added until bottling.
Lousas Viña de Aldea 2016 (Envínate)
Cherry red. Red fruits and flowers on top, white pepper and herbs. It has a mineral edge and a, long, cool acidity.
It’s fresh, elegant and in my opinion more than a typical “village wine”. It bears the subtitle Vino Atlántico, which is very appropriate, as the influence from the ocean is evident.
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.
Food: Fried and grilled fish, light meat, salads… We had it with panfried salmon and various vegetables
The 7th edition of the Simplesmente… Vinho fair is over. This is an arrangement in Porto for individual, artisanal wine producers with a focus on natural and sustainable farming. The venue is Cais Novo, a renovated 18th-century palace only a few meters from the Douro river. This time 101 producers participated, mostly Portuguese, a few visitors from Spain, and some that had travelled longer, in fact all the way from Brazil. There was food, there was music, and among the specially invited were Os Goliardos (Silvia and Nadir), who are very active on the country’s wine scene, especially in Lisboa. The fair is organized by João Roseira, himself an important producer in the Douro region.
There were many producers that I knew from before, but also some revelations. I will be back with more. For a start, here are just a few of the many Portuguese highlights of the fair. I will try to limit myself to one wine per producer (although you will see that this is a difficult task).
António Marques da Cruz
António Marques da Cruz, is 5th generation farmer at Quinta da Serradinha in Leiria, in the DOC Encostas de Aire. The quinta encompasses 6 hectares of vineyard on clay-limestone in an Atlantic climate. António has a good hand on both sparkling, white, rosé and red wines, and he can make wines that last. His 1999 baga is a wine that really stands out. I started the fair with visiting his table (or: barrels, that is what they use here), and what could be better than to start this tour with his Serradinha Castelão 2017. Quite dark, young colour; very fruity with cherry, plums; mellow in the mouth, luscious and fabulous drinking, with a fresh, natural acidity.
João M. Barbosa
João M. Barbosa was formerly with the big Dom Teodosio company. Now he carries on his family’s long tradition. He is located near Rio Maior in Tejo, but he has also vineyards in Portalegre, Alentejo, around 6 hectares in total. He brought a nice sparkling and a red Escolha, and I also fell for the Ninfa Colheita Branco 2016, a barrel-fermented white from sauvignon blanc and fernão pires. But as my one wine here I chose Ninfa Vinhas Velhas 2016, a no-oak, “no-nothing”, natural wine, a field blend dominated by castelão (accompanied by trincadeira, camarate, alicante bouschet and others). The grapes are grown in calcareous clay soils, in a Mediterranean climate with Atlantic influence. The south-facing exposure enjoys a good sun exposure. The yields are low, that result in concentrated grapes and ageworthy wines. The wine shows a good cherry colour; an earthy nose with blackberry, cherry and some balsamic notes too; tasty, with ripe tannins, and a luscious freshness.
Pedro Marques (left), journalist Jamie Goode taking notes (at the opening dinner)
It’s always a pleasure to taste Pedro’s wines. He’s always down to earth, absolutely honest about his wines, and explains in detail the challenges of each wine. The farm is located in Turcifal, in the Torres Vedras municipality of the Lisboa region. It’s only 8 km from the sea, has a clay-limestone soil, Atlantic climate and a couple of his wines are aptly called Fossil.
Among the whites there was a fabulous version of the Fossil 2017 (both rich and tasty, and also lots of acidity), the unctuous arintos – and the Branco Especial, an interesting solera wine (a blend of 4 vintages, now aged in botti, big barrels from Barolo), with its amber colour, yellow fruit, flowers and apricot, and a structured palate. I really liked the Vale da Capucha Palhete 2017 from castelão, a light red wine; yeasty, flowery, with red berries, raspberry, a light CO2 pressure, and fruit all the way. I have written about the reds several times. They are of course good, and a wine like the red Fossil didn’t disappoint in the 2016 vintage either. But the Vale da Capucha Vinha Teimosa 2014 you haven’t read about here. It’s made from touriga nacional and tinta roriz. 2014 was a very cold vintage, with a lot of rain. The wine is dark, with blackcurrant, green pepper, beetroot, and some earthy notes, and a type of balsamic note that Pedro thinks can be caused by a fungus that in a way “belongs to the vintage”.
José Perdigão (right)
José Perdigão of the quinta that bears his name has a rosé that I have enjoyed for many years now. This time he brought a very nice strawberry/peach-coloured pét nat, that I can’t remember to have tasted. But almost as emblematic as his rosé is the white Encruzado, now in its 2017 edition: Light golden; pear and white peach aroma with citrus and elderberry; fresh, vibrant and quite structured in the mouth.
Cabeças do Reguengo was a discovery for me last year, with their lovely orange wine Luminoso (this time in the 2018 vintage), the no SO2 red Felisbela (also 2018), the structured rosé and the “normal” Alentejo blend Courelas da Torre, both in plain and reserva versions – all from the northern, cool end of the region. Let’s just have a look at the basic blend Courelas da Torre 2017 this time, from aragonêz, trincadeira and alicante bouschet: Dark cherry colour; mature berries, a touch of lickorice; full in the mouth, with tobacco, some spice. Very nice, and should be popular among all kinds of audiences. I didn’t taste their Cabeças range this time. (But you can read this piece from last year’s fair.)
Also in Alentejo Quinta do Mouro of Estremoz is a more established producers, one of the very best and respected of all. Delicious were the concentrated yet smooth, old barrel-fermented white Zagalos 2016 (from alvarinho 50%, arinto 30%, gouveio and verdelho), the light, somewhat fragile red Zaga Luz 2017 (a typical blend) and all the stylish reds that we have loved since many years. But let’s have a look at something called Erro, from “error”. In this unusual series there are three reds, called 1, 2 and 3, and this white Erro B 2015. It started out the usual way, but here the press broke, and the must was left with the skins. There is always some early picked arinto blended in, thus it’s marked by a tough acidity. The colour is yellow; the nose shows yellow fruits, peel; it’s complex and structured, with a superb acidity in the lingering farewell.
Vitor Claro is a former chef who started winemaking after a trip to Portalegre, Alentejo where he fell in love some vineyards, more than 80 years old. These are located at 650 meters of altitude and facing north.
The wines were indeed inspiring, such as the Destino 2018, a good acidity moscatel, and Claro 2018, a light malvasia. I ought to mention the Foxtrot Dominó 2017, made from the white moscato grapes that were not used for the white wine, and alicante bouschet, a “very” red grape (including coloured stems). The result is light red, quite mellow and with fine-grained tannins.
The one wine selection this time would be the Dominó Silvo Frio 2016, made from a field blend of classical Alentejo grapes: grand noir, trincadeira, tinta roriz, castelão, and also a white, arinto. The vineyards is mainly granite with some quartz. Fermentation is 50% whole bunches, and for the rest, whole grapes are macerated in inox for 60 days. The grapes are then pressed, and after fermentation the wines is aged in old Burgundian barrels and lightly filtered before bottling. The wine shows a clear red colour; fresh red fruits, some herbs and spice; good structure, and a fine acidity, but there are also nice fruit behind.
I tasted through the whole range from Folias de Baco, and Tiago Sampaio presented one wine more creative than the other. Among the best were the Uivo 2018 from alvarinho, with almost no colour at all, but lots of flavours dominated by pears, the Uivo Xpto Branco 2008-2018, a light orang, lemon peel scented, concentrated wine with 10 months of skin-contact and aged under flor – and a 100% botrytis, 5,5% alcohol, amber, honeyed, sweet wine called Uivo LH+. But our selected wine this time is Uivo Renegado 2018. This is a field blend from a centennial vineyard with around 40 different varieties. They were fermented together, mainly in cement. The wine is pinkish in colour; aromas of strawberries, seaweed maybe; smooth and luscious in the mouth, with a long, natural acidity. It’s easy-to-drink kind of wine, but the age of the plants secures a concentration back there too. The best of two worlds.
Vasco Croft of Aphros Wines brought most of his wines. I visited him after the fair (a report to come), so here I will stick to my original intention and talk about only one wine. (Read also about his Palhete in a post from last autumn.) But now: Phaunus Loureiro 2017 was fermented in talhas (clay pots) and aged for 7 months on lees. It’s light, slightly turbid; aromas of green-yellow apple, yeast, minerals; quite full, sappy, and with a good acidity from the variety.
We end our journey on Madeira, but not in the more normal way. Super producer of long-living madeiras Barbeito has made their first white table wine, called Verdelho 2017, with the designation DOP Madeirense. Winemaker Nuno Duarte explains that while verdelho is typically grown on the north side of the island, sercial (who makes up 4% of this wine) is cultivated in the south. The verdelho grapes were foot-trodden in lagares, and 30% aged in new French oak, the rest in steel.
The wine has a golden colour; aroma of apricot and pear, a bit waxy, but also with a nice citrus (lemon) zest; though it’s in a way mellow it’s very fresh with a good acidity too, and a saline finish. You can feel the tension of the Atlantic in this wine.
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’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.
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.