Press "Enter" to skip to content

Month: May 2019

Wine bars and restaurants

Brighton & Hove: Scenes from an Italian restaurant

Before London’s Real Wine fair I usually go down to Brighton for a couple of days. Here is a new discovery.

After having been a bartender at Brighton’s excellent Plateau wine bar Johan Fredrik Claesson, Swedish-born, took a job in the newly opened Cin Cin in a “chain” of two. Here at Cin Cin Johan has total control over the selection of wines, and the closing time is earlier – that would be the two main reasons that he decided to move.

Cin Cin Hove is a neighbourhood restaurant, in Hove to be accurate, that since 2000 has formed a city together with Brighton. It is an Italian restaurant, with carefully prepared small plates. I had Agnolotti (a type of pasta typical of Piemonte) of garden pea and smoked ham hock and Crème brulée (an exception to the Italian).

Johan suggested a flight of four wines. First came the Arcese 2017 (VIttorio Bera), the name put together from the arneis and cortese grapes that normally make up this wine. It’s a skin-contact white from the Asti area in Piemonte, golden in colour, aroma of white flowers and some peel character, a cool acidity and some carbonic that adds to the freshness. Quite easy to drink, after all. The second was an aged Barolo, Boscareto 2007, that we soon shall give some special attention. Then, the Bianchdùdùi 2000 (also from Bera), a moscato aged like a sherry under ‘flor’ for 16 years. Despite of this it’s very fresh. It shows nice herbal aromas, it’s quite dry in the beginning, it’s full but not heavy, some texture, and with a touch of bitterness in the finish. Bukkuram Sole d’Agosto, a Passito di Pantelleria 2016 from Marsala based Marco de Bartoli, was the last wine according to the original plan. The colour is amber, it’s concentrated and intense, with scents of dried apricots, dates, but also some citrus (orange). It’s sweet of course, but beautifully balanced by a long acidity.

Some “obscurities” were thrown in along the way too, among them Therìa 2017 (Alberto Loi, Sardegna), a yellow coloured wine, slightly pétillant and rich at the same time, with notes of flowers, dried fruits, spice, made from the vermentino grape.

When I started to write this piece my plan was to present the Barolo in my wine of the week column, and I had a look at the background of the producer and the wine. So even if my focus shifted I still want to give it a special mention. Here we go.

Principiano Ferdinando is a young winemaker, third generation, and in charge of the family estate in Monforte d’Alba since 1993. In 1946 the six hectares were planted in Serralunga d’Alba, that were to become the plot where they source the grapes for their top wine Boscareto. In the Serralunga very few take the risk to run the plots organically, but Principiano’s vines stand out. The only treatments are copper, and some sulfur only when necessary. The soils are calcareous, with very good drainage, and various crops are planted to help creating a functioning biodiversity and to add to the health of this south-west facing vineyard. In the cellar only natural yeast is employed for fermentations, and the sulphites are kept to a minimum. The barrels are big and old, Slavonian and French oak.

Boscareto 2007 (Ferdinando Principiano): Developed, cherry colour; intense aroma of mature red berries (cherry), forest fruits, spice and smoke; in the mouth it’s concentrated, yet with fine silky tannins, long. A lovely wine with still some years to go. The price is quite high, but worth it.

Next time in Brighton I suggest you pay Johan and his collegues a visit. It’s less than half an hour’s walk from the city centre, and the buses go west along the Western Road all the time. There are passionate wine people who gladly share of their knowledge and enthusiasm. Recommended.

Leave a Comment

Wine bars and restaurants and Wine of the Week

Stay Brave at Elliot’s

Finally I got the chance to visit Elliot’s wine bar in Borough Market, on the south side of the Thames. The occasion was not only that I was in London for the Real Wine fair, but also that I visited the new big sax shop at nearby Blackfriars. In the wine bar I had three wines, among them Testalonga‘s Stay Brave.

Elliot’s opened in 2011 and has from the beginning offered a simple menu based on good ingredients in season. They deal directly with fishermen and farmers, all of them with a focus on sustainability. They cook over a wood fired grill, and the wine list is exclusively comprised of natural wines from small artisan growers.

I had two small plates, first courgette, broad bean & herb salad, then beef tartare with green peppercorn, parsley and smoked Wensleydale (Yorkshire cow’s milk cheese). And several of the waiters have the knowledge to guide you through the wines.

I started with a Catalan white, Nar i Tornar 2017 (Vinya Ferrer), mainly garnacha blanca and some macabeu, a tasty and slightly cloudy non SO2 wine. It showed a slight mouse taint, but was nevertheless good. It was followed by a Côtes du Rhône 2017 (Dom. Aphillantes), an un-oaked grenache-carignan-mourvèdre blend; young, dark fruit, spice (but not the sweet oak style), and luscious, drinkable at the same time that it also has some light fine-grained tannin.

From the “last pour” section (not on the list and changes according to what has been opened) I had a wonderful wine from Testalonga. This is Craig Hawkins’ project in Swartland, South-Africa, and one of my favourites right now (I have two opened chenins of his in my fridge at the time of writing).

Stay Brave 2018 is pure chenin blanc. The names in the producer’s Baby Bandito series come from the encouragements you give a child, and the colourful labels are inspired by street artist. It’s made in steel, with 11 days of skin-contact and bottled un-filtered. It’s a low alcohol (10,5) and high acidity (6,5-7g) wine.

Stay Brave 2018 (Testalonga Wines)

Yellow. Smells of fresh green apples, citrus (lemon), white flowers and gingerb. Very fresh, fruity, quite concentrated, mineral and super elegant.

Price: Medium

Food: Worked well with my herbaceous, green plate. Can go with white  fish, grilled fish, light meat, Asian and a variety of cheeses

Leave a Comment

Wine of the Week

French Fusion

I am back in Brighton for the Real Wine fair that is coming up, starting on Sunday. And I am back at Plateau, the natural wine temple close to the city hall. (See one of several write-ups here.)

This time one of the wines is the Fusion 2017, a varietal gamay made by Vincent Marie of Domaine No Control, in Auvergne, some 150 km west of Lyon.

He explains on the website that the wine is named after a music style that he likes very much, in this case it’s the mixing of hip-hop and energetic rock. The wine is pure gamay, but it’s a fusion between gamay from Auvergne and gamay from Beaujolais, and also between two types of vinification.

The parcel is south-facing, and the vines between 15 and 110 years old. The wine is made using whole bunches in two vats of fiberglass. In the first vat the grapes were trodden to make som space in the vat, then maceration of whole bunches. In the second there was carbonic maceration. Then the two were blended, and macerated for three weeks – without any additions.

Fusion 2017 (Vincent Marie, Dom. No Control)

Light cherry red. Fruity, violets, red fruits (raspberry, cherry) and blueberry on the nose. Juicy, kind of soft, but has also some fine-grained tannins.

Price: Medium

Food: Light meat, charcuterie, salads, bacalao and grilled fish

 

Leave a Comment

Articles

Visiting l’Empordà

Before the Vins Nus and Vella Terra wine fairs started in Barcelona I took the opportunity to travel around l’Empordà – together with a good friend, Malena Fabregat, wine writer and distributor.

We visited two producers of natural wine, one well-established classic, and one up-and-coming estate, both in the same vicinity – Carles Alonso and La Gutina.

Carles Alonso is maybe the foremost  pioneer of Catalan natural wines, having started back in the late 1970’s. He is certainly not the most well-known figure, but this is only due to the fact that he has never seeked the limelight, and it has not been necessary either, as he has easily sold everything from his bodega at the entrance of the Els Vilars village.

Carles is self-taught, and he hasn’t felt it necessary to join either fashions or denominations. He owns between 4 and 5 hectares of vineyard, and there he works about 10 varieties, most local, but also some foreign that have adapted well in Catalunya. He does all the work himself. -My daughter helps me a bit though, he admits, -and of course at harvest times there are many people here.

The altitude is never really high in l’Empordà. Here we are about 15 km from the sea and at 230 meters altitude. The Tramontana wind is always noticeable in the area. Carles has a lot of knowledge, and likes a good discussion, and some good jokes. After having joked about bad things in France (politics and weather) he gets more serious: -I am from the Mediterranean, born in Barcelona. So this is my terroir. I make strong, thick wines, full of alcohol. I harvest only 0,5 kg per plant, never prune in green, I never move a leaf… And I harvest late (i.e. September). Many look for acidity, and the only thing they get is acidity.

Carles explains to Malena

The wines ferment in clay amphora, and never see any oak. He makes white and red wine. But it’s the sparkling wines from the ancestral method that are the most prominent.

No chemicals are ever used either in the vineyard or in the cellar. The wines ferment with their own yeasts, without added sulfites, or any other additive of any kind.

We tasted his Blanc Petillant (macabeu, xarel.lo, garnatxa blanca, parellada and chardonnay) both 2009 and 2018. It was quite dark at his desk, but the 09 seemed dark yellow towards orange, smelled of pears, plums and mature apples, was rich and with generous alcohol, but balanced and harmonious. -It is its own category in a way, Carles said, and we could well agree to that. The 18 followed the same line, at 13,8% alc., but was obviously younger. Light straw colour; pear, some citrus (lime); full, with some oxidation (a touch of bitter almonds).

-I used to offer fresh wines, he says. -Like make 4.000 bottles of rosé and sell it to tourists. But in 2001, after I discovered how good a mature wine could be. Then I started to lay some years behind, on purpose.

We also tasted two reds, the Carriel dels Vilars Tinto (garnatxa, syrah, cabernet sauvignon, carinyena) 2018 and 2007. The 18 was dark red with lovely fruit, still some carbonic, and obviously still with an ageing potential. The 07 had no oak, -I am totally against it, he stresses. Ok, I see that old oak can work for micro-breathing, but it’s not for me. It was cherry red with mature nuances; smell of plums, cherry and some compote; drying a little in the mouth, but still full of life.

Leave a Comment

Wine of the Week

From the Friulian frontier

Castello di Rubbia has been highlighted before. Here you can read more about their Friulian wines and their estate near the Slovenian border.

Just a brief introduction: They are found in Carso, called Kras on the other side. Their village is San Michele di Carso, where they dispose of the 13 hectares historic Ušje vineyard, with its rocky terrain of limestone and red soil. The winery enjoys long macerations and fermentations with indigenous yeasts.

This wine is made from around 20 years old vitovska vines. Manual harvest is carried out quite late, towards the end of September. The grapes are de-stemmed and fermented with natural yeasts in steel vessels and macerated on the skins for around 20 days. While fining is done naturally over a period of 1 to 1 and a half years, the wine also undergo malolactic fermentation. After three years it’s then bottled without filtration.

 

Vitovska 2013 (Castello di Rubbia)

Dark yellow/golden. Intense aroma of white flowers, herbs or hay, dried fruits, and a touch of honey. Full on the palate, good concentration, and a stony minerality.

Price: Medium

Food: Very versatile, and can go well with light meat, rice dishes, omelettes, salads and vegetables, charcuterie, Asian, seafood…

Leave a Comment