Matritum, an old name for Madrid, is maybe not an especially well-known wine bar and restaurant. It’s located in the neighbourhood of La Latina, where I often stay when in the Spanish capital, and I have never been disappointed.
The Matritum kitchen proposes delightful dishes such as home-made foie-gras micuit, and seafood and meat dishes inspired from all corners of Spain. “Anchoas del Cantábrico con ‘pa amb tomàquet'” thus means traces of both Cantabria and Catalunya/Baleares.
The wine list has close to 400 references, many of them served by the glass. They are both local, they cover the most of the important Spanish wine areas, some less known, and also international. It seems that they have a special love for the wines of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, all of them also served by the glass.
So over the years I have had a great many different wines here, and so this choice would maybe seen casual. Anyway, this time I had three wines, one of them a garnacha from Viña Zorzal. Okay, we are in Madrid, and beautiful garnachas are made right in the backyard. But let’s not forget that the grape has a long history in Navarra. It’s even possible that it once originated there.
Zorzal started in 1989, when Antonio Sanz, after a life in wine, fulfilled his dream of producing his own wines in Navarra. Today it’s his sons who carry on what he started, and created Viña Zorzal, as we know it today.
The wine is made from garnacha of 35 near old vines grown in stony soils 520 meters above sea level in Fitero, single vineyard. Early harvest, spontaneous fermentation with wild yeast in 3500-litre wooden vats, soft winemaking. 9 months ageing used French used barriques.
Malayeto 2015 (Viña Zorzal)
Clear ruby red. Fresh aromas of blackberry, blackcurrant, pepper, and with some earthy hints. Medium body, round tannins and a long finish.
This bottle was bought from natural wine bar La Casa del Perro in Málaga (a report to follow). Out from the fridge it didn’t take long before it reached optimum serving temperature on a hot summer day.
Producer Cauzón, or Ramón Saavedra, can be found in several articles on this blog (such as here, after a visit, and here, in a report from a fair earlier this year).
In 1997 Ramón left a successful career as a Michelin star chef, to start making wines without additions up to 1.200 meters above sea level in his home town Graena. This is rather a small settlement in the Sierra Nevada mountains, some 30 minutes east of Granada city.
Cabrónicus is made from tempranillo grapes grown on red clay soil. The name is derived from the use of carbonic maceration, that went on for three weeks in whole bunches.
Cabrónicus 2017(Bod. Cauzón)
Pale red. Smells of red berries (raspberry), pomegranate, and a slight touch of white pepper. Juicy and delicate, with fine, discrete tannins, and a long, integrated acidity. A very fresh, clean and appealing natural wine.
Food: At the wine bar we had it with as different dishes as carpaccio of beef and guacamole with nachos, but it goes well with everything from light meat, white fish, and a variety of salads
This château was acquired by Marcel Lapierre (Dom. Lapierre) and Jean Claude Chanudet (Dom. Chamonard) in the mid-90s. After Marcel passed away a few years ago it’s Marie, his widow, who runs the estate. (I met her at a London fair. Have a look here.)
The vineyards for this wine is located between Morgon and Fleurie. Cambon places itself towards the “natural” side of Beaujolais; unfined, unfiltered, and barely sulphured… a pure expression of the gamay grape. The fermentation was spontaneous in steel tank, then ageing on big oak vats on lees.
Château Cambon Beaujolais 2018 (Ch. Cambon)
Deep red with purple hints. Cool aroma of flowers and cherries, with some meaty notes. Fresh and juicy, a touch of cherry comes back, and there is a long, natural acidity here. Elegant, beautiful.
I was recently visiting Grimstad, a beautiful small town on the Norwegian southern coastline, where the houses are white, small private boats are moored and the seagulls are part of the scenery. I have a special relationship with the town, because I was born there, and my family has since spent many summers there.
Fresh crabs on offer in the town’s inner harbour
The town could have boasted of its seafaring culture. My late father left from there to work on a ship at the age of 14. And that night I borrowed the house of a friend, the daughter of my father’s captain at that time. But Grimstad is not of that sort, boasting is not part of its personality. It’s just lying there, a southern Norwegian idyll bathed in the summer sun.
These days the small town is home to the restaurant with the most amazing natural wine list on the whole long coastal strip. Founded in 2001 the restaurant has since enjoyed a reputation among the citizens, for its food, its atmosphere, but also as a concert arranger. However the upgrade to the natural wine haven that we know today started after a bankruptcy in 2010. Kjetil Jørgensen, one of the original founders, has a good relation to natural wine importer Non Dos, through his friend Jørgen Ljøstad, also from Grimstad. Sometimes a strong tie to one importer can feel somewhat awkward, or difficult. But here it’s more logic, and has probably helped along the way to success. Having said that, the restaurant also works with other importers. These days they also have their own micro-brewery, led by Mathias S. Skjong.
The food is based on local ingredients. The burgers are made from Hereford cattle grassing only a stone’s throw away, and there is of course delicious fish and shellfish right out of the sea. Pizza or vegetarian options too.
Apotekergaarden translates as the Pharmacist’s Shop, and refers to playwright and poet Henrik Ibsen, who was a pharmacist apprentice in Grimstad before he became famous, and this particular place also formerly housed one of the town’s pharmacies.
Ida Konradsen pulling up a Contadino, her own soft drinks at the table
Ida Konradsen is sommelier and restaurant manager, and strongly contributed to a great evening. She told us with great enthusiasm about her experiences from working at Sebastien Riffault‘s estate in the Loire. She is also involved in a new project creating soft drinks, generally popular in Norway (as everywhere I suppose) with children and non-wine addicts. All have the taste of the basic ingredients intact and come with a lot less sugar than usual for this type of drink. In between our first and second wine she offered us a tasting of three products that are sold locally, a lemon and ginger drink (based on Sicilian lemons), one from orange (and a touch of lemon) – and lastly an interesting take on a soft drink for the Christmas season (“julebrus” in Norwegian), based on biodynamically farmed grape juice of the variety zweigelt from Austrian wine producer Meinklang, well-known for readers of this blog – with some star anise, juniper and cinnamon, and without addition of sugar.
Meinklang is also responsible for some of their house labels, Skolegada 3 (the restaurant’s adress), otherwise known by other names in the market.
But while there are not more than 12-15 wines in their by-the-glass selection, Ida gladly opened three more to us, as she was going to host a special party the next day and could use the rest there. And these were fabulous wines from three natural wine legends.
Robinot’s Fêtembulles, with sourdough bread, olive and truffle oil, and olives
Fêtembulles 2017(J.-P. Robinot), Loire, France
100% chenin blanc, biodynamically farmed, bottled without added sulphites and unfiltered.
Light yellow, small integrated bubbles. Smells of mature apples, citrus (orange), a bit waxy. Tastes of apples, is creamy with a crisp acidity, and a stony minerality in the finish.
Contadino 2016(F. Cornelissen), Etna, Sicilia
This is a field blend dominated by some 90% nerello mascalese, biodynamically farmed. No sulphites added, unfiltered.
It’s light cherry red. Aroma of red berries (cranberry), hint of herbs (basil), some spice. The mouth is dominated by red fruit, but with and underlying carbon or smoke taste (from the Etna volcano maybe), and with a solid tannic grip.
Teroldego 2015(E. Foradori), Vigneti delle Dolomiti, Italy
Another well-known producer for readers of this blog. This wine is from the teroldego grape grown in Trentino, near the Dolomites. It was fermented in cement and aged in cement and old oak.
Dark cherry red. Packed with red berries (cherry), plums, dark fruits (blackberry), with some balsamic notes (menthol). Cool, clean fruit in the mouth, very lively and fruity.
Typical paintings collected in one of the rooms
And on the veranda while the sun goes down we finish the evening with a craft beer from the acclaimed local brewery Nøgne Ø, that takes its name from Ibsen’s poem “Terje Vigen”. And to drink one of their beers in this moment seems more right than ever before.
Fernand Engel’s office is located in Rorshwihr, but the domaine’s 160 hectares of vineyards are spread over 8 villages in Alsace. Here they can play with many different microclimates.
This wine is made from 100% sylvaner, almost 50 years old vines, handharvested. It’s spontaneously fermented and kept for 8 months on lees.
Renaissance Sylvaner Vieilles Vignes 2017(Dom. Fernand Engel et Fils)
Light yellow with greenish hint.
Introvert at first, but the aroma opens with air and shows mature fruits, herbs and a nutty touch. Smooth, somewhat glyceric in the mouth (some 5g residual sugar), some citrus, herbs and crushed stone, and a good length.
Food: Light meat, tasty fish and shellfish, vegetables, try with Asian