A few weeks ago we brought a brief introduction to Verónica Ortega’s wines, and the wine of the week was her clay and sand soil wine called Quite (see here). This week the turn has come to the older brother.
Roc is made from 80-100 years old mencía, organically farmed on slate 530 meters above sea level, but also on clay and sand. The grapes were harvested by hand, pressed with 50% whole clusters, fermented with indigenous yeasts in vat with regular pigeage. The maceration lasted for 20 days, and the ageing went on for 14 months in French barriques.
Roc 2015(Verónica Ortega)
Dark cherry colour. Dark fruits, stone fruit, tar, with a background of roast and caramel. Solid tannins (but not overdone), rocky minerality, and with a cool freshness also.
This week’s pick was tasted yesterday at Vinkontoret, Stavanger (read more here or here), and was one of their Coravin selections that you can buy by the centilitre.
Nikolaihof is one of Wachau’s leading wineries, and an Austrian biodynamic pioneer (and has also been featured here). Its history can in fact be traced back almost 2.000 years to the Roman fort of Favianis AD 63.
Their wines can be closed as young, but with age they fulfill all the aromatic potential that you can appreciate in this wine. This is because the Saahs family refuses to use enzymes to “open” them up, as a contrast to the many producers who like their wines to reveal their full potential in the first year.
All wines are made without added yeast and without temperature control. The Vinothek 2000 was bottled in 2016. Before that it spent 16 years in big 3.500 liters barrels.
Vinothek Riesling 2000(Nikolaihof)
Yellow with brownish hints. The aroma plays with oxidation, and has at first some mature apple character, that gives way to apricot and honey. You also get a touch of a flinty minerality, and it’s a bit oily and waxy too. Very long, concentrated taste that includes mature citrus, minerals, wax again, and a lovely natural acidity that binds it all together. It has many years of life ahead, I would say.
I tasted this at one of the cosy wine bars at London’s Borough Market, Flor, that has the same owners as Lyle’s of Shoreditch.
Flor is also listed as a bakery. And they are noted for their delicious breads, that some will think are burnt, but is made from a special flour that makes the colour very dark. I had the wine with this bread, and mussel flatbread dish.Valfaccenda is a small winery located in Roero, Piemonte. Luca Fcccenda and Carolina Roggero has 3,5 hectares under cultivation and make tjdgp wines with as little intervention as possible.
This wine is solely from arneis grapes grown on the hills around the winery, from different vineyards with different expositions. The ones with south, east-south exposition has a soft maceration that lasts for up to 10 days on skins, then oak and acacia ageing for 6 months. The north-west and north-east is fermented in concrete and steel. In the spring, after malolactic fermentation, they blend the two wines and bottle it without filtration.
Valfaccenda Roero Arneis 2018(Valfaccenda)
Light straw colour. It’s fresh, with a flowery, herby aroma with some citrus. In the mouth it has a crisp acidity, saline notes and a slightly bitter finish.
Verónica Ortega, born in Cádiz, has her formal training from New Zealand. She came to El Bierzo after having worked with famous winemakers like Álvaro Palacios (Priorat), Dirk Niepoort (Douro), to name just a couple. In Bierzo she worked several years with local master Raúl Perez, before opening her own cellar in 2014.
She has in total around 5 hectares of 80 year old plants in Valtuille de Abajo. These are so-called field blends, but clearly dominated by mencía. The soil here is a mix of sand, clay and limestone.
In the beginning there was only one wine called Roc (read a later post about it here) from Verónica’s newly acquired plots on sand and clay near Valtuille de Abajo. But after a while she started to realize that the more sandier vineyards were apt for more floral and elegant wines. Quite was then born in 2012. With time she cut down the time in barrel (Quite is typically 4 months in 2-3 year in used oak, while Roc has 6 or 7). In the beginning there was only partly destemming, now 100%. Likewise she has found new ways to make this wine more elegant, like fermentation in tank, shorter maceration (12 days for this vintage) in neutral oak – and from this vintage on she also uses 800 liters amphorae for 50% of the wine.
Quite 2016(Verónica Ortega)
Cherry red. Aromas of youthful red fruits (cherries), stone fruit (plums), with a slight balsamic note. Very fresh, natural acidity, juicy and appealing, and with a mineral touch.
For 2019 my New Year’s resolution is to dive deeper in the “Mar de Mencía”. This grape variety is by no means new to me (just do a search on these pages and see). I have long since recognized its ability to show differences in terroir and its susceptibility for reduction. It has many faces. But not least, it can be an absolute delight. And I think it has the potential to be a lot more popular, recognized and appreciated than it is at the moment.
Through a series of short Wine of the Week articles I will show many sides of it (through wines that I have not yet tasted). I think there is a lot to learn through focusing on its homeland, El Bierzo (a ‘comarca’ in the province of León), that shall also be presented as we go along. But we will also meet it in neighbouring Valdeorras and Ribeira Sacra, in Portugal (most often called jaen) and elsewhere. I have a strong suspicion that its white sister godello will follow once in a while. We will see.
Mencía covers nearly two-thirds of the region’s vineyard. It ripens early, often early September, and likes the maritime climate of Bierzo with its usual wet autumns. It’s very versatile and capable of expressing the mineral-rich soils of the region.
Bodegas Estefanía, part of the MGwines group since 2014, is one of the emblematic wineries and one of the bigger ones, with 40 hectares with more than 100 years old vines. The majority is bush vine mencía (“en vaso” in Spanish) on steep south facing slopes. Winemaker is Raúl Pérez (read a little about his personal project here), from Bierzo. He has become one of the most famous of the travelling oenologists, but Estefanía is still one of his favorite projects.
Tilenus is named after the Teleno, a Celtic god of war, spelled this way to pay tribute to the Roman era in the Bierzo. There is also an old Roman coin on the label, a coin that was once discovered in the vineyard. The grapes were sourced from the bodega’s organic vineyards in Arganza.
Tilenus Ecológico 2018(Bodegas Estefanía)
Cherry red, some purple. Aroma of red berries (cherry, raspberry). Quite smooth on the palate, with fine tannins, and good fruit all the way.
Food: A variety of meats, probably super for the local roasts, salads and hard cheeses