Valentina Passalacqua’s Calcarius project has been introduced before (like here).
A short overview: She disposes of a 80 hectares farm, where she grows vine, fruit and vegetables, based on biodynamic principles. The soils are Kimmeridgian calcareous (thus the name Calcarius). The wines, from indigenous varieties, have always great minerality and nerve.
This time it’s the Frecciabomb, an orange pét nat made from bombino bianco, an indigenous grape variety from Puglia. The Ca on the label is the symbol for calcium, 20 is its atomic number, and 40.08 is its molar mass.
Frecciabomb Orange 2021(V. Passalacqua)
Orange, spritzy, some sediments on the bottom. Aroma of ripe pineapple, lemon, aromatic herbs, a touch acacia honey. Slight tannin in the mouth, fresh bubbles, medium concentration and great acidity.
This Christmas I visited Bodegas Castaño in Yecla, Murcia, for the first time in more than 20 years. They are in conversion to organic farming. And if I remember right, all wines will soon have the seal, except for some wines where part of the grapes are purchased. One of their slogans is “the art of monastrell”, and through their various lines they showed what can be done with this emblematic grape of the Levante coast.
This week’s pick is one of my favourite monastrell wines. Hécula is an ancient Roman name for the town. The wine is a pure monastrell, and was also featured last year (read here). It can be considered their entry-level monastrell, but it’s not simple. It comes from a 750 meter altitude vineyard on limestone, with an average of 50 year old vines. It’s certified organic, made with spontaneous fermentation and got a few months of oak treatment (mostly French), with malolactic in steel. It’s very Mediterranean and very good.
Hécula Organic 2020 (Bod. Castaño)
Dark cherry red. On the nose it shows ripe berries (morello), plum, aromatic herbs (thyme, rosemary) and a hint of coffee. Full in the mouth with mature tannins, an earthy note and a fine acidity.
Food: All kinds of meat, stews, salads with meat (such as Caesar), murcian paella…
This was one of the very best from a recent tasting of pure chardonnay extra-dry grower champagnes.
Maison Fleury was established in 1895 in Courteron, in Côte des Bar, southern Champagne. The 15 hectares are all cultivated biodynamically. In fact Fleury was the first producer in Champagne to be certified biodynamic. Jean-Sébastien Fleury has since 2009 been responsible for both vineyards and cellar. He introduced plowing with horses in the vineyards, and today half of them are cultivated in this way. It was also Jean-Sébastien who introduced the first sulphur-free vintage champagne.
Near to Chablis, the grapes are grown on Kimmerigian calcareous clay soils. Most of the vineyards are located on steep slopes facing south and south-west, where the grapes get a lot of sun and thus high ripening. The grapes are hand-picked, and the wines are spontaneously fermented in steel tanks and in 6,000 liter old oak vats, where they also ripen. Cuvée Cépage Blancs Extra-Brut 2011 is elaborated from 100% chardonnay. 35% is vinified in oak barrel.
Cépages Blancs Extra-Brut 2011(Maison Fleury)
Straw yellow, careful mousse. Lovely complexity on the nose: citrus, green apple, white flowers, brioche, and a touch dried fruit. Persistent acidity, almonds and lovely fruit throughout; and even if it’s a dry wine there is a hint of honey in the finish.
Pannobile is the name of an association of wine growers in Burgenland, Austria. Pannonia was the region’s name during Roman times (thus underscoring the importance of origin), and nobile means noble, rich or generous.
In their own words, they were “a group of winemaking friends and colleagues meeting regularly in Gols, a wine village on the northeastern shore of Neusiedler See. Their aim was neither to be ‘modern’ nor ‘international’, but to be committed to the soils, the character, and the climate of their region so that premium wines made from local grape varieties could be created”.
Hans Nittnaus was the one that suggested the name. Here on this blog we have said hello to Gernot Heinrich, also one of the founders from the 1980’s, and Gerhard Pittnauer and Claus Preisinger, who joined later.
Also among the founders was Hans Gsellmann, whose son Andreas started to work in the winery in 2005, and has been in charge since 2919. Andreas says that his goal is “to harmonize traditional winemaking with the biodynamic way of working and living”. They cultivate 19 hectares of vineyards.
Gsellmann has a wine that carries the name Pannobile on the label. We will come back to this. Today we present his Blaufränkisch. The grape variety here is obviously blaufränkisch, that grows on quartz and gravel. The fermentation was spontaneous, and the maceration lasted two weeks. The wine was raised three months in used 500 liter oak barrels.
Blaufränkisch 2021(A. Gsellmann)
Dark cherry. Dark fruits (blueberry, blackberry, dark cherry), a lactic note, herbs, and also a touch of dried fruits. Juicy in the mouth with some structure, some spice and good acidity.
La Gracia is a small and cozy natural wine bar that opened in 2020, when the pandemic was at its height. It’s found in Murcia capital, Spain, in one of the narrow streets behind the city hall and the cathedral in the Santa Eulalia district. They work with artisan producers of wine, cheese and also beer and other products. The owners are Esperanza Pérez Andreo and Cristina Ramos Berna. They have strong ties with local and regional producers from whom they buy directly.
I was there twice at the end of the year, including New Year’s Eve. We sat on the “terrace” (i.e. the plaza behind the first street) near midnight, and then inside the bar around noon. We chose from the cold and the warm tapas menues, and from the by-the-glass wine selection, that counts on around 30 references.
Among the small dishes we chose was a “cured” cheese selection. The first one was a young and fresh, but oh so tasty, cheese from Cartagena, then a 3-4 months cured goat’s cheese soaked in red wine, then a 9 months cured cheese from San Javier called ‘El Abuelo’ (the grandfather) and finally a wonderfully complex cheese from a mountain between Cartagena and Mazarrón. The watermelon marmelade was from coastal San Javier.
The wine list contains established and new natural wine stars from Murcia and elsewhere in Spain. We started with Las Madres 2020(Punta de Flecha), a light skin-contact white from the Madrid area. The grape is malvar, and like many other wines from that variety it is low on acidity but rather textured. Amber coloured and slightly fizzy, it had a nice aroma of flowers and orange peel.
Viña Enebro is rather well-known in Spanish natural wine circles, and you can read about a visit in Bullas here. El Yesar 2020 is a white wine made from the red grape forcallat. Hence it has a little blush of red. It’s round and tasty, and the aroma includes traces of citrus (clementine) and herbs.
At the second day I asked for whatever white wine and was served Doble Plaer 2020 from Vinyes Singulars (with collaboration from Toni Osorio) It turned to be a wonderful wine with a phenomenal acidity, almost electric. It has a good body too. Light orange in colour, and somewhat cloudy, with an aroma of citrus peel (lemon) and flowers over black tea. Long aftertaste where the citric notes linger. The grapes are malvasía de Sitges and parellada.
The two first reds were revelations from the Murcia region. Negrete 2021 from Negrete Blue is a monastrell/garnacha tintorera from no less than 1.373 meters of altitude in the Bullas denomination. It was a fresh and juicy, berry-dominated, young wine, with blackberry and blueberry in front.
Tinaha 2020 comes from the bodega of the same name. It’s found between Molino de Segura and Jumilla to the north of the regional capital. As the name implies they believe in ageing in clay (tinajas). The varieties are a local field blend, and so monastrell should be among the suspects. The wine had red berry notes, but was more dominated by a clay minerality with flowers, and had a juicy taste with a long aftertaste, and especially for the region, good acidity.
We tasted two reds from Castilla. Felipe el Caminero 2021(Inma Badillo) is a fresh tempranillo/ juan garcía/bruñal blend from Arribes del Duero, close to the Portuguese border (provinces Zamora and Salamanca). It’s a pure, very juicy and fruity wine with lots of berry character. La Payana 2020 (Cható Gañán) is completely different. Made from garnacha on granite soil in the Sierra de Gredos, it has a more serious air to it. It has some of the etheral character often associated with the Gredos garnachas, and some of the minerality behind the red fruits. The oak shows delicately on the palate.
Since I was back on New Year’s Eve I took the opportunity to round off with a sparkling wine. The choice fell on En Moviment A 2020 (Bàrbara Forés) from Terra Alta, Catalunya, made from the local morenillo grape. The sparkling rosé smells of peach and grapefruit. There is an acidic attack in the mouth, the wine is slim in the middle, but the citrus acidity strikes back and gives it a lift towards the end.