This is a followup to the Beaujolais article last Friday. Today I came across two wines made by Pierre Dupond. One of the twins showed freshness and elegance, while the other was more bold and ripe. We will come back to that, but first a look at the background.
The Dupond family has its roots in Burgundy and the Rhône Valley. It began with Antoine Dupond, who was originally from Beaujolais, but began commercializing his wines in Lyon and St. Etienne in the 1860s. His son Joanny expanded the family’s estates to the Rhône area. Hervé Dupond, fifth generation, is today leading the business. Hervé has expanded production, building partnerships with nearby winegrowers and neighboring families that the they have known for generations. Each year Hervé selects the best possible plots to make his wines. A traditional method of winemaking is practiced to ensure wines produced are reflective of the land. Ageing takes place in concrete vats that allow for ideal temperatures.
The gamay grapes were handpicked and underwent carbonic maceration with indigenous yeasts. These are natural wines, both with low sulphur (one with nothing added). One is with minimal filtration, one without. To sum up: Sans Soufre Ajouté is the most fresh/acidic of the twins, while Non Filtré is the most ripe and fullbodied wine. Both are highly recommended.
Beaujolais-Village Sans Soufre Ajouté 2022(Pierre Dupond)
Dark red, blue hint. Cherry, raspberry. Medium body, fine-grained tannins, fresh acidity.
Beaujolais Nouveau Non Filtré 2022(Pierre Dupond)
Dark red, blue hint, a touch more dense than the other wine. Blackberry, eucalyptus, chocolate/coffee earthy tones. Medium-bodied with ripe fruit, a bit structured (more than the other wine), rounded acidity.
After the Simplesmente… Vinho fair I visited some producers in the Vinho Verde region, according to a schedule made by festival general João Roseira. On Tuesday following the fair I was in the northern subregion of Vinho Verde, called Monção e Melgaço. Constantino Ramos was one of the greatest revelations on the whole trip, making superb, stylish, natural white and red wines. Valados de Melgaço does not make fully organic wines, and some with cultured yeasts, but is also very much of interest.
Constantino Ramos was born in Vouzela (Dão-Lafões). After his education in pharmaceutical sciences in Coimbra he went back to the countryside, and after a few harvests in nearby Dão and Douro and one at De Martino in Chile, he came to Melgaço in 2013 to work with Anselmo Mendes, one of the great personalities of the alvarinho world.
In 2015 came the opportunity to work a small vineyard over 70 years old, in Vale do Mouro. He started to make Zafirah, a red wine made with minimal intervention. I put it in the category of great, low-extraction, saline wines with a clear Atlantic touch that you can find from lower Galicia (Rías Baixas and Ribeiro) to the northern coast of Portugal. Remember, the Rías Baixas subregion of Condado do Tea begins just over the nearest bridge, and the historically important Ribeiro is also very close. These regions share grape varieties, and soil and climate are also similar. So if you think of red Vinho Verde as dark and meaty, maybe somewhat spritzy (and made by the vinhão variety), you have by now understood that this one is different.
-Old vines is not a common concept in Vinho Verde country, says Constantino. Nevertheless, currently he is in the process of recovering old vineyards, again in his words, -to give more credit to the reds from Monção and Melgaço, which were in the past very famous and compared to the wines from Burgundy and the Bordeaux clarets.
What about alvarinho, the emblematic and “inevitable” grape of the subregion? He continues: -Of course because I was working with Anselmo Mendes [Mr. Alvarinho] it was difficult to resist also producing an alvarinho wine. But it had to be something that could clearly show my vision of the variety in this specific terroir. So, using a small vineyard planted at about 250m high, I created Afluente. The name means tributary, metaphorically something that leads to, something that pushed me a step further.
Constantino has since long had his personal projects, his own wines and wineries for whom he consults, in addition to his “day job” at Anselmo Mendes. In January this year he took the chance to dedicate all his time to his personal projects. Of his own wines he makes 8.000 bottles annually, but he wants to increase a little.
We arrive in Riba do Mouro, a high altitude hamlet belonging to Monção. It has a cooler climate than the rest of the subregion. Here in Vale do Mouro was formerly a glacier, and therefore there is a great complexity of soils, granite, quartz, feldspar etc. The topsoil is only 40 cm down to the mother rock. Constantino says he prefer not to buy fields: -As I want to give something back to the people I prefer to work with the people. It’s something of an ethnographic project, driven by passion. -I have always been fond of reading. It helps you understand, gives you context.
Constantino has always worked organic. -Even the old viticulturists have a habit only to spray with copper, he says.
After a visit to the most important vineyards we appropriately enjoyed his wines in a local context, a meal of bacalhau and partridge in the Tiro no Prato restaurant near Viana do Castelo, where Constantino lives. The Afluente 2020, an alvarinho fermented and aged in used barrels, was perfect with the bacalhau with onion, garlic, black olives, flat potatoes and olive oil. The wine had a pale yellow colour; an aroma of apple, citrus, wet stone more mineral than perfumed, actually; glyceric in the mouth, energetic, and with a superb integrated acidity.
Zafirah 2021 is a field-blend from five plots of more than 50 year old vines on granite, with varieties like brancelho, borraçal (caíño), espadeiro, vinhão and pedral. It was skin-macerated one day before alcoholic fermentation, then light filtering and a bit sulphur added. It clocks in at 10.5% alcohol. Red cherry colour; red and wild berries (raspberry, blackberry); fresh in the mouth, saline. Like the white wine it went well with the bacalhau, and was a perfect pairing to partridge with a rich rice.
Juca 2021 is a tribute to his wife’s grandfather, who has helped Constantino a lot. It originates in the centennial vineyard of vinhão, brancelho a.o. The skins are soaked in steel and it’s carefully pumped over. The alcohol is 10%. Dark blackish blue, slightly carbonic; dark fruits (blackberry, blueberry), some licorice; it’s juicy, not especially tannic, with a fruitiness all the way. We can maybe look upon it as a luxury version of the dark Vinho Verde style.
Valados de Melgaço
Artur Meleiro picked me up in the Sousa subregion, and as I still hadn’t received my luggage after arriving in Porto three days ago he kindly offered me a shopping trip to Braga city. Then we continued north, had lunch in a Melgaço roadside restaurant, before we finally arrived at Quinta de Golães. Then after some vineyard sightseeing we arrived at the winery by the bridge bordering Spain.
Artur himself was born in Melgaço, one of the two villages that give name to the sub-region. He moved back from Lisboa in 2016 to concentrate fully on this project, after having also lived in Braga and Porto. The family vineyards count on 4 hectares (3,5 hectares alvarinho, the rest trajadura, loureiro and red varieties) Today the production is 30.000 bottles, while the ideal for the future he says is 50.000.
Monção e Melgaço is warmer than the rest of the region during the day and colder in the night, he says. Because of the mountain ranges it’s leaning more to a continental climate. .
Valados de Melgaço is Artur’s project, associated with his cousin Pedro Kock. It encompasses Quinta de Golães, so today they offer two ranges, with those two names respectively.
For the white wines the grape is almost exclusively alvarinho. 60% is in fact purchased, in addition to the grapes from the family vineyards. But the bought-in grapes come from farmers who share the same philosophy, soils/altitude etc. Artur tells, with this traditional viticulture one has to use pesticides. A neutral cultivated yeast is also used (except for the reds).
The aim is to produce elegant and balanced wines, that is faithful to the alvarinho variety and the Monção and Melgaço terroir. I can say that I liked the Golães red and white, as simple and fruity everyday wines. The Valados range was true to what we think of as terroir. I chose three of these wines here.
Valados de Melgaço Reserva 2019 had a few months on the lees with batonnage during a short while. Light yellow colour; expressive concentrate aroma, yellow apples, some anise; quite full and structured in the mouth, with a slightly bitter grapefruity aftertaste. Valados de Melgaço Grande Reserva 2016 is a truly serious wine, but though it was three years older and even more concentrated it was lighter in colour than the reserva. It aged on lees in inox during 46 months, with batonnage in the first 12. Fresh fruit, yellow apples, melon, some balsamic notes; supple concentration and a long finish and good citrussy acidity all the way. Should I pick one favourite it would still be the Valados de Melgaço Natura (Vinificação Tradicional) 2019, a wine made with less sulphur, and nothing added until the end of fermentation. It had 8 months ageing on lees in steel, with batonnage. Yellow colour; aroma of pear, flowers, fennel and a touch of clementine peel; juicy and grapey in the mouth, good, integrated acidity.
After the Simplesmente… Vinho fair I took the opportunity to get an update on the nearby Vinho Verde region. I visited five producers in a program set up by festival general João Roseira and the growers. Here is a report from the three first wineries. These are found in the subregions Sousa and Amarante, only 40 and 60 kilometers respectively, from the city of Porto.
Sem Igual (meaning something like unequalled, or unique) may be a new brand, and it was only in 2012 that João Camizão and his wife Leila Rocha made their first vintage. But João’s family has been grapegrowers in the Sousa and Amarante sub-regions of Vinho Verde since the 18th century. I visited together with an American importer. And from the fair in Porto they drove us in their car to Meinedo, in the municipality of Lousada. Meanwhile they told us the fascinating story about their international background and how they came back. João has for long long worked in telecommunications, and combined for a few years his employment in Nokia with a life as a farmer. It was only in 2016 that he decided to dedicate himself fully to wine, and the family took the chance to move to the village of his childhood.
Their office, storage cellar and guesthouse are located in Meinedo. Here in the Sousa area they have about 10 hectares of vineyards on granite soil with gravel. The vines have an age of up to 70 years, the oldest ones trained in the traditional ramadas.
They are a modern couple, with their international stories, and a busy life with three kids. But watching their vineyards and walking through their cellar it shows clearly that they also feel connected to history. Just look at all the stone and the wooden architecture in their premises, the concrete tanks and the lagares where the grapes are trodden by foot.
We tasted through their range of wines. Sem Igual makes first and foremost white wines, but also sparkling wines, rosés and light reds. Their whites are blends of the two local grapes arinto and azal. In general they are good bodied, non-carbonic, dry wines with a fresh acidity.
The Sem Igual (blue label) is made from 70% arinto and 30% azal, always with whole bunches and very soft pressing. It has virtually no contact with lees. The wine was served in five vintages between 2015 and 2019, to give an impression. All had splendid citrus fruit (lemon peel) with good body, a crisp acidity and no bubbles (sounds maybe strange, but this is opposed to a long tradition of gasification in the region), and a mineral aftertaste – in an overall elegant style. The 2019 and 2017 were for me a bit ahead of the rest, a bit more expressive and with a slight buttery feel. João says that in 2016 they cut down on SO2. This can explain that the latest wines, especially 2019 and 2017 were somewhat darker.
Next was a pair of Sem IgualRamadas2018. Dubbed Metal and Wood respectively this denotes that the latter had been in oak, the former not. The Metal came from 50 year old vines, the Wood more than 60, both trained in pergola (ramadas). 60% arinto, the rest azal, the Wood was a bit more buttery, full and with more rounded acidity.
Sem Mal may play with the expression “not bad”, I think, but also with the fact that it had not completed malolactic fermentation (“malo”) before it was bottled. Which makes it a sparkling wine. The 2019 was a fresh one, with small bubbles, citrussy acidity, yellow apples and some yeast. We also tasted the Bruto Natural, a fresh sparkler after 40 months on sediments. Among the rest of the wines we tasted the PétNat2019 was truly fascinating. A half and half touriga nacinal and baga wine, this was their first pét nat and also their first experience with red grapes. Pale salmon-pink; peach and apples; smooth and off-dry, this is easy to drink on a hot summer’s day – and a story to be continued.
Quinta da Palmirinha
Quinta da Palmirinha and Fernando Paiva I have written about several times. Here is a short report following a visit three years ago.
Palmirinha is the family farm, barely 3 hectares located in Lixa, sub-region of Amarante. Fernando has a moderate and polite appearance, but is an undisputed authority in organic and biodynamic farming. A retired history professor, he will consult younger local talent about organic farming, without any pay. As he says while we walk up and down his quite steep vineyard, “if I give away my shirt I don’t have it any more, but knowledge is a thing you can share without losing it yourself.”
His vineyard is a total of almost 3 hectares with mostly 28 year old vines. Loureiro accounts for 2 hectares, the rest azal and arinto. All this is trained in simple cordon.
On his own initiative he has experimented with the use of chestnut flowers that covers the must, so that he can avoid using SO2. Time will show if this will be a revolutionary discovery for the whole sector. Anyway, Fernando has already shared his ideas with several producers.
Outside the adega we also said hello to the chickens that are fertilizing his vineyards. The plant life he calls “spontaneous”. It is like it is, there is no need to adjust. But we see aromatic plants that attracts insects.
He was the first certified biodynamic producer in Portugal. This time he showed me his biodynamic toolcase, with preparations.
The grapes are harvested manually in the morning, gently pressed and the fermentation is spontaneous. The wine stays in stainless steel for 10 months, with batonage twice.
I have tasted his wines many times, in the winery and at fairs. In general they are citric, appley and flowery, mineral, always with a firm structure, but with an integrated acidity. The three wines I tasted this time were all from the 2021 vintage. The Loureiro had more yellow apples, and overall a lovely calmness and harmony, just like the vineyard and the man. The Azal was more to the green apple side, some anise, with a crisper acidity. The Curtimenta (orange wine) called Leviano (tank sample), had 75% loureiro, the rest azal, and 3 weeks skin-contact. The colour is yellow, and smells of clementine peel, ginger and flowers; full in the mouth with some structure. This is an absolutely outstanding trio of wines!
Quinta de Lourosa
José Maia meets me at Quinta de Lourosa, in Sousela (Sousa valley). He has a varied background, and he is still working as a tour guide. The last few years he has been engaged at the winery, to do a little bit of everything. His experience in tourism is well at hand as they have a guesthouse with restaurant and provide guided tours. Their packages include regional gastronomy, handicrafts and day trips to sites of historical and cultural heritage, such as the area’s Romanesque route.
Joanna de Castro is winemaker on the quinta, that now covers 27 hectares. She lives in Lisboa and couldn’t be present that day. But her father was there. Rogério de Castro is a legendary figure, retired oenology professor and acknowledged for having introduced the training system that has come to be called Lys. The idea behind it is to enable a better sun exposure. Now the professor is passionately working the vineyards at Quinta de Lourosa. He has also in the latest decades renewed the 17th century chapel and the eaves on the farm. As we were walking around the estate he showed me different examples of the Lys system. It’s maybe more a concept than a technique. The idea is to distribute the plants to give ventilation. Very commonly first the plant grows to the left and to the right, then it moves upwards. With this system the plant also grows much stronger.
José tells me that the estate doesn’t produce organic wines as such. But they do care about the landscape and soil. -We use chemicals only when we have to, he says. -And the future is not to use. They are in fact planting peppermint between the rows to attract insects, only to mention one feature.
The wines were in general fresh and quite light in style. To only mention a few the (Vinhas de) Lourosa 2021, a varietal loureiro, was light with a a little gas; citric with green apples on the nose; fresh in the mouth, with lemony acidity. The Quinta de Lourosa 2021 was maybe a bit more “serious”. Made from 40-45% arinto, 30% loureiro and the rest avesso (a blend that the authorities first didn’t approve, because they said it must be sauvignon blanc) the wine showed citric with yellow apples, also fresh with a little gas, but a little more full and concentrated than the previous. Among the sparkling wines I really liked the Lourosa Bruto Branco 2018, made from loureiro and brinto with no added sugar: Pale yellow with small bubbles; fresh aroma of green and yellow apple, some yeast (after 9 months on sediments); with an appley acidity in the finish.
We also did an interesting tasting of the Quinta de Lourosa Alvarinho. The 2019 (made with 7% arinto also), made in steel and new French oak, showed light yellow in colour; an aroma of yellow apple, spice/herbs; glyceric, hints of toast, flavourful. We had this and two more vintages for dinner in the restaurant. While the 2016 was more buttery and had only a slightly oaky aftertaste, the 2014 showed a fully integrated oak without losing the fruit.
Here is my second article from this year’s Simplesmente fair, where I present updates from producers that I already knew well. I tasted everything they offered, but I will try to restrict myself to presenting only a few wines.
(Read the first article from this year’s fair here, about some re-discoveries of wineries I knew a little.)
Antonio Portela from the Morrazo península, Galicia, Spain was a special guest this year. Chance had it that I started my tasting experience by his barrel. The occasion is a sad one, he is not able to continue his work for economic reasons. That means, if not anything unexpected happens we will not be able to taste his wonderful, fresh, saline wines anymore. Antonio has other activities to fall back on, such as writing and teaching, so he refuses to call the situation dramatic. Okay, but to call it a pity is to put it in a very careful way. The white (Mar do) Namorado he offered in the 2020 and 2018 vintages. It is a 85% loureiro, the rest albariño, espadeiro a.o., grown in sand on the beach. The 2020 had a light colour; aroma of citrus, flowers and yellow fruits; wonderful acidity and concentration, long with a salty aftertaste. The 2018, in comparison, had a honeyed edge, but still with plenty of acidity and concentration. The red tinta femia Namorado 2019 was light with red fruits (raspberry), a touch anise, and with a saline finish. The Namorado Berobreo 2019 was in the same line, light in colour and with a super acidity. This one was made with whole bunches.
Miguel Alfonso’s family has produced wine for generations in Val do Umia, in the Salnés part of Galicia. The current winery, Adega Pedralonga, was founded in 1997 by Miguel’s father Francisco, and biodynamic practises were implemented ten years later. Miguel says that the work is professionalized, but it follows the philosophy of the ancestors. This means they plough only when necessary, Also in the cellar they do as little as possible. Albariño is not de-stemmed, only natural yeasts are employed, malolactic fermentation is not blocked and all wines get an extended ageing on lees. The Pedralonga vineyards sit on granite soils and are influenced by an Atlantic climate, which very much shows in the wines.
Pedralonga 2021 is a classic, with its fresh aromas of citrus and flowers, wonderful texture, steely acidity, salt and a flinty mineral finish. One of the great whites of the fair. The same can be said of their Carolina 2021, made from caíño blanco, with a greenish hint, quince and herbs, unctuous with a grapefruity aftertaste. Tinto de Umia 2019 is light red with a bit of evolution, red fruits, a touch of smoke and a lovely acidity and a saline finish.
Alfredo Maestro operates in both his native Peñafiel (Ribera del Duero) and in Sierra de Gredos. Since 1998 he has vinifyed each plot according to its peculiarities, with native yeasts and without chemical products. The artisan practise continues in the cellar, where no machines are used. Wait a minute: Few machines are used. But I have seen on YouTube that Alfredo experiments with drones to do various work in the vineyard. A machine yes, but this is also to minimize the use of that sort.
Rey del Glam 2021 is an elegant example of the carbonic maceration garnacha. A mix from both Ribera and Gredos, it shows fragrant red fruits with licorice; juicy in the mouth, also with some structure. Almate 2021 Is an un-oaked Ribera: Dark cherry; red and wild fruits (cherry, blackberry); full-flavoured, yet with fine tannins. The skin-contact albillo mayor Lovamor 2021 and the partly flor-aged albillo mayor Consuelo 2020 delivered as usual. So did the speciality La Cosa / The Thing 2020, a sweet moscatel de alejandría. It’s interesting that someone makes a Cigales these days. Alfredo has an interesting garnacha gris called La Badi 2021, made with three days skin-contact. Therefore it achieves a light red colour with greyish hints (“ceniza y cigarro”, ash and cigar, Alfredo calls it). It’s a juicy glou-glou, truely fascinating. I have a crush on Rosado Clásico deValladolid, now in its 2019 vintage. It’s in fact a clarete (in Spain made of red and white grapes, the same as a Portuguese palhete). It’s made with direct press, half in botas de Jerez, half in chestnut. The colour is pale red with an orange tinge, aromas of red berries (raspberry, plum), dried fruit and leather; the acidity and the alcohol (13,5) are integrated, while the tannins, fine-grained though, struggles to see if they can break out.
I visited Casa de Mouraz after 2017, the hot year with the devastating fires. (Read about the visit here.) They make fresh and inspiring Vinho Verde wines under António Lopes Ribeiro’s initials, alr. Here I choose a few Dão wines. Casa de Mouraz Encruzado 2020 is a perfumed varietal, with the extrovert fruit that the grape can offer, wonderfully balanced. Casa de Mouraz Palhete 2021, a field-blend of 80% red grapes, the rest whites, was light in colour, with concentrated raspberry and strawberry notes, an intense flavour and balanced acidity. Elfa 2017 made from 95 year old vines, with 30 different grape varieties co-planted. Worth mentioning is that there is no touriga nacional (not normal in Portugal, especially when there are that many varieties employed) and no oak. A red fruits- (cherry, raspberry) fruity wine with an underlying pine character; it has a fine structure and good balance. António also presented three wines without DOC, under the umbrella Planet Mouraz. The fact that they come without a DOC would most often mean that they are unfiltered. I tasted two vintages of the white Bolinha, namely 2021 and 2017. This is also a field-blend, fermented in stone lagar and stayed with skins for one week. The 2021 was clearly unfiltered; light golden, turbid; with an intense aroma of yellow fruits and herbs; grapey and full. The 2017 had a bit more colour; intense, with apricot and honey; quite big and full-flavoured, long and balanced. Bolinha is the name of the dog on the label, by the way.
It’s always a pleasure to meet José Perdigão, architect and vinegrower of Silgueiros, Dão, and taste his wines with labels by his wife Vanessa. A long-time favourite among his wines is the Quinta do Perdigão Rosé, now in its 2021 edition. It’s a rosé with some colour (José can maybe “arrest” me, but I would say somewhat less colour than before). It’s a full-flavoured rosé with aromas of raspberry and currant, and fresh acidity. Another classic from the house is the Alfrocheiro 2013: Dark cherry red with dark fruit aromas (blackberry, blueberry), pine; structured in the mouth, elegant, and very much alive after almost ten years. One that I don’t remember to have tasted is Noël 2015 (named after his youngest son). This is another wine that has kept well: Dark cherry; ripe red fruits (cherry, prunes); smooth, full of flavours. Still potential for ageing.
Lastly a trio from the Lisboa region. André Gomes Pereira and his Quinta do Montalto are actually found in the municipality of Ourém, in the Santarém district. But the wines are launched under neighbouring Lisboa’s regional.wines, if not DOC Encostas d’Aire (Medieval de Ourém). Pioneers in Portugal, since 1997, all crops at Quinta do Montalto are organic.
His medieval wine, a red and white blend, must be mentioned. This year I was in a hurry and skipped it though. I tasted his amphora wines for the first time. The vessels are made locally. Originally the manufacturer used epoxy. André said that this is “cheating” and against tradition. He said to André, why don’t you do it yourself? Then, as a statement, André decided that he would himself coat the amphoras with resin. Ánfora de Baco 2021 white is a varietal fernão pires, made 30% with skins and 3 months ageing with skins and on lees. Golden colour; flowers, resin and yellow fruits; full on the palate, fresh and Atlantic. The red equivalent with the same name is made from equal quantities trincadeira and aragonêz. Garnet red; red fruits (cherry), stonefruit (plums); super acidity and salinity. Cluricun Skin 2021 from grape varieties siria and fernão pires, 3 months on skins, was a peculiar wine. Pale amber colour; aroma of clementine and nuts; medium-bodied, with a light tannic grip.
Pedro Marques of Vale da Capucha (Turcifal, Torres Vedras) is a top producer, right there up with the very best. I could have mentioned all his wines. I will not, but I can say that they are focused, elegant and shaped by the terroir. The vineyards are planted on kimmeridgian limestone with clay. The white Fossil 2017 sums it all up. The name tells the story of a winery only 8 kilometers from the coast, in earlier times under water. Fossil has a light golden colour; aroma of citrus, white flowers, wax, chalk; a mineral taste, quite full and with a super integrated acidity. A lovely wine at a very nice price. Vale da Capucha Arinto 2019 is for me a star among his varietal wines. It’s light yellow; concentrated aromas of citrus (lemon and peel), yellow pepper, chalk; medium full in the mouth, mineral, with a lovely integrated acidity. Vale da Capucha Palhete 2019 is a blend of the white arinto and the red castelinho, made by “inking” a white wine with the red castelinho, then co-fermented in steel before bottling. Light red; red fruits (raspberry), salt; juicy, carefully structured.
Baías e Enseadas is located in Codiceira, Colares country, west of Lisboa capital. They have a more mature style. Daniel Afonso says, “I want to extract all I can from the skins”. The white Fernão Pires 2020 had stayed 6 months in barrel, with a lot of batonnage. -I always have acidity, says Daniel, now I want to work on the creaminess. And yes, a creamy texture together with a good acidity was achieved here. The Escolha Pessoal 2020 could be found along the same path, though a bit more concentrated and also elegant. Castelão 2020 showed mature fruits, alongside flowers and a hint licorice; juicy and quite complex, and a fruity finish.
Simplesmente… Vinho is an independent wine festival held annually in Porto. It’s for artisans and family businesses, for wines that respect terroir and tradition. As the organizers say, “sincere wines with a healthy dose of madness and poetry”.
Nowadays it’s held on the first weekend of July, in the open air of the gardens of the Casa Cor de Rosa of the Faculty of Architecture of Porto (FAUP). This tenth edition featured 101 vignerons from Portugal and Spain.
This year I tasted quite randomly in no special order. I will still try to categorize them for you. It is always a pleasure to taste the wines of producers like Tiago Sampaio, Antonio Madeira, Niepoort, Quinta de Carolina and Quinta do Infantado. However, here I will highlight some of the producers that I didn’t know that well. Yes, I knew about them and I had tasted some wines, but this was the first time I tasted their whole range. Three to watch were Quinta da Pôpa, Quinta da Poeta (both Douro) and Quinta do Escudial (Dão). There were also a couple of discoveries on a trip to the Vinho Verde region. These you can read about in a forthcoming article.
Muxagat was created in 2002 by the Almeida and Lopes families, in the village Muxagata of Douro Superior. Today Muxagat has its own winery in Mêda, where most of the grapes are sourced. It’s a minimal intervention project, also without addition of yeast. Susana Lopes and her family, with the help of Ana Silva, resident winemaker, and consultant Luis Seabra, make stylish, fresh wines in a region famous for heavier stuff.
I liked the whole range, from the fresh white wines (one of them an off-dry riesling), via the elegant light extracted rosé to the various shades of red. Here come a few of the best. Tinta Barroca 2021: Young colour with violet hints; mature dark and wild fruits (cherry, blackberry), flowers; luscious with fresh acidity – a serious glou-glou wine! The Tinta Francisca 2017 had more developed colour, an earthy, mineral aroma with red berries and white pepper, and a lightly structured palate. I also liked their regular Tinto 2017, a classic and complete red. Vale Cesteiros 2018, from older vines, is dark in colour with wild fruits (blackberry) and some balsamic; potent, still elegant, and with an integrated acidity. Cisne 2015 and 2016 were made from tinto cão 90% and rabigato, aged two years in wood. They showed some evolution, with earthy and fresh red fruits, then a powerful structure and a rich mouthfeel. The 2016 was the most powerful of the two.
Miguel Morais came to what is now Quinta da Costa do Pinhão, fell in love with it and knew he had to dedicate himself to the difficult task of working that land. Miguel says that 2014 was his first serious vintage. Over the years he has learned to understand the place better, respect the land, the plants, the animals, and cut on the chemicals, he says.
Quinta da Costa do Pinhão Branco 2019 was destemmed and fermented with skins in used barrels, and can be called an orange wine. Golden colour; mature apples, yellow fruits (tomatoes) and wet stone; rounded and balanced. The red Marufo 2019, from the rare grape of that name, was light, with currant colour; ripe raspberry fruit, spice; soft on the palate, balanced, and with a beginning evolution. The red with the company name was also of a classic style. Quinta da Costa do Pinhão Peladosa 2019 is a field-blend of 30 different varieties, a hundred years old vines on 1 hectare. Whole bunch pressing was carried out in a 500 litre barrel. Dark and wild fruits (blackcurrant, blackberry), menthol; concentrated flavours and delicate tannins.
There is nothing better than a little slowness in this era, says Rodrigo Martins of Espera (meaning: wait). He continues, we should give the wines time for maturation to deliver authentic and genuine aromas. He has 5 hectares of vineyards in Alcobaça, region of Lisboa, where the simple winemaking styles of the Cistercian monks is an inspiration. The idea is to be patient, and the ambition is to offer a unique quality product, at the same time unpretentious.
I really appreciate the elegant, low-extracted Atlantic style of this producer, and all wines could be highlighted. Here follow four of them. The Bical & Arinto 2020 from a young vineyard with low yield stayed 8 weeks in oak. It shows yellow fruit; is round, tasty, and concentrated. The Curtimenta 2021 stayed 17 days on skins. Light yellow, slightly cloudy; delicate skin-character (lemon peel); grapefruit in the aftertaste. The Espera Palhete 2021, a field-blend of some 20 varieties (70% white) was really delicate and delicious: Light red; raspberries; crisp acidity and a delicate texture. Espera NatCool 2021 is made for the Niepoort-distributed series of low-extracted natural wines in one-litre bottles. It’s made solely from castelão, is light red; with lots of red fruits (raspberry), a touch of flint; delicate, uplifting acidity.
Amoreira da Torre is one of the producers that manage to make fresh, varietal-scented wines from Alentejo, otherwise known for developed, jammy aromas. I tasted a few wines some years ago, and this was a good opportunity to re-discover. 20 hectares with Portuguese varieties from the region was planted in 2001 by Paulo Sendin and converted to organic four years later. The terroir at the estate in Montemor-o-Novo (on the highway to Évora) is characterized by granitic soils, abundant groundwater and a Mediterranean climate.
The Zebro line features some delicious, fruity wines of several colours at an un-beatable price. The microclimate is good for white wines, with water in the subsoil where roots go deep. Zebro Blanc de Noirs 2020, a varietal aragonêz, is made with very light pressing (“lágrima”), then immediate separation of the must. It’s quite unctuous, or broad, with anise and bitter almond notes; full and somewhat structured on the palate. Amoreira da Torre 2021 (aragonês, trincadeira, some cabernet sauvignon, 6 months in used oak) is youthful dark; fruity, dark and red fruits (morello, plums), green pepper, herbs and eucalyptus; rounded tannins, fresh and not overdone.
Look for next article from the Simplesmente fair, when there will be an update on producers already known on the blog.
Here is the second part of the report from this year’s Vella Terra. We leave Spain, crosses over to Portugal, then from France and to the east, then to the north of Europe.
Fernando Paiva came with his grandson João Goucha, who studies enology in Vila Real. Fernando’s estate Quinta da Palmirinha is in Lixa, south in the Vinho Verde. He is a pioneer in biodynamic farming in Portugal, uses chamomile flowers to avoid the use of sulphur in his natural wines – and is well covered in this blog. (Read about a visit to the estate here.) His Azal and Loureiro varitals were typical and up to standard. Leviano was made for the first time in 2020, that I tasted in Porto last summer. It’s a loureiro, now in the 2021 vintage, made with 3 months skin-contact. This makes it an orange wine, or “curtimento” in Portugal. Golden to orange; aroma of ginger and flowers; full in the mouth with some structure, and a super, integrated acidity.
João Tavares da Pina is found in Penalva do Castelo in Dão. (Read here about a visit to his estate.) The family’s Quinta da Boavista dates back to 1650 and is found at an altitude of 550 meters on deep granite, quartz, clay and shale soils. These vineyards are ideal for grapes like touriga nacional, alfrocheiro and rufete. And not least for the variety jaén (mencía), a speciality of the quinta.
I love his series Rufia (meaning punk), young, fresh wines. Among those tasted this time, why not mention the Rosé 2020, from rufete, touriga and jaen. Salmon-coloured, with raspberry and wild berries, rounded with a very careful tannin. Very interesting was his Tretas 2020, a jaen and touriga nacional. It was macerated on the skins for 4 days and kept in inox for 6 months before bottling (unfiltered, unfined). Tretas means bullshit in local slang. The wine is serious fun: A quaffable glou-glou, but with depth; cherry red, ripe red fruits and with some structure.
I hadn’t met Rodrigo Melo before, but I understand that this is a producer to watch. Rodrigo is from Brazil, but worked for many years in natural wine distribution in London. In 2018 he started his own project and came to Portugal, where he already knew its terroirs and grapes. He bought 4 hectares of land with 30-year-old vines with organic certification in northern Lisboa, that is Quinta da Ermegeira. He also works with biodynamic techniques, and the winemaking is with very low intervention.
Rodrigo showed interesting samples under the label Selva. Noiva 2021 was a different chardonnay, with botrytis and with some residual sugar. Here we chose Cristovan 2020. It is an orange wine (in Portuguese curtimenta) made from arinto, in a cement tank of 1.700 liters. The colour is light orange after 10 days fermentation on skins, the fruit is lovely and the acidity is refreshing. Only 11% alcohol.
Domaine Balansa is a 15-hectare estate in Corbières, established in 2015. This family project has an organic approach to farming and also runs tourism activities in the most sustainable way possible. I tasted the whole portfolio, various styles from southern French grapes. This time we could maybe focus on one of the more “serious” wines, Can del Rey 2020 from Fitou. It’s made from carignan and grenache, from 100 year old vines on hillsides, made with some carbonic maceration and matured some months in oak. It’s dark in colour, with youngish blue; aroma of wild berries, some balsamic, and slight hint of toffee too; good weight, fine tannins and with a balancing acidity.
The Les Vins Pirouettes label covers seventeen independent Alsatian winegrowers committed to organic and biodynamic farming. Each viticulturist grows the grapes on his own land and makes the wine in his own cellar. It’s an initiative by Christian Binner, and the idea was to give the growers a helping hand so that they didn’t need to sell their grapes to cooperatives.
Many times I have been impressed by the energy and creativity behind the wines and the dedication behind the labels. In spite of this, it can be (for me) many new wines each time. As a general rule, we can say that they are affordable natural wines.
Among the most rewarding wines this time was Saveurs 2018 from producer Rafaël, a fruity, citrussy and juicy silvaner (this label also covers a blend). More slender, but equally energetic was David‘s Riesling Glou-Glous 2018, a fresh appley, citrussy wine. There was also a delicious orange gewürztraminer from Franck, L’Étalon 2019. After 10 days of skin-contact it was only light orange, with apples, pears and a (pleasant) vinegary bitterness towards the end.
Foradori of Trentino has been covered many times on this blog, so feel free to search for it all. (Here is a recent post.) Elisabetta Foradori. Earlier I have met her sons, but this was the first time that I have met the beautiful Elisabetta Foradori herself. At a young age she did remarkable work in cultivating organically, later implementing biodynamic methods, and caring for the native varieties of her area, especially the near-extinct teroldego.
I didn’t taste many wines this time, only some whites, like the all-time favourite Nosiola. I also got the chance to be reminded how good was the Fuoripista Pinot Grigio, now in its 2016 vintage. Grown in sandy limestone, it’s fermented 8 months on skins and further aged in Spanish tinajas (amphoras) for 5 month. It has a reddish hue, is flowery with red berries and herbs, and has a concentrated yet smooth appearance in the mouth.
About Carussin of Piemonte I could say the reverse (than Foradori), earlier I have only met the mother Bruna Ferro Carussin. This time I got the opportunity to greet her son Luca Carussin Garberoglio. It’s a winery that I know well from the Norwegian market, and their economic barbera Asinoi has been a house wine in my house for a long time now. Here I tasted a few wines, among them Tra L’Altro 2020, an inspiring, flowery, dry moscato/cortese. Lia Ví 2017, is a superb wine, a single parcel barbera harvested later than others. It’s made from a 35-year-old vineyard planted by Luca’s grandfather, on the sandy soil just in front of the winery. It’s a concentrated wine that shows that barbera also can do with some structure. Elegant aroma, cool fruits (cherry), herbs and flowers, and a concentrate taste with fine tannins and lovely integrated acidity. And it’s not expensive.
Over to Argentina: Stella Crinita is the natural wine project of Joana Foster and Ernesto Catena in Vista Flores de Tunuyán, Valle de Uco. The Catena family is indeed an important one in the history of Argentine wine, having been responsible for bringing the malbec variety to America, as the story goes.
All fermentations are spontaneous, no SO2 added at any stage, nothing fined nor filtered. These are some keywords. The vineyard has been biodynamic certified since 2012. The soils are sandy and clayey and located at 1,100 meters above sea level.
I tasted interesting pét nats and reds from a.o. malbec, syrah, cabernet sauvignon, and a varietal barbera. Petit verdot can be one-dimensional and dull. Their Petit Verdot 2020 was not. On the contrary this single-vineyard biodynamic wine was a linear, long and quite elegant wine from this somewhat difficult grape. Cherry red, plums and blackberries with spice (nutmeg), fine tannins, fresh fruit (cherry) and also a touch of wood and leathertones.
It was also here I had to travel to meet Martin Bech-Ravn, a Danish cider producer, home brewer and artist based in Ekeberg, a neighbourhood in Oslo, Norway. This is a wine blog visiting a wine fair. But when Bech-Ravn in Solhøi Cider talks, then the analogue to wine is striking. For example, he uses one variety of apples to give fullness, another to give acidity. He operates naturally, without additives. He makes Floating Sunshine, Flytende Solskinn2020, a dry, fresh, flowery, lightly spicy cider bottled unfiltered – in Oslo.
We end our journey with some more recent initiatives. Their history is not necessarily that short though. Menade for instance is relatively new, and the launch of their oxidative wine too. But the companiy’s history can be traced many generations back, and their dorado has also some history.
Menade was officially founded in 2005. But this branch of the Sanz family can trace its wine history back to 1820, when they sold their first vintage to the mayor of La Seca. At that time, there was more red wine than white. Antonio Sanz was one of the pioneers of Rueda and of Spanish wine in general; he traveled around, among other places to the Basque Country to see how they made wine there. He took part in the revolution to avoid oxidation; pick at night and use steel tanks – and to start DO Rueda. Now his three children in the 6th generation are leading the family business. Menade operates completely organically and is committed to spontaneous fermentation. The family sold the famous brand Palacio de Bornos, and the bodega which later got the same name. But they kept the vineyards. Menade benefits from the use of these today.
Here we meet again my musician friend, who I first met in another Rueda bodega. Ivan Acebes García is generally interested in culture and speaks long and inspired. His thoughts on the history of the Spanish nation will not be discussed in detail here. But he says that for 250 years, solera was the way to make wine here. It was to make the process cheaper that they started placing the wine out in the sun. It is natural that Ivan asks if we can meet in the old bodega in La Seca, where a living room is filled with books. Later we drive to what has been the headquarters since 2009 in Rueda town. There they have made an organic bodega, laid out a garden with all the typical plants – and supplemented with, among other things, an “insect hotel”. Menade has a total of 210 hectares, 60 here at the farm in Rueda. Their homage to the dorado tradition they call Adorado. The vines for this are between 20 and 25 years old, and the grapes are picked by hand.
-Every year we harvest earlier, says Ivan, with the global warming in mind.
We are out in Menade’s biodiversity paradise. There is a lot of fennel: -All verdejo smells like fennel, other typical smells are rosemary and thyme, he points out.
It’s getting late, and a breeze has crept in over the inhospitable Castilian landscape.
-Here, far inland there is actually a certain Atlantic influence, he says, -there is nothing to stop the wind between the sea and these fields.
The pressing takes place in a historical vertical press from around the year 1900, when it is believed that an earlier incarnation of this particular wine was made for the first time. The must is cloudy, and the fermentation starts naturally. After fermentation, the finished wine is fortified with grape spirits to obtain 2 or 3 extra grades of alcohol. Flor develops, usually in the spring, and when it has disappeared, the oxidative process resumes in the old underground bodega in La Seca. -The mother solera of Adorado dates back to 1967, but the first “saca” (withdrawal from the solera) was as late as 2018, when we made the decision to reactivate this style, Ivan continues. Unlike the other well-known producers, Menade uses 8-liter damajuana. The wine is released on the market without clarification or filtration.
This dorado has even more saline expressiveness than the aforementioned wines. In addition it has evident iodine and umami features. It has a clear amber color with a golden element.
I always appreciate coming back to Alicia and Vidal Vidal Soblechero in La Seca. (No, there is no misprint there.) Vidal is a passionate “bird man” and is the only one who has made me hold a bird of prey on my arm. By the way, his falcons have a function; they keep pests away from the vines. Alicia is a music lover and this time she invited me to a baroque organ concert in the local church of La Seca.
Actually, I find it strange that this producer is not more famous. They did get a lot of attention when they made Spain’s first ice wine in 2010, but it was probably quickly sorted under curiosities. No, it is their single-parcel wines that most of all arouse interest and admiration. I always make sure to taste some, if not all, of these. The wine series Pagos de Villavendimia was born precisely with the aim of expressing the characteristics of the various plots.
The Vidal Soblechero family has 50 hectares on 32 plots. Nothing is bought-in, no vineyard is rented. It was his father Cláudio who was behind the standard verdejo Clavidor (also derived from his name).
La Oxidativa, their dorado, comes under this label Pagos de Villavendimia. It is made from 100% verdejo from over 80 years old vines and stored in damajuanas that are always full, in a form of solera from 1947.
-It started, once told their distributor Joachim Buchta, -when Cláudio Vidal put a barrel in the yard filled with ordinary verdejo. Then he placed enough damajuanas around it on the ground. After six months, he replenished ten percent of the wine from the barrel with the wine from the damajuanas. Then he refilled the damajuans. Over the years, the number increased. Now it’s around ten.
This explanation is perhaps good for understanding how the solera system works in this context. The point here is that there are barrels that never run out, that there is a small amount left from the first vintage.
Another point is that at Vidal Soblechero, dorado is fermented like ordinary verdejo, with potentially about thirteen percent alcohol. You are then sure to end up with a completely dry wine.
We see that this is a type of wine that several producers are now bringing to light again, and beyond the four I had planned to visit especially with a view to dorado, I will mention two. I had agreed to visit Ismael Gozalo anyway, and he gave me a bottle of his historical wine when I was about to leave. And to a trade fair in Barcelona, Malaparte had also brought their oxidative wine.
Ismael Gozalo’s father was one of the founders of Viñedos de Nieva, a reference in the area. And he himself was behind Ossian together with Javier Zacchagnini, known from Ribera del Duero. In 1998, Ismael started making wines outside the family’s bodega, and it did not take long before everything was produced organically, as natural wine without additives. Nieva, the small village where he was born in 1971, is one of the highest in Rueda, 850 meters above sea level. With less than 300 inhabitants, Nieva has four significant wineries, which must be said to be an unparalleled density.
Ismael Gozalo has 31 hectares, only “en vaso”, without upbinding, which is very common in Spain, with all its old vineyards. The wine EvoluciÓn comes from one of Gozalo’s best vineyards, 180-year-old pre-phylloxera in sandy soil. The wine is based on the vintages 2010 and 2011. It has then been over ten years in old sherry barrels. It has a permanent floor layer based on yeast cells from the bodega since the 11th century. As he writes on the baking label, it is “stored under flor (flower), bottled on a ‘día de flor’ (flower day) and you can enjoy this flor (wine flower)”. He may be called the “verdejo alchemist”, for his creative ways of dealing with this emblematic grape. Obviously, he also uses 100% verdejo for his dorado. Ripe grapes are picked by hand, spontaneously fermented and stored in barrels, which are only filled up with 5/6 of the capacity. The wine achieves an alcohol of 15%, but evaporates, and when the wine has 13.5%, it is not refilled with alcohol, but bottled as it is. It would thus not have been approved by DO Rueda. 950 half litre bottles were produced.
EvoluciÓn is stored longer under flor than the aforementioned wines. Therefore, one might call it pálido rather than dorado. Surely it is that it is also made after inspiration from the historical wines from Rueda. Because of a longer time under flor it is lighter than the others in colour. It is aromatic, with hints of ripe apples and plum and a yeasty flor characteristic. It is a very fresh wine with good concentration, vital acidity and a sweetish fruit sensation. Dry in the mouth, and good length.
Like Gozalo, Bodega de Frutos Marín is located in the province of Segovia. The producer is most often called Malaparte, after its most famous label. Rubén and Elisa cultivate 5.5 hectares of vineyards near Cuéllar. They use different techniques, such as tanks, old barrels and amphorae. All plots are operated without irrigation. This is near the Ribera del Duero. Still, and despite a lovely amphora-aged tempranillo, I would say that they are mostly a white wine producer, offering several versions of verdejo and viura. Interesting for us in this round is the wine OX. This is obviously an abbreviation of “oxidativo”. It is based on verdejo and palomino fino from 65 year old vines. After a year it was transferred to damajuanas. It naturally reaches 14%, and is not strengthened. It has all the yeast, almond and dried fruit aromas one would expect, and in the mouth it is glyceric – and typically more fruity than its sherry equivalents.
Maybe the dorado drink can get a place at our tables again? The first mentioned wines (see part I and II) should have similar use as a young or medium aged amontillado or palo cortado sherry. If we should refer to what the producers themselves are suggesting, it can be anything from cured cheeses, via stews, anchovies, bacalao, foie and smoked and pickled starters – to salty and sweet foods, such as blue cheese and chocolate-based desserts. EvoluciÓn will probably be more like a fino, manzanilla pasada or young amontillado, with some lighter food. One of Gozalo’s importers mentions Asian-inspired dishes and red fish. It would probably suit some of the others as well.
The golden age was called the era after the discovery of America. It remains to be seen whether the golden drink is now facing a new golden age.
We continue our trip back in time. Now we shall visit two more producers of the Catholic Monarchs’ drink.
We arrive at Alberto Gutiérrez, or: De Alberto. The Gutiérrez family has been making this type of wine since the 1940s. Today’s management is 4th generation and has 500 hectares of vineyards. They fill 8,000 damajuanas of 16 liters and up to 6,000 bottles annually. The house is thus the largest producer of dorado.
Export Manager Diego González Hernández meets us. We talk about the production of their dorado while wandering in a labyrinth of underground cellars, formerly a bodega that was part of a 16th century convention and was used for fermentation.
Harvesting takes place at night, as is usual in modern Rueda, usually in late September / first part of October. The grapes are picked when they have a potential 11-13% of alcohol. The first fermentation is exactly like for white wine. Then they add alcohol until the wine has reached 17%, then store it in damajuana for 8-10 months. Thereafter awaits a year in a solera, where the oldest barrels are from the earliest times, ie more than 70 years old. Then follows a year in newer barrels. 10% of the barrels are then bottled. Today, only verdejo is used. But since it is a form of solera, it is still possible that there are drops of palomino in there.
We tasted a pálido, but also their El Dorado. The colour is light amber. In terms of aroma and taste, I can not say that it is fundamentally different from Cachazo’s wine (read first part here); with aroma of nuts, dried fruit and vanilla, glyceric in the mouth and with a concentrated bitterness that perfectly complements the sweetness and the alcohol in the aftertaste.
Cuatro Rayas (Agrícola Castellana)
It was in 1935 that the village doctor in La Seca encouraged several wine-growing families to unite, not only to become bigger, but also stronger. The backdrop was a particularly unstable Spain, which only a year later would prove to break out in civil war. Today, the cooperative has 300 members in 30 municipalities, taps around 15 million bottles annually and has thus become the largest producer in DO Rueda. It is also the largest producer of organic wine. The cooperative changed its name a couple of years ago, from Agrícola Castellana to Cuatro Rayas, after its most famous brand. The bodega name means four stripes, is designed as a musical ‘sharp’ or a hashtag, and symbolizes the four important villages of La Seca, Rueda, Rodilana and Medina del Campo.
In the 1950s, the first commercial brand of the young cooperative was born. The members had decided that the wine should be brought to the large common cellar and poured into large vessels. During the first years, it was said that of all the vats with wine, number 61 was the best of them all. The house brand Fino 61 was named after this vat.
We meet oenologist Roberto L. Tello and Sara Manzanas in the communications department. Roberto and Sara concentrated most on the best wine, 61 Dorado en Rama, but we also tasted the “regular” 61, and the company’s pálido. “En rama” means that the wine does not undergo clarification or filtration. In short, it is based on verdejo and palomino fino; 75% verdejo for the wine 61 en Rama, while the other wine has 50/50, both from old vines. The grapes are harvested by hand in the morning, in late August and the first half of September. Biological fermentation takes place in sherry barrels, where one sixth is not filled, to stimulate the development of flor. The wine is bottled once a year and then refilled with wine matured in a concrete tank for a year. During the autumn and winter, it loses its flor layer, which leads to a gradual oxidative maturation. At Cuatro Rayas, the wine is fortified to 17%. Production is limited to about a thousand bottles.
Flor is a native yeast, which comes naturally. Cuatro Rayas is also collaborating with the University of León to “save” local yeast strains, and then use them in production. In general, work is done organically and with a philosophy of a low climate footprint. When asked about the number of criadeas, Roberto says that here is a solera, a criadera and the rest.
61 Dorado en Rama follows the aforementioned dorado wines in style: Clear, light golden amber color, aroma of pastries, vanilla, pastries, caramel and a toasted tone, honey, caramel and dried fruit. There is a clear difference to the “ordinary” wine, which is not as expressive and where the alcohol is more evident.
I come from the west where I have photographed the monument in memory of the Battle of Toro, which laid the foundation for a unified Spain. Here in and around the villages of La Seca and Rueda, I will visit some of the producers who are now involved in a restoration of the historic dorado wine. This was a popular drink at the courts over five hundred years ago, when the aforementioned battle took place.
How much this wine is inspired by the more famous in Jerez is hard to say, as Spain after the fall of the empire almost had a collective memory loss of 150 years, and very little was written. But several conditions coincide, from the grape variety palomino fino (here together with the local verdejo), oxidative storage in oak barrels (as in the main category oloroso), the use of “botas” (600 liter oak barrels) and large glass containers called “damajuanas” . Wait a minute! Many people would probably call them demijohns, as in English.
My good musician friend Ivan, who works for the producer Menade, lectures: -The word probably comes from the French dame-jeanne and refers to Queen Joanna I of Naples. Legend has it that during a storm she sought refuge in the workshop of a master glassblower, and she became interested in the art of blowing glass. She wanted to try to make her own bottle, blew with great force and got a ten liter bottle. This bottle and its successors were called dame-jeanne, and the look was soon linked to a lady’s round shapes. The art and designation triumphed, and when it came to Spain in the 15th century, it was associated with Juana, who was the daughter of Queen Isabel II and one of the parties in the Castilian War of Succession, where the battle mentioned in the introduction was included. We continue with our introduction, and we will meet Ivan again in article number three.
DO Rueda currently has its own category for dorado in its legislation. It states that the wine must be made of palomino fino and / or verdejo and have at least 15% alcohol. It must have undergone oxidative storage and must have been in oak barrels for at least two years before it is launched. Their general characteristics are a golden color, aroma of dried and roasted fruit, oxidative properties, and it should be powerful, glyceric and complex in the mouth. Some may also have an aroma of vanilla. Unlike sherry, most also have the verdjo’s flattering, fruity (sometimes sweet) nose and slightly bitter aftertaste. There is also a category for biological storage (under a layer of the yeast «flor») called pálido.
In the production of dorado with DO, the wine must contain at least 40% verdejo. When the fermentation is complete, alcohol is usually added so that it is at least fifteen degrees. Most people believe that this is also necessary for the wine to withstand the further process. The wine is usually poured into the damajuans, which usually contain 16 liters. The wine is placed outdoors for more than a year, so that it can be exposed to sun and temperature fluctuations, which gives it a golden colour and its characteristic aromas. In the past, it was common to spend more time in something more reminiscent of a solera system. After storage in glass, the whole thing is completed with a stay in an oak barrel.
Félix Lorenzo Cachazo
At Félix Lorenzo Cachazo, I am welcomed by brother and sister Eduardo and Ángela Cachazo, who are 6th generation. Eduardo takes care of public relations, while Ángela is an oenologist. The family’s Carrasviñas was the first Dorado wine bottled in 1946, and their father Félix was one of the eight founders of DO Rueda in 1980.
Cachazo uses the grape varieties verdejo and palomino fino. The grape mixture is 65% verdejo, which grows some distance away, in the village of Alcazarén, where there is sandy soil and pre-phylloxera vines. The rest is palomino, which is grown around the bodega in Pozaldez. -We work with small growers from the area. They are a treasure to us; we are in debt to the area, says Eduardo.
Harvest is usually late, in late October. The grapes are harvested at potentially 15% alcohol. The grapes are vinified separately, stalked and gently pressed. The must is then fermented in a stainless steel tank. After the alcohol fermentation follows a racking, and wine from the two varieties is mixed. Then it is temporarily filled in 16-liter damajuanas. These are left in the patio for 18 months, where the wine develops “flor” in the spring, in what is called biological fermentation. During this time, it also undergoes an oxidative storage that gives the wine a golden color. Then it stays for two years in 2-3 year old barrels, French and American.
Cachazo makes 2,500 bottles of dorado annually. -It is allowed to mix vintages, but we make vintage wines, says Eduardo. -We use a cultivated yeast strain from the local verdejo.
We tasted their Dorado 2017 together with oenologist Ángela: Golden, pure and light color. Aroma of quince jam, hazelnut, dried fruit and vanilla. Full-bodied in the mouth with nuts and spices, a toasted tone and a hint of bitterness in the aftertaste (from verdejo). A textbook example (or what you would think of as typical, since very little is written about these wines). On the whole, this may be the closest you get to the classic wines, at least after the norm became a short time in the patio rather than a long time in the solera.
-In the past, wines were not infrequently at 17-18% alcohol. Today we do not add alcohol; it was our grandfather who stopped this and brought the wines down to 15% as today, the siblings say.
Eduardo is interested in history and can complement our historical introduction with an interesting etymological outline: Pozaldez has less than 500 inhabitants and two churches. The name was Pozoldes (meaning wells) in the 13th century, changed to Pozal de las Dos Iglesias (the pool of the two churches) in 1587 and then changed its name to Pozal de Hez. Here, hez refers to the sediments that remain on the wine barrel after fermentation. The church of San Boal, where we stand, has Mozarabic features. It was also the Mozarabs (Berbers under the new Christian rule) who brought the grape verdejo to Spain from North Africa. Palomino, the grape that dominates sherry production, also certainly has a history of at least 500 years in our region.
I am back at Barcelona’s Vella Terra. It is now in its 6th edition after having been postponed, last time since February this year. Vella Terra is a fair organized by the couple Ale Delfino and Stefano Fraternali, and celebrates natural and low-intervention wines from smaller wineries, most of them family businesses. This year there were 146 artisans from 16 countries booked in. There were also related companies like Pulltex, distributor of wine accessories (see my company profile of one of their most important collaborators Pulltap’s in a forthcoming article) and restaurants like Garage Bar and Zaza. There were of course also various activities around town, with so much “talent” gathered in one place.
This year I had no special theme in mind. I did select a bit, but was also open to walk in new doors. So here are some of the most interesting tastes, only organized from local to global, if I can put it that way. And as many times before, I try to restrict myself by chosing only one wine from each winery. In this first part we shall deal with Spain.
I had tasted a few wines from Cal Teixidor before. (See my latest wine of the week here.) Their winery is found in Corbera de Llobregat, not far from Barcelona. At Vella Terra Josep Casañas showed an impressive range, most of the wines based on the two vineyards described in my latest wine of the week, that you can read about here). These are a north-facing xarel.lo vineyard that gives acidity and minerality, and a south or southwest-facing macabeu vineyard that gives more fruity, aromatic wines. There were also wines made from subirat parent (see his T-shirt), also known by the name malvasía riojana. Here I chose a wine solely based on the macabeu vineyard from 1974. It’s called Masía Cal Salines 2019, is made with whole clusters and aged … Dark yellow; appley, with fennel-tones; rich, structured and mouth-filling. Josep also showed a superb subirat parent traditional method sparkler with almost the same name, Masía Cal SalinesBrut Nature Reserva. This fruity wine, with herbs and mature apple, but also mineral and with a fresh acidity – was of the 2017 vintage and aged 42 months on the lees. Which strictly makes it a gran reserva (it’s minimum 30 months, by Cava standards). Lastly, his wife Brugués is the force behind the estate’s own olive oil.
Loxarel I have known a long time, and I’ve appreciated their good and not least good value wines. Last time they were represented in a wine of the week post was here. In February I had an appointment with winemaker Pep for a visit to their Penedès winery, but had to cancel as I was struck by covid. Here founder Josep Medios participated together with Anna Janué, who calls herself commercial sommelier. They showed an impressive range, such as still and sparkling Loxarel à pel, an amphora-made xarel.lo, and a “xarel.lo sherry” (called Himen), and reds. Here I chose Loxarel109 2011, a brut nature reserva (well, technically it qualifies for a gran reserva). This wine was the reason that Loxarel left DO Cava for Clàssic Penedès, because the authorities didn’t allow them to bottle without disgorging. Loxarel’s opinion is that after nine years the wine has already integrated the yeast. Obviously, this is also a xarel.lo-dominated wine, like nearly all the most ageworthy. Aged on the lees for 109 months in a shelter from the civil war. Light in colour; smells of mature apples, burnt yeast and coffee; is rich with a super acidity and mineral finish, it’s still full of vividness and not at all “old”. It comes in a bottle wrapped in paper.
Clos Lentiscus is located inside the national park in the Garraf mountains just outside Sant Pere de Ribes. The winery was established in 2001 by brothers Manel and Joan Aviñó, when they set out on a task of restoring the family vineyard from the 14th century. They currently cultivate 22 hectares of vineyards in a biodynamic way, of which 95 percent are planted with local grape varieties.
Before the fair I had warmed up with a classy, mineral red, Perill Noir Carinyena 2017, a varietal carinyena that also were shown here. I chose one of the bright sparklers that Manel’s daughter Núria poured. The Núria Parellada 2018, one of several wines named after her, is a pét-nat, very fresh for its age. It’s very dry with notes of red apples, raspberry and bright citrus.
I met Dido and Jurriaan three years ago at the Garage Bar. Then they were just starting, after having travelled the world and worked in a number of wineries. Since then I have come across their rosé sparkler Juicy several times. (See here.) share a passion: wine. They bought 9.5 hectares of vines planted in the Albera natural reserve of Alt Empordà, where they farm organically and have started to implement biodynamic principles. They have now bought an old coop in the village Rabós, where they first were hiring space.
Many of their labels carry references to music, such as Big Time Sensuality, Comfortably numb and Libertango. My pick here would be Magic Potion 2021, a cabernet franc-sauvignon pét-nat named after the album of The Black Keys: Blueish red, full of fresh and sweet strawberry and raspberry fruit, and in the mouth some structure that complements well with a slight residual sugar.
Architect Alfredo Arribas is quite new on the Catalan wine scene, having taken over the family’s vineyards in 2001 founded his bodega in 08. But he has made himself heard. His two main series are Siuralta, mostly monovarietal wines from Montsant and Instabiles, more free-spirited wines from Priorat. The vineyards are in Cornudella de Montsant, in the north of the Priorat region, and the grapes are vinified in the winery in Falset. Arribas’ project is a response to the challenges of climatic change, seeking higher altitude vineyards, more shade and rainfall, biodiversity and more.
For Siuralta grapes from the highest vineyards are spontaneously fermented in whole clusters with stems in small steel tanks and amphorae in various shapes. The grapes for Instabile are spontaneously fermented mainly in whole clusters with short peel maceration. The wines are matured in small cement tanks and amphorae of ceramics, porcelain or glass. Different vintages are mixed in some cases by bottling.
Let’s taste the Siuralta Antic2019, a varietal cariñena: Deep red; cool, fresh fruit, dark and wild berries (blackberry, elderberry), a hint of pepper; luscious/fleshy in the mouth, carried by a long acidity, beautifully integrated tannins, more to the mineral side.
I didn’t know Sifer Wines, but it clearly is a winery to watch. (See also a mention of their Ephraim Mel garnacha blanca here.) Sifer, the name made up from two last names, has vineyards both in Terra Alta’s Batea and in Teruel, Aragón. Among their expressive, vibrant entries were Víbria Soul 2021, a macabeu made in amphora and steel. It’s light, quite turbid, with pear and white fruits and a super acidity.
Cap de Nit is a young family winery that produces wines in the Marina Alta in the north of the province of Alicante. Josh and Josie started the project in 2017, looking for old vineyards of native varieties, to work them in strict organic farming. The vineyards are mostly located in the Vall de Xaló, in the coastal mountains. The small plots are hidden between plantations of almond, orange and olive trees. Work in the field and in the manual warehouse. – The wines are made naturally, fermentation is spontaneous, temperature is not controlled and the wines remain on the mother lees throughout the ageing. No type of additive is applied. The fermentation and aging is done in 500 liter clay pots and stainless steel tanks. They work with different degrees of maceration. At the end the wines are bottled by gravity. – Grape varieties: muscat of alexandria and giró
The real name is Bodega de Frutos Marín, but this producer is most often called Malaparte, after its most famous label. Rubén and Elisa cultivate 5.5 ha of vineyards near Cuéllar, in the province of Segovia. They employ various techniques, such as tanks, old barrels and amphoras. All vineyards are farmed dry.
This is close to Ribera del Duero. Nevertheless, and in spite of a lovely amphora-aged tempranillo, I would say they are mostly a white wine producer, offering verdejo and viura in several fashions. Maybe because I am currently working on an article about the historical wines of the lands of Medina, I chose OX. This is obviously an abbreviation of oxidative, a feature of the “dorado” wines. It is a mix of varieties (I will check, but typical, and recommended in DO Rueda are verdejo and palomino fino), 65 year old vines. The wine rested one year under “flor”, and was then transferred to “damajuanas” (big bottles, demijohns in English). It arrives naturally at 14%, and is not fortified. It has all the yeast, almonds, dried fruits aromas that one night expect, and in the mouth it’s glyceric – and more fruity than its sherry equivalents.
Makatzak Wild Wines is a Basque project found in Aia (Guipuzcoa), near Zarauz, that really has impressed me. Here is no talk about conditions “not favourable for organic growing in our region”, as we often hear. Aitor Irazu Alonso started the winery with his cousin. Here he manages the Sorgintxulo vineyard, that after being abandoned for 5 years now is restored. It is an ecosystem of 3 hectares of vineyards, whose main variety is the hondarrabi zuri. Atlantic climate with high rainfall, mainly southern exposure, steep slopes and slate soils are the main characteristics. The work is based on ecological, natural, regenerative and biodynamic agriculture. Makatzak are now receiving their organic certification, and will later aim also for a biodynamic one.
Sorkin 2021 is light in colour, has an aroma of green apple and bright citrus, and comes with a wonderful acidity. It’s a natural txakolí that’s “impeccably clean”, I imagine the classic British writers would have said. A prime example of the growing natural wine scene in Spain.