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Articles and Wine bars and restaurants

Carlos at Cascorro

If there is one person that comes to mind when talking about natural wines in Madrid, it’s Carlos Campillo. I don’t know about everything he has done, but since I met him he has run Le Petit Bistrot in the old town, Solo de Uva, by the Berlin park north of the city centre, and now this wine bar at Plaza de Cascorro in the centric La Latina district. He has played a central role as regards numerous natural wine fairs in the city, and many of the names familiar for me now I have first been served by Carlos.

While we don’t forget the food, and the small dishes so well elaborated, it’s the wine that we concentrate on here.

Natural wines in Madrid has a name: Carlos Campillo

This particular time I had arrived from Rioja, and I brought a wine from Ojuel (the producer behind the magnificent sweet wine Supurao) that I wanted him to taste. So we opened it. The room was packed, so I was standing by the bar. Next to me an importer (of Champagne and other wines to Spain) heard what we were talking about, and joined both the conversation and the tasting. This is just that kind of bar; nothing complicated, the one next to you is your friend, join the fun!

None of us has yet mastered the art of taking selfies to perfection, but we managed to get both faces and the bottle inside the frame

 

Oxuel Salvaje 1 2016 (Ojuel)

This is a wine from the garnacha variety, grown in Sojuela village between the Najerilla and the Irégua valleys of La Rioja. Biodynamically treated, and fermented in used French oak. Purple colour; redcurrant and strawberry nose, a bit earthy with aromatic spices; sapid, with a refreshing acidity, a vibrant and long finish.

Here are a few of the other wines I tasted this time, and the next.

Bonny Giornata 2017 (Vinos Ambiz)

Bonny means fine, nice or beautiful in Scottish, and giornata is day in Italian. This wine is made by Italo-Scot Fabio Bartolomei and Antonio Sicurezza, his Italian friend. This carbonic maceration wine is made near Albeche river in Sierra de Gredos at 750 meters of altitude. It’s a fresh and vibrant, red fruits dominated, low alcohol garnacha (12%) with medium body.

Torcuato Huertas makes wine in Marchal, municipality of Guadix, in the highlands east of Granada. His wine are marked both by high altitude (up to 1.200 meters) and southern geography. From just 3 hectares he grows more than 20 varieties.

Carlos poured just a sip of both, the multi-varieal Purulio Blanco 2016 was a tasty, robust wine with some skin-contact peel aromas from Torcuato’s lower plot (at “just” 900 meters), while the Jaral (2016 too, I think – my notes are not easy to read here) was made with red grapes from higher up. This was more fresh and elegant, with notes of blueberry, blackberry and just a bit leathery. Purulio Tinto 2016 is a mix between the two, and shows it, both in the fresh fruit and the rich mouthfeel.

Vinos Patio of Castilla-La Mancha is a long time favourite at Carlos’ restaurants. The Aire en el Patio 2016 is a skin-contact airén, very much alive, tasty, with a pure fruit, smooth texture and a round mouthfeel.

As I mentioned, this was not my latest visit to Carlos’ bar at Cascorro. I was there a short time ago, on a Sunday. If you have been a tourist to Madrid you know about the Rastro flee market. While I must admit I had my doubts if the people would be able to find his Solo de Uva, here we are in the midst of the Rastro. -Very good for the business, says Carlos. And let’s really hope that this will thrive and keep its position as the bastion of natural wine in Madrid. Today there are signs that something is on the move, with new bars and restaurants, and plans for more. But in difficult times it’s Carlos who has been holding the fort, almost alone.

From this last busy Sunday visit I will just mention three wines that Carlos poured in a hurry, all from the Castilla y León region. La Senda of Bierzo is a winery I must check out and come back to, because both wines were fabulous.

The Vindemiatrix 2017 was a dark violet, cherry and plums-scented wine with a pure taste, fine-grained tannins, and a really nice natural acidity. The cherry red “1984” 2017 showed super fruit, with cherries, plums, cloves and a lovely acidity. Both are wines to drink, but they are far away from simple.

Coruña del Conde is such a rare thing as a natural wine producer in Ribera del Duero. They are found near Aranda, so I’ll have to check it out next time in the area. The I’m Natural, Don’t Panic 2016 un-oaked tempranillo wine (with a small amount of albillo mayor) was dark violet of colour, with a good fruit, mature red berries and blackberry; fleshy and smooth in the mouth and with an inspiring acidity. Sincere, interesting.

Cascorro Bistrot seen from within the Rastro

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Wine bars and restaurants and Wine of the Week

Envínate at Malauva, Vigo

Vigo is the main city of Galicia’s southern part. It might be that I don’t know it well enough, but I think that even if it may be the natural centre for those who live and work there, so far that it lacks that “something extra” to make it a major tourist spot. This is if you’re not taking into account that Galicia’s (at the moment) best natural wine bar is there. Malauva is a place you can go to savour delicious organic, biodynamic, natural wines, and the waiters know what wines they are serving, just half a block from my hotel by the harbour. It’s Josiño, educated sommelier, and his wife Marina who started the bar, and I hope that sufficiently enough people will appreciate it, so that many like me (natural wine geeks, but not Celta football fans) have a reason to come back.

On a corner just off the harbour

I ordered “Burrata y tomates” and “Canelón de choco”, and as it was not packed with guests this Monday I had the chance to discuss with x which wines to be served next.

I chose to go Galician that night. After a light start, the appley/citrussy Eido da Salgos 2016 (Cazapitas) from O Rosal, Rías Baixas, came the more herbal Memoría de Ventura lías finas 2016, (Pinguela), a Valdeorras godello. On to the reds, Volátil from the
Bibei subregion of Ribeira Sacra were bottled by the Fefiñans of Cambados. Maybe the least interesting wine, a bit warm and oaky, but also with nice dark fruits and balsamic notes. With Silice 2017 of Sober (Amandi subzone of Ribeira Sacra) it started to take off. A cherry red, wild fruits scented, atlantic acidity, elegant wine.

Josiño, ‘taberneiro’ for Malauva wine bar

Our main wine this time is from the team Envínate, that makes wines in several Spanish regions. The four friends started as consultants after oenology studies in Alicante in 2005, but it soon evolved into a wine producing project. Their aim is to explore distinctive parcels and make pure, authentic wines that express the terroir of each parcel. No chemicals are used in the vineyards, only natural yeast, and sulfur is used only prior to bottling and if they think they need it.

Lousas is Galician for the type of slate soil that predominates in the Amandi sub-zone of Ribeira Sacra. Aldea means village. There is 90-95% mencía with other grapes (such as brancellao, merenzao, mouratón [juan garcía], bastardo and garnacha tintorera), in a field blend.

For this wine 40% whole clusters were included, the must was raised in old barrels for 11 months with no racking and no SO2 added until bottling.

Lousas Viña de Aldea 2016 (Envínate)
Cherry red. Red fruits and flowers on top, white pepper and herbs. It has a mineral edge and a, long, cool acidity.

It’s fresh, elegant and in my opinion more than a typical “village wine”. It bears the subtitle Vino Atlántico, which is very appropriate, as the influence from the ocean is evident.

Price: Medium

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Articles and Wine bars and restaurants

Plateau still delivers

Plateau has been Brighton’s palace of natural wines for many years now. Since my last visit Jake, from the bar 1909 (see here), has taken over as a manager. His partner Jon has taken over as bar manager after Johan (see another report from Plateau here), who is now at Cincin Hove (more about that later). The kitchen team is led by James Mcilveen, and takes great pride in serving good, organic food from local farms. To jump to the conclusion: Plateau still delivers!

Our waiter Alex led us safely through the menu with its bites and plates. If my memory doesn’t fail me we ended up with cured trout, lobster bisque, beef tartar, bavette steak, everything with a creative twist, and concluded with a board of five English cheeses.

Here are the wines that we enjoyed this dark October evening in Brighton, everything chosen from their by-the-glass offer.

Pétillant Naturel 2017 (Famille de Conti)

A charming, straightforward pet nat from the de Conti family’s château in Bergerac, in the French Sud-Oest. It’s made from varieties sauvignon blanc (90%) and chenin blanc, according to biodynamic principles, unfiltered and with no added sulphur. The colour is light yellow. Smells of red apples and some light tropic fruit (litchis). Appley fruit, and quite high acidity to balance some residual sugar.

Impera 2015 (Dva Duby)

This is a wine grown in stony soil in southern Moravia (Czech Republic), close to the Austrian border. The grapes are well-known in their neighbouring country too: 70% St. Laurent (here called svatovavrinecke) and blaufränkish (here: frankovka). It’s a cherry red (light, I think – it was difficult to see the colour in the room), delicate and fruity (raspberry), and luscious, smooth and fruity in the mouth, with just a slight touch of oak (almost too little to mention).

Continuing with two wines from La Clarine Farm, Sierra Foothills (California), both called jambalaia (sic!), blanc and rouge respectively.

In the sparse light of the bar the picture became as unclear as the wine itself…

La Clarine Farm Jambalaia Blanc 2015 (La Clarine Farm)

The ‘blanc’ was not exactly white, but sorted under orange, as the skin-contact had been quite prolonged. Dominated by Rhône grapes, mostly viognier, but also marsanne, and with small percentages of petit manseng and albariño.

Smells of white flowers, citrus, peach, pineapple. Juicy in the mouth, but also with a high acidity, and a slight bitterness in the finish.

La Clarine Farm Jambalaia Rouge 2015 (La Clarine Farm)

Here all grapes are known as Rhône grapes, although the main grape mourvèdre is of Spanish origin (and known as monastrell).

Cherry red, cloudy. Good fruit, raspberry, cherry, somewhat earthy. A bit tannic, quite high acidity.

3 Barriles “El Objeto Imposible no. 27” 2015 (Bodegas PolOpuesto)

A wine from Valle de Uco inside the bigger region of Mendoza (Argentina). The winemaker is Pol Andsnes. Being Norwegian, for me this name can evoke distinctive classical piano chords, but this Andsnes is a wine punk born in San Francisco, who wants to challenge established ways to make wine, according to his own website. ‘Polos opuestos’ is Spanish for ‘poles apart’, and as I read him, Pol is satisfied if the ideas from the opposition once can be the norm. Something like that. Anyway, this wine is made from three barrels of Chardonnay vinified in three different ways. You can read from the drawing on the label that they are one barrel of direct pressing and reductive ageing on lees, one barrel of one year skin contact, and one barrel of direct pressing aged under flor. They were blended after two years.

The colour is obviously quite dark (a better description is difficult in this -lack of- light). It’s fresh, with flowers, orange peel and yellow apples; quite full-bodied, with a solid backbone, and an oxidative character from the flor. It’s an interesting experiment and a wine with lots of vitality, and the winemaker’s energy shines through.

Plateau has many natural wine classics and many of my personal favourites on their current list. Some are Foillard, Ganevat, Landron, Matassa, Frick, Maule, COS, Alfredo Maestro, Barranco Oscuro, Testalonga, to name only a few. Sniff around these pages, and you will meet all of them. And you have understood by now that this natural wine bar is highly recommended, it never disappoints – and if you get the chance: Go there!

Before going for a stroll on the black Brighton november beach, we rounded it all off with a well-known champagne. It was the Cuvée Réserve Brut, from Pierre Gerbais, whose son Aurélien I met at a London wine fair a couple of years ago (see here). This red and white grape champagne is a lightly coloured, apple and citrus scented wine with a contribution of red fruits (strawberry, raspberry), and bisque, that ends off with an inspiring acidity.

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Wine bars and restaurants

Pedro’s Portuguese Place in Oslo

I had just read about the wine bar that Pedro Caiado opened six months ago, when he phoned me to ask about one of the producers that can be found in several posts of this blog. But it was only yesterday that I got a chance to visit his Portuguese place.

Let’s just conclude that he has managed to establish a fabulous place. It’s the kind of wine bar that I like, with a strong focus on natural wines, and small, well-elaborated bites to go with them. Quite unusual is that the food also is mostly organic, and from local producers.

Pedro is from the Portuguese surfer’s paradise of Peniche, where the winds always blow. But love, what else, brought him to Norway. When I was there he was accompanied by Lise, newly employed, who hails from northern Norway, but has been living abroad for many years, mostly London. Lise has specialized in fermenting, she uses it in some of the dishes, and is also planning to offer courses.

Lise and Pedro

The wine list obviously contains Portuguese producers, such as Conceito, Aphros, Mouraz and Pellada. But there are also some of the classics within the natural wine world, such as Cornelissen (Sicilia, Italy), Gut Oggau (Steiermark, Austria), and the French Matassa, Ganevat, Riffault and Robinot, all of whom (Portuguese and “foreign”) should be known to readers of this blog. And there are also up and coming names like the Spanish Ismael Gozalo, Alfredo Maestro and Bodegas Cueva, also well covered here, and Chapuis Frères (Bourgogne, France) and Stekar (Slovenia).

It was a late Friday lunch, and I was going to a jazz jam with dinner immediately after this, so I limited myself to three wines from the by-the-glass selection. To go with them Pedro suggested eggs in olive oil with fresh sour-dough bread, ricotta with basil, sunchokes and stingray.

I came a short while before they actually opened after the break, so I was offered a cup of coffee, a fresh African highland style selected by Norwegian barista Tim Wendelboe.

The first wine was from Moravia, Czech Republic (see a recent post). Gewürztraminer 2017 (Krásná Hora), a 6 months skin-contact white. Not straigh white, that is, it has a red-ish hue. The aromas include gooseberry/raspberry, citrus and some rhubarb, and it has quite concentrated flavours and good acidity.

Next out was Nat Cool 2016 (Niepoort). Niepoort is “everything” in Portuguese wine: The house is a traditional port wine producer, and as such a star within several categories such as colheita and garrafeira, but really not bad (read: average) in the other styles either. Dirk Niepoort has taken it further, and has now establish himself as a top in several Portuguese regions, and abroad too, like the neighbouring Ribeira Sacra of Spain, and in Austria, as his former wife is from there. This wine is from Bairrada, from the variety baga, made in cement. And it’s really is cool: Light cherry red, almost rosé, smells of strawberry and raspberry, and it has a light touch of tannin. It was served chilled too, which is a good idea.

A cool bairrada with ricotta, basil and roasted sunchokes

Vale da Capucha is the producer I talked about in the beginning, so it was only natural that I ended this session with a wine from my friend Pedro Marques, who runs that winery. Fossil Tinto 2015 is the current vintage of this touriga-dominated blend, that also exists in a white version. Fossil is an appropriate name, as the winery is located in the Torres Vedras area of the Lisboa region, only 8 km from the sea, and was in ancient times under water. Dark red, smells of dark and red berries, herbs, and it’s a little spicy too. In the mouth it shows a fine, natural, integrated tannin grip and ditto acidity.

Fossil red and stingray

While sitting in the inner side of the bar I could see Pedro serve all kinds of customers with true respect and patience. I have the greatest confidence that this tiny wine bar has a future place in a city with many good restaurants and bars already.

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Wine bars and restaurants

Verona’s Osteria Nosetta

Verona is located in near vicinity of many recognized wine areas, but I can’t see that it has a lot of dynamic wine bars. One can always go to the Antica Bottega, that boasts hundreds of wines, not least for references, as they present many of the leading houses in several vintages. But I am more attracted to the smaller, distinctive bars with a clear idea, call it underground, avant-garde, rock’n’roll, jazz or whatever you like – especially when the idea is to present organic, natural, artisan wines, that the proprietors and sommeliers have a personal relation to.

Osteria Nosetta is located in the pleasant neighbourhood of Borgo Venezia, just outside Verona center. And Nosetta is the kind of place that I am talking about. The restaurant is intimate and full of atmosphere, the decor is a rustic, retro, and the music was vintage jazz on vinyl when I was there. The food is without limits; their small dishes -locally called ‘cicchetti’- are vegetarian, vegan, and you can have fish and meat too. The kitchen is based on fresh ingredients. The inspiration is from various places though, not least Asian-middle east, and there are some vegan dishes alongside more usual Italo-European stuff. The menu of the day was taped onto page 98 and 99 in an old paperback.

And the prices are undoubtedly to live with.

Andrea and Lorenzo

Lorenzo Folati has been leading the venture until now, but Andrea Venturini and a couple of friends are in a period of taking over.

They have a fine selection of wines and beers from independent artisan producers. I enjoy picking smaller ‘bites’ among those displayed at the bar, to go with a few glass of wines. Some were mint glass, a falafel, various greens, such as the delicious tomatoes, frittered squid, tomato and eggplant sandwich, zucchini with cous-cous, onions, honey and balsamico, and -why not- chocolate salami. The list goes on.

Here are a few of the wines that I enjoyed during my visits. (The order is changed according to “normal tastings logic”.)

Durello 2017 (Calesio dalle Ore) is made with the charmat-method. It’s a light coloured, apples, citrus, and bread scented, light-bodied sparkler with good acidity. Simple and good.

A postcard on the wall-board

Trachite 2016 (Alla Costiera), an unfiltered, yellow and cloudy moscato-prunella-garganega regional Veneto white with a sweet (moscato) sensation, together with flowers and citrus peel, and with a medium body, light tannin, and slightly bitter aftertaste.

Lugana 2015 (Marangona). This is a lugana from 100% turbiana grapes. It’s a fresh, simple, dry wine with light, almost blank colour, with a greenish hint. And the aroma is dominated by pears and citrus.

On the contrary, the next wine, was all but simple. Sassaia 2016 (Angiolino Maule), a varietal garganega showed light yellow, slightly turbid, and on the nose could be found mature apples, flowers, ginger and a touch of toast. Slightly yeasty, quite full and with decently acidity, all in perfect harmony. Maule is a long time favourite, and there is a report from a visit in an earlier post in this series.

Musella is one of the better producers of both standard valpolicella and amarone. Here is a white IGT from the Valpolicella area, biodynamically cultivated as always. Pinot Bianco “Fibio” 2014, from that variety, is a bit more on the wild side. Yellow with green hints, smells deliciously of flowers, yellow apples, and I would say, plays with oxidation.  Quite slender, integrated acidity, very pure, and the fruit shines on to the end.

On to a real rarity: Il Fresco Cesane 2014 (Marco Antonelli), that is from the DOC (sometimes: Cesane di) Olevano Romano, Lazio. Got it? The production area lies in the province of Roma and includes the municipality of Olevano Romano and, in part, Genazzan. The wine was nice enough; cherry red, red fruits, plums, and hints of leather on the nose; smooth, juicy, and with an adequate acidity.

Merlot “Casa e Chiesa” 2015 (Lenzini) is a biodynamic Colline Lucchesi. It’s cherry red, hints of green green pepper, a sweetish element from the oak elevation, and a light tannin on the palate and a touch of bitterness in the aftertaste. (14,5% alcohol, while most of those tasted here were around 12.)

We close the chapter from this gem of a wine bar with another pleasant surprise, nothing sensational, but better than most of its kind, a Moscato d’Asti 2017 from producer Emilio Vada. We are talking about a straw yellow coloured wine with the typical moscato rose aromas, clean, and pure. It’s a lightweight, but it has an inspiring acidity and it’s not sticky sweet, compared to what you often can find in this category. The alcohol here is 5%.

Arriving in Verona centre after a nocturnal walk

 

See the other posts in my Veneto series:

#1 – Maule’s Masieri

#2 – Prosecco in Verona’s Osteria la Manzorla

#3 – Gambellara: Maule and the two Davides

#4 – Zýmē’s Recioto Amandorlato

#5 – Vicenza province I: Tenuta l’Armonia

#6 – Vicenza province II: Siemàn

#7 – A Durella sparkling

#8 – Vicenza province III: Contrà Soarda

#9 – Filippo Filippi, Soave top producer

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Wine bars and restaurants and Wine of the Week

Prosecco at Verona’s Osteria la Mandorla

I am just home from Verona. I love the city for its architecture with granite buildings, its atmosphere, the river Adige that snakes through, and in my opinion it’s unfairly overshadowed by nearby Venezia.

This week’s wine could be many, because it was a rewarding week. But they will appear in future articles. This one was served at the Osteria La Mandorla, only two blocks from the city’s outdoor opera Arena. Mandorla, aka Vini Zampieri, is a small, colourful, historic bar with a good selection of organic and natural wines, a knowledgeable staff, and cool jazz and rock soundtrack. With the wines they serve tasty bites like toasted focaccia, characuterie, and their wonderful arancini (rice balls).

I had a Monte dall’Ora Valpolicella, a Mosconi Soave and a Sternau Campania falanghina, but I chose the first wine of the evening, a “sui leviti” (sur lie) Prosecco from the province of Treviso. (See also last week’s choice.)

Luca Pietropoli serves the Prosecco, the arancini in the foreground

The history of Gregoletto starts in 1600, when the family signs a contract with the Abbey of Follina for cultivation of some vineyards, still managed by them. We are in the hills between the three small towns, Conegliano, Valdobbiadene and Vittorio Veneto. The two latter have soils consisting of clay, and a cooler climate than Conegliano, especially the northern ridges. South oriented vineyards near Pieve di Soligo have a warmer climate and soils consisting of limestone and clay.

The vineyards are situated in the subzone of Premaor in the commune of Miane, between the three aforementioned towns. They also buy grapes from a handful of grape growers with whom they have had close relationship for a long time. Only grapes grown on hillsides are used for all wines. Compost is rarely used, and herbicides are never applied in any plots.

The harvest is done by hand, the grapes gently pressed in pneumatic presses, and fermented by indigenous yeast in steel tanks. It remained on the lees for another three months after which it is bottled. The refermentation of this wine takes place in the bottle (not in the conventional tank).

The wine is not disgorged, but remains for on its lees until it’s served, just like in the old days.

Prosecco Frizzante Sui Leviti (Gregoletto)

Light straw colour, somewhat cloudy, fine and persistent bubbles. Subtle nose of green apples, with some bread crumbs. Completely dry, and with a fine acidity.
Price: Low

Food: Pasta, grilled fish, risotto, charcuterie

So far in this series:
#2 – Prosecco at Verona’s Osteria la Mandorla

 

 

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Wine bars and restaurants and Wine of the Week

Orange Zamora at Angelita Madrid

I’m in the Spanish capital again, and a visit to the Angelita Madrid seems very appropriate. Having not booked a table on a weekend’s night will most often mean that the only option is a place in the bar. Which is nice. This time I was sitting next to Federico, a young Argentinian who runs the splendid Acid Café coffeeshop in the museums area (Prado).

I will come back to Angelita and their extensive list of artisan and natural wines by both glass and bottle. This week’s wine is an orange wine from Zamora, that I hadn’t tasted before. The winery is found in Villamor de los Escuderos, south of Zamora town, not far from Salamanca.

The wine is made from godello 50% from centenary vineyards, and albillo real from new plantings. The soils are stones and sand over clay. Height above sea level is 800-900 m.

The producer says that this is a modern variant of the ancestral “embabujado” technique, that is, wine made with all its components. The grapes were partially destemmed before fermentation that finished it in oak barrels. It has not been clarified and it has been bottled after a light filtering to remove turbid. Total So2 is less than 6 mg/l.

Berretes 2014 (Microbodega Rodríguez Morán)

Light orange. Aroma of white flowers, orange peel, a touch of honey, chalk. Lightly structured with good natural acidity.

Price: Medium

Best served at around 16ºC

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Wine bars and restaurants and Wine of the Week

A Burgenland CF at Sentralen, Oslo

This week’s wine was served at Sentralen wine bar and restaurant in Oslo’s city centre. The huge building used to be a bank, but is now containing cultural scenes and various meeting places, such as Sentralen, with its two chambers. It’s an informal place, but several well-established chefs are in the management, so the quality is high – and the prices very cempetitive too. The wine list has focus on artisan producers and organic and natural wine.

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Avocado with jalapeño mayonnaise, smoked tomato and almonds

Christian Tschida is fourth generation and cultivates 10 hectares of old vines in Burgenland, near the Neusiedler See. The vineyards have sandy gravel, schist and limestone, and the big lake is securing a moderating influence. The wines are generally in contact with oxygen for a long time, up to 5 years in old  wood. He uses a vertical basket press that he likens to an old manual screw press, with its very light pressure. The grapes are foot-trodden, and the fermentations done outside in the shade, then moved inside to age in barrels. They are never racked, and bottled by hand to leave a little redisual carbon dioxide.

While the previous vintage of red “Heaven on Earth” was made with cabernet sauvignon and zweigelt, the 2014 is a pure cabernet franc. The grapes were destemmed, and the juice fermented with indigenous yeasts, as usual. This wine spend one year in 500 to 1.500 liter barrels, and was bottled without additions of sulfur, and according to Tschida’s principles, not fined or filtered.

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Himmel auf Erden 2014 (Christian Tschida)

Cherry red colour. Pure cherry fruit, some green pepper. Luscious, juicy, slightly carbonic, and with a good, natural acidity.

Price: Medium

Food: I had it with quite difficult ingredients (smoked and spicy), as you can see above. It should also tackle a wide variety of food, from light meat and bacalao, to salads and cheeses

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Wine bars and restaurants and Wine of the Week

Orange at Egget, Stavanger

Mariano Taberner is one of the highest esteemed makers of natural wine near the Spanish eastern coast. Last time in the region I almost managed to make it up to his place, but I didn’t manage due to unpredicted circumstances.

Last Tuesday I was surprisingly able to taste two of his wines at Egget (The Egg) in Stavanger, Norway, close to where I live. This is a unique place in my part of the world, a restaurant with a focus on natural wines, and with well-prepared dishes to go with them. Here is a report from a former visit.

This time we were accompanied by sommelier Mikela Tomine, wine student in the WSET system, and Nikita, from the kitchen. I was accompanied by my daughter, and they easily juggled her vegan options.

Egget’s Mikela preparing a cheeseboard for a customer

The wine is made in the small village  La Portera in DO Utiel-Requena, Valencia. Bodegas Cueva dates back to the 18th century, and still only uses traditional methods. Here is full respect for the environment, biodiversity, and health too, claims Mariano Taberner. The main grapes for reds are the central/northern tempranillo and the more bobal, a more local grape (and the variety behind our other Cueva wine that night).

The average production is only 20.000 bottles. All wines are made in the most natural way, from organically grown grapes, spontaneous fermentation, no chemicals, unfined and unfiltered – nothing added, nothing taken away. The wine in question is based on the varieties tardana and macabeo, The local tardana is so named because of the very late ripening, and still at the end of October the alcohol, or more correctly: the sugar content, is very low. Macabeo is then harvested one month ago, and the finished macabeo is slowly blended with the freshly made tardana. Fermentation for both is largely with skins. The two undergo the secondary, malo-lactic fermentation together.

Mariano Taberner (credit: B. Cueva)

Orange Tardana & Macabeo 2015 (Bodegas Cueva)

Deep orange colour, slightly cloudy. Aroma of orange peel, white flowers, and a touch of tropical fruits and white pepper. Round and luscious in the mouth, grapey, with just enough acidity to keep it together, and an agreeable orange peel-bitterness in the finish.

Price: Medium

Food: I had it with skate wing and celeriac, with slices of green apple, and an aïoli with less garlic than usual. But it should go with a variety of fish and seafood, the rice dishes of the region (paella style), vegetarian/vegan dishes, light meat, carpaccio and more

 

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Wine bars and restaurants

Nights at “The Office”

I think it’s common not to visit sights and attractions close to your home, because you can always go – some other time. This may also be the case with bars and restaurants. Stavanger, Norway (in my own backyard, so to speak) has got its first decent wine bar, and then it should take three months before I managed to get there, and then quite by chance, while I was waiting for a party to start some other place in downtown Stavanger.

Once inside, I meet an old wine-mate Emil Heimdal behind the bar, and then I know we are talking “serious business” here. I know him from several restaurants over the years, and this is a man with passion for wine and real dedication. Emil took over the wine section of this bar, now called Vinkontoret (The Wine Office), together with Christoffer Ingebretsen. They have no purchase agreement that binds them, so they buy exactly the wines that they want and now collaborate with about 30 importers. They use the Coravin system, which allows them to serve anything by the glass. Here you can buy smaller units than a whole glass and pay less, so you can taste more wines during an evening.

 

Emil serves smaller units of better wines

They can literally offer hundreds of wines. They have a list that is heavy on traditional wine regions such as Burgundy, Rhône, Alsace, Mosel, Rhine, Piemonte, Tuscany and … say west-of-Vienna Austria.

But these people are just as crazy wine freaks to throw in almost anything you can think of.

As for grapes, of course they offer cabernet, merlot, syrah and such, without being “ashamed” of it at all (as if that would be something to regret). If you look carefully at the list you will see some “oddities” like a manzoni from Trentino, a kékfrankos from (why not) Austria, and you can get the “Pornfelder” if you like, Lukas Krauß’ German blend of portugieser and dornfelder. But most of all it’s a focus on the classic grapes here, even from not-so-classic countries.

There was a time when Stavanger was more in the avant-garde of the Norwegian culinary movement, when the oil industry was booming, and the most important gastronomic educational institutions were located there. Today there is no doubt that the hegemony is in Oslo, and that every initiative like this deserves a warm welcome.

Emil and Christoffer also have a small selection of handcrafted beers, like lambic and geuze. (Bear in mind that one of the country’s best beer selections is just across the same narrow street, at Cardinal bar. So this is obviously not their biggest priority.) The wine selection must be best in town. I am not sure if the wine list is the longest, but there are several hundred references, and mainly wines to drink, no show-off crazy over-priced stuff.

Here are just a few picks from my first brief visits.

  

Here is a riesling spätlese trocken from the Ökonomierat Rebholz of Pfalz, the Rebholz 2008. It proved to be a rich and honeyed wine with a thick texture and great acidity. To the right is a Gevrey-Chambartin, the Rossignol-Trapet Clos Prieur 1er Cru 2008 from Domaine Rossignol. It shows a clear ruby, somewhat developed colour, and smells quite aerial og cherry and plums. The tannins are still evident, and the acidity is well integrated. The actual vintages of these wines on sale are 2012 and 2013, respectively. So come here to get the wines closer to their peak.

  

Here is a wonderful pinot noir called Nature 2015 from Alsace producer Rieffel, now with Lucas and André in charge. Today the estate covers 10 hectares, all organic certified. The 30 year old vines are planted in soil of clay and alluvial sandstones. The fermentation is spontaneous and goes on for seven months in 228L barrels. It’s really fresh, juicy and quite full, with just enough structure to match a wide variety of food. After this I wanted a red with darker fruit, and I suggested syrah. On the counter was a Stellenbosch syrah, that was already opened, so I went for that one. The Liberator The Francophile 2015 (Dreyfus Ashby) was ok; a somewhat warm blackberry fruit, earthy with some spice, mouthfilling with rounded tannins.

 

The door is permanently closed at The Office (Kontoret). The Wine Office has opened.

 

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