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Wine bars and restaurants and Wine of the Week

Pét nat at P Franco

Finally I managed to visit P Franco in the Clapton area of East London. It’s small, I don’t know if the workers find it functional. But there is one big table in the middle of the room, so I found it cosy and social. How nice isn’t it to be surrounded by so many good bottles; used bottles from the bar, and bottles from the shop waiting to get a new owner.

The owners also have other venues in town, like the Bright and the Peg. There is always something interesting going on, and many are the guest chefs that have been visiting.

Daniel and the rest of the staff being very attentive

This night I had been in Hackney, and just popped in. No problem to find a place by their one central table.

I had three wines, and I let Daniel and the others decide. For every wine I got the choice between two or three, so it turned into an interesting tasting also.

I tasted, among other wines, a very good natural verdicchio, Terre Silvale 2018 from La Distesa di Corrado Dottori from the Marche, an unfiltered Grüner 2018 from Arndorfer, and A toi nous 2018, from Andrea Calek, a Czech in the Ardeche.

For this post I chose the Silvaner pét nat from 2 Naturkinder of Franken. They have a small production from 30 years old vines on shell limestone by the river Main in Bavaria. The grapes are hand harvested and left as whole clusters. The bunches ferment in stainless steel for two weeks without temperature control. Then the bunches are pressed, and the wine finishes the fermentation in bottle. It was bottled with close to 10 grams residual sugar and the pressure became 2.2 bars. The alcohol is low at 11%, and as for the total SO2 (nothing added) it’s as little as 4 mg/L.

Silvaner Pét nat 2018 (2 Naturkinder)

Orange/brown, slightly turbid. Aroma of yellow apples, white flowers and herbs. Yeasty, with a creamy mousse, grapefruity, with a nicely integrated acidity.

Price: Medium

Food: I had it with “Smoked ivory cauliflower, cacao flower and horseradish” at P Franco, but it should tackle a lot of dishes; white fish, smoked fish, charcuterie, lightly spiced Asian…

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The Real Wine fair 2019 – III The events, incl. a popup from Stavanger, Norway

During the Real Wine fair some food providers were present at the Tobacco Dock to serve the tasters during their breaks. Among them were the DuckSoup wine bar of Soho,  Burro e Salvia, pasta place in Shoreditch, Flying Frenchman with their sausages and outdoor raised pork and chicken. The hotel wine bar La Cour de Rémi also came over from Calais to serve delicious flavours from Normandie.

Around town there were several “take-overs”, such as Morgan McGlone of Belles Hot Chicken in Australia cooking Nashville style at Brawn. The Bastarda company took over Leroy in Shoreditch, with wine assistance of Ben Walgate of Tillingham, East Sussex. To mention only a couple.

Claes, Magnus and Nayana of Söl, Norway

To my surprise, the trio behind Restaurant Söl of Stavanger, right in my own Norwegian backyard, were cooking at Terroirs, the most emblematic natural wine bar of all. Obviously I had to visit them and see what they were up to.

Restaurant SÖL opened in Stavanger on the southwest coast of Norway in 2018. The driving forces behind the restaurant are Nayana Engh, Claes Helbak and Magnus Haugland Paaske, all of them with experience from Norwegian and foreign restaurants.

Their main focus is fresh, local, sustainably grown vegetables combined with natural wines and drinks produced by small artisans – to be enjoyed in a relaxed atmosphere. SÖL can be said to be a part of the “new” Nordic wave, which means food inspired by traditional dishes, but with a modern twist and a wink to the world.

Claes

That night the wines were paired in collaboration with Terroirs’ master sommelier Kevin Barbry. And Kevin was the one who served me the first wine while waiting in the bar. This was Mayga Watt 2018, a pétillant gamay from Gaillac in the Sud-Ouest region of France: A pink, crisp and juicy pétillant wine, with smell of strawberry and white pepper.

The first thing that was brought to the table was sourdough bread, and delicious organic butter from Røros, a lovely small town in mid-Norway. Grilled squash, fermented tomato, milk curd and ramson capers came next, elegantly paired with Attention Chenin Méchant 2017 (Nicolas Réau). This is a wine from Anjou the Loire valley. Originally Réau planned for a pianist career. Key words here are 15 year old plants, indigenous yeasts, direct press, no fining, light filtering, low sulphur, and ageing on lees in used oak. The result is a yellow, peach and mature apple smelling wine with good volume, luscious mouthfeel and a rounded acidity.

Next was panfried cod, dulse (the sea growth from which the restaurant takes its name), spring greens and brown butter sabayon. White flowers were garnish on top of this plate. Partners in life and crime Nayana and Claes had picked them by a local lake (Stokkavatnet, for those familiar with it) the night before they set off to England. Dinavolino 2017 (Denavolo), an elegant orange multivarietal wine from Emilia-Romagna, Italy, matched the tasty yet delicate dish without problems. The wine: Light amber; peel sensations, white peach and flowers; slightly tannic, wonderfully fresh.

Nayana

Next was Jersey Royals potatoes, broad beans, sugar snaps, beef jus and lovage, with herbs from the Rogaland region, the trio’s homeplace. It was accompanied by Le Vin Est Une Fête 2018 (Elian da Ros), again from the Sud-Ouest of France. The main grape here is abouriou, typical of Marmande. The wine was cherry red, medium deep, smelled primarily of red fruits, and had very light, fine-grained tannins. The dish is complicated, with peas and other tender greens in a powerful sauce. The combination with a very lightly macerated red. It would have been interesting to see whether an orange wine, like the previous one, could have build a bridge between the strong and the tender.

Rhubarb compote (from the organic farm at Ullandhaug, Rogaland), toasted ice cream, rhubarb sorbet and crispy rhubarb. Lovely and fresh! There were two options for drinks, and I chose Éric Bordelet‘s pear cider Pays de la Loire (France). The cider was composed from many varieties of pear, grown on schist. With 12 grams residual sugar it gave a somewhat off-dry mouthfeel, a complex, cidery (what a surprise!), sweetish aroma, a touch of tannin. The marriage wasn’t made in heaven, though the bubbles helped. I was wondering what could have been done differently. I must admit I thought the wind should have been sweeter. With ice cream a PX sherry automatically comes to mind, but it would have been much too powerful here. After having returned to Norway I visited their place and had the same dish. Then Claes served it with an apple cider, this time bone dry, with a penetrating acidity and fresh bubbles. Maybe not perfect, but maybe the closest possible.

To conclude: Fønix Blue, a cheese from Stavanger Ysteri (Norway) and rye bread. With this we could chose to include La Cosa (The Thing) 2017 (Alfredo Maestro), from the Ribera del Duero area of Spain. What a wine! Dark amber, or mahogany; complex aroma with rhubarb and plum, and very sweet. I had to come back to this wine the day after, at Alfredo’s table at the fair, maybe to see if this was really true (!).

Remember this is a wine blog, not primarily about food. But once in a while it’s necessary to say a few words about wine-food combinations, and I have given some opinions here. What could be said, as a conclusion, and apart from the fact that it was a big surprise to see these people her is the following. The trio behind Söl are cooking with great passion and creativity, and from good, healthy ingredients. They are also proud to come out among their “audience” and present it, what the ingredients are and how the dishes are made. The drinks are picked carefully among the most natural and sustainable there is.

We cannot expect more than that.

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La Casa del Perro, Málaga

La Casa del Perro is a hidden gem in the historic centre of Málaga. Here the couple Ana and Fede serves small well-elaborated dishes to be paired with delicious natural wines.

We visited several times during a couple of weeks and enjoyed a great variety of dishes, such as Guacamole with home made nachos, Carpaccio of beef with yellow tomatoes, parmesan and greens, and also a vegan lemon cake made with almond milk.

Ana and Fede

But what initially caught my attention were their wine offerings. Many of these are from the leading producers in natural wine field, especially southern ones, like Barranco Oscuro, Cauzón, Torcuato Huertas and José Miguel Márquez (all of whom are presented on this blog). I met Ana earlier this year at the Barcelona wine fairs, and some of the vintners I had marked as “interesting”, she had contacted, and some already included. La Zafra of Alicante is an example. La Casa del Perro may not have the biggest selection, but it is indeed an eclectic one.

A little background: Ana and Fede opened their restaurant in the historic centre of Málaga in 2004, and moved to the current location some three years ago. The restaurant’s name is a result of a wordplay game started by a friend.

They were both born in this neighbourhood, and both families have lived there for generations. As Ana tells:

-We strive and fight to do what we like, and we are very happy to find ourselves in a neighborhood a bit hidden. We totally disagree with bars and restaurants that receive the passing tourist as if they were cattle. We want the visitor to have a good time and have a desire to come again.

Barranco Oscuro’s Ring! Ring! (Riesling)

Among the many wines we tasted during the visits were some new and interesting ones, such as a varietal parellada called Water Fly (Ca Foracaime, and bottled by Celler Portes Abertes in Terra Alta, Catalunya), a light white with an integrated acidity, and Pura Vida 2018 (Vinos Fondón), a promising dark and juicy garnacha rosé from the Almería part of the Alpujarras. From the more established artisans were Marenas Mediacapa xviii (18) (José Miguel Márquez, Montilla), a clean and delicious, light straw, off dry, some co2 wine, and La Pámpana 2018 (Viña Enebro, Bullas), made partly with carbonic maceration, a cherry red, juicy wine with some co2. Then the Ring! Ring! (Barranco Oscuro): Nothing to do with the old ABBA song, but a wordplay on riesling, a light golden, good acidity wine. There were also several editions of La Traviesa, made by the same producer, with grapes from one their neighbours up in the Alpujarras. (Read here about my recent visit to the producer.)

Lastly I want to draw your attention to four wines that really stand out. Either are they interesting takes on traditional themes, or simply of amazing quality.

NU Rosado /3/2017 (La Zafra): This one I mentioned in the beginning, and in an article from the fairs in Barcelona I wrote that the producer was one to watch. This is a monastrell rosé made in four editions, with 0, 3, 5 and 7 months of skin-contact respectively, and only between 2-400 bottles are made of each of them. /3/ signifies that this is the 3 months edition, the second lightest. It’s a light and lively wine, salmon pink colour, and smells of red berries (raspberry, strawberry).

Cabrónicus 2017 (Bod. Cauzón): This tempranillo made with carbonic maceration was the pick of the week (read here). It’s made east of Granada city at around 1.000 meters altitude, near Guadix. It’s pale red, super fruity with raspberry, pomegranate, and a touch of white pepper. In the mouth it’s delicious, juicy, fresh and clean, with a long, integrated acidity. 

Purulio 2018 (T. Huertas): Here is a very personal wine from the same area as the previous one. It’s made from a blend of both tempranillo and French grapes: Dark and dense, and full of blackberry and other dark fruits, along with a touch of coffee and roast, and touch of tannin and a stimulating acidity.  

La Veló 2016 (José Miguel Márquez): Another Montilla still wine with the Marenas label. This is a tempranillo grown at Cerro Encinas at 350 meters. Dark, almost opaque, some blueberry, but also plums and some tobacco. There is a lot of tannin here, but it doesn’t dominate the fruit. 

Ana showing the La Veló in the restaurant’s wine shop

Is there a mirror there at the bottom of the casserole?

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Natural classics on the Costa

It’s not often that I visit the typical tourist spots on the “costa”, although Málaga city is a favourite. But when I became aware that Fuengirola had a natural wine bar I had to pay it a visit. It’s easy to jump on a train from the province capital, and at this time of the year Fuengirola was cosy and relaxed, and I must “admit” that there are nice spots in the town center.

The owners of the Tapeo Andaluz also own an ecologic pizza restaurant next door. The tapeo offers a wide array of dishes and a selection of organic wines, around half of them marked “natural” (meaning no additions, not even SO2). We went there for lunch, my wife had two wines from the organic category, and I had three glasses of “naturals”. Our waiter, Russian born Tatiane, had a good overview of the various wines and dishes.

Tatiane Smirnove

My three wines were from three great names within the natural wine field of Spain: José Miguel Márquez makes table wines from Montilla (dessert wine stronghold of Andalucía). The two others operates in Castilla y León, Diego Losada of La Senda in Bierzo, close to the Galician border, and Alfredo Maestro several places, this wine near his home in Peñafiel (Valladolid).

The first wine is made from the cordobés indigenous variety montepila(s). The vineyard was planted in 1998 in a traditional way, and manually grafted, at José Miguel’s place Cerro Encinas, at 350 meters altitude in Montilla (Córdoba). You could mistake this for an orange wine, but it’s a result of direct pressing. The skins of this grape get dark when ripe, so the colour is natural, with on excess maceration.

Montepilas 2015 (Marenas, José Miguel Márquez)
Deep golden, light brown colour. Mature apples, chamomile tea, and a trace of burned/glaced nuts. Good volume, smooth texture, integrated acidity, finishes dry.

I met the Diego Losada in Barcelona this year. (Read more here.) This is really good, and I would be surprised if his wines will not be much more in demand in the future. 1984 is a reference to Orwell’s novel, and 2017 is obviously the vintage.

“1984” 2017 (La Senda)
Cherry red, super fruity, with cherries, plums, medium body, and a lovely integrated natural acidity.

This wine is grown in the heart of Ribera del Duero, but Alfredo Maestro choses to label his wines Castilla y León, to be more free. This is a 100% tempranillo, more than 70 years old vines grown 1.050 meters of altitude. It was fermented spontaneously in steel before 12 months in neutral French oak. Bottled unsulphured and unfined.

Tnto Valdecastrillo 2016 (Alfredo Maestro)
Deep brick red. Dark berries (blackberry), black pepper, some tobacco. Full, good concentration, some dryness and good acidity. Calls for food, like this wonderful acorn-fed pig from the Ronda mountains.  

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Wine bars and restaurants and Wine of the Week

A meaty red at Matritum

Matritum, an old name for Madrid, is maybe not an especially well-known wine bar and restaurant. It’s located in the neighbourhood of La Latina, where I often stay when in the Spanish capital, and I have never been disappointed.

The Matritum kitchen proposes delightful dishes such as home-made foie-gras micuit, and seafood and meat dishes inspired from all corners of Spain. “Anchoas del Cantábrico con ‘pa amb tomàquet'” thus means traces of both Cantabria and Catalunya/Baleares.

The wine list has close to 400 references, many of them served by the glass. They are both local, they cover the most of the important Spanish wine areas, some less known, and also international. It seems that they have a special love for the wines of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, all of them also served by the glass.

So over the years I have had a great many different wines here, and so this choice would maybe seen casual. Anyway, this time I had three wines, one of them a garnacha from Viña Zorzal. Okay, we are in Madrid, and beautiful garnachas are made right in the backyard. But let’s not forget that the grape has a long history in Navarra. It’s even possible that it once originated there.

Zorzal started in 1989, when Antonio Sanz, after a life in wine, fulfilled his dream of producing his own wines in Navarra. Today it’s his sons who carry on what he started, and created Viña Zorzal, as we know it today.

The wine is made from garnacha of 35 near old vines grown in stony soils 520 meters above sea level in Fitero, single vineyard. Early harvest, spontaneous fermentation with wild yeast in 3500-litre wooden vats, soft winemaking. 9 months ageing used French used barriques.

Malayeto 2015 (Viña Zorzal)

Clear ruby red. Fresh aromas of blackberry, blackcurrant, pepper, and with some earthy hints. Medium body, round tannins and a long finish.

Price: Medium

Food: Red meat, game, tasty vegetables (incl. mushrooms, asparagus, Navarra piquillos)…

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Just what the doctor ordered at Apotekergaarden

I was recently visiting Grimstad, a beautiful small town on the Norwegian southern coastline, where the houses are white, small private boats are moored and the seagulls are part of the scenery. I have a special relationship with the town, because I was born there, and my family has since spent many summers there.

Fresh crabs on offer in the town’s inner harbour

The town could have boasted of its seafaring culture. My late father left from there to work on a ship at the age of 14. And that night I borrowed the house of a friend, the daughter of my father’s captain at that time. But Grimstad is not of that sort, boasting is not part of its personality. It’s just lying there, a southern Norwegian idyll bathed in the summer sun.

These days the small town is home to the restaurant with the most amazing natural wine list on the whole long coastal strip. Founded in 2001 the restaurant has since enjoyed a reputation among the citizens, for its food, its atmosphere, but also as a concert arranger. However the upgrade to the natural wine haven that we know today started after a bankruptcy in 2010. Kjetil Jørgensen, one of the original founders, has a good relation to natural wine importer Non Dos, through his friend Jørgen Ljøstad, also from Grimstad. Sometimes a strong tie to one importer can feel somewhat awkward, or difficult. But here it’s more logic, and has probably helped along the way to success. Having said that, the restaurant also works with other importers. These days they also have their own micro-brewery, led by Mathias S. Skjong.

The food is based on local ingredients. The burgers are made from Hereford cattle grassing only a stone’s throw away, and there is of course delicious fish and shellfish right out of the sea. Pizza or vegetarian options too.

Apotekergaarden translates as the Pharmacist’s Shop, and refers to playwright and poet Henrik Ibsen, who was a pharmacist apprentice in Grimstad before he became famous, and this particular place also formerly housed one of the town’s pharmacies.

Ida Konradsen pulling up a Contadino, her own soft drinks at the table

Ida Konradsen is sommelier and restaurant manager, and strongly contributed to a great evening. She told us with great enthusiasm about her experiences from working at Sebastien Riffault‘s estate in the Loire. She is also involved in a new project creating soft drinks, generally popular in Norway (as everywhere I suppose) with children and non-wine addicts. All have the taste of the basic ingredients intact and come with a lot less sugar than usual for this type of drink. In between our first and second wine she offered us a tasting of three products that are sold locally, a lemon and ginger drink (based on Sicilian lemons), one from orange (and a touch of lemon) – and lastly an interesting take on a soft drink for the Christmas season (“julebrus” in Norwegian), based on biodynamically farmed grape juice of the variety zweigelt from Austrian wine producer Meinklang, well-known for readers of this blog – with some star anise, juniper and cinnamon, and without addition of sugar.

Meinklang is also responsible for some of their house labels, Skolegada 3 (the restaurant’s adress), otherwise known by other names in the market.

But while there are not more than 12-15 wines in their by-the-glass selection, Ida gladly opened three more to us, as she was going to host a special party the next day and could use the rest there. And these were fabulous wines from three natural wine legends.

Robinot’s Fêtembulles, with sourdough bread, olive and truffle oil, and olives

Fêtembulles 2017 (J.-P. Robinot), Loire, France
100% chenin blanc, biodynamically farmed, bottled without added sulphites and unfiltered.
Light yellow, small integrated bubbles. Smells of mature apples, citrus (orange), a bit waxy. Tastes of apples, is creamy with a crisp acidity, and a stony minerality in the finish.

Contadino 2016 (F. Cornelissen), Etna, Sicilia
This is a field blend dominated by some 90% nerello mascalese, biodynamically farmed. No sulphites added, unfiltered.
It’s light cherry red. Aroma of red berries (cranberry), hint of herbs (basil), some spice. The mouth is dominated by red fruit, but with and underlying carbon or smoke taste (from the Etna volcano maybe), and with a solid tannic grip.

Teroldego 2015 (E. Foradori), Vigneti delle Dolomiti, Italy
Another well-known producer for readers of this blog. This wine is from the teroldego grape grown in Trentino, near the Dolomites. It was fermented in cement and aged in cement and old oak.
Dark cherry red. Packed with red berries (cherry), plums, dark fruits (blackberry), with some balsamic notes (menthol). Cool, clean fruit in the mouth, very lively and fruity.

Typical paintings collected in one of the rooms

And on the veranda while the sun goes down we finish the evening with a craft beer from the acclaimed local brewery Nøgne Ø, that takes its name from Ibsen’s poem “Terje Vigen”. And to drink one of their beers in this moment seems more right than ever before.

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Brighton & Hove: Scenes from an Italian restaurant

Before London’s Real Wine fair I usually go down to Brighton for a couple of days. Here is a new discovery.

After having been a bartender at Brighton’s excellent Plateau wine bar Johan Fredrik Claesson, Swedish-born, took a job in the newly opened Cin Cin in a “chain” of two. Here at Cin Cin Johan has total control over the selection of wines, and the closing time is earlier – that would be the two main reasons that he decided to move.

Cin Cin Hove is a neighbourhood restaurant, in Hove to be accurate, that since 2000 has formed a city together with Brighton. It is an Italian restaurant, with carefully prepared small plates. I had Agnolotti (a type of pasta typical of Piemonte) of garden pea and smoked ham hock and Crème brulée (an exception to the Italian).

Johan suggested a flight of four wines. First came the Arcese 2017 (VIttorio Bera), the name put together from the arneis and cortese grapes that normally make up this wine. It’s a skin-contact white from the Asti area in Piemonte, golden in colour, aroma of white flowers and some peel character, a cool acidity and some carbonic that adds to the freshness. Quite easy to drink, after all. The second was an aged Barolo, Boscareto 2007, that we soon shall give some special attention. Then, the Bianchdùdùi 2000 (also from Bera), a moscato aged like a sherry under ‘flor’ for 16 years. Despite of this it’s very fresh. It shows nice herbal aromas, it’s quite dry in the beginning, it’s full but not heavy, some texture, and with a touch of bitterness in the finish. Bukkuram Sole d’Agosto, a Passito di Pantelleria 2016 from Marsala based Marco de Bartoli, was the last wine according to the original plan. The colour is amber, it’s concentrated and intense, with scents of dried apricots, dates, but also some citrus (orange). It’s sweet of course, but beautifully balanced by a long acidity.

Some “obscurities” were thrown in along the way too, among them Therìa 2017 (Alberto Loi, Sardegna), a yellow coloured wine, slightly pétillant and rich at the same time, with notes of flowers, dried fruits, spice, made from the vermentino grape.

When I started to write this piece my plan was to present the Barolo in my wine of the week column, and I had a look at the background of the producer and the wine. So even if my focus shifted I still want to give it a special mention. Here we go.

Principiano Ferdinando is a young winemaker, third generation, and in charge of the family estate in Monforte d’Alba since 1993. In 1946 the six hectares were planted in Serralunga d’Alba, that were to become the plot where they source the grapes for their top wine Boscareto. In the Serralunga very few take the risk to run the plots organically, but Principiano’s vines stand out. The only treatments are copper, and some sulfur only when necessary. The soils are calcareous, with very good drainage, and various crops are planted to help creating a functioning biodiversity and to add to the health of this south-west facing vineyard. In the cellar only natural yeast is employed for fermentations, and the sulphites are kept to a minimum. The barrels are big and old, Slavonian and French oak.

Boscareto 2007 (Ferdinando Principiano): Developed, cherry colour; intense aroma of mature red berries (cherry), forest fruits, spice and smoke; in the mouth it’s concentrated, yet with fine silky tannins, long. A lovely wine with still some years to go. The price is quite high, but worth it.

Next time in Brighton I suggest you pay Johan and his collegues a visit. It’s less than half an hour’s walk from the city centre, and the buses go west along the Western Road all the time. There are passionate wine people who gladly share of their knowledge and enthusiasm. Recommended.

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Stay Brave at Elliot’s

Finally I got the chance to visit Elliot’s wine bar in Borough Market, on the south side of the Thames. The occasion was not only that I was in London for the Real Wine fair, but also that I visited the new big sax shop at nearby Blackfriars. In the wine bar I had three wines, among them Testalonga‘s Stay Brave.

Elliot’s opened in 2011 and has from the beginning offered a simple menu based on good ingredients in season. They deal directly with fishermen and farmers, all of them with a focus on sustainability. They cook over a wood fired grill, and the wine list is exclusively comprised of natural wines from small artisan growers.

I had two small plates, first courgette, broad bean & herb salad, then beef tartare with green peppercorn, parsley and smoked Wensleydale (Yorkshire cow’s milk cheese). And several of the waiters have the knowledge to guide you through the wines.

I started with a Catalan white, Nar i Tornar 2017 (Vinya Ferrer), mainly garnacha blanca and some macabeu, a tasty and slightly cloudy non SO2 wine. It showed a slight mouse taint, but was nevertheless good. It was followed by a Côtes du Rhône 2017 (Dom. Aphillantes), an un-oaked grenache-carignan-mourvèdre blend; young, dark fruit, spice (but not the sweet oak style), and luscious, drinkable at the same time that it also has some light fine-grained tannin.

From the “last pour” section (not on the list and changes according to what has been opened) I had a wonderful wine from Testalonga. This is Craig Hawkins’ project in Swartland, South-Africa, and one of my favourites right now (I have two opened chenins of his in my fridge at the time of writing).

Stay Brave 2018 is pure chenin blanc. The names in the producer’s Baby Bandito series come from the encouragements you give a child, and the colourful labels are inspired by street artist. It’s made in steel, with 11 days of skin-contact and bottled un-filtered. It’s a low alcohol (10,5) and high acidity (6,5-7g) wine.

Stay Brave 2018 (Testalonga Wines)

Yellow. Smells of fresh green apples, citrus (lemon), white flowers and ginger. Very fresh, fruity, quite concentrated, mineral and super elegant.

Price: Medium

Food: Worked well with my herbaceous, green plate. Can go with white  fish, grilled fish, light meat, Asian and a variety of cheeses

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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. (I visited in a break from Porto’s Simplesmente fair, over the border.) 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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