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Category: Wine bars and restaurants

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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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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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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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 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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Mengoba at Gastroteca de Santiago

This marked the conclusion of a wine trip. Our theme was three wine regions in old Castilla. But we also had some occasional wines from other areas.

The Gastroteca is a wine bar, or restaurant, in a small chain of restaurants and a shop. It’s run by a handful of sommeliers. Tabernero and Matritum are other Madrid wine bars in the chain, and the one with special responsabililty for this place is Juan Carlos Ramos. The restaurant is located on the Plazuela de Santiago, close to the royal palace, and not far from the central tourist spot Puerta del Sol.

The Gastroteca de Santiago is a small restaurant, or wine bar, with only 16 chairs. It has a creative menu that could be described as contemporary Spanish, and the dishes are delivered cleverly and at very reasonable prices. The wine list is quite extensive with a focus on what’s happening in Spain at the moment, and with a nod to classic European regions as well, most of all Burgundy, Rhône and Champagne.

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We had a wonderful unfiltered fino Arroyuelo from producer Primitivo Collantes, a verdejo from Rueda (Tinita 2014 from Soto y Manrique), 25% of it with fermentation and 4 months lees-ageing in oak. Then we chose the unique Monastel from Rioja’s Juan Carlos Sancha (which we will present in a later post).

20171016_103505 Enjoying a good red at the Gastroteca

We closed our session with a wonderful wine from Gregory Pérez of Bierzo, the Castilian region to the north-west bordering Galicia. Gregory, originally from Bordeaux, fell in love with Bierzo, and at a time he worked with Mariano García (of Vega Sicilia fame) at Luna Beberide, another Bierzo winery. He works very traditionally, with natural methods, including native yeasts, very low sulphur – and with a horse. Mengoba is a series of wines, the name made up of the first letters of the local varieties mencía, godello and valenciana with a “b”).

This Mengoba is made from mencía 80%, and the rest garnacha tintorera, also known as the Portuguese alicante bouschet. The mencía is sourced partly from a clone that Gregory revived in Espanillo, at 700-850 meters with mixed soils (80 year old vines) and the rest from 550 meters at Valtuille (30 year old). It stayed 6 months on lees in big foudres, partly with whole clusters. Then in 5.000 liters in the foudres for almost 10 months.

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Mengoba 2015 (Gregory Pérez)

Dark red. Aromas of dark fruit, ink, and plums, a little chocolate. Full on the palate, young tannins and good acidity. With a couple of years more it will probably have reached its full potential, with everything integrated and still packed with lively fruit.

Price: Medium

 

 

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A new dawn at Brawn

2016-08-13-18-58-11 Brawn, on the corner of Columbia Rd.

This was my third visit at Brawn. First time was three years ago when my wife and I had first visited the RAWfair and the nearby flower market. By that time Brawn was taking pride in serving all parts of the pig. Now it seemed that the kitchen had moved on to a more diverse fare. This was confirmed by the staff, that said it was partly to be in tune with the times and many people’s wish to go for lighter menues. While I loved the former concept, that I in fact had come back for, I also appreciate the new approach. And with an equally eclectic wine selection as before: organic wines, as naturally made as possible, but with no fundamentalism either – yes, I can say that I have the strongest faith in the project. I am a bit worried that the swine in the logo could be an endangered species though.

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This eastern oasis (near Bethnal Green) could be called a classic. The kitchen puts out wonderful dishes with the strongest confidence, the menu is written in an original language, and the wines are of the versatile type. I will not dwell too much with the food, since this is primarily a wine site. But I must mention that at my latest visit I had salted padron peppers, then a tomato salad with red onions and basil, and then a marvellous black pudding with a thin, crispy crust with maize and mushroom. And by the time I reached this dish Maceo Parker’s funky sax came very appropriately through the speakers. The dessert was dark chocolate in olive oil and sea salt.

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Peppers with Pink Bulles sparkling and black pudding with a Puglia primitivo

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The wine list contains some 500 wines, all suiteable for drinking now or in the near future. No show-offs. There is a selection of around 20 wines (and some beers and ciders) by the glass, but when I look at my notes after each visit I see that some of the wines suggested by the staff has come from the main list, which is another “plus”.

With the padron peppers I had an unfiltered gamay pét nat from Auvergne (in Upper Loire, west from Beaujolais), the Pink Bulles 2015 (Jean Maupertuis), that was lightly blushing pink with an orange hint, had a delicate aroma of yellow apple, peach, and was light and fresh in the mouth. With the tomatoes came the Super Nova 2015 (Danjou-Banessy) a Mediterranean muscat from Roussillon. This had some traces of extended skin-contact, with a yellow-orange colour and some notes of peel in the aroma. Quite round and soft with moderate acidity, but the dry texture from the skin-contact adds to the balance. Third wine: Lamie delle Vigne 2014 (Cristiano Guttarolo), a Puglia primitivo, that came with the black pudding. Very dark, young colour, aroma of berries from the wood, some blueberry, and in the mouth it was round and tasty. It can also be noted that it has some volatile acidity, which I think is ok in small quantities, and in a southern, warm wine like this it actually adds to the freshness.

2016-08-12-14-28-51 Pierre-Yves and Wesley at Brawn

I was also given a taste of their Guigne et Guins 2014, a wild cherry liqeur from the Laurent Cazottes destillery (with whom they collaborate, if I remember right), quite light at 18% of alcohol, fruity and not too sweet.

2016-08-13-20-20-04 With this dessert I chose a Maury, the Fagayra Rouge 2012 (Les Terres de Fagayra), a grenache-based dessert wine with hints of sweet black cherries.

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To sum up, this is that kind of place where I like to go myself, a cosy, not too formal place with focus on wine, but with a really good kitchen to match it. In a place like this I could have said that I am just a little-medium-very hungry, and let the staff bring me wines and food of their own choice. Go there you too!

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Antidote of London

You might think that Antidote could have something to do with the Remedy restaurant, about which I wrote a few months ago, at least their names could suggest so. But no. They have a few things in common though, they both offer a cure against depressive tendencies, and they offer well-prepared bites, and a lot of good, healthy wines – all worked organically, many biodynamically in the vineyard.

They rely on market catch, and the menu changes often. The food is quite simple, but well made, and often with both a modern touch and inspired by several corners of the world. The wine list is quite extensive, and there is a good selection of wines by the glass. They say that the wines come largely from France. That’s true, but I have spotted wines from other European countries like Italy, Spain and Slovenia, an occational one from Greece, and outside Europe too, such as Australia.

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I visited this cosy Soho locale twice in August, the first time with my daughter who is vegan, and they were very helpful, and gladly made some creative twists. Second time was the day after, when I had some more wines and a couple more bites.

Along with their “Heritage Tomato” dish (with lemon, lovage parsley and goat’s curd) I had Ch. la Coste “Pentes Douces 2014 (Ch. la Coste), a provencal blend of vermentino and sauvignon blanc: light in colour, a rich aroma with hints of herbs, and a slightly warm touch in the aftertaste. With next bite, Spring Onions with egg yolk, comté cheese and buckwheat, I tried Clef de Sol 2014 (La Grange Tiphaine) from Montlois sur Loire, a light, fruity, mineral chenin blanc, with a lot of acidity wrapped in super fruit. Following this with the same dish I tried what turned out to be one of the stars of the evening, Maupiti 2014 (Clos de l’Elu), a light red wine from Anjou, also in the Loire. This one is made from gamay and cabernet franc. It shows lots of red berries, it’s fresh and fruity, mellow in the mouth and just delicious drinking.

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La Poudre d’Escampette 2014 (from winery Le Casot des Mailloles) is a dry red wine from Banyuls, quite unusual for the area’s image as a dessert wine region. It’s made from 120 year old grenache and 80 year old carignan vines. An unpasturized camembert from Normandie was perfectly matched with the (to a certain extent volatile) acidity of the high-hill wine. A good match was also the ossau-iraty, a sheep’s milk cheese from French Basque Country.

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An unusual wine to round off maybe, but excellent there and then, was I Clivi RBL 2014, a biodynamically farmed, native yeast spumante brut nature from the grape known as ribolla gialla in Friuli, Italy, close to the Slovenian border. It was dry, but rounded off, fruity, a little carbonic-mineral, and nice for washing away what might remain of the fat from the cheeses.

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Pulling the Cork in Bilbao

You find the Cork bar in Pozas, a popular section of downtown Bilbao. It is both a pintxos (Basque tapas) bar, and a wine bar that concentrates on good wines, most often organic and very natural, both local and national, and the by-the-glass menu is written on a cardboard. You have to stand, and it’s easy to find nice and educated (if that’s what you want) people to talk to. There is no TV blasting, if there is one at all.

There is a lot of cork and wood in the interior, almost resembling a bodega building.

20160129_212445 Jonathan García

Jonathan García (Basque sommelier champion of 2011) is running the place with a lot of passion and dedication, and his mother is responsible for the many delicious, well-prepared bites. One is the house pintxos, empanada casera de bonito, empanadas with the bonito fish. There are many cheeses and hams to choose from too. I visited one busy January night.

20160129_211827 Mónica operating a Coravin

From the by-the-glass offer I chose Blan. 5.7 2014, a fruity and grapey orange wine made from the macabeo grape by Celler Jordi Llorens in the Barcelona province. To accompany this wine Jonathan picked a pintxo of bacalao and tomato with browned onion and some herbs.

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Among the rest were the pure and flowery La Bruja Avería 2014 (Comando G), a favourite from the Gredos mountains, a wonderful example of Mallorcan Château Paquita, (Sistema Vinari), and the Mas de Gegant 2013 of Joan Ramón Escoda in Conca de Barberà, Catalunya

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On the house, an unfortified “sherry” Ube 2013. This is one of the many interesting projects from these “fortified quarters”. This is a great wine from the Las Vegas vineyard (part of the Carrascal pago) with albariza soil near Sanlucar, made of three different clones of palomino (mostly palomino fino 73%). It’s chalky-mineral, has a touch of petrol and a rich, powerful palate. It’s fermented in the botas (sherry barrels), clocking in at 11% alcohol.

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Yes, we are in the Basque Country. But no, there are no stars here. Readers will have noticed that I couldn’t care less. Here there is an ample selection of wines, the bites are good, the waiters have knowledge about them and a personal touch.

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A Lazio delight in London

This week’s wine was enjoyed at Soho’s DuckSoup restaurant (in the same block as Ronnie Scott’s famous jazz bar), that has a focus on natural wine and simple but tasty dishes inspired from anywhere. Music lovers will find a home here too, as they have a collection of vinyl records for varied tastes.

20160811_173724-1 The DuckSoup cookbook displayed

Anyway, the wine is a elegant and fruity red carbonic maceration wine from Gradoli, Lazio in central Italy.

Gianmarco Antonuzzi and Clémentine Bouveron dispose of around 14 hectares, oak and chestnut, and olive trees as well as vineyards. We are near the volcanic Lake Bolsena in the north of the Lazio region, 600 meters above sea level.

While the sites and microclimates of their 20 parcels vary, all are found on volcanic soil.

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Some of the vines are ungrafted. This is a real artisanal project, carried out with a lot of patience, according to biodynamic principles, and without additions of any sort.

Le Primeur is a varietal aleatico that underwent a carbonic maceration for three weeks. Comes in magnums – or by the glass at DuckSoup.

Le Primeur 2015 (Le Coste)

Quite light in colour. Pure fresh fruit, flowers, red berries and stone fruit. Vivid and energetic, slightly carbonic in the mouth, simply delicious.

Price: Medium

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A Sumoll rosé at Territoriet, Oslo

I tasted this at the Territoriet (The Territory) wine bar in Oslo’s nowadays quite fashionable Grünerløkka district. The wine bar is an independent no-chain place that boasts 400 wines by the glass, a great many of them organic.

20160618_182139 Wine and music: I can “tolerate” this!

The producers both live and work at their Can Comas estate in Catalan Penedès where they feel an obligation to treat both the vineyards and the surrounding forests as eco-friendly as possible.

The vineyards are not irrigated, nor ploughed (in order to avoid erosion and encourage natural growth), and neither do they use fertilisers.

This rosé made from the rare sumoll variety, that was about to disappear but saved by a group of local vintners, among them Celler Pardas themselves. This vineyard is south-east facing at 400 meters and was planted 40 years ago.

A perfect choice in that hot Oslo evening.

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Pardas Sumoll Rosé 2014 (Celler Pardas)

Pink, salmon colour, onion-like rim. Fruity, hoot of red apple, flowers. Round on the palate, and just enough acidity to keep the freshness.

Price: Low

Food: Summer salads and other light dishes

 

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