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Category: Wine of the Week

Wine of the Week

Gimme gimme gamay

After having heard about a “band” of winemakers calling themselves “punks” last week, let’s move on to the tale about former punk bassist Taras Ochota, who together with his partner Amber decided to form a winery in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia. They got the idea for a holistic project on a surf trip to Mexico, they say, after having seen some of the most amazing wine and surf regions there are.

Before this happened he worked as a flying winemaker, or a consultant, for a number of European producers, mainly in southern Italy, but also as an expert in the field for a Swedish importer. Amber also worked both in Italy and for a winery in Skåne, southern Sweden at a time.

After a rather disappointing tasting of Australian wines I went and bought some myself, and found a beautiful line of wines from Adelaide Hills

This is an artisan project, with great attention to detail. The biodynamic approach they came across in the south of France. And they strongly believe that the most energetic and vital wines come from “organically farmed vineyards planted to earth that is alive, lo-fi technique and picking decisions made purely on natural acidity”. Texture is also an important focus, manipulating mouth-feel with limited or extended time on skins including batonnage. They experiment with low sulphur levels to find the perfect level to suit each cuvee.

The Price of Silence is a varietal gamay made with whole cluster fermentation, unfiltered.

The Price of Silence 2019 (Ochota Barrels)
Light red, some blue towards rim. Fresh aroma of cherries, plums and some pepper. Full and juicy in the mouth, but also with some tannin and a natural acidity.

Price: Medium

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Wine of the Week

Cool, red Ribeira Sacra

We are in the rugged and dramatic Ribeira Sacra in the interior of Galicia, a transitory zone between the Atlantic and the dry, hot Castilian inland. The soils here are decomposed granite and schist. Couto is a small settlement in the Sil valley, and in Galician “fedellos” means something like punks. Luís, Pablo, Curro and Jesús might call themselves punks, but their wines are fine-tuned, and quite complex too.

Lomba dos Ares (meaning the “hilltop of Ares”) is a steep vineyard in the Bibei sub-zone at 700-750 meters. In this particular place there is granite soils higher up that changes to sandy schist further down. The varieties planted here are a.o. mencía, merenzao (bastardo or trousseau), caiño, mouratón (garnacha tintorera), noen of them dominating. The grapes are hand-harvested, fermented in whole clusters in steel, and with a long and gentle maceration with pigeage. Later it was aged in neutral French oak.

 
Fedellos do Couto Lomba dos Ares 2017

Lomba dos Ares 2017 (Fedellos do Couto)

Light red. Cool aroma of flowers and red berries (cherry, raspberry), and behind is a next layer of smoke, pine and herbs. Juicy in the mouth, but with fine-grained tannins and some concentration, good fruit all the way and an elegant integrated acidity. Some ageing potential.

Price: Medium

 

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Wine bars and restaurants and Wine of the Week

A talha wine in London

the Raw fair was postponed due to the threat of the coronavirus. But I decided to go anyway. And the first thing I did was heading for the Bar Douro, a few blocks from my hotel in Southwark. In a way I continued my Portuguese experience from last week, and started with Folias de Baco’s Douro sparkler Uivo Pt Nat, and also had Anselmo Mendes‘ vinho verde Contacto, this week’s choice is a Portuguese vinho de talha, a clay wine. Alentejo has a long tradition for this, and producer Herdade do Rocim is even hosting a talha wine festival.

They use the word amphora on the label though, not talha. It was made from the varieties antão vaz 40%, and 20 each of perrum, rabo de ovelha and manteúdo.

Winemakers are Pedro Ribeiro, general manager and his wife Catarina Vieira. The wine was made in the traditional way, in clay pots, with no temperature control. Only indigenous yeasts were used, there were no additions, nor any corrections of the must. The wine was bottled unfined and unfiltered. It clocks in at a sympathetic 12% of alcohol.

Herdade do Rocim Amphora 2017 (H. do Rocim)

Golden colour with a hint of brown. On the nose it plays with oxidation: The yellow fruits are dominating, but behind is a layer of smoke, nuts, some resin and smoke. It is dry, has some structure, and is also driven by salty minerals.

Price: Medium

Food: A variety of fish, shellfish and salads. It goes well to lighter meat dishes, like the pork cheeks that I had.

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Wine of the Week

Promising prototype in Távora-Varosa

Távora-Varosa is a small mountainous DOC area bordering the Douro to the north and Dão to the south. I went there after the Simplesmente Vinho fair to visit Manuel Valente and his Protótipo project.

The region is found at the northern part of the Serra de Nave, and the names of the two major rivers are coined to form the wine region’s designation. Here is a continental climate with cold winters and hot and dry summers. This is a high place, with vines at an average altitude of 550 metres above sea level on granite and schist soils. The grapes will easily get a high acidity and tart fruit quality. That’s one of the reasons that it has for long been one of the best regions for sparkling wines in the country, and the first one to be demarcated for this type of wine in 1989. Murganheira, maybe the most emblematic winery of all, is found here.

By the Varosa river, in Ucanha, where the local Comissão has its headquarters

Manuel is found in the village Aldeia de Cima, where the “Valentes” has a 200 year long history of growing grapes and olives, and 25 hectares of various growths in total. The current generation decided in 2015 to see if it was possible to make natural wines there. -The idea is to reflect the grapes in the bottle, says Manuel, -and if you do a good job the grapes you can come away with very little intervention.

Perfect for wind turbines; here one with decoration by local artist Joana Vasconcelos (named ‘Gone with the Wind’, 2016)

And it’s clear that both rosé and white ancestral method sparkling wines show a tremendous potential, with their freshness caused by the altitude and the winds of the region. We tasted his wines, both rosé and white, still and sparkling, at the small family restaurant Tasca da Quinta restaurant in Régua.

For this column I chose the rosé pet nat, that is made with touriga nacional and tinta roriz, with an additional field blend of old vines. It comes with 4 grams residual sugar, that feels dry in this wine because of a high acidity.

Protótipo Pét Nat Rosé 2017 (Protótipo, M. Valente)

Light cherry red, a dark colour for a rosé. Aroma dominated by red fruits (raspberry), with some biscuits, and also a darker, more herbal component. Some mousse, tastes dry, with a light structure and a super natural acidity.

Price: Medium

Food: Calls for food, everything from light meat via fish and shellfish to salads. We enjoyed it with Bacalhau à brás (=grilled; dried codfish, potatoes, olives and eggs).

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Wine of the Week

Infantado’s organic ruby

I have just come back from the Simplesmente Vinho fair in Porto, where João Roseira is chief organizer. This year I chose to visit some wineries of the Douro valley after the fair, Roseira’s own Quinta do Infantado among them. While João has handed down the enology responsibilities to 6h generation, his nephew Álvaro, he is still in charge of viticulture.

João Roseira

Infantado has a long history; and celebrated their first 200 years in 2016. Yet they are in many ways in the avant-garde. They were the first producer to break the monopoly of the négociants in Vila Nova de Gaia, by starting to bottle in the Douro valley in 1979 and export directly from there in 1986.

They have 46 hectares in the Covas de Douro, 4 km from Pinhão. 12 of these are organically grown, the rest is sustainable viticulture. The.is ruby is sourced from three vineyards called Pousado, Barreiro and Serra Douro, that cover 6 hectares on schist soil at an altitude of 250-350 meters. It is made from grape varieties touriga franca, tinta roriz and touriga nacional, as well as an old field blend that makes up 5%. There are three vintages blended together here, 2016, ’17 and ’18.

Álvaro Roseira, 6th generation with an impressive range

At Infantado the ports ferment longer than usual, so at an earlier stage there is less residual sugar and more alcohol. Therefore less addition is needed, and the brandy is added gradually. Consecuently the ports tend to have a natural appearance, and both sugar and alcohol are nicely balanced with the fruit. This is also the case with their Reserva Ruby. It has around 50 grams of residual sugar, and carries the term “meio-seco” (medium dry) on the label. Also unlikely for a ruby, it was bottled unfiltered.

Reserva Ruby (Quinta do Infantado)

Deep red, violet edge. Smells of blackcurrant and blackberry with plums, with notes of eucalyptus and aromatic herbs and flowers. It’s fresh for a port, nicely balanced, showing both elegance and refinement.

Price: Medium

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Wine bars and restaurants and Wine of the Week

Uivo Moscatel at Folias de Baco

Tiago Sampaio is the driving force behind the Folias de Baco project. The name is mainly associated with his winery. But there is also a wine bar with that name in the center of Porto. Tiago delivers the wine, in fact they only serve his wines. I went there during the Simplesmente Vinho wine fair, together with my friend and colleague wine writer Paul Op ten Berg, a former sommelier from Den Haag.


André, Mariana and Carlos

They serve delicious small dishes, mainly torricado, with toppings of choice. Torricado is a Portuguese form of bruschetta, toasted over charcoal, soaked in olive oil, with garlic and salt). They also have set menus, under the “Flavours of Douro” designation, and a vegetarian option too.

Studying the back label
Paul takes a closer look at the back label

I will come back to my visit to the producer. Today I just want to bring your attention to an extraordinary wine that can stand as a prime example of the new wave of Douro wines that are coming now; low alcohol, fresh acidity, high energy.

It’s made mostly from the moscatel galego grape, a local version of the muscat à petit grains. It originates in the family’s high altitude schist soils in Alijó. The 2019 had just arrived in the bar when it was served us.

Uivo Moscatel Galego Branco 2019 (Folias de Baco, Tiago Sampaio)

Yellow colour. Aromas of white flowers, peach and lemon-balm, but also with some minerality. It’s dry, with a lovely integrated natural acidity, and pure flavours all the way. This is a vibrant high-energy wine. Truly inspiring.

Price: Medium

Food: We had it with the Douro plate that included toast, olives, cheeses and charcuterie, but should go to a variety of salads, fish and shellfish and much more

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Wine of the Week

Brezo for Bierzo

Bordeaux native Grégory Pérez is the driving force behind Mengoba in Bierzo. He is found by the river Cúa, in the municipality of Espanillo, where he makes brilliant terroir-focused whites and reds from steep vineyards.

Brezo is a second label for the wines that he makes as a négociant, still following the same principles.

This wine is made from mostly mencía, but with some 15% alicante bouschet. It’s made from vines planted in 1985, 550 meters above sea level. The soils are clay with some sand. The grapes were destemmed and crushed, followed by a traditional vinification with pumpovers. It was then raised in steel, only lightly fined and filtered, and it comes with a low alcohol (12,5%).

Brezo 2018 (Mengoba, Gregory Pérez)

Dark cherry colour. Young blueberry, violets and dark fruit aroma. Juicy, round, delicious, with natural, integrated acidity.

Price: Low

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Wine of the Week

Limestone rocks

No, this is not just a slick heading, but actually the name of the wine. For so much loves Rheinhessen producer Wittman this type of soil that they decided to name a wine after it.

I bought it in a tax-free shop at a ridiculously low price. And in the wine is in fact bottled specifically for the Heinemann group, that’s responsible for the selection of most airports in northern Europe. It reminds me of some of their more basic dry rieslings though, but more about this and this brilliant winery at a later occasion.

Limestone Rocks Riesling Trocken 2018 (Weingut Wittman)

Light yellow. Young, fruity aroma of yellow apples, flowers, and a stony minerality. Young, slender, but with good concentration, slightly spritzy riesling style, and am elegant acidity dancing on the tongue.

Price: Low

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Wine of the Week

Roc rocks

A few weeks ago we brought a brief introduction to Verónica Ortega’s wines, and the wine of the week was her clay and sand soil wine called Quite (see here). This week the turn has come to the older brother.

Roc is made from 80-100 years old mencía, organically farmed on slate 530 meters above sea level, but also on clay and sand. The grapes were harvested by hand, pressed with 50% whole clusters, fermented with indigenous yeasts in vat with regular pigeage. The maceration lasted for 20 days, and the ageing went on for 14 months in French barriques.

Roc 2015 (Verónica Ortega)

Dark cherry colour. Dark fruits, stone fruit, tar, with a background of roast and caramel. Solid tannins (but not overdone), rocky minerality, and with a cool freshness also.

Price: Medium

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Wine of the Week

Nikolaihof’s wonderful Vinothek

This week’s pick was tasted yesterday at Vinkontoret, Stavanger (read more here or here), and was one of their Coravin selections that you can buy by the centilitre.

Nikolaihof is one of Wachau’s leading wineries, and an Austrian biodynamic pioneer (and has also been featured here). Its history can in fact be traced back almost 2.000 years to the Roman fort of Favianis AD 63.

Credit: Nikolaihof

Their wines can be closed as young, but with age they fulfill all the aromatic potential that you can appreciate in this wine. This is because the Saahs family refuses to use enzymes to “open” them up, as a contrast to the many producers who like their wines to reveal their full potential in the first year.

All wines are made without added yeast and without temperature control. The Vinothek 2000 was bottled in 2016. Before that it spent 16 years in big 3.500 liters barrels.

Vinothek Riesling 2000 (Nikolaihof)

Yellow with brownish hints. The aroma plays with oxidation, and has at first some mature apple character, that gives way to apricot and honey. You also get a touch of a flinty minerality, and it’s a bit oily and waxy too. Very long, concentrated taste that includes mature citrus, minerals, wax again, and a lovely natural acidity that binds it all together. It has many years of life ahead, I would say.

Price: High

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