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Category: Wine of the Week

Wine of the Week

A Durella sparkling

You don’t travel much in Vicenza and other Venetian areas before you learn that durella is a grape you ought to come to terms with. It’s a grape that originated there. First and foremost it gives acidity.

In ancient times there was an underwater volcano in the eastern Verona province and neighbouring Vicenza. Now there are rolling hills here in the Monte Purga, with volcanic soil and huge amounts of fossils.

In Italian the name means “little hard one”. It is supposedly so called because of its thick skin, but also because the vines are difficult to manage.

While the high acidity in the past has been regarded a weakness, one has now learned to appreciate this feature. It contributes to the longevity of wines, and it’s very useful in blends. And it was in the hills of Monti Lessini that the first DOC was established in 1987.

In the time of afterthought, after coming home from the trip, I decided to order a varietal durella to be delivered to my local shop. And among three available wines I chose this one.

Flavio Prà, experienced producer and consultant based in Soave, started this project in 2000. The aim is to offer typical wines from several designations to a wide audience. The portfolio includes most Soave and Valpolicella categories. The cultivation is always organic, and they also employ other sustainable practises, such as renewable energy. Corte Allodola own some vineyards and also collaborate with farmers in rented plots, in the different areas. Fermentation, winemaking, ageing and tbottling is then done in the cellars in Monteforte d’Alpone, one of the Soave wine villages.

This wine is from the slopes of the Lessini mountains. It has the typical durella acidity (9 g/L), and is balanced with 6-7 grams of sugar.

I Campi Lessini Brut (Corte Allodola)

Straw colour, light mousse. Green apples and bread crust with citric notes. Slender, fruity, evident but integrated acidity, and a slightly bitter aftertaste.

Price: Low

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Wine of the Week

Sébastien Riffault’s Sancerres

Sébastien Riffault has been mentioned in this blog many times, so it’s about time we highlight one of his wines. These are full of personality. Riffault’s sauvignons are maybe not you would think of when hearing the word Sancerre. But this is maybe Sancerre like in the old days, before all the corrections became the norm.

Sébastien cultivates twelve hectares of vineyard in Sury-en-Vaux. He also plants trees to contribute to the diversity. He can harvest several times, but in general grapes can hang on the vines for a long time -Mid-October is normal- so they achieve full ripening. .As a result of the late harvest, some of the grapes are affected by botrytis. Unlike most other Sancerre wines, Sébastien’s. wines also undergo malolactic fermentation.

To honor his Lithuanian wife Jurate, Sébastien have given the wines Lithuanian names that are expressions for the soil. Auksinis thus means “of gold” and is 2 hectares planted around 1975 on Portland limestone. 

Everything is cultivates according to biodynamic principles, and the whole vineyard is certified organic. Sébastien uses horse and plow in many of the vineyards, because it gives better soil quality. In the cellar, nothing is added, neither are they fined nor filtered (except for a tiny amount of sulphur and lightly filtering of one wine).

Wine of the Week

Zýmē’s Recioto Amandorlato

Celestino Gaspari had worked with Valpolicella master Guiseppe Quintarelli, and married one of his daughters, before he set up his Zýmē winery in San Pietro in Cariano, in the heart of Valpolicella Classico. Celestino had also helped several others with various projects (among them Bertani, Santa Maria alla Pieve and Musella)  – and several wineries were born under his guidance (like Monte dall’Ora, also in San Pietro).

Zýmē was the name of his consultance agency, and became the name of his own winery, when he in 2003 started with 7 ha. on rent. Now there are 30 ha., where ecosustainability and respect for the rhythms of nature are vital aspects. Zýmē, from Greek, means “yeast.” For Celestino this has a symbolic meaning as a continuous striving towards transformation. The logo represents a leaf, formed as a pentagon, which is a symbol of the five basic elements needed to make wine; soil, grapes, sun, water and man.

There were many good wines to chose from; Oseleta (a 100% varietal), Kairos (from 15 grapes, 4 white and 11 red), From Black to White (from a natural genetic mutation of Rondinella) and an Amarone Classico della Valpolicella on the dry, almost elegant side.

Still I chose the Recioto Amandorlato, a wine dedicated to the memory of Giuseppe “Bepi” Quintarelli, his father-in-law, who passed away in 2012. The wine was first presented at this year’s VinItaly.

Celestino describes Recioto Amandorlato as a synthesis between traditional recioto and amarone. One could say a recioto with the lowest possible sugar residue.

Recioto della Valpolicella DOCG Classico 2011 Amandorlato “to my teacher …” (produced in 1,500 bottles of 0,5 l) is a blend of corvina and corvinone (60%), rondinella (30%), molinara (5%) and croatina (5%). After drying, the grapes were vinified in cement, then matured for 20 days in Slavonian oak barrels of between 350 and 500 l. In May 2017 it was bottled.

In the concrete tanks the temperature is natural, the yeast too, and there is very little movement of the must. The tumultuous fermentation stops due to the effect of sulfur, alcohol and residual sugar. Now the product is divided. Sugar tends to precipitate, so the first part removed is the one richest in sugar, the Recioto. The second part, in contact with the brandy, with less sugar, more organic substance and more extracted, becomes Amandorlato. (Then there is also Amarone Riserva.)

Recioto della Valpolicella Classico Amandorlato “al mio maestro…” 2011 (Zýmē)

Dark cherry colour. Ripe fruit (cherry, plum, blueberry), peppery spiciness, bitter almonds and a sweet component like ​​cocoa. Quite glyceric, with soft tannins, sweet (but not too sweet), and with a lingering finish.

Price: Medium

Food: Ripe cheeses, red meat, game

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Wine of the Week

Esporão’s Vinho de Talha, clay wine from Alentejo

Alentejo has a more than two thousand years old unbroken tradition for clay-aged wines. The area now experiences a fashion for these wines, and in 2010 a specific DOC was even awarded.

Talha is a large clay container. They come in different sizes and degree of porosity, but they are definitely recognizable. Since they are porous, most are sealed inside. Most common is a form of resin, mixed with other ingredients. The tradition has been kept alive by local restaurants. Now the number of commercial producers that take up the tradition is still increasing.

Here is a short version of how the wines are typically made: The grapes are pressed and transferred to the talha, where a spontaneous natural fermentation takes place. During this period, the grape and skins float to the surface and forms a thick mass. This is pressed down with a piece of wood to extract the color, aroma and taste of the wine. Fermentation is completed, and the mass sinks to the bottom. When the wine runs through a hole at the bottom of the jar, this mass helps to filter, together with straw designed for the purpose.

A toast of talha wine at the traditional producer-restaurant in the village of Cuba

The grapes are picked in September, transported into the wine house, pressed, then transferred to the jars – with or without stem. During fermentation, batonnage is carried out. The mass is pushed down twice a day to extract colour and flavour, but also to prevent it from blocking the opening and the jar exploding. As a rule, the fermentation is completed 8-15 days after the grapes are placed in the jar, so it takes a few weeks for the lid to sink to the bottom. For many, the wine is now finished and the drinking can start. Traditional restaurants usually serve it more or less directly from the “talha”. The modern, commercial wine houses usually leave the wine on the steel tank, some place it, surprisingly maybe, in oak barrels. Traditionists put the wine back on the jars. These are often covered with lid of wood, clay, cardboard or anything. A more effective protection against oxidation is olive oil, which is poured into the jar.

The DOC Vinho de Talha was created to preserve tradition. The regulation states, among other things, that the grapes must be cultivated within the 8 subregions of DOC Alentejo, they must be rejected, fermentation must be done in closed containers (talhas) and the wine and grape must remain in the jars until 11th November. One can store the wine longer, but this is the day when official officials come to certify the wine. This is St. Martin’s Day and traditionally the day one drank the wine for the first time that year. Martin from Tours was a soldier for the Romans, but became Christian as an adult and then lived as a monk. In Portugal, the day is primarily associated with celebration of the new wine.

Moreto is the grape variety that stands out as the traditional bearer. But the tendency is that other grape varieties are used, and the wine spends less time in the vessels in contact with the skins.

Talhas at Esporão

Herdade do Esporão is a property that can actually track its borders back to the 13th century. It was purchased by two private individuals in 1973. The first wines came on the market in the 1990s, and almost instantly it was a huge success.  

It’s maybe of importance that a large company like Esporão participates in the collective talha experiment that is now taking place in the area, because those who no one else can register and catalogud knowledge and experience. Perhaps they can also help promote the Alentejo region to consumers.

Esporão inserts the jars with beeswax (made after a complicated recipe), to avoid anything evaporating. This certainly gives some taste to the wine, or rather: it reacts with the wine. To avoid oxidation, a layer of olive oil is placed on top of the talha.

Their Vinho de Talha is only sold in the house’s own shop, to keep an image of exclusivity, it is said. The 2014 vintage comes from old, rented vineyards in the cool Portalegre sub-region to the north, high in the São Mamede mountains, with varieties moreto, castelão and trincadeira. The grapes were picked late in the autumn, end of October-beginning November. No SO2 is added and the yeast is completely natural.

The wine makers are David Baverstock and Sandra Alves.

From Esporão’s shop

Vinho de Talha (Amphora Wine) 2014 (Herdade do Esporão)

The wine is relatively light ruby. Aroma of red berries (ripe raspberries) with flowers, some spice and liquorice. Intense fruit on the palate, fresh acidity (typical of northern Alentejo), elegant tannin, and some sweetness at the end.

Price: Medium

 

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Wine of the Week

Robinot’s Nocturne

This week’s selected wine is from nobody else than natural wine guru Jean-Pierre Robinot.

As the story goes, Robinot fell in love with wine at a young age, moved to Paris, met some of the pioneers of natural wine and opened L’Ange Vin, one of the first bars dedicated to that kind of drinks.

Soon he decided to make natural wines himself, and moved back to Chahaignes, where he grew up, in the north of Loire.

The rest is history, as they say. He offers one wine better than the other; easy-to-drink and serious at the same time, they keep for weeks after opening, they express their origins magnificently, and they are highly original.

Jean-Pierre owns around 8 hectares of vines in the two appellations Jasnières and the Coteaux du Loir, soils red clay, limestone and silex. And the fermentations, they can last for months, years, in the ancient underground caves.

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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 of the Week

Maule’s Masieri

I am in Veneto. Yesterday I had a wonderful day in Gambellara, Vicenza province, which I will come back to.

This week’s wine is from the most important producer in that area. Well, Zonin is a big player indeed. But for an organic, down to earth approach Angiolino Maule has taught and inspired other growers that are just beginning. He also created the VinNatur organization and runs the Villa Favorita fair that brings together producers of the same sort from Italy and abroad.

Francesco Maule in front of a Masieri barrel

Gambellara is mainly white wine country, with volcanic soil. But there are some splendid reds made too.

There is also a white Masieri, but here we concentrate on the red version. It’s made mainly from merlot, some tai rosso (tocai/cannoneau/grenache), and around 5% is cabernet sauvignon, all fermented with indigenous yeasts in steel tanks.

The vineyards are young, and the cultivation is Guyot. The fermentation is spontaneous with indigenous yeasts, with a 13 days maceration. Minimum sulphur, no filtration.

Masieri Rosso 2017 (Angiolino Maule – La Biancara)

Dark cherry, violet hints. Aroma of cherry and blackberry, herbs, spices. Lightly structured, luscious and delicate, fruit all the way. Just lovely! (2017 is 13,5% alc.)

Price: Low

So far in this series:
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Wine of the Week

Back in time: Viña Tondonia

It was in the evening of the Haro Station Wine Experience. Lunch was over and I was walking around in the streets of the Barrio de la Estación, where many of the leading bodegas establish themselves after the railroad came to town and a new area started, with Rioja as a leading brand and Haro as its capital.

I decided to step into the mythical bodega and there stood María José López de Heredia opening a mysterious bottle. I didn’t know exactly what it was when she poured it. But indeed I understood that it was a white Tondonia and that I had stepped back in time.

María José opens the white ’64

López de Heredia’s wines must be one of the most legendary in Spain, and well-known for being made the same way since the winery’s foundation 130 years ago.

Only grapes from their own vineyards are used, for this wine one from their most emblematic Viña Tondonia, a 100 hectares pago not far from the bodega. The soil is clay with a high limestone content. It’s a large vineyard with varying plantings and grape varieties, but average age is around 50 years. The cultivation is organic.

To get the fermentation going they simply wait. And if it looks like it’s going to be difficult one can only open the windows, as in Haro there are often big differences in night and day temperatures.

Art nouveau, a building style in fashion at the turn of the century

The wine is made from 85% viura, 15% malvasía and has 12% alc. It stayed 6 months in wooden deposits, then 9 years in old barriques of American oak, treated in the bodega’s own cooperage. It was racked manually 18 times, then clarified with egg whites. It was then bottled from the barrels in July 1973 without filtering.

Viña Tondonia Blanco 1964 (R. López de Heredia)

Golden colour towards amber. Notes of dried fruits, toasted almonds, citrus and a touch of honey (without the sweetness, if that makes sense). It’s almost like walking in an old sherry bodega. Glyceric and rich, with a smooth texture. Low alcohol, high natural acidity, and a salty finish. But even if there are other barrel-aged whites this is almost in a category of its own.

Price: High (if you can find it at an auction)

Lastly, the bodega is always referred to as a very traditionalist bodega, and rightly so. Here is how they define their form of traditionalism:

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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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