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Category: Wine of the Week

Articles and Wine of the Week

Next stop: Soria

Lately I have been traveling a lot in northern Spain, and many times I have been visiting, or simply crossing Ribera del Duero. I have also been passing the city and province of Soria, without stopping. Now this has come to an end: Just like I did some ten years ago it was time to explore this often-forgotten but interesting high-altitude part of the DO Ribera del Duero.

There is Bodegas Gormaz, the former cooperative of San Estéban de Gormaz, the area’s biggest village. They are the biggest company, owner of many old pre-phylloxera vines, controls over 1300 acres of vines and makes sound and solid wines.

There is Tierras de Guijarral, a private project that makes ambitious wines under the Rudeles label in Peñalba de San Esteban, on the way to Soria capital. Sergio Rupérez, one of the four owners, is the Ru- of Rudeles. He is responsible winemaker. Today there is no fertilizing, and he also tells that he will convert to only organic cultivation and only autoctonous yeasts in a not too distant future.

And there are others too. Our third article in this series will highlight a very promising producer.

Jaime Suárez at Atauta

However, few will deny that Dominio de Atauta is the leading producer at the moment. I will dedicate the next article to them, so I will not give too much about the background here.

When I made a stop (parada in Spanish) to fill up the tank and found the Parada de Atauta in the shelves of the gas station, then I understood that there must be a certain culture here. This is the entry-level wine from the producer’s classical line.

It’s a serious wine from min. 80 year old tempranillo vines, from in and around the Atauta valley. We are almost a thousand meters above sea level, and the soil is sandy and stony, typical of the area. The wine stayed a year in French oak.

Parada de Atauta 2014 (Dominio de Atauta)

Dark purple colour. Smell of dark and red berries (blueberry, blackberry), violets, pepper and some coffee. The palate is also dominated by berries, with a cool freshness, velvety tannins, and a stony minerality.

Price: Low

Food: Red and light meat, rice dishes, pasta, roast vegetables…

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Wine of the Week

Frick’s Gewürztraminer Macération

Jean-Pierre and Chantal Frick cultivate 12 hectares of vineyards in and around Pfaffenheim, Alsace. Since 1970 the domaine has been organically cultivated, and certified biodynamic since 1981. In fact Jean-Pierre has since long been a guiding light for others who want a sustainable approach to vinegrowing.

Since the beginning of the 80’s they have abandoned the use of additions, clarification and filtration, except for a small amount of sulphur before bottling for wines with residual sugar.

The Steinert vineyard was planted in the 1970’s on limestone, fossil ground and gravel. The fermentation was spontaneous, and the maceration lasted for around one week. Then the wine was aged in big vats of French oak.

Steinert Grand Cru Gewürztraminer Macération 2016 (Dom. Pierre Frick)

Light golden colour. Aromatic, hints of fennel, spices, roses and some tropics like mango and litchis. Quite fat in the mouth, intense, full-flavoured, bone dry, long, and just enough power and acidity to keep the 15% alcohol in check..

Price: Medium

Food: Light meat, seafood

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Wine of the Week

Croatian power chords from Roxanich

I am on my way to Croatia, to perform at a festival on the Dalmatian coast. I don’t know yet if there will be an opportunity to visit some of the country’s many good and promising wineries. Anyway, what could be better than warming up with one of the country’s many wonderful wines.

The Roxanich winery has been a favourite after several fairs for natural wine, most recently at London’s Rawfair. Roxanich is found in western Istria, Bačva area, where they have moved back to their original site in the historic town Motovun, in the crossroads between Venetian and Austrian-Hungarian culture.

They can be labelled low- (as close as possible to non-) intervention, low-sulphites, and they take their time.

Their vineyards are cultivated according to ancient methods and minimal use of technology. The maceration and alcoholic fermentation take place in vats of 55 to 70 hectolitres.

Motovun is famous for its white truffles and its grapes. But there is also a rumour that this is where the oldest amphora filled with wine was found, in the surrounding area of ceramics producing ​​Brkač. Roxanich add on their website, -Motovun is also considered as the most powerful source of positive energy in Istria because it is located at the crossroads of three dragon furrows, which transmit the Earth’s energy and supply it to all living creatures.

As a consequence, they decided to return to that mystical place because they consider wine somewhat of a spiritual discipline.

This week’s pick is a stately, statuesque white from the grape variety mavasia, or malvazija istriana, as it’s called when grown in the peninsula’s red soil. The wine is labelled Antica, and the vintage on the market is 2010. It underwent a spontaneous fermentation, then followed 6 months of skin-contact, then pressed. It was then aged for 6 years in old barrels of big volume. Biodynamically treated, it’s bottled on a waning moon, and without clarification or filtration.

Mato Matić in London, with the Antica to our left

Antica 2010 (Roxanich)

Roxanich plays some power chords here. Amber or bronze colour with some orange hints. Rich aroma of flowers, butter, apricot, roasted almonds, dried fruits and some volatile acidity. It’s full-bodied, tastes wild and strong, it’s dry, but with some sweet hints like roasted apples, nuts and caramel, all tied together with just enough natural acidity and rounded tannins. The finish is rich, with a volatile hint, it plays with your restistance towards oxidation, and should not leave anyone un-touched.

Price: Medium

Food: Roast duck, mixed grills, smoked vegetables (aubergine), cheese board

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Wine of the Week

Fresh air in Toro

We are near the tiny village of El Pego near the southern border of Toro, Castilla y León. Aciano is a 3 hectare vineyard that Alvar de Dios Hernández inherited from his grandfather. The altitude is more than 700 meters, the soils here are sandy, quite special for this area. And for this reason the 100 years old ungrafted vines have survived the phylloxera plague. Aciano was his grandfather’s nickname, so the wine is baptized in his honour. The vineyard practise is organic and biodynamic.For this wine the grapes were hand harvested. 60% whole clusters, 3-4 day pre-fermentation maceration, natural yeast fermentation in big vat, daily soft pigeage, 20 day maceration are other keywords. The ageing was then done for 12-14 months in big, old French barrels, mostly neutral.

Alvar was born in El Pego, but he came in contact with Fernando García and Dani Landi of Sierra de Gredos, and was at a time cellar master for Fernando at Bodegas Marañones. (See various write-ups about the two around this blog; here is one.) Their influence can maybe explain Alvar’s search for coolness in his wines, and for Toro this must be a much needed fresh air.

Aciano 2016 (Alvar de Dios Hernández)

Dark cherry red. Perfumed aroma; flowers, dark and red fruits (blackberry, cherry), a slight touch of coffee. It’s tasty and quite solid, yes, but it’s not coarse-heavy-rough like toro can be, and the acidity is good, natural. The most elegant red from this appellation I have tasted for years.

Price: Medium

Food: Roast suckling pig (traditional Castilian dish), other light meats, game, Villalón and other fresh and hard cheeses

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Wine of the Week

Jean-Philippe Padié’s white flower

Calce is a village on the edge of the Agly valley,  Roussillon. From there many gifted winemakers has made it to the headlines, from Gérard Gauby, via Olivier Pithon to Tom Lubbe, and so on…

Jean-Philippe Padié deserves a place in that gallery. He was probably the first in the village to end the family’s tradition of delivering to the cooperative and start bottling himself.

Padié studied agronomy in Montpellier. He has also had training periods at reknowned producer Mas Amiel, and also at Gauby, before he started in the family business in 2003.

The wine was made from three grapes; grenache blanc 50%, macabeo 40%, and grenache gris 10%. It was fermented spontaneously in used barrels, and bottled unfiltered.

Dom. Padie Fleur de Cailloux 2016

Fleur de Cailloux 2016 (Dom. Padié)

Light yellow, slightly cloudy. Nice fruit, mature and floury apples, apricot, dried fruits, aromatic herbs. Medium body, integrated acidity, long and fruity finish.

Price: Medium

Food: Light meat, salads, cheeses

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Wine of the Week

A Raúl Pérez’ Ultreia in Burgos

I am attending the first edition of Duero International Wine Fest in Burgos, and I have just participated in a comparative tasting of ‘Ultreias’ from different soils. What could then be more natural than to highlight something from that tasting as wine of the week?

Raúl Pérez makes wine in several regions, mostly the Spanish northwest. It’s also here, in Bierzo’s Valtuille de Abajo, that the family has made its living for generations.

In the Ultreia series there are a couple of entry-level “village” wines from various sites, and then a collection of single-vineyard wines from vineyards with different soils such as limestone, basalt, slate and sand. Most these are within the limits of Valtuille de Abajo.

The Rapolao was one of the more constrained and elegant wines from the tasting. It is made from very old vines, planted in the late nineteenth century and has a field blend of mostly mencía, but with a small percentage of bastardo, garnacha tintorera and the white doña blanca. Some of grapes have in fact a little botrytis. The soils are rich in iron, with a high organic content. The must was fermented in open chestnut stems and elevated in smaller French casks.

Ultreia Rapolao 2016 (Raúl Pérez)

Young colour, dark violet hue. Both fruity and somewhat earthy aromatics; red berries and forest fruits (blackberry, cherry, plums), and a trace of coffee. Medium weight, fine-grained tannins, great transparency, with a stony minerality, and a natural acidity (more evident that the analysis would suggest), and a long aftertaste.

Price: Medium

Food: Cured meats, light meat, hard cheeses, a variety of salads…

 

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Wine of the Week

Domaine de la Graveirette’s lovely budget wine

Domaine de la Graveirette is located in the Southern Rhône valley, to the east of Châteauneuf du Pape, where they also make wine of that appellation. Julien Mus started the project in 2005, after finishing his studies in Burgundy. The 25 hectares of vineyards are farmed organic, and the wines now certified biodynamic. They have a freshness well above average in this part of France, and they are lovely drinking, though not at all simple.

The Ju de Vie is a favourite, with all its character and lusciousness. The 2016 is made from grenache 35%, merlot 30%, marselan 25% and mourvèdre 10%, grown in sandy soils with the typical round pebbles. It was aged for 8 months in concrete tanks, and only given a tiny amount of sulphur.

Ju du Vie 2016 (Dom. de la Graveirette)

Dark cherry red. Aroma of red and dark berries (cherry, blackberry, plums), with notes of herbs. Luscious in the mouth, a warm touch, but there is a fresh, natural acidity too,  and a good length.

Price: Low

Food: Red meat, lamb, game, casseroles

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Wine of the Week

Matassa’s red Coume de l’Olla 2015

We have talked about Domaine Matassa several times. Read here about one of their white wines, and here is something from another project that New Zealand born winemaker Tom Lubbe is involved in.

The white Coume de l’Olla is a lovely, citrusy skin-contact wine. Today we had the red wine with the same name at a restaurant.

It’s made from grapes biodynamically farmed in the Calce region, on the northeast side of the Pyrenees. They are grenache 70%, grenache gris 20%, and macabeo 10%. The must was spontaneously fermented and aged in cement tanks.

Coume de l’Olla 2015 (Dom. Matassa)

Light ruby. Aromatic, smells of red fruits, both sweet and sour (plum, cherry, cranberry), floral overtones and hints to truffles and mature cheeses too. Quite soft, fleshy, but just enough tannin to bind it together, a fresh, natural acidity and some spice in the finish.

Price: Medium

Food: Light meat, salads and much more. At an Italian restaurant we tried it today with four different dishes, and it performed brilliantly with vitello tonnato (veal in tuna mayonnaise) and pasta with a creamy sauce and mushrooms.

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Wine of the Week

Guignier’s Beaujolais-Villages

Michel Guignier is a Beaujolais producer with whom I haven’t been familiar very long. He practices organic and biodynamic viticulture, makes his wines without any additions like industrial yeast, enzymes, acid alterations, there’s no filtering, no fining, no added sulphites… On the other hand he believes in biodiversity, healthy grapes and soil quality.

His farm is located in the forest outside the Vauxrenard village (northwest of Fleurie and Chiroubles), his vineyards are also in that area, and he could have labelled the wines with the name of the village if he wanted. Here at 500 metres above sea level there is a slower maturation than in most Beaujolais villages.

Drawing of the winery (Credit: M. Guignier)

The soils are granite with sandstone, and the vines range from 30 to 80 year old. They are found mostly around Vauxrenard, and some in Fleurie and Moulin à Vent. La Bonne Pioche is probably his most known wine. It originates in a 7 hectare vineyard near Vauxrenard, planted with more than 45 year old vines. Its exposure is south-east and the soil is a kind of loose granite. 

Guignier uses concrete tanks with epoxy lining for fermentation, that can be called semi-carbonic. In the winery he has a great variety of barrels, steel and tanks to play with. New oak is never used though.

The horse Bistere contributes to a healthy soil (Credit: M. Guignier)

La Bonne Pioche 2016 (M. Guignier)

Cherry red, slightly turbid. Lovely aromas of flowers and red berries (raspberry, redcurrant), and some barnyard notes underneath. Fresh acidity, meaty on the palate, with smooth tannins and a long and dry aftertaste.

Price: Medium

Food: Salads, light meat like bird, cold ham and meat, try with sushi…

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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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