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Category: Wine of the Week

Wine of the Week

Delicious Dão

As I this year concentrated on new Portuguese discoveries at the Simplesmente… Vinho fair, there were several great producers that I didn’t manage to visit. João Tavares de Pina was one (as were Aphros, Folias de Baco, Quinta da Carolina, Dirk Niepoort, Álvaro Castro, Quinta do Mouro…)

I visited their Quinta da Boavista in 2018, so you can read here for more background. But in short, this is a producer in Penalva do Castelo, northern Dão, who makes both delicious and fresh young wines to the natural side and wines with a long life.

João uses chamomile a.o. as protectors of the vines

This wine was kindly offered by João and his wife Luisa at the first outdoor lunch at the Faculty of Architecture (University of Porto), where the tastings were held this year. It’s based on the variety rufete, well suited for the local terroir, where it produces grapes with good acidity.

Torre de Tavares Rufete 2019 (João Tavares de Pina)

Dark cherry. Smells of quite mature berries (blackberry), and is balanced by a nice balsamic note (pine/resin). Medium bodied, with a smooth structure, lots of fruit and a fresh acidity.

Price: Medium

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Wine of the Week

A leading light in Jumilla

Casa Castillo has for long been considered one of the leading producers of Jumilla wines, today with José María Vicente in charge.

The winery is located to the west of Jumilla town, on the slopes of Sierra del Molar. Here, up to 760 metres, they own a big estate with diverse plantings including pine and almond trees, while 170 hectares are covered with vines. Under José María many of the international varieties have been replaced with monastrell and other Mediterranean grapes, and also garnacha, that is thriving well here.

Much of the soils are limestone, often with sand. Most of the wines are made fermented in steel or concrete, often with some amount of whole bunches, to counterbalance the ripeness in the grapes. Ageing is in concrete, foudre or old 500 liter French oak vats.

This wine is a blend of monastrell, syrah and garnacha.

with pulpo (squid) at Fish Bowl restaurant
Just over the Valencian border from Murcia

Viñedos de Altiplano 2018 (Casa Castillo)

Dark cherry. Aroma of black pepper, blackberry, herbs (thyme, anise), and a hint of chocolate. Medium body, mature fruits balanced with a nice acidity and a slight bitterness at the end. Very Mediterranean, very good.

Price: Medium

Food: Hearty dishes, stews, most kinds of meat, Murcian paella…

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Wine of the Week

Humus true to its roots

Back from the Simplesmente… Vinho 2021 I continue to enjoy Portuguese wine and its endless variations. Here is one that has been something of a house wine through the winter. As explained earlier, the fair was a bit more limited this year. One of the producers I missed was Rodrigo Filipe. I visited his farm in Alvorninha in the northern part of Lisboa wine region before the fair in 2018. The visit you can read about here.

Rodrigo working the vineyard with his employee Luís Gil, also winemaker

This is both a light, fresh and yet serious red, and I don’t understand those who don’t love this.

The grapes are castelão and touriga nacional (in almost equal parts), cultivated organically, destemmed, co-fermented with native yeast with 5 days in contact with the skins. Then the wine was on lees for 10 months in steel tanks. There are no additions, not even SO2, and the wine is unfined and unfiltered.

Humus Tosco Tinto 2018 (Encosta da Quinta)

Cherry red. Aromas of stony and red fruits (plum, cherry, cranberry), flowers and with a hint of spice. Fresh, juicy with a nerve and a light structure that keeps it from being merely a glou-glou. Long taste with a sublime acidity all the way.

Price: Medium

Food: Light meat, charcuterie, bacalhau, vegetarian, vegan…

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Wine of the Week

Simplesmente… delicious white

I am in Porto for the Simplesmente… Vinho fair. Right at the opening dinner there were several magnificent wines. The dinner had a theme too, variations of cabidela, a popular Portuguese dish containing rice and (most often) hen’s blood, in a program called Ordem da Cabidela.

Several memorable wines were served during that dinner. One was made by Quinta Várzea da Pedra. The brothers Tomás (winemaker) and Alberto Emídio are fourth generation.

Producer Alberto Emídio was present
at the dinner

The quinta is located in Bombarral, in the DOC Óbidos, between the Atlantic Ocean and Serra do Montejunto. This provides freshness and salty minerality to a series of exciting wines.

This wine is a varietal fernão pires. The grapes were grown in a vineyard in Sanguinhal on clay-limestone soil and harvested by hand in august. After destemming followed a soft pressing, then fermentation and 12 months on lees in steel tank.

Cabidela 5 Especiarias, created by chef David Jesús, with our wine

Fernão Pires 2017 (Q. Várzea da Pedra)

Light golden. Citrus (lime), yellow apples, flowers with a hint of tropical fruits. Fresh, unctuous, creamy, with a wonderful acidity and some minerality.

Price: Medium

Food: As you have seen, we had it with a special form of cabidela, but it should go with a great variety of fish, shellfish and light meat

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Wine of the Week

Ganko from Olivier Rivière, La Rioja

Frenchman Olivier Rivière has formerly worked with well-known Telmo Rodríguez. He came in 2004 to help converting the vineyards into biodynamic agriculture. But he liked Rioja so much that he decided to stay, and has since long bought grapes and made wines for himself. At the moment he makes wines from Rioja, Arlanza and Navarra. It is at the facilities of Bodegas Lacus in Aldeanueva de Ebro (Rioja Baja), where he is consulting, that he makes his wines.

He uses fermentation tanks of cement and oak (from 2,000 to 5,000 litres). The reds are often fermented with stems. In Rioja he sources his grapes from several areas. This wine Ganko, a blend of garnacha and mazuelo, comes from Cárdenas in Najerilla valley, on the right bank of the Ebro river. The vines are high altitude, old vines on sandy soils.

Ganko 2016 (Olivier Rivière)

Dark cherry red. Fresh and intense aroma of dark berries (blackberry), plums, and a balsamic touch. Concentrated, a lot of tannins, but rounded off, a sense of coolness in the fruit, long.

Price: Medium

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Wine of the Week

Riffin’ in Orange with Riffel

Bingen is maybe most mostly associated with Hildegard, the great composer, mystic, abbess that founded a monastery there nearly a thousand years ago. This improvised title bears more associations to the old jazz masters. But anyway: It is here, on the Nahe estuary in Rheinhessen, that Carolin and Erik Riffel have their home. Since I got to know them I have admired their wines. The organic Riesling Trocken is as stylish as it gets, the silvaners well-made, the pét nats (such as the scheurebe) truly inspiring. With this wine they go one step further, with a more un-tamed, naked orange wine.

But it’s only natural. As long as I have known them they have talked about their passion for the nature of wine, for their place and for the vintage in the glass. They intervene as little as possible, giving the wines the time they need. Today they have 16 hectares on quartzite soils, farmed biodynamically.

Erik and Carolin Riffel

The orange wine is made from equal parts sylvaner and gewürztraminer. They are handpicked, and destemmed, fermented on skins for two weeks. Parts of the wine are matured in barriques, the rest in steel and with six months on fine lees.

Orange-Naked Trocken 2019 (Weing. Riffel)

Golden colour, slighly turbid. Aroma of mature apples, pear, flowers, and a nutty hint. Smooth tannins in the mouth, good acidity, and though full flavours and a good lenght it is also a pure fun wine.

You are advised to turn the bottle upside down before opening, to get the full intensity from the yeasts too.

Price: Medium

Food. Asian dishes, light meat, tasty fish, many kinds of salads…

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Wine of the Week

Loxarel, a Clàssic Penedès

Loxarel I have met at a couple of artisan fairs, in Barcelona, and as far as I remember, in London too. Masia Can Mayol, the official name, is Josep Mitjans, fifth generation. When he got in charge of the family firm at a young age he changed the philosophy of this old winery. He started bottling wines, converting to organic, then implementing biodynamic techniques. (Here is another good sparkler from the house.)

The winery is located in Villobí, on a plain not far from Vilafranca del Penedès, but they have also plots in El Pla de Manlleu, higher in altitude and a bit further west.

This winery is among the many that are now abandoning the DO Cava. Among the reasons for this can be a challenging reputation that the appellation has gained over the years, and the fact that it is not dedicated to one specific geographical area. More about this in a future article.

This particular sparkler is made up from xarel.lo 55% (now widely recognized as the best of the “usual suspects” for ageing, then macabeo 30%, parellada 5%, and the rest chardonnay, a grape that I have nothing against, even not here, even not native. I interpret the name a pèl +18 as the time spent on lees (and not skins).

A Pèl +18 Brut Nature 2016 (Loxarel/ Masia Can Mayol)

Light straw, greenish tones, creamy mousse. Mild Mediterranean smell of aromatic herbs, yeast, mature lemons and yellow apples. Creamy, tasty, rounded but dry.

Price: Low

Food: Apéritif, Iberian cured ham, light fish and shellfish…

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Wine of the Week

A virtuoso Alsace Pirouette

Les Vins Pirouettes is an open Alsace project consisting of independent wine producers, always growing in number, and led by the respected Christian Binner. Their vineyards are organic or biodynamic certified, and cover many different soils and expositions in 13 different villages. Other than that then have their own personality and style.

Annual production is around 80,000 bottles. There is always spontaneous fermentation, no fining, no filtration, and no sulphur added.

The name Pirouette symbolizes the playfulness and fun they’re all having with this movement, but also the mastery needed to achieve a good result in this type of winemaking.

Each cuvée is vinified at the winemaker’s own place, with the gentle helping hand of the project’s enologists Xavier Couturier and Pierre Sanchez. So the individuality should always be intact.

Ensaladilla rusa the day after

The wine in question is a sylvaner from Ammerschwihr, from a vineyard planted in 1978-1983 on limestone, clay and pebbles. The grapes were picked and selected by hand, and the yield turned out to be 20 hl/ha.
Spontaneously fermented, matured in large, old oak vessels. Unfined and unfiltered. Certified oganic, with biodynamic principles.

Le Sylvaner d’Olivier 2016 (Les Vins Pirouettes)

Light golden. Aromatic with white flowers and elderberry, and some herbs. Medium weight, and very refreshing acidity.

Price: Medium

Food: Fish, vegetables, light meat…

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Wine of the Week

Not at all ‘Swart’ from Swartland

Here is another “house wine”, when I want a little more power, or “skin”, than a normal white. Swartland, Blackland in the Afrikaans language, because the predominant rhinoceros bush turns dark after the rains. But it’s not only the landscape that is special here; the spirit of the winegrowers is a veritable force.

Mother Rock Wines was established in 2014 by Johan Meyer. I have written about the project before (like here), and I still predict that the producer will rise in fame and his wines accordingly rise. The news are that Johan and his partner Anri moved into their new property Plattenklip (northwestern Swartland) in 2019, and produced their first vintage in 2020 in their own winery. They have now planted new vineyards on exciting sites, so we know that there will be new interesting wines from them.

This wine comes from a single vineyard in Paardeberg planted in 1980, on granite-rich soil. Only chenin blanc, pure chenin. Whole bunches were pressed into steel tanks where the fermention starts naturally. It’s mostly aged in steel, but has seen a small amount of old oak. Unfiltered and without added sulphuur.

Force Celeste 2020 (Mother Rock)

Light yellow. Aromas of citrus, yellow apples, peach, a light touch of peel. Good weight in the mouth, creamy lees-character, but with a very fine acidity that cuts elegantly through, and contributes to a long, salty finish.

Price: Low

Food: Tapas and charcuterie, red fish, fried white fish, light meat…

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Wine of the Week

Kultik from Burgenland

Biokult is a small group of organic certified vineyards in Burgenland, Austria. The members share a special dedication and commitment to promote biodiversity and important forms of sustainability. They grow their own grapes, while it is Angela Michlits from producer Meinklang nearby, who is responsible for the vinification. Meinklang may be more famous for the big audience, but in bars for artisan wines Biokult is rapidly building a …yes, cult is maybe an appropriate word, for their biologic wines.

This wine is made from equal parts zweigelt, pinot noir, blaufrãnkisch and st. laurent. The soil here is sandy clay in a vineyard planted plot by plot between 1990 and 2010. The grapes were hand-picked and underwent spontaneous fermention and saw 12 hours maceration on skins. It’s a low-sulphur wine (maximum 40 mg total SO2).

Here with Lebanese take-away

Pét Nat 2020 (Biokult)

Light pink, slightly pétillant. Fresh and simple wine, with aromas of strawberry and rhubarb. Juicy, berry-flavoured in the mouth, with a fresh acidity. Glou-glou.

Price: Low

Food: Apéritif, shellfish, salads…

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