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Category: Wine of the Week

Wine of the Week

Modern Mediterranean Monastrell

Let us start with the conclusion this time: This monastrell is a modern, juicy, “gluggable” wine way up the natural road – but at the same time it is the Mediterranean, slightly spicy, Provencal-herbal, hearty and quite recognizeable.

This particular wine is made by 30 year old wine maker María Jover (born in nearby Alicante) who has a modern approach. The vines are between 20 and 40 years old, organically grown, in the old system of “terraje”. This concept involves renting the vineyard to the farmers, who take care of the quality of the vines. As a bonus the landowner in this specific project 7% of the production is given back to the farmer. This is a very common practise in Jumilla for old vines.

The producer owns some 80 hectares, mostly monastrell. The grapes for this wine were de-stemmed, lightly pressed and fermented with indigenous yeasts on steel, before malo-lactic fermentation and a short ageing in cement.

Parajes del Valle Monastrell 2019 (Parajes del Valle)

Dark colour with a young blueish hint. Aromas of dark and red berries, like blackberry and cherry, aromatic herbs (rosemary, thyme), and a hint of lickorice. Juicy in the mouth, it has a coolness to it, like a fresh, natural acidity, but at the same time a serious southern quality hinting to coffee, or maybe tea leaves.

Price: Low

Food: Light meat dishes, bacalao, Murcian paella, pizza, hard cheeses, and almost everything from the grill

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Wine of the Week

Finca Valpiedra Reserva 2001

Finca Valpiedra is a single estate owned by Martínez Bujanda family. They started out in Rioja as early as 1889, and bought this place in the 1990’s. The finca is located in a bend of the Ebro river, between Fuentmayor and Cenicero. From here they launch wines in a crossroads between tradition and modernity, with some initial oakiness. Among the modern features are organic growing, estate focus, and the wines will reach the balance between oak and fruit after only a few years.

Credit: Martínez Bujanda

Tempranillo is the main grape, supported by a little cabernet sauvignon for structure and graciano for aroma. This particular wine also contains a tiny percent mazuelo (cariñena/carignan). The 2001 was a great vintage in Rioja, and the best wines, like this one, will last long.

Marta Martínez Bujanda and winemaker Lauren Rosillo
(in Rueda village)

Here you can read a report from their Rueda winery, where we also tasted their riojas.

Finca Valpiedra Reserva 2001 (Finca Valpiedra/ Martínez Bujanda)

Dark red with hint of brown. Forest fruits (blackberry), plums, thyme and eucalyptus over a thin layer of roast and dried fruits. Quite big, mature fruits in the mouth, with rounded tannins. In an optimal stage of evolution, without the sweetness of oak, still some freshness, the fruit intact, the individual parts integrated but still possible to detect.

Price: Medium

Food: We had it with entrecôte, and perfect with lamb, roast, game, hard cheeses…

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Wine of the Week

Clavidor still flies high

Sometimes when you feel a grape or a wine region has somewhat lost its direction, there are still someone that knows how to use a compass. It’s not that Rueda is completely lost, but the amount of uninspiring wines, often made with artificial yeast, together with the commercial success in the national market has made it one to “hate” for many. Good to know then, that there are people like Ismael Gozalo in the natural wine field. And among the producers working in a terroir-focused way with natural yeast there are a few. One of the leading ones, but often overlooked, is Bodegas Vidal Soblechero. They are mentioned before, and you can read about a visit here.

They are found in La Seca, located in the heart of Rueda, and the Spanish municipality with the most extensive vineyard. Claudio Vidal has tended the 42 hectares of family vineyards for several decades. Some of the plantings are more than seventy years old. With the climate, the old vines and the airing of the high plain, Rueda is a good place for organic farming.

Today it’s Claudio´s son Vidal and daughter Alicia who hold the reins, and founded in the 1990’s a small bodega built for their purpose.

Vidal and horse

The property is based on the verdejo grape, but they also own some viura (macabeo) and tinta fina (tempranillo). I appreciate their focus on small quantities of single plot wines, and tasting through their lines Pagos de Villavendimia (single plots) and Viña Clavidor (mostly estate blends) is a rewarding exercise. You have by now understood that you should consider this producer when searching for the authentic Rueda.

This week’s wind: The vineyards lie to the north of the municipality. In most of the plots they use the traditional bush vine system. All grapes are hand-picked, fermented in steel, only with indegenous yeast. Grapes from bush vines are harvested earlier, and for this wine some trellis style grapes are picked later. After alcoholic fermentation the final blend is left to age some months on the lees. In fact the wine is bottled every month, so the impact of the lees is stronger every time, as they are never removed. While the first bottlings are always fruitdriven, both complexity and ageing ability are increasing at the next bottlings. Only slightly fined and filtered.

Clavidor Verdejo 2018 (Bod. Vidal Soblechero)

Straw-coloured. Aroma of yellow apples and citrus (lemon), slightly yeasty, and a touch of apricot. Quite full and fleshy on the palate, with excellent but integrated acidity, and more to the mineral than the fruity side.

Price: Low

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Wine of the Week

Greek ancestral sparkler

It’s not often that we present natural wines from this ancient country, but here is a good Greek pét-nat. It’s the Kioutsoukis family, originally from the coast of the Black Sea, that brought the knowledge about winemaking with them to Greece. Now, here in the modern world they completed their conversion to naturals in 2015.

The traditional use of herb sprays are used if necessary, but wine responsible Dmitri Kioutsoukis’ ideal is to use as few treatments as possible.

They own 10 hectares of vineyards in the hills of Mygdonia in Northern Greece, not far from Thessaloniki. They have a strong focus on Greek grape like assyrtiko, malagousia, roditis and xinomavro. In the low hillside an all-year northernly wind secures healthy vineyards. The soils vary from clay-sand to small stones and schist. This slightly off-dry (15 grams) ancestral style sparkler is made from xinomavro and the whites malagousia and assyrtiko.

Kamara Pure Pét’ Nat 2019 (Kamara Estate)

Blood orange colour, turbid and quite bubbly. Smell of red berries (raspberry/strawberry), lime, grapefruit and mango. Good acidity, slightly bitter finish that balances the residual sugar.

Price: Medium

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Wine of the Week

Xarel.lo dream

Oníric and Entre Vinyes marks a new organic project from Maria and Fernando Barrena, also partners at Azul y Garanza, with headquarters in Navarra.

The Catalan word oníric means a dreamer and denotes the dream that the couple had, to take over and rescue old parcels and vines that had belonged to their family.

The grapes for this wine come primarily from an old vineyard in the the Baix Penedés with poor soils and naturally low yields. The grapes were pressed before a fermentation in steel tanks. After a 20 days fermentation the wine rests on lees for 6 months. It also undergoes a partial malolactic fermentation. Then it’s bottled with a small addition of sulphites. Unfined, unfiltered. 

Oníric Xarel.lo 2019 (Entre Vinyes/ Equilibri Natural)

Yellow with greyish green. Floral aromas with yellow apple and apricot, a touch of almond. Good volume in the mouth, good acidity and a slightly bitter finish.

Price: Low

Food: White fish and white meat, shellfish, hard and mild cheeses, salads

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Wine of the Week

Heinrich’s Natural White

In the leading roles: Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc.

With a little help from their friends: Welshriesling, Neuburger, Muscat Ottonel, Grüner Veltliner.

The most autochtonal grape varieties with indigenous character. Originally grown on limestone, schist and sedimentary soils. Handpicked, left overnight on the skins and stems, spontaneously fermented in large, old oak casks. Unfiltered. No sulfur added. Pure.

This is the beginning of the back label text, and it sums it all up well.

Credit: Weing. Heinrich

Gernot Heinrich runs his farm by the Neusiedler sea in a terroir-focused way with biodynamic treatments. His focus is on local grapes, and as such are the main actors in this performance among the minor grapes, the whole farm seen as a whole. It’s not a very small business, but after a more conventional big player start he now shares the principles normally associated with small artisan producers.

Natural White 2017 (Weing. Heinrich)

Turbid yellow-green-greyish. Aromatic flowers and elderberry, somewhat yeasty over a layer of apricot. Over all a wonderful glug-glug, full, with integrated acidity and the slightest bit of resistance in form of a peel’ish hint of bitterness.

Price: Low

Food: Apéritif, salads, charcuterie, fried fish

Finally, as the back label advices: Attention: For best enjoyment, shake before pouring!

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Wine of the Week

Wonderful red in white wine land

Here is another wonderful saline red wine from what many regard a white wine area in Rías Baixas. The winemaker is Eulogio Pomares, who has his own series of wines also, much acclaimed. (See for example here.)

Caiño tinto is a native variety of the Salnés Valley, a late-ripening variety that can give fruity wines with high acidity. The grapes for this particular wine come from a vineyard over 60 years old with granitic soil. The grapes are trodden without destemming, with daily ‘pigeage’ for four weeks in an open vat, where also fermentation takes place. It is aged for 8 months in three year old oak, where also malolactic fermentation took place. Bottled without filtering or clarification.

2017 had a hot spring with good flowering, but the rest of the year proved more or less unstable with quick changes. In September though, the temperatures were very mild, and the result was a healthy fruit.

Zárate Caíño Tinto 2017 (Eulogio Pomares/ Zárate)

Cherry colour. Fresh aroma of red berries (plums, raspberry), some pepper. Juicy, luscious in the mouth, but with a “serious” tannic edge, some spice, and a fresh, long acidity.

Price: Medium

Food: White fish, white meat, tapas, mild and hard cheeses

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Wine of the Week

Kreydenweiss Crémant

Kreydenweiss is a leading light in biodynamic Alsace. They perform well in various styles, and you can find several of their wines on these pages. May I for instance bring your attention to this original orange wine. This time we shall talk about a really good economic sparkler, made with half and half of auxerrois and pinot blanc.

It was created by Marc’s son Antoine, who now runs the family estate.

2015 was a year with sparse rainfall, partly saved by some showers in August. They now another crémant, but this remains somehow an entry-level fizz with grapes supplied by their partners. The quality was good, and as opposed to the year before the grapes were completely without rot. Surprisingly, in spite of the hot summer, the wine retain very well the acidity. Because of the hot weather the grapes were low on nitrogen, that feeds the fermentation, so it took a great deal of patience before it started.

Crémant d’Alsace 2015 (Marc Kreydenweiss)

Light straw-coloured, gentle mousse. Aroma of white flowers, lime, white peach and yeasty biscuit. Fresh style, high acidity, still a bit honeyed and quite full in the mouth.

Price: Low

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Wine of the Week

Iria Otero’s Ribeiro

I have met Iria a few times at fairs like Simplesmente of Porto (read a little more here). This summer we agreed on a visit on my way to Vigo and the nearby A Emoción fair. She makes wine in both Ríax Baixas and now also Ribeira Sacra, and they are excellent. But she is literally at home in Leiro, to where she moved with the family a few years ago, after having lived in Vigo and been commercial director of Dominio do Bibei.

When the time was right to make those important changes in life, she started with the Sacabeira label from the Salnés area of Rías Baixas. These are very stylish wines, both white and red. Here in Ribeiro Iria and her partner Miguel grow varieties like sousón, mencía, caíño tinto, treixadura and loureiro. They have one hectare on their own, and dispose of two more. Now Miguel is responsible for the work in the field. They are very clear that the vineyard they want is an organic one with little intervention, but with manual work when there is any, and chemicals are a non-existent issue. If the grapes are tasty in the vineyard, the chances for a good, balanced wine is there.

The project name “wines with memory” implies that she wants to show how they were made in the past, and also that the wines reflect the place they come from. She simply uses the time needed, and the respect that every variety requires.

Tasting and lunch in the kitchen

Here is a lot of granite soil, with some slate and clay. They wines have a maritime character, even though we are not as close to the sea as her vineyards in Rías Baixas. This can maybe be because of the varieties, especially caíño can have a saline touch, and Iria thinks it’s maybe more pronounced in granite soil.

Castes Brancas is, as the name suggests, made from white varieties, treixadura, godello, loureiro and torrontés. It was raised in concrete, where it stayed for 6 months.

A Seara Castes Brancas 2019 (Iria Otero)

Light golden; citric aroma, flowers, green apples and tasteful yellow plums, a bit herbal too; juicy and creamy in the mouth, vivid and energetic with a delisciuos natural acidity.

Price: Medium

Food: We had it with a wide selection of dishes, some of them typical tapas, containing both vegetables, fish and sausages. But it goes well to a great variety of light meat, fish, shellfish…

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Wine of the Week

Mysterious Muscadet Melon

Melon de Bourgogne can be difficult to get to grips with. Not long ago there was a Muscadet tasting in my private wine club, and after having tasted through some 15 lightly coloured white wines one of the members observed that nobody had yet said a word about citrus.

The other day my student had trouble in describing this wine. And so had I, to be honest. I often start placing the aroma along the “apple scale”. Nothing obvious here. Citrus: Nope. Herbs and spices were difficult to detect, no butter, and wood: not at all. In the mouth it was quite full, but there was no particular acidity to talk about. I was thinking, maybe is this the perfect wine, when words… don’t come easy, but what you have in the glass is just delicious and, yes just wine, and just right.

In the Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine appellation mother and daughter Véronique & Aurore have 75 hectares of vineyards. The Château du Coing vineyard is a south-facing one. Then, it’s a lees-aged wine typical for the area.

Château du St. Coing de Saint Fiacre l’Ancestral 2015 (Günther-Chéreau)

Straw yellow. Mature apples, some bread, white peach and maybe ginger. Full on the palate, a creamy lees character, medium length.

Price: Low-medium

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