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Category: Wine of the Week

Wine of the Week

Ganko 2018

This was one of the rioja wines that stood out in a local wine club tasting. It’s made by Bordeaux-born Olivier Rivière, who took a job in Rioja in 2004, after having studied enology in Montagne Saint-Émilion and worked briefly for several wineries. Among them were Domaine Leroy in Vosne-Romanée, where he learnt about their biodynamic methods. He decided to stay in Rioja and began looking for specific vineyards grown organically, with the goal to buy grapes and make his own wine.

Ganko is a 50/50 blend of mazuelo and garnacha The grapes are grown in the village of Cárdenas in the Alto Najerilla. Here in 600 meters altitude the old vines grow on sandy soils. It’s a rugged zone with only small plots. The wine is fermented with whole bunches in a 3.000-liter oak foudre and matured in used barrels.

Perhaps you wonder what the word ganko means? It’s Japanese for stubborn, a nickname given to Olivier by a Japanese importer. Olivier liked it and gave the name to this wine.

Ganko 2018 (Olivier Rivière)

Dark cherry red. Aroma of wild berries (blackberry), flowers and herbs (thyme). Fine-grained tannins, a cool, fresh acidity and a long and dry finish. Complex and elegant.

Price: Medium

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Wine of the Week

A fresh Alella Gran Reserva

Here is an ecologic cava from the varieties pansa blanca (local name for xarel.lo), macabeu and parellada. The Alta Alella winery is run by the Pujol-Busquets family in the Serralada de Marina Natural Park, just north of the city of Barcelona. Mireia, daughter of founders Josep Maria and Cristina Pujol-Busquets, is currently wine-maker.

Alta Alella’s wines are made from their own grapes. The soils are low in pH, which compensates for the warm Mediterranean climate and give acidity to the wines. They are based on the decomposed granite called sauló, with a sandy texture and good drainage.

All work in the vineyard is manual. After a gentle pressing each of the varieties for this wine ferment separately. Then there is a second fermentation in bottle following the traditional Champenoise method. Unfermented must is used to provide the sugar for the secondary fermentation in bottle, and SO2 is added only after disgorging. The ageing on lees is 30 months (thus the youngest of their cavas). It is disgorged before release, with the disgorgement date noted on the label.

None of Alta Alella’s wines receives dosage.

Mirgin Gran Reserva 2017 (Alta Alella)

Light straw. Fruity, green apple, lemon peel, chalk and some brioche autolycic quality. Full in the mouth, mellow mousse, good acidity, dry, saline, long.

Price: Low/ medium

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Wine of the Week

Trentino’s leading light

I have recently had two opportunities to taste Foradori’s range. The first was at restaurant Smalhans of Oslo, with Theo Foradori and their Norwegian importer Non Dos in mid-March. Then at Barcelona’s Vella Terra fair in the beginning of April (look for a forthcoming article), when I for the first time met Theo’s mother, the beautiful Elisabetta.

Theo Foradori on his visit to Oslo

Foradori makes some magnificent white wines at the foot of the Dolomites mountains. (Read about one of them here.) But they also do a terrific job with their reds. Not least is it interesting to go through the many faces of the grape teroldego. Elisabetta is like a queen of teroldego; when she took over the winery at a young age she brought in new and better clones, switched to biodynamics, replaced barrels with clay vessels and botti and elevated the grape to a level yet unseen.

The grape grows only in Trentino, and thrives best in Campo Rotaliano, where Foradori have all their vineyards. They make two single-plot wines, Morei and Sgarzon, with exactly the same vinification. The wines demonstrate how different teroldego can be in different soils.

Elisabetta Foradori at the Vella Terra

Here we shall speak about maybe the producer’s most simple red. It is as well made as all the others. I mean simple as in light, delicious, easy to drink; and I never miss an opportunity to taste – and drink it. Lezèr is a light red, almost rosé wine that comes from various light macerations in amphora, wood, steel and cement, and then aged four months in concrete vats. It started out in vineyards some 30 years old.

Lezèr means in local dialect. Some claim that the name teroldego comes from “oro del Tirolo” – in other words “the gold from Tyrol”.

Lezèr 2021 (Foradori)

Light ruby with blueish hint. Red berries (raspberry), plums, flowers. Luscious in the mouth, fine-grained tannins, integrated acidity.

Price: Medium

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Wine of the Week

Authentic Verdejo, aged

I am travelling Rueda in search of the historic wines of the area. Vidal Soblechero has this, and I will come back to it in a future post. Now I want to bring your attention to something that sadly is scarce, organically made verdejo from single plots, old bush vines – and this producer even disposes of beautifully aged wines of that sort.

It’s always a pleasure to see Alicia and her brother Vidal Vidal Soblechero (no misspelling here!) and their falcons in La Seca, DO Rueda area. I really wonder why this estate is not more famous. From the young Clavidor to their single plot wines, the reds and their historic dorado wine, this is nothing but perfect.

We were driving through Finca Varrastrojuelos, a vineyard that also gives a very special viura. The highest part is a two hectare piece where the Finca El Alto wine is sourced. This part of the plot has around one-hundred years old verdejo on partly decomposed limestone. Here are many pebbles in the surface. Strong winds are frequent, but less dangerous than in other plots. In the middle of the plot is planted a fig tree. The idea is that the ripeness of the figs shall advise on the time to harvest the grapes.

The wine is fermented and aged for 10 months in two 300 liter oak barrels. 730 bottles produced.

Pago de Villavendimia Finca El Alto 2013 (Vidal Soblechero)

Clear yellow. Mature apples, white pepper, a touch of exotic fruit. Glyceric in the mouth, a hint of caramel, long taste with integrated acidity. A true, authentic aged verdejo still in its prime.

Price: Medium

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Wine of the Week

Saline white from Salina

Here is a wine from a tasting in my local wine club, that showcased grapes from southern Italy. (See an entry from Campania here.)

Antonino Caravaglio is located at the foot of the Monte dei Porri volcano on the island of Salina, off the north coast of Sicily. Here the vineyards stretch from 10 to 650 meters above sea level, mainly malvasia. In total the firm comprises about 20 hectares, divided into many parcels, some of which are on the other islands of the Aeolian archipelago.

For centuries, the economically most important products here were wine and capers. And Nino makes not only wine, but also what literature claims to be the world’s best capers.

Salina seen from Lipari (Credit: Caravaglio)

This wine is made from malvasia di lipari grapes, relatively young vines (10-20 years) organically grown on volcanic sand and rock in a vineyard called Tricoli, that means triangle in Aeolian dialect. The vineyard is located on the northern side of the island of Salina, facing north-west and overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The grapes were hand-harvested and sorted in the fields, pressed in whole bunches and fermented with indigenous yeasts in steel, then aged in tanks on lees for three months. Low sulphur.

Infatata 2019 (Az. Agr. Caravaglio)

Light straw yellow. Aromas of litchis and jasmine over a layer of herbs (thyme). Glyceric in the mouth, integrated acidity, a touch of grapefruit and a saline finish. Clean and stylish.

Price: Medium

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Wine of the Week

Xinomavro excels

The wines of Greece have come a long way from the tourist spots’ retsina or the reds of the whitewashed tavernas in western Europe. Enter Apostolos Thymiopoulos, presenting this week’s wine Xinomavro Young Vines!

His contribution here is a red from the grape xinomavro (pronounced ks-) raised in the Naoussa appellation of Macedonia.

Nils-Are Økland, my colleague in Vinforum, put it this way in an article from 2019: “The rich ancient literature in Greece testifies to the importance of wine in early European culture. (…) Both Plato, Aristophanes and Hippocrates discuss the joys and challenges of wine in their writings. (…) Vines were also important in Greek cultural export and the colonization of Sicily and the coastal areas of southern Italy. In light of this proud history, it is striking how petty Greek wine industry has been in modern times. (…) But there are many indications now that Greek wine will have its well-deserved renaissance.”

Winemaker Apostolos Thymiopoulos is based in Trilofos, in the Naoussa region, one and a half hours south of Thessaloniki in northern Greece. Overlooking both the Aegean Sea and the Olymp he works organically and biodynamically in both own and contracted vineyards. He is maybe at his best with high-altitude xynomavro grapes. This week’s wine comes from vineyards at 400 and 600 meters above sea level, maybe not impressive, but higher than normal in Naoussa. This, together with a poor soil with schist, granite and limestone also contributes to a fresh fruit. Wild yeasts are used, and it’s aged 8 months in concrete.

Xinomavro Jeunes Vignes 2020 (Thymiopoulos)

Ruby red. Red fruits (raspberry), herbs and a stony minerality. Textured, yet juicy, with nice acidity and a mineral finish.

Price: Low

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Wine bars and restaurants and Wine of the Week

Duo at Barcelona’s Garage Bar

The rain in Spain falls… and falls. I’ve come to Barcelona to attend the Vella Terra fair. Walking from my hotel through the square outlined part of the Eixample district, when entering the quiet and pleasant Sant Antoni neighborhood, the sky is wide-open. What is then better than to take refuge in the Garage Bar, that opens right now after the daily break. In the bar I am welcomed by Stefano Fraternali, co-owner. Soon after Ale Delfino show up at my table. Ale is Stefano’s wife and chief organizer of the fair. The theme is thus set.

I let Stefano chose. He served four wines to the small, well-made dishes Pan amb tomate (the Catalan bread classic, here fermented dog 24 hours), marinated olives (own recipe marinade), vitello tonnato (veal with tuna-mayonnaise served cold) and their own burrata (mozzarella on toast, here with champignons, red onions and truffle oil), the two latter maybe a nod to Stefano’s Italian past.

These were Ephraim Mel 2021, a gentle skin-contact garnacha blanca (Sifer Wines, Catalunya), Le Glam Cab du Bled, a fruity, peppery carbonic maceration gamay/ cabernet franc (Laurent Lebled, Loire) and Aldo Viola’s light, raspberry-fresh Saignée Rosso 2019, made from nerello mascalese/ perricone/ syrah (Alcamo, Sicilia).

But first he served this week’s pick. This is born from a duo of grapes, each from their vineyard. The xarel.lo vineyard with the name Cal Tusac, that was planted in 1955, and a macabeu vineyard planted in 1974. We are in Santa Margarida i els Monjos in Penedès, Catalunya. The soil in the first one has marl and chalk, and is northeast-facing. The second, nearby, but over in Vilafranca del Penedès, is south facing, flat with clay and lots of sunshine. Two quite different vineyards, in other words. The viticulture is organic in both. The grapes were hand-picked early September, then very lightly pressed. Then spontaneous fermentation with indigenous yeasts, before stainless steel for ten and a half months while doing battonage. After almost a year the two wines were brought together and finally bottled unfiltered.

Cal Tusac Vinyes 55+74 Xarel.lo i Macabeu 2016 (Cal Teixidor)

Light straw. Yellow apples, pears, a herbal touch (thyme). Good acidity, long, and also with a mineral note. A wonderful duo of grapes, fresh for a 16.

Price: Medium

Food: Grilled fish, tasty shellfish, rice dishes, pairing, soft and semi-cured cheeses, a variety of tapas

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Wine of the Week

Canlibero can

Last Monday’s tasting in my private wine club was dedicated to wines from southern half of Italy, most of them from the grapes falanghina, fiano and greco di tufo. And it was the former, the only one without a DOCG, that excelled the most.

Ennio Romano Cecaro and his wife Mena cultivate four hectares in Benevento in the Campania region. The vines are between 60 and 90 years old, biodynamically farmed.

Credit: Canlibero

The cellar is built in an old tufo cave under the house where the couple lives, and the vinification is very simple. All the wines get a long skin-maceration in steel tanks, and no filtration or additions of any kind are carried out. The annual production is no more than 3.000 bottles.

This week’s wine fermented in open tubs, stayed five months on the skins and was bottled without addition of sulphites, clarification or filtration. I have tasted quite a few wines from the producer at natural wine fairs and bars. And once again convinced: Yes, Canlibero can!

Iastemma 2018 (Canlibero)

Amber, slightly turbid. Complex aroma of orange peel, white flowers, and a light volatility, over a layer of anise and honey. Sapid, lightly textured with integrated acidity, long.

Price: Medium

Food: Salads, light meat, fried fish, sushi, fermented food, Asian…

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Wine of the Week

Expressive Riojan garnacha

This is a Riojan garnacha with a strong varietal character, that takes me towards its relatives in the Gredos mountains on the other side of the capital. This can be because the producer’s collegues in Rioja don’t put enough focus on the grape and its qualities, – maybe because of its lack of reputation, or the producers’ tendency to oak everything in sight.

Sandra Bravo is not among them. She is one of the producers in the group Rioja’n’Roll, from a dynamic generation that wants to move forward from the stereotype of the blending eras. She was probably the first in Rioja to use amphorae for maturing wines, and she never lets the oak get in the way for the local typicity, be it Rivas de Tereso, at the foot of the Toloño) or over in Villabuena de Álava (Basque Country).

Sandra has also launched a wine called La Dula Garnachas de Altura (garnacha from the heights). This one is a single parcel wine from a vineyard in Rivas de Tereso, planted in 1944 at 700 meters altitude. It’s fermented and aged in a 300 liters amphora.

Edit: I realized that I had highlighted the same wine in the 2018 vintage three years ago, from the Simplemente Vinho fair. Read about it here.

La Dula 2018 (Sierra de Toloño)

Dark cherry red. Cool, concentrated aroma of wild berries (blackberry, elderberry), raspberry and a lovely flowery scent, with a stony, mineral touch. Rounded tannins, integrated, fresh natural acidity, expressive and long.

Price: Medium/high

Food: Game, other tasty meat, but also more delicate dishes like vitello tonnato, charcuterie

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Wine of the Week

Fumé on fire

Here is a smoky, concentrated and vivid fumé – or sauvignon- blanc. Vintner Johannes Zillinger is located in the Austrian region Weinviertel in Niederösterreich, north of Wien. He farms biodynamic and has a natural approach, which means no chemicals in the vineyard, spontaneous fermentation, unfiltered wines, and so on.

The soil is loess and limestone, and for this wine the age of the vines is 30 years. It was fermented in amphora with whole berries for a few days, then just lightly pressed, then aged for a year on the lees, first in amphora, then in used oak. Bottling was done unfiltered and without sulphites added. Only 800 bottles made.

Numen Fumé Blanc 2027 (J. Zillinger)

Light golden, a bit cloudy. Orange peel, nectarine, peach, wild flowers and herbs. Concentrated, creamy, with a mineral finish. Tasty and elegant.

Price: Medium

Food: Light meat, grilled fish, tasty salads

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