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Category: Wine of the Week

A Yecla monastrell bargain

Here is a wine that is almost free of charge…

I visited the Candela family once in the 90s. Today it’s the fourth generation, brothers Antonio and Alfredo, that is leading the growing of the grapes and the making of the wine here. They also count on a restaurant in the building where you can sit and watch the landscape. And “here” is Yecla, a one-municipality D.O. in Murcia, between the Spanish meseta and the Costa Blanca. Bodegas Barahonda owns and controls vineyards both in the Campo Arriba, where the climate is continental, with high temperatures in summer and a freezingly cold winter, and nearer to the more temperate coast in Campo Abajo.

They make many different wines, but Yecla is mainly monastrell country, and many of the most interesting wines are made by the Mediterranean grape, the same as came to be called mourvèdre when it travelled over the French border. The Carro comes in two versions, most often it’s a blend, but this version is a 100% monastrell made from old vines (from both subregions, between 400 and 800 meters), with natural yeasts and spontaneous fermentation. Never seen a barrel in its entire life.

Carro Monastrell Viñas Viejas 2013 (Bodegas Barahonda)

Deep red with a blue hue. It’s a light wine, but with quite dark fruit, blackberry, and a touch of the typical murciano aromatic herbs (rosmary, thyme). Young, luscious taste, quite full and just enough refreshing acidity.

Price: Low

Food: Light meat, salads, murcian paella…

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Another rich wine from Zind Humbrecht

Zind Humbrecht has for long been one of the leading lights for biodynamic wines, rich, fullbodied, yet balanced – and wonderful for the season that’s now approaching.

The company was set up by the Zind and Humbrecht families in 1959. Today it is represented by Olivier Humbrecht who sees himself in a father-to-son tradition that goes back to 1620. In total the domaine has 40 hectars under vine and has been biodynamic certified since 1991. Since 1992 it has been located just outside Turckheim, on the Colmar side.

They prefer long growing periods to achieve ripe and concentrated grapes, often with botrytis that gives sweet, exotic aromas. Fermentations are slow, and the minimum of time spent on lees is 6 months. The result are very impressive, intense, rich, alcoholic wines, often with residual sugar, that nonetheless keep the characteristics of their different vineyards. They will keep, and they will “dry up” after some years in the cellar. Last year I tasted the 1989 version of this week’s wine, a wine in excellent condition.

clos-jebsal Clos Jebsal

The Jebsal is one of the steepest vineyards in Alsace with a surface of 1.3 ha. south-exposed in the commune of Turckheim. It lies on grey marl limestone, rich in clay and gypsum, with numerous terraces. At a time abandoned and divided into many smaller plots, Leonard Humbrech managed to restore it in 1982. It was then planted with pinot gris, and the first vintage to be bottled was 1987.

Despite the ability to produce sweet, botrytised wines (in fact all vintages have been sweet, most often a vendange tardive) this vineyard also is the first in the domain to see flowering and véraison (the changing of colour, beginning of ripening), and thus produce wines often characterised by cool soils. The soil has a good water retention capacity and prevents stress, so it can yield wines with a natural balanced acidity.

Pinot Gris Clos Jebsal Vendange Tardive 2005 (Zind Humbrecht) 37,5 cl.

Yellow-gold colour. Aromas of orange, herbs, dried fruits, honey, and a touch of smoke. Very intense and (I would say) moderately sweet, but the acidity comes out after a while. A concentrated, flinty and very long aftertaste.

Price: High

 

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My best from the Beaujolais thursday

I admit it, I was no fan of the Nouveau releases when the craze was at its peak in the 1980s. Nowadays I am much more geared towards the wines from southern Burgundy, and I rarely miss the opportunity to taste some new releases from Beaujolais. Here is my favourite among the wines I tasted yesterday. The legendary Marcel Lapierre was there when it all started. He passed away in 2010, but his widow Marie and son Matthieu continues to give us one delicious wine after the other.

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The label for this wine has been drawn by Maurice Sinet, of Charlie Hebdo fame. I just came to think of it, in these days when we cry for Paris again.

 

Beaujolais Nouveau 2015 (Ch. Cambon/ M. Lapierre)

Light red. Fresh in the strictest sense, flowery with raspberries and cherries. Soft on the palate with just the right touch of acidity. Just lovely.

Price: Low

Food: Just fine without, but nice with salads, light meat, and white fish too

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An elegant and complex Oregon pinot

It was in the latest edition of our local wine club that we found many interesting US wines, for me especially reds, and a rosé. Some of the stars were the light, elegant Californian reds from Anthill Farms (Anderson Valley and Sonoma Coast) and Copain (Anderson Valley) that we have known for a while. But that night’s revelation was a darker, and maybe more complex wine from Oregon.

Cristom dispose of several vineyards with highly different characteristics. From these they elaborate both single vineyard wines and blends. My local shop has more of the singular wines, so I have probably already been back there by the time you read this. All their vineyards are LIVE (low input viticulture and enology) certified, but they see far beyond their own vines as they also work with the authorities for the healthiness of the state’s rivers and watershed.

Cristom_Jessie Vineyard_Slope Jessie

The Jessie Vineyard (named after one of the owners’ grandmother) is one of the steapest in the Willamette Valley, and one of the most varied in soil composition, including five different volcanic soils. There is also the so-called “jory”, a typical Willamette soil, a deep, well-drained, silty clay loam soil from igneous bedrock.

 

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Eola-Amity Hills Pinot Noir “Jessie Vineyard” 2012 (Cristom Vineyards)

Quite dark, deep red. Ripe red fruit, cherrie, flowers, mushrooms, a bit earthy. A full mouth-feel, a vibrant acidity that contrasts with the ripeness of the fruit and great lenght.

Price: High

Food: Red meat, game

 

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A Bardolino chiaretto

Fresh, appealing rosé wine that costs “no money”. Made from corvina (80%) and molinara, and made in the stainless steel low temperature fermentation tradition.

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Bardolino Chiaretto Organic 2014 (Villabella)

Light salmon pink. Discrete notes of red fruits, apricots, and lime. Dry, yet with a smooth texture, quite full on the palate.

Price: Low

Food: White fish, delicate shellfish, salads

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Cabernet Franc from the Loire

For six generations or more than 180 years the Amirault family has stayed at Le Clos des Quarterons. They claim to constantly strive to achieve a natural balance across the entire estate. This led them to the decision to run the vineyard biodynamically.

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The grape is cabernet franc grown in a soil mainly of gravel and silty clay, with some limestone. The grapes were harvested by hand, macerated in tank for 5 to 6 weeks, and aged for more than a month in demi-muids (500 litre barrels). It was a blend from all the old plots of vines on the estate (average age 55 years).

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Le Clos de Quarterons Vielles Vignes 2012 (Amirault Vignerons)

With decanting the wine reveals traces of violet, blueberry and blackcurrant. Quite soft, quite complex, and by no means marked by the oak.

Price: Low

Food: Red meat, game, salads, some not too spicy dishes, and according to the producer: Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”

 

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A very drinkable barolo

For this week’s edition of our private wine club the host had put together a really nice selection of Piemonte nebbiolos, including three Produttori single vineyard Barbaresco riservas, and the rest Barolo. Among these one of my favourites was Roagna 2009. This week’s selection is however Erbaluna’s barolo from the same year.

Az. Agr. Erbaluna is located in La Morra, where they own 9,5 hectars planted with vines. They work strictly organic in vineyard and cellar.

The wine is, quite obviously, made from pure nebbiolo, 35 years old vines in calcareous clay. It was spontaneously fermented, had skin contact for four weeks and was and matured for three years in large wooden vats (3000 liters).

The wine we tasted was included in the portfolio of Norwegian importer Non Dos, who has also actively contributed in the making of the wine.

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Barolo Cru Vigna Rocche 2009 (Az. Agr. Erbaluna)

Cherry red. Concentrated yet light, with aromas of raspberries, flowers and some underwood. Luscious, and fruity. Though quite high in alcohol and a touch of that typical tannic structure it is a barolo on the light side, and very drinkable indeed.

Price: Medium

Food: Red meat (lamb) and game, stews, hard cheeses

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An inspiring Jura Chardonnay

I may be out of tune, but chardonnay is normally not one of my favourite grapes. Of course there are many good wines made from it, but I think that the legend is bigger. Once in a while something comes along that is different, savoury, natural, and I might say engaging too.

Anne & Jean-François Ganevat is located in the small village of La Combe in the green rolling hills of the Jura, between Burgundy and Switzerland. Here in a cool climate, with vineyards planted on slopes at varying altitudes and gradients wine are made in a great variety of styles. Here they make truly inspiring wines from both red and white, famous and ‘local’ grape varieties, certified as biodynamic.

All grapes are de-stemmed by hand, and the use of sulphur is down to an absolute minimum. The whites are aged on the lees for extended periods. Other features are whole cluster fermentation, no racking of must, and all whites go through malolactic fermentation. This one is made from 100% chardonnay and has stayed for a number of months in big, old wooden vats.

 

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Ganevat Dolium 2012 (A. & J.-F. Ganevat)

Deep yellow/orange. Perfumed, with notes of citrus, apricot and dried fruits. Full, luscious taste, quite glyseric, just the right acid, in perfect balance and very long.

Price: Medium

Food: fish, salads, light meat, and why not the local Comté cheeses.

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On the stage tonight: Encruzado

South from Tondela, towards the southwestern corner of Dão, lies Mouraz. We are in granite land, and António Ribeiro was born into this, amidst the family vineyards and the olives and pines. Sara Dionísio, his companion, has a more southern background. Dance brought them together, as António was an editor of an arts magazine while Sara was a dancer. Today their portfolio includes wines from nearby Minho and Douro, and from southern Alentejo too.

Among the Portuguese grape varieties many will say that alvarinho is the star, while loureiro and arinto would be runners-up. Here is another contender. Encruzado is very much linked to the Dão area, where it gives delicate wines with flowery aromas with citrus notes.

The wine in question here is made in small quantities. The grapes comes from various parcels of granitic soil, from vines averaging 30 years. The grapes were picked by hand in mid-September. The fermentation was carried out in inox for some 3 months, with controlled temperatures. It stayed on its lees for 6 months, with som batonnage now and then.

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Casa de Mouraz Encruzado 2013 (António Lopes Ribeiro)

Very refreshing, aromatic, with notes of white flowers and herbs (or is it fennel), some lemon, just a slight hint of apricot, and a minerality that reminds me of crushed stone. Nicely balanced between an acid structure and some glyseric richness, but still with a light feel. Though delightful now, I believe it has some ageing potential.

Price: Low

Food: Fish (both white and salted cod, salmon too), white meat, and it must be nice with the region’s cheeses, like the ones from Estrela.

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Flowery Axarquía white

Bodegas Bentomiz is located in Sayalonga, near Vélez-Málaga, now the capital of the old cultural landscape Axarquía. They make a variety of wines, from dry via off-dry, to sweet wines. The Dutch owners Clara Verheij and André Both grow their vines in a traditional way, with total respect of the land.

2. André en Clara André and Clara

Aside from varioius moscatel wines they make reds, among them a sweet merlot, and an interesting rosé from the slightly obscure romé variety. This week’s wine is the driest of the moscatels, sourced from grapes (the Alejandría type) mostly on slate, and between 450 and 900 meters, that gives the wine an inspiring acidity. It’s cold-fermented, seen no oak, but it has benefited from 6 months over fine lees.

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Ariyanas Seco Sobre Lías Finas 2013 (Bodegas Bentomiz)

Light yellow with a green tinge. Typical moscatel flower aromas, hints of citrus, yellow apple and aromatic herbs. Light in taste, fruity all the way, a silky texture and not completely dry, a hint of bitterness towards the end, everything nicely balanced.

Price: Medium

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