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Wine of the Week

Aragonese macabeo against the stream

I had two wines from Bodegas Frontonio at a tasting this week. They are found in Valdejalón, a non-DO area within a triangle formed by Campo de Borja, Calatauyd and Cariñena – and not far from Zaragoza, capital of Aragón. It comprises the area around Jalón, a tributary to the Ebro river.

(Credit: B. Frontonio)

The people behind the Frontonio project are Fernando Mora (one of Spain’s new Masters of Wine, who started to make his own wine in 2008) and his friends Francisco Latasa and Mario López.

On their website they refer to a local legend from the Roman times, when the head of patron saint Frontonio was thrown into the Ebro near Zaragoza, but later found upstream along the banks of the Jalón in Épila, the village where they are located. They compare this tale to their own story, suggesting that these “garage wines”, made in very small quantities (now 6.000 bottles), are something of a miracle and a result of going against the stream.

Miracle or not, the wines are excellent. Today they have several lines, such as an entry-level range and some single vinyard wines. Microcósmico are their village wines, blended from two or more vineyards. The garnacha has the power and the earthiness of the region, but it’s also very fresh and inviting. This macabeo is made from old vines on a rocky soil. The whole area is chalky with a layer of clay to retain the humidity from the sparse rainfall. There is both continental and mediterranean influence, as the winds shift between coming north-west or south-east in the Ebro depression, but generally speaking this is a hot and dry land. The macabeo is made from 65 year old plants, spontaneously fermented, partly in oak, but mostly in concrete.

Microcósmico Macabeo 2017 (Bodegas Frontonio)

Light yellow with a greenish hint. Aroma of white flowers and citrus, backed by ginger and a touch of smoke. Great concentration on the palate, an acidity that adds to the structure and a long, dry finish.

Price: Medium

Food: Grilled fish, bacalao, tasty seafood, light meat, salads and vegetables (must be delicious with local ‘piquillo’ peppers in olive oil), a variety of cheeses

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Wine of the Week

A modern-traditional wine from Burja Estate

Primož Lavrenčič is found in the Vipava valley about 40 km east of the Italian border, where he owns 8 hectares of vineyards.

His objective is to make a modern wine based on traditional methods. He says that he “controls the temperature and oxidation” in the wine cellar, but “encouraging the rest”.

Burja Estate - photo - Primož Lavrenčič

(Credit: Burja Estate)

He has a holistic approach to both vine, wine and nature. This includes stimulating spontaneous fermentation, because “the diversity of yeast strains contributes to the complexity of the wine and provides original expression of each vineyard”. Some of the old folks would have prohibited the low temperatures, to take the full advantage of the extended skin-contact). So this is maybe then a modern, elegant white with a nod to the traditional orange wines of the area.
The work in the vineyard is done according to organic and biodynamic principles. The grape composition is laški rizling (Italian riesling or Welschriesling) 30%, malvazija (d’Istria) 30%, rebula (ribolla gialla) 30%. 7 days skin-maceration in steel, 10 months ageing in barrel.

Bela 2016 (Burja Estate)

Deep golden. Aroma of mature fruits, citrus, peach, herbs, white pepper. Full on the palate, a touch of nuts and a natural, integrated acidity.

Price: Medium

Food: Light meat, pig, veal, grilled and white fish, tasty salads

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At the Vella Terra fair, Barcelona

Vella Terra, now in its 4th edition, is organized by Alejandra Delfino and Stefano Fraternali. In Barcelona’s Estació del Nord there were on 10-11th February gathered more than 100 producers. In addition there were several activities linked to the fair. One of these was an Asian-Catalan fusion kitchen with orange wines, presented by the Casa Xica restaurant and held at the festival’s own Garage Bar, and a tasting of natural sparkling wines at the Toto restaurant. Another was a presentation of aged natural wines from the Catalan pioneers, also at the Garage Bar, where I was lucky to get a seat.

I would say that this event has a more international air to it than the Vins Nus, held in the city at the same time. Here were many winemakers from Catalunya and other Spanish regions, but the features from other countries were much more evident. France, Italy, Portugal and Austria were among the well-represented places. Just like the Vins Nus the objective is to raise people’s awareness of natural and organic wines, and to eat and drink healthier. Like at the other fair, the goal is to present wines made by minimal intervention. But I would say that there is a slight difference in approach, and that the producers here are, well maybe not more open, but could we say: less strict in their view of the use of SO2 (to say it simple, or maybe over-simplified).

Vella Terra at the Estació del Nord

There were so many interesting, personal wines, that I can only present some highlights. And again, I will try to limit myself to one wine from each producer, though I know that again it will not be easy.

Antonio Portela

While the albariños of coastal Galicia should be well-known the reds don’t have the same recognition. Forget the images you may have of dark, sturdy, bubbling, bitter wines from the old days! Now there are several producers who show how fine, elegant and cool the coastal reds can be. Two of them were represented here. I will tell more about Antonio Portela later, whom I visited a couple of weeks after this fair. Although he is not far from Cambados, where the headquarters of the Consejo Regulador of Rías Baixas is located, his farm on the Morrazo peninsula is outside the delimitations of the DO area. So he uses terms as ‘tintos marineiros’ (something like ‘reds from the sea’), he uses grapes like espadeiro branco (related to the loureiro), tinto caiño, and he is a defender of the local grape tinta femia (related to the caiño redondo). His low vineyards in or near the beaches are the most atlantic in the whole of Galicia.

His red wines are from the parish of Cela in the town of Bueu, and the white wines from O Hío in the town of Cangas. They are all fresh and vivid – from the  Quereres de Berobreo 2017 (called ‘viño mareiro’, mainly espadeiro blanco), with its light, green apples, citrussy fruit, via the rounder, more mellow Quereres do Hío 2017 (also viño mareiro, albariño-dominated) to the delicious, grapey Area Donón 2017. Donón is the village where the grapes grow, to the extreme west, just before you reach the island of Cíes outside the Ría de Vigo. These are practically wine from sand, from the beach. The red Namorado 2017 (tinto mareiro), fermented and aged for 12 months in used French oak, has all the virtues that this area can offer: It’s light in colour; pure, with fresh, red fruits on the nose; a vibrant flavour, a good natural acidity and in a long saline finish.

Juan of As Furnias hasn’t learned the tongue-in-cheek trick yet

As Furnias is more inland, in the Rías Baixas subzone Condado do Tea. After his studies in enology Juan González Arjones went to Barbaresco, to work with a small family producer, then also in a wine shop in Torino. Then he went back to his native Crecente to start his own project. He has also been managing a vineyard for the reknowned producer Terras Gauda, nearer to the coast in the subzone O Rosal. In 2010 he planted his own vineyard down there. Pícaro 2015 was a terrific red sparkling wine from a variety of grapes (albariño, treixadura, blanco legítimo, brancellao, sousón, espadeiro), with a lovely red fruits nose (raspberry, strawberry), and some tannin. After this came a vertical of his emblematic wine, the As Furnias, in vintages 15, 16, 17, 18. This too is a multi-varietal where each grape gives its contribution; the espadeiro gives both freshness, some herb and mushroom, and some special flavour characteristics (like cherry), while the balsamic notes come from caiño longo, and the spice from the sousón. They are typically made with 12 days fermentation in steel, and with no sulphite additions. The 16 was an early picking from a hot year, but everything went right in 15. As Furnias 2015 had all the best; quite dark, inky colour; pure yellow fruits, red berries, herbs and some menthol; a good tannin structure and a wonderful acidity.

Ismael Gozalo, MicroBio

In my opinion the small settlement of Nieva has long been and interesting spot on the Rueda map. This small, high altitude settlement in the province of Segovia houses producers like the Viñedos de Nieva with their excellent old pie franco vineyards, the Herrero family’s new project, not to say Ossian. Ismael was born here, and he also was involved in Ossian. But now he goes solo, and his project surpasses it all. I have covered some of his whites here and reds here. And there are several other wines mentioned elsewhere on this blog. The whites are a study in the possibilities of the verdejo grape, mostly very old and un-grafted, combined with the extreme climate of this part of Castilla. The reds include tempranillo, rufete and syrah.

This time I tasted two pét nats, the early-harvested (and reductive wine-making) Nieva York 2018 and the younger vine (and oxidative wine-making) Correcaminos 2018, the fresh and citrussy MicroBio 2018, and the Rack 2018. For this wine Ismael has been looking for a reduction. Some gas was added to the musts fermenting in steel to raise the turbidity. No battonage. All this to keep the reduction and the wine’s selv-protection. Not a beginner’s wine, with the green-greyish colour, the cloudiness, the bubbles, the creaminess, and the acid-structured taste. Flowery, citrussy, stone-fruity too, I should add.

Mariano Tabernero, Bodegas Cueva

I didn’t visit Mariano’s table that day, I just took a couple of snapshots as I went by. But later that night I was taking part in a tasting at the Bar Salvage of the Gràcia neighbourhood. I was then sitting next to Mariano and his wife, and they let me taste some wines. More about this soon.

Eduardo of Azpillaga Urarte

The family has a long history in wine in Lantziego, Rioja Alavesa, but it was not untill the 1970’s that they started to make their own wines. It was when Eduardo Pérez de Azpillaga Urarte started in the family company that the way towards an organic, sustainable farming began. So, in 2001 their vineyards finally got their organic certification. Maybe I liked best of all the white, non-DO Viña el Pago 2016 from garnacha blanca. It was macerated with whole bunches at 7 degrees for 72-100 hours, on stirred lees for 4-5 months. The result is a quite dark yellow wine with mature apples, some citrus, aromatic spices and a touch of dried fruits on the nose. In the mouth it’s medium-bodied with some tannin structure. The reds include a carbonic maceration wine with the same name, and an interesting clay aged wine called Fincas de Aztule 2015.  Under the label Naturostean 2017 they had a dark, rich, sweet and quite alcoholic tempranillo, not from dried grapes, but with added alcohol. They stress that this was an experiment. A winery to watch.

 

Friedrich Schatz: The Acinipo will now have a label representing the nettle, or preparation 504

Friedrich, or Federico, Schatz of Ronda has long since established himself as one of the leading producers of table wine in Andalucía. He has been in the avantgarde of organic and biodynamic farming in the area, and uses both international and local grapes. I have visited him several times, and you can read more about his whole range here. Many will know that his wines carry one special letter that together spells his name, and as such they have become some kind of collector’s items. However, this will now come to an end. Schatz presented this time the first vintages that will come on the market without that one letter. In-stead they will carry a drawing of plants used in biodynamic farming.

Other than that, the wines are the  same, full of taste, with a touch of something exotic, and also with a good level of acidity. When asked I have often picked the Acinipo as a favourite, because it refers to the Roman ruins just down the road, and it’s made from lemberger, a grape from where his family can be found – and because it has been a good wine of course. This time I pick the Pinot Noir 2013 (formerly known as C), is made with 12 months of ageing in French oak on lees that has been moved a few times. It has a dark cherry colour, an aroma full of red fruits with cocoa and some aromatic spices. In the mouth it’s medium-bodied, tasty, with a lovely acidity and also with a slight bitterness in the end. The acidity can be said to come from the cool night temperatures, and it was also an extreme year with a lot of rain and snow in winter, and temperatures down to -12ºC.

Jean-Phillippe Padié

I finally got the chance to meet Jean-Phillippe of Domaine Padié whose wines I have known for some time. From Calce north-northwest of Perpignan, Roussillon, he releases one wonderful wine after another. I tasted some samples and some bottled wines. Quickly through the 2018 samples, there was the limestone-blend Fleur de Cailloux, with its yellow colour, mature apple-scent with flowery tones, full with some tannin, the light and luscious Calice, a carignan from young vines in schist soil, the juicy Gibraltar – and finally the Petit Toureau, from older carignan plants in limestone, with its ruby red colour, and very fresh fruit.

Among the bottled wines I tasted the red Le Tourbillon de la Vie 2017, partly own vineyards, partly chosen from others: quite dark, luscioius, plums, red fruits, light tannin. Unpretentious, I would say, but very good. The Petit Taureau 2017, that originates from limestone marls (carignan) and schist (syrah), made with reduction in mind (both the grape varieties and the concrete vats environment). The wines was cherry red, with expressive fruit (red and dark berries), some flowers and herbs, and soft tannins in the mouth with a super and long, cool acidity. Ciel Liquide 2012, from grenache and carignan in equal proportions, from what Jean-Phillippe calls “a mosaic of terroirs” from Calce (limestone, calcarious clay and schist).  and 5 years in barrels of 600 liters, 2 years in tank after that: Ligh cherry red; on the nose there is some warmth, the citrussy notes appear, also stone fruits (cherries, plums); good balance between the elements, with just enough tannins, and super acidity in a long finish.

There were a couple of French producers that I didn’t know, but are worth mentioning. Les Vins Pirouettes were represented by Vanessa Letort. They are winemakers from Alsace who work in close collaboration with around ten small producers, all working organically, some with biodynamics – each producers with his characteristics. Some of the most interesting wines were made by  Stéphane Bannwarth, who is based in Obermorschwihr, south of Colmar. There was a lovely, appley riesling, with great acidity, and a full rose-scented gewürztraminer. I chose the Tutti Frutti de Stéphane 2016 (gewürztraminer, pinot gris, pinot blanc and auxerrois) was a light coloured wine, with a touch of gas, round and medium full, and with a lovely acidity.

Domaine Balansa has 15 hectares in Corbières. I tasted some clean, fruity wines from grenache blanc and gris, and syrah. A speciality was the Muscat 2018 aged in amphora, very light in colour, aromatic (both fruity and flowery), medium bodied, and with just enough acidity. Domaine Carterole was established in Côte Vermeille (coastal southern Roussillon) by Joachim Roque. The 10-70 years old cooperative plots he had bought were transformed little by little to be able to make natural wines. In 2014 he rented a winery in Banyuls-sur-Mer. I tasted a slighty pétillant white Ton Sec 2018, a well-balanced, but a bit on the “wild” side, apple, tea and ginger-smelling Esta Fête Le Blanc 2018, from 90% grenache blanc and the rest rousanne. An interesting wine was Vermentino Amphorae, that was light yellow, quite open, with apple, pear and citrus tones, and a slight tannin-structure.

Andrea Pendin of Tenuta l’Armonia

I visited Andrea following a London wine fair last year, and you can see my report here. He has a creative approach, and makes several styles of organic wines from volcanic terroir in the small settlement Bernuffi (Montecchio Maggiore, Veneto region). His wines can maybe be characterized as inviting, simple, fresh, and very difficult to stop drinking. In spite of that they have a strong sence of place too. He uses biodynamic techniques, green manure and very little intervention, and of course always spontaneous fermentetion. Repeated from my article about them: ‘Basically there are two different lines. “Pop” consists of high quality “easy” natural wines from volcanic soil at a good price. “Cru” is a premium line from native varieties in clay and limestone.” Should I chose only one wine, let it be the Frizzi 2017, a pét nat, or col fòndo sur lie from the “pop” line. It’s simple, un-oaked, slightly bubbly, light salmon-pink, apple and strawberry-scented wine, not very structured, and oh! so delicious. In addition to a varying content of different grapes, here pinot noir 60%, the constant is the local durella, a grape providing acidic backbone, that the vintners in the area are very proud of.

Catarina and Antonino, Valdibella

Valdibella is a small cooperative operating from Camporeale, on the north side of Sicilia. They encourage biodiversity, and they concentrate on native varieties, both for grapes and other crops such as olives. Enologue Antonino Vilardi work closely with the growers. He says they want the whole chain, from grower to consumer, to share the same values, or visions, and to know about how the products are made. Therefore they can appreciate the quality, and they will understand that the products can not have a very low price.

I tasted a couple of interesting grillos, Ariddu 2017, a light, grassy-citrussy wine, Grillo sulle Bucce 2017, (bucce meaning skins), so the colour was light orange, with aromas of flowers, peel, a touch of white pepper, and some bitterness in the finish. Zi bi Bò 2017 (from zibibbo, a synonym of muscat of Alexandria) is an aromatic, rose-mango-scented wine, slightly off-dry. A wine full of character was Dhyana 2017 from perricone, a light rosé of salmon colour; strawberry and redcurrant aromas; some warmth in the mouth, but also with an acidity that carries on to the end.

Niklas Peltzer representing Meinklang

Werner and Angela Michlits of Meinklang are found in Burgenland, Austria, in the village Pamhagen on the Hungarian border. In fact some vineyards are on the other side, and they also bottle a Hungarian wine from the volcano Somló. Here is a perfect biodiversity, vines and other crops between the natural ponds of the area. They fertilize with compost that they produce themselves, using sheep, cow and horse manure and several other components.

Meinklang has a full range of very reasonably priced high-quality wines, and is mentioned in many posts of this blog. Here is one of the wine-of-the-weekend articles, where you can also see a picture of their Angus cows. Today we concentrate on their Hungarian pét nat Foam Somló 2017. The 35-60 year old vines (6o% harslevelü, 4o% juhfark) are grown on volcanic rock with a light layer of loess. The fermentation started in tank, then it was bottled with 10 grams residual sugar, and finished fermentation in bottle. No additives, no filtering. The result is a fresh, vibrant wine, low in alcohol, high in acidity. The colour is light straw, slightly turbid; aromatic, pears and peaches, some spice (white pepper); a certain warmness (or rather: a component of mature fruits like apple marmelade), but kept alive of a long, cool acidity.

Ondřej Dubas, Krásná Hora

This is, believe it or not, another producer that we have covered more than once on this blog. Read here a report on various Czech wines tasted in England last year. I like their sparkling wines, and the Blanc de Pinot Noir 2018 wasn’t bad at all; light, with a slight blush, aroma of apples and red berries, well-structured. They offered an aromatic Chardonnay 2018, and equally convincing as before was the skin-contact, gooseberry-rhubarb-scented Gewürztraminer, now in the 2018 vintage. Our focus will this time be put on La Blanca 2018, a blend of riesling (40%), sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, and gewürztraminer from several vineyards (a total of 40%), and the last 20% is pinot blanc. The wine is partially fermented in old barrels and partly in steel. Only a minimum of SO2 is added. It’s a bit cloudy, light golden; apples pear and citrus on the nose; low alcohol, bone dry, with a steely acidity.

It’s maybe unfair, but there is a limit to how much one can do in one day. There were many producers that I should have spent more time with, such as the locals Clot de les Soleres, Casa Pardet, Cosmic, Escoda-Sanahuja, Gratias, Mas Candí, Recaredo, Can Sumoi, Pepe Raventòs, Laureano Serres and Alfredo Arribas, all of whom I know make good to excellent wines. Elsewhere in Spain there are Sistema Vinari, 4 Kilos, and abroad: Carussin, Casa Belfi, Colombaia, Quinta da Palmirinha, La Cave des Nomades, the list goes on…

This was my first Vella Terra, but I really want to go back, to be a part of the positive vibe that are found in the city these days. And, as Alejandra Delfino, co-founder of Vella Terra, states, “natural wines are not a passing fad, but rather a trend that has come to stay, and something that will continue to increase demand among wine lovers”. Amen to that, and we could add that while the natural wine has been something of a punk movement, I think it’s right to say that the mainstream is now moving in that direction.

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Wine of the Week

As Furnias: The new Galician wave is red

I have met Juan González Arjones at a couple of natural wine fairs, last time this February in Barcelona’s Vella Terra.

Following his enology studies Juan worked at Coto de Gomariz (Ribeiro), then in Italy’s Barbaresco, at a small family winery, and later in a wine shop in Torino. With this background he returned to his native Crecente, in the Rías Baixas subzone Condado do Tea, to start his own project As Furnias.

He has also been managing a vineyard for the more famous Terras Guada in O Rosal nearer to the ocean. It was also down there that Juan planted his first vineyard.

Crecente was historically an area for red wine, with many varieties and soil types. While the focus naturally has been on varietal alabriño, part of Juan’s goal has been to bring back the traditional red wines.

The soils are sandy with granitic origins and a high quartz content.

This wine is made from 40% brancellao, 30% caíño longo, 15% sousón, 10% espadeiro and 5% touriga nacional.

As Furnias 2015 (Juan González Arjones)

Cherry red, slightly carbonic. In the aroma it has many layers, both mature red fruits, but also some fresh berry, like raspberry, redcurrant, and also a hint of earth and underwood. Rounded tannins, herbaceous notes, long aftertaste with a lingering acidity.

Price: Medium

 

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Salò de Vins Naturales (Vins Nus), Barcelona

10th and 11th February there were two natural wine fairs in Barcelona. Both days the Saló de Vins Naturales (aka Vins Nus, meaning Naked Wines) was organized by the PVN (Productores de Vinos Naturales in Spain), while Monday 11th there was the Vella Terra, organized by Alejandra Delfino and Stefano Fraternali. Both fairs had guided tastings on the side, and there were parties in addition to the main fairs, and Barcelona was simply the place to be!

The 6th edition of the Vins Nus was held in the Nau Bostik building in the La Sagrera quarter, a place for cultural meetings. What place could better house the Vins Nus, that holds a position as the leading fair nationally for Spanish natural wines.

Most producers were Spanish, but there were also some from abroad, especially from France and Italy.

Here I met old friends and familiar producers. And there were some revelations too, of some I had only known the name or maybe tasted one wine.

In this post I can only mention some highlights. And I will try to limit myself to only one wine from each producer.

Lorenzo Valenzuela, Barranco Oscuro

Barranco Oscuro is a true classic on the Spanish natural wine scene, and has also been one of the founders and driving forces behind the PVN, who organizes this fair. From the high altitude vineyards in the Alpujarras of Granada they bring out one wine more inspiring than the other. One of my favourites has long since been the Garnata, a garnacha from the most elevated vineyards now in the 2014 vintage: Cherry red; very fresh, red fruits, clover, aromatic herbs; fleshy, tasty with a mineral finish.

Samuel Cano, Vinos Patio

This is a producer I have known for a long time. There is something intriguing about all the wines. It would be strange to call them cool, because they reflect the warmth of sunny La Mancha. This is Quijote’s land, near some old-fashioned windmills in the Cuenca province. Most wines have Patio in the name, such as the lovely white airén Aire en el Patio and the dark, raisiny dessert wine Al Sol del Patio. I also tasted four of Samuel’s wines at an arrangement at the bar Salvatge a couple of days before, so I limited myself to four wines at his table. A newcomer, or one I didn’t know before was Mic Mac, a delicious, flowery, super fruity blend of airén and moscatel.

This time I chose the white, or more accurately, rosé Atardecer en el Patio 2017 (from the red tinto velasco grape). It’s quite floral, with apple and peach. In the mouth it’s round and fruity, I reckon it must have some residual sugar, and would be perfect for an afternoon (atardecer) in the patio.

Fabio Bartolomei of Vinos Ambiz

I have met Italo-Scot Fabio, former translator, many times at fairs and visits to Madrid and Gredos. He makes many cuvées with variations in time of skin-contact, ageing (varying time and type of container) and so on. All the wines, how different they may be, carry his personal stamp. The focus has shifted from the the vineyards just outside the capital to the high sites of El Tiemblo (Ávila), Gredos, and we might be seeing the beginning of something great, and his albillo real wines from granite soil can be said to bear the torch here. Doré (a synonym of chasselas) is a grape that he has brought to the fore during the recent years. Now the wine comes under the name Doris. The 2018 is yellow-gold, slightly cloudy; smells of mature apples and is also flowery; quite full on the palate, grapey and sapid.

Ramón Saavedra of Cauzón (left)

Ramón was enthusiastic and happy to show his 2018 vintage; the white Cauzón, a lovely strawberry-scented pinot rosé, the four grape Ira Dei and the Mozuelo, a red fruits luscious garnacha. I chose the Duende 2018, a wonderful syrah through several vintages: Dark cherry; fruity, earthy and slightly spicy; fleshy and tasty with young tannins.(Read more about his bodega and his wines in a post from 2017.)

Nacho González, La Perdida

La Perdida is a splendid producer in Valdeorras (Galicia). Nacho uses the traditional grapes godello, mencía and garnacha tintorera, but also palomino, and more unlikely varieties such as sumoll. I like his range on a general basis, such as the palomino skin-contact MalasUvas, the Proscrito, a reddish white from palomino and a small amount garnacha tintorera. The one that I chose for lunch that day was O Poulo 2018, a garnacha tintorera: Dark, fruity, with red berries, some green pepper, very clean and elegant with fruit all the way.

Joan Carles, La Gutina

I visited La Gutina of Empordà a couple of days before (a brief article from that visit to follow), so there was no need to taste the whole portfolio again. But a wine they didn’t present then was Gluglu 2018, a carbonic maceration garnacha, strawberry scented with good volume in the mouth, but also a fresh acidity. Fun and authentic.

Angélica Amo López and Julien Ben Hamou, Coruña del Conde

Ribera del Duero can not be called a stronghold for natural wines. But Coruña del Conde, a bodega in the settlement of the same name outside Aranda, is among the torchbearers. I came across the following wine at the Cascorrot Bistrot in Madrid (read about it here). The latest edition is Don’t panic I’m only natural 2018 #5: Dark, violet colour; fruity with red berries and blackberry; juicy, with smooth tannins.

Diego Losada, La Senda (picture taken the night before at bar Salvatge)

La Senda of Bierzo is another producer that I have been exposed to at Cascorro, Madrid. In my opinion everything from here is good, and I would be surprised if these wines will not be much more in demand in the future. La Senda white, red, all very clean, pure, the right amount of acidity, and with a sense of place. I chose La Senda “1984” 2017, the latter the vintage and the former a reference to Orwell’s novel. It’s cherry red, super fruity, with cherries, plums, medium body, and a lovely integrated natural acidity.

Torcuato Huertas, Purulio

Purulio is a neighbour of Cauzón in Guadix (Granada), except this is found even higher, at 1.200 meters, in the small settlement of Marchal. Most of the wines are interesting and good, marked both by the sunny south and the high elevation, though sometimes I’d wished the oak treatment had stopped just a little while before. The one I liked best this time was maybe the aromatic Purulio 2018 (sample, 5 months in oak), with its berry aromatics, flowery sensations and a quite cool acidity.

Vinotauro 2016, a pinot with the not-too-well hidden wordplay on the label

Josep Dasca (right), with Ludovic Darblade (co-owner of bar Salvatge in the middle)

Among this years’ revelations Dasca Vives presented some impressive and different wines from l’Alt Camp, Tarragona province. They work well with the maccabeu variety, that is also the one behind their rounded, maturely fruity Llunàtic and the Vi Ranci. Another speciality is the vinyater variety. (Read here about their wine from this interesting grape.)

Now back to the rancio. This is an oxidized wine, most often from the grenache/garnatxa, and it takes some 8-10 years before it’s “rancified”. This particular wine was made from white grapes though. Josep and Alba explain that some ten years ago they put white wine from the grape variety macabeu in a barrel with a some kind of “dense vi ranci”, that Josep’s father has in a very old and broken barrel. They also added a little of alcohol (it’s the only time that they had done so). Now they have started to sell it. Sometimes more white wine is added, but the barrel is never full, so the wine is always in contact with oxygene. The Vi Ranci had a mahogany colour, nutty aroma (almonds, hazelnut), notes of iodine, reminiscent of a relatively young amontillado sherry. In the mouth it was full and glyceric, with some tannin. My notes say nothing about how sweet it was; if my memory doesn’t fail me I think it was kind of off-dry, anyway there was nothing at all disturbing.

Maribel and Juanjo of Alumbro

Alumbro of Zamora, Castilla y León was another discovery, with their wonderfully expressive wines, from the slightly turbid, fruity-grapey orange wine called Blanco 2016 (verdejo-godello-albillo), via the dark orange, perfumed moscatel Maeve 2018 to a couple of reds. Should I pick only one it could be the truly inspiring Berretes 2016 of albillo real/ godello 50/50: Orange, slightly cloudy; plums, apples, yellow tomatoes; some tannins. Linear, fruity.

Iker García of Hontza, Labraza (Rioja Alavesa) showed that he has something interesting going on. Another one to watch is La Zafra, of Monòver, Alicante.

I’m sorry for all the producers from abroad, that I had too little time for this Sunday. But we’ll meet again, I hope.

Greeted by a Brazilian style percussion band by the Arc de Triomf, on my way to the fair

 

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Wine of the Week

Dasca Vives’ Vinyater

At the Salò de Vinos Naturales (Vins Nus) of Barcelona one of the revelations were Dasca Vives. Not only for their interesting rancio wine, but for the quality in general, and for their clever use of the “forgotten” variety of vinyater.

The Dasca Vives winery is found in the l’Alt Camp area, near the town Valls (Tarragona province). They have about 15 hectares, not only vineyards. Not more than 20 km from the coast the soil has a high lime content. It’s worked in a very natural way. The wines have little or no clarification and filtration, and only a small amount of sulphite before bottling, if necessary.

According to Josep Dasca and Alba Vives this variety fell out of fashion when the cava rules were defined, because it was not selected. But they think it deserve a place in the panorama of Catalan grapes. And after having tasted a sample of the 2018 and the bottled 2017 I would not hesitate to applaud them.

The family had always kept two vineyards of vinyater, of 50 and 35 years old. When they started to work it they first blended it with maccabeu to make the Llunàtic wine. When they saw that the vinyater kept the acidity well, they started to do some experiments to make a monovarietal vinyater wine. According to the producer, who cites a dictionary, the vinyater has a strong leaf and sweet juice, and is good for keeping.

Vinyater Finca el Freixa 2017 (Dasca Vives)

Light yellow with an orange rim; very fruity, from yellow apples to plums, white flowers, and a touch of citrus peel; full, round, with a touch of lees ageing, it also plays with oxidation is perfectly balanced.

Price: Medium

 

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Articles and Wine bars and restaurants

Carlos at Cascorro

If there is one person that comes to mind when talking about natural wines in Madrid, it’s Carlos Campillo. I don’t know about everything he has done, but since I met him he has run Le Petit Bistrot in the old town, Solo de Uva, by the Berlin park north of the city centre, and now this wine bar at Plaza de Cascorro in the centric La Latina district. He has played a central role as regards numerous natural wine fairs in the city, and many of the names familiar for me now I have first been served by Carlos.

While we don’t forget the food, and the small dishes so well elaborated, it’s the wine that we concentrate on here.

Natural wines in Madrid has a name: Carlos Campillo

This particular time I had arrived from Rioja, and I brought a wine from Ojuel (the producer behind the magnificent sweet wine Supurao) that I wanted him to taste. So we opened it. The room was packed, so I was standing by the bar. Next to me an importer (of Champagne and other wines to Spain) heard what we were talking about, and joined both the conversation and the tasting. This is just that kind of bar; nothing complicated, the one next to you is your friend, join the fun!

None of us has yet mastered the art of taking selfies to perfection, but we managed to get both faces and the bottle inside the frame

 

Oxuel Salvaje 1 2016 (Ojuel)

This is a wine from the garnacha variety, grown in Sojuela village between the Najerilla and the Irégua valleys of La Rioja. Biodynamically treated, and fermented in used French oak. Purple colour; redcurrant and strawberry nose, a bit earthy with aromatic spices; sapid, with a refreshing acidity, a vibrant and long finish.

Here are a few of the other wines I tasted this time, and the next.

Bonny Giornata 2017 (Vinos Ambiz)

Bonny means fine, nice or beautiful in Scottish, and giornata is day in Italian. This wine is made by Italo-Scot Fabio Bartolomei and Antonio Sicurezza, his Italian friend. This carbonic maceration wine is made near Albeche river in Sierra de Gredos at 750 meters of altitude. It’s a fresh and vibrant, red fruits dominated, low alcohol garnacha (12%) with medium body.

Torcuato Huertas makes wine in Marchal, municipality of Guadix, in the highlands east of Granada. His wine are marked both by high altitude (up to 1.200 meters) and southern geography. From just 3 hectares he grows more than 20 varieties.

Carlos poured just a sip of both, the multi-varieal Purulio Blanco 2016 was a tasty, robust wine with some skin-contact peel aromas from Torcuato’s lower plot (at “just” 900 meters), while the Jaral (2016 too, I think – my notes are not easy to read here) was made with red grapes from higher up. This was more fresh and elegant, with notes of blueberry, blackberry and just a bit leathery. Purulio Tinto 2016 is a mix between the two, and shows it, both in the fresh fruit and the rich mouthfeel.

Vinos Patio of Castilla-La Mancha is a long time favourite at Carlos’ restaurants. The Aire en el Patio 2016 is a skin-contact airén, very much alive, tasty, with a pure fruit, smooth texture and a round mouthfeel.

As I mentioned, this was not my latest visit to Carlos’ bar at Cascorro. I was there a short time ago, on a Sunday. If you have been a tourist to Madrid you know about the Rastro flee market. While I must admit I had my doubts if the people would be able to find his Solo de Uva, here we are in the midst of the Rastro. -Very good for the business, says Carlos. And let’s really hope that this will thrive and keep its position as the bastion of natural wine in Madrid. Today there are signs that something is on the move, with new bars and restaurants, and plans for more. But in difficult times it’s Carlos who has been holding the fort, almost alone.

From this last busy Sunday visit I will just mention three wines that Carlos poured in a hurry, all from the Castilla y León region. La Senda of Bierzo is a winery I must check out and come back to, because both wines were fabulous.

The Vindemiatrix 2017 was a dark violet, cherry and plums-scented wine with a pure taste, fine-grained tannins, and a really nice natural acidity. The cherry red “1984” 2017 showed super fruit, with cherries, plums, cloves and a lovely acidity. Both are wines to drink, but they are far away from simple.

Coruña del Conde is such a rare thing as a natural wine producer in Ribera del Duero. They are found near Aranda, so I’ll have to check it out next time in the area. The I’m Natural, Don’t Panic 2016 un-oaked tempranillo wine (with a small amount of albillo mayor) was dark violet of colour, with a good fruit, mature red berries and blackberry; fleshy and smooth in the mouth and with an inspiring acidity. Sincere, interesting.

Cascorro Bistrot seen from within the Rastro

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Wine bars and restaurants and Wine of the Week

Envínate at Malauva, Vigo

Vigo is the main city of Galicia’s southern part. It might be that I don’t know it well enough, but I think that even if it may be the natural centre for those who live and work there, so far that it lacks that “something extra” to make it a major tourist spot. This is if you’re not taking into account that Galicia’s (at the moment) best natural wine bar is there. Malauva is a place you can go to savour delicious organic, biodynamic, natural wines, and the waiters know what wines they are serving, just half a block from my hotel by the harbour. It’s Josiño, educated sommelier, and his wife Marina who started the bar, and I hope that sufficiently enough people will appreciate it, so that many like me (natural wine geeks, but not Celta football fans) have a reason to come back.

On a corner just off the harbour

I ordered “Burrata y tomates” and “Canelón de choco”, and as it was not packed with guests this Monday I had the chance to discuss with x which wines to be served next.

I chose to go Galician that night. After a light start, the appley/citrussy Eido da Salgos 2016 (Cazapitas) from O Rosal, Rías Baixas, came the more herbal Memoría de Ventura lías finas 2016, (Pinguela), a Valdeorras godello. On to the reds, Volátil from the
Bibei subregion of Ribeira Sacra were bottled by the Fefiñans of Cambados. Maybe the least interesting wine, a bit warm and oaky, but also with nice dark fruits and balsamic notes. With Silice 2017 of Sober (Amandi subzone of Ribeira Sacra) it started to take off. A cherry red, wild fruits scented, atlantic acidity, elegant wine.

Josiño, ‘taberneiro’ for Malauva wine bar

Our main wine this time is from the team Envínate, that makes wines in several Spanish regions. The four friends started as consultants after oenology studies in Alicante in 2005, but it soon evolved into a wine producing project. Their aim is to explore distinctive parcels and make pure, authentic wines that express the terroir of each parcel. No chemicals are used in the vineyards, only natural yeast, and sulfur is used only prior to bottling and if they think they need it.

Lousas is Galician for the type of slate soil that predominates in the Amandi sub-zone of Ribeira Sacra. Aldea means village. There is 90-95% mencía with other grapes (such as brancellao, merenzao, mouratón [juan garcía], bastardo and garnacha tintorera), in a field blend.

For this wine 40% whole clusters were included, the must was raised in old barrels for 11 months with no racking and no SO2 added until bottling.

Lousas Viña de Aldea 2016 (Envínate)
Cherry red. Red fruits and flowers on top, white pepper and herbs. It has a mineral edge and a, long, cool acidity.

It’s fresh, elegant and in my opinion more than a typical “village wine”. It bears the subtitle Vino Atlántico, which is very appropriate, as the influence from the ocean is evident.

Price: Medium

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Wine of the Week

Štekar’s Re Piko

Janko Štekar is based in Goriška Brda, in the small town of Kojsko, between the Pre-Alps and the Adriatic Sea, not far from Italian Friuli.

His winery is protected from the cold winds from the north, while the mild breezes from the east helps avoiding humidity and thus plagues in the vineyards. The vines are planted on terraces and worked organically.

(Photo credit: Kmetija Štekar)

The wines are made as naturally as possible. He uses just a small amount of sulphites sometimes..

He has two lines of wines, one with skin-maceration and one without. This wine is from the former selection, made from riesling 90% and picolit, and macerated on the skins for 28 days. It underwent a spontaneous fermentation, and matured in 1100L vats of acacia for four years. Very low sulphur, no filtering.

Re Piko 2013 (Kmetija Štekar)

Clear amber. Aroma of nectarines, white pepper, flowers, eucalyptus. light touch of apple vinegar. Full, grapey, some tannin and good, natural acidity.

Price: Medium

Food: Fried and grilled fish, light meat, salads… We had it with panfried salmon and various vegetables

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Articles

Simplesmente… Vinho 2019: Some Portuguese highlights

The 7th edition of the Simplesmente… Vinho fair is over. This is an arrangement in Porto for individual, artisanal wine producers with a focus on natural and sustainable farming. The venue is Cais Novo, a renovated 18th-century palace only a few meters from the Douro river. This time 101 producers participated, mostly Portuguese, a few visitors from Spain, and some that had travelled longer, in fact all the way from Brazil. There was food, there was music, and among the specially invited were Os Goliardos (Silvia and Nadir), who are very active on the country’s wine scene, especially in Lisboa. The fair is organized by João Roseira, himself an important producer in the Douro region.

There were many producers that I knew from before, but also some revelations. I will be back with more. For a start, here are just a few of the many Portuguese highlights of the fair. I will try to limit myself to one wine per producer (although you will see that this is a difficult task).

António Marques da Cruz

António Marques da Cruz, is 5th generation farmer at Quinta da Serradinha in Leiria, in the DOC Encostas de Aire. The quinta encompasses 6 hectares of vineyard on clay-limestone in an Atlantic climate. António has a good hand on both sparkling, white, rosé and red wines, and he can make wines that last. His 1999 baga is a wine that really stands out. I started the fair with visiting his table (or: barrels, that is what they use here), and what could be better than to start this tour with his Serradinha Castelão 2017. Quite dark, young colour; very fruity with cherry, plums; mellow in the mouth, luscious and fabulous drinking, with a fresh, natural acidity.

João M. Barbosa

João M. Barbosa was formerly with the big Dom Teodosio company. Now he carries on his family’s long tradition. He is located near Rio Maior in Tejo, but he has also vineyards in Portalegre, Alentejo, around 6 hectares in total. He brought a nice sparkling and a red Escolha, and I also fell for the Ninfa Colheita Branco 2016, a barrel-fermented white from sauvignon blanc and fernão pires. But as my one wine here I chose Ninfa Vinhas Velhas 2016, a no-oak, “no-nothing”, natural wine, a field blend dominated by castelão (accompanied by trincadeira, camarate, alicante bouschet and others). The grapes are grown in calcareous clay soils, in a Mediterranean climate with Atlantic influence. The south-facing exposure enjoys a good sun exposure. The yields are low, that result in concentrated grapes and ageworthy wines. The wine shows a good cherry colour; an earthy nose with blackberry, cherry and some balsamic notes too; tasty, with ripe tannins, and a luscious freshness.

Pedro Marques (left), journalist Jamie Goode taking notes (at the opening dinner)

It’s always a pleasure to taste Pedro’s wines. He’s always down to earth, absolutely honest about his wines, and explains in detail the challenges of each wine. The farm is located in Turcifal, in the Torres Vedras municipality of the Lisboa region. It’s only 8 km from the sea, has a clay-limestone soil, Atlantic climate and a couple of his wines are aptly called Fossil.

Among the whites there was a fabulous version of the Fossil 2017 (both rich and tasty, and also lots of acidity), the unctuous arintos – and the Branco Especial, an interesting solera wine (a blend of 4 vintages, now aged in botti, big barrels from Barolo), with its amber colour, yellow fruit, flowers and apricot, and a structured palate. I really liked the Vale da Capucha Palhete 2017 from castelão, a light red wine; yeasty, flowery, with red berries, raspberry, a light CO2 pressure, and fruit all the way. I have written about the reds several times. They are of course good, and a wine like the red Fossil didn’t disappoint in the 2016 vintage either. But the Vale da Capucha Vinha Teimosa 2014 you haven’t read about here. It’s made from touriga nacional and tinta roriz. 2014 was a very cold vintage, with a lot of rain. The wine is dark, with blackcurrant, green pepper, beetroot, and some earthy notes, and a type of balsamic note that Pedro thinks can be caused by a fungus that in a way “belongs to the vintage”.

José Perdigão (right)

José Perdigão of the quinta that bears his name has a rosé that I have enjoyed for many years now. This time he brought a very nice strawberry/peach-coloured pét nat, that I can’t remember to have tasted. But almost as emblematic as his rosé is the white Encruzado, now in its 2017 edition: Light golden; pear and white peach aroma with citrus and elderberry; fresh, vibrant and quite structured in the mouth.

Cabeças do Reguengo was a discovery for me last year, with their lovely orange wine Luminoso (this time in the 2018 vintage), the no SO2 red Felisbela (also 2018), the structured rosé and the “normal” Alentejo blend Courelas da Torre, both in plain and reserva versions – all from the northern, cool end of the region. Let’s just have a look at the basic blend Courelas da Torre 2017 this time, from aragonêz, trincadeira and alicante bouschet: Dark cherry colour; mature berries, a touch of lickorice; full in the mouth, with tobacco, some spice. Very nice, and should be popular among all kinds of audiences. I didn’t taste their Cabeças range this time. (But you can read this piece from last year’s fair.)

Miguel Louro

Also in Alentejo Quinta do Mouro of Estremoz is a more established producers, one of the very best and respected of all. Delicious were the concentrated yet smooth, old barrel-fermented white Zagalos 2016 (from alvarinho 50%, arinto 30%, gouveio and verdelho), the light, somewhat fragile red Zaga Luz 2017 (a typical blend) and all the stylish reds that we have loved since many years. But let’s have a look at something called Erro, from “error”. In this unusual series there are three reds, called 1, 2 and 3, and this white Erro B 2015. It started out the usual way, but here the press broke, and the must was left with the skins. There is always some early picked arinto blended in, thus it’s marked by a tough acidity. The colour is yellow; the nose shows yellow fruits, peel; it’s complex and structured, with a superb acidity in the lingering farewell.

Vitor Claro

Vitor Claro is a former chef who started winemaking after a trip to Portalegre, Alentejo where he fell in love some vineyards, more than 80 years old. These are located at 650 meters of altitude and facing north.

The wines were indeed inspiring, such as the Destino 2018, a good acidity moscatel, and Claro 2018, a light malvasia. I ought to mention the Foxtrot Dominó 2017, made from the white moscato grapes that were not used for the white wine, and alicante bouschet, a “very” red grape (including coloured stems). The result is light red, quite mellow and with fine-grained tannins.

The one wine selection this time would be the Dominó Silvo Frio 2016, made from a field blend of classical Alentejo grapes: grand noir, trincadeira, tinta roriz, castelão, and also a white, arinto. The vineyards is mainly granite with some quartz. Fermentation is 50% whole bunches, and for the rest, whole grapes are macerated in inox for 60 days. The grapes are then pressed, and after fermentation the wines is aged in old Burgundian barrels and lightly filtered before bottling. The wine shows a clear red colour; fresh red fruits, some herbs and spice; good structure, and a fine acidity, but there are also nice fruit behind.

Tiago Sampaio

I tasted through the whole range from Folias de Baco, and Tiago Sampaio presented one wine more creative than the other. Among the best were the Uivo 2018 from alvarinho, with almost no colour at all, but lots of flavours dominated by pears, the Uivo Xpto Branco 2008-2018, a light orang, lemon peel scented, concentrated wine with 10 months of skin-contact and aged under flor – and a 100% botrytis, 5,5% alcohol, amber, honeyed, sweet wine called Uivo LH+. But our selected wine this time is Uivo Renegado 2018. This is a field blend from a centennial vineyard with around 40 different varieties. They were fermented together, mainly in cement. The wine is pinkish in colour; aromas of strawberries, seaweed maybe; smooth and luscious in the mouth, with a long, natural acidity. It’s easy-to-drink kind of wine, but the age of the plants secures a concentration back there too. The best of two worlds.

Vasco Croft of Aphros Wines brought most of his wines. I visited him after the fair (a report to come), so here I will stick to my original intention and talk about only one wine. (Read also about his Palhete in a post from last autumn.) But now: Phaunus Loureiro 2017 was fermented in talhas (clay pots) and aged for 7 months on lees. It’s light, slightly turbid; aromas of green-yellow apple, yeast, minerals; quite full, sappy, and with a good acidity from the variety.

We end our journey on Madeira, but not in the more normal way. Super producer of long-living madeiras Barbeito has made their first white table wine, called Verdelho 2017, with the designation DOP Madeirense. Winemaker Nuno Duarte explains that while verdelho is typically grown on the north side of the island, sercial (who makes up 4% of this wine) is cultivated in the south. The verdelho grapes were foot-trodden in lagares, and 30% aged in new French oak, the rest in steel.

The wine has a golden colour; aroma of apricot and pear, a bit waxy, but also with a nice citrus (lemon) zest; though it’s in a way mellow it’s very fresh with a good acidity too, and a saline finish. You can feel the tension of the Atlantic in this wine.

 

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