Last Friday I visited Rodrigo Méndez and Forjas del Salnés. We started in the precious Finca Genoveva in Barro and ended at a delightful restaurant A Curva in Portonovo, all in the province of Pontevedra.
Rodri is the nephew of another great producer, Gerardo Méndez of Do Ferreiro (that means “from the blacksmith” in gallego language), and Forjas (forges) de Salnés is named after the iron business that his grandfather had set up a long time ago.
Forjas del Salnés sources the wines from 7.5 hectares of vines in the villages of Meaño, Sanxenxo and Barro. Of these they own 4 hectares, the rest are rented from local growers. Genoveva is one of these. It is a 2 hectar farm in the municipality of Barro, and 1 hectar is planted. 70-80% is 200 years old albariño, and there is also caíño tinto and other red grapes. The caíño tinto grapes go into a single plot red wine without DO.
This wine is produced from the bicentenary albariño vines in sandy granite soil. It was fermented with whole clusters in big 2.500 liter oak foudres, and matured in them on lees for a year before bottling. Note: There is no oaky character in the wine. Other than that, minimal intervention is employed, no temperature control, only some SO2 when the grapes come in and later to block malolactic fermentation. Typical total amount is 20 mg, according to Rodri. Both 2017 and 18 were hot years, so the harvest was early (normally it’s late august).
Leirana Finca Genoveva Albariño 2018(Forjas del Salnés)
Straw yellow. Aroma of flowers, red apples, minerals. It has concentration of flavours, but is very balanced, fine-tuned and elegant, with a super, mature acidity and a saline finish. We have seen it more “wild” or edgy in previous vintages (such as 2015), but this is delicious.
Food: White fish, seafood (oysters, clams, pulpo), rice dishes, chicken and salads
I am back in Vigo for the Emoción dos Viños fair to be held this weekend a bit further down the coast. A stop at Malauva is then mandatory. (Read about my last visit here.)
This time Josiño first recommended Monte Pío 2019, a very nice Salnés albariño from the bodega of the same name. It had all the typicity intact, which means aromas of apple and citrus from indigenous yeast, low sulphur, creamy after long time on lees and a clean citric aftertaste. Then a very different albariño, biodynamically grown, from Alberto Nanclares, Soverribas 2015. It had very typical aged albariño character, at least from my experience. This includes mature apples that hints to oxidation, just hints!, nuts (direction almonds/hazelnuts), and full, glyceric, dry and long in the mouth.
Our wine of the week is a wonderful Atlantic style red from the Ribeiro area. Cume do Avia is the producer (also mentioned here), and it’s also the name of the highest hill in the Ribeiro subregion of Avia. It is Diego, Álvaro and Fito, all relatives, who are Cume do Avia. They come from a family of vignerons, and started for themselves in 2005. They went organic from the start, with some biodynamic practises. They count on 9 hectares with 13 autochthonous grape varieties in Eira dos Mouros.
The soil consists of clay, schist and granite, east facing, with good sun exposure and ventilation. In the cellar they use indigenous yeast, no filtration, clarification with gravity and only a small amount of sulphite before bottling. The reds are made with low extraction.
Dos Canotos Caíño Longo 17 (Cume do Avia)
Light cherry red. Fresh red fruits, slightly herby. Juicy, but concentrated, with lots of integrated natural acidity, traces of iodine, salt. It’s not powerful, but very long, and so full of energy!
I met Julien and Angélica at Barcelona’s Vins Nus fair for the first time. (See here.) This time a meeting in Madrid called for a festive start of a wine trip, even though the city itself was calmer than usual due to the coronavirus and the heat. Carlos Campillo at his Cascorro Bistrot never fails to deliver, and Coruña del Conde‘s rosé pét nat was one of his best offers. It was strange to see the Plaza de Cascorro that empty though, and he admittedly said it had been a tough time too.
Back to Coruña del Conde: The vineyards are located on the slopes of Alto Otero, in the village with the same name as the wine company. Coruña del Conde, at a height of around 1.000 meters above sea level. They now have 9 hectares, divided into 36 parcels, in a calcareous clay terrain with a typically continental climate. The viticulture is organic since 2007, no pesticides, only copper and sulphur.
The rosé pét nat is made from 100% tempranillo. After 24 hours of maceration, the grapes are pressed, and fermented in vats without any additions.
Rosadito 2019 (Coruña del Conde)
Light cherry red, a little bubbles. Full of red fruits (raspberry, cherry), some herbs. A little residual sugar and lots of fruit. Very juicy, with a slight texture and a nice natural acidity.
Goyo García Viadero has become one of the most respected winemakers in the natural wine field of Ribera del Duero. I would in fact say that for me these are some of the most inspiring wines of the whole area. And not only the Ribera DO, he also makes wine from Cantabria, from his mother’s birthplace high up in the Picos de Europa. One of these is an amazing, fruit-packed field blend of mencía (red) and palomino (the white sherry grape that is found to a certain extent near the northern coast), called Cobero.
Inspired by natural winemakers, like some from the Jura, Goyo started making his own wines in 2003. Together with his wife he farms small plots in the central part of Ribera, basically field blends with white grapes amongst the red, in varying altitudes and soil types. The focus is thus on the peculiarity of the vineyard rather than the grape varieties themselves. He harvests several times, to get some wine with acidity and some with body, to finally blend it all together. All this is a nod to the past of this area.
As indicated in the beginning, these are minimal-intervention, natural wines. This means fermenting with wild yeast, no additions (almost never SO2), no fining nor filtration. Most wines are raised in old French oak though, in an ancient underground cave in located in Gumiel del Mercado. Add to the story that Gumiel’s Bodegas Valduero is run by his family, with his sister Yolanda as winemaker, and we are a step nearer to a complete picture.
The Joven is his non-oaked red, from a dry-farmed tempranillo vineyard planted some 40 years ago at 860 meters altitude. The grapes are hand-harvested, destemmed and fermented with wild yeasts in steel tank with 3 months of skin-maceration, with little extraction. It’s then raised in tank before being bottled without fining, filtration or any addition of SO2. Don’t be fooled by the word “joven” (young), this wine is as serious and well-made as they come.
Joven de Viñas Viejas2018(Goyo García Viadero)
Dark cherry red. Aroma of dark berries (blackberry, morello), and some wilder red ones too (cranberry), flowers, and some mineral notes (crayon). Quite fleshy in the mouth, with young, elegant tannins, and a vivid acidity. Wonderful drinking now, but will keep.
Food: Lamb, other tasty and light meats, tapas that includes hams and sausages…
Matthias Hager is found in the Kamptal region of Niederösterreich. In Molland, in the northern part of Kamptal, he produces terroir-driven wines from his 14 hectares of vineyards.
I met him in London earlier this year, and here you can read a little more about his winemaking and some of his other wines. He did not bring this wine, but I tasted it when I came home, because it had won a tender within the Norwegian monopoly.
This is a grüner veltliner-dominated wine from grapes grown in loam, loess and schist and aged in old, neutral oak. It is a low-sulphite wine (less than 25 mg in total), unfined and unfiltered, and the 25% skin-fermentation for up to 8 days places it just inside the orange wine category.
Vielfalt means diversity, and the grapes were selected from various plots with different soils.
The picture on the label was painted with self-made earth-colours. As Matthias explains, “The earth comes from our Mollandser sites and was prepared and used for painting in a workshop with Caritas Schloss Schiltern – a dormitory for handicapped people.” The one for the Vielfalt was chosen because it shows strength and complexity, just like the wine itself. “For every sold bottle Caritas gets a part for its participation on this project”, concludes Matthias.
Vielfalt 2017(M. Hager)
Golden colour, turbid. Aroma of citrus (lime), pineapple, some spice (like white pepper), a bit nutty. Full on the palate, slightly textured, a bitterness that hints to grapefruit, concentrated, long.
Food: Tasty fish, light meat, rich salads, cheese and ham selections
A visit at Apotekergaarden, Grimstad on the southern coast of Norway is always a highlight. This is a popular place in every sense of the word, with a fascinating mix of people coming for great natural wine served by manager and sommelier Ida Konradsen, and people coming in from the street for burgers and pizza, served by the staff, some of them really talented. There are also concerts in the backyard during the summer season. We were there last Sunday, when our meal was followed by a gig with Norwegian folk-rock band Valkyrien Allstars. I have played there myself too, in fact it was one of the last things I did before the lockdown in March. A more detailed background to the restaurant you can read here.
On Sunday they made a special plate of Italian cheese and ham, olives and other stuff for us, followed by a main course of duck with a compote of red onion and a burger with spicy mushroom and onion, and on Tuesday we shared various pizzas.
Here are some of the wines, some of them in fact outside the official menu, but generously offered by Ida and the staff.
Foam Somló 2019(Meinklang), Somló, Hungary, made by Meinklang of Burgenland, Austria who owns vineyards on both sides of the border. This is a pét nat from Hungarian grapes hárslevelű and juhfark.
Light golden; aroma of yellow apples, hints of pumpkin and gooseberry; concentrated, with a sweet-irh sensation, inspiring indeed.
Brut Nature Reserva Anne Marie(Castell d’Age), Cava, Catalunya, Spain
A traditional cava from one of the pioneers in organic farming in the Penedès area, named after Anne Marie Onyent, one of today’s leading ladies of the company. The grapes are the three usual cava “suspects”.
Slightly bubbly; fresh and appley; fine natural acidity.
La Croix Moriceau 2018(Complémen’ Terre)
A full and concentrated, mineral muscadet full of character.
Yellow; waxy, with mature apples and white peach; quite full, mineral (chalky), a nice bitterness in the aftertaste.
Palmento 2019 (Vino di Anna), Etna, Sicilia, Italy
Skin-contact wine made from the Sicilian carricante grape in fiberglass tanks.
Golden towards orange; aroma of citrus peel, clementine, apricot, mango; full in the mouth and slightly textured. Not too acid, low alcohol (11,5) and perfect while waiting for the main course.
Light yellow; aromas of apple, citrus (lime), with a mineral touch; rich, with a good acidity and splendid concentration. Superb with the duck plate.
A light, fruity barbera that comes in a full litre bottle (hence the name), made by the producer behind the famous “donkey wine” Asinoi. At best when chilled.
Lght cherry red; light berries (strawberry), herbs; lively in the mouth (slightly pétillant), juicy, with a good natural acidity.
Montesecondo 2018(Montesecondo), Toscana, Italy
Located in the Chianti area, but not always classified as such. This is an entry-level wine, with 2% of trebbiano blended in with the sangiovese. If my memory doesn’t fail me it’s a light vintage for this wine.
Rather light cherry colour, aroma dominated by red berries; juicy and refreshing.
Made from tempranillo grapes in Arnedo in the lower part of Rioja. Not completely natural, but with a low amount of sulphur added.
Dark red; blackberry and spice; full, fresh and fruity.
After a few wines I often like to round it off with a beer, to “stabilize” the stomach that by now feels like full of acidity. So I asked Mathias S. Skjong, the in-house brewer, if he had something special, maybe something personal. So he produced Terje (made by Mathias himself in collaboration with Grimstad’s successful brewery Nøgne Ø and given a wide distribution by them, for the restaurant’s 10 year anniversary. It’s a very very hoppy, citrussy and dry India pale ale. Perfect to round off another good meal at Apotekergaarden.
Jean-Pierre Robinot is for many one of the most classic in the pét-nat style, and his wines are for every producer, call it old or new world, or whatever, to look up to and seek inspiration from.
Robinot used to run one of the very first natural wine bars in Paris called L’Ange Vin, implying that he is from Anjou in the Loire. After deciding that he wanted to make wine himself, and searching all over for vineyards he finally ended up in Chahaignes, Coteaux du Loir, the village he was raised, just north of Saumur.
There he makes many different wines from chenin blanc and pineau d’aunis, some from own vineyards, others from bought-in grapes. Everything is without additions. He makes a number of sparkling wines from the methode ancestral, nowadays mostly called pét-nats.
Fêtembulles is made from chenin blanc, mainly from 60 year old vines in chalky clay and old marine soil. They are located within AOC Jasnières, but the authorities consider the wines to be atypical, so Jean-Pierre label his wines just Vin de France.
The yield is low (20 hl/ha.). It stayed almost a year on the lees, was degorged by hand, and only topped up with more of the same wine. Unfined, unfiltered and without any additions.
Fêtembulles L’Opéra des Vins 2018(Jean-Pierre Robinot)
Golden, light amber, small bubbles. Mature fruits (yellow tomatoes), mature apples, breadcrumbs and flowers. Quite full mouthfeel and lightly textured, very clean, lovely acidity, mature apples, long.
This Franken wine is maybe perfect to exemplify the natural wine movement. Not only are the words Pure & Naked that make up the name among the most dominating when describing these wines. It’s also a pét-nat, a style that has come to prominence in this era, and it’s un-filtered, murky as a morning mist.
Ludwig and Sandra Knoll can be found in Würzburg, on the river Main, where they practise bidynamic vituculture. Among their most important vineyards are Würzburger Stein, and maybe even more famous: Stettener Stein, hence the name of the company.
The wine is made from sauvignon blanc and cabernet blanc (a Swiss hybrid) in equal parts. It was cold-macerated 6 days, un-filtered and un-sulphured.
Pure & Naked2019 (Weing. am Stein – Ludwig Knoll)
Cloudy yellow-greenish, lightly bubbly. Aroma of pineapple, going towards lime and grapefruit, a flowery component too. Juicy, lovely acidity, nice grapefruity aftertaste. Pure fun!
Food: Fish, shellfish, sushi, salads, some strawberries, on its own…
Who has not experienced that sweet, uninspiring stuff called lambrusco? Now thankfully more and more producers try to lift it from that bad reputation. In the past it was made by what is now dubbed the ancestral method, that involves bottling before it is finished, sometimes with a small addition of unfermented must, and the bubbles were developed during this process. Some are also made by the “traditional” (champagne) method. But most are made with the second fermentation in steel tanks.
Lambrusco is a family of grapes that has also given name to several DOC regions in Emilia-Romagna. This wine here comes under the less specific designation Lambrusco dell’Emilia.
Camillo Donati is found in Langhirano, just south of Parma, where he cultivates 21 hectares of vines biodynamically. It was his grandfather who first planted vines. The soil here is calcareous clay, and this particular vineyard was planted in the 1970’s. They were spontaneously fermented, with the secondary fermentation in bottle. It’s unfined and unfiltered, and the certification is organic.
Il Mio Lambrusco 2018(Camillo Donati)
Dark red, bubbly. Aromas of cherry, raspberry, flowers. Fresh, slightly textured, yet juicy and appealing in the mouth, with a good natural acidity.
Food: Characuterie (don’t forget the prosciutto of Parma), light meat, pasta, salads, aperitif…
I was touring the Veneto region in the summer of 2018. One of the producers I would have visited was the unique Leonildo Pieropan. But sadly he passed away only two months before. But he had given me many good memories with his wines, from the lovely entry-level Soave and up to the vineyard wines. La Rocca was a regular when I was responsible for the wine selection at a restaurant during the 1990’s, and it was a delightful revisit when the latest issue appeared in a private tasting lately.
Founded in 1880, the Pieropan family was thought to have been the first to use the term Soave on the labels, several decades before the DOC was born. Leonildo Pieropan was among the first ones to recognize the potential for single vineyard wines, and for the ageing potential of Soave wines and the much overlooked garganega grape.
The Calvarino vineyard was bought by his grandfather in 1901. This was the first single vineyard Soave Classico in 1971.
The La Rocca vineyard is located on the hillside of Mount Rcchetta near Soave’s medieval castle. The soil is calcareous, the south-west, and there are several long, narrow terraces. The harvest is usually done in late October. The harvest is manual, the maceration short but some skin-contact. After fermentation the wine is aged for one year in old barrels of 500L. And the variety? Garganega, obviously.
La Rocca 2018(L. Pieropan)
Golden yellow. Aromas of yellow apples, white flowers, white peach, a touch of tropical fruit, and a nutty touch. Full, glyceric and juicy on the palate, with a pineapple-like acidity, and some bitter almond in the end. It’s complex, quite concentrated and long.
Food: Grilled and tasty fish, light meat, cheese, risotto…