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Articles and Wine of the Week

Križ’s Grk

I don’t blame you if you have trouble reading or understanding the title of this post. But let us first get the basics clear: Križ is the producer, based in the settlement Prizdrina (Potomje) on the Croatian peninsula Pelješac. Grk is the grape variety.

Grk is an indigenous grape, grown mostly on the neighbouring island of Korčula, and to a lesser extent here. There are only 15 hectares of it in Croatia (and the world). The word literally means bitter, but the main characteristics are high acidity, high natural sugar content (because of the sun reflection from the sea), balsamic aromas and saltiness. Although the name hints to a Greek origin, modern studies show that it is a close relative to crljenak kaštelanski (a forerunner to both zinfandel and the Adriatic grape plavac mali).

A special feature is that grk has only female flowers, so to able to produce fruit it needs to be planted alongside another variety. On Pelješac the norm is to plant three rows of grk, three of plavac mali, and so on.

The jazz musicians on tour enjoyed both wine and poster

Vinarija Križ

Just a few words on the producer here, that I visited a few days ago together with fellow jazz musicians taking a break from a festival held nearby. Maja and Denis Bogoević Marušić grow 2 hectares of grapes on limestone in the Postup region (plavac mali) and sand on the Križ hill (grk). Some of the vineyards in Postup are very steep (up to 45°inclination), so it has been necessary to build stone walls. They work by hand. The cultivation is traditional, exclusively organic (with some biodynamic practise), and only natural yeasts are used.

Their grk stays 4-7 days on the skins, depending on the vintage, before a one week fermentation. It’s matured in old oak barrels (not toasted, to give a gentle treatment). There is no sulphur added, and the total is less than 10 mg/L.

Grk 2018 (Vinarija Križ)

Golden colour towards orange. Smells of mature apples, some citrus (mandarins), pine and figs. Dry on the palate, very fine-tuned tannins and with a fresh, integrated acidity.

Price: Medium

Food: It’s very versatile: Fish, shellfish, risotto, pasta, and it performs surprisingly well with tasty meat

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Wine of the Week

Izi going

I am on my way to Croatia, from where I soon will report. From neighbouring Slovenia I tasted a wine from Kmetija Štekar again the other day. Štekar should be quite familiar for readers of this blog. Here is a brief introduction to the winery, and notes about another wine.

This one is more easy and less complex than you would normally get from this producer. It’s made from ribolla with natural yeast, made in steel, unfined and unfiltered.

Izi 2018 (Štekar)

Golden yellow, slightly turbid. Aromas of yellow apple, bay leaf, dried fruit, and a touch of both lemon and honey. Good concentration, yet juicy in the mouth, with a fresh acidity.

Price: Medium

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Wine of the Week

Elena of Jumilla

I visited Elena Pacheco at the family farm some years ago. She runs the business together with three sisters. They have 17 hectares. Monastrell is the main variety, growing in poor, limestone soils at around 500 meters. These are bush vines (‘en vaso’ in Spanish, more than 40 years old. And the wines are certified organic.

This wine made from 95% monastrell and the rest syrah, and is fermented and raised in steel.

Familia Pacheco 2016 (Viña Elena)

Dark cherry red. Aroma of mature red and dark berries (plums, blackberry, aromatic herbs and some balsamic (lickorice). Full-bodied, fresh and balanced; the alcohol (14,5) is evident, but not dominating.

Price: Low

Food: Roast, cheese, murcian paella, tapas


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Wine of the Week

Juicy at Esaias

I met Dido and Jurriaan almost by coincidence in Barcelona. Or to be precise, we were introduced by the organizer of the Vella Terra natural wine fair. I got the impression that their business was just beginning (which is not far from true), and the wine they had brought was just a sample. So it was a big surprise to find one of their wines at the newly opened Esaias in Oslo (next door to, and under the same ownership as the restaurant Bacchus, itself a natural wine haven).

Jur (left) and Dido at Garage, Barcelona

Dido and Jur are from Amsterdam. In their own words, then share a passion: wine, and travelled around the world to find kid right place to make it. They finally chose Alt-Empordà in Spain, where they found around ten hectares of vineyards in the natural reserve of Albera, that they were able to buy by crowdfunding. The vineyard they call Tortuga, because they share them with a nearly extinct tortoise species). It’s already cultivated organically, and they intend to implement biodynamic practise as well. 2018 is the first vintage when they are able to make wine entirely from own grapes.

Worth mentioning is that Dido was doing research for a master in cultural anthropology on the Swartland Independent Producers, a group of young winemakers making natural wines (Craig Hawkins, Jurgen Gouws ao.). Inspired by these people, living out their dream, they decided to do the same.

Along their journey they had worked for both big industrial companies and small artisans. It was Joan Ramón Escoda of Conca de Barberà who really made them realize that wine should be made naturally, with minimal intervention.

Juicy is made from garnacha 60% and merlot. The merlot was destemmed and pressed, then raised in 500L old oak barrels for 4 months. The garnacha grapes were pressed in steel, in whole bunches. There was no temperature control. The wine is unfined and unfiltered, and total SO2 is a mere 5 mg. The soil here is granite and schist., for the records.

Juicy 2018 (Vinyes Tortuga)

The colour we can call strawberry red. Smells of raspberry and strawberry. It lives up to its name, is juicy in the mouth, intensely fruity with raspberry all the way, and an inspiring acidity.

Price: Medium

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Wine of the Week

Nice Job!

At Oslo’s Territoriet wine bar they served this delicious wine. We enjoyed it outdoor in September, my brother and I. It is categorized as a rosé. That is, technically it’s a white wine, because pinot grigio sorts under that category. But many will know that the grape can have many red pigments, and with extended skin-contact the colour will appear.

Villa Job’s 6 hectares of vineyards are located on the Friuli Pozzuolo plateau, 90 meters above sea level. The soils here are complex, with sand, silt, clay, sandstone and marl. These vineyards have been in the Job family for generations.

Today Alessandro and Lavinia Job are farming biodynamically. The wine is made with native yeasts, and very little sulphites, if any. Long maceration in old barrels on skins is necessary to get what they consider to be the best expression of the grape. Here it lasted for 60 days. It’s spontaneous fermented, with natural malolactic fermentation in cement. The wine is unfiltered, and barely sulphured.

Guastafeste 2016 (Villa Job)

Salmon pink. Aroma of strawberry, raspberry and white flowers. Juicy, but also with good concentration, some very fine tannins, and a very pleasant acidity in a long finish.

Price: Medium

Food: Light meat, white and red fish, pasta, salads

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Wine of the Week

Dangerously drinkable from lower Loire

Groslot (or officially grolleau noir) is not in high esteem. But cared for like this it can give dangerously drinkable wines. This one is a real “glou-glou” and has been a house-wine in my house lately.

Domaine Les Grandes Vignes has been in the lower Loire since the 17th Century. Today they have a low-intervention philosophy, and biodynamic certification. The wine is fermented in old barrel, no sulphur added, unfined and unfiltered. It’s low in alcohol (11%), and only around 4 g/L acidity.

100% Groslot 2018 (Dom. Les Grandes Vignes)

Dark, blueish hint. Blueberry and dark cherry on the nose, some herbs and a hint of woodlands. Really delicious in the mouth; fine young tannins, and refreshing acidity, clean aftertaste where the berries dominate.

Price: Low

Food: Salads, light meat, pasta, bacalao

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Wine of the Week

Fresh, pleasant Bardolino

Here is a short post from a wonderful Italian lakeside resort. Bardolino is located on the east side of lake Garda, not far from Verona in the Veneto province. There are many nice, fresh and juicy rosés and light red wines.

These hills are where the Gorgo Wine Estate was established in 1973. It belongs to the village of Custoza, and the company also makes organic certified biancos bearing that name.

This Bardolino wine is made from corvina 55%, rondinella 25&, and the rest divided between molinara, merlot and cabernet sauvignon grapes. It’s made with controlled temperature fermentation in stainless steel, and was pumped over for up to ten days.

Gorgo Bardolino 2018

Bardolino 2018 (Gorgo)

Light ruby red. Aroma of clean red fruit; cherry, some herbs. It’s dry in the mouth, with a pleasant smooth mouth-feel, and with a slightly bitter aftertaste. Simple, harmonious, easy to drink. Just nice!

Price: Low

Food: Light meat, salads, soups, and some pasta and rice dishes

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Articles and Wine bars and restaurants

The Real Wine fair 2019 – III The events, incl. a popup from Stavanger, Norway

During the Real Wine fair some food providers were present at the Tobacco Dock to serve the tasters during their breaks. Among them were the DuckSoup wine bar of Soho,  Burro e Salvia, pasta place in Shoreditch, Flying Frenchman with their sausages and outdoor raised pork and chicken. The hotel wine bar La Cour de Rémi also came over from Calais to serve delicious flavours from Normandie.

Around town there were several “take-overs”, such as Morgan McGlone of Belles Hot Chicken in Australia cooking Nashville style at Brawn. The Bastarda company took over Leroy in Shoreditch, with wine assistance of Ben Walgate of Tillingham, East Sussex. To mention only a couple.

Claes, Magnus and Nayana of Söl, Norway

To my surprise, the trio behind Restaurant Söl of Stavanger, right in my own Norwegian backyard, were cooking at Terroirs, the most emblematic natural wine bar of all. Obviously I had to visit them and see what they were up to.

Restaurant SÖL opened in Stavanger on the southwest coast of Norway in 2018. The driving forces behind the restaurant are Nayana Engh, Claes Helbak and Magnus Haugland Paaske, all of them with experience from Norwegian and foreign restaurants.

Their main focus is fresh, local, sustainably grown vegetables combined with natural wines and drinks produced by small artisans – to be enjoyed in a relaxed atmosphere. SÖL can be said to be a part of the “new” Nordic wave, which means food inspired by traditional dishes, but with a modern twist and a wink to the world.

Claes

That night the wines were paired in collaboration with Terroirs’ master sommelier Kevin Barbry. And Kevin was the one who served me the first wine while waiting in the bar. This was Mayga Watt 2018, a pétillant gamay from Gaillac in the Sud-Ouest region of France: A pink, crisp and juicy pétillant wine, with smell of strawberry and white pepper.

The first thing that was brought to the table was sourdough bread, and delicious organic butter from Røros, a lovely small town in mid-Norway. Grilled squash, fermented tomato, milk curd and ramson capers came next, elegantly paired with Attention Chenin Méchant 2017 (Nicolas Réau). This is a wine from Anjou the Loire valley. Originally Réau planned for a pianist career. Key words here are 15 year old plants, indigenous yeasts, direct press, no fining, light filtering, low sulphur, and ageing on lees in used oak. The result is a yellow, peach and mature apple smelling wine with good volume, luscious mouthfeel and a rounded acidity.

Next was panfried cod, dulse (the sea growth from which the restaurant takes its name), spring greens and brown butter sabayon. White flowers were garnish on top of this plate. Partners in life and crime Nayana and Claes had picked them by a local lake (Stokkavatnet, for those familiar with it) the night before they set off to England. Dinavolino 2017 (Denavolo), an elegant orange multivarietal wine from Emilia-Romagna, Italy, matched the tasty yet delicate dish without problems. The wine: Light amber; peel sensations, white peach and flowers; slightly tannic, wonderfully fresh.

Nayana

Next was Jersey Royals potatoes, broad beans, sugar snaps, beef jus and lovage, with herbs from the Rogaland region, the trio’s homeplace. It was accompanied by Le Vin Est Une Fête 2018 (Elian da Ros), again from the Sud-Ouest of France. The main grape here is abouriou, typical of Marmande. The wine was cherry red, medium deep, smelled primarily of red fruits, and had very light, fine-grained tannins. The dish is complicated, with peas and other tender greens in a powerful sauce. The combination with a very lightly macerated red. It would have been interesting to see whether an orange wine, like the previous one, could have build a bridge between the strong and the tender.

Rhubarb compote (from the organic farm at Ullandhaug, Rogaland), toasted ice cream, rhubarb sorbet and crispy rhubarb. Lovely and fresh! There were two options for drinks, and I chose Éric Bordelet‘s pear cider Pays de la Loire (France). The cider was composed from many varieties of pear, grown on schist. With 12 grams residual sugar it gave a somewhat off-dry mouthfeel, a complex, cidery (what a surprise!), sweetish aroma, a touch of tannin. The marriage wasn’t made in heaven, though the bubbles helped. I was wondering what could have been done differently. I must admit I thought the wind should have been sweeter. With ice cream a PX sherry automatically comes to mind, but it would have been much too powerful here. After having returned to Norway I visited their place and had the same dish. Then Claes served it with an apple cider, this time bone dry, with a penetrating acidity and fresh bubbles. Maybe not perfect, but maybe the closest possible.

To conclude: Fønix Blue, a cheese from Stavanger Ysteri (Norway) and rye bread. With this we could chose to include La Cosa (The Thing) 2017 (Alfredo Maestro), from the Ribera del Duero area of Spain. What a wine! Dark amber, or mahogany; complex aroma with rhubarb and plum, and very sweet. I had to come back to this wine the day after, at Alfredo’s table at the fair, maybe to see if this was really true (!).

Remember this is a wine blog, not primarily about food. But once in a while it’s necessary to say a few words about wine-food combinations, and I have given some opinions here. What could be said, as a conclusion, and apart from the fact that it was a big surprise to see these people her is the following. The trio behind Söl are cooking with great passion and creativity, and from good, healthy ingredients. They are also proud to come out among their “audience” and present it, what the ingredients are and how the dishes are made. The drinks are picked carefully among the most natural and sustainable there is.

We cannot expect more than that.

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Wine of the Week

SP68 Rosso 2018

Back at Sentralen yesterday, we not only had a simple meal and two delicious wines by the glass. It’s Oslo’s annual jazz festival this week, and the festival uses the building as a “festival office” for the 4th year. There are good vibes in the whole building. So after the meal we found our way through a festival crowd and took went up to 3rd floor to enjoy another gig.

The food was pizza this time, a spicy and tasty vegan version, and a more “wine friendly” white pizza. One of the wines was Arianna Occhipinti’s red SP68.

Arianna at the Real Wine fair 2017

Occhipinti is located in the Vittoria region of Sicilia, and SP68 is the main road in the area. Arianna has now 25 hectares certified-organic vineyards, only local varieties, and practices biodynamic.

This wine is made from frappato 70%, that gives acidity and elegance, and nero d’Avola, that is there more for body and colour. It has been a favourite for many years, and it was nice to try the fresh vintage 2018.

Arianna says that the secret to make more elegant wines in the area is not irrigating, harvesting late and not using fertilizers. The freshness comes from the subsoils. Contrary to this, a wine made from young or chemically grown vines would most often take its nutrition from the topsoil and would as a result have a warm, cooked character. The SP68 wines are vinified and aged in small concrete tanks, with no oak and no punchdowns.

The two varietals are native to Sicily and are grown on red sand soils over limestone rock, with vines averaging 15 years old on four different sites. The vines are organically farmed and hand-harvested. The fruit is mainly destemmed (4% stem inclusion in the upcoming 2017 vintage) and co-fermented with native yeasts in concrete tanks and with a two-week skin maceration. The wine is aged in concrete tanks for 8 months and bottled unfiltered.

SP 68 Rosso 2018 (Arianna Occhipinti)

Dark, young red, blueish hint. Fresh, fruity, aromas of blueberry, cherry, some herbs. Juicy, luscious in the mouth, with young tannins, and a fresh acidity.

Price: Medium

Food: Pizza, pasta, light meat, vegetarian dishes

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Wine of the Week

Dancing on the tongue

This Loire pét nat was served at restaurant Söl, Stavanger, Norway. It was a starter, outside the set menu, and a fresh and inviting start of their five course meal.

British Toby Bainbridge and his wife Julie are found near Angers, in the western Loire.

In a modest winery they make three different wines. This cuvée is a pink lightly-bubbled méthode ancestrale (lightly sparkling) wine made with the local grolleau noir grape. The second fermentation is in bottle and sulphur additions are very low.

La Danseuse means “The Dancer” in French. One of his importers tells that it can also refer to “the barrel of wine that a vigneron would put aside for his mistress”. In the past, we should add.

Part of the story is that Denmark was the first export country. Toby went with a friend. Noma, one of the world’s top restaurants, was the first stop. And the wine has been found there ever since.

La Danceuse at Söl

Cuvée La Danceuse 2017 (Bainbridge)

Salmon pink. Discrete smell of raspberries and red currants. Delicate red berries in the mouth, fresh acidity and a refreshing carbonic feel, and a long and dry finish.

Price: Medium

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