This week’s pick was tasted yesterday at Vinkontoret, Stavanger (read more here or here), and was one of their Coravin selections that you can buy by the centilitre.
Nikolaihof is one of Wachau’s leading wineries, and an Austrian biodynamic pioneer (and has also been featured here). Its history can in fact be traced back almost 2.000 years to the Roman fort of Favianis AD 63.
Their wines can be closed as young, but with age they fulfill all the aromatic potential that you can appreciate in this wine. This is because the Saahs family refuses to use enzymes to “open” them up, as a contrast to the many producers who like their wines to reveal their full potential in the first year.
All wines are made without added yeast and without temperature control. The Vinothek 2000 was bottled in 2016. Before that it spent 16 years in big 3.500 liters barrels.
Vinothek Riesling 2000(Nikolaihof)
Yellow with brownish hints. The aroma plays with oxidation, and has at first some mature apple character, that gives way to apricot and honey. You also get a touch of a flinty minerality, and it’s a bit oily and waxy too. Very long, concentrated taste that includes mature citrus, minerals, wax again, and a lovely natural acidity that binds it all together. It has many years of life ahead, I would say.
I tasted this at one of the cosy wine bars at London’s Borough Market, Flor, that has the same owners as Lyle’s of Shoreditch.
Flor is also listed as a bakery. And they are noted for their delicious breads, that some will think are burnt, but is made from a special flour that makes the colour very dark. I had the wine with this bread, and mussel flatbread dish.Valfaccenda is a small winery located in Roero, Piemonte. Luca Fcccenda and Carolina Roggero has 3,5 hectares under cultivation and make tjdgp wines with as little intervention as possible.
This wine is solely from arneis grapes grown on the hills around the winery, from different vineyards with different expositions. The ones with south, east-south exposition has a soft maceration that lasts for up to 10 days on skins, then oak and acacia ageing for 6 months. The north-west and north-east is fermented in concrete and steel. In the spring, after malolactic fermentation, they blend the two wines and bottle it without filtration.
Valfaccenda Roero Arneis 2018(Valfaccenda)
Light straw colour. It’s fresh, with a flowery, herby aroma with some citrus. In the mouth it has a crisp acidity, saline notes and a slightly bitter finish.
Verónica Ortega, born in Cádiz, has her formal training from New Zealand. She came to El Bierzo after having worked with famous winemakers like Álvaro Palacios (Priorat), Dirk Niepoort (Douro), to name just a couple. In Bierzo she worked several years with local master Raúl Perez, before opening her own cellar in 2014.
She has in total around 5 hectares of 80 year old plants in Valtuille de Abajo. These are so-called field blends, but clearly dominated by mencía. The soil here is a mix of sand, clay and limestone.
In the beginning there was only one wine called Roc from Verónica’s newly acquired plots on sand and clay near Valtuille de Abajo. But after a while she started to realize that the more sandier vineyards were apt for more floral and elegant wines. Quite was then born in 2012. With time she cut down the time in barrel (Quite is typically 4 months in 2-3 year in used oak, while Roc has 6 or 7). In the beginning there was only partly destemming, now 100%. Likewise she has found new ways to make this wine more elegant, like fermentation in tank, shorter maceration (12 days for this vintage) in neutral oak – and from this vintage on she also uses 800 liters amphorae for 50% of the wine.
Quite 2016(Verónica Ortega)
Cherry red. Aromas of youthful red fruits (cherries), stone fruit (plums), with a slight balsamic note. Very fresh, natural acidity, juicy and appealing, and with a mineral touch.
For 2019 my New Year’s resolution is to dive deeper in the “Mar de Mencía”. This grape variety is by no means new to me (just do a search on these pages and see). I have long since recognized its ability to show differences in terroir and its susceptibility for reduction. It has many faces. But not least, it can be an absolute delight. And I think it has the potential to be a lot more popular, recognized and appreciated than it is at the moment.
Through a series of short Wine of the Week articles I will show many sides of it (through wines that I have not yet tasted). I think there is a lot to learn through focusing on its homeland, El Bierzo (a ‘comarca’ in the province of León), that shall also be presented as we go along. But we will also meet it in neighbouring Valdeorras and Ribeira Sacra, in Portugal (most often called jaen) and elsewhere. I have a strong suspicion that its white sister godello will follow once in a while. We will see.
Mencía covers nearly two-thirds of the region’s vineyard. It ripens early, often early September, and likes the maritime climate of Bierzo with its usual wet autumns. It’s very versatile and capable of expressing the mineral-rich soils of the region.
Bodegas Estefanía, part of the MGwines group since 2014, is one of the emblematic wineries and one of the bigger ones, with 40 hectares with more than 100 years old vines. The majority is bush vine mencía (“en vaso” in Spanish) on steep south facing slopes. Winemaker is Raúl Pérez (read a little about his personal project here), from Bierzo. He has become one of the most famous of the travelling oenologists, but Estefanía is still one of his favorite projects.
Tilenus is named after the Teleno, a Celtic god of war, spelled this way to pay tribute to the Roman era in the Bierzo. There is also an old Roman coin on the label, a coin that was once discovered in the vineyard. The grapes were sourced from the bodega’s organic vineyards in Arganza.
Tilenus Ecológico 2018(Bodegas Estefanía)
Cherry red, some purple. Aroma of red berries (cherry, raspberry). Quite smooth on the palate, with fine tannins, and good fruit all the way.
Food: A variety of meats, probably super for the local roasts, salads and hard cheeses
The region of Maury is famous for its naturally sweet white of good value, and it’s here that we find Clos des Vins d’Amour. But Maury is more, and this producer shows that they can make a variety of wines, like this wonderfully fresh young red wine.
The estate is comprised of 24 hectares lying in the shadow of the Queribus mountains, and is in the hands of the Dornier family and dates back to 1860.
The soil is mostly black slate, and grenache gris is the dominant grape variety for the sweet white wines. But being located in the Languedoc-Roussillon varieties like syrah, mourvèdre and grenache noir are obviously also seen. This particular wine is made from grenache (noir) 80% and carignan. No sulphur is added here.
Une Lubie 2018(Clos des Vins d’Amour)
Deep red. Smells of flowers, dark and red berries (blackberry, cherry), a touch of anise. Quite light, fresh, luscious, slightly pétillant.
Food: Light meat, veal, cured hams, grilled fish, salads, hard cheeses, and (probably) sushi
My private wine club ends each season with a bring-a-bottle tasting. It’s wonderful when people bring wines they have collected and guarded for years, done a great deal of research to find, or brought with them from travels. And the selection was never better, more curious and overall interesting than the one last Monday. There were aged wines from classical French, Spanish and Italian regions, dessert wines for the season, curiosities like an old Peruvian rosé, a Syrian white, and why not… an up-and-coming producer from the unlikely but emerging wine country of Denmark.
Vejrhøj Vingård in Odsherred (northwestern Sjælland) is run by Nina and Niels Fink. The place sits on an old moraine at 121 meters above sea level, which is high for this generally flat country.
To make the story short, both came from occupations within the economic field when they decided to settle down here in 2009. They have also agronomist background, and with a little help from their friends, they are doing everything in the vineyards themselves. German winemaker Jens Heinemeyer (from Solveigs in Rheingau) assists in the cellar. He has also, with his knowledge and contacts, helped to find equipment for the new winery that was opened in 2015.
Vineyard and wines
The vineyard has southern exposure, with the most sunlight possible here. The approximity to the sea reduces the risk of frost in May, when the vines are blooming. Respect for nature and biodiversity has always been important. There is no spraying, and they will soon have their organic certification.
The wines come in different categories, but they have a common denominator, a cool, Nordic freshness. A link back to their economy background is the wine names: Skilling, sterling, seksling, klipping, styver and gylden are all names for old coins. It also gives a nod to the archeologic reminiscents on the site.
The choice of grape varieties were carefully selected to fit the (still) extreme, cool climate. They were all originally crosses, most often with some German parent. Solaris is the main variety (crossed from merzling, with riesling, pinot gris a.o.) In our wine it is complemented by souvignier gris (with cabernet sauvignon in the mix).
Skilling is a rounder, more full-bodied wine than other wines in their selection. 2018 was a very hot year, so the crisp acidity is complemented by some extra richness. Solaris is the main grape, with some souvigner gris. The fermentation was stuck earlier than expected, thus the residual sugar ended at 19 grams, which balances the acidity and gives more richness.
Light yellow. Aroma of yellow fruits (yellow tomatoes), elderberry, citrus, white peach, and a light touch of honey. Rich, full-flavoured, with a nice acidity to keep the sweetness in check.
I’ve known Riffel for many years, and tasted some of their wines in several vintages, such as this one, their basic dry Riesling. But this time I encountered it by chance, as it was a house wine at a modest restaurant in Stavanger, Norway.
Carolin and Erik Riffel are found in the municipality of Büdesheim in the Bingen area, Rheinhessen. Bingen was the birthplace of the famous Hildegard, composer and more. But nowadays it swings more than ever here.
The vineyards cover 16 hectares, most of it riesling, together with other grapes. Their work with silvaner is very promising. They have for a long time had an organic approach, and in 2012 they switched to biodynamic farming. Obviously they use spontaneous fermentations, and there are few additions. Riffel produces around 100,000 bottles annually. Aside from the still wines bottle-fermented sekt, pét nat and non-alcoholic grape juice are made.
This is a fresh wine made in steel at controlled temperatures, lightly filtered, and clocks in at 5 grams residual sugar and around 8g acidity. The alcohol is 12% vol.
Riesling Trocken 2018(Weingut Riffel)
Light colour, greenish tinge, just a little pétillant. Fresh fruit, citrus (lemon, lime), green apples, a touch of gooseberry. Light, with a fresh acidity, and a pleasure to drink.
Food: Fish, shellfish, salads, light meat, not too heavy or spicy Asian…
Marc Kreydenweiss is a favourite in Alsace, and highlighted a couple of years ago (see here). The winery is based in Andlau, central-north of the Alsace vineyard. However, in 1999 the family purchased an estate in Manduel, in the Rhône Valley, west of Châteauneuf and southwest of Nîmes.
This one was one of seven wines from a private party (hosted by me). The name means golden angel, but as an orange it’s clearly a wordplay. It’s made from five varieties; the aromatic Alsacian grapes muscat and gewürztraminer, and also riesling, as well as the more pigmented grape pinot gris. The Rhône tradition is here represented by grenache blanc (in some vintages also viognier, and also vermentino). It saw10 days of skin-maceration.
Or Ange 2017(M. Kreydenweiss)
Light orange-amber colour. Floral, with apricot, citrus (mandarin), cinnamon, and a slight hint of raisins. Full on the palate, a touch of tannins, integrated acidity, long with fruit all the way.
Food: Fried fish, smoked meat, lightly spiced food, and a varied cheese plate
I went with some musical friends to Vinkontoret, Stavanger. (See also my previous post about the bar.) This is a tradition we have established to shorten the waiting before attending a premiere party for a show (at another place, with a much poorer wine selection).
During the hour or so between the show and the party we had three glasses of wine this time. Vinkontoret (the Wine Office) is a real cathedral of wine, with hundreds of bottles to chose from, and Christoffer Ingebretsen knows more or less what we are after. So we let him chose something, and tasted them blind. The other wines were Heimbourg 2016, a pinot noir from Zind-Humbrecht, Alsace and the Mas la Plana 2015, a cabernet sauvignon from Torres, Penedès. Before this we had this Saumur chenin blanc.
Brendan Stater-West is a young American from Oregon. To make the story short, he was an English teacher in Paris, but had a passion for wine, got married to a French girl, and moved to Saumur in the Loire valley. There he asked the celebrated Romain Guiberteau, whose wines he admired, for a job. Brendan currently leases a one hectare vineyard from Romain, next to his famous Clos du Guichaux in Bizay. It is this vineyard, classified as a lieu-dit, that is Les Chapaudaises. The vineyard’s soil is tuffeau limestone with calcium-rich clay and sand, with many seashell fossils. He has recently met a family who owns an old cellar in Chacé in Saumur. He has begun to renovate this old and magnificent cellar.
This is Brendan’s first vintage, and as such it is very promising. It’s made from indigenous yeast, gently racked from ageing on the lees, and aged for 18 months in old barrel.
Saumur Blanc Les Chapeaudaises 2015(B. Stater-West)
Light yellow. Vibrant citrus-fruit (mandarin peel), yellow fruits, some white pepper, and also a touch of sweetness on the nose. Slender on the palate, with good acidity and a salty minerality.
While being focused on the light, delicate wines of Beaujolais, we throw in a Mediterranean wine that I have had on my list for some time.
And it shares in fact some of their characteristics. For a Jumilla monastrell it’s lightly extracted, focused on fruit and a, should we say, relatively modest 13,5% in alcohol.
Part of the Vinival group, Parajes del Valle is their Jumilla project. Winemaker is the young María Jover Sánchez, who worked for Vega Sicilia for a year, before she returned to her native Levante.
The soil here has a high limestone content, and the monastrell grapes are old. The variety has dark skin, small berries, and in the warm Mediterranean climate the wines are often big with elevated alcohol. Here the farmers are instructed to go for the opposite. The grapes are destemmed, subject to a light pressing and a careful maceration. It’s made mostly in steel, except for malo-lactic fermentation that is carried out in concrete.
Parajes del Valle Monastrell 2018 (Parajes del Valle)
Dark young colour. Quite concentrated berry aroma (raspberry, dark cherry), with aromatic herbs and a touch of lickorice in the background. Juicy, quite cool with smooth tannins.
Food: Stews, Murcian paella, light meat, fried fish