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Solo de Uva revisited

No visit to Madrid without visiting Carlos and his friendly staff at Solo de Uva. This time I came with my friend, wine photographer Kjell Karlsson, after our mostly independent but parallel trips to León, Valladolid and Salamanca.

Another friend was there too, wine producer Fabio Bartolomei of Vinos Ambiz. This was in the middle of the vintage. Fabio had been harvesting two grape varieties in Gredos and Madrid, and we were happy that he took the time to see us. He had to leave “early” too, as he had to start the elaboration of the harvest at 6 in the morning. The wine is not completely natural, you see…

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We started with a rosé from Murcia this time, Viña Enebro, a light violet coloured wine with all the flowers of the murcian plains in the glass. But the wine discussion of the night was centered around the next wine, Fabio’s own sauvignon blanc. I have got used to it, and I love the fruitiness and the fullness, and Fabio has made it, so he must stand up for it. But for Kjell it was quite challenging. I don’t say that he didn’t like it. The discussion was mainly about typicity. In my opinion a wine must first be true… Well, here we must demand that it’s made from natural yeasts, because from bought-in or “selected” yeasts we only get the cliché, not the real thing. And so many of the most famous Sancerre brands are already disqualified, many would say Riffault too (not very famous maybe, outside the natural wine world). And next, is sauvignon the Loire or the New Zealand version, or can it come from Spain? (Syrah came from Asia, remember…)

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We tasted two red wines as well, «the wine from Mars», aka El Marciano, Alfredo Maestro’s lovely and fruity Gredos garnacha, and the Alpujarras 1368 from Barranco Oscuro from a vineyard of that height (1368 meters above sea level), a fruity and inspiring wine, a decent touch of oak, but with ageing potential.

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Wine of the Week

Flowery Axarquía white

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

2. André en Clara André and Clara

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

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Ariyanas Seco Sobre Lías Finas 2013 (Bodegas Bentomiz)

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

Price: Medium

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Wine of the Week

A Frenchman in Arlanza

Olivier Rivière, a native of Cognac, and trained at various French domaines came to Spain, first to work with Telmo Rodríguez. At the same time he was buying vineyards, and he now owns land in Rioja, Navarra – and here in Arlanza (Castilla y León). True to the lands and the traditions, this is the kind of guy that Spain can’t get enough of. I think he can help to get Rioja on the right track, and Arlanza needs all forces put together to bring the area into the lime-light for the first time. Anyway, here is a 95% tempranillo, 5% garnacha that in fact reminds me a little of the garnachas of Gredos, at least in terms of mouthfeel (the rich, in one way alcoholic, but in another not alcoholic after all, if you know what I mean…). Here it is!

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Viñas del Cadastro 2009 (Olivier Rivière)

Deep young red. Dark fruits, plums, morelloes. Full-bodied and long and with a warming, but not pungent, alcohol, and lots of rounded tannins.

Price: Medium

Food: Red meat and roasts, but surprisingly good without too.

 

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Wine of the Week

On Garnacha day

There are a great many grapes with a special day dedicated to them. As today is the international Grenache Day our pick of the week will be one of that sort, from the Alpujarras in Granada. This is one of the Spanish regions that have offered an alternative to the traditional northern interpretation of the grape, supposedly originated right there in Navarra (Rioja Baja) area. Others are Aragón, most notably Calatayud, that could maybe be seen as an extension to Navarra, but they offer a quite distinctive style. In more recent times the garnacha tratitions of Montsant/Priorat (mostly in blends), and the western outskirts of Madrid (like the Sierra de Gredos) have come to prominence.

Valenzuela Father Manuel (right) and son Lorenzo Valenzuela

Back to the ‘granadino’ highland: Much has been said about the great work of the Valenzuela family, in this blog too. Their pioneering work and innovative spirit has inspired many, both fellow vinegrowers and tasters. Innovative yes, but it’s really a wish to go back to the roots of their own tradition that best characterizes their approach. So all the vineyards are grown naturally, no herbicides, pesticides or synthetic fertilizers are used, just like in the old days.

They dispose of some of the highest vineyards in Europe, in fact their Cerro Las Monjas 1368 has for long been the bottled wine sourced from the highest vineyards, 1368 meters to be precise. In this vineyard there is garnacha too, planted between 1983 and 1989.

For this wine no SO2 or any other additives or preservatives have been used, no stabilization processes, no clarifying, only a slight filtering before bottling.

 

Garnata

Garnata 2009 (Barranco Oscuro)

Bright red. Clear-cut, pure aromas of red berries, aromatic herbs, and some graphite. Quite full and round on the palate, fresh and appealing appearance, and a long aftertaste with fruit around the acidity.

Price: Medium

 

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Wine of the Week

Natural Ribera del Duero

Today’s first revelation was what is supposedly Ribera’s first wine without added sulphur, an unoaked tempranillo from La Horra. Jordi Alonso, from Girona and with a background from Montsant and Priorat, took over as technical director and winemaker for coop Virgen de la Asunción in 2012 and seeks to make Priorat style wines.

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The cultivation he calls traditional, meaning “pre-conventional”, with no need for chemical treatments, not even fertilizing.

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Zarzuela Joven sin sulfitos añadido 2014 (Bodega Virgen de la Asunción)

Dark with a blue hue. Lovely pure tempranillo fruit, with sensations of dark and wild berries, some balsamic notes, but no noticeable volatile acidity (0.7 g). Light yet mouthfilling, with a refreshing acidity and just the right touch of berry tannin.

Price: Low

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Wine of the Week

Guldgrube from Mosel

One of two good and cheap wines I have tasted from the organic wine gut Wolf lately. It is Markus and Ulrike Boor who runs the estate (together with another named Louis Klein). Founded by monks who moved into the monastery in Wolf in 1478, the production contunued after reformation (of the church, that is), and today’s church was in fact built upon the old cellar in 1685.

From 4 hectars where the “Guldgrube” is one of the vineyards in Wolf (there is also one in Traben), good organic, crisp, light, elegant and sometimes mineral wines are made. The most significant ground is schist and the most prominent grape is, not surprisingly, riesling – but several other whites, and reds as well.

 

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Riesling Spätlese Wolfer Guldgrube trocken 2012 (Kirchengut Wolf)

Light yellow. Yellow apple and some lichi and lime in aroma. Slightly off-dry, with a nice acidity, and luckily with that typical Mosel lightness.

Price: Low

 

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Wine of the Week

High schist from Muxagat, Douro

As the name suggests this wine originates from quite high (500 meters) vineyards on schistous ground near Foz Côa high up in the Douro. I tasted the wines in Lisboa, and I fell particularly for the whites. Those who know me would maybe say that I am not particularly fond of oak. But I am no fanatic either. Here the balance is so neat, and the complexity great. For this one the grapes are only rabigato, cold fermented and aged (for around one and a half years) in French oak and cement using indigenous yeasts.

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Os Xistos Altos 2011 (Muxagat)

Yellow with a green tinge. Aromas of white flowers, mature apple, ginger, some smoke and with a salty minerality. Full on the palate, great concentration and good acidity. It shows some oak at the moment, but it has many years ahead.

Price: Medium

 

 

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Wine of the Week

May I…?

Some times you doesn’t want your wine to bother you with big questions, nuclear weapon threats and difficult international issues. Some times it’s ok that it comes to you, tickles your taste buds, and slides down – like a polite question, or maybe just to confirm that all is still well.

Karl May has a lot to offer, from single vineyard rieslings to easy drinking reds and whites.

He manages 20 hectars of organic vineyards in Wonnegau, Southern Rheinhessen. The grapes are handpicked. In the cellar he lets time do the rest. Thus fermentation occurs by its own and when the time is right.
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Spätburgunder 2012 (Karl May)

Bright red. Aroma of raspberries and cherries, a touch of spice. Luscious, cool, with a fine rounded acidity, quite slender if you think of it. Not very complex, fruity, easy-to-drink, and just lovely!

Price: Low

Food: Light meat, hard cheeses, salads… and try to bacalao

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Wine of the Week

Take a Spanish cab

So you don’t think a Spanish cabernet can be much fun? This one is, at least for me. Lately I have tasted through most of Dominio Buenavista’s portfolio again, most of it under the Veleta label, from the (in Spain at least once) ever-present cabernet, via the obscure local variety vijiriega, a tinto jóven made of tempranillo, to the most fascinating not-very-sweet red dessert wine Don Miguel.

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Juan, Nola and Nolita (front) Palomar

Dominio Buenavista is located 650 meters above sea level, in the Alpujarras, a mountaneous area in the province of Granada. This is one of the Spanish centers of natural wine, with Barranco Oscuro as one of the leading producers. Their good friends at Dominio Buenavista is another. We are in the village of Ugíjar, in the southeastern Contraviesa subzone, with a view to the Mediterranean and at the same time to Veleta, one of the highest peaks on the Spanish mainland. Planted here are cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, tempranillo, chardonnay, viognier a.o., not to forget the exiting white variety vijiriega. The work in the vineyard is biodynamic, only natural yeast is used and the quantities of sulphur are very restricted. Red wines normally undergo a ten days maceration, where the must is pumped-over one or two times each day before pressing. They are then typically aged for a certain time in French and American oak up to five years old.

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Veleta Cabernet Sauvignon Roble 2013 (Dominio Buenavista)

The grapes for the Cabernet Sauvignon Roble 2013 were picked mid-September, and the wine aged for three months in oak.

Dark, bright colour. Aroma with elements of ripe fruit, plums, some pepper, quite balsamic (menthol). Rich with a smooth texture, but not without tannic structure either. The balance between fruit, oak, tannins and the other elements is already intact, but the wine will develop positively for 4-5 years too.

Price: Low

 

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Wine of the Week

Brezo from Bierzo

Grégory Pérez produces highly original wines, but also with respect for terroir. They are natural wines made in a sustainable way, with knowledge of soil and protection of biodiversity as key elements. Low yields secures ripeness and concentration, and cluster thinning and organic fertilizers is only used if absolutely necessary. Selection always takes place in the vineyard. The fermentation is carried out by indigenious yeasts, different yeasts for each vineyard.

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The really like his unoaked entry level wine called Brezo made from 85% mencía and 15% alicante bouschet, a grape associated with warmer climates. It’s made from 30 year old vines 550 meters above sea level in Horta and Villafranca del Bierzo.

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Mengoba Brezo 2013 (Gregory Pérez)

After a lot of airing (this is mencia, a truely reductive grape, remember):

Dark red, bright with a violet tinge. Balsamic notes in aroma, forest fruits and flowers. Fleshy, full, with a nice acidity. A charming red bierzo on the «wild» side.

Price: Low

Food: Try with light meat, game, and a variety of cheeses

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