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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 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.

2015-09-11 11.11.40 Jordi Alonso

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


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.


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.

Juan Manuel Palomar_Dominio Buenavista

Juan, Nola and Nolita (front) Palomar (credit: Dom. Buenavista)

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.


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.


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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Wine of the Week

Austrian with great personality

I met Eduard and Stephanie two years ago in London. In fact, the first time I had contact with Eduard Tscheppe he was doing a range of more conventional wines in Südsteiermark, so I was surprised to find him there. But at the RAW (fair for natural wines) I tasted through a whole range of Burgenland wines with great personality. Yesterday, by coincidence, I was presented to a bottle at my local wine store. This is the only shop in my country where it can be found at the moment, and there is only one bottle left. But luckily this one and other Tscheppe wines can be ordered from anywhere in this strange land.

Tscheppe Stephanie Tscheppe-Eselböck and Eduard Tscheppe

They took over the winery Gut Oggau some years ago. It’s named after the village Oggau am Neusiedler See, close to both the Hungarian and the Slovakian border. From 13 hectars biodynamically cultivated vineyards come a range of wines. These are all vinified with grapes from a single plot, and each cuvée is named after a fictional character, together forming a whole family.

In short, the winemaking includes some time on the skins and lees for both red and white wines, indigenous yeasts, no filtration or fining. It may sound frightening to some, but the results are elegant wines full of life. The wines most often get used to oxygen early in in their development, contrary to the modern norm, where all contact with oxygen must be avoided.

Timotheus then, we learn from the back label, is a representative from the elegant elderly generation, powerful and self-confident, and with both feet planted «in life». You can maybe see this from his portrait, but to get the whole presentation you must buy a bottle.

This wine is made from grüner veltliner and weissburgunder and aged for 9 months in used 500 liter barrels.

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Timotheus 2013 (Gut Oggau)

Misty yellow with a brownish-greenish hue. Expressive (but by no means ‘boasting’), quite complex aromas with elements of clementine, flowers, almond… In the mouth it’s round, fleshy, a bit appley, and with a slightly bitter aftertaste that often comes with the grape variety.

Price: Medium


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Articles and Wine bars and restaurants

Tuna in to the Taberna de el Campero

Zahara de los Atunes is a tiny village on the southernmost stretch of the Costa de la Luz of the Cádiz province. If you can find it, then you will also find the most beautiful beaches you can imagine, bathed in the sun and cooled by the breeze. In the municipal center Barbate the most valuable fish in the world is still caught, a great deal of it will catch the next plane to gourmet sushi restaurants in Tokyo, but thanks to higher forces that some of it stays here and enriches the local bars and restaurants. If Hemingway were still alive he would probably have participated both in the catching and the eating.

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You get chopsticks if you like

La Taberna de el Campero is a branch of restaurant El Campero of Barbate and found right in the small center of Zahara del Atunes. Here chef Julio Vázquez lets the tuna fish, or Atún Rojo Salvaje de Almadraba (to call him by his full name) play the main role. The interior is in aquarium blue colours, table cloths have tuna motifs, and on the menu that’s written on the wall there are tuna dishes, traditional and original, such as Tartar de Atún Rojo (where they use the ‘cola blanca’, the lower part of the tail, in front of the fin), Surtido de Crudos de Atún Rojo (tuna sashimi, tartar and tataki), Lasaña Fría de Atún (cold tuna lasagne) and Albóndiga de Atún (Spanish meatball, made with tuna), just to name a few. Two people, two nights, we were able to see the tuna from many sides and taste types of tuna fish meat we didn’t know existed.

(Here is a clip from the facebook page where you can see their own sushi specialist Jun prepare an interpretation of a Japanese dish.)

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Big surprise, they have a special focus on natural wines!, and that must be the main reason that we came back. The selection was not very big, only one page. But it was ecclectic, and the rest of the wine list wasn’t bad either. Among the whites were La Mar Salada, from Nieva in the Segovia part of Rueda, and almost local wines such as Lagar de Ambrosio from Olvera in the Cádiz mountains. I have written about Rafa Bernabé here in an earlier post. Here is a wine from one of his collegues from Alicante, Bodegas La Encina (from the village of the same name, bordering La Mancha). This is a fresh and delicious un-oaked white called El Juncar from varieties forcallat blanca, tortosina and macabeo and now in the 2014 vintage. This is a good, healthy and naturally made alternative to Castillo de San Diego and other VT Cádiz wines from the sherry houses more likely to be found here.

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El Juncar, white natural wine

And among the reds were Casar de Valdaiga, oak-aged mencía from Bierzo, Duende, a syrah from Granada, Pésico, a wine from the unlikely area of Cangas de Narcea (Asturias), made from the still more unlikely grape varieties of albarín tinto, carrasquín, red verdejo (!) and mencía. All of these were only sold in whole bottles, so we had to be very selective (we can hope that people will find out that these wines are more than merely funny names from funny places, so that the restaurant can find it worthwhile to serve them by the glass next time). One of our whole bottle reds was Viña Almate (Alfredo Maestro), a tempranillo roble from the banks of the river Duratón that runs into the town of Peñafiel (in the heart of Ribera del Duero). I have been an admirer of this wine since I tasted it together with its maker a few months ago. It has a very direct, fruity, flowery and spicy character, and it’s mouthfilling and with a seductive acid freshness.

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Viña Almate, red natural wine

Zahara de los Atunes is a small oasis along the coast of the light. Yes, it’s small, but you have Tarifa and Morocco within reach, so is Cádiz, the sherry district and Sevilla. But you have also interesting historic places such as the Cabo de Trafalgar, the town of Medina Sidinia, reminiscants of the romans… Atlantis may have been here, certainly Tartessos. And apart from the obvious advantages of the beaches and the sunsets, places like the Taberna de el Campero make it even worth to stay in the village for a while.

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Sunset in Zahara de los Atunes


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Wine of the Week

Low-price, low-sulphite from Navarra

Lezaun is a family bodega located in the tiny village of Lakar in the sub-region of Tierra Estella, Navarra. We are near the mountain ranges Urbasa and Andia, and the vineyards give wines that show both Atlantic and Mediterranean influence. The bodega has more than 200 years of history, and today the responsible for oenology is Raúl Lezaun. In-stead of chemical fertilizers they use compost from sheep, and diseases such as mildew and oïdium are fought with sulphur and copper.

Among the wines there are two lines, Lezaun and Eguiarte. There are many interesting wines, but I particularly like the lesser-oaked wines, such as this one. It’s made solely from tempranillo grapes from a vineyard called Zabalartea, completely un-oaked, un-sulphured, and it tastes delicious.


Lezaun 0,0 Sulfitos 2014 (Bodegas Lezaun)

Deep red with a blueish hue. Smells of dark berries, underwood and spice, it has a balsamic coolness, but also hints of something sweeter (mature fruit and the richness from the alcohol). It’s a full wine, with a nice tannin grip and some warmth in the aftertaste.

Price: Low

Food: Red and light meat, tasty sandwiches, tapas

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