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A Emoción II: New, exciting Galicians

Back in the magnificent Monastery of Oia on the coast of Galicia, I will take a look at some producers that were new to me, or that I didn’t know very well. Here I have only time and space to mention a few.

Adega do Ricón can be found in Arbo, otherwise known for the Galician-Portuguese speciality lamprea, that jawless fish that is not an eel, but swims in the Miño-Minho and is often cooked and served in its own blood, and not only during the festivals in honour of the fish. Albariños and other local wines are perfect with lamprea. We are now in the subzone of Condado do Tea of Rías Baixas, close to the Portuguese border. Adrián Ricón manages 1.6 hectares of vineyards organically. The vineyards are more than 30 years old and planted with many different local grapes, both white and red. Both their Do Ricón Blanco 2018 made from albariño, loureira, treixadura and godello, and the lees-aged Anne do Ricón 2017 (same grapes except for godello) must be good lamprea wines. The first made in steel; young, fresh style, with a good acidity to match, the latter richer, but still more than enough acidity. I also liked the Do Ricón Tinto 2018, made from sousón, mencía, caíño tinto, espadeiro and brancellao and fermented in steel and with a short stay in used French barriques. Light red; strawberry and raspberry; fresh and with a good fruit all the way.

Adrián Ricón

Adega Torgo is found at A Cañiza in the outer limits of Ribeiro, towards Condado do Tea. They offer fascilities for holiday and leisure, in addition to their small wine business based on one hectare of albariño, loureira and treixadura. They are in conversion and will be certified organic from this year. They have an interesting sparkling albariño with 8 months on lees. And then there is the Torgo & Tal 2018, which is a 80% albariño, 20% loureira/treixadura, grown in sandy granitic soil. It’s kept on lees with some bâtonnage: Golden colour; aroma of mature apples; very fresh, with a vivacious acidity.

Javier Barba of Adega Torgo

Antonio Miguez Amil and his Boas Vides may be a name to watch. The only wine I tasted was from the hot and dry 2017, but I liked it. He is located in S. Lourenzo da Pena, near Ribadavia. At present he has only one hectare, and many different local grapes were planted by himself in 2005 on a terrace of loam and sand. He practises organic and biodynamic farming, and average yield is as low as 20 hl/ha. The grapes were de-stemmed but not crushed, and the wine was made in stainless steel and plastic. Only natural yeasts were used, no additives, and only a small dose of sulphites. It was aged in two year old French oak 300L and 500L for 12 months, then another six months in inox. No fining nor filtration. A short tasting note: Quite dark in colour; dark and red fruits on the nose, some coffee; round tannins, some oak yes, but also with a very saline touch.

Antonio of Boas Vides, Ribeiro

Zak Elfman is a man with a mission. He is American, but his mission to make wine started in Stellenbosch, South Africa, where he got training at Keermont Vineyards, then crossed the South Atlantic to Mendoza, Argentina – before he ended in Ribeira Sacra, where he finally set up his small venture called Mission, at present a mere 0.15 hectares. We are talking about low imprint natural wines. The bottles are lightweight. The wines are handmade through every step, from picking to packing. In fact when I lifted up a bottle after the airplane flight when I came home, the label fell off. So they are probably sustainable, and I will not be surprised if there is used a vegan-friendly glue. The grapes are stomped lightly and has had gentle punch downs. They are all aged in neutral French oak, unfined and unfiltered. I chose Mission Cantina Amandi (pink label) 2018: The wine was quite dark, a bit turbid; flowery, cherries, iodine, a bit rustic (earthy); very luscious and delicate in the mouth. I also tasted the 2019, that was less rustic, and a bit darker, as the grapes had matured better. But I liked both. On the third day, and when the temperature was rising, there arrived a slight hint of mousiness too. But don’t worry, this is already lovely, and when these wines are fine-tuned after a couple more years it will be just great. No reason to doubt it!

Zak Elfman has a Mission in Ribeira Sacra

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A Emoción I: Wine fair in coronatimes; Galician classics

A Emoción dos Viños is now in its 10th edition. It is a fair for small artisan vintners held at the magnificent Real Mosteiro de Oia, with splendid views to the Atlantic Sea. This Cistercian monastery -near Baiona, roughly between the big city of Vigo and wine town A Guarda- can trace its history at least back to 1149, when king Alfonso VII of León and Castilla granted parts of today’s complex to the monks of Oia. The fair was held over two days. A novelty this year was not more than 35 wine producers on the first day, and 35 others on the second. And every possible coronavirus times precausion was taken, such as mandatory use of masques for both artisans and visitors.

Antonio Portela, himself wine producer, is head of the fair, together with wine merchant Marina Cruces. In this much too short report we will concentrate on the Galician wines, try to select one wine per producer (at least not all will be mentioned) – and why not start with the organizer. Antonio Portela has always impressed me with his wines, that really tell a story. I visited him last year and saw his beachfront vines, whites albariño, espadeiro blanco and loureiro, and reds tinta femia (caíño tinto), espadeiro, loureiro a.o. They always have a clearcut edge, a long curve, and a wonderful saline finish. The winery is located in Bueu on the Morrazo península, between the rías of Pontevedra and Vigo, just outside the Rías Baixas denomination.

Setting up the fair

His varietal tinta femia (Mar do) Namorado, an all-time favourite, now in its 2018 vintage, must be mentioned. It’s a low-extraction wine, full of red berry aromas (raspberry), herbs like thyme, and as mentioned above, with a long curve, lovely integrated acidity and saline finish. Along the same line was Viña Fazóa 2019, also a tinta femia, this one from three different municipalities, but the taste had close similarities to the more established brand. Aside of this I tasted a tinta femia-espadeiro, in the same vein as the Namorado, and also an interesting loureira tinta, both from 2018. The latter comes with a much darker colour, because of the character of that grape variety.

Antonio Portela welcomes you to the 10th annual feir

It was a nice oportunity for an update of other well-known producers from the region. Among these were Luís Anxo Rodríguez, who has a wide range of wines. I visited him in Ribeiro 7-8 years ago. Some of his wines are meant to last, and among the wines he had brought here were A Teixa 2017 (mainly treixadura with godello and albariño), a citric, creamy and a bit buttery white, still young. Even more so the Viña de Martín Escolma 2015 (treixadura, albariño, torrontés, lado), almost Central Burgundian in its rich citric, powerful, buttery oakiness (12 months in new French oak), 10-15 years before it reaches its prime, according to Luís. And this I can believe, because when I visited him he showed much older editions of the Escolma. For drinking now the Viña de Martín Os Pasás 2018 (80% treixadura, the rest albariño, torrontés and lado) was a better choice. Light yellow with some green, citric, chalky, a bit honeyed. In a way luscious and light, but also concentrated. Appealing.

Luís Anxo Rodríguez

Two other excellent Ribeiro producers were Iria Otero and Cume do Avia. Iria I visited one of the days before the fair and will publish a report. Both ranges were tasted at the Simplesmente Vinho fair in Porto in February this year (here is a summary), so the tasting here was done quickly. From Cume do Avia I tasted a wine in Vigo a couple of days before the fair. (Read about it here.)

Adega Vimbio of O Rosal are now taking steps to be fully organic, and can at the moment be dubbed sustainable. Low sulphur is a characteristic here. I have for long admired their varietal Albariño. It didn’t disappoint in the 2018 vintage either; apples, white flowers and a hint of spice. Splendid was the Baenis 2017 (after an old name for the river Miño), an albariño from a 0.5 ha. plot with poor clay soil. It’s whole-cluster pressed, and spends 6 months with bâtonnage, then another three or four on lees without stirring. There is minimal added sulphur here. It’s rich and tasty, with a slight feeling of sweetness, and with a super integrated acidity. On the nose it’s both herby and saline.

Martín Crusat of Vimbio

More over to the wild side, and well-known after numerous natural wine fairs, is La Pérdida of the village Larouco in Valdeorras. There Nacho González grows 4 hectares of vines on granite and clay at an elevation of 500 meters. The name pérdida (“lost”) derives from the vineyard of old garnacha tintorera that he inherited from his grandmother, and chose to restore in-stead of replant or sell. This marked the start of his winemaking career. He makes extensive use of tinajas (clay vessels) from expert maker Juan Padilla in La Mancha (see here), and very old oak. You will never find any oakiness in his wines, and sulphur is a word you would think he hasn’t heard of. Palomino is another grape that he favours, historically important to the region.

Malas Uvas 2019 was absolutely wonderful. It’s made mostly from palomino, but also doña blanca, two varieties not permitted in Valdeorras (hence the name “bad grapes”). It’s made in steel and tinaja, and got five days skin-maceration, then spent the winter on the lees. No fining, filtration nor addition of SO2. Yellow/greenish and cloudy; very flowery, with pears and minerals; a fine and light tannin, and a lovely cidery acidity. A Chaira 2019 was equally appealing, very natural and juicy, a doña blanca made in tinaja and inox. O Pando Orange is a wine I love, and very much so in the 2019 vintage. From a single vineyard godello, it’s fermented on skins for around 5 months in tinajas before being racked over to steel. This one has more colour, and there is a lot more tannin texture here; aromas of mature citrus (clementine), mature apples, white flowers and salt. It’s a white wine for everything from the grill. OK, I also have to mention the Proscrito 2019. This is made mostly with palomino with some garnacha tintorera, fermented in chestnut and oak, then finished in steel. The grapes are both white and red, thus the category is clarete. Light cherry red; aromas of strawberry, raspberry, orange peel; lightly textured, and a very appealing acidity.

Nacho González of La Pérdida (left), with his friend and collaborator Francesco, that brought his own range

I have had a special relation to Guímaro. Mostly because I have for a long time loved the wines. I visited Pedro Manuel Rodríguez back in 2012, and I was also his importer a couple of years. He is found in Sober in the Ribeira Sacra sub-region of Amandi, where he has 8 hectares of own vineyards at 350-550 meters on slate, granite and sand. He makes both red and white wines, entry-level blends and single plot wines. Just after this fair I had his Finca Meixemán at a restaurant in Madrid, about which you can read here. I have always been a fan of his basic red mencía. In most years, except for some of the hottest, the Guímaro Tinto, is an elegant, red berries fruity wine with some herbs, and with a mineral palate. 2019 is no exception. An interesting feature was Camiño Real, that Pedro brought in two vintages. The grapes are sourced form a 50 year old vineyard, is made with 80% mencía, the rest garnacha tintorera, and pressed with 60% whole bunches. The 2017 was one of the hot years. Here it showed dark, mature fruits, a hint of wood, also a bit vegetal; in the mouth it was quite potent, but also with a stimulating acidity. The 2018 on the other hand, was lighter in colour; it showed more red berries, and more of the saline, sea-breeze characteristics; very juicy in the mouth, and overall a more elegant style. A Ponte is also an “all-time” favourite (since its debut in 2015). It’s from an 80 year old vineyard of granite and slate, from the same slope as Meixemán, but on top (while the other is in the middle). The grapes are mencía, sousón, brancellao, merenzao and caiño tinto. It shows plenty of red fruits, also some balsamic, herbs, it’s quite structured, still with a bit oak, and would be perfect in a 3-5 years time, I would guess. Interesting was also Divina Clementia 2015, a wine in its optimum drinking point, according to Pedro. It was a bit developed, cherry coloured, with fine-grained tannins and still good acidity. And it would be unfair to leave without having mentioned the whites. Both the entry-level Guímaro Blanco 2019 and the Cepas Viejas 2018 deliver as expected. The first light, smooth and lovely immediate drinking, the other more yellow, a bit buttery, full, but still with good acidity.

Pedro Rodríguez, Guímaro

Back soon for some (at least for me) lesser-known producers, then some from outside Galicia.

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Wine bars and restaurants

Angelita Madrid

Just before leaving Spain this time I had the chance to visit the wonderful wine bar-restaurant Angelita Madrid just off the Gran Vía. This is an all time favourite, but I realized that this post is the only one on these pages so far. They have a bodega with more than 500 references, and always some 50 on offer by the glass. Add to this a high level kitchen, moderate prices and a highly competent staff, and you understand that the place is recommended.

This time I started with an albariño from Meaño, Rías Baixas, Galicia. Altos de Cristimil 2018, from the bodega of the same name. It showed a light yellow colour with greenish tones; aroma of yellow apples, flowers and with a certain lees character; quite slender in the mouth, with a good acidity, a bit almondy and with a salty finish. Very appealing.

Tomatoes of the variety “corazón de buey” (bull’s heart), oil and salt, bread with the albariño and the Alella

La Flamenca 2018 is a new project of Mario Rovira, of bodega Akilia in Bierzo. This is however in Alella, Catalunya, just north of Barcelona. It was listed under skin-contact wines, but the contact is limited with only five days of maceration with skins and two more days in spontanous fermentation after pressing – thus the light colour. 2018 is his first vintage here. Macabeu and pansa blanca are grown near the sea in granite soil. Aging was in ceramic egg, manzanilla barrel and steel tank. I would say the colour is light straw; a fine and discreet aroma with white flowers and lime; lightly textured, just a hint of peel, and with a salty finish. Really cool.

I tried Massuria 2009, a specialty in that it’s a developed red Bierzo wine. This dish however, called for something fresher. Guímaro Finca Meixemán 2017 (Pedro Manuel Rodríguez) could provide that. It’s a single plot wine from the middle of a hill in the Amandi subregion of Ribeira Sacra. Dark colour with violet hints; despite a hot vintage the aroma is quite cool, with red berries and some balsamic, or herby, notes; super fruit in the mouth, a natural, integrated acidity, and just the faintest touch of barrel.

Valderiz 2016 was also tried, and is not bad at all. But I had already selected the Yotuel Selección 2015. The family bodega Gallego Zapatero is one of three in Ribera del Duero that Alsatian winemaker Sophie Kuhn was in charge of before she left a couple of years ago. From nine hectares in Anguix, Burgos province, they have a selection of wines, some of them single-plot wines. This is the quality between the entry-level wine and the single vineyard wines. It’s a varietal tinta del país (tempranillo) from two plots, both with more than sixty year old vines in bush training, grown in mainly clay and sandy soil. 2015 was a hot year with a short growth cycle. Fermentation was carried out in inox and concrete, and the 14 month ageing in French oak and concrete. Dark red with violet hints; aroma of forest fruits (blackberry), herbs (mint, rosemary) and pepper and some coffee,; it’s a potent wine, but the tannins are not overwhelming, and it has a good balance between the richness and the acidity, a hint of toast, and stylish in spite of 14%.

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Wine of the Week

Finca Genoveva with Rodri Méndez

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.

Finca Genoveva, a countryside “pazo” with a chapel seen in the back

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.

Rodri Méndez of Forjas del Salnés

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).

Served with “vieiras”, the scallop shell associated with the pilgrims, at Mesón A Curva, Portonovo

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.

Price: Medium

Food: White fish, seafood (oysters, clams, pulpo), rice dishes, chicken and salads

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Wine bars and restaurants and Wine of the Week

Caíño Longo at Malauva, Vigo

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.

The first of two albariños, Josiño preparing some bread and tapas in the background

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!

Price: Medium

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Simplesmente Vinho 2020: Some highlights

It is always a delight to visit the Simplesmente… Vinho fair of Porto, held in Porto towards the end of February at Cais Novo, a former port wine warehouse by the Douro river. It’s an independent and alternative winefest that unites press, wine lovers and vignerons, most of these small artisan growers that work in a natural and organic way. This edition was number 8th, and showcased 101 producers, most of them Portuguese, some from Spain, only one from France I think, and a specially invited producer from Oregon, USA. There was good food, visual arts, there was music (and this year I was lucky to be able to take part myself), and oh! so many nice people.

There were endless rows of good wines to enjoy, so here I will only present a few of the highlights, and I will try to limit myself to one wine per producer. I have already published three short posts about single wines in the Wine of the Week column, and you can also read about some of the other producers from the previous fairs by doing a quick search yourself. Last year I wrote two articles similar to this one. Here you find recommendations of several Portuguese producers, and here are some of the rest.

Uivo Rabigato (picture taken in the Folias de Baco taberna)

We start locally. Tiago Sampaio is one of the best exponents of the “new wave” of Douro producers, making less “noisy” wines than the region is more known for, with less extraction, lower alcohol, and more focus on freshness of fruit. I have already reported from a visit to the Folias de Baco bar in downtown Porto where he delivers the wine (read here), and there will be a report from a visit to the winery in Alijó. Rabigato is getting more and more attention these days, as it shows its varietal potential. Uivo Rabigato 2019 is a characterful wine, light in colour, with flowery notes, grapefruit, citrus peel, a refreshing, cool acidity, and a saline finish.

Hugo and Ana

A neighbour of Tiago in Alijó is Ana Hespanhol of Quinta do Zimbro. She is also involved in a smaller project called Grau Baumé with her partner Hugo Mateus, and one of her sisters. I had a meal with the three of them in Alijó after a visit to Tiago. I remember some of the wines of Ana’s father Manuel from way back, and the brand Calços de Tanha (a very nice, direct, fruity red wine with a good price, by the way). Now it’s taken a step back to estate wines, to organics and naturally enough to a fresher style adapted to our times. Of the many good wines I here chose the Grau Baumé Undo 2017, a varietal viosinho that was lightly pressed without de-stemming, ageing in tank, and bottled un-fined and un-filtered. It showed a light colour, yet both full-flavoured, with yellow fruits, citrus and careful tropical notes, and a lovely acidity wrapped in a full, almost waxy appearance on the palate, and some saltiness too.

Manuel Sapage of Conceito
(tank sample of the Bastardo 2019 visible in the front)

About Conceito further east, near Vila Nova Foz Côa, I have written several times. Their white wines are stylish, their lighly extracted Bastardo red stunningly delicate, and they even offer ports, like a white port made in collaboration with Madeira producer Ricardo Diogos of Barbeito. This time I chose the white Único 2018, made from different plots in the same vineyard, more than 100 years old. It’s a field blend of around ten varieties, including rabigato, códega do larinho, gouveio, arinto, donzelinho branco and folgazão. It had a temperature controlled fermentation in used French oak barrels and regular bâtonnage up to one month, before it was aged 11 months in the barrels. It’s a light coloured wine with a complex aroma on the mineral side, with white peaches, citrus, ginger and some aromatic herbs; concentrated in the mouth, with a great natural acidity, and the oak is already almost integrated. It has probably a long life ahead.

William and Filipa

It’s always a delight to meet Filipa Pato and William Wouters. I have written about Filipa’s wines several times, and I like them a lot, so I thought I knew their portfolio. This time William presented wines from a range of his own, and I tasted a promising white wine. Other than that they had brought most of the range, both white and rosé sparklers, and I also tasted still whites and reds. Here I chose the Post-Quercus Baga 2018, that is presented as a wine from both of them. This wine is now made only in French and Italian amphoras (since their Portuguese one suddenly broke). These are not coated, and they have the same thickness all over, giving exactly the touch of taste that they search for. This is a wine that really sings: It’s quite dark in coulour, with violet hints; aroma of red and berries (cherries), plums, flowers; it’s juicy and delicious in the mouth, but not without concentration, fine-grained tannins, and with an acidity that’s there, but wonderfully integrated. Truly inspiring!

Luís Manuel Gil, winegrower and surfer from Óbidos
Inspiring, saline wines from breezy Atlantic vineyards

When I saw Luís Gil came into the tasting hall I expected him to take place at the table of his friend and collegue Rodrigo Filipe of Humus (see this article, including pictures of Luís). Well, he is still with Rodrigo, but this time he had come to present his new project. Marinho signifies that we are very close to the ocean, southwest of the Óbidos village. Here Luis works 2 hectares (6 plots) of rented old vines (between 40 and 110 years), where he works closely with the proprietors to ensure that they agree on everything. They work completely naturally, without additions of sulphur. The red varieties are first and foremost castelão, and some cruzado (a crossing with a lot of colour). I tasted the whole range, from whites with more or less skin-contact, rosé and reds. The Marinho Rosé 2018 was fabulous. 18 hours on skins with with stems, predominantly castelão (if I remember right) and some white grapes, like fernão pires, arinto and vital. This gives a light rosé colour, with strawberry and raspberry aromas; very juicy and delicate in the mouth, but also with a certain structure, and a lingering saline finish.

Luís tells that he grew up with wine, with a big wine cellar at his parents’ house. He had spent a lot of time visiting fairs, meeting vignerons and tasting wines that he was “triggered” by. This project started in 2017, when he had been thinking of it long enough, and suddenly realized that the wines he wanted to make were of a kind that was missing in the market.

If there is anything to compare Luís Gil’s wines with, or liken them to, it could be (well, apart of some wines in the Humus range of course) the Atlantic wines in Galicia. Which brings us over the border. I visited Constantina Sotelo in Cambados, Rías Baixas after last year’s edition of the Simplesmente. I tasted a few wines again this year, all from albariño and all from vintage 2018. And there were indeed several intesting wines that I could have chosen, not least the Aquelarre (sparkling from the ancestral method) and Flor de Sotelo (albariño under the ‘flor’ yeast, like in Jerez). I started with Octopus and Volandeira, the former more mineral from ageing in amphora, and the latter more fruity, from wood. All right, Octopus 2018 (2nd from left in the picture) was light coloured; flowery, with apricots and stony minerals; fleshy and grapey in the mouth, concentrated, with a super acidity in the long finish.

When Iria Otero started her own wine adventure it was with the Sacabeira label from the Salnés area of Rías Baixas. She prefers to chill the whites down to prevent malo-lactic fermentation to take place. While these are superb albariños, most the wines she had brought this time were from inland Ribeiro, from the village of Leiro by the river Avia. She normally elaborate entry wines in concrete, while the others are made in chestnut. A Seara Castes Brancas 2018 is, as the name implies, made from white varieties, treixadura, godello, torrontés and albariño to be exact. This one is made in concrete and stayed there for 6 months. It’s light in colour; green apples, yellow plums and flowers on the nose (as she points out herself, it’s more flowery than fruity); it’s mellow in the mouth, with some acidity, and really enjoyable.

Cume do Avia (from left): Álvaro, Diego and Fito

Not far from Iria, in Eira de Mouros, Ribeiro we find Cume do Avia, named after the highest hill in the subregeion of Avia. They have there 13 local varieties on 9 hectares. This area varies between Atlantic and Continental influence. The soil is a mix of clay, schist and granite, and the vineyards are facing east, with optimum sun exposure and ventilation. I really enjoyed both their white and red wines. Under the Dos Canotos label come both a varietal brancellao, and a caíño longo, but I chose another one (not for any specific reason, because they are all very good), Dos Canotos 2017, a blend of brancellao, sousón and caiño longo fermented and aged 6 months in very old big neutral barrels. This is a bit darker than the others; fresh, red fruits, with a lactic note; in the mouth it’s cool and fresh, with a slight tannic grip and a nice salty character.

Vicente Torres represents Puro Rofe and Bien de Altura

Puro Rofe and Bien de Altura are sister companies, the former is the oldest and most “well”-known and stands for Lanzarote wines, and the latter for wines from Gran Canaria. In fact there is a third sister now, as they make wine from El Hierro under the name Bimbache. This is quite sensational, so it’s pretty sure that we will come back to this. Our choice here is a high-quality wine from the maybe unlikely island of Gran Canaria, and the village San Mateo. The grower is Carmelo Peña, native to Gran Canaria, who works with indigenous varieties in an artisan, and organic and biodynamic way; native yeasts, de-stemming by hand, little use of SO2, and long macerations with little extraction. This place is considered to have desert climate due to constant warm temperatures and minimal rainfall. Carmelo and his team climb high, up to more than 1.400 meters.

The word ikewen has its origin in the Berber language Tamaziɣt and means root, or source. The red wine by that name is made from pie franco vineyards facing northeast and southeast, planted in volcanic soils. The grapes were hand-harvested and macerated 40% whole cluster, 60% was destemmed, gently pressed into one 500L used French barrel and the rest into steel tanks to finish fermentation. The finished wine was bottled unfined, unfiltered and with only a tiny amount of sulphur. Ikewen 2018 of Bien de Altura, grapes listán prieto, listán negro and some white varieties: Light red colour; red fruits, white pepper, a smoky touch; bright, fresh acidity and fine-grained tannins. 11,5% alcohol.

Germán Blanco of Milú

Germán Blanco of Quinta Milú is one of those who believes in village wines, and shows that even wines from Ribera del Duero can express a sense of place. And the place in this case is La Aguilera, one of the dominant wine towns of Burgos (Castilla y León), not far from Aranda de Duero. The grapes are grown organically in the traditional way, hand-harvested and with minimal use of sulphur. They use materials such as concrete or clay, and when they do use wood, it’s always big and used barrels. They never clarify nor stabilize and almost never filter.

They have a winery in Rioja and one in Bierzo too, but we concentrate on Duero here. Milú was also the first bodega in their project. To Porto Germán had brought three wines from La Aguilera; La Cometa 2018 from different plots, Viñas Viejas 2018 from limestone soil. I chose Quinta de Milú Bellavista 2018, from a tiny tempranillo vineyard with 80 year old vines at 930 meters on sandy soil. The wine is fermented in open barriques and aged there for 12 months. It’s deep dark purple; the aroma is dominated by forest fruits (blackberry), and aromatic herbs; in the mouth it’s fleshy, fresh, quite structured yes, but it’s elegant and can be drunk relatively short-term. Germán says they prefer imperfection to carefully monitored processes. But the wines are truly beautiful, and Germán hints to Leonard Cohen when he says, “it’s in the cracks that the light comes in”.

The light comes in to José Manuel Benéitez too

Also in Castilla y León, José Manuel Benéitez is found in the small wild, remote region Arribes del Duero close to the Portuguese border. El Hato y el Garabato is family project that started in 2015. Here they manage organically 8 hectares of 70-100 years old vineyards with varieties like the red juan garcía; bruñal, rufete, bastardo and the white doña blanca and puesta en cruz (rabigato in Portugal). And the cellar work is very artisanal.

The white Otro Cuento 2018 is made from doña blanca grown in granite, higher up in the domaine (while there is slate/schist at a lower level in the canyon). Half of it was fermented in small old barrels, and stayed there for 6 months. It’s light yellow wine, a bit reductive at first (a bit fosforic, some graphite), but it looses out to yellow fruits, and a smoky touch is there; quite creamy, or glyseric in the mouth, and integrated acidity. Mineral, intriguing. And then we are ready to cross over the border back to Portugal…

…which is not a long distance at all. Because we come to the northern part of Alentejo, by the Serra de São Mamede mountains, where João Afonso and his family has their Cabeças do Reguengo literally inside the national park. It’s an ambitious project where they seek to live and breathe in harmony with nature and ecosystem. And the wines are made in the most healthy way possible. The Respiro 2018 is made from both red and white grapes. Take a deep breath: Trincadeira, alicante bouschet, castelão, grand noir are the reds, while the white proportion include arinto, assario, fernão pires, roupeiro, alicante branco, rabo de ovelha, tamarez, manteúdo, uva rei, uva formosa, vale grosso, excelsior, salsaparrilha. Ok, come quickly back to the normal colour of your face please: They are grown between 500 and 710 meters, bought from local farmers who shares their ideology. The grapes were fermented in stone lagar with native yeasts and aged one year in old oak. The colour is fresh, clear red; aroma of red fruits, plums, some green pepper (from the whole-bunch treatment maybe), a touch of spice; fruit-driven fresh taste, fine tannins. Both serious and delicious summer-drinking.

Fortunato Garcia

Back to the islands, but this time to Pico of the Açores, where Fortunato Garcia makes his Czar wines in Criação Velha on the western side.

Why the name Czar? After the Russian revolution in 1917, sweet wines from Pico was found in the cellars of the palace of the last Tsar, Nicholas II. This wine was shipped in barrels on the island of Pico and sent to the royal banquets. It even appeared on medical prescriptions as a cure for certain ills and even Tolstoy mentions it in his book “War and Peace”. This is their reason for naming the wine. The Czar 2013 has 19% of natural alcohol, as can happen with these grape varieties (here: verdelho, terrantez, and arinto) in the volcanic soil. This time it stopped by 15-16 degrees, then started again. The colour is deep amber; with a sweet aroma of raisin, but also with some orange peel, hazel-nuts and anise to balance; it’s rich in the mouth, with a long nutty aftertaste.

When talking about the highlights one of them was for me a non-vinous one. This year I was lucky to be asked to perform with André Indiana and the in-house jam band. So for a full two hours we were rocking the house, and it was a wonderful experience to see all the wine producers in the audience diggin’ and dancin’. And Fortunato of Czar joined too, and lead the band masterly in an old Motown hit (I think it was).

A lot of superb wines are not mentioned. I did not have the time to taste everything. Some other producers were given priority last year, and the year before. At the dinners and lunches I remember wines from Mário Sérgio Alves Nuno, Rodrigo Filipe, João Tavares de Pina, with whom I shared table, and many others.

What now, my love? During this fair we got the message that the Cais Novo had been sold. So next year Simplesmente Vinho has to move again. And it’s a common belief that it would be difficult for festival organizer João Roseira to come up with a place as good as the one that we now have become used to. But he has surprised us before, so let’s see…

João Roseira: Is there a place for us somewhere? (picture taken a couple of days later at Quinta do Infantado)

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Simplesmente… Vinho 2019: Spanish delights and more

This is the second report from this year’s Simplesmente… Vinho, of Porto. The first one was about the Portuguese participants, and you can read it here. This one deals mainly with Spanish wine, with one exception.

As soon as I entered the Cais Novo I ran into Alejandro of Bodegas Forlong. There is a lot happening in the sherry region right now, and I visited him when I was doing reasearch for a magazine article about table wines from the Jerez area. A shorter version of the article can be read here, and a wine of the week post here. In Porto Alejandro was together with his life companion Rocío.

Alejandro Narváez and Rocío Áspera

So why not start with a tasting of wine from sherry grapes and albariza soil? The wines I knew from before delivered, such as the Forlong Blanco 2018 (palomino 90%, the rest PX, grown in albariza soil), with its roundness and at the same time enough acidity, almonds and a saline minerality. Much of the same applies to the Rosado 2018, a 100% cabernet sauvignon, with its colour of onion skin, its creamy character and also a light tannin. We could go on through the Petit Forlong 2017 (syrah, merlot), the Assemblage 2016 (merlot, tintilla de rota, syrah), and the Tintilla 2016, with its dark smell of ink, blackcurrant, and that in a way also plays with oxidation.

A wine I can’t remember having tasted before were 80/20, a non SO2, unfiltered wine, made of must from palomino fermented on skins of PX: Light pineapple colour; some tropical hint in the aroma, peel; round and smooth, yet fresh, well a little mousy, but with a nice mineral salinity. Equally interesting was Mon Amour 2017, palomino from the hardest type of albariza, called “tosca cerrada”. I have to reconsider if I like the touch of vanilla from the fermentation in French barrels, but it surely has some interesting yellow fruits, and a vibrant touch too.

According to my ‘one wine only’-game I chose this one: Amigo Imaginario 2017, from old vine palomino, fermented with skins, and aged in an oloroso cask for 10 months. The colour is yellow; smells of orange peel, herbs, plums, and a touch of marzipan; in the mouth it’s full, with a great concentration, and you by now you would have guessed that it’s somewhat sweet – but it’s not. Great personality, alternative, truly interesting!

Always a pleasure meeting up with Sandra Bravo and tasting her wines

I appreciate that Sandra Bravo of Sierra de Toloño keep coming back to these events. She is one of the younger, independent voices in a Rioja still struggling to come out of its classification system based on wood ageing. From vineyards below the Sierra Cantabria mountains, both on the Riojan and Basque side of the border, she takes good decisions on the way from grape to bottle.

The reds showed as good as ever, from the plain Sierra de Toloño, now 2017, with its fresh cherry fruit, and inspiring acidity, but also in this vintage quite evident tannins, the Camino de Santa Cruz 2016 (formerly Rivas de Tereso), a single vinyard wine with extra minerality; darker and wilder fruits, with some subtle underlying oak and also lovely acidity and the super delicious La Dula 2016, a garnacha made in amphora, really floral, red-fruity and expressive. The Nahi Tempranillo is a dark, rich, spicy wine that will improve with age – and lastly Raposo 2016 from Villabuena, the Basque part: a little graciano thrown in among the tempranillo; dark, blackberry, forest fruits, good acidity – classic in the good sense of the word.

In recent years she has presented wonderful white wines, very different from both the young and clean tank style of the 1970’s (still popular) and the oaky style requiring long ageing. The basic Sierra de Toloño 2017 is clean and bright, but has already a profound quality. A favourite among white riojas during the latest years has been the Nahi Blanco, now 2016. Made from viura, malvasía and calagraño, a field blend from five small parcels in Villabuena de Álava, with a light ageing in barrel: Golden colour, a touch of tropic (litchi), white flowers and a light touch of smoke, full in the mouth and a nice natural acidity.

Alfredo Maestro (left) and Dutch journalist Paul Op ten Berg 

I have tasted Alfredo’s wines several times lately, so here I only tasted a couple in order to discuss them with my friend, Dutch journalist Paul Op ten Berg. One was an orange wine that was featured in January. (Read it here.) In short: Lovamor 2016 stayed 6 days with the skins, then on lees for 4 months. Due to the cold Castilian winter a malolactic fermentation never happened. It’s a rich and complex wine with a gold-orange colour; apple and melon in the aroma, flowery, and also lovely, light citrus; slightly pétillant and with a citrussy aftertaste.

Yulia Zhdanova

I first met Yulia in Alfredo’s neighbourhood, more precisely at Dominio de Pingus, where she guided us around the premises during a wine trip that I organized. But she has Eastern roots and is now making wine in the Kakheti region of Georgia. The winery is called Gvymarani and can be found in the village of Manavi. The wine is made from the mtsvane grape, fermented 7 months and also  aged in qvevri. Gvymarani Mtsvane: Clean golden; fruity nose of apple, dried apricot, peach, orange peel and some honey; full and with evident tannins in the mouth.

Antonio Portela (picture taken at the Barcelona tasting)

I tasted Antonio Portela‘s wines in Barcelona earlier that month and made an appointment to visit his vineyards later – so I just took the opportunity to try his beautiful red tinta femia Namorado 2017 (tinto mareiro) again, fermented and aged for 12 months in used French oak: Light in colour; pure, with fresh, red fruits on the nose; a vibrant flavour, a good natural acidity and in a long saline finish. Goodness, what a wine!

Constantina Sotelo (picture taken in her winery after the fair)

Constantina Sotelo was another producer that I decided to cross the border to visit once the fair was over. Here I tasted, among others, her Pio Pio 2017 ‘en rama’ (unfiltered). It’s from a vineyard with quite a lot of ‘pie franco’ (ungrafted) plants, and a very personal wine: Light yellow; green apple, citric (lime), anise; quite full, glyceric, and with an appealing acidity. A lovely albariño. See you on the other side of the border!

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At the Vella Terra fair, Barcelona

Vella Terra, now in its 4th edition, is organized by Alejandra Delfino and Stefano Fraternali. In Barcelona’s Estació del Nord there were on 10-11th February gathered more than 100 producers. In addition there were several activities linked to the fair. One of these was an Asian-Catalan fusion kitchen with orange wines, presented by the Casa Xica restaurant and held at the festival’s own Garage Bar, and a tasting of natural sparkling wines at the Toto restaurant. Another was a presentation of aged natural wines from the Catalan pioneers, also at the Garage Bar, where I was lucky to get a seat.

I would say that this event has a more international air to it than the Vins Nus, held in the city at the same time. Here were many winemakers from Catalunya and other Spanish regions, but the features from other countries were much more evident. France, Italy, Portugal and Austria were among the well-represented places. Just like the Vins Nus the objective is to raise people’s awareness of natural and organic wines, and to eat and drink healthier. Like at the other fair, the goal is to present wines made by minimal intervention. But I would say that there is a slight difference in approach, and that the producers here are, well maybe not more open, but could we say: less strict in their view of the use of SO2 (to say it simple, or maybe over-simplified).

Vella Terra at the Estació del Nord

There were so many interesting, personal wines, that I can only present some highlights. And again, I will try to limit myself to one wine from each producer, though I know that again it will not be easy.

Antonio Portela

While the albariños of coastal Galicia should be well-known the reds don’t have the same recognition. Forget the images you may have of dark, sturdy, bubbling, bitter wines from the old days! Now there are several producers who show how fine, elegant and cool the coastal reds can be. Two of them were represented here. I will tell more about Antonio Portela later, whom I visited a couple of weeks after this fair. Although he is not far from Cambados, where the headquarters of the Consejo Regulador of Rías Baixas is located, his farm on the Morrazo peninsula is outside the delimitations of the DO area. So he uses terms as ‘tintos marineiros’ (something like ‘reds from the sea’), he uses grapes like espadeiro branco (related to the loureiro), tinto caiño, and he is a defender of the local grape tinta femia (related to the caiño redondo). His low vineyards in or near the beaches are the most atlantic in the whole of Galicia.

His red wines are from the parish of Cela in the town of Bueu, and the white wines from O Hío in the town of Cangas. They are all fresh and vivid – from the  Quereres de Berobreo 2017 (called ‘viño mareiro’, mainly espadeiro blanco), with its light, green apples, citrussy fruit, via the rounder, more mellow Quereres do Hío 2017 (also viño mareiro, albariño-dominated) to the delicious, grapey Area Donón 2017. Donón is the village where the grapes grow, to the extreme west, just before you reach the island of Cíes outside the Ría de Vigo. These are practically wine from sand, from the beach. The red Namorado 2017 (tinto mareiro), fermented and aged for 12 months in used French oak, has all the virtues that this area can offer: It’s light in colour; pure, with fresh, red fruits on the nose; a vibrant flavour, a good natural acidity and in a long saline finish.

Juan of As Furnias hasn’t learned the tongue-in-cheek trick yet

As Furnias is more inland, in the Rías Baixas subzone Condado do Tea. After his studies in enology Juan González Arjones went to Barbaresco, to work with a small family producer, then also in a wine shop in Torino. Then he went back to his native Crecente to start his own project. He has also been managing a vineyard for the reknowned producer Terras Gauda, nearer to the coast in the subzone O Rosal. In 2010 he planted his own vineyard down there. Pícaro 2015 was a terrific red sparkling wine from a variety of grapes (albariño, treixadura, blanco legítimo, brancellao, sousón, espadeiro), with a lovely red fruits nose (raspberry, strawberry), and some tannin. After this came a vertical of his emblematic wine, the As Furnias, in vintages 15, 16, 17, 18. This too is a multi-varietal where each grape gives its contribution; the espadeiro gives both freshness, some herb and mushroom, and some special flavour characteristics (like cherry), while the balsamic notes come from caiño longo, and the spice from the sousón. They are typically made with 12 days fermentation in steel, and with no sulphite additions. The 16 was an early picking from a hot year, but everything went right in 15. As Furnias 2015 had all the best; quite dark, inky colour; pure yellow fruits, red berries, herbs and some menthol; a good tannin structure and a wonderful acidity.

Ismael Gozalo, MicroBio

In my opinion the small settlement of Nieva has long been and interesting spot on the Rueda map. This small, high altitude settlement in the province of Segovia houses producers like the Viñedos de Nieva with their excellent old pie franco vineyards, the Herrero family’s new project, not to say Ossian. Ismael was born here, and he also was involved in Ossian. But now he goes solo, and his project surpasses it all. I have covered some of his whites here and reds here. And there are several other wines mentioned elsewhere on this blog. The whites are a study in the possibilities of the verdejo grape, mostly very old and un-grafted, combined with the extreme climate of this part of Castilla. The reds include tempranillo, rufete and syrah.

This time I tasted two pét nats, the early-harvested (and reductive wine-making) Nieva York 2018 and the younger vine (and oxidative wine-making) Correcaminos 2018, the fresh and citrussy MicroBio 2018, and the Rack 2018. For this wine Ismael has been looking for a reduction. Some gas was added to the musts fermenting in steel to raise the turbidity. No battonage. All this to keep the reduction and the wine’s selv-protection. Not a beginner’s wine, with the green-greyish colour, the cloudiness, the bubbles, the creaminess, and the acid-structured taste. Flowery, citrussy, stone-fruity too, I should add.

Mariano Tabernero, Bodegas Cueva

I didn’t visit Mariano’s table that day, I just took a couple of snapshots as I went by. But later that night I was taking part in a tasting at the Bar Salvage of the Gràcia neighbourhood. I was then sitting next to Mariano and his wife, and they let me taste some wines. More about this soon.

Eduardo of Azpillaga Urarte

The family has a long history in wine in Lantziego, Rioja Alavesa, but it was not untill the 1970’s that they started to make their own wines. It was when Eduardo Pérez de Azpillaga Urarte started in the family company that the way towards an organic, sustainable farming began. So, in 2001 their vineyards finally got their organic certification. Maybe I liked best of all the white, non-DO Viña el Pago 2016 from garnacha blanca. It was macerated with whole bunches at 7 degrees for 72-100 hours, on stirred lees for 4-5 months. The result is a quite dark yellow wine with mature apples, some citrus, aromatic spices and a touch of dried fruits on the nose. In the mouth it’s medium-bodied with some tannin structure. The reds include a carbonic maceration wine with the same name, and an interesting clay aged wine called Fincas de Aztule 2015.  Under the label Naturostean 2017 they had a dark, rich, sweet and quite alcoholic tempranillo, not from dried grapes, but with added alcohol. They stress that this was an experiment. A winery to watch.

 

Friedrich Schatz: The Acinipo will now have a label representing the nettle, or preparation 504

Friedrich, or Federico, Schatz of Ronda has long since established himself as one of the leading producers of table wine in Andalucía. He has been in the avantgarde of organic and biodynamic farming in the area, and uses both international and local grapes. I have visited him several times, and you can read more about his whole range here. Many will know that his wines carry one special letter that together spells his name, and as such they have become some kind of collector’s items. However, this will now come to an end. Schatz presented this time the first vintages that will come on the market without that one letter. In-stead they will carry a drawing of plants used in biodynamic farming.

Other than that, the wines are the  same, full of taste, with a touch of something exotic, and also with a good level of acidity. When asked I have often picked the Acinipo as a favourite, because it refers to the Roman ruins just down the road, and it’s made from lemberger, a grape from where his family can be found – and because it has been a good wine of course. This time I pick the Pinot Noir 2013 (formerly known as C), is made with 12 months of ageing in French oak on lees that has been moved a few times. It has a dark cherry colour, an aroma full of red fruits with cocoa and some aromatic spices. In the mouth it’s medium-bodied, tasty, with a lovely acidity and also with a slight bitterness in the end. The acidity can be said to come from the cool night temperatures, and it was also an extreme year with a lot of rain and snow in winter, and temperatures down to -12ºC.

Jean-Phillippe Padié

I finally got the chance to meet Jean-Phillippe of Domaine Padié whose wines I have known for some time. From Calce north-northwest of Perpignan, Roussillon, he releases one wonderful wine after another. I tasted some samples and some bottled wines. Quickly through the 2018 samples, there was the limestone-blend Fleur de Cailloux, with its yellow colour, mature apple-scent with flowery tones, full with some tannin, the light and luscious Calice, a carignan from young vines in schist soil, the juicy Gibraltar – and finally the Petit Toureau, from older carignan plants in limestone, with its ruby red colour, and very fresh fruit.

Among the bottled wines I tasted the red Le Tourbillon de la Vie 2017, partly own vineyards, partly chosen from others: quite dark, luscioius, plums, red fruits, light tannin. Unpretentious, I would say, but very good. The Petit Taureau 2017, that originates from limestone marls (carignan) and schist (syrah), made with reduction in mind (both the grape varieties and the concrete vats environment). The wines was cherry red, with expressive fruit (red and dark berries), some flowers and herbs, and soft tannins in the mouth with a super and long, cool acidity. Ciel Liquide 2012, from grenache and carignan in equal proportions, from what Jean-Phillippe calls “a mosaic of terroirs” from Calce (limestone, calcarious clay and schist).  and 5 years in barrels of 600 liters, 2 years in tank after that: Ligh cherry red; on the nose there is some warmth, the citrussy notes appear, also stone fruits (cherries, plums); good balance between the elements, with just enough tannins, and super acidity in a long finish.

There were a couple of French producers that I didn’t know, but are worth mentioning. Les Vins Pirouettes were represented by Vanessa Letort. They are winemakers from Alsace who work in close collaboration with around ten small producers, all working organically, some with biodynamics – each producers with his characteristics. Some of the most interesting wines were made by  Stéphane Bannwarth, who is based in Obermorschwihr, south of Colmar. There was a lovely, appley riesling, with great acidity, and a full rose-scented gewürztraminer. I chose the Tutti Frutti de Stéphane 2016 (gewürztraminer, pinot gris, pinot blanc and auxerrois) was a light coloured wine, with a touch of gas, round and medium full, and with a lovely acidity.

Domaine Balansa has 15 hectares in Corbières. I tasted some clean, fruity wines from grenache blanc and gris, and syrah. A speciality was the Muscat 2018 aged in amphora, very light in colour, aromatic (both fruity and flowery), medium bodied, and with just enough acidity. Domaine Carterole was established in Côte Vermeille (coastal southern Roussillon) by Joachim Roque. The 10-70 years old cooperative plots he had bought were transformed little by little to be able to make natural wines. In 2014 he rented a winery in Banyuls-sur-Mer. I tasted a slighty pétillant white Ton Sec 2018, a well-balanced, but a bit on the “wild” side, apple, tea and ginger-smelling Esta Fête Le Blanc 2018, from 90% grenache blanc and the rest rousanne. An interesting wine was Vermentino Amphorae, that was light yellow, quite open, with apple, pear and citrus tones, and a slight tannin-structure.

Andrea Pendin of Tenuta l’Armonia

I visited Andrea following a London wine fair last year, and you can see my report here. He has a creative approach, and makes several styles of organic wines from volcanic terroir in the small settlement Bernuffi (Montecchio Maggiore, Veneto region). His wines can maybe be characterized as inviting, simple, fresh, and very difficult to stop drinking. In spite of that they have a strong sence of place too. He uses biodynamic techniques, green manure and very little intervention, and of course always spontaneous fermentetion. Repeated from my article about them: ‘Basically there are two different lines. “Pop” consists of high quality “easy” natural wines from volcanic soil at a good price. “Cru” is a premium line from native varieties in clay and limestone.” Should I chose only one wine, let it be the Frizzi 2017, a pét nat, or col fòndo sur lie from the “pop” line. It’s simple, un-oaked, slightly bubbly, light salmon-pink, apple and strawberry-scented wine, not very structured, and oh! so delicious. In addition to a varying content of different grapes, here pinot noir 60%, the constant is the local durella, a grape providing acidic backbone, that the vintners in the area are very proud of.

Catarina and Antonino, Valdibella

Valdibella is a small cooperative operating from Camporeale, on the north side of Sicilia. They encourage biodiversity, and they concentrate on native varieties, both for grapes and other crops such as olives. Enologue Antonino Vilardi work closely with the growers. He says they want the whole chain, from grower to consumer, to share the same values, or visions, and to know about how the products are made. Therefore they can appreciate the quality, and they will understand that the products can not have a very low price.

I tasted a couple of interesting grillos, Ariddu 2017, a light, grassy-citrussy wine, Grillo sulle Bucce 2017, (bucce meaning skins), so the colour was light orange, with aromas of flowers, peel, a touch of white pepper, and some bitterness in the finish. Zi bi Bò 2017 (from zibibbo, a synonym of muscat of Alexandria) is an aromatic, rose-mango-scented wine, slightly off-dry. A wine full of character was Dhyana 2017 from perricone, a light rosé of salmon colour; strawberry and redcurrant aromas; some warmth in the mouth, but also with an acidity that carries on to the end.

Niklas Peltzer representing Meinklang

Werner and Angela Michlits of Meinklang are found in Burgenland, Austria, in the village Pamhagen on the Hungarian border. In fact some vineyards are on the other side, and they also bottle a Hungarian wine from the volcano Somló. Here is a perfect biodiversity, vines and other crops between the natural ponds of the area. They fertilize with compost that they produce themselves, using sheep, cow and horse manure and several other components.

Meinklang has a full range of very reasonably priced high-quality wines, and is mentioned in many posts of this blog. Here is one of the wine-of-the-weekend articles, where you can also see a picture of their Angus cows. Today we concentrate on their Hungarian pét nat Foam Somló 2017. The 35-60 year old vines (6o% harslevelü, 4o% juhfark) are grown on volcanic rock with a light layer of loess. The fermentation started in tank, then it was bottled with 10 grams residual sugar, and finished fermentation in bottle. No additives, no filtering. The result is a fresh, vibrant wine, low in alcohol, high in acidity. The colour is light straw, slightly turbid; aromatic, pears and peaches, some spice (white pepper); a certain warmness (or rather: a component of mature fruits like apple marmelade), but kept alive of a long, cool acidity.

Ondřej Dubas, Krásná Hora

This is, believe it or not, another producer that we have covered more than once on this blog. Read here a report on various Czech wines tasted in England last year. I like their sparkling wines, and the Blanc de Pinot Noir 2018 wasn’t bad at all; light, with a slight blush, aroma of apples and red berries, well-structured. They offered an aromatic Chardonnay 2018, and equally convincing as before was the skin-contact, gooseberry-rhubarb-scented Gewürztraminer, now in the 2018 vintage. Our focus will this time be put on La Blanca 2018, a blend of riesling (40%), sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, and gewürztraminer from several vineyards (a total of 40%), and the last 20% is pinot blanc. The wine is partially fermented in old barrels and partly in steel. Only a minimum of SO2 is added. It’s a bit cloudy, light golden; apples pear and citrus on the nose; low alcohol, bone dry, with a steely acidity.

It’s maybe unfair, but there is a limit to how much one can do in one day. There were many producers that I should have spent more time with, such as the locals Clot de les Soleres, Casa Pardet, Cosmic, Escoda-Sanahuja, Gratias, Mas Candí, Recaredo, Can Sumoi, Pepe Raventòs, Laureano Serres and Alfredo Arribas, all of whom I know make good to excellent wines. Elsewhere in Spain there are Sistema Vinari, 4 Kilos, and abroad: Carussin, Casa Belfi, Colombaia, Quinta da Palmirinha, La Cave des Nomades, the list goes on…

This was my first Vella Terra, but I really want to go back, to be a part of the positive vibe that are found in the city these days. And, as Alejandra Delfino, co-founder of Vella Terra, states, “natural wines are not a passing fad, but rather a trend that has come to stay, and something that will continue to increase demand among wine lovers”. Amen to that, and we could add that while the natural wine has been something of a punk movement, I think it’s right to say that the mainstream is now moving in that direction.

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Articles and Wine bars and restaurants

Plateau still delivers

Plateau has been Brighton’s palace of natural wines for many years now. Since my last visit Jake, from the bar 1909 (see here), has taken over as a manager. His partner Jon has taken over as bar manager after Johan (see another report from Plateau here), who is now at Cincin Hove (more about that later). The kitchen team is led by James Mcilveen, and takes great pride in serving good, organic food from local farms. To jump to the conclusion: Plateau still delivers!

Our waiter Alex led us safely through the menu with its bites and plates. If my memory doesn’t fail me we ended up with cured trout, lobster bisque, beef tartar, bavette steak, everything with a creative twist, and concluded with a board of five English cheeses.

Here are the wines that we enjoyed this dark October evening in Brighton, everything chosen from their by-the-glass offer.

Pétillant Naturel 2017 (Famille de Conti)

A charming, straightforward pet nat from the de Conti family’s château in Bergerac, in the French Sud-Oest. It’s made from varieties sauvignon blanc (90%) and chenin blanc, according to biodynamic principles, unfiltered and with no added sulphur. The colour is light yellow. Smells of red apples and some light tropic fruit (litchis). Appley fruit, and quite high acidity to balance some residual sugar.

Impera 2015 (Dva Duby)

This is a wine grown in stony soil in southern Moravia (Czech Republic), close to the Austrian border. The grapes are well-known in their neighbouring country too: 70% St. Laurent (here called svatovavrinecke) and blaufränkish (here: frankovka). It’s a cherry red (light, I think – it was difficult to see the colour in the room), delicate and fruity (raspberry), and luscious, smooth and fruity in the mouth, with just a slight touch of oak (almost too little to mention).

Continuing with two wines from La Clarine Farm, Sierra Foothills (California), both called jambalaia (sic!), blanc and rouge respectively.

In the sparse light of the bar the picture became as unclear as the wine itself…

La Clarine Farm Jambalaia Blanc 2015 (La Clarine Farm)

The ‘blanc’ was not exactly white, but sorted under orange, as the skin-contact had been quite prolonged. Dominated by Rhône grapes, mostly viognier, but also marsanne, and with small percentages of petit manseng and albariño.

Smells of white flowers, citrus, peach, pineapple. Juicy in the mouth, but also with a high acidity, and a slight bitterness in the finish.

La Clarine Farm Jambalaia Rouge 2015 (La Clarine Farm)

Here all grapes are known as Rhône grapes, although the main grape mourvèdre is of Spanish origin (and known as monastrell).

Cherry red, cloudy. Good fruit, raspberry, cherry, somewhat earthy. A bit tannic, quite high acidity.

3 Barriles “El Objeto Imposible no. 27” 2015 (Bodegas PolOpuesto)

A wine from Valle de Uco inside the bigger region of Mendoza (Argentina). The winemaker is Pol Andsnes. Being Norwegian, for me this name can evoke distinctive classical piano chords, but this Andsnes is a wine punk born in San Francisco, who wants to challenge established ways to make wine, according to his own website. ‘Polos opuestos’ is Spanish for ‘poles apart’, and as I read him, Pol is satisfied if the ideas from the opposition once can be the norm. Something like that. Anyway, this wine is made from three barrels of Chardonnay vinified in three different ways. You can read from the drawing on the label that they are one barrel of direct pressing and reductive ageing on lees, one barrel of one year skin contact, and one barrel of direct pressing aged under flor. They were blended after two years.

The colour is obviously quite dark (a better description is difficult in this -lack of- light). It’s fresh, with flowers, orange peel and yellow apples; quite full-bodied, with a solid backbone, and an oxidative character from the flor. It’s an interesting experiment and a wine with lots of vitality, and the winemaker’s energy shines through.

Plateau has many natural wine classics and many of my personal favourites on their current list. Some are Foillard, Ganevat, Landron, Matassa, Frick, Maule, COS, Alfredo Maestro, Barranco Oscuro, Testalonga, to name only a few. Sniff around these pages, and you will meet all of them. And you have understood by now that this natural wine bar is highly recommended, it never disappoints – and if you get the chance: Go there!

Before going for a stroll on the black Brighton november beach, we rounded it all off with a well-known champagne. It was the Cuvée Réserve Brut, from Pierre Gerbais, whose son Aurélien I met at a London wine fair a couple of years ago (see here). This red and white grape champagne is a lightly coloured, apple and citrus scented wine with a contribution of red fruits (strawberry, raspberry), and bisque, that ends off with an inspiring acidity.

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Wine of the Week

Reconsider Albariño

Eulogio Pomares has been the winemaker at Bodegas Zárate since the 2000 harvest. He has started to make some wines for himself too, in tiny quantities under the label Grandes Vinos Desiguales, and some are quite sensational.

The soils are granitic, and the grapes for this wine come from parcels that Eulogio has replanted and using biodynamic principles and without rootstocks. Only native yeasts are used, the wine stays in 1,200 litre chestnut foudres and stayed 8 months, where it also undergoes malo-lactic fermentation.

This one was fermented and aged in big 1200 liters vats of chestnut. The vines are seventy year old, and they are located in Castrelo-Cambados, in the central part of Salnés, probably the most important sub-region of DO Rías Baixas.

An informative back label

We have seen several styles of albariño over the years. Some of us are a bit tired of the commercial, aromatic versions. Too heavily oaked wines were plentiful at a time, and always out of question. Later there were many lees-aged wines; a good idea, but this too can make the wines more similar to each other. I like the ones on the wild side, made without corrections. Here is yet another interpretation, a chestnut and lees aged single vineyard wine from old vines.

Carralcoba Albariño 2016 (Eulogio Pomares/ Grandes Vinos Desiguales)

Straw yellow. Apple, lemon, pear and white flowers on the nose. It has a fantastic concentration, is full, with a lemony acidity and with an extraordinary length. It has a touch of oxidative character, but it’s held in check, and is balanced incredibly. Close to perfection.

Price: Medium

Food: The best seafood you can think of, creatively elaborated

 

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