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Vella Terra 6th edition I

I am back at Barcelona’s Vella Terra. It is now in its 6th edition after having been postponed, last time since February this year. Vella Terra is a fair organized by the couple Ale Delfino and Stefano Fraternali, and celebrates natural and low-intervention wines from smaller wineries, most of them family businesses. This year there were 146 artisans from 16 countries booked in. There were also related companies like Pulltex, distributor of wine accessories (see my company profile of one of their most important collaborators Pulltap’s in a forthcoming article) and restaurants like Garage Bar and Zaza. There were of course also various activities around town, with so much “talent” gathered in one place.

The Vella Terra poster by the entrance
of Estació del Nord

This year I had no special theme in mind. I did select a bit, but was also open to walk in new doors. So here are some of the most interesting tastes, only organized from local to global, if I can put it that way. And as many times before, I try to restrict myself by chosing only one wine from each winery. In this first part we shall deal with Spain.

Josep Casañas and Brugués Faura Ginabreda

I had tasted a few wines from Cal Teixidor before. (See my latest wine of the week here.) Their winery is found in Corbera de Llobregat, not far from Barcelona. At Vella Terra Josep Casañas showed an impressive range, most of the wines based on the two vineyards described in my latest wine of the week, that you can read about here). These are a north-facing xarel.lo vineyard that gives acidity and minerality, and a south or southwest-facing macabeu vineyard that gives more fruity, aromatic wines. There were also wines made from subirat parent (see his T-shirt), also known by the name malvasía riojana. Here I chose a wine solely based on the macabeu vineyard from 1974. It’s called Masía Cal Salines 2019, is made with whole clusters and aged … Dark yellow; appley, with fennel-tones; rich, structured and mouth-filling. Josep also showed a superb subirat parent traditional method sparkler with almost the same name, Masía Cal Salines Brut Nature Reserva. This fruity wine, with herbs and mature apple, but also mineral and with a fresh acidity – was of the 2017 vintage and aged 42 months on the lees. Which strictly makes it a gran reserva (it’s minimum 30 months, by Cava standards). Lastly, his wife Brugués is the force behind the estate’s own olive oil.

Josep Medios and Anna Janué, Loxarel

Loxarel I have known a long time, and I’ve appreciated their good and not least good value wines. Last time they were represented in a wine of the week post was here. In February I had an appointment with winemaker Pep for a visit to their Penedès winery, but had to cancel as I was struck by covid. Here founder Josep Medios participated together with Anna Janué, who calls herself commercial sommelier. They showed an impressive range, such as still and sparkling Loxarel à pel, an amphora-made xarel.lo, and a “xarel.lo sherry” (called Himen), and reds. Here I chose Loxarel 109 2011, a brut nature reserva (well, technically it qualifies for a gran reserva). This wine was the reason that Loxarel left DO Cava for Clàssic Penedès, because the authorities didn’t allow them to bottle without disgorging. Loxarel’s opinion is that after nine years the wine has already integrated the yeast. Obviously, this is also a xarel.lo-dominated wine, like nearly all the most ageworthy. Aged on the lees for 109 months in a shelter from the civil war. Light in colour; smells of mature apples, burnt yeast and coffee; is rich with a super acidity and mineral finish, it’s still full of vividness and not at all “old”. It comes in a bottle wrapped in paper.

Núria Aviñó, Clos Lentiscus
Núria Parellada (front)

Clos Lentiscus is located inside the national park in the Garraf mountains just outside Sant Pere de Ribes. The winery was established in 2001 by brothers Manel and Joan Aviñó, when they set out on a task of restoring the family vineyard from the 14th century. They currently cultivate 22 hectares of vineyards in a biodynamic way, of which 95 percent are planted with local grape varieties.

Before the fair I had warmed up with a classy, mineral red, Perill Noir Carinyena 2017, a varietal carinyena that also were shown here. I chose one of the bright sparklers that Manel’s daughter Núria poured. The Núria Parellada 2018, one of several wines named after her, is a pét-nat, very fresh for its age. It’s very dry with notes of red apples, raspberry and bright citrus.

Dido and Jur of Vinyes Tortuga

I met Dido and Jurriaan three years ago at the Garage Bar. Then they were just starting, after having travelled the world and worked in a number of wineries. Since then I have come across their rosé sparkler Juicy several times. (See here.) share a passion: wine. They bought 9.5 hectares of vines planted in the Albera natural reserve of Alt Empordà, where they farm organically and have started to implement biodynamic principles. They have now bought an old coop in the village Rabós, where they first were hiring space.

Many of their labels carry references to music, such as Big Time Sensuality, Comfortably numb and Libertango. My pick here would be Magic Potion 2021, a cabernet franc-sauvignon pét-nat named after the album of The Black Keys: Blueish red, full of fresh and sweet strawberry and raspberry fruit, and in the mouth some structure that complements well with a slight residual sugar.

Alfredo Arribas show while Andreu Padró from La Rural watches

Architect Alfredo Arribas is quite new on the Catalan wine scene, having taken over the family’s vineyards in 2001 founded his bodega in 08. But he has made himself heard. His two main series are Siuralta, mostly monovarietal wines from Montsant and Instabiles, more free-spirited wines from Priorat. The vineyards are in Cornudella de Montsant, in the north of the Priorat region, and the grapes are vinified in the winery in Falset. Arribas’ project is a response to the challenges of climatic change, seeking higher altitude vineyards, more shade and rainfall, biodiversity and more.

For Siuralta grapes from the highest vineyards are spontaneously fermented in whole clusters with stems in small steel tanks and amphorae in various shapes. The grapes for Instabile are spontaneously fermented mainly in whole clusters with short peel maceration. The wines are matured in small cement tanks and amphorae of ceramics, porcelain or glass. Different vintages are mixed in some cases by bottling.

Let’s taste the Siuralta Antic 2019, a varietal cariñena: Deep red; cool, fresh fruit, dark and wild berries (blackberry, elderberry), a hint of pepper; luscious/fleshy in the mouth, carried by a long acidity, beautifully integrated tannins, more to the mineral side.

Ephraim ame Roc Orengo, father and son

I didn’t know Sifer Wines, but it clearly is a winery to watch. (See also a mention of their Ephraim Mel garnacha blanca here.) Sifer, the name made up from two last names, has vineyards both in Terra Alta’s Batea and in Teruel, Aragón. Among their expressive, vibrant entries were Víbria Soul 2021, a macabeu made in amphora and steel. It’s light, quite turbid, with pear and white fruits and a super acidity.

Joshua Kniesel and Josie Cleeve of Cap de NIt, Alicante

Cap de Nit is a young family winery that produces wines in the Marina Alta in the north of the province of Alicante. Josh and Josie started the project in 2017, looking for old vineyards of native varieties, to work them in strict organic farming. The vineyards are mostly located in the Vall de Xaló, in the coastal mountains. The small plots are hidden between plantations of almond, orange and olive trees. Work in the field and in the manual warehouse. – The wines are made naturally, fermentation is spontaneous, temperature is not controlled and the wines remain on the mother lees throughout the ageing. No type of additive is applied. The fermentation and aging is done in 500 liter clay pots and stainless steel tanks. They work with different degrees of maceration. At the end the wines are bottled by gravity. – Grape varieties: muscat of alexandria and giró

Rubén Salamanca and Elisa de Frutos, Malaparte

The real name is Bodega de Frutos Marín, but this producer is most often called Malaparte, after its most famous label. Rubén and Elisa cultivate 5.5 ha of vineyards near Cuéllar, in the province of Segovia. They employ various techniques, such as tanks, old barrels and amphoras. All vineyards are farmed dry.

This is close to Ribera del Duero. Nevertheless, and in spite of a lovely amphora-aged tempranillo, I would say they are mostly a white wine producer, offering verdejo and viura in several fashions. Maybe because I am currently working on an article about the historical wines of the lands of Medina, I chose OX. This is obviously an abbreviation of oxidative, a feature of the “dorado” wines. It is a mix of varieties (I will check, but typical, and recommended in DO Rueda are verdejo and palomino fino), 65 year old vines. The wine rested one year under “flor”, and was then transferred to “damajuanas” (big bottles, demijohns in English). It arrives naturally at 14%, and is not fortified. It has all the yeast, almonds, dried fruits aromas that one night expect, and in the mouth it’s glyceric – and more fruity than its sherry equivalents.

Aitor Irazu, Makatzak

Makatzak Wild Wines is a Basque project found in Aia (Guipuzcoa), near Zarauz, that really has impressed me. Here is no talk about conditions “not favourable for organic growing in our region”, as we often hear. Aitor Irazu Alonso started the winery with his cousin. Here he manages the Sorgintxulo vineyard, that after being abandoned for 5 years now is restored. It is an ecosystem of 3 hectares of vineyards, whose main variety is the hondarrabi zuri. Atlantic climate with high rainfall, mainly southern exposure, steep slopes and slate soils are the main characteristics. The work is based on ecological, natural, regenerative and biodynamic agriculture. Makatzak are now receiving their organic certification, and will later aim also for a biodynamic one.

Sorkin 2021 is light in colour, has an aroma of green apple and bright citrus, and comes with a wonderful acidity. It’s a natural txakolí that’s “impeccably clean”, I imagine the classic British writers would have said. A prime example of the growing natural wine scene in Spain.

Pepe Mendoza was one of the vintners that didn’t expose, but came to the fair to taste and talk to colleagues. I met accidentally in the entrance line.
End of Day 1. I bring my glass back to the hotel in a bag provided by accessory distributor Pulltex. See you in next post, where you meet a bunch of “foreign” producers.
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Pepe Mendoza: Finding home in Alicante

First time I met Pepe Mendoza was at the family firm in L’Alfàs (Alfaz del Pi in castellano). It has taken him a lot of thinking, maturing and experimenting since then, to bring him where he is now. Geographically speaking he has established himself in Llíber (near Xaló, or Jalón) in the eastern part of the Alicante province. But in terms of enology and philosophy he has moved from thinking of France as the original that could be copied anywhere, to a sense of identity, could we say “homeness”, to his native Mediterranean landscape.

Talking about stress and relax

As Pepe points out, “I love sauvignon blanc, but why should it be grown here?”. And wandering through the vineyards with his dearly beloved moscatel, giró and monastrell plants, caressing them and saying on behalf of them, “I am home, I like it here” – he tells the tale of so many cabernet sauvignon that felt uncomfortable, “stressed”.

We are in Valle de Pop in Marina Alta, the only valley where the red varieties mature before the white.

It’s not often that you think that the Mediterranean could offer such a freshness. But the ventilation from both sides does it. For Pepe this is perfect; small production, balance, a collaboration with nature: “You give me fruit, and I care for it and promise not to exploit it.”

-Good morning, it’s the press

Upon arrival Pepe served us a perfect opening wine, a light and aromatic moscatel/airén/macabeo blend; moscatel from Marina Alta and the others from highter up the Vinalopó river, mellow, a touch of salt, and gentle as the breeze in the valley. The wine is called Paisaje, but the label only shows his name and the denomination Alicante. Here it was accompanied by some light tapas. “When determining what kind of wines to make I think of what do I like to eat: I like the dishes that my grandmother made, because they are made from local produce, organically grown and cooked slowly.”

Pureza 2019 is a 6 days skin-contact moscatel from coastal Marina Alta, aged in amphoras from master Juan Padilla in Albacete. The wine is light in colour, but has evident peel aromas (orange peel), fresh rose, mint; some volume in the mouth, with an uplifting acidity and a saline and slightly bitter finish. (Read more about this wine here.)

Back home, one evening

Mares de Luz Monastrell-Giró is a coupage of the two mentioned grapes (monastrell and giró), made with whole bunches. Light cherry; raspberry, mature cherry, some balsamic (laurel), rich with warning alcohol (14%), super acidity, long.

Giró de Abargues 2019 is a varietal giró from a single parcel in the Marina Alta. There is only a total of 90 hectars of giró in the world, so this is quite rare. It stayed one year in a 500 liter barrel. A wonderful light extracted and elegant wine: Light ruby; red fruits, paprika, lightly balsamic (laurel again), lavender; great concentration, evident but delicate tannnins.

We gladly listen when the master speaks

Sero-roSé Monastrell Clásico 2016

As it says on the label it has stayed 14 months in lightly toasted 2-3 year old Allier casks. Blood-orange colour, a hint of light amber. Aroma of orange peel, or maybe dried orange, red fruits (raspberry), herbs; quite glyceric, but good acidity.

Sero, a very different rosé

Gironet Nat ‘ 2020 comes with the subtitle “varieties not sufficiently reknown”. This is the giró, but a clone called gironet from the finca Abargues. It’s wine made with minimal intervention and almost no added sulphites. Red ruby; red fruits, anise, a touch lactic (yoghurt), some greenness, balsamic; very delicate and with a wonderful balance.

A variety not sufficiently known, as the subtitle goes

El Veneno 2019 is a monastrell wine from further inland, in what Pepe calls “pre-meseta”. We are talking about Alto Vinalopó, near Villena near the border against Murcia and Albacete (Castilla-La Mancha). Here are sandy loam and calcareous soils. This wine, aged one year in 500 liter barrel, is a more heady wine: Dark cherry in colour, aromas of blackberry, but also less evident hints like dried thyme or laurel, and a touch of paprika and spice; generous in the mouth, rounded and with hints of toast and coffee, but also with a lot of freshness, “tension”.

-You got a point there

And lastly, a pajarete (a liqueur based on PX wine treated) made by Juan Muñoz at bodega Dimobe in Moclinejo (Málaga province). Not Pepe’s wine, but a wine he adores. This shows that the world is here, it doesn’t need to be French to be great, and also that Pepe Mendoza is a man who is open for everything, always eager to try things from outside to get a deeper insight in what he has at home.

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Wine of the Week

Pure Pureza

This is a wine I enjoyed in southeastern Murcia several times this summer, before and after a visit to the producer in the neighbouring Alicante province. (Read about the visit here.)

Pureza 2019 is a 6 days skin-contact moscatel from coastal Marina Alta (in the cooler La Marina subregión of DO Alicante wine region. It is aged in amphoras, therefore often called Pureza Moscatel Ánfora.

Pepe and yours truly in the bodega this summer

The grapes for the Pureza are moscatel de alejandría sourced from a two hectare vineyard planted in 1943. It is dry-farmed, organically but not certified. It’s made with indigenous yeasts and completely without additives.

The juice is fermented on skins in amphoras, with macerations two to three times a day. After ten days alcoholic fermentation it’s matured on the lees in the same amphoras for a further six months.

Here with the simplest of foods, olives and unpasteurized brie

Pureza 2019 (Casa Agr. Pepe Mendoza)

The wine is light in colour, but has evident citrus peel aromas (orange), fresh rose, mint; some volume in the mouth, with an uplifting acidity and a saline and slightly bitter finish.

Price: Medium

Food: t’s an individual wine for time and contemplation, but should go well with a variety of food. I think of varied salads, such as Caesar and Waldorf (when served only as a salad), light meat and tasty fish, for example salmon.

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Articles and Wine bars and restaurants

La Casa del Perro, Málaga

La Casa del Perro is a hidden gem in the historic centre of Málaga. Here the couple Ana and Fede serves small well-elaborated dishes to be paired with delicious natural wines.

We visited several times during a couple of weeks and enjoyed a great variety of dishes, such as Guacamole with home made nachos, Carpaccio of beef with yellow tomatoes, parmesan and greens, and also a vegan lemon cake made with almond milk.

Ana and Fede

But what initially caught my attention were their wine offerings. Many of these are from the leading producers in natural wine field, especially southern ones, like Barranco Oscuro, Cauzón, Torcuato Huertas and José Miguel Márquez (all of whom are presented on this blog). I met Ana earlier this year at the Barcelona wine fairs, and some of the vintners I had marked as “interesting”, she had contacted, and some already included. La Zafra of Alicante is an example. La Casa del Perro may not have the biggest selection, but it is indeed an eclectic one.

A little background: Ana and Fede opened their restaurant in the historic centre of Málaga in 2004, and moved to the current location some three years ago. The restaurant’s name is a result of a wordplay game started by a friend.

They were both born in this neighbourhood, and both families have lived there for generations. As Ana tells:

-We strive and fight to do what we like, and we are very happy to find ourselves in a neighborhood a bit hidden. We totally disagree with bars and restaurants that receive the passing tourist as if they were cattle. We want the visitor to have a good time and have a desire to come again.

Barranco Oscuro’s Ring! Ring! (Riesling)

Among the many wines we tasted during the visits were some new and interesting ones, such as a varietal parellada called Water Fly (Ca Foracaime, and bottled by Celler Portes Abertes in Terra Alta, Catalunya), a light white with an integrated acidity, and Pura Vida 2018 (Vinos Fondón), a promising dark and juicy garnacha rosé from the Almería part of the Alpujarras. From the more established artisans were Marenas Mediacapa xviii (18) (José Miguel Márquez, Montilla), a clean and delicious, light straw, off dry, some co2 wine, and La Pámpana 2018 (Viña Enebro, Bullas), made partly with carbonic maceration, a cherry red, juicy wine with some co2. Then the Ring! Ring! (Barranco Oscuro): Nothing to do with the old ABBA song, but a wordplay on riesling, a light golden, good acidity wine. There were also several editions of La Traviesa, made by the same producer, with grapes from one their neighbours up in the Alpujarras. (Read here about my recent visit to the producer.)

Lastly I want to draw your attention to four wines that really stand out. Either are they interesting takes on traditional themes, or simply of amazing quality.

NU Rosado /3/2017 (La Zafra): This one I mentioned in the beginning, and in an article from the fairs in Barcelona I wrote that the producer was one to watch. This is a monastrell rosé made in four editions, with 0, 3, 5 and 7 months of skin-contact respectively, and only between 2-400 bottles are made of each of them. /3/ signifies that this is the 3 months edition, the second lightest. It’s a light and lively wine, salmon pink colour, and smells of red berries (raspberry, strawberry).

Cabrónicus 2017 (Bod. Cauzón): This tempranillo made with carbonic maceration was the pick of the week (read here). It’s made east of Granada city at around 1.000 meters altitude, near Guadix. It’s pale red, super fruity with raspberry, pomegranate, and a touch of white pepper. In the mouth it’s delicious, juicy, fresh and clean, with a long, integrated acidity. 

Purulio 2018 (T. Huertas): Here is a very personal wine from the same area as the previous one. It’s made from a blend of both tempranillo and French grapes: Dark and dense, and full of blackberry and other dark fruits, along with a touch of coffee and roast, and touch of tannin and a stimulating acidity.  

La Veló 2016 (José Miguel Márquez): Another Montilla still wine with the Marenas label. This is a tempranillo grown at Cerro Encinas at 350 meters. Dark, almost opaque, some blueberry, but also plums and some tobacco. There is a lot of tannin here, but it doesn’t dominate the fruit. 

Ana showing the La Veló in the restaurant’s wine shop

Is there a mirror there at the bottom of the casserole?

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Salò de Vins Naturales (Vins Nus), Barcelona

10th and 11th February there were two natural wine fairs in Barcelona. Both days the Saló de Vins Naturales (aka Vins Nus, meaning Naked Wines) was organized by the PVN (Productores de Vinos Naturales in Spain), while Monday 11th there was the Vella Terra, organized by Alejandra Delfino and Stefano Fraternali. Both fairs had guided tastings on the side, and there were parties in addition to the main fairs, and Barcelona was simply the place to be!

The 6th edition of the Vins Nus was held in the Nau Bostik building in the La Sagrera quarter, a place for cultural meetings. What place could better house the Vins Nus, that holds a position as the leading fair nationally for Spanish natural wines.

Most producers were Spanish, but there were also some from abroad, especially from France and Italy.

Here I met old friends and familiar producers. And there were some revelations too, of some I had only known the name or maybe tasted one wine.

In this post I can only mention some highlights. And I will try to limit myself to only one wine from each producer.

Lorenzo Valenzuela, Barranco Oscuro

Barranco Oscuro is a true classic on the Spanish natural wine scene, and has also been one of the founders and driving forces behind the PVN, who organizes this fair. From the high altitude vineyards in the Alpujarras of Granada they bring out one wine more inspiring than the other. One of my favourites has long since been the Garnata, a garnacha from the most elevated vineyards now in the 2014 vintage: Cherry red; very fresh, red fruits, clover, aromatic herbs; fleshy, tasty with a mineral finish.

Samuel Cano, Vinos Patio

This is a producer I have known for a long time. There is something intriguing about all the wines. It would be strange to call them cool, because they reflect the warmth of sunny La Mancha. This is Quijote’s land, near some old-fashioned windmills in the Cuenca province. Most wines have Patio in the name, such as the lovely white airén Aire en el Patio and the dark, raisiny dessert wine Al Sol del Patio. I also tasted four of Samuel’s wines at an arrangement at the bar Salvatge a couple of days before, so I limited myself to four wines at his table. A newcomer, or one I didn’t know before was Mic Mac, a delicious, flowery, super fruity blend of airén and moscatel.

This time I chose the white, or more accurately, rosé Atardecer en el Patio 2017 (from the red tinto velasco grape). It’s quite floral, with apple and peach. In the mouth it’s round and fruity, I reckon it must have some residual sugar, and would be perfect for an afternoon (atardecer) in the patio.

Fabio Bartolomei of Vinos Ambiz

I have met Italo-Scot Fabio, former translator, many times at fairs and visits to Madrid and Gredos. He makes many cuvées with variations in time of skin-contact, ageing (varying time and type of container) and so on. All the wines, how different they may be, carry his personal stamp. The focus has shifted from the the vineyards just outside the capital to the high sites of El Tiemblo (Ávila), Gredos, and we might be seeing the beginning of something great, and his albillo real wines from granite soil can be said to bear the torch here. Doré (a synonym of chasselas) is a grape that he has brought to the fore during the recent years. Now the wine comes under the name Doris. The 2018 is yellow-gold, slightly cloudy; smells of mature apples and is also flowery; quite full on the palate, grapey and sapid.

Ramón Saavedra of Cauzón (left)

Ramón was enthusiastic and happy to show his 2018 vintage; the white Cauzón, a lovely strawberry-scented pinot rosé, the four grape Ira Dei and the Mozuelo, a red fruits luscious garnacha. I chose the Duende 2018, a wonderful syrah through several vintages: Dark cherry; fruity, earthy and slightly spicy; fleshy and tasty with young tannins.(Read more about his bodega and his wines in a post from 2017.)

Nacho González, La Perdida

La Perdida is a splendid producer in Valdeorras (Galicia). Nacho uses the traditional grapes godello, mencía and garnacha tintorera, but also palomino, and more unlikely varieties such as sumoll. I like his range on a general basis, such as the palomino skin-contact MalasUvas, the Proscrito, a reddish white from palomino and a small amount garnacha tintorera. The one that I chose for lunch that day was O Poulo 2018, a garnacha tintorera: Dark, fruity, with red berries, some green pepper, very clean and elegant with fruit all the way.

Joan Carles, La Gutina

I visited La Gutina of Empordà a couple of days before (a brief article from that visit to follow), so there was no need to taste the whole portfolio again. But a wine they didn’t present then was Gluglu 2018, a carbonic maceration garnacha, strawberry scented with good volume in the mouth, but also a fresh acidity. Fun and authentic.

Angélica Amo López and Julien Ben Hamou, Coruña del Conde

Ribera del Duero can not be called a stronghold for natural wines. But Coruña del Conde, a bodega in the settlement of the same name outside Aranda, is among the torchbearers. I came across the following wine at the Cascorrot Bistrot in Madrid (read about it here). The latest edition is Don’t panic I’m only natural 2018 #5: Dark, violet colour; fruity with red berries and blackberry; juicy, with smooth tannins.

Diego Losada, La Senda (picture taken the night before at bar Salvatge)

La Senda of Bierzo is another producer that I have been exposed to at Cascorro, Madrid. In my opinion everything from here is good, and I would be surprised if these wines will not be much more in demand in the future. La Senda white, red, all very clean, pure, the right amount of acidity, and with a sense of place. I chose La Senda “1984” 2017, the latter the vintage and the former a reference to Orwell’s novel. It’s cherry red, super fruity, with cherries, plums, medium body, and a lovely integrated natural acidity.

Torcuato Huertas, Purulio

Purulio is a neighbour of Cauzón in Guadix (Granada), except this is found even higher, at 1.200 meters, in the small settlement of Marchal. Most of the wines are interesting and good, marked both by the sunny south and the high elevation, though sometimes I’d wished the oak treatment had stopped just a little while before. The one I liked best this time was maybe the aromatic Purulio 2018 (sample, 5 months in oak), with its berry aromatics, flowery sensations and a quite cool acidity.

Vinotauro 2016, a pinot with the not-too-well hidden wordplay on the label

Josep Dasca (right), with Ludovic Darblade (co-owner of bar Salvatge in the middle)

Among this years’ revelations Dasca Vives presented some impressive and different wines from l’Alt Camp, Tarragona province. They work well with the maccabeu variety, that is also the one behind their rounded, maturely fruity Llunàtic and the Vi Ranci. Another speciality is the vinyater variety. (Read here about their wine from this interesting grape.)

Now back to the rancio. This is an oxidized wine, most often from the grenache/garnatxa, and it takes some 8-10 years before it’s “rancified”. This particular wine was made from white grapes though. Josep and Alba explain that some ten years ago they put white wine from the grape variety macabeu in a barrel with a some kind of “dense vi ranci”, that Josep’s father has in a very old and broken barrel. They also added a little of alcohol (it’s the only time that they had done so). Now they have started to sell it. Sometimes more white wine is added, but the barrel is never full, so the wine is always in contact with oxygene. The Vi Ranci had a mahogany colour, nutty aroma (almonds, hazelnut), notes of iodine, reminiscent of a relatively young amontillado sherry. In the mouth it was full and glyceric, with some tannin. My notes say nothing about how sweet it was; if my memory doesn’t fail me I think it was kind of off-dry, anyway there was nothing at all disturbing.

Maribel and Juanjo of Alumbro

Alumbro of Zamora, Castilla y León was another discovery, with their wonderfully expressive wines, from the slightly turbid, fruity-grapey orange wine called Blanco 2016 (verdejo-godello-albillo), via the dark orange, perfumed moscatel Maeve 2018 to a couple of reds. Should I pick only one it could be the truly inspiring Berretes 2016 of albillo real/ godello 50/50: Orange, slightly cloudy; plums, apples, yellow tomatoes; some tannins. Linear, fruity.

Iker García of Hontza, Labraza (Rioja Alavesa) showed that he has something interesting going on. Another one to watch is La Zafra, of Monòver, Alicante.

I’m sorry for all the producers from abroad, that I had too little time for this Sunday. But we’ll meet again, I hope.

Greeted by a Brazilian style percussion band by the Arc de Triomf, on my way to the fair

 

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Real Wine Fair II: Spanish impressions

The Real Wine fair is of course an opportunity to see what’s going on in the wine category that I love the most, exactly the kind of wine that’s highlighted here. And it’s a welcome chance to say hello to some old friends, and meet new people, all of them with interesting projects. Spain is (together with the other country on the peninsula) the country where I travel the most, and here are some highlights. Because I taste these wines once in a while I didn’t visit all the tables, which I regret, but you know, too little time…

IMG_4172 Pedro Olivares

Pedro Olivares

I had not really started when I spotted Pedro Olivares, and at the same time Alfredo Maestro tappet me on the shoulder. Pedro’s wines I just tasted very superficially, as I had recently visited him in Murcia. (Read about my visit here.) I took the opportunity to re-taste the Bobastrell 2015. We can call it a “terroir wine”, but from two terroirs: This is a wine with primarily monastrell (from Bullas, Murcia) in the aroma, and bobal (from Utiel-Requena, València) in the mouth. The enTreDicho 2016, jaén negro version, is a clay aged wine from that maybe unlikely place of Jaén, Andalucía. Pure fruit, flowers, juicy and lovely with some structure. I also took the chance to re-taste the Alto Viognier 2016, a 2 month skin-contact wine with grapes from 1.600 meters above sea level, and the SaSa 2016 from 10 meters, a moscatel and malvasía with the moscatel shining well through.

IMG_4186 Alfredo Maestro

Alfredo Maestro

Alfredo Maestro Tejero is operating both in his native Peñafiel, in Sierra de Gredos and in other parts of Castilla too. I know him as a man full of tireless energy, and very un-selfish. I wrote him before a trip to Gredos a couple of years ago, and as leader of the Garnachas de Gredos group (now also comprising albillos), he suggested that he organized the whole trip for me. And in the end we drove around together visiting ten producers, including his own vineyard in the coldest part, Navarredondilla (Ávila province). He recuperates old vineyards, manages them organically (with some biodynamic techniques) with little or no additives.

Peñafiel is in the heart of Ribera del Duero, but Alfredo choses to stay outside the DO, to be able to use grapes from neighbouring areas such as Valtiendas to the south the Duratón river. So most of his wines are now under the label Vino de la Tierra Castilla y León. Here are some very brief comments.

The white Lovamor 2016 is a high altitude albillo real (770-1.000m) from more 100-120 year old vines in Olmos de Peñafiel with one week skin-contact, and due to the cold Castilian winter it didn’t undergo malolactic fermentation. The result is an orange-light brownish colour, flowery with orange peel aromas, full and fresh on the palate, slightly pétillant too. From the same place comes Amanda Rosado Lágrima 2016, a light red rosé from the garnacha tintorera grape with pure raspberry fruit, just delicious drinking. As the term “lágrima” suggests the pressing was very light.

Almate 2016 is a tempranillo (here called tinto fino) of various ages, some bush vines (‘en vaso’), some of the younger trained in ‘espaldera’, some found in Peñafiel, and some in Valtiendas, just outside the Ribera del Duero border. Here are lots of vines grown on river stones and clay-calcareous soils. The must was fermented in steel, 80% whole bunches with wild yeasts, then kept in neutral French oak for 2-4 months. This is one of my favourite wines from the region, with its fresh top-fruit of cherries and violets, and a wild, rougher layer underneath, together with a really refreshing acidity. Over the border to the Burgos province, in clay-calcareous soils at 960 meters, Castrillo de Duero is one of the few wines with some oak ageing worth mentioning. Having said that, it’s not more than 12 months in rather neutral French oak, and it bears it without trouble. The 2015 vintage is dark, it has a lovely fruit, it’s a bit balsamic, but not at all oaky.

Amongst all the amusing labels I chose this one:

Alfredo Maestro_El Rey del Glam 2

El Rey del Glam 2016 is sourced from grapes both in Peñafiel (sandy, clay-calcareous soil) and Navarredondilla (granite). It’s a garnacha, obviously high-altitude, and the vines varies between 30 and 100 years old. This is maybe Afredo’s most quaffable wine; beware, it’s so luscouis, delicious that it doesn’t take long before you are sliding over the floor like the glamour king on the label. It’s made from uncrushed bunches that undergo carbonic maceration, fermented with wild yeasts and with no SO2 added. It’s light in colour, with plenty of lovely raspberry fruit, with a dry finish. This takes us over into the Gredos mountain range. El Marciano 2016 is raised, not on Mars, but 1.150 meters above sea level, where the climate is extreme continental. The vines are 70 years old, and the soil is granitic. The late-ripening garnacha is not harvested untill mid-October. This vintage is particularly appealing, with a clear-cut fruit, and a wonderful acidity that’s not easy to obtain with garnacha. Alfredo also brought a few wines outside the program just to show there are interesting projects around the corner. Among these were Rosado Clásico de Valladolid 2015, a rosé from Cigales, the once prominent rosé area just outside Valladolid city. It’s a single vineyard, predominantly tempranillo, raised partly in chestnut. It was peach-coloured with pure raspberry and citric fruit, and a nice concentration.

IMG_4190 Dani and Fernando

Dani Landi and Fernando García

Daniel Landi-Jiménez and Fernando García were there, representing both the Comando G project (Madrid province), but Daniel had also brought wines from his own bodega in Méntrida, Toledo. I have commented on these wines several times before (like here in Bilbao, and here at another fair), so I will present them only briefly. These are very fine wines with a refreshing acidity, an almost ethereal elegance, not much macerated and the aromas often show flowery notes. Two old favourites are La Bruja de Rozas 2015 and Las Rozas 1er Cru, now in the 2015 vintage too. The Bruja comes from several plots in and around Las Rozas de Puerto Real, and has a lively fruit, and an acidity that forms a fine structure together with a touch of tannin. The 1er Cru har only a slighly firmer tannin, a touch of smokiness and more concentration. Mataborricos Tinto 2014 was new to me, naturally made in four amphoras, but in the same line as the others. Las Umbrías 2014, a single vineyard wine from granite soils: A tight grip on this one (young tannins), raspberry and cherry fruit and some chalky minerality.

Over in the Toledo province Dani had equally light-coloured, high-expressive wines. He tells that he is always looking for vineyards that is high in the landscape, north-northeast facing, as he wants maximum freshness. Las Uvas de la Ira 2015 and Cantos del Diablo 2014, both from San Vicente, showed this. Las Iruelas 2014 too, from 1.000m elevation in El Tiemblo. El Reventón 2014 from Cebreros (that probably will be the name of the new DO) was the most reductive wine, but with air it reveals lavender and thyme aromas.

Note: I was really sad to hear the other day, that the Gredos area had been affected by severe hailstorms (7th July), and that some of the vineyards you have read about here were among the most severely hit. I really do hope that they will recover the best way possible.

IMG_4187 Rafa Bernabé father and son

Rafa Bernabé, sr. & jr. of Bernabé Navarro

Rafa Bernabé (father) is long considered the Spanish expert on clay vessels for wine storage (in Spanish called ‘tinajas’), and I have reported on his wines several times, such as the Tinajas de la Mata, from the national park in Torrevieja. The wine, with 2014 on show here, will go out of production, he tells.

Most wines are made “O meters above sea level”, as Rafa sr. puts it. All wines are made with natural yeasts, none are clarified nor filtered, and all have less than 15 grams sulphur. They presented other wines aged in clay such as the Benimaquía Tinajas 2015, from moscatel and merseguera; light orange colour, aromatic with flowery compounds, it had more skin-contact than the “Tinajas” mentioned above, but still lighter in colour (as the other one has a small amount of black grapes). Musikanto 2015 is a direct-press wine (no skin-contact) garnacha from a higher altitude at 700 meters; light red, and very luscious in the mouth.

They had also a pét nat called Acequión 2015, a “sea moscatel”; deep yellow, with aromas of orange peel and yellow apples, slightly bubbly, and a “mountain monastrell 85% and garnacha”, Tipzzy 2015; light red, easy-to-drink. A dessert wine rounded it off, the Parque Natural 2013, that showed mature apples and dried fruit, some raisins, but it was not overtly sweet either.

Saó del Coster is a new find. I had heard about the winery from Gratallops, Priorat, and was lucky to be able to be pick up their basic “S” (2014) in my local shop, a wine with all the charms of a young, fruity red priorat. They want to keep the alcohol up at 15, to emphasize the local style, full and warm. Here the vintage has changed to 2015, and it’s still a lovely, pure garnacha-dominated wine (carinyena 35%), some spices and minerals, and with a good acidity for freshness.

They work biodynamically with indigenious varieties, with a low-intervention philosophy. A 100% garnatxa (as it’s spelled in Catalan) is Pim Pam Poom 2016. This has been made with 50% whole clusters, with the aim of bringing out minimum colour, maximum flowery, fresh fruit. Pure delight! They also brought two wines from old carinyena. The Planassos 2014 was good, warm and potent, but also with a velvety layer. For me La Pujada 2014 from 90 year old plants was a winner, very elegant with relatively lighter colour, fresh fruits, juicy in the mouth, and a subtle, almost cool fruit all the way.

IMG_4175 Sao del Coster

Xavier Barrachina and Michelle Negrón of Saó del Coster

Rioja was represented by three producers from the right bank of Ebro; Honorio Rubio (Cordovín, once famous for claretes), Hacienda Grimón (further east, in the Jubera valley, Rioja Baja) and Viña Ilusión (Herce, near Arnedo in the Rioja Baja).

Honorio Rubio is noted for their whites, and it was especially interesting to taste the Edición Limitada-range with three very different wines. The skin-contact Viura Macerado 2014 was orange in colour, aromas of apricot and lemon, and some more herbal notes, quite light in the mouth, and with a refreshing acidity from the high altitude viura grapes. The Viura Sobre Lías Crianza 2014, aged 6 months in oak and concrete, it’s both traditional lemon and vanilla, and comes with a modern fruitiness too. Añadas is a solera wine made up from ten vintages, thus mixing the sherry and barrel-aged rioja traditions. It’s light golden, with lemon, pear and some buttery notes, both concentrated and fresh. Before I moved on I also tasted two more whites in a hurry, and the Alonso & Pedrajo, Suañe 2014, a raspberry scented red with some sweet notes.

The Oliván Family at Hacienda Grimón uses no chemical fertilisers, but sheep manure like in the old days. No herbicides are used, and the oak is all of second and third year. A couple of favourites were Finca la Oración 2015, a fruity, un-oaked wine full of blackberry aromas and freshness, and Desvelo Garnacha 2015, with second fermentation in oak (7 months); very flowery, red berries, and good weight in the mouth.

Martín Alonso of Viña Ilusión I have met several times, so I tasted his main wine very quickly. His Tinto 2015 is really nice and clean, fruity and elegant, with cherry and blackberry fruit, and good acidity.

Beginning to count down for lunch I did a brief tasting of a winery that I have known for some time. Who said they couldn’t make wine in Asturias? Nicolás Marcos can, and he does so in Cangas, that emerges as the area to consider in the region. At this occation I only tasted four wines. Pesico Blanco 2014 from the albarín variety, not destemmed, aged in chestnut vats of 2.000 liters, bottled without SO2 was glyceric, smooth but still with a young fruit. La Fanfarría Tinto 2015, 50% each of mencía and red albarín, was quite dark with red fruits, herbs and young tannin. Retortoiro Tinto 2014 showed some evolution in the colour, with aromas of cherries, and a structure for further ageing. Cadario 2012 had still more evolved colour, but the evolution has been nice, the tannins are still evident, and the primary fruits are still holding first place. I believe these wines can easily keep for ten years.

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Then running for lunch, I passed Adega Guímaro‘s table. Guímaro can be found in the cool Amandi sub-region of Ribeira Sacra, Galicia interior. I know Pedro Rodríguez and his wines well after a visit and several tastings. So here I almost only passed by the table, where his collegue Raúl Suárez was present. I did a quick tasting of the Guímaro 2016 white from 70% godello, a light, flowery, citric wine, the Finca Capeliños 2015 (50% whole cluster, long maturation in foudres) with its dark mencía fruit, mineral and with young tannins, the Finca Pambeiras 2015 (75 year old vines, 100% whole cluster), a very floral, red fruit dominated, very pure wine, before I brought his wonderful young mencía with its vibrant cherry fruit, the Tinto Jóven 2016, out into the lunch area.

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Articles

Monastrell trip round-up

I had been travelling in the stronghold of the monastrell grape for almost a week. Here are a few tales about a few producers that didn’t receive an article for themselves this time, even if they deserve so.

I had met Juan Pascual López of Viña Enebro at a fair, and I have tasted his wines at the natural wine bar Solo de Uva in Madrid, and elsewhere. Enebro refers to a very special tree that grows in his vineyard in the Bullas wine area, in the municipality of Cehegín.

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On the property you find almonds and olives, and in the vineyards there are some 80+ % monastrell. The soils are predominantly sandy clay with a high content of limestone, more saline near the river.

Juan Pascual belongs to the PVN group (Productores de Vinos Naturales), which means no additives (read: not even a milligram of sulphur). No more than 13-14.000 bottles are made each year. He tells that he sees himself concentrating more and more on young wines, marching with the times, in other words.

I have tasted and covered his wines on several ocations. So this time we didn’t taste any bottled wines, we just drove through the vineyards, had some samples and discussed wine and politics.

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The first sample was a forcallat, a local, nearly extinct, productive and quite mellow variety that is going to be a “blanco de negros” (not completely true, even if it’s blended with a small proportion of monastrell, as this particular grape is white).

Next was a monastrell that will probably be a rosé (light, aromatic, rounded), then a carbonic maceration red (light, fresh and yes: carbonic) and a much more powerful and tannin-structured wine. All these monastrell 100%, all 2016.

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We also sampled some “older” vintages, between 2015 and ’13. Juan Pascual told that monastrell loses colour quite fast, but the tannins last longer, which was evident from these wines. I have never thought about this before, but it’s something to explore at the earliest convenience.

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Juan’s mother did all the paintings, including the still life

When I have mentioned that we also tasted a sparkling wine and a 2013 dessert wine -grapes dried some 40 days, still fermenting- I think I have told the tale about this short visit.

 

Tercia de Ulea was visited en route, and proprietor Diego Ruíz de Assin was available on the phone, but not in person. No worries, as Ildefonso was there when I showed up one day before the appointment, just to see if it was possible (to be able to visit my mother that had been brought to the hospital of Benidorm – I think this is most relevant information for you, dear reader).

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Anyway, the bodega has a small selection of barrels in sizes from 128 liters up to 2.500, and at different ages. The list of barrels tells that the one 128 liter barrel contains “shyrac”. The bodega is in Moratalla, in the western end of Bullas, while the vineyards lie towards Benizar by the border with Albacete and Los Charcos, a little east from the winery.

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Ildefonso took me through a few wines. We are always talking about minimal sulphur additions. 20-25 mg/L maybe, and never more than 40 mg total sulphur. The wine growing is organic, and there is as tittle intervention as possible.

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Rebeldía 2016, mainly monastrell, was a light and fruitdriven rosé (strawberry, citric notes) round in the mouth with adecuate acidity. A interesting wine was the Adivina 2016, a semi-dulce (half-sweet) made from tempranillo and cabernet. Light rosé colour in the direction of salmon, an evident apricot component in the aroma, and the sweetness surpisingly balanced by the concentration of the fruit.

Rambla 2015 was the most direct monastrell expression (almost 100% monastrell), unoaked, a dark, fruity (cherries), lightly spicy and structured red. Botial Roble 2015 made from monastrell and syrah in equal parts and a little cabernet, was fuller-bodied and still with good fruit.

 

On the way back to Andalucía I stopped just outside Villena in the Alicante province, where Bodega la Encina is making highly original natural wines, with elements of biodynamic practise and without additions of any sort. They work the land according to the deepest respect of the land and the traditions. No pesticides nor chemicals are used. Nor do they clarify the wines.

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I came across one of the wines at a seaside restaurant in the Cádiz province (the Taberna de el Campero) and I have been thinking of a visit ever since.

Cero 2016 was a fabulous, dark, berryfruited wine. I highlighted this one soon after my visit. (Look here.)

Among the best were also a Merlot 2016, with dark fruits, plums and herbs, with evident tannins and adecuate acidity, – and the Forcallat 2016, dark with blueish rim, fruit-driven aroma (blueberry, blood-orange, white flowers) and young, fine tannins.

IMG_4108 José María Espí

La Encina was established in 2006 to fulfill his dream making the kind of wine that he remembers from his childhood, José María explains. At that time he liked to be with his father in a cellar of Ontinyent, after the war, where he learned to make natural wines. Some new techniques, and knowledge, were learned when he started his new venture, and he attended several courses. A curiosity maybe more than a technique as such, is that they use classical music or jazz as background music for the fermentation.

In sum these are wonderful wines for today, full of individuality and character, but with a strong tie to the past.

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Wine of the Week

A thrill from an Alicantina hill

This is delicious, unpretentious wine from Bodega La Encina, whom I visited last week. It’s called a varietal, but it’s made from garnacha, monastrell and merlot. La Encina is a small artisan bodega just north of Villena (Alicante, bordering both Albacete and Murcia). The farming is organic and biodynamic, and they work completely without additions.

Cero Tinto Jóven 2016 (Bodega La Encina)

Dark red with blue tones. Intense young berry-aromas; blueberry, cherry, flowers, pine, and maybe some ink. Fresh, young taste, with a refreshing acidity, and some stalky bitterness that I find appealing here.

Food: Pizza, pasta, vegetarian, (green) tapas. Without food is also nice

Price: Low

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Wine of the Week

Bernabé’s Tragolargo

Rafa Bernabé makes highly original wines in the Alicante province of Spain, and -as I have showed in earlier posts such as this one– is a Spanish authority on the use of clay vessels in winemaking.

Made from the Mediterranean grape monastrell (mourvèdre). Spontaneous fermentation.

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Tragolargo 2013 (Bernabé Navarro)

Dark, deep red. Dark fruits, blackcurrant, blackberry, garden flowers. Luscious, yeasty, fresh, nicely acid, and with a slightly “funky” natural wine aftertaste. The 14% of alcohol was barely noticed.

Price: Low

 

 

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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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