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Vella Terra 6th edition II

Here is the second part of the report from this year’s Vella Terra. We leave Spain, crosses over to Portugal, then from France and to the east, then to the north of Europe.

João Goucha and Fernando Paiva, Quinta da Palmirinha

Fernando Paiva came with his grandson João Goucha, who studies enology in Vila Real. Fernando’s estate Quinta da Palmirinha is in Lixa, south in the Vinho Verde. He is a pioneer in biodynamic farming in Portugal, uses chamomile flowers to avoid the use of sulphur in his natural wines – and is well covered in this blog. (Read about a visit to the estate here.) His Azal and Loureiro varitals were typical and up to standard. Leviano was made for the first time in 2020, that I tasted in Porto last summer. It’s a loureiro, now in the 2021 vintage, made with 3 months skin-contact. This makes it an orange wine, or “curtimento” in Portugal. Golden to orange; aroma of ginger and flowers; full in the mouth with some structure, and a super, integrated acidity.

João Tavares da Pina

João Tavares da Pina is found in Penalva do Castelo in Dão. (Read here about a visit to his estate.) The family’s Quinta da Boavista dates back to 1650 and is found at an altitude of 550 meters on deep granite, quartz, clay and shale soils. These vineyards are ideal for grapes like touriga nacional, alfrocheiro and rufete. And not least for the variety jaén (mencía), a speciality of the quinta.

I love his series Rufia (meaning punk), young, fresh wines. Among those tasted this time, why not mention the Rosé 2020, from rufete, touriga and jaen. Salmon-coloured, with raspberry and wild berries, rounded with a very careful tannin. Very interesting was his Tretas 2020, a jaen and touriga nacional. It was macerated on the skins for 4 days and kept in inox for 6 months before bottling (unfiltered, unfined). Tretas means bullshit in local slang. The wine is serious fun: A quaffable glou-glou, but with depth; cherry red, ripe red fruits and with some structure.

Rodrigo Melo, Quinta da Ermegeira
Rodrigo Melo interviewed

I hadn’t met Rodrigo Melo before, but I understand that this is a producer to watch. Rodrigo is from Brazil, but worked for many years in natural wine distribution in London. In 2018 he started his own project and came to Portugal, where he already knew its terroirs and grapes. He bought 4 hectares of land with 30-year-old vines with organic certification in northern Lisboa, that is Quinta da Ermegeira. He also works with biodynamic techniques, and the winemaking is with very low intervention.

Rodrigo showed interesting samples under the label Selva. Noiva 2021 was a different chardonnay, with botrytis and with some residual sugar. Here we chose Cristovan 2020. It is an orange wine (in Portuguese curtimenta) made from arinto, in a cement tank of 1.700 liters. The colour is light orange after 10 days fermentation on skins, the fruit is lovely and the acidity is refreshing. Only 11% alcohol.

Celine Peyre and Alexandre Gressent
of Domain Balansa, Corbières

Domaine Balansa is a 15-hectare estate in Corbières, established in 2015. This family project has an organic approach to farming and also runs tourism activities in the most sustainable way possible. I tasted the whole portfolio, various styles from southern French grapes. This time we could maybe focus on one of the more “serious” wines, Can del Rey 2020 from Fitou. It’s made from carignan and grenache, from 100 year old vines on hillsides, made with some carbonic maceration and matured some months in oak. It’s dark in colour, with youngish blue; aroma of wild berries, some balsamic, and slight hint of toffee too; good weight, fine tannins and with a balancing acidity.

Rémi Ségura and Alicia Mérimé
of Vins Les Pirouettes, Alsace

The Les Vins Pirouettes label covers seventeen independent Alsatian winegrowers committed to organic and biodynamic farming. Each viticulturist grows the grapes on his own land and makes the wine in his own cellar. It’s an initiative by Christian Binner, and the idea was to give the growers a helping hand so that they didn’t need to sell their grapes to cooperatives.

Many times I have been impressed by the energy and creativity behind the wines and the dedication behind the labels. In spite of this, it can be (for me) many new wines each time. As a general rule, we can say that they are affordable natural wines.

Among the most rewarding wines this time was Saveurs 2018 from producer Rafaël, a fruity, citrussy and juicy silvaner (this label also covers a blend). More slender, but equally energetic was David‘s Riesling Glou-Glous 2018, a fresh appley, citrussy wine. There was also a delicious orange gewürztraminer from Franck, L’Étalon 2019. After 10 days of skin-contact it was only light orange, with apples, pears and a (pleasant) vinegary bitterness towards the end.

Elisabetta Foradori

Foradori of Trentino has been covered many times on this blog, so feel free to search for it all. (Here is a recent post.) Elisabetta Foradori. Earlier I have met her sons, but this was the first time that I have met the beautiful Elisabetta Foradori herself. At a young age she did remarkable work in cultivating organically, later implementing biodynamic methods, and caring for the native varieties of her area, especially the near-extinct teroldego.

I didn’t taste many wines this time, only some whites, like the all-time favourite Nosiola. I also got the chance to be reminded how good was the Fuoripista Pinot Grigio, now in its 2016 vintage. Grown in sandy limestone, it’s fermented 8 months on skins and further aged in Spanish tinajas (amphoras) for 5 month. It has a reddish hue, is flowery with red berries and herbs, and has a concentrated yet smooth appearance in the mouth.

Luca Carussin Garberoglio

About Carussin of Piemonte I could say the reverse (than Foradori), earlier I have only met the mother Bruna Ferro Carussin. This time I got the opportunity to greet her son Luca Carussin Garberoglio. It’s a winery that I know well from the Norwegian market, and their economic barbera Asinoi has been a house wine in my house for a long time now. Here I tasted a few wines, among them Tra L’Altro 2020, an inspiring, flowery, dry moscato/cortese. Lia Ví 2017, is a superb wine, a single parcel barbera harvested later than others. It’s made from a 35-year-old vineyard planted by Luca’s grandfather, on the sandy soil just in front of the winery. It’s a concentrated wine that shows that barbera also can do with some structure. Elegant aroma, cool fruits (cherry), herbs and flowers, and a concentrate taste with fine tannins and lovely integrated acidity. And it’s not expensive.

Joana Foster, Stella Crinita

Over to Argentina: Stella Crinita is the natural wine project of Joana Foster and Ernesto Catena in Vista Flores de Tunuyán, Valle de Uco. The Catena family is indeed an important one in the history of Argentine wine, having been responsible for bringing the malbec variety to America, as the story goes.

All fermentations are spontaneous, no SO2 added at any stage, nothing fined nor filtered. These are some keywords. The vineyard has been biodynamic certified since 2012. The soils are sandy and clayey and located at 1,100 meters above sea level.

I tasted interesting pét nats and reds from a.o. malbec, syrah, cabernet sauvignon, and a varietal barbera. Petit verdot can be one-dimensional and dull. Their Petit Verdot 2020 was not. On the contrary this single-vineyard biodynamic wine was a linear, long and quite elegant wine from this somewhat difficult grape. Cherry red, plums and blackberries with spice (nutmeg), fine tannins, fresh fruit (cherry) and also a touch of wood and leathertones.

Martin Bech-Ravn of Solhøi, Norway

It was also here I had to travel to meet Martin Bech-Ravn, a Danish cider producer, home brewer and artist based in Ekeberg, a neighbourhood in Oslo, Norway. This is a wine blog visiting a wine fair. But when Bech-Ravn in Solhøi Cider talks, then the analogue to wine is striking. For example, he uses one variety of apples to give fullness, another to give acidity. He operates naturally, without additives. He makes Floating Sunshine, Flytende Solskinn 2020, a dry, fresh, flowery, lightly spicy cider bottled unfiltered – in Oslo.

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Wine of the Week

Rosé white from black grapes

This wine is, like last week’s selection, from our recent tasting of Argentine wines. The name is Blanc de Noir, a well-known expression from Champagne denoting white wine from black grapes. Here the producer has admitted a tiny amount of colour to get through.

We have been used accustomed to the thought that good (some would think: all) Argentine wines come from Mendoza. But El Esteco is found in Cafayate, a small town in the Calchaquí Valley, province of Salta. We are in the very northwestern corner of Argentina, at an elevation of 2.000 meters, with poor alluvial soils. The marked temperature ranges of the valley encourages a long maturation period.

The grape is pinot noir, grown in a finca called Chañar Punco and harvested by hand in the early morning hours, whole bunches pressed very lightly and slowly, and elevated in steel. Truly fascinating!

Blanc de Noir 2020 (Bod. El Esteco)

Light salmon pink with a touch of onion-skin. Delicately fruity, of medium intensity, of redcurrant and some herbs. A bit glyceric and tannic in the mouth, yet fresh acidity shines through.

Price: Low

Food: Fish and shellfish, salads, light meat

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Wine of the Week

Chakana’s high entry-level

Bodega Chakana delivers at a generally high overall level. So also their so-called entry-level malbec, where the price is next to nothing. (Read about another of their wines here.)

Chakana is a family owned winery located at 960 meters altitude up towards the Andes in Agrelo, Mendoza. It represents a new generation of local terroir-conscious winemakers. The name of the project is what the indigenous people in the area called the southern cross constellation (Crux).

This is how the bodega describes the naming: “Chakana is believed to hold the key to finding the perfect timing for the cultivation and harvesting of crops – a calendar, compass & symbolic link between earth and spirit. On May 2, 2002, the Chakana reached perfect vertical position in the sky, marking the beginning of a new farming cycle. It was then that Chakana’s founder Juan Pelizzatti chose its name for his winery, paying homage to the Incan understanding of and respect for nature.”

Winemaker is Gabriel Bloise, who has experience from both Europe and Australia. The farming at Chakana can be described as biodynamic, with spontaneous fermentation, natural acidity, minimum or no sulphur, and the wines are never clarified nor filtrated.

chakana winery vineyard panarama1
(Cred. Bod. Chakana)

Their vineyards are orientated 45 degrees north west to maximize fruit expression. According to themselves this is “a surprising example of synchronicity, as this is the exact route that the Andean development chose”. This is called the Viracocha line, or the “Line of Truth” of the Incas.

For Chakana this planting direction was chosen for best canopy protection of the grapes during the highest temperatures of the day.

For this wine 60% of the grapes are from Luján de Cuyo in Mendoza and the rest from La Rioja (some 600 km to the north). The grapes were cold-macerated for 3 days, then fermented in steel and cement 15 days.

We also tried it with Brazilian beans

Malbec 2018 Organic Wine (Bod. Chakana)

Dark cherry red, blueish hue. Fruity, mature dark berries (blackberry), plum, some spice. Juicy yet a bit carbonic in the mouth, with soft tannins, firm and slightly bitter finish with a slight (and pleasant) touch of vinegar (maybe in lack of a better word).

Price: Low

Food: Many types of meat, also red, grilled and slightly spicy, roast duck, casseroles

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Wine of the Week

Argentinian Joker

Just when you needed it you slided a joker down the sleeve. A real surprise it was, from Argentina’s huge wine region Mendoza.

Gerardo Michelini and his wife Andrea Muffato started this venture in the village Gualtallary (in the Uco valley) in 2012, after having worked for a long time in wine. Everything is organically farmed. In general they use whole cluster maceration with long skin-contact. A spontaneous fermentation is carried out in cement eggs, steel or large oak vats. Additions are kept at a minimum.

This is a blend of 50% malbec and 50% pinot noir from a young vineyard (planted in 2006) situated at 1.400 meters altitude in calcareous, stony soils. It’s made in steel, and saw some carbonic maceration. Unfined and unfiltered.

Ji Ji Ji Malbec CO2 Pinot Noir 2017 (Gen del Alma)

Dark cherry, violet hue. Fruity, aromas of dark berries (blackberry, blueberry), stony minerality and a hint of pepper. Fresh, juicy and carbonic with a touch of tannin. The alcohol is low at 11.5%.

Price: Low

Food: Meat (poultry, veal, pig), white fish, salads, fresh and hard cheeses

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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

A Mendoza Bonarda

There are a lot of things happening in Argentina. A few weeks ago we brought a malbec wine into the sporlight. Malbec is by many regarded as something of a national grape. Bonarda is another that excels here. For a long time we thought it was the Italian grape, but we now know that it’s the same as the French charbono (corbeau). It is naturally lighter than malbec, it’s not very compatible with oak, and it has been responsible responsible for many bland, warm wines. But with lower yields and more care to winemaking we now see interesting results. Even though Bonarda is a late ripener some will try to harvest early to avoid too warm aromas.

This particular wine is made by Bodega Chakana at their finca in Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, at 960 meters above sea level. It’s aged in a combination of used barrel and concrete for a period of 8 months.

chakana-bonarda

Bonarda 2014 (Chakana)

Purple with violet rim. Aroma of blackberry, plums and herbs. Mellow and soft in the mouth, luscious, quite fresh, with a slight touch of tannin.

Price: Low

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Wine of the Week

A light Argentine malbec

Here is a simple, light and fresh wine from Argentina’s national grape malbec. It’s made in Mendoza’s Valle de Uco in stainless steel, and with selected yeasts.

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Camaleón Malbec Organic 2016 (Lea)

Dark, blueish. Young and fresh aroma of berries (mature raspberry, cassis), herbs and licorice. Quite soft taste with a touch of tannins and adequate acidity.

Price: Low

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