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Wine talk about La Stoppa

These notes are from another wine talk in the Vinestor-series. (Read my first report here.) Now the time had come to La Stoppa and their Norwegian importer Vinum, represented by Runar Nikolaysen.

I suppose that for many people La Stoppa’s Ageno was the first orange wine they ever tasted. This because of its presence in several markets.

Representing the winery was Nico Sciackitano, who was born in the USA, where he among other things worked as a sommelier in San Francisco. But he wanted to follow another path. Thus he came to Italy, worked for Arianna Occhipinti in Sicily, and through her met Elena of La Stoppa. He is export representative, but he also works in the vineyard and in the cellar.

Nico Sciackitano on the pc screen

La Stoppa, the winery in Emilia-Romagna, can trace its roots back to the 19th century. The farm has now 58 hectares, of which 30 are planted with local varieties barbera, bonarda, malvasia, ortugo and trebbiano. One of the features that distinguish them from the mainstream is long skin-maceration, especially a particularity for white wines. Otherwise good raw material and little intervention are key words.

La Stoppa is found in Rivargaro, south of Piacenca. And Ageno, Giancarlo Ageno, was the founder, who bought the land that they own today. They have three little hills and three valleys around them. He planted some 40 different grape varieties, and was one of the first in the area to bottle his wines. There is a lot old red clay in the area, and rich in iron, not unlike parts of Bordeaux. This Nico tells while showing a picture of a bottle of “bordeaux” that Ageno made himself. It was in 1973 that Elena’s father Raffaele, from Piacenza, bought the farm. It was when her father died in the 90’s that Elena’s mother convinced her to come back, and together with winemaker Giulio they decided only to focus on local varieties and to express the terroir of the farm.

La Stoppa makes basically red wines. Nevertheless, the one white wine, named after the founder, is maybe the most famous one.

Nico tells that its not the climate that differes the most from the more famous neighbours (like Veneto and Piemonte), but the soils. Barbera with its acidity is the most important grape variety, as the cuisine is quite fat. Piacenza is more of a diverse farmland than many of the neighbouring wine regions. Around La Stoppa the vines are mostly on the hills, so when it’s harvest time the animals will rather eat corn and tomatoes in the valleys floors than their grapes, explains Nico.

Interestingly the Ageno that the founder made himself was a müller-thurgau, riesling, sylvaner, moscato and sauvignon blanc, and made without skin-contact as today. The new owners continued that tradition (but mostly with chardonnay and sauvignon), untill the 90’s, when it was changed to the wine that we know now, based on a thick-skinned malvasia. 2002 was the first vintage of today’s Ageno, born as a nod to the history of skin-macerated wines, not only in Emilia-Romagna, but in Europe as a whole. -This is the reason I am here, tells Nico. -I was tasting the wine blind. It smells sweet, then comes the dry taste and the tannic mouthfeel. And the colour, within a year it changes from yellow to amber to dark orange. Ageno kind of plays with your mind, says Nico. In recent vintages 18, 19 and 20 the weather has been different; cooler with more rain. Thus the colour is much paler than in the preceeding vintages. The maceration lasts on skins untill winter, that is 3-4 months.

Historic picture: Giancarlo Ageno on the right

They always macerate everything outside in tanks without temperature control. So it’s important that the temperature stays high, so the fermentation can continue. In 2016-17 there were sudden falls in temperatures, so they had to cover up the tanks.

You have understood that La Stoppa stands for a low-intervention winemaking, “hands-off” in the field, just spray copper and sulphur when necessary. It’s a question of paying attention, prune well, and let time work. -Guilio’s 40 years of experience lets him not needing to do anything.

A feature is also that they don’t necessarily release the vintages chronologically. 2017 was ready before 16, and they also found out that to realease the 19 alongside the 16 could be a way for people to understand and appreciate the differences.

Ageno 2016

The grape composition varies. The 2016 is made from malvasia di candia aromatica 90%, the rest is divided between ortrugo and trebbiano. Here are some more key figures, in short: Quite young vines, 20 years. No fertilizing, no weed-killers. The soil contains clay silt. The trellis system is simple guyot. 4 months maceration on skins in stainless steel and cement tanks. Spontaneous fermentation with indigenous yeasts, aged in 40 hectolitre wooden tanks. No filtration, no sulphites added.

Deep golden, amber. Concentrated aroma with both fresh (red apples), dried and pickled fruits (apricots, figs), honey, floral overtones, and some volatile acidity. Full-bodied, fruity, evident tannins, long with good acidity and also here a slight volatile character.

Trebbiolo 2019

This is a rather unpretentious wine from the traditional blend barbera (60%) and bonarda from the lower plots. I like it a lot, and makes for excellent drinking now, with charcuterie, light meat or a variety of antipasti. Some key information: Organic farming with biodiversity. No fertilizing, weed killers or pesticides. Clay Silt. Mostly simple Guyot. Age of vines: 7, 15 and 40 years. 20 days maceration on skins in stainless steel and/or cement tanks. Spontaneous fermentation with indigenous yeasts, in stainless steel and cement tanks.

Dark ruby. Dark and red fruits (mature blackberry, freshness cherry), and a smoky tone. Medium weight with a bit firm, but agreeable tannins, adecuate acidity and a nice touch of stony bitterness.

Macchiona and Barbera are more “serious” wines. They have the potential to age for a long time (especially in cooler vintages). Ageno is a newer project, so the producer claims that one doesn’t don’t know yet its ability it has to age.

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Wine of the Week

Ganko from Olivier Rivière, La Rioja

Frenchman Olivier Rivière has formerly worked with well-known Telmo Rodríguez. He came in 2004 to help converting the vineyards into biodynamic agriculture. But he liked Rioja so much that he decided to stay, and has since long bought grapes and made wines for himself. At the moment he makes wines from Rioja, Arlanza and Navarra. It is at the facilities of Bodegas Lacus in Aldeanueva de Ebro (Rioja Baja), where he is consulting, that he makes his wines.

He uses fermentation tanks of cement and oak (from 2,000 to 5,000 litres). The reds are often fermented with stems. In Rioja he sources his grapes from several areas. This wine Ganko, a blend of garnacha and mazuelo, comes from Cárdenas in Najerilla valley, on the right bank of the Ebro river. The vines are high altitude, old vines on sandy soils.

Ganko 2016 (Olivier Rivière)

Dark cherry red. Fresh and intense aroma of dark berries (blackberry), plums, and a balsamic touch. Concentrated, a lot of tannins, but rounded off, a sense of coolness in the fruit, long.

Price: Medium

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Wine of the Week

Riffin’ in Orange with Riffel

Bingen is maybe most mostly associated with Hildegard, the great composer, mystic, abbess that founded a monastery there nearly a thousand years ago. This improvised title bears more associations to the old jazz masters. But anyway: It is here, on the Nahe estuary in Rheinhessen, that Carolin and Erik Riffel have their home. Since I got to know them I have admired their wines. The organic Riesling Trocken is as stylish as it gets, the silvaners well-made, the pét nats (such as the scheurebe) truly inspiring. With this wine they go one step further, with a more un-tamed, naked orange wine.

But it’s only natural. As long as I have known them they have talked about their passion for the nature of wine, for their place and for the vintage in the glass. They intervene as little as possible, giving the wines the time they need. Today they have 16 hectares on quartzite soils, farmed biodynamically.

Erik and Carolin Riffel

The orange wine is made from equal parts sylvaner and gewürztraminer. They are handpicked, and destemmed, fermented on skins for two weeks. Parts of the wine are matured in barriques, the rest in steel and with six months on fine lees.

Orange-Naked Trocken 2019 (Weing. Riffel)

Golden colour, slighly turbid. Aroma of mature apples, pear, flowers, and a nutty hint. Smooth tannins in the mouth, good acidity, and though full flavours and a good lenght it is also a pure fun wine.

You are advised to turn the bottle upside down before opening, to get the full intensity from the yeasts too.

Price: Medium

Food. Asian dishes, light meat, tasty fish, many kinds of salads…

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Wine of the Week

Loxarel, a Clàssic Penedès

Loxarel I have met at a couple of artisan fairs, in Barcelona, and as far as I remember, in London too. Masia Can Mayol, the official name, is Josep Mitjans, fifth generation. When he got in charge of the family firm at a young age he changed the philosophy of this old winery. He started bottling wines, converting to organic, then implementing biodynamic techniques. (Here is another good sparkler from the house.)

The winery is located in Villobí, on a plain not far from Vilafranca del Penedès, but they have also plots in El Pla de Manlleu, higher in altitude and a bit further west.

This winery is among the many that are now abandoning the DO Cava. Among the reasons for this can be a challenging reputation that the appellation has gained over the years, and the fact that it is not dedicated to one specific geographical area. More about this in a future article.

This particular sparkler is made up from xarel.lo 55% (now widely recognized as the best of the “usual suspects” for ageing, then macabeo 30%, parellada 5%, and the rest chardonnay, a grape that I have nothing against, even not here, even not native. I interpret the name a pèl +18 as the time spent on lees (and not skins).

A Pèl +18 Brut Nature 2016 (Loxarel/ Masia Can Mayol)

Light straw, greenish tones, creamy mousse. Mild Mediterranean smell of aromatic herbs, yeast, mature lemons and yellow apples. Creamy, tasty, rounded but dry.

Price: Low

Food: Apéritif, Iberian cured ham, light fish and shellfish…

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Wine of the Week

A virtuoso Alsace Pirouette

Les Vins Pirouettes is an open Alsace project consisting of independent wine producers, always growing in number, and led by the respected Christian Binner. Their vineyards are organic or biodynamic certified, and cover many different soils and expositions in 13 different villages. Other than that then have their own personality and style.

Annual production is around 80,000 bottles. There is always spontaneous fermentation, no fining, no filtration, and no sulphur added.

The name Pirouette symbolizes the playfulness and fun they’re all having with this movement, but also the mastery needed to achieve a good result in this type of winemaking.

Each cuvée is vinified at the winemaker’s own place, with the gentle helping hand of the project’s enologists Xavier Couturier and Pierre Sanchez. So the individuality should always be intact.

Ensaladilla rusa the day after

The wine in question is a sylvaner from Ammerschwihr, from a vineyard planted in 1978-1983 on limestone, clay and pebbles. The grapes were picked and selected by hand, and the yield turned out to be 20 hl/ha.
Spontaneously fermented, matured in large, old oak vessels. Unfined and unfiltered. Certified oganic, with biodynamic principles.

Le Sylvaner d’Olivier 2016 (Les Vins Pirouettes)

Light golden. Aromatic with white flowers and elderberry, and some herbs. Medium weight, and very refreshing acidity.

Price: Medium

Food: Fish, vegetables, light meat…

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Wine of the Week

Stefan Vetter’s straight Sylvaner

Stefan Vetter is one of the rising stars no the German wine scene. He is classically trained at Geisenheim and has worked for Austrian producer Nittnauer, and has experience from several places in the world. His own adventure started in 2010, when he read in the newspaper that an old parcel was for sale.

Most of his vineyards are terraced and located in Gambach and Iphofen (where the winery is, i.e. his grandparents’ house) on the banks of the Main river, Franken. The wines have the appellation Deutsche Wein though, that gives more freedom. The soil here is limestone and red sandstone, and farming is biodynamic. The main goal is to reflect the small scaled terroir trough their main grape variety sylvaner. (Besides this they also grow some müller-thurgau, riesling and pinot noir.)

This wine is spontaneously fermented, matured in both steel and old oak. It’s unfined, unfiltered, and has very low sulphur (around 10 mg/L total).

Like last week’s wine this was served at Lapin, the new wine bar in eastern Stavanger, Norway.

Claes at Lapin serves Vetter’s entry-level sylvaner

Sylvaner 2019 (S. Vetter)

Light yellow with greenish hints. The aroma was a bit reductive and changed with air, yellow fruits, yet stone, slightly volatile. Quite soft in the mouth, but concentrated and long, with good acidity and stony minerality.

Price: Medium

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Wine talk with Filipa Pato

During the CoVid pandemia a lot has changed. As we all know, there is much less travel, and even wine presentations and interviews are done digitally. This is the first time I had the chance to attend the programs of Norwegian importer Vinarius through their partner Vinestor in the program series Vinosus. The programs are presented via their YouTube channel. It’s interactive, in that the audience can post commentaries and questions to the producer. The importer is hosting the program, but it’s the producer that gives the information about the estate, its philosophy and the wines.

Filipa Pato & WIlliam Wouters are found in Óis do Bairro, Bairrada, Portugal. Filipa is daughter of the well-known producer Luís Pato (who lives nearby in this small settlement). Her husband William Wouters from Belgium is a profiled sommelier. I have met them several times, also once during the pandemic. Here is a short write-up from an annual fair that will be held again this summer. I have met Filipa and her father several times. These pictures are from a visit to hers and William’s home and winery 2017.

Filipa was recently appointed winemaker of the year 2020 by the leading wine magazine Revista de Vinhos, so it was maybe natural that she was chosen as the first Portuguese profile in this wine program series.

Filipa and William at the Palace Hotel, Buçaco

Wine is running in Filipa’s veins, as her grandparents were vinegrowers and bottled wine already in the 1950’s. Her father started in the 80’s, when the country was more open, so that export was also possible. Her own studies began in the nearby Coimbra university (the oldest in the country), and she had the opportunity to study wine as different places as Argentina, Australia – and Bordeaux – before coming back to her native village in Portugal. She tells that having travelled som much it was easy to realize the potential for Portugal. As the country had been isolated for such a long time, much of the identity was still kept. This advantage was important for her when she came back in 2001 and started to work with her father. But at the same time they agreed that she should have a small project of her own, starting with some wonderful vineyards that otherwise would have been abandoned. In 2006 she met her husband William in Belgium, who is in a family of restaurateurs, and soon they developed their own winery. They decided to convert to biodynamics ten years ago.

Now 17 hectares, very divided, some very small, and in several municipalities, each with their own characteristics. So both the Atlantic climate and the logistics give challenges. There are no sheltering mountains, nor high altitudes, but the winds from the ocean secure a low temperature. The river Cértima that runs from north to south through the area and the mountains and Buçaco further inland help in their ways to maintain the influence of the Atlantic (foggy mornings). It helps to keep the humidity untill summer, so that they also practise dry farming (no irrigation), and natural growth of humus.

Filipa looking over their vineyards towards the Caramulo and Buçaco

Standing by their house in Óis do Bairro, which is a bit higher in the landscape, gives a nice overview over the plains and lakes and all the way to the inland mountain ranges, as Filipa states in the program. Much of Bairradas vineyard is concentrated where the limestone is found. Limestone is fantastic, says Filipa, because it gives you a lot of mineral character, and at the same time it retains the water.

In the beginning the neighbours were very sceptical about organic growing and biodynamic practises, as there was very little tradition for this in the wetlands of Bairrada. But now that the vineyards (and wines) are showing so well, they come to learn. So the very open and sharing attitude that Filipa and William has showed all the time are in fact starting to create a new tradition, or movement, in the area.

Only indegenious grape varieties are used, especially the red baga. One of the advantages with biodynamic farmin here is a more even maturation of the compact buncehs of the baga grape. You don’s see some green or dry berries within a bunch any more, says Filipa. The result of this is that it is not as tannic as that old stereotypic wine from the area. The fact that their baga is found in several municipalities also makes it easier to manage the harvest, as it matures at different levels. Bical is the dominating white because it is a historic speciality of Óis do Bairro, that was “almost like a grand cru” for bical.

The so-called 500 (the biodynamic preparation) and composts make the soil healthier, with more humus and biodiversity of plants. We see that it reactivates local plants that were growing in the times of her grandparents, like oregano and fennel. She speaks about which plants they use in infusions, and for what: Plants that are normally found near the water, like aloe vera, confrei and horsetail, protect more against humidity and fungus. And plants that are found near the sand, aloe vera again, chamomile, these plants protect the vine leaves against the sun. Strawberry and other bushes act as a natural fence, because they attract insects. Olive trees were planted at the same time as the vines, and also attract insects.

At home in Óis do Bairro

Wines without makeup is one of Filipa’s slogans: The vinification is quite simple, no barrique, only barrels from 500 to 2.500 liters, some amphora. -For us the oak is just a frame, the art comes from the vineyards, says Filipa. Amphora tends to ferment at a lower temperature, so we don’t need a cooling system. We work only with indegenous yeast, as it reflects the terroir and brings a greater complexity to the wine. There is a great tradition of ceramics in Bairrada, but Filipa hasn’t been able to convince them to make any for this purpose here. But after a visit to Stéphane Tissot in Jura she was impressed by the quality, as it had the right thickness and porousity. Some Italian amphoras are used for baga. This year a Georgian friend brought some tinajas from Padilla in Albacete, Spain (you can read about him here), and next year there are also plans for some Georgian clay vessels. They are not coated, like in Alentejo “talhas” in the south of Portugal.

They also get bio-certified corks from a farmer that controls the forests. This is important, as a Bairrada can be in contact with the cork for several decades.

All their wines are recommended. Here are a selection currently on offer:

3B Rosé

Sparkling wine made with traditional method, from varieties baga (80%) and bical. The third B stands for Bairrada. 9 months lees ageing. No dosage, unfined and unfiltered.

Salmon coloured, fine bubbles. Fresh aroma with raspberries, a hint of … Good acidity, but a slight residual sugar that balances well.

Price: Low. Food: Fish, shellfish, vegetables, leitão de Mealhada (suckling pig), and much more…

Nossa Calcário 2019

This is the white version, a varietal bical from a vineyard near their home, limestone with clay. For this wine they use only free-run juice, without batonnage. It’s aged 8 months in big, used barrels. The wine is young and will improve, but if you wish to experience that, the best way is to buy it now.

Yellow. A bit closed at first, better with air, aromas of citrus (lime), fennel, a bit nutty, hint of honey. Concentrated, creamy, with good acidity, salt, good lenght, and with a lot of potential.

Price: Medium. Food: Tasty fish dishes, light meat, cheeses…

Post Quercus Baga 2018

There is also a white version of this one, and it’s good. But the red, I have not tasted anything like it. It’s a varietal baga from old vines, partly destemmed and aged in amphora for 6 months, buried underground (inspired by the Georgian tradition). Careful extraction, no fining nor filtration.

Quite dark cherry red. Aroma of red berries (raspberry, plums), some pepper. Moderate tannin, but a dry mouthfeel (dare I say “bricky”?), fresh acidity, long.

Price: Medium. Food: Most kinds of meat, even some tasty fish, cheeses…

In the cellar where the Quercus wines rest

Nossa Calcário Baga 2018

This is the red Cálcario. Only baga, from limestone with clay. Hand-harvested from vineyards in several municipalities. Partly destemmed, fermented in open lagares, with a careful extraction and aged 18 months in big, used barrels.

Cherry red. Fresh fruits (blackberry, blueberry), flowers, with hints of spice. Young tannins, fresh, good acidity, mineral, long.

Food: Many kinds of meat, excellent with game and beef, hard cheeses, and much more…

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Wine of the Week

Feel free!

Claus Preisinger works 19 hectares and some sixty parcels biodynamically, between the vast Austrian Neusiedlersee and the Hungarian border. He makes a variety of beautiful wines. This is in a way a “glou-glou”, an easy drinking wine, but can also be used on the table. The wine is made from zweigelt and st. laurent in stainless steel, with spontaneous fermentation, and aged in large foudres.

The bottle and the label hints to the vintage lemonade bottles from a hundred years back. Puszta in Hungarian means “plains”, remembering that on the time of these bottles this was still part of Hungary. Libre is Cuban -sorry: Spanish- for “free”. Why not?

Enjoy the wine, life – feel free!

Puszta Libre! 2020 (Claus Preisinger)

Dark cherry red. Aroma of blackberry, cranberry, flowers and a touch of lickorice. Luscious and juicy in the mouth, with smooth tannins.

Price: Low

Food: Excellent on its own, but can be used with light meat, white fish, salads, hard cheeses, and try also with not too pungent blue cheeses. Best drunk slightly chilled.

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Wine of the Week

Handcrafted grüner at DuckSoup

This is a wine that I have thought about a long time. I include it here, “for the records”, maybe. Because the last thing I did before the pandemia rules were introduced in my country, was visiting the Rawfair, that after all didn’t take place.

One of my favourite London wine bars is DuckSoup, of Soho, near two leading jazz clubs, Ronnie Scott’s and the Pizza Express. This week’s wine was enjoyed there, one day or two before entering a very surprising quarantine indeed.

Martin & Anna Arndorfer work very naturally, and stress the importance of the soil. They say they do not feel bound by tradition, but still they emphasize the influence of the vineyard as crucial to their philosophy. And there they maintain the natural ecosystem. Most wines are unfiltered, and sulphur and chemicals are avoided, though they have never certified anything.

This wine is from their Strasser vineyard of 1976, with sandy and clayey soil. Biodynamically farmed, only a total of 20 mg/L sulphur, short maturation in steel, unfiltered.

Handcrafted Grüner Veltliner 2018 (Arndorfer)

Light yellow colour. Fresh, vibrant, with yellow fruits, herbs, almost spicy. Juicy, luscious and light in the mouth, with enough acidity, and finishes dry.

Price: Low

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Wine of the Week

Brand new Grand Cru

This was one of the wines that stood out in a private blindfold Alsace tasting, with unusually many wrong guesses about which ones were rieslings. However this one couldn’t go wrong, with its steely acidity and inspiring energy.

The name Brand, meaning land of fire, is a reminder that this part of the hill once was eroded by fire. The legend goes that the sun fought a dragon here. It hid in a dark cavern under the vineyard, thus being responsible for the characteristic “warmth” of this grand cru. Only riesling is planted, a total of 2.4 hectares, and now around 70 years of age.

Overlooking the Brand (credit: Dom. Zind-Humbrecht)

The Brand is located just above the village of Turckheim, itself in the outskirts of the bigger town Colmar. Here we find several small granite hills. It is not far from the Munster valley, so which means that despite its south, south-east facing, it also sees the wind running down the valley. As indicated above, the granite warms up quickly (not necessarily because of that dragon, to be honest) and secures that heat from the sun go deep in the soil. The roots grow deep, and feed from the clay and minerals from the granite decomposition. Yields are naturally low here. Due to the ripeness of the grapes in 2019, the fermentation was particularly slow for this wine, but it went on and on, and eventually the wine was bone dry after a 12 months fermentation.

Some keywords: Biodynamically farmed, handpicked, spontaneous fermentation, 16 months on lees and a total of 18 months on big old barrels.


Brand Grand Cru 2019 (Zind-Humbrecht)

Bright gold colour. The nose is discreet at first, but opens up with air. It shows citric notes (mature lime, towards clementine), but also a stony wet minerality associated with granite. has a granite wet stone aromas and begs for time. On the palate it is powerful and acidic, but also with some warmth behind there. It has a persistent aftertaste, already in balance and harmony, and a saline finish. This said, the wine is young and will reveal a lot more complexity over time. But it it’s now you must buy if you want to enjoy it in a few years.

Price: Medium/high

Food: We had prepared rather down-to-earth, Alsatian inspired food like pig cutlets and bratwurst, and red cheese (like the local Munster), but it tackles a lot of tasty dishes, both light meat and tasty fish. At this point food is almost essential, as we have mentioned, it’s very young.

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