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Tag: biodynamic

Reconsider Albariño

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

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

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

An informative back label

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

Carralcoba Albariño 2016 (Eulogio Pomares/ Grandes Vinos Desiguales)

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

Price: Medium

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

 

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1701, biodynamic Franciacorta

1701 was the first certified biodynamic producer in Franciacorta. I met Rhona and Federico at the Real Wine fair last year, and I tasted the Brut again at a London wine bar recently.

They are located in an old magnificent villa near Cazzago San Martino, Franciacorta, and the property includes around 10 hectares of vineyards.

Rhona Cullinane and Federico Stefieni (London last year)

The production is low-intervention, with no dosage and sulphur only when absolutely needed.

This wine is a blend of Chardonnay 85% and Pinot Nero 15%. Whole bunches are put into stainless steel, and the secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle, as usual. It stays 30 months on lees before the final bottling. It’s just lightly filtrated.

1701 Franciacorta Brut (Soc. Agr. 1701)

Light yellow with green tones, creamy mousse. Fresh aroma of citrus, mature apples, with some chalky, mineral notes. Appealing, fresh fruit in the mouth, and an acidity that contributes to the lingering finish.

Price: Medium

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24 hours in Rioja

This is a belated article from the Castilla-Rioja trip last autumn, that I organized and guided. The trip (labelled RRR) went through Rueda and Ribera del Duero and ended with more or less 24 hours in Rioja. So what do you show people in just one day, when the area is so vast and there are so many producers to chose from?

One had obviously to chose a theme, and not surprisingly the criteria were in accordance with this blog. Therefore a big Sorry to all the historic bodegas, the ones from the station neighbourhood in Haro, the ones with noble names, architect designed buildings, big public relation departments and so on. The producers we visited were focused on vineyards, organic farming, expressing terroir through their wines, they were small, and they had their unique personal style.

*Telmo Rodríguez (Remelluri), Labastida: Remelluri was one of the first estate wines in Rioja, and Telmo himself has also done a tremendous job driving across Spain to find in finding and communicate terroirs, fighted in an unselfish way for understanding of diversity, and most lately he was the driving force behind the so-called Manifesto meetings, that in turn led to change in Rioja classification

*Sandra Bravo (Sierra de Toloño), Rivas de Tereso and Villabuena de Álava: A new voice, first amphora aged wine in Rioja, member of the “activist” group Rioja’n’Roll who has a strong focus on landscape

*Juan Carlos Sancha: University professor of enology, recovers traditional grape varieties, and as representative of small family-wineries in the Consejo Regulador, and has there advocated for a structural change from within

*In addition to the three we visited Lauren Rosillo (Finca Valpiedra), not in Rioja, but in Martínez Bujanda’s bodega in Rueda. Here you can read about it.

Arriving at La Granja de Nuestra Señora de Remelluri there were Telmo Rodríguez, his collegue and companion Óscar Alegre and Ainara Martínez from the administration to welcome us. The first thing we do is to go for a walk in the lovely landscape amidst the vineyards around the farm, chat about Remelluri’s place in the scenery and in history, about Rioja politics and many other things. So relaxed, so much in harmony.

We are in Labastida (or: Bastida in Basque, as this is Rioja Alavesa), looking up on the Sierra de Toloño, part of the Cantabria range. The farm was bought by the Rodríguez family in 1967. It’s however an old property, having been created by the Hieronymite monks some 600 years ago. -That time around 1970 was Middle Age, recalls Telmo. -There were mules, no tractors… And we ran the farm for 9 years without electricity.

When the first vintage was released in 1971 it was Rioja’s first modern estate wine. After his project of recovering vineyards and reviving traditions all over Spain for many years, Telmo Rodríguez took over the family property in 2009. Telmo, with his sister Amaia, cut production of Remelluri down 30-40% to maximise quality. Today Remelluri spans over 160 hectares, 100 under vine, divided in around 150 plots. All organic, certified in 2013. Production is now 270.000 bottles, which make them a medium-size Rioja producer.

 Telmo by an “amphiteathre” near the winery

The vineyards are at 6-800 meters altitude, the highest destined for a white wine. Telmo is an advocate for field blends, as he sees terroirs more important than varieties. Therefore the terroirs are not blended.

So the decision was taken that from the 2010 vintage the wine they had made for their good neighbours, Lindes (meaning something like ‘common borders’), should be divided between the two municipalities where their suppliers come from. By making two wines it was also possible to show the differences in terroir between the two villages; Lindes de San Vicente is a riper, more structured wine, while the higher altitude Labastida counterpart is slow-ripening, fresher, more floral, and the grapes are typically picked ten days later. There is also an up-grade of the quality of this wine. -We want to pay them higher, says Telmo, -although the pay is already high by Rioja standards.

-Other than this we don’t buy grapes, says Telmo, -not even in 2017 when the crop was low. The bigger houses asked us where we would buy grapes to maintain production. We said ‘nowhere’ of course. For us this is a simple question. You don’t add grapes from Navarra in a Ch. Lafite only because the crop is smaller, do you? This is a question of mentality. Some people buy grapes to maintain the number of bottles, we don’t. “This vineyard in a bottle is a beauty.”

 Óscar and Ainara

Note: One of the reasons for visiting Remelluri at this moment was the special circumstances, in the aftermath of the aforementioned Manifesto. The Basque producers (the ABRE organization where Remelluri is not a member) had threatened to leave Rioja and set up their own DO, and Artadi had already left. Meanwhile most of the Manifesto meeting thought that the best was to change the system from within. What we now know is that the Consejo all of a sudden and quite surprisingly announced the new ‘viñedos singulares’ category, and ABRE put the leaving plans on hold for two years.

Back in the bodega house we had a tasting of the two Lindes wines in the 2013 edition, plus the two more famous references, the reserva and gran reserva, both in the 2010 vintage. All were fermented with indigenous yeasts and matured in a combination of stainless steel, concrete, big oak vats and small barrels.

2013 was a generally rainy year, declared “good” by the officials (which means not so good). For us it only means different, a bit lighter than usual, maybe more elegant. Lindes de Labastida 2013 from limestone and clay soils, was quite direct and linear; light red in colour, with a floral aroma, red berries. Lightweight, but refreshing, wonderfully integrated wood, with a good acidity, and overall really nice drinking. Lindes de San Vicente 2013 (these are often slightly bigger, and harvest takes place some 10 days ealier): Ruby red, slightly darker fruit (blackberry, some blackcurrant), a hint of tobacco. In the mouth it’s rounder, a bit bigger than the Labastida wine, but this one too on the elegant side, though not very complex.

2010 on the other hand, was top rated, with healthy grapes and high values in most parametres, and a good start in Telmo’s comeback. Remelluri Reserva 2010 was aged 17 months in French barrels. It’s definitely darker than the previous wines, more complex with red and dark berries, cherries, plums, some lickorice and some earthy notes. In the mouth it’s fresh, mineral, with already almost integrated oak, good acidity, and very long. Refined. Granja Remelluri Gran Reserva 2010: Here is more garnacha, 25%. It’s a lighter wine, with nuts and a slight touch of vanilla, but with a lot of red berries underneath. Full-bodied, fresh and with good grape tannin structure. There is a timeless subtlety over this one.

Goodbye to the people at Remelluri, a short drive up the same road towards the Sierra, and Sandra Bravo is waiting for us in Rivas de Tereso, a hamlet so small that a special meeting place is not needed. It’s here she has her vineyards, while she is renting an old bodega down in Villabuena de Álava, where she has both steel, amphoras and wood of various sizes and ages.

She belongs to the activist group Rioja’n’Roll, but in private Sandra is not noisy, as she appears calm and balanced. The group wants to put the focus on the vineyards, and let the wines speak about them. Like Remelluri and many others around here she one foot in La Rioja and one in Álava. -I describe my wines as Alavesa, says Sandra, cool wines from mainly calcareous soil, small plots, and there is always the north wind that brings freshness to the wines. In addition to the freshness from the climate, Sandra is almost always the first in the area to harvest.

 

 (photo: A. Sjurseike)

She makes a total of 42.000 bottles a year, quite small by Rioja standards. Down in the Villabuena cellar we tasted through some of the wines, and I go through them only briefly. Sierra de Toloño Blanco 2016 is a viura 100%, biodynamic farming (like in most of the vineyards), the grapes are de-stemmed and 90% is made in steel, the rest in French oak, all kept on the lees. It’s light in colour, fresh aroma with white flowers hay. In the mouth it’s round, with well-integrated acidity and a salty touch.
Nahi 2016 (nahi is a Basque word meaning ‘desire’): This very special, lovely white comes from more than 80 years old vineyards around Villabuena. It’s a field blend of recovered plants of various varieties, mostly viura and malvasía, but also some calagraño and rojal. They were fermented together in a big barrel (500L), and has a gentle ageing in wood too. It has an aroma of white flowers too, but also a tough of fennel and smoke. It’s rich, soft, concentrated and long, but the acidity is not of the sharp type.  

Now for the reds: Sierra de Toloño 2016, a 100% tempranillo from 600-750m altitude. All destemmed, spontaneous fermentation in steel, then a year in old, neutral barrique, no fining or filtering. Cherry red, aromas of violets, blackberry and some balsamic notes, a slight touch of chocolate. In the mouth it’s very, fresh, young but rounded tannins, the fruit is there all the way. La Dula 2016: This is a 90% garnacha, the rest tempranillo from the vineyard La Dula planted in 1944 at 700m in Rivas de Tereso. It’s fermented in 300L amphoras, aged there for 12 months, before bottling, unfined and unfiltered. Quite dark, very floral, with herbs, laurels… Luscious, juicy in the mouth, but also with a delicate structure. Rivas de Tereso 2015: This is a single vineyard tempranillo from 650m altitude. It fermented very slowly in amphora for one year, then aged in a second-use barrel for one year. Deep red colour, aroma of red fruits, blackberry, some coffee. It’s more full-bodied and contentrated than the other wines, more calcareous, mineral, deep. The tannin structure is evident, it’s mineral, and the acidity gives it freshness. Both powerful and elegant. One for the shelf, but one you still can’t hardly resist.

It is a lovely next morning with all the colours that the Riojan autumn has to offer when we head south to the Najerilla valley from our hotel in Labastida. We reach the small settlement of Baños de Río Tobia in the Najerilla valley, southwest of Logroño, close to the Sierra de la Demanda mountains. This is one of the coldest areas in Rioja (competing with the area we just came from, Sierra de Toloño).

View over the Najerilla valley. The yellow trees in the background is where the Rioja area ends (in the direction towards Soria)

Juan Carlos Sancha’s work as a vintner is based on the results from his work at the University of La Rioja, Logroño, where he is a manager of the Master of Oenonology studies and has a special interest in nearly extinct local grape varieties. He had already started to experiment with these varieties when he was a winemaker for Viña Ijalba, known as the first Rioja producer of certified organic wine, just outside Logroño.

He makes 45.000 bottles per year. Juan Carlos sees his vineyards as being of two types: 1. young vineyards of autoctonous grape varieties, 27 different (1.200 bottles of monastel, see below, belongs to this group), and 2. singular vineyards (centennial vines of garnacha), that are going to be submitted to that group once the new regulation is put into practise. He plans to launch up to 8 wines as “viñedos singulares” according to the new regulations.

The professor lectures about the autoctonous varieties in the garage

Juan Carlos sees three important dates in the regulations since Rioja delimitation as a protected area in 1925:

*1991: the DOC regulations

*2008: new grape varieties allowed

*2017: the new viñedos singulares category

-Rioja had 44 varieties in 1912, says Juan Carlos. In 2000 there was “practically” no more than 7 (ok, save for some “projects”). Among the grapes he works are red and white maturana, white tempranillo and monastel. The name of this last one resembles several other grapes, but it’s another. Juan Carlos claims that to make the only wine in the world from this variety. What we are also about to taste are wines from old garnacha plots that he recovered. Some of them were planted by his grandfather in 1917 at Peña el Gato, 750m above sea level.

He makes a no-sulphite added garnacha and the Peña El Gato Garnacha Viñas Centenarias from his own vineyard. The rest are from local vinegrowers. The wines are bottled separately, and the name of each grower is featured on a neckhanger. These last wines are quite exclusive, as none of them reach 1.000 bottles.

There is also the Ad Libitum range. The name is Latin, used in music and denotes something that is free, or improvised. This is a good name for a creative winemaker as Juan Carlos Sancha. The range includes a white tempranillo, a mutation of red tempranillo discovered a few years ago in a Rioja vineyard. According to Juan Carlos all white varieties are mutuations of red ones.

  

Monastel, the one and only

 (photo: A. Sjurseike)

Up on the peña with these magnificent views and the autumn sun chasing the morning mist away, we had a pieceful tasting. Four wines were brought up there. Ad Libitum Monastel 2016: Not the other varieties with almost the same names, no: monastel, monastel de Rioja. The wine was fermented in big 500L barrel (new French). It’s clear red, clean. A meaty and spicy aroma, but also red berries, like cherry and some strawberry. A serious wine with firm tannins, and a nice acidic touch. Peña el Gato 2016: Garnacha planted in 1917. Juan Carlos claims it is impossible to find a 100 year old tempranillo. Light red colour, raspberry, blackberry and aromatic herbs on the nose, firm structure, very fresh acidity (7g), and some coffee too. Peña el Gato 2016 Terroir Rubén Olarte (the original, 160 year old vines, clay/calcareous soil facing south and west). Raspberry, blackberry, caramel, lickorice. Maybe more complex, but somewhat less fresh, lots of rounded tannins, rich, and more evident alcohol (at 14%). Peña el Gato Natural 2016: Garnacha again, no added sulphur (total 8 mg). Cherry red, blackberry, red fruits. Has a certain “sweetness” (from elaboration in wood), but good acidity too, good structure (more tannin than the others, that comes from a really low production because of the steep vineyard where the water escapes).

 

This trip started in Rueda, continued through Ribera del Duero, and this was the last visit. Back in Madrid we said goodbye with a meal at the Gastroteca Santiago. And the circle was completed when our promising 18 year old “apprentice” got the Rueda that we started out with, and then the Monastel de Rioja. It might be some time until next time.

 

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A bubbly New Year

This cava I last tasted at London’s Real Wine fair. (See my first report from the fair here.) It’s one of the newly proposed single estates (Parajes Singulares) that can be appointed according to the DO’s new regulations.

Although he applied for approval of two of his sites Ton Mata of Recaredo are among those (Jaume Gramona is another) who think that deeper structural changes has to be made, such as establishing subzones. [Remember, Cava was no geographical place before the DO status. This required a map, so one had to “invent” a DO area. Take a look at that crazy cava map if you like.]

Contrary to the other site, Turó d’en Mota, a small 1,5 ha. vineyard, the Serral is a larger area with various vineyards of almost 20 ha. surrounding the Turó. It’s planted with macabeu and xarel.lo.

Ton Mata pouring at the Real Wine fair

The Serral cava is made from approximately even shares of xarel.lo and macabeu. It shows a surprising freshness after 8 years on the lees. According to Ton this is mainly due to the calcareous soil on top of that hill.

Let’s hope that 2018 can be a year when people stop thinking once and for all that champagne is the only quality fizz around. I don’t have anything against champagne. But there is certainly nothing wrong with this cava either.

Finca Serral del Vell Brut de Brut 2007 (Recaredo)

Light straw-colour. Complex aroma, with fresh pineapples along with some toast, citrus, and some balsamic notes. Rich and creamy, yet surprisingly fresh. The aftertaste shows a stony minerality.

Price: Medium

Food: Please don’t spill it on the streets (not to say at other people) during the New Year’s celebrations. It’s wonderful with a great variety of dishes; fish, shellfish, Iberian ham, tapas, light meat…

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Bargain from the “Tierra” of Cuenca

In the Cuenca province, along the road between Madrid and Albacete, we find Dominio de Punctum. When we visited some years ago the Fernández family already impressed with splendid value wines from rather young vines. The quality is steadily improving since then.

Their production comes from their own vineyards, the “Finca Fabián” estate that currently includes more than 200 hectares. Here they have always worked in a traditional organic way, now biodynamic practises mark a further step.

 Visit in the vineyard

This wine, with the denomination Tierra de Castilla, is made from tempranillo 70%, complemented with petit verdot. As many will know, tempranillo is the prevailing Spanish grape, earlier called cencibel here (a fact people seem to have forgotten). Petit verdot is known from Bordeaux, but has long become a classic in Spain. Harvest was done at night, fermentation with natural yeasts carried out in inox between 24º and 27º C, and finally the wine was only lightly filtered.

Dominio de Punctum Tempranillo-Petit verdot 2016 (Dom. de Punctum)

Cherry red with violet rim. Notes of red berries, some blackberry and herbs. Tasty, with rounded tannins, and quite persistent.

Price: Low

Food: Light meat, salads, pasta, hard cheeses (such as the local manchego), assorted tapas

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Value Valpolicella

This is a very good value Valpolicella. The winery is established in an aristocratic villa from the 16th century, and has a beautiful agriturismo on the estate. The estate totals 400 hectares, including three vineyards on three different hills, with differences in soil composition and orientation.

This wine comes from the Monte del Drago hill, with a total vineyard area of 8 hectares. There are also some young (white) garganega and pinot bianco plantings, but the vines that gives the fruit to the Drago wine is mainly corvina planted in the 1990’s. The exposition is west, and the soil is tuff with white clay.  

The grapes are organically cultivated, and biodynamic techniques are also employed. Corvina makes up the highest proportion of the blend (60%), the rest corvinone, and 5% each of rondinella and, maybe a surprise: barbera. Winemaker Maddalena Pasqua let it rest for 12 months in French oak, which is barely noticeable.

 

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Drago Valpolicella Superiore 2015 (Musella)

Quite dark red, blueish hint. Aroma of dark and red berries (cherry), some herbs. Young, lucious, tasty and with a fresh acidity.

Price: Low

Food: Light meat, pasta, salads, antipasti

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Mengoba at Gastroteca de Santiago

This marked the conclusion of a wine trip. Our theme was three wine regions in old Castilla. But we also had some occasional wines from other areas.

The Gastroteca is a wine bar, or restaurant, in a small chain of restaurants and a shop. It’s run by a handful of sommeliers. Tabernero and Matritum are other Madrid wine bars in the chain, and the one with special responsabililty for this place is Juan Carlos Ramos. The restaurant is located on the Plazuela de Santiago, close to the royal palace, and not far from the central tourist spot Puerta del Sol.

The Gastroteca de Santiago is a small restaurant, or wine bar, with only 16 chairs. It has a creative menu that could be described as contemporary Spanish, and the dishes are delivered cleverly and at very reasonable prices. The wine list is quite extensive with a focus on what’s happening in Spain at the moment, and with a nod to classic European regions as well, most of all Burgundy, Rhône and Champagne.

gastro_calle320

We had a wonderful unfiltered fino Arroyuelo from producer Primitivo Collantes, a verdejo from Rueda (Tinita 2014 from Soto y Manrique), 25% of it with fermentation and 4 months lees-ageing in oak. Then we chose the unique Monastel from Rioja’s Juan Carlos Sancha (which we will present in a later post).

20171016_103505 Enjoying a good red at the Gastroteca

We closed our session with a wonderful wine from Gregory Pérez of Bierzo, the Castilian region to the north-west bordering Galicia. Gregory, originally from Bordeaux, fell in love with Bierzo, and at a time he worked with Mariano García (of Vega Sicilia fame) at Luna Beberide, another Bierzo winery. He works very traditionally, with natural methods, including native yeasts, very low sulphur – and with a horse. Mengoba is a series of wines, the name made up of the first letters of the local varieties mencía, godello and valenciana with a “b”).

This Mengoba is made from mencía 80%, and the rest garnacha tintorera, also known as the Portuguese alicante bouschet. The mencía is sourced partly from a clone that Gregory revived in Espanillo, at 700-850 meters with mixed soils (80 year old vines) and the rest from 550 meters at Valtuille (30 year old). It stayed 6 months on lees in big foudres, partly with whole clusters. Then in 5.000 liters in the foudres for almost 10 months.

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Mengoba 2015 (Gregory Pérez)

Dark red. Aromas of dark fruit, ink, and plums, a little chocolate. Full on the palate, young tannins and good acidity. With a couple of years more it will probably have reached its full potential, with everything integrated and still packed with lively fruit.

Price: Medium

 

 

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The Real Wine fair III: Some stars, and some comets on the rise

Here is my last report from this year’s edition of the Real Wine Fair. You may also read the first two articles that cover the sparkling wines and some Spanish producers. I will just give you some of the many highlights.

Jo Landron was there with some of his magnificent Muscadet whites, biodynamic since 2008, with their citric edge and steely minerality. Le Clos la Carizière 2015, a light and fruity wine  from a rented single vineyard, partly on gneiss soil, that gives a flinty hint, and the Muscadet Amphibolite 2015, from amphobolitic soil, that gives a slightly more smoky character. The Melonix 2015 is his most natural wine, with no additions and only 10 mg sulphur. It stayed 3-4 months on the lees; citrus, peel, it’s round and delicious, but the acidity carries it over.

IMG_4179 Jo Landron  Jo Landron

In the corner was the lovely Marie Lapierre, whom I have never met before. The family is almost legendary, leading the way in the beginnings of the modern natural wine movement. Their vineyards cover 13 hectares in the Ville-Morgon area of Beaujolais. They used compost and ploughing to preserve the natural yeast of the grapes. The wines are unfiltered, and only given a small amount of sulphur before bottling. The Vin de France Raisins Gaulois 2016 was the only wine she had brought from the Domaine Lapierre this time, a light and delicious, raspberry/strawberry-scented wine from young vines. From their Château Cambon between Morgon and Brouilly on clay-granite and calcareous soils, she had brought three wines. The Château Cambon 2016 was more aromatic, both light and concentrated at the same time, smooth, long and so very elegant. The Cuvée du Chat 2016 was just as elegant and with a raspberry lusciousness. Brouilly 2016 was made for the first time this year. It showed a somewhat darker side, a little broader, more earthy wine, and with more structure.

IMG_4208 Marie Lapierre Marie Lapierre

Right beside her was Jean-Claude Lapalu, of Brouilly, Beaujolais. I have tasted some of his wines over the past few years, and I find them a bit more on the wild side. He favours some more extraction, and the wines stay at least 6 months on the lees. Among his selection the Brouilly “Croix des Rameaux” 2014, from 80 year old vines and aged in 3-5 year old barrels, is a pure wine with lovely raspberry fruit, but with an underlying earthiness, some leather and tar behind there too. The Vin de France “Eau Forte” 2013 is a bit more developed, but by no means fading. It shows some etheric, almost pinot’esque character, with some raisins, and a touch of figs, drying towards the end. The Brouilly “Alma Mater” Amphora 2012 was also interesting. It was not surprisingly vinified in amphoras, the grapes destemmed: Developed red, aromas of red fruits, cherries, and a bit raisiny too, concentrated and serious.

IMG_4212 Jean-Claude Lapalu  Jean-Claude Lapalu

From Sicilia came Arianna Occhipinti, who has taken the wine world with storm with her stylish, fresh wines, such as the SP68 2016 Rosso and Bianco, named after the main road in her part of Vittoria. She seems to have a magic tough in her frappato grape, but the nero d’avola and the white albanello and muscato. Low yields and natural farming are two key-factors. The white SP68 is simple as it’s good, with its flowery aroma with hints of peel and nuts, and is just on the way to become an orange wine, even it the light colour suggests something else. Its red counterpart (frappato and nero d’avola) has a somewhat lighter body than the previous vintage, quite dark in colour, but with a very supple and fresh fruit, with elements of blueberry and herbs. Il Frappato 2015 was extraordinary, of course, with its pure, elegant dark cherry fruit with apricot and some spicy notes. I also liked Il Siccagno Nero d’Avola 2014, light in colour for a nero d’avola, but delicious, pure, red fruits, blueberry and flowers aroma.

IMG_4238 Arianna Arianna Occhipinti

Cantina Filippi owns the highest vineyards in Soave, up to 400 meters. Most of the vineyards were planted in the 1950’s, and the 16 hectares are divided into three “crus”, Castelcerino (the highest one), Monteseroni and Vigne della Brà. The Vigne della Brà 2014, from clay soil, was light and very delicate. I also liked the Montesoroni 2014, from limestone. It’s more open, with white flowers and herbs. In a way it feels mellow and smooth, but with a very “Italian” grapefruity, slightly bitter aftertaste.

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Filippo Filippi (left), and Emma Bentley (right) from Cant. Filippi

IMG_4198 Meinklang  Nicolas of the Winemakers Club representing Meinklang

Meinklang is a big estate, some 1.800 hectares, 70 of them vineyards. They are Demeter-certified biodynamic. They started over the border in Somlo, Hungary. This is a plateau formed by a volcano. Angela and Werner Michlits of Meinklang were represented by their importer The Winemakers Club, that showed a great variety of wines, such as the J 2013, (the J standing for the juhfark grape) from the aforementioned Somlo of Hungary, a cider, and many lovely wines from various Austrian grape varieties. If I then should give myself the task of mentioning only three wines among those that I never had tasted before, I would this time stick to the whites: The J was an exciting wine one and a half days skin-contact and that stayed for 12 months in big Hungarian barrels. It was quite light, fruity with some peel and some tropical notes, with a good acidity and a slightly bitter aftertaste. The Graupert Weiss 2015 from an unpruned grauburgunder (pinot gris) with ten days skin-maceration, and Konkret Weiss 2014 of red traminer, yellow traminer and geewürztraminer, of 28 days skin-contact in concrete eggs especially designed for Meinklang. After pressing it went back to the egg for a 9 months ageing. No sulphur at any stage. A dark wine that plays with oxidation, quite structured.

were both darker wines with more skin-contact, both flowery with aromas of peel, smooth textured lovely wines..
Konkret Weiss 2014.

IMG_4173 Pedro Marques  Pedro Marques

Pedro Marques at Vale da Capucha, Torres Vedras, is among the young squad that is currently revitalizing the vast Lisboa region. I have knowed the man and his work for some years, and I love his full, expressive whites and some of his fresh reds too. In the monarchy of Arinto it’s he who is king, and occasionally his alvarinho and gouveio deliver on the same level. He looks for maturity and a rich texture, and he uses only a minimum of sulphur. All wines could be mentioned, here I will limit myself to the two entry-level wines he shows in the picture, called Fossil, that denote that the farm is located only 8 km from the sea, and in the ancient times under water.

Fossil Branco 2015 was full and glyceric, but energetic and complex, salty, with citric notes, pineapple, and some smokiness, and good acidity from the arinto (fernão pires and gouveio also in the blend, all three in equal parts). The 2014 was also brought to the table. Clearly in the same family, but not as bright. Fossil Tinto 2015 (touriga nacional 60%, tinta roriz and some syrah) was dark, smoky with flowers and green herbs, fresh, and with a nice tannic grip.

IMG_4245 Craig Hawkins

Craig Hawkins is a leading figure in South Africa’s dynamic Swartland region. I have tasted his range several times and cannot recommend it enough. The wines tend to be very natural and with little extraction. I really like the entry-level wines called Baby Bandito. His Testalonga El Bandito “Cortez” from 35 year old chenin blanc vines on granite is always brilliant, now 2015. Lively, iodine, mineral and with that steely edge from the grape. “Mangaliza” 2015, from the Hungarian grape of that name, was a new find. “Monkey gone to Heaven” (on bicycle, according to the label), now 2016, is as always concentrated. But there is a lot more to it, a floral and grapey mourvèdre with red fruits and fresh aromatic herbs.

IMG_4243Most of the range, Testalonga Bandito and Baby Bandito

 

2017-05-08 16.20.19  Sebastiano de Martino

De Martino has been around since the founder came over from Italy to Maipo in the 1930’s. Today they are among the leading organic producers in several regions. Some of their most interesting wines are results of dry farming in the southern Itata region. The Muscat and the Cinsault aged in clay are the two that come to my mind. Here they came in various versions; a muscat/corinto was interesting. So were some of the cheaper ones such as fruity, wonderfully balanced cabernet sauvignon under the Legado label (2016).

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Wine bar Ducksoup of Soho had a stand with marvellous small dishes

 

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Vino de Paraje… de Bierzo

This is not primarily a political blog. But while waiting for next move from big Spanish wine locomotive Rioja I was delighted when Bierzo announced exactly what I hoped for from the big brother. That is a new classification based on the “Burgundy model”, a project that Priorat had also embarked on, and is about to fulfill.

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Moncerbal is one of four parajes (places) from this producer in the villa of Corullón

In brief, Bierzo has launched a four category classification where paraje (vineyard, or: place) is the most specific, and villa (village) the next level.

This wine is a 100% mencía from a vineyard of 1,74 hectars between 60 and 90 years old in the “paraje” of Moncerbal in the village Corullón situated between 610 and 730 meters’ altitude.

The alcoholic fermentation was carried out in open wooden vats with a 48 days maceration. Spontaneous malo-lactic in big wood too, before 19 months in new French oak.

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Moncerbal 2009 (Descendientes de J. Palacios)

Deep red (crimson). Aromas of cherries, plums, eucalyptus, and only a slight hint of tobacco and chocolate. Full on the palate, fruit with both sunny and cool elements, good acidity. Nice concentration. Good with food now, but will keep for many years.

Note: Some find this wine at its peak now. I prefer a few years more in the cellar. We may “sacrifice” some fresh fruit, but the integration of the wood will be complete.

Serve lightly chilled, just enough to keep the alcohol (14,5) in check.

Price: High

Food: Red meat, game, stews, pasta…

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Baga in a different direction

I am in Baga country, Bairrada, with a bunch of dedicated wine people.

There are various styles from that grape, reds, rosés, sparkling, and big variations between each of them. I believe that baga and Bairrada could have been marginalized, almost forgotten, had it not been for the revitalization of the classical styles a couple of decades ago – and now the “Baga Friends” group, seven producers with a real passion for that grape (some of them also the main players behind the revitalization I talked about). Baga is difficult to grow, the climate in Bairrada is challenging, but when all is under control the wines can have a great personality, rich in tannin, acidity, and with a unique aromatic profile – something unique in the wine world.

20170902_154703 Dirk Niepoort talking to journalists in the cellar

Today we visited Quinta de Baixo, in Cantanhede. I visited this southern Bairrada winery some ten years ago, just after the former owner had raised the yellow adega building. In 2012 Dirk van der Niepoort acquired it, and is now taking it in a different direction.

-Bairrada does not need to rely on power, says Dirk Niepoort, -I believe the baga wines from limestone soils can have light colour, low alcohol, good acidity, chalkiness and elegance. So from the beginning we decided to work with earlier picking, no extraction and with a lot of whole bunch pressing. And he continues: -With baga it’s important not to play too much with oak (and that’s good music in my ears…).

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Baga from a more than 100 years old vineyard just above sea level at Cantanhede

Poeirinho refers to the former designation of the baga variety and is a tribute to the Bairrada wines of the past. Those were were light in colour and low in alcohol, but still with ageing potential.

Poeirinho 2015 was vinified in lagares for 4 weeks, and it stayed in the same large, used vat through alcohol- and malo-lactic fermentation and 20 months ageing, before it was bottled unfiltered.

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Poeirinho 2015 (Quinta de Baixo)

Light red with violet hints. Expressive aroma of cherry, with a touch of spice and some chalky elements. It’s a pure and juicy wine with elegant tannins and a refreshing acidity, concentrated yet pleasant to drink now, with a low 12% alcohol (the previous one had only 11).

Price: Medium

Food: Red meats, roasted lamb, suckling pig, sausages, ham, cheese, bacalhau, salads…

 

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