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Tag: biodynamic

Wine bars and restaurants

Apotekergaarden revisited

A visit at Apotekergaarden, Grimstad on the southern coast of Norway is always a highlight. This is a popular place in every sense of the word, with a fascinating mix of people coming for great natural wine served by manager and sommelier Ida Konradsen, and people coming in from the street for burgers and pizza, served by the staff, some of them really talented. There are also concerts in the backyard during the summer season. We were there last Sunday, when our meal was followed by a gig with Norwegian folk-rock band Valkyrien Allstars. I have played there myself too, in fact it was one of the last things I did before the lockdown in March. A more detailed background to the restaurant you can read here.

On Sunday they made a special plate of Italian cheese and ham, olives and other stuff for us, followed by a main course of duck with a compote of red onion and a burger with spicy mushroom and onion, and on Tuesday we shared various pizzas.

An impromptu first platter

Here are some of the wines, some of them in fact outside the official menu, but generously offered by Ida and the staff.

Foam Somló 2019 (Meinklang), Somló, Hungary, made by Meinklang of Burgenland, Austria who owns vineyards on both sides of the border. This is a pét nat from Hungarian grapes hárslevelű and juhfark.

Light golden; aroma of yellow apples, hints of pumpkin and gooseberry; concentrated, with a sweet-irh sensation, inspiring indeed.

Brut Nature Reserva Anne Marie (Castell d’Age), Cava, Catalunya, Spain

A traditional cava from one of the pioneers in organic farming in the Penedès area, named after Anne Marie Onyent, one of today’s leading ladies of the company. The grapes are the three usual cava “suspects”.

Slightly bubbly; fresh and appley; fine natural acidity.

La Croix Moriceau 2018 (Complémen’ Terre)

A full and concentrated, mineral muscadet full of character.

Yellow; waxy, with mature apples and white peach; quite full, mineral (chalky), a nice bitterness in the aftertaste.

Palmento 2019 (Vino di Anna), Etna, Sicilia, Italy

Skin-contact wine made from the Sicilian carricante grape in fiberglass tanks.

Golden towards orange; aroma of citrus peel, clementine, apricot, mango; full in the mouth and slightly textured. Not too acid, low alcohol (11,5) and perfect while waiting for the main course.

Handwerk Riesling Trocken 2018 (Leiner), Pfalz, Germany

Biodynamically farmed riesling.

Light yellow; aromas of apple, citrus (lime), with a mineral touch; rich, with a good acidity and splendid concentration. Superb with the duck plate.

Jürgen Leiner’s Handwerk

Completo 2019 (Carussin)

A light, fruity barbera that comes in a full litre bottle (hence the name), made by the producer behind the famous “donkey wine” Asinoi. At best when chilled.

Lght cherry red; light berries (strawberry), herbs; lively in the mouth (slightly pétillant), juicy, with a good natural acidity.

Montesecondo 2018 (Montesecondo), Toscana, Italy

Located in the Chianti area, but not always classified as such. This is an entry-level wine, with 2% of trebbiano blended in with the sangiovese. If my memory doesn’t fail me it’s a light vintage for this wine.

Rather light cherry colour, aroma dominated by red berries; juicy and refreshing.

Viña Ilusión 2017 (Martín Alonso), Rioja Oriente, Spain

Made from tempranillo grapes in Arnedo in the lower part of Rioja. Not completely natural, but with a low amount of sulphur added.

Dark red; blackberry and spice; full, fresh and fruity.

Duck with riesling

After a few wines I often like to round it off with a beer, to “stabilize” the stomach that by now feels like full of acidity. So I asked Mathias S. Skjong, the in-house brewer, if he had something special, maybe something personal. So he produced Terje (made by Mathias himself in collaboration with Grimstad’s successful brewery Nøgne Ø and given a wide distribution by them, for the restaurant’s 10 year anniversary. It’s a very very hoppy, citrussy and dry India pale ale. Perfect to round off another good meal at Apotekergaarden.

Matihas serving his own beer
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Wine of the Week

Pure fun, Frankenly speaking

This Franken wine is maybe perfect to exemplify the natural wine movement. Not only are the words Pure & Naked that make up the name among the most dominating when describing these wines. It’s also a pét-nat, a style that has come to prominence in this era, and it’s un-filtered, murky as a morning mist.

Ludwig and Sandra Knoll can be found in Würzburg, on the river Main, where they practise bidynamic vituculture. Among their most important vineyards are Würzburger Stein, and maybe even more famous: Stettener Stein, hence the name of the company.

The wine is made from sauvignon blanc and cabernet blanc (a Swiss hybrid) in equal parts. It was cold-macerated 6 days, un-filtered and un-sulphured.

Pure & Naked 2019 (Weing. am Stein – Ludwig Knoll)

Cloudy yellow-greenish, lightly bubbly. Aroma of pineapple, going towards lime and grapefruit, a flowery component too. Juicy, lovely acidity, nice grapefruity aftertaste. Pure fun!

Price: Medium

Food: Fish, shellfish, sushi, salads, some strawberries, on its own…

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Wine of the Week

Lifted Lambrusco

Who has not experienced that sweet, uninspiring stuff called lambrusco? Now thankfully more and more producers try to lift it from that bad reputation. In the past it was made by what is now dubbed the ancestral method, that involves bottling before it is finished, sometimes with a small addition of unfermented must, and the bubbles were developed during this process. Some are also made by the “traditional” (champagne) method. But most are made with the second fermentation in steel tanks.

Lambrusco is a family of grapes that has also given name to several DOC regions in Emilia-Romagna. This wine here comes under the less specific designation Lambrusco dell’Emilia.

Camillo Donati is found in Langhirano, just south of Parma, where he cultivates 21 hectares of vines biodynamically. It was his grandfather who first planted vines. The soil here is calcareous clay, and this particular vineyard was planted in the 1970’s. They were spontaneously fermented, with the secondary fermentation in bottle. It’s unfined and unfiltered, and the certification is organic.

Il Mio Lambrusco 2018 (Camillo Donati)

Dark red, bubbly. Aromas of cherry, raspberry, flowers. Fresh, slightly textured, yet juicy and appealing in the mouth, with a good natural acidity.

Price: Medium

Food: Characuterie (don’t forget the prosciutto of Parma), light meat, pasta, salads, aperitif…

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Wine of the Week

Gimme gimme gamay

After having heard about a “band” of winemakers calling themselves “punks” last week, let’s move on to the tale about former punk bassist Taras Ochota, who together with his partner Amber decided to form a winery in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia. They got the idea for a holistic project on a surf trip to Mexico, they say, after having seen some of the most amazing wine and surf regions there are.

Before this happened he worked as a flying winemaker, or a consultant, for a number of European producers, mainly in southern Italy, but also as an expert in the field for a Swedish importer. Amber also worked both in Italy and for a winery in Skåne, southern Sweden at a time.

After a rather disappointing tasting of Australian wines I went and bought some myself, and found a beautiful line of wines from Adelaide Hills

This is an artisan project, with great attention to detail. The biodynamic approach they came across in the south of France. And they strongly believe that the most energetic and vital wines come from “organically farmed vineyards planted to earth that is alive, lo-fi technique and picking decisions made purely on natural acidity”. Texture is also an important focus, manipulating mouth-feel with limited or extended time on skins including batonnage. They experiment with low sulphur levels to find the perfect level to suit each cuvee.

The Price of Silence is a varietal gamay made with whole cluster fermentation, unfiltered.

The Price of Silence 2019 (Ochota Barrels)
Light red, some blue towards rim. Fresh aroma of cherries, plums and some pepper. Full and juicy in the mouth, but also with some tannin and a natural acidity.

Price: Medium

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Wine of the Week

Nikolaihof’s wonderful Vinothek

This week’s pick was tasted yesterday at Vinkontoret, Stavanger (read more here or here), and was one of their Coravin selections that you can buy by the centilitre.

Nikolaihof is one of Wachau’s leading wineries, and an Austrian biodynamic pioneer (and has also been featured here). Its history can in fact be traced back almost 2.000 years to the Roman fort of Favianis AD 63.

Credit: Nikolaihof

Their wines can be closed as young, but with age they fulfill all the aromatic potential that you can appreciate in this wine. This is because the Saahs family refuses to use enzymes to “open” them up, as a contrast to the many producers who like their wines to reveal their full potential in the first year.

All wines are made without added yeast and without temperature control. The Vinothek 2000 was bottled in 2016. Before that it spent 16 years in big 3.500 liters barrels.

Vinothek Riesling 2000 (Nikolaihof)

Yellow with brownish hints. The aroma plays with oxidation, and has at first some mature apple character, that gives way to apricot and honey. You also get a touch of a flinty minerality, and it’s a bit oily and waxy too. Very long, concentrated taste that includes mature citrus, minerals, wax again, and a lovely natural acidity that binds it all together. It has many years of life ahead, I would say.

Price: High

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Wine of the Week

Riffin’ with Riffel

I’ve known Riffel for many years, and tasted some of their wines in several vintages, such as this one, their basic dry Riesling. But this time I encountered it by chance, as it was a house wine at a modest restaurant in Stavanger, Norway.

Carolin and Erik (Credit: Weing. Riffel)

Carolin and Erik Riffel are found in the municipality of Büdesheim in the Bingen area, Rheinhessen. Bingen was the birthplace of the famous Hildegard, composer and more. But nowadays it swings more than ever here.

The vineyards cover 16 hectares, most of it riesling, together with other grapes. Their work with silvaner is very promising. They have for a long time had an organic approach, and in 2012 they switched to biodynamic farming. Obviously they use spontaneous fermentations, and there are few additions. Riffel produces around 100,000 bottles annually. Aside from the still wines bottle-fermented sekt, pét nat and non-alcoholic grape juice are made.

This is a fresh wine made in steel at controlled temperatures, lightly filtered, and clocks in at 5 grams residual sugar and around 8g acidity. The alcohol is 12% vol.

Riesling Trocken 2018 (Weingut Riffel)

Light colour, greenish tinge, just a little pétillant. Fresh fruit, citrus (lemon, lime), green apples, a touch of gooseberry. Light, with a fresh acidity, and a pleasure to drink.

Price: Low

Food: Fish, shellfish, salads, light meat, not too heavy or spicy Asian…

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Wine of the Week

Orange called Or Ange

Marc Kreydenweiss is a favourite in Alsace, and highlighted a couple of years ago (see here). The winery is based in Andlau, central-north of the Alsace vineyard. However, in 1999 the family purchased an estate in Manduel, in the Rhône Valley, west of Châteauneuf and southwest of Nîmes.

This one was one of seven wines from a private party (hosted by me). The name means golden angel, but as an orange it’s clearly a wordplay. It’s made from five varieties; the aromatic Alsacian grapes muscat and gewürztraminer, and also riesling, as well as the more pigmented grape pinot gris. The Rhône tradition is here represented by grenache blanc (in some vintages also viognier, and also vermentino). It saw10 days of skin-maceration.

Or Ange 2017 (M. Kreydenweiss)

Light orange-amber colour. Floral, with apricot, citrus (mandarin), cinnamon, and a slight hint of raisins. Full on the palate, a touch of tannins, integrated acidity, long with fruit all the way.

Price: Medium

Food: Fried fish, smoked meat, lightly spiced food, and a varied cheese plate

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Wine of the Week

The spell of muskateller

The dynamic Fred Loiner has 40 hectares of vineyard in and around the Langenlois village in Kamptal, some of them of really high quality and reputation. Here he makes wines mostly from riesling and grüner veltliner, but also from local heroes like this one, the muskateller. Everything is from his own vineyards, all tended organically, with some biodynamic practise.

Muskateller is an ancient grape, probably of Italian origin. It’s a member of the big Muscat family, and shares some of the well-known characteristics, such as a flowery aroma. In the vineyard it can be difficult, and it likes warm, airy places. A speciality is a spicy character, sometimes towards nutmeg.

Pét Nat 2018 (Weingut Loimer)

Light yellow with greenish hint and medium+ bubbles. Smells of flowers, pears and yellow fruit, slightly spicy. Fresh and mellow at the same time, integrated acidity, finishes dry.

Price: Low

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Wine of the Week

Passalacqua’s Puglia project

I am in London, mainly for music. But I never miss a chance to visit some of the many good natural wine bars and restaurants in town. Yesterday I visited Brawn again (see an earlier, more detailed report here), that’s owned by the people behind the classic Terroirs.

At Brawn one of the highlights was the orange wine from Valentina Passalacqua’s Puglia project.

The wine and light logo

Her farm is found inside Gargano National Park in Apricena, Puglia, and has belonged to the family for well over 100 years. The soil consists mainly of limestone rocks rich in minerals, at about 200 meters of altitude. It’s now worked biodynamically. All the wines are spontaneously fermented, never fined nor filtered, and they all come without sulfur addition.

Back label

The “calcareous project” came to life because Valentina felt the need to isolate some plots characterized by exclusively Kimmeridian calcareous soil. These are defined by terroir, the wines are mineral, and full of life. Falanghina is just one of the many varieties that can be called indigenous, but also with Greek influence or inspiration (along with nero di Troia, greco, aleatico, to name a few).

Valentina informs that the numbers indicated on the labels are the atomic number (20) and the atomic weight (40.08) of the chemical element of calcium (Ca). The designation is IGP Bianco Puglia, and it comes in a one liter bottle.

As you already have guessed, the fermentation was spontaneous, and it was macerated on the skins for 7 days, in open vats with manual hat break. It was racked in steel, and bottled without filtering or clarification.

Calcarius Orange Puglia (Valentina Passalacqua)

Light orange, with a reddish tone. Fresh on the nose, citric notes (mandarin), aromatic herbs and oriental spices. A slight touch of fine tannins in the mouth, saline notes and an appealing citric finish.

Price: Medium

Food: White fish, light meat, vegetarian, not too spicy Asian

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Wine of the Week

Dangerously drinkable from lower Loire

Groslot (or officially grolleau noir) is not in high esteem. But cared for like this it can give dangerously drinkable wines. This one is a real “glou-glou” and has been a house-wine in my house lately.

Domaine Les Grandes Vignes has been in the lower Loire since the 17th Century. Today they have a low-intervention philosophy, and biodynamic certification. The wine is fermented in old barrel, no sulphur added, unfined and unfiltered. It’s low in alcohol (11%), and only around 4 g/L acidity.

100% Groslot 2018 (Dom. Les Grandes Vignes)

Dark, blueish hint. Blueberry and dark cherry on the nose, some herbs and a hint of woodlands. Really delicious in the mouth; fine young tannins, and refreshing acidity, clean aftertaste where the berries dominate.

Price: Low

Food: Salads, light meat, pasta, bacalao

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