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Tag: biodynamic

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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Wine of the Week

Quinta da Palmirinha and chestnut flowers

Fernando Paiva has been one of the pioneers of biodynamic farming in Portugal, with his stylish and inviting Vinho Verde wines. I have written about them several times, like here. Following this year’s Simplesmente… Vinho fair I got the chance to meet him at his Quinta da Palmirinha in Lixa, near Amarante, where he lives.

Fernando Paiva tidying up a little as he passes

From the 2017 vintage he uses the unlikely element of chestnut flowers. They grow just outside the door, and he adds them to the press, and they act as an anti-oxydant, so there is no use of added sulphites. 

Lixa is in the sub-region of Sousa, where there is less rainfall than further out to the coast, but also moderate compared to the continental inland. So we could say it’s a zone in between. This place is excellent for a grape like azal, that is difficult to ripen, and that makes up half of this wine, together with arinto.  

The chestnut grows just outside the winery door

Quinta da Palmirinha Branco 2017

Light straw coloured, tiny bubbles. Floral and fruity, with some citric notes. In the mouth it’s in a way mellow, but with a fine citric touch, dry, with a lovely minerality.

Price: Low

Food: Fish, shellfish, vegetables

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Articles and Wine bars and restaurants

Just what the doctor ordered at Apotekergaarden

I was recently visiting Grimstad, a beautiful small town on the Norwegian southern coastline, where the houses are white, small private boats are moored and the seagulls are part of the scenery. I have a special relationship with the town, because I was born there, and my family has since spent many summers there.

Fresh crabs on offer in the town’s inner harbour

The town could have boasted of its seafaring culture. My late father left from there to work on a ship at the age of 14. And that night I borrowed the house of a friend, the daughter of my father’s captain at that time. But Grimstad is not of that sort, boasting is not part of its personality. It’s just lying there, a southern Norwegian idyll bathed in the summer sun.

These days the small town is home to the restaurant with the most amazing natural wine list on the whole long coastal strip. Founded in 2001 the restaurant has since enjoyed a reputation among the citizens, for its food, its atmosphere, but also as a concert arranger. However the upgrade to the natural wine haven that we know today started after a bankruptcy in 2010. Kjetil Jørgensen, one of the original founders, has a good relation to natural wine importer Non Dos, through his friend Jørgen Ljøstad, also from Grimstad. Sometimes a strong tie to one importer can feel somewhat awkward, or difficult. But here it’s more logic, and has probably helped along the way to success. Having said that, the restaurant also works with other importers. These days they also have their own micro-brewery, led by Mathias S. Skjong.

The food is based on local ingredients. The burgers are made from Hereford cattle grassing only a stone’s throw away, and there is of course delicious fish and shellfish right out of the sea. Pizza or vegetarian options too.

Apotekergaarden translates as the Pharmacist’s Shop, and refers to playwright and poet Henrik Ibsen, who was a pharmacist apprentice in Grimstad before he became famous, and this particular place also formerly housed one of the town’s pharmacies.

Ida Konradsen pulling up a Contadino, her own soft drinks at the table

Ida Konradsen is sommelier and restaurant manager, and strongly contributed to a great evening. She told us with great enthusiasm about her experiences from working at Sebastien Riffault‘s estate in the Loire. She is also involved in a new project creating soft drinks, generally popular in Norway (as everywhere I suppose) with children and non-wine addicts. All have the taste of the basic ingredients intact and come with a lot less sugar than usual for this type of drink. In between our first and second wine she offered us a tasting of three products that are sold locally, a lemon and ginger drink (based on Sicilian lemons), one from orange (and a touch of lemon) – and lastly an interesting take on a soft drink for the Christmas season (“julebrus” in Norwegian), based on biodynamically farmed grape juice of the variety zweigelt from Austrian wine producer Meinklang, well-known for readers of this blog – with some star anise, juniper and cinnamon, and without addition of sugar.

Meinklang is also responsible for some of their house labels, Skolegada 3 (the restaurant’s adress), otherwise known by other names in the market.

But while there are not more than 12-15 wines in their by-the-glass selection, Ida gladly opened three more to us, as she was going to host a special party the next day and could use the rest there. And these were fabulous wines from three natural wine legends.

Robinot’s Fêtembulles, with sourdough bread, olive and truffle oil, and olives

Fêtembulles 2017 (J.-P. Robinot), Loire, France
100% chenin blanc, biodynamically farmed, bottled without added sulphites and unfiltered.
Light yellow, small integrated bubbles. Smells of mature apples, citrus (orange), a bit waxy. Tastes of apples, is creamy with a crisp acidity, and a stony minerality in the finish.

Contadino 2016 (F. Cornelissen), Etna, Sicilia
This is a field blend dominated by some 90% nerello mascalese, biodynamically farmed. No sulphites added, unfiltered.
It’s light cherry red. Aroma of red berries (cranberry), hint of herbs (basil), some spice. The mouth is dominated by red fruit, but with and underlying carbon or smoke taste (from the Etna volcano maybe), and with a solid tannic grip.

Teroldego 2015 (E. Foradori), Vigneti delle Dolomiti, Italy
Another well-known producer for readers of this blog. This wine is from the teroldego grape grown in Trentino, near the Dolomites. It was fermented in cement and aged in cement and old oak.
Dark cherry red. Packed with red berries (cherry), plums, dark fruits (blackberry), with some balsamic notes (menthol). Cool, clean fruit in the mouth, very lively and fruity.

Typical paintings collected in one of the rooms

And on the veranda while the sun goes down we finish the evening with a craft beer from the acclaimed local brewery Nøgne Ø, that takes its name from Ibsen’s poem “Terje Vigen”. And to drink one of their beers in this moment seems more right than ever before.

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Wine of the Week

Asinoi: We are donkeys

Let’s not forget the inexpensive, but oh so good! everyday wines. For me a trustworthy “workhorse” (pun intended) has for ten years been the Asinoi, meaning ‘we are donkeys’, by many around here simply called “the Donkey wine”, because of its label.

In a market like the one in my country -Norway that is- many barberas were sweet, oaky, and not much fun. This one was different, more slender, elegant, fruity, natural, and a lot better with food too. So no wonder it soon found many followers.

Donkeys at Carussin

The producer is Carussin, Bruna Ferro and Luigi Garberoglio with their family, and the farm is located in San Marzano Oliveto, south of Asti in Piemonte.

The producer has many interesting wines, but to be honest I’m not sure if this particular one is found to any extent outside Norway, where their importer Non Dos is a good customer and collaborator.

The farming is biodynamic. The grapes are hand-picked, and fermentation is spontaneous. Only a tiny amount of sulphur is added before bottling. All ageing is carried out in steel, and sometimes cement.

Asinoi Barbera d’Asti 2017 (Carussin-Bruna Ferro)
Ruby red. Fruity aroma of cherries, other red berries and herbs. Mellow, juicy in the mouth, low in tannin, but with a clear and fine-tuned acidity.

Price: Low

Food: Pasta, pizza, light meat, white fish (!), vegetables, and a variety of cheeses. I must admit (although it’s against my principles, I think) that I’ve had this wine without food at all, and with a lot of joy.

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Articles

Simplesmente… Vinho 2019: Spanish delights and more

This is the second report from this year’s Simplesmente… Vinho, of Porto. The first one was about the Portuguese participants, and you can read it here. This one deals mainly with Spanish wine, with one exception.

As soon as I entered the Cais Novo I ran into Alejandro of Bodegas Forlong. There is a lot happening in the sherry region right now, and I visited him when I was doing reasearch for a magazine article about table wines from the Jerez area. A shorter version of the article can be read here, and a wine of the week post here. In Porto Alejandro was together with his life companion Rocío.

Alejandro Narváez and Rocío Áspera

So why not start with a tasting of wine from sherry grapes and albariza soil? The wines I knew from before delivered, such as the Forlong Blanco 2018 (palomino 90%, the rest PX, grown in albariza soil), with its roundness and at the same time enough acidity, almonds and a saline minerality. Much of the same applies to the Rosado 2018, a 100% cabernet sauvignon, with its colour of onion skin, its creamy character and also a light tannin. We could go on through the Petit Forlong 2017 (syrah, merlot), the Assemblage 2016 (merlot, tintilla de rota, syrah), and the Tintilla 2016, with its dark smell of ink, blackcurrant, and that in a way also plays with oxidation.

A wine I can’t remember having tasted before were 80/20, a non SO2, unfiltered wine, made of must from palomino fermented on skins of PX: Light pineapple colour; some tropical hint in the aroma, peel; round and smooth, yet fresh, well a little mousy, but with a nice mineral salinity. Equally interesting was Mon Amour 2017, palomino from the hardest type of albariza, called “tosca cerrada”. I have to reconsider if I like the touch of vanilla from the fermentation in French barrels, but it surely has some interesting yellow fruits, and a vibrant touch too.

According to my ‘one wine only’-game I chose this one: Amigo Imaginario 2017, from old vine palomino, fermented with skins, and aged in an oloroso cask for 10 months. The colour is yellow; smells of orange peel, herbs, plums, and a touch of marzipan; in the mouth it’s full, with a great concentration, and you by now you would have guessed that it’s somewhat sweet – but it’s not. Great personality, alternative, truly interesting!

Always a pleasure meeting up with Sandra Bravo and tasting her wines

I appreciate that Sandra Bravo of Sierra de Toloño keep coming back to these events. She is one of the younger, independent voices in a Rioja still struggling to come out of its classification system based on wood ageing. From vineyards below the Sierra Cantabria mountains, both on the Riojan and Basque side of the border, she takes good decisions on the way from grape to bottle.

The reds showed as good as ever, from the plain Sierra de Toloño, now 2017, with its fresh cherry fruit, and inspiring acidity, but also in this vintage quite evident tannins, the Camino de Santa Cruz 2016 (formerly Rivas de Tereso), a single vinyard wine with extra minerality; darker and wilder fruits, with some subtle underlying oak and also lovely acidity and the super delicious La Dula 2016, a garnacha made in amphora, really floral, red-fruity and expressive. The Nahi Tempranillo is a dark, rich, spicy wine that will improve with age – and lastly Raposo 2016 from Villabuena, the Basque part: a little graciano thrown in among the tempranillo; dark, blackberry, forest fruits, good acidity – classic in the good sense of the word.

In recent years she has presented wonderful white wines, very different from both the young and clean tank style of the 1970’s (still popular) and the oaky style requiring long ageing. The basic Sierra de Toloño 2017 is clean and bright, but has already a profound quality. A favourite among white riojas during the latest years has been the Nahi Blanco, now 2016. Made from viura, malvasía and calagraño, a field blend from five small parcels in Villabuena de Álava, with a light ageing in barrel: Golden colour, a touch of tropic (litchi), white flowers and a light touch of smoke, full in the mouth and a nice natural acidity.

Alfredo Maestro (left) and Dutch journalist Paul Op ten Berg 

I have tasted Alfredo’s wines several times lately, so here I only tasted a couple in order to discuss them with my friend, Dutch journalist Paul Op ten Berg. One was an orange wine that was featured in January. (Read it here.) In short: Lovamor 2016 stayed 6 days with the skins, then on lees for 4 months. Due to the cold Castilian winter a malolactic fermentation never happened. It’s a rich and complex wine with a gold-orange colour; apple and melon in the aroma, flowery, and also lovely, light citrus; slightly pétillant and with a citrussy aftertaste.

Yulia Zhdanova

I first met Yulia in Alfredo’s neighbourhood, more precisely at Dominio de Pingus, where she guided us around the premises during a wine trip that I organized. But she has Eastern roots and is now making wine in the Kakheti region of Georgia. The winery is called Gvymarani and can be found in the village of Manavi. The wine is made from the mtsvane grape, fermented 7 months and also  aged in qvevri. Gvymarani Mtsvane: Clean golden; fruity nose of apple, dried apricot, peach, orange peel and some honey; full and with evident tannins in the mouth.

Antonio Portela (picture taken at the Barcelona tasting)

I tasted Antonio Portela‘s wines in Barcelona earlier that month and made an appointment to visit his vineyards later – so I just took the opportunity to try his beautiful red tinta femia Namorado 2017 (tinto mareiro) again, fermented and aged for 12 months in used French oak: Light in colour; pure, with fresh, red fruits on the nose; a vibrant flavour, a good natural acidity and in a long saline finish. Goodness, what a wine!

Constantina Sotelo (picture taken in her winery after the fair)

Constantina Sotelo was another producer that I decided to cross the border to visit once the fair was over. Here I tasted, among others, her Pio Pio 2017 ‘en rama’ (unfiltered). It’s from a vineyard with quite a lot of ‘pie franco’ (ungrafted) plants, and a very personal wine: Light yellow; green apple, citric (lime), anise; quite full, glyceric, and with an appealing acidity. A lovely albariño. See you on the other side of the border!

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Wine of the Week

A modern-traditional wine from Burja Estate

Primož Lavrenčič is found in the Vipava valley about 40 km east of the Italian border, where he owns 8 hectares of vineyards.

His objective is to make a modern wine based on traditional methods. He says that he “controls the temperature and oxidation” in the wine cellar, but “encouraging the rest”.

Burja Estate - photo - Primož Lavrenčič

(Credit: Burja Estate)

He has a holistic approach to both vine, wine and nature. This includes stimulating spontaneous fermentation, because “the diversity of yeast strains contributes to the complexity of the wine and provides original expression of each vineyard”. Some of the old folks would have prohibited the low temperatures, to take the full advantage of the extended skin-contact). So this is maybe then a modern, elegant white with a nod to the traditional orange wines of the area.
The work in the vineyard is done according to organic and biodynamic principles. The grape composition is laški rizling (Italian riesling or Welschriesling) 30%, malvazija (d’Istria) 30%, rebula (ribolla gialla) 30%. 7 days skin-maceration in steel, 10 months ageing in barrel.

Bela 2016 (Burja Estate)

Deep golden. Aroma of mature fruits, citrus, peach, herbs, white pepper. Full on the palate, a touch of nuts and a natural, integrated acidity.

Price: Medium

Food: Light meat, pig, veal, grilled and white fish, tasty salads

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