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Tag: biodynamic

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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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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