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Tag: biodynamic

Wine of the Week

The red Drago

The red Drago has become my go-to Valpolicella. Last time it was featured here was in this article, where you also get some background.

It originates on the Monte del Drago hill, with a total vineyard area of 8 hectares. The grapes are organically cultivated, and biodynamic techniques are also employed. Corvina accounts for 60%, the rest is corvinone, rondinella and barbera. It has rested 12 months in French oak, which is barely noticeable.

Drago Valpolicella Superiore 2018 (Musella)

Dark red. Aroma of dark and red berries (cherry), some herbs. Lucious, tasty and with an adequate acidity.

Price: Medium/low

Food: Light meat, pasta, salads, antipasti

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Vinho Verde I – South

After the Simplesmente… Vinho fair I took the opportunity to get an update on the nearby Vinho Verde region. I visited five producers in a program set up by festival general João Roseira and the growers. Here is a report from the three first wineries. These are found in the subregions Sousa and Amarante, only 40 and 60 kilometers respectively, from the city of Porto.

 Sem Igual 

Sem Igual (meaning something like unequalled, or unique) may be a new brand, and it was only in 2012 that João Camizão and his wife Leila Rocha made their first vintage. But João’s family has been grapegrowers in the Sousa and Amarante sub-regions of Vinho Verde since the 18th century. I visited together with an American importer. And from the fair in Porto they drove us in their car to Meinedo, in the municipality of Lousada. Meanwhile they told us the fascinating story about their international background and how they came back. João has for long long worked in telecommunications, and combined for a few years his employment in Nokia with a life as a farmer. It was only in 2016 that he decided to dedicate himself fully to wine, and the family took the chance to move to the village of his childhood.

Leila Rocha and João Camizão,
Sem Igual

Their office, storage cellar and guesthouse are located in Meinedo. Here in the Sousa area they have about 10 hectares of vineyards on granite soil with gravel. The vines have an age of up to 70 years, the oldest ones trained in the traditional ramadas.

Small-scale production. Here are their pneumatic press and their four barrels

They are a modern couple, with their international stories, and a busy life with three kids. But watching their vineyards and walking through their cellar it shows clearly that they also feel connected to history. Just look at all the stone and the wooden architecture in their premises, the concrete tanks and the lagares where the grapes are trodden by foot.

Their guesthouse has a swimming pool overlooking the vineyards

We tasted through their range of wines. Sem Igual makes first and foremost white wines, but also sparkling wines, rosés and light reds. Their whites are blends of the two local grapes arinto and azal. In general they are good bodied, non-carbonic, dry wines with a fresh acidity.

The Sem Igual (blue label) is made from 70% arinto and 30% azal, always with whole bunches and very soft pressing. It has virtually no contact with lees. The wine was served in five vintages between 2015 and 2019, to give an impression. All had splendid citrus fruit (lemon peel) with good body, a crisp acidity and no bubbles (sounds maybe strange, but this is opposed to a long tradition of gasification in the region), and a mineral aftertaste – in an overall elegant style. The 2019 and 2017 were for me a bit ahead of the rest, a bit more expressive and with a slight buttery feel. João says that in 2016 they cut down on SO2. This can explain that the latest wines, especially 2019 and 2017 were somewhat darker.

Next was a pair of Sem Igual Ramadas 2018. Dubbed Metal and Wood respectively this denotes that the latter had been in oak, the former not. The Metal came from 50 year old vines, the Wood more than 60, both trained in pergola (ramadas). 60% arinto, the rest azal, the Wood was a bit more buttery, full and with more rounded acidity.

Sem Mal may play with the expression “not bad”, I think, but also with the fact that it had not completed malolactic fermentation (“malo”) before it was bottled. Which makes it a sparkling wine. The 2019 was a fresh one, with small bubbles, citrussy acidity, yellow apples and some yeast. We also tasted the Bruto Natural, a fresh sparkler after 40 months on sediments. Among the rest of the wines we tasted the Pét Nat 2019 was truly fascinating. A half and half touriga nacinal and baga wine, this was their first pét nat and also their first experience with red grapes. Pale salmon-pink; peach and apples; smooth and off-dry, this is easy to drink on a hot summer’s day – and a story to be continued.

The four of us enjoying the versatility of the white wine
at a local restaurant

Quinta da Palmirinha

Quinta da Palmirinha and Fernando Paiva I have written about several times. Here is a short report following a visit three years ago.

Palmirinha is the family farm, barely 3 hectares located in Lixa, sub-region of Amarante. Fernando has a moderate and polite appearance, but is an undisputed authority in organic and biodynamic farming. A retired history professor, he will consult younger local talent about organic farming, without any pay. As he says while we walk up and down his quite steep vineyard, “if I give away my shirt I don’t have it any more, but knowledge is a thing you can share without losing it yourself.”

His vineyard is a total of almost 3 hectares with mostly 28 year old vines. Loureiro accounts for 2 hectares, the rest azal and arinto. All this is trained in simple cordon.

Loureiro grapes in July

On his own initiative he has experimented with the use of chestnut flowers that covers the must, so that he can avoid using SO2. Time will show if this will be a revolutionary discovery for the whole sector. Anyway, Fernando has already shared his ideas with several producers.

Chestnut flowers

Outside the adega we also said hello to the chickens that are fertilizing his vineyards. The plant life he calls “spontaneous”. It is like it is, there is no need to adjust. But we see aromatic plants that attracts insects.

Biodynamic preparations

He was the first certified biodynamic producer in Portugal. This time he showed me his biodynamic toolcase, with preparations.

The grapes are harvested manually in the morning, gently pressed and the fermentation is spontaneous. The wine stays in stainless steel for 10 months, with batonage twice.

I have tasted his wines many times, in the winery and at fairs. In general they are citric, appley and flowery, mineral, always with a firm structure, but with an integrated acidity. The three wines I tasted this time were all from the 2021 vintage. The Loureiro had more yellow apples, and overall a lovely calmness and harmony, just like the vineyard and the man. The Azal was more to the green apple side, some anise, with a crisper acidity. The Curtimenta (orange wine) called Leviano (tank sample), had 75% loureiro, the rest azal, and 3 weeks skin-contact. The colour is yellow, and smells of clementine peel, ginger and flowers; full in the mouth with some structure. This is an absolutely outstanding trio of wines!

Loureiro grapes and chamomile flowers

Quinta de Lourosa

José Maia meets me at Quinta de Lourosa, in Sousela (Sousa valley). He has a varied background, and he is still working as a tour guide. The last few years he has been engaged at the winery, to do a little bit of everything. His experience in tourism is well at hand as they have a guesthouse with restaurant and provide guided tours. Their packages include regional gastronomy, handicrafts and day trips to sites of historical and cultural heritage, such as the area’s Romanesque route.

Rogério de Castro

Joanna de Castro is winemaker on the quinta, that now covers 27 hectares. She lives in Lisboa and couldn’t be present that day. But her father was there. Rogério de Castro is a legendary figure, retired oenology professor and acknowledged for having introduced the training system that has come to be called Lys. The idea behind it is to enable a better sun exposure. Now the professor is passionately working the vineyards at Quinta de Lourosa. He has also in the latest decades renewed the 17th century chapel and the eaves on the farm. As we were walking around the estate he showed me different examples of the Lys system. It’s maybe more a concept than a technique. The idea is to distribute the plants to give ventilation. Very commonly first the plant grows to the left and to the right, then it moves upwards. With this system the plant also grows much stronger.

The Lys training system

José tells me that the estate doesn’t produce organic wines as such. But they do care about the landscape and soil. -We use chemicals only when we have to, he says. -And the future is not to use. They are in fact planting peppermint between the rows to attract insects, only to mention one feature.

Tasting in the winery

The wines were in general fresh and quite light in style. To only mention a few the (Vinhas de) Lourosa 2021, a varietal loureiro, was light with a a little gas; citric with green apples on the nose; fresh in the mouth, with lemony acidity. The Quinta de Lourosa 2021 was maybe a bit more “serious”. Made from 40-45% arinto, 30% loureiro and the rest avesso (a blend that the authorities first didn’t approve, because they said it must be sauvignon blanc) the wine showed citric with yellow apples, also fresh with a little gas, but a little more full and concentrated than the previous. Among the sparkling wines I really liked the Lourosa Bruto Branco 2018, made from loureiro and brinto with no added sugar: Pale yellow with small bubbles; fresh aroma of green and yellow apple, some yeast (after 9 months on sediments); with an appley acidity in the finish.

We also did an interesting tasting of the Quinta de Lourosa Alvarinho. The 2019 (made with 7% arinto also), made in steel and new French oak, showed light yellow in colour; an aroma of yellow apple, spice/herbs; glyceric, hints of toast, flavourful. We had this and two more vintages for dinner in the restaurant. While the 2016 was more buttery and had only a slightly oaky aftertaste, the 2014 showed a fully integrated oak without losing the fruit.

Visiting Citânia de Sanfins, a pre-historic Celtic-Iberian settlement
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Wine of the Week

Dangerously drinkable samsó

This wine can be said jo be dangerously drinkable. It’ contains “only” 11% alcohol, but it’s hard to stop once poured, with all its inviting fruit and low acidity (5g, the 2021 has only 3, by the way).

Domaine Cazes has been producing wine since 1895 in Rivesaltes, south of France. Cazes is operated according to biodynamic principles. Cazes is France’s largest certified producer of organic and biodynamic wines with 220 hectares of vineyards. (Read about a vin doux naturel here.)

This wine is made with traditional maceration, and fermented without yeasts for 6 days at low temperature (between 19 and 22°C). It was pressed with integrated presses. The end of alcoholic fermentation took place in in wooden vats before racking, then malolactic fermentation. The appellation is IGT Côtes Catalanes.

Finally a piece of ampelography (“grapeology”) here: Samsó is a synonym for cinsault in this part of Catalunya, also spelled sinsó. Samsó can also refer to carignan (a much more thick-skinned variety).

Samsó 2020 (Dom. Cazes)

Light red, violet rim. Fresh and fruit-driven with raspberries, wild strawberries, hints of licorice. Medium full, rounded, some spices at the end.

Price: Low

Food: Delicious on its own, with charcuterie, patatas bravas, pasta…

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Wine of the Week

Bourdy’s Château-Chalon

Château-Chalon is, despite the name, an appellation in Jura. The only grape variety used to make it is the savagnin, just like the other vins jaunes, wines matured under a veil of yeast. This producer owns 10 hectares and farms them biodynamically. This includes a half hectare in Château-Chalon AOC. Caves Jean Bourdy uses barrels up to 80 years old for fermentation and aging of the wines. They are known for their extensive back-catalogue of old wines, with château-chalon back to1865.

Château-Chalon 2012 (J. Bourdy)

Yellow with greenish hints. Complex aroma with walnuts, honey and mature cheese. Smooth, nice acidity, long and dry aftertaste.

Price: High

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Wine of the Week

Ganko 2018

This was one of the rioja wines that stood out in a local wine club tasting. It’s made by Bordeaux-born Olivier Rivière, who took a job in Rioja in 2004, after having studied enology in Montagne Saint-Émilion and worked briefly for several wineries. Among them were Domaine Leroy in Vosne-Romanée, where he learnt about their biodynamic methods. He decided to stay in Rioja and began looking for specific vineyards grown organically, with the goal to buy grapes and make his own wine.

Ganko is a 50/50 blend of mazuelo and garnacha The grapes are grown in the village of Cárdenas in the Alto Najerilla. Here in 600 meters altitude the old vines grow on sandy soils. It’s a rugged zone with only small plots. The wine is fermented with whole bunches in a 3.000-liter oak foudre and matured in used barrels.

Perhaps you wonder what the word ganko means? It’s Japanese for stubborn, a nickname given to Olivier by a Japanese importer. Olivier liked it and gave the name to this wine.

Ganko 2018 (Olivier Rivière)

Dark cherry red. Aroma of wild berries (blackberry), flowers and herbs (thyme). Fine-grained tannins, a cool, fresh acidity and a long and dry finish. Complex and elegant.

Price: Medium

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Wine of the Week

Trentino’s leading light

I have recently had two opportunities to taste Foradori’s range. The first was at restaurant Smalhans of Oslo, with Theo Foradori and their Norwegian importer Non Dos in mid-March. Then at Barcelona’s Vella Terra fair in the beginning of April (look for a forthcoming article), when I for the first time met Theo’s mother, the beautiful Elisabetta.

Theo Foradori on his visit to Oslo

Foradori makes some magnificent white wines at the foot of the Dolomites mountains. (Read about one of them here.) But they also do a terrific job with their reds. Not least is it interesting to go through the many faces of the grape teroldego. Elisabetta is like a queen of teroldego; when she took over the winery at a young age she brought in new and better clones, switched to biodynamics, replaced barrels with clay vessels and botti and elevated the grape to a level yet unseen.

The grape grows only in Trentino, and thrives best in Campo Rotaliano, where Foradori have all their vineyards. They make two single-plot wines, Morei and Sgarzon, with exactly the same vinification. The wines demonstrate how different teroldego can be in different soils.

Elisabetta Foradori at the Vella Terra

Here we shall speak about maybe the producer’s most simple red. It is as well made as all the others. I mean simple as in light, delicious, easy to drink; and I never miss an opportunity to taste – and drink it. Lezèr is a light red, almost rosé wine that comes from various light macerations in amphora, wood, steel and cement, and then aged four months in concrete vats. It started out in vineyards some 30 years old.

Lezèr means in local dialect. Some claim that the name teroldego comes from “oro del Tirolo” – in other words “the gold from Tyrol”.

Lezèr 2021 (Foradori)

Light ruby with blueish hint. Red berries (raspberry), plums, flowers. Luscious in the mouth, fine-grained tannins, integrated acidity.

Price: Medium

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Wine of the Week

Canlibero can

Last Monday’s tasting in my private wine club was dedicated to wines from southern half of Italy, most of them from the grapes falanghina, fiano and greco di tufo. And it was the former, the only one without a DOCG, that excelled the most.

Ennio Romano Cecaro and his wife Mena cultivate four hectares in Benevento in the Campania region. The vines are between 60 and 90 years old, biodynamically farmed.

Credit: Canlibero

The cellar is built in an old tufo cave under the house where the couple lives, and the vinification is very simple. All the wines get a long skin-maceration in steel tanks, and no filtration or additions of any kind are carried out. The annual production is no more than 3.000 bottles.

This week’s wine fermented in open tubs, stayed five months on the skins and was bottled without addition of sulphites, clarification or filtration. I have tasted quite a few wines from the producer at natural wine fairs and bars. And once again convinced: Yes, Canlibero can!

Iastemma 2018 (Canlibero)

Amber, slightly turbid. Complex aroma of orange peel, white flowers, and a light volatility, over a layer of anise and honey. Sapid, lightly textured with integrated acidity, long.

Price: Medium

Food: Salads, light meat, fried fish, sushi, fermented food, Asian…

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Wine of the Week

Loimer’s happy glou-glou

The minimalist cube in Langenlois, Austria that is Fred Loimer’s winery, hides precious jewels. To be more precise, the wines made by close attention of vineyards and helped by biodynamic practises are found behind these walls. (Read about another of his many inspired/inspiring creations here.)

(Cred. Loimer)

The grapes, zweigelt 70%, and the rest st. laurent and pinot noir, were grown in his leased vineyards in Gumpoldskirchen (Thermenregion) on the other side, the southern side of the river Donau – partly destemmed, partly whole cluster pressing. Then spontaneous fermentation, no fining and no filtering. Partially matured in wood, 6 month on lees. No sulphur added during maceration, 20 mg after the blend, before bottling.

Gluegglich Rosé (Weing. Loimer)

Light ruby. Fresh, young aroma of ptpawadpa, raspberry and plums. Medium-bodied, creamy, with a refreshing yet careful acidity, dry, with a fruity finish.

Price: Low

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Wine of the Week

Chakana’s high entry-level

Bodega Chakana delivers at a generally high overall level. So also their so-called entry-level malbec, where the price is next to nothing. (Read about another of their wines here.)

Chakana is a family owned winery located at 960 meters altitude up towards the Andes in Agrelo, Mendoza. It represents a new generation of local terroir-conscious winemakers. The name of the project is what the indigenous people in the area called the southern cross constellation (Crux).

This is how the bodega describes the naming: “Chakana is believed to hold the key to finding the perfect timing for the cultivation and harvesting of crops – a calendar, compass & symbolic link between earth and spirit. On May 2, 2002, the Chakana reached perfect vertical position in the sky, marking the beginning of a new farming cycle. It was then that Chakana’s founder Juan Pelizzatti chose its name for his winery, paying homage to the Incan understanding of and respect for nature.”

Winemaker is Gabriel Bloise, who has experience from both Europe and Australia. The farming at Chakana can be described as biodynamic, with spontaneous fermentation, natural acidity, minimum or no sulphur, and the wines are never clarified nor filtrated.

chakana winery vineyard panarama1
(Cred. Bod. Chakana)

Their vineyards are orientated 45 degrees north west to maximize fruit expression. According to themselves this is “a surprising example of synchronicity, as this is the exact route that the Andean development chose”. This is called the Viracocha line, or the “Line of Truth” of the Incas.

For Chakana this planting direction was chosen for best canopy protection of the grapes during the highest temperatures of the day.

For this wine 60% of the grapes are from Luján de Cuyo in Mendoza and the rest from La Rioja (some 600 km to the north). The grapes were cold-macerated for 3 days, then fermented in steel and cement 15 days.

We also tried it with Brazilian beans

Malbec 2018 Organic Wine (Bod. Chakana)

Dark cherry red, blueish hue. Fruity, mature dark berries (blackberry), plum, some spice. Juicy yet a bit carbonic in the mouth, with soft tannins, firm and slightly bitter finish with a slight (and pleasant) touch of vinegar (maybe in lack of a better word).

Price: Low

Food: Many types of meat, also red, grilled and slightly spicy, roast duck, casseroles

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Wine of the Week

Cool British Col

As we enter into a new year we chose a bubbly fresh wine from a promising winery. The obvious choice would be champagne, of which the is a big amount to chose from, also in the natural end of the scale. But no, our choice is from England, itself a promising wine country.

I visited the Tillingham winery as we entered into the pandemic for the first time, and went straight into a quarantine, according to the rules that had been made while I was there. I will not go into details about the producer, as much is written already. Here is one of the write-ups.

Winemaker Ben Walgate in the winery

The wines are produced as naturally as possible; which means no spraying in the vineyards, no unnecessary additives are added, and the wines are bottled with minimal sulphur.

This wine is made in and named after the italian method Col Fondo, in essence the same as the ancestral method. The grapes are mostly pinot noir, with chardonnay, pinot meunier and auxerrois. Hand-picked grapes ferment naturally in separate containers. Pinot noir and chardonnay are pressed directly as whole bunches and fermented in steel. Pinot meunier is also pressed as whole bunches of grapes and fermented in large Georgian qvevri. Auxerrois is mainly pressed as whole bunches of grapes and fermented in steel, as well as a small amount of yeast with a day’s skin contact before it is pressed into qvervi. After finishing the alcoholic fermentation, all the components in the steel tank are mixed with minimal amounts of sulphur added, and then the wine is bottled with 8 g/L added sugar. Thus the wine undergoes a second fermentation in the bottle.

Col 2019 (Tillingham Wines)

Light golden and somewhat cloudy. Aroma of lime, green fig and white flowers. Light and appealing, a moderate amount of tiny bubbles, with fresh acid, a bit creamy and with a quite long, dry finish.

Price: Medium

Food: Apéritif, natural shellfish, white fish, tapas…Perfect for celebrations.

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