Here is an ecologic cava from the varieties pansa blanca (local name for xarel.lo), macabeu and parellada. The Alta Alella winery is run by the Pujol-Busquets family in the Serralada de Marina Natural Park, just north of the city of Barcelona. Mireia, daughter of founders Josep Maria and Cristina Pujol-Busquets, is currently wine-maker.
Alta Alella’s wines are made from their own grapes. The soils are low in pH, which compensates for the warm Mediterranean climate and give acidity to the wines. They are based on the decomposed granite called sauló, with a sandy texture and good drainage.
All work in the vineyard is manual. After a gentle pressing each of the varieties for this wine ferment separately. Then there is a second fermentation in bottle following the traditional Champenoise method. Unfermented must is used to provide the sugar for the secondary fermentation in bottle, and SO2 is added only after disgorging. The ageing on lees is 30 months (thus the youngest of their cavas). It is disgorged before release, with the disgorgement date noted on the label.
None of Alta Alella’s wines receives dosage.
Mirgin Gran Reserva 2017(Alta Alella)
Light straw. Fruity, green apple, lemon peel, chalk and some brioche autolycic quality. Full in the mouth, mellow mousse, good acidity, dry, saline, long.
I am back at Barcelona’s Vella Terra. It is now in its 6th edition after having been postponed, last time since February this year. Vella Terra is a fair organized by the couple Ale Delfino and Stefano Fraternali, and celebrates natural and low-intervention wines from smaller wineries, most of them family businesses. This year there were 146 artisans from 16 countries booked in. There were also related companies like Pulltex, distributor of wine accessories (see my company profile of one of their most important collaborators Pulltap’s in a forthcoming article) and restaurants like Garage Bar and Zaza. There were of course also various activities around town, with so much “talent” gathered in one place.
This year I had no special theme in mind. I did select a bit, but was also open to walk in new doors. So here are some of the most interesting tastes, only organized from local to global, if I can put it that way. And as many times before, I try to restrict myself by chosing only one wine from each winery. In this first part we shall deal with Spain.
I had tasted a few wines from Cal Teixidor before. (See my latest wine of the week here.) Their winery is found in Corbera de Llobregat, not far from Barcelona. At Vella Terra Josep Casañas showed an impressive range, most of the wines based on the two vineyards described in my latest wine of the week, that you can read about here). These are a north-facing xarel.lo vineyard that gives acidity and minerality, and a south or southwest-facing macabeu vineyard that gives more fruity, aromatic wines. There were also wines made from subirat parent (see his T-shirt), also known by the name malvasía riojana. Here I chose a wine solely based on the macabeu vineyard from 1974. It’s called Masía Cal Salines 2019, is made with whole clusters and aged … Dark yellow; appley, with fennel-tones; rich, structured and mouth-filling. Josep also showed a superb subirat parent traditional method sparkler with almost the same name, Masía Cal SalinesBrut Nature Reserva. This fruity wine, with herbs and mature apple, but also mineral and with a fresh acidity – was of the 2017 vintage and aged 42 months on the lees. Which strictly makes it a gran reserva (it’s minimum 30 months, by Cava standards). Lastly, his wife Brugués is the force behind the estate’s own olive oil.
Loxarel I have known a long time, and I’ve appreciated their good and not least good value wines. Last time they were represented in a wine of the week post was here. In February I had an appointment with winemaker Pep for a visit to their Penedès winery, but had to cancel as I was struck by covid. Here founder Josep Medios participated together with Anna Janué, who calls herself commercial sommelier. They showed an impressive range, such as still and sparkling Loxarel à pel, an amphora-made xarel.lo, and a “xarel.lo sherry” (called Himen), and reds. Here I chose Loxarel109 2011, a brut nature reserva (well, technically it qualifies for a gran reserva). This wine was the reason that Loxarel left DO Cava for Clàssic Penedès, because the authorities didn’t allow them to bottle without disgorging. Loxarel’s opinion is that after nine years the wine has already integrated the yeast. Obviously, this is also a xarel.lo-dominated wine, like nearly all the most ageworthy. Aged on the lees for 109 months in a shelter from the civil war. Light in colour; smells of mature apples, burnt yeast and coffee; is rich with a super acidity and mineral finish, it’s still full of vividness and not at all “old”. It comes in a bottle wrapped in paper.
Clos Lentiscus is located inside the national park in the Garraf mountains just outside Sant Pere de Ribes. The winery was established in 2001 by brothers Manel and Joan Aviñó, when they set out on a task of restoring the family vineyard from the 14th century. They currently cultivate 22 hectares of vineyards in a biodynamic way, of which 95 percent are planted with local grape varieties.
Before the fair I had warmed up with a classy, mineral red, Perill Noir Carinyena 2017, a varietal carinyena that also were shown here. I chose one of the bright sparklers that Manel’s daughter Núria poured. The Núria Parellada 2018, one of several wines named after her, is a pét-nat, very fresh for its age. It’s very dry with notes of red apples, raspberry and bright citrus.
I met Dido and Jurriaan three years ago at the Garage Bar. Then they were just starting, after having travelled the world and worked in a number of wineries. Since then I have come across their rosé sparkler Juicy several times. (See here.) share a passion: wine. They bought 9.5 hectares of vines planted in the Albera natural reserve of Alt Empordà, where they farm organically and have started to implement biodynamic principles. They have now bought an old coop in the village Rabós, where they first were hiring space.
Many of their labels carry references to music, such as Big Time Sensuality, Comfortably numb and Libertango. My pick here would be Magic Potion 2021, a cabernet franc-sauvignon pét-nat named after the album of The Black Keys: Blueish red, full of fresh and sweet strawberry and raspberry fruit, and in the mouth some structure that complements well with a slight residual sugar.
Architect Alfredo Arribas is quite new on the Catalan wine scene, having taken over the family’s vineyards in 2001 founded his bodega in 08. But he has made himself heard. His two main series are Siuralta, mostly monovarietal wines from Montsant and Instabiles, more free-spirited wines from Priorat. The vineyards are in Cornudella de Montsant, in the north of the Priorat region, and the grapes are vinified in the winery in Falset. Arribas’ project is a response to the challenges of climatic change, seeking higher altitude vineyards, more shade and rainfall, biodiversity and more.
For Siuralta grapes from the highest vineyards are spontaneously fermented in whole clusters with stems in small steel tanks and amphorae in various shapes. The grapes for Instabile are spontaneously fermented mainly in whole clusters with short peel maceration. The wines are matured in small cement tanks and amphorae of ceramics, porcelain or glass. Different vintages are mixed in some cases by bottling.
Let’s taste the Siuralta Antic2019, a varietal cariñena: Deep red; cool, fresh fruit, dark and wild berries (blackberry, elderberry), a hint of pepper; luscious/fleshy in the mouth, carried by a long acidity, beautifully integrated tannins, more to the mineral side.
I didn’t know Sifer Wines, but it clearly is a winery to watch. (See also a mention of their Ephraim Mel garnacha blanca here.) Sifer, the name made up from two last names, has vineyards both in Terra Alta’s Batea and in Teruel, Aragón. Among their expressive, vibrant entries were Víbria Soul 2021, a macabeu made in amphora and steel. It’s light, quite turbid, with pear and white fruits and a super acidity.
Cap de Nit is a young family winery that produces wines in the Marina Alta in the north of the province of Alicante. Josh and Josie started the project in 2017, looking for old vineyards of native varieties, to work them in strict organic farming. The vineyards are mostly located in the Vall de Xaló, in the coastal mountains. The small plots are hidden between plantations of almond, orange and olive trees. Work in the field and in the manual warehouse. – The wines are made naturally, fermentation is spontaneous, temperature is not controlled and the wines remain on the mother lees throughout the ageing. No type of additive is applied. The fermentation and aging is done in 500 liter clay pots and stainless steel tanks. They work with different degrees of maceration. At the end the wines are bottled by gravity. – Grape varieties: muscat of alexandria and giró
The real name is Bodega de Frutos Marín, but this producer is most often called Malaparte, after its most famous label. Rubén and Elisa cultivate 5.5 ha of vineyards near Cuéllar, in the province of Segovia. They employ various techniques, such as tanks, old barrels and amphoras. All vineyards are farmed dry.
This is close to Ribera del Duero. Nevertheless, and in spite of a lovely amphora-aged tempranillo, I would say they are mostly a white wine producer, offering verdejo and viura in several fashions. Maybe because I am currently working on an article about the historical wines of the lands of Medina, I chose OX. This is obviously an abbreviation of oxidative, a feature of the “dorado” wines. It is a mix of varieties (I will check, but typical, and recommended in DO Rueda are verdejo and palomino fino), 65 year old vines. The wine rested one year under “flor”, and was then transferred to “damajuanas” (big bottles, demijohns in English). It arrives naturally at 14%, and is not fortified. It has all the yeast, almonds, dried fruits aromas that one night expect, and in the mouth it’s glyceric – and more fruity than its sherry equivalents.
Makatzak Wild Wines is a Basque project found in Aia (Guipuzcoa), near Zarauz, that really has impressed me. Here is no talk about conditions “not favourable for organic growing in our region”, as we often hear. Aitor Irazu Alonso started the winery with his cousin. Here he manages the Sorgintxulo vineyard, that after being abandoned for 5 years now is restored. It is an ecosystem of 3 hectares of vineyards, whose main variety is the hondarrabi zuri. Atlantic climate with high rainfall, mainly southern exposure, steep slopes and slate soils are the main characteristics. The work is based on ecological, natural, regenerative and biodynamic agriculture. Makatzak are now receiving their organic certification, and will later aim also for a biodynamic one.
Sorkin 2021 is light in colour, has an aroma of green apple and bright citrus, and comes with a wonderful acidity. It’s a natural txakolí that’s “impeccably clean”, I imagine the classic British writers would have said. A prime example of the growing natural wine scene in Spain.
The rain in Spain falls… and falls. I’ve come to Barcelona to attend the Vella Terra fair. Walking from my hotel through the square outlined part of the Eixample district, when entering the quiet and pleasant Sant Antoni neighborhood, the sky is wide-open. What is then better than to take refuge in the Garage Bar, that opens right now after the daily break. In the bar I am welcomed by Stefano Fraternali, co-owner. Soon after Ale Delfino show up at my table. Ale is Stefano’s wife and chief organizer of the fair. The theme is thus set.
I let Stefano chose. He served four wines to the small, well-made dishes Pan amb tomate (the Catalan bread classic, here fermented dog 24 hours), marinated olives (own recipe marinade), vitello tonnato (veal with tuna-mayonnaise served cold) and their own burrata (mozzarella on toast, here with champignons, red onions and truffle oil), the two latter maybe a nod to Stefano’s Italian past.
These were Ephraim Mel2021, a gentle skin-contact garnacha blanca (Sifer Wines, Catalunya), Le Glam Cab du Bled, a fruity, peppery carbonic maceration gamay/ cabernet franc (Laurent Lebled, Loire) and Aldo Viola’s light, raspberry-fresh Saignée Rosso 2019, made from nerello mascalese/ perricone/ syrah (Alcamo, Sicilia).
But first he served this week’s pick. This is born from a duo of grapes, each from their vineyard. The xarel.lo vineyard with the name Cal Tusac, that was planted in 1955, and a macabeu vineyard planted in 1974. We are in Santa Margarida i els Monjos in Penedès, Catalunya. The soil in the first one has marl and chalk, and is northeast-facing. The second, nearby, but over in Vilafranca del Penedès, is south facing, flat with clay and lots of sunshine. Two quite different vineyards, in other words. The viticulture is organic in both. The grapes were hand-picked early September, then very lightly pressed. Then spontaneous fermentation with indigenous yeasts, before stainless steel for ten and a half months while doing battonage. After almost a year the two wines were brought together and finally bottled unfiltered.
Cal Tusac Vinyes 55+74 Xarel.lo i Macabeu 2016 (Cal Teixidor)
Light straw. Yellow apples, pears, a herbal touch (thyme). Good acidity, long, and also with a mineral note. A wonderful duo of grapes, fresh for a 16.
Food: Grilled fish, tasty shellfish, rice dishes, pairing, soft and semi-cured cheeses, a variety of tapas
Bendito Vinos y Vinilos (wine and vinyl) is an all natural wine bar in Madrid’s Lavapiés barrio. This hilly neighborhood was earlier a cheap place that attracted many immigrants. (Here is a link to another restaurant, to be published.) Bendito is located inside the multicultural San Fernando market, that looks like a gathering place for the cultures they represent. Lavapiés is now the most international neighborhood in Madrid. Once the Jewish quarter, much later the immigrants actually established many bars here. After Spain’s entry into the EU, there was a new wave of migration. Therefore Bendito is a good place to get to learn about the changes in Spanish culture and gastronomy.
Owner José González selects cheeses and hams from many places. These are served with economic down-to-earth wines chosen by Ilan Saltzman, wine responsible, while the vinyl records spins in the background. By the way, Bar Bendito means the blessed bar, with all the allegories that it is possible to derive from that name.
I was there last Friday and the following Sunday and enjoyed a handful of wines both days, all served with small bites of cheese or charcuterie. This report is mainly based on the first visit.
One of the wines that night was Pampaneo Airén 2020 from Esencia Rural, a very fresh, lemony sparkler from Toledo. Read more about it here.
A delightful habit of the wine bars is when the waiter gives you a couple of sips, before you decide which wine you want in your glass. Here my waiter Ilan poured three samples. One of them Soif du Mal Blanc 2020, a muscat-dominated wine from Les Foulards Rouges, over the French border. I chose to wait until some other time, and go for a Castilian wine. Palote 2020 from Microbodega Rodríguez Morán in the province of Salamanca was made from palomino grapes. It rested one week with skins and stems. Thereafter it was aged in clay, finally bottled unfined, unfiltered and without sulphur. The colour was light orange/amber, slightly turbid; nice aroma of yellow fruit, elderberry, flowers and a touch of figs; good acidity, it plays with bitterness, but it’s restrained. A blue cheese accompaned these first wines, and it went surprisingly well.
Behind Artesano Vintners is Mike Shepherd, who has a past in Australia in two important natural wine houses. Now in Catunya he grows only 2 hectares. Parellatxa 2020 is a clarete: Pale red; vibrant fruit, raspberry; very light delicate touch of tannin. The name is put together by the varieties parellada and garnatxa, but this you have already figured out.
Kikiriki 2018 is made from ull de llebre (tempranillo) and carinyena in a vineyard from 1979, by Manel Aviñó of Clos Lentiscus, Penedès. He works employing biodynamic techniques and ferment the grapes by variety before assembling the wines. Dark cherry colour; blueberry, also lighter fruit (raspberry) and a touch licorice; juicy with light tannin, good acidity, and over all truly fascinating.
Nacho González makes his wines within Valdeorras. But he is not a member of the DO, thus his La Perdida wines carry the designation Vinos de España. A Mallada 2020 is made from sumoll and garnacha tintorera. Fermented in amphora, aged in old oak, bottled without sulphites. It’s dark, quite complex; on the nose it displays something sweet and sour (sweet cherries, acidic berry stones?) and very fresh fruit; there is a young dryness in the mouth, lovely acidity.
About the second visit I will report very briefly. It went more or less like the first visit. The two absolutely brilliant wines were Jordi Llorens‘ Ancestral de la Cristina and Oriol Artigas‘ El Rall, both from Catalunya, both from 2019. The former is from the Conca de Barberà area in the province of Tarragona and lived up to normal standard, light yellow with its clean appley and mature lemony easy-going character. The latter I didn’t know. It’s a sumoll (the grape) from DO Alella, north of Barcelona city, and showed a cherry-dominated red fruits side, with a pleasant juicyness in the mouth. The best of the rest, and a surprise too, was Sin Prisa 2018, a forest fruits-coffee-scented monastrell without added sulphites from Bodegas De Fábula, Murcia, near the regional capital.
Below: Only two of the many international cuisine restaurants in the San Fernando market.
Merian is here short for Mercè (Solé Llop) i Antonio (Mèlich). The finca was established in 1942 in Terra Alta (Catalunya). Today the two of them, together with Mercè’s sisters and brothers, 4th generation, run the estate, based on terroir and sustainability.
This wine is based on garnatxa negra 100% from their own organic vineyards in the municipality of Batea, a center for viticulture in Terra Alta. (Here is another Batea wine.) The soil is rich in clay with chalk, but also rolling stones, in an altitude of 350 – 450 meters.
The grapes are hand-picked, before a new selection in the winery. After a light pressing the juice is transfered to steel, and a fermentation at 26 degrees with a 15 days skin-maceration.
Merian Garnatxa Negra 2020(Cellers Tarroné)
Dark cherry red, blueish hint. Young, fresh aroma (blueberry, raspberry), together with anise and some leathery notes. Fresh in the mouth, but also with a certain depth from mature berries, smooth tannins and a fruity finish.
Food: Red and light meat, grilled if you like, game, casseroles, pasta and salads with meat
Celler Batea speaks about duality. One expression of this is the mixture of Continental and Mediterranean influences in their home town Batea, DO Terra Alta (Catalunya). Another is the focus on two grape varieties, that is the black and the white version of garnacha, or let’s just name it garnatxa, like it’s written here. It is these two varieties that make up the series of non-added-sulphites wines called Sense (meaning without in Catalan).
In 2019 the producer launched these wines, with total sulphites less than 10mg per liter. They are completely organic, do not contain any chemicals, nor preservatives and have not been filtered. The white wine was fermented in steel at 14-16°C with native yeasts, stayed there for 6 months on fine lees, with “batonnage” (stirring) to give more complexity and mouthfeel.
Sense Blanc 2020(Celler Batea)
Dark golden colour, hint of brown. In the front are aromas of mature apples and bitter almond, underlying we find fennel, aniseed and a touch of honey. Quite full and nutty in the mouth, with a good acidity that’s important to balance the ripe fruit and relatively high alcohol (14%). Somewhat bitter end. Lots of character.
Food: Rice dishes, salads, white and red fish, tasty shellfish, pasta, pizza, cheeses and more
While Norway changed government with parades and speeches, an interesting tasting took place just across the street at the Grand Hotel. This tasting in Oslo was the first official Corpinnat tasting outside of Spain.
To be short, Corpinnat (meaning born in the Penedès, after Roman etymological roots) is a group of Catalan producers of sparkling wine that has left DO Cava. All ten producers with wines in the market were represented. Leading the tasting was Carles del Amor, export director of Nadal, one of the six founding members – together with Liora Levi, Norwegian sommelier and wine writer.
The tasting showed a variety of styles. Some wineries contributed what they consider the more typical from their range, while others offered “top” wines. There were examples of restrained, mineral wines, while others were more on the fruity side. Some dominated by the xarel.lo grape (also varietals), others with more parellada. One rosé.
There will be a longer report that I will link to here. Now I will just present one wine in the ever ongoing Wine of the Week series.
Since Carles is here (on behalf of Corpinnat, that is) I still want to focus a bit on Nadal‘s contribution. Their Brut Nature Reserve 2015 was maybe the most flowery/fruity of the lot. This can maybe be seen from the grape composition; parellada 57%, xarel.lo 22%, macabeu 21%. While xarel.lo is a variety with a lot of acidity and preferred in wines made for ageing, parellada contributes more finesse and aroma. This said, Carles tells that they have a project going on, trying to prepare parellada for more ageing, for example by moving higher up towards the Pyrenees. By doing this they also prepare themselves for new, hotter times. The wine has an ageing of 60 months on the lees, is a non dosé obviously organically grown (as is mandatory without Corpinnat), and it’s degorged 21st June 2021 (also obligatory information within the group).
Here are other posts about members of the group (search the site for more):
I met Ramón Jané and his wife Mercé at a fair in Penedès a few years ago and was very impressed. This can also be said about a third member of the team, Toní Carbó, and his side project with an even more natural approach (read here).
Mas Candí disposes of 55 hectares organically farmed vineyards near the Massif del Garraf in Alto Penedès. They are now members of the Corpinnat group, that seeks to reestablish a faith in Spanish sparkling wine by differentiating between the various soils, promote organic farming and otherwise holding strict rules in every aspect.
This sparkler comes from a vineyard planted in 1955 on chalk and fossil ground. It’s a varietal xarel.lo. Minimum ageing on lees for Corpinnat is 18 months. Total sulphur is less than 30 mg/L.
Segunyola Corpinnat Brut Nature 2016(Mas Candí)
Light gold colour; citric with green and red apples and a hint of yeast and almonds; creamy mouthfeel, medium full with good acidity, finishes dry.
This could have been a review of the relatively new vegan restaurant Bellies of Stavanger, Norway. They deserve a really good one, no doubt. As a 100% vegan restaurant they have few competitors. But Bellies is good in every sense; in the kitchen they know how to handle the knives, and the wine list is extensive and good. Bellies is hereby recommended, for vegans and all others.
We ordered “Full belly”, a 7 course meal, with wine recommendations. Among these were Krásná Hora Riesling 2019 (Moravia, Czech Rep.), aromatic with integrated acidity, with a carrot salad, Enderle & Moll Müller-Thurgau 2018 (Baden, Germany), a light skin-contact wine with jerusalem artichoke and celery, and Un Petit Coin de Paradis 2018, a gamay at 6,5%. This is light red, sweetish wine, perfect to accompany our meringue dessert.
[A minor point of advice could be that it is not always clear what wines should go with what dishes. To be precise: The first dessert came without wine, and we wondered why. It’s ok, only a matter of communication.]
The wine I chose here is another. Some natural wine fairs I follow closely, and during the Vella Terra of Barcelona I have met Dido and Jurriaan, a young couple from Amsterdam that have chosen to make wine in Alt-Empordà, Catalunya. Here they farm own vineyards and some others, at least organically, and gradually implementing biodynamic principles. From these grapes, and inspired by collegue Joan Ramón Escoda, they make natural wines without added sulphites.
They are new in the wine business, and the fact that they are already represented here at Bellies was a coincidence that I felt I had to follow up. (Here is another encounter of their wines in Norway. And here is a report from the Barcelona fair, where you can read about other producers on Bellies’ list.)
Doolittle has nothing to do with the play My fair Lady (where it’s the name of the protagonists). No, the wines have taken their names from music album titles, and Doolittle is an album by the Pixies. When remembering that Dido told me that for her thesis in cultural anthropology she spent some time with the Swartland Independent Producers. Among these Craig Hawkins took the name Monkey gone to Heaven (his mourvèdre) from the same album.
Doolittle is also part of the ideology of Dido and Jur, to intervene as little as possible. The 2018 is made from 60% garnacha, with whole bunch maceration for one week, and the rest barbera, elevated in amphora under a veil of flor.
Cherry red. Aroma of blackberry and cherry, and a lactic note. Dry, but with a sweetish garnacha sensation. Slightly tannic, with a very refreshing natural acidity, and a bit salty finish.
Food: We tried it with several dishes and ingredients, like creamy almond potato, buckwheat chips, black truffle, betroot and quinoa chervil. It is really a versatile wine, should be perfect with varied tapas and charcutérie.
Clandestina travels from Catalunya to new destinations with accordingly named labels, such as Blanc Fugitiu (fugitive), Orance Censurat (censored), Ancestral Confiscat (confiscated). Read more about these here in an article from the cancelled Rawfair this March, where I met winemaker Ferrán at wine bar WineO in London.
This week’s wine, Blanc Sense Papers 2019, has made it all the way to my northern local wine shop. It originates from a more than 50 years old xarel.lo vineyard. The grapes from the three plots were harvested seperately at different times to ensure perfect ripeness, the different harvests are fermented in steel and aged in demijohns for different periods of time, and the last harvest kept in oak for 4 months, before blending it all and bottling unfined and unfiltered. -I base my wines on acidity, says Ferrán, -and I like Bourgogne Aligoté, he answers to my question what he tries to achieve. And acidity he has managed to retain. It really is acidic. I am not sure if it has the body to match, but time will show.
Blanc Sense Papers 2019(Bodegas Clandestina)
Yellow with green and grey hints, slightly turbid. Aroma of green apricot, flowers and grapefruit. Fresh and luscious, dry, good acidity, good length.