In naming a restaurant, managers can provide a headline, if the content follows suit. Here it does. The relatively new restaurant Bravo of Stavanger’s ever more trendy eastern district can be summed up like this: Good food, a select wine list at good prices in a cosy atmosphere.
The food is down to earth but it comes with a creative twist. At the moment the menu consists of eight medium-sized dishes from mainly local ingredients, and a number of snacks. The by-the-glass wine list contains around 20 references, and there is also a longer wine list. The selection largely consists of what you would call natural wines, and all of them are made in an organic, sustainable way. To call the pricing moderate would be an understatement. Look carefully and you can find wines at only 1,5 times the price of the state monopoly.
We were there last Friday, and one of the owners, Rakel Juklestad Helgheim, guided us through four courses and nine wines, assisted by her partner and chef Daniel Vigdel Hansen. Eight of these were chosen from the glass menu and the last one was kindly offered from the longer list by Rakel and Daniel. The platters were shared and most of the wine glasses too.
While enjoying some Spanish olives from the snack menu we decided to go with smoked salmon from producer Jana, right down the road, with carrot and a creamy cheese. It was followed with beetroot with almonds and guasacaca (a Central American sauce), for me the best dish of the evening. Tender cucumber slices struggled to compete with the tasty crab with mustard and lime. Then the kitchen excelled again with a seafood platter with baked ling and spring onion in a mussel sauce with celery and soy.
Knochentrocken 2021(Der GlücksJäger), a sauvignon blanc-chardonnay-riesling from Pfalz, had the volume and roundness that often come with the varieties, with matching acidity. It has some yellow colour, an unfiltered appearance, with melon and lime aromatics.
More mineral with a stony character, sea and salt and some pear was the next, La Mer 2022(Dom. de la Fessardière), a Muscadet, before we with Alsacian Sons of Wine’s Soulographie 2021 were back in a darker and richer style. Made from all the so-called non-aromatic grapes of the region (pinot blanc, chardonnay, auxerrois, pinot gris and riesling) it was nevertheless aromatic, with mature apples, flowers and fennel, and full on the palate with a fresh acidity.
It’s not every day that we can add a new Chablis to the repertoire. Pommier‘s 2021 would deliver. It’s light yellow/golden, and smells of green apples, lime – and luckily only a touch of butter. In the mouth it’s concentrated and full of flavour, and has a long, saline finish.
Malterdinger 2020(Bernhard Huber), a chardonnay-weissburgunder (pinot blanc) from Baden came in a light, greenish robe. It showed a richness on the nose, with herbs and butter. The oak was maybe more evident on the palate, and added to the feeling of fullness. I would have given this wine a few years in a cellar.
Scions of Sinai is located in Stellenbosch, South South Africa. Nomadis 2020 is based on cinsault, with contribution of pinotage. Ruby red with red and dark fruits (blackberry, raspberry) and spices. Luscious and savoury. North to Germany and Pfalz, Lebenshilfe is an ecological and social organization, offering work for people with intellectual disabilities. Together with the professionals they have here made the fruity Spätburgunder Trocken2020, a wine with cherry and raspberry fruit, combined with spices and a touch of vanilla. On the palate the fruit follows up, a bit spicy and with a light structure.
Clotaire Michal offered a structure and dark entry for a beaujolais gamay. Maybe not strange, as he had worked several places in the Rhône Valley before settling there. A Fleur de Peau 2019 opens with an animal whiff together with raspberry, plums and spices. It follows up with an impressive structured palate. It’s first of all impressive to taste now, and a terrific gastronomic wine for tasty dishes. However it would easily benefit from a few years more ageing. Back to a white wine, or to be exact… Matassa of Roussillon makes all their whites with skin-contact, so the colour would be darker. Cuvée Marguerite2021 (predominantly muscat varieties and some macabeo) is no exception: Light orange or amber colour, slightly turbid. On the nose there is citrus, white flowers and peach, and in the mouth it’s grapey and quite full, also with a slight tannin.
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.
Food: Delicious on its own, with charcuterie, patatas bravas, pasta…
This was my first opportunity to visit restaurant Angr of Stavanger, Norway. It’s a restaurant that serves natural wines with nicely elaborated food with interesting tastes. Their by-the-glass list is not very extensive, but they will open bottles outside the menu too.
We had whites from Swartland (Mother Rock) and Beaujolais (J.P. Brun) and reds from Crozes-Hérmitage (Les 4 Vents), and for the second time Swartland (Badenhorst).
Then we had this fabulous, energetic wine also from Swartland, South Africa. Jurgen Gouws of Intellego tells that after a great surfing experience in Bali he ended up naming the wine after a special spot, and thus transferring the surfing energy to the wine.
It was whole bunch fermented under semi-carbonic conditions for 8 days in stainless steel tanks and aged in old barrels of different sizes.
It’s made from Rhône grapes syrah 50%, cinsaut (he spells it without an -l-) 20% and mourvèdre 30%, dry farmed bush wines.
Ruby red. Scented, aroma of wild fruits (cranberry) and plums, with a hint of black olives. Juicy in the mouth, light tannin, fruity, and finishes off dry.
Food: We had it with smoked salmon and tortillas, but should go well with a variety of salads, white fish and light meat.
La Sorga is something of a superstar on the natural wine stage. It was started in 2008 by Antony Tortul, now accompanied by his wife and by David Adell. They work as a kind of négociants, as the grapes are bought in. There are more or less 50.000 bottles produced per year. There is no shortage of creativity, so 30-40 different labels are created every year.
All grapes come from organic or biodynamic vineyards. La Sorga wines are always “zero zero”.
They work in different regions around Béziers, in the Languedoc. The climate is warm and maritime, close to the Mediterranean, so the grapes are often harvested early to maintain freshness. The soils are lime, clay and slate.
For this wine -from Corbières and Cabrerolles- cinsault 40 years old are used in 60%, the rest more than a hundred years old carignan. The grapes were picked by hand and underwent maceration carbonic for 60 days. Then followed 12 months in amphorae and bottling, clearly, without filtration or SO2.
SorGaahl 2019(La Sorga) Dark red with blue hue, somewhat turbid. Clear-cut aromas of blueberry, cherries and a spicy component. Luscious, juicy, but also concentrated, with a dry finish.
Food: Rich vegetable dishes, light and tasty meat (chicken, lamb, pig), pizza and pasta…
Jurgen Gouws makes cool, fresh and focused wines in Swartland, South Africa. An earlier assistant winemaker under Craig Hawkins at Lammershoek, he soon established his own label Intellego.
The rented vineyards and the wines are managed with least possible interference. He was one of the first in Swartland to experiment with skin-contact for Chenin Blanc, very lightly in the fabulous (almost) orange wine Elementis.
The vines used for the Pink Moustache were planted in 1988 and 2001. The grapes are syrah 59%, cinsault 33% and mourvedre 8%. Whole clusters are pressed before spontaneous fermentation four days in used barrels. The wine matures 5 months, also in used barrels.
ThePink Moustache 2020(Intellego)
Light ruby red. Aroma of dark and red berries (raspberries), flowers, herbs and pepper. Luscious, juicy, with a light tannin touch, and just enough acidity. Lovely glou-glou, best lightly chilled.
Food: Light meats, pizza, pasta, salads and cured meats.
Here is an old favourite, dressed up in Christmas costume. The southern French classic La Vieille Fermé is made by the famous wine family Perrin, which stands behind some of the South Rhône’s finest wines, among them the great châteauneuf-du-pape wines from Château de Beaucastel.
The Christmas label was designed especially for the Norwegian market by designer Kaja Vedvik, but the Perrin family liked it so much that they also want it to use it in other markets.
The wine originates in vineyards situated in the sunny Ventoux hillsides southeast of the Rhône on the border to Provence. While grenache makes up the main part, grapes like syrah and cinsault give extra spice. In addition, there is ripe fruit that makes it cope with tasty food.
La Vieille Fermé 2019(Fam. Perrin)
Young red. Fresh, cool aroma with ripe elements (dark cherry, blueberry, blackberry); lickorice, provençal herbs and a hint of marzipan. Round and fresh in the mouth, with light tannin, herbs, and with berry fruit all the way.
Food: Christmas turkey, other light meat, coq au vin, salads, rice dishes and much more.
There were several wine fairs that were postponed due to the uncertainties around the coronavirus outbreak. But as far as I know this was the first major fair, and the only one so far that I planned to attend.
Luckily there were many danger-seeking people like me, who decided to go anyway. One of them was Carles Mora Ferrer of Penedès, one of the heroes in this story.
As readers of this blog may know, Raw is a fair for natural, artisan producers and seeks to highlight the “poetry” in the wine. And it has become something of a worldwide community, as the fair has expanded to places like Berlin, New York and Toronto.
Sager & Wilde, Ries & Shine, Antidote and Dandy were among the restaurants that were registered in the #rawwineweek program. And Lady of the Grapes was hosting an event on Women’s Day 8th March. I used the opportunity to visit Elliott’s, as you will soon hear more about, but also favourites like Flor, the Spanish tapas place Brindisa, and the Portuguese Bar Douro (read a post from my visit here). I attended two tastings held by several importers. And the first thing I did was making an appointment with a rising star of British wine, the Tillingham winery. (There will be more about this in the next post from the “fair”.)
At Elliott’s Café, Borough Market I had four wines this time, the two from Clot de les Soleres offered in the by the glass-selection. Allow me first a few words on the winery. In Piera, close to Sant Sadurní (the Cava capital) lie Carles Mora’s family vineyards, abandoned since the 1960’s. Many years later Carles planted some cabernet sauvignon there, and the intention was clearly to make natural wine aged in amphora. Today he and his partner Montse hav 5-6 hectares of not only cabernet, but also chardonnay, and the local varieties macabeo and xarel.lo, that they tend organically, and there are zero additivies in the vineyard or cellar, except for a little copper/sulphur in the vineyard when absolutely necessary. The vineyard lies around 300 meters above sea level, on calcareaous soil, with small stone and pebbels. There is a Mediterranean climate with a lot of sun, but also a breeze from the sea that regulates the temperature so the grapes will not be “baked”. They want to express the terroir, but also the grape variety. So for that reason, only varietal wines are made.
Clot de les Soleres Macabeu 2018 was a pale, slightly pétillant wine, pears and flowers scented, with lovely lemony acidity. The red Clot de les Soleres Cabernet Amphora 2018 was deep dark, dominated by black fruits like blackcurrant, but also with a mineral touch, and well-structured and very vibrant in the mouth.
Aside from this I had the V&S Bacchus 2018, from 2naturkinder of Franken, Germany. This was golden in colour, with orange peel and flowers as dominant aromatics, and full and “orangey” in the mouth. Last this afternoon was Rivera del Notro 2018(Roberto Henríquez), from Bio Bio of Chile, made from the país variety. The wine was light cherry red, with raspberry and some ethereal note. Quite firm in the mouth, and moderate acidity.
Elliott’s has delicious small dishes to go with the wines too. After recommendations from the sommeliers I chose stratiacella (an eggsoup with cheese and nutmeg) culatella (a cured ham from Parma) and hake ragu with the four mentioned wines.
Tasting at Weino BIB
Fernando Berry from Elliott’s is involved in the import company Otros Vinos. Together with a couple of other importers they invited some of the visiting producers to the small wine bar Wineo BIB near Dalston Junction.
So let’s go back to Clot de les Soleres. At Weino BIB Carles served both white, rosé and red wines, still and sparkling. Some were samples, as far as I remember. I hope I have got the names and vintages right. All the whites have been pressed before they ferment in steel, spent the winter in tank and bottled in spring. After the same Macabeu as at Elliott’s the other afternoon there was the Chardonnay 2017, a light, clean and citric wine, mellow in the mouth and with a year more it has achieved a good balance between alcohol and acidity.
The Xarel.lo pét nats (Ancestral I think the name is), vintage 2015 and 2017, were fascinating. With 30 grams in the 2015 when it was bottled (less in the finished wine because it continues to ferment) golden yellow in colour, with an aroma of mature apples and lots of bread from the autolysis; rich and mouthfilling, with a sweet touch, but nice acidity to match. The 2017 was made in the same way, but behaved differently. There were muh less bubbles, more green apple character, citrus and pineapple, some ginger and herbs too, and also some toast, and an excellent acidity. The Chardonnay 2018 pét nat came from two tanks. It showd ligh yellow, more fruity and citric; still with an unfulfilled potential, but with time this will also get a good balance between sugar and alcohol.
I tasted the Rosé Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, a very pale, peach-coloured wine (pressed less than one hour), flowers and strawberry-scented, quite soft but with good acidity, before turning to the reds. The Cabernet Saugivnon 2014 (from 22 year old vines) had only been in tank. It was dark after six years, with typical cabernet aromas such as blackcurrant and a vegetal component; slender in the mouth with a nice structure. Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 had stayed 13 months, then bottled. Also dark, and very fruity, with blackcurrant, green pepper, sour cherries, and an inspiring acidity. It comes with 14% alcohol, but it’s well integrated. The Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 were made in the same way, except for a period in three amphoras of 700L (from Extremadura, because of the quality and type of clay): This one was a little more on the “wild” side; more sour cherries, also with more red berries; quite big in the mouth (13% alc.).
Near Clot de les Soleres, in the tasting room but also the Catalan bodega itself, is Ferrán Lacruz. He runs the Bodega Clandestina in the village of Sant Martí Sarroca, not far from Vilafranca del Penedès. The farm has 8 hectares, of which 3 is planted with vines. The bodega name has inspired the titles of the wines too, Blanc Sence Papers, Fugitiu, Censurat and Confiscat. I think there is no need to translate, please tell me if the contrary is true. The first vintage was 2018. It’s an organic and natural project, no additives, not even SO2, and he works outside any appellation.
All the wines are samples from the 2019 vintage, so I will just go briefly through them. Blanc Sense Papers 2019 comes 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. The Blanc Fugitiu is another varietal xarel.lo with three weeks maceration. The skins are always inside the wine, as it is held down with an inox net. It finishes in 500L barrels and amphoras from the French side of Catalunya. This one is much more textured than the former, in the sense of tannins. It’s a bit more funky too, but has nice flowers and citrus peel aromas. Orance Censurat is a carinyena blanc with 4 weeks skin-contact, then aged in amphoras for 5 months. Also a bit on the funky side, but very nice citric notes and quite floral too. The Ancestral Confiscat is a xarel.lo sparkling wines with one year and three months ageing in bottle. The colour is yellow, and there is an abundancy of bubbles; very fruity, appley character with evident autolysis. A promising sparkler.
Le Quais á Raisins is a producer from Aubais in the Languedoc, started in 2015. They are Imogen and Robin, from England and Alsace respectively, who met there while studying. They have also worked abroad, being inspired by and have worked with the Swartland Independent Producers of South Africa, to name just one of the places they have experienced. Imogen was represented here. They only own 1.5 hectares, but use grapes from friends in Languedoc, Roussillon and Rhône. Everything is organic, and some places biodynamic practises are also employed.
Among the wines were Umami 2019, a pét nat with 9 months on the lees from muscat and grenache with no sugar, and no SO2 added. A very nice wine with aroma, a bit peachy, some brioche; it was mouthfilling, with nice acidity, and a saltiness at the end. Méridional 2018 from rolle, grenache and muscat, was floral, but also mineral, and very fresh, – fermented in tank, and some 15% in neutral wood. Embruns 2018, made from macabeu in alluvial soil, was light, pear-like in aroma, there was a little more oak-influence there, and some smokiness. A really interesting one was Syrault 2018 (from syrah and cinsault) from calcareous loess: Cherry red; aroma of blueberry, flowers, mint, pepper; a little sweet sensation in the mouth, but after all an easy-drinking wine. Then a delicate, yet fleshy amphora-aged cinsault called Lopin 2018. Before we rounded off with the Garmatcha 2018 (a grenache, or garnacha grown on limestone and gneiss): Darker colour (because of small yield, more extraction, more punch-down), 18 months in 400L oak (some young, some neutral): It had a intriguing smell of chalkiness, red fruits and herbs, a fruity and well-structured, concentrated taste with some coffee/lickorice towards the end.
Matthias Hager is located in the northern part of the Kamptal, and is known as one of the most creative producers in the area. He produces terroir-driven wines from his 14 hectares of vineyards, from Mollands, his hometown. He has had a biodynamic certification since 2005. He works with different soil types, like loess and clay. He uses different product lines, literally speaking: A label with a blue line represents a fresh and young wine, while a brown line denotes more earthy, flavorful characteristics. Red line stands for no sulphites.
Here are the wines he brought, in brief: Grüner Veltliner Mollands 2018: Light colour; fruity, with pepper and other herbs; smooth, quite concentrated, dry and salty. Grüner Veltliner Urgestein 2018, from schist soil, 10% skin-fermented, made in old oak and steel: This one is more yellow, more mineral, also with peppery tones; good weight in the mouth, and evident acidity. Completely natural. Riesling Alte Reben 2016, 10% skin-fermented for 6 weeks: It’s light yellow; flowery, fruity (but also some mineral); in the mouth it’s textured, rich. A nice take on a riesling.
Riesling PUR 2015 is a wine with 100% skin-contact for 3 weeks: Golden colour; a bit waxy, appley, with ginger and some honey; full in the mouth, textured and with a good acidity. Lastly the Zweigelt Blauburger 2018, an “Austrian merlot”, as Matthias called this second variety (a cross between blauer portugieser and blaufränkisch, noted for colour, not tannin or acidity). The grapes were grown on clay (the zweigelt), loess and schist soil. The wine is blueish; smells of red berries, some green components (pepper), herbs; it’s clean, soft, luscious and also crispy.
Stay on this channel for more from the first restaurant.
Here is another varietal cinsault. This variety can be said to be in fashion today. The reason is probably that many vintners have seen its virtues as much more than a grape for blending. Today it’s used many places, in particular have we seen many interesting wines from South Africa. Here is one from southern France, where we used to meet it most often in the past.
(Credit: Mas Onésime)
Mas Onésime is located in La Liquière, one of the tiny villages in is hillside of the Faugères appellation. The domaine consists of 12 hectares within the village.
Vigneron Olivier Villanueva talks about the many colours of the schists in Faugères, “from ochre and grey to orange with deep blue veins”. This sub-oil is among the oldest, and consists of gravelly schists that date, in his own words “back to the beginning of time”.
Most of the vines at the Mas are fifty years old, in steep vineyards with breathtaking views.
The grapes are harvested by hand, sorted, de-stemmed and brought to the cellar immediately after being picked. The grapes are placed in vats, without pumping and using only a natural gravity. Olivier strives to make authentic wines, with techniques as natural as possible.
This wine is only cinsault, hand harvested, sorted and fully destemmed. The yield was 25 hl/ha. It had 14 days of maceration in stainless steel tank, and also ageing in a tank for 14 days.
Le Cinsault 2016 (Mas Onésime)
Ruby red. Aroma of red berries (raspberry, plums), thyme and a touch of white pepper, juicy, luscious, supple in the mouth, with only a slight tannin and a pleasant natural acidity.
Food: Light meat, try also lamb with provençal herbs, ratatouille, salads, grilled fish
Here is my last report from this year’s edition of the Real Wine Fair. You may also read the first two articles that cover the sparkling wines and some Spanish producers. I will just give you some of the many highlights.
Jo Landron was there with some of his magnificent Muscadet whites, biodynamic since 2008, with their citric edge and steely minerality. Le Clos la Carizière 2015, a light and fruity wine from a rented single vineyard, partly on gneiss soil, that gives a flinty hint, and the Amphibolite 2015, taut and mineral, from amphibolite metamorphic rock, that gives a slightly more smoky character. The Melonix 2015 is his most natural wine, with no additions and only 10 mg sulphur. It stayed 3-4 months on the lees; citrus, peel, it’s round and delicious, but the acidity carries it over.
In the corner was the lovely Marie Lapierre, whom I have never met before. The family is almost legendary, leading the way in the beginnings of the modern natural wine movement. Their vineyards cover 13 hectares in the Ville-Morgon area of Beaujolais. They used compost and ploughing to preserve the natural yeast of the grapes. The wines are unfiltered, and only given a small amount of sulphur before bottling. The Vin de France Raisins Gaulois 2016 was the only wine she had brought from the Domaine Lapierre this time, a light and delicious, raspberry/strawberry-scented wine from young vines. From their Château Cambon between Morgon and Brouilly on clay-granite and calcareous soils, she had brought three wines. The Château Cambon 2016 was more aromatic, both light and concentrated at the same time, smooth, long and so very elegant. The Cuvée du Chat 2016 was just as elegant and with a raspberry lusciousness. Brouilly 2016 was made for the first time this year. It showed a somewhat darker side, a little broader, more earthy wine, and with more structure.
Right beside her was Jean-Claude Lapalu, of Brouilly, Beaujolais. I have tasted some of his wines over the past few years, and I find them a bit more on the wild side. He favours some more extraction, and the wines stay at least 6 months on the lees. Among his selection the Brouilly “Croix des Rameaux” 2014, from 80 year old vines and aged in 3-5 year old barrels, is a pure wine with lovely raspberry fruit, but with an underlying earthiness, some leather and tar behind there too. The Vin de France “Eau Forte” 2013 is a bit more developed, but by no means fading. It shows some etheric, almost pinot’esque character, with some raisins, and a touch of figs, drying towards the end. The Brouilly “Alma Mater” Amphora 2012 was also interesting. It was not surprisingly vinified in amphoras, the grapes destemmed: Developed red, aromas of red fruits, cherries, and a bit raisiny too, concentrated and serious.
From Sicilia came Arianna Occhipinti, who has taken the wine world with storm with her stylish, fresh wines, such as the SP68 2016Rosso and Bianco, named after the main road in her part of Vittoria. She seems to have a magic touch with the frappato grape, but the nero d’avola and the white albanello and muscato also perform well. Low yields and natural farming are two key-factors. The white SP68 is as simple as it’s good, with its flowery aroma with hints of peel and nuts, and is just on the way to become an orange wine, even it the light colour suggests something else. Its red counterpart (frappato and nero d’avola) has a somewhat lighter body than the previous vintage, quite dark in colour, but with a very supple and fresh fruit, with elements of blueberry and herbs. Il Frappato 2015 was extraordinary, of course, with its pure, elegant dark cherry fruit with apricot and some spicy notes. I also liked Il Siccagno Nero d’Avola 2014, light in colour for a nero d’avola, but delicious, pure, red fruits, blueberry and flowers aroma.
Cantina Filippi owns the highest vineyards in Soave, up to 400 meters. Most of the vineyards were planted in the 1950’s, and the 16 hectares are divided into three “crus”, Castelcerino (the highest one), Monteseroni and Vigne della Brà. The Vigne della Brà 2014, from clay soil, was light and very delicate. I also liked the Montesoroni 2014, from limestone. It’s more open, with white flowers and herbs. In a way it feels mellow and smooth, but with a very “Italian” grapefruity, slightly bitter aftertaste.
Meinklang is a big estate, some 1.800 hectares, 70 of them vineyards. They are Demeter-certified biodynamic. They started over the border in Somlo, Hungary. This is a plateau formed by a volcano. Angela and Werner Michlits of Meinklang were represented by their importer The Winemakers Club, that showed a great variety of wines, such as the J 2013, (the J standing for the juhfark grape) from the aforementioned Somlo of Hungary, a cider, and many lovely wines from various Austrian grape varieties. If I then should give myself the task of mentioning only three wines among those that I never had tasted before, I would this time stick to the whites: The J was an exciting wine one and a half days skin-contact and that stayed for 12 months in big Hungarian barrels. It was quite light, fruity with some peel and some tropical notes, with a good acidity and a slightly bitter aftertaste. The Graupert Weiss 2015 from an unpruned grauburgunder (pinot gris) with ten days skin-maceration, and Konkret Weiss 2014 of red traminer, yellow traminer and geewürztraminer, of 28 days skin-contact in concrete eggs especially designed for Meinklang. After pressing it went back to the egg for a 9 months ageing. No sulphur at any stage. A dark wine that plays with oxidation, quite structured.
were both darker wines with more skin-contact, both flowery with aromas of peel, smooth textured lovely wines.. Konkret Weiss 2014.
Pedro Marques at Vale da Capucha, Torres Vedras, is among the young squad that is currently revitalizing the vast Lisboa region. I have knowed the man and his work for some years, and I love his full, expressive whites and some of his fresh reds too. In the monarchy of Arinto it’s he who is king, and occasionally his alvarinho and gouveio deliver on the same level. He looks for maturity and a rich texture, and he uses only a minimum of sulphur. All wines could be mentioned, here I will limit myself to the two entry-level wines he shows in the picture, called Fossil, that denote that the farm is located only 8 km from the sea, and in the ancient times under water.
Fossil Branco 2015 was full and glyceric, but energetic and complex, salty, with citric notes, pineapple, and some smokiness, and good acidity from the arinto (fernão pires and gouveio also in the blend, all three in equal parts). The 2014 was also brought to the table. Clearly in the same family, but not as bright. Fossil Tinto 2015 (touriga nacional 60%, tinta roriz and some syrah) was dark, smoky with flowers and green herbs, fresh, and with a nice tannic grip.
Craig Hawkins is a leading figure in South Africa’s dynamic Swartland region. I have tasted his range several times and cannot recommend it enough. The wines tend to be very natural and with little extraction. I really like the entry-level wines called Baby Bandito. His Testalonga El Bandito “Cortez” from 35 year old chenin blanc vines on granite is always brilliant, now 2015. Lively, iodine, mineral and with that steely edge from the grape. “Mangaliza” 2015, from the Hungarian grape of that name, was a new find. “Monkey gone to Heaven” (on bicycle, according to the label), now 2016, is as always concentrated. But there is a lot more to it, a floral and grapey mourvèdre with red fruits and fresh aromatic herbs.
Most of the range, Testalonga Bandito and Baby Bandito
De Martino has been around since the founder came over from Italy to Maipo in the 1930’s. Today they are among the leading organic producers in several regions. Some of their most interesting wines are results of dry farming in the southern Itata region. The Muscat and the Cinsault aged in clay are the two that come to my mind. Here they came in various versions; a muscat/corinto was interesting. So were some of the cheaper ones such as fruity, wonderfully balanced cabernet sauvignon under the Legado label (2016).
Wine bar Ducksoup of Soho had a stand with marvellous small dishes
Nobody talked about the rolling, undulating landscape of Itata, the place where the original Chilean vineyard is believed to have been located (near port city Concepción, south of Maule and north of Bio Bio, both more well-known areas). But the earthquake of 2010 can stand as a metaphor for the country’s new path in wine, because when tidying up one have to look upon what has been at the same time as scheduling a future. And while much of the work had started before, many projects began to come to the surface around that time.
In addition to the rediscovering of the Itata region the use of clay vessels is also experiencing a revival. The De Martino family has been influencial in moving away from standardising practises in winemaking, like harvesting too ripe, using herbicides, over-extraction, new oak barrels, enzymes, cultured yeasts and micro-oxygenation – and yes, bringing the clay vessels back to the spotlight.
The tinajas arrived in Chile with the Spanish conquerors. However, as the historians note, the craftmanship involved also had lines back to the ceramic traditions of the continent’s native inhabitants. There is a theory that alcohol was stored in tinajas in Chile 3.500 years back in time. (Read more here. As for clay vessels, there are a lot on this blog, most notably in this piece about tinajero Padilla in Castilla-La Mancha.)
Tinajas in De Martino’s cellar
The first version in De Martino’s Viejas Tinajas series was the Cinsault, a very early classic in Chilean vinegrowing. It’s what one would call “dry-farmed”, a practise that is possible in certain areas with a heavy rainfall in winter and a soil with the ability to keep the water during the rest of the year.
The second tinaja wine was a dark orange, almost brownish wine made from muscat. Here excellently paired with a Lancashire Bomb, an English cow’s milk cheese
Cinsault is a grape with fairly light skin and naturally low tannin and acidity. Most well-known are the lightly perfumed reds and the rosés. But with old vines and low yields it’s possible to get more flavour, often with a touch of flowery and strawberry aromas on top. As it’s able to withstand drought very well it has become popular, not only in its stronghold in Southern France, but also many places outside Europe, like North Africa, the Middle East, and in South Africa it’s famous for being one parent of pinotage, something of a “national grape” there.
This particular wine is made 280 meters above sea level, 22 kilometers from the Pacific, from ungrafted vines, hand-harvested, spontaneously fermented, and the must is aged for 8 months in 200 year old tinajas (big clay vessels without handles).
Viejas Tinajas Cinsault 2014(De Martino)
Cherry red. Smells of quite mature red berries (raspberry, strawberry), somewhat earthy with some white pepper. It’s well-structured with a tannic edge, and also shows a cool, fruity, somewhat graphity taste, and a good length.
Food: Beef and other tasty meats, possibly with creamy sauces