Yesterday was that day again. The third Thursday of November I always await with excitement. I feel that nowadays the craze is gone, the hype is silenced, it’s not that many people who talk about it as before. But the wines are better than ever. Well, the best wines might not be equally “sensational” as in the past few years (that means, the ones I have tasted, a few favourite producers and some wines I think I ought to try), but the overall quality is superb. Even if the wines are lovely now, there are a few that will drink well throughout the whole of next year.
A novelty for me is the no sulfur added nouveau from Laurent Perrachon. I read that the producer is based outside Juliénas and harvests six appellations, among them Chénas, Fleurie and Saint Amour. Martine and Laurent are fifth generation, and the sixth is also involved in the family business. They claim to be the independant winemaker in Beaujolais with the most comprehensive list of crus.
This nouveau originates from 3 hectares with gamay with an average age of 45 years, pruned in Gobelet (bush vines) in crystalline soils. The grapes were picked manually, before a semi-carbonic maceration for 4 days. Always in stainless steel vats. Total production is 8.000 bottles.
Beaujolais Nouveau Sans Sufre 2023(Laurent Perrachon)
Dark red colour. The aromatics consist mainly of dark and wild fruits like blackberry, but also has some cherry and a component of strawberries, sweet flowers, and a balsamic note behind. It’s moderate on acidity, but compensates with a dense and generous fruit quality. It’s lightly structured with fine tannins, quite full on the palate, and good length with a fruity finish. A possible crowdpleaser.
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.
Even though I recently have come across a few good nouveau wines, this is probably the Beaujolais revelation of the year for me.
Romain des Grottes has since 2001 run his domaine organically, and it has been biodynamic certified since 2006. The soil is granitic. In the vineyard he does not use any synthetic substances, and very little copper. He prefers herbal teas and fermented extracts. Trees and hedges are planted to contribute to biodiversity. The domaine has been welcoming volunteers for more than 10 years to transmit their values and allow them, in Romain’s words, “to bring down into reality our dreams of a world of sharing, exchange and respect”.
Here is a super low-extraction red beaujolais made without sulfur and without filtration. It’s obviously made from solely gamay. The natural carbonic maceration lasted for 5 days.
Brut de Cuve 2018 (Domaine des Grottes)
Light amber, almost currant coloured. Lovely scent of raspberry, currant, white flowers and a touch of apricot. Super, cool fruit in the mouth, lovely acidity.
This is a followup to the Beaujolais article last Friday. Today I came across two wines made by Pierre Dupond. One of the twins showed freshness and elegance, while the other was more bold and ripe. We will come back to that, but first a look at the background.
The Dupond family has its roots in Burgundy and the Rhône Valley. It began with Antoine Dupond, who was originally from Beaujolais, but began commercializing his wines in Lyon and St. Etienne in the 1860s. His son Joanny expanded the family’s estates to the Rhône area. Hervé Dupond, fifth generation, is today leading the business. Hervé has expanded production, building partnerships with nearby winegrowers and neighboring families that the they have known for generations. Each year Hervé selects the best possible plots to make his wines. A traditional method of winemaking is practiced to ensure wines produced are reflective of the land. Ageing takes place in concrete vats that allow for ideal temperatures.
The gamay grapes were handpicked and underwent carbonic maceration with indigenous yeasts. These are natural wines, both with low sulphur (one with nothing added). One is with minimal filtration, one without. To sum up: Sans Soufre Ajouté is the most fresh/acidic of the twins, while Non Filtré is the most ripe and fullbodied wine. Both are highly recommended.
Beaujolais-Village Sans Soufre Ajouté 2022(Pierre Dupond)
Dark red, blue hint. Cherry, raspberry. Medium body, fine-grained tannins, fresh acidity.
Beaujolais Nouveau Non Filtré 2022(Pierre Dupond)
Dark red, blue hint, a touch more dense than the other wine. Blackberry, eucalyptus, chocolate/coffee earthy tones. Medium-bodied with ripe fruit, a bit structured (more than the other wine), rounded acidity.
This year I haven’t tasted as many of the new Beaujolais as usual. It’s the first time I have tried Thivin‘s Nouveau, though I already knew several of their other wines.
Thivin is one of the top domaines in the Côte de Brouilly, Château Thivin is built on an ancient volcano back in the 15th century, thus one of the oldest. Claude and Evelyne, third generation of the Geoffray family, are now managing the estate with their son Claude-Edouard. They encourage biodiversity planting herbs and flowers between the rows of the more than 50 years old vines, plowing regularly and using natural composts to keep their vines healthy.
The vines for this cuvée are trained in goblet. The grapes are handpicked. Semi-carbonic maceration is used for extraction of the fruit, and the vats are handled by gravity to ensure gentle production.
Gamay Noir Vignes d’Ecussol 2022(Thivin)
Red with blueish hint. Very much raspberry, plus some currant, fresh and young, with some structure and a nice acidity.
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
Beaujolais is back. The local people brings it back on the squares of central Beaujolais after two pandemic years. And as usual, from the third Thursday of November it’s arrivé here for us to enjoy.
One of the best I have tasted this year is a Beaujolais-Villages from Château du Chatelard. The château was first owned by the Tournus abbey of south Burgundy in the 12th century. Today the labels carry emblems of the families that have developed it further.
The actual 28 hectares were mainly established before 1955. They believe in integrated farming and grass cover of the parcels to preserve the soils and the biodiversity.
Aurélie de Vermont is now manager, and as winemaker she sticks to local traditions. She selects micro-cuvées from the many terroirs of both their Beaujolais and Mâconnais vineyards.
Typical for the area, low temperature semi-carbonic maceration is used for the nouveau. This means that whole and partial bunches of grapes are vatted and the alcoholic fermentation starts inside each grape. The low temperature allows a longer winemaking process (more than 10 days).
Baronne du Chatelard Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau 2021 (Château du Chatelard)
Deep purple, young. Aroma of sweet cherries, raspberries. Nice acidity, clean fruit, elegant and careful tannin
The domaine No Control is based in Volvic, a small town in the Puy-de-Dôme département of Auvergne. Winemaker Vincent Marie is committed to natural wine, and with great passion he tries to get the best out of each of their single plots.
Gamay is perfect to express these volcanic soils, in Vincent’s opinion. And completely without artificial help to change flavour the wines show a great diversity. (Other than the gamay cuvées some pinot noir, syrah and chardonnay is also used.
The cuvées are named after music pieces. As for this one it is taken from rock band Bad Religion’s Delirium of disorder. No Control is by the way another song from the same band, and the same period (late 80’s). The wine is made with partly carbonic maceration, some matured in fiberglass, some in big, old oak vats. No additions.
We tasted it during the opening weekend of the new Stavanger wine bar. Lapin is run by the people behind restaurant Söl (see several places around this blog, f.ex. here or here, from their takeover in London). It’s located in am old eastern working class district that now bustles with energy. The bar has wooden benches and some chairs. At this point it looked somewhat temporary. But it has a knowledgeable staff and all the potential to become a great place for sipping natural wine.
Délire du Désordre 2019(No Control)
Dark cherry red. Aroma of red berries (cherry), a bit earthy. In the mouth, high intensity in fruit flavours, juicy, a bit tannin and natural acidity. It’s a simple and fun wine.
Food: We had it with charcuterie, with which it was perfect, but should go with many types of light meat, young and hard cheese…
Yesterday was the traditional Beaujolais Thursday. One of the most interesting wines this time was this rosé, if not for the very reason that it is just that – rosé – a style that what was recognized in 1937, but only the last few years has become popular.
The Romy family has been in wine for more than 300 years. village of Morancé, in Pierres -Dorées, southern Beaujolais. Nowadays Nicolas Romy of the family is their dynamic winemaker.
Le Mouflet 2020 (Dom. Romy)
Light salmon pink colour. Aroma of raspberries, roses and a touch of peach. Delicate, fruity, with good acidity.
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.
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.