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Tag: Loire

Wine of the Week

A pét-nat classic of Robinot’s

Jean-Pierre Robinot is for many one of the most classic in the pét-nat style, and his wines are for every producer, call it old or new world, or whatever, to look up to and seek inspiration from.

Robinot used to run one of the very first natural wine bars in Paris called L’Ange Vin, implying that he is from Anjou in the Loire. After deciding that he wanted to make wine himself, and searching all over for vineyards he finally ended up in Chahaignes, Coteaux du Loir, the village he was raised, just north of Saumur.

There he makes many different wines from chenin blanc and pineau d’aunis, some from own vineyards, others from bought-in grapes. Everything is without additions. He makes a number of sparkling wines from the methode ancestral, nowadays mostly called pét-nats.

Fêtembulles is made from chenin blanc, mainly from 60 year old vines in chalky clay and old marine soil. They are located within AOC Jasnières, but the authorities consider the wines to be atypical, so Jean-Pierre label his wines just Vin de France.

The yield is low (20 hl/ha.). It stayed almost a year on the lees, was degorged by hand, and only topped up with more of the same wine. Unfined, unfiltered and without any additions.

Fêtembulles L’Opéra des Vins 2018 (Jean-Pierre Robinot)

Golden, light amber, small bubbles. Mature fruits (yellow tomatoes), mature apples, breadcrumbs and flowers. Quite full mouthfeel and lightly textured, very clean, lovely acidity, mature apples, long.

Price: Medium

Food: Apéritif, fish, shellfish, salads

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Wine of the Week

White Saumur at Vinkontoret, Stavanger

I went with some musical friends to Vinkontoret, Stavanger. (See also my previous post about the bar.) This is a tradition we have established to shorten the waiting before attending a premiere party for a show (at another place, with a much poorer wine selection).

During the hour or so between the show and the party we had three glasses of wine this time. Vinkontoret (the Wine Office) is a real cathedral of wine, with hundreds of bottles to chose from, and Christoffer Ingebretsen knows more or less what we are after. So we let him chose something, and tasted them blind. The other wines were Heimbourg 2016, a pinot noir from Zind-Humbrecht, Alsace and the Mas la Plana 2015, a cabernet sauvignon from Torres, Penedès. Before this we had this Saumur chenin blanc.

Brendan Stater-West is a young American from Oregon. To make the story short, he was an English teacher in Paris, but had a passion for wine, got married to a French girl, and moved to Saumur in the Loire valley. There he asked the celebrated Romain Guiberteau, whose wines he admired, for a job. Brendan currently leases a one hectare vineyard from Romain, next to his famous Clos du Guichaux in Bizay. It is this vineyard, classified as a lieu-dit, that is Les Chapaudaises. The vineyard’s soil is tuffeau limestone with calcium-rich clay and sand, with many seashell fossils. He has recently met a family who owns an old cellar in Chacé in Saumur. He has begun to renovate this old and magnificent cellar.

This is Brendan’s first vintage, and as such it is very promising. It’s made from indigenous yeast, gently racked from ageing on the lees, and aged for 18 months in old barrel.

A white Saumur at Vinkontoret

Saumur Blanc Les Chapeaudaises 2015 (B. Stater-West)

Light yellow. Vibrant citrus-fruit (mandarin peel), yellow fruits, some white pepper, and also a touch of sweetness on the nose. Slender on the palate, with good acidity and a salty minerality.

Price: Medium

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Wine of the Week

Dangerously drinkable from lower Loire

Groslot (or officially grolleau noir) is not in high esteem. But cared for like this it can give dangerously drinkable wines. This one is a real “glou-glou” and has been a house-wine in my house lately.

Domaine Les Grandes Vignes has been in the lower Loire since the 17th Century. Today they have a low-intervention philosophy, and biodynamic certification. The wine is fermented in old barrel, no sulphur added, unfined and unfiltered. It’s low in alcohol (11%), and only around 4 g/L acidity.

100% Groslot 2018 (Dom. Les Grandes Vignes)

Dark, blueish hint. Blueberry and dark cherry on the nose, some herbs and a hint of woodlands. Really delicious in the mouth; fine young tannins, and refreshing acidity, clean aftertaste where the berries dominate.

Price: Low

Food: Salads, light meat, pasta, bacalao

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Articles and Wine bars and restaurants

The Real Wine fair 2019 – III The events, incl. a popup from Stavanger, Norway

During the Real Wine fair some food providers were present at the Tobacco Dock to serve the tasters during their breaks. Among them were the DuckSoup wine bar of Soho,  Burro e Salvia, pasta place in Shoreditch, Flying Frenchman with their sausages and outdoor raised pork and chicken. The hotel wine bar La Cour de Rémi also came over from Calais to serve delicious flavours from Normandie.

Around town there were several “take-overs”, such as Morgan McGlone of Belles Hot Chicken in Australia cooking Nashville style at Brawn. The Bastarda company took over Leroy in Shoreditch, with wine assistance of Ben Walgate of Tillingham, East Sussex. To mention only a couple.

Claes, Magnus and Nayana of Söl, Norway

To my surprise, the trio behind Restaurant Söl of Stavanger, right in my own Norwegian backyard, were cooking at Terroirs, the most emblematic natural wine bar of all. Obviously I had to visit them and see what they were up to.

Restaurant SÖL opened in Stavanger on the southwest coast of Norway in 2018. The driving forces behind the restaurant are Nayana Engh, Claes Helbak and Magnus Haugland Paaske, all of them with experience from Norwegian and foreign restaurants.

Their main focus is fresh, local, sustainably grown vegetables combined with natural wines and drinks produced by small artisans – to be enjoyed in a relaxed atmosphere. SÖL can be said to be a part of the “new” Nordic wave, which means food inspired by traditional dishes, but with a modern twist and a wink to the world.

Claes

That night the wines were paired in collaboration with Terroirs’ master sommelier Kevin Barbry. And Kevin was the one who served me the first wine while waiting in the bar. This was Mayga Watt 2018, a pétillant gamay from Gaillac in the Sud-Ouest region of France: A pink, crisp and juicy pétillant wine, with smell of strawberry and white pepper.

The first thing that was brought to the table was sourdough bread, and delicious organic butter from Røros, a lovely small town in mid-Norway. Grilled squash, fermented tomato, milk curd and ramson capers came next, elegantly paired with Attention Chenin Méchant 2017 (Nicolas Réau). This is a wine from Anjou the Loire valley. Originally Réau planned for a pianist career. Key words here are 15 year old plants, indigenous yeasts, direct press, no fining, light filtering, low sulphur, and ageing on lees in used oak. The result is a yellow, peach and mature apple smelling wine with good volume, luscious mouthfeel and a rounded acidity.

Next was panfried cod, dulse (the sea growth from which the restaurant takes its name), spring greens and brown butter sabayon. White flowers were garnish on top of this plate. Partners in life and crime Nayana and Claes had picked them by a local lake (Stokkavatnet, for those familiar with it) the night before they set off to England. Dinavolino 2017 (Denavolo), an elegant orange multivarietal wine from Emilia-Romagna, Italy, matched the tasty yet delicate dish without problems. The wine: Light amber; peel sensations, white peach and flowers; slightly tannic, wonderfully fresh.

Nayana

Next was Jersey Royals potatoes, broad beans, sugar snaps, beef jus and lovage, with herbs from the Rogaland region, the trio’s homeplace. It was accompanied by Le Vin Est Une Fête 2018 (Elian da Ros), again from the Sud-Ouest of France. The main grape here is abouriou, typical of Marmande. The wine was cherry red, medium deep, smelled primarily of red fruits, and had very light, fine-grained tannins. The dish is complicated, with peas and other tender greens in a powerful sauce. The combination with a very lightly macerated red. It would have been interesting to see whether an orange wine, like the previous one, could have build a bridge between the strong and the tender.

Rhubarb compote (from the organic farm at Ullandhaug, Rogaland), toasted ice cream, rhubarb sorbet and crispy rhubarb. Lovely and fresh! There were two options for drinks, and I chose Éric Bordelet‘s pear cider Pays de la Loire (France). The cider was composed from many varieties of pear, grown on schist. With 12 grams residual sugar it gave a somewhat off-dry mouthfeel, a complex, cidery (what a surprise!), sweetish aroma, a touch of tannin. The marriage wasn’t made in heaven, though the bubbles helped. I was wondering what could have been done differently. I must admit I thought the wind should have been sweeter. With ice cream a PX sherry automatically comes to mind, but it would have been much too powerful here. After having returned to Norway I visited their place and had the same dish. Then Claes served it with an apple cider, this time bone dry, with a penetrating acidity and fresh bubbles. Maybe not perfect, but maybe the closest possible.

To conclude: Fønix Blue, a cheese from Stavanger Ysteri (Norway) and rye bread. With this we could chose to include La Cosa (The Thing) 2017 (Alfredo Maestro), from the Ribera del Duero area of Spain. What a wine! Dark amber, or mahogany; complex aroma with rhubarb and plum, and very sweet. I had to come back to this wine the day after, at Alfredo’s table at the fair, maybe to see if this was really true (!).

Remember this is a wine blog, not primarily about food. But once in a while it’s necessary to say a few words about wine-food combinations, and I have given some opinions here. What could be said, as a conclusion, and apart from the fact that it was a big surprise to see these people her is the following. The trio behind Söl are cooking with great passion and creativity, and from good, healthy ingredients. They are also proud to come out among their “audience” and present it, what the ingredients are and how the dishes are made. The drinks are picked carefully among the most natural and sustainable there is.

We cannot expect more than that.

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Wine of the Week

Dancing on the tongue

This Loire pét nat was served at restaurant Söl, Stavanger, Norway. It was a starter, outside the set menu, and a fresh and inviting start of their five course meal.

British Toby Bainbridge and his wife Julie are found near Angers, in the western Loire.

In a modest winery they make three different wines. This cuvée is a pink lightly-bubbled méthode ancestrale (lightly sparkling) wine made with the local grolleau noir grape. The second fermentation is in bottle and sulphur additions are very low.

La Danseuse means “The Dancer” in French. One of his importers tells that it can also refer to “the barrel of wine that a vigneron would put aside for his mistress”. In the past, we should add.

Part of the story is that Denmark was the first export country. Toby went with a friend. Noma, one of the world’s top restaurants, was the first stop. And the wine has been found there ever since.

La Danceuse at Söl

Cuvée La Danceuse 2017 (Bainbridge)

Salmon pink. Discrete smell of raspberries and red currants. Delicate red berries in the mouth, fresh acidity and a refreshing carbonic feel, and a long and dry finish.

Price: Medium

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Articles and Wine bars and restaurants

Just what the doctor ordered at Apotekergaarden

I was recently visiting Grimstad, a beautiful small town on the Norwegian southern coastline, where the houses are white, small private boats are moored and the seagulls are part of the scenery. I have a special relationship with the town, because I was born there, and my family has since spent many summers there.

Fresh crabs on offer in the town’s inner harbour

The town could have boasted of its seafaring culture. My late father left from there to work on a ship at the age of 14. And that night I borrowed the house of a friend, the daughter of my father’s captain at that time. But Grimstad is not of that sort, boasting is not part of its personality. It’s just lying there, a southern Norwegian idyll bathed in the summer sun.

These days the small town is home to the restaurant with the most amazing natural wine list on the whole long coastal strip. Founded in 2001 the restaurant has since enjoyed a reputation among the citizens, for its food, its atmosphere, but also as a concert arranger. However the upgrade to the natural wine haven that we know today started after a bankruptcy in 2010. Kjetil Jørgensen, one of the original founders, has a good relation to natural wine importer Non Dos, through his friend Jørgen Ljøstad, also from Grimstad. Sometimes a strong tie to one importer can feel somewhat awkward, or difficult. But here it’s more logic, and has probably helped along the way to success. Having said that, the restaurant also works with other importers. These days they also have their own micro-brewery, led by Mathias S. Skjong.

The food is based on local ingredients. The burgers are made from Hereford cattle grassing only a stone’s throw away, and there is of course delicious fish and shellfish right out of the sea. Pizza or vegetarian options too.

Apotekergaarden translates as the Pharmacist’s Shop, and refers to playwright and poet Henrik Ibsen, who was a pharmacist apprentice in Grimstad before he became famous, and this particular place also formerly housed one of the town’s pharmacies.

Ida Konradsen pulling up a Contadino, her own soft drinks at the table

Ida Konradsen is sommelier and restaurant manager, and strongly contributed to a great evening. She told us with great enthusiasm about her experiences from working at Sebastien Riffault‘s estate in the Loire. She is also involved in a new project creating soft drinks, generally popular in Norway (as everywhere I suppose) with children and non-wine addicts. All have the taste of the basic ingredients intact and come with a lot less sugar than usual for this type of drink. In between our first and second wine she offered us a tasting of three products that are sold locally, a lemon and ginger drink (based on Sicilian lemons), one from orange (and a touch of lemon) – and lastly an interesting take on a soft drink for the Christmas season (“julebrus” in Norwegian), based on biodynamically farmed grape juice of the variety zweigelt from Austrian wine producer Meinklang, well-known for readers of this blog – with some star anise, juniper and cinnamon, and without addition of sugar.

Meinklang is also responsible for some of their house labels, Skolegada 3 (the restaurant’s adress), otherwise known by other names in the market.

But while there are not more than 12-15 wines in their by-the-glass selection, Ida gladly opened three more to us, as she was going to host a special party the next day and could use the rest there. And these were fabulous wines from three natural wine legends.

Robinot’s Fêtembulles, with sourdough bread, olive and truffle oil, and olives

Fêtembulles 2017 (J.-P. Robinot), Loire, France
100% chenin blanc, biodynamically farmed, bottled without added sulphites and unfiltered.
Light yellow, small integrated bubbles. Smells of mature apples, citrus (orange), a bit waxy. Tastes of apples, is creamy with a crisp acidity, and a stony minerality in the finish.

Contadino 2016 (F. Cornelissen), Etna, Sicilia
This is a field blend dominated by some 90% nerello mascalese, biodynamically farmed. No sulphites added, unfiltered.
It’s light cherry red. Aroma of red berries (cranberry), hint of herbs (basil), some spice. The mouth is dominated by red fruit, but with and underlying carbon or smoke taste (from the Etna volcano maybe), and with a solid tannic grip.

Teroldego 2015 (E. Foradori), Vigneti delle Dolomiti, Italy
Another well-known producer for readers of this blog. This wine is from the teroldego grape grown in Trentino, near the Dolomites. It was fermented in cement and aged in cement and old oak.
Dark cherry red. Packed with red berries (cherry), plums, dark fruits (blackberry), with some balsamic notes (menthol). Cool, clean fruit in the mouth, very lively and fruity.

Typical paintings collected in one of the rooms

And on the veranda while the sun goes down we finish the evening with a craft beer from the acclaimed local brewery Nøgne Ø, that takes its name from Ibsen’s poem “Terje Vigen”. And to drink one of their beers in this moment seems more right than ever before.

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Wine of the Week

Sébastien Riffault’s Sancerres

Sébastien Riffault has been mentioned in this blog many times, so it’s about time we highlight one of his wines. These are full of personality. Riffault’s sauvignons are maybe not you would think of when hearing the word Sancerre. But this is maybe Sancerre like in the old days, before all the corrections became the norm.

Sébastien cultivates twelve hectares of vineyard in Sury-en-Vaux. He also plants trees to contribute to the diversity. He can harvest several times, but in general grapes can hang on the vines for a long time -Mid-October is normal- so they achieve full ripening. As a result of the late harvest, some of the grapes are affected by botrytis. Unlike most other Sancerres, Sébastien’s wines also undergo malolactic fermentation.

To honor his Lithuanian wife Jurate, Sébastien have given the wines Lithuanian names that are expressions for the soil. Auksinis thus means “of gold” and is 2 hectares planted around 1975 on Portland limestone. 

Everything is cultivates according to biodynamic principles, and the whole vineyard is certified organic. Sébastien uses horse and plow in many of the vineyards, because it gives better soil quality. In the cellar, nothing is added, neither are they fined nor filtered (except for a tiny amount of sulphur and lightly filtering of one wine).

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Wine of the Week

Robinot’s Nocturne

This week’s selected wine is from nobody else than natural wine guru Jean-Pierre Robinot.

As the story goes, Robinot fell in love with wine at a young age, moved to Paris, met some of the pioneers of natural wine and opened L’Ange Vin, one of the first bars dedicated to that kind of drinks.

Soon he decided to make natural wines himself, and moved back to Chahaignes, where he grew up, in the north of Loire.

The rest is history, as they say. He offers one wine better than the other; easy-to-drink and serious at the same time, they keep for weeks after opening, they express their origins magnificently, and they are highly original.

Jean-Pierre owns around 8 hectares of vines in the two appellations Jasnières and the Coteaux du Loir, soils red clay, limestone and silex. And the fermentations, they can last for months, years, in the ancient underground caves.

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Wine bars and restaurants and Wine of the Week

Authentic Sauvignon at Brutus

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The Brutus Bar is located just beside the police headquarters in the Tøyen-Grønland district in Oslo, so it’s no use trying to make big trouble. Anyway, there are only nice, well-behaved people here even if the area historically has been high-immigrant, low-income with more than its fair share of problems. To be fair, right now this is a promising neighbourhood in many respects.

Brutus offers natural wine and a variety of bites to accompany them. From my experience, in a bar with such a careful selection of wines and the expertise to present them the food is often delicious too. Which proved to be true – again. Brutus are fabled for their vegetable based kitchen, and lately the traditional Nordic kitchen, rustic, with fermented vegetables as one of the main ideas, is focused. However, in our set 4 course menu the third one was lamb, and with lovely scents from the aromatic herbs.

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We had the sauvignon with “Carrot and Haddock”

John Sonnichsen and Jens Føien lead import company VinJohn, one of the main players behind the bar. Together they have experience from such places as The Fat Duck, Maaemo and Noma. VinJohn is obviously one of the suppliers, but by no means not the only one.

This week’s wine though, is brought to the country by the people behind the bar. It’s not widely available, another reason to come here.

Alexandre Bain is a small vigneron from Tracy-sur-Loire, in the Poully-Fumé. He started his own project in 2007 and employs biodynamic techniques.

There are two types of limestone in the vineyards, vines from the so-called Portlandian (as opposed to the older Kimmeridgian), with sand and clay, are used for this wine, as he thinks this soil is more suitable for wines meant to be drunk young. These vines were planted in 1977.

No additives are used, except for sometimes a tiny amount of SO2 before bottling (10 mg in this particular wine), and only native yeasts. The harvest is late because Bain believes that sauvignon blanc is at its most expressive with complete ripeness. When picked too early, there will never be enough aromatic character, he believes, and many producers must then compensate by using commercial yeast. These are thoughts that he shares with his friend Sébastien Riffault in neighbouring Sancerre.

The grapes were pressed in whole clusters, and the must raised in big old vats.

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Pierre Précieuse 2015 (Alexandre Bain)

Dark yellow, somewhat cloudy. Fruity style, aromas of lemon, elderberry and a touch of acacia honey. Quite full, a mid-palate dominated by grapefruit, and a lingering finish with a touch of bitterness.

Price: Medium

Food: Salads, goat cheese, light meat, grilled fish, and try with sushi and sashimi

 

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Wine of the Week

Anjou orange

The Vaillant family started vinegrowing in La Roche Aubry (Anjou, Loire Valley) in the 17th century. Today they dispose over 55 hectars, and the farming is organic and biodynamic, only chenin blanc for white wines.

The soils vary greatly, schists, quartz, sands… They use composts from animal manure, and only a few treatments like copper, sulphur and some made of infusions of plants.

This wine was, as indicated, made from 100% chenin blanc, spontaneously fermented in big barrels, and it was bottled unfiltered.

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La Varenne du Poirier 2014 (Dom. Les Grandes Vignes – Vaillant)

Cloudy orange with a greenish hue. Mature apples (cidery), white flowers, yellow tomatoes, nuts and a touch of honey. Good concentration and high acidity wrapped in super fruit, and just a slight touch of tannin. Quaffable indeed.

Price: Medium

Food: Grilled fish, salads, chicken and other light meat, white goat cheeses

 

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