Mademoiselle M is a sauvignon blanc from Kimmeridgian limestone soils (marl with oyster sediments), located in the appellation of Pouilly-Fumé. It’s made without added sulphites, aged in used oak vats for 18 months.
Alexandre Bain owns 11 ha in Tracy-sur-Loire. Like his friend and collegue Sebastien Riffault across the river in Sancerre, Alexandre harvests later than most in his region, which gives the wines a darker colour. To retain the maximum acidity in his grapes, Alexandre trains his vines low. Harvest is done by hand, and yields are small.
Mademoiselle M 2015(Alexandre Bain)
Dark golden, slightly turbid. Aroma of mature apples, flowers, a touch of honey and a flinty minerality. Quite full on the palate, glyceric, concentrated flavours. Rich for a sauvignon blanc. Probably at its peak right now.
Last Thursday I had the pleasure to revisit Bellies, a 100% vegan restaurant in the eastern neighborhood of Stavanger, Norway. Here you are not served “vegan burgers” and such. The focus is on the tastes of the ingredients, and there is a high level of creativity in the presentation. Add to this a select wine list that mostly highlights natural wines and you have got the picture.
I had the “Full Bellies”, a ten servings presentation (dishes of various sizes), accompanied by a package of five wines, plus an elegant champagne, the Les Vignes de Montgueuxblanc de blancs extra brut (J. Lassaigne). Among the wines were a stylish, slightly buttered, tropical fruit-scented Saint-Véran, Les Pommards 2020 by Jessica Litaud, a fresh Loire white, Saumur 2021(B. Stater-West) and an interesting relatively full-bodied oak-treated beaujolais, Morgon Dynamite 2020(A. & Y. Bertrand). All these were wines that I will keep an eye on, and good enough to be featured.
This time I concentrate on a brilliant fruity, earthy, full-of-life red from the Loire valley. Nadège Lelandais can be found in Rochefort sur Loire, a few miles southwest of the city of Angers. There she cultivates 4.5 hectares of cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, and chenin blanc. She has been practicing organic and biodynamic viticulture since the start in 2005.
Our wine Vigneronne is made of cabernet franc, handpicked and fermented in fiberglass vats and aged several months in older barrels.
Vigneronne 2021(Nadège Lelandais/ Les Vignes Herbel)
Dark purple. Fragrant with raw red fruits (cherry, red currant), blackberry, and with an earthy note. Juicy and fleshy in the mouth with fine tannic structure, herbaceous with fresh acidity. Simply delicious.
Domaine du Bel Air is a producer of fine, age-worthy wines from cabernet franc. Jour de Soif (Day of Thirst) is their entry-level wine, made from younger vines of 20 years.
The Gauthier family is found in Benais, in the Bourgueil appellation since 1600. Today Pierre Gauthier and his son Rodolphe run the estate. It covers more some 18 hectares. Pierre Gauthier begins his winemaking work with a real philosophy. In 2000, the farm converted into organic viticulture.
The wine is a 100% cabernet franc. Manual harvest. The grapes are destemmed and then sorted on the table before being put into vats. Maceration was gentle and lasted 8 days with pumping over and a temperature not exceeding 25% to preserve as much fruit as possible. Ageing was 6 months on fine lees.
Jour de Soif2020 (Dom. du Bel Air)
Purple colour. Aroma of dark and red fruits (blueberry, cranberry), flowers. Mouthfilling with smooth tannin, medium acidity and long fruity aftertaste. Quaffable.
Food: Thirstquenching, but can also be drunk with light meat, Caesar and other salads and charcuterie
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
This part of the Loire is infamous for its use of added yeast to “secure typicity” of grape and place. Alexandre was Bain (along with friend and neighbour across the river in Sancerre) is different, as he lets the grape, here sauvignon blanc, do the job.
He runs an estate of 11 hectares, where he uses natural methods to work the land. As we mentioned, without added yeast, also without chaptalization, or filtration – and with the help of the lunar calendar. This cuvée comes from the type of limestone called Kimméridgien.
Mademoiselle M 2015(A. Bain)
Golden colour, clear. Concentrated, rich, mature yellow fruits, hint of pineapple, beeswax and honey. Full in the mouth, good integrated acidity, very long.
Melon de Bourgogne can be difficult to get to grips with. Not long ago there was a Muscadet tasting in my private wine club, and after having tasted through some 15 lightly coloured white wines one of the members observed that nobody had yet said a word about citrus.
The other day my student had trouble in describing this wine. And so had I, to be honest. I often start placing the aroma along the “apple scale”. Nothing obvious here. Citrus: Nope. Herbs and spices were difficult to detect, no butter, and wood: not at all. In the mouth it was quite full, but there was no particular acidity to talk about. I was thinking, maybe is this the perfect wine, when words… don’t come easy, but what you have in the glass is just delicious and, yes just wine, and just right.
In the Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine appellation mother and daughter Véronique & Aurore have 75 hectares of vineyards. The Château du Coing vineyard is a south-facing one. Then, it’s a lees-aged wine typical for the area.
Château du St. Coing de Saint Fiacre l’Ancestral 2015(Günther-Chéreau)
Straw yellow. Mature apples, some bread, white peach and maybe ginger. Full on the palate, a creamy lees character, medium length.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.