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Tag: Manchuela

Wine of the Week

Brilliant bobal

This brilliant varietal bobal from Manchuela is one of the finest that exists. The producer Bodegas Ponce is described in several posts, such as this one.

The grapes for Ponce‘s Pino come from a one hectare farm with 35 years old vines, planted at an altitude of 900 metres above sea level, cultivated organically. After a careful maceration and treading of the grapes, fermentation spontaneously in oak vats. Then it spends 11 months in used French oak barrels of 600 litres.

Pino 2021 (Bodegas y Viñedos Ponce)

Dark cherry red. Cool fruits, red and dark, herbs, a mineral component. Medium-bodied with concentrated flavours,, good acidity, expressive and energetic.

Price: Medium

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Wine of the Week

Ponce by Ponce

Just back from Bobal country I look back on the best wines during the week. In Manchuela I was welcomed by Juan Antonio Ponce in Villanueva de la Jara (province of Cuenca) a real master of the art.

Bodegas Ponce makes super-elegant and drinkable wines with a very light extraction. Juan Antonio uses only big old wooden containers, whole cluster, and the presence of oak in the wines is zero. He also has a good hand with other varieties such as monastrell that he also makes in a surprisingly elegant style.

The self-titled wine is one of the latest additions to the portfolio of the house, first made as a tribute to the first 15 years of Ponce’s project. It has in short time become something of a prestige wine, and as such maybe surprisingly only 85% bobal, while the rest is moravia agria.

The two varieties ferment separately with native yeasts in wooden vats and with a short maceration. The wine ages for 17 months in large in 600-litre French oak barrels. It’s bottled without filtering or clarifying.

Ponce 2020 (Bodegas Ponce)

Cherry red. Red and black fruits, herbs, a touch of smoke. Medium-bodied, concentrated flavours, mineral and long. Elegant.

Price: Medium/high

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Highlights from Raw Wine Copenhagen

Raw Wine is ever expanding and has finally come to Scandinavia. Last Sunday some 180 artisans from all over the world was gathered in the conference center The Plant in Amager Øst, Copenhagen. There were three seminars, of which I participated in one (about wines from Castilla y León, read a note here). In the days leading up to the festival there were also tastings and other events collected under #rawwineweek, of which I also participated in the biggest of the additional tastings (see a report from Café Josephine here).

With 180 producers it’s obvious that I couldn’t taste everything. This time I rambled around with no special plan, except I wanted to talk to some that I didn’t know before, some that I knew a little, and of course say hello to some good friends.

My readers might not know that I have a history in Peru. But I have, and my daughter is half Peruvian. Some years ago I visited the region of Ica. It was exciting to know that there is now a natural wine producer right in the desert. The people of Peru knows that it’s their country, not neighbouring Chile, that is the cradle of pisco. The old harbour of Pisco is located right there, only 75 kilometers from Ica, and both are located south of Lima.

Pepe Moquillaza is also a pisco maker and has done a great job recuperating quebranta grapes for pisco production. Now he is rescuing Peruvian clay vessels (also called piscos, or botijas) for natural wine making. In Copenhagen I tasted two of his maritime desert wines. The first one was Mimo Italia Quebranta 2020 (italia, local name for moscatel de alejandría, and quebranta in equal proportions), organically and biodynamically farmed, with two years of skin-contact, not sulphured, aged in old oak, unfined and unfiltered. It’s a light amber coloured wine with good volume, a grapey character and also good acidity. Albita de Ihuanco 2019 is a blend of albilla (local name for palomino) and italia. It combines the minerality of albilla with the flowery scent of moscatel. It’s yellow in colour, and has good volume in the mouth, with some tannin and a lot of fruit. Like the previous wine it has almost zero sugar and a moderate 12% alcohol. The length of the skin-contact is here two months.

Lanfranco Fossà was there on behalf of Davide Spillare, who lends his name to the labels. I met them both when I visited the important village of Gambellara in Veneto five years ago, and it was nice to catch up. (Here you can read about that visit, with more background.) The wines are fresh and lively, and quite light in body. As if some extra freshness is needed, the L1 Frizzante 2021 sparkler has a small percentage of durella to give an extra boost. Bianco Rugoli 2016 comes from an 85 year old vineyard with volcanic soil, with bushes trained in pergola. The nose is complex with mature apples, wax and aromatic herbs, good acidity and a salty mineral finish.

Bianka Schmitt and her VooDoo Doll

A relatively new discovery is Bianka und Daniel Schmitt of Rheinhessen. During the last couple of years I have tasted several impressive wines, from the entry-level 1 litre bottles of Frei. Körper. Kultur. and upwards. It was then lovely to be able to meet Bianka in Copenhagen. These wines are fresh, tasty and truly inspiring. Here we tasted rieslings, like the flowery, red appley, quince and honey scented Riesling M 2018 and the flor-aged Voodoo Doll 2020. There’s no evil behind the appropriate black label; it is floral on the nose, with almonds, herbs and a touch of tropical fruit. Of the reds I will mention two; first the elegant Spätburgunder 2018, with its generous raspberry, complemented with flowers, green peppers and an interesting hint of coffee. Kékfrankos is the Hungarian name for blaufränkisch, that the Schmitt family brought over from there. Now in its 2021 vintage it’s medium-bodied and in a way light, but it’s also wonderfully complex, smells of blueberry, morello, herbs and a touch of coffee, it’s luscious in the mouth with soft tannins, an agreeable acidity and a pleasant bitterness in the finish.

Philippe Lancelot is a natural wine classic within Champagne. The estate was created by his parents who both inherited some vineyards, then bought new ones together. Philippe had introduced biodynamic practise for all vineyards by 2012. He wants to express the individuality of each cru and village, almost always completely dry and in most cases without any added sulphur. He showed five magnificent wines, among them Le Fond du Bâteau 2018, from the lieu-dit (named vineyard) of the same name in the surroundings of Choully, a grand cru village in Côte des Blancs. 100% chardonnay, no dosage and zero added sulphites. Light golden, aroma of green apples, citrus, chalk and brioche, concentrated, mineral, long, pure. The oldest wine he presented was Les Bas des Saran 2014, also pure chardonnay, with no additions. This one comes from four lieux-dits in the grand cru villages, among them Cramant (his home village). It’s vinified in oak barrels and vats, and spent 5 years in the cellars before launch. It has a discreet floral nose, more expressive citrus, brioche, in the mouth it has a dry and tense attack but develops both creamy and fruity.

Château Meylet is another natural wine venture from a classic place. They are also biodynamic since 1987. David Favard runs the family estate, that due to its location in St. Emilion has a high percentage of merlot plants, but also cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, malbec and petit verdot. Cuvée Baiser d’Ange 2021 is an interesting orange wine from semillon, made with 15 days skin-contact in amphora. Yellow colour, rich with a sweetish sensation. Château Meylet 2019 showed that the reds have some oakiness at an early stage. Luckily there are aged wines then. The 2003, made by David’s father, has stood the test of time. Red with brick rim; red and dark fruits, some tobacco and spice; fine tannins and well-balanced, a raisiny touch also.

Mas de la Lune is located in the Agly valley, Côtes du Roussillon. In schist and granite soils grow varieties also known from the Spanish side, all of them 70-90 years old. Vanessa Courtay showed me a handful of wines in several colours. I am not sure which vintage I tasted of Le Second Souffle; I think it might be 2022, although it then would barely have the time to stay the 9 months with skin-contact that Vanessa told me it had. Anyway it had also little colour for that amount of time. It’s made of macabeu and tastes of wax, flowers and yellow apples, with a structure that more than the colour tells about the prolonged time on skins.

I will soon go on a trip to Bobal country in mid-south-east Spain. A perfect introduction was then to visit the table of Altolandon, from the Cuenca part of DO Manchuela. The property lies up to 1.100 meters, that makes a slow maturation and a fresh acidity possible. Carmen Sebastián and winemaker Rosalía Molina showed me several wines as proof of this. Milhistorias Bobal 2020 has a bright red-blueish colour; red and black fruits on the nose with flowers and herbs; it’s fresh and fruity, very much alive and with a super acidity.

When I was about to call it a day and leave I stumbled upon Nacho León of Demencia Wine. He is located in Villafranca del Bierzo, and the name points to mencía, the most important grape in the area. The wines come in an expressive style, with good fruit and firm tannins. Fuente de San Lázaro 2019 comes from 115 year old vines in a variety of soils and is made in old wood. It shows red and black fruits, herbs and am earthy touch; in the mouth it has the firm tannins, and also a lot of freshness. Villegas 2019 comes from sandy and clayey soils and is also made in old wood. Ripe red and black fruits, herbs, a toasted note; the tannins are firm and there is some coffee and a touch bitterness in the end.

A highlight was indeed the veggie pita served by Jakobsen’s Pita. Not least because I met Ismael Gozalo, that gave me a sip of his magnificent Frágil 2021, a glass-raised verdejo, just in time to enjoy it with the pita. And of course, interviewing Isabelle Légeron MW for Vinforum magazine, in a story about the Raw Fair itself. When it’s published I may port a short version of it here.

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Four Bobal Brothers

I am preparing for a trip to Spain and Bobal country. Bobal is native to Utiel-Requena (where it accounts for 80% of the red grapes) and surroundings in the comunidad of València. It is also very much at home in La Mancha, such as the Cuenca and Albacete provinces. But it can be found far beyond these boundaries. It is the third most grown red grape in Spain, having lost second place recently to garnacha.

The must is normally high in colorants and tannins and is suitable both for aging and for blending with other varieties. The wines tend to be fruity, low in alcohol content and high in acidity.

Bobal grapes affected by hail (Credit: iStock)

I ordered four wines present in my home market. I intend to visit all of the producers, so here I will only give a short presentation of each.

Aurelio García and his wife Micaela Rubio run the first project. They have both worked and consulted in various companies locally and nationally. Here they focus on their roots, their personal taste and local grape varieties and sites.

El Reflejo de Mikaela is in a way an entry-level wine. It is fermented with 30% whole bunches in stainless steel tanks, then aged in moderately porous French vessels made from clay and silica and barrels.

Casa lo Alto is a hamlet outside Venta del Moro, València, where the winery is located. Víctor Marqués is winemaker. The wine Manzán comes from three plots planted with bobal in bush-style between 1940 and 1965. The soil is calcareous clay, poor in organic matter. Use of chemical products is avoided and biodynamic preparations are used. In the winery the grapes are destemmed but not pressed. They undergo a spontaneous fermentation with native yeasts. After pressing, it is decanted into barrels with its lees for approximately 10 months.

Bruno Murciano is a trained sommelier. In 2005 he started his project to make his own wine. He bought 8 ha of old vineyards with bobal in his hometown of Caudete de las Fuentes. In 2010 the first wine was made together with friends, and most of all his brother José Luís, who brought with him experience on how to work biodynamically, among other things.

L’Alegría is made with grapes from the Las Brunas vineyard located at 900 m above sea level. The vines are 85 years old, grown in clay soil. The wine is made in steel tanks.

Bodegas Mustiguillo of Utiel is one of the farms that have their own DO Vino de Pago. Owner Antonio Sarrión is also currently resigning after his period as president for the group Grandes Pago de España. The pago is El Terrerazo, a 160 ha property in Utiel. When Sarrión took over, and after having purchased nearby plots from local farmers, he planned to launch equal parts of bobal, tempranillo and cabernet sauvignon. But soon he realized the potential for the local grape, and bobal is now by far the leading grape in Mustiguillo’s reds.

Finca Terrerazo is a monovarietal bobal from wine from vineyards 800 meters above sea level, on very poor soils with limestone with a sandy-loam texture, from old vines planted between 1945 and 1970. Each plot was vinified separately. Fermentation in oak vats with native yeasts for 8-10 days, with gentle pump-overs and pigéage. Aged for 14 months in French oak. Bottled without stabilizing or filtering.

El Reflejo de Mikaela 2018 (Micaela Rubio & Aurelio García)

Dark red. Cherry/dark fruits, plums, herbs, sweet/warm sensation. Full, firm tannins, mature berries.

Manzán 2020 (Casa lo Alto)

dark, blueish hint. Mature fruit, blueberry, cherry, herbs. Good acidity, dryness of strong earl grey tea, or maybe crushed stone.

L’Alegría 2019 (Bruno & J.L. Murciano)

Dark, quite dense. Mature black and red fruits (blackberry, cherry), eucalyptus, coffee. Good volume, abundant tannins, spice, quite big but also with some elegance. A couple of years cellaring is recommended.

Finca Terrerazo 2019 (Bodega Mustiguillo)

Dark cherry. Dark and red fruits (blackberry, raspberry), spice, some toast. Good volume, firm tannins, good fruit and acidity, and a mineral touch. Bears 14,5° alcohol well. A couple of years further ageing recommended here too.

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Ponce for Christmas

I am in Murcia for the holiday season. I have bought a wine cupboard and filled it with a collection of wines delivered from the national chain Vinissimus. This year I bought only one local wine (and it was the same as last year, see here). But from over in La Mancha, not far away in Manchuela, I have three wines from the same producer.

Juan Antonio Ponce works biodynamically in the vineyard, and in the winery he takes a natural approach, using low levels of sulfur dioxide. The bunches are chilled and fermented without de-stemming. Freshness is another priority when working with bobal, with harvests before most of the neighbours to avoid ripe or stewed sensations.

Clos Lojen is 100% bobal from vineyards on limestone-clay soil at 800 meters. It had a short maceration and aging for 3-4 months in used French oak barrels. Buena Pinta is not a bobal. Moravia agria, a native grape from Castilla-La Mancha, accounts for 90%, and the rest is garnacha. Moravia is noted for its acidity and blends well with garnacha. It’s aged for 7 months in used 600-liter French oak barrels and bottled without filtering or clarifying. Pie Franco was maybe the first wine I tried from Juan Antonio, and immediately put him on the throne as the King of Bobal. One can wonder how wines tasted before phylloxera. Without going into further discussion I can only say that there is a timeless air over this wine, fruit of old vines bobal planted in sandy soils where phylloxera did not enter. For me a doubtless classic.

Clos Lojén 2021: Cherry red. Fresh and fruit-driven aroma of cherry and blackberry, herbs and a peppery note. Juicy in the mouth with fine tannins wrapped in fruit, and with fresh acidity. Youthful and serious.

Buena Pinta 2021: Bright ruby red. Perfumed and complex aroma with cherries, plums, flowers, herbs, and balsamic hints. On the palate it is very fresh and vivid, with evident tannins, and a slightly bitter aftertaste. Fascinating, between fragility and strength.

Pie Franco 2021: This is a more powerful wine. Dark cherry red. Aromatic, with black fruits, scrubland and also balsamic notes (eucalyptus) Structured, with mature tannins and mineral notes. A timeless classic.

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