BodegaChakana delivers at a generally high overall level. So also their so-called entry-level malbec, where the price is next to nothing. (Read about another of their wines here.)
Chakana is a family owned winery located at 960 meters altitude up towards the Andes in Agrelo, Mendoza. It represents a new generation of local terroir-conscious winemakers. The name of the project is what the indigenous people in the area called the southern cross constellation (Crux).
This is how the bodega describes the naming: “Chakana is believed to hold the key to finding the perfect timing for the cultivation and harvesting of crops – a calendar, compass & symbolic link between earth and spirit. On May 2, 2002, the Chakana reached perfect vertical position in the sky, marking the beginning of a new farming cycle. It was then that Chakana’s founder Juan Pelizzatti chose its name for his winery, paying homage to the Incan understanding of and respect for nature.”
Winemaker is Gabriel Bloise, who has experience from both Europe and Australia. The farming at Chakana can be described as biodynamic, with spontaneous fermentation, natural acidity, minimum or no sulphur, and the wines are never clarified nor filtrated.
Their vineyards are orientated 45 degrees north west to maximize fruit expression. According to themselves this is “a surprising example of synchronicity, as this is the exact route that the Andean development chose”. This is called the Viracocha line, or the “Line of Truth” of the Incas.
For Chakana this planting direction was chosen for best canopy protection of the grapes during the highest temperatures of the day.
For this wine 60% of the grapes are from Luján de Cuyo in Mendoza and the rest from La Rioja (some 600 km to the north). The grapes were cold-macerated for 3 days, then fermented in steel and cement 15 days.
Malbec 2018 Organic Wine(Bod. Chakana)
Dark cherry red, blueish hue. Fruity, mature dark berries (blackberry), plum, some spice. Juicy yet a bit carbonic in the mouth, with soft tannins, firm and slightly bitter finish with a slight (and pleasant) touch of vinegar (maybe in lack of a better word).
Food: Many types of meat, also red, grilled and slightly spicy, roast duck, casseroles
Just when you needed it you slided a joker down the sleeve. A real surprise it was, from Argentina’s huge wine region Mendoza.
Gerardo Michelini and his wife Andrea Muffato started this venture in the village Gualtallary (in the Uco valley) in 2012, after having worked for a long time in wine. Everything is organically farmed. In general they use whole cluster maceration with long skin-contact. A spontaneous fermentation is carried out in cement eggs, steel or large oak vats. Additions are kept at a minimum.
This is a blend of 50% malbec and 50% pinot noir from a young vineyard (planted in 2006) situated at 1.400 meters altitude in calcareous, stony soils. It’s made in steel, and saw some carbonic maceration. Unfined and unfiltered.
Ji Ji Ji Malbec CO2 Pinot Noir 2017 (Gen del Alma)
Dark cherry, violet hue. Fruity, aromas of dark berries (blackberry, blueberry), stony minerality and a hint of pepper. Fresh, juicy and carbonic with a touch of tannin. The alcohol is low at 11.5%.
Food: Meat (poultry, veal, pig), white fish, salads, fresh and hard cheeses
Plateau has been Brighton’s palace of natural wines for many years now. Since my last visit Jake, from the bar 1909 (see here), has taken over as a manager. His partner Jon has taken over as bar manager after Johan (see another report from Plateau here), who is now at Cincin Hove (more about that later). The kitchen team is led by James Mcilveen, and takes great pride in serving good, organic food from local farms. To jump to the conclusion: Plateau still delivers!
Our waiter Alex led us safely through the menu with its bites and plates. If my memory doesn’t fail me we ended up with cured trout, lobster bisque, beef tartar, bavette steak, everything with a creative twist, and concluded with a board of five English cheeses.
Here are the wines that we enjoyed this dark October evening in Brighton, everything chosen from their by-the-glass offer.
Pétillant Naturel 2017 (Famille de Conti)
A charming, straightforward pet nat from the de Conti family’s château in Bergerac, in the French Sud-Oest. It’s made from varieties sauvignon blanc (90%) and chenin blanc, according to biodynamic principles, unfiltered and with no added sulphur. The colour is light yellow. Smells of red apples and some light tropic fruit (litchis). Appley fruit, and quite high acidity to balance some residual sugar.
Impera 2015(Dva Duby)
This is a wine grown in stony soil in southern Moravia (Czech Republic), close to the Austrian border. The grapes are well-known in their neighbouring country too: 70% St. Laurent (here called svatovavrinecke) and blaufränkish (here: frankovka). It’s a cherry red (light, I think – it was difficult to see the colour in the room), delicate and fruity (raspberry), and luscious, smooth and fruity in the mouth, with just a slight touch of oak (almost too little to mention).
Continuing with two wines from La Clarine Farm, Sierra Foothills (California), both called jambalaia (sic!), blanc and rouge respectively.
In the sparse light of the bar the picture became as unclear as the wine itself…
La Clarine Farm Jambalaia Blanc 2015(LaClarine Farm)
The ‘blanc’ was not exactly white, but sorted under orange, as the skin-contact had been quite prolonged. Dominated by Rhône grapes, mostly viognier, but also marsanne, and with small percentages of petit manseng and albariño.
Smells of white flowers, citrus, peach, pineapple. Juicy in the mouth, but also with a high acidity, and a slight bitterness in the finish.
La Clarine Farm Jambalaia Rouge 2015(LaClarine Farm)
Here all grapes are known as Rhône grapes, although the main grape mourvèdre is of Spanish origin (and known as monastrell).
Cherry red, cloudy. Good fruit, raspberry, cherry, somewhat earthy. A bit tannic, quite high acidity.
A wine from Valle de Uco inside the bigger region of Mendoza (Argentina). The winemaker is Pol Andsnes. Being Norwegian, for me this name can evoke distinctive classical piano chords, but this Andsnes is a wine punk born in San Francisco, who wants to challenge established ways to make wine, according to his own website. ‘Polos opuestos’ is Spanish for ‘poles apart’, and as I read him, Pol is satisfied if the ideas from the opposition once can be the norm. Something like that. Anyway, this wine is made from three barrels of Chardonnay vinified in three different ways. You can read from the drawing on the label that they are one barrel of direct pressing and reductive ageing on lees, one barrel of one year skin contact, and one barrel of direct pressing aged under flor. They were blended after two years.
The colour is obviously quite dark (a better description is difficult in this -lack of- light). It’s fresh, with flowers, orange peel and yellow apples; quite full-bodied, with a solid backbone, and an oxidative character from the flor. It’s an interesting experiment and a wine with lots of vitality, and the winemaker’s energy shines through.
Plateau has many natural wine classics and many of my personal favourites on their current list. Some are Foillard, Ganevat, Landron, Matassa, Frick, Maule, COS, Alfredo Maestro, Barranco Oscuro, Testalonga, to name only a few. Sniff around these pages, and you will meet all of them. And you have understood by now that this natural wine bar is highly recommended, it never disappoints – and if you get the chance: Go there!
Before going for a stroll on the black Brighton november beach, we rounded it all off with a well-known champagne. It was the Cuvée Réserve Brut, from Pierre Gerbais, whose son Aurélien I met at a London wine fair a couple of years ago (see here). This red and white grape champagne is a lightly coloured, apple and citrus scented wine with a contribution of red fruits (strawberry, raspberry), and bisque, that ends off with an inspiring acidity.
There are a lot of things happening in Argentina. A few weeks ago we brought a malbec wine into the sporlight. Malbec is by many regarded as something of a national grape. Bonarda is another that excels here. For a long time we thought it was the Italian grape, but we now know that it’s the same as the French charbono (corbeau). It is naturally lighter than malbec, it’s not very compatible with oak, and it has been responsible responsible for many bland, warm wines. But with lower yields and more care to winemaking we now see interesting results. Even though Bonarda is a late ripener some will try to harvest early to avoid too warm aromas.
This particular wine is made by Bodega Chakana at their finca in Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, at 960 meters above sea level. It’s aged in a combination of used barrel and concrete for a period of 8 months.
Purple with violet rim. Aroma of blackberry, plums and herbs. Mellow and soft in the mouth, luscious, quite fresh, with a slight touch of tannin.