I came across this wine at Katla, a wine bar with a decent Burgundy list but few pretentions, on a corner of central Oslo, one Thursday night not long ago.
The vineyard is located on the east side of Bordeaux, and comes under the Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux appellation. The vines are south and southwest facing on clay and limestone, overlooking the Garonne River in the village of Cambes. The vines are some 30 years old, and the cultivation is organic (formally in conversion).
The blend is 80% merlot and 20% malbec. The vinification was traditional, the maturing was done in big vats and smaller barrels.
Domaine de Saint Amand 2019 (Dom. de Saint Amand)
Dark cherry red. Aroma of mature dark fruits (blackcurrant, blackberry), leather and smoke. Good volume, dense fruit, velvety tannins. Quite simple, but fresh and good.
This is a red wine from natural wine pioneer Angiolino Maule of La Biancara, that I visited in 2018 (read here).
The soil in Gambellara is volcanic, and the vineyard was planted some 45 years ago. Organic agriculture with biodynamic principles. The grape composition is merlot 50%, tai rosso 40% and cabernet sauvignon 10%. They were picked by hand and spontaneously fermented, before a 2 to 3 weeks skin-maceration in big Slavonian oak.
Rosso Masieri 2018(La Biancara)
Cherry red, a bit developed towards rim. Dark and red fruits (blackcurrant, cherry), balsamic, beginning dried fruits. Juicy and yet concentrated, coffee, black olives, long.
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.
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 Spätburgunder2018, 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 dosageand 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.
Château Peybonhomme-les-Tours is found in the village Cars, just outside Blaye. Here they have 64 hectares in the hills by the Gironde. The soil is predominantly chalky clay, and the vineyards themselves have a sustainable ecosystem, with grass between the rows and nearness to woods and water.
Catherine and Jean-Luc Bossuet Hubert run the estate with their children Guillame and Rachel, and they also make wine at Ch. la Grolet in Côtes du Bourg. Both places they apply biodynamic techniques.
This wine is made up of 60% merlot, 10% cabernet sauvignon, 30% malbec – and is matured in amphorae for 12 months. They use double Guyot pruning, and soil tillage in spring. There has also been used small quantities of Bordeaux mixture with herbal teas, such as horsetail or nettle. The use of sulphur is limited (50mg/l). No fining, but two careful rackings.
Energies 2016(Ch. Peybonhomme-les-Tours)
Dark cherry colour. Aroma of black fruits (blackberry and blueberry), plums, herbs. Quite full, but lots of energy, with fine-grained tannins in the mouth, a mineral touch and a fine acidity. A very fine bordeaux, completely without oakiness, and with elegance rather than power.
Food: Red meat, light meat, poultry, tasty dishes with mushroom, hard cheeses
Here is the last account in this round from A Emoción dos Viños, 10th edition. There were a number from outside of Galicia, from Portugal, even from France – and Titerok-Akaet from even further away, Lanzarote (in the same country though). Here are some great wines from very reliable producers.
Ismael Gozalo is nothing less than a legend within the natural wine world, and famous far outside the borders of Spain. From Nieva (Segovia), Castilla y León, he disposes of centenary pie franco verdejo vines that has been used for the wines of Viñedos de Nieva, and later Ossian. Now he is “travelling alone”, with two lines, one called MicroBio, and the other bears his own name. Well, centenary is here an understatement: Some vines are no less than 280 years old. I have written about his wines many times, so you can search through this pages, and you will find a lot more information. I didn’t taste all the wines either, because I have done so several times. A short post about one of his lovely Nieva York pét nats was published in late May this year (read here).
Ismael is a very hardworking, dedicated bloke. But he also like to play with the rock’n’roll myth. Correcaminos is a lovely unpretentious wine, light, unfiltered, open, “mature grapefruity” and thirstquenching. And naturally enough, because of the name (“roadrunner”), it gave name to his “coronavirus tour”. I guess because of the virus there has not been too much touring, but it’s a cool nod to the rock merchandise business anyway. La Resistencia 2019 (an amphora wine from two different parcels and 4 months on the lees) is also slightly turbid, vibrant, with a lovely acidity. MicroBio 2019 (whole clusters, aged in old barrels): Very light in colour; aroma of green apples, flowers; full, rich, juicy, and tasty with a slight touch of sweetness. Sin Nombre is a favourite, and a house wine by me (when available). The 2017 vintage had some colour, golden with green; aroma of stone-fruit, yellow apples, a touch of cinnamon; it’s creamy, a bit buttery, cidery, juicy, and just lovely. I also tasted a Rufete (don’t remember if it was the Rufian or a sample), delicious anyway, a light red wine, packed with red fruits, before I moved on.
Marc Isart was there, both on behalf of himself and Bernabeleva, where he is co-founder and winemaker. I have followed Bernabeleva for some years. They are located in San Martín de Valdeiglesias in the Madrid part of the Gredos mountains. They work the land according to biodynamic principles, and in the cellar they use whole bunch fermentation and ageing in neutral wood. They generally use low extraction, and I would say their wines are among the most elegant in the area. For the records: They also make white wines, mostly from albillo. Highly recommended. But because I know them well, I chose to concentrate on Marc’s own range this time.
His own project is further east in the DO. Vinos de Madrid, in the subzone Arganda del Rey. Here he grows both tinto fino, or tempranillo, and the white malvar between 700-800 meters of altitude, on calcareous soil that contains gypsum and clay.
In the La Maldición line we tasted the Cinco Legua Malvar 2019 from calcareous soil, with 40-50 days skin-contact, made in neutral barriques. Malvar is related to airén, but is more aromatic and has more acidity. This wine is technically an orange wine, but is light golden in colour, has a flowery nose (roses), also nuts, lightly textured and full in the mouth. I also liked the clarete of the same name and vintage, made with 15% tempranillo. The majority of the rest is divided between malvar, airén and various other white varieties. The wine is light red;, with aromas of raspberry. In the mouth it is lightly textured, with fruit to the end. The red version, again with the same name and vintage, has 85% tempranillo and 15% malvar, and was blended in the cellar. Cherry red; dark fruits (blackberry), some spice; very clean fruit, and good structure. Gleba de Arcilla 2018 is a wine only from this local form of tempranillo, with one year in used oak. It’s dark red; again with blackberry, some spice and coffee; round in the mouth, with a touch of wood, that will easily be integrated.
Germán Blanco makes wine in Rioja and Ribera del Duero. You can read more about this here, in a report from the Simplesmente Vinho fair in February. Albares de la Ribera, just outside the boundaries of the DO Bierzo to the east. Casa Aurora is a tribute to his great-grandmother who handed down the first vineyard. Albares is in a transition zone between the valley and the Bierzo Alto at 850-900 meters of altitude.
Germán grows three hectares of own vineyards. He also buys grapes from two local farmers. These go into the Clos Pepín, a straightforward red fruits-fruity wine that is pure joy, also in the 2018 version that he presented here. Most wines contain many grape varities, including white ones, and I don’t list all of them here. Poula 2018 is a village wine, a mencía blend from various plots. I found it quite fine and elegant, juicy in the mouth with fine-grained tannins. La Galapana is the vineyard handed down from his great-grandmother, almost 1.000 meters altitude. In the 2018 vintage this was darker, with more menthol, but also red fruits, and in the mouth more structure than the previous wines, with an amount of tannins, though very fine-grained. More structured is also Valle del Río 2018, a 60-65% garnacha tintorera: Deep red, blue tinge; red fruits and forest fruits (blackberry), solid tannins and with a vivacious acidity. The most obvious wine of guard among these.
Alfredo Maestro and his wines I have known for some years now. Originally from Peñafiel in the heart of Ribera del Duero, where he has his bodega, but disposes of magnificent vineyards in both Segovia and Madrid provinces. This time I took the opportunity for an update of some of his wines. There is a lot about him on this blog, but I recommend this article as an introduction. El Marciano is a high altitude (1.150 meters) wine garnacha and albillo land, where Alfredo is doing a great job on behalf of the Gredos community. It’s a fresh red-fruity wine, a bit earthy with some texture, generous in the mouth and lovely, lively acidity, and the 2019 is no exception. El Rey del Glam, now in 2019 vintage also, is his take on carbonic maceration. The grapes come partly from the high Gredos vineyards, partly from Peñafiel. There is no pressing, nor destemming. Carbonic maceration is carried out in steel tanks, then malolactic in the same tanks. This wine is also very fresh, with cool, red fruits, and a touch of carbonics in the mouth. It has just a bit of structure, and can be served slightly chilled.
A Dos Tiempos 2019 is from Navalcarnero, a high altitude village in the province of Madrid and the name refers to the fact that the grapes are harvested twice. Alfredo explains that the idea is that the first harvest gives a lot of acidity and low alcohol, while the harvest one month later gives less acidity and a richer alcohol. Then the two are blended and one gets a fresh wine with balanced, ripe fruit and tannins and just enough structure. It was aged six months in used barrels. Here the garnacha is complemented by tempranillo. By the time I got to his table it had been a long day of tasting and accumulated tannins, so Alfredo recommended a taste of his Brut Rosé to rinse the mouth. A delicious strawberry and red fruit-driven sparkler, by the way. Then I tried his classic ribera del duero Valdecastrillo 2018, from various plots between 750-1.000 meters of altitude. This wine had been ageing in half French oak, half chestnut for one year. A super, classic, yet individual ribera; cherry red, potent aroma of berries with a touch of dried fruit (figs), and a long, fruity finish. After this I had decided to leave, but I couldn’t resist tasting a long-time favourite, the lovely fruity, non-oaked Viña Almate. A really interesting one is the white Consuelo 2018, a full-bodied, citric albillo mayor from more than 100 year old vines in Valladolid and Burgos, with 7 days of skin-maceration and fermentation in French oak.
After all these Castilians something from Catalunya: Can Ràfols dels Caus I visited in the Garraf zone of Penedès many years ago, when Carlos Esteva was turning his family estate into one of the most dynamic properties of the region. But they have somehow been neglected by me for many years now, for no particular reason. It’s not that I haven’t tasted any wines, but it was nice to get the chance to meet present manager Rosa Aguado for a real update here. The estate comprises 90 hectares of vines, and other crops in addition. The oldest vineyard is one with xarel.lo from 1948. It was in 2008 that they went organic, and at present biodynamic practises are introduced too.
Here is a brief account of some of the wines: Gran Caus 2018, xarel.lo 50%, chenin blanc 30, chardonnay 20:The colour was light golden, citric on the nose, with yellow apples, and quite fat in the mouth. Xarel.lo Brisat 2019: Brisat is a Catalan name for orange wine, and as the name implies this is deeper gold; it has an aroma of flowers, lemon, wax and honey; full on the palate. El Rocallis 2016, from manzoni bianco: Light golden, greenish; aroma of mature apples, aromatic herbs, lime, mothballs; lightly textured, good acidity, long aftertaste with some nuts. Rosa had brought two vintages of their merlot rosé. Gran Caus Rosat 2019 was very light cherry red; raspberry, some vegetal hints in the aroma; very juicy, with a fresh acidity. The 2018 was more towards peach colour; more forest fruits on the nose; and it showed some evulotuion, some “positive oxidation” we could say. Sumoll 2017: “Fine like pinot, rustic like nebbiolo”, I think this was how Rosa described the sumoll variety. The wine showed cherry red colours; red fruits (raspberry, cherry) on the nose, a little spice too; and surprisingly structured in the mouth. Finally Caus Lubis 2004, 100% merlot, one parcel, oriented towards the mountain: Good colour, a bit brick; good evolution, plums, dried apricot, some cinnamon and tobacco; round, complete, still some fruit and acidity. In good shape. “Pomerol del Mediterráneo”, she called it. Not bad.
João Roseira of Quinta do Infantado I met for the first time in the late 1980’s, after he had become the first one to break the monopoly of the Porto/Gaia shippers and exported directly from his estate in the Douro. I started this series with Antonio Portela, organizer of this fair. And I round it all off with João, who runs what we can call a “sister” event in Porto, the Simplesmente VInho, where Antonio also participates. (Look around these pages for many accounts, you can maybe start here with a report from this year’s fair.) João admits that it’s difficult to sell port wine these days. But while you are thinking that port is out of fashion, I assure you: Quinta do Infantado is different. The Roseiras, João and now his nephew Álvaro, who has taken over as chief winemaker, want a dryer style. They ferment longer than usual, so there is less residual sugar and more alcohol. Therefore less addition of alcohol is needed, and it is also added gradually. This makes them more dry, and the alcohol is balanced with the fruit.
I visited his farm in February, so I just tasted a few wines this time. I simply had to re-taste their fabulous organic Ruby Reserva, that you can read about here. Then I sipped to some of the standard reds and ports (among them the organic tawny) while chatting with João about the times, especially with reference to the coronavirus and the destiny of port in general. Other than that I tasted the wines João had brought from 2010, the year. Quinta do Infantado Colheita 2010, the first ever vintage dated organic port, did not disappoint: Red fruits, figs, dried fruit, a vibrant acidity, balanced alcohol.
This was a much too short report over three articles from this initiative in the wonderful Atlantic environment. Watch out for small reports, wines of the week and other stuff. See you again!
I met Dido and Jurriaan almost by coincidence in Barcelona. Or to be precise, we were introduced by the organizer of the Vella Terra natural wine fair. I got the impression that their business was just beginning (which is not far from true), and the wine they had brought was just a sample. So it was a big surprise to find one of their wines at the newly opened Esaias in Oslo (next door to, and under the same ownership as the restaurant Bacchus, itself a natural wine haven).
Dido and Jur are from Amsterdam. In their own words, then share a passion: wine, and travelled around the world to find kid right place to make it. They finally chose Alt-Empordà in Spain, where they found around ten hectares of vineyards in the natural reserve of Albera, that they were able to buy by crowdfunding. The vineyard they call Tortuga, because they share them with a nearly extinct tortoise species). It’s already cultivated organically, and they intend to implement biodynamic practise as well. 2018 is the first vintage when they are able to make wine entirely from own grapes.
Worth mentioning is that Dido was doing research for a master in cultural anthropology on the Swartland Independent Producers, a group of young winemakers making natural wines (Craig Hawkins, Jurgen Gouws ao.). Inspired by these people, living out their dream, they decided to do the same.
Along their journey they had worked for both big industrial companies and small artisans. It was Joan Ramón Escoda of Conca de Barberà who really made them realize that wine should be made naturally, with minimal intervention.
Juicy is made from garnacha 60% and merlot. The merlot was destemmed and pressed, then raised in 500L old oak barrels for 4 months. The garnacha grapes were pressed in steel, in whole bunches. There was no temperature control. The wine is unfined and unfiltered, and total SO2 is a mere 5 mg. The soil here is granite and schist., for the records. (By the way, all their wines are named after songs. This one is from The Notorious B.I.G.’s rap hit.)
Juicy 2018(Vinyes Tortuga)
The colour we can call strawberry red. Smells of raspberry and strawberry. It lives up to its name, is juicy in the mouth, intensely fruity with raspberry all the way, and an inspiring acidity.
Here is a short post from a wonderful Italian lakeside resort. Bardolino is located on the east side of lake Garda, not far from Verona in the Veneto province. There are many nice, fresh and juicy rosés and light red wines.
These hills are where the Gorgo Wine Estate was established in 1973. It belongs to the village of Custoza, and the company also makes organic certified biancos bearing that name.
This Bardolino wine is made from corvina 55%, rondinella 25&, and the rest divided between molinara, merlot and cabernet sauvignon grapes. It’s made with controlled temperature fermentation in stainless steel, and was pumped over for up to ten days.
Light ruby red. Aroma of clean red fruit; cherry, some herbs. It’s dry in the mouth, with a pleasant smooth mouth-feel, and with a slightly bitter aftertaste. Simple, harmonious, easy to drink. Just nice!
Food: Light meat, salads, soups, and some pasta and rice dishes
This is the second report from this year’s Simplesmente… Vinho, of Porto. The first one was about the Portuguese participants, and you can read it here. This one deals mainly with Spanish wine, with one exception.
As soon as I entered the Cais Novo I ran into Alejandro of Bodegas Forlong. There is a lot happening in the sherry region right now, and I visited him when I was doing reasearch for a magazine article about table wines from the Jerez area. A shorter version of the article can be read here, and a wine of the week post here. In Porto Alejandro was together with his life companion Rocío.
Alejandro Narváez and Rocío Áspera
So why not start with a tasting of wine from sherry grapes and albariza soil? The wines I knew from before delivered, such as the Forlong Blanco 2018 (palomino 90%, the rest PX, grown in albariza soil), with its roundness and at the same time enough acidity, almonds and a saline minerality. Much of the same applies to the Rosado 2018, a 100% cabernet sauvignon, with its colour of onion skin, its creamy character and also a light tannin. We could go on through the Petit Forlong 2017 (syrah, merlot), the Assemblage 2016 (merlot, tintilla de rota, syrah), and the Tintilla 2016, with its dark smell of ink, blackcurrant, and that in a way also plays with oxidation.
A wine I can’t remember having tasted before were 80/20, a non SO2, unfiltered wine, made of must from palomino fermented on skins of PX: Light pineapple colour; some tropical hint in the aroma, peel; round and smooth, yet fresh, well a little mousy, but with a nice mineral salinity. Equally interesting was Mon Amour 2017, palomino from the hardest type of albariza, called “tosca cerrada”. I have to reconsider if I like the touch of vanilla from the fermentation in French barrels, but it surely has some interesting yellow fruits, and a vibrant touch too.
According to my ‘one wine only’-game I chose this one: Amigo Imaginario 2017, from old vine palomino, fermented with skins, and aged in an oloroso cask for 10 months. The colour is yellow; smells of orange peel, herbs, plums, and a touch of marzipan; in the mouth it’s full, with a great concentration, and you by now you would have guessed that it’s somewhat sweet – but it’s not. Great personality, alternative, truly interesting!
Always a pleasure meeting up with Sandra Bravo and tasting her wines
I appreciate that Sandra Bravo of Sierra de Toloño keep coming back to these events. She is one of the younger, independent voices in a Rioja still struggling to come out of its classification system based on wood ageing. From vineyards below the Sierra Cantabria mountains, both on the Riojan and Basque side of the border, she takes good decisions on the way from grape to bottle.
The reds showed as good as ever, from the plain Sierra de Toloño, now 2017, with its fresh cherry fruit, and inspiring acidity, but also in this vintage quite evident tannins, the Camino de Santa Cruz 2016 (formerly Rivas de Tereso), a single vinyard wine with extra minerality; darker and wilder fruits, with some subtle underlying oak and also lovely acidity and the super delicious La Dula 2016, a garnacha made in amphora, really floral, red-fruity and expressive. The Nahi Tempranillo is a dark, rich, spicy wine that will improve with age – and lastly Raposo 2016 from Villabuena, the Basque part: a little graciano thrown in among the tempranillo; dark, blackberry, forest fruits, good acidity – classic in the good sense of the word.
In recent years she has presented wonderful white wines, very different from both the young and clean tank style of the 1970’s (still popular) and the oaky style requiring long ageing. The basic Sierra de Toloño 2017 is clean and bright, but has already a profound quality. A favourite among white riojas during the latest years has been the Nahi Blanco, now 2016. Made from viura, malvasía and calagraño, a field blend from five small parcels in Villabuena de Álava, with a light ageing in barrel: Golden colour, a touch of tropic (litchi), white flowers and a light touch of smoke, full in the mouth and a nice natural acidity.
Alfredo Maestro (left) and Dutch journalist Paul Op ten Berg
I have tasted Alfredo’s wines several times lately, so here I only tasted a couple in order to discuss them with my friend, Dutch journalist Paul Op ten Berg. One was an orange wine that was featured in January. (Read it here.) In short: Lovamor 2016 stayed 6 days with the skins, then on lees for 4 months. Due to the cold Castilian winter a malolactic fermentation never happened. It’s a rich and complex wine with a gold-orange colour; apple and melon in the aroma, flowery, and also lovely, light citrus; slightly pétillant and with a citrussy aftertaste.
I first met Yulia in Alfredo’s neighbourhood, more precisely at Dominio de Pingus, where she guided us around the premises during a wine trip that I organized. But she has Eastern roots and is now making wine in the Kakheti region of Georgia. The winery is called Gvymarani and can be found in the village of Manavi. The wine is made from the mtsvane grape, fermented 7 months and also aged in qvevri. Gvymarani Mtsvane: Clean golden; fruity nose of apple, dried apricot, peach, orange peel and some honey; full and with evident tannins in the mouth.
Antonio Portela (picture taken at the Barcelona tasting)
I tasted Antonio Portela‘s wines in Barcelona earlier that month and made an appointment to visit his vineyards later – so I just took the opportunity to try his beautiful red tinta femia Namorado 2017 (tinto mareiro) again, fermented and aged for 12 months in used French oak: Light in colour; pure, with fresh, red fruits on the nose; a vibrant flavour, a good natural acidity and in a long saline finish. Goodness, what a wine!
Constantina Sotelo (picture taken in her winery after the fair)
Constantina Sotelo was another producer that I decided to cross the border to visit once the fair was over. Here I tasted, among others, her Pio Pio 2017 ‘en rama’ (unfiltered). It’s from a vineyard with quite a lot of ‘pie franco’ (ungrafted) plants, and a very personal wine: Light yellow; green apple, citric (lime), anise; quite full, glyceric, and with an appealing acidity. A lovely albariño. See you on the other side of the border!
I am in Barcelona for two natural wine fairs (Vins Nus and Vella Terra). And I have just finished a well-prepared meal at the city’s perhaps most iconic natural wine bar Brutal. And what could be more appropriate than to have one of Joan Ramón Escoda’s wines as this week’s pick?
Joan Ramón is one of the owners, and he was the one who brought my attention to this fabulous bar a few years ago, though he has no active role in it.
Waiter Lorenzo Gonelli entertaining the guests
Small plates like tuna tataki and ‘sweetbreads’ (here: pig’s cheeks) and cecina de vaca, lightly smoked ham from cow, were accompanied by several wines: An inspiring, fresh, yellow, barrel-aged xarel.lo Essencial 2017(J. Rubió) from Penedès, Qvevri, a full thick, earthy, sauvignon blanc from Loire, with some residual sugar (made by a distributor of Georgian wines in France), a terret-dominated blend called Rouge fruit 16/ Rouge de Causse 15 (Petit Gimios), a dark, green herb-scented Minervois. To round off it all I had the floral, yellow and rosa-hued Súpertock Ancestral(Bodegas Cueva), a fresh valencian pét nat from the tardana grape.
But in-between: A timely reunion with the following wine.
The owners have grown their grapes organically in the Conca de Barberà since 1996, biodynamic since 2003 and without additions of sulphur (or anything else) since the 2007 harvest.
This wine is made from the varieties cabernet franc, cariñena, garnacha tinta and merlot. It stays 10 months on the lees in inox, and clocks in at a relatively low 13% alcohol.
Nas del Gegant 2017(Escoda-Sanahuja)
Dark red. Cherry and blackberry aromas, with flowers and a mineral touch. Lively in the mouth, with a fresh acidity.
Food: Very versatile; aromatic and light meat, cured ham, cheeses, rice dishes, tasty salads, and much more…
Verona is located in near vicinity of many recognized wine areas, but I can’t see that it has a lot of dynamic wine bars. One can always go to the Antica Bottega, that boasts hundreds of wines, not least for references, as they present many of the leading houses in several vintages. But I am more attracted to the smaller, distinctive bars with a clear idea, call it underground, avant-garde, rock’n’roll, jazz or whatever you like – especially when the idea is to present organic, natural, artisan wines, that the proprietors and sommeliers have a personal relation to.
Osteria Nosetta is located in the pleasant neighbourhood of Borgo Venezia, just outside Verona center. And Nosetta is the kind of place that I am talking about. The restaurant is intimate and full of atmosphere, the decor is a rustic, retro, and the music was vintage jazz on vinyl when I was there. The food is without limits; their small dishes -locally called ‘cicchetti’- are vegetarian, vegan, and you can have fish and meat too. The kitchen is based on fresh ingredients. The inspiration is from various places though, not least Asian-middle east, and there are some vegan dishes alongside more usual Italo-European stuff. The menu of the day was taped onto page 98 and 99 in an old paperback.
And the prices are undoubtedly to live with.
Andrea and Lorenzo
Lorenzo Folati has been leading the venture until now, but Andrea Venturini and a couple of friends are in a period of taking over.
They have a fine selection of wines and beers from independent artisan producers. I enjoy picking smaller ‘bites’ among those displayed at the bar, to go with a few glass of wines. Some were mint glass, a falafel, various greens, such as the delicious tomatoes, frittered squid, tomato and eggplant sandwich, zucchini with cous-cous, onions, honey and balsamico, and -why not- chocolate salami. The list goes on.
Here are a few of the wines that I enjoyed during my visits. (The order is changed according to “normal tastings logic”.)
Durello 2017(Calesio dalle Ore) is made with the charmat-method. It’s a light coloured, apples, citrus, and bread scented, light-bodied sparkler with good acidity. Simple and good.
A postcard on the wall-board
Trachite 2016 (Alla Costiera), an unfiltered, yellow and cloudy moscato-prunella-garganega regional Veneto white with a sweet (moscato) sensation, together with flowers and citrus peel, and with a medium body, light tannin, and slightly bitter aftertaste.
Lugana 2015(Marangona). This is a lugana from 100% turbiana grapes. It’s a fresh, simple, dry wine with light, almost blank colour, with a greenish hint. And the aroma is dominated by pears and citrus.
On the contrary, the next wine, was all but simple. Sassaia 2016(Angiolino Maule), a varietal garganega showed light yellow, slightly turbid, and on the nose could be found mature apples, flowers, ginger and a touch of toast. Slightly yeasty, quite full and with decently acidity, all in perfect harmony. Maule is a long time favourite, and there is a report from a visit in an earlier post in this series.
Musella is one of the better producers of both standard valpolicella and amarone. Here is a white IGT from the Valpolicella area, biodynamically cultivated as always. Pinot Bianco “Fibio” 2014, from that variety, is a bit more on the wild side. Yellow with green hints, smells deliciously of flowers, yellow apples, and I would say, plays with oxidation. Quite slender, integrated acidity, very pure, and the fruit shines on to the end.
On to a real rarity: Il Fresco Cesane 2014(Marco Antonelli), that is from the DOC (sometimes: Cesane di) Olevano Romano, Lazio. Got it? The production area lies in the province of Roma and includes the municipality of Olevano Romano and, in part, Genazzan. The wine was nice enough; cherry red, red fruits, plums, and hints of leather on the nose; smooth, juicy, and with an adequate acidity.
Merlot “Casa e Chiesa” 2015 (Lenzini) is a biodynamic Colline Lucchesi. It’s cherry red, hints of green green pepper, a sweetish element from the oak elevation, and a light tannin on the palate and a touch of bitterness in the aftertaste. (14,5% alcohol, while most of those tasted here were around 12.)
We close the chapter from this gem of a wine bar with another pleasant surprise, nothing sensational, but better than most of its kind, a Moscato d’Asti 2017 from producer Emilio Vada. We are talking about a straw yellow coloured wine with the typical moscato rose aromas, clean, and pure. It’s a lightweight, but it has an inspiring acidity and it’s not sticky sweet, compared to what you often can find in this category. The alcohol here is 5%.