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Tag: monastrell

Wine of the Week

A leading light in Jumilla

Casa Castillo has for long been considered one of the leading producers of Jumilla wines, today with José María Vicente in charge.

The winery is located to the west of Jumilla town, on the slopes of Sierra del Molar. Here, up to 760 metres, they own a big estate with diverse plantings including pine and almond trees, while 170 hectares are covered with vines. Under José María many of the international varieties have been replaced with monastrell and other Mediterranean grapes, and also garnacha, that is thriving well here.

Much of the soils are limestone, often with sand. Most of the wines are made fermented in steel or concrete, often with some amount of whole bunches, to counterbalance the ripeness in the grapes. Ageing is in concrete, foudre or old 500 liter French oak vats.

This wine is a blend of monastrell, syrah and garnacha.

with pulpo (squid) at Fish Bowl restaurant
Just over the Valencian border from Murcia

Viñedos de Altiplano 2018 (Casa Castillo)

Dark cherry. Aroma of black pepper, blackberry, herbs (thyme, anise), and a hint of chocolate. Medium body, mature fruits balanced with a nice acidity and a slight bitterness at the end. Very Mediterranean, very good.

Price: Medium

Food: Hearty dishes, stews, most kinds of meat, Murcian paella…

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Articles

Experiencia Verema, Murcia

I am in Murcia, Spain. And suddenly the opportunity came to visit the third fair held by magazine Verema this summer. The two first ones were held in Palma de Mallorca and Madrid. There will be more tastings later in summer and autumn too. The location in Murcia was the Royal Casino, an emblematic building in the center. It was built from 1847 on, and shows traces of different styles from that period and somewhat later – now declared monument of historic-artistic interest.

I concentrated on the local wineries, that also were best represented here.

I was invited by Parajes del Valle, a winery I hoped to visit, but we didn’t manage to meet at their place this time. They are part of the bigger García Pérez group. In Jumilla they are for me one of the most interesting wineries. The first reason lies in their name, Parajes shows a sense of place. To obtain this I think that their decision to harvest early (first part of September for the monastrell grape, while most pick later that month or even October) and also the light extraction helps.

Gregorio and Gemma of Parajes del Valle

Director Gregorio Ruiz Abellán and export responsible Gemma Morcillo brought three vintages of their Parajes del Valle, an unoaked wine that is both fresh and cool, and at the same time very Mediterranean with its herbal fruitiness of the local supergrape. It starts in stainless steel, and is transfered to concrete after a while. I have highlighted both the 2018 and 19. Here is the latter, maybe most relevant. For me this has been a house wine through the winter (the article also has a link to the first one). At this moment I would say that the 20 is a bit lighter, maybe more to the fruity side, while the two others are more mineral. But they all are red fruit-driven and stand in the crossroads between the coolness and the rosemary/thyme-herbal Med-landscape.

The terraje system is described in the blogpost about the vintage 2019. In short it consists of renting the vineyard to the farmers, who take care of the quality of the vines, and then some wine is given back to the farmer. Terraje is also the name of their most “ambitious” wine (I feel the scraping of the sword when writing this, because the Parajes is in its way also a very ambitious one). Organic and dry-farmed, just like the other, this one is from older, ungrafted (“pie franco”) monastrell from defined places (parajes) called La Fuente de las Perdices and La Cañada de Albatana to the north of Jumilla town. This wine is made in a similar way, but aged in wooden “foudres”. Even this wine has low extraction with a cherry red colour. It’s fuller and more complex, but follows the same line in acidity and minerality.

Viña Elena I have known for a long time, and also visited Elena Pacheco once. This time it was her sister María together with José Marín who presented the wines.

María Pacheco showing the Bruma range

Located in Estrecho de Marín, a valley surrounded by low mountains south of Jumilla, they offer a varied range, from a light salmon-coloured rosé through monastrell-variations with cabernet and syrah, even the dark, spicy paprika-flavoured cabernet sauvignon varietal Cuco. Very interesting is their Bruma del Estrecho de Marín, a series of single vineyard wines, almost all from monastrell, some from the vineyards owned by two brothers over in the Albacete province of Castilla-La Mancha. The Parcela Particiones 2020 is a clarete from sandy soils. In Spain clarete means a blend of red and white grapes (whereas in Portugal this is called palhete, and clarete is a light wine from red grapes). It’s an elegant monastrell and airén blend without malolactic fermentation; smells of cherry and other stone-fruits and has quite a bit of tannins. Paraje Marín 2019 from stony soils was fabulous and fresh, with typical Mediterranean herbs and somewhat warm fruit. Paraje Las Chozas 2018 was a bit darker and with young tannins, but still fresh and cool, iodine and salty. Parcela Navajuelos 2018 from sandy soils was light in colour, fresh, fruity and cool with some spice. While Parcela Vereda 2018 was darker, with forest fruits (like blackberry) and some warmth from the clay soils, while the chalky part gives also this wine some saltiness. These fabulous wines and the parcel/paraje concept contribute to make Jumilla a wine region to watch in the years to come.

Bodegas Carchelo I knew well in the times of founder Agapito Rico, one of the great personalities in Jumilla from the early 1980’s. At that time he was quite a revolutionary with his fresh, concentrated, yet good value wines. It was nice to be able to catch up and meet David Ferraje from the team of new owners that took over a little more than ten years ago.

They are located to the east of Jumilla, at the foot of the mountains Sierra del Carche, hence the name. And most of the vineyards are quite near, north-northeast of the town. Today they are 100% organic. I have enjoyed several of their wines, from the young and fresh rosé via the simple and fun Eya Tinto 2020 and the dark fruit-driven Carchelo Roble 2019 (monastrell with cabernet and tempranillo) – to the more ambitious part of their range. Here you find f.ex Canalizo 2014, a monastrell-syrah-tempranillo aged 20 months in barrel. This one had aged beautifully; mature morellos, tea, dried fruits and a nice bitter tone. Muri Veteres 2016, a pie franco monastrell with dark fruits and balsamic notes, was elegant and attractive.

David Ferraje of Bodegas Carchelo

It’s maybe a bit strange to say that one of the surprises was Juan Gil. But the Gil Family Estates has turned into a conglomerate of bodegas across the country. I don’t know the quality of all of them, but the original (bodega founded by Juan Gil Giménez in 1916) was quite good. They are in transition to organic cultivation, with the majority of vineyards northeast towards Yecla.

In short, the young white and rosé were good, but not with much personality. The new project over in Almansa, named Bodegas Atalaya, has potential, but at this point too much oak for me. Here I chose as a representative Juan Gil‘s own Honoro Vera 2020, a varietal monastrell, organically farmed, unoaked and vegan certified. This was a quite fresh dry-farmed wine from calcareous and rocky soils, with the usual red and dark berries and balsamic notes.

Unoaked red from Juan Gil

From neighbouring Yecla, a one-municipality-denomination, I tasted the wines of its leading winery. Bodegas Castaño had good offerings from the unoaked white and rosé to the dense and rich Casa Cisca, and neither have I forgotten that they have one of the best sweet monastrell wines (not brought to this tasting). Among the most interesting wines is an old favourite, now called Hécula Organic in the 2019 vintage. It shows ripe red berries (morello), aromatic herbs and a hint of coffee. Full and quite fresh in the mouth with mature tannins. I will come back to this one in a while.

Sira Burón Miranda, Castaño
Hall in the Royal Casino
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Wine of the Week

Modern Mediterranean Monastrell

Let us start with the conclusion this time: This monastrell is a modern, juicy, “gluggable” wine way up the natural road – but at the same time it is the Mediterranean, slightly spicy, Provencal-herbal, hearty and quite recognizeable. I love it, and wrote about the previous vintage here.

This particular wine is made by 30 year old wine maker María Jover (born in nearby Alicante) who has a modern approach. The vines are between 20 and 40 years old, organically grown, in the old system of “terraje”. This concept involves renting the vineyard to the farmers, who take care of the quality of the vines. As a bonus the landowner in this specific project 7% of the production is given back to the farmer. This is a very common practise in Jumilla for old vines.

The producer owns some 80 hectares, mostly monastrell. The grapes for this wine were de-stemmed, lightly pressed and fermented with indigenous yeasts on steel, before malo-lactic fermentation and a short ageing in cement. (Here is a bit more reading, such as a presentation of the previous vintage.)

Parajes del Valle Monastrell 2019 (Parajes del Valle)

Dark colour with a young blueish hint. Aromas of dark and red berries, like blackberry and cherry, aromatic herbs (rosemary, thyme), and a hint of lickorice. Juicy in the mouth, it has a coolness to it, like a fresh, natural acidity, but at the same time a serious southern quality hinting to coffee, or maybe tea leaves.

Price: Low

Food: Light meat dishes, bacalao, Murcian paella, pizza, hard cheeses, and almost everything from the grill

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Wine of the Week

Monastrell from Bodega Monastrell

Here is a 100% monastrell from Murcia, certified organic and very good value.

This bodega, led by Alfonso J. García, takes pride in reducing the carbon imprint, a fact that also is shown by the light weight of the bottle. They are found in the center of Bullas town. Of 22 hectares of vine most is monastrell, with some petit verdot and tempranillo, and 3 ha. macabeo from which they elaborate a white wine with the same name as this one.

Me and Alfonso back in 2011

The grapes were dry-farmed in the Valle del Aceniche between 800 and 900 meters of altitude. It was fermented in inox tank, and has underwent a gentle extraction.

Salto del Usero 2018 (Bodega Monastrell)

Bright red with violet hints. Forest fruits (blackberry), lickorice, some balsamic. Juicy, quite fresh and lightly textured in the mouth, a “cool” wine from a warm region.

Price: Low

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Wine of the Week

A light monastrell, for a change

While being focused on the light, delicate wines of Beaujolais, we throw in a Mediterranean wine that I have had on my list for some time.

And it shares in fact some of their characteristics. For a Jumilla monastrell it’s lightly extracted, focused on fruit and a, should we say, relatively modest 13,5% in alcohol.

Part of the Vinival group, Parajes del Valle is their Jumilla project. Winemaker is the young María Jover Sánchez, who worked for Vega Sicilia for a year, before she returned to her native Levante.

The soil here has a high limestone content, and the monastrell grapes are old. The variety has dark skin, small berries, and in the warm Mediterranean climate the wines are often big with elevated alcohol. Here the farmers are instructed to go for the opposite. The grapes are destemmed, subject to a light pressing and a careful maceration. It’s made mostly in steel, except for malo-lactic fermentation that is carried out in concrete.

Parajes del Valle Monastrell 2018 (Parajes del Valle)

Dark young colour. Quite concentrated berry aroma (raspberry, dark cherry), with aromatic herbs and a touch of lickorice in the background. Juicy, quite cool with smooth tannins.

Price: Low

Food: Stews, Murcian paella, light meat, fried fish

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Wine of the Week

Elena of Jumilla

I visited Elena Pacheco at the family farm some years ago. She runs the business together with three sisters. They have 17 hectares. Monastrell is the main variety, growing in poor, limestone soils at around 500 meters. These are bush vines (‘en vaso’ in Spanish, more than 40 years old. And the wines are certified organic.

This wine made from 95% monastrell and the rest syrah, and is fermented and raised in steel.

Familia Pacheco 2016 (Viña Elena)

Dark cherry red. Aroma of mature red and dark berries (plums, blackberry, aromatic herbs and some balsamic (lickorice). Full-bodied, fresh and balanced; the alcohol (14,5) is evident, but not dominating.

Price: Low

Food: Roast, cheese, murcian paella, tapas


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Articles and Wine bars and restaurants

La Casa del Perro, Málaga

La Casa del Perro is a hidden gem in the historic centre of Málaga. Here the couple Ana and Fede serves small well-elaborated dishes to be paired with delicious natural wines.

We visited several times during a couple of weeks and enjoyed a great variety of dishes, such as Guacamole with home made nachos, Carpaccio of beef with yellow tomatoes, parmesan and greens, and also a vegan lemon cake made with almond milk.

Ana and Fede

But what initially caught my attention were their wine offerings. Many of these are from the leading producers in natural wine field, especially southern ones, like Barranco Oscuro, Cauzón, Torcuato Huertas and José Miguel Márquez (all of whom are presented on this blog). I met Ana earlier this year at the Barcelona wine fairs, and some of the vintners I had marked as “interesting”, she had contacted, and some already included. La Zafra of Alicante is an example. La Casa del Perro may not have the biggest selection, but it is indeed an eclectic one.

A little background: Ana and Fede opened their restaurant in the historic centre of Málaga in 2004, and moved to the current location some three years ago. The restaurant’s name is a result of a wordplay game started by a friend.

They were both born in this neighbourhood, and both families have lived there for generations. As Ana tells:

-We strive and fight to do what we like, and we are very happy to find ourselves in a neighborhood a bit hidden. We totally disagree with bars and restaurants that receive the passing tourist as if they were cattle. We want the visitor to have a good time and have a desire to come again.

Barranco Oscuro’s Ring! Ring! (Riesling)

Among the many wines we tasted during the visits were some new and interesting ones, such as a varietal parellada called Water Fly (Ca Foracaime, and bottled by Celler Portes Abertes in Terra Alta, Catalunya), a light white with an integrated acidity, and Pura Vida 2018 (Vinos Fondón), a promising dark and juicy garnacha rosé from the Almería part of the Alpujarras. From the more established artisans were Marenas Mediacapa xviii (18) (José Miguel Márquez, Montilla), a clean and delicious, light straw, off dry, some co2 wine, and La Pámpana 2018 (Viña Enebro, Bullas), made partly with carbonic maceration, a cherry red, juicy wine with some co2. Then the Ring! Ring! (Barranco Oscuro): Nothing to do with the old ABBA song, but a wordplay on riesling, a light golden, good acidity wine. There were also several editions of La Traviesa, made by the same producer, with grapes from one their neighbours up in the Alpujarras. (Read here about my recent visit to the producer.)

Lastly I want to draw your attention to four wines that really stand out. Either are they interesting takes on traditional themes, or simply of amazing quality.

NU Rosado /3/2017 (La Zafra): This one I mentioned in the beginning, and in an article from the fairs in Barcelona I wrote that the producer was one to watch. This is a monastrell rosé made in four editions, with 0, 3, 5 and 7 months of skin-contact respectively, and only between 2-400 bottles are made of each of them. /3/ signifies that this is the 3 months edition, the second lightest. It’s a light and lively wine, salmon pink colour, and smells of red berries (raspberry, strawberry).

Cabrónicus 2017 (Bod. Cauzón): This tempranillo made with carbonic maceration was the pick of the week (read here). It’s made east of Granada city at around 1.000 meters altitude, near Guadix. It’s pale red, super fruity with raspberry, pomegranate, and a touch of white pepper. In the mouth it’s delicious, juicy, fresh and clean, with a long, integrated acidity. 

Purulio 2018 (T. Huertas): Here is a very personal wine from the same area as the previous one. It’s made from a blend of both tempranillo and French grapes: Dark and dense, and full of blackberry and other dark fruits, along with a touch of coffee and roast, and touch of tannin and a stimulating acidity.  

La Veló 2016 (José Miguel Márquez): Another Montilla still wine with the Marenas label. This is a tempranillo grown at Cerro Encinas at 350 meters. Dark, almost opaque, some blueberry, but also plums and some tobacco. There is a lot of tannin here, but it doesn’t dominate the fruit. 

Ana showing the La Veló in the restaurant’s wine shop

Is there a mirror there at the bottom of the casserole?

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Wine of the Week

A meaty Marenas monastrell

José Miguel Marqués is one of the leading figures in the Spanish natural wine movement. His winery, Viñedo y Bodega Marenas, is found in the outskirts of Montilla. This week’ pick is one of his most admired wines, the Cerro Encinas, meaning something like oak hill. Read more about his wine philosophy and that 6 hectare vineyard here.

It’s a monastrell made with spontaneous fermentation, 20 days of maceration. As you would expect from José Miguel there are absolutely no additions, and no fining nor filtration.

Cerro Encinas 2014 (Vin. & Bod. Marenas)

Dark cherry red. Dark berries, plums, sundried tomatoes, rosehips. Good concentration, rich and meaty, lovely fruit and good tannins.

Price: Medium

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Articles

Real Wine Fair II: Spanish impressions

The Real Wine fair is of course an opportunity to see what’s going on in the wine category that I love the most, exactly the kind of wine that’s highlighted here. And it’s a welcome chance to say hello to some old friends, and meet new people, all of them with interesting projects. Spain is (together with the other country on the peninsula) the country where I travel the most, and here are some highlights. Because I taste these wines once in a while I didn’t visit all the tables, which I regret, but you know, too little time…

IMG_4172 Pedro Olivares

Pedro Olivares

I had not really started when I spotted Pedro Olivares, and at the same time Alfredo Maestro tappet me on the shoulder. Pedro’s wines I just tasted very superficially, as I had recently visited him in Murcia. (Read about my visit here.) I took the opportunity to re-taste the Bobastrell 2015. We can call it a “terroir wine”, but from two terroirs: This is a wine with primarily monastrell (from Bullas, Murcia) in the aroma, and bobal (from Utiel-Requena, València) in the mouth. The enTreDicho 2016, jaén negro version, is a clay aged wine from that maybe unlikely place of Jaén, Andalucía. Pure fruit, flowers, juicy and lovely with some structure. I also took the chance to re-taste the Alto Viognier 2016, a 2 month skin-contact wine with grapes from 1.600 meters above sea level, and the SaSa 2016 from 10 meters, a moscatel and malvasía with the moscatel shining well through.

IMG_4186 Alfredo Maestro

Alfredo Maestro

Alfredo Maestro Tejero is operating both in his native Peñafiel, in Sierra de Gredos and in other parts of Castilla too. I know him as a man full of tireless energy, and very un-selfish. I wrote him before a trip to Gredos a couple of years ago, and as leader of the Garnachas de Gredos group (now also comprising albillos), he suggested that he organized the whole trip for me. And in the end we drove around together visiting ten producers, including his own vineyard in the coldest part, Navarredondilla (Ávila province). He recuperates old vineyards, manages them organically (with some biodynamic techniques) with little or no additives.

Peñafiel is in the heart of Ribera del Duero, but Alfredo choses to stay outside the DO, to be able to use grapes from neighbouring areas such as Valtiendas to the south the Duratón river. So most of his wines are now under the label Vino de la Tierra Castilla y León. Here are some very brief comments.

The white Lovamor 2016 is a high altitude albillo real (770-1.000m) from more 100-120 year old vines in Olmos de Peñafiel with one week skin-contact, and due to the cold Castilian winter it didn’t undergo malolactic fermentation. The result is an orange-light brownish colour, flowery with orange peel aromas, full and fresh on the palate, slightly pétillant too. From the same place comes Amanda Rosado Lágrima 2016, a light red rosé from the garnacha tintorera grape with pure raspberry fruit, just delicious drinking. As the term “lágrima” suggests the pressing was very light.

Almate 2016 is a tempranillo (here called tinto fino) of various ages, some bush vines (‘en vaso’), some of the younger trained in ‘espaldera’, some found in Peñafiel, and some in Valtiendas, just outside the Ribera del Duero border. Here are lots of vines grown on river stones and clay-calcareous soils. The must was fermented in steel, 80% whole bunches with wild yeasts, then kept in neutral French oak for 2-4 months. This is one of my favourite wines from the region, with its fresh top-fruit of cherries and violets, and a wild, rougher layer underneath, together with a really refreshing acidity. Over the border to the Burgos province, in clay-calcareous soils at 960 meters, Castrillo de Duero is one of the few wines with some oak ageing worth mentioning. Having said that, it’s not more than 12 months in rather neutral French oak, and it bears it without trouble. The 2015 vintage is dark, it has a lovely fruit, it’s a bit balsamic, but not at all oaky.

Amongst all the amusing labels I chose this one:

Alfredo Maestro_El Rey del Glam 2

El Rey del Glam 2016 is sourced from grapes both in Peñafiel (sandy, clay-calcareous soil) and Navarredondilla (granite). It’s a garnacha, obviously high-altitude, and the vines varies between 30 and 100 years old. This is maybe Afredo’s most quaffable wine; beware, it’s so luscouis, delicious that it doesn’t take long before you are sliding over the floor like the glamour king on the label. It’s made from uncrushed bunches that undergo carbonic maceration, fermented with wild yeasts and with no SO2 added. It’s light in colour, with plenty of lovely raspberry fruit, with a dry finish. This takes us over into the Gredos mountain range. El Marciano 2016 is raised, not on Mars, but 1.150 meters above sea level, where the climate is extreme continental. The vines are 70 years old, and the soil is granitic. The late-ripening garnacha is not harvested untill mid-October. This vintage is particularly appealing, with a clear-cut fruit, and a wonderful acidity that’s not easy to obtain with garnacha. Alfredo also brought a few wines outside the program just to show there are interesting projects around the corner. Among these were Rosado Clásico de Valladolid 2015, a rosé from Cigales, the once prominent rosé area just outside Valladolid city. It’s a single vineyard, predominantly tempranillo, raised partly in chestnut. It was peach-coloured with pure raspberry and citric fruit, and a nice concentration.

IMG_4190 Dani and Fernando

Dani Landi and Fernando García

Daniel Landi-Jiménez and Fernando García were there, representing both the Comando G project (Madrid province), but Daniel had also brought wines from his own bodega in Méntrida, Toledo. I have commented on these wines several times before (like here in Bilbao, and here at another fair), so I will present them only briefly. These are very fine wines with a refreshing acidity, an almost ethereal elegance, not much macerated and the aromas often show flowery notes. Two old favourites are La Bruja de Rozas 2015 and Las Rozas 1er Cru, now in the 2015 vintage too. The Bruja comes from several plots in and around Las Rozas de Puerto Real, and has a lively fruit, and an acidity that forms a fine structure together with a touch of tannin. The 1er Cru har only a slighly firmer tannin, a touch of smokiness and more concentration. Mataborricos Tinto 2014 was new to me, naturally made in four amphoras, but in the same line as the others. Las Umbrías 2014, a single vineyard wine from granite soils: A tight grip on this one (young tannins), raspberry and cherry fruit and some chalky minerality.

Over in the Toledo province Dani had equally light-coloured, high-expressive wines. He tells that he is always looking for vineyards that is high in the landscape, north-northeast facing, as he wants maximum freshness. Las Uvas de la Ira 2015 and Cantos del Diablo 2014, both from San Vicente, showed this. Las Iruelas 2014 too, from 1.000m elevation in El Tiemblo. El Reventón 2014 from Cebreros (that probably will be the name of the new DO) was the most reductive wine, but with air it reveals lavender and thyme aromas.

Note: I was really sad to hear the other day, that the Gredos area had been affected by severe hailstorms (7th July), and that some of the vineyards you have read about here were among the most severely hit. I really do hope that they will recover the best way possible.

IMG_4187 Rafa Bernabé father and son

Rafa Bernabé, sr. & jr. of Bernabé Navarro

Rafa Bernabé (father) is long considered the Spanish expert on clay vessels for wine storage (in Spanish called ‘tinajas’), and I have reported on his wines several times, such as the Tinajas de la Mata, from the national park in Torrevieja. The wine, with 2014 on show here, will go out of production, he tells.

Most wines are made “O meters above sea level”, as Rafa sr. puts it. All wines are made with natural yeasts, none are clarified nor filtered, and all have less than 15 grams sulphur. They presented other wines aged in clay such as the Benimaquía Tinajas 2015, from moscatel and merseguera; light orange colour, aromatic with flowery compounds, it had more skin-contact than the “Tinajas” mentioned above, but still lighter in colour (as the other one has a small amount of black grapes). Musikanto 2015 is a direct-press wine (no skin-contact) garnacha from a higher altitude at 700 meters; light red, and very luscious in the mouth.

They had also a pét nat called Acequión 2015, a “sea moscatel”; deep yellow, with aromas of orange peel and yellow apples, slightly bubbly, and a “mountain monastrell 85% and garnacha”, Tipzzy 2015; light red, easy-to-drink. A dessert wine rounded it off, the Parque Natural 2013, that showed mature apples and dried fruit, some raisins, but it was not overtly sweet either.

Saó del Coster is a new find. I had heard about the winery from Gratallops, Priorat, and was lucky to be able to be pick up their basic “S” (2014) in my local shop, a wine with all the charms of a young, fruity red priorat. They want to keep the alcohol up at 15, to emphasize the local style, full and warm. Here the vintage has changed to 2015, and it’s still a lovely, pure garnacha-dominated wine (carinyena 35%), some spices and minerals, and with a good acidity for freshness.

They work biodynamically with indigenious varieties, with a low-intervention philosophy. A 100% garnatxa (as it’s spelled in Catalan) is Pim Pam Poom 2016. This has been made with 50% whole clusters, with the aim of bringing out minimum colour, maximum flowery, fresh fruit. Pure delight! They also brought two wines from old carinyena. The Planassos 2014 was good, warm and potent, but also with a velvety layer. For me La Pujada 2014 from 90 year old plants was a winner, very elegant with relatively lighter colour, fresh fruits, juicy in the mouth, and a subtle, almost cool fruit all the way.

IMG_4175 Sao del Coster

Xavier Barrachina and Michelle Negrón of Saó del Coster

Rioja was represented by three producers from the right bank of Ebro; Honorio Rubio (Cordovín, once famous for claretes), Hacienda Grimón (further east, in the Jubera valley, Rioja Baja) and Viña Ilusión (Herce, near Arnedo in the Rioja Baja).

Honorio Rubio is noted for their whites, and it was especially interesting to taste the Edición Limitada-range with three very different wines. The skin-contact Viura Macerado 2014 was orange in colour, aromas of apricot and lemon, and some more herbal notes, quite light in the mouth, and with a refreshing acidity from the high altitude viura grapes. The Viura Sobre Lías Crianza 2014, aged 6 months in oak and concrete, it’s both traditional lemon and vanilla, and comes with a modern fruitiness too. Añadas is a solera wine made up from ten vintages, thus mixing the sherry and barrel-aged rioja traditions. It’s light golden, with lemon, pear and some buttery notes, both concentrated and fresh. Before I moved on I also tasted two more whites in a hurry, and the Alonso & Pedrajo, Suañe 2014, a raspberry scented red with some sweet notes.

The Oliván Family at Hacienda Grimón uses no chemical fertilisers, but sheep manure like in the old days. No herbicides are used, and the oak is all of second and third year. A couple of favourites were Finca la Oración 2015, a fruity, un-oaked wine full of blackberry aromas and freshness, and Desvelo Garnacha 2015, with second fermentation in oak (7 months); very flowery, red berries, and good weight in the mouth.

Martín Alonso of Viña Ilusión I have met several times, so I tasted his main wine very quickly. His Tinto 2015 is really nice and clean, fruity and elegant, with cherry and blackberry fruit, and good acidity.

Beginning to count down for lunch I did a brief tasting of a winery that I have known for some time. Who said they couldn’t make wine in Asturias? Nicolás Marcos can, and he does so in Cangas, that emerges as the area to consider in the region. At this occation I only tasted four wines. Pesico Blanco 2014 from the albarín variety, not destemmed, aged in chestnut vats of 2.000 liters, bottled without SO2 was glyceric, smooth but still with a young fruit. La Fanfarría Tinto 2015, 50% each of mencía and red albarín, was quite dark with red fruits, herbs and young tannin. Retortoiro Tinto 2014 showed some evolution in the colour, with aromas of cherries, and a structure for further ageing. Cadario 2012 had still more evolved colour, but the evolution has been nice, the tannins are still evident, and the primary fruits are still holding first place. I believe these wines can easily keep for ten years.

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Then running for lunch, I passed Adega Guímaro‘s table. Guímaro can be found in the cool Amandi sub-region of Ribeira Sacra, Galicia interior. I know Pedro Rodríguez and his wines well after a visit and several tastings. So here I almost only passed by the table, where his collegue Raúl Suárez was present. I did a quick tasting of the Guímaro 2016 white from 70% godello, a light, flowery, citric wine, the Finca Capeliños 2015 (50% whole cluster, long maturation in foudres) with its dark mencía fruit, mineral and with young tannins, the Finca Pambeiras 2015 (75 year old vines, 100% whole cluster), a very floral, red fruit dominated, very pure wine, before I brought his wonderful young mencía with its vibrant cherry fruit, the Tinto Jóven 2016, out into the lunch area.

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Monastrell trip round-up

I had been travelling in the stronghold of the monastrell grape for almost a week. Here are a few tales about a few producers that didn’t receive an article for themselves this time, even if they deserve so.

I had met Juan Pascual López of Viña Enebro at a fair, and I have tasted his wines at the natural wine bar Solo de Uva in Madrid, and elsewhere. Enebro refers to a very special tree that grows in his vineyard in the Bullas wine area, in the municipality of Cehegín.

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On the property you find almonds and olives, and in the vineyards there are some 80+ % monastrell. The soils are predominantly sandy clay with a high content of limestone, more saline near the river.

Juan Pascual belongs to the PVN group (Productores de Vinos Naturales), which means no additives (read: not even a milligram of sulphur). No more than 13-14.000 bottles are made each year. He tells that he sees himself concentrating more and more on young wines, marching with the times, in other words.

I have tasted and covered his wines on several ocations. So this time we didn’t taste any bottled wines, we just drove through the vineyards, had some samples and discussed wine and politics.

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The first sample was a forcallat, a local, nearly extinct, productive and quite mellow variety that is going to be a “blanco de negros” (not completely true, even if it’s blended with a small proportion of monastrell, as this particular grape is white).

Next was a monastrell that will probably be a rosé (light, aromatic, rounded), then a carbonic maceration red (light, fresh and yes: carbonic) and a much more powerful and tannin-structured wine. All these monastrell 100%, all 2016.

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We also sampled some “older” vintages, between 2015 and ’13. Juan Pascual told that monastrell loses colour quite fast, but the tannins last longer, which was evident from these wines. I have never thought about this before, but it’s something to explore at the earliest convenience.

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Juan’s mother did all the paintings, including the still life

When I have mentioned that we also tasted a sparkling wine and a 2013 dessert wine -grapes dried some 40 days, still fermenting- I think I have told the tale about this short visit.

 

Tercia de Ulea was visited en route, and proprietor Diego Ruíz de Assin was available on the phone, but not in person. No worries, as Ildefonso was there when I showed up one day before the appointment, just to see if it was possible (to be able to visit my mother that had been brought to the hospital of Benidorm – I think this is most relevant information for you, dear reader).

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Anyway, the bodega has a small selection of barrels in sizes from 128 liters up to 2.500, and at different ages. The list of barrels tells that the one 128 liter barrel contains “shyrac”. The bodega is in Moratalla, in the western end of Bullas, while the vineyards lie towards Benizar by the border with Albacete and Los Charcos, a little east from the winery.

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Ildefonso took me through a few wines. We are always talking about minimal sulphur additions. 20-25 mg/L maybe, and never more than 40 mg total sulphur. The wine growing is organic, and there is as tittle intervention as possible.

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Rebeldía 2016, mainly monastrell, was a light and fruitdriven rosé (strawberry, citric notes) round in the mouth with adecuate acidity. A interesting wine was the Adivina 2016, a semi-dulce (half-sweet) made from tempranillo and cabernet. Light rosé colour in the direction of salmon, an evident apricot component in the aroma, and the sweetness surpisingly balanced by the concentration of the fruit.

Rambla 2015 was the most direct monastrell expression (almost 100% monastrell), unoaked, a dark, fruity (cherries), lightly spicy and structured red. Botial Roble 2015 made from monastrell and syrah in equal parts and a little cabernet, was fuller-bodied and still with good fruit.

 

On the way back to Andalucía I stopped just outside Villena in the Alicante province, where Bodega la Encina is making highly original natural wines, with elements of biodynamic practise and without additions of any sort. They work the land according to the deepest respect of the land and the traditions. No pesticides nor chemicals are used. Nor do they clarify the wines.

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I came across one of the wines at a seaside restaurant in the Cádiz province (the Taberna de el Campero) and I have been thinking of a visit ever since.

Cero 2016 was a fabulous, dark, berryfruited wine. I highlighted this one soon after my visit. (Look here.)

Among the best were also a Merlot 2016, with dark fruits, plums and herbs, with evident tannins and adecuate acidity, – and the Forcallat 2016, dark with blueish rim, fruit-driven aroma (blueberry, blood-orange, white flowers) and young, fine tannins.

IMG_4108 José María Espí

La Encina was established in 2006 to fulfill his dream making the kind of wine that he remembers from his childhood, José María explains. At that time he liked to be with his father in a cellar of Ontinyent, after the war, where he learned to make natural wines. Some new techniques, and knowledge, were learned when he started his new venture, and he attended several courses. A curiosity maybe more than a technique as such, is that they use classical music or jazz as background music for the fermentation.

In sum these are wonderful wines for today, full of individuality and character, but with a strong tie to the past.

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