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Tag: Montilla

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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Articles and Wine bars and restaurants

Natural classics on the Costa

It’s not often that I visit the typical tourist spots on the “costa”, although Málaga city is a favourite. But when I became aware that Fuengirola had a natural wine bar I had to pay it a visit. It’s easy to jump on a train from the province capital, and at this time of the year Fuengirola was cosy and relaxed, and I must “admit” that there are nice spots in the town center.

The owners of the Tapeo Andaluz also own an ecologic pizza restaurant next door. The tapeo offers a wide array of dishes and a selection of organic wines, around half of them marked “natural” (meaning no additions, not even SO2). We went there for lunch, my wife had two wines from the organic category, and I had three glasses of “naturals”. Our waiter, Russian born Tatiane, had a good overview of the various wines and dishes.

Tatiane Smirnove

My three wines were from three great names within the natural wine field of Spain: José Miguel Márquez makes table wines from Montilla (dessert wine stronghold of Andalucía). The two others operates in Castilla y León, Diego Losada of La Senda in Bierzo, close to the Galician border, and Alfredo Maestro several places, this wine near his home in Peñafiel (Valladolid).

The first wine is made from the cordobés indigenous variety montepila(s). The vineyard was planted in 1998 in a traditional way, and manually grafted, at José Miguel’s place Cerro Encinas, at 350 meters altitude in Montilla (Córdoba). You could mistake this for an orange wine, but it’s a result of direct pressing. The skins of this grape get dark when ripe, so the colour is natural, with on excess maceration.

Montepilas 2015 (Marenas, José Miguel Márquez)
Deep golden, light brown colour. Mature apples, chamomile tea, and a trace of burned/glaced nuts. Good volume, smooth texture, integrated acidity, finishes dry.

I met the Diego Losada in Barcelona this year. (Read more here.) This is really good, and I would be surprised if his wines will not be much more in demand in the future. 1984 is a reference to Orwell’s novel, and 2017 is obviously the vintage.

“1984” 2017 (La Senda)
Cherry red, super fruity, with cherries, plums, medium body, and a lovely integrated natural acidity.

This wine is grown in the heart of Ribera del Duero, but Alfredo Maestro choses to label his wines Castilla y León, to be more free. This is a 100% tempranillo, more than 70 years old vines grown 1.050 meters of altitude. It was fermented spontaneously in steel before 12 months in neutral French oak. Bottled unsulphured and unfined.

Tnto Valdecastrillo 2016 (Alfredo Maestro)
Deep brick red. Dark berries (blackberry), black pepper, some tobacco. Full, good concentration, some dryness and good acidity. Calls for food, like this wonderful acorn-fed pig from the Ronda mountains.  

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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

José Miguel Márquez, a real artisan in the big players’ land

I drive from Córdoba to Montilla listening to the second half of the European Championship football match between Spain and Italy, where Spain loses just before I reach the narrow path to the bodega. -Oh, there is a match today, asks José Miguel Márquez, as if he couldn’t care less.

After a quick look at the very simple facilities, and a glimpse of the vineyards at the very southern end of town, we soon end in the discussion about natural wines, as opposed to “so-called natural wines”.

He is the actual leader of the organization Productores de Vinos Naturales (PVN), with prominent members like Barranco Oscuro, Samuel Cano (Vinos Patio), Viña Enebro and Bodegas Cauzón among their ranks. And José Miguel takes pride in the fact that this Spanish organization does not allow addition of sulphur whatsoever, while the sister organizations in the other southern European countries do.

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He admits that there is some amount of indignation among the producers. -It’s the task of the importers and the journalists, he says, to communicate what he and his peers are convinced is the right path to follow.

-It’s very difficult to make wines without corrections, says José Miguel. But that is what we must strive to do. We investigate, we are running a great risk, but we are convinced that we have to.

For him it’s about showing the dedication, to have naturalness in your mind or not. -Some has a non-added-SO2-line in their portfolio, but they don’t show the real enthusiasm about it. You cannot be a vegetarian, except for Sundays…

Obviously Montilla is one of the big fortified wines of Spain, with huge bodegas and well-trimmed organizations, public relations departments and so on. On the question if Bodega Marenas get something out of this nearness to the big players in the area and their “industry”:

-Well, first: I do not belong to the D.O. Monilla-Moriles. Of course I am here, and I know many of the bodegueros, but there is not very much contact, really. On the other hand, noone bothers me. They do their thing, I do what I am convinced needs to be done, and I have my network, which is another. This said, Marenas is also paying its tribute to some of the old traditions of the area, such as a PX Bajo Velo, a wine aged under flor (a layer of naturally grown yeast), and Asoleo, a moscatel made from grapes dried in the sun before pressing.

The pago Cerro Encinas comprises 6 hectars of predominantly sandy and clayey soils with a high content of carbonates and limestone predominantly, but some albariza too (the same as the famous chalky soil of Sherry country). We are 350 meters above sea level, and though nearby Córdoba has Europe’s highest maximum temperatures there is a gentle breeze blowing through the vineyards, so the climate can be characterized as a blend of continental and mediterranean. The bodega opened in 1999, and as bodeguero José Miguel is first generation. The previous one I met when I entered the place, that is José Miguel’s father on a tractor. There is no “bodega” in the sense of an organization, it’s only me.

This is the “bottling line”:

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José Miguel places another bottle on the europallet. When it’s full he must take the bottles down again, I suppose, because they obviously need to have a label attached to them. And who is going to do that…

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While we talk he opens some bottles. One is a fresh 2015 from the white montepilas grape, that is a very rare variety, but older in the region than the famous pedro ximénez. Then there is a monastrell, also from the recent vintage: dark, spicy, fruity and luscious in the mouth.

Then there is a wine called Casilla las Flores 2015, from pinot noir. This one is light, like a rosé. It’s just lightly pressed, and not macerated. It’s flowery in the aroma, and the fruit is fresh and close to nature.

-I look for simplicity, says José Miguel. I ask if he sometimes changes the way he makes the wines. -Some times I change a little. It could be of obvious reasons, because of the climate, you have to respond to the vintage, f.ex. when it’s time to harvest. Looking back, I used to macerate more, I thought more on complexity. But nobody understand this anymore. Now I search for simplicity, but without losing the quality.

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Back to Córdoba. Restaurant Amaltea is a cozy restaurant near the Roman bridge, where they serve small dishes, eco-friendly and with vegetarian/vegan options, in a tapas-, sharing style if you want. I was alone, so I ordered a couple of small plates of excellent vegetables and seafood. They have two of José Miguel’s wines by the glass, and I had both:

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Montepilas 2015

Light brown-orange in colour, slightly cloudy. Good freshness in aroma, mature apple. Grapey and luscious in the mouth.

Cerro Encinas 2015

This is the monastrell (with a new label). Dark with violet rim. The aroma shows both a controlled oxidized style (in a good manner), but immediate fruit as well, with wild berries and spices. On the palate it has just enough tannin, and it’s very much alive with just enough acidity too.

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Wine of the Week

Marenas Lucía of Cordoba

We often hear that natural wines cannot age. Libenese Musar is an example that this isn’t true, though it’s maybe not strictly natural either. Here is a more hard-core natural wine from the current leader of Spain’s organization of producers of natural wines PVN, José Miguel Márquez of Montilla, Cordoba.

Some of his wines age under flor, to honor the tradition of the area. After all Montilla is the town that inspired the name of the famous sherry style amontillado. All Marenas’ wines come from vineyards with nearly the highest insolation in Spain, maybe in Europe, and the sunny character is evident in the wines. Still José Miguel achieves a good sense of balance and harmony, and wines that last at least mid-term.

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Marenas Lucía Tempranillo-Monastrell 2005 (Bodega Marenas)

Dark with brownish, developed tones. Mature fruit, cherries, coffee, marmelade. In a good harmony between fruit, wood, and age. Will not improve however.

Price: Medium

Food: Red and light meat, roast, hard cheeses

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