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Tag: natural wine

Wine of the Week

Humus true to its roots

Back from the Simplesmente… Vinho 2021 I continue to enjoy Portuguese wine and its endless variations. Here is one that has been something of a house wine through the winter. As explained earlier, the fair was a bit more limited this year. One of the producers I missed was Rodrigo Filipe. I visited his farm in Alvorninha in the northern part of Lisboa wine region before the fair in 2018. The visit you can read about here.

Rodrigo working the vineyard with his employee Luís Gil, also winemaker

This is both a light, fresh and yet serious red, and I don’t understand those who don’t love this.

The grapes are castelão and touriga nacional (in almost equal parts), cultivated organically, destemmed, co-fermented with native yeast with 5 days in contact with the skins. Then the wine was on lees for 10 months in steel tanks. There are no additions, not even SO2, and the wine is unfined and unfiltered.

Humus Tosco Tinto 2018 (Encosta da Quinta)

Cherry red. Aromas of stony and red fruits (plum, cherry, cranberry), flowers and with a hint of spice. Fresh, juicy with a nerve and a light structure that keeps it from being merely a glou-glou. Long taste with a sublime acidity all the way.

Price: Medium

Food: Light meat, charcuterie, bacalhau, vegetarian, vegan…

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Wine of the Week

Not at all ‘Swart’ from Swartland

Here is another “house wine”, when I want a little more power, or “skin”, than a normal white. Swartland, Blackland in the Afrikaans language, because the predominant rhinoceros bush turns dark after the rains. But it’s not only the landscape that is special here; the spirit of the winegrowers is a veritable force.

Mother Rock Wines was established in 2014 by Johan Meyer. I have written about the project before (like here), and I still predict that the producer will rise in fame and his wines accordingly rise. The news are that Johan and his partner Anri moved into their new property Plattenklip (northwestern Swartland) in 2019, and produced their first vintage in 2020 in their own winery. They have now planted new vineyards on exciting sites, so we know that there will be new interesting wines from them.

This wine comes from a single vineyard in Paardeberg planted in 1980, on granite-rich soil. Only chenin blanc, pure chenin. Whole bunches were pressed into steel tanks where the fermention starts naturally. It’s mostly aged in steel, but has seen a small amount of old oak. Unfiltered and without added sulphuur.

Force Celeste 2020 (Mother Rock)

Light yellow. Aromas of citrus, yellow apples, peach, a light touch of peel. Good weight in the mouth, creamy lees-character, but with a very fine acidity that cuts elegantly through, and contributes to a long, salty finish.

Price: Low

Food: Tapas and charcuterie, red fish, fried white fish, light meat…

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Wine bars and restaurants and Wine of the Week

Deliric delights at Lapin, Stavanger

The domaine No Control is based in Volvic, a small town in the Puy-de-Dôme département of Auvergne. Winemaker Vincent Marie is committed to natural wine, and with great passion he tries to get the best out of each of their single plots.

Vincent Marie (cred: No Control)

Gamay is perfect to express these volcanic soils, in Vincent’s opinion. And completely without artificial help to change flavour the wines show a great diversity. (Other than the gamay cuvées some pinot noir, syrah and chardonnay is also used.

The cuvées are named after music pieces. As for this one it is taken from rock band Bad Religion’s Delirium of disorder. No Control is by the way another song from the same band, and the same period (late 80’s). The wine is made with partly carbonic maceration, some matured in fiberglass, some in big, old oak vats. No additions.

Claes Helbak, one of the people behind Söl restaurant and here: Lapin wine bar

We tasted it during the opening weekend of the new Stavanger wine bar. Lapin is run by the people behind restaurant Söl (see several places around this blog, f.ex. here or here, from their takeover in London). It’s located in am old eastern working class district that now bustles with energy. The bar has wooden benches and some chairs. At this point it looked somewhat temporary. But it has a knowledgeable staff and all the potential to become a great place for sipping natural wine.

Délire du Désordre 2019 (No Control)

Dark cherry red. Aroma of red berries (cherry), a bit earthy. In the mouth, high intensity in fruit flavours, juicy, a bit tannin and natural acidity. It’s a simple and fun wine.

Price: Medium

Food: We had it with charcuterie, with which it was perfect, but should go with many types of light meat, young and hard cheese…

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Wine of the Week

Thymiopoulos improves with thyme

The Thymiopoulos family has a long history in agriculture and grape-growing in Trilofos, under the Vermio mountain south of Thessaloniki. Apostolos Thymiopoulos was however the first to vinify the family vineyards, and he produced his first wine in 2005.

Apostolos Thyiopoulos (credit: the winery)

Thymiopoulos practises organic viticulture and believes in minimum intervention during the whole process. Various biodynamic practices are also used, thus being able to preserve biodiversity. The wild flowers stimulates both over- and underground fauna, thus strenghtening the soils and with it, the vines.

He concentrates exclusively on xinomavro, the emblematic variety of the Naoussa region. From this variety he makes at the moment ten different wines, from sparkling via rosé to reds. I have tasted five, and can recommend all of them. They are excellent value, such as the Young Vines 2019. Xinomavro gives naturally acid and tannic wines, well-suited for ageing. And Apostolos would also say it gives an ethereal quality.

Our selected wine, the Xinomavro Nature, has no additions of sulphur. It comes from a single vineyard planted 53 years ago, 200 meters high on a slope, at the edge of the village. The soil here is pure limestone. The climate is tempered by the winds from the Mediterranean and downhill from the mountain. So despite the low altitude the temperatures are also relatevely low. The 2019 vintage had 50% destemmed grapes, fermented with indigenous yeasts and was macerated for 30 days. It was matured for 6 months in 500-litre French oak barrels of second use.

Xinomavro Nature 2019 (Thymiopoulos)

Ruby red. At first quite discrete aroma of red berries and a touch of spices (cardemom, pepper), sightly warm. Much more open after three hours in the glass, and more aromatic herbs like thyme appear. Evident tannins, good acidity and long, mineral aftertaste.

Price: Low/Medium

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Wine of the Week

Weird berries, stylish wine

Adelaide Hills is a quite cool region northeast of Adelaide in South Australia. It’s varied in terms of soils and expositions, and many of the best vineyards are scattered over large distances.

Ochota is the young couple Amber and Taras Ochota, who started their natural wine project in 2008.

Surf trippers on the Mexican coast, where the idea was born (credit: Ochota Barrels)

They have a long list of wineries around the globe where they have worked and learned; the Hitching Post winery from the movie Sideways not least. By now they have half a hectare of vineyards of their own, high altitude on quartz and ferrous soil. They also tend an old grenache vineyard in lower McLaren Vale.

The wines are made according to natural methods, some whites with extended skin-contact. This one is more “normal” in that respect, a varietal gewürztraminer bottled with low sulfur values.

Weird Berries in the Woods Gewürztraminer 2019 (Ochota Barrels)

Light brilliant yellow with green tones. Aroma of white flowers, hay and herbs. Quite full but dry, good acidity with a trace of yellow tomatoes and also some stoney minerality. A stylish wine that strays from the often boring cliché of the grape.

Price: Medium

Food: Fish (both white and red, grilled and cooked), shellfish (crab, prawns), squid, salads, cheese (both creamy and hard, like parmesan), pizzas (especially good with white sauce (two of them pictured, in the making…)

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Wine of the Week

Tillingham white, blend

Tillingham is one of England’s most innovative producers. Their minimal intervention approach to winemaking and often surprising presentation have given them a strong following amongst matural wine lovers. This wine was tasted in a local wine club quite recently.

I visited them outside Rye, Sussex in March this year, one of the last days before lockdown and my first quarantine. Ben Walgate and his companion Serena showed me around and explained about their organic farming, also with certain biodynamic practises, and we had a tasting of all their original wines (and ciders) in their own bar and restaurant. In a wet climate like England’s, the threat of mildew is ever-present, so some copper and sulfur-based sprays are often used.

Aside of winegrowing, not only ciders, but also animals are part of the project, so is the bar and restaurant.

While some sparkling wine specialists have “owned” the headlines so far, I am very sure that the recognition of Tillingham will exceed far beyond the natural wine scene in the future. The grapes for this lovely low-alcohol when are müller-thurgau 35%, ortega 32%, bacchus 17%, chardonnay 12% and schönburger 4%, grown in chalky clay soil. There is no filtration nor fining.and minimal sulphur added before bottling.

At the winery in March this year

Tillingham White 2018 (Tillingham)

Yellow. Aroma of yellow apples, apricot, some lime. Luscious, light and superbly drinkable.

Price: Medium

Read more about one of their rosés here. http://winechords.com/?s=Tillingham

We have also visited nearby Davenport winery. Take a look here. http://winechords.com/still-british/

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Wine of the Week

A Testalonga favourite

This has been a favourite since I tasted it first time at a London fair. In spite of that it has not been highlighted since the 2015 vintage. (Reed some background information here.)

We are in Swartland, Coastal South Africa. In this generally warm climate winemaker Craig Hawkins harvests early. A very short version goes like this: The wine is made according to quite strict non-intervention principles, and just a little SO2. Also, whole bunches are pressed, and spontaneous fermentation occurs, and it’s kept in big oak vessels and steel. And now in its 2019 vintage it is as alive and “punching” as ever.

Baby Bandito “Keep on Punching” 2019 (Testalonga)

Light golden. Aromas of citrus, flowers, yellow apples. A flavourfull wine with light tannin structure and nice acidity.

Price: Medium

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Wine of the Week

Greek ancestral sparkler

It’s not often that we present natural wines from this ancient country, but here is a good Greek pét-nat. It’s the Kioutsoukis family, originally from the coast of the Black Sea, that brought the knowledge about winemaking with them to Greece. Now, here in the modern world they completed their conversion to naturals in 2015.

The traditional use of herb sprays are used if necessary, but wine responsible Dmitri Kioutsoukis’ ideal is to use as few treatments as possible.

They own 10 hectares of vineyards in the hills of Mygdonia in Northern Greece, not far from Thessaloniki. They have a strong focus on Greek grape like assyrtiko, malagousia, roditis and xinomavro. In the low hillside an all-year northernly wind secures healthy vineyards. The soils vary from clay-sand to small stones and schist. This slightly off-dry (15 grams) ancestral style sparkler is made from xinomavro and the whites malagousia and assyrtiko.

Kamara Pure Pét’ Nat 2019 (Kamara Estate)

Blood orange colour, turbid and quite bubbly. Smell of red berries (raspberry/strawberry), lime, grapefruit and mango. Good acidity, slightly bitter finish that balances the residual sugar.

Price: Medium

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Wine bars and restaurants and Wine of the Week

Coruña del Conde at Carlos’ Cascorro

I met Julien and Angélica at Barcelona’s Vins Nus fair for the first time. (See here.) This time a meeting in Madrid called for a festive start of a wine trip, even though the city itself was calmer than usual due to the coronavirus and the heat. Carlos Campillo at his Cascorro Bistrot never fails to deliver, and Coruña del Conde‘s rosé pét nat was one of his best offers. It was strange to see the Plaza de Cascorro that empty though, and he admittedly said it had been a tough time too.

Carlos in his masque first served Julián Ruíz’ Pampaneo 2019, a fresh, uncomplicated La Mancha airén

Back to Coruña del Conde: The vineyards are located on the slopes of Alto Otero, in the village with the same name as the wine company. Coruña del Conde, at a height of around 1.000 meters above sea level. They now have 9 hectares, divided into 36 parcels, in a calcareous clay terrain with a typically continental climate. The viticulture is organic since 2007, no pesticides, only copper and sulphur.

The rosé pét nat is made from 100% tempranillo. After 24 hours of maceration, the grapes are pressed, and fermented in vats without any additions.

Rosadito 2019 (Coruña del Conde)

Light cherry red, a little bubbles. Full of red fruits (raspberry, cherry), some herbs. A little residual sugar and lots of fruit. Very juicy, with a slight texture and a nice natural acidity.

Price: Medium

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Wine of the Week

Goyo’s Young from Old

Goyo García Viadero has become one of the most respected winemakers in the natural wine field of Ribera del Duero. I would in fact say that for me these are some of the most inspiring wines of the whole area. And not only the Ribera DO, he also makes wine from Cantabria, from his mother’s birthplace high up in the Picos de Europa. One of these is an amazing, fruit-packed field blend of mencía (red) and palomino (the white sherry grape that is found to a certain extent near the northern coast), called Cobero.

Inspired by natural winemakers, like some from the Jura, Goyo started making his own wines in 2003. Together with his wife he farms small plots in the central part of Ribera, basically field blends with white grapes amongst the red, in varying altitudes and soil types. The focus is thus on the peculiarity of the vineyard rather than the grape varieties themselves. He harvests several times, to get some wine with acidity and some with body, to finally blend it all together. All this is a nod to the past of this area.

As indicated in the beginning, these are minimal-intervention, natural wines. This means fermenting with wild yeast, no additions (almost never SO2), no fining nor filtration. Most wines are raised in old French oak though, in an ancient underground cave in located in Gumiel del Mercado. Add to the story that Gumiel’s Bodegas Valduero is run by his family, with his sister Yolanda as winemaker, and we are a step nearer to a complete picture.

The Joven is his non-oaked red, from a dry-farmed tempranillo vineyard planted some 40 years ago at 860 meters altitude. The grapes are hand-harvested, destemmed and fermented with wild yeasts in steel tank with 3 months of skin-maceration, with little extraction. It’s then raised in tank before being bottled without fining, filtration or any addition of SO2. Don’t be fooled by the word “joven” (young), this wine is as serious and well-made as they come.

Joven de Viñas Viejas 2018 (Goyo García Viadero)

Dark cherry red. Aroma of dark berries (blackberry, morello), and some wilder red ones too (cranberry), flowers, and some mineral notes (crayon). Quite fleshy in the mouth, with young, elegant tannins, and a vivid acidity. Wonderful drinking now, but will keep.

Price: Medium

Food: Lamb, other tasty and light meats, tapas that includes hams and sausages…

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