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Tag: organic

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.

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

Finca Valpiedra Reserva 2001

Finca Valpiedra is a single estate owned by Martínez Bujanda family. They started out in Rioja as early as 1889, and bought this place in the 1990’s. The finca is located in a bend of the Ebro river, between Fuentmayor and Cenicero. From here they launch wines in a crossroads between tradition and modernity, with some initial oakiness. Among the modern features are organic growing, estate focus, and the wines will reach the balance between oak and fruit after only a few years.

Credit: Martínez Bujanda

Tempranillo is the main grape, supported by a little cabernet sauvignon for structure and graciano for aroma. This particular wine also contains a tiny percent mazuelo (cariñena/carignan). The 2001 was a great vintage in Rioja, and the best wines, like this one, will last long.

Marta Martínez Bujanda and winemaker Lauren Rosillo
(in Rueda village)

Here you can read a report from their Rueda winery, where we also tasted their riojas.

Finca Valpiedra Reserva 2001 (Finca Valpiedra/ Martínez Bujanda)

Dark red with hint of brown. Forest fruits (blackberry), plums, thyme and eucalyptus over a thin layer of roast and dried fruits. Quite big, mature fruits in the mouth, with rounded tannins. In an optimal stage of evolution, without the sweetness of oak, still some freshness, the fruit intact, the individual parts integrated but still possible to detect.

Price: Medium

Food: We had it with entrecôte, and perfect with lamb, roast, game, hard cheeses…

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Wine of the Week

Clavidor still flies high

Sometimes when you feel a grape or a wine region has somewhat lost its direction, there are still someone that knows how to use a compass. It’s not that Rueda is completely lost, but the amount of uninspiring wines, often made with artificial yeast, together with the commercial success in the national market has made it one to “hate” for many. Good to know then, that there are people like Ismael Gozalo in the natural wine field. And among the producers working in a terroir-focused way with natural yeast there are a few. One of the leading ones, but often overlooked, is Bodegas Vidal Soblechero. They are mentioned before, and you can read about a visit here.

They are found in La Seca, located in the heart of Rueda, and the Spanish municipality with the most extensive vineyard. Claudio Vidal has tended the 42 hectares of family vineyards for several decades. Some of the plantings are more than seventy years old. With the climate, the old vines and the airing of the high plain, Rueda is a good place for organic farming.

Today it’s Claudio´s son Vidal and daughter Alicia who hold the reins, and founded in the 1990’s a small bodega built for their purpose.

Vidal and horse

The property is based on the verdejo grape, but they also own some viura (macabeo) and tinta fina (tempranillo). I appreciate their focus on small quantities of single plot wines, and tasting through their lines Pagos de Villavendimia (single plots) and Viña Clavidor (mostly estate blends) is a rewarding exercise. You have by now understood that you should consider this producer when searching for the authentic Rueda.

This week’s wind: The vineyards lie to the north of the municipality. In most of the plots they use the traditional bush vine system. All grapes are hand-picked, fermented in steel, only with indegenous yeast. Grapes from bush vines are harvested earlier, and for this wine some trellis style grapes are picked later. After alcoholic fermentation the final blend is left to age some months on the lees. In fact the wine is bottled every month, so the impact of the lees is stronger every time, as they are never removed. While the first bottlings are always fruitdriven, both complexity and ageing ability are increasing at the next bottlings. Only slightly fined and filtered.

Clavidor Verdejo 2018 (Bod. Vidal Soblechero)

Straw-coloured. Aroma of yellow apples and citrus (lemon), slightly yeasty, and a touch of apricot. Quite full and fleshy on the palate, with excellent but integrated acidity, and more to the mineral than the fruity side.

Price: Low

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Wine bars and restaurants and Wine of the Week

Caíño Longo at Malauva, Vigo

I am back in Vigo for the Emoción dos Viños fair to be held this weekend a bit further down the coast. A stop at Malauva is then mandatory. (Read about my last visit here.)

This time Josiño first recommended Monte Pío 2019, a very nice Salnés albariño from the bodega of the same name. It had all the typicity intact, which means aromas of apple and citrus from indigenous yeast, low sulphur, creamy after long time on lees and a clean citric aftertaste. Then a very different albariño, biodynamically grown, from Alberto Nanclares, Soverribas 2015. It had very typical aged albariño character, at least from my experience. This includes mature apples that hints to oxidation, just hints!, nuts (direction almonds/hazelnuts), and full, glyceric, dry and long in the mouth.

The first of two albariños, Josiño preparing some bread and tapas in the background

Our wine of the week is a wonderful Atlantic style red from the Ribeiro area. Cume do Avia is the producer (also mentioned here), and it’s also the name of the highest hill in the Ribeiro subregion of Avia. It is Diego, Álvaro and Fito, all relatives, who are Cume do Avia. They come from a family of vignerons, and started for themselves in 2005. They went organic from the start, with some biodynamic practises. They count on 9 hectares with 13 autochthonous grape varieties in Eira dos Mouros.

The soil consists of clay, schist and granite, east facing, with good sun exposure and ventilation. In the cellar they use indigenous yeast, no filtration, clarification with gravity and only a small amount of sulphite before bottling. The reds are made with low extraction.

Dos Canotos Caíño Longo 17 (Cume do Avia)

Light cherry red. Fresh red fruits, slightly herby. Juicy, but concentrated, with lots of integrated natural acidity, traces of iodine, salt. It’s not powerful, but very long, and so full of energy!

Price: Medium

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Wine bars and restaurants

Apotekergaarden revisited

A visit at Apotekergaarden, Grimstad on the southern coast of Norway is always a highlight. This is a popular place in every sense of the word, with a fascinating mix of people coming for great natural wine served by manager and sommelier Ida Konradsen, and people coming in from the street for burgers and pizza, served by the staff, some of them really talented. There are also concerts in the backyard during the summer season. We were there last Sunday, when our meal was followed by a gig with Norwegian folk-rock band Valkyrien Allstars. I have played there myself too, in fact it was one of the last things I did before the lockdown in March. A more detailed background to the restaurant you can read here.

On Sunday they made a special plate of Italian cheese and ham, olives and other stuff for us, followed by a main course of duck with a compote of red onion and a burger with spicy mushroom and onion, and on Tuesday we shared various pizzas.

An impromptu first platter

Here are some of the wines, some of them in fact outside the official menu, but generously offered by Ida and the staff.

Foam Somló 2019 (Meinklang), Somló, Hungary, made by Meinklang of Burgenland, Austria who owns vineyards on both sides of the border. This is a pét nat from Hungarian grapes hárslevelű and juhfark.

Light golden; aroma of yellow apples, hints of pumpkin and gooseberry; concentrated, with a sweet-irh sensation, inspiring indeed.

Brut Nature Reserva Anne Marie (Castell d’Age), Cava, Catalunya, Spain

A traditional cava from one of the pioneers in organic farming in the Penedès area, named after Anne Marie Onyent, one of today’s leading ladies of the company. The grapes are the three usual cava “suspects”.

Slightly bubbly; fresh and appley; fine natural acidity.

La Croix Moriceau 2018 (Complémen’ Terre)

A full and concentrated, mineral muscadet full of character.

Yellow; waxy, with mature apples and white peach; quite full, mineral (chalky), a nice bitterness in the aftertaste.

Palmento 2019 (Vino di Anna), Etna, Sicilia, Italy

Skin-contact wine made from the Sicilian carricante grape in fiberglass tanks.

Golden towards orange; aroma of citrus peel, clementine, apricot, mango; full in the mouth and slightly textured. Not too acid, low alcohol (11,5) and perfect while waiting for the main course.

Handwerk Riesling Trocken 2018 (Leiner), Pfalz, Germany

Biodynamically farmed riesling.

Light yellow; aromas of apple, citrus (lime), with a mineral touch; rich, with a good acidity and splendid concentration. Superb with the duck plate.

Jürgen Leiner’s Handwerk

Completo 2019 (Carussin)

A light, fruity barbera that comes in a full litre bottle (hence the name), made by the producer behind the famous “donkey wine” Asinoi. At best when chilled.

Lght cherry red; light berries (strawberry), herbs; lively in the mouth (slightly pétillant), juicy, with a good natural acidity.

Montesecondo 2018 (Montesecondo), Toscana, Italy

Located in the Chianti area, but not always classified as such. This is an entry-level wine, with 2% of trebbiano blended in with the sangiovese. If my memory doesn’t fail me it’s a light vintage for this wine.

Rather light cherry colour, aroma dominated by red berries; juicy and refreshing.

Viña Ilusión 2017 (Martín Alonso), Rioja Oriente, Spain

Made from tempranillo grapes in Arnedo in the lower part of Rioja. Not completely natural, but with a low amount of sulphur added.

Dark red; blackberry and spice; full, fresh and fruity.

Duck with riesling

After a few wines I often like to round it off with a beer, to “stabilize” the stomach that by now feels like full of acidity. So I asked Mathias S. Skjong, the in-house brewer, if he had something special, maybe something personal. So he produced Terje (made by Mathias himself in collaboration with Grimstad’s successful brewery Nøgne Ø and given a wide distribution by them, for the restaurant’s 10 year anniversary. It’s a very very hoppy, citrussy and dry India pale ale. Perfect to round off another good meal at Apotekergaarden.

Matihas serving his own beer
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Wine of the Week

Lifted Lambrusco

Who has not experienced that sweet, uninspiring stuff called lambrusco? Now thankfully more and more producers try to lift it from that bad reputation. In the past it was made by what is now dubbed the ancestral method, that involves bottling before it is finished, sometimes with a small addition of unfermented must, and the bubbles were developed during this process. Some are also made by the “traditional” (champagne) method. But most are made with the second fermentation in steel tanks.

Lambrusco is a family of grapes that has also given name to several DOC regions in Emilia-Romagna. This wine here comes under the less specific designation Lambrusco dell’Emilia.

Camillo Donati is found in Langhirano, just south of Parma, where he cultivates 21 hectares of vines biodynamically. It was his grandfather who first planted vines. The soil here is calcareous clay, and this particular vineyard was planted in the 1970’s. They were spontaneously fermented, with the secondary fermentation in bottle. It’s unfined and unfiltered, and the certification is organic.

Il Mio Lambrusco 2018 (Camillo Donati)

Dark red, bubbly. Aromas of cherry, raspberry, flowers. Fresh, slightly textured, yet juicy and appealing in the mouth, with a good natural acidity.

Price: Medium

Food: Characuterie (don’t forget the prosciutto of Parma), light meat, pasta, salads, aperitif…

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Wine of the Week

From Pieropan, a Soave Pioneer

I was touring the Veneto region in the summer of 2018. One of the producers I would have visited was the unique Leonildo Pieropan. But sadly he passed away only two months before. But he had given me many good memories with his wines, from the lovely entry-level Soave and up to the vineyard wines. La Rocca was a regular when I was responsible for the wine selection at a restaurant during the 1990’s, and it was a delightful revisit when the latest issue appeared in a private tasting lately.

Founded in 1880, the Pieropan family was thought to have been the first to use the term Soave on the labels, several decades before the DOC was born. Leonildo Pieropan was among the first ones to recognize the potential for single vineyard wines, and for the ageing potential of Soave wines and the much overlooked garganega grape.

The Calvarino vineyard was bought by his grandfather in 1901. This was the first single vineyard Soave Classico in 1971.

The La Rocca vineyard is located on the hillside of Mount Rcchetta near Soave’s medieval castle. The soil is calcareous, the south-west, and there are several long, narrow terraces. The harvest is usually done in late October. The harvest is manual, the maceration short but some skin-contact. After fermentation the wine is aged for one year in old barrels of 500L. And the variety? Garganega, obviously.

La Rocca 2018 (L. Pieropan)

Golden yellow. Aromas of yellow apples, white flowers, white peach, a touch of tropical fruit, and a nutty touch. Full, glyceric and juicy on the palate, with a pineapple-like acidity, and some bitter almond in the end. It’s complex, quite concentrated and long.

Prive: Medium

Food: Grilled and tasty fish, light meat, cheese, risotto…

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Wine of the Week

Back to the border

There is no end to all of the fascinating orange wines on both sides of the Italian-Slovenian border. But Sandi Škerk isn’t “just another”, he is one of the modern torchbearers for the style. Located in Carso, with a cellar in carso rock, he grows vitovska, malvazija, sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio. This wine is a blend of all four varieties in equal parts, each contributing their specific characteristic, such as the aroma of sauvignon and the blushing colour of pinot grigio.

The must remained in contact with the skins for two week, and it was aged in big, old barrels – and bottled unfiltered.

Ograde 2017 (Az. Agr. Škerk)

Light pink-orange colour. Very aromatic, with flowers (roses), citrus, (dried) apricot, white pepper. Quite full and smooth, but also with a lovely natural integrated acidity, persistent. A stunning, up-lifting orange wine with a remarkable personality.

Price: Medium

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Wine of the Week

Me o my, it’s May and Maias

I must admit that Quinta dos Roques and Quinta das Maias of Dão have been neglected during the latest years, from my side. They haven’t been in the news for a while, but now it seems that something is happening again. They are both property of Luis Lourenço and his family, and he is also winemaker.

Maias is noted for the grape variety of jaen, because it’s higher and cooler than Roques, and more easily gives the grape the acidity and focus that it needs. The soil here is granite and sand, and the estate is now certified organic.

The name is derived from flor de maio, mayflower.

It’s only 40% of jaen in this wine, and in good Dão tradition it’s accompanied by touriga nacional (30%), alfrocheiro preto (20%) and tinta roriz (10%). It’s made in steel, with spontaneous fermentation.

Maias Tinto 2017 (Quinta das Maias)

Cherry red. Mature berries, plums, some herbs, a bit anis. Fruity, juicy in the mouth, some tannins.

Price: Low

Food: Bacalhau, chicken salad, everything on the grill, its freshness also invites to be served chilled on a summer day

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Articles

Simplesmente Vinho 2020: Some highlights

It is always a delight to visit the Simplesmente… Vinho fair of Porto, held in Porto towards the end of February at Cais Novo, a former port wine warehouse by the Douro river. It’s an independent and alternative winefest that unites press, wine lovers and vignerons, most of these small artisan growers that work in a natural and organic way. This edition was number 8th, and showcased 101 producers, most of them Portuguese, some from Spain, only one from France I think, and a specially invited producer from Oregon, USA. There was good food, visual arts, there was music (and this year I was lucky to be able to take part myself), and oh! so many nice people.

There were endless rows of good wines to enjoy, so here I will only present a few of the highlights, and I will try to limit myself to one wine per producer. I have already published three short posts about single wines in the Wine of the Week column, and you can also read about some of the other producers from the previous fairs by doing a quick search yourself. Last year I wrote two articles similar to this one. Here you find recommendations of several Portuguese producers, and here are some of the rest.

Uivo Rabigato (picture taken in the Folias de Baco taberna)

We start locally. Tiago Sampaio is one of the best exponents of the “new wave” of Douro producers, making less “noisy” wines than the region is more known for, with less extraction, lower alcohol, and more focus on freshness of fruit. I have already reported from a visit to the Folias de Baco bar in downtown Porto where he delivers the wine (read here), and there will be a report from a visit to the winery in Alijó. Rabigato is getting more and more attention these days, as it shows its varietal potential. Uivo Rabigato 2019 is a characterful wine, light in colour, with flowery notes, grapefruit, citrus peel, a refreshing, cool acidity, and a saline finish.

Hugo and Ana

A neighbour of Tiago in Alijó is Ana Hespanhol of Quinta do Zimbro. She is also involved in a smaller project called Grau Baumé with her partner Hugo Mateus, and one of her sisters. I had a meal with the three of them in Alijó after a visit to Tiago. I remember some of the wines of Ana’s father Manuel from way back, and the brand Calços de Tanha (a very nice, direct, fruity red wine with a good price, by the way). Now it’s taken a step back to estate wines, to organics and naturally enough to a fresher style adapted to our times. Of the many good wines I here chose the Grau Baumé Undo 2017, a varietal viosinho that was lightly pressed without de-stemming, ageing in tank, and bottled un-fined and un-filtered. It showed a light colour, yet both full-flavoured, with yellow fruits, citrus and careful tropical notes, and a lovely acidity wrapped in a full, almost waxy appearance on the palate, and some saltiness too.

Manuel Sapage of Conceito
(tank sample of the Bastardo 2019 visible in the front)

About Conceito further east, near Vila Nova Foz Côa, I have written several times. Their white wines are stylish, their lighly extracted Bastardo red stunningly delicate, and they even offer ports, like a white port made in collaboration with Madeira producer Ricardo Diogos of Barbeito. This time I chose the white Único 2018, made from different plots in the same vineyard, more than 100 years old. It’s a field blend of around ten varieties, including rabigato, códega do larinho, gouveio, arinto, donzelinho branco and folgazão. It had a temperature controlled fermentation in used French oak barrels and regular bâtonnage up to one month, before it was aged 11 months in the barrels. It’s a light coloured wine with a complex aroma on the mineral side, with white peaches, citrus, ginger and some aromatic herbs; concentrated in the mouth, with a great natural acidity, and the oak is already almost integrated. It has probably a long life ahead.

William and Filipa

It’s always a delight to meet Filipa Pato and William Wouters. I have written about Filipa’s wines several times, and I like them a lot, so I thought I knew their portfolio. This time William presented wines from a range of his own, and I tasted a promising white wine. Other than that they had brought most of the range, both white and rosé sparklers, and I also tasted still whites and reds. Here I chose the Post-Quercus Baga 2018, that is presented as a wine from both of them. This wine is now made only in French and Italian amphoras (since their Portuguese one suddenly broke). These are not coated, and they have the same thickness all over, giving exactly the touch of taste that they search for. This is a wine that really sings: It’s quite dark in coulour, with violet hints; aroma of red and berries (cherries), plums, flowers; it’s juicy and delicious in the mouth, but not without concentration, fine-grained tannins, and with an acidity that’s there, but wonderfully integrated. Truly inspiring!

Luís Manuel Gil, winegrower and surfer from Óbidos
Inspiring, saline wines from breezy Atlantic vineyards

When I saw Luís Gil came into the tasting hall I expected him to take place at the table of his friend and collegue Rodrigo Filipe of Humus (see this article, including pictures of Luís). Well, he is still with Rodrigo, but this time he had come to present his new project. Marinho signifies that we are very close to the ocean, southwest of the Óbidos village. Here Luis works 2 hectares (6 plots) of rented old vines (between 40 and 110 years), where he works closely with the proprietors to ensure that they agree on everything. They work completely naturally, without additions of sulphur. The red varieties are first and foremost castelão, and some cruzado (a crossing with a lot of colour). I tasted the whole range, from whites with more or less skin-contact, rosé and reds. The Marinho Rosé 2018 was fabulous. 18 hours on skins with with stems, predominantly castelão (if I remember right) and some white grapes, like fernão pires, arinto and vital. This gives a light rosé colour, with strawberry and raspberry aromas; very juicy and delicate in the mouth, but also with a certain structure, and a lingering saline finish.

Luís tells that he grew up with wine, with a big wine cellar at his parents’ house. He had spent a lot of time visiting fairs, meeting vignerons and tasting wines that he was “triggered” by. This project started in 2017, when he had been thinking of it long enough, and suddenly realized that the wines he wanted to make were of a kind that was missing in the market.

If there is anything to compare Luís Gil’s wines with, or liken them to, it could be (well, apart of some wines in the Humus range of course) the Atlantic wines in Galicia. Which brings us over the border. I visited Constantina Sotelo in Cambados, Rías Baixas after last year’s edition of the Simplesmente. I tasted a few wines again this year, all from albariño and all from vintage 2018. And there were indeed several intesting wines that I could have chosen, not least the Aquelarre (sparkling from the ancestral method) and Flor de Sotelo (albariño under the ‘flor’ yeast, like in Jerez). I started with Octopus and Volandeira, the former more mineral from ageing in amphora, and the latter more fruity, from wood. All right, Octopus 2018 (2nd from left in the picture) was light coloured; flowery, with apricots and stony minerals; fleshy and grapey in the mouth, concentrated, with a super acidity in the long finish.

When Iria Otero started her own wine adventure it was with the Sacabeira label from the Salnés area of Rías Baixas. She prefers to chill the whites down to prevent malo-lactic fermentation to take place. While these are superb albariños, most the wines she had brought this time were from inland Ribeiro, from the village of Leiro by the river Avia. She normally elaborate entry wines in concrete, while the others are made in chestnut. A Seara Castes Brancas 2018 is, as the name implies, made from white varieties, treixadura, godello, torrontés and albariño to be exact. This one is made in concrete and stayed there for 6 months. It’s light in colour; green apples, yellow plums and flowers on the nose (as she points out herself, it’s more flowery than fruity); it’s mellow in the mouth, with some acidity, and really enjoyable.

Cume do Avia (from left): Álvaro, Diego and Fito

Not far from Iria, in Eira de Mouros, Ribeiro we find Cume do Avia, named after the highest hill in the subregeion of Avia. They have there 13 local varieties on 9 hectares. This area varies between Atlantic and Continental influence. The soil is a mix of clay, schist and granite, and the vineyards are facing east, with optimum sun exposure and ventilation. I really enjoyed both their white and red wines. Under the Dos Canotos label come both a varietal brancellao, and a caíño longo, but I chose another one (not for any specific reason, because they are all very good), Dos Canotos 2017, a blend of brancellao, sousón and caiño longo fermented and aged 6 months in very old big neutral barrels. This is a bit darker than the others; fresh, red fruits, with a lactic note; in the mouth it’s cool and fresh, with a slight tannic grip and a nice salty character.

Vicente Torres represents Puro Rofe and Bien de Altura

Puro Rofe and Bien de Altura are sister companies, the former is the oldest and most “well”-known and stands for Lanzarote wines, and the latter for wines from Gran Canaria. In fact there is a third sister now, as they make wine from El Hierro under the name Bimbache. This is quite sensational, so it’s pretty sure that we will come back to this. Our choice here is a high-quality wine from the maybe unlikely island of Gran Canaria, and the village San Mateo. The grower is Carmelo Peña, native to Gran Canaria, who works with indigenous varieties in an artisan, and organic and biodynamic way; native yeasts, de-stemming by hand, little use of SO2, and long macerations with little extraction. This place is considered to have desert climate due to constant warm temperatures and minimal rainfall. Carmelo and his team climb high, up to more than 1.400 meters.

The word ikewen has its origin in the Berber language Tamaziɣt and means root, or source. The red wine by that name is made from pie franco vineyards facing northeast and southeast, planted in volcanic soils. The grapes were hand-harvested and macerated 40% whole cluster, 60% was destemmed, gently pressed into one 500L used French barrel and the rest into steel tanks to finish fermentation. The finished wine was bottled unfined, unfiltered and with only a tiny amount of sulphur. Ikewen 2018 of Bien de Altura, grapes listán prieto, listán negro and some white varieties: Light red colour; red fruits, white pepper, a smoky touch; bright, fresh acidity and fine-grained tannins. 11,5% alcohol.

Germán Blanco of Milú

Germán Blanco of Quinta Milú is one of those who believes in village wines, and shows that even wines from Ribera del Duero can express a sense of place. And the place in this case is La Aguilera, one of the dominant wine towns of Burgos (Castilla y León), not far from Aranda de Duero. The grapes are grown organically in the traditional way, hand-harvested and with minimal use of sulphur. They use materials such as concrete or clay, and when they do use wood, it’s always big and used barrels. They never clarify nor stabilize and almost never filter.

They have a winery in Rioja and one in Bierzo too, but we concentrate on Duero here. Milú was also the first bodega in their project. To Porto Germán had brought three wines from La Aguilera; La Cometa 2018 from different plots, Viñas Viejas 2018 from limestone soil. I chose Quinta de Milú Bellavista 2018, from a tiny tempranillo vineyard with 80 year old vines at 930 meters on sandy soil. The wine is fermented in open barriques and aged there for 12 months. It’s deep dark purple; the aroma is dominated by forest fruits (blackberry), and aromatic herbs; in the mouth it’s fleshy, fresh, quite structured yes, but it’s elegant and can be drunk relatively short-term. Germán says they prefer imperfection to carefully monitored processes. But the wines are truly beautiful, and Germán hints to Leonard Cohen when he says, “it’s in the cracks that the light comes in”.

The light comes in to José Manuel Benéitez too

Also in Castilla y León, José Manuel Benéitez is found in the small wild, remote region Arribes del Duero close to the Portuguese border. El Hato y el Garabato is family project that started in 2015. Here they manage organically 8 hectares of 70-100 years old vineyards with varieties like the red juan garcía; bruñal, rufete, bastardo and the white doña blanca and puesta en cruz (rabigato in Portugal). And the cellar work is very artisanal.

The white Otro Cuento 2018 is made from doña blanca grown in granite, higher up in the domaine (while there is slate/schist at a lower level in the canyon). Half of it was fermented in small old barrels, and stayed there for 6 months. It’s light yellow wine, a bit reductive at first (a bit fosforic, some graphite), but it looses out to yellow fruits, and a smoky touch is there; quite creamy, or glyseric in the mouth, and integrated acidity. Mineral, intriguing. And then we are ready to cross over the border back to Portugal…

…which is not a long distance at all. Because we come to the northern part of Alentejo, by the Serra de São Mamede mountains, where João Afonso and his family has their Cabeças do Reguengo literally inside the national park. It’s an ambitious project where they seek to live and breathe in harmony with nature and ecosystem. And the wines are made in the most healthy way possible. The Respiro 2018 is made from both red and white grapes. Take a deep breath: Trincadeira, alicante bouschet, castelão, grand noir are the reds, while the white proportion include arinto, assario, fernão pires, roupeiro, alicante branco, rabo de ovelha, tamarez, manteúdo, uva rei, uva formosa, vale grosso, excelsior, salsaparrilha. Ok, come quickly back to the normal colour of your face please: They are grown between 500 and 710 meters, bought from local farmers who shares their ideology. The grapes were fermented in stone lagar with native yeasts and aged one year in old oak. The colour is fresh, clear red; aroma of red fruits, plums, some green pepper (from the whole-bunch treatment maybe), a touch of spice; fruit-driven fresh taste, fine tannins. Both serious and delicious summer-drinking.

Fortunato Garcia

Back to the islands, but this time to Pico of the Açores, where Fortunato Garcia makes his Czar wines in Criação Velha on the western side.

Why the name Czar? After the Russian revolution in 1917, sweet wines from Pico was found in the cellars of the palace of the last Tsar, Nicholas II. This wine was shipped in barrels on the island of Pico and sent to the royal banquets. It even appeared on medical prescriptions as a cure for certain ills and even Tolstoy mentions it in his book “War and Peace”. This is their reason for naming the wine. The Czar 2013 has 19% of natural alcohol, as can happen with these grape varieties (here: verdelho, terrantez, and arinto) in the volcanic soil. This time it stopped by 15-16 degrees, then started again. The colour is deep amber; with a sweet aroma of raisin, but also with some orange peel, hazel-nuts and anise to balance; it’s rich in the mouth, with a long nutty aftertaste.

When talking about the highlights one of them was for me a non-vinous one. This year I was lucky to be asked to perform with André Indiana and the in-house jam band. So for a full two hours we were rocking the house, and it was a wonderful experience to see all the wine producers in the audience diggin’ and dancin’. And Fortunato of Czar joined too, and lead the band masterly in an old Motown hit (I think it was).

A lot of superb wines are not mentioned. I did not have the time to taste everything. Some other producers were given priority last year, and the year before. At the dinners and lunches I remember wines from Mário Sérgio Alves Nuno, Rodrigo Filipe, João Tavares de Pina, with whom I shared table, and many others.

What now, my love? During this fair we got the message that the Cais Novo had been sold. So next year Simplesmente Vinho has to move again. And it’s a common belief that it would be difficult for festival organizer João Roseira to come up with a place as good as the one that we now have become used to. But he has surprised us before, so let’s see…

João Roseira: Is there a place for us somewhere? (picture taken a couple of days later at Quinta do Infantado)

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