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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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Beaujolais Thursday

Every year 3rd Thursday of November sees the launch of the new Beaujolais vintage. This is nothing less than a 65 year old tradition in the wine home region. This year I haven’t participated in any comprehensive tasting, so I went to my local store and grabbed four wines. Luckily the store has a knowledgeable staff, and I could pick from some of the producers that I value the most.

Three of them comes from what have been called the “gang of four” of Beaujolais, producers who followed Jules Chauvet’s teachings and decided to avoid artificial fertilizers in the vineyard and sulphur in the wine, so as to better reflect the terroir of Beaujolais. 

Here you can read about, and see a picture of Marie Lapierre and Jean-Claude Lapalu. Lapierre’s Cambon Nouveau was featured a few years ago too. See here. The regular Cambon was also featured here this summer. The two other wines I bought were from Jean Foillard and Guy Breton.

A gang of four, an appropriate term for Beaujolais

To sum up, the two lightest wines were from Lapierre and Breton (number 3 and 1 from left, respectively) with the former as the most energetic of the two. Foillard and Lapalu (4 and 2 from left) were more “natural”, with the latter as the most “wild” and with a good deal of sediments.

Beaujolais Nouveau Cambon 2015 (Ch. Cambon – M. Lapierre)

Ruby red. Flowery with raspberries and cherries. Soft on the palate with just the right touch of acidity. Lovely, elegant.

Cuvée Fanchon Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau 2019 (Guy Breton)

The village here is Villié-Morgon (where Foillard is located). Light ruby. Rhubarb, raspberry. In the mouth it’s fresh, the body is very light but still with a touch of tannin, dry finish.

Beaujolais Nouveau 2019 (J. Foillard)

Cherry red. Red berries and something chemical at first – red and black berries after some time in the glass, also a lactic tone. Meaty, juicy, but also some tannin, a touch of bitterness, dry. It’s on the wild side; I don’t say it’s mousy, but it has something funky that’s not easy to detect on the nose.

Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau 2019 (J.-C. Lapalu)

Lapalu’s village is Saint-Etienne-la-Varenne in Brouilly, a southern location that partly explains the relative power of his wines.

Smells of dark fruits, a touch of raspberry with some lickorice and earthiness. Fresh in the mouth, lightly structured and ends dry. Some carbonic at first, but it disappears with time in the glass. Just like the former wine: On the wild, or natural side (a bit funky retronasal aroma).

Lapalu’s nouveau, clearly unfiltered
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Wine of the Week

Eco from Esporão

Esporão has been among the leading wineries of Portugal since its foundation in the early 1970’s.

The vineyard that gives birth to the Colheita

Not only are they big. Well they are; their Alentejo property is vast, the sales are good, and they have several well-known brands in the market. So when in Portugal, if I’ve had a plain bacalhau at a modest restaurant, there is almost always an Esporão at hand, such as the Monte Velho.

But they are also leading the way with many sustainable projects, such as reducing the bottle weight, fighting to stop the dam at river Tua, Douro, where they have a second winery. But more than this, then have a holistic approach, and in every aspect they seriously take the responsibility they believe that they are given.

I keep coming back to this wine. Made from touriga nacional, aragonêz and cabernet sauvignon in equal parts, the grapes are destemmed, fermented in open lagares for 10 days, and kept in steel. Eco-friendly, eco-nomic.

Credit: Herd. Esporão

Esporão Tinto Colheita 2017 (Herdade do Esporão)

Deep purple. Fruitdriven (mature dark berries), plums, aromatic herbs, some lickorice. Round, juicy, fruity with some acidity.

Price: Low

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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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Wine of the Week

Malhada, a great value vinho

I have known André Pereira for many years, but for some reason his wines have never featured as a “wine of the week”. His wines are all well-made and of splendid value, and you can read about some of them in this post.

André Pereira

The farm Quinta do Montalto has belonged to his family for 5 generations. It comprises 50 hectares of vines, olives and other crops. It’s found in the municipality of Ourém, that is actually belonging to Leiria, but most of the wines are still classified as regional Lisboa.

Even if the 17 is already in the market I chose the 2015 vintage here, because this is the one I enjoyed last. And it’s not always necessary to drink the last edition. One is not better that the other; they are different. This one has lost its young blueberry character, but it’s nevertheless a superb, fruity wine that will last still a couple of years. The 2015 vintage of this wine was made from aragonêz and castelão in equal parts. The fermentation was natural, and it was made in steel. It’s certified organic and vegan.

Vinha da Malhada 2015 (Quinta do Montalto)

Red cherry colour with some sign of evolution. Smells of red and dark berries, lightly spicy and some dried fruits start to show. Still fresh and luscious in the mouth, with an integrated acidity.

Price: Low

Food: Light meat, bacalhau, vegetables

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Trekking in the Andalusian mountains

I have taken a two day break from my seaside city holiday in Málaga. We are now trekking in the mountains. And we, we are my friend Jan Inge Reilstad (writer and culture activist) and me. I thought I’d give you some main lines in a postcard format, before I go into more detail later.

First of all I must say a big thanks to all the kind and lovely people who set their work on pause for a while to welcome us, after having given them a very short notice!

Manuel Valenzuela

First stop was Barranco Oscuro, outside Cádiar in the Alpujarras. I have met Lorenzo Valenzuela many times and many places, but it must be ten years since my latest visit to the winery. This time it’s his father Manuel who welcomes us. He shows us around the premises, before we end in a room to taste some wines.

We can’t help notice the wordplay on many of the labels. Tres Uves resembles the Spanish expression for three grapes, but what it really means is three V’s. And aptly enough the wine is based on the varieties viognier, vermentino and the local vijiriega. It’s obvious that Manuel has great fun talking about this. And he tells the story behind the labels, one by one, ending with the Salmónido, with the subtitle rosado a contracorriente, meaning: rosé against the stream.

And when you think of it: It’s not only the salmon that is going towards the stream. The Valenzuelas started to make natural wines without any additions or corrections at a time when few others did. Manuel Valenzuela is by most regarded as one of the true pioneers of Spanish natural wine.

Everything we tasted was expressive and full of energy; like the Art Brut 2017, a sparkler made according to the ancestral method, the yellow fruit-packed viognier La Ví y Soñé 2017 and the always lovely cherry fruit-dominated Garnata 2012 (obviously from garnacha). For those interested in ampelography (the study of grapes), the La Ví y Soñé has now a small percentage of vijiriega negra, a very rare variety that the white vijiriega once mutated from. We ended the tasting with two vintages of 1368 Cerro Las Monjas, whose name refers to the altitude of their highest vineyard (until recently the highest in Europe). Both were very much alive. Vintage 2004 was a bit reduced, cherry red, showed red and dried fruits, and a good acidity, and a slightly dry mouthfeel. The 2003 was a bit darker, with dark cherry dominating the aroma, and a rounder palate – and still more years ahead. (Read my report about the 2002 here.) A terrific bonus was Xarab, an amber coloured wine from the pedro ximénez (PX) variety, with aroma of apricot, figs, a touch of raisins and a balanced acidity. Manuel had showed us a barrel of the wine in the cellar. At this point it had been fermenting for three years (!).

High altitude vines grown organically and unirrigated on schist and clay soil

After a lunch in the centre of Ugíjar, rabbit and chicken with a dark, meaty nameless Cádiar wine, we continued our short road trip. Just outside Ugíjar we were met by this signpost.

I visited Dominio Buenavista around ten years ago too. Nola, from Dayton, Ohio has been through tough times since her husband Juan Palomar passed away last year. They both used to travel between the two countries. Now she has been forced to stay in Spain to look after the domaine, and continue the work just the way her beloved husband would have done himself.

Nola makes it clear that she wants to have control over the end-product. Therefore the wines can be said to lack the “savagery” of Barranco Oscuro. Their wines called Veleta (the second highest peak in Sierra Nevada, but also meaning weather-bird) are well-made, and their followers in Spain, the US and elsewhere know what to expect. -Natural yeast scares me, Nola says. So she relies on cultured yeasts, and hesitates to go completely organic. But the amount of sulphur is low, and added only following the harvest. In the cellar we tasted some red samples, from tempranillo and cabernet sauvignon (2018), and cabernet franc (2014), the grapes that make up Noladós, one of their signature wines. There was also a promising graciano (2016).

Should I pick just one wine it would be the Vijiriega “Viji” 2017, a fruity and mellow wine with apple, citrus and herbal notes.

We decided to see if there were room for the night in Trevélez. This is the second highest municipality in Spain at 1.476 meters, a place with thin air, good for curing of the famous Trevélez hams. So we climbed the steep slopes, and Jan Inge maneuvered the car through the narrow streets of the town. At last we found a room in the highest hotel of Trevélez.

Hams hanging in the restaurant where we had dinner

Next morning, continuing over the province border to Málaga, we arrive in the village of Moclinejo, as we enter the historic Axarquía landscape. Here we met Ignacio Garijo. He represents both the well-known Bodegas Dimobe, a family company that dates from 1927, and the new project Viñedos Verticales. The director is Juan Muñoz, one of three brothers. We can maybe say that stylistically, at least philosophically, these wines fall in between the two producers from yesterday.

Dimobe’s highest vineyard: Moscatel de Alejandría on slate and stone ground. These are 50-60 years old, while average is 80-90. On the north side of the hill there is moscatel for dry wines, on the south side moscatel for sweet wines picked a little later

Ignacio and Jan Inge looking south

Dimobe was dedicated to sweet wines, as was the tradition in Málaga. Around 2001, when the DO Sierras de Málaga was established as a means to meet the challenges and demands of modern times, they started to incorporate dry table wines in their portfolio. Pepe Ávila (Bodegas Almijara, of Jarel fame) and Telmo Rodríguez probably made the first dry moscatel in the area in 1998 (I visited them in 2001, I think), and since the new regulations came many more followed. Now it’s the norm, and one can wonder about the future of the traditional sweet and fortified wines.

Dimobe owns 5 hectares and controls 38 in total. All viticultors work the same way: Harvest by hand, sulphur as the only chemical product, and organic farming (though not certified). This is easy: -In 40 years we have only had two mildew attacks, in 1971 and 2011.

The old part of the winery looks like a museum. But it is also in operation; there is actually wine in the barrels. -There are many seals in here, says my friend. Ignacio explains that it is goat’s stomachs, very useful in old times to keep wine from oxidating, from Quijote’s time untill much more recently.

We tasted Verticales’ four wines first. La Raspa 2018, a moscatel 70% and doradilla wine. The moscatel is aromatic and fresh, while the doradilla rounds it off. It’s an appealing wine; light in colour, and typical moscatel aromas of flowers, some herbs, and some citrus (lemon). Filitas y Lutitas 2016 is a moscatel 90% and PX. This is a complex and very interesting wine that you can read more about here. We had a 2018 sample of El Camaleón. The grape here is romé (or romé de la axarquía, to be precise). It’s a grape that’s difficult to work and that offers little colour. So the colour is light red, aroma predominantly of red fruits, and fine-grained tannins. Ignacio explains that the tannins come from the vat, and they need some time to soften. He also claims that the tannins from the vat help to get some colour, even if I don’t see how this could work. Anyway, all these wines come under the DO Sierras de Málaga.

The last Verticales wine is Noctiluca Vendimia Asoleada 2016, that is a DO Málaga and comes from grapes totally dried in the paseros. It arrives 10% alcohol and has never seen any barrel. It’s yellow because of some oxidation in the paseros; aroma of apricot, flowers, and some tender sweetness (173 g/L). We went straight over to a couple of wines from the extensive Dimobe range. Señorío de Broches 2017 comes from grapes dried only on one side of the clusters. It reaches 8% natural alcohol, then it’s fortified up to 15. It’s a fresh wine, easy-to-drink, with the same sweetness at the Noctiluca. Trasañejo is an expression from the old Málaga classification that means that the wine must be at least 5 years old. Pajarete Trasañejo is a naturally sweet wine from moscatel and PX (again with the same sweetness), and one is not allowed to use arrope, the traditional reduced must. Amber or mahogny in colour, nutty and concentrated, with figs and dried fruits. Absolutely delicious.

Time to get back to our rented flat on the beach of Málaga capital. I must also confess that my wife and I had the wonderful sparkling moscatel Tartratos 2015 that Ignacio gave us (for the road), during the evening and night. Yellow, yeasty, tasty; just delicious summer drinking.

Ignacio Garijo

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Wine of the Week

Smooth Sylvaner

Fernand Engel’s office is located in Rorshwihr, but the domaine’s 160 hectares of vineyards are spread over 8 villages in Alsace. Here they can play with many different microclimates.

This wine is made from 100% sylvaner, almost 50 years old vines, handharvested. It’s spontaneously fermented and kept for 8 months on lees.

Renaissance Sylvaner Vieilles Vignes 2017 (Dom. Fernand Engel et Fils)

Light yellow with greenish hint.
Introvert at first, but the aroma opens with air and shows mature fruits, herbs and a nutty touch. Smooth, somewhat glyceric in the mouth (some 5g residual sugar), some citrus, herbs and crushed stone, and a good length.

Price: Medium

Food: Light meat, tasty fish and shellfish,  vegetables, try with Asian

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Wine bars and restaurants

Verona’s Osteria Nosetta

Verona is located in near vicinity of many recognized wine areas, but I can’t see that it has a lot of dynamic wine bars. One can always go to the Antica Bottega, that boasts hundreds of wines, not least for references, as they present many of the leading houses in several vintages. But I am more attracted to the smaller, distinctive bars with a clear idea, call it underground, avant-garde, rock’n’roll, jazz or whatever you like – especially when the idea is to present organic, natural, artisan wines, that the proprietors and sommeliers have a personal relation to.

Osteria Nosetta is located in the pleasant neighbourhood of Borgo Venezia, just outside Verona center. And Nosetta is the kind of place that I am talking about. The restaurant is intimate and full of atmosphere, the decor is a rustic, retro, and the music was vintage jazz on vinyl when I was there. The food is without limits; their small dishes -locally called ‘cicchetti’- are vegetarian, vegan, and you can have fish and meat too. The kitchen is based on fresh ingredients. The inspiration is from various places though, not least Asian-middle east, and there are some vegan dishes alongside more usual Italo-European stuff. The menu of the day was taped onto page 98 and 99 in an old paperback.

And the prices are undoubtedly to live with.

Andrea and Lorenzo

Lorenzo Folati has been leading the venture until now, but Andrea Venturini and a couple of friends are in a period of taking over.

They have a fine selection of wines and beers from independent artisan producers. I enjoy picking smaller ‘bites’ among those displayed at the bar, to go with a few glass of wines. Some were mint glass, a falafel, various greens, such as the delicious tomatoes, frittered squid, tomato and eggplant sandwich, zucchini with cous-cous, onions, honey and balsamico, and -why not- chocolate salami. The list goes on.

Here are a few of the wines that I enjoyed during my visits. (The order is changed according to “normal tastings logic”.)

Durello 2017 (Calesio dalle Ore) is made with the charmat-method. It’s a light coloured, apples, citrus, and bread scented, light-bodied sparkler with good acidity. Simple and good.

A postcard on the wall-board

Trachite 2016 (Alla Costiera), an unfiltered, yellow and cloudy moscato-prunella-garganega regional Veneto white with a sweet (moscato) sensation, together with flowers and citrus peel, and with a medium body, light tannin, and slightly bitter aftertaste.

Lugana 2015 (Marangona). This is a lugana from 100% turbiana grapes. It’s a fresh, simple, dry wine with light, almost blank colour, with a greenish hint. And the aroma is dominated by pears and citrus.

On the contrary, the next wine, was all but simple. Sassaia 2016 (Angiolino Maule), a varietal garganega showed light yellow, slightly turbid, and on the nose could be found mature apples, flowers, ginger and a touch of toast. Slightly yeasty, quite full and with decently acidity, all in perfect harmony. Maule is a long time favourite, and there is a report from a visit in an earlier post in this series.

Musella is one of the better producers of both standard valpolicella and amarone. Here is a white IGT from the Valpolicella area, biodynamically cultivated as always. Pinot Bianco “Fibio” 2014, from that variety, is a bit more on the wild side. Yellow with green hints, smells deliciously of flowers, yellow apples, and I would say, plays with oxidation.  Quite slender, integrated acidity, very pure, and the fruit shines on to the end.

On to a real rarity: Il Fresco Cesane 2014 (Marco Antonelli), that is from the DOC (sometimes: Cesane di) Olevano Romano, Lazio. Got it? The production area lies in the province of Roma and includes the municipality of Olevano Romano and, in part, Genazzan. The wine was nice enough; cherry red, red fruits, plums, and hints of leather on the nose; smooth, juicy, and with an adequate acidity.

Merlot “Casa e Chiesa” 2015 (Lenzini) is a biodynamic Colline Lucchesi. It’s cherry red, hints of green green pepper, a sweetish element from the oak elevation, and a light tannin on the palate and a touch of bitterness in the aftertaste. (14,5% alcohol, while most of those tasted here were around 12.)

We close the chapter from this gem of a wine bar with another pleasant surprise, nothing sensational, but better than most of its kind, a Moscato d’Asti 2017 from producer Emilio Vada. We are talking about a straw yellow coloured wine with the typical moscato rose aromas, clean, and pure. It’s a lightweight, but it has an inspiring acidity and it’s not sticky sweet, compared to what you often can find in this category. The alcohol here is 5%.

Arriving in Verona centre after a nocturnal walk

 

See the other posts in my Veneto series:

#1 – Maule’s Masieri

#2 – Prosecco in Verona’s Osteria la Manzorla

#3 – Gambellara: Maule and the two Davides

#4 – Zýmē’s Recioto Amandorlato

#5 – Vicenza province I: Tenuta l’Armonia

#6 – Vicenza province II: Siemàn

#7 – A Durella sparkling

#8 – Vicenza province III: Contrà Soarda

#9 – Filippo Filippi, Soave top producer

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Wine of the Week

Jean-Philippe Padié’s white flower

Calce is a village on the edge of the Agly valley,  Roussillon. From there many gifted winemakers has made it to the headlines, from Gérard Gauby, via Olivier Pithon to Tom Lubbe, and so on…

Jean-Philippe Padié deserves a place in that gallery. He was probably the first in the village to end the family’s tradition of delivering to the cooperative and start bottling himself.

Padié studied agronomy in Montpellier. He has also had training periods at reknowned producer Mas Amiel, and also at Gauby, before he started in the family business in 2003.

The wine was made from three grapes; grenache blanc 50%, macabeo 40%, and grenache gris 10%. It was fermented spontaneously in used barrels, and bottled unfiltered.

Dom. Padie Fleur de Cailloux 2016

Fleur de Cailloux 2016 (Dom. Padié)

Light yellow, slightly cloudy. Nice fruit, mature and floury apples, apricot, dried fruits, aromatic herbs. Medium body, integrated acidity, long and fruity finish.

Price: Medium

Food: Light meat, salads, cheeses

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Wine of the Week

Guignier’s Beaujolais-Villages

Michel Guignier is a Beaujolais producer with whom I haven’t been familiar very long. He practices organic and biodynamic viticulture, makes his wines without any additions like industrial yeast, enzymes, acid alterations, there’s no filtering, no fining, no added sulphites… On the other hand he believes in biodiversity, healthy grapes and soil quality.

His farm is located in the forest outside the Vauxrenard village (northwest of Fleurie and Chiroubles), his vineyards are also in that area, and he could have labelled the wines with the name of the village if he wanted. Here at 500 metres above sea level there is a slower maturation than in most Beaujolais villages.

Drawing of the winery (Credit: M. Guignier)

The soils are granite with sandstone, and the vines range from 30 to 80 year old. They are found mostly around Vauxrenard, and some in Fleurie and Moulin à Vent. La Bonne Pioche is probably his most known wine. It originates in a 7 hectare vineyard near Vauxrenard, planted with more than 45 year old vines. Its exposure is south-east and the soil is a kind of loose granite. 

Guignier uses concrete tanks with epoxy lining for fermentation, that can be called semi-carbonic. In the winery he has a great variety of barrels, steel and tanks to play with. New oak is never used though.

The horse Bistere contributes to a healthy soil (Credit: M. Guignier)

La Bonne Pioche 2016 (M. Guignier)

Cherry red, slightly turbid. Lovely aromas of flowers and red berries (raspberry, redcurrant), and some barnyard notes underneath. Fresh acidity, meaty on the palate, with smooth tannins and a long and dry aftertaste.

Price: Medium

Food: Salads, light meat like bird, cold ham and meat, try with sushi…

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