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Vinho Verde I – South

After the Simplesmente… Vinho fair I took the opportunity to get an update on the nearby Vinho Verde region. I visited five producers in a program set up by festival general João Roseira and the growers. Here is a report from the three first wineries. These are found in the subregions Sousa and Amarante, only 40 and 60 kilometers respectively, from the city of Porto.

 Sem Igual 

Sem Igual (meaning something like unequalled, or unique) may be a new brand, and it was only in 2012 that João Camizão and his wife Leila Rocha made their first vintage. But João’s family has been grapegrowers in the Sousa and Amarante sub-regions of Vinho Verde since the 18th century. I visited together with an American importer. And from the fair in Porto they drove us in their car to Meinedo, in the municipality of Lousada. Meanwhile they told us the fascinating story about their international background and how they came back. João has for long long worked in telecommunications, and combined for a few years his employment in Nokia with a life as a farmer. It was only in 2016 that he decided to dedicate himself fully to wine, and the family took the chance to move to the village of his childhood.

Leila Rocha and João Camizão,
Sem Igual

Their office, storage cellar and guesthouse are located in Meinedo. Here in the Sousa area they have about 10 hectares of vineyards on granite soil with gravel. The vines have an age of up to 70 years, the oldest ones trained in the traditional ramadas.

Small-scale production. Here are their pneumatic press and their four barrels

They are a modern couple, with their international stories, and a busy life with three kids. But watching their vineyards and walking through their cellar it shows clearly that they also feel connected to history. Just look at all the stone and the wooden architecture in their premises, the concrete tanks and the lagares where the grapes are trodden by foot.

Their guesthouse has a swimming pool overlooking the vineyards

We tasted through their range of wines. Sem Igual makes first and foremost white wines, but also sparkling wines, rosés and light reds. Their whites are blends of the two local grapes arinto and azal. In general they are good bodied, non-carbonic, dry wines with a fresh acidity.

The Sem Igual (blue label) is made from 70% arinto and 30% azal, always with whole bunches and very soft pressing. It has virtually no contact with lees. The wine was served in five vintages between 2015 and 2019, to give an impression. All had splendid citrus fruit (lemon peel) with good body, a crisp acidity and no bubbles (sounds maybe strange, but this is opposed to a long tradition of gasification in the region), and a mineral aftertaste – in an overall elegant style. The 2019 and 2017 were for me a bit ahead of the rest, a bit more expressive and with a slight buttery feel. João says that in 2016 they cut down on SO2. This can explain that the latest wines, especially 2019 and 2017 were somewhat darker.

Next was a pair of Sem Igual Ramadas 2018. Dubbed Metal and Wood respectively this denotes that the latter had been in oak, the former not. The Metal came from 50 year old vines, the Wood more than 60, both trained in pergola (ramadas). 60% arinto, the rest azal, the Wood was a bit more buttery, full and with more rounded acidity.

Sem Mal may play with the expression “not bad”, I think, but also with the fact that it had not completed malolactic fermentation (“malo”) before it was bottled. Which makes it a sparkling wine. The 2019 was a fresh one, with small bubbles, citrussy acidity, yellow apples and some yeast. We also tasted the Bruto Natural, a fresh sparkler after 40 months on sediments. Among the rest of the wines we tasted the Pét Nat 2019 was truly fascinating. A half and half touriga nacinal and baga wine, this was their first pét nat and also their first experience with red grapes. Pale salmon-pink; peach and apples; smooth and off-dry, this is easy to drink on a hot summer’s day – and a story to be continued.

The four of us enjoying the versatility of the white wine
at a local restaurant

Quinta da Palmirinha

Quinta da Palmirinha and Fernando Paiva I have written about several times. Here is a short report following a visit three years ago.

Palmirinha is the family farm, barely 3 hectares located in Lixa, sub-region of Amarante. Fernando has a moderate and polite appearance, but is an undisputed authority in organic and biodynamic farming. A retired history professor, he will consult younger local talent about organic farming, without any pay. As he says while we walk up and down his quite steep vineyard, “if I give away my shirt I don’t have it any more, but knowledge is a thing you can share without losing it yourself.”

His vineyard is a total of almost 3 hectares with mostly 28 year old vines. Loureiro accounts for 2 hectares, the rest azal and arinto. All this is trained in simple cordon.

Loureiro grapes in July

On his own initiative he has experimented with the use of chestnut flowers that covers the must, so that he can avoid using SO2. Time will show if this will be a revolutionary discovery for the whole sector. Anyway, Fernando has already shared his ideas with several producers.

Chestnut flowers

Outside the adega we also said hello to the chickens that are fertilizing his vineyards. The plant life he calls “spontaneous”. It is like it is, there is no need to adjust. But we see aromatic plants that attracts insects.

Biodynamic preparations

He was the first certified biodynamic producer in Portugal. This time he showed me his biodynamic toolcase, with preparations.

The grapes are harvested manually in the morning, gently pressed and the fermentation is spontaneous. The wine stays in stainless steel for 10 months, with batonage twice.

I have tasted his wines many times, in the winery and at fairs. In general they are citric, appley and flowery, mineral, always with a firm structure, but with an integrated acidity. The three wines I tasted this time were all from the 2021 vintage. The Loureiro had more yellow apples, and overall a lovely calmness and harmony, just like the vineyard and the man. The Azal was more to the green apple side, some anise, with a crisper acidity. The Curtimenta (orange wine) called Leviano (tank sample), had 75% loureiro, the rest azal, and 3 weeks skin-contact. The colour is yellow, and smells of clementine peel, ginger and flowers; full in the mouth with some structure. This is an absolutely outstanding trio of wines!

Loureiro grapes and chamomile flowers

Quinta de Lourosa

José Maia meets me at Quinta de Lourosa, in Sousela (Sousa valley). He has a varied background, and he is still working as a tour guide. The last few years he has been engaged at the winery, to do a little bit of everything. His experience in tourism is well at hand as they have a guesthouse with restaurant and provide guided tours. Their packages include regional gastronomy, handicrafts and day trips to sites of historical and cultural heritage, such as the area’s Romanesque route.

Rogério de Castro

Joanna de Castro is winemaker on the quinta, that now covers 27 hectares. She lives in Lisboa and couldn’t be present that day. But her father was there. Rogério de Castro is a legendary figure, retired oenology professor and acknowledged for having introduced the training system that has come to be called Lys. The idea behind it is to enable a better sun exposure. Now the professor is passionately working the vineyards at Quinta de Lourosa. He has also in the latest decades renewed the 17th century chapel and the eaves on the farm. As we were walking around the estate he showed me different examples of the Lys system. It’s maybe more a concept than a technique. The idea is to distribute the plants to give ventilation. Very commonly first the plant grows to the left and to the right, then it moves upwards. With this system the plant also grows much stronger.

The Lys training system

José tells me that the estate doesn’t produce organic wines as such. But they do care about the landscape and soil. -We use chemicals only when we have to, he says. -And the future is not to use. They are in fact planting peppermint between the rows to attract insects, only to mention one feature.

Tasting in the winery

The wines were in general fresh and quite light in style. To only mention a few the (Vinhas de) Lourosa 2021, a varietal loureiro, was light with a a little gas; citric with green apples on the nose; fresh in the mouth, with lemony acidity. The Quinta de Lourosa 2021 was maybe a bit more “serious”. Made from 40-45% arinto, 30% loureiro and the rest avesso (a blend that the authorities first didn’t approve, because they said it must be sauvignon blanc) the wine showed citric with yellow apples, also fresh with a little gas, but a little more full and concentrated than the previous. Among the sparkling wines I really liked the Lourosa Bruto Branco 2018, made from loureiro and brinto with no added sugar: Pale yellow with small bubbles; fresh aroma of green and yellow apple, some yeast (after 9 months on sediments); with an appley acidity in the finish.

We also did an interesting tasting of the Quinta de Lourosa Alvarinho. The 2019 (made with 7% arinto also), made in steel and new French oak, showed light yellow in colour; an aroma of yellow apple, spice/herbs; glyceric, hints of toast, flavourful. We had this and two more vintages for dinner in the restaurant. While the 2016 was more buttery and had only a slightly oaky aftertaste, the 2014 showed a fully integrated oak without losing the fruit.

Visiting Citânia de Sanfins, a pre-historic Celtic-Iberian settlement
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Simplesmente… Vinho 2022 – Portuguese re-discoveries

Simplesmente… Vinho is an independent wine festival held annually in Porto. It’s for artisans and family businesses, for wines that respect terroir and tradition. As the organizers say, “sincere wines with a healthy dose of madness and poetry”.

Nowadays it’s held on the first weekend of July, in the open air of the gardens of the Casa Cor de Rosa of the Faculty of Architecture of Porto (FAUP). This tenth edition featured 101 vignerons from Portugal and Spain.

This year I tasted quite randomly in no special order. I will still try to categorize them for you. It is always a pleasure to taste the wines of producers like Tiago Sampaio, Antonio Madeira, Niepoort, Quinta de Carolina and Quinta do Infantado. However, here I will highlight some of the producers that I didn’t know that well. Yes, I knew about them and I had tasted some wines, but this was the first time I tasted their whole range. Three to watch were Quinta da Pôpa, Quinta da Poeta (both Douro) and Quinta do Escudial (Dão). There were also a couple of discoveries on a trip to the Vinho Verde region. These you can read about in a forthcoming article.

Muxagat was created in 2002 by the Almeida and Lopes families, in the village Muxagata of Douro Superior. Today Muxagat has its own winery in Mêda, where most of the grapes are sourced. It’s a minimal intervention project, also without addition of yeast. Susana Lopes and her family, with the help of Ana Silva, resident winemaker, and consultant Luis Seabra, make stylish, fresh wines in a region famous for heavier stuff.

Susana Lopes and Ana Silva, Muxagat

I liked the whole range, from the fresh white wines (one of them an off-dry riesling), via the elegant light extracted rosé to the various shades of red. Here come a few of the best. Tinta Barroca 2021: Young colour with violet hints; mature dark and wild fruits (cherry, blackberry), flowers; luscious with fresh acidity – a serious glou-glou wine! The Tinta Francisca 2017 had more developed colour, an earthy, mineral aroma with red berries and white pepper, and a lightly structured palate. I also liked their regular Tinto 2017, a classic and complete red. Vale Cesteiros 2018, from older vines, is dark in colour with wild fruits (blackberry) and some balsamic; potent, still elegant, and with an integrated acidity. Cisne 2015 and 2016 were made from tinto cão 90% and rabigato, aged two years in wood. They showed some evolution, with earthy and fresh red fruits, then a powerful structure and a rich mouthfeel. The 2016 was the most powerful of the two.

Miguel Morais came to what is now Quinta da Costa do Pinhão, fell in love with it and knew he had to dedicate himself to the difficult task of working that land. Miguel says that 2014 was his first serious vintage. Over the years he has learned to understand the place better, respect the land, the plants, the animals, and cut on the chemicals, he says.

Miguel Morais and Filipa Silva,
Quinta da Costa do Pinhão

Quinta da Costa do Pinhão Branco 2019 was destemmed and fermented with skins in used barrels, and can be called an orange wine. Golden colour; mature apples, yellow fruits (tomatoes) and wet stone; rounded and balanced. The red Marufo 2019, from the rare grape of that name, was light, with currant colour; ripe raspberry fruit, spice; soft on the palate, balanced, and with a beginning evolution. The red with the company name was also of a classic style. Quinta da Costa do Pinhão Peladosa 2019 is a field-blend of 30 different varieties, a hundred years old vines on 1 hectare. Whole bunch pressing was carried out in a 500 litre barrel. Dark and wild fruits (blackcurrant, blackberry), menthol; concentrated flavours and delicate tannins.

There is nothing better than a little slowness in this era, says Rodrigo Martins of Espera (meaning: wait). He continues, we should give the wines time for maturation to deliver authentic and genuine aromas. He has 5 hectares of vineyards in Alcobaça, region of Lisboa, where the simple winemaking styles of the Cistercian monks is an inspiration. The idea is to be patient, and the ambition is to offer a unique quality product, at the same time unpretentious.

Ana Leal and Rodrigo Martins, Espera

I really appreciate the elegant, low-extracted Atlantic style of this producer, and all wines could be highlighted. Here follow four of them. The Bical & Arinto 2020 from a young vineyard with low yield stayed 8 weeks in oak. It shows yellow fruit; is round, tasty, and concentrated. The Curtimenta 2021 stayed 17 days on skins. Light yellow, slightly cloudy; delicate skin-character (lemon peel); grapefruit in the aftertaste. The Espera Palhete 2021, a field-blend of some 20 varieties (70% white) was really delicate and delicious: Light red; raspberries; crisp acidity and a delicate texture. Espera NatCool 2021 is made for the Niepoort-distributed series of low-extracted natural wines in one-litre bottles. It’s made solely from castelão, is light red; with lots of red fruits (raspberry), a touch of flint; delicate, uplifting acidity.

Amoreira da Torre is one of the producers that manage to make fresh, varietal-scented wines from Alentejo, otherwise known for developed, jammy aromas. I tasted a few wines some years ago, and this was a good opportunity to re-discover. 20 hectares with Portuguese varieties from the region was planted in 2001 by Paulo Sendin and converted to organic four years later. The terroir at the estate in Montemor-o-Novo (on the highway to Évora) is characterized by granitic soils, abundant groundwater and a Mediterranean climate.

Paulo Sendin, Amoreira da Torre

The Zebro line features some delicious, fruity wines of several colours at an un-beatable price. The microclimate is good for white wines, with water in the subsoil where roots go deep. Zebro Blanc de Noirs 2020, a varietal aragonêz, is made with very light pressing (“lágrima”), then immediate separation of the must. It’s quite unctuous, or broad, with anise and bitter almond notes; full and somewhat structured on the palate. Amoreira da Torre 2021 (aragonês, trincadeira, some cabernet sauvignon, 6 months in used oak) is youthful dark; fruity, dark and red fruits (morello, plums), green pepper, herbs and eucalyptus; rounded tannins, fresh and not overdone.

Look for next article from the Simplesmente fair, when there will be an update on producers already known on the blog.

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Wine of the Week

Fanny Sabre in Pommard

Fanny Sabre has in short time, and at a young age, become a respected producer in Bourgogne. After her father passed away in 2000, she and her mother have run the family domain in a magnificent way. (Read about another wine here, also with an introduction.)

Today she manages the 5-hectare domain from her cellar in the heart of Pommard. And the grapes for this week’s wine are sourced from plots in that commune. We enjoyed the wine at “the wine office”, Vinkontoret, in Stavanger, Norway.

Like for all her reds she has here used 100% whole clusters and matured the wine in mainly 400 liters and mostly used and partly some new barrels.

Sabre’s Pommard at Vinkontoret

Pommard 2016 (Fanny Sabre)

Light cherry red. Aroma of red (cherry) and dark berries, touch underwood. Juicy in the mouth with fine-grained tannins, concentration in flavours, good acidity and length. Very delicate. Will keep.

Price: Medium/high

Food: Game, fowl, other light meat

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Wine of the Week

Mengoba old vine godello

Grégory Pérez was educated in Bordeaux, and came to Bierzo, where he has his roots, in the early 2000’s.

His steep vineyards are situated by the river Cúa in Espanillo, ranging 600 to 850 meters above sea level. Pérez only grows local varietals and native yeasts, and the work is strictly organic. He plows and aerates the clay and decomposed slate soils to enhance the health and biodiversity of the earth, he strongly limits the use of fertilizers, and he never uses herbicides.

Gregory Pérez samples a godello in his cellar

The grapes for this wine is exclusively godello, that have grown on calcareous-clay in Valtuille and Villafranca vineyards, stony soils in Carracedo – and on slate in Espanillo (the latter around the bodega). The age is 25 years, trained in goblet. They were harvested manually, pressed with whole clusters and fermented in 4,000L foudres. Then followed 7 months in foudres on fine lees with weekly stirring. Very light fining and filtering.

Mengoba Godello Viejo Sobre Lías 2020 (Grégory Pérez)

Light yellow. Mature pear, yellow apple, hay and herbs on the nose. Good volume in the mouth, with mature fruit, a pleasant acidity and a salty touch in the finish.

Price: Low

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Dorado III – New initiatives, a new level

We end our journey with some more recent initiatives. Their history is not necessarily that short though. Menade for instance is relatively new, and the launch of their oxidative wine too. But the companiy’s history can be traced many generations back, and their dorado has also some history.

Menade was officially founded in 2005. But this branch of the Sanz family can trace its wine history back to 1820, when they sold their first vintage to the mayor of La Seca. At that time, there was more red wine than white. Antonio Sanz was one of the pioneers of Rueda and of Spanish wine in general; he traveled around, among other places to the Basque Country to see how they made wine there. He took part in the revolution to avoid oxidation; pick at night and use steel tanks – and to start DO Rueda. Now his three children in the 6th generation are leading the family business. Menade operates completely organically and is committed to spontaneous fermentation. The family sold the famous brand Palacio de Bornos, and the bodega which later got the same name. But they kept the vineyards. Menade benefits from the use of these today.

Ivan in Menade’s Rueda cellar

Here we meet again my musician friend, who I first met in another Rueda bodega. Ivan Acebes García is generally interested in culture and speaks long and inspired. His thoughts on the history of the Spanish nation will not be discussed in detail here. But he says that for 250 years, solera was the way to make wine here. It was to make the process cheaper that they started placing the wine out in the sun. It is natural that Ivan asks if we can meet in the old bodega in La Seca, where a living room is filled with books. Later we drive to what has been the headquarters since 2009 in Rueda town. There they have made an organic bodega, laid out a garden with all the typical plants – and supplemented with, among other things, an “insect hotel”. Menade has a total of 210 hectares, 60 here at the farm in Rueda. Their homage to the dorado tradition they call Adorado. The vines for this are between 20 and 25 years old, and the grapes are picked by hand.

-Every year we harvest earlier, says Ivan, with the global warming in mind.

We are out in Menade’s biodiversity paradise. There is a lot of fennel: -All verdejo smells like fennel, other typical smells are rosemary and thyme, he points out.

It’s getting late, and a breeze has crept in over the inhospitable Castilian landscape.

-Here, far inland there is actually a certain Atlantic influence, he says, -there is nothing to stop the wind between the sea and these fields.

The pressing takes place in a historical vertical press from around the year 1900, when it is believed that an earlier incarnation of this particular wine was made for the first time. The must is cloudy, and the fermentation starts naturally. After fermentation, the finished wine is fortified with grape spirits to obtain 2 or 3 extra grades of alcohol. Flor develops, usually in the spring, and when it has disappeared, the oxidative process resumes in the old underground bodega in La Seca. -The mother solera of Adorado dates back to 1967, but the first “saca” (withdrawal from the solera) was as late as 2018, when we made the decision to reactivate this style, Ivan continues. Unlike the other well-known producers, Menade uses 8-liter damajuana. The wine is released on the market without clarification or filtration.

This dorado has even more saline expressiveness than the aforementioned wines. In addition it has evident iodine and umami features. It has a clear amber color with a golden element.

Vidal Soblechero

I always appreciate coming back to Alicia and Vidal Vidal Soblechero in La Seca. (No, there is no misprint there.) Vidal is a passionate “bird man” and is the only one who has made me hold a bird of prey on my arm. By the way, his falcons have a function; they keep pests away from the vines. Alicia is a music lover and this time she invited me to a baroque organ concert in the local church of La Seca.

Actually, I find it strange that this producer is not more famous. They did get a lot of attention when they made Spain’s first ice wine in 2010, but it was probably quickly sorted under curiosities. No, it is their single-parcel wines that most of all arouse interest and admiration. I always make sure to taste some, if not all, of these. The wine series Pagos de Villavendimia was born precisely with the aim of expressing the characteristics of the various plots.

Alicia and Vidal

The Vidal Soblechero family has 50 hectares on 32 plots. Nothing is bought-in, no vineyard is rented. It was his father Cláudio who was behind the standard verdejo Clavidor (also derived from his name).

La Oxidativa, their dorado, comes under this label Pagos de Villavendimia. It is made from 100% verdejo from over 80 years old vines and stored in damajuanas that are always full, in a form of solera from 1947.

-It started, once told their distributor Joachim Buchta, -when Cláudio Vidal put a barrel in the yard filled with ordinary verdejo. Then he placed enough damajuanas around it on the ground. After six months, he replenished ten percent of the wine from the barrel with the wine from the damajuanas. Then he refilled the damajuans. Over the years, the number increased. Now it’s around ten.

This explanation is perhaps good for understanding how the solera system works in this context. The point here is that there are barrels that never run out, that there is a small amount left from the first vintage.

Another point is that at Vidal Soblechero, dorado is fermented like ordinary verdejo, with potentially about thirteen percent alcohol. You are then sure to end up with a completely dry wine.

We see that this is a type of wine that several producers are now bringing to light again, and beyond the four I had planned to visit especially with a view to dorado, I will mention two. I had agreed to visit Ismael Gozalo anyway, and he gave me a bottle of his historical wine when I was about to leave. And to a trade fair in Barcelona, ​​Malaparte had also brought their oxidative wine.

Ismael in his Nieva cellar

Ismael Gozalo

Ismael Gozalo’s father was one of the founders of Viñedos de Nieva, a reference in the area. And he himself was behind Ossian together with Javier Zacchagnini, known from Ribera del Duero. In 1998, Ismael started making wines outside the family’s bodega, and it did not take long before everything was produced organically, as natural wine without additives. Nieva, the small village where he was born in 1971, is one of the highest in Rueda, 850 meters above sea level. With less than 300 inhabitants, Nieva has four significant wineries, which must be said to be an unparalleled density.

Ismael Gozalo has 31 hectares, only “en vaso”, without upbinding, which is very common in Spain, with all its old vineyards. The wine EvoluciÓn comes from one of Gozalo’s best vineyards, 180-year-old pre-phylloxera in sandy soil. The wine is based on the vintages 2010 and 2011. It has then been over ten years in old sherry barrels. It has a permanent floor layer based on yeast cells from the bodega since the 11th century. As he writes on the baking label, it is “stored under flor (flower), bottled on a ‘día de flor’ (flower day) and you can enjoy this flor (wine flower)”. He may be called the “verdejo alchemist”, for his creative ways of dealing with this emblematic grape. Obviously, he also uses 100% verdejo for his dorado. Ripe grapes are picked by hand, spontaneously fermented and stored in barrels, which are only filled up with 5/6 of the capacity. The wine achieves an alcohol of 15%, but evaporates, and when the wine has 13.5%, it is not refilled with alcohol, but bottled as it is. It would thus not have been approved by DO Rueda. 950 half litre bottles were produced.

Old sherry bota from producer Pedro Romero
“Natural artwork” (inside a damajuana)

EvoluciÓn is stored longer under flor than the aforementioned wines. Therefore, one might call it pálido rather than dorado. Surely it is that it is also made after inspiration from the historical wines from Rueda. Because of a longer time under flor it is lighter than the others in colour. It is aromatic, with hints of ripe apples and plum and a yeasty flor characteristic. It is a very fresh wine with good concentration, vital acidity and a sweetish fruit sensation. Dry in the mouth, and good length.

Ismael’s EvoluciÓn

Like Gozalo, Bodega de Frutos Marín is located in the province of Segovia. The producer is most often called Malaparte, after its most famous label. Rubén and Elisa cultivate 5.5 hectares of vineyards near Cuéllar. They use different techniques, such as tanks, old barrels and amphorae. All plots are operated without irrigation. This is near the Ribera del Duero. Still, and despite a lovely amphora-aged tempranillo, I would say that they are mostly a white wine producer, offering several versions of verdejo and viura. Interesting for us in this round is the wine OX. This is obviously an abbreviation of “oxidativo”. It is based on verdejo and palomino fino from 65 year old vines. After a year it was transferred to damajuanas. It naturally reaches 14%, and is not strengthened. It has all the yeast, almond and dried fruit aromas one would expect, and in the mouth it is glyceric – and typically more fruity than its sherry equivalents.

Rubén and Elisa

Maybe the dorado drink can get a place at our tables again? The first mentioned wines (see part I and II) should have similar use as a young or medium aged amontillado or palo cortado sherry. If we should refer to what the producers themselves are suggesting, it can be anything from cured cheeses, via stews, anchovies, bacalao, foie and smoked and pickled starters – to salty and sweet foods, such as blue cheese and chocolate-based desserts. EvoluciÓn will probably be more like a fino, manzanilla pasada or young amontillado, with some lighter food. One of Gozalo’s importers mentions Asian-inspired dishes and red fish. It would probably suit some of the others as well.

The golden age was called the era after the discovery of America. It remains to be seen whether the golden drink is now facing a new golden age.

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Wine of the Week

Saline white from Salina

Here is a wine from a tasting in my local wine club, that showcased grapes from southern Italy. (See an entry from Campania here.)

Antonino Caravaglio is located at the foot of the Monte dei Porri volcano on the island of Salina, off the north coast of Sicily. Here the vineyards stretch from 10 to 650 meters above sea level, mainly malvasia. In total the firm comprises about 20 hectares, divided into many parcels, some of which are on the other islands of the Aeolian archipelago.

For centuries, the economically most important products here were wine and capers. And Nino makes not only wine, but also what literature claims to be the world’s best capers.

Salina seen from Lipari (Credit: Caravaglio)

This wine is made from malvasia di lipari grapes, relatively young vines (10-20 years) organically grown on volcanic sand and rock in a vineyard called Tricoli, that means triangle in Aeolian dialect. The vineyard is located on the northern side of the island of Salina, facing north-west and overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The grapes were hand-harvested and sorted in the fields, pressed in whole bunches and fermented with indigenous yeasts in steel, then aged in tanks on lees for three months. Low sulphur.

Infatata 2019 (Az. Agr. Caravaglio)

Light straw yellow. Aromas of litchis and jasmine over a layer of herbs (thyme). Glyceric in the mouth, integrated acidity, a touch of grapefruit and a saline finish. Clean and stylish.

Price: Medium

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Wine of the Week

Expressive Riojan garnacha

This is a Riojan garnacha with a strong varietal character, that takes me towards its relatives in the Gredos mountains on the other side of the capital. This can be because the producer’s collegues in Rioja don’t put enough focus on the grape and its qualities, – maybe because of its lack of reputation, or the producers’ tendency to oak everything in sight.

Sandra Bravo is not among them. She is one of the producers in the group Rioja’n’Roll, from a dynamic generation that wants to move forward from the stereotype of the blending eras. She was probably the first in Rioja to use amphorae for maturing wines, and she never lets the oak get in the way for the local typicity, be it Rivas de Tereso, at the foot of the Toloño) or over in Villabuena de Álava (Basque Country).

Sandra has also launched a wine called La Dula Garnachas de Altura (garnacha from the heights). This one is a single parcel wine from a vineyard in Rivas de Tereso, planted in 1944 at 700 meters altitude. It’s fermented and aged in a 300 liters amphora.

Edit: I realized that I had highlighted the same wine in the 2018 vintage three years ago, from the Simplemente Vinho fair. Read about it here.

La Dula 2018 (Sierra de Toloño)

Dark cherry red. Cool, concentrated aroma of wild berries (blackberry, elderberry), raspberry and a lovely flowery scent, with a stony, mineral touch. Rounded tannins, integrated, fresh natural acidity, expressive and long.

Price: Medium/high

Food: Game, other tasty meat, but also more delicate dishes like vitello tonnato, charcuterie

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Wine of the Week

So long, Merian!

Merian is here short for Mercè (Solé Llop) i Antonio (Mèlich). The finca was established in 1942 in Terra Alta (Catalunya). Today the two of them, together with Mercè’s sisters and brothers, 4th generation, run the estate, based on terroir and sustainability.

This wine is based on garnatxa negra 100% from their own organic vineyards in the municipality of Batea, a center for viticulture in Terra Alta. (Here is another Batea wine.) The soil is rich in clay with chalk, but also rolling stones, in an altitude of 350 – 450 meters.

The grapes are hand-picked, before a new selection in the winery. After a light pressing the juice is transfered to steel, and a fermentation at 26 degrees with a 15 days skin-maceration.

Here with filled aubergine incl. cheese (leftover raclette) and sliced meat

Merian Garnatxa Negra 2020 (Cellers Tarroné)

Dark cherry red, blueish hint. Young, fresh aroma (blueberry, raspberry), together with anise and some leathery notes. Fresh in the mouth, but also with a certain depth from mature berries, smooth tannins and a fruity finish.

Price: Low

Food: Red and light meat, grilled if you like, game, casseroles, pasta and salads with meat

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Wine of the Week

Milan scores again

A short note this time. Domaine Henri Milan was created in 1956. When Henri took over in 1984 there had been used excessive chemical treatments for many years, and he saw on other solution than to change into organic farming. In recent years the domaine has released one magnificent wine after another.

This wine is a typical fresh, young one, can we say somewhat Beaujolais inspired. 100% mourvèdre grapes were fermented in two separate tanks. One underwent carbonic maceration, while the other had a more traditional treatment. Then the two were blended before bottling. Mourvèdre typically accounts for heavyweight, robust wines. In this case it’s 12% alcohol (the previous vintage was 11), fresh and easy.

Nouveau Mourvèdre 2021 (H. Milan)

Cherry red, blueish hue. Smells of red berries (raspberry), herbs and black pepper. Simple and juicy, yet with a soft touch of tannin, a touch of “carbonic”, and an energetic acidity.

Price: Medium

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Wine of the Week

Making Sense

Celler Batea speaks about duality. One expression of this is the mixture of Continental and Mediterranean influences in their home town Batea, DO Terra Alta (Catalunya). Another is the focus on two grape varieties, that is the black and the white version of garnacha, or let’s just name it garnatxa, like it’s written here. It is these two varieties that make up the series of non-added-sulphites wines called Sense (meaning without in Catalan).

Credit: Celler Batea

In 2019 the producer launched these wines, with total sulphites less than 10mg per liter. They are completely organic, do not contain any chemicals, nor preservatives and have not been filtered. The white wine was fermented in steel at 14-16°C with native yeasts, stayed there for 6 months on fine lees, with “batonnage” (stirring) to give more complexity and mouthfeel.

Sense Blanc 2020 (Celler Batea)

Dark golden colour, hint of brown. In the front are aromas of mature apples and bitter almond, underlying we find fennel, aniseed and a touch of honey. Quite full and nutty in the mouth, with a good acidity that’s important to balance the ripe fruit and relatively high alcohol (14%). Somewhat bitter end. Lots of character.

Price: Medium-low

Food: Rice dishes, salads, white and red fish, tasty shellfish, pasta, pizza, cheeses and more

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