In naming a restaurant, managers can provide a headline, if the content follows suit. Here it does. The relatively new restaurant Bravo of Stavanger’s ever more trendy eastern district can be summed up like this: Good food, a select wine list at good prices in a cosy atmosphere.
The food is down to earth but it comes with a creative twist. At the moment the menu consists of eight medium-sized dishes from mainly local ingredients, and a number of snacks. The by-the-glass wine list contains around 20 references, and there is also a longer wine list. The selection largely consists of what you would call natural wines, and all of them are made in an organic, sustainable way. To call the pricing moderate would be an understatement. Look carefully and you can find wines at only 1,5 times the price of the state monopoly.
We were there last Friday, and one of the owners, Rakel Juklestad Helgheim, guided us through four courses and nine wines, assisted by her partner and chef Daniel Vigdel Hansen. Eight of these were chosen from the glass menu and the last one was kindly offered from the longer list by Rakel and Daniel. The platters were shared and most of the wine glasses too.
While enjoying some Spanish olives from the snack menu we decided to go with smoked salmon from producer Jana, right down the road, with carrot and a creamy cheese. It was followed with beetroot with almonds and guasacaca (a Central American sauce), for me the best dish of the evening. Tender cucumber slices struggled to compete with the tasty crab with mustard and lime. Then the kitchen excelled again with a seafood platter with baked ling and spring onion in a mussel sauce with celery and soy.
Knochentrocken 2021(Der GlücksJäger), a sauvignon blanc-chardonnay-riesling from Pfalz, had the volume and roundness that often come with the varieties, with matching acidity. It has some yellow colour, an unfiltered appearance, with melon and lime aromatics.
More mineral with a stony character, sea and salt and some pear was the next, La Mer 2022(Dom. de la Fessardière), a Muscadet, before we with Alsacian Sons of Wine’s Soulographie 2021 were back in a darker and richer style. Made from all the so-called non-aromatic grapes of the region (pinot blanc, chardonnay, auxerrois, pinot gris and riesling) it was nevertheless aromatic, with mature apples, flowers and fennel, and full on the palate with a fresh acidity.
It’s not every day that we can add a new Chablis to the repertoire. Pommier‘s 2021 would deliver. It’s light yellow/golden, and smells of green apples, lime – and luckily only a touch of butter. In the mouth it’s concentrated and full of flavour, and has a long, saline finish.
Malterdinger 2020(Bernhard Huber), a chardonnay-weissburgunder (pinot blanc) from Baden came in a light, greenish robe. It showed a richness on the nose, with herbs and butter. The oak was maybe more evident on the palate, and added to the feeling of fullness. I would have given this wine a few years in a cellar.
Scions of Sinai is located in Stellenbosch, South South Africa. Nomadis 2020 is based on cinsault, with contribution of pinotage. Ruby red with red and dark fruits (blackberry, raspberry) and spices. Luscious and savoury. North to Germany and Pfalz, Lebenshilfe is an ecological and social organization, offering work for people with intellectual disabilities. Together with the professionals they have here made the fruity Spätburgunder Trocken2020, a wine with cherry and raspberry fruit, combined with spices and a touch of vanilla. On the palate the fruit follows up, a bit spicy and with a light structure.
Clotaire Michal offered a structure and dark entry for a beaujolais gamay. Maybe not strange, as he had worked several places in the Rhône Valley before settling there. A Fleur de Peau 2019 opens with an animal whiff together with raspberry, plums and spices. It follows up with an impressive structured palate. It’s first of all impressive to taste now, and a terrific gastronomic wine for tasty dishes. However it would easily benefit from a few years more ageing. Back to a white wine, or to be exact… Matassa of Roussillon makes all their whites with skin-contact, so the colour would be darker. Cuvée Marguerite2021 (predominantly muscat varieties and some macabeo) is no exception: Light orange or amber colour, slightly turbid. On the nose there is citrus, white flowers and peach, and in the mouth it’s grapey and quite full, also with a slight tannin.
Muller-Koeberle of Alsace was one of the big revelations at Vinmonopolet’s tasting of new listings and vintages last week. Martin Paulsen of importer Autentico Wines presented two wines from this producer. Here we chose the Symbiose as the Wine of the Week, but the other, Schlossreben, a blend of six grapes, was equally good.
David and Marianne Koeberle took over the family’s 27 hectares of vineyards in the village of Saint Hippolyte in 2005. They converted early on to organic and biodynamic practises. The latest years they have taken further measures too meet the strict demands of the Vin Méthode Nature (see article about certification of natural wines here).
Symbiose comes from a single vineyard co-planted on granite soil, surrounded by trees and forests and vegetation. Saint-Hippolyte is located at the foot of Haut Koenigsbourg and is a typical wine-producing village, particularly famous for Rouge de Saint Hippolyte (pinot noir) with its own appellation. The best vineyards are located at 250-400m above sea level on the slopes towards the Vosges in the west.
Here one hectare of the various grapes is co-planted. The grapes were hand-harvested and co-fermented with 6 days of skin-contact before pressing, matured for 6 months on lees before bottling without filtration.
The grape varieties are pinot gris 20%, riesling 20%, pinot blanc 15%, auxerrois 15%, muscat frontignan 15%, gewürztraminer 15%.
Light amber with a red hue, somewhat cloudy. Aroma of reaches, flowers, citrus and aromatic herbs. Good volume and concentration, long.
Les Vins Pirouettes is a label created by Christian Binner. The idea is to give selected growers the opportunity to launch their ecologic wines under an established umbrella. Here it is Raphaël who offers his elegant crémant zéro dosage. (You can find more from the project if you search these pages. Here is another, also by Raphaël.)
This week’s wine is a Crémant d’Alsace from 2018, made from riesling 60% and pinot gris 40% planted 1970 in chalky soil. It’s spontaneusly fermented, spent 24 months on lees and was bottled without added sugar.
Le Crémant de Raphaël 2018(Les Vins Pirouettes/ C. Binner)
Light yellow, small bubbles. Aromatic, yellow apples, lime, bisques. Fresh, dry, good acidity, quite long.
Food: Apéritif, salads, white fish, shellfish, lightly spiced food…
The Lorentz family property is located in Ribeauvillé, Alsace. Georg Lorentz, sixth generation, is currently in charge – while his youngest daughter is studying to be a winemaker. The property has 33 hectares of eco-certified vineyards in the commune Bergheim (that lies within the Colmar-Ribeauvillé arondissement), among them two grand crus.
This wine is made from 54% sylvaner, 40% gewürtztraminer and 6% pinot gris. Hand-picked grapes are spontaneously fermented with skin contact. The wine is matured in steel tank. Unfiltered, without added sulphur.
Qui l’Eût Cru 2021(Gustave Lorentz)
Orange, somewhat turbid. Nose of flowers (rose petals), mandarin, acacia honey and almonds. It has an energetic acidity, quite full in the mouth, balanced, and good length. Very vital.
Marc Kreydenweiss is a favourite in Alsace, and highlighted a couple of years ago (see here). The winery is based in Andlau, central-north of the Alsace vineyard. However, in 1999 the family purchased an estate in Manduel, in the Rhône Valley, west of Châteauneuf and southwest of Nîmes.
This one was one of seven wines from a private party (hosted by me). The name means golden angel, but as an orange it’s clearly a wordplay. It’s made from five varieties; the aromatic Alsacian grapes muscat and gewürztraminer, and also riesling, as well as the more pigmented grape pinot gris. The Rhône tradition is here represented by grenache blanc (in some vintages also viognier, and also vermentino). It saw10 days of skin-maceration.
Or Ange 2017(M. Kreydenweiss)
Light orange-amber colour. Floral, with apricot, citrus (mandarin), cinnamon, and a slight hint of raisins. Full on the palate, a touch of tannins, integrated acidity, long with fruit all the way.
Food: Fried fish, smoked meat, lightly spiced food, and a varied cheese plate
At the Real Wine fair there were several seminars and guided tastings given by both winemakers and writers. Among the scheduled speakers were Heidi Nam Knudsen and Jon Passmore, who practise an alternative wine education focusing on vineyard practices and winemaking techniques. The topic at the fair was “Retasting Wine: How we can become more informed drinkers.”
Alex Thorp conducted a “German Growers’ Masterclass”. Derek Morrison and Mike Hopkins of the Bring Your Own podcast interviewed a bunch of growers, among them Portuguese artisan Pedro Marques. Speaking of Portugal, Jamie Goode did just that together with Ines Salpico in the program “An Exploration of Portugal’s Wine Revolution.”
While I talked to some of these people on their way in and out of the seminar room, the only seminar I had booked beforehand was Simon J. Woolf’s presentation of his book Amber Revolution through a tasting of five wines from the so-called New World.
His seminar was informative, and there was a two-way communication. Simon answered questions from the audience with great virtuosity, and his short comments about each wine demonstrated how well-chosen the wines were.
Simon’s definition of an orange wine is a wine made with skin-contact that exceeds the “normal” 3-4 hours. In other words, it’s about the technique, more than the colour itself. He compares it to a white wine: -What colour is a white wine? White – as this paper?
Light examples from the tasting were Staring at the Sun 2018(Momento Mori) and Elementis 2018 (Intellego). The first one, a citrussy, lightly spicy wine from Victoria, Australia, was quite light yellow, though it had been 6 weeks on skins. This because winemaker Dane Johns holds back on extraction. Elementis from Swartland, South Africa I know from several vintages; always fresh, appealing, this time very lemony, with green apple. Jurgen Gouws shares his colleague’s philosophy of minimal extraction.
Other than this there was the Pinot Gris 2016(A & D. Beckham), a pink, red-tinged wine from the grape that we know is not white at all. It’s also known from Radikon, one of the natural and orange wine pioneers. This Oregon pinot gris was fresh, but warmer notes appeared after a while, and it was surprisingly smooth, the colour taken into account (also not usual for the variety). Vinu Jancu 2017(La Garagista), an amber, beeswax, onion and plum smelling wine from the unlikely state of Vermont and the rare grape called la crescent and Chilion 2016(Ruth Lewandowski), a lighter cortese with grapes from Santa Barbara, California, but made in Utah, finished the US American trio. It should be said that it’s Evan Lewandowski that is behind this project, but he named the winery after the Book of Ruth.
Regarding a question about what wines work with extended skin-contact, he points out that thick-skinned varieties go well. Aromatic varieties too, can perfom very well, such as moscato and gewürztraminer.
Simon J. Woolf has every reason to be happy with the book release
I have written a more extensive review of Simon’s book in the Norwegian language for the Vinforum magazine. You can read it on my magazine page. Here is a summary:
Simon J. Woolf has written what is referred to as the world’s first book on orange wine. Woolf started his writing career in 2011 with the blog The Morning Claret for which he is still editor. He is also a regular contributor to journals such as Decanter. He is no well-known author though, and this is his first book. So there were no publishers who wanted to go for the project. That’s why he started a crowdfunding through his website, and nearly 400 people contributed to the “Kickstarter” campaign.
Woolf currently lives in Amsterdam. And it can almost seem ironic that it took someone in close contact with the Netherlands, with the historical “Oranje” dynasty, to get the idea to write about orange wines.
The book is partly an introduction to the orange wine world, partly a cultural and history lesson. Woolf writes well and demonstrates early on that he is both the passion and the insight needed. It is fascinating to take part in this journey, from his first, emotional contact with the drink in Sandi Skerks cellar in Friuli. But then he takes us further back in time and goes chronologically from the ancient Georgia, that we know as the orange wine’s cradle, via pioneers in today’s Friuli and Slovenia (with Joško Gravner as the main character) and beyond.
There is also a section on recommended producers from many different countries. Finally, the financial contributors are listed. Among them there are some wineries, although I find no reason to assume that it has affected the journalistic selection. The fact columns contain information about food for orange wine, grapes that respond well to the technique, misconceptions about orange wine, how qvevri are made, etc. Taking these columns out the main story also helps to make the text flow better .
Ryan Opaz, who lives in Porto, is one of the founders of the Catavino site, where Woolf also contributes. Opaz has provided images that depict both landscapes and people in an exemplary manner. The book itself is also made of paper with a certain texture, which responds to the wines the book is about.
Woolf says he could use different names for the same phenomenon, such as skin-macerated wines and amber wines. After a discussion with himself, he has ended up calling it orange wines. His definition is based on the technique, not the colour. An orange wine does not therefore need to be orange, but it has had extended skin contact. It can be yellow, dark mahogany, or even reddish or pink in cases where the grape has a lot of pigment, such as pinot grigio.
Here we have arrived at a point that I assume he has thought about himself, the title of the book. After choosing orange wine as the preferred term, he ends up using amber in the title. The Portuguese carnation revolution emerges in my consciousness when reading the title, and compared with this the term “orange wine” could perhaps have added another dimension. And even though the events of the 1990s and up to the present seem like a revolution, in the long term it will probably be more correct to call what we now experience a “revival,” or maybe a revitalization of a tradition. But none of this “troubles” me; Amber Revolution is a saleable title. And the subtitle, “how the world learned to love orange wines”, puts it all in place.
I will not reveal too much of the content. But I think the sections about Friuli and Slovenia, the multicultural and multilingual area at the intersection of East, West and South – and the political backdrop that is hoisted – is a particularly good section of the book. Here the story of the world wars becomes a necessary part. The families of the leading producers were finding themselves on a veritable battlefield with changing actors, not least Italy, Austria-Hungary and Yugoslavia.
There are many who will enjoy this book. It is a niche book, but it at the same time exceeds the niche, and I would think that the vast majority of people interested in wine will find it fascinating, entertaining and enriching.
Amber Revolution – how the world learned to love orange wine
By Simon J. Woolf, foreword by Doug Wregg (director of import company Les Caves de Pyrène,), photo: Ryan Opaz
Vella Terra, now in its 4th edition, is organized by Alejandra Delfino and Stefano Fraternali. In Barcelona’s Estació del Nord there were on 10-11th February gathered more than 100 producers. In addition there were several activities linked to the fair. One of these was an Asian-Catalan fusion kitchen with orange wines, presented by the Casa Xica restaurant and held at the festival’s own Garage Bar, and a tasting of natural sparkling wines at the Toto restaurant. Another was a presentation of aged natural wines from the Catalan pioneers, also at the Garage Bar, where I was lucky to get a seat.
I would say that this event has a more international air to it than the Vins Nus, held in the city at the same time. Here were many winemakers from Catalunya and other Spanish regions, but the features from other countries were much more evident. France, Italy, Portugal and Austria were among the well-represented places. Just like the Vins Nus the objective is to raise people’s awareness of natural and organic wines, and to eat and drink healthier. Like at the other fair, the goal is to present wines made by minimal intervention. But I would say that there is a slight difference in approach, and that the producers here are, well maybe not more open, but could we say: less strict in their view of the use of SO2 (to say it simple, or maybe over-simplified).
Vella Terra at the Estació del Nord
There were so many interesting, personal wines, that I can only present some highlights. And again, I will try to limit myself to one wine from each producer, though I know that again it will not be easy.
While the albariños of coastal Galicia should be well-known the reds don’t have the same recognition. Forget the images you may have of dark, sturdy, bubbling, bitter wines from the old days! Now there are several producers who show how fine, elegant and cool the coastal reds can be. Two of them were represented here. I will tell more about Antonio Portela later, whom I visited a couple of weeks after this fair. Although he is not far from Cambados, where the headquarters of the Consejo Regulador of Rías Baixas is located, his farm on the Morrazo peninsula is outside the delimitations of the DO area. So he uses terms as ‘tintos marineiros’ (something like ‘reds from the sea’), he uses grapes like espadeiro branco (related to the loureiro), tinto caiño, and he is a defender of the local grape tinta femia (related to the caiño redondo). His low vineyards in or near the beaches are the most atlantic in the whole of Galicia.
His red wines are from the parish of Cela in the town of Bueu, and the white wines from O Hío in the town of Cangas. They are all fresh and vivid – from the Quereres de Berobreo 2017 (called ‘viño mareiro’, mainly espadeiro blanco), with its light, green apples, citrussy fruit, via the rounder, more mellow Quereres do Hío 2017 (also viño mareiro, albariño-dominated) to the delicious, grapey Area Donón 2017. Donón is the village where the grapes grow, to the extreme west, just before you reach the island of Cíes outside the Ría de Vigo. These are practically wine from sand, from the beach. The red Namorado 2017 (tinto mareiro), fermented and aged for 12 months in used French oak, has all the virtues that this area can offer: It’s light in colour; pure, with fresh, red fruits on the nose; a vibrant flavour, a good natural acidity and in a long saline finish.
Juan of As Furnias hasn’t learned the tongue-in-cheek trick yet
As Furnias is more inland, in the Rías Baixas subzone Condado do Tea. After his studies in enology Juan González Arjones went to Barbaresco, to work with a small family producer, then also in a wine shop in Torino. Then he went back to his native Crecente to start his own project. He has also been managing a vineyard for the reknowned producer Terras Gauda, nearer to the coast in the subzone O Rosal. In 2010 he planted his own vineyard down there. Pícaro 2015 was a terrific red sparkling wine from a variety of grapes (albariño, treixadura, blanco legítimo, brancellao, sousón, espadeiro), with a lovely red fruits nose (raspberry, strawberry), and some tannin. After this came a vertical of his emblematic wine, the As Furnias, in vintages 15, 16, 17, 18. This too is a multi-varietal where each grape gives its contribution; the espadeiro gives both freshness, some herb and mushroom, and some special flavour characteristics (like cherry), while the balsamic notes come from caiño longo, and the spice from the sousón. They are typically made with 12 days fermentation in steel, and with no sulphite additions. The 16 was an early picking from a hot year, but everything went right in 15. As Furnias 2015 had all the best; quite dark, inky colour; pure yellow fruits, red berries, herbs and some menthol; a good tannin structure and a wonderful acidity.
Ismael Gozalo, MicroBio
In my opinion the small settlement of Nieva has long been and interesting spot on the Rueda map. This small, high altitude settlement in the province of Segovia houses producers like the Viñedos de Nieva with their excellent old pie franco vineyards, the Herrero family’s new project, not to say Ossian. Ismael was born here, and he also was involved in Ossian. But now he goes solo, and his project surpasses it all. I have covered some of his whites here and reds here. And there are several other wines mentioned elsewhere on this blog. The whites are a study in the possibilities of the verdejo grape, mostly very old and un-grafted, combined with the extreme climate of this part of Castilla. The reds include tempranillo, rufete and syrah.
This time I tasted two pét nats, the early-harvested (and reductive wine-making) Nieva York 2018 and the younger vine (and oxidative wine-making) Correcaminos 2018, the fresh and citrussy MicroBio 2018, and the Rack 2018. For this wine Ismael has been looking for a reduction. Some gas was added to the musts fermenting in steel to raise the turbidity. No battonage. All this to keep the reduction and the wine’s selv-protection. Not a beginner’s wine, with the green-greyish colour, the cloudiness, the bubbles, the creaminess, and the acid-structured taste. Flowery, citrussy, stone-fruity too, I should add.
Mariano Tabernero, Bodegas Cueva
I didn’t visit Mariano’s table that day, I just took a couple of snapshots as I went by. But later that night I was taking part in a tasting at the Bar Salvage of the Gràcia neighbourhood. I was then sitting next to Mariano and his wife, and they let me taste some wines. More about this soon.
Eduardo of Azpillaga Urarte
The family has a long history in wine in Lantziego, Rioja Alavesa, but it was not untill the 1970’s that they started to make their own wines. It was when Eduardo Pérez de Azpillaga Urarte started in the family company that the way towards an organic, sustainable farming began. So, in 2001 their vineyards finally got their organic certification. Maybe I liked best of all the white, non-DO Viña el Pago 2016 from garnacha blanca. It was macerated with whole bunches at 7 degrees for 72-100 hours, on stirred lees for 4-5 months. The result is a quite dark yellow wine with mature apples, some citrus, aromatic spices and a touch of dried fruits on the nose. In the mouth it’s medium-bodied with some tannin structure. The reds include a carbonic maceration wine with the same name, and an interesting clay aged wine called Fincas de Aztule 2015. Under the label Naturostean 2017 they had a dark, rich, sweet and quite alcoholic tempranillo, not from dried grapes, but with added alcohol. They stress that this was an experiment. A winery to watch.
Friedrich Schatz: The Acinipo will now have a label representing the nettle, or preparation 504
Friedrich, or Federico, Schatz of Ronda has long since established himself as one of the leading producers of table wine in Andalucía. He has been in the avantgarde of organic and biodynamic farming in the area, and uses both international and local grapes. I have visited him several times, and you can read more about his whole range here. Many will know that his wines carry one special letter that together spells his name, and as such they have become some kind of collector’s items. However, this will now come to an end. Schatz presented this time the first vintages that will come on the market without that one letter. In-stead they will carry a drawing of plants used in biodynamic farming.
Other than that, the wines are the same, full of taste, with a touch of something exotic, and also with a good level of acidity. When asked I have often picked the Acinipo as a favourite, because it refers to the Roman ruins just down the road, and it’s made from lemberger, a grape from where his family can be found – and because it has been a good wine of course. This time I pick the Pinot Noir 2013 (formerly known as C), is made with 12 months of ageing in French oak on lees that has been moved a few times. It has a dark cherry colour, an aroma full of red fruits with cocoa and some aromatic spices. In the mouth it’s medium-bodied, tasty, with a lovely acidity and also with a slight bitterness in the end. The acidity can be said to come from the cool night temperatures, and it was also an extreme year with a lot of rain and snow in winter, and temperatures down to -12ºC.
I finally got the chance to meet Jean-Phillippe of Domaine Padié whose wines I have known for some time. From Calce north-northwest of Perpignan, Roussillon, he releases one wonderful wine after another. I tasted some samples and some bottled wines. Quickly through the 2018 samples, there was the limestone-blend Fleur de Cailloux, with its yellow colour, mature apple-scent with flowery tones, full with some tannin, the light and luscious Calice, a carignan from young vines in schist soil, the juicy Gibraltar – and finally the Petit Taureau, from older carignan plants in limestone, with its ruby red colour, and very fresh fruit.
Among the bottled wines I tasted the red Le Tourbillon de la Vie 2017, partly own vineyards, partly chosen from others: quite dark, luscioius, plums, red fruits, light tannin. Unpretentious, I would say, but very good. The Petit Taureau 2017, that originates from limestone marls (carignan) and schist (syrah), made with reduction in mind (both the grape varieties and the concrete vats environment). The wine was cherry red, with expressive fruit (red and dark berries), some flowers and herbs, and soft tannins in the mouth with a super and long, cool acidity. Ciel Liquide 2012 was made of grenache and carignan in equal proportions, from what Jean-Phillippe calls “a mosaic of terroirs” from Calce (limestone, calcarious clay and schist). It spent 5 years in barrels of 600 liters, 2 years in tank after that: Ligh cherry red; on the nose there is some warmth, the citrussy notes appear, also stone fruits (cherries, plums); good balance between the elements, with just enough tannins, and super acidity in a long finish.
There were a couple of French producers that I didn’t know, but are worth mentioning. Les Vins Pirouettes were represented by Vanessa Letort. They are winemakers from Alsace who work in close collaboration with around ten small producers, all working organically, some with biodynamics – each producers with his characteristics. Some of the most interesting wines were made by Stéphane Bannwarth, who is based in Obermorschwihr, south of Colmar. There was a lovely, appley riesling, with great acidity, and a full rose-scented gewürztraminer. I chose the Tutti Frutti de Stéphane 2016 (gewürztraminer, pinot gris, pinot blanc and auxerrois) was a light coloured wine, with a touch of gas, green apple and pineapple on the nose, medium full, and with a lovely integrated acidity.
Domaine Balansa has 15 hectares in Corbières. I tasted some clean, fruity wines from grenache blanc and gris, and syrah. A speciality was the Muscat 2018 aged in amphora, very light in colour, aromatic (both fruity and flowery), medium bodied, and with just enough acidity. Domaine Carterole was established in Côte Vermeille (coastal southern Roussillon) by Joachim Roque. The 10-70 years old cooperative plots he had bought were transformed little by little to be able to make natural wines. In 2014 he rented a winery in Banyuls-sur-Mer. I tasted a slighty pétillant white Ton Sec 2018, a well-balanced, but a bit on the “wild” side, apple, tea and ginger-smelling Esta Fête Le Blanc 2018, from 90% grenache blanc and the rest rousanne. An interesting wine was Vermentino Amphorae, that was light yellow, quite open, with apple, pear and citrus tones, and a slight tannin-structure.
Andrea Pendin of Tenuta l’Armonia
I visited Andrea following a London wine fair last year, and you can see my report here. He has a creative approach, and makes several styles of organic wines from volcanic terroir in the small settlement Bernuffi (Montecchio Maggiore, Veneto region). His wines can maybe be characterized as inviting, simple, fresh, and very difficult to stop drinking. In spite of that they have a strong sence of place too. He uses biodynamic techniques, green manure and very little intervention, and of course always spontaneous fermentetion. Repeated from my article about them: ‘Basically there are two different lines. “Pop” consists of high quality “easy” natural wines from volcanic soil at a good price. “Cru” is a premium line from native varieties in clay and limestone.” Should I chose only one wine, let it be the Frizzi 2017, a pét nat, or col fòndo sur lie from the “pop” line. It’s simple, un-oaked, slightly bubbly, light salmon-pink, apple and strawberry-scented wine, not very structured, and oh! so delicious. In addition to a varying content of different grapes, here pinot noir 60%, the constant is the local durella, a grape providing acidic backbone, that the vintners in the area are very proud of.
Catarina and Antonino, Valdibella
Valdibella is a small cooperative operating from Camporeale, on the north side of Sicilia. They encourage biodiversity, and they concentrate on native varieties, both for grapes and other crops such as olives. Enologue Antonino Vilardi work closely with the growers. He says they want the whole chain, from grower to consumer, to share the same values, or visions, and to know about how the products are made. Therefore they can appreciate the quality, and they will understand that the products can not have a very low price.
I tasted a couple of interesting grillos, Ariddu 2017, a light, grassy-citrussy wine, Grillo sulle Bucce 2017, (bucce meaning skins), so the colour was light orange, with aromas of flowers, peel, a touch of white pepper, and some bitterness in the finish. Zi bi Bò 2017 (from zibibbo, a synonym of muscat of Alexandria) is an aromatic, rose-mango-scented wine, slightly off-dry. A wine full of character was Dhyana 2017 from perricone, a light rosé of salmon colour; strawberry and redcurrant aromas; some warmth in the mouth, but also with an acidity that carries on to the end.
Niklas Peltzer representing Meinklang
Werner and Angela Michlits of Meinklang are found in Burgenland, Austria, in the village Pamhagen on the Hungarian border. In fact some vineyards are on the other side, and they also bottle a Hungarian wine from the volcano Somló. Here is a perfect biodiversity, vines and other crops between the natural ponds of the area. They fertilize with compost that they produce themselves, using sheep, cow and horse manure and several other components.
Meinklang has a full range of very reasonably priced high-quality wines, and is mentioned in many posts of this blog. Here is one of the wine-of-the-weekend articles, where you can also see a picture of their Angus cows. Today we concentrate on their Hungarian pét nat Foam Somló 2017. The 35-60 year old vines (6o% harslevelü, 4o% juhfark) are grown on volcanic rock with a light layer of loess. The fermentation started in tank, then it was bottled with 10 grams residual sugar, and finished fermentation in bottle. No additives, no filtering. The result is a fresh, vibrant wine, low in alcohol, high in acidity. The colour is light straw, slightly turbid; aromatic, pears and peaches, some spice (white pepper); a certain warmness (or rather: a component of mature fruits like apple marmelade), but kept alive of a long, cool acidity.
Ondřej Dubas, Krásná Hora
This is, believe it or not, another producer that we have covered more than once on this blog. Read here a report on various Czech wines tasted in England last year. I like their sparkling wines, and the Blanc de Pinot Noir 2018 wasn’t bad at all; light, with a slight blush, aroma of apples and red berries, well-structured. They offered an aromatic Chardonnay 2018, and equally convincing as before was the skin-contact, gooseberry-rhubarb-scented Gewürztraminer, now in the 2018 vintage. Our focus will this time be put on La Blanca 2018, a blend of riesling (40%), sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, and gewürztraminer from several vineyards (a total of 40%), and the last 20% is pinot blanc. The wine is partially fermented in old barrels and partly in steel. Only a minimum of SO2 is added. It’s a bit cloudy, light golden; apples pear and citrus on the nose; low alcohol, bone dry, with a steely acidity.
It’s maybe unfair, but there is a limit to how much one can do in one day. There were many producers that I should have spent more time with, such as the locals Clot de les Soleres, Casa Pardet, Cosmic, Escoda-Sanahuja, Gratias, Mas Candí, Recaredo, Can Sumoi, Pepe Raventòs, Laureano Serres and Alfredo Arribas, all of whom I know make good to excellent wines. Elsewhere in Spain there are Sistema Vinari, 4 Kilos, and abroad: Carussin, Casa Belfi, Colombaia, Quinta da Palmirinha, La Cave des Nomades, the list goes on…
This was my first Vella Terra, but I really want to go back, to be a part of the positive vibe that are found in the city these days. And, as Alejandra Delfino, co-founder of Vella Terra, states, “natural wines are not a passing fad, but rather a trend that has come to stay, and something that will continue to increase demand among wine lovers”. Amen to that, and we could add that while the natural wine has been something of a punk movement, I think it’s right to say that the mainstream is now moving in that direction.
Domaine Frick is an Alsace favourite, for their honest work, sustainable practises and the delicious fruit and the vineyard expression in their wines.
Here is a recent post where you can read a little about the background
This particular wine comes from a vineyard in Pfaffenheim on fossil ground with limestone and some red clay and gravel. It was planted in the 1970’s and 80’s. The grapes were harvested and selected by hand, spontaneously fermented and was subject to a week of skin-maceration. It was matured in big, old vats of French oak. No filtering nor fining. Biodynamic certified by Demeter, an organization that Frick in fact has done a lot to develop.
Vorbourg Alsace Grand Cru 2016 – pinot gris macération sans soufre ajouté(Dom. Pierre Frick)
Amber with red tones. Aromas of raspberry, yellow apples, fennel. Full on the palate, a light tannic grip, integrated acidity, and a salty finish. Vivid, energetic, and 15% alcohol is no problem. Needs air, and “grows” in the glass.
Food: Light meat, such as poultry and pig, white and grilled fish, red fish, shellfish (stronger types such as crab), salads, fresh and mature cheeses. Very versatile, in other words
This year’s RAW adventure had an unlikely start for me. It was down in Brighton, a beautiful seaside town that I take every opportunity to go back to. One of the reasons is the superb wine bar and restaurant Plateau. I can always discuss with the staff what to chose according to my taste and what I have tried before. This time they were excited about their Czech wines. I soon learned that other restaurants in the area had also listed several authentic, exciting Moravian wines. At the RAW wine fair there were also a couple of visiting producers.
Moravia is the most important wine region in the Czech Republic, and borders Slovakia and Northeastern Austria. The climate is continental, with cold winters, and the soils are dominated by loess and limestone.
Many of the varieties for white wines are German or Austrian. The reds are more varied, with an emphasis on French ones, brought to the region Roman Emperor Charles IV in the 14th Century.
(Credit: J. Osička)
My experience is that the quality is in general very good, and there are several interesting individual growers. There is even a movement of natural winemakers, called Autentisté, parallel to groups in other countries. The movement was started by winemaker and winebar owner Bogdan Trojak some ten years ago. Most of the wineries are in Moravia, the most traditional area for vinegrowing in the Czech Republic, with some in Bohemia, and also a few from Slovakia.
Here are some good, authentic wines from the country, all from the Moravia part.
The Osička family at RAW, London
Jaroslav Osička has worked for a long time as an educator at the wine school in Valtice, the largest Moravian wine-growing village in Velké Bílovice. He works completely organically. He says he tries not to make wine, only to assist in its making. He uses some batônage and enjoys the influence of oxygen along the way.
Chardonnay 2012(J. Osička)
This wine comes from a small vineyard in the small town of Velké Bílovice, at 200-250 meters altitude, with southwestern and eastern orientation. The soil is loess and loam, and the vines are a little more than 20 years old.
Skin-contact was 6 months, then two more years in old barrels, until it was bottled without fining or filtration. Just 20 mg/L sulfur was added before bottling.
This wine is light golden in colour, somewhat cloudy. Aromas of citrus, orange peel, yellow apple, and some pineapple. Rich on the palate, oxidative tones shine through, but though the vintage was warm, the wine has a fresh, natural acidity.
Pinot Gris 2015 (J. Osička)
Here is a still, dry wine from clay and loess soil. Three days skin-contact in big oak vats, some whole bunch added, then almost a year on lees, before it’s bottled unfiltered.
Light golden colour. Complex nose with pear, melon, lime and some sweet elements (like caramel). It plays with oxidation, especially in the aroma. Quite full in the mouth, but juicy too, and with an integrated acidity.
Tramín Červený2016(J. Osička)
Dry, still wine from clay and loess soil, like the previous wine.
Golden yellow, slightly turbid. Flowery, slightly sweet nose. Dry and structured, adecuate acidity.
Modry Portugal 2016(J. Osička)
Blauer portugieser (here called modry portugal) grown on clay and loess. It’s made in old wood, then goes into fiberglass tanks. It’s bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Deep purple colour. Aroma of flowers, plums, cassis and some spice. Full and juicy in the mouth, fresh acidity. Lovely for glugging.
Dobrá Vinice has 15 ha vineyard in Znojmo in the Podyjí National Park. They use biodynamic preparations, and have a very natural approach, with spontaneous fermentation and only tiny amounts of sulphur added, if any. Extended grape maceration is carried out both in new oak barrels and qvevri from Georgia.
Velinské Zelené Qvevri Georgia 2012 had been through nine months of maceration on skins in qvevri from Georgia. As a result the colour was deep, orange. The aromas were dominated by orange peel and flowers, and in the mouth it had a big texture, with good fruit acidity.
Cuvée Kambrium 2014 is a lovely blend of veltlín (grüner veltliner), ryzlink (rhine riesling) and sauvignon blanc. It was fermented 10 weeks in new oak and acacia barrels, then aged for a further 14 months in the same barrels, and bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Lighter in colour, gooseberry dominating the aroma, some citrus, combined with white pepper. Quite light in the mouth, luscious, lovely wine for glugging.
Andrea and Petr Nejedlik
Two wines from the restaurant scene before we leave: The first one from the Krásna Horá winery was probably tasted at the Noble Rot, near London’s Russell Square, but I’ll find it out for you.
Sekt 2014(Krásná Hora)
This winery dates back to the communist days of the early 1960’s. Things have changed since then. Now they focus on high quality fruit and individual wines from small parcels, backed by biodynamic principles.
This all pinot noir sparkler is made with the traditional method, and had nine months on the lees. And since it is a 14 it has had some time in bottle after that. It has no dosage. It’s clearly on the fruity side, with apples and citrus, and just a little bakery stuff. A rather simple, appealing wine with a refreshing acidity.
(Credit: Krásná Hora winery)
Back in Brighton’s Plateau I was offered a digestive on the house:
Cerné starosvětské 2015 (Petr Koráb – živá hora)
živá hora means something like living hill, or “Live Hill”, as dubbed by the winery. It consists of 4 hectares of vineyards, some more than 80 years old. This Moravian family of winemakers started their venture in 2006 and took on an organic approach, now supplemented with biodynamic philosophy. Vinification varies, but they try to do what they call authentic and in respect of tradition.
This one is made from frankovska (blaufränkish), a traditional grape from here and over in Austria.
Light cherry red. It smells a little like Christmas: Plums, cherry compote and a touch of marzipan. It’s medium sweet, rounded, but with a fresh and vibrant finish.
These wines could maybe be regarded as a “new” world in the middle of the old, well worth czeching out… Sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun. Anyway, if you get ike chance, please do check them out!
Since my previous visit to Vinkontoret (the Wine Office, see here), a nice place to sample wines in Stavanger, Norway, one of the sommeliers has left. Christoffer Ingebretsen, formerly in charge of the restaurant at the town’ concert hall, is now alone. And he is busy, but he handles the crowd, and even remembers most of the wines I ordered two months ago.
Among them were Alsace Pinot Gris 2013(J & A Ganevat): A Jura producer, but also with some negociant activities, like here, where they control the vineyards. A light yellow wine with aroma of yellow tomatoes, a little raisiny, waxy, and a touch of flor. Full, smooth and quite long.
Yesterday another Ganevat, Champs Poids Chardonnay 2014, a Côtes du Jura, was tested:
Back to my March visit, a Grand Cru Sommerberg Riesling 2009(Albert Boxler), was fabulous: Deep yellow. Honeyed, waxy, and herbs on the nose. Full, smooth, and a great acidity contributes to the long finish.
This one was uncomplicated, yeasty and fresh, with a touch of peel and a limey acidity. Côme Isambert 2015 is a quaffable Saumur chenin blanc grown organically chalky, schisty soil and aged on the lees in big barrels. Côme doesn’t own the vineyards, but buys the grapes from four different growers and does the rest himself. Pure joy!
Next order: -It would have been nice with some red wine now. Christoffer: -OK, I’ll bring you some!
Asking for some red wine I was given this selection
Clos Mogador of René Barbier is a wine I have followed through many years, here in the 2013 vintage. René here means both father and son. Taken the lead now has junior, who is married to Sara Pérez, that has exactly the same position in Mas Martinet, also in the municipality of Gratallops. Dark, slightly violet; dark fruits, blackberry, rosemary, and a cool freshness; full and warm in the mouth, lots of tannins and a nice minerality.
The rest in brief: Barolo Riserva “7 anni” 2008(Franco Conterno): Some developed tones; red fruits, lickorice, underwood, mushroom; fresh acidity, evident tannins, but not aggressive. La Guiraude 2015 (Alain Graillot), Crozes-Hermitage. Red, violet hint; fresh aroma, still with youthful charm, red fruits, flowery; in the mouth young tannins, inspiring acidity. Côte Rotie 2010 (E. Guigal): Ruby red with developed tones; meaty aroma, forest berries, some sweet tones (toffee); round, full, well-balanced, maybe at its peak now, but I’m not sure if this is for me.
Worth mentioning from the last visit was also a barbera, La Scarpa La Bogliona 2008, a richly flavoured wine in good balance, with cherry and nuts, and a sweet & sour-like touch.
With the wines I ordered a cheese and charcuterie plate. The cheeses were Swiss, from Burgundy, La Mancha, and Lombardia, and of various styles.
Ok, the visits may seen as a bit of an of an impromptu character, but so what, this is a fascinating place with enough wine to follow your instincts, and many whites can go after a red. Each time at this office is a well worth, rewarding safari – and there’s not too much paperwork involved.