Alexander Pflüger is third-generation owner and winemaker of Weingut Pflüger in the Pfalz. The name Pflüger means he who ploughs, and implies that the family has a long tradition as farmers. They were pioneers in organic farming in Germany, and the vineyards were certified in 1989. In the early 2000s, they switched to biodynamic. Today, Weingut Pflüger is the producer in Germany with the largest Demeter-certified vineyard.
It’s an all pinot, spontaneously fermented and raised in steel.
Buntsandstein Pinot Noir 2020(Pflüger)
Cherry red with blueish hint. Aroma of red berries (raspberry), plums, anise, an earthy touch. Juicy, fresh, medium-bodied, with fresh acidity.
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.
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.
The minimalist cube in Langenlois, Austria that is Fred Loimer’s winery, hides precious jewels. To be more precise, the wines made by close attention of vineyards and helped by biodynamic practises are found behind these walls. (Read about another of his many inspired/inspiring creations here.)
The grapes, zweigelt 70%, and the rest st. laurent and pinot noir, were grown in his leased vineyards in Gumpoldskirchen (Thermenregion) on the other side, the southern side of the river Donau – partly destemmed, partly whole cluster pressing. Then spontaneous fermentation, no fining and no filtering. Partially matured in wood, 6 month on lees. No sulphur added during maceration, 20 mg after the blend, before bottling.
Gluegglich Rosé(Weing. Loimer)
Light ruby. Fresh, young aroma of ptpawadpa, raspberry and plums. Medium-bodied, creamy, with a refreshing yet careful acidity, dry, with a fruity finish.
This wine is, like last week’s selection, from our recent tasting of Argentine wines. The name is Blanc de Noir, a well-known expression from Champagne denoting white wine from black grapes. Here the producer has admitted a tiny amount of colour to get through.
We have been used accustomed to the thought that good (some would think: all) Argentine wines come from Mendoza. But El Esteco is found in Cafayate, a small town in the Calchaquí Valley, province of Salta. We are in the very northwestern corner of Argentina, at an elevation of 2.000 meters, with poor alluvial soils. The marked temperature ranges of the valley encourages a long maturation period.
The grape is pinot noir, grown in a finca called Chañar Punco and harvested by hand in the early morning hours, whole bunches pressed very lightly and slowly, and elevated in steel. Truly fascinating!
Blanc de Noir 2020(Bod. El Esteco)
Light salmon pink with a touch of onion-skin. Delicately fruity, of medium intensity, of redcurrant and some herbs. A bit glyceric and tannic in the mouth, yet fresh acidity shines through.
As we enter into a new year we chose a bubbly fresh wine from a promising winery. The obvious choice would be champagne, of which the is a big amount to chose from, also in the natural end of the scale. But no, our choice is from England, itself a promising wine country.
I visited the Tillingham wineryas we entered into the pandemic for the first time, and went straight into a quarantine, according to the rules that had been made while I was there. I will not go into details about the producer, as much is written already. Here is one of the write-ups.
The wines are produced as naturally as possible; which means no spraying in the vineyards, no unnecessary additives are added, and the wines are bottled with minimal sulphur.
This wine is made in and named after the italian method Col Fondo, in essence the same as the ancestral method. The grapes are mostly pinot noir, with chardonnay, pinot meunier and auxerrois. Hand-picked grapes ferment naturally in separate containers. Pinot noir and chardonnay are pressed directly as whole bunches and fermented in steel. Pinot meunier is also pressed as whole bunches of grapes and fermented in large Georgian qvevri. Auxerrois is mainly pressed as whole bunches of grapes and fermented in steel, as well as a small amount of yeast with a day’s skin contact before it is pressed into qvervi. After finishing the alcoholic fermentation, all the components in the steel tank are mixed with minimal amounts of sulphur added, and then the wine is bottled with 8 g/L added sugar. Thus the wine undergoes a second fermentation in the bottle.
Col 2019(Tillingham Wines)
Light golden and somewhat cloudy. Aroma of lime, green fig and white flowers. Light and appealing, a moderate amount of tiny bubbles, with fresh acid, a bit creamy and with a quite long, dry finish.
Food: Apéritif, natural shellfish, white fish, tapas…Perfect for celebrations.
Domaine Georg Breuer in Rheingau, Germany was officially founded in 1980, but it’s obviously much older. Today it accounts for some 40 hectares, some of them very prestigious, like Rüdesheimer Berg Schlossberg and Berg Roseneck.
Berhard Breuer, a well-known promoter of dry riesling, left this world much too early in 2004. And then 19 year old Theresa Breuer, 4th generation, was suddenly in charge of it all. Now oenology educated, she has for years handled the family plantings of riesling and red with great virtuosity.
Here is a link to another wine of the domaine, and the article also contain a link to Theresa’s visit to a wine fair in Stavanger, Norway.
Spätburgunder Pinot Noir Rosé 2019(G. Breuer)
Lovely pink-orange colour. Floral aroma with cranberries and cherry, some lemon/lime. Fresh citric acidity, yet a smooth feeling that makes it excellent drinking, with and without food. Finishes dry. A very delicate wine.
Simplesmente …Vinho is the perfect wine fair. Here you find vignerons that really care for their grapes, and cultural aspects around it are also focused. In the cosy atmosphere one can feel that we are a big family of like-minded people. But important, after meeting the same artisans year after year you can really get to know the wines and follow them through storms and sunny days.
Speaking in wine terms, 2021 was a difficult year. The former site, an old port wine lodge by the river Douro, had been sold. So the organizers had to find a new place. This turned out to be the university’s faculty of architecture (Faculdade de Arquitectura da Universidade do Porto, FAUP). In the magnificent garden the usual barrels were set up. Another notable difference, of course, was the now well-known pandemic. They had done their best to take all the precautions needed; aside of the inevitable face-masks, there were fewer producers (around 60, some forty less than in the latest years), and there were three days instead of two, to avoid too much close contact. So in spite of the difficult conditions (“a crazy project”, according to ‘big chief’ João Roseira) I think that this might have been one of the best fairs so far, and Roseira and his team can be proud of how it all was carried out.
In my reports I have earlier given myself a special theme, mainly according to the regions I have visited before or after the fair itself. This time an extensive visits program was difficult, so I chose mainly to focus on wineries that earlier had been left out because they didn’t fit into my own regional limits. In this first article I will focus on some lesser known wineries from lesser known places.
Quinta da Comenda is not exactly unknown. This producer has a long history, but has maybe found itself in the shadows of the Douro producers lately. The quinta is located in the village of S. Pedro do Sul in DOC Lafões, a granitic region between northwestern Dão and the southern tip of Vinho Verde, thus not far from Douro either. Lafões is mostly noted for white wines, and maybe not far from Verde in style. Comenda was one of the Portuguese pioneers of organic cultivation, back in the 1980’s.
A fabulous red wine, quite unusual for the area, was served at the opening dinner. This was an initiative by organizer João Roseira, but it’s made by Comenda’s Angelo Rocha. Comenda de Ansemil 2020, a blend with 6 varieties known from different parts of the country, was only made in a quantity of 100 bottles. It comes with a dark colour, an aroma of dark and red fruits with some licorice, and with a huge freshness and a vivid energy. Other than this, the tasting the day after showed several wines at a generally very high quality, from the “straight” white Comenda de Ansemil 2019, a blend of arinto, cercial (cerceal/sercial) and dona branca, to a salmon pink Rosé 2020 of the same name and vintage (but classified as Terras de Lafões, as the DOC does not allow rosés), with its raspberry tones and a more generous taste than aroma. One that I liked a lot was the white 1/3 barrel-wine Quinta da Comenda 2019. Light straw colour, quite complex nose with yellow apples, way and a touch of smoke, and with a touch of vanilla in the mouth. An inspiring acidity binds it well together, like in all the other wines.
Távora-Varosa is a small region that lies on on granite or schist between Dão and Douro. With 500 to 800 metres above sea level it has a continental climate and extreme temperatures. Last year I had the opportunity to visit the region and meet Manuel Valente in his village Aldeia de Cima, where the family has a 200 year long history of growing grapes and olives a.o. You can read more about this visit here. His project Protótipo is a highly interesting one. He had brought a few more wines this time, like a dark but fresh 7 grape red aged in very old oak for 18 months and a wonderful Protótipo Branco 2018, a waxy-textured wine with a lovely acidity, golden in colour, with white flowers and stone-fruits on the nose. But the pét nats are for me the top. The white version is perhaps the more tamed. The rosé is based on touriga nacional, tinta roriz, and a complementing field blend. Protótipo Rosé Pét Nat 2019 can be described as red-orange, turbid; fresh red fruits (raspberry, strawberry); with a slight residual sugar (2,3 grams) and an excellent acidity. It’s more to the wild side, and truly inspiring.
Alentejo is not among the unknown regions. But Heredade do Cebolal is not found in the central area where the DOC is located, but on the Alentejo coast, bordering Setúbal. Therefore the wines are much fresher. I met the producer’s British importer in London at the Real Wine fair and tasted their “subterranean” wine (read more here). Since then the winemaking has been moving towards less extraction, more elegance. The family firm is now led by Luís and Isabel Mota Capitão. Santiago de Cacém 2018 Vinha da Casa Branca is a serious wine. Made from encruzado, arinto and antão vaz, with natural malolactic and low-sulphur, this was light golden wine with a typical fresh Atlantic character, and a mineral, saline finish. A bit petrol can be associated with arinto with some age. Palhete is an interesting category. It’s the Portuguese name for a mix of red and white grapes, here in the Palhete 2020 85% aragônez and the rest antão vaz. In this wine I find both red fruits (strawberry) and yellow (tomatoes, and a tropical hint where we agreed that guayaba was a good description). In the mouth it is more concentrated than the light colour would indicate, and a dry finish with a hint of bitterness. In Spain clarete is the name for this style, while in Portugal clarete signifies a lightly coloured wine made only with red grapes. Herdade do Cebolal has a wine of this sort too. Clarete 2019 from castelão on predominantly clay soils, is made with only two days of maceration. It’s a light ruby coloured wine, the aroma had a certain warmth, dominated by forest fruits.
Lisboa as a wine region (formerly Estremadura) is for many readers not unknown. But some of its nine DOC’s might be, and here come four wineries from there. Generally this region is windy, but sheltered by low mountains inland, and though the landscape is not dramatic there are endless variations.
Quinta Várzea da Pedra is found in the Óbidos denomination, more specifically in the town of Bombarral. The brothers Tomás (winemaker) and Alberto Emídio are fourth generation. These guys have something going on with their reds, but for me the whites were brilliant at this moment. The entry-level Quinta Várzea da Pedra Branco 2019 from arinto and fernão pires is a textbook wine; light straw, quite glyseric on the nose, with yellow apples and flowers, full on the palate, but with a very good acidity. It was followed by an equally good 100% arinto, and a wine made from four clones of sauvignon blanc. The day before at the opening dinner, another wine really caught my attention, a fernão pires. This one like the former is simply called Quinta Várzea da Pedra, and the vintage was 2017. It was a really fresh wine, both unctuous, creamy and with a wonderful acidity. The dominating aromas were citrus, with a hint of tropical fruits and some minerality. This wine was focused last week (read here).
Nearby in Cadaval we find Quinta do Olival da Murta. Only 15 km from the sea, by the Montejunto mountain range, Joana Vivas has 20 hectars under vine. The Serra Oca 2019 is a moscatel graúdo (the alexandria family), fermented in 1.000 liter oak vats: Golden colour; floral with a touch of honey; it has some volume, but also a distinctive acidity. An interesting one was a 3 days maceration curtimenta (orange wine) from fernão pires, arinto and moscatel, partly fermented in barrique, the rest in steel. This was golden with a hint of brown; somewhat more aromatic, citric and flowers, and again both full and a bit tannic with a cutting edge acidity. I include one of the reds, also called Serra Oca, now 2015. The grapes are touriga nacional, aragônez and castelão that spent one and a half years in French, used barrels. It’s dark cherry in colour; I noted mint (and it showed that the winery has this plant near the vineyards), together with dark fruits; quite well-structured and dry.
Alcobaça is a subdivision of Encostas d’Aire. Rodrigo Martins consults for other producers, but here he has his own project Espera. The wines show a strong Atlantic influence, and the acidity is always taking the wines to places. We started with the young Espera 2019, bical and arinto from clay and limestone soils. Arinto brings an uplifting acidity to the waxy, tasty character of the bical. The Espera Rosé was made with whole bunches of touriga nacional and fermented in barriques: Light pink; raspberry and strawberry on the nose, together with a slight toasted note; again some volume and a super acidity. I also liked the Espera Curtimenta 2020. As the name implies it’s an orange wine, with 17 days of skin-contact. But the colour was very light, so the manipulation can not have been particularly rough during that time. It has a wonderful aroma of flowers and lime peel, and in the mouth it’s full with concentrated fruit, again a lovely acidity and a saline finish. The Palhete 2020 from 15% castelão and five white varieties was an appealing wine, with its early harvest acidity, red fruit nose and all. The nose was quite discreet, but on the palate it had more concentration. A super fresh and light wine, Nat Cool 2020, is a castelão that goes into Dirk Niepoort’s nationwide series of glou-glou wines of the same name in 1 liter bottles. It’s made solely in steel, with two days of maceration. It’s light ruby; red fruits (raspberry), with a hint of smoke (from the soil), mellow and easy, but with enough acidity, a saline finish – and as cool as can be.
Baías e Enseadas (bays and coves, in English) is found further south, in Codiceira, Sintra. This is the land of the famous Colares wine, and we are approaching the capital city. The soil is essentially clay-limestone, with a predominance of clay in their vineyard Vinha da Ribeirinha, that results in richer wines. In Vinha do Campo there is more limestone, that accounts for more elegant wines. Then it’s possible to combine the two to give more complexity. The white that they brought, Reserva Branco Fernão Pires 2016, was from a low-acidity year, according to Daniel Afonso. He didn’t manage to bring my impression down though, as the wine was very attractive. 6 months in wood, four of them with batonnage, gave a full-bodied wine, but (as indicated) without the acidity that this region can offer. His Baías e Enseadas 2016 from 60% castelão and the rest pinot noir was light ruby with some evolution in the colour; fresh Atlantic aroma, with red fruits, a lactic note (yoghurt?); an attractive acidity and a salty aftertaste. He also brought the red Baías e Enseados 2017, pinot noir 30%, tinta roriz 30, castelão 40, was a light wine with some evolution in appearance; red fruits (plum), some smoke; attractive and mellow with just enough acidity, and a saline finish.
We will soon meet to talk about wines from more well-known regions, and I promise a cultural element.
Biokult is a small group of organic certified vineyards in Burgenland, Austria. The members share a special dedication and commitment to promote biodiversity and important forms of sustainability. They grow their own grapes, while it is Angela Michlits from producer Meinklang nearby, who is responsible for the vinification. Meinklang may be more famous for the big audience, but in bars for artisan wines Biokult is rapidly building a …yes, cult is maybe an appropriate word, for their biologic wines.
This wine is made from equal parts zweigelt, pinot noir, blaufrãnkisch and st. laurent. The soil here is sandy clay in a vineyard planted plot by plot between 1990 and 2010. The grapes were hand-picked and underwent spontaneous fermention and saw 12 hours maceration on skins. It’s a low-sulphur wine (maximum 40 mg total SO2).
Pét Nat 2020(Biokult)
Light pink, slightly pétillant. Fresh and simple wine, with aromas of strawberry and rhubarb. Juicy, berry-flavoured in the mouth, with a fresh acidity. Glou-glou.
The savoury pudding called Haggis (containing sheep’s heart, liver, and lungs) has found its followers among Scottish immigrants in many countries, not least Australia.
Patrick Sullivan and his wife Megan are winemakers in Strezleki Ranges in Gippsland, Victoria. After traveling in Europe for two years, Patrick returned to Australia to study winemaking, but soon discovered that he didn’t want to follow the principles of his oenology studies. Instead he took a different turn, and started to study viticulture with botany, as he strongly believes that wine is made in the vineyards.
Currently he buys grapes from organic or biodynamic growers, but his dream is to have his own. In the cellar there is a low-intervention mentality so that the grape material can express as much fruit and origin as possible. All grapes are hand-harvested, a large proportion of whole bunches are used, spontaneous fermentation in used barrels, cement eggs or fiberglass tanks, long skin contact and ripening in neutral containers. Before bottling, there is no filtration and minimal use of sulfite.
This aromatic wine is made from a wide variety of grapes, first moscato 50%, sauvignon blanc 10%, sémillon 10%, and also the reds pinot and malbec with 10% each. Then after the skin-contact a 10% of chardonnay is added also. It’s obviously bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Haggis 2018 (Patrick Sullivan)
Light orange colour, a bit turbid. The aroma has typical muscat notes, here including orange blossom, yellow apples and fresh herbs. Luscious and fruity in the mouth, some volume and a light tannin structure.
Food: The first one to try it with haggis: Tell me how it worked. I have a strong belief that it works.
The Real Wine fair brings together small independent vine growers from all over, to celebrate their talent, and to illustrate the diversity in the world of artisan winemaking. This year the number of participants was around 160. The fair is organised by British importer and distributor Les Caves de Pyrène, with help from many good friends.
In addition there are guest speakers for the seminars, and it’s possible to buy delicious food from the many food stalls set up for the occation. The city is bustling with activity in the days leading up to and during the fair, with many of the producers participating. And there are pop-ups, take-overs or what you like to call it when a restaurant has guest cooks from other restaurants.
“So much wine, so little time…”, a favourite quote about the fair
I will try to cover some of this in three chapters. Here are some of my most interesting findings from the fair itself. In the next article I will talk about Simon J. Woolf’s seminar and his book. Last article will be from wine bar Terroirs, who received visitors from Norway.
Here are just a few of the many good wines I tasted. To prevent the Nile from crossing its banks, the rules of the game are: Pick 5 countries, 3 producers from each, then one special wine. Please search elsewhere on this blog, and you will find that most producers are already mentioned here.
We start at home in the UK. Not far away in East Sussex and Kent we find British organic wine pioneer Will Davenport. From his Davenport Vineyards he offers well-made whites and sparklings. A new producer for me was Ancre Hill Estates, over in Wales, that showed sound winemaking and exciting results. Really expressive, and completely natural, were the wines of Tillingham, near Rye in East Sussex (not far from Hastings). The driving force is Ben Walgate, who also acts as cellar master and winemaker. All his ferments are wild, and he works with steel, oak and clay. He has some really interesting work with Georgian qvevri going on. But now…
PN Rosé 2018(Tillingham Wines): A pét nat of mainly ortega variety (68%), the rest müller thurgau, dornfelder, rondo and pinot noir. The grapes are sourced from a number of growers, so there is also a mixture of soils and elevations. It was fermented in ambient temperatures. No filtration, fining or sulphur additions. The colour is salmon pink, has some natural sediment; a fruity aroma including gooseberry, rhubarb, some yeasty notes; refreshing acidity, easy drinking.
Serena and Ben of Tillingham
From Austria there were many splendid wines to chose from, and I could have written a long piece of praise only about the three chosen ones. Sepp of Weingut Maria & Sepp Muster were there with delicate orange wines and much more. Claus Preisinger has become a favourite with his stylish grüners, other whites, and his ground-breaking blaufränkisch reds. The “prize” goes to Christian Tschida this time, for his many superb offerings from the hot Neusiedlersee area.
Laissez-Faire 2015(C. Tschida): This is a blend of pinot blanc and riesling (though I think it used to be a varietal riesling). Made in big barrels, no racking, no no…Christian is hinting to the laissez-faire philosophy, isn’t he? The wine is yellow with orange hints, slightly pétillant; very fruity, appley with hints of anise and fennel; super acidity reach the tongue, it’s rich, plays with oxidation. Very interesting, and very enjoyable drinking.
Christian Tschida (right) with Jimmy “just a friend”
Spain is one of my preferred countries, and very well represented on this blog. It was nice to see Pedro Olivares again, and taste his diverse portfolio of wines from sea level to 1700 meters in Murcia, Jaén and València. It’s always a pleasure to taste the cool wines of Pedro Rodríguez of Adegas Guimaro in Ribeira Sacra. Daniel Jiménez-Landi of Comando G has worked hard for the Gredos (or: Cebreros) region, since he crossed over from the family farm in Toledo. For many years now he brought to the limelight some of the most elegant, mineral and simply inspiring wines that the country has to present. I use this opportunity to express my deepest compassion for all that is lost in the recent terrible fires (vineyards, trees and land).
El Tamboril 2016(Comando G): This wine outside the program is sourced from a 0.2 hectares vineyard of garnacha blanca and garnacha gris on sandy quartz and granite at 1.230 metres. It’s a result of the latest harvest. Whole bunches are pressed into concrete eggs, before 10 months in old French oak. The wine is light yellow; aroma of wild flowers and herbs, mature apples, some ginger; full, concentrated and long, with super acidity. A great modern Spanish white.
Dani (left) with his friend and fellow Gredos vintner Alfredo
Portugal has a similar position for me, and I taste some of the wines quite often. Pedro Marques’ expressive, natural Vale da Capucha wines from the north of the Lisboa region are always worth a re-taste. The same can be said about Vasco Croft’s Aphros range from the country’s northernmost region Minho. Herdade do Cebolal on the Alentejo coast, in the southern part of Setúbal, was new to me. Luis had brought several interesting wines from small plots with a variety of soils.
Imerso 2015 (sea version)(Herdade do Cebolal): The main focus of interest this time was a wine that had been aged 10-18 metres under water, in collaboration with a professional diver that knows the coast intimately. We also tasted it alongside an “on land-version”. And it must be said that the underwater wine was softer, more elegant. Maybe the maturation is faster. The colour was cherry red; aroma of plums, with a vegetal component; round in the mouth, quite polished.
The underwater version of Imerso alongside its “on-land” counterpart
We now move out of “the old world” and into an even older wine world. Well probably. Anyway, Georgia has long traditions, and a long unbroken tradition of wines made in qvevri, big clay pots. When we also take into account the country’s orange wines it’s no wonder that Georgia has become such a wine pilgrimage destination lately. Iago Bitarishvili from the Kartli region offered some demanding wines. Some were aromatic, some with an intriguing mix of waxy texture and bitter taste. These wines I want to re-taste. Iberieli is a family producer (named Topuridze) located in Guria to the west and Kakheti to the east. Like the two other producers presented here they use the most familiar Georgian grapes like mtsvane, rkatsiteli and saperavi. They have also taken up the tradition of qvevri making. On to something more familiar: I have tasted Pheasant’s Tears’ wines at several occasions. But this was the first time I had met John Wurdeman, the man behind the label.
Tsolikauri-Vani 2018(Pheasant’s Tears): This time I tasted just a few wines. A really interesting wine was the Tsolikauri-Vani. Tsolikauri is a widespread variety in the west. It has a light skin, and John tells it gives fine acidity, good for semi-dry and semi-sweet wines. Vani is a place, and if my memory doesn’t fail me it’s here that the wine comes from. The winery is in Kakheti though. The wine is light in colour, with just a hint of orange; aroma of white flowers, apples, tea, some citrus; it’s quite waxy in the mouth, well-balanced and, needless to say, with a good acidity.
John Wurdeman, with Gela Patalishvili
In next chapter from the Real Wine fair we will follow the orange wine track and also move over to other continents.