I must admit that Quinta dos Roques and Quinta das Maias of Dão have been neglected during the latest years, from my side. They haven’t been in the news for a while, but now it seems that something is happening again. They are both property of Luis Lourenço and his family, and he is also winemaker.
Maias is noted for the grape variety of jaen, because it’s higher and cooler than Roques, and more easily gives the grape the acidity and focus that it needs. The soil here is granite and sand, and the estate is now certified organic.
The name is derived from flor de maio, mayflower.
It’s only 40% of jaen in this wine, and in good Dão tradition it’s accompanied by touriga nacional (30%), alfrocheiro preto (20%) and tinta roriz (10%). It’s made in steel, with spontaneous fermentation.
Maias Tinto 2017(Quinta das Maias)
Cherry red. Mature berries, plums, some herbs, a bit anis. Fruity, juicy in the mouth, some tannins.
Food: Bacalhau, chicken salad, everything on the grill, its freshness also invites to be served chilled on a summer day
It is always a delight to visit the Simplesmente… Vinho fair of Porto, held in Porto towards the end of February at Cais Novo, a former port wine warehouse by the Douro river. It’s an independent and alternative winefest that unites press, wine lovers and vignerons, most of these small artisan growers that work in a natural and organic way. This edition was number 8th, and showcased 101 producers, most of them Portuguese, some from Spain, only one from France I think, and a specially invited producer from Oregon, USA. There was good food, visual arts, there was music (and this year I was lucky to be able to take part myself), and oh! so many nice people.
There were endless rows of good wines to enjoy, so here I will only present a few of the highlights, and I will try to limit myself to one wine per producer. I have already published three short posts about single wines in the Wine of the Week column, and you can also read about some of the other producers from the previous fairs by doing a quick search yourself. Last year I wrote two articles similar to this one. Here you find recommendations of several Portuguese producers, and here are some of the rest.
We start locally. Tiago Sampaio is one of the best exponents of the “new wave” of Douro producers, making less “noisy” wines than the region is more known for, with less extraction, lower alcohol, and more focus on freshness of fruit. I have already reported from a visit to the Folias de Baco bar in downtown Porto where he delivers the wine (read here), and there will be a report from a visit to the winery in Alijó. Rabigato is getting more and more attention these days, as it shows its varietal potential. Uivo Rabigato 2019 is a characterful wine, light in colour, with flowery notes, grapefruit, citrus peel, a refreshing, cool acidity, and a saline finish.
A neighbour of Tiago in Alijó is Ana Hespanhol of Quinta do Zimbro. She is also involved in a smaller project called Grau Baumé with her partner Hugo Mateus, and one of her sisters. I had a meal with the three of them in Alijó after a visit to Tiago. I remember some of the wines of Ana’s father Manuel from way back, and the brand Calços de Tanha (a very nice, direct, fruity red wine with a good price, by the way). Now it’s taken a step back to estate wines, to organics and naturally enough to a fresher style adapted to our times. Of the many good wines I here chose the Grau Baumé Undo 2017, a varietal viosinho that was lightly pressed without de-stemming, ageing in tank, and bottled un-fined and un-filtered. It showed a light colour, yet both full-flavoured, with yellow fruits, citrus and careful tropical notes, and a lovely acidity wrapped in a full, almost waxy appearance on the palate, and some saltiness too.
About Conceito further east, near Vila Nova Foz Côa, I have written several times. Their white wines are stylish, their lighly extracted Bastardo red stunningly delicate, and they even offer ports, like a white port made in collaboration with Madeira producer Ricardo Diogos of Barbeito. This time I chose the white Único 2018, made from different plots in the same vineyard, more than 100 years old. It’s a field blend of around ten varieties, including rabigato, códega do larinho, gouveio, arinto, donzelinho branco and folgazão. It had a temperature controlled fermentation in used French oak barrels and regular bâtonnage up to one month, before it was aged 11 months in the barrels. It’s a light coloured wine with a complex aroma on the mineral side, with white peaches, citrus, ginger and some aromatic herbs; concentrated in the mouth, with a great natural acidity, and the oak is already almost integrated. It has probably a long life ahead.
It’s always a delight to meet Filipa Pato and William Wouters. I have written about Filipa’s wines several times, and I like them a lot, so I thought I knew their portfolio. This time William presented wines from a range of his own, and I tasted a promising white wine. Other than that they had brought most of the range, both white and rosé sparklers, and I also tasted still whites and reds. Here I chose the Post-Quercus Baga 2018, that is presented as a wine from both of them. This wine is now made only in French and Italian amphoras (since their Portuguese one suddenly broke). These are not coated, and they have the same thickness all over, giving exactly the touch of taste that they search for. This is a wine that really sings: It’s quite dark in coulour, with violet hints; aroma of red and berries (cherries), plums, flowers; it’s juicy and delicious in the mouth, but not without concentration, fine-grained tannins, and with an acidity that’s there, but wonderfully integrated. Truly inspiring!
When I saw Luís Gil came into the tasting hall I expected him to take place at the table of his friend and collegue Rodrigo Filipe of Humus (see this article, including pictures of Luís). Well, he is still with Rodrigo, but this time he had come to present his new project. Marinho signifies that we are very close to the ocean, southwest of the Óbidos village. Here Luis works 2 hectares (6 plots) of rented old vines (between 40 and 110 years), where he works closely with the proprietors to ensure that they agree on everything. They work completely naturally, without additions of sulphur. The red varieties are first and foremost castelão, and some cruzado (a crossing with a lot of colour). I tasted the whole range, from whites with more or less skin-contact, rosé and reds. The Marinho Rosé 2018 was fabulous. 18 hours on skins with with stems, predominantly castelão (if I remember right) and some white grapes, like fernão pires, arinto and vital. This gives a light rosé colour, with strawberry and raspberry aromas; very juicy and delicate in the mouth, but also with a certain structure, and a lingering saline finish.
Luís tells that he grew up with wine, with a big wine cellar at his parents’ house. He had spent a lot of time visiting fairs, meeting vignerons and tasting wines that he was “triggered” by. This project started in 2017, when he had been thinking of it long enough, and suddenly realized that the wines he wanted to make were of a kind that was missing in the market.
If there is anything to compare Luís Gil’s wines with, or liken them to, it could be (well, apart of some wines in the Humus range of course) the Atlantic wines in Galicia. Which brings us over the border. I visited Constantina Sotelo in Cambados, Rías Baixas after last year’s edition of the Simplesmente. I tasted a few wines again this year, all from albariño and all from vintage 2018. And there were indeed several intesting wines that I could have chosen, not least the Aquelarre (sparkling from the ancestral method) and Flor de Sotelo (albariño under the ‘flor’ yeast, like in Jerez). I started with Octopus and Volandeira, the former more mineral from ageing in amphora, and the latter more fruity, from wood. All right, Octopus 2018 (2nd from left in the picture) was light coloured; flowery, with apricots and stony minerals; fleshy and grapey in the mouth, concentrated, with a super acidity in the long finish.
When Iria Otero started her own wine adventure it was with the Sacabeira label from the Salnés area of Rías Baixas. She prefers to chill the whites down to prevent malo-lactic fermentation to take place. While these are superb albariños, most the wines she had brought this time were from inland Ribeiro, from the village of Leiro by the river Avia. She normally elaborate entry wines in concrete, while the others are made in chestnut. A Seara Castas Brancas 2018 is, as the name implies, made from white varieties, treixadura, godello, torrontés and albariño to be exact. This one is made in concrete and stayed there for 6 months. It’s light in colour; green apples, yellow plums and flowers on the nose (as she points out herself, it’s more flowery than fruity); it’s mellow in the mouth, with some acidity, and really enjoyable.
Not far from Iria, in Eira de Mouros, Ribeiro we find Cume do Avia, named after the highest hill in the subregeion of Avia. They have there 13 local varieties on 9 hectares. This area varies between Atlantic and Continental influence. The soil is a mix of clay, schist and granite, and the vineyards are facing east, with optimum sun exposure and ventilation. I really enjoyed both their white and red wines. Under the Dos Canotos label come both a varietal brancellao, but I chose the other one (not for any specific reason, because they are both very good), Dos Canotos 2017, a blend of brancellao, sousón and caiño longo fermented and aged 6 months in very old big neutral barrels. This is a bit darker than the other; fresh, red fruits, with a lactic note; in the mouth it’s cool and fresh, with a slight tannic grip and a nice salty character.
Puro Rofe and Bien de Altura are sister companies, the former is the oldest and most “well”-known and stands for Lanzarote wines, and the latter for wines from Gran Canaria. In fact there is a third sister now, as they make wine from El Hierro under the name Bimbache. This is quite sensational, so it’s pretty sure that we will come back to this. Our choice here is a high-quality wine from the maybe unlikely island of Gran Canaria, and the village San Mateo. The grower is Carmelo Peña, native to Gran Canaria, who works with indigenous varieties in an artisan, and organic and biodynamic way; native yeasts, de-stemming by hand, little use of SO2, and long macerations with little extraction. This place is considered to have desert climate due to constant warm temperatures and minimal rainfall. Carmelo and his team climb high, up to more than 1.400 meters.
The word ikewen has its origin in the Berber language Tamaziɣt and means root, or source. The red wine by that name is made from pie franco vineyards facing northeast and southeast, planted in volcanic soils. The grapes were hand-harvested and macerated 40% whole cluster, 60% was destemmed, gently pressed into one 500L used French barrel and the rest into steel tanks to finish fermentation. The finished wine was bottled unfined, unfiltered and with only a tiny amount of sulphur. Ikewen 2018 of Bien de Altura, grapes listán prieto, listán negro and some white varieties: Light red colour; red fruits, white pepper, a smoky touch; bright, fresh acidity and fine-grained tannins. 11,5% alcohol.
Germán Blanco of Quinta Milú is one of those who believes in village wines, and shows that even wines from Ribera del Duero can express a sense of place. And the place in this case is La Aguilera, one of the dominant wine towns of Burgos (Castilla y León), not far from Aranda de Duero. The grapes are grown organically in the traditional way, hand-harvested and with minimal use of sulphur. They use materials such as concrete or clay, and when they do use wood, it’s always big and used barrels. They never clarify nor stabilize and almost never filter.
They have a winery in Rioja and one in Bierzo too, but we concentrate on Duero here. Milú was also the first bodega in their project. To Porto Germán had brought three wines from La Aguilera; La Cometa 2018 from different plots, Viñas Viejas 2018 from limestone soil. I chose Quinta de Milú Bellavista 2018, from a tiny tempranillo vineyard with 80 year old vines at 930 meters on sandy soil. The wine is fermented in open barriques and aged there for 12 months. It’s deep dark purple; the aroma is dominated by forest fruits (blackberry), and aromatic herbs; in the mouth it’s fleshy, fresh, quite structured yes, but it’s elegant and can be drunk relatively short-term. Germán says they prefer imperfection to carefully monitored processes. But the wines are truly beautiful, and Germán hints to Leonard Cohen when he says, “it’s in the cracks that the light comes in”.
Also in Castilla y León, José Manuel Benéitez is found in the small wild, remote region Arribes del Duero close to the Portuguese border. El Hato y el Garabato is family project that started in 2015. Here they manage organically 8 hectares of 70-100 years old vineyards with varieties like the red juan garcía; bruñal, rufete, bastardo and the white doña blanca and puesta en cruz (rabigato in Portugal). And the cellar work is very artisanal.
The white Otro Cuento 2018 is made from doña blanca grown in granite, higher up in the domaine (while there is slate/schist at a lower level in the canyon). Half of it was fermented in small old barrels, and stayed there for 6 months. It’s light yellow wine, a bit reductive at first (a bit fosforic, some graphite), but it looses out to yellow fruits, and a smoky touch is there; quite creamy, or glyseric in the mouth, and integrated acidity. Mineral, intriguing. And then we are ready to cross over the border back to Portugal…
…which is not a long distance at all. Because we come to the northern part of Alentejo, by the Serra de São Mamede mountains, where João Afonso and his family has their Cabeças do Reguengo literally inside the national park. It’s an ambitious project where they seek to live and breathe in harmony with nature and ecosystem. And the wines are made in the most healthy way possible. The Respiro 2018 is made from both red and white grapes. Take a deep breath: Trincadeira, alicante bouschet, castelão, grand noir are the reds, while the white proportion include arinto, assario, fernão pires, roupeiro, alicante branco, rabo de ovelha, tamarez, manteúdo, uva rei, uva formosa, vale grosso, excelsior, salsaparrilha. Ok, come quickly back to the normal colour of your face please: They are grown between 500 and 710 meters, bought from local farmers who shares their ideology. The grapes were fermented in stone lagar with native yeasts and aged one year in old oak. The colour is fresh, clear red; aroma of red fruits, plums, some green pepper (from the whole-bunch treatment maybe), a touch of spice; fruit-driven fresh taste, fine tannins. Both serious and delicious summer-drinking.
Back to the islands, but this time to Pico of the Açores, where Fortunato Garcia makes his Czar wines in Criação Velha on the western side.
Why the name Czar? After the Russian revolution in 1917, sweet wines from Pico was found in the cellars of the palace of the last Tsar, Nicholas II. This wine was shipped in barrels on the island of Pico and sent to the royal banquets. It even appeared on medical prescriptions as a cure for certain ills and even Tolstoy mentions it in his book “War and Peace”. This is their reason for naming the wine. The Czar 2013 has 19% of natural alcohol, as can happen with these grape varieties (here: verdelho, terrantez, and arinto) in the volcanic soil. This time it stopped by 15-16 degrees, then started again. The colour is deep amber; with a sweet aroma of raisin, but also with some orange peel, hazel-nuts and anise to balance; it’s rich in the mouth, with a long nutty aftertaste.
When talking about the highlights one of them was for me a non-vinous one. This year I was lucky to be asked to perform with André Indiana and the in-house jam band. So for a full two hours we were rocking the house, and it was a wonderful experience to see all the wine producers in the audience diggin’ and dancin’. And Fortunato of Czar joined too, and lead the band masterly in an old Motown hit (I think it was).
A lot of superb wines are not mentioned. I did not have the time to taste everything. Some other producers were given priority last year, and the year before. At the dinners and lunches I remember wines from Mário Sérgio Alves Nuno, Rodrigo Filipe, João Tavares de Pina, with whom I shared table, and many others.
What now, my love? During this fair we got the message that the Cais Novo had been sold. So next year Simplesmente Vinho has to move again. And it’s a common belief that it would be difficult for festival organizer João Roseira to come up with a place as good as the one that we now have become used to. But he has surprised us before, so let’s see…
the Raw fair was postponed due to the threat of the coronavirus. But I decided to go anyway. And the first thing I did was heading for the Bar Douro, a few blocks from my hotel in Southwark. In a way I continued my Portuguese experience from last week, and started with Folias de Baco’s Douro sparkler Uivo Pt Nat, and also had Anselmo Mendes‘ vinho verde Contacto, this week’s choice is a Portuguese vinho de talha, a clay wine. Alentejo has a long tradition for this, and producer Herdade do Rocim is even hosting a talha wine festival.
They use the word amphora on the label though, not talha. It was made from the varieties antão vaz 40%, and 20 each of perrum, rabo de ovelha and manteúdo.
Winemakers are Pedro Ribeiro, general manager and his wife Catarina Vieira. The wine was made in the traditional way, in clay pots, with no temperature control. Only indigenous yeasts were used, there were no additions, nor any corrections of the must. The wine was bottled unfined and unfiltered. It clocks in at a sympathetic 12% of alcohol.
Herdade do Rocim Amphora 2017(H. do Rocim)
Golden colour with a hint of brown. On the nose it plays with oxidation: The yellow fruits are dominating, but behind is a layer of smoke, nuts, some resin and smoke. It is dry, has some structure, and is also driven by salty minerals.
Food: A variety of fish, shellfish and salads. It goes well to lighter meat dishes, like the pork cheeks that I had.
Távora-Varosa is a small mountainous DOC area bordering the Douro to the north and Dão to the south. I went there after the Simplesmente Vinho fair to visit Manuel Valente and his Protótipo project.
The region is found at the northern part of the Serra de Nave, and the names of the two major rivers are coined to form the wine region’s designation. Here is a continental climate with cold winters and hot and dry summers. This is a high place, with vines at an average altitude of 550 metres above sea level on granite and schist soils. The grapes will easily get a high acidity and tart fruit quality. That’s one of the reasons that it has for long been one of the best regions for sparkling wines in the country, and the first one to be demarcated for this type of wine in 1989. Murganheira, maybe the most emblematic winery of all, is found here.
Manuel is found in the village Aldeia de Cima, where the “Valentes” has a 200 year long history of growing grapes and olives, and 25 hectares of various growths in total. The current generation decided in 2015 to see if it was possible to make natural wines there. -The idea is to reflect the grapes in the bottle, says Manuel, -and if you do a good job the grapes you can come away with very little intervention.
And it’s clear that both rosé and white ancestral method sparkling wines show a tremendous potential, with their freshness caused by the altitude and the winds of the region. We tasted his wines, both rosé and white, still and sparkling, at the small family restaurant Tasca da Quinta restaurant in Régua.
For this column I chose the rosé pet nat, that is made with touriga nacional and tinta roriz, with an additional field blend of old vines. It comes with 4 grams residual sugar, that feels dry in this wine because of a high acidity.
Protótipo Pét Nat Rosé 2017(Protótipo, M. Valente)
Light cherry red, a dark colour for a rosé. Aroma dominated by red fruits (raspberry), with some biscuits, and also a darker, more herbal component. Some mousse, tastes dry, with a light structure and a super natural acidity.
Food: Calls for food, everything from light meat via fish and shellfish to salads. We enjoyed it with Bacalhau à brás (=grilled; dried codfish, potatoes, olives and eggs).
I have just come back from the Simplesmente Vinho fair in Porto, where João Roseira is chief organizer. This year I chose to visit some wineries of the Douro valley after the fair, Roseira’s own Quinta do Infantado among them. While João has handed down the enology responsibilities to 6h generation, his nephew Álvaro, he is still in charge of viticulture.
Infantado has a long history; and celebrated their first 200 years in 2016. Yet they are in many ways in the avant-garde. They were the first producer to break the monopoly of the négociants in Vila Nova de Gaia, by starting to bottle in the Douro valley in 1979 and export directly from there in 1986.
They have 46 hectares in the Covas de Douro, 4 km from Pinhão. 12 of these are organically grown, the rest is sustainable viticulture. This ruby is sourced from three vineyards called Pousado, Barreiro and Serra Douro, that cover 6 hectares on schist soil at an altitude of 250-350 meters. It is made from grape varieties touriga franca, tinta roriz and touriga nacional, as well as an old field blend that makes up 5%. There are three vintages blended together here, 2016, ’17 and ’18.
At Infantado the ports ferment longer than usual, so at an earlier stage there is less residual sugar and more alcohol. Therefore less addition is needed, and the brandy is added gradually. Consecuently the ports tend to have a natural appearance, and both sugar and alcohol are nicely balanced with the fruit. This is also the case with their Reserva Ruby. It has around 50 grams of residual sugar, and carries the term “meio-seco” (medium dry) on the label. Also unlikely for a ruby, it was bottled unfiltered.
Reserva Ruby(Quinta do Infantado)
Deep red, violet edge. Smells of blackcurrant and blackberry with plums, with notes of eucalyptus and aromatic herbs and flowers. It’s fresh for a port, nicely balanced, showing both elegance and refinement.
Tiago Sampaio is the driving force behind the Folias de Baco project. The name is mainly associated with his winery. But there is also a wine bar with that name in the center of Porto. Tiago delivers the wine, in fact they only serve his wines. I went there during the Simplesmente Vinho wine fair, together with my friend and colleague wine writer Paul Op ten Berg, a former sommelier from Den Haag.
They serve delicious small dishes, mainly torricado, with toppings of choice. Torricado is a Portuguese form of bruschetta, toasted over charcoal, soaked in olive oil, with garlic and salt). They also have set menus, under the “Flavours of Douro” designation, and a vegetarian option too.
I will come back to my visit to the producer. Today I just want to bring your attention to an extraordinary wine that can stand as a prime example of the new wave of Douro wines that are coming now; low alcohol, fresh acidity, high energy.
It’s made mostly from the moscatel galego grape, a local version of the muscat à petit grains. It originates in the family’s high altitude schist soils in Alijó. The 2019 had just arrived in the bar when it was served us.
Uivo Moscatel Galego Branco 2019(Folias de Baco, Tiago Sampaio)
Yellow colour. Aromas of white flowers, peach and lemon-balm, but also with some minerality. It’s dry, with a lovely integrated natural acidity, and pure flavours all the way. This is a vibrant high-energy wine. Truly inspiring.
Food: We had it with the Douro plate that included toast, olives, cheeses and charcuterie, but should go to a variety of salads, fish and shellfish and much more
Esporão has been among the leading wineries of Portugal since its foundation in the early 1970’s.
Not only are they big. Well they are; their Alentejo property is vast, the sales are good, and they have several well-known brands in the market. So when in Portugal, if I’ve had a plain bacalhau at a modest restaurant, there is almost always an Esporão at hand, such as the Monte Velho.
But they are also leading the way with many sustainable projects, such as reducing the bottle weight, fighting to stop the dam at river Tua, Douro, where they have a second winery. But more than this, then have a holistic approach, and in every aspect they seriously take the responsibility they believe that they are given.
I keep coming back to this wine. Made from touriga nacional, aragonêz and cabernet sauvignon in equal parts, the grapes are destemmed, fermented in open lagares for 10 days, and kept in steel. Eco-friendly, eco-nomic.
Esporão Tinto Colheita 2017(Herdade do Esporão)
Deep purple. Fruitdriven (mature dark berries), plums, aromatic herbs, some lickorice. Round, juicy, fruity with some acidity.
Fernando Paiva has been one of the pioneers of biodynamic farming in Portugal, with his stylish and inviting Vinho Verde wines. I have written about them several times, like here. Following this year’s Simplesmente… Vinho fair I got the chance to meet him at his Quinta da Palmirinha in Lixa, near Amarante, where he lives.
Fernando Paiva tidying up a little as he passes
From the 2017 vintage he uses the unlikely element of chestnut flowers. They grow just outside the door, and he adds them to the press, and they act as an anti-oxydant, so there is no use of added sulphites.
Lixa is in the sub-region of Sousa, where there is less rainfall than further out to the coast, but also moderate compared to the continental inland. So we could say it’s a zone in between. This place is excellent for a grape like azal, that is difficult to ripen, and that makes up half of this wine, together with arinto.
The chestnut grows just outside the winery door
Quinta da Palmirinha Branco 2017
Light straw coloured, tiny bubbles. Floral and fruity, with some citric notes. In the mouth it’s in a way mellow, but with a fine citric touch, dry, with a lovely minerality.
I have known André Pereira for many years, but for some reason his wines have never featured as a “wine of the week”. His wines are all well-made and of splendid value, and you can read about some of them in this post.
The farm Quinta do Montalto has belonged to his family for 5 generations. It comprises 50 hectares of vines, olives and other crops. It’s found in the municipality of Ourém, that is actually belonging to Leiria, but most of the wines are still classified as regional Lisboa.
Even if the 17 is already in the market I chose the 2015 vintage here, because this is the one I enjoyed last. And it’s not always necessary to drink the last edition. One is not better that the other; they are different. This one has lost its young blueberry character, but it’s nevertheless a superb, fruity wine that will last still a couple of years. The 2015 vintage of this wine was made from aragonêz and castelão in equal parts. The fermentation was natural, and it was made in steel. It’s certified organic and vegan.
Vinha da Malhada 2015(Quinta do Montalto)
Red cherry colour with some sign of evolution. Smells of red and dark berries, lightly spicy and some dried fruits start to show. Still fresh and luscious in the mouth, with an integrated acidity.
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.