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The Real Wine fair 2019 – I. A few favourites

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.

UK

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

Austria

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

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

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

Georgia

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.

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Articles and Wine bars and restaurants

La Casa del Perro, Málaga

La Casa del Perro is a hidden gem in the historic centre of Málaga. Here the couple Ana and Fede serves small well-elaborated dishes to be paired with delicious natural wines.

We visited several times during a couple of weeks and enjoyed a great variety of dishes, such as Guacamole with home made nachos, Carpaccio of beef with yellow tomatoes, parmesan and greens, and also a vegan lemon cake made with almond milk.

Ana and Fede

But what initially caught my attention were their wine offerings. Many of these are from the leading producers in natural wine field, especially southern ones, like Barranco Oscuro, Cauzón, Torcuato Huertas and José Miguel Márquez (all of whom are presented on this blog). I met Ana earlier this year at the Barcelona wine fairs, and some of the vintners I had marked as “interesting”, she had contacted, and some already included. La Zafra of Alicante is an example. La Casa del Perro may not have the biggest selection, but it is indeed an eclectic one.

A little background: Ana and Fede opened their restaurant in the historic centre of Málaga in 2004, and moved to the current location some three years ago. The restaurant’s name is a result of a wordplay game started by a friend.

They were both born in this neighbourhood, and both families have lived there for generations. As Ana tells:

-We strive and fight to do what we like, and we are very happy to find ourselves in a neighborhood a bit hidden. We totally disagree with bars and restaurants that receive the passing tourist as if they were cattle. We want the visitor to have a good time and have a desire to come again.

Barranco Oscuro’s Ring! Ring! (Riesling)

Among the many wines we tasted during the visits were some new and interesting ones, such as a varietal parellada called Water Fly (Ca Foracaime, and bottled by Celler Portes Abertes in Terra Alta, Catalunya), a light white with an integrated acidity, and Pura Vida 2018 (Vinos Fondón), a promising dark and juicy garnacha rosé from the Almería part of the Alpujarras. From the more established artisans were Marenas Mediacapa xviii (18) (José Miguel Márquez, Montilla), a clean and delicious, light straw, off dry, some co2 wine, and La Pámpana 2018 (Viña Enebro, Bullas), made partly with carbonic maceration, a cherry red, juicy wine with some co2. Then the Ring! Ring! (Barranco Oscuro): Nothing to do with the old ABBA song, but a wordplay on riesling, a light golden, good acidity wine. There were also several editions of La Traviesa, made by the same producer, with grapes from one their neighbours up in the Alpujarras. (Read here about my recent visit to the producer.)

Lastly I want to draw your attention to four wines that really stand out. Either are they interesting takes on traditional themes, or simply of amazing quality.

NU Rosado /3/2017 (La Zafra): This one I mentioned in the beginning, and in an article from the fairs in Barcelona I wrote that the producer was one to watch. This is a monastrell rosé made in four editions, with 0, 3, 5 and 7 months of skin-contact respectively, and only between 2-400 bottles are made of each of them. /3/ signifies that this is the 3 months edition, the second lightest. It’s a light and lively wine, salmon pink colour, and smells of red berries (raspberry, strawberry).

Cabrónicus 2017 (Bod. Cauzón): This tempranillo made with carbonic maceration was the pick of the week (read here). It’s made east of Granada city at around 1.000 meters altitude, near Guadix. It’s pale red, super fruity with raspberry, pomegranate, and a touch of white pepper. In the mouth it’s delicious, juicy, fresh and clean, with a long, integrated acidity. 

Purulio 2018 (T. Huertas): Here is a very personal wine from the same area as the previous one. It’s made from a blend of both tempranillo and French grapes: Dark and dense, and full of blackberry and other dark fruits, along with a touch of coffee and roast, and touch of tannin and a stimulating acidity.  

La Veló 2016 (José Miguel Márquez): Another Montilla still wine with the Marenas label. This is a tempranillo grown at Cerro Encinas at 350 meters. Dark, almost opaque, some blueberry, but also plums and some tobacco. There is a lot of tannin here, but it doesn’t dominate the fruit. 

Ana showing the La Veló in the restaurant’s wine shop

Is there a mirror there at the bottom of the casserole?

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At the Vella Terra fair, Barcelona

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.

Antonio Portela

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.

Jean-Phillippe Padié

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 Toureau, 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 wines 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, from grenache and carignan in equal proportions, from what Jean-Phillippe calls “a mosaic of terroirs” from Calce (limestone, calcarious clay and schist).  and 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, round and medium full, and with a lovely 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.

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Wine of the Week

Štekar’s Re Piko

Janko Štekar is based in Goriška Brda, in the small town of Kojsko, between the Pre-Alps and the Adriatic Sea, not far from Italian Friuli.

His winery is protected from the cold winds from the north, while the mild breezes from the east helps avoiding humidity and thus plagues in the vineyards. The vines are planted on terraces and worked organically.

(Photo credit: Kmetija Štekar)

The wines are made as naturally as possible. He uses just a small amount of sulphites sometimes..

He has two lines of wines, one with skin-maceration and one without. This wine is from the former selection, made from riesling 90% and picolit, and macerated on the skins for 28 days. It underwent a spontaneous fermentation, and matured in 1100L vats of acacia for four years. Very low sulphur, no filtering.

Re Piko 2013 (Kmetija Štekar)

Clear amber. Aroma of nectarines, white pepper, flowers, eucalyptus. light touch of apple vinegar. Full, grapey, some tannin and good, natural acidity.

Price: Medium

Food: Fried and grilled fish, light meat, salads… We had it with panfried salmon and various vegetables

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Articles

The Wine Office II and III

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.

 

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Wine bars and restaurants

Nights at “The Office”

I think it’s common not to visit sights and attractions close to your home, because you can always go – some other time. This may also be the case with bars and restaurants. Stavanger, Norway (in my own backyard, so to speak) has got its first decent wine bar, and then it should take three months before I managed to get there, and then quite by chance, while I was waiting for a party to start some other place in downtown Stavanger.

Once inside, I meet an old wine-mate Emil Heimdal behind the bar, and then I know we are talking “serious business” here. I know him from several restaurants over the years, and this is a man with passion for wine and real dedication. Emil took over the wine section of this bar, now called Vinkontoret (The Wine Office), together with Christoffer Ingebretsen. They have no purchase agreement that binds them, so they buy exactly the wines that they want and now collaborate with about 30 importers. They use the Coravin system, which allows them to serve anything by the glass. Here you can buy smaller units than a whole glass and pay less, so you can taste more wines during an evening.

 

Emil serves smaller units of better wines

They can literally offer hundreds of wines. They have a list that is heavy on traditional wine regions such as Burgundy, Rhône, Alsace, Mosel, Rhine, Piemonte, Tuscany and … say west-of-Vienna Austria.

But these people are just as crazy wine freaks to throw in almost anything you can think of.

As for grapes, of course they offer cabernet, merlot, syrah and such, without being “ashamed” of it at all (as if that would be something to regret). If you look carefully at the list you will see some “oddities” like a manzoni from Trentino, a kékfrankos from (why not) Austria, and you can get the “Pornfelder” if you like, Lukas Krauß’ German blend of portugieser and dornfelder. But most of all it’s a focus on the classic grapes here, even from not-so-classic countries.

There was a time when Stavanger was more in the avant-garde of the Norwegian culinary movement, when the oil industry was booming, and the most important gastronomic educational institutions were located there. Today there is no doubt that the hegemony is in Oslo, and that every initiative like this deserves a warm welcome.

Emil and Christoffer also have a small selection of handcrafted beers, like lambic and geuze. (Bear in mind that one of the country’s best beer selections is just across the same narrow street, at Cardinal bar. So this is obviously not their biggest priority.) The wine selection must be best in town. I am not sure if the wine list is the longest, but there are several hundred references, and mainly wines to drink, no show-off crazy over-priced stuff.

Here are just a few picks from my first brief visits.

  

Here is a riesling spätlese trocken from the Ökonomierat Rebholz of Pfalz, the Rebholz 2008. It proved to be a rich and honeyed wine with a thick texture and great acidity. To the right is a Gevrey-Chambartin, the Rossignol-Trapet Clos Prieur 1er Cru 2008 from Domaine Rossignol. It shows a clear ruby, somewhat developed colour, and smells quite aerial og cherry and plums. The tannins are still evident, and the acidity is well integrated. The actual vintages of these wines on sale are 2012 and 2013, respectively. So come here to get the wines closer to their peak.

  

Here is a wonderful pinot noir called Nature 2015 from Alsace producer Rieffel, now with Lucas and André in charge. Today the estate covers 10 hectares, all organic certified. The 30 year old vines are planted in soil of clay and alluvial sandstones. The fermentation is spontaneous and goes on for seven months in 228L barrels. It’s really fresh, juicy and quite full, with just enough structure to match a wide variety of food. After this I wanted a red with darker fruit, and I suggested syrah. On the counter was a Stellenbosch syrah, that was already opened, so I went for that one. The Liberator The Francophile 2015 (Dreyfus Ashby) was ok; a somewhat warm blackberry fruit, earthy with some spice, mouthfilling with rounded tannins.

 

The door is permanently closed at The Office (Kontoret). The Wine Office has opened.

 

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Wine of the Week

Pflüger of Pfalz

I met German winegrower Alexander Pflüger at a tasting yesterday, and tried the five wines that he had brought. Pflüger took over the family estate in 2010, fine-tuned the viticultural practise and started exporting. All the work had been organic since the 1980’s, but some biodynamic principles were introduced, and there is still a constant work to maintain a healthy biodiversity.

20170825_110542 Alexander Pflüger

The farm is found in Bad Dürkheim, in the central-north part of Pfalz. All the wines are authentic, full of character and tell about their origin.

The vines grow on a terrace in Michelsberg vineyard. The St. Michael chapel is located at the top of the vineyard, and there has been winegrowing here since the 17th century. The vineyard faces south, and the soil consists of fossil limestone and a mixture of red and yellow sandstone. The must is macerated for about fourteen hours, and there is no filtering nor clarification before the spontaneous fermentation in large 2400 liters old wooden vats. Batonnnage is carried out over a six month period.

Pflüger Pflüger’s Pferd in Pfalz…

In Pfalz vintage 2016 gave generally fruit-driven, elegant wines. This one is certainly no exception.

Michelsberg Riesling Trocken 2015 (Weingut Pflüger)

Light yellow, a touch of green. Clean, fruity, appley with a touch of lemon and canteloupe melon. It’s a relatively rich wine, but with a steely structure that keeps it wonderfully together in a perfect balance. It’s still young though, and I expect that it will continue to reveal more layers over the next few years.

Price: Low-medium

Food: Fish, shellfish, light meat, cheeses…

 

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Articles

Peaking in Bullas: A visit to Pedro Olivares

It was early morning in the west of Murcia, close to the border of Castilla-la Mancha and Andalucía. I didn’t say the wild west of Murcia, but I can easily understand that once upon a time a lot of famous movies were shot in these rugged hills. At times I waited for Clint Eastwood to appear under the fading sun to the music of Ennio Morricone, just like he actually did many years ago.

This particular morning I entered the wine village Inazares (inhabited by some 30 souls) and went straigh into the saloon, or more correctly: El Nogal, the bar where we agreed to meet. Inazares is out of reach for any telephone, so after some waiting (and I could have waited longer, but I realized that I had come one day too early due to a counting error because 29th February didn’t exist), it was in fact quite difficult to reach Pedro.

Inazares, one day later: Pedro Olivares points at me, not with his gun though, and explains about his project. This winery, once called Heredad Maybri, is now renamed Vinos Bio Pedro Olivares. And another idea came up to make the “Wild Series” from here, from Jaén (Andalucía) and from Utiel-Requena (València), an appropriately named series of  wines, no doubt.

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His project was born out of a continous effort in search for new challenges. He invented the term “multi-dynamic” as a means to take the biodynamic culture further, or rather use it in an un-dogmatic fashion. -I like to be free, he says. This doesn’t mean that he will not be respectful against the soil, where the wine is born. But he doesn’t care too much for denominations and, as we shall see, he can also blend grapes from two or more places.

-When I came here in 1998 it was only mountain, Pedro says. -We analysed the area and compared the results to data about other wine regions of the world. This lead us to plant the varieties we have now, 27 in total, from the clones we considered best for this place.

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Down by the water is merlot from Tasmania. Behind: Pinot noir from Bourgogne, Reims and Oregon

Generally he looks for concentration and acidity in the wines. To achieve the first goal the yield can be surrealisticly low; for some wines it takes 3-4 bushes to make one bottle.

Another interesting feature is the way the vines are “trained”. -I irrigate the bushes so that the roots from one meets the roots from the next, so as to make a stressful environment so that they fight each other and get stronger.

IMG_4032 Pedro Olivares in Europe’s highest vineyard (1.700m)

The highest vineyard in Europe (probably) is at 1.700 meters above sea level. Usually a newly planted vine bears fruit after 3 years, but here the growth so slow that it takes 5. This means that next year we can harvest the first grapes; gewürztraminer, riesling, petit manseng, for white wine, sparkling and ice wine.

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Limestone (the white ones on the surface, but there is also limestone underneath)

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The winery to the left (towards the top of the hill, the Inazares village to the right)

IMG_4049 Sherry-type wines from the “sacristy” of the bodega

We tasted a lot of samples during the walk up and down, beginning with a flor-aged “sherry”, from this rugged high landscape. It was quite cold in the winery and difficult both to taste and write, but here are a few short notes:

Monastrell 2015 (from the Wild Series): A monastrell wine from Bullas, from vines of different heights, where acidity is obtained from the highest parts, and fruit and floral aromas from the ones further down. It’s been 4 months in oak (3-4 years old, French-Hungarian-American – low toast, which is considered very important) and concrete tank. Here is a little SO2 (often nothing). Pedro says, I always write “Contains sulphites” even if it often can be less than 10 g/L (one is obliged to write it if it’s more).

The result is a dark, very floral and elegant wine.

Solana del Calor 2015: 85% monastrell from Bullas and 15% viognier (white, in other words) from 1.100 meters near the Inazares village. -This is “my Côte Rôtie”, says Pedro. Dark, spicy, flowery, concentrated.

Merlot 2015 (Wild Series): This one is from Venta del Moro near Requena, where the soils are sandy. We could call this a Mediterranean merlot. The alcohol content is 16%, though when asked I guessed 13. It’s not late harvest either; by end-September everything was in.

Dark, flowery, herbs, more evident tannins (but not green), mature, but good acidity and a chalky aftertaste.

vinos bio pedro olivares_vineyard Bobal 104 years in Venta del Moro Old bobal (credit: P. Olivares)

Bobal 2014 (Wild Series): From Venta del Moro too, up to 105 years old pie franco (ungrafted) vines, only concrete tank.

Dark colour, but more light fruites in aroma; cherry (morello), raspberry, quite evident tannins.

Bobal 2016, tank-sample: Very fruity, cherries, raspberry.

BM Bobastrell 2016 (from the series Mediterranean Cuvée, that orignates from an idea to create a Mediterranean wine from an Utiel/Bullas blend). The bobal is obviously Venta del Moro (Utiel-Requena) and monastrell from Bullas in 50% each.

Dark, dark fruits, cherry, mynth, spice, balsamic, long aftertaste.

enTreDicho 2016 (from a series by that name, this is an unfinished sample of a wine similar to the next, now in malolactic fermentation.

Some animal notes, flowery, red fruits, a little carbonic.

vinos bio pedro olivares_vineyard in Jaen_planted learned by Dal Forno New vineyard in Jaén (credit: P. Olivares)

enTreDicho 2015 (enTreDicho series) from Benatae in the Sierra de Segura (Jaén province): This is an interesting blend of monastrell, syrah, nebbiolo (for acidity), petit verdot, jaén negro and molinera. It’s from clay soil, no sulphur added, and it’s been 6 months on the lees.

Dark, flowery, fruity in the mought, slightly carbonic.

Pedro tells that he can tell that it comes from clay soil, as the tannins from clay are felt in the cheeks, while tannins from sand shows more on the tongue. It’s easy to agree, but it needs more investigation to tell if this can be said to be a general lesson.

Then an interesting coupling; two wines to end the tasting.

A viognier/riesling blend, hand-harvested, from the high vineyard at 1.600m:

Yellow colour (in barrel, still on the lees), some butter, flower (jasmine type), long, citric, orange, mandarine.

Sasa, a moscatel (and a tiny amount of malvasía) from “a little” lower: 10 meters above sea level, in València, near the city:

Light in colour, flowery, mandarine, apricot, very long curve.

IMG_4046 4 year old vines, will bear fruit next year

All wines are organic and vegan certified. -We also want animals so that we can make our own compost, he admits. However the vegan societies don’t care about animals used this way, at least not to this day.

IMG_4040 Once upon a time in the south

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Wine of the Week

From the legendary Steiner Hund vineyard: Nikolaihof’s contribution version 2012

This is one of several stars from a recent tasting of wines from Austria’s coolest wine regions, Wachau, Kamptal and Kremstal.

Nikolaihof of Wachau is famed for being Austria’s oldest winery, with 2000 years in the business, and built on a St. Nikola’s monastery. The Saahs family was also among the first to convert to biodynamic prinsciples, almost 50 years ago.

The Steiner Hund lies between Wachau and Kremstal, Stein itself lying in the western outskirts of the village Krems. The soils in Kremstal is diverse, and west of Krems, towards Wachau where the valley gets steeper, there is more granite and gneiss. It is here we find the Steiner Hund vineyard, and here riesling has a potencial for great elegance.

The Steiner Hund is a stony vineyard, extremely difficult to work. A local legend says that it once was owned by a wealthy winemaker, who exchanged it for a dog when there was famine in the region. Today producers from Kremstal to the east and Wachau in the west has ownership in the vineyard. The site is south-facing and is comprised of conglomerate rock with a thin topsoil of loess and loam.

In Nikolaihofs vineyards no herbicides, fertilisers, pesticides, nor synthetic sprays are used. The grapes are harvested by hand, fermented without artificial yeast and stored in big, old Austrian oak casks.

Nikolaihof Steiner Hund

Nikolaihof Steiner Hund Riesling Reserve 2012 (Nikolaihof)

Deep yellow with some green. Concentrated aroma. It’s more open than the previous vintage; still young though, but begins to reveal flowers, herbs, honey and fresh berries (gooseberry). There is probably much more to come during the next few years. Quite full in the mouth, rich, mineral (crushed stone). We know from experience that it will keep well.

Price: High (just over the limit to “high” in our classification)

Food: Grilled fish, shellfish, light meat, can do with rich sauces – the food must be good though

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Wine of the Week

A lovely dry Alsace riesling

This wine stood out in a wine club tasting of “rieslings of the world”.

The winery is located in the small village of Andlau, Alsace, between Strasbourg and Colmar – and the vineyards are also found in three neighbouring villages. Antoine Kreydenweiss is now both manager and oenologist. He inherited the biodynamic principles of his father, and is working the land together with his wife, his family – and his horse.

The climate could be described as continental, and there is a variety of terroirs in the area. The domaine covers today 13.5 hectares, among these four grand crus. Most of it is found on slopes and small hills with a south-southeast orientation. The soil is a veritable mosaic, including pink sandstone, granite, both grey and blue schist, sediment, and limestone, that -according to the producer- brings “finesse, minerality and freshness” to the wines.

The wines are typically fermented in big oak barrels (foudres), and ageing on the lees is carried out in all wines. The grapes for this Andlau wine was grown in sandy soil, pink sandstone from the Vosgue mountains, in a place perfect for riesling, according to Antoine Kreydenweiss.

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Andlau Riesling 2015 (Marc Kreydenweiss)

Light golden. Aroma of mature apples, citrus, minerals and a touch of honey. Fresh and fruity in the mouth, a good level of acidity and a nice and dry finish.

Price: Low

Food: White fish, shellfish, rindwashed cheeses like Munster or goat cheeses, salads or light meat.

 

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