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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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Wine of the Week

Riesling surprise

It was a surprise for several people in a recent tasting. Nevertheless, the Quinta Sant’Ana of Mafra, Lisboa has many times demonstrated its ability to make good wines in a sustainable manner.

As stated a few times, I really do appreciate the Lisboa region. It’s not among the most dramatic of wine countries, neither in landscape nor temperatures, but there are myriads of micro-climates, and often within very short distances.

At Sant’Ana, around 100 meters above sea level and only 12 km from the sea, there is a strong Atlantic influence. The quinta has steep slopes and calcareous clay soils. Typically here are cool nights and cloudy, misty mornings, but in the afternoon the sun shines through.

antonio_q-santana  António Moita Maçanita, winemaker

Their winemaker has experience from Napa and Australia, as well as a period at Lynch Bages in Bordeaux. Back in Portugal he was consulting for several wineries while he was all the time exploring the local terroirs.

Earlier ampelographers linked the albariño/alvarinho to riesling, suggesting that the pilgrims could have brought it to the Iberian peninsula on their way to Compostela. While this has proved to be wrong this wine could well be heading a new caste of Atlantic rieslings, with a blend of the German steeliness and the richer Atlantic fruit.

The grapes for this wine were grown close to the doorstep of the quinta house. The coastal humidity made some botrytis appear on the grapes. There was a light pressing of whole bunches, and the must fermented in steel vats at low temperatures utilizing a technique with oxidised must.
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Riesling 2013 (Quinta Sant’Ana)
Light yellow with a greenish hue. Aromas of mature apple, citrus (lemon and grapefruit), some stone-minerals. Good concentration, somewhat oily texture, but fresh fruit, nice acidity and a slight bitterness in the end.
 
Price: Medium
Food: Seafood, many sorts of fish (white, smoked, fat, tuna), white and light meat
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Wine of the Week

Guldgrube from Mosel

One of two good and cheap wines I have tasted from the organic wine gut Wolf lately. It is Markus and Ulrike Boor who runs the estate (together with another named Louis Klein). Founded by monks who moved into the monastery in Wolf in 1478, the production contunued after reformation (of the church, that is), and today’s church was in fact built upon the old cellar in 1685.

From 4 hectars where the “Guldgrube” is one of the vineyards in Wolf (there is also one in Traben), good organic, crisp, light, elegant and sometimes mineral wines are made. The most significant ground is schist and the most prominent grape is, not surprisingly, riesling – but several other whites, and reds as well.

 

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Riesling Spätlese Wolfer Guldgrube trocken 2012 (Kirchengut Wolf)

Light yellow. Yellow apple and some lichi and lime in aroma. Slightly off-dry, with a nice acidity, and luckily with that typical Mosel lightness.

Price: Low

 

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