Here is a “young” and dark wine from a vintage with problems and where many producers chose to declassify their brunello to rosso. It was one of several good wines from a private brunello tasting last week.
Fonterenza was created by two twin sisters from Milano. They planted their first vineyard in 1999, and now all the plots are cultivated biodynamically, as natural as possible and with minimum intervention.
The grapes are sourced from a small plot with clay and shale soil. The must ferments in 1.750 litre Slovenian oak foudres with native yeasts. It is aged in 2.000 and 2.300 litre barrels for 47 months. The final wine is not filtered or clarified before bottling.
Brunello di Montalcino 2014 (Fonterenza)
Dark cherry red, a bit brick-toned; aromas of dark and wild berries and a touch of smoke and leather; fresh in the mouth, dense, with quite elegant tannins, long. Will keep.
A visit at Apotekergaarden, Grimstad on the southern coast of Norway is always a highlight. This is a popular place in every sense of the word, with a fascinating mix of people coming for great natural wine served by manager and sommelier Ida Konradsen, and people coming in from the street for burgers and pizza, served by the staff, some of them really talented. There are also concerts in the backyard during the summer season. We were there last Sunday, when our meal was followed by a gig with Norwegian folk-rock band Valkyrien Allstars. I have played there myself too, in fact it was one of the last things I did before the lockdown in March. A more detailed background to the restaurant you can read here.
On Sunday they made a special plate of Italian cheese and ham, olives and other stuff for us, followed by a main course of duck with a compote of red onion and a burger with spicy mushroom and onion, and on Tuesday we shared various pizzas.
Here are some of the wines, some of them in fact outside the official menu, but generously offered by Ida and the staff.
Foam Somló 2019(Meinklang), Somló, Hungary, made by Meinklang of Burgenland, Austria who owns vineyards on both sides of the border. This is a pét nat from Hungarian grapes hárslevelű and juhfark.
Light golden; aroma of yellow apples, hints of pumpkin and gooseberry; concentrated, with a sweet-irh sensation, inspiring indeed.
Brut Nature Reserva Anne Marie(Castell d’Age), Cava, Catalunya, Spain
A traditional cava from one of the pioneers in organic farming in the Penedès area, named after Anne Marie Onyent, one of today’s leading ladies of the company. The grapes are the three usual cava “suspects”.
Slightly bubbly; fresh and appley; fine natural acidity.
La Croix Moriceau 2018(Complémen’ Terre)
A full and concentrated, mineral muscadet full of character.
Yellow; waxy, with mature apples and white peach; quite full, mineral (chalky), a nice bitterness in the aftertaste.
Palmento 2019 (Vino di Anna), Etna, Sicilia, Italy
Skin-contact wine made from the Sicilian carricante grape in fiberglass tanks.
Golden towards orange; aroma of citrus peel, clementine, apricot, mango; full in the mouth and slightly textured. Not too acid, low alcohol (11,5) and perfect while waiting for the main course.
Light yellow; aromas of apple, citrus (lime), with a mineral touch; rich, with a good acidity and splendid concentration. Superb with the duck plate.
A light, fruity barbera that comes in a full litre bottle (hence the name), made by the producer behind the famous “donkey wine” Asinoi. At best when chilled.
Lght cherry red; light berries (strawberry), herbs; lively in the mouth (slightly pétillant), juicy, with a good natural acidity.
Montesecondo 2018(Montesecondo), Toscana, Italy
Located in the Chianti area, but not always classified as such. This is an entry-level wine, with 2% of trebbiano blended in with the sangiovese. If my memory doesn’t fail me it’s a light vintage for this wine.
Rather light cherry colour, aroma dominated by red berries; juicy and refreshing.
Made from tempranillo grapes in Arnedo in the lower part of Rioja. Not completely natural, but with a low amount of sulphur added.
Dark red; blackberry and spice; full, fresh and fruity.
After a few wines I often like to round it off with a beer, to “stabilize” the stomach that by now feels like full of acidity. So I asked Mathias S. Skjong, the in-house brewer, if he had something special, maybe something personal. So he produced Terje (made by Mathias himself in collaboration with Grimstad’s successful brewery Nøgne Ø and given a wide distribution by them, for the restaurant’s 10 year anniversary. It’s a very very hoppy, citrussy and dry India pale ale. Perfect to round off another good meal at Apotekergaarden.
Paso Robles, named after the town El Paso de Robles (“Pass of the oaks”) is regarded as something of the wine industry’s wild west, not only for its landscapes, but for the creative spirit (tendency to break rules, if you like). In fact this is the fastest growing AVA in California, with over 200 wineries, as opposed to 50 only fifteen years ago.
AmByth is the first and only biodynamic certified estate here. Their vineyards are dry-farmed and head-trained in steep hillsides in Templeton. In the cellar only native yeast are employed, and the wines are unfined and unfiltered. No additions, no corrections, they use themselves the term “natural winemakers”.
Proprietor Phillip Hart is Welsh, and AmByth is a Welsh word meaning ‘forever’. Phillip and his wife Mary see this as a legacy; they give honour to the past, but they farm with the future in mind, so they can hand over a land in healthy condition.
Being eager cooks, they make wine with food in mind. Here they are going against the stream, as the typical Paso wine is rich, alcoholic, with a slightly sweet fruit. The dry farming (the practice of not irrigate, the term most often used for warmer climates) helps to keep the alcohol down. This week’s wine, a 54% sangiovese / 46% tempranillo, has 12,4% alcohol.
Venustas 2011(AmByth Estate)
Cherry red, shows signs of development towards rim. Aroma of red berries, herbs, a bit earthy, mushroom, some dried fruits. Full in the mouth, some cherry stone, good acidity. Mature, but will keep.
Colombaia is located in Colle Val d’Elsa, in the Siena province. The Lomazzi family has been involved in wine for generations, but today’s winery was only founded in the 1970’s, when they restored an old abandoned farm, and acquired a new one. Now they have 3 hectars of 40 year old plantings of Tuscan grapes, and another planted in 2005 – all biodynamically grown since 2003. There is as little intervention as possible. The wines are either treated in steel or old, big Slavonian oak vessels, and SO2 (if used at all) is only added in tiny quantities before bottling.
The soil is calcareous clay, rich in fossil shells. For this particular wine the grapes were hand-picked, spontaneously fermented, and the wine was kept for 18 months in the big, old vats. The grape composition is sangiovese and a small percentage of colorino. In some years it also contains canaiolo and the white malvasia.
Colombaia Rosso Toscano 2011(Colombaia)
Ruby red. Aroma of mature red berries, some spice and mushroom. Concentrated, yet smooth, rounded, with a chalky minerality, and the good acidity contributes to a prolonged aftertaste. Peaking now.
Here is a long time bargain favourite, Pilastri’s Rosso Piceno, in other words a red wine from the Marche region near the Adriatic coast of Italy. It’s made from 70% sangiovese and 30% montepulciano, organically farmed and aged in steel.
Rosso Piceno 2014(Saladini Pilastri)
Quite dark, purple tones. Aroma of cherries, herbs and a little spiciness. Fresh and fruity all the way, with a dry mouthfeel and a youthful acidity.