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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

An Escoda red at Bar Brutal

I am in Barcelona for two natural wine fairs (Vins Nus and Vella Terra). And I have just finished a well-prepared meal at the city’s perhaps most iconic natural wine bar Brutal. And what could be more appropriate than to have one of Joan Ramón Escoda’s wines as this week’s pick?

Joan Ramón is one of the owners, and he was the one who brought my attention to this fabulous bar a few years ago, though he has no active role in it.

Waiter Lorenzo Gonelli entertaining the guests

Small plates like tuna tataki and ‘sweetbreads’ (here: pig’s cheeks) and cecina de vaca, lightly smoked ham from cow, were accompanied by several wines: An inspiring, fresh, yellow, barrel-aged xarel.lo Essencial 2017 (J. Rubió) from Penedès, Qvevri, a full thick, earthy, sauvignon blanc from Loire, with some residual sugar (made by a distributor of Georgian wines in France), a terret-dominated blend called Rouge fruit 16/ Rouge de Causse 15  (Petit Gimios), a dark, green herb-scented Minervois. To round off it all I had the floral, yellow and rosa-hued Súpertock Ancestral (Bodegas Cueva), a fresh valencian pét nat from the tardana grape.

But in-between: A timely reunion with the following wine.

The owners have grown their grapes organically in the Conca de Barberà since 1996, biodynamic since 2003 and without additions of sulphur (or anything else) since the 2007 harvest.

This wine is made from the varieties cabernet franc, cariñena, garnacha tinta and merlot. It stays 10 months on the lees in inox, and clocks in at a relatively low 13% alcohol.

Nas del Gegant 2017 (Escoda-Sanahuja)
Dark red. Cherry and blackberry aromas, with flowers and a mineral touch. Lively in the mouth, with a fresh acidity.

Price: Medium

Food: Very versatile; aromatic and light meat, cured ham, cheeses, rice dishes, tasty salads, and much more…

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Articles and Wine bars and restaurants

Plateau still delivers

Plateau has been Brighton’s palace of natural wines for many years now. Since my last visit Jake, from the bar 1909 (see here), has taken over as a manager. His partner Jon has taken over as bar manager after Johan (see another report from Plateau here), who is now at Cincin Hove (more about that later). The kitchen team is led by James Mcilveen, and takes great pride in serving good, organic food from local farms. To jump to the conclusion: Plateau still delivers!

Our waiter Alex led us safely through the menu with its bites and plates. If my memory doesn’t fail me we ended up with cured trout, lobster bisque, beef tartar, bavette steak, everything with a creative twist, and concluded with a board of five English cheeses.

Here are the wines that we enjoyed this dark October evening in Brighton, everything chosen from their by-the-glass offer.

Pétillant Naturel 2017 (Famille de Conti)

A charming, straightforward pet nat from the de Conti family’s château in Bergerac, in the French Sud-Oest. It’s made from varieties sauvignon blanc (90%) and chenin blanc, according to biodynamic principles, unfiltered and with no added sulphur. The colour is light yellow. Smells of red apples and some light tropic fruit (litchis). Appley fruit, and quite high acidity to balance some residual sugar.

Impera 2015 (Dva Duby)

This is a wine grown in stony soil in southern Moravia (Czech Republic), close to the Austrian border. The grapes are well-known in their neighbouring country too: 70% St. Laurent (here called svatovavrinecke) and blaufränkish (here: frankovka). It’s a cherry red (light, I think – it was difficult to see the colour in the room), delicate and fruity (raspberry), and luscious, smooth and fruity in the mouth, with just a slight touch of oak (almost too little to mention).

Continuing with two wines from La Clarine Farm, Sierra Foothills (California), both called jambalaia (sic!), blanc and rouge respectively.

In the sparse light of the bar the picture became as unclear as the wine itself…

La Clarine Farm Jambalaia Blanc 2015 (La Clarine Farm)

The ‘blanc’ was not exactly white, but sorted under orange, as the skin-contact had been quite prolonged. Dominated by Rhône grapes, mostly viognier, but also marsanne, and with small percentages of petit manseng and albariño.

Smells of white flowers, citrus, peach, pineapple. Juicy in the mouth, but also with a high acidity, and a slight bitterness in the finish.

La Clarine Farm Jambalaia Rouge 2015 (La Clarine Farm)

Here all grapes are known as Rhône grapes, although the main grape mourvèdre is of Spanish origin (and known as monastrell).

Cherry red, cloudy. Good fruit, raspberry, cherry, somewhat earthy. A bit tannic, quite high acidity.

3 Barriles “El Objeto Imposible no. 27” 2015 (Bodegas PolOpuesto)

A wine from Valle de Uco inside the bigger region of Mendoza (Argentina). The winemaker is Pol Andsnes. Being Norwegian, for me this name can evoke distinctive classical piano chords, but this Andsnes is a wine punk born in San Francisco, who wants to challenge established ways to make wine, according to his own website. ‘Polos opuestos’ is Spanish for ‘poles apart’, and as I read him, Pol is satisfied if the ideas from the opposition once can be the norm. Something like that. Anyway, this wine is made from three barrels of Chardonnay vinified in three different ways. You can read from the drawing on the label that they are one barrel of direct pressing and reductive ageing on lees, one barrel of one year skin contact, and one barrel of direct pressing aged under flor. They were blended after two years.

The colour is obviously quite dark (a better description is difficult in this -lack of- light). It’s fresh, with flowers, orange peel and yellow apples; quite full-bodied, with a solid backbone, and an oxidative character from the flor. It’s an interesting experiment and a wine with lots of vitality, and the winemaker’s energy shines through.

Plateau has many natural wine classics and many of my personal favourites on their current list. Some are Foillard, Ganevat, Landron, Matassa, Frick, Maule, COS, Alfredo Maestro, Barranco Oscuro, Testalonga, to name only a few. Sniff around these pages, and you will meet all of them. And you have understood by now that this natural wine bar is highly recommended, it never disappoints – and if you get the chance: Go there!

Before going for a stroll on the black Brighton november beach, we rounded it all off with a well-known champagne. It was the Cuvée Réserve Brut, from Pierre Gerbais, whose son Aurélien I met at a London wine fair a couple of years ago (see here). This red and white grape champagne is a lightly coloured, apple and citrus scented wine with a contribution of red fruits (strawberry, raspberry), and bisque, that ends off with an inspiring acidity.

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Articles

Exciting Moravian wines tasted, Czech

This year’s RAW adventure had an unlikely start for me. It was down in Brighton, a beautiful seaside town that I take every opportunity to go back to. One of the reasons is the superb wine bar and restaurant Plateau. I can always discuss with the staff what to chose according to my taste and what I have tried before. This time they were excited about their Czech wines. I soon learned that other restaurants in the area had also listed several authentic, exciting Moravian wines. At the RAW wine fair there were also a couple of visiting producers.

Moravia is the most important wine region in the Czech Republic, and borders Slovakia and Northeastern Austria. The climate is continental, with cold winters, and the soils are dominated by loess and limestone.

Many of the varieties for white wines are German or Austrian. The reds are more varied, with an emphasis on French ones, brought to the region Roman Emperor Charles IV in the 14th Century.

(Credit: J. Osička)

My experience is that the quality is in general very good, and there are several interesting individual growers. There is even a movement of natural winemakers, called Autentisté, parallel to groups in other countries. The movement was started by winemaker and winebar owner Bogdan Trojak some ten years ago. Most of the wineries are in Moravia, the most traditional area for vinegrowing in the Czech Republic, with some in Bohemia, and also a few from Slovakia.

Here are some good, authentic wines from the country, all from the Moravia part.

The Osička family at RAW, London

Jaroslav Osička has worked for a long time as an educator at the wine school in Valtice, the largest Moravian wine-growing village in Velké Bílovice. He works completely organically. He says he tries  not to make wine, only to assist in its making. He uses some batônage and enjoys the influence of oxygen along the way.

Chardonnay 2012 (J. Osička)

This wine comes from a small vineyard in the small town of Velké Bílovice, at 200-250 meters altitude, with southwestern and eastern orientation. The soil is loess and loam, and the vines are a little more than 20 years old.

Skin-contact was 6 months, then two more years in old barrels, until it was bottled without fining or filtration. Just 20 mg/L sulfur was added before bottling.

This wine is light golden in colour, somewhat cloudy. Aromas of citrus, orange peel, yellow apple, and some pineapple. Rich on the palate, oxidative tones shine through, but though the vintage was warm, the wine has a fresh, natural acidity.

Pinot Gris 2015 (J. Osička)

Here is a still, dry wine from clay and loess soil. Three days skin-contact in big oak vats, some whole bunch added, then almost a year on lees, before it’s bottled unfiltered.

Light golden colour. Complex nose with pear, melon, lime and some sweet elements (like caramel). It plays with oxidation, especially in the aroma. Quite full in the mouth, but juicy too, and with an integrated acidity.

Tramín Červený 2016 (J. Osička)

Dry, still wine from clay and loess soil, like the previous wine.

Golden yellow, slightly turbid. Flowery, slightly sweet nose. Dry and structured, adecuate acidity.

Modry Portugal 2016 (J. Osička)

Blauer portugieser (here called modry portugal) grown on clay and loess. It’s made in old wood, then goes into fiberglass tanks. It’s bottled unfined and unfiltered.

Deep purple colour. Aroma of flowers, plums, cassis and some spice. Full and juicy in the mouth, fresh acidity. Lovely for glugging.

Dobrá Vinice has 15 ha vineyard in Znojmo in the Podyjí National Park. They use biodynamic preparations, and have a very natural approach, with spontaneous fermentation and only tiny amounts of sulphur added, if any. Extended grape maceration is carried out both in new oak barrels and qvevri from Georgia.

Velinské Zelené Qvevri Georgia 2012 had been through nine months of maceration on skins in qvevri from Georgia. As a result the colour was deep, orange. The aromas were dominated by orange peel and flowers, and in the mouth it had a big texture, with good fruit acidity.

Cuvée Kambrium 2014 is a lovely blend of veltlín (grüner veltliner), ryzlink (rhine riesling) and sauvignon blanc. It was fermented 10 weeks in new oak and acacia barrels, then aged for a further 14 months in the same barrels, and bottled unfined and unfiltered.

Lighter in colour, gooseberry dominating the aroma, some citrus, combined with white pepper. Quite light in the mouth, luscious, lovely wine for glugging.

Andrea and Petr Nejedlik

Two wines from the restaurant scene before we leave: The first one from the Krásna Horá winery was probably tasted at the Noble Rot, near London’s Russell Square, but I’ll find it out for you.

Sekt 2014 (Krásná Hora)

This winery dates back to the communist days of the early 1960’s. Things have changed since then. Now they focus on high quality fruit and individual wines from small parcels, backed by biodynamic principles.

This all pinot noir sparkler is made with the traditional method, and had nine months on the lees. And since it is a 14 it has had some time in bottle after that. It has no dosage. It’s clearly on the fruity side, with apples and citrus, and just a little bakery stuff. A rather simple, appealing wine with a refreshing acidity.

(Credit: Krásná Hora winery)

Back in Brighton’s Plateau I was offered a digestive on the house:

Cerné starosvětské 2015 (Petr Koráb – živá hora)

živá hora means something like living hill, or “Live Hill”, as dubbed by the winery. It consists of 4 hectares of vineyards, some more than 80 years old. This Moravian family of winemakers started their venture in 2006 and took on an organic approach, now supplemented with biodynamic philosophy. Vinification varies, but they try to do what they call authentic and in respect of tradition.

This one is made from frankovska (blaufränkish), a traditional grape from here and over in Austria.

Light cherry red. It smells a little like Christmas: Plums, cherry compote and a touch of marzipan. It’s medium sweet, rounded, but with a fresh and vibrant finish.

These wines could maybe be regarded as a “new” world in the middle of the old, well worth czeching out… Sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun. Anyway, if you get ike chance, please do check them out!

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Wine of the Week

Sébastien Riffault’s Sancerres

Sébastien Riffault has been mentioned in this blog many times, so it’s about time we highlight one of his wines. These are full of personality. Riffault’s sauvignons are maybe not you would think of when hearing the word Sancerre. But this is maybe Sancerre like in the old days, before all the corrections became the norm.

Sébastien cultivates twelve hectares of vineyard in Sury-en-Vaux. He also plants trees to contribute to the diversity. He can harvest several times, but in general grapes can hang on the vines for a long time -Mid-October is normal- so they achieve full ripening. As a result of the late harvest, some of the grapes are affected by botrytis. Unlike most other Sancerres, Sébastien’s wines also undergo malolactic fermentation.

To honor his Lithuanian wife Jurate, Sébastien have given the wines Lithuanian names that are expressions for the soil. Auksinis thus means “of gold” and is 2 hectares planted around 1975 on Portland limestone. 

Everything is cultivates according to biodynamic principles, and the whole vineyard is certified organic. Sébastien uses horse and plow in many of the vineyards, because it gives better soil quality. In the cellar, nothing is added, neither are they fined nor filtered (except for a tiny amount of sulphur and lightly filtering of one wine).

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Rodrigo Filipe at Humus, Lisboa region

Finally I got the chance to visit Rodrigo Filipe, who makes the wonderful Humus wines. He can be found at his farm Quinta do Paço in the village Alvorninha. This is in the Óbidos part in the far north of the big Lisboa region. Here he makes cool Atlantic wines, guided by nature, experience and intuition, more than school oenology.

Before this day I had enjoyed a few of his wines at wine bars and cafés, such as this one. So I felt that I visit was overdue, and I am very glad that I finally made it to the quinta to meet the sympathetic man behind the work.

Quinta do Paço is a family propriety of a total of 20 hectares, of which around 10 are planted with vines. We are about 150 meters above sea level, between the Atlantic and the Serra dos Candeeiros range that enjoys a special soil and climate. The soil is calcareous/limestone with clay. The valley lies in a north-west direction, that secures longer maturation, and more acidity in the wines. Having said that, the wind was also shifting while we were there, so at one point there came a warmer breeze from the east (-from Spain, he joked). But as a whole the cool Atlantic breeze and high humidity contribute to a slow ripening and a high natural acidity.

Coming from a job as an engineer, Rodrigo took over the farm from his father in 2000, and it was from then that the project became more serious. It has been learning by doing, sometimes wrong, but always in a clear direction towards tasty and healthy wines. In other words, Rodrigo had no formal training in wine at the time. And even if he has taken a few courses, to this day he takes many decisions by experience and intuition, such as determing when to harvest.

The grapes are mainly local, or at least of Portuguese origin. -We use the grapes that are best adapted to our place, and the yields are kept lower than normal for the area, says Rodrigo. -We give special treat to the soil, because it must be alive to bring out the best of the varieties.

The beans give nitrogene to the soil

As we walk around the property it becomes clear that Rodrigo is in harmony with his farm and the land, and the farming is just very simple. He fertilizes with natural compost, and of additives there is only occational use of small quantities of copper and sulphur. Fermentation starts by itself after 5-6  days. The white wines are fermented in used barrels, and the reds are destemmed, pressed, fermented in steel and aged in used oak. The wines are never fined or filtered. We believe him easily when he tells that he has great pleasure to make, and share, authentic wines made in a very natural way.

The vigorous touriga nacional grape, here with eucalyptus to the left and cork trees in the middle

As we went along we tasted a few samples. A castelão 2017 was full of red fruits, still a little reduced (like some of the other wines, but it’s fixed with airing), mellow in the mouth, and the 16 (less maceration, 5 days) was lighter with lovely fruit and a wonderful natural acidity.

A touriga nacional rosé 17 (an “acidity year”, as Rodrigo puts it) had a wonderful salmon pink colour, strawberry and floral aromas, quite full in the mouthh, and yes, a refreshing acidity. Among the other 17’s a fernão pires was delighful, quite full and glyceric, with aromas of flowers, herbs and some wax. An arinto had the typical lemony acidity, and both apple and some herbs on the nose.

The barrels used are 10 years old. Chestnut was tradition here, just like clay

A white touriga nacional, a “blanc de noirs” 2017  matured 6 months over arinto skins (how did he come up with that idea anyway?): Yellow with trace of red; appley and grapey with some pharmacy notes. What is more: There is one over fernão pires skins too. Salmon pink colour, this was more fruity, still with apple notes, but flowers and menthol, and with a dry texture. Rodrigo explains, -Chestnut and clay give dryness, the wine “oxidizes” more because of a longer distance between the fibres, while oak can give a reductive tone. Then these two can balance each other.

We tried more touriga samples. Not to bore my readers too much I can say that the samples follow the line of the bottled wines; they are cool, natural with a fresh Atlantic feel.

Rodrigo together with Luis Gil after a long day in the vineyard

Among the bottled wines we tasted the cool and fruity Espumante 2010 and a Rosé (a blend of 2014-15-16, mostly castelão). Then on to the Humus range:

Humus Branco (no added sulfites) 2016 from fernão pires and arinto: Light yellow; it smells of matura apples, it’s also waxy in the aroma (from fernão pires); it’s full on the palate, a bit buttery, and with a good acidity (for which arinto is often a guarantist, but here also the climate). It has in fact more arinto, but the fernão pires shows a lot of influence.

Humus Curtimenta 2016: This is a creative take. The wine has also arinto and sauvignon blanc, that are fermented with skins for three months. This is added to freshly pressed touriga nacional (“blanc de noirs”). The colour thus becomes orange, and with a certain structure. But it’s still in a way soft and mellow, I would say elegant. It has a lovely fruit, on the tropical side, but also flowers, citrus and a nutty touch. This is very pure and lively, full of taste, just delicious.

Humus 2012, a 100% castelão, was ruby red with aromas of red berries (cherry, raspberry) and some darker tones behind it. Likewise the fruit was forward, but there was also a slight tannin bite, and a fresh acidity. Very drinkable, very appealing.

Humus (no added sulfites) 2013: This wine, from touriga nacional and syrah, showed really nice, fresh fruit, violets, dark berries (blackcurrant), a balsamic touch. The tannins were round, the fruit ripe and with a slighly sweet spicy note, and with a long aftertaste.

Humus (no added sulfites) 2011 from touriga nacional and syrah: This is the second year without additions, not even SO2. It was a warm vintage, and the wine showed wild and meaty, on the nose dark berries, flowers and an earthy tone. Rich, with marmelade and spices.

A lovely bunch of wines, all lively, fresh, natural, and with the outstanding creative invention Curtimenta in the middle

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Two Raw days

London’s Raw fair is over. This wine fair, founded by Isabelle Légeron (now also with meetings in Berlin and New York), is a two day celebration of individual, organic wines with a wide range of exhibitors. But what unifies them is their desire to express their place in their own unique way. Some have a no sulphur approach, while some are more pragmatic to this question.

This year the fair was back at the Strand, in central London, after two years further east. The venue is open and clean with good light, good for wine tasting. Wine bar and restaurant Noble Rot had their stand, and it was possible to savour food of many sorts.

Most of the artisans came from Europe. The bigger wine producing countries like Italy and France, and to a certain extent Spain, had their fair shares of exhibitors. But smaller wine countries were also represented, maybe most surprisingly Romania and the Czech Republic.

Among the more established producers, especially in this context, were Eric Texier (with expressive wines from Côtes du Rhône), the Catalan trio Mas Martinet-Venus la Universal (from Priorat/ Montsant, with increased focus on fruitiness than before), and mainly sparkling wine producers Mas de Serral- Pepe Raventòs and Recaredo-CellerCredo, Frank Cornelissen (who really has become a top Sicilian producer in every respect), not to mention Friulian neighbours Radikon and Gravner with their textbook skin-contact wines.

An opportunity for vignerons like Fabio Bartolomei to communicate directly with their audience

There were many contenders. Aside of the aforementioned ones here producers that I have appreciated for a long time were from France, Dom. Milan (Provence), Dom.de Clovallon (Languedoc); from Italy, Carussin-Bruna Ferro (Piemonte), Corte Sant’Alda (Veneto), 1701 (Franciacorta); Spain, Vinos Ambiz  (Gredos/ Madrid); Portugal, both two participants, Quinta da Palmirinha (Minho) and Casa de Mouraz (Dão); Austria, Meinklang (Burgenland).

But not least is this an occasion to be surprised.

Here follow some memorable moments.

Éric Teixier

Chat Fou 2016 (Éric Teixier)

A light entry here: A luscious, inspiring côtes du rhône. Light ruby; red berries, herbal, lightly spiced; juicy, fresh, just a hint of tannins, good acidity. A light, elegant vintage of this wine.

 

Carles and Montse

Carles Mora Ferrer and his close friend Montse have produced natural wines since 2008; no chemicals, no additives. I chose their cabernet; not pressed, fermented in inox, 20-25 days of maceration. Total sulphites is a mere 4 mg/L.

Cabernet Sauvignon Ánfora 2015 (Clot de les Soleres)

Dark cherry, violet hint; red fruits, blackcurrant, green pepper; structured, good acidity.

Mas Martinet has been a favourite for many years, and maybe the most influential among the Priorat “pioneers” from the 1980’s, thanks to both father Josep Lluís’ teachings, daughter Sara’s and son-in-law René’s consulting and general inspiration through their wines. Sara Pérez, current winemaker, was also in the avant-garde when turning to organics in the early 2000’s. Venus is their side project in Montsant. Here I chose their white Venus, a varietal xarel.lo, fermented 20% with skins and elevated in big barrels. No added sulphite.

Venus Blanc 2014 (Venus la Universal)

Yellow colour; very fresh, citrus, litchi some balsamic; glyceric, creamy and saline. So expressive!

Ivan and Ana Gómez

Bodegas Gratias of Castilla-La Mancha showed some good wines. I chose a field blend of some 20 varieties, many of them in danger of extinction, a crowdfunding project, “gratias to all those people
(‘gratias mecenas’) who believed” in the project, as they say. Fermentation was carried out in small deposits of 5 hectoliters, with whole clusters. The ageing was carried out no the lees, in oak, jars and steel. No clarification or cold stabilization.

¿Y tu de quién eres? 2016 (B. Gratias)

Dark cherry colour; red and dark fruits, a hint of spice; juicy and drinkable, but also with a touch of dryness (from the stems).

Thyge of Bodega Frontío

Here were several surprises at one stand: A new, young producer in the remote Arribes, Castilian area bordering Portugal. Furthermore the man behind the bodega is Danish, Thyge Benned Jensen. I’m learning every year, says Thyge, which is good. But much is already very good: Taste his two-weeks skin-contact Naranjito, another surprise for this region. The variety is doña blanca (even he the label indicates something else).

Naranjito 2017 (B. Frontío)

Yellow with orange tones; mature apples, some peel; quite glyceric, with a purple acidity.

 

Andrea and Petr Nejedlich of Dobrá

 

Cuvée Kambrium 2014 (Dobrá Vinice)

A wine from the Podyji national park in Moravia, Czech Republic, a blend of veltlín, ryzlink and sauvignon, as the back label reads. Light colour; gooseberry, white pepper; both round and light, but with good acidity too.

See also an article about Moravian wines tasted in England here.

Mladen Rožanić, jazz fan with creative Istrian wines

Roxanich of Croatian peninsula Istria makes powerful natural wines.

This is a field blend including syrah, cabernet franc, lambrusco, barbera, borgonja, malvasia nera. Bottling went without filtration, after 9 years of aging in big wooden vats and barrels. I like the reds. But the white ones, most often orange in colour, really has an unequalled quality. You can read more about them and another featured wine here.

Ines U Crvenom (in Red) 2008 (Roxanich)

Red, developed colour (towards orange); a volatile feeling, mature red berries, dried fruits and roasted almonds; weighty, packed with fruit, plays with oxidation.

Fernando Paiva and his importer Ricardo Rodrigues of Portuguese Story

Fernando’s wines are marked by the Atlantic influence. His whites are covered several places on this site. This time he showed that the light (light-weight, not light in colour) vinhão can be fascinating when aged too. So that must be the choice.

Quinta da Palmirinha Vinhão 2012 (F. Paiva)

Dark with violet and some red; incredibly fresh, cherry and tint; round, mineral, with integrated acidity. It has an uplifting lightness, a feeling of weightlessness.

Marinella Camerani

Corte Sant’Alda is a well-known Valpolicella producer, mostly in the more classic end of the spectrum. But the wines are thoroughly made, they are good, and they have nothing of the negative characteristics that the area has become known for in many wine circles today. Their classic wines are good. And Marinella presented an intriguing varietal molinara rosé aged in Tuscan amphorae, a vino de tavola with a total of 2 mg sulphur.

Agathe 2016 (Corte Sant’Alda)

Salmon pink; flowers, strawberry and a touch of white pepper; no the palate quite smooth, but also with a surprisingly high acidity.

Lorenzo (left) and Andrea Pendin: Thumbs up for another inspiring meeting

L’Armonia of Vicenza (Veneto), Italy was one of the really great finds at this year’s Raw. Among many good wines I chose this wonderful garganega, from older plants (60-80 years). This is both an early harvest and a late harvest (with some botrytis), then blended. The different harvest times are due to Andrea’s friendship with and inspiration from Sébastien Riffault of Loire. (Read more here.)

Perla 2016 (Tenuta l’Armonia)

Complex aroma of mature apples, nuts, flowers, apricot, towards honey; medium full on the palate, and a salty, mineral aftertaste. Integrated, natural acidity.

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In the caves of Granada: Bodegas Cauzón

Ramón Saavedra is waiting in the main square when I arrive in Graena, a small village east of Granada. Otherwise it might have been difficult to find his home among all the other houses that apparently look the same.

Apparently. Because, as we shall see, when we enter the bodega area behind the house this is all but ordinary.

The municipality is called Cortes y Graena and is comprised of four villages. The word Graena is of Arabic origin, and the caves are a legacy of the Arab Andalusian period. A most special feature here are the thermal waters. In fact the name of the bodega is also inspired by the Moors; al-cauzon meaning something like the land of the sand.

Ramón Saavedra returned to his village to take over inherited land that he later planted with vines. He had then been working with Manuel Valenzuela of Barranco Oscuro, to help with pruning etc. In 1998 his first harvest was finally bottled.

The soil is sandy-clayey and calcareous with big, round stones. There is continental climate, with extreme summers with more than 25ºC difference between day and night in the maturation period.

It’s a perfect place to make organic and natural wines, but since his own wines express such a crystal clear idea, I’m maybe a bit surprised by Ramón’s pragmatic attitude about the trade in general.

-Well, for me it’s not only about health, it’s about the balance in nature. I wish that my wine should expressing the earth. But I respect everybody. However I wish that the communication is clear, what you say is what you do.

The grape variety next to the caves is garnacha. -I love the green, living colour, says Ramón

We are 1.080 meters above sea level, and some of the vineyards are at 1.200 meters.

Ecological cultivation, manual harvest, natural production. Wines without added sulfites and fermented with their own yeasts. Without additives of any kind. Its maximum annual production is 20,000 bot.

There are 7 parcels and a total of 6 hectars, all in the Graena village. Here are a lot of field blends from the old days. The cactus both delimits the vineyards and have a function in the biodiversity. Sheep compost is used as fertilizer.

-The panjil tree (also called Bohemian olive, or olive of Paradise) has a strong and inviting aroma, so the insects come here instead of attacking the vineyards, says Ramón. The Moorish people had a lot of knowledge about this.

 

Work has begun to make a new bodega

-In the old times people were living here. Now I also see a possibility for tourism. We wish to offer a form of rural accommodation here.

Thumbs up for a new bodega within two years!

We had the time for a tasting too. I will not bore my reader with the tank and barrel samples along the way. But here is a brief tale about the bottled wines. The white Cauzón 2015 from torrontés and some chardonnay, viognier and sauvignon blanc was dark orange, very juicy, grapey, elegant and smooth, but very sapid too. Duende 2015, a dark syrah from 1.200 meters of altitude, had violet, eucalyptus and other balsamic notes, wild berries and leather, nice fruit in the mouth, with bright acidity and pleasant tannins. The 6,5 grams of acidity comes from the high altitude.

Cauzón 2015 red from tempranillo was difficult because of the lack of rain. Therefore we don’t find the same fruitiness, says Ramón, who is quick to fetch the same wine in version 2014, just to compare. This one clearly has more fruity berry notes, spice, and it tastes younger, overall. The Ira Dei 2014, tempranillo (or tinta fina), garnacha, cabernet sauvignon and merlot, partly from ungrafted stocks, has ripe fruit, some lickorice, but also a lot of freshness. The mouthfeel is quite dry due to more maceration of the three last grapes, but the fruit is there all the time. Lastly we tasted the Pi Noir 2014, and this was a concentrated pinot, also with some volatile, but with a fruity aroma with red berries in the forefront. Cauzor 2009 showed some sign of ageing towards the rim, but was in a good shape. It has some plum confit in the aroma, but there are fresh fruits too, and is delicious now.

Ramón Saavedra, always energetic and enthusiastic, and a distinctive voice on the Spanish wine-scene

 

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Wine of the Week

Italian orange field blend

Field blend is an expression that’s used when the grape blend is ready made in the vineyard. I think it’s never more appropriate than when you don’t know the blend exactly, like in the old days when the wine maker wanted some extra freshness from let’s say a white grape in a red wine and they were grown side by side.

Here is an orange wine from Giulio Armani, the wine maker behind the more famous La Stoppa of Emilia-Romagna.

Denavolo is his own project, where he makes two wines. This one is the little brother, the Dinavolino. It’s made from malvasia aromatica, otrugo, marsanne, trebbialo, santa maria, sauvignon blanc, and this unidentified performer.

It got 6 months of skin contact and was unoaked, spontaneously fermented, unfiltered and just lightly sulphured.

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Dinavolino 2015 (Denavolo)

Light orange-brown colour. Floral aroma with touches of peach, orange peel and dried fruits. Light and refreshing, still with evident tannins, nice acidity and good length.

Price: Medium

Food: Meats from lamb to chicken, and charcuterie, grilled fish, a variety of cheeses (almost everything, as you have understood by now)

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Wine bars and restaurants and Wine of the Week

Authentic Sauvignon at Brutus

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The Brutus Bar is located just beside the police headquarters in the Tøyen-Grønland district in Oslo, so it’s no use trying to make big trouble. Anyway, there are only nice, well-behaved people here even if the area historically has been high-immigrant, low-income with more than its fair share of problems. To be fair, right now this is a promising neighbourhood in many respects.

Brutus offers natural wine and a variety of bites to accompany them. From my experience, in a bar with such a careful selection of wines and the expertise to present them the food is often delicious too. Which proved to be true – again. Brutus are fabled for their vegetable based kitchen, and lately the traditional Nordic kitchen, rustic, with fermented vegetables as one of the main ideas, is focused. However, in our set 4 course menu the third one was lamb, and with lovely scents from the aromatic herbs.

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We had the sauvignon with “Carrot and Haddock”

John Sonnichsen and Jens Føien lead import company VinJohn, one of the main players behind the bar. Together they have experience from such places as The Fat Duck, Maaemo and Noma. VinJohn is obviously one of the suppliers, but by no means not the only one.

This week’s wine though, is brought to the country by the people behind the bar. It’s not widely available, another reason to come here.

Alexandre Bain is a small vigneron from Tracy-sur-Loire, in the Poully-Fumé. He started his own project in 2007 and employs biodynamic techniques.

There are two types of limestone in the vineyards, vines from the so-called Portlandian (as opposed to the older Kimmeridgian), with sand and clay, are used for this wine, as he thinks this soil is more suitable for wines meant to be drunk young. These vines were planted in 1977.

No additives are used, except for sometimes a tiny amount of SO2 before bottling (10 mg in this particular wine), and only native yeasts. The harvest is late because Bain believes that sauvignon blanc is at its most expressive with complete ripeness. When picked too early, there will never be enough aromatic character, he believes, and many producers must then compensate by using commercial yeast. These are thoughts that he shares with his friend Sébastien Riffault in neighbouring Sancerre.

The grapes were pressed in whole clusters, and the must raised in big old vats.

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Pierre Précieuse 2015 (Alexandre Bain)

Dark yellow, somewhat cloudy. Fruity style, aromas of lemon, elderberry and a touch of acacia honey. Quite full, a mid-palate dominated by grapefruit, and a lingering finish with a touch of bitterness.

Price: Medium

Food: Salads, goat cheese, light meat, grilled fish, and try with sushi and sashimi

 

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