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Tag: Spain

Wine bars and restaurants

Apotekergaarden revisited

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.

An impromptu first platter

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.

Handwerk Riesling Trocken 2018 (Leiner), Pfalz, Germany

Biodynamically farmed riesling.

Light yellow; aromas of apple, citrus (lime), with a mineral touch; rich, with a good acidity and splendid concentration. Superb with the duck plate.

Jürgen Leiner’s Handwerk

Completo 2019 (Carussin)

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.

Viña Ilusión 2017 (Martín Alonso), Rioja Oriente, Spain

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.

Duck with riesling

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.

Matihas serving his own beer
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Wine of the Week

Modern Mediterranean Monastrell

Let us start with the conclusion this time: This monastrell is a modern, juicy, “gluggable” wine way up the natural road – but at the same time it is the Mediterranean, slightly spicy, Provencal-herbal, hearty and quite recognizeable.

This particular wine is made by 30 year old wine maker María Jover (born in nearby Alicante) who has a modern approach. The vines are between 20 and 40 years old, organically grown, in the old system of “terraje”. This concept involves renting the vineyard to the farmers, who take care of the quality of the vines. As a bonus the landowner in this specific project 7% of the production is given back to the farmer. This is a very common practise in Jumilla for old vines.

The producer owns some 80 hectares, mostly monastrell. The grapes for this wine were de-stemmed, lightly pressed and fermented with indigenous yeasts on steel, before malo-lactic fermentation and a short ageing in cement.

Parajes del Valle Monastrell 2018 (Parajes del Valle)

Dark colour with a young blueish hint. Aromas of dark and red berries, like blackberry and cherry, aromatic herbs (rosemary, thyme), and a hint of lickorice. Juicy in the mouth, it has a coolness to it, like a fresh, natural acidity, but at the same time a serious southern quality hinting to coffee, or maybe tea leaves.

Price: Low

Food: Light meat dishes, bacalao, Murcian paella, pizza, hard cheeses, and almost everything from the grill

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Wine of the Week

Skyscraper of Nieva York

This is the tallest skyscraper of Nieva York in the ResPublic of Verdejo. In fact this one has a twin tower, because the white version has already been there for some years.

I have written about Ismael Gozalo and his wines several times, so I will not repeat the whole story. But in short, he comes from a family of vintners in the small settlement of Nieva (Segovia province), one of the highest in altitude in the Rueda area. So he has taken the verdejo variety to new heights, but he also makes wine from red varieties such as such as mencía from Bierzo, garnacha from Gredos, and rufete from Sierra de Salamanca. (You can read here about some of the reds, and here about some whites).

This pét-nat is made from 90% tempranillo planted in the 1990’s on slate, and 10% verdejo, from the more than a century old ungrafted vines on sand and clay. It’s an early harvest wine, fermented at a cool temperature to keep the turbidity down. The alcoholic fermentation is finished inside the bottle. After a few months in the bottle the lees are removed, and the bottle is filled up with dry wine from the same lot. No sulphur added.

Nieva York Pét-Nat Rosé 2018 (Ismael Gozalo)

Peach coloured, bubbly. Also peach on the nose, together with white flowers and wild strawberry. Luscious fruit, but also with a nice acidity, some texture (feels like citrus peel, such as clementine) concentration and length. Citing the back label: Good bubbles = good moments!!!

Price: Medium

Food: Excellent on its own, try with all kinds of salads, tapas from “ensaladilla rusa” to charcuterie, pizza, light meat…

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Wine of the Week

Call of the wild

Azul y Garanza is a producer that is located near the protected desert area Bardenas Reales in Navarra, and up towards the Pyrenees. Dani Sánchez Nogue and María and Fernando Barrena make wonderful, inspiring wines from this extreme landscape.

They make a fruity great-value red wine called Fiesta, but this time we deal with their orange wine from the garnacha blanca grape. The soil is calcareous clay with a thin layer top-soil at 550 meters of altitude. Average age of the grapes is 30 years.

It’s harvested by hand, destemmed, spontaneously fermented in cement for 10 days, 5 of them with skin-contact. Later it’s matured in amphora for 4 months.

Naturaleza Salvaje 2019 (Azul y Garanza)

Golden colour. Lovely scent of flowers and citrus, with hints of peach and herbs. Fresh, dry, and quite smooth textured.

Price: Medium

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Wine of the Week

Cool, red Ribeira Sacra

We are in the rugged and dramatic Ribeira Sacra in the interior of Galicia, a transitory zone between the Atlantic and the dry, hot Castilian inland. The soils here are decomposed granite and schist. Couto is a small settlement in the Sil valley, and in Galician “fedellos” means something like punks. Luís, Pablo, Curro and Jesús might call themselves punks, but their wines are fine-tuned, and quite complex too.

Lomba dos Ares (meaning the “hilltop of Ares”) is a steep vineyard in the Bibei sub-zone at 700-750 meters. In this particular place there is granite soils higher up that changes to sandy schist further down. The varieties planted here are a.o. mencía, merenzao (bastardo or trousseau), caiño, mouratón (garnacha tintorera), noen of them dominating. The grapes are hand-harvested, fermented in whole clusters in steel, and with a long and gentle maceration with pigeage. Later it was aged in neutral French oak.

 
Fedellos do Couto Lomba dos Ares 2017

Lomba dos Ares 2017 (Fedellos do Couto)

Light red. Cool aroma of flowers and red berries (cherry, raspberry), and behind is a next layer of smoke, pine and herbs. Juicy in the mouth, but with fine-grained tannins and some concentration, good fruit all the way and an elegant integrated acidity. Some ageing potential.

Price: Medium

 

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Wine of the Week

Brezo for Bierzo

Bordeaux native Grégory Pérez is the driving force behind Mengoba in Bierzo. He is found by the river Cúa, in the municipality of Espanillo, where he makes brilliant terroir-focused whites and reds from steep vineyards.

Brezo is a second label for the wines that he makes as a négociant, still following the same principles.

This wine is made from mostly mencía, but with some 15% alicante bouschet. It’s made from vines planted in 1985, 550 meters above sea level. The soils are clay with some sand. The grapes were destemmed and crushed, followed by a traditional vinification with pumpovers. It was then raised in steel, only lightly fined and filtered, and it comes with a low alcohol (12,5%).

Brezo 2018 (Mengoba, Gregory Pérez)

Dark cherry colour. Young blueberry, violets and dark fruit aroma. Juicy, round, delicious, with natural, integrated acidity.

Price: Low

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Wine of the Week

Roc rocks

A few weeks ago we brought a brief introduction to Verónica Ortega’s wines, and the wine of the week was her clay and sand soil wine called Quite (see here). This week the turn has come to the older brother.

Roc is made from 80-100 years old mencía, organically farmed on slate 530 meters above sea level, but also on clay and sand. The grapes were harvested by hand, pressed with 50% whole clusters, fermented with indigenous yeasts in vat with regular pigeage. The maceration lasted for 20 days, and the ageing went on for 14 months in French barriques.

Roc 2015 (Verónica Ortega)

Dark cherry colour. Dark fruits, stone fruit, tar, with a background of roast and caramel. Solid tannins (but not overdone), rocky minerality, and with a cool freshness also.

Price: Medium

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Wine of the Week

Not just Quite good

Verónica Ortega, born in Cádiz, has her formal training from New Zealand. She came to El Bierzo after having worked with famous winemakers like Álvaro Palacios (Priorat), Dirk Niepoort (Douro), to name just a couple. In Bierzo she worked several years with local master Raúl Perez, before opening her own cellar in 2014.

She has in total around 5 hectares of 80 year old plants in Valtuille de Abajo. These are so-called field blends, but clearly dominated by mencía. The soil here is a mix of sand, clay and limestone.

Quite Bottle

In the beginning there was only one wine called Roc from Verónica’s newly acquired plots on sand and clay near Valtuille de Abajo. But after a while she started to realize that the more sandier vineyards were apt for more floral and elegant wines. Quite was then born in 2012. With time she cut down the time in barrel (Quite is typically 4 months in 2-3 year in used oak, while Roc has 6 or 7). In the beginning there was only partly destemming, now 100%. Likewise she has found new ways to make this wine more elegant, like fermentation in tank, shorter maceration (12 days for this vintage) in neutral oak – and from this vintage on she also uses 800 liters amphorae for 50% of the wine.

Quite 2016 (Verónica Ortega)

Cherry red. Aromas of youthful red fruits (cherries), stone fruit (plums), with a slight balsamic note. Very fresh, natural acidity, juicy and appealing, and with a mineral touch.

Price: Medium

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Articles and Wine of the Week

2019: Mencía for me

For 2019 my New Year’s resolution is to dive deeper in the “Mar de Mencía”. This grape variety is by no means new to me (just do a search on these pages and see). I have long since recognized its ability to show differences in terroir and its susceptibility for reduction. It has many faces. But not least, it can be an absolute delight. And I think it has the potential to be a lot more popular, recognized and appreciated than it is at the moment.

Through a series of short Wine of the Week articles I will show many sides of it (through wines that I have not yet tasted). I think there is a lot to learn through focusing on its homeland, El Bierzo (a ‘comarca’ in the province of León), that shall also be presented as we go along. But we will also meet it in neighbouring Valdeorras and Ribeira Sacra, in Portugal (most often called jaen) and elsewhere. I have a strong suspicion that its white sister godello will follow once in a while. We will see.

Mencía covers nearly two-thirds of the region’s vineyard. It ripens early, often early September, and likes the maritime climate of Bierzo with its usual wet autumns. It’s very versatile and capable of expressing the mineral-rich soils of the region.

Bodegas Estefanía (Credit: MGwines)

Bodegas Estefanía, part of the MGwines group since 2014, is one of the emblematic wineries and one of the bigger ones, with 40 hectares with more than 100 years old vines. The majority is bush vine mencía (“en vaso” in Spanish) on steep south facing slopes. Winemaker is Raúl Pérez (read a little about his personal project here), from Bierzo. He has become one of the most famous of the travelling oenologists, but Estefanía is still one of his favorite projects.

Tilenus is named after the Teleno, a Celtic god of war, spelled this way to pay tribute to the Roman era in the Bierzo. There is also an old Roman coin on the label, a coin that was once discovered in the vineyard. The grapes were sourced from the bodega’s organic vineyards in Arganza.

Tilenus Ecologico Tinto

Tilenus Ecológico 2018 (Bodegas Estefanía)

Cherry red, some purple. Aroma of red berries (cherry, raspberry). Quite smooth on the palate, with fine tannins, and good fruit all the way.

Price: Low

Food: A variety of meats, probably super for the local roasts, salads and hard cheeses

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Wine of the Week

A light monastrell, for a change

While being focused on the light, delicate wines of Beaujolais, we throw in a Mediterranean wine that I have had on my list for some time.

And it shares in fact some of their characteristics. For a Jumilla monastrell it’s lightly extracted, focused on fruit and a, should we say, relatively modest 13,5% in alcohol.

Part of the Vinival group, Parajes del Valle is their Jumilla project. Winemaker is the young María Jover Sánchez, who worked for Vega Sicilia for a year, before she returned to her native Levante.

The soil here has a high limestone content, and the monastrell grapes are old. The variety has dark skin, small berries, and in the warm Mediterranean climate the wines are often big with elevated alcohol. Here the farmers are instructed to go for the opposite. The grapes are destemmed, subject to a light pressing and a careful maceration. It’s made mostly in steel, except for malo-lactic fermentation that is carried out in concrete.

Parajes del Valle Monastrell 2018 (Parajes del Valle)

Dark young colour. Quite concentrated berry aroma (raspberry, dark cherry), with aromatic herbs and a touch of lickorice in the background. Juicy, quite cool with smooth tannins.

Price: Low

Food: Stews, Murcian paella, light meat, fried fish

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