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Tag: Spain

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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Wine of the Week

La Fusta, Penedès

Toní Carbó is maybe better known for his collaboration with his friend Ramón Jané at Mas Candí. But he started unofficially to make wine under the Salada label in 2012, together with his wife Ana, from his family’s old farm Celler La Salada.

The family vineyards have never been sprayed, and Toní and his wife have also planted new ones, that they tend organically. These are wonderful wines without any additions of sulphur.

We are in Penedès, in the Barcelona province. La Fusta is the name of this particular vineyard, planted in 1988 in soil with limestone and some clay.

The wine is a varietal xarel·lo. The grapes were hand-picked, pressed in whole bunches, before spontaneous fermentation in old 1000 liter chestnut barrels. Unfiltered.

La Fusta 2018 (Celler La Salada)

Light grapefruit colour, somewhat turbid. Smells of yellow apples, white flowers and mature citrus. It’s a bit waxy and mineral with a lively acidity. Long.

Price: Medium

Food: Fish and shellfish, paella, and the power and the acidity suggests that it goes well with many meat dishes

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Wine of the Week

Elena of Jumilla

I visited Elena Pacheco at the family farm some years ago. She runs the business together with three sisters. They have 17 hectares. Monastrell is the main variety, growing in poor, limestone soils at around 500 meters. These are bush vines (‘en vaso’ in Spanish, more than 40 years old. And the wines are certified organic.

This wine made from 95% monastrell and the rest syrah, and is fermented and raised in steel.

Familia Pacheco 2016 (Viña Elena)

Dark cherry red. Aroma of mature red and dark berries (plums, blackberry, aromatic herbs and some balsamic (lickorice). Full-bodied, fresh and balanced; the alcohol (14,5) is evident, but not dominating.

Price: Low

Food: Roast, cheese, murcian paella, tapas


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Wine of the Week

Juicy at Esaias

I met Dido and Jurriaan almost by coincidence in Barcelona. Or to be precise, we were introduced by the organizer of the Vella Terra natural wine fair. I got the impression that their business was just beginning (which is not far from true), and the wine they had brought was just a sample. So it was a big surprise to find one of their wines at the newly opened Esaias in Oslo (next door to, and under the same ownership as the restaurant Bacchus, itself a natural wine haven).

Jur (left) and Dido at Garage, Barcelona

Dido and Jur are from Amsterdam. In their own words, then share a passion: wine, and travelled around the world to find kid right place to make it. They finally chose Alt-Empordà in Spain, where they found around ten hectares of vineyards in the natural reserve of Albera, that they were able to buy by crowdfunding. The vineyard they call Tortuga, because they share them with a nearly extinct tortoise species). It’s already cultivated organically, and they intend to implement biodynamic practise as well. 2018 is the first vintage when they are able to make wine entirely from own grapes.

Worth mentioning is that Dido was doing research for a master in cultural anthropology on the Swartland Independent Producers, a group of young winemakers making natural wines (Craig Hawkins, Jurgen Gouws ao.). Inspired by these people, living out their dream, they decided to do the same.

Along their journey they had worked for both big industrial companies and small artisans. It was Joan Ramón Escoda of Conca de Barberà who really made them realize that wine should be made naturally, with minimal intervention.

Juicy is made from garnacha 60% and merlot. The merlot was destemmed and pressed, then raised in 500L old oak barrels for 4 months. The garnacha grapes were pressed in steel, in whole bunches. There was no temperature control. The wine is unfined and unfiltered, and total SO2 is a mere 5 mg. The soil here is granite and schist., for the records. (By the way, all their wines are named after songs. This one is from The Notorious B.I.G.’s rap hit.)

Juicy 2018 (Vinyes Tortuga)

The colour we can call strawberry red. Smells of raspberry and strawberry. It lives up to its name, is juicy in the mouth, intensely fruity with raspberry all the way, and an inspiring acidity.

Price: Medium

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Articles and Wine bars and restaurants

The Real Wine fair 2019 – III The events, incl. a popup from Stavanger, Norway

During the Real Wine fair some food providers were present at the Tobacco Dock to serve the tasters during their breaks. Among them were the DuckSoup wine bar of Soho,  Burro e Salvia, pasta place in Shoreditch, Flying Frenchman with their sausages and outdoor raised pork and chicken. The hotel wine bar La Cour de Rémi also came over from Calais to serve delicious flavours from Normandie.

Around town there were several “take-overs”, such as Morgan McGlone of Belles Hot Chicken in Australia cooking Nashville style at Brawn. The Bastarda company took over Leroy in Shoreditch, with wine assistance of Ben Walgate of Tillingham, East Sussex. To mention only a couple.

Claes, Magnus and Nayana of Söl, Norway

To my surprise, the trio behind Restaurant Söl of Stavanger, right in my own Norwegian backyard, were cooking at Terroirs, the most emblematic natural wine bar of all. Obviously I had to visit them and see what they were up to.

Restaurant SÖL opened in Stavanger on the southwest coast of Norway in 2018. The driving forces behind the restaurant are Nayana Engh, Claes Helbak and Magnus Haugland Paaske, all of them with experience from Norwegian and foreign restaurants.

Their main focus is fresh, local, sustainably grown vegetables combined with natural wines and drinks produced by small artisans – to be enjoyed in a relaxed atmosphere. SÖL can be said to be a part of the “new” Nordic wave, which means food inspired by traditional dishes, but with a modern twist and a wink to the world.

Claes

That night the wines were paired in collaboration with Terroirs’ master sommelier Kevin Barbry. And Kevin was the one who served me the first wine while waiting in the bar. This was Mayga Watt 2018, a pétillant gamay from Gaillac in the Sud-Ouest region of France: A pink, crisp and juicy pétillant wine, with smell of strawberry and white pepper.

The first thing that was brought to the table was sourdough bread, and delicious organic butter from Røros, a lovely small town in mid-Norway. Grilled squash, fermented tomato, milk curd and ramson capers came next, elegantly paired with Attention Chenin Méchant 2017 (Nicolas Réau). This is a wine from Anjou the Loire valley. Originally Réau planned for a pianist career. Key words here are 15 year old plants, indigenous yeasts, direct press, no fining, light filtering, low sulphur, and ageing on lees in used oak. The result is a yellow, peach and mature apple smelling wine with good volume, luscious mouthfeel and a rounded acidity.

Next was panfried cod, dulse (the sea growth from which the restaurant takes its name), spring greens and brown butter sabayon. White flowers were garnish on top of this plate. Partners in life and crime Nayana and Claes had picked them by a local lake (Stokkavatnet, for those familiar with it) the night before they set off to England. Dinavolino 2017 (Denavolo), an elegant orange multivarietal wine from Emilia-Romagna, Italy, matched the tasty yet delicate dish without problems. The wine: Light amber; peel sensations, white peach and flowers; slightly tannic, wonderfully fresh.

Nayana

Next was Jersey Royals potatoes, broad beans, sugar snaps, beef jus and lovage, with herbs from the Rogaland region, the trio’s homeplace. It was accompanied by Le Vin Est Une Fête 2018 (Elian da Ros), again from the Sud-Ouest of France. The main grape here is abouriou, typical of Marmande. The wine was cherry red, medium deep, smelled primarily of red fruits, and had very light, fine-grained tannins. The dish is complicated, with peas and other tender greens in a powerful sauce. The combination with a very lightly macerated red. It would have been interesting to see whether an orange wine, like the previous one, could have build a bridge between the strong and the tender.

Rhubarb compote (from the organic farm at Ullandhaug, Rogaland), toasted ice cream, rhubarb sorbet and crispy rhubarb. Lovely and fresh! There were two options for drinks, and I chose Éric Bordelet‘s pear cider Pays de la Loire (France). The cider was composed from many varieties of pear, grown on schist. With 12 grams residual sugar it gave a somewhat off-dry mouthfeel, a complex, cidery (what a surprise!), sweetish aroma, a touch of tannin. The marriage wasn’t made in heaven, though the bubbles helped. I was wondering what could have been done differently. I must admit I thought the wind should have been sweeter. With ice cream a PX sherry automatically comes to mind, but it would have been much too powerful here. After having returned to Norway I visited their place and had the same dish. Then Claes served it with an apple cider, this time bone dry, with a penetrating acidity and fresh bubbles. Maybe not perfect, but maybe the closest possible.

To conclude: Fønix Blue, a cheese from Stavanger Ysteri (Norway) and rye bread. With this we could chose to include La Cosa (The Thing) 2017 (Alfredo Maestro), from the Ribera del Duero area of Spain. What a wine! Dark amber, or mahogany; complex aroma with rhubarb and plum, and very sweet. I had to come back to this wine the day after, at Alfredo’s table at the fair, maybe to see if this was really true (!).

Remember this is a wine blog, not primarily about food. But once in a while it’s necessary to say a few words about wine-food combinations, and I have given some opinions here. What could be said, as a conclusion, and apart from the fact that it was a big surprise to see these people her is the following. The trio behind Söl are cooking with great passion and creativity, and from good, healthy ingredients. They are also proud to come out among their “audience” and present it, what the ingredients are and how the dishes are made. The drinks are picked carefully among the most natural and sustainable there is.

We cannot expect more than that.

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