I have been a couple of days in Grimstad, Norway, the beautiful seaside town of my childhood. The most inspiring restaurant these days is Smag & Behag. They have also opened another restaurant in neighbouring Kristiansand. But this is the original. The wine list is not very extensive, but they have a magnificent underground cellar, high ambitions – and the selection is well-crafted and consists of organic and natural wines of good quality.
For a four course meal I selected four wines together with the waiters. The three first wines -young and beautiful- were Brocard‘s saline Chablis Sainte Marie 2022, Domaine de Nozay‘s flinty Sancerre 2022 and Olivier Merlin‘s raspberry-scented Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2021. Instead of going for a dessert with a sweet wine I chose a selection of cheeses and this week’s wine, a classic style Chianti
Castell’in Villa is located in the south of Chianti Classico, just outside the village of Castelnuovo Berardenga east of Siena in Tuscany. The farm is run by the Greek-born Princess Coralia Pignatelli della Leonessa, who lives in a medieval tower on the property. Out of a total of 300 hectares, 54 ha are vineyards that are all grown organically.
The sangiovese grapes are grown in old river deposits with pebbles and sand, in a vineyard planted in the 1960’s. The grapes were picked by hand and spontaneously fermented, before 3 weeks’ skin maceration. The wine is aged in large oak barrels. Unclarified and unfiltered, and low sulfur (<40 mg/l).
Chianti Classico 2018(Castell’in Villa)
Dark cherry red, with a beginning hint of brown. Aroma of red berries, herbs, leather, mushrooms. Firm and fine-grained tannins, good acidity, notes of tea and plums, with a decent concentration and length.
Raw Wine brings a lot of activity also outside the fair itself. The day before Raw Wine I had the pleasure to attend a tasting at Café Josephine in the Amager neighborhood of København. It was organized by importer Christopher Melin of Melin Vin, who has an impressive portfolio. Here follow just a few highlights among the many magnificent wines and makers.
What could be more appropriate than to start, like I did last Saturday, at the table of two Danish brothers. Poppelvej is Uffe (winemaker) and Jens Deichman who run their estate in McLaren Vale, South Australia. From organically and biodynamically tended vineyards there and in the neighbouring Adelaide Hills, they produce wines in a natural way, with little or no use of sulphur. Poppelvej is the name of the street in Denmark where the brothers grew up. SommerNat Pét Nat from mourvèdre came in two vintages; the 2022 had a light peach colour and was very fresh, berry fruity and with herbs, while the 2021, with longer time in concrete eggs resulted a bit creamier and fatter in texture. Irresistible Impulse 2022 is a sauvignon blanc fermented in barrel and aged on lees for 10 months. It’s light and turbid in appearance, with notes of apples, passionfruit and herbs, good volume, textured, with crisp acidity, and with a slight bitterness in the finish. Lastly, Lille 2022 is based on the northern Italian grape teroldego. It’s quite dark with a blueish hint, dark and wild fruits, some spice and earth, with a light sparkle.
There were three Italian producers in the “garden party” of Café Josephine organised by Melin Vin (see previous post). Ampeleia is located in the Maremma region of Toscana, specifically in the medieval town Roccatederighi. Under manager Marco Tait they converted to organic and then biodynamic. Francesco Pascucci brought to this tasting a personal trebbiano-dominated blend (with ansonica and malvasia) simply called Bianco di Ampelaia 2022. It’s a light orange wine with a nice dried fruit character that adds complexity to the fresh fruits and orange peel aromas, and with a light structure in the mouth. He also presented a delicious blend in one litre bottle aptly called Unlitro 2022, easy to drink with fresh fruits, herbs and some balsamic. Alicante Nero 2017 is a wine with personality and depth; light and fresh red fruits, but underneath a layer of herbs and earth, and with a delicate structure. Their emblematic cabernet franc wines were offered at the fair itself, if I got it right.
There were two producers from Veneto. Alex Della Vecchia is winemaker for Costadilà in prosecco-land north of Venezia, but he also has his own project called Ombretta. Simone Ambrosini’s Indomiti is found in Colli Berici, Vicenza.
Alex Della Vecchia sources grapes from the family’s vineyards in two municipalities. For his Grinton label he also uses organic grapes from friends elsewhere in Italy. Here in the current vintage Alex showed an easy-drinking, delicate pinot bianco and a more structured, reddish skin-contact pinot grigio. A wine with a tremendous personality was a cabernet franc pét nat. (I must ask Alex about the name, so stay tuned!). The colour was light red with fine bubbles, an aroma of flowers, peel and a sweetish hint, and in the mouth it was tasty, concentrated with a raisiny touch. The wine had been made from passito (dried) grape juice, Alex informs.
Simone Ambrosini tells a story about him as a young man travelling to Australia, in search for harmony and the good things in life, more or less at random. Among other things he learns to love wine. Back in Italy he embarks on studies in enology and viticulture. After working with several wineries he decided to set up his own, with “a wallet full of ambition”, as he puts it. This was as recently as 2018. Now he rents old vineyards that he has restored in Colli Berici, his homeland. These vines, now brought back to life, are the “indomiti”, the indomitable ones that gave name to his project. Mistica was a lovely garganega 9 month skin-contact wine with good structure to the primary fruit. I tasted two wines with tai rosso. The varietal Osai2021 rosé shows delicate raspberry aromas, and in the mouth there is a cool acidity running through an otherwise round and fleshy body. Opplà 2021 is an uplifting pét nat rosé, where the tai rosso is accompanied by garganega, pinot bianco and sauvignon blanc. It’s light orange, aromas of white flowers, peach and a touch of orange peel, and in its lightness it’s full of flavours and with a refreshing integrated acidity.
Two German producers were present. It’s always a pleasure to taste the outstanding wines of Brand Bros of Bockenheim, Pfalz. These are made in full respect of the terroir, without additives, unfiltered, and always full of freshness and energy. This is the first time that I have met one of the brothers, Jonas Brand, who guided the guests through part of their portfolio.
I have had their charming Wilder Satz in many wine bars throughout Europe. The 2022 is different though, as 18 hours of skin-contact gives it more colour and structure than before. It also has good volume and appears quite grapey, and with lovely scents of citrus (clementine), flowers and some balsamic. Jonas brought two magnificent magnums, a non vintage Riesling (with that name) and Monastery 2016. The latter was light yellow in colour, with concentrated aromas of yellow fruits, some balsamic, and on the palate good acidity and wonderful balance. Add to this super pét nats, reds, among them a brilliant Cabernet Franc 2015, and you get the picture of a great producer.
Unknown to me was Glow Glow of Nahe. Pauline Baumberger runs it with her brother. Pauline showed various fresh, lovely uncomplicated whites from riesling and gelber muskateller, a relatively dark dorenfelder/regent, and more. Here we focus on the Spätburgunder 2022, that has all the young virtues of the white wines under a coloured cover. Made partly with carbonic maceration and short skin-contact it appears as a light rosé-ish wine with red fruits on the nose, and with a delicious natural acidity wrapped in a rounded body.
It seems to be no end to the list of interesting producers coming out of the ancient and historic wine country of Georgia. Andria’s Gvino I had never heard of, but now it’s not easy to forget. The winery is located in the Kakheti region, not far from the capital Tbilisi. They make their wines in the traditional and natural way, in qvevri, without additives and without filtration.
Winemaker George Wolski and his wife Tako showed me their main line and also the wines that come with the Château Khashmi label. There was a number of beautiful amber and red wines, of which I will only mention two. Their Mtsvane had lots of character. The colour was light amber, with aromas of mature citrus, orange peel and a touch of marzipan, and in the mouth it was rich and structured with a touch of raisins. George tells that the must spent five days with full skin-contact in qvevris. The Saperavi Khashmi 2020 comes from a 40 years old pre-phylloxera vineyard. Saperavi is fascinating grape that often has an impressively dark colour, but is still highly drinkable. This one is not among the darkest and has a blueish hue. I find it quite flowery with dark fruits (boysenberries), plums, some earthiness, and in the mouth it’s fresh and juicy, with some tannin, and overall it’s very appealing.
We tasted 15 varietal trebbianos in our local wine club yesterday. Trebbiano is a name for several grapes, more or less in family with each other. Many wines had apple or pear and citrus aromas, accompanied by a certain herbal character. The tasting also showed that low yields are necessary. The wines from Abruzzo and Umbria were generally quite concentrated with high levels of acidity, while those from Lugana were mellow and easy drinking.
Here are three of the best.
Bianco Regio 2019(Cant. Margò)
Carlo Tabarrini farms biodynamically his vineyards in Sant’Enea, province of Perugia, Umbria. He works without any additions, like his parents and grandparents did. The soils are sand and limestone, and the age of the vines are close to 40 years. 8 days skin-contact, matured in steel and a small percentage barrique.
Straw coloured, slightly cloudy. Aroma of pears and oranges with some herbs. (Reductive at first, opens in the glass.) Slightly carbonic, tasty and quite concentrated, fresh acidity, and a slightly bitter and long finish.
This wine originates from Spoleto, in southern Umbria. The Mattioli family has cultivated these slopes since the 10th century, and they have made wine in the last three generations. The soil is clay with mixed content of iron and limestone, and fertilizing is compost from their own animals. Harvesting was done by hand. All wines are spontaneously fermented in cement without temperature control or additions of sulphur. This wine had two days of skin-maceration, and aged in steel. Unfined and unfiltered. Biodynamic.
Light golden colour. Aroma of yellow apples, table grapes, a touch of tropical fruits (apricot) and some herbs. Quite full in the mouth, luscious, a slight tannin, quite long with herbs in the finish.
This wine is from a vineyard in San Casciano in Val di Pesa, Chianti Classico, and classified as IGT. The Messana family farms biodynamically, and the soil is chalky clay. The grapes were harvested by hand, spontaneously fermented with up to 4 weeks skin-maceration, and the wine aged in qvevri.
Light orange or amber colour. Opulent and grapey style, with a rich aroma of apricot, orange peel and smoke. Good body with just enough acidity, quite concentrated and long.
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.
When the halls are decked, and the ding dong goes merrily on high, a vin santo can be a perfect wine to the seasons sweets, not least Italian delights such as panettone and biscotti.
As many of our readers would know, vin santo (meaning “holy wine”) is a type of straw wine, as the grapes are typically dried on straw mats, as the story goes, untill Easter. The sweetness can vary a lot, but it’s almost always quite sweet or very sweet.
Badia a Coltibuono (meaning “abbey of the good harvest”) has been a leading Chianti producer for long, with origins back to the 11th century, when the Vallombrosan monks planted the first vineyards in the area. It was finally acquired by the present family in 1846, and now it’s run by Piero Stucchi-Prinetti and his children.
They also make a riserva “occhio di pernice” (‘partridge’s eye’), the rosé version, from typical red chianti grapes. This vin santo is made by the traditional white varieties trebbiano and malvasia, all -both red and white- organically farmed.
The grapes are hand-picked, then dried in well-ventilated rooms, before fermentation is carried out with the help of native yeasts. Ageing is then done for 6 years in big casks and barriques.
Vin Santo 2009(Badia a Coltibuono)
Golden amber colour. Aroma with figs, roasted nuts, figs and a touch of honey. In the mouth it’s opulent, but not as sweet as many others. It’s balanced by a very good acidity, and the finish is long.
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.
A recent tasting of Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino showed a great variety of styles, from the classic wines of Banfi, the structured Fonterenzas, the “wild” Il Paradiso di Manfredo, some top end, and some old…
This was one of the best, but definitely not the most expensive. Located by the Sant’Angelo hill in the extreme south of Montalcino, Col d’Orcia has delivered good value organic wines on the fruity side for many years now. This is a special reserve that originates in a special vineyard in a (as the name suggests) “windy ridge” overlooking the river Orcia.
Grapes from the different parts were kept separate, the alcoholic fermentation was carried out in stainless steel and the malolactic in concrete. Then followed four years in big oak barrels.
Poggio al Vento Riserva 2007 (Col d’Orcia)
Dark, deep colour with hints of development. Fruity, quite cool with cherries and morello, some spice and balsamic notes. Full, lots of soft tannins, a matching acidity, and a long and lightly spicy aftertaste. Delicious now and, for me, the next 5 years or so. Good airing recommended.
Price: High (not for a brunello riserva, but generally speaking)