Alexander Pflüger is third-generation owner and winemaker of Weingut Pflüger in the Pfalz. The name Pflüger means he who ploughs, and implies that the family has a long tradition as farmers. They were pioneers in organic farming in Germany, and the vineyards were certified in 1989. In the early 2000s, they switched to biodynamic. Today, Weingut Pflüger is the producer in Germany with the largest Demeter-certified vineyard.
It’s an all pinot, spontaneously fermented and raised in steel.
Buntsandstein Pinot Noir 2020(Pflüger)
Cherry red with blueish hint. Aroma of red berries (raspberry), plums, anise, an earthy touch. Juicy, fresh, medium-bodied, with fresh acidity.
We presented a “cultic” pét nat from this producer last year. (Read here.) We continue with a white one, or more accurately: orange. It’s a group of producers from Burgenland, Austria that have got together, and get some help from Meinklang with the winemaking.
The grapes are grüner veltliner 65%, welschriesling 25% and muscat 10%. They were grown in clay and limestone soils, picked by hand and spontaneously fermented with 7-8 days of skin maceration. Maturation was done in steel, and the wine was bottled unfiltered.
Weisse Blumen 2021(Biokult)
Light orange. Aromatic with white flowers, white peach, a touch orange peel. Fresh taste, nice rounded acidity, lightly structured, salty finish.
Food: Apéritif, salads, fish (red and white), light meat, pig
Les Vins Pirouettes is a label created by Christian Binner. The idea is to give selected growers the opportunity to launch their ecologic wines under an established umbrella. Here it is Raphaël who offers his elegant crémant zéro dosage. (You can find more from the project if you search these pages. Here is another, also by Raphaël.)
This week’s wine is a Crémant d’Alsace from 2018, made from riesling 60% and pinot gris 40% planted 1970 in chalky soil. It’s spontaneusly fermented, spent 24 months on lees and was bottled without added sugar.
Les Vins Pirouettes Crémant de Raphaël 2018(Pirouettes/ C. Binner)
Light yellow, with greenish hint, small bubbles. Aromatic, yellow apples, lime, bisques. Fresh, dry, good acidity, quite long.
Food: Apéritif, salads, white fish, shellfish, lightly spiced food…
The forcallà grape (or forcayat, officially forcallat) originates from Castilla-La Mancha, but nowadays most of it is found in Valencia and Murcia. (Here I have mentioned another, by the way.) The grape was common in the Levante before phylloxera. But when the farmers replanted after the plague it was largely replaced by monastrell, because it had more colour and alcohol. However, in this Mediterranean climate with high summer temperatures forcallat’s lower alcohol is now seen as a virtue, with its potential to give light, elegant and floral red wines.
Rafael Cambra is located in Fontanars dels Alforins, Valencia, where he works to recover grapes and styles. He believes in minimal intervention, and the wine is certified organic. This forcallat is from a single pie franco (ungrafted) vineyard more than fifty years old, on sandy soils. Fermentation took place with indigenous yeast in 2,000-litre stainless steel tanks with 10% stems and gentle pumping-over. Ageing for eight months in used French barrels of five hundred liters, then concrete for three months.
La Forcallà de Antonia 2020 (R. Cambra)
Cherry red. Aroma of red and dark fruits (raspberry, dark cherry), plums, spice, pepper. Full in the mouth, soft tannins, intense flavours and fruit all the way.
Philippe Formentin had worked 10 years at Domaine Chabanon in Lagamas, near Montpellier, before he became a “flying winemaker”, consulting at vineyards around the world. Then he found a small winery in the south of France, just outside Clermont l’Hérault. Here in the foothills of the Larzac, Philippe has brought life to his dream of making his own natural artisan wine.
His wines are made from grapes grown organically and according to biodynamic principles. They grow in different plots with clay-limestone soils and various exposures.
The grapes are manually harvested in the cool, early mornings, then stored in a cool environment 24 hours to slow start fermentation. They ferment naturally, with indigenous yeast and without sulfites.
A manual vertical press is used to gently extract the juice. The wines are then aged in containers, decanted, and bottled without filtration. L’orangeade 2020 is a varietal grenache blanc.
L’orangeade 2020 (Opi d’Aquí)
Light orange. Fresh aroma with apricot, orange peel, eucalyptus, a touch of honey. Medium full, light tannin structure, good length.
The last xinomavro in this column was a very mineral wine. This one is quite different, a lot more fruity. Oenops Wines was founded in 2015 in the northeastern region of Drama by Nikos Karatzas. The grapes come from selected vineyards from Drama and Macedonia, that are cultivated by various ambitious winegrowers.
The grape for this wine is xinomavro, from Naoussa and Amyntaion, age varying from 14 to 65 years. Spontaneous fermentation was carried out in egg shaped 5 hl amphoras, with 6% whole cluster. Nothing added, and no machinery was used at any stage. After fermentation followed 6 months ageing on lees in amphoras. Bottled unfiltered.
XinomavRAW 2020(Oenops Wines)
Ruby red. Aroma dominated by raspberry and cherries, and behind there some earth and leather. Juicy in the mouth, some tannin, lots of lovely, natural acidity.
Chakana has been featured before. Read about their entry-level malbec here, and also some background information. This is a very good Argentine producer that works biodynamically. This week’s suggestion is a very modestly priced bonarda.
The grapes were handpicked and cold-macerated at 5-8 degrees for approx. 3 days and then fermented in steel and cement tanks for approx. 15 days. It underwent malolactic fermentation in cement.
Sobrenatural Bonarda 2020(Chakana)
Dark red, blueish hint. Flowers, red and dark fruits (cherry, morello), fresh herbs, tobacco and chocolate. Juicy in the mouth, fresh acidity, black olives, good length.
No, it’s not an attempt of making a cheap musical joke, it’s the real name of the wine. When the wine is marching in, it’s with the grape saint laurent.
Saint Laurent is an aromatic, dark-skinned grape variety from the Pinot Noir family. St Laurent is perfect for sparkling wines as the variety ripens early and the skin is relatively thin. By the way, portrayed on the label is Swedish jazz saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, in a drawing by Olaf Osten.
Since they took over Gernot’s family’s small-scale wine production in 1985, the couple Gernot and Heike Heinrich have focused on the great potential of the local grapes blaufränkisch, zweigelt and st. laurent. The family currently grows their grapes on 100ha in Gols, Burgenland, using biodynamic principles.
The grapes come from a single location on the eastern Leithaberg, in mica-mixed slate soil. The grapes are pressed in whole bunches, and the must is then cooled for rapid sedimentation, before fermentation begins with natural yeast in steel tanks. The fermenting must is then bottled before the fermentation is completely finished, to get its mousse in the bottle.
Oh When the Saints 2021(Heinrich)
Light straw, abundant mousse. Fruity aroma of yellow apples, citrus, with white flowers and quince. Creamy texture, adequate acidity, salty aftertaste.
The red Drago has become my go-to Valpolicella. Last time it was featured here was in this article, where you also get some background.
It originates on the Monte del Drago hill, with a total vineyard area of 8 hectares. The grapes are organically cultivated, and biodynamic techniques are also employed. Corvina accounts for 60%, the rest is corvinone, rondinella and barbera. It has rested 12 months in French oak, which is barely noticeable.
Drago Valpolicella Superiore 2018 (Musella)
Dark red. Aroma of dark and red berries (cherry), some herbs. Lucious, tasty and with an adequate acidity.
After the Simplesmente… Vinho fair I visited some producers in the Vinho Verde region, according to a schedule made by festival general João Roseira. On Tuesday following the fair I was in the northern subregion of Vinho Verde, called Monção e Melgaço. Constantino Ramos was one of the greatest revelations on the whole trip, making superb, stylish, natural white and red wines. Valados de Melgaço does not make fully organic wines, and some with cultured yeasts, but is also very much of interest.
Constantino Ramos was born in Vouzela (Dão-Lafões). After his education in pharmaceutical sciences in Coimbra he went back to the countryside, and after a few harvests in nearby Dão and Douro and one at De Martino in Chile, he came to Melgaço in 2013 to work with Anselmo Mendes, one of the great personalities of the alvarinho world.
In 2015 came the opportunity to work a small vineyard over 70 years old, in Vale do Mouro. He started to make Zafirah, a red wine made with minimal intervention. I put it in the category of great, low-extraction, saline wines with a clear Atlantic touch that you can find from lower Galicia (Rías Baixas and Ribeiro) to the northern coast of Portugal. Remember, the Rías Baixas subregion of Condado do Tea begins just over the nearest bridge, and the historically important Ribeiro is also very close. These regions share grape varieties, and soil and climate are also similar. So if you think of red Vinho Verde as dark and meaty, maybe somewhat spritzy (and made by the vinhão variety), you have by now understood that this one is different.
-Old vines is not a common concept in Vinho Verde country, says Constantino. Nevertheless, currently he is in the process of recovering old vineyards, again in his words, -to give more credit to the reds from Monção and Melgaço, which were in the past very famous and compared to the wines from Burgundy and the Bordeaux clarets.
What about alvarinho, the emblematic and “inevitable” grape of the subregion? He continues: -Of course because I was working with Anselmo Mendes [Mr. Alvarinho] it was difficult to resist also producing an alvarinho wine. But it had to be something that could clearly show my vision of the variety in this specific terroir. So, using a small vineyard planted at about 250m high, I created Afluente. The name means tributary, metaphorically something that leads to, something that pushed me a step further.
Constantino has since long had his personal projects, his own wines and wineries for whom he consults, in addition to his “day job” at Anselmo Mendes. In January this year he took the chance to dedicate all his time to his personal projects. Of his own wines he makes 8.000 bottles annually, but he wants to increase a little.
We arrive in Riba do Mouro, a high altitude hamlet belonging to Monção. It has a cooler climate than the rest of the subregion. Here in Vale do Mouro was formerly a glacier, and therefore there is a great complexity of soils, granite, quartz, feldspar etc. The topsoil is only 40 cm down to the mother rock. Constantino says he prefer not to buy fields: -As I want to give something back to the people I prefer to work with the people. It’s something of an ethnographic project, driven by passion. -I have always been fond of reading. It helps you understand, gives you context.
Constantino has always worked organic. -Even the old viticulturists have a habit only to spray with copper, he says.
After a visit to the most important vineyards we appropriately enjoyed his wines in a local context, a meal of bacalhau and partridge in the Tiro no Prato restaurant near Viana do Castelo, where Constantino lives. The Afluente 2020, an alvarinho fermented and aged in used barrels, was perfect with the bacalhau with onion, garlic, black olives, flat potatoes and olive oil. The wine had a pale yellow colour; an aroma of apple, citrus, wet stone more mineral than perfumed, actually; glyceric in the mouth, energetic, and with a superb integrated acidity.
Zafirah 2021 is a field-blend from five plots of more than 50 year old vines on granite, with varieties like brancelho, borraçal (caíño), espadeiro, vinhão and pedral. It was skin-macerated one day before alcoholic fermentation, then light filtering and a bit sulphur added. It clocks in at 10.5% alcohol. Red cherry colour; red and wild berries (raspberry, blackberry); fresh in the mouth, saline. Like the white wine it went well with the bacalhau, and was a perfect pairing to partridge with a rich rice.
Juca 2021 is a tribute to his wife’s grandfather, who has helped Constantino a lot. It originates in the centennial vineyard of vinhão, brancelho a.o. The skins are soaked in steel and it’s carefully pumped over. The alcohol is 10%. Dark blackish blue, slightly carbonic; dark fruits (blackberry, blueberry), some licorice; it’s juicy, not especially tannic, with a fruitiness all the way. We can maybe look upon it as a luxury version of the dark Vinho Verde style.
Valados de Melgaço
Artur Meleiro picked me up in the Sousa subregion, and as I still hadn’t received my luggage after arriving in Porto three days ago he kindly offered me a shopping trip to Braga city. Then we continued north, had lunch in a Melgaço roadside restaurant, before we finally arrived at Quinta de Golães. Then after some vineyard sightseeing we arrived at the winery by the bridge bordering Spain.
Artur himself was born in Melgaço, one of the two villages that give name to the sub-region. He moved back from Lisboa in 2016 to concentrate fully on this project, after having also lived in Braga and Porto. The family vineyards count on 4 hectares (3,5 hectares alvarinho, the rest trajadura, loureiro and red varieties) Today the production is 30.000 bottles, while the ideal for the future he says is 50.000.
Monção e Melgaço is warmer than the rest of the region during the day and colder in the night, he says. Because of the mountain ranges it’s leaning more to a continental climate. .
Valados de Melgaço is Artur’s project, associated with his cousin Pedro Kock. It encompasses Quinta de Golães, so today they offer two ranges, with those two names respectively.
For the white wines the grape is almost exclusively alvarinho. 60% is in fact purchased, in addition to the grapes from the family vineyards. But the bought-in grapes come from farmers who share the same philosophy, soils/altitude etc. Artur tells, with this traditional viticulture one has to use pesticides. A neutral cultivated yeast is also used (except for the reds).
The aim is to produce elegant and balanced wines, that is faithful to the alvarinho variety and the Monção and Melgaço terroir. I can say that I liked the Golães red and white, as simple and fruity everyday wines. The Valados range was true to what we think of as terroir. I chose three of these wines here.
Valados de Melgaço Reserva 2019 had a few months on the lees with batonnage during a short while. Light yellow colour; expressive concentrate aroma, yellow apples, some anise; quite full and structured in the mouth, with a slightly bitter grapefruity aftertaste. Valados de Melgaço Grande Reserva 2016 is a truly serious wine, but though it was three years older and even more concentrated it was lighter in colour than the reserva. It aged on lees in inox during 46 months, with batonnage in the first 12. Fresh fruit, yellow apples, melon, some balsamic notes; supple concentration and a long finish and good citrussy acidity all the way. Should I pick one favourite it would still be the Valados de Melgaço Natura (Vinificação Tradicional) 2019, a wine made with less sulphur, and nothing added until the end of fermentation. It had 8 months ageing on lees in steel, with batonnage. Yellow colour; aroma of pear, flowers, fennel and a touch of clementine peel; juicy and grapey in the mouth, good, integrated acidity.