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Wine of the Week

Chakana’s high entry-level

Bodega Chakana delivers at a generally high overall level. So also their so-called entry-level malbec, where the price is next to nothing. (Read about another of their wines here.)

Chakana is a family owned winery located at 960 meters altitude up towards the Andes in Agrelo, Mendoza. It represents a new generation of local terroir-conscious winemakers. The name of the project is what the indigenous people in the area called the southern cross constellation (Crux).

This is how the bodega describes the naming: “Chakana is believed to hold the key to finding the perfect timing for the cultivation and harvesting of crops – a calendar, compass & symbolic link between earth and spirit. On May 2, 2002, the Chakana reached perfect vertical position in the sky, marking the beginning of a new farming cycle. It was then that Chakana’s founder Juan Pelizzatti chose its name for his winery, paying homage to the Incan understanding of and respect for nature.”

Winemaker is Gabriel Bloise, who has experience from both Europe and Australia. The farming at Chakana can be described as biodynamic, with spontaneous fermentation, natural acidity, minimum or no sulphur, and the wines are never clarified nor filtrated.

chakana winery vineyard panarama1
(Cred. Bod. Chakana)

Their vineyards are orientated 45 degrees north west to maximize fruit expression. According to themselves this is “a surprising example of synchronicity, as this is the exact route that the Andean development chose”. This is called the Viracocha line, or the line of truth of the Incas.

For Chakana this planting direction was chosen for best canopy protection of the grapes during the highest temperatures of the day.

For this wine 60% of the grapes are from Luján de Cuyo in Mendoza and the rest from La Rioja (some 600 km to the north). The grapes were cold-macerated for 3 days, then fermented in steel and cement 15 days.

We also tried it with Brazilian beans

Malbec 2018 Organic Wine (Bod. Chakana)

Dark cherry red, blueish hue. Fruity, mature dark berries (blackberry), plum, some spice. Juicy yet a bit carbonic in the mouth, with soft tannins, firm and slightly bitter finish with a slight (and pleasant) touch of vinegar.

Price: Low

Food: Many types of meat, also red, grilled and slightly spicy, roast duck, casseroles

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Wine of the Week

SP68 revisited

An all time favourite, you can read a little background and a review of a previous vintage (under its former name) here.

In short Nero d’Avola (30%) gives colour, frappato red berries, spice and some herbal character. The wine is made in the most natural possible way. Spontaneously fermented in cement with 15 days skin-contact. Further ageing jo cement for 6 months. Unfiltered.

SP68 Rosso 2020 (Arianna Occhipinti)

Quite dark, young and blueish. Cool aroma, red berries (cherry, raspberry), flowers, herbs. Luscious, fruity, with some tannin and a fresh acidity.

Price: Medium

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Wine of the Week

Cool British Col

As we enter into a new year we chose a bubbly fresh wine from a promising winery. The obvious choice would be champagne, of which the is a big amount to chose from, also in the natural end of the scale. But no, our choice is from England, itself a promising wine country.

I visited the Tillingham winery as we entered into the pandemic for the first time, and went straight into a quarantine, according to the rules that had been made while I was there. I will not go into details about the producer, as much is written already. Here is one of the write-ups.

Winemaker Ben Walgate in the winery

The wines are produced as naturally as possible; which means no spraying in the vineyards, no unnecessary additives are added, and the wines are bottled with minimal sulphur.

This wine is made in and named after the italian method Col Fondo, in essence the same as the ancestral method. The grapes are mostly pinot noir, with chardonnay, pinot meunier and auxerrois. Hand-picked grapes ferment naturally in separate containers. Pinot noir and chardonnay are pressed directly as whole bunches and fermented in steel. Pinot meunier is also pressed as whole bunches of grapes and fermented in large Georgian qvevri. Auxerrois is mainly pressed as whole bunches of grapes and fermented in steel, as well as a small amount of yeast with a day’s skin contact before it is pressed into qvervi. After finishing the alcoholic fermentation, all the components in the steel tank are mixed with minimal amounts of sulphur added, and then the wine is bottled with 8 g/L added sugar. Thus the wine undergoes a second fermentation in the bottle.

Col 2019 (Tillingham Wines)

Light golden and somewhat cloudy. Aroma of lime, green fig and white flowers. Light and appealing, a moderate amount of tiny bubbles, with fresh acid, a bit creamy and with a quite long, dry finish.

Price: Medium

Food: Apéritif, natural shellfish, white fish, tapas…Perfect for celebrations.

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Wine of the Week

Christmas Monastrell in Murcia

I am in Murcia, Spain for Christmas. What could be more appropriate than presenting a regional speciality, sweet monastrell wine. Bodegas Olivares has long since been my favourite among the producers of this type. Nowadays there are more serious contenders, but Olivares still stands tall.

Hoya de Santa Ana is a sub-zone of Jumilla, situated in the north-western corner. It has the highest elevation in the DO. Thus the warm days are complemented with temperatures considerably cooler than the rest of the wine area.

Credit: Bod. Olivares

For this wine they use the oldest vines of the estate, ungrafted (‘pie franco’ in Spanish). They let the grapes hang on the vine until late autumn. Once the grapes begin to turn into raisins, they reach a great richness, but given the cool nights a certain freshness is still achieved. Around 5-6 years per decade they consider the conditions to be good enough to release this dessert wine.

Partial fermentation is employed, and more than 30 days of maceration with skins. Wood ageing? Zero.

The resulting alcohol is16%. It’s not overtly sweet, at a sugar content 200 gr/l. For those interested in volatile acidity it’s 0,20 gr/l.

Olivares Monastrell Dulce 2016 (Bod. Olivares)

Dark red, brownish hint. Complex aroma of blackberry, plums, and dried fruits (dates, figs), a bit raisiny. Concentrated taste with good acidity, some structure and great persistence. Sweet, but not overdone, and relatively speaking, also fresh.

Price: Medium

Food: Many desserts, especially when made with chocolate, with blue and aged cheeses. We had it with the local turrón, a sweet contain almonds and honey.

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Wine of the Week

Making Sense

Celler Batea speaks about duality. One expression of this is the mixture of Continental and Mediterranean influences in their home town Batea, DO Terra Alta (Catalunya). Another is the focus on two grape varieties, that is the black and the white version of garnacha, or let’s just name it garnatxa, like it’s written here. It is these two varieties that make up the series of non-added-sulphites wines called Sense (meaning without in Catalan).

Credit: Celler Batea

In 2019 the producer launched these wines, with total sulphites less than 10mg per liter. They are completely organic, do not contain any chemicals, nor preservatives and have not been filtered. The white wine was fermented in steel at 14-16°C with native yeasts, stayed there for 6 months on fine lees, with “batonnage” (stirring) to give more complexity and mouthfeel.

Sense Blanc 2020 (Celler Batea)

Dark golden colour, hint of brown. In the front are aromas of mature apples and bitter almond, underlying we find fennel, aniseed and a touch of honey. Quite full and nutty in the mouth, with a good acidity that’s important to balance the ripe fruit and relatively high alcohol (14%). Somewhat bitter end. Lots of character.

Price: Medium-low

Food: Rice dishes, salads, white and red fish, tasty shellfish, pasta, pizza, cheeses and more

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Wine of the Week

Lambrusco ancestral

Here is a wonderful ancestral from Emilia-Romagna, in the historic Lambrusco category, based on the grape with that name.

Il Farneto was founded in the 1990’s, always with the intention to produce environmental sustainable wines. Today they own 34 hectares, 8 of them vineyard, near Scandiano in Reggio Emilia.

This wine is a red natural wine made with the ancestral method from organic and biodynamic grapes. Some key words: Spontaneous fermentation, native yeasts, unfined, unfiltered, minimal added sulfites, low alcohol (11,5%)..

Frisant Rosso 2020 (Il Farneto)

Ruby red, bubbly. Aromas of red berries (strawberry, raspberry), a floral component. Fresh, luscious taste with herbs and licorice.

Price: Low

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Wine of the Week

The lamb lies down

Lammershoek is located in the picturesque Paardeberg area of Swartland. Here the owners of the winery have found their breathing space, “close to nature with unbeatable views that speak to the soul”, they explain. The grapes are also grown in harmony with the rich animal and bird life of the place.

Lammershoek has been a cornerstone and a leading light in Swartland, and therefore in modern South-African quality wine for generations. Craig Hawkins, himself a mentor for others, was head-winemaker for almost ten years before he decided to put all his effort into his own project Testalonga in 2016. (Search these pages for several of his wines, and also Intellego and Mother Rock.)

Today Lammershoek is owned by Andreas Abold, originally from Germany, and Fedor Radmann, a business-man and friend from Switzerland. Footballer Franz Beckenbauer was also co-owner, but left the pitch a couple of years ago. Their famous wine Libero No 5 is attributed to him.

Credit: Lammershoek

Lammershoek means “lambs’ corner” in the Afrikaans language. Local legend says that the sheep sought shelter for their babies in the nearby forest, from the black eagle and other birds of prey.

The Innocent is some kind of an entry-level range. Mostly from old dry-farmed bush-vines, the wines have always lots of character and a high quality. The pinotage is somehow taken back to its roots. This ruby red wine made in a subtle, youthful Beaujolais style, is different from what people have come to expect from a pinotage nowadays. The bushes are between 21 and 50 years old, all dry-farmed. Partial whole-bunch fermentation.

The Innocent Pinotage 2018 (Lammershoek)

Ruby red, a bit blueish youthfulness. Aroma of red berries (cherries), plums, over a hint of herbs and licorice. Subtle, youthful, luscious taste with with careful tannins, low alcohol (12%) and an energetic whole-bunch acidity, – and yet a sweet sensation that I often associate with pinotage lingers in the long aftertaste.

Price: Low

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Wine of the Week

Vegan friendly butcher

It might not at first right look like a vegan friendly wine. But the back label says so, and there is little about this wine that should be harmful. Or rather: The answer to this should be given by the vegans themselves. Fellow Burgenland producer Meinklang has become popular in several markets with labels showing their dear cows and oxen.

Anyway, Hans Schwarz was as a master butcher before he decided to found his own winery around 20 years ago. Now he has established a reputation of making honest wines according to local traditions, without thinking about what trends are going on internationally. His son Michael has also been involved in the work, and is now effectively the winemaker of the house.

Before establishing the winery in 1999 Hans Schwarz sold grapes to the area’s top producers, including top dessert wine producer Alois Kracher. The geographical location of their vineyards are more precisely Andau, Neusiedlersee and St. Georgen am Leithagebirge. They sit on different types of soil such as shale, lime and sand, silt and clay. Zweigelt is the most important grape variety of their 12 hectare vineyard.

The wines undergo natural fermentation in neutral barrels or in steel tanks to preserve the fruit quality. This one in particular was fermented in steel with two weeks maceration and aged one year in old barriques.

The Butcher Zweigelt 2020 (Schwarz Weine)

Dark ruby garnet, violet reflections. Aroma of ripe plums, cherries, raspberry, flowers and a hint of licorice. Juicy in the mouth, with delicate tannin and fresh berry fruit.

Price: Low

Food: Salads, lightly spiced food, some Asian and (sorry, vegans out there) light meat, grilled fish, tasty shellfish such as crab.

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Wine of the Week

Beaujolais is back

Beaujolais is back. The local people brings it back on the squares of central Beaujolais after two pandemic years. And as usual, from the third Thursday of November it’s arrivé here for us to enjoy.

One of the best I have tasted this year is a Beaujolais-Villages from Château du Chatelard. The château was first owned by the Tournus abbey of south Burgundy in the 12th century. Today the labels carry emblems of the families that have developed it further.

The actual 28 hectares were mainly established before 1955. They believe in integrated farming and grass cover of the parcels to preserve the soils and the biodiversity.

Aurélie Vermont

Aurélie de Vermont is now manager, and as winemaker she sticks to local traditions. She selects micro-cuvées from the many terroirs of both their Beaujolais and Mâconnais vineyards.

Typical for the area, low temperature semi-carbonic maceration is used for the nouveau. This means that whole and partial bunches of grapes are vatted and the alcoholic fermentation starts inside each grape. The low temperature allows a longer winemaking process (more than 10 days).

Baronne du Chatelard Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau 2021 (Château du Chatelard)

Deep purple, young. Aroma of sweet cherries, raspberries. Nice acidity, clean fruit, elegant and careful tannin

Price: Medium-low

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Wine of the Week

COS Zibibbo

Here is a lovely white from southeastern Sicilia, from the zibibbo variety. I have earlier also highlighted the red version. (Read here.)

COS started in 1980, when the three architecture students Giambattista Cilia, Giusto Occhipinti and Cirino Strano, mostly as a fun experiment, founded the winery. Names are composed of the initials of the three classmates’ surnames. Today, they make top wines using ancient methods in Vittoria on the southern tip of Sicilia. Today they cultivate 35 hectares biodynamically.

The grape for this one is zibibbo, in the moscato family. The soil is calcareous and volcanic clay, with silica sand, in a vineyard planted in 2001. It’s of course spontaneously fermented, before a 7 months skin-maceration, and maturation a few months in clay. COS prefers the Spanish tinajas as made by José Padilla of Albacete (read here). Unfiltered.

Certification is organic, and they work according to biodynamic principles.

Zibibbo Pithos Bianco 2018 (Az. Agr. COS)

Light golden. Aromatics include apple, orange blossom, pineapple, and a touch of honey. Full-bodied, dense, adequate acidity.

Price: Medium

Food: Dried fish, salads, light meat, pork…

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