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Month: October 2015

Wine of the Week

Cabernet Franc from the Loire

For six generations or more than 180 years the Amirault family has stayed at Le Clos des Quarterons. They claim to constantly strive to achieve a natural balance across the entire estate. This led them to the decision to run the vineyard biodynamically.


The grape is cabernet franc grown in a soil mainly of gravel and silty clay, with some limestone. The grapes were harvested by hand, macerated in tank for 5 to 6 weeks, and aged for more than a month in demi-muids (500 litre barrels). It was a blend from all the old plots of vines on the estate (average age 55 years).

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Le Clos de Quarterons Vielles Vignes 2012 (Amirault Vignerons)

With decanting the wine reveals traces of violet, blueberry and blackcurrant. Quite soft, quite complex, and by no means marked by the oak.

Price: Low

Food: Red meat, game, salads, some not too spicy dishes, and according to the producer: Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”


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A day in central Rueda

A few weeks ago I spent a day in central Rueda. It was in full harvest time, but I never saw a grape picker, nor a harvesting machine. Why? Rueda is white wine land, and it may be well known that the modern “revolution” started in the 1980’s, when modern technology was introduced, and grapes was picked at night before the heat of the day became too annoying for grapes and people.

I was in search for good organic verdejos with a sense of place. And there was a wide variety of producers, big ones and small ones, privately owned and cooperatives. I appreciate the cooler style of the higher vineyards in the northern part of Segovia (villages like Nieva and Santiuste). This time I concentrated on the province of Valladolid, where the majority of bodegas are concentrated in and around the villages of La Seca, and Rueda itself.

I started on the other side of the bigger town of Medina de Campo though, in Rubí de Bracamonte, that is situated a bit higher (some places above 800 meters) and has a climate somewhere between the Rueda and the Segovia part. Bodegas Verderrubí was a nice surprise. They dispose of 27 hectars verdejo (4 different clones), all of it run organically and will be certified from the 2015 vintage on. The ground here has sand and stones with some clay (here more grey coloured compared to the more orange in Rueda/La Seca), which together with the high location gives the wines a good acidity.

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Emilio Pita Gil, winemaker and owner

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Each tank contains wine from one parcel

Emilio makes three distinctly different whites. First we tasted The basic Dominio de Verderrubí 2014, made solely in stainless steel with 4 months on fine lees. Really fresh and aromatic, with hints of apple and gooseberry, and a nice and supple acidity. The Atipyque 2013 had fermented and stayed on the total lees in fudres of 5.000 liters. This was clearly darker, and had a more marked lees character, more fruity than flowery, but with some hints of camomile, and some anis that in a way resembles a moscatel. Lastly the Pita 2013 was still darker, aged in wood. Vanilla and butter, a bit raisiny maybe, but the acidity of the high altitude does it good.

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A glimpse of amphoras before we leave. Interesting…

On to La Seca, the municipality with the largest area under vine in the whole of Spain, so you understand this is wine country. Bodegas Menade claims to be the first one to be organic both in vineyards and winery. And it’s a prime example, very pedagogic, as they use blackboards and other means. Patricia tells me about how they create their ecosystem, a story that includes serum of milk to deal with oïdium, cinnamon extract to strengthen the roots, lady bugs to eat spider eggs, and vinegar and garlic to get the same ladybugs out of the vineyards once the job is done. Next time around we will also find beehives here.

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Menade has 180 hectars of vineyards, 50 of them around the winery, where they cultivate sauvignon in addition to verdejo. According to Patricia they appreciate freshness before (over-) maturity, so in a hot year like 2015 they picked everything before 3rd September.

They use dry ice in-stead of sulphur, and to filter they use paper of cellulosis (with different levels of filtering), and everything can be re-cycled.

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After a nice salty-mineral sauvignon intro we tasted several verdejos. Their Menade 2014 was an exemplary, round wine with good acidity. The Nosso (meaning “our”, but also denotes “no sulphur”) is a white that has undergone malolactic fermentation. And as such it is rounder, quite full, and darker, with some honey, butter, nuts… The older people of the wine growers say that the smell of this one reminds them of the old days, when Rueda was famous for sherry style wines.

Then there is the V3 (verdejo viñas viejas) in 2012 vintage. This is a wine that is made from “pie franco”, ungrafted vines. Needless to say: Rich, extremely concentrated, and after a year in 20-30% new oak it shows notes of mature apple, nuts/almonds and some vanilla.

We also tasted their organic top-fermented beer from wheat and barley. I mentioned teaching… Menade also makes de-alcoholized must, for children and young people to learn to taste before they reach legal age.

Vidal Soblechero is located between 600-760 meters, also in the outskirts of La Seca. Alicia Vidal Soblechero and her family and other helpers determined from the first day to make not less than five verdejos from five plots, five distinctly different interpretations of the same grape. Three of them are treated with some kind of oak, which helps to accentuate the differences. So a visit here is strongly recommended to learn about the many possibilities.

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Alicia Vidal Soblechero

They have also done a great job to make their own ecosystem. Interestingly a hawk is on top of that pyramid, at least in terms of meters over grass level. I had heard about the hawk, but I had not imagined that I would get the chance to see it. I not only saw it, I got the chance to hold a hawk for the first time in my life. Alicia’s brother Vidal Vidal Soblechero (no misspelling here) takes care of it.

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Vidal and the hawk

I will not go into great detail here. In general the wines have a warmer and fuller style than those of Verderrubí. And they dispose of a variety of vineyards, some more than 100 years old. Alicia tells that the wine-making has always been organic here, never have they turned to what we tend to call “conventional”. So far no wine has been certified though, but she says she wants to do it, to give the customer some kind of warranty.

I like their basic, unoaked verdejo Viña El Clavidor (the one with 50% viura in it too, fairly much in the same style), that has no “inox-feeling” as can be found in strictly tank-made young whites (and that I imagine can happen due to some kind of reduction). This one hasn’t been fermented at those low temperatures either. Some of the finca wines come under the name Pagos de Villavendimia. Among these the Finca El Alto is, as the name suggests, the highest vineyard at 760 meters. There is limestone, and the pebbles retain energy from the sun, which is useful as there can be frost in august and september. The 2011 was concentrated and long due to a high level of acidity. Finca La Matea has 40 years old vines, and gives more mouthfeel, but the 2011 was rather oaky. Escribiente 2013, from arcilian soil, I really liked. This one has never seen oak, and is a concentrated, full, appley wine with some anis notes and integrated acidity. Nearby Finca Varastrojuelos is planted with viura. Only 700 bottles are made, the rest go into other wines, such as the verdejo-viura blend. They make red wines from tempranillo too. Of the more eccentric project is a verdejo eiswein that grows close to the bodega.

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Finca El Alto

I also popped into the cooperative Agrícola Castellana (nowadays better known as Cuatro Rayas) just down the road. Everything was correct, the wines too, but not much more than correct: I would say simple and rather dull. Bodegas Antaño (nowadays better known as Mocén) is oppsosite: They have an interesting collection of old wine artefacts, long labyrinthic underground paths, and the bodega is quite untidy. But their basic organic verdejo was surprisingly good.

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Wine of the Week

A very drinkable barolo

For this week’s edition of our private wine club the host had put together a really nice selection of Piemonte nebbiolos, including three Produttori single vineyard Barbaresco riservas, and the rest Barolo. Among these one of my favourites was Roagna 2009. This week’s selection is however Erbaluna’s barolo from the same year.

Az. Agr. Erbaluna is located in La Morra, where they own 9,5 hectars planted with vines. They work strictly organic in vineyard and cellar.

The wine is, quite obviously, made from pure nebbiolo, 35 years old vines in calcareous clay. It was spontaneously fermented, had skin contact for four weeks and was and matured for three years in large wooden vats (3000 liters).

The wine we tasted was included in the portfolio of Norwegian importer Non Dos, who has also actively contributed in the making of the wine.

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Barolo Cru Vigna Rocche 2009 (Az. Agr. Erbaluna)

Cherry red. Concentrated yet light, with aromas of raspberries, flowers and some underwood. Luscious, and fruity. Though quite high in alcohol and a touch of that typical tannic structure it is a barolo on the light side, and very drinkable indeed.

Price: Medium

Food: Red meat (lamb) and game, stews, hard cheeses

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Wine of the Week

An inspiring Jura Chardonnay

I may be out of tune, but chardonnay is normally not one of my favourite grapes. Of course there are many good wines made from it, but I think that the legend is bigger. Once in a while something comes along that is different, savoury, natural, and I might say engaging too.

Anne & Jean-François Ganevat is located in the small village of La Combe in the green rolling hills of the Jura, between Burgundy and Switzerland. Here in a cool climate, with vineyards planted on slopes at varying altitudes and gradients wine are made in a great variety of styles. Here they make truly inspiring wines from both red and white, famous and ‘local’ grape varieties, certified as biodynamic.

All grapes are de-stemmed by hand, and the use of sulphur is down to an absolute minimum. The whites are aged on the lees for extended periods. Other features are whole cluster fermentation, no racking of must, and all whites go through malolactic fermentation. This one is made from 100% chardonnay and has stayed for a number of months in big, old wooden vats.


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Ganevat Dolium 2012 (A. & J.-F. Ganevat)

Deep yellow/orange. Perfumed, with notes of citrus, apricot and dried fruits. Full, luscious taste, quite glyseric, just the right acid, in perfect balance and very long.

Price: Medium

Food: fish, salads, light meat, and why not the local Comté cheeses.

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Wine of the Week

On the stage tonight: Encruzado

South from Tondela, towards the southwestern corner of Dão, lies Mouraz. We are in granite land, and António Ribeiro was born into this, amidst the family vineyards and the olives and pines. Sara Dionísio, his companion, has a more southern background. Dance brought them together, as António was an editor of an arts magazine while Sara was a dancer. Today their portfolio includes wines from nearby Minho and Douro, and from southern Alentejo too.

Among the Portuguese grape varieties many will say that alvarinho is the star, while loureiro and arinto would be runners-up. Here is another contender. Encruzado is very much linked to the Dão area, where it gives delicate wines with flowery aromas with citrus notes.

The wine in question here is made in small quantities. The grapes comes from various parcels of granitic soil, from vines averaging 30 years. The grapes were picked by hand in mid-September. The fermentation was carried out in inox for some 3 months, with controlled temperatures. It stayed on its lees for 6 months, with som batonnage now and then.


Casa de Mouraz Encruzado 2013 (António Lopes Ribeiro)

Very refreshing, aromatic, with notes of white flowers and herbs (or is it fennel), some lemon, just a slight hint of apricot, and a minerality that reminds me of crushed stone. Nicely balanced between an acid structure and some glyseric richness, but still with a light feel. Though delightful now, I believe it has some ageing potential.

Price: Low

Food: Fish (both white and salted cod, salmon too), white meat, and it must be nice with the region’s cheeses, like the ones from Estrela.

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Articles and Wine bars and restaurants

Solo de Uva revisited

No visit to Madrid without visiting Carlos and his friendly staff at Solo de Uva. This time I came with my friend, wine photographer Kjell Karlsson, after our mostly independent but parallel trips to León, Valladolid and Salamanca.

Another friend was there too, wine producer Fabio Bartolomei of Vinos Ambiz. This was in the middle of the vintage. Fabio had been harvesting two grape varieties in Gredos and Madrid, and we were happy that he took the time to see us. He had to leave “early” too, as he had to start the elaboration of the harvest at 6 in the morning. The wine is not completely natural, you see…


We started with a rosé from Murcia this time, Viña Enebro, a light violet coloured wine with all the flowers of the murcian plains in the glass. But the wine discussion of the night was centered around the next wine, Fabio’s own sauvignon blanc. I have got used to it, and I love the fruitiness and the fullness, and Fabio has made it, so he must stand up for it. But for Kjell it was quite challenging. I don’t say that he didn’t like it. The discussion was mainly about typicity. In my opinion a wine must first be true… Well, here we must demand that it’s made from natural yeasts, because from bought-in or “selected” yeasts we only get the cliché, not the real thing. And so many of the most famous Sancerre brands are already disqualified, many would say Riffault too (not very famous maybe, outside the natural wine world). And next, is sauvignon the Loire or the New Zealand version, or can it come from Spain? (Syrah came from Asia, remember…)


We tasted two red wines as well, «the wine from Mars», aka El Marciano, Alfredo Maestro’s lovely and fruity Gredos garnacha, and the Alpujarras 1368 from Barranco Oscuro from a vineyard of that height (1368 meters above sea level), a fruity and inspiring wine, a decent touch of oak, but with ageing potential.

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Wine of the Week

Flowery Axarquía white

Bodegas Bentomiz is located in Sayalonga, near Vélez-Málaga, now the capital of the old cultural landscape Axarquía. They make a variety of wines, from dry via off-dry, to sweet wines. The Dutch owners Clara Verheij and André Both grow their vines in a traditional way, with total respect of the land.

2. André en Clara André and Clara

Aside from varioius moscatel wines they make reds, among them a sweet merlot, and an interesting rosé from the slightly obscure romé variety. This week’s wine is the driest of the moscatels, sourced from grapes (the Alejandría type) mostly on slate, and between 450 and 900 meters, that gives the wine an inspiring acidity. It’s cold-fermented, seen no oak, but it has benefited from 6 months over fine lees.

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Ariyanas Seco Sobre Lías Finas 2013 (Bodegas Bentomiz)

Light yellow with a green tinge. Typical moscatel flower aromas, hints of citrus, yellow apple and aromatic herbs. Light in taste, fruity all the way, a silky texture and not completely dry, a hint of bitterness towards the end, everything nicely balanced.

Price: Medium

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