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Month: December 2015

Wine of the Week

VDN for Christmas cookies and more

Based in the village of Rivesaltes just north of Perpignan, Domaine Cazes makes a variety of wines from around 200 hectares of vines in the amphitheatre of the Roussillon area. For several years now, with Emmanuel Cazes as winemaker, they have had a biodynamic approach.

The Ambré is a naturally sweet wine (VDN) from grenache blanc that is not made every year. The grapes were grown on calcareous clay and big stones, and the wine has spent 15 years in old oak casks for a slight, controlled oxydation. It clocks in at 16% alcohol, and the residual sugar is 120 g/L, so it’s not overtly sweet.

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Rivesaltes Ambré 1997 (Domaine Cazes)

Deep amber in colour. Aromas of nuts, dried fruit, lemon peel, with some caramel. On the palate it’s voluminous with a nutty flavour, some caramel, and just enough acidity to keep it from cloying.

Price: Medium

Food: Roasted almonds, nut-based cookies and desserts, try to some soft cheeses

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Wine bars and restaurants

Plateau: On a high level in Brighton

I heard about this Brighton winebar from Fiona Beckett, blogger with many years in the business, and whom I met at the RAW fair a couple of years ago. You can see her blog here. Strange though, as I have been there a few times because one of the world’s best sax shops is just around the corner, in West Sussex. Sax, yes. Now after two visits to Plateau this year I must share my experience.

Plateau is a word play on French plateaux (platters/dishes), says bar responsible Johan Claesson, who is on duty the during my second visit. But at least for me it also signifies the high level of cooking, the selection of natural wines and the presentation of it all. Located just opposite the city hall it is easy to find in the heart of the town, near the beaches and the pier too.

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Shelter for the evening rain

Plateau is for people with a pleasure in eating and drinking. The staff take pride in good quality ingredients, served in a friendly and fun environment. Their ‘bites’ are based on ingredients that are fresh, local and organically grown. Today’s main menu is written on a chalkboard on the wall, and the dishes are built around the idea of sharing (they can be made into main courses also).

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Christian & Johan

Among my choices were mackerel with beetroot puree, green apple and walnut, a lamb carpaccio with broad beans and dukkah (a nutty dip from North Africa), and from the chalkboard: duck with springroll, melon and more, and a delicious goat’s cheese gnocchi.

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The wine list is full of unpretentious, easy-and-fun-to-drink organic, biodynamic and natural wines, always with as little additives and corrections as possible, some of them none, and many by the glass.

The wines are not listed by origin, but by style. The whites for instance, come in categories like «mineral, citrus, zingy», «aromatic, fragrant», «skin contact, oxidative», and «rich, nutty, fullbodied» while among the reds you can chose between «carbonic maceration, fruity, gamay», «pinot noir, jura and friends» or «aussies gem» etcetera.

I have mostly chosen from the by the glass selection, and several wines on the staff’s recommendations too. I tried some new and interesting wines, but I also took the opportunity to taste new vintages of old favourites.

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The first wine, La Pythe 2013 (a grenache rosé from Dom. Les Deux Terres) was new to me, but a very light, fresh and delicious wine made by natural principles in Ardèche, France. I was surprised to find the Gabriela manzanilla (Sánchez Ayala), a natural, grapey fortified wine I didn’t expect to be sold very far from their bodega in the center of Sanlúcar (Cádiz, Spain). One last example of the many unlikely starter wines here: La Perle Noire 2014, a sparkling wine from Dom. de l’Ocre Rouge to the north of Nîmes, France, a pinot noir with 5 months on the lees. At my second visit I went for a champagne, Pierre Gerbais Cuvée Préstige Brut NV, a very tasteful non dos, no added SO2 wine, with notes of mature apple, some marmelade, and a nice acidity to go with it.

Among the whites I went for a very light coloured sylvaner from Alsace, Dom. Rietsch Sylvaner 2014, that was smelling of flowers and some apricot, and was round and grapey in the mouth. Then an orange wine with some brown, oxidazed tones, Dinavolino 2009, from the unlikely combination of malvasia and marsanne grapes, a nutty, mature apple smelling, lightly spicy, richly textured wine from Denavolo Rivergeno in Emilia-Romagna, Italy.

For the reds I tried several Spanish wines. The Gran Cerdo 2012 (a declassified rioja, which is a good thing for several reasons) a pure whole bunch fermented, unfiltered tempranillo, with lots of fresh fruit, blackcurrent, green pepper, good acidity and quite slender in the mouth. This one went well with «goat’s cheese gnocchi» with wild mushrooms and hazelnuts. They also had a wine from the interesting Maybri project, 1.700 meters above sea level in Bullas, Murcia – only in bottle though – that I chose for an ox tongue bite. Interesting to have tasted, the Maybri Wild 2012 was on the oaky side though. Other Spanish wines I tasted were the Tragolargo from Rafa Bernabé (Alicante) and Partida Creus Vinel.lo 2014, a garnatxa/ull de llebre (tempranillo) from Penedès, Catalunya.


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A Murcian highland red

I could have dropped many more names down here, but lastly I wish to leave you a few details about one wine, as I have a special interest in wines like Beaujolais these days. Vielle Vignes 2012, a Beaujolais Village from Jean Claude Lapalu was in a delicate style somewhere between the Sunier brothers and Foillard. Based in his native southern Beaujolais he makes six different Beaujolais gamay wines. Like many others he was influenced by Jules Chauvet, and is now going strictly biodynamic.

Lastly, Johan serverd me an «Eiswein» (from apples) from his native Sweden! A very interesting experience and a very nice conclusion of another memorable visit.

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Beach promenade

At Plateau they also feel that music is neglected. Here it is carefully selected, so keep the beat, don’t miss the bar – and have a bite too.

I round off with a cheap wordplay inspired by the famous writer (there are several to be found around town, my favourite being a bar called The Greene Room):

Brighton rocks, and on a very high Plateau too!

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Wine of the Week

Red wine from Sherryland

This is a wine I bought from a wine merchant in Sanlúcar (see this article), on his recommendation. I served it in a blind tasting this week, and of course nobody guessed the region.

It’s more cool in appearance than expected, and the chalky albariza soil between Jerez and Rota must have some responsibility for this. The grape is tintilla de Rota, which is a synonym for graciano (and maybe originated here in the south), and which they regard as a very promising red variety down here.

2015-06-30 14.18.43 Vineyards in albariza soil between Jerez and Rota

In this area tintilla can be very delicate and mineral and is able to ripen perfectly without high levels of alcohol or overripe fruit. The less than 15 years old grapes for this wine have been organically farmed only 60 meters over sea level, and the wine has seen a mix of cement and oak vessels of various sizes.

Vara y Pulgar 2012 (Cía. de Vinos del Atlántico)

Purple colour. Aroma of red and dark berries, stone minerals, dark chocolate and some balsamic notes. Full and quite dense on the palate, a sweet sensation, but with a long, dry and mineral aftertaste. Like I said in the beginning, ripe but also with a touch of coolness.
Price: Medium
Food: Red meat, tapas, dishes with sausage




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Wine of the Week

Pato’s Baga Natural

I have visited Luís Pato several times, and tasted through his range over and over again. His wines are consistently good, the ambitious reds are the most famous, but don’t forget the whites. Pato never rests. Lately he has been moving towards organic agriculture, in a -organically speaking- difficult coastal landscape.

Here is a wine that seeks to demonstrate the baga grape’s antioxidant and stabilizing capacity, so as to be able to avoid the addition of sulphur.

Honestly I am not quite sure if the vineyards for this wine are organically grown, but I will ask the producer and update you about that. But the elaboration is undoubtedly done like a natural wine, there is no SO2 added, and the antioxidant capacity of the baga grape itself does the job. The climate can be said to be problematic, yes, but one can also say that it’s suitable for making wine without addition of acid, like is done in many hot regions, and without addition of sugar, done in many colder regions.


Baga Natural 2012 (Luís Pato)

Dark colour with a blueish hue. Very nice fruitiness on the cooler side, hints of blueberry, wild berries, and aromatic herbs. Quite slender in the mouth, and the baga grape gives it some dryness in texture.

Price: Low

Food: Suckling-pig (locally called ‘leitão’), other light meat, I think not too powerful game too, Caesar salad and similar…

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Wine of the Week

A Yecla monastrell bargain

Here is a wine that is almost free of charge…

I visited the Candela family once in the 90s. Today it’s the fourth generation, brothers Antonio and Alfredo, that is leading the growing of the grapes and the making of the wine here. They also count on a restaurant in the building where you can sit and watch the landscape. And “here” is Yecla, a one-municipality D.O. in Murcia, between the Spanish meseta and the Costa Blanca. Bodegas Barahonda owns and controls vineyards both in the Campo Arriba, where the climate is continental, with high temperatures in summer and a freezingly cold winter, and nearer to the more temperate coast in Campo Abajo.

They make many different wines, but Yecla is mainly monastrell country, and many of the most interesting wines are made by the Mediterranean grape, the same as came to be called mourvèdre when it travelled over the French border. The Carro comes in two versions, most often it’s a blend, but this version is a 100% monastrell made from old vines (from both subregions, between 400 and 800 meters), with natural yeasts and spontaneous fermentation. Never seen a barrel in its entire life.

Carro Monastrell Viñas Viejas 2013 (Bodegas Barahonda)

Deep red with a blue hue. It’s a light wine, but with quite dark fruit, blackberry, and a touch of the typical murciano aromatic herbs (rosmary, thyme). Young, luscious taste, quite full and just enough refreshing acidity.

Price: Low

Food: Light meat, salads, murcian paella…

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