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Month: November 2016

Wine of the Week

Black Friday

The grape saperavi is so dark in color it’s called black in Georgian, according to producer Pheasant’s Tears. During the last few years I have tasted quite a few saperavi wines, and the colour varies from very deep, dark red to opaque black. This one is probably the Georgian saperavi most widely found outside its homeland.

Georgia has a 8.000 year long unbroken history of fermenting and ageing the wines in qvevri, big clay vessels lined with beeswax and buried under the ground, where the temperature is stable. All Pheasant’s Tears’ wines are made according to this tradition, and with a low-interventional approach.

As pointed out in many blogposts I appreciate this way of making wine, without any oak to disturb the natural flavours of the grape. One could also say that the way the beeswax is treated, or whether it is applied at all, is also a topic (and a discussion too long for this post), but generally speaking clay is more respectful to the grape than wood.


(photo: courtesy of Pheasant’s Tears)

Pheasant’s Tears is found in the Kakheti region. Here in the eastern part of the country, besides the snow-covered Caucasus, the family of winemaker Gela Patalishvili has been making wine for more than 8 generations. In summer there is more than 14 hours of sunlight a day, and the evenings are cooled down by the breezes from the mountains. The soil has limestone, chalk and dark clay over sandy loam mixed with gravel, that gives good drainage.

Though the family has been farmers for a long time it was only in 2007, when American John Wurdeman joined forces, that the modern company came to being, and 2009 was the first vintage to be bottled.

The must underwent a spontaneous fermentation, 10 days maceration with skins, and the finished wine was bottled unfined and unfiltered. Just a slight amount of SO2 (10 mg) was added before bottling.


Saperavi 2013 (Pheasant’s Tears)

Black as ink, as a november night, dense. Ink, peppery, raisiny aroma. In spite of the black colour saperavi wines are often juicy, grapey, with not at all the extremely powerful body and tannin structure as indicated by the colour, nor a very long aftertaste. This one is just like that, surprisingly drinkable. Highly personal, deliciously different!

Price: Medium

Food: Lamb, pig, fowl and game. Try with mature, hard cheeses

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Wine bars and restaurants

Pulling the Cork in Bilbao

You find the Cork bar in Pozas, a popular section of downtown Bilbao. It is both a pintxos (Basque tapas) bar, and a wine bar that concentrates on good wines, most often organic and very natural, both local and national, and the by-the-glass menu is written on a cardboard. You have to stand, and it’s easy to find nice and educated (if that’s what you want) people to talk to. There is no TV blasting, if there is one at all.

There is a lot of cork and wood in the interior, almost resembling a bodega building.


Jonathan García

Jonathan García (Basque sommelier champion of 2011) is running the place with a lot of passion and dedication, and his mother is responsible for the many delicious, well-prepared bites. One is the house pintxos, empanada casera de bonito, empanadas with the bonito fish. There are many cheeses and hams to choose from too. I visited one busy January night.


Mónica operating a Coravin

From the by-the-glass offer I chose Blan. 5.7 2014, a fruity and grapey orange wine made from the macabeo grape by Celler Jordi Llorens in the Barcelona province. To accompany this wine Jonathan picked a pintxo of bacalao and tomato with browned onion and some herbs.



Among the rest were the pure and flowery La Bruja Avería 2014 (Comando G), a favourite from the Gredos mountains, a wonderful example of Mallorcan Château Paquita, (Sistema Vinari), and the Mas de Gegant 2013 of Joan Ramón Escoda in Conca de Barberà, Catalunya


On the house, an unfortified “sherry” Ube 2013. This is one of the many interesting projects from these “fortified quarters”. This is a great wine from the Las Vegas vineyard (part of the Carrascal pago) with albariza soil near Sanlucar, made of three different clones of palomino (mostly palomino fino 73%). It’s chalky-mineral, has a touch of petrol and a rich, powerful palate. It’s fermented in the botas (sherry barrels), clocking in at 11% alcohol.



Yes, we are in the Basque Country. But no, there are no stars here. Readers will have noticed that I couldn’t care less. Here there is an ample selection of wines, the bites are good, the waiters have knowledge about them and a personal touch.

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Wine of the Week

Yesterday’s news (the best from Nouveau Thursday)

Yesterday was the third Thursday of November, also known as the day of the Beaujolais Nouveau release. Our readers will know that we (journalistic pluralis) love this style. And among the various nouveau wines we often prefer wines like Lapierre/Cambon (featured last November), Foillard (reported on a few times) were again among the best. Brun is also one of my favourite producers of the area, but has so far not been highlighted. This year I think he may have made the best of all nouveaux.


Jean-Paul Brun’s winery is located in Charnay in the southern part of Beaujolais, a beautiful landscape with the golden stones that give the name to his estate.

Today he owns 45 hectares, mostly around the winery, but some in other crus and communes.
His winemaking philosophy can be summed up in a few words: natural yeasts, spontaneous fermentation, low SO2, traditional Beaujolais maceration.

Terres Dorées L’Ancien Beaujolais Nouveau 2016 (J.-P. Brun)

Ruby red. Berry-driven aroma, raspberry, and behind that, more mature morello, a hint of animal too. It has the full, luscious appeal that we expect of a nouveau, but it’s more structured than normal, with tannins and acidity in balance. Allow it to breathe in glass or carafe. Will keep well for a couple of years.

Price: Low

Food: Light meat, cod with bacon, hors d’oeuvre, pasta…


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Wine of the Week

Ch. Ste. Anne, a natural Bandol classic

This week’s pick comes from a winery that never converted to organic growing. It wasn’t necessary because it has always been, as they count on a history of five generations and 200 unbroken years of making natural wines. They were also key figures in establishing the AOC for Bandol during the German occupation. François Dutheil (father to current owner) was one of the people behind AVN (l’Association des Vins Naturels), where Marcel Lapierre of Beajolais participated and soon became a leading figure. The only ingredient except for the grapes is SO2, only in tiny amounts and only in the vineyard against fungus.

img_3373 Raphaël Etienne

The vineyards of Bandol lies for a great part on south-faced terraces in the in-land from the seaside town that gives the wine its name. As for the rest of the region rosé is dominating in quantity, around 80% even here. And much wine is classified as Côte de Provence. Myself I am drawn towards the red wines of the region, often a bit mystic, not lightweight, neither heavy and «clumsy». They can have a fresh fruit, but they are never sharp. They have long oak-ageing, often more than the obligatory 18 months. But the best will never smell of wood, as they are subject to a treatment in big, used foudres that make them «breathe». At Ste. Anne, red is the most important wine.

The mourvèdre grape is king. Just like its equivalent monastrell on the Spanish Levante coast Bandol is one of the few places where you can be sure that the grape will mature. But still the general alcohol levels in Ste. Anne’s range of wines are low. This is due to the special microclimate below the Gros Cerveau peaks, that gives very cool summer nights. The cold air is accumulated because of special metheorologic phenomena between the mountains in the area. The tannins are soft and rounded. Mourvèdre is harvested later here than other places, around mid-October. It must be fully ripe, otherwise the wine will be hard and bitter. A way to understand when the time is right, according to Raphaël, is that the skin is no longer elastic and that the pips are brownish.

The Bandol 2010 is made from 60% mourvèdre, and equal parts of grenache and cinsault. This is their main wine, and 30.000 bottles are made. Their bandol stays 20-22 months in foudres, and the various vintages are released when they are considered «ready». As a result the 2003 was released after both ’04 and ’05.



Bandol 2010 (Château Ste. Anne)

Deep purple in colour. Very complex aroma of red fruits (raspberries), flowers, balsamic notes (red lickorice), combined with some mineral notes. There is a slight touch of volatile acidity too, that is by no means disturbing, but in my opinion it adds to the freshness. Medium to full body. When I last tasted this wine, at the winery before the release, the tannins were more evident, now everything is in perfect harmony. Mature, but will keep.

Price: Medium

Food: Beef, game, duck and other full-flavoured meat. Cheese, both manchego type and some blue cheeses. Fiona Beckett writes about steak pie that red bandol can be a perfect choice. The possibilities are endless.


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Wine of the Week

Söllner’s Roter Veltliner

Have you ever heard about roter veltliner? It’s not a cousin of grüner veltliner, nor is it a grape for making red wines (although the skins have some colour). It’s a grape mostly found in Austria and maybe most prominently in Wagram, Niederösterreich. We don’t know exactly where it came from. What we know is that red muscat is one of the many synonyms, along with various traminers.
The Söllner winery is located in Wagram, some 70 kilometers west of Wien, very near Wachau. It has a view over the Donau valley and lies on sandy terraces with red gravel, organic since 1997. They claim that the variety is the oldest in the region, probably introduced by the Romans.




For the roter veltliner they use hand-picked, selected, ripe grapes from differnent plots around the village Gösing. The fermentation, spontaneous from indigenous yeasts, is carried out in stainless steel.


Roter Veltliner von Gösing 2015 (Söllner)

Light yellow with green hints. Aroma of citrus and white flowers, apricot and herbs. Fresh acidity, dry and very appealing.

Price: Low

Food: White fish, seafood, salads, lightly spiced Asian


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