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Month: April 2017


Peaking in Bullas: A visit to Pedro Olivares

It was early morning in the west of Murcia, close to the border of Castilla-la Mancha and Andalucía. I didn’t say the wild west of Murcia, but I can easily understand that once upon a time a lot of famous movies were shot in these rugged hills. At times I waited for Clint Eastwood to appear under the fading sun to the music of Ennio Morricone, just like he actually did many years ago.

This particular morning I entered the wine village Inazares (inhabited by some 30 souls) and went straigh into the saloon, or more correctly: El Nogal, the bar where we agreed to meet. Inazares is out of reach for any telephone, so after some waiting (and I could have waited longer, but I realized that I had come one day too early due to a counting error because 29th February didn’t exist), it was in fact quite difficult to reach Pedro.

Inazares, one day later: Pedro Olivares points at me, not with his gun though, and explains about his project. This winery, once called Heredad Maybri, is now renamed Vinos Bio Pedro Olivares. And another idea came up to make the “Wild Series” from here, from Jaén (Andalucía) and from Utiel-Requena (València), an appropriately named series of  wines, no doubt.

His project was born out of a continous effort in search for new challenges. He invented the term “multi-dynamic” as a means to take the biodynamic culture further, or rather use it in an un-dogmatic fashion. -I like to be free, he says. This doesn’t mean that he will not be respectful against the soil, where the wine is born. But he doesn’t care too much for denominations and, as we shall see, he can also blend grapes from two or more places.

The winery to the left (towards the top of the hill, the Inazares village to the right)

-When I came here in 1998 it was only mountain, Pedro says. -We analysed the area and compared the results to data about other wine regions of the world. This lead us to plant the varieties we have now, 27 in total, from the clones we considered best for this place.

Generally he looks for concentration and acidity in the wines. To achieve the first goal the yield can be surrealisticly low; for some wines it takes 3-4 bushes to make one bottle.

Pedro Olivares in Europe’s highest vineyard (1.700m)

Another interesting feature is the way the vines are “trained”. -I irrigate the bushes so that the roots from one meets the roots from the next, so as to make a stressful environment so that they fight each other and get stronger.

Limestone (the white ones on the surface, but there is also limestone underneath)

The highest vineyard in Europe (probably) is at 1.700 meters above sea level. Usually a newly planted vine bears fruit after 3 years, but here the growth so slow that it takes 5. This means that next year we can harvest the first grapes; gewürztraminer, riesling, petit manseng, for white wine, sparkling and ice wine.

Sherry-type wines from the “sacristy” of the bodega

We tasted a lot of samples during the walk up and down, beginning with a flor-aged “sherry”, from this rugged high landscape. It was quite cold in the winery and difficult both to taste and write, but here are a few short notes:

Monastrell 2015 (from the Wild Series): A monastrell wine from Bullas, from vines of different heights, where acidity is obtained from the highest parts, and fruit and floral aromas from the ones further down. It’s been 4 months in oak (3-4 years old, French-Hungarian-American – low toast, which is considered very important) and concrete tank. Here is a little SO2 (often nothing). Pedro says, I always write “Contains sulphites” even if it often can be less than 10 g/L (one is obliged to write it if it’s more). The result is a dark, very floral and elegant wine.

Solana del Calor 2015: 85% monastrell from Bullas and 15% viognier (white, in other words) from 1.100 meters near the Inazares village. -This is “my Côte Rôtie”, says Pedro. Dark, spicy, flowery, concentrated.

Merlot 2015 (Wild Series): This one is from Venta del Moro near Requena, where the soils are sandy. We could call this a Mediterranean merlot. The alcohol content is 16%, though when asked I guessed 13. It’s not late harvest either; by end-September everything was in.

Dark, flowery, herbs, more evident tannins (but not green), mature, but good acidity and a chalky aftertaste.

Old bobal (credit: P. Olivares)

Bobal 2014 (Wild Series): From Venta del Moro too, up to 105 years old pie franco (ungrafted) vines, only concrete tank. Dark colour, but more light fruites in aroma; cherry (morello), raspberry, quite evident tannins. Bobal 2016, tank-sample: Very fruity, cherries, raspberry.

BM Bobastrell 2016 (from the series Mediterranean Cuvée, that orignates from an idea to create a Mediterranean wine from an Utiel/Bullas blend). The bobal is obviously Venta del Moro (Utiel-Requena) and monastrell from Bullas in 50% each. Dark, dark fruits, cherry, mynth, spice, balsamic, long aftertaste.

enTreDicho 2016 (from a series by that name, this is an unfinished sample of a wine similar to the next, now in malolactic fermentation. Some animal notes, flowery, red fruits, a little carbonic.

New vineyard in Jaén (credit: P. Olivares)

enTreDicho 2015 (enTreDicho series) from Benatae in the Sierra de Segura (Jaén province): This is an interesting blend of monastrell, syrah, nebbiolo (for acidity), petit verdot, jaén negro and molinera. It’s from clay soil, no sulphur added, and it’s been 6 months on the lees. Dark, flowery, fruity in the mought, slightly carbonic.

Pedro tells that he can tell that it comes from clay soil, as the tannins from clay are felt in the cheeks, while tannins from sand shows more on the tongue. It’s easy to agree, but it needs more investigation to tell if this can be said to be a general lesson.

Then an interesting coupling; two wines to end the tasting. A viognier/riesling blend, hand-harvested, from the high vineyard at 1.600m: Yellow colour (in barrel, still on the lees), some butter, flower (jasmine type), long, citric, orange, mandarine.

4 year old vines, will bear fruit
next year

Sasa, a moscatel (and a tiny amount of malvasía) from “a little” lower: 10 meters above sea level, in València, near the city: Light in colour, flowery, mandarine, apricot, very long curve.

All wines are organic and vegan certified. -We also want animals so that we can make our own compost, he admits. However the vegan societies don’t care about animals used this way, at least not to this day.

Once upon a time in the south
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Wine of the Week

Meinklang’s Wörth Grüner

Here is a long-time favourite, or maybe better: one in a whole family of favourites. Angela and Werner Michlits jr. are launching one lovely, cheap, serious-but-quaffable wine after another, various grüners, blaufränkisches, zweigelts and more.

Their biodynamically managed estate is found in Pamhagen, Burgenland, by the big Neusiedlersee and bordering Hungaria. The soil is made up of clay and sandstone, and the vines used here are not very old, planted between 10 and 20 years ago. It’s in this area we find the Wörth vineyard, Meinklang’s biggest. In Werner’s own words, they are “recultivating nature”, in short allow for more variation “to keep up biodiversity and create stable ecosystems for many different buds and organisms”.

Mainklang Angus

Some of their 800 Angus cows (credit: Meinklang)

This wine is made from 100% grüner veltliner, made with natural yeasts, kept for 6 months in steel. It’s obviously un-oaked, not fined and only lightly filtered.

Meinklang Wörth

Grüner Veltliner Wörth Single Vineyard 2016


Light straw. Direct fruit, notes of citrus, green apple, a touch herbal. Here is fruit all the way through the taste and aftertaste, with a vibrant acidity and a mineral finish. So simple, so good!

Price: Low

Food: Fish (white and red), shellfish, salads, a variety of cheeses, lightly spicy Asian…

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Wine of the Week

From a Nelson Gravity winery

Mahana Estates is located in the Nelson region, in the north of New Zealand’s South Island. In the vineyard everything is organic, in the cellar gravity (four levels) is one key word, low-intervention another – and winemaker Michael Glover puts out good wines in several categories. The respect for terroir is there, and he states that if something unusual or surprising should appear, it’s not as a result of experimentation, but exploration.

The reds are made with whole bunch winemaking and with almost no additions. On this background they can explore the combination of Mahana’s yellow ultic soil (derived from quartz-rich sediments turned into clay or sandy clays, abundant near Marlborough), the seasons, and “the enigmatic pinot noir”.

Mahana’s reds are sourced from their Moutere vineyard; dry-farmed, and from the above-mentioned soil you can expect a rather deep, dark coloured wine. For this wine half of the grapes were destemmed, and the spontaneous fermentation was carried out in open concrete fermenters. There was no new oak used (only steel and old French oak), and it was bottled without fining or filtration.


Mahana Gravity Pinot Noir 2014 (Mahana Estates)

Deep dark, dense colour. Smells of dark fruits (morellos, blackberries) and with some balsamic and herbal notes, a little chocolate too. Lots of tannins, but very fine, it rounds off warm and full, with adecuate acidity to make it delicious drinking already.

Price: Medium

Food: Light meat, game, salads…


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Wine bars and restaurants and Wine of the Week

Authentic Sauvignon at Brutus


The Brutus Bar is located just beside the police headquarters in the Tøyen-Grønland district in Oslo, so it’s no use trying to make big trouble. Anyway, there are only nice, well-behaved people here even if the area historically has been high-immigrant, low-income with more than its fair share of problems. To be fair, right now this is a promising neighbourhood in many respects.

Brutus offers natural wine and a variety of bites to accompany them. From my experience, in a bar with such a careful selection of wines and the expertise to present them the food is often delicious too. Which proved to be true – again. Brutus are fabled for their vegetable based kitchen, and lately the traditional Nordic kitchen, rustic, with fermented vegetables as one of the main ideas, is focused. However, in our set 4 course menu the third one was lamb, and with lovely scents from the aromatic herbs.


We had the sauvignon with “Carrot and Haddock”

John Sonnichsen and Jens Føien lead import company VinJohn, one of the main players behind the bar. Together they have experience from such places as The Fat Duck, Maaemo and Noma. VinJohn is obviously one of the suppliers, but by no means not the only one.

This week’s wine though, is brought to the country by the people behind the bar. It’s not widely available, another reason to come here.

Alexandre Bain is a small vigneron from Tracy-sur-Loire, in the Poully-Fumé. He started his own project in 2007 and employs biodynamic techniques.

There are two types of limestone in the vineyards, vines from the so-called Portlandian (as opposed to the older Kimmeridgian), with sand and clay, are used for this wine, as he thinks this soil is more suitable for wines meant to be drunk young. These vines were planted in 1977.

No additives are used, except for sometimes a tiny amount of SO2 before bottling (10 mg in this particular wine), and only native yeasts. The harvest is late because Bain believes that sauvignon blanc is at its most expressive with complete ripeness. When picked too early, there will never be enough aromatic character, he believes, and many producers must then compensate by using commercial yeast. These are thoughts that he shares with his friend Sébastien Riffault in neighbouring Sancerre.

The grapes were pressed in whole clusters, and the must raised in big old vats.


Pierre Précieuse 2015 (Alexandre Bain)

Dark yellow, somewhat cloudy. Fruity style, aromas of lemon, elderberry and a touch of acacia honey. Quite full, a mid-palate dominated by grapefruit, and a lingering finish with a touch of bitterness.

Price: Medium

Food: Salads, goat cheese, light meat, grilled fish, and try with sushi and sashimi


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Good Wines on the Fork: Impressions from Stavanger Vinfest

I have recently reported from another wine fair in Stavanger, Norway. You can read the first of three articles from that one here. While the former is a one-day arrangement arranged by a wine organization (or rather: a big wine club), this one is different. Behind this are a number of local restaurants, many of the best in town (among them Michelin star restaurant Renaa, a “newcomer” in the festival’s 19 year old history). Stavanger Vinfest is a nearly full-week experience, with tastings, winemaker’s dinners, a wine “train” (7 “stations”, you have to walk between them, and you are likely to meet a wine producer, get a bite and a sip at each place, and there is a quiz involved too).

On Saturday there is an arrangement that can be said to sum up the week in a tasting where the importers and some of the producers participate. It’s held at one of the participating restaurants, called Gaffel & Karaffel (meaning fork and decanter, although the wordplay is obviously lost in translation). Here are some impressions from my short visit.


Gaffel & Karaffel, restaurant and culture center in the heart of Stavanger

Elisabetta Foradori is a fabulous producer in Trentino Alto Adige, Italy at the foot of the Dolomites. They are strieving to practise a sustainable agriculture, according to biodynamic principles, with the biodiversity in mind. They use primarily local grape varieties, like teroldego, manzoni bianco and nosiola. Theo, one of Elisabetta’s sons, was there. He served several wines, like the Fontanasanta Nosiola 2014, a vintage with quite a lot of rain that gave high acidity: light colour, flowers and yellow apples in aroma, and a nice touch of tannins in the finish. Next the Fuoripista Pinot Grigio from 2013, a richer year with more sun: light rosé colour, raspberry and wet clay, full with a smooth texture, some alcohol in the finish.


Theo Foradori pouring and explaining

Manzoni Bianco 2015, shipped a couple of weeks ago, thus not quite ready. The wine is always fruity, with apples, flowers and minerals though, and this cementfermented wine will settle into a seemless, lovely wine. The Vigneti delle Dolomiti 2014 is the closest we come to an “entry level” red: pure teroldego, raised in steel and old oak. Lovely, luscious drinking, fresh fruit, red berries dominating. Sgarzon 2015 is another teroldego; dark, meaty, red berries, herbs and some animal over wet forest tones. A hint of volatile acidity in aftertaste does not bother me, as it adds to the freshness, in my opinion.

From the same importer’s table I did a quick selection. La Marca di San Michele Passo Lento 2015 comes from Jesi, Marche (just off the Italian Adriatic coast). Not absolutely normal is ageing the verdicchio grape in big oak vats. Here it results in a light coloured wine, and with aromas of apple, lime and peach over some butter and nuts, and with a good length.

Jürgen Leiner is an interesting producer from Pfalz, Germany. His Handwerk Riesling Trocken 2015 showed a light straw colour, apple and lime, a good concentration and a very appealing acidity and good length.

The distance was then short over to producer Georg Breuer of Rüdesheim, Rheingau. The house was represented by Theresa Breuer, who had been in town for a variety of activities during the whole week, and together with her I made a selection of nearly ten wines from their table. The GB Gris 2015, obviously from pinot gris (or Grauburgunder as it is called here), was light and floral, with apple, citrus, a touch of honey, and a good acidity. GB Sauvage 2014: Slender, steely, lightly barrel-raised wine with flowers, apple, citrus and herbs in the aroma, slightly bitter finish. For me the best of the barrel-aged whites on show.

Berg Schlossberg 2014: Here is a prime example of Breuer’s greatness. A concentrated, mineral, complex wine in perfect balance today, and is capable of ageing as well. The dominating aromas are yellow apples, flowers and a touch of honey.


Theresa Breuer

GB Rosé 2015 from Spätburgunder (pinot noir): Very light colour, raspberries, rounded acidity. A charming wine for immediate consumption. Its counterpart Rouge 2013, also from spätburgunder was light red, somewhat developed, with mature berries, a little spicy and smoky, a rounder taste, luscious and… yes, quaffable.


Børge of La Mano Verde

Local lad Børge Kolstad is one of the many Norwegians with a passion for Italy and a hobby project in wine. La Mano Verde works organically, as the name suggests, and they are experimenting with amphora ageing too. From the two wines I would say that the house style is ripe barbera fruit. I like the amphora version better than the French oak wine, even if that one too was held over the water by an uplifting acidity. La Mano Verde Terra Rosso 2015 had dark, mature and slightly sweet fruit, with black cherries and plums, and a smooth texture and slightly sweet, warm aftertaste.

Knut-Espen Misje of Terroir Wines was there with a bunch of interesting wines. I tasted only a few this time, as I know quite well his careful selection. As for the two first wines, I am not sure “how organic” they are, but they are worth mentioning. The Ridgeview Bloomsbury 2014 (classic Champagne blend), shows that the English make good sparkling wines nowadays. Almost 2 years on lees, still the fruit is dominating, with green apples, flowers, a touch of the tropics, and a rounded aftertaste at around 8 grams sugar. Prager Achleiten Smaragd 2015 from Wachau: A very classy, elegant wine, complex with citrusy and tropical notes, and a fresh acidity contributing to a long finish.

The Bétoulin 2015 (Domaine de Pajot) is a quite simple, but delicious organically made, low-intervention wine from Côtes de Gascogne. From 2/3 merlot and the rest cabernet it’s light and fruity, with moderate tannins. The producer says it’s elaborated the same way as their whites, with low, controlled temperatures, frequent remontages and moderate maceration.


Importer Knut-Espen Misje (Terroir), also lecturer for the Norwegian Culinary Academy and one of the people behind the fair

Schlossgut Diel, from Nahe was represented by some lovely wines. I tasted the Riesling from Burgberg, a Grosses Gewächs with clayey soil with slate and alluvial sand, in three different vintages. The 2013 was very expressive, very concentrated, young and citrusy, 2012 less mineral, fruity, more open, and rounder. The Burgberg Riesling GG 2011 was in turn a little more mature, round, powerful too, very rich and long.


Sylvain Taurisson Diel 

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Wine of the Week

Just be COS

I thought I had focused this fabulous winery in a “wine of the week” post. But in spite of having enjoyed their wines so much, when I chequed, that wasn’t the case. They have been mentioned though, at several ocations, like when I visited Spanish tinaja (big clay vessel) maker Juan Padilla. This wine is a masterpiece, and made in clay from Padilla.

COS was formed in 1980 by three students of architecture whose last names were basis for the name, the O standing for Giusto Occhipinti, who is related to Arianna. Take a look here for one example.

We find them in Vittoria at the southeastern tip of Sicilia, where they cultivate 35 hectares biodynamically. This wine is made from nero d’avola 60% and frappato 40% in soils containing clay, sand and limestone.

It was spontaneously fermented, underwent an 8 month period of skin maceration in clay pots, then further ageing in clay. It’s not fined nor filtered.


Pithos Rosso 2015 (COS)

Bright ruby colour. Complex aroma, notes of morello, violets, red plums over earthy wild forest and mushroom. In the mouth lush, juicy and very vibrant, slightly chalky, gentle tannins, but red fruits are dominating. You can almost feel the energy of the winemakers in this wine.

Price: Medium

Food: Poultry and game, lamb and swine, fresh and hard cheeses, delicious alone (you or the wine)

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