This was one of the rioja wines that stood out in a local wine club tasting. It’s made by Bordeaux-born Olivier Rivière, who took a job in Rioja in 2004, after having studied enology in Montagne Saint-Émilion and worked briefly for several wineries. Among them were Domaine Leroy in Vosne-Romanée, where he learnt about their biodynamic methods. He decided to stay in Rioja and began looking for specific vineyards grown organically, with the goal to buy grapes and make his own wine.
Ganko is a 50/50 blend of mazuelo and garnacha The grapes are grown in the village of Cárdenas in the Alto Najerilla. Here in 600 meters altitude the old vines grow on sandy soils. It’s a rugged zone with only small plots. The wine is fermented with whole bunches in a 3.000-liter oak foudre and matured in used barrels.
Perhaps you wonder what the word ganko means? It’s Japanese for stubborn, a nickname given to Olivier by a Japanese importer. Olivier liked it and gave the name to this wine.
Ganko 2018(Olivier Rivière)
Dark cherry red. Aroma of wild berries (blackberry), flowers and herbs (thyme). Fine-grained tannins, a cool, fresh acidity and a long and dry finish. Complex and elegant.
I come from the west where I have photographed the monument in memory of the Battle of Toro, which laid the foundation for a unified Spain. Here in and around the villages of La Seca and Rueda, I will visit some of the producers who are now involved in a restoration of the historic dorado wine. This was a popular drink at the courts over five hundred years ago, when the aforementioned battle took place.
How much this wine is inspired by the more famous in Jerez is hard to say, as Spain after the fall of the empire almost had a collective memory loss of 150 years, and very little was written. But several conditions coincide, from the grape variety palomino fino (here together with the local verdejo), oxidative storage in oak barrels (as in the main category oloroso), the use of “botas” (600 liter oak barrels) and large glass containers called “damajuanas” . Wait a minute! Many people would probably call them demijohns, as in English.
My good musician friend Ivan, who works for the producer Menade, lectures: -The word probably comes from the French dame-jeanne and refers to Queen Joanna I of Naples. Legend has it that during a storm she sought refuge in the workshop of a master glassblower, and she became interested in the art of blowing glass. She wanted to try to make her own bottle, blew with great force and got a ten liter bottle. This bottle and its successors were called dame-jeanne, and the look was soon linked to a lady’s round shapes. The art and designation triumphed, and when it came to Spain in the 15th century, it was associated with Juana, who was the daughter of Queen Isabel II and one of the parties in the Castilian War of Succession, where the battle mentioned in the introduction was included. We continue with our introduction, and we will meet Ivan again in article number three.
DO Rueda currently has its own category for dorado in its legislation. It states that the wine must be made of palomino fino and / or verdejo and have at least 15% alcohol. It must have undergone oxidative storage and must have been in oak barrels for at least two years before it is launched. Their general characteristics are a golden color, aroma of dried and roasted fruit, oxidative properties, and it should be powerful, glyceric and complex in the mouth. Some may also have an aroma of vanilla. Unlike sherry, most also have the verdjo’s flattering, fruity (sometimes sweet) nose and slightly bitter aftertaste. There is also a category for biological storage (under a layer of the yeast «flor») called pálido.
In the production of dorado with DO, the wine must contain at least 40% verdejo. When the fermentation is complete, alcohol is usually added so that it is at least fifteen degrees. Most people believe that this is also necessary for the wine to withstand the further process. The wine is usually poured into the damajuans, which usually contain 16 liters. The wine is placed outdoors for more than a year, so that it can be exposed to sun and temperature fluctuations, which gives it a golden colour and its characteristic aromas. In the past, it was common to spend more time in something more reminiscent of a solera system. After storage in glass, the whole thing is completed with a stay in an oak barrel.
Félix Lorenzo Cachazo
At Félix Lorenzo Cachazo, I am welcomed by brother and sister Eduardo and Ángela Cachazo, who are 6th generation. Eduardo takes care of public relations, while Ángela is an oenologist. The family’s Carrasviñas was the first Dorado wine bottled in 1946, and their father Félix was one of the eight founders of DO Rueda in 1980.
Cachazo uses the grape varieties verdejo and palomino fino. The grape mixture is 65% verdejo, which grows some distance away, in the village of Alcazarén, where there is sandy soil and pre-phylloxera vines. The rest is palomino, which is grown around the bodega in Pozaldez. -We work with small growers from the area. They are a treasure to us; we are in debt to the area, says Eduardo.
Harvest is usually late, in late October. The grapes are harvested at potentially 15% alcohol. The grapes are vinified separately, stalked and gently pressed. The must is then fermented in a stainless steel tank. After the alcohol fermentation follows a racking, and wine from the two varieties is mixed. Then it is temporarily filled in 16-liter damajuanas. These are left in the patio for 18 months, where the wine develops “flor” in the spring, in what is called biological fermentation. During this time, it also undergoes an oxidative storage that gives the wine a golden color. Then it stays for two years in 2-3 year old barrels, French and American.
Cachazo makes 2,500 bottles of dorado annually. -It is allowed to mix vintages, but we make vintage wines, says Eduardo. -We use a cultivated yeast strain from the local verdejo.
We tasted their Dorado 2017 together with oenologist Ángela: Golden, pure and light color. Aroma of quince jam, hazelnut, dried fruit and vanilla. Full-bodied in the mouth with nuts and spices, a toasted tone and a hint of bitterness in the aftertaste (from verdejo). A textbook example (or what you would think of as typical, since very little is written about these wines). On the whole, this may be the closest you get to the classic wines, at least after the norm became a short time in the patio rather than a long time in the solera.
-In the past, wines were not infrequently at 17-18% alcohol. Today we do not add alcohol; it was our grandfather who stopped this and brought the wines down to 15% as today, the siblings say.
Eduardo is interested in history and can complement our historical introduction with an interesting etymological outline: Pozaldez has less than 500 inhabitants and two churches. The name was Pozoldes (meaning wells) in the 13th century, changed to Pozal de las Dos Iglesias (the pool of the two churches) in 1587 and then changed its name to Pozal de Hez. Here, hez refers to the sediments that remain on the wine barrel after fermentation. The church of San Boal, where we stand, has Mozarabic features. It was also the Mozarabs (Berbers under the new Christian rule) who brought the grape verdejo to Spain from North Africa. Palomino, the grape that dominates sherry production, also certainly has a history of at least 500 years in our region.
No trip to Madrid is complete without a visit to Carlos Campillo’s Cascorro Bistrot. Located by the Plaza de Cascorro where the Rastro market are held on Sundays, it’s the place where Carlos Campillo currently stays. Carlos, with French background, has had several places of the bistro type including natural wines in Madrid. One of its predecessors can you read about here. He has also organized natural wine fairs in town.
This Sunday I started with an Uva Attack, the 2020 version of the ancestral. Carlos explains that Jesús Sánchez-Mateos Campo, the enologue of the coop Alcázar de San Juan in Ciudad Real has made this wine together with Ezequiel Sánchez Mateos, proprietor of the wine shop Reserva y Cata. They launch it under the brand Galdo Wines. Here it shows how fresh a sparkler from the grape airén can be: Light golden, somewhat cloudy; yellow apples, fennel; good acidity, citrusy mouthfeel, and a touch of lemongrass. A quite simple wine really, but appealing.
Las Pilas from Luís Oliván, was also in its 2020 vintage. It’s a quite dark garnacha with violet hints; dark fruits and licorice; juicy in the mouth, light-bodied with some tannin. It comes from the southwest of Somontano with abundant north wind. The wine rests up to six months in big, used barrels. I had it with duck confit.
Paeriza is a wine from Samuel Cano of Cuenca, a favourite of mine, and also a friend of the house. “es-carbó” as indicated on the label, gives allusions to snails, and maybe also low-carb. It’s a dark syrah with aromas of wild berries, herbs and a touch of aceton; lively in the mouth, with dark fruits all the way to the finish.
La Garulla 2019 from Bodega Honorato Callejo has “origen sin denominación” (origin without denomination), according to its label. In reality it has, even if no DO. Agricultural student Pablo and his father Honorato Calleja make it in Amusquillo de Esgueva. This is in the Esgueva valley that runs between the Duero and Pisuerga valleys, in western Ribera del Duero. By the way, they also have some grapes in Valbuena in the neighboring valley.
Pure tempranillo, it’s a dark cherry coloured wine with typical varietal aromas of red fruits and blackberries. Fresh and fruity in the mouth, with fine-grained tannins. The back label says fermented in barrique, but it has zero trace of this.
Samuel Cano’s aromatic, delicious pét-nat Micmac2020 was served on the next day. Made of airen/moscatel, it showed light yellow (no notes of bubbles); pears and flowers on the nose. The bubbles are noted in the mouth, with good acidity and also some light varietal (moscatel) bitterness.
Here is an ecologic cava from the varieties pansa blanca (local name for xarel.lo), macabeu and parellada. The Alta Alella winery is run by the Pujol-Busquets family in the Serralada de Marina Natural Park, just north of the city of Barcelona. Mireia, daughter of founders Josep Maria and Cristina Pujol-Busquets, is currently wine-maker.
Alta Alella’s wines are made from their own grapes. The soils are low in pH, which compensates for the warm Mediterranean climate and give acidity to the wines. They are based on the decomposed granite called sauló, with a sandy texture and good drainage.
All work in the vineyard is manual. After a gentle pressing each of the varieties for this wine ferment separately. Then there is a second fermentation in bottle following the traditional Champenoise method. Unfermented must is used to provide the sugar for the secondary fermentation in bottle, and SO2 is added only after disgorging. The ageing on lees is 30 months (thus the youngest of their cavas). It is disgorged before release, with the disgorgement date noted on the label.
None of Alta Alella’s wines receives dosage.
Mirgin Gran Reserva 2017(Alta Alella)
Light straw. Fruity, green apple, lemon peel, chalk and some brioche autolycic quality. Full in the mouth, mellow mousse, good acidity, dry, saline, long.