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Dorado I – Historic wine from Rueda, Land of Medina

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.

In the court of Cachazo

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.

An old back label at Cachazo

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.

Eduardo, Félix and Ángela Cachazo

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.

Flor yeasts

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.

Ángela and Eduardo

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.

Félix Lorenzo Cachazo

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.

Ángela

-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.

The church of San Boal

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Articles

Vella Terra 6th edition I

I am back at Barcelona’s Vella Terra. It is now in its 6th edition after having been postponed, last time since February this year. Vella Terra is a fair organized by the couple Ale Delfino and Stefano Fraternali, and celebrates natural and low-intervention wines from smaller wineries, most of them family businesses. This year there were 146 artisans from 16 countries booked in. There were also related companies like Pulltex, distributor of wine accessories (see my company profile of one of their most important collaborators Pulltap’s in a forthcoming article) and restaurants like Garage Bar and Zaza. There were of course also various activities around town, with so much “talent” gathered in one place.

The Vella Terra poster by the entrance
of Estació del Nord

This year I had no special theme in mind. I did select a bit, but was also open to walk in new doors. So here are some of the most interesting tastes, only organized from local to global, if I can put it that way. And as many times before, I try to restrict myself by chosing only one wine from each winery. In this first part we shall deal with Spain.

Josep Casañas and Brugués Faura Ginabreda

I had tasted a few wines from Cal Teixidor before. (See my latest wine of the week here.) Their winery is found in Corbera de Llobregat, not far from Barcelona. At Vella Terra Josep Casañas showed an impressive range, most of the wines based on the two vineyards described in my latest wine of the week, that you can read about here). These are a north-facing xarel.lo vineyard that gives acidity and minerality, and a south or southwest-facing macabeu vineyard that gives more fruity, aromatic wines. There were also wines made from subirat parent (see his T-shirt), also known by the name malvasía riojana. Here I chose a wine solely based on the macabeu vineyard from 1974. It’s called Masía Cal Salines 2019, is made with whole clusters and aged … Dark yellow; appley, with fennel-tones; rich, structured and mouth-filling. Josep also showed a superb subirat parent traditional method sparkler with almost the same name, Masía Cal Salines Brut Nature Reserva. This fruity wine, with herbs and mature apple, but also mineral and with a fresh acidity – was of the 2017 vintage and aged 42 months on the lees. Which strictly makes it a gran reserva (it’s minimum 30 months, by Cava standards). Lastly, his wife Brugués is the force behind the estate’s own olive oil.

Josep Medios and Anna Janué, Loxarel

Loxarel I have known a long time, and I’ve appreciated their good and not least good value wines. Last time they were represented in a wine of the week post was here. In February I had an appointment with winemaker Pep for a visit to their Penedès winery, but had to cancel as I was struck by covid. Here founder Josep Medios participated together with Anna Janué, who calls herself commercial sommelier. They showed an impressive range, such as still and sparkling Loxarel à pel, an amphora-made xarel.lo, and a “xarel.lo sherry” (called Himen), and reds. Here I chose Loxarel 109 2011, a brut nature reserva (well, technically it qualifies for a gran reserva). This wine was the reason that Loxarel left DO Cava for Clàssic Penedès, because the authorities didn’t allow them to bottle without disgorging. Loxarel’s opinion is that after nine years the wine has already integrated the yeast. Obviously, this is also a xarel.lo-dominated wine, like nearly all the most ageworthy. Aged on the lees for 109 months in a shelter from the civil war. Light in colour; smells of mature apples, burnt yeast and coffee; is rich with a super acidity and mineral finish, it’s still full of vividness and not at all “old”. It comes in a bottle wrapped in paper.

Núria Aviñó, Clos Lentiscus
Núria Parellada (front)

Clos Lentiscus is located inside the national park in the Garraf mountains just outside Sant Pere de Ribes. The winery was established in 2001 by brothers Manel and Joan Aviñó, when they set out on a task of restoring the family vineyard from the 14th century. They currently cultivate 22 hectares of vineyards in a biodynamic way, of which 95 percent are planted with local grape varieties.

Before the fair I had warmed up with a classy, mineral red, Perill Noir Carinyena 2017, a varietal carinyena that also were shown here. I chose one of the bright sparklers that Manel’s daughter Núria poured. The Núria Parellada 2018, one of several wines named after her, is a pét-nat, very fresh for its age. It’s very dry with notes of red apples, raspberry and bright citrus.

Dido and Jur of Vinyes Tortuga

I met Dido and Jurriaan three years ago at the Garage Bar. Then they were just starting, after having travelled the world and worked in a number of wineries. Since then I have come across their rosé sparkler Juicy several times. (See here.) share a passion: wine. They bought 9.5 hectares of vines planted in the Albera natural reserve of Alt Empordà, where they farm organically and have started to implement biodynamic principles. They have now bought an old coop in the village Rabós, where they first were hiring space.

Many of their labels carry references to music, such as Big Time Sensuality, Comfortably numb and Libertango. My pick here would be Magic Potion 2021, a cabernet franc-sauvignon pét-nat named after the album of The Black Keys: Blueish red, full of fresh and sweet strawberry and raspberry fruit, and in the mouth some structure that complements well with a slight residual sugar.

Alfredo Arribas show while Andreu Padró from La Rural watches

Architect Alfredo Arribas is quite new on the Catalan wine scene, having taken over the family’s vineyards in 2001 founded his bodega in 08. But he has made himself heard. His two main series are Siuralta, mostly monovarietal wines from Montsant and Instabiles, more free-spirited wines from Priorat. The vineyards are in Cornudella de Montsant, in the north of the Priorat region, and the grapes are vinified in the winery in Falset. Arribas’ project is a response to the challenges of climatic change, seeking higher altitude vineyards, more shade and rainfall, biodiversity and more.

For Siuralta grapes from the highest vineyards are spontaneously fermented in whole clusters with stems in small steel tanks and amphorae in various shapes. The grapes for Instabile are spontaneously fermented mainly in whole clusters with short peel maceration. The wines are matured in small cement tanks and amphorae of ceramics, porcelain or glass. Different vintages are mixed in some cases by bottling.

Let’s taste the Siuralta Antic 2019, a varietal cariñena: Deep red; cool, fresh fruit, dark and wild berries (blackberry, elderberry), a hint of pepper; luscious/fleshy in the mouth, carried by a long acidity, beautifully integrated tannins, more to the mineral side.

Ephraim ame Roc Orengo, father and son

I didn’t know Sifer Wines, but it clearly is a winery to watch. (See also a mention of their Ephraim Mel garnacha blanca here.) Sifer, the name made up from two last names, has vineyards both in Terra Alta’s Batea and in Teruel, Aragón. Among their expressive, vibrant entries were Víbria Soul 2021, a macabeu made in amphora and steel. It’s light, quite turbid, with pear and white fruits and a super acidity.

Joshua Kniesel and Josie Cleeve of Cap de NIt, Alicante

Cap de Nit is a young family winery that produces wines in the Marina Alta in the north of the province of Alicante. Josh and Josie started the project in 2017, looking for old vineyards of native varieties, to work them in strict organic farming. The vineyards are mostly located in the Vall de Xaló, in the coastal mountains. The small plots are hidden between plantations of almond, orange and olive trees. Work in the field and in the manual warehouse. – The wines are made naturally, fermentation is spontaneous, temperature is not controlled and the wines remain on the mother lees throughout the ageing. No type of additive is applied. The fermentation and aging is done in 500 liter clay pots and stainless steel tanks. They work with different degrees of maceration. At the end the wines are bottled by gravity. – Grape varieties: muscat of alexandria and giró

Rubén Salamanca and Elisa de Frutos, Malaparte

The real name is Bodega de Frutos Marín, but this producer is most often called Malaparte, after its most famous label. Rubén and Elisa cultivate 5.5 ha of vineyards near Cuéllar, in the province of Segovia. They employ various techniques, such as tanks, old barrels and amphoras. All vineyards are farmed dry.

This is close to Ribera del Duero. Nevertheless, and in spite of a lovely amphora-aged tempranillo, I would say they are mostly a white wine producer, offering verdejo and viura in several fashions. Maybe because I am currently working on an article about the historical wines of the lands of Medina, I chose OX. This is obviously an abbreviation of oxidative, a feature of the “dorado” wines. It is a mix of varieties (I will check, but typical, and recommended in DO Rueda are verdejo and palomino fino), 65 year old vines. The wine rested one year under “flor”, and was then transferred to “damajuanas” (big bottles, demijohns in English). It arrives naturally at 14%, and is not fortified. It has all the yeast, almonds, dried fruits aromas that one night expect, and in the mouth it’s glyceric – and more fruity than its sherry equivalents.

Aitor Irazu, Makatzak

Makatzak Wild Wines is a Basque project found in Aia (Guipuzcoa), near Zarauz, that really has impressed me. Here is no talk about conditions “not favourable for organic growing in our region”, as we often hear. Aitor Irazu Alonso started the winery with his cousin. Here he manages the Sorgintxulo vineyard, that after being abandoned for 5 years now is restored. It is an ecosystem of 3 hectares of vineyards, whose main variety is the hondarrabi zuri. Atlantic climate with high rainfall, mainly southern exposure, steep slopes and slate soils are the main characteristics. The work is based on ecological, natural, regenerative and biodynamic agriculture. Makatzak are now receiving their organic certification, and will later aim also for a biodynamic one.

Sorkin 2021 is light in colour, has an aroma of green apple and bright citrus, and comes with a wonderful acidity. It’s a natural txakolí that’s “impeccably clean”, I imagine the classic British writers would have said. A prime example of the growing natural wine scene in Spain.

Pepe Mendoza was one of the vintners that didn’t expose, but came to the fair to taste and talk to colleagues. I met accidentally in the entrance line.
End of Day 1. I bring my glass back to the hotel in a bag provided by accessory distributor Pulltex. See you in next post, where you meet a bunch of “foreign” producers.
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Articles and Wine bars and restaurants

La Caníbal, Madrid

La Caníbal is a natural wine bar in the Lavapiés barrio in central Madrid. It’s often called a Galician bar. Maybe because their sister restaurant O Pazo de Lugo is in the other half of the locale. The latter was established back in 1971. (For another natural wine bar in the same neighborhood, read here.)

First time of two at La Caníbal I arrived in the bar without reservation, and I walked into the part that I later came to know as O Pazo de Lugo (pazo being a manor house and Lugo one of the Galician province capitals). While waiting to be seated in the restaurant part I enjoyed a glass of albariño, Albamar 2020. Its creator is Xurxo Alba, whom I met at a fair a few years ago. It’s made with grapes from different parcels in Castrelo, outside Cambados in Rías Baixas. A lovely straw, clean sight; aroma of citrus, pears and stony minerals, a touch of white pepper; quite glyceric, with integrated acidity and a long, saline finish. A small bowl of green olives, onion, paprika was also served while I was waiting.

La Caníbal’s combined tap board – and wine list for these wines. There is a similar board for artisan beer.

La Caníbal has a tap system where they serve various wines. Their website insists that they are not bulk wines though, but authentic terroir wines, which their winegrowing friends pack exclusively for them. They can also be bought from their shop in formats such as a two liter bag-in-box.

Bodegas Bentomiz is located in Sayalonga, Málaga (read a report on a visit here). The grapes for this wine are grown predominantly in Córdoba, 90% pedro ximénez. The rest is moscatel from their home farm. Light straw; pear, citrus and flowers; rounded and yet light in the mouth. I don’t know if the wine has a name. Let’s call it Blanco 2020.

Pulpo a feira, their signature dish through 50 years (they claim since the opening in 1971): Squid, one big potato in the middle, and a generous quantity of sea salt on both sides.

They even make wine. Next was collaboratively made by La Caníbal and Marc Isart, for many famous for being formerly part of Comando G of Gredos. But otherwise he is an authority in Spain’s central areas. Las Nieves 2021 is a malvar from a single plot of old vines in Chinchón where the soil is calcareous with clay. Malvar is Madrid’s own variety. It’s most often cultivated high. When paired with airén, another Central Spain cultivar, it tends to be the acidic and aromatic part of the blend. Back to this particular wine: One half is fermented with skins in clay, the other without in oak barrels. It showed a “blushing brown” colour; aroma of mature apples, channel, herbs (thyme) and an earthy tone; in the mouth it played with oxidation, but had adequate acidity and a mineral touch. A fascinating orange wine.

Luís Oliván makes wine in several regions. To La Caníbal he currently delivers a Moristel 2021 for sale on tap and in a one liter bottle. It’s cherry red, simple, juicy and fruity. Pure joy.

El Sueño de las Aforjas of León is the bodega behind the next wine, Prieto Picudo Ecológico 2021, from the variety of that name, matured one year in concrete. Dark cherry; red and dark fruits (blueberry, morello); fine tannins, fresh acidity and a touch sweetness (banana).

Galician empanada, homemade every day

Nietos de la Señora María is located in the Alto Alberche area of Gredos. The bodega is located at 1.300 meters altitude and the four brothers who run it are guided by Daniel Ramos, a very clever vinegrower in the area. This wine comes from their ten hectares of garnacha between 40 and 60 years old. Ruby red; aromas of red fruits and herbs; a distinctive granite/pencil flavour, fine-grained tannins and a luscious body. A gastronomic wine. It’s called Garnacha on the board, and the vintage is 2020, by the way.

Fancy some cheese while summing it all up? La Caníbal have their own cheese sommelier. To make the choice easier for you the platters have musical names, like Rock’n’Roll, Indie and Celta. Pick your favourite! Strike your wine chords!

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Articles and Wine bars and restaurants

Bar Bendito, Madrid

Bendito Vinos y Vinilos (wine and vinyl) is an all natural wine bar in Madrid’s Lavapiés barrio. This hilly neighborhood was earlier a cheap place that attracted many immigrants. (Here is a link to another restaurant, to be published.) Bendito is located inside the multicultural San Fernando market, that looks like a gathering place for the cultures they represent. Lavapiés is now the most international neighborhood in Madrid. Once the Jewish quarter, much later the immigrants actually established many bars here. After Spain’s entry into the EU, there was a new wave of migration. Therefore Bendito is a good place to get to learn about the changes in Spanish culture and gastronomy.

Owner José González selects cheeses and hams from many places. These are served with economic down-to-earth wines chosen by Ilan Saltzman, wine responsible, while the vinyl records spins in the background. By the way, Bar Bendito means the blessed bar, with all the allegories that it is possible to derive from that name.

I was there last Friday and the following Sunday and enjoyed a handful of wines both days, all served with small bites of cheese or charcuterie. This report is mainly based on the first visit.

One of the wines that night was Pampaneo Airén 2020 from Esencia Rural, a very fresh, lemony sparkler from Toledo. Read more about it here.

A delightful habit of the wine bars is when the waiter gives you a couple of sips, before you decide which wine you want in your glass. Here my waiter Ilan poured three samples. One of them Soif du Mal Blanc 2020, a muscat-dominated wine from Les Foulards Rouges, over the French border. I chose to wait until some other time, and go for a Castilian wine. Palote 2020 from Microbodega Rodríguez Morán in the province of Salamanca was made from palomino grapes. It rested one week with skins and stems. Thereafter it was aged in clay, finally bottled unfined, unfiltered and without sulphur. The colour was light orange/amber, slightly turbid; nice aroma of yellow fruit, elderberry, flowers and a touch of figs; good acidity, it plays with bitterness, but it’s restrained. A blue cheese accompaned these first wines, and it went surprisingly well.

Behind Artesano Vintners is Mike Shepherd, who has a past in Australia in two important natural wine houses. Now in Catunya he grows only 2 hectares. Parellatxa 2020 is a clarete: Pale red; vibrant fruit, raspberry; very light delicate touch of tannin. The name is put together by the varieties parellada and garnatxa, but this you have already figured out.

Ilan Saltzman (originally from Canada), wine responsible, serving the Kikiriki

Kikiriki 2018 is made from ull de llebre (tempranillo) and carinyena in a vineyard from 1979, by Manel Aviñó of Clos Lentiscus, Penedès. He works employing biodynamic techniques and ferment the grapes by variety before assembling the wines. Dark cherry colour; blueberry, also lighter fruit (raspberry) and a touch licorice; juicy with light tannin, good acidity, and over all truly fascinating.

Nacho González makes his wines within Valdeorras. But he is not a member of the DO, thus his La Perdida wines carry the designation Vinos de España. A Mallada 2020 is made from sumoll and garnacha tintorera. Fermented in amphora, aged in old oak, bottled without sulphites. It’s dark, quite complex; on the nose it displays something sweet and sour (sweet cherries, acidic berry stones?) and very fresh fruit; there is a young dryness in the mouth, lovely acidity.

About the second visit I will report very briefly. It went more or less like the first visit. The two absolutely brilliant wines were Jordi LlorensAncestral de la Cristina and Oriol ArtigasEl Rall, both from Catalunya, both from 2019. The former is from the Conca de Barberà area in the province of Tarragona and lived up to normal standard, light yellow with its clean appley and mature lemony easy-going character. The latter I didn’t know. It’s a sumoll (the grape) from DO Alella, north of Barcelona city, and showed a cherry-dominated red fruits side, with a pleasant juicyness in the mouth. The best of the rest, and a surprise too, was Sin Prisa 2018, a forest fruits-coffee-scented monastrell without added sulphites from Bodegas De Fábula, Murcia, near the regional capital.

Below: Only two of the many international cuisine restaurants in the San Fernando market.

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Articles and Wine of the Week

Nadal at a Corpinnat tasting

While Norway changed government with parades and speeches, an interesting tasting took place just across the street at the Grand Hotel. This tasting in Oslo was the first official Corpinnat tasting outside of Spain.

To be short, Corpinnat (meaning born in the Penedès, after Roman etymological roots) is a group of Catalan producers of sparkling wine that has left DO Cava. All ten producers with wines in the market were represented. Leading the tasting was Carles del Amor, export director of Nadal, one of the six founding members – together with Liora Levi, Norwegian sommelier and wine writer.

Carles del Amor while preparing the tasting in Oslo

The tasting showed a variety of styles. Some wineries contributed what they consider the more typical from their range, while others offered “top” wines. There were examples of restrained, mineral wines, while others were more on the fruity side. Some dominated by the xarel.lo grape (also varietals), others with more parellada. One rosé.

There will be a longer report that I will link to here. Now I will just present one wine in the ever ongoing Wine of the Week series.

Since Carles is here (on behalf of Corpinnat, that is) I still want to focus a bit on Nadal‘s contribution. Their Brut Nature Reserve 2015 was maybe the most flowery/fruity of the lot. This can maybe be seen from the grape composition; parellada 57%, xarel.lo 22%, macabeu 21%. While xarel.lo is a variety with a lot of acidity and preferred in wines made for ageing, parellada contributes more finesse and aroma. This said, Carles tells that they have a project going on, trying to prepare parellada for more ageing, for example by moving higher up towards the Pyrenees. By doing this they also prepare themselves for new, hotter times. The wine has an ageing of 60 months on the lees, is a non dosé obviously organically grown (as is mandatory without Corpinnat), and it’s degorged 21st June 2021 (also obligatory information within the group).

Here are other posts about members of the group (search the site for more):

Gramona

Recaredo

Mas Candí

Brut Nature Reserve 2015 (Nadal)

Light golden; fruity with aromas of white flowers, elegant yeast notes, a subtle hint of ginger and nuts; quite soft structure, but enough acidity – wonderfully balanced.

Price: Medium

Food: Fish, shellfish, light meat, salads various tapas and the best serrano hams

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Articles

Simplesmente… Vinho 2021 – Part 2

In the first part from this year’s Simplesmente Vinho we highlighted some producers from outside the famous regions. (Read here.) In this long overdue second part two I would like to focus on producers from well-known wine districts that I didn’t know from before or wanted to re-taste.

From Douro, where the fair is located, I tasted several, like Quinta de Zimbro and Conceito, and also Luís Seabra, who is a little in and out of the Douro valley. Add to this one of few port wines, the lovely organic ruby from organizer João Roseira and his Quinta do Infantado, and the picture is a bit more complete, at least for me – this time.

Hugo Mateus

While I missed Ana Maria Hespanol this time, her partner Hugo Mateus was there. He showed an impressive line of wines.

Traditionally Ana’s father Manuel had a good grip on the heady Douro reds. I think they have lifted the quality a couple of flats, especially with the other side of the assortment, or to bring it more in line with the times is maybe more fair to say. Anyway the whites are now often very good. Their Branco 2017, from mostly viosinho, and bottled in 2020, was harvested early to retain the acidity. Lots of primary fruits, like apples and pears. In the mouth it’s quite full, rich and long. It’s part of their often innovative, or modern, Grau Baumé line.

They have a serious orange wine, Undo Curtimenta 2020, a blend of usual Douro grapes like viosinho, rabigato, and gouveia, with 31 days of skin-contact. It’s quite textured, but yet with some feeling of lightness, aromas of white flowers, herbs and peel.

Rita and Miguel, winemakers from Conceito in the Teja Valley, showed again their impressive range, with very good prices too. Their selection falls mainly into two categories, Conceito and Contraste. Conceito is meant to be the flagship range, but I must admit that I not always understand where the dividing line is, as they both contain quality wines that sit somewhere between the classic and the modern. A wine that has not been highlighted (by me) is their Contraste Rosé, now in its 2020 vintage. It’s from higher (more than 600 meters) granite soils: Very light in colour, with raspberry and whitecurrent aromas. On the palate it’s both mellow and easy, but with a nice acidity and a serious charm. Legítimo is now in its 2018 vintage. This one is made with stems of touriga nacional, tinta roriz and touriga franca, with no sulphur. It’s dark cherry, dark fruits on the nose (blackberry) and also plums, with lactic notes (yoghurt?), and elegant tannins in the mouth. The Bastardo 2019 is, as always, superelegant, uplifting, truly inspiring. It comes from a 50 year old vineyard and ripes earlier than the others, end of august. It’s made with stems, and just a little SO2 before bottling. It’s “surprisingly” (well, not anymore) light, with a lot of raspberry and flowers, evident but light tannins.

Manuel Sapage and Rita Ferreira Marques

Like many of the other producers here, to present a short report about Luís Seabra, doesn’t give him justice. He excels both in red and white, and both “xisto” and “granito” soils that are often presented on the labels. Everything is good to outstanding, from the entry-level white and red Xisto Ilimitado, via the monovarietals to the cru wines. All right, let me chose one of each. The red Xisto Ilimitado 2019 is made from a blend of touriga franca 30%, tinta roriz 20%, tinta amarela 20% and 10 each of rufete and tinta barroca. It’s clear red; aromas of fresh red berries, some balsamic and herbs; fruity and dry, with a light structure. Mono C 2019 is a castelão (that is in fact authorized in the Douro): Cherry red; red fruits (cherry), stone fruits (plum), with some herbs; lightly structured with fresh acidity. For me this wine is delicious, and ready to drink now (I have the previous vintage at home, maybe at its peak now). There are several wines with the same name. This one is from Vinho Verde: Granito Cru 2019 from alvarinho grapes is from near the river Minho in the Melgaço municipality. It’s light yellow; citric with elements of honey, lightly spicy and a touch of vanilla (after one year in barrel); good concentration in the mouth, dry, a stony minerality and great lenght. Wait two years, and it’s perfect! OK, an extra speciality for you my friend: Véu de Xisto 2015! Véu denotes that it has spent two years under flor in a barrel from Jura, France. It’s golden, but also lightly greenish; smells of yeasts, flowers, iodine; full in the mouth, rounded. By the way, the grapes are rabigato 70%, côdega do larinho 15% and the rest gouveio.

Luís Seabra with his Natalie
An impressive range from Luís Seabra

From nearby Amarante of Minho we have Quinta de Palmirinha. Fernando Paiva, biodynamic pioneer in the Vinho Verde region, never stop to impress, with both azal and arinto. But his loureiros are the stars. Really interesting from his current selection is the Leviano 2020, a “curtimento” (orange wine). Leviano denotes in Portuguese a person that doesn’t care about anything, says Fernando. But he cares about the most, from vineyard to table. Noteworthy is his use of chestnut flowers to avoid use of SO2. The Leviano spent two weeks on skins, that gives a golden hue, an aroma of ginger and white flowers. In the mouth it’s in a way gentle and mellow, but it has the unmistakable acidity from the loureiro grape.

Fernando Paiva

South to Dão I had the opportunity to try the wines of Casa de Darei, that I hadn’t tasted since the opening of their “lodging” facilities (that I also used), some 20 years ago. Then José Ruivo was “chief”. Now it’s his son Carlos who is in charge. Their reds are lovely, not least the entry level Lagar de Darei 2015 from the “usual suspects” touriga nacional, tinta roriz, jaen and alfrocheiro, with its red fruit and balsamic pinewood nuances, and its luscious mouthfeel. All reds came in the 2015 vintage. New launches that “old” is quite unusual these days. I also like their rosé 2020, easy-to-drink, with its lovely raspberry character and low alcohol.

Carlos Ruivo

I also tried a couple of the fantastic and diverse wines of João Tavares da Pina, kindly offered by him and his wife Luisa at a lunch. Read more about one of these wines here.

José Vivas

Quinta do Olival da Murta is located in the Cadaval area of the Lisboa region, near the mountain range Serra de Montejunto. It’s here that Joana Vivas, who is in charge of the family business, got the inspiration for the label Serra Oca. It’s only 15 kilometers to the Atlantic ocean, which is noted in the wines, that are always made in a simple way. They have an interesting moscatel graúdo called simply Serra Oca 2019, fermented in 1000 liters oak vats, with all the lovely moscatel virtues: Golden, floral, honeyed, and with a very good acidity. More ususal local grapes, like arinto, fernão pires, were used together with the moscatel in another Serra Oca 2019 wine. This one had three days of skin-contact, partly fermented in barriques and inox. This had an interesting mix of developed and fresh aromas and taste, as if it played with oxidation; golden/brownish colour, aromatic, citric and flowery, in the mouth full with lovely acidity. If my memory doesn’t fail me it was one months before its bottling. I have not forgot their reds, that they began with in 2013 (three years before the whites), but let’s save them for a later occasion.

From down in Alentejo I found Argilla, and tasted the wines while the local student choir was singing a wide selection of songs, many of them medieaval. The winery is located at the foot of the Montargil mountains in Alto Alentejo (northwest of Évora and Estremoz). They put a lot of effort in talha wines, made in the Alentejo style of clay vessel, and also smaller amphorae. But first: I really liked their Rosa d’Argilla 2019, some kind of a clarete, made from alicante bouschet with only 20% skin-contact. It’s clear ruby; aroma of red fruits (raspberry); only slightly structured, juicy and delicious. From the Talha Argilla range I tasted 2019 white (appley, with some earthiness from the clay), and the red 2018 (red fruits and licorice, with tannins from petite verdot), both from a selection of grapes. Then came a varietal, Alfrocheiro em Talha de Argilla 2017. This was a relatively young wine, dark with a blueish hint. The flavours were very balanced; red fruits, flowers, some earthiness, – and rounded in the mouth. Rita offered more wines, that I tasted, and they were all interesting. Sorry, but this was at the very end, and I had to concentrate on the music for a while. This time it was Transmontuna, a student choir from Vila Real.

Rita Tenreiro

Thanks to João Roseira and the other organizers who managed to set up a magnificent fair in “times of trouble”. And the band played on…!

And that was that, folks!
(João Roseira pictured)
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Pepe Mendoza: Finding home in Alicante

First time I met Pepe Mendoza was at the family firm in L’Alfàs (Alfaz del Pi in castellano). It has taken him a lot of thinking, maturing and experimenting since then, to bring him where he is now. Geographically speaking he has established himself in Llíber (near Xaló, or Jalón) in the eastern part of the Alicante province. But in terms of enology and philosophy he has moved from thinking of France as the original that could be copied anywhere, to a sense of identity, could we say “homeness”, to his native Mediterranean landscape.

Talking about stress and relax

As Pepe points out, “I love sauvignon blanc, but why should it be grown here?”. And wandering through the vineyards with his dearly beloved moscatel, giró and monastrell plants, caressing them and saying on behalf of them, “I am home, I like it here” – he tells the tale of so many cabernet sauvignon that felt uncomfortable, “stressed”.

We are in Valle de Pop in Marina Alta, the only valley where the red varieties mature before the white.

It’s not often that you think that the Mediterranean could offer such a freshness. But the ventilation from both sides does it. For Pepe this is perfect; small production, balance, a collaboration with nature: “You give me fruit, and I care for it and promise not to exploit it.”

-Good morning, it’s the press

Upon arrival Pepe served us a perfect opening wine, a light and aromatic moscatel/airén/macabeo blend; moscatel from Marina Alta and the others from highter up the Vinalopó river, mellow, a touch of salt, and gentle as the breeze in the valley. The wine is called Paisaje, but the label only shows his name and the denomination Alicante. Here it was accompanied by some light tapas. “When determining what kind of wines to make I think of what do I like to eat: I like the dishes that my grandmother made, because they are made from local produce, organically grown and cooked slowly.”

Pureza 2019 is a 6 days skin-contact moscatel from coastal Marina Alta, aged in amphoras from master Juan Padilla in Albacete. The wine is light in colour, but has evident peel aromas (orange peel), fresh rose, mint; some volume in the mouth, with an uplifting acidity and a saline and slightly bitter finish. (Read more about this wine here.)

Back home, one evening

Mares de Luz Monastrell-Giró is a coupage of the two mentioned grapes (monastrell and giró), made with whole bunches. Light cherry; raspberry, mature cherry, some balsamic (laurel), rich with warning alcohol (14%), super acidity, long.

Giró de Abargues 2019 is a varietal giró from a single parcel in the Marina Alta. There is only a total of 90 hectars of giró in the world, so this is quite rare. It stayed one year in a 500 liter barrel. A wonderful light extracted and elegant wine: Light ruby; red fruits, paprika, lightly balsamic (laurel again), lavender; great concentration, evident but delicate tannnins.

We gladly listen when the master speaks

Sero-roSé Monastrell Clásico 2016

As it says on the label it has stayed 14 months in lightly toasted 2-3 year old Allier casks. Blood-orange colour, a hint of light amber. Aroma of orange peel, or maybe dried orange, red fruits (raspberry), herbs; quite glyceric, but good acidity.

Sero, a very different rosé

Gironet Nat ‘ 2020 comes with the subtitle “varieties not sufficiently reknown”. This is the giró, but a clone called gironet from the finca Abargues. It’s wine made with minimal intervention and almost no added sulphites. Red ruby; red fruits, anise, a touch lactic (yoghurt), some greenness, balsamic; very delicate and with a wonderful balance.

A variety not sufficiently known, as the subtitle goes

El Veneno 2019 is a monastrell wine from further inland, in what Pepe calls “pre-meseta”. We are talking about Alto Vinalopó, near Villena near the border against Murcia and Albacete (Castilla-La Mancha). Here are sandy loam and calcareous soils. This wine, aged one year in 500 liter barrel, is a more heady wine: Dark cherry in colour, aromas of blackberry, but also less evident hints like dried thyme or laurel, and a touch of paprika and spice; generous in the mouth, rounded and with hints of toast and coffee, but also with a lot of freshness, “tension”.

-You got a point there

And lastly, a pajarete (a liqueur based on PX wine treated) made by Juan Muñoz at bodega Dimobe in Moclinejo (Málaga province). Not Pepe’s wine, but a wine he adores. This shows that the world is here, it doesn’t need to be French to be great, and also that Pepe Mendoza is a man who is open for everything, always eager to try things from outside to get a deeper insight in what he has at home.

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Wine talk about La Stoppa

These notes are from another wine talk in the Vinestor-series. (Read my first report here.) Now the time had come to La Stoppa and their Norwegian importer Vinum, represented by Runar Nikolaysen.

I suppose that for many people La Stoppa’s Ageno was the first orange wine they ever tasted. This because of its presence in several markets.

Representing the winery was Nico Sciackitano, who was born in the USA, where he among other things worked as a sommelier in San Francisco. But he wanted to follow another path. Thus he came to Italy, worked for Arianna Occhipinti in Sicily, and through her met Elena of La Stoppa. He is export representative, but he also works in the vineyard and in the cellar.

Nico Sciackitano on the pc screen

La Stoppa, the winery in Emilia-Romagna, can trace its roots back to the 19th century. The farm has now 58 hectares, of which 30 are planted with local varieties barbera, bonarda, malvasia, ortugo and trebbiano. One of the features that distinguish them from the mainstream is long skin-maceration, especially a particularity for white wines. Otherwise good raw material and little intervention are key words.

La Stoppa is found in Rivargaro, south of Piacenca. And Ageno, Giancarlo Ageno, was the founder, who bought the land that they own today. They have three little hills and three valleys around them. He planted some 40 different grape varieties, and was one of the first in the area to bottle his wines. There is a lot old red clay in the area, and rich in iron, not unlike parts of Bordeaux. This Nico tells while showing a picture of a bottle of “bordeaux” that Ageno made himself. It was in 1973 that Elena’s father Raffaele, from Piacenza, bought the farm. It was when her father died in the 90’s that Elena’s mother convinced her to come back, and together with winemaker Giulio they decided only to focus on local varieties and to express the terroir of the farm.

La Stoppa makes basically red wines. Nevertheless, the one white wine, named after the founder, is maybe the most famous one.

Nico tells that its not the climate that differes the most from the more famous neighbours (like Veneto and Piemonte), but the soils. Barbera with its acidity is the most important grape variety, as the cuisine is quite fat. Piacenza is more of a diverse farmland than many of the neighbouring wine regions. Around La Stoppa the vines are mostly on the hills, so when it’s harvest time the animals will rather eat corn and tomatoes in the valleys floors than their grapes, explains Nico.

Interestingly the Ageno that the founder made himself was a müller-thurgau, riesling, sylvaner, moscato and sauvignon blanc, and made without skin-contact as today. The new owners continued that tradition (but mostly with chardonnay and sauvignon), untill the 90’s, when it was changed to the wine that we know now, based on a thick-skinned malvasia. 2002 was the first vintage of today’s Ageno, born as a nod to the history of skin-macerated wines, not only in Emilia-Romagna, but in Europe as a whole. -This is the reason I am here, tells Nico. -I was tasting the wine blind. It smells sweet, then comes the dry taste and the tannic mouthfeel. And the colour, within a year it changes from yellow to amber to dark orange. Ageno kind of plays with your mind, says Nico. In recent vintages 18, 19 and 20 the weather has been different; cooler with more rain. Thus the colour is much paler than in the preceeding vintages. The maceration lasts on skins untill winter, that is 3-4 months.

Historic picture: Giancarlo Ageno on the right

They always macerate everything outside in tanks without temperature control. So it’s important that the temperature stays high, so the fermentation can continue. In 2016-17 there were sudden falls in temperatures, so they had to cover up the tanks.

You have understood that La Stoppa stands for a low-intervention winemaking, “hands-off” in the field, just spray copper and sulphur when necessary. It’s a question of paying attention, prune well, and let time work. -Guilio’s 40 years of experience lets him not needing to do anything.

A feature is also that they don’t necessarily release the vintages chronologically. 2017 was ready before 16, and they also found out that to realease the 19 alongside the 16 could be a way for people to understand and appreciate the differences.

Ageno 2016

The grape composition varies. The 2016 is made from malvasia di candia aromatica 90%, the rest is divided between ortrugo and trebbiano. Here are some more key figures, in short: Quite young vines, 20 years. No fertilizing, no weed-killers. The soil contains clay silt. The trellis system is simple guyot. 4 months maceration on skins in stainless steel and cement tanks. Spontaneous fermentation with indigenous yeasts, aged in 40 hectolitre wooden tanks. No filtration, no sulphites added.

Deep golden, amber. Concentrated aroma with both fresh (red apples), dried and pickled fruits (apricots, figs), honey, floral overtones, and some volatile acidity. Full-bodied, fruity, evident tannins, long with good acidity and also here a slight volatile character.

Trebbiolo 2019

This is a rather unpretentious wine from the traditional blend barbera (60%) and bonarda from the lower plots. I like it a lot, and makes for excellent drinking now, with charcuterie, light meat or a variety of antipasti. Some key information: Organic farming with biodiversity. No fertilizing, weed killers or pesticides. Clay Silt. Mostly simple Guyot. Age of vines: 7, 15 and 40 years. 20 days maceration on skins in stainless steel and/or cement tanks. Spontaneous fermentation with indigenous yeasts, in stainless steel and cement tanks.

Dark ruby. Dark and red fruits (mature blackberry, freshness cherry), and a smoky tone. Medium weight with a bit firm, but agreeable tannins, adecuate acidity and a nice touch of stony bitterness.

Macchiona and Barbera are more “serious” wines. They have the potential to age for a long time (especially in cooler vintages). Ageno is a newer project, so the producer claims that one doesn’t don’t know yet its ability it has to age.

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Simplesmente… Vinho 2021 – Part 1

Simplesmente …Vinho is the perfect wine fair. Here you find vignerons that really care for their grapes, and cultural aspects around it are also focused. In the cosy atmosphere one can feel that we are a big family of like-minded people. But important, after meeting the same artisans year after year you can really get to know the wines and follow them through storms and sunny days.

João Roseira’s welcome to the opening dinner

Speaking in wine terms, 2021 was a difficult year. The former site, an old port wine lodge by the river Douro, had been sold. So the organizers had to find a new place. This turned out to be the university’s faculty of architecture (Faculdade de Arquitectura da Universidade do Porto, FAUP). In the magnificent garden the usual barrels were set up. Another notable difference, of course, was the now well-known pandemic. They had done their best to take all the precautions needed; aside of the inevitable face-masks, there were fewer producers (around 60, some forty less than in the latest years), and there were three days instead of two, to avoid too much close contact. So in spite of the difficult conditions (“a crazy project”, according to ‘big chief’ João Roseira) I think that this might have been one of the best fairs so far, and Roseira and his team can be proud of how it all was carried out.

In my reports I have earlier given myself a special theme, mainly according to the regions I have visited before or after the fair itself. This time an extensive visits program was difficult, so I chose mainly to focus on wineries that earlier had been left out because they didn’t fit into my own regional limits. In this first article I will focus on some lesser known wineries from lesser known places.

Ready for the tasting

Quinta da Comenda is not exactly unknown. This producer has a long history, but has maybe found itself in the shadows of the Douro producers lately. The quinta is located in the village of S. Pedro do Sul in DOC Lafões, a granitic region between northwestern Dão and the southern tip of Vinho Verde, thus not far from Douro either. Lafões is mostly noted for white wines, and maybe not far from Verde in style. Comenda was one of the Portuguese pioneers of organic cultivation, back in the 1980’s.

A fabulous red wine, quite unusual for the area, was served at the opening dinner. This was an initiative by organizer João Roseira, but it’s made by Comenda’s Angelo Rocha. Comenda de Ansemil 2020, a blend with 6 varieties known from different parts of the country, was only made in a quantity of 100 bottles. It comes with a dark colour, an aroma of dark and red fruits with some licorice, and with a huge freshness and a vivid energy. Other than this, the tasting the day after showed several wines at a generally very high quality, from the “straight” white Comenda de Ansemil 2019, a blend of arinto, cercial (cerceal/sercial) and dona branca, to a salmon pink Rosé 2020 of the same name and vintage (but classified as Terras de Lafões, as the DOC does not allow rosés), with its raspberry tones and a more generous taste than aroma. One that I liked a lot was the white 1/3 barrel-wine Quinta da Comenda 2019. Light straw colour, quite complex nose with yellow apples, way and a touch of smoke, and with a touch of vanilla in the mouth. An inspiring acidity binds it well together, like in all the other wines.

Angelo Rocha, Q. da Comenda

Távora-Varosa is a small region that lies on on granite or schist between Dão and Douro. With 500 to 800 metres above sea level it has a continental climate and extreme temperatures. Last year I had the opportunity to visit the region and meet Manuel Valente in his village Aldeia de Cima, where the family has a 200 year long history of growing grapes and olives a.o. You can read more about this visit here. His project Protótipo is a highly interesting one. He had brought a few more wines this time, like a dark but fresh 7 grape red aged in very old oak for 18 months and a wonderful Protótipo Branco 2018, a waxy-textured wine with a lovely acidity, golden in colour, with white flowers and stone-fruits on the nose. But the pét nats are for me the top. The white version is perhaps the more tamed. The rosé is based on touriga nacional, tinta roriz, and a complementing field blend. Protótipo Rosé Pét Nat 2019 can be described as red-orange, turbid; fresh red fruits (raspberry, strawberry); with a slight residual sugar (2,3 grams) and an excellent acidity. It’s more to the wild side, and truly inspiring.

Manuel Valente and his visitors follow the rules of the pandemic

Alentejo is not among the unknown regions. But Heredade do Cebolal is not found in the central area where the DOC is located, but on the Alentejo coast, bordering Setúbal. Therefore the wines are much fresher. I met the producer’s British importer in London at the Real Wine fair and tasted their “subterranean” wine (read more here). Since then the winemaking has been moving towards less extraction, more elegance. The family firm is now led by Luís and Isabel Mota Capitão. Santiago de Cacém 2018 Vinha da Casa Branca is a serious wine. Made from encruzado, arinto and antão vaz, with natural malolactic and low-sulphur, this was light golden wine with a typical fresh Atlantic character, and a mineral, saline finish. A bit petrol can be associated with arinto with some age. Palhete is an interesting category. It’s the Portuguese name for a mix of red and white grapes, here in the Palhete 2020 85% aragônez and the rest antão vaz. In this wine I find both red fruits (strawberry) and yellow (tomatoes, and a tropical hint where we agreed that guayaba was a good description). In the mouth it is more concentrated than the light colour would indicate, and a dry finish with a hint of bitterness. In Spain clarete is the name for this style, while in Portugal clarete signifies a lightly coloured wine made only with red grapes. Herdade do Cebolal has a wine of this sort too. Clarete 2019 from castelão on predominantly clay soils, is made with only two days of maceration. It’s a light ruby coloured wine, the aroma had a certain warmth, dominated by forest fruits.

Luís Mota Capitão, Herdade do Cebolal

Lisboa as a wine region (formerly Estremadura) is for many readers not unknown. But some of its nine DOC’s might be, and here come four wineries from there. Generally this region is windy, but sheltered by low mountains inland, and though the landscape is not dramatic there are endless variations.

Quinta Várzea da Pedra is found in the Óbidos denomination, more specifically in the town of Bombarral. The brothers Tomás (winemaker) and Alberto Emídio are fourth generation. These guys have something going on with their reds, but for me the whites were brilliant at this moment. The entry-level Quinta Várzea da Pedra Branco 2019 from arinto and fernão pires is a textbook wine; light straw, quite glyseric on the nose, with yellow apples and flowers, full on the palate, but with a very good acidity. It was followed by an equally good 100% arinto, and a wine made from four clones of sauvignon blanc. The day before at the opening dinner, another wine really caught my attention, a fernão pires. This one like the former is simply called Quinta Várzea da Pedra, and the vintage was 2017. It was a really fresh wine, both unctuous, creamy and with a wonderful acidity. The dominating aromas were citrus, with a hint of tropical fruits and some minerality. This wine was focused last week (read here).

Alberto (left) and Tomás Emídio

Nearby in Cadaval we find Quinta do Olival da Murta. Only 15 km from the sea, by the Montejunto mountain range, Joana Vivas has 20 hectars under vine. The Serra Oca 2019 is a moscatel graúdo (the alexandria family), fermented in 1.000 liter oak vats: Golden colour; floral with a touch of honey; it has some volume, but also a distinctive acidity. An interesting one was a 3 days maceration curtimenta (orange wine) from fernão pires, arinto and moscatel, partly fermented in barrique, the rest in steel. This was golden with a hint of brown; somewhat more aromatic, citric and flowers, and again both full and a bit tannic with a cutting edge acidity. I include one of the reds, also called Serra Oca, now 2015. The grapes are touriga nacional, aragônez and castelão that spent one and a half years in French, used barrels. It’s dark cherry in colour; I noted mint (and it showed that the winery has this plant near the vineyards), together with dark fruits; quite well-structured and dry.

José Vivas, Quinta do Olival da Murta

Alcobaça is a subdivision of Encostas d’Aire. Rodrigo Martins consults for other producers, but here he has his own project Espera. The wines show a strong Atlantic influence, and the acidity is always taking the wines to places. We started with the young Espera 2019, bical and arinto from clay and limestone soils. Arinto brings an uplifting acidity to the waxy, tasty character of the bical. The Espera Rosé was made with whole bunches of touriga nacional and fermented in barriques: Light pink; raspberry and strawberry on the nose, together with a slight toasted note; again some volume and a super acidity. I also liked the Espera Curtimenta 2020. As the name implies it’s an orange wine, with 17 days of skin-contact. But the colour was very light, so the manipulation can not have been particularly rough during that time. It has a wonderful aroma of flowers and lime peel, and in the mouth it’s full with concentrated fruit, again a lovely acidity and a saline finish. The Palhete 2020 from 15% castelão and five white varieties was an appealing wine, with its early harvest acidity, red fruit nose and all. The nose was quite discreet, but on the palate it had more concentration. A super fresh and light wine, Nat Cool 2020, is a castelão that goes into Dirk Niepoort’s nationwide series of glou-glou wines of the same name in 1 liter bottles. It’s made solely in steel, with two days of maceration. It’s light ruby; red fruits (raspberry), with a hint of smoke (from the soil), mellow and easy, but with enough acidity, a saline finish – and as cool as can be.

Rodrigo Martins, flanked by agent Lynn and yours truly

Baías e Enseadas (bays and coves, in English) is found further south, in Codiceira, Sintra. This is the land of the famous Colares wine, and we are approaching the capital city. The soil is essentially clay-limestone, with a predominance of clay in their vineyard Vinha da Ribeirinha, that results in richer wines. In Vinha do Campo there is more limestone, that accounts for more elegant wines. Then it’s possible to combine the two to give more complexity. The white that they brought, Reserva Branco Fernão Pires 2016, was from a low-acidity year, according to Daniel Afonso. He didn’t manage to bring my impression down though, as the wine was very attractive. 6 months in wood, four of them with batonnage, gave a full-bodied wine, but (as indicated) without the acidity that this region can offer. His Baías e Enseadas 2016 from 60% castelão and the rest pinot noir was light ruby with some evolution in the colour; fresh Atlantic aroma, with red fruits, a lactic note (yoghurt?); an attractive acidity and a salty aftertaste. He also brought the red Baías e Enseados 2017, pinot noir 30%, tinta roriz 30, castelão 40, was a light wine with some evolution in appearance; red fruits (plum), some smoke; attractive and mellow with just enough acidity, and a saline finish.

Daniel Afonso, Baías e Enseadas

We will soon meet to talk about wines from more well-known regions, and I promise a cultural element.

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Experiencia Verema, Murcia

I am in Murcia, Spain. And suddenly the opportunity came to visit the third fair held by magazine Verema this summer. The two first ones were held in Palma de Mallorca and Madrid. There will be more tastings later in summer and autumn too. The location in Murcia was the Royal Casino, an emblematic building in the center. It was built from 1847 on, and shows traces of different styles from that period and somewhat later – now declared monument of historic-artistic interest.

I concentrated on the local wineries, that also were best represented here.

I was invited by Parajes del Valle, a winery I hoped to visit, but we didn’t manage to meet at their place this time. They are part of the bigger García Pérez group. In Jumilla they are for me one of the most interesting wineries. The first reason lies in their name, Parajes shows a sense of place. To obtain this I think that their decision to harvest early (first part of September for the monastrell grape, while most pick later that month or even October) and also the light extraction helps.

Gregorio and Gemma of Parajes del Valle

Director Gregorio Ruiz Abellán and export responsible Gemma Morcillo brought three vintages of their Parajes del Valle, an unoaked wine that is both fresh and cool, and at the same time very Mediterranean with its herbal fruitiness of the local supergrape. It starts in stainless steel, and is transfered to concrete after a while. I have highlighted both the 2018 and 19. Here is the latter, maybe most relevant. For me this has been a house wine through the winter (the article also has a link to the first one). At this moment I would say that the 20 is a bit lighter, maybe more to the fruity side, while the two others are more mineral. But they all are red fruit-driven and stand in the crossroads between the coolness and the rosemary/thyme-herbal Med-landscape.

The terraje system is described in the blogpost about the vintage 2019. In short it consists of renting the vineyard to the farmers, who take care of the quality of the vines, and then some wine is given back to the farmer. Terraje is also the name of their most “ambitious” wine (I feel the scraping of the sword when writing this, because the Parajes is in its way also a very ambitious one). Organic and dry-farmed, just like the other, this one is from older, ungrafted (“pie franco”) monastrell from defined places (parajes) called La Fuente de las Perdices and La Cañada de Albatana to the north of Jumilla town. This wine is made in a similar way, but aged in wooden “foudres”. Even this wine has low extraction with a cherry red colour. It’s fuller and more complex, but follows the same line in acidity and minerality.

Viña Elena I have known for a long time, and also visited Elena Pacheco once. This time it was her sister María together with José Marín who presented the wines.

María Pacheco showing the Bruma range

Located in Estrecho de Marín, a valley surrounded by low mountains south of Jumilla, they offer a varied range, from a light salmon-coloured rosé through monastrell-variations with cabernet and syrah, even the dark, spicy paprika-flavoured cabernet sauvignon varietal Cuco. Very interesting is their Bruma del Estrecho de Marín, a series of single vineyard wines, almost all from monastrell, some from the vineyards owned by two brothers over in the Albacete province of Castilla-La Mancha. The Parcela Particiones 2020 is a clarete from sandy soils. In Spain clarete means a blend of red and white grapes (whereas in Portugal this is called palhete, and clarete is a light wine from red grapes). It’s an elegant monastrell and airén blend without malolactic fermentation; smells of cherry and other stone-fruits and has quite a bit of tannins. Paraje Marín 2019 from stony soils was fabulous and fresh, with typical Mediterranean herbs and somewhat warm fruit. Paraje Las Chozas 2018 was a bit darker and with young tannins, but still fresh and cool, iodine and salty. Parcela Navajuelos 2018 from sandy soils was light in colour, fresh, fruity and cool with some spice. While Parcela Vereda 2018 was darker, with forest fruits (like blackberry) and some warmth from the clay soils, while the chalky part gives also this wine some saltiness. These fabulous wines and the parcel/paraje concept contribute to make Jumilla a wine region to watch in the years to come.

Bodegas Carchelo I knew well in the times of founder Agapito Rico, one of the great personalities in Jumilla from the early 1980’s. At that time he was quite a revolutionary with his fresh, concentrated, yet good value wines. It was nice to be able to catch up and meet David Ferraje from the team of new owners that took over a little more than ten years ago.

They are located to the east of Jumilla, at the foot of the mountains Sierra del Carche, hence the name. And most of the vineyards are quite near, north-northeast of the town. Today they are 100% organic. I have enjoyed several of their wines, from the young and fresh rosé via the simple and fun Eya Tinto 2020 and the dark fruit-driven Carchelo Roble 2019 (monastrell with cabernet and tempranillo) – to the more ambitious part of their range. Here you find f.ex Canalizo 2014, a monastrell-syrah-tempranillo aged 20 months in barrel. This one had aged beautifully; mature morellos, tea, dried fruits and a nice bitter tone. Muri Veteres 2016, a pie franco monastrell with dark fruits and balsamic notes, was elegant and attractive.

David Ferraje of Bodegas Carchelo

It’s maybe a bit strange to say that one of the surprises was Juan Gil. But the Gil Family Estates has turned into a conglomerate of bodegas across the country. I don’t know the quality of all of them, but the original (bodega founded by Juan Gil Giménez in 1916) was quite good. They are in transition to organic cultivation, with the majority of vineyards northeast towards Yecla.

In short, the young white and rosé were good, but not with much personality. The new project over in Almansa, named Bodegas Atalaya, has potential, but at this point too much oak for me. Here I chose as a representative Juan Gil‘s own Honoro Vera 2020, a varietal monastrell, organically farmed, unoaked and vegan certified. This was a quite fresh dry-farmed wine from calcareous and rocky soils, with the usual red and dark berries and balsamic notes.

Unoaked red from Juan Gil

From neighbouring Yecla, a one-municipality-denomination, I tasted the wines of its leading winery. Bodegas Castaño had good offerings from the unoaked white and rosé to the dense and rich Casa Cisca, and neither have I forgotten that they have one of the best sweet monastrell wines (not brought to this tasting). Among the most interesting wines is an old favourite, now called Hécula Organic in the 2019 vintage. It shows ripe red berries (morello), aromatic herbs and a hint of coffee. Full and quite fresh in the mouth with mature tannins. I will come back to this one in a while.

Sira Burón Miranda, Castaño
Hall in the Royal Casino
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