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More surprises at Egget, Stavanger

Egget (The Egg) didn’t come first, only around a year ago. But it managed to bring new concepts to the already varied gastronomic scene in Stavanger, a Norwegian town with more than its fair share of cafés and restaurants. This is mainly because the country’s most important culinary educational institutions have been located here. Add to this the nearness to the oil industry and university students from across the country, and I think you are beginning to get the big picture.

What is special then? The obvious features are the facts that the responsibles at Egget don’t have written menus, nor wine lists – and they don’t take bookings. Other than this they seem to have a rather holistic approach, and I doubt they have fixed prices for every dish or every wine.

But maybe the most important: I can’t think of any other restaurant in the area with extremely high ambitions in wine and food, without being formal and pricy. One of Egget’s nearest neighbours just up the street, the first one outside Oslo to receive a Michelin star, can exemplify this. (No offence, that one is excellent too, but more “formal-normal”.)

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Left to right: Diego Gimeno, Roy Klausen, Benoît Berthail (not present that day: head-chef  Anthony Orjollet, creator of most of the dishes)

This time I visited at late lunch-time with a friend. And when we sat down at a table of our choice the relaxing reggae music was turned down to a perfect level. We shared tapa-sized dishes throughout the meal. Our waiter, Ben, made it clear that it was squid day, as the food is always based on today’s catch, and the squid was especially good that day. So along came squid in its own ink, in a salad – and a dish that looked like a chocolate cake, but it was in fact a risotto that included squid with ink as well. There was a ceviche of cod, and a hot dish made with skate (you know that fish that looks like a kite in the water), fermented carrots, grilled milk-marinated lamb… The ingredients and techniques are taken from anywhere in the world, but quality and creativity are common denominators.

The wines are what I like to call natural wines; you know, artisan, low-intervention, organic wines, even without added sulphur, and they are without exception served by the glass. For me Egget is a place I go to get surprised. Sometimes I want to discuss a few options with the waiter, but most often he will suggest a wine, and I will say “ok”. And what to serve with the wines? Well, the kitchen is absolutely free to chose. The food is always superb, often with a creative twist, and with the wines they serve here it has never struck me that the food and the wine didn’t match.

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When you enter the place, you notice oak barrels from Rioja producer Muga in their yard. But you better look upon them as tables, as the wines served are neither oaky nor old-fashioned (and with all respect, Muga is not in the avant-garde of Spanish wine any more, if they ever were).

The first wine this time was the white Amphibolite Nature 2015 from producer Joseph Landron in Loire’s Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine. Landron disposes of 45 hectars with varying soil. Amphibolite is the name of the stones that can be found in this particular vineyard, containing magnesium and iron silicate. When the mélon de Bourgogne vines are rooted deep in this soil it can transmit very mineral character to the wine. The wine was slender, citrusy, mineral and structured.

Next was a light red grenache-based wine, Cuvée Romanissa 2014 from Domaine Matassa, on the French side of Catalunya. The grapes are grown in schistous soils rich in iron, and it’s very luscious and fresh, with aromas of red berries and herbs.

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We were also offered the Flotsam & Jetsam Cinsault 2015, from Hemelrand (Alheit Vineyards) in South Africa’s Darling region. Also light coloured, this one had more roundness, and a sensation of sweetness from the cinsault grapes. Strawberry is maybe the dominant aroma, but it showed some spiciness too.

Éric Texier’s Chat Fou (Crazy Cat) is a long time favourite, now in the 2014 vintage. This time we ended with this lovely unfiltered Côtes du Rhône, with its blend of 50% grenache, the rest a mix of four other Rhône grapes, including the white marsanne and rousanne. It was the darkest wine of the lunch, but still deliciouis, luscious summer drinking – yet concentrated and with a hint of spices. Éric isn’t one who uses many tricks to make his wines darker, fatter, more tannic… On the contrary his minimal intervention philosophy seems to maintain a perfect balance in his wines.

Egget_logoYou never know what is coming out…

This was a few days ago, when everyone was preparing for Norway’s national day. I bet many people were crowding up on that day too. Lucky the ones who managed to get one of the 5 or 6 tables. New surprises. Hooray!

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Wine of the Week

A red Ganevat: brilliant as usual

Anne and Jean-François Ganevat continues to deliver fresh, fruity, and almost completely natural wines from their Jura property. This time I have tasted the new edition of their Cuvée Madelon Nature, the 2014 vintage. Gamay-dominated, it also contains 10% of poulsard and 10% trousseau. Only natural yeasts are used, and the wine is not fined, nor filtered, and has not been added SO2.

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Cuvée Madelon Nature 2014 (A. & J.-F. Ganevat)

Light coloured red with blueish rim. Smells of red fruits, some blueberry. Very juicy, grapey in the mouth, with low tannin, moderately high acidity, maybe a slight touch of brett (but so what?); simply delicious!

Price: Medium

Food: Light meat, pizza, pasta, white fish

 

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Articles

Another useless list

I started this blog mainly to be able to give something back to the many great wine personalities I visit during a year. This is only one amongst all of my activities, and often I have been on the backbeat, or long behind schedule, if you like… But one thing I promised myself: No matter what happens I will present one good wine every Friday, and so far I have kept the promise. Some times I have just posted a picture and a little text, then come back to finish the blogpost later. The nearest to miss was just a couple of weeks ago in Évora, walled town in Alentejo, Portugal. I had forgot that the time was one hour before my local time, so by 11 pm I had to rush out to find an open square or something, as there is almost no coverage in that town due to all the stone buildings, and in the cellar of that stone building… well, forget it. But I did it, once again in the manner of James Bond or Cinderella.

After one year of managing this wine blog I just wanted to count how many times has each country been featured in the Wine of the Week column. What does this list say, and what can you learn from it? I will not dwell to much by those questions. But it says, maybe, that I haven’t had any master plan, and that I have travelled more in certain countries compared to others. To the second question, next to nothing.

Enough talking, here is the list:

Spain: 19

France: 10

Italy: 8

Portugal: 6

Germany and Austria: 2

Slovenia, Croatia, Lebanon, USA and Australia: 1

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Number 1 Spain: Ronda vineyards in the background

As for wine regions it depends a little on how we count: Sicilia has 4 (three from Etna and one from Menfi), while Granada alone has 3 (if we extend it to the autonomous region of Andalucía, which might be logical compared to Sicilia, it would be 6, while Castilla y León has 5, two of them in DO Bierzo). Other wine regions with two entries are Alicante, Bourgueil, Beaujolais, Jura, Vinho Verde and Dão.

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And why is Spain number 1? Probably because I travel there a lot, I have many friends (some argue that a wine critic or blogger shouldn’t have friends, it often seems). Here a jamsession in Valladolid after a day with visits in Ribera del Duero, Toro and Rueda, and several of the musicians are connected to nearby wineries.. Yours truly second from left

Which ones I miss? Maybe more from Gredos (a border area in three wine regions, and three political regions – many outstanding garnachas), more Galician wines maybe (lots of lovely, luscious reds and whites), and from Portugal undoubtedly the Lisboa region (great variation). As this post is belated too (the “anniversary” was 1st April) I know there will be wines from Alentejo on next year’s list, and a couple of articles are also in the making. But among the countries totally missing: I have tasted more Georgian wines during the last two years than ever before, maybe its neighbor Hungary ought to be present too, and New Zealand should definitely have been on the list.

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Wine of the Week

A cool reserva from Alentejo

Outeiros Altos is an interesting project outside Estremoz. The Alentejo region may normally evoke pictures of vast plains of cork oaks, warm sun and sharp shadows. But located near the Serra d’Ossa range in the north of the Borba sub-region Outeiros Altos finds itself in a cool microclimate that gives a freshness to all their wines.

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Fernanda Rodrigues and Jorge Cardoso is convinced that the organic approach is right. I was there last week in search of the wines made in clay, which they also make. And walking through the vineyards with them showed clearly that there is a thought behind everything.

This reserva is made from trincadeira (70%), alfrocheiro (20%) and aragonêz (10%), grown in schistous soils, picked by hand, and aged for a year in very lightly toasted French oak barrels. The wines are already certified organic, but in the future they will be labelled vegetarian and vegan friendly too.

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Jorge and Fernanda, with “the next generation”

O Altos Res 13

The label is almost extending round the whole bottle

Reserva Biológico 2013 (Outeiros Altos)

Deep red. Aroma of red fruites, blackberry, spices and a balsamic note of eucalyptus. On the palate it’s quite full, with mature tannins, concentrated fruit, a nice coolness, and a slight touch of vanilla.

Price: Medium

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Wine of the Week

And I’ll take the (Spanish) high road…

Camino Alto means high road (or street) in Spanish. On the Toledo part of the Meseta, the high plains of central Spain, we find a winery by that name, a winery that is dedicated to organic cultivation. Though I’ve been in touch with them for a while I have not visited them yet, and I have tasted only one wine. But that wine was so much to my liking that I decided to feature it as this week’s wine.

(Yes, it’s been a lot to do lately, so I must come back with a little more text here too.)

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Camino Alto Tempranillo 2015 (Camino Alto)

Dark red with youngish blue hue. Aromas of violets, blueberries and … Quite concentrated, with a nice dryness from the young tannins, and an appropriate acidity.

Price: Low

Food: Goes well with Spanish tapas, from cured hams to cheeses and vegetables, anchovies and more

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Wine of the Week

From southern Alentejo

I’m on a mission. And I’m in Alentejo, the apparently flat and harsh (I didn’t say dull) Portuguese region that is the world’s biggest resource of cork oak. This is a modern red wine from the southern subregion of Vidigueira, maybe surprisingly a white stronghold in this area full of surprises.

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Rocim 2012 (Herdade do Rocim)

Dark, deep red. Aroma of red fruits and deep forests, and a touch of eucalyptus, and with a sweet component too. Full on the palate, with young, round tannins and good length.

Price: Medium

Food: I had it with both roast mushrooms with garlic and olive oil and black pig with mashed apples. But any red meat or game would be near an ideal accompaniment

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Wine of the Week

A legendary cava

This is a xarel.lo based gran reserva from one of the three superior cava houses (in my opinion at least, and if you ask me I will reveal who the others are). Anyway, this is a classic, or a legend, one of several from Xavier Gramona and his team.

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III Lustros 2006 (Gramona)

Concentrated aroma of bread, almonds, hazelnuts, and citrus (grapefruit and lime). Concentrated and fresh in the mouth, and not too much mousse. To sum up, to find a fresh cava with this age you should lift some stones…

Price: High

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Wine of the Week

Ulibarri txakolí

I tasted the Ulibarri again on a recent trip to Barcelona, in a Basque pintxo bar in the Gotic Quarter. The wine was a real revelation on a trip to the Basque country in January, when I actually visited Iker Ulibarri and brother Asier in their winery.

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Iker Ulibarri wearing his typical ‘txapela’

The cellar is made of stone and is actually an extension of their home. In the backyard they have 2 hectares of hondarrabi zuri grapes. The soil contains clay, sand, slate and schist. The wine is fermented in stainless steel and aged on the lees with more than average of ‘batonnage’. It’s bottled unfined and unfiltered with minimal SO2 added, and it’s one of the few wines in this “difficult” coastal area that is both organically grown, and certified too.

Ulibarri Txakolí 2015 (Ulibarri Txakolina)

There is only a few bubbles here (as opposed to most txakolís, at least the traditional stereotype), but the typical acidity is indeed intact. It’s fresh and appealing, yet structured and persistent (and with age, more complex too), with notes of green apple, herbs.

Price: Medium

Food: Fish, shellfish, many type of cheeses…

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Wine of the Week

White from black earth

With the designation Santo Spirito this wine must be said to be quite appropriate in the so-called Holy Week we are in. Now I don’t always see the importance of chosing themes and content according to the season (there is always a reason for chosing a specific wine anyway). So we hereby leave the religious aspect.

The 25-60 year old grapes are grown in volcanic soil in the eastern corner of Sicilia, north of Catania. They are mostly carricante (about 65%), but a “field blend” of several others like inzolia, catarratto and grecanico constitutes the rest. The wine is made quite naturally, with malolactic fermentation too, that contributes to its roundness.

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Etna Bianco Santo Spirito 2014 (Tenuta delle Terre Nere)

Golden colour. The aroma is clearly tropical, with mango, apricot, cooked apple maybe, a bit lactic, and with a sensation of prolonged skin-contact. In the mouth it is unctuous, waxy, not very long and with moderate acidity. But nice drinking after all.

Price: Medium

Food: A full, round, and “tropical” wine, it was no big hit with yesterday’s varied cheese board. Next time I will try some Asian food, with some sweetness, maybe soy sauce. More safe suggestions would be fish and fowl, and why not a Sicilian style pasta dish with vegetables.

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