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A Portuguese palette

Yesterday I was invited to talk about Portuguese wines in Trondheim’s biggest wine club. Ganymedes is the name, referring to the mythologic figure that was carried by an eagle sent by Zeus to be cupbearer for the ancient gods. I was honored to be invited, and a little surprised, I must admit, that close to a hundred people came to listen to a speech about the wines of the longer than wide Iberian country.

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They allowed me to put together a full palette of Portuguese colours. The selection of the country’s wines can’t be said to be very good in Norway these days, so the task could be said to be an exercise in compromise. Given the circumstances I am quite happy about the program.

Quinta do Perdigão Rosé 2014 is made according to biodynamic principles in Silgueiros, central Dão. It’s a typical blend with evident touriga nacional, and is a very fruity and full-bodied rosé with some tannin, and with aromas dominated by raspberry. Quinta do Ameal Loureiro 2013 represented the country’s largest wine region Vinho Verde, a nice wine with flowery aromas with citric nuances, and a slight carbonic palate. It’s not the only organic wine from this wet and somehow difficult northern landscape, but it’s one of the best of its kind. This lighter end of the scale was completed with Nossa Calcário 2013, a bical 100% made by Filipa Pato near the Beiras coast, Bairrada, to be precise. The bical is a versatile grape that, when in good hands, can turn to a delicious, mineral wine like this one. Quite aromatic, a little buttery, but it’s also a little closed, and will benefit from 2 or 3 years further ageing.

The first red wine was what has become known as Portugal’s first natural wine, family Roboredo Madeira’s CARM SO2 free 2010 red. Yes, I admit, my import company brought this one to the country, but it’s included here to contribute to a greater variation. Also from touriga, it has a touch of carbonic mouthfeel, dark berry flavour, and slightly sweet nuances from the oak treatment that half of the wine has been subject to. One of the most widely known wines from this 6-pack must be Esporão Reserva 2012, a wine from the vast Alentejo area, otherwise known for cork oaks, Alentejana cattle a.o. This one is from the Reguengos area towards the big lake in the south, and it has a full, fleshy flavour, but also a good acidity to keep it in balance. The grape composition can vary with the years. This one has alicante bouschet, a traditional grape in the area, together with the usual suspects trincadeira and aragonês, and a little cabernet too. The first red wine ought to be decanted because of some sediments, and both will benefit from some airing. To round it all off we tasted one of one the country’s specialities, a moscatel from the peninsula of Setúbal, just to the south of Lisboa. This one is a fortified wine from the collection of Jose María da Fonseca’s oenologist, and it bears his name. Domingos Soares Franco Colecçâo Privada Moscatel de Setúbal 1999, nothing less. It’s clearly in the moscatel family. Nice and grapey, flowery in the aroma, and with an apricot sweetness. For further ageing it could have needed some more acidity. But so what, according to Sr. Domingos himself, it’s not meant to be stored. And it’s delicious now.

2015-04-15 21.13.23 Lars and Geir Egil, key people in Ganymedes, with chef Geir 

Geir Barstad at the Britannia Hotel had created a delicous two-course menu based on turbot and local veal that allowed the party to taste a variety of the wines with food after the wine tasting.


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Wine of the Week

Take a Village

Éric Texier is a vigneron, and I think we dare say a legendary one too. He came from another career, but systematic studies and observation of the ways of many sustainable winemakers made him ready to chose his own paths. He is one of the protagonists, a hero so to speak, in Alice Feiring’s book Naked wine. Whenever she is in doubt about what to do in her natural wine project she thinks to herself, «what would Éric have done?»

His major concern is the soil. The winemaking is very minimalist, with native yeast fermentation, often in concrete, no fining, no destemming (for reds), ageing in concrete and big foudres, addition of SO2 only occasionally and only in minute quantities.

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He makes wines from several places in the Rhône valley and in the Mâconnais area. This one is from Cairanne, one of the four original Côte du Rhône villages, that sits on a hilltop overlooking vineyards.

The first vinification period always takes place in the local viticulture area, meaning different cellars according to each wine. During the next phase the wines are aged in the same naturally cool cellar built in the XVIII th century in the north of Lyon. The wines are primarily aged in traditional oak barrels, though some large casks are also used. The use of new oak is limited in order to allow the wines to fully express the terroir.

Éric Texier’s production covers a range of 20 different wines, each offering a unique and distinctive character, all carefully hand crafted in order to allow maximum care and enjoyment.

One of the oldest villages in the Vaucluse, Cairanne has long been fought over because of its strategic position, and traces of its fortification are still present today.

The grape composition is grenache 80%, carignan 10% and syrah 10%. They were picked by hand, natural yeasts were then employed, then a spontaneous fermentation that lasted for a long time.

Cairanne Côtes-du-Rhône Village 2013 (É. Texier)

Dark red. Aromas of dark, ripe fruits, blueberry, some spice. Slightly warm, luscious, well balanced wine with some tannin and a nice acidity.

Price: Low

It takes a village to raise a child, they say. Now take this Village.


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Wine bars and restaurants

Bar in music break


We went to Dublin’s fair city, music place. At lunch time we took a break from the whistles, accordeons and fiddles, and found ourselves at a table just off St. Stephen’s Green. And that is also the colour of Ely Winebar. They serve delicious food from their own organic family farm, and the wine list counts some 500 wines, many of them organic and biodynamic, and an impressive 100 wines by the glass. Among the wines we tried were Innocent Bystander 2012 Chardonnay, a fairly full wine with citrus and melon tones with a slight touch of vanilla from Yarra, Australia, Louro de Bolo 2012 (R. Palacios), a godello-based, citrus and herb-scented wine from Valdeorras, Spain, Domaine Chaume-Arnaud Vinsobres 2011, full with hints of red fruits and plums from a typical Southern Rhône blend, PF (Ponce), an old vine pie franco bobal, full of herbs, dark fruits and flowers from Manchuela, Spain, and Paço dos Cunhas de Santar 2010 (Casa de Santar), which we could call a natural wine from Dão, Portugal, earthy and full-bodied, quite polished, with a touch of oak. The ones we tasted were all interesting, some really good, and all this from Ely’s by-the-glass selection.

Keep the beat! And don’t miss this bar!

3_ely_winebar_entrance_22_Ely_Place_Dublin_2 Ely Winebar, Dublin

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Wine of the Week

On the right road

On the north eastern side of Vittoria Arianna Occhipinti’s family has 10 hectars of vinyards and 15 of olive groves, all of it grown organically. The road SP68 is, in Arianna’s words, a connection between the paths that the growers and producers use every day to come to their vineyards and towns. Here the wines travel too, in amphorae and bottles. The people here regard the SP68 as the oldest wine road in Sicilia still in existence.

The vineyards are 280 meters above sea level on red sand and some chalk, and the vines used for this wine are approximately 10 years old. The leaves are kept on the vine to maintain freshness. Only natural yeast is used, the ageing is carried out in cement for 6 months before the wine is bottled, unfiltered. Frappato and nero d’avola are used as monovarietals in other wines, but this one is a blend of 70% frappato, and the rest is nero d’avola.

(You can read about the white version here.)

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And yes, we opened another bottle of this delicious wine in this year’s holy week.

SP68 Nero d’Avola e Frappato 2013 (A. Occhipinti)

It was quite light red with a blue tinge. Nice red berry fruits (raspberry, strawberry), flowers and some spicy notes. Moderate weight, fine tannins, with slight carbonic sensation, and a refreshing acidity dancing on the tongue.

Price: Low

Food: Pizza, pasta, light meat, risotto, antipasti

Serve a little chilled

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Three true wines from Savennièrs

What could be more appropriate than to start this blog with the man behind the slogan in our header? First a very brief introduction to a man that shouldn’t need any introduction, and to one of the world’s great vineyards.

Nicolas Joly has for several decades been a leading personality in biodynamic wine, and as such a guiding star with bunches of followers, including the Return to Terroir group. Destined to be a banker, he went on to take over his family estate Château de la Roche aux Moines in Savennières by the Loire river. He was sceptical about the effects on modern agriculture on nature. Once he started to experiment with biodynamic farming there was no way back, and all his lectures, his books, all growers who followed where he led, all this has eventually gained him more than a glimpse of glory.

To say that his wines have been subject to controversy would be an understatement. While some praises the complexity, the concentration – and perhaps the legend – some say that the wines are heavy and oxidized, and the vineyard’s potential is far from fulfilled. Myself, I have tasted a few of the older vintages from the 90’s and early 2000’s, but I am far from an insider. But the wines are surely fascinating, and the owner’s perspective is indeed a very interesting one.

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Recently we tasted the current wines. They were undoubtedly of the same family, with a golden to amber colour, smell of apricots, orange peel, nuts, oxidized tones and an alcoholic richness as common features. (Mr. Joly would have replaced the expression oxidized with ripe, but I don’t mean this in a negative way.) And the star amongst them was clearly the one that you might have expected.

Les Vieux Clos 2011 (formerly called Becherelle) of the appellation Savennières, from grounds are primarily schist but also some quartz. The wine has a bright golden to orange colour, notes of yellow apple, herbs and sherry flor, and some oak. It has a spicy, nutty and mineral flavour.

The Clos de la Bergerie 2010 is of another appellation, Savennières Roche aux Moines. This one is from vines around 25 years, also with schist and east facing. It has a slightly darker amber hue, a slightly oxidative smell, hints of mature apple, apricot, quite oaky. Here is some bitterness, honey and hints of caramel.

And finally the Clos de la Coulée de Serrant 2011: The first vineyard was planted here by Cistercian monks around 1130, and the Coulée has been under vine ever since. Today this is an AOC of its own, and Joly owns all of its 7 hectares of steep slate hillsides. The vines used today are between 35 and 80+ years old, and to renew them cuttings from the oldest plantings are used to maintain their Chenins. They are cultivated with horse and hand, and the average yield is 20-25 hectolitres per hectare. The ground is on a red schist bottom with good drainage. It’s a bit of an amphitheater with southern, or southern east orientation, and the grapes are harvested five times during a period of almost a month, to obtain maximum maturity and botrytis. The barrels used to raise all three wines are never more than 5% new.

It has a deep golden with an orange hue, with rich, ripe, complex aromas of apricot, nuts, orange peel, spice, saline, and honey. There is a flinty minerality, and one could maybe say, a slight touch of a young palo cortado sherry. It’s fresh in the attack, has a stony texture, very concentrated and tasty today, and with great lenght. Joly good! Still there is clearly more to come during the next five to ten years.

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