Philippe Formentin had worked 10 years at Domaine Chabanon in Lagamas, near Montpellier, before he became a “flying winemaker”, consulting at vineyards around the world. Then he found a small winery in the south of France, just outside Clermont l’Hérault. Here in the foothills of the Larzac, Philippe has brought life to his dream of making his own natural artisan wine.
His wines are made from grapes grown organically and according to biodynamic principles. They grow in different plots with clay-limestone soils and various exposures.
The grapes are manually harvested in the cool, early mornings, then stored in a cool environment 24 hours to slow start fermentation. They ferment naturally, with indigenous yeast and without sulfites.
A manual vertical press is used to gently extract the juice. The wines are then aged in containers, decanted, and bottled without filtration. L’orangeade 2020 is a varietal grenache blanc.
L’orangeade 2020 (Opi d’Aquí)
Light orange. Fresh aroma with apricot, orange peel, eucalyptus, a touch of honey. Medium full, light tannin structure, good length.
As the rain set in on the rugged coast we wanted a bold wine for the cheeseboard. Luckily this Côtes du Jura was offered by the local store.
Domaine Maire is one of the largest producers of Jura covering 234 hectares of vines, and they sell their wines at affordable prices. The word tradition on the label here refers to a typical blend of the local white grapes varieties ahardonnay and savagnin. Maire’s cuvée comprises around 80% chardonnay and 20% savagnin.
Chardonnay, originating from Burgundy but cultivated in Jura since the 10th Century, has become a native, and is especially well suited on limestone and light soils. The savagnin is typical to Jura and matures slowly on grey marl soils. It’s the ideal grape variety for an oxydative maturing process under a veil of “flor”, referred to locally as “sous voile”. Most of the chardonnay was aged in stainless steel tanks for 2-3 months, the rest on fine lees in wooden vats for the same period of time. A part of the savagnin juices were matured in oak barrels under flor for 8 to 12 months.
Grand Héritage Tradition 2017(Dom. Maire)
Yellow with green hints; apples and flowers (from chardonnay), flor, butter, roasted almonds and nuts (from the savagnin ageing); full in the mouth, good and persistent acidity, meaty.
Food: Comté or blue cheeses, tapas, shellfish, paté, charcuterie
This wine can be said jo be dangerously drinkable. It’ contains “only” 11% alcohol, but it’s hard to stop once poured, with all its inviting fruit and low acidity (5g, the 2021 has only 3, by the way).
Domaine Cazes has been producing wine since 1895 in Rivesaltes, south of France. Cazes is operated according to biodynamic principles. Cazes is France’s largest certified producer of organic and biodynamic wines with 220 hectares of vineyards. (Read about a vin doux naturel here.)
This wine is made with traditional maceration, and fermented without yeasts for 6 days at low temperature (between 19 and 22°C). It was pressed with integrated presses. The end of alcoholic fermentation took place in in wooden vats before racking, then malolactic fermentation. The appellation is IGT Côtes Catalanes.
Finally a piece of ampelography (“grapeology”) here: Samsó is a synonym for cinsault in this part of Catalunya, also spelled sinsó. Samsó can also refer to carignan (a much more thick-skinned variety).
Samsó 2020(Dom. Cazes)
Light red, violet rim. Fresh and fruit-driven with raspberries, wild strawberries, hints of licorice. Medium full, rounded, some spices at the end.
Food: Delicious on its own, with charcuterie, patatas bravas, pasta…
Château-Chalon is, despite the name, an appellation in Jura. The only grape variety used to make it is the savagnin, just like the other vins jaunes, wines matured under a veil of yeast. This producer owns 10 hectares and farms them biodynamically. This includes a half hectare in Château-Chalon AOC. Caves Jean Bourdy uses barrels up to 80 years old for fermentation and aging of the wines. They are known for their extensive back-catalogue of old wines, with château-chalon back to1865.
Château-Chalon 2012(J. Bourdy)
Yellow with greenish hints. Complex aroma with walnuts, honey and mature cheese. Smooth, nice acidity, long and dry aftertaste.
Fanny Sabre has in short time, and at a young age, become a respected producer in Bourgogne. After her father passed away in 2000, she and her mother have run the family domain in a magnificent way. (Read about another wine here, also with an introduction.)
Today she manages the 5-hectare domain from her cellar in the heart of Pommard. And the grapes for this week’s wine are sourced from plots in that commune. We enjoyed the wine at “the wine office”, Vinkontoret, in Stavanger, Norway.
Like for all her reds she has here used 100% whole clusters and matured the wine in mainly 400 liters and mostly used and partly some new barrels.
Pommard 2016(Fanny Sabre)
Light cherry red. Aroma of red (cherry) and dark berries, touch underwood. Juicy in the mouth with fine-grained tannins, concentration in flavours, good acidity and length. Very delicate. Will keep.
The Lorentz family property is located in Ribeauvillé, Alsace. Georg Lorentz, sixth generation, is currently in charge – while his youngest daughter is studying to be a winemaker. The property has 33 hectares of eco-certified vineyards in the commune Bergheim (that lies within the Colmar-Ribeauvillé arondissement), among them two grand crus.
This wine is made from 54% sylvaner, 40% gewürtztraminer and 6% pinot gris. Hand-picked grapes are spontaneously fermented with skin contact. The wine is matured in steel tank. Unfiltered, without added sulphur.
Qui l’Eût Cru 2021(Gustave Lorentz)
Orange, somewhat turbid. Nose of flowers (rose petals), mandarin, acacia honey and almonds. It has an energetic acidity, quite full in the mouth, balanced, and good length. Very vital.
Here is the second part of the report from this year’s Vella Terra. We leave Spain, crosses over to Portugal, then from France and to the east, then to the north of Europe.
Fernando Paiva came with his grandson João Goucha, who studies enology in Vila Real. Fernando’s estate Quinta da Palmirinha is in Lixa, south in the Vinho Verde. He is a pioneer in biodynamic farming in Portugal, uses chamomile flowers to avoid the use of sulphur in his natural wines – and is well covered in this blog. (Read about a visit to the estate here.) His Azal and Loureiro varitals were typical and up to standard. Leviano was made for the first time in 2020, that I tasted in Porto last summer. It’s a loureiro, now in the 2021 vintage, made with 3 months skin-contact. This makes it an orange wine, or “curtimento” in Portugal. Golden to orange; aroma of ginger and flowers; full in the mouth with some structure, and a super, integrated acidity.
João Tavares da Pina is found in Penalva do Castelo in Dão. (Read here about a visit to his estate.) The family’s Quinta da Boavista dates back to 1650 and is found at an altitude of 550 meters on deep granite, quartz, clay and shale soils. These vineyards are ideal for grapes like touriga nacional, alfrocheiro and rufete. And not least for the variety jaén (mencía), a speciality of the quinta.
I love his series Rufia (meaning punk), young, fresh wines. Among those tasted this time, why not mention the Rosé 2020, from rufete, touriga and jaen. Salmon-coloured, with raspberry and wild berries, rounded with a very careful tannin. Very interesting was his Tretas 2020, a jaen and touriga nacional. It was macerated on the skins for 4 days and kept in inox for 6 months before bottling (unfiltered, unfined). Tretas means bullshit in local slang. The wine is serious fun: A quaffable glou-glou, but with depth; cherry red, ripe red fruits and with some structure.
I hadn’t met Rodrigo Melo before, but I understand that this is a producer to watch. Rodrigo is from Brazil, but worked for many years in natural wine distribution in London. In 2018 he started his own project and came to Portugal, where he already knew its terroirs and grapes. He bought 4 hectares of land with 30-year-old vines with organic certification in northern Lisboa, that is Quinta da Ermegeira. He also works with biodynamic techniques, and the winemaking is with very low intervention.
Rodrigo showed interesting samples under the label Selva. Noiva 2021 was a different chardonnay, with botrytis and with some residual sugar. Here we chose Cristovan 2020. It is an orange wine (in Portuguese curtimenta) made from arinto, in a cement tank of 1.700 liters. The colour is light orange after 10 days fermentation on skins, the fruit is lovely and the acidity is refreshing. Only 11% alcohol.
Domaine Balansa is a 15-hectare estate in Corbières, established in 2015. This family project has an organic approach to farming and also runs tourism activities in the most sustainable way possible. I tasted the whole portfolio, various styles from southern French grapes. This time we could maybe focus on one of the more “serious” wines, Can del Rey 2020 from Fitou. It’s made from carignan and grenache, from 100 year old vines on hillsides, made with some carbonic maceration and matured some months in oak. It’s dark in colour, with youngish blue; aroma of wild berries, some balsamic, and slight hint of toffee too; good weight, fine tannins and with a balancing acidity.
The Les Vins Pirouettes label covers seventeen independent Alsatian winegrowers committed to organic and biodynamic farming. Each viticulturist grows the grapes on his own land and makes the wine in his own cellar. It’s an initiative by Christian Binner, and the idea was to give the growers a helping hand so that they didn’t need to sell their grapes to cooperatives.
Many times I have been impressed by the energy and creativity behind the wines and the dedication behind the labels. In spite of this, it can be (for me) many new wines each time. As a general rule, we can say that they are affordable natural wines.
Among the most rewarding wines this time was Saveurs 2018 from producer Rafaël, a fruity, citrussy and juicy silvaner (this label also covers a blend). More slender, but equally energetic was David‘s Riesling Glou-Glous 2018, a fresh appley, citrussy wine. There was also a delicious orange gewürztraminer from Franck, L’Étalon 2019. After 10 days of skin-contact it was only light orange, with apples, pears and a (pleasant) vinegary bitterness towards the end.
Foradori of Trentino has been covered many times on this blog, so feel free to search for it all. (Here is a recent post.) Elisabetta Foradori. Earlier I have met her sons, but this was the first time that I have met the beautiful Elisabetta Foradori herself. At a young age she did remarkable work in cultivating organically, later implementing biodynamic methods, and caring for the native varieties of her area, especially the near-extinct teroldego.
I didn’t taste many wines this time, only some whites, like the all-time favourite Nosiola. I also got the chance to be reminded how good was the Fuoripista Pinot Grigio, now in its 2016 vintage. Grown in sandy limestone, it’s fermented 8 months on skins and further aged in Spanish tinajas (amphoras) for 5 month. It has a reddish hue, is flowery with red berries and herbs, and has a concentrated yet smooth appearance in the mouth.
About Carussin of Piemonte I could say the reverse (than Foradori), earlier I have only met the mother Bruna Ferro Carussin. This time I got the opportunity to greet her son Luca Carussin Garberoglio. It’s a winery that I know well from the Norwegian market, and their economic barbera Asinoi has been a house wine in my house for a long time now. Here I tasted a few wines, among them Tra L’Altro 2020, an inspiring, flowery, dry moscato/cortese. Lia Ví 2017, is a superb wine, a single parcel barbera harvested later than others. It’s made from a 35-year-old vineyard planted by Luca’s grandfather, on the sandy soil just in front of the winery. It’s a concentrated wine that shows that barbera also can do with some structure. Elegant aroma, cool fruits (cherry), herbs and flowers, and a concentrate taste with fine tannins and lovely integrated acidity. And it’s not expensive.
Over to Argentina: Stella Crinita is the natural wine project of Joana Foster and Ernesto Catena in Vista Flores de Tunuyán, Valle de Uco. The Catena family is indeed an important one in the history of Argentine wine, having been responsible for bringing the malbec variety to America, as the story goes.
All fermentations are spontaneous, no SO2 added at any stage, nothing fined nor filtered. These are some keywords. The vineyard has been biodynamic certified since 2012. The soils are sandy and clayey and located at 1,100 meters above sea level.
I tasted interesting pét nats and reds from a.o. malbec, syrah, cabernet sauvignon, and a varietal barbera. Petit verdot can be one-dimensional and dull. Their Petit Verdot 2020 was not. On the contrary this single-vineyard biodynamic wine was a linear, long and quite elegant wine from this somewhat difficult grape. Cherry red, plums and blackberries with spice (nutmeg), fine tannins, fresh fruit (cherry) and also a touch of wood and leathertones.
It was also here I had to travel to meet Martin Bech-Ravn, a Danish cider producer, home brewer and artist based in Ekeberg, a neighbourhood in Oslo, Norway. This is a wine blog visiting a wine fair. But when Bech-Ravn in Solhøi Cider talks, then the analogue to wine is striking. For example, he uses one variety of apples to give fullness, another to give acidity. He operates naturally, without additives. He makes Floating Sunshine, Flytende Solskinn2020, a dry, fresh, flowery, lightly spicy cider bottled unfiltered – in Oslo.
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.
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 Llorens‘ Ancestral de la Cristina and Oriol Artigas‘ El 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.
A short note this time. Domaine Henri Milan was created in 1956. When Henri took over in 1984 there had been used excessive chemical treatments for many years, and he saw on other solution than to change into organic farming. In recent years the domaine has released one magnificent wine after another.
This wine is a typical fresh, young one, can we say somewhat Beaujolais inspired. 100% mourvèdre grapes were fermented in two separate tanks. One underwent carbonic maceration, while the other had a more traditional treatment. Then the two were blended before bottling. Mourvèdre typically accounts for heavyweight, robust wines. In this case it’s 12% alcohol (the previous vintage was 11), fresh and easy.
Nouveau Mourvèdre 2021(H. Milan)
Cherry red, blueish hue. Smells of red berries (raspberry), herbs and black pepper. Simple and juicy, yet with a soft touch of tannin, a touch of “carbonic”, and an energetic acidity.
Beaujolais is back. The local people brings it back on the squares of central Beaujolais after two pandemic years. And as usual, from the third Thursday of November it’s arrivé here for us to enjoy.
One of the best I have tasted this year is a Beaujolais-Villages from Château du Chatelard. The château was first owned by the Tournus abbey of south Burgundy in the 12th century. Today the labels carry emblems of the families that have developed it further.
The actual 28 hectares were mainly established before 1955. They believe in integrated farming and grass cover of the parcels to preserve the soils and the biodiversity.
Aurélie de Vermont is now manager, and as winemaker she sticks to local traditions. She selects micro-cuvées from the many terroirs of both their Beaujolais and Mâconnais vineyards.
Typical for the area, low temperature semi-carbonic maceration is used for the nouveau. This means that whole and partial bunches of grapes are vatted and the alcoholic fermentation starts inside each grape. The low temperature allows a longer winemaking process (more than 10 days).
Baronne du Chatelard Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau 2021 (Château du Chatelard)
Deep purple, young. Aroma of sweet cherries, raspberries. Nice acidity, clean fruit, elegant and careful tannin