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Tag: France

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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Wine of the Week

Milan scores again

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.

Price: Medium

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Beaujolais is back

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 Vermont

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

Price: Medium-low

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SorGaahl of La Sorga

La Sorga is something of a superstar on the natural wine stage. It was started in 2008 by Antony Tortul, now accompanied by his wife and by David Adell. They work as a kind of négociants, as the grapes are bought in. There are more or less 50.000 bottles produced per year. There is no shortage of creativity, so 30-40 different labels are created every year.

All grapes come from organic or biodynamic vineyards. La Sorga wines are always “zero zero”.

They work in different regions around Béziers, in the Languedoc. The climate is warm and maritime, close to the Mediterranean, so the grapes are often harvested early to maintain freshness. The soils are lime, clay and slate.

For this wine -from Corbières and Cabrerolles- cinsault 40 years old are used in 60%, the rest more than a hundred years old carignan. The grapes were picked by hand and underwent maceration carbonic for 60 days. Then followed 12 months in amphorae and bottling, clearly, without filtration or SO2.

SorGaahl 2019 (La Sorga)
Dark red with blue hue, somewhat turbid. Clear-cut aromas of blueberry, cherries and a spicy component. Luscious, juicy, but also concentrated, with a dry finish.

Price: Medium

Food: Rich vegetable dishes, light and tasty meat (chicken, lamb, pig), pizza and pasta…

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A virtuoso Alsace Pirouette

Les Vins Pirouettes is an open Alsace project consisting of independent wine producers, always growing in number, and led by the respected Christian Binner. Their vineyards are organic or biodynamic certified, and cover many different soils and expositions in 13 different villages. Other than that then have their own personality and style.

Annual production is around 80,000 bottles. There is always spontaneous fermentation, no fining, no filtration, and no sulphur added.

The name Pirouette symbolizes the playfulness and fun they’re all having with this movement, but also the mastery needed to achieve a good result in this type of winemaking.

Each cuvée is vinified at the winemaker’s own place, with the gentle helping hand of the project’s enologists Xavier Couturier and Pierre Sanchez. So the individuality should always be intact.

Ensaladilla rusa the day after

The wine in question is a sylvaner from Ammerschwihr, from a vineyard planted in 1978-1983 on limestone, clay and pebbles. The grapes were picked and selected by hand, and the yield turned out to be 20 hl/ha.
Spontaneously fermented, matured in large, old oak vessels. Unfined and unfiltered. Certified oganic, with biodynamic principles.

Le Sylvaner d’Olivier 2016 (Les Vins Pirouettes)

Light golden. Aromatic with white flowers and elderberry, and some herbs. Medium weight, and very refreshing acidity.

Price: Medium

Food: Fish, vegetables, light meat…

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Wine bars and restaurants and Wine of the Week

Deliric delights at Lapin, Stavanger

The domaine No Control is based in Volvic, a small town in the Puy-de-Dôme département of Auvergne. Winemaker Vincent Marie is committed to natural wine, and with great passion he tries to get the best out of each of their single plots.

Vincent Marie (cred: No Control)

Gamay is perfect to express these volcanic soils, in Vincent’s opinion. And completely without artificial help to change flavour the wines show a great diversity. (Other than the gamay cuvées some pinot noir, syrah and chardonnay is also used.

The cuvées are named after music pieces. As for this one it is taken from rock band Bad Religion’s Delirium of disorder. No Control is by the way another song from the same band, and the same period (late 80’s). The wine is made with partly carbonic maceration, some matured in fiberglass, some in big, old oak vats. No additions.

Claes Helbak, one of the people behind Söl restaurant and here: Lapin wine bar

We tasted it during the opening weekend of the new Stavanger wine bar. Lapin is run by the people behind restaurant Söl (see several places around this blog, f.ex. here or here, from their takeover in London). It’s located in am old eastern working class district that now bustles with energy. The bar has wooden benches and some chairs. At this point it looked somewhat temporary. But it has a knowledgeable staff and all the potential to become a great place for sipping natural wine.

Délire du Désordre 2019 (No Control)

Dark cherry red. Aroma of red berries (cherry), a bit earthy. In the mouth, high intensity in fruit flavours, juicy, a bit tannin and natural acidity. It’s a simple and fun wine.

Price: Medium

Food: We had it with charcuterie, with which it was perfect, but should go with many types of light meat, young and hard cheese…

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A solid slice from the south

This wine was part of the wine menu at the vegan restaurant Bellies of Stavanger, Norway. (Read a little more about this unique restaurant here, if you like.)

Une Tranche Sudiste could translate a southern slice, or something like that, and a good slice it is. Philippe Jambon makes the wine in collaboration with producer Denis Tardieu, by using his grapes, from vineyards located in Vaison-la-Romaine (Rhône, south of France). The grapes are 85% syrah and 15% grenache, not uncommon in that area, spontaneously fermentated in steel with semi-carbonic maceration, with some whole-cluster and stems.The ageing is carried out in concrete tanks for a year and bottled with a tiny amount of sulphites.

Philippe and Catherine Jambon started their domaine in Chasselas, northern Beaujolais, in 1997. Their focus has always been eco-friendly activity, and as little additions as possible, with only the exact time in barrel that’s needed.

Their vineyards were hit by terrible hailstorms in two consecutive years, resulting in a great loss. But it also give birth to the idea of working with other vignerons to make wind in his preferred style.

Une Tranche Sudiste 2018 (Ph. Jambon)

Dark young red. Red fruit (cherries, plums), but also some darker (blackberries), with a touch of leather and spice. Evident but rounded tannins in a long aftertaste where also fruit and spice comes through.

Price: Medium

Food: At the vegan restaurant we had it with fried cauliflower with shitake mushrooms, hazelnuts and a truffle sauce, but it will tackle many meat dishes too.

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Mlle. M from Mr. Bain

This part of the Loire is infamous for its use of added yeast to “secure typicity” of grape and place. Alexandre was Bain (along with friend and neighbour across the river in Sancerre) is different, as he lets the grape, here sauvignon blanc, do the job.

He runs an estate of 11 hectares, where he uses natural methods to work the land. As we mentioned, without added yeast, also without chaptalization, or filtration – and with the help of the lunar calendar. This cuvée comes from the type of limestone called Kimméridgien.

Mademoiselle M 2015 (A. Bain)

Golden colour, clear. Concentrated, rich, mature yellow fruits, hint of pineapple, beeswax and honey. Full in the mouth, good integrated acidity, very long.

Price: Medium

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Chickens in Christmas costumes

Here is an old favourite, dressed up in Christmas costume. The southern French classic La Vieille Fermé is made by the famous wine family Perrin, which stands behind some of the South Rhône’s finest wines, among them the great châteauneuf-du-pape wines from Château de Beaucastel.

The Christmas label was designed especially for the Norwegian market by designer Kaja Vedvik, but the Perrin family liked it so much that they also want it to use it in other markets.

The wine originates in vineyards situated in the sunny Ventoux hillsides southeast of the Rhône on the border to Provence. While grenache makes up the main part, grapes like syrah and cinsault give extra spice. In addition, there is ripe fruit that makes it cope with tasty food.

La Vieille Fermé 2019 (Fam. Perrin)

Young red. Fresh, cool aroma with ripe elements (dark cherry, blueberry, blackberry); lickorice, provençal herbs and a hint of marzipan. Round and fresh in the mouth, with light tannin, herbs, and with berry fruit all the way.

Price: Low

Food: Christmas turkey, other light meat, coq au vin, salads, rice dishes and much more.

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Beaujolais Nouveau rosé

Yesterday was the traditional Beaujolais Thursday. One of the most interesting wines this time was this rosé, if not for the very reason that it is just that – rosé – a style that what was recognized in 1937, but only the last few years has become popular.

The Romy family has been in wine for more than 300 years. village of Morancé, in Pierres -Dorées, southern Beaujolais. Nowadays Nicolas Romy of the family is their dynamic winemaker.

Le Mouflet 2020 (Dom. Romy)

Light salmon pink colour. Aroma of raspberries, roses and a touch of peach. Delicate, fruity, with good acidity.

Price: Low

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