Garnacha was once the main variety in the historic vineyards of the lower Rioja. This wine is a nod to this tradition. We are in the northern slopes of the Sierra de Yerga. Javier Arizcuren here works with some of the few old vineyards, in the Gobelet conduction system.
The wine seeks to be an expression of the both the variety and of the place where it grows, therefore no foreign products are used in the process (except a small amount of sulfur). The wood is used exclusively for thewine stabilization process, without being excessively marked.
The grapes were manually harvested, with grape selection in the field. De-stemming. Alcoholic fermentation with wild yeasts at around 25ºC. Daily stirring and pumping over, then only stirring. Malolactic fermentation in steel. 8 months in 225-litre American oak barrels (6th year) and an additional 2 months in new French oak barrels.Total SO2 is 50 mg/litre.
Solo Garnacha 2016(Javier Arizcuren)
Dark cherry red. Youthful aroma of blackberry and cherry, a touch of coffee and sweet spice. Full in the mouth, rich with good weight and concentration, fine tannins, balanced acidity. Still young, and will improve.
Carlos Sánchez has a background from Sierra de Gredos (4 Monos). But he had early on fallen in love with the Sonsierra area of Rioja. And here he is. Since 2019 he has used the facilities of the former cooperative in Labastida.
This is a wine from a single plot (0,3 ha.) in San Vicente de la Sonsierra, on 100% garnacha. It’s spontaneously fermented with a high percentage of whole bunches, and kept in large oak barrels. Not clarified nor filtered. A modest production of 1.700 bottles.
Buradón Las Plegarias 2020(Carlos Sánchez)
Cherry red. Good ripe fruit, red plums, cherry, some strawberry, and a layer of dried herbs and lavender. Good volume, soft and fleshy, fine tannins, integrated acidity. It’s rooted in its landscape, yet has a noble air to it. Really good.
Last evening in Madrid: I haven’t been to the Asturianos restaurant since many years, when I had a tasting of Gredos wines with Belarmino Fernández. Belarmino’s family runs this restaurant in the Chamberí neighbourhood, and he is also in charge of Bodegas Canopy in Méntrida (Toledo province, at the foot of the Gredos mountains) together with his friend Alfonso Chacón.
I had celebrated and good wines like Esporão Reserva Branco 2021 (Alentejo) and Predicador 2020 (B. Romeo, Rioja), of which the restaurant is a distributor, and also Canopy’s varietal syrah Malpaso 2021. Still, when sommelier José Antonio offered me a tasting of their garnachas, this was unquestionably the highlight of the evening.
Belarfonso is put together from the names of the two owners of the bodega. The wine’s origin is in El Real de San Vicente where old garnacha grows in granite soil. It underwent a pre-fermentative cold fermentation, before a malalactic in oak, and spent a short time in French barrels of 500 and 700 liters.
Castillo de Belarfonso 2019(Bodegas Canopy)
Garnet red. Cherry, herbs, scrubland and a typical ethereal note. Fresh in the mouth, well-integrated tannins, some earth and a hint of coffee and black pepper.
Dominio del Águila, in the village La Aguilera, was founded in 2010 by Jorge Monzón and Isabel Rodero. Here, in the Burgos part of Ribera del Duero, they cultivate 30 hectares of vineyards, all organically.
Pícaro del Águila is made with vines between 35-60 years old, on sandy-clay soil, 900 metres above sea level in a north-facing vineyard. The main variety here is tempranillo with some albillo, bobal and garnacha. These varieties are co-fermented whole bunches in concrete lagares and aged in French oak. This is a nod to the past; a wine made with a blend, with a good balance between the fruit and wood and a vibrant acidity.
Pícaro del Águila 2020 (Dominio del Águila)
Ruby red. Expressive aroma of dark and red berries (blackberry, cherry), autumn leaves and spices. It’s in a way powerful, but the tannins are soft and rounded,, there are ripe fruits, and a fresh lingering acidity.
4 Monos are four friends who all had fallen in love with the garnachas and the freshness of the Sierra de Gredos mountain range. Javier García and Laura Robles are a married couple, and their friends David Velasco and David Moreno are the two other monkeys.
We are in the town and the Madrid subzone of San Martín de Valdeiglesias. Here is a high proportion of clay in the soils. The wine is made with garnacha from three different plots at 750 to 840 meters of altitude. In short, it’s made with whole bunches, fermentation with native yeasts and maturation in barrels for 15 months.
Tierra de Luna 2017(4 Monos)
Ruby red. Aroma of mature red fruits (raspberry), herbs (rosemary), earthy notes and a tiny sweet sensation (caramel). Medium-bodied with fine tannins, a taste of ripe cherries, good acidity.
La Bruja de Rozas is Comando G’s entry level wine. It’s a village wine from several plots around Rozas de Puerto Real, in the western part of Madrid province. The vineyards are located around 850-900 meters above sea level, and the vines are 50-80 years old. Cultivation is organical and according to biodynamic principles. The grapes are spontaneously fermented with a large proportion of whole clusters in open vessels. Long and gentle maceration for 30-40 days. Maturation partly in large foudres of 3-6,000 litres, used 500-litre barrels and a small proportion in concrete. Unfined and unfiltered.
La Bruja de Rozas 2020(Comando G)
Ruby red. Aromatic with mature red fruits (raspberry), flowers, spices (cinnamon), smoke and a mineral layer behind. Energetic, with young tannins, fresh acidity. It’s in a way juicy and concentrated at the same time.
At home after two lovely days in Sierra de Gredos I was inspired to extend the trip a little. So I fetched a wine from the cellar. I had a couple of other quite recent vintages. But I chose the current, 2020, to be able to refill.
Daniel Jiménez-Landi is part of the dynamic duo Comando G. But his family has deep roots in the Toledo province, and this wine is from there, within the Méntrida denomination to be more exact.
Las Uvas de la Ira, meaning The Grapes of Wrath, is a village wine made from old-vine garnacha in four different vineyards high up in El Real de San Vicente, Gredos.
Uvas de la Ira 2020 (D. Jiménez-Landi)
Ruby red, blueish hint. Red fruits (raspberry, strawberry), flowers, a layer of smoke and stone minerality. It’s youthful and a bit fleshy in the mouth, with young tannins and a fresh acidity. It’s quite concentrated, at the same time it has an ethereal quality typical of Gredos garnachas.
I am in Murcia for the holiday season. I have bought a wine cupboard and filled it with a collection of wines delivered from the national chain Vinissimus. This year I bought only one local wine (and it was the same as last year, see here). But from over in La Mancha, not far away in Manchuela, I have three wines from the same producer.
Juan Antonio Ponce works biodynamically in the vineyard, and in the winery he takes a natural approach, using low levels of sulfur dioxide. The bunches are chilled and fermented without de-stemming. Freshness is another priority when working with bobal, with harvests before most of the neighbours to avoid ripe or stewed sensations.
Clos Lojen is 100% bobal from vineyards on limestone-clay soil at 800 meters. It had a short maceration and aging for 3-4 months in used French oak barrels. Buena Pinta is not a bobal. Moravia agria, a native grape from Castilla-La Mancha, accounts for 90%, and the rest is garnacha. Moravia is noted for its acidity and blends well with garnacha. It’s aged for 7 months in used 600-liter French oak barrels and bottled without filtering or clarifying. Pie Franco was maybe the first wine I tried from Juan Antonio, and immediately put him on the throne as the King of Bobal. One can wonder how wines tasted before phylloxera. Without going into further discussion I can only say that there is a timeless air over this wine, fruit of old vines bobal planted in sandy soils where phylloxera did not enter. For me a doubtless classic.
Clos Lojén 2021: Cherry red. Fresh and fruit-driven aroma of cherry and blackberry, herbs and a peppery note. Juicy in the mouth with fine tannins wrapped in fruit, and with fresh acidity. Youthful and serious.
Buena Pinta 2021: Bright ruby red. Perfumed and complex aroma with cherries, plums, flowers, herbs, and balsamic hints. On the palate it is very fresh and vivid, with evident tannins, and a slightly bitter aftertaste. Fascinating, between fragility and strength.
Pie Franco 2021: This is a more powerful wine. Dark cherry red. Aromatic, with black fruits, scrubland and also balsamic notes (eucalyptus) Structured, with mature tannins and mineral notes. A timeless classic.
Here is my second article from this year’s Simplesmente fair, where I present updates from producers that I already knew well. I tasted everything they offered, but I will try to restrict myself to presenting only a few wines.
(Read the first article from this year’s fair here, about some re-discoveries of wineries I knew a little.)
Antonio Portela from the Morrazo península, Galicia, Spain was a special guest this year. Chance had it that I started my tasting experience by his barrel. The occasion is a sad one, he is not able to continue his work for economic reasons. That means, if not anything unexpected happens we will not be able to taste his wonderful, fresh, saline wines anymore. Antonio has other activities to fall back on, such as writing and teaching, so he refuses to call the situation dramatic. Okay, but to call it a pity is to put it in a very careful way. The white (Mar do) Namorado he offered in the 2020 and 2018 vintages. It is a 85% loureiro, the rest albariño, espadeiro a.o., grown in sand on the beach. The 2020 had a light colour; aroma of citrus, flowers and yellow fruits; wonderful acidity and concentration, long with a salty aftertaste. The 2018, in comparison, had a honeyed edge, but still with plenty of acidity and concentration. The red tinta femia Namorado 2019 was light with red fruits (raspberry), a touch anise, and with a saline finish. The Namorado Berobreo 2019 was in the same line, light in colour and with a super acidity. This one was made with whole bunches.
Miguel Alfonso’s family has produced wine for generations in Val do Umia, in the Salnés part of Galicia. The current winery, Adega Pedralonga, was founded in 1997 by Miguel’s father Francisco, and biodynamic practises were implemented ten years later. Miguel says that the work is professionalized, but it follows the philosophy of the ancestors. This means they plough only when necessary, Also in the cellar they do as little as possible. Albariño is not de-stemmed, only natural yeasts are employed, malolactic fermentation is not blocked and all wines get an extended ageing on lees. The Pedralonga vineyards sit on granite soils and are influenced by an Atlantic climate, which very much shows in the wines.
Pedralonga 2021 is a classic, with its fresh aromas of citrus and flowers, wonderful texture, steely acidity, salt and a flinty mineral finish. One of the great whites of the fair. The same can be said of their Carolina 2021, made from caíño blanco, with a greenish hint, quince and herbs, unctuous with a grapefruity aftertaste. Tinto de Umia 2019 is light red with a bit of evolution, red fruits, a touch of smoke and a lovely acidity and a saline finish.
Alfredo Maestro operates in both his native Peñafiel (Ribera del Duero) and in Sierra de Gredos. Since 1998 he has vinifyed each plot according to its peculiarities, with native yeasts and without chemical products. The artisan practise continues in the cellar, where no machines are used. Wait a minute: Few machines are used. But I have seen on YouTube that Alfredo experiments with drones to do various work in the vineyard. A machine yes, but this is also to minimize the use of that sort.
Rey del Glam 2021 is an elegant example of the carbonic maceration garnacha. A mix from both Ribera and Gredos, it shows fragrant red fruits with licorice; juicy in the mouth, also with some structure. Almate 2021 Is an un-oaked Ribera: Dark cherry; red and wild fruits (cherry, blackberry); full-flavoured, yet with fine tannins. The skin-contact albillo mayor Lovamor 2021 and the partly flor-aged albillo mayor Consuelo 2020 delivered as usual. So did the speciality La Cosa / The Thing 2020, a sweet moscatel de alejandría. It’s interesting that someone makes a Cigales these days. Alfredo has an interesting garnacha gris called La Badi 2021, made with three days skin-contact. Therefore it achieves a light red colour with greyish hints (“ceniza y cigarro”, ash and cigar, Alfredo calls it). It’s a juicy glou-glou, truely fascinating. I have a crush on Rosado Clásico deValladolid, now in its 2019 vintage. It’s in fact a clarete (in Spain made of red and white grapes, the same as a Portuguese palhete). It’s made with direct press, half in botas de Jerez, half in chestnut. The colour is pale red with an orange tinge, aromas of red berries (raspberry, plum), dried fruit and leather; the acidity and the alcohol (13,5) are integrated, while the tannins, fine-grained though, struggles to see if they can break out.
I visited Casa de Mouraz after 2017, the hot year with the devastating fires. (Read about the visit here.) They make fresh and inspiring Vinho Verde wines under António Lopes Ribeiro’s initials, alr. Here I choose a few Dão wines. Casa de Mouraz Encruzado 2020 is a perfumed varietal, with the extrovert fruit that the grape can offer, wonderfully balanced. Casa de Mouraz Palhete 2021, a field-blend of 80% red grapes, the rest whites, was light in colour, with concentrated raspberry and strawberry notes, an intense flavour and balanced acidity. Elfa 2017 made from 95 year old vines, with 30 different grape varieties co-planted. Worth mentioning is that there is no touriga nacional (not normal in Portugal, especially when there are that many varieties employed) and no oak. A red fruits- (cherry, raspberry) fruity wine with an underlying pine character; it has a fine structure and good balance. António also presented three wines without DOC, under the umbrella Planet Mouraz. The fact that they come without a DOC would most often mean that they are unfiltered. I tasted two vintages of the white Bolinha, namely 2021 and 2017. This is also a field-blend, fermented in stone lagar and stayed with skins for one week. The 2021 was clearly unfiltered; light golden, turbid; with an intense aroma of yellow fruits and herbs; grapey and full. The 2017 had a bit more colour; intense, with apricot and honey; quite big and full-flavoured, long and balanced. Bolinha is the name of the dog on the label, by the way.
It’s always a pleasure to meet José Perdigão, architect and vinegrower of Silgueiros, Dão, and taste his wines with labels by his wife Vanessa. A long-time favourite among his wines is the Quinta do Perdigão Rosé, now in its 2021 edition. It’s a rosé with some colour (José can maybe “arrest” me, but I would say somewhat less colour than before). It’s a full-flavoured rosé with aromas of raspberry and currant, and fresh acidity. Another classic from the house is the Alfrocheiro 2013: Dark cherry red with dark fruit aromas (blackberry, blueberry), pine; structured in the mouth, elegant, and very much alive after almost ten years. One that I don’t remember to have tasted is Noël 2015 (named after his youngest son). This is another wine that has kept well: Dark cherry; ripe red fruits (cherry, prunes); smooth, full of flavours. Still potential for ageing.
Lastly a trio from the Lisboa region. André Gomes Pereira and his Quinta do Montalto are actually found in the municipality of Ourém, in the Santarém district. But the wines are launched under neighbouring Lisboa’s regional.wines, if not DOC Encostas d’Aire (Medieval de Ourém). Pioneers in Portugal, since 1997, all crops at Quinta do Montalto are organic.
His medieval wine, a red and white blend, must be mentioned. This year I was in a hurry and skipped it though. I tasted his amphora wines for the first time. The vessels are made locally. Originally the manufacturer used epoxy. André said that this is “cheating” and against tradition. He said to André, why don’t you do it yourself? Then, as a statement, André decided that he would himself coat the amphoras with resin. Ánfora de Baco 2021 white is a varietal fernão pires, made 30% with skins and 3 months ageing with skins and on lees. Golden colour; flowers, resin and yellow fruits; full on the palate, fresh and Atlantic. The red equivalent with the same name is made from equal quantities trincadeira and aragonêz. Garnet red; red fruits (cherry), stonefruit (plums); super acidity and salinity. Cluricun Skin 2021 from grape varieties siria and fernão pires, 3 months on skins, was a peculiar wine. Pale amber colour; aroma of clementine and nuts; medium-bodied, with a light tannic grip.
Pedro Marques of Vale da Capucha (Turcifal, Torres Vedras) is a top producer, right there up with the very best. I could have mentioned all his wines. I will not, but I can say that they are focused, elegant and shaped by the terroir. The vineyards are planted on kimmeridgian limestone with clay. The white Fossil 2017 sums it all up. The name tells the story of a winery only 8 kilometers from the coast, in earlier times under water. Fossil has a light golden colour; aroma of citrus, white flowers, wax, chalk; a mineral taste, quite full and with a super integrated acidity. A lovely wine at a very nice price. Vale da Capucha Arinto 2019 is for me a star among his varietal wines. It’s light yellow; concentrated aromas of citrus (lemon and peel), yellow pepper, chalk; medium full in the mouth, mineral, with a lovely integrated acidity. Vale da Capucha Palhete 2019 is a blend of the white arinto and the red castelinho, made by “inking” a white wine with the red castelinho, then co-fermented in steel before bottling. Light red; red fruits (raspberry), salt; juicy, carefully structured.
Baías e Enseadas is located in Codiceira, Colares country, west of Lisboa capital. They have a more mature style. Daniel Afonso says, “I want to extract all I can from the skins”. The white Fernão Pires 2020 had stayed 6 months in barrel, with a lot of batonnage. -I always have acidity, says Daniel, now I want to work on the creaminess. And yes, a creamy texture together with a good acidity was achieved here. The Escolha Pessoal 2020 could be found along the same path, though a bit more concentrated and also elegant. Castelão 2020 showed mature fruits, alongside flowers and a hint licorice; juicy and quite complex, and a fruity finish.
This was one of the rioja wines that stood out in a local wine club tasting. It’s made by Bordeaux-born Olivier Rivière, who took a job in Rioja in 2004, after having studied enology in Montagne Saint-Émilion and worked briefly for several wineries. Among them were Domaine Leroy in Vosne-Romanée, where he learnt about their biodynamic methods. He decided to stay in Rioja and began looking for specific vineyards grown organically, with the goal to buy grapes and make his own wine.
Ganko is a 50/50 blend of mazuelo and garnacha The grapes are grown in the village of Cárdenas in the Alto Najerilla. Here in 600 meters altitude the old vines grow on sandy soils. It’s a rugged zone with only small plots. The wine is fermented with whole bunches in a 3.000-liter oak foudre and matured in used barrels.
Perhaps you wonder what the word ganko means? It’s Japanese for stubborn, a nickname given to Olivier by a Japanese importer. Olivier liked it and gave the name to this wine.
Ganko 2018(Olivier Rivière)
Dark cherry red. Aroma of wild berries (blackberry), flowers and herbs (thyme). Fine-grained tannins, a cool, fresh acidity and a long and dry finish. Complex and elegant.