The red Drago has become my go-to Valpolicella. Last time it was featured here was in this article, where you also get some background.
It originates on the Monte del Drago hill, with a total vineyard area of 8 hectares. The grapes are organically cultivated, and biodynamic techniques are also employed. Corvina accounts for 60%, the rest is corvinone, rondinella and barbera. It has rested 12 months in French oak, which is barely noticeable.
Drago Valpolicella Superiore 2018 (Musella)
Dark red. Aroma of dark and red berries (cherry), some herbs. Lucious, tasty and with an adequate acidity.
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.
I have recently had two opportunities to taste Foradori’s range. The first was at restaurant Smalhans of Oslo, with Theo Foradori and their Norwegian importer Non Dos in mid-March. Then at Barcelona’s Vella Terra fair in the beginning of April (look for a forthcoming article), when I for the first time met Theo’s mother, the beautiful Elisabetta.
Foradori makes some magnificent white wines at the foot of the Dolomites mountains. (Read about one of them here.) But they also do a terrific job with their reds. Not least is it interesting to go through the many faces of the grape teroldego. Elisabetta is like a queen of teroldego; when she took over the winery at a young age she brought in new and better clones, switched to biodynamics, replaced barrels with clay vessels and botti and elevated the grape to a level yet unseen.
The grape grows only in Trentino, and thrives best in Campo Rotaliano, where Foradori have all their vineyards. They make two single-plot wines, Morei and Sgarzon, with exactly the same vinification. The wines demonstrate how different teroldego can be in different soils.
Here we shall speak about maybe the producer’s most simple red. It is as well made as all the others. I mean simple as in light, delicious, easy to drink; and I never miss an opportunity to taste – and drink it. Lezèr is a light red, almost rosé wine that comes from various light macerations in amphora, wood, steel and cement, and then aged four months in concrete vats. It started out in vineyards some 30 years old.
Lezèr means in local dialect. Some claim that the name teroldego comes from “oro del Tirolo” – in other words “the gold from Tyrol”.
Light ruby with blueish hint. Red berries (raspberry), plums, flowers. Luscious in the mouth, fine-grained tannins, integrated acidity.
Here is a wine from a tasting in my local wine club, that showcased grapes from southern Italy. (See an entry from Campania here.)
Antonino Caravaglio is located at the foot of the Monte dei Porri volcano on the island of Salina, off the north coast of Sicily. Here the vineyards stretch from 10 to 650 meters above sea level, mainly malvasia. In total the firm comprises about 20 hectares, divided into many parcels, some of which are on the other islands of the Aeolian archipelago.
For centuries, the economically most important products here were wine and capers. And Nino makes not only wine, but also what literature claims to be the world’s best capers.
This wine is made from malvasia di lipari grapes, relatively young vines (10-20 years) organically grown on volcanic sand and rock in a vineyard called Tricoli, that means triangle in Aeolian dialect. The vineyard is located on the northern side of the island of Salina, facing north-west and overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The grapes were hand-harvested and sorted in the fields, pressed in whole bunches and fermented with indigenous yeasts in steel, then aged in tanks on lees for three months. Low sulphur.
Infatata 2019(Az. Agr. Caravaglio)
Light straw yellow. Aromas of litchis and jasmine over a layer of herbs (thyme). Glyceric in the mouth, integrated acidity, a touch of grapefruit and a saline finish. Clean and stylish.
Last Monday’s tasting in my private wine club was dedicated to wines from southern half of Italy, most of them from the grapes falanghina, fiano and greco di tufo. And it was the former, the only one without a DOCG, that excelled the most.
Ennio Romano Cecaro and his wife Mena cultivate four hectares in Benevento in the Campania region. The vines are between 60 and 90 years old, biodynamically farmed.
The cellar is built in an old tufo cave under the house where the couple lives, and the vinification is very simple. All the wines get a long skin-maceration in steel tanks, and no filtration or additions of any kind are carried out. The annual production is no more than 3.000 bottles.
This week’s wine fermented in open tubs, stayed five months on the skins and was bottled without addition of sulphites, clarification or filtration. I have tasted quite a few wines from the producer at natural wine fairs and bars. And once again convinced: Yes, Canlibero can!
Amber, slightly turbid. Complex aroma of orange peel, white flowers, and a light volatility, over a layer of anise and honey. Sapid, lightly textured with integrated acidity, long.
An all time favourite, you can read a little background and a review of a previous vintage (under its former name) here.
In short Nero d’Avola (30%) gives colour, frappato red berries, spice and some herbal character. The wine is made in the most natural possible way. Spontaneously fermented in cement with 15 days skin-contact. Further ageing jo cement for 6 months. Unfiltered.
SP68 Rosso 2020(Arianna Occhipinti)
Quite dark, young and blueish. Cool aroma, red berries (cherry, raspberry), flowers, herbs. Luscious, fruity, with some tannin and a fresh acidity.
Here is a lovely white from southeastern Sicilia, from the zibibbo variety. I have earlier also highlighted the red version. (Read here.)
COS started in 1980, when the three architecture students Giambattista Cilia, Giusto Occhipinti and Cirino Strano, mostly as a fun experiment, founded the winery. Names are composed of the initials of the three classmates’ surnames. Today, they make top wines using ancient methods in Vittoria on the southern tip of Sicilia. Today they cultivate 35 hectares biodynamically.
The grape for this one is zibibbo, in the moscato family. The soil is calcareous and volcanic clay, with silica sand, in a vineyard planted in 2001. It’s of course spontaneously fermented, before a 7 months skin-maceration, and maturation a few months in clay. COS prefers the Spanish tinajas as made by José Padilla of Albacete (read here). Unfiltered.
Certification is organic, and they work according to biodynamic principles.
Zibibbo Pithos Bianco 2018(Az. Agr. COS)
Light golden. Aromatics include apple, orange blossom, pineapple, and a touch of honey. Full-bodied, dense, adequate acidity.
Here is a “young” and dark wine from a vintage with problems and where many producers chose to declassify their brunello to rosso. It was one of several good wines from a private brunello tasting last week.
Fonterenza was created by two twin sisters from Milano. They planted their first vineyard in 1999, and now all the plots are cultivated biodynamically, as natural as possible and with minimum intervention.
The grapes are sourced from a small plot with clay and shale soil. The must ferments in 1.750 litre Slovenian oak foudres with native yeasts. It is aged in 2.000 and 2.300 litre barrels for 47 months. The final wine is not filtered or clarified before bottling.
Brunello di Montalcino 2014 (Fonterenza)
Dark cherry red, a bit brick-toned; aromas of dark and wild berries and a touch of smoke and leather; fresh in the mouth, dense, with quite elegant tannins, long. Will keep.
Luca Roagna is a well-known producer of delicious barberas and stylish barolos. But there is much more. This rosé is a collaboration with local farmers, where Roagna has been part of the whole process and did the final selection.
We are in northwestern Piemonte in the cool area Bricherasio. This region is capable of making fresh wines with excellent fruit. There is barbera, nebbiolo, dolcetto, freisa and several lesser known local varieties.
Everything is natural, on sugar added, low sulphur, and the wine is naturally fined and filtered.
Selezione di Luca Roagna Piemonte Rosato 2020 (Vignaioli Piemontesi)
Light red, touch of salmon colour. Lots of fresh berries in the aroma (raspberry, wild strawberry) and flowers. Some structure, concentrated fruit on the palate, fresh acidity, long.
Valpolicella was originally light to medium-bodied, refreshing, with a pleasing bitterness on the finish. Nothing to do with the dark, sweet, oaky or raisiny wines we have come to know. (Okay, amarone and ripasso have a rightful place in their context.) Monte Dall’Ora makes beautiful classical style wines.
The winery was founded by Carlo Venturini with his wife Alessandra in 1995. They bought some land in bad condition and started almost from scratch. They work the traditional varieties corvina, corvinone, rondinella, molinara, and also oseleta, an almost extinct grape that now is on the up.it was always organic, and in 2006 they converted to biodynamic agriculture.
They are found on the Castelrotto height, in San Giorgio, northwest from Verona. The soils are limestone with a reddish hue, quite special for this area, with a porous upper part. They train their vines in pergola. These varieties are vigourous and can easily grow to big bunches to control. Pergola gives air and space between the clusters, and you would also get smaller and concentrated bunches.
The actual wine is made up of 40% corvina, 30% corvinone and 20% rondinella, and a dash molinara. The vines for this traditional Valpolicella varieties were planted in 2008, trained on wires in guyot rather than in pergola for greater concentration. It’s harvested by hand in October, later than for the rest of their wines.
The grapes are destemmed and gently pressed. Spontaneous fermentation takes place with native yeasts and without sulfur in concrete and steel tanks, then maceration 7-8 days with occasional manual punch-downs. Aged 6 months in steel, then 6 months in old 25-hectoliter oak vessels bottled without filtration and only a small amount of sulphur.
Ruby red, just a bit cloudy. Aroma of cherries, white flowers and, wild raspberry. On the palate more pungent than it appears by the eye; with red currant, pomegranate, berry seed, and stony minerals. Lots of pleasure in this bottle!
Food: Light meat, liver, sage, prosciutto, pasta, boils, hard cheeses…