I don’t taste wines from Liguria too often. Here is a delicious white from the lesser known pigato variety.
Pigato has been in the area for centuries. Genetically it is a clone of vermentino. But it has differentiated over time and developed its own characteristics. Pighe means freckles in local dialect, a reference to the spots on its skin. Pigato has generally more aromatic qualities than its twin, possibly also more structure.
Tenuta Selvadolce is overlooking the sea in the extreme western Liguria in Bordighera, a few kilometers from the border with France. It extends for about 7 hectares in one of the most panoramic heights of the town.
The vineyard sits at an altitude of about 150-200 meters with a southern exposure, and managed biodynamically. The soils contain limestone and clay. Harvest is by hand, and fermentation takes place spontaneously in wood. The wine ages in stainless steel vats on lees with batonnage for 6 months and is bottled without clarification or filtration.
Crescendo 2020(Ten. Selvadolce)
Light yellow. Expressive aromas of white fruit (white peach), citrus (lime), white almonds and a touch of butter. On the palate it’s full, savoury, harmonious and ends with a pleasant salinity.
Food: Seafood, spaghetti vongole, other pasta ‘frutti di mare’, fish soup, grilled fish
We tasted 15 varietal trebbianos in our local wine club yesterday. Trebbiano is a name for several grapes, more or less in family with each other. Many wines had apple or pear and citrus aromas, accompanied by a certain herbal character. The tasting also showed that low yields are necessary. The wines from Abruzzo and Umbria were generally quite concentrated with high levels of acidity, while those from Lugana were mellow and easy drinking.
Here are three of the best.
Bianco Regio 2019(Cant. Margò)
Carlo Tabarrini farms biodynamically his vineyards in Sant’Enea, province of Perugia, Umbria. He works without any additions, like his parents and grandparents did. The soils are sand and limestone, and the age of the vines are close to 40 years. 8 days skin-contact, matured in steel and a small percentage barrique.
Straw coloured, slightly cloudy. Aroma of pears and oranges with some herbs. (Reductive at first, opens in the glass.) Slightly carbonic, tasty and quite concentrated, fresh acidity, and a slightly bitter and long finish.
This wine originates from Spoleto, in southern Umbria. The Mattioli family has cultivated these slopes since the 10th century, and they have made wine in the last three generations. The soil is clay with mixed content of iron and limestone, and fertilizing is compost from their own animals. Harvesting was done by hand. All wines are spontaneously fermented in cement without temperature control or additions of sulphur. This wine had two days of skin-maceration, and aged in steel. Unfined and unfiltered. Biodynamic.
Light golden colour. Aroma of yellow apples, table grapes, a touch of tropical fruits (apricot) and some herbs. Quite full in the mouth, luscious, a slight tannin, quite long with herbs in the finish.
This wine is from a vineyard in San Casciano in Val di Pesa, Chianti Classico, and classified as IGT. The Messana family farms biodynamically, and the soil is chalky clay. The grapes were harvested by hand, spontaneously fermented with up to 4 weeks skin-maceration, and the wine aged in qvevri.
Light orange or amber colour. Opulent and grapey style, with a rich aroma of apricot, orange peel and smoke. Good body with just enough acidity, quite concentrated and long.
Vino di Contrada is a series of three wines that come from specific sites in the same vineyard, planted exclusively with frappato. Here Arianna Occhipinti wishes to express various nuances that this magnificent grape can offer.
Contrada is a now unofficial subdivision of an Italian municipality. Bombolieri, or BB, comes from a site with a thin layer of sand over a rock with high content of limestone, much of it white in colour. This gives a wine that has a bit more structure and saturation than the other two.
All of Occhipinti’s vineyards are worked using biodynamic principles, and the work in the cellar is careful, never pushing the wine, but letting it take its time. Natural yeasts are employed, there is no temperature control, no fining or filtration and minimal SO2 at bottling.
Arianna Occhipinti is the niece of Giusto Occhipinti of the COS estate in Vittoria, south-eastern Sicily. Her wines have been featured in these pages. Here you can read one of several mentions of her wonderful entry-level red SP68.
Vino di Contrada BB 2019(A. Occhipinti)
Clear red. Red fruits (raspberry, sour cherries), blackberry and an earthy note. Medium-bodied, concentrated, fine tannins, fresh acidity, a slight volatile touch and a long, salty finish.
Valentina Passalacqua’s Calcarius project has been introduced before (like here).
A short overview: She disposes of a 80 hectares farm, where she grows vine, fruit and vegetables, based on biodynamic principles. The soils are Kimmeridgian calcareous (thus the name Calcarius). The wines, from indigenous varieties, have always great minerality and nerve.
This time it’s the Frecciabomb, an orange pét nat made from bombino bianco, an indigenous grape variety from Puglia. The Ca on the label is the symbol for calcium, 20 is its atomic number, and 40.08 is its molar mass.
Frecciabomb Orange 2021(V. Passalacqua)
Orange, spritzy, some sediments on the bottom. Aroma of ripe pineapple, lemon, aromatic herbs, a touch acacia honey. Slight tannin in the mouth, fresh bubbles, medium concentration and great acidity.
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.