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Tag: natural wine

Wine of the Week

More Biokult

We presented a “cultic” pét nat from this producer last year. (Read here.) We continue with a white one, or more accurately: orange. It’s a group of producers from Burgenland, Austria that have got together, and get some help from Meinklang with the winemaking.

The grapes are grüner veltliner 65%, welschriesling 25% and muscat 10%. They were grown in clay and limestone soils, picked by hand and spontaneously fermented with 7-8 days of skin maceration. Maturation was done in steel, and the wine was bottled unfiltered.

Weisse Blumen 2021 (Biokult)

Light orange. Aromatic with white flowers, white peach, a touch orange peel. Fresh taste, nice rounded acidity, lightly structured, salty finish.

Price: Low

Food: Apéritif, salads, fish (red and white), light meat, pig

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Wine of the Week

Elegant Pirouette

Les Vins Pirouettes is a label created by Christian Binner. The idea is to give selected growers the opportunity to launch their ecologic wines under an established umbrella. Here it is Raphaël who offers his elegant crémant zéro dosage. (You can find more from the project if you search these pages. Here is another, also by Raphaël.)

This week’s wine is a Crémant d’Alsace from 2018, made from riesling 60% and pinot gris 40% planted 1970 in chalky soil. It’s spontaneusly fermented, spent 24 months on lees and was bottled without added sugar.

Les Vins Pirouettes Crémant de Raphaël 2018 (Pirouettes/ C. Binner)

Light yellow, with greenish hint, small bubbles. Aromatic, yellow apples, lime, bisques. Fresh, dry, good acidity, quite long.

Price: Medium

Food: Apéritif, salads, white fish, shellfish, lightly spiced food…

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Wine of the Week

L’orangeade

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.

Price: Medium

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Wine of the Week

Dramatically good

The last xinomavro in this column was a very mineral wine. This one is quite different, a lot more fruity. Oenops Wines was founded in 2015 in the northeastern region of Drama by Nikos Karatzas. The grapes come from selected vineyards from Drama and Macedonia, that are cultivated by various ambitious winegrowers.

The grape for this wine is xinomavro, from Naoussa and Amyntaion, age varying from 14 to 65 years. Spontaneous fermentation was carried out in egg shaped 5 hl amphoras, with 6% whole cluster. Nothing added, and no machinery was used at any stage. After fermentation followed 6 months ageing on lees in amphoras. Bottled unfiltered.

XinomavRAW 2020 (Oenops Wines)

Ruby red. Aroma dominated by raspberry and cherries, and behind there some earth and leather. Juicy in the mouth, some tannin, lots of lovely, natural acidity.

Price: Medium

Food: Duck, light meat, Mediterranean, antipasti

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Wine of the Week

Oh when the saints

No, it’s not an attempt of making a cheap musical joke, it’s the real name of the wine. When the wine is marching in, it’s with the grape saint laurent.

Saint Laurent is ​​an aromatic, dark-skinned grape variety from the Pinot Noir family. St Laurent is perfect for sparkling wines as the variety ripens early and the skin is relatively thin. By the way, portrayed on the label is Swedish jazz saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, in a drawing by Olaf Osten.

Since they took over Gernot’s family’s small-scale wine production in 1985, the couple Gernot and Heike Heinrich have focused on the great potential of the local grapes blaufränkisch, zweigelt and st. laurent. The family currently grows their grapes on 100ha in Gols, Burgenland, using biodynamic principles.

The grapes come from a single location on the eastern Leithaberg, in mica-mixed slate soil. The grapes are pressed in whole bunches, and the must is then cooled for rapid sedimentation, before fermentation begins with natural yeast in steel tanks. The fermenting must is then bottled before the fermentation is completely finished, to get its mousse in the bottle.

Oh When the Saints 2021 (Heinrich)

Light straw, abundant mousse. Fruity aroma of yellow apples, citrus, with white flowers and quince. Creamy texture, adequate acidity, salty aftertaste.

Price: Medium

Food: Seafood, white fish, light meat, aperitif

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Wine of the Week

Vital orange wine

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.

We had it with bacalao in tomato sauce

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.

Price: Medium

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Articles

Dorado III – New initiatives, a new level

We end our journey with some more recent initiatives. Their history is not necessarily that short though. Menade for instance is relatively new, and the launch of their oxidative wine too. But the companiy’s history can be traced many generations back, and their dorado has also some history.

Menade was officially founded in 2005. But this branch of the Sanz family can trace its wine history back to 1820, when they sold their first vintage to the mayor of La Seca. At that time, there was more red wine than white. Antonio Sanz was one of the pioneers of Rueda and of Spanish wine in general; he traveled around, among other places to the Basque Country to see how they made wine there. He took part in the revolution to avoid oxidation; pick at night and use steel tanks – and to start DO Rueda. Now his three children in the 6th generation are leading the family business. Menade operates completely organically and is committed to spontaneous fermentation. The family sold the famous brand Palacio de Bornos, and the bodega which later got the same name. But they kept the vineyards. Menade benefits from the use of these today.

Ivan in Menade’s Rueda cellar

Here we meet again my musician friend, who I first met in another Rueda bodega. Ivan Acebes García is generally interested in culture and speaks long and inspired. His thoughts on the history of the Spanish nation will not be discussed in detail here. But he says that for 250 years, solera was the way to make wine here. It was to make the process cheaper that they started placing the wine out in the sun. It is natural that Ivan asks if we can meet in the old bodega in La Seca, where a living room is filled with books. Later we drive to what has been the headquarters since 2009 in Rueda town. There they have made an organic bodega, laid out a garden with all the typical plants – and supplemented with, among other things, an “insect hotel”. Menade has a total of 210 hectares, 60 here at the farm in Rueda. Their homage to the dorado tradition they call Adorado. The vines for this are between 20 and 25 years old, and the grapes are picked by hand.

-Every year we harvest earlier, says Ivan, with the global warming in mind.

We are out in Menade’s biodiversity paradise. There is a lot of fennel: -All verdejo smells like fennel, other typical smells are rosemary and thyme, he points out.

It’s getting late, and a breeze has crept in over the inhospitable Castilian landscape.

-Here, far inland there is actually a certain Atlantic influence, he says, -there is nothing to stop the wind between the sea and these fields.

The pressing takes place in a historical vertical press from around the year 1900, when it is believed that an earlier incarnation of this particular wine was made for the first time. The must is cloudy, and the fermentation starts naturally. After fermentation, the finished wine is fortified with grape spirits to obtain 2 or 3 extra grades of alcohol. Flor develops, usually in the spring, and when it has disappeared, the oxidative process resumes in the old underground bodega in La Seca. -The mother solera of Adorado dates back to 1967, but the first “saca” (withdrawal from the solera) was as late as 2018, when we made the decision to reactivate this style, Ivan continues. Unlike the other well-known producers, Menade uses 8-liter damajuana. The wine is released on the market without clarification or filtration.

This dorado has even more saline expressiveness than the aforementioned wines. In addition it has evident iodine and umami features. It has a clear amber color with a golden element.

Vidal Soblechero

I always appreciate coming back to Alicia and Vidal Vidal Soblechero in La Seca. (No, there is no misprint there.) Vidal is a passionate “bird man” and is the only one who has made me hold a bird of prey on my arm. By the way, his falcons have a function; they keep pests away from the vines. Alicia is a music lover and this time she invited me to a baroque organ concert in the local church of La Seca.

Actually, I find it strange that this producer is not more famous. They did get a lot of attention when they made Spain’s first ice wine in 2010, but it was probably quickly sorted under curiosities. No, it is their single-parcel wines that most of all arouse interest and admiration. I always make sure to taste some, if not all, of these. The wine series Pagos de Villavendimia was born precisely with the aim of expressing the characteristics of the various plots.

Alicia and Vidal

The Vidal Soblechero family has 50 hectares on 32 plots. Nothing is bought-in, no vineyard is rented. It was his father Cláudio who was behind the standard verdejo Clavidor (also derived from his name).

La Oxidativa, their dorado, comes under this label Pagos de Villavendimia. It is made from 100% verdejo from over 80 years old vines and stored in damajuanas that are always full, in a form of solera from 1947.

-It started, once told their distributor Joachim Buchta, -when Cláudio Vidal put a barrel in the yard filled with ordinary verdejo. Then he placed enough damajuanas around it on the ground. After six months, he replenished ten percent of the wine from the barrel with the wine from the damajuanas. Then he refilled the damajuans. Over the years, the number increased. Now it’s around ten.

This explanation is perhaps good for understanding how the solera system works in this context. The point here is that there are barrels that never run out, that there is a small amount left from the first vintage.

Another point is that at Vidal Soblechero, dorado is fermented like ordinary verdejo, with potentially about thirteen percent alcohol. You are then sure to end up with a completely dry wine.

We see that this is a type of wine that several producers are now bringing to light again, and beyond the four I had planned to visit especially with a view to dorado, I will mention two. I had agreed to visit Ismael Gozalo anyway, and he gave me a bottle of his historical wine when I was about to leave. And to a trade fair in Barcelona, ​​Malaparte had also brought their oxidative wine.

Ismael in his Nieva cellar

Ismael Gozalo

Ismael Gozalo’s father was one of the founders of Viñedos de Nieva, a reference in the area. And he himself was behind Ossian together with Javier Zacchagnini, known from Ribera del Duero. In 1998, Ismael started making wines outside the family’s bodega, and it did not take long before everything was produced organically, as natural wine without additives. Nieva, the small village where he was born in 1971, is one of the highest in Rueda, 850 meters above sea level. With less than 300 inhabitants, Nieva has four significant wineries, which must be said to be an unparalleled density.

Ismael Gozalo has 31 hectares, only “en vaso”, without upbinding, which is very common in Spain, with all its old vineyards. The wine EvoluciÓn comes from one of Gozalo’s best vineyards, 180-year-old pre-phylloxera in sandy soil. The wine is based on the vintages 2010 and 2011. It has then been over ten years in old sherry barrels. It has a permanent floor layer based on yeast cells from the bodega since the 11th century. As he writes on the baking label, it is “stored under flor (flower), bottled on a ‘día de flor’ (flower day) and you can enjoy this flor (wine flower)”. He may be called the “verdejo alchemist”, for his creative ways of dealing with this emblematic grape. Obviously, he also uses 100% verdejo for his dorado. Ripe grapes are picked by hand, spontaneously fermented and stored in barrels, which are only filled up with 5/6 of the capacity. The wine achieves an alcohol of 15%, but evaporates, and when the wine has 13.5%, it is not refilled with alcohol, but bottled as it is. It would thus not have been approved by DO Rueda. 950 half litre bottles were produced.

Old sherry bota from producer Pedro Romero
“Natural artwork” (inside a damajuana)

EvoluciÓn is stored longer under flor than the aforementioned wines. Therefore, one might call it pálido rather than dorado. Surely it is that it is also made after inspiration from the historical wines from Rueda. Because of a longer time under flor it is lighter than the others in colour. It is aromatic, with hints of ripe apples and plum and a yeasty flor characteristic. It is a very fresh wine with good concentration, vital acidity and a sweetish fruit sensation. Dry in the mouth, and good length.

Ismael’s EvoluciÓn

Like Gozalo, Bodega de Frutos Marín is located in the province of Segovia. The producer is most often called Malaparte, after its most famous label. Rubén and Elisa cultivate 5.5 hectares of vineyards near Cuéllar. They use different techniques, such as tanks, old barrels and amphorae. All plots are operated without irrigation. This is near the Ribera del Duero. Still, and despite a lovely amphora-aged tempranillo, I would say that they are mostly a white wine producer, offering several versions of verdejo and viura. Interesting for us in this round is the wine OX. This is obviously an abbreviation of “oxidativo”. It is based on verdejo and palomino fino from 65 year old vines. After a year it was transferred to damajuanas. It naturally reaches 14%, and is not strengthened. It has all the yeast, almond and dried fruit aromas one would expect, and in the mouth it is glyceric – and typically more fruity than its sherry equivalents.

Rubén and Elisa

Maybe the dorado drink can get a place at our tables again? The first mentioned wines (see part I and II) should have similar use as a young or medium aged amontillado or palo cortado sherry. If we should refer to what the producers themselves are suggesting, it can be anything from cured cheeses, via stews, anchovies, bacalao, foie and smoked and pickled starters – to salty and sweet foods, such as blue cheese and chocolate-based desserts. EvoluciÓn will probably be more like a fino, manzanilla pasada or young amontillado, with some lighter food. One of Gozalo’s importers mentions Asian-inspired dishes and red fish. It would probably suit some of the others as well.

The golden age was called the era after the discovery of America. It remains to be seen whether the golden drink is now facing a new golden age.

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Wine of the Week

Vital verdejo

Here is a wine that I tasted, and bought, in the Bendito wine bar of Madrid. (Read here.) It is made by Esmeralda García. Her family comes from Santiuste de San Juan Bautista, a small village with 500 inhabitants that is part of the DO Rueda. And the wines is made there.

She works five hectares of verdejo that have been in her family for centuries. These pre-phylloxera vines have grown on their original rootstocks for up to 210 years, according to Esmeralda’s own estimates. She uses organic methods, manual harvests, direct pressing of the grapes, and fermentation with native yeasts in 600-litre chestnut barrels.

Las Miñañas is a single-vineyard verdejo sourced from a plot of that age, at 840 meters above sea level. Fermentation and ageing in chestnut before 8 months on lees in amphorae.

Label inspired by the sandy, pebbly soil
The label stretching around the bottle

Las Miñañas 2020 (E. García)

Light lemon yellow, slightly turbid. Fragrant, aromas of citrus (lemon, grapefruit) and flowers, with chalky mineral notes. Vital in the mouth with lovely acidity and grapefruity finish.

Price: Medium

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Wine bars and restaurants

Cascorro Bistrot revisited

No trip to Madrid is complete without a visit to Carlos Campillo’s Cascorro Bistrot. Located by the Plaza de Cascorro where the Rastro market are held on Sundays, it’s the place where Carlos Campillo currently stays. Carlos, with French background, has had several places of the bistro type including natural wines in Madrid. One of its predecessors can you read about here. He has also organized natural wine fairs in town.

This Sunday I started with an Uva Attack, the 2020 version of the ancestral. Carlos explains that Jesús Sánchez-Mateos Campo, the enologue of the coop Alcázar de San Juan in Ciudad Real has made this wine together with Ezequiel Sánchez Mateos, proprietor of the wine shop Reserva y Cata. They launch it under the brand Galdo Wines. Here it shows how fresh a sparkler from the grape airén can be: Light golden, somewhat cloudy; yellow apples, fennel; good acidity, citrusy mouthfeel, and a touch of lemongrass. A quite simple wine really, but appealing.

Las Pilas from Luís Oliván, was also in its 2020 vintage. It’s a quite dark garnacha with violet hints; dark fruits and licorice; juicy in the mouth, light-bodied with some tannin. It comes from the southwest of Somontano with abundant north wind. The wine rests up to six months in big, used barrels. I had it with duck confit.

Paeriza is a wine from Samuel Cano of Cuenca, a favourite of mine, and also a friend of the house. “es-carbó” as indicated on the label, gives allusions to snails, and maybe also low-carb. It’s a dark syrah with aromas of wild berries, herbs and a touch of aceton; lively in the mouth, with dark fruits all the way to the finish.

La Garulla 2019 from Bodega Honorato Callejo has “origen sin denominación” (origin without denomination), according to its label. In reality it has, even if no DO. Agricultural student Pablo and his father Honorato Calleja make it in Amusquillo de Esgueva. This is in the Esgueva valley that runs between the Duero and Pisuerga valleys, in western Ribera del Duero. By the way, they also have some grapes in Valbuena in the neighboring valley.

Pure tempranillo, it’s a dark cherry coloured wine with typical varietal aromas of red fruits and blackberries. Fresh and fruity in the mouth, with fine-grained tannins. The back label says fermented in barrique, but it has zero trace of this. 

Samuel Cano’s aromatic, delicious pét-nat Micmac 2020 was served on the next day. Made of airen/moscatel, it showed light yellow (no notes of bubbles); pears and flowers on the nose. The bubbles are noted in the mouth, with good acidity and also some light varietal (moscatel) bitterness.

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Wine bars and restaurants and Wine of the Week

Duo at Barcelona’s Garage Bar

The rain in Spain falls… and falls. I’ve come to Barcelona to attend the Vella Terra fair. Walking from my hotel through the square outlined part of the Eixample district, when entering the quiet and pleasant Sant Antoni neighborhood, the sky is wide-open. What is then better than to take refuge in the Garage Bar, that opens right now after the daily break. In the bar I am welcomed by Stefano Fraternali, co-owner. Soon after Ale Delfino show up at my table. Ale is Stefano’s wife and chief organizer of the fair. The theme is thus set.

I let Stefano chose. He served four wines to the small, well-made dishes Pan amb tomate (the Catalan bread classic, here fermented dog 24 hours), marinated olives (own recipe marinade), vitello tonnato (veal with tuna-mayonnaise served cold) and their own burrata (mozzarella on toast, here with champignons, red onions and truffle oil), the two latter maybe a nod to Stefano’s Italian past.

These were Ephraim Mel 2021, a gentle skin-contact garnacha blanca (Sifer Wines, Catalunya), Le Glam Cab du Bled, a fruity, peppery carbonic maceration gamay/ cabernet franc (Laurent Lebled, Loire) and Aldo Viola’s light, raspberry-fresh Saignée Rosso 2019, made from nerello mascalese/ perricone/ syrah (Alcamo, Sicilia).

But first he served this week’s pick. This is born from a duo of grapes, each from their vineyard. The xarel.lo vineyard with the name Cal Tusac, that was planted in 1955, and a macabeu vineyard planted in 1974. We are in Santa Margarida i els Monjos in Penedès, Catalunya. The soil in the first one has marl and chalk, and is northeast-facing. The second, nearby, but over in Vilafranca del Penedès, is south facing, flat with clay and lots of sunshine. Two quite different vineyards, in other words. The viticulture is organic in both. The grapes were hand-picked early September, then very lightly pressed. Then spontaneous fermentation with indigenous yeasts, before stainless steel for ten and a half months while doing battonage. After almost a year the two wines were brought together and finally bottled unfiltered.

Cal Tusac Vinyes 55+74 Xarel.lo i Macabeu 2016 (Cal Teixidor)

Light straw. Yellow apples, pears, a herbal touch (thyme). Good acidity, long, and also with a mineral note. A wonderful duo of grapes, fresh for a 16.

Price: Medium

Food: Grilled fish, tasty shellfish, rice dishes, pairing, soft and semi-cured cheeses, a variety of tapas

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