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Simplesmente… Vinho 2021 – Part 2

In the first part from this year’s Simplesmente Vinho we highlighted some producers from outside the famous regions. (Read here.) In this long overdue second part two I would like to focus on producers from well-known wine districts that I didn’t know from before or wanted to re-taste.

From Douro, where the fair is located, I tasted several, like Quinta de Zimbro and Conceito, and also Luís Seabra, who is a little in and out of the Douro valley. Add to this one of few port wines, the lovely organic ruby from organizer João Roseira and his Quinta do Infantado, and the picture is a bit more complete, at least for me – this time.

Hugo Mateus

While I missed Ana Maria Hespanol this time, her partner Hugo Mateus was there. He showed an impressive line of wines.

Traditionally Ana’s father Manuel had a good grip on the heady Douro reds. I think they have lifted the quality a couple of flats, especially with the other side of the assortment, or to bring it more in line with the times is maybe more fair to say. Anyway the whites are now often very good. Their Branco 2017, from mostly viosinho, and bottled in 2020, was harvested early to retain the acidity. Lots of primary fruits, like apples and pears. In the mouth it’s quite full, rich and long. It’s part of their often innovative, or modern, Grau Baumé line.

They have a serious orange wine, Undo Curtimenta 2020, a blend of usual Douro grapes like viosinho, rabigato, and gouveia, with 31 days of skin-contact. It’s quite textured, but yet with some feeling of lightness, aromas of white flowers, herbs and peel.

Rita and Miguel, winemakers from Conceito in the Teja Valley, showed again their impressive range, with very good prices too. Their selection falls mainly into two categories, Conceito and Contraste. Conceito is meant to be the flagship range, but I must admit that I not always understand where the dividing line is, as they both contain quality wines that sit somewhere between the classic and the modern. A wine that has not been highlighted (by me) is their Contraste Rosé, now in its 2020 vintage. It’s from higher (more than 600 meters) granite soils: Very light in colour, with raspberry and whitecurrent aromas. On the palate it’s both mellow and easy, but with a nice acidity and a serious charm. Legítimo is now in its 2018 vintage. This one is made with stems of touriga nacional, tinta roriz and touriga franca, with no sulphur. It’s dark cherry, dark fruits on the nose (blackberry) and also plums, with lactic notes (yoghurt?), and elegant tannins in the mouth. The Bastardo 2019 is, as always, superelegant, uplifting, truly inspiring. It comes from a 50 year old vineyard and ripes earlier than the others, end of august. It’s made with stems, and just a little SO2 before bottling. It’s “surprisingly” (well, not anymore) light, with a lot of raspberry and flowers, evident but light tannins.

Manuel Sapage and Rita Ferreira Marques

Like many of the other producers here, to present a short report about Luís Seabra, doesn’t give him justice. He excels both in red and white, and both “xisto” and “granito” soils that are often presented on the labels. Everything is good to outstanding, from the entry-level white and red Xisto Ilimitado, via the monovarietals to the cru wines. All right, let me chose one of each. The red Xisto Ilimitado 2019 is made from a blend of touriga franca 30%, tinta roriz 20%, tinta amarela 20% and 10 each of rufete and tinta barroca. It’s clear red; aromas of fresh red berries, some balsamic and herbs; fruity and dry, with a light structure. Mono C 2019 is a castelão (that is in fact authorized in the Douro): Cherry red; red fruits (cherry), stone fruits (plum), with some herbs; lightly structured with fresh acidity. For me this wine is delicious, and ready to drink now (I have the previous vintage at home, maybe at its peak now). There are several wines with the same name. This one is from Vinho Verde: Granito Cru 2019 from alvarinho grapes is from near the river Minho in the Melgaço municipality. It’s light yellow; citric with elements of honey, lightly spicy and a touch of vanilla (after one year in barrel); good concentration in the mouth, dry, a stony minerality and great lenght. Wait two years, and it’s perfect! OK, an extra speciality for you my friend: Véu de Xisto 2015! Véu denotes that it has spent two years under flor in a barrel from Jura, France. It’s golden, but also lightly greenish; smells of yeasts, flowers, iodine; full in the mouth, rounded. By the way, the grapes are rabigato 70%, côdega do larinho 15% and the rest gouveio.

Luís Seabra with his Natalie
An impressive range from Luís Seabra

From nearby Amarante of Minho we have Quinta de Palmirinha. Fernando Paiva, biodynamic pioneer in the Vinho Verde region, never stop to impress, with both azal and arinto. But his loureiros are the stars. Really interesting from his current selection is the Leviano 2020, a “curtimento” (orange wine). Leviano denotes in Portuguese a person that doesn’t care about anything, says Fernando. But he cares about the most, from vineyard to table. Noteworthy is his use of chestnut flowers to avoid use of SO2. The Leviano spent two weeks on skins, that gives a golden hue, an aroma of ginger and white flowers. In the mouth it’s in a way gentle and mellow, but it has the unmistakable acidity from the loureiro grape.

Fernando Paiva

South to Dão I had the opportunity to try the wines of Casa de Darei, that I hadn’t tasted since the opening of their “lodging” facilities (that I also used), some 20 years ago. Then José Ruivo was “chief”. Now it’s his son Carlos who is in charge. Their reds are lovely, not least the entry level Lagar de Darei 2015 from the “usual suspects” touriga nacional, tinta roriz, jaen and alfrocheiro, with its red fruit and balsamic pinewood nuances, and its luscious mouthfeel. All reds came in the 2015 vintage. New launches that “old” is quite unusual these days. I also like their rosé 2020, easy-to-drink, with its lovely raspberry character and low alcohol.

Carlos Ruivo

I also tried a couple of the fantastic and diverse wines of João Tavares da Pina, kindly offered by him and his wife Luisa at a lunch. Read more about one of these wines here.

José Vivas

Quinta do Olival da Murta is located in the Cadaval area of the Lisboa region, near the mountain range Serra de Montejunto. It’s here that Joana Vivas, who is in charge of the family business, got the inspiration for the label Serra Oca. It’s only 15 kilometers to the Atlantic ocean, which is noted in the wines, that are always made in a simple way. They have an interesting moscatel graúdo called simply Serra Oca 2019, fermented in 1000 liters oak vats, with all the lovely moscatel virtues: Golden, floral, honeyed, and with a very good acidity. More ususal local grapes, like arinto, fernão pires, were used together with the moscatel in another Serra Oca 2019 wine. This one had three days of skin-contact, partly fermented in barriques and inox. This had an interesting mix of developed and fresh aromas and taste, as if it played with oxidation; golden/brownish colour, aromatic, citric and flowery, in the mouth full with lovely acidity. If my memory doesn’t fail me it was one months before its bottling. I have not forgot their reds, that they began with in 2013 (three years before the whites), but let’s save them for a later occasion.

From down in Alentejo I found Argilla, and tasted the wines while the local student choir was singing a wide selection of songs, many of them medieaval. The winery is located at the foot of the Montargil mountains in Alto Alentejo (northwest of Évora and Estremoz). They put a lot of effort in talha wines, made in the Alentejo style of clay vessel, and also smaller amphorae. But first: I really liked their Rosa d’Argilla 2019, some kind of a clarete, made from alicante bouschet with only 20% skin-contact. It’s clear ruby; aroma of red fruits (raspberry); only slightly structured, juicy and delicious. From the Talha Argilla range I tasted 2019 white (appley, with some earthiness from the clay), and the red 2018 (red fruits and licorice, with tannins from petite verdot), both from a selection of grapes. Then came a varietal, Alfrocheiro em Talha de Argilla 2017. This was a relatively young wine, dark with a blueish hint. The flavours were very balanced; red fruits, flowers, some earthiness, – and rounded in the mouth. Rita offered more wines, that I tasted, and they were all interesting. Sorry, but this was at the very end, and I had to concentrate on the music for a while. This time it was Transmontuna, a student choir from Vila Real.

Rita Tenreiro

Thanks to João Roseira and the other organizers who managed to set up a magnificent fair in “times of trouble”. And the band played on…!

And that was that, folks!
(João Roseira pictured)
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Wine of the Week

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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Wine of the Week

Blend from Brand

Pedersgata in the main street in what was earlier known as a tired eastern neighbourhood, but is now bustling with energy. Other fabulous restaurants like Bellies (vegan) and Sabi Omakase (Japanese with Michelin star) are also found here. This wonderful wine we tasted at Claes Helbak’s new place Lapin in that street.

One of the wines I tasted at the opening night in March was Wilder Satz 2018, a very clean, pure natural wine from Bockenheim, Pfalz. Weingut Brand is now brothers Daniel and Jonas, 5th generation. When little brother Jonas joined in 2014 the then organic production was taken a step further to natural. In some wines are added a bit sulphur. This one not. Whole clusters of chardonnay, müller-thurgau and silvaner were pressed before spontaneous fermentation. Bottled unfiltered.

Wilder Satz 2018 (Weing. Brand)

Light straw, slightly turbid. Aromatic, yellow apples, lime and orange peel, and yeast. Energetic, with lovely acidity and low alcohol; long.

Price: Medium

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Wine of the Week

From the Brda borders

The Movia winery has a history dating back to the 18th century, and has belonged to the Kristančič family since 1820. At the moment they own 22 hectares. half of it in Brda and half in Italy (Collio).

The grape variety is a 100% pinot grigio. The wine originates from a single vineyard called Fojana, that rich in lime, called opaka soil. Very low SO2.

The grapes were harvested late and by hand. Naturally fermented in large tanks with two weeks of skin-contact. Then it was transferred to barriques for 18 months storage. Unfiltered.

Sivi Grigio Ambra 2019 (Movia)

Amber-reddish. Aroma of stone fruits, flowers, orange peel, nuts. Quite full, dry with adequate acidity and a hint of salt in the finish.

Price: Medium

Food: Tasty fish dishes, light meat, salads, various Asian (dependent of a lot) – some importers suggest sauerkraut, and why not.

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Wine of the Week

Humus true to its roots

Back from the Simplesmente… Vinho 2021 I continue to enjoy Portuguese wine and its endless variations. Here is one that has been something of a house wine through the winter. As explained earlier, the fair was a bit more limited this year. One of the producers I missed was Rodrigo Filipe. I visited his farm in Alvorninha in the northern part of Lisboa wine region before the fair in 2018. The visit you can read about here.

Rodrigo working the vineyard with his employee Luís Gil, also winemaker

This is both a light, fresh and yet serious red, and I don’t understand those who don’t love this.

The grapes are castelão and touriga nacional (in almost equal parts), cultivated organically, destemmed, co-fermented with native yeast with 5 days in contact with the skins. Then the wine was on lees for 10 months in steel tanks. There are no additions, not even SO2, and the wine is unfined and unfiltered.

Humus Tosco Tinto 2018 (Encosta da Quinta)

Cherry red. Aromas of stony and red fruits (plum, cherry, cranberry), flowers and with a hint of spice. Fresh, juicy with a nerve and a light structure that keeps it from being merely a glou-glou. Long taste with a sublime acidity all the way.

Price: Medium

Food: Light meat, charcuterie, bacalhau, vegetarian, vegan…

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Wine of the Week

Not at all ‘Swart’ from Swartland

Here is another “house wine”, when I want a little more power, or “skin”, than a normal white. Swartland, Blackland in the Afrikaans language, because the predominant rhinoceros bush turns dark after the rains. But it’s not only the landscape that is special here; the spirit of the winegrowers is a veritable force.

Mother Rock Wines was established in 2014 by Johan Meyer. I have written about the project before (like here), and I still predict that the producer will rise in fame and his wines accordingly rise. The news are that Johan and his partner Anri moved into their new property Plattenklip (northwestern Swartland) in 2019, and produced their first vintage in 2020 in their own winery. They have now planted new vineyards on exciting sites, so we know that there will be new interesting wines from them.

This wine comes from a single vineyard in Paardeberg planted in 1980, on granite-rich soil. Only chenin blanc, pure chenin. Whole bunches were pressed into steel tanks where the fermention starts naturally. It’s mostly aged in steel, but has seen a small amount of old oak. Unfiltered and without added sulphuur.

Force Celeste 2020 (Mother Rock)

Light yellow. Aromas of citrus, yellow apples, peach, a light touch of peel. Good weight in the mouth, creamy lees-character, but with a very fine acidity that cuts elegantly through, and contributes to a long, salty finish.

Price: Low

Food: Tapas and charcuterie, red fish, fried white fish, 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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Wine of the Week

Thymiopoulos improves with thyme

The Thymiopoulos family has a long history in agriculture and grape-growing in Trilofos, under the Vermio mountain south of Thessaloniki. Apostolos Thymiopoulos was however the first to vinify the family vineyards, and he produced his first wine in 2005.

Apostolos Thyiopoulos (credit: the winery)

Thymiopoulos practises organic viticulture and believes in minimum intervention during the whole process. Various biodynamic practices are also used, thus being able to preserve biodiversity. The wild flowers stimulates both over- and underground fauna, thus strenghtening the soils and with it, the vines.

He concentrates exclusively on xinomavro, the emblematic variety of the Naoussa region. From this variety he makes at the moment ten different wines, from sparkling via rosé to reds. I have tasted five, and can recommend all of them. They are excellent value, such as the Young Vines 2019. Xinomavro gives naturally acid and tannic wines, well-suited for ageing. And Apostolos would also say it gives an ethereal quality.

Our selected wine, the Xinomavro Nature, has no additions of sulphur. It comes from a single vineyard planted 53 years ago, 200 meters high on a slope, at the edge of the village. The soil here is pure limestone. The climate is tempered by the winds from the Mediterranean and downhill from the mountain. So despite the low altitude the temperatures are also relatevely low. The 2019 vintage had 50% destemmed grapes, fermented with indigenous yeasts and was macerated for 30 days. It was matured for 6 months in 500-litre French oak barrels of second use.

Xinomavro Nature 2019 (Thymiopoulos)

Ruby red. At first quite discrete aroma of red berries and a touch of spices (cardemom, pepper), sightly warm. Much more open after three hours in the glass, and more aromatic herbs like thyme appear. Evident tannins, good acidity and long, mineral aftertaste.

Price: Low/Medium

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Wine of the Week

Weird berries, stylish wine

Adelaide Hills is a quite cool region northeast of Adelaide in South Australia. It’s varied in terms of soils and expositions, and many of the best vineyards are scattered over large distances.

Ochota is the young couple Amber and Taras Ochota, who started their natural wine project in 2008.

Surf trippers on the Mexican coast, where the idea was born (credit: Ochota Barrels)

They have a long list of wineries around the globe where they have worked and learned; the Hitching Post winery from the movie Sideways not least. By now they have half a hectare of vineyards of their own, high altitude on quartz and ferrous soil. They also tend an old grenache vineyard in lower McLaren Vale.

The wines are made according to natural methods, some whites with extended skin-contact. This one is more “normal” in that respect, a varietal gewürztraminer bottled with low sulfur values.

Weird Berries in the Woods Gewürztraminer 2019 (Ochota Barrels)

Light brilliant yellow with green tones. Aroma of white flowers, hay and herbs. Quite full but dry, good acidity with a trace of yellow tomatoes and also some stoney minerality. A stylish wine that strays from the often boring cliché of the grape.

Price: Medium

Food: Fish (both white and red, grilled and cooked), shellfish (crab, prawns), squid, salads, cheese (both creamy and hard, like parmesan), pizzas (especially good with white sauce (two of them pictured, in the making…)

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Wine of the Week

Tillingham white, blend

Tillingham is one of England’s most innovative producers. Their minimal intervention approach to winemaking and often surprising presentation have given them a strong following amongst matural wine lovers. This wine was tasted in a local wine club quite recently.

I visited them outside Rye, Sussex in March this year, one of the last days before lockdown and my first quarantine. Ben Walgate and his companion Serena showed me around and explained about their organic farming, also with certain biodynamic practises, and we had a tasting of all their original wines (and ciders) in their own bar and restaurant. In a wet climate like England’s, the threat of mildew is ever-present, so some copper and sulfur-based sprays are often used.

Aside of winegrowing, not only ciders, but also animals are part of the project, so is the bar and restaurant.

While some sparkling wine specialists have “owned” the headlines so far, I am very sure that the recognition of Tillingham will exceed far beyond the natural wine scene in the future. The grapes for this lovely low-alcohol when are müller-thurgau 35%, ortega 32%, bacchus 17%, chardonnay 12% and schönburger 4%, grown in chalky clay soil. There is no filtration nor fining.and minimal sulphur added before bottling.

At the winery in March this year

Tillingham White 2018 (Tillingham)

Yellow. Aroma of yellow apples, apricot, some lime. Luscious, light and superbly drinkable.

Price: Medium

Read more about one of their rosés here. http://winechords.com/?s=Tillingham

We have also visited nearby Davenport winery. Take a look here. http://winechords.com/still-british/

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