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.
This is a Riojan garnacha with a strong varietal character, that takes me towards its relatives in the Gredos mountains on the other side of the capital. This can be because the producer’s collegues in Rioja don’t put enough focus on the grape and its qualities, – maybe because of its lack of reputation, or the producers’ tendency to oak everything in sight.
Sandra Bravo is not among them. She is one of the producers in the group Rioja’n’Roll, from a dynamic generation that wants to move forward from the stereotype of the blending eras. She was probably the first in Rioja to use amphorae for maturing wines, and she never lets the oak get in the way for the local typicity, be it Rivas de Tereso, at the foot of the Toloño) or over in Villabuena de Álava (Basque Country).
Sandra has also launched a wine called La Dula Garnachas de Altura (garnacha from the heights). This one is a single parcel wine from a vineyard in Rivas de Tereso, planted in 1944 at 700 meters altitude. It’s fermented and aged in a 300 liters amphora.
Edit: I realized that I had highlighted the same wine in the 2018 vintage three years ago, from the Simplemente Vinho fair. Read about it here.
La Dula 2018(Sierra de Toloño)
Dark cherry red. Cool, concentrated aroma of wild berries (blackberry, elderberry), raspberry and a lovely flowery scent, with a stony, mineral touch. Rounded tannins, integrated, fresh natural acidity, expressive and long.
Food: Game, other tasty meat, but also more delicate dishes like vitello tonnato, charcuterie
Merian is here short for Mercè (Solé Llop) i Antonio (Mèlich). The finca was established in 1942 in Terra Alta (Catalunya). Today the two of them, together with Mercè’s sisters and brothers, 4th generation, run the estate, based on terroir and sustainability.
This wine is based on garnatxa negra 100% from their own organic vineyards in the municipality of Batea, a center for viticulture in Terra Alta. (Here is another Batea wine.) The soil is rich in clay with chalk, but also rolling stones, in an altitude of 350 – 450 meters.
The grapes are hand-picked, before a new selection in the winery. After a light pressing the juice is transfered to steel, and a fermentation at 26 degrees with a 15 days skin-maceration.
Merian Garnatxa Negra 2020(Cellers Tarroné)
Dark cherry red, blueish hint. Young, fresh aroma (blueberry, raspberry), together with anise and some leathery notes. Fresh in the mouth, but also with a certain depth from mature berries, smooth tannins and a fruity finish.
Food: Red and light meat, grilled if you like, game, casseroles, pasta and salads with meat
A short note this time. Domaine Henri Milan was created in 1956. When Henri took over in 1984 there had been used excessive chemical treatments for many years, and he saw on other solution than to change into organic farming. In recent years the domaine has released one magnificent wine after another.
This wine is a typical fresh, young one, can we say somewhat Beaujolais inspired. 100% mourvèdre grapes were fermented in two separate tanks. One underwent carbonic maceration, while the other had a more traditional treatment. Then the two were blended before bottling. Mourvèdre typically accounts for heavyweight, robust wines. In this case it’s 12% alcohol (the previous vintage was 11), fresh and easy.
Nouveau Mourvèdre 2021(H. Milan)
Cherry red, blueish hue. Smells of red berries (raspberry), herbs and black pepper. Simple and juicy, yet with a soft touch of tannin, a touch of “carbonic”, and an energetic acidity.
Celler Batea speaks about duality. One expression of this is the mixture of Continental and Mediterranean influences in their home town Batea, DO Terra Alta (Catalunya). Another is the focus on two grape varieties, that is the black and the white version of garnacha, or let’s just name it garnatxa, like it’s written here. It is these two varieties that make up the series of non-added-sulphites wines called Sense (meaning without in Catalan).
In 2019 the producer launched these wines, with total sulphites less than 10mg per liter. They are completely organic, do not contain any chemicals, nor preservatives and have not been filtered. The white wine was fermented in steel at 14-16°C with native yeasts, stayed there for 6 months on fine lees, with “batonnage” (stirring) to give more complexity and mouthfeel.
Sense Blanc 2020(Celler Batea)
Dark golden colour, hint of brown. In the front are aromas of mature apples and bitter almond, underlying we find fennel, aniseed and a touch of honey. Quite full and nutty in the mouth, with a good acidity that’s important to balance the ripe fruit and relatively high alcohol (14%). Somewhat bitter end. Lots of character.
Food: Rice dishes, salads, white and red fish, tasty shellfish, pasta, pizza, cheeses and more
Here is a wonderful ancestral from Emilia-Romagna, in the historic Lambrusco category, based on the grape with that name.
Il Farneto was founded in the 1990’s, always with the intention to produce environmental sustainable wines. Today they own 34 hectares, 8 of them vineyard, near Scandiano in Reggio Emilia.
This wine is a red natural wine made with the ancestral method from organic and biodynamic grapes. Some key words: Spontaneous fermentation, native yeasts, unfined, unfiltered, minimal added sulfites, low alcohol (11,5%)..
Frisant Rosso 2020(Il Farneto)
Ruby red, bubbly. Aromas of red berries (strawberry, raspberry), a floral component. Fresh, luscious taste with herbs and licorice.
Lammershoek is located in the picturesque Paardeberg area of Swartland. Here the owners of the winery have found their breathing space, “close to nature with unbeatable views that speak to the soul”, they explain. The grapes are also grown in harmony with the rich animal and bird life of the place.
Lammershoek has been a cornerstone and a leading light in Swartland, and therefore in modern South-African quality wine for generations. Craig Hawkins, himself a mentor for others, was head-winemaker for almost ten years before he decided to put all his effort into his own project Testalonga in 2016. (Search these pages for several of his wines, and also Intellego and Mother Rock.)
Today Lammershoek is owned by Andreas Abold, originally from Germany, and Fedor Radmann, a business-man and friend from Switzerland. Footballer Franz Beckenbauer was also co-owner, but left the pitch a couple of years ago. Their famous wine Libero No 5 is attributed to him.
Lammershoek means “lambs’ corner” in the Afrikaans language. Local legend says that the sheep sought shelter for their babies in the nearby forest, from the black eagle and other birds of prey.
The Innocent is some kind of an entry-level range. Mostly from old dry-farmed bush-vines, the wines have always lots of character and a high quality. The pinotage is somehow taken back to its roots. This ruby red wine made in a subtle, youthful Beaujolais style, is different from what people have come to expect from a pinotage nowadays. The bushes are between 21 and 50 years old, all dry-farmed. Partial whole-bunch fermentation.
The Innocent Pinotage 2018(Lammershoek)
Ruby red, a bit blueish youthfulness. Aroma of red berries (cherries), plums, over a hint of herbs and licorice. Subtle, youthful, luscious taste with with careful tannins, low alcohol (12%) and an energetic whole-bunch acidity, – and yet a sweet sensation that I often associate with pinotage lingers in the long aftertaste.
Beaujolais is back. The local people brings it back on the squares of central Beaujolais after two pandemic years. And as usual, from the third Thursday of November it’s arrivé here for us to enjoy.
One of the best I have tasted this year is a Beaujolais-Villages from Château du Chatelard. The château was first owned by the Tournus abbey of south Burgundy in the 12th century. Today the labels carry emblems of the families that have developed it further.
The actual 28 hectares were mainly established before 1955. They believe in integrated farming and grass cover of the parcels to preserve the soils and the biodiversity.
Aurélie de Vermont is now manager, and as winemaker she sticks to local traditions. She selects micro-cuvées from the many terroirs of both their Beaujolais and Mâconnais vineyards.
Typical for the area, low temperature semi-carbonic maceration is used for the nouveau. This means that whole and partial bunches of grapes are vatted and the alcoholic fermentation starts inside each grape. The low temperature allows a longer winemaking process (more than 10 days).
Baronne du Chatelard Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau 2021 (Château du Chatelard)
Deep purple, young. Aroma of sweet cherries, raspberries. Nice acidity, clean fruit, elegant and careful tannin
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.
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 its2018 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…!
This summer I attended a tasting in Murcia organized by the Spanish magazine Verema. You can read more here.
From Yecla, a one-municipality-denomination to the northeast of Jumilla I tasted the wines of its leading winery, Bodegas Castaño. Among these was a favourite for many years, the Hécula, now Hécula Organic in 2019 vintage. It comes from a 750 meter altitude north-south vineyard on limestone, with in average 50 years old vines. Aged 6 months in French (80%) and American oak, and malolactic took place in tanks.
Hécula Organic2019(Bodegas Castaño)
Cherry-red. On the nose it shows ripe red berries (morello), aromatic herbs and a hint of coffee. Full in the mouth with mature tannins and a relatively good acidity.
Food: All kinds of meat, stews, salads with meat (such as Caesar), murcian paella…