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.
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.
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 Mel2021, 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.
Food: Grilled fish, tasty shellfish, rice dishes, pairing, soft and semi-cured cheeses, a variety of tapas
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.
A visit at Apotekergaarden, Grimstad on the southern coast of Norway is always a highlight. This is a popular place in every sense of the word, with a fascinating mix of people coming for great natural wine served by manager and sommelier Ida Konradsen, and people coming in from the street for burgers and pizza, served by the staff, some of them really talented. There are also concerts in the backyard during the summer season. We were there last Sunday, when our meal was followed by a gig with Norwegian folk-rock band Valkyrien Allstars. I have played there myself too, in fact it was one of the last things I did before the lockdown in March. A more detailed background to the restaurant you can read here.
On Sunday they made a special plate of Italian cheese and ham, olives and other stuff for us, followed by a main course of duck with a compote of red onion and a burger with spicy mushroom and onion, and on Tuesday we shared various pizzas.
Here are some of the wines, some of them in fact outside the official menu, but generously offered by Ida and the staff.
Foam Somló 2019(Meinklang), Somló, Hungary, made by Meinklang of Burgenland, Austria who owns vineyards on both sides of the border. This is a pét nat from Hungarian grapes hárslevelű and juhfark.
Light golden; aroma of yellow apples, hints of pumpkin and gooseberry; concentrated, with a sweet-irh sensation, inspiring indeed.
Brut Nature Reserva Anne Marie(Castell d’Age), Cava, Catalunya, Spain
A traditional cava from one of the pioneers in organic farming in the Penedès area, named after Anne Marie Onyent, one of today’s leading ladies of the company. The grapes are the three usual cava “suspects”.
Slightly bubbly; fresh and appley; fine natural acidity.
La Croix Moriceau 2018(Complémen’ Terre)
A full and concentrated, mineral muscadet full of character.
Yellow; waxy, with mature apples and white peach; quite full, mineral (chalky), a nice bitterness in the aftertaste.
Palmento 2019 (Vino di Anna), Etna, Sicilia, Italy
Skin-contact wine made from the Sicilian carricante grape in fiberglass tanks.
Golden towards orange; aroma of citrus peel, clementine, apricot, mango; full in the mouth and slightly textured. Not too acid, low alcohol (11,5) and perfect while waiting for the main course.
Light yellow; aromas of apple, citrus (lime), with a mineral touch; rich, with a good acidity and splendid concentration. Superb with the duck plate.
A light, fruity barbera that comes in a full litre bottle (hence the name), made by the producer behind the famous “donkey wine” Asinoi. At best when chilled.
Lght cherry red; light berries (strawberry), herbs; lively in the mouth (slightly pétillant), juicy, with a good natural acidity.
Montesecondo 2018(Montesecondo), Toscana, Italy
Located in the Chianti area, but not always classified as such. This is an entry-level wine, with 2% of trebbiano blended in with the sangiovese. If my memory doesn’t fail me it’s a light vintage for this wine.
Rather light cherry colour, aroma dominated by red berries; juicy and refreshing.
Made from tempranillo grapes in Arnedo in the lower part of Rioja. Not completely natural, but with a low amount of sulphur added.
Dark red; blackberry and spice; full, fresh and fruity.
After a few wines I often like to round it off with a beer, to “stabilize” the stomach that by now feels like full of acidity. So I asked Mathias S. Skjong, the in-house brewer, if he had something special, maybe something personal. So he produced Terje (made by Mathias himself in collaboration with Grimstad’s successful brewery Nøgne Ø and given a wide distribution by them, for the restaurant’s 10 year anniversary. It’s a very very hoppy, citrussy and dry India pale ale. Perfect to round off another good meal at Apotekergaarden.
Back at Sentralen yesterday, we not only had a simple meal and two delicious wines by the glass. It’s Oslo’s annual jazz festival this week, and the festival uses the building as a “festival office” for the 4th year. There are good vibes in the whole building. So after the meal we found our way through a festival crowd and took went up to 3rd floor to enjoy another gig.
The food was pizza this time, a spicy and tasty vegan version, and a more “wine friendly” white pizza. One of the wines was Arianna Occhipinti’s red SP68.
Occhipinti is located in the Vittoria region of Sicilia, and SP68 is the main road in the area. Arianna has now 25 hectares certified-organic vineyards, only local varieties, and practices biodynamic.
This wine is made from frappato 70%, that gives acidity and elegance, and nero d’Avola, that is there more for body and colour. It has been a favourite for many years, and it was nice to try the fresh vintage 2018.
Arianna says that the secret to make more elegant wines in the area is not irrigating, harvesting late and not using fertilizers. The freshness comes from the subsoils. Contrary to this, a wine made from young or chemically grown vines would most often take its nutrition from the topsoil and would as a result have a warm, cooked character. The SP68 wines are vinified and aged in small concrete tanks, with no oak and no punchdowns.
The two varietals are native to Sicily and are grown on red sand soils over limestone rock, with vines averaging 15 years old on four different sites. The vines are organically farmed and hand-harvested. The fruit is mainly destemmed (4% stem inclusion in the upcoming 2017 vintage) and co-fermented with native yeasts in concrete tanks and with a two-week skin maceration. The wine is aged in concrete tanks for 8 months and bottled unfiltered.
SP 68 Rosso 2018 (Arianna Occhipinti)
Dark, young red, blueish hint. Fresh, fruity, aromas of blueberry, cherry, some herbs. Juicy, luscious in the mouth, with young tannins, and a fresh acidity.
I was recently visiting Grimstad, a beautiful small town on the Norwegian southern coastline, where the houses are white, small private boats are moored and the seagulls are part of the scenery. I have a special relationship with the town, because I was born there, and my family has since spent many summers there.
Fresh crabs on offer in the town’s inner harbour
The town could have boasted of its seafaring culture. My late father left from there to work on a ship at the age of 14. And that night I borrowed the house of a friend, the daughter of my father’s captain at that time. But Grimstad is not of that sort, boasting is not part of its personality. It’s just lying there, a southern Norwegian idyll bathed in the summer sun.
These days the small town is home to the restaurant with the most amazing natural wine list on the whole long coastal strip. Founded in 2001 the restaurant has since enjoyed a reputation among the citizens, for its food, its atmosphere, but also as a concert arranger. However the upgrade to the natural wine haven that we know today started after a bankruptcy in 2010. Kjetil Jørgensen, one of the original founders, has a good relation to natural wine importer Non Dos, through his friend Jørgen Ljøstad, also from Grimstad. Sometimes a strong tie to one importer can feel somewhat awkward, or difficult. But here it’s more logic, and has probably helped along the way to success. Having said that, the restaurant also works with other importers. These days they also have their own micro-brewery, led by Mathias S. Skjong.
The food is based on local ingredients. The burgers are made from Hereford cattle grassing only a stone’s throw away, and there is of course delicious fish and shellfish right out of the sea. Pizza or vegetarian options too.
Apotekergaarden translates as the Pharmacist’s Shop, and refers to playwright and poet Henrik Ibsen, who was a pharmacist apprentice in Grimstad before he became famous, and this particular place also formerly housed one of the town’s pharmacies.
Ida Konradsen pulling up a Contadino, her own soft drinks at the table
Ida Konradsen is sommelier and restaurant manager, and strongly contributed to a great evening. She told us with great enthusiasm about her experiences from working at Sebastien Riffault‘s estate in the Loire. She is also involved in a new project creating soft drinks, generally popular in Norway (as everywhere I suppose) with children and non-wine addicts. All have the taste of the basic ingredients intact and come with a lot less sugar than usual for this type of drink. In between our first and second wine she offered us a tasting of three products that are sold locally, a lemon and ginger drink (based on Sicilian lemons), one from orange (and a touch of lemon) – and lastly an interesting take on a soft drink for the Christmas season (“julebrus” in Norwegian), based on biodynamically farmed grape juice of the variety zweigelt from Austrian wine producer Meinklang, well-known for readers of this blog – with some star anise, juniper and cinnamon, and without addition of sugar.
Meinklang is also responsible for some of their house labels, Skolegada 3 (the restaurant’s adress), otherwise known by other names in the market.
But while there are not more than 12-15 wines in their by-the-glass selection, Ida gladly opened three more to us, as she was going to host a special party the next day and could use the rest there. And these were fabulous wines from three natural wine legends.
Robinot’s Fêtembulles, with sourdough bread, olive and truffle oil, and olives
Fêtembulles 2017(J.-P. Robinot), Loire, France
100% chenin blanc, biodynamically farmed, bottled without added sulphites and unfiltered.
Light yellow, small integrated bubbles. Smells of mature apples, citrus (orange), a bit waxy. Tastes of apples, is creamy with a crisp acidity, and a stony minerality in the finish.
Contadino 2016(F. Cornelissen), Etna, Sicilia
This is a field blend dominated by some 90% nerello mascalese, biodynamically farmed. No sulphites added, unfiltered.
It’s light cherry red. Aroma of red berries (cranberry), hint of herbs (basil), some spice. The mouth is dominated by red fruit, but with and underlying carbon or smoke taste (from the Etna volcano maybe), and with a solid tannic grip.
Teroldego 2015(E. Foradori), Vigneti delle Dolomiti, Italy
Another well-known producer for readers of this blog. This wine is from the teroldego grape grown in Trentino, near the Dolomites. It was fermented in cement and aged in cement and old oak.
Dark cherry red. Packed with red berries (cherry), plums, dark fruits (blackberry), with some balsamic notes (menthol). Cool, clean fruit in the mouth, very lively and fruity.
Typical paintings collected in one of the rooms
And on the veranda while the sun goes down we finish the evening with a craft beer from the acclaimed local brewery Nøgne Ø, that takes its name from Ibsen’s poem “Terje Vigen”. And to drink one of their beers in this moment seems more right than ever before.
London’s Raw fair is over. This wine fair, founded by Isabelle Légeron (now also with meetings in Berlin and New York), is a two day celebration of individual, organic wines with a wide range of exhibitors. But what unifies them is their desire to express their place in their own unique way. Some have a no sulphur approach, while some are more pragmatic to this question.
This year the fair was back at the Strand, in central London, after two years further east. The venue is open and clean with good light, good for wine tasting. Wine bar and restaurant Noble Rot had their stand, and it was possible to savour food of many sorts.
Most of the artisans came from Europe. The bigger wine producing countries like Italy and France, and to a certain extent Spain, had their fair shares of exhibitors. But smaller wine countries were also represented, maybe most surprisingly Romania and the Czech Republic.
Among the more established producers, especially in this context, were Eric Texier (with expressive wines from Côtes du Rhône), the Catalan trio Mas Martinet-Venus la Universal (from Priorat/ Montsant, with increased focus on fruitiness than before), and mainly sparkling wine producers Mas de Serral- Pepe Raventòs and Recaredo-CellerCredo, Frank Cornelissen (who really has become a top Sicilian producer in every respect), not to mention Friulian neighbours Radikon and Gravner with their textbook skin-contact wines.
An opportunity for vignerons like Fabio Bartolomei to communicate directly with their audience
There were many contenders. Aside of the aforementioned ones here producers that I have appreciated for a long time were from France, Dom. Milan (Provence), Dom.de Clovallon (Languedoc); from Italy, Carussin-Bruna Ferro (Piemonte), Corte Sant’Alda (Veneto), 1701 (Franciacorta); Spain, Vinos Ambiz (Gredos/ Madrid); Portugal, both two participants, Quinta da Palmirinha (Minho) and Casa de Mouraz (Dão); Austria, Meinklang (Burgenland).
But not least is this an occasion to be surprised.
Here follow some memorable moments.
Chat Fou 2016(Éric Teixier)
A light entry here: A luscious, inspiring côtes du rhône. Light ruby; red berries, herbal, lightly spiced; juicy, fresh, just a hint of tannins, good acidity. A light, elegant vintage of this wine.
Carles and Montse
Carles Mora Ferrer and his close friend Montse have produced natural wines since 2008; no chemicals, no additives. I chose their cabernet; not pressed, fermented in inox, 20-25 days of maceration. Total sulphites is a mere 4 mg/L.
Cabernet Sauvignon Ánfora 2015(Clot de les Soleres)
Dark cherry, violet hint; red fruits, blackcurrant, green pepper; structured, good acidity.
Mas Martinet has been a favourite for many years, and maybe the most influential among the Priorat “pioneers” from the 1980’s, thanks to both father Josep Lluís’ teachings, daughter Sara’s and son-in-law René’s consulting and general inspiration through their wines. Sara Pérez, current winemaker, was also in the avant-garde when turning to organics in the early 2000’s. Venus is their side project in Montsant. Here I chose their white Venus, a varietal xarel.lo, fermented 20% with skins and elevated in big barrels. No added sulphite.
Venus Blanc 2014(Venus la Universal)
Yellow colour; very fresh, citrus, litchi some balsamic; glyceric, creamy and saline. So expressive!
Ivan and Ana Gómez
Bodegas Gratias of Castilla-La Mancha showed some good wines. I chose a field blend of some 20 varieties, many of them in danger of extinction, a crowdfunding project, “gratias to all those people
(‘gratias mecenas’) who believed” in the project, as they say. Fermentation was carried out in small deposits of 5 hectoliters, with whole clusters. The ageing was carried out no the lees, in oak, jars and steel. No clarification or cold stabilization.
¿Y tu de quién eres? 2016(B. Gratias)
Dark cherry colour; red and dark fruits, a hint of spice; juicy and drinkable, but also with a touch of dryness (from the stems).
Thyge of Bodega Frontío
Here were several surprises at one stand: A new, young producer in the remote Arribes, Castilian area bordering Portugal. Furthermore the man behind the bodega is Danish, Thyge Benned Jensen. I’m learning every year, says Thyge, which is good. But much is already very good: Taste his two-weeks skin-contact Naranjito, another surprise for this region. The variety is doña blanca (even though the label indicates something else).
Naranjito 2017 (B. Frontío)
Yellow with orange tones; mature apples, some peel; quite glyceric, with a supple acidity.
Andrea and Petr Nejedlich of Dobrá
Cuvée Kambrium 2014(Dobrá Vinice)
A wine from the Podyji national park in Moravia, Czech Republic, a blend of veltlín, ryzlink and sauvignon, as the back label reads. Light colour; gooseberry, white pepper; both round and light, but with good acidity too.
See also an article about Moravian wines tasted in England here.
Mladen Rožanić, jazz fan with creative Istrian wines
Roxanich of Croatian peninsula Istria makes powerful natural wines.
This is a field blend including syrah, cabernet franc, lambrusco, barbera, borgonja, malvasia nera. Bottling went without filtration, after 9 years of aging in big wooden vats and barrels. I like the reds. But the white ones, most often orange in colour, really has an unequalled quality. You can read more about them and another featured wine here.
Ines U Crvenom (in Red) 2008(Roxanich)
Red, developed colour (towards orange); a volatile feeling, mature red berries, dried fruits and roasted almonds; weighty, packed with fruit, plays with oxidation.
Fernando Paiva and his importer Ricardo Rodrigues of Portuguese Story
Fernando’s wines are marked by the Atlantic influence. His whites are covered several places on this site. This time he showed that the light (light-weight, not light in colour) vinhão can be fascinating when aged too. So that must be the choice.
Quinta da Palmirinha Vinhão 2012 (F. Paiva)
Dark with violet and some red; incredibly fresh, cherry and tint; round, mineral, with integrated acidity. It has an uplifting lightness, a feeling of weightlessness.
Corte Sant’Alda is a well-known Valpolicella producer, mostly in the more classic end of the spectrum. But the wines are thoroughly made, they are good, and they have nothing of the negative characteristics that the area has become known for in many wine circles today. Their classic wines are good. And Marinella presented an intriguing varietal molinara rosé aged in Tuscan amphorae, a vino de tavola with a total of 2 mg sulphur.
Agathe 2016(Corte Sant’Alda)
Salmon pink; flowers, strawberry and a touch of white pepper; no the palate quite smooth, but also with a surprisingly high acidity.
Lorenzo (left) and Andrea Pendin: Thumbs up for another inspiring meeting
L’Armonia of Vicenza (Veneto), Italy was one of the really great finds at this year’s Raw. Among many good wines I chose this wonderful garganega, from older plants (60-80 years). This is both an early harvest and a late harvest (with some botrytis), then blended. The different harvest times are due to Andrea’s friendship with and inspiration from Sébastien Riffault of Loire. (Read more here.)
Perla 2016 (Tenuta l’Armonia)
Complex aroma of mature apples, nuts, flowers, apricot, towards honey; medium full on the palate, and a salty, mineral aftertaste. Integrated, natural acidity.