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Articles and Wine of the Week

Nadal at a Corpinnat tasting

While Norway changed government with parades and speeches, an interesting tasting took place just across the street at the Grand Hotel. This tasting in Oslo was the first official Corpinnat tasting outside of Spain.

To be short, Corpinnat (meaning born in the Penedès, after Roman etymological roots) is a group of Catalan producers of sparkling wine that has left DO Cava. All ten producers with wines in the market were represented. Leading the tasting was Carles del Amor, export director of Nadal, one of the six founding members – together with Liora Levi, Norwegian sommelier and wine writer.

Carles del Amor while preparing the tasting in Oslo

The tasting showed a variety of styles. Some wineries contributed what they consider the more typical from their range, while others offered “top” wines. There were examples of restrained, mineral wines, while others were more on the fruity side. Some dominated by the xarel.lo grape (also varietals), others with more parellada. One rosé.

There will be a longer report that I will link to here. Now I will just present one wine in the ever ongoing Wine of the Week series.

Since Carles is here (on behalf of Corpinnat, that is) I still want to focus a bit on Nadal‘s contribution. Their Brut Nature Reserve 2015 was maybe the most flowery/fruity of the lot. This can maybe be seen from the grape composition; parellada 57%, xarel.lo 22%, macabeu 21%. While xarel.lo is a variety with a lot of acidity and preferred in wines made for ageing, parellada contributes more finesse and aroma. This said, Carles tells that they have a project going on, trying to prepare parellada for more ageing, for example by moving higher up towards the Pyrenees. By doing this they also prepare themselves for new, hotter times. The wine has an ageing of 60 months on the lees, is a non dosé obviously organically grown (as is mandatory without Corpinnat), and it’s degorged 21st June 2021 (also obligatory information within the group).

Here are other posts about members of the group (search the site for more):

Gramona

Recaredo

Mas Candí

Brut Nature Reserve 2015 (Nadal)

Light golden; fruity with aromas of white flowers, elegant yeast notes, a subtle hint of ginger and nuts; quite soft structure, but enough acidity – wonderfully balanced.

Price: Medium

Food: Fish, shellfish, light meat, salads various tapas and the best serrano hams

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Wine of the Week

Hécula of Yecla

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 Organic 2019 (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.

Price: Low

Food: All kinds of meat, stews, salads with meat (such as Caesar), murcian paella…

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Wine of the Week

Bargain from Bujanda

Much can be said of the family Martínez Bulanda, and some has also been said in these pages. They have several properties in Rioja, Rueda and La Mancha. See for example an article that features some of their wines here.

This is a simple, delicious and economic Rioja. It’s a 100% tempranillo, steel-raised, modern, for the wave of gastronomy that more and more people take on these days.

Viña Bujanda Tempranillo 2020 (Martínez Bujanda)

Dark cherry red, blueish hint. Fruity, with mature dark berries (blackberry), plums, green herbs, some licorice. Slight touch of tannin, just enough acidity to make it easy to drink yet refreshing, berry fruit and some herbs following up in the mouth.

Price: (Very) low

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Wine of the Week

Candí of Corpinnat

I met Ramón Jané and his wife Mercé at a fair in Penedès a few years ago and was very impressed. This can also be said about a third member of the team, Toní Carbó, and his side project with an even more natural approach (read here).

Mas Candí disposes of 55 hectares organically farmed vineyards near the Massif del Garraf in Alto Penedès. They are now members of the Corpinnat group, that seeks to reestablish a faith in Spanish sparkling wine by differentiating between the various soils, promote organic farming and otherwise holding strict rules in every aspect.

This sparkler comes from a vineyard planted in 1955 on chalk and fossil ground. It’s a varietal xarel.lo. Minimum ageing on lees for Corpinnat is 18 months. Total sulphur is less than 30 mg/L.

Segunyola Corpinnat Brut Nature 2016 (Mas Candí)

Light gold colour; citric with green and red apples and a hint of yeast and almonds; creamy mouthfeel, medium full with good acidity, finishes dry.

Price: Medium/low

Food: Aperitif, fish, shellfish, salads, tapas…

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Wine of the Week

A leading light in Jumilla

Casa Castillo has for long been considered one of the leading producers of Jumilla wines, today with José María Vicente in charge.

The winery is located to the west of Jumilla town, on the slopes of Sierra del Molar. Here, up to 760 metres, they own a big estate with diverse plantings including pine and almond trees, while 170 hectares are covered with vines. Under José María many of the international varieties have been replaced with monastrell and other Mediterranean grapes, and also garnacha, that is thriving well here.

Much of the soils are limestone, often with sand. Most of the wines are made fermented in steel or concrete, often with some amount of whole bunches, to counterbalance the ripeness in the grapes. Ageing is in concrete, foudre or old 500 liter French oak vats.

This wine is a blend of monastrell, syrah and garnacha.

with pulpo (squid) at Fish Bowl restaurant
Just over the Valencian border from Murcia

Viñedos de Altiplano 2018 (Casa Castillo)

Dark cherry. Aroma of black pepper, blackberry, herbs (thyme, anise), and a hint of chocolate. Medium body, mature fruits balanced with a nice acidity and a slight bitterness at the end. Very Mediterranean, very good.

Price: Medium

Food: Hearty dishes, stews, most kinds of meat, Murcian paella…

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Articles

Experiencia Verema, Murcia

I am in Murcia, Spain. And suddenly the opportunity came to visit the third fair held by magazine Verema this summer. The two first ones were held in Palma de Mallorca and Madrid. There will be more tastings later in summer and autumn too. The location in Murcia was the Royal Casino, an emblematic building in the center. It was built from 1847 on, and shows traces of different styles from that period and somewhat later – now declared monument of historic-artistic interest.

I concentrated on the local wineries, that also were best represented here.

I was invited by Parajes del Valle, a winery I hoped to visit, but we didn’t manage to meet at their place this time. They are part of the bigger García Pérez group. In Jumilla they are for me one of the most interesting wineries. The first reason lies in their name, Parajes shows a sense of place. To obtain this I think that their decision to harvest early (first part of September for the monastrell grape, while most pick later that month or even October) and also the light extraction helps.

Gregorio and Gemma of Parajes del Valle

Director Gregorio Ruiz Abellán and export responsible Gemma Morcillo brought three vintages of their Parajes del Valle, an unoaked wine that is both fresh and cool, and at the same time very Mediterranean with its herbal fruitiness of the local supergrape. It starts in stainless steel, and is transfered to concrete after a while. I have highlighted both the 2018 and 19. Here is the latter, maybe most relevant. For me this has been a house wine through the winter (the article also has a link to the first one). At this moment I would say that the 20 is a bit lighter, maybe more to the fruity side, while the two others are more mineral. But they all are red fruit-driven and stand in the crossroads between the coolness and the rosemary/thyme-herbal Med-landscape.

The terraje system is described in the blogpost about the vintage 2019. In short it consists of renting the vineyard to the farmers, who take care of the quality of the vines, and then some wine is given back to the farmer. Terraje is also the name of their most “ambitious” wine (I feel the scraping of the sword when writing this, because the Parajes is in its way also a very ambitious one). Organic and dry-farmed, just like the other, this one is from older, ungrafted (“pie franco”) monastrell from defined places (parajes) called La Fuente de las Perdices and La Cañada de Albatana to the north of Jumilla town. This wine is made in a similar way, but aged in wooden “foudres”. Even this wine has low extraction with a cherry red colour. It’s fuller and more complex, but follows the same line in acidity and minerality.

Viña Elena I have known for a long time, and also visited Elena Pacheco once. This time it was her sister María together with José Marín who presented the wines.

María Pacheco showing the Bruma range

Located in Estrecho de Marín, a valley surrounded by low mountains south of Jumilla, they offer a varied range, from a light salmon-coloured rosé through monastrell-variations with cabernet and syrah, even the dark, spicy paprika-flavoured cabernet sauvignon varietal Cuco. Very interesting is their Bruma del Estrecho de Marín, a series of single vineyard wines, almost all from monastrell, some from the vineyards owned by two brothers over in the Albacete province of Castilla-La Mancha. The Parcela Particiones 2020 is a clarete from sandy soils. In Spain clarete means a blend of red and white grapes (whereas in Portugal this is called palhete, and clarete is a light wine from red grapes). It’s an elegant monastrell and airén blend without malolactic fermentation; smells of cherry and other stone-fruits and has quite a bit of tannins. Paraje Marín 2019 from stony soils was fabulous and fresh, with typical Mediterranean herbs and somewhat warm fruit. Paraje Las Chozas 2018 was a bit darker and with young tannins, but still fresh and cool, iodine and salty. Parcela Navajuelos 2018 from sandy soils was light in colour, fresh, fruity and cool with some spice. While Parcela Vereda 2018 was darker, with forest fruits (like blackberry) and some warmth from the clay soils, while the chalky part gives also this wine some saltiness. These fabulous wines and the parcel/paraje concept contribute to make Jumilla a wine region to watch in the years to come.

Bodegas Carchelo I knew well in the times of founder Agapito Rico, one of the great personalities in Jumilla from the early 1980’s. At that time he was quite a revolutionary with his fresh, concentrated, yet good value wines. It was nice to be able to catch up and meet David Ferraje from the team of new owners that took over a little more than ten years ago.

They are located to the east of Jumilla, at the foot of the mountains Sierra del Carche, hence the name. And most of the vineyards are quite near, north-northeast of the town. Today they are 100% organic. I have enjoyed several of their wines, from the young and fresh rosé via the simple and fun Eya Tinto 2020 and the dark fruit-driven Carchelo Roble 2019 (monastrell with cabernet and tempranillo) – to the more ambitious part of their range. Here you find f.ex Canalizo 2014, a monastrell-syrah-tempranillo aged 20 months in barrel. This one had aged beautifully; mature morellos, tea, dried fruits and a nice bitter tone. Muri Veteres 2016, a pie franco monastrell with dark fruits and balsamic notes, was elegant and attractive.

David Ferraje of Bodegas Carchelo

It’s maybe a bit strange to say that one of the surprises was Juan Gil. But the Gil Family Estates has turned into a conglomerate of bodegas across the country. I don’t know the quality of all of them, but the original (bodega founded by Juan Gil Giménez in 1916) was quite good. They are in transition to organic cultivation, with the majority of vineyards northeast towards Yecla.

In short, the young white and rosé were good, but not with much personality. The new project over in Almansa, named Bodegas Atalaya, has potential, but at this point too much oak for me. Here I chose as a representative Juan Gil‘s own Honoro Vera 2020, a varietal monastrell, organically farmed, unoaked and vegan certified. This was a quite fresh dry-farmed wine from calcareous and rocky soils, with the usual red and dark berries and balsamic notes.

Unoaked red from Juan Gil

From neighbouring Yecla, a one-municipality-denomination, I tasted the wines of its leading winery. Bodegas Castaño had good offerings from the unoaked white and rosé to the dense and rich Casa Cisca, and neither have I forgotten that they have one of the best sweet monastrell wines (not brought to this tasting). Among the most interesting wines is an old favourite, now called Hécula Organic in the 2019 vintage. It shows ripe red berries (morello), aromatic herbs and a hint of coffee. Full and quite fresh in the mouth with mature tannins. I will come back to this one in a while.

Sira Burón Miranda, Castaño
Hall in the Royal Casino
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Wine of the Week

Loxarel, a Clàssic Penedès

Loxarel I have met at a couple of artisan fairs, in Barcelona, and as far as I remember, in London too. Masia Can Mayol, the official name, is Josep Mitjans, fifth generation. When he got in charge of the family firm at a young age he changed the philosophy of this old winery. He started bottling wines, converting to organic, then implementing biodynamic techniques. (Here is another good sparkler from the house.)

The winery is located in Villobí, on a plain not far from Vilafranca del Penedès, but they have also plots in El Pla de Manlleu, higher in altitude and a bit further west.

This winery is among the many that are now abandoning the DO Cava. Among the reasons for this can be a challenging reputation that the appellation has gained over the years, and the fact that it is not dedicated to one specific geographical area. More about this in a future article.

This particular sparkler is made up from xarel.lo 55% (now widely recognized as the best of the “usual suspects” for ageing, then macabeo 30%, parellada 5%, and the rest chardonnay, a grape that I have nothing against, even not here, even not native. I interpret the name a pèl +18 as the time spent on lees (and not skins).

A Pèl +18 Brut Nature 2016 (Loxarel/ Masia Can Mayol)

Light straw, greenish tones, creamy mousse. Mild Mediterranean smell of aromatic herbs, yeast, mature lemons and yellow apples. Creamy, tasty, rounded but dry.

Price: Low

Food: Apéritif, Iberian cured ham, light fish and shellfish…

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Wine of the Week

Guímaro’s A Ponte: A bridge to the future

A Ponte comes from a crazily steep amphitheater-shaped vineyard, on top of the hill above the more famous Meixemán vineyard. We are in Ribeira Sacra of Galicia, Spain, and Guímaro is one of the best representatives of the new wave of producers. Pedro Manuel Rodríguez Pérez started the project in 1991, but relied on many generations of his family’s work.

Pedro at the Emoción fair summer ’20

The vineyard sits on granitic, slate and sandy soils. Pedro and his father planted in 2010 equal parts of mencía, caíño tinto, merenzao, brancellao and sousón, all indegenous from Ribeira Sacra and around (Galicia and northern Portugal). The wine is made similar to the other Guímaro reds: The grapes are handpicked, macerated for 35 days (here a bit shorter than normal), then alcoholic fermentation is carried out at a controlled temperature of 25ºC. After malolactic fermentation follows an ageing for 12 months in used French oak barrels, before a light clarification.

Normally Pedro has worked with almost exclusively mencía grapes for his reds. But we have seen that the climate is changing, and to meet the future he decided to plant the five varieties in almost equal parts. Mencía is there, but the other varieties are known for retaining the acidity even with more ripeness.

A Ponte 2017 (Guímaro)

Dark cherry colour. Dark and red berries on the nose (blackberry, morello, plums), and some herbs. Medium-bodied and well-structured, good acidity for a warm year, long. An expressive and individual wine without oakiness, and a good candidate for medium-term ageing (+/- 5 years). With good airing it can also be enjoyed now, and why not in company with a good roast.

Price: Medium

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Wine bars and restaurants and Wine of the Week

Catalan red at Bellies, Stavanger vegan

This could have been a review of the relatively new vegan restaurant Bellies of Stavanger, Norway. They deserve a really good one, no doubt. As a 100% vegan restaurant they have few competitors. But Bellies is good in every sense; in the kitchen they know how to handle the knives, and the wine list is extensive and good. Bellies is hereby recommended, for vegans and all others.

Kitchen staff in action; director Øystein Lunde Ohna, far right

We ordered “Full belly”, a 7 course meal, with wine recommendations. Among these were Krásná Hora Riesling 2019 (Moravia, Czech Rep.), aromatic with integrated acidity, with a carrot salad, Enderle & Moll Müller-Thurgau 2018 (Baden, Germany), a light skin-contact wine with jerusalem artichoke and celery, and Un Petit Coin de Paradis 2018, a gamay at 6,5%. This is light red, sweetish wine, perfect to accompany our meringue dessert.

[A minor point of advice could be that it is not always clear what wines should go with what dishes. To be precise: The first dessert came without wine, and we wondered why. It’s ok, only a matter of communication.]

Sommelier Christoffer Bergøy Thorkildsen

The wine I chose here is another. Some natural wine fairs I follow closely, and during the Vella Terra of Barcelona I have met Dido and Jurriaan, a young couple from Amsterdam that have chosen to make wine in Alt-Empordà, Catalunya. Here they farm own vineyards and some others, at least organically, and gradually implementing biodynamic principles. From these grapes, and inspired by collegue Joan Ramón Escoda, they make natural wines without added sulphites. 

Jur and Dido in Barcelona, Feb. 2019

They are new in the wine business, and the fact that they are already represented here at Bellies was a coincidence that I felt I had to follow up. (Here is another encounter of their wines in Norway. And here is a report from the Barcelona fair, where you can read about other producers on Bellies’ list.)

Doolittle has nothing to do with the play My fair Lady (where it’s the name of the protagonists). No, the wines have taken their names from music album titles, and Doolittle is an album by the Pixies. When remembering that Dido told me that for her thesis in cultural anthropology she spent some time with the Swartland Independent Producers. Among these Craig Hawkins took the name Monkey gone to Heaven (his mourvèdre) from the same album.

Doolittle is also part of the ideology of Dido and Jur, to intervene as little as possible. The 2018 is made from 60% garnacha, with whole bunch maceration for one week, and the rest barbera, elevated in amphora under a veil of flor.

Doolittle 2018 (Vinyes Tortugas)

Cherry red. Aroma of blackberry and cherry, and a lactic note. Dry, but with a sweetish garnacha sensation. Slightly tannic, with a very refreshing natural acidity, and a bit salty finish.

Price: Medium

Food: We tried it with several dishes and ingredients, like creamy almond potato, buckwheat chips, black truffle, betroot and quinoa chervil. It is really a versatile wine, should be perfect with varied tapas and charcutérie.

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Wine of the Week

Clandestina

Clandestina travels from Catalunya to new destinations with accordingly named labels, such as Blanc Fugitiu (fugitive), Orance Censurat (censored), Ancestral Confiscat (confiscated). Read more about these here in an article from the cancelled Rawfair this March, where I met winemaker Ferrán at wine bar WineO in London.

This week’s wine, Blanc Sense Papers 2019, has made it all the way to my northern local wine shop. It originates from a more than 50 years old xarel.lo vineyard. The grapes from the three plots were harvested seperately at different times to ensure perfect ripeness, the different harvests are fermented in steel and aged in demijohns for different periods of time, and the last harvest kept in oak for 4 months, before blending it all and bottling unfined and unfiltered. -I base my wines on acidity, says Ferrán, -and I like Bourgogne Aligoté, he answers to my question what he tries to achieve. And acidity he has managed to retain. It really is acidic. I am not sure if it has the body to match, but time will show.

Blanc Sense Papers 2019 (Bodegas Clandestina)

Yellow with green and grey hints, slightly turbid. Aroma of green apricot, flowers and grapefruit. Fresh and luscious, dry, good acidity, good length.

Price: Medium

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