Puglia Primitivo

Primitivo is one of Puglia’s most prominent grapes. We haven’t focused much on primitivos on this blog. I don’t know, it’s maybe easy to ignore the often slightly warm wines from this corner of Europe and Italy. This remarkable wine I enjoyed at the excellent restaurant and natural wine bar Brawn of London East. (Read about it here.)

Primitivo is an early ripener, hence the name. The Gioia del Colle plateau, with its sea winds and cool nights, is one of the most favoured terroirs. We are 400 meters above the plains where all the boring stuff originates. It’s up here that we find Cristiano Guttarolo, who works his 1.5 hectare vineyard (biodynamically. The vines here are planted on a base of limestone and clay. Fermentation is done with natural yeasts in stainless steel fermentation tanks. Maceration is carried out for 16 days and aged in steel. Bottling is without clarification, filtration or the addition of sulphur dioxide.

Lamie delle Vigne 2014 (Cristiano Guttarolo)

Very dark, young colour. Aroma of berries from the woods (blueberry), and also berries bathed in the sun, and a salty minerality. Round and tasty in the mouth, with a good acidity for a Puglian wine. A hint of volatile acidity maybe, but in tiny quantities it’s ok, as it adds to the freshness in a southern wine like this.

Price: Medium

Food: At Brawn’s it came with their magnificent crispy and tasty black pudding. But it goes to a variety of light meat, salads, vegetarian, vegan and light desserts.

Developed Dão

Dão can age, that we knew from producers like Quinta da Falorca, Buçaco (a Dão and Bairrada mix), blended wines from negociants like Caves S. João a.o.

The other day I came across a well-aged wine from Álvaro Castro, from his vineyards bordering the Serra da Estrela national park.

It’s a 50/50 touriga and tinta roriz. I am not quite sure why he calls it Pelada, as one of the vineyards from which he sources the grapes is called Pellada, with a double l. Anyway a drawing of a “peeled” (pelada) lady aptly adorns the front label.

Pelada 2003 (Á. Castro)

Deep cherry colour, brownish rim. Dark fruits on the sweet side (towards compote), blackberries and plums, a touch of dried fruits. Cool, integrated acidity, rounded tannins. Aged with grace; for me it will not improve, although I know people that will disagree.

Price: Medium

 

A bubbly New Year

This cava I last tasted at London’s Real Wine fair. (See my first report from the fair here.) It’s one of the newly proposed single estates (Parajes Singulares) that can be appointed according to the DO’s new regulations.

Although he applied for approval of two of his sites Ton Mata of Recaredo are among those (Jaume Gramona is another) who think that deeper structural changes has to be made, such as establishing subzones. [Remember, Cava was no geographical place before the DO status. This required a map, so one had to “invent” a DO area. Take a look at that crazy cava map if you like.]

Contrary to the other site, Turó d’en Mota, a small 1,5 ha. vineyard, the Serral is a larger area with various vineyards of almost 20 ha. surrounding the Turó. It’s planted with macabeu and xarel.lo.

Ton Mata pouring at the Real Wine fair

The Serral cava is made from approximately even shares of xarel.lo and macabeu. It shows a surprising freshness after 8 years on the lees. According to Ton this is mainly due to the calcareous soil on top of that hill.

Let’s hope that 2018 can be a year when people stop thinking once and for all that champagne is the only quality fizz around. I don’t have anything against champagne. But there is certainly nothing wrong with this cava either.

Finca Serral del Vell Brut de Brut 2007 (Recaredo)

Light straw-colour. Complex aroma, with fresh pineapples along with some toast, citrus, and some balsamic notes. Rich and creamy, yet surprisingly fresh. The aftertaste shows a stony minerality.

Price: Medium

Food: Please don’t spill it on the streets (not to say at other people) during the New Year’s celebrations. It’s wonderful with a great variety of dishes; fish, shellfish, Iberian ham, tapas, light meat…

Valtravieso: High altitude Ribera del Duero

Valtravieso was a new find on our journey over the Castilian meseta.

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Located in Piñel de Arriba in the Valladolid province some 920-950 meters above sea level it is one of the highest in the DO Ribera del Duero (except for some parts in the eastern Soria province).

The treatments are natural, the land is worked carefully, the farming is dry, and nothing is done that doesn’t need to be done.

-Here is a long ripening processes, which is good for the aromas and flavours and improves the acidity in the wines, explains winemaker Ricardo Velasco. -The long sun exposure gives good colour to the grapes. There are great differences between day and night, especially in summer, when temperature can drop 18º C. This brings more polyphenols, and with it higher antioxidant content.

The soils are poor. Some parts are more calcareous, others have more clay, which also contributes to more polyphenols. In addition some grapes are bought in from Gumiel (over in the Burgos province) and from Soria. The estate now consists of 54 hectares, that count for half of the wine production, but there will be planted at least 20 more.

The farming is organic, not certified though. -But it’s very easy here, with healthy soils and with the wind sweeping through the vineyards, says Ricardo. They will soon make their own compost too.

 

Cabernet franc is preferred to CS, as it is easier to work because of its shorter growth cycle

Ricardo thinks that ideally a malolactic fermentation should be done in barrel, as it’s easier to integrate it. But Valtravieso is a new and relatively small winery, and he choses to be pragmatic, as it’s much easier to do one tank than -say- 44 barrels. But on the other hand, after the wine has stayed one year in barrel the result is practically the same.

Like many Ribera producers, a rueda wine is also made. Ricardo choses to do this in Miguel Arroyo’s bodega in the southern part of Valladolid. This we will come back to at a later occation.

   

The bodega building is air-conditioned at 16 and 18°C.

Ricardo told us about one special barrel, where he kept a favourite wine of his, that he calls “Listilla”. It’s a natural wine, nothing added nothing taken away. -I hope the boss will like it, he says. We tasted it, and we can promise a very pure, fruity, grapey wine, a high acidity tempranillo.

 The Listilla barrel

At Valtravieso they believe in launching the wines on the market when they are approaching their peak for consumption. This is how it used to be all over the country, but in today’s market it’s rather unusual.

Among the wines we tasted were the Crianza 2015 and a tinta fina, also from 2015.

The Crianza is from 60% own grapes, the rest from Burgos and Soria. It’s a mix between tinta fina (tempranillo), cabernet (franc rather than sauvignon) and merlot, aged in French oak for a little more than a year.
Crianza 2015: Cherry red. Very fruity, some coffee, spice, herbs, pine. Rich, but with a fresh acidity, long, and the high alcohol (14,5%) is no problem.

The Tinta Fina is so called because it is from only tinta fina, and 100% from the estate. It’s a single vineyard, which here means from a single parcel of old vines, and with very low yields.

Tinta fina 2015: Dark. Very fruity, with blackberry, pine, truffles, and a flinty mineral character. A lot of structure, rich, somewhat heavy at 15% alcohol, but still the fine acidity shines through.

After a tour in the cellar, with samples, we had a wonderful tasting of some bottled wines in this room. Here is a view of a typical Castilian landscape, a high plain, seemingly not especially welcoming, but of the type that Dutch writer Cees Noteboom said “you have to conquer”. Here we eventually sat down, contemplated to a sip of the Gran Valtravieso.
The best grapes from more than 80 years old vines go into this wine. The fermentation is carried out at a controlled temperature, followed by 35 days of maceration. For this wine the malolactic fermentation takes place in French oak barrels. It used to be aged for three years in wood from three different French forests, but nowadays it stays 12-15 months in concrete.

Gran Valtravieso 2014:
Dark cherry red. Very fruity, cool aroma, with red berries, a balsamic note, hints of vanilla and toffee. It’s rich, yet luscious, with high acidity that contributes to the long aftertaste. I would call it elegant, but due to the alcohol content it’s advisable to cool it down a bit.

Holy wine for the holiday season

When the halls are decked, and the ding dong goes merrily on high, a vin santo can be a perfect wine to the seasons sweets, not least Italian delights such as panettone and biscotti.

As many of our readers would know, vin santo (meaning “holy wine”) is a type of straw wine, as the grapes are typically dried on straw mats, as the story goes, untill Easter. The sweetness can vary a lot, but it’s almost always quite sweet or very sweet.

Badia a Coltibuono (meaning “abbey of the good harvest”) has been a leading Chianti producer for long, with origins back to the 11th century, when the Vallombrosan monks planted the first vineyards in the area. It was finally acquired by the present family in 1846, and now it’s run by Piero Stucchi-Prinetti and his children.

They also make a riserva “occhio di pernice” (‘partridge’s eye’), the rosé version, from typical red chianti grapes. This vin santo is made by the traditional white varieties trebbiano and malvasia, all -both red and white- organically farmed.

The grapes are hand-picked, then dried in well-ventilated rooms, before fermentation is carried out with the help of native yeasts. Ageing is then done for 6 years in big casks and barriques.

Vin Santo 2009 (Badia a Coltibuono)

Golden amber colour. Aroma with figs, roasted nuts, figs and a touch of honey. In the mouth it’s opulent, but not as sweet as many others. It’s balanced by a very good acidity, and the finish is long.

Price: Medium

Everyday Catalan bubbles

A very special day is approaching for the Catalans, the day for the new elections following last month’s incidents. There are many good economic sparklers though, everyday wines that go well with food. Here is one, made by Loxarel, a company that make a lot of good value organic wines, both still and sparkling. It’s not designated as a cava, but a Penedès wine, made from xarel·lo 55%, the rest macabeu and chardonnay.

Loxarel was created by young and talented wine maker Josep Mitjans, in Vilobí del Penedès, just outside Vilafranca. More about him and his wines at a later occasion.

Brut Nature Reserva Vintage 2013 (Loxarel)

Light yellow. Appley, with citrus, biscuits, a bit earthy too. Not much trace of autolysis for a reserva, and the acidity contributes to the freshness.

Price: Low

A wonderful Gregory Pérez’ red

Gregory Perez is a Bordeaux educated oenologist, and his worked with both Grand-Puy-Lacoste and Cos d’Estournel. With roots in Spanish Bierzo, in northwestern Castilla bordering Galicia, he moved there in the early 2000’s.

After his first steps in France, his roots and a friend´s encouragement brought him to Spain, the Bierzo region, to be exact. There he embarked on a project called Mengoba, where he shares a philosphy with many of his generation, which highlights the personality of the various plots, leading to the production of original natural wines.

Pérez has acquired a deep knowledge of the soil and the ecosystem, and the work is carried out with the utmost respect of the land. Use of herbicides is prohibited, and the vineyards are ploughed. He also regards low yields as essential, to ensure ripeness and concentration.

The mencía vineyards are located in Espanillo by the River Cúa, more than 80 year old vines between 700 and 850 meters, and 30 years old garnacha tintorera vines lower down at 550 meters in Valtuille, closer to Cacabelos. The grapes were de-stemmed and crushed, followed by tradicional vinification with pumping over during the alcoholic fermentation in big vats, and aged in the same big vats of 5000 liters for 6 months.

Flor de Brezo obviously takes its name from the area designation Bierzo.

Flor de Brezo 2013 (Gregory Pérez)

Dark red. Aroma of flowers and red berries with herbs. Luscious and juicy in the mouth with soft tannins and a lovely coolness.

Price: Medium

 

 

Classic, cheap Chilean Carmenère

Carmenère, of Bordeaux origin, has been found in Chile for more than 100 years – and has in recent times become something of a “national grape”, or at least a point of reference for the country. De Martino (see also here) is said to be the first to bottle it, after its identification as late as in 1991. Their grapes come from the Alto de Piedras vineyard, the same place as the first carmenère was identified.

In this part of Maipo we find a climate similar to the Mediterranean, mild with dry summer. The difference between night and day varies in summer from 14 to 29°C. The soils are alluvial, from the Maipo river.

 Sebastián De Martino, whom I met earlier this year in London

The family has always wanted to create wines that reflect their origin. The wine is completely organic, like all the wines they make, and they claim it’s suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Nuevo Mundo Carmenère 2014 (De Martino)

Developed red. Aroma of strawberries, as well as fruits from the forest and some spices. Juicy mouthfeel, fresh, but well-integrated acidity.

Price: Low

Food: Light meat, hard cheeses

 

A Swiss project in New Zealand

This is a project that started in the late 80s, formed by Swiss Georg and Ruth Fromm together with winemaker Hatsch Kalberer, all of them with knowledge about the wines of both European and New Zealand. It didn’t take long before they decided to join forces, set up a winery in Marlborough, and the first plantings were done in 1992. The Fromm’s returned to Switzerland some years ago, but Hatsch continues to release one superb wine after another, not least the country’s oldest single vineyard malbec, called “H” for Hatsch.

This wine is a 100% pinot noir. It was spontaneously fermented in steel tanks with a long maceration. 


Fromm La Strada Pinot Noir 2014 (Fromm Winery)

Brilliant ruby red. Fresh on the nose, with raspberries, plums and aromatic herbs. Luscious, rounded mouthfeel, long aftertaste with a well-integrated acidity that lasts all the way. It has stayed on the shelves for some time (2015 also released), and must be near its peak now.

Price: Medium

Food: Veal and pig, duck and chicken, salads, tapas

 

White contrasts

Rita Marques is one of the new Douro comets. She has some terrific reds, such as a very personal take on the red bastardo variety, and some good ports too. But it’s maybe the whites that most of all cought my attention from the beginning, with their purity, freshness and elegance.

She is found by the Teja river, a tributary to the Douro that ends near Symington’s Vesúvio estate.

This wine is made from very old vines, primarily of the rabigato and côdega do larinho varieties (40% each), with arinto.

The must was spontaneously fermented and raised in inox tanks and used oak, with 5 months on the lees. It clocks in at a mere 13% alcohol.

Contraste Branco 2016 (Conceito Vinhos)

Light yellow, greenish hue. Flowery aroma, slightly waxy, with peaches and pears, and herbs underneath. Full on the palate, a salty minerality and with a limey acidity in a long aftertaste.

Price: Low

Food: Grilled seafood, white fish, some bacalhau dishes, salads

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