Category Archives: Articles

Los Patios de Beatas, Málaga

Los Patios de Beatas is a favourite in Málaga, and whenever I arrive in the city it will never take long untill I head for a table in that culinary palace, hotel and cultural oasis.

2017-07-05 13.12.29

Speaking of tables, please allow me a short sidestep before we get back to the restaurant. My wife had since she first saw the tables in the street and in the restaurant been an admirer of the work. So she took a picture of the signature, and looked up a facebook site. We soon found out that the artist lived in Mijas village. So we went to Mijas. There were no signs, no directions. But we didn’t give up: We talked to some locals, knocked on some doors, and suddenly we found ourselves in the artist’s living-room.

Joshua Van Den Eeden is of American and Flemish descendant; his parents met in Torremolinos in the 1960’s, and you have already realized that there is a romantic story that could be told. But we must make a short-cut: Joshua is now established with his home-workshop and gallery in Mijas. His tables are made of concrete, and the plates of copper and calcium. The turquoise colour comes from a reaction with air. Finally a glacier is put on top of it, to keep it from further development.

2017-07-01 15.35.42 Joshua Joshua Van Den Eeden

2017-07-01 15.32.50 Joshua_Rioja 2017-07-01 15.47.33

Among other projects are benches for the Mijas municipality. So remember, next time you are there you will maybe sit on the artwork that you see here. The wine map to the left is for a friend. Take a closer look, and you will see a more detailed map of Rioja than the current official one. (You can find more info here.)

Back in the old town of Málaga, Beatas is a small street where the people behind the restaurant have rehabilitated two houses from the 18th and 19th centuries, both architectural pearls of historic importance, and both with beautiful patios. This is the background to the restaurant’s name.

2017-01-13 22.17.59 Julián Sanjuán

The driving force behind the project is Julián Sanjuán, who has studied oenology in Málaga and got his sommelier degree from Barcelona, and had already opened málaga wine museums both Ojén and Mijas, small towns in the Málaga province. He established Los Patios in 2012, and last year he also created a professional sommelier association in Málaga. With his network it’s then easy to understand why the restaurant is full of dedicated sommeliers that know how to describe a wine, and has the knowledge to pair wine and food successfully.

In the main floor there are three rooms with open doors between them, two are more normal restaurants, and one cosy bar where you sit on high stools at van den Erden’s tables. You can also buy the bottles that you see around you in the room and bring them home with you. In the next floor there are two dining rooms, a tasting room with natural light from an inside patio, and in the other jazz and flamenco concerts are held once in a while. The familiy also runs a small hotel in the other building.

2017-01-13 21.28.20

Key words are varied wines from all over Spain (and some from outside), and creative dishes based on seasonal products. Worth mentioning, this is snob-free zone, and all the wines are for drinking, more than 500 references in total. Some restaurants with a much shorter wine-list have some show-wines like Vega Sicilias in old vintages that noone has the wallet to buy. Here there are a few really expensive wines, but the difference is -and while we are talking about Ribera del Duero- that the most expensive Vegas and Sastres are a logical continuation of an extensive list of wines from the Ribera. For Andalusian wines I can only think of one contender, Armando Guerras place in Sanlúcar de Barrameda. (Read about him here.) But for wines from the Málaga province you simply go to Los Patios.

2017-01-13 21.37.05

After so many visits it’s difficult to pick just a few wines. I have tasted many local and regional wines, such as Sedella and Schatz from the Málaga province, the sherries of Ramiro Ibañez and Equipo Navazos from Cádiz. Sparklers from Recaredo (Cava), whites from Lagar de Pintos (Rías Baixas)and Avanthia (Valdeorras) and developed reds from Álvaro Palacios (Priorat), Ánima Negra (Mallorca) and Dominio de Atauta (Ribera del Duero) will rarely disappoint.

2017-01-13 21.40.46

My last visit was earlier this year. I will always discuss with the sommeliers, of course, but this is the kind of place that I can let them get the last word, and I can easily trust that the wine will be good and the pairings successful. This time the first wine was Igualado 2014 a red blend from nearby Ronda bodega Joaquín Fernández. Dark, young colour; balsamic aroma (mint), peppery and spicy, with mature tannins, that went well with “ternera con foie” (veal with foie gras), even if I would suspect the wine to be too dominant. Next was “texturas de panceta”, different textures of pork belly, served with green puré and fennel. the different ingredients blended superbly, and the wine that Julián suggested, Vetus 2011 from Toro (dark, red berries, blackcurrant, morello and a touch of minty oak, mature and integrated tannins, a very elegant Toro) was interesting to see with the varying textures of the food.

2017-03-04 14.55.49 Veal with fois, and a glass of Igualado

2017-03-04 15.19.06 The Vetus bottle, and Julián talking to the next table

After numerous visits to central Spain I have learned to know Daniel Jiménez-Landi (now of Comando G fame and a great ambassador of the light extraction garnacha style). Here we could savour one of his earlier offerings, the Piélago 2010. This Méntrida garnacha was quite hard in its younger years, but after some time in Los Patios’ cellar it had mellowed, and it was perfect with the lamb and quinoa dish.

2017-03-04 21.15.13 Piélago with lamb and quinoa

This was a unusual night in that we had only red wines. But you don’t always need to start with a champagne and end with a dessert wine and a grappa, do you? This particular night we ended with the fabulous Acinipo 2006 from a good friend, Ronda wine producer Friedrich Schatz. And this because the party had already wanted to order a plate of cheeses, a selection with predominantly hard cheeses, so I thought why not. Schatz is originally from Süd-Tirol, and the wine is made from the variety lemberger, a synonym for blaufränkisch. It’s quite different from the more northern-eastern wines though. Named after the Roman ruins further down the road, this wine is quite full-bodied with the dryness in the aftertaste that can be found in this producer’s wines, a feature that makes them go well with a variety of dishes.

On your first visit to Málaga, go to El Pimpi and the Antigua Casa de Guardia, because they are picturesque places and important for the city’s culinary history, and you will get decent tapas there. But once familiar with Málaga they are maybe not the places you will keep coming back to. Los Patios is a place that you never get tired of.

Visiting Finca Montepedroso, Rueda

At Finca Montepedroso we met winemaker Lauren Rosillo and Marta Martínez Bujanda (of the family that owns the winery).

Montepedroso is a beautiful farm on a plateau overlooking the Rueda village. It was bought in 2008, and a functional winery built in the typical materials of the area opened four years later.

20171015_105558

They manage 25 hectares of vineyards with an average of 20 years, at an altitude of 750 meters. This is a one wine farm, dedicated to one single variety, the verdejo, and only 120.000 bottles are made annually.

Here are three types of soils: alluvial soil on top of the plateau accounts for 70%, clay soil in the gorge where the oldest vineyards are planted, and a soil with a large quantity of lime and clay sediments.

IMG_4261

We are on the central Castilian meseta, with cold and long winters, short springs with late frosts and hot and dry summers. The vines find water and nutrients deep down the  subsoil, and the wide temperature gives freshness and acidity to the wine.

The fermentation starts without addition of yeasts. Lauren says that for him this is the only way. And worth mentioning here is that the typical features for the verdejo are green apple and grass, and that the tropical aromas found in many verdejos are from added yeasts, according to the winemaker. The fermentation at Montepedroso lasts typically for 19 days at 16ºC. Then the must rests over its fine lees for five months with weekly stirring. The wine is completely dry, but the lees add a sensation of sweetness. Lauren says that he aims for acidity, varietal character – and a low alcohol (here typically 12-12,5).

IMG_4269

Marta and Lauren, with Rueda village in the background

We first tasted the most recent vintage, Finca Montepedroso 2016. This is light yellow with a greenish hint, aromatic with notes of green apple, apricot, fennel, white flowers and hay. It has both volume and structure in the mouth, and a fresh balancing acidity. In sum a personal verdejo, but in a traditional line.

We also tasted the 2010, the first vintage of the wine, to see the development. 2010 had frost during spring, and the production was low. This wine was more golden, still flowery, but with mature sensations of honey and a touch of petrol. Very fresh and appealing.

20171015_104828

We also tasted a few wines from Martínez Bujanda‘s other projects. Their single estate in Rioja is Finca Valpiedra, 80 hectares between Fuenmayor and Cenicero at an altitude of just over 400 meters, where we find alternating Atlantic and Mediterranean influences. This is the only Rioja estate to be included in the organization Grandes Pagos de España. Both wines are predominantly tempranillo, but with presence of other Rioja varieties, such as graciano.

Cantos de Valpiedra 2013 had a cherry red colour, an aroma of dark fruits, blackberry, fennel with slight hints of vanilla. In the mouth it was quite full, and a decent level of acidity gives freshness and contributes to the balance. The Finca Valpiedra Reserva 2010 had a slightly darker, intense black cherry colour. The aroma was complex with red and dark fruits, balsamic, a touch of smoke, and some vanilla, spices and tobacco from the oak-ageing. The tannins are still there, but they are rounded off by age, it’s fresh and delicate, and with a good balance between fruit and wood.

20171015_105231 Lauren and Marta with some of the visitors

During the travels through the many great vineyards of Spain Finca Antigua was a “love at first sight” experience, according to both Marta and Lauren. This is close to where the winemaker lives, in the Cuenca province towards the border of Toledo. We find scrubland, vineyards and forest, and it’s easy to maintain the eco-diversity. It’s a vast farm in Castilla-La Mancha with an altitude over 900 meters, one of the coldest part of the meseta, and extreme variations between day and night. They decided that varieties well-apted for this land were merlot, syrah, petit verdot and cabernet sauvignon, together with tempranillo (formerly known in Central Spain as cencibel) and other national grapes.

20171015_105044

The wines have cool elegance and freshness, and the wines improve with age. But even with full phenolic maturity the alcohol levels rarely exceeds 14, not even in the hottest years. The Finca Antigua 2012 (a crianza of 50% tempranillo, and the rest merlot, syrah and cabernet) was a dark, cool wine, with aromas of chalky minerals, almost milky (from the malolactic, I guess), fresh berries, and in the mouth it had a creamy structure and then a wonderful acidity. The Reserva 2010 (70% merlot, complementet with cabernet and syrah) was also a dark and cool wine, with cherries and berries from the woods, balsamic (mint, eucalyptus), herbal (thyme), with a slightly tougher structure than the crianza.

Sidestepping: Please read here about Lauren’s solo project in Málaga, where I met him for the first time.

Coming back: These days when we speak a lot about the changes of Rioja (Norwegian readers can read a couple of articles on these pages), it’s no doubt that the Martínez Bujanda family is in the vanguard. And it’s no better place to experience this than the tasting table where are sitting right now, with a view of the picturesque village of Rueda.

 

 

Two Portuguese wines at Tati, Lisboa

Back on the Café Tati, near the entrance of the Lisboa river market. (See another report here.) This is a small, not too easy to find, bar with lovely natural wines to wash down the tasty, small bites. This evening there were no live music, so we had to do with Duke Ellington and Van Morrison on the sound system.

20170911_082827

Coming directly from Bairrada it would have been be nice to continue with, say Tiago Teles’ wonderful wine, that he makes in the bigger producer Campolargo’s winery. But there is always something good served by the glass too, so I went for Humus white from the Lisboa region and the Rufia! red from Bairrada’s inland neighbour Dão.

The Humus wines have their origin one hour north of Lisboa, near Óbidos by the Atlantic. It’s an area with cooling sea breezes and high humidity. This ensures a longer maturing period and a good acidity level.

Rodrigo Filipe makes minimalist intervention wines from organic fruit from his family’s 5 hectar estate. He does a direct pressing for the white. Nothing is added to the wine, except maybe a small amount of SO2. All the wines are bottled without any finning or filtration.

Up in Dão João Tavares de Pina is the man behind the Rufia wines. They are made from a 500-550m vineyard in Penelva do Castelo on granite, schist and clay soils.

It’s a low sulphur, low extract, low oak wine. The grapes are jaen, touriga nacional and rufete. He normally ferments the varieties together in open stainless steel lagares without temperature control.  Ageing is done in stainless steel tank for some 9 months on lees, and on to more than 10 years old barrels after malo-lactic.

20170902_123344

Humus Branco 2015 (Quinta do Paço, Encostas da Quinta)

Deep yellow. Aromas of orange peel, citrus, melon, chalky minerals. Full yet fresh on the palate, with a chalky minerality.

Rufia! Tinto 2014 (J. Tavares da Pina, Quinta da Boavista)

Dark ruby red. Lovely fruit, cherry, raspberry. Fresh and juicy in the mouth, round tannins and a good level of acidity.

Real Wine Fair II: Spanish impressions

The Real Wine fair is of course an opportunity to see what’s going on in the wine category that I love the most, exactly the kind of wine that’s highlighted here. And it’s a welcome chance to say hello to some old friends, and meet new people, all of them with interesting projects. Spain is (together with the other country on the peninsula) the country where I travel the most, and here are some highlights. Because I taste these wines once in a while I didn’t visit all the tables, which I regret, but you know, too little time…

IMG_4172 Pedro Olivares Pedro Olivares

I had not really started when I spotted Pedro Olivares, and at the same time Alfredo Maestro tappet me on the shoulder. Pedro’s wines I just tasted very superficially, as I had recently visited him in Murcia. (Read about my visit here.) I took the opportunity to re-taste the Bobastrell 2015. We can call it a “terroir wine”, but from two terroirs: This is a wine with primarily monastrell (from Bullas, Murcia) in the aroma, and bobal (from Utiel-Requena, València) in the mouth. The enTreDicho 2016, jaén negro version, is a clay aged wine from that maybe unlikely place of Jaén, Andalucía. Pure fruit, flowers, juicy and lovely with some structure. I also took the chance to re-taste the Alto Viognier 2016, a 2 month skin-contact wine with grapes from 1.600 meters above sea level, and the SaSa 2016 from 10 meters, a moscatel and malvasía with the moscatel shining well through.

IMG_4186 Alfredo Maestro Alfredo Maestro

Alfredo Maestro Tejero is operating both in his native Peñafiel, in Sierra de Gredos and in other parts of Castilla too. I know him as a man full of tireless energy, and very un-selfish. I wrote him before a trip to Gredos a couple of years ago, and as leader of the Garnachas de Gredos group (now also comprising albillos), he suggested that he organized the whole trip for me. And in the end we drove around together visiting ten producers, including his own vineyard in the coldest part, Navarredondilla (Ávila province). He recuperates old vineyards, manages them organically (with some biodynamic techniques) with little or no additives.

Peñafiel is in the heart of Ribera del Duero, but Alfredo choses to stay outside the DO, to be able to use grapes from neighbouring areas such as Valtiendas to the south the Duratón river. So most of his wines are now under the label Vino de la Tierra Castilla y León. Here are some very brief comments.

The white Lovamor 2016 is a high altitude albillo real (770-1.000m) from more 100-120 year old vines in Olmos de Peñafiel with one week skin-contact, and due to the cold Castilian winter it didn’t undergo malolactic fermentation. The result is an orange-light brownish colour, flowery with orange peel aromas, full and fresh on the palate, slightly pétillant too. From the same place comes Amanda Rosado Lágrima 2016, a light red rosé from the garnacha tintorera grape with pure raspberry fruit, just delicious drinking. As the term “lágrima” suggests the pressing was very light.

Almate 2016 is a tempranillo (here called tinto fino) of various ages, some bush vines (‘en vaso’), some of the younger trained in ‘espaldera’, some found in Peñafiel, and some in Valtiendas, just outside the Ribera del Duero border. Here are lots of vines grown on river stones and clay-calcareous soils. The must was fermented in steel, 80% whole bunches with wild yeasts, then kept in neutral French oak for 2-4 months. This is one of my favourite wines from the region, with its fresh top-fruit of cherries and violets, and a wild, rougher layer underneath, together with a really refreshing acidity. Over the border to the Burgos province, in clay-calcareous soils at 960 meters, Castrillo de Duero is one of the few wines with some oak ageing worth mentioning. Having said that, it’s not more than 12 months in rather neutral French oak, and it bears it without trouble. The 2015 vintage is dark, it has a lovely fruit, it’s a bit balsamic, but not at all oaky.

Amongst all the amusing labels I chose this one:

Alfredo Maestro_El Rey del Glam 2

El Rey del Glam 2016 is sourced from grapes both in Peñafiel (sandy, clay-calcareous soil) and Navarredondilla (granite). It’s a garnacha, obviously high-altitude, and the vines varies between 30 and 100 years old. This is maybe Afredo’s most quaffable wine; beware, it’s so luscouis, delicious that it doesn’t take long before you are sliding over the floor like the glamour king on the label. It’s made from uncrushed bunches that undergo carbonic maceration, fermented with wild yeasts and with no SO2 added. It’s light in colour, with plenty of lovely raspberry fruit, with a dry finish. This takes us over into the Gredos mountain range. El Marciano 2016 is raised, not on Mars, but 1.150 meters above sea level, where the climate is extreme continental. The vines are 70 years old, and the soil is granitic. The late-ripening garnacha is not harvested untill mid-October. This vintage is particularly appealing, with a clear-cut fruit, and a wonderful acidity that’s not easy to obtain with garnacha. Alfredo also brought a few wines outside the program just to show there are interesting projects around the corner. Among these were Rosado Clásico de Valladolid 2015, a rosé from Cigales, the once prominent rosé area just outside Valladolid city. It’s a single vineyard, predominantly tempranillo, raised partly in chestnut. It was peach-coloured with pure raspberry and citric fruit, and a nice concentration.

IMG_4190 Dani and Fernando Dani Landi and Fernando García

Daniel Landi-Jiménez and Fernando García were there, representing both the Comando G project (Madrid province), but Daniel had also brought wines from his own bodega in Méntrida, Toledo. I have commented on these wines several times before (like here in Bilbao, and here at another fair), so I will present them only briefly. These are very fine wines with a refreshing acidity, an almost ethereal elegance, not much macerated and the aromas often show flowery notes. Two old favourites are La Bruja de Rozas 2015 and Las Rozas 1er Cru, now in the 2015 vintage too. The Bruja comes from several plots in and around Las Rozas de Puerto Real, and has a lively fruit, and an acidity that forms a fine structure together with a touch of tannin. The 1er Cru har only a slighly firmer tannin, a touch of smokiness and more concentration. Mataborricos Tinto 2014 was new to me, naturally made in four amphoras, but in the same line as the others. Las Umbrías 2014, a single vineyard wine from granite soils: A tight grip on this one (young tannins), raspberry and cherry fruit and some chalky minerality.

Over in the Toledo province Dani had equally light-coloured, high-expressive wines. He tells that he is always looking for vineyards that is high in the landscape, north-northeast facing, as he wants maximum freshness. Las Uvas de la Ira 2015 and Cantos del Diablo 2014, both from San Vicente, showed this. Las Iruelas 2014 too, from 1.000m elevation in El Tiemblo. El Reventón 2014 from Cebreros (that probably will be the name of the new DO) was the most reductive wine, but with air it reveals lavender and thyme aromas.

Note: I was really sad to hear the other day, that the Gredos area had been affected by severe hailstorms (7th July), and that some of the vineyards you have read about here were among the most severely hit. I really do hope that they will recover the best way possible.

IMG_4187 Rafa Bernabé father and son Rafa Bernabé, sr. & jr. of Bernabé Navarro

Rafa Bernabé (father) is long considered the Spanish expert on clay vessels for wine storage (in Spanish called ‘tinajas’), and I have reported on his wines several times, such as the Tinajas de la Mata, from the national park in Torrevieja. The wine, with 2014 on show here, will go out of production, he tells.

Most wines are made “O meters above sea level”, as Rafa sr. puts it. All wines are made with natural yeasts, none are clarified nor filtered, and all have less than 15 grams sulphur. They presented other wines aged in clay such as the Benimaquía Tinajas 2015, from moscatel and merseguera; light orange colour, aromatic with flowery compounds, it had more skin-contact than the “Tinajas” mentioned above, but still lighter in colour (as the other one has a small amount of black grapes). Musikanto 2015 is a direct-press wine (no skin-contact) garnacha from a higher altitude at 700 meters; light red, and very luscious in the mouth.

They had also a pét nat called Acequión 2015, a “sea moscatel”; deep yellow, with aromas of orange peel and yellow apples, slightly bubbly, and a “mountain monastrell 85% and garnacha”, Tipzzy 2015; light red, easy-to-drink. A dessert wine rounded it off, the Parque Natural 2013, that showed mature apples and dried fruit, some raisins, but it was not overtly sweet either.

Saó del Coster is a new find. I had heard about the winery from Gratallops, Priorat, and was lucky to be able to be pick up their basic “S” (2014) in my local shop, a wine with all the charms of a young, fruity red priorat. They want to keep the alcohol up at 15, to emphasize the local style, full and warm. Here the vintage has changed to 2015, and it’s still a lovely, pure garnacha-dominated wine (carinyena 35%), some spices and minerals, and with a good acidity for freshness.

They work biodynamically with indigenious varieties, with a low-intervention philosophy. A 100% garnatxa (as it’s spelled in Catalan) is Pim Pam Poom 2016. This has been made with 50% whole clusters, with the aim of bringing out minimum colour, maximum flowery, fresh fruit. Pure delight! They also brought two wines from old carinyena. The Planassos 2014 was good, warm and potent, but also with a velvety layer. For me La Pujada 2014 from 90 year old plants was a winner, very elegant with relatively lighter colour, fresh fruits, juicy in the mouth, and a subtle, almost cool fruit all the way.

IMG_4175 Sao del Coster Xavier Barrachina and Michelle Negrón of Saó del Coster

Rioja was represented by three producers from the right bank of Ebro; Honorio Rubio (Cordovín, once famous for claretes), Hacienda Grimón (further east, in the Jubera valley, Rioja Baja) and Viña Ilusión (Herce, near Arnedo in the Rioja Baja).

Honorio Rubio is noted for their whites, and it was especially interesting to taste the Edición Limitada-range with three very different wines. The skin-contact Viura Macerado 2014 was orange in colour, aromas of apricot and lemon, and some more herbal notes, quite light in the mouth, and with a refreshing acidity from the high altitude viura grapes. The Viura Sobre Lías Crianza 2014, aged 6 months in oak and concrete, it’s both traditional lemon and vanilla, and comes with a modern fruitiness too. Añadas is a solera wine made up from ten vintages, thus mixing the sherry and barrel-aged rioja traditions. It’s light golden, with lemon, pear and some buttery notes, both concentrated and fresh. Before I moved on I also tasted two more whites in a hurry, and the Alonso & Pedrajo, Suañe 2014, a raspberry scented red with some sweet notes.

The Oliván Family at Hacienda Grimón uses no chemical fertilisers, but sheep manure like in the old days. No herbicides are used, and the oak is all of second and third year. A couple of favourites were Finca la Oración 2015, a fruity, un-oaked wine full of blackberry aromas and freshness, and Desvelo Garnacha 2015, with second fermentation in oak (7 months); very flowery, red berries, and good weight in the mouth.

Martín Alonso of Viña Ilusión I have met several times, so I tasted his main wine very quickly. His Tinto 2015 is really nice and clean, fruity and elegant, with cherry and blackberry fruit, and good acidity.

Beginning to count down for lunch I did a brief tasting of a winery that I have known for some time. Who said they couldn’t make wine in Asturias? Nicolás Marcos can, and he does so in Cangas, that emerges as the area to consider in the region. At this occation I only tasted four wines. Pesico Blanco 2014 from the albarín variety, not destemmed, aged in chestnut vats of 2.000 liters, bottled without SO2 was glyceric, smooth but still with a young fruit. La Fanfarría Tinto 2015, 50% each of mencía and red albarín, was quite dark with red fruits, herbs and young tannin. Retortoiro Tinto 2014 showed some evolution in the colour, with aromas of cherries, and a structure for further ageing. Cadario 2012 had still more evolved colour, but the evolution has been nice, the tannins are still evident, and the primary fruits are still holding first place. I believe these wines can easily keep for ten years.

IMG_4250

Then running for lunch, I passed Adega Guímaro‘s table. Guímaro can be found in the cool Amandi sub-region of Ribeira Sacra, Galicia interior. I know Pedro Rodríguez and his wines well after a visit and several tastings. So here I almost only passed by the table, where his collegue Raúl Suárez was present. I did a quick tasting of the Guímaro 2016 white from 70% godello, a light, flowery, citric wine, the Finca Capeliños 2015 (50% whole cluster, long maturation in foudres) with its dark mencía fruit, mineral and with young tannins, the Finca Pambeiras 2015 (75 year old vines, 100% whole cluster), a very floral, red fruit dominated, very pure wine, before I brought his wonderful young mencía with its vibrant cherry fruit, the Tinto Jóven 2016, out into the lunch area.

 

 

 

 

The Real Wine fair I: A lovely bubbly start

The Real Wine fair is a two days event with focus on naturally made wine, where many of the leading producers in the genre come from all corners of the world to gather in London, this year at the Tobacco Dock in the eastern part of the city. The activities are not restricted to these two days either, as the arrangers (most importantly importer/distributor Les Caves de Pyrène) have collaborators all over the UK with their own arrangements in the weeks and even months leading up to the fair itself.

This is a very nice place to be, with so many nice people (both producers and visitors) contributing to the atmosphere. And about the wines, I say ‘natural wines’ for short. But there are so many different interpretations of the theme, and add to this the variations in terroirs, grapes and producer personalities, so there are not two identical wines here.

There were maybe not that many sparkling wines on show, but it struck me that here were some of the leading producers of naturally made sparklers in many categories. So here are a few.

Let’s begin in Champagne. Pierre Gerbais is located in the Côte des Bars area in southern Champagne, and has been certified since 1996. Their vineyard consists mainly of the dark marl called kimmeridge. They use the most traditional grapes of the region, but they are also noted for making the first 100% pinot blanc called L’Originale.

IMG_4219 Aurélien Gerbais

From the fresh Cuvée Réserve (24 months on lees) I tasted my way through the five champagnes they had on offer. Among the more special treats were the aforementioned L’Originale (officially NV, but from 2011 grapes): 100% pinot blanc, mostly from a vineyard planted in 1904, in white clay soils: A concentrated wine with aromas of yellow apples, some toast, salty minerals and it’s drying off. L’Osmose Extra Brut (also white clay, also from the 2011 harvest) made from chardonnay: Light colour, quite complex, with apple, some nuts, a nice acidity, and a dry aftertaste. In contrast, L’Audace (2011) is from pinot noir and from darker soil. Here is no dosage, no sulphur added. It’s darker yellow than the others, apples, strawberry, toast, and a mineral finish.

Finally the Grains de Celles Extra Brut, made from 50% pinot noir and the rest chardonnay and pinot blanc and with 36 months ageing on lees, is the most complex of lot. More toasted, aged notes, but some freshness too, yellow apples, mineral, with a slightly sweet fruit balanced by its concentration.

IMG_4218 Ton Mata

Antoni “Ton” Mata Casanovas now leads Recaredo together with his cousins Josep, Carles and Jordi. If there is one emblematic cava producer it is this one, second to no sparkling wine producer from anywhere. They practise dry farming with biodynamic principles, and only work their own vineyards high up in the Alt Penedès.

I have visited them in Sant Sadurní (Catalunya) and tasted through the whole range. Here most cavas were represented. All their wines have a great concentration of flavours, from low yields and prolonged ageing on lees. They don’t have any dosage, and all of them long exceeds the ageing requirements for a gran reserva. They have more focus on the xarel.lo grape than most cava producers. This is the grape that shines most brightly of the cava grapes given a few years of ageing.

Terrers Brut Nature Gran Reserva 2010 has slightly more macabeu than xarel.lo: Aroma of mature apples and a touch of apricot and peach, some balsamic notes and some toast too, and a fresh appearance in spite of the ageing. The Finca Serral del Vell Brut de Brut 2007 is made from approximately even shares of xarel.lo and macabeu. The colour is light, it’s complex, with fresh pineapples aromas along with some toast, some balsamic, and a surprising freshness after 8 years on the lees; the aftertaste shows a stony minerality. According to Ton this is because of the calcareous soil on top of the hill. Further down the same road is the Reserva Particular 2005 (also a gran reserva despite the name), that can be considered one of the purest expressions of Mediterranean sparkling terroir wine (even if Recaredo themselves makes another fantastic cava only in some years), with a xarel.lo 55%/ macabeu 45% blend: Dark straw colour, some lime, smoke, concentrated, rich, and remarkably fresh for its age (almost 10 years on yeast). Worth noting is also that their Brut Intens Rosat 2012 (garnacha/monastrell, a little pinot noir) har all the charms of a sparkling rosé, but is also clearly in the family of aged Recaredo wines.

IMG_4232

Then there is Franciacorta, in the hills near Brescia in the Italian region of Lombardia. The only producer presented here was 1701 Franciacorta, the first certified biodynamic producer in the area. They never use any dosage and sulphur only when absolutely necessary.

As an ouverture there is the low-pressure (3 atmospheres) Sullerba, that is outside the appellation. It’s a light and lovely, yeasty and appley, super easy-to-drink wine. Made from chardonnay in steel and amphora with 12 months on its lees. Their Rosé is lovely, from the 2012 vintage (these wines are also officially NV), fresh with raspberry notes, and a good balance between the fruit and the aged qualities. The Satèn from the 2013 vintage is a chardonnay with 30 months on lees; fresh, not too complicated, but delicious drinking. Maybe the most “serious” (among these wines, all of them obviously serious) is the Vintage 2011 Dosaggio Zero, a 90% chardonnay, the rest pinot noir (pinot nero in Italian), 42 months on the lees, 20% in barrels. Here is a perfect balance between ageing and fruit character, with some toast, mature apples, and a balsamic touch. Long curve. 1701 was a nice surprise and a producer that I didn’t know before.

IMG_4237 Rhona Cullinane and Federico Stefieni

Talking about fun: Prosecco is often marketed as such, but alas, like for many others the vast majority doesn’t give me much of that. But luckily Casa Belfi was in the house!

Casa Belfi (or: Albino Armani) works according to biodynamic principles and there is no fining or filtering involved, nor any addition of SO2. 6 months on lees is typical. I have tried all the wines before, and they are truly joyful wines to drink. I think especially the normal Colfòndo Frizzante 2015 has a good value, with its expressive, pure fruit. It’s yellow/orange, cloudy with a super and fresh apple and citrus peel aroma, notes of bread, and a dry finish. The Colfòndo Anfora 2015 is darker after 7 days of skin contact and 4 months in clay. It’s still fruity, with mature apples, a spicy touch and a citric aftertaste. Talking about fun, the red Raboso Frizzante 2015, from the grape variety by that name, has all the playful expressiveness you can ask for. Red with a dark rim; red berries, earthy notes, and lovely fruit all the way.

IMG_4229 Nicola Zuliani

Casa Coste Piane was also there. This is an estate that dispose of many old vines, some pre-phylloxera, and like Casa Belfi the second fermentation takes place in the bottle, dégorgement is not carried out, so some cloudiness is inevitable. At this point it has not the same expressive qualities as its neighbour, but has more subtle citrus and minerality, and it’s definitely promising.

A couple of days before the fair I visited Will Davenport in his winery in Rotherfield, East Sussex (a short article will follow).

IMG_4200 Will Davenport

Davenport Vineyards, or Limney Farm, is the biggest organic producer in the UK. The winery is small and modest, but it’s fully equipped to make both still and sparkling wines. Therefore they give services to other producers in the area. I love their still white Horsmonden White, but as this piece is about sparkling wines we shall take a brief stop at the Davenport Pet Nat (you know that wine that everybody makes nowadays that can do it, a welcome trend, in my opinion), aged 3 months before disgorging: Light in colour, very aromatic, mature apples, some citrus. Then there is the Limney Auxerrois Sparkling 2014, from a vineyard near the farm, 18 months on lees: Rich yeasty character, stony minerality, and a fresh and delicate touch too. And lastly the Limney Sparkling Rosé 2014: salmon pink, some autolysis character on the nose, plenty of fruit, raspberries and a citric touch.

IMG_4206

Lisa Harvey and Ian Hardwick, volunteers for the Forty Hall project

I was about to say that Forty Hall Vineyard makes the wines with the shortest travel, from Enfield, North London. It’s not quite true that it’s the one with shortest travel, because it has travelled down to Davenport’s winery in East Sussex, and back again, because Forty Hall is among the producers that get some help from Will Davenport.

Forty Hall is a 4 hectar organic vineyard, the first commercial producer in London since the middle ages, led by volunteers as a non-profit organization to support the community.

The London Sparkling Brut 2014 was delicious, beautifully balanced with lightly yeasty character, rounded fruit (mature apples and a touch of citrus) and just enough acidity to match.

Apart from this there were some occational bubbles from producers that aren’t primarily makers of such, both fully and half sparkling wines from Loire, from Italy, and from elsewhere in the world.

 

Terruño Pizarroso at Bodegas Bentomiz

2016-06-29 17.10.21

Bodegas Bentomiz is located in Sayalonga in the Sierras de Málaga. There winter rains are plentyful and the summers long and dry, but this close to the Mediterranean sea the heat is never overwhelming. They dispose of around 80-100 years old vines in what is called in Spanish “terruño pizarroso”, slate soils.

2016-06-29 13.58.05

the Mediterranean as seen from the inside of the stylish Bauhaus bodega

It was the Dutch couple Clara Verheij, a translator, and André Both, a civil engineer, that moved down here more than twenty years ago. They don’t only make some fresh, fragrant wines from local grapes romé, moscatel and others. They set ut a restaurant as well, and we had lunch there not long ago. André is chef, but has had great help from Juan Quintanilla of restaurant Sollun in Nerja, of regional fame, whom André calls his mentor.

2016-06-29 17.08.27

Clara and André

For the lunches they take great pride in pairing 5 or more dishes with wines, not only their own. When we were there Valdespino‘s bold fino Inocente from Jerez was served as an apéritif, and Guitiérrez Colosía’s Puerto de Santa María Oloroso Sangre y Trabajadero was paired with a salad of diced beef in soy sauce. From their own “Ariyanas” range the Romé Rosé 2014 (a very light vintage) came along with a ceviche of corvina, while the Seco Sobre Lías Finas 2014 (a floral and mineral moscatel) came with cod on a spinach emulsion. The Tinto de Ensemblaje 2012 (the ‘ensemblaje’ being petit verdot, tempranillo, cabernet franc and romé, the fullest and most red and wild berry-fruity wine of the day) came with oxtail in reduced sauce with a cream of carrot, ginger and more. One of their dessert wines, appropriately called Naturalmente Dulce 2010 (a dark golden/ light amber coloured floral honey and almond-smelling wine) accompanied André’s own creation “Axarquía”: -We are here; the brown (bread-crumbs) is the earth, the white (vanilla ice) is the snow, says André.

2016-06-29 16.00.33 the Axarquía dessert

Here is another offering, this week’s wine, the Terruño Pizarroso, that got its name from the soil of the place, and that is also served by their lunches – though not that particular day.

The grapes for this moscatel de alejandría wine are grown between 450-900 meters. At Bentomiz no pesticides are used, and all work in the field is done by hand. After harvest the grapes are sundried, then matured for some months in French oak.

LR Ariyanas Terruo Pizarroso 2008

Ariyanas Terruño Pizarroso 2008 (Bodegas Bentomiz)

Golden colour. Aroma of white flowers and herbs, apricot and dried exotic fruits, with toasted hints. Quite sweet in the mouth, reminiscent of honey, but with a certain lightness too, some citrus (grapefruit), and some of the exotic elements continue ’till the end.

Price: Medium

Food: Tropical fruit desserts, fois gras, medium strong blue cheeses

Peaking in Bullas: A visit to Pedro Olivares

It was early morning in the west of Murcia, close to the border of Castilla-la Mancha and Andalucía. I didn’t say the wild west of Murcia, but I can easily understand that once upon a time a lot of famous movies were shot in these rugged hills. At times I waited for Clint Eastwood to appear under the fading sun to the music of Ennio Morricone, just like he actually did many years ago.

This particular morning I entered the wine village Inazares (inhabited by some 30 souls) and went straigh into the saloon, or more correctly: El Nogal, the bar where we agreed to meet. Inazares is out of reach for any telephone, so after some waiting (and I could have waited longer, but I realized that I had come one day too early due to a counting error because 29th February didn’t exist), it was in fact quite difficult to reach Pedro.

Inazares, one day later: Pedro Olivares points at me, not with his gun though, and explains about his project. This winery, once called Heredad Maybri, is now renamed Vinos Bio Pedro Olivares. And another idea came up to make the “Wild Series” from here, from Jaén (Andalucía) and from Utiel-Requena (València), an appropriately named series of  wines, no doubt.

2017-03-01 11.19.54

His project was born out of a continous effort in search for new challenges. He invented the term “multi-dynamic” as a means to take the biodynamic culture further, or rather use it in an un-dogmatic fashion. -I like to be free, he says. This doesn’t mean that he will not be respectful against the soil, where the wine is born. But he doesn’t care too much for denominations and, as we shall see, he can also blend grapes from two or more places.

-When I came here in 1998 it was only mountain, Pedro says. -We analysed the area and compared the results to data about other wine regions of the world. This lead us to plant the varieties we have now, 27 in total, from the clones we considered best for this place.

IMG_4042

Down by the water is merlot from Tasmania. Behind: Pinot noir from Bourgogne, Reims and Oregon

Generally he looks for concentration and acidity in the wines. To achieve the first goal the yield can be surrealisticly low; for some wines it takes 3-4 bushes to make one bottle.

Another interesting feature is the way the vines are “trained”. -I irrigate the bushes so that the roots from one meets the roots from the next, so as to make a stressful environment so that they fight each other and get stronger.

IMG_4032 Pedro Olivares in Europe’s highest vineyard (1.700m)

The highest vineyard in Europe (probably) is at 1.700 meters above sea level. Usually a newly planted vine bears fruit after 3 years, but here the growth so slow that it takes 5. This means that next year we can harvest the first grapes; gewürztraminer, riesling, petit manseng, for white wine, sparkling and ice wine.

IMG_4036

Limestone (the white ones on the surface, but there is also limestone underneath)

2017-03-01 10.33.55-1

The winery to the left (towards the top of the hill, the Inazares village to the right)

IMG_4049 Sherry-type wines from the “sacristy” of the bodega

We tasted a lot of samples during the walk up and down, beginning with a flor-aged “sherry”, from this rugged high landscape. It was quite cold in the winery and difficult both to taste and write, but here are a few short notes:

Monastrell 2015 (from the Wild Series): A monastrell wine from Bullas, from vines of different heights, where acidity is obtained from the highest parts, and fruit and floral aromas from the ones further down. It’s been 4 months in oak (3-4 years old, French-Hungarian-American – low toast, which is considered very important) and concrete tank. Here is a little SO2 (often nothing). Pedro says, I always write “Contains sulphites” even if it often can be less than 10 g/L (one is obliged to write it if it’s more).

The result is a dark, very floral and elegant wine.

Solana del Calor 2015: 85% monastrell from Bullas and 15% viognier (white, in other words) from 1.100 meters near the Inazares village. -This is “my Côte Rôtie”, says Pedro. Dark, spicy, flowery, concentrated.

Merlot 2015 (Wild Series): This one is from Venta del Moro near Requena, where the soils are sandy. We could call this a Mediterranean merlot. The alcohol content is 16%, though when asked I guessed 13. It’s not late harvest either; by end-September everything was in.

Dark, flowery, herbs, more evident tannins (but not green), mature, but good acidity and a chalky aftertaste.

vinos bio pedro olivares_vineyard Bobal 104 years in Venta del Moro Old bobal (credit: P. Olivares)

Bobal 2014 (Wild Series): From Venta del Moro too, up to 105 years old pie franco (ungrafted) vines, only concrete tank.

Dark colour, but more light fruites in aroma; cherry (morello), raspberry, quite evident tannins.

Bobal 2016, tank-sample: Very fruity, cherries, raspberry.

BM Bobastrell 2016 (from the series Mediterranean Cuvée, that orignates from an idea to create a Mediterranean wine from an Utiel/Bullas blend). The bobal is obviously Venta del Moro (Utiel-Requena) and monastrell from Bullas in 50% each.

Dark, dark fruits, cherry, mynth, spice, balsamic, long aftertaste.

enTreDicho 2016 (from a series by that name, this is an unfinished sample of a wine similar to the next, now in malolactic fermentation.

Some animal notes, flowery, red fruits, a little carbonic.

vinos bio pedro olivares_vineyard in Jaen_planted learned by Dal Forno New vineyard in Jaén (credit: P. Olivares)

enTreDicho 2015 (enTreDicho series) from Benatae in the Sierra de Segura (Jaén province): This is an interesting blend of monastrell, syrah, nebbiolo (for acidity), petit verdot, jaén negro and molinera. It’s from clay soil, no sulphur added, and it’s been 6 months on the lees.

Dark, flowery, fruity in the mought, slightly carbonic.

Pedro tells that he can tell that it comes from clay soil, as the tannins from clay are felt in the cheeks, while tannins from sand shows more on the tongue. It’s easy to agree, but it needs more investigation to tell if this can be said to be a general lesson.

Then an interesting coupling; two wines to end the tasting.

A viognier/riesling blend, hand-harvested, from the high vineyard at 1.600m:

Yellow colour (in barrel, still on the lees), some butter, flower (jasmine type), long, citric, orange, mandarine.

Sasa, a moscatel (and a tiny amount of malvasía) from “a little” lower: 10 meters above sea level, in València, near the city:

Light in colour, flowery, mandarine, apricot, very long curve.

IMG_4046 4 year old vines, will bear fruit next year

All wines are organic and vegan certified. -We also want animals so that we can make our own compost, he admits. However the vegan societies don’t care about animals used this way, at least not to this day.

IMG_4040 Once upon a time in the south

Good Wines on the Fork: Impressions from Stavanger Vinfest

I have recently reported from another wine fair in Stavanger, Norway. You can read the first of three articles from that one here. While the former is a one-day arrangement arranged by a wine organization (or rather: a big wine club), this one is different. Behind this are a number of local restaurants, many of the best in town (among them Michelin star restaurant Renaa, a “newcomer” in the festival’s 19 year old history). Stavanger Vinfest is a nearly full-week experience, with tastings, winemaker’s dinners, a wine “train” (7 “stations”, you have to walk between them, and you are likely to meet a wine producer, get a bite and a sip at each place, and there is a quiz involved too).

On Saturday there is an arrangement that can be said to sum up the week in a tasting where the importers and some of the producers participate. It’s held at one of the participating restaurants, called Gaffel & Karaffel (meaning fork and decanter, although the wordplay is obviously lost in translation). Here are some impressions from my short visit.

IMG_4154 Gaffel & Karaffel, restaurant and culture center in the heart of Stavanger

Elisabetta Foradori is a fabulous producer in Trentino Alto Adige, Italy at the foot of the Dolomites. They are strieving to practise a sustainable agriculture, according to biodynamic principles, with the biodiversity in mind. They use primarily local grape varieties, like teroldego, manzoni bianco and nosiola. Theo, one of Elisabetta’s sons, was there. He served several wines, like the Fontanasanta Nosiola 2014, a vintage with quite a lot of rain that gave high acidity: light colour, flowers and yellow apples in aroma, and a nice touch of tannins in the finish. Next the Fuoripista Pinot Grigio from 2013, a richer year with more sun: light rosé colour, raspberry and wet clay, full with a smooth texture, some alcohol in the finish.

IMG_4139 Theo Foradori pouring and explaining

Manzoni Bianco 2015, shipped a couple of weeks ago, thus not quite ready. The wine is always fruity, with apples, flowers and minerals though, and this cementfermented wine will settle into a seemless, lovely wine. The Vigneti delle Dolomiti 2014 is the closest we come to an “entry level” red: pure teroldego, raised in steel and old oak. Lovely, luscious drinking, fresh fruit, red berries dominating. Sgarzon 2015 is another teroldego; dark, meaty, red berries, herbs and some animal over wet forest tones. A hint of volatile acidity in aftertaste does not bother me, as it adds to the freshness, in my opinion.

From the same importer’s table I did a quick selection. La Marca di San Michele Passo Lento 2015 comes from Jesi, Marche (just off the Italian Adriatic coast). Not absolutely normal is ageing the verdicchio grape in big oak vats. Here it results in a light coloured wine, and with aromas of apple, lime and peach over some butter and nuts, and with a good length.

Jürgen Leiner is an interesting producer from Pfalz, Germany. His Handwerk Riesling Trocken 2015 showed a light straw colour, apple and lime, a good concentration and a very appealing acidity and good length.

The distance was then short over to producer Georg Breuer of Rüdesheim, Rheingau. The house was represented by Theresa Breuer, who had been in town for a variety of activities during the whole week, and together with her I made a selection of nearly ten wines from their table. The GB Gris 2015, obviously from pinot gris (or Grauburgunder as it is called here), was light and floral, with apple, citrus, a touch of honey, and a good acidity. GB Sauvage 2014: Slender, steely, lightly barrel-raised wine with flowers, apple, citrus and herbs in the aroma, slightly bitter finish. For me the best of the barrel-aged whites on show.

Berg Schlossberg 2014: Here is a prime example of Breuer’s greatness. A concentrated, mineral, complex wine in perfect balance today, and is capable of ageing as well. The dominating aromas are yellow apples, flowers and a touch of honey.

IMG_4148 Theresa Breuer

GB Rosé 2015 from Spätburgunder (pinot noir): Very light colour, raspberries, rounded acidity. A charming wine for immediate consumption. Its counterpart Rouge 2013, also from spätburgunder was light red, somewhat developed, with mature berries, a little spicy and smoky, a rounder taste, luscious and… yes, quaffable.

IMG_4141 Børge of La Mano Verde

Local lad Børge Kolstad is one of the many Norwegians with a passion for Italy and a hobby project in wine. La Mano Verde works organically, as the name suggests, and they are experimenting with amphora ageing too. From the two wines I would say that the house style is ripe barbera fruit. I like the amphora version better than the French oak wine, even if that one too was held over the water by an uplifting acidity. La Mano Verde Terra Rosso 2015 had dark, mature and slightly sweet fruit, with black cherries and plums, and a smooth texture and slightly sweet, warm aftertaste.

Knut-Espen Misje of Terroir Wines was there with a bunch of interesting wines. I tasted only a few this time, as I know quite well his careful selection. As for the two first wines, I am not sure “how organic” they are, but they are worth mentioning. The Ridgeview Bloomsbury 2014 (classic Champagne blend), shows that the English make good sparkling wines nowadays. Almost 2 years on lees, still the fruit is dominating, with green apples, flowers, a touch of the tropics, and a rounded aftertaste at around 8 grams sugar. Prager Achleiten Smaragd 2015 from Wachau: A very classy, elegant wine, complex with citrusy and tropical notes, and a fresh acidity contributing to a long finish.

The Bétoulin 2015 (Domaine de Pajot) is a quite simple, but delicious organically made, low-intervention wine from Côtes de Gascogne. From 2/3 merlot and the rest cabernet it’s light and fruity, with moderate tannins. The producer says it’s elaborated the same way as their whites, with low, controlled temperatures, frequent remontages and moderate maceration.

IMG_4143

Importer Knut-Espen Misje (Terroir), also lecturer for the Norwegian Culinary Academy and one of the people behind the fair

Schlossgut Diel, from Nahe was represented by some lovely wines. I tasted the Riesling from Burgberg, a Grosses Gewächs with clayey soil with slate and alluvial sand, in three different vintages. The 2013 was very expressive, very concentrated, young and citrusy, 2012 less mineral, fruity, more open, and rounder. The Burgberg Riesling GG 2011 was in turn a little more mature, round, powerful too, very rich and long.

IMG_4150 Sylvain Taurisson Diel 

Stavanger fair III: Portugal

Portugal came somehow in the shadow of the many Spanish contributions of the fair. However there were some old favourites. Alvaro Castro continues to do an excellent job near the Serra da Estrela national park. Two of my favourites are his lovely, fresh young Saes Dão 2015 from a traditional Dão blend -dark berries, mountain vegetation, a touch of spices-, and its more ambitious touriga-based brother Quinta de Saes Reserva 2012.

From Douro I had the pleasure to retaste one of Niepoort‘s bestsellers, a typical Douro blend that changes its name according to market. If I remember right it started in Germany as Fabelhaft, and in Norway it’s translated into Fabelaktig, now in the 2015 vintage. This one too is a fruity, almost silky red, with aromas of red berries, some spice and just a slightly sweet oak-tone.

Luís Seabra was represented by Xisto Ilimitado 2014. His project is characterized by a wish to express the terroir, low-intervention vinification, ageing in big, used vats. His favours were hired by Dirk Niepoort a.o., but he finally choose to go solo and made good wines from his first vintage in 2013. This wine was dark, with cool fruitiness, a little spicy, surprisingly light, but with just enough structure to bind it nicely together. As the name suggests the wine has a mineral touch, and the acidity gives it a long and lingering farewell.

IMG_0990 Yes, it takes a little bit of concentration

Luís Pato was represented by no less than twelve wines. Pato lives and works in Óis do Bairro in the Bairrada region, but for political reasons he chose to declassify his production some years ago. The wines are obviously at a high level, and among the many wines I appreciated this particular evening were two of his whites, the Maria Gomes Branco 2014, golden, rich, glycerine-full and a hint of citrus and tropical fruits, and the Vinhas Velhas Branco 2014 (50% bical, the rest sercial and sercialinho), more concentrated, slender, with notes of green apples, yellow plums and a stony minerality. Among the reds I will limit myself to mention three wines, the Baga Natural 2012, a relatively new wine in the portfolio, a no-sulphur-added, expressive, fruity and a little earthy wine in the lower end of the price-scale. Another budget wine is the Colheita Seleccionada 2013 (baga with touriga nacional), unoaked, cherry red, with red fruits and herbs. Then there was the Vinhas Velhas 2011, nowadays more on the fruity side and less woody than it used to be, although it has seen big French barrels for a year. I have recently tasted ’90 and ’95 versions of the wine, both still drinking very nicely. This wine is for considerably shorter shelf-life. All right, I’ll give you one more, the always lovely Vinha Pan, now in the 2013 vintage. This chalky clay-vineyard is harvested twice, first for rosé and sparkling wines, then one and a half months later to give this red wine, relatively dark, with red fruit aromas, decadent underwood, mushrooms, and some notes in the balsamic/lickorice direction. Very “baga”, very good.

Conventially made ports was not the focus of my visit, but I couldn’t avoid noticing that Symington was present.

2017-01-21 13.01.26 In front of the Symington port table

 

IMG_3987 Aftertaste: Yes, another successful fair has come to an end

Stavanger fair II: Spanish reds

In part two I will present just a few highlights among the red wines on the fair. Here you can read about the white wines and some other stuff.

A few words about Rioja: There were many of the old style riojas represented, from crianzas to gran reservas, with their aristocratic names, and gold threads around the heavy bottles. I really have nothing against this style, and once in a while I still enjoy tasting a ‘historic’ wine several decades old. But about this style in general, let me be honest: I have “been there, done that”, as they say. The wine that was selected the best wine of the fair in the high end category was a wine of this sort. I must appologize then, because I didn’t taste it.

I did taste a few riojas though. And in my opinion, what Rioja should do now is what nearly all other regions do, let the vineyards speak, and allow their names to be printed on the labels. If not, dear DOCa. Rioja, you will see many more than Artadi ride away and disappear into the horizon. I will come back to recent Rioja politics in another post. Meanwhile those who are interested can read about a lecture I gave at another Norwegian fair here.

Olivier Rivière is a Frenchman in Rioja (sounds like an echo from the old days maybe, when producers Riscal and Murrieta sought for help and inspiration). Rivière has been a consultant for Telmo Rodríguez, but at the same time he started to buy vineyards. His Rayo Uva 2015 is made predominantly from tempranillo, with some graciano and garnacha grown near Aldeanueva de Ebro, near the Navarra border. It’s a wine made in a natural way, low sulphur, and it has some carbonic. I was tempted to say it has a wild or raw fruitiness, with emphasize on blackberries, cherries, a slight balsamic touch, and it’s as usual very drinkable with a lovely acidity from high altutude vineyards.

Rodríguez himself was also represented by his cheapest rioja wine. When I last visited him in Ollauri he was making the unoaked, fruity, blackberry-focused LZ (here in 2013 vintage) in a very modest winery, and the grapes were partly from Ollauri, partly higher up in Lantziego in the ascendent to the Sierra Cantabria. As I understand at least in 2015 there are only Lantziego grapes used. As you understand both LZ and the Lanzaga wine names (not represented at the fair) are inspired from Basque for the Lanciego village. Only bush wines, handpicked grapes, vineyard selection, only native yeast, fermentation and maturing in cement tanks… Quite unusual for a “commercial” entry-level wine!

All right, I admit that I also tasted the Barón de Chirel 2011, from the historic Marqués de Riscal bodega, as if only to greet an old friend. This was maybe the first of the “high expression” wines that once promised a new dawn for Rioja.

IMG_3978 Óscar Alegre from the Telmo Rodríguez company

From tempranillo country over to where that beautiful, underestimated garnacha grape is queen. Sierra de Gredos is a mountainous country in the border-zone between three regions, Madrid, Castilla-La Mancha and Castilla y León. This region, where once the first of the “paradores” (the state-owned tourist hotels) was opened, is now working towards a DO Cebreros, named after one of its villages. I had the pleasure to travel around this area together with Alfredo Maestro, leader of the Garnachas de Gredos group during a few winter days two years ago, when the termometer showed -13 Celcius in his own vineyard in the Ávila province.

On this trip I met Dani Landi and his Comando G (for garnacha) collegues. The wines from these people have a truly original interpretation of the grape. They would maybe deny this, as they believe they are just bringing out what the terroir and the grapes comand. Anyway, the wines are always highly expressive, often light in colour, very floral and smells of red berries and with a lovely acidity. Las Uvas de Ira 2014 (Daniel Landi-Jiménez) and Rozas 1er Cru Garnacha 2015 (Comando G) were both among the absolute highlights of the fair. Producer Bernabeleva’s wines (sourced from San Martin de Valdeiglesias village, Madrid) are generally less “wild”, though there is a bear on some of the labels. The Navaherreros Tinto 2014 shown here was quite light in colour, ruby red, with super fruit dominated by dark berries and some spice, and with a mineral aftertaste. Telmo Rodríguez is present in Gredos too, in fact I don’t think it’s wrong to say that he has paved the way for the other producers we talk about. He makes two versions for his Pegaso label in Cebreros, one for each of the predominant soils in the area, granite and slate (‘pizarra’ in Spanish). The Pegaso Granito 2010 is somewhat darker than Landi’s wines, but still only cherry red, with lots of red fruits, fine tannins, generous alcohol and a mineral aftertaste. It’s worth noting that the garnachas from Gredos is quite different from the ones from Aragón/Navarra and the montainous parts of Catalunya.

IMG_3974

Enjoying the moment in the busy, bustling atmosphere

Speaking of Catalunya, Terroir al Límit of Torroja, Priorat made a lasting impression, for the reds just like their white wines. They presented two wines made in exactly the same way in 2013: cariñena, old vines (80-90 years), two years in old oak. The only difference was exposition, whereas the Arbossar is from south-faced vineyards the Dits del Terra is north-faced. While they shared many of the characteristics, red berries, flowers, some balsamic notes and minerality, the latter clearly showed a cooler style. Les Tosses 2013 was the most expensive wine, way above the rest at NOK 1.300 (150€/125£). At this point it was quite reductive and needed air, but one could sense both flowers, dark fruits and some balsamic underneath. In the mouth it was powerful, but not overwhelming. So seen in context with the high quality of the rest of their line, I have no reason not to believe that this will be very good indeed.

IMG_3968 Luís Romero with Ivan Zednik of importer Vinarius

From the interior of Galicia we must talk about a couple of wines. Dominio do Bibei is located in Bibei subzone of Ribeira Sacra. This project started some 15 years ago when a group of enthusiasts came together to join forces. They found this wonderful place with chestnuts and oaks, lavenders and chamomile, vegetation that can be brought back to memory once smelling the wine. They did not want a monoculture based on mencía. In respect of their predecessors they opted for a blend of indigenous varieties, so that they could add complexity and elegance to the mencía. And with a range from 200 to 700 meters there are optimal conditions for all of them. Their Lalama 2012 is made from mencía, with a 10% of garnacha (the garnacha tintorera/ alicante bouschet version, I think). I often find that mencía alone too has more freshness here compared to the ones over the Castilian border in Bierzo, maybe it’s because of the Atlantic influence, and many of the vineyards are high uphill too. This wine is a little spicy and shows some trace of wood, but it’s by no means heavy, and has an appealing acidity.

While I have known this wine through some vintages the next one was new to me. Just 30 minutes up the Bibei river we enter into the small community of Santa Cruz within the Valdeorras DO. It has a similar approach, and it’s again Telmo Rodríguez (who deserves a special prize for bringing out wonderful wines from so many regions). As Cabarcas 2013 (T. Rodríguez): one of the revelations of the fair. I know Telmo, I know Valdeorras, and I know that he’s working there. I knew about the red and white Gaba do Xil, but this one – no. And what a wine! Dark, blueish, young, fresh, natural, very luscious, great drinking! The vineyard has many of the same grapes that Dominio do Bibei posesses, and here they are present in the blend too: mencía, merenzao, sousón, garnacha, brancallao, and even the white godello.

From Jumilla (Murcia) there was a wine from non-grafted rootstocks (there are some of this kind in Jumilla, we have also known Julia Roch’s version for many years). The grapes for Pie Franco Monastrell 2015 (Altamente Vinos) are grown 900 meters above sea level. The wine is a typical young monastrell; dark and blueish, spicy, with hints of both dark berries and is a real mouthful. Aged in concrete it’s free from disturbing oak too. One of the people behind Altamente is Fernando Barrena, from Navarra and one of the key-figures behind the company Azul y Garanza. They were represented at the fair too, with two wines, among them the always fruity and lively Fiesta de Azul y Garanza, now in the 2015 vintage. One red from the islands, namely Tenerife: 7 Fuentes (Soagranorte, aka Suertes del Marqués), has been a favourite during the last few years. The 2014, from 110 years old listán negro vines in the cool Orotava valley, aged in cement, is as good as ever before: dark and red berries, flowers, herbs, it’s a little peppery too, a lusicious, fruity taste that rounds off with a volcanic minerality and a charming acidity.

IMG_3966 Many happy faces in Stavanger. No wonder!

 

1 2 3 4