Category Archives: Wine of the Week

Austrian with great personality

I met Eduard and Stephanie two years ago in London. In fact, the first time I had contact with Eduard Tscheppe he was doing a range of more conventional wines in Südsteiermark, so I was surprised to find him there. But at the RAW (fair for natural wines) I tasted through a whole range of Burgenland wines with great personality. Yesterday, by coincidence, I was presented to a bottle at my local wine store. This is the only shop in my country where it can be found at the moment, and there is only one bottle left. But luckily this one and other Tscheppe wines can be ordered from anywhere in this strange land.

Tscheppe Stephanie Tscheppe-Eselböck and Eduard Tscheppe

They took over the winery Gut Oggau some years ago. It’s named after the village Oggau am Neusiedler See, close to both the Hungarian and the Slovakian border. From 13 hectars biodynamically cultivated vineyards come a range of wines. These are all vinified with grapes from a single plot, and each cuvée is named after a fictional character, together forming a whole family.

In short, the winemaking includes some time on the skins and lees for both red and white wines, indigenous yeasts, no filtration or fining. It may sound frightening to some, but the results are elegant wines full of life. The wines most often get used to oxygen early in in their development, contrary to the modern norm, where all contact with oxygen must be avoided.

Timotheus then, we learn from the back label, is a representative from the elegant elderly generation, powerful and self-confident, and with both feet planted «in life». You can maybe see this from his portrait, but to get the whole presentation you must buy a bottle.

This wine is made from grüner veltliner and weissburgunder and aged for 9 months in used 500 liter barrels.

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Timotheus 2013 (Gut Oggau)

Misty yellow with a brownish-greenish hue. Expressive (but by no means ‘boasting’), quite complex aromas with elements of clementine, flowers, almond… In the mouth it’s round, fleshy, a bit appley, and with a slightly bitter aftertaste that often comes with the grape variety.

Price: Medium

 

Low-price, low-sulphite from Navarra

Lezaun is a family bodega located in the tiny village of Lakar in the sub-region of Tierra Estella, Navarra. We are near the mountain ranges Urbasa and Andia, and the vineyards give wines that show both Atlantic and Mediterranean influence. The bodega has more than 200 years of history, and today the responsible for oenology is Raúl Lezaun. In-stead of chemical fertilizers they use compost from sheep, and diseases such as mildew and oïdium are fought with sulphur and copper.

Among the wines there are two lines, Lezaun and Eguiarte. There are many interesting wines, but I particularly like the lesser-oaked wines, such as this one. It’s made solely from tempranillo grapes from a vineyard called Zabalartea, completely un-oaked, un-sulphured, and it tastes delicious.

Lezaun

Lezaun 0,0 Sulfitos 2014 (Bodegas Lezaun)

Deep red with a blueish hue. Smells of dark berries, underwood and spice, it has a balsamic coolness, but also hints of something sweeter (mature fruit and the richness from the alcohol). It’s a full wine, with a nice tannin grip and some warmth in the aftertaste.

Price: Low

Food: Red and light meat, tasty sandwiches, tapas

Marenas Lucía of Cordoba

We often hear that natural wines cannot age. Libenese Musar is an example that this isn’t true, though it’s maybe not strictly natural either. Here is a more hard-core natural wine from the current leader of Spain’s organization of producers of natural wines PVN, José Miguel Márquez of Montilla, Cordoba.

Some of his wines age under flor, to honor the tradition of the area. After all Montilla is the town that inspired the name of the famous sherry style amontillado. All Marenas’ wines come from vineyards with nearly the highest insolation in Spain, maybe in Europe, and the sunny character is evident in the wines. Still José Miguel achieves a good sense of balance and harmony, and wines that last at least mid-term.

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Marenas Lucía Tempranillo-Monastrell 2005 (Bodega Marenas)

Dark with brownish, developed tones. Mature fruit, cherries, coffee, marmelade. In a good harmony between fruit, wood, and age. Will not improve however.

Price: Medium

Food: Red and light meat, roast, hard cheeses

About flowers and bees

Ribeiro is one of Galicia’s inland DO’s. Coto de Gomariz overlooks the river Avia, and counts nearly 30 hectars on schist, granite and sand. The land is mainly steep, and the yields are naturally low. Gomariz has surely come a long way since Ricardo Carreiro’s father founded the estate a few decades ago, and has been one of the leading estates in Galicias Ribeiro for several years now, one of the major awards so far is «best white wine of the year» by Spanish wine website ElMundoVino. Many good wines mainly from treixadura and sousón have emerged, terroir based wines full of expressive fruit and a great deal of minerality.

IMG_2771 Ricardo Carreiro in the Gomariz cellar

Ricardo has introduced biodynamic techniques. Recently, together with his winemaker Xosé Lois Sebio, he has also added some new wines. I think the main reasons for this were to secure some quicker income, and at the same time improving the grape material for the top wines. A basic white was released. Then there are the two varietal wines called The Flower and the Bee. There is a treixadura white, while this week’s special wine is red, and the one grape being sousón. This variety is thought by some to be an original Galician grape, but it is in fact the same grape known as sousão or vinhão over the Portuguese border.

 

2015-06-15 19.57.34 Unpretentious, lovely wine for a simple, tasty tapa

The Flower and the Bee (La Flor y la Abeja) Sousón 2013 (Coto de Gomariz)

Dark with a blue rim. Vivid aromas of blueberry and raspberry, some balsamic notes (mint), and a touch of sweet spice. In the mouth juicy, slightly carbonic, and very easy to drink. The 2013 has settled and is maybe at its peak right now.

Price: Low

Food: Salads, a variety of tapas, light meat and -why not?- bacalao

 

White SP68

Here is another delight from «natural woman» Arianna Occhipinti. She makes two wines named after the local road SP68. Read about the red one here. Near the town of Vitoria and Mount Etna Occhipinti dispose of about 18 hectars of vineyards.

 

The white SP68 is made from albanello and moscato di allessandria, from a vineyard 280 meters above sea level. The plants are just over 10 years old, and they are not subject to any chemical treatment. The fermentation is done with natural yeasts, the maceration 10 days with the skins, and the wine is then aged 6 months in inox and bottled unfiltered.

 

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SP68 2013 (A. Occhipinti)

Light golden orange colour (appearance almost like a fino sherry). Big aromas of white flowers, almonds and orange peel. In the mouth it is quite full with a touch of dryness, some tannin from the ten days with the skins, moderate acidity and dry finish. Just a little more skin-contact, and I would have called it an orange wine.

Price: Low

Food: Some cheeses and salads. Think of it as a moscatel wine when pairing with food.

 

Mountain wine off Granada’s tropical coast

We took a trip from Almuñécar on Granada’s tropical coast and found Bodega H. Calvente in the village of Jete just 15 minutes inland. Here Horacio Calvente and his wife Josefina makes organic red, white, rosé and sparkling wines from two main vineyards in the sheltering mountain ranges Chaparral and Almijara. They ferment them with natural yeasts, and they play with the temperatures to achieve the desired qualities. The lights and whites are simply delicious. The reds are on the oaky side, but I believe that they have the power to come around.

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When we were there on San Juan, a public holiday, they obviously had other plans. Still they kindly opened the doors for a brief visit. It’s wonderful actually that everywhere you turn there are small scale producers like these who love their land, their work and their wine. 

The wine of this week is their signature white wine. Made from 50-120 years old moscatel de Alejandría grapes in the Guindalera vineyard at 750 to more than 1000 meters in the Sierra de Chaparral.

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Calvente Guindalera (mountain wine) 2014

Light straw yellow. Expressive aromas of peach and pineapple, white flowers, some tropical fruit (chirimoya). Full on the palate, a slight hint of bitterness, and with moderate acidity, all this typical of the grape.

Price: Low/medium

Food: Fish, shellfish, chicken, fruits. The picture is taken at Almuñécar’s Los Laureles restaurant, where we had a blue cheese and cured ham salad, and it also went well with the chicken main and a strawberry, cream and peppermint dessert.

Serious Beaujolais

Jean Foillard was one of the disciples of Jules Chauvet, one of the fathers of modern natural wine. Foillard’s Morgons are from nearly 100 year old vines from the family domain grown on granite and schist soils. They are made according to strictly organic principles and with very little SO2, but there is nothing «strange» about them, and I suppose anyone can like them. Though accessible and delicious when young they have an ageing potential of several years too. They undergo a traditional whole cluster beaujolais fermentation for 3 or 4 weeks. Then are aged in old barrels, but oaky is clearly not a word to describe these wines.

 

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Jean Foillard Morgon 2013

Young red colour, dark for a beaujolais. Lovely perfumed scent of raspberries and cherries. Delicious, juicy taste, still good concentration and just a slight touch of tannin. Good length. Complete finesse – Serious fun!

Price: Low

From the wine oasis

Château Musar is quite popular these days. But the Hochar family has made high quality wines from high altitude vineyards in the Bekaa Valley since its foundation in 1930, organic before organic wine was «labelled», and natural before natural wine was «invented» – all this despite wars and unstableness. The blend is French because of its founder’s fascination for Bordeaux –and his son Serge Hochar’s studies there– and the grapes are hand-picked by local bedouins.

2011 was a very dry year in the beginning. Heavy rainfalls compensated it in april and may, but the result was one of the latest ripenings in the history of Musar. I appreciate the variations in vintages, that comes partly from Hochard’s approach to winemaking.

And I particularly like the version that comes from younger grapes, that I feel is somewhat between youthful fruityness and more complex seriousness. The grapes are French (in 2011 50% cinsault, 35% syrah and 15% cabernet sauvignon), but the wine is also unmistakably «foreign», with a warm touch. In a sense it parallels its multicultural place of origin. It’s made from natural yeasts, the vinification has been carried out in cement tanks, and the wine had 9 months ageing in steel before it was bottled, unfined, unfiltered.

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Musar Jeune 2011 (Ch. Musar)

Deep red. Aroma of red fruits, blackcurrent, flowers, plums, some spice. At first some barnyard, but it disappears with airing. It has a raisiny character from the many long days of sun, but also some coolness from the breezes and the snowy mountain ranges. The taste is fresh and fruity, with round tannins and a spicy aftertaste with a touch of warmth.

A serious tax-free wine!

Price: Low

Food: Red meat, game

Gold on the Costa Blanca

Interesting things are happening at the unlikely place of the Costa Blanca, the most heavy tourism and holiday home strip along the Spanish coast. From head-quarters in Bigastro, between Oriuhela and the infamous Torrevieja, Rafa Bernabé makes wines from grapes sourced from a rather big area from the coast and towards bordering Murcia.

This week’s special wine is aged in clay jars (in Spanish called tinajas) made in La Mancha. Perhaps more sensational, it is grown within the borders of La Mata national park in the municipality of Torrevieja. Bernabé is one of the many who have left their respective DO’s lately, so the wine is classified as a table wine (Vino de Mesa). The vineyards are situated near sea level, and they are organically treated. They have a high proportion of sand, so the vines are also predominantly pre-phylloxera, ungrafted. The ageing has been carried out in jars, without stirring, no SO2 has been added, the yeast are all natural, and there has been no filtration.

The wine has an orange colour one can expect from a «white» wine that has spent a prolonged time in contact with the skins (30 days maceration), but it has also a red hue. Why is this, I first asked myself, especially when the only grapes listed are the white merseguera 60% and moscatel 35%. But then, there are also 5% «others». So I asked the producer the same question. And yes, the wine also includes five red varieties that already existed within the old vineyards, and they are esclafacherre, plantamula, forcayat, valensi and parrell. (Say them one more time, as fast as you can!) Rafa says the old folks liked the colour that red varieties in small quantities gave the white wines. But he says that he also thinks the higher proportion of polyfenols adds to the ageing potential to the wine.

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Tinajas de La Mata 2013 (Bernabé Navarro)

Golden orange colour, with a light touch of red, and with «long legs». Aromas of flowers, white fruits, orange peel, and with a salty tang; some barnyard at first, but it disappears with airing. It’s quite full, with some tannin, and a mellow citric acidity. All in all a lovely, stimulating wine.

Price: Medium

Food: Fish and shellfish, foie, a variety of cheeses, and – why not – paella

Handmade in Menfi

There is more in Sicilia than Etna, much in fashion these days. The southwestern coast faces the ocean, and there are beaches with beautiful sand dunes and a fresh breeze. On these beaches there are flowers, and there are beetles, turtles, and all sorts of birdlife. And close to the ocean there are vineyards that take in the salinity from the ocean breeze and warmth of the Mediterranean sun, and the temperature changes between night and day brings both ripeness and a cool acidity to the grapes.

The small town of Menfi is located on this coast, some 3 kilometres inland, and not far from the Marsala growing area. And here is Cantine Barbera, that makes wine from local and regional white grapes like inzolia, grillo and zibibbo, and reds perricone, nerello mascalese, nero d’avola, and some occational international intruder like merlot (in fact a very interesting wine, and the first one I tasted from this winery around 10 years ago).

Bilderesultat for cantine barbera menfi

Marilena Barbera has a “more than organic” approach to winemaking, these wines are made in an artesan way, handmade. This week’s special wine is just that: handmade and truly special. Ammàno means handmade in local dialect. But it’s more: In Marilena’s own words, “it’s totally hand made, and by totally I mean it”. This statement implies that no electricity operated machines are used, the grapes are hand harvested and hand crushed, and all winemaking is carried out only with manual tools. Bottling and corking is also manual, and even the labels are handwritten by Marilena herself (as you may want to see here).

It’s made from old zibibbo grapes. There are no industrial additives, the wine is not filtered, and bottling and corking is done manually too. No industrial additives are used during winemaking, and sulphur is used only to disinfect the barrels. Free SO2 is a mere 13 mg/L.

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Ammàno #2 2014 (Cant. Barbera)

Light golden with a greenish hue, bordering of being unclear. Extremely aromatic with strong tones of grapefruit, and some rhubarb, gooseberry and a salty touch. Full in the mouth, cidery. Yes, it has grapefruit taste too, but it’s a well-rounded, almost ripe and highly attractive bitterness coming through towards the end. Great personality!

Price: Medium

Food: White fish, cooked and grilled, tuna and sword fish, light meat and, I believe, many of the Arab influenced dishes of western Sicilia

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