Category Archives: Wine of the Week

Bearable lightness

One of the most memorable wines from RAW fair a couple of years ago was this one. Emilio Foradori of Trentino, Italy presented it at a kvevri seminar. I had serious trouble to describe it, but the title of Kundera’s famous book came to my mind, in the opposite meaning though, because this was absolutely bearable, not to say “uplifting”.

This one was different from the other wines presented. It was lighter, it had another texture – and it was aged in a clay container – from Spain! I had to investigate this further, and I will tell you more about this soon.

Nosiola is a grape variety without a very distinct character of its own. The name is thought to have something to do with hazelnuts (‘nosiol’ in local dialect), and it sounds likely. In the past it was usually made with long skin-contact, and it’s associated with the production of dessert wines. I imagine that this is a grape variety that is applicable for expressing terroir. More about the producer and the techniques behind the wine later. Here is a brief description.

 

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Fontanasanta Nosiola 2012 (Elisabetta Foradori)

Light yellow. Aroma of flowers (jazmine), orange peel, peaches, nuts (closest to hazelnuts, in fact). Quite dry texture, integrated acidity, and an unbelievable combination of lightness and concentration.

Still in the same vintage as presented at the fair, but there’s no wear and tear about this true, true wine.

Price: Medium

Passionate Australian post-punk

The organic wine movement (not unlike the musical scene) can be said to have two extremes: one comformist/opportunistic approach that seeks to meet the demand of growing consumer groups and to obtain the certificates, and the punks who wants to rock the establishment. There is, as always, a way in the middle too. Here we are in an artistic landscape that borrows from punk, call it neo- or post punk, but Some Young Punks follow the rules, and they behave. So there is no anarchy in Australia, though they don’t care about the stamps of official recognition either.

I have tasted many of their wines over the last months. They have all real character, marked by the hot Australian climate, but why shouldn’t they? Many of us want the wines to express local landscape and weather conditions, so these wines should not be burgundies. But they have also moved away from our Australian cliché: over-extracted, over-oaked, and generally boring wines in appealing packages.

Nic Bourke, Col McBryde and Jen Gardner are the Punks’ names. Their focus is in the vineyards, and they want their old vines, many of them pre-phylloxera, to be used in personal quality wines in-stead of ending up in the big players’ blends. In 2005 their first vintages of «Passion has red lips» and «Naked on roller skates» were released, then followed wine titles like «Quickie», «Monsters, Monsters attack!» and «The Squid’s Fist», all with labels inspired by old cartoons and paperbacks.

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This passion-wine is made at Nic’s winery in McLaren Vale, south of Adelaide, South Australia. They use natural yeasts, quite long maceration with skins, short oakageing, and many vineyards are treated biodynamic, not by religious conviction, but because they see that it works.

 

Passion has Red Lips 2013 (Some Young Punks), McLaren Vale, South Australia

Shiraz 76%, cabernet sauvignon 24%.

Dark, deep purple. Warm, almost jammy fruit, with dark berries, spice and some balsamic «after eight». A rich, silky texture, nice acidity.

Price: Medium

Food: Excellent with grilled meat, roasts and casserole dishes.

A PS from the Punks themselves: -Turn, splash and savour. Unfiltered confessions follow as the sin glows red and passionate like those lips.

Meaty mencía

Raúl Pérez is one of the dynamic, driving winemakers in the Spanish wine landscape. But here he is at home at Bodegas Castro Ventosa in El Bierzo, towards the boarder of Galicia where the mencía grape reigns. I could name numerous ambitious wines from famous bodegas in celebrated regions beginning with R that never “came around”. Here the fruit-oak balance works fine already, and it will continue to evolve.

It’s made in the village of Valtuille de Abajo, as the name implies, from a hundred year old vines. The mencía grape is native to this part of the country. While it may have a more slender character and more acidity over in bordering regions as Ribeira Sacra, here in El Bierzo the wines are often rounder, more ripe and with a bit more power. The content of slate and granite in the area helps to give some minerality, much in demand nowadays.

The grapes are harvested manually. It’s given a very gentle pressing, and after fermentation in stainless steel it has spent some months in French oak. It’s not filtered, nor cold-stabilized.

Cepas Centenarias Valtuille Bierzo 2009

Valtuille Cepas Centenarias 2011 (Castro Ventosa)

Deep purple, not showing much age. At first closed, compact and concentrated, with plums, dark berries, some balsamic notes – and a slight touch of vanilla. In the mouth it has a silky texture, and some acidity. Will evolve positively during the next 4-5 years, and will keep for many more.

Price: High

Food: Would pair well with heady dishes, such as the stews from the Spanish inland, and with tasty meat-dishes of many sorts. Game too.

Vinho Divine

A former furniture designer and student of architecture, pedagogy and sculpture, and with an early inclination for metaphysics and myths, Vasco Croft has been in the avantgarde of Portuguese biodynamic wine since the turn of the century.

The base is the family estate from the 17th century, Casal do Paço near Ponte de Lima, a 20 hectar quinta with four hectars of vine, the rest chestnuts and forests. The wine cellar is as old as the estate itself.  The estate is now, in Vasco’s own words, «committed to the preservation of its ecosystems that not only include the vines but entire forests of acacias, oaks, eucalyptus and century-old trees, the home of wild boars, foxes and eagles».

There are many tales of how Aphrodite, goddess of love, was born. One tells that when Cronus cut of Uranus’ genitals and threw them into the sea, she arose from the sea foam, which is called aphros in the Greek language. From Vasco’s family estate near Ponte de Lima arises a wine that is as fascinating as inspiring, slightly bubbly, and if not truly divine there is a certain uplifting feeling to it.

Aphros Loureiro 2013

Aphros Loureiro 2013

Light straw-colour, and a clean aroma with a touch of citrus and flowers. In the mouth it has a creamy texture, it’s not bone dry, it has some minerality and an acidity that’s well wrapped in fruit, and it comes with notes of lime and melon too. This wine is light, yet it’s concentrated and serious, and it’s very, very appealing.

Price: Medium/low

Food: Shellfish, grilled or fried fish, bacalhau, salads, fruits and -why not- sushi

One of two good Zweigelts

In our private wine club last Monday the theme was Austrian red wine with focus on the three grapes Blaufränkisch, St. Laurent and their crossing Zweigelt. While there were seveal good wines from, at least for me, more well-known producers and especially from Blaufränkisch, the biggest revelation was the two Zweigelts from Weingut Maria & Sepp Muster.

Bilderesultat for muster zweigelt

While most wines were from the Burgenland area the Muster family is found in Südsteiermark. There they have inherited a 10 hectar vineyard that they work according to biodynamic methods. The landscape is very steep and the soil has rocks, clay and silt. Sheltered from a nearby mountain range the nights are cool and mild. The vines grow on single wire trellises, an ancient practise in the region.

They imply spontaneous fermentation with natural yeasts, preferably done in barrels and casks. They also like to keep them for a long time, around two years before bottling, to secure maturity and balance.

Graf Zweigelt 2007 (Maria & Sepp Muster)

Bright red. Cool aromas with hints of cherries and plums. Quite concentrated, but grapey and juicy at the same time, and with a delicate and playful acidity. Really enjoyable and calls for more.

Price: Medium

 

The Architect keeps the balance

José Perdigão is known in wine circles as O Arquitecto. With architect education from Paris he has a bohemian-like appearance, but also a down-to-earth attitude. His adega is found near Silgueiros, a stone’s throw from where Henry the Navigator (Duque the Viseu) had a house, and where the inland part of the famous Buçaco wine is made. Not very surprisingly, José Perdigão has designed his own cellar. The dusty road leading down to the main building is leaning towards one side. Obviously the adega building had to lean towards the other, said the architect, so that the visitor will not lose the perception of balance. Once inside, you will see spittoons and other equipment designed by the man himself. Everything fine-tuned here.

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Nearby Viseu is some kind of a capital for the agricultural area that lies around it. The town is never as fascinating as when The Arquitect guides you between its granite walls. He has also been involved re-constructing of some building, not least the historic Solar do Vinho do Dão, in the outskirts of town, where the authorities conduct many tastings.

His winemaking is carried out according to biodynamic principles. He never uses anything in excess, and he values the balance given by the traditional Dão blend, with touriga nacional, tinta roriz, jaen… He can also launch a varietal when he feels it has the right balance, such as his wonderful 100% alfrocheiro.

Once I was invited by José to meet almost all rosé producers in an exposition he had organized, to make my article for magazine Vinforum as credible and comprehensive as possible. So he is also a good collegue, and an excellent ambassador for Dão wines in general. And yes, the wine of this week is his wonderful rosé, one of the best and most expressive of all Dão rosés. Made from 40% touriga nacional, and the rest jaen, alfrocheiro and tinta roriz, the grapes were first macerated separately, then underwent a natural cool fermentation together in stainless steel, then a one month long fermentation in used French oak barrel. No yeast added.

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Quinta do Perdigão Rosé 2014 is a quite dark example of the species, with aromas predominantly of raspberry, with some strawberry, pineapple, menthol, and some very floral scents. It’s quite full and very mouth-filling and persistent. Really delicious, and perfectly balanced. A fresh and fruity wine, yes. But I know from experience that it also can age. It changes, but 3-4 years is not a problem for this rosé.

Price: Low

Food: Goes well with many dishes of white fish and shellfish. Try with sushi and sashimi, risotto, pasta, light meat and desserts with berries.

Quinta do Perdigão Rosé 2014.R The partridge (perdigão) is the emblem of the estate

 

Take a Village

Éric Texier is a vigneron, and I think we dare say a legendary one too. He came from another career, but systematic studies and observation of the ways of many sustainable winemakers made him ready to chose his own paths. He is one of the protagonists, a hero so to speak, in Alice Feiring’s book Naked wine. Whenever she is in doubt about what to do in her natural wine project she thinks to herself, «what would Éric have done?»

His major concern is the soil. The winemaking is very minimalist, with native yeast fermentation, often in concrete, no fining, no destemming (for reds), ageing in concrete and big foudres, addition of SO2 only occasionally and only in minute quantities.

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He makes wines from several places in the Rhône valley and in the Mâconnais area. This one is from Cairanne, one of the four original Côte du Rhône villages, that sits on a hilltop overlooking vineyards.

The first vinification period always takes place in the local viticulture area, meaning different cellars according to each wine. During the next phase the wines are aged in the same naturally cool cellar built in the XVIII th century in the north of Lyon. The wines are primarily aged in traditional oak barrels, though some large casks are also used. The use of new oak is limited in order to allow the wines to fully express the terroir.

Éric Texier’s production covers a range of 20 different wines, each offering a unique and distinctive character, all carefully hand crafted in order to allow maximum care and enjoyment.

One of the oldest villages in the Vaucluse, Cairanne has long been fought over because of its strategic position, and traces of its fortification are still present today.

The grape composition is grenache 80%, carignan 10% and syrah 10%. They were picked by hand, natural yeasts were then employed, then a spontaneous fermentation that lasted for a long time.

Cairanne Côtes-du-Rhône Village 2013 (É. Texier)

Dark red. Aromas of dark, ripe fruits, blueberry, some spice. Slightly warm, luscious, well balanced wine with some tannin and a nice acidity.

Price: Low

It takes a village to raise a child, they say. Now take this Village.

 

On the right road

On the north eastern side of Vittoria Arianna Occhipinti’s family has 10 hectars of vinyards and 15 of olive groves, all of it grown organically. The road SP68 is, in Arianna’s words, a connection between the paths that the growers and producers use every day to come to their vineyards and towns. Here the wines travel too, in amphorae and bottles. The people here regard the SP68 as the oldest wine road in Sicilia still in existence.

The vineyards are 280 meters above sea level on red sand and some chalk, and the vines used for this wine are approximately 10 years old. The leaves are kept on the vine to maintain freshness. Only natural yeast is used, the ageing is carried out in cement for 6 months before the wine is bottled, unfiltered. Frappato and nero d’avola are used as monovarietals in other wines, but this one is a blend of 70% frappato, and the rest is nero d’avola.

(You can read about the white version here.)

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And yes, we opened another bottle of this delicious wine in this year’s holy week.

SP68 Nero d’Avola e Frappato 2013 (A. Occhipinti)

It was quite light red with a blue tinge. Nice red berry fruits (raspberry, strawberry), flowers and some spicy notes. Moderate weight, fine tannins, with slight carbonic sensation, and a refreshing acidity dancing on the tongue.

Price: Low

Food: Pizza, pasta, light meat, risotto, antipasti

Serve a little chilled

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