Category Archives: Wine of the Week

Chénas for shorter ageing

This is a wine that my local dealer said I must try. And I am glad I did!

Chénas is one of the northernmost crus of Beaujolais, it sits on sandy soils on granite, and like its neighbour Moulin-à-Vent it stands for quite structured wines.

Paul-Henri Thillardon, and his brother Charles (who joined his team some five years ago), come from a family of growers in the south of Beaujolais. The 13 Chénas hectars are all certified organic, and some biodynamic techniques are also employed. Always macération carbonic. The grapes for Les Blémonts grow on clay, and will always give a fresh taste to the wine.

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Chénas Les Blémonts 2015 (Paul-Henri Thillardon)

Purple colour. Cherry fruit, a light touch of orange peel, some earthy notes, mushroom, and a bit reductive. Good weight in the mouth, young tannins.

Price: Medium

Food: Veal, game, stews, hard cheeses

AmByth, a biodynamic Californian estate

Paso Robles, named after the town El Paso de Robles (“Pass of the oaks”) is regarded as something of the wine industry’s wild west, not only for its landscapes, but for the creative spirit (tendency to break rules, if you like). In fact this is the fastest growing AVA in California, with over 200 wineries, as opposed to 50 only fifteen years ago.

AmByth is the first and only biodynamic certified estate here. Their vineyards are dry-farmed and head-trained in steep hillsides in Templeton. In the cellar only native yeast are employed, and the wines are unfined and unfiltered. No additions, no corrections, they use themselves the term “natural winemakers”.

Proprietor Phillip Hart is Welsh, and AmByth is a Welsh word meaning ‘forever’. Phillip and his wife Mary see this as a legacy; they give honour to the past, but they farm with the future in mind, so they can hand over a land in healthy condition.

Being eager cooks, they make wine with food in mind. Here they are going against the stream, as the typical Paso wine is rich, alcoholic, with a slightly sweet fruit. The dry farming (the practice of not irrigate, the term most often used for warmer climates) helps to keep the alcohol down. This week’s wine, a 54% sangiovese / 46% tempranillo, has 12,4% alcohol.

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Venustas 2011 (AmByth Estate)

Cherry red, shows signs of development towards rim. Aroma of red berries, herbs, a bit earthy, mushroom, some dried fruits. Full in the mouth, some cherry stone, good acidity. Mature, but will keep.

Price: Medium

Food: Red meat, lamb, game, hard cheeses…

 

Plácet, the white Rioja Baja

I must admit that I am a sceptic when it comes to oak, whether it is ageing or fermenting. But it is a question of knowing how to use it, a controlled oxygenation, or balance if you like.

This white wine has been one of the region’s white wines of choice for many years. Now when Álvaro Palacios of La Ermita fame has returned to his native Rioja Baja it hasn’t faded.

The Plácet is a white fermented viura aged on oval casks, once made by Álvaro’s younger brother Rafael in the mid-90’s. This was his debut as a maker of white wine, ten years before he became a godello expert’ in Valdeorras.

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Plácet Valtomelloso 2013 (Palacios Remondo)

Light yellow. Lightly spicy aromas, hay, wax, with yellow fruitiness. Quite full on the palate, medium acidity and slightly bitter finish.

Price: Medium

Food: Smoked fish, light meat

Table wine from sherry grapes

A trip to Jerez de la Frontera is likely to include a visit to Bar Juanito. It was Juan Rodríguez who opened the bar in 1943, and this Jerez gastronomy and flamenco classic is now located just off the main square, Plaza del Arenal, and the city hall.
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It was here, with a few half “raciones” such as squid in olive oil and red tuna from nearby tuna heaven Barbate, that we had the delicious and highly original white from Bodegas Forlong. (Read more about the winery and its proprietor Alejandro here.) Made in the Tierras de Cádiz, between Jerez and Rota to be more precise, of the sherry grapes palomino and pedro ximénez. With a composition of 90/10% it could well have been a cream sherry, but it’s not. This is a dry white table wine from organically grown grapes.

The grapes are picked early, and by hand, and a selection is done both in the vineyard and at the selectiontable. After the pressing the must is cooled down to 6-7° for 36 hours, before the fermentation starts once the temperature is brought up to 15°. The two varieties are treated separately, then blended to make the finished wine.

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Forlong Blanco 2016 (Bodegas Forlong)

Straw-coloured, green-ish tinge. Aromatic, hints of fresh fruits, yellow apples, some almond. Full in the mouth, lightly oily texture, a salty minerality, moderate acidity and a slight bitterness as the almond sensations return. Very original and very good.

Price: Low

Food: A variety of fish and shellfish, light meats

 

 

Still British

Being a musician I had visited the superb saxophone shop in the village of Crowborough, East Sussex many times. It wasn’t until I prepared to go to the Real Wine fair that I realized that Britain’s leading organic wine estate was only five minutes away. (Read more about the sparkling wines of the fair, including Davenport here.)

And it’s maybe “fizz” that is leading the way for British wine. Nevertheless, more and more good still wines are made.

Will Davenport makes use of natural methods when possible. Natural yeasts, no fining, racking instead of filtering, these are some of the key elements.

IMG_4169 Will Davenport at the Sussex farm

The winery is located in Rotherfield, Sussex, but he started out in Horsmonden, just over the border to Kent, with 1993 as the first vintage. The wine that bears this name is ,a blend of five aromatic, mainly German crossings: Bacchus, faber, siegerrebe, huxelrebe – and the rare ortega (named after the Spanish poet), that is particularly associated with this winery, not least since Will makes the wine for Forty Hall, who grows it in Enfield, London.

The wine clocks in at no more than 11.5% alcohol

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Davenport Horsmonden dry white 2015 (Davenport Vineyards)

Straw yellow. Aromas of white flowers, lychee, peach. Quite full in the mouth, acidity amidst the fruitiness, with a tiny amount of bubbles that add to the freshness.

Price: Medium

Food: A variety of fish and shellfish, cheeses, light meat

We are going on a summer holiday…

Retsina may evoke memories of sunny days, white-washed walls and lots of meze. This may also be one of the wines that taste good on a summer holiday, but maybe not as appealing back home.

Ρετσίνα is a Greek resinated wine with more than 2000 years of history. In ancient times the wine vessels, particularly amphorae, were sealed with pine resin, that protected the wine against oxidation and gave it the unique resin-like flavour. With the times, after the introduction of glass bottles, it became a wanted taste, something that defined the style. Until one day when retsina found itself as little more than a souvenir.

But those days can soon be over. Here is a wine from organically grown grapes, modern in most ways, except the pine resin that is added to the must during fermentation. The grape is roditis, second or third in importance (after saveatiano). Today much less resin is needed. Some may miss that strong smell of “turpentine”, but for the most of us it’s now a modern wine with a strong character that is undoubtedly linked to the islands and mainland of Greece.

The Tetramythos winery is located on northern Peloponnese, near the mountain Aroania in Achaia. Here they have built a winery with wood and stone, and in harmony with the surroundings. It makes use of gravity and has all the modern equipment to make a panorama of wines, including that age-old traditional retsina style.

The grapes are all roditis spontaneously fermented in clay pots.

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Tetramythos Retsina 2015 (Tetramythos)

Golden yellow. Aromas of apples, citrus, herbs (rosemary, thyme) and an evident but discrete element of pine resin. Round, mellow with low acidity.

Price: Low

Food: Grilled seafood, squid, white fish, a variety of meze, and why not with garlic dips

6th Element, València

In Venta del Moro, in DO Utiel-Requena in the western València province, is where the Sexto Elemento bodega is located. The vines where the grapes for this wine are sourced are around 70 years old. They are cultivated in a traditional manner, without chemical additions and no fertilization. The grapes are harvested when they are fully mature. The variety in question is bobal, a variety that didn’t have a good reputation in the past, but for Sexto Elemento it’s extraordinary and present in the area for centuries.

There was a long maceration in deposits of 1000 liters at low temperatures (18-24ºC). The fermentation started with only natural yeasts and was carried out in barriques, and the wine had a year of ageing in French and American oak over fine lees with periodically stirring. And the 6th element? Wine, according to the producer.

Sexto Elemento 2012

Sexto Elemento 2012 (Sexto Elemento)

Dark cherry red. Mature fruit, flowery, blackcurrant, cherries and a hint of toffee. Rich and round in the mouth, with rounded tannins and some sweetness from the fruit.

Price: Medium

Food: Game, light meats, tapas, hard cheeses

Crossing borders

This is a Côte de Roussillon Village from a tasting of Catalan wines from both sides of the border. The tasting featured mostly wines from carignan and grenache, both of Spanish origin, but some had small amounts of other varieties. This is a blend of carignan, grenache with syrah and mourvèdre.

Domaine Gauby is located 20 km north-west of Perpignan and extends over about 85 hectares of which 45 hectares of vines up to 125 years old, the rest meadows, oak forests and scrubland. Here we find varied terroirs composed of limestones, marls and slate.

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Old carignan (credit: Dom. Gauby)

Enologist Tom Lubbe has been a very important figure for this region, and under him Gauby was leading the way in the reviving of this old viticultural region. He had crossed many borders before he came here; born in New Zealand, worked in South Africa’s Swartland, then arrived here. He has been involved in the production of both Gauby and Majas, before he now is leading the neighbouring Matassa project (and married to Gérard Gauby’s sister).

This grapes for this wine was sourced from sedimentary limestone and slate, the carignan, 125 years. The vinification was traditional, 100% de-stemming, maceration 2 to 4 weeks, and use of native yeasts. Two years in barrel, obviously used (no taste of oak worth mentioning), no fining nor filtering.

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Gauby Vieilles Vignes Rouge 2011 (Domaine Gauby)

Dark red, some development. Aroma of cherries, thym, some earthy notes and pencil. Good fruit, soft tannins and bright acidity. Still slightly sparkling, but nothing “difficult”. Excellent timing: Drink now!

Price: Medium

Food: Light meat, game, ragus, a variety of cheeses…

 

 

White wine from Ribera del Duero

Bodegas Valduero of Gumiel de Marcado (Burgos) has a collaboration with Goyo García Viadero, reputed winegrower. This one is made by Goyo’s sisters Yolanda and Carolina. The wine is made in Ribera del Duero land, but it does not have a designation Ribera, simply because the DO doesn’t allow white wines.

Albillo is in this case the albillo mayor, prominent grape of the Burgos and Valladolid provinces, as opposed to the albillo real found elsewhere in Castilla and beyond. They share some characteristics though, with grapefruit hints and fullness. Back in the old days they used to be found among the black grapes in the same vineyards.

These albillos are 12 years old and trained as bush vines (‘en vaso’ in Spanish). The fermentation was made with autoctonous yeast, at around 19-20º C, and the wine has not been subject to oak treatment.

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García Viadero Blanco de Albillo 2015 (Bodegas Valduero)

Straw yellow. Aromas of pine, berbs, and a slight touch of grapefruit. Full on the palate, round with just enough acidity to balance. Very clean, inspiring

Price: Medium

Food: Fish (both light and fried), light meat, cheeses (soft-ripening and washed-rind types), foie, salads

Italian orange field blend

Field blend is an expression that’s used when the grape blend is ready made in the vineyard. I think it’s never more appropriate than when you don’t know the blend exactly, like in the old days when the wine maker wanted some extra freshness from let’s say a white grape in a red wine and they were grown side by side.

Here is an orange wine from Giulio Armani, the wine maker behind the more famous La Stoppa of Emilia-Romagna.

Denavolo is his own project, where he makes two wines. This one is the little brother, the Dinavolino. It’s made from malvasia aromatica, otrugo, marsanne, trebbialo, santa maria, sauvignon blanc, and this unidentified performer.

It got 6 months of skin contact and was unoaked, spontaneously fermented, unfiltered and just lightly sulphured.

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Dinavolino 2015 (Denavolo)

Light orange-brown colour. Floral aroma with touches of peach, orange peel and dried fruits. Light and refreshing, still with evident tannins, nice acidity and good length.

Price: Medium

Food: Meats from lamb to chicken, and charcuterie, grilled fish, a variety of cheeses (almost everything, as you have understood by now)

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