Category Archives: Wine of the Week

Terruño Pizarroso at Bodegas Bentomiz

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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.

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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.

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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

Austrian-Portuguese marriage

Back in England for the Real Wine fair. This time I started in Brighton, and I visited the Ten Green Bottles wine bar and restaurant, that recently celebrated 10 years of existence. They started as a supplier of artisan wines to bigger establishments, some famous restaurants like the Fat Duck, but they had a dream to set up a cosy Italian style enoteca. Now this ambitious wine bar can be found in downtown Brighton just off North Rd.

ten green bottles brighton

It was here that I tasted this Carnuntum blaufränkisch, an Austrian-Portuguese collaboration. The people behind the wine is the formerly married couple Dorli Muhr and Dirk van der Niepoort, the latter well-known for port wine and for various table wine projects, in Portugal and elsewhere. They have great help from South African Craig Hawkins (formerly with Eben Sadie, now with his own project in the Swartland), who stays at the winery three months every year. In fact, only two days later I met -well, not only Sam from the Ten Green Bottles- but Craig himself at the Real Wine fair, presenting and pouring his own wines.

IMG_4245 Craig Hawkins, consultant in oenology

Carnuntum is a small wine region east of Vienna, rich in limestone, planted by the Romans, but neglected and forgotten untill quite recently. It’s here we find the Muhr family property. Dorli and Dirk also make an old vine blaufränkisch, but the Carnuntum is sourced from younger plants. The grapes are partly foot-trodden, with some stems, the grapes are not treated with any sulphur, and no cultured yeasts are used. The maceration is very light, no pumping over – and the wine is kept in big barrels for two years before bottling.

carnuntum

Carnuntum 2011 (Muhr-van der Niepoort)

Dark red. Quite flowery with red berries (like mature cherries), some woodland notes too, mushroom. Velvety tannins, grapey and juicy with a nice acidic touch. Refined, sophisticated.

Price: Medium

 

A Tuscan Sangiovese-based rosso

Colombaia is located in Colle Val d’Elsa, in the Siena province. The Lomazzi family has been involved in wine for generations, but today’s winery was only founded in the 1970’s, when they restored an old abandoned farm, and acquired a new one. Now they have 3 hectars of 40 year old plantings of Tuscan grapes, and another planted in 2005 – all biodynamically grown since 2003. There is as little intervention as possible. The wines are either treated in steel or old, big Slavonian oak vessels, and SO2 (if used at all) is only added in tiny quantities before bottling.

The soil is calcareous clay, rich in fossil shells. For this particular wine the grapes were hand-picked, spontaneously fermented, and the wine was kept for 18 months in the big, old vats. The grape composition is sangiovese and a small percentage of colorino. In some years it also contains canaiolo and the white malvasia.

colombaia rosso toscano 2011

The label changes colour every year. I had this wine at an Oslo bar, so I hope it’s right for the vintage.

Colombaia Rosso Toscano 2011 (Colombaia)

Ruby red. Aroma of mature red berries, some spice and mushroom. Concentrated, yet smooth, rounded, with a chalky minerality, and the good acidity contributes to a prolonged aftertaste. Peaking now.

Price: Medium

Meinklang’s Wörth Grüner

Here is a long-time favourite, or maybe better: one in a whole family of favourites. Angela and Werner Michlits jr. are launching one lovely, cheap, serious-but-quaffable wine after another, various grüners, blaufränkisches, zweigelts and more.

Their biodynamically managed estate is found in Pamhagen, Burgenland, by the big Neusiedlersee and bordering Hungaria. The soil is made up of clay and sandstone, and the vines used here are not very old, planted between 10 and 20 years ago. It’s in this area we find the Wörth vineyard, Meinklang’s biggest. In Werner’s own words, they are “recultivating nature”, in short allow for more variation “to keep up biodiversity and create stable ecosystems for many different buds and organisms”.

Mainklang Angus Some of their 800 Angus cows (credit: Meinklang)

This wine is made from 100% grüner veltliner, made with natural yeasts, kept for 6 months in steel. It’s obviously un-oaked, not fined and only lightly filtered.

Meinklang Wörth

Grüner Veltliner Wörth Single Vineyard 2016

(Meinklang)

Light straw. Direct fruit, notes of citrus, green apple, a touch herbal. Here is fruit all the way through the taste and aftertaste, with a vibrant acidity and a mineral finish. So simple, so good!

Price: Low

Food: Fish (white and red), shellfish, salads, a variety of cheeses, lightly spicy Asian…

From a Nelson Gravity winery

Mahana Estates is located in the Nelson region, in the north of New Zealand’s South Island. In the vineyard everything is organic, in the cellar gravity (four levels) is one key word, low-intervention another – and winemaker Michael Glover puts out good wines in several categories. The respect for terroir is there, and he states that if something unusual or surprising should appear, it’s not as a result of experimentation, but exploration.

The reds are made with whole bunch winemaking and with almost no additions. On this background they can explore the combination of Mahana’s yellow ultic soil (derived from quartz-rich sediments turned into clay or sandy clays, abundant near Marlborough), the seasons, and “the enigmatic pinot noir”.

Mahana’s reds are sourced from their Moutere vineyard; dry-farmed, and from the above-mentioned soil you can expect a rather deep, dark coloured wine. For this wine half of the grapes were destemmed, and the spontaneous fermentation was carried out in open concrete fermenters. There was no new oak used (only steel and old French oak), and it was bottled without fining or filtration.

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Mahana Gravity Pinot Noir 2014 (Mahana Estates)

Deep dark, dense colour. Smells of dark fruits (morellos, blackberries) and with some balsamic and herbal notes, a little chocolate too. Lots of tannins, but very fine, it rounds off warm and full, with adecuate acidity to make it delicious drinking already.

Price: Medium

Food: Light meat, game, salads…

 

Authentic Sauvignon at Brutus

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The Brutus Bar is located just beside the police headquarters in the Tøyen-Grønland district in Oslo, so it’s no use trying to make big trouble. Anyway, there are only nice, well-behaved people here even if the area historically has been high-immigrant, low-income with more than its fair share of problems. To be fair, right now this is a promising neighbourhood in many respects.

Brutus offers natural wine and a variety of bites to accompany them. From my experience, in a bar with such a careful selection of wines and the expertise to present them the food is often delicious too. Which proved to be true – again. Brutus are fabled for their vegetable based kitchen, and lately the traditional Nordic kitchen, rustic, with fermented vegetables as one of the main ideas, is focused. However, in our set 4 course menu the third one was lamb, and with lovely scents from the aromatic herbs.

20170409_193633-1-1-1 We had the sauvignon with “Carrot and Haddock”

John Sonnichsen and Jens Føien lead import company VinJohn, one of the main players behind the bar. Together they have experience from such places as The Fat Duck, Maaemo and Noma. VinJohn is obviously one of the suppliers, but by no means not the only one.

This week’s wine though, is brought to the country by the people behind the bar. It’s not widely available, another reason to come here.

Alexandre Bain is a small vigneron from Tracy-sur-Loire, in the Poully-Fumé. He started his own project in 2007 and employs biodynamic techniques.

There are two types of limestone in the vineyards, vines from the so-called Portlandian (as opposed to the older Kimmeridgian), with sand and clay, are used for this wine, as he thinks this soil is more suitable for wines meant to be drunk young. These vines were planted in 1977.

No additives are used, except for sometimes a tiny amount of SO2 before bottling (10 mg in this particular wine), and only native yeasts. The harvest is late because Bain believes that sauvignon blanc is at its most expressive with complete ripeness. When picked too early, there will never be enough aromatic character, he believes, and many producers must then compensate by using commercial yeast. These are thoughts that he shares with his friend Sébastien Riffault in neighbouring Sancerre.

The grapes were pressed in whole clusters, and the must raised in big old vats.

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Pierre Précieuse 2015 (Alexandre Bain)

Dark yellow, somewhat cloudy. Fruity style, aromas of lemon, elderberry and a touch of acacia honey. Quite full, a mid-palate dominated by grapefruit, and a lingering finish with a touch of bitterness.

Price: Medium

Food: Salads, goat cheese, light meat, grilled fish, and try with sushi and sashimi

 

Just be COS

I thought I had focused this fabulous winery in a “wine of the week” post. But in spite of having enjoyed their wines so much, when I chequed, that wasn’t the case. They have been mentioned though, at several ocations, like when I visited Spanish tinaja (big clay vessel) maker Juan Padilla. This wine is a masterpiece, and made in clay from Padilla.

COS was formed in 1980 by three students of architecture whose last names were basis for the name, the O standing for Giusto Occhipinti, who is related to Arianna. Take a look here for one example.

We find them in Vittoria at the southeastern tip of Sicilia, where they cultivate 35 hectares biodynamically. This wine is made from nero d’avola 60% and frappato 40% in soils containing clay, sand and limestone.

It was spontaneously fermented, underwent an 8 month period of skin maceration in clay pots, then further ageing in clay. It’s not fined nor filtered.

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Pithos Rosso 2015 (COS)

Bright ruby colour. Complex aroma, notes of morello, violets, red plums over earthy wild forest and mushroom. In the mouth lush, juicy and very vibrant, slightly chalky, gentle tannins, but red fruits are dominating. You can almost feel the energy of the winemakers in this wine.

Price: Medium

Food: Poultry and game, lamb and swine, fresh and hard cheeses, delicious alone (you or the wine)

Soft, slightly spicy white

Aiméstentz is based in Wettolsheim, central Alsace. This is a winery with a strong belief in their soils, and they encourage biodiversity in and around their vineyards.

Generally they keep their wines 6 months or more on fine lees. This particular wine underwent a 4-6 weeks fermentation at 16-20°C and 10 months ageing in big old oak vats.

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Pinot Blanc Réserve 2015 (Aiméstentz)

Straw-coloured. Aroma of yellow apples, slightly nutty and a touch of spices. Quite vinous, soften, clean and long taste with good balance acidity-residual sugar (around 5 g/L).

Price: Low

Food: Tasty shellfish, salads, white meat

From the legendary Steiner Hund vineyard: Nikolaihof’s contribution version 2012

This is one of several stars from a recent tasting of wines from Austria’s coolest wine regions, Wachau, Kamptal and Kremstal.

Nikolaihof of Wachau is famed for being Austria’s oldest winery, with 2000 years in the business, and built on a St. Nikola’s monastery. The Saahs family was also among the first to convert to biodynamic prinsciples, almost 50 years ago.

The Steiner Hund lies between Wachau and Kremstal, Stein itself lying in the western outskirts of the village Krems. The soils in Kremstal is diverse, and west of Krems, towards Wachau where the valley gets steeper, there is more granite and gneiss. It is here we find the Steiner Hund vineyard, and here riesling has a potencial for great elegance.

The Steiner Hund is a stony vineyard, extremely difficult to work. A local legend says that it once was owned by a wealthy winemaker, who exchanged it for a dog when there was famine in the region. Today producers from Kremstal to the east and Wachau in the west has ownership in the vineyard. The site is south-facing and is comprised of conglomerate rock with a thin topsoil of loess and loam.

In Nikolaihofs vineyards no herbicides, fertilisers, pesticides, nor synthetic sprays are used. The grapes are harvested by hand, fermented without artificial yeast and stored in big, old Austrian oak casks.

Nikolaihof Steiner Hund

Nikolaihof Steiner Hund Riesling Reserve 2012 (Nikolaihof)

Deep yellow with some green. Concentrated aroma. It’s more open than the previous vintage; still young though, but begins to reveal flowers, herbs, honey and fresh berries (gooseberry). There is probably much more to come during the next few years. Quite full in the mouth, rich, mineral (crushed stone). We know from experience that it will keep well.

Price: High (just over the limit to “high” in our classification)

Food: Grilled fish, shellfish, light meat, can do with rich sauces – the food must be good though

Anjou orange

The Vaillant family started vinegrowing in La Roche Aubry (Anjou, Loire Valley) in the 17th century. Today they dispose over 55 hectars, and the farming is organic and biodynamic, only chenin blanc for white wines.

The soils vary greatly, schists, quartz, sands… They use composts from animal manure, and only a few treatments like copper, sulphur and some made of infusions of plants.

This wine was, as indicated, made from 100% chenin blanc, spontaneously fermented in big barrels, and it was bottled unfiltered.

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La Varenne du Poirier 2014 (Dom. Les Grandes Vignes – Vaillant)

Cloudy orange with a greenish hue. Mature apples (cidery), white flowers, yellow tomatoes, nuts and a touch of honey. Good concentration and high acidity wrapped in super fruit, and just a slight touch of tannin. Quaffable indeed.

Price: Medium

Food: Grilled fish, salads, chicken and other light meat, white goat cheeses

 

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