Monthly Archives: April 2015

Portuguese discoveries

I was invited by winemaker Pedro Marques to taste his wines, and also some from his friend António Marques da Cruz, at restaurant Areeiro 3 in Lisboa. OK, this was a while ago, but this blog is new, and I want to include some events from the last months of 2014. Areeiro 3 is managed by Pedro’s brother and takes its name from the street adress, and you see it once coming up from the underground of metro station Areeiro. Both wineries, Vale da Capucha and Quinta da Serradinha respectively, is located in the north of the Lisboa region, in Carvalhal (Torres Vedras) and in the Leiria area. We tasted some really nice wines from Portuguese white grapes like arinto, alvarinho, antão vaz, fernão pires (and some French too, like viognier) and red touriga nacional, aragonês, castelão, and not to forget baga. Among the wines you should try once in Portugal are the white Capucha 2011 from alvarinho on limestone ground, a salty, mineral wine, still somewhat young and closed, and Serradinha Rosé 2013, red-orange coloured wine raised in 800 liter amphoras, with peach, rhubarb, strawberry, and some milky notes from malolactic fermentation. Another interesting wine was his red Quinta da Serradinha 1999, based on baga, and still full of life.

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I was also invited to the Vinho ao Vivo, a terroir focused fair showing predominantly organic wines. I didn’t know about it then, but it proved to be a really charming event to visit again. It’s organized by wine bar and restaurant Os Goliardos down by the Tejo river next to the Discovery monument near Belém, and it includes local artisan food and live jazz. Who could ask for more, really? There we met several old friends, all with new wines to discover, and some other nice people. André Gomes Pereira who runs Quinta do Montalto, in Ourém, was there with his well-made wines. I knew his reds and rosés, but this time he also brought a white wine from fernão pires, a really interesting golden/orange coloured sparkling wine from 2005, that had spent 8 years on lees, and a “medieval” mix of red and white wine. Vasco Croft of Aphros Wines was there with his marvellous red and white “green wines”. His Aphros Loureiro 2013 is a different interpretation of the grape of that name, with a deep aroma, still with a steely acidity, but wrapped in a full, fruity taste. And who says a vinho verde can’t age? Well, the Aphros Vinhão 2009 isn’t that old, but many would not believe that a five year old wine from that region should be so full of energy as this one.

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And who else was there, if not the one and only Mário Sérgio Alves Nuno of Quinta das Bágeiras! This time equipped with his new Pai Abel entry level wine, together with the delicious reservas and garrafeiras, premium examples of the traditional style baga from outside Sangalhos, Bairrada. The oldest one this time was a Garrafeira 1990, a sublime pure baga wine, with red fruit aromas, the usual peppery notes, hints of smoke and a bit of raisin. He also brought an outstanding white Garrafeira 2012. These are all wines made in the deepest respect and understanding for their tradition. One can hardly claim they are modern, but they surely are complete.

2014-07-11 22.57.29 Hey: Mário Sérgio is here!

But he was not the only one from Bairrada. Campolargo was there, I have heard, though I didn’t see him (so little time…). Up and coming organic producer Vadio I saw. They brought some really nice wines, also based on the baga grape, but with a bit more modern touch. They use “wild” yeasts to start the fermentation, but some cultivated yeasts later in the process, some French oak (never exaggerated), resulting in robust, but not aggressive, wines. The Grande Vadio 2011 was a wine for long ageing, a lot of tannins and super acidity, and a very supple fruit to go with it. They also brought superb citric, flowery whites from old vine cerceal, along with arinto (and also a bical version). Ataíde Semedo, known for Quinta da Dôna, was there. He had now brought a pure baga, and a 50/50 baga/touriga. Tired of oak, he sold all his barrels some years ago, so these wines are very pure, some maybe a tough too much “worked”. I particularly liked his Colheita 2013, a fine baga on the light and elegant side.

Quinta da Pellada of Dão was represented, so was Infantado (Douro), a couple of producers from Colares and many more. I tasted some wonderful whites from Muxagat (Douro), such as a 90% rabigato, and a barrel-fermented 100% rabigato called Os Xistos Altos 2011. I never made it to the fortified wines like Barbeito of Madeira (sorry, Ricardo, next time!).

There were also visits from abroad. Juan González of As Furnias had travelled over the border from Rías Baixas’ subzone Condado do Tea with his interesting low-sulphured, low-barriqued natural wines from several local grapes.

Prominent guests from Italy, such as piemontese Luca Roagna and Giuseppe Rinaldi, were also there. I didn’t see them, but their wines surely were present. So were the wines from French domaines Gonon (Rhône) and Maréchal (Burgundy).

Tune in next Friday, when our Wine of the Week will be one that we tasted during this fair.

2014-07-11 23.12.58-1 The sun was down, the moon was up, the discoveries lay behind us, time to find a hotel bed… And the band played on!

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

 

A Portuguese palette

Yesterday I was invited to talk about Portuguese wines in Trondheim’s biggest wine club. Ganymedes is the name, referring to the mythologic figure that was carried by an eagle sent by Zeus to be cupbearer for the ancient gods. I was honored to be invited, and a little surprised, I must admit, that close to a hundred people came to listen to a speech about the wines of the longer than wide Iberian country.

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They allowed me to put together a full palette of Portuguese colours. The selection of the country’s wines can’t be said to be very good in Norway these days, so the task could be said to be an exercise in compromise. Given the circumstances I am quite happy about the program.

Quinta do Perdigão Rosé 2014 is made according to biodynamic principles in Silgueiros, central Dão. It’s a typical blend with evident touriga nacional, and is a very fruity and full-bodied rosé with some tannin, and with aromas dominated by raspberry. Quinta do Ameal Loureiro 2013 represented the country’s largest wine region Vinho Verde, a nice wine with flowery aromas with citric nuances, and a slight carbonic palate. It’s not the only organic wine from this wet and somehow difficult northern landscape, but it’s one of the best of its kind. This lighter end of the scale was completed with Nossa Calcário 2013, a bical 100% made by Filipa Pato near the Beiras coast, Bairrada, to be precise. The bical is a versatile grape that, when in good hands, can turn to a delicious, mineral wine like this one. Quite aromatic, a little buttery, but it’s also a little closed, and will benefit from 2 or 3 years further ageing.

The first red wine was what has become known as Portugal’s first natural wine, family Roboredo Madeira’s CARM SO2 free 2010 red. Yes, I admit, my import company brought this one to the country, but it’s included here to contribute to a greater variation. Also from touriga, it has a touch of carbonic mouthfeel, dark berry flavour, and slightly sweet nuances from the oak treatment that half of the wine has been subject to. One of the most widely known wines from this 6-pack must be Esporão Reserva 2012, a wine from the vast Alentejo area, otherwise known for cork oaks, Alentejana cattle a.o. This one is from the Reguengos area towards the big lake in the south, and it has a full, fleshy flavour, but also a good acidity to keep it in balance. The grape composition can vary with the years. This one has alicante bouschet, a traditional grape in the area, together with the usual suspects trincadeira and aragonês, and a little cabernet too. The first red wine ought to be decanted because of some sediments, and both will benefit from some airing. To round it all off we tasted one of one the country’s specialities, a moscatel from the peninsula of Setúbal, just to the south of Lisboa. This one is a fortified wine from the collection of Jose María da Fonseca’s oenologist, and it bears his name. Domingos Soares Franco Colecçâo Privada Moscatel de Setúbal 1999, nothing less. It’s clearly in the moscatel family. Nice and grapey, flowery in the aroma, and with an apricot sweetness. For further ageing it could have needed some more acidity. But so what, according to Sr. Domingos himself, it’s not meant to be stored. And it’s delicious now.

2015-04-15 21.13.23 Lars and Geir Egil, key people in Ganymedes, with chef Geir 

Geir Barstad at the Britannia Hotel had created a delicous two-course menu based on turbot and local veal that allowed the party to taste a variety of the wines with food after the wine tasting.

 

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.

 

Bar in music break

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We went to Dublin’s fair city, music place. At lunch time we took a break from the whistles, accordeons and fiddles, and found ourselves at a table just off St. Stephen’s Green. And that is also the colour of Ely Winebar. They serve delicious food from their own organic family farm, and the wine list counts some 500 wines, many of them organic and biodynamic, and an impressive 100 wines by the glass. Among the wines we tried were Innocent Bystander 2012 Chardonnay, a fairly full wine with citrus and melon tones with a slight touch of vanilla from Yarra, Australia, Louro de Bolo 2012 (R. Palacios), a godello-based, citrus and herb-scented wine from Valdeorras, Spain, Domaine Chaume-Arnaud Vinsobres 2011, full with hints of red fruits and plums from a typical Southern Rhône blend, PF (Ponce), an old vine pie franco bobal, full of herbs, dark fruits and flowers from Manchuela, Spain, and Paço dos Cunhas de Santar 2010 (Casa de Santar), which we could call a natural wine from Dão, Portugal, earthy and full-bodied, quite polished, with a touch of oak. The ones we tasted were all interesting, some really good, and all this from Ely’s by-the-glass selection.

Keep the beat! And don’t miss this bar!

3_ely_winebar_entrance_22_Ely_Place_Dublin_2 Ely Winebar, Dublin

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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Three true wines from Savennièrs

What could be more appropriate than to start this blog with the man behind the slogan in our header? First a very brief introduction to a man that shouldn’t need any introduction, and to one of the world’s great vineyards.

Nicolas Joly has for several decades been a leading personality in biodynamic wine, and as such a guiding star with bunches of followers, including the Return to Terroir group. Destined to be a banker, he went on to take over his family estate Château de la Roche aux Moines in Savennières by the Loire river. He was sceptical about the effects on modern agriculture on nature. Once he started to experiment with biodynamic farming there was no way back, and all his lectures, his books, all growers who followed where he led, all this has eventually gained him more than a glimpse of glory.

To say that his wines have been subject to controversy would be an understatement. While some praises the complexity, the concentration – and perhaps the legend – some say that the wines are heavy and oxidized, and the vineyard’s potential is far from fulfilled. Myself, I have tasted a few of the older vintages from the 90’s and early 2000’s, but I am far from an insider. But the wines are surely fascinating, and the owner’s perspective is indeed a very interesting one.

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Recently we tasted the current wines. They were undoubtedly of the same family, with a golden to amber colour, smell of apricots, orange peel, nuts, oxidized tones and an alcoholic richness as common features. (Mr. Joly would have replaced the expression oxidized with ripe, but I don’t mean this in a negative way.) And the star amongst them was clearly the one that you might have expected.

Les Vieux Clos 2011 (formerly called Becherelle) of the appellation Savennières, from grounds are primarily schist but also some quartz. The wine has a bright golden to orange colour, notes of yellow apple, herbs and sherry flor, and some oak. It has a spicy, nutty and mineral flavour.

The Clos de la Bergerie 2010 is of another appellation, Savennières Roche aux Moines. This one is from vines around 25 years, also with schist and east facing. It has a slightly darker amber hue, a slightly oxidative smell, hints of mature apple, apricot, quite oaky. Here is some bitterness, honey and hints of caramel.

And finally the Clos de la Coulée de Serrant 2011: The first vineyard was planted here by Cistercian monks around 1130, and the Coulée has been under vine ever since. Today this is an AOC of its own, and Joly owns all of its 7 hectares of steep slate hillsides. The vines used today are between 35 and 80+ years old, and to renew them cuttings from the oldest plantings are used to maintain their Chenins. They are cultivated with horse and hand, and the average yield is 20-25 hectolitres per hectare. The ground is on a red schist bottom with good drainage. It’s a bit of an amphitheater with southern, or southern east orientation, and the grapes are harvested five times during a period of almost a month, to obtain maximum maturity and botrytis. The barrels used to raise all three wines are never more than 5% new.

It has a deep golden with an orange hue, with rich, ripe, complex aromas of apricot, nuts, orange peel, spice, saline, and honey. There is a flinty minerality, and one could maybe say, a slight touch of a young palo cortado sherry. It’s fresh in the attack, has a stony texture, very concentrated and tasty today, and with great lenght. Joly good! Still there is clearly more to come during the next five to ten years.