Monthly Archives: July 2015

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.

2015-07-30 19.35.01

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

 

Tuna in to the Taberna de el Campero

Zahara de los Atunes is a tiny village on the southernmost stretch of the Costa de la Luz of the Cádiz province. If you can find it, then you will also find the most beautiful beaches you can imagine, bathed in the sun and cooled by the breeze. In the municipal center Barbate the most valuable fish in the world is still caught, a great deal of it will catch the next plane to gourmet sushi restaurants in Tokyo, but thanks to higher forces that some of it stays here and enriches the local bars and restaurants. If Hemingway were still alive he would probably have participated both in the catching and the eating.

2015-07-01 21.47.58 You get chopsticks if you like

La Taberna de el Campero is a branch of restaurant El Campero of Barbate and found right in the small center of Zahara del Atunes. Here chef Julio Vázquez lets the tuna fish, or Atún Rojo Salvaje de Almadraba (to call him by his full name) play the main role. The interior is in aquarium blue colours, table cloths have tuna motifs, and on the menu that’s written on the wall there are tuna dishes, traditional and original, such as Tartar de Atún Rojo (where they use the ‘cola blanca’, the lower part of the tail, in front of the fin), Surtido de Crudos de Atún Rojo (tuna sashimi, tartar and tataki), Lasaña Fría de Atún (cold tuna lasagne) and Albóndiga de Atún (Spanish meatball, made with tuna), just to name a few. Two people, two nights, we were able to see the tuna from many sides and taste types of tuna fish meat we didn’t know existed.

(Here is a clip from the facebook page where you can see their own sushi specialist Jun prepare an interpretation of a Japanese dish.)

2015-06-28 21.40.16

Big surprise, they have a special focus on natural wines!, and that must be the main reason that we came back. The selection was not very big, only one page. But it was ecclectic, and the rest of the wine list wasn’t bad either. Among the whites were La Mar Salada, from Nieva in the Segovia part of Rueda, and almost local wines such as Lagar de Ambrosio from Olvera in the Cádiz mountains. I have written about Rafa Bernabé here in an earlier post. Here is a wine from one of his collegues from Alicante, Bodegas La Encina (from the village of the same name, bordering La Mancha). This is a fresh and delicious un-oaked white called El Juncar from varieties forcallat blanca, tortosina and macabeo and now in the 2014 vintage. This is a good, healthy and naturally made alternative to Castillo de San Diego and other VT Cádiz wines from the sherry houses more likely to be found here.

2015-06-28 20.59.31 El Juncar, white natural wine

And among the reds were Casar de Valdaiga, oak-aged mencía from Bierzo, Duende, a syrah from Granada, Pésico, a wine from the unlikely area of Cangas de Narcea (Asturias), made from the still more unlikely grape varieties of albarín tinto, carrasquín, red verdejo (!) and mencía. All of these were only sold in whole bottles, so we had to be very selective (we can hope that people will find out that these wines are more than merely funny names from funny places, so that the restaurant can find it worthwhile to serve them by the glass next time). One of our whole bottle reds was Viña Almate (Alfredo Maestro), a tempranillo roble from the banks of the river Duratón that runs into the town of Peñafiel (in the heart of Ribera del Duero). I have been an admirer of this wine since I tasted it together with its maker a few months ago. It has a very direct, fruity, flowery and spicy character, and it’s mouthfilling and with a seductive acid freshness.

2015-07-01 20.56.12 Viña Almate, red natural wine

Zahara de los Atunes is a small oasis along the coast of the light. Yes, it’s small, but you have Tarifa and Morocco within reach, so is Cádiz, the sherry district and Sevilla. But you have also interesting historic places such as the Cabo de Trafalgar, the town of Medina Sidinia, reminiscants of the romans… Atlantis may have been here, certainly Tartessos. And apart from the obvious advantages of the beaches and the sunsets, places like the Taberna de el Campero make it even worth to stay in the village for a while.

2015-06-27 21.18.18 Sunset in Zahara de los Atunes

 

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.

20150712_175717-1

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

Unfortified wines in Sherry country

While sherry sales have declined for years something new is emerging. From one of my numerous trips to the sherry district in the past I remember Bodegas Ferris showed me some plantings of the tintilla de rota grape. Now this grape plays a major part when un-fortified wines are gaining ground.

Last week I took a day trip from Zahara de los Atunes down the Costa de la Luz. I visited a few producers in the Cádiz province, and tasted wines from some more. In El Puerto de Santa María municipality, on the road between Jerez and Rota, the bodega of Forlong was hard to find, but with a little telephonic help I managed. Here Alejandro Narváez and Rocio Áspera are making wine from 3 hectars, only one in production though, but they also count on vineyards in Jerez and Trebujena. They neither buy nor sell grapes.

2015-06-30 12.00.34 Alex in white albariza vineyard

For red wine tintilla de rota that is the star grape, with its nice acidity, its spiciness and its local pedigree. For the whites the first grape is sherry variety palomino fino, but its collegue pedro ximénez is also grown. The tintilla de rota is «technically a clone of graciano», explains Alejandro, or Alex, «but where graciano has four pips the tintilla has only one». They use spontaneous fermentation, and sulphur levels are quite low (typically 40-55 mg/L). It’s not that difficult to maintain an organic agriculture here, according to Alex. There was already a good eco-system, as it is near the Doñana ‘marisma’ (wetlands) and a natural lagoon, and the wind and the sun in the vineyards. The biggest threat is a frog that goes after the leaves.

The property was bought in 2007, and Alex and Rocio named it Forlong – after Forlon, the previous owner – but added a ‘g’, since the Spanish pronounce it like that anyway. The small bodega house is built with the estetics of a coastal sherry house, with beams under the roof, but without the openings, since they don’t wish to grow ‘flor’ (the yeast that is helped by the Atlantic breeze). The bodega has some big century old tinajas (clay jars), and some barrels. It’s somewhat provisional though, as a new storage room is now under construction.

2015-06-30 12.04.12

We tasted their three wines, a white, a rosé and a red. The white, from 85% palomino and the rest px, was very expressive, with aromas of white flowers, lychee, yellow apple, with some mineral character from the albariza (the white calcareous soil that reflects the sunlight), and some saltiness in the aftertaste. In this area you often hear that palomino is a neutral grape with little acidity and character. Alex and Rocio want to change that idea, and this wine is a welcome contribution.

An interesting rosé from cabernet sauvignon had been fermenting for 15 days at low temperatures. It was light in colour, with smells of strawberries, red berries, and of underwood and mushroom too. Quite slender and with good acidity, and the slight CO2 content also contributed to its freshness and general appeal. The red wine – a syrah, merlot, tintilla blend) that had been in clay for 6 months and 3 more months in oak of varying ages and origins – was also interesting, round, and with a dense fruit, though it might be that with a lower alcohol degree than 15˚ it would have been even better.

After a couple of hours Miguel Gómez shows up. He is renting space at Forlong, where he makes his Mahara wine. He has two more projects, the Alba Viticultura in Sanlúcar and another in Ronda (Málaga). Here in the Cádiz province he has 5 hectars of vineyards, expanding a little each year, works by gravity, and the vineyards and wine are «never touch by a machine». About its «organicness», these vineyards are now in conversion, while in Ronda biodynamic technices are already employed.

2015-06-30 13.42.38 Miguel takes a sample from a 12 year old Hungarian barrel

We tried two samples, one from a 12 year old Hungarian barrel, and one from an American one. All barrels are in fact used when bought. It’s interesting to see two samples that different when they come from one vineyard and are treated the same way. The one from the Hungarian barrel is more soft, rounded, and full, while the other is more spicy, salty and floral on the nose, and in the mouth it’s more aggressive, even more concentrated.

For the final wine all 14 barrels will be blended, «as they are after all from the same vineyard, and together they will express the characteristic of that vineyard». Until now there has not been added any SO2. Maybe he will add a tiny amount before bottling, maybe not. The wine clocks in at a mere 12˚ alcohol.

2015-06-30 14.04.21

Miguel goes out for a while, and from the car he comes back with a plastic bag filled with ice and with two bottles. These are a white and a sparkling wine from his Sanlúcar project called Alba. We decide to go into the vineyard to taste them. The sparkling wine is light and appealing. The still version has been under flor for 8-9 months, a golden, tasty wine, salty as a manzanilla and bottled ‘en rama’, unfiltered.

The vineyard is not where they come from though, they grow in Miraflores and Maina near Sanlúcar, while we are now in the famous pago of Balbaina, the jerezano vineyard that is closest to the coast. But it’s scenic, and we can see one of the reasons that his red wine has such a low alcohol: The grape clusters block for the sun, so in the middle of the day the sunlight is mainly reflected from the albariza soil. The Poniente wind also contributes to a slower maturation.

2015-06-30 14.21.28        2015-06-30 14.31.04

Miguel rents this part of Balbaina. While we are out there sampling some delicious white and sparkling wine owner Martín comes to join the fun.

Before I went back to Zahara I visited Armando Guerra’s place in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, the Taberna Der Guerrita. This is a wine bar, a small restaurant, a shop – a real oasis and nothing you would expect in the capital of Manzanilla, where people stare at you once you order a red wine in a bar, assuming you mean a «tinto de verano» (a low alcohol drink that is taking over for sangría). Armando used to sell his «own» table white wine and amontillado («own» because they were brands and made by R. Ibáñez and Delgado Zuleta, respectively). But he is running the taberna, he sells and serves the wines he likes himself – and he receives a lot of attention for his ambitious series of wine tastings involving many great producer and journalist names from Spain and abroad, and the proprietor too.

2015-06-30 16.05.23    2015-06-30 16.12.21

Armando with a glass of «unfortified manzanilla» in front of his small wine bar

We tasted some wines and talked a little about the industry. It is well known that sherry is losing ground in many markets, so many producers, with Barbadillo as the most famous wine and the greatest commercial success, have started to produce unfortified wines from the area. Today the ones that put all their effort into these wines are the flagbearers for quality, such as Luís Pérez, Ramiro Ibáñez, Forlong, Mahara, Alba, Huerta de Albalá, and not least Equipo Navazos.

There is no D.O. for wines like this in the Cádiz province. Both Miguel Gómez and Armando Guerra says that this could be both positive and negative. In general it will help the big bodegas as these people will put a stronger quality focus on the vineyards, Armando suggests. Both admit that the wine doesn’t sell itself, but on the other hand there are no rules, and the new growers can contribute to define the «future». It would not surprise me (even with the mighty families of the Marco de Jerez around) that a new regulation would be built upon the red grape tintillo de rota and the white palomino fino, but with possibilities for several «caprichos» too.

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.

 

2015-06-18 20.37.14

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.