Monthly Archives: July 2016

A great, mineral Muscadet

Muscadet by the Loire is maybe underestimated. At least it’s undoubtedly good value. Even this wine, handmade, low-sulphur, natural and with loads of character, is very good value. It’s a wine that evokes memories of summer, flowers and sunshine.

This one is made by Jo Landron, that started to make wines with his father back in 1979 and has since walked the steps via “normal” organic to biodynamic farming.

This wine is from 40 years old melon de bourgogne vines, fermentation in cement with indigenous yeasts, the malolactic was blocked to retain the freshness, and the wine was bottled unfiltered.

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La Fief du Breil 2013 (Jo Landron)

Straw-coloured. Bread and yeast aromas from ageing on lees, wet stone. Full, round on the palate, chalky minerality and just enough acidity to match.

Price: Medium

Food: Tasty fish, salads, creamy cheeses

Summer is rosé, and rosé is Provence

And the first 100% organic village for agriculture is Correns, in the inland from the Azur coast between Nice and Marseille.

Much has been said about this property and its affinity to artists throughout the years. Briefly: In 1970 jazz pianist Jacques Loussier used it as a recording studio. (Parts of Pink Floyd’s The Wall are recorded here.) Today it’s owned by actors Jolie & Pitt, and the wine is made by Perrin, the family behind many outstanding wines like Beaucastel.

Covering 500 hectares of land in the Côte de Provence, the wine château is only a small part of this, together with olive groves, woods and wildlife. The vineyards are located around 350 meters above sea level, partly terraced, on clay and limestone soils. The temperature varies a great deal between day and night, given a nice freshness to most of the wines.

This rosé is made mainly from the cinsault grape, with some grenache, syrah and rolle. Rolle? Well, this is quite complicated: Rolle is a synonym for a local grape named rollo. It’s also a synonym for the better known Italian vermentino. It can even be that the two are related…

Most of the grapes are lightly pressed directly. But some of the syrah are made according to the “saignée” method, which means that part of the juice is removed from the must to concentrate phenolics and other components. (Needless to say, it’s not an ideal practice with “naturalists”.) The fermentation was mostly in stainless steel, with a small part (around 5%) in oak, with some batonnage.

miraval rose

Miraval Rosé 2015 (Ch. Miraval)

Pale pink. Delicate aromas of citrus, raspberries and white flowers, and a touch of pepper. Quite fresh on the palate, some volume too and a nice concentration that makes it persistent, with a dryness and a touch of a salty minerality in the finish. I find that many of the rosés in the area have too much alcohol for the body and concentration. This one not.

Price: Low

Food: Salads, fowl, fish and seafood

Heinrich’s Zweigelt of Burgenland

I tasted this at the Territoriet (The Territory) wine bar in Oslo a few weeks ago. It was a perfect red wine for a warm, humid, but not sunny day in Oslo.

Heinrich grows the grapes after biodynamic principles, though the wine has no certification. It is a 100% zweigelt, underwent a spontaneous fermentation in steel and big oak vats, and had two weeks maceration.

2014 is also in the market, and both are good.

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Zweigelt 2013 (Heinrich)

Cherry red. Aromatic, with mature red berries, some green pepper. Quite warm and round in the mouth, but also with light and elegant tannins and a crisp, refreshing acidity.

Price: Low

 

José Miguel Márquez, a real artisan in the big players’ land

I drive from Córdoba to Montilla listening to the second half of the European Championship football match between Spain and Italy, where Spain loses just before I reach the narrow path to the bodega. -Oh, there is a match today, asks José Miguel Márquez, as if he couldn’t care less.

After a quick look at the very simple facilities, and a glimpse of the vineyards at the very southern end of town, we soon end in the discussion about natural wines, as opposed to “so-called natural wines”.

He is the actual leader of the organization Productores de Vinos Naturales (PVN), with prominent members like Barranco Oscuro, Samuel Cano (Vinos Patio), Viña Enebro and Bodegas Cauzón among their ranks. And José Miguel takes pride in the fact that this Spanish organization does not allow addition of sulphur whatsoever, while the sister organizations in the other southern European countries do.

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He admits that there is some amount of indignation among the producers. -It’s the task of the importers and the journalists, he says, to communicate what he and his peers are convinced is the right path to follow.

-It’s very difficult to make wines without corrections, says José Miguel. But that is what we must strive to do. We investigate, we are running a great risk, but we are convinced that we have to.

For him it’s about showing the dedication, to have naturalness in your mind or not. -Some has a non-added-SO2-line in their portfolio, but they don’t show the real enthusiasm about it. You cannot be a vegetarian, except for Sundays…

Obviously Montilla is one of the big fortified wines of Spain, with huge bodegas and well-trimmed organizations, public relations departments and so on. On the question if Bodega Marenas get something out of this nearness to the big players in the area and their “industry”:

-Well, first: I do not belong to the D.O. Monilla-Moriles. Of course I am here, and I know many of the bodegueros, but there is not very much contact, really. On the other hand, noone bothers me. They do their thing, I do what I am convinced needs to be done, and I have my network, which is another. This said, Marenas is also paying its tribute to some of the old traditions of the area, such as a PX Bajo Velo, a wine aged under flor (a layer of naturally grown yeast), and Asoleo, a moscatel made from grapes dried in the sun before pressing.

The pago Cerro Encinas comprises 6 hectars of predominantly sandy and clayey soils with a high content of carbonates and limestone predominantly, but some albariza too (the same as the famous chalky soil of Sherry country). We are 350 meters above sea level, and though nearby Córdoba has Europe’s highest maximum temperatures there is a gentle breeze blowing through the vineyards, so the climate can be characterized as a blend of continental and mediterranean. The bodega opened in 1999, and as bodeguero José Miguel is first generation. The previous one I met when I entered the place, that is José Miguel’s father on a tractor. There is no “bodega” in the sense of an organization, it’s only me.

This is the “bottling line”:

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José Miguel places another bottle on the europallet. When it’s full he must take the bottles down again, I suppose, because they obviously need to have a label attached to them. And who is going to do that…

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While we talk he opens some bottles. One is a fresh 2015 from the white montepilas grape, that is a very rare variety, but older in the region than the famous pedro ximénez. Then there is a monastrell, also from the recent vintage: dark, spicy, fruity and luscious in the mouth.

Then there is a wine called Casilla las Flores 2015, from pinot noir. This one is light, like a rosé. It’s just lightly pressed, and not macerated. It’s flowery in the aroma, and the fruit is fresh and close to nature.

-I look for simplicity, says José Miguel. I ask if he sometimes changes the way he makes the wines. -Some times I change a little. It could be of obvious reasons, because of the climate, you have to respond to the vintage, f.ex. when it’s time to harvest. Looking back, I used to macerate more, I thought more on complexity. But nobody understand this anymore. Now I search for simplicity, but without losing the quality.

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Back to Córdoba. Restaurant Amaltea is a cozy restaurant near the Roman bridge, where they serve small dishes, eco-friendly and with vegetarian/vegan options, in a tapas-, sharing style if you want. I was alone, so I ordered a couple of small plates of excellent vegetables and seafood. They have two of José Miguel’s wines by the glass, and I had both:

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Montepilas 2015

Light brown-orange in colour, slightly cloudy. Good freshness in aroma, mature apple. Grapey and luscious in the mouth.

Cerro Encinas 2015

This is the monastrell (with a new label). Dark with violet rim. The aroma shows both a controlled oxidized style (in a good manner), but immediate fruit as well, with wild berries and spices. On the palate it has just enough tannin, and it’s very much alive with just enough acidity too.

Sedella, in the Málaga hills

There is a lot to discover in the interior of Andalucía. Just like last year I have been holidaying in the area. And as there is much more than sand under the sun, a perfect occasion for visiting wineries. This year I saw some people that I already knew, and met some new people and tasted some new wines.

I had read about Lauren Rosillo and his red wines from the village of Sedella in the malagan Axarquía hills. So on a summer Sunday I wrote him an email (that can’t hurt anyone, I thought), and yes!, he answered almost directly. He is not there that much, as he is busy working as an oenologist for Riojan family company Martínez Bujanda, and all their activities around Spain. But that Monday morning he happened to be there on a short trip, so I popped in on my way to Córdoba.

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From the long and winding road I recognize the architect-drawn bodega building in some of the curves, so I’m no longer in doubt that I am on the right track. Lauren greets me. We are the only two people on that hill now.

To explore the bodega was done rather quickly. In one room there were a couple of steel tanks, in another a couple of concrete eggs, one tinaja (clay amphora) and two or three oak barrels, and apart from that there isn’t much more to report on.

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We are 700 meters over sea level, and there is a refreshing breeze coming up from the Mediterranean. To the east we find the Sierra de Tejeda mountains, and to the north La Maroma, a 2.066 meters high peak. In winter it can be down to minus 5 or 6 here, which is well reflected in the wines. The soil in this 1,8 hectar vineyard is slate, and the local romé and the nacional garnacha (known as grenache in France) were the grapes that were planted here around 1940. The vineyard management is organic, and both draft animals and ancient ploughs can be seen here at times.

20160627_121557 Silver coins are used to preserve the wine

Strangely enough, Lauren was born in Villarobledo (Albacete), a town that was once a real nucleous for production of tinajas, and which I have reported on earlier. (See this article about master tinajero Padilla.) The clay tinaja Lauren uses, however, is made in Úbeda, not far away in the Jaén province, in his own words “to honor the Andalusian tradition”.

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Only two wines are made: Laderas de Sedella and Sedella, respectively. Ladera (meaning hillside) is sourced from the steep vineyard towards the south. This wine is aged in concrete, and never sees any oak. The Sedella is from the vineyard on the other side of the winery, facing north-west. This wine is aged for 14-18 months in second hand oak.

Lauren calls them “mediterranean mountain wines”, Mountain Wine being an old expression for some of the dessert wines in the region, and also a branded name for collegue Telmo Rodríguez and his moscatel wines made in association with nearby Bodegas Almijara.

20160627_125412 Lauren Rosillo on the terrace facing the “laderas”

The alcoholic fermentation is always carried out in tank, and only natural yeast is used, the malolactic in concrete eggs. After malo he uses a little sulphur. In Lauren’s opinion it is at this stage that the use of sulphur is most important, as there are microbes that can do some “damage” here.

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We tasted the actual vintage. The Laderas de Sedella 2013, made from grapes romé, garnacha, and a touch of the white moscatel, had 13% alcohol, quite moderate (or: low) to be this far south. The wine is dark with a violet rim, with aromas of plums and cherry, wild berries. It’s rich, but with a lovely acidity, in the mouth, – and with a mineral aftertaste. Next vintage will carry the denomination Ánfora, by the way.

The Sedella 2013 is made from older vines in a north-facing vineyard. It is a touch darker with a violet rim, balsamic on the nose, very fruity, with darker fruits, notes of herbs, some lickorice, and just a hint of oak. On the palate it’s full, with some tannins, and a lovely acidity. The aftertaste is persistent. It’s a very appealing wine for medium term ageing.

Lauren calls the latter the “premium” wine. I understand what he means, and the Sedella is undoubtedly the more ambitious. Still I appreciate the difference: Laderas is the south-faced, clay aged wine, while the Sedella is the north-faced old barrel aged wine. Both very different, and both very good!

The first vintage was 2008. Lauren wanted to fetch an older vintage of the Sedella. We agreed to try the 2010, that had still some violet/purple, wild berries, plums. Rich, still that appealing fruit and acidity. Will keep.

Matassa’s Cuvée Alexandria

There are some posts from Southern Spain these days, and the bulk is yet to come. So a French wine is this week’s pick.

Tom Lubbe, originally from New Zealand, makes wine in the French part of Catalonia, in the hills of the Coteaux du Fenouillèdes, to be precise. The altitude is 450 meters, quite high for this region, and the soils are granitic. Biodynamics are practised, and the winemaking is as natural as possible.

Nowadays his grapes are picked early, and musts from aromatic grapes like muscat are often given a long contact with skins and stems – here 30 days.

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Matassa Cuvée Alexandria 2015 (Dom. Matassa)

Orange-brown, slightly cloudy. Smells of orange peel, apricot and aromatic white flowers. Medium full and concentrated, yet light (in the meaning uplifting), light tannins, quite refreshing, and with a salty, mineral aftertaste. Delicious.

Price: medium

A Sumoll rosé at Territoriet, Oslo

I tasted this at the Territoriet (The Territory) wine bar in Oslo’s nowadays quite fashionable Grünerløkka district. The wine bar is an independent no-chain place that boasts 400 wines by the glass, a great many of them organic.

20160618_182139 Wine and music: I can “tolerate” this!

The producers both live and work at their Can Comas estate in Catalan Penedès where they feel an obligation to treat both the vineyards and the surrounding forests as eco-friendly as possible.

The vineyards are not irrigated, nor ploughed (in order to avoid erosion and encourage natural growth), and neither do they use fertilisers.

This rosé made from the rare sumoll variety, that was about to disappear but saved by a group of local vintners, among them Celler Pardas themselves. This vineyard is south-east facing at 400 meters and was planted 40 years ago.

A perfect choice in that hot Oslo evening.

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Pardas Sumoll Rosé 2014 (Celler Pardas)

Pink, salmon colour, onion-like rim. Fruity, hoot of red apple, flowers. Round on the palate, and just enough acidity to keep the freshness.

Price: Low

Food: Summer salads and other light dishes