Monthly Archives: December 2016

A Mendoza Bonarda

There are a lot of things happening in Argentina. A few weeks ago we brought a malbec wine into the sporlight. Malbec is by many regarded as something of a national grape. Bonarda is another that excels here. For a long time we thought it was the Italian grape, but we now know that it’s the same as the French charbono (corbeau). It is naturally lighter than malbec, it’s not very compatible with oak, and it has been responsible responsible for many bland, warm wines. But with lower yields and more care to winemaking we now see interesting results. Even though Bonarda is a late ripener some will try to harvest early to avoid too warm aromas.

This particular wine is made by Bodegas Chakana at their finca in Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, at 960 meters above sea level. It’s aged in a combination of used barrel and concrete for a period of 8 months.

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Bonarda 2014 (Chakana)

Purple with violet rim. Aroma of blackberry, plums and herbs. Mellow and soft in the mouth, luscious, quite fresh, with a slight touch of tannin.

Price: Low

Recovering the Chilean past

Nobody talked about the rolling, undulating landscape of Itata, the place where the original Chilean vineyard is believed to have been located (near port city Concepción, south of Maule and north of Bio Bio, both more well-known areas). But the earthquake of 2010 can stand as a metaphor for the country’s new path in wine, because when tidying up one have to look upon what has been at the same time as scheduling a future. And while much of the work had started before, many projects began to come to the surface around that time.

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In addition to the rediscovering of the Itata region the use of clay vessels is also experiencing a revival. The De Martino family has been influencial in moving away from standardising practises in winemaking, like harvesting too ripe, using herbicides, over-extraction, new oak barrels, enzymes, cultured yeasts and micro-oxygenation – and yes, bringing the clay vessels back to the spotlight.

The tinajas arrived in Chile with the Spanish conquerors. However, as the historians note, the craftmanship involved also had lines back to the ceramic traditions of the continent’s native inhabitants. There is a theory that alcohol was stored in tinajas in Chile 3.500 years back in time. (Read more here. As for clay vessels, there are a lot on this blog, most notably in this piece about tinajero Padilla in Castilla-La Mancha.)

de-martino_10-copia Tinajas in De Martino’s cellar

The first version in De Martino’s Viejas Tinajas series was the Cinsault, a very early classic in Chilean vinegrowing. It’s what one would call “dry-farmed”, a practise that is possible in certain areas with a heavy rainfall in winter and a soil with the ability to keep the water during the rest of the year.

2016-12-14-21-50-43 The second tinaja wine was a dark orange, almost brownish wine made from muscat. Here excellently paired with a Lancashire Bomb, an English cow’s milk cheese

Cinsault is a grape with fairly light skin and naturally low tannin and acidity. Most well-known are the lightly perfumed reds and the rosés. But with old vines and low yields it’s possible to get more flavour, often with a touch of flowery and strawberry aromas on top. As it’s able to withstand drought very well it has become popular, not only in its stronghold in Southern France, but also many places outside Europe, like North Africa, the Middle East, and in South Africa it’s famous for being one parent of pinotage, something of a “national grape” there.

This particular wine is made 280 meters above sea level, 22 kilometers from the Pacific, from ungrafted vines, hand-harvested, spontaneously fermented, and the must is aged for 8 months in 200 year old tinajas (big clay vessels without handles).

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Viejas Tinajas Cinsault 2014 (De Martino)

Cherry red. Smells of quite mature red berries (raspberry, strawberry), somewhat earthy with some white pepper. It’s well-structured with a tannic edge, and also shows a cool, fruity, somewhat graphity taste, and a good length.

Price: Medium

Food: Beef and other tasty meats, possibly with creamy sauces

 

A light Argentine malbec

Here is a simple, light and fresh wine from Argentina’s national grape malbec. It’s made in Mendoza’s Valle de Uco in stainless steel, and with selected yeasts.

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Camaleón Malbec Organic 2016 (Lea)

Dark, blueish. Young and fresh aroma of berries (mature raspberry, cassis), herbs and licorice. Quite soft taste with a touch of tannins and adequate acidity.

Price: Low

Another Catalandscape

This wine was marked with my name in the wine cabinet, when we arrived an Airbnb flat in Barcelona, generously given by the host.

Here is a reserva made near Dalí’s Cadaqués and Figueres, in La Selva de Mar (meaning ‘the sea jungle’) in the high Empordà. It has nothing to do with the dramatic valleys of Priorat, nor the wide plains of Costers del Segre.

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We are above the Saint Romà valley, where Diego Soto and Núria Dalmau bought this property in 1989. They restored a farm-house in the middle of the vineyards, and recovered the rest of the estate. 17 hectares of land are now planted with garnatxa, carinyena, syrah, monastrell and moscatel (the alexandria version). They were thinking organically from the start, and biodynamically since 1999.

The property is located within the Cap Creus nature park, bordering the Mediterranean Sea. It’s a steep farm with some terraces, and a soil rich in slate.

This wine is made from garnatxa 50%, syrah 30%, and the rest carinyena. In short, the altitude is 120-380 meters, the grapes were hand-picked, underwent a spontaneous fermentation and maceration in stainless steel at 22˚C, and the finished wine was aged 15 months in French oak casks.

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Vinya Selva de Mar 2007 (Mas Estela) 

Quite dark with brownish rim. Aroma of mature berries, cherries, plums, spices (cinnamon and pepper), some dried fruit and a slight touch of raisins. Full on the palate, adequate acidity, a nice wine at its height right now when the oak is well integrated.

Price: Medium

Antidote of London

You might think that Antidote could have something to do with the Remedy restaurant, about which I wrote a few months ago, at least their names could suggest so. But no. They have a few things in common though, they both offer a cure against depressive tendencies, and they offer well-prepared bites, and a lot of good, healthy wines – all worked organically, many biodynamically in the vineyard.

They rely on market catch, and the menu changes often. The food is quite simple, but well made, and often with both a modern touch and inspired by several corners of the world. The wine list is quite extensive, and there is a good selection of wines by the glass. They say that the wines come largely from France. That’s true, but I have spotted wines from other European countries like Italy, Spain and Slovenia, an occational one from Greece, and outside Europe too, such as Australia.

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I visited this cosy Soho locale twice in August, the first time with my daughter who is vegan, and they were very helpful, and gladly made some creative twists. Second time was the day after, when I had some more wines and a couple more bites.

Along with their “Heritage Tomato” dish (with lemon, lovage parsley and goat’s curd) I had Ch. la Coste “Pentes Douces 2014 (Ch. la Coste), a provencal blend of vermentino and sauvignon blanc: light in colour, a rich aroma with hints of herbs, and a slightly warm touch in the aftertaste. With next bite, Spring Onions with egg yolk, comté cheese and buckwheat, I tried Clef de Sol 2014 (La Grange Tiphaine) from Montlois sur Loire, a light, fruity, mineral chenin blanc, with a lot of acidity wrapped in super fruit. Following this with the same dish I tried what turned out to be one of the stars of the evening, Maupiti 2014 (Clos de l’Elu), a light red wine from Anjou, also in the Loire. This one is made from gamay and cabernet franc. It shows lots of red berries, it’s fresh and fruity, mellow in the mouth and just delicious drinking.

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La Poudre d’Escampette 2014 (from winery Le Casot des Mailloles) is a dry red wine from Banyuls, quite unusual for the area’s image as a dessert wine region. It’s made from 120 year old grenache and 80 year old carignan vines. An unpasturized camembert from Normandie was perfectly matched with the (to a certain extent volatile) acidity of the high-hill wine. A good match was also the ossau-iraty, a sheep’s milk cheese from French Basque Country.

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An unusual wine to round off maybe, but excellent there and then, was I Clivi RBL 2014, a biodynamically farmed, native yeast spumante brut nature from the grape known as ribolla gialla in Friuli, Italy, close to the Slovenian border. It was dry, but rounded off, fruity, a little carbonic-mineral, and nice for washing away what might remain of the fat from the cheeses.

Riesling surprise

It was a surprise for several people in a recent tasting. Nevertheless, the Quinta Sant’Ana of Mafra, Lisboa has many times demonstrated its ability to make good wines in a sustainable manner.

As stated a few times, I really do appreciate the Lisboa region. It’s not among the most dramatic of wine countries, neither in landscape nor temperatures, but there are myriads of micro-climates, and often within very short distances.

At Sant’Ana, around 100 meters above sea level and only 12 km from the sea, there is a strong Atlantic influence. The quinta has steep slopes and calcareous clay soils. Typically here are cool nights and cloudy, misty mornings, but in the afternoon the sun shines through.

antonio_q-santana  António Moita Maçanita, winemaker

Their winemaker has experience from Napa and Australia, as well as a period at Lynch Bages in Bordeaux. Back in Portugal he was consulting for several wineries while he was all the time exploring the local terroirs.

Earlier ampelographers linked the albariño/alvarinho to riesling, suggesting that the pilgrims could have brought it to the Iberian peninsula on their way to Compostela. While this has proved to be wrong this wine could well be heading a new caste of Atlantic rieslings, with a blend of the German steeliness and the richer Atlantic fruit.

The grapes for this wine were grown close to the doorstep of the quinta house. The coastal humidity made some botrytis appear on the grapes. There was a light pressing of whole bunches, and the must fermented in steel vats at low temperatures utilizing a technique with oxidised must.
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Riesling 2013 (Quinta Sant’Ana)
Light yellow with a greenish hue. Aromas of mature apple, citrus (lemon and grapefruit), some stone-minerals. Good concentration, somewhat oily texture, but fresh fruit, nice acidity and a slight bitterness in the end.
 
Price: Medium
Food: Seafood, many sorts of fish (white, smoked, fat, tuna), white and light meat