Monthly Archives: January 2017

Sauvignon from the edge of the Chilean desert

Giorgio and Aldo during harvest

 

A few weeks ago we presented a wine from the southern part of the Chilean vineyard. Here is one from the Valle de Elquí, located in the very north, at the edge of the Atacama desert (one of the world’s driest places). This used to be pisco land (Chile shares both this sour grape liqueur and the desert with its neighbour Peru). Nowadays Elquí is noted for fresh and fragrant wines, from sauvignon blanc, syrah and other grapes.

 

 

Giorgio Flessati and Aldo Olivier (photo: V. Falernia)

 

Elqui means ‘narrow valley’ in the local quechua language, and it’s still a place with herds of vicuña, a relative of the more famous llama. (Believe me, I have seen them myself!) As expected, the valley is hot and  dry, and irrigation is essencial. Host to a number of astronomical observatories, this province is famous for the bright light, the pure air and the clear sky. In fact the number of sunlight hours is higher than anywhere in Europe. But the vineyards go up to 2.000 meters above sea level, and the nights are cool, so the growth cycle can be slow, and it’s still possible to achieve a degree of acidity in the wines.

Vicuna (Vicugna vicugna) or vicugna is wild South American camelid, which live in the high alpine areas of the Andes. It is a relative of the llama. Andes of central Ecuador Vicuña, eh… Well, here is one

While closer to the Pacific coast at lower altitudes, the soils have more clay and silt, the soils up here are rocky with chalky components. There was almost no vinegrowing in Elquí before the 1990’s, when the trade began to seek alternatives to the areas around Santiago. Aldo Olivier Gramola (a native from Trentino, Italy) was one of the people who realized the potential. When Aldo met his cousin, oenologist Giorgio Flessati, Chile’s most northernly winery Viña Falernia was established in 1998.

The grapes for the Sauvignon Blanc was handpicked, the vinification was carried out in steel tanks and stayed on the lees for 6 months. A small percentage of the must was aged 4 months in oak casks.

 

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Sauvignon Blanc 2012 (Viña Falernia)

Light yellow with hints of green. Aroma of white flowers, mature berries, aromatic herbs and fennel (maybe from the oak treatment). Mellow in the mouth, with a decent acidity, good concentration and lenght.

Price: Low

Food: Fish, shellfish, chicken, salads, white cheese

Stavanger fair I: Spanish sparklers, white wines and more

Stavanger Vinforum was established in 1995 to contribute to more interest in and better understanding of wine in the southwestern region of Norway. Their most important activity is the annual fair, and this was the 23rd in a row. Each year has a specific theme, usually one or more countries. This year Spain and Portugal was in focus. 17 importers presented a total of around 250 wines, and there are always seminars: This time one mainly about Rueda by Igniacio Pariente of Bodegas Pariente (formerly II Victorias), one by Óscar Alegre (of Telmo Rodríguez’ company) about the northwestern corner.

IMG_3993 Nils Nærland, member of the board and responsible for the program

I have written more about the fair itself for other publications. Here I will just present some of the highlights, from my own perspective and according to my own preferences.

Spanish sparkling wines: We are talking mainly about cava here. A head above the rest on the fair is Gramona, this time represented by their superb xarel.lo-based III Lustros Gran Reserva, now in the 2007 vintage. This wine shows the greatness of the xarel.lo grape, not very aromatic from the start, but after some years it starts to shine, and in Xavier Gramona’s opinion the best grape for cavas meant for ageing. This one spent 7 years on lees, has great depth and concentration, aromas of toast with a smoky note, and still with an incredible “presence” after all these years. Reserva Millesime Brut Nature 2011 (Castelo de Pedregosa), mainly from pinot noir, was kept for 3 years on the lees. It’s quite concentrated too, with the characteristic “bakery” aromas. Clos Lentiscus, DO Penedès (not Cava) was new to me. Their Blanc de Noirs Brut Nature 2010 was a different take. The “noir” variety of the title is sumoll, that not many years ago was a nearly extinct grape, but is now on the rise. The colour is almost orange, or maybe pink-ish, from a somewhat extended skin-contact. It’s more robust and tannic than the fair’s other sparklers.

To the white wines: Rueda is a region that is gaining still more ground in the conscousness of the people, but at the same time it’s facing problems with high production and many wines that are maybe correct, but with lack of personality and inspiration. I chose Basa 2015 (T. Rodríguez). It’s based on verdejo, but includes 10% of viura, and is sourced from various plots around the area. It’s a fresh, fruity wine for everyday drinking, and maybe a typical restaurant house wine. A very good one. Equally good and consistent is Gaba do Xil 2015, a Valdeorras wine from the same producer. Not so straightforwardly generous, but with more layers, and with those typical hints of straw and herbs from the godello grape.

IMG_3976 Óscar Alegre at importer Moestue Grape Selections’ table

A single white wine represented the Canary Islands, Trenzado 2014 (Suertes del Marqués), a complex and rich skin-contact white that shows what can be done on Tenerife. This has been highlighted here.

From the Gredos area (province of Madrid) it was a nice to taste the Navaherreros Blanco from producer Bernabeleva again, now in the 2015 vintage. This is a predominantly albillo real with some macabeo, with hints of white flowers, peaches, yellow apples and slightly buttery too (from fermentation in big vats and ageing on the lees), with good body and a smooth texture.

IMG_3959 Aina Mee Myhre of Heyday Wines presented a well-chosen range of wines

From Catalunya I first tasted Espelt Quinze Roures 2015 from Empordà near the French border. This is a barrel and lees-aged wine from the grapes with the Catalan names lledoner roig (grey garnacha) and lledoner blanc (white garnacha), grown in slate and sandy soils with understated aromas, quite complex (dried fruits, anise), good body and concentration, a touch of skin-contact, and just enough acidity to match. From Torroja, Priorat, producer Terroir al Límit was represented by 8 wines, 3 of them white. I especially liked the Terroir Històric 2015 (garnacha blanca 75%, macabeu 25%) aged in concrete eggs for 6 months, golden in colour with aromas of yellow apples, hints of honey, medium-bodied, and with a salty mineral aftertaste. The Terra da Cuques 2014 (pedro ximérez 80%, moscatel 20%) had more skin-contact feel, but was also fresher, with floral and citrusy notes, some herbs too. Quite rounded texture, expressive and with a touch of acidity. Dare I say elegant: For a Priorat very much so!

Fortified wines and dessert wines were not among my priorities this time. But some good wines for later in the meal were chosen. Among these the Molino Real, now in its 2010 incarnation. Telmo Rodríguez makes this wine in cooperation with Bodegas Almijara of Cómpeta, Málaga province. It’s always good, some vintages more lemony than others. I have a suspicion that it’s lighter than before, but it’s a really nice moscatel, an old-fashioned “mountain wine” introduced at a time when wines from the pedro ximénez grape was reigning supreme in the area. Lastly, I know very well the sherries offered, so I didn’t taste them this time. But I never miss a chance to taste the wines selected (not produced) by Equipo Navazos. They chose single “botas” (barrels) of wines that they find exceptional. The one presented here was 57 – La Bota de Florpower MMXII (in other words: a sherry vintage 2012), a light, grapey fino with some citrus notes, and yes! with a lot of “flor” character (the layer of yeast that covers the lightest wines in the bodega). Simply delicious!

On my way out I couldn’t miss a completely natural cider from the northern region Asturias, the Valdedios Natural (Manuel Bustos Amandi), with aromas of citrus, green apple, herbs, and with a slightly bitter aftertaste.

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A lovely dry Alsace riesling

This wine stood out in a wine club tasting of “rieslings of the world”.

The winery is located in the small village of Andlau, Alsace, between Strasbourg and Colmar – and the vineyards are also found in three neighbouring villages. Antoine Kreydenweiss is now both manager and oenologist. He inherited the biodynamic principles of his father, and is working the land together with his wife, his family – and his horse.

The climate could be described as continental, and there is a variety of terroirs in the area. The domaine covers today 13.5 hectares, among these four grand crus. Most of it is found on slopes and small hills with a south-southeast orientation. The soil is a veritable mosaic, including pink sandstone, granite, both grey and blue schist, sediment, and limestone, that -according to the producer- brings “finesse, minerality and freshness” to the wines.

The wines are typically fermented in big oak barrels (foudres), and ageing on the lees is carried out in all wines. The grapes for this Andlau wine was grown in sandy soil, pink sandstone from the Vosgue mountains, in a place perfect for riesling, according to Antoine Kreydenweiss.

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Andlau Riesling 2015 (Marc Kreydenweiss)

Light golden. Aroma of mature apples, citrus, minerals and a touch of honey. Fresh and fruity in the mouth, a good level of acidity and a nice and dry finish.

Price: Low

Food: White fish, shellfish, rindwashed cheeses like Munster or goat cheeses, salads or light meat.

 

Northern delight on a Southern table

This delightful Atlantic wine from the Galician DO Ribeiro we had at Málaga’s Los Patios de Beatas wine bar and restaurant tonight.

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Ricardo Carreiro of Gomariz was one of the pioneers of modern day Ribeiro when he started to recover indigenous grape varieties and helped to set up various projects. Ricardo jr took over in 2000 and hired oenologist Xosé Lois Sebio, and the winery has since then become one of the leading lights of the region.

Both reds and whites are made in their 28 hectares estate, some farmed biodynamically.

Contrary to popular belief the red wines are common in the area. Many are blends that contain the sousón, a variety with good structure and compatible with oak treatment.

The Flower and the Bee is some kind of a side project that we have commented on before. Apart from this, Abadía de Gomariz can be regarded as an entry level red. It’s a blend of sousón (50%), brancellao, ferrol and mencía. The vines are trained in espalderas. The soils here in the Avia valley are schist, sand and clay. The must was pre-fermented at cold temperatures, and the alcoholic fermentation was done in steel tanks with frecuent pumping-over. The wine stayed in used 300L barrels, mostly French, for a year.

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Abadía de Gomariz 2011 (Coto de Gomariz)

Deep brilliant purple. Aroma of dark berries (black cherries), herbs and some spicy and balsamic notes (eucalyptus). Fleshy in the mouth, luscious but still with some bitterness in the end. The tannins are rounded off with some time in the glass.

Price: Low

Food: Light meat, lamb, white fish, squid (Pulpo a la Gallega)… With its fruit and freshness it’s a very versatile wine. At Los Patios we had it with blackened cod with sesame seeds and Oriental spices.

 

From Soave’s highest vineyard

Soave signifies something soft and mellow. This area itself is not especially dramatic either. But the geography is capable of showing big differences in expression. And garganega, the most prominent grape in the area, is a very successful interpreter of these different terroirs. For me, both aspects were clearly demonstrated for the first time, in a guided tasting during the VinItaly fair in nearby Verona some years ago.

f-filippi_vigne-della-bra Vigne delle Brà (photo: courtesy of Cant. Filippi)

Cantina Filippi disposes of the highest vineyards in the Soave area. 400 meters above sea level might not seem enough to challenge your fear of heights, but all is relative, and these plots have an advantage over other Soave sites in terms of natural acidity. Most of their 16 hectars of vineyards were planted in the 1950s. These are divided into three crus with different characteristics.

f-filippi_volcanic-soil There is a high volcanic content in the vineyard

In all vineyards organic farming is practised, and the soils are volcanic rock, limestone and clay. Filippi keeps the pergola training of garganega inherited from his ancestors. He doesn’t wish to blend garganega with more acidic grapes, as he more appreciate a saline form of minerality. Having said this, 6 g/L isn’t that low either.

The wine was fermented with native yeasts is stainless steel, and it stayed on fine lees for around one year. Not filtrated.

Bilde av flasken for Filippi Vigne della Brà Soave 2013

Vigne delle Brà 2013 (Cantina Filippi)

Light yellow. Mature apple and some citric notes in the aroma, some nuts and saline minerality. Round and mellow in the mouth, a slight bitterness in the finish.

Price: Medium