Tag Archives: biodynamic

Vino de Paraje… de Bierzo

This is not primarily a political blog. But while waiting for next move from big Spanish wine locomotive Rioja I was delighted when Bierzo announced exactly what I hoped for from the big brother. That is a new classification based on the “Burgundy model”, a project that Priorat had also embarked on, and is about to fulfill.

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Moncerbal is one of four parajes (places) from this producer in the villa of Corullón

In brief, Bierzo has launched a four category classification where paraje (vineyard, or: place) is the most specific, and villa (village) the next level.

This wine is a 100% mencía from a vineyard of 1,74 hectars between 60 and 90 years old in the “paraje” of Moncerbal in the village Corullón situated between 610 and 730 meters’ altitude.

The alcoholic fermentation was carried out in open wooden vats with a 48 days maceration. Spontaneous malo-lactic in big wood too, before 19 months in new French oak.

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Moncerbal 2009 (Descendientes de J. Palacios)

Deep red (crimson). Aromas of cherries, plums, eucalyptus, and only a slight hint of tobacco and chocolate. Full on the palate, fruit with both sunny and cool elements, good acidity. Nice concentration. Good with food now, but will keep for many years.

Note: Some find this wine at its peak now. I prefer a few years more in the cellar. We may “sacrifice” some fresh fruit, but the integration of the wood will be complete.

Serve lightly chilled, just enough to keep the alcohol (14,5) in check.

Price: High

Food: Red meat, game, stews, pasta…

Baga in a different direction

I am in Baga country, Bairrada, with a bunch of dedicated wine people.

There are various styles from that grape, reds, rosés, sparkling, and big variations between each of them. I believe that baga and Bairrada could have been marginalized, almost forgotten, had it not been for the revitalization of the classical styles a couple of decades ago – and now the “Baga Friends” group, seven producers with a real passion for that grape (some of them also the main players behind the revitalization I talked about). Baga is difficult to grow, the climate in Bairrada is challenging, but when all is under control the wines can have a great personality, rich in tannin, acidity, and with a unique aromatic profile – something unique in the wine world.

20170902_154703 Dirk Niepoort talking to journalists in the cellar

Today we visited Quinta de Baixo, in Cantanhede. I visited this southern Bairrada winery some ten years ago, just after the former owner had raised the yellow adega building. In 2012 Dirk van der Niepoort acquired it, and is now taking it in a different direction.

-Bairrada does not need to rely on power, says Dirk Niepoort, -I believe the baga wines from limestone soils can have light colour, low alcohol, good acidity, chalkiness and elegance. So from the beginning we decided to work with earlier picking, no extraction and with a lot of whole bunch pressing. And he continues: -With baga it’s important not to play too much with oak (and that’s good music in my ears…).

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Baga from a more than 100 years old vineyard just above sea level at Cantanhede

Poeirinho refers to the former designation of the baga variety and is a tribute to the Bairrada wines of the past. Those were were light in colour and low in alcohol, but still with ageing potential.

Poeirinho 2015 was vinified in lagares for 4 weeks, and it stayed in the same large, used vat through alcohol- and malo-lactic fermentation and 20 months ageing, before it was bottled unfiltered.

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Poeirinho 2015 (Quinta de Baixo)

Light red with violet hints. Expressive aroma of cherry, with a touch of spice and some chalky elements. It’s a pure and juicy wine with elegant tannins and a refreshing acidity, concentrated yet pleasant to drink now, with a low 12% alcohol (the previous one had only 11).

Price: Medium

Food: Red meats, roasted lamb, suckling pig, sausages, ham, cheese, bacalhau, salads…

 

Pflüger of Pfalz

I met German winegrower Alexander Pflüger at a tasting yesterday, and tried the five wines that he had brought. Pflüger took over the family estate in 2010, fine-tuned the viticultural practise and started exporting. All the work had been organic since the 1980’s, but some biodynamic principles were introduced, and there is still a constant work to maintain a healthy biodiversity.

20170825_110542 Alexander Pflüger

The farm is found in Bad Dürkheim, in the central-north part of Pfalz. All the wines are authentic, full of character and tell about their origin.

The vines grow on a terrace in Michelsberg vineyard. The St. Michael chapel is located at the top of the vineyard, and there has been winegrowing here since the 17th century. The vineyard faces south, and the soil consists of fossil limestone and a mixture of red and yellow sandstone. The must is macerated for about fourteen hours, and there is no filtering nor clarification before the spontaneous fermentation in large 2400 liters old wooden vats. Batonnnage is carried out over a six month period.

Pflüger Pflüger’s Pferd in Pfalz…

In Pfalz vintage 2016 gave generally fruit-driven, elegant wines. This one is certainly no exception.

Michelsberg Riesling Trocken 2015 (Weingut Pflüger)

Light yellow, a touch of green. Clean, fruity, appley with a touch of lemon and canteloupe melon. It’s a relatively rich wine, but with a steely structure that keeps it wonderfully together in a perfect balance. It’s still young though, and I expect that it will continue to reveal more layers over the next few years.

Price: Low-medium

Food: Fish, shellfish, light meat, cheeses…

 

A new chapter at Ainé

It was some thirty years ago that I wandered through the legendary Chapelle vineyard in Hermitage. Little did I think at the time about the level of organic practice. Since then I have tasted an occasional wine, and to my taste many have been good, especially during the latest years.

And it was around ten years ago that the Frey family purchased the property, and Caroline Frey took over as the new oenologist. They started converting the estate vineyards to biodynamic principles.

This Côte du Rhône has its background from 40 years old vines of grenache 55%, syrah 35 and mourvèdre 10. The yields were low and it was finally raised in steel tanks.

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Biographie 2015 (P. Jaboulet Aîné)

Dark purple red. Fruits from garden and woods (raspberry, black cherries, blackberry), and an amount of typical spices. Quite fresh with decent acidity.

Price: Low

Food: A variety of produce, from meats to tasty salads, hard cheeses…

 

 

AmByth, a biodynamic Californian estate

Paso Robles, named after the town El Paso de Robles (“Pass of the oaks”) is regarded as something of the wine industry’s wild west, not only for its landscapes, but for the creative spirit (tendency to break rules, if you like). In fact this is the fastest growing AVA in California, with over 200 wineries, as opposed to 50 only fifteen years ago.

AmByth is the first and only biodynamic certified estate here. Their vineyards are dry-farmed and head-trained in steep hillsides in Templeton. In the cellar only native yeast are employed, and the wines are unfined and unfiltered. No additions, no corrections, they use themselves the term “natural winemakers”.

Proprietor Phillip Hart is Welsh, and AmByth is a Welsh word meaning ‘forever’. Phillip and his wife Mary see this as a legacy; they give honour to the past, but they farm with the future in mind, so they can hand over a land in healthy condition.

Being eager cooks, they make wine with food in mind. Here they are going against the stream, as the typical Paso wine is rich, alcoholic, with a slightly sweet fruit. The dry farming (the practice of not irrigate, the term most often used for warmer climates) helps to keep the alcohol down. This week’s wine, a 54% sangiovese / 46% tempranillo, has 12,4% alcohol.

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Venustas 2011 (AmByth Estate)

Cherry red, shows signs of development towards rim. Aroma of red berries, herbs, a bit earthy, mushroom, some dried fruits. Full in the mouth, some cherry stone, good acidity. Mature, but will keep.

Price: Medium

Food: Red meat, lamb, game, hard cheeses…

 

The Real Wine fair I: A lovely bubbly start

The Real Wine fair is a two days event with focus on naturally made wine, where many of the leading producers in the genre come from all corners of the world to gather in London, this year at the Tobacco Dock in the eastern part of the city. The activities are not restricted to these two days either, as the arrangers (most importantly importer/distributor Les Caves de Pyrène) have collaborators all over the UK with their own arrangements in the weeks and even months leading up to the fair itself.

This is a very nice place to be, with so many nice people (both producers and visitors) contributing to the atmosphere. And about the wines, I say ‘natural wines’ for short. But there are so many different interpretations of the theme, and add to this the variations in terroirs, grapes and producer personalities, so there are not two identical wines here.

There were maybe not that many sparkling wines on show, but it struck me that here were some of the leading producers of naturally made sparklers in many categories. So here are a few.

Let’s begin in Champagne. Pierre Gerbais is located in the Côte des Bars area in southern Champagne, and has been certified since 1996. Their vineyard consists mainly of the dark marl called kimmeridge. They use the most traditional grapes of the region, but they are also noted for making the first 100% pinot blanc called L’Originale.

IMG_4219 Aurélien Gerbais

From the fresh Cuvée Réserve (24 months on lees) I tasted my way through the five champagnes they had on offer. Among the more special treats were the aforementioned L’Originale (officially NV, but from 2011 grapes): 100% pinot blanc, mostly from a vineyard planted in 1904, in white clay soils: A concentrated wine with aromas of yellow apples, some toast, salty minerals and it’s drying off. L’Osmose Extra Brut (also white clay, also from the 2011 harvest) made from chardonnay: Light colour, quite complex, with apple, some nuts, a nice acidity, and a dry aftertaste. In contrast, L’Audace (2011) is from pinot noir and from darker soil. Here is no dosage, no sulphur added. It’s darker yellow than the others, apples, strawberry, toast, and a mineral finish.

Finally the Grains de Celles Extra Brut, made from 50% pinot noir and the rest chardonnay and pinot blanc and with 36 months ageing on lees, is the most complex of lot. More toasted, aged notes, but some freshness too, yellow apples, mineral, with a slightly sweet fruit balanced by its concentration.

IMG_4218 Ton Mata

Antoni “Ton” Mata Casanovas now leads Recaredo together with his cousins Josep, Carles and Jordi. If there is one emblematic cava producer it is this one, second to no sparkling wine producer from anywhere. They practise dry farming with biodynamic principles, and only work their own vineyards high up in the Alt Penedès.

I have visited them in Sant Sadurní (Catalunya) and tasted through the whole range. Here most cavas were represented. All their wines have a great concentration of flavours, from low yields and prolonged ageing on lees. They don’t have any dosage, and all of them long exceeds the ageing requirements for a gran reserva. They have more focus on the xarel.lo grape than most cava producers. This is the grape that shines most brightly of the cava grapes given a few years of ageing.

Terrers Brut Nature Gran Reserva 2010 has slightly more macabeu than xarel.lo: Aroma of mature apples and a touch of apricot and peach, some balsamic notes and some toast too, and a fresh appearance in spite of the ageing. The Finca Serral del Vell Brut de Brut 2007 is made from approximately even shares of xarel.lo and macabeu. The colour is light, it’s complex, with fresh pineapples aromas along with some toast, some balsamic, and a surprising freshness after 8 years on the lees; the aftertaste shows a stony minerality. According to Ton this is because of the calcareous soil on top of the hill. Further down the same road is the Reserva Particular 2005 (also a gran reserva despite the name), that can be considered one of the purest expressions of Mediterranean sparkling terroir wine (even if Recaredo themselves makes another fantastic cava only in some years), with a xarel.lo 55%/ macabeu 45% blend: Dark straw colour, some lime, smoke, concentrated, rich, and remarkably fresh for its age (almost 10 years on yeast). Worth noting is also that their Brut Intens Rosat 2012 (garnacha/monastrell, a little pinot noir) har all the charms of a sparkling rosé, but is also clearly in the family of aged Recaredo wines.

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Then there is Franciacorta, in the hills near Brescia in the Italian region of Lombardia. The only producer presented here was 1701 Franciacorta, the first certified biodynamic producer in the area. They never use any dosage and sulphur only when absolutely necessary.

As an ouverture there is the low-pressure (3 atmospheres) Sullerba, that is outside the appellation. It’s a light and lovely, yeasty and appley, super easy-to-drink wine. Made from chardonnay in steel and amphora with 12 months on its lees. Their Rosé is lovely, from the 2012 vintage (these wines are also officially NV), fresh with raspberry notes, and a good balance between the fruit and the aged qualities. The Satèn from the 2013 vintage is a chardonnay with 30 months on lees; fresh, not too complicated, but delicious drinking. Maybe the most “serious” (among these wines, all of them obviously serious) is the Vintage 2011 Dosaggio Zero, a 90% chardonnay, the rest pinot noir (pinot nero in Italian), 42 months on the lees, 20% in barrels. Here is a perfect balance between ageing and fruit character, with some toast, mature apples, and a balsamic touch. Long curve. 1701 was a nice surprise and a producer that I didn’t know before.

IMG_4237 Rhona Cullinane and Federico Stefieni

Talking about fun: Prosecco is often marketed as such, but alas, like for many others the vast majority doesn’t give me much of that. But luckily Casa Belfi was in the house!

Casa Belfi (or: Albino Armani) works according to biodynamic principles and there is no fining or filtering involved, nor any addition of SO2. 6 months on lees is typical. I have tried all the wines before, and they are truly joyful wines to drink. I think especially the normal Colfòndo Frizzante 2015 has a good value, with its expressive, pure fruit. It’s yellow/orange, cloudy with a super and fresh apple and citrus peel aroma, notes of bread, and a dry finish. The Colfòndo Anfora 2015 is darker after 7 days of skin contact and 4 months in clay. It’s still fruity, with mature apples, a spicy touch and a citric aftertaste. Talking about fun, the red Raboso Frizzante 2015, from the grape variety by that name, has all the playful expressiveness you can ask for. Red with a dark rim; red berries, earthy notes, and lovely fruit all the way.

IMG_4229 Nicola Zuliani

Casa Coste Piane was also there. This is an estate that dispose of many old vines, some pre-phylloxera, and like Casa Belfi the second fermentation takes place in the bottle, dégorgement is not carried out, so some cloudiness is inevitable. At this point it has not the same expressive qualities as its neighbour, but has more subtle citrus and minerality, and it’s definitely promising.

A couple of days before the fair I visited Will Davenport in his winery in Rotherfield, East Sussex (a short article will follow).

IMG_4200 Will Davenport

Davenport Vineyards, or Limney Farm, is the biggest organic producer in the UK. The winery is small and modest, but it’s fully equipped to make both still and sparkling wines. Therefore they give services to other producers in the area. I love their still white Horsmonden White, but as this piece is about sparkling wines we shall take a brief stop at the Davenport Pet Nat (you know that wine that everybody makes nowadays that can do it, a welcome trend, in my opinion), aged 3 months before disgorging: Light in colour, very aromatic, mature apples, some citrus. Then there is the Limney Auxerrois Sparkling 2014, from a vineyard near the farm, 18 months on lees: Rich yeasty character, stony minerality, and a fresh and delicate touch too. And lastly the Limney Sparkling Rosé 2014: salmon pink, some autolysis character on the nose, plenty of fruit, raspberries and a citric touch.

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Lisa Harvey and Ian Hardwick, volunteers for the Forty Hall project

I was about to say that Forty Hall Vineyard makes the wines with the shortest travel, from Enfield, North London. It’s not quite true that it’s the one with shortest travel, because it has travelled down to Davenport’s winery in East Sussex, and back again, because Forty Hall is among the producers that get some help from Will Davenport.

Forty Hall is a 4 hectar organic vineyard, the first commercial producer in London since the middle ages, led by volunteers as a non-profit organization to support the community.

The London Sparkling Brut 2014 was delicious, beautifully balanced with lightly yeasty character, rounded fruit (mature apples and a touch of citrus) and just enough acidity to match.

Apart from this there were some occational bubbles from producers that aren’t primarily makers of such, both fully and half sparkling wines from Loire, from Italy, and from elsewhere in the world.

 

Meinklang’s Wörth Grüner

Here is a long-time favourite, or maybe better: one in a whole family of favourites. Angela and Werner Michlits jr. are launching one lovely, cheap, serious-but-quaffable wine after another, various grüners, blaufränkisches, zweigelts and more.

Their biodynamically managed estate is found in Pamhagen, Burgenland, by the big Neusiedlersee and bordering Hungaria. The soil is made up of clay and sandstone, and the vines used here are not very old, planted between 10 and 20 years ago. It’s in this area we find the Wörth vineyard, Meinklang’s biggest. In Werner’s own words, they are “recultivating nature”, in short allow for more variation “to keep up biodiversity and create stable ecosystems for many different buds and organisms”.

Mainklang Angus Some of their 800 Angus cows (credit: Meinklang)

This wine is made from 100% grüner veltliner, made with natural yeasts, kept for 6 months in steel. It’s obviously un-oaked, not fined and only lightly filtered.

Meinklang Wörth

Grüner Veltliner Wörth Single Vineyard 2016

(Meinklang)

Light straw. Direct fruit, notes of citrus, green apple, a touch herbal. Here is fruit all the way through the taste and aftertaste, with a vibrant acidity and a mineral finish. So simple, so good!

Price: Low

Food: Fish (white and red), shellfish, salads, a variety of cheeses, lightly spicy Asian…

Authentic Sauvignon at Brutus

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The Brutus Bar is located just beside the police headquarters in the Tøyen-Grønland district in Oslo, so it’s no use trying to make big trouble. Anyway, there are only nice, well-behaved people here even if the area historically has been high-immigrant, low-income with more than its fair share of problems. To be fair, right now this is a promising neighbourhood in many respects.

Brutus offers natural wine and a variety of bites to accompany them. From my experience, in a bar with such a careful selection of wines and the expertise to present them the food is often delicious too. Which proved to be true – again. Brutus are fabled for their vegetable based kitchen, and lately the traditional Nordic kitchen, rustic, with fermented vegetables as one of the main ideas, is focused. However, in our set 4 course menu the third one was lamb, and with lovely scents from the aromatic herbs.

20170409_193633-1-1-1 We had the sauvignon with “Carrot and Haddock”

John Sonnichsen and Jens Føien lead import company VinJohn, one of the main players behind the bar. Together they have experience from such places as The Fat Duck, Maaemo and Noma. VinJohn is obviously one of the suppliers, but by no means not the only one.

This week’s wine though, is brought to the country by the people behind the bar. It’s not widely available, another reason to come here.

Alexandre Bain is a small vigneron from Tracy-sur-Loire, in the Poully-Fumé. He started his own project in 2007 and employs biodynamic techniques.

There are two types of limestone in the vineyards, vines from the so-called Portlandian (as opposed to the older Kimmeridgian), with sand and clay, are used for this wine, as he thinks this soil is more suitable for wines meant to be drunk young. These vines were planted in 1977.

No additives are used, except for sometimes a tiny amount of SO2 before bottling (10 mg in this particular wine), and only native yeasts. The harvest is late because Bain believes that sauvignon blanc is at its most expressive with complete ripeness. When picked too early, there will never be enough aromatic character, he believes, and many producers must then compensate by using commercial yeast. These are thoughts that he shares with his friend Sébastien Riffault in neighbouring Sancerre.

The grapes were pressed in whole clusters, and the must raised in big old vats.

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Pierre Précieuse 2015 (Alexandre Bain)

Dark yellow, somewhat cloudy. Fruity style, aromas of lemon, elderberry and a touch of acacia honey. Quite full, a mid-palate dominated by grapefruit, and a lingering finish with a touch of bitterness.

Price: Medium

Food: Salads, goat cheese, light meat, grilled fish, and try with sushi and sashimi

 

Just be COS

I thought I had focused this fabulous winery in a “wine of the week” post. But in spite of having enjoyed their wines so much, when I chequed, that wasn’t the case. They have been mentioned though, at several ocations, like when I visited Spanish tinaja (big clay vessel) maker Juan Padilla. This wine is a masterpiece, and made in clay from Padilla.

COS was formed in 1980 by three students of architecture whose last names were basis for the name, the O standing for Giusto Occhipinti, who is related to Arianna. Take a look here for one example.

We find them in Vittoria at the southeastern tip of Sicilia, where they cultivate 35 hectares biodynamically. This wine is made from nero d’avola 60% and frappato 40% in soils containing clay, sand and limestone.

It was spontaneously fermented, underwent an 8 month period of skin maceration in clay pots, then further ageing in clay. It’s not fined nor filtered.

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Pithos Rosso 2015 (COS)

Bright ruby colour. Complex aroma, notes of morello, violets, red plums over earthy wild forest and mushroom. In the mouth lush, juicy and very vibrant, slightly chalky, gentle tannins, but red fruits are dominating. You can almost feel the energy of the winemakers in this wine.

Price: Medium

Food: Poultry and game, lamb and swine, fresh and hard cheeses, delicious alone (you or the wine)

From the legendary Steiner Hund vineyard: Nikolaihof’s contribution version 2012

This is one of several stars from a recent tasting of wines from Austria’s coolest wine regions, Wachau, Kamptal and Kremstal.

Nikolaihof of Wachau is famed for being Austria’s oldest winery, with 2000 years in the business, and built on a St. Nikola’s monastery. The Saahs family was also among the first to convert to biodynamic prinsciples, almost 50 years ago.

The Steiner Hund lies between Wachau and Kremstal, Stein itself lying in the western outskirts of the village Krems. The soils in Kremstal is diverse, and west of Krems, towards Wachau where the valley gets steeper, there is more granite and gneiss. It is here we find the Steiner Hund vineyard, and here riesling has a potencial for great elegance.

The Steiner Hund is a stony vineyard, extremely difficult to work. A local legend says that it once was owned by a wealthy winemaker, who exchanged it for a dog when there was famine in the region. Today producers from Kremstal to the east and Wachau in the west has ownership in the vineyard. The site is south-facing and is comprised of conglomerate rock with a thin topsoil of loess and loam.

In Nikolaihofs vineyards no herbicides, fertilisers, pesticides, nor synthetic sprays are used. The grapes are harvested by hand, fermented without artificial yeast and stored in big, old Austrian oak casks.

Nikolaihof Steiner Hund

Nikolaihof Steiner Hund Riesling Reserve 2012 (Nikolaihof)

Deep yellow with some green. Concentrated aroma. It’s more open than the previous vintage; still young though, but begins to reveal flowers, herbs, honey and fresh berries (gooseberry). There is probably much more to come during the next few years. Quite full in the mouth, rich, mineral (crushed stone). We know from experience that it will keep well.

Price: High (just over the limit to “high” in our classification)

Food: Grilled fish, shellfish, light meat, can do with rich sauces – the food must be good though

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