Tag Archives: cinsault

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

 

Ch. Ste. Anne, a natural Bandol classic

This week’s pick comes from a winery that never converted to organic growing. It wasn’t necessary because it has always been, as they count on a history of five generations and 200 unbroken years of making natural wines. They were also key figures in establishing the AOC for Bandol during the German occupation. François Dutheil (father to current owner) was one of the people behind AVN (l’Association des Vins Naturels), where Marcel Lapierre of Beajolais participated and soon became a leading figure. The only ingredient except for the grapes is SO2, only in tiny amounts and only in the vineyard against fungus.

img_3373 Raphaël Etienne

The vineyards of Bandol lies for a great part on south-faced terraces in the in-land from the seaside town that gives the wine its name. As for the rest of the region rosé is dominating in quantity, around 80% even here. And much wine is classified as Côte de Provence. Myself I am drawn towards the red wines of the region, often a bit mystic, not lightweight, neither heavy and «clumsy». They can have a fresh fruit, but they are never sharp. They have long oak-ageing, often more than the obligatory 18 months. But the best will never smell of wood, as they are subject to a treatment in big, used foudres that make them «breathe». At Ste. Anne, red is the most important wine.

The mourvèdre grape is king. Just like its equivalent monastrell on the Spanish Levante coast Bandol is one of the few places where you can be sure that the grape will mature. But still the general alcohol levels in Ste. Anne’s range of wines are low. This is due to the special microclimate below the Gros Cerveau peaks, that gives very cool summer nights. The cold air is accumulated because of special metheorologic phenomena between the mountains in the area. The tannins are soft and rounded. Mourvèdre is harvested later here than other places, around mid-October. It must be fully ripe, otherwise the wine will be hard and bitter. A way to understand when the time is right, according to Raphaël, is that the skin is no longer elastic and that the pips are brownish.

The Bandol 2010 is made from 60% mourvèdre, and equal parts of grenache and cinsault. This is their main wine, and 30.000 bottles are made. Their bandol stays 20-22 months in foudres, and the various vintages are released when they are considered «ready». As a result the 2003 was released after both ’04 and ’05.

 

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Bandol 2010 (Château Ste. Anne)

Deep purple in colour. Very complex aroma of red fruits (raspberries), flowers, balsamic notes (red lickorice), combined with some mineral notes. There is a slight touch of volatile acidity too, that is by no means disturbing, but in my opinion it adds to the freshness. Medium to full body. When I last tasted this wine, at the winery before the release, the tannins were more evident, now everything is in perfect harmony. Mature, but will keep.

Price: Medium

Food: Beef, game, duck and other full-flavoured meat. Cheese, both manchego type and some blue cheeses. Fiona Beckett writes about steak pie that red bandol can be a perfect choice. The possibilities are endless.

 

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.

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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

More surprises at Egget, Stavanger

Egget (The Egg) didn’t come first, only around a year ago. But it managed to bring new concepts to the already varied gastronomic scene in Stavanger, a Norwegian town with more than its fair share of cafés and restaurants. This is mainly because the country’s most important culinary educational institutions have been located here. Add to this the nearness to the oil industry and university students from across the country, and I think you are beginning to get the big picture.

What is special then? The obvious features are the facts that the responsibles at Egget don’t have written menus, nor wine lists – and they don’t take bookings. Other than this they seem to have a rather holistic approach, and I doubt they have fixed prices for every dish or every wine.

But maybe the most important: I can’t think of any other restaurant in the area with extremely high ambitions in wine and food, without being formal and pricy. One of Egget’s nearest neighbours just up the street, the first one outside Oslo to receive a Michelin star, can exemplify this. (No offence, that one is excellent too, but more “formal-normal”.)

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Left to right: Diego Gimeno, Roy Klausen, Benoît Berthail (not present that day: head-chef  Anthony Orjollet, creator of most of the dishes)

This time I visited at late lunch-time with a friend. And when we sat down at a table of our choice the relaxing reggae music was turned down to a perfect level. We shared tapa-sized dishes throughout the meal. Our waiter, Ben, made it clear that it was squid day, as the food is always based on today’s catch, and the squid was especially good that day. So along came squid in its own ink, in a salad – and a dish that looked like a chocolate cake, but it was in fact a risotto that included squid with ink as well. There was a ceviche of cod, and a hot dish made with skate (you know that fish that looks like a kite in the water), fermented carrots, grilled milk-marinated lamb… The ingredients and techniques are taken from anywhere in the world, but quality and creativity are common denominators.

The wines are what I like to call natural wines; you know, artisan, low-intervention, organic wines, even without added sulphur, and they are without exception served by the glass. For me Egget is a place I go to get surprised. Sometimes I want to discuss a few options with the waiter, but most often he will suggest a wine, and I will say “ok”. And what to serve with the wines? Well, the kitchen is absolutely free to chose. The food is always superb, often with a creative twist, and with the wines they serve here it has never struck me that the food and the wine didn’t match.

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When you enter the place, you notice oak barrels from Rioja producer Muga in their yard. But you better look upon them as tables, as the wines served are neither oaky nor old-fashioned (and with all respect, Muga is not in the avant-garde of Spanish wine any more, if they ever were).

The first wine this time was the white Amphibolite Nature 2015 from producer Joseph Landron in Loire’s Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine. Landron disposes of 45 hectars with varying soil. Amphibolite is the name of the stones that can be found in this particular vineyard, containing magnesium and iron silicate. When the mélon de Bourgogne vines are rooted deep in this soil it can transmit very mineral character to the wine. The wine was slender, citrusy, mineral and structured.

Next was a light red grenache-based wine, Cuvée Romanissa 2014 from Domaine Matassa, on the French side of Catalunya. The grapes are grown in schistous soils rich in iron, and it’s very luscious and fresh, with aromas of red berries and herbs.

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We were also offered the Flotsam & Jetsam Cinsault 2015, from Hemelrand (Alheit Vineyards) in South Africa’s Darling region. Also light coloured, this one had more roundness, and a sensation of sweetness from the cinsault grapes. Strawberry is maybe the dominant aroma, but it showed some spiciness too.

Éric Texier’s Chat Fou (Crazy Cat) is a long time favourite, now in the 2014 vintage. This time we ended with this lovely unfiltered Côtes du Rhône, with its blend of 50% grenache, the rest a mix of four other Rhône grapes, including the white marsanne and rousanne. It was the darkest wine of the lunch, but still deliciouis, luscious summer drinking – yet concentrated and with a hint of spices. Éric isn’t one who uses many tricks to make his wines darker, fatter, more tannic… On the contrary his minimal intervention philosophy seems to maintain a perfect balance in his wines.

Egget_logoYou never know what is coming out…

This was a few days ago, when everyone was preparing for Norway’s national day. I bet many people were crowding up on that day too. Lucky the ones who managed to get one of the 5 or 6 tables. New surprises. Hooray!