Tag Archives: garnacha

Four different takes on Ribera del Duero

Squeezed in between our Rueda and Rioja days we had a short stay in Ribera del Duero. Indeed we had two very interesting visits on Spain’s national holiday. Summed up very briefly the four producers can be said to represent big variations on the theme:

*Aalto: An intriguing story, a glimpse of glory and meaty red wines for ageing

*Valtravieso: Organic high-altitude wines; the great discovery of the trip

*Alfredo Maestro: Natural small-scale wine, as pure and fruity as they come

*Pingus: Legendary, but rooted in reality; biodynamics; ageworthy wines, but already possible to predict what will come

What their creators have in common: A deep passion, knowledge and respect for the land and for the tempranillo fruit, or tinto fino, as it is often referred to here, and a desire to express it in the wines. Always with an eco-friendly approach in mind.

 

Bodegas Aalto

After a drive up the narrow, rugged path we knew when we saw the stately, stylish new bodega that we had come to the right place. And Javier Zaccagnini was welcoming us.

Javier started the company in 1999 together with Mariano García. -At that time I was the president of the DO Ribera del Duero, explains Javier. -I had been thinking about opening my own wine business. Mariano had for long been pursuaded by his employer Vega Sicilia to end his own project Mauro in the outskirts of Ribera, as they wanted an exclusive winemaker. After 16 years of conflict enough was enough, and Mariano left. It’s worth noting that friends of Spanish wine would be familiar with Mariano’s Maurodos in Toro, and maybe also a brand new one, Garmón. Javier has also embarked on his own project, Sei Solo, with much less fuss. (We will taste and review these wines at another occasion.)

So no doubt, with Javier from the DO and Mariano of Vega Sicilia fame, Aalto got a flying start and was a success in the market from the first day. Aalto’s style is fruity, powerful reds, good young with a hearty beef, but showing more elegance through careful ageing.

Mariano knows the area in great detail, and they own plots of tempranillo many places in the D.O., 110 hectars and 200 plots in all, none bigger than 1 hectar. The complexity and balance is a result of myriads of soil types, altitude, exposition and so on, according to Javier.

Most grapes are sourced from La Horra, a small village in the Burgos province, quite far from the bodega, but there are always varying percentages from places near La Horra like Roa and La Aguilera, then Moradillo to the south, Fresnillo or Baños more to the east – or Quintanilla, in the west where the bodega is.

 

Javier Zaccagnini, music lover, puts together notes from all over the D.O. to form his chords

Javier tells about how he brought his son Michael into the company. -Michael was studying oenology, and insisted on receiving the lowest possible pay according to Spanish law, Javier says. -Being near and learning from ‘the master’ was enough for him. I had to accept, for a year, but then I had to rise his salary because he was so good, and he worked hard and independently. The thing was that I couldn’t treat him different because he was my son, in this case: I couldn’t treat him worse than others!

 

Javier and his son Michael, now oenologist together with Mariano García

Two wines are produced, Aalto and Aalto PS (that stands for ‘pagos seleccionados’, selection of plots), that retails for around 30 and 60€ respectively. The grapes are exclusively tinto fino (or tempranillo), as cabernet and merlot have too long cycles for maturing here. And all vines are at least 60 years old. PS is basically from La Horra. The alcohol fermentation lasts 5-10 days. The temperatures are raised from 10 to 14˚C when they want the fermentation to start.

When asked “how organic” the farming is, Javier says that they don’t want to damage the planet. Thus the farming is organic, not certified though, but it might be that something would be used to prevent mildew. Only natural yeasts are used.

We tasted the wines in the 15 vintage.

Aalto 2015: Dark with violet rim. Dark fruits, blackberry, herbs, toast, coffee. Rich, big in the mouth, strong tannins after medium plus roasted barrels. (14,8% alcohol)

Aalto PS 2015: Deep purple, still darker. Blackberry and blueberry, toast, while lickorice and anis adds to the freshness on the nose. Rich and heavy, this one too with ‘demanding’ texture, and  big in the mouth. It’s somewhat more oaky, but it’s made for a long life.

 

Valtravieso

High up in Piñel de Arriba in the Valladolid province some 920-950 meters above sea level we found Valtravieso, the journey’s biggest surprise. Here I will report only briefly from the visit, as the long story has already been published here.

 Ricardo Velasco (left)

Ricardo Velasco works very naturally, the farming is dry and if all is well nothing is added.

High up in Piñel is a long ripening processes, which is good for the aromas and flavours and improves the acidity in the wines. The long sun exposure gives good colour to the grapes. The great differences between day and night, especially in summer, when temperature can drop 18º C, brings more polyphenols, and with it higher antioxidant content.

At Valtravieso they believe in launching the wines on the market when they are approaching their peak for consumption. This is how it used to be all over the country, but in today’s market it’s rather unusual.

Some wines from the tasting:

Crianza 2015: Cherry red. Very fruity, some coffee, spice, herbs, pine. Rich, but with a fresh acidity, long, and the high alcohol (14,5%) is no problem.

Tinta Fina 2015: Dark. Very fruity, with blackberry, pine, truffles, and a flinty mineral character. A lot of structure, rich, somewhat heavy at 15% alcohol, but still the fine acidity shines through. (Tinta fina is yet another variation on the name tempranillo.)

Gran Valtravieso 2014:
Dark cherry red. Very fruity, cool aroma, with red berries, a balsamic note, hints of vanilla and toffee. It’s rich, yet luscious, with high acidity that contributes to the long aftertaste. I would call it elegant, but due to the alcohol content it’s advisable to cool it down a bit.

Alfredo Maestro Tejero
I had met Alfredo several times, around in Spain, and once in London. (You can look at the pictures from Gredos here, and here is a report from London’s Real Wine fair.) He is always fun to be with, very unselfish, and always ready to help. When I first met him I contacted him to see if I could visit him in Gredos. But as a leader of the Garnachas de Gredo group he proposed to organize the trip, and finally we drove around all the area together and met around ten producers. He also deserves the credit for our “discovery” of Valtravieso, that came in as a substitute after an appointment in the Soria province was cancelled.
This was the first time I had the opportunity to visit his bodega. The humble winery with no doorsign is located by the main road in Peñafiel, close to our hotel (the Ribera del Duero), and looking up against the majestic castle that is now the “parador” (in the chain of stately run tourist hotels).
His bodega is located, I would say, in the heart of Ribera del Duero, at least in the middle of the major town of the western part, not far from Protos, Vega Sicilia, Villacreces – or Aalto – to name just a few. He refuses to use the DO Ribera del Duero though. This is for two reasons, because he wants to have freedom, and also because he makes wines from several places within the Castilla y León region. His native Peñafiel is in the Valladolid province, where he has some 25-27 hectares, but he also operates in Valtiendas (Segovia), Cigales (another D.O. in Valladolid) and Navarredondilla in the Gredos mountains of Ávila, where he has 5-7 hectares own vineyards. That is why he rather wants to bottle everything under the broader Castilla y León designation.
 
All of his wines are very pure, with a clear-cut fruit. We tasted a few through the tour in his cellar, first a skin-contact albillo mayor (the Ribera variety, as opposed to the more aromatic albillo real from Gredos) called Consuelo, a tasty wine with some mature apple and apricot. The 46 Cepas is a merlot from Peñafiel made with stems; dark, aromas of green pepper and herbs, quite warm. An all time favourite is Almate, now in the 2016 vintage, a tempranillo from both sides of the Ribera del Duero border, which means partly from Valtiendas, Segovia: Dark, grapey, juicy and with a cool freshness.
Alfredo has been given several vineyards from old people, that rather will see them in good hands than abandon them. A really interesting wine is a rosé from Cigales, aged partly in chestnut, made from 75% tempranillo (the rest is “de toda la vida”, which means it could be practically anything, red or white). This is the old style from a former stronghold of delightful rosés, in contrast to the many “well-made but utterly boring” rosé wines nowadays, and he calls it Rosado Clásico de Valladolid. It has very little skin-contact, but the colour is light red-orange, delightful raspberry and citric aromas, and it’s tasty as few rosés on the market. Very, very good!
We also tasted the Marciano 2016, a Gredos wine, high altitude (1.200 meters). This is a garnacha grown in granite, made with 100% stems. It’s very fresh with a high acidity. His most typical Ribera wine is Castrillo de Duero, now in the 2016 vintage. It’s mad from grapes grown in Castrillo at 960 meters. This is a red fruit-driven wine, a bit balsamic and with very fresh acidity. It has stayed some months in rather neutral French oak, and it’s not at all oaky.
Dominio de Pingus
Parking the car outside another humble bodega building. Best to have the notebook ready…
The last visit before we leave Ribera del Duero is no less than the emblematic Dominio de Pingus. Already something of a legend even though it didn’t start untill 1995. This is Danish oenologist Peter Sisseck’s project. Today is another busy day for Peter, but he has the time to say hello and good-bye.
 
It was Julia Zhdanova, assistant to the winemaker, who welcomed us and guided us through the facilities and the history behind Pingus. There are many people working to ensure that everything is right. Among them are 6 people in analysis, who are helping other producers in the area too. They also work in collaboration with universities, such as the one in Cádiz for yeast environments and Valencia for bacteria. The winemaking at Pingus is very natural, and biodynamic principles are used. But in case something goes wrong, you can be sure that there is a back-up plan.
Many people has wondered why is the wine that expensive (selling at 800-900€ per bottle in Europe, 10 times more than Aalto PS). Speculation is of course an element in this highly regarded and limited quantity wine. Julia says that it was not the intention to push the price through the roof. But it was obviously of a high quality, and when the first vintage was shipped to the USA, the boat sank and the highly valued bottles went down with it. This raised the price significantly, and it has been kept high since then.
Peter Sisseck (from my previous visit in 2009, photo K. Karlsson)
It’s mabye convenient to give a brief background here, since we have now already travelled back in time. Peter Sisseck came to Spain from Bordeaux in the late 1980’s, and it was almost by coincidence that he became involved in wine. He was appointed to direct the new Hacienda Monasterio, now another big name in this area with a huge concentration of important wineries. While at Monasterio Peter discovered some plots of old tinto fino vines – wild, but of outstanding potential – and decided to make a wine of his own. This was the start of Pingus, his nick-name from his childhood. He was himself amazed about the quality of that first vintage, the 1995. So was American critic Robert Parker, who scored it higher than any Spanish wine so far. So when Peter went back to Bordeaux and presented it at the “en primeur” tastings it was already the talk of the town. But, as we have heard, the first shipment to America (from a total production of 12 barrels) went down, and the prices went accordingly up. And as we shall see, although the production is always less than 500 cases the income has given Peter the opportunity to embark on projects that will benefit other winegrowers in the region, and possibly also the DO as a whole.
 
Peter and Dominio de Pingus is now further exploring the map of Ribera del Duero, a work that has been generously offered to the Consejo Regulador (the regulating body in the wine industry), who has welcomed it. This will be important for a new classification of vineyards in Ribera del Duero.
I remember from an earlier occation that he spoke about how well he was received in Castilla, the openness of the people, ready to help and shared willingly of their knowledge. PSI, a project and a wine named after a letter in the greek alphatet that resembles a vine root, is a project that Peter has created to help local farmers to fulfill the potential of their vineyards. He loves the region that has given him so much, nature both rough and graceful and with lots of character.
 
Pingus was originally sourced from a plot in La Horra (over in the Burgos province) called “Barroso”, with old vines planted in pebbles over clay-limestone with good drainage. Later other adjoining vinyards with similar characteristics, like the “Parrando”, were added. Today 5.000 bottles are made annually from 4,5 hectars, and the yield is only 9 hl/ha. “2nd wine” Flor de Pingus (a tenth of the price, ten times the production) were initially sourced from the vineyards of Villacreces near today’s Pingus winery, but now it comes from La Horra too.
The main wine ferments in 1800 liter barrels, while Flor ferments in tank. The vinification has been altered a bit through the times, towards less new oak and less extraction. Flor now spends 18-22 months in 30-40% new oak, while Pingus sees mostly 2nd year oak for 24 months. Fermentation starts when the must is heated. There is not much extraction these days, and almost no pumping-over: For the current vintage nothing. Psi is fermented in cement tanks and large old wooden casks, and in general little oak is used. For the time being it’s made in rented fascilities.
There is in fact a forth wine called Amelia. This is from a very old plot in La Horra. The grapes from here used to go into Flor, and cuttings were used to replace old vines in the Pingus vineyards. Since 2003 however it has been separately bottled, and the whole tiny production is sold to the USA. 
Everything is sold “en primeur”. To be precise, there are allocations between the regular customers.
2016 was a good year, easy to work and without complications. The samples show a good freshness. The three wines were clearly in the same direction, so here follow only some brief notes. Psi (mainly tempranillo, but also around 10% garnacha) was dark, with a flowery nose with cherry, herbs and a touch of coffee. Young tannins, high acidity and will not need much time to integrate the oak. Flor de Pingus: In the same vein, more aromatic, the same roasted notes, a touch more structured. Pingus: Again obviously in the same family. Deep, dark, with a violet rim. Already complex, more balsamic, blackberry, blackcurrant and blueberry waiting to come out, some nutmeg and other spices, but also roasted elements, a tough structure and high acidity. It’s worth repeating though, that these wines are not ready. They will smoothen with time and will keep very long.
 Impeccable cleanness, as expected

Aged natural wine at its peak

Who said a natural wine cannot age?

Barranco Oscuro of the Alpujarras area of the mountaineous part of the Granada province is a producer with a completely natural approach to wine making. Manuel Valenzuela and his son Lorenzo have also spearheaded a Spanish movement in the natural wine field, with no additives, not even SO2, as key elements. They make a variety of styles, from red to white wines, and sparklers too, from international grapes like merlot and viognier, national grapes like tempranillo and garnacha, and local obscurities like the white vijiriega.

This is their wine from what used to be Europe’s highest vineyard at 1368 meters above sea level, hence the name. The grape composition is garnacha, carignan, cabernet sauvignon and -franc, and merlot. From the vineyard you can look up on the Mulhacén peak of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Here it’s easy to obtain both ripening from the sun and acidity because of the elevation. As a young wine it often shows an evident oakiness. Now it is perfectly integrated, and at the same time by no means fruitless.

1368 Pago Cerro las Monjas 2002 (Barranco Oscuro)

Cherry red with developed tones. Aroma of cherries, plums, hint of prunes, aromatic spices, mushroom and undergrowth. It’s full and fleshy in the mouth, integrated oak, some warmth and alcohol from the sun, nicely knitted together by a cool acidity.

Price: Medium

For meat and meditation

 

Los Patios de Beatas, Málaga

Los Patios de Beatas is a favourite in Málaga, and whenever I arrive in the city it will never take long untill I head for a table in that culinary palace, hotel and cultural oasis.

2017-07-05 13.12.29

Speaking of tables, please allow me a short sidestep before we get back to the restaurant. My wife had since she first saw the tables in the street and in the restaurant been an admirer of the work. So she took a picture of the signature, and looked up a facebook site. We soon found out that the artist lived in Mijas village. So we went to Mijas. There were no signs, no directions. But we didn’t give up: We talked to some locals, knocked on some doors, and suddenly we found ourselves in the artist’s living-room.

Joshua Van Den Eeden is of American and Flemish descendant; his parents met in Torremolinos in the 1960’s, and you have already realized that there is a romantic story that could be told. But we must make a short-cut: Joshua is now established with his home-workshop and gallery in Mijas. His tables are made of concrete, and the plates of copper and calcium. The turquoise colour comes from a reaction with air. Finally a glacier is put on top of it, to keep it from further development.

2017-07-01 15.35.42 Joshua Joshua Van Den Eeden

2017-07-01 15.32.50 Joshua_Rioja 2017-07-01 15.47.33

Among other projects are benches for the Mijas municipality. So remember, next time you are there you will maybe sit on the artwork that you see here. The wine map to the left is for a friend. Take a closer look, and you will see a more detailed map of Rioja than the current official one. (You can find more info here.)

Back in the old town of Málaga, Beatas is a small street where the people behind the restaurant have rehabilitated two houses from the 18th and 19th centuries, both architectural pearls of historic importance, and both with beautiful patios. This is the background to the restaurant’s name.

2017-01-13 22.17.59 Julián Sanjuán

The driving force behind the project is Julián Sanjuán, who has studied oenology in Málaga and got his sommelier degree from Barcelona, and had already opened málaga wine museums both Ojén and Mijas, small towns in the Málaga province. He established Los Patios in 2012, and last year he also created a professional sommelier association in Málaga. With his network it’s then easy to understand why the restaurant is full of dedicated sommeliers that know how to describe a wine, and has the knowledge to pair wine and food successfully.

In the main floor there are three rooms with open doors between them, two are more normal restaurants, and one cosy bar where you sit on high stools at van den Erden’s tables. You can also buy the bottles that you see around you in the room and bring them home with you. In the next floor there are two dining rooms, a tasting room with natural light from an inside patio, and in the other jazz and flamenco concerts are held once in a while. The familiy also runs a small hotel in the other building.

2017-01-13 21.28.20

Key words are varied wines from all over Spain (and some from outside), and creative dishes based on seasonal products. Worth mentioning, this is snob-free zone, and all the wines are for drinking, more than 500 references in total. Some restaurants with a much shorter wine-list have some show-wines like Vega Sicilias in old vintages that noone has the wallet to buy. Here there are a few really expensive wines, but the difference is -and while we are talking about Ribera del Duero- that the most expensive Vegas and Sastres are a logical continuation of an extensive list of wines from the Ribera. For Andalusian wines I can only think of one contender, Armando Guerras place in Sanlúcar de Barrameda. (Read about him here.) But for wines from the Málaga province you simply go to Los Patios.

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After so many visits it’s difficult to pick just a few wines. I have tasted many local and regional wines, such as Sedella and Schatz from the Málaga province, the sherries of Ramiro Ibañez and Equipo Navazos from Cádiz. Sparklers from Recaredo (Cava), whites from Lagar de Pintos (Rías Baixas)and Avanthia (Valdeorras) and developed reds from Álvaro Palacios (Priorat), Ánima Negra (Mallorca) and Dominio de Atauta (Ribera del Duero) will rarely disappoint.

2017-01-13 21.40.46

My last visit was earlier this year. I will always discuss with the sommeliers, of course, but this is the kind of place that I can let them get the last word, and I can easily trust that the wine will be good and the pairings successful. This time the first wine was Igualado 2014 a red blend from nearby Ronda bodega Joaquín Fernández. Dark, young colour; balsamic aroma (mint), peppery and spicy, with mature tannins, that went well with “ternera con foie” (veal with foie gras), even if I would suspect the wine to be too dominant. Next was “texturas de panceta”, different textures of pork belly, served with green puré and fennel. the different ingredients blended superbly, and the wine that Julián suggested, Vetus 2011 from Toro (dark, red berries, blackcurrant, morello and a touch of minty oak, mature and integrated tannins, a very elegant Toro) was interesting to see with the varying textures of the food.

2017-03-04 14.55.49 Veal with fois, and a glass of Igualado

2017-03-04 15.19.06 The Vetus bottle, and Julián talking to the next table

After numerous visits to central Spain I have learned to know Daniel Jiménez-Landi (now of Comando G fame and a great ambassador of the light extraction garnacha style). Here we could savour one of his earlier offerings, the Piélago 2010. This Méntrida garnacha was quite hard in its younger years, but after some time in Los Patios’ cellar it had mellowed, and it was perfect with the lamb and quinoa dish.

2017-03-04 21.15.13 Piélago with lamb and quinoa

This was a unusual night in that we had only red wines. But you don’t always need to start with a champagne and end with a dessert wine and a grappa, do you? This particular night we ended with the fabulous Acinipo 2006 from a good friend, Ronda wine producer Friedrich Schatz. And this because the party had already wanted to order a plate of cheeses, a selection with predominantly hard cheeses, so I thought why not. Schatz is originally from Süd-Tirol, and the wine is made from the variety lemberger, a synonym for blaufränkisch. It’s quite different from the more northern-eastern wines though. Named after the Roman ruins further down the road, this wine is quite full-bodied with the dryness in the aftertaste that can be found in this producer’s wines, a feature that makes them go well with a variety of dishes.

On your first visit to Málaga, go to El Pimpi and the Antigua Casa de Guardia, because they are picturesque places and important for the city’s culinary history, and you will get decent tapas there. But once familiar with Málaga they are maybe not the places you will keep coming back to. Los Patios is a place that you never get tired of.

Happy Grenache Day!

No it’s not Mother’s Day, not my name day (probably not yours), and no king or queen I know about was born on this day (you don’t need to notify me if you happen to know one). An American group has in fact dubbed it National Double Cheese Burger Day, but that we must cover some other time. Ladies and gentlemen: It’s the International Grenache Day again!

A new opportunity to celebrate that wonderful grape: Light in colour, fleshy, low in tannin, high in alcohol… Some years ago it was very un-fashionable. But times they are a-changing. Now it’s gaining ground even compared to tempranillo in Rioja.

Some have learned to tame this grape, and to make the best of it. This blog is full of garnachas, just push the green garnacha button to the right (try grenache too), and you will see.

IMG_4190 Dani and Fernando Dani (left) and Fernando

Pick of the day: Fernando García and Dani Landi’s Comando G (that in this case stands for garnacha). What could be better? In the Sierra de Gredos they use low yields, natural fermentation, low extraction (but long maceration), no additions, 5 months in big vats, no filtration nor fining… This is pure garnacha elegance, and the most direct expression of place that you can think of.

La Bruja de Rozas is made from several plots in and around Las Rozas de Puerto Real, in the (Madrid) province of the Gredos mountains. The soils are granitic.

Comando G_Rozas

La Bruja de Rozas 2015 (Comando G)

Light cherry red. Lively perfumed fruit, raspberry, white flowers. A “dancing” acidity that forms a fine structure together with a touch of tannin. Light, pure, expressive. Don’t ask for more!

Price: Don’t care (all right, luckily it fall into our medium category, less than 20€ at Spanish Vila Viniteca or Lavinia, less than £20 at Swig and similar, UK, and 235 NKR at Vinmonopolet, Norway)

 

Real Wine Fair II: Spanish impressions

The Real Wine fair is of course an opportunity to see what’s going on in the wine category that I love the most, exactly the kind of wine that’s highlighted here. And it’s a welcome chance to say hello to some old friends, and meet new people, all of them with interesting projects. Spain is (together with the other country on the peninsula) the country where I travel the most, and here are some highlights. Because I taste these wines once in a while I didn’t visit all the tables, which I regret, but you know, too little time…

IMG_4172 Pedro Olivares Pedro Olivares

I had not really started when I spotted Pedro Olivares, and at the same time Alfredo Maestro tappet me on the shoulder. Pedro’s wines I just tasted very superficially, as I had recently visited him in Murcia. (Read about my visit here.) I took the opportunity to re-taste the Bobastrell 2015. We can call it a “terroir wine”, but from two terroirs: This is a wine with primarily monastrell (from Bullas, Murcia) in the aroma, and bobal (from Utiel-Requena, València) in the mouth. The enTreDicho 2016, jaén negro version, is a clay aged wine from that maybe unlikely place of Jaén, Andalucía. Pure fruit, flowers, juicy and lovely with some structure. I also took the chance to re-taste the Alto Viognier 2016, a 2 month skin-contact wine with grapes from 1.600 meters above sea level, and the SaSa 2016 from 10 meters, a moscatel and malvasía with the moscatel shining well through.

IMG_4186 Alfredo Maestro Alfredo Maestro

Alfredo Maestro Tejero is operating both in his native Peñafiel, in Sierra de Gredos and in other parts of Castilla too. I know him as a man full of tireless energy, and very un-selfish. I wrote him before a trip to Gredos a couple of years ago, and as leader of the Garnachas de Gredos group (now also comprising albillos), he suggested that he organized the whole trip for me. And in the end we drove around together visiting ten producers, including his own vineyard in the coldest part, Navarredondilla (Ávila province). He recuperates old vineyards, manages them organically (with some biodynamic techniques) with little or no additives.

Peñafiel is in the heart of Ribera del Duero, but Alfredo choses to stay outside the DO, to be able to use grapes from neighbouring areas such as Valtiendas to the south the Duratón river. So most of his wines are now under the label Vino de la Tierra Castilla y León. Here are some very brief comments.

The white Lovamor 2016 is a high altitude albillo real (770-1.000m) from more 100-120 year old vines in Olmos de Peñafiel with one week skin-contact, and due to the cold Castilian winter it didn’t undergo malolactic fermentation. The result is an orange-light brownish colour, flowery with orange peel aromas, full and fresh on the palate, slightly pétillant too. From the same place comes Amanda Rosado Lágrima 2016, a light red rosé from the garnacha tintorera grape with pure raspberry fruit, just delicious drinking. As the term “lágrima” suggests the pressing was very light.

Almate 2016 is a tempranillo (here called tinto fino) of various ages, some bush vines (‘en vaso’), some of the younger trained in ‘espaldera’, some found in Peñafiel, and some in Valtiendas, just outside the Ribera del Duero border. Here are lots of vines grown on river stones and clay-calcareous soils. The must was fermented in steel, 80% whole bunches with wild yeasts, then kept in neutral French oak for 2-4 months. This is one of my favourite wines from the region, with its fresh top-fruit of cherries and violets, and a wild, rougher layer underneath, together with a really refreshing acidity. Over the border to the Burgos province, in clay-calcareous soils at 960 meters, Castrillo de Duero is one of the few wines with some oak ageing worth mentioning. Having said that, it’s not more than 12 months in rather neutral French oak, and it bears it without trouble. The 2015 vintage is dark, it has a lovely fruit, it’s a bit balsamic, but not at all oaky.

Amongst all the amusing labels I chose this one:

Alfredo Maestro_El Rey del Glam 2

El Rey del Glam 2016 is sourced from grapes both in Peñafiel (sandy, clay-calcareous soil) and Navarredondilla (granite). It’s a garnacha, obviously high-altitude, and the vines varies between 30 and 100 years old. This is maybe Afredo’s most quaffable wine; beware, it’s so luscouis, delicious that it doesn’t take long before you are sliding over the floor like the glamour king on the label. It’s made from uncrushed bunches that undergo carbonic maceration, fermented with wild yeasts and with no SO2 added. It’s light in colour, with plenty of lovely raspberry fruit, with a dry finish. This takes us over into the Gredos mountain range. El Marciano 2016 is raised, not on Mars, but 1.150 meters above sea level, where the climate is extreme continental. The vines are 70 years old, and the soil is granitic. The late-ripening garnacha is not harvested untill mid-October. This vintage is particularly appealing, with a clear-cut fruit, and a wonderful acidity that’s not easy to obtain with garnacha. Alfredo also brought a few wines outside the program just to show there are interesting projects around the corner. Among these were Rosado Clásico de Valladolid 2015, a rosé from Cigales, the once prominent rosé area just outside Valladolid city. It’s a single vineyard, predominantly tempranillo, raised partly in chestnut. It was peach-coloured with pure raspberry and citric fruit, and a nice concentration.

IMG_4190 Dani and Fernando Dani Landi and Fernando García

Daniel Landi-Jiménez and Fernando García were there, representing both the Comando G project (Madrid province), but Daniel had also brought wines from his own bodega in Méntrida, Toledo. I have commented on these wines several times before (like here in Bilbao, and here at another fair), so I will present them only briefly. These are very fine wines with a refreshing acidity, an almost ethereal elegance, not much macerated and the aromas often show flowery notes. Two old favourites are La Bruja de Rozas 2015 and Las Rozas 1er Cru, now in the 2015 vintage too. The Bruja comes from several plots in and around Las Rozas de Puerto Real, and has a lively fruit, and an acidity that forms a fine structure together with a touch of tannin. The 1er Cru har only a slighly firmer tannin, a touch of smokiness and more concentration. Mataborricos Tinto 2014 was new to me, naturally made in four amphoras, but in the same line as the others. Las Umbrías 2014, a single vineyard wine from granite soils: A tight grip on this one (young tannins), raspberry and cherry fruit and some chalky minerality.

Over in the Toledo province Dani had equally light-coloured, high-expressive wines. He tells that he is always looking for vineyards that is high in the landscape, north-northeast facing, as he wants maximum freshness. Las Uvas de la Ira 2015 and Cantos del Diablo 2014, both from San Vicente, showed this. Las Iruelas 2014 too, from 1.000m elevation in El Tiemblo. El Reventón 2014 from Cebreros (that probably will be the name of the new DO) was the most reductive wine, but with air it reveals lavender and thyme aromas.

Note: I was really sad to hear the other day, that the Gredos area had been affected by severe hailstorms (7th July), and that some of the vineyards you have read about here were among the most severely hit. I really do hope that they will recover the best way possible.

IMG_4187 Rafa Bernabé father and son Rafa Bernabé, sr. & jr. of Bernabé Navarro

Rafa Bernabé (father) is long considered the Spanish expert on clay vessels for wine storage (in Spanish called ‘tinajas’), and I have reported on his wines several times, such as the Tinajas de la Mata, from the national park in Torrevieja. The wine, with 2014 on show here, will go out of production, he tells.

Most wines are made “O meters above sea level”, as Rafa sr. puts it. All wines are made with natural yeasts, none are clarified nor filtered, and all have less than 15 grams sulphur. They presented other wines aged in clay such as the Benimaquía Tinajas 2015, from moscatel and merseguera; light orange colour, aromatic with flowery compounds, it had more skin-contact than the “Tinajas” mentioned above, but still lighter in colour (as the other one has a small amount of black grapes). Musikanto 2015 is a direct-press wine (no skin-contact) garnacha from a higher altitude at 700 meters; light red, and very luscious in the mouth.

They had also a pét nat called Acequión 2015, a “sea moscatel”; deep yellow, with aromas of orange peel and yellow apples, slightly bubbly, and a “mountain monastrell 85% and garnacha”, Tipzzy 2015; light red, easy-to-drink. A dessert wine rounded it off, the Parque Natural 2013, that showed mature apples and dried fruit, some raisins, but it was not overtly sweet either.

Saó del Coster is a new find. I had heard about the winery from Gratallops, Priorat, and was lucky to be able to be pick up their basic “S” (2014) in my local shop, a wine with all the charms of a young, fruity red priorat. They want to keep the alcohol up at 15, to emphasize the local style, full and warm. Here the vintage has changed to 2015, and it’s still a lovely, pure garnacha-dominated wine (carinyena 35%), some spices and minerals, and with a good acidity for freshness.

They work biodynamically with indigenious varieties, with a low-intervention philosophy. A 100% garnatxa (as it’s spelled in Catalan) is Pim Pam Poom 2016. This has been made with 50% whole clusters, with the aim of bringing out minimum colour, maximum flowery, fresh fruit. Pure delight! They also brought two wines from old carinyena. The Planassos 2014 was good, warm and potent, but also with a velvety layer. For me La Pujada 2014 from 90 year old plants was a winner, very elegant with relatively lighter colour, fresh fruits, juicy in the mouth, and a subtle, almost cool fruit all the way.

IMG_4175 Sao del Coster Xavier Barrachina and Michelle Negrón of Saó del Coster

Rioja was represented by three producers from the right bank of Ebro; Honorio Rubio (Cordovín, once famous for claretes), Hacienda Grimón (further east, in the Jubera valley, Rioja Baja) and Viña Ilusión (Herce, near Arnedo in the Rioja Baja).

Honorio Rubio is noted for their whites, and it was especially interesting to taste the Edición Limitada-range with three very different wines. The skin-contact Viura Macerado 2014 was orange in colour, aromas of apricot and lemon, and some more herbal notes, quite light in the mouth, and with a refreshing acidity from the high altitude viura grapes. The Viura Sobre Lías Crianza 2014, aged 6 months in oak and concrete, it’s both traditional lemon and vanilla, and comes with a modern fruitiness too. Añadas is a solera wine made up from ten vintages, thus mixing the sherry and barrel-aged rioja traditions. It’s light golden, with lemon, pear and some buttery notes, both concentrated and fresh. Before I moved on I also tasted two more whites in a hurry, and the Alonso & Pedrajo, Suañe 2014, a raspberry scented red with some sweet notes.

The Oliván Family at Hacienda Grimón uses no chemical fertilisers, but sheep manure like in the old days. No herbicides are used, and the oak is all of second and third year. A couple of favourites were Finca la Oración 2015, a fruity, un-oaked wine full of blackberry aromas and freshness, and Desvelo Garnacha 2015, with second fermentation in oak (7 months); very flowery, red berries, and good weight in the mouth.

Martín Alonso of Viña Ilusión I have met several times, so I tasted his main wine very quickly. His Tinto 2015 is really nice and clean, fruity and elegant, with cherry and blackberry fruit, and good acidity.

Beginning to count down for lunch I did a brief tasting of a winery that I have known for some time. Who said they couldn’t make wine in Asturias? Nicolás Marcos can, and he does so in Cangas, that emerges as the area to consider in the region. At this occation I only tasted four wines. Pesico Blanco 2014 from the albarín variety, not destemmed, aged in chestnut vats of 2.000 liters, bottled without SO2 was glyceric, smooth but still with a young fruit. La Fanfarría Tinto 2015, 50% each of mencía and red albarín, was quite dark with red fruits, herbs and young tannin. Retortoiro Tinto 2014 showed some evolution in the colour, with aromas of cherries, and a structure for further ageing. Cadario 2012 had still more evolved colour, but the evolution has been nice, the tannins are still evident, and the primary fruits are still holding first place. I believe these wines can easily keep for ten years.

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Then running for lunch, I passed Adega Guímaro‘s table. Guímaro can be found in the cool Amandi sub-region of Ribeira Sacra, Galicia interior. I know Pedro Rodríguez and his wines well after a visit and several tastings. So here I almost only passed by the table, where his collegue Raúl Suárez was present. I did a quick tasting of the Guímaro 2016 white from 70% godello, a light, flowery, citric wine, the Finca Capeliños 2015 (50% whole cluster, long maturation in foudres) with its dark mencía fruit, mineral and with young tannins, the Finca Pambeiras 2015 (75 year old vines, 100% whole cluster), a very floral, red fruit dominated, very pure wine, before I brought his wonderful young mencía with its vibrant cherry fruit, the Tinto Jóven 2016, out into the lunch area.

 

 

 

 

A thrill from an Alicantina hill

This is delicious, unpretentious wine from Bodega La Encina, whom I visited last week. It’s called a varietal, but it’s made from garnacha, monastrell and merlot. La Encina is a small artisan bodega just north of Villena (Alicante, bordering both Albacete and Murcia). The farming is organic and biodynamic, and they work completely without additions.

Cero Tinto Jóven 2016 (Bodega La Encina)

Dark red with blue tones. Intense young berry-aromas; blueberry, cherry, flowers, pine, and maybe some ink. Fresh, young taste, with a refreshing acidity, and some stalky bitterness that I find appealing here.

Food: Pizza, pasta, vegetarian, (green) tapas. Without food is also nice

Price: Low

Developing Garnacha

This is Daniel Jiménez-Landi’s Piélago in the 2010 version, that I had tonight in the Los Patios de Beatas restaurant in Málaga. The wine is now offered in the 2014 vintage, so this is a prime example of how it will age medium term.

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The wine comes from the DO Méntrida in the Toledo province of Castilla-La Mancha. It is a 100% garnacha from 7 parcels of 40-70 year old vines at 700-850 meters in El Real de San Vicente, to be more precise. The must from the different vineyards are treated separately in small vats of French oak and open 500L vats. The grapes come partly with stalks (between 30-100% depending of vineyard). The extraction is soft, only foot-trodden, for 10-30 days. Alcoholic and malo-lactic fermentation has been in barrel, and it stayed in big barrels (500-1.500L) for around a year.

Piélago 2010 (Jiménez-Landi)

Deep cherry red, showing some development near the rim. Mature forest fruits, floral, herbs, some coffee, needs some time in the glass. Potent, astringent in the mouth, with marked tannins that are still to evolve. It has the typical garnacha roundness, a nice acidity, and a long aftertaste. If it’s marked by the wood it’s no sweetness, but dry tannins and some toast. On the way up, to be saved for still another 4-5 years.

Food: Because of the tannin structure it called for the lamb, but it could well tackle other meat, with rich sauces too

 

Stavanger fair II: Spanish reds

In part two I will present just a few highlights among the red wines on the fair. Here you can read about the white wines and some other stuff.

A few words about Rioja: There were many of the old style riojas represented, from crianzas to gran reservas, with their aristocratic names, and gold threads around the heavy bottles. I really have nothing against this style, and once in a while I still enjoy tasting a ‘historic’ wine several decades old. But about this style in general, let me be honest: I have “been there, done that”, as they say. The wine that was selected the best wine of the fair in the high end category was a wine of this sort. I must appologize then, because I didn’t taste it.

I did taste a few riojas though. And in my opinion, what Rioja should do now is what nearly all other regions do, let the vineyards speak, and allow their names to be printed on the labels. If not, dear DOCa. Rioja, you will see many more than Artadi ride away and disappear into the horizon. I will come back to recent Rioja politics in another post. Meanwhile those who are interested can read about a lecture I gave at another Norwegian fair here.

Olivier Rivière is a Frenchman in Rioja (sounds like an echo from the old days maybe, when producers Riscal and Murrieta sought for help and inspiration). Rivière has been a consultant for Telmo Rodríguez, but at the same time he started to buy vineyards. His Rayo Uva 2015 is made predominantly from tempranillo, with some graciano and garnacha grown near Aldeanueva de Ebro, near the Navarra border. It’s a wine made in a natural way, low sulphur, and it has some carbonic. I was tempted to say it has a wild or raw fruitiness, with emphasize on blackberries, cherries, a slight balsamic touch, and it’s as usual very drinkable with a lovely acidity from high altutude vineyards.

Rodríguez himself was also represented by his cheapest rioja wine. When I last visited him in Ollauri he was making the unoaked, fruity, blackberry-focused LZ (here in 2013 vintage) in a very modest winery, and the grapes were partly from Ollauri, partly higher up in Lantziego in the ascendent to the Sierra Cantabria. As I understand at least in 2015 there are only Lantziego grapes used. As you understand both LZ and the Lanzaga wine names (not represented at the fair) are inspired from Basque for the Lanciego village. Only bush wines, handpicked grapes, vineyard selection, only native yeast, fermentation and maturing in cement tanks… Quite unusual for a “commercial” entry-level wine!

All right, I admit that I also tasted the Barón de Chirel 2011, from the historic Marqués de Riscal bodega, as if only to greet an old friend. This was maybe the first of the “high expression” wines that once promised a new dawn for Rioja.

IMG_3978 Óscar Alegre from the Telmo Rodríguez company

From tempranillo country over to where that beautiful, underestimated garnacha grape is queen. Sierra de Gredos is a mountainous country in the border-zone between three regions, Madrid, Castilla-La Mancha and Castilla y León. This region, where once the first of the “paradores” (the state-owned tourist hotels) was opened, is now working towards a DO Cebreros, named after one of its villages. I had the pleasure to travel around this area together with Alfredo Maestro, leader of the Garnachas de Gredos group during a few winter days two years ago, when the termometer showed -13 Celcius in his own vineyard in the Ávila province.

On this trip I met Dani Landi and his Comando G (for garnacha) collegues. The wines from these people have a truly original interpretation of the grape. They would maybe deny this, as they believe they are just bringing out what the terroir and the grapes comand. Anyway, the wines are always highly expressive, often light in colour, very floral and smells of red berries and with a lovely acidity. Las Uvas de Ira 2014 (Daniel Landi-Jiménez) and Rozas 1er Cru Garnacha 2015 (Comando G) were both among the absolute highlights of the fair. Producer Bernabeleva’s wines (sourced from San Martin de Valdeiglesias village, Madrid) are generally less “wild”, though there is a bear on some of the labels. The Navaherreros Tinto 2014 shown here was quite light in colour, ruby red, with super fruit dominated by dark berries and some spice, and with a mineral aftertaste. Telmo Rodríguez is present in Gredos too, in fact I don’t think it’s wrong to say that he has paved the way for the other producers we talk about. He makes two versions for his Pegaso label in Cebreros, one for each of the predominant soils in the area, granite and slate (‘pizarra’ in Spanish). The Pegaso Granito 2010 is somewhat darker than Landi’s wines, but still only cherry red, with lots of red fruits, fine tannins, generous alcohol and a mineral aftertaste. It’s worth noting that the garnachas from Gredos is quite different from the ones from Aragón/Navarra and the montainous parts of Catalunya.

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Enjoying the moment in the busy, bustling atmosphere

Speaking of Catalunya, Terroir al Límit of Torroja, Priorat made a lasting impression, for the reds just like their white wines. They presented two wines made in exactly the same way in 2013: cariñena, old vines (80-90 years), two years in old oak. The only difference was exposition, whereas the Arbossar is from south-faced vineyards the Dits del Terra is north-faced. While they shared many of the characteristics, red berries, flowers, some balsamic notes and minerality, the latter clearly showed a cooler style. Les Tosses 2013 was the most expensive wine, way above the rest at NOK 1.300 (150€/125£). At this point it was quite reductive and needed air, but one could sense both flowers, dark fruits and some balsamic underneath. In the mouth it was powerful, but not overwhelming. So seen in context with the high quality of the rest of their line, I have no reason not to believe that this will be very good indeed.

IMG_3968 Luís Romero with Ivan Zednik of importer Vinarius

From the interior of Galicia we must talk about a couple of wines. Dominio do Bibei is located in Bibei subzone of Ribeira Sacra. This project started some 15 years ago when a group of enthusiasts came together to join forces. They found this wonderful place with chestnuts and oaks, lavenders and chamomile, vegetation that can be brought back to memory once smelling the wine. They did not want a monoculture based on mencía. In respect of their predecessors they opted for a blend of indigenous varieties, so that they could add complexity and elegance to the mencía. And with a range from 200 to 700 meters there are optimal conditions for all of them. Their Lalama 2012 is made from mencía, with a 10% of garnacha (the garnacha tintorera/ alicante bouschet version, I think). I often find that mencía alone too has more freshness here compared to the ones over the Castilian border in Bierzo, maybe it’s because of the Atlantic influence, and many of the vineyards are high uphill too. This wine is a little spicy and shows some trace of wood, but it’s by no means heavy, and has an appealing acidity.

While I have known this wine through some vintages the next one was new to me. Just 30 minutes up the Bibei river we enter into the small community of Santa Cruz within the Valdeorras DO. It has a similar approach, and it’s again Telmo Rodríguez (who deserves a special prize for bringing out wonderful wines from so many regions). As Cabarcas 2013 (T. Rodríguez): one of the revelations of the fair. I know Telmo, I know Valdeorras, and I know that he’s working there. I knew about the red and white Gaba do Xil, but this one – no. And what a wine! Dark, blueish, young, fresh, natural, very luscious, great drinking! The vineyard has many of the same grapes that Dominio do Bibei posesses, and here they are present in the blend too: mencía, merenzao, sousón, garnacha, brancallao, and even the white godello.

From Jumilla (Murcia) there was a wine from non-grafted rootstocks (there are some of this kind in Jumilla, we have also known Julia Roch’s version for many years). The grapes for Pie Franco Monastrell 2015 (Altamente Vinos) are grown 900 meters above sea level. The wine is a typical young monastrell; dark and blueish, spicy, with hints of both dark berries and is a real mouthful. Aged in concrete it’s free from disturbing oak too. One of the people behind Altamente is Fernando Barrena, from Navarra and one of the key-figures behind the company Azul y Garanza. They were represented at the fair too, with two wines, among them the always fruity and lively Fiesta de Azul y Garanza, now in the 2015 vintage. One red from the islands, namely Tenerife: 7 Fuentes (Soagranorte, aka Suertes del Marqués), has been a favourite during the last few years. The 2014, from 110 years old listán negro vines in the cool Orotava valley, aged in cement, is as good as ever before: dark and red berries, flowers, herbs, it’s a little peppery too, a lusicious, fruity taste that rounds off with a volcanic minerality and a charming acidity.

IMG_3966 Many happy faces in Stavanger. No wonder!

 

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.

mas-estela-a

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

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