Tag Archives: organic

Classic, cheap Chilean Carmenère

Carmenère, of Bordeaux origin, has been found in Chile for more than 100 years – and has in recent times become something of a “national grape”, or at least a point of reference for the country. De Martino (see also here) is said to be the first to bottle it, after its identification as late as in 1991. Their grapes come from the Alto de Piedras vineyard, the same place as the first carmenère was identified.

In this part of Maipo we find a climate similar to the Mediterranean, mild with dry summer. The difference between night and day varies in summer from 14 to 29°C. The soils are alluvial, from the Maipo river.

 Sebastián De Martino, whom I met earlier this year in London

The family has always wanted to create wines that reflect their origin. The wine is completely organic, like all the wines they make, and they claim it’s suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Nuevo Mundo Carmenère 2014 (De Martino)

Developed red. Aroma of strawberries, as well as fruits from the forest and some spices. Juicy mouthfeel, fresh, but well-integrated acidity.

Price: Low

Food: Light meat, hard cheeses

 

A Swiss project in New Zealand

This is a project that started in the late 80s, formed by Swiss Georg and Ruth Fromm together with winemaker Hatsch Kalberer, all of them with knowledge about the wines of both European and New Zealand. It didn’t take long before they decided to join forces, set up a winery in Marlborough, and the first plantings were done in 1992. The Fromm’s returned to Switzerland some years ago, but Hatsch continues to release one superb wine after another, not least the country’s oldest single vineyard malbec, called “H” for Hatsch.

This wine is a 100% pinot noir. It was spontaneously fermented in steel tanks with a long maceration. 


Fromm La Strada Pinot Noir 2014 (Fromm Winery)

Brilliant ruby red. Fresh on the nose, with raspberries, plums and aromatic herbs. Luscious, rounded mouthfeel, long aftertaste with a well-integrated acidity that lasts all the way. It has stayed on the shelves for some time (2015 also released), and must be near its peak now.

Price: Medium

Food: Veal and pig, duck and chicken, salads, tapas

 

A day for Tempranillo

It seems to be a day for everything. Since 2011 the TAPAS (‘tempranillo advocates, producers and amigos society’) of North America has celebrated this grape, the world’s 4th in extension.

They picked the second Thursday in November, which means the coming 9th November this year. And many of the grape’s many international followers have – followed.

I miss no opportunity to open a bottle of tempranillo wine. They come in many variations, different clones and synonyms too (more than 60 in its native Spain alone), but one clone has the ability to show huge differences in terroir.

Needless to say, there are a huge amount of wines to chose from. I select one from my most recent wine trip, that included one day in Rioja. Here Sandra Bravo has released some magnificent and original wines since 2012. The clayey/chalky vineyards are found at 650 meters altitude between Labastida and the Sierra de Toloño (a part of the Cantabrian mountain range). The wines are kept in a rented bodega in Villabuena de Álava – all this to the east-northeast of Haro, for those who are not quite familiar with the landscape.

 Sandra Bravo in the Villabuena cellar

The wine in question is her “basic” red. It was in fact the first wine in Rioja to be elevated in clay amphora. There are now several vintages on the market. I chose 2014 as I think it has a perfect development right now, though it will keep. The cultivation is organic, the must was fermented with natural yeasts in steel, clay and cement, and it spent some 6 months in used French oak barrels.

Bilderesultat for sierra de toloño 2014

Sierra de Toloño 2014 (Sierra de Toloño)

Dark cherry red. Floral, cool fruit, with red berries (cherry, blackberry), herbs, and a slight dark (roasted, coffee) tone. Very elegant, quite slender, with appealing acidity and developing tannins.

Price: Medium

Food: Red and light meat, game, salads, light stews, hard cheeses

 

Visiting Finca Montepedroso, Rueda

At Finca Montepedroso we met winemaker Lauren Rosillo and Marta Martínez Bujanda (of the family that owns the winery).

Montepedroso is a beautiful farm on a plateau overlooking the Rueda village. It was bought in 2008, and a functional winery built in the typical materials of the area opened four years later.

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They manage 25 hectares of vineyards with an average of 20 years, at an altitude of 750 meters. This is a one wine farm, dedicated to one single variety, the verdejo, and only 120.000 bottles are made annually.

Here are three types of soils: alluvial soil on top of the plateau accounts for 70%, clay soil in the gorge where the oldest vineyards are planted, and a soil with a large quantity of lime and clay sediments.

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We are on the central Castilian meseta, with cold and long winters, short springs with late frosts and hot and dry summers. The vines find water and nutrients deep down the  subsoil, and the wide temperature gives freshness and acidity to the wine.

The fermentation starts without addition of yeasts. Lauren says that for him this is the only way. And worth mentioning here is that the typical features for the verdejo are green apple and grass, and that the tropical aromas found in many verdejos are from added yeasts, according to the winemaker. The fermentation at Montepedroso lasts typically for 19 days at 16ºC. Then the must rests over its fine lees for five months with weekly stirring. The wine is completely dry, but the lees add a sensation of sweetness. Lauren says that he aims for acidity, varietal character – and a low alcohol (here typically 12-12,5).

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Marta and Lauren, with Rueda village in the background

We first tasted the most recent vintage, Finca Montepedroso 2016. This is light yellow with a greenish hint, aromatic with notes of green apple, apricot, fennel, white flowers and hay. It has both volume and structure in the mouth, and a fresh balancing acidity. In sum a personal verdejo, but in a traditional line.

We also tasted the 2010, the first vintage of the wine, to see the development. 2010 had frost during spring, and the production was low. This wine was more golden, still flowery, but with mature sensations of honey and a touch of petrol. Very fresh and appealing.

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We also tasted a few wines from Martínez Bujanda‘s other projects. Their single estate in Rioja is Finca Valpiedra, 80 hectares between Fuenmayor and Cenicero at an altitude of just over 400 meters, where we find alternating Atlantic and Mediterranean influences. This is the only Rioja estate to be included in the organization Grandes Pagos de España. Both wines are predominantly tempranillo, but with presence of other Rioja varieties, such as graciano.

Cantos de Valpiedra 2013 had a cherry red colour, an aroma of dark fruits, blackberry, fennel with slight hints of vanilla. In the mouth it was quite full, and a decent level of acidity gives freshness and contributes to the balance. The Finca Valpiedra Reserva 2010 had a slightly darker, intense black cherry colour. The aroma was complex with red and dark fruits, balsamic, a touch of smoke, and some vanilla, spices and tobacco from the oak-ageing. The tannins are still there, but they are rounded off by age, it’s fresh and delicate, and with a good balance between fruit and wood.

20171015_105231 Lauren and Marta with some of the visitors

During the travels through the many great vineyards of Spain Finca Antigua was a “love at first sight” experience, according to both Marta and Lauren. This is close to where the winemaker lives, in the Cuenca province towards the border of Toledo. We find scrubland, vineyards and forest, and it’s easy to maintain the eco-diversity. It’s a vast farm in Castilla-La Mancha with an altitude over 900 meters, one of the coldest part of the meseta, and extreme variations between day and night. They decided that varieties well-apted for this land were merlot, syrah, petit verdot and cabernet sauvignon, together with tempranillo (formerly known in Central Spain as cencibel) and other national grapes.

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The wines have cool elegance and freshness, and the wines improve with age. But even with full phenolic maturity the alcohol levels rarely exceeds 14, not even in the hottest years. The Finca Antigua 2012 (a crianza of 50% tempranillo, and the rest merlot, syrah and cabernet) was a dark, cool wine, with aromas of chalky minerals, almost milky (from the malolactic, I guess), fresh berries, and in the mouth it had a creamy structure and then a wonderful acidity. The Reserva 2010 (70% merlot, complementet with cabernet and syrah) was also a dark and cool wine, with cherries and berries from the woods, balsamic (mint, eucalyptus), herbal (thyme), with a slightly tougher structure than the crianza.

Sidestepping: Please read here about Lauren’s solo project in Málaga, where I met him for the first time.

Coming back: These days when we speak a lot about the changes of Rioja (Norwegian readers can read a couple of articles on these pages), it’s no doubt that the Martínez Bujanda family is in the vanguard. And it’s no better place to experience this than the tasting table where are sitting right now, with a view of the picturesque village of Rueda.

 

 

Chénas for shorter ageing

This is a wine that my local dealer said I must try. And I am glad I did!

Chénas is one of the northernmost crus of Beaujolais, it sits on sandy soils on granite, and like its neighbour Moulin-à-Vent it stands for quite structured wines.

Paul-Henri Thillardon, and his brother Charles (who joined his team some five years ago), come from a family of growers in the south of Beaujolais. The 13 Chénas hectars are all certified organic, and some biodynamic techniques are also employed. Always macération carbonic. The grapes for Les Blémonts grow on clay, and will always give a fresh taste to the wine.

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Chénas Les Blémonts 2015 (Paul-Henri Thillardon)

Purple colour. Cherry fruit, a light touch of orange peel, some earthy notes, mushroom, and a bit reductive. Good weight in the mouth, young tannins.

Price: Medium

Food: Veal, game, stews, hard cheeses

Table wine from sherry grapes

A trip to Jerez de la Frontera is likely to include a visit to Bar Juanito. It was Juan Rodríguez who opened the bar in 1943, and this Jerez gastronomy and flamenco classic is now located just off the main square, Plaza del Arenal, and the city hall.
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It was here, with a few half “raciones” such as squid in olive oil and red tuna from nearby tuna heaven Barbate, that we had the delicious and highly original white from Bodegas Forlong. (Read more about the winery and its proprietor Alejandro here.) Made in the Tierras de Cádiz, between Jerez and Rota to be more precise, of the sherry grapes palomino and pedro ximénez. With a composition of 90/10% it could well have been a cream sherry, but it’s not. This is a dry white table wine from organically grown grapes.

The grapes are picked early, and by hand, and a selection is done both in the vineyard and at the selectiontable. After the pressing the must is cooled down to 6-7° for 36 hours, before the fermentation starts once the temperature is brought up to 15°. The two varieties are treated separately, then blended to make the finished wine.

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Forlong Blanco 2016 (Bodegas Forlong)

Straw-coloured, green-ish tinge. Aromatic, hints of fresh fruits, yellow apples, some almond. Full in the mouth, lightly oily texture, a salty minerality, moderate acidity and a slight bitterness as the almond sensations return. Very original and very good.

Price: Low

Food: A variety of fish and shellfish, light meats

 

 

Still British

Being a musician I had visited the superb saxophone shop in the village of Crowborough, East Sussex many times. It wasn’t until I prepared to go to the Real Wine fair that I realized that Britain’s leading organic wine estate was only five minutes away. (Read more about the sparkling wines of the fair, including Davenport here.)

And it’s maybe “fizz” that is leading the way for British wine. Nevertheless, more and more good still wines are made.

Will Davenport makes use of natural methods when possible. Natural yeasts, no fining, racking instead of filtering, these are some of the key elements.

IMG_4169 Will Davenport at the Sussex farm

The winery is located in Rotherfield, Sussex, but he started out in Horsmonden, just over the border to Kent, with 1993 as the first vintage. The wine that bears this name is ,a blend of five aromatic, mainly German crossings: Bacchus, faber, siegerrebe, huxelrebe – and the rare ortega (named after the Spanish poet), that is particularly associated with this winery, not least since Will makes the wine for Forty Hall, who grows it in Enfield, London.

The wine clocks in at no more than 11.5% alcohol

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Davenport Horsmonden dry white 2015 (Davenport Vineyards)

Straw yellow. Aromas of white flowers, lychee, peach. Quite full in the mouth, acidity amidst the fruitiness, with a tiny amount of bubbles that add to the freshness.

Price: Medium

Food: A variety of fish and shellfish, cheeses, light meat

We are going on a summer holiday…

Retsina may evoke memories of sunny days, white-washed walls and lots of meze. This may also be one of the wines that taste good on a summer holiday, but maybe not as appealing back home.

Ρετσίνα is a Greek resinated wine with more than 2000 years of history. In ancient times the wine vessels, particularly amphorae, were sealed with pine resin, that protected the wine against oxidation and gave it the unique resin-like flavour. With the times, after the introduction of glass bottles, it became a wanted taste, something that defined the style. Until one day when retsina found itself as little more than a souvenir.

But those days can soon be over. Here is a wine from organically grown grapes, modern in most ways, except the pine resin that is added to the must during fermentation. The grape is roditis, second or third in importance (after saveatiano). Today much less resin is needed. Some may miss that strong smell of “turpentine”, but for the most of us it’s now a modern wine with a strong character that is undoubtedly linked to the islands and mainland of Greece.

The Tetramythos winery is located on northern Peloponnese, near the mountain Aroania in Achaia. Here they have built a winery with wood and stone, and in harmony with the surroundings. It makes use of gravity and has all the modern equipment to make a panorama of wines, including that age-old traditional retsina style.

The grapes are all roditis spontaneously fermented in clay pots.

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Tetramythos Retsina 2015 (Tetramythos)

Golden yellow. Aromas of apples, citrus, herbs (rosemary, thyme) and an evident but discrete element of pine resin. Round, mellow with low acidity.

Price: Low

Food: Grilled seafood, squid, white fish, a variety of meze, and why not with garlic dips

Terruño Pizarroso at Bodegas Bentomiz

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Bodegas Bentomiz is located in Sayalonga in the Sierras de Málaga. There winter rains are plentyful and the summers long and dry, but this close to the Mediterranean sea the heat is never overwhelming. They dispose of around 80-100 years old vines in what is called in Spanish “terruño pizarroso”, slate soils.

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the Mediterranean as seen from the inside of the stylish Bauhaus bodega

It was the Dutch couple Clara Verheij, a translator, and André Both, a civil engineer, that moved down here more than twenty years ago. They don’t only make some fresh, fragrant wines from local grapes romé, moscatel and others. They set ut a restaurant as well, and we had lunch there not long ago. André is chef, but has had great help from Juan Quintanilla of restaurant Sollun in Nerja, of regional fame, whom André calls his mentor.

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Clara and André

For the lunches they take great pride in pairing 5 or more dishes with wines, not only their own. When we were there Valdespino‘s bold fino Inocente from Jerez was served as an apéritif, and Guitiérrez Colosía’s Puerto de Santa María Oloroso Sangre y Trabajadero was paired with a salad of diced beef in soy sauce. From their own “Ariyanas” range the Romé Rosé 2014 (a very light vintage) came along with a ceviche of corvina, while the Seco Sobre Lías Finas 2014 (a floral and mineral moscatel) came with cod on a spinach emulsion. The Tinto de Ensemblaje 2012 (the ‘ensemblaje’ being petit verdot, tempranillo, cabernet franc and romé, the fullest and most red and wild berry-fruity wine of the day) came with oxtail in reduced sauce with a cream of carrot, ginger and more. One of their dessert wines, appropriately called Naturalmente Dulce 2010 (a dark golden/ light amber coloured floral honey and almond-smelling wine) accompanied André’s own creation “Axarquía”: -We are here; the brown (bread-crumbs) is the earth, the white (vanilla ice) is the snow, says André.

2016-06-29 16.00.33 the Axarquía dessert

Here is another offering, this week’s wine, the Terruño Pizarroso, that got its name from the soil of the place, and that is also served by their lunches – though not that particular day.

The grapes for this moscatel de alejandría wine are grown between 450-900 meters. At Bentomiz no pesticides are used, and all work in the field is done by hand. After harvest the grapes are sundried, then matured for some months in French oak.

LR Ariyanas Terruo Pizarroso 2008

Ariyanas Terruño Pizarroso 2008 (Bodegas Bentomiz)

Golden colour. Aroma of white flowers and herbs, apricot and dried exotic fruits, with toasted hints. Quite sweet in the mouth, reminiscent of honey, but with a certain lightness too, some citrus (grapefruit), and some of the exotic elements continue ’till the end.

Price: Medium

Food: Tropical fruit desserts, fois gras, medium strong blue cheeses

From a Nelson Gravity winery

Mahana Estates is located in the Nelson region, in the north of New Zealand’s South Island. In the vineyard everything is organic, in the cellar gravity (four levels) is one key word, low-intervention another – and winemaker Michael Glover puts out good wines in several categories. The respect for terroir is there, and he states that if something unusual or surprising should appear, it’s not as a result of experimentation, but exploration.

The reds are made with whole bunch winemaking and with almost no additions. On this background they can explore the combination of Mahana’s yellow ultic soil (derived from quartz-rich sediments turned into clay or sandy clays, abundant near Marlborough), the seasons, and “the enigmatic pinot noir”.

Mahana’s reds are sourced from their Moutere vineyard; dry-farmed, and from the above-mentioned soil you can expect a rather deep, dark coloured wine. For this wine half of the grapes were destemmed, and the spontaneous fermentation was carried out in open concrete fermenters. There was no new oak used (only steel and old French oak), and it was bottled without fining or filtration.

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Mahana Gravity Pinot Noir 2014 (Mahana Estates)

Deep dark, dense colour. Smells of dark fruits (morellos, blackberries) and with some balsamic and herbal notes, a little chocolate too. Lots of tannins, but very fine, it rounds off warm and full, with adecuate acidity to make it delicious drinking already.

Price: Medium

Food: Light meat, game, salads…

 

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