Tag Archives: tempranillo

Bargain from the “Tierra” of Cuenca

In the Cuenca province, along the road between Madrid and Albacete, we find Dominio de Punctum. When we visited some years ago the Fernández family already impressed with splendid value wines from rather young vines. The quality is steadily improving since then.

Their production comes from their own vineyards, the “Finca Fabián” estate that currently includes more than 200 hectares. Here they have always worked in a traditional organic way, now biodynamic practises mark a further step.

 Visit in the vineyard

This wine, with the denomination Tierra de Castilla, is made from tempranillo 70%, complemented with petit verdot. As many will know, tempranillo is the prevailing Spanish grape, earlier called cencibel here (a fact people seem to have forgotten). Petit verdot is known from Bordeaux, but has long become a classic in Spain. Harvest was done at night, fermentation with natural yeasts carried out in inox between 24º and 27º C, and finally the wine was only lightly filtered.

Dominio de Punctum Tempranillo-Petit verdot 2016 (Dom. de Punctum)

Cherry red with violet rim. Notes of red berries, some blackberry and herbs. Tasty, with rounded tannins, and quite persistent.

Price: Low

Food: Light meat, salads, pasta, hard cheeses (such as the local manchego), assorted 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

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

 

 

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…

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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

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!

 

And I’ll take the (Spanish) high road…

Camino Alto means high road (or street) in Spanish. On the Toledo part of the Meseta, the high plains of central Spain, we find a winery by that name, a winery that is dedicated to organic cultivation. Though I’ve been in touch with them for a while I have not visited them yet, and I have tasted only one wine. But that wine was so much to my liking that I decided to feature it as this week’s wine.

(Yes, it’s been a lot to do lately, so I must come back with a little more text here too.)

Tempranillo

Camino Alto Tempranillo 2015 (Camino Alto)

Dark red with youngish blue hue. Aromas of violets, blueberries and … Quite concentrated, with a nice dryness from the young tannins, and an appropriate acidity.

Price: Low

Food: Goes well with Spanish tapas, from cured hams to cheeses and vegetables, anchovies and more

Fair notes on Rioja

A while ago I was invited to speak about Rioja at a Norwegian fair. Originally the speech should have been done by one of the big Rioja companies, and it was already sold out. After some hesitation I said that if I should speak about Rioja it would be my way, presenting my opinions, and the wines from the company the participants had submitted to would not be present.

I love Rioja, the food and the culture and the scenic landscapes, the shifting soils and the many well-managed vineyards, many of them really old. But I also think that Rioja is in serious trouble, and hopelessly out of fashion, at least out of sync with the discriminating wine lover. I am aware that I am in danger of getting myself some new enemies by saying this, and I beg for understanding. And it’s not my intention to be snobbish either, in fact I am also speaking against many wine nerds in my own country. Leonard Cohen sang “I like handsome men, but for you I will make an exception”. Many people accept Rioja as “something different”, and let the the Rioja “industry” get away with a lot of characteristics you wouldn’t have accepted from another region that claim greatness: Too much oak, that one is well known, nearly identical wines (especially in the crianza and reserva categories) in spite of coming with different labels and from different companies, the domination of cooperatives (including huge bodegas that act as such), blending of grapes from all over to make millions of liters of the same wine. The list could go on.

Bilderesultat for rioja Time to move on!

No surprise that something like the “Artadi case” should come up, it was just a question of when. In this case the ‘death’ was ‘foretold’, and it’s difficult to see that the conflict couldn’t be solved. We ought to take a closer look at this case later, but in short it’s about Juan Carlos López de Lacalle leaving the DOC Rioja because of regulations don’t accept mention of specific vineyards nor villages on the label, and the back label only promoting the word Rioja as a brand name. It’s easy to agree with his opinions. On the other hand there are people who don’t agree with the way he acted in the process, and “who was he to do this”, after all Artadi is also a quite big company that has sold wines to supermarket brands (more specificly the Valdepomares label to Marks & Spencer). Then comes the geographical-political side of it: Many fear, and the Consejo Regulador (the wine authorities) really should, that Artadi will label their wines as Vino de Álava (or the Basque name: Araba), and that many others will follow. Then the old question will come back: Why are villages like Ábalos and San Vicente part of La Rioja, not the Araba province? Many travelers from Haro on their way to Laguardia have wondered why they’re driving in and out of that province while staying on the same road. And if I haven’t mentioned it before, the only official distinction in Rioja Alta, Baja and Alavesa… Well, it’s nothing but useless. For those not familiar with the Artadi case, here is an article where the decision to leave is announced. And for a brief introduction in English, where the Consejo also is allowed to hold the microphone for a while, look here.

Now to the tasting. In Norway one can chose among some 400 available Rioja wines, of which I have tasted most of them. Still I only managed to come up with less than 10 that fit my few and simple specifications: The viticulture should be organic, and the yeasts should be natural. One should be able to trace the wine back to a specific place, and the wine should have no disturbing trace of oak. Other than that it should only be good drinking. It’s possible that I am ignorant about wines that could have met my specifications. But the Rioja regulations and labelling doesn’t help much either, when many of them says “viña” or “pago” (words for vineyard), and it’s not. Readers of this blog will have noticed that I am no fan of huge, oaky, overextracted wines, so many of the big names were disqualified, with the result that my selection was less than half the price of the organizers’ budget. There is a group of modern growers that call themselves Rioja’n’Roll. At times in this process I felt that I could have belonged to it, and somehow I was eager to see whether I were booed out or not.

These were the wines:

Ad Libitum 2013 (Juan Carlos Sancha) – The only white wine in the selection, made from white tempranillo, a variety that was officially recognized in 2007 and that is genetically speaking 97% same as the red. Sancha owns 5 hectars in Baños de Tío Tobia in the Najerilla valley. This is among the coldest parts of the whole DOC; high-lying, southfacing vineyards (around 600 meters) on low-yielding calcareous soils.

Straw yellow. Typical aromas of gooseberries and fennel, along with some white flowers, and a slight hint of apricot. Quite full, mellow, but good fruitiness all the way.

Navarrsotillo Tempranillo 2013 – Best Buys Organic Series (Navarrsotillo) – Andosilla is in the region of Navarra, and the vineyards are in a radius of 10 kilometers from the bodega – in Andosilla, San Adrián and Calahorra (the last two over in La Rioja). The Serrano Arriezu brothers call this the “Rioja Mediterranea”). Here are cold winters, mild and wet springs and autumns, and warm and dry summers. The soil is calcareous, but also with sand, clay and stone, that gives wines with soft tannins, but can also give a freshness to the wines. This one is especially made for their Norwegian importer. Only tempranillo, spontaneously fermented and matured in inox.

Bright red. Earthy, mature fruit, herbs. Not very concentrated, but enough to reflect its origin.

LZ 2013 (Telmo Rodríguez) – From Lanciego/Lantziego, towards the east of the Alavesa road, past Laguardia, a cool zone with predominantly clay and calcareous soils. Telmo claims that Lanciego reflects the contrasting influences between the Atlantic (that is closest) and the Mediterranean (whose influence is brough up by the Ebro river). The wine is made from tempranillo, graciano and garnacha, grown “en vaso” (bush wines). For this wine there is to a lesser extent a collaboration with local growers, carrying out traditional viticulture (pre-conventional), and all the grapes were picked by hand and fermented in cement with natural yeast and aged 4-6 months in cement.

Quite dark with a violet hue. Dark berries, fennel, with notes of licorice and some balsamic, a bit earthy. Medium body, good tannin grip and a nice acidity.

Ad Libitum Maturana Tinta 2011 (Juan Carlos Sancha) – While his white wine was all tempranillo this hasn’t a drop of that grape, but in-stead the variety mentioned in the wine name, maturana tinta that originates from Rioja. Sancha is a professor of enology at the University of La Rioja. He and his collegues were instrumental in the rescue operation of this grape and others in the region (like trousseau, bastardo and red verdejo).

Dark red. Balasamic notes combined with red berry fruit. Just the right amount of tannins for good drinking now, and matching acidity.

Rayos Uva Vendimia Seleccionada 2014 (Olivier Rivière) – Rivière, from Cognac, was a consultant for Telmo Rodriguez from 2004. By then he had started to buy vineyards. He works organically, ploughs regularly, uses a minimal amount of treatments (organic too). Altitude is important for him, for freshness in the wines. This wine is made from tempranillo and graciano in equal parts (some times he puts in some garnacha) grown around 6-700 meters over sea level in the hills over Aldeanueva de Ebro. The wine was only gently macerated in inox before fermentation. He likes to ferment with stalks to achieve a wine that has a fresh feeling to it, but is nevertheless not light. After a 10 months ageing on lees, and only slightly sulphured, it was brought down to Aldeanueva to be bottled by Bodegas Lacus, where Rivière has also consulted.

Dark red. Dark fruits, blackberries, lightly balsamic (menthol). Soft tannins, a juicy, luscious feel, and just that right touch of inspiring acidity.

Bilderesultat for olivier riviere rioja rayos uva 2014

Predicador 2011 (Benjamín Romeo) – OK, I admit it, I decided to give something to the people who had come for a “Rioja” tasting. Predicador 2011 was made of Benjamín Romeo, formerly at Cosecheros Alaveses (eventually known as Artadi), but left for his own “garage” project in his native San Vicente de la Sonsierra, altogether 7 hectar of vines in alluvial soils, calcareaous clay and sand. When I visited him some 10 years ago it was under very humble circumstances, but with ideal storage in 800 years old underground caves. I think he was going to build a new bodega, but I don’t know if it’s done. It didn’t seem to me that impressive bodega houses are among Benjamín’s focal points. But he is a true cosechero, he makes the wines he believes in, and he has many followers these days. His Predicador white was tested, and left out, but the red (from 89% tempranillo, 10% garnacha and 1% viura) passed the test. I don’t dare to think what disaster could have happened to this wine without that 1 decisive per cent of viura…

Dark red colour. Red berries, blackberries, a touch of vanilla. A smooth velvet texture, quite full and concentrated.

6 very nice, serioius, and quaffable wines. There could have been a few more, but honestly there ought to have been many, many, many more to chose from.

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