Tag Archives: verdejo

Nieva, a new chapter

Nieva is a small settlement of some 300 souls in the Segovia province, at the southeastern border of DO Rueda. It’s a cool and high area with predominantly sandy soils, so there are many un-grafted, pre-phylloxera vines, in Spanish called ‘pie franco’. These three factors make it a really interesting place.

Allow me a brief Nieva quality wine history, which is all about the verdejo variety. Viñedos de Nieva was the leading producer here, with Pie Franco as one of the great Spanish whites. Then Ismael Gozalo, from Nieva, teamed up with Javier Zaccagnini (from Aalto with Mariano García, formerly Vega Sicilia) to form Ossian, that gave us the Capitel, a big wine, by many considered among the country’s best wines too. The Brothers Herrero, that we will visit tomorrow, left Viñedos de Nieva when the Martúe group took over. When Zaccagnini sold his part of Ossian to Pago de Carraovejas, Ismael went solo. Now folks, I will not bore you any more with tales of who leaves who.

Ismael works according to nature’s laws, and tries to express the terroir. He uses the old bodega of an old Nieva monastery. He makes a variety of wines, some more on the experimental natural side than others. 

20171009_202641

Rack is a verdejo from pre-phylloxera vines, and organically certified. It’s fermented in steel tanks with natural yeasts, aimed to be reductive and thus self-protective. (The back label says ‘beautiful reduction taken to the extreme’.) It’s bottled without added sulphites, un-filtered and without corrections of any sort. Only 650 bottles were made.

Rack 2015 (Ismael Gozalo, MicroBio)

Deep yellow, cloudy. Aroma of white flowers, peach, mature apples. Opulent in the mouth, with small bubbles, and a fresh acidity that knits it nicely together.

Price: Medium

Stavanger fair I: Spanish sparklers, white wines and more

Stavanger Vinforum was established in 1995 to contribute to more interest in and better understanding of wine in the southwestern region of Norway. Their most important activity is the annual fair, and this was the 23rd in a row. Each year has a specific theme, usually one or more countries. This year Spain and Portugal was in focus. 17 importers presented a total of around 250 wines, and there are always seminars: This time one mainly about Rueda by Igniacio Pariente of Bodegas Pariente (formerly II Victorias), one by Óscar Alegre (of Telmo Rodríguez’ company) about the northwestern corner.

IMG_3993 Nils Nærland, member of the board and responsible for the program

I have written more about the fair itself for other publications. Here I will just present some of the highlights, from my own perspective and according to my own preferences.

Spanish sparkling wines: We are talking mainly about cava here. A head above the rest on the fair is Gramona, this time represented by their superb xarel.lo-based III Lustros Gran Reserva, now in the 2007 vintage. This wine shows the greatness of the xarel.lo grape, not very aromatic from the start, but after some years it starts to shine, and in Xavier Gramona’s opinion the best grape for cavas meant for ageing. This one spent 7 years on lees, has great depth and concentration, aromas of toast with a smoky note, and still with an incredible “presence” after all these years. Reserva Millesime Brut Nature 2011 (Castelo de Pedregosa), mainly from pinot noir, was kept for 3 years on the lees. It’s quite concentrated too, with the characteristic “bakery” aromas. Clos Lentiscus, DO Penedès (not Cava) was new to me. Their Blanc de Noirs Brut Nature 2010 was a different take. The “noir” variety of the title is sumoll, that not many years ago was a nearly extinct grape, but is now on the rise. The colour is almost orange, or maybe pink-ish, from a somewhat extended skin-contact. It’s more robust and tannic than the fair’s other sparklers.

To the white wines: Rueda is a region that is gaining still more ground in the conscousness of the people, but at the same time it’s facing problems with high production and many wines that are maybe correct, but with lack of personality and inspiration. I chose Basa 2015 (T. Rodríguez). It’s based on verdejo, but includes 10% of viura, and is sourced from various plots around the area. It’s a fresh, fruity wine for everyday drinking, and maybe a typical restaurant house wine. A very good one. Equally good and consistent is Gaba do Xil 2015, a Valdeorras wine from the same producer. Not so straightforwardly generous, but with more layers, and with those typical hints of straw and herbs from the godello grape.

IMG_3976 Óscar Alegre at importer Moestue Grape Selections’ table

A single white wine represented the Canary Islands, Trenzado 2014 (Suertes del Marqués), a complex and rich skin-contact white that shows what can be done on Tenerife. This has been highlighted here.

From the Gredos area (province of Madrid) it was a nice to taste the Navaherreros Blanco from producer Bernabeleva again, now in the 2015 vintage. This is a predominantly albillo real with some macabeo, with hints of white flowers, peaches, yellow apples and slightly buttery too (from fermentation in big vats and ageing on the lees), with good body and a smooth texture.

IMG_3959 Aina Mee Myhre of Heyday Wines presented a well-chosen range of wines

From Catalunya I first tasted Espelt Quinze Roures 2015 from Empordà near the French border. This is a barrel and lees-aged wine from the grapes with the Catalan names lledoner roig (grey garnacha) and lledoner blanc (white garnacha), grown in slate and sandy soils with understated aromas, quite complex (dried fruits, anise), good body and concentration, a touch of skin-contact, and just enough acidity to match. From Torroja, Priorat, producer Terroir al Límit was represented by 8 wines, 3 of them white. I especially liked the Terroir Històric 2015 (garnacha blanca 75%, macabeu 25%) aged in concrete eggs for 6 months, golden in colour with aromas of yellow apples, hints of honey, medium-bodied, and with a salty mineral aftertaste. The Terra da Cuques 2014 (pedro ximérez 80%, moscatel 20%) had more skin-contact feel, but was also fresher, with floral and citrusy notes, some herbs too. Quite rounded texture, expressive and with a touch of acidity. Dare I say elegant: For a Priorat very much so!

Fortified wines and dessert wines were not among my priorities this time. But some good wines for later in the meal were chosen. Among these the Molino Real, now in its 2010 incarnation. Telmo Rodríguez makes this wine in cooperation with Bodegas Almijara of Cómpeta, Málaga province. It’s always good, some vintages more lemony than others. I have a suspicion that it’s lighter than before, but it’s a really nice moscatel, an old-fashioned “mountain wine” introduced at a time when wines from the pedro ximénez grape was reigning supreme in the area. Lastly, I know very well the sherries offered, so I didn’t taste them this time. But I never miss a chance to taste the wines selected (not produced) by Equipo Navazos. They chose single “botas” (barrels) of wines that they find exceptional. The one presented here was 57 – La Bota de Florpower MMXII (in other words: a sherry vintage 2012), a light, grapey fino with some citrus notes, and yes! with a lot of “flor” character (the layer of yeast that covers the lightest wines in the bodega). Simply delicious!

On my way out I couldn’t miss a completely natural cider from the northern region Asturias, the Valdedios Natural (Manuel Bustos Amandi), with aromas of citrus, green apple, herbs, and with a slightly bitter aftertaste.

IMG_3963

A day in central Rueda

A few weeks ago I spent a day in central Rueda. It was in full harvest time, but I never saw a grape picker, nor a harvesting machine. Why? Rueda is white wine land, and it may be well known that the modern “revolution” started in the 1980’s, when modern technology was introduced, and grapes was picked at night before the heat of the day became too annoying for grapes and people.

I was in search for good organic verdejos with a sense of place. And there was a wide variety of producers, big ones and small ones, privately owned and cooperatives. I appreciate the cooler style of the higher vineyards in the northern part of Segovia (villages like Nieva and Santiuste). This time I concentrated on the province of Valladolid, where the majority of bodegas are concentrated in and around the villages of La Seca, and Rueda itself.

I started on the other side of the bigger town of Medina de Campo though, in Rubí de Bracamonte, that is situated a bit higher (some places above 800 meters) and has a climate somewhere between the Rueda and the Segovia part. Bodegas Verderrubí was a nice surprise. They dispose of 27 hectars verdejo (4 different clones), all of it run organically and will be certified from the 2015 vintage on. The ground here has sand and stones with some clay (here more grey coloured compared to the more orange in Rueda/La Seca), which together with the high location gives the wines a good acidity.

2015-09-10 09.22.00 Emilio Pita Gil, winemaker and owner

 

2015-09-10 09.56.552015-09-10 09.57.10 Each tank contains wine from one parcel

Emilio makes three distinctly different whites. First we tasted The basic Dominio de Verderrubí 2014, made solely in stainless steel with 4 months on fine lees. Really fresh and aromatic, with hints of apple and gooseberry, and a nice and supple acidity. The Atipyque 2013 had fermented and stayed on the total lees in fudres of 5.000 liters. This was clearly darker, and had a more marked lees character, more fruity than flowery, but with some hints of camomile, and some anis that in a way resembles a moscatel. Lastly the Pita 2013 was still darker, aged in wood. Vanilla and butter, a bit raisiny maybe, but the acidity of the high altitude does it good.

2015-09-10 10.08.57 A glimpse of amphoras before we leave. Interesting…

On to La Seca, the municipality with the largest area under vine in the whole of Spain, so you understand this is wine country. Bodegas Menade claims to be the first one to be organic both in vineyards and winery. And it’s a prime example, very pedagogic, as they use blackboards and other means. Patricia tells me about how they create their ecosystem, a story that includes serum of milk to deal with oïdium, cinnamon extract to strengthen the roots, lady bugs to eat spider eggs, and vinegar and garlic to get the same ladybugs out of the vineyards once the job is done. Next time around we will also find beehives here.

2015-09-10 11.47.45

Menade has 180 hectars of vineyards, 50 of them around the winery, where they cultivate sauvignon in addition to verdejo. According to Patricia they appreciate freshness before (over-) maturity, so in a hot year like 2015 they picked everything before 3rd September.

They use dry ice in-stead of sulphur, and to filter they use paper of cellulosis (with different levels of filtering), and everything can be re-cycled.

2015-09-10 13.18.11

After a nice salty-mineral sauvignon intro we tasted several verdejos. Their Menade 2014 was an exemplary, round wine with good acidity. The Nosso (meaning “our”, but also denotes “no sulphur”) is a white that has undergone malolactic fermentation. And as such it is rounder, quite full, and darker, with some honey, butter, nuts… The older people of the wine growers say that the smell of this one reminds them of the old days, when Rueda was famous for sherry style wines.

Then there is the V3 (verdejo viñas viejas) in 2012 vintage. This is a wine that is made from “pie franco”, ungrafted vines. Needless to say: Rich, extremely concentrated, and after a year in 20-30% new oak it shows notes of mature apple, nuts/almonds and some vanilla.

We also tasted their organic top-fermented beer from wheat and barley. I mentioned teaching… Menade also makes de-alcoholized must, for children and young people to learn to taste before they reach legal age.

 

Vidal Soblechero is located between 600-760 meters, also in the outskirts of La Seca. Alicia Vidal Soblechero and her family and other helpers determined from the first day to make not less than five verdejos from five plots, five distinctly different interpretations of the same grape. Three of them are treated with some kind of oak, which helps to accentuate the differences. So a visit here is strongly recommended to learn about the many possibilities.

2015-09-10 18.05.16 Alicia Vidal Soblechero

They have also done a great job to make their own ecosystem. Interestingly a hawk is on top of that pyramid, at least in terms of meters over grass level. I had heard about the hawk, but I had not imagined that I would get the chance to see it. I not only saw it, I got the chance to hold a hawk for the first time in my life. Alicia’s brother Vidal Vidal Soblechero (no misspelling here) takes care of it.

2015-09-10 17.11.09 Vidal and the hawk

I will not go into great detail here. In general the wines have a warmer and fuller style than those of Verderrubí. And they dispose of a variety of vineyards, some more than 100 years old. Alicia tells that the wine-making has always been organic here, never have they turned to what we tend to call “conventional”. So far no wine has been certified though, but she says she wants to do it, to give the customer some kind of warranty.

I like their basic, unoaked verdejo Viña El Clavidor (the one with 50% viura in it too, fairly much in the same style), that has no “inox-feeling” as can be found in strictly tank-made young whites (and that I imagine can happen due to some kind of reduction). This one hasn’t been fermented at those low temperatures either. Some of the finca wines come under the name Pagos de Villavendimia. Among these the Finca El Alto is, as the name suggests, the highest vineyard at 760 meters. There is limestone, and the pebbles retain energy from the sun, which is useful as there can be frost in august and september. The 2011 was concentrated and long due to a high level of acidity. Finca La Matea has 40 years old vines, and gives more mouthfeel, but the 2011 was rather oaky. Escribiente 2013, from arcilian soil, I really liked. This one has never seen oak, and is a concentrated, full, appley wine with some anis notes and integrated acidity. Nearby Finca Varastrojuelos is planted with viura. Only 700 bottles are made, the rest go into other wines, such as the verdejo-viura blend. They make red wines from tempranillo too. Of the more eccentric project is a verdejo eiswein that grows close to the bodega.

2015-09-10 16.34.10 Finca El Alto

I also popped into the cooperative Agrícola Castellana (nowadays better known as Cuatro Rayas) just down the road. Everything was correct, the wines too, but not much more than correct: I would say simple and rather dull. Bodegas Antaño (nowadays better known as Mocén) is oppsosite: They have an interesting collection of old wine artefacts, long labyrinthic underground paths, and the bodega is quite untidy. But their basic organic verdejo was surprisingly good.

Verdejo in the wind

I was invited to speak about the wines of Rueda in a wine club on the windy Norwegian southwestern coast. Jæren Wine Club is one of the most active and ambitious ones in the area. They have monthly tastings with invited speakers, and they also arrange an interesting annual wine and food fair. The tastings are held in an extraordinary cultural project, Hå gamle prestegård (Old Vicarage), home to events like concerts and exhibitions.

Hå gamle prestegård

Although the grape variety verdejo has existed in northern Castilla since the 11th century it rose to prominence from the 1970’s on. Today it’s almost a synonym of DO Rueda. So popular has it become that it’s maybe the white wine you are most likely to be served almost anywhere in Spain. The influx of external actors on the scene is enormous (though only a few have established their own bodega), and there are many commercial brands hiding almost identical steel tank wines these days. Still many producers fight to keep the quality up, there is interesting work being done.

Here I have picked four wines from the tasting. All these were made from organically managed vineyards and fermented with natural yeast. The first one is splendid value for money, the three others (at least in theory) contenders to the Spanish white wine throne.

A typical dish to go with these wines is ‘cochinillo’, the suckling pig so popular and delicious in the provice capitals of Castilla y León.

Menade 2013 (Bodegas Menade)
Light yellow. Fresh, green, with a touch of citrus and nettle. Quite full on the palate, with a lightly citric taste, and good length

Price: Low

El Transístor 2012 (Telmo Rodríguez)
Telmo Rodríguez, originally from Rioja, is famous for restoring of old vineyards in partnership with vintners in many Spanish regions. The name of this wine is inspired by the a special form of biodiversity: a radio blasting in the vineyard to keep the wild boars away.

The wine has a light straw colour. Mature apple and white fruits on the nose, some citric tones. Round, tasty and concentrated, some acidity and a lightly green finish. Just lovely. Fermented in oak, cement and steel, that only adds to the complexity.
I would say near its peak, but will keep.

Price: Medium

2015-06-10 20.48.23

Barco del Corneta 2012 (Beatriz Herranz Sanz)
Today Beatriz has two projects, she’s doing verdejo in Rueda (or rather: Castilla y León, as the wine has the designation ‘vino de tierra’), and another interesting grape variety named juan garcía in Arribes. Formerly she was also working with garnacha in the Gredos area.

This verdejo has a light straw colour. Citric aroma with hints of herbs, minerals, it has a yeasty ‘sobre lías’ (on lees) character, but very, very clean. It has some more Though a bit more ‘lees’ than the previous wine it’s also very elegant, and I would say a bit tough more acidity. Fermented in barrels, but it’s by no means oaky.
Excellent drinking now, but will keep.

Price: Medium

Ossian 2012 (Ossian Vides y Vinos)

This wine is from the most southeastern corner of Rueda, and higher than the others (almost 1.000 meters as opposed to around 700). The tiny village of Nieva has only three wineries, all of them owners of old ungrafted verdejo grapes. This one has spent 9 months in new and used oak.

Pale and clear. Vanilla on the aroma, some apple, apricot, and a touch of honey. It’s full on the palate, nuances of citrus, and at this stage, quite oaky.
It clearly needs to mature, but will it ever come around? Maybe, maybe not. And though from the coolest part of Rueda, another question is if it has the acidity to accompany it along the way. One has to buy some bottles to find out.

Price: Medium