September is Tastings Month. There are several events almost every day, so it’s impossible to get to them all. It’s also impossible to keep up my usual timely posts, splitting writing with sipping wine all day. For those who have asked, this two-parter will cover the event at Terroirs on Monday. Part 1 for Otros Vinos and Part 2 for Wines Under the Bonnet. Then I’ll begin work on Tuesday’s Out the Box Tasting in Shoreditch, but I might leave out Uncharted Wines and Swig. You see, they have a joint Tasting in Soho next week and I may well cover both events in relation to those two importers in one article. I must say that there were some astonishingly good wines at Out the Box, and my introduction to Uncharted’s portfolio (I already knew Rupert) was mindblowing.
I have written about Otros Vinos several times before, but for anyone who hasn’t already come across them, Fernando brings in a small but wild and wonderful selection from across Spain, working with winemakers who occupy the fringes, usually in terms of winemaking, but often in terms of location too. His list contains some of Spain’s least known stars, some young and some not so young. Here, I’ll mainly look at a few new wines, but I can’t resist commenting on one or two favourites as well. If his wines appeal, search my site for more notes. A selection can be had at Furanxo, the Spanish grocer’s/bar on Dalston Lane in London.
The title? Excuse my music obsession. Upstairs at Eric’s was the 1982 debut album by Yazoo on Mute Records. Eric and Doug are the guys behind Les Caves de Pyrene, who own Terroirs Wine Bar. But you knew that…
Ancestral, Fuente Guijarro, 2017 – Fuente Guijarro is a producer based within the boundaries of the Sierra Nevada National Park in Andalucia. Their location means that they are not allowed to use any machinery in their viticulture, so they harvest in the cool of night using horses to transport the grapes. When your vineyards are at 2,000 metres altitude this is no mean feat.
Although the days can be hot, it doesn’t take a genius to work out the kind of wine you can make with the enormous diurnal temperature shifts they get. This is an ancestral method bottle-fermented sparkler which sits on its lees and is disgorged, in the spring following the harvest. It’s uncomplicated, but also focused, and immensely zippy and fresh. I loved it.
Atardecer en el Patio, Vinos el Patio, 2017 – This is another sparkling wine fresh on our shores from the current vintage. Samuel Canos farms a relatively large 35 hectares of vines in La Mancha, but he sells 90% of his grapes to the co-op and keeps back just 10% for his own interesting projects. I say interesting, all the vines are sprayed with cow’s milk against fungal diseases (I guess that may make them not vegan?), and every wine Samuel makes is aged in square containers. It’s his thing.
Before you decide this guy’s a nut job, try this amazing wine. The colour is a wild pink. The grape, Tinto Velasco, is pretty exciting. Once, it had a good reputation in the region, but as is always the way, it is now down to fewer than 50 hectares planted anywhere. He harvests twice, in August for this rosado, and then in October to make a red from the same vines. This sees whole bunch fermentation, followed by direct press into stainless steel, kept at 7 Degrees. It is bottled with a little residual sugar.
It’s very fruity, but with a kind of tea leaf note on the finish, adding an unusual savoury touch to the sweet fruit. Pretty delicious, less delicate than you might think, but very nice. For me, an aperitif or refresher, but at 13% perhaps not one for breakfast.
Monteplas, Marenas, 2017 – José Miguel Márquez is a young grower starting out in the Montilla Region, better known for its wines made in a similar (but not identical) way to Sherry. This is hot country, where summer temperatures can reach up to 50 Degrees, though the sea does provide some cooling breezes. This is another region where harvesting is done at night…a 2 a.m. start for José Miguel.
“Monteplas” is the wine and the subtly different “Montepilas” is the white grape variety. Seven-hundred vines are planted at Cerro Encinas, at 350 metres altitude, all hand grafted. The wine itself is subtly different too. A very natural wine which despite being close to the edge in some respects, has a genuine purity and life to it. Herby and nutty, but still fresh.
Blanco de Negra, Viña Enebro, 2017 – This is an estate at Bullas in Murcia, with around seven hectares under vine on sand and clay with a high lime content. Bullas has very low rainfall, creating serious vine stress, but the young Juan Pascual López Céspedes seems to enable them to thrive, along with apricots, figs, olives, almonds and peaches.
Speaking of peaches, this wine has a slightly sour stone fruit palate. As the name suggests, it’s a white wine from red grapes, in this case the rare, indigenous, Forcallat which has the benefit of being a drought resistant variety (how nature adapts if left to its own devices). Whole bunch, then direct press, no sulphur. Another “just fermented grape juice” operator.
Metamorphika Sumoll Blanc Brisat, Costador Terroirs Mediterrani, 2016 – This has been one of my favourite Otros Vinos estates since I first came across Fernando’s portfolio two or three years ago. The Brisat (skin contact) wines are bottled in wonderful terracotta flasks, similar to those used by Sepp and Maria Muster in Austria for their skin contact cuvées. Winemaker Joan Franquet says he wants to sell the wines in the same material as they were made in.
Costador is based in Conca de Barberà, in Tarragona Province, high up on limestone hills, inland, above the Mediterranean, where incidentally Torres makes its Milmanda Chardonnay. The Costador vines lie between 400 and 800 metres altitude. Sumoll, which is best known in its red form, also appears as a rare white variety, which lends itself perfectly to skin contact, rather like the Ribolla/Rebula variety of Italian Friuli and Slovenia.
This has a nose to die for, amazing. It has the soft texture of clay which just smothers your smell receptors, and it does the same on the palate. If you like skin contact/orange wines, try it. There’s lots of texture, for sure, but the fruit is rounded and not lacking in freshness. This is the new vintage of this cuvée, just arrived.
Metamorphika Sumoll Amfora, Costador Terroirs Mediterrani 2015 – This is the red cousin of the wine above. The mountain vineyards ameliorate the heat and so the grapes are picked fresh. They spend around six weeks or so in clay amphorae for fermentation, and are then transferred to clay tinajas for ageing.
The bouquet here is quite different in style to the white Sumoll. The fruit has an intense sweetness on the nose, and the concentration is reflected on the palate. You get texture, but maybe less than you might expect. This could be down to that beautiful fruit intensity. It finishes dry, and very long. It’s a wine I find too hard to spit, and if you read this, Fernando, I must get a bottle somehow. I was sorely jealous of the guy I saw leaving with one.
Iradei, Cauzón, 2017 – If a few of the winemakers here are very young, that cannot be said of Ramon Saavedra Saavedra. After a career as a well known chef at Can Roca, on the Costa Brava, he returned to his family village, Graena, on the north side of the Sierra Nevada to make wine from vineyards at over 1,000 metres altitude, in some of the most hostile terrain in Spain. The red sandy loam soils are baked dry in summer, but in winter are often covered in snow.
Saavedra is perhaps something of a magician. All his wines taste magical, anyway. They seem to combine initial simplicity with something much more, that you often notice on second or third sniff or sip. Iradei begins with a high register bramble nose, from darkish vibrant fruit. In this case, you begin to notice the interesting bitter streak later…it’s initially covered by the fruit.
There are no tricks, and nothing obscure. The oldest, ungrafted, Tempranillo, Garnacha, Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon planted on Ramón’s six hectares go into this. The concentration comes from ridiculously low yields. This is the first year he has used only stainless steel for this bottling, and whether or not this, or the vintage, is the cause, the wine does seem to have greater freshness. I don’t think the Cauzón wines hang around, on the shelf or in the rack, but Iradei is a cuvée that should age.
Cabernet Amfora, Clot de les Soleres, 2014 – Carles and Montse Ferrer make wine on the edge of the Vals de L’Anoia, not far from Barcelona. Their range is quite eclectic, and I’ve drunk their petnats quite a lot over the past two years. This wine is an unusual iteration of Cabernet Sauvignon, which is actually fermented in stainless steel before going into amphora to age for a little over a year (13 months).
I last drank the 2015 version, which at 14% had a degree more alcohol, and I found this 2014 a little more balanced. It’s almost a black wine, and very clearly Cabernet Sauvignon. It tastes at first like a modern Cab, with concentrated blackcurrant fruit, enormous fruit in fact. But the fruit is allied to the texture given by the amphora, and the one can take the other. I’d really love to know what people who buy Californian Cabernet think of it? Impressive stuff.