The Spring Tasting Schedule

The long awaited spring comes always as a surprise to me. Our wine business builds towards the highlight of Christmas, and then we always extend our holiday from the business way too long. I know its still winter outside, but the rose season is soon upon us. At least from the point of view of a wine merchant. Continue reading “The Spring Tasting Schedule”

Save the date! Open House Tasting on the 12th of September

One of my favorite days of the fall is approaching, the day of our big open house tasting in Stockholm. Our tasting events are a good opportunity to try out our wines before making a purchase decision (who wants to buy a pig in a bag..unless you know it’s Iberico pork). During the event we also have a chance to talk more about the people behind the wines, their production methods and philosophies. We have felt that our open tastings are the key to building a loyal and interested customer base, and we also have a lot of fun in the process. And what’s best, the open house events are always free (yay!). The tasting will take place on the 12th of September between 15:00 and 18:00 (pop by any time you like). If you are interested in joining please send an email to info@thewinecurious.com, and we will send you the address.

You might recall that we arranged one in May as a kick off for our new Portuguese selection (more about it here). This time focus is naturally on our fall selection of red wines which means that we will be sampling some of the great wines from Quinta do Escudial, Quinta de Saes, as well as one of our new potential producers Almeida Garrett. Bubbly moments will be guaranteed by our trusted cavas from Llagrima d’Or, Rimarts and Cellers Carol Valles. We will hold samples of the rest of the selection under the counter if someone is interested in the other products.

At the tasting we will also be opening our early fall order window. This possibility to top up for long and dark October weekends end on the 20th of September and the wines will be in Stockholm within a week. How exciting is that!!

Our selection is available for browsing on www.thewinecurious.com

Cavas at the May tasting
Cavas at the May tasting

Guide to the best cava – Part 2: Mid-range

Earlier this week I started a series of posts that are on the best cavas available in different price ranges. The first part of that series, the entry level, up to 130 SEK (approx.. €14) can be found here. The next level is from 131 SEK to 200 SEK (€14 to €22) and it is sort of a mid-range. To recap for those who did not read the first part this will not cover cava sold anywhere but rather available to consumers in Sweden and Finland.

In this area I will be recommending a lot of cavas that we are ourselves selling but there is a pretty good explanation for it as well. One of the main reasons we even started selling cava was the lack of high quality options in general but in this price range specifically. While it is slightly better today, especially in Sweden, it is still pretty limited offering for the person who wants to buy from Systembolaget or Alko and especially if you do not want to order it in advance.

In our round-up in the mid-range we are actually not really recommending anything from Alko but for those who are interested both Llagrima D’or and Peret Fuster Rosé cava can be bought in Finland. It is a bit disappointing to see that Alko are not including some more high quality options in the mid range. I would for example like to see the cavas from Vilarnau being made available there (as they offer the basic Vilarnau it should not be that difficult to also have some of their other cavas). There are also a few good cavas (for example some from Castell d’Age) missing from the list below as these have been out of stock for such a long time that they cannot really be seen as available.

In general this price range provides a lot of value for money. To me all of the cavas listed here are usually much better options than going for a ‘cheap’ champagne. All of these cavas are excellent quality and while some of these are a bit over-priced in the Nordic countries I would still be inclined to say that these are some of the best value for money one can find in sparkling wine in Sweden (and Finland). All of these are also at least Reserva cavas (so aged at least 15 months) and a few also Gran Reservas (aged for at least 30 months). For clarity I wish to mention that I in this post, as well as the previous one in the series, list the cavas in alphabetical order.

Augusti Torelló Mata Reserva Brut from Augusti Torelló Mata: 154 SEK at Systembolaget. This may be one of the basic cuvées from Agusti Torelló Mata but they are a solid house and this cuvee shows that they know their stuff. The cava is light straw color with small persistent bubbles. The aromas are a mix of apple, toastiness with hints of mineral and herbs. The taste is fruity ripe apples with nice acidity.

Gramona Imperal Gran Reserva from Gramona: 199 SEK from Systembolaget. Gramona has grown to be one of the fairly big producers of Cava and while not the size of some of the bohemoths it is still readily available in many places. It is in general not my number one producer but they do make very solid cavas and I am happy that it is often available in restaurants. This is their Gran Reserva and it is a nice blend of Xarel·lo (50%), Macabeo (40%), Chardonnay (10%). Aged for three to four years. This has notes of citrus, mineral and apple. Nice nose of toast and apples. Works well with jamón iberico and other dried cured meats. A good cava but a bit overpriced (should more be around 150-175 SEK).

Guillem Carol Gran Reserva Brut Nature from Cellers Carol Valles: 175 SEK at thewinecurious. This is one of the Gran Reservas from small family producer Cellers Carol Valles. It is made from Parellada (40%), Xarel-lo (40%) and Chardonnay (20%). This is without dosage but they also makes one cuvée with the same grapes and a small dosage . For me the zero dosage one is however the best one (for those who want a touch more of sweetness, still very little, the extra brut may be better). This cava is golden straw colored with fine and persistent bubbles. Soft notes of aging and reduction, fine bakery, yeast and notes of citrus and white flowers. Fresh and creamy on the palate, with excellent acidity and long finish.

Llagrima D’or Brut Nature Cava from Llagrima D’or: 175 SEK from thewinecurious. Made from the traditional cava grapes and with no dosage this lovely cava is one of my old favorites. It has pleasant acidity and mineral in the flavor. Some nice toastiness and roundness adds complexity, all in all a lovely cava.

Olivia Brut Nature Reserva from Castell d’Age: 171 SEK at Systembolaget. A lovely 100% Chardonnay cava that has been aged for around 20 months. Very fine and delicate bubbles and the color is bright golden. The chardonnay gives this more of champagne feeling so the nose has a mix of brioche, dried fried and nuts as well as freshness to it. The taste has nice mineral mixed with some yellow fruit.

Peret Fuster Rosé Cava from Peret Fuster: 183 SEK from thewinecurious I am not usually a huge fan of rosé cavas but this 100% Trepat is lovely. It has a very small dosage but is still very dry and has lovely red berry flavor. Perfect as an aperitif.

Recaredo Brut Nature Gran Reserva 2008  from Recaredo : 189 SEK at Systembolaget.. Blend of 46% Xarel·lo, 40% Macabeo and 14% Parellada. Recaredo were among the first  to start with craft production of cava and they are still among the best producers. Aroma of yellow apples, brioche, nougat and hints of orange. The flavor is dry fresh with toastiness, hints of yeast and yellow apples and orange and pleasant acidity. A good cava  from one of the top producers in Spain.

Rimarts Brut Reserva 18 from Rimarts: 167 SEK from thewinecurious. It is made from a blend of Xarel·lo, Macabeo and Parellada this entry level cava has been aged between 18 and 25 months. It has a bright lemon color. Mid-sized bubbles, elegant and lasting. Strong aroma, fresh and flowery. Full in the mouth, creamy, a touch of fresh sweetness with a good balance between sugar and acidity. It is ideal an aperitif but can also be enjoyed with a variety of dishes.

Rimarts Brut Reserva 24 from Rimarts: 175 SEK from thewinecurious. This Brut Nature cava is made from  Xarel·lo, Macabeu and Parellada and has been aged between 25-30 months. It is dry with less than 2g/l of residual sugar. Golden yellow color. Small, persistent bubbles. Complex with a nice intensity. Intense aroma of ageing, ripe fruits, toasted grassy notes. Nice mouth-feel, well-structured with a long, enjoyable finish.

Rimarts Brut Nature Gran Reserva 40 from Rimarts: 200 SEK from thewinecurios. In addition to the traditional grapes Xarel-lo, Macaveo and Parellada this cava also contains Chardonnay. It has been aged between 36 and 42 months and this produces an amazing result. It has bright gold color with very fine, persistent bubbles. Aromas of ripened fruit, notes of ageing, toasted nuts mix with hints of yeast and brioche. Perfectly balanced with a long and pleasant finish. It is one of these cavas that makes you understand why the Catalans enjoy sparkling wine not only on its own but also with bbq, stews and all types of food. 

In this category there are many fine cavas but if I would select my favorite one it is fairly easy. The Rimarts Gran Reserva is one of my all-time favorite cavas and is then my choice. That said all of the cavas presented here are really good so if you find them somewhere there is no need to hesitate just try it.

Stay tuned for the third part in the series coming soon. There we will be presenting some of the more high end cavas available. 

The Road So Far and a New Selection

When I started this blog, it was meant to be about the business. The business of selling wine that is (Introduction to the journey here). Along the way I started writing more about other wines and restaurants. I like getting tips about new places, so it was mostly about sharing it with fellow foodies and the wine curious. There is not that much to write about the company to really fill a blog (yet). However, today I would like to move the focus back to the business and write about something exciting, our new selection.

Our business started around one excellent product, the Llagrima d’Or cava. We did our research on the Swedish market and came to the conclusion that this product would fill a gap. A premium cava was not unheard of, however the selection was (and is) weak. The selection may still satisfy the masses, but not the quality conscious consumer who does not want his/her cava pumped up with sugar to hide the compromises made with the production. Small producers are often artists, they make something that they can be proud of and want to have on their own table every weekday and the weekend (in Spain cava is an every day drink). These small producers however do not have the volumes to make it into the shelf’s of (one of) the worlds largest buyer (Systembolaget).

After two years of planning, sampling, paperwork and some personal investment, we have moved forward. Next week our updated web shop will feature five new and exciting producers from Spain and Portugal: Rimarts, Cellers Carol Valles, Antonio Madeira, Quinta do Escudial and Quinta da Pellada. All of our new partners are small, family owned vineyards with a vision and a passion for making honest wines. With honest we mean that the wines have a minimal amount (if any) added sugar, they are mostly produced without any oak (or at least without excessive use of it) and often with as natural processes as possible. The focus is on good ingredients and no compromises on the time or effort that it takes to make the wines. We have visited them all, roamed around their vineyards and spent hours studying their production. Not to mention all the hard work we have done with trying out their wines (*smirk*). So here are a few teasers on our upcoming selection and we will be writing more about each producer the coming weeks.

1. Rimarts is a company owned by two brothers, Richard and Ernest. They have learned the fine art of making cava by following in their father’s footsteps and are today using the same equipment for their production as he did back in the day. When touring the Rimarts cellars, Ernest was joking about all the other kids going out to play football while he and his brother had to sit in with their dad and bottle cava. The Rimarts wines are disgorged by hand and all except for the the 18 month cava (which has a very small dosage) have no sugar added. Our initial selection will feature three different bubblies from them, the Rimarts 18 month (Brut Reserva), 24 month (Reserva Brut Nature) and 40 month (Gran Reserva Brut Nature) cavas.

2. When we pulled into the drive way of Cellers Carol Valles, we felt like we were entering someones home. That’s because we were. Joan Carol greeted us with the family dog and a boy from the neighboring house to translate from Catalan to English. He had fit a very impressive production line in the cellar of his family home and greeted visitors in a small tasting house next to the living quarters. He told us that most of his cava is sold at that property with hundreds of locals stopping by every now and then to fill up their cellars. He houses an impressive selection where even the entry level wine is a Reserva Brut Nature. Our selection for the summer will include the Parellada i Faura (Reserva Brut Nature, the Guillem Carol Extra Brut and Brut Nature (Gran Reservas) and the Guillem Carol Gran Reserva Barrica (a cava with a light oaky flavor).

Rimarts Cava
Tasting wines at Rimarts
Rimarts Cava
Ernest showing us how to bottle cava
Cellers Carol Valles
Cellers Carol Valles

3. A Frenchman with a Portuguese descent Antonio Madeira is the rising star of Dão. He currently sells just one wine (more are coming) and he makes it well with natural techniques (no additives or pesticides). Antonio has a vision, he wants to bring out the terroir in his wine and he seeks out old vines to do this in the best manner. Our selection will feature, surprise surprise, his best (and only) wine, a light and sophisticated red made from old vine. As with many older vineyards in Portugal, there is an abundance of grape varieties growing in the field so the exact number of grape varieties is not easy to get to.

4. Feeling that there was something missing from the market, Quinta do Escudial is producer making solely no-oak wines. It is a family business to the core. The wine is made by the father of the family, the finances are handled by his wife and sales by their son. Our selection will be featuring their Branco (white), Tinto (red) and the Vinhas Velhas (old vine red). When we visited them we sampled the full range of wines and these are truly extraordinary wines that really proves that it is not necessary to use oak to make fine Portuguese wines. These wines are really nice in the way that they are all great on their own as well as with food.

5. Alvaro Castro, the owner of Quinta da Pellada is ‘The’ winemaker who brought Dão back on the wine-map. Originally a civil engineer he inherited his family’s vineyards in the 1980s and changed profession awakening a family tradition that had been dormant for a generation. Today his daughter Maria is also very much active in the business and she will ensure to carry the family tradition on. Our selection will be featuring wines from the vineyard the family lives on, Quinta de Saes. We will have the Saes Red, The Quinta de Saes Rose (for the summer) and the Encruzado White. They also have several other brands and we hope to expand our cooperation with them in the future as their high-end wines really deserve an audiance and once tasted it is difficult to not just want more of them.

All in all, we are increasing our selection from two excellent wines to 17: nine cavas, five reds, two whites and one rose. Some wines are available in very limited quantities (due to the small production) so orders will be processed in the order they come in.

All in all, I think we have managed to create a good selection. We have a working supply chain, a logo, website and enough samples. What you can really see is that this company has been put together by two procurement professionals, with a high emphasis on the back end of the supply chain, contracts and working partners; and an entertaining lack of focus on sales. So now we are really stepping out of our comfort zone and introducing to the world what we have done. We are hoping that good quality will sell it’s self, and in time our customers will learn to trust our judgement.

However, this will not come free and to give it a push we are arranging an open house tasting next week Saturday in Stockholm to introduce our wines. In case you are interested in joining, then send us a message to info@thewinecurious.com. This will be the best sales period (yet) for our company yet, and I am looking forward to all of the feedback people can give us about our new selection.

Wineweek 23: Reims Edition

If you don’t count Monday, this has been a pretty quiet wine-week, at least when it comes to drinking wine. Perhaps we overdosed, in terms of tasting not drinking, in Paris and Reims, and this weekend we have just had a few glasses. However, I still have a lot to share with you from last Sunday in Reims and also some news regarding our company.

As Paris seemed to quiet down for the Sunday, we headed to Reims a day before the Terres & Vins event. A few big champagne houses had their doors open and we decided to take a tour or two, just to see how a big producer is organized, and well, to taste a few glasses of champagne. We basically had three, decent ones, to choose from: G.H. Mumm, Tattinger and Vranken Pommery. As Pommery charged close to 70€ for their tours with any decent tasting options, we opted for Mumm, one of my old favorites. Luckily our hotel Mercure also had a nice discount for the tours, so we got a significant reduction for the Blanc & Noir experience which was a tour through the cellars and a tasting of two champagnes: the blanc de blancs and blanc de noirs (25€ per person). We were already familiar with Mumm de Cramant, the 100% Chardonnay champagne (review here), so our expectations were high.

TGV from Paris to Reims
TGV from Paris to Reims
Touring at the G.H.Mumm cellears
Touring at the G.H.Mumm cellears
The Blanc and Noir tasting at the end of the Mumm tour
The Blanc and Noir tasting at the end of the Mumm tour

After touring at Mumm, we walked around in Reims admiring all the beautiful champagne houses and headed for afternoon bubbly at Les Crayeres, a beautiful mansion hotel with supposedly a great champagne bar. We had heard some good things, but after the disappointment of the much hyped about Bar 8 (Wineweek 22) we were cautious with our expectation. However, Les Crayeres did not let us down. The bar was absolutely beautiful with a lot of light and plush sofas. We had our drinks in the garden, which was like a scene from a movie with an international and happy crowd sipping wine. Les Crayeres also has a two Michelin star restaurant, which was to our disappointment fully booked (we tried making reservations earlier in the week). To compensate, we had to go to the town three star instead.

Sunday evening we headed to L’Assiette Champenoise, the three star restaurant of Arnaud Lallement. We don’t go to such extravagant places that often, but I have visited a few three star restaurants before this one. It is always a small investment to eat in such a place, but you pay not only for great food, but an experience. I will write more about the the restaurant later, but to describe the evening with a few words, the service was not as impressive as I have seen at many other starred (especially three starred) restaurants. Perhaps it was speaking English that made some of the staff uncomfortable. However it was nothing to really complain about and the food was out of this world.

The Reims Cathedral
The Reims Cathedral
I wish we could have gotten in here
I wish we could have gotten in here
Les Crayeres
Les Crayeres
Aperatiffs at L'Asiette Champenoise
Aperatiffs at L’Asiette Champenoise
My dessert at L'Asiette
My dessert at L’Asiette

That is about it regarding Reims, and now to some good news regarding our company. We will be taking in at least four new producers this spring: Rimarts (Cava), Quinta do Escudial (red and white), Antonio Madeira (red) and Quinta da Pellada (red, rosé and white). Orders to our Danish warehouse have been made and we will open for orders of these in mid May. This is a perfect time to stock up on wines to enjoy over summer vacation. We are also waiting for order confirmation from a fifth producer, but more about that when we have some certainty. It feels wonderful to be able to extend our selection. Of course we will also continue to have our trusted Llagrima d’Or and Peret Fuster wines for sale.

Why I love Llagrima d’Or

Finally the moment is here, Llagrima d’Or will again take over Sweden by storm, this time via our Danish company Pilvi Wines ApS aka The Winecurious-Shop. As we are opening an order window this week, I thought it is about time for a sales pitch. But instead of rambling about tasting notes I will tell you how it is made, with care, love and craftsmanship. Quality is not a coincidence, it is the result of careful choices on how you treat your vines and process your Cava. As I walk you through the life and birth of Llarima d’Or I will also go through the basic steps of method Champenoise, the classical method for producing sparkling wine.

Llagrima d'Or Brut Nature Cava
Llagrima d’Or Brut Nature Cava

Every wine starts with the grapes, and as I explained in a post ‘Five things you should know about Cava’ last week, Cava is often made from the trio Xarello, Parellada and Macabeo. There are grape varieties that are indigenous to the climate and soil of Penedes, so they yield the best results from year to year. It is not common for a Cava house to own and use only their own grapes, many of them buy at least part from independent growers or other Cava producers (the best grapes are of course kept in-house). There are around 250 Cava producers in the area, and less than 10% of them control the production process from start to finish, but Llagrima d’Or is one of them.

When the grapes are picked and pressed into juice, there is generally three or four phases (free run plus three presses). The first press is called Mosto Flor, and it is when the juice closest to the skin of the grape is released. This juice is considered to be delicate, lower in ph and less acidic than the juice closer to the seed of the grape (the presses used, is dependent of what kind of wine is being produced, so this it is not a general rule that the first press is the “best”, it is the winemakers knowledge on what suits the wine that counts). Llagrima d’Or is made solely from the first press of the grapes to produce a fresh and honest Cava that needs no sugar to hide bitterness in the taste.

The first fermentation in steel tanks
The first fermentation in steel tanks

After the grape juice is pressed, the varieties are kept separate and fermented in steel tanks for the first 2-4 months. This is when the still wine is produced. After the first fermentation, the winemaker decides the mix he/she want to use and the Coupage (mix) is bottled for the second fermentation (with an addition of yeast cultivated from the grapes skin for creating the bubbles). The second fermentation (aging) is another key milestone in the development of a sparkling wine. It is not a common denominator that all wine that is aged longer tastes better, but it is the winemakers ability to recognize when the wine is at its peak (or for some wines ready to drink) that makes the difference. A Cava must be aged in the bottle for at least 9 months to be allowed to use the name Cava. Llagrima d’Or is aged for at least 30 months as it is the optimum time for this specific wine to develop. The long aging process produces delicate bubbles with flavors of brioche, peach and minerals. Llagrima d’Or is perfect for drinking within a few years from taking out of the cellar.

Cold Llagrima
Cold Llagrima

And last but not least one of my favorite characteristics of this specific Cava: Llagrima d’Or is a Brut Nature, meaning it has less than 3g of residual sugar. There is no dosage (sugar liquid) added to hide any the flavors.

So why do I love Llagrima d’Or? Because it’s and honest Cava, made from the grapes of the region, with knowledge and no compromises in the time that it takes for it to become absolutely perfect. And it does not cost an arm and a leg, 175 SEK a bottle for deliveries to Sweden, so this makes it a perfect five in my books (an unbiased opinion). So stay tuned for some more information on how to order.

Remembering Barcelona

I am all packed and ready to go! Just need to wait 24 hours for the plane to take of as well. As I have some time to kill, I started looking at some photos from a year ago, and thought that I could share them with you to get everyone in the mood for Cava.

In the pictures it’s March 2014. It’s the time of the year to enjoy increasing rays of sun and Calcotada’s, green, long onions that you grill and dip to some delicious Romesco sauce (best ever!). 

We walked around in the village, took a tour around Torre Blanca, the home of Llagrima d’Or and Peret Fuster wines, and had a great barbecue at the vineyard. It was warm and sunny, we wore cool (at least we thought so after some cava…) cowboy hats and my friend Sami did a “sideways run” in between the vines (no pictures of that I’m afraid). Good times!

Villa in Sant Sadurni
Villa in Sant Sadurni
On the streets of Sant Sadurni
On the streets of Sant Sadurni. Even the road posts are shaped like Cava corks
Me, Aki and Sami in front of Torre-Blanca
Me, Aki and Sami in front of Torre-Blanca
Cold Llagrima
Cold Llagrima
The Caves
The Caves

The agenda for the coming days will be very much focused on meeting some new producers. We will be visiting Vilarnau, Rimarts and Castellroig; and perhaps pop in at a few other estates if they just have an open door policy (you never know). We will also be having a barbecue (with Calcots) with our friends at Peret Fuster (yay!). So pace yourself for a weekend of fun, sun and Cava. Barcelona here I come!

Wineweek 15

Let it be Sunday! Not my favorite day of the week (because there is seldom wine on Sundays), but a day for relaxation and looking back on all the wine-action during the week. We are now back in business, making calls, filling in forms and planning our next order window. If everything goes well, it will not be the Easter-bunny knocking on your door in the beginning of April, it will be the nice man/woman from Jet pack delivering your Llagrima d’Or.

So what else have we been doing (except for working) this week. We had some nice Riesling on Monday. The bottle of Emrich-Schönleber had been started with the Coravin in the summer, and now was opened to find no traces of oxidation what so ever. As I have said before, the Coravin is one of our best purchases ever. I really hope it is introduced to more restaurants as it opens up completely new possibilities for wine by the glass.

We also visited a new wine bar in Stockholm, Hornstull’s Bodega. We have been meaning to go for a while, but Christmas hassle included, we have been quite busy the past two months. The place was a nice addition to the Stockholm wine-scene. The concept reminds me a bit of José (review here) with a no reservation policy, focus on wine by the glass and a decent selection of Spanish inspired bar food. We had a good time, so you can be sure that a review will follow.

M also made a great find at Amsterdam airport. He came home with two bottles of Mumm de Cramant that he picked up from a sale for just 45€ (!!) a bottle. I would say that 45€ for a Champagne is perhaps not cheap cheap, but for a Blanc de Blanc Champagne made solely from grapes from the village of Cramant, classified 100% Grand Cru, not a bad deal! We had one of the bottles Saturday night and it was lovely (and well worth the 45€).

That was about it for the week. Next Sunday we will be reporting from the beautiful Douro Valley in Portugal.