Drinking in the Midnight Sun

Up here in the Nordics, we are blessed with a special phenomenon: the June midnisht sun. This means that the sun does not go down at all, but it is light around the clock. Now some people might no like it, as it is sometimes hard to sleep in light. But the midnight sun and beloved Midsummer festival are what we are born and raised with. Midsummer is when most people start their vacations, eat good food, jump into the freezing lake (from the Sauna) and perhaps get a little bit drunk. Continue reading “Drinking in the Midnight Sun”

The Spring Rose Special

I don’t really think Sweden is a rose country. Not in the way for example Spain is. However, in the spring there is some kind of wacky rosé-fever. Everyone wants to start drinking it around the time of April. The season will peak by mid-June, and no one will even look at a bottle of rose after August. If you are interested in a short introduction of how rose is made, you can have a peak at this earlier post on the topic Continue reading “The Spring Rose Special”

Wineweek 47: The Week After Cavatast

There is a saying in Swedish, borta bra men hemma bäst. It basically means that its great to travel, but nothing beats being home. We had a wonderful week in Barcelona, however I am ecstatic about being home. Also, our Air BnB apartment was quite run down, so nice to have a proper hot shower and a comfy bed again. We did not come home empty handed though. We brought 31 new Spanish friends to occupy our wine fridge. This is not the record. From Portugal we were able to bring 34 bottles. However, this time we had significantly more bubbly that weighs more and takes more space. We were actually discussing with M how many bottles we could potentially bring if we really came prepared, in check in luggage I mean (one can always send a pallet). I think we concluded that around 90 Bordeaux bottles could be doable. I will share some of my wine packing tips later.

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All 31 bottles survived the trip
Torelló cavas in the cooling
Torelló cavas in the cooling

What did we buy and where did we shop? We bought mainly cava, some 100% Xarello and white rioja. We also picked up a bottle of Castell d’Encus riesling (a really interesting producer in the Pyrenees) and a Mencia from Bierzo. Sounds wonderful right? The wines were bought from Cavatast as well as two of our favorite wine shops in Barcelona: Vila Viniteca (Borne) and Di Vi (Eixample).

As we were in the region, we also took the opportunity to meet some producers, old and new. We spent a day at Torelló, a high-end producer of cava. We popped by Rimarts to sample their new batch of Martinez Rose (last year this cava was sold out). And we also took a quick tour in the historical cellars of Jaume Giró i Giró and had dinner with our star producer Peret Fuster. Really wonderful visits that, again, increased me knowledge on cava production. We also heard some rumors on a new classification, Singe estate cava, coming up next year. How the labelling will look is not clear yet, however, only gran reserva cavas that are produced from start to finish by the same grower-producer could carry this classification. This would be very interesting for the consumer, so I really hope it materializes.

The Martinez rose cava has a beautiful light ruby color
The Martinez rose cava has a beautiful light ruby color
M browsing in Vila Viniteca
M browsing in Vila Viniteca
Tasting the selection at Jaume Giró i Giró
Tasting the selection at Jaume Giró i Giró

Next week (including this weekend) will be low on wine. After having a glass or two (or three) every day we were in Spain, I feel I need a detox. Next weekend though, we are holding our fall champagne tasting to customers that made purchases during our spring open house. We will be sampling some private label cavas from the UK as well as branded champagnes from the same producer. I am also tempted to mix a good, toasty cava in there. We will be doing the tasting blind to get more interesting results.

That was it for this wineweek! More about our visits at the producers and other wine-ventures to follow in a few days (after I have catched up on some sleep).

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.

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!