I am still recovering from Midsummer. Not from staying up late or having wine. Just all the excitement around seeing so many friends and family. There is so much to talk about when we see each other and never enough time to really catch up. I think quite many were even surprised to hear that we have a wine company. Luckily we brought samples so that everyone could get a taste for what we do. We spent Midsummer in the Helsinki archipelago enjoying a typical Midsummer chill and drizzle. Continue reading “Midsummer Memories”
Last week of February. The winter is soon over. Can you count March as spring already? The weather this weekend has definitely been spring-like, and we have moved on to a lighter profile of wines. I am definitely a white-wine person 80% of the year. There has been some exciting news coming out this week, with a new Guide de Michelin for the Nordics. Stockholm managed yet again to miss out on that magical three stars, but at least we got two top-tier (***) restaurants to the Nordics: Maaemo (Oslo) and Geranium (Copenhagen). I will write more about the Stockholm restaurants during the coming week. Continue reading “Wineweek 68: Nordic Stars”
Very little has happened this week. Plans have not progressed and I have had very little good food or wine. I haven’t even taken that many nice pictures to share with you (thus the poor number of shots in this weeks post). There is only one true explanation to this lack of enthusiasm, and it is that M has been away on a business trip. We are a team and wine as well as wine related things are best enjoyed when having company. Not saying I cant open a bottle of wine just by myself (last night I did) but I want to save the good ones for sharing.
There is however something I want to share with you this Sunday, and that is my new profound interest in the grape Xarello. We are old friends, Xarello and I. I have been drinking cava (where Xarello is most often present) since I came of age, and my love for the Spanish sparkling has not faltered even after I fell into the ranks of the winecurious. On the contrary, I respect cava even more. Lately (this summer) I have been trying out quite many white wines made with Xarello as the main grape and I must say they have been excellent. My most recent encounter with a Xarello white was on Friday at my favorite wine bar in Stockholm Gaston.
Xarello is one of the most grown white grape varieties in Catalonia. Xarello has a thick skin in more ways than one: The grape literally has a thick skin, and it is popular among the growers for being able to tolerate a wide range of climatic conditions. Xarello is also not too fussy about the soil composition, so it produces a solid yield year after year. The juice has an excellent balance of sugars and acids and it is highly regarded for its ability to age well. The taste is textural with lemon-acidity and stonefruit. The nose is fresh, slightly misleading with it’s floral notes. I think the taste profile goes wonderfully together with some more meaty seafood, like crab or scallops, or even some fresh and spicy dishes, like Vietnamese Pho (with lots of koriander, nomnom).
As we are soon going to Catalonia, I am actually planning to spend a day in Alella, a small town just a few miles north-west from Barcelona. This town is known for its excellent Xarello whites with lime-blossom flavor and aroma. Sounds perfect for summer 2016 doesn’t it? Now I just need to do some reading up to find the right producers to visit. What are your encounters and experiences with Xarello, and do you have any favorites to share with me for my trip?
Short but sweet, that was wineweek 40. Next week I hope we can pick up with our projects. We have planned open tastings for the 3rd and 12th of September, but we need to make a few arrangements first, like reserve the space, send out invitations, make the materials (tasting sheets) and agree on a new delivery window with out freight forwarder. September is closing in, so procrastinating further is not an option. Have a great week you all!
I have left much of the wine writing to S recently but have now found some new inspiration for other drinks than coffee. I recently spent some time in Italy (for business) and managed to sample some interesting wines. First out of the reviews is a Gewürztraminer from the very north of Italy in Alto Adige. The wine is Alto Adige Gewürztraminer Elyond DOC. The winery is the Laimburg Estate Wines located at the foot of the mountain called Monte di Mezzo in the South Tyrol. Wine has been produced and traded for a long time in the area, there are even recent discoveries of grape seeds that are 2400 year old. The current winery has been producing for more than 40 years.
The winery is actually a branch of Laimburg Research Centre of Agriculture and Forestry that works for the advancement of viticulture in South Tyrol. The winery is a half public institution, not sure how that influences their work but I could imagine that the fact Laimburg grows and produces the entire spectrum of South Tyrol’s wine varieties is connected to it. There are numerous wines produced and they are divided into two broad categories. The Estate Wines are vintage wines with a focus on varietal character, matured either solely in stainless steel or partially in large oak barrels. The Manor Selection are wines with distinctive personality: they are mostly aged in oak barrels or are specially selected.
The Alto Adige Gewürztraminer Elyond DOC is not what I would normally go for but I felt a bit adventurous so opted for this powerful white wine. It belongs to the Manor Selection and is high in alcohol content at 15%. The grapes of Gewürztraminer Elyònd come from one hectare of vineyard, situated at 350 meters above sea level, on a limestone soil, gravel and with a mixture of clay located in the town of Sella, Tramin, according to the winery one of the best areas for this varietal. The grapes have been harvested manually followed by aging for 8 months in steel tanks and for 12 months in bottle.
Unfortunately I must say that the alcohol was very present in both the nose and the flavor of it. The color was however nice golden yellow. The nose had hints of dried figs and raisin and there were clear floral notes of rose petals and lavender and a, to me, unpleasant hint of the alcohol strength. The flavor is however unfortunately also influenced by the high alcohol level. There is a lingering acidity and some spices in the flavor. I am not at all a big drinker of Gewürztraminer and this one did not convince me to change my opinion. I would rate it as a 2.5 in quality and the same for value for money (it costs around €12 for a bottle in stores and I had a glass for €5 in a restaurant in Milan).
In the start of our journey towards being a reputable wine merchant, M and I made a product strategy. We would have wines in our selection that A. we liked to drink ourselves (who else would empty all the leftover stock) and B. would be affordable to a large group of people. Due to the high costs of logistics and taxes, we will never be a cheap shop, but we will offer wines from a reasonable (to our opinion) price range of 100-300 SEK a bottle. So Primus, though it was said to be excellent, was not on the initial list.
However, that was before we actually had the chance to enjoy a full bottle with some winecurious friends. The Primus is something unique and something that I would almost invest a small fortune in, and let me tell you why:
Alvaro Castro the winemaker at Quinta da Pellada has drawn a lot of his inspiration from Cardoso de Vilhena, who for a long time was the head enologist at the Centro de Estudos Vitivinícolas de Nelas (CEN) in the Dão region. Alvaro claims to have learned almost everything from him and the 1964 white wine from Vilhena is the finest wine Alvaro ever tasted. Primus is his attempt to copy that wine.
The wine is an old field blend from a wide range of grapes handpicked from 65 year old vines that have grown on granite soils. The wine has been slowly fermented in oak barrels for two months and then an additional 3 months in old oak barrels being stirred on the lees. Before it is relaesed it spends two years in the bottle.
The blend includes a variety of grapes among them, Cercial, Bical, Verdelho, Málvasia, Terrantez, Cachorrinho, Douradinha and many more. The main grape is, however, called Encruzado, which is undoubtedly the finest white grape variety in Portugal. It is grown maily in the granite hills of Dao in the center of the country and makes rich, full-bodies wines with aromas of lemon, woody herbs and melon (mmm).
The Primus is a rich wine with notes of melon and floral overtones. The taste is slightly oxidized, but in a fresh way, and has hints of dried tropical fruit, like pineapple, pleasant citrus and nice acidity. The mouth feel is full and slightly waxy making Primus an excellent partner with white meats (we ate lightly marinated chicken). Especially M is often not a huge fan of white wines, but the Primus and Encruzado-wines in general are amongst his favorites. This is a wine that will age well up to five or ten years if one can just be patient enough not to drink it.
And coming to the price, we are talking about an average of 35-45€ depending on the year. The quality is a 4.5, but what is the value for money? The price is a bit over my limit for what I have been prepared to pay for white wines before. But what I can see happening is an epiphany. A striking realization that I have not dug in deep enough with white wines to state a roof price. This already happened with bubblies three years back, when I stepped over my 20€ limit and started sinking in to the world of champagnes (and premium cava). Perhaps it is time for me to take that step with white wines.
What do you say? What would be your limit for prices on white wine, and do you believe that a pearl like the Primus would be interesting to the wider public? In Sweden, the price would climb from the levels of Portugal and I doubt we would be able to sell it (if we actually want to make some profit) for less than 400 SEK a bottle. Would you buy six bottles if you would really like it? Help me out! No, help Primus out! And let me know if this wine should make it to the Winecurious 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).
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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.
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.
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.
I will not repeat the story on Kloof Street and Mullineux as I have written more about it in a previous review of the Kloof Street Swartland Rouge, read it here. What can be said about this Chenin Blanc is that it is not your run of the mill entry level wine. The vines used for this are over 40 years old so this is actually really interesting wine for this price level.
The Kloof Street Chenin Blanc is reminiscent of a Loire Chenin Blanc, or at least that was part of how it was described to me by the knowledgeable sommelier at Monvinic where I sampled it, and I can see what they mean. It is pale straw yellow in color but the nose was a bit strange to me, it had notes of ripe pear and apricot but also a bit of wet granite. There was however a scent that somehow was a bit stale about it, and at first I thought something was off about the wine. With some air it did however disappear but I was almost on the verge of checking with the sommelier if it corked. The wine is fresh and clean on the palate with dry pineapple and mineral but combined with a nice creaminess.
Despite my initial hesitation the wine won me over when it had some air. It rates as a 3.5 for quality and price wise it will set you back between €13-17 and that is decent value for money so also there a 3.5 rating. Pleasant, drinkable and would consider having it again.
Monvinic is a lovely wine bar located in the Eixample neighborhood in Barcelona. It looks really sleek and classy from the outside and the feeling is the same when entering. The entire place is designed by interior designer Alfons Tost and it does feel like it is a fitting design for an upscale wine bar. I must however say that while it looks nice the chairs at the tables are not very comfortable so I always prefer squeezing together in the sofa instead.
There is an extensive wine library along one of the walls and it is from what I understand fine to browse the books. I have never really found a reason to do it as I have most of the wine books I want at home. While the books are impressive the reason to come here is the wine list. The wine list by the glass is constantly changing. Most of the time there are around 30 wines available by the glass and several hundred more by the bottle.
The list by the glass is a nice mix of both Spanish and International wines. There is usually three different sparkling wines, around 10-15 reds and whites respectively and then some sweet wines as well. The wine list is presented on tablets (not iPads but some other brand) and that is of course nice but I do wish they would have made better use of the technology. There is very limited information on the wines and the producers and it would be so easy to have something more there when they have the tablets. The use of tablets does however make it very easy to change and update the wine list and that means that they sometimes change the wine list by the glass during the evening.
All the waiters serving are also trained sommeliers so it is always possible to get knowledgeable service. Or I would rather say that it should be. At times Monvinic gets very busy and it is then sometimes not possible to really get the attention of the staff. It did not really use to be like that but since the Wall Street Journal piece on Monvinic it does seem like the place also draws in more people (and to some extent more the people that want to appear to be interested in wine). I would recommend coming either a bit earlier (before 19) or a bit later (after 21.30) to get the best service. The wines are usually interesting and the prices by the glass are decent. What i really like is that it is possible to order half-glasses. It gives a good chance to sample more wines and since many of the half-glasses are around €3 it does not have to be very expensive.
Recently I sampled some interesting wines from South African Mullineux (the white Kloof Street as well as the red Mullineux) as well as some great sparklings. Amongst them an Italian sparkling, Faccoli from Francacortia (if this was a blind tasting I would have picked it as a Champagne) alongside some, while not bad, more disappointing champagne from Pehu Simonet and cava from Albet i Noya. The international selection is pretty impressive but I would actually have expected more from the Spanish wines. There are however some interesting local wines there and I have on previous visits sampled lovely wines from Castell D’Encus (they make some lovely unusual Spanish wines in the Pyreenes, their Acusp is 100% Pinot Noir and the Ekam is a 100% Riseling).
Monvinic also serves food and while the quality is pretty good I must say that prices are rather steep for it. The food is a mix of set tapas menus and some larger dishes. I often struggle to find any set menus I like (as they usually contain something I do not want/like) and as I have come with the purpose to sample some wine I do not want a full main course so prefer to eat elsewhere. All in all I do however love popping into Monvinic for a few half-glasses, some wine talk with the sommeliers and then head elsewhere for dinner. It is without a doubt one of the best wine bars in Barcelona. I may not agree with the Wall Street Journal that it is the best in the world but it is clearly a good place for a glass or two.
There is no doubt in my mind that Álvaro Castro is one of the top wine makers in Portugal. He makes an impressive range of wines in his different Quintas in the Dão region.
Alvaro de Castro is an engineer who inherited the vineyards in 1980. At that time he decided to dedicate himself fully to the wine business and restore the family tradition of producing wines. His first vintage was produced in 1989. Today he also works closely with his daughter Maria Castro.
I am sometimes struggling to grasp the range of wines that Alvaro produces. He has two main brands and that are Quinta da Saes and Quinta da Pellada but also a large variety of special projects like Carousel, Primus, PAPE, Doda (in cooperation with Dirk Niepoort) as well as his entry level wines under the Saes name. Wine production has ancient roots at Quinta de Saes. There are even records from 1527 of tax paid in wine from the Quinta and the Quinta as such dates back at least to 1258 when the earliest references of it can be found.
The vines at the different vineyards range in age from a few years up to 65 years old. As it is in Dão there is no surprise that it is planted in the hills, the average altitude is around 550 meters. The area is close to highest mountain range of Portugal and the national park of Serra d’Estrela and it also means that the vineyards are not planted in the regular pine tree surrounded clearings. The total area amounts to more than 60 hectares. The soil is granite with rows of sand and clay. They have more than 30 varietals planted but some of the bigger ones are Alfrocheiro, Cercial, Encruzado, Jaen , Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional
I struggled a bit to find the place as there are no real signs for it once reaching the approximate location given by the GPS. I did however by chance see something that looked like some wine barrels and decided to turn into the yard there and luckily it was enough. I was greeted by Álvaro’s daughter Maria (and the three friendly dogs following her) so I knew I was in the right place. She informed me that most people need to ask for directions in the little village close by.
Maria told me to leave my little Citroen behind as it would not be able to easily drive where we were going. We were heading up to the Quinta da Pellada and for that we need the 4-wheel drive of the old Toyota Jeep. So we all, the dogs included, jumped in and headed up in the hills. In addition to producing great grapes Quinta da Pellada also has some wonderful views and a grand old building that they are in the process of restoring. It was partially destroyed during the civil war but is now looking very nice. It is not entirely restored but already looks fantastic.
We also drove down to Saes and had a look at some of the newer vines that they are planting. I am certain that there are many more exciting things coming in the future this producer.
We then returned to the winery to sample some wines. I also had the pleasure of meeting Antonio Madeira, another wine maker, more on him and his wines to come in future posts. It was lovely to sit down inside by the fire place, protected from the slightly cold winds, and sample some of these great wines.
The wines we sampled were:
Quinta de Saes white 2014: Citrus and melon aromas. The palate is fresh and crisp with mineral and a hint of spice. Rating 3.
Quinta de Saes rosé 2014: Fresh with notes red fruit. On the palate is fresh with hints of fruit and a nice acidity. Not a bad wine but just not a great one. Rating 2.5
Quinta de Saes red 2012: A blend of Tinta Roriz, Jaen, Alfrocheiro and Touriga Nacional. It is a young wine, dark ruby colored. Nice earthy aroma mixed with ripe berries. Balanced with a lot of fruit. At this price level an excellent wine. Rating 3.5.
Quinta de Saes Reserva Encruzado 2013: This a 100% Encruzado wine. Very nice touch of spice and fresh fruits, green melon and apple. Very nice and crisp acidity. Rating 3.5.
Quinta de Saes Reserva red 2012: Blend of old vines (up to 40 varieties) Dark and sweet fruits in the nose. The flavor has a mix of spiciness and sweet fruits. Nice balance and structure, long finish. Very nice wine. Rating 4
Quinta da Pellada white Primus 2012: Made from old vines so the percentages of grapes are not certain but there is Encruzada, Bical, Terrantez, Verdelho and more in there (I believe Maria mentioned it was 35-40 varieties). The nose has lovely mineral, melon and citrus and it has a lovely creamy mouth feel, crispy and mineral on the palate. It somehow remains light while being concentrated in flavor. Lovely now but should age very well. This could very well be one of my favorite whites ever. Rating 5.
Quinta da Pellada Red 2003: Deep red color. The aroma is a mix of dark cherries and plum with some ripe fruits. Herbal and black cherries gives the wine a wonderfully concentrated mouth feel. Rating: 4.5
I also later sampled the Carroucel but will be a separate review on that. All in all a lovely visit and I do hope we can find someway to work together as they produce some excellent wines.