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The Family Tradition of Antico Broilo in Friuli Colli Orientali

In past articles about my beloved Friuli-Venezia Giulia I have had the chance of talking about the autochthonous grapes that I so much love: The Ribolla Gialla (also known as Rebula in Slovenia), the Vitovska, the Istrian Malvasia (Malvazija Istarska), the Friulano, the Verduzzo… They are varieties that produce wines that I love since the first time I tasted and enjoyed them.

There are two red varieties growing only in the Colli Orientali del Friuli DOC wine region that I think they are amazing. The Schioppettino di Prepotto is one of them. This is a grape that grows around the municipality of Prepotto, in the province of Udine. I have tasted and enjoyed the wines Tenuta di Angoris, Stefano Novello of Ronco Severo and Marco Sara are producing. My dear friend Mario Zanusso from I Clivi started producing an Schioppettino wine in the 2019 vintage that I still haven’t tasted but I’m looking forward to enjoying it. They are outstanding wines in my opinion. Another name for this grape is Ribolla Nera, though it is not related to the Ribolla Gialla.

There is another autochthonous red variety that has become very important. Also around the small town of Prepotto grows this particular grape variety called Refosco Dal Pedunculo Rosso. The RDR is a grape belonging to the family of the Refosco/Refosk and the Terrano/Teran, named accordingly to which side of the Italian/Slovenian/Croatian border we are. It is a grape high in the acidity department that if not managed well can give very rustic wines. Some important producers making RDR wines are Bastianich, Castello di Rubbia, Primosic o Ronchi di Ciala in Italy, Georgio Clai in Croatia and Marko Fon and Uros Klabjan in Slovenia.

When you know how to work with these two varieties you are able to produce great wines. Such is the case of Massimo Durì, heir of a family winemaking tradition. Massimo runs Antico Broilo, where magic happens with both the Refosco Dal Pedunculo Rosso and the Schioppettino. His philosophy is quite simple but true to the grapes, following the tradition passed on from father onto sons for four generations: spontaneous fermentation with indigenous yeasts, minimal intervention, minimum amount of sulfites and allowing Nature to help grow the wines. In the red wines, ageing takes place in oak barrels for 24 months. Then some time in the bottle is added, and longer ageing periods for their Riserva wines.

The Dusì family runs six hectares of vineyards producing 25-28,000 bottles per year. They also grow Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Ribolla Gialla and Friulano. The two white varieties macerate on the skins for a few days before ageing for a few months in steel tanks before bottling and going into the market. When talking about his Ribolla, Massimo says that ‘it is a great interpretation of a simple grape variety but with a determined and clean character.’

But the place where Massimo feels at home is with the red wines. As some people say, Massimo is a red wine producer living in a land of white wines, as is the Collio. He loves to age his red wines for twenty-four months. All of them are single varietal wines, coming from different small plots, some of them reaching 70 years of age.

In years where the grapes are of outstanding quality he produces Riserva wines. The Merlot has been elevated to Riserva status in the vintages of 2003 and 2016 only. The Refosco was Riserva in 2003, 2008, 2011 and 2016. The elegant Schioppettino di Prepotto was produced under the Riserva label in the vintages 2003, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2015. The wines age twenty-four moths in oak and then another twenty-four months in the bottle before being released into the market. According to Massimo, ‘this is a very eclectic wine, almost like the greatest Pinot Noir, and for this reason we like to think about it as one of the most elegant and finest wines.’

 The Refosco is a very interesting wine. My first Refosco wines were very, let’s say, very rough, wines with high acidity and quite unbalanced. Since then I have been able to enjoy good Refosco wines, though I was very reluctant to that, and discovered a native grape that makes outstanding wines. In my opinion it still has that kind of ‘rusticity´ that I found in the first place, but when the winemakers know how to work with it, the outcome is very good. Massimo, as rossista, knows how to do it, and his Refosco Dal Pedunculo Rosso is very good. True to its character, balanced and elegant, a wine that makes you enjoy while you drink it.

I haven’t said anything about the Collio being a place where you might find great wines produced with the Pinot Noir. As I mentioned, Friuli-Venezia Giulia is a place where the best white wines of Italy are born. However, the Pinot Noir offers great wines here. And Massimo’s is a great example. Very fine wine, with a medium body but rich and elegant in the palate.

The Ribolla Gialla is the queen of the Collio. And this being the case, the one produced by Antico Broilo is also majestic. Smooth honeyed aromas that capture from the very beginning and with an elegant palate that makes you enjoy not only an orange wine, but a well produced wine. 2019 was a great vintage for this wine.

So far I have been able to taste these three wines, but I’m planning on tasting the rest of Massimo’s wines, especially the Schioppettino. I have found and enjoyed really good wines using this varietal and I can only think about how it will be the one Antico Broilo is producing.

Soon we will talk to Massimo Durì about his winemaking style.

Photos (C) Antico Broilo

The white wines of Goyo García Viadero

There is something magical about that moment when the lights leave behind the darkness that previously flooded the galleries. Add to that magic seeing rows of oak barrels filled with wine that you are about to taste. The humidity, the coolness in the ambient of these galleries is certainly daunting. Even more when you realize you are 20 or 30 meters below the ground level. It has an old movie atmosphere, these movies that make your eyes open wild when you begin to see unending rows of boxes full of secrets abandoned for decades.

A bar counter, old diner tables, some family paintings, an old wooden door and an huge old screw press, one of those occupying the entire room that needed three or four oxen to make it run. That’s all there is. That’s all there is now, because back in the day, it was only a ground level room full of debris. So much debris in fact, that it would require a long time to remove all of it to see the shape of the room. Once they started removing the debris, they discovered a blind door. This door was supposed to lead into a room, but what it hid behind was a ladder carved into the stone floor. The ladder went down and everything in the way had to be removed. He discovered a small underground gallery that was more than perfect in terms of adequate humidity and temperature conditions for the wine to make its transition from childhood to maturity.

Back in the day, the gallery was decorated with walls and rubble that covered the access to other unknown galleries that extended below the surface of Gumiel de Mercado, in the province of Burgos, Spain. And it is now, in these galleries, where Goyo García Viadero makes the ageing of his wines. There you feel out of time, out of space. Up there it can be sunny, it can rain, it can be day or night. Down here it does not matter, you find yourself alone with all that wine that when the lights go out again will continue its slow journey through life in the tranquility of the underground. It’s hard not to be overwhelmed in this place. Tunnels that seemed to harbor an old subway line used as a bomb shelter during the war that, however, is dedicated today to such hedonistic pleasure and make us enjoy a good wine.

Because Goyo makes exceptional wines with which you delight endlessly. Wines that I refer to as meditation wine. You grab a glass, a bottle and a corkscrew, you sit on a comfortable sofa or terrace, and with the glass in one hand you dedicate to meditate about how to solve any problem coming to your mind. The bad thing is that the wine, the whole bottle I mean, will run out before you have found a solution to the problem, but what you have enjoyed is not taken away by anyone.

I am not going to detail all the wines that Goyo makes and that I like, because it would take me a long time and you, as my faithful reader, would stop giving me your kind attention. Goyo produces a good bunch of wines, and all of them are wonderful. Not only those who are now ready to be enjoyed, like the 2018 vintage, but there are some wines Goyo plans to release into the market no sooner than in 2029. You read it well, not a mistake. One decade from now. He has wines in a batch of barrels, in the most remote part of the galleries, which will live there for ten years, and then will be bottled and put on the market. The wait is going to be difficult, it must be said. Any leads? Sorry, we will have to wait.

There are three of his wines, however, that make me lose my mind in joy when I taste them. A particular red of all those that Goyo makes and that are his specialty, the red wines. García Georgieva Finca Guijarrales 2018 is a 100% Graciano that amazes me. I’m not favoring red wines lately, but this wine is something truly exceptional.

Goyo started in 2017 experimenting with the maceration on the skins of a white wine. He started doing it with the Albillo grape. The result was García Georgieva Albillo, and it was good enough for him to add a second wine in 2019, this time with the Malvasia. This wine is García Georgieva Malvasia. In both cases, it is not a long period on the skins, just a few days. Giacomo always tells me that I have to explain the wines, and though I don’t like to do sensorial tastings, I can say that his Malvasia reminds me of the wines of my beloved Friuli, where that grape is one of my queens. A very, very well made wine, fresh and honest with the variety. For its part, Albillo is reputed to be a grape with low acidity. Perhaps for this reason Goyo has added 20% Malvasía. This is how you get a really balanced wine.

Both are wines with a very expressive and elegant nose and palate, wines that grab you from the first time you enjoy them. We were tasting both at the same time, each in a glass, and I was going from one to the other without rest, smelling, tasting, concentrating on the sensations evoked, on the tasted wines and on the wines to be tasted, meditating (again) on Goyo’s ability to make wines like these, with soul, with body, with personality and character.

Of course there will be people who will say that since Goyo works his wines naturally, nothing added, not even a small part of sulfites, they are not his thing. This fills me with satisfaction. Only a handful of bottles are produced of both wines, not even reaching 2,000 a year, so there will be more for me.

They are not my children, so I do not have to choose one among them. As long as I have two glasses at hand, I can always enjoy them at the same time. And that’s what I plan on doing.

We will talk about everything else with Goyo García Viadero. In the meantime, I will continue to enjoy his wines.

Maischevergoren 2017

Maischevergoren 2017
Grape: Sauvignon?
Orange Wine.

Weingut Rebenhof Hartmut Aubell
Ottenberg 38, 8461 Ratsch an der Weinstraße
South Styria, Austria

Wine Tour in the Italian Collio

Recently we talked about doing a wine tour in Slovenia, especially in the wine region of Goriška Brda and a bit on Vipavska Dolina. Today we will talk about doing another wine tour, this time in Italy, and very close to where we stayed last time but now at the other side of the border.

The Collio, that small part of the world in the heart of wine country in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, has me completely infatuated. In Italy you can find more wine regions, more wineries and more wines than those you’d be able to taste in a lifetime. For me this is Paradise on Earth. It will be better to start slowly in a beautiful place with incredible landscapes and amazing wineries, luscious wines and especially, wonderful people.

Going to the Collio, we firstly need to fly to either Marco Polo airport in Venice or to Aeroporto di TriesteFriuli-Venezia Giulia, in Trieste, but the first one is better served by many airlines. Some low-cost companies go to Trieste as well. From here our best option will be going straight to our accommodations. Since we are going to do wine tourism, I think the best will be to stay inside the wine region. The places mentioned below should work really well for you, though you have many more options in Gorizia or Trieste or other small B&Bs around. Many would require a bit more driving, though. These places are very close from each other, so a great option would be to stay in two or three of them, thus visiting also their cellars and vineyards. We are talking about a wine tour, so the more wineries we visit, the best for our total enjoyment.

For our first two days, we should dedicate them to wineries close to Udine, in the province of the same name. Here we have some of our best local heroes: Mario Zanusso is the leading man in I Clivi. A winery that is best known for its work with the local Friulano variety. They produce three different Friulano wines every year: the let’s say more generic one, San Pietro vineyard, and the two single vineyard wines coming for Brazan and Galea plots. The work Mario does with the Verduzzo is more than outstanding, and this Ribolla Gialla, both fresh and the Pet Nat version, are to write home about them.

Not far from him we will find two amazing guys. Marco Sara is also big on Verduzzo and Friulano. Erba Alta 2016, a special Friulano, is a wine I’m still dreaming about.

Both Mario and Marco work on the fresh side of wine. Neighbor Stefano Novello turns to the macerated side of business. Ronco Severo is the winery he is commanding. His Ribolla and Chardonnay are wines that I enjoyed so much when and after visiting him. He is also producing a Friulano wine, of course, as we are in Friuli. And if you want to taste a special red wine, go for his Merlot. You won’t regret it.

Since we are in Udine, Angoris is worth a visit. Big winery with thousands of bottles per year, but their Schioppettino is an outstanding wine. This is an autochthonous variety, as well as the Refosco dal Pedunculo Rosso, which has a DOC on its own. Marco Sara and Mario Zanusso are also producing great Schioppettino wines.

Lodging in this area has other options for us. There are many more, obviously, but being in wine country we want to stay close to wineries and vineyards. Therefore, our options are La Subida Country Resort, in the outskirts of Udine, Azienda Agricola Renato Keber, in Cormons and Relais Russiz Superiore in Capriva del Friuli. La Subida is a country place consisting on lodging and two restaurants. A typical countryside trattoria and a more special one-Michelin star restaurant. Amazing place for both sleeping and having lunch and/or dinner.

Relais Russiz Superiore is the hotel inside Russiz Superiore winery, owned by the Marco Felluga family. An incredible place where you might be able to have lunch with Roberto Felluga and his family. And also a wonderful chance to taste all their wines under the Marco Felluga and Russiz Superiore labels.

Renato Keber has a family-owned winery where you will be able to enjoy his work macerating white grapes. Outstanding work, we have to say.

While we bunk here visiting the local wineries, plenty of them by the way, another great place to visit for lunch or dinner is L’Argine a Vencò, a very special restaurant counting with a Michelin Star. They also have a B&B.

After our two days here (maybe more, of course, since we have a lot to visit), we will move southeast in the direction of Trieste. Plenty of places to stay as well. Staying at Renato Keber’s is an great option. We can go to any of the hotels in Gorizia, or staying in the countryside. This second option is what I suggest, so either Keber or crossing the Slovenian border to Medana are best options. You can read about Medana in my previous article about Slovenia wine tour.

I would dedicate three days for this stint in our trip. Oslavia is huge in terms of wineries worth visiting. San Floriano del Collio is a beautiful village with vineyards everywhere. Wherever you look at, your eyes will be overwhelmed by the view of thousands of grape clusters if you go in the right season.

San Floriano and neighbor Oslavia are home to some of the best (in my opinion) winemakers around. Here we can find the members of a group called Associazione Produttori Ribolla di Oslavia, devoted to produce wines with the wonderful local variety Ribolla Gialla. Members are Dario Prinčič, Stefano Bensa from La Castellada, Saša Radikon, Rinaldo Fiegl from Fiegl, Silvan Primosic from Primosic and Ana and Franco Sosol from Il Carpino.

Outside the association but still in Oslavia, you can’t miss Joško Gravner, the father of the macerated wines and one of the true masters working with the macerated Ribolla Gialla. Any vintage you get a hold on is wonderful. Also here we can visit Franco Terpin and Matijaž Terčič if you are like me and love macerated white wines.

Another great option for staying overnight here is Azienda Vitivinicola Paraschos, in San Floriano del Collio. Alexis Paraschos is running the place after father Evangelos stepped down. His Malvasia aged in Amphora is a must-taste wine.

In the road from San Floriano to Gorizia you will find Damijan Podversic, a biodynamic producer making amazing orange wines. Please do visit him.

In our final days of this stint of our trip we will get closer to Trieste. We will go to Prepotto, a small, small village close to the Adriatic Sea. Here, for us lovers of orange wines, we will have a field day. Benjiamino Zidarich and Sandi Skerk are the guys here, both with amazing wines using the Malvasia. This is Italian Carso at its best.

Right in front of them is where Matej Lupinc has its winery and bed and breakfast. He doesn’t macerate his Malvasia or his Vitovska, but he does so with his Stara Braida, a blend of both. Wonderful wine.

Being located here, we have more visits to make. Going up to San Michele Del Carso, a place famous during the hard years of WWI and the Austro Hungarian Empire. This area, home of battles between ferocious armies, holds now Castello Di Rubbia, a winery lead by Nataša Cernič. Vitovska and Malvasia at its best.

After visiting Nataša, 300 meters from her place is Locanda Devetak. You won’t ever find a better Slovenian-style restaurant that this one. Avgustine runs his family place combining the local food with one of the best cellars you will ever find around. Try to get him allowing you to visit it, but you will need to be there well ahead of business time. Here you will also be able to stay overnight in their B&B.

After this visit, Matej Skerlj will be waiting for you with a glass of Vitovska and another of Malvasia. He also holds a B&B, so we have plenty of options here.

And you can’t leave the Carso not visiting Paolo Vodopivec. He is one of my true Gods of orange wines. He only works with the Vitovska but he does it in a way you have to, and I really mean it, you have to give it a try.

After all our wines tasted and great local food enjoyed, it is time for going back home to get some rest and get ready for our next trip. Which one we will visit? We need to carefully think about it.

Where to sleep

La Subida Country Resort. www.lasubida.it
L’Argine a Vencò www.largineavenco.it/
Azienda Agricola Renato Keber. www.renatokeber.com/
Relais Russiz Superiore. www.russizsuperiore.it/

Azienda Vitivinicola Paraschos. www.paraschos.it/
Azienda Agricola Lupinc. www.lupinc.it
Azienda Agricola Skerlj. www.slerlj.it
Locanda Devetak. www.devetak.com/

Where to eat

La Subida Country Resort. www.lasubida.it
L’Argine a Vencò. www.largineavenco.it/
Locanda Devetak. www.devetak.com/

Where to sleep

I Clivi. www.iclivi.wine
Marco Sara. www.marcosara.com
Ronco Severo. www.roncosevero.it
Marco Felluga / Russiz Superiore. www.russizsuperiore.it
Tenuta Angoris. www.angoris.com

Dario Prinčič. www.princicdario.com
La Castellada. www.lacastellada.it
Radikon. www.radikon.it
Fiegl. www.fieglvini.com
Primosic. www.primosic.com
Il Carpino. www.ilcarpino.com
Joško Gravner. www.gravner.it
Franco Terpin. www.francoterpin.com
Matijaž Terčič. www.tercic.com

Damijan Podversic. www.damijanpodversic.com

Castello de Rubbia. www.castellodirubbia.com
Vodopivec. www.vodopivec.it
Skerk. www.skerk.com
Skerlj. www.skerlj.it
Zidarich. www.zidarich.it
Matej Lupinc. www.lupinc.it

Header Photo (C) Zidarich

Feeling The Vineyard Under My Feet

My friend Iñaki is aeronautical engineer and for many years he dedicated himself to repairing certain aircraft breakdowns. One day he told me that when he was in the airport hangar and things were not going well, he just had to touch a plane and realize that that was what made everything else worthwhile. It is a story that he told me years ago and that I still remember.

Something similar goes for me, though in another part of life, of course. It’s been a long time since I stopped traveling by plane for many reasons, so I go by with photographing them every now and then. But it’s not the airplanes that sometimes give me that much-needed inner peace, it’s just setting foot in a vineyard.

This vintage I have had the opportunity to share a few days with Juan and Susana, two very dear friends of mine who have a winery. I really liked the days when it was harvest time. Like Iñaki, walking through the vineyard also made everything worthwhile at that moment. There were no problems; there was no external noise. It was just the vines and I. They laughed, because their custom is to gather everyone close together and have different conversations about music, especially Spanish rock, some movies and a lot of wine and food while harvesting. We used to start around eight in the morning, and the truth is that at that time I’m not much of a conversation partner. At nine o’clock either, to be honest with you, so once Juan gave us our assignments, I took my bucket and my clippers and I went to the other end of the vineyard, away from the conversations. And of course, I did what I wanted. Not because of being against Juan’s instructions, of course, he is the one who knows a lot more than what I do, but because I let the vines guided me.

That was when I enjoyed the most. I liked going around each vine looking where I was going to start pruning. Then, go over and pick each cluster with one hand, carefully cutting and carefully placing it in the bucket. The care was at the beginning, after five hours of harvest I no longer had so much, but everything was still just as special. It was, is, a great experience, observing each vine and seeing how different clusters have grown during the last months according to what was done during winter pruning. Some clusters were larger, some smaller, but very large and healthy grapes formed all of them.

It is indeed wonderful to see the result of working the vineyard without chemicals, pesticides nor any other product. Juan has some vineyards he doesn’t do any kind of work on them. But above all, that connection with each bunch, in silence in the middle of a vineyard several kilometers away from the nearest village and in a place where there is only us. Background conversations, reflections on life and the way things are going, thinking about how a plant has created a bunch of grapes that will end up turning into a glass of wine in a few months, after different procedures in the winery: destemming, pressing, fermentation, etc.

It is true that it is strenuous work. You are cutting cluster by cluster and placing it in the bucket. When the bucket is full, you have to go to the boxes to unload it and return to the vine. Repeat the process over and over again until the vineyard or the day is over and tomorrow we go back to finish it. I can’t explain it, but being in the vineyard surrounded by vines full of grapes and harvesting is something special. It is a repetitive task and, as I have mentioned, exhausting, but it is very rewarding too. I don’t talk to plants, nor do I sing to them, but I do respect them. They have worked hard for months to get to this point.

It’s been a couple of weeks, a few more when you read these lines, than the harvest ended. One day we went to the field to do two other tasks related to the vines. First we were cutting the sierpes of the vines that have American rootstock. It turns out that in many of them, below the grafted part, which is also the underground part, vine shoots grow that, if not cut in time, absorb all the food from the soil and the plant above the graft ends up dying due to lack of nutrients. The work consists of removing the soil that cover the root to get to the sierpes and remove them with pruning clippers or, in most cases with a hand ax. This ensures that the entire flow of the sage goes from the roots to the aerial part of the vine. In this way, the plant will continue to produce quality bunches for many years.

The second task we did was winter pruning. Once the harvest is finished, the shoots are not cut nor the leaves are removed. They are still full of sap, so you have to wait for the vegetative cycle of the plant to finish. This is when the leaves dry up and fall off, and all the sap returns to the roots. Thus, the plant is prepared to face the cold of winter.

There are many written manuals and many professionals who organize courses on how to do a correct pruning. Suffice it to say that each grape variety is pruned in a particular way; each training style (bush vine, trellis, etc.) is also pruned differently. It is even pruned in one way or another if you are going to enter the vineyard with a tractor and do not want to damage the arms of the vine.

When we started pruning, the sensations were the same. Observe the plant, decide which arms to leave, which arms to prune, how many buds to leave, which ones and why, remove the parts of the vine that were no longer useful and which by removing them will help make the plant grow with more vigor giving greater yield.

Like Iñaki with airplanes, I find my calm in a vineyard. Carefully cutting the clusters during the harvest, removing the sierpes and selecting buds and thumbs during pruning are special moments. Those that you enjoy in silence and are shared between you and the plant, surrounded by nature, a blue sky clear of upon us and with heat or morning fogs. Everything counts and everything is felt in those moments when everything happens while I keep my feet in the vineyard.

Manu Guardiola, Viticultor in Xaló, Alicante

In the province of Alicante (Spain), there are projects that stand out not only for the quality of their wines, but also for the people behind them. We have already spoken previously of Pepe Mendoza, in the small village of Lliber of the Marina Alta of Alicante.

A few kilometers inland from Lliber we find another town called Xaló. This is where Manu Guardiola Viticultor sets on motion his passion for wine. Farmer tradition in the family and with oenologist studies, Manu began making wine with his father many years ago for their own consumption, since the family has a handful of hectares they have been devoted to grapes and fro time to time they used to add more plots. As a result of this work, Manu now has four hectares spread over the La Solana area, surrounding Xaló and some other small plot in the Plá de Lliber area, in the upper parts of Bernia and in Xábea/Javea. Monastrell, Garnacha Tintorera, Syrah, Merlot and the autochthonous Giró among the reds, and Moscatel and a little bit of Merseguera are the white varieties he is working with.

Manu is one of those winegrowers honest with his grapes. His plots are the place where the grapes are born and grow naturally, and there he works organically, using only a little Bordeaux mixture and sulfur. In the winery he works without oenological additives. His cellar is in the basement of his house, where he has stainless steel tanks and the occasional barrel. We might call it garage, because though there is no room for a car or access to it, the space could be more to produce what we can call vins de garage. In any case, and whatever we call it, it is one of those places that exudes passion. I have to be honest and I must say that there is a bit of disorder, but that is part of the charm that is breathed there, which is a lot.

Manu decided to make wine more seriously in 2015. I mean serious about putting it up for sale, of course, because its wines are serious, very serious. But unlike other winemakers starting out in the world of wine, Manu can afford to wait a few harvests before releasing his wines to the market.

His red wine available today Els Marges Vi Negre 2015, a great assembly of 45% Giró, 30% Monastrell, 10% Syrah, 10% Merlot and 5% Merseguera, from which he only has a few bottles remaining. Then he will move on to 2017. Considering that until recently he produced about 4,000 bottles and that he is now doubling that number, selling 2015 now has a lot of merit. Merit also because it is really good and I don’t really understand how’s possible he still has some bottles available. I mentioned that I like his wines, and this one shows absolutely well the character of the local Giró that I love so much: medium body, a controlled alcohol level and eight-months aging in 225-liter barrels which makes so enjoyable tasting this wine.

Els Marges Vi Rosat is another of Manu’s piece of art. In this case it is a direct press rosé of which he is selling now the 2019 vintage. A very well made wine, 70% Giró, 25% Monastrell and 5% Merseguera. I ‘m not a big fan of rosés, but I have to say that Manu is making me a believer.

The third and last wine that Manu produces is Els Marges Vi Blanc Brisat. Brisat is how they call in the Mediterranean area wines whose must has been in contact with the skins for a period of time, that is, it is an orange wine! 93% Moscatel and 7% Merseguera, with a maceration period of four days. 2018 is the vintage on sale, but I have to go back to see Manu, so maybe he won’t have it if you talk to him after I have gone. This wine is really made to my style, fresh, elegant, full of flavors and a very cool tannic. We tasted two vintages, 2017 and 2018, and on top of the difference between both of them, they were very good. 2017 lighter, 2018 much more tannic and dense. This was mine, but 2017 was great too. Two different vintages in this style of orange wine that offers two contrasting personalities. Quite a success.

You may have already noticed that I really like Manu’s wines. We tasted several vintages to see the differences, and also some tank and barrel samples. Enough to realize that Manu knows what he is doing and that I have to keep an eye on what he is doing. Producers like him are the ones worth following.

We will soon talk to Manu Guardiola about his passion for wine.

Why we do not call orange wine an orange wine?

Sometimes I preach in the desert. Not for fun, of course, and not only a few times, either. It rather happens frequently, because the Powers-that-be, even in this wine thing of ours, they are still hard to bring down. It’s not that I’m gonna get depressed because we people in wine industry barely agree on anything, but it saddens me that we’re not able to agree on something as simple as what is an orange wine. And it’s not that I’m referring to the large groups that don’t want anyone to live outside the box, or to the small producers who sell motorcycles that don’t have an engine. I mean that we can’t even agree on when to call a wine orange and when not.

The orange wine name, or originally amber wine as it was, comes from the Caucasus region where Georgia is located now. About 8,000 years ago they began to make white wines following the same winemaking style as reds wine, that is, macerating the must with the skins. Why? Very simple. They didn’t have anything other than the substances in the grape skins to protect and preserve the wine. This maceration period gave the must an amber color, and that name remained until the end of the last century, when this style of winemaking began to spread outside the Caucasus. Far from that region it began to be called orange wine. It is still known, however, as amber wine and some producers from Italy and Slovenia also call it the same way. In Spain, for example, throughout the Mediterranean area it is known as Brisado or Brisat. In areas of Castilla and León it is known as Embabujado.

In the end, they are still different names to refer to a type of wine coming from white grapes whose must has been macerated on the skins for a period of time that is left to the decision of the producer. In other words, an orange wine is a wine marked by its elaboration style. It is not a wine marked by the color resulting from the maceration process, because there are orange wines that are perfectly golden or pale yellow in color. We do not, I repeat, we do not call a wine orange just because its color is orange. We should call a wine orange when the vinification includes a period of skin contact.

An orange wine is not a white wine, since white wine is not macerated with the skins (pre-fermentation or cold maceration is not the same). It is not a rosé or red wine because it does not come from red grapes. I have always defended that it is a different wine color, although it seems to me that I am somewhat alone in this. There is white wine, rosé wine, red wine, and orange wine. This is my position and this is what I have been defending for years.

There are producers who have so many years of experience making wine and who have recently tried to make a white wine with skin contact for the first time. They didn’t know they were making an orange wine because they had never heard of them. Something that is perfectly logical, on the other hand. There is so much to learn and know in the world of wine that it is impossible to know everything. There are producers who believe that an orange wine has to be orange in color in order to be called that. Wrong.

A rosé wine is made from red grapes. Its must is in contact with the skins for a few hours, maybe overnight, or even just a few minutes. This period gives the must its characteristic pinkish or reddish hue. Hence, we call a wine rosé because of its style of production.

If we do not have any problem for calling a wine rosé regardless of the time the must passes through the skins, why do we do it in the case of an orange wine? It must be first said that there is nothing regulated in this regard. Orange is not a recognized category in terms of color, as I have mentioned before. There is also no regulation of the time the must has to stay on the skins for us to call a specific wine orange, brisadobrisat, amber or embabujado.

As my faithful reader, you already know what I am going to say, because I have proclaimed this in all four corners of the world: if we call rosé a wine whose must has been in contact with the skins for minutes or hours, or only during the pressing time, for me a wine belongs to the orange wine class if it has had a maceration time. I don’t consider cold maceration as part of the production of an orange wine, but rather a way for reducing the temperature of the grapes before pressing to preserve flavors and aromas. Maceration for me consists of having whole or partially broken grapes in a container for a period of time in which some kind of punching may or may not be done, even if it’s just pushing the hat down with your hands.

And how long this skin contact period should be? If it goes for 24 hours, it works for me. Less than that would work too, but I don’t see the effects of the skins in the must for maybe 12 hours. I do not recall cases of an orange wine whose maceration period was less than four days. The Pinot Grigio is a variety whose skin dyes the must very quickly; therefore the skin contact time is around four days. This is a somewhat common period, as is a week. In most of the cases I know, the period usually goes from one to four weeks. There are some cases where the skin contact goes for six months or even a year, though this is less common.

So it gives me chills when a winemaker (who also makes orange wines) says that four days of maceration does not allow a wine to be called orange. I believe that putting limits on this only makes it more difficult to get a wider recognition of this winemaking style. Why not four days? Where is the minimum? If there is no legislation in this regard, and I think it will take some time until we have one, wouldn’t it be better if wine producers and people involved in the wine industry reached an agreement? It doesn’t hurt at all, man, and it helps a lot. I think it would be ridiculous organizing an orange wine tasting and have to say that if the maceration on the skins lasts for three days, it is not an orange wine, when the winemaking style says so. An orange wine is not an orange wine because it is orange or because it has been macerating with the skins for five days or more. A wine is orange because the must of white grapes has been macerated with the skins.

I have recently found couple of producers making an orange wine coming from red grapes. Obviously, and for all the aforementioned reasons, that’s not an orange wine. This is just adding confusion to the wine market.

I will continue to preach in the desert, which I have a lot of practice at, but with a glass or four of a good orange wine of my liking. My stay in the desert, I am afraid, will be one of a long maceration.

The Bvscon made wine by Javier Caravaca

We were in his living room sharing a few wines, when he approached with an open bottle of wine with a funny label. The label is very much to my taste because its style is that in decoration is called Minimalist. The literature on the back label was also to my liking, very original, very literary, as expected from the producer. So far everything was good.

Then taste. Well, it was very good. 13.5% abv, again very much to my liking. Little extraction, very good again. Balanced body, no hard tannins, no astringency. As I like a red wine to be (ups, I had not mentioned its color before). So I looked him straight in the eye and very solemnly said: “Fucking good.”

And that’s it.

It is exciting when a friend introduces you to his newborn son, because of the continuity of the human kind. In my case, I am much more excited when a friend presents me with a wine that he has made. And even more excited if the wine is the first one he makes. That thing is very cool, but if it comes from whom it comes from, it does it much more. Not because The Bvscon. Chapter 1. El Lobo vintage 2019 is his first wine and it is also very good. What makes me even happier is that Javier Caravaca is the winemaker.

Javier is one of those jack-of-all-trades men. When we met for the first time, it was because he was and still is a wine distributor in Valencia, Spain. There he runs Vinos Raros, where you can find, uhmm , well, wines made from a different point of view. Javier also writes https://javiercaravaca.com/, a website dedicated to current affairs. Politics, society, things of those that concern us lately in a big way. He also publishes some of these articles in newspapers in his region.

We haven’t finished yet. As a poet, he has also written and published two books: Ellas. Bitches, Witches and Snakeswhich contains 17 must-read stories about women, or rather, about the female condition, published in 2020, and Oedipus Without a Sphinx, published in 2018, which consists of 23 stories about human darkness And now, to finish off the job, he produces a wine. He has told me that he can play pool, but that remains to be seen. Until that time comes, we will talk to him.

Good morning, Javi. A pleasure talking to you and thank you very much for your collaboration. How does a wine salesman write books, publish a website and make his first wine in the 24 hours that he has a day? 

Well, very easy: the first eight hours of the day I dedicate myself to eating and working, that is, reading and writing; I put the next eight hours to taste wines, select and make them known, which has been the job of a dealer; and the remaining eight hours to think and design wines as no one has ever thought of before, or at least with a personal perspective that is different from the rest. And, before you insist, the other eight hours are for playing pool, of course.

Which came first: the blank page or the bunch of grapes?

That was a long time ago, it was in adolescence, they both came at the same time. I think I fell in love with a girl, a Viña Tondonia white and a sonnet by Quevedo in the afternoon. Coming to adulthood I began to be seriously interested in literature, to feed myself on verses and Greek philosophy, myths and novels from all over the world, and to drink wines with passion, each time loving them, understanding, without realizing it, by some were so good and others were not. Also at that stage I won my first billiard tournament, by the way. [Laughs]

Why Cencibel (Tempranillo) and why Albacete?

Because of Juan Miguel de la Cruz, no doubt. It did not matter the area or the grape, but the soul. I met Juanmi when I was launching Vinos Raros. He presented me his portfolio and I fell in love with a very simple one that he makes in Villarrobledo, from a small old Cencibel plot. It is a very sweet carbonic maceration, in the sense of tender and kind, as I had never tasted before. Over time, as the idea of El Bvscon matured, I thought of designing wines in collaboration with winemakers that would shake my heart, and I thought it would be a good idea to contribute something where things were already done well. It occurred to me that Juanmi’s wonderful wine could be something bigger, that starting from those precious wickers we could make a high-altitude wine together, because there were details of elaboration that he hadn’t thought of. That is the idea of El Bvscon, a broad project in which, based on the good work of a winegrower, I can bring my perspective on the world of wines and do something more special that he would not have thought of before. This is how Chapter I was born, of a series that I hope will be very fruitful.

Tinajas (clay amphora) of the Master José Gimena instead of oak. Good choice?

I would say very good, and also necessary. In my opinion, the youthfulness of carbonic maceration wines should not be smoothed over with treatments, but pampered, to leave the fruit in its place and protagonist. But it doesn’t hurt either to temper the verve, like the kids, who are handsome and strong, but with an unbridled momentum that should be tamed. The clay is one of the ways to achieve it, refine without much makeup. But the decision was not a divine inspiration, but, as I said, a necessary thing: the plot is in Villarrobledo, The land of centuries-old tinajas. They are the best in the world, those of maestro José Gimena, dean of the order of potters, mentor, by the way, of the famous Juan Padilla.

Where does the title of the wine come?

It is a blend of Quevedo, the beacon that guides me in literature, of his best-known character, the buscón called Don Pablos, and of that mischievous interest on my part that I was talking about earlier, of going looking for vineyards and winemakers with whom can work in tune and light wines with which to make others happy. Ultimately, the inspiration comes from what Pablos did, looking for his life to continue standing one more day. He looked at it from the perspective of survival, I, on the other hand, from pure hedonism, wines to enjoy. In any case, we both seek the same thing, to live better.

Happy with the first galley?

If you mean the label and the literary background, as an imperfect test to see how it looks, I am happy, but it is not such a galley, that Yit conscientiously worked the design to conform to the editorial canons of the Baroque, and it is no longer proof, but finished work. It is also not galley if you refer to the wine metaphorically, for the same reason that Juanmi knew what he was doing, and we only bottled it after overcoming the bad drink of the blind tasting. But yes, very happy, the result is a lot like what I imagined. The truth is that I had a very specific idea in my mind, I knew how I wanted the wine to be and what had to be done to achieve it. Juanmi perfectly knew how to interpret me and the result is very satisfactory. To my surprise, I confess, I was not convinced that it turned out the way I envisioned it. Well yes, that was guaranteed by the viticulturist’s hands, but just like what I had on my head… that was very difficult.

After reviewing Chapter 1, what changes will there be based on this experience?

What the weather says, no more, no less. The idea is firm, the soul of the wine is clear, there will be no more changes than those required by time. I don’t like fake wines, I prefer those that are faithful to the earth and the future of the stars. We will work it with simplicity like the first one and it will come out as God wants. 2020 is in process, it carries the same intention. The alcoholic fermentation is finishing, we will taste the wine during the process and give it the time it asks for. I find the vintage more interesting, slightly less alcoholic, less colored, fresher, with more intense aromas and a more temperate balance. We will find a way to express it as it is.

Chapter 1 published and on sale. What will chapter 2 be about?

I still don’t know, but I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. I only know that it will be with another winegrower. With Juanmi we will continue to work on Chapter I, but I cannot think of anything that can improve the work you do with the rest of his vineyard, he does very well. Also, the spirit of The Bvscon is to go searching.

And will there be more characters in successive installments or will you continue with the Cencibel adventures?

There will surely be more characters. Nothing unites me in particular to any grape or any land. My perspective is not that of a winegrower, rooted in his field and his history, which is wonderful. It is another more prosaic, that of a baby or hopeful who never tires of trying new things. I like to imagine how something that is already authentic and beautiful could be improved. I like light red wines, also those of high expression, and young whites, and even more old ones, and those of biological aging, and with bubbles, and orange, and sweet… It would not end. I promise variety and fun.

Will we see a white chapter?

Yes. Maybe it’s the second chapter. I have some mischief on my hands. Ask me in a few months.

And billiards? Should we play a game to see what happens?

Absolutely. But I know what will happen. You will not dare to publish it.

A great pleasure to have enjoyed your first wine. I’m going to keep drinking and reading your work. Congratulations, Javi.

Photo (C) Israel Pérez @elisraperez

Alfredo Egia, Bizkaian magic bottled in a Txakoli

There are wineries that invest big chunks of money in building tasting rooms. Large oak tables, high chairs, lighting that favors tasting, background music, expensive glasses, the kind that make you cry if they get broken… Alfredo Egia considers all this, and rightly so, superfluous and focuses on what really matters: enjoying a glass of wine where it tastes best. And that place is the vineyard where the grapes come from. The slopes of a mountain located on the outskirts of Balmaseda, Bizkaia, is the site chosen for this, just where Alfredo has a vineyard surrounded by oak groves, pine groves and meadows. The most important characteristic of this vineyard is that Alfredo works it following the principles of biodynamic agriculture. There are 4 hectares in total, 1.8 of them following these biodynamic principles. One hectare goes to make one of their wines, Hegan Egin, and the remaining 0.8 goes to Rebel Rebel. The other 2.2 hectares are to produce Egia Enea, its highest production wine.

But I was talking about the location of his tasting room, and it is right in this vineyard where Alfredo has placed a table and four chairs around it. And it is precisely here where you sit at seven o’clock in the afternoon of a September afternoon and one sip at a time you enjoy the wines that Alfredo makes, while we embark on a conversation about biodynamics, the treatments that are made in the vineyard in a place with as much rainfall as Balmaseda and with the occasional fog in the Cadagua river valley.

Alfredo cares his vineyards tenderly, talks to them, he feels part of a whole with them. The vines and their fruit feel how Alfredo feels and Alfredo feels the way the vines feel. That’s the way you work to get the best possible fruit. Biodynamic preparations 500P and 501, some essential oil of lavender, decoctions of horsetail and nettle, hummus with worms, very low doses of copper and occasionally sulfur. Herbicides or pesticides, nothing at all. Working organically so far up in the north of Spain is very complicated but it is how Alfredo wants to do it. For him, vineyard and winegrower are a whole that shares feelings, sensations, plans for the future. The vines give life to those days when things are not going well. Alfredo allows himself to be surrounded by them and everything changes, the energy flows again.

Sitting at that table and those chairs, memories of childhood, of the high school days and the first years in the university flourish, while a curious phenomenon occurs. Slowly you stop seeing Alfredo without stopping listening or speaking, and not because of some paranormal phenomenon related to the starry sky above our heads, but because the day is slowly going into night. You can distinguish his silhouette by the little light of the village that peeks out from behind, but the vineyard, the table and the chairs are enveloped in the darkness of the night. Egia Enea 2018 is his entry-level Txakoli. About 12,000 bottles made exclusively with Hondarrabi Zerratia.

This wine leads to the next one: Lexardi 2013, a wonder that Alfredo produced that year with Hondarrabi Zerratia and Petit Manseng in the same proportion. Lexardi conveys the aromas of grapes that bring memories of the wines of the French Jurançon, but while still providing the personality of a Txakoli. These two wines are made in Bizkai Barne, a winery of which Alfredo is a partner and whose facilities are in Orozko, Bizkaia.

Biodynamic bottled in the form of Txakoli is called Rebel Rebel and it is a wine that Alfredo makes on his own. The name comes from the time when Alfredo followed rockers who never died. The label is his design, a girl playing on a swing. 785 bottles of both the 2017 vintage and 690 bottles of the 2018 vintage. In 2019 it will show a slight increase coming a notch over a thousand bottles. But while we wait for that vintage, we enjoyed the previous two. 2017 is a complex wine, with a very special aromatic soul that slightly reminds me of some Jura wines that I have enjoyed on more than one occasion. 2018 does not have those notes but it still has a complexity that I have rarely found in a Txakoli. Both vintages are made with Hondarrabi Zerratia and a little bit of Petit Manseng, with a 80-20 ratio. This wine is aged in barrel, amphora and part in a stainless steel tank.

The night was closing in and we were embraced by the cool of the late summer while occasionally a plane from Loiu (Bilbao’s airport) overflying us. Strobe lights added magic to the sounds of nocturnal birds and occasional crickets and peppered our wine anecdotes. And then Hegan Egin 2018 arrived. Wine made by Imanol Garay, with the collaboration of Alfredo and Gile Iturri, Bizkai Barne winemaker. Exceptional wine. Here I would like to turn things around. Normally I would say that it is an exceptional Txakoli, but I see it more as an exceptional white wine protected by DO Bizkaiko Txakolina. A wine that competes with any other white wine from anywhere you can think of. Higher proportion of Hondarrabi Zerratia than Petit Manseng made by the hands of three artists and aged in used barrels and amphoras. The grapes grow on a 1-hectare plot separated by a stream from the 0.8-hectare vineyard where Rebel Rebel originates. Like this one, it works following the principles of biodynamic agriculture.

I had to choose a time to leave, although the night was offered to continue tasting and enjoying Alfredo’s wines until dawn. But above all to continue enjoying his company because Alfredo is electric, full of inexhaustible energy. He talks and flows like a torrent and that makes the conversation have endless dynamism. Laughter, anecdotes, stories, jokes, wine…

Our cell phones showed us the way to our cars to leave this spectacular tasting room behind. We will return without a doubt, because the conversations brought up names of wines that we had to share. And that cannot be forgiven. After all, what are wines but a perfect excuse to share?

Which natural wines are we recommending?

Sometimes I get to meditate about the world around us. Sometimes I even meditate on things that have nothing to do with wine, matters of great and extreme gravity, with conclusions that never cease to amaze me. However, we are talking about wine here, and my stream of consciousness today is about it. It is about natural wines, which is one of the objects of passion of this website that unites us.

Not long ago I overheard a conversation in which a person asked his companions for natural wines recommendation. He wanted to enter a new world different from the one he was used to. There is still a lot of trouble in the market about natural and organic wines. There is some confusion when a wine bears an organic farming stamp and the wine is thought to be natural. Something to which some natural wine makers who also carry the organic farming certificate can contribute.

First of all, we have to keep two things in mind. There is no such thing as an organic wine but a wine made from grapes coming from organic farming. And two, a natural wine is one to which no chemical products are added during its production, neither enzymes nor oenological products nor anything. Let’s say that to be natural, a wine must first be organic, that is, a natural wine is the next step on the evolutionary scale of an organic wine.

In a natural wine only sulfites are used in minimal quantities to protect it. And not always is this case, of course. France has approved a regulation that accepts up to 30 milligrams of sulfites per liter to identify a wine as natural. In Spain there is no such regulation (that I’m aware of), but 20 mlg/l is usually taken as a reference, an amount that is also considered in other countries. Various associations of producers, such as Triple A, consider that sulfites should not be added anyway, and wine should take only those generated during the fermentation process.

For this reason we can find labels that say that a wine “Contains sulfites” when they have been added above a certain amount, which if I am not mistaken, in Spain is over 10 mlg/l. The label may show “Contains no added sulfites” when nothing has been added and the amount of sulfites generated during fermentation is below the aforementioned limit. We should also talk about free and total sulfur, which are data obtained in an analysis of a wine sample, but that’s a discussion for another day.

After this small talk, and coming back to the subject of this article, what usually happens when someone asks us to recommend them a natural wine? In that conversation that I witnessed, the recommendations for wines that I consider freakish, extreme or radical began immediately. They are wines that in many cases are cloudy or dirty and sometimes with bad smells and worse flavors. Wines that often are reviled by connoisseurs because they show winemaking defects. This means that a natural wine is seen on many occasions as a poorly made wine. This bothers me a lot, because I have friends who know a lot about wines and who nevertheless attack natural wines for this reason. It bothers me because the great work of many people producing excellent examples of natural wines is often put in the same park as the poor and defected work a small bunch of producers do.

Lately I’m drinking more natural wines, wines with little intervention and from people that I choose with great care. I have arrived to this point because nowadays I look for wines produced by producers, not big companies, wines that when I drink them I know who made them and, in many cases, how they made them, because they are people I know. It is quite rare that when I drink a wine I do not know its winemaker. I don’t think that by this way of drinking wine I am limiting myself to a small part of the market. On the contrary, there are more and more wineries working like this. And that’s what I like. This does not mean I reject a wine coming from a winery producing bottles by the millions. Sometimes I do, but generally it doesn’t make me enjoy like the other wines.

I believe that a neophyte must be helped to access natural wine world in a, uhmm, easy way. If I may use the fighting bull metaphor, when someone would like to know how it is to be in front of a bull, we don’t throw them in front of a Miura, but in front of a heifer, do we? No need to risk that they doesn’t want to ever try again neither bulls nor natural wines.

There is a certain tendency among natural wine lovers, including myself, to choose the most freaky, extreme or radical wines, among which in most cases I don’t include myself. There are, I think, a lot of winemakers who hide behind the “natural wine label” to offer cloudy, dirty wines, with bad smells and worse flavors. Sometimes, the excuse of making natural wine serves to hide winemaking errors or lack of cleanliness in the cellar, among other reasons. Once in a bar they served me a wine that exaggeratedly smelled of small onions. In the palate it was not bad (yes, I did try it), but the smell was terrible. I mentioned it at the bar and they told me it was because the wine was natural. No sir!! This wine smells like onions because it is poorly made. No excuses accepted. A well-made natural wine will never smell like onions!

There are many people who dive headlong into these extreme wines appreciating that freakiness. It is true that many of these fans of radical wines have already tasted a lot of natural wines, but that is not why I believe that those wines should be recommended to a person who shows interest in immersing themselves in this alternative world. In some orange wines tasting I have done I have seen the transformation of faces when trying something extreme and realizing that that person was lost to the cause, no matter what wine was presented next.

With all this I want to say that nowadays, and fortunately, there are many producers who are doing real wonders working in natural without their wines having that aspect mentioned above. A natural wine does not have to taste strange or look bad. You just have to search a little bit to find those people I am talking about and their fantastic creations. And those are, in my opinion, the natural wines that we have to recommend. The others will come, but you have to enter little by little, laying the foundations for natural wines.

Sometimes I’m the first to choose and enjoy a bottle that I have to stir before drinking so that all the little things floating inside are spread equally. I also think that eventually this style makes the wines to be enjoyed in rare occasions, sometimes quite separate in time. Returning to those well-made, clean natural wines with rich aromas and rich flavors, without defects is a wine lover’s pleasure. The list of producers of these wines grows every day. And the pleasure of enjoying them also grows day by day.

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