Tag Archives: Spain

Sommeliers’ Day 2015

Sommelierernas Dag 2015A weekend in Gothenburg permeated by wine in several dimensions. A great opportunity to explore a lot of beautiful wines, to add knowledge and contacts in the world of wine, and not least, to have some great fun .

Last weekend was the 15th anniversary of Sommeliers’ Day in Gothenburg. This year a new venue, Clarion Hotel Post, and, thanks to the anniversary, the one day event had extended into two. Master classes and tastings on Saturday and beverage fair on Sunday. A great concept, which we hope will be here to stay.

Choices were necessary on Saturday. Three out of eight seminars were possible to get into the personal agenda. Of course we joined the Spanish Garnacha master class held by Michel Jamais. Garnacha has become a favourite and we have given it some extra attention over the last year.

While He continued with micro breweries and then destilled beverage with Jamais, yours truly went to Germany and Joel B Paynes master class on VDP. 18 wines later a seed  had been sown, a desire to dive deeper. We have so often just jumped over Germany and started to follow the wine routes more to the west. Time to do something about that.

The day ends back in Spain. Sherry master class with Anders Öhman. An overview of the different styles, as per Gonzalez Byass. All so delicious, but it is the 30 year old Apostoles VORS that steals my heart.

Sunday begins with a right-hand turn. There they stand in line, the German VDP producers. To our great surprise we don’t need to queue to get a chat and taste. We take the turn twice. First the white one, then the red with Spätburgunder in focus. The enthusiasm from yesterday’s VDP seminar gets more fuel and we sense the beginning of a German love affair.

It is always particularly fun to talk directly to the producers. No wonder that we stop and let Sandrine from Domaine Thibert pour some lovely Chardonnay from the villages in French Macôn.

To choose was unfortunately necessary also on Sunday. A lot of exhibitors and limited opening hours. Time flew, but we got the chance to taste some more nice wines: French, Spanish, some Austrian, Australian and a couple of American from Oregon. No one mentioned, none forgotten. Soon enough we will return. Full scribbled note books and many interesting leads to follow make that a promise.

Congratulations to Sommelierföreningen Västra Sektionen for a great event!

Sommeliers' Day 2015 glasses




Spritzy Basque Geology, Flysch Txakolina

Lively gestures are used when the guys show me. Do not keep the bottle near the glass when pouring! Oh no, not so. One of them demonstrates and his arm makes a movement upwards in a wide curve. There must be a good distance between glass and bottle. The other one nods confirmingly. I measure with my eyes. That is at least 50 centimeters. How are we going succeed with this?

Flysch Txakolina

“Tjackowhat?” said He when I showed the bottle and told about the very specific user guide. “Txakolí”, I repeated. But what I really said was something like tschackaulii, a pronunciation I earlier that afternoon had got approval for.

Perhaps not that peculiar that the penny didn’t drop immediately. Txakolí is hardly mentioned at the classes hold by Munskänkarna, the Swedish wine amateur organisation, and the sommelier training just rushed through the subject. We had never tried, so this gift from the donor’s homelands was highly appreciated.

We opened the wine atlas from Johnson and Robinson (2013). Oh yes, there is a very short text about the Basque country and three small areas for the wine named Txakolí in Basque and Chacolí in Spanish. The paragraph ends with “They are served locally by pouring from a great height into tumblers.” There it was again. We had better to be outdoors for this pouring.

Said and done, a sunny evening we walk down to the harbour. What could be a better setting for a wine so closely associated with sea and seafood? And we have some rock around us, even if we cannot match the fantastic formations that has given this wine its name.

Flysch TxakolinaFlysch Txakolina 2013. DO Getariako Txakolina.
Light yellow, frothing rims. Youthful, a little shy on the nose, fresh of citrus and a sense of wet rocks. On the palate, relatively light bodied with lively acidity and gentle fizziness. Very fresh fruitiness from citrus and lime and with a distinct minerality. The aftertaste stays for an eternity with palate filling fresh and sweet ripe citrus fruitiness, wet stones and a delightful touch of saltiness.

An invisible bubble has emerged over the quayside where we sit, a bubble that  shut out the sounds of murmur, yachts and waves from the sea. We look at each other over the top of the glasses. Words lingers. Perhaps our expectations were not that huge, as this type of wine is almost unknown here. Is this why we feel slightly stunned?

The Flysch Txakolina is very good. It leaves an exciting impression: lively, appetizing and very enjoyable.  We like the low 11,5% alcohol. And that gorgeous length. It just never disappears. And we who just have this one single bottle…

Flysch turns out to be the brand of a recently established producer with 2011 as the first vintage on the market. Although Juan Mª Etxabe, the man behind the wine, is not new in wine, but the fourth generation of txakolí-producers. In 2008 he planted Hondarribi zuro vines in an area of what is called “the Basque Coast Geopark”. The bodega, named Gorosti, is located in Elorriaga, right next to the coast line, between the small cities Itziar-Deba and Zumaia. Most people would probably just shake their heads hearing all these names, but if we say between Bilbao and San Sebastian it is easier to locate.

In the area for DO Getariako Txakolina, 95% of the vineyards consist of the grape Hondarribi zuro. The remaining percentage holds the black Hondarrabi beltza. This is an area with great humidity and the vines are traditionally trained high, usual is about two meters above the soil as pergolas, which makes it easy for the wind to blow into the vines and dry the grapes.

The wine has a high acidity and a gentle fizziness that originates from the time it spent on the lees, i.e. “sur lie”, during several months until it is time to bottle. It is made to be enjoyed young. The very specific method of pouring is to enhance the fizziness of the wine and at the same time give it a little air.

Well, we must confess that it was not easy to pour as advised. Some came outside the glass, but the fizz was fine.

Flysch, Zumaia. Photo credit: Etchecolonea (wikimedia)
Flysch, Zumaia. Photo credit: Jean Michel Etchecolonea (wikimedia)

The Basque Coast Geopark extends 13 km along the coast. It was inaugurated in 2010 and is a part of an European network of geologically interesting locations. (In Sweden there is not any geoparks yet, but we are in the starting blocks.) Geologists and tourists come to the Basque Coast to study and experience the unique rock formations, known as flysch. These were formed under the sea 60 million years ago and are fascinating to look at with their layers upon layers of rock. The inner part of the geopark offers interesting formations of limestone, called karst.

Flysch at Ermita de San Telmo. Photo credit: Simoncio (wikimedia)
Flysch at Ermita de San Telmo. Photo credit: Simoncio (wikimedia)

Sea, geology and stunningly beautiful views. If we want more culture, Bilbao is offering renowned architecture and art. The gastronomy is known to be on top, including both fine dining and simple bars where tasty pintxos, the local form of tapas, are presented on the counter and the txakolí flows. Exploring the wine and vines are easily done by travelling the Txakolí Route through Getaria and Rioja is not far away if anyone wants further adventures in wine country.

Oh, this sounds like some kind of tourist advertisment. But after a beautiful bottle of Txakolína and some net surfing it feels very tempting; a place to put on the wish list.


This is a translation of a post from my Swedish blog “Ljuva Druvor”, originally posted on 26th August 2014: “Spritsande baskisk geologi, Flysch Txakolina”.

Stairway to heaven

A black box. An unexpected content. One of the best gifts I have ever received. He had been to Mallorca, just before harvest. Seen the staircase to heaven up close.

This black box does not differ that much from other boxes holding six bottles of wine. Most wine boxes are of course not made of elegant shiny black cardboard, but otherwise it is quite an ordinary box. Black, with the name of the producer, Castell Miquel, printed in large white letters.

The difference was found inside. There were only five bottles of wine. And it was not due to fear of overweight on the plane, that the sixth bottle was missing. No, there was better stuff.

Castell Miquel grows many varieties, among them Cabernet Sauvignon. And that was what occupied the sixth place. Several bunches of small, small intense blue grapes of the variety Cabernet Sauvignon. Delicous, small, stuffed with fruit, amazingly sweet.

It is almost three years since I, for the first and up till now the only time, tasted fresh Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. I will gladly do it again. The black box, it went down in the cellar, waiting for the right time to come, and was only this summer picked up again. Time to taste the Stairway to Heaven.

Castell Miquel is located just North of Palma, on the border to the  rugged mountains Sierra de Tramuntana, just beside the little village Alaró. Here, in the middle of a steep slope, was a small, picturesque white castle built in the 60ies for a sister in law to Franco. Today, the estate is in German hands and well known for its high quality wines. The appellation is Vi de la Tierra Mallorca and six different wines are produced, among them a Cava. International grape varieties rule: Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah.

The stairway to heaven relates to the estate’s steep terarces of vineyards, above and below the little castle and does not allude to Led Zeppelin’s mega hit. No, the origin is much more devout than that.

The legend says that an angel pointed out this place to a farmer and asked him to plant vines. The wine made from the grapes became the best ever from Mallorca. As a gesture of thankfulness the farmer placed a Madonna statue in a still unlocated cave nearby. The present owner, Professor Michael A. Popp, gave the vineyards the name Stairway to Heaven when he had renovated and replanted the old terraces. A name related to the legend.

If the wines are the best of Mallorca today, we don’t know. We have not tasted any other. But we do know now, that Castell Miquel is really, really good.

Castell Miquel Rosado and Blanco
Stairway to Heaven Blanco.
Based on Sauvignon Blanc, that is what the website states, and that is also the only grape name present in His notes from the visit. However, here ought to be something more. The characteristic Sauvignon markers are gentle and complemented by spicy and floral notes.
Yellow, with a light greenish hint. Developed on the nose with a vegetative character of hay, a bit boxwood and some waxy notes. To that a floral impression of honeysuckle and a layer of spicy nuances: mint, white pepper and a sprinkle of vanilla. On the palate dry, the body is medium plus with balanced acidity. Fruity with citrus, light vegetative notes and a small handful of wet stones. Very good length, round, some complexity and nice mouthfilling fruitiness.
Very good, catches our interest with the nice layer upon layer experience in the aroma palette.

Stairway to Heaven Rosado. A rosé of the more powerful kind, made of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% Syrah.
Dark strawberry lemonad in colour, almost medium intensity. Developed to mature pronounced nose, dominated of nearly dry fruit; ripe, concentrated red berries, strawberries, wild strawberries and raspberries, all soaked in black currant juice and spiced with dry herbes. Light body, with medium acidity, hardly noticeable tannins and a very light delicious fruitsweetness on the palate, where the impressions from the nose returns. Fine length dominated by strawberry jam.
Beautiful rosé with potent character.

Castell MiquelStairway to Heaven Cabernet Sauvignon 2008.
The estate’s premium wine. Fermented on tank, where some are lined with oak, then matured twelve months on small French and Hungarian barriques.
Intense, red-tawny colour. Pronounced, developed to mature bouquet with some complexity. Blackcurrant, dried fuit, raisins, light spicyness, leather and well integrated oak. Almost fullbodied, well balanced with lively acidity and clear, round tannins and very good structure. Excellent length with juicy blackcurrant fruitiness.
Delicious Cabernet Sauvignon, approaching the end of best drinking window. We will happily enjoy the other bottle this autumn.

Monte Sion Cuvée 2008.
40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Syrah and 20% Merlot.
Medium intensity, red to tawny. On the nose, developed to mature pronounced, delicous bouquet of blackcurrent, blackberries, a bucket of root vegetables and oak. Almost fullbodied with lively acidity and balanced tannins. Fruity character of blackcurrant, prunes and roots. Excellent length with ripe, sweet fruits.
Beautiful wine, vigorous with mature notes. Also this wine approaching the end of best drinking window.

Castell Miquel wine box

The wine enthusiast passing Mallorca should definitely spend some time at winery visits. Decanter’s quite recently publiced travel guide can give some good advice. Castell Miquel is found among the recommended visits together with seven other producers, most of them within “spitting distance” from each other.

This is a translation of a post originally published 2 September 2014 on my Swedish blog “Ljuva Druvor”; Stairway to Heaven.

Rosebushes, greaseproof paper and Terras Gauda

When we collect the O Rosal it is wrapped in a kind of good old-fashioned greaseproof paper. Not any fancy print, just white; rustles loudly and the waxy feeling stays on the finger tips. The label barely visible behind the paper.

We are in Galicia, in Rías Baixas. To be more precise, in the area O Rosal. Rosal, the name sounds beautifully. A look in the dictionary confirms the impression; translated from Spanish it will be rosebush. It was here, in the country of the rosebushes, that Terras Gauda started as late as 1990. Today, with three bodagas and 160 hectar of vineyards, a big player.

Albariño plays the leading part and dominates the vineyards. Other local varieties, such as Loureiro and Caiño Blanco, keep it company. The outcome? Fresh, fruity wines with a beautiful sense of minerality.

Terras Gauda

Terras Gauda O Rosal 2013. A blend of 70% Albariño, 18% Lourero and 12% Caiño Blanco, fermented and raised on steel tanks.
Light golden hue with green hints. Pronounced, fresh and fruity nose with citrus and minerality; blackboard chalk. On the palate rather light bodied, dry with fine acidity. Fruity of green apples, pears and lime. Minerality towards limestone and chalk. Very good length, gorgeously complex, dominated by green apples, lime and chalk. Excellent, multifacetted, light and fresh. Just as rose petals slowly swirling in the summer breeze. Drink and enjoy now!

The O Rosal experience calls for more. From the cellar we pick its sister, bought almost exactly one year ago.

Terras Gauda

Terras Gauda, Abadia de San Campio, Albariño, Rías Baixas, 2012. Albariño in splendid isolation. Stainless steel too.
Shimmering yellowgreen hue. Large, developed, very fruity nose with sweet sour notes; ripe apricots, yellow plums, spiced by some smokey hints. On the palate, just above medium bodied, dry with lively acidity. Nice mouthfilling fruitiness of ripe yellow plums, a touch of mango and quite a bit lime. Sense of minerality in terms of wet stones and a little chalk. Long, fresh fruity aftertaste dominated by lime. Yummy, beautiful fruitiness.

Excellent wines, both of them. If we have to choose glass, the O Rosal wins our favor due to a larger dose of complexity.

Mediterranean spiced fish dishes, langoustine and shrimps will pair wonderfully, as well as vegetarian with grilled squash, pepper and fresh red onions.

Terras Gauda

This is a translation of a post from my Swedish blog “Ljuva Druvor”, originally posted on 24th July 2014: “Rosenbuskar, smörpapper och Terras Gauda“.

A modern perspective to classic

When I tasted a Condado de Haza 2003 some time ago, “classic” was the first thought that came to me. I loved the notes of dill seeds, the leather, the concentration and mature complexity.  Just the kind of lovely, classic tone I want to find in a glass of red from Ribera del Duero. It was a wine that spoke of its birthplace.

As it was some years since the previous encounter with Condado de Haza, or in fact Pesquera too, I got curious and wanted to update me on the producer. At the start of my wine loving era, back in the 1990s, I was introduced to Mr Fernández wines. And trained to recognise it as the classic style of Ribera.

Alejandro Fernández is, since his start in 1972, regarded to be one of the great Spanish innovators. A man with a precise idea of winemaking. Starting in the own vineyards. The right soil and microclimate. The grape is Tinto Fino, Ribera’s variant of Tempranillo. In the celler fermenting with only natural yeast. The main part of his wine range, maturing only in American oak. 

Wines that are concentrated, well balanced, with fruit and aromas beneficially influenced by the American oak.  Wines that continue to evolve in bottle for many years. Just like a nice Bordeaux does. A classic style.

So, this great innovator, the man who played a large part in the development of the modern wine style of Ribera, was for me the father of a classic wine.

I tried to recall my memory. No, I do not remember any discussions about a modern vs. a traditionalist approach from the times back then. Could that be a clue? My view of classic was founded when my serious interest in wine started to grow.

Today it is an issue. For me, the modern trend would involve a lot of toasty French oak, a powerful body and sometimes an over-whelming fruitiness.  Unfortunately, modern too often means that the birthplace of the wine is disguised.

But what perspective do we have when talking about the essence of a wine’s characteristics and style?

How long is the time frame for forming an opinion of what is classic and what is modern? A generation, twenty or ten years? The new enthusiasts in wine, will they in ten year time think of our contemporary modern style as the classic? Just as I created my view in the 1990s.

A modern perspective to classic would presumably be that it is subjective, personal and evolving over time. But please, let me be able to enjoy the Ribera in my classic style for many years to come.