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…spontaneously fermenting

Jacob's Christmas Menu with Biodynamic and Natural Wines

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2009-11-23_26472009-11-23_2648While many restaurants in Norway feature traditional Norwegian Christmas food, at Jacob’s Bar & Kjøkken we do things differently.  Our concept for the Christmas menu is the same as usual – simple, fresh and creative food.  The wines I have selected to pair with these dishes also don’t steer away from my usual focus on Biodynamic and Natural wines.  Please note that since we only use the freshest of ingredients and small wine producers, the courses and the wines (and vintages) can change slightly.  So, without further ado, here’s the Christmas menu and the wines: (click on thumbnails to enlarge photos and make yourself hungry and!) Read the rest of this entry »

Category: 1 Appetizer/Starter, 1 WINE, 2 Main Course, 3 Dessert, 6 FOOD & WINE PAIRING, biodynamic wine, natural wine (100% living wine)

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Natural Wine Making in Piemonte Part VII – Basarin Harvest

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The very steep Basarin vineyard

Monday October 5th, abortion 2009

Today we woke up around 7:30 to harvest the last of the two vineyards, doctor the Basarin.  The Basarin vineyard is located in Neive, (Barbaresco commune) and is owned by Vittorio and Marco Adriano of the Azienda Agricola Adriano.  The vineyard  is quite steep at 40% and is facing South East.  In total we harvested 2863 kilos of grapes from this vineyard which took us around 3.5 hours.

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2009-10-05_20812009-10-05_2082Compared to the Felice vineyard, it was easier to harvest because the grapes were more easily accessible on the vines and there was a little less selecting necessary because overall, they were healthier than the Felice grapes. The Nebbiolo vines in this vineyard are actually clippings from the Felice vineyard and were planted here in around 1993 (compared to 1971 for the Felice). Due to the difference in location and soil and overall “terroir”, we found the grapes from Basarin to be more structured, with more tannins and acidity than the Felice grapes which were more feminine and elegant.

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77 Year-old Sig. Adriano helping with the harvest

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Frederik Kolderup doing his part

As soon as the fermentation really begins and the alcohol starts to go up a bit, we will pump over (gently) and blend so that the two vineyards are fermented together. In our opinion they will better integrate if they are blending during fermentation rather than blending post fermentation. The idea here is to get the elegance and femininity from Felice and structure and tannins from Basarin. So far we are very pleased with the fact that we’ve had spontaneous fermentation with indigenous yeasts without the use of sulfur!

After our lunch break, we put the grapes into the destemer and pumped the grapes into our second cement container of 25 hl. Before doing this, we added about 500 liters of fermenting must from Felice as a starter. The 25hl tank quickly filled up so we pumped the rest of the grapes into a 750 liter open top plastic container, exactly like the one Frank Cornelissen uses in Mount Etna.  To this plastic container we also added about 50 liters of the fermenting Felice vineyard juice.

Basarin grapes pumped into 7000 liter plastic container

Basarin grapes pumped into 7000 liter plastic container

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Fermenting Felice Nebbiolo juice

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Jørgen tasting the fermenting Felice Nebbiolo juice

We also took the opportunity to taste the juice from the first cement tank containing the Felice grapes… Very good indeed! Hints of alcohol starting to show (most likely only 1% at this point). It was super sweet and even had some mild tannins already.


Harvesting Nebbiolo in Basarin Vineyard in Barbaresco from vinosseur on Vimeo.

Category: 1 WINE, 9 WINE THOUGHTS, Events, natural wine (100% living wine), Natural Wine Making in Piemonte

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Naturally Speaking

There is a lot of talk, and words written, about natural wine these days and it seems to be all the rage.  I’m no exception to this as I have tasted quite a few natural wines, then written about them here.  I therefore felt compelled to write a few words about my thoughts on natural wines, including my definition of natural wine based on my experience and my beliefs.

Having visited Vini Veri, “Vino Vino Vino” in Verona earlier this year, I saw this trend in full swing.  Lots and lots of “natural” wines, many of which were not in my opinion well-made. Others didn’t fit my definition of natural.

I will begin with my definition of a natural wine:

A natural wine should be made first and foremost by a winemaker who has the right attitude and philosophy. It matters little to me whether or not the winemaker is certified organic or recognized by Demeter as biodynamic. I am not excluding these winemakers here, merely stating that getting certified or recognized by Demeter is sometimes not possible  due to vineyard treatments by neighbors or is sought out for the wrong reasons, like marketing rights or government subsidies.  Therefore, I feel that it is more important that the winemaker understands natural wine making and has the correct philosophy. The wine-maker wants to do the right thing.  It’s not important to me that the label states that the wine is biodynamic or organic.

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Second, natural winemakers should never use pesticides in the vineyards. They should work as naturally as possible in the vineyards which can include green harvesting and canopy management.  It can include other measures to insure healthy plants which should in turn produce healthy grapes. They should even limit natural fertilizers whenever possible.  Biodiversity should be encouraged, not destroyed.

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Wild boar footprints in the Roagna vineyards suggesting biodiversity - photo by Vinosseur

Third, the  grapes should be harvested by hand and not machine.  Hand selection of fully ripe and healthy grapes is an important step in producing a great wine.

Fourth, the grapes should then be crushed and left to macerate on the skins for an extended period of time before pressing to help stabilize the wine and preserve the wine once bottled.  This statement is not from personal wine-making experience but from my reading and talking to respected wine-makers.  Most of the natural wines I have tasted have had extended skin contact for the above mentioned reasons.

Fifth, the grapes should ferment with indigenous (wild) yeasts, not added (selected) yeasts.  Healthy grapes will have these indigenous yeasts on their skins.  I do feel however, that it’s ok to add a natural/neutral yeast to start the fermentation process if it does not commence on its own.  Natural wine makers whom I respect, have the right philosophy and work as naturally as possible have had to do this on occasion.

Six, the fermentation should take place without any artificial temperature control. Of course  the wine-maker may chose an ideal place to ferment the wine. If you are doing this in the cellar where the average temperature is quite constant, this is a sort of “temperature control”, and is ok in my opinion.

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Grapes macerating in Amphorae. Photo courtesy of Doug Wregg of Les Caves de Pyrene

Seven, “oak” (barriques) should not be used.  When I speak of oak, I am referring to barrels smaller than 600 liters. Of course, it also depends on the age of the barrel. If the barrel is only 200 liters but is 100 years old, I suppose that there will be no influence on the wine except for the exchange of oxygen, and this is ok.  Oak, especially new, adds unwanted elements (flavors) to the wine and also softens tannins,  for these reasons I don’t think a wine is natural if it’s been fermented or stored in oak.  I want to clarify one thing here to those who might be reading this and thinking “this guy obviously hates oak”.  The point of this rule is that I am against the use of oak in natural wine because although oak comes from trees and in and of itself is a natural product, the oak is then toasted. Once the wine comes into contact with this finished barrel, the wine changes. I personally feel that this is completely unnatural. So, for my definition of natural wine, I feel that other fermentation/storage mediums should be used, like cement, amphorae, steel etc.

Eight, a natural wine should be neither fined nor filtered before bottling.  This in my opinion is an important rule. Why take anything from the wine?

Nine, a natural wine should not have any added sulfur. This is probably the most controversial point.  Many producers are adding only 10 or 12 mg of sulfur (10-12 ppm) at bottling, and I am grateful that less and less sulfur is being added to wine, but adding sulfur is not natural and therefore for me to consider a wine completely natural, there can be no added sulfur. This being said, even a wine with no added sulfur will still contain sulfur since it is a by-product of fermentation.  I also feel it important to mention that although in my definition of natural wine there can be no added sulfur, there are many great wine makers who add a few milligrams of sulfur at bottling and I enjoy these wines on a daily basis.

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That’s  my definition of natural wine.  Therefore, with regards to this website,  I will never categorize a wine I taste as “natural” unless it adheres to the guidelines I have laid out above.  Many of the wines that I do not categorize as natural, may to others be regarded as natural.  I have to add that I do not and have not ever made wine, so I realize that my definition might seem rather simplified to some.

As with any trend, there are leaders, followers and imitators.  I feel the clear outspoken leader in the natural wine world is Frank Cornelissen from Mount Etna in Sicily. I have written about him and his wines more than once here on my website.  Another leader in my opinion is the Domaine Le Mazel in the Southern Rhone who have been making wines without the addition of Sulfur since 1998.  Although less well known than Cornelissen, their Cuvée Raoul is one of the greatest wines I have ever tasted.  I will do a thorough profile and tasting note on this wine on this site in the very near future.

There are the followers.  These are the great winemakers who are more recently involved in natural wine making and in my opinion are doing a great job and making huge strides towards excellence.  These wine makers also adhere to the above mentioned rules I feel should be followed.

Then there are the imitators which I saw plenty of at Vini Veri and continue to see on a daily basis.  For one, some of these wine makers insist on fermenting and storing their wines in oak (barriques). At times even using new oak.  How is this natural?  Now, I find it important to state again that I am not against the use of  oak.  I am simply against the use of oak in natural wine making.  I also want to state that I am not accusing these wines as being “bad”.   I have tasted many excellent wines which are almost natural and have been aged in oak.  And second, some of these natural wines are just poorly made.

Finally, I feel that some people just don’t understand natural wine.  I am happy that natural wines are becoming trendy, but as with any trend, there are many  bad copies.  Not all natural wines are good.  I may offend some people by these statements and this isn’t my intent at all. I am simply stating my opinion.  I welcome comments and an open dialogue with anyone who feels otherwise.

To sum up, natural wine should be fermented grape juice.  Nothing taken, nothing added.

Category: 1 WINE, 9 WINE THOUGHTS, natural wine (100% living wine), Naturally Speaking

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A tasting note: 2002 Frank Cornelissen Magma 2 Marchesa

2009-06-09_62009009Date tasted:  June 9th, 2009

I have written before about Frank Cornelissen.  To refresh your memory, click here for one of my previous tasting notes and more about Frank.

I may not have mentioned this before, but I feel very fortunate to live in Norway when it comes to wine.  We do get our hands on some pretty obscure and rare wines that very few other places in the world get.  This wine is no exception.  The 2002 was his second vintage in which he produced about 2000 bottles total between the 3 Magma’s and one Rosso del Contadino.  In this vintage, Frank Cornelissen produced 3 different single-vineyard bottling’s of the Magma 2.  The Calderara, Trefiletti and the Marchesa vineyards.  Approximately 1300 bottles of the Magma’s were produced.  That’s it.

The Marchesa vineyard is an ungrafted vineyard which is normally very sun exposed and has a good balance between tannins and density.  According to Frank, this was a “backward” vintage, and therefore the alcohol was rather low, even harvesting as late as November 2nd.  Harvest of the Nerello Mascalese grapes are done by hand and the grapes are foot trodden.  The wine was fermented in Amphorae buried in the ground up to the neck (to keep the Amphorae from exploding during fermentation).  Only indigenous yeasts are used of course, and the wine is left to macerate with the skins for between 5 and 6 months.  The wine is bottled directly from the Amphorae without fining nor filtration.  Nothing is added nor taken.  No added SO2.

504 bottles of the Magma 2 Marchesa were produced, approximately 150 came to Norway.  Like I said, I feel fortunate to live in Norway.  Price at time of release, 1000 Norwegian Kroner ($155).

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Bottle opened at 22:45:

Appearance: Very light red but within 15 minutes darkening to a darkish purple, black then going back to red again within a few minutes.  This is certainly a “living wine”.

Nose: Crushed rose pedals, dark plums, rose hips. Very farmyard, especially dead sheep (the specific dead sheep comparison came from my two Norwegian friends who were tasting with me). Wild, sour, small cherries.  Hints of dark cocoa.  Hints of Macadamia nuts, eucalyptus.  Much more tight and precise than it was the first time I tasted this wine back in 2006. If you breath in deeply, hints of prune juice without the dried fruit aspect.

Palate: Extremely concentrated but very light and fresh with red fruit dominating.  Within a few seconds, the tannins arrived and held firmly.  None of us could sense the 13.7% alcohol, it was extremely well integrated.  The acidity was medium plus and very ripe and “sweet”, but the wine is bone dry.  Hints of plums that have been picked a week before being over ripe,  the fruit is very ripe.  No dried fruit evident.  Sour fruits.  Every sip seems different and has you going back for another.  The wine will most likely run out before we finish analyzing this bottle.  There is a slight nuttiness on the finish with super-ripe fruit that  lingers and these two aromas add incredible complexity to the wine.  One of the most fantastic and interesting wines I have ever tasted, again.

23:15:

Tannins really stepping up, but not dominating.  More nutty macadamia’s starting to show.

23:30:

This is the hard part of this entry, having to write and report the following:

The wine seems to be “dying”.  The finish seems to fade quickly now. The 3 tasters all agreed that the wine was now dead. Perhaps if we had waited, and if we had any wine left, the wine would have come back alive. I am not sure.  I should also mention that this wine was not stored perfectly.

To conclude, I feel that this wine will throw many old school wine people off.  I believe they will most likely say that the nutty aspects of the wine are signs of oxidation and therefore this wine is not a good wine, and therefore not well-made. This being said, you have to remember that when judging  a wine, you must do so as objectively as possible.  You cannot let your personal opinion of weather or not you like the wine enter into the equation.  There are many well-made wines that I just don’t like, that doesn’t change the fact that the wines are well made.

The facts about the Magma 2 Marchesa are that this wine is well made, has tremendous concentration, complex aromas both on the nose and palate, is extremely well-balanced and the finish seems to never end.  These are
facts that are undeniable and in my opinion reflect an excellent, well-made wine.  Don’t get distracted by the nutty aromas and forget the aforementioned quality attributes.

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Translation of back label:

Ingredients:  Only Nerello Mascalese Grapes from the 2002 harvest without the addition of any other ingredient.

Attention:  This wine has not been modified.  It doesn’t contain stabilizers nor preservatives.  There will be a natural deposit because the wine has been bottled without filtration.  It’s important to store the bottle at temperature of less than 16°C  (60.8° F).  It’s recommended to not decant.

Category: 1 WINE, 2 PRODUCER PROFILE, 3 TASTING NOTES, Frank Cornelissen - Mt. Etna (Sicila), Italy, Italy, Mt Etna, natural wine (100% living wine), Sicilia

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A tasting note: 2007 Frank Cornelissen Munjebel Bianco 4

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Date tasted:  June 2nd, 2009 15:00(3pm)

Frank Cornelissen owns about 12 ha on Mt. Etna in Sicily. He’s a non-interventionist who says “Consequently this has taken us to avoiding all possible interventions on the land we cultivate, including any treatments, whether chemical, organic, or biodynamic, as these are all a mere reflection of the inability of man to accept nature as she is and will be.”

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Frank & Alberto at the top of 'Rampante', the pre-phylloxera vineyard at 1010m altitude located above Solicchiata on Mt Etna after the devasting forest fire of 3 full days & nights.

On a postcard I recently received, he goes on to say  “To produce a bottle of genuine, natural wine, the recipe is simple:  take large quantities of dedication, determination, intuition and coherence.  To these ingredients throw in a strong dose of masochism in order to physically and emotionally survive the difficulties and downsides of this ‘Art of Wine’.  Finally, enjoy a glass (or more) of this wine, before sending the rest around the world to good homes.”

Of all the “natural” wines I have tasted, Frank’s are always the most interesting.  I am not saying that his wines are the most well-made of the natural wines I have tasted, but his are always the most engergetic.  And, definitely the most natural tasting compared to his counterparts.  From the very rustic labeling, to the almost opaque  wines that are very obviously not filtered nor fined.

This “orange” wine is no exception.  Made from the local (white grapes) Grecanico Dorato, Coda di Volpe, Carricante and Cattaratto grapes, this orange wine is barely see through.  This cloudy wine is so packed full of sediment that I swore I could see chunks of grapes floating towards the bottom of the bottle.  Of course this is a “slight” exaggeration, but it sure made me happy knowing that this wine was made from something (grapes) that was growing wild in the vineyards, and nothing else.   His wines are the most natural of the natural wines I have tasted, and this wine was no exception.  His wines have a certain “energy” about them which is hard to put in words, but they make you feel good.

The grapes for this wine come from various vineyards on Mount Etna owned and cared for by Frank.  Frank harvests the approximate 13ha/hl of grapes totally by hand.  The bunches of grapes are put into a destemmer and crushed, not pressed at this time.  This machine is more of a crusher than a destemmer as it hardly removes any of the stems at all.

The must is then placed into plastic containers in his backyard (no temperature control here) which are then covered with a tent-like plastic material to keep the rain out.  Of course only indigenous yeast here.  The wine is left to spontaneously ferment and macerate with the skins for about 4 months giving the wine it’s apricot-hued glow.  The wine is then pressed into Amphorae with the help of gravity and then bottled.  Absolutely nothing else is added to this wine. Nothing.  Not even SO2 (Sulfur Dioxide).  The wine is not fined nor filtered before being bottled and this is evident.  Since Frank bottle’s his wine without filtration, the last wines bottled have more sediment than the first ones.

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First tasting 1500 (3pm):

Appearance: A very cloudy, unfiltered appearance.  Loads of sediment which are very visible to the naked eye.  In the glass, the wine has an apricot juice hue with a medium intensity.  It is hard to analyze intensity with an unfiltered wine of this type (wine with high intensity glows can indicate a high level of intensity and vice versa).

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Nose: Apricots with hints of minerals and loads of farmyard (those of you familiar with red Burgundy know what I am talking about).  The distinctive (for me) Cornelissen pickle juice.  Dry hay and flowers.

Palate: Wild just like the other Cornelissen wines.  Typical.  A little tingle at the front of the tongue initially from the slight residual CO2, which quickly burns off with a little swirling of the glass.  Medium minus tannins.  High acidity, but not harsh, just mouth watering and mature.  Pickles and smoke.  Kumquats.  Essence of apricots and peaches, but not sweet.    Bone dry with around 2g/liter of residual sugar according to my palate.

Second tasting 1809 (609pm):

Nose: Much more pickles and farmyard.  Less distinct apricots.  The apricot aromas I do get are of unripe apricots.

Palate: Medium minus tannins.  Rosemary, sweet yellow fruit at the back end, apricots.  Finish is long and persistent with mild tannins, great acid and smokey flavors.  The wine sits and sits.

Interesting to note that although the wine was dry, it paired well with sweeter dishes.  It worked well with my honey and lemon marinated chicken.  It was also working surprising well with my Mexican Cactus Fruit.. Strange….

I’m always fascinated with the fact that the few bottles of natural wine that I manage to keep open a few days seem to only improve.

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Please check out my video wine tasting of Frank Cornelissen’s Rosso del Contadino! Click below and forgive the quality:

Wine Tasting with Vinosseur – 2007 Frank Cornelissen Rosso del Contadino 5 from vinosseur on Vimeo.

Category: 1 WINE, 2 PRODUCER PROFILE, 3 TASTING NOTES, 31 Days of Natural Wine, 9 WINE THOUGHTS, Frank Cornelissen - Mt. Etna (Sicila), Italy, Italy, Mt Etna, natural wine (100% living wine), orange wine, Sicilia

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Wine Tasting with Vinosseur – 2007 Frank Cornelissen Rosso del Contadino 5

Category: 1 WINE, 5 VIDEO WINE TASTING, natural wine (100% living wine)

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About
Vinosseur is the company name of sommelier Joseph R. Di Blasi. Vinosseur.com is his web page where he writes about wine, food, restaurants and other gastronomic experiences.

Joseph has a special place in his heart for quality wines from the old world, especially France & Italy, with a strong focus on Organic, Biodynamic and Natural wines.

Joseph grew up in Italy and California, but left The States in 2002 and now resides in Poland.

Get in touch

Joseph would love to hear from you! You can contact him by email at vinosseur@gmail.com