26-04-2013

Un món de vi/Un monde de vin

The battle lines have long been drawn in regards to the whole “natural wine” debate. While we’ve written about the growing trendiness of natural wine in Catalonia, the issues around this were further emphasized in a recent article by Alice Feiring, specifically the pitting of the small, “Un món de vi” event that happened on Monday, April 22 at Villa Más in S’Agaró and organized by El Celler de Can Roca versus the much larger Vinum Nature happening in Barcelona in the second week of May. Her article shows that the definition of natural wine continues to be problematic as organic and biodynamic wines are all put in the same basket, and she raised the question as to whether many of wines at Vinum Nature are actually “natural” or just using it as a marketing gimmick.

villa-mas

As we were out and about to finalize printing of the Priorat guide (it’s coming, we swear), we swung northward to stop in and see how this fair shaped up to be. After a couple of missteps due to Google Maps hating Spain, we rolled in to the event and were immediately enchanted on many fronts. For one, it was a gorgeous day to be in the Costa Brava and the venue of the fair, Villa Más restaurant, was right by the beach. Moreover, this was really a professional event and we knew many of the people in attendance; the focus was really on the wines, not on getting drunk.

Taking place in what seemed to be the inclined dirt parking lot behind the restaurant, there was a laid-back, rough and tumble aspect to it. People were just spitting their tastes in to the dirt. As it was later in the afternoon, winemakers wandered off to taste other wines and generally left people to serve themselves. And one well known gentleman in the wine trade “stealthily” walked a few steps away from the stalls to check his mobile phone and take a whiz behind a tree. In other words, it was an informal and incredibly friendly event with some of the most knowledgeable wine people and wine lovers around. As natural winemakers Josep Ramon Escoda and Laureano Serres like to say, natural wine is just vegetable water that makes one feel good.

algueira

The wineries in attendance were many from regions in Spain, Greece, Italy, France, Germany and beyond. From the local Catalan scene there were the vi de pagès makers of Mas Molla and Mas Ponsjoan in Calonge (Empordà) to the very exclusive Priorat winery, Terroir al Límit. So, it covered a range from less than 2€ to nearly 200€ a bottle.

Probably the most interesting discovery for us were the wines from Algueira winery in Ribeira Sacra (Galicia), all made with local varietals such as Godello, Treixadura, Merenzao or Albarello. All really lovely. And the owner was quite enjoyable too, explaining how he makes wine for fun.

toni rimbau1Other highlights included Mas Molla’s 2009 Monastrell still showing as strongly as when we tasted it last year. Terroir al Límit’s Terra de Cuques was pleasant to taste outside of the insanity of the Vitis Vinifera event in March and shows that it does remain to be a fresh, lively wine. Then there were the Xarel·lo wines in ceramic bottles by Toni Rimbau in Penedès which showed a fresh, brilliant take on that white. He even had a Muscat sweet that was also very interesting.

Comando G was there as well with their high altitude Grenaches from the Sierra de Gredos in Madrid, that showed how a few hundred meters takes the typically spicy Grenache and evens it out a little. The Greek wines were great as it’s generally hard to find them in Spain (the only Greek wine we had tasted was the Mavrodaphne of Cephalonia by Gentilini winery at Monvínic). There were some Assyrtiko whites, but we particularly enjoyed the Xinomavro reds and a couple of delicious dessert wines.

xinomavroWe also had a very nice 100% Sumoll Cava by Can Ramon Viticultors del Montgros (Penedès), which was bold and expressive, not like these blinking little glasses of bubbles that you typically find in Cava.

Overall it was an eclectic mix to say the least and in a wonderful setting out of high season. Will Vinum Nature trump this? They’ll definitely have something bigger, but it will be a tough act to follow.