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April 2015

Marenas Bajo Velo

José Miguel Márquez is a younger wine maker in the town of Montilla near Corboda in far southern Spain.  The region is hot and dry with deep wine making traditions but in the modern age isn't so known for wine.  Through his wine making Jose is searching for things that are true and tangible expressions of the land he works and the culture he and it are steeped in.  There's much more information of the web page of Selections de la Vina.  Click here to see and read more: Selections de la Vina on Marenas

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Bajo Velo is Spanish for "Behind the Veil".  This is an old term in traditional wine making for wines that are allowed to ferment wild and then mature in a barrel with a film of yeast covering the surface and protecting the wine.  The French call this "vin de voile" and it's the process by which sherry and Vin Jaune is made. 

Sherry goes through this process and the yeast covering the surface helps preserve the wine and prevent oxidization; however Pedro Ximenez sherry is fortified.  Jose Miquel's Bajo Velo is made from organic Pedro Ximenez grapes, which ferment with the natural yeast on the skin, but then he lets it ferment totally dry and doesn't add anything.  This 2011 vintage is his first successful bottling.  He made slightly over 1100 bottles after allowing the wine to mature in casks called boots for 2 years.  According to him it was lots of luck and nature taking care of itself that allowed this wine to happen.

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Aroma: When I first opened the Bajo Velo it smelled a bit like peaty Scotch.  In a minute or so it became more schnapps like and then opened up from there and began to smell more like orange zest and peel.  After being open for a few hours it smells pretty like a fino sherry.  I can still get a peaty kind of smell, but there's lots of spice and yeast.  It smells a bit like pine pitch to me as well and also a strong lemon aroma.  It's a unique and deliciously alive aroma: musky, fruity, and spicy all at once.  I keep getting flashes of different aromas from the Bajo Velo.  One minute it smells like dry edgy sherry and then the next I smell orange juice, and then pink pepper corns and then pumpkin pie.  This is a brilliant, cerebral, and demanding aroma.

Palate: Rich, not as oxidized tasting and pleasant with not too high acidity.  On the palate the Bajo Velo is meatier and richer than I expected.  I have trouble breaking it down it does so much at once.  The Bajo Velo opens with citrusy candied lemon but turns more savory and picks up a kind of white heat aromatic spice quality.  At the same time as those spicy savory citrus fireworks are hitting your palate the Marenas' texture is lush and the character comes across as sedate.  The Bajo Velo really fills your mouth and envelops your whole palate.  As you come to the finish, the Marenas changes again and you get an explosion of savory minerality and more lemon zest, then followed by a salty meaty savory flavor that reminds me very much of cured pork.  Not just the meatiness, but also the saltiness and the almost floral aromas that cured meat can take on.

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Marenas' Bajo Velo is brilliant.  I enjoy it so much on it's own.  It's complex and demands your attention, but it would also work really well with seared shrimp, cured ham, grilled octopus, nuts and hard cows milk cheese, or maybe some lamb.  I've never had anything like this before and it's kind of transcendent.  If you're into crazy exciting living wine you should try this.  The Marenas Bajo Velo is priced in the mid $30s at Maine and Loire.


Grand Rouviere Rose 2014

Over the years Grand Rouviere has become one of my favorite roses.  Every year the Grand Rouviere is elegant and refreshing, with beautiful summery fruit, and just the right touch of wild Provencal herbs.  Grand Rouviere is made by the Leydier family, a 5th generation family estate in the Cotes de Provence whose vineyards actually border both the appellations of Bandol and Cassis.  The Grand Rouviere estate covers about 50 hectares of rolling hills that are sunny, rocky, and dried by the Mistral wind which helps to prevent problems in the vineyard.  They're certified sustainable and aggressively limit yields to produce more concentrated wines.

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Aroma: Great aroma of fresh strawberries!   The aroma is beautiful and is very vivid and pronounced.    The Rouviere also a bit of sweet rich ripe melon aroma along with the strawberry. 

Palate: more of that strawberry, but also a real raspberry flavor that gets clearer on the finish.  There's great acidity that is just insistent enough to make the Rouviere rose refreshing, but doesn't over shadow the fruit.  This is so excellently balanced and perfect for summer picnic food; just the right amount of body with fresh acidity.   Delicious.

The Rouviere Rose retails in the mid teens and is for sale at The Munjoy Hill and Brighton Ave Rosemonts, Bow St in Freeport, Bootlegger's in Topsham, The Farm Stand in South Portland, and the Clown in York.


Albamar Fusco Mencia

Straight from the Selections de la Vina website: "If Sally sells seashells by the sea shore, Xurxo Alba of Albamar makes albariño al alba del mar (next to the sea). If it were up to me, I’d stop right here. There’s really not much more to say. It’s what he was born to do. It’s what he knows best. He is the personification of albariño."

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That's a lot of responsibility being the personification of Albarino.  I actually don't really know about his Albarino, but his Mencia is exceptional.  The grapes come from extremely steep slopes rich in decayed granite.  The grapes are naturally farmed, naturally fermented, and the Fusco is bottled with out filtration or fining, it's clear (pun intended) in the wine's opaqueness in the glass.  Ribeira Sacra is in the center of Galicia, a cooler and particularly rainy place so Mencia can come across as stemmy, unripe, green peppery.  Albamar's Fusco makes that hard to believe though, it's so deliciously supple and juicy!  The Fusco has rekindled my love for Ribeira Sacra and Mencia.

Grape: 100% Mencia

Vintage: 2013

Aroma: wow, this is really....grapey.  Yes, yes, that's an obtuse descriptor for wine, but it's so juicy and vivid and full of fresh young dark fruit.  There's cranberry, black cherry, and some plum.  The Fusco's exuberant smelling.  Of all the Mencia I've had Fusco is most like a great ripe Loire Gamay that I've ever smelled.  The aroma is really mostly vibrant berry fruit, but there's also a smoky meatiness lurking in there underneath it all.

Palate: De-Licious!  There is this absolutely perfect salty minerality on the back of the mid palate that's the perfect counter point to the wine's vividly ripe young fruit.  The fruit is very much more ripe cherry on the palate.  Very smooth, very soft tannins, some smoke on the mid palate.  The Fusco has just the right touch of wildness but swathed in all that smooth suave fruit that it's non threatening.  This as crazy good and I'm now going to finish the bottle now.

If you've ever enjoyed lush Beaujolais or excellent Loire Cabernet Franc from Bourgueil or Chinon (not the stemmy unripe knock offs) this is something you've got to try. There is so much life in this bottle!  Ribeira Sacra's extreme slopes are hard to work and many of the wines are expensive; the Fusco is a great value at about $20 retail.  It's available at Rosemont Brighton Ave, Maine and Loire, and Aurora Provisions


Sui Generis L'Indigene Sulfureux Anahi

Sui Generis is latin for "unique".  The Sui Generis series of wines are made by Martin Texier, son of the legendary natural wine maker Eric Texier.  The Anahi cuvee is made from 100% Marsanne, organically farmed, hand harvested, hand fermented, and with no sulfur used any where in the process.  Martin seems to make the Anahi as a demonstration and exploration of what can be accomplished in spite of using no sulfur to stabilize or preserve the wine. I highly recommend this in depth interview with Martin that gives a much better understanding of the double edged sword that sulfur is in wine making: Martin Texier Anahi.

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Aroma: The Anahi has a beguiling aroma.  It's not leap out of the glass vivid and crisp like a modern Sauvignon Blanc, but it's got rich and interesting aromas of ripe pear, honey, baking apples, some fresh grass, and just a hint of pickled ginger.  Texier's Anahi, true to the Sui Generis name, has a very unique and engaging aroma.

Palate: Rich mouth feel.  Something in the Anahi's taste actually reminds me of the apple taste of Calvados.  The texture is rich and sits in the mouth.  There is a hint of gingery seeming spice to the finish; it's different and subtly adds an extra dimension to the wine.  The Anahi has a giving character to it and some how tastes full of sun.  The personality seems is deep, mellow, band relaxed.  Their isn't so much acidity, but the palate is very long, evolving, and there's a mineral salty quality on the finish that's delicious. 

The more I drink this the more I like it.  I drank it over 3 days and surprisingly it just got better and better.  Accepted wisdom is that natural wines fade quickly once their open, but with this wine Martin Texier sticks a cork screw right through that myth.  Martin Texier took a risk making this; it's a science experiment!  How can you not love a science experiment that's so passionate, so delicious, and so satisfying!  The Anahi retails for under $20 at Maine and Loire on Washington Ave.