Thursday, 1 June 2017


                                                         Sir John Soane - Pasticcio

Our occasional series of mixed-bag bottles has gone under the names of Valderi-Valdera, Pot-Pourri, Gemischter Salat and Salmagundi. Now Pasticcio - a good old musical term for an opera cobbled together from numbers taken from works by the same or diverse composers.

Pasticcio di Rigatoni
'Pasticcio' was first used in the 16th century for a meat and pasta pie and is still used for that by the Greeks ('Pastisio') by the way.

Today's Pasticcio consists of the following wines we have enjoyed in recent weeks and months. Some have been mentioned already in this blog but not tasted.

the elegant Buscicchio Pietrafesa couple of Tenuta Le Querce, Barile, Basilicata Italy and Primrose Hill, London UK giving a tasting of their wines at the Princess of Wales pub, Chalcot Road, London

We have written about how this almost extinct variety was revived by Le Querce but until this convenient tasting we hadn't actually tasted the wine made from this grape. The impression was very positive indeed. Generous, fruity with its own personality. one to join the Slotovino Hall of fame (we must revive that auspicious academy!). This wine has legs in more sense than one. Complimenti!

Staying in Italy, we found this delicious 11.5% inexpensive blend of Ansonica 'con altri vitigni autoctoni.' They guard this information closely. This is sometimes because the local varieties are not permitted but in the case of this prominent producer it is more likely chosen from the Sicilian varities included in ther other whites such as Cattaratto, Grillo and/or Zibibbo. We're not quite sure why but this excellent value wine is only available in Italy according to Winesearcher.

For this no less delicious Biancolella, you only have to go to L'Antico in Kings Road, London where Franco will fetch it for you if you ask nicely.


We found this 100% Bellone at Enoteca Costantino in Roma, but you can get something like it from Swig. What they sell doesn't state the grape Bellone on the label but we are assured that's what it is. Frascati and Castelli Romani grapes can include a maximum of 10% and 30% respectively of local varieties in addition the various Malvasias and Trebbianos permitted in the DOCs. Bellone is one of these 'Altre uve bianche locali' which is why our bottle only mentions Lazio IGT. Ian D'Agata has a very high  opinion of Bellone calling it 'an outstanding grape variety, one of the best in Italy today.' We agree on the strength of this example from Marco Carpineti of Cori - "Capolemole".

We were charmed to discover the sparkling reds of the Penisola Sorrentina a while back. Now we have tasted this Piedirosso/SciascinosoAglianico rosso frizzante naturale we have ordered another couple of bottles; the ultimate endorsement.

founder francisco Napoleao
On to Portugal and two wines from the Vinho Verde appelation. We took advantage of an offer  for free shipping from the excellent Lisbon merchant Napoleao and bought some of their more resaonable low alcohol Vino Verdes.

Vinhao is the grape of red Vino Verde. Not all Vinhao is delicious. This one is.

Vinho Verde branco can have all sorts of grapes in it; Trajadura, Loueiro, Azal. Avesso, Arinto de Bucelas (aka. Pederna) and Alvarinho but the first two are very typical. Not all white Vinho Verdes are good but this one (Alvarinho + Trajadura) stood out, especially at only €7.99.

East now to Hungary. This Kiralyleanyka was part of our Hungarian haul from the Hungaricum shop at Budapest Airport. Despite our disappointment with Kiralyleanyka under 13% tasting neutral, this one - Bolyki - was nicely aromatic and characteristic at 12.5%. It quite restored our high opinion of this grape.

Next door in Romania (Bucharest Airport Duty Free) we had found this bottle of white wine from a variety called Sarba. It had stood in our cupboard since October 2015 so we were apprehensive as to its state but there was no need to worry. Many native white Romanian varieties (Mustoasa Maderat, Busuioaca de Bohotin) have an inclination towards sweetness as does Sarba. It is a hybrid from Grasevina (Welschriesling/Riesling Italico) and an unnamed pollinator. Maybe this sweetness helps it survive poor storage? Memorable.

Next the only French area - the Commune des Riceys - to boast three appellations; Champagne, Cotaux Champenois and Rose des Riceys. Ricey is also the southernmost appellation of the Champagne area bordering on Bourgogne. Rose des Riceys is made from Pinot Noir and is never sparkling. If still wines from Champagne are expensive (this one was) it may be that with every bottle, two bottles of Champagne are sacrificed since the wine would have been a component of two bottles of (sparkling) Champagne As Tom Stevenson says, the wines like this are 'quaint' and 'a much lesser beast that those of Burgundy.' Nevertheless it was a rarity and certainly pleasant to drink.

The Negrette we bought around the corner from Chambers Street wines at Frankly Wines on W. Broadway was fantastic. What a great grape Negrette is and why cut it with Syrah? It just makes it less Negrette-ish. Is there some reason it's so difficult to find Negrette in purezza? Something's afoot. Why does this lovely bottle need such an apologetic label?

This Pinot Gris/Pinot Blanc blend from the Netherlands was a huge hit at a dinner with what can only be described as some wine connoisseurs present. We scratched our heads for something they might never had had before and Dutch wine was the answer. Excellent as well as obscure.

On to the New World, except Hunter Vally Semillon is a classic and as Jancis Robinson says 'Australia's gift to the world.' As readers of this blog know, we certainly agree with her and perhaps not co-incidentally, although from the Barossa Valley, we found this upscale bottle in Will Lander's Portland restaurant. Like HV Semillon, this was low in alcohol, 11.2%. Quite wonderful.

Our final ingredient in this Pasticcio is something completely different, our Norton from Missouri. In case you haven't been following us on this, we had two types of Norton, this and the reserve from Stone Hill Winery of Hermann MO. delivered to a friend in New York City to await our visit there in March 2017. This was the only way we could get our hands on this interesting so-called US native variety given the complicated rules for shipping and even purchasing wine in the USA.

Norton is regarded as the only old American hybrid not to show any signs of foxyness. A DNA study has shown it to have Vinifera ancestry together with Vitis Aestivalis. Enfarine Noir has been suggested as the Vinifera component.

Whatever the real story, Norton on this evidence is a variety worth cultivating. It is said to be vigorous and resistant to mildew. We think old hybrids generally are outdated but not Norton!

Friday, 26 May 2017

London Wine Fair, Olympia May 22 - 24, 2017

The London Wine Fair is quite large by UK standards but much more mainstream than RAW or the Real Wine Fair. There are discoveries to be made though but these are often hidden and require time to be winkled out.

Following our discovery of Armenian wine at ProWein, Duesseldorf a month previously we headed upstairs for the 'Esoterica' section of the London Wine Fair at Olympia which is where smaller agencies and importers are to be found.

the kind ladies of Armenia Wine Company

Armenian Wine Importers Ltd. Founder Charles Masraff is on the left.

Amazingly there were no less than two Armenian outfits on this mezzanine floor, Wines Unearthed and in 'Esoterica' proper, Armenian Wine Importers Ltd. Just to be complicated there was a third company, Ginvino 'Bringing you the best wines of Armenia' on the ground floor with the big guys.

We started with the Armenia Wine company but their grapes - Areni, Voskeat etc. were already familiar to us so the kind ladies there directed us to Armenian Wine Importers just around the corner. There we met Charles Masraff and his colleague. Charles is half Armenian and lived in Yerevan for a number of years. Comparatively recently he founded this company and is importing a handful of interesting wines.

One of these, Kataro is from Khndogni - a grape found mainly in Nagorno-Karabakh and used in Armenia, Uzbekistan, Iran and Russia where it is also called Scireni. Producers now favour the name Sireni as an easier one to use and so do we especially as there are other Armenian grapes beginning with the letter K such as Kangun and Karmrahyut not to mention lots of Georgians, Ukrainians and others beginning with the same letter. The only fly in the ointment is that the most famous Armenian red variety is Areni - a possible point for confusion with Sireni?

Togh is the Reserve version of Kataro's Sireni.

there were also reds from Areni, a white from Voskehat and a sparkling wine from a grape called Khatoun Kharji (60%) and Voskehat (40%) from a producer called Keush.

Khatoun Kharji has yet to be included in 'Wine Grapes' but it may be found in Galet.

Founder of Ginvino (right) with clients

Ginvino is the unlikely name of another Armenian wine company this time London based whose stall on the ground floor sported an evocative amphora (called Karas in Armenian). Ginvino import Van Ardi wines among others.

 We did the tour downstairs but without careful study of the show guide there were certainly many interesting varieties we could have tasted but didn't.

Close perusal of the catalogue after the event turned up some fascinating gems we wish we had discovered at the time.

One of these was Fekete Járdovány to be found at the Wines of Hungary stand. The producer, our friend Gere, describes the grape as follows;

Fekete (literally black) is a grape variety unknown for even local wine experts. It is practically not grown anywhere, Attila Gere, the iconic winemaker in Villány however has a tiny vineyard of this ancient grape of the Carpathian Basin. He carries on several experiments with the research centre of Pécs, and his single varietal Fekete Járdovány is a result of this experiment. The grape extincted with phylloxera, but it came to life again in 2011, when the first vintage was made. The 2014 vintage of the 100% Fekete Járdovány has just been released. The wine was aged for 6 months in barrique, and available in limited quantity. Light, fruity wine with a nose of sour cherry and rose pepper. On the palate it is easy going, lovely and spicy – slightly similar to Kadarka.

There were other unusual varieties among the Hungarians. Generosa is an Ezerjo x Savagnin Rose (Roter Veltliner) cross obtained in 1951 and released in 2004. It just shows what a long gestation these varieties have between discovery and full production.

Kabar, another new one on us - is destined for the production of Tokay. Bouvier and Harslevelu are the parent grapes.

This rose is from Menoir which we like very much as a red wine. Attempts to link Menoir/Medoc Noir/Kekmedoc to French varieties such as Mornen Noir, Cot/Malbec or anything else seem to be doomed and Menoir looks like a native Hungarian variety.

the following is a list of goodies taken from both the LWF and Esoterica guides;

Evmolpia. A recent Mavrud x Merlot cross from Bulgaria. Vaskovino specialises in sugn Bulgarian grapes.

Moscatel Tinto (or Negro) is Mission/Pais/Listan Negro. Las Bodegas had a wine from Argentina with this name for the grape involved.

Morenillo is in Galet but not 'Wine Grapes'. It is also known as Barillol. Georges Barbier had a wine from Catalonis including this grape and Garnatxa Tinta.

Arbois is a synonym for Menu Pinot. Amanda's Loire Valley Wines had two wines of Arbois.

Ethical Edibles had a Vino Nobile di Montepulciano with Mammolo listed as No. 1 in a blend including Canaiolo and Prunolo Gentile. This is our first sighting of Mammolo in any wine. They also had a Bianchetta Genovese which is difficult to find outside Genova.

If you like Juhfark, Witness Mountain Ltd seem to be the people to contact. They had 5 versions on show.

Maltby and Greek is known for their Greek wines but Southern Wine Roads is no less active with over 35 indiginous Greek varieties including the rare Katsano, Gaidouria and Zakinthino.

We also read - too late - that we had missed not one, not two but three Belgian producers. That was a real pity. it just shows the importance of preparation for these events.

Salena Franchitti after whom the estate is named

One exhibitor for whom we were prepared was Salena Estate Winery of South Australia.

Ever since Darby Higgs gave us a bottle of Salena's Bianco D'Alessano we have been huge admirers of this winery.

They also make Montepulciano,

Touriga, Lagrein and Cabernet

the blend varies from vintage to vintage

Touriga Nacional, Lagrein, Sangiovese, Graciano, Tempranillo, Vermentino, Riesling and Moscato as well as the more usual Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Chardonnay, Semillon, Sauvignon etc.

The estate is over 200 acres and produce organic wines, bulk wines, own label wines and ptivate label wines

John Thorne is Salena's UK representative. His company also represents a Champagne house and an English Sparkling wine estate, Sixteen Ridges. John is not only very effective - you can buy Salena Estate wines at Oddbins - he is a very amiable and kind person who arranged for us to obtain a case of Salena's Bianco D'Alessano without paying a fortune in shipping charges.