Friday, 24 March 2017

Some weird offers at Duty Free

Clearly people still drink (take?) this stuff!
Sold by the litre at 17% alcohol: $14.00 a bottle

In our gadding about the globe we come across some weird ideas of what the customer might want at an airport duty free shop. Wincarnis seems to be what passengers departing fron Kochi, India might demand. The name Wincarnis comes from 'Wine' and 'Carnis' (of meat). Instead of meat it now contains what has been described at a bewildering variety of botanicals, angelica root, balm mint, fennel coriander and cardamom seed, peppermint leaves and cassia bark and is produced by Hedges and Butler. Remember, this is what is known as British Wine. There was plenty of it.

An extreme example of Duty Free marketing at Velana, airport at Male in the Maldives consisted of bottles of Solaia at $595 a go.

For cheapskates there was a choice of Gaja


and Icewine at between $95 and $167. Thank goodness it was duty free.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

What to do with wine nobody wants to drink No. 1. Distillation

Try this experiment at home!

All you need is a pressure cooker with a condenser and some wine you're trying to get rid of.

After attaching a couple of hoses to the pressure cooker pour in the wine. You'll need about a dozen bottles to make around 1.5 litres of alcohol at the first distillation.

Put the top on

clamp it firmly
turn on water coolant to condenser and apply flame from cooker

monitor temperature carefully (not too hot, not too cold)
your first distillate will start to trickle out.

and there's your first distillate with alcohol guage showing around 50%

Repeat another 2 times to get that XXX quality. Dilute with water to achieve 40%. Add some oak chips to add flavour and colour and taste very tentatively. Before the third distillation, the alcohol may be used for cleaning or other domestic purposes. Maybe the best idea but meanwhile, this is an amusing exercise allowing you to experience the pocess of turning wine into spirit. It is not adviseable to drink the resulting hooch. This is for experimantal purposes only.

Coming soon. What to do with wine nobody wants to drink No.2. Vinegar.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

In praise of Plaimont Producteurs

When asked why he wasn't interested in the sport of kings, the Shah of Iran said it was well known that some horses run faster than others. Similarly, some co-operatives are better than others. In general, co-operatives are not expected to outshine good individual producers but some are so good as to merit strong admiration. Over half of French wine production comes from co-operatives by the way.

One of these is the estimable Plaimont Producteurs in Southwest France. Here is a version of their self-description;

Benedictine monks from the Monastery of St. Mont made wine from the middle ages on yet for many years the wines were destined for distillation in the production of Armagnac. Then came Andre Dubosc a native son of the area and vigneron for three generations who, helped by a team of young winemakers established the appellations St. Mont, Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh moelleux and Côtes de Gascogne. 1979 was the year when Plaisance, Aignan and Saint Mont dans le Gers amalgamated their cellars and their initials (PL for Plaisance, AI for Aignan and MONT for Saint Mont) to form the Union des Caves which became Plaimont Producteurs at Saint Mont (Gers). In 1999 they were joined by the Caves de Crouseilles (producing Madiran, Pacherenc de Vic-Bilh and Béarn) and Condom (Côtes de Gascogne et Condomois).

From the start Plaimont Producteurs bought the best chateaux and domaines of the region from Aquitaine to the Pyrenees in order to re-establish these emblematic and unique vineyards and elevate their image in the service of the organization. 

An exceptional genetic inheritance.

Our native varieties, spread across a very particular climate, Tannat for our reds from Madiran and Saint Mont, Gros and Petit Manseng for the whites of Saint Mont and Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh.

But one treasure always hides another. We have parcels of pre-phylloxera vines unique in France, one of which dates from the 1st Empire!

Our white varieties

Petit Courbu


Gros and Petit Manseng


Our Red varieties


Pinenc (Fer Servadou)

Cabernet Sauvignon

A unique conservatoire of old varieties.

Nature's magic has preserved an exceptional genetic inheritance.

Based on their genetic researches scientists have been able to determine that the Adour region was the cradle of the great Oceanic varieties, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc which then spread out to Bordeaux, the Loire and the coast of Cantabria in Spain, Northern Portugal (Porto and the Douro) and Latin America.

The foothills of the Pyrenees is the paradise for 'Lambrusques' or wild vines, never cultivated by man, occurring naturally, supported on tree-trunks... 12 completely unknown varieties have been found there which are not even hermaphrodite, hence little-cultivated by man. Wine has begun to be produced from these.

This preserved wealth has allowed Plaimont Producteurs to create the most important private and officially recognized grape collection in France.

It is the latter part of this mission statement which caught our eye. Chapeau!

Nice people too....

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Sangue di Giuda

Image result for blood of judas

Fake News is nothing new. In the wine world, 'Sangue di Giuda' is a good example. Various fake news items have been invented to market this sweet sparkling red from Oltrepò Pavese,

Despite the Spanish label, Sangue di Giuda is Italian.
This name according to two of the legends was intentionally invented to discourage the drinking of this wine.

Legend No. 1.

The name "Sangue di Giuda" was given to the wine by monks in Lombardy who disapproved of its stimulating and "aphrodisiac" effects.


Legend No. 2.

The friars used to make the wine and nuns would break into the cellar and have a good time. The monks grew tired of this and marked the barrels with the terrifying phrase "Sangue di Giuda" so they would not have as much disappearing wine.

We don't buy either of these silly stories. No other wine has a name designed to put you off drinking it. (OK, maybe 'Inferno'?)

Legend No. 3.

This tells that Judas wandered this world - a sad example of impiety (according to Bishop Papias of Hierapolis). He had bitterly repented of having betrayed Jesus, and Jesus, as a sign of forgiveness caused him to be resurrected in Oltrepò, precisely at Broni, a province of Pavia. Recognizing him, the citizens of that place decided to kill him for his role in the Passion of Christ. Judah was saved thanks to a gift he made to the local wine growers: he healed their vines from a disease which at that time had affected them. To thank him, the winemakers dedicated to him the name of this wine.

Oh, sure! Fake News indeed.

No, we reckon you can expect the name to have been adopted in more literally bloodthirsty days as a positive incentive. Who wouldn't want to drink the blood of the traitor, Judas?

Leaving the moniker aside, the wine belongs to the basket of other sparkling reds to be found in Italy including Lambrusco of course but also Gragnano, Brachetto, Buttafuoco etc.

This last-named, Buttafuoco is almost identical to Sangue di Giuda and comes from the same area which includes Broni by the way. Croatina vivo or frizzante is one of our favourites also from the Oltrepo Pavese. In Sangue di Giuda and Buttafuoco the Croatina is always blended with Barbera and nearly always with Uva Rara and Ughetta (Vespolina). Buttafuoco has its own legends but we won't bore you with those.

Victor Hazan: Did anyone mention Gutturnio?
There is a sparkling version of Gutturnio, another Barbera/Croatina blend. Pleasant though the wine is, Gutturnio was cast into utter oblivion by Victor Hazan who found the name just too ugly to contemplate. We suggest one shouldn't be put off either by this name or 'Sangue di Giuda'. The wines are perfectly attractive in their way although the latter can be rather sweet.

Like Lambrusco amabile, Sangue di Giuda 'dulce' is popular in Spain

Spanis supermarkets are strangely strong in sweet red sparklers. In one ('Supersol') there were no less that four kinds of Lambrusco Amabile

Might there be a story behind the popularity of all this sweet Italian sparkling wine and why don't the spanish make it for themselves? Just let's not make it a fake one.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Meet Dipan Ghosal, self-motivated Sommelier

       Image result for al muntaha restaurant dubai           

We struggle to fill the category 'Sommellier of the year' in our annual 'Slotovino Awards' (none since 2010/11) but January 2017 has brought an outstanding candidate it would be hard to beat in the next 11 months, Dipan Ghosal.

Dipan is from Kolkata. Slotovino Awards 2015/16  heralded India as well as China as the places from where our wine mayl increasingly come so it is fitting that it is from India that a truly talented sommelier comes our way now.

Dipan is modest about his training but actually he is well qualified with a BA in Hotel Management from Punjab Technical University and Distinctions in levels 2 and 3 of the Wine and Spirit Education Trust. He has also served his apprenticeship as a steward in room service and the Indian Specialty Fine Dining Restaurant of the Taj Hotel Chennai, Sommelier of the Yauatcha (Michelin starred Hakkasan Restaurants) in Bangalaru and Sommelier for the entire Baros Resort in the Maldives. He goes from there to the Burj Al Arab, Dubai (the one that looks like a sail) no less where there are 7 restaurants and two bars. A man to watch.

Image result for burj al arab

 The incredible thing about Dipan is that he has not yet visited any of the wine-growing regions his list comprises nor attended any of the famous wine fairs or events anywhere outside India. His encyclopedic knowledge is from his training obviously but also from his own research notably from 'Wine Grapes' (Robinson, Harding and Vuillamoz) and other sources. To that extent he is an autodidact.

In the Baros Island resort he increased the winelist from around 180 to 250 wines and broadened the choice to include not just Burgundy (there had been only Bordeaux previously) but also Minervois, Corbieres, Gruener Veltliner, Muscadet, Rioja (amazingly), Otago Pinot Noir (previously only Marlborough), Chilean Merlots, Mornington Peninsula and Yarra Pinot Noirs, an Argentinian Cabernet Sauvignon to act as a counter-weight to the Malbecs already listed and many others. The result is a fully rounded list with something for everyone. Of course the list remains conservative with all the usual suspects required by clients of such resorts but he tries to steer them towards some of the less obvious wines especially in the New Moon dinners that are a feature and takes pleasure in their satisfaction when it works.

In his profile he describes himself as 'a self-motivated Wine Professional, who started his career as a steward and fallen in love with wines.' He enjoys 'meeting people from every corner of the world and understanding their aspect for their respective wines and their choices.' He adds: 'I read whatever I get, mainly literature... ' I am 'a creative person at heart with a love towards kitchen experiments.'

Image result for al muntaha restaurant dubai

So if you go to Dubai and eat at one of the Burj Al Arab restaurants, ask for Dipan. You will be well looked after and should you have time to talk about wine Dipan is guaranteed to give his time and share his enthusiasms. A really dedicated and knowledgeable wine-lover and in equal measure a charming and efficient Sommelier who will always strike the right note.

Rode of witte?

The worst three words in the Dutch language? As far as Dutch wine (wijn) is concerned, you may not be asked this question. When asking if they have any Dutch wine, they like to joke 'It's white!' Actually they like to screw up their faces when they say that and look down their noses at you the while.

This is quite unfair because in our experience Dutch wine is at least as good as English or Welsh wine and some of the best is actually Roodwijn. The strange thing is that Dutch Sparkling wine is conspicuous by its absence.

First of all, let's admit we know practically nothing about Dutch wine but then nor do the Dutch it seems. This may be because it is very difficult to get hold of. In contrast to our last trip to Amsterdam when we found a few interesting bottles at Gall and Gall supermarket near the Royal Palace (inluding a lovely Johanniter), there was none on a recent visit. In an attempt to buy a bottle or two we had contacted a vigneron called Jan van den Halm of Wijngaart Telgt in Ermelo to find out who stocked his wines in Amsterdam. He replied rather charmingly but wistfully

Our wine is only for sale in Ermelo, Putten and Harderwijk.
We don't have any selling point in Amsterdam or near Amsterdam area's.
If you want our wine, you have to come to Ermelo and you are welkom there.
If you want to come to Ermelo, please call me 06-22101964 for an day and time.
I you don't want to come, I wish you a nice stay in Amsterdam.
 - a pity as he makes wine from an interesting array of grapes including Johanniter, Cabernet Blanc and Regent.

Nice wine shop (Winkel) De Gouden Ton in Utrechtsstraat, Amsterdam.
One wine-merchant (De Gouden Ton) we found with a Dutch wine said he stocked it because he was friends with the producer. Another, specializing in Champagne, Bordeaux and Burgundy sent us away with an emphatic 'Certainly not!' adding that Dutch wine was 'white, sour and over-expensive.' We agree with Dr. Johnson on the subject of patriotism but this seemed an unnecessarily harsh verdict on local produce.

Also in Utrechtsstraat, next door to de Gouden Ton, Tromp (no relation).

Founded only about 13 years ago. One of a small chain

Gouda mountain.

This is not to say there are not good and interesting wines to be bought in Amsterdam. Some of the wonderful cheese shops also offer wine to be paired with any cheese you may buy

 We found these sweeties from Massandra in more than one place. We can't recall having seen these in the UK.

Tromp also stocked an interesting Verona 15.5% vino da meditazione by Bolla called Creso (Croesus), also a new one on us.

Image result for hemelse modder

One evening on a tip-off we went to the Hemelse Modder restaurant on Ouse Waal. An excellent recommendation. Hemelse Modder has been going since the 1980s but still looks fresh and new. It was founded by a group of like-minded friends who wanted to eat somewhere where the produce was organic and ecologically sound. Their wine list is small but really interesting, including as it did a Dutch Solaris.

This was a little sweeter than English Solaris adding to our hunch that when made at northerly latitudes it escapes Jancis Robinson's 'tooth-rottingly sweet' warning but the further south you go the sweeter it is likely to get. Solaris is now grown in Italy. You have been warned.

You could tell that Hemmelse Modder take their wine seriously with a Pignoletto rather than a Prosecco and a St. Magdalena on offer among others.

There is a place on Rokin (No. 60) called 'Cave Rokin' which stocks a few bottles from the Netherlands' oldest winery, Apostelhoeve including their Auxerrois, Mueller-Thurgau and Riesling.

By co-incidence there was the same bottle of white we had bought at the first merchant we had visited - the one who said he was a friend of the producer, a Pinot Blanc/Pinot Gris blend.  This seems by the way to be an obvious and interesting combination. One we had met before and enjoyed in an English wine. The producer is De Kleine Schorre. Not fancying the Riesling or the Mueller-Thurgau of Apostelhoeve we bought de Kleine Schorre's Auxerrois on the basis that it was half a degree less alcoholic than that of Apostelhoeve.

Image result for wijngoed thorn

Also on sale was a real find, a Dornfelder from Thorn. We had enjoyed a glass of this with our delicious meal at Rijks, the Michelin starred restaurant at the Rijksmuseum and were determined to get a bottle to bring home and prove to people that Dutch wine is red as well as white.

Image result for Thorn wijngoed

Thorn's Dornfelder is as good if not better than any English or Welsh Dornfelder or even English or Welsh red wine in general. There are plenty of good German Dornfelders but this was just as good as the best of our acquaintance. Very highly recommended.

So that made a haul of 3 bottles with Schiphol duty free as our only hope for more. That was to be an exercise in futility compounded by a sting in the tail. A promising shop and bar called 'A taste of the Lowlands' or something had some bottles of Dutch wine (Apostelhoeve) behind the bar. Waiting patiently for  the barmaid to banter with two beery individuals while re-filling their tankards, we were told by a chap washing glasses that the joint was now closed. We said we only wanted to buy one of the bottles behind the bar but he just repeated not without a note of satisfaction that they were closed.