Friday, 19 April 2019

RAW 2019. Discoveries, Encounters, Serendipity.

Ben Walgate, co-founder and winemaker at Tillingham.

At the RAW Wine Fair you can make new discoveries, meet the people who have made the wines you have enjoyed and keep up to date with their latest releases.

For us it has also been a great opportunity to find and sample rare grape varieties. This year's London fair was no different.


Perhaps the most exciting find was an English producer who has appeared you could say fully formed with a dizzying range of wines already distributed by an important merchant, Les Caves de Pyrene no less.

The born fully-formed bit can be explained by the fact that the co-founder is Ben Walgate, former chief executive at Gusborne and many of the grapes he has used so far have been bought in from local growers, some of them biodynamic.


Rose from Regent, Orion and Madeleine Angevine


The grape varieties in the five bottles in the photo here (left to right) include wines made from

1. Ortega
2. Pet Nat from Ortega 68%, Müller Thurgau 4%, Dornfelder 16%, Rondo 8% and Pinot Noir 4%,
3. Ortega
4. Chardonnay
5. Chardonnay Pinot Noir,Pinot Meunier, and Schönburger

Some of the other grape varieties used in Tillingham wines in 2018 include Siegerrebe, Bacchus, Gamay, Pinot Meunier, and Regent.

Ben with his young vines
Ben is planting Madeleine Angevine and Pineau d'Aunis - a first for the UK, surely.

He says "in the end we made wine from a total of 10 vineyard sites and 13 grape varieties, and at times we had up to 30 different fermentations on the go."  

If Ben's initiative is the sign of a new trend we applaud it wholeheartedly. It reminds us of Forlorn Hope in California and Ruth Lewandowski in Utah - vignerons who started as garagistes and are progressing to producing wine from their own vineyards.



An unexpected pleasure was to come across Bodegas Gratias, makers of the brilliant Tardana we had enjoyed so much last year. We included this variety in the Slotovino Awards of 2018. Our bottle had been bought from Vagabond wines, another of our award winners.


Left to right: Tardana, Pintaillo and Bobal


Tardana




Pintaillo
Pintaillo is a variety in danger of extinction. We only realised Gratias made this wine when researching the Bodega after the fair. We very much hope they succeed in getting it into the British market.


Malbo Gentile
Another variety we would like to celebrate is Malbo Gentile. Terra Quilia make Pignoletto and Lambrusco as well as a lightly sparkling Nibbio. Good choices,

Natanadze

We were extremely happy to see Netanadze back. They received our main award for 2018 for researching wild grape varieties and making wine from them. Justifiably he calls one of them after himself: Natenadzis tetri. ('I found this grape species and gave it my name.')  As well as fascinating the wines are really light and interesting.




This red is made in Qvevri from the rare Tskhenis dzudzu Tetri from a 400 year old vine - possibly the world's oldest - Meshkuri Sapere, and Kharistvala Shavi varieties.





The white is made from Akhaltsikhuri Tetri, Meskhuri Mtsvane, Udis Tetri and Chitiskvertskha Tetri. We never tire of applauding Giorgi Natenadze's initiatives. What he and his colleagues do is an important deed of conservation.


Another lovely surprise was the presence of Brand et Fils at RAW 2019. We have trumpeted the wines of Brand et Fils of Egersheim, Alsace since finding a bottle of their wonderful dry Orange wine made from Muscat over a year ago at Caves L'Etiquette in Paris. And yet in all the wine fairs and tasting events we had been to there were plenty of organic wines from Alsace but never Brand et Fils. Yet here they were on our doorstep. How great was that?



The dry Muscat with 15 days maceration was so good we ordered another 3 bottles from Herve at L'Etiquete for our next visit to Paris.


a sensible move as he is now sold out of this lovely wine - understandably.

Brand's dry Muscat - a truly orange Orange Wine.



L'Etiquette also stocked Brand's Maitre Renard, an interesting wine made from Negrette from the Toulouse region and Gamay from near Lyons. Brand et Fils are an imaginative outfit. Garagistes as well as vignerons from their own properties. Great labels too.

Founded in 1956 by Charles Brand the property has been fully organic since 2001.


Riesling

Pinots Blanc, Gris and Noir



Pinot Gris

Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay

Pinots Gris and Noir

Gewurztraminer



Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Austrian haul: 204 varieties in one go.


204 varieties in one go? Fortunately 200 of them were in the same bottle.


This has to be a record for a field blend. The estimable Weingut Leth of Fels in the Wagram area of Austria is one we have had occasion to admire before. We particularly like their Roter Veltliner.

Fels is just under 50 Km from Klosterneuburg, itself practically a suburb of Vienna which is only 16.5 Km away.

Klosterneuburg hosts the Federal Institute for Viticulture and Pomology where Fritz Zweigelt bred Zweigelt and Blauburger so is a significant address in grape breeding. It is also a major wine school.



The Leths have entered into the spirit of Klosterneuburg in the most remarkable way. Their website explains it best:

"Franz Leth senior realised his dream to plant a mixed vineyard of rare and ancient grape varieties some 20 years ago. No one would have expected that it would become home to more than 250 varieties in one single vineyard. In cooperation with the Klosterneuburg wine school, researchers and nursery schools, he has made 15 seedlings of each individual species, identified them with a sign and cultivated them. The goal of the collection has always been to preserve virtually extinct, traditional and regional grape varieties. Today, the collection includes regional varieties from Lower Austria, but also rare varieties once native to the Steiermark, Burgenland, Italy, Hungary, Germany, the Czech Republic and the USA. Meanwhile the variety of vines is the largest of its kind in Austria and forms a fascinating and popular field of activity for research." 

Here they are:


Abendröte
Acolon
Affenthaler, blauer
Agni
Agostenga, rosa
Alden
Alibernet
Aligoté
Ambros, weißer
Ananastraube
André
Arbst, blauer
Arnsburger
Augsta, blauer
Augsta, weißer
Auxerrois
Babeasca
Bacchus
Baco noir
Baco blanc
Barbaroux
Barthainer
Beerheller
Belu
Bettlertraube
Blanc de Morgex
Bogdany
Boskoop, blauer
Carmina
Cascade
Chasan
Comtessa
Damascener, blauer
Delaware
Deckrot
Dornfelder
Dunkelfelder
Early Campbell
Elbling, blauer
Elbling, weißer
Elvira
Ezerjo
Faberrebe
Farbclevner
Florentina
Fontanara
Frankenthaler, weißer
Frankenthalter, blauer
Franzose, früher weißer
Franzose, später weißer
Frühblau, mährische
Frühfein
Frühgipfler
Frühmuskat - Oberlin
Furmint
Gänsfüßer
Gamay
Geisdutten, schwarze
Geisdutten, weiße
Gelbhölzer
Gelbling
Greaza
Grobe
Grobriesling, roter
Grobriesling, weißer
Grünling
Gutedel, Königs-
Gutedel, Petersilien-
Gutedel, roter
Gutedel, schwarzer
Gutedel, weißer
Hainer, grüner
Helfensteiner
Heroldrebe
Heunisch, weißer
Heunisch, roter
Honigler
Huxelrebe
Isabella
Jakobitraube
Jubiläumsrebe
Kadarka, schwarzer
Kadarka, weißer
Kanzler
Karin
Knapp E & A
Knipperle
Kölner, blauer
Königin der Weingärten
Königsast
Königstraube
Krim - Rebe
Krimm – Trollinger
Kurzstingler
L1
Labruska Liné
Lamberttraube
Lämmerschwanz
Lena
Leon Millot
Liliorila
Linsfelder
Mädchentraube
Magleasina
Malaga, roter
Malaga, weißer
Malanstraube
Malinger, früher gelber
Maria
Mariensteiner
Martinsriesling
Melonentraube
Merlot x Csaba
Milleniumstraube
Monrepos
Morio Muskat
Müllerrebe
Muskateller, Gold-
Muskateller, Rosen-
Muskateller, roter
Neronet
Noah
Ochsenaugen
Oleganda
Oliver Irsay
Optima
Orangetraube
Ortega
Ortlieber
Österreichisch weiß
Othello
Palava
Passatuti
Perle von Alzey
Perle von Csaba
Piros
Portugieser, grauer
Portugieser, grüner
Prachttraube
Pressburger, weißer
Primus
Rathay
Räuschling, roter
Räuschling, weißer
Regent
Regner
Rekord
Riesliner
Riesling, 150 Jahre alt
Riesling, Arom-
Riesling, August-
Riesling, Beutel-
Riesling, Bukett-
Riesling, Emerald-
Riesling, Firn-
Riesling, gelber
Riesling, Gold- (D)
Riesling, Gold- (Nö)
Riesling, Gold- (Stmk)
Riesling, Muskat-
Riesling, Okamagan-
Riesling, Reichs-
Riesling, roter
Riesling, schwarzer
Ripertella
Roesler
Rondo
Rotberger
Rotgipfler
Rotgipfler, weißer
Rückle
Sangiovese
Sauvignon, gris
Schaibkern
Schantl - Rebe
Schönburger
Schwarzgrobe
Schwarzriesling
Seidentraube
Seifert
Seperavi
Servant
Sibera
Siegerrebe
Siegfriedrebe
Silberweisse
Silvaner, blauer
Silvaner, roter
Slankamenka, roter
Slankamenka, weißer
Steinschiller, roter
Steinschiller, weißer
Tauberschwarz
Thurling
Tintet
Traminer, gelber
Traminer, grüner
Triumph
Trollinger (Steiermark)
Trollinger, blauer
Trollinger, Muskat-
Urban, blauer
Urrebe, steirische
Veltliner, blauer
Veltliner, brauner
Veltliner, rotweißer
Venosta
Venus
Wagner - Rebe
Wanner - Rebe
Welschliner
Wildbacher, blauer
Würzer
Zähringer
Zierfandler
Zimmettraube

Approx.20 more, unknown or just .
unidentified varieties 


In case you might be wondering how Leth makes their appropriatedly named "Simply Wow 200 United" that is also explained on the excellent website:

Winemaking: All white varieties, (approx. 200) are harvested together as a field blend, pressed, fermented and matured in one wine. Only the finest and ripest bunches of each variety are used for this project to guarantee top quality. To provide the extraordinary array of fruit flavours, the wine making process is done completely in stainless steel. After maturing six month on lees, bottling is done usually in May.



And the other 4 varieties? Appropriately enough one was the Fritz Zweigelt Klosterneuburg Neuburger from another estimable Austrian producer, Heinrich

A Gelbmuskateller



and a Zierfandler/Rotgipfler blend by another good Winzer, Alphart.



Finally, a true rarity, this Roter Traminer by Neumeister

Where were we able to find all these rarities? Not in one of the larger cities but at the ski resort, Lech am Arlberg. Most of these bottles came from Pfefferkorns Supermarket.

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Some great Californian restaurants



Norther Calfornia, 8.2.19. Particularly nasty weather.

What good is California without the sun? The thought entered our heads during our stay in February this year. Snow in Seattle, biting windchill in San Francisco and sodden misery in LA.


Well, there are always the restaurants and they do need the rain. Chez Panisse has been there for a very long time indeed (we first visited there in the mid-1970s) and is as good as ever. That is an incredible achievement in the US - particularly California where change happens.

Chez Panisse is still a very hot ticket so we were determined not to arrive late.



You know where this is headed...

Domaine Mosse's Le Gros is Grolleau Noir blended with Gamay, Grolleau Gris and Cot from the Loire of course. At 12.5% it was the perfect wine to sip while waiting for the rest of our party. In fact it was so good we had it with the meal too.



It's a Louis-Dressner import. You will never be unhappy with any wine with their name on the back. We can't think of many other importers of which this is true. They are so good that Chambers St. Wines of New York, the worlds best winemerchant hold an annual Louis-Dressner evening.


after dinner we were lucky enough to be given a tour of the kitchens by Fanny Singer, the daughter of the founder of Chez Panisse, Alice Waters.


We had never seen such beautiful and well appointed kitchens. Everything was luxurious and sparkling.

washing up station

Danger: Ice-cream maker



Cold store
Clearly everyone working there was happy and that must be the secret - oh and having one of the world's greatest and most influential restauranteurs as your founder and owner.


It was good to see Vino Volo still going strong at San Francisco airport.


We include this great place under Californian restaurants because they do serve food (we didn't eat any of it but it looked OK) and there are branches at 4 Californian airports as well as all over the rest of the country.



Of the various flights we chose Winter hites (Semillon, Riesling and Grenache Blanc) and Stranger Things (Pinot Meunier, Pais and Tannat).

Other flights included

World Value Reds (Syrah, Tempranillo, Merlot)
California Kings (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel)
Heartbeakin' Reds (Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon x 2)
Unique Noirs (Pinot Noir x 2, Gamay Noir)
Shades of White (Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Fiano)
Sommelier Series (Silver Oak Cabernet S. and Ch. de la Gardine Chateauneuf du Pape)

 Some of these wines are surprisingly fine such as the Semillon from Brokenwood. Do go if you have the time. If not you'll miss 8 flights...



Our next memorable meal was at Bestia in downtown LA. Where to begin? Imagine what was referred to as a sort of dealer-and murder-alley in a corner of the city almost made for a Quentin Tarantino movie. Add a beautiful American/Israeli and Ukrainian/Egyptian couple (both chefs), a good backer, some urban regeneration (the alley is now a mixture of residential, art studios and other enterprises) and you have the funkiest and most sought after place imaginable.

Even though large (the staff alone number 105) legend has it that it is impossible to get a reservation. We were obviously lucky to get a table outside and under cover. It was raining and chilly (note the heaters) but we were happy.

Note Blatterle, Pigato, Encruzado etc. not to mention the Pear sparkler

Sciaccarellu, Pelaverga, Vlahiko, Caino Longo, Canaiolo...

The food was absolutely outstanding. the winelist is probably unique in being published anew every day. The Chief Sommelier is Ryan Ibsen. He is a real enthusiast whose aim is to add to peoples' existing knowledge by suggesting wines to augment their pleasure. He prefers to deal with a range of producers and importers who have small stocks so wines sell out quickly giving him the chance to add new ones on a daily basis.

The winelist is organised by grape variety and is extensive. Clearly everything has been well chosen and even the most familiar appellations have something interesting to offer.

The service was also outstanding. Our guy was a hoot and very efficient with it.



Asking as we do about alchol levels, we were sent the Sommelier who we later realised was Ryan Ibsen himself. He was charm itself and seemed genuinely happy that we chose this Malvasia from Salina (11.5%) which despite more than one visit to the island we had never seen before. We had a nice conversation about Salina, Lipari and whatnot. The wine was perfect.


Gjelina is crowded with young people on their phones.
A reservation at Gjelina in Venice Beach is also extremely difficult to obtain. Ours was inherited from a couple unable to take it up due to an alarming leg injury invilving an avant-garde coffee table. Fortunately recovery has been effected and now the said leg is just as weak as the other one (a Dylan Thomas joke by the way).


the restaurant was founded in 2008 and specialises in Italian/American food with emphasis on beautiful vegetables. The menu is long, but everything is delicious. It bears a warning we have never seen before: "changes & modifications politely declined." Oh, and there's loud music, but not just any loud music. Gjelina make a point of displaying the covers of their albums on their website. Another first.


 We were becoming accustomed to the wonderfully electic winelists to be found in these Californian restaurants and Gjelina's didn't disappoint.




How often do you find wine from the Azores? This Verdelho (12.5%) was just great.

not available in any of these fine restaurants