Friday, 11 October 2019

A very lean year.

Biblical in its proportion, we have suffered the leanest possible of all years in 2019. Already last year we had lost more grapes to birds than ever before. This time word had obviously got around and the blighters stripped the vineyard of almost every available grape both ripe and unripe.

It had all started so well

Nevertheless, our neck of the woods had been extremely dry with what rain there was seeming to miss us out. We spent most of our available time irrigating the newly planted Soreli with no time for summer pruning or whatever.

When it did rain, this triffid-like fungus appeared. Never seen anything like it.


On the other hand, there was no sign of fungal disease in the vineyard. That was a good surprise because although we had removed all the Bacchus we had still expected the Goldriesling to become mildewed as it had in previous years. We hadn't bothered to spray this because we only have about 20 vines of this variety. Maybe this year's frequent winds had helped keeping everything healthy?



More Goldriesling

When we saw that the Goldriesling was ripening about the same time as the Solaris and that the birds were beginning to take an interest we quickly picked what was left of these two varieties - enough for about 4.5 litres. Pathetic maybe but at least something.

At that point the reds (Regent, Dornfelder, Pinots Noir, Precoce and Meunier) looked as if they needed a good couple of weeks more. The Rondo had alread been eaten by the birds but we are used to that every year.

On our return not much more than a week later, everything had gone. 

To quote La Fontaine, the grapes were probably sour.

We are of course disappointed especially having opened a bottle of our Red Field Blend of 2018 the other day. It was really rather good.

Looking at the bigger picture, the vast majority of our vines were planted only this year and in 2018 so we are still playing the waiting game. Meanwhile it would have been nice to have a few litres from the other grapes. The Geisenheim G.8107-3 had been looking promising as had the others - Helios, Johanniter, Phoenix and Sirius. Souvignier Gris was less promising unlike in 2018. They were all ravaged before their time.

What to do about this problem in the future? Netting doesn't seem practicable. Maybe we have to organise a Pheasant shoot? But what if it's the squirrels of which there has been an abundance? They have stripped our plumb, damson and greengage trees quite bare this year. Who is to say they don't eat grapes too?

Answers on a postcard please.

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

SITT, 9/9/19, Armoury House, London.

A warm, not to say hot welcome from the Honorable Artillery Company at Armoury House, City Road, London for this year's Specialist Importers Trade Tasting!

If you got past the guns there was plenty of interesting wine to taste.

The show is small compared to many. You might not expect a lot of rare creatures but the fact that there are always points of interest. Our specialist importers are really eclectic.

Alpine Wines can always be relied on to field some off-piste wines. On this occasion we were drawn to a Pinot Noir from Graubuenden (Grisons) if only because wines from the German-speaking region are so often overshadowed by those of French-speaking Switzerland. they are different and therefore complimentary so merit their own place alongside wines of the Valais, Geneve, Lavaux, La Cote etc.

Schiava, one of our favourite varieties has been dealt with in these pages (see our post of April 16th, 2018 Most Schiava wine these days is made from Schiava Grossa apparently. Schiava Grigia used to be favoured but is now less commonly found so this one from Kellerei Kurtatsch was good to find.

Neuburger is a spontaneous crossing of Roter Veltiner and Sylvaner - both attractive grapes. This one is from Burgenland in Austria with borders in Slovakia and Hungary. The wine is pleasant if  'full-bodied but gentle' as 'Wine Grapes' so aptly puts it.

We can't resist either Gamaret or Garanoir so what's not to like in a blend of the two? Both are Gamay/Reichensteiner crossings. Garanoir is said to be fruitier and less concentrated. It is less planted than Gamaret because its acidity can be low.

Croatia is always a good bet for unusual grapes.

Zilavka is one. We had to rummage in the archives to discover we had once bought a bottle of Zilavka from Townend wine merchants of Hull. We can't remember what it tasted like but nobody complained.

This bottle from Stone Vine and Sun looked promising. We'd never heard of either Zanut or Zakaj but a minute's research told us these were not words for any grape variety - just the winemaker and the Croatian for 'Why?' The grape in case you are interested is (Tocai) Friulano.

Uva specialises in Italian (not surprisingly) and sustainable wines.

Amazingly, they had not one but two Italian (Tuscan) Tempranillos! 'Wine Grapes' tells us there are 7 ha. of Tempranillo in Italy while hinting that some Malvasia Nera might be Tempranillo. There are other Spanish grapes in Italy such as Garnacha/Cannonao and Mazuela/Bovale Grande so why not?

As to how Tempranillo ended up in Tuscany, the winemaker Pietro Beconcini writes the following:

The ancient Via Francigena passes directly through what is now the Pietro Beconcini wine estate.  Religious pilgrims on their way to Rome arrived from all over Europe, since the two main routes of the Via Francigena originated in Canterbury England and Santiago di Compostela in Spain.  Customarily,  priest and monks, in addition to their religious charges, were also responsible for overseeing agricultural undertakings. Wine and digestives were medicinal aids often administered by those in charge of religious doctrine.  New vineyards were started in those days by planting grape seeds, primarily because over long journeys it was easier to carry a small container of seeds rather than an awkward, heavy bundle of vine cuttings.  This line of supposition is the most logical and universally accepted explanation for how Spanish Tempranillo ended up in Tuscany.  The hypothesis is further strengthened by the results of Beconcini’s DNA research, which indicates that a high percentage of tested genetic material is identical to Spanish Tempranillo, but with small obvious evolutionary differences expected in a vine that was started from a seed and not from a mature cutting.  Oh, those crazy monks!

You may also be able to read on the labels of the two versions that these vines were planted  without grafting.

There are often representatives of Chinese wine at these events and we always make a point of going over to learn something new and taste their wines, saving ourselves the cost of going there.

Martin Vineyards are North West of Beijing, a cold, northerly area towards the border with Mongolia.

The grape used for some of these white wines is Longyan. ' old Chinese variety of unknown origin...' Wine Grapes. Longyan is a table grape as well as one used for wine. The Great Wall wine which preceded all other current Chinese wine production was made with Longyan. These wines have been made much more expertly and are quite interesting.

Tiansai Vineyards are on the edge of the Gobi desert near Urumqi in Xinjiang in North West China. They produce this Cabernet Sauvignon with Marselan in the blend. Marselan is increasingly popular among Chinese growers and has even been spoken of as a possible Chinese signature grape.

Michael Sun was Panda's rep.
Panda fine Wines are based in Weybridge in case you need more details about Chinese wine.

This Vespaiola or Vespaiolo from Winemakers Club reminded us we really do need to get a handle on this white variety especially since we are always confusing it with the red Vespolino. It is used in Maculan's Torcolato, the highly thought of sweet wine of the Veneto. This version by Contra Soarda near Bassano del Grappa is dry.

There was something else at SITT. A very interesting initiative by Harpers Wine and Spirit magazine called Wine Stars. The idea is to give awards based on all the factors that influence buying decisions - quality, value and design - judged by buyers for buyers.

Each wine submitted gets a star rating for these elements over 3 rounds. Producers get judges' feedback and the results are circulated in a quarterly newsletter to buyers.

This seems to be a good way for winemakers to get to market. Great ideain fact. We might try it ourselves one day.