Sunday, 29 June 2008

The Whites

Auxerrois. Quite commonly found in Alsace and other parts of France (where it is mostly blended with Pinot Blanc), Germany, Luxemburg and even Belgium. The bottle that impressed me however was by Hartenberg Estates of Stellenbosch, South Africa.

Encruzado A really wonderful and noble grape from Dao. The Quinta Dos Roques version is quite widely available from from Handford’s, Harrods and on-line merchants. Goodness know why Chardonnay rules the world while Encruzado remains in obsurity.

Furmint. Here’s an example of a pleasurable overturning of prejudice. In the socialist era, dry Furmint (the principle grape of Tokaji) was encountered in Hungary, in a totally unremarkable form. Modern examples show what the grape is capable of. Surprisingly alcohol levels are invariably high (typically 14%). Good examples by Disznoko and Oremus are not hard to find.

Goldriesling. I even read somewhere that this was a synonym for Emerald Riesling but that is wrong. It is a hybrid, though an old one (c.1880). I always buy a bottle of Meissen Goldriesling when I’m in Leipzig. Meissen is Germany’s most northerly wine area and this seems to suit the variety well. It’s very clean and fine.

Pecorino. The example came from Handford’s. I have heard it say by those with more knowledge of the Abruzzi than me (i.e. almost everyone) that there is any number of examples of uninspiring Pecorino but as they say ay Green and Blue, a little care and attention in the vineyard can go a very long way in the glass. The wine was Gran Sasso, Tere di Cieti. Handford’s may not stock it anymore but others do. The wine is pale and citrussy; most refreshing. Could Chieti be the only Italian city without any redeeming feature? We only passed through it but couldn’t find the nice bit.

Loin de l'oeil and Mauzac. This is Gaillac Blanc Perlé, created in 1957 at the Cave de Labastide de Levis, sometimes available from Nicolas. Look for the rather lurid but sympa green label. The wine is petillant and delicious. Not to be confused with the German Perle, a hybrid crossing of Gewurtstraminer and Muller-Thurgau.

Torbato. I wish I could say I discovered this on one of my trips to the Teatro Lirico di Cagliari to see some unfeasibly good performance of an obscure Russian opera (rumoured to be funded by shady organisations) but in fact the find was made in a modest but excellent neighbourhood Sardinian restaurant on the Kentish Town/Tufnell Park borders in London. A beautifully balanced wine with what was for me a kind of instant recognition although I had never tasted it before and Torbato is not a synonym for Chardonnay as for example, the Austrian name Morillon unfortunately is.

Verduzzo. In Venice, you can buy wines from local grape varieties ‘sfuso’ (on draft from barrels or demijohns). These include such rarities as Raboso, Prosecco Spento, Ancelotta (see below) and Verduzzo. The version in these enoteche is dry, light and delicious. In bottle you will frequently find a sweet incarnation which is regarded as more interesting – not by me!

Welschriesling (Riesling Italico). For me this was an acquired taste, but acquire it I did thanks to a sparkling version from the stylish Café Englander in Vienna. This ‘Sekt’ is made exclusively for them. I bought another sparkling version by Szigeti at the airport but this was not quite as good. Fine versions of non-sparkling Welschriesling are by Pongratz etc. also to be found at Vienna/Schwechat airport where they have an exemplary wine shop cum wine bar selling a variety of Austrian wines difficult to match in town.

Xarel-lo. Bone-dry wine usually part of the Cava blend. Again, a lowly grape which is capable of making a life-enhancing wine in the right hands. I discovered this at the Cigala Spanish Restaurant in Lambs Conduit St., London WC1. I’m not sure whose version they had on their wine list but Albet I Noya is the prominent producer and the label looks familiar. Perfect when you crave a dry white wine.


Anonymous said...

This is the first time I have contributed to a blog. I cannot conceive of a more suitable occasion for a first blog comment than the utterly splendid wedding feast given by Robert and Jill on Saturday for their daughter Zoe's wedding. And in particular, the unusual exotic wines chosen by our hosts. The white an exotic Spanish Albarino, fresh, zaftig and entirely suitable for the occasion, followed by a French red Coteaux du Loir, made from the pineau d'aunis, aromtic with good tannin.I believe a loir is a dormouse (although I am in France,I do not have a French dictionary to hand ) so the nomenclature adds an exotice twist to the origin. Both wines are compliments to Robert's quest for variety.However the piece de resistance was a bottle of Chateau SLOTOVER red.It's extraordinary taste of petillant smoked ham is unique and delicious. To be served such a rarity was an honour.
I am as conventional as Robert is unconventional. This evening, chez Bofinger in the Place de la Bastille, in celebration of the 14 July, we had a bottle of La Garde, Pessac Leognon 2002, a gutsy tannic red wine I can thoroughly recommend to the Slotovers who will join us in the 3rd arrondisement.
By the way, can anyone tell me whether there is a link between Galicia in Spain, and Galicia in the Ukraine ( ex Poland, ex Austria, ), the Alarino comming from Spanish Galicia.
Stephen Fein

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this blog's first comment! The origin of Galicia (Spain) is from the Celtic tribe of the Douro region called the Galleicia. Polish Galicia was named as such by the Austrians in the carve-up of Poland in the 19th century. The origin of the Ukrainian name Halych (Галич) (Halicz in Polish, Галич in Russian, Galic in Latin) is uncertain. Some historians speculate it has to do with people of Celtic origin that settled nearby, and is related to many similar place names found across Europe and Asia Minor, such as Galatia, Gaul, and perhaps even Spanish Galicia as above. Others assert that the name is of Slavic origin — from halytsa (galitsa) meaning "a naked (unwooded) hill", or from halka (galka) which means "a jackdaw". The jackdaw was used as a charge in the city's coat of arms and later also in the coat of arms of Galicia. The name, however, predates the coat of arms which may represent folk etymology. Impressed? I got all this from Wikipedia. I think one can be pretty sure that the wines of Spanish Galicia will be better than those of Ukrainian Galicia. The great Bulgarian Bass, Boris Christoff once informed me that the Galicians were a 'very proud' people. I think he was talking about the Spanish ones. Perhaps it was the Albarino they were proud of?