We have visited some lovely shops and met some charming and erudite people in them. Our favourite was Julio Carrasco, the main man at Vinoteca La Cartuja in Malaga. We had been there years ago but Julio has changed it out of all recognition.
It is now lavishly appointed with all kinds of amenities including Enomatic machines, a temperature-controlled inner sanctum for the top bottles, a tasting table and an area at the back with a table for dining, lectures etc.
Julio is the kind of person who knows all his many bottles intimately. In answer to our question about rare grape varieties he zeroed in immediately on all kinds of treasures, only a few of which we could take with us, air travel being what it is. These included a Subirat Parent (a what? we hear you cry)
and a Zalema. The latter we bought by way of giving it an even break, having condemned our first bottle more or less out of hand. Vamos a ver!
Julio entered into the spirit of things so completely that he produced his very last bottle of Malvasia Rosada Dulce - rare grape variety from the Canary Islands with a flourish and threw it in to our basket as a gift!
That's the kind of enthusiastic person he is. He deserves to prosper.
In Sevilla, we re-visited another nice shop called La Carta de Vinos where rather less had changed.
The same rather reserved girl held sway but this time in answer to a question about the percentage of certain varieties in a particularly interesting blend she took ages consulting various books and websites to satisfy our curiosity. At the end of perhaps 20 minutes of this she would have been in her rights to throw the bottle at us but she drew the enquiry to a close by saying that in any event the local varieties would not constitute more than 10%. We were grateful for this information and for her efforts particularly as she could have told us that at the very beginning and saved herself a lot of trouble.
Moving on to Rome we returned to our old haunt, Enoteca Costantini but there the uniformed staff seemed too overstretched stacking shelves to give us very much time.
They knew their stuff though. Having perused the Puglia section for a Sususmaniello and not finding it, one of their number climbed down his ladder and zeroed in on two bottles we had somehow contrived to miss.
They also had a kind of insider's knowledge. We asked them about some other obscure varieties in purezza and they explained that depending on the vintage, it was difficult to know what various growers put into their wines. One forgets that.
Determined to broaden our Roman horizons we made a pilgimage to Enoteca Lucantoni in the Northern part of the city.
This shop is not as historic or imposing as Costantini but we found some interesting things there including a Catalanesca,
a Pallagrello Bianco
and some Malvasia Puntinata in purezza. This is a constituent of Frascati and in particular the wines of Marino - the village near Rome where Hans Werner Henze lived and had recently died. We didn't buy the Lucantoni version of Malvasia Puntinata as it was rather alcoholic for a white wine but we found this bottle at an Enoteca in the Via Ferrara in the centre of town.
Polish Wine? We had heard of its existance but on a visit to Gdansk, there was none to be found. The Baltic coast of Poland is not a desert as far as wine is concerned though. In particular there is a certain entrepreneur who has opened a number of excellent wine shops called Festus
as well as a restaurant called La La La
and a so-called Art Hotel in Sopot,
the seaside resord 30km from Gdansk. We didn't meet this gentleman but his presence was tangible. His staff at Festus/Gdansk told us he liked to travel all over the world searching for good wines to sell in his establishments.
She herself was able to fill us in a little on the wines of Poland. She was not especially enthusiastic about these, mentioning a watery Pinot Noir and a Pinot Gris which hadn't exactly bowled her over.
It's a real pleasure to encounter such shops in different places. They provide experiences and products you could never get in a supermarket.