Arriving too late in the afternoon to get entry to the car park we had to leave the car down at the main road and trudge up the hill to the exquisite Palladian-style Villa Favorita (actually designed by Francesco Muttoni and built early in the 18th century) where the 11th Vinnatur was being held. It was one of those drives where one's goal seemed to recede with every step. This being Italy, a number of cars passed us by also going up the hill. How did they manage to circumvent the road block when we and others didn't? Intrigue?
Vines to the left, Vines to the right. A lovely bucolic sight was compensation enough.
Once arrived, entry was by the servants entrance in the basement.
There the impression was of a somewhat more upmarket event than Vini Veri, Cerea but that may have had more to do with the opulent surroundings. There may have been a similar amount of exhibitors (ca. 150) but the space was surely smaller. Nonetheless we managed to navigate basement and piano nobile. As at Vini Veri there was a good number of familiar and famous names;
Marco de Bartoli
Domaine le Briseau
Domaine Pierre Frick
Domaine Laherte Freres
Bodega Friedrich Schatz
Cruising the tables we came across only our 2nd Vespolino ever. The first hadn't exactly bowled us over. This one was better but still no revelation. Perhaps Vespolino is doomed forever to remain outside the Slotovino Hall of Fame?
Then came the first of our discoveries. A really charming producer called Bodega Lopez Diaz-Alejo from the Valencia region have made what looked like a deep Rose or light red from a local grape called Royal. We find ourselves ever more drawn to the grey area (joke) between red and rose firstly because the wines seem to share the virtues of both red and rose and secondly because they are unpopular and difficult to sell only because they don't fit into any established category. Poulsard is a prime example of this group.
Royal is extremely interesting because the only grape listed in Wine Grapes with the name Royal in the title is one Royal de Alloza, unknown outside the village of Alloza in the province of Teruel. This is 180km from Vento del Moro which is where Bodega Lopez Diaz-Alejo is situated, so the possibility this Royal is the same as Royal de Alloza is tenuous since the winery say it is a local variety. Wine Grapes also mentions that the only producer of wine made from Royal de Alloza is Fandos y Barriuso and Romero de Hijar who rescued the grape from local vineyards and are the only ones to make wine from it. They describe the wine as 'deep cherry red with copper edges, a potent bouquet, toasted, of black fruit confit and Mediterranean herbs, potent in the mouth yet fresh.' We could not put our hand on our heart and say this is the description of our Royal as well but it was certainly potent and fresh. We will look into this intriguing conundrum and report back to the many Slotovino readers who will be left in a state of tantalising suspense by this question as soon as possible.
There was also a lovely Bobal from this producer. Not too overbearing, Lopez Diaz-Alejo are working to set the balance straight with this variety; the more Bobal of this kind the less will be our perception of it as a competitor to Rioja or Ribeira del Duero which in our humble opinion it shouldn't be. Bobal surely has enough originality to be treated as something unique and this usually means making it in a lighter style.
As at Cerea, we bumped into an old friend, this time our nearest winemaking neighbour from the Sierras de Malaga, F. Schatz from Ronda. Schatz is remarkable not only for being organic but also for mainlining Lemberger from which he makes a delicious and serious red called Acinipio. He also grows Trollinger, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Chardonnay, Tempranillo, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Muskattrollinger and Pinot Noir. Here he was in Italy to make his wines even more internationally known.
Somehow the wines and the crowd at Villa Favorita seemed to be a tad more up-market than at Vini Veri, Cerea but perhaps it was just the posh surroundings.
We were delighted to see Monteforche present with their Vecchie Varieta which we knew from home. The blend must be unique and bears repeating here;
Marzemina Nera Bastarda
Yes, there really is a grape called Marzemina Nera Bastarda. There are various Marzeminas. They differ from Marzemino in having smooth undersides of the leaves whereas Marzemino is hairy. a synonym for Marzemina Nera Bastarda is Marzemina Grossa Bastarda by the way. Could the variety be tricky to grow or something? Monteforche's Vecchie Varieta is thoroughly recommendable by the way.
Nice to see a Spergola on our rounds. We saluted as we passed by. We will salute almost anything that isn't Prosecco (Glera) really. Most sparkling wines made from Spergola, Famoso, Pignoletto or Ortrugo are infinitely preferable to the run of the mill Prosecco everybody seems so desperate for.
More salutes for some Croatinas (aka Bonarda).
And there was the table of Christian Chaussard's Domaine Le Briseau. We have mourned the 'disparission' of Christian Chaussard in this blog before. It was good to see that his life goes on in the continued production of his wines but at the moment we came across his table it was poignantly unattended.
Coming to the end of the 'tour d'horizon' we were importuned in the nicest possible way by a representative of Antiche Cellar del Quarto, a winery from Puglia. The conversation is worth repeating;
Antiche Cellar del Quarto gent: Is there anything I can help you with?
Slotovino (suddenly seized by a cattivo inspiration calculated to leave him speechless:
Do you have any Minutolo?
Antiche Cellar del Quarto gent: Certo, Fiano Minutolo. Here we are!
Slotovino (looking at the bottle, thinking this man doesn't know what he is talking about);
Ah, but the label says 'Fiano'. I'm looking for Minutolo
Antiche Cellar del Quarto gent: Fiano Minutolo is the full name of Minutolo.
Collapse of stout party
Well it had been a fantastic day. Vini Veri in the morning and Vinnatur in the afternoon. Organic, Biodaynamic and Natural wines from mainly Italy but also Spain, France, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovenia and others. A high standard with endless discoveries to be made. Whatever the problems of the wine world, great products are not one of them.