Sunday, 8 June 2014

Slotovino Awards 2013/14

Wine personality of the year

Rene Pedebernade, 1927 - 2013.

At the London Wine Week just recently we met a charming representative of the Plaiemont Co-operative and learned that Rene Pedebernade had died already a few months ago. Indeed he had no longer been alive when we wrote our post in praise of his achievements back in January this year. He died in August 2013 but this still meant that we could honour him with our title of Wine Personality of the Year.

What were his achievements? Simply put, he refused EU money to destroy his vineyard first planted in Napoleonic times behind his house in Sarregachies, South West France and saw it become the first living UNESCO World Heritage site. Everything about the small vineyard is precious. The vines survived Phylloxera and are planted in a traditional way which has been lost in all other cases. It contains many different varieties some of which are completely unknown.

Now that his achievements have been officially recognised, other small parcels are reported to have come to light. His example may encourage others not to allow their ancient vines and obscure varieties to be lost for financial or administrative reasons.

12/13 Jon Wurdeman

Winemaker of the year

Rafa Lopez, Bodegas Lopez Diaz-Alejo.

This nice couple are responsible for taking a mediocre vineyard in Venta del Moro, Utiel Requena, Valencia, Spain and through organic practices, reviving the 60 - 100 year old Bobal vines and making an outstanding wine from that grape named '6 Elelemento'. At 14.5% this is not the style for our taste but it is highly regarded by those who like a full Bobal.

What we appreciate most about this Bodega is their initiative in reviving a local grape called Royal, hitherto ignored and forgotten. We are trying to find out exactly what this Royal is, it is so obscure. There is another Royal (or perhaps the same one?) found 180km to the North, the Royal de Alloza from Teruel province, Aragona.

Rafa and his wife, Silvia who is a professor of engineering at the Universidad Polytecnica in Valencia are not alone in what they have done but we have chosen them as representing many others who have made similar achievements both on behalf of organic farming and the revival of obscure grape varieties. We recognise that this is an extremely difficult and risky thing to do. The people who carry out this hard work should be recognised, congratulated and their wines should be given a chance to be sold and enjoyed.

12/13 Oszkar Maurer
11/12 Paul Draper, Ridge
10/11 Pravis, Trentino
09/10 Alan Wallace Bruzzo, Colli berici
08/09 Francisco Figuereido, Colares

Red wine of the year

Vedernikov Vineyards Krasnostop Zolotovsky, 14.5%

Should we be choosing a Russian wine as Red wine of the year? Perhaps not, but Slotovino recognises the good guys and as far as we know, Vedernikov Vineyards didn't grab Crimea or foment trouble in Eastern Ukraine. What they have done is to take this little known native red grape from the Rostov on Don region and turn it into a world class wine. In the East and West tasting last year this wine was a stand-out favourite.

12/13 Forlorn Hope Suspiro del Moro Alverelhao
11/12 Ribeyrenc
10/11 Casetta
09/10 Tocai Rosso
08/08 Vernaccia Nera

White wine of the year

Salena Estate Ink Series Bianco d'Alessano 2010 South Australia. 12.5%

This was a gift from Darby Higgs ( on our meeting in Melbourne. We had never heard of Bianco d'Alessano previously and like Minutolo, it comes originally from Puglia where it rarely goes solo. This example from the admirable Salena Vineyard in South Australia seems to be the only one outside Italy and is so marvellously delicious that it surpassed even the Italian version we tried, good as that was.

12/13 Minutolo
11/12 Malvasia
10/11 Kerner
09/10 Torrontes
08/09 Vilana

Rose wine of the year

Bodegas Lopez Diaz-Arujo Royal

As well as rare, this was heavenly. It can't be long until it gets a wide audience. This bottle was just a sample.

12/13 Rien que du fruit, Ganevat
11/12 Grisard Rose de Mondeuse
10/11 Strohmeier Blaue Wildbacher
09/10 Ackerman Sparkling Cabernet Franc
08/09 Vitkin Israeli Journey

Light Red

Gourdon Chenin Noir (Pineau d'Aunis), Loir. 9.5%

Slotovino loves Pineau d'Aunis and can't understand why this grape seems to be losing rather than gaining ground. Apart from some Rieslings, we haven't come across many dry wines under 10% - certainly not a red. So this scores already on those two counts. More than that, this is a completely scrumptious wine for any occasion and practically for any food combination to our taste.

12/13 Bedell First Crush
10/11 Thierry Navarre: Les Oeillades

Special award for re-establishment of an endangered variety

Negrettino was quite widely planted around Bologna in times gone by. Now there are only a few hectares left. It is a fine and worthy variety. The Ognibene family and two others are working for the revival of Negrettino. We salute them!

12/13 Longanese Uva Longanese and La Sabbiona Savignon Rosso

UK Wine Merchant of the year (London)

The Sampler.

About time we recognised this pioneering London winemerchant. At first Jamie Hutchinson's newsletters appeared too rambling to read but the guy is genuinely hilarious and we have become regular addicts. The shops seem to be humming and the inventory increases at a fantastic rate guaranteeing always something new. The general direction of their selections is perhaps not quite up our street but there is enough diversity to make things interesting. And you can taste stuff too.

Sadly, our choice of Winemerchant of the year in 2012/13 has moved from 259 Hackney Road to Berlin. We wish them Toi Toi.

12/13 259 Hackney Road
11/12 Highbury Vintners
10/11 Troubadour Wines
09/10 Artisan and Vine + Bertrand and Nicholas
08/09 Caves de Pyrene + Zelas

Wine Merchant (rest of UK)

The Good Wine Shop, Kew

OK, Kew is only just outside London and their other shop is in Chiswick but Slotovino didn't venture out of town much in 13/14 and we really wanted to keep this category going, so please bear with us.

On top of this, we have never actually been to The Good Wine Shop, whether in Kew or Chiswick. We have ordered a mixed case online though and were impressed with the choice and service. There are a great many wines in stock with most bases covered (sadly, nothing from Jura yet). Among all the usual suspects is a leavening of rarities such as Susumaniello, Encruzado, Frappato and so forth. The website is quite good although Abv values would be helpful. Our wine arrived pronto and we haven't been bombarded by newsletters or offers since. O si sic omnes!

12/13 n/a
10/11 Hendersons, Edinburgh

Wine Merchant (rest of world)

Chapitre 20, Paris

It doesn't look like a wine shop, but that is part of the idea. Chapitre 20 sells wine and very good wine too, chosen with rather exquisite taste. In addition it sells books on and around wine, maps, posters and postcards. This lends an atmosphere of erudition to the place - a welcome change from pile it high and sell it low. We think this model works and hope the trade takes note.

12/13 La Cartuja, Marbella
11/12 Ricerca Vini, Milano
10/11 Chambers St., NY 
09/10 Caves des Pupilles, Paris + Auge, Paris
08/09 Astor Wines, New York + Per Bacco, Milan

Best Supermarket (UK)


We chose Sainsbury's last year on the sole merit of their McWilliams 2006 Hunter Valley Semillon so why not Tesco for their Sparkling Pignoletto which we so enjoyed at Xmas? There are lots more wines at Tesco obviously and some of them have been regular standbys over the years. What with Tesco's figures going down, we thought they could do with a bit of encouragement. They are really rather good. You can even buy an Australian red made from Shiroka Melnishka Losa and Magarach Ruby. Actually the former is better known as Melnik but never mind. Full marks for effort!

12/13 Sainsbury's
11/12 Marks and Spencer
10/11 n/a
09/10 Whole Foods
08/09 n/a

Best Airport Duty Free

Hungaricum, Liszt Ferenc Airport, Ferihegy, Budapest. This is not just one of the greatest Airport Duty Free shops in the world but also a model Promotional Outlet for a particular type of wine - in this case Hungarian.

12/13 n/a
11/12 Genova
10/11 Vino Volo (various US airports)
09/10 Malaga
08/09 Vienna

Worst Airport Duty Free

Hong Kong

Those behind the wine department at Hong Kong Airport may be businessmen but are surely not wine-lovers.

12/13 Malpensa
11/12 Vasteras
10/11 Lyon
09/10 Berlin Tegel

Most surprising wine discovery

Jordanian Wine. Not yet any great shakes (geddit?) but will no doubt improve with time.

12/13 Forlorn Hope Suspiro del Moro Alvarelhao
11/12 Chenancon found at Le Touquet
10/11 Biddenden Dornfelder

Most interesting wine trend

15% - 16% wines.

Interesting doesn't have to be positive. On a recent trip to Spain we found entire shelves of 15%, 15.5% and 16% wines. Spanish consumers now complain when a wine is only 14%, a merchant told us.

12/13 Emerging regions
11/12 New bottling materials (including paper)
10/11 Orange Wine

Most pleasant surprise

Glinavos Paliokairios slightly sparkling natural Orange Wine from Debina and Vlahiko grapes Epirus, Greece. So delicious that it is all but impossible to drink just one glass. Congratulations to Domaine Glinavos.

12/13 n/a
11/12 Bordeaux Clairet
10/11 Alternatives to Prosecco: Passerina, Pignoletto, Spergola

Prediction for the year ahead

Greece will have its day.

Looking back we have been more wrong than right. Lower Alcohol seems to be making modest progress but higher Abv levels are galloping ahead. Branding, yes but not at the pitch we feared. The Fine wine bubble hasn't exactly burst but activity has slowed down. The Chinese have continued to bu up Western producers but they have had their own problems and consumption has slowed. Sadly some independents have not been able to soldier on. We especially mourn the disppearance of 259 Hackney Rd. and the Wine Pantry's St. Pancras outlet

12/13 Supermarkest to play safe while independents press ahead and prosper
11/12 The Chinese will buy up ever more producers
10/11 Fine Wine bubble will burst
09/10 Ever more branding
08/09 Lower alcohol

Best Restaurant Winelist

Maialino, New York

Maialino has one of the longest and most beautifully considered winelists you can find. Admittedly it's all Italian but that is hardly a restriction. With not one but two Rossese di Dolceacquas what's not to like? The prices vary from steep to extortionate but the person compiling this list is presumably not responsible for that.

New York has some of the greatest winelists in the world. We don't always go for the longest or most expensive: Cafe Muzio's was small but comprehensive: a model of its kind. Sadly, the place has closed down.

12/13 Caravan, London
11/12 Nouvelle Vague, Genova
10/12 Cafe Muzio, New York
09/10 Locanda Locatelli, London
08/09 Gramercy Tavern, New York

Best Sommelier

It's a good job that we make the rules for the Slotovino Awards because our Best Sommelier of 2013/14 probably wouldn't think of himself as a sommelier at all and in fact he didn't bring us any wine with our meal because we didn't order any what with driving all day and all. We are sure he would have served us wine very nicely as everyone in all the restaurants we frequented during the year did only without the humour and friendliness of this chap.

What he did do was talk us trough all the wines at the Cellar door of Merrick's Wine Store and even sell us a couple of bottles. In our report at the time we described him as "young and blessed with a great sense of humour which masked absolute efficiency and professionalism. That's one of the many reasons that makes Australia such a great place to visit."

12/13 River Cafe, London
11/12 Laure Patry, Pollen St. Social Club, London
10/11 Frank, 'Antico, London
09/10 Waterside Inn Bray.

Best kept wine secret


Greek Wine

We had the good fortune to attend this year's Oenorama in Athens and were bowled over by the standard and interest of Greek wine. Everything that Italy and Spain can do, Greece can do too. The only difficulty seems to be problems of scale and marketing. Fine Greek wine is also a comparative novelty. Inroads are being made. We just think the world can't hold out against it much longer.

12/13 Lighter style of Bobal
11/12 Georgian Wines
10/11 Trentino
09/10 Savoie
08/09 New York State

Best English Red

Sedlescombe Organic Regent

One of the best English reds by the first Demeter certificated English winery.

12/13 Biddenden Gamay
11/12 Bolney Pinot Noir

Best English White

Quoin's Vineyard Organic Orion

Rude things have been said and written concerning the hybrid Orion, an Optima Villard Blanc cross. The authors of these slurs should be made to drink this aromatic beauty!

12/13 Stopham Pinot Blanc
11/12 Biddenden Gribble Ridge Ortega

Best publication

Ian d'Agata Native Wine Grapes of Italy

Starts where 'Wine Grapes' leaves off - for Italian varieties at least. Essential companion to 'Wine Grapes' therefore.

12/13 Wine Grapes

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