Monday, 15 December 2014


Seen at Dresden Hauptbahnhof of all places, Helios is a hybrid from Seyve-Villard, Merzling and Mueller-Thurgau. We have tasted it in a Dutch wine which included Johanniter in the blend. On the strength of that quite pleasant bottle, we planted a few vines of each at our garden in the Thames Valley. We didn't buy this bottle of Helios in purezza but if we ever decide to do so we'll know where to get it.

We've had this bottle of a grape called Barbarossa under the stairs for quite a time so when the opportunity finally came to check it out we were worried it might not be in good condition. At 14.5% we needn't have worried. It's a brute, a beast of a wine which no amount of stairs could spoil. Rustic and rather crude we thought. Not admitted to the Slotovino Hall of Fame. Recantina and Susumaniello are similar if our palate memory serves. Still, it would be a pity for these varieties to become extinct. Someone might like them.

This was lovely. Not something one can say about every bottle of Croatina. Astor Wines of New York was the source.

Here was another lovely example of one of our favourite Italian grapes: Grignolino, bought if we remember correctly in Lucca last summer. Like many less commonly found Italian varieties, Grignolino is not always good; it has to be well made in the right style (not too heavy). This one was very fine.

Staying with Italy, this Gropello was also outstanding despite having languished at the back of the stair cupboard for far too long. Gropello seems to have staying power and doesn't seem as tricky to get right as Croatina and Grignolino.

More lingerers which stood the test of time included this Gamaret/Garanoir blend from Switzerland bought at Geneva Airport Shop. Quite marvelous considering.

Also from an airport Duty Free, (Tel-Aviv), this Mourvedre/Syrah blend from a winery new on us called rather cheesily 'Red Poetry' also surpassed expectations by quite a long way.

Soif d'ailleurs is a relatively new shop in Paris specializing in wines from abroad (shock horror!). Examples of non-French wine will seem ordinary to anyone from the UK - except for this beauty from Croatia, a 100% Zelenac from the wonderfully-named Krauthaker winery in Kutjevo. A rarity indeed and very good too.

Staying in Eastern Europe, we enjoyed this dry Hungarian Furmint at a hotel restaurant in West Wales of all places. Furmint seems hard to get wrong although some seem unnecessarily high in alcohol.

Also really wonderful was our first Abouriou. Both this and the Zelenac can enter the hallowed portals of the Slotovino Hall of Fame. Abouriou has bags of personality and is a real charmer. Where has it been all our lives?

French but from California, this Rousanne from Broc, one of our favourite producers there. Recommended.

This wouldn't be a Slotovino miscellany without a Colares Ramisco. This one thanks to a kind person returning from Lisbon. Antonio Bernardino Paulo da Silva seems still to be producing lovely bottles of Ramisco 'Colares Chitas'. Long may he do so.

Moving up the coast to Ribeira Sacra, this Mencia was atypically light and charming. Our friend Darby Higgs has just written a long lament on the subject of what happens to a fine variety like Mencia when it is suddenly discovered and everyone jumps on the bandwagon. Nothing good he argues. This bottle was sold to us by the Galician Butcher in Nueva Andalucia who opened a bottle for us to taste, such was his confidence in this beautiful bottle. Soft is the watchword.

And finally something new and really wonderful. Marks and Spencer has not only given a scholarship to a student at Plumpton College, the UK's leading wine school but have commissioned her actually to make a wine for them and also commissioned another student to design the label. Apparently this is already the second year in which these awards have been given. The story is told on the label (top).

Amazingly enough there seems to have been minimum publicity about this remarkable scheme. It only needs to be related that the wine is very good indeed. An excellent example of Dornfelder which we find making better and better wine in Germany and seems set to do the same in the UK.

Congratulations to M & S and all concerned. What a great idea!

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