Friday, 5 May 2017

We are ProWein

Pro Wein is the equivalent of VinItaly. There are no British fairs remotely as large. Even then, VinItaly is larger in some respects. At ProWein, there were over 6,500 exhibitors from more than 60 nations between March 19 - 21 this year. 58,000 trade visitors came from 130 countries (half from abroad).

Shortly after in April, 128,000 attended VinItaly from 142 countries. Exhibitor numbers were lower than ProWein (4,270) from 30 countries.

As usual, navigation was a bit tricky for beginners but entering Hall 14, the nearest to the registration desk we stumbled on a very interesting producer while trying to get our bearings.

Kloster Disibodenberg featured in our recent post about ancient vines seeing as how the Abbey was that of Hildegard von Bingen and the grape researcher Andreas Jung believes the Orleans Gelb lurking around the edges of the vineyard might well date from the time of Hildegard.

Our guide gave us a taste of her Riesling and showed us the other wines of the estate including a sparkler from Pinot Noir. She also gave us the disppointing news that the experimental micro-vinification of Orleans Gelb had now ceased at the wine had proved rather acidic,

We should really have stayed with German wines because we are in sad need of education in Riesling matters ant this was a golden opportunity to get a handle on that sort of thing. However there was so much more on show and our guiding criteria are those of diversity. So we took a moment to make some strategic decisions as to how to spend our time over the rest of the day.

First things first, a decision about lunch needed to be made

Not difficult. The Germans are really good at this kind of thing.

 Hall 9 'Uebersee/Griechenland' looked a good place to begin.

We're not sure why it was called Greece and overseas because there were far more overseas exhibitors although the Greek contingent was well represented.

It was a pleasant surprise to find Canada also in evidence. By coincidence the Henry of Pelham Baco Noir we had bought in New York was on tasting and so taste we did.

The only Baco Noir we gad had up to then was from Brotherhood Vineyards in the Hudson Valley, the oldest winery in the US. That example was strongly pungent in a way to upset those with a less than flexible idea of what wine should taste like but that taste was almost completely absent from Henry's example. Instead there was a luscious wine of great character to be sure.

 Next door was a very unexpected find indeed, wine from Nova Scotia including our first chance to taste a wine with the interesting Acadie Blanc grape in the mix. Why exciting? Because we have propagated Acadie Blanc, planted it and now are going to see how it does in its second year.

Blomidon's Tidal Bay is a blend of l'Acadie Blanc, Seyval Blanc and New York Muscat.

Next to Blomidon was Domaine de Grand Pre.When researching l'Acadie Blanc it was this winery which appeared most associated with this Canadian hybrid dating back to 1953 and obtained by Ollie Bradt at Guelph University.

 This is a blend of L’Acadie Blanc, Ortega, Seyval Blanc, Muscat and Vidal Blanc.

The Swiss businessman Hanspeter Stutz who bought Domaine de Grand Pre in 1978 and after building renovations and the planting of the vineyard has been making wine since 2000. His son Juerg graduated in Oenology from Waedeswil, Switzerland in 1999 so was conveniently on hand to make the wine which he has done ever since. Hanspeter was himself on hand to pour and explain.

Grand Pre also had an interesting red made from Marquette, Cabernet Foch and Castel. We had vaguely heard of Marquette. It's another University of Minnesota cold climate hybrid with Pinot Noir, Frontenac, Schiava Grossa, Isabella, Ravat Noir, Seibel and many others in its ancestry from no less than 8 different species of Vitis. Cabernet Foch is a Valentin Blattner cross successful in Vancouver Island as well as here and elsewhere in Canada and Castel is - well it sounds familiar as if it should be a familiar variety but 'Wine Grapes' has no mention of it. A quick Google decalres it to be a French American hybrid with Gamay in its parenthood prominent in Nova Scotia. Grand Pre has won a prize for its Castel.

Swinging by Israel, this Rose caught our eye. Marselan is a versatile variety gaining in popularity here there and everywhere but this was our first Rose from Marselan. It had character too.

Next to Israel, Greece and immediate controversy wouldn't you know. We have been told that Asproudi or Asprouda was not a single grape variety but a type or family of white grapes but the people at Monemvasia Winery were quite definite that it is a grape.

We were both right. 'Wine Grapes' notes that 'Asprouda is a generic name meaning 'Whitish' which has been given to several distinct varieties all over Greece' but at the end of the entry, they state that 'Monemvasia Winery have a single variety they refer to as Asprouda, which is also known locally as Asprovaria or Varia.Four different Asproudas have been identified in this area alone....'

Moscofilero we learn occupies a similar grey area as Asproudi in that there is a clutch of grapes referred to by this name. We are fans of the 'usual' Moscofilero which is white but here was a rose made from a darker skinned grape of the same name.

Lantides is the producer.

It was good to see Mercouri represented and to meet their young rep. We agreed that the problem for Greek wine was that although you can find wine as good as anything in Italy or Spain, typical vineyards are too small (5 ha. is the average) to support any export drive or economies of scale

Talking of old friends, there was a bottle of Tinaktorogos from Ktima Brintziki lauded in these pages if with a different label.

Also from Brintziki was this Avgoustiatis. Some Greek red varieties can taste a bit 'same-y'. Avgoustiatis together with Liatiko strike us as having a bit more personality than some.

We then almost passed by a wine called Fileri. We thought we had tried this variety but sometimes the mind plays tricks so we returned and tasted this Fileri. We were to learn that Fileri was just another way of saying Moscofilero but the wine was lovely. The Greeks certainly have a knack for producing beautiful refreshing whites, rather like Spain, not usually high in alcohol despite high summer temperatures.

The man behind this Fileri, Mr. Yannis Flerianos was on hand and we entered a fascinating discussion in which he explained how he is consultant for Panagiotopoulos and other boutique wineries, championing native grape varieties from an office in the centre of Athens.

Also present our friends from Domaine Glinavos (see Paliokairisio in these pages).

There was the English Sparkling wine roadshow complete with bowler hat lamps.

New York wines were rightly represented at this fair as they are more frequently than the actual availability of NY wines abroad would suggest. It must only be a matter of time though.

And here was the famous Traminette obtained by our friend Bruce Reisch and colleagues at the Cornell Reseach Station, Geneva NY from Gewurztraminer and resistance partners. This Fox Run Traminette is as good as most Gewurztraminers.

We first came across Casa de Vilacetinho at Lisbon airport duty free where we bought a bottle of their Azal, Vinho Verde. Azal has a not very exciting reputation but this bottle was absolutely stunning and has stayed with us ever since. Surprising then that the young Vilacetinho rep (why are reps and policemen getting younger these days?) said 'We are all about Avesso'. The only Azal on show was, like everything else, in partnership with Avesso. Nice enough but we're not sure Avesso is necessarily more desirable than Azal at its best. They also grow Arinto, Loureiro, Vinhao and Tintas Barroca, Francesa and Nacional.

From the far north of Portugal came the Azores. We have touched on this unlikely source of wine before in this blog and here was more. A bottle proclaiming Terrantez de Pico caught our eye and a chap who was obviously Mr. Wine of Azores assured us that this was a unique and rare grape. There is another Terrantez grown on the Azores, Terrantes da Terceira. Pico is a separate island. They are unrelated. This was beginning to suggest that the Azores are a kind of vineous Galapagos. A third Terrantez - also unrelated to either of the above is found in only 2 ha. on Madeira. All are white.

Being around Portuguese territories we felt like asking if anyone had any Colares. It is sad to relate that we had to ask several people from various Portuguese desks before we were directed to the Wines of Portugal stand where these two kind people found bottles of Francisco Figureido's Arenae white Malvasia de Colares and red (Ramisco).

Foolishly we had passed Malvasia de Colares by as uninteresting but this is genetically distinct from any other known Malvasia - and that is a lot! We took a taste and fancied it was unique. Colares Ramisco is certainly unique but there has been a tendancy for the alcohol to creep up from 11% or 11.5% to 13% at which point it loses its particular character so we think.

Looking around, we spotted a sign saying 'Marmandais.' Now we had actually once been to Marmande for a singing competition. We were observers not participants we hasten to add. It struck us as an obscure region (it lies between Bordeaux and Toulouse) producing unspectacular but drinkable wines from Bordeaux varieties.

But the name had cropped up again and suddenly we remembered that this was the home of Abouriou, a comparatively recent enthusiasm. We were even trying to grow an Abouriou vine in the UK. So we approached this producer - actually a co-operative called Vignobles du Sud-Ouest and were smitten once again by this marvellous grape. In its way it is up there with Gamay we reckon. 12%.

There was a second Abouriou from the same co-op too. At 13% this was probably the posh one. Also quite lovely.

a bit of terroir-iste propaganda?

On to Sachsen. As one of the most important cities of music, we need to visit Dresden from time to time and have been delighted by the discovery of varieties such as Elbling and numerous hybrids including Goldriesling, Hibernal, Johanniter, Regent, Solaris and others.

Schloss Proschwitz is one of the major players in Saxony. It is the oldest privately owned estate there. Their wines have crept up in price and are now somewhat more easily available, Prinz zur Lippe has also expanded into other vineyards in Saxony. Schloss Proschwitz's Elbling and Goldriesling were our original delight but they make also Weissburgunder, Goldriesling, Traminer, Scheurrebe, Mueller-Thurgau and of course Riesling in white and Spaetburgunder, Fruehurgunder, Schwarzriesling, Dunkelfelder, Pinotin and Dornfelder in red.

 Drei Herren of Radebeul was unfamiliar to us but two of  its choices of grape varieties were familiar; Regent and Solaris. The vineyard was opened only in 2005. Their other varieties are similar to those of Schloss Proschwitz.

Thanks to the Winzervereinigung Freyburg-Unstrut we had the oppotunity to taste a hybrid new to us, Hoelder. It's not new in itself dating from 1955 when August Herold released it. He had crossed Riesling with Pinot Gris. Described by 'Wine Grapes' as a very minor and distinctly ordinary it is grown over only 6 ha. scattered over South Germany. It is named in honour of the poet Hoelderlin. This example might persuade 'Wine Grapes' to evise their opinion upwards a bit.

 Continuing the Hybrid theme, we were yet again impressed by a Johanniter from another Radebeul property, Hofloessnitz. Travelling West along the Elbe you see a good slope covered in vineyards all the way to Radebeul and beyond.

There was Schloss Wackerbarth which had so impressed us at Dresden airport on our last visit. How delightful to meet the Wackerbarth representative and taste some of their other wines; Goldriesling, Bacchus, Kerner, Grau- and Weissburgunder, Scheurrebe as well as their reds, Spaetburgunder and Blaufraenkisch. Our initial good impression of Schloss Wackerbarth was significantly increased.

One forgets that the Czech Republic is just over the border from Saxony and they seem to be equally enamoured of hybrids and crosses - their own amongst them.

At the table, wines including Hibernal (Chancellor x Riesling) and Cabernet Moravia (Cabernet Franc x Zweigelt).

Sachsen in particular is a region which had to start from zero only recently. The war had wrecked the properties and vineyards and shortly after the owners had to leave for West Germany. After unification they had to claim their properties back and then rebuild them. In Czech Moravia it was a somewhat different story but with a similar result. Starting a vineyard in modern times allows one to try something new and so this corner of the world is emerging with some seriously interesting wines which merit attention. We see it flourishing in the future.

Passing by a cheeky Hungarian, we found ourselves in Italy.

It's always great to meet a good Grignolino and here was one from a really lovely person called Franco Frencesco. You could tell that Sr. Francesco is the grape grower and winemaker as well as sales rep and marketer. He managed to be completely gracious even though no one seemed to be paying him attention as we called in on his table. Their loss.

There were two other stories we'd like to tell in the Italian section. The first  consisted of a lady called Alessia Berlusconi who had the wish to make a red wine of under 10% alcohol. How we understand and applaud her. The name of the wine is smart: 9.9 and surprisingly it is made from Marzemino in purezza. Also surprisingly, this wine is quite marvellous. It deserves to become a brand in the nicest possible way.

Alessia's wines are from an estate called 'La Contessa' not far from Brescia.

The next story concerns the great uncle of the young Calabrian producer of these interesting wines from grapes including Nocera and international varieties. The vineyrd is at Palizzi Marina which looks as if it must be the southernmost tip of the Italian peninsula.

These charicatures are stunningly good. We couldn't imagine how they had rested unknown until taken up generations later and used for wine labels. The quality seems to be on a level with Spy or the like. Anyone buying wine solely on the strength of the label (and we understand there are plenty) will go for these bottles we reckon. The Nocera was our first. Rather tannic but interesting.

You can't go far at ProWein without unearthing interesting pearls. Georgia was represented as one would expect but a sudden recollection of a bottle seen in New York made us enquire if they had any Otskhanuri Sapere.

his card
This kind gentleman produced a bottle in double quick time. Not bad for a country with over 500 indiginous grape varieties. OK, only 38 are permitted for wine production but still.

Our nip of this wine probably wasn't enough to reveal its doubtless qualities. Suffice it to say it was on the tannic side and a bit austere.

We could have spent ages researching Ukrainian wines

...and indeed tried to research Polish wine but the appropriately named Vin-Kon is only fruit juice.

The length of this post testifies to the interest to be found at ProWein and by this time we were ready to call it a day.

 That was without reckoning on Armenia. Like most winos we were aware of Zorah Karasi's Areni but were completely unprepared for the magnificent wines we stumbled upon here.

 First we met Zaruhi Muradyan, U, of California (Davis) educated and now Armenian female entrepreneur of the year.

The Zara wines were made from 3 Armenian varieties plus Saperavi. In fact the local grapes are all crosses or hybrids, Tigrani is from Areni and Saperavi, Haghtanak (aka. Akhtanak) from Saperavi and one Sorok Lyet Oktabrya and Charentsi from Karmrahyut and something called Seyanets C 1262.

This material might sound unpromising but the wines were nothing short of staggeringly good. Soft and supple with so much more personality than expected.

With nearly as many indiginous varieties as Georgia, it is singular that so many Amenian wines are made with hybrids or crosses. Under Stalin, Armenia was better known for brandy than table wines, possibly in order to leave that field to Georgia for obvious reasons, so that is a possible explanation as these hybrids have often been used for distillation. In addition, winemakers in Armenia frequently use a single grape variety to make a whole range of wine styles. The outstanding white grape of Armenia, Voskehat (aka. Voskeat) makes dry, sweet, fortified and sparkling wines.

The Armenian vineyard area fluctuates. For a country which, like Georgia can claim to have the oldest history of winemaking, it seems paradoxically to be in the initial stages of a new beginning.

365 Wines was another winery producing Haghtanak.

and here was another winery, Vevorkian, making a Voskchat in purezza.

ArmAs is a third producer we investigated. Their winemaker is Emilio del Medico, a well known Italian consultant.

Del Medico pays homage to Armenian varieties by including 5% of Areni, 2% of another grape called Kakhet (which may have a Georgian origen) and 1% Meghrabuyr, a complicated hybrid, curiously with Madeleine Angevine and Chasselas in its background.

His Karmrahyut Reserve is matured in Karabakh oak by the way.

All these wines were outstanding. Armenia is a hot candidate to become our Slotovino discovery of the year and prediction for the future. Although a small poor country with only 3 million inhabitants, the excellence of production and high standard of graphics stood out. We just hope they get their pricing right. We would be happy to have a case of any of these wines. With a further estimated 11 million in the Armenian diaspora, there is probably a ready-made market worldwide which should help.

And so, finally back to the airport where we overheard some British wine merchants describe the situation as "difficult." Oh dear, could that have anything to do with Brexit? If so, might the solution be to make a trade deal with countries outside the EU such as Armenia? On the other hand it might be even more "difficult" to learn to pronounce Meghrabuyr.

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