Wednesday 23 December 2009

Bubbles, stickies and female preachers

Champagne & Sparkling wine

Most ‘Champagne’ is very poor indeed: ‘if it didn’t have bubbles, no one would drink it’ (to quote a Parisian caviste specialising in Champagne). For it to be any good at all it is usually very expensive. If one is not buying into the Champagne marketing legend (i.e. Champagne as a wine for celebration), it is a very poor deal.

Sparkling wine is in our experience even worse. It is only very rarely comparable to even modest Champagnes and never to the best. We reckon is therefore even worse value although cheaper.

Sweet wine

On the other hand, good Sweet wine seems to be relatively easy to produce and most wine-growing areas normally have a very agreeable example. There is a huge price differential between some of these and the accepted classics of Bordeaux, Hungary (Tokaj) and the Rhein where prices start high and go higher and the sweet wines of Alsace, Australia (Orange Muscat etc.), Austria, Banyuls, Canada (Eiswein), Jurancon, Loire (Vouvray), Portugal (Moscatel de Setubal), Malaga, Massandra, Sicilia (Malvasia delle Lipari, Moscato di Pantelleria), South Africa (Constantia), Tuscany (Vin Santo), Veneto etc.

Indeed a hit on Wikipedia furnishes the following list in addition to those above:

Australia New South Wales • South Australia • Tasmania • Western Australia

France Rhône • Languedoc-Roussillon • Provence • South West

Italy Friuli-Venezia Giulia • Lombardia • Piemonte

USA California • New York • New Jersey • Oregon • Washington state

Other Argentina • Chile • Greece • Lebanon • New Zealand •

…and many more. Indeed it may be better to list the regions which do not produce a sweet wine: even England has them.

Wines from out-of-the-way places

Our experience of wines from obscure wine-producing countries and regions such as Brazil, Mexico, Texas, Virginia etc. leads us to the conclusion that it is possible to produce ‘correct’, decent, pleasant, drinkable, enjoyable wines there but as Dr. Johnson said of women preachers, "It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all." and we sadly conclude there is an element of this in the evaluation of these wines, (not that we agree with Johnson who by the way uttered his aphorism without having heard the woman preacher Boswell had just mentioned).

Probably if we lived in Virginia we would make a point of trying as many Virginia wines as possible just to be sure there was nothing truly exceptional or indeed memorable, but the conclusion has to be that it is terroir and tradition that make the difference between these wines and the wines of California or even New York: perhaps an example to quote to anti-terroiristes who argue against the concept categorically?

Tuesday 15 December 2009

Slotovino guide to Wine Merchants

Since inception we have mentioned some of the sources for our purchases. has a directory of participating wine merchants but ours will consist of those from which we have found interesting wine so as to help anyone trying to source the kind of wine we like. Readers are invited to propose additions to the following (editor's decision is final).

We are not attempting to be inclusive: we have left out all the usual suspects so for instance in London we don't mention Berry Bros. & Rudd not because we haven't bought wine there or don't approve of them but because we assume everyone already knows them as one of the best places to buy mainly classic and traditional wines from all the best areas. They are not particularly interested in out of the way grape varieties or wine styles although they may have a few of these on their list.

You will also find some websites, Consortium Outlets and even some airport Duty Free shops; anywhere where you can buy interesting wine, although as mentioned, this is just a beginning:


Buenos Aires:

Disco Supermarkets (chain)

Grand Cru,
Avenida Rodríguez Peña 1886.
Tel: 4816-3975 / 4816-2223

The Winery,
Various locations including Avenida Alem 880 in the centre. Puerto
Puerto Madero and Belgrano.

El Fenix
Santa Fe 1199, Recoleta
Tel. 54-11-4811-0363 / 4811-6384



Australian Wine Centre
Shop 3, Goldfields House
1 Alfred Street
Circular Quay,
Sydney, NSW 2000
Tel:: +612 9247 2755



LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario). Chain
545 Yonge St,
Toronto M4Y1Y5
Tel: (416) 923-8498

Whole Foods Market (Chain - Ontario and Vancouver)
87 Avenue Road,
Ontario ONM5R 3R9
Tel: 416 944 0500
Fax: 416 944 0700



Les Zinzins du vin,
14 Rue de la Madeleine,
25000 Besancon
Tel: 0381 812474


Maison Gouin,
44 Route d'Apt,
84220 Coustellet
0490 767019


Sebastien Glacon,
23 Rue Montee de la tour,
30400 Villeneuve-lès-Avignon.
Tel: 04 90 14 64 73


Caviste Jacques Baumann (chain)
11 Rue des fleurs,
68100 Mulhouse
Tel: 03 89 46 55 23


Caves Bianchi
7, rue de la Terrasse (Vieux-Nice)
Tel: 04 93 85 65 79

Caves Caprioglio
16, rue de la Préfecture (Vieux-Nice)
Tel: 04 93 85 66 57

Cave de la Tour
3, rue de la Tour
Tel: 04 93 80 03 31

Cote Vins,
14 Rue Saint Francois De Paule,
Tel:04 93 84 63 60

La Vigneraie,
148 Rue St. Francois de Paule,
06300 Nice.


La Cremerie
9, Rue des Quatre Vents,
75006 Paris.

Julien, Caviste
50, Rue Charlot,
75003 Paris.
Tel: 01 42 72 00 94

3, Boulevard de la Madeleine,
Paris 75001.
Tel: 01 42 97 20 20



Király Borház (Royal Tavern) es Pincemuzeum (Cellar Museum)
Western Promenade,
Szent György Square,
Buda Castle,
Budapest 1.
Tel: 06-1-267-1100
Fax: 06-1-267-1100

Bortarsasag (chain - Bazilika branch)
Szent Istvan Ter 3,
1051 Budapest
Tel 061 328 0341



Enotria S.A.S.
Via Cesalpino Andrea 10,
52100 Arezzo.
Tel: 0575 299598

Chianciano Terme:

Coop (chain)
Via della Pace 47,
53042 Chianciano Terme
Tel: 0578 320045


Enoteca Molesini,
Piazza della Repubblica 3,
52044 Cortona
Tel: 0575 62544


Enoteca Vanni,
Piazzadel Salvatore,
55100 Lucca.
Tel: 0583 491902


Via Spadari 9,
20123 Milano
Tel: 02 802 3161

Enoteca Per Bacco
Via Carducci 9,
10123 Milano.
Tel: 02 7428 1110


Enoteca la Dolce Vita,
Via di Vollaia nel Corso 80-82,
53045 Montepulciano.
Tel: 0578 758760


Enoteca Picone,
Via Marconi 36,
90144 Palermo


Enoteca Costantini,
Piazza Cavour 16,
00193 Roma


Al canton del Vin,
Ramo San Francesco,
Castello 3156,
Tel: 041 521 0184

Bottega dei Sapori (Duty Free)
Aeroporto Marco Polo,

Enoteca vino...e vini,
Salizada del Pignater,
3566 Castello,
Tel: 041 521 0184


Monte Carlo:

Wine O'clock,
3 Avenue St. Laurent,
98000 Monaco
Tel: 9797 5744



Gall & Gall (chain)
Voorburgwal 226a,
1012 RR Amsterdam
Tel: 020 421 8370



Coisas do arco do vinho,
Centro Cultural de Belem,
Rua Bartolomeu Dias, stores 7/8,
1400-126 Lisboa
Tel: 021 364 2031


El corte ingles (chain)
Avenida Antonio Augusto de Aguiar,
Tel: 021

Garrafeira Nacional,
Rua Santa Justa 18,
1100 Lisboa.

Lisbon Portela Airport duty free.

Sala Ogival de Lisboa
Terreiro do Paço
1100-148 Lisboa
Tel.: +351 213 420 690
Fax: +351 213 420 691
Mob: +351 916 606


Dr. Francisco de Sá Carneiro Airport duty free.

Vini Portugal
Palácio da Bolsa,
Rua Ferreira Borges 4050-253
Tel: +351 223 323 072
Fax: +351 223 323 074
Mob: +351 916 614 835

Largo S. Domingo 67,



Vinoteca & Enoteca Cropani (Antonio Pacheco Cropani)
Palacio de Cropani,
Calle Alamos 7,
29012 Malaga

Museo del Vino,
29008 Malaga,
Tel, 952 288 499


Casa Pablo

Sevilla: La carte des Vins,
Garcia Vinuesa 25,
4001 Sevilla,
Tel, 952 210 398


Systembolaget (Nationwide Monopoly)

(Sample store)
Regieringsgatan 44,
Tel: 08 796 9810



Weinkeller Movenpick
Hallingerstrasse 101,
4057 Basel
Tel: 061 693 3131

Paul Ulrich,
Schneidergasse 27,
Tel: 061 338 9091

United Kingdom

Beaumaris (Anglesey):

Shaw's of Beaumaris,
17, Castle St.
Beaumaris LL58 8AP

Bourne End:

Bertrand and Nicholas,
Cave a Vin,
14 Furlong Road,
Bourne End,
Bucks SL8 5DG
Tel: 0162 852 5202


Raeburn Fine Wines,
23 Comely Bank Road,
Edinburgh EH4 1DS
Tel: 0131 343 1159

Villeneuve Wines, (chain)
49a Broughton St,
Edinburgh EH1 3RJ
Tel: 0131 558 8441

Valvona and Crolla,
19 Elm Row,
Leith Walk,
Edinburgh EH7 4AA
Tel: 0131 556 6066

Guildford (Artington):

Les Caves de Pyrene,
Pew Corner
Old Portsmouth Road
Artington GU3 1LP
Fax: 01483 455068


Artisan and Vine,
126 St. John's Hill,
London SW11 1SL

Fortnum and Mason,
181 Piccadilly,
London W1A 1ER
Tel: 0207 734 8040

Green and Blue, (also Clapham)
36-38 Lordship Lane,
London SE22 8HS
Tel: 0208 693 9250

Harvey Nichols, (chain)
109 - 125 Knightsbridge,
London SW1X 7RJ
Tel: 0207 235 5000

87 Knightsbridge,
London SW1X 7RB
Tel: 0207 730 1234

Moreno (Spanish wine specialists)
11 Marylands Road,
London, W9 2DU
Tel: 020 7286 0678

15 Circus Road,
London NW8 6PB
Tel: 0207 722 8596

Roberson Wine,
348 Kensington High St,
London W14 8NS
Tel: 0207 371 2121

The Sampler
266 Upper St,
London N1 2UQ
Tel: 0207 226 9500

400 Oxford St,
London W1A 1AB
Tel: 0800 123400

Theatre of Wine,
75 Trafalgar Rd,
London SE10 9TS
Tel: 0208 858 6363

Whole Foods Market Chain (London)
63-97 Kensington High St,
London W8 5SE
Tel: 0207 368 4500

Wine of Course (Zelas),
216 Archway Road,
London N6 5AX
Tel: 0208 347 9006

The Winery,
4 Clifton Road,
London W9 1SS
Tel: 0207 286 6475


Bat and Bottle,
Unit 5,
19 Pillings Lane,
Rutland LE15 6QF
Tel: 01572 759735



Whole Foods Market Chain(across the USA)
525 N Lamar Blvd,
Texas 78703
Tel: 512 476 1206
Fax; 512 476 5704


Heights Chateau
123 Atlantic Avenue,
New York 11201
Tel: 718 330 0963

New York City:

Astor Wines and Spirits,
399 Lafayette St,
New York 10013
Tel: 212 674 7500

North Miami Beach:

Total Wine and More,
14750 Biscayne Boulevard,
North Miami Beach,
Tel: 305 354 3270

Palm Desert:

Jensen Supermarkets (chain)
73601 Highway 111,
Palm Desert,
California 92260
Tel: 760 346 9393

San Francisco:

The Wine Club (chain)
953 Harrison Street
San Francisco, CA 94107
Tel: 415.512.9086 Toll Free: 800.966.7835

Washington DC:

Best Cellars,
1643 Connecticut Avenue NW,
Washington DC 2009-1013
Tel: 202 387 3146

Calvert Woodley
4339 Connecticut Avenue NW,
Washington DC 20008
Tel: 202 966 4400

Vino Volo 'Flights of Wine',
Concourse C (opposite Gate C4),
Dulles Airport

Schneiders of Capitol Hill,
300 Massachusetts Avenue NE,
Washington DC 20002-5702
Tel: 202 543 9300

Virtual stores

Wednesday 9 December 2009

Where to get it?

Some souls have asked us where the various Slotovino recommendations may be bought, but we are not (yet) a retail or even wholesale outfit. The purpose of our suggestions and indeed of the whole blog is to show that there are many interesting, delightful and delicious wines beyond those made of the ‘noble’ and most commonly found varieties from the established, tried and tested areas. Once we can establish this, we hope readers will be bolder and more inquisitive concerning wines and grape varieties they may never have heard of before. So for every recommendation of ours, there may be many others you can discover for yourselves.

In our reports we have tried where possible also to recommend wine merchants and organisations promoting wines such as Kiraly Borhaz in Hungary, ViniPortugal in Porto and Lisbon and the Museo del Vino, Malaga. These will give you free tutorials and are mostly unbiased even when they are representing a particular country or region, so if our recommendations are not available it is worth asking them for something similar.

If you are in the UK, you can get the Torrontes Etchard from Chapel Place, Tonbridge Wells, the Quinta dos Roques Encruzado from Handford Wines in Old Brompton Road, London, the Chardonnay Pierre Overnoy Arbois Pupillin (Jura) from Harvey Nicholls who also do the Berlioz Chignin. Oddbins used to sell the Vilana Peza Olimpias (Crete) but are probably out of it now. Nicolas sometimes does the Caves Labastide de Levis Loin de l'oieul etc. and Zelas (Archway, London) used to sell the Tornai Furmint from Somlo, Hungary but I see he no longer lists it on his website. The Gran Sasso Pecorino is to be found at The Sampler, Upper St., Islington and Tyrrells Old Winery Semillon is at Smartliquor, Bucks.

You can also get some of the reds from London retailers such as Harvey Nichols, Knightsbridge (Nieto Senetiner Bonarda), Zelas (the Emmanuel Houillon Poulsard, Arbois Pupillon, Jura, the Terra Tangra Medos Mavrud/Merlot/Cabernet from Sakar, Bulgaria and the Verre des Poetes Pineau d'Aunis, Domaine Montrieux, Loire), Green and Blue, Dulwich and Clapham (also the Verre des Poetes Pineau d'Aunis, Domaine Montrieux, Loire as well as the Domaine Cousin Leduc Grolleau vieux vignes Jura). In Bourne End, Buckinghamshire you have Bertrand and Nicholas who have the Verre des Poetes Pineau d'Aunis, Domaine Montrieux, Loire too, in Wiltshire, Bowes Wine have the Bouza Tannat from Uruguay as a bin end at a very reasonable £9 per bottle.

On the internet you can find for UK delivery the Don David Malbec at Noel Young Wines, Domaine le Briseau 'les longues vignes' Pineau d'Aunis at Everywine and the Domaine Mercouri Refosco/Mavrodaphne at Kickbar Wines. Nick Dobson Wines is an essential address for any Swiss or Austrian wine. A bit more fiddling around on may produce other stockists of further wines on our list. For the rest, sorry to say you will probably have to import them directly which we know can be an expensive business. We are sorry not more is available in the UK: may uproot some suppliers nearer to where you live, but try our recommended merchants for alternatives and let us know if you make any discoveries!

Sunday 6 December 2009

Orange Wine a Thanksgiving hit

We had been intrigued by Orange Wine previously but taking courage in both hands and with the lure of visiting Artisan&Vine for the first time, we made the trip to Clapham in search of two rarities neither of which we were going to be able to find in Berry Bros. much less the local supermarket.

Artisan&Vine figured in our short but essential list of outfits specialising in Vin Naturel in the UK (see our blog of 29.6.09).
We were looking for the fabled Pais stocked only by 2 other wine shops outside Chile according to Winesearcher: Huasa, Clos Ouvert, Maule and an example of Orange Wine of which Artisan&Vine list two.

We included the Pais in our blog on Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil but didn't go into detail as to why were 'not appointed' by this wine. It was pleasant enough but it's lightness, almost inconsequentiality came at the cost of an abv of 14.5% as well as a hefty finacial price. Still, hats off to Artisan&Vine for importing it and allowing us to decide for ourselves.

The Orange Wine on the other hand was something not only out of the ordinary but well worth seeking out. The explanation of the term in Artisan&Vine's winelist is as follows;

Artisan&vine are delighted to have a dedicated orange wine section of our menu. Orange wine comes from ripe white grapes that undergo „red wine making‟, ie, transformation of whole healthy ripe grapes into wine, before pressing off the solids (skins, pips & sometimes stems). This is in contrast to „white wine making‟ where grapes are pressed immediately so solids are not utilised. „Rose wine making‟ is „accelerated red wine making‟, ie, grapes are left in contact with solids for a short period before being pressed.

and the description of Slotovino's selection

Malvasia "Ageno", La Stoppa, Emilia-Romagna. 60% Malvasia Aromatico, Ortruga, Trebbiano 12.5% abv Amber in colour with fragrances & tastes of peach, pear & sweet apricot. The colour comes from macerating the grapes in their skins with native yeasts for thirty days prior to maturation, which is done half in stainless steel (for fruitiness) & half in French oak (for nuttiness).

The other Orange Wine on offer was just a little bit more expensive and higher in alcohol;
Trebez 2004, Dario Princic, Gorizia, Friuli, Sauvignon, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay 13.5% abv

We poured the former at a Thanksgiving dinner, first as an aperitif and then with the main course, pheasant on this occasion. "Ageno" is not a sweet wine but nor is it really dry. One couldn't call it semi-sweet (ghastly term), maybe semi-dry? It is above all fragrant and floral. It went down a treat even with the most sceptical of us.

So place your order now for Christmas or better still, go to Clapham if you can and with luck, get a tutorial from the charming and knowledgeable Kathryn O'Mara, founder and owner. The restaurant looked enticing, so we are sure a visit would be 'vaut le voyage'.

Saturday 5 December 2009

Slotovino's Christmas reds

In reply to Jancis Robinson's reds in today's FT, we have scratched together the following with great difficulty from our blogs. So whereas Jancis has fielded 34 wines out of the many thousands she has tasted in the last year, we have the same number chosen from the comparatively tiny number we tasted in a period more than half as long again. We may still be ahead on the number of grape varieties but Jancis's list again shows no lack of variety or imagination. She is amazing:

Colares Chitas Reserva 2003 (Ramisco). Portugal. 11%

Fundacao Oriente (Ramisco) Colares, Portugal

Caves Primavera Barraida Tinto Special Selection 2003 (Baga and Touriga Nacional), Portugal

El Lagar Tinto Romé, Sierras de Malaga, Spain

Lalama Ribeira Sacra (Mencia, Brancellao, Garnacha), Spain

Arbois Poulsard Vieilles Vignes, Stephane Tissot Jura 2006 12.5% France

Domaine Schlumberger Pinot Noir, Les Princes Abbés, Alsace, France.

Le verre des poetes, Pineau d’Aunis, Domaine Montrieux, Naveil, Vendome, Loire, France.

Emmanuel Houillon Poulsard, Arbois Pupillon, Jura, France.

Domaine le Briseau ‘Les longues vignes’ Coteaux du Loir, France

Domaine de la Charriere Pineau d’Aunis, (Gigou) Loir, France.

Pineau d’Aunis ‘Les Mortiers’ Loir, France

Domaine Cousin Leduc Grolleau vieux vignes, 2006, Jura, France.

Michel Gahier Trousseau Grands Vergiers 2004, Anjou, Loire, France

Lou vin d’Aqui, Domaine de Toasc, Bellet, France

Gamaret Prestige Barrique Staatskellerei Zurich 2007 13% Switzerland

Cabernet Jura ‘Lunaris’, Staatskellerei Zurich. Switzerland.

Don David Malbec (Michel Torino), Salta, Argentina

Nieto Senetiner Bonarda, Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza 2002. 13%, Argentina

Domaine Day Sangiovese, Mount Crawford, Barossa Valley, Australia

Primo Estate, 'Merlesco', Merlot, 13%, McLaren Vale, Australia

Tiberio Canaiolo Colli della Toscana Centrale, Italy

Musarango Malbeck, Veneto Orientale, Italy

Castello di Porcia Malbeck (Societa Agricola Principi di Porcia e Brugnera), Friuli, Italy

Santa Nè, Palari, Etna, Sicilia, Italy.

Pugnitello san Felice, 2004, Toscana, Italy

Pianetta di Cagnore Vernaccia Nera, Marche 2001.13.5% Italy

Bodegas Bouza Tannat, 14.5% Uruguay

Dal Pizzol Touriga Nacional, Brazil.

Terra Tangra Medos Mavrud/Merlot/Cabernet, Sakar, Bulgaria

Bovin Vranec, Macedonia

Domaine Mercouri, Refosco/Mavrodaphne, Peloponessos, Greece

Vitkin Carignan, Central Coastal Plain, Israel

Pellegrini Cabernet Franc, Long Island, New York, USA

Barboursville Cabernet Franc Reserve 2004, 13.5% Virginia. USA.

Monday 30 November 2009

Jancis Robinson, Master of Wine

We always read Jancis Robinson in the Financial Times of a Saturday and have her original book on Vines and Grapes as well as her Oxford Companion to Wine. We can't afford to subscribe to her website but frequently look at her free for all pages which are pretty generous.

The main point about Jancis is her unbelievable work ethic and capacity to taste and write informatively and succinctly about thousands of wines which she herself has tasted, considered, evaluated and fairly judged without exhibiting any discernable prejudices or blind spots that we can make out. She is also able to encompass everything from the most rarified and elite of the wine world (and here we are dealing with an almost unimaginable degree of elitism) as well as the punter in need of a bottle on his or her way home from work or faced with a wall of wine at the supermarket.

Just as an excercise, Slotovino thought we would try to match Jancis Robinson's recommendation of 30 white wines for Christmas in last Saturday's FT from all the whites we had encountered since this blog began in June 2008. In fact on her website, Jancis's recommendations for Christmas Whites this year are 75 in number taken from almost 10,000 tasted in the last year alone.

Slotovino only just made it to match the reduced number in the print version! Here are our 30 best white finds from that 17 month period in no particular order with an extra one for luck. We would have been hard pressed to find a 32nd, but you may be sure Jancis would have been able to repeat the trick any number of times. There is only one department in which we exceeded the Robinson count and that was grape varieties (Jancis's top 30 fielded about half of Slotovino's) but then she is not primarily devoted to pleading for diversity:

1. Blanco joven Doradilla & Moscatel, Sierras de Malaga, Spain

2. Torrontes Etchart, Argentina

3. Don Pascual Sauvignon Blanc/Sauvignon Gris, Uruguay

4. Mouras de Arraiolas Reserva Branco, 2008 (Antao Vaz), Posrtugal

5. Quinta dos Roques Encruzado, Dao, Portugal

6. Cotes du Luberon Bastide Claux Cuvee Barrabau 2007, France

7. Quintas de Melgaco ‘QM’ Alvarinho (Vinho Verde) 2008. Portugal.

8. CARM Branco Reserva 2007 (Verdelho, Siria, Rabigo & others) Douro, Portugal

9. Follies Loueiro/Trajadura, Portugal

10. Chardonnay Pierre Overnoy, Arbois Pupillin, Jura, France

11. Schatz Chardonnay, Tierras de Malaga (Ronda), Spain

12. Pinot Bianco, Manzocco, Collio, Italy

13. Russiz Superiore Pino Grigio, Collio, Italy

14. Livon Fiulano, Collio, Italy

15. Picech Friulano, Collio, Italy,

16. Berlioz Chignin, Savoie, France

17. Brin de Chevre, Menu Pineau, Touraine, France

18. Tocai Gredic, Brda, Slovenia

19. Tornai Furmint, Somlo, Hungary

20. Tornai Keknyelu & Olaszrizling, Somlo, Hungary.

21. Vilana Peza Olimpias, Creta, Greece

22. Cusumano Insolia, Sicilia, Italy

23. Lieb Pinot Blanc, new York State, USA

24. Bovard Epesses, Terre a boire, Fendant, Valais, Switzerland

25. Schloss Proschwitz Goldriesling, Meissen, Germany

26. Gran Sasso Pecorino, Tere di Chieti, Italy.

27. Caves Labastide de Levis, Loin de l’oieul & Mauzac, Gaillac, France.

28. Torbato Stella e Mosca, Sardegna, Italy

29. Pongratz Welschriesling, Austria

30. Clos des Rochers Auxerrois, Luxembourg

31. Tyrrells Old Winery Semillon, Hunter Valley, Australia

Sunday 22 November 2009

Spain, again

To Sevilla for an opera at the Teatro Maestranza. Nearby we found what was described as one of the city´s best Bodegas, "La carte des vins".

La carte des vins

There a very well informed young woman, Hanael Maciá soon cottoned on to what we were looking for and came up with the first of the winners we found on this trip: Dominio do Bibei ´Lalama´2005 Ribeira Sacra (13%).
We nearly passed up on this on the grounds that it was a Mencia, Brancellao Garnacha blend but the lure of trying to get an idea of the intriguing Brancellao even in a cuvee got the better of us. We were glad it did. Whatever contributions each variety made the result was outstanding. The bottle cost €15.95 + 16% VAT.

Ribeira Sacra is in Galicia, North West (Green) Spain near the Portuguese border and has the river Miño running through it. It shares some of the interesting characteristics of the Portuguese Minho including unique local grape varieties.

Ms. Maciá´s other suggestion was an Albillo from Castilla y Leon, ´Valdebonita´2007. This was half the price and the Albillo struck us as perfectly pleasant without suggesting itself as a major find.

La carte des Vins,
Garcia Vinuesa 25,
4001 Sevilla,
Tel, 952 210 398

The next day we drove to Malaga and happened on the Museo del Vino which is actually an institution which promotes only the wines of Malaga but none the less welcome for that since as we have seen it is difficult enough to find these wines even in the area where they are produced.

Museo del Vino, Malaga

Pedro steered us towards two fascinating inexpensive wines, both great discoveries: ´ál Lagar de Cabrera,Sierras de Malaga (12,9%) made from a red grape previously completely off our radar - Tinto Romé.
This turned out to be a delicious, light food wine perfect with pasta. It was perhaps reminiscient of a Corvina. Definitely worth seeking out and very reasonably priced at €5.30 inclusive of tax.

The white was a Blanco Joven Doradilla and Moscatel blend by Montespejo at an even cheaper price, €4.00.
at 11.5% this was a find which ticked all the boxes. Doradilla is a variety not found anywhere else than in Tierras Malaga. Great.

Museo del Vino,
29008 Malaga,
Tel, 952 288 499

Pedro recommended an Enoteca just 200m along the road as one of Malaga´s best wine shops selling wines from all over Spain: Cropani.

It was closed and we didn´t manage to return on this trip but will definitely check it out next time. Through the windows it looked clean, modern and cool.

Vinoteca & Enoteca Cropani
(Antonio Pacheco Cropani)
Palacio de Cropani,
Calle Alamos 7,
29012 Malaga

Having taken John Radford´s book ´The New Spain´with us we took a look at some unfamiliar wine styles and grapes including Rueda/Verdejo - a wine everyone else seems to know but not us,
having previuosly sampled only uninspiring supermarket examples of Verdejo from Australia Radford describes Verdejo as "a grape waiting for technology to catch up with it" and recounts how the Marques de Riscal and his advisors discovered how to prevent its oxygenation during fermentation. We sampled for the first time the Marques de Riscal Rueda/Verdejo (the 2009 as it happens) and found it pleasant but no more overwhelming than a cleanly made Sauvignon Blanc and rather less exciting than Albariño or even the Doradilla/Moscatel we had discovered in Malaga.

We spent the rest of the time trying to find any of the following indigenous varieties mentioned in Radford but soon discovered from several sources that wine from such varieties is usually not seen outside their areas and in our experience, perhaps frequently not even there. This is a great pity although not all or even a majority will be worth the effort. We found a 100% Zalema from the Contado de Huelva (Cadiz) called Castillo de la Andrade (2007). This provided an instant recall of a vin ordinaire c. 1960 sold in demijohns. This style of wine is called ´Afrutado´ but oxygenation was more in evidence than fruit.
At Casa Pablo's in Marbella we presented these lists to the presiding genius and he produced one of those sad expressions to which we have become so accustomed, producing the memorable exclamation "in Spain, Tempranillo is king". Casa Pablo

Casa Pablo,
Calle Ramón Gómez De La Serna 2
29602 Marbella, Spain
+34 952 77 00 24

So much so it is also known as Aldepenas, Aragones, Aragonez Da Ferra, Aragonez de Elvas, Arganda, Arinto Tinto, Cencibel (Castile La Mancha, Madrid, Aragón, Extremadura, Murcia), Cencibera, Chinchillana (Extremadura), Chinchillano, Chinchilyano, Cupani, Escobera (Extremadura), Grenache de Logrono, Jacibiera (Castile La Mancha), Jacivera, Juan Garcia, Negra de Mesa, Ojo de Liebre, Olho de Lebre, Sensibel, Tempranilla, Tempranillo de la Rioja, Tempranillo de Perralta, Tempranillo de Rioja, Tempranillo de Rioza, Tinta Aragones, Tinta de Santiago, Tinta de Toro, Tinta Do Inacio, Tinta Monteira, Tinta Monteiro, Tinta Roriz Da Penajola, Tinta Santiago, Tinto Aragon, Tinto Aragonez, Tinto de la Ribera, Tinto de Madrid (Toledo, Cantabria, Salamanca, Soria, Valladolid, Madrid), Tinto del País (Castile/Leon, Rioja), Tinto de Rioja, Tinto de Toro (Zamora), Tinto del Toro, Tinto Fino (Castile/Leon, Madrid, Valencia, Extremadura, Rioja), Tinto Madrid, Tinto Pais, Tinto Ribiera, Tinto Riojano, Ull de Llebre (Catalan for "Eye of the Hare"), Valdepeñas, Verdiell (Catalonia) and Vid de Aranda (Burgos). And that's just in Spain.

Here's that list of local grapes according to Radford:


Albarin Blanco
Cayetana (= Jaen Blanco)
Garrido Fino
Jaen Blanco
Maturana Blanca
Mollar los Palacios
Planta Nova
Tempranillo Blanco


Albarin Negro
Cabernet Montcabrer
Carrasquin Tinto
Coma dén Pou
Juan Garcia
Juan Ibañez
Listan Negro
Maturana Parda
Maturana Tinta
Miguel de Arco
Monastel de Rioja (no relation to Monastrell or Moristel)
Prieto Picudo
Verdejo/Berdejo Tinto

We also found an excellent site which gives an even more comprehensive list.

Tuesday 10 November 2009

A guest writes

It can be gruelling to be constantly bombarded with propaganda about the wonders of new world wines which so often suffer from that cloying ‘oaked’ taste. What a pleasure then, during a recent lunch at Tate Britain, to be confronted by the soft and perfectly balanced tones of a half bottle of claret – one of a few incomparable treats our world has to offer.

The first in an occasional series. prizes for the first reader to guess the identity of the guest (conditions apply).

Monday 2 November 2009

Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil

Our debut in South America! Due to a characteristic Slotovino cock-up we failed to set foot in Chile this time but will remedy the omission hopefully next May.

From Buenos Aires, Colonia and the Montevideo airport duty free in Uruguay and Rio de Janeiro plus a side-trip to Sao Paolo in Brazil we dipped into this vast continent’s wine scene. According to Christopher Fielden’s ‘The Wines of Argentina, Chile and Latin America’ we need also to case Bolivia, Cuba, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru and Venuzuela. Nothing if not intrepid in our search for diversity, we might visit these countries too one day.


Varietal choice was more drastically limited here even than in the USA with not only Malbec but Malbec from Mendoza dominating the Argentinian lists. Of course this reflects the overwhelming position of Mendoza as Argentina’s biggest wine-producing area but can it be that consumers want to spend their entire lives comparing different wines from the same grape in one single area, however large?

In ‘Decanter’s’ supplement on Argentina 2009, admittedly a ‘Sponsored Guide’, our hopes had been raised by mention of other areas such as Salta and Patagonia with attempts to differentiate parts of Mendoza such as the Uco, Pedernel and Famatina valleys, talk of lighter unoaked Malbecs, and mention of Bonarda, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Merlot and Torrontes and even Friulano as well as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc in the whites the reality was overwhelmingly the familiar powerful style of Malbec from Mendoza.

It was therefore interesting to read in the 2003 edition of Fielden that ‘Argentina is richly endowed with possibilities, but seems to have chosen the Malbec for red wines…’ What seemed in 2003 is in 2009 almost a hegemony.

So putting this aside we tried to seek out what else might be on offer. Bonarda was an interesting possibility especially on learning from Fielden that (at least in 2003) ‘this is the most widely planted quality grape variety in Argentina.’ He goes on to say that ‘there is surprisingly little information about it. One of the reasons for this is that many of the vines are very old and there is some confusion as to what they really are. There is no doubt that there has been some inter-mingling with the Barbera, which gives a higher class of wine.’ We read elsewhere that Bonarda in Argentina is not the Bonarda Oltrepo Pavese which is actually Croatina, nor even the Bonarda Piemontese or even Novarese but Corbeau, aka Douce Noire, a southern French variety or even Charbono. Curiouser and curiouser, but all the more interesting for that. Bonarda now only the second most planted quality variety in Argentina after, you have guessed it, Malbec. It was always more frequently found in blends but now it is almost impossible to find a 100% Bonarda in Argentina and wine merchants wear a pained expression when asked for it. We found only one example by Nieto Senetiner from Mendoza and had to pay dearly for it.

We tried Cabernet Franc and Merlot in restaurants but were not impressed with the examples we got.

We then attempted to find examples of the most widely planted (presumably ‘non-quality’ grapes of all; Criolla Grande, Criolla Chica and Cereza but no one admitted ever having heard of them.

Of the other varieties mentioned by Fielden; Barbera, Nebbiolo, (‘historically planted together with the Malbec and…often sold as such’), Tintorero Italinano (Grenache), Verdot (sic), Cinsaut and Lambrusco (actually Refosco), hardly a trace. A Gamay was advertised one one restaurant’s list but was out of stock.

Only about 1/3rd of Argentinian wine is classed as ‘fine wine’. Perhaps these varieties find their way into the cheap vin ordinaire we found in supermarkets and the bulk wine Argentina seems to sell in great quantity to Japan and other markets. On the subject of this vin ordinaire, we tasted a bottle of Bianchi’s ‘Nuestro Margaux’ which we bought for under 10 Pesos (£1.50).

It was not as bad as one might have thought: almost drinkable, but with an unusual taste. Maybe this was the fabled Criolla which is thought to have been the original wine brought over by the missionaries. Known as Pais in Chile, there is an example on sale from Artisan & Vine in London, Huasa, Clos Ouvert, Maule. At £23,
presumably not ordinaire. There were other doubtful wines on the lower shelves of supermarkets including another offering from Bianchi, this time a ‘Borgogna’ and a wine proudly stating that it had been made from 12 different grapes.

In the white wines the story was similar but Argentina’s speciality Torrontes (probably a cross between Muscat of Alexandria and our old friend Criolla and nothing to do with the Torrontes of Galicia, Spain) was not at all ubiquitous and in fact we can claim our first discovery with the examples grown in Salta in the world’s highest vineyards. These were nothing whatsoever like the cheap and not very cheerful examples of Torrontes to be found on British supermarket shelves. The Torrontes of Etchart who pioneered the variety in Cafayate, Salta was a complete and delicious surprise.
The wine is complex and bursting with flavour. We bought a 2008 Torrontes called San Pedro de Yacochuya from the Valles Calchaquies, Cafayate (13.5%), reported to be the world’s very highest vineyard bar none.
We found this at a shop called ‘Grand Cru’ on the Avenida Alvear in Buenos Aires. It was rather refined - a huge contrast with the glass of Torrontes Cinco Tierras we drank at the Hotel Faena one evening.This was positively funky, but very interesting for all that.

At Buenos Aires’ Jorge Newbery airport we found a $10 bottle of Petit Verdot by Trumpeter (a range produced by Rutini) which is reported to have been drunk with pleasure by its recipient in London.
However, practically none of the other varieties said to be planted (excepting Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc of course) were to be found in purezza: Pedro Gimenez (which is not Pedro Jimenez), Ugni Blanc, Semillon, Riesling, Pinot Gris Gewutztraminer although there does exist a Friulano which was not in stock at the Enoteca next to our hotel in the Avenida Saenz Pena, Buenos Aires or at ‘The Winery’ in the same street.

We chose one Malbec out of the many we sampled: Don David (13.9%) from Salta.

Not an expensive wine, it exuded class and finesse unlike so many other Malbecs. It comes from Cafayate, Salta – need one say more?


Our experience of Uruguay was much more limited but paradoxically more encouraging. We spent a day over the Rio de la Plata in the old Portuguese town of Colonia where we discovered a refreshing Sauvignon Blanc/Sauvignon Gris blend by Don Pascual,
the everyday wine range from Establacimento Juanico S.A. At Carrasco airport (Montevideo) there was a promotion for Uruguayan wines with several on tasting, supervised by a knowledgeable young woman. We tried a Tannat
and a blend called Monte Vide Eu both by Bodegas Bouza. The 100% Tannat (14.5%) was quite a revelation; infinitely better than any Uruguayan wine we had found in any UK supermarket and praised by Jancis Robinson. The blend (Tannat, Merlot and Tempranillo) was good but less interesting.
We bought a bottle of Tannat by Bodega Ariano which was slightly lower in alcohol.

From this preliminary skirmish with Uruguayan wines, we had the impression of a much more varied and interesting scene than that of Argentina or Brazil especially considering the size of the country (only half as big again as the UK) and population (3m). Their signature grape, Tannat appears to be capable of almost as great things as Malbec in Argentina and there is an interesting list of varieties grown including Folle Noire now named Vidiella in honour of Francisco Vidiella, one of the founders of the Uruguayan wine industry, who brought this excellent variety (used in Bellet, the wine of Nice) together with Gamay Blanc in the 1880s. Marsalan, Nebbiolo and Marsanne are also planted as well as all the usual suspects.

A footnote: on our Pluna flight to Rio de Janeiro, we bought a half bottle (yes, 375cl complete with a proper cork) of Uruguayan Merlot ($5) – better than the Argentinian Merlot we had had in a B.A. restaurant and possibly the best red wine we had ever been served in economy class.
It is made by Viñedos y Bodegas Filgueira and goes under the brand name Casa Filgueira.


If Argentina is rather self-obsessed about its wines, Brazil is somewhat apologetic with Uruguay somewhere in the middle. It was really difficult to find ‘Nacionale’ wines in restaurants, supermarkets or wine merchants. We had arrived with the intention of finding more Ancelotta wines (see our Blog of 1,12,08) but came away with only the same bottle as we had been sent nearly a year ago. Don Laurindo is fine but we would have liked to have found ones by Caves Marson, Identitade, Casa Valduga, Casa Perini, Dal Pizzol. Vinicola Milantino and Laurentis.

One can see that Ancelotta is a Brazilian speciality now that it is all but impossible to find in its native Italy. Perhaps Brazil should have this variety as its calling card like Malbec in Argentina or Tannat in Uruguay? Goodness knows there is nothing else which merits this function. We found an excellent bottle of Touriga Nacional by Dal Pizzol;
much better than the Virginian Touriga Nacional we found in Washington DC (qv) but the rest was only so-so.

According to an interesting site,, Brazil grows a very diverse range of grapes. We thought it of interest to name them here given our comments on the less than riveting choice of Brazilian wines. NB. Ancelotta (aka Ancelotti) is not even mentioned in Fielden:


Malvasia Bianca
Malvasia di Candia
Malvasia Prosecco
Moscato Giallo
Muscat Canelli
Riesling Italico
Sauvignon Blanc
Seyve Villard Blanc


Alicante Bouschet
Bordo (aka York-Madeira)
Cabernet Franc
Cabernet Sauvignon
Petit Verdot
Pinot Noir
Seyve Villard noir
Tempranillo (aka Tinta Roriz)
Touriga Nacional

PS. Nowhere in our travels in S. America did we see a screw cap!

Sunday 1 November 2009

On the trail of the lonesome Virginia Nebbiolo

We can’t trace the idea that Nebbiolo thrives in Virginia and was likely to become the state’s signature wine but we read it somewhere. So on a trip to Washington DC we expected to pick up several examples and taste a range of others. Unfortunately we were thwarted – completely.

In fact it seems the only producer even growing the grape, Barboursville Vineyards, no longer produces it as a varietal but is for the moment at least, only using it in blends. Quite a disappointment.

So what is left in Virginia? Quite a lot actually. The state was the first to see an attempt at the cultivation of noble varieties when Thomas Jefferson in the 1770s sponsored an Italian Phillip Mazzei to produce wine at Monticello which, for our story is co-incidentally sited in the region of Piedmont. This failed as everyone knows but a wine industry has since sprung up in Virginia and some outstanding wineries have emerged. The signature grape might be Viognier rather than Nebbiolo and again, by coincidence, it transpires that Viognier and Nebbiolo are ampelographically cousins. On a recent visit to Barboursville vineyards Michael Broadbent found their 2004 Viognier Reserve to have the “quality and flavour to match - even exceed – Rhone’s finest Condrieu.”

Not having the time to go to any cellar doors in Virginia, we had to make do with DC’s wine shops and merchants. Here we found a distinct lack of enthusiasm for Virginia wines. Where they were to be found they were often on a small shelf together with a couple of New York State wines. Restaurant wine lists were even less inclined to offer the local wine. Wine buying opportunities in Washington are not anything exceptional. There are a few shops, each good in their separate ways. They included

Best Cellars
Calvert Woodley
Schneider’s of Capitol Hill

From these and others we assembled the following to take away;

Barboursville Virginia Barbera Reserve 2004 (13%)

Barboursville Virginia Cabernet Franc Reserve 2006 (13.5%)

White Hall Vineyards 2005 Monticello Touriga

White Hall Vineyards 2006 Monticello Petit Verdot
Linden Hardscrabble 2006 Virginia Chardonnay (13.3%)

This last, a rarity for Slotovino was bought as a present for a friend whose address is Hardscrabble Road, Hardscrabble being the epithet George Washington used for a particularly difficult march during the war of independence.

We will no doubt try these wines for Thanksgiving. Watch this space.

Concerning the wine merchants, we would just like to commend Best Cellars for the way their shop was laid out and how their wines were described on labels below each wine.
Firstly they organise their wines based on their taste and style, rather than grape type or place of origin. Then they give excellent information about the wine and list ‘5 reasons to buy this wine’ . Given that not even a Master of Wine could know exactly what is in any given bottle of wine, this seems an admirable way of solving the perennial problem of how to inform the customer. Only if the public is informed can they make decisions which might include something out of the ordinary.

Unfortunately Best Cellars was not the most visited shop we entered. That title could be applied to either of the other two establishments listed above. Their selection was larger and perhaps they were longer established but at Calvert Woodleywe were told they had nothing much in the way of rare grape varieties before perseverance and a second visit lead us to a 50/50 Corvina/Corvinone blend from the Veneto (Corvinone is a separate variety of which we had been completely unaware) called Costalago (Lake Garda), Rosso Veronese 2007 by Zeni (13.5%), ‘produced by the double fermentation technique’.
A Washington State Blaufränkisch from Shooting Star (13.5%),
an outfit dedicated to producing ‘a varied selection of interesting, eclectic and occasionally off-the-wall bottlings, all at a reasonable price.’

Schneiders had a particularly helpful staff and was thronged with buyers picking up ‘something for the weekend’.

And Nebbiolo? The last heard of it was the 2005 Barboursville version, rumoured to be available only from the Cellar Door;

Footnote. At Dulles Airport, the most amazing sight.Suddenly at 'C' Gates (between C3 and C4, an appraition, where it was least expected, called 'Vino Volo'.
Nothing less than a wine bar cum restaurant with 'Flights of wine' (geddit?) including, for $10 Franquier County Three Fox Cabernet Franc Alouette 2007, Green Co. Gadino Cellars Viognier 2006, Roanoke Co. Amrhein Wine cellars Syrah/Cabernet Melange 2006. What a great alternative to Burger King! Unfortunately our flight was departing before they opened but we could see that the food areas looked serious ('from $5'). This great institution exists also at

and EWR.

We will plan our next trip to the US accordingly.