Thursday 30 April 2009



I don't think there's a thousand-fold difference between one wine and another. It's a status thing.

Quote from Alain de Botton in the May edition of 'Decanter'. Another quote from an Australian went something along the lines of 'the price of a bottle of wine tells you more about the cost of the winemaker's life-style than the intrinsic merit of his wine.

We all know wines which are inexplicably cheap or expensive. The reasons are sometimes hard to fathom. Why is Slovenian wine so expensive? Why did the cost of sweet Bordeaux suddenly double around 1980 if memory serves? If the Italians are masters of price sensitivity, why is it that so much good wine there is available for a song?


Great minds?

We were chuffed to see the great Jancis's piece in the FT last Saturday was on the very same topic discussed in this Blog a few days before that.

About half the article is on Albarino. It's a pity she didn't comment on the supposed link between Albarino (trans. White Rhine) and Riesling. We'd love to know.

Here's another dangerous synonym: Morillon = both Chardonnay (as Jancis writes in her article) and Pinot Noir (as stated in her book 'Vines, grapes and Wines. The wine dinker's guide to grape varieties' published 1986). How confusing is that?

Tuesday 21 April 2009

False friends - an update

More trouble with Synonyms for Slotovino. We recently paid good money for a 100% Mazuelo, described as being a minor component of Rioja only to discover this is a synonym for our old friend Carignan.

This news came from reading 'The New Spain' by John Radford where we also learned that Macabeo is nothing else than Viura. Under 'Albarino' he tells us that 'Miguel Torres is convinced that it is the Riesling brought by monks on the famous Camino de Santiago, or Pilgrim's Road, which runs from Northeastern Europe right through to Santiago de Compostela in Old Castile.' There may be something in this. There are apparently many different clones of Albarino which could account for the fact it no longer resembles Riesling. Here is Wikipedia's entry on Albarino:

It was presumably brought to Iberia by Cluny monks in the twelfth century. Its name "Alba-Riño" means "the white from Rhine" and it has locally been thought to be a Riesling clone originating from the Alsace region of France, although earliest known records of Riesling as a grape variety date from the 15th, rather than the 12th, century. It is also theorized that the grape is a close relative of the French grape Petit Manseng.

There seem to be hundreds of the false friends (remember Lemberger>Blaufraenkisch, Trollinger>Schiava, Petite Sirah>Durif etc.).

Rutherford also tells the story of Pedro Ximenez being a grape supposedly
imported by a German soldier Peter Hitzman or sometimes Peter Siemens in the 16th century but appealing as it is, this myth is not worth perpetuating. Beau Jarvis in his blog 'Basic Juice' dismisses it as follows;

In the late 17th Century, a German soldier by the name of Peter Hirtzman decided to flee the fighting near the North Sea. Being both a pacifist and a viticulture hobbyist, he took a few cuttings and traveled to southern Spain - the region of Jerez to be exact. Peter soon discovered that one of his white grape varietals flourished in this warm, very non-German climate. In fact, the locals were so impressed with Herr Hirtzman's wine, they began purchasing vines from him. In time the famous wines of Jerez, or Sherry, relied heavily on this German's grape. Sadly, Peter was forgotten and his name, also given to the grapes, españo-morphed into "Pedro Ximenez."
A fascinating story, no? Yet it's 100% false. A version of this story was told to me by a wine educator, who also happened to be a Sherry lover. It's likely that this bogus story is a derivative of the classic Pedro Ximenez myth, which appears in a number of sources:
"The grape reputedly takes its name from a 17th-century Spanish soldier who introduced it to Spain on his return from The Netherlands, although the story is almost certainly apocryphal as no Rhine grape resembles PX and there is no reason why such a northerly grape would grow in southern Spain."

And another fine mess: Vranec or Vranac which we had confidently understood to be nothing else than Primitivo turns out to be an ancient variety only distantly related to Primitivo/Zinfandel which has now been identified as Crljenak kastelanski from the coast of Croatia.

Friday 3 April 2009

Incredible - but true

The advertisement in The Times of March 21st, 2009 offers us the opportunity to

"Grow Your Own Genuine, Prolific Fruiting Mini-Vineyard Chardonnay,
Pinot Noir
and Riesling
Harvest Delicious Sweet Aromatic Grapes, Juice or Exquisite 'HOUSE' Red, White and Rose Wine.....For Just Pennies Per Litre For Life!"

Sourced in France - the Home Of Quality Wines - UK Winter Hardy!

Incredible - but true. Thanks to climate change and knowledge commercial winemaking in the UK is growing all the time. You CAN now join this exciting revolution yourself and make your very own top quality wine from your very own 'home-grown' grapes! Just imagine. A delicious glass of chilled dry 'house' Chardonnay, Riesling or light fruity Pinot Noir as you sit under the cooling shade of your vines on a hot summer's day. Bliss! This specially selected Mini-Vineyardof 3 genuine French grower quality vines is incredibly easy to grow, provides up to 30lbs of gloriously sweet, aromatic fruit and, just like the finest wine, will just get better and better every year."