Friday 31 December 2010

Slotovino Roll Call of Honour

Robert and Bernard Plageoles In 2011 we would like to institute the Slotovino Roll Call of Honour to celebrate those brave souls who are responsible for propagating or rescuing 'heritage' grape varieties in danger of extinction. We have come across a few of these already in our travels and we believe they should be celebrated as much as their wines which we also celebrate in the famous Slotovino Hall of Fame. We love lists at Slotovino so here is our embryonic Roll Call of Honour together with the grapes relevant to each name; Giuseppe Apicella, Alfonso Arpino and Luigi Reale - Tintore Emilio Bulfon - Cividin, Cjanorie, Forgiarin, Moscato Rosa, Picolit Neri, Sciaglin, Ucelut Casali Viticultori - Spergola Francisco Figueiredo and others - Ramisco Jean-Pierre and Philippe Grisard - Persan Walter Massa - reviver of Timorasso and leader of a new wave of winemakers in South East Piemonte Jose Luis Mateo Bastardo, Caíño Redondo, Caiño longo, Zamarrica, Brancellao, Sousón, Arauxa, Dona Blanca and Monstruosa de Monterrei in Galicia Heinrich Mayr for nurturing the white heirloom variety Blaterie at his Nusserhof property near Bolzano, Alto Adige Robert & Bernard Plageoles, 7 types of Mauzac, Ondenc, Prunelart, Verdanel etc. Domenico Pedrini and Gianni Chiste' of Azienda Agricola Pravis, Lasino (near Trento), Negrara and Gropello di Revo back from increasing obscurity in the Trentino area. The Rasse family (Rene and his sons Georges and Denis) for maintaining the idiosyncratic St. Jeannet appelation (near Nice) when almost all other vignerons (there were 70 in the 1950s) have sold their land to developers. It is in this case the Terroir if not the varieties which were endangered although some rare Braquet is grown together with Mourvèdre, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Grenache, Rolle, Ugni Blanc, Chardonnay, Muscat and Grenache Noir and the bizarre and ancient method of aging the reds in 'Bonbonnieres' before putting the wine in oak barrels. The smaller surviving growers include Mimi Lorenzato, Roger Barrière and Lazare Giambi. Agricola San Felice - Pugnitello Luigia Zucchi - Nibio the regeneration of the ancient grape variety, Nibiò, which once held position as Monferrato's noblest and highest value. 200 years of neglect nearly resulted in its extinction, but producer Luigia Zucchi has fronted the campaign for its rebirth. There are no doubt many more and we will add to the list, but this is a start and suggestions will be gratefully received.

Spergola is last entry Slotovino Hall of Fame, 2010

We hail the rare Emilian grape Spergola as our last addition to the Slotovino Hall of Fame in 2010. We were dubious about adding this to our order from Bat and Bottle but it has turned out to have been one of our Christmas stars. At £8.75 for a bottle of Casali's L'Albore Spergola Secco, Vino Frizzante Colli di Scandiano e di Canossa (Reggio Emilia) we have placed an order for multiple bottles and look forward to drinking this appley sparkling wine in the place of any Prosecco or several Champagnes of our acquaintance for some time to come. Restaurants would do well to offer this amazingly good value sparkler instead of some of the boring and disappointing wines we so often find in this sector.

As we owned up some time ago. we were wrong to dismiss sparkling wine out of hand. Together with our discovery of sparkling Cabernet Franc from the Loire by Ackerman (£7.99 from Waitrose) this Spergola is indeed a discovery which we can recommend unreservedly.

NB. We found a pink Cremant de la Loire also made from Cabernet Franc so Ackerman are not exclusive in this felicitous choice of grape for sparkling rose.

Tuesday 21 December 2010

Paris - a moving feast

Some things change, others not. Quite a blow was the disappearance of our friend Julien in the Rue Charlot. Julien had worked for a number of years for Oddbins, Camden Town and his shop Caviste Julien was a really excellent neighbourhood place where a tremendous variety of wines were to be found. Could it be that Julien's stock was too eclectic? Certainly his successors "Nysa" while maintaining some of his stock seem to be headed in a more conventional direction. Nysa were holding a tasing party for their opening. We were trundling by, laden with shopping when a friendly inebriate on the pavement outside told us 'ne hesitez pas, entrez!' So we did. There was one of Julien's bottles on tasting, a nice Alsace Pinot Blanc (13.5%). We bought it - from what the shopowner said, perhaps the only one sold that evening. Still everyone seemed to be having fun.

This leaves the shop Le Versant Vins in the nearby Marché des Enfants Rouges even more of a beacon of interest in the area.

ALL the wines there are naturel or biologique. We studied the selection more attentively than on previous visits and were even more impressed than before. We bought a jolly Pineau d'Aunis sparkler with a fizzy drinks type cap for closure. We didn't realise this was white or just off-white until opening it but it was not a disappointment. No doubt someone makes a red sparkling Pineau d'Aunis but we recall that quite a lot of this grape goes to make Rosé. We couldn't resist buying a bottle of Simonutti's Pineau d'Aunis and were glad to have it to follow Julien's Alsace Pinot Blancs that evening when we ate a slightly spicy fish stew created by Mrs. Slotovino. Both were excellent accompaniments to this wonderful dish.

In restaurants and bars we had better luck than usual. Brasserie Balzar's Saumur Rouge was so good we forgot to look at the label and the Beaujolais at l'Auberge Pyrenées Cévennes in the Rue de la Folie Méricourt was so good we called from London to find out what it was. It is by Paul Durdilly, a negociant of Southern Beajolais, so the wine is just Beaujolais - not from any of the Villages. Delicious. At the Bar du Theatre opposite the Theatre Hauts de Seine at Puteaux, you are served an equally delicious Touriga Francesa from the Douro if you ask for a 'vin rouge' at the bar. OK, it's a Portuguese Bar but still, it takes some courage to do such a thing in France, especially with a twinkle in the eye from the server.

Our old friend Rupert marched us up the Rue de la Montagne Ste. Genevieve to 'De Vinis Illustribus', an interesting establishment for those interested in old vintages. We had a very informative tutorial from Lionel Michelin who had taken over a famous institution run by Jean-Baptiste Besse until about 4 years ago. We were shown the ancient cellars and some venerable bottles were trotted out so we could see their labels, shoulder levels etc. They even have a small but enticing selection of modern wines including a Hungarian Cabernet Franc we happen to have at home: 'Ikon'. Rupert managed to find something here from the 21st century.

From there it was only a hop, skip and jump (OK the weather was cold) to Les Caves du Pantheon which impressed us even more than on our first visit - the good impression being directly proportional to the greater amount of time we had there. Rupert found another two bottles at this address. We shared the selection of a Bugey sparkling Rosé

which at 8% prOmises to be something out of the ordinary as well as a Carignan Blanc (!)

a Terret Blanc

and a Greek dessert wine made by that most interesting Santorini producer, Hatzidakis from a grape variety called Voudomato. It is claimed that some of the vines on Santorini are 500 years old. This wine (Voudomato)is only 11% and is available from Green and Blue in London. Don't try their Clapham branch though. It closed down sadly not long ago. Things change in London too.

The Caves du Pantheon is a medium-sized shop but one that repays any amount of time. The laconic and amusing person we recognised from before is a mine of interesting information. Our only other port of call was another place we had cased on a previous visit - La Cave des Pupilles in the Rue Daguerre, This was thronged with Christmas shoppers and sterangely enough there was a Greek wine tasting going on including the rarissimo Vostilidi grape we had bought from Caves du Pantheon a year ago. We left them to it and will return another time as we believe there may be some interesting wines here.

Our real reason for going to Paris though was to pick up a consigment of Domaine Grisard's Persan,

a Savoyard wine so rare that it is not even available in Paris. Persan was one of our greatest finds of 2009

so we hope it will not disappoint this time. That would definitely be a move in the wrong direction.

Tuesday 7 December 2010

Non-Tollerman Argentina

On this visit we became intrigued to find out what the Portenos drink for their everyday wines. Visiting a branch of Carrefour

- the French supermarket chain that is even bigger than Tesco - we clocked the fact that many of the most prominent wineries (such as Michel Torino of our favourite Don David range) also produce wines for the low end of the market. These tasted no better than their prices ( 7 - 11 Pesos or £1 - £2 a bottle) would have led one to expect. The only exception here was Etchard's excellent Torrontes on sale for 11.5 Pesos which was rather good.

Eleswhere there were dodgy brands such as San Felipe's '12 Uvas' which makes the astonishing claim to be the only wine in Argentina to consist of

Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Syrah, Bonarda, Sangiovese, Barbera d'Asti (sic), Pinot noir, Tempranillo, Chardonnay, Chenin.

(they might have said the whole world and been pretty sure they were safe in doing so). Apparently these brands have been going for a long time and have their faithful public.

We had also found a 'genuine' Argentinean Chianti,

lots of "Champagnes" also grown in Argentina. We knew about the "Borgognas" and the "Beaujolais" of Bianchi from our previous visit. Surprisingly generic Tinto or Blanco served as restaurant house wines were not as bad as these bottom end supermarket wines so a certain amount of choice is obviously available and some wines are better than others. Interesting to us was the fact that the Cabernet Sauvignons stood up better than the Malbecs, Tempranillos and Syrahs at this end of the market.

Trawling through the better wine shops such as The Winery (a chain) and Ligier,

we found an 11.5% Valle de Uco Sauvignon Blanc at 11.5% by O. Fournier for only 40 Pesos (£6.66)

which was as refreshing as any wine could be. O. Fournier is of course one of the greatest producers in Argentina but they refuse to send their wines to 'Vinas, Bodegas & Vinos de Argentina' for some reason which is obviously a crippling blow to this publication. It is a pity that we didn't find any other good guide to Argentinean wine while we were there.

The Winery is a pleasant chain with knowledgeable staff, a welcoming seating area and surprisingly high standard of shopfitting which one encounters everywhere in this cash-strapped country.They have the usual range and were not able to think of much when asked about any rarities or out of the ordinary stuff. Strange because we found this sparkling Bonarda from Alma 4 which looked interesting given that we had not encounteresd such a thing elsewhere.

At the airport we bought a bottle of Rutini’s ‘Trumpeter’ Mendoza Petit Verdot, a Bodegas Bianchi Nebbiolo and a Corte Friulano ‘Gran Lurton’ which is actually a blend of Sauvignon Vert, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Torrontes). There was also a bottle of Yacochuya red bearing the signature of Michel Rolland but no sign of alcohol content. We looked in vain for Cruzat Larrain.

Tollerman says this is the benchmark of Argentinean Espumante. According to Winesearcher Pro, this is not yet available outside Argentina. The winery itself seems only to have been established in 2004. A pity the airport doedn't recognise this yet.

Well, another reason to return to Argentina - in case we needed one.

Friday 3 December 2010

Tollerman of Argentina

On the inside of the cupola of the Teatro Colon Buenos Aires (one of the 5 world’s greatest opera houses) is a pantheon of composers’ names not visible in the photo above but trust us, they are there):
















As with all such lists it is amusing for future generations to see who has endured and who has been omitted. If Gluck, why not Handel?, if Schumann, why not Schubert? If Chopin why not Liszt?. Where are Bach, Beethoven, Weber, Brahms? The Russians (Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, Rimsky) are entirely absent.

With wine, it seems tastes change even more rapidly. On our recent return trip to Argentina we learned that as little as 10 years ago no one was interested in Malbec. Now it has become the Argentinean signature grape with a vengeance. Not only that but it has become synonymous with Mendoza, so as we know diversity has gone out of the window with interest seemingly restricted to comparing one Malbec from Mendoza with a great many others, all more or less in the same rather assertive style.

Winemakers and consumers alike might spare a thought for one name on the ceiling of their newly restored opera house – Meyerbeer. At the time when Wagner was a struggling young composer in Paris, Meyerbeer ruled the operatic world.

In a country where the second most planted red grape, the rather interesting Douce Noire (aka. Bonarda) is called the “Ugly Duckling,” where consumers are notoriously conservative and brand–orientated and apparently uninterested in diversity there seems at present little hope for much change until Malbec goes the way of Meyerbeer. Meanwhile there may be other varieties waiting in the wings. For example, take the case of Béquignol, a fascinating import from Bordeaux and South-West France which accounts for 0.94 of Red Wine production. This means that there are no less than 2,256 acres of Béquignol grown in Argentina which is more than Barbera (1,828), Torrontés Mendocino (as opposed to the more familiar Torrontes Riojano - 1,643), Riesling (271) and Viognier (1,848) according to the website

No one in any of the wineshops we visited had ever heard of Béquignol, so we made contact with Nigel Tollerman who according to our research is a mainstay of the Argentinean wine scene in Buenos Aires. Starting at Sommelier School in Argentina before he had learned Spanish he has set up in his own business (0800-VINO)

and was (perhaps still is) the only wine merchant in Buenos Aires to have a temperature-controlled cellar. As he says, most of his competitors don’t know much about wine. We ourselves discovered some of them still think Bonarda is an Italian grape and Torrontes a Spanish one (Bonarda is French - Savoyard - and Torrontes is a native cross between Mission or Criolla Chica and Muscat of Alexandria and has nothing to do with the Torrontes of Galicia).

Nigel informed us that various wineries grow all kinds of experimental varieties but either sell the resulting bottles only at the cellar door, use them in blends or do not sell them at all. He added that the Argentinean consumer is very conservative and very brand-orientated. He was seemingly happy to tutor us in all aspects of Argentinean wine.

Nigel is fantastically hardworking and has already built his business up to a commanding position, it seems. He spends two or three months in the UK every year and travels extensively throughout Argentina seeking out interesting wines from small producers. He was intriguing on the subject of Natural Wines saying because of the excellent dry growing conditions, often accompanied by healthy winds, Argentinean vines did not need much spraying and many vineyards were biological without even bothering to become so officially. On the subject of sulphur, he said that all wine contained naturally occurring sulphurs so even unsulphurated wines were not free of them.

Coming from the Sommelier side of the business, Nigel knew how to get the best out of us and at the same time give us his best. Asking us what we wanted to spend and what our interests were, we walked off with the following bottles – twice as many as intended but quite a bit cheaper than we had expected. He accomplished all of this while dealing with other customers on the telephone, beautifully and painstakingly wrapping our bottles first in tissue paper and then, unbidden in bubble wrap - even putting his seal on top

- and getting a pile of orders out by the end of the day (a Friday) so he could 'relax' at the Hurlingham Club on the weekend. Nigel's wines wrapped and sealed:

and hey presto:

Torrontes: Aguijon de Abeja 2009, Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza, 13.7%

Cabernet Sauvignon: Carmelo Patti 2003, Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza, 14%

Malbec: Opalo 2008, Valle de Uco, 14% (“no usamos madera” – unwooded).

Bonarda: Durigutti 2008, Mendoza, 13.5% (“neither cold stabilised, filtered or fined”)

We look forward to these especially the Durigutti whose Malbec was the standout wine at a tasting organised by Anuva Wines – a very ‘gemütlich’ small-scale event which nonetheless managed to present 4 varieties in a flight of 5 wines and represent various regions as well.

For anyone wanting to make sense out of Argentinean wine though, Tollerman's the man. He will even ship to you anywhere in the world served by DHL if you like.

Tuesday 23 November 2010

Bequignol = Prunelart: NOT


Our blog of 23.10.10 lamented that Bequignol was the same thing as Prunelart but we have learned from none other than Julia Harding MW that this is not so. Our apologies to Slotovino readers. We hope you have not been too seriously inconvenienced. Here is the original post:

Shock horror! No sooner than we had thought we had discovered a new variety (Bequignol) than we discover (thanks to Wikipedia) that this is nothing else than Prunelart, a bottle of which lies in our cellar as we google.

We were checking varities in advance of a trip to Argentina when the 'Wines of Argentina' site gave us the name Bequignol as a grape produced in that country. Prunelart is made by Plageoles in Gaillac. Wikipedia tells us that this rarity is to be found only in pockets in South West France (Vienne and Gironde including Bordeaux), Argentina, Australia, Brasil, Spain and Italy.

In Argentina, Bequignol/Prunelart accounts for 0.94% of production and covers only 2,256 acres - more than Barbera nonetheless which we suppose is a cause for celebration.

Friday 12 November 2010

Wijn Antiquariaat

Gerard has been squirreling eclectic and ideosyncratic fine wines away in his shop near the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam for decades and consequently has built up a fantastic inventory of great wine for those looking for something with some bottle age.

Inevitably there are legions of Bordeaux and Burgundy but also rarities such as Colares which makes Wijn Antiquariaat different from other similar operations. Not only that, Gerard knows his stuff and has visited the respective areas (including Colares). He is another of the rare enthusiasts one sometimes meets who are more inteersted that you should enjoy a nice bottle of wine than in extracting the last penny from you, making nonesense of the ditty

Never do business with the Dutch,
They give too little and take too much.

Gerard is also a real character. He has a clockwork torch for looking at labels in dim corners. He also holds tastings and invited us to one of Rioja the afternoon we were in his shop (unfortunately we couldn't stay).

We asked him if he know the best place to buy Dutch wine and he said that everywhere would be closed but that if we wanted he could lay his hands on some very good Dutch wine. We are sure he could

In fact we had taken the precaution of going to Gall & Gall, the store we had discovered on a previous visit and bought a bottle of Colonje Johanniter.

Johanniter is a crossing of Riesling and Seyve Villard and is quite common in the Netherlands. Also available was Knapse witte also from Colonje (whose vineyards are in Groisbeek in the south of the country).This consists of a blend of two other hybrids which were completely unknown to us, Helios (progeny of Merzling, Seyve Villard and Muller Thurgau bred in the Staaliche Weinbauinstitut, Freiburg-im-Breisga)and Riesel (a Swiss crossing by Valentin Blattner of varieties which seem to have been kept confidential).

Gerard probably wouldn't approve but we had to start somewhere with Dutch wine.

Thursday 4 November 2010


Jancis Robinson recently wrote that (in Argentina) Bonarda was rather less noble than Malbec (FT, 25.9.10). In her 'Vines, Grapes and Wines' (itself a classic, published in 1986) she avoids the use of the word noble and refers to varieties as Classic, Major and Other, admitting that there is an element of quantity as well as quality in these classifications. In other words, just because it is listed under 'Other' it doesn't mean that a variety is inferior to a Classic or Major variety, just that it is not so widely planted or as well known internationally.

It may also be because it has not been defined as such by the French:

"Historically speaking, the noble grapes comprised only six varieties. The white noble grapes were Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Chardonnay. The red noble grapes were Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot." (Wikipedia). The author adds; "The phrase 'noble grape' is a classical term used to describe the grapes traditionally associated with the highest quality wines. The term is not as commonly used today...partly because the term originated in France which leads some critics to feel that the term unfairly slights varieties grown in other regions.

So Jancis Robinson probably means Bonarda (in reality Douce Noire) is less noble because plantings in Argentina are lower than those of Malbec. That's what we hope she means, but use of the words 'less noble' suggests Argentinian Bonarda is qualitatively inferior to Malbec. We at Slotovino would not wish to make such a comparison. It would be like saying Mozart is inferior to Beethoven or vice versa.

True some varieties are still waiting to achieve their full realisation but there have been so many examples of reviled grapes ("les mal aimés") producing wonderful wine out of the blue (such as Dov Segal's Argamon) that we would not like to dispense with any of them entirely (despite the rude things we have said about them in this blog - see Caradoc).

Slotovino wins by 2 days 23 hours and 59 minutes.

We are in the avant-guarde yet again.

Our 'Vini, Salume, Pane, Latte' blog was posted at 10.32 on November 1st and Slurp posted the following later at 10.31 on November 4th:

"This is a wine we recommend buying by the case simply because it's so versatile and as indispensible as bread or milk!"

Our point was very similar - that there is a type of wine whose use is as a staple.

It would be a great idea if restaurant House Wines were to fulfil this role instead of being plonk for cheapskates as so often. Invidious comparisons with the rest of the list could then be avoided if it was clear they served a different purpose. We would then favour most wines being sold at a similar price as Franco, our Sommelier of 2009/10 does in his restaurant (see Slotovino Awards 6.7.10) does. Obviously some wines are more expensive than others but we find ourselves choosing by price as much as anything else whereas it should be by wine.

So let's abolish House Wines and have Draft Wine instead in a separate category, perhaps with Fine Wines in a third category. Just another of our thoughts...

Tuesday 2 November 2010


The New Wine of the Veneto is called 'Torbolino' and seems to be a popular seasonal treat, much like Federweisse in Germany. It arrives at the end of October so is not fully fermented at 8%. It is semi-sweet but rather delicious. The examples we found were made with Chardonnay (right) and Raboso (left - pay no atention to the labels on these. They are ex-mineral water bottles). In the middle is a sparkling Marzemino which we bought to see if the interesting example we had drunk in Vienna was a flash in the pan (it was).

Information about Torbolino is very difficult to come by. It doesn't have an entry in the Oxford Companion to Wine and Google only has a couple of mentions. One of these (with thanks to the author Marc Millon) is worth quoting ;

I notice a sign for “Torbolino”. I’ve not come across this before. It is the local term for mosto or newly pressed grape juice that is in the process of still fermenting, and thus is no longer grape juice but not yet wine: something frothing and vivacious and deliciously in-between. In Piedmont’s Langhe hills, we’ve enjoyed this mosto with our winemaker friend Mario around a campfire, while roasting castagne, chestnuts. In the German-speaking Südtirol, we’ve sampled törgellen, a simple repast of speck, cheese, good bread and the new, still-fermenting mosto. So here, I purchase a litre of the white torbolino, made from Prosecco grapes, and a litre of the red, made from Cabernet. The red is better, and our daughter Bella quickly downs a couple of tumblers on our return to our palazzo.
This torbolino, it has to be said, is good; it is seasonal; it tastes of our mood, the old year slowly transubstantiating into something new.

Marc Millon,

Monday 1 November 2010

Vini, Salume, Pani, Latte

It takes us at quite a long time for things to fall into place but now we think we understand the phenomenon of Vino Sfuso, Vin En Vrac, Wine on Draught etc, so here's our theory.

Venezia seemed to be the centre for Vino Sfuso because there were far more outlets with their demijohns of wine filling empty mineral water bottles than in other cities. Finally the penny dropped: it is not possible to have bulk wine stored in the vast vats we had seen in Torino, Napoli and other places due to the fact that everything has to be transported on water and then lifted into position. Apparently evey Italian town has its Vino Sfuso outlets, Venezia just has more of them for this very simple reason.

So Vino Sfuso is a widespread phenomenon in Italy at least, not a Venetian speciality.

Our next Eureka moment came when we found the above sign outside a food shop: "Vini, Salume, Pane, Latte," the staples of life. In this context, wine becomes a commodity, almost a necessity as opposed to a luxury item. The cost of vino sfuso is appropriately modest, between €2 and €3 per litre. Meditteranean people typically dink only a glass per meal and often add water. Draught wine is also much lower in alcohol than most bottled wine. So vino sfuso is used for a completely different purpose than how we use wine in Northern European countries for example. Here in the North, wine is used as an aperitif, to lubricate guests at dinner parties, to make merry, to celebrate at special occasions and so forth. We also need it to warm us up and for many other reasons. What we hardly do is to use it as a commodity, forgetting names and brands, including it in our diet as a staple - what is sometimes called a food wine.

For this reason, not only do we not have places selling vino sfuso but it is almost impossible to find even this type of wine in our shops. This is as much a deficiency as if in music an entire genre such as Jazz or Baroque music were missing. If we take a look at the range of wine sold in Northern Europe it is almost all of one kind: rich, warming, deep, flavoursome, fruity, increasingly high in alcohol. Wines tending towards the vino sfuso style are few and far between. We would list the following

Hunter Valley Semillon
Vinho Verde

Alsace Pinot Noir
Beaujolais Nouveau

there must be more but already we're scraping the bottom of the barell.

A glimmer of hope. You can buy a good Pinot Noir from Bourgogne en vrac from Wines of the World in Clapham or Earlsfield London

549 Garratt Lane,
London,SW18 4SR
Phone: 020 8947 7725

10a The Polygon,
Clapham Old Town,
London,SW4 0JG
Phone: 020 7720 6607

at a cost of £5.50 if you bring your own 75cl bottle. They also sell it already bottled at £7.99. The wine is described as "declassified domaine burgundy, hand–picked, hand–selected, vinified in the traditional manner and aged for 3–6 months in oak. The grapes for this vintage are all from Domaine Maurice Gavignet’s 10 hectare estate near Nuits St Georges (but in less abundant years he may buy some grapes in). The En Vrac wines are put into the box using the latest technology, under pressure without any contact with air."

Wines of the World have a really thoughtful and interesting selection with for example the majority of the Argentinian wines from regions other than Mendoza, a 100% Graciano under £10 and so on.

Sunday 24 October 2010

Yet another fine mess

At the Garden shop at Wisley (Surrey), we just read that Palomino = Golden Chasselas. Fortunately it turns out that Chasselas and Golden Chasselas (aka Chasselas Doré) are not the same thing.

However, fearing another extinction by synonym (such as we have suffered before) we turned as ever to The Oxford Companion to Wine. Here the waters if not muddy are not quite clear.

Under Chasselas, we read that 'In France it [Chasselas] is rather despised, not least because as Chasselas Doré or Golden Chasselas, it is France's most common table grape.' The entry goes on to say 'Total French plantings in 2000 were more than 3,000 ha/7,500 acres.', not quite removing the idea that Chasselas is not the same thing as Golden Chasselas.

But others are clearer that Chasselas and Golden Chasselas are not the same; states; 'It (Chasselas) is not related to the American grape Golden Chasselas which is thought to be the Sherry grape Palomino.' (How an American grape became the variety for the base wine of Sherry is not explained, or are we missing something here?)

Now to the relationship or non-relationship between Golden Chasselas and Palomino.
Under Palomino the same Oxford Companion to wine puts things thus 'California's acreage of the variety [Palomino], once wrongly identified as Golden Chasselas...'

Oz Clarke however is not quite so categorical; 'the Grape grown in California as Golden Chasselas is most likely to be Palomino.', adding elsewhere the seemingly contradictory 'Palomino used to be known as Golden Chasselas.' (and stating by the way that Palomino is 'one of the dullest grapes in the world').

Others still assert that Palomino = Golden Chasselas;

'Golden Chasselas

Known in the Napa Valley and adjacent districts as the Golden Chasselas and elsewhere in the state under its proper name, the grape is not a variety of Chasselas, but none other than the Palomino, celebrated for the production of Sherry in the Jerez district of Spain and elsewhere.'

If we're not out of the woods with Golden Chasselas yet, it is comforting to know that Chasselas is not Palomino. Chasselas is after all a grape we have appreciated in the wines known as Fendant in Switzerland, but also in the Loire, Alsace and thanks to Eric Pfifferling, Tavel.

Our bottle of Niepoort Palomino will no doubt settle the matter of whether Oz Clarke is right or not but is that Palomino Fino or Palomino Basto? That doesn't matter so long as neither is Chasselas, we reckon.

Friday 22 October 2010

The Easternmost Vineyard in England

Mersea Vineyard is the easternmost vineyard in England or Britain for that matter.

The Eastern vineyards are the driest too. Mersea Island is an interesting place - rather Dickensian - which is cut off by the tide once a day. Islanders are a tight knit community and different from other Essex people.

On Long Island New York we learned about salinity in the soil and how this affected some grapes more than others. We visited Mersea Island Vineyards at harvest time and tasted some of their wines. The standout was a Rose made by an interesting method;

"Made from a blend of our white grapes which has then been fermented on the skins of our Pinot Meunier grapes to produce this delightful wine. "

This is remeniscent of the way Dov Segal's magnificent Argamon is made by fermenting the Argamon grapes on Merlot lees. We wonder what other wines are made by this method. It seems to be capable of great things.

The advisor is John Worontschak, an Austalian late of Thames Valley Vineyards and consultant to many others.

Grapes grown include Muller Thurgau, Ortega, Reichensteiner, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier.

Thames Valley report, harvest time 2010

Having started so promisingly, the grape harvest in the Thames Valley has not turned out well according to insiders. Our Bacchus crop withered on the vine (powdery mildew). We regretted not having sprayed it so were relieved when we were told that the result would have been the same even if we had.

Our Triomphe d'Alsace however was as hale and hearty as ever (such an obliging grape). We have discovered that it makes wonderful grape juice so we juiced a small fraction of the reasonably large crop. It would have been larger had we picked a week earlier but the birds know a thing or two about ripeness and had helped themselves to about 20% of the crop.

Despite its resistance to weather and disease we are losing faith in Triomphe which is being described ever more frequently as going out of favour. Tasting even commercial examples we have to agree it really doesn't make very appealing wines. This year we have decided to try something completely different and have asked our winemaker to attempt to produce a 'blanc de noirs' or white wine from our red grapes. Our thinking is that to do so the juice has to be forced through a carbon filter which removes a lot of flavour. Now you're taking!

This winter we are going to do some work on the soil, plant as many new varieties as we can obtain from our esoteric list and see over the next few years which produce viable fruit. We may then make a 'field blend' while replacing the failures with the successful varieties. We promise to spray the Bacchus and if our 'blanc de noirs' doesn't work out, keep the Triomphe for juice which is popular with certain members of the family.

Another report will be posted in the new year when we get to taste our 'white' wine.

Thursday 21 October 2010

Frieze Art Fair copies Slotovino

How's this for Art imitating Life?

Slotovino, August 2010

Frieze Art Fair, October 2010

It is true the Frieze effort has wheels but ours has two yellow straps which sorry to say are definitely more secure and also brown tape all over for added safety. The price of the Frieze effort was £1,800. Ours of course much more.