Sunday 28 February 2010

Catching up with Sciacarello

We had a Sciacarello lurking in our cellar, provenance forgotten (Artisan and Vine, Clapham?). Cuvee Faustine (Comte Abbatucci - bio-dynamique) Ajaccio, Corsica (12.5%). We had not exactly been bowled over by Corsican wines previously: Nieluccio turns out to be nothing more than Sangiovese and examples from the Patrimonio appelation were distinctly underwhelming.

So great was our joy to discover Sciacarello, the only autochthonous Corsican grape is a winner and joins our ever-expending list of hits. savoury - delicious: try it yourselves.
That word, by the way - autochthonous - is much-loved by Italians, French, Spanish et al, but never used by English speakers. Can we make a small request of our autochthonous friends and ask if they could use the word 'indigenous' as an equivalent at least sometimes? If they do, we could promise not to use Factory as the translation of Fattoria...

Anyway, here's an updated list of Slotovino hits:


Antao Vaz
Loin de l'Oieul


Folle noire
Nerello Capuccio
Pineau d'Aunis
Vernaccia nera

Monday 22 February 2010

Grapes we're waiting for

Here are some of the grapes we've heard about but have not yet found. Readers should feel free to add to the list in the case there is something they have been looking for and is not already mentioned on Slotovino.


Albarola (aka Bianchetta Genovese, Liguria)
Alvarelhao (aka Brancelho)
Bukettraube (South Africa)
Caino Blanco (Rias Baixas)
Chanel Paradisa (Australia/Chile/New Zealand)
Cygne (Australia)
Durello (Veneto)
Erbaluce (Piemonte)
Ezerjo (Hungary)
Findling (Germany)
Grenello (Puglia, Calabria)
Gringet (Savoie)
Gouais (Valais)
Knipperle (Alsace)
Koshu (Japan)
Lauzet (Jurancon)
Meslier (Champagne, Loire, Eden Valley Australia)
Molette (Savoie)
Ondenc (Gaillac)
Ortruga (Emilia Romagna)
Pallagrello bianco (Campagna)
Petit Courbu (Irouleguy)
Picardan (Chateauneuf du Pape)
Pinello (Coli Euganei)
Piquepoul gris (Chateauneuf du Pape)
Shalistan (Australia)
Terret Blanc (Languedoc)
Terret Gris (Languedoc)
Timorasso (Piemonte)
Turbiana (Garda)
Tyrian (Australia)
Ucelut (Friuli-Venezia-Giulia)
Veltelino rouge precoce (Savoie)


Arana (Piemonte)
Bombino Nero (Puglia)
Bovale (Sardinia)
Braucol (Gaillac)
Cabernet Gemischt (Shandong, China)
Cabernet Pfeffer (California)
Casavecchia (Campania)
Centesimino (Emilia Romagna)
Chasselas Rouge (aka Roter Gutedel, Germany)
Colorino (Toscana)
Counoise (Chateauneuf du Pape)
Dindarella (Veneto)
Duras (Tarn)
Fogliatonda (Toscana)
Foja Tonda (aka Casetta) (Trentino)
Fortana (Emilia Romagna)
Gros Verdot (Bordeaux, Argentina - aka. Verdot Colon)
Lledoner Pelut (Catalonia)
Malian (Australia)
Malvasia Nera (Basilicata, Piemonte, Puglia, Trentino)
Mammolo (Toscana)
Moristel (Somontano)
Muscardain (Chateauneuf du Pape)
Negrara (Veneto)
Nocera (Messina)
Okuzgozu (Turkey)
Pallagrello nero (Campania)
Peloursin (Savoie)
Perricone (Sicilia)
Pettu i Palumba (Etna)
Picolit Nero (Friuli Venezia Giulia)
Pinot Teinturier (France)
Piquepoul noir (Chateauneuf du Pape)
Premetta (Val d'Aosta)
Rossese (Liguria)
Rubienne (Australia)
Ruche (Piemonte)
Rouge de Fully (aka. Durize) (Switzerland)
Souzao (aka. Vinhao) (Portugal)
Schwarzelbling (Germany)
Sciascinoso (Campania)
Taminga (Australia)
Teoulier (S.E. France, Argentina, USA)
Terret noir (Chateauneuf du Pape)
Tinta Pinheira (aka. Rufete) (Portugal)
Tintore (Campania)
Vaccarese (Chateauneuf du Pape)
Vermillion (Australia)
Vino del Soldato (Etna)

Persan to join the obscure-grape hall-of-fame

Another obscure grape, this time Persan has been voted by the Slotovino Academy to join our obscure-grape hall-of-fame.

Persan is a red grape from Savoie. We cannot sum it up better than one Alex Redfern who writes on his blog:

Persan Its synonyms are: Becuetta, Becuette, Becu, Princens (Maurienne). There are now only a few parcels of Persan left in the Combe de Savoie.
This variety appears to have originated from the vineyard of Princens, in St-Jean de Maurienne. This was one of the great varieties of Savoie, but has declined for a number of reasons, including its sensitivity to oidium, and mildew as well as its early budding which exposes it to spring frosts.
It has had many fans over time and even had a poem dedicated to it - Nicolas Martin's Adioz Nobla Cita (C.16th). According to Doctor Jules Guyot (1807 - 72) "Persan made at Princens in Maurienne is an exceptional wine, of a rare quality. Rich on the nose it unites a warm flavour and causes a physiological action like those of the best Burgundies."
Whilst another doctor, Dr Paul Ramain, explains that "Princens is in my opinion the greatest red wines of Savoy. It is made from… Persan de Maurienne… and [is an] exceptional wine but unfortunately very difficult to get hold of, which keeps our [France's] gourmets ignorant of it. With a rich bouquet, stimulating, powerful (12°) it keeps for a long time, and is very smooth, and acts like a "peacock's tail in the throat" with a strong and persistent taste of raspberries (Clos de Rocheray) or violets (Clos de Petites-Ripes et de Bonne-Nouvelle). It spends 5 years in barrel in a very cold cellar and isn't drunk before it is 15 or 20 years old. This really is a wine that resembles no other fine wine in France and is fit for a princely table and the palate of the best informed gastronomes!"
This great variety was thought to have disappeared, but was recently rediscovered and is being grown by a few vignerons in the Combe de Savoie - and me.

(Note the charming reference to 12° as 'powerful').

We would add that the 100% Persan we found was aromatic - not to the extent of Pineau d'Aunis but pleasantly so, giving it a strong and original personality. It is not at all rustic and as others have said, is well worth reviving.

This exmaple was by Domaines Grisard and was found at 'Pierre Traiteur', 14, Place Marcel Gaimard, 73700 Bourg St Maurice (Tel: 04 79 07 04 48) at €17.50. We also tasted the Amethyste cuvee of Domaine des Ardoisières, pays d'Allobrogie from Julien Caviste, Paris which blends 60% Persan with 40% Mondeuse which hides to a great extent Persan's unique character, albeit in the cause of a very delicious wine. Another Grisard, Michel is involved in this Domaine des Ardoisières. The back label of the (Jean-Pierre et Philippe) Grisard 100% Persan is perhaps worth reproducing:

It says Cepage Persan. Oublié pendant des décénnies, cet historique et illustre cepage est à l'origine des vins de Savoie. Il retrouve ses racines sur nos coteaux d'éboulis argilio-calcaires en exposition plein-Sud. Vendange à la main. Nez Frais Fruits rouges. Bouche Fruits rouges et noirs, structuré et longue. Accompagne les viandes rouges, gratins, fromages et specialités savoyardes. Consommer à une temperature d'environ 16 C.
Domaine Grisard vigneron independant depuis quatre générations. Nous recoltons, vinifions, et embouteillons à la proprieté plus de 20 cuvées de vins de terroir élevés dans le respect de la nature.
Jean-Pierre et Philippe GRISARD
tél: (+33) 04 79 28 54 09
fax: (+33) 04 79 71 41 36

A guest writes (2)

Côt, pronounced like "go", forget about the t, is the original name for the Malbec grape. It is still called côt in the Touraine, the home of Rabelais. Indeed côt wine is Rabelaisian. It is, as the French say, a vin du terroir, rustic, ballsy with lots of character and further, as they would say on the Rue des Rosiers, it has lots of punim. Wine snobs tend to be rude about côt, calling it a watered down version of merlot, or a rude substitute for pinot noir. Well, let them spend their money elsewhere and leave côt as a secret for Slotovino.
Specifically, I recommend the côt of the Chateau de la Presle. At €6.50 retail from Les Caves du Marais the 2006 is formidable. Its low notes have guts of tannin, but not too much. The middle notes are of full fruit, especially morello cherries, griottes. The high notes are of pepper. Sexist I may be; this is a masculine wine. Not rough, not tough, just muscular......
There is a biologique côt produced by Thierry Puzelat which costs twice as much. Just because it is biologique does not mean that it is good. It is inferior to the Presle. You can't go to heaven in a Ford Coupé 'cos the Lord's got shares in Chevrolet. Presle is the Chevrolet.

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

Tuesday 9 February 2010


There is a host of Hybrids out there. It sometimes seems as if there are as many as naturally occurring varieties although that is probably nowhere near the case. From all these attempts to improve characteristics, solve growing problems, avoid pests, infections diseases etc. only a few hybrids make successful wine.

Having said that, almost all naturally occurring Vinifera varieties are themselves the result of natural crossings. We read recently that all grape families would have consisted of both white and red examples plus all the shades in between (i.e gris, vert etc.). We still have Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir and all the Sauvignons but have lost Cabernet Blanc (pace “Cygne” which is claimed to be a naturally occurring white mutation of Cabernet Sauvignon discovered in Australia a few years ago), Syrah Blanc etc. Viticultural crosses of two varieties of vitis vinifera such as Pinotage are called intra-specific hybrids. We include here under the heading 'Hybrids' those whose conception by researchers and scientists are a matter of record. Probably all surviving varieties are intra-specific hybrids or natural crossings. The 'noble' Chardonnay is the product of Gouais Blanc and one of the Pinot family. In fact Gouais Blanc has been found to have been the mother of Aligoté, Aubin vert, Auxerrois, Bachet noir, Beaunoir, Dameron, Franc noir de la Haute Saône, Gamay blanc Gloriod, Gamay noir, Knipperlé, Melon, Peurion, Romorantin, Roublot and Sacy. These vitultural crosses occurred naturally but were propagated by growers with Chardonnay being the most popular in this particular family then as now.

Of the hybridised varieties, here are a few that have come close to acceptance:

Alicante Bouschet
Durif (aka Petite Sirah)
Incrocio Manzoni
Irsai Oliver
Müller Thurgau (aka Rivaner)
Saperavi Severny

and some promising ones;

Baco Noir
Cserszegi Fuszeres
Emerald Riesling
Madeleine Angevine
Ruby Cabernet

Not a huge amount. As we have seen in the case of Argaman in our most recent blog, it sometimes depends on finding the best way to work with the hybrid. After all they haven’t had the benefit of centuries of trial and error in terms of where to plant, how to prune and train, when to pick and how to vinify. In Slotovino’s few vines of Triomphe d’Alsace in the Thames Valley we have finally made an (almost) drinkable wine by removing the juice from the lees as soon as possible, adding nothing except cultured yeast and bottling early without exposure to wood. The result is between red and rose in colour (a little darker than a chiaretto – definitely a red wine although very light), 10.5% alcohol, very tart (too much so for some) but with a taste of fruit (Ribena according to some). At least it avoids the bitterness of previous efforts (and some commercial examples) and we reckon best represents the modest contribution Triomphe d’Alsace has to make.

The following site is quite interesting for anyone wanting to know more about Hybrids and indeed classic vinifera varieties, synonyms etc.

by Anthony J. Hawkins

Sunday 7 February 2010

Miracle in Upper Galilee? Segal's Dovev Single Vineyard Argaman

We at Slotovino haven't been against hybrids: as ever the proof has been in the drinking, so we have praised Marselan, Alicante Bouschet, Saperavi and Goldriesling and been cool to Chasan and Emerald Riesling. The reputation of Argaman however did not prepare us for this outstandingly successful wine: Segal's Single Vineyard Argaman

True it is fermented on Merlot skins from the same producer but it is otherwise 100% Argaman. The label explains that the success of this "modest origin" wine is due to planting in "a more callenging environment...shallow loam over limestone at an altitude of 715 metres...exposure to extreme climactic conditions and some poor soil are challenging: the vines responded with fruit of a character unknown elsewhere in Israel."

This is a familiar tale. The winemaker, Avi Feldstein seems to have redeemed the unpromising Argaman and released its full potential. It may now join our pantheon of great wines from obscure or even maligned grapes. Here are some of the red varieties praised in our Blog;

Nerello Capuccio
Pineau d'Aunis

Even the authoratative Daniel Rogov seems to have been thawed-out just a bit by Segal's Argaman. If he doesn't mind, it is worth quoting his review in full while remembering he was the initial doubter of this variety

Dec 2008

Argaman, for the uninitiated is a cross between Carignan and Souzao grapes, an entirely Israeli invention – in fact, the only grape that has originated in Israel in modern times. It has been no secret that I have shown a marked lack of enthusiasm for this grape since its introduction some twenty years ago. Some people have yet to forgive me for writing when the grape was first unveiled that "Argaman has three major plusses – excellent color, excellent color and excellent color". I found then as I have over the years with the few varietal wines that have been released from this grape that Argaman lacked body, depth, aroma, flavor or charm.

Because I found the wine very closed at that first tasting, I obtained several other bottles to set aside, my plan being to taste one about a month from that tasting and then ever three-four months thereafter. The time had come and today's tasting included the wine. Before the tasting note, let it be said that (a) I find winemaker Avi Feldstein of Segal one of the most charming and pleasant people in the entire local wine industry; (b) I thoroughly enjoy Feldstein's desire to occasionally be playful and (c) that he makes some excellent wines. Despite all of which, unlike quite a few of my colleagues, I have a few problems with this wine, the tasting note for which follows.

Segal, Argaman, Rechasim, Dovev, 2006: Dark, literally impenetrable royal purple in color and medium- to full bodied, one might be tempted to think this wine was made entirely from Argaman grapes (a cross between Carignan and Souzao) but that is not quite the case. Argaman may boast fantastic depth of color but is, to be charitable, lacking in most other qualities (e.g. tannins, aroma or flavour), so to give this wine the "push" it needed, it was fermented on the skins of Merlot grapes and then aged in French and American oak, half of which was new, for 18 months. It might not be unfair to say that while we can credit the Argaman grapes for the wine's deep color, the tannins, flavours and acids came from the Merlot and the oak. Despite all of which, the spicy and smoky wood proves somewhat dominant, the tannins come out as just a bit chunky (i.e. country-style) and the plum and berry flavors prove jammy and perhaps just a bit too near-sweet. Interestingly, not a bad wine so much as it is a highly stylized wine that many may enjoy. My estimate is that this is not a wine meant for cellaring, its elements never coming together fully and perhaps destined to collapse within the next year or two. Worth trying a bottle to see if this is to your taste. Drink now or in the next year or so. Score 85. K (Re-tasted 3 Dec 2008).

We prefer to zero in on "...not a bad wine...many may enjoy." That is already a quantum leap from Rogov's first thoughts on Argamon, viz: “Argaman: An Israeli-inspired cross between Souzao and Carignan grapes. Possibly best categorized as the great local wine failure, producing wines of no interest. Many of the vineyards that were planted with Argaman continue to be uprooted to make room for more serious varieties.”

Available in the UK from Panzer, London (£23.50 single bottle) and Yayin V'Simcha, Essex (£18.50 - case price per bottle).

Thursday 4 February 2010

In praise of Tim Hanni

The most interesting debate for years appears today in ‘The Guardian’ newspaper:

Slotovino agrees it is not useful to attempt to lay down rules concerning wine and food combinations but are we sure that ‘anything goes’? The analogy with cooking (throwing whatever you fancy into the pot) rings true. On the other hand everyone’s palate is different and everyone has his or her personal preferences. There again, there is a lot of guff spoken and written on the subject.

As we said, a very interesting debate. Does either of our readers have a view?