Tuesday 28 September 2010

What Mr. Posh drank in Venice

We don't always have Mr. Posh on our team but we had the pleasure of his company recently in Venice so we had to be extra careful to find good things for him to drink.

It all started so well with an acceptable Refosco

and an excellent Raboso

one of the best we have ever had. The maker is Cescon Italo (Italo Cescon).

Then sadly things went downhill and Mr. Posh ceased drinking anything whatsoever until he was able to find a glass of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano at the airport which he pronounced the only decent thing he had had all trip. We suggested that was only because he was used to the Vino Nobile but he said not.

In our researches, we discovered a new Enoteca called Mille Vini.

This is the shop which supplies others in Venice. They don't have very many bottles at all - certainly not mille but they do have a good selection and the gentleman is knowledgeable and helpful. It is just at the bottom of the Rialto steps on the opposite side from the market.

Ever practical (we hope), Slotovino has a patent way of ensuring that the suitcase with a dodgy zip (due in part to too many bubble wrapped bottles) doesn't explode en-route. Buy some elasticated rope or shock cord and tie these around the case. At 5 Euros, these are so much cheaper than fabric belts.

Just so we can be as posh as Mr. Posh himself, here's a picture of what might have been the world's worst Bruschetta proving that as well as being able to eat well in Venice it is still possible to eat very badly:

Venice Vino Sfuso on our minds

The remaining reader of this blog will remember our interest in Vino Sfuso (wine on draft). We frequently wonder why the kind of transaction to be found in Venice and a few other places in Italy and to a very much lesser extent France has not been tried out elsewhere and what would happen if it was. The transaction we mean is the one whereby people take an empty 1.5 litre or 2 litre mineral water bottle to their local Vino Sfuso shop and get it filled with any of a number of different wines for about 2 - 3 Euros. We have witnessed the scene many times. The customers are people picking up wine on their way home. The wine will be drunk in the next couple of days because that is how long it will last. They buy the wine regularly and have a chat while they are in the shop. There are also bottles available - some of which are definitely sophisticated costing well over 50 Euros. This is the wall opposite the Vino Sfuso at Al Canton del vin

In this way, the merchant knows how much Vino Sfuso he will sell which allows him or her to store the wine without using gas to keep it from oxydising. He or she knows that they will sell a demijohn of this or that in a day and so when they have done so they just put a note on it saying 'esaurito' (sold out) and start a new one in the morning.

We have tasted wine from stainles steel vats which is stored under gas but it always bears the taste so buying from this source doesn't seem sensible to us. We found on this trip that there are different sizes of storage vessels. here for example are the quite small ones to be found in a shop in San Polo called 'La Cantina di Calzavara Ivona'

Our favourite remains 'Al Canton del Vin' especially as they gave us a full blown tasting and then refused to charge anything whatsoever on the grounds that we had hardly had a glass of wine in total. Most un-Venetian.

It would also seem that Veneziani like their Vino Sfuso even when eating Cicchetti. This is delivered at Fiore by means of taps on a barrel set into the wall:

The wines available from this contraption included Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay and Prosecco. We tried the first two and both were excellent.

Vino Sfuso is even available from quite up-market shops such as Vino......e Vini (Salizada del Pignater, Castello)
and more modest establishments such as the little bar near the Campo Bandiera e Moro called Cantina Antica Vigna is where we discovered Ancelotta in 2008.

Sadly there seems to be no Ancelotta this year and Giuliano in Edinburgh even told us that Mancini's crop had failed and therefore he had not produced any more 'Il blu' which is a very sad state of affairs indeed. Notice the fancy barrels here:

So would it work in the UK? Even if problems concerning tax, duty, weights and measures, hygeine etc. were overcome it seems, according to expert advice, the Great British Public might not buy on the way home but consume the wine in or outside the shop, get drunk and make a nuisance of themselves. This is a great pity.

By the way, we didn't see one chewing gum mark on any pavement in Venice. Could this have anything to do with the fact that we have never seen anyone drunk in Italy either?

Another fine mess.

Our traditional barney at Venice airport (see our post of 25.1.09) consisted this time of an argument over whether Lugana was a grape or a district. We said a district and they said it was a grape. A helpful third party said Lugana was nothing more than Trebbiano, so back at the ranch we surfed Trebbiano, Lugana and much more and came up with the following;

The Lugana was the first DOC wine registered in Lombardy and was among the the very first in Italy. Despite the fact that the DOC denomination refers to the grape used as Trebbiano di Soave, locally known as Trebbiano di Lugana, recent research has found that the genoma of the vine from which the Lugana is made is different from both the Trebbiano Veronese and the one used to make Verdicchio in the Marche region. Thus, according to the Università degli Studi di Milano (Milan University), this is a native vine grown exclusively in this wine zone.
The historic denomination of this vine, selected during centuries of agriculture by the local vintners, is Turbiana, a name whose roots are lost in the past in the area known as Lugana. based upon these facts, the President of the Consorzio Tutela Lugana DOC (Consortium for the Protection of the Lugana DOC), Paolo Fabiani, have asked for the formal recognition of the vine, its addition to the Catalogo Nazionale delle Varietà (National Register of Vine Varieties), and the selection of authorized clones.


Wine Grape: Verdicchio Bianco
White wine grape generally thought to be native to Italy's Marche region; Verdicchio's origins are uncertain but ancient, as the Latin agricultural writer Lucio Giunio Moderato Columella mentions it as early as the first century A.D. Recent DNA studies have concluded that Verdicchio Bianco is from the same family as Trebbiano di Soave and Trebbiano di Lugana. A popular theory is that around the 15th century, a number of farmers moved from the Verona area to the Marche, bringing some vine cuttings with them. Over the centuries, the vine adapted itself to its new environment and developed new characteristics. In addition to still whites, verdicchio gives good results as sparkling wine. The name undoubtedly comes from the green (verde) color of the grapes, and the green hue in its wines.

Also known as Marchigiano, Marino, Peloso, Trebbiano di Soave, Trebbiano di Lugana, Trebbiano Veronese, Trebbiano Verde, Turbiano, Turviana, Uva Marana, Verdicchio Dolce, Verdicchio Giallo, Verdicchio Marchigiano, Verdicchio Peloso, Verdicchio Stretto, Verdicchio Verde, Verdicchio Vero, Verdone, Verzello

Albano, Biancone, Blanc Auba, Blanc De Cadillac, Blancoun, Bobiano, Bonebeou, Branquinha, Brocanico, Bubbiano, Buriano, Buzzetto, Cadillac, Cadillate, Castelli, Castelli Romani, Castillone, Chator, Clairette D'Afrique, Clairette De Vence, Clairette Ronde, Engana Rapazes, Espadeiro Branco, Falanchina, Greco, Gredelin, Hermitage White, Juni Blan, Lugana, Malvasia Fina, Muscadet Aigre, Padeiro Branco, Perugino, Procanico, Procanico Dell Isola D Elba, Procanico Portoferraio, Queue De Renard, Romani, Rossan De Nice, Rossetto, Rossola, Rossula, Roussan, Roussea, Rusciola, Saint Emilion, Saint Emilion Des Charentes, Santoro, Shiraz White, Spoletino, Talia, Trebbianello, Trebbiano, Trebbiano Della Fiamma, Trebbiano Di Cesene, Trebbiano Di Empoli, Trebbiano Di Lucca, Trebbiano Di Tortona, Trebbiano Fiorentino, Trebbiano Toscano, Trebbianone, Tribbiano, Tribbiano Forte, Turbiano, Ugni Blanc,[7] Bouan, Beau, Thalia, [3] Trebbiano di Soave, Trebbiano Romagnolo, Trebbiano Gallo and Trebbiano d'Abruzzo.

Not to mention Bombino…(cf our post of 18.3.10)

So Lugana = Trebbiano = Verdicchio with some local adaptations, differences etc.

Someone also tried to tell us that Schioppettino was none other than Malvasia Nera but what he meant was Ribolla Nera. People should take more care. It is probably like this that rumours get started.

Finally, potentially good news for wine diversity. At Venice Marco Polo Airport there was something almost unbelievable considering this blog's obsession with the hitherto unknown (to us) variety Tocai (Tai) Rosso (post 26.3.10). Nothing less than a stand completely devoted to "Vini nuovi Tai"!

In fact this also referred to Tocai Friulano which are now also known as Tai Friulano as well as just Friulano and the wines of Lison Pramaggiore. Of these we tasted and subsequently bought and devoured an example from our fave Castello di Porcia whose 'Malbeck' we had so enjoyed a rather long time ago (post 5.7.08).

There, Maria Teresa Bett, presiding over the tastings and representing the Venezia Wine Forum whose initiative it was, told us that Tocai Rosso has nothing to do with Grenache! This was good news as we had drunk Tai Rosso wherever we could in Venice and bought two bottles in town necessitating the payment of extra money to check a case in on Easyjet.

So it would be an added bonus if our love of these wines was also a liking for a rare grape variety, not just Grenache.

Maria Teresa's pronouncement was music to our ears even with such formidable authorities as Nicholas Belfrage taking the opposite view. The jury is still out!

Friday 17 September 2010

In Spain yet again

The news is that Tierras de Malaga, our tip for Spainish wine's new frontier is making a breakthrough. Finally the wines of Ronda etc. are being stocked by El Corte Ingles and may even be bought at Malaga Duty Free. Here's the proof:

The red shelves in the Hipercor downstairs

and the white

and even in the Club del Gourmet on the top floor;

At the airport was an ideosyncratic Syrah for E. 7.50 which was on the sweet side but grew on us. You can also buy Malaga (sweet wines) there.

Thursday 16 September 2010

Edinburgh - a wine festival

Yes, there really was a Fringe event with a programme of winetastings on a barge on the canal at Fountainbridge near the city centre. It semed to be better sold than the majority of the Fringe too. The tastings were carried out by Claire Blackler of Case Studies Wine School and had catchy titles including

Left, Right & Centre - an intro to Bordeaux
American Beauties - big, full & juicy!
Purely Portugal - corking quinta-sensuals
Regional Heroes - Australian terroir-tories

You get the picture.

Claire is teaming up with Tony Crolla to present a programme at his new and beautifully appointed Enoteca 'Divino'.

Tony is the owner of the Vittoria restuarants in Edinburgh. Divino is the only Sampler type establishment outside London.

We think it may be only the third in the country after The Sampler itself and Selfridges.

In any case this is just the thing Slotovino approves of, especially when the wines offered include a great Fumin, a white Chambave, a Pigato
and much of interest besides. Divino is not really a wine bar and certainly not a restaurant. It is a place for people who are serious about wine and want to taste many different ones. Sebastiano ('Bas') took care of us and certainly knows his stock. Bravo Tony.

A rival outfit, just as serious about wine is indeed a restaurant: Giuliano's.

This seems to be as much an epicentre of Scottish/Italian life as Valvona and Crolla or indeed Vittoria. We had met Sr. Giuliano two years ago and had debated the content of Mancini's 'Il Blu'. We became firm friends and Sr. Giuliano had wanted nothing more than to take us home and give us a taste of his home-made wine. This time he not only remembered us but recounted the sad story of 'Il Blu' which had ceased production owing to the failure of the Ancelotta component.

Nevertheless we had a wonderful meal of Polpetone and Lacrima di Morro d'Alba. The restaurant was heaving and the Italian waiters dressed in Tartan were terrific,

singing Happy Birthday to customers and providing a tremendous service.

Raeburn Fine Wines were closed when we passed by but Villeneuve were open until late in New Town (geddit?). There we finally succumbed to the selfsame bottle of Ribolla Gialla from Slovenia which he had seen in 2008 having understood it was an Orange wine.
We also picked up a Greek white called Savatiano after the grape from which it is made.

What a town. Glasgow, are you listening?

Gamaret at Geneva Airport Duty Free

There is a small and characteristically expensive selection of Swiss wine at Geneva Airport Duty Free. In fact there is a further and even more expensive selection at the Caviar House & Prunier in the same airport.

One of the best buys was a Gamaret by La Cave de Geneve "La Clemence".

all we wanted to do was to try it so we bought a bottle at something approaching CHF20. We also bought a Swiss Aligote which sounded interesting but turned out to be bland. at CHF38.60 we didn't get what we paid for.

Our Easyjet flight left from a satellite (Gate 30 - something if we remember correctly). There we found the same Gamaret for significantly less in a 50cl bottle. So what we are saying is if you are passing through GVA on an Easyjet flight, DO buy the Gamaret - it is excellent - but if you don't want a 75cl bottle, wait until you get to the satellite and there you will find the smaller bottle!

We thought you might want to know that.

A propos, Swiss wine merchants and producers have more sizes of wine bottles than anyone else in the world as far as we can tell. 50cl bottles are common as are, wierdly enough, many 70cl ones. There are also 35cl bottles aplenty and 20cl ones too. There were even a 113cl and a 38cl bottle on the list of Paul Ulrich of Basel. So be careful to check what you are buying.

Monday 13 September 2010

Croatia - 270 varieties waiting to be tapped

Croatia alone is said to have 270 indiginous grape varieties. The republics of the former Yugoslavia are a fascinating repository of these, of winemaking traditions and above all, of potential. Already Slovenia is being absorbed into the world mainstream thanks to its proximity to Italy and not least thanks to its role in cross-border winemaking during the time of socialist Yugoslavia. The Slovenes certainly know how to value their wines and charge accordingly.

A good example of what to expect from the less well known regions is what has happened to Laski Rizling. This really was at the bottom of the pile in the Cold War days - something even less enticing than Liebfraumilch if memory serves. Today we are aware this sorry concept is in fact Welschriesling or Riesling Italico, from which ever more really wonderful wines are been made in Austria in particular and many east European countries where its synonyms include Olasz Rizling (Hungary), Vojvodina (Slovenia) and Vlassky Rizling (Slovakia). Vlassky or Laski refers to Wallachia/Romania, hence Welsch. It is not related to Riesling. In Croatia, it goes under the altogether more melifluous name Grasevina and produces delicious wines a million miles away from supermarket Laski Rizling of the 1970s.

Then there is Crljenak Kastelanski which has been confirmed as the original Zinfandel. In our brief but promising preliminary skirmish with the wines of Croatia, nowhere did we come across a Crljenak Kastelanski, a Primitivo (which was fancied at one time as the origin of Zinfandel but turned out no so to be) or a Zinfandel for that matter. What is ubiquitous is a near relative, Plavac Mali, now starring in a Waitrose near you but none the worse for that.

The most popular white variety is Posip. This with its near namesake Sipon is nothing else but Furmint and none the worse for that either.

Beyond Plavac Mali, Grasevina and Posip are of course 267 other varieties. We got just a little bit further into these with a Babic bought, like the Grasevina at Split Airport Duty Free and yet to be tasted,

a wonderful Malvazija Istarska by the glass at the excellent Sesame Restaurant, Dubrovnik - a real eye opener this, a Grk from the island of Korcula (our sample altogether too rustic), another white from the island of Krk called Zlatna, made from the Zlatina variety (more promising)

and something called Teran which got us needlessly excited, turning out not to be one of the by now 264 remaining varieties but our old friend Refosco. We should have remembered the bottle of Terrano we bought at Per Bacco in Milan which turned out to be the local name for Mondeuse as we were told there. Mondeuse used to be thought of as being nothing other than Refosco but this is now in doubt, so most probably both Terrano and Teran = Refosco.

This version by Kozlovic was a delight.

So things are on the move. Having left Croatia in 1954, Mike Grgich of Grgich Hills, California fame has returned to teach young winemakers and has an operation of his own there. Just how far there is still to go was demonstrated for us by the wine of the beautiful island of Vis.

In the ancient world, the wine of this small island (known by the Greeks as Issa) was said (by Athenaios) to be 'the best, compared with all the others'. This is most definitely not the case today. Viticulture on Vis dates back therefore well over 2,000 years. Before the First World War, production was 53 million gallons a year. The island has suffered since. Until 1989, it was a military zone. Some of the vineyards were even blown up in manoeuvres - certainly a common sight is piles of stones which look as if they came from ruined terraces. Nevertheless, attempts are being made to revive viticulture and winemaking. They even have at least one native grape variety, Vugava (aka Bugava) and possibly a second one called Kurteloška, both white, both of which which we managed to miss.

We tasted a Plavac Mali from a vineyard on the island which according to Google, may now, sadly be for sale.

If the tiny island of Vis has its own grape varieties and there are a thousand islands, the countries of the former Yugoslavia are rich indeed. Let's hope these grape varieties are not allowed to die out even if the names are challenging - Dingač, Gegić, Maraština, Turbijan, Bogdanuša, Puljižanac, Zilavka, Ranac Silbanjski...