Tuesday 19 April 2011

Pignoletto joins SHoF

We were introduced to this wonderful white grape in a sparkling version from Umbria by the noted vinophile Charles Taylor who knows a thing or three. Immediately we recognised that with Spergola (a recent addition to SHoF - Slotovino Hall of Fame), here was a rival (we think an improvement) on Prosecco. There is also the still version which we haven't tried.

Pignoletto has been declared as being identical to Grechetto but not everyone agrees or accepts this finding. If it is indeed Grechetto then the SHoF is pleased to add that grape to our list. Others say it is a distant cousin of Riesling.

A glance at Winesearcher.com shows any number of Pignolettos - sparkling and still - available in many markets so clearly there are many in the know. The version by Tedeschi was so appley it tasted like cider. We were immediately won over. There is a Pignoletto available from Laithwaites for almost the same price as Spergola (around £7) and has even been served on British Airways flights. It has nothing to do with the red grape Pignolo (= 'fussy' in Italian).

Sunday 17 April 2011

In praise of Azienda Agricola Pravis, Lasino, Trento.

This winery produces the following marvels;


Müller Thurgau


Schiava Gentile
Groppello di Revò
Franconia (Lemberger/Zweigelt)

We have secured the 100% Negrara and sevreal others apart from the Nosiola which find underwhelming in it's table wine form. Maybe it makes wonderful Vino Santo (?). The Negrara is we feel particularluy rare to find 'in purezza'

and the Rebo althogh reasonably well known in the Trento region was a new one on us and hence interentantissimo.

We also applaud Gropello wherever we find it.

What Ted brought from Australia

An acquaintance of ours, Ted Kravitz "Ted our man in the pits" from BBC F1 racing brought us three interesting bottles back from the Australian Grand Prix. The first was an excellent Semillon from the Barossa, not Hunter Valley this time. It is by Peter Lehmann and is called 'Margaret' after his wife. Reasonably low in alcohol this wine has won prizes and is interesting for both these facts. Only today the press bring to British people's attention that Hunter Valley Semillon is one of the great contributions of Australia to the world of wine. We agree with that wholeheartedly and now it seems the Barossa can join in the party.

The next bottle was an Aussie Montepulciano from the Adelaide Hills by Minchia which went down only too easily

and the third was something molto interessante, a Rondinella (60%)/Corvina (40%) Amarone blend by Freeman Vineyards, Hilltops NSW.

It doesn't say on the bottle what the ratio is between the Rondinella and Corvina

so we emailed Freeman Vineyards and received a detailed reply from Brian Freeman giving the above percentages and saying thst he is planting more Corina because he finds the Rondinella lacking in personality. He uses the Rondinella in Rosé now. We asked about Molinara and he said he reckoned that wouldn't have any more personality than Rondinella. It's good to find someone with such initiative. Brian Freeman reminds us of such free Australian spirits as Robin Day of Domaine Day who make all sorts of interesting wines from Saperavi to Sangiovese, Ilario and Dino Michelini of Michelini Wines who make a Marzemino, Joseph Grillo (who also makes a 'Moda Amarone' wine called "The Joseph", Mark Lloyd of Coriole vineyards who make Sagrantino and others.

Oddbins RIP

Not odd enough?

Friday 15 April 2011

Germany's second most northerly vineyard

In the Ahr Valley, they claim to be Germany's most northerly vineyard but this is not true. Schloss Proschwitz near Zadel in Sachsen is 51° 12" North whereas Dernau, one of the most important villages in the Ahr Valley is only 50° 32" North. On the other hand the Ahr is best known for red wines and Schloss Proschwitz and the rest of the Meissen vineyard is best known for white. The Ahr valley certainly is a remarkable sun trap with an incredible bowl where mostly Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) is planted on the vertiginous slopes.

We have not been convinced by Ahr Spätburgunder, perhaps because we haven't tasted one of the very expensive ones. The others seem to be along the lines of Alsace Pinot Noir but without the lightness and freshness. Pinot Noir does dominate - so much so that even the whites are made of it; 'Blanc de Noir' is a feature of most producers and is rather pleasant. nevertheless, many other grape varieties are to be found in the Ahr. We bought a Cabernet Mitos from Weingut Schlosshof in Dernau

together with a bottle of their Regent. They also do Saint Laurent, Zweigelt, Dornfelder, Dominus, Ortega, Kerner, Huxelrebe, Saphir, Weisser Burgunder (Pinot Blanc) and yes, Riesling.

In the villages strung out along the Ahr, the vineyards and wineries come right down into town.

Indeed it sometimes seems as if these are vineyards containing villages rather than villages containing vineyards - an impression reinforced by actual vineyards every so often in the village centres.

Schlosshof claims to be the winery oldest in Dernau. We were also recommended Kriechel in Ahrweiler where we bought a Frühburgunder, the early ripening clone of Pinot Noir.

Apart from the fact this ripens 2 weeks earlier there is not always a clear difference between the two Pinot Noirs. Some say that due to the smaller berries the Frühburgunder makes a fuller wine and Spatburgunder is characterised by a more aromatic flavour. Be that as it may Frühburgunder is very much the rarer grape.

There was also a recommendation for Weingut Adenauer in Ahrweiler but they were closed. Stoddern in Rech was also closed and we couldn't find the highly recommended Meyer-Näkel in Dernau but fortunately Weingut Deutzerhof in Mayschloss was open

and here we were given three excellent and interesting wines to taste: a Dornfelder, a Frühburgunder and a Portugieser from vines planted in 1927.

This was a revelation and we departed with a bottle for the mystification of friends back home.

Ahrweiler is a jewel. A well kept secret. An ancient and perfectly preserved little town well worth the journey. The Ahr valley is beautiful - and well under an hour from Cologne/Bonn airport. Almost Germany's most northerly vineyard.

The 2010 arrives and we decide to re-plant the vineyard

Yes, our Triomphe d'Alsace Rosé was finally bottled and released. It had been the last chance for our Triomphe grapes.

Another undrinkable wine and they would have been used henceforth for grape juice which is admittedly delicious. Encouraged and it has to be said bolstered with rather too much euphoria, we embarked on a programme of soil improvement and planting in the gaps where nothing has grown for many a year. We thought at first that we would just order a very few vines to see what might succeed but with the bit between our teeth ended up with a full scale experimental vineyard: 27 x Dornfelder, 15 x Frühburgunder, 25 x Pinot Noir, 27 x Regent, 27 x Rondo, 8 x Wrotham Pinot. These will be planted in a small plot at the top of the garden. In the middle plot are our disobliging Bacchus. This year, we are determined to spray them for the first time. It appeares Bacchus will not produce without treatments. We thought this was a bit of a swizz given that Bacchus is only a crossing - we might as well be growing Pinot Blanc or some such pure vinifera variety. Then after extensive enquiries we were informed that if we wanted something the equivalent of our Triomphe which didn't need any looking after, the only thing was Seyval Blanc. With a trip to Cologne in the offing we decided to visit the Research station at Geisenheim and see if they had come up with anything new for the job since Seyval Blanc was pioneered by Mr. Seyve and his son-in-law, Mr. Villard in 1919. What an admirable the Forschungsanstalt Geisenheim is! As well as industriously researching, crossing and hybridising all kinds of grapes it is a University as well.

It was here that Müller-Thurgau was first propagated and they have the original plant to prove it.

Here, what was called a 'Vorlesung' (lecture) was taking place:

Having requested a guided visit we were entrusted to Dip. Ing. Bettina Lindner,

the co-author of the Report on Geisenheim Grape Varieties and Clones (Geisenheimer Rebsorten und Klone, Geisenheimer Berichte 67).

She not only talked us through the various varieties fitting our needs but took us down to the cellars in order to taste the wines made from them.

This was an unimaginable advantage and half a dozen varieties we alighted on GM 8107-3,

a deliciously apply (Bettina preferred citrussy) wine from grapes descended from Ehrenbreitsteiner and FR 52-64 (meaning a grape cultivated by the Freiburg Institute in 1952). Ehrenbreitsteiner is itself a crossing of two generations of other crossings. As in any other kind of breeding the hope is that progress may be made over time. Bettina Lindner told us she had sold the GM 8107-3 to a French gentleman looking for varieties to plant in Brasil or some such humid part of the world and this person had decided the variety should have a proper name and chose 'Bettina'. We were pleased to follow his lead, so 'Bettina' it is.

We were also offered samples of Red varieties including Bolero which has become popular as a disease-resistant variety. The problem with the taste of Bolero was a hint of smoked ham in the background. Not unpleasant in itself but a little too original for its own good in our opinion. After signing a solemn document promising not to give anyone cuttings we departed with 30 'Bettina' vines in a plastic bag and made for Rebschule Martin in Gundheim (the German for vine nursery is rendered rather charmingly as Rebschule or literally 'Grape-School'). Gundheim is a bit further on than Gundersheim which we fortunately stumbled on by mistake. Fortunately because it is a remarkably beautiful village unlike any others we have seen in Germany. Not at all bijou or kitsch. No half-timbered houses or Gingerbread atmosphere. Here was an almost French mood with rendered buildings and a Burgundian kind of charm.

Turning down Rieslingstrasse in Gundheim we came across the Rebschule of the charming Herr Martin - it was just about now that we realised everyone we had met in the course of our investigations in Germany had been charming.

Herr Martin checked his stock from which we decided on 25 Solaris vines being hardy, fungus-resistant and early ripening. They grow it in Denmark so we think it may be suitable for a particularly ill-favoured corner of our little vineyard. Solaris has as its parents Merzling (which is Seyve-villard 5276 x (Riesling x Pinot Gris)) as mother vine with Gm 6493 (which is Zarya Severa x Muscat Ottonel) as the father. Back at the ranch and by now completely obsessed, we ordered 25 x Goldriesling and 25 x Johanniter from Rebschule Steinemann, also in Hessen. We had been warned against these varieties for growing in England but at under €2 each, we couldn't resist. We have enjoyed Goldriesling so much from Germany's most northerly vineyard in Meissen and Johanniter from The Netherlands that we are hopeful (delusional?) that we may get something in a hot year those climate change experts have been promising us.

The digging and planting is being done by Burt and Sean who sound like two characters from Sesame Street. When we saw how much effort was needed in our stony clay soil, we rang around and discovered a mechanical digger for hire just down the road.

Much better. We have left plenty of holes for other varieties, perhaps next year.

Eventually the idea is to decide on what does best on our plot and rip out the rest. Somehow we hope it will be 'Bettina' for the whites and perhaps Dornfelder for the reds.

Hamburg and Lübeck revisited

Not much to report in Hamburg this time apart from the news that Hanseaten Select may import Chinese wine again. This time we met Mike-Alexander Brede who is the enterprising man behind Europe's only importer of Chinese wine. He said it would be from different producers in the future. In Lübeck we found Weinhandelshaus H.F. von Melle - almost identical to Tesdorpf and in a parallel street as well as in many respects a parallel universe.

Von Melle is the more interesting if less pukka establishment from our point of view. There we found a rare bottling of Cabernet Dorsa

as well as a Regent
and a Dornfelder. There were several wines open for tasting and they were kind enough to let us try their Portugieser (jury still out) and yes, their Lübecker Rotspon! Finally we were able to prove the pudding. As readers (or was that reader?) of this blog will remember we thought this ancient marketing gag was beneath us on our first encounter months ago (see blog of 17.5.10) and the fact that the wine called Rotspon is just locally bottled stuff selected each year from places such as the Pays d'Oc doesn't seem to inhibit Lübeckers from buying it here,

there and even at the airport. We didn't buy it. Loaded down as we were we still dived into a general store with some bottles of wine on our way from von Melle to the Theatre and here we found a bottle of Samtrot - a rarity indeed. Samtrot is said to be a clone of Pinot Meunier (Schwarzriesling) with its own character. We couldn't resist and have high hopes based of the Grafen Neipperg provenance and reassuringly high price.

At Lübeck Airport (Ryanair customers take note) there is Dornfelder and Sylvaner to be had at reasonable prices.