Monday 12 September 2011

2011 Edinburgh Wine Festival

There is no Edinburgh Wine Festival, official or fringe as yet but that doesn't stop Slotovino creating one out of the many interesting manifestations of wine in this city. It is the darndest thing that in this respect Edinburgh has everything whereas its larger neighbour Glasgow has practically nothing. According to Adam, owner of The Fine Wine Company of Edinburgh/Portobello and Edinburgh/Musselburgh it was ever thus. He conceded that Glasgow's interests are more spiritual (geddit?).

Adam's main business these days is internet sales. He ships cases of wine all over the country. The shop was host to a delivery just about to go out. Interestingly, he has identified the hot spot for his sales as the home counties to the north of London, around Watford. Fascinating. With over 3,250 wines on his list there had to be something for everyone. The shop carries a much smaller selection of course but we left with an Argentinian Bonarda/Sangiovese which sounded a good idea and which we had not seen or heard of before, an Austrian 'Landswein' from Gamay apparently - Landswein (country wine) is another rarity, perhaps unprecedented in the UK and a Nero di Troia by Tufarello (Puglia).

Of these so far, the Heinrich Landswein was the sandout. Even at £11.95 this is a wonderful bargain. Only 12.5% it packs a generous Gamay flavour superior to much New World Gamay.

The Fine Wine Company have other interesting wines such as St. Pourcain Pinot Noir, the A, C, G etc. collection from the Veneto which we admire so much (A for Amarone, C for Corvina, G for Garganega etc), and much else. The website is arrangesd extremely well so you can browse by grape, price, country, colour and so on. Only the Abv figures are missing.

No visit to what we will now call the Edinburgh Wine Festival is complete without a trip to Leith Walk and Valvona and Crolla - winner of yet more prizes. For some reason they do not figure on Winesearcher; a huge omission. Perhaps they don't want to participate? In any case they have some of our favourite rarities including Italian Bonarda and Gutturnio as well as so much besides.

Paying our respects to Villeneuve Fine Wines, we learned of another company in town called Hendersons. This is an offshoot of the well known restaurant of the same name in the centre of Edinburgh, but the wine shop is in the charming region of Edinburgh/Morningside, butt of many affectionate jokes:

A Morningside lawyer has some business in Glasgow so walking down Sauchihall Street there he is accosted by the archytipal Glaswegian drunk. Staggering up to him with a bag of chips in one hand and a cigarette in the other he says to the Morningside gent "Hey, Jimmie, giss' a light." Morningside gent: "Sorry my good man I'm afraid I don't smoke, but tell me, how did you know my name was James?"

OK, Hendersons in Morningside is not at all well behaved at least as far as our interests are concerned. By that, we mean they have a quite remarkable amount of interesting wines from the rarest of grape varieties. These include one which doesn't yet have a name.

It is a crossing between Melon de Bougogne and Chardonnay, grown in the Maconnais and rather delicious.

This was only the start. Next came an Australian Sparkling White from the producer Irvine made from 100% Petit Meslier, one of the more obscure Champagne grapes never seen in purezza as far as we know and rarely in any Champagne blend. The result here was certainly interesting if "dusty" in the word of The Prof. There followed two further fascinating bottles. An Italian white called Pantastico,

apparently the ancient name cited by Pliny for a variety now known as Cachhione and grown in Nettuno, Costa dei Cesari (Lazio) and a red from Wales, "Glyndwr", believed from Regent and Rondo. Our final bottle from here was a field blend of 23 different varieties no less from Domaine La Tour Boisee, Minervois, called 'Plantation 1905'. The back label, for once, bears reproduction in full.

Ce vin est issu de la plus vieille vigne de la commune, qui est composee de 23 cepages, dont certains directement issus du 19e siecle. Cette vigne est la propriete des familles Cambon et Grauby, vielles familles du village.
Cette vigne patrimoine du Languedoc, est un veritable monument historique que nous saurons entretenir comme il se doit.
Les greffons que nous serons suceptibles de prelever a l'avenir pourront favoriser une renaissance de certains cepages oublies qui sont encore aujourd'hui, des cepages recommandes pour des vins reputes de notre region.

So nice to have a rest from the reams the French like to write about Terroir.

Our guide on our hurried visit to Hendersons was Doug - surely one of the quickest on the uptake we have ever encountered when asked to suggest some rare grape varieties. Henderson's motto is 'Independent Wines for Independent Minds'. Doug lamented that most punters are reluctant to stray from well worn paths but at least he gives them the opportunity.

This was a great festival and like the actual International and Fringe Festival, we couldn't include everything, so who knows what Tony Crolla has been up to at Enoteca Divino discovered last year or Raeburn Fine Wines, the supplyer of the more pukka set in Edinburgh?