Tuesday 29 November 2011

A walk up Kollwitzstrasse

Berliners are not very enthusiastic about what happened in the district of Prenzlauer Berg. When the wall came down, the inhabitants of this shabby area were moved out and the buildings were done up and Yuppies moved in. OK, but now whether Yuppies or original inhabitants, the area is revived and even Brecht might have applauded the result. Dass da gehören soll, was da ist, denen, die für es gut sind also die Kinder den Mütterlichen, damit sie gedeihen die Wagen den guten Fahrern, damit gut gefahren wird und das Tal den Bewässerern, damit es Frucht bringt.“

Oh dear, our German studies are getting the better of us. Never mind, a walk up the Kollwitstrsrasse is today something very pleasurable and even inspiring at least as far as the visitor is concerned. There are plenty of wine merchants as wells as wine bars, Delicatessen, Restaurants, Cafes etc. Also, an international feel with Hispanic and Italian places and around the corner, a couple of Russian ones.

The scene is lively at night. Maybe not so great for residents.

The Wine merchants include Weinladen Schmidt

a branch of Jacques' Weindepot (German equivalent of Majestic)

and the Delis include Sardu, a Sardinian place strangely enough.

At the very beginning of the street, there is an LPG Bio Supermarket

selling biological wines of course.

These include a heartening diverse selection. Here's just the Red Greek department


Wednesday 23 November 2011

Cremona, song of a great (small) city

Someone recently and memorably wrote that if the world came to an end, things would continue in Italy much as they always have. With the last days of Berlusconi looking increasingly like something from Gibbon, it was extraordinary to spend even a short time in Cremona and experience life which in some ways may have not changed so much since the Duomo was built in the 13th century or the Amati, Stradivari, Guarneri and Bergonzi interacted with one another in friendly rivalry and collaboration. This is still a town of Luthiers by the way.

Starting with unchecked entrance to the traffic-free Centro Storico in order to get near our hotel, we parked illegally if discretely around the corner, remaining there unmolested for the duration of our stay. If this wasn't proof of a higher civilization, the enthusiasm with which the lady who owned our hotel, the Locanda Torriani (together with her chef-husband) specially opened a bottle of Bonarda just to provide us with a glass which was otherwise not listed as available in this way immediately demonstrated a generosity of spirit increasingly rare in our ever more regulated world.

After our delicious lunch (the hotel is really a restaurant with rooms - always proof of good priorities), we took a stroll to the Teatro Ponchielli where we were to see 'Rigoletto', another glory of Italian culture. Without time to stop we clocked an incredible variety of wines at a small stand including a locally grown Marsanne of all things, a choice of Ortrugos, Barbera, Gutturnio and more Bonarda which we love.

After the matinee performance we made our way back to the hotel and found the market still in full swing with all kinds of local specialities on offer. Where else might you find a market open at 6.00pm?

That evening, unable to get into our restaurant of choice, we settled on what looked like an expensive clip joint. This turned out to be nothing of the kind and in spite of an over-ornate decor, chilly atmosphere and barely another inhabitant, we ate extremely well and were enchanted to find an excellent if slightly bowdlerised Ortrugo. Even the complimentary glass of Prosecco was unusually fine, the whole experience humanised by charming and efficient service.

The next morning, we saw all kinds of local cheese and pasta specialities in the windows of the many gastronomie to be found in this great small city.

The brand of tinned Tuna offered in one was 'Vaticano' no less.

In a large supermarket there were shelves of more Bonarda than you could shake a stick at

and even a selection of Gutturnio.

An amused Isaiah Berlin wrote about seeing two priests walking arm in arm across a piazza eating ice-creams in a similar town shortly after the war. The same spirit still exists. Long may it last!

Two more Vino Sfuso shops in Venice

Nave d'Oro, Canareggio.

As already noted the Nave d'Oro Vino Sfuso shops are quite widespread in Venice although they seem to be owned by different members of the same family and others. This one is a particularly nice one advertising Torbolino (the new partially-fermented sweet red wine) and exceptionally Frizzante wines.
Vini Sfusi, Calle della Chiesa, Campo Santa Margherita

This is a hard-core place with a good selection but business-like service. We particularly liked the shopfitting.
We took some Prosecco Spento (still Prosecco),Incrocio Manzoni bianco and Incrocio Manzoni Rosso and if memory serves a Cabernet Franc back to the ranch. Strangely enough the two Incrocio Manzonis were the best. It might be worth recalling that there are several crossings but the white is normally derived from Riesling and Pinot Bianco. The red was most probably Prosecco and Cabernet Sauvignon but there is another which is Barbera x Cabernet Franc. Interesting how some crossings are beginning to make interesting wines; we think of Mueller Thurgau, Kerner, Dornfelder, Huxelrebe, Scheurebe etc.

In this little survey, we were told that the majority of Veneziani take home Raboso for red and Verduzzo for their white vino sfuso. Isn't that amazing?

Slotovino's 2011 harvest, October 19th.

The Grapes

Having made our first drinkable wine in 2010 and done quite a bit of planting in the vineyard we decided to make grape juice this year.

The Sorting Table

A small quantity of 2010 grape juice had gone down very well with the teetotalers and younger members of Slotovino so there it was - Sloto-juice.

Our Fouloir-Egrappoir

It has to be said that Triomphe d'Alsace makes a much better juice than wine just as American native and hybrids such as do Concord, Skuppernong and so forth.

Our basket Press

Given that we had no plans to add preservatives or even pasteurise the juice, we only made a small quantity. You can see the perfect weather and conditions a week later than usual. Just as we finished the weather closed in. Luck was on our side as the birds hadn't yet turned out in force.

The Plug

What we have been drinking

Slotovino has not posted for 2 1/2 months but that doesn't mean we haven't been busy. Apologies to our regular reader!

Disappointed by the Cesari Grignolino we bought at some expense at Harrods, we tried the version by Montalbera sourced from Premier Vintners. That was more like it although still not for nothing at £14.49. We liked this enough to think about repeating the experience.

From the other side of Northern Italy, we have enjoyed a Malvasia Istriana from Primosic. It is remarkable how flexible the Malvasia grape is. We had in common with most, regarded this grape as rather ordinary but versions such as this declare its genius and are by no means rare. Here, from the aolian island of Salina is a version of Malvasia we also enjoyed very much at a very posh London restaurant where it was ranked among the least expensive wines

Monday 21 November 2011

Highbury Vintners, an additional adornment for North London

Highbury Vintners has often shown up on Winesearcher so we eventually made the time to go where many others have trod and were delighted to find a worthy contender for our Best Winemerchant award for 2012. There are 8 months left to find a better one but that will be difficult.

Tom Hemmingway and Gillian Sweeney have already won a bushel of awards and the reason is not hard to find. We bought the following online in an attempt to source interesting everyday wine;

Turckheim Pinot Noir 2007

Lard des Choix VdP de lArdeche Rouge 2008

Ogereau Anjou Rouge 2008

Alpha Zeta C Corvina 2009/10

Nieto Reserve Bonardo 2008

Domaine d Escausses Gaillac Rouge Cuvee des Drilles 2010

Senorio de Sarria Vinedo No.7 Graciano 2005

Domaine Cros Marcillac Lo Sang del Pais 2010

Ktima Alpha Axia 2006

Gerovassiliou Malagousia 2009

Keith Tulloch Semillon 2010

Alpha Zeta G Garganega 2010

There are many more wines in the shop than appear on the website. Indeed, if they have a weak spot, Highbury Vintners' website would be it but who doesn't have website problems? On our visit we found plenty more interesting wines. Where else in London might you come across a Chambourcin/Cabernet Franc blend from Ontario?

This turned out to be rather delicious by the way.

We will return to Highbury Vintners soon. Meanwhile just try to visit and not leave with a mixed case!