Friday 16 March 2012

Vini Italiani - yet another adornment to SW London

After The Sampler in South Ken and Sipp in Brompton Road Vini Italiani in Old Brompton Road comes within months Vini Italiani, a home for Italian wines in London as their brochure has it.

Practically opposite Handford Wines who have a pretty good selection of Italian wine themselves, Vini Italiani almost makes a wine trail in the area if you add Harvey Nichols, Harrods (where Jo Ahearne MW previously of Marks and Spencer is just taking over the buying), two branches of Nicolas, Jeroboams in Walton Street, Troubadour Wines further up Old Brompton Road, Lea and Sandeman in Fulham Road and various delis and Gastronomie where the odd individual interesting bottle may be found (Cheesemonger Beillevaire in Montpelier Street), Luigi's in Fulham Road, San Lorenzo in Beauchamp Place, La Picena in Walton Street, Partridges in Kings Road etc.

But Vini Italiani is different. As well as 'only' selling Italian wine, the nicely appointed shop is divided up into the separate Italian regions with those of the North upstairs

and South downstairs. Each region has Red, White, dry, sweet, fizzy, still etc. displayed together. It is an excellent format; one which accentuates the different regional terroirs and traditions.

The wines are a little on the expensive side even for this well-heeled end of town and inevitably there are some omissions (no Grignolino, no Schioppettino, no Rossese, no Pugnitello, - available from Handfords by the way - still less rarer varieties) but we must give them a chance and plenty of encouragement in this worthwhile initiative.

Thursday 15 March 2012

Slotovino competition. Cash prize

A large cash prize, 100 South Korean Won is offered for the first correct answer to the question of which grape varieties are included in Happy Day Korean wine. As a hint, we can say that the taste of this wine is Palwinesque with Cola notes.

Saturday 3 March 2012

A Korean solution

An original marketing solution comes to us from an unexpected quarter. How to get increased footfall in your retail wine outlet? Why, attach an Arts Centre to it complete with Opera House,

Concert Hall, Calligraphy Museum, restaurants, cafes, outdoor spaces.

Vinarte is the enterprising outfit to be found in the Seoul Arts Centre. An independent wine shop quite out of the ordinary in Korea, a country otherwise not especially associated with wine. We don't mean to be patronizing; there are decent wine shops in Seoul with a limited but not uninteresting selections as might be expected in this advanced and sophisticated society. Wine is drunk as much as anywhere else and if there is a somewhat elevated bias towards brands, that is perhaps only to be expected where there is no tradition and comparatively recent interest. We looked in vain for Vin Naturel or anything much off the beaten track although the odd out of the way and interesting producer such as Cusumano were quite broadly represented which is a good and unexpected thing.

Vinarte is another matter. A wine bar as well as a wine shop, we found a surprising amount of Romanian wine on offer. This we were told was due to a (Romanian?) partner with a special interest in Romania. We tried a glass of Vampire Merlot. We are familiar with and most appreciative of Romanian Pinot Noir and are aware they produce Cabernet Sauvignon, but had never come across a Merlot from that country. The glass we tasted in Vinarte, Seoul was very respectable despite the corny name.

Of note in many Korean wine shops was the full representation of sweet and semi-sweet wines, both Red and White. We draw no conclusions from this other than Koreans must like these wines. Nothing wrong in that. Indeed, there was an interesting selection at Vinarte.

Although relatively small, Vinarte has a temperature-controlled room for fine wines and a selection of spirits inculding Stravinsky's favourite whisky, Ballantine's 30 Year Old.

The hefty price of 845,000 South Korean Won translates into nearly £480, three times the cost in the UK. One would have to be a very big Stravinsky fan to pay that amount but judging by the enthusiasm of Korean audiences for Western classical music, there might be the odd aficionado willing to pay that amount. Having a beautiful Arts Centre attached to your wineshop would certainly help.