Wednesday 28 May 2014

Wine Fair at Verona, VINITALY

We promised to refer to it in capital letters just to remind readers that VINITALY is gi-normous but we think you might have received the message. The statistics we gave last year will do for 2014 even if the fair was a bit bigger or smaller. The only obvious change was the catalogue which has been reduced from nearly 1,000 pages to 230 without apparent loss.

Last year we made the mistake of arriving unprepared. This year we set ourselves some goals and gave ourselves twice the amount of time to achieve them. The result, to borrow a recent metaphor was that whereas last year we found the haystack, this year we discovered some needles.

The topics which interested us were mainly to do with our quest for lighter red wines, one of the most difficult types to find especially in Northern climes. Our menu was as follows. An asterisk accompanies those which we were able successfully to tick off the list;

Bianco d'Alessano*
Cinque Terre
Fiano Minutolo*
Garfagnana wines
Georgian wines
Nero Buono di Cori
Piedirosso/Pere' e Palummo*
Petite Arvine
Russian wines
Uva Rara
+ any rare grape varieties we might discover along the way

As you see, there were more failures than successes and yet we were pleased to have made so many good discoveries. We hadn't reckoned with the inordinate time it would take just to find a good Bardolino or Tai Rosso for instance. That obviously left less time for other items on the agenda. Some of these could be dealt with rapidly: Torbato and Catalanesca really are made by only one producer each (Sella e Mosca and Cantina Olivella respectively) whose wines we already knew and have reported here. Or else we couldn't find a good example of what we were looking for; Malbec for example. We adore Italian Malbec or Malbech or Malbeck and ever-contrary, we think it reaches its finest expression in Italy rather than France or Argentina but on this occasion we came away empty-handed.

So in order not to appear a 'specialist in failure' here is our list of successful finds.


After searching almost without hope we came across Picchioni's lovely Bonarda - even without the help of the girl in the body stocking advertising 'The best of Oltrepo'.


As we have reported, Bardolino seems to be in crisis. So many have been fessed-up they have lost their original character. Here were two that kept the faith. One by Villabella (above)

and the other by Monteci.

The Monteci stand was nicely done, too.

Fiano Minutolo

Li Veli is a nice Puglian producer making Fiano Minutolo (always good), Verdeca and Susumaniello among others. They say Fiano Minutolo has become suddenly so popular that more is in circulation than is possible to be grown on the known acreage of Minutolo vines.

Bianco D'Alessano

Yes, there was even a Bianco D'Alessano in purezza to be found. We had enjoyed the Australian version (from Salena Estate, Riverlands - a gift from Darby Higgs) so much that we had included an Italian original on our list. If truth be told, the Aussie version was better but full marks to I Pastni for producing this example in purezza. Bianco d'Alessano likes it hot and Riverlands is hotter than Puglia it seems.


Liguria had a really smart stand complete with fantastic Sommelier who knew his stuff and was unfailingly courteous and quick off the mark even when besieged by crowds of eager tasters. He must have had experience with the interval crowd in a Theatre bar.

After quite a lot of sampling we found the perfect Rossese. This nice light one by Az. Agr. Bruna. Some Rosseses have ideas above their station. Not this one. Simplicity is sometimes the rarest attribute and should be cherished.

Tai Rosso

Another bee in our bonnet is Tai Rosso. Unsung and we think neglected, a good Tocai Rosso, sorry - Tai Rosso is a welcome addition to the small number of light red styles we patronise even if only to bring some balance with the preponderance of  heavier ones. Ian d'Agata ('Native Wine Grapes of Italy') is fascinating on the subject of whether Tai Rosso is or is not the Cannonau of Sardinia and indeed whether Cannonau is identical to Grenache. In an exhaustive analysis he concludes that "it is more correct toconsider Tocai Rosso a biotype of Cannonau, since it has adapted over the decades to a completely different environment (Veneto instead of Sardinia)."


One of our greatest pleasures in recent years has been to extricate Frappato from Cerasuolo di Vittoria (where it is blended with the darker Nero d'Avola) and concentrate on the lighter examples. This leads to what is to our mind the perfect expression of  this variety and further swells the ranks of lighter reds. We had discovered Santa Tresa a few years ago and were delighted to see this is now quite widely available. Our dicovery of the Frappati of Cantine Paolini constitute just such a moment.


We have admired Catalanesca ever since stumbling across this example in Enoteca Lucantoni in Rome. As mentioned above, Cantine Olivella are the only producers so it was a pleasure to meet the maker and taste the wine again; surely one of Italy's greatest white varieties.


Not as light as Tai Rosso or Frappato, Piedirosso nonetheless flourishes in the examples which are lighter in alcohol and this one from Ischia by Tommasone was particularly appealing.

Grauvernatsch/Schiava Grigio and Edelvernatsch/Schiava Gentile

These two Schiavas are from different grapes of the same family. Proving that what you hate might be one day what you love (whereas indifference is much more intractable) we have come to love Schiava/Vernatsch in a way we couldn't have predicted. Maybe it is just an example of that other maxim; anything is good that is done well. Whatever the case, these two Schiavas were well done and count as our final discoveries from Vinitaly 2014.

Odessky Cherny/Odessa Black

In the International pavilion we were drawn to this Ukrainian producer from the Odessa region. Vinitaly took place not long after Putin's land grab of Crimea and the good people of Koblevo were understandably apprehensive. They asked rather poignantly what we thought of the prospects for Ukrainian wine at the moment and we chose to assure them that this could me a good time for them with the spotlight on their country and maximum sympathy in the West. That was our answer. We hope it comes true.

One of the components of one of their blends was Odessky Cherny. Used as a teinturier or on its own it brings dark fruit flavours to a variety of wine styles including Sweet, Semi-Sweet and Fortified as well as Dry Table Wine. It is a crossing between Alicante Bouschet and Cabernet Sauvignon. We had a taste of the wine but although pleasantly drinkable it didn't have any particular character that would have led us to have an opinion about Odessa Black.

Silly season

Vinitaly has its silly side too and in town, someone from Mazzorbo seems to have persuaded some clothes boutiques to put some Dorona in the window. At nearly E.100 for a 50cl. bottle, maybe window dressing is now the main purpose of this product?

Monday 26 May 2014

Wine Fair at Villa Favorita, Vinnatur

Arriving too late in the afternoon to get entry to the car park we had to leave the car down at the main road and trudge up the hill to the exquisite Palladian-style Villa Favorita (actually designed by Francesco Muttoni and built early in the 18th century) where the 11th Vinnatur was being held. It was one of those drives where one's goal seemed to recede with every step. This being Italy, a number of cars passed us by also going up the hill. How did they manage to circumvent the road block when we and others didn't? Intrigue?

Vines to the left, Vines to the right. A lovely bucolic sight was compensation enough.

Once arrived, entry was by the servants entrance in the basement.

There the impression was of a somewhat more upmarket event than Vini Veri, Cerea but that may have had more to do with the opulent surroundings. There may have been a similar amount of exhibitors (ca. 150) but the space was surely smaller. Nonetheless we managed to navigate basement and piano nobile. As at Vini Veri there was a good number of familiar and famous names;

Marco de Bartoli
Domaine le Briseau
Champagne Selosse
Frank Cornelissen
Domaine Pierre Frick
La Grapperie
Domaine Laherte Freres
Bodega Friedrich Schatz
Cascins Tavijn

Cruising the tables we came across only our 2nd Vespolino ever. The first hadn't exactly bowled us over. This one was better but still no revelation. Perhaps Vespolino is doomed forever to remain outside the Slotovino Hall of Fame?

Then came the first of our discoveries. A really charming producer called Bodega Lopez Diaz-Alejo from the Valencia region have made what looked like a deep Rose or light red from a local grape called Royal. We find ourselves ever more drawn to the grey area (joke) between red and rose firstly because the wines seem to share the virtues of both red and rose and secondly because they are unpopular and difficult to sell only because they don't fit into any established category. Poulsard is a prime example of this group.

Royal is extremely interesting because the only grape listed in Wine Grapes with the name Royal in the title is one Royal de Alloza, unknown outside the village of Alloza in the province of Teruel. This is 180km from Vento del Moro which is where Bodega Lopez Diaz-Alejo is situated, so the possibility this Royal is the same as Royal de Alloza is tenuous since the winery say it is a local variety. Wine Grapes also mentions that the only producer of wine made from Royal de Alloza is Fandos y Barriuso and Romero de Hijar who rescued the grape from local vineyards and are the only ones to make wine from it. They describe the wine as 'deep cherry red with copper edges, a potent bouquet, toasted, of black fruit confit and Mediterranean herbs, potent in the mouth yet fresh.' We could not put our hand on our heart and say this is the description of our Royal as well but it was certainly potent and fresh. We will look into this intriguing conundrum and report back to the many Slotovino readers who will be left in a state of tantalising suspense by this question as soon as possible.

There was also a lovely Bobal from this producer. Not too overbearing, Lopez Diaz-Alejo are working to set the balance straight with this variety; the more Bobal of this kind the less will be our perception of it as a competitor to Rioja or Ribeira del Duero which in our humble opinion it shouldn't be. Bobal surely has enough originality to be treated as something unique and this usually means making it in a lighter style.

As at Cerea, we bumped into an old friend, this time our nearest winemaking neighbour from the Sierras de Malaga, F. Schatz from Ronda. Schatz is remarkable not only for being organic but also for mainlining Lemberger from which he makes a delicious and serious red called Acinipio. He also grows Trollinger, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Chardonnay, Tempranillo, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Muskattrollinger and Pinot Noir. Here he was in Italy to make his wines even more internationally known.

Somehow the wines and the crowd at Villa Favorita seemed to be a tad more up-market than at Vini Veri, Cerea but perhaps it was just the posh surroundings.

We were delighted to see Monteforche present with their Vecchie Varieta which we knew from home. The blend must be unique and bears repeating here;

Marzemina Nera Bastarda
Nera Bastarda

Yes, there really is a grape called Marzemina Nera Bastarda. There are various Marzeminas. They differ from Marzemino in having smooth undersides of the leaves whereas Marzemino is hairy. a synonym for Marzemina Nera Bastarda is Marzemina Grossa Bastarda by the way. Could the variety be tricky to grow or something? Monteforche's Vecchie Varieta is thoroughly recommendable by the way.

Nice to see a Spergola on our rounds. We saluted as we passed by. We will salute almost anything that isn't Prosecco (Glera) really. Most sparkling wines made from Spergola, Famoso, Pignoletto or Ortrugo are infinitely preferable to the run of the mill Prosecco everybody seems so desperate for.

More salutes for some Croatinas (aka Bonarda).

And there was the table of Christian Chaussard's Domaine Le Briseau. We have mourned the 'disparission' of Christian Chaussard in this blog before. It was good to see that his life goes on in the continued production of his wines but at the moment we came across his table it was poignantly unattended.

Coming to the end of the 'tour d'horizon' we were importuned in the nicest possible way by a representative of Antiche Cellar del Quarto, a winery from Puglia. The conversation is worth repeating;

Antiche Cellar del Quarto gent:                 Is there anything I can help you with?

Slotovino (suddenly seized by a cattivo inspiration calculated to leave him speechless:

                                                                    Do you have any Minutolo?

Antiche Cellar del Quarto gent:                 Certo, Fiano Minutolo. Here we are!

Slotovino (looking at the bottle, thinking this man doesn't know what he is talking about);

                                                                    Ah, but the label says 'Fiano'. I'm looking for Minutolo

Antiche Cellar del Quarto gent:                 Fiano Minutolo is the full name of Minutolo.

Collapse of stout party

Well it had been a fantastic day. Vini Veri in the morning and Vinnatur in the afternoon. Organic, Biodaynamic and Natural wines from mainly Italy but also Spain, France, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovenia and others. A high standard with endless discoveries to be made. Whatever the problems of the wine world, great products are not one of them.