Wednesday 18 June 2014

Permitted additives

At London's RAW Wine Fair recently our eye was caught by this page lying on the table of a Spanish Natural Wine producer, Esencia Rural. It is a list of additives permitted in winemaking. Esencia Rural proudly proclaims that their wine is made only with grapes. The list is in Spanish but the gist is plain enough to cause queasiness in anyone - especially those who denigrate natural winemaking, we would have thought.

Levaduras, Fosfato de diamonio y sulfato de amonia, Bisulfato de amonia, Diclorhidrato de tiamina, Anhidrido sulferoso, Bisulfito de potasio, Metabisulfato de potasio, Carbones, Gelatina, Cola de Pescado, Caseina, Caseinatos de potasio, Albumina de huevo, Bentonita, Dioxido de silicio, Caolin, Tanino, Enzinas pectoliticas, Prepardos enzimaticos de la betaglucanasa, acido tartarica, Acido malico, Acido lactica, Tartrato neutro de potasio, bicarbanato de potasio, Carbonato de calcio, Resina de pino carrasco, Preparados de paredes celulares de leveduras polivinilpirrolidona, Bacterias lacticas, Lisozima, Acido ascorbico, Resinas de intercambio idrico, Acido citrico, Acido metatartarico, Goma arabica, Tartrato, Acido de potasio, Tartrato de calcio, Sulfato de cobre, Citrato de cobre, Carmelo, Dicarbonato de dimetilo, Manoproteinas, Tratamiento por electrolisis, Ureata, Alginato de calcio, Alginato de potasio, Copolimeros depolivilimidazoi-polivinilpirrolidona, Carborimeticelulose, Tratimento con intercambiadores de cationes, Oxigeno gaseoso, Perlita, La tierra diatomeceous, Nitrogena, Dioxido de carbona, Di-fosfate de amonia, Tiamina clorhidrata, Bisulfito de potasio o metabisulfito, Las proteinas vegetales de trigo o de guisante, Bicarbonate de potasio, Resina de pinos halepensis, Metatartarico, Citrato coprico, Virutas de roble, Alginato de potasio.

Ingredientes: solo uva/only grapes

Tuesday 17 June 2014

New in New York

The New York Frieze week is a good time to catch up on novelties of all kinds. At Chambers Street Wines, they had a whole lot of Rare Creatures, some we had never heard of;

Add caption
Add caption

So good to know where to get our Forlorn Hopes in New York even if some are quite a bit more expensive than others.

 Other bottles we bore away in triumph included this out of focus Pineau d'Aunis from Louis/Dressner - a name often seen on back labels of Organic, Bio-dynamic or Natural wines from New York merchants, especially Chambers St. They deserve their own post one day, and from a better blogger than Slotovino of course but we will celebrate them in our own way in full expectation they will survive.

This didn't last long once unpacked at home. If Jamie Hutchinson (The Sampler) can measure time by how long it takes him to neck a bottle of Beaujolais then we can use this beauty for the same purpose.


Bernabe Navarro's 'La Amistad' is made from Rojal as we have commented in a previous post. We were delighted to see it at Chambers St. and served it for friends back home. They didn't say much about it but it went down pdq. We might have over-chilled it (overkilled it?).

Over at Randall's Island there was an enormous place with rather more pictures on the walls than wine.

What wine there was, was a bit wierrrd.

The Gotham Project Red and White was just what Vino Sfuso should be: light, fruity and refreshing. The white was a New York Finger Lakes Riesling and the red may have been a NY Cabernet Franc. The Gotham Project is really interesting and we wish them the very best of luck. May they cause the revolution they seek and consign the glass bottle at least to a proportion of sales with Keg wine of this interest and quality finding its way to Restaurants and yes, Pubs! That would be a revolution indeed. English wine on tap? Why not?

As well as weird wine there were interesting operatic references at Randall's Island

Richard Wagner chasing a Leimotif
Re-assurance for the customers
Astor Wines and Spirits are not to be outdone these days and there we couldn't resist these gems;

at the risk of repeating ourselves, a Croatina

and repeating ourselves, but in this case, we never tire of Heitz's Grignolino

an OK Rossese
 Over the river at Willamsburg, we re-visited Uva and were impressed:

new converts to Petite Arvine, this one went down well

and ever a soft touch for a Poulsard, we fell for this Demeter accredited example
 They were also sporting, mirabile dictu Fabbrica San Martino's Arcipressi (Colline di Lucca).

Yes, nothing ever happens in New York

Saturday 14 June 2014

Valderi, Valdera

On one of our classic wild goose chases - to Leipzig this time (don't ask) we nonetheless found some nice wine and became re-acquainted with an old favourite.


Koppelberg Blaue Portugieser from Saale Unstrut. We had very much enjoyed a glass of another Saale-Unstrut Blaue Portugieser at Auerbach's Keller and found this example subsequently at a retailer nearby. It may be a bit cheesy to go to Auerbachs Keller when in Leipzig but it really is the Auerbachs Keller of Goethe's Faust serving food and drink without a break since the first half of the 16th century, frequented by Germany's answer to Shakespeare himself even though he wouldn't recognise the old place nowadays. Amazingly this makes it only the 2nd oldest restaurant in Leipzig they say (without telling which is the oldest). Lovely wine from this unpromising grape. See mention of Gere's Blaue Portugieser from Villany in our Grand Budapest post.


At Dresden Airport the best buy was Schloss Proschwitz's Elbling. We return to this whenever we can. How can it be explained that Elbling remains such a secret? It is an ancient grape so it's not as if it needs time. Curious.

We also bought a Schloss Proschwitz Goldriesling just for the fact it is equally low in alcohol and because we had been unlucky with a bottle bought a few years ago. Goldriesling is not an ancient grape but a crossing of Riesling and something not quite defined by Christian Oberlin in Colmar in 1893 and is now almost unknown outside Sachsen where 17 hectares are grown. We are trialing 25 vines in the Thames Valley.

Planting 2014

Mower going for service
A bit of stump grinding

The vines arrive - eventually

Phoenix, Helios, Sirius
Peter annd Martin, without whom...
Darling buds of May

Triomphe d'Alsace revving up

Sunday 8 June 2014

Slotovino Awards 2013/14

Wine personality of the year

Rene Pedebernade, 1927 - 2013.

At the London Wine Week just recently we met a charming representative of the Plaiemont Co-operative and learned that Rene Pedebernade had died already a few months ago. Indeed he had no longer been alive when we wrote our post in praise of his achievements back in January this year. He died in August 2013 but this still meant that we could honour him with our title of Wine Personality of the Year.

What were his achievements? Simply put, he refused EU money to destroy his vineyard first planted in Napoleonic times behind his house in Sarregachies, South West France and saw it become the first living UNESCO World Heritage site. Everything about the small vineyard is precious. The vines survived Phylloxera and are planted in a traditional way which has been lost in all other cases. It contains many different varieties some of which are completely unknown.

Now that his achievements have been officially recognised, other small parcels are reported to have come to light. His example may encourage others not to allow their ancient vines and obscure varieties to be lost for financial or administrative reasons.

12/13 Jon Wurdeman

Winemaker of the year

Rafa Lopez, Bodegas Lopez Diaz-Alejo.

This nice couple are responsible for taking a mediocre vineyard in Venta del Moro, Utiel Requena, Valencia, Spain and through organic practices, reviving the 60 - 100 year old Bobal vines and making an outstanding wine from that grape named '6 Elelemento'. At 14.5% this is not the style for our taste but it is highly regarded by those who like a full Bobal.

What we appreciate most about this Bodega is their initiative in reviving a local grape called Royal, hitherto ignored and forgotten. We are trying to find out exactly what this Royal is, it is so obscure. There is another Royal (or perhaps the same one?) found 180km to the North, the Royal de Alloza from Teruel province, Aragona.

Rafa and his wife, Silvia who is a professor of engineering at the Universidad Polytecnica in Valencia are not alone in what they have done but we have chosen them as representing many others who have made similar achievements both on behalf of organic farming and the revival of obscure grape varieties. We recognise that this is an extremely difficult and risky thing to do. The people who carry out this hard work should be recognised, congratulated and their wines should be given a chance to be sold and enjoyed.

12/13 Oszkar Maurer
11/12 Paul Draper, Ridge
10/11 Pravis, Trentino
09/10 Alan Wallace Bruzzo, Colli berici
08/09 Francisco Figuereido, Colares

Red wine of the year

Vedernikov Vineyards Krasnostop Zolotovsky, 14.5%

Should we be choosing a Russian wine as Red wine of the year? Perhaps not, but Slotovino recognises the good guys and as far as we know, Vedernikov Vineyards didn't grab Crimea or foment trouble in Eastern Ukraine. What they have done is to take this little known native red grape from the Rostov on Don region and turn it into a world class wine. In the East and West tasting last year this wine was a stand-out favourite.

12/13 Forlorn Hope Suspiro del Moro Alverelhao
11/12 Ribeyrenc
10/11 Casetta
09/10 Tocai Rosso
08/08 Vernaccia Nera

White wine of the year

Salena Estate Ink Series Bianco d'Alessano 2010 South Australia. 12.5%

This was a gift from Darby Higgs ( on our meeting in Melbourne. We had never heard of Bianco d'Alessano previously and like Minutolo, it comes originally from Puglia where it rarely goes solo. This example from the admirable Salena Vineyard in South Australia seems to be the only one outside Italy and is so marvellously delicious that it surpassed even the Italian version we tried, good as that was.

12/13 Minutolo
11/12 Malvasia
10/11 Kerner
09/10 Torrontes
08/09 Vilana

Rose wine of the year

Bodegas Lopez Diaz-Arujo Royal

As well as rare, this was heavenly. It can't be long until it gets a wide audience. This bottle was just a sample.

12/13 Rien que du fruit, Ganevat
11/12 Grisard Rose de Mondeuse
10/11 Strohmeier Blaue Wildbacher
09/10 Ackerman Sparkling Cabernet Franc
08/09 Vitkin Israeli Journey

Light Red

Gourdon Chenin Noir (Pineau d'Aunis), Loir. 9.5%

Slotovino loves Pineau d'Aunis and can't understand why this grape seems to be losing rather than gaining ground. Apart from some Rieslings, we haven't come across many dry wines under 10% - certainly not a red. So this scores already on those two counts. More than that, this is a completely scrumptious wine for any occasion and practically for any food combination to our taste.

12/13 Bedell First Crush
10/11 Thierry Navarre: Les Oeillades

Special award for re-establishment of an endangered variety

Negrettino was quite widely planted around Bologna in times gone by. Now there are only a few hectares left. It is a fine and worthy variety. The Ognibene family and two others are working for the revival of Negrettino. We salute them!

12/13 Longanese Uva Longanese and La Sabbiona Savignon Rosso

UK Wine Merchant of the year (London)

The Sampler.

About time we recognised this pioneering London winemerchant. At first Jamie Hutchinson's newsletters appeared too rambling to read but the guy is genuinely hilarious and we have become regular addicts. The shops seem to be humming and the inventory increases at a fantastic rate guaranteeing always something new. The general direction of their selections is perhaps not quite up our street but there is enough diversity to make things interesting. And you can taste stuff too.

Sadly, our choice of Winemerchant of the year in 2012/13 has moved from 259 Hackney Road to Berlin. We wish them Toi Toi.

12/13 259 Hackney Road
11/12 Highbury Vintners
10/11 Troubadour Wines
09/10 Artisan and Vine + Bertrand and Nicholas
08/09 Caves de Pyrene + Zelas

Wine Merchant (rest of UK)

The Good Wine Shop, Kew

OK, Kew is only just outside London and their other shop is in Chiswick but Slotovino didn't venture out of town much in 13/14 and we really wanted to keep this category going, so please bear with us.

On top of this, we have never actually been to The Good Wine Shop, whether in Kew or Chiswick. We have ordered a mixed case online though and were impressed with the choice and service. There are a great many wines in stock with most bases covered (sadly, nothing from Jura yet). Among all the usual suspects is a leavening of rarities such as Susumaniello, Encruzado, Frappato and so forth. The website is quite good although Abv values would be helpful. Our wine arrived pronto and we haven't been bombarded by newsletters or offers since. O si sic omnes!

12/13 n/a
10/11 Hendersons, Edinburgh

Wine Merchant (rest of world)

Chapitre 20, Paris

It doesn't look like a wine shop, but that is part of the idea. Chapitre 20 sells wine and very good wine too, chosen with rather exquisite taste. In addition it sells books on and around wine, maps, posters and postcards. This lends an atmosphere of erudition to the place - a welcome change from pile it high and sell it low. We think this model works and hope the trade takes note.

12/13 La Cartuja, Marbella
11/12 Ricerca Vini, Milano
10/11 Chambers St., NY 
09/10 Caves des Pupilles, Paris + Auge, Paris
08/09 Astor Wines, New York + Per Bacco, Milan

Best Supermarket (UK)


We chose Sainsbury's last year on the sole merit of their McWilliams 2006 Hunter Valley Semillon so why not Tesco for their Sparkling Pignoletto which we so enjoyed at Xmas? There are lots more wines at Tesco obviously and some of them have been regular standbys over the years. What with Tesco's figures going down, we thought they could do with a bit of encouragement. They are really rather good. You can even buy an Australian red made from Shiroka Melnishka Losa and Magarach Ruby. Actually the former is better known as Melnik but never mind. Full marks for effort!

12/13 Sainsbury's
11/12 Marks and Spencer
10/11 n/a
09/10 Whole Foods
08/09 n/a

Best Airport Duty Free

Hungaricum, Liszt Ferenc Airport, Ferihegy, Budapest. This is not just one of the greatest Airport Duty Free shops in the world but also a model Promotional Outlet for a particular type of wine - in this case Hungarian.

12/13 n/a
11/12 Genova
10/11 Vino Volo (various US airports)
09/10 Malaga
08/09 Vienna

Worst Airport Duty Free

Hong Kong

Those behind the wine department at Hong Kong Airport may be businessmen but are surely not wine-lovers.

12/13 Malpensa
11/12 Vasteras
10/11 Lyon
09/10 Berlin Tegel

Most surprising wine discovery

Jordanian Wine. Not yet any great shakes (geddit?) but will no doubt improve with time.

12/13 Forlorn Hope Suspiro del Moro Alvarelhao
11/12 Chenancon found at Le Touquet
10/11 Biddenden Dornfelder

Most interesting wine trend

15% - 16% wines.

Interesting doesn't have to be positive. On a recent trip to Spain we found entire shelves of 15%, 15.5% and 16% wines. Spanish consumers now complain when a wine is only 14%, a merchant told us.

12/13 Emerging regions
11/12 New bottling materials (including paper)
10/11 Orange Wine

Most pleasant surprise

Glinavos Paliokairios slightly sparkling natural Orange Wine from Debina and Vlahiko grapes Epirus, Greece. So delicious that it is all but impossible to drink just one glass. Congratulations to Domaine Glinavos.

12/13 n/a
11/12 Bordeaux Clairet
10/11 Alternatives to Prosecco: Passerina, Pignoletto, Spergola

Prediction for the year ahead

Greece will have its day.

Looking back we have been more wrong than right. Lower Alcohol seems to be making modest progress but higher Abv levels are galloping ahead. Branding, yes but not at the pitch we feared. The Fine wine bubble hasn't exactly burst but activity has slowed down. The Chinese have continued to bu up Western producers but they have had their own problems and consumption has slowed. Sadly some independents have not been able to soldier on. We especially mourn the disppearance of 259 Hackney Rd. and the Wine Pantry's St. Pancras outlet

12/13 Supermarkest to play safe while independents press ahead and prosper
11/12 The Chinese will buy up ever more producers
10/11 Fine Wine bubble will burst
09/10 Ever more branding
08/09 Lower alcohol

Best Restaurant Winelist

Maialino, New York

Maialino has one of the longest and most beautifully considered winelists you can find. Admittedly it's all Italian but that is hardly a restriction. With not one but two Rossese di Dolceacquas what's not to like? The prices vary from steep to extortionate but the person compiling this list is presumably not responsible for that.

New York has some of the greatest winelists in the world. We don't always go for the longest or most expensive: Cafe Muzio's was small but comprehensive: a model of its kind. Sadly, the place has closed down.

12/13 Caravan, London
11/12 Nouvelle Vague, Genova
10/12 Cafe Muzio, New York
09/10 Locanda Locatelli, London
08/09 Gramercy Tavern, New York

Best Sommelier

It's a good job that we make the rules for the Slotovino Awards because our Best Sommelier of 2013/14 probably wouldn't think of himself as a sommelier at all and in fact he didn't bring us any wine with our meal because we didn't order any what with driving all day and all. We are sure he would have served us wine very nicely as everyone in all the restaurants we frequented during the year did only without the humour and friendliness of this chap.

What he did do was talk us trough all the wines at the Cellar door of Merrick's Wine Store and even sell us a couple of bottles. In our report at the time we described him as "young and blessed with a great sense of humour which masked absolute efficiency and professionalism. That's one of the many reasons that makes Australia such a great place to visit."

12/13 River Cafe, London
11/12 Laure Patry, Pollen St. Social Club, London
10/11 Frank, 'Antico, London
09/10 Waterside Inn Bray.

Best kept wine secret


Greek Wine

We had the good fortune to attend this year's Oenorama in Athens and were bowled over by the standard and interest of Greek wine. Everything that Italy and Spain can do, Greece can do too. The only difficulty seems to be problems of scale and marketing. Fine Greek wine is also a comparative novelty. Inroads are being made. We just think the world can't hold out against it much longer.

12/13 Lighter style of Bobal
11/12 Georgian Wines
10/11 Trentino
09/10 Savoie
08/09 New York State

Best English Red

Sedlescombe Organic Regent

One of the best English reds by the first Demeter certificated English winery.

12/13 Biddenden Gamay
11/12 Bolney Pinot Noir

Best English White

Quoin's Vineyard Organic Orion

Rude things have been said and written concerning the hybrid Orion, an Optima Villard Blanc cross. The authors of these slurs should be made to drink this aromatic beauty!

12/13 Stopham Pinot Blanc
11/12 Biddenden Gribble Ridge Ortega

Best publication

Ian d'Agata Native Wine Grapes of Italy

Starts where 'Wine Grapes' leaves off - for Italian varieties at least. Essential companion to 'Wine Grapes' therefore.

12/13 Wine Grapes