Friday 12 August 2016

Gemischter Salat

After a hiatus of 4 months, here's a deluge of assorted rarities we have been industriously collecting the while. They range from known-knowns to unknown-knowns with some unknown-unknowns, strangers to 'Wine Grapes' and even 'Native Wine Grapes of Italy' and Galet. Exciting stuff with hats off to the intrepid souls who seek out seemingly extinct varieties and nurse them to new life and hence to market for our delectation in most cases. We really should revive out Slotovino Roll Call of Honour for these wonderful people. They have brought us many now familiar wine styles and grapes without which we would be unimaginably poorer. For example, Godello and Sagrantino could be said to be names now widely known internationally through the efforts of individual producers.

A is for Azerbaijan and here is our first Azeri wine thanks to F1's Ted 'Our man in the pits' Kravitz who picked up this red wine made from a native grape previously unknown to us called Madrasa (or Matrassa). Ted found it at Baku airport Duty Free.

At the Real Wine Fair, our eye was caught by some bottles from a Greek winery with beautiful graphics and names including Rozaki. This seemed altogether an unknown-unknown, without any mention in the literature until Google told us it was actually Dattier de Beyrouth B, a table grape as well as wine grape quite well known across Southern Europe.

Aspro Potamisi de Livaderi

Mavro Potamisi

Potamisi was a name we had heard but were ignorant of the fact that there are both white and red varieties with this name.

Still at the Real Wine Fair, we saw Fabio Bartolomei, the Glaswegian Italian from Spain deep in conversation with customers no doubt. So instead of renewing our acquaintance we bought a bottle of his Orange wine from Doré grapes. Doré is a bit of a mystery. Fabio doesn't grow this variety himself but buys it in. Is it a native variety or perhaps Chasselas doré? Originally we had thought this wine was fun but probably too funky altogether for general tastes. It even looks disconcertingly like Haliborange. We offered it to friends with the warning that they might not have liked it but there were no complaints and we found it went extremely well with desserts although it is not a dessert wine.

Also from Spain and already covered in our previous post about the Winemaker's Club we must include this, the only bottling of the most rare Montepilas grape by one Jose Miguel Marquez who deserves the Order of Calatrava (cf. Verdi's 'La Forza del Destino') minimum for rescuing this variety. The result is actually an orange wine - a very good one at that.

More from Winemaker's Club in our previous post, we just can't leave out these two beauties from Hegyi-Kalo. The grapes are Medina (rarissimo) for Cseresznyeeres which means Ripening Cherries and for Oroksegul - 'Heritage,' a blend of Turan and Kekfrankos (or is it Cabernet Franc? - never mind).

While we're in Eastern Europe, here's a Zelen ( meaning 'Green') from Slovenia previously found in Paris. This one was from Harvey Nicols, London. All credit to them for stocking it. 11.5% and full of personality.

Now on to France where there have been quite a few pleasant surprises for a change. Etraire de l'Adui for example. 'Cepage oublie pendant des decennies' so the label tells us. Just one of the marvelous rescues and resucitations by the Grisard family, responsible also for Persan. Etraire de l'Adui makes a very pleasant light wine with unique character. They also patronize Douce Noire and Mondeuse Blanche. Douce Noire is none other than Corbeau/Charbono/Bonarda. The Argentinian Bonarda that is. There it is widely planted.

Cepage oublie pendant des decennies...

Mondeuse Blanche, a donne naissance a la Syrah

Robert Plageolles, King of Gaillac is another such hero. He has identified and vinified at least 7 kinds of Mauzac and now Mauzac Noir.

This bottle of young summer wine was stocked by Noble Fine Wines of Broadway Market, London at under £7.00. The back label explains that Mauzac Noir disappeared during the 'torment' of Phylloxera but was preserved at the Domaine du Vassal near Montpellier. Plageolles 'resuscitated' the variety and presented it in the 2000 harvest for the first time. Another light wine with its own personality.

Azerbaijan, Greece, Spain, Slovenia, Hungary, France, now for Italy. First of all the islands. This Nocera, a known, unknown to us is made by Mimmo Paone in North-East Sicily. Usual story; fabled in antiquity (it may have had something to do with Julius Caesar's favourite wine, Mamertino also mentioned by Pliny the Elder), gradually losing ground until Phylloxera which left it cultivated only around Messina and here and there in Calabria. D'Agata bemoans the fact that this interesting and promising local variety is heavily outnumbered nowadays by Merlot which he says is quite unsuited to Sicily.

On a 'mini-crociera to the Eolian Islands (also counted as being in the Province of Messina) we came across this dry Malvasia grown on Vulcano; the only wine to be made there.

Passing by Lipari the guide announced on the loudspeakers that we could just see a vineyard on the Starboard bow. As we know this is quite something because there is more or less only one vineyard on Lipari, Tenuta del Castellaro whereas the Malvasia di Lipari is actually grown and made on Salina by several winemakers.

In the adorable Eno Paninoteca Gilberto & Vera we found the brilliant Corinto Nero of Caravaglio from Salina. This has figured in Slotovino before with the sad conclusion that Corinto Nero is just a seedless version of Sangiovese but now that we have Ian d'Agata's wonderful 'Native Wine Grapes of Italy', we can once again hope that Corinto Nero is an individual variety even if it's virus-affected as D'Agata suggests.

The back label tells us that "Corinto Nero is also known as Passolina di Lipari is ungrafted and is propagated by layering (burial of the most vigorous cane which permits the renewal of the plant) for more than 150 years in our own vineyards and in the Lo Sinno vineyard in Fossa del Monte on the island of Salina."

Corinto Nero may comprise 5% of Malvasia delle Lipari, surprisingly enough.

Next stop Calabria. Here was yet another interesting wine from Winamaker's Club, a 100% Guardalvalle with the wistful title 'Forse sono fiori'. We learn from D'Agata that this grape is identical to Greco Bianco di Ciro and we may have been enjoying it for a long time under the impression we were drinking regular 'Greco.'

Then in a side street in Tropea, at the Angolo del Buongustaio, another exciting rarity, a Marsigliana Nera in purezza. It is grown around Lamezia Terme, Calabria and is one of those wines they used to blend with Northern wines lacking in colour and tannins. We can't wait to try this one. 

At Lamezia Terme airport there was a bottle of Pecorello. Nothing to do with Pecorino, this was tempting but we had to draw a line somewhere. D'Agata admits we need to know more about Pecorello. We'll just have to return to Calabria one day. Calabria is a surprising and interesting province. It seems on the brink of something significant. It is known mainly for Gaglioppo but another red grape Magliocco is generally considered better.

Francesco (Ciccio) Massari
Our guide, Fred Plotkin ('The Gourmet Traveller's Guide to Italy') hails the Passagiata at Matera as Italy's finest and so along we went. Born practically aloft by the sea of people at around 9.00 in the evening, we came across the wine shop also recommended by Plotkin, 'Vini e Dintorni.' Looking in the window Ciccio Massari offered to open up for us. We had a quick look inside and arranged to return the next day. Ciccio was immensely helpful and we bought 12 bottles which he had shipped to us in London.

They included a white blend including Agliatico vinificato in bianco. This was the major discovery of our visit to Matera.

In restaurants we had discovered this wine and had decided that it knocked any Merlot Bianco from Ticino or any white from Pinot Noir we knew into a cocked hat.

Not only that, Aglianico is used successfully as a rose and red Spumante.

It also makes a pretty good red.

Ciccio also had a bottle of Guarnaccino, a grape mentioned in d'Agata but not tried by him at the time of writing 'Native Wine Grapes of Italy.'

Benanti's Nerello Cappuccio was also in stock, so we had to have that!

D'Agata is positive about the variety Malvasia di Basilicata and Ciccio had this example. At 14% it seemed a bit strong for a white but research is research.

There were plenty of wines from Puglia; this Nero di Troia, Mantonico and of course Primitivo.

Working our way northwards, we come to a Nerobuono found in London (note the huge price tag). We have enjoyed Nero Buono in the past. This Nero Buono was a bit of a fruit bomb.

Trebbiano di Spoleto is just one of the many Trebbianos. Some are better than others. This one is excellent. It is only found locally in Umbria, not surprisingly around Spoleto. D'Agata relates how the variety has been around for yonks but only came into focus at the beginning of this century when Cantina Novelli produced a version in purezza. Others followed with results that varied between Sauvignon Blanc to Gewurtztraminer taste-alikes. Vines also vary greatly in appearance so more research is needed, he says. This version by Tabarrini was indeed 'fresh and lemony, with sauvignonesque characters' approved of by D'Agata but also a bit of the aromatic fig and herb which he worries about as bringing the wine too near to a Sauvignon Blanc taste-alike. That wasn't the case here.

And so to Venezia, our last stop in this 'Gemischte Salat'. Appropriately enough at an anonymous-looking 'Alimentari'. We had discovered this some years ago. The proprietor is a friend of Emilio Bulfon, yet another hero of disappearing grape varieties. The English wine merchant Bat and Bottle has championed Bulfon wines including Cjanorie, Cordenossa,Forgiarin, Scagliarin, Sciascinoso  and others for some years but this 'Alimentari' is the only place we have found them in Italy.

In the window were bottles of Pocol and Piculit Neri,

but inside were others including this Fumo Rosso, recommended by d'Agata. Needless to say we added it to our haul.

Over 20 wines from really obscure varieties here. Fortunately there is no end in sight.