Tuesday 5 December 2017

Slotovino Awards, 2016/17

Haridimos Hatzidakis

What a difference a year can make. It was a shocking surprise to hear of the death of Haridimos Hatzidakis in August 2017. He was a pioneer of Assyrtiko on Santorini who brought this grape to the world's attention. He was a tremendously successful vigneron who brough a life-affirming quality to all those who drank his wines. How tragic then for him to take his own life and at the summit of his powers.

Life goes on though but we would like to remember Mr. Hatzidakis while celebrating our awards to those who made outstanding contributions to the world of wine in 2016/17 - and some who could try harder.

Wine personality of the year; 

Valentin Blattner 

Tino Blattner
A Purple Pages search of the name Valentin Blattner reveals an interesting debate on the subject of hybrids - both making convincing cases.

Julia Harding MW asks if all the work involved in obtaining hybrids that will produce wine in marginal areas is worth it. Why attempt to create new regions for vinegrowing when the results can never be as good as in existing ones? She quotes Dr. Jose Vouillarmoz as saying "I have almost never tasted a hybrid-based wine that was close to interesting, barring some rare exceptions (such as Didier Joris's Divico that I tasted recently). That said, I'd be happy to change my mind. But for the moment I think we should make a different category of PiWis and not call it wine."

Mark Chien, Programme Co-ordinater at Oregon State University and winegrower argues that there is an excitement in such ventures "creating a sensation of new flavours and styles of wine using grape varieties that would shock and confuse Old World adherants."  To be fair he also says "As a wine consumer nothing gets me more excited than a fine wine from the Old World. As a viticulturalist there is nothing quite like the process of discovering a new wine region."

Missing from this debate is Valentin Blattner's own point of view which we think so important.

His vision is "to breed new grape varieties for a changing world, vines that would not require the usual spraying for fungal diseases that most popular grapes need. Of course these new vines needed to produce wines that are both unique yet reminiscent of traditional wine flavours."

The changing world includes bans on chemicals once thought safe such as Copper Sulphate (in Italy), and Systhane. Even Glyphosate (Round Up) has come under suspicion. It is not often mentioned that organic viticulture requires a great deal more labour which many producers are not able to afford.

Blattner's aim with his hybrids bred from the likes of Cabernet Sauvignon, Viognier etc. with so-called 'Resistenzpartner' is the 20:20 vineyard meaning 20 tonnes of grapes from 20 hours' labour per hectare per year with no sprays. Stephen Skelton MW writes (in 'Wine growing in Grest Britain') "In early September 2013 I visited his '20:20' vineyard...near Beziers... This vineyard receives no pesticide applications, is machine pruned, irrigated with sub-soil irrigation, machine harvested and while perhaps not quite 20-tonnes per hectare, crops very well and produces very acceptable wine."

It is early days. The great wines of the world are the result of centuries of evolution. If Jose Vouillamoz likes wine made from Divico (which strangely isn't listed in 'Wine Grapes' which he co-authored with Jancis Robinson and Julia Harding) then there is hope for hybrids and Valentin Blattner offers perhaps the most promising approach for the future.

Slotovino has had some excellent hybrid wines by the way. Maybe not to be compared with the most sublime emanations of Burgundy or Bordeaux but valid in their way.

L'Acadie Blanc
Cabernet Cortis
Cabernet Jura
La Crescent
Seyval Blanc

15/16 Henri Galinié
14/15 Pierpaolo Lorieri,of Podere Scurtarola
13/14 Rafa Lopez, Bodegas Lopez Diaz-Alejo
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;

Punta Crena Cruvin

This wine conforms to all our criteria for a wine of the year.

Only Punta Crena make a wine with this grape in purezza

The grape is called Cruvin. It is unrelated to Corvina, Corbina, Corvinone etc. It is more generally known as Crovina. It is unique.

Quite widespread in Liguria at one time it is now made only by the Punta Crena estate without whom it may have been heading for extinction.

It is also distictive and delicious.

15/16 Lajos Gal Menoire
14/15Palazzo Tronconi Zitore (Lecinaro)
13/14 Vedernikov Vineyards Krasnostop Zolotovsky
12/13 Forlorn Hope Suspiro del Moro Alverelhao
11/12 Ribeyrenc
10/11 Casetta
09/10 Tocai Rosso
08/08 Vernaccia Nera  

Sparkling Red

Gragnano, Penisola Sorrentino

New wine, new category.

Gragnano is famous for pasta of course and this is a perfect accompaniment to various pastas and pizzas. The blend is Aglianico, Piedirosso and Sciascinoso. It makes a nice change from the various Lambuscos. Italy has such unknown specialities in almost every corner. It is such a joy to seek them out. This is one of them. Try it, it's not expensive.

White wine of the year;

Olivier Lemasson's L'Indigene (Menu Pineau, Baco Blanc, Gaillard, Meslier St. Francois).

There is a refrain to a popular song which goes

"On dirait que ça te gêne de marcher dans la boue
On dirait que ça te gêne de dîner avec nous"

We think that's behind this clever title, 'Indigene.' No doubt the obscure grapes are indeed indiginous to the Loire et Cher to which the song also refers.

We bought this bottle from the lovely Jeanne Galinie of Versant Vins in the Marche aux enfants rouges in Paris in 2016 but only after promising to lay it down for 6 months. Jeanne said she would not have been happy for us to drink it before that. Of course we obeyed Jeanne and naturally it was with trepidation that we opened the bottle a god six months later.

Eithe Jeanne should not have worried or she was spot-on concerning the 'vieillissement' because the wine was sensational even if in a Marmite sort of way. For those maybe reading this blog on Bora Bora or Heilongjiang, Marmite is a British spread made from yeast extract which you wither love or hate. We loved it and hope this combination of grapes becomes a classic.

It may not conform to people's definitions of what wine should taste like but we think that's a good thing. Give it a try and be prepared to widen your horizons.

15/16 Dierdre Heekin 'La Garagiste' Vinu Jancu (La Crescent), Vermont.
14/15 Brintziki Estate Tinaktorogos
13/14 Salena Estate Ink Series Bianco d'Alessano 
12/13 Minutolo
11/12 Malvasia10/11 Kerner
09/10 Torrontes
08/09 Vilana

Sparkling White

Cleto Chiarli Moden Blanc Pignoletto (Grechetto Gentile)

At an amazing event this year we were introduced to 100 Pignolettos and learned that this was now a geographical area and the grape formerly known as Pignoletto was called Grechetto Gentile. We also learned that Pignoletto was far more flexible than Prosecco (there are still and sweet ones as well as Frizzanti and Spumanti) and that Prosecco might have to go hang, so much better were most of the Pignolettos.

In fact it's already happening. These photos were taken in a branch of the Coop in Venice. There were 6 of them. And remember, Venice is Prosecco country.

Of the dry sparkling Pignolettos at the London event, our favourite was Cleto Chiarli's Moden Blanc. Cleto Chiarli make many different Pignolettos of which we prefer this one.

Rosé wine of the year

Recanati, Gris de Marselan

Looking back we grievously neglected rose wines and almost didn't (couldn't) make an award this year but the Recanati Gris de Marselan we tasted at Wein Plus had plenty of character as well as being original.

15/16 Bodegas Schatz, Ronda (Malaga) 'Z'
14/15 N/A
13/14 Lopez Diaz Araujo Royal
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.

Orange Wine of the year

Amorgion Chrisefenios (Savatiano)

This was the hit of our holiday on the Greek island of Amorgos. Unsure at first, people kept comimg back for more and we had to buy another bottle. That's how you can tell if somethinG has merit or not.

15/16 Paul Reder, 'Le Gris', Aramon Gris, Languedoc.

Light Red wine of the year

Domaine de L'Oriel people: the Weinzorns.

Domaine de l'Oriel Pinot Noir D'Alsace

We discovered this wine at the Salon des Vignerons Independants in Paris in November 2016 and bought a bottle on the spot. It was not until the following summer that we served it making the mistake of chilling it. This deprived it of its delicate and etherial flavours so it was not until it had regained room temperature that we could appreciate its many vitues as a red of the lightest kind.

15/16 Domaine Gauletteries Pineau D'Aunis (80%), Gamay (10%) and Cabernet Franc (10%).
14/15 Haut Planty Abouriou (12%)
13/14 Gourdon Chenin Noir (Pineau d'Aunis), Loir
12/13 Bedell First Crush
10/11 Thierry Navarre: Les Oeillades

Special award for the re-establishment of an endangered variety;

Pocol and Piculit Neri


Fumo Rosso

Blanc di Sanzuan - Cividin


Piculit Neri

Sciaglin (out of focus but true)

Emilio Bulfon

It's amazing that we could have given this award four times alreadt without thinking of Emilio Bulfon. Few could have done more to re-establish so many endangered varieties - all interesting. They come from his area in Venezia-Friuli-Giulia. The list includes

Fumo Rosso
Moscato Rosa
Picolit Neri

Ten is a good score when you consider the work involved in this task.

15/16 Domaine Grisard, Jean-Pierre and Marie-Jo Grisard
14/15 Fabio Bartolomei of Vinos Ambiz, Sierra de Gredos west of Madrid. Grapes he is using include Dore and Malvar
13/14 Ognibene family, Negrettino
12/13 Longanese Uva Longanese and La Sabbiona Savignon Rosso


UK Winemerchant of the Year (London);



Winesensations.co.uk (Richard Dudley Craig) is actually an online winemerchant based in London but we would like to list him under UK Winemerchant of the year (London) nevertheless. At the moment his website isn't working anyway. He is a knowledgeable and charming person whm we met at the Wine Gang's event in Covent Garden recently. He sent us 6 bottles of the wonderful Boudry Cotes du Jura red before even requesting payment. How pleasantly old-fashioned is that? His wines are anything but old-fashioned though. There is even a Belgian among them!

15/16 Bottle Apostle
14/15 Park and Bridge
13/14 The Sampler
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

Winemerchant of the Year (rest of UK);  

Er, we don't seem to have had any dealings outside London this year but there is any number of interesting merchants in unexpected places beyond the capital.

15/16 House of Townend
14/15 N/A
13/14 The Good Wine Shop, Kew
2/13 n/a
0/11 Hendersons, Edinburgh

Winemerchant of the Year (rest of world)  


Grau is near Girona (Catalunya) but covers all Spanish and many foreign regions. Word has it that they are moving further into the vast building where they are at present, no doubt increasing their range and stock. We has some very good bottles from there which sell out at present only too quickly.

One of these was a Mando from Celler Abadal.

15/16 Enoteca Trimani, Roma
14/15 Barolo, Madrid
13/14 Chapitra 20, Paris
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 UK Supermarket;         

Image result for Lidl Neasden
Lidl's Wembley branch on Blackbird Hill where the magic happens


We choose Lidl this year because as well as the keenly-priced examples of familiar wines, you sometimes get bottles of rare interest which enliven the shelves no end.

At different times we have come across these outstanding wines from the Jura. You have to keep an eye on these meteors as they flash through and it is best to go to one of the larger stores as the smaller ones won't stock them. We found that the one on Blackbird Hill, Wembley has stock where others don't.

15/16 Aldi
14/15 N/A
13/14 Tesco
12/13 Sainsbury's
11/12 Marks and Spencer
10/11 n/a
09/10 Whole Foods
08/09 n/a

Best Wine Importer of the year  (new category)


Tannico isn't an importer in the sense of being UK based and bringing wines into the country, it is more an Italian online merchant with an eye on the British market; an exporter really.

The effect comes to the same thing. For a price, Tannico will sell you a vast range principally of Italian wines not available in this country.

Croatina is surprisingly difficult to find in the UK. Tannico has two, and a dozen Bonardas which is the same thing.

15/16 Winemakers Club

Worst Airport Duty Free

Perugia airport at peak time


Is there a Duty Free? We went through Perugia Airport but can't remember one. Admittedly Sant Egidio is a small airport with hardly any flights but they could do a great deal better shopping-wise. Apart from that it's a dream.

15/16 Dresden (DRS)
14/15 US Airports
13/14 Hong Kong
12/13 Malpensa
11/12 Vasteras
10/11 Lyon
09/10 Berlin Tegel 

Best Airport Duty Free;                                   

2010 stand 'Vini nuovi Tai'

Venice, Aeroporto Marco Polo

Time was VCE had not only a fantastic choice of places to buy Duty Free wine but in 2010 even an installation promoting that rather obscure (but lovely) type of wine,Tai Rosso for which we gave the airport an award.

Things have gone the way of all airport duty frees now. There is no promotion for anything and the cafe with the amazing retail selection will now only sell you what's on he winelist. There is a Bottega dei Sapori which is not bad but not much else apart from a standardised Aolia Duty Free.

Nevertheless in this world of increasing dumbing-down, the airport at Venice is still better than most so we are please to give it the Slotovino award 2016/17.

15/16 Dresden (DRS)
14/15 Porto
13/14 Hungaricum, Budapest Ferihegy Airport
12/13 n/a
11/12 Genova
10/11 Vino Volo (various US airports)
09/10 Malaga
08/09 Vienna  

Most surprising wine discovery;


Zara Armenian wine

Zaruhi Murdadyan is a graduate of UC Davis and Armenian Female Entrepreneur of the year. Even so nothing had prepared us for the impact of her magnificent wines.

Our experience of Armenian wine had previously been limited to a bottle of Areni from Karasi. A very nice wine if expensive and lacking any truly memorable quality for our taste. Armenian wine was out in strength at Wein Plus in Duesseldorf in March 2017. Our visit to the Armenia section came at the end of a long day's tasting but even so the impact was rather amazing. A real eye-opener especially the wines from Zara.

Armenia was slated for brandy production under Stalin who designated his native Georgia for table wine. That may explain why Armenia has rather a lot of strange hybrids and crosses even though there is a large number of indigenous varieties, mostly untapped.

As well as Saperavi Zara makes wines from

Akhtanak (aka Haghtanak) is a cross between Sorok Lyet Oktyabrya with Saperavi in which  Sorok Lyet Oktyabryais a Kopchak x Alicante Bouschet cross and Kopchak is a Moldovan variety that is no longer cultivated.

Tigrani is a Saperavi x Areni cross.

Charentsi is a complex hybrid on the other hand. Seyanets C.1262 is crossed with Karmrahyut. In case you had forgotton, Seyanets C.1262 is a hybrid between a vine of Vitis Amurensis Ruprecht and Csaba Gyongye. Wine Grapes helpfully reminds us that it is therefore a sibling of Nerkahat.

What is truly amazing is that from this seemingly unpromising material, the wines are sensational with soft mouth-feel and luscious taste.

A most surprising wine discovery.

15/16 Aglianico vinificato in bianco.
14/15 Colli di Candia Alpi Apuani
13/14 Jordanian Wine
12/13 Forlorn Hope Suspiro del Moro Alvarelhao
11/12 Chenancon found at Le Touquet
10/11 Biddenden Dornfelder

Most interesting wine trend;               

 R Lo-Fi Mike Roth.jpg
 Mike Roth of Lo-Fi Wines

R Kelley smiling.jpg
Kelley Fox

R Idlewild Wines Sam Bilbro.jpg
Evan Lewandoski of Ruth
R Hank Beckmeyer.jpg
Hank Beckmayer, La Clarine
R Bow and Arrow Scott Frank.jpg
Scott Frank, Bow and Arrow

R Golden Cluster Jeff Vejr with botts..jpg
Jeff Vejr, Golden Cluster

R Martha Stoumen herself.jpg
Martha Stoumen

R Beckham Annedria.jpg
Annedria Beckham

R Ryme Ryan Glaab.jpg
Ryan Glaab, Ryme Cellars
R Ovum John House.jpg
John House, Ovum Wines   

R Matthew Rorick with clients.jpg
 Matthew Rorick, Forlorn Hope

 R La Garagista map.jpg
 La Garagista, Vermont

New World wines begin to taste Old World.

At the 2017 Real Wine Fair in London, US producers of a non-industrial kind were present in force. Oregon and even Vermont were represented as well as California. The line-up was exceptionally strong (see above).

What struck us in tasing the fascinating wines offered was the fact that not one of them shouted 'New World.' There were no flavours to frighten the most traditional conservative. The wines were just good to excellent, sometimes original but not a fruit bomb in sight.

Can it be that we are just settling down to making good wine wherever it comes from?

15/16 Hipster Somms
14/15 Wine Education. There seems to be an ever increasing demand for wine courses, tutored tastings and so forth.
13/14 15%/16% wines
2/13 Emerging regions
11/12 New bottling materials (including paper)
10/11 Orange Wine

Most pleasant surprise;   

New York wine on UK supermarket shelves.

From Brotherhood, Hudson Valley NY. The oldest US vineyard in continuous production. The red is from Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc and the white from Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling. Both modest alcohol and price. Both good.

15/16 English and Welsh Reds
14/15 Massaretta/Barsaglina and Pollera
13/14 Glinavos 'Paliokairisio' Sparkling Orange wine, Zitsa, Greece
12/13 n/a
11/12 Bordeaux Clairet
10/11 Alternatives to Prosecco: Passerina, Pignoletto, Spergola

Prediction for the year ahead;

Reduced alcohol wine-based drinks

Helen McGinn reviewed these 10 low alcohol 'wines' for The Mail Online.

You would be forgiven for thinking we have just been reading the Sunday Times or the wonderful Blog called the 'Knackered mother's wine club' but actually we have been following the so-called reduced alcohol wine-based drinks after almost buying one from one of the bigger supermarkets a few months ago.

They're cheap, low-calorie and suddenly they're everywhere.

A double-take on that occasion may have saved us grief because a wine-based drink isn't wine really. It doesn't always even taste like wine and doesn't attract the same taxes as proper wine. We draw the line there. Low alcohol wine or even de-alcoholised wine a la Torres 'Natura' is OK. Hopefully they will improve the taste one day and make this product better.

Interestingly it is young people who gravitate towards low or de-alcoholised wine. It seems the year ahead will see a great deal more of this, such has been the acceleration in interest.

15/16 Imports from outside Europe may increase and those from Europe decrease.
14/15 Sadly ever more internet outlets will fail to remove out of stock wines from their websites and be recalcitrant in replacing or refunding faulty bottles.
13/14 Greece will have its day
2/13 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;  

Long Gully Road Ancient Vine Semillon is one we had never seen before.

Any wine list including this beauty gets our immediate attention


113 Great Portland Street, London W1W 6QQ

 Other interesting bottles include an Encruzado, a Txakoli, wines by Shobbrook, Voerzio and O'Callahan among other luminaries and some unusual blends including the following;

Xarel-lo/Xarel-lo Vermell/Macabeu/Malvasia de Sitges (Autocton Celler 'Autocton' Catalunya)

Moscato de Alejandria/Merseguera - Orange Wine fermented in clay pots (Navarro'Benemaquia' Alicante

Cinsault/Carignan/Syrah/Pais/Malbec (Clos des fous 'Pour ma gueule', Maule)

Caino/Brancellao/Ferrol (Luis RodriguezVasquez 'Escolma' Ribeiro)

The owner of Portland is Will Lander whose mother is Jancis Robinson but the winelist is his selection and no doubt of others too. We like the thumbnail descriptions - helpful to those of us not intimately acquainted with every bottle. Good effort.

15/16 Morito, Exmouth Market and Hackney Road
14/15 Enoteca Marcucci, Pietrasanta
13/14 Maialino, New York
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 kept wine secret;     

De Kleine Schorre is an excellent address for whites

Founded in Zeeland in 2001

Excellent Auxerrois

Very good Solaris - not sweet

Apostelhoeve is the oldest-established Dutch vineyard

Thorn's Dornfelder is served in the Rijksmuseum restaurant
Dutch Wine

We have the impression Dutch still wine is every bit as good if not better than English or Welsh but the peculiar contempt with which the Dutch hold their wines deprives them of the recognition they deserve.

An surprising lack of sparkling wines is also strange. It looks as if English and Welsh sparkling wine might step up exports to Europe post Brexit whereas Dutch wine may never penetrate the UK market.

We find this most peculiar and encourage anyone who can to buy Dutch wine in the Netherlands or have it sent. The producers are all in the South so it is difficult to find even in Amsterdam.

* * *

Practically the day after writing the above it was announced that Wijngoed Thorn is the first vineyard in the Netherlands to have the right to bear on its bottles the red and yellow stamp conferring Protected Designation of Origen (PDO) status.

The Guardian article of 25.11.17 came out a day after we first drafted this post.
Congratulations, Wijngoed Thorn!

14/15 Czech wine.
13/14 Greek Wine
12/13 Lighter style of Bobal
11/12 Georgian Wines
10/11 Trentino
09/10 Savoie
08/09 New York State

Best English or Welsh Red;

Biddenden Gribble Bridge Dornfelder

Biddenden and Dornfelder keep occurring in this category and this time the winner is a 100% Dorndelder, withot the Rondo. Expert UK wine growers say Dornfelder doesn't ripen here but there are plenty of bottles to tell them they are wrong.

Our own experiments growing Dornfelder and Regent are showing Dornfelder as having the more vigorous growth and the more we sample wines from both varieties the more we consider Regent to lack character even though it is a safe bet in terms of resistance and ripening.

Stephen Skelton MW reckons a Dornfelder/Regent/Rondo blend is 'probably about as good as it gets'  as far as UK reds go. He notes that the variety was first planted here in the 1980s and has hardly increased in plantings since the, He concludes 'my advice - no need to rip it out but think twice before planting any more.'

While waiting for anything better (Skelton suggests Cabernet Dorsa might surprise us all), this Dornfelder from Gribble Bridge by Biddenden hits the spot for us at least.
15/16 Ancre Hill Carbonic Maceration Triomphe
14/15 Plumpton College Rondo/Dornfelder
13/14 Seddlescombe Regent
12/13 Biddenden Gamay
11/12 Bolney Pinot Noir

Best English White;        

Plumpton Estate Single Vineyard Chardonnay / Pinot Noir / Meunier

This came our way in strange circumstances. A solitary bottle was standing on a not very full shelf in M & S without indication of price, description or whatever. The odd thing was we couldn't find its place of origin anywhere else on the shelves. Perhaps it was the last bottle of its kind and the shelf-stacker had removed the ticket and just left it there on its own-y-oh?

We never saw this wine again in any M & S wine section. This probably means there was not a great deal produced and what was on sale was snapped up pdq. Only at the till did we discover the price - a rather hefty £15.

We certainly enjoyed drinking the wine but what struck us was the blend of Champagne varieties in a still wine. It is most peculiar that we had never come across this before anywhere in the world. Why should this be so?

The UK is becoming famous for sparkling wine made from these three varieties. The idea is that they can be used for that purpose even without full ripeness required for still table wine. It is surely a good idea for the ever increasing sparkling wine estates to make some still wine from this blend when ripeness permits. After all, we badly need UK wine to have a profile, a USP. Madeleine Angevine and Bacchus don't really cut it we think.

15/16 Somerby Vineyards 'Magna Carta.' Solaris.
14/15 Charlie Herring's Sauvignon Blanc
13/14 Quoins Orion
12/13 Stopham Pinot Blanc
11/12 Biddenden Gribble Ridge Ortega

Best publication;             

'Phylloxera' by Christy Campbell

Here and there you find mention of pre-phylloxera vines or vines in places that escaped the Phylloxera plague (1864 - 1890). These begin to mount up (Phylloxera-free areas include the whole of Chile for example) but they only go to underline how prevalent the scourge was. The extraordinary fact is that the effects are still with us. Whole communities lost their livelihoods neccessitating en masse emigration. Entire historic winegrowing areas had to be turned over to other crops and have never been re-instated. Countless grape varieties became extinct. The nature of classic wines was permanently changed. For example, Chianti used to be made predominantly from Canaiolo Nero but this variety didn't take kindly to grafting on to American rootstocks and so was superceded by Sangiovese.

Realizing that we knew very little about the actual plague we bought this book by the non-specialist journalist Christy Campbell and it turned out to be riveting. A real page-turner with all human life there. Some of the suggested cures for example included dried human urine, setting phials of holy water from Lourdes among the vines, toads buried alive in blighted vineyards etc.

This book wouldn't be inapropriate as a Christmas present even for teetotallers - maybe especially for teetotallers.

15/16 N/A
14/15 Wink Lorch's 'Jura Wine'.
13/14 Ian D'Agata's 'Native Winegrapes of Italy'
12/13 'Wine Grapes' Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding and Jose Vouilamoz