Monday 30 January 2017

Meet Dipan Ghosal, self-motivated Sommelier

       Image result for al muntaha restaurant dubai           

We struggle to fill the category 'Sommellier of the year' in our annual 'Slotovino Awards' (none since 2010/11) but January 2017 has brought an outstanding candidate it would be hard to beat in the next 11 months, Dipan Ghosal.

Dipan is from Kolkata. Slotovino Awards 2015/16  heralded India as well as China as the places from where our wine mayl increasingly come so it is fitting that it is from India that a truly talented sommelier comes our way now.

Dipan is modest about his training but actually he is well qualified with a BA in Hotel Management from Punjab Technical University and Distinctions in levels 2 and 3 of the Wine and Spirit Education Trust. He has also served his apprenticeship as a steward in room service and the Indian Specialty Fine Dining Restaurant of the Taj Hotel Chennai, Sommelier of the Yauatcha (Michelin starred Hakkasan Restaurants) in Bangalaru and Sommelier for the entire Baros Resort in the Maldives. He goes from there to the Burj Al Arab, Dubai (the one that looks like a sail) no less where there are 7 restaurants and two bars. A man to watch.

Image result for burj al arab

 The incredible thing about Dipan is that he has not yet visited any of the wine-growing regions his list comprises nor attended any of the famous wine fairs or events anywhere outside India. His encyclopedic knowledge is from his training obviously but also from his own research notably from 'Wine Grapes' (Robinson, Harding and Vuillamoz) and other sources. To that extent he is an autodidact.

In the Baros Island resort he increased the winelist from around 180 to 250 wines and broadened the choice to include not just Burgundy (there had been only Bordeaux previously) but also Minervois, Corbieres, Gruener Veltliner, Muscadet, Rioja (amazingly), Otago Pinot Noir (previously only Marlborough), Chilean Merlots, Mornington Peninsula and Yarra Pinot Noirs, an Argentinian Cabernet Sauvignon to act as a counter-weight to the Malbecs already listed and many others. The result is a fully rounded list with something for everyone. Of course the list remains conservative with all the usual suspects required by clients of such resorts but he tries to steer them towards some of the less obvious wines especially in the New Moon dinners that are a feature and takes pleasure in their satisfaction when it works.

In his profile he describes himself as 'a self-motivated Wine Professional, who started his career as a steward and fallen in love with wines.' He enjoys 'meeting people from every corner of the world and understanding their aspect for their respective wines and their choices.' He adds: 'I read whatever I get, mainly literature... ' I am 'a creative person at heart with a love towards kitchen experiments.'

Image result for al muntaha restaurant dubai

So if you go to Dubai and eat at one of the Burj Al Arab restaurants, ask for Dipan. You will be well looked after and should you have time to talk about wine Dipan is guaranteed to give his time and share his enthusiasms. A really dedicated and knowledgeable wine-lover and in equal measure a charming and efficient Sommelier who will always strike the right note.

Rode of witte?

The worst three words in the Dutch language? As far as Dutch wine (wijn) is concerned, you may not be asked this question. When asking if they have any Dutch wine, they like to joke 'It's white!' Actually they like to screw up their faces when they say that and look down their noses at you the while.

This is quite unfair because in our experience Dutch wine is at least as good as English or Welsh wine and some of the best is actually Roodwijn. The strange thing is that Dutch Sparkling wine is conspicuous by its absence.

First of all, let's admit we know practically nothing about Dutch wine but then nor do the Dutch it seems. This may be because it is very difficult to get hold of. In contrast to our last trip to Amsterdam when we found a few interesting bottles at Gall and Gall supermarket near the Royal Palace (inluding a lovely Johanniter), there was none on a recent visit. In an attempt to buy a bottle or two we had contacted a vigneron called Jan van den Halm of Wijngaart Telgt in Ermelo to find out who stocked his wines in Amsterdam. He replied rather charmingly but wistfully

Our wine is only for sale in Ermelo, Putten and Harderwijk.
We don't have any selling point in Amsterdam or near Amsterdam area's.
If you want our wine, you have to come to Ermelo and you are welkom there.
If you want to come to Ermelo, please call me 06-22101964 for an day and time.
I you don't want to come, I wish you a nice stay in Amsterdam.
 - a pity as he makes wine from an interesting array of grapes including Johanniter, Cabernet Blanc and Regent.

Nice wine shop (Winkel) De Gouden Ton in Utrechtsstraat, Amsterdam.
One wine-merchant (De Gouden Ton) we found with a Dutch wine said he stocked it because he was friends with the producer. Another, specializing in Champagne, Bordeaux and Burgundy sent us away with an emphatic 'Certainly not!' adding that Dutch wine was 'white, sour and over-expensive.' We agree with Dr. Johnson on the subject of patriotism but this seemed an unnecessarily harsh verdict on local produce.

Also in Utrechtsstraat, next door to de Gouden Ton, Tromp (no relation).

Founded only about 13 years ago. One of a small chain

Gouda mountain.

This is not to say there are not good and interesting wines to be bought in Amsterdam. Some of the wonderful cheese shops also offer wine to be paired with any cheese you may buy

 We found these sweeties from Massandra in more than one place. We can't recall having seen these in the UK.

Tromp also stocked an interesting Verona 15.5% vino da meditazione by Bolla called Creso (Croesus), also a new one on us.

Image result for hemelse modder

One evening on a tip-off we went to the Hemelse Modder restaurant on Ouse Waal. An excellent recommendation. Hemelse Modder has been going since the 1980s but still looks fresh and new. It was founded by a group of like-minded friends who wanted to eat somewhere where the produce was organic and ecologically sound. Their wine list is small but really interesting, including as it did a Dutch Solaris.

This was a little sweeter than English Solaris adding to our hunch that when made at northerly latitudes it escapes Jancis Robinson's 'tooth-rottingly sweet' warning but the further south you go the sweeter it is likely to get. Solaris is now grown in Italy. You have been warned.

You could tell that Hemmelse Modder take their wine seriously with a Pignoletto rather than a Prosecco and a St. Magdalena on offer among others.

There is a place on Rokin (No. 60) called 'Cave Rokin' which stocks a few bottles from the Netherlands' oldest winery, Apostelhoeve including their Auxerrois, Mueller-Thurgau and Riesling.

By co-incidence there was the same bottle of white we had bought at the first merchant we had visited - the one who said he was a friend of the producer, a Pinot Blanc/Pinot Gris blend.  This seems by the way to be an obvious and interesting combination. One we had met before and enjoyed in an English wine. The producer is De Kleine Schorre. Not fancying the Riesling or the Mueller-Thurgau of Apostelhoeve we bought de Kleine Schorre's Auxerrois on the basis that it was half a degree less alcoholic than that of Apostelhoeve.

Image result for wijngoed thorn

Also on sale was a real find, a Dornfelder from Thorn. We had enjoyed a glass of this with our delicious meal at Rijks, the Michelin starred restaurant at the Rijksmuseum and were determined to get a bottle to bring home and prove to people that Dutch wine is red as well as white.

Image result for Thorn wijngoed

Thorn's Dornfelder is as good if not better than any English or Welsh Dornfelder or even English or Welsh red wine in general. There are plenty of good German Dornfelders but this was just as good as the best of our acquaintance. Very highly recommended.

So that made a haul of 3 bottles with Schiphol duty free as our only hope for more. That was to be an exercise in futility compounded by a sting in the tail. A promising shop and bar called 'A taste of the Lowlands' or something had some bottles of Dutch wine (Apostelhoeve) behind the bar. Waiting patiently for  the barmaid to banter with two beery individuals while re-filling their tankards, we were told by a chap washing glasses that the joint was now closed. We said we only wanted to buy one of the bottles behind the bar but he just repeated not without a note of satisfaction that they were closed.

Friday 6 January 2017

Slotovino Awards, 2015/16

Late, late, late yet again. So late we'll be taking the calendar year from now on as by 2015/16 we are dealing with something like July 2015 to December 2016. Apologies to all those who have been waiting for us to roll out the red carpet.

Wine personality of the year; 

Henri Galinié

Following our visit to the 'Rencontres de Cepages Modestes in November 2015, we wrote

"Henri Galinié, retired director of the CNRS at Tours who is principally an archeologist specializing in the middle ages. [He] wear[s] his formidable learning and authority lightly. [He] is the treasurer as well as being one of the best lecturers of the event. Amazingly his Wikipedia entry makes no mention of any interest in vines or wine."

This is the first time we have chosen an academic for Slotovino Wine Personality of the year and it is fitting that it goes to this wonderful person.

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;             

Dr. Lajos Gal's Menoire, Eger, Hungary.

Now this is going to set the cat among the pigeons. Menoir (aka Medoc Noir) has a taste some will be hard put to accept as that of (a red) wine. We at Slotovino think that wine drinkers need to have their horizons broadened more than ever. There are still those who call anything else but Bordeaux and Burgundy 'Country Wine'. Give them a taste of Menoir and they may be willing to embrace the Jura even. By the way, it has been established that Menoir is a native Hungarian variety. See our post in June 2015.

Menoir has another trick up its sleeve. It is a parent of - wait for it - Turan, another ground breaking taste.

Tiszta Szivvel means Pure Heart in Hungarian. This red wine made from Turan smote us good and proper at Terroir Club in Obuda. Again, these wines are only for the open-minded but they are fantastic fun if you give them a chance. See our post in April 2015

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  

White wine of the year;           

Dierdre Heekin 'La Garagiste' Vinu Jancu (La Crescent), Vermont.

In April 2016 we wrote;

"Dierdre Heekin, 'La Garagista' was next [at the Real Wine Fair, London].. Dierdre and her husband have a farm and restaurant in Vermont where they also grow and make their own wine. We are aware that wine is now made in every single state in the US but the opportunity to taste wines from most of them is practically nil thanks to the still restrictive shipping laws left over from Prohibition and the innate conservatism of most wine drinkers, American or not.

....we knew that [Ms. Heekin]  has managed to make not just drinkable but in some cases delicious wines from hybrids we outside the USA and Canada know practically nothing about: Frontenac Gris and Noir, La Crescent, Brianna, Saint Croix and Marquette. These are hybrids obtained by Elmer Swenson for the University of Minnesota in the last century."

Vermont must be the most challenging of any of the regions from which we drank wine in 2015/16 or any year. That La Garagista can make wines as lovely as this one is an achievement indeed.

14/15 Brintziki Estate Tinaktorogos
13/14 Salena Estate Ink Series Bianco d'Alessano
12/13 Minutolo
11/12 Malvasia
10/11 Kerner
09/10 Torrontes
08/09 Vilana

Rosé wine of the year

Bodegas Schatz, Ronda (Malaga) 'Z'

We had driven past the Schatz Bodegas near Ronda before and had actually importuned Herr Schatz himself by phone and at Vini Veri where we met him one year. He brought Lemberger (aka Blaufraenkisch) to Spain but his Rosado is not Lemberger but Moscatel Negro. This is surprising because according to 'Wine Grapes' Moscatel Negro is a synonym for our friend Listan Prieto or the Mision grape of South and Central America. However, Galet has it that Moscatel Negro is also Black Hamburgh or our other friend Trollinger which would be understandable given Herr Schatz's Wuerttemberg origins.

Whether Listan Prieto or Trollinger, this Rosado is just what we like in a rosé.It has the intensity of any white or red. It avoids the neutrality and wateriness of so many light-pink roses. Wine-merchants prefer the latter because the sell more easily.

Incidentally take a look at the Bodegas Schatz website and check out the Organic/Biodynamic panel.
Amazing what goes into this kind of farming!

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

Paul Reder, 'Le Gris', Aramon Gris, Languedoc.

In March 2016, we wrote;

Aramon is perhaps the most productive grape of all time or so they say. It comes in three colours, Noir, Blanc and Gris although Noir (red) is the basic and most common one. Wine made from this grape is commonly held to be 'ordinaire'.....

How astonishing then to find an outstanding Orange wine made from Aramon's 'Gris' mutation: Grigri by Paul Reder of Hautes Terres de Comberousse....

Orange wines can disappoint. This one does not...

Congratulations to Paul Reder. He seems to be a clever guy, giving up a no doubt lucrative career as an oil executive in Texas to take over the family vineyard.

Light Red wine of the year;    

 Domaine Gauletteries Pineau D'Aunis (80%), Gamay (10%) and Cabernet Franc (10%).

In January 2016, we wrote

A cuvée of 80% Pineau d'Aunis and 10% each of Gamay and Cabernet Franc from Domaine Gauletteries which is just lovely. One of those wines we come back to again and again.

This wine comes from Leon Stolarski 'New Classic Wines from Regional France', Nottinghamshire, England.

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;

Domaine Grisard, Jean-Pierre and Marie-Jo Grisard.

"Ce cepage oublié pendant des decenies retrouve enfin ses racines sur les coteaux d'éboulis calcaire avec exposition plein Sud du Domaine...

Domaine Grisard...vnifions et embouteillons a la propriete plus de 40 cuvées de vins de terroir élevés dans le respect de la nature."

Jean-Pierre and Marie-Jo Grisard have rescued many local grape varieties of Savoie as has Michel Grisard and others, but we would like to give the prize this year to the former only because they have made commercial wine from more varieties they have saved from extinction than their namesakes. In particular we congratulate them on their 'Etraire de l'Adui' which is as obscure as the name suggests. Well we certainly had never heard of it.

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);

Bottle Apostle

Bottle Apostle have been around since 2009 but have really hit their stride in the last couple of years. The selection is really diverse and the quality very dependable. Their branches in Clapham and Regents Park Road brings them a little nearer to the centre of London compared to their original branches in Crouch End and Victoria Park.

Heavenly natural white from the Bical grape in idiosyncratic 50cl bottles

Note 11% Abv. Bottle Apostle seem to be the only place to buy this wine in the UK.

Their selection is very much to our taste. Their staff are excellent. They have won tons of awards including Decanter's Large Independent Merchant of the year (2015).

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);  

House of Townend

We had never heard of House of Townend, the well-established Hull based merchant but we met on the internet and are now firm friends as any of their customers are made to feel.

First of all, we found some really interesting Australian Sparkling wine there, a Sparkling Semillon and a Petit Meslier also sparkling. Both grapes are permitted in Champagne but are rarely used The Petit Meslier we had encountered in Hendersons, Edinburgh a few years ago but the Semillon is currently the only example available in the UK since Sainsbury's ran out of their own Winemakers Choice.

We topped up our order with a bottle of French Alicante Bouschet at only 12% and a bottle of Zilavka from Macedonia.

 The 12 bottles came in a really solid cardboard box in record time accompanied by a beautifully produced set of notes tailored to our selection printed on luxurious paper with a message from John Townend which sounded both warm and sincere. In the bottom of the case was a 'Thank You' slip offering 10% off 'any of our bottles of fabulous wine.'

No wonder Hull will be European City of Culture in 2017.

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)  

Enoteca Trimani, Roma

Enoteca Trimani has been run by the Trimani family ever since its inception in 1821. According to Winesearcher, they list 3,218 wines. The Sr. Trimani we had the pleasure to meet (Francesco?) was familiar with the contents and back-story of every bottle we discussed. Admittedly these were only a fraction of the total but they were some of the less obvious ones and based on this experience we are convinced he could discuss all his stock in the same way.

That is not only impressive, it is possibly unique.

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;                      


 We've had fun at Aldi in Spain in the past. Their Tinto and Blanco only cost 89 cents a bottle and were not bad at all. You can't buy these bottles down the Old Kent Road however but you can buy a Hunter Valley Semillon with a bit of bottle age (2011) for only £6.99. We've had Hunter Valley Semillons which were not as good at twice the price.

 Any supermarket that can do this gets our 'Supermarket of the year' award hands down. Aldi does other wine too!

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)

For the first time we hail a Wine Importer as opposed to a Wine merchant (who may also be an importer). Our winner is

Winemakers Club

For sure they are merchants and also run a wine bar but their work in sourcing fascinating bottles from a shortlist of producers is what stands out here. For the moment you can't buy their wines online. As they have it on their website;

Welcome to The Winemakers Club

Wine importer, shop and bar, we are passionate about high quality, organic and biodynamic wines from small, traditional wineries around the world.
We partner with our winemakers, those producing regional wines that reflect local flavours. We welcome the unusual and the interesting. Let us introduce you to the unsung heroes of the winemaking world.
After a decade of roaming to locate the finest vintners, we've made our home in the vaults of Holborn viaduct. Featuring brickwork of a Victorian magnitude, our space is packed to the arches with atmosphere and wine heritage. 

In August 2016 we wrote;

We'd like to salute a newcomer who is also doing a great job; 'Winemakers Club.' Started by a London Solicitor Robin Baum and now run by his son John this is a wine-bar-cum-wine merchant right up our street. The selection is eclectic indeed with bold choices from all over. here are some bottles we picked up there.

Isabelle Legeron, moving spirit of the RAW Wine Fair has become involved in a marvelous initiative to help producers such as our favourite Oszkar Maurer to bring their wines to a wider public. This Kadarka is outstandingly fruity and delicious. Mr. Maurer's situation near the Serbian/Hungarian border means that his access to the EU is sometimes literally blocked by Hungarian border guards keeping him as well as immigrants and refugees out.

Jose Miguel Marquez is the only producer of wine from the Montpilas grape anywhere in the world.

Dino Briglio Nigro, Antonello Canonico and Emilio di Cianni are the world's  only producers of a white wine made from 100% Guardavalle (Calabria).

Continuing with the sole producer and rarest grape variety theme, this is a 100% Medina from our recently discovered Hegy Kalo winery in Hungary (see our Terroir Club post). Medina? A variety unknown either to 'Wine Grapes' or even Galet. There's some Turan in the ancestry and indeed the wine has that unmistakable and to us marvelous black muscat taste. This is a dark rose with Cseres (Cherry) in the name.

Also from Hegy-Kalo was a red Turan/Kekfrankos blend, Oroksegul. We asked John Baum how come he was so interested in Hungarian wines and speaks what sounded like good Hungarian. He explained that he had had a Hungarian girlfriend before she threw him over. A sense of humour is obviously one of his many talents. He serves as a Decanter World Wine Awards judge and has experience in running pubs, being a Sommelier and selling wine to restaurants.

Another favourite from Paris this time was miraculously to be found at Winemaker's Club. More thought-reading than same wavelength it seems.

Here's the Winmaker's Club team. John and Robin Baum are 2nd and 3rd from the left. We congratulate them and wish them good luck for their excellent enterprise.

Worst Airport Duty Free

Dresden (DRS)  

that's about it.
Oh dear, what happened to Dresden? Honey, they shrunk the stock. That is a pity because there are so many interesting wines in this little-known corner of Germany (Saale-Unstrut, Sachsen).

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;                                   

Dresden (DRS)

Matthies 'Souvenirs and More' the place to go for Schloss Wackerbarth's lovely local wines.

If you go to Handelsgalerie Matthies 'Souvenirs and More' opposite the official Dresden Duty Free shop there are a few bottles of what looks like rip-off tourist stuff but are actually quite wonderful; Schloss Wackerbarth.

These were just two grape varieties on offer and count as some of the best Kerner and Scheurebe we have ever had the pleasure to drink. Don't be put off by the price; they are worth it. Sad that they are not sold at the official Duty Free but their presence here is enough to make this lowly tchotchke shop outstanding even in comparison with enormous Duty Free shops at major hubs selling just the usual suspects.

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;

Aglianico vinificato in bianco.    

Aglianico is an extraordinarily versatile variety.

Sparkling Aglianico Rosato and Rosso

Another Aglianico vinificato in bianco bought in London
The hit of our summer hols in Matera, Basilicata. We were not unfamiliar with Aglianico the red grape. We lumped it with other South Italian and Sicilian varieties such as Nero d'Avola, Negroamaro, Primitivo, and so forth but closer inspection puts Aglianico into another category. Firstly, the reds are becoming increasingly appreciated with leading experts elevating it to rub shoulders with Nebbiolo and Sangiovese as Italy's best grapes.

Secondly there are Rosés as well as white wines from Aglianico not to mention sparkling wines both rosato and rosso also from Aglianico. Is there any grape as versatil

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;               

Hipster Somms

Could they have started it?
The rise of the Somms. Hipster Somms seem to be contageous. They can be found in wine shops, restaurants or just walking the streets of Shoreditch or Willamsburg. They look like they know far more about wine than you do. It must be the beards and academic garb. Our first Somms were the lovely couple at 259 Hackney Road, now sadly decamped to Berlin. Our loss but myriads have sprung up in their place.

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;                

English and Welsh Reds.

English and Welsh whites have generally been accepted as much better than the reds. There was a time when there were no drinkable reds at all if we remember correctly. Wines from Bernard Theobald's Wrotham Pinot vines in Berkshire and, before it became Sharpham, Beenleigh's attempts to grow Merlot in tunnels were not a huge success. Now we have a raft of not just drinkable but downright delicious reds.

Pioneers have included Biddenden's Gribble Bridge with their Dornfelder and yes, even their Gamay which we rather liked and then some of the grander Sparkling wine estates such as Gusborne making a Pinot Noir from what was not used in their fizzy cuvées. Expensive for what they were but very decent. At the other end of the price spectrum, Marks and Spencer have done an amazing job by commissioning young winemakers from Plumpton College to make a red exclusively for them. Their Rondo/Dornfelder was top notch. Chapel Hill are also up there with their Union Red Fruehburgunder/Pinot Noir/Dornfelder blend.

A big surprise was Ancre Hill's Triomphe made by carbonic maceration. We have chosen this as our best English or Welsh red only because we know to our cost how difficult it is to make a palatable wine out of this 'mal aimé' variety (see below).

At a garden party this year we came across Winbirri's 'Insignia' Dornfelder, Regent and Rondo blend. It was the perfect summer wine, from Norfolk noch.

Another small miracle is Yearlsone's No. 4 (Rondo); positively the best 100% Rondo we have tasted and the answer to those who consider Rondo as only good for adding colour. How do they do that? Roger White writes;

"We make our red a little differently to most. While the wine colleges teach traditional techniques of 7 days skin contact before pressing, we have evolved towards a much lighter touch - with 3/ days only. We feel that balances the Rondo better - without too heavy tannins. We also try our best to keep the must very cool before pressing to get more of the " primary " aromas."

This neatly explains how things evolve and why it is only now that good reds are coming through.

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;

Looking at our previous predictions, we are clearly not infallible although these predictions may come to pass one day, probably many years ahead. Timing is everything. One of the first people to import Australian wine was Willie Lebus. He had the right idea but just before its time. He wasn't able to sit tight while the great British public woke up to the wines of Australia so he joined Bibendum where he has been a Director for many years so there was a happy ending.

2016 has been such a momentous year that the consequences particularly for us in the UK may be radical post Brexit. On the one hand, you can relay on people to keep going whatever is thrown in their way but it seems to us that imports from outside Europe may increase and those from Europe decrease.

Rajeev Samant of Sula 'The man who got India drinking wine.'
At the same time the not so gradual revolution in winemaking may mean that countries such as India and especially China will produce good wine at a price no one else can match just as they produce your shirts and jeans. The process has already begun with Indian wine quite easily available (M & S have a range to go with Indian food) and Chinese wine no longer something you had to go to Germany to find - and only from one importer in Hamburg if we remember correctly. Now Berry Bros. and Rudd stock 7 Chinese wines albeit at the high end.

Wu Lizhi, a winemaker with over 30 years' experience in Australia and China.
Jancis Robinson goes to China every year and has been reporting on the substantial steps being taken there both in quality and in the quantity of new producers.

Recent years have seen wines from Brazil, Uruguay, Macedonia, Croatia, Serbia, Turkey, even Peru and Syria becoming available here. China and India will surely eclipse thse countries one day?

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;             

Morito, Exmouth Market and Hackney Road, London

Let it speak for itself;


dominio de tharsys
6.00 / 30.00(750ml)
cava brut nature - valencia

glass / carafe / bottle

casa morito
4.00 / 11.00 / 20.00
airen – ourense, galicia

la miranda
5.50 / 16.00 / 30.00
100% garnacha blanca - navarra, organic

adega de moncao 2014
4.50 / 13.00 / 25.00
vinho verde, albariño, treixadura - portugal  

vina de martin 2014
7.75 / 22.50 / 43.00
treixadura, albariño, lado, torrontes – galicia

fp branco, filipa pato 2015 
6.25 / 18.50 / 36.00
bical, arinto - bairrada, portugal           

riu l’infernal 2013 
8.25 / 24.00 / 46.00
grenache blanc, macabeo - priorat, organic

godello godeval 2014 
6.00 / 17.50 / 34.00
100% godello - valdeorras, galicia


casa morito
4.00 / 11.00 / 20.00
tempranillo – ourense, galicia

tinto joven, guimaro 2015
6.00 / 17.50 / 34.00
100% mencia - ribeira sacra *served chilled
ribeiro santo dao 2013
5.25 / 16.00 / 30.00
alfrocheiro preto, tinto roriz, touriga - portugal               

tajinaste, listan negro 2014
6.50 / 19.00 / 37.00
100% listan negro - tenerife

vina almate, alfredo maestro 2015
5.75 / 17.00 / 32.00
100% tempranillo - valladolid

planella 2014
6.25 / 18.00 / 35.00
carignan, syrah, garnacha - montsant, organic, bio


lagoalva 2013
5.75 / 16.50 / 32.00
syrah, touriga nacional - tejo, portugal

txakolin etxaniz rosado 2015
6.50 / 19.50 / 36.00
hondarribi, navarre


fino & manzanilla

tio pepe
5.00 / 32.00 (750ml)
gonzalez byass

tio pepe fino en rama
6.00 / 38.00  (750ml)
gonzalez byass

nv fino
5.50 / 20.00 (375ml)
cesar florido, chipiona

gabriela manzanilla
5.00 / 35.00 (750ml)
bodegas  sanchez ayala


vina ab
5.50 / 36.00 (750ml)
gonzalez byass

del duque
11.50 / 42.00 (375ml)
gonzalez byass

pali cortado

6.00 / 40.00(750ml)
gonzalez byass

11.50 / 42.00 (375ml)


5.50 / 38.00 (750ml)
gonzalez byass

oloroso dulce

solera 1847
5.50 / 36.00 (750ml)
gonzalez byass

11.00 / 40.00 (375ml)
gonzales byass

pedro ximenez

el maestro sierra
7.50 / 25.00 (375ml)
bodegas el maestro sierra

moscatel dorado
6.50 / 22.50 (375ml)
cesar florido, chipiona

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;                  

Romanian Wine 

You can read all about our Debut in Romania in our post from December 2015. It was quite an eye-opener given that our experience hitherto had been limited to the two Feteascas and some Pinot Noir.

Here are some of Romania's indiginous grape varieties and crosses and hybrids obtained there;

Babaesca Neagra
Busuioaca de Bohotin
Cadarca si Steinschiller (Steinschiller is 'Kovidinka in German!)
Feteasca Alba
Feteasca Dragosani
Feteasca Neagru
Feteasca Regala
Francusa (aka. Mustoasa de Moldova)
Galbena de Odobesti
Grasa de Cotnari
Majarca Alba (ancient Balkan variety producing generally uninspiring whites. aka, Slankemenka)
Mustoasa de Maderat
Plavaie (said to be no longer cultivated but still grown by Podgoria Odobesti (bless them!)
Zghihara de Husi

Many of the white grapes seem to have a Muscat element. We discovered the delights of Feteasca Regala over the more prosaic Feteasca Alba. The reds of our acquaintance (Novac and Feteasca Dragosani) are warm, substantial and age-worthy. Winemaking skills are rather good and it is inspiring to see how many historic estates and properties are coming back to life and how many new initiatives are undertaken. Talented people these Romanian winemakers!

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;  

Ancre Hill, Carbonic Maceration Triomphe


We have bemoaned the variety Triomphe d'Alsace throughout this blog because we mistakenly planted it ourselves in our little plot in the Thames Valley in the early 1990s. Since then not only we but everyone else has failed to make a drinkable Triomphe in our experience. Even wines with Triomphe in the blend are no good. It's like having one tone deaf singer in a choir.

How impressive then is Ancre Hill's effort by Carbonic Maceration.We also know to our cost that this is a tricky procedure  but Ancre Hill have brought it off impressively. They have invested seriously in their winery in Monmouthshire (Wales) and it is expensive for what it is at the moment at least but here is the proof that miracles are possible.

14/15 Plumpton College Rondo/Dornfelder
13/14 Seddlescombe Regent
12/13 Biddenden Gamay
11/12 Bolney Pinot Noir

Best English White;                     

Somerby Vineyards 'Magna Carta.' Solaris.

This wine has appeared more than once in our blog and for a good reason. It is delicious in itself. It avoids the old cut-grass Englishness of yore and it is made from the No-Spray variety, Solaris.  'Wine Grapes' has it that Solaris produces tooth-rottingly sweet wines. That may be the case 'on the continent' but in Lincolnshire it doesn't get ripe enough to cause dental problems and turns out well balanced and lovely. We bought 6 bottles from Waitrose online when they were having one of their promotions which brought the price down to a reasonable level. Highly recommended.

14/15 Charlie Herring's Sauvignon Blanc
13/14 Quoins Orion
12/13 Stopham Pinot Blanc
11/12 Biddenden Gribble Ridge Ortega

Best publication;                          

We didn't read any wine books this year (shame) but constantly consulted the three winners below. We look forward to the new edition of 'Wine Grapes' in particular as well as Carla Capalbo's tome (rumoured to be 400pp) on Georgian Wine and food.

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