Tuesday 15 August 2017

A good idea

Swig's All-Time Greats

Above: SWiG's Pantheon of All-Time Greats
This sacred colonnaded edifice was commissioned at ruinous expense by Swig owner, Robin Davis, following an especially exuberant lunch. The listed building, to which oenophile tourist flock in their hundreds of thousands every year, contains every wine ever sold by SWiG that has been deemed of unimpeachably high quality and generosity (such wines as Soli Pinot, Secateurs Chenin, or Monte Santoccio Valpol) following exhaustive, years-long scrutiny be SWiG elders. It is situated in an otherwise nondescript small-business complex, behind some trees, on Sutton Court Road, Chiswick

 We notice Swig has started their 'Pantheon of All-Time Greats' and Laithwaites simultaneously have launched their 'Hall of Fame,' both in the second half of 2017.

Our Slotovino Hall of Fame and Roll call of Honour datte from 2010. What took you so long guys?

Wednesday 9 August 2017

More Greek island wines

an elusive Amorgon vineyard
There are a great many Greek islands. 3,000 is a figure bandied about. More precise is the figure 63 for inhabited ones. They were added only gradually to the new Greek state from the mid 19th century on so their 'otherness' is understandable. Islands in general tend to be a world in themselves - each with a different atmosphere so somehow it is not surprising to find a greal diversity of grape varieties there. 

Some islands are veritable diversity hotspots. Crete of course but others such as Zakynthos (Zante to the Ventians) is an amazing repository;




Korinthi (Korinthiaki)
Robola Rouge (or Mavro Rombola - a colour mutation of Robola)

On Santorini, it is claimed that a hundred years ago, nearly 100 varieties were grown and as late as 1990 old vine-growers could identify most obscure varieties from 10 paces.




Aidani Mavro

 *unknown to 'Wine Grapes'

There is an excellent website 'New Wines of Greece' - a usefuly companion to 'Wine Grapes.'


With all this embarras de richesses it is difficult to find wines made from these local varieties even on the islands where they grow. This Katsano/Gaidouria blend from Gavalas was available at our hotel at E.63 rather a lot but reasonable bearing Santorini prices in mind.

The kind and knowledgeable 'Poli,' Sommelier extraordinaire allowed us to photograph the label cost free.

another parcel of vines on Amorgos
Other than in a list of Cycladic islands, Amorgos doesn't figure in Konstatinos Lazarakis's exhaustive book 'The Wines of Greece.' It is a large island near Naxos but it is almost barren following the rupture of the water table by an earthquake in the 1950s. Water and produce has to be brought in. The mountainous terrain is strewn with rocks between which hundreds of interesting herbs have sprung up. 

The ones not eaten by the large numbers of goats are being exploited for their cosmetic and medicinal properties.

At either end of Amorgos are patches of green where it is possible to grow crops, trees and vines. Vineyards are elusive. Very few are visible from any road. We were told you have to go down dirt tracks to find them, but which dirt track?

The vineyard of the Organic Farm at Katapola is practically the only one you can see from the road

This organic vineyard owned by the Londas Biodynamic and Organic farm at Katapola is practically he only one we could find. 

Wines on the right, oil and vinegar centre and left

The varieties grown there are not much out of the ordinary: Mandilaria, Roditis, Cabernet Sauvignon, Savatiano. Their wine production is very limited - a red, a white (sold out) and a dessert wine.

Nonetheless there is a larger producer on Amorgos making interesting wine. The name is Amorgion. The producer is Antonis Vekris and Children S.A. The wine is 'Produced and bottled by "Amorgos" of Katapola - Amorgos - Greece.' and there is a website www.amorgion.gr. But this leads you to information about the three Amorgion shops selling local produce from the island and nothing about the provinence of the wines. The lady in the Aegali branch referred to the 'distillery' rather than the winery so we assume the wines of Amorgion are from several different small parcels distributed among the fertile parts of the island and are vinified at the mysterious facility which also serves as a distillery.

All the wines of Amorgion are very acceptable. The red, which is called Brouskos is made from 'Amorgion' - the local name for Mandilaria, with some Assyrtiko.

There is a straight white called Thalassinos. The grape variety is not named but as well as Assyrtiko, Savaitiano is grown on Amorgos so it is safe to assume the grapes are in that direction.

Kykladitikos is another white. All Amorgon wines are described as 'bio' but this one is labeled also 'organic.' We're not sure what the difference might be: perhaps 'bio' is Biodynamic which is not necessarily organic? The grape here is 100% Assyrtiko.

There is even a Retsina called Nisiotopoula. Heartening to find Retsina among the small production of this company,

A dessert wine is not lacking. Thespesion is made from Amorgion/Mandilaria and Savatiano so a degree of promiscuity going on here.

Finally, the piece de resistance from this admirable winery, Chrisafenios Orange Wine, 100% Savatiano. This is really very good indeed and turned out to be a popular tipple after intitial doubts were dispelled. If it wasn't for the small production this could be a contender on the world markets.

So there you have the story of Greek wine in a nutshell. Unbelievable variety, incredible wines but hidden under as many bushels as are strewn over the haunting other-worldly landscape of Amorgos.

Tuesday 8 August 2017

Uncommon tastes

This is not going to be one of those musings people go in for while in their cups. Nor hopefully what is entitled 'Disjointed Ramblings' in a local magazine down our way (it literally consists of disjointed ramblings).

No, we would like to draw some strings together of themes which have appeared in this blog. We would actually like to plead for diversity specifically in wine lists in the UK, whether in restaurants, supermarkets or wine merchants here.

In our researches into unusual grape varieties we have become ever more aware that the wine available in this country lies mostly within a certain band of taste. We're not trying to talk down the British wine trade (one of the most eclectic and openminded in the world) nor the taste in wine here. Not having any wines of our own until recently, we are familiar with a whole range of wine tastes from across the world you wouldn't find in most other places. Try looking for Pinotage in France or Italy.

The situation is the same in other places to some extent.

shouldn't have drunk that Pineau D'Aunis

There are some grape varieties which are similar to others and others so different that they challenge your definition of what wine should be. A case in point occurred a couple of years ago when we gave a bottle of Pineau D'Aunis (a good one from the Loir) to an important French client who was a connoisseur of wine and everything good in life. He opened it with friends and was so appalled with the unfamiliar taste (and Pineau D'Aunis is certainly unfamiliar if you have never tried it) that they all spat it out and send a message to the effect that it was not wine at all in their opinion. We had asked the client to give us his honest reaction so were happy to have this particular tasting note.

On another occasion we gave a bottle of Poulsard to an equally bon-vivant and experienced client and his reaction was along the lines of  'I didn't think much of the Rosé'. Poulsard has an uncommonly light colour but it is most definitely a red wine, not a rosé, at least in the bottle in question.

There are many other grape varieties which challenge perceptions of what wine should be. We'll come to those in a moment but meanwhile, there are also categorical limits in the Band of Taste referred to above.

We seem more or less across the board to be obsessed with extraction, warmth, hedonism, fruitiness, ripeness, full-flavouredness, opulence. Where are the qualities of lightness, food-friendliness, aromatics, etheriality, refreshment, re-invigoration?
Everyone knows how alcohol levels have been creeping up to the level where 15% is becoming quite common. This may be due to the Parker effect, global warming or we would suggest the drink-drive laws and health advice whereby people make do with one glass of wine of an evening. In that case, might the wine not be better if it is concentrated so as to inhibit taking more than a sip at a time? Just a thought.

Also we have to admit that the further North you go (or South in the southern hemisphere) the more warming you might require your wine to be. Winter-warmers and summer-slurpers are familiar from merchants wine lists but even so, we maintain wine styles are nowhere near representative of what is out there.

Here are some descriptions of wines in summer cases offered by Laithwaites. Laithwaites is the most successful wine-merchant in one of the world's most diverse and dynamic wine importing countries: the United Kingdom. These descriptions come from the most popular mixed cases from that most successful wine-merchant in that most diverse and dynamic country:

"Dense and spicy"
"Beautifully rich and smooth"
"Concentrated, ripe..."
"Intense full flavoured"
"Velvety fruit-rich"

and those are the summer selection. The winter selection is not much different ("Supple, luscious," "Seriously fruity and bold" etc.). Admittedly these are the reds but the whites are in similar vein: "Rounded and creamy," "Opulent."

This is obviously what people want. There's nothing wrong in any of this apart from the fact there is so much more to be had in the world of wine.

When we started our researches into wine, the typical audience seemed to be well upholstered middle-aged gentlemen whose horizons included Bordeaux and Burgundy but not very much else. In the last 10 years it has been heartening to watch the rise of the Somms, milleniums and younger people in general. They are predictably much less conservative but even so, restaurants, supermarkets and even merchants have been slow to react.

Here are two winelists from Italian restaurants we have visited recently;

Restaurant 1.


Prosecco Valdobbiadene
Spumante Rose extra dry (origin not stated).


Pinot Grigio
Sauvignon Blanc
Vermentino di Gallura


Pinot Grigio rose


Cabernet Suvignon, Veneto
Merlot, Veneto
Nero D'Avola, Sicily
Madego, Veneto (a Bordeaux blend)
Shiraz, Sicily
Rubro Sangiovese (Sangiovese from Umbria)
Barbera d'Asti
Cannonau di Sardegna
Valpolicella Ripasso
Chianti Classico
Campo Buri La Cappuccina, Veneto (Carmenere, Osoleta)
Amarone Classico

Dessert wines

Moscato, Sicily
Carmenos Rosso, Veneto (a sweet version of Campo Buri above - Carmenere and Osoleta).

Restaurant 2


Prosecco (unspecified)
Moet et Chandon NV
Veuve Clicquot NV


Trebbiano d'Abruzzo
Frascati Superiore
Fiano Mandarossa
Sauvignon Blanc
Picpoul de Pinet
Pinot Grigio
Gavi di Gavi


Rosato Veronese


Biferno, Molise
Montepulciano D'Abruzzo
Chianti Classico
Merlot (Chile)
Malbec (Argentina)
Biferno Rosso
Corvina Verona

Restaurant 1 was rather reliant on one supplier and Restaurant 2 was not only Italian but there were considerable overlaps with - for Italy- rather a lot of international varieties but our point is that with the possible exception of the Carnmenere/Osoleta blends, there was really nothing out of the ordinary here and that 'ordinary' really didn't stray beyond certain narrow parameters of taste. Some of these wines weren't cheap either although the establishments were let's say 'local' ones.

Now to our list of what might have been. We could imagine a sprinkling of one or two of the following might ginger up tired lists such as these. We are sticking to Italy in this (there is plenty of choice there after all).



and a Lambrusco (why not?).


Locorotondo (Verdeca, Bianco D'Alessano and other local varieties)
Manzoni Bianco
Petite Arvine
Ribolla Gialla
Trebbiano Spoletino




Maculan Torcolato (Vespaiola)
Felluga Picolit

Some of these may be difficult to obtain but we suspect the fact you don't see them very often has more to do with worries about unfamiliarity.

And now to the real challenge implicit in this post: the wines that to some might not taste like anything they might have experienced before and might at first not taste like wine at all. We thoroughly recommend seeking them out nevertheless. We have already mentioned Pineau D'Aunis and Poulsard which should really hold no terrors anymore but the following might push the envelope rather and that is for us, a good thing:


Bianco D'Alessano
Petit Meslier
Szeremi Zold


Baco Noir
Caino Tinto
Folle Noir (aka Jurancon Noir, Fuella Nera)
Prieto Picudo
Vinhao (aka Sousao)

Dore - unknown to 'Wine Grapes'

Rojal, not to be confused with Royal

Royal, not to be confused with Rojal

Turan, the least like any wine you ever tasted

Szeremi Zold. Bags of character.

The monster of NW1

Seen at an open day in a Primrose Hill garden

along the wall,

over to the ground floor window

up to the 1st floor balcony.
What is it? Wouldn't you know, Triomphe D'Alsace. So keen to please but such disappointing wine.

Thursday 3 August 2017

In praise of Goldriesling

Radebeul has its own Opera Theatre (Landesbuehnen Sachsen)

If you found yourself in Dresden as happened to us recently you can take a 30 minute tram ride out of the city to Radebeul where there are vineyards and sometimes wine. We say sometimes wine because n a recent visit we had to try several places before we found one that served the wine from literally just up the road.

The lighter green speck on the centre right of the hill is a vineyard.
At last on a hot day in May we went to take a look and soon found ourselves in dire need of refreshment. Now we have never subscribed to the idea that wine can be drunk to quench the thirst although this suggestion is often found. Best for us at least to quench the thirst and then have a glass of wine.

But on this occasion this glass of well-chilled Radebeul Goldriesling really did hit the spot. It was made by Weingut Drei Herren whom we had encountered not long previously at ProWein, Duesseldorf.

And who was serving it? The spookily named Gasthaus Schwarze Seele who couldn't have been nicer.

Our previous encounter with Goldriesling had been with that of Schloss Proschwitz, Meissen. Following this we even planted 25 Goldriesling vines ourselves. Last year they showed a weakness towars Powdert Mildew so we are spraying them this year. Apart from that, we think it is a very suitable grape for the UK and recommend it as an alternative to Bacchus.

Since you ask, it was already listed on the Slotovino Hall of Fame.