Thursday 30 November 2017

The strange case of Liber Pater

Liber Pater was a Roman god of wine and vines. The estate Liber Pater (in the Graves area of Bordeaux) was bought by Loïc Pasquet, a former engineer with Peugeot in 2006. It comprises 7 hectares and is planted with some old vine Semillon and Sauvignon vines as well as Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Merlot.

Loïc Paquet himself

So far so normal. Loic Pasquet had the idea of doing something exceptional with his vineyard and has planted a rumoured some 14 old Bordeaux and other varieties in order to re-create a pre-phylloxera vineyard. He hopes to revive the taste of what Bordeaux was like BP (Before Phylloxera).

The Spanish mule

Planting is done in as close proximity as the rules allow (20,000 vines per hectare) ungrafted and subject to organic (Ecocert certified) farming by just himself with a mule. Yields are minuscule. The 14 varieties are not listed as far as we can see but the following 6 have been mentioned;

Camaralet (a white grape associated with several areas in SW France but not Bordeaux)
Castets (a red grape to be found in St. Macaire in the Bourg/Blaye area of Bordeaux)
Lauzet (a white grape from Jurancon)
Mancin (aka Tarnay Coulant - a red grape formerly quite widespread in the Gironde including Bordeaux but now down to less than 1 ha.)
Pardotte (red grape considered productive but giving an ordinary wine low in alcohol and flat. Unclassified, there were 183 ha. in 1958 in many Bordeaux sub-zones, a few in 1988 and in 2011, none.)
Prunelard (a red grape nursed back to life by the Plageolles family in Gaillac. Although parent of Cot (aka Malbec or Pressac in Bordeaux) is is not a Bordeaux grape.

So out of these 7 varieties, only 3 have any history of being grown in Bordeaux which is peculiar and moreover, Marselan is also mentioned but this is a modern cross between Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon so seems completely out of place in this list. We'd love to know what the other 6 are.

In fact the proportion of 'heritage varieties' is very small in the make-up of Liber Pater wines so far but we applaud the general ambition of M. Pasquet.

A different label for each wine

Where things get rather strange is in the pricing of his wines which are de-classified by the way. These are available for around $3,000 - $5,000 a bottle in some cases which makes it the most expensive wine in the world.

We have nothing against a producer charging what they will for their wines and tasting notes of Liber Pater wines are favourable. However, all these unusual elements in Liber Pater have ruffled some feathers and M. Pasquet has suffered the crminal destruction of 500 of his vines and various legal attacks from official quarters. He has successfully appealed against some of these and so lives to fight another day.

We wish him well even if would prefer at least one of his wines to be affordable and his heritage varieties to be more closely associated with Bordeaux if we really are to have a taste of what the wine was like BP.

Labels with quite a lot of busty substances to appeal to big spenders?

Tuesday 28 November 2017

Another go at DIY blending

Remembering that particular white blend of 25% each of Aglianico vinificato in bianco, Chardonnay, Malvasia and Moscato we drank on our first visit to Matera called 'Il Preliminare (Cantina del Notaio) we tried to repeat our experiment of a few years ago and combine a bottle each of wines made from these varieties just to see what happens.

At Marrakesh duty free we had found a blend of Marselan, Carmenere and Petit Verdot which had worked so well we tried to re-constitute the taste at home. Not having the proportions it was fun attempting the task and we were quite happy with the result.

This time the proportions were given so naturally much depended on what kind of Muscat, Chardonnay, Malvasia etc. we selected.

The Aglianico vinificato in bianco was 'Lacrima di Orazio' from Cantina Bonifacio (Basilicata). This wine is partly aromatic, partly astringent so we thought a nice full Malvasia such as the one from Birichino, California would balance that out. The dry Muscat shouldn't be too muscat-y in order not to dominate so we chose a natural wine from Greece. The Chardonnay was a Chablis so as not to have too much sweetness and maintain acidity. All a bit like playing with a chemistry set.

Of course the result was nothing like Il Preliminare which just goes to show that within the parameters of the four different grape varieties there is room for a multitude of variations.

What was most interesting about this experiment was that the blend of wines which after all were 'finished' wines underwent a development or so we fancied. We could  swear that a tasting immediately after mixing the four wines in equal parts - although pleasant enough - was different from what we tasted after the concoction had had a chance to settle down a couple of weeks later.

Was this just our imagination or does it prove that wine, 'finished' or not is a living thing, capable not just of ageing but transforming?

Wednesday 8 November 2017


Slotovino's tasting of 30 wines from Italian grape varieties collected over the last 2 years and including some real rarities of which we were rather proud.

L to R, Nero a Meta,, Pensiero in Rosa, Il Preliminare, Terra Aspra, Lacrima di Orazio


On our first night in Matera (Basilicata) last year we had a wonderful bottle of what we were told was ‘Aglianico vinificato in bianco.’ Later we discovered it was a blend of Aglianico (vinified indeed as white wine), Chardonnay, Malvasia and Moscato (25% each). The wine was from Cantina Il Notaio and was called ‘Il Preliminare.’

Such was our enthusiasm for Aglianico vinificato in bianco on this mistaken evidence that we thought we had an unsung Italian classic and sought out the following examples.

Aglianico vinificato in bianco. ‘Angelina,’ Tenuta Le Querce, Barile, Basilicata Bianco IGT. 12.5%

This one comes from the same producer as the rarissimo Tamurro Nero offered later in the tasting. Valentina Buscicchio Pietrafesa and her husband Leonardo Pietrafesa are the owners and winemakers of Le Querce. Valentina is an interior designer and has written a cookery book on ‘La cucina della Basilicata,’ When not at the estate at Barile they live in Primrose Hill and sell their wines at the Primrose Hill farmers’ market. Angelina is the name of their daughter.

Comments included 'Not entirely sure of the point of White Aglianico' and 'like still prosecco.' 

Aglianico vinificato in bianco, ‘Lacrima di Orazio,’ Cantine Bonifacio, Venosa (PZ), Basilicata IGP, 2015. 13.5%

One of the few other examples of the versatile Aglianico made as a white wine. Not easy to find.

Commentators found pear and apricot here. One asserted 'This is very distinctive.' 

Aglianico vinificato in bianco, ‘Nero a meta,’ Matroberardino, Campania IGT. 2013. 12.5%

Mastroberardino’s website says: “Result of the vinification in white of the grape Aglianico, this wine brings to light an old family project that emphasizes the qualities of great versatility of this noble and ancient grape variety. Neroametà is a tribute to the varietal origin of the black grape Aglianico, that expresses himself with a sensual elegance when presented as a blanc de noirs. It is also a homage to our territorial and cultural origins, to the harmonies and contrasts of our land.”


'Cedar-rosemary-resin spectrum.' 

'Quince? Hints of medicinal (TCP)'

Aglianico vinificato in bianco, ‘Terra Aspra,’ Tenuta Marino, Basilicata IGP, Vino biologoco. 2014. 13.5%

Also difficult to find but in this case one of the winemaker’s children was working in London and was kind enough to deliver this bottle into our hands at Liverpool Street Station.


'Complex, rich and with fabulous acidity' 

'More red-fruited than the others...fresh and quite tart on the finish.'

+Bianco d’Alessano, ‘Ink Series,’ Salena Estate, South Australia, 2015. 12.0%

Bianco d’Alessano is a variety used in Puglia for the production of the wines of Locorotondo among others. We have tasted an example of 100% Bianco d’Alessano from Puglia but this one from Australia is more interesting we reckon.


'This grows on me and has excellent persistence.' 

'Quite fruity and acidic.' 

Guardalvalle, L’Acino.’ ‘Forse sono fiori,’ San Marco Argentano (CS), Calabria IGT. 2013. 13.0%

Guardalvalle has gone under various names in the past including Greco Bianco di Ciro which also covers other varieties but interest has been growing and this is an example of the grape going solo under its proper name.


'Delicious and right for food. Mouth-watering finish.' 

'There's some interest here, tropical fruit + oranges. Nice finish.'

Pecorello, ‘Ippoloto 1845,’ Cantine Vincenzo Ippolito, Ciro Marina, Calabria IGT. 2015. 13%

Seen at Lamezia Terme duty free, we weren’t sure if this was something interesting or not. Some say it is identical to Greco Bianco/Guardalvalle, others say it is resurfacing as a distinct variety. In any case, it’s not Pecorino.


'Delicious on the palate...with the most wonderful acidity...Juicy, firm, full of fruit and so long.'

'More commercial in style.'

Malvasia di Basilicata, ‘Fedra,’ Eleano, Ripacandida (PZ), Basilcata IGP, 2014. 14%

There are many Malvasias but this one is distinct and unique. Apparently reduced to just a few sites it was reclaimed by the Cantina Sociale di Venosa and is now more widely planted.


'Odd but interesting, powerful and long.' 

'Very interesting on the nose - is that basil?'

Timorasso ‘Derthona,’ Vigneti Massa, Monleale (Piemonte), ‘Vino Bianco prodotto in Italia,’ 2014. 13%

Another variety that has resurfaced comparatively recently, apparently thanks to one man, Walter Massa of the Colli Tortonesi in Piemonte. There is a handful of such people doing this kind of important service to mankind and nature. 


'Almost toffeed on the nose. Then an amazingly rich tangy fruit character. Intensely fresh and complex,'

'Creamy and rich, interesting and wide spectrum of fruit and vegetal flavours. Nice'


Trebbiano Spoletino, ‘Trebium,’ Antonelli, Trebbiano Spoletino DOC. 2015. 13.5%

Yet another rescue variety this time thanks to Cantina Novelli in the early 2000s. Not to be confused with the more mundane Trebbiano Toscano.


'Chewy and fresh and full of life.'

'Clean and focussed. Really good white fruit. High definition wine.'

Vino Bianco a lunga macerazione (Orange wine)

Cataratto, ‘Krimiso,’ Aldo Viola, Alcamo, IGP Terre Siciliani, 2015. 12.5%

Kindly contributed by Alex Lake. A classic. Thanks, Alex.


'Glorious fragrance of apricots and dries deep and long and full of dry, complex tannic pleasure,'

'Really interesting nose with volcanicity. Red Fruit, minerals and herbs/garrigue. Lovely.'


Aglianico, ‘Pensiero in rosa’,’ Cantine Bonifacio, Venosa (PZ), Basilicata IGP, 2015. 13.5%

Aglianico is as highly considered as Nebbiolo and Sangiovese in some quarters. It’s certainly versatile as this tasting showed.


'More of a food than a sunny-terrace wine. A powerful rose.'

'Very tasty.'

Rosso Spumante

Aglianico, Piedirosso, Sciascinoso. Gragnano, Cantine Federicane, Penisola Sorrentina DOC. 2016. 10.5%

More Aglianico, this time with friends in what is called Gragnano. Ring a bell? Gragnano Pasta of course. This sparkling wine is marketed as the perfect easy drinking accompaniment to Pizza. Just because it’s pleasurable and uncomplicated it shouldn’t be looked down on surely? We think it should be taken more seriously and be better known, so here it was. Sadly the bottle was corked so comments are not in order apart from a kindly one to the effect that 'it would have been vibrant and delicious' had this not been the case.


Brachetto, ‘Mate’ A.A. Sottimano, ‘Vino Rosso’,’Nieve (CN), 2015. 13%

Usually sweet, we prefer our Brachetto dry like this. No relation to the Braquet of Bellet, the wine of Nice.

A comment: 

'Even with all that  wild strawberry delicacy it has an impressive intensity and persistance. A joyful wine...'

Canaiolo, ‘T,’ Tiberio. Colli della Toscana Centrale IGP. 2008. 13.5%

Canaiolo Nero was once more prevalent in Chianti than Sangiovese but after Phylloxera, Canaiolo didn’t take as kindly to grafting as Sangovese so the tables were turned. There are examples of Canaiolo Nero to be had but we don’t know of any as good as this one. From the Co-op Supermarket in Italy.


'A lot of attractively mature aromas...Bags of mature character, even a touch of orange on the finish and all still in harmony.'

'Fuller, savoury, with meaty almost spicy tones. I like this.' 

Croatina, ‘Pramattone,’ A.A. Bisi, Provincia di Pavia IGT, 2015. 14.0%

Also known as Bonarda and enough other synonyms to cause confusion this is one of our favourite grapes. Why it isn’t better known we will never know. Perhaps because it’s hard to find a non-fizzy example like this one?

A comment: 

'Really wild aroma...still smells like the fermenting vat! That same wild character on the palate...would be great at the table and cut through some really rich dishes.'

Cruvin (aka Crovin, Crovino or Corbino but not Corvino), Punta Crena, Colline Savonesi IGT. Liguria. 2011. 13.0%

Once famous, now almost extinct. Made only by the Punta Crena estate. This was a real find. One of the stars of the tasting in our opinion.


'Smells rather Bordeaux-like with its cedary black fruit and slightly leafy aroma reminiscent  of Cab Franc.Excellent balance...'

'Concenrated with more tomatoey acidic red fruit, but not overdone. OK'

Corinto Nero, ‘Nero du munti,’ Caravaglio, Isola di Salina IGP, Aeolian Islands, Sicilia, 2014. 14%

Some say an ancient variety brought over by the Greeks. Others think of it as a seedless version of Sangiovese affected by viruses over the centuries. There are no present Greek varieties resembling Corinto Nero. Up to 5% may be used in the production of the sweet wine Malvasia di Lipari.

A comment: 

'Deep and satisfying and just enough freshness for harmony.'

Fumat, ‘Fumo Rosso,’ Emilio Bulfon, Pinzano al Tagliamento, Friuli. 13%

One of the many obscure varieties from Friuli revived by Emilio Bulfon. Others include Cianorie, Cividin, Cordenossa, Piculit neri, Sciaglin and Ucelut.What a great person.

A comment: 

'Unusual dusty aroma...A little bit herbaceous but attractively so. Excellent freshness... coud almost be a Cab/Merlot blend from a coolish climate.'


Fumin, Freres Grosjean, Ollignan Quart, Vallee D’Aoste DOC. 2011. 13.0%

Once recommended for abandonment, Fumin is now recognised as Aosta’s best red grape variety. At least one taster had the idea to buy a case of this!


'That dark rocky/charry edge is distinctive...Fine dark fruit, firm texture...mouth-watering freshness on the finish.'

'Fresh and delicious. Wine of the night?'

Guarnaccino, ‘Recepit.’ 68 Cantine, Lucano di Chiaromonte (PZ), Vino Rosso. Basilicata, 2013. 14%

We’re very proud of this one; no one knows anything about it except the producer of this bottle and he or she is alone. Nothing to do with Guarnaccia (Grenache) which is not unknown in Italy but is never grown under that name, being called Cannonau, Tocai (Tai) Rosso and – wait for it, Gamay Perugino. This Guarnaccino was not only rare, it was also delicious.


'There is a seductive sweetness to the aroma, like sweet red cherry with a touch of vanilla...Beutifully expressive with something a bit rosemary...captivating'

'Livelt red fruit. Decent acid. Nice.'

Malbo Gentile ‘Bordone,’ Roberto Maestri bottled by Quarticello, Rosso Emilia IGP. 2013. 13%

If there are over 100 ha. Of Malbo Gentile today it is thanks to the Istituto di Stato per l’Agricoltura e l’Ambiente -Persolino, a state run institution at Faenza with its own experimental vineyard. In the 1960s researchers found three old vines in a vineyard whose grapes were impressive enough to warrant the grafting these vines onto Sangiovese hosts. The resulting wine was so successful that further research was carried out and this determined that the grape was Malbo Gentile. Production in 1990 was about 140 kg. Now Malbo Gentile is grown in sporadic spots all over Emilia Romagna.


'A little bit meaty...Dark fruit but also that hint of stables. Firm and chewy, lots of flavour and excellent freshness.'

'A sensible wine, cherries and tomatoes. Vey Italian. Decent.'

Marsiglana Nera ‘Speziale.’ Santa Venere, Calabria IGP, Agricoltura Biologica, 2015. 12.0%

We found this bottle in Tropea, Calabria. We thought Marsiglana might be uber-obscure but it is actually quite widely planted in its area in Calabria. It is not often made in purezza.


'Very unusual aroma and hard to describe... but lovely fragrance. Very sweet on the palate...offset by fresh acidity and tannins. Juicy and fresh.'

'Soft squidgy and a bit bloated...' 

Massaretta, Cima, Candia dei Colli Apuani DOC. 2014. 13.5%

At our tasting of Massaretta (aka Barsaglino) wines in 2015 (‘A lost corner of Tuscany...’ ) we fielded a bottle by Cima. It was corked which was a pity because Cima is considered to be a fine producer in the Colli Apuani (between Carrara and Massa Carrara) and the bottle had been very difficult to get hold of. 


'Very interesting and complex aroma...firm and dry with lots of layers and more freshness than I expected from the aroma and a long spicy finish...full and generous in the mouth...reminds me a bit of the Portuguese variety Alfrocheiro though the acidity is a little higher.'

'Delicate and feminine, cherry notes. I like this.' 

Nerello Cappuccio, ‘Il Monovitigno’ Benanti, Etna Rosso, Sicilia IGT, 2010. 13.5%

We always wondered why Nerello Cappuccio languished in the shadow of Nerello Mascalese. That is because the only Cappuccio we had ever sampled was this one by the great Benanti. Later we tried other Cappuccios and then we understood its casting in the second fiddle role. Again, Benanti's version scored with at least one person picking it out as their favourite.


'Intoxicating, mature aromas of black olive., senescent red fruit and the sweetness of dried cherry. Utterly seductive. Delicious and so persistent...'

'Quite stewed with red fruit, but nice despite that.'

Nero Buono, ’Apolide,’ Marco Carpineti, Lazio IGT, ‘Da uve biologiche.’ 2010. 14.5%

Carpineti is the best producer of this variety – one of Italy’s least known.


'Highly perfumed and spicy dark fruit. Thick chewy texture and still needs time - ot food. So full of flavour and so distinctive, it is a great advert for obscure varieties...'

'Tastes quite commercial. OK.'

Nieddera, Contini, Rosso della Valle del Tirso. Sardegna, IGT, 2015. 13.5%

Contini saved this variety from extinction and is Nieddera’s best producer.


'Smells sweetly seductive...Lovely ripe cherry character...Harmonious and lifted on the finish by a sour-tangy cherry freshness.'

'Savoury (coffee?)...Nice.

Nocera, ‘Arte,’ Mimmo Paone, Sicilia DOC, 2013. 14.5%

Once common, Nocera is now reduced to the area around Messina and in Calabria.


'Characterful and delicious.'

'Raspberry and apple tart on the nose. Really good.'

Petit Rouge, Torrette, La Source, Saint Pierre, Vallee D’Aoste IGP, 2014. 13.0%

Old and quite common Aosta variety, Petit Rouge is here blended with 10% of a rarer local grape called Vien de Nus in a DOC named Torrette.

A comment:

'Super-fresh, red fruits, fragrant. Lifted and inviting and just slightly peppery.'


Piedirosso, La Sibilla, Campi Flegrei DOC. 2015. 12.5%

Like Croatina, we wonder why Piedirosso isn’t a household name. Maybe it is in Napoli? After all, the favourite wines of the Venetians are Verduzzo and Raboso and not many outside Venice or the Veneto have heard of them.


 'Fresh and lightly peppery dark-red fruit, just slightly herbal... Overall subtle but persistant and a little more savoury on the finish. Really tangy aftertaste with that unmistakable Italianate 'bite'.'

Very nice! Herbaceous, meaty and fruity - but well balanced.'

*Sangiovese (65%) Foglia Tonda (35%) ‘Cenerentola,’ Donatella Cinelli Colombini, Orcia DOC, 2013. 14.5%

The Cinderella is presumably the Foglia Tonda. This wine was sold as Foglia Tonda but was subsequently discovered to be mainly Sangiovese plus Foglia Tonda thanks to ‘Native Wine Grapes of Italy’ (D’Agata). It was included in the tasting anyway and turned out to be the star of the show for at least one participant.

A comment:

'Spicy and a little meaty, with a touch of vanilla sweetness (oak?). Lively, spicy and generousin fruit with tangy freshness on the finish.'


Tamurro Nero, Tenuta Le Querce, Vino da Tavola, Barile, Basilicata.14.0%

Leonardo Pietrafesa found what he describes as this long lost vine in Pietragalla and recultivated it on his estate. He is the only one to grow this variety and make a single wine from it.

A comment:

'On the palate, very leathery and sweet...full and flavourful and the tannins are rounded...'

+Teran, ‘Rouge 10,’ Piquentum, Buzet, Istria and Kvarner, Croatia (NV), 12.2%

Teran or Terrano was thought to be Refosco del Peduncolo Rosso but it is an ancient stand alone variety. Confusingly it is identical to the Refosk of Slovenia.

A comment:

'I feel like I am in the wilds of the countryside with this. Delicious freshness, firm, fine chalky tannins, a real palate wakener but long too.'

Cornetta (aka Vernaccia di Cannara), Di Filippo, Colli Martani DOC. Vino Biologico, 2015. 14%

Not related to Vernaccia Nera you’ll be relieved to hear. Apparently the name Vernaccia di Cannara was preferred by producers to Cornetta, the real name of this grape. The wine is amabile (sweet). 

No comment;

By this time, everone seemed to have been 'noted-out.' The bottle was relatively small (500ml) but the contents were still very much in evidence after everyone had left. We drank small quantities of this over the next few days and were rather relieved when the bottle was empty. Perhaps not a ringing endorsement for Cornetta but it's no worse than most sweet red wines such as Kindzmarauli for example. 

+Italian grapes abroad.

Altogether a rather successful tasting - at least compared to some we have held.