Sunday 16 December 2018

Slotovino Awards 2018

The Slotovino Awards, 2018

Wine personality of the year - Georgi Natenadze
Sparkling White - Forty Hall Brut, Enfield, London
Sparkling Rose - La Vialla Mostovino, Toscana
White Wine - Maurer Bakator and Szeremi Zold, Serbia
Best English White - Forty Hall Ortega, Enfield, London
Orange Wine - Brand et Fils L'Oiseau et le Bouquet Muscat (Maceration), Alsace
Rose Wine - ArmAs Kamahryahut, Armenia
Red Wine - jointly Podere Gualandi and Sequerciani Foglia Tonda, Toscana
Light Red Wine - Abouriou by various producers, Marmande and Loire
Special award for the re-establishment of an endangered variety - 600 Grotte (Basilicata) for Guarnaccino
Special award for the preservation of traditional local winemaking techniques - Rasse family, St. Jeannet.
UK Winemerchant (London) - Vagabond Wines
Winemerchant (rest of world) - Cave L'Etiquette, Paris
Award for outstanding service to grape breeding - Vivai Cooperativo Rauscedo, Friuli
Wine Promotional Outlet - Enoteca Vini di Puglia, Ostunni
Wine Importer - Natural Born Wines, London
Worst Airport Duty Free - JFK T7
Best Airport Duty Free - Lisbon
Most Surprising Wine Discovery - Albania
Most interesting Wine Trend - Good Wine Everywhere
Most Pleasant Grape Discovery - Biancolella
Prediction for the year ahead - EU wines will be more expensive
Restaurant Winelist - Jose Avillez restaurants, Portugal
Best Kept Wine Secret - Belgium
Best Publication - Inventing Wine, Paul Lukacs
Various Accolades - Sam Doncaster and Paul Toop, Randall Grahm, Pierre Guigui, Michael Migliore, Niko and Konstantinos Mitroulis, Vincent Pugibet, Negrette and Schiava/Vernatsch varieties and Chris Lisney-Smith and Giuseppe Tendone.

Our Awards are now awarded according to the calendar year. Hopefully that will keep us punctual.

As ever, we make the rules and our decisions are final. Categories come and go, so because of an ill-advised decision never to give an award to the same recipient twice, we have for example run out of UK supermarkets so that award will no longer be given. Also, we seem not to be travelling around the country as much as we used to so there is no award any more for an outstanding winemerchant outside London (there are certainly many). As soon as we find one be sure we'll be happy to revive this category.

Finally, in every other prizegiving there are always honorable mentions so why not list some of the lovely people we have met and outstanding bottles we have enjoyed? We call these Various Accolades to avoid them seeming a lesser category - which they are not.

On the other hand, there are two new categories and one that has been revived;

New: Award for outstanding service to grape breeding

New: Special award for the preservation of traditional local winemaking techniques

New: Various Accolades

Revived: Best Wine Promotional Outlet

Wine personality of the year; 

Georgi Natenadze sitting under one of the wild vines he has discovered
GEORGI NATENADZE is a Georgian grape explorer, winemaker and estate owner. He is one of the few people who takes any interest in wild vines (the others we can think of include Robert Plageolles and Miguel Torres). 

In Natenadze's case he not only scrambles all over the countryside in Georgia but uses the grapes he finds to make wine. Plageolles tried that but found the wine no good. MiguelTorres we believe is coming out with wine made from 'savage' varieties but we don't think he or even Plageolles does the scrabbling.

Natenadze (left) at the 2018 Raw Wine Fair, London

Here he describes his activity in his own words;

" I have spent much of the past decade traipsing through mountain forests in search of ancient vines growing the way nature intended — up trees. I have found some vines that are more than 100 years old and one that I reckon is more than 400 years old. I have uncovered 40 rare grape varieties in the forests in the south of the country, near the border with Turkey, but I have only been able to identify 24 of them so far. Each year I makes a different wine from these ancient varieties at Natenadze’s Wine Cellar in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region" ...

In my Region it is first wine making after 16th century. Most of my grapes I collect from forest and oldest destroyed villages, mostly grape trees are more than 1-2 hundred years old and the biggest is more the 4 centuries old which is still alive and gives me the grape for my wine. "So I am making wild wines from volcanic mountaineer region where everything is wild and natural".

The minimum see level is 1000 meter and maximum (for vines) is 1650 meters. My wild wines are very limited production. I produce from 1 to 1200
bottles (from different grapes) in a year.
when you taste Meskhuri wine, you fill whole Meskhetian history legends and absolutely unique different aromas. Georgia is the first wine making country in the world and Georgian scientist think that birthplace for wine is Meskheti Region.

the wine is good too.

16/17 Valentin Blattner
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  

Sparkling White

FORTY HALL VINEYARD BRUT is the only wine produced commercially within the M25 ring road around London. It is sent to the Davenport vineyard in Sussex for vinification and bottling. Forty Hall is an enlightened organisation who give opportunities to the local community - some with learning difficulties - to tend the vineyard and dress the vines.

In case all that seems a bit extraneous to the actual business of choosing the very best sparling wine (including Champagne) tasted this year, we can say hand on heart that it is bloody good too!

16/17 Cleto Chiarli Moden Blanc Pignoletto (Grechetto Gentile)

Sparkling Rose of the year

We just loved LA VIALLA MOSTOVINO. We wrote;

This was far too good! Impossible to take just one glass. If Mostovino could be mass-produced it would fly off supermarket shelves.

White wine of the year;


Again a joint prize for 2 wines but from one winery, indeed the one and only Maurer Pincset of Hajdukovo, Serbia. We bought these wines a long time ago but have only just got around to drinking them.

First cane Szeremi Zold or Green of Szerem. This was a huge success which we shared with various connoisseurs with palates and expertise far above our own. Everyone agreed Szeremi Zold was a real find.

Bakator is yet another indiginous grape variety and the excitement on tasting this was if anything even greater.

We have bought a mixed case of the two from a winemerchant in Hungary called Vinoteka Sopron (recommended).

16/17 Olivier Lemasson, L'Indigene
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

Best English White;

FHV ORTEGA. Forty Hall Vineyard at Enfield, within the M25, London makes only two ines - an excellent sparkler from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier and this Ortega. Ortega is the unlikely name for a cross between Muelller-Thurgau and Siegerrebe. It can produce nicely aromatic wines as in our very first award in this category (Biddenden Gribble Bridge Ortega 2011/13). This one is on the more restrained part of the spectrum. It was a hit with our focus group.

16/17 Plumpton Estate Single Vineyard Chardonnay / Pinot Noir / Meunier 

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

Orange Wine of the year

great dry muscat made as an orange wine

BRAND ET FILS L'OISEAU ET LE BOUQUET MUSCAT (MACERATION). Just look at that colour! It's Orange alright. It is also the very definition of white wine with long maceration. In our view, such wines are good for almost every occasion and food combination. We bought it from Cave L'Etiquette in Paris (see below).

16/17 Amorgion Chrisefenios (Savatiano)
15/16 Paul Reder, 'Le Gris', Aramon Gris, Languedoc.

Rosé wine of the year

Dark Rose or Light Red, the Armenian ARMAS KAMAHRYAHUT is just so appealing that it has to get our award. Kamahryahut is an Armenian crossing originally intended for distillation as Stalin had decreed Georgia for table wine and Armenia for Brandy. It is a tribute to modern Armenian winemakers that they are able to use these grapes to make such attractive table wines.

ArmAs Kamahryahut has more character than most roses and is better served unchilled. Maybe it's a very light red but who cares when it is just so attractive?

16/17 Recanati, Gris de Marselan
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.

Red wine of the year;

Joint winners PODERE GUALANDI and SEQUERCIANI, growers of Foglia Tonda

Podere Gualandi Fogla Tonda

Guido Gualandi

Sequercuiani couple

The Foglia Tonda grape is our big discovery of 2018. It exists here and there in quite a few places in Toscana but few make a monovarietal. The result is quite marvellous in both these cases so we would like to share the award between these charming people. As D'Agata writes;

'Though Foglia Tonda is still a relatively unknown varity, everyone seems to agree that it has huge winemaking potential.'

16/17 Punta Crena Cruvin
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  

Light Red wine of the year

Abouriou Gaec Haut Planty

Abouriou from the Cave du Marmandaid cooperative

Abouriou also from the coop.

Abouriou from Elian Da Ros

ABOURIOU was the discovery of our debut at Wein Plus, Duesseldorf in 2016 but it is again only now after tasting a number of different examples that we are convinced Abouriou is a major if unsung light red variety, no less than Gamay for example.

16/17 Domaine de l'Oriel Pinot Noir D'Alsace
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;

two of the 3 x 600 Grotte team: Giuseppe Crescente, Lauria Lauria and Vincenzo De Santo

This award is for whoever among the above named trinity actually saw to it that the uber-obscure variety Guarnaccino has been brought to the level of being able to support the making of two examples of red wine and one rose. The 600 Grotte estate is in Chiaromonte, Basilicata.

When we say 'uber-obscure' we really mean it; 'Wine Grapes' doesn't mention it and D'Agata says he knows almost nothing about it, never having encountered an example in all his travels.                                                              

16/17 Emilio Bulfon
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


*New: Special award for the preservation of traditional local winemaking techniques

Bonbonnieres here

Bonbonnieres there

and everywhere

Georges Rasse

The RASSE FAMILY, ST. JEANNET have been making wine according to an original recipe for many years. That technique includes the elevage en bonbonnières or leaving the wine to mature in the glass part of Demijohns - without the protective covouring so that the sun may get to the wine through the glass. This ages the wine in the most remarkable way. Firstly, the wine is not in need of sulphur for some reason and secondly, the sun in St. Jeannet shines, it seems, for 300 days every year, making the sulphuring unneccesssary.

M. Georges Rasse says that when he was born, the village of St. Jeannet had a population of 700 and everone was a vigneron. Now there are 4,000 inhabitants and only two vignerons, he and his brother Paul. We can truly say that they are the last ones to preserve the highly idiosyncratic technique of winemaking. 

Furthermore, Georges Rasse has started to propagate the historic St. Jeannet grape variety lost to the village some 100 years ago but still grown in Argentina where it was planted by St. Jeannet emigrants.

UK Winemerchant of the Year (London);

VAGABOND WINES Again, we seem to be the last to know. Clearly we don't get out enough. Swarms of cool young people patronise Vagabond Wine bars in Victoria, Soho (Charlotte Street), Fulham and two in Battersea (the Power Station and Northcote Road).

There are sampling machines galore with over 100 wines you can taste which they point out helps make that important decision what to have with your meal.

You can also buy their wines there for the 'off ' price which is what we did. Two fascinating and unique bottles: a Tardana (aka Planta Nova) from Bodegas Gratias, Manchuela and a Devin or Deviner from Slovakia - a local cross between Gewurztraminer and Roter Veltliner.

The selection is really well informed, eclectic and cutting edge. They import a lot of their wines themselves and even have their own flying winemaker. 

As well as all that, the Battersea Power Station branch actually has Vagabond's own Urban Winery attached so you can see wine being made as well as tasting and drinking it. As their website has it;

Book your table or drop in and check out our urban winery for yourself, you will likely catch our winemaker topping up barrels and tending to his tanks!

16/17 Winesensations
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 world) 

Herve Letheilleux at one of his weekly tastings

CAVE L'ETIQUETTE, Paris, Ile St. Louis. Herve Letheilleux is your host. He never buys a wine without having personally visited the winery and met the vigneron. the wines are all natural and most are organic, biodynamic and otherwise the opposite of industrial.

Herve's stock turns over at a rate of knots so whereas you may return to try to buy the same again and find it no longer there, other interesting wines will have taken its place.

Make plenty of time to browse because although small the shop is packed with bottles that tell a story. There is also a free show with every customer who comes in. Many are Herve's regulars who are also his copains. Others may be unsuspecting ingenues who get the Herve treatment consisting of challenging answers to innocent questions. It's all great fun.

16/17 Grau
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

*New: Award for outstanding service to grape breeding

VCR headquarters, Rauscedo

Mature vines

Baby vines

Amazing trellising with bird protection

Just a few of the 80 million vines produced annually

The all-important cold store
VCR - Vivai Cooperativo Rauscedo is the largest and most important vine nursery in the world. Their vines trusted as healthy and virus-free everywhere. Incredibly most Argentinian Malbec vines are sourced from Rauscedo as the local nurseries are not as reliable.

Their researches are producing resistant versions of the most familiar varieties as well as new hybrids.

Dr. Stefano Battistella, VCR Export Sales Manager

These include Sauvignon Nepsis and Sauvignon Rytos Sauvignon Kretos, Merlot Khorus, Cabernet Volos, and our favourites Fleurtai and Soreli.

Best Wine Promotional Outlet

This is a category we have used a couple of times before but not for a while.

This year there was one outstanding example for which we are reviving the title;

Nondescript from the outside

an Aladdin's cave on the inside

Silvestro presiding

ENOTECA VINI DI PUGLIA, OSTUNI. In this shop (actually more like a wine-warehouse) the only wine is Puglian. The presiding Genius, Silvestro knows where to find whatever it is you are looking for. He is a font of knowledge and the dearest person you could hope to meet.

A great ambassador for the captivating wines of Puglia.

So much more than Primitivo. D'Agata lists the following native varieties in addition;

Bianco d'Alessano
Bombino Bianco

Bombino Nero

Malvasia Bianca
Malvasia Nera
Moscato Bianco
Negro Amaro
Uva di Troia 

You might not find all of these at the Enoteca Vini di Puglia but it is doubtful anywhere else will have more than they do.

2011/12                   Georgian Wines at the Real Wine Fair, London
2010/11                    Vini nuovi Tai, Aeroporto Marco Polo, Venezia
2009/10                    Museo del Vino, Malaga
2008/09                    Vini Portugal, Porto, Lisbon

Best UK Supermarket;


16/17 Lid
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

Oli Hudson at Broadway Market
NATURAL BORN WINE. We're going to stick our necks out here; this small company was only founded in 2016 but we love it and reckon it has 'legs.'

Oli Hudson is a very nice person and with his partner Sam Rogg is working as hard as possible to bring you some of the most interesting Natural Wines imaginable. They specialise in small low-intervention vineyards.

We bought wines made from an eclectic variety of grapes including Negroamaro, Nero di Troia, Nosiola and blends of Vernaccia Rosa/Sangiovese and a Rose from Cinsault/Grenache/Mourvedre.

Vernaccia Rosa is unknown to any authority by the way. The nearest might be Vernaccia Rossa which D'Agata tells us is Aleatico.

NBW present their wines nicely packaged with full notes tied with rustic string
Be that as it may, we tasted some of Natural Born Wines samples and were amazed to find their Negroamaro for instance completely different and more attractive than any we had had previously.

Sparkling bottle fermented Nosiola sui lieviti. Cantina Furlani, Trentino
Most of NBW's wines are from Italy. Hudson and Rogg set up their stalls at various London markets including  Broadway, Deptford, Primrose Hill, Victoria Park and Hackney on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Their wines are of course available online. Delivery in London is free if you spend over £40.

Give them a go!

16/17 Tannico
15/16 Winemakers Club

Worst Airport Duty Free

That's All Folks.


16/17 Perugia
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;                                   

Does any other airport duty free have a section like this?

LISBON. The only Airport Duty Free where there is a separate section for Native Grapes!

Among our basket was this delicious Azores' wine made from Merlot, Saborinho and Cabernet Franc. Saborinho is the local name for Negramoll. In most so-called Duty Free shops - unthinking, unfeeling and profit-obsessed - suppliers actually pay to have their wines on sale. Industrial is the word. Here someone has taken the trouble to present a selection of the country's vast range of wines so people can explore and enjoy rather than be exploited.

16/17 Venice, Aeroporto Marco Polo
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;

Yes, Albania

Muharrem Cobo
ALBANIAN WINE. At Megavino, Brussels we had the pleasure of discovering Albanian wine thanks to Muharrem Cobo of Cobo Wines, one of the leading Albanian producers.

We were perhaps not surprised to see Albanian wine even if it was for the first time but we were bowled over by the quality of that wine and the excellence of the local grape varieties Puls (or Pules), Vlosh and Shesh white and red.

This feeds into our next category 'Most interesting wine trend' below.

16/17 Zara Armenian wine
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;               

GOOD WINE EVERYWHERE. Our visit to the Megavino wine fair at Brussels drove home the realisation that good wine is now being produced everywhere. The Vinolution is well and truly underway.

In a short space of time countries unknown for the production of good wine are turning out astonishingly good bottles meriting international attention.

The trigger was Albanian wine (see above). Thanks to its geographical position, Albania should have been producing good wine all along but its peculiar history has not only made that impossible but has left the assumption that it was inconceivable.

Take away religious prohibition and political stagnation and you have an almost immediate flowering of the most heartening kind. Somehow the local grape varieties have persisted all along and winemaking traditions have been handed down through generations.

Amazing Japanese Cabernet Sauvignon

Perfect Chinese Aglianico
On the other side of the world, thanks to imported knowhow and varieties, marvellous wine is now being made in China and Japan. Around our discovery of Albanian wines we were lucky enough to be served outstanding Japanese Cabernet Sauvignon and Chinese Aglianico. Just yesterday, Chinese wine was nowhere near that level and Japan was known only for their Koshu - a vinifera grape of obscure origin making delightful whites in the right hands (meaning in practice one winery - Grace).

If Albanian wine feeds into this category of award, then Good Wine Everywhere feeds in to our award for Best Publication below in which Paul Lukacs demonstrates the fact that wine as we know it is a very recent invention.

16/17 New World wines begin to taste Old World.

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 Grape Discovery;

Home made Biancolella was some of the best

Look at that colour.
BIANCOLELLA is pleasant and is a surprise because at its best it is one of the most delightful vineous experiences you can have.

There are plenty of marvellous grape varieties of all kinds and many of them would be an earlier choice than Biancolella, restricted as it is to a small area in Campania and an even smaller one in Lazio. Also, not all Biancolella wines are equal.

However, when a truly excellent example comes your way, it is an outstandingly pleasant experience.

Our photo shows a home-made Biancolella by Gerardo at his restaurant on Ponza. D'Agata writes;

All Biancolella wines have the potential to be delicious, with complexity and depth of flavour uncommon in many Italian white wines...

16/17 New York wine on UK supermarket shelves. 
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; 

BREXIT: EU WINES WILL GET SIGNIFICANTLY MORE EXPENSIVE. Obvious, but the exact effect is impossible to guage. Will prices leap so high that there will be a race to the bottom, quality-wise? Will supply dwindle to nothing? Will America supplant France? South America Spain? Will native production explode? Will we all emigrate? Who knows?

When the question of next year's operation was raised with our grape supplier, Chris Lisney-Smith of the Wine Grape Club, Hatfield, his answer was 'Don't ask.' But surely wine will not get any cheaper.

16/17 Reduced alcohol wine-based drinks
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;  

Jose Avilles's innovative tablet replaces the winelist

JOSE AVILLES is a Michelin starred chef who is also an amazing entrepreneur; Portugal's Alain Ducasse. He owns and runs several restaurants all over the country and they are probably all good based on our experience of two of them in Lisbon.

As in all good restaurants, care has been lavished on the winelist and in the case of his Cantinho do Avillez restaurant in Lisbon. We wrote;

There we encountered the first winelist on a tablet we had ever seen. At the top there is a description of the wine - in this case

Country; Portugal
Appellation; Vinhos Verdes
Grape Variety; Alvarinho

and then a list of dishes 'Best with' - "peixinhos da Horta", Beef Tartare, Bt Egg, Cantinho Salad, Cherry Gazpacho, Mushroon Risotto, Octopus, Professor Eggs, Roasted Cheese, Sausage with cornbread, Scallops, Shrimp, Tuna Tartare, Vegetable Curry, Vegetable Tangine, Barrosa Burger.

You can click on Wines by the glass, Natural Wine, Red, Champagne and Sparkling, White etc. and receive similar information on every entry. Perfect. Note to all other restauranteurs worldwide, please copy.

16/17 Portland
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;

BELGIAN WINE. Last year it was Dutch wine so you might think it is inevitable that it is Belgian Wine this year.

Well not quite. Firstly, Belgium has the smallest wine production of any Western European country, far smaller even than Luxembourg so it is a surprise to most people that there is such a thing at all as Belgian wine. What entitles Belgian wine to our award for the best kept wine secret is the interesting range and quality of the wines now hopefully emerging from that country.

Hardly exported at all, Belgian wine is a true secret but one worth telling.

Here are just a few of the Belgian wines we tasted and enjoyed at Megavino;

Domaine Chenoy Muscat Bleu Vin de Liqueur
Domaine Viticole Grafe-Wuyts Perle de Wallonie sparkling wine from Johanniter, Bronner, Merzling and Helios
Schorpion Methode Traditionelle Brut from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier
La Mazelle Auxerrois
Chateau Bon Baron Acolon
Wijndomein Waes Rood, Vlaamse Landwijn from Rondo, Leon Millot and Regent

16/17 Dutch Wine
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;

N/A. We didn't taste anything new this year; probably our loss.

16/17 Biddenden Gribble Bridge Dornfelder
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 publication;


First published in 2012, this book has only come into our ken recently and we're glad to have caught up with is because it is even more relevant today than then.

In a nutshell, the book posits that although very ancient indeed, what we think of as wine is a very recent invention. You can forget about what passed for wine before the invention of glass bottles and airtight cork closures, so that takes care of the first 7,700 years for a start. Next, apart from some fine wine, you can dismiss the drink people drank because water was not potable which takes us well into the 19th century.

Between the outbreak of Powdery Mildew in European vineyards in 1845 and the end of the 2nd World War exactly 100 years after there was a lost century due as well as Powdery Mildew to Phylloxera of course, Downy Mildew, Prohibition, Depression and two world wars.

The engine for progress began only with the solution to the diseases and the inauguration in 1935 of the system of Appellation d'Origine Controlee in France which gradually ensured that what was in the bottle was what was stated on the label.

Only from the early 1960s approximately, techniques and practices were introduced and are: now universally used: high standards of hygeine, the use of stainless steel tanks and the introduction of temperature controlled fermentation. All these things arrived within living memory and have transformed wine out of all recognition.

So as mentioned above, good wine is found everywhere now. Prof. Lukacs forsaw this 6 years ago but it has happened to a great extent even in that short time and continues to develop in a thrilling way.

Lukacs is actually a professor of English at a US university (Loyola University of Maryland, Baltimore) but has an enduring interest in wine and has published three books: "American Vintage" (James Beard, IACP, and Cliquot award winner) and "The Great Wines of America" (Gourmand award winner) as well as "Inventing Wine". The book is a compelling read and leaves you wanting to meet the author.

16/17 'Phylloxera' by Christy Campbell
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 

*New: Miscellaneous Accolades

Just a few high spots of our year:

Paul Toop and Sam Doncaster

Another great pleasure was meeting these two friends who share a strong belief in the vines produced by Valentin Blattner. Paul is a Canadian working in a vineyard on Vancouver Island and Sam is a Brit with strong connections in Germany where he has worked for many years as well as the UK. Their seminar at Plumpton College was a real eye-opener for the students and even the staff there, arguing that we may have no choice other than to plant resistant varieties once the soil has been saturated by chemicals.

Randall Grahm

Out of the blue one day last year we received an email from Randall Grahm. We assumed it was spam only because we couldn't imagine such an august person would write to little old us. However, it really was the great man himself, interested in our obsession with Ramisco. He was researching varieties to plant at his new-ish vineyard at Popelouchum, California. Ones with 'preternatural life force.' Later we read in the New Yorker he has planted Rosses and Furmint. 


Pierre Guigui

The benign spirit behind the 'Concours Amphore' and much else in Paris

Image result for michael Migliore whitecliff

Michael Migliore

It had long been an ambition to visit Whitecliff Vineyards in the Hudson Valley New York and meet Michael Migliore who pioneers local Cornell produced hybrids such as Traminette and Noiret. Our visit was serendipity itself as the charming Michael had opened up the Cellar door to some visitors who had just preceded us and we were able to learn about his long experience in the area and buy two wines including these grapes.

Niko and Konstantinos Mitroulis

We had the pleasure of meeting the charming Niko and Konstantinos Mitroulis, father and son at Megavino, Brussels. They specialise in Limnio in Northern Greece and make a soft and lovely wine called Philosophia

Vincent Pugibet

Another vigneron of an enquiring mind. Vincent and his father Francois Pugibet of Domaine La Colombette have planted many cutting edge no-spray varieties from Valentin Blattner and the Vivai Cooperativo Rauscedo and others at their properties near Beziers in the Languedoc. They are aiming at what Blattner calls the 20/20 vineyard; per hectare - 20 hours of work per annum for a yield of 20 tonnes of grapes. With everything done mechanically they can almost achieve this practically without any treatments. Interesting wines too.


Varieties we have kept coming back to

Negrette - as long as it's not blended with Syrah and Schiava/Vernatsch as long as it's not blended with Lagrein.

Chris Lisney-Smith and Giuseppe Tendone

Chris (The Wine Grape Club) has been importing grapes from Italy (Puglia and Sicilia) and Spain (Valencia) mainly for the Italian and Spanish communities in the UK since 1978 - so practically since the UK joined the EU. We have been buying grapes from his warehouse in Hatfield only in the last couple of years. Here he is with his Puglian supplier Giuseppe Tendone, a charming person based in the UK who imports olive oil and other products such as Taralli from the family farm at Ruvo, near Bari. Let's hope the Wine Grape Club can survive Brexit. 

Let's hope we can all survive Brexit.