Tuesday 27 March 2018

In praise of Fattoria La Vialla

Not having heard of Fattoria La Vialla before we read about it on an Italian site where it had won prizes in a tasting of Organic wine.

Their site is rather extraordinary. Their enthusiasm for their ecological mission is palpable. We can't begin to describe it, so take a look and you'll see.

Ordering is made by post through the order form.

La Vialla produce all sorts of foods and drinks but they are not available in shops. You have to order them directly and they sell in quantities of 6 or more in the case of wine and others respectively in foodstuffs.

We were interested in only a few of their products and they were kind enough to agree to send us smaller quantities as a sample,

We bought

La Casotta

A red wine called 'La Casotta.' An interesting blend of Pugnitello and Malvasia Nera (30% each), Aleatico (20%), Colorino and Sangiovese (10% each). 

14% Abv. A bit of a winter-warmer but original and memorable.

Mostovino dolce leggiero

Something called Mostovino (7% Abv), which is mostly Sangiovese (96%) with tiny amounts of Canaiolo and Aleatico. 

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

Olive oil, red wine vinegar, penne rigate and linguine

as well as red wine vinegar and some pasta.

Vino Novo Sangiovese

Due to some confusione in our order, La Vialla sent us a complimentary bottle of their 'Vino Novo' (Sangiovese in purezza, 14% Abv). 

We found out that as well as their missionary zeal in the production of all these items they have a delivery regime second to none. First they tell you when they're going to deliver (and that is without delay) then they give an update and before you know it a nice person is at your doorstep with the goods. In our case the order came in two shipments, no doubt in order to avoid any delay. Payment was not requested until after delivery in our case and was made simple by La Vialla having set up a UK bank account and pricing in Sterling.

La Casotta came in this handsome box

The next extraordinary thing was the packaging. This can only be described as exquisite. Goodness knows how they balance their books!

The shipments came with all sorts of literature including two thick books - a catalogue and a book of recipes. Everything is in their own cute font.

All of this was beyond delightful and we thought we had made a unique discovery until a leaflet fell out of our Saturday newspaper from, you guessed it Fattoria La Vialla.

They are already established in other countries and now it's our turn.

Book No. 47. La Vialla have been going many years already

Saturday 24 March 2018

The Blattner tasting.

Valentin Blattner

Our researches into grape breeding have taken us to Geisenheim, Geilweilerhof, Freiburg-im-Breisgau in Germany, Cornell University at Geneva New York and to Valentin Blattner, private grape breeder of Soyhieres, Switzerland.


These have been fascinating visits and we urge every winelover to try one of these institutions for themselves. They will be welcomed by charming dedicated people and have the opportunity to taste or buy wines especially bred to resist diseases (notably powedry and downy mildew) leading to the reduction or elimination of chemical sprays.


Some of these new varieties are better than others. All are hybrids. There is some truth in what Jose Vouillarmoz has said in that there are so few good wines made from these grapes that perhaps until there are more they should be called something other than wine. That is a bit hard and there are plenty of wines from vinifera varieties that are so bad as to merit another name.


One of the best PIWI (Pilzwiderstandsfähig or Fungus resistant) wines we know - and one that can definitely be called wine is made from Cabernet Jura which is one of Valentin Blattner's varieties. We have also tasted a marvellous wine from Regent, one of Geiweilerhof's best productions. Solaris and Cabernet Cortis bred by Freiburg have also produced good wines in our opinion.

Cornell's New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, Geneva (NY)

A lot of these are complicated crosses of varieties that are less than distinguished in themselves. Where Valentin Blattner differs from the others is in taking high quality varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon (which he uses in the majority* of cases) but also Viognier and others and wedding them to what he calls a 'Resistenzpartner,' the identity of which is a closely guarded secret. In this way, it seems to us he retains more quality than otherwise.

Paul Troop (left) and Sam Doncaster

We were lucky enough to meet the two greatest proponents of the Blattner school in the English speaking world at least: Paul Troop of Saltspring Island Vineyards on Vancouver Island and Sam Doncaster who is one of the foremost authorities on Blattner varieties and has worked  extensively in vineyard establishment and management, grafting, winemaking and wine sales. Paul has planted about 150 varieties of which 10 are now in production. Both have known Valentin Blattner for many years.

The duo invited us to what must be a unique tasting - perhaps the first ever comprehensive survey of Blattner varieties with wine from from two continents which Sam had been collecting for a number of years and squirreling away under his bed as he told us.

Here is a list of some of the 24 wines they presented;

Rummel (Pfalz), Cabernet Blanc Sparkling
Rummel, Cabernet Blanc (still), 2014, '15 and '16
Graf von Weyher (Pfalz), Cabernet Blanc
Stockel Hoos, Cabernet Blanc, 2015, '16
Schneider, Cal 06-04, 'Namenlos'
Rummel California
Rummel Rose
Unsworth, Sauvignette,
Rummel, Cabertin
Unsworth, Cabernet Libre
Patenwein VB-91-26-29, 2015
Les Mergats, Cabernet Jura, 2015 (Blattner's own production)
Schneider, Pinotin
Leiner, Laurot, 2016
Michlovsky, Rinot, 2015
Metz, Cabernet Noir

Those attending in the impressive purpose-built tasting room at the Plumpton College Wine Centre included students and academic staff.

Paul Troop gave a fascinating detailed account of PIWI varieties and Blattner's work in particular. A surprising amount of this information appeared to be news to some of those present and a lively discussion followed. The Plumpton community was impressively focussed on practicalities and probed both Paul and Sam numerous times from this point of view. Paul and Sam's answers were frequently along the lines of there soon being no choice but to perfect PIWI varieties if the alternative is ever increased use of an ever diminishing amount of authorised chemical sprays. These answers were convincing and so the exercise appeared to be valuable indeed.

On to the wines, it became clear that the white Blattner varieties, Cabernet Blanc, 'Namenlos' (Nameless, CAL-06-04) and Ravel (VB 37-2) are aromatic. For our taste, very tasty indeed.

The reds are maybe more mainstream. We have already paid tribute to Cabernet Jura and Cabernet Noir in this blog. Indeed, we have chosen Cabernet Noir for replacing our unloved Triomphe D'Alsace vines in our little experimental vineyard in the Thames Valley this year. The fact that these and other Blattner reds are obtained from Cabernet Sauvignon (+ 'Resistenzpartner') makes them more attractive than other PIWI hybrids as we have said and that is, for us the main strength of Valentin's work.

* He has also produced good varieties from varieties including Bacchus and Seyval as Seed Parents and Marechal Foch and Leon Millot among others as Pollen Parents.

Pules i Bylyshit

Seen on p. 859 or 'Wine Grapes'


Minor Albanian white




Pules most likely originates in the Berat region in south-central Albania but its ampelographic identity is still obscure because two reference vines called Pules i Bylyshit, sampled in Tepelene in Southern Albania, turned out to have distinct and unique DNA profiles in Ladoukakis et al. (2005) and it is not known which of the two is the true-to-type Pules.


Thursday 22 March 2018

The 'Beyond the pale' tasting.

Section 1. The conservative wine-lover.

     We  sent a bottle of Pineau D'Aunis to a client on his birthday with the request that he sent us his impressions. We knew he had never tasted this grape despite being French and a wine connoisseur.

He answered;

You asked our verdict about the wine which we opened yesterday with friends... Honestly it was just terrible ! (laughs). We couldn't drink it. You should never buy this one again ! But please don't worry : we keep the fondest memories of the wonderful chocolates ! 

Pineau D'Aunis. 2015. Vin de France. Vendome, Loir et Cher. Brendan Tracey. 12.5%

Image result for bernard Tracey pineau d'aunis

We thought it might be interesting to taste a few wines which would probe the limits of what a group of friends might define as wine.

Encouragingly they found this wine rather to their liking which made understanding the Frenchman's reaction a bit difficult.


Champagne Gruet brut NV, Cuvee Arbane (100% Arbane). Buxeuil. 12% 

This Champagne is 100% Arbane, the most obscure of the 7 permitted Champagne grapes (Pinots Noir, Blanc and Meunier, Chardonnay, Petit Meslier and Semillon are the others). There is less than 1 hectare left of Arbane and those vines are very old. Jancis Robinson may be right in saying Arbane is perhaps not the future as far as Champagne is concerned but I hope this bottle is as pleasurable as we have found Arbane to be in the past. Diversity is surely something to which we can subscribe?

As expected, this went down very well.  Tasters found individuality and pleasurableness. Not all were aware of Arbane and few had tasted it in purezza. A good start.

* * *

Section 2. Varieties bred to combat vine diseases that might have destroyed Vitis Vinifera and left us with these as alternatives. 

Uhudler. Trummer, Stegersbach, Burgenland. (Clinton, Concord, Delaware, Isabella?) 10%

Before we get too judgemental about Pineau D'Aunis and other 'Cepages modestes' we should remember what we might have been drinking had a solution to the problem of Phylloxera not been found and had Vitis Vinifera been wiped out 100 years ago.

This really put the cat among the pigeons. It is not likely any of our wine buffs had ever tasted wine from the old American varieties, Most remarkable, one thought was the strong strawberry taste,

Henry of Pelham Baco Noir 2015. Vqa Ontario. 13% 

Phylloxera isn’t the only threat to grapes. Shortly before that plague, Powdery Mildew had become entrenched in vineyards. The French accused the British and others saw America as the origin. Baco Noir was obtained in 1902 by crossing Folle Blanche with a Vitis Riparia called Grand Glabre possibly with Vitis Riparia ordinaire. The use of Vitis Riparia instead of Vitis Labrusca avoided the foxy flavours of the above. European plantings of Baco Noir have dwindled but it still thrives in North America, especially Ontario.

Far more like wine than Uhudler. Nonetheless everyone ran for the spitoon and later this may have been one to have been poured down the sink.

* * *

Section 3, other crossings and hybrids for different purposes. 

Turan ‘Mocus’ Losonci. 2015. Gyongyos, ‘Terra Hungarica.’ 2015.

Turan is an extreme test of one’s definition of wine. Can it have been made with grapes one is tempted to ask. The ultimate Marmite wine? It is a 1964 hybrid from Bikaver 8/Kadarka cross and Gardonyi Geza which in turn is a Menoire/Csaba Gyongye cross although to what end is not clear. It is used in the Eger region in Egri Bikaver blends and has been planted in British Columbia where it is known as Agria.

NB. In English, Mocus = a medical condition related to alcohol abuse (!)

It had been hoped that this would have sprked a debate as to how to define wine and whether this might make it under any definition but everyone rather liked it, unique though its red-muscat taste is.

* * *

Section 4. Wines from Vinifera varieties without any crossing or hybridisation. 

Glinavos Sparkling wine 'Pailiokairisio.' Ioannina, Epirus, Greece. (Vlahiko and Debina). 10.5%

Made from two uncommon Greek varieties (a red and a white respectively), Paliokairisio (Old Times) doesn't resemble any other wine or fit into any category really. People say they enjoy it but wouldn't know when to drink it or what to drink it with. Should that mean it ought not to exist?

As soon as this was poured into a glass it rased a laugh. Tasters had heard of White wine, Red wine and Orange wine, but Brown wine? they were flummoxed by the strong cidery taste and again we had something they didn't call wine.

Szeremi Zold. 2015. Maurer. Hajdukovo, Vojevodina. Serbia. 11%

This is another extremely rare variety (Syrmia Green) from another great producer, Oszkar Maurer, devoted to working with rare local varieties (you won’t find Szeremi Zold in ‘Wine Grapes’). His estate, now in Serbia is just over the border from Hungary. Syrmia is a fertile region of the Pannonian Plain which lies between the Danube and the river Sava. We suggested that this is a variety, although individual, even our French client might not have too much trouble with. We think it proves that a variety can be great as well as obscure.

The company gave a firm thumbs up to this one.

Mando. 2015. Bodegas Abadal, Bages (Catalunya). 12.5%

Mando or Mandon proves there are many other little known varieties which have great merit and would not frighten the horses. In 2008 there was only 1 hectare left but there have been new plantings since.

This was also a hit.

Abouriou 2015. Terre d’Abouriou. Cote du Marmandais. Cave du Marmandais, Vignobles du Sud-Ouest. 12.5%

Abouriou was actually unknown until 1882 when a man called Numa Nauge presented a chance seedling found by a farmer 40 years previously growing up the wall of a castle in the Lot-et-Garonne. By the 1950s there were over 600 ha. in France and a few in California. In 2008 there remained 338 ha. In France.

Several well known grapes owe their popularity today to individuals. Godello on the verge of extinction - down to several hundred vines in the 1970s when Horacio Fernandez and Luis Hidalgos reversed the tide.

Michel Aimé Pouget brought cuttings of Malbec from France to Argentina in 1868 but as late as the 1980s the variety had declined to 9,000 ha. and had dwindled in Bordeaux to 1% having been the dominant variety in the mid 19th century. The revival in Argentina was thanks to the Italian winemaker and consultant Roberto Cipresso and subsequently to others including Nicola Catena Zapata. Only since 1995 has it been the predominant grape in Argentina. Now Cahors – the original home of the variety - markets itself as Malbec.

Abouriou is presently championed by the Cave du Marmandais co-operative and the Couillaud brothers in the Loire Atlantique.

We can’t imagine why this variety hasn’t caught on yet. We might send a bottle to mour French friend for his next birthday. If he likes it who knows?

 Abouriou was another hit to end up with.

Wednesday 21 March 2018

False Friends at RAW

There were more than one false friends at the RAW London fair this year. Here was the first.

Bastard Negre caught the eye at the Mas de Serral Pepe Raventos table. We were told it was not related to Bastardo but Pepe didn't add that it is in fact none other than Graciano - a fact mentioned on his website.


 Never mind, there ws the promise of a Turan from Toscana. Everyone knows our fascination for the Hungarian cross Turan from Eger, no? We know it is grown in British Columbia under the name Agria, so it was not a total surprise to find it grown also in Italy.

A British winemaker in Toscana, Toby Owen had a wine called Turan so we made for his stand with high hopes. Sadly, this turned out to be another wild goose chase. Turan is also the name of the Etruscan God of Love, Fertility and Vitality and Toby's wine was made from good old Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Sangiovese.

Then there was the strange case of Procanico from Fattoria La Maliosa, Meremma.

Sra. Antonella Maruli responded to our question about what went into her Bianco with "Procanico!" Now we knew we knew Procanico but couldn't remember exactly how. Later, we were reminded that Procanico is nothing but Trebbiano Toscano. We didn't even taste this wine and now regret that. Not only because we think criticism of Trebbiano Toscano is sometimes unfair but because La Maliosa's website tells an interesting story of a vineyard restored and a variety, Trebbiano/Procanico rosa revived.

Strangely Ian D'Agata's otherwise authoratative 'Native Wine Grapes of Italy' doesn't mention Procanico at all except for a phantom listing in the index. there page 42 is given but there is no mention of Procanico on that page, nor on pages 41 or 43. Wine Grapes doesn't mention Trebbiano or Procanico Rosa.

Turning to D'Agata's entry on Trebbiano Toscano however, he does state '...there are some biotypes of Trebbiano, most likely the result of viral infections, that strike me as possibly being higher quality. For example, old vines of a Trebbiano Toscano characterised by pinkish, almost red berries (when fully ripe) yield a much deeper more falvourful wine ....'

Trebbiano/Procanico Rosa

Returning to La Maliosa's website, we read;

The Procanico belongs to the Trebbiano family and is also known as the “Trebbiano rosa”. Formerly cultivated in the Maremma and the Tuscan archipelago, the varietal has almost completely been abandoned in recent decades, due to its inadaptability to mechanization and a tendency, especially in Tuscany, towards international varieties with less complex tastes.

The Procanico has small to medium cylindrical clusters with its namesake pink colour at maturation. It has a contained vigour and hardiness that allows it to withstand adverse weather conditions like high summer temperatures, droughts and storms common in these territories during harvest. It produces a wine with a complex structure, ancient and strong flavours with tannins that are surprising for a white wine, but well harmonized in a complexity of fruits, medicinal herbs and hints of honey.

So maybe a true friend, this one?

Tuesday 20 March 2018

RAW Real Artisan Wine, 2018

RAW (always in caps) is trademarked. The subtitle is 'The artisan drinks fair'. We assumed that RAW is an acronym for Real Artisan Wine but perhaps it is just the word 'raw' as in 'uncooked'?

No matter, the fair has been going since 2012 and has now spawned fairs in Berlin, New York and Los Angeles. The founder and moving spirit Isabelle Legeron MW has also written books on Natural Wine and deserves all possible credit for arguing the case for what she calls living wine. That case is still not won but it makes inroads with every fair.

The London fair has seen ups and downs over the years. 2018 was definitely vintage.

As ever, we concentrated on the lesser known grape varieties of which there was a bumper crop. We earmarked 20 of the 150 exhibitors for special attention and were not disappointed.

Giorgi NatEnadze with one of his wild vine discoveries

The rarest, most obscure varieties were to be found at table 71, Natenadze's Wine Cellar, Samtskhe-Javakheti, Georgia. To whit:

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 oldand 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.

 Giorgi Natenadze.

This variety must be the strangest of all with grapes of all known colours
Asked exactly which of these wild varieties went into his wines, Mr. Natenadze wrote us the following list;

Meshkuri Tetri (White); Akhaltsikhuri-tetri, Chitiskverstkha-tetri, Udis-tetri, Meskhuri and Mtsvane.

Meshkuri Red; Tskhenis dzudzu tetri (Horse Breast White), Meshkuri Sapere, Meskuri Kharistvala. 

His website is gthe best source of information about his fascinating operation:

Giorgi Natenadze (left) and team at RAW

About Meskheti and Natenadze's Wine Cellar
Region Samtskhe-Javakheti, historical name - Meskheti

My region Samtskhe-Javakheti (Meskheti) was occupied for 3 centuries by Ottomans (Turks). They destroyed wine yards and wine villages, they destroyed all local endemic grape species and today I decided to research, study, identify and multiply oldest Meskhetian vines.

... " 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.
 Qvevri Wines (4-6 month skin contact in Qvevri)

1) Meskhuri Red 2009
 -  grapes: Meskhuri Sapere, Meskhuri Tskhenis dzudzu tetri, Kharistvala Shavi. 
1) Meskhuri Red 2010 -  grapes: Meskhuri Sapere, Meskhuri Tskhenis dzudzu tetri, Kharistvala Shavi.
2) Meskhuri Red 2012 - grapes:  Meskhuri Sapere, Meskhuri Tskhenis dzudzu tetri, Kharistvala Shavi. 
3) Meskhuri Red 2015 - grapes:  Meskhuri Sapere, Meskhuri Tskhenis dzudzu tetri, Kharistvala Shavi. 
4) Meskhuri Mtsvane, white 2013 - grape Meskhuri Mtsvane (only 5 grape tree in region).
5) Meskhuri Mtsvane, white 2015 - grape Meskhuri Mtsvane (only 5 grape tree in region).
6) Tamaris Vazi, Red 2015  -  grape: Tamaris Vazi, 1st time of its production in 2015. 
7) Chachkari, Rose 2015 - grape: Kapnis Kurdzeni, 1st time of its production in 2015. 
8) Akhaltsikhuri Tetri - white 2015 - grape: Akhaltsikhuri Tetri - 1st time of its production in 2015. 
9) Natenadzis Tetri - white 2015 - grape: Natenadzis tetri - I found this grape specie and gave it my name
10) Meskhuri Tetri - white 2015 - grapes: Akhaltsikhuri tetri, Meskhuri Mtsvane, Udis Tetri, Chitiskvertskha Tetri.
11) Tskhenis Dzua - Red 2015 - grape: Tskhenis Dzua  Shavi, only 2 grape trees in Region. very unique wine. 

Natenadze Red wines with mini Qvevri

Georgi makes these wines in tiny quantities but there is nothing small about their quality. Novel flavours to be sure but lovely and delightful.

In particular the Meshkuri Red is a real find at only 10.5%. One of those wines that belie their modest alcohol content. 

The names of the grape varities might be a problem for some who already struggle with names such as Kovidinka or Assyrtiko. Chitiskvertskha for example is a bit of a mouthful but then so is the wine.

Thygge Benned Jensen

 Next point of interest was Bodega Frontio, Arribes, Spain run by a charming bear-like Danish gent called Thyge Benned Jensen. Thyge gave up his job trading gas for Maersk to work with what he calls 'the fragile local grape variety Juan Garcia'.

We have encountered Juan Garcia bafore and agree with him that it is well worth cultivating. Arribes is on the Duero on the Spanish side of the border with Portugal and is the home of Juan Garcia.

Foglia Tonda is a genuine obscure Tuscan variety we have been skirmishing with for too long. We have been sold bottles only to discover this grape was just part of the blend.

Guido Gualandi of Podere Gualandi

Ruedi Gerber and team of Sequerciani

At RAW London there were no less than 2 producers of Foglia Tonda in purezza almost side-by-side and good colleagues: Podere Gualandi and Sequerciani, both of Toscana.


Both versions of Foglia Tonda were outstanding and we were left with that by now familiar feeling of why on earth such a distinctive and gorgeous variety could be so scarce and difficult to find. We will put Foglia Tonda right up there with other Italian rarities meriting a much larger audience such as Grignolino and Rossese.
Sequerciani also has a sweet Aleatico which we didn't fail to taste.

Aleatico; a great variety

It reminded us of what a great variety Aleatico is. We would love to taste a dry version one day (they exist).

Nearby was an Albarossa by Forti del Vento, Piemonte. We remember having been enthused by an Albarossa some years ago but could not muster the same impression on this occasion. Perhaps the Foglia Tondas were still too present in our palate memory?

Hovering around a producer from Vicenza and asking if they had a Tai Rosso, we were directed further along to Sieman - a new outfit from the Veneto founded by three brothers. Sieman is Venetian for Six Hands.

one of the Filipini brothers at Seiman
When asked about Tai Rosso, the chap on duty (presumably one of the brothers) offered us not just a red wine, Tai Rosso but also a white vino Frizzante made from Tai Rosso, Garganega and Incrocio Manzoni and - wait for it - a beer, YES, A BEER made from Tai Rosso must added to beer wort! We tasted it, dear Slotovino reader and it was good!

Note. Tai Rosso was formerly Tocai Rosso, believed to be an indiginous grape variety from the Colli Berici near Vicenza, Italy. Subsequently identified as none other than Grenache, Tai Rosso growers still maintain that it has evolved into something other thanks to the centuries of transplantation to this particular terroir. they have a point is that the wines are most un-Grenache-like.

Casa Wallace Dolcetto experts

We were drawn to a Piemonte grower of Dolcetto by the name, Wallace rather than the grape. We have had the acquaintance of a Tai Rosso grower in the Colli Berici called Alan Wallace Bruzzo and wondered if the Wallaces of Piemonte were by some chance related.

Sarah Wallace of Casa Wallace (?)
Not so but the elegant lady at the  Casa Wallace table (who might have been Sarah Wallace herself) persuaded us to taste her Dolcettos on the grounds that there were three vintages including an older one. Now Dolcetto is a grape we have never been able to get a handle on. Strangely, its neighbour Barbera is another and we even find the obsession with Nebbiolo hard to understand. 

Three Dolcettos

The Casa Wallace Dolcetto Ovada 2011 was something of a revelation especially when compared to the more recent Dolcettos of 2015 and 2016/17. Perhaps Dolcetto, which Mrs Wallace stated was a tannic wine needs time - quite a lot of it?

There only remained to visit two old friends from RAW, Ancre Hill and Palazzo Tronconi.

The news from Ancre Hill, the Welsh winery in Monmouthshire is that they have found a new use for their Triomphe d'Alsace grapes:

Triomphe Pet Nat! Previously the Morris family had managed to achieve the impossible by producing a drinkable Triomphe red. This they did via carbonic maceration.

Morris family at Ancre Hill table

Now they have done it again by producing this Pet Nat from the unlovely Triomphe. Having tried for 25 years to make even a cooking wine from Triomphe we have now grubbed up this variety and are taking great pleasure in burning the mighty ex-vines in our home fire. Hats off to Ancre Hill for achieving the impossible.

Palazzo Tronconi, our favourite producer from Lazio still has no British importer but that will surely not be long in coming on present form. The genial Marco Marrocco was on hand to present his masterworks Fatia (Malvasia Puntinata, Tebbiano), Fregellae (Maturano Bianco, Capolongo, Pampanaro), Donnico (Ulivello Nero - aka Sciascinoso) and Zitore (Lecinaro). The first three were even better than ever but the Zitore, made from Lecinaro in purezza was, how can we put it - different. At 13.5% it was more alcoholic but it was also somehow not as generous. Previously Donnico had been the junior partner. This time the roles were reversed we thought. All good though and heartwarming to see these rare vareties flourishing at Palazzo Tronconi.

Along the way there had been several other points of interest including some Blauer Potugiesers from Hungary and Moravia, Podere Pradarolo of Emilia Romagna whose wines we had previously admired and whose Vej Bianco Antico (Orannge wine) we had since discovered,

Case, another winery in Emilia Romagna who produce an interesting Bianco (Vin de Table) blend of Ortrugo, Malvasia, Marsanne and Moscato.

and something called Caleb Leisure Wines from California who make their wines in 10 authentic Georgian Qvevri buried in the earthen cellar at Coturri Winery (Sonoma).

So these Californian Qvevri bring us back to the Georgian ones of Natanadze's Wine Cellar above. You could say Qvevris are catching on.