Tuesday 31 December 2019

Slotovino Awards 2019

Image result for state dinner banquet

At a glance:

Wine personality of the yearIan D’Agata
Sparkling WhiteHarrow and Hope
White Wine - Quartomoro ARV Memorie di vite Arvesiniadu. Sardegna.
Best English White - Simpsons Pinot Meunier
Orange Wine - Burja Estate. Zelen. Vipava Valley, Slovenia.

Rose Wine - Gramona: Mart. Xarel-Lo Vermell
Red Wine - Dellafiore Croatina. Provincia di Pavia IGT
Light Red Wine - Kellerei Kurtatsch: Sonntaler Vernatsch Alter Reben (Grauvernatsch/Schiava Grigio)
Best English or Welsh redMontgomery Vineyard Rondo
Special award for the re-establishment of an endangered variety - Pierre Goigoux: Le Damas Noir.
Special award for the initiative to establish a signature grape - Cremisan Cellars and Recanati, Jezreel and Gva’ot wineries (Baladi, Bittuni, Dabouki, Hamdani, Jandali and Marawi) in the West Bank and in Israel.
UK Winemerchant (London) - Natural Born Wine (Oli Hudson).
Winemerchant (rest of world) - Flatiron wines of New York, San Francisco
Award for outstanding service to grape breeding - Bruno Bruni for Incrocio Bruni 54 and others.
Wine Promotional Outlet - Basler Weinmesse
Online Winemerchant - Vinissimus/Italvinus
Worst Airport Duty Free - Innsbruck
Best Airport Duty Free – Tel-Aviv
Most Surprising Wine Discovery - Vineyards established in the UK by vignerons trained abroad.
Most interesting Wine Trend - New grape varieties to beat climate change.
Most Pleasant Grape Discovery - Domaine Nerantzi Koniaros
Prediction for the year ahead - EU wines will not be more expensive
Restaurant Winelist - Bestia. Los Angeles. Ryan Ibsen, sommelier.
Best Kept Wine SecretCatalan wines.
Best Publication - Wink Lorch: Wines of the French Alps: Savoie, Bugey and Beyond
Various Accolades and acknowledgements - Belcorvo Family, Dr. Deborah Golino, Dr.Elyashiv Drori, Dorothee Luyt, Fanny Singer, Gianfanco Iacono, Franz Leth, Harrison Heitz, Julie and Vincent (Maubec), Manuel Casagrande, Marco Dellafiore, Massimo Padova, Nikos Asteriadis, Francesco Visentin. Olle Swets. Pamela Pedron, Patrizio Baglioni, Peter Marck, Pierre Guigui,  Sandrine Farrugia, Tom Blyth

Wine personality of the year;


Dr. Ian D'Agata

2019 has been a D'Agata vintage with the launch of  'BING' (Best Italian Native Grapes) in Barolo, another 'Indigena' series of masterclasses, also held in Barolo and the publication of his latest book 'Italy's Native Wine Grape Terroirs.'

Welcome to BING Barolo

ad for Indigena

D'Agata (right) at one of his Indigena masterclasses

INWGT is a worthy companion to D'Agata's NWG1 (Native Wine Grapes of Italy)
These were just a few of his activities this year. We have paid tribute to D'Agata as the universty lecturer one always hoped for an so rarely found and described his masterclasses as 'all fantastically impressive and instructive as well as good fun.' We also paid tribute to his impresario skills as 'the Barnum of Barolo' but he might think that is a bit cheezy.

2018 Georgi Natanadze
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

Harrow and Hope

We bought their Brut Reserve and were very impressed. the winemaker is Henry Laithwaite who is mentioned in another of our awards below - Most surprising wine discovery; Vineyards established in the UK by vignerons trained abroad.

2018 Forty Hall Brut, Enfield, London
16/17 Cleto Chiarli Moden Blanc Pignoletto (Grechetto Gentile)

Sparkling Rose of the year

2019. N/A.

2018 La Vialla Mostovino

White wine of the year;


Quartomoro ARV Memorie di vite Arvesiniadu. Sardegna.

Pointed out by Ian D'Agata at BING Barolo we thought this white from Arvesiniadu grapes had the perfect balance of acidity and fruit and a unique and delicious flavour. Not many people have heard of Arvesiniadu. We certainly hadn't. It had been our loss. Now we know and urge you to seek this wine out. Enjoyment guaranteed.

2018 Maurer Bakator and Maurer Szeremi Zold
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;

Simpsons Pinot Meunier. 

Vinified as a white wine this was remarkable by any standards. Affordably priced too.

2018 FHV Ortega. Forty Hall Vineyard
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


Burja Estate. Zelen. Vipava Valley, Slovenia. Vin de qualite blanc. 7 days of skin contact. Organic. 2018. 11%


2018 Brand et Fils L’Oiseau et le Bouquet Muscat (Maceration)
16/17 Amorgion Chrisefenios (Savatiano)
15/16 Paul Reder, 'Le Gris', Aramon Gris, Languedoc.


Rosé wine of the year


Gramona: Mart. Xarel-Lo Vermell.

Vermell means red (Catalan). Xarel-Lo Vermell is a pink-skinned mutation of Xarel-Lo white grapes making wine as golden as it is pink. Golden taste too.

2018 ArmAs Kamahryahut
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;

Dellafiore Croatina. Provincia di Pavia IGT

The standout at the Bonarda/Croatina event at Rovescala (the epicentre for this grape). Leaving aside the sparkling versions, this wine made by Ferruccio Dellafiore was our favourite beating other more expensive and better presented candidates. It perfectly expresses the character of the grape. Many of its rivals didn't through being over-extracted.

2018 Joint winners Podere Gualandi and Sequerciani, growers of Foglia Tonda
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


Kellerei Kurtatsch: Sonntaler Vernatsch Alter Reben (Grauvernatsch/Schiava Grigio) 12.5%

We encountered this both in Austria and in Italy and enjoyed the wine as much as any Schiava/Vernatsch we had ever tasted which is to say a great deal.

2018 Abouriou. Various growers
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

Pierre Goigoux: Le Damas Noir. 15 years in the making. The story is that this variety had been held to have died out 100 years ago but M. Goigoux, fascinated by this, discovered some vines, selected the healthy ones, propagated and grafted them over this long period and has now started to make this monocepage. Chapeau!

2018 Luigi Lauria, Giuseppe Crescente and Vincenzo de Santo, 600 Grotte Guarnaccino
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

Special award for the initiative to establish a signature grape

Cremisan Cellars and Recanati, Jezreel and Gva’ot wineries for their work with indiginous grapes including Baladi, Bittuni, Dabouki, Hamdani, Jandali and Marawi in the West Bank and in Israel.

The wines are good and deserve to play a role in establishing a profile for the whole area.

Special award for the preservation of traditional local winemaking techniques

2019. N/A.

2018 The Rasse family, Saint Jeannet.

UK Winemerchant of the Year (London);


Natural Born Wine (Oli Hudson).

Oli imports natural Italian wines made with an eclectic palette of grapes but it is the style of these wines that we love above all. They are the opposite of industrial. No fruit bombs, no dark and brooding tributes to hedonism. Just beautiful food-friendly wines with modest acohol levels. OK, you might say easy-drinking, gluggable vins de soif but we wouldn't use that condescending terminology. These are just adorable wines.

2018 Vagabond Wines
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) 

Flatiron San Francisco occupy the corner on the far left of the historic Palace Hotel.

Flatiron wines of New York, San Francisco

We had always admired Flatiron in New York although it tended to play second fiddle to Chambers Street Wines. Here in San Francisco it shines all by itself. It seemed to have even more rarities than the New York branch or was that just our impression? Anyway, 

Val D'Aoste Vuillermin
Marisa Cuomo Fiorduva (Fenile, Ginestra)
NY  wines Channing Daughters, Bounary Breaks, Ravines (Finger Lakes), 
La Garagista, Vermont
Rootdown Trousseau,  Amador County
Fable Pinot Meunier, Russian River Valley
Forlorn Hope

and many more.
2018 Cave L’Etiquette, Paris, Ile St. Louis. Herve Letheilleux
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

Award for outstanding service to grape breeding

Terraquila's 'Terracruda' Incrocio Bruni 54

Corniale's Marche Incrocio Bruni 54

Briscia's I.B. Cinquantaquattro.

Bruno Bruni for Incrocio Bruni 54 and others. We discovered Terracruda's Incrocio Bruni 54 at BING Barolo and managed to take a bottle home where it was voted favourite by our focus group. 

The story of poor Bruno Bruni appealed to us. The 54 refers to the number of attempts to produce a crossing which satisfied him. No sooner had he achieved what he wanted (this was in 1936) than he gave up saying he didn't want anything more to do with it. He seems to have vanished altogether because no image of him seems to exist - at least on the internet.

Assuming Terracruda's version was unique we were astounded to find not one but two other 100% Incrocio Bruni 54 wines at Autochtono, Bolzano. They tasted equally good.

Incrcio Bruni 54 is a Vermentino Sauvignon crossing

2018. VCR - Vivai Cooperativo Rauscedo

Best Wine Promotional Outlet


Basler Weinmesse

Not an actual wine promotional outlet but with predominantly Swiss wines, the Baseler Weinmesse served as such, especially as some of the exhibitors were willing to sell you a bottle.

We described Swiss wine as a parallel universe and so it is. Any resemblance to wines of other countries is purely fortuitous. We loved it and brought some interesting bottles home.

2018 Enoteca Vini di Puglia, Ostuni.
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;

Waitrose for their Waitrose ‘W’ Series.

Rules don't allow us to give awards to the same supermarket or anything else more than once but we had never even been tempted to give an award to Waitrose. To be sure, nice wine is to be found there but they were just so conservative - until now.

Out of the blue came their 'W' series this year with outstandingly diverse wines in single grape variety versions at bargain prices. The standard was uniformly high. Out of respect and admiration we list them here;

Cannonau (Garnacha)
Petit Manseng

2018 N/A
16/17 Lidl
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

Wine importer of the year
Seen from a UK perspective Vinissimus/Italvinus are importers because like Tannico they are in fact online winemerchants based abroad with the UK and other markets in mind.

From the Vinissimus website:

In 2005 Toni Vicens, a wine enthusiast and keen web programmer, set up Vinissimus with barely 100 wines in the catalogue.Today, after more than a million bottles of wine sold, 80,000 orders processed and 102,000 clients all over Europe, Vinissimus operates sites in 5 countries, has 6,800 listed references and is the leader in online sales of Spanish wine in Europe.

From the Italvinus website:

Italvinus started up in 2012 with the intention of offering the widest online catalogue specialising in Italian wine to European consumers, providing them with a totally satisfactory and safe purchasing experience. Italvinus belongs to the Vinissimus Group, European leader in the online sale of Spanish wine.

This is a really fantastic operation somewhat in the Tannico style but you can buy Spanish or Italian wine at either address. Service is efficient and accurate. The selections are excellent and the variety enormous. Prices and delivery costs are reasonable. Congratulations to Toni Vicens.

2018 Natural Born Wine
16/17 Tannico
15/16 Winemakers Club

Worst Airport Duty Free


We counted 28 different wines plus the usual Champagne brands and some Sekt. Nothing of interest sadly.

2018 JFK T7
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;

 Image result for Ben Gurion wine duty free

Ben Gurion Airport, Tel Aviv

Tremendous wide selection of Israeli wines. As good as anything in town. A knowledgeable salesman who actually apologises for not stocking something you might not see on the shelves.

2018 Lisbon
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;

Vineyards established in the UK by vignerons trained abroad.

Josh Donaghay-Spire is the winemaker at Chapel Down. This is what he has to say about winemaking in the UK up to only a very few years ago:

"Historically the majority of vineyard owners happened to have some land and then wanted to plant a vineyard. Now the industry is more informed and better resourced to plant only the very best viticultural land, which is vital when working on the leading edge of where grape growing is viable.”

Dedication to the still-wine cause remains something that needs to improve in the UK – especially when it comes to site and clonal selection. It’s understandable when sparkling wine is clearly a major strength and people want to cover as many bases as possible, particularly smaller producers. But the efforts of part-timers are rarely convincing. Growers need to be clear about their aims."

Another well-informed comentator, Dr Alistair Nesbitt of Vinescapes decries what he terms ‘the cornflakes box’ approach to planting – ie plotting to establish a vineyard over breakfast on little more than a hunch. His detailed survey of UK land potential for wine has revealed not just the many areas currently under-exploited but also the existing vineyards that are ‘sub-optimal’. This is not the way forward for any English wine, particularly still wine he says and warns:

'Curious wine lovers need to proceed with caution. There’s still too much overpriced farm-gate dross made from humdrum grapes grown on ill-conceived sites.'

We at Slotovino have begun to notice a much better informed and professional trend with new vineyards being founded by British winemakers with experience abroad. We think this makes all the difference. There are three we would like to point out, all now making English wines at another level altogether.

Simpsons: Charles and Ruth Simpson make wine at Domaine Sainte Rose in the Languedoc and Simpsons Wine Estate, Barham, Kent.

Ben Witchell seen pouring Bacchus at the 2019 London Wine Fair

Ben and Hannah Witchell, Flint Vineyard, Earsham, Norfolk.

Ben studied Oenology and Viticulture at Plumpton College in the UK. During this time and since, he and Hannah have conducted researches around the world including wineries in Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. “We visited as many regions as we could in that time,” said Hannah Witchell. “We spent a month working as volunteers at a vineyard in Mendoza and that is when our knowledge and our interest in wine reached a new level.” They were also based in Morgon in the Beaujolais where Ben was assistant winemaker. Ben also undertook work placements at Davenport Vineyard, Kent, and Fox and Fox, Sussex, and worked for a vintage in Cephalonia, Greece and Napa Valley, California. 


Image result for henry laithwaite

Henry and Kaye Laithwaite, Harrow and Hope. Marlow, Buckinghamshire.

Their first vineyard project was at Chateau Verniotte in Castillon, Bordeaux.Henry also has experience making wine in Australia. They made sure of having the best possible advice from Mike Roberts of Ridgeview and Dr. Tony Jordan the great Australian Sparkling Wine pioneer (he set up Green Point for Moet et Chandon)

2018 Albanian wine
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;

Panel tasting of PIWI varieties.

New grape varieties to beat climate change.

Slotovino, 4.7.19.
it has been announced out of the blue that several further grape varieties are to be permitted under certain circumstances and some of them are not even native French varieties:

Petit Manseng
Touriga Nacional
We welcome these varieties even if they are not permitted for the moment to cover more than 5% of the vineyard or form more than 10% of any blend. Bordeaux has shown surprising forward-looking flexibility. We think there is no doubt others will follow.

Apparently the impetus to the initiative has been global warming. There may even be further additions to these new grapes.’


Much work is being done in areas such as rootstock selection of vines and also the wine varieties themselves, with the growth of emerging varietals such as Vermentino and Tempranillo which are more tolerant of warm climates...”
Innovation is also happening in the vineyard itself on things like irrigation, cover crops and canopy management, such as the applications of ‘sunscreens’ on vines.”
The Drinks business. 21.11.19.


"We are crossing highly resistant super-genitors with our varieties," says Arnaud Descotes, deputy technical and environmental director for the Champagne Committee.
"We start out with a cluster of grapes just starting to flower which we fertilise with pollen from the variety that interests us. The first cross-breeding took place in 2015, the second in June 2016," Descotes says.
"This is nothing to do with genetically modified crops, but hybrids obtained through technology," he is quick to add.
The hybrid seeds—4,000 of them—will be ready in six years to be planted in experimental plots across Champagne.
The researchers hope to complete their analyses and tastings of the resulting wine by 2030, when they will be able to present the new varieties to the appellation authorities.
Throughout the programme, "maintaining the champagne style is a central goal," Le Mailloux says. "We are keeping up our tradition of innovation—but champagne will always be champagne."
Fanny Lattach, Phys Org 4.8.2016

2018 Good wine everywhere
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;

Domaine Nerantzi Koniaros

We always marvel at how easy it is to stumble across rare grape varieties even in conservative environments such as the London Wine Fair. 

In this case, our stumble was a variety called Koniaros. The story is, according to DNS of San Francisco who import Domaine Nerantzi wines, as follows.

In 1998, during one of his expeditions, his attention was piqued by a rare plant which a few of the local elders called Koniaros. This variety had been left behind due to its lack of vigor and low yields. So he decided to try to vinify it for the first time, experimenting in 1998 while searching for more information about it. Reaching out for help to professors of agriculture at the University of Thessaloniki, he was able to find a description of the variety in an old book of a professor Vlachos. As it was the only reference to this variety they could find in literature, Nerantzi decided to send a sample for DNA testing to France in order to check that it was not registered by another name somewhere in the world and that it was really a unique, indigenous Greek varietal. The results were as expected and Koniaros was officially registered and recognized as a new found genome and part of the wider Greek varietal heritage. 

Nerantzi's Koniaros is a beautiful wine as well as an especially rare one.

2018 Biancolella
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;

Image result for brexit delay

EU wines won't get significantly more expensive.

Our 2018 prediction was that EU wines will get significantly more expensive. That was assuming departure from the EU on March 31st and immediate import taxes possibly along WTO lines. 

We all know now that Brexit is scheduled for January 31st and that the transition period with no changes to the status quo will probably last into 2021. 

So we predict EU wines won't get significantly more expensive.

2018 Brexit: EU wines will get significantly more expensive
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;




Bestia. Los Angeles. Ryan Ibsen, sommelier.

You may not be able to read the above but perhaps the following from Bestia's website will help;

2018 Jose Avillez
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;

Image result for Catalan wine

Catalan wine.

Not really a secret but wine from Catalunya does deserve to be better known. When people think of Spanish wine, they think first of Rioja and then the relatively recently celebrated Ribera del Duero and Galicia (for Albarino). If they think of Catalunya it may be in connection with Cava.

Priorat is now very important but how many people realize Priorat is also in Catalunya?

In our own wine journey, we have been delighted by the Cava grapes now used in table wine. These include Trepat, Parellada, Macabeo and of course Xarel-lo. There is also Subirat Parent (Alarije) and no doubt others.

Also in Catalunya, there is Mencia of course, Sumoll, Picapoll (related to Colombard - not Picpoul) and international varieties Chardonnay, Chenin, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and so forth. 

Interesting is the relative lack of Tempranillo (known as Ull de Liebre locally). Not quite the wipeout that you find in Galicia but enough to distinguish Catalunya as a unique region - as if it needed to be.

2018 Belgian Wine
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;

Montgomery Vineyard, Powys, Wales. Rondo. 11.5%

Another find at the London Wine Fair. We had never had a Rondo that convinced. Some say it is only good for adding colour to blends but Montgomery Vineyard Rondo is something else. We might even add this grape to the Slotovino Hall of Fame if we can find just one more as good as this for  corroboration.

2018 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;

Wink Lorch: Wines of the French Alps: Savoie, Bugey and Beyond.

This book was sorely needed. There is none other on this fascinating subject at least in English.

Wink Lorch's last book was called Jura Wine. Both have been crowdfunded. An excellent system. We chose Jura Wine as our best publication for 2014/15.

If anything, Wines of the French Alps: Savoie, Bugey and Beyond is even better. The format has been tweaked to advantage and Ms. Lorch has really hit her stride.

2018 Inventing Wine, Paul Lukacs
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 

Miscellaneous accolades and acknowledgements

Just a few ot the other high spots of our year and thanks to

Belcorvo Family, Bulk Wine Exhibition, Amsterdam
Broc Cellars, Berkeley, California
Corten-Vin, Viorica. Moldova. Bulk Wine Exhibition, Amsterdam
Dr. Deborah Golino, Foundation Plant Services, University of California at Davis.
Dr. Elyashiv Drori, Agriculture and Oenology Research Coordinator, Ariel University.
Fanny Singer, Chez Panisse.
Franz Leth. Weingut Leth.
Dorothee Luyt, Agricola Luyt, Les Affranchis, Paris.
Francesco Visentin. Azienda Agricola Obiz. 
Gianfanco Iacono, Vinilicious ‘Taste of Sicily’.
Harrison Heitz, Heitz Cellars, Napa.
Julie and Vincent, Le Petit Bio, Maubec.
Manuel Casagrande, Al Canton del Vin, Venezia
Marco Dellafiore, Ferruccio Dellafiore.
Massimo Padova, Azienda Riofavara. 
Massimo Pighin. Mondial Wines.
Nikos Asteriadis Oenoi Adam.
Olle Swets. De Wijnwinkel, Amsterdam.
Pamela Pedron. Orto Venezia.
Patrizio Baglioni, Cantina Giubiasco, Ticino. Basler Weinmesse.
Peter Marck, Israel Philharmonic and Har Hadar winery.
Pierre Guigui, Concours Amphore, Paris.
Sabine Reiter, Robert Kukla GmbH.
Sandrine Farrugia, Elian da Ros.
Tom Blyth, 2B Ltd.

Monday 30 December 2019

Scratching the surface at Porto.

Funny how grape-variety hotspots occur in a random way. Switzerland, Hungary, Italy, Georgia, Greece, the former Yugoslavia - and Portugal for example. This is not to say France, Spain and Germany don't have their diverse varieties. They are somehow more 'hidden' with producers using them less proudly.

Whatever: a recent visit to Porto in Portugal just went to prove the amazing diversity to be found there.

Just scratch the surface and you find treasures everywhere.

Constrained by a hand-luggage only regime on this trip, we were not able to take any bottles home so tasting was limited to restaurants and the purchase of one relatively inexpensive bottle for sampling.

Garrafeira A.M. Santos is one of several charming winemerchants to be found in Porto. It is striking how many shops in general still have the original fittings.

You have to remember that Portugal was never bombed during 20th century wars so more remains of historical buildings than in some other countries. This in addition to a general lack of pretension which seems to us to be a great virtue of the Portuguese. Indeed, there is an old bookshop in Porto which can only be visited by ticketholders. Curiouser is the fact that said ticketholders have to queue in lines several deep.

Livraria Lello

The explanation is that J.K. Rowling is said to have received inspiration for Hogwarts from the interior of this bookshop during her stay in Porto teaching English in the early 1990s.

Anyway, the really nice couple who run Garrafeira Santos really went to a lot of trouble to fish out bottles of interest.

Codega do Larinho. Wine Grapes is not completely enthusiastic about this variety saying it has intense aromas of tropical fruit, sometimes also floral, but can lack freshness so are often blended with higher-acid varieties such as Rabigato.

That may be so and our first impression on opening this bottle was not at all good but before long the unpleasant notes had dissipated leaving, well - intense aromas of tropical fruit and a floral perfume. Interesting.

Rabigato is almost exclusive to the Douro and we are told (Wine Grapes) that it is rarely made as a varietal wine. We are looking forward to opening this bottle as Rabigato is supposed to be 'fresh, vibrant....with aromas of lemon and orange blossom as well as having vegetal or mineral notes.'

Prova Wine Food and Pleasure is another shop and enoteque with an interesting selection.

another Rabigato

Marufo aka Moravia Dulce, Brujidera, Mourisco Tinto... a very light coloured red wine.

We have this bottle of Moravia Dulce/Marufo/ Brujidera on order from Pure Wines, London.

The elusive 100% Voisinho
We also tried to find a bottle of Viosinho but that would seem to take more than simply scratching the surface. This bottle by Adega Mae seems to be one of the few 100% Viosinhos around even though the grape is highly regarded. It is usually found in blends with Gouveio (Godello) and Rabigato.

Douro varieties


Cerceal Branco
Codega do Larinho
Donzelinho Branco
Gouveio (aka Godello)
Malvasia Fina
Mourisco Branco (aka Cayetana Blanca)
Rabigato (aja Rabo de Asno) 


Marufo (aja Mourisco Tinto)
Tinta Amarela (aka Trincadeira)
Tinta Barroca
Tinta Cao
Tinta Francisca

Tinta Roriz (aka Tempranillo)

Touriga Femea
Touriga Franca
Touriga Nacional

Vinho Verde varieties


Sercial (aka Esgana Cao)
Treixadura (aka Trajadura)


Borracal (aka Caino Tinto)
Rabo de Ovelha
Vinhao (aka Souzao)

Porto Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport Duty Free

Portugal is one of the very few countries where you can save your wine shopping until you get to the airport Duty Free. Having said that, is it not quite so much the case as a few years ago? There seemed to be more overpriced and predictable bottles as before. Touriga Nacional,and international varieties for example.

 Nevertheless there were some interesting bottles in the lower price range including this Vinho Verde Vinhao

this Moscatel Graudo (Muscat of Alexandria) from Joao Pires which we have enjoyed on a previous visit.

And this fairly typical yet original Douro blend of Codega do Larinho, Rabigato and Viosinho.

Beat that, London Heathrow Terminal 5!