Saturday 27 April 2019

Specialist Importers Trade Tasting (SITT) 2019, Horticultural Halls, London

SITT has been going for a good while now. It's small compared to some other shows and we only had a whistle-stop tour but it proved once again that there's always something of interest where wine is concerned even if your criteria are as wierd as ours.

So first things first. Here was a Hungarian wine made from what 'Wine Grapes' calls a 'Recent Hungarian cross of uncertain parentage yet to establish a track record.' 

Right up our street.

 Even the producer, Pfneiszl is coy about naming the variety. The back label says 'Who am I?'

I am a true Hungarian. I was bred by Ferenc Kiraly in 1951. My wines are fine fresh and fruitywith flowery aromas. The grape bunches I grow are sweet and ripe from mid-August - early September, My crop is small but rich in flavours. I am all the happier that I have my place in the winery of Birgit and Katrin Pfneiszl. So who am I?
And here's another tip: A sip is worth a thousand words. Cheers!

Give up? Of course you do. The variety is Zefir. Supposedly a cross between Harslevelu and Leanyka it has been proven to be something else - no one knows what.

Pfneiszl sisters Birgit and Katrin
Now none of this would be of much interest if the wine was no good but it is very good indeed and the Specialist Importer here, Wines of Hungary UK are to be commended for their choice. We hope to be able to buy this wine in the UK soon but in the meantime it is available from our friends at Natura Vinoteka, Sopron.

After leaving the show we started a search into what we might have missed and there were indeed wines that would have repaid  spending longer there. This Doral from Alpine Wines for example. Doral is a Swiss cross between Chasseles (of course) and Chardonnay. Obvious perhaps but we're not sure we have ever come across this before.

On our way round something of great interest on the Raymond Reynolds table caught our eye.

What was this? A Colares Ramisco we had never heard of? Yes indeed. Might this mean the seemingly inexorable extinction of the Ramisco vineyards in Colares could be reversed? We sincerely hope so.

Casal Santa Maria is a property in Colares on the Sintra Hill with vineyards right from the cliff edge over the Atlantic (The Westernmost European vineyard as their website says) up to more sheltered parts where they grow their red wine grapes including Pinot Noir, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesa and Merlot.

We're not sure where their Ramisco is planted but they say it is sheltered by the traditional stone walls.
The Baron with great grandsons
The Casal Santa Maria vineyard ceased production for most of the 20th century but Baron Bodo von Bruemmer, a Swiss banker of Estonian heritage bought the property in 1961 (the Casal is one of the few structures to have survived the 1755 earthquake) and after 30 years of raising Arab horses decided at the age of 96 to revive the vineyard. Described as Colares's both youngest and oldest grower, he died in 2016 aged 105.

So the list of Colares Ramisco growers now seems to be

Casal Santa Maria
Colares Chitas
Fundacao Oriente
Monte Cascas
Quinta das Vinhas de Areia
Viuva Gomez

Some of these go in and out of focus as it were but that may be because vintages are released erratically.

We should mention Dynamic Vines since we've come across them before. We're always on the lookout for a Jurancon sec at a modest alcohol level. At 12% this one is perfect.

As we've found before, wine events can be places for bumping into old friends. Here was John Thorne previously of Salena Estates and now with Portal, Dingwall and Norris, a long established wine merchant whose original operation morphed into Diageo no less.

John's picks included this a-typical Beaujolais from the highst vineyard in Fleurie which tasted like no other we had drunk before. No better, no worse but decidedly different.

and a promising blend of Bourboulenc 40%, Roussanne 20%, Vermentino 15%, Picpoul 25% at 12.5% alcohol.

Pretty good for a 30-minute tour d'horizon.

Friday 19 April 2019

RAW 2019. Discoveries, Encounters, Serendipity.

Ben Walgate, co-founder and winemaker at Tillingham.

At the RAW Wine Fair you can make new discoveries, meet the people who have made the wines you have enjoyed and keep up to date with their latest releases.

For us it has also been a great opportunity to find and sample rare grape varieties. This year's London fair was no different.

Perhaps the most exciting find was an English producer who has appeared you could say fully formed with a dizzying range of wines already distributed by an important merchant, Les Caves de Pyrene no less.

The born fully-formed bit can be explained by the fact that the co-founder is Ben Walgate, former chief executive at Gusborne and many of the grapes he has used so far have been bought in from local growers, some of them biodynamic.

Rose from Regent, Orion and Madeleine Angevine

The grape varieties in the five bottles in the photo here (left to right) include wines made from

1. Ortega
2. Pet Nat from Ortega 68%, Müller Thurgau 4%, Dornfelder 16%, Rondo 8% and Pinot Noir 4%,
3. Ortega
4. Chardonnay
5. Chardonnay Pinot Noir,Pinot Meunier, and Schönburger

Some of the other grape varieties used in Tillingham wines in 2018 include Siegerrebe, Bacchus, Gamay, Pinot Meunier, and Regent.

Ben with his young vines
Ben is planting Madeleine Angevine and Pineau d'Aunis - a first for the UK, surely.

He says "in the end we made wine from a total of 10 vineyard sites and 13 grape varieties, and at times we had up to 30 different fermentations on the go."  

If Ben's initiative is the sign of a new trend we applaud it wholeheartedly. It reminds us of Forlorn Hope in California and Ruth Lewandowski in Utah - vignerons who started as garagistes and are progressing to producing wine from their own vineyards.

An unexpected pleasure was to come across Bodegas Gratias, makers of the brilliant Tardana we had enjoyed so much last year. We included this variety in the Slotovino Awards of 2018. Our bottle had been bought from Vagabond wines, another of our award winners.

Left to right: Tardana, Pintaillo and Bobal


Pintaillo is a variety in danger of extinction. We only realised Gratias made this wine when researching the Bodega after the fair. We very much hope they succeed in getting it into the British market.

Malbo Gentile
Another variety we would like to celebrate is Malbo Gentile. Terra Quilia make Pignoletto and Lambrusco as well as a lightly sparkling Nibbio. Good choices,


We were extremely happy to see Netanadze back. They received our main award for 2018 for researching wild grape varieties and making wine from them. Justifiably he calls one of them after himself: Natenadzis tetri. ('I found this grape species and gave it my name.')  As well as fascinating the wines are really light and interesting.

This red is made in Qvevri from the rare Tskhenis dzudzu Tetri from a 400 year old vine - possibly the world's oldest - Meshkuri Sapere, and Kharistvala Shavi varieties.

The white is made from Akhaltsikhuri Tetri, Meskhuri Mtsvane, Udis Tetri and Chitiskvertskha Tetri. We never tire of applauding Giorgi Natenadze's initiatives. What he and his colleagues do is an important deed of conservation.

Another lovely surprise was the presence of Brand et Fils at RAW 2019. We have trumpeted the wines of Brand et Fils of Egersheim, Alsace since finding a bottle of their wonderful dry Orange wine made from Muscat over a year ago at Caves L'Etiquette in Paris. And yet in all the wine fairs and tasting events we had been to there were plenty of organic wines from Alsace but never Brand et Fils. Yet here they were on our doorstep. How great was that?

The dry Muscat with 15 days maceration was so good we ordered another 3 bottles from Herve at L'Etiquete for our next visit to Paris.

a sensible move as he is now sold out of this lovely wine - understandably.

Brand's dry Muscat - a truly orange Orange Wine.

L'Etiquette also stocked Brand's Maitre Renard, an interesting wine made from Negrette from the Toulouse region and Gamay from near Lyons. Brand et Fils are an imaginative outfit. Garagistes as well as vignerons from their own properties. Great labels too.

Founded in 1956 by Charles Brand the property has been fully organic since 2001.


Pinots Blanc, Gris and Noir

Pinot Gris

Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay

Pinots Gris and Noir