Monday 30 November 2020

Mrs Slotovino recommends.


When Mrs. Slotovino likes something it's safe to take that as a recommendation. Menard is a successful blend of Colombard, Gros Manseng and Sauvignon Blanc. You don't see that every day but why not? 

Domaine de Menard, Cuvee Marine, Cotes de Gascoigne (only 11% Abv.) is available from the excellent Noble Green company in Hampton/Twickenham, (not Noble Fine Liquor of Broadway Market) at £10 or less. a steal.

Wednesday 25 November 2020

Gourmet Hunters or how to get an education in obscure grape varieties.

Some websites give you a lot of information and others, practically none. We'd much rather know what grapes are used in a wine and its alcohol content than in what soil it was grown and what closure its bottle has. We can even assume bottles are 75cl unless told to the contrary.

Gourmet Hunters' website is not the last word in ease of navigation but its list of grape varieties is a goldmine and that is in no small way thanks to Gourmet Hunters' eclectic choice of wines. The name of this companymay not trip off the tongue but they are Gourmets for sure and have certainly done some hunting.

To prove the point, there are 8 varieties unknown to Wine Grapes, Galet and D'Agata. We are talking super-obscure. Let's see them right away:

Parida Creus Garrut

Calabres (Sierras de Salamanca) Red

Fartapobres (Tarragona) Red

Garrut (Catalonia) Red

Jaque (Catalonia) Red

Molinillo (Vinos de Madrid) Red

Petino (Lazio) White

Ranzelinho (Douro) White

Romanesco (Lazio) White

Gourmet Hunters' speciality is Spain but they sell French and Italian wine too. Their wines are as eclectic as you could wish for. We are for diversity but somehow, as we have mentioned before, Spain is reluctant to give up the names of its native grape varieties. We are beginning to think there may be as many of these as in Italy but it's difficult to know because they remain dwarfed by the ubiquitous Tempranillo etc. from which it is difficult to prise people other than in Catalonia and Galicia.  

The list of grape varieties on Gourmet Hunters' site is a good deal longer than the ones below but we have not included those already discussed in this blog and the more familiar native varieties such as Bobal & Co.

Here are some of them - Iberian unless mentioned otherwise:


Aubun (France)


Bianchetta Trevigliana (Italy)

Boschera (Italy)

Buera (Georgia)

Cardinal (N. America)


Giro (Italy)

Gros Beclan (aka Peloursin) (France)

Gueuche (France)




Maturana Blanco

Minella Bianco (Italy)

Moll (aka Prensal)

Noir Fleurien (France)

Pardina (Italy)

Perera (Italy)


Petit Beclan (France)

Peurion (France)

Rosette (France)


Tortosi (= Rosal Blanco)

Tsitska (Georgia)

Vidueno (= Viduno? Vidonho?)

All of these are stand-alone varieties. There were many other names that turned out to be synonyms for better known varieties. You want them? OK;

Agudillo = Chenin Blanc

Albarin Tinto = Alfrocheiro

Argant (= Gansfuesser)

Baboso Negro = Alfrocheiro

Borracal = Caino Tinto, Espadeiro and Redondo

Carabunera = Touriga Nacional

Diego = Vijariego

Gordo = Muscat d'Alexandrie

Gual = Malvasia Fina

Juan Ibanez = Moristel

Malvar = Lairen

Merenzao = Trousseau

Mouraton = Juan Garcia, Negreda

Mulata = Negramoll

Pardina = Cayetana Blanca

Prieto Picudo Blanco = Godello

Terret Bouret = Terret Gris

Tortosi = Rojal Blanco

Verdiell = Tempranillo




Tuesday 24 November 2020

Seibel 54-55


Back in October 2019, we bought this bottle from Herve Lethielleux at Caves L'Etiquette in Paris. At the time we wrote:

"The wine Herve was itching to show us was this Pet Nat made from an obscure hybrid called '54-55'. This in fact a Seibel hybrid more commonly known as Plantet. It was one of the new resistant varieties widely planted in the wake of Phylloxera. Most common in the Loire it was authorised in every departement. Now down to 1,105 ha. from 27,900. It tastes of rasperries and something odd apparently. It is at this juncture that we realise we now care less whether a wine is good than if it is interesting. Oh dear."

 Well, although Herve had given us no choice we were glad he had foisted this on us because it is utterly gorgeous. 'Wine Grapes' says Plantet is a "Hybrid once popular in the Loire, now producing slightly odd. raspberry-flavoured wines." 

We didn't get any oddness, just the juicy raspberryness. Compared to a lot of hybrids, this is a good one. Quite a surprise really and no need to apologise in advance as we felt we needed to at the time.

Sunday 18 October 2020

2020. Our own vintage.


Getting equipment cleaned and sterilised using gravity method.

We've posted our adventures with bird deterrents already but the vines seemed not to be under massive attack as they were last year when hardly a grape survived.

We suspected pheasants, squirrels, muntjack deer and insects because we have seen all of these in the vineyard and no doubt each get their share of grapes. This year because of an unprecedented yield from out massive and venerable pear tree, we think the insects (wasps) were otherwise engaged and this made all the difference.

Our own grape yield was also unprecedented thanks to our having fed the vines last year for the first time. A mixture of compost and manure. 

Nevertheless, we weren't taking any chances and we may have picked earlier than the ideal but underripe grapes are better than no grapes. We will see if any of the wine is drinkable or if we'll be donating again to our old friend, the kitchen sink.



Solaris and Rondo are always the first to ripen and so they were picked on September 12th, earlier than we have picked any grape before. On September 14th, we noticed more Solaris we had planted in gaps in other parts of the vineyard and had forgotten about. Solaris is easy to recognise thanks to the 'tooth rotting sweetness' (Robnson) and huge leaves.

What you get from these two rows

Most of the rest followed on September 17th and 18th. These comprised Phoenix, Helios, Sirius, yet more Solaris and something called GF 93-22-6.

Most of our whites ready to go

We pressed these grapes immediately and produced about 30 litres of this Gemischter Satz.

Pinkish Johanniter and green Goldriesling

A couple of days later the Johanniter and Goldriesling seemed to be ready. The Goldriesling produced beautiful if tightly packed conical bunches whereas the Johanniter seemed pinker than we remembered it.

Speidel Dee fermenter.

We trod and pressed these grapes right away and put the juice (about 40 litres) in Speidel Dee (Speidel Dum being reserved for our Red grapes) to begin fermentation.

An abundance of grapes this year..

Next, the reds. Apart from the Rondo alreay harvested, we had mainly Regent but also Dornfelder, Pinot Noir Precoce (Fruehburgunder), Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and here and there the odd vine of this and that. Sorry to be vague but all our labels have faded to the point where it is impossible to read and of the so called indelible ink writing. There may have been a couple of bunches each of Saperavi, Baco Noir, VB 5-02 (Cabernet Jura) and VB 5-A-100.

Pollera Nera (stock photo)

 While making our way down one of the rows, we spied a particulary beautiful bunch of what we assumed was Regent although the berries were clearer and shinier. We managed to make out the label and to our astonishment found ourselves looking at a perfect and perfectly ripe bunch of Pollera Nera. We were so excited to taste one of the grapes (yummy) and add the bunch to our basket that we completely forgot to take a photo and record this miracle. The picture above is indeed Pollera Nera and looks similar to ours but dare we say it, ours was more beautiful, and more perfect if about half the size.

Pollera Nera gives wines we have long admired. It is limited to a small area including the Cinque Terre, the Lunigiana and Colli di Luni. We have much admired the monovarietal Pollera Nera of Podere Benelli of Oppilo di Pontremoli, Massa Carrara which is in fact in Toscana.

In a rush of enthusiasm we have contacted local growers to find out where we might buy some vines for planting next year. As a result we are in contact with the Vivai Bianchi Carla of Camaiore in the Versilia, the site of many a summer holiday in the old days, before the pandemic.

D'Agata quotes Diego Bosoni of Lunae Bosoni as saying Pollera Nera has plenty of colour, red fruit and underbrush aromas and flavours and a good tannic structure.

It's worth a try in our experimental vineyard.

This gave over 30 litres of what we'll call our Red Field Blend. Fermentation was a bit slow to start in the big fermenter but we had half a 5-litre plastic bottle bubbling away enthusiastically so we innoculated the larger amount with some of this and lo and behold, fermentation started nicely.

Red Field Blend (mainly Regent)

From experience we know that some of our grapes ripen sooner or later than others. As we have seen, Solaris and Rondo come about 2 weeks before the main varieties. We harvested our Regent and other reds shortly before the bulk of the whites but two varieties are decidedly late: GM 8107-3, an unnamed Geisenheim hybrid which we call "Bettina" after Bettina Lindner who introduced us to this variety in a tasting at Geisenheim. A Brazilian customer had preceded us and had also chosen GM 8107-3 and it was his gallant idea to name the grape "Bettina" after Dip.Ing. Lindner. As far as we know there are still just the two of us who use this name - a situation which should be changed without delay we think. 

Big bunch of our "Bettina"

Bettina is a cross between Ehrenbreitsteiner and a Freiburg hybrid Fr. 52-64. It has vigorous growth and plenty of big bunches.

Our lovely Souvignier Gris

Our other late-ripener is another Freiburg hybrid Souvignier Gris. This has gained some traction among growers and is often blended with another Freiburg product, Muscaris.

"Bettina" and Souvignier Gris fermenting nicely

These produced 15 litres of Bettina and 2.5 litres of Souvignier Gris which you can see on the right.

White Field Blend

Eventually the Solaris, Bettina and Souvignier Gris were combined with the main White Field Blend because separately, they showed less potential than the big 'Gemischter Satz.'


Post Scriptum


 There were two bottles of our 2018 Red Field Blend left. We opened both over the last few days. The first was ruined by a bad cork but the second showed what was probably the best red wine we had ever made from our own home-grown grapes. Mrs Slotovino likened it to a Beaujolais Nouveau and Mrs Slotovino is usually right. We have high hopes for this style of wine. Let's see how 2020 works out.

Saturday 17 October 2020

Making Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Moscato, 2020


The Cantina ready for action

Ready, get set, Macerate!

Cabernet Sauvignon - 3 days

Moscato - half 0 days, half 10 days.

Top tip - don't over-fill the bucket! Mascerating grapes swell up quite a lot.


Carboy with golden Moscato Normale

Moscato first: we planned to divide our grapes in two, pressing the first half right away and keeping the other half to mascerate and make an orange wine.

At first, everything appeared to be going according to plan . The fresh-pressed half started to ferment immediately. The mascerating lot seemed to be doing nicely with pleasant aromas coming from the bins and some foam also from fermentation.

Things appear not to have gone well thereafter. The fresh juice tasted dry. We had planned a sweet wine such as we had made previously. That had been a great success. This was not sweet, but we were not downhearted as dry muscat is a beautiful wine too.

One of our best customers

The mascerated stuff may be destined for the kitchen sink. We think what happened was that in the 10 days of masceration, the wine had not only fermented totally but had also become oxydised. We pressed the must and put the juice in a carboy with an airlock and stood back expecting a fermentation that never came. We only realised that the wine had already fermented out completely when adding emergency wine yeast. Nothing happened. The wine is tasting extra dry and a bit rancio, not to say sherry-like. Peccato!

35 l. demijohn of Cab.S with 15 l. of same behind

The Cabernet Sauvignon was better behaved and fermented obligingly in our Speidel 60 litre fermenter which we will call 'Speidel Dum.' Speidel Dee would be for our white wine. Our 10 boxes of Cab S. provided about 50 litres.

Fermentation over, we racked off the wine into two demijohns. It was interesting to see tiny bubbles coming to the surface thanks to the shape of the demijohn. The same happens in Qvevri and in concrete eggs. Presumably this is part of the aging process, the 'elevage.'


Wine Grape Club, Staple's Corner, London

A week after the Cabernet Sauvignon it was back to Staples Corner to pick (up) our Merlot which is strange because we always thought Merlot ripens before Cabernet Sauvignon.

Merlot without maceration. Note the light colour.

The Merlot provided a little less in terms of quantity and took longer for a fermentation to get going. Maybe this is because we crushed and pressed without maceration. We will also store this in demijohns. We plan to divide the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot into two single grape cuvees and one blend of the two. We're looking forward to blending. Will it be 50/50, 60/40, 70/30 etc? The suspense is palpable down at the Cantina.

Tuesday 13 October 2020

Wine Grape Club 2020


2020 is problematic even for Chris Lisney-Smith the intrepid grape importer (since 1978). Not only do we have actual Brexit at the end of the year but Covid-19 had made the usualy temperature controlled warehouse operation in Hatfield impossible.

Chris and his merry women.

This year Chris has had to organize individual slots for customers to take their orders (30 cases pre-ordered minimum) from lorries arriving on specific days at a storage facility at Staples Corner Industrial Estate off the North Circular Road, London. That is working out well so far but there could still be some waiting around for the lorries from Puglia. No Spanish grapes this year, sadly.

Cabernet Sauvignon  



From the reduced choice of grapes, we decided to buy Moscato, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Quite an exotic choice for Slotovino, but making wine from various grapes gives you an insight into their character, For example our experience with Nero di Troia and Garnacha has been excellent. Real falling off a log stuff, whereas Macabeu and Malvasia are too tricky for us. Moscato has been good when we were not trying to make a Passito version.

Sangiovese and Tempranillo are grapes that disappoint at first but come good after a year in bottle. Trebbiano worked out well but isn't very interesting, surprise surprise.

Interesting Cabernet Sauvignon bunch.

So we plan microvinifications each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and then a little Bordeaux blend of the two. Coming from Puglia, the character of these two varieties will be more Italian than French so we're not going to go in for a great deal of maceration. 

We'll also make the Moscato in two parts. Last year, our experiment drying Moscato was a total failure. All that resulted was a super-rancio beverage with hardly any fruit discernable. Like a cheap oxydised dry sherry. This year, we'll press half the fruit immediately and leave the other half to macerate for a week or so to make an orange wine.

Watch this space.

Sunday 27 September 2020

Two Interesting South African mutations




Cinsault Blanc, aka Albatros.

The delicious Cinsault Blanc by Rall of Wellington, South Africa is not Cinsault (or Cinsaut) vinified white as Hedonism describes it but a wine made from a white mutation of the red Cinsaut grape. The back label tells all:

'Cinsault blanc or "Albatros" as it was called , was discovered after Cinsault mutated to Cinsault Gris and then eventually to Cinsault blanc. This wine made from the last remaining 0.2 ha of old vines in the Cape was fermented partly on the skins and aged for 10 months in locally produced clay amphorae, Total production 1,000 bottles.'

It come in at 10.5% alcohol but is dry and subtle. A fabulous drop to be sure. Not cheap but we challenge you to try it and not want to buy another bottle.



Semillon Gris or Semillon Rose.

Thorne Daughters' 'Tin Soldier' is one of the small band of producers of this other South African mutation, Semillon Gris. Their website has it as follows;

"Tin Soldier is a skin-fermented wine made from Semillon gris, which is almost unique to South Africa, and a vestige of a time when Semillon was the grape on which the South African wine industry was built. The vineyard has been established from a sélection massale of Semillon gris cuttings taken from an adjacent vineyard of Semillon that was planted in 1964.

The colour of the wine is unusual, having taken some bright copper tones from about a week’s fermentation on skins."

 Other producers include Mullineaux and Eben Sadie (in blends).

 Andrea Mullineaux sums it up thus:

  “Sémillon Gris is historically significant in South Africa, not just for the old vine aspect, but for its previous popularity. In the early 1800s, 80% of the vines in South Africa were thought to be Semillon. By the mid-1800s 50% of the Semillon had gone through the natural mutation and turned into Semillon Gris. This variation of the variety only happens slowly, vine per vine, after the vines are at least 30 years old. My vineyard, planted on Paardeberg decomposed Granite in 1959, is 55 years old and has only partially turned gris. I would say 70% of the vineyard is now Sémillon Gris, so it is hand picked to ensure that ONLY the gris bunches are picked.
Although this CAN happen in other parts of the world, it is extremely rare and rarely recorded. That is why it is so special for South Africa. It has proven itself to have adapted to our terroir and does very well, even in the extreme Swartland."

'Wine Grapes' does not mention Semillon Gris but has a chapter on Semillon Rose under the general Semillon entry. Their take on the grape is also interesting as they say the mutation seems to be unique to South Africa...'and may even have become the more common of the two [Semillons]. It is not known when it first appeared but it had become common by the 1820s.'

Galet has various Semillons (Semillon a bois noir - 'elimine,' Petit Semillon, aka Semillon Blanc etc) as you would expect but not Semillon Gris and he credits 'Robinson et al' for his mention of 'Semillon Rose ou Red Semillon...C'est la mutation rouge de Semillon observe en Afrique du Sud."

Whether Gris or Rose, whether unique to South Africa or 'extremely rare and rarely recorded' in other parts of the world, we consider this 'Tin Soldier' by Thorne Daughters to be special and especially lovely at 12,0% but then we are succers for low alcohol Semillon wherever it is made.

While we're on mutations, it should be said that even if what Jancis Robinson describes as 'generally deletarious,' these are not anything sinister but a completely natural spontaneous occurrence without which we wouldn't have some of the lighter versions of grape varieties which were originally dark. 

Examples given include the two Gamay teinturiers, Gamay Freaux and Gamay de Chaudenay which are thought to be mutations from Gamay de Bouze. Mauzac would seem to be a better example with Mauzac Blanc, Rose, Vert, Jaune and according to Robert and Bernard Plageoles three others, but not Mauzac Rouge which is not related. Things get a bit more complicated with partial mutations called Chimeras whereby the skin may mutate without the inside doing so. If that sounds obscure then consider the example of Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir. Apparently Pinot Meunier which we consider so different from Pinot Noir isessentially similarwith the exception of white hairson the shoot tip and young leaves.

Thursday 17 September 2020

A better idea?


We ordered this Bird Scarer tape from China months ago and had quite forgotten about it until it arrive one fine day - just in time. If it keeps the birds away for the next two or three weeks we'll be very happy. 

It promises to be easy to remove unlike the tinsel curtains we've been experimenting with. Getting rid of those is going to be the equivalent of mopping up an oil spill. We may have to wait until pruning next year to get rid of it completely. 

Wednesday 9 September 2020

Not a good idea


It's happening once more!

Something (Pheasants? Wasps? Squirrels? Deer?) is beginning to take our grapes - again.

Last year we lost practically every singke grape, we know not what to. We thought pheasants on account of the cloud of them that rose up when we entered the vineyard. 



We considered all sorts of deterrents. A dancing man, a clapper, electronic ultrasound, 



model birds of prey on long wires and so forth. All expensive and - we heard - only effective for a short time (birds get used to them).

A party last winter gave us an inspiration: Tinsel Curtains! We bought 10 boxes each of 5 curtains. 

At first the look was promising. However, we noticed that the grapes were not ripening well under the tinsel (surprise, surprise). Also grapes were being eaten.

Nevertheless, we pressed on. We'd bought the tinsel and there weren't going to be any opportunities for using it at parties for the forseeable future.

Wierdly, all the pheasants had disappeared this year. True, one or thwo have made their way back but nothing to worry about. 

Due to an inexplicable, once-in-a-lifetime glut in pears this year the wasps were occupied elsewhere.

True, two Muntjac deer were seen in the garden one morning but the depradations were nowhere near what they had been in 2019.

So we're going to harvest our two earliest varieties, Rondo and Solaris any day now.

We think Tinsel notwithstanding. Oh, and it's not easy to remove tinsel curtains from vines once they are no longer needed. Perhaps we should have thought of that.