Monday 23 March 2020


One good thing about self-isolating from Coronavirus is the opportunity to taste, no - drink - some of the bottles piling up on our shelves.

Here's one that brightened our day. A fabulous Brancellao from Ribeira Sacra.

Brancellao is known as Alvarelhao in nearby Portugal. It is a grape with an amazing potential as we discovered with Forlorn Hope's 'Suspiro del Moro' Alvarelhao from the Silvaspoons vineyard, Lodi California a few years ago.

That triggered an investigation into the entire Vinho Verde/Galicia/Ribeiro/ Ribeiro Sacra region of North West Iberian Peninsula.

Nothing we discovered then compares with this beauty.

We obtained it from Decantalo, one of those new-ish operations importing (exporting actually) a huge selection of Spanish wines in the Vinissimus mode. Their prices are not exorbitant (£21.80 for this) and they are efficient and good to deal with. Recommended.

Pruning 2020

This season's pruning was a mixture of hope and despair. Hope, thanks to the advice of Sam Doncaster as to how to prune 1 and 2 year old vines. We had never understood that even at this tender age you have to cut them back to 2 or 3 buds. It seems like infanticide but we are hoping that will be the answer to the feeble growth that characterises our vines.


We cut back everything else with similar mercilessness.

The bad news was that of the 500 Soreli vines planted last year, only a few showed any sign of life. We may be wrong. Miracles have occurred in the past with seemingly moribund plants coming back to life but we fear the worst.

We'll see.

Sunday 8 March 2020

Try this: excellent Savagnin from Australia

Normally we don't pay a lot of attention to messages from wine merchants. Many feel obliged to circulate round robins far too frequently. Some have quite annoying content as well as frequency.

The most extreme opposite is Chambers Street Wines of New York. To read their emails is an education. Even when we are not interested in the category of wine they might be writing about, we can always find something of interest in what they say.

Of most others, a quick scan is all they get before deletion so it is rare for us to pay enough attention to consider actually buying a wine.

An Australian Savagnan from Swig caught our beady eyes though. Savagnan is a funny one. It's home in the Jura produces wines that can be so dry as to be unaproachable or so sweet as to be only for dessert or aperitif purposes.

The famous story of the mis-naming of Albarino in Australia is well known. In the early years of this century, Australian producers took an interest in Albarino and imported a large number of vines. We'd be interested to know from whom because these vines were not Albarino at all bur Savignin. There is an even more famous story about Merlot in Chile. That turned out to be Carmenere as everyone knows. The Chileans stuck with their Carmenere and now you could say that has become Chile's signature wine.

Australia was a bit less philsophical and more growers rectified matters by replanting with Albarino proper. Understandable as Albarino was getting market recognition whereas Savagnin has tended to be confused with Sauvignon. Some Australian growers even felt the need to invent new names such as Saverro and Savinno but quite a few stuck with Savagnin including BK Wines who have made a speciality ot of it.

Always ready to give a grape an even break, we bought BK Wines' Savagnin 2017 skin contact white ('Please decant me') at 11.5% from Lenswood in the Adelaide Hills as it ticked so many boxes.

We were not disappointed. This is one of the most beautiful and original wines we have ever tasted. It's not cheap but if you take the offer on a 6 pack you will be paying £19.95 instead of a whopping £27.50 for a single bottle. It's very much worth it and you too can become a Swigger.

BK Wines was established in 2007 by two New Zealanders Brendan and Kirtsyn in the Adelaide Hills. They make an interesting range of wines focussing on 'Quality and Creativity, not Conformity' including wines matured in concrete eggs, wild yeasts, a beer-bottle closure for the Pet Nats, a Ramato, a Gruener Veltliner and even a Saignee Savagnin - surely a first? There is also a Savignin Flor with a 'light, Manzanilla sherry-style oxidative characte.'

For further information on this and all the most interesing wines of Australia, consult Darby Higgs's Vinodiversity site.,

Wednesday 4 March 2020

Mega surprises at reduced SITT

SITT was smaller this February at Lynley Hall, off Vincent Square, London but that didn't mean it was any less interesting.

The big news was Verdese di Como, a grape rescued practically from extinction by Cantine Angelinetta, Lago di Como.

A young couple, Emanuele and Eleonora Angelinetta have made what seems to be the only 100% Verdese wine currently in existance. Mentioned neither in 'Wine Grapes' nor in 'Native Wine Grapes of Italy' Verdese di Como is a rarity indeed.

Fortunately Galet has an entry:

Syn. : Verdesa, Verdese (Como), Verdetto a San Colombano, Verdona (Abbiate Guazzone), Verdamm dans le Milanais (Molon), Bianca Maggiore (Marzotto).
Cepage de cuve blanc italien, signale par Molon et decrit recemment par Calo.
Bourgeonnement cottoneux vert jaunatre.
Feuille  moyenne, plane, un peu bullee, entiere ou trilobee a sinus superieures peu profonds, ouverts, sinus petiolaire en U ouvert: dents courtes, ogivales; dessous du limbe duveteux avec les nervures principales pubescentes. Grappe courte, conique, compacte; baie grosse, ovoide, a peau verdatre, meme a maturite, saveur simple. Maturite 3e epoque.

We reproduce this in full as a tribute to the great man who died on the last or penultimate day of last year. We must get a handle on the Ampelographical terms one day although we suspect our relationship to ampelography will be what Isaiah Berlin described as that of a football hooligan to Philosophy. How Pierre Galet was able to write entries such as this for thousands of other grape varieties in his monumental 'Dictionnaire Encyclopedique des cepages et de leurs synonymes' is unimaginable.

Giovanni Brumana seen here with Sra Brumana is the Director of Orsa Major Ltd, importers of Italian wines.

Orsa Major embodies what we like most about SITT.

Company Profile
What do we know about wine? First of all we drink it, we love it and we want to share it. Our aim is to let people know that behind a simple bottle of wine there are interesting stories, passion and hard work. We decided to present small local traditional productions like the ones we host here today. A kind of a rarity because they are entirely produced, bottled and consumed locally. We chose Lombardy wines because we know the region well as we are ourselves from there.

Galet's entry mentions 'saveur simple' and one can't argue with that. However the wine is pleasant and refreshing. Verdese di Como is certainly worth saving from extinction.

Orsa Major also fielded four Franciacortas, and four wines from Cantina Bergamasca including a Moscato di Scanzo which we had first encounered at BING, Barolo and an Incrocio Manzoni. Cantina Bergamasca also produces a wine made from Incrozio Terzi, a Barbera/Cabernet Sauvignon crossing (not present at this tasting).

Verdese di Como wasn't the only grape brought back from extinction. At the Sonvino table we found a wine called Vinolus Kalecik Karasi.

Yusuf Sabit Agaoglu, saviour od Kalecik Karasi
Kalecik is a Turkish variety rescued by Professor Dr. Yusuf Sabit Agaoglu of Ankara University. The following is a google translation of a Turkish description of Prof. Sabit Agaoglu's work with Kalecik (Karasi means 'red');

He is a professor who retired from Ankara University Faculty of Agriculture, where he worked for many years, and produces small amounts of great wines in his boutique winery located in the budcukbağ, which he founded in Kalecik. Following the trace of the Kalecik Karası grape, which was about to disappear, he made his subject to his doctoral thesis and saved him from extinction. ie if one of the current Kalecik black grape is known thanks to his turkey (sic).

It produces the wines that it sells under the trajan brand with completely spontaneous fermentation and does not use the keg because it thinks it is incompatible with the spirit of the goalkeeper land. wines are generally medium tanned and stand out with their fruitiness on the palate.

It has encouraged people to do proper viticulture in a small town like Kalecik for years, but unfortunately this vision has not been found in the public. On top of that, when regulations and state policies overlapped, Kalecik remained a closed small town that could not produce added value.

He blended the wines he produced in 2014-2015 and 2016 for his beloved wife, whom he lost a few years ago, and bottled in his memory with the label "Gülcihanlı years". I recommend people who are interested in wine to meet him

The helpful and informed Serhat Narsap, DipWSET
Although specialising in Turkey and Bulgaria, Sonvino also had an interesting Spanish wine from the Cayetana Blanca variety. Cayetana is another of Spain's secrets. It has many synonyms including Baladi which is a name given also to a native grape of the Holy Land making wines as we have seen in Israel and the West Bank - unrelated to Cayetana. In Portugal it is Mourisco Branco. In Australia it is known as Doradillo not to be confused with  Doradilla which is a native grape of Malaga. Interesting if potentially confusing.

At Panda Fine Wine, we found another rarity, a Chinese grape called Beichun. Described as a winter-hardy hybrid, Beichun has Muscat of Hamburg and a Chinese wild species called Ruprecht (Vitis Amurensis). It makes a lovely wine: a very pleasant surprise.

Michael Sun was representing Panda Fine Wines and we remembered him from previous shows.

He had introduced us to this wine from the Longyan native Chinese grape variety. Wine Grapes describes Longyan as an old Chinese variety of unknown origin. Strangely, Longyan is a vinifera grape so it must have been brought to China at some stage long ago. It is quite widely planted in China.

Another surprise was a Chinese Rkatsiteli. Amazing to find this grape in China at all (although its cold-hardiness makes this understandable) but extra-surprising to find that this version from the same winery as the Beichun, the Puchang vineyard (Xingjiang) was absolutely marvellous, perhaps the best Rkatsiteli we have ever tasted. Puchang also work with Saperavi and Riesling Italico among others.

As if all this wasn't enough excitement for one afternoon, Alpine wines had a Swiss crossing of Chasselas and Chardonnay called Doral. The name rang a bell but here it was in reality. Marvellous.

Originally Nick Dobson Wines, it is heartening to see how the company has expanded and florished as Alpine Wines under Joelle Nebbe-Morno.It's 'institutional memory' is very much alive. How often can you say that?

But what was this? The very same Romano for which we once trekked to Wimbledon to acquire. Romano is the name given to this Chilean wine purporting to come from the minor Burgundian grape Cesar. Check our previous posts on this subject.

Jackson Nugent Vintners are the enterprising importers of this fascinating and once you have allowed it to breathe, delicious wine.

Johnny Bingham heads Agency Sales for JNV. There can be no more affable person in the wine world. He was clearly delighted that we had discovered their Casa Silva Romano. Indeed he had another rarity from the same Chilean producer: Casa Silva Sauvignon Gris.

We had come across Sauvignon Gris before under its synonym Fie Gris. It is a colour mutation of Sauvignon Blanc.

Johnny had something else we had never seen before, a Pinot Blanc from Muscadet. 

To round off this productive visit, a Posip from Korkula, one of the larger islands off the Croatian coast. 

We had last tasted Posip in 2010 and hadn't exactly been bowled over but this one was outstanding: Deliciously aromatic. Individual too.

A great way to leave this small but eye-opening tasting.