Monday 18 May 2020

Five Stars

Dealing with numerous online winemerchants before and during the lockdown we have come across some extremes.

It must be difficult to be efficient at the best of times. Each item has to be correctly described, stock has to be accurately accounted for, the wines need to be readily available and shipping has to be reliable and fast.

The companies listed below managed all these hurdles and had some interesting wines too. We give them 5 Slotovino stars. There were 4 star outfits who may have slipped up on just one of these criteria and we would certainly use them again. And then there were others we would rather forget.

Here's the list of the best guys with some of the varieties we found on their lists.

* * * * *

Drinks and Co. (Uvinum).

Buttafuoco, Grignolino, Hunter Valley Semillon, Schiava/Vernatsch, Semidano


Hunter Valley Semillon

Vins y licores Grau

Garnacha Blanca, Hondarribi Beltza, Hondarribi Zuri, Macabeu, Moscatel, Parellada, Xarel-lo.Incrocio Manzoni, 

Historische Rebsorten (Rebschule Ulrich Martin)

Blauer Muskateller, Gelber Kleinberger, Gruenfraenkisch, Gruener Adelfraenkisch, Hartblau
Weisser Raeuschling

Kudos Wines. Greek Wines and Spirits.

Debina, Koniaros, Malagoussia, Sideritis, Sklava, Vlachiko, Vradiano.

Perbacco (Hannover)

Dornfelder, Elbling,  Goldriesling, Kerner, Portugieser.

T. Wright Wine, Bolton

Cataratto, Chambourcin, Moristel, Trollinger.


Jacquere, Grolleau Gris, Molette, Mondeuse Noir


Private Preserve (Argon gas spray)

Xtra Wine

Aligote, Biancolella, Fiano Minutolo, Nieddera, Pecorello, Piedirosso, Rossetto, Roter Veltliner, Sirica, Turca, Vernaza Zinesa, Vernatsch.

Saturday 16 May 2020

13% and up.



Biancolella. Mostly found on Ischia and mostly under 13%. Biancolella is an adorable variety. If we had any time for the term 'noble' Biancolella would qualify but we don't.

Favorita. It's a long time ago that we tried Favorita. We'll give it another try. It's aleays good to have your prejudices confirmed and even better to have them overturned.

Pecorello (not Pecorino).First spied at the airport duty free shop at Lamezia Terme. We weren't sure about the name Pecorello but we bought this wine by Ippolito anyway and we were glad we did. Happy also to have the opportunity of re-aquiring this wine. It's rare to find a Pecorello in purezza. We're ahead of D'Agata on that one.

Rossetto (aka Roscetto). Another grape we'd never heard of. D'Agata only found two versions which were so different from eachother he writes that he'd be lying if he told us what a Rossetto wine was really supposed to taste like. This one by Falesco he says is very rich and textured.

And amazingly here's another Rossetto. It's not the same as the normal cliche about two busses coming along at the same time after waiting for hours; this is on a par with two No. 46 busses arriving at once. Out of these two, only the Falesco (above) is mentioned by D'Agata. Please note we have turned a blind eye to Lucedilago's 12.5% alcohol in this 13% zone just so the two Rossettos can keep eachother company.

Vugava. We've often remarked at the difficulty winemakers have of putting the name of their grapes on their labels. This can be for the following reasons;

1. The grape is not permitted in their area and they don't want to draw attention to it.
2. The grape is one so obscure they fear people will have a negative response so they don't want to draw attention to it.
3. As in France, they are not allowed to mention the grape variety on the label so much as they would like to do so they can't draw attention to it.

We find this annoying for obvious reasons but this wine's label achieves a new extreme in the urge not to impart information.

There are indentations, white on white and black on black but they are indeciferable even if we brushed up our Croat.

This is a pity because the white grape Vugava is not only interesting but is said to be a 'High-quality, aromatic variety found on the Croatian island of Vis.' ('Wine Grapes').

We've had the pleasure of having been to Vis and seen a vineyard there. Whether the vines were Vugava or otherwise we don't know. Vis is not large so this must be rare indeed. We would have thought that was something to announce boldly.

Begleri. Better not to ask how we came by this bottle of Begleri from the island of Ikaria.

OK, now we have your attention it was a consolation prize from a wine merchant who had failed to deliver another rare grape variety wine we had ordered and paid for. They gave us the choice of waiting until the original wine came in or this bottle of Begleri - a grape we had dimly heard of but never encountered; super obscure we thought. We became even more excited when we failed to find an entry for Begleri in Lazarakis's 'the Wines of Greece.' Excitement was barely controllable.

Next - 'Wine Grapes' and disappointment. Under Begleri it says 'See Thrapsathiri.' Still, the bottle was complimentary and came by special delivery by a chap who might have been the CEO with the (unrapped) bottle in his hand. We've had Thrapsathiri before. It didn't exactly bowl us over. 'Wine Grapes' tells us that Thrapsathiri is grown mainly in the Southern Aegean and it is in the Northern Aegean that it is called Begleri. Ikaria is in the middle but would seem to belong to the Northern group for wine purposes. Maybe it will taste different?

Thrapsa by the way means 'lots of' (Thrapsathiri is high yielding).


Franconia. Zorzettig is a prominent producer in Venezia Friuli Giulia. We had the pleasure of meeting Alan Gaddi of Zorzettig at last year's London International Wine Fair and were amazed - as was Alan - that we had the Rauscedo no-spray hybrid 'Soreli' in common. Zorzettig is obviously a forward-looking outfit because they also make a wine from the Franconia grape variety. We sort of knew that Fanconia was nothing but Blaufrankisch (aka Lemberger) but it is not listed in the index of 'Wine Grapes.'

Lasina. Ante Sladic's labels are the epitome of what labels should be - obsucre varieties or not. If we could understand Croat we would be even better informed to be sure but with our handy 'Wine Grapes' we can discover that Lasina is 'A rare variety still cultivated in some parts of the Sjeverna Dalmacija (Northern Dalmacia) wine region of Croatia. It is little known because it is mostly used in blends.' Just up our street.

Prёmetta. 'A red wine that looks like a rose and tastes like one too.' (D'Agata). The diairesis on the e of Prёmetta is there as a nod towards pronouncing the word 'Primetta' which is what most Italians call this wine. Just to make things even more complicated, the official name is Prie Rouge but D'Agata says that on his 13 or 14 annual visits to the Valle D'Aosta not once has anyone used this name.

Prёmetta is also used as a table grape.



Darnekusa or Drnekusa. A red grape frim Hvar. We have already encountered Drnekusa in Jo Ahearne's 'Rosina' (see our previous post). Rosina is only 11%. Plancic's is 2.3% higher. The comparison will be interesting.

'Wine Grapes' doesn't have a whole lot to say about Drnekusa apart from the fact it is rare.



Chardonnay. 'Slotovino' is obviously an ABC blog but we have mentioned Chardonnay a couple of times before just to show how broadminded we are.

Putting aside the undisputed fact that Chardonnay in Bourgogne makes the world's greatest white wines, we have mentioned that we like Chardonnay from Jura and England in a lighter, more pungent style.

This Cotes du Jura Chardonnay Vieilles Vignes from Lidl is neither light nor pungent. We bought two bottles years ago when Lidl was making one of its periodic releases of interesting wines (there was also a Poulsard). The first bottle was rather awful we thought. It really didn't have much to recommend it. 

This one, with a further couple of years bottle age was divine however, with a golden roundness to it. Quite the equal of many a good Burgundy. It just shows as we have said before that wine is a living thing and each bottle is a time capsule delivering a different result depending on goodness knows how many different factors.

Keknyelu.  Meaning 'Blue Stalk,' Keknyelu comes from Badasconyi in the northern part of Lake Balaton in Western Hungary. We hadn't been impressed by Balaton wines in the old communist days.
We remembered one wine that managed to be both light and having the aroma of the low grade petrol found in the Eastern block. So this Keknyelu lay untouched on a shelf for many a year eliciting pangs of guilt every time we passed it by. Finally taking pity on it we opened it recently and our surprise and pleasure couldn't have been greater. 

Keknyelu plantings have doubled since the turn of the century but were still only 41 ha. in 2009. There are problems growing Keknyelu due to poor fertilisation apparently and yields are also poor and unreliable. Thanks to Szeremley for persevering though. This wine was exactly as the generic description by 'Wine Grapes;' "full-bodied, high-acid but fresh and highly fragrant..." There follows the comment that they benefit from some time in bottle. So we were doing something right by ignoring it all that time and being reminded of petrol fumes.


Nero D'Avola with small amounts of Surra (Frappato), Pignateddu (Perricone), Nzolia (Insolia), Muscatedda (Moscatell) and Niuriruossu (Grosso Nero). 

We wrote previously about our visit to Riofavara near Ispica in Sicily last year. This wine is delicious. We are not huge fans of Nero D'Avola per se although we have enjoyed some bottles including 'Siclys' by Armosa.

Riofavara's Nero D'Avola only has small quantities of the above named native varieties but we fancy they have made a big difference. The mouth feel is stupendously soft and the taste just the epitomy of loveliness.

Sirica. Sirica! Sirica! Where have you been all our lives? The answer is Campania since Pliny the Elder wrote about in in 75 BC making Sirica one of the oldest-known varieties in Italy (D'Agata). 

The story of its being saved from extinction by the Feudi di San Gregorio estate in Taurasi near Avellino is one of those heart warming, nay life-enhancing events whereby an entire variety is brought back to life from 4 vines of 250 - 280 years of age. We had never heard about it but can't wait to try it now. We hope you will too and thereby ensure Sirica's full recovery.



As we saw in the previous post, Skrlet comes from Croatia and the name is said to be a corruption of the German 'scharlach' = scarlet - in this case because of the red spots on the grape skins, remeniscent of scarlet fever. That should gain this variety a lot of friends, don't you think?

Our Ilovckak Skrlet was 12.5%  . This one by Kosovec, a rather whopping 14%. We'll see if the high alcohol compromises the grape's character.



Nieddera (85%) and Caddiu (15%. D'Agata hails Contini as the best producer of Nieddera 'who deserves great credit and everyone's admiration for essentially saving the variety from extinction.' It's worth reading D'Agata's entry on Nieddera in full to get an idea of the complexity of identifying these kinds of grapes - what entry isn't in this great book?

The small amount of Caddiu also precipitates a quick check on that even rarer grape. D'Agata ends his entry on Caddiu by writing 'I have yet to taste a pure Caddiu wine, but of course, I'd like to.' 

So should we.



Vradiano. the back label reads; 'A former forgotten variety from Northern Evia. Vradiano is revived thanks to the cultivation by the cultivation and winemaking efforts of the people in the Vriniotis Winery.' Another heartwarming story. Vradiano is not mentioned in The Wines of Greece (Lazarakis), 'Wine Grapes' or even D'Agata (only joking). Galet has an entry of course in which we learn that Vradyano or Vradiano aka Vradinia or Bordiano is authorised in Thessaly, Central Greece and on the island of Euboea (Evia) which is where this wine comes from. Galet adds 'Vin rouge ayant un bon bouquet.'

We hope the whacking 15% alcohol doesn't hide this bon bouquet too much. We'll report in the fullness of time.


Reds and whites up to 12.5%

In our last post 9.5% - 11.8% whites we concentrated on these lower alcohol wines which are always hard to find. They came from from the Basque country, England, France and Germany.

You may think it not a valid criterion to arrange wines by alcoholic content and maybe we are being didactic here but in our opinion, Abv. values are not given due prominence seeing as how they have a critical effect on calories, intoxication and frequently the expression or non-expression of the relevant grape variety. Lower alcohol seems to us to bring out typicity better than higher. For example, a Grignolino at 14% tends to become just another fruit bomb. Our beloved Ramisco grape of Colares also loses personality over say 12.5%.

Agree or not, we had to find a way of noting the various bottles we have been buying during lockdown. We hope this doesn't count as hoarding or panic buying. In fact online winebuying is one of the few bright spots in the market these days (up by over one-third apparently) and there seems to be plenty of supply with no one going without.

So in this post, we're listing reds as well as whites and going up to the dizzying height of 12.5% alcohol.

Hold tight!


 Reds (for 9.5% - 11.5% whites see our previous post)

Schiava/Vernatsch. Also called Trollinger, this is one of several Schiava grapes which people have been tempted to group together in a family. The only problem is that none of them is related. Most wines are made from Schiava Grigia or Schiava Grossa but there is also Schiava Nera aka Schiava Lombarda. Without going into all this in detail, let it just be said that we love Schiava Grigia and Grossa and are happy there are different Schiavas as this leads to the gaity of nations.

'Turca is a rare variety grown only in Veneto and Trentino, mainly around the hamlet of Araie, west of Feltre near Belluno and in the Valsugana.' There you have it according to D'Agata. If you haven't bought his 'Native Wine Grapes of Italy' yet, go buy it and don't delay. It is one of life's great pleasures to dodge from one entry to another.


Jo Ahearne MW was wine buyer for Marks and Spencer and Harrods before taking off to Dalmacia (Croatia) to make wines from local grapes. 'Rosina' is made from 100% Drnekusa - a rare variety from the island of Hvar. Rumour has it this might be a rose. It's difficult to tell from the dark green bottle.



Prie. It's not uncommon to come across Blanc de Morgex et de La Salle which is strange because it is made from the Prie grape that grows in some of the highest and most inhospitable terroirs in Europe. We say terroirs because many of the Prie vines are found on terraces, nooks, crannies and spots rather than vineyards and all together there are only about 25 ha of this ancient grape.

Prie has nonetheless managed to put itself about and a number of progeny have been discovered as far afield as Northern Spain. Lairen, Mayolet and Primetta pluspossibly Luglienga and Albillo Real.


Mustilli is a Piedirosso from the comune of Sant'Agata de' Goti in the province of Benevento/Beneventano in Campania. Piedirosso is the signature grape of Campania together with Aglianico and Falanghina. We've always loved Piedirosso. This one is rare at 11.5%

Slarina. Douglas Wregg of 'Les Caves de Pyrene' writes;

'Fabrizio Iuli...planted more and more vineyards (9 ha in total) and cultivates Nebbiolo and Pinot Noir, but his speciality is Barbera. Recently, he has begun to rediscover other autochthonous varieties and to that end is producing some fascinating examples of the lesser known Grignolino (Natalin), Slarina (La Rina) and Baratuciat (Barat).

It seems likely that Italian viticultural authorities removed Slarina (amongst others) from the registry of recognised varieties during the country’s post-war viticultural renaissance because of its inconsistent productivity...'

You won't find Slarina either in D'Agata or in 'Wine Grapes.'



Bianco D'Alessano is one of Slotovino's favourite grape varieties. We make no apologies for writing about it whenever we have the opportunity. For sure some are better than others but at its best this is a grape that should be much better known.

Debit. High yielding variety supposedly named after its ability to pay debts. Not related to Pagadebit (Puglia), also high yielding. Strangely. 'Wine Grapes' describes Debit as a 'Vine producing alcoholic wine.' It just shows that Abv. is a choice. Ante Sladic has chosen to make this version at 12%.

Goldriesling. An early Alsacian hybrid from Riesling and an as yet unidentified variety. We are rather fond of Goldriesling having enjoyed a memorable chilled glass on a sweltering day in Radebeul, Dresden on one occasion. It is now a speciality of that area but we have succeeded in planting a few vines in the Thames Valley (the only ones in the UK?) which produce nice sweet berries when the birds don't get them. Interestingly, our Goldriesling suffered from mildew of one kind or another until we grubbed up the neighbouring rows of Bacchus. Now they seem OK.

Schloss Proschwitz is one of our preferred producers in the neglected area of Sachsen, the other being Schloss Wackerbarth.

The back label says Greco Bianco but what actually is the grape? D'Agata tells us most Greco in Calabria ia Malvasia di Lipari. Since this one is from Ciro however, it might be Guardalvalle. There are others (D'Agata says 'take an aspirin').

Back in 2012 we had tasted Terret Blanc at the Real Wine Fair in three different bottles and susequently admitted it to our grape varieties' Hall of Fame. It may not be world-shattering but it is a pleasant addition to the choice of white wines and restaurants should bear it in mind when they have run out of Picpouls, Marsannes, Roussanes and what have you.

Debina. Domaine Glinavos of Zitsa, Epirus, Greece's most remote wine growing area. Debina is the only official variety there although others are planted. It is said to have been grown since the 7th century and Byron appreciated it on his way through saying “a superb white wine of which Abbot Gregorios was very proud”.

Debina has its difficulies both in viticulture and winemaking but the best examples are considered fres, elegant and drinkable which is what we ghave here.

This was our chance to taste a Sideritis wine. Why Iron? Because Sidero = iron in Greek. the Sideritis grape has pink skin and is used as a table grape and for distilling as well as making white wine as in this example by the Achaeon winery, Achaia, central Greece. Sideritis is certainly individual and original. We were glad to have tasted it but don't feel an irresistable urge to repeat the experience.

Picapoll. Picapoll Blanco (there is a Picapoll Negro variety) is described as a minor Catalan variety that may be the same as France's Clairette Blanche. (Wine Grapes). 'The DNA profiles are said to be almost the same but it is not yet clear whether Picapoll Blanco is simply a clonal variation on Clairette or a distinct yet very cloesly related variety (Vouillamoz).' (Wine Grapes again.).

We have enjoyed Catalunian Picapoll way more than French Clairette which to us tastes nothing like it so we'd like to think it is unique.

Jo Ahearne MW makes a blend of Kuc, Bogdanusa and Posip called 'Wild Skins' also from Hvar. Kuc is a synonym for the Dalmatian variety Trbljan which was erroneously thought to be Trebbiano. Bogdanusa is described below as a monovarietal and Posip is one of Dalmacia's most highly considered varieties, grown mainly on Korcula. This is a 'maceration' wine. Orange?


Trepat. Another of the Cava grapes, Trepat makes lovely light reds which we think should be better known and available on restaurant winelists for example. 'Wine Grapes' notes it is 'typically fruity, lightly structured, dominated by fresh red berries (strawberries, raspberries), hay, and a certain spiciness (cinnamon). A recommendation or what?

Chambourcin. We just adore Chambourcin which you may find strange because there is not one 'noble' variety in its ancestry.

Seyve-Villard 12-417 where Seyve Villard 12-417 is a Seibel 6468 x Subereux cross (for the complete pedigree see Brianna for Seibel 6468 and Prior for Subereux).


Chancellor (a complex hybrid obtained by crossing Seibel 5163 x Seiber 880 (see Prior for the complete pedigree of Chancellor).

'Wine Grapes.'

If they can produce a grape variety as great as Chambourcin in this complex way there has to be hope for a Corona Virus vaccine.

Blauer Portugieser has had a bad rap because it is a high-yielding vine and there may be some 'rather dull low-acid wines' (Wine Grapes) around.

You could say there may be some rather dull wines around from most grapes so that is a bit unfair. Surprisingly it is the 3rd most planetd red variety in Austria from where it is thought to have originated. It is definitely not a Portuguese variety.

For us it has character, lightness and charm. We put it alongside Poulsard, Pineau D'Aunis, Grignolino and Trepat as a highly drinkable wine of character.

Dornfelder. Dornfelder is descended from Portugieser as well as Pinot Noir Precoce, Schiava Grossa and Blaufrankisch and is described as 'The most successful of the modern German crosses, making dark, velvety wines.

It was only authorised in 1980 since when it has been widely planted in Germany and also to a lesser degree in Switzerland, England, the Czech republic. USA, Brasil and Japan.



Gegic is the speciality of Pag, an island off the coast of Dalmatia. It is an irregular ripener which means it is declining.

Bogdanusa is mainly from the island of Hvar off the Dalmatian coast. Bogdanusa is considered as making light fresh white wines. ('Wine Grapes').

Skrlet comes from Croatia and the name is said to be a corruption of the German 'scharlach' = scarlet - in this case because of the red spots on the grape skins, remeniscent of scarlet fever. That should gain this variety a lot of friends, don't you think?

Again, light, fresh and delicate. Skrlet was on the road to extinction before being brought back from the brink by a handful of makers. We applaud them.

Minutolo or Fiano Minutolo. We read in D'Agata it has been grown in Puglia since 1200. By 2000, it had become a minor curiosity but was revived by Lino Carparelli of the director of the Cantina Sociale Locorotondo and then head winemaker of Torrevento. It has become so popular now that quite possibly more Minutolo wine is made than there are Minutolo vines.

Roter Veltliner - we can't stop enthusing about this lovely variety - totally independent of Gruener and just as good if not better for our money.

So good, here's another one.

A new label for Simpson's Pinot Meunier vinified white. We enthused about this last year and include it so you can find it again under the moniker 'On the QT'. This expression may come from the Music Hall where it comprised a line from Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay;

A sweet Tuxedo girl you see,
Queen of swell society,
Fond of fun as fun can be
When it's on the strict Q.T.

Maybe Simpsons didn't have precisely this in mind but they have gone from producing sparkling to producing still wine possibly via a stage when producing still wine was a bit furtive? We have hailed this white Pinot Meunier as one of the best English table wines ever and an excellent wine by world standards. It's reasonably priced too. Hooray!


Schwarzriesling is Pinot Meunier. This one is vinified red.

Trollinger, aka Vernatsch, Schiava from the Graf Neipperg estate in Wuerttemberg. The Neippergs also own or co-own Chateau Canon La Gaffeliere in Saint Emilion and other Bordeaux properties such as La Mondotte, Clos l'oratoire, D'Aiguilhe, Peyraud, Soleil, Clos L'Oratoire, Marsalette and Guiraud in Bordeaux and Enira in Bulgaria. Quite an empire.

Plavina is a 'Dark skinned offspring of Tridibdrag (Zinfandel) producing light reds the length of the Dalmatian coast.' (Wine Grapes,')

We love Ante Sladic's labels.Informative, clear - great graphics.

Dalmacija Primorska - the Dalmacian coast