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.