Tuesday 29 June 2021

2021 Re: planting.


Triomphe and Bacchus trunks on the bonfire



2018. Triomphe D'Alsace vines grubbed up. Replanted with Cabernet Noir.

2019. Bacchus grubbed up. replanted with 500 Soreli vines.

2020. 450 Soreli vines died in hot spring weather when Covid prevented access to vineyard.

2021. Vineyard re-planted with 200 Soreli and 200 Fleurtai vines. Also 100 Cabernet Noir replacement

          vines planted.    


Paolo with auger-digger

With the plantings of 2019 devastated by the hot spring weather during the first lockdown, we had to go to great lengths to obtain replacement plants from VCR France. Nobody knew what bureaucratic hoops would have to be gone through to negotiate Brexit. In the end, VCR France found a way.

For the planting this year we went to a company called Vinecare and we are glad we did. Paul Woodrow-Hill, Company Director of Vinecare advised us not to plant before the end of April or beginning of May to avoid frosts. We hade never planted later than the end of March but we took his advice and we were glad we did because Spring 2021 was every bit as cold asnd frosty as 2020 was hot and dry.

We were also buying 75 Cabernet Noir (aka Cabaret Noir to protect Cabernet growers apparently) from Will Mower at Vine-Works Ltd - another concern clever enough to have managed to import plant material, this time from Germany. Our vines arrived somewhat early but 100 in number. We kept them in the fridge and that didn't seem to do them any harm and they are now sprouting as successfully as the VCR vines.

As a precaution, we decided together with our new advisor and helper Paolo Addis, an Italian/Englishman establishing a new vineyard nearby to dig some holes just to be ready in case vines arrived unexpectedly. Paolo dug around 150 and as will be seen, this was invaluable when our team of Romanians from Vinecare found themselves with one auger down (see below).

Coates and Seely plaque (note 'Methode Britannique}

Post-Brexit nobody knew how this could be accomplished but in the end, our allocation - 2 boxes with 250 vines each - came in on a much larger order by the well-known English Sparkling Wine producer Coates and Seely of Whitchurch, Hampshire.


Georgie (Georgina) Balmain with our vines, courtesy of Coates and Seely

Georgie (Georgina) Balmain, Operations Manager at Coates and Seely was extremely kind and helpful. The vines had been kept in cold store until we collected them the day before planting. 


Coates and Seely Brut

Coates and Seely Rose

Of course we took the opportunity to buy Coates and Seely Brut and Rose from the cellar door.


trimming the roots to 7cm was recommended

Paolo recommended us to trim the vines' roots to 7cm. This seemed counter-intuitive but we followed this prescription and almost all the vines have 'taken,' no doubt because of this.


Sue Osgood shows the way   

Sue and the team getting started

The first hole

Sue Osgood was the team leader from Vinecare. She is a very well-known and respected viticulturalist with over 30 years’ experience working with vineyards in the UK, including Denbies and Bolney Wine Estates. She has an almost unrivalled source of knowledge and know-how when it comes to growing vines.  


this auger was a non-runner

This one did the work of two.

The day was misrable. Cold and rainy. This didn't seem to phase our Romanians who ploughed on remorselessly almost without a break. In 6 hours, they had planted 500 vines.

So what did we plant? 

Soreli ('Sun' in Friulian dialect) is a hybrid resistant to Powdery and Downy mildew and other vine illnesses. It is descended from Friulano (formerly known as Tocai Friulano). This is the vine we had personally selected at the Vivai Cooperatvo Rauscedo in 2018 when Export Manager Dr. Stefano Battistella gave us a tasting of micro-vinifications of some of VCR's new varieties.

We may be the first in the UK to have planted Soreli but there is a vineyard in Sweden where it and also its sister variety Fleurtai are grown.

Fleurtai. Like Soreli, this is an interspecific new breeding between Friulano (which is the same as Sauvignonasse by the way) and Kozma 20-3 (resistance partner). Both contain genes of Vitis Amurensis, Vitis Berlandii, Vitis Rupestris and Vitis Vinifera. Soreli and Fleurtai are both early maturing and frst resistant down to minus 23° Celsius and most importantly, as with Soreli, Fleurtai is resistant to both types of mildew. Fleurtai is grown in small amounts in Switzerland (Ticino).

The people at Langmyre Vineyard in Sweden characterise Fleurtai as having

Strong notes of pear and almonds, followed by hints of tropical fruit. Wines are clean with minerality 

and Soreli

...strong white flower scent combined with a petrol smell that reminds of German Rieslings.

Cabaret Noir (formerly known as Cabernet Noir) is an interspecific new breeding by Valentin Blattner in Soyhières (Jura) Switzerland. It is the progeny of Cabernet Sauvignon and unknown resistance partners. Blattner is a private grape breeder and so never reveals details of his resistance partners. Synonyms are Cabernet Noir and VB 91-26-04. It has genes from Vitis amurensis and Vitis Vinifera. It is early ripening (about the same time as Rondo), frost-hardy and resistant to both Powdery and Downy mildew and Botrytis. Its wines are described as having soft tannins and a wide range of aromas of dark cherries, juniper berries, violets, cloves and pepper. The variety is cultivated by one producer in small quantities in the Swiss canton of St. Gallen, Belgium, The Netherlands and France where the Domaine de la Colombette's Cabaret Noir is used as the house wine of St. John restaurant in London. 

We may have been the first to plant Cabaret Noir in the UK in 2018 but there must ahve been plantings this year if our 100 new vines were already in the country when we bought them. 

 NB. Why did we pull up our Triomphe and Bacchus? We ahve yet to taste a palatable wine made anywhere in the world from Triomphe and Bacchus is very susceptable to Mildew, requirng about 1 treatments with various chemicals a season. Bacchus has become the signature grape of English (and Welsh?) wine but no one will tell you about the chemicals required to produce it. We prefer to go the way of no-spray.

En Saga


Everyone agrees that importing small quantities of wine from small European producers is the main casualty of Brexit as far as the UK is concerned. We have been testing the waters ever since January 31st with mixed results.

Case #1. 19.1.21. 12 bottles of Schiava from Bolzano, Alto Adige.

H & H Shop sold us Sonntaler's Schiava Grigia for E.15 a bottle, didn't charge for shipping and no tax or customs duty was applied.

Case #2. 4.2.21. 12 bottles Schiava/Vernatsch (10 mixed) plus 1 Portugieser and 1 Chambourcin all from Alto Adige

Again from H & H Shop despite the Sonntaler above coming in at 13% Abv instead of the advertised  11.5%. These things are very important to Sltovino because we reckon grape typicity gets homogenised the higher the alcohol. We specified that no wine should be sent if higher than the Anv listed on the website. All but one bottle were higher. After much gnashing of teeth Mr. Summerer of H & H Shop advised us to add water!

Nevertheless, again no shipping or customs charges were levied, so no complaints on those subjects.

Case #3. 16.3.21. 10 bottles of Frittmann Portugieser and 2 bottles of Egri Turan from Italdepo, Budapest.

This operation was curious in some ways. First of all it was impossible to find a Hungarian wine merchant ready to ship the wine to us. It was even difficult to find someone willing to have the wine picked up from their shop by a courier company engaged by us. Even payment was a problem because practically no Hungarian winemerchants offer any other language than Hungarian on their websites and usual translation options are not adequate. When we offered to pay by bank transfer we were told no because deductions their side meant they would never get the right sum.

We had used a friendly winemerchant in Sopron previously (when we were still in the EU) but they didn't even reply now we are non-EU. What is going on?

Here we would just like to make the point that whatever obstacles governments put in the way of their populations it is up to us to find a way round, and keep contacts going surely? Remembering the time we in the UK were not in the Common Market, we went through all necessary hoops to deal with whomsoever we wanted to deal with. We remember in the musical world, we had to obtain a work permit for every French pianist or Italian violinist we wanted to invite to perform in this country. Sometimes these cross-border arrangements were deliciously clandestine such as the movement of grapes and maybe also wine over the Italian/Slovenian border in the former Yugoslavia.

Fortunately, Hungary is full of more helpful people and we inveigled one of these to act as a staging post for our case of wine. He was even kind enough to pay for the wine under the agreement that we would pay him back, which we of course did. He also agreed to print out the Airway bill and stay at home all day on the day we arranged for the courier company to pick the package up. Happily they came towards the end of the morning. For this we had a nice bottle of Hungarian wine sent to him from another merchant that did accept credit card payments.

Transit time? 3 weeks. Duty? None. Taxes? None. The reasons for this may have been that the wine was super-inexpensive (about £40 for the case) and the courier service we selected was very much not express. Transport was apparently by road although via the East Midlands Airport and Heathrow.

Case #4. 16.4.21. 12 mixed bottles of Hungarian wine (rare grape vareties) from Tasting Table, Budapest. 

Encouraged by the lack of Duty or other taxes, we decided to import a case of wine from a wonderful company in Budapest called 'Tasting Table, Hungary,' The super courteous and efficient Gabor and his colleague Tamas were happy to have monovarietal wines with the following grapes collected from their shop;


Pozsonyi Fehér


Budai Zold





Fekete Jardovany

and a Portugieser.  

On this occasion, Import Duty of £32.18 was levied. 

There were similar compliactions on the Hungarian side as had occurred in our first import from Italdepo via a friendly staging post in Hungary (see #1 above). Tamas wrote;

A day after DHL collected the parcel from us, I received an email from DHL requesting this document I attached to this email. This is basically an authorization form for custom procedures for DHL.

After exchanging some emails with them, I filled out this form with our details. On the form there were some questions about the purpose of export: I marked it as a sample (áruminta).

On the top of the second page I had to write the name of the goods and the value of the goods and a tariff code (which I just copied from the doc you sent me about the first shipment from Vászoly). The invoice total included Hungarian VAT, which in the future may not need to be charged...and you would only need to pay for the UK import duty which depends on the amount on the invoice.

I also handed over 3 copies of invoices to the DHL driver who collected the parcel (and put the 4th one inside the box) with the airway bill that was later placed into the transparent pocket. It seems that those 3 invoices were used for custom procedures.

Case #5. 24.5.21. 2 cases (24 bottles) of Dellafiore's Zucarello Croatina from Dellafiore, Provincia di Pavia

Emboldened by modest duties or even the lack of charges altogether we decided as an experiment to buy 2 cases instead of one. The shipping charge was £56.61. Sadly import and duty charges came to £111.32 on this occasion - £4.63 per bottle. The bottles by the way cost only E.3 each. We have noted previously the excellence of Dellafiore's Croatina. It was our pick from 100 others at the Festa del Bonarda, Rovescala in 2019. It seems disproportionate that the shipping and customs charges were £167.93 and the wine only £61.92.

Case #6. 11.5.21. 1 case of Philippe Vandelle Poulsard from Vins Philippe Vandelle, L'Étoile, Jura, France.

By now, duty and customs charges were regularly applied although they were never exactly the same. On this occasion the amount was £60.35. Shipping charges were £33.83.

Case #7. 12 bottles of Italo Cescon 'Il Tralcetto' Raboso from Cescon Italo Storia e Vini Srl. Roncadelle di Ormelle, Treviso,

Shipping £38.26. Customs duty £66.82.

This shipment was complicated by the fact that it came in two boxes each of 6 bottles. Annoyingly only 1 box was delivered initially. The second box followed days later and was sent to the original address after DHL had agreed to change the delivery address. When we complained, DHL said that any promises to make such changes were not binding!


1. It would have been better by far to remain in the EU.

2. It is cheaper and simpler to buy wine from UK winemerchants. they obviously have the advantage of having amortised the shipping costs and there is probably still plenty of stock remaining from pre-Brexit times. We ourselves bought a marvellous Trepat (El petit Carlania) from Decantalo for £12.40 per bottle inclusive and an outstanding Grignolino by Migliavacca from Vinissimus including delivery and a handy discount for £16.48, not to mention a fantastic Bardolino (Gorgo)from Quality Wines of Somerset for £11.28.

3. If you can find a shipping company that is efficient and reliable as we did, you can pay far less than if you go straight to courier companies' websites. For example DHL's France/UK prices start at E.134.29  whereas our company of choice, Parcel Broker (www.parcelbroker.co.uk) charged onl £33.83 and guess what: delivery was made by DHL. This allows you to shop for wines directly from the producer or from winemerchants willing to print out labels and have wine collected from them.

4. That allows you to buy a far greater range of wines than are available in the UK. The costs are higher because you have to pay the shipping and duty but the wine is cheaper.

In memoriam - Dominique Belluard, saviour of Gringet.




Dominique Belluard described by Chambers St, Wines as the Saviour of Gringet has taken his own life. This is tragic news and we offer our most sincere condolences to his family and colleagues.

We are all diminished by the loss of this great vigneron. It has been noted that in the last few months, other great personalities in the French winemakers scene have also died in the same circumstances. These are Laurent vaille of Grange des Peres, Pascal Clairet of Domaines des Tournelles (Jura) and Olivier Lemasson of Les Vins Contes (Loire). We remember the great Haridimos Hatzidakis also.

It goes to show what a hard life it is to produce great wine.