Thursday 30 December 2021

Slotovino Awards, 2021


Wine personality of the year

Ulrich Martin of Rebschule Martin, Rheinland Pfalz, Germany.

You may know the name of Ulrich Martin from the ‘Historische Rebsorten’ - wines made from varieties somehow snatched from extinction. Rebschule Martin is a leading Vine Nursery in Germany so they are in a good position to propagate cuttings from ancient varieties found growing up the walls of monasteries, on terrasses and so forth.

Andreas Jung is the foremost grape archaeologist. He and Ulrich Martin have been working for 20

years to re-establish these grapes. All that would only be of academic interest if it wasn’t for the fact that Ulrich Martin is an exceptionally gifted winemaker.

Indeed the four ‘Historische Rebsorten’ at the recent tasting of 57 varieties made only by one or a very few producers scored highly in Jancis Robinson’s tasting.

So in a year when we haven’t been able to get about as much as we would like, we have no hesitation in naming Ulrich Martin Slotovino Wine Personality of the Year. He would have deserved this award at any time.

Best Pet Nat

Little Waddon Col Fondo 2020.

Made from 100% Phoenix grapes. ‘Col Fondo’ is an Italian re-fermentation in bottle process. Little Waddon is not the only UK vineyard to make Col Fondo wine. Tillingham does also. It’s certainly less complicatesd a process than the Methode Champenoise or even the Charmat methode (see below).

Very much a natural wine – unfiltered and unfined – this Pet Nat is is fermented spontaneously from wild yeasts present in the vineyard. The grapes are part hand de-stemmed and foot crushed.

If you like natural wine, you’ll love this.

Best Red

Bodegas Obanca Carrasquin. Castro de Limes. Asturias. 2011. 14.5%

At the Slotovino tasting of 57 varieties made by one or a very few producers only, Carrasquin scored highly with a 16.5 point from Jancis Robinson.

Despite a higher Abv. level than we like, we loved this wine and heartily agree with the assessment that it was ‘really very winning.’

There were others that scored 17 but we heard several warm endorsements for this bottle and we are in the same camp.

Best White


Jesus Recuero, Vinedos de Guzquia, Villanueva de Alcardete, Spain. 2015. 11.8%

This Verdoncho got a 16 from Jancis Robinson in the same tasting. We would have given it a higher score as we kept coming back to this bottle for more.

This is not the first time this wine has featured in Slotovino Awards. In 2020 we gave Wine Personality of the year (Northern Hemisphere) to Jesus Recuero and listed all the wines we could find of his. At that point we hadn't actually tasted his wines. The award was given for his work with forgotten grape varieties irrespective of the quality of the wines that resulted from them.

So it is a double pleasure to award this category of Best White to Jesus Recuero despite the bottle having a dog on the lable. Not being dog-lovers that always seems inappropriate to us. It's a mark of how much we like the wine that we can overlook that unappetising element here.


Best Sparkling Rose


Flint Charmat Rose

Flint claimed their Charmat Rose was the first sparkling wine made by that method in the UK. Since then there has been another and possibly more.

Above, we had an example of a Pet Nat ‘Col Fondo’ which is the simplest method of producing sparkling wine – basically it’s bottle fermented with the lees.

Here’s a description of the Charmat process;

Primary Fermentation: Here the wine goes through its first fermentation where the grape juices are store in stainless steel tanks (the wine will be still at this stage).

Secondary Fermentation: The still wine is now moved to a new stainless steel tank (autoclave) with added sugars and yeast (to produce the alcohol) where also naturally carbon dioxide (bubbles) will be produced.

Cooling Period and Filtering: Once fermentation is completed to the requirements of the winemaker the wine is chilled so to stop further fermentation taking place and importantly also the dead lees cells are removed by filter (otherwise the wine will be cloudy). The wine is transferred to a new stainless steel tank.

Bottling and Sales: Now the wine is ready (usually between 3 to 9 months) to be bottled under pressure, stored and then packaged off to sell.

If Flint’s Charmat Rose is anything to go by, the Charmat method is a perfectly good one even if it’s the method by which they produce Prosecco.

Grapes involved may not sound too inspiring (Solaris, Reichensteiner, Cabernet Cortis and Rondo) but it is surely a testament to Ben Witchell’s winemaking skills that the result is so delicious.

Best light red

Domaine Philippe Vandelle Poulsard.

While researching Poulsard we came to two conclusions; imports into the UK were all surprisingly expensive and quite a few of these imports were over-egged, not allowing the personality of the Poulsard variety to come through.

So we decided to import some from the Jura ourselves. We went through Wink Lorch’s book on Jura Wines with a fine toothcomb and alighted on a producer called Philippe Vandelle. Vandelle’s Poulsard was the right Abv. (12%) and at the right price (under E.8 per bottle).

This wine is now sold out even with the price having gone up to over E.8 per bottle by the way.

Poulsard has been called ‘The most red of white wines and the whitest of red wines.’ That is accurate and allows a version such as this traditional one (decidedly not over-egged) to be drunk with almost anything including fish.

Some call this kind of Poulsard a rose but we think that is a mistake. It is decidedly a red wine – just an ethereally light one.

At first we worried that our Vandelle Poulsard might not be a bit neutral, watery even but we got into it and now appreciate it for its lightness of touch. Exactly the thing for this category in our awards. Best Light Red. You couldn’t get lighter.

Most surprising discovery

Langmyre's impressive vineyard

Langmyre winery, Gotland, Sweden.

Gotland is the island in the middle of the Baltic sea. It is Sweden’s largest island and has a different climate. For instance December is warmer than March and August is the hottest month. It has the largest number of sunshine hours in Sweden.

It seems to be a quiet place as one might imagine. Ingmar Bergman and his cinematographer Sven Nykvist used to live there as did Andrei Tarkovsky for a period.

Sweden now has about 50 commercial vineyards. Most are situated near the South-West coast but there are others towards Stockholm and two on the island of Oland which lies close to the South-East coast.

So what is special about the Langmyre Winery of Gotland?

Whereas the typical varieties grown in Sweden are Solaris and Rondo, Langmyre has gone with varieties obtained by the Vivai Cooperativo Rauscedo and planted Cabernet Volos, Merlot Kanthus, Sauvignon Kretos as well as Fleurtai and Soreli. These last two are both resistant versions of Friulano obtained by the Vivai Cooperativo of Rauscedo. This was a surprise for us because we too have some Fleurtai and Soreli vines and thought ourselves to be pretty unique in growing these varieties.

In fact Langmyre have been growing Fleurtai and Soreli longer than us and have even made their first vintage from these grapes. 


The founders of Långmyre Vineri are Andrea Guerra from Salerno enologist with many years experience making wine and Emma Serner from Sweden who has strong connections with Gotland. Being Italian would explain Andrea’s route to planting Fleurtai and Soreli. When we discovered Langmyre we were keen to order or at least taste wines from these grapes but Andrea explained that although successful, production had been very small and we would have to wait another year and possibly even visit the vineyard to find out how they tasted.

In the meanwhile we will just have to content ourselves with Langmyre’s tasting notes:


Crossing of Tocai Friulano. The high sugar content makes it very suitable for northern climates.
Strong notes of pear and almonds, followed by hints of tropical fruit. Wines are clean with minerality and suitable for short storing.


Crossing of Tocai Friulano. Differs from Fleurtai with a strong white flower scent combined with a petrol smell that reminds of german Rieslings. Suited for both young and aged wines.

Prediction for 2022

We’ve scratched our heads on this one. New import rules and tariffs come into force on Janurary 1st, 2022 which aren’t going to make wine any easier or less expensive to buy but that is all too predictable.


We bought wine in a cardboard bottle in 2021 but we don’t see that catching on in a big way.

Do we have to make a prediction? Everything is just so unpredictable.

Most unexpected hit

Pujalet Cotes de Gascoigne, Colombard Ugni Blanc. Waitrose. £5.99

This is an appealing light white from a region full of excellent such wines. The unexpected bit of our relationship with this wine was that at £5.99 we actually bought it as a cooking wine. While pouring it into the pot, we took a little taste and wow, that was an unexpected hit – no doubt about it.

We have moved it from the kitchen cupboard to the wine rack. Try it and see if you agree.

Special award for re-establishment of endangered variety/Varieties

RHS Wisley have an experimental vineyard with about 60 varieties. Elsewhere they have more vines under glass etc. These vines are not being grown with a view to re-establishing endangered varieties but they could be – that’s the point.

Here are some of the more obscure varieties growing at Wisley:

Adelheidtraube (not listed in Galet)



Chasselas Dore 1921

Ciotat (= Chasseles Ciotat)

Precoce de Malingre

Reine O….?

Theresa (Teresa Pirovano?)

Wuerzburger Perle (?)

Theklatraube (not listed in Galet)

Slade Blue (not listed in Galet)

Seibel 13053 (= Cascade)

Queen of Esther (not listed in Galet)


Noir Hatif de Marseille

Landot 3217 (Galet has Landot 4511 and 244 but not 3217)

Gamay Hatif

Best online merchant

Adrien Sevestre,

We were looking for the wines of Brendan Tracey, the famous Loire producer of Pineau D'Aunis and Orbois among other natural wines. It was difficult to find them so we contacted Mr. Tracey directly who kindly referred us to 'vinscheznous,' who carried his wines. They were out of stock so with the help of Winesearcher we found this other supplier,

The owner, Adrien Sevestre couldn't have been more enthusiastic and helpful. He supplied us with his last 8 bottles of the heavanly Brendan Tracey 'Oro Verde' white made from the Orbois grape plus some Pineau D'Aunis and a Gamay called 'Capitalisme Rouge,' He knows Brendan Tracey well and usually tries to stock the following wines when he can get them;


Mellow Yellow 201818,50€
Oro Verde 201816,50€
Hibernatus 202017,50€
Soft Inside 2020 pet nat17,50€
Romo verde 2020 pet nat17,50€
Capitalisme rouge 202014€
Wah wah light 202015€
Pink 202013,50€

Just so you know how solicitous Adrien is, he followed up quite a bit later offering to get more Brendan Tracey wines when we wanted them. We may well take him up on that.

By the way, Brendan Tracey grew up in California where he was vocalist with a punk band. He is a very cool guy. His great uncle was Yves Tanguy, He called us 'Dude.' We were honoured.

Most interesting wine trend


The rise of Languedoc and Rousillon.



The Languedoc is the wine region of France that has evolved the most during the past 20 years or so.’

Rosemary George MW, ‘Wines of the Languedoc.’

Our record for being ahead of the curve is pretty lamentable but we have recently woken up to what’s been going on in Languedoc (and Roussillon) in recent years.

This is the world’s largest wine region. Andrew Jefford writes “Languedoc actually has one of the most regular and naturally propitious vineyard climates of any region I know – which is why, of course, it is such a significant vineyard region.” It hosts what is claimed to be the largest vineyard in Europe (Les grands Domaines du Littoral at 2,000 ha). It produces more wine than Australia and New Zealand combined (around 235,000 ha in Languedoc, and a further 24,000 ha in Roussillon). So improving overall standards is a slow process.

Here are a few quotes thrown up by searches on the subject in ‘Purple Pages’

“When we first arrived here [Languedoc] 31 years ago I had young children and a car without air conditioning. And the wines were very much less interesting than they are today.”

Jancis Robinson MW.

“There were so many great – not just good – wines in the [Languedoc] selection that was sent to me that there were several times I worried I was being too generous with my scores. More than once I've re-tasted a second sample, throwing it in blind with another line-up, just to make sure I wasn't getting over enthusiastic. Only twice, in nearly 300 reds, did I reduce the score. The producers from the south of France have become very, very serious over the last 15 years.


Overall, Languedoc-Roussillon as a region must be one of the global leaders in sustainability and commitment to looking after the environment, light years ahead of most other wine regions in the world.”

Tamlyn Currin, Purple Pages.

There are big producers of high standard wines such as Gerard Bertrand, Paul Mas and Baron Philippe de Rothschild’s Domaine de Baronarques (110 ha) but a plethora of small producers with an average of 10 ha. under vine.

Languedoc grapes include (in order of plantings)






Cabernet Sauvignon


Cabernet Franc

White wine accounts for only 13% of production. Grapes are


Sauvignon Blanc








Varieties prevalent in pre-Phylloxera times included Aramon, Fer Servadou, Malbec, Aspiran, Bourboulenc, Clairette, Carignan Blanc, Grenache Gris, Chenin, Maccabeo, Mauzac, Oeillade (closely related to Cinsault), Picpoul, Ribeyrenc and others.

Rousillon has similar varieties although in different quantities. Grenache is the most widely planted red variety. Lledoner Pelut (a ‘hairy’ Grenache) is also grown together with ordinary Grenache as apparently is the Spanish custom; Roussillon being just over the border with Spain and drawn into Spain’s (Catalan) orbit. Grenache Blanc and Tourbat (aka Malvoise de de Roussillon) are also more of a feature than in Languedoc as is Muscat.

Appellations in both Languedoc and Rousillon are a surprisingly recent phenomenon. If you discount Blanquette de Limoux (1938), the first in Languedoc for still wines was Fitou in 1948 and in Roussillon Cotes du Roussillon as late as 1977.



There are about 25 appellations in Languedoc with 19 IGP denominations and 14 designations or vineyard sites who have filed an application for specific recognition.

Despite the size and diversity of the region, improvements are ongoing. In 1975, Languedoc producers gradually began shifting their focus toward standards that would raise the region’s level of quality. Selection and research into soil makeup, vineyard management, yield control, and winemaking methods have led to improvements in the quality and authenticity of Languedoc wines. That’s for sure.

It’s difficult to single out the new classic wines of Languedoc and Roussillon but here are a few names that kept cropping up in tastings;

Domaine de Cebene. Faugeres

Domaine de la Colombette, Beziers

Mas de L’Ecriture, Terrasses du Larzac

Chateau de’Angles, La Clape

Chateau de Negly, La Clape

Chateau Puech-Haut, La Drezery, Languedoc

Domaine de L’Horizon, Cotes Catalanes

Domaine Gayda, Limoux

Domaine de l’Hortus, Val de Montferrand

Domaine Jones

Domaine de la Reserve d’O, Terrasses du Larzac

Gerard Bertrand

Mas Amiel, Cotes du Roussillon

Thierry Navarre, Saint-Chinian

La peira, Pays de l’Herault

Prieure St. Jean de Bebian

Roc D’Anglade, Coteaux du Languedoc

Andrew Jefford who lives there writes;

The greatest Languedoc wines I have tasted so far have come from Terrasses du Larzac, with a few further contenders from St Chinian and Pic St Loup (plus some individual outliers in other zones); and all of them may be eclipsed by what Roussillon’s Agly valley has yet to give us, assuming that climate change doesn’t trash its potential.  But it’s too soon even to open betting on the lion race; best to sit back and enjoy what the entire menagerie has to offer as it canters round the paddock.

Best restaurant winelist



There are two Brat restaurants, one in Shoreditch and the other in Hackney. They describe themselves as Basque influenced and rustic. The food is outstanding and so is the winelist which is far too long and eclectic to analyse here. Brat's website allows you to see the entire list which is not something every restaurant does. In the case of really extensive and interesting lists it is such a help to be able to do your research before you go and not hold up your table for hours while you try to select something from the amazing range on offer.



To give a favour of ho good the list is, take a look at the special feature only Brat seems to offer - the 'Brat Pour.' That tells you everything;


Our monthly focus on a single producer’s wine.

Jaroslav Osička’s winery is a small 3-hectare family winery based in Velké

Bílovice in Moravia. Jaroslav is a true maverick of natural winemaking in

the country.

Legends are told of Jaroslav, an influential figure who taught for 30 years

at local wine college, a godfather of the nascent natural/low-intervention

wine movement in Moravia. He’s been tending to his 3ha of vineyards in an

organic way since the beginning of 1980’s.

Jaroslav is inspired by flavours and characteristics of Jura wines but his

wines are far from being “copy cat”, rather they have a deep sense of place

and belonging to Moravia.

Jaroslav Osicka, Pinot Gris, South Moravia, Czech Republic 2016 56

125ml 11.5


 Worst Duty Free/Airport Free Shop


We only made one trip in 2021 and that was to Kerry in the Southwest of Ireland. So the chooce was between Stansted and Kerry airports. Both are poor but with Kerry airport being only a tiny fraction of the size of Stansted the comparison is unfair.

Nevertheless they could have done better. There was precious little choice and what there was showed nobody cared, sorry to say.

There is an interesting opportunity here nonetheless. The Irish Times reports that for passengers arriving from the UK

Under Revenue’s rules people will be allowed one litre of spirits or two litres of other alcoholic drinks with no more than 22 per cent alcohol . These might include port, sherry, sparkling wine and some liqueurs

Up to four litres of wine and 16 litres of beer will also be exempt from duty under the new post-Brexit rules.

We may have missed something but it didn't look as if KIR was offering duty free shopping for UK passport holders. Strange because the Irish have always been enthusiastic Duty Free merchants. You only have to think of the concession they had at Sheremetievo. It always reminded us of the film 'Local Hero' where the Russian sea captain is part of the remote Scottish community. Maybe Michael O'Leary could encourage KIR to branch out a bit?


Best Book


A decent bottle of Wine in China (Chris Ruffle).

This book could be classified under ‘Wine’ or otherwise ‘Humour (black).’

It is a hilarious and sometimes stomach-churning account of a chap called Chris Ruffle trying to get a decent bottle of wine in China. Instead of working his way through the many bottles of Chinese wine produced at the time (2004), he simply gave up and decided to plant his own vineyard there. Naturally, he built a Scottish baronial castle to serve as winery, cellar door and entertainment/hospitality venue as you would.

Chris Ruffle has a degree in Chinese from Oxford. He sold Fairy Toilet Soap for Procter & Gamble in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, before moving to Beijing in 1983 to work for metal trader Wogen Resources. After studying Japanese at Sheffield University he became a financial analyst in in Tokyo in the late 1980s then moved to Taiwan. He was one of the earliest foreign investors in China's domestic stock market on behalf of Scottish fund manager Martin Currie. He is now based in Shanghai where he manages specialist China funds. Previous publications include "China: An Insider's Guide".

Chris has a great sense of humour considering the hoops he had to go through to achieve his goal. Do read this book. We guarantee you will never set up a vineyard in China or probably anywhere else after doing so but just give thanks to those who did.

Various accolades and acknowledgements

Chris Lisney Smith of the Wine Grape Club (as always). Gina and Aldo of Cibi Market, Elisabetta Barberis, Aldo Barberis and Paolo Addis for their vineyard work and advice. Sue and her team for planting in the rain. Georgie Balmain for keeping our vines at Coates and Seely prior to collection. Sam Barnes of S.J.Barnes Ltd, Viticultural Contractors, Paul Woodrow Hill and Sue Osgood of Vinecare (planting), Stephen Duckett, Hundred Hills Vineyard, Jan Mirkowski, Fairmile Vineyard, Phil Rossi, Oaken Grove Vineyard all for valuable advice and help, Parcel Brokers for their excellent parcel (wine cases) import service, Andras Palerdi also for his help with wine importation (from Hungary), the helpful winery staff who assisted with our small imports including Ludovic Gigou of Domaine Gigou, Muriel Boudier of Domaine Philippe Vandelle, Erica of Italo Cescon, Brendan Tracey (himself), Adrien Sevestre ( for Brendan Tracey wines), Tamas of Tasting Table Hungary,


Friday 10 December 2021

Oxford Wine Festival 2021


Unknown to us, the Oxford Wine Festival has been going since 2013. It is small (400 wines from 23 countries) as these things go but extremely popular. It takes place at the Oxford Union. Buying your tickets well in advance is advisable (2022 is already on sale). We decided to go along in the last hour of the last day and flash our lifetime mebership of the Oxford Union at the gatekeepers but that wasn't necessary as they said (kindly) that many people had left already and we could even enter at a reduced rate.

Inside there was a jolly scene as you see. Live music (Jazz) threatened from a small podium but didn't materialise. 

The first stop was the New World Room but we walked through hardly stopping as we were short of time and the New World in general has fewer rare grape varieties than the Old.

Inside the Union proper was the Old World appropriately enough. 

Among the exhibitors were some familiar names:

Bat and Bottle, Fells, Symington Family Estates, Graham's Port, Te Mata, Vergelegen, Warwick Estate, Wente, Yalumba, Jansz, Pewsey Vale, White Castle and Wiston.

Greek wine is always interesting.

Here we renewed acquaintance with Methymnaeos' Chidiriotiko now sold as an Orange Wine. The producer still refuses to have a DNA test on his grapes which he maintains are unique. We hope they are but it would be good to have that scientifically confirmed. The wine is certainly unique.

Again, we were struck by the fact that the Oxford Wine Festival is really small and yet full of interest.

We were particularly taken by this couple specialising in Natural wines from Catalunya. their company is called L'Altre Vi (the other wine). They are heavily into the natural wines of Vinyes Singulars which is excellent news because it is one of our favourite producers.

We have never come across a Rose made from a Field Blend of red and white Garnatxa but it seems an obvious combination.

Xarel-Lo. What's not to like?

Xarel-Lo Vermell is always good in our book.

Upstairs to Emerging Regions including England, Brazil, China, Hungary and more.

Here we met a great personality called Chris Ruffle. 

Chris was pouring some wines he had made in China. Indeed, he had built a complete vineyard, winery and Scottish Baronial castle would you believe.

More: there was a book ('A decent bottle of wine in China') he was selling which told the whole story. We weren't immediately tempted to buy the book (£10) but in the end we did. Chris is nothing if not a great salesman. We were very happy with our purchase. Everyone should read it because it is completely hilarious although grisly in parts too. You wouldn't want to set up a winery in China after reading this. We're not sure how happy Chris was at having done so but it certainly was an achievement.

The wines listed above are Muscat, Viognier, Chardonnay, Grenache, Syrah, Petit Verdot and Arinarnoa with a 'Bordeaux blend' which presumably might be Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. the wines come under the name of Treaty Port.

Hungary was represented by this Gyorgy Zsiga who had some nice unhackneyed offerings including a Keknyelu. He really knew his Hungarian grapes so we got into an interesting conversation during which he intimated (there's no other word for it) that there may be another producer of Fekete Jardovany apart from Attila Gere. That left us rather shaken we have to admit.

The South American (mainly Brazilian) table attracted a lot of attention so it was a while before we could get in there. the company is called Go Brazil, Nicholas Corfe presiding.

The Go Brazil website is interesting. While stating that there are no indiginous winemaking grapes, they point out that Brazil's panoply of varieties is a bit different, reflecting the grapes the Italian immigrants in the late 19th, early 20th centuries brought with them:

[there are} small plantings of Nebbiolo, Teroldego and Ancellota, for example, while other European varieties such as Tempranillo (Spain), Touriga Nacional (Portugal), and Cabernet Franc, Tannat, Malbec, Marselan, Petit Verdot and Alicante Bouschet (France) can also be found.

Always a sucker for Semillon, we liked the look of this one from Pizzato (12%).

So, well done Oxford. We shall be back next year if the situation allows. This was our first outing to a wine event since the start of the pandemic. It's pleasant to report that it seems it wasn't a vector for infection.