Tuesday 22 November 2022

Pineau D'Aunis from California!


We couldn't believe our eyes; a Pineau D'Aunis from California. Less surprising was the fact it is one of Matthew Rorick's 'Rare Creatures.' Matthew's 'Forlorn Hope' wines feature pretty regularly in this Blog. They are right up our street. Matthew has gor our number; he finds unusual varieties in old Californian vineyards and makes always delicious but small quantities for those of us who don't want just another Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay or God forbid Pinot Noir. However, this comes from the Rorick Heritage Vineyard so is presumably something that Matthew planted there.


Part of the excitement is how to get our hands on Forlorn Hope wines. Les Caves de Pyrene were importing some of them. A Dutch company did so too. No one was taking any interest in ths Pineau D'Aunis called 'Valentin.' So a challenge. 'What to do?, what to do?' as Mel Brooks might have said.

By chance a close family member was planning a trip to the Santa Cruz area so we were able to buy a bottle of Valentin (mysterious choice of name !) and have it sent to him there.It all worked out well and he was able to bring it back to London in his luggage - no tax payable.

We'll need to find a good opportunity to open it and will report back with our impressions when we do.


Note: Valentin was the code name the Nazi's gave to the submarine pens and factory in Bremen. Matthew worked on US submarines when in the navy, but this is not a likely reason to call his Pineau D'Aunis Valentin

The meaning of Valentin (from the Latin) is 'worthy, strong or powerful.'

Goethe's Valentin is the vengeful brother of Margarethe in 'Faust.' Also in Gounod's opera of course but not in Schnittke's 'Historia von D. Johann Fausten'  and in Busoni's Doktor Faust is only called The girl's brother, a soldier.'

The drawing of a (big cat?) skull with flowers growing out of it is also enigmatic.

Doesn't ring any bells really. 

Valentin is a synonym for both Vermentino and Roter Veltliner. That can't be it.

Then there is St. Valentine of course. Maybe this?

Dimyat = Smederevka



We bought this bottle so long ago we no longer remember when or where but last night it was opened and drunk with interest. In this version it is an Orange wine, quite unctuous and soft, although it has to be said past its best (a little oxydised). Checking in 'Wine Grapes' we were surprised to discover it is widespread in Bulgaria and Macedonia and in fact it reaches Romania and France (Dimiat), Hungary (Bekaasolo), Austria  (Grobweisser) and even Russia (Galan) among others.

We know it as Smederevka since we once bought such a bottle. 'Wine Grapes' calls the wine from Dimyat 'everyday' and that was our impression from that Smeredevka from Macedonia.

It may be yet another offspring from the Casanova of grapes, Gouais Blanc and is itself a parent of Cabernet Severny.

Sunday 20 November 2022

Rufete Blanca = Verdejo Serrano


Rufete Blanca (sometimes Blanco), is also known as Verdejo Serrano. 

Jose Vouillamoz writes that Rufete Blanca is a misleading synonym for Verdejo Serrano and that it is not a colour mutation of Rufete (a red grape from Portugal).

Verdejo Serrano is an almost extinct variety and was discovered early this century but not described until 2006 and only registered in 2009. It has a different DNA from Verdejo. There is also a Verdejo de Salamanca but that is now no longer cultivated.

Needless to say there are very few monovarietal wines made with this grape but look out for the one by Vinas del Cambrico.

Thursday 17 November 2022

San Francesco della Vigna. Finally.


This is one of two Franciscan churches in Venice. The site was prior to its establishment in 1253 actually a vineyard belonging to Marco Ziani who donated it for the construction of a monastery.

The present building dates from 1554. The facade is by Palladio. It is very much off the beaten tourist track (near the Ospedale) and quite trick to get to but infinitely worth the effort.

It contains works by Tintoretto, Veronese, G.B. Tiepolo, Bellini, Vivarini, Vittoria, Zuccari, da Negroponte, Palma il Giovane, Salviati, P.T. and S. Lombardo, Grassi, Pittoni and Franco - and a vineyard.

The present vineyard only dates from a few decades ago and was planted thanks to the church's name S. Francesco della vigna

On two prior visits to Venice we had tried to visit the vineyard without success. This time we prepared the ground well in advance by emailing the Segretario, Fratello Rino. Fr. Rino asked us to call him when we had arrived in Venice which we did. He was ready to offer us a private tour and said this could take place after he had shown the vineyard to a group of Dutch historians. In order to spare him having to make two tours in one day we asked if we could join the Dutch group to which he agreed.

So there we were, bright and early with the charming Dutch (amateur) historians.

Fr, Rino must be the world's sweetest Franciscan monk. the Dutch (Europe's tallest people) somewhet towered above him but we all deferred to his benevolent authority. He claimed not to know much about vine growing and winemaking but in fact he knew a great deal.


First, a few historical facts. The monastery had originally been home to nearly 1,000 monks. Now there were only 6 permanent inhabitants bolstered by rather more visiting scholars. During Napoleon's occupation of Venice one side of a cloister was demolished so guns could be emplaced to defent the city from an invasion from the north. 


Part of the present vineyard is planted there and another is planted in another (intact) cloister.

Originally the vineyard was planted with Trebbiano and Malvasia but the former didn't work well in the saline ground (the vineyard sometimes gets flooded at Aqua Alta) and the work was getting laborious with not very encouraging results. A company was then brought in and they re-planted with Glera to make Prosecco of course. The prosecco has yet to make its debut on the market.

Glera grafted onto Malvasia

Some of the Malvasia stock was used for graftings of Glera and these seem to have been very successful.

Where unsuccessful, new plantings have been made.

No need to use weedkiller.

Flowers and herbs ghave been planted as cover crop between the rows. Very pretty: practical and ecological too.

Altogether a beautiful scene.

 A neat irrigation system too.

Fr. Rino had mentioned that the monastery was famous for its library, perhaps the largest in Venice. 

After the vineyard he took us on a tour.


There was the first musical score to be printed in Venice (1499/1500).

Altogether an amazing visit so much of which was unexpected. We have already covered two Ventian vineyards at Mazzorbo (Burano) and on the island of Orto. There is however rumoured to be another much smaller planting of vines in Venice proper. We shall see.


Wednesday 16 November 2022

L'Ange Rouge, Paris


We discovered this nice wine shop in Paris on a recent visit. We had already paid our obligatory visit to Herve at L'Etiquette and bought some bottles there. Ditto one or two other shops in the area (see below).

L'Ange Rouge came up on a search so off we went to Pigalle to check it out.

It's an interesting operation for a number of reasons. First of all they are natural wine specialists. 


Second, they have their own marque called Banjo. Third they will send wine anywhere in the world including the UK. We're not sure how they do that but for E.41.67 they shipped 6 bottles to us in London without incurring any duty.

By an amazing co-incidence they seem to specialise in a St. Emilion property we are very familiar with, Chateau de Martinet. While working at the Lycee Mixte de Libourne as an assistant de langue anglaise in the gap year before university, we were a regular guest of the de Lavaux family at the chateau thanks to an introduction by a family friend, Tony Blumenthal of Grierson Blumenthal wine merchants.

Now there is a 2nd wine from Ch. de Martinet called 'Envoie de Martinet' and retailing at only E.7.50!

Of the other wines we bought, the standout was a Grolleau from Domaine des fefs noirs 'Cocaigne.'

Contact Baptiste Ducassou, L'Ange Rouge, 25 Rue Henri Monnier, 75009 Paris.

Paris haul;


Caves L'Etiquette;
La ferme de Jeanne, Jaquere Molette Savoie, 10.9% E.13
La ferme de Jeanne, Gamay de Bugey 2019, 12.05%, E.12.90
La ferme de Jeanne, Rose, Bugey, 12.00% E.12
Haut Planty Abouriou, 12.5% E.14.90
Petit Fombrauge, Colombard, Roussanne, Chardonay, Bordeaux. 12% E.12.90
Le Joli petit canard Sauvignon, Vin de France (Bordeaux), 12.5% E.8.50
L'Ange Rouge;
Domaine Plaisance 'Rend son jus' Jurancon Noir. 10.5%  E.12
Domaine Plaisance 'Negret Pounjut'  10.5%  E.13
Fief Cocagne'  Grolleau, Loire.  12.5%  E.16
Envoie de Martinet, Saint Emilion, Bordeaux. 2013 13%   E.9
Eric Goypieron, Poulsard, Jura, 2019. 12.5%  E.23
Beirieu 'Glouglou' Mauzac (Sparkling). 11.0% E.16
From Le Petit Bleu, R. Jean-Pierre Timbaud.
Chateau Boujac, Les petites Demoiselles Negrette, Fronton, 2020. 12.5%  E.


Sunday 13 November 2022

A scary moment in Venice.


In May we returned to Venice for the first time in 3 years. Our visit began with a pilgrimage to our favourite wine shop, 'Al Canton del Vin.' What we found was truly disturbing. The shop was empty, derelict. 

With thoughts of the pandemic and the disasters it had caused we walked disconsolately down the neighbouring streets. The district is far from the centre and tricky to reach so not wanting just to treck back right away, we went down a passage where we remembered a grocery selling the wines of the owner's friend Emilio Bulfon. Bulfon has revived numerous endangered varieties from Friuli. Could there be new ones added to his repertoire in these years?

Sadly nothing new but when asking about the demise of 'Al Canton del Vin' the staff told us they had simply moved round the corner.


Talk about relief. There it was in sparkling new premises almost exactly as before. The new address is

Salizada S. Giustina, 2907/A, 30122 Venezia


Our friend Manuel Casagrande was at his post. The same Damigiani offered the usual selection of vino sfuso. All was well.

Or was it? We had noticed in other Vino Sfuso shops that Belcorvo, the estate supplying Venice with most of its wine on draught was now bottling blends and selling them for rather high prices. 

There were quite a few of these and it was impossible to get very far with them because the grape varieties were not mentioned on the labels.

Manuel also didn't seem too enthusiastic but in reply to the question as to which one might be the best to try, he said the 'Rubacuori' might be an idea. Rubacuori: where have we heard that word before? Hmmm. 

As to the grape variety or varieties, Belcorvo don't publish that but after a little internet digging, what is called 'Raboso fermo' crops up.


Saturday 12 November 2022

The creatures of Dr. Zweigelt

Friedrich (Fritz) Zweigelt

The story of Fritz Zweigelt goes something like this. Before the war he engaged in an intensive programme of grape breeding in the Klosterneuburg school of viticulture which he headed. 

His most famous crossing which was to become the grape named after him was made in 1921 (St. Laurent and Blaufrankisch). In 1923, there followed another - Blauburger (Blauer Portugieser x Blaufrankisch).

There were others including Goldburger (1922) which is Welschriesling x Orangetraube to which we will return shortly.

A convinced Nazi, he ran the institute on doctrinaire lines getting rid of colleagues he deemed politically unreliable. 

A great deal of plant material was lost at the end of the war and Zweigelt himself was dismissed in 1945. He was judged to be a 'Lesser offender' and although pardoned in 1948 never returned to public office.

Lenz Moser

His work was carried on by the institute with the help of the famous grape breeder, Lenz Moser who propagated the many hundreds of crossings that could still be found even after the devastation in the immediate post war period. An incredible number of micro-vinifications were made but only very few (27 whites and 8 reds) were deemed to be of any interest.

In the terrible frost of 1956 which affected the entire continent of Europe, amazingly Zweigelt's 1921 St. Laurent x Blaufrankisch) cross survived, resisting the cold where others had not. 

This resulted in the variety being singled out and produced in quantity, eventually being named 'Zweigelt.' It is now the most planted Austrian red variety. There are moves to change the name since Zweigelt's past has become better known but this seems unlikely.

We mentioned another Zweigelt crossing, Goldburger above. This has had infinitely less success than the red Zweigelt but we determined to find a bottle. Klosterneuburg has also produced a red variety more recently (1970) called Rathay. This is a complex crossing of something called Klosterneuburg 1189-9-77 (= Seyve Villard 18-402 and Blaufrankisch) x Blauburger. It is resistant to various mildews and is recognised as a PIWI variety. We determined to obtain an example of this too.

Massiv wine, massiv price.

Our journey began with this bottle found in an Austrian supermerket in March 2022, 'Massiv' was the name. Why 'Massive?' because the blend included something called Rathay we were told, and Rathay is a variety so tannic and assertive that it couldn't be used by itself so they said.

By our nect visit to Austria in mid-June 2022 we had tracked down bottles of both Goldburger and Rathay as monovarietals. The Rathay was available from a wine shop in Vienna itself and but the Goldburger necessitated a trip to the far flung suburb of Rodaun.

Rathay is named after Emmerich Ráthay  (1845 - 1900) who was a former director of Klosterneuburg.  It was obtained by Dr. Gertrude Mayer and was first licensed in 2000.

The Distl operation is a pleasantly old-fashioned and rustic one. The unpretentious buildings and equipment were somehow appropriate for the production of this rarest of varieties. 

We're looking forward to tasting these two interesting Klosterneuburg varieties and will report on them in due course.

Klosterneuburg Research Centre and School of Viticulture and Pomology.

Ask and it shall be yours: Bardolino Novello


the last time we were in Italy we tried in vain to find a good bottle of Vino Novello. The mere mention of these words elicited snootiness beyond imagination.

Then we read in Jancis Robinson's 'Purple Pages' a rave by Tamlyn Currin for Bardolino Novello. We are great fans of good Bardolino as has been mentioned many time before in these pages. We looked in vain for these wines on Winesearcher so we wrote to the Consorzio Tutela Chiaretto e Bardolino and received a very kind reply from Angelo Peretti as follows;

We are a wine Consortium representing the wide majority of the producers of Bardolino (96%). Being an institution, we can’t sell wine. Furthermore, unfortunately, the seven Bardolino Novellos reviewed by Ms. Currin are sold out. Bardolino Novello is released in November and can be found in local wineries till December. Producers and bottles are very few and, currently, none of them is exported to the UK.

The next thing we knew, three complimentary bottles arrived - all good but the middle one from the Cantina di Custoza was really outstanding.