Monday 5 February 2024

We ❤️ Sárfehér, or is that Arany Sárfehér or maybe Izsáki Sárfehér?



Somlo Kincse Sarfeher 'Kezmuves Kispince' (Small craft cellar.')

Sárfehér (meaning White Mud in Hungarian) is a grape we have admired previously (see our post of 18th May 2014).

We aquired a bottle called simply Sárfehér with other rare Hungarian wines from Tasting Table Hungary back in October 2022. Looking up Sárfehér in 'Wine Grapes' there is nothing to be found. If you check Arany Sárfehér, there is indeed an entry but one with the warning that this grape is not to be confused with the plain and simple Sárfehér.

Checking with Galet, there seems to be a grape called Izsaki Sárfehér. Could this be the one in our bottle? Whichever Sárfehér it is, it's a fabulous wine and we love it.


 The writing on the side of the label doesn't help much. Among other things it says

A natural, unfiltered, dry, Hungarian wine.
With the help of God, the whole world was created. 


Thursday 1 February 2024

Slotovino awards 2023

Slotovino awards 2023

We're late and we haven't posted much in 2023 but that doesn't mean we haven't been hard at work researching, drinking, making wine, drinking and erm, drinking.

Here is a list of 2023 winners. We'll elaborate on them later.




Special Award for Diversity


Slotovino - a plea for diversity in Wine. That's our headline but strangely enough we have never given an award for Diversity itself. 

This year, quite by chance, nealy all our awards are for Spain - a country so obsessed with Tempranillo and in which Airen is the most planted variety - that their secrets remain hidden in a way that, say Italy's do not. 

So once again, and completely by happenstance, our new Diversity award goes to Vicente Todoli wose own biography is a very model of diversity.

Vicente Todoli, yes - he who was Chief Curator and Artistic Director of the Valencia Institute of Modern Art, founding director of the Serralves Museum in Porto and Director of the Tate Modern in London from 2003 - 2010. His career in art continues with the artistic directorship of the  HangarBicocca gallery in Milan, Trustee of the Fundacio per Amor a l'Art in Valencia and President of the Botin Foundation Visual Arts Advisory Committee and no doubt much else.

So what about wine? He is not involved in any aspect of the wine world and apart from his most distinguished accomplishments in the world of art and what follows, he may be unknown to Wine.

What follows is extraordinary. Through inheriting a family estate he found himself the owner of a citrus grove. A trip to a private collection near Perpignan of 80 varieties of citrus grown in pots gave him the idea of planting an orchard to preserve the genetic diversity and heritage of citrus fruit. 


There are now over 400 varieties grown at the Todoli Citrus Foundation at Palmira, Valencia where Vicente was born. Also a gastronomic laboratory, a library and of course a museum, an ethnobotanical museum. You don't see many of them but Vicente is the man to build one.

So now we can get the picture about diversity but what about a connection to grapes and wine? On a recent visit to London, we asked him that question. Here is his answer;

"I love all grapes"


Wine Personalities of the year: 

Vicent Tomas and Carmen Torres, Carricola, Valencia, Spain.

The charming couple Vicent Tomas and Carmen Torres were making wine over 20 years ago for their own consumption before they decided to make it for us. 

Everything, including the bottling is done by hand. The vineyard is completely organic. For Slotovino, it is also the choice of two rare white grape varieties that caught our attention; Tardana and the ultra-rare Tortosi.

Al Tall Blanc is 100% Tortosi

We have celebrated Tardana previously. It's an excellent variety also known as Planta Nova. Confusingly another synonym is Tortozon but Tortosi is something else altogether. According to Galet it is an Tunisian variety known as Nave.

Al Tall Blanc Tardana, Macabeo, Tortosi blend

Another wine made by Tomas and Torres is called Diania a red consisting of Giro (another rarity) and Valenci. Valenci is a table grape from the area. Listed but not described by Galet, Celler Tomas Torres may be the only producers to work with this grape.

Diania is one of the most delectable wines you could taste.

So far so good, but it is the sheer quality of the wines that catapults Tomas and Torres into our wine personalities of the year. 

They also grow Macabeu, Ull de Llebre (Tempranillo), Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnacha, Giro, Merlot, Valenci and Syrah. Wines are made "with no fuss" The vineyard comprises not much more than 5 hectares. Prices are reasonable. 

Best Sparkling Wine: 

Louis Pommery England

Made in Hampshire, this is the first English Sparling Wine grown and made by a French Champagne house in the UK and very good it is too.

It started life at around £23. Now expect to pay £10 more. It is still worth it.

Best White: 

Heinrich Neuburger Freyheit. Oesterreichischer Landwein, Weinland. Trocken, Pannonien 2013. 12.5%

Bought in San Cassiano many years ago this bottle stood up amazingly well with the essence of Neuburger shining through. Neuburger is a spontaneous crossing of Chardonnay and Sylvaner and should be a lot better known. 

The back label translates as

From A - Z. Don't be afraid of stem and skin contact,
without adding sulfur, just lots of your own yeast. By drawing
directly from the barrel into the bottle, we preserve the natural
freshness and liveliness as well as the charming tannins. The
loamy-calcareous-sandy sedimentary soil is naturally low in nutrients
and rather barren, which suits the variety, which has now become rare,
and leads to balanced growth of the vines. Hand-picked at the beginning
of September and left on the mash overnight. Spontaneous fermentation
and biological acid degradation. Matured in large oak barrels,
bottled unfiltered.

Best Red: 

Nakhshirgele Aladasturi.

Recently included in a list of 'wines you can chill,' the Aladasturi grape (from Georgia of course) makes our kind of wine. The taste is unmistakable, the colour bright and the alcohol low. 

Best English Red: 

Biddenden Gamay.

Biddenden is one of the older UK producers. We have enjoyed their wonderfully aromatic Ortega in the past. Now their Gamay takes centre stage. Vineyard Magazine wrote in 2018:

As one of the only vineyards in the UK growing Gamay, Biddenden has in previous good years (2003, 2004 and 2011) used the variety for a single varietal still red wine. Having cut 65% off the Gamay vines not long after flowering this year, to work with just one bunch per cane, and looking at the season so far, Julian (Julian Barnes, Biddenden's Managing Director) believes another single varietal wine is probably on the cards.

“We have bunches of Gamay out there which if you were French you would be glad to have hold of,” said Julian. “We don’t know what the weather is going to do and at the end of the day it’s agriculture and there is no entitlement to it. 

Biggest Surprise: 

Fidelio and Calardis Blanc

Here is Slotovino on that discovery made during a tasting of many of the new varieties obtained at Geisenheim. The tasting was by courtesy of Dipl. Ing. Bettina Lindner.

Gm 8107-3

a deliciously apply (Bettina preferred citrussy) wine from grapes descended from Ehrenbreitsteiner and FR 52-64 (meaning a grape cultivated by the Freiburg Institute in 1952). Ehrenbreitsteiner is itself a crossing of two generations of other crossings. As in any other kind of breeding the hope is that progress may be made over time. Bettina Lindner told us she had sold the GM 8107-3 to a French gentleman looking for varieties to plant in Brasil or some such humid part of the world and this person had decided the variety should have a proper name and chose 'Bettina'. We were pleased to follow his lead, so 'Bettina' it is.

We bought 25 bare rooted vines and planted them that year so the vines are now 12 years old. They have always been quite vigorous but the grapes have never ripened fully until this year. Suddenly we have huge bunches of beautiful large grapes undisturbed by birds or wasps. No sign of the rather strident taste when these grapes have not ripened properly. 

All these years we have had confidence in Gm 8107-3. Derek Pritchard of Dunkery Vineyard in Devon sells it through his estimable site. Every so often we have googled old 8107 to see if it has finally been given a name.

Just today we discover that it has indeed been given that honour and what is more, the name is 'Fidelio' also the name of Beethoven's operatic masterpiece. How appropriate! So nostalgically no more 'Bettina,' welcome Fidelio.

Shortly after finding out that our GM8107-3 had a name we discovered that our GF93-22-6 had also been so honoured. We were told that Calardis was the Roman name for Geilweilerhof but we can't find a confirmation of that at the moment. Quite a few wines have already been made with Calardis Blanc.

Best PIWI discovery: 

Calardis Blanc

This was very promising when we made it at our experimental vineyard. It was sold to us by Winzerhof Wolfs Brunnen back in 2015 as GF93-22-6 and has only recently been given the name Calardis Blanc; surely a recognition of its worth. Calardis was the Roman name for Geilweilerhof. See above.

wine merchant

Gergovie Wines.

Another guilty secret, Slotovino has been resistant to Gergovie wines because the name reminded us of the conductor Valery Gergiev who is not one of our favourites. Of course we knew that they were not associated in any way but we can only explain why it has taken us so long to celebrate this marvellous company. It is thanks to them that we discovered some amazing wines in 2023.

As well as the Cellar Tomas Torres wines listed above, we found the following. All Gergovie wines seem to be organic.

A Pinot D'Aunis by Calvez 'Bobinet'

Predictions for 2024

Wines from Far East and Australasia will become more expensive (Suez Canal).

Pretty safe prediction.

Best wine supplies shop: 

Hamstead Brewing Centre, Great Barr, Birmingham.

Hamstead are based in Birmingham. No doubt they are a boon to wine and beer makers in the Midlands but aren't the first to come to mind in the South East. That may explain why they sometimes have equipment that is sold out elsewhere so it is very useful to know about them. Not only that but their service is second to none and they are extremely nice people.

Special Award for the re-establishment of endangered grape variety: 

Cati Ribot - Escursac and Gregory Perez - Estaladina

The ever-informative Chambers St. Wines newsletter re: Escursac;

Cati and her father Jaume...began to delve into the past of Mallorquin viticulture, planting old varieties in collaboration with the island’s governing bodies in 2006. They were one of two producers to start planting new vines of ancient varieties like Escursac, the local Malvasía de Banyalbufar, Girò Ros and Prensal Blanc (and other, even lesser-known varieties like Callet Negrella and Vinater that remain unrecognized by the D.O. authorities in Mallorca). Gradually, some of these varieties that had been excluded from ‘modern’ or commercial winemaking in Mallorca were accepted by the governing organizations and included on the official register of Spanish grape varieties. Perhaps more importantly, Cati found that she enjoyed the wines that these varieties produced far more than the wines made from international varieties in Mallorca, and that they were suited to a different sort of winemaking. Harvests grew earlier and macerations got shorter as Cati explored the potential of grapes more suited to the Mallorquin soils, her own tastes, and especially the Mallorquin climate. Owing to Mallorca’s long, hot, and sunny summers, the indigenous varieties tend to be late-ripening, drought resistant, and large-berried. These characteristics prevent them from becoming over-ripe and protect them during dry periods.The most important of these varieties to Cati’s story is the red grape Escursac. Large-berried and late-ripening, it tends towards the production of wines with moderate alcohol, delicate red fruit, and soft tannins. To our knowledge, Cati makes the only bottled varietal wines in the world from the grape, from 1.2 hectares of vines that she and her father planted in front of the winery in 2006. Her passion for Escursac led to the planting of another 5 adjacent hectares in 2020." 

Robert Parker re; Estaladina;

The official version in Bierzo now is that Estaladiña and PanyCarne are the same variety, different from Merenzao and Bastardo that is Trousseau. Estaladiña has a lot more color than Merenzao and also has high acidity, as I could see in the 2022 Estaladiña. It's a serious and austere wine with low alcohol (12.5%), very good acidity, some herbal notes a little à la Cabernet Franc, a more Atlantic/cool-climate profile and fine-grained but present tannins. This matured in concrete egg for 10 months. I love this profile of austerity. Some bottles produced. 94/100


Oxford Companion to Wine, 5th Edition. Julia Harding MW and Jancis Robinson MW.

Many years in the making, this is practically a re-writing of the 4th edition. The subject Wine is fast-developing and the Oxford Companion is indispensable, especially when newly published.

Various accolades to…

All good Beer

An interesting name for a company that sells some esoteric wines difficult to find elsewhere. Brendan Tracey? Kelley Fox? No problem.

Their website is cute and they are charming people. Altogether a joy.

Les Vignerons parisiens

An excellent urban winery in Paris, not only worth a visit but worth buying a bottle. Praised in Jancis Robinson's Purple Pages.

Roig Boig by Celler La Salada, Catalonia

Sucumulla by Vinas D’Empremta, Catalonia.

Els Besavia de Bardisots, Oriol Artigas, Cataonia

Also Aladasturi and Oineau D'Aunis. Food wines par excellence.