Saturday, 16 May 2009


Besancon, 13.5.09. To Les Zinzins du vin, 14 Rue de la Madeleine, at the bottom of the pedestrian shopping street and over the bridge, just past the Eglise de la Madeleine in this beautiful 17th century town in this forgotten corner of France.

Les Zinzins du vin is an offshoot of the Vin Naturel movement and the same slightly 2nd hand hippy bookshop atmosphere prevails as at Le verre vole in Paris. We were lucky; the shop/bar/bistrot had just re-opened after 2 weeks 'fermeture'. The presiding genius is Fabrice Monnin who set up in 2002 and now has one of the largest cellars in France (over 300 wines) and is quite a celebrity in the French wine world. He also makes his own wine which we have never encountered before in a wine merchant.

Les Zinzins du vin is devoted to organic, bio-dynamic vins naturels wherever possible. Descriptions tend to read "vins rouges authentiques élaborés avec talent et respect du terroir, loin des vins technologiques modernes, sans artifice ni élevage trop boisé : des vins longuement décantés en tonneaux, où les subtilités d'arômes s'expriment tout en finesse."

We were hunting for Jura wines and bought a Poulsard called 'Plou Plou' made by himself,
a Trousseau from Michel Gahier (Grands Vergers 2004),
and a Chardonnay from Pierre Overnoy of Pupillin.

All these wines were from Arbois in the Jura. All 3 regular readers of Slotovino will be aghast at the mention of Chardonnay but a Jura Chardonnay by Overnoy promises to be like no other. We bought the Trousseau because the jury has been out on this grape and a last sample is needed to make our judgement.

We also bought a Pineau d'Aunis from Les Zinzins du vin, not from Jura but from the Loir of course: Le Verre des Poetes, Domaine Montrieux, Naveil (near Vendome which in turn is between Tours and Orleans).

The back label is worth quoting;

"Pour assurer l'equilibre et la vie du sol aucun produit chimique de synthese n'est employe.
Le sol retrouve sa flore et sa faune.
Sur la vigne, le souffre et le cuivre utilises a toutes petites doses, ainsi que les tisanes de prele et d'ortie assurant une protection phytosanitaire efficace.
Le vendage manuelle respecte le raisin.
Elle conditionne la qualite et le degre naturel.
Pour aller plus loin dans cette demarche, aucune levure ou produit oenologique n'est utilise.
Une dose de soufre limitee est utilisee a la mise en bouteille pour eviter l'oxydation.
Le vin produit est le reflet le plus exact du millesime, de la terre et du travail des hommes."

Beats the back labels written by drunken illiterates.

And the translation of Zinzins? Cracked, barmy, nuts... So 'Wine-nuts'? A good name we reckon.

"A sad little letter...from Ronda, drinking a lot of wine..."

quote from a letter by Samuel Beckett to Thomas McGreevy with reference to Maurice Sinclair dated 18.2.35 (The letters of Samuel Beckett 1929 - 1940). 'Ronda is a city built on a high plateau in the Andalucia region of Spain'according to the note in the same volume.

Apart from Sherry and the sweet white wine of Malaga, Andalucia has not been prominent in the production of table wines and what was produced before phylloxera has not recovered until now. Visitors to the Costa del Sol may now see Sierras de Malaga and Cadiz appellations creeping on to restaurant wine lists but these wines are difficult to find in supermarkets and impossible in the Andalucian products shop at Malaga airport.

Returning to Ronda, it is here that the most interesting and even for Spain, possibly the most enterprising wines are being made. At 750 metres and with modern technology, cutting-edge wines are being produced from a range of grapes which is breathtakingly eclectic: Rome, Petit Verdot, Pinot Noir, Lemberger (Blaufraenkisch), Trollinger (Schiava/Vernatsch/Black Hamburg) and Zweigelt as well as the usual Spanish and international varieties just to mention the reds.

These wines are also difficult to find. There is a virtual shop called Los Vinos de Ronda ( who represent over 20 local wineries but wines have to be delivered from there and cannot be collected, so shipping charges apply if a local delivery address is not available. The wines themselves are not cheap. We made the following blind selection;

1 x F. Schatz Acinipio (Lemberger) E. 24

1 x F. Schatz Coupage (Trollinger/Tempranillo/Cabernet Sauvignon and others) E. 17.50

1 x F. Schatz Rosado (Muskattrollinger) E. 19.90

1 x Dona Felisa Chinchilla 07 (Tempranillo - Joven) E. 9.81

2 x Los Bujeos Joven (Meritage) E. 6

2 x Vinos Blancos de Ronda Joven La Veja (unknown) E. 12.90

1 x Siete Vin = 7 vin Ecological (Blaufraenkisch/Zweigelt)E.19.90

1 x La sangre de Ronda 2006 (Petit Verdot) E. 20

2 x Cortije de las Monjas Principe Alfonso (Tempranillo/Cabernet Sauvignon Merlt/Syrah) E. 14.60

So without being able to arrange a delivery and not wishing to pay shipping charges on top of these prices for an experiment of this kind we called Friedrich (Frederico) Schatz to find out where we could buy his and other Ronda wines in the Marbella - Malaga area.
Herr Schatz (Cf. 'Der Rosenkavalier' act 1) was very helpful in both English and Swabian German, declaring his origins in the excellent wine Land of Baden-Wuerttemberg. So we finally tracked some bottles down at Casa Pablo and La Cartuja in Marbella. So far we have tasted only Schatz's Acinipio (Lemberger) which was the equivalent of a good Kekfrankos from Villany or decent Austrian Blaufraenkish with nothing to suggest its terroir or country of origin and a rather more individual Chardonnay
whose salient characteristic was its amazing softness - unexpected in a white wine.

We also bought the Schatz Coupage and a Pinot Noir from Cortijo los Aguilares. Vamos a ver...

Friday, 15 May 2009

A Collio evening at the Savile Club

Collio (an appellation of Friuli Venezia Giulia in the extreme North-East of Italy, right on the Slovenian border) boasts as good a variety of grapes as anywhere so we were able to compare and contrast 80 wines (all white) made from Friulano, Ribolla Gialla, Pinot Bianco, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Malvasia, Sauvignon (never referred to as Sauvignon Blanc in Italy), even Verduzzo and of course blends. Surprisingly few of these wines are available abroad, let alone the UK.

The evening was exquisitely planned by Carla Capalbo and the Collio Wine Producers' Consortium with a dinner following the tasting. All the food had been shipped from Collio and chefs from the Trattoria 'Sal e Pepe' in Stregna somewhat outside Collio and 'La Subida' at Cormons within the Collio Hills were brought in to prepare a fascinating menu of local cuisine which not surprisingly was completely new to anyone who has never been to the area. There was even a delicious local ham from a local producer, D'Osvaldo: a kind of lightly smoked version of San Daniele prosciutto.
It transpired that his wonderful product was under threat from EU legislation to do with his no doubt traditional methods of curing the meat. The tasty cheeses were all from the producer Zoff who is local to the Collio.

As if the wine and food was not enough,a stellar cast of guests had been assembled with the place heaving with MWs (we has 2 on our table), various wine professionals and wine writers. We had the honour of meeting the great Nicolas Belfrage and equally great Carla Capalbo. The occasion had been cleverly organised to co-incide with London's Vinexpo and the publication of Carla's latest book "Collio. Fine wines and foods from Italy's North-East" a copy of which every guest received a copy on departure. There were members of the Collio Consorzio including their president, a real live Felluga (Patrizia of Vini Zuani) who gave a speech of welcome. Most imaginatively, a sizeable number of young producers had been brought all the way from Collio to sit on our tables so we each had the chance to sample their wines and discuss their work and production.

Guests were asked to choose their wines for the meal and by a complete fluke, Slotovino requested the very wine produced by the vigneron at our table: Dott. Roberto Manzocco and his brother whose 2007 extremely clean Pinot Bianco had stood out in the 20 or so different wines we had tried in the tasting.

We avoided the Chardonnays and Sauvignons and Pinot Grigios for the most part but perhaps foolishly because one of the greatest surprises was a wonderful if rather alcoholic and oaky Pinot Grigio 'Russiz Superiore'.

We have to admit also that some cuvees, including (not surprisingly) those from Felluga were highly successful.

Of particular interest was the 2004 Ribolla Gialla Anfora of Gravner,
presumably made in Amphorae and a bit rancio, the lone Verduzzo (Bressan Wines)
and the 2007 Malvasia from Borgo del Tiglio which were welcome experiences.

Although unfair to pick out particular names when only a minority of wines had been tried, we are happy to mention Livon, Picech,
Schiopetto, Keber and Fiegl as well as the above.

A tremendous and unforgettable evening; it was the place to be on May 12th but if you missed it don't despair, Carla's 'Collio' is available at all good websites and bookshops, published by Pallas Athene.