Thursday, 19 May 2011


Funny thing Brands. We are implacably against the branding of wine. It results in the abdication of taste and choice. On a recent TV programme the story was told about how Coca Cola launched New Coke in the 1970s after market research found that 61% preferred it to 'old' Coke.

The ensuing mayhem caused them to withdraw New Coke and re-instate traditional Coke pronto. They had forgotten that all their branding over so many years had rendered the concept of 'improving' the product irrelevant. People just wanted what they knew and had been told to enjoy since their earliest years.

We at Slotovino like to say how we like every bottle to have a story and we are not interested in the main in wines that just taste marvellous without having any particular background. Maybe this is branding of a kind? An uncomfortable thought.

Nonetheless, a big stand at the London International Wine Fair unapologetically declaring their business as 'International Brands' made us happy branding hasn't got further than it has.

Sensible Wine Services Ltd.

We thought this was quite funny especially given the 'wrecked' appearance of the stand on the first day, In fact they supply Riedl Glasses and other equipment for the following;

  • Wine tastings
  • Dinners
  • Events
  • Weddings and parties
  • Promotions

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Russian Wine

Yes, there is Russian not just Soviet wine, 100 km from Magarch (now in the Ukraine) are the vineyards of the Vedernikov winery on the right bank of the Don near Rostov. Vedernikov was represented at the London International Wine Fair by Maxim who jokingly turned around the fact some of his most interesting wines had been held up at UK customs. "You can feel safe" he said. "your customs are doing a great job!", Very Russian sense of humour and charming.

Maxim's enthusiasm for his wines was not tempered by this little mishap and we tasted an excellent Aligote thus satisfying one of our oldest ambitions. Aligote is the lesser grape of Burgundy as everyone knows. Burgundian Aligote is often pressed into service to make a Kir which is hardly a ringing endorsement of the variety. It is given the worst soils in Burgundy to grow in. The best Aligote we had ever tasted was from California when Au Bon Climat we think it was decided one year exceptionally to make a 100% example. Unfortunately and inexplicably never again.

We had read that for some reason Aligote had been widely planted in Russia and especially Bulgaria but had not had much opportunity of tasting one apart from a decent example from Laithwaites of all places.

The Vedernikov Aligote was a fine example, perhaps still not as revelatory as the Californian one but worthy of an international audience.

Maxim informed us that there are 3 native Russian grapes the others having been held up in customs. These are Krasnostop Zolotovskiy, Tsimlyanskiy Chorny (Black) and Sibir'kovsky (White). We were fortunate enough to taste the Tsimlyanskiy which had a strong but attractive character. The others were still detained at the pleasure, no doubt of HM Customs.

One delightful afternote; we asked the Abv. of one of the wines and were told 12% - 14%. Given the laudable attempts of Swiss and US vignerons to give uber-precise values (12.8%, 13.2%) we thought this was pretty hilarious and redolent of Soviet practices until we remembered the time we noticed BBR wines were routinely entered in the winelist as 1% lower than what was written on the label and most governments allow some tolerance in these matters. It is just that we at Slotovino believe degrees of alcohol act like the Richter scale and increase exponentially as far as effect is concerned. Hence 13% might as well be twice as intoxicating as 12.5%.

Vedernikov also make Rkatsiteli, Riesling and blends including the above reds, Cabernet Sauvignon and something called Golubok about which their literature and even Maxim was silent...(it's an old crossing including some Cabernet Sauvignon) and is used as a teinturier. It is early ripening and 'smoky'. Some has been planted in Puget Sound, Washington State, USA.

Vedernikov was not the only Russian winery represented. there were also Abrau-Durso whose sparkling Cabernet Sauvignon we tasted last year, Tsimlyanskoe wines and 5 others. There is a long tradition of wine in the area going back to pre-historic times. We wish modern producers the best of luck in reviving the tradition.

Some nice Grignolino at the London International Wine Fair

Grignolino is one of our faves ever since the chap at Torino airport tried to prevent us insisting he opened a bottle for a taste by calling it 'un vino da ragazza.'

Indeed the ragazzas at the Vicara stand (Azienda Agricola Visconti Cassinis Ravizza srl. Rosignano Monferrato, Piemonte) were kind enough to pour us their really attractive Grignolino. There's very little better than we can think of at least while drinking it.


At the London International Wine Fair (LWIF) there were acres, (hectares?) devoted to the wines of Italy and Sicily in a kind of village at the right hand end of the exhibition hall. here Cmpanalismo reigned. Asking for Tocai Rosso under 'veneto' one was referred perhaps to Lombardia, then to Friuli with the vaguest of waves (actually no one had this interesting variety to offer) and on asking a Western Sicilian producer if he had any Nerello Cappuccio, we were told that this was an eastern Sicilian variety and they were somewhere 'over there' with a gesture which might have indicated Bongo-Bongo land. Operatically we have heard of the division between Palermo and Catania so this is not limited to the wine world.

So to the Monferrato (Piemonte) stand where we idly asked them if they had any unfamiliar grape varieties. Might we have heard of Albarossa? Huh? ALBAROSSA!!! No we had not. And so, dear Slotovino reader we were introduced to a crossing of Nebbiolo and Barbera made by Prof. Dalmasso in 1938 and propagated by him for 30 years at the Tenuta Cannona (Centro Sperimentale Vitivinicolo della Regione Piemonte).

The taste was good - more than the sum of the parts. In other words a symbiosis rather than a combining of two tastes - just what differentiates a crossing from a blend perhaps. Albarossa may not have caught on the way Rebo (Merlot x Teroldego) has caught on. Indeed we tasted our first Rebo at the LIWF. We think we might hav preferred the Albarossa.

Whether there will be any takers in the British market for either is a point that is truly moot. Peccato.

New York Old Vine Baco Noir

We had tried Baco Noir, an old French hybrid at the late lamented Vintage New York shop in SoHo and found it let us say 'interesting'. Indeed when re-planting our own micro-vineyard in the Thames Valley we wondered why this variety had never come to anything in the UK as far as we knew.

So when we found this example at the New York stand at the London international Wine Fair we had a good taste and found it more than 'interesting' in the ironic sense. The first impression is definitely of a hybrid but on the length the effect is pleasing. Perhaps with the old vines comes improved methods of vinifying this variety? No membership of the Slotovino Hall of Fame but worth the taste and perhaps good with Indian food.

Other New York wines were the familiar Cabernet Francs, Pinot Blancs, Vidals and even a Rkatsiteli which Dr. Frank pioneered but rather fewer Rieslings that we would have expected given their triumphs in recent competitions and tastings. We spoke to a gent we had befriended in the 2010 LIWF who told us there had been progress with an importer for the UK and that some wines from Wolffler and a Rose from Channing Daughters might soon be available here. Good news indeed.


And there it was, our first Crljenak of legend, there on the Croatian stand at the LIWF. Read about, googled, referenced in connection with Primitivo and Zinfandel, here it was, the grandaddy of them all and in the tasting, convincingly so. Sorry about the drip in the above photo but you can understand how the Croatians might have poured with a flourish being at the fount of some of the world's most popular wines.

More Hunter Valley Semillons from Tyrrell

At the stand of John E. Fells and Sons Ltd, Fine Wine Importers sinch 1858, we discovered two further examples of Tyrrells Hunter Valley Semillon to add to the Old Winery, Lost Block and flagship Vat 1: the very Australian sounding 'Johnno's Block' and Brookdale (which weighs in at a (for the Hunter Valley) whopping 12% Abv.

Dominic Small of this company explained that Tyrrells have many blocks over a wide area and tent to make separate wines from them which is great news for diversity. Our very first encounter with Hunter Valley Semillon had been Tyrrell's 'The Stephen' in a vintage of at least a decade previous to our tasting in a restaurant on the beach at Melbourne. Mr. Small offered to put a case on one of their containers for us if we wished and we may take him at his word. He stressed that normally he sells to agents or importers of course.

We tasted The Johnno which was rather refined and pure and the Brookdale which was predictably richer and more rounded. Nice to discover the gamut of tastes in this one appellation.


Never fans of Frappato or particularly of Cerasuolo di Vittoria which is Frappato with Nero d'Avola we tasted an example in the forest of Sicilian stands at the London International Wine Fair mainly because of its low alcohol (12.5%) and the delightfully suave gentleman there. The latter explained that their Frappato was made in a light style and could be chilled and served with fish.

We were immediately won over by the dissimilarity to the Frappatos of old and as so often happens we ercognise this grape in what to us is its best expression. Highly recommended to anyone wanting something exceptional to import into this country and grace their list.


In May 2010, we encountered the first mention of Passerina at Castel Cosimo winemerchants in Hamburg and vowed to keep a look out for this variety in the future. Thanks to the Marche stand at the London International Wine Fair, we finally caught up with Passerina and were reasonably impressed, so without instant admission to the Slotovino Hall of Fame, we can recommend Passerina as yet another fine Italian regional variety worthy of a visit.

We would also like to add the Spumante version to those looking for an alternative to Prosecco. We have noted before that such is the quantity of Prosecco produced that it is quite a lottery to find a good one. In short it has become a brand and discrimination has been left at the door.

We are building up quite a good list of Italian Sparkling wines which are good alternatives to Prosecco. We now have


not to mention Franciacorta which is the Italian's attempt at Champagne and quite often quite a superior product.

Schioppetino, Picolit and Piculit

On the Friuli stand we were given a seminar on Schioppettino (not Schiopetto which is the name of a famous producer in Collio). We have recently become rather enamoured of this variety and were offered four examples to taste each of which expressed a different side to this variety's personality. We have here another variety worthy of inclusion in our Slotovino Hall of Fame.

We have encounteres Picolit before as a dessert wine, in Grappa and as we thought in Red wine. It took two rather impressive sommeillers from this stand looking more like ushers from the Teatro alla Scala with their well fitting clack uniforms and chains of office draped around their shoulders to understand that the Red wine was from a grape spelled Piculit instead of Picolit and as usual with this kind of thing nothing to do with its near namesake. There was no Piculit to taste and we passed on the sweet Picolit. We might have had a bottle of Piculit from Bat and Bottle once but had not been exactly bowled over if memory serves.


At the Croatian stand we were offered two kinds of Zlahtina, one grown on the plain and one on a mountainside both from the island of Krk. Not surprisingly the Mountain Zlahtina was by far the better and we hereby admit Zlahtina to the Slotovino Hall of Fame - not something we were about to do following our preliminary skirmish with this grape in the neighbouring island of Vis last year.

UK wine importers could do worse than introducing this excellent and delicious example to this country.

Rarities at the London International Wine Fair

The annual London International Wine Fair held at ExCel Exhibition and Conference Centre in Docklands is a commercial wine fair bringing suppliers and buyers together for the purpose of doing business. So in a way it was a surprise to find any rare grape varieties there at all.

We only had a couple of hours to scratch the surface but the pickings were not bad at all and we came away with positive hopes for the future in spite of some fantastic howlers committed by representatives manning the stands with their specialised wines on offer. Examples included girls on the vast Sicilia stand who assured us that Etna was a grape variety (admittedly they slunk off when we started to read the back label of one 'Etna Rosso'), men on the equally grand Argentinian stands who had never heard of Bequignol (of which Argentina produces more than Riesling as we have already noted in these pages), Saperavi Severnyi - a mystery to those on the Georgian stand, and only vague awareness of Negrara as a variety of grape on the Valpollicella stand (they assured us it was a village, not a grape until they remembered the village is Negrar and not Negrara). OK we may have been showing off a bit to these unfortunates but there is a more serious point in that grape varieties are not always considered as particularly important. On the Rias Baixas stand they were nonplussed to be asked about the Reds of Galicia and even wondered if there were any drinkable ones! On Vini Portugal there was a young rep who had never heard of Colares and another who reckoned it was too expensive for what it was which was not great! It was all we could do not to spontaneously combust.

Fortunately there were far more really well informed reps and we were glad to have been given several invaluable tutorials on the following on our short stay;

Baco Noir and other New York wines
Hunter Valley Semillon
Russian Wine
Schioppetino, Picolit and Piculit

Separate blogs on each of these may be found above.

No doubt there were plenty more gems but where else could we find and taste all this under one roof? We would have liked to explore the national stands of Brazil, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Lebanon, Slovenia, Switzerland and Turkey but we did pass by Hungary where we were disappointed not to find any Cserszegi Fuszeres, Jufark, Kiralyleanyka, Ezerjo etc. and an Indian winery new to us called 'Sveta' whose Chenin Blanc was positvely the best Indian Chenin Blanc we have ever tasted (pure and clean).

Most of the wines that interested us were without representation or importers in the UK which re-inforces our impression that although more eclectic than many it is only a few species of wine that we are offered in this country. Most lacking are the aromatics and the light food wines. There is a preponderance of heavy, chunky, strong and warming wines on our shelves, each trying to demonstrate maximum extraction but without offering a wide variety of flavours.

There were no English, Welsh or Irish wines represented...

Saturday, 14 May 2011

We go mad in Malaga's Museo del vino

Ever since we discovered the Museo del Vino (cf. blog of 22.11.09 ) we have been chomping at the bit to get back there and check their stock in an unhurried way.

We vowed to get a few bottles of our two big discoveries that time, the white Doradilla/Moscatel and the red Tinta Rome - both Sierra da Malaga wines made from what they call local grapes although Doradilla can be found as far as Australia and Moscatel is quite widespread not least in Bordeaux.

Hardly daring to hope we would find the Museo del Vino again (up a small street not quite in the centre of town) let alone that the wines we were looking for would still be available we were delighted to have success on both counts.

Pedro was still there behind the till. He speaks 5 languages and knows everything there is to know about the wines of Malaga and Ronda.

Under his guidance we scrutinised everything on offer, not a huge selection it has to be said but fascinating. Most of the reds were blends from a repertoire of varieties including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Pinot Noir, Syrah and yes, even Tinta Rome in one case.

These all tended to look heavy with typically 14% or 14.5% Abv. Curiously, Schatz´s Lemberger ('Acinipio') was not stocked on the grounds that this grape is not included in those permitted by the appellation although Schatz´s Chardonnay was available. We went a bit crazy and bought quantities of our Doradilla/Moscatel and Tinta Rome as well as a Rose from Petit Verdot (at 13% one of the least alcoholic!). It has to be said the Tinta Rome was 2006 and past its best but still unique.

The Museo del Vino has a great many talks, tours and courses as well as the shop. An estimable institution which we were happy to see thriving. Vaut le voyage as they say.

Coming out of the Plaza de los Viñeros we saw this somewhat sobering sign.

Walking on pensively we had hoped to find the Palacio Cropani open. This was a Bodega which had looked so enticing last time but had been closed. This time it was more than closed - it was boarded up. Perhaps the AA is particularly effective in these parts?

World's worst airport duty free?

a) there is practically no wine to choose from

b) they claim to be prohibited from selling to passengers bound for other EU countries.

Where are we? Clue: this is a small airport 99 km from an EU capital. There is a prize for the first person to name this airport (Slotovino employees, friends and families are not eligible to participate).

Friday, 6 May 2011

Yesterday's results from the London Grape Bourse


The big news was the entirely unexpected and dramatic rise in Kerner (Astley Vineyards 'Veritas' from Worcestershire. The ascendence of Ortega in its dry form also took the market by surprise as did Auxerrois. Rises were also recorded in Huxelrebe, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir and Pinot Noir Precoce ( Fruehburgunder). Dornfelder continued its steady, seemingly inexorable ascent.


Surprise falls were recorded in the Bacchus sector with one exception - Wareside Wines 2010 (Hertfordshire) . More predictably Seyval Blanc and Orion were heavy losers in the whites whereas Rondo and particularly Regent were relegated to not very attractive Roses and use in blends where we suspect they did not contribute positively. Madeleine Angevine and Triomphe d'Alsace are now very much has beens, such are the advances in other varieties.


This sector is not quoted in our Bourse because most examples are blends.

Where were we? English Wine Producers Trade and Press Tasting, May 5th. With many thanks to Henrietta Green and Julia Trustram Eve.