Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Welcome Dingac

Even if 14.5% we enjoyed our bottle of Dingac, one of the Croatian wines bought at Murray Hill Wines of New York a couple of months ago.

We recommend readers faced with a choice between Babic and Dingac to go for the latter.

Concerning the thorny question of admission to the Slotovino Hall of Fame, our jury is out for the moment. If the high alcohol level is necessary for this grape to express itself to the level of our sample it would be a disadvantage in our opinion. Also the rather rustic and Eastern European flavour on the tongue initially might be an acquired taste. This is less evident as progress is made down the bottle. Nonetheless, Dingac appears to be a worthwhile addition to any winelist for those seeking something fun and out of the ordinary.

Now for Klarnica and Debit!


We were wrong! Dingac is not a grape variety but a wine area! We might be excused for making this mistake perhaps because it is obscure enough not to get a separate entry in Jancis Robinson's Wine Companion although it is mentioned as a place where Plavac Mali is produced in the general entry on Croatia.

We stand by our advice to choose Dingac/Plavac Mali over Babic and are relieved not to have to tear Dingac from the Slotovino Hall of Fame having not admitted it in the first place, We have tasted some excellent Plavac Malis in general though so we can admit this grape on the strength of those experiences. TA-DAH!

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Slotovino awards 2010/11

A bit later than usual and perhaps a little shorter than for previous years, the 2010/11 Slotovino awards are nonetheless as eclectic and fascinating as before thanks to the ever-changing face of wine as they say and our luck in finding wonderful new experiences every year.

As ever, we exclude previous winners, so our choices may not always represent net improvements.

Best Red Wine discovery

Casetta, Trentino

A grape totally new to us - as delicious as it is obscure.

Best White Wine discovery

Astley Vineyard 'Veritas' Kerner.

An English white which doesn't taste like an English white - high praise indeed but not only that. This example of the usually uninspiring variety, Kerner is as good if not better than any we have tasted from Central Europe or Italy. Could this be the signature grape for English white one day? Probably not if only because according to Astley Vineyards who inherited the planting from the original owners in the days when it was England's most northerly vineyard, Kerner is very difficult to grow. All praise to them and their hard work.

Best Rose discovery

Strohmeier Schilcher Lestoa (Blaue Wildbacher) (Austria)

This tastes like no other Schilcher we know. It has the weight of a red wine despite the pink clothing. Fascinating as well as delicious. The Blaue Wildbacher is another inexplicably neglected variety, responsible for some wonderful reds as well as this Rose. We are in good company here;
"After the weekend, Schubert and Jenger, in the company of Anselm Huettenbrenner and the Pachlers, made a three-day visit to the castle of Wildbach some twenty miles south-west of Graz, which was managed by an aunt of Dr. Pachler, Anna Massegg. Again they made music, assisted by Massegg's eldest daughter, in a beautiful 'blue room' with fine views across the garden; and they were refreshed by generous supplies of the excellent local wine, the Schilcher, a light rose which proved a particular favourite with Schubert."

Franz Schubert, A Biography, by Elizabeth Norman McKay (p.284). Oxford University Press, 1996

The date of Schubert's visit to Wildbach was September 1827.

Schubert was a great lover of wine; sometimes too much so. As with others at this period there is little information concerning what they actually drank apart from the odd mention of Riesling or Tokay, so this reference to Schubert's actual visit to Wildbach and liking for Schilcher is rare and interesting - to us as Schubert lovers at least.

Best Wine Merchant (UK)

Troubadour Wines, London

Best Wine Merchant (rest of world)

Chambers St. Wines, NYC

Best Supermarket for wine

no award this year

Best Airport Duty Free

Vino Volo, JFK T8

(Worst Airport Duty Free)

Vasteras, Sweden. NB. this concludes our competition to recognise this establishment in May 2011 which our photo showed the entire selection.

Best Promotional outlet for Wine

Vini nuovi Tai, Venice Airport

Most surprising wine discovery
Biddenden Gribble Ridge Dornfelder, the first English Red Wine ofwhich we would not mind having a case (and how many English reds can one say that of?).

Slotovino Prediction for 2011/12

The wine investment bubble will burst.

Best Sommelier

Laure Patry, the 'Bordelaise' at the Pollen St. Social Club, London. We went to this restaurant months before 'Decanter' sang its praises (August 2011) and had already chosen Laure Patry potentially as our Sommelier of the year. Not even realising the magnificent and fascinating winelist was all her own work, we ordered a bottle of Wild Fermant Assyritiko from Gaia, Greece. When Laure showed us the bottle we were disappointed to see the wine was more alcoholic than we would have liked. At those moments with a 500 bottle winelist from which to choose a lower alcohol substitute, we put ourselves in Laure's hands and she suggested without missing a beat a Verdejo by Calamar of Rueda which was ideal. The point about calling Laure 'la Bordelaise' is that we learned she comes from near Bordeaux and we admit prejudice in being surprised she recommended a Spanish wine rather than a French one. She is wonderfully businesslike with a quiet charm. This is what Decanter subsequently said about her;

Sommelier savvy: Head sommelier Laure Patry has
assembled a brilliant list: nearly 500 wines from
all over the world, about half of them natural
(organic, biodynamic, etc) and all good value. We
had an eclectic selection of small plates, and she
recommended María Gomes (the Portuguese
grape) from Luís Pato, and Gaia’s Assyrtiko from
Greece – both among the three dozen offered by
the glass, and both perfect.

Best Restaurant winelist

Caffe Muzio, NYC.

We likes the fact there was maximum diversity and interest in a comparatively minuscule list.

Most promising grape

Ortrugo, Emilia Romagna

Vigneron of the year

Domenici Pedrini (oenologist), Azienda Agricola Pravis, Lasino, Trento who is an owner together with his two partners Mario Zambarda (Vineyard) and Gianni Chiste (sales).
Pravis are a superlative outfit dedicated to reviving, maintaining and restoring 'heritage' grape varieties including Negrara, Rebo, Gropello, Franconia (Blaufrankisch/Lemberger), Nosiola, Schiava Gentile etc.Bold

Most depressing marketing campaign

'Turkey produces 3 times as much grapes as South Africa' but how many of these are for wine production?Best kept wine secret

The wines of Trentino

Most pleasant surprise

Italian alternatives to Prosecco: Passarina, Pignoletto, Spergola

Best wine website


Colombaud: positively the world's rarest grape?

We stumbled on this fantastic new website while researching a local Vaucluse variety called Aubun of which more in a moment. does something so simple and essential one wonders why it had not been done often and before. It lists all the permitted grapes of France, ascribing them to their relevant apellation while giving some interesting information as to their characteristics, history and 'superficie' or number of hectares to which they are thought to be planted.

in the course of this, two apellations emerge as the home of the most obscure varieties of all, Béarn and Palette, The latter of course is the home of the splendidly idiosyncratic Chateau Simone which is permitted a choice of 29 different varieties in its annual assemblage, One of these, Colombaud is said to have a 'supeficie' of 0.00 hectares!

As for Aubun, it makes up 40% of a Vaucluse cuvee we bought today. Sadly there must be many such varieties which never see the limelight and are always part of blends so we will probably never experience their unique character. Aubun is said to be similar to the slightly less elusive Counoise. Both are permitted in Chateauneuf du Pape. Apparently Aubun had some resistance to Phylloxera which is not something you hear often. In spite of this it is sadly in decline.

We recommend this site. Now an Italian equivalent would be about ten times as big and fascinating. There's a fun job for someone!