Thursday, 29 October 2015

Bottle Apostle disciple

Bottle Apostle is an independent chain in London now numbering 5 shops in different areas. It has been on our radar for some time and we have bought some nice and interesting bottles there in the past. Now they have opened their latest branch near us in Primrose Hill, we took the opportunity to check it it out and were astounded at the amount of really interesting wine (and beer) they have in a relatively small space (compared to a Majestic branch for example).

They opened their first shop only in 2009 since when they have won a lot of awards including the
Telegraph Magazine “Britain's Best Small Wine Shop” in 2011 after only a short time of trading,  "Small Independent Merchant of the Year" in 2012 by the International Wine Challenge, and  “London Merchant of the Year” in 2014.

On the day we paid our visit there were two extremely knowledgeable members of staff, one from the Czech Republic and one from Japan who was presiding over a Sake tasting.

To give an idea of the range of wines on offer, we counted over 150 varieties listed on their search engine. Admittedly these included some minor constituents in blends including white port which tends to be made from some really obscure varieties but we think this is wonderfully diverse for a limited stock.

On this subject Bottle Apostle charmingly lists a wine's grape variety under 'We're not sure'.

Among the more recherche items we found a Blauer Wildbacher/Zweigelt blend from Strohmeier (Red Wine No. 5, 2012), a wine so rare that Bottle Apostle have the entire UK allocation.


 Also, the amazingly elusive Ruschi Noceti range (see our post appetizingly entitled 'Looking Up A Dead Goat's Arse'),

Abadia de Gomariz's Brancellao/Ferrol/Mencia/Souson blend from Ribeiro. These last two co-incided with our recent obsession with the wines of 'A lost corner of Tuscany' and 'The least Spanish region of Spain' (q.v.).

There were also not one but two Petite Arvines,

a Rotgipfler,

an enticing Penedes blend of Garnatxa Blanca/Macabeu/Moscatell/Panse/ Parallada/Vinyater and Xerel-lo at only 10% (VN Vinel-lo Blanco 2014) and many more. Who has ever heard of Vinyater? Not 'Wine Grapes' but Galet has. He offers the information that there are only 13ha of Vinyater in Spain.

We have indeed become Bottle Apostle Disciples. Do take a look and see if you don't as well.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Looking Up A Dead Goat's Arse

Apologies for the usual Slotovino focus. We hope you can just make out the name Luadga in line two.

Imagine you are an intrepid African explorer and have mounted 2 or 3 expeditions to find an elusive animal last heard of many years ago. there lurks a suspicion that this species may be extinct and indeed you return empty handed. Your worst fears seem to have been realized but one day walking by a pet shop you see the very animal in the window.

When you have finished hyperventilating you go in and buy the creature thus securing it for your collection and the greater knowledge of mankind.

Something like this has just happened to Slotovino. Remember our investigation of the 'Lost corner of Tuscany'? We said then that the wines from the area Colli di Candia, Alpi Apuani, Val di Magra etc. were little known even in the area and in some cases we had the feeling that producers were not interested in selling their wines. The producer we had in mind was one whose wines we couldn't find no matter how hard we tried: Fattoria Ruschi Noceti (Val di Magra, Liguria). They did not take telephone calls or answer emails. Their wines were nowhere to be found. We assumed they may have become extinct.

Then we discovered not one but three of their wines on the shelves of Bottle Apostle, now opened in Regent's Park Road, Primrose Hill, London. We nearly did hyperventilate.

We bought the red made from Pollera grapes - such a great discovery at our tasting and a white made from Durella and something called Luadga. Durella we had heard of but Luadga? There is no mention of it in 'Wine Grapes', 'Native wine grapes of Italy' or the 'Dictionnaire encyclopedique des cepages'.

not dead, not a goat but you get the picture (one we had conveniently archived for just such an occasion).

There was even one entry on Google which speculated that Luagda is an acrostic for Looking Up A Dead Goat's Arse.

Don't be put off. The wine is really attractive. It is an orange wine in fact and tastes delicious. How much of its success is down to Luagda and how much to the Durello it is hard to say.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Summer in Greece

Invited to a remote Greek Island, we took the precaution of having some wine sent from two merchants in Athens.

Domaine Glinavos 'Paliokairisio' Debina/Vlahiko sparkling natural wine

Botilia had supplied us previously with our (Slotovino) award winning sparkling orange wine 'Paliokairisio' so 6 x 50cl bottles of that seemed like a good idea for aperitif and House of Wine to whom we were led in our search for the Lyrarakis 'Plyto' which we wanted to try as one of our whites having discovered it at the Athens wine fair Oenorama in 2014.

Rather carried away, we ordered 12 bottles each from these two companies with the request for delivery shortly after our arrival. The House of Wine case arrived exactly on time but the one from Botilia suffered a breakage and had to be sent back to Athens and re-sent, arriving on our last day, so our tasting of their wines was perfunctory.

Here are the two lists:

House of Wine 



Theodorakakos - Kydonitsa
Papaiomylos - Malagouzia
Lyrarakis - Plyto


Mylonas - Savatiano
Brintzikis Estate - Tinaktorogos


Methymnaios - Chidiriotiko



Brintzikis Estate -  Avgoustatis

Lyrarakis - Kotsifali
Douloufakis - Liatiko

Theopetra - Limniona

Lyrarakis - Mandilari

This our landlord assured us was one of Greece's best reds. The winemaker at Gentilini is a Mr. Jones from the UK. 'Wine Grapes' is not sure if Mavrodafni of Cephalonia is any different from Mavrodafni tout court.

Gentilini - 'Eclipse' Mavrodafni of Cephalonia

Mavroudi. Mavrud in Bulgaria. Quite broadly spread in the region

Theodorakakos - Mavroudi

Vlahiko is a speciality of Domaine Glinavos. They use it in their Orange sparkling wine 'Paliokairisio' (see above).

Glinavos - Vlahiko

Red Blend

Mercouri's red containing Refosco - a grape grown by others in Greece as well as Mercouri - used to be reasonably priced and quite easy to obtain in the UK at one point. Now rather expensive it is more rarely available. It still tastes good.

Mercouri - 'Red' Refosco, Mavrodafni


Vidiano is similar to Vilana to which it is related. It was rescued from extinction by growers such as Doloufakis and Alexakis. Both Vilana and Vidiano are from Crete

Alexakis - Vidiano

Miliarakis - Vilana

Found in Cephalonia, Zakynthos among other regions. Rustic and quite robust, this is a rare monovarietal bottling.

Sotiriou - Goustolidi (aka. Agoustelidi - Jewel of August).

White Blend

Nikolouzos - Pavlo (Malvasia Bianca) & Kakotrygis (an old varietu from Corfu)

Domaine Asfodelos - Moschatella, Tsaousi & Vostilidi. Moschatella is not to be found in 'Wine Grapes' but is clearly yet another member of the Muscat family. It is included in Galet's 'Dictionnaire encyclopedique des Cepages' but the information there doesn't specifically mention its relationship to Muscat. It does provide of plenty muscatty synonyms though (Moschatelo, Moschardina etc).



Domaine Tsatsis - Negoska. We tried a Nagoska red from Les Caves du Pantheon a while back. We were warned it would be the most tannic wine we had ever tasted. We didn't have time to try this rose from Nagoska but hardly imagine it would have been as tannic as the red.


Glinavos - Debina, Vlahiko

To get to the more remote Greek islands you have to take a ferry from Athens so taking advantage of a stopover there we stumbled on a fantastic wine bar cum wine merchant called Oinoscent.

There we met one of the owners, a real wine enthusiast who just wants you to have a great wine experience. He was just opening the bar when we importuned him but when he understood the nature of our quest for obscure Greek varieties he locked all doors and took us down to the cellar.

There we found several versions of Mavrotragono, the newly re-discovered hit grape which is achieving lift-off and will soon be ubiquitous it seems. In particular, we remember


Lyrarakis - Dafni (W)

Grapes grown in a unique terroir including fields with meteorites!

T-Oinos - Avgoustiatis & Mavrotragono (R)

Due to a combination of holiday mode and total loss of data, we can't say as much as we would have liked about these wines except for the fact that there was hardly a disappointment among them. A strange phenomenon concerned the reds. They seemed to merge one into another. This sounds as if we were so inebriated as to be unable to tell the difference but if that was the case, how come the whites seemed so much more clearly differentiated?

Liatiko is the most widely planted red variety on Crete from where it originates

The reds were all warm and fruity. They were mostly dark except for the Liatiko which stood our a little bit as something different ('Wine Grapes' describes it as 'Idiosyncratic' and 'Aromatic' and so it was). We wonder about this uniformity. Might Greek producers all be using the same yeast or something? Back in March 2014, we came away from Oenorama thinking the Greeks could do anything the Spanish or Italians could. Now that judgement seems a bit hasty.

Tinaktorogos is another obscure variety needing to be added to a future edition of 'Wine Grapes'. This was the hit of the holiday.

Variety Asprodes is misleading. Asproudes simply means white wine. The variety is Tinaktorogos.

So what about the whites? As mentioned, more variety there. In particular, the Tinaktorogos of Brintzikis Estate stood out. We thought this was fabulous as they say on Tripadvisor. Aromatic and lovely. We were so impressed with it - not least because Tinaktorogos is another grape which someone has pulled back from extinction (Brintzikis Estate seem to be the only ones to be working with it) - that we ordered a case as soon as we came home. Sadly this turned out to be one of those occasions in which a holiday hit was a flop back at the ranch. Here the wine had much less character. We had to chill it very lightly so as to preserve much taste at all.


Also at Oenorama, we had been able to compare Lyrarakis's Dafni with their Plyto. We liked the latter so much more than the former that it was a surprise to see that only Dafni is imported to the UK. On this showing it was the other way around and preferred Dafni.


Malagoussia is a great grape. If in doubt, go for it! It should be easy to find on any Greek restaurant winelist. Not as easy as Assyritiko though. Why does everyone have such a mania for Assyritiko and Agiorgitiko for that matter? Is it because those were the first Greek grapes to reach us in the present period of Greek wine revival?

Hardimos Hatzidakis with one of his minions, August 11th, 2015
For the Assyritiko craze we probably have Hardimos Hatzidakis to thank. Hatzidakis is the pioneer of the Vin Santo and dry Assyritiko of Santorini and it was there, not by accident that our travels took us next.

Hatzidakis is something of a Greek Pier Paolo Lorieri (Mr. Vermentino Nero). Not content with raising the profile of Assyritiko both dry and sweet, he has pioneered Mavrotragono too. We were honoured to meet him as he busily directed operations at his rustic winery. When we told him we were from the UK he reeled off the impressive list of British importers (Waitrose, The Wine Society, Berry Brothers and Rudd etc) with a touch of diffidence which indicated that his main interest was in the wine itself and not his success in having the world beat a path to his door.

Everything mentioned in this was a joy really, so if you go to Athens, go to Oinoscent. If you want to order some lovely Greek wine, go to House of Wine or Botilia. If you go to Santorini, make the pilgrimage to Hatzidakis. There is obviously so much more as well.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Slotovino awards, 2014/15

Very much later than usual but not for lack of candidates. As you will see, there are fewer categories as things were getting a bit out of hand. Please search Slotovino for information and comment on our prizewinners.

Wine personality of the year;            Pierpaolo Lorieri,of Podere Scurtarola

13/14 Rafa Lopez, Bodegas Lopez Diaz-Alejo
12/13 Oszkar Maurer
11/12 Paul Draper, Ridge
10/11 Pravis, Trentino
09/10 Alan Wallace Bruzzo, Colli berici
08/09 Francisco Figuereido, Colares  

Red wine of the year;                        Palazzo Tronconi Zitore (Lecinaro)

13/14 Vedernikov Vineyards Krasnostop Zolotovsky
12/13 Forlorn Hope Suspiro del Moro Alverelhao
11/12 Ribeyrenc
10/11 Casetta
09/10 Tocai Rosso
08/08 Vernaccia Nera  

White wine of the year;                     Brintziki Estate Tinaktorogos

13/14 Salena Estate Ink Series Bianco d'Alessano
12/13 Minutolo
11/12 Malvasia
10/11 Kerner
09/10 Torrontes
08/09 Vilana

Rose                                                   not awarded

13/14 Lopez Diaz Araujo Royal
12/13 Rien que du fruit, Ganevat
11/12 Grisard Rose de Mondeuse
10/11 Strohmeier Blaue Wildbacher
09/10 Ackerman Sparkling Cabernet Franc
08/09 Vitkin Israeli Journey.

Light Red wine of the year;              Haut Planty Abouriou (12%)

13/14 Gourdon Chenin Noir (Pineau d'Aunis), Loir
12/13 Bedell First Crush
10/11 Thierry Navarre: Les Oeillades

Special award for the re-establishment of an endangered variety;          Fabio Bartolomei of Vinos Ambiz, Sierra de Gredos west of Madrid. Grapes he is using include Dore and Malvar

13/14 Ognibene family, Negrettino
12/13 Longanese Uva Longanese and La Sabbiona Savignon Rosso


UK Winemerchant of the Year (London);         Park and Bridge

13/14 The Sampler
12/13 259 Hackney Road
11/12 Highbury Vintners
10/11 Troubadour Wines
09/10 Artisan and Vine + Bertrand and Nicholas
08/09 Caves de Pyrene + Zelas

Winemerchant of the Year (rest of UK);           n.a.

13/14 The Good Wine Shop, Kew
2/13 n/a
0/11 Hendersons, Edinburgh

Winemerchant of the Year (rest of world)         Barolo, Madrid

13/14 Chapitra 20, Paris
12/13 La Cartuja, Marbella
11/12 Ricerca Vini, Milano
10/11 Chambers St., NY 
09/10 Caves des Pupilles, Paris + Auge, Paris
08/09 Astor Wines, New York + Per Bacco, Milan

Best UK Supermarket;                                       n.a.

13/14 Tesco
12/13 Sainsbury's
11/12 Marks and Spencer
10/11 n/a
09/10 Whole Foods
08/09 n/a

Best Airport Duty Free;                                     Porto  

13/14 Hungaricum, Budapest Ferihegy Airport
12/13 n/a
11/12 Genova
10/11 Vino Volo (various US airports)
09/10 Malaga
08/09 Vienna                           

Worst Airport Duty Free                                    US airports

13/14 Hong Kong
12/13 Malpensa
11/12 Vasteras
10/11 Lyon
09/10 Berlin Tegel 

Most surprising wine discovery;          Colli di Candia Alpi Apuani

13/14 Jordanian Wine
12/13 Forlorn Hope Suspiro del Moro Alvarelhao
11/12 Chenancon found at Le Touquet
10/11 Biddenden Dornfelder

Most interesting wine trend;                 Wine Education. There seems to be an ever increasing
demand for wine courses, tutored tastings and so forth.

13/14 15%/16% wines
2/13 Emerging regions
11/12 New bottling materials (including paper)
10/11 Orange Wine

Most pleasant surprise;                          Massaretta/Barsaglina and Pollera

13/14 Glinavos 'Paliokairisio' Sparkling Orange wine, Zitsa, Greece
12/13 n/a
11/12 Bordeaux Clairet
10/11 Alternatives to Prosecco: Passerina, Pignoletto, Spergola

Prediction for the year ahead;

Sadly ever more internet outlets will fail to remove out of stock wines from their websites and be recalcitrant in replacing or refunding faulty bottles.

13/14 Greece will have its day
2/13 Supermarkest to play safe while independents press ahead and prosper
11/12 The Chinese will buy up ever more producers
10/11 Fine Wine bubble will burst
09/10 Ever more branding
08/09 Lower alcohol

Best Restaurant winelist;                       Enoteca Marcucci, Pietrasanta

13/14 Maialino, New York
12/13 Caravan, London
11/12 Nouvelle Vague, Genova
10/12 Cafe Muzio, New York
09/10 Locanda Locatelli, London
08/09 Gramercy Tavern, New York

Best Someiller;                                       n.a.

Best kept wine secret;                            Czech wine.

13/14 Greek Wine
12/13 Lighter style of Bobal
11/12 Georgian Wines
10/11 Trentino
09/10 Savoie
08/09 New York State

Best English Red;                                  Plumpton College Dornfelder (M & S)

13/14 Seddlescombe Regent
12/13 Biddenden Gamay
11/12 Bolney Pinot Noir

Best English White;                               Charie Herring's Sauvignon Blanc

13/14 Quoins Orion
12/13 Stopham Pinot Blanc
11/12 Biddenden Gribble Ridge Ortega

Best publication;                                    Wink Lorch's 'Jura Wine'.

13/14 Native Wine Grapes of Italy (Ian D'Agata)
2/13 Wine Grapes (Robinson, Harding and Vouillamoz)