Thursday, 26 March 2009

Perhaps London's most interesting Wine Merchant?

The unpromising name is 'Wine of Course' and the less than pukka address is 216 Archway Road, London N6 5AX (0208 347 9006) but make no mistake this is one of the most exciting wine shops in the world and probably the most interesting in London. Why? Because it is the only importer of 'Vins Naturels' and most of their range is not available anywhere else in the UK.

We bought

Melon de Bougogne which is actually from Burgundy (and not Muscadet)

Emmanuel Houillon Poulsard Arbois Pupilin Jura (which we had only ever encountered at Le verre vole in Paris)

Domaine le Briseau Les Longues Vignes Coteaux du Loir (Pineau d'Aunis)

Domaine Causse Marines Vin De Table “Rasdu” Gaillac South-West France (90% Duras, 10%Syrah)

Domaine Causse Marines GRAIN DE FOLIE DOUCE Doux Gaillac South-West France (Muscadelle, Ondenc, Mauzac, Loin de L’œil, Semillon)

Terra Tangra Medos Mavrud Merlot Cabernet Sakar Bulgaria (Mavrud, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon)

Apart from the Bulgarian red with a majority of Mavrud which is unknown to us, these wines were not cheap at an average of about £15 but having samples only the extremely rare Melon de Bourgogne we are sure each bottle will be a treat (hope springs eternal). There is a generous range of wines under £10 which we will have to explore.

The Patron is unusually a Bulgarian gentleman called Plamen Georgiev. He is charming, knowledgeable and clearly a man of ideas - great ones at that. He has an offer for a case of 100% Natural Wines (6 wines to a case) at 50% discount on joining his Zelas Natural Wine Club. Therafter he will select six bottles of Natural Wine every couple of months and deliver it free of charge. The pressure is taken off by his promise to notify club members well in advance of delivery so they can cancel rather than having to send the case back. You don't even have an obligation to take any more cases after buying your initial case (with 50% off). We saw no mention of a joining fee.

Plamen is already having an impact on North London at least. He relates how his customers curse him for having introduced them to Vins Naturels because now they can drink nothing else! We think this initiative deserves to flourish. is the efficient website.

all the above wines are

Dispatches ITV2, 17.9.08; an update

In our report of September 18th 2008 we referred to the fact that only the Co-op listed the ingerdients on their wine bottles in the UK. We finally found a branch of this reclusive chain and bought two bottles so we can bring you the ingredients on the back label.

INGREDIENTS: Grapes (Torrontes, Chardonnay), Tartaric acid, Preservatives (Sulphur dioxide, Potassium metabisulphite). Made using: Acidity regulator (Potassium tartrate), Antioxidants (Nitrogen, Carbon dioxide), Yeast, Yeast nutrient (Diammonium phosphate). Cleared using Bentonite, Casein (Milk), Filtration, Pectinolytic enzymes.
ALLERGY ADVICE: Contains Milk, Sulphites.

INGREDIENTS: Grapes (Bonarda, Shiraz), Tartaric acid, Preservatives (Sulphur dioxide, Potassium metabisulphite). Tannin. Made using: Yeast, Acidity regulators (Potassium tartrate, Potassium bitartrate), Antioxidants (Nitrogen, Carbon dioxide), Yeast nutrient (Diammonium phosphate), Lactic bacteria. Cleared using Pectinolytic enzymes, Filtration.
ALLERGY ADVICE: Contains sulphites.

This may be less alarming than it sounds, but hats off to the Co-op and let's hope this shames everyone else into listing their ingredients.

Monday, 9 March 2009

More tips

A good German Sekt (yes, really!). Doesn’t attempt to copy Champagne. Think of it as Sparkling Riesling. Originally recommended by Eytan Pessen, head of music staff at Germany’s leading opera house, the Wuerttemburgische Staatstheater, Stuttgart. Eytan is a true connoisseur in all things; Weinmanufaktur Riesling Sekt is from Untertuerckheim, a pretty village just outside Stuttgart.

Monday, 2 March 2009

'Merca, February 2009

Not a very rewarding expedition. Slotovino was destined for the Coachella Valley (Palm Desert/Palm Springs) so did some research into any wine that may be grown locally. The nearest vineyards are in Temecula near Marietta and the Cucamonga Valley near the towns of Ontario and Riverside. The latter is on the way from LA to Palm Desert: 76 miles. Temecula is 44 miles from Palm Desert but the road is poor and the complicated trip takes about 90 minutes by car. In the end we didn't visit either area but emailed about a dozen wineries asking where we could buy their wines in Palm Desert/Palm Springs. Most replies said their wines were only available at the Cellar Door and the only one which could identify retailers anywhere nearby sent us to La Quinta. There we drew a blank at 'Desert Discount Wines' but at 'Bev Mo' which appears to be the largest chain of Liquor Stores in California, we found 4 examples of Temecula 'wines'.

These included an "Almond Champagne" and an unspecified sweet white with lots of golden retriever puppies on the label and some copy linking the same to the wine, a "chocolate port" and a Chenin Blanc from Maurice Car'rie (they seem to have problems not only with their prose but also their apostrophies in Temecula).

Amazed at how the terms "Champagne" and "Port" could still be bandied about in 'Merca, we bought the Chenin Blanc which turned out to be no more than competent. They say that a visit to Temecula makes a very pleasant day's outing and it is fabled that some good wine is made there. Amazing reverse Campanalismo that hardly any of this wine is available locally.

We combed the usual wine outlets in Palm Desert and were depressed as ever with the rows of Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Does the 'Merican public never tire of making choices between versions of the same varieties? Alcohol content has crept up since last year (the only thing to point that way is the economic situation, it seems) and now reaches 16%. We read a survey by a physician who pointed out the bleeding obvious about the difference the effects a wine of this alcohol would be from one of 12% except to say that he reckoned the declarations were exaggerated downwards and not upwards which was our experience chez Berry Bros and Rudd.

Dr. Max Slotover drew our attention to a recent film called "Bottle Shock" which told the story of Stephen Spurrier and the Judgement of Paris in 1976 and we searched out one of the winners on that occasion, a Chateau Montelena Chardonnay (in this case, 2006) from Jensen's in Palm Desert (who have quite a decent selection for a supermarket) and later consumed this with great pleasure.

Surprisingly Montelena is not yet available everywhere but will surely be ubiquitous if the example of what the film "Sideways" did for Pinot Noir is anything to go by. There are now acres of Pinot Noir to accompany those of Ch. and Cab Sauv in every 'Merican store.

Over in Florida, more visits to wine outlets and more disappointment. At 'Total Wine and More' of Biscayne Boulevard however, we stumbled on something we had been looking for all over Italy since it had been recommended in 'Decanter': an Alicante Bouschet from the Maremma by Mantellassi "Querciolaia". Watch this space.

We also tried a Rioja Alta Reserva 1995 and a Cusumano Nero d'Avola but both made a rather muted impression perhaps as a result of a recent cold.

Finally to New York and our beloved Bathazar Restaurant on Spring Street. There three Jura whites were standouts on the French only winelist. The first was a Savignin which Mrs Slotovino does not appreciate. The second was an Arbois Pupillin Melon "La rouge-queue" Bornard 2004 at $66 rather expensive for the likes of us so we asked the nice Sommeilliere which grape went into the third, a Domaine de Montbourgeau "L'Etoile" (appellation L'Etoile controllee) 2006. The answer was Chardonnay.

We have always wanted to try a Jura Chardonnay: hope of something different springs eternal and the Jura is the place for individuality. The wine sure as hell tasted like a Savignin and we had to order a Chignin by Berlioz for Madame S to save the evening.

We didn't want to create a scene concerning the Domaine de Montbourgeau because it was also possible that the grape was Chardonnay made in a Rancio style, oxydised to the extent where sherry/Savignin-like flavours predominate. We managed to drink the wine with a pleasure of a kind resolving to check on the internet as to the actual variety in this wine. Strangly enough it appears that the wine is sometimes made with Chardonnay and sometimes with Savignin. There are no indications as to the content of the 2006. Curiouser and Curiouser.

An internet trawl produced this tasting note for a similar wine: wild aromas ranging from oily walnuts and pounded beef jerky to chalky limestone, dried sea salt, mineral spirits and latex.

The confusion over grape varieties extended also to the "Rouge-Queue" mentioned above. One internet source claimes Melon and Malbec (vinified white) as the components and another 100% Chardonnay. Clearly, Slotovino will have to solve these weighty matters with telephone calls to the vignerons.

And now an acknowledgement to our dear friend Gerard McBurney currently working out of Chicago who coined the affectionate diminutive 'Merca which for us encapsulates a G.W. Bush like innocence pervading the liquor store canyons of comfortably and reassuringly familiar grape varieties; Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Other White, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Syrah and Other Red...