Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Bequignol = Prunelart: NOT


Our blog of 23.10.10 lamented that Bequignol was the same thing as Prunelart but we have learned from none other than Julia Harding MW that this is not so. Our apologies to Slotovino readers. We hope you have not been too seriously inconvenienced. Here is the original post:

Shock horror! No sooner than we had thought we had discovered a new variety (Bequignol) than we discover (thanks to Wikipedia) that this is nothing else than Prunelart, a bottle of which lies in our cellar as we google.

We were checking varities in advance of a trip to Argentina when the 'Wines of Argentina' site gave us the name Bequignol as a grape produced in that country. Prunelart is made by Plageoles in Gaillac. Wikipedia tells us that this rarity is to be found only in pockets in South West France (Vienne and Gironde including Bordeaux), Argentina, Australia, Brasil, Spain and Italy.

In Argentina, Bequignol/Prunelart accounts for 0.94% of production and covers only 2,256 acres - more than Barbera nonetheless which we suppose is a cause for celebration.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Wijn Antiquariaat

Gerard has been squirreling eclectic and ideosyncratic fine wines away in his shop near the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam for decades and consequently has built up a fantastic inventory of great wine for those looking for something with some bottle age.

Inevitably there are legions of Bordeaux and Burgundy but also rarities such as Colares which makes Wijn Antiquariaat different from other similar operations. Not only that, Gerard knows his stuff and has visited the respective areas (including Colares). He is another of the rare enthusiasts one sometimes meets who are more inteersted that you should enjoy a nice bottle of wine than in extracting the last penny from you, making nonesense of the ditty

Never do business with the Dutch,
They give too little and take too much.

Gerard is also a real character. He has a clockwork torch for looking at labels in dim corners. He also holds tastings and invited us to one of Rioja the afternoon we were in his shop (unfortunately we couldn't stay).

We asked him if he know the best place to buy Dutch wine and he said that everywhere would be closed but that if we wanted he could lay his hands on some very good Dutch wine. We are sure he could

In fact we had taken the precaution of going to Gall & Gall, the store we had discovered on a previous visit and bought a bottle of Colonje Johanniter.

Johanniter is a crossing of Riesling and Seyve Villard and is quite common in the Netherlands. Also available was Knapse witte also from Colonje (whose vineyards are in Groisbeek in the south of the country).This consists of a blend of two other hybrids which were completely unknown to us, Helios (progeny of Merzling, Seyve Villard and Muller Thurgau bred in the Staaliche Weinbauinstitut, Freiburg-im-Breisga)and Riesel (a Swiss crossing by Valentin Blattner of varieties which seem to have been kept confidential).

Gerard probably wouldn't approve but we had to start somewhere with Dutch wine.

Thursday, 4 November 2010


Jancis Robinson recently wrote that (in Argentina) Bonarda was rather less noble than Malbec (FT, 25.9.10). In her 'Vines, Grapes and Wines' (itself a classic, published in 1986) she avoids the use of the word noble and refers to varieties as Classic, Major and Other, admitting that there is an element of quantity as well as quality in these classifications. In other words, just because it is listed under 'Other' it doesn't mean that a variety is inferior to a Classic or Major variety, just that it is not so widely planted or as well known internationally.

It may also be because it has not been defined as such by the French:

"Historically speaking, the noble grapes comprised only six varieties. The white noble grapes were Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Chardonnay. The red noble grapes were Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot." (Wikipedia). The author adds; "The phrase 'noble grape' is a classical term used to describe the grapes traditionally associated with the highest quality wines. The term is not as commonly used today...partly because the term originated in France which leads some critics to feel that the term unfairly slights varieties grown in other regions.

So Jancis Robinson probably means Bonarda (in reality Douce Noire) is less noble because plantings in Argentina are lower than those of Malbec. That's what we hope she means, but use of the words 'less noble' suggests Argentinian Bonarda is qualitatively inferior to Malbec. We at Slotovino would not wish to make such a comparison. It would be like saying Mozart is inferior to Beethoven or vice versa.

True some varieties are still waiting to achieve their full realisation but there have been so many examples of reviled grapes ("les mal aimés") producing wonderful wine out of the blue (such as Dov Segal's Argamon) that we would not like to dispense with any of them entirely (despite the rude things we have said about them in this blog - see Caradoc).

Slotovino wins by 2 days 23 hours and 59 minutes.

We are in the avant-guarde yet again.

Our 'Vini, Salume, Pane, Latte' blog was posted at 10.32 on November 1st and Slurp posted the following later at 10.31 on November 4th:

"This is a wine we recommend buying by the case simply because it's so versatile and as indispensible as bread or milk!"

Our point was very similar - that there is a type of wine whose use is as a staple.

It would be a great idea if restaurant House Wines were to fulfil this role instead of being plonk for cheapskates as so often. Invidious comparisons with the rest of the list could then be avoided if it was clear they served a different purpose. We would then favour most wines being sold at a similar price as Franco, our Sommelier of 2009/10 does in his restaurant (see Slotovino Awards 6.7.10) does. Obviously some wines are more expensive than others but we find ourselves choosing by price as much as anything else whereas it should be by wine.

So let's abolish House Wines and have Draft Wine instead in a separate category, perhaps with Fine Wines in a third category. Just another of our thoughts...

Tuesday, 2 November 2010


The New Wine of the Veneto is called 'Torbolino' and seems to be a popular seasonal treat, much like Federweisse in Germany. It arrives at the end of October so is not fully fermented at 8%. It is semi-sweet but rather delicious. The examples we found were made with Chardonnay (right) and Raboso (left - pay no atention to the labels on these. They are ex-mineral water bottles). In the middle is a sparkling Marzemino which we bought to see if the interesting example we had drunk in Vienna was a flash in the pan (it was).

Information about Torbolino is very difficult to come by. It doesn't have an entry in the Oxford Companion to Wine and Google only has a couple of mentions. One of these (with thanks to the author Marc Millon) is worth quoting ;

I notice a sign for “Torbolino”. I’ve not come across this before. It is the local term for mosto or newly pressed grape juice that is in the process of still fermenting, and thus is no longer grape juice but not yet wine: something frothing and vivacious and deliciously in-between. In Piedmont’s Langhe hills, we’ve enjoyed this mosto with our winemaker friend Mario around a campfire, while roasting castagne, chestnuts. In the German-speaking Südtirol, we’ve sampled törgellen, a simple repast of speck, cheese, good bread and the new, still-fermenting mosto. So here, I purchase a litre of the white torbolino, made from Prosecco grapes, and a litre of the red, made from Cabernet. The red is better, and our daughter Bella quickly downs a couple of tumblers on our return to our palazzo.
This torbolino, it has to be said, is good; it is seasonal; it tastes of our mood, the old year slowly transubstantiating into something new.

Marc Millon, www.marcmillon.co.uk

Monday, 1 November 2010

Vini, Salume, Pani, Latte

It takes us at quite a long time for things to fall into place but now we think we understand the phenomenon of Vino Sfuso, Vin En Vrac, Wine on Draught etc, so here's our theory.

Venezia seemed to be the centre for Vino Sfuso because there were far more outlets with their demijohns of wine filling empty mineral water bottles than in other cities. Finally the penny dropped: it is not possible to have bulk wine stored in the vast vats we had seen in Torino, Napoli and other places due to the fact that everything has to be transported on water and then lifted into position. Apparently evey Italian town has its Vino Sfuso outlets, Venezia just has more of them for this very simple reason.

So Vino Sfuso is a widespread phenomenon in Italy at least, not a Venetian speciality.

Our next Eureka moment came when we found the above sign outside a food shop: "Vini, Salume, Pane, Latte," the staples of life. In this context, wine becomes a commodity, almost a necessity as opposed to a luxury item. The cost of vino sfuso is appropriately modest, between €2 and €3 per litre. Meditteranean people typically dink only a glass per meal and often add water. Draught wine is also much lower in alcohol than most bottled wine. So vino sfuso is used for a completely different purpose than how we use wine in Northern European countries for example. Here in the North, wine is used as an aperitif, to lubricate guests at dinner parties, to make merry, to celebrate at special occasions and so forth. We also need it to warm us up and for many other reasons. What we hardly do is to use it as a commodity, forgetting names and brands, including it in our diet as a staple - what is sometimes called a food wine.

For this reason, not only do we not have places selling vino sfuso but it is almost impossible to find even this type of wine in our shops. This is as much a deficiency as if in music an entire genre such as Jazz or Baroque music were missing. If we take a look at the range of wine sold in Northern Europe it is almost all of one kind: rich, warming, deep, flavoursome, fruity, increasingly high in alcohol. Wines tending towards the vino sfuso style are few and far between. We would list the following

Hunter Valley Semillon
Vinho Verde

Alsace Pinot Noir
Beaujolais Nouveau

there must be more but already we're scraping the bottom of the barell.

A glimmer of hope. You can buy a good Pinot Noir from Bourgogne en vrac from Wines of the World in Clapham or Earlsfield London

549 Garratt Lane,
London,SW18 4SR
Phone: 020 8947 7725

10a The Polygon,
Clapham Old Town,
London,SW4 0JG
Phone: 020 7720 6607

at a cost of £5.50 if you bring your own 75cl bottle. They also sell it already bottled at £7.99. The wine is described as "declassified domaine burgundy, hand–picked, hand–selected, vinified in the traditional manner and aged for 3–6 months in oak. The grapes for this vintage are all from Domaine Maurice Gavignet’s 10 hectare estate near Nuits St Georges (but in less abundant years he may buy some grapes in). The En Vrac wines are put into the box using the latest technology, under pressure without any contact with air."

Wines of the World have a really thoughtful and interesting selection with for example the majority of the Argentinian wines from regions other than Mendoza, a 100% Graciano under £10 and so on.