Saturday, 7 July 2012

Slotovino 2011/12 Awards

Yes, the red carpet is out again and we are pleased to make our various awards once more for the period July 2011 to July 2012. As before, previous winners are excluded even if we think they should receive their award two years running.

A novelty this year is the listing of previous winners in the category. We haven't given any runner-up awards this time as we feel this complicates the situation and removes potential winners in the future.

We sometimes add or subtract categories so this year for instance we award no prize for best in-flight wine as we don't drink on flights any more and in any case, very little effort seems to be made in this field in these days of ever more minuscule airline profits and plenty of losses.

Best Red Wine Discovery

Ribeyrenc vines intersown with Ragwort
Ribeyrenc by Thierry Navarre of Roquebrun, St. Chinian (Roussillon), France. This was the standout of the Real Wine Fair and as a disappearing variety brought back from the brink by the wonderful Thierry Navarre
it ticks all Slotovino's boxes

Ribeyrenc grafted onto a Muscat vine
Ribeyrenc is a characterful and delicious variety with that special quality we have previously detected in our greatest discoveries - that of a sort of precognition. By this we mean the sensory experience of thinking "well of course! 

That taste just had to exist even if we had never experienced it until now." That has been our reaction to some of our favourite discoveries such as Ramisco, Persan, Pineau D'Aunis, Poulsard, Gringet etc.

2010/11                    Casetta
2009/10                    Tocai Rosso
2008/09                    Vernaccia Nera (actually the runner up to what we thought was 'Francisi' - the grape
                                 of Santa Ne. We later discovered Santa Ne is a blend albeit of rare varieties).    

Best White Wine Discovery

Malvasia. OK Slotovino reader, we know this is one of the most common varieties in the world but one which has been cold-shouldered, ostracised, played down, concealed even  and is only re-emerging  as something whose name can be mentioned in polite society quite recently.

 Its ubiquitousness, like that of Trebbiano results in some wonderful sub-zone variations such as Malvasia Istriana, Malvazija Istarska, Malvasia delle Lipari, Malvasia di Salina

Malvasia di Grottaferrata, Malvasia di Bosa, Malvasia di PlanurgiaMalvasia di Candia, Malvasia Puntinata, Malvasia di Lazio and 12 Portuguese varieties which may or may not be related but go under the same name. These include Malvasia Fina, Malvasia Candida, Malvasia Rei, Malvasia Corada and Malvasia da Trincheira. 

Malvasia is also a grape used in Madeira (Rossini's favourite wine) and there is of course the Malvasia Nera but we can't discuss that here.All we can say is we have never met a Malvasia we didn't like and quite a few we liked very much. One by Birichino in California went down particularly well this year.

So not only do we not select our winners only because they are obscure, we are able to choose something widespread as long as it has plenty of variety (after all we are devoted to Diversity) and we are always happy to support an underdog.

2010/11                    Kerner as in Astley Vineyards 'Veritas'
2009/10                    Torrontes as in Cinco Tierras Cafayate, Salta
2008/09                    Vilana

Best Rose

Grisard's Rose de Mondeuse; as deliciously light and refreshing as a mountain stream and also as pure.

2010/11                    Strohmeier Blauer Wildbacher Rose (Austria)
2009/10                    Ackerman Sparkling Cabernet Franc (Loire)
2008/09                    Vitkin Israel Journey Rose.

Best wine merchant, London

Highbury Vintners

2010/11                    Harlequin
2009/10                    Artisan & Vine jointly with Bertrand and Nicholas
2008/09                    Caves de Pyrene jointly with Zelas

Best wine merchant outside London (new category)


Henderson, Edinburgh. This is where we obtained an Australian 100% Pineau Meunier Sparkling wine and a white burgundy from a grape that doesn't even have a name! What more can we say?

Best wine merchant, rest of world


Ricerca Vini, Milano. Excellent place for anyone looking for something out of the ordinary.

2010/11                    Chambers Street Wines, New York
2009/10                    Caves des Pupilles jointly with Caves Auge, both of Paris
2008/09                    Astor (New York) jointly with Per Bacco of Milano.

Best UK Supermarket

Marks and Spencer. We had already noticed some fascinating bottles creeping in even before we had the pleasure of meeting Jo Ahearne MW their wine buyer who has since moved to Harrods.

On subsequent visits more and more interesting bottles have appeared including

A dry PX (Pedro Ximenez)
Bellota 100% Eva de los Santos (a Spanish white grape!)
La Salrosita Blanco (Garnacha Blanca)

2010/11                    No award
2009/10                    Whole Foods
2008/09                    No award

Best Airport Duty Free

Cristoforo Colombo, Genova

Small but interesting.

2010/11                    Vino Volo, various US airports
2009/10                    Lavinia, Malaga
2008/09                    Schwechat, Vienna, runner up Marco Polo, Venezia

Worst Airport Duty Free

Dufry, Malpensa. Why? because we bought a bottle of Pino Nero vinificato in Bianco which turned out to be severely oxidized. Having paid cash, we had not kept the receipt before tasting. Dufry didn't bother to answer letters and when a kind person going through Malpensa brought up the subject, they gave us the email address through which to make our representation. This elicited a reply asking for a request for all kinds of unnecessary and bureaucratic information:

Would you be so kind as to send us a copy (scan or picture) of the whole sales receipt as well as the personal information below:
full name: 
passport number and its nationality: 
birth date: 
mailing address:                                               
zip code:
phone number: 
state & country: 

The personal information requested is to formalize and register your complaint/request  and contact with Dufry.

It’s a normal procedure of the company for all worldwide customers.

It is Dufry’s aim to achieve the best solution to satisfy our customers’ requirements, consequently, all cases will be considered individually, taking into account applicable local consumer laws.

Proof of purchase must be presented in all cases

 which we provided only to be told that without the receipt nothing could be done. We had kept the bottle and sent them the bar code together with other photos, proof that we had passed through the airport on the day of purchase etc. The cost of the wine was small (about 10 Euros) so the refund was not our primary object. We wanted to alert Dufry that this wine was oxydised in a way that suggested our bottle might not be the only one to be spoiled. We asked them how many other people buying this wine had contacted them and they replied that there had been none.


Perhaps other customers had just not bothered. Dufry didn't say if they had tasted any other bottle. Oh and just for the record, they actually print on their plastic bags that they exchange, refund etc.


 We don't think this is good enough considering that all their customers are safely miles away after making their purchases.

PS. Travelling through Marseille Provence (T.2) the other day we asked the knowledgeable lady in charge of Wine what would happen if a passenger found a purchase to be undrinkable on arrival back home and she shrugged saying firstly that this had never happened in her experience and secondly that there was nothing that could be done in such circumstances, receipt or no receipt! So the message to all punters at Duty Free is
Caveat Emptor - quality control may not be of the standard one can expect from those selling to customers who are in a position to take the wine back and above all keep the receipt if you don't want to give a pretext for refusing a refund or replacement of a bad bottle.


2010/11                    Vasteras
2009/10                    Lyon
2008/09                    Berlin Tegel

Best Promotional Outlet

Georgian wines at the Real Wine Fair

This was not strictly a Promotional Outlet in the sense that previous winners had been;
2010/11                    Vini nuovi Tai, Aeroporto Marco Polo, Venezia
2009/10                    Museo del Vino, Malaga
2008/09                    Vini Portugal, Porto, Lisbon

                              John Wurdeman of Pheasant's Tears and Bishop David of Alaverdi Monastery Cellar

                                                                      Iago Bitarishvili of Iago's Wine

However, at the Real wine Fair, the 3 or 4 Georgian producers acted as one, covering for eachother, Introducing their colleagues and generally promoting Georgian wine. A heartening experience.

Most surprising wine discovery

Finding a bottle of 100% Chenanson at a Wine Merchant in le Touquet - a grape totally unknown to us prior to that.


2010/11                    Biddenden Gribble Ridge Dornfelder (England)

Most interesting wine trend


New bottling materials including Paper!

2010/11                    Improvement in Sparkling wines the world over
2009/10                    Orange Wine

Prediction for 2012/13

The Chinese will buy up ever more Old World wine producers. this is happening already but we may not have seen nuttin' yet.

2010/11                    The Fine Wine bubble will burst
2009/10                    Ever more Branding
2008/09                    Lower alcohol

Best Restaurant Wine List

Ristorante Nouvelle Vague, Genova. Only because it was so locally concentrated and didn't seem to feel any obligation to offer the usual wines from all over the world.

2010/11                    Cafe Muzio, New York
2009/10                    Locanda Locatelli, London
2008/09                    Gramercy Tavern, New York

Best Someillier

Not awarded

2010/11                    Laure Patry, Pollen St. Social Club, London
2009/10                    Frank, L'Antico, Kings Road, London
2008/09                    Waterside Inn, Bray, England.

Most promising grape



Why? because we just love the combination of originality and drinkability. The example from Heitz shows that Grignolino can be replicated in the New World.. It should be grown much more commonly in our view.

2010/11                    Ortruga
2009/10                    Persan
2008/09                    Pugnitello

Vigneron of the year

Paul Draper, Ridge Vineyards

Wonderful winemaker and human being. Co-creator of a classic built on the lessons of the past and research into the future. A lover of diversity in a region which sometimes seems to be smug in its self-imposed limitations.

2010/11                    the team at Azienda Pravis, Trentino
2009/10                    Alan Wallace Bruzzo, Colli Berici, Tocai Rosso
2008/09                    Francisco Figuereido, Arenae, Colares

Most depressing marketing campaign

In general, those who sell on price only. (They know who they are but will be nameless here!).

2010/11                    Turkey
2009/10                    Rotspon
2008/09                    Berry Brothers and Rudd "Best Ordinary..."

Best kept wine secret

Georgian wines.

2010/11                    Trentino
2009/10                    Savoie
2008/09                    New York State

Most pleasant surprise

Bordeaux Clairet (especially Ch. Lauduc). We always thought this might be a gimmick but Clairet has some claim to be nearer what Bordeaux might have resembled in the Middle Ages that what it has become. It also occupies that uncommercial area of wine that is between rose and red which we find interesting. Wine-merchants tell us Rose is only marketable if it is pale pink. We like to think we are not so superficial as to ignore the deeper Roses and now Clairets. Bardolino Chiaretto also recommended itself to us this year as being one of the few overpriced wines worth buying from UK airport Duty Free shops. So good indeed that it was no longer available the last time we looked.

2010/11                    Three alternatives to Prosecco; Pignoletto, Spergola, Passarina)
2009/10                    Segal Argamon

Best lower alcohol wines

Domaine Grisard. Their wines are consistently modest in alcohol which cannot be said of all Savoyard wines; indeed some of the top end Mondeuses are distinctly alcoholic.

2010/11                    T. Navarre "Les Oeillades"

Booby Prize

Caribbean retailers. The wines are most often spoiled by high heat and low turnover.

2008/09                    Pub wines

Best English wines

Red; Bolney Pinot Noir, Comes under the category of so good you wouldn't know it's English.

                                                             Biddenden Gribble Bridge Ortega 2010

White: Biddenden Gribble Ridge Ortega. Aromatic or what?

Special Prize


We managed not to notice the arrival of this most important and estimable addition to the wine scene in London, the UK and thanks to their excellent website, no doubt the world, more than a year ago. There are scores of English Red, White, Pink and Sparkling wines selected with great care and discernment from all over England and Wales. There are very many discoveries to be made here thanks to excellent and erudite advice and excellent opportunities to sample. The tiny shop in busy Borough Market have nonetheless room to stock Cheeses and Cured Meats in order to help bring the customers in. We wish them the very best of luck and look forward to being their clients for years to come.