Wednesday, 27 April 2016

RWF 2016 "The Jura is in" Seminar

Wink Lorch with Kenjiro Kagami
The best moment of this fascinating seminar of the wines of Jura was Wink Lorch's story about the British wine writer who told the organizer of a Jura tasting that they didn't want to taste yet another Chardonnay. The whole point of Jura is that the wines, even the Chardonnays taste different from those of any other region. We at Slotovino will only drink Chardonnay from the Jura, so distinctive in its purity and refinement.

First of all Wink gave us a few statistics. There are 2,000 ha. under vine in the Jura of which 300 are organic which is equal to 17%. There are 45 - 50 growers of these organic wines. Jura represents 0.2% of France's total wine production. Cremant du Jura (mainly Chardonnay) accounts for 25% of production of the entire area. Chardonnay is the most planted white variety and Poulsard the most planted red variety with Pinot Noir next. Jura's other signature grapes, Savignin and Trousseau are therefore minority grapes with Trousseau accounting for only 200 ha. Besancon, the capital of Jura is under 100 km from Dijon, the capital of Burgundy and yet the two areas couldn't be more different.Jura is a diversity hotspot despite its tiny size.

Another fascinating fact emerging from this seminar is that Wink doesn't much care for Poulsard. This being so, it seems quixotic to write a book about the Jura. She probably likes it more than the first time she tasted it because she had some positive things to say about the sample offered in this event by Julien Mareschal of Domaine de la Borde. If we may be permitted a personal digression, it is thanks to Poulsard that we came to love Jura wine. Our blind spot is Vin Jaune. Nice enough but not different enough to our degraded palate from some sherries to be worth its price. Poulsard suffers from its salmon pink colour. People sometimes think of it as a Rose but to us it is decidedly a red wine. We love its lightness of being (as opposed to colour), its low alcohol, its aromatic resinous character. In that respect we compare it to another favourite, Pineau d'Aunis.

M et Mme Kagemi.
The two vignerons present were admirable people indeed. Kenjiro Kagami was a Hitachi engineer before he and his wife decided one day to devote their lives to wine. He studied at Dijon and worked in Burgundy, Cornas and Alsace where he spent 7 years before taking over an abandoned vineyard of mostly Chardonnay. His property, the Domaine des Miroirs now extends over 3 ha. all of organic and Biodynamic production. Kagemi means Mirror in Japanese by the way. We tasted his 'Sonorite du vent' an excellent Chardonnay. He also grows Savignin from which he makes a vin houille or topped-up wine, not oxydised as was the practise in Jura. The time in 10 year old barrels is 2 years.

Kenijiro Kagami says 'Wine is a product where nature predominates and humans just help it along'. Wink mentioned that growers such as Kenijiro still live hand-to-mouth despite winning prises and selling out his production, such are the economics of a property like the Domaine des Miroirs. She added that she wished buyers would understand that although Jura wines may be 'in,' with such a relatively tiny production it is no use asking for ever greater quantities and the producers don't want to up the prices and alienate their fans.

Julien Mareschal of Domaine de la Borde, Arbois, is from a farming background and only began growing grapes and making wine in 2003.

Julien Mareschal, bass player?

Julien Mareschal when not playing his double bass

His vineyard now covers 5ha. in Arbois-Pupillin, the best region for Poulsard.

what to expect in a glass of Jura natural wine
He also produces Chardonnay, Savignin and Pinot Noir. he works biodynamically and believes that wine is first produced in the vineyard and not in the cellar. He pointed out that the high acidity which is the mark of all Jura wines is due to the very heavy clay soils.

The bowl a Domaine de la Borde
We learned from Julien Mareschal that Poulsard is a very difficult grape to grow. 'Capricieux' was his word. He has a magnificent 'bowl' in his property which is South-facing with warm winds. The best Poulsard is grown there. We learned that in bad years, white wine is made from Poulsard!

Of note is since 2011 is an organization of 38 Jura growers called 'Le nez dans le vert'. They have a get-together at the end of March every year for a tasting and knees-up. This sounds like a great idea.
We wonder if we have to disguise ourselves as Jura growers to get in.

Fortunately Wink Lorch's book has an idea of how to look on the cover.

RWF 2016 US Wine Masterclass

L to R, John House (Ovum), Chad Stock (Minimus), Phillip Hart (AmByth), Deborah Heath (Chair-person), Dierdre Heekin (La Garagista), Hank Beckmeyer (La Clarine).

Deborah Heath is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Lewis & Clark College, Portland, Oregon and with her on the panel were an appropriately distinguished collection of natural winemakers from California, Oregon and Vermont.

Hank Beckmeyer  was asked to speak first. As with all the speakers he stressed the fact that in the New World experimentation was the order of the day; 'Figure out what you can grow where'. He grows an eclectic range of red varietals (Tempranillo, Syrah, Tannat, Grenache, Negroamaro and Cabernet Sauvignon) and buys in others from vineyards he says he wishes he owned (Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache) but surprisingly he says he prefers not to put the varietals on the front label and reluctantly on the back: 'it's not that important.'

He also says he doesn't care how the alcohol level is - he just wants to get the flavours. La Clarine is highly thought of and available from the best wine shops.

Dierdre Heekin, 'La Garagista' was next. Dierdre and her husband have a farm and restaurant in Vermont where they also grow and make their own wine. We are aware that wine is now made in every single state in the US but the opportunity to taste wines from most of them is practically nil thanks to the still restrictive shipping laws left over from Prohibition and the innate conservatism of most wine drinkers, American or not.

We had made a beeline straight for La Garagista's stand with 15 minutes to spare before this seminar so when Ms. Heekin spoke we knew that she has managed to make not just drinkable but in some cases delicious wines from hybrids we outside the USA and Canada know practically nothing about: Frontenac Gris and Noir, La Crescent, Brianna, Saint Croix and Marquette. These are hybrids obtained by Elmer Swenson for the University of Minnesota in the last century.

We thought the most successful of all was the Grace and Favour Pet Nat made from La Crescent grapes. On this showing, La Crescent is one of the most successful hybrids we know of. Slotovino recommends it for the attention of British growers.

What Dierdre Heekin had to say echoed Hank Beckmeyer in the matter of freedom to innovate. 'There are no Wine Libraries in Vermont!' Nonetheless the varieties she uses are those she found already there. In fact she has planted Riesling and Blaufraenkisch ('because they are varities I like') but they didn't do well in the wet, humid climate. Vermont's winters are famously cold but the vines don't mind that, she says. In the summer temperatures can reach 90 - 100 degrees Farenheit. La Garagista is located on Mount Hunger at the edge of the Chateauguay and in the Piedmont chain of hills in Barnard, Vermont but they are not allowed to put their terroir on the label. They choose not to put their hybrids on the labels due to 'negative associations'. We think they can relax on that score.

Phillip Hart

Phillip Hart is an expat Welshman who has made AmByth into one of the most recognizable names in Californian natural wine the world over (it is Welsh, meaning 'Forever'). he farms 11 varieties over 16 acres and describes his 15 years as a tremendous experiment. His production is small because he doesn't irrigate even though there is no rain between May and September. He may be the only vigneron to dry farm in California. Some years he produces very little. He describes his operation as 'Progressive, regressive'. Patience is his watchword. He once planed a variety which failed to produce year after year until suddenly it delivered extravagantly. He said 'Vines adapt to their site in 10 years and become something else.

Chad Stock's operation is very different from the others on the panel; he doesn't own any land buys from sites all over Oregon. He says he looks at what is possible in the State of Oregon and always tries something different. 'In the US there are no rules. Grow what you want where you want.' the wines of his company 'Minimus' include a Mueller-Thurgau petillant naturel, a Gruener Veltliner, a Sauvignon Blanc in Amphorae and another under Flor. Chad Stock believes Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Cardonnay from Oregon are 'less interesting.' He sees Oregon wine has suffered 'from a commercial driven market; mediocre wines for people who don't know better.'

an egg and John House and Ksenija Kostic of Ovum Wines
The last guest was John House of Ovum. You may have guessed that the wines are fermented in cement Eggs (these, by Nomblot of Beaune, "The World Leader in Concrete Eggs"). This occasioned general approval among the panelists for Amphora and Eggs. John House stated that fermentation in barrel lasts 4 weeks and takes away floral flavours whereas in eggs, the fermentation is still active in 6 months. He uses barrels as well as eggs incidentally; his 2014 Riesling is barrel fermented for example. As well as Riesling, Ovum make Gewuertztraminer and Muscat.

One of the participants said emphatically at one point "You may have noticed, we are not out to make a lot of money here!" We found that charming. What all the winemakers were out to do was to make the most natural possible product with the least intervention. To allow the maximum expression of terroir and vintage. Honesty, genuineness, faithfulness..... O si sic omnes!

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

RWF 2016 Matthew Rorick

Matthew at the Real Wine Fair, 2016

Making straight for the US tables at the very back of the furthest room at Tobacco Dock we were surprised and delighted to see Forlorn Hope represented. At the risk of repeating ourselves we have been attempting to buy bottles of any of the dozen wines they have made as and when the opportunity has arisen. We were so mystified as to how to do this that in 2013 we actually went to ask the owner and guiding spirit Matthew Rorick in person at Fairfield, California. He had to think quite hard before mentioning a couple of shops where we might find his wines (they were sold out). Most of his sales come from enthusiasts (of which there are plenty) grabbing the wines directly from him on release.

It was with satisfaction that we later found the wines at Chambers Street Wines, New York but to see them in London was a wish come true. We engaged the gentleman behind the table in conversation. He was only showing two wines, the Suspiro del Moro (Slotovino Wine of the Year 2012/13) and a rose 'Kume to amo' made from Touriga Nacional/Tinta Roriz/Tinta Cao and Tinta Amarella.

Matthew in 2013
It was only after some time that we realized we were talking to Matthew Rorick himself. He has lost a great deal of weight since we last saw him. We have gained about the same amount in the meantime so he also didn't realize straight away that we had met previously. We had been talking about his new venture - an 80 acre property he and his family had acquired a couple of years ago. He ascribed his weight loss to that project. Ours? To drinking his wines among many others.

We tend to go on a bit about the winemaker but it is thanks to the wines themselves that we do so. Already mentioned is the 100% Alvarelhao 'Suspiro del moro'. Not only did we choose this as the best wine of the year, it inspired a goose chase for this variety in both Portugal and Spain. Under its synonym Brancellao, we hunted it down in the Vinho Verde region of Portugal and Ribeiro and Ribeira Sacra across the border. Strangely the wines we found there tasted nothing like Forlorn Hope's Alvarelhao. Subsequently we read that some Californian Alvarelhao was in fact Touriga Nacional. We put this to Matthew Rorick who fielded this unworthy suggestion with chapter and verse concerning the vineyard where he had found this grape.

The shop at the Real Wine Fair was selling the two Forlorn Hopes wines. We bought them both and look forward to being able to buy more in the future. You should too. Since 2006 when it was founded, Forlorn Hope has made dozens of different wines from diverse grapes you didn't know existed in California. Like Ridge, he seeks out these old blocks and vineyards and makes this thrilling variety of wines, sometimes in very small quantities. Forlorn Hope currently list only 4 wines on their website. Matthew Rorick studied at Davis, gained experience in New Zealand and South Africa and was the chief winemaker for Errazuiz for a while. All his wines are expertly made, naturally of course.As the website has it:  "All Forlorn Hope wines are produced from winegrapes. That’s it."

"Nacre" Semillon, Yountville, Napa

"Que Saudade" Verdelho, California

"The Fraufreluches" Gewurztraminer, Russian River Valley, Sonoma

"Morrow" Sauvignon Blanc, Rutherford, Napa

"Suspiro del Moro" Alvarelhão, Lodi

"Sogni della Speccia" Sangiovese, California 

"San Hercumer delle Frecce" Barbera, Amador County, Sierra Foothills

Chardonnay, Calaveras County, Sierra Foothills
Riesling, Santa Barbara County

"Amerikanische Kobold", Kick on Ranch Riesling, 

Ramato-style Pinot Gris, Calaveras County

"Nodosaur white blend (Picpoul, Verdelho, Albariño 'and a dashing of Muscat')

Mataro, Rorick Vineyard

"Les Deux Mathieux" Tenbrink Vineyard Petite Sirah

 "L'Asino Santo" - Barbera

"Batiscafo" - Verdelho 

"Gascony Cadets" - Petit Verdot

"La Gitana" - Torrontes

"Kirschenmann" - Orange of Pinot Gris

"Mil Amores" - Red of Touriga Nacional/Tinta Roriz/Tinta Cao/Tinta Amarella

"Norgard" - Chenin Blanc 

"Old Woodsbull" - Syrah

"Ost-Intrigen" - St. Laurent

"Les Paresseux" - Late Harvest Chenin Blanc 

"Picpoul de Rutherford" - Picpoul Blanc

"Sihaya" - Ribolla Gialla

"Trou Grit" - Trousseau Gris

"Morrow" Rutherford Valley Sauvignon Blanc

"Ghanima" Merlot, Napa Valley

"Gemischter Satz" - Koth's Mokelumne Glen Vineyard (close to 40 different German and Austrian cultivars.

He also makes guitars by the way.

The 2016 Real Wine Fair

The 2016 Real Wine Fair held at Tobacco Dock in Wapping, London on April 17th and 18th was amazing for the number of strands mentioned in this blog drawn together in one place at one time and many others undreamed-of  to astonish and delight in their unexpectedness.

For us personally it was the presence of Matthew Rorick of Forlorn Hope that summed up the greatness of this fair. We venerate no vigneron more than Mr. Rorick, a poet among winemakers. His work with a large number of grape varieties from an area not associated with diversity is marvelous. He calls his wines 'Rare Creatures.' He himself is the rarest of creatures seeking out and finding mostly old plots of vines sometimes planted by immigrants who had brought their wines with them from the old country. From these grapes he makes a wide variety of natural wines in small quantities. Acting on a tip-off from Andrew Jefford, we originally importuned him sur place near Fairfield, California as he was about to get a vintage in just to ask him where we could buy his wines. Subsequently we were delighted to see they had made their way to New York, but to see them in London was thrilling. Les Caves de Pyrene have taken them on. All hail to them and to Matthew Rorick.

Also surprising and thrilling were the following;

La Garagista (Vermont) list of grape varieties
1. Some of Forlorn Hope's colleagues from California, Oregon and Vermont. Vermont? Yes, and what is more, a farm responsible for some delightful, memorable wine from Minnesota hybrids developed by Elmer Swenson such as Frontenac and La Crescent.

2. A memorable talk by Wink Lorch on Jura with the participation of two great winemakers there, Kenjiro Kagami of Domaine des Miroirs and Julien Mareschal of Domaine de la Borde. Wink Lorch is the author of the only book on Jura wine published in the English language.

3. The presence of Adam Hegyi and Julia Kalo. We thought we had made a major discovery when we found Hegyi-Kalo at Terroir Club in Obuda a few months ago and heralded them in this blog as if no one else would have known about them, much less than they would pop up in London E1W 2SF just a few months later. It reminded us of the opera scene in America where a tenor only has to hit a good high note in Wichita to have worldwide representation the next day from a New York agent.

4. Forty Hall Wines. Forty Hall is in Enfield, a borough of London, within the M25 ring road. It is the first commercial scale vineyard in London since the middle ages. Not only that, their wines are very good!

5. Particularly mind-blowing for us was the discovery of an excellent wine from our own accursed Triomphe d'Alsace - the grape we landed ourselves with in the early 1990s when it was recommended for UK vineyards. The only problem was that until tasting this example from Ancre Hill, we had been convinced that it was impossible to make drinkable much less good wine from Triomphe - even in blends. An inspiration.

These are each worth a separate entry but to encompass the fair as a whole, it should be mentioned  that other events and seminars has included a Q and A session with Alice Feiring no less, a talk by John Wurdeman on Wine and Geogian Folk Culture, 'The Strange Appeal of Natural Wine' with Jamie Goode and 'Enjoying and Using Pure Sake' by Richard Stevens and Honami Matsumoto. What a line-up!

Les Caves' Line Moullier
Usually we try to do a tour d'horizon of all the tables but this time we had concentrated only on the above few strands on offer. There is no telling what gems we missed out on but we only had an afternoon to be present. The fair was presented in association with Les Caves de Pyrene, Carte Blanche Wines, Portuguese Story, The Winemakers Club and Under the Bonnet with the Caves de Pyrene by far the most prominent. It says a tremendous amount for Les Caves that they are able to field, together with the others some of the best and most interesting natural wines and their producers from across the world. A huge effort from all including our former colleague in the music world, Line Moullier.

Here is a list of some of the luminaries  present whose names were already well known to us, icons in many cases;

La Stoppa
de Bartoli
Salvo Foti
Chateau du Cedre
Mas de Daumas Gassac
Domaine Matassa
Domaine des Roches-Neuves
Domaine Le Clocher, Brendan Tracey
Clos du Tue-Boeuf, Thierry Puzelat
Bernabe Navarro
Iago Bitarishvili
Pheasant's Tears
De Martino
Kelley Fox

Sunday, 24 April 2016

2016 Pruning, propagating, praying, patience.

one for the birds.

Everything seemed so late this year. We started the pruning in good time at the end of January but almost three months later things are still slow. Bud break may take longer yet with a cold spell forecast for another week.

The big news this year is that we have successfully propagated some cuttings we bought over the internet from Sunnybank Nurseries last year.

In the winter of 2014/15 our first attempt with 'Acadie Blanc' was a total failure so the darling buds on around 12 of the 40 cuttings was a triumph for Slotovino black thumbs. The initial delivery consisted of



Acadie Blanc


Pinot Blanc


Baco 1

Blue Portuguieser


Cot Precoce de Tours

Petit Rouge

St Laurent

Saperavi Severnyi

of which the successful ones include Elbling, Acadie Blanc (!), Arbouriou, Baco 1, Petit Rouge and Saperavi Severnyi. 

that'll larn 'im
No Glyphosate this year after cancer scares. The usual Q4 Professional Fertilizer and for the first time, organic manure (Levington's).  We have neglected feeding the vines in the past. Maybe this will help? It's all so long-term but quite exciting. We plan to pant out the cuttings in vacant spots but any results will take years to show.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Meli - Melo

First it was Valderi - Valdera, then Pot - Pourri and now Meli - Melo.

This is the point at which we list a few unrelated bottles we have recently enjoyed (mostly) and would like to recommend. Some have already been included in reports but this is where they get to be singled out after actual tasting.

This beauty for example came from our last trip to Budapest and was among our most exciting discoveries. Turan is descended from Menoir which had so thrilled us a while back. Like its parent it has a wonderful Muscat taste - rare in a red wine. It is something we expect people will either love or hate. It certainly tastes nothing like any wine we have ever tasted before (except Menoir of course). Its exact parentage is Bikaver 8 x Kadarka/Gardonyi Geza x Menoir.

We stumbled on Turan after tasting this example from Hegyi Kalo at the Terroir tasting we attended by chance in Obuda.

Our very first Menoir (or Menoire in this case) had been this bottle picked up at the magnificent Duty Free at Budapest Airport, 'Hungaricum.'

This example from a different trip but from the same shop was a bit more conventional with the sheer wackiness of Menoir a bit subdued.

Menoir/Menoire was formerly known as Medoc Noir or Kekmedoc. After various attempts to relate it to a French grape called Mornen Noir it has been acknowledged to be an indigenous Hungarian variety. Hooray! The Hungarians as well as producing Turan from Menoir have produced another hybrid called Medina or sometimes Medea. This is described as a specific interaction between the new variety Eger 1 (seedling of SV 12-286) x Médoc Noir.

Anyway, it was through asking for Menoir at Terroir Club that we came upon Turan.

Next, here are the three wines from Josep Foraster we have been enjoying. All are low alcohol charmers from Conca de Barbera, Spain. Trepat is the grape for the red and the Rose. Macabeu and Garnatxa Blanca for the white.

From Penedes this 11.5% Chardonnay/Xarel-lo blend has proved itself several times. Spaniards will tell you they can't make lower alcohol wines because their country is just too hot but all these wines prove that ABV is just a choice and no one is forced to make wines at 14.5%, 15% or more just because it's hot out there.

While in France, here's our house Pineau d'Aunis. Modest in price but big in character, this was good enough to order by the case. Leon Stolarski wines of Hucknall, Nottinghamshire.

Also brilliant is this Pineau d'Aunis (80%)/Gamay/Cot and Cabernet Franc blend from the same firm.

Italy next, with a delicious Schioppettino (aka Ribolla Gialla) from Philglas and Swiggot. Not cheap  but a real treat. Such a good grape that Ribolla Gialla.

It's a long time since we featured a Regent in these pages but here's one we bought at Chapitre 20 in Paris amazingly enough and jolly good it is too. That's  encouraging because it's Regent we're trying to grow on our own plot in the Thames valley. We had been enjoying some lovely Dornfelders recently and starting to wonder if we had made the right choice. This bottle reassured us in good order.

Filipa Pato, daughter of the great Luis Pato shows she can match her dad in delicious and interesting wine. This 50cl bottle of 100% Bical white wine from Barraida is just heavenly. Made in Amphora, 11%. Not a sweet wine but generous and floral.

We've had a preliminary skirmish with Moroccan wine in these pages but not yet with Algerian.

On a recent visit to Paris, this red at the couscous restaurant Chez Omar was very pleasant. At 12.5% it shows once again that a hot climate doesn't oblige you to make high alcohol wines. It is surprising how widespread that assumption is.

Chateau Mansourah grows Carignan, Cinsault, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. This may be a blend of the first three, traditional grapes in Algeria. Next, Tunisia - and even Egypt!

Recognise this? The 2006 used to be available from Sainsbury's at under £7. Now going at £17.+ at Hedonism and The Wine Library. Still undervalued if you ask us.

Coming full circle, back to Eastern Europe that is, the Alibernet (Alicante Bouschet/Cabernet Sauvignon) we bought at Prague main railway station was really outstanding in the soft fleshy way they favour in those parts (Moravia).

Sadly the Romanian uber-rarity Mustoasa de Maderat turned out to be just peculiar although not as strange as its wrapping;



Before... (get that wrapping off)