Saturday, 23 September 2017

Grau, teurer Freund

Grau is an excellent wine warehouse in Palagruell, near Girona in Catalunya, Spain. We were already aware of their wide range of wines thanks to Winesearcher so when we were invited to stay with friends nearby this summer we were detarmined to pay a call.

Not many winemerchants have vines growing outside. Nice.
Our wishlist included


Albarino/Godello/Lado/Loureiro/Treixadura/Torrontes, Vina Mein

Blanc Picapoll, Bernat Oller
Callet/Prensal Blanc, Quibia (out of stock)
Maturana Blanca, Vina Pomal (out of stock)
Xarel-lo, Gramona Roent


Juan Garcia/Rufete, Terrezgo
Listan Negro/Tinta Conejera. Stratvs Negre (out of stock)

Grenache/Syrah/Tintilla de Rota, Payoya Negra, Finca La Melonera. We should explain. We added this wine to our list because Finca La Melonera is a highly interesting estate from our point of view, devoted as it is to the revival of local grape varieties. In particular, they are working on Melonera. You won't find Melonera in 'Wine Grapes' because no wine is yet made from Melonera in any commercial quantity, It does appear in Galet who says of it;

Cepage de cuve noir grisatre espagnol, de la region de Sanlucar de Barrameda (Andalousie).
Mando, Paisatges

Finca La Melonera states on their website that Tintilla, Blasco (a synonym for Tinto Velasco?), Rome and Melonera are the grapes they are re-introducing but other sources also mention the reds Corchero Tinto and whites Quiebrantinajas, Moscatel Morisco (Muscat blanc a petits grains) and Platera. Corchero Tinto and Platera are not mentioned in either 'Wine Grapes' or Galet. 

Curiously, there are some websites which list different constuents for this same vintage of Melonera's Payoya Negra including Cabernet Sauvignon and Rome. La Melonera's own website doesn't go into this wine's constituents suggesting some of the 'cepages modestes' may be included (?).

In any case we were interested to try out any product of this intriguing estate while waiting for their first Melonera in purezza.

Morenillo, Finca Morenillo. Here was an actual revived variety in purezza from another estate devoted to this kind of activity, also named after the variety in mind; Morenillo. Not in 'Wine Grapes' it does get a mention in Galet of interest to ampelographers but not saying anything about its proevanance or history. Finca Morenillo is located a few miles southwest of Priorat, within the Terra Alta DO in Tarragona, Catalunya. Information is a bit unclear with one source saying the vines date back to 1902 and another 1945. Only 40 or 50 cases are made annualy. The estate is certified organic.

Prieto Picudo, Hello World. The marketing is a classic example of what we imagine results from the team being locked up in a room with only a case of the wine for company until they come up with a campaign.

Trepat, Success La Cuca de Llum.

A varied selection especially for Spain where it is sometimes difficult to find native varieties. Not quite all of these was in stock.

From those already sampled, standouts included the Picapoll, the Mando and the Trepat. The Picapoll had much more character than Picpouls from the Languedoc we had tasted, so much so we had to check that Picapoll was the same grape (it is).

The Mando was especially good'

Grau is a bit difficult to navigate but knowledgeable anf helpful people were on hand. Vaut la visite.

......gruen des Lebens goldener Baum

Friday, 8 September 2017


Nice lady with good wine selection at the Norcineria in Castiglione del Lago, Umbria

In Umbria, on a search for the elusive Cornetta grape as described by Ian D'Agata in 'Native Wine Grapes of Italy.'

This estimable book is an essential item on any journey to Italy. In order to obtain the only monovariatal example of Cornetta, D'Agata redirects us to something called Vernaccia di Cannara. This wine is made by the important Umbrian producer Di Filippo. It was as a way around bureaucratic and commercial restraints that they came up with this name instead of Cornetta.

Vernaccia di Cannara/Cornetta is not the same as Vernaccia Nera which is a grape celebrated in this blog from early on (see Vernaccia di Serrapetrona). The name Vernaccia DAgata says  comes from the Latin Vernaculum which means 'local.' He points out there are many Vernaccias in Italy - none of them Guarnaccia/Grenache and all unrelated to eachother. he writes 'maybe I could have called this book Vernacular Wine Grapes of Italy.'

How 'Vernaculum' finally emerged in Spain as 'Garnacha' and how that variety went on to become the 2nd most planted red variety in the world, and why there is no grape called Guarnaccia grown in Italy but plenty of Vernaccias (white and red) is one of those unfathomable grape mysteries. Where Garnacha is grown in Italy (brought by the Spaniards at the time of their domination of Sicily and Southern Italy) it is called something else such as Cannonau or Tocai (Tai) Rosso. The name Guarnaccia Nera does occur but that is a synonym for Magliocco. there is also a Guarnaccino but that is something else altogether.

Apart from Cornetta being sold as Vernaccia di Cannara, Umbria contains another false friend: Gamay Perugino aka. Gamay di Trasimeno. This intrigued us initially but something was not right. Alcohol levels of 14% and 14.5% didn't suggest wines from the preternaturally light Gamay although we have seen beefy examples of Gamay from the New World.

Gamay Perugino/Gamay del Trasimeno is in fact another example of

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

A good idea

Swig's All-Time Greats

Above: SWiG's Pantheon of All-Time Greats
This sacred colonnaded edifice was commissioned at ruinous expense by Swig owner, Robin Davis, following an especially exuberant lunch. The listed building, to which oenophile tourist flock in their hundreds of thousands every year, contains every wine ever sold by SWiG that has been deemed of unimpeachably high quality and generosity (such wines as Soli Pinot, Secateurs Chenin, or Monte Santoccio Valpol) following exhaustive, years-long scrutiny be SWiG elders. It is situated in an otherwise nondescript small-business complex, behind some trees, on Sutton Court Road, Chiswick

 We notice Swig has started their 'Pantheon of All-Time Greats' and Laithwaites simultaneously have launched their 'Hall of Fame,' both in the second half of 2017.

Our Slotovino Hall of Fame and Roll call of Honour datte from 2010. What took you so long guys?

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

More Greek island wines

an elusive Amorgon vineyard
There are a great many Greek islands. 3,000 is a figure bandied about. More precise is the figure 63 for inhabited ones. They were added only gradually to the new Greek state from the mid 19th century on so their 'otherness' is understandable. Islands in general tend to be a world in themselves - each with a different atmosphere so somehow it is not surprising to find a greal diversity of grape varieties there. 

Some islands are veritable diversity hotspots. Crete of course but others such as Zakynthos (Zante to the Ventians) is an amazing repository;




Korinthi (Korinthiaki)
Robola Rouge (or Mavro Rombola - a colour mutation of Robola)

On Santorini, it is claimed that a hundred years ago, nearly 100 varieties were grown and as late as 1990 old vine-growers could identify most obscure varieties from 10 paces.




Aidani Mavro

 *unknown to 'Wine Grapes'

There is an excellent website 'New Wines of Greece' - a usefuly companion to 'Wine Grapes.' 

With all this embarras de richesses it is difficult to find wines made from these local varieties even on the islands where they grow. This Katsano/Gaidouria blend from Gavalas was available at our hotel at E.63 rather a lot but reasonable bearing Santorini prices in mind.

The kind and knowledgeable 'Poli,' Sommelier extraordinaire allowed us to photograph the label cost free.

another parcel of vines on Amorgos
Other than in a list of Cycladic islands, Amorgos doesn't figure in Konstatinos Lazarakis's exhaustive book 'The Wines of Greece.' It is a large island near Naxos but it is almost barren following the rupture of the water table by an earthquake in the 1950s. Water and produce has to be brought in. The mountainous terrain is strewn with rocks between which hundreds of interesting herbs have sprung up. 

The ones not eaten by the large numbers of goats are being exploited for their cosmetic and medicinal properties.

At either end of Amorgos are patches of green where it is possible to grow crops, trees and vines. Vineyards are elusive. Very few are visible from any road. We were told you have to go down dirt tracks to find them, but which dirt track?

The vineyard of the Organic Farm at Katapola is practically the only one you can see from the road

This organic vineyard owned by the Londas Biodynamic and Organic farm at Katapola is practically he only one we could find. 

Wines on the right, oil and vinegar centre and left

The varieties grown there are not much out of the ordinary: Mandilaria, Roditis, Cabernet Sauvignon, Savatiano. Their wine production is very limited - a red, a white (sold out) and a dessert wine.

Nonetheless there is a larger producer on Amorgos making interesting wine. The name is Amorgion. The producer is Antonis Vekris and Children S.A. The wine is 'Produced and bottled by "Amorgos" of Katapola - Amorgos - Greece.' and there is a website But this leads you to information about the three Amorgion shops selling local produce from the island and nothing about the provinence of the wines. The lady in the Aegali branch referred to the 'distillery' rather than the winery so we assume the wines of Amorgion are from several different small parcels distributed among the fertile parts of the island and are vinified at the mysterious facility which also serves as a distillery.

All the wines of Amorgion are very acceptable. The red, which is called Brouskos is made from 'Amorgion' - the local name for Mandilaria, with some Assyrtiko.

There is a straight white called Thalassinos. The grape variety is not named but as well as Assyrtiko, Savaitiano is grown on Amorgos so it is safe to assume the grapes are in that direction.

Kykladitikos is another white. All Amorgon wines are described as 'bio' but this one is labeled also 'organic.' We're not sure what the difference might be: perhaps 'bio' is Biodynamic which is not necessarily organic? The grape here is 100% Assyrtiko.

There is even a Retsina called Nisiotopoula. Heartening to find Retsina among the small production of this company,

A dessert wine is not lacking. Thespesion is made from Amorgion/Mandilaria and Savatiano so a degree of promiscuity going on here.

Finally, the piece de resistance from this admirable winery, Chrisafenios Orange Wine, 100% Savatiano. This is really very good indeed and turned out to be a popular tipple after intitial doubts were dispelled. If it wasn't for the small production this could be a contender on the world markets.

So there you have the story of Greek wine in a nutshell. Unbelievable variety, incredible wines but hidden under as many bushels as are strewn over the haunting other-worldly landscape of Amorgos.