Wine column

Memorable rosé from Bardolino (10/20/2018)

Bardolino DOC makes distinct wines, Bardolino and Chiaretto di Bardolino, that the world will come to appreciate. For publication in the week starting 22 October 2018.

Chiaretto is a crisp rosé made from red grapes using methods usually reserved for white wines. Winemakers limit the juice’s contact with skins, which reduces the colour. The resulting wine is pale pink. Hence the name, from the Italian word “chiaro” meaning “light” or “pale”.

Bardolino is a lighter type of red with high acidity and soft tannins. Traditionally both wines have been designed to be consumed young. Bardolino DOC is promoting three sub-zones known as La Rocca, Montebaldo and Sommacampagna.

The perfumed aromas of fermenting wine surrounded me when I arrived at Monte del Frà in Sommacampagna, the first of a range of memorable visits to wineries in the Bardolino DOC earlier this month. The estate is named after the religious order of brothers (fra) who lived on the hills (monte) in the area. Napoleon’s troops demolished the original monastery.

Three in five bottles produced at Monte del Frà are white, with the rest red and rosé. Export manager Paola Antonaci said wines were blended to meet a consistent style and the estate exported to 51 countries.

The estate makes a range of excellent wines from several regions. The best are their Bardolinos, which offer rich and spicy notes, and their textural and zingy Chiarettos.

Cantine Tinazzi makes two kinds of rosé, one designed for the domestic market and the other for overseas sales. The specifications are almost identical for each wine. The estate has a cooking school and it was fun to make the pasta and sauce for our own lunch.

The Santi winery exudes history and character. The estate makes Valpolicella wines as well as Bardolino. Cellar director Cristian Ridolfi explained the technicalities of the drying process used to make Amarone, and why three red grapes – Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella – are used in the blend. Corvina is susceptible to rot when humidity is high but provides good acidity (though it lacks tannin). Corvinone contributes peppery flavours and tannin. Rondinella adds colour and tannin.

Sweetness increases during the 120-day drying process as grapes lose 30 per cent of their volume. Santi uses barrels made from cherry and chestnut as well as traditional oak from France and Slavonia. Chestnut and cherry barrels are more expensive because they take longer to make than French oak, and everyone wants them, Ridolfi said. “Every winery wants chestnut at the moment.” A cherry barrel costs about 2,000 Euro – about twice the price of a French barrique.

Canopy management is one of the keys to successful grape production. The Bardolino region uses Guyot and trellises. The aim with Bardolino is to get higher sunshine to ripen grapes, while with Chiaretto the aim is to lessen the amount of sun to get higher acidity.

Poggio delle Grazie is a small estate of 15 hectares that sold grapes to other winemakers before starting to make their own Chiaretto in 2014. Most of their wines are worth seeking.

Poggi.jpgOne of the highlights of my time in Bardolino was encountering the wines of Le Fraghe. Winemaker and owner Matilde Poggi (at left) is president of Independent Winemakers of Italy and makes delicious wine. She is an individual: “I’m not following the market, I’m making wines to follow my own taste.”

Poggi’s 2017 Bardolino is a zesty delight of strawberries with a distinct chalky mineral backbone that sings in the mouth. She has been using screwcaps since 2008 because “they are best for my wines”. Her 2017 Rodon Chiaretto is also delicious.

Silvio Piona is making small amounts of quality wine at Albino Piona. Through a translator he told me he fell into a vat of wine aged four and avoided wine until he was 20, which must have worried his family because he is the fourth generation. Piona’s 2017 Bardolino was one of the best tasted during a week in the region.

Vigneti Villabella produces close to four million bottles a year. Franco Cristoforetti is a co-owner and also president of the Bardolino Consorzio. He explained that the wine estate is part of the giant Cristoforetti-Delibori group founded 40 years ago by Walter Delibori and Franco’s father Giorgio Cristoforetti.

The estate produces a wide range of wines from both the Valpolicella and Bardolino DOCs, including a group of excellent organic wines. The estate has an excellent Michelin-starred restaurant called Oseleta, named after the small bird that eats ripe grapes.

A highlight was a tasting of the company’s Villa Cordevigo white (2015) and red (2011). Both are made from grapes that have been air-dried. “The red sells very well in China,” Franco said, “partly because of its quality and partly because it’s half the price of Amarone.” The white has a distinct aroma known locally as “luigia,” a combination of lemon and mint flavours. It is 80 per cent Garganega with the balance Sauvignon Blanc.

Franco said consorzio members were proud to make rosé. “We want to be known around the world for making rosé.” Bardolino is the only region in Italy that produces rosé from indigenous grapes.

Daniele Domenico Delaini (shown below) is the owner and winemaker at Villa Calicantus. He pushes against convention, making Bardolino and Chiaretto designed to be cellared rather than the local approach of selling the current vintage.

Delaini.jpgDelaini’s wines are superb, full of energy and character from an organic estate that will be fully certified as bio-dynamic in 2020 (the process takes five years). He worked as a banker in Paris before he realised his true passion. In 2011 Delaini returned to Italy to resurrect the family estate, which has fallen into disrepair. It is a beautiful place, 2km from Lake Garda. “If a place has beauty, it will make beautiful wine,” he told me.

Delaini aims to make wines that are elegant like Burgundy and can be cellared for decades. All have that something extra that makes them stand out. His best is the Bardolino Avresir (the name is riserva in reverse) made from low-yielding vines. It spends two years in barrel (30 per cent new oak) then a year in bottle before release. “It is my focus because I believe the region needs a flagship concept, a way to be known to the world. Delaini is a name to remember for the future.

Another exciting visit was to the Tenuta La Presa estate, which makes sparkling wines from local grapes as well as Bardolino and Chiaretto. The Bardolino is amusingly named “Baldovino” in reference to a local mountain with a bald top. It is full of wild strawberries and red currants with zingy acidity. All of their wines exuded class.

The week in Bardolino ended with a masterclass of rosès from around Italy. The wines included Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo, Castel del Monte Bombino Nero, Salice Salentino Rosato and Cirò Rosato as well as Chiaretto. If nothing else the tasting showed the quality of rosé in the country.

Disclosure: Stephen Quinn was the guest of the Consorzio Tutela Vino di Bardolino who provided transport, accommodation and meals.

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Quality produce in Spain (10/17/2018)

These photos from my mobile phone are from the central market in Valladolid, about 110km north of Madrid. The produce is high quality.

Rose revolution in Bardolino (10/13/2018)

This month several events were held to mark the 50th birthday of the Bardolino DOC in Italy’s Veneto province. For publication in the week starting 15 October 2018.

The fascinating thing about the neighbouring Bardolino and Valpolicella regions in northern Italy is the fact they grow the same grapes yet produce entirely different kinds of wine.

Some experts maintain it is because of the unique terroirs of each region but other factors include different wine-making styles, traditions, economics and a desire to fashion wines to meet specific markets.

Bardolino map.jpgThe Valpolicella region sits north of the beautiful city of Verona, famous as the setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The Bardolino region (shown left) is west of Verona, with Valpolicella as its eastern border and Lake Garda to the west.

The Adige River separates Bardolino and Valpolicella. Soils in Bardolino are known as “morainic” and were created thousands of years ago when glaciers carved out Lake Garda, transferring rocks from the mountains in the north to land south-west of the lake. These soils are full of smooth rocks and are poor quality, but ideal for growing grapes. The terroir gives Bardolino wines minerality and a lightness and elegance that some liken to Burgundy. Soils in Valpolicella, on the other side of the Adige River, are darker and give red wines more structure, colour and higher alcohol.

The same red grapes – Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella – are grown and blended in both regions. Corvina dominates the blend in both areas. It is highly sensitive to its terroir and has high acidity. It contributes sour cherry and plum flavours to the blend and its thick skins makes it ideal for drying.

Corvinone translates as “big Corvina” because people thought it was a relative of Corvina. But recent DNA testing showed the grapes are distinct. Corvinone contributes the tannin than Corvina lacks, along with pepper flavours. Rondinella is a child of Corvina and contributes colour and tannin. The name comes from the round shape of its berries. Its resistance to fungal diseases, likeCorvina, make both ideal for the drying process used to make Amarone and Ripasso in Valpolicella.

Grapes for these Valpolicella wines can be dried for up to 120 days to concentrate flavours and sugars and soften tannins. By contrast, Bardolino wines can only be made from fresh grapes. These distinct winemaking styles are a major differentiator between the two regions.

Other columns have focused on Valpolicella, so this column will talk more about Bardolino, especially given the week of activities at the end of September to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Bardolino DOC. The region gets its name from the town of Bardolino, on the eastern edge of Lake Garda.

Bardolino makes two distinct reds – Bardolino and Chiaretto di Bardolino. The latter is a rose style while the former is a lighter type of red with high acidity and soft tannins. Traditionally both have been designed to be consumed young, but many locals now argue for the ageing potential of Bardolino.

Lake Garda aerial.jpg

An aerial view of Lake Garda

The region received DOC status in May 1968. In 2012 the Consorzio Tutela Vino di Bardolino became responsible for safe-guarding and regulating the appellation via quality control and promotion abroad and domestically. Last year Bardolino and Chiaretto di Bardolino became two separate DOCs. The consorzio wants Chiaretto to become known as the best Italian rose.

New guidelines introduced at the same time allowed the proportion of Corvina to be as high as 95 per cent (previously 80 per cent), and the maximum of Rondinella to be 40 per cent (up from 15 per cent). This has resulted in the planting of more of both grapes.

Maximum permitted yields have been reduced from 13 to 12 tonnes per hectare. Bardolino is promoting three sub-zones known as La Rocca, Montebaldo and Sommacampagna, which are allowed maximum yields of 10 tonnes a hectare.

Because of the “morainic” soils, Bardolinos display distinct mineral qualities. Younger wines offer floral aromas while older wines smell of spices like cinnamon and cloves plus violets.

Mario Plazio selected wines for the prestigious Gambero Rosso guides for 15 years. He believes Bardolino is in a similar position to that of France’s Beaujolais region a few decades ago, and suggests Beaujolais offers a model for what the Bardolino region could become. “Beaujolais was not well known 30 years ago and its wines sold cheaply. They are similar in being easy to drink, fruity and approachable, with low tannins.” Plazio said the best Bardolino had the potential to age the same way as the 10 “cru” in Beaujolais.

Angelo Peretti is director of communications for the Consorzio Tutela Vino di Bardolino and also believes in Bardolino’s ageing potential. He noted Bardolino’s changing profile. A decade ago the region produced 4 million bottles of Chiaretto and 20 million bottles of Bardolino each year. Currently 10-12 million bottles of Chiaretto are made, along with 12-16 million of Bardolino. Future ratios were likely to be closer to 15-18 million bottles of Chiaretto and 6 million of Bardolino, Peretti said.

The consorzio intends and hopes that prices will also rise, in the same way that prices increased over time in Beaujolais. Currently the average retail price of a bottle of Bardolino in Italy is about 6 to 7.50 Euro, with Chiaretto worth about 1 Euro extra.

Most wines are sold locally because of the high number of tourists. The region’s population averages about 30,000 souls but about 12 million visitors arrive each year, mostly during the extended summer (Lake Garda has a Mediterranean climate).

Bardolino’s winemakers have tended to make wines that satisfy the tourists’ demands, but with the intention to export more wine they see the need to match wines with international styles. In the case of Chiaretto in recent years this has meant making and blending pale pink wines with floral aromas and zingy acidity, as part of the “rose revolution” that started about 2014.

Some dissenting winemakers see tourism as destroying traditions and are actively working to make more memorable wines. They and other innovative winemakers will be the subject of another column.

Disclosure: Stephen Quinn was the guest of the Consorzio Tutela Vino di Bardolino who provided transport, accommodation and meals.

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Italian white exports soar (10/6/2018)

Italy sells more white wine than any other nation, a conference to mark the 50th anniversary of a Verdicchio DOC heard. For publication in week of 8 October 2018.

Red is the world’s most popular wine, representing 55 per cent of global sales, but white is growing in popularity, especially among consumers aged under 30.

Still white wine has become more popular that still red in Italy, a reverse of a situation that prevailed until recent years. White sales in Italy rose 14 per cent in the past five years, against an increase of 7 per cent for red wine. Whites are more popular when consumed outside the home, though more people prefer drinking red at home.

Details were released at a conference in the town of Jesi in Italy’s March region held to mark the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the Verdicchio dei Castelli de Jesi DOC in 1968. The neighbouring DOC of Verdicchio de Metalica celebrated its half century a year earlier.

Denis Pantini of Nomisma’s Wine Monitor service noted the change in consumption habits in Italy and worldwide, explaining that white wine was perceived as an “easy” drink compare with red, especially among women aged under 30.

Growth had been the result of new fashions and ways of drinking, Pantini said, and women represented a good “engine for the market”.

Women’s consumption of wine has increased in relation to men’s, which partly explains the surge in white wine sales. Italy’s global white wine sales were worth 1,287 million Euros last year, the highest in the world, and larger than the 1,276 million Euros of sales for white wines in France.

The conference was organised by the Instituto Marchigiano de Tutela Vini (IMT), the group representing wine producers in Italy’s Marche region. The Marche is on the west coast, aligned with Rome on the east coast.

Pergolesi theatre.jpgThe event took place in the beautiful Pergolesi theatre in the centre of Jesi. The theatre, whose roof is shown at left, is one of the few opera houses in Italy built in the late 1700s that has never been destroyed by fire or bombs. IMT represents producers covering about 8,000 hectares of vines and almost 90 per cent of the wines bottled in the region.

Italy currently exports more wine than any other country, Pantini said, but each litre is only worth 2.8 Euros compared with 4.93 Euros for New Zealand wine and 4.69 Euros for French wine. Pantini pointed out that New Zealand had increased its wine exports by 1,229 per cent in the past decade – albeit from a low base – compared with rises of 88 per cent for Italy, 62 per cent for Australia, 21 per cent for Spain and a decline of 20 per cent for France.

Germany, the United States, the UK, France and Canada are the biggest buyers of Italian wine and represent two thirds of total sales, according to Pantini. The US is the major player, with Italian wine sales there increasing 73 per cent in the decade since 2007.

Pantini said the future was bright for Italian wine sales if producers concentrated on promoting autochthonous grapes. “They are the wines of the future, the winning card,” he said. Other factors that would ensure success included production and promotion of organic and sustainable wines.

The director of the Instituto Marchigiano de Tutela Vini, Alberto Mazzoni, said Italian wines were appreciated because they came from autochthonous grapes grown in specific areas, often referred to as “native” varieties. He said Verdicchio, native to the Marche, was a great example because of its versatility and capacity to age well. Previous columns have described this longevity.

The Marche has worked hard to improve its vineyards and wine marketing. In the past decade more than a quarter of the Jesi DOC’s 2,190 hectares of vineyards have been renovated. About 100 million Euros have been spent on promoting and introducing organic growing methods. “We have the still white wine that has been most awarded by Italian guides in the past four years [yet] we are still not able to assert our real value in the market,” Mazzoni said.

Jesi street.jpg

A street in the old part of Jesi

Last year Verdicchio received the title of best still white wine in Italy for the fourth year in a row. At this year’s Decanter World Wine Awards 15 Verdicchios received more than 90 points out of 100, compared with only four wines in 2016. According to a Nomisma Wine Monitor survey in 2017, Verdicchio appears on more than four in five wine lists (83 per cent) in all Italian restaurants, with an average of six labels per list, so name recognition is high.

Dr Ian d’Agata, senior editor with the Vinous organisation and author of Native Wines Grapes of Italy, agreed that Verdicchio was under-valued. “You need to find ways to increase the price point.” About 18 million bottles of Verdicchio dei Castelli de Jesi DOC are sold each year, and about half of them are sold internationally. The top five export markets are the US, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and China.

The Instituto Marchigiano de Tutela Vini plans to invest 4.2 million Euros to promote their wine this year. Major targets include the US, Canada, China, Japan, Russia and Switzerland, with two thirds of the budget allocated to the first two countries.

Director Alberto Mazzoni said the program involved promotion in the media and at wine shops; a series of workshops and guided tastings for sommeliers, journalists and buyers; and participation at major wine events and conferences. Part of that program included the participation of the Collisioni Wine Project for the third time.

The Marche has 20 wine regions that are registered as DOC (15) or DOCG (five) covering about 17,000 hectares of wines. These produced about 45.4 million bottles in 2016, based on most recent data available. Exports represented half of all sales and were worth about 52 million Euros. Those exports grew by about 50 per cent in the past decade, a sign of international recognition.

Disclosures: Stephen Quinn was a guest of the Collisioni Wine Project, who provided his travel and accommodation for three days. Both photos by Stephen Quinn.

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Txakoli: Spain’s exciting white (9/30/2018)

In his fifth and final article guest columnist Quentin Sadler talks about Txakoli from Spain’s Atlantic coast. For publication in the week starting 1 October 2018.

The sheer variety of what Spain produces is astonishing. The country is most famous for reds, especially from Rioja, but this fascinating country has so much more to offer.

The smooth, fruity red wines from the Monastrell grape in Jumilla, Yecla and Alicante are completely different from the reds of Rioja. So are the rich, spicy Garnacha (Grenache) reds from Calatayud, Cariñena, Campo de Borja and Terra Alta, the powerful earthy red blends from Montsant and Priorat in Cataluña and the lighter, fragrant red wines made from Mencia grapes in Bierzo and Valdeorras.

Spain is just as good for white wines too. Galicia’s Rías Baixas region and its star grape Albariño are pretty well known, but there is so much more to Spanish whites. All the other Galician wine areas for a start, like Ribeira Sacra and Ribeiro. Castilla y León gets a look in too with the wonderful crisp dry whites of the Rueda region. The key grape here is the indigenous Verdejo which has something of the tang of Sauvignon Blanc.

One of the most intriguing Spanish white wines is Txakoli (pronounced Chacko-lee). This is a Basque name because the wine hails from that cold, wet, windswept region that hugs Spain’s Atlantic coast and the Bay of Biscay. In the rest of Spain, as well as on export markets, the wine is often called Chakolí. It has become trendy in a handful of places in recent years and represents one of Spain’s most exciting regions.

Txakoli are mainly light-bodied white wines – it is really too cold to ripen black grapes here – that have a lot of flavour and often something cider-like about them. There is often a slight spritz too that makes them very refreshing.

The origins of the Txakoli name seem to be lost in the mists of time, but it does not refer to the region or the grape varieties from which the wines are produced. Txakoli is made from the white Hondarrabi Zuri or the black Hondarrabi Beltza grapes. These are not grown anywhere else in the world and very little seems to be known about them.

Txakoli has three regions, what the Spanish call Denominación de Origen (DO for short) which is a protected wine region just like the French Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) or the Italian Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC).

The most widely encountered Txakolis come from DO Getariako Txakolina / DO Chacolí de Getaria (Castilian). This beautiful area covers just 327 hectares (810 acres) of wild headland on the coast around the lovely fishing harbour of Getaria, to the west of San Sebastián.

Getariako Txakolina can only be made from Hondarrabi Zuri and Hondarrabi Beltza grapes. Only 18 producers make about 1.5 million litres of wine, but these include the two most famous producers of Txakoli on export markets – Txomin Etxaniz (pronounced Chomin Et-chanith ) and Ameztoi (pronounced Ametzoy).

At their best these wines can be as refreshing and bracing as a walk along a windy seashore. They are light-bodied, have high acidity and tend to be light in alcohol, at about 10.5 to 11 per cent, with green apple characters and even a trace of a salty tang and a slight spritz that makes them wonderful as an aperitif or with a salad, seafood and virtually any alfresco meal.

Green Spain July 2018 SQ.jpgThe Bizkaiko Txakolina / Chacolí de Bizcaia (Castilian) DO surrounds the city of Bilbao and is not so widely available. These wines tend to be a little richer and higher in alcohol at around 12.5 per cent. This makes them a bit rounder than those from Getaria. My notes keep referring back to citrus fruit rather than the green apple in the Getaria wines. They also often have less obvious sparkle.

One of the very best producers here is Itasas Mendi. All their wines are good, but my favourite is the Itasas Mendi 7 made from a blend of grapes that includes a little Riesling.

The Arabako Txakolina / Chacolí de Álava (Castilian) DO is rarely seen because it covers a mere 50 hectares (125 acres). It only has five producers who make about 200,000 litres of wine a year.

They still use Hondarrabi Zuri and Hondarrabi Beltza grapes but blend them with Petit Manseng, Petit Corbu and Gross Manseng. These are all more famously used in the French part of the Basque lands, while Petit Manseng makes the great sweet wines of Jurançon.

These wines can successfully marry the freshness of Getari with the extra weight of Bizcaia. They still have high acidity, but it is less overwhelming, while the flavours tend towards the citrus and the mineral with some grapes introducing a floral character.

These three regions added together can only boast 90 producers who between them turn out about 3 million litres of Txakoli a year – barely more than a litre for every Basque.

The best way to experience Txakoli is in the pintxo bars of San Sebastián. These bars with their counters groaning under the weight of all the pintxos are usually packed with happy people and dominate the narrow streets of this lovely old town.

Just going from one bar to the other experiencing each place’s speciality pintxo and a glass of Txakoli makes for a wonderful night out. Pintxos has become the word for tapas here as the food usually has a tooth pick — pintxo — through them to stop it falling apart. Pintxos should not be confused with pinchos, which is a kebab often served as a tapas dish further south.

Your barman will pour the Txakoli from a great hight, often using an aerating device, into a wide, shallow tumbler. This exaggerates the spritz in the wine and is all part of the vibrant theatre of the pintxo bars.

Txakoli is also very good with shellfish and fish dishes, but works with all sorts of lighter foods like sushi and spicy cuisines including Szechuan, Malay and Korean.

Quentin Sadler.jpgQuentin Sadler is a wine communicator who has spent more than 30 years in the UK wine trade and has done it all from retail, buying and selling through to marketing. Nowadays he trains members of the trade as well as interested consumers in both WSET qualifications and bespoke courses. He is a popular speaker for wine clubs as well as giving presentations to the trade and hosting wine events and entertainments. Quentin also writes about wine and is a cartographer, creating maps used to illustrate wine books and educational presentations, as well as these articles. His web site can be found here.

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Joyous white Rhônes (9/22/2018)

This week guest columnist Quentin Sadler extols the virtues of whites from  France’s Côtes-du-Rhône region. For publication in week of 24 September 2018.

Most people probably believe that France’s Côtes-du-Rhône is all about red wines. This is understandable because this region produces a lot of wine – about 372 million bottles a year in fact. But only 6 per cent of that total is white.

A lot of places are like that – Bordeaux and Rioja for instance – the red wines get all the glory and all the media mentions and I can understand it, but this limits people’s appreciation of the whites.

Recently I was travelling around the southern Rhône Valley where I visited some fabulous estates and tasted brilliant wines. It may have been because of the hot weather, but very often the wines that caught my imagination were the whites.

Southern Rhône whites are usually blends made from Marsanne, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Picpoul Blanc and Bourboulenc though Viognier gets a look in as well. I love these grapes as they are full of character, flavour and interest. Single varietals are permitted, although most white wines there are blends of more than one variety. These grapes are also widely used in the nearby Languedoc-Roussillon region.

Grenache Blanc – it is Spanish in origin so can be called Garnacha Blanca – has become one of my favourite white grapes in recent years. It is relatively low in acidity, but handled correctly can still offer enough freshness to balance the alcohol and the aromas. Historically it was not widely respected, but modern fermentation  techniques keep that freshness and bring out the lovely herbal aromas and flavours. It also has a silky texture that can be very satisfying.

Southern Rhône 2018 QS.jpgSince the introduction of stainless steel fermentation vats with cooling equipment in the 1960s to 1980s, we have been able to ferment at low temperatures. This retains the natural freshness of the grape and has made white wines more lively and drinkable than they used to be.

Roussanne is another favourite of mine. It is an aromatic and herbal scented grape variety that also has a nutty character. But the wonderful thing about Roussanne is that along with loads of flavour and aroma it also has reasonably high acidity, so the wines feel fresh – even when blended with Grenache Blanc.

Marsanne is a much fleshier and lower-acid grape and can make big and flabby wines unless care is taken – which is why it is so seldom seen as a grape variety on its own (though they can be superb). Like Roussanne, which it is often blended, Marsanne also originated in the northern Rhône.

Bourboulenc is a grape variety that I have come to love in recent years. It is widely grown in southern France, being used in Bandol, Cassis, Châteauneuf-du-Pape and La Clape in the Languedoc amongst other places. It has refreshing acidity and mouthwatering citrus flavours and while almost never used on its own can really give elegance and finesse to a blend of richer grapes.

Clairette is low in acid and can be flabby unless care is taken. This is another herbal grape with fennel-like aromas and rich orange and peach flavours. In the Rhône this is a blending grape but it is used as a single varietal in Clairette du Languedoc with great success.

Viognier, of course, is by far the most popular and widely seen of these grapes. It is generally low in acid and very intense and oily in its home turf of the northern Rhône, where it makes Condrieu. Personally I do not usually like the grape unless it is a lighter and fresher example, but a little in blends can work wonders and I can sometimes be surprised by how good it can be.

These wines are very food friendly and partner all manner of dishes very well. Perfect with roast chicken, fish dishes, but also brilliant with roast lamb as long as you pile on the garlic and herbs. Garlic works very well with Roussanne and Grenache Blanc especially, as does olive oil. They are also perfect with a cheese board and what I usually serve with a selection of cheeses that includes both hard and softer types. Also try them with barbecue and spicy foods as they work really well.

Here are a few white Rhône wines I would recommend. Some are labelled as Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc, while the better wines are labelled by their Cru or village name:

Château Beauchêne Grande Réserve Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc. Made from 25 per cent Clairette, 25 per cent Grenache Blanc 25 per cent Roussanne, 20 per cent Marsanne and the balance Bourboulenc, this is a lovely, joyous wine, full of freshness that makes it feel lively and pure.

Château Beauchêne Viognier Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc. Pure Viognier, this is a delicately creamy and smoky wine with a lightness of touch that keeps it fresh and lively and very drinkable.

Château de Montfaucon Lirac Blanc Comtesse Madeleine is a more complex and textured example from an organic estate near Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Their Vin de Madame la Comtesse de Montfaucon Lirac Blanc is a concentrated and stylish wine made from a single plot of ancient Clairette vines planted in 1870 in very stony and sandy soils overlooking the Rhône river.

Domaine Montirius Vacqueyras Minéral is a lively and tangy blend of 50 per cent Bourboulenc with 25 per cent each of Grenache Blanc and Rousanne and is a fine and beautiful wine.

Domaine des Escaravailles La Galopine Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc is a wondrous blend of 40 per cent Roussane, 40 per cent Marsanne and 20 per cent Viognier, barrel fermented and aged in the same barrels for about six months. The vineyard this wine comes from is actually within the Cru of Rasteau. But only red wines and rosés can be made in Rasteau, so it has to be labelled Côtes-du-Rhône instead.

So you see, the Côtes-du-Rhône is not only red. The region offers a wealth of fine white wines from the southern Rhône and they are well worth exploring.

Quentin Sadler.jpgQuentin Sadler is a wine communicator who has spent more than 30 years in the UK wine trade and has done it all from retail, buying and selling through to marketing. Nowadays he trains members of the trade as well as interested consumers in both WSET qualifications and bespoke courses. He is a popular speaker for wine clubs as well as giving presentations to the trade and hosting wine events and entertainments. Quentin also writes about wine and is a cartographer, creating maps used to illustrate wine books and educational presentations, as well as these articles. His web site can be found here.

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Douro’s time to shine (9/15/2018)

We continue with the writings of guest Quentin Sadler who talks about a recent visit to Portugal’s Douro Vally. For publication in week starting 17 September 2018.

Almost all famous wine regions were established long ago so now they are often steeped in tradition.

What constitutes a great wine region can vary from opinion to opinion, but I am pretty sure there is a broad agreement about the very best wine regions. They must make wines that talk of that place – terroir wines.

These regions must produce complex and layered wines that can be aged. They must also make wines that command a following and a premium price – after all that is one of the key criteria for the Cru Classé of Bordeaux and the Grands Crus of Burgundy.

Taking all these points into account, there is one world-class wine region in Europe that at first glance would seem to be as old as any of them, but is actually a pretty recent phenomenon.

That region is Portugal’s Douro Valley. The Douro River rises in Spain where it is known as the Duero. It serves as the border between the two Iberian neighbours for a while, before heading West and cutting Portugal in two. Historically the region developed a particular style of wine – Port, which is sweet and fortified – that sets it aside from other great wine regions.

Douro & Port map.jpgThe Douro remained purely a region for fortified wines until 1952 when Port House Ferreira produced the first vintage of their legendary Barca Velha. It wasn’t made every year, but acquired almost mythical status which caused other producers to make table wines too. But it took more than 20 years for such wines to become anything other than a rarity.

At some point within the last dozen or so years the Douro has overtaken all its Portuguese rivals and unambiguously claimed its place amongst the great wine regions of the world. Obviously this was no overnight success, but it is a remarkable achievement.

I have been aware of the high quality of the wines coming out of the Douro for years, but a recent trip to the region really brought it home to me.

All the wines I tasted were very good. Some were bargains, many offered great value, while others were simply great. In all of them there was elegance and a sense of place. That mineral, slate taste was always there giving a true flavour of the Douro. Vines draw water up through the schist (decayed slate) soils. Whether that directly effects the wine or not, they do have this slatey, liquorice flavour profile that makes them very distinctive.

The region focuses mainly on red wines, although there are some good whites too. The reds are normally blends of indigenous grape varieties such as Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (aka Tempranillo), Touriga Franca and Tinta Barroca.

Of the many highlights, these producers stood out:

Alves de Sousa were among Douro’s table wine pioneers. Their top red is the Abandonado crafted from an 80-year-old vineyard that was abandoned for many years – hence the name – before being nurtured back to life.

Quinta da Noval is justifiably famous for both ports and wines. Their main estate wine, Quinta do Noval, is rich, concentrated and pretty full-bodied, but still has plenty of freshness and elegance. (Quinta means farm or estate.)

Ramos Pinto is a family owned Port house that has also been at the forefront of the Douro’s table wine revolution, which is hardly surprising given that the owner’s father created Barca Velha. Their table wines are called Duas Quintas because they are a blend of fruit from two different estates. The Duas Quintas Reserva is aged for 18 months in barrel and is incredibly concentrated, but vibrant and modern in a really delicious and stylish way.

Symington Family Estates is one of the firms that dominates the Port business – amongst other brands they own Cockburn, Warre’s, Dow’s and Graham’s. Their Altano Quinta do Ataide is made from organically-grown grapes  and aged in French oak for 10 months and is a great value bottle of wine.

The Symingtons also produce a pair of deeply impressive wines at their Quinta do Vesúvio estate. The Quinta do Vesúvio itself is a magnificent wine with great fruit intensity, supple tannins and an incredible spectrum of flavours.

The second wine of Quinta do Vesúvio, the Pombal do Vesúvio is very good too, just that bit lighter.

The Symingtons also produce wines in partnership with Bruno Prats at Prats & Symington. The principal wine is called Chryseia, which means gold in Greek. Douro also means gold. The wine is intense, concentrated, beautifully balanced and fine with plush fruit and lots of that slate-like minerality.

They also produce two second wines: The Post Scriptum has bags of fruit and an elegant juiciness, while the Prazo de Roriz is more earthy, mineral and savoury with a bitterness reminiscent of unsweetened chocolate.

Casa Ferreirinha, which grew out of the Ferreira Port house, are still going strong. When they don’t make Barca Velha, they produce the almost equally illustrious Casa Ferreirinha Reserva Especial. Their Quinta de Leda is a source of fruit for both those wines, but is also sold as a single vineyard wine and is one of the finest Douro reds. Keep an eye out for their lower priced Papa Figos too, because it is a superb value wine.

It seems to me that any tasting of the Douro will reveal wines worthy of rubbing shoulders with the best. These wild, barren, sun-soaked hillsides can produce extraordinary wines with great depth and real complexity. What’s more the region has its own grape varieties – used to make Port in the past, but now clearly capable of producing world class dry wines.

I came away convinced that we have lived through the birth of a truly great wine region. They are not yet widely popular or sought after, but I am sure that any enthusiast of great wine would enjoy these and many other wines from the Douro Valley.

Quentin Sadler.jpgQuentin Sadler is a wine communicator who has spent more than 30 years in the UK wine trade and has done it all from retail, buying and selling through to marketing. Nowadays he trains members of the trade as well as interested consumers in both WSET qualifications and bespoke courses. He is a popular speaker for wine clubs as well as giving presentations to the trade and hosting wine events and entertainments. Quentin also writes about wine and is a cartographer, creating maps used to illustrate wine books and educational presentations, as well as these articles. His web site can be found here.

Words: 1,098

 

Campania deserves recognition (9/8/2018)

Guest columnist Quentin Sadler continues this week with a look at the fine wines of Italy’s Campania region. For publication in the week starting 10 September 2018.

Italy is one of the great wine producing countries and home to some of the most famous wines in the world. Any serious wine lover, or collector, will know of Barolo, Barbaresco, Chianti Classico and Brunello di Montalcino.

Wine is available in Italy from top to bottom. Tucked away in all sorts of places are fabulous wines that really ought to be better known and more widely enjoyed.

One of my favourite parts of Italy is Campania. This is the beautiful region around Naples and it has much to offer. The Amalfi Coast, Sorrento, the island of Capri, Pompeii, Herculaneum and Mount Vesuvius are all beautiful, quite apart from the mouthwatering food and laid-back lifestyle. I love the place just as much as I enjoy the wine.

Campania 2016.jpgCampania produces a lot of wine and you would be hard pressed to find anything bad. Most of the region’s star wines are to be found about 50 kilometres inland, huddled around the small city of Avellino.

Here you can find three wines all designated Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, or DOCG. This is the highest quality level of Italian wines and only the very best vineyard areas produce wines with this classification. The controls imposed on a DOCG wine are higher than those on the more widely seen, but still high quality Denominazione di Origine Controllata, or DOC wine. For instance, the yields for DOCG wines are usually smaller and the ageing times longer.

Two of these wines are white, Fiano di Avellino and Greco di Tufo. This dominance of white wine shows just how cool the region can be. The winters are long and harsh in Campania and while the summers are hot and dry there is always a tempering influence from the mountains that dominate this inland landscape.

For me Fiano di Avellino is probably the most impressive of the white wines, though they are all good. Avellino is ringed by mountains and, apart from grapes, the big crop here is hazelnuts as it has been since Roman times. Although the Italian for hazelnut is nocciola, the Latin is abellana and the Spanish is a still recognisable avellana.

I really love the Fiano grape as it seems to  make very fine wine indeed. Pure and acidic to be sure, the area’s volcanic soils make for mineral wines, but the best have lovely deep flavours too. They often taste of hazelnuts, almonds, orange peel and apricot. These flavours put me in mind of Viognier, but with much more acidity.

Producers that I would recommend include: Feudo di San Gregorio, Rocca del Principe, Ciro Picariello and Tenuta Cavalier Pepe.

Greco di Tufo is quite different. The wines made from this grape tend to be leaner and more overtly mineral. In fact some of them reminded me of bone-dry Rieslings, although a better comparison might be to Assyrtico from Santorini. Greco is more widely grown in southern Italy, but can be pretty inconsequential elsewhere. It seems to need the tuff — compressed volcanic ash soils which give Tufo its name — which allows the minerality to really shine through.

Producers that I would recommend include: Cantine di Marzo and Azienda Vitivinicola Le Ormere, as well as the larger Feudo di San Gregorio and Tenuta Cavalier Pepe.

The area also produces a lot of white wines made from Falanghina grapes and much as I love Fiano and Greco, I reckon Falanghina is Campania’s calling card for white wines. It is capable of being much softer and fruitier than the others and can easily be enjoyed without food. This grape has a long history and is thought to be the one used by the Romans to make their favourite wine — Falernum. The name derives from the Latin “falanghae” which means tied to the stake — an early instance of sophisticated vine training perhaps and so worthy of mention in its name?

Most of the large producers make delicious, easy drinking examples, including La Guardiense, Terredora, Feudo di San Gregorio and Tenuta Cavalier Pepe.

Taurasi, the third DOCG wine of the area is a red and arguably the most well known. The dominant grape is Aglianico, but it can be blended with up to 15 per cent of Barbera, Piedirosso or Sangiovese to soften Aglianico’s firm tannins.

Taurasi is rather lazily called ‘the Barolo of the south’ and I can see why. The wines have similar tannins and acidity to Barolo, but in truth are more properly full-bodied and are normally much more mineral. This can be a hard edged and unrelenting wine, but the best examples manage to tame the grape’s wilder instincts and make the wines approachable, if still very savoury and dry. I struggle to see the charms in some, but the best are superb.

As for choosing a Taurasi, Mastroberardino is the original producer and still makes great wines, while many of the newer names are also very good. Cantine Guastaferro is an estate whose vines are between 150 and 200 years old. This means the vines produce tiny amounts of concentrated juice and that shows in the finished wines.

I also found the Taurasi from Feudo di San Gregorio to be very impressive — as well as everything else they make. This is a big, modern winery whose wines are easy to find, but their passion and attention to detail cannot be denied. Try their Serpico Aglianico if you can.

Tenuta Cavalier Pepe also makes superb Taurasi. In fact Tenuta Cavalier Pepe is an excellent winery and I have loved everything I have tasted from them.

Falerno del Massico is another fascinating, high quality wine region in Campania. It’s on the coast north of Naples and is where the ancient Roman Falernum wine was made. Today it produces supple reds from Aglianico and Piedirosso and juicy whites from Falanghina. Villa Matilde is the leading estate.

The next time you are seeking something different, a Taurasi or a fine white from Campania could well hit the spot.

Quentin Sadler.jpgQuentin Sadler is a wine communicator who has spent more than 30 years in the UK wine trade and has done it all from retail, buying and selling through to marketing. Nowadays he trains members of the trade as well as interested consumers in both WSET qualifications and bespoke courses. He is a popular speaker for wine clubs as well as giving presentations to the trade and hosting wine events and entertainments. Quentin also writes about wine and is a cartographer, creating maps used to illustrate wine books and educational presentations, as well as these articles. His web site can be found here.

Words: 1,071

Delights of Beaujolais (9/2/2018)

For the next five weeks the elegant writings of guest columnist Quentin Sadler will be available at this site. For publication in the week starting 3 September 2018

The delights of Beaujolais are often overlooked, but that is a shame because the wines can be quite wonderful and provide an often much-needed antidote to the bold red wines that dominate today’s market.

Beaujolais is a region of France just to the south of Burgundy. Lyons is the nearest airport. In fact it was long regarded as part of Burgundy, but is now considered a region of its own.

The place is most famous for Beaujolais Nouveau, a young wine sold in the year of production that can often be thin and acidic and taste of bubblegum. However Beaujolais has so much more to offer the wine enthusiast.

It’s known for making red wine, but actually a little Beaujolais Blanc, or white Beaujolais, exists. It’s made from Chardonnay, usually unoaked, and can be a lovely, if rarely-seen wine.

As for the reds, they are all made from the Gamay grape and they operate on three quality levels. Those labelled simply as Beaujolais are the most basic wines of the region. Usually these wines hail from the deep south where the soil is a chalky limestone that produces light and refreshing wines that smell and taste of red cherries, strawberries and cinnamon. These wines can be great with simple meals and need to be lightly chilled.

Usually a finer bet would be a wine labelled as Beaujolais-Villages. These come from grapes grown in the northern part of the region from much more complex soils that include granite. The wines are usually a little rounder and softer, with less acidity, but still have light tannins and a refreshing quality that makes them easy to drink. This gives them wide appeal.

The wines generally regarded as being the best of the region do not always mention Beaujolais on the label. Instead the most important piece of information on the label is the name of their village. We call these the Crus of Beaujolais.

Cru is one of those odd French wine words that can be very difficult to translate into English; traditionally it was translated as “growth”. Basically it means a wine from a specific site and is used to describe wines from a single vineyard or to define the wines of a particular village. So Pouilly-Fuissé is a Cru of Mâcon in Burgundy, for example.

beaujolais map

Map by Quentin Sadler

The 10 Crus of Beaujolais all come from villages within Beaujolais and with two exceptions are labelled with that village name. From south to north the Crus are:

Brouilly, Côtes de Brouilly, Regnié, Morgon, Fleurie, Moulin-à-Vent, Chiroubles, Chénas, Juliénas and Saint-Amour. All of these are considered to be finer than both Beaujolais and Beaujolais-Villages. In practice the Cru have more concentrated flavours with richer fruit than the basic wines. This is mainly red fruit with lifted aromas of raspberries, strawberries and cherries. The wines are more complex than the lesser Beaujolais wines and often have a touch of something savoury, earthy and herbal. All of which makes them great with a huge array of foods from classic French cuisine to Chinese, Malaysian, Indian and Indonesian dishes.

The hallmark of any type of Beaujolais is the low and soft tannins. This means the wines are not as dry in the mouth as most other reds wines. They should be served lightly chilled because they taste better cool than bigger reds wines.

The soils and conditions of each Cru vary and that is reflected in the differences between the wines. The most famous Cru is Fleurie, which is usually very soft, fragrant and fruity. Perhaps the next well known Cru is Moulin-à-Vent, produced from vines grown in the village of Romanèche-Thorins but named after the ancient windmill that nestles amongst the vines.

These wines tend to be richer — indeed they are often lightly oak aged, with deeper, more savoury characters and even some black fruit. With a few years of bottle age Moulin-à-Vent can often be mistaken for a red Burgundy.

All the other Crus have their styles. Morgon, Juliénas, Chénas and Côte de Brouilly are often thought to be more savoury and rich. Regné, Chiroubles, Brouilly and Saint-Amour generally produce pretty wines that will appeal to lovers of the Fleurie style.

Côte de Brouilly takes its name from the slopes of Mont Brouilly, an extinct volcano whose basalt soils add a nervy mineral edge to the finest wines.

The best way to ensure that you get a good Beaujolais is to seek out great vintages and producers. We are fortunate that the region has enjoyed a run of spectacular harvests since 2014, so pretty much all the bottles available in shops and restaurants right now will come from excellent years.

Producers worth seeking out include Château du Moulin-à-Vent, Domaine des Cher, Pascal Aufranc,  Domaine de la Voûte des Crozes in Côte de Brouilly and Domaine de la Chanaise in Morgon, while Domaine Jules Desjourneys craft delicious Chénas, Morgon, Fleurie and Moulin-à-Vent from old vines that are farmed organically and bio-dynamically.

Two of my favourite Beaujolais producers though are pretty large and so make big ranges of wines that are relatively easy to find in shops and on restaurant wine lists around the world.

Louis Jadot is a famous Burgundy producer who also takes Beaujolais seriously. Their Beaujolais-Villages is hugely popular as are their fine Crus. Jadot also own the famous Château des Jacques that produces superb Morgon, Chénas, Fleurie and their age-worthy Moulin-à-Vent.

Henry Fessy is a highly-respected producer that creates a magnificent range including a fine Beaujoalis-Villages and all 10 Crus. Their Fleurie Château Labourons and Regnié Château de Reyssier are especially delicious examples.

So a Beaujolais, particularly a Cru, might be something to try if you want a fine red but want to avoid that drying tannic bite. A really good Beaujolais will be silky, refined and fruity but with a refreshing quality.

Quentin Sadler.jpgQuentin Sadler is a wine communicator who has spent more than 30 years in the UK wine trade and has done it all from retail, buying and selling through to marketing. Nowadays he trains members of the trade as well as interested consumers in both WSET qualifications and bespoke courses. He is a popular speaker for wine clubs as well as giving presentations to the trade and hosting wine events and entertainments. Quentin also writes about wine and is a cartographer, creating maps used to illustrate wine books and educational presentations, as well as these articles. His web site can be found here.

Words: 1,065

Vipava: Valley of fine wine (8/26/2018)

Slovenian winemakers invited journalists to discover the unique style of the Rebula grape grown in the Vipava valley. For publication in the week of 27 August 2018.

Wine has been grown in the Vipava valley in the west of Slovenia, about an hour’s drive from the capital Ljubljana, for at least 2,500 years. Rebula was the main white grape in the valley until the 1980s when people planted international varieties that were more commercially desirable. Rebula went from being a third of all plantings in the 1970s to about 10 per cent now.

Because of an awareness of the uniqueness of local grapes (known as autochthonous varieties), Rebula is being planted again. Last year it represented slightly more than a tenth of the valley’s 2,240 hectares, with more being planted. Other autochthonous grapes in the valley include Zelen, Pinela, Klarnica, Pergolin and Pikolit.

Recently attention has focused on a book that a local priest, Matrija Vertovzh, published in 1844. Vinoreja is believed to be the first book about winemaking in Solovenia. It was discussed in last week’s column.

Local winemakers invited about 30 local and international journalists to learn about Rebula and the valley. They were Miha Batič (Batič Wines), Primož Lavrenčič (Burja Estate), Valter Mlečnik (Mlečnik Wines), Zmago Petrič (Guerila), Franc Vodopivec (Slavček) and Edvard Svetlik (Svetlik).

Journalists attended lectures by a group of academics specialising in viticulture and oenology. Some of their comments were reported last week. This week focuses on visits to the wineries.

Slovenia terrace.jpgRebula grows best on sunny slopes that face south and west on flysch soils containing limestone and gravel. Flysch comes in two forms known locally as sovdan and opoka. The former consists of layers of sandstone and marl while the latter is mostly marl.

Flysch struggles to hold moisture, sommelier Valentin Bufolin told me. This explains why most vineyards on slopes are terraced, because when it rains water runs rapidly downhill and terraces help manage erosion. An example is shown at left.

Batič Wines has 27 hectares of vines and another 50 hectares of forest and parkland. It has been certified bio-dynamic since 2013 and this attention to detail shows in the quality of the wines. “Nature always provides what is best for Man, and for this reason we remain faithful to tradition, which dates back to 1592,” winemaker Miha Batič said. Batič explained that summer heat of about 35C helped grapes ripen but breezes kept vines cool.

Slovenia bottle.jpgThe company commissioned noted Slovenian designer Oskar Kogoj to create a distinctive bottle (at left) for its young wines – 2017 is the current Rebula vintage – along with the delightfully zingy 2017 rose, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (97 per cent) and Cabernet Franc. These are popular in the United States.

One of the finest wines tasted was Miha Batič’s 2011 Angel, a blend of 40 per cent Pinela, 20 per cent each of Chardonnay and Malvasia, and 10 per cent Rebula, with the rest a group of local grapes. My tasting notes simply say: “The start of something great.” Angel was named for Miha’s son, born in 2010.

Angelo Mlečnik created a farm straight after the end of World War One. His grandson Valter shifted from farming to winemaking because the flysch soil was more suited for grape growing than agriculture. The first bottling of Mlečnik Wines was in 1989. This tiny estate of 7.5 hectares only produces about 12,000 bottles a year because average yields are only 2 tonnes a hectare.

But Mlečnik creates superb wines. The older macerated styles of Rebula are distinct and delicious, a gorgeous gold in the glass. Maceration takes place in open tubs where fermentation occurs spontaneously. Grapes are pressed in a wooden press the family has owned for five generations.

Wines are matured for two years in large wooden barrels, with another three years in bottle. The 2013 and 2015 Rebula (the latter not yet released) are superb wines that are worth seeking out. Indeed, all of this estate’s wines are unique.

A highlight was tasting the wines in the family house with a local un-named dish made from grated zucchini, olive oil and a local cheese known as Cadrg. Cadrg was the first cheese recognised in Slovenia as being made by organic methods and comes from a village of the same name that only has five houses. Each house make a distinct cheese.

Winemaker Valter Mlečnik is a philosopher as well as oenologist: “We believe that by understanding life we realise that there are no coincidences and that everything is interconnected.”

Slovenia Franc Vodopivec.jpgSlavček means nightingale in Slovenian, and Slavček Wines are named after the many birds that sing in the forests that surround the estate, in Goriska Brda close to Vipava. Winemaker and owner Franc Vodopivec (left) can trace his family in the area back to 1769.

They focus on winemaking but also produce fruit, livestock and other agricultural products. All of them are high quality, based on the pancetta, salami and other delights offered during our visit.

Franc works with his wife Alenka and their sons Andrej and Tomaz. They work hard because vines are cultivated organically on very steep slopes. A tour of the estate involved four-wheel drive vehicles, culminating with a tasting of their excellent sparkling Rebula in the hills consumed with a local delicacy known as frtalja – made from eggs, flour, sausages and local wild herbs.

The Slavček Rebula Reserva is a seriously good wine. We tasted the 2013 and 2016 vintages. Both are burnished amber in colour with a range of delicious aromas of burnt orange marmalade, dried figs and quince, yet with beautifully balanced acidity. A feature of the wines is the fact they spend time in acacia barrels. The 2012 Classic Rebula is another fine wine, an unusual and appealing combination of salinity and creaminess.

We were the first to taste Guerila wines at the new winery and restaurant located about 400 metres on the southern slopes of the valley at Planina. Zmago Petrič is owner and winemaker, and is passionate about working with nature. His estate has been certified bio-dynamic since 2014.

The winery is modern and beautiful, and designed to blend with nature. We tasted nine wines over lunch with some of the best views of any restaurant in the world. I have insufficient space to talk about them, but all were well made and will get better as the vines age. Petrič’s 2015 Rebula Extreme was the best of these fine wines.

The last visit was to Svetlik Estate, where Edvard Svetlik has planted 1.5 hectares of Rebula, a grape he adores, high above the village of Kamnje. The village’s name translates as “grace” and Edvard has achieved a state of contentment there while producing fine wines.

The kind of folk music played while people worked in the fields was echoing through the vines when we arrived, near sunset, on a glorious sunny day.

“The vineyard possesses its own magic and its own strength,” Edvard Svetlik said. He described Rebula as the “queen” of white grapes who showed her true beauty when macerated. Grapes are fermented through yeasts on the skins and macerated for 14 days before spending at least two years in 2,500 litre barrels and then two years in bottle.

The 2011 Svetlik Rebula is a good wine but the 2013 Svetlik Rebula Selection is even better, with aromas of dried figs and pears and notes of dried herbs and sea breezes. Both wines come from young vines and will improve as the vines age.

The region also makes lovely olive oil, especially that produced by Kmetija Kante.

Words: 1,182

Disclosure: Stephen Quinn was the guest of the Solovenian Tourist Board, who provided travel, accommodation and meals.

Vipava video

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