Obscure varieties, anyone?

It’s been a while since I blogged, apologies. I am rather enjoying a blissful summer (largely sans wine geekery) and indulging my inner film geek by catching up on all the movies I missed whilst studying. I am also burdened with the glorious purpose that is my imminent wedding. So I haven’t really had that much wine related material to blog about.

Luckily, a couple of weeks ago I had an idea. Not quite a halleluya type moment, nor did any lightbulbs suddenly go off but it was a fun idea. Chatting to some fellow wine geeks on twitter about obscure grape varieties, it occured to me that it might be fun to organize some kind of tasting of discovery and taste the sort of wines that require you to pull out your copy of Grapes, the book. (if you haven’t seen it, this is Jancis Robinson’s mega encyclopedia of every single grape variety in existence…or not. )Thus it was that 11 of us brave souls met for dinner at Le Cafe Anglais (lovely food and free corkage on Mondays) to explore the world of the obscure grape varieties.

The wines brought were:
White
2012 Ortrugo Frizzante, Cantine Bonelli, Emilia Romagna, Italy
2011 Koshu Kayagatake, Grace Wine, Japan
2010 Rotgipfler, Heinrich Hartl, Thermenregion, Austria
2012 Atlantis (Assyrtiko, Aidani, Athiri), Santorini, Greece
2011 Malagousia, Gerovassiliou, Greece
2010 Pitasso Timorasso, Claudio Mariotto, Piemonte, Italy (although this was not right, sadly)
2011 Pošip, Croatia (white of the night)
2008 Haslevelu, Gabor, Tokaj, Hungary

Red
2012 Rossese, Bruna, DOC Riviera Ligure di Ponente, Italy
2010 Pineau d’Aunis ‘Rouges Gorges’, Eric Nicolas, Coteaux du Loir, France
2011 Braghe Freisa, Claudio Mariotto, Piemonte, Italy
2011 Listan Negro,’La Solana’ vino de parcela, Tenerife (red of the night)
2011 Fonte Del Re Lacrima di Morro d’Alba, Italy
2005 Alpha Estate’s Xinomavro, Greece

Sweet
2003 Candido Aleatico, Italy

Suffice to say, we all got to taste varieties we’d never heard of or tried before. I liked the first wine, Ortrugo….it’s light, spritzy, grapey. Like a mix of Torrontes and Malvasia with the freshness of a Txakoli or Vinho Verde. Lovely summer drink. The Rotgipfler (available at Waitrose) had an acacia honey nose and sherbety lemony palate, better than the ones I remember trying in Austria on the first MW course seminar! The real surprise was a lovely Pošip from Croatia. Sadly I didn’t seem to take a photo so can’t remember who it’s by! It’s an aromatic variety, upon smelling it you could be forgiven to think you’d just walked into a perfume shop: notes of jasmine, dried apples, nighttime flowers and with a spicy backbone. Yum, get some if you can find it! (and apparently you can, at Theatre of Wine)

On the red front, my Pineau d’Aunis (from the Loire) turned out to be the marmite of the night, some loved it and some didn’t. I liked its peppery, light and wild strawberry scented qualities but didn’t like it as much as the juicy Freisa (I am biased, I do love this variety and it was also mine!) and the drop dead gorgeous Listan Negro from Tenerife. The Listan Negro was my wine of the night, it had a seductive perfume of wild roses and red cherries underpinned by volcanic minerality and nice acidity. This is precisely how I like my wines. It was followed by Lacrima di Morro d’Alba, which we decided was like a red incarnation of Gewurztraminer with its rose petal pie peachy goodness. A bit of a mouthful, too. The last red was Greek and I must have been a bit tipsy at this point as instead of tasting notes I decided to practice writing the Greek alphabet just to see if my two years worth of Greek classes still amount to something. Well, I can still spell Ξινόμαυρο so that’s ok.

So, next time you’re browsing the wine isle for something different, look out for these bad boys. You may be pleasantly surprised, or have a marmite moment. Either way, never stop learning.

Lenka (Evil Monkey)

(for stockists of some of these wines, worth visiting Red Squirrel Wine, Park and BridgeTheatre of Wine, Waitrose, Marks & Sparks)

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