Day 1 Thursday 23rd March
After a fraught time at Marco Polo airport in Venice ( told by hire care company that the car I had booked through Car Rentals.com could not be taken out of Italy! Great! So be careful, you really do need to read the small print with car hire nowadays, they are changing their terms and conditions all the time) I grabbed another car and headed in the long curve east around to Trieste, whirled down the steep descent to this glorious city as fast as I was allowed to, stopped for a quick lunch and beer and then skipped across a little piece of Slovenia into the brown hills of the Istria where I am discovering some beautifully made wines.
Its all about one grape here really, Malvazia ( with a Z not an S here) which might sound boring but its not since they vary so much from vineyard to vineyard, but they do have one thing in common, they are dry, dry dry. Very much a style I like but i think they are very much food wines and are not in anyway like the Malvazia made just north of here in Collio in Friuli where I will be tonight.
Having ditched my Michelin map 736 that covers the whole of Slovenia down to Macedonia, so far too small a scale for Whirly’s liking, I found some lovely people in a garage who sold me a very large scale map of the Istrian peninsula ( we don’t use Sat Nav on whirly tours BTW) and a little advise we popped over a few hills to the most lovely little town called Groznjan. What a find this little town is, little cobbled streets, no cars and some more helpful people, Sasha and Tanya that were in running a wonderful hand made furniture shop as well as a cafe, who delight in telling me about their favourite little vineyards. From here I followed my fab large scale map to Momjan where Marino Markozic makes Organic wines of subtlety and finesse. I first of all tasted their RE Brut sparkling wine, made from a assemblage of 80% Malvasia, 10% Pinot Noir and 10% Chardonnay. Bone dry, 6 grams of sugar, dried and candied stone fruit, but unlike anything I had tasted before. Next was a 100% Malvazia, so so dry, exquisite, refined, great strength. 100% steel fermentation, 2015, again stunning quality: dried, candied lemon peel, bitter fruits, needs food.
There were no reds made in 2015 due to lack of rain, so I could not taste the locally grown Teran grape which is a shame. The last wine I tasted was their Muscat Momjanski 2015, a great here only find here in Momjan, hence the name. Intense orange peel and zest on the nose, so intense with a little spice and kumquat. Again refined and so well made, 13.5% alc vol, quite spicy and punchy. I am heading back there this morning to try to taste the Teran out of the tank, 2016 with the owner since he’s back at the helm today.
Last night was spent in the coastal town of Umag at a wine restaurant called It Istria, run by 7 winemakers of the region. Top wines again tasted, the highlight for me was the wines from Coronica, both the Malvazia and Teran were poured from a newly opened magnum, right up Whirly’s straza and they were mind blowingly gorgeous. So you will forgive me I have to whirl and email Moreno form Coronica, Marino from Kabola and make tracks. I have to be in Slovenia soon after lunch so the map is going to come in great use for short cuts. Break a leg whirly and over and out! More soon, pictures to follow!
Day 2…Friday 24th March
Big day ahead, tastings planned in three countries, Croatia, Slovenia and Italy. After the wonders of Coronica last night I found the little village of Koreniki just south of Umag on my “very large scale map” and off I went at 8.30am to find the first of many vineyards today. In a little village with a circle of olives trees and perfectly manicured grass in the foreground, I found the HQ of Coronica and Eva who went through the wines with me. I had already tasted their Malvasia 2015 which was more aromatic than other samples tasted so far as well as their ” Gran Teran 2012″ which was superb. Eva explained, the Gran Teran is two years on oak and has only just been released; it takes 4 years to get it ready for the market and is only produced in certain years. In 2014 there was too much rain and not enough sun, which is difficult to comprehend yes, so none was made. The 2015 Malvazia is finished here in the tasting room and I tasted the new 2016 which was good but not as rich as the 2015, I would imagine it needs some more time in bottle. Mareno is the third generation winemaker, his father started making modern technology winemaking in 1990 ( which means bottling of the wines). I also tasted here their ” Gran Malvazia 2015″ which has 1 year on the yeast and a few months on oak. I prefer this style of Malvazia, the oak helps open the wine up and since we are only 3000 metres from the sea here, there is a different feel to the wines from their terroir with a little salt at the end of the wine. “ We plough the field and scatter, the good seed of the land” is what sprung to mind this morning as I drove through the small patches of vineyards here and saw the red soil that had been newly ploughed up, incredibly rich in minerals.
On the way back to Umag I stopped at a little village on the coast and watched a sailing boat motor in and anchor. The apple blossom was was out on a tree and the bee’s and hornets were buzzing around it, the smell of the Adriatic combined with the blossom was evocative and joyful. I quick drive north to the corner of the peninsula to Savudrija and Degrassi proved fruitless since they were shut so I followed my large map back to Kabola and managed to meet Marino the owner very quickly, who is a winemaker of repute ( Kabola is the only Organic vineyard here in Croatian Istria) as well a truffle hunter too! Truffles! We love truffles. It was on the way back to Groznjan to say thank you to Sasha & Tanya for their help that I once again saw this old man tending two rows of vines in a village called Marusici. I asked to take a photo and this was the result: I am not holding a gun up to him don’t worry, just my i phone but the result is the same! What a lovely man, a lovely face and notice, from his trousers at the back he has the cuttings of the vines hanging that he is pruning. Next stop the crazy Rojac from just across the border in Slovenia making stunning natural wines. Yes you heard it, the penny has dropped, Deeee- dunngg! Mr Whirly’s view on this style of wine has been changed forever.
Uros asked me to call him when I reached the first roundabout after the the Croatian border crossing. But I ignored this and almost found his vineyard myself until he whizzed around the corner on his scrambler motorbike. Yes I would say Uros lives life to the full was the first impression that he made on me. On the you tube video is the first wine we tasted, click on it and have a look please, its pretty exciting stuff, hand disgorging of his ” Moia” wine, ” Mine” into an ice bucket full of water, oh the theatre and excitement of wine and winemakers! He says to me as we taste the fizzy, frisky pink juice, “ I want sincerity, I want the grape variety, I want the terroir.” This wine showed me that winemaking this way can be exciting, fresh and vibrant and simply enjoyable to drink not something I have come across before with most natural wines. Next up was a 2016 Malvazia, selected yeasts and a delight! No label. I want it. Next a 2013 Orange wine, all about maceration here, indigenous yeast so that means natural from the skin like in Roman times man! Next, we are moving from one wine to the next in rapid succession, Malvazia Letnik 2013, 60 days skin contact, 2.5 years in oak, big barrels, completely bio-dynamic wine, old style.Then some Refosk: re means king, fosk means something dark. This is a very old grape from these parts. We taste a 2014 Refosk and even though there was a great deal of rain at the wrong time ( September) Uros has still managed to make a great wine, a very puristic wine. Next a Ronero 2016 out of tank; Max Ro-Nero! This is a big story wine: the grapes are dried naturally on the plant, picked at 8 gms of sugar, slightly sweet but delicious and it then spends 5 years in the bottle before being released to be drunk. As I drove Uros down the hill and dropped him off at that first roundabout and drove north to the Italian border, it struck me that I had just witnessed a man in his complete entity. Here was someone making his own style of wines, in a far flung country not recognised by the mass wine market but in a state of complete happiness. The penny had dropped for him and for Whirly.
From here I headed to find Martin in a wine region of Slovenia called ‘ Kras”, a limestone plateau just to the east of Trieste. I had been here before and loved their salami which they make themselves from their own “sounder of swine.” However it was very much a case of following my nose since my large scale Croatian map had run out at the border and the sat nav is not a thing we use on a Whirly tour as you already know. So it took me an hour or so to find ( ok 2 hours) but the fun I had completing this journey was immense. In order for me to find the vineyard I had to stop in a little country town to ask directions called Trebiciano to ask directions to Sezana just across the border. A stop entailed a little expresso and a bombolino ( ok two) at a cafe and a chat to a local gentleman who pointed me in the right direction. After a Graci and a farewell I thought this would not have happened if I had been using a SN and I would have simply driven to the ” Ostirjeva Kmetija” without any interaction with the locals. By the time I reached the salami place just east of Dutovjle the sun was setting and I had still a tasting or three to finish. Martin showed me some of his wines I chomped gleefully through his salami that is daughter, who is still at school but was running the shop very efficiently, had carefully cut and laid out for us. His wines are honest wine and made in a lovely simple and old school way. I would import them, in fact they are the perfect wines for me since they would be at the right price and I would be able to sell them under the vital £10 mark. But lets see how we get on with his salami for the shop shall we!? Martin is keen for me to taste some wines at another natural vineyard back in Dutovjle so he drives be back to Rencel, a vineyard that started in 1986. It is here that I am told that this area his the home of Teran ( another name for the refosco grape) and that Martin has indeed gone to Brussels to fight the Croatians who have stole the name for their wines. Josko Rencel, the owner makes wine in very small amounts, 500 or 1000 bottle parcels so he’s pretty damn tiny. His wines, like Rojac are not ” inexpensive” either but the quality cannot be denied.
Its all about Teran here as I have already explained. First off is the ” Kras Carso” 2013, natural yeast, only 1000 bottles made 75% Teran. Then a Pinot noir 2009, macerated for 8 days and then 5 years in barrel. Serious wine. 800 bottles made. Vincent 2013: Sauvignon, Malvazia and Chardonnay. Next the local grape. ” Vitovska Grganja”, ” Orange wine”, different process of maceration which is basically the opposite to rose wine which is creating a rose style wine from red grapes, goo but not me. Then a Sauvignon blanc 2012, malolactic, 3 days of maceration, yellow Sauvignon! Then a Cuvee 2009 Orange wine, same blend as above, no sulphites, 5 years in oak: ” Cameroe” 2003, 16.5% alc vol ( variation of Amarone, dried grapes): Negra 2006, Teran 2006, 6 months of drying the grapes, amazing wine: ” Malvazia 2003″ sweet wine, 6 days drying, 8 years in barrel 100% Malvazia….at this point given that it was now 8 pm and I still had to drive 1 hour without a sat nav my mind began to wander and my notes did not cover the reaming two wines. What I can say is that yet again my thoughts and feelings on Natural wines have been transformed: they can be fresh and enjoyable so drink.
In Friuli the next day after a late night drive to Cormons I tasted some really young but exciting wines from Buzzinelli.What was to me extraordinary was the fact that these wines were half the price of some of the wines I tasted on my last two day trip but also only half as good, in my humble opinion. What have `I learnt from this trip? The wines from the smaller producer, in general, are increasingly difficult to find for that £10 bottle and that I will have to find these wines in future from slightly larger producers. Sad but true.
You can now buy vouchers online for Wine tastings! The format is simple. 5 glasses of wine, 75 ml measures, snacks and an informal and fun time taken talking about the wines, the people involved, the terroir and region.
Please click on the link below to buy a voucher.
I have been lucky enough to work with one of the best Winemakers on “The Apple Isle” for about 10 years now. His wines are classic in their makeup with the added twist of Tasmanian Terroir. Stefano Lubiana has been making some of the most subtle and exciting wines out of Tasmania for many a year now. I visited the vineyard in 2006 and in the last 11 years his reputation has only grown as being one of the most eagerly followed winemakers from the Antipodes.
These new wines from vineyards on a steep slope above the slow, meandering Derwent river and emphasise the class and quality of his winemaking.
Primavera ( Spring time in Italian) are his range of wines that offer a little more value for money than his Estate wines. The difference between the two wines is that the Primavera is cropped at a higher level and at 8 tons per hectare, fermented in stainless steel and 50% in mostly older oak, 50% Malo and aged for less time in the barrel and bottle before released. Its therefore signifi- cantly more affordable than the “Estate” wines. The “ Estate” wines are cropped at about 4 tons per hectare, 100% barrel fermented and about 30-40% new oak, 100% Malo and 12 months in oak. Available in small quantities in the the shop at 22 Ritherdon road, SW17 8QD. Call simon on 0208 672 2572 if you have any questions….or email me at email@example.com
Just before Christmas I imported some delights from Tasmania, McLaren Vale and The Great Southern in Western Australia. Stefano Lubiana makes some of the most sublime wines down under, let alone Tasmania, “The Apple Isle”. His Primavera wines are a pure delight and that night we will kick off with the Chardonnay 2014 and follow it with the Pinot Noir 2014. To follow we will then taste two Shiraz’s one from ” 3 drops” in Mount Barker, way down south of Perth not far from Cape Leeuwin where the Southern ocean meets the Indian: followed by a Brick Kiln Shiraz from McLaren Vale south of Adelaide in South Australia where I picked grapes for a $ a bucket in March 2000! We these last two wines we shall have some theatre and use the Ifawine air system to emphasise the importance of air before drinking bigger heavier reds.
7.0opm to 9.00pm: £30 for four 75ml measures plus snacks. Please book by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. A minimum of 10 people and maximum of 20 for the event will apply. Payment must be taken before the event.
Below is an article about Woods wines bar in Dulverton, Somerset. I have been working with Woods for the last 8 years and I supply 50% of my wines for their list. It makes good reading and Paddy Groves is a legend!
Dry January, what is this! Its a terrible thing! Above are father and son, Giovanni and Mauro from the famous Manzone vineyard in Monforte D’Alba, right next door to Barolo in Piemonte, making some of the most exciting wines in Italy if not the world. Do you know these wines are now stocked in your local wine shop here in Tooting, SW17! Yes they are right on your doorstep and they are the most wonderful wines: whether its their single vineyard Barolo ” Il Castelleto” 2011 or their wonderfully smooth and Velvety ” Langhe” Nebbiolo ” Il Crutin” 2012 these wines show the finesse and subtlety of this lovely grape that now has the same following as Bordeaux in terms of investment wines. I also have their unusual and rare Rossese Bianco 2014, a long lost white grape from Piemonte that has been oaked for 12 months. Combine these wines with some stunning Amorone and Ripasso from Bonfanti in Verona and some classy offerings from Perusini in fruli ( top magnums please see below picture) including Riboilla Gialla and Sauvignon Blanc as well as some Merlot and Refosco red offerings. Don’t forget we also offer Organic wines from La Bouysse in Corbiere from the barrel at only £10.50 a litre which equates to £7.50 for a 750ml bottle. So don’t feel blue in January come into the Whirly shop and let me cheer you up!
Its December, its the wonder of Christmas and Mr whirly has the impossible task of choosing a wine of the month! With so many new delights in this month from all over Northern Italy, my first wines from Barolo in Piemonte, the home of premier red wine region in the North of Italy and the imperious Nebbiolo grape: Amarone Magnums from Bonfanti in Valpollicella as well as some lovely Valpollicella Ripasso and from Friuli a range of new vintages from Perusini including Magnums of Merlot, the choices are infinite and it makes the wine of the month choice virtually impossible. However I am going to tell you all about these new wines in a Christmas wine post this week so lets leave these Italian jobs for a while.
Lets take a step back and offer you something a little bit different and unknown. Its tough out there, for many people so this year I have not focused on Champagne for my Sparkling for the festive season but some delicate “Blanqette de Limoux” from close to Corbiere in the deep south of France not far from the Spain border. ” Domaine de Fourn” make some really special wines from the little known Mauzac grape blended with a little Chenin Blanc about 3%. I have both the”Carte Ivoire Brut” NV and the ” Carte Noire 2013″ here in the shop,both very enticing and different wines and offerinf fabulous quality sparkling at the £14.75 and £15.00. You cant go wrong with these wines if you want something a little bit different for a fizz on Christmas day and they are a lovely stepping stone from Prosecco to Champagne in terms of price.
Come on into the Whirly wine shop on Ritherdon road and check them out soon….
By the end of this week ( 18th December) on the penultimate week before Christmas you will be able to buy vouchers for wine tastings and wine online. Its a simple and easy way to buy an experience, a personal tasting with Mr Whirly on a Thursday night or to buy wine to a value of £10, £20 and £50. Please let me know on the order form if you would like to come in and collect the voucher or post it out to you when you make the booking and if you need the voucher as a gift I can write a suitable message on a Whirly wine postcard to go with the voucher.
Mr Whirly has hand selected cases of 6 and 12 with wines chosen to match classic Christmas fare!
From Blanquette Limoux whilst cooking to “La Roche Vineuse” Macon Gamay for the Turkey, to Lillypilly’s Fiumara No. 7 for your plum pudding, and everything in between, you are sure to find a wine for every course and every guest!
Discounted for a limited time only, until this Saturday 17th December
Half a dozen:
1. Blanquette de Limoux, Carte Ivoire, Domaine Fourn de Robert:
unknown sparkling wine from south of Carcassone; top stuff and great to try something new!
2. Amboise Tourraine, Bonnigal Vignerons, Limeray, Loire: richer than most Sauvignons from Tourraine since its been left on the lees for 5 months. Great match with smoked salmon.
3. Chateau Domaine de Viaud, Cote de Bourg, 2010, Bordeaux: soft tannins elegant Merlot based Bordeaux from Blaye, a mile across the Gironde from St Estephe. Wonderful with beef and cheese as well as most festive red meats and cheese
4. Alain Normand, La Roche Vineuse, Gamay 2014, Macon: lovely soft strawberry on the nose and palate and unusual that this grape is from Macon. Fabulous with turkey, duck and goose.
5. Mas Rous, Muscat 2012, Cotes Catalane: dry Muscat, firm and grippy with some lovely orange zest on the finish. Great with goats cheese and Monchego.
6. Lillpilly, Fiumara no 7, Leeton, NSW, Australia: Cross between a port and Pedro Ximenez A blend of special cuvee’s from over many years, this wine is the perfect match for Plum pudding on Christmas day!
Total: £93.50 With discount of 7%: £6.54 Total: £86.96
1. Champagne: Remy Bernard “Carte Blanche” NV, Allemant: small bubbles, delicate and moussey. Top quality wine made from the three classic Champagne grapes, Pinot Noir and Me- unier and Chardonnay.
2. Blanquette de Limoux, Carte Ivoire, Domaine Fourn de Robert: unknown sparkling wine from south of Carcassone; top stuff and great to try something new.
3. Amboise Tourraine, Bonnigal Vignerons, Limeray, Loire: richer than most Sauvignons from Tourraine since its been left on the lees for 5 months. Great match with smoked salmon on Christmas day morning as the lunch is prepared.
4. Perusini, Pinot Grigio 2015, Friuli, N. E. Italy: Pinot grigio as it should be in the glass from Fruili, the top white wine region of Italy.
5. Mehofer, “Organic” Gruner Veltliner, 2015, Wagram, Austria: light in alc, only 10.5%, and wonderful wine for the start of the day! Apples and pears, simple yet perfect.
6. Willespie, Margaret river white 2011, WA: a blend Of chardonnay,Verdelho, Riesling and Semillon from one of the top wine regions of Australia: takes Pork ands spicy dishes oh so well.
7. Chateau Domaine de Viaud, Cote de Bourg, 2010, Bordeaux: soft tannins elegant Merlot based Bordeaux from Blaye, a mile across the Gironde from St Estephe. Wonderful with beef and cheese as well as most festive red meats and cheese.
8. Alain Normand, La Roche Vineuse, Gamay 2014, Macon: lovely soft strawberry on the nose and palate and unusual that this grape is from Macon. Fabulous with Turkey, duck and Goose.
9. Bonfanti, DOC Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore 2014: small producer in Verona that makes very special wines indeed. Ripasso means two fermentations: rich yet sublime. Lovely Christmas day wine. New wine that has just arrived. 18 months in Barrel.
10. Mas Rous, Muscat 2012, Cotes Catalane: dry Muscat, firm and grippy with some lovely orange zest on the finish. Great with goats cheese and Monchego.
11. Lillypilly Noble Blend 2012: Noble rot, blend of Semillon, Gewurtz, pineapple with orange blossom. Perfect sticky with a steamed ginger pudding or something similar.
12. Lillpilly, Fiumara no 7, Leeton, NSW, Australia: Cross between a port and Pedro Ximenez A blend of special cuvee’s from over many years, this wine is the perfect match for Plum pudding on Christmas day!
Total: £195.00 With 10% discout: £19.50