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Whirly tour of Sicily, 11-14th May 2017

Day 1, Thursday 11th May

I love coming to this island. Its people are very different from the mainland I find. Thats all I am going to say on this front. But the island is full of passion, history and wonderful architecture too. Oh and quite old temples. I am here on this trip to find wines at that crucial £10 mark that I talk of at the end of my last tour to Croatia and Slovenia in March. So its a big trip. Will I succeed? Buono Fortuna amico mio.

First stop is Alcamo and an old friend or two. Not wines for the £10 sticker but wines that are natural and a little more expansive shall we say. Bosco Falconeria are an Organic vineyard and they now make natural wines. Yeah, here we go again, on the  ” Natural wine world trail!‘ They are located high above Alcamo in the rolling hills and to get there the drive is along a dirt track and some crazy corners. But when you get to Bosco its heavenly and tranquil, a massive contrast to the rubbish and abuse of the environment that one experiences on the S113 to get here ( this is my one gripe about Sicily I am afraid, its worse than SW16 where I live). Natalia and her family live I feel a very special life that they have created. Sadly Mary her mother is in New York, her birthplace so I missed her ( she came here in 1969 met Tony fell in love and stayed, just like that!)

We taste 2015 wines. All are almost sold out and the 2016 are not ready to taste but they will be ready for Whirly to import in September this year. First we taste the Cattarato 2015 white label. I have imported this wine before but back in 2012. Its evolved a great deal as a wine since then though. totally natural yeasts; does not stay on skin contact at all, a very little sulphite in the beginning. Natalia explains to me,

” I d0n’t like the definition of natural so much.I don’t think its the best definition. I prefer a wine that respects the grape and the terroir. What we do with the wine depends on the year.” She goes on to explain that they use bentonite, a form of clay to clean the wines, but again not every year. The wine has great depth and character, a great deal richer than all other Cattarato’s I have tasted. Next wine is the ” Peregrino” ( the yellow label below). Three days maceration on the skin. This is a red wine version of the Cattarato, but picked at the same time as the first Cattarato. ( 13% alc vol) Lastly Nero D’Avola (15% alc vol) very expressive, much more so than I can remember in the past, this is a very “bright and happy wine,” I remarked at the time. Nine months in tank, ” It’s better for the wine’ says Natalia, ” the earlier you bottle it, it will need sulphites since its not stable.” I say goodbye to Natalia and Tony and drive back down the gravel track with a happy smile on my face.

Next stop, Castelvetrano, just north east of Marsala. I know exactly where to meet Gaetano and Sebastiano and as I walk into the bar opposite McDonalds just off the the A29. They spot me and are very surprised to see me. I could not call on the way and had emailed  that morning to say could we meet earlier at 1.30pm. Gaetano could not be more different from Natalia and Tony, he is as far away from the ” Natural” set up in Alcamo as one could be removed: he’s a local farmer, hard working and eager to sell to me and he owns 42 hectares of vineyard land as well as olive groves, so a substantial area of land. We race around in Geatano’s beaten up Fiat Punto and he shows me his vineyards, on a road I have travelled many times on the road to  Porto Palo, a windy and also beaten up road, that passes across a long valley of flat farmland with a bridge of enormous proportions taking vehicles east to Agrigento and west to Marsala. Under this bridge is where I find myself in the vineyards of ” Donna de Coppa”. We then visit his olive groves and where he packages the olives and finally his bottling and winemaking plant. Its a middle sized set up, larger than most wineries I work with but in tasting the 2016 wines out a tank I am convinced they are wines that I can sell to my customers at around the £10 mark and they will be enjoyed. They are very good wines indeed. This is what Sicily can offer, some really fab wine at fab prices. We taste ” Bianco Siciliana” 2016, a blended wine of Trebbiano and Cattarato and probably some other white local grapes out of the tank, then a Vermentino 2016 out of tank, a Syrah 2016 and finally a Nero D’Avola-Syrah 2016 blend. All are bright and expressive and well made. I manage to finally get back to me car ( Gaetano wants me to stay for dinner)  and say farewell with another big smile on my face. I have achieved what I came here to do. Four hours later at 8pm I arrive in Siracusa on the east coast of Sicily, just in time for dinner. If you have never been to Siracusa go. Ortigia is the most wonderful place and as I discover over the next 2 days the birthplace of civilisation as we know it.

Day 2, Friday 12th May

I am here to meet Simona at Cantine Gulino. It turns out that the vines are just at the back of the hotel I am staying at. I meet Simona and Sabastiano Gulino, the family owner who explains to me, after a walk around the Muscato Bianco and Nero D’avola vineyards ( 7 hectares) both famous for being varietals with their origins in this area. This is the home of both grapes. The vineyard has been in the ownership of the family since about 1600 but in the 20th century with the onset of the industrial revolution, the discovery of the the natural springs  that meant vegetables were planted and vine ripped out, the vineyard site fell away and very much into disrepair. In 1995 they started to restore the buildings and its now the way it is now. They show me, high up above the floor the original vats where they would press the wines with their feet. The picture below of the arch shows the pipe in the ceiling where the juice would run free.

The first wine we taste is called ” Fania”, 60% Fiano and 40% Inzolia, from grapes in ” Contrada Burgio” near to Noto. Inzolia is a native grape to this land, the Fiano’s homes is Napoli. Inzolia is ” the king of grapes”. Simona explains,” Its very difficult not to produce a wine here without structure. The structure here is bigger.” She means that its the perfect place to grow Fiano and other grapes, the sun shines and it rains very little. The soil is limestone and very fertile. Its all about sun, weather, limestone soil. “The land here was part of the African plate “ Simona goes on. The soil is full of marine sediments full of calcium and this mountain range  is called the ” Monte Iblei”. There are three other mountain ranges in Sicily: Madonie near Palermo, Pelottaani near Messina and Etna near Catania. All four form Sicily. Back to the wine. They make 30,000 bottles of Fania, its very dry with great acidity, very citrusy. “ Wines of the African plate are full of acidity and therefore keep fresh and last for at least 3 years in the bottle”. Good news. the grapes are de-stemmed. no skin contact, pressed, 24 hours maceration then seperate tanks for 6 months. Next wine is Chardonnay 100%, the only wine I don’t like. Made for a commercial export market and not indigenous.

The third wine we taste is the Albanello 2016 a grape typical of the Siracusa wine region and SE Sicily. Cantine Gulino are the only producer of pure Albanelle in Syracusa, the wine is very different with 24 hours on their skins, very quick and notes are both sweet and savoury with a little melon. I like it. Next ” Fanus” a red wine, blend of Syrah and Nero D’Avola ( 60/40). As I taste this the swifts are flying in and out of the barn where the wines are stored. Syrah loves Sicily and Sicily loves Syrah. A grape that Alessio Planeta used to put Sicily on the wine map almost 20 years ago flourishes in this hot, dry dusty land. This wine is macerated for 2 days on the skins, then 6 months in tank before being blended. No oak. Crimson red in colour and light on the rim, 30,000 bottles made, ” simple yet delicious”. Then a wine I tasted in London in January this year, and the reason why I am here, their 2014 Nero D’Avola, 12 months on oak, dried on the vine then a small percentage under the sun. This is a big juicy Nero D’Avola, a really exciting wine that needs time and will age well with plums, rich blackberries and a little sweet spice. 6,000 bottles made, delicious. The last two wines we taste are the Moscato bianco wines from the vines on the property that we walked a few hours earlier ( see picture below). The Don Nuzzo is made by drying some of the grapes under the sun. Its a fresh wine, full of figs and dried apricots. This is indeed a special wine in Italy and Sicily as Simona explains to me. The Jaraya is lighter in colour,as you can see from the picture below. The grapes are totally dried under the sun as well as on the vine, its a great deal sweeter than the first wine and also richer and full of apricots. Supremo Quality.
In the afternoon I decide to take a wee drive over to Noto to meet Theresa who I met in London in January when she was looking after the wines from Cantine Gulino and who now runs a new Enoteca called Enoteca della strada de Vino del val Di Noto”. The business in only a few weeks old but in a great site in a lovely square off the main street running through this gloriously beautiful town. Its not as old as Siracusa, so does not have the depth of time in its architecture, nevertheless the buildings are stunning and its so very well kept indeed. Below is a picture of one of the many churches in the town.

I taste some wines from local producers picture belkow and the Organic wines from Giasira and Riofarra stand out. What I am finding is that each grape, whether its Grillo, Cattarato, Fiano, Albanello or Nero D’Avola all show themselves in a very different yet exciting way depending on the where they are grown and due to the various soils in Sicily that are part of the four different mountain regions discussed earlier. This means we have a very exiting prospect for importing wines from Sicily in the future and one could have say 4-5 Cattarato’s that all show themselves to be very different from each other.

Day 3 Saturday 13th May

A drive back to Palermo then the most splendid Passajata for 4 hours around the town, ending in dinner at my favourite restaurant, Piccolo Napoli. Street food ( Palermo possibly has the best street food in Italy) old town Palermo, The Opera house , what a joy this place is. 

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Dry January, surely not! Don’t forget its still important to drink wine!

 

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!

 

 

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Mr Whirly’s Christmas cases!

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

 

 

 

A dozen: 

 

 

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 

Total: £175.50

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Tuscany and Piedmont Tour, July 10-13th 2016

Recently, following a failed attempimg_0794t to get there in May, I visited the home of the two great red varietals of Italy, Sangiovese and Nebbiolo, Brunello de Montalcino and Barolo. Despite the miles in between the two towns and the crazy late night driving along the Mediterranean curve near Genoa, I had a fabulous time visiting both towns. They are held in so much admiration in the wine world of Italy and indeed the whole world and this reputation is growing every day.

After the most delightful night in Siena watching the people in the main square and not going un-noticed was the lovely sight of young people not looking at their i-phones but talking to each other enthusiastically! Wow it would be lovely to see a bit more of this in London. But what a city and Square this place is: I love the way it is hidden up and above the town so that if you did not know there was a beautiful city with the most amazing panoramic square that is beyond belief in terms of atmosphere and feel. Do go if you have never been.

 

( Manzone Single Vineyard wines above the highlight of which is “Il Castelletto 2011”, the small vineyard around the Castle)

I skipped Chianti the next morning and headed to the smaller yet to me, far more individual grower of the best the Sangiovese can offer in Italy, Montalcino, which received its DOCG status in the 1970’s. Another beautiful little hillside town, as many wine towns are, Montalcino is located about 20 miles south of Siena on the small road to Rome! It took be about 2 hours to find ” Terralsole” and the vineyard of Mario Bollag and his lovely wife Athena, since the signs are very difficult to follow and no one knows the vineyard when asking! Its not surprising since when I eventually do get on the right road its down the end of a gravel track of about 3 miles, as seems to be nearly always the case!

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( The view from Monforte D’Alba across to Serralunga D’Alba and below the cellar at Manzone)

As Athena shows me around the house and cellar ( Mario is tasting 2012 vintages before blending with some of his consultants or friends) she explains to me that Mario was the black sheep of a prominent Basle family in Switzerland and he was an artist who studied at ” Ballata” in Florence in the 70’s. He fell in love with wine as well as art and worked his first vintage in Montalcino in 1990. However ” he wanted a bigger palate” so he bought the land we were walking on in 1993 as well as some land called ” Fonte Latta”, meaning “milk fountain”, since legend has it that if you were short of breast milk for your baby you drank the water from this fountain and the milk would flow. In 1995 he started planting the vines up here and built the house I stood in which was built from scratch.

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Mario uses 600 litre barrels of French oak  from Alier,for his wines and somehting about 220 litre wines and they are nowin the second year of conversion into Organic status. They also have higher elevation vineyards here in Montalcino which means the grapes are far more expressive and these vineyards are called ” Pian Bossolino” up to about 410 metres.

What I like about this whole set up is the clear passion for producing some of the most individual Brunello’s that one could possibly wish to find. They are up there in price too mind you but the quality and precision behind the winemaking is wonderful to witness. Mario also does not release his wines too early. Their present vintage is 2006; 5 years ageing in barrel and two in the bottle.

We tasted some 2012’s wines that were at present single vineyard wines. His Reserva 2012 was very soft and elegant, the Trio 2008 was a blend of grapes from other countries, Cabernet franc, Merlot and Syrah and velvety too. The 2013  ” Milk Fountain” was out of the barrel as well as the 2013 ” Pian Bossolino” which is a special cuvee of “Sangiovese Grosso”. The last wine we tasted was my personal favourite and was called ” Anata” and was a blend of the two vineyards and is clearly going to be an excepttional vintage, very bright and light.

 

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(Mauro with his delightful father Giovanni)

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“Whirly Wine Tasting”, Thursday 30th June 2016…

“Mr Whirly” is presently in Gascogne on a “Whirlwind” wine tour of South West France looking for exciting wines from the smaller producer that really do “punch above their weight” at a sensible price. With the outcome of “Brexit” ( sorry to bring politics into this post!) and the fall in value of the £ this is clearly a priority over the next month and possibly years, who knows? I am in the middle of writing up my notes on this trip and this shall be posted on this website by end of play today, Wednesday 29th June.

Anyway onto happier things, tasting wines this week!! Below are the wines we shall be tasting, please double click on the link below and it will come alive!. Please do let me know if you can make it wont’t you since last week was the best attended so far with 12 people attending so we might need to stagger the bookings this week.

Thank you!

 

Mr Whirly

 

30th june tasting

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Whirly wine Thursday tasting 16th June 2016 and Fathers day wines….

Good Afternoon this showery Tuesday Afternoon.

Last weeks tasting went down was very well received so I am keen to keep the weekly Thursday Whirly tasting going every week throughout the summer and get more people involved.

Below are details of this weeks wine tasting, please  double click on the flyer to see full details of the wines we are tasting this Thursday.

I am very excited that the new wines from Alain Normand, that arrived today from Macon will be showcased this week. These wines are very much his heart and soul wines: he has nurtured these small plots of land on the hills and gullies surrounding the hamlet of “La Roche Vineuse” for many decades and they really do show off his skilled winemaking and quality of fruit that his vines produce, oh so beautifully. Macon is the “workhorse” of Burgundy and therefore it does not get the credit it deserves. But in terms of quality and price Macon offers something that its more illustrious and famous appellations just north of here cannot come close to competing with. His red is a Gamay ( being so close to Beaujolais he is able to grow this grape) and I shall be serving this fruit driven, summer wine slightly chilled this week.  It rocks let me tell you! His White is the staple white grape of Burgundy however, Chardonnay, but unlike most wines from Burgundy its not oaked and therefore very fresh and easy to drink.

Please book in advance by calling me on 0208 672 2572 from the hours of 11 a to 7pm over the next few days and I shall book you in for this weeks Whirly Thursday tasting, which promises to be fun and also informative!

Don’t forget its fathers day this weekend!

I also have some lovely wines for mixed half cases and full cases of wines, or indeed and single bottles, so please come in and talk to me soon to discuss what your partner and indeed you both might like to share over lunch on Sunday! In this week are some really special wines from all over France (  Cote de Gascogne,  Cote de Bordeaux,  Cote de Duras, Macon and Champagne) so there will be a lovely choice of 10 new wines to chooses from as well as over 130 wines already in the shop, hand picked and tasted by Mr Whirly for you to enjoy! See you soon!

 

Mr Whirly

 

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Whirly wine Aperitif bar and wholesale wine prices…..

The Aperitif bar has been open for a week now and although the weather has been against us in the first week with a great deal of running outside to rescue menus from the rain and hail, its been a positive start with an excited reaction from customers and locals, so thanks so much for that.

The Menu for this week is below! This week we introduced some Iberico Salami de Bellota and Locally baked Foccacia from the Elephant bakery in Streatham served with the wonderful olive oil from Velenosi in Marche that I import together with their very individual wines like the LaCrima.

I have changed the wine list this week and added the very unusual Willespie Margaret river White 2011 ( blended with their four main white varietals, Verdelho, Semillon, Sauvignon and Riesling), the Ribas Blanc 2012 from the oldest winery on Mallorca, over 300 years old now as well as the Perusini Ribolla Gialla 2014 from the glorious white wine region of Friuli in North East Italy that borders Slovenia and Austria. Stunning wine, so very fresh and clean with a citrus finish mixed with a little wax from the lemon skin! I look forward to welcoming you soon to the Aperitif bar and if you are interested in buying wines by the case the ex vat wholesale price list is now updated on this website. I can offer free delivery to you if you are a local SW postcode! Lastly the “Wine of the month” page will start again in May with some new wines from Gascogny that I am importing this week! Stunning Strawberry rose that will soon be served in the Aperitif bar very soon at around £1.95 for a 75 ml tasting glass, so not in anyway expensive! Enjoy Whirling!

Whirly Wine Aperitif Bar

Prosecco – Lemoss NV. Ca di Rajo, Treviso

Casal Garcia NV, Aveleda, Vinho Verde

Château Molhière, Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Côte de Duras

Willespie, “Margaret River White”, 2011, Western Australia

Ribas Blanc, Prensal Blanc-Viognier, 2012, Mallorca

Graziano, Chenin Blanc 2011, Mendocino

Perusini, Ribolla Gialla 2014, Friuli

Stefano Lubiana, Riesling 2010, Tasmania

Château Molhière, Cabernet Franc 2013, Côte du Duras

LaCrima di Morro 2014, Veleuosi, Marche

Shiraz-Viognier 2003, Cobaw Ridge, Macedon Ranges

Merlot 2010, Château Les Graves de Viaud, Côte de Bourg

Cold food..

“ Organic” Locally baked Foccacia with Velenosi Olive oil

Iberico Salami de Bellota ( 60 gms)

Arbquina Olives (75 gms) Frutos Secos ( 100 gms)

Salted Catalan Almonds (75 gms)

( Mr Whirly and Benn from Queensland, Australia on the opening day last week!)

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