We had to cheat a bit and brought in a couple of alphabetical outliers.
Over the two evenings, the three wines in red type were the favourites and will go forward to a tasting dinner later on to see how they fare when paired with food.
(Obviously it should begin with an H which has evidently been dropped!) A Guisenheim cross to produce yet another Riesling substitute – as yet little encountered in the winedrinking world.
Pleasantly mineral with distinctive Riesling-like character.
Fontanara: Rossdeutscher Franken 2004 Kabinett, Coodens Cellars £8.99
The primary white-wine grape of eastern France's Savoie region. Jacquère is the main variety used in the Vin de Savoie wines. These wines are light, dry and somewhat acidic, with hints of citrus and smoke. Jacquère is also known as Buisserate and Cugnette.
An interesting alternative for lovers of Chablis perhaps – dry, mineral tinged.
Jacquère: Ch. Gentilhommière, Les Abymes 2005, Nicolas £8.50
Len de Lel [umpteen spelling variations] (with Mauzac)
Unknown outside of South West France. Light, delicate wines with crisp acidity.
The appley Mauzac character quickly dominates if the wine is served under-cooled.
Len de Lel: Ch Clément Termes Gaillac Blanc Sec 2006 Quartier de Marcher £8.50
Only 2% gets out of the Basque region of northern Spain. “Hondarrabi Zuri is the white grape variety used for making the attractive white wine called Txakoli in the Alava, Bizkaia and Getaria regions of northern Spain.” Ours is blended with Hondarrabi Beltza.
Nervy wine galvanised with startling acidity; think rich dishes where the acidity will cut the fat.
Hondarrabi: Txomin Etxaniz Getaria 2007 Coodens Cellars, £11.50
– also now discovered at Martinez, Ilkley... and at Les Caves de Pyrene.
Another dropped H?
“A Portuguese white-grape variety heavily planted in the Dão doc. Better examples of Encruzado based wines have good acidity and a medium to full body and can exhibit hints of melon.”
“A slightly obscure white wine grape from the Dão region of northern Portugal. Though not a productive varietal the wines can be quite fragrant with flavors and aromas of apricots, nectarines and golden raisins. Poor versions can be plagued by low acidity, but most wines have acceptable balance.”
We suspect that our example bore the slightly resinous streaks resulting from ageing in Portuguese oak.
Encruzado: Quintas dos Rogues 2006, Coodens £10.99
Kotsifali (with Mandilaria)
Kotsifali is the underdog of Greek red cultivars. Outside of Crete it doesn't seem to garner much attention or respect. This mirrors a tendency in Greece to overlook Crete in favor of regions that have experienced more rapid and exciting viticultural growth. It may reflect, too, a market-driven shift in taste towards the "cosmopolitan" varieties associated with France and the New World. Indeed Kotsifali belongs to a more Mediterranean and perhaps more eclectic, class of grapes. Kotsifali, however, may well be Crete's secret weapon. In 1974, Phylloxera began a gradual incursion on the island's vineyards. by the end of the 1980s, during precisely the era in which momentum was building towards a modern wine industry, many growers (who had at least had time to graft vines to new rootstalk) found themselves tending brand new vines. The effect on Kotsifali wine in the Peza and Arhanes districts was severe. While Kotsifali had been promptly replanted, its best features are displayed mainly in fruit from older vines. For producers without access to old-vine grapes, quality took a huge dip. Yield management has been another factor contributing to the low status of the variety. Growers in Crete, often locked into cooperative economies, have been slow to explore the potential of low-yield farming. Those who have applied modern vineyard strategies have been rewarded with superior wines.
Appellations in Peza and Arhanes stipulate that Kotsifali be blended with some Mandilaria. Proportions of between 80/20 to 60/40 are common. For Kotsifali, Mandilaria is a particularly fortunate améliorateur. Miles Lambert-Gocs writes extensively on the subject in his 1990 book, The Wines of Greece.
Greek wine professionals tend to liken Kotsifali wine to Bordeaux, which is not to draw a comparison of the variety with Cabernet Sauvignon in any strict sense. Rather they have the make-up in in alcohol, acidity and extract by which Kotsifali can benefit by from years of maturation in bottle... [At] the end of that time the texture and the overall feel of the best Kotsifali wines may be reminiscent of Nebbiolo and Brunello. In specifics of bouquet, however, they are quite unique.
In speaking of the Kotsifali in connection with Bordeaux, it also ought to be emphasized that the variety is not without tendencies that beg correction... [In] addition to augmenting tannin content, lowering acidity, and tempering alcoholic degree in Kotsifali–all to the real advantage of the wine–the Mandilaria also deepens color and makes it more stable...
Lamberts-Gocs' assessment of the advantages of bottle-aging Kotsifali/Mandilaria is not overstated. The 1988 Arhanes (Arhanes Cooperative)–full of sediment and a magnificent contrast of plum and orange hues–was especially soft and refined in 1996 (although it was produced from pre-Phylloxera grapes).
The fortune of Kotsifali is overdue for change. Its wines (though not yet its status) are on the rise. The two regional Cooperatives (Arhanes and Peza) produce appellation reds of increasing quality. Two fairly large producers, Miliarakis and Creta-Olympias, both of whom have met with success creating and meeting demand among tourists and Germans, have augmented their portfolios to include conscientious, upscale versions. Lyrarakis, who produces three Kotsifali wines, the first a Peza Appellation with Mandilaria, the second a Kotsifali/Syrah blend and third a blend with Mandilaria and Carignane. reveals the true potential of the grape in both modern and traditional styles
Mandilaria: The most widely planted red variety in the Aegean, Mandilaria leans towards the tannic (mildly astringent, unless aged) and is generally – but not always – low in alcohol. On most of the islands where it is grown, including Crete, Mandilaria has a tendency to produce wines of insufficient alcohol level to justify mono-varietal vinification.
In conformance with requirements for Peza and Archanes district Appelations on Crete, 20%-40% Mandilaria is blended with Kotsifali in order to create red wines that benefit greatly from ageing. The addition of Mandilaria reinforces tannin structure, moderates Kotsifali's considerably higher alcohol levels and reddens, somewhat, Kotsifali's characteristic orange hue.
A long write up for a wine that generally impressed as value for money. Try instead of a young claret, perhaps.
Kotsifali: Mediterra Mirambelo 2005 Oddbins £5.99
Lacrima di Morro
The fascinating name of this wine is derived from the variety of the same name, the Lacrima, a native of the district. It is of extremely ancient origin and is still cultivated only in the commune of Morro d'Alba in the province of Ancona and the territories of neighboring communities. The great diversity of varieties still to be found in the center and south of Italy makes it extremely difficult to trace the pedigree of this breed, which is descended from a family of "vitis vinifera" that is ancient. That descent is so complex that the exact origins of Lacrima may never be established.
Why the variety and the wine obtained from it have the name Lacrima (tear) is not clear. The denomination may be derived from some legend or simply from the nearly oval shape of the grape or the pyramidal form of the cluster, both resembling tear drops. The wine is almost a varietal, for all "correction" is limited to the addition of 15 per cent of Montepulciano and/or Verdicchio grapes.
The use of the "governo Toscano" is recommended in making the wine. The method involves the inducement of a second fermentation of the wine, following racking, through the addition of a certain quantity of must pressed from selected and partly dried grapes. The addition must be made no later than December 31 of the year of the harvest. In keeping with ancient local tradition, Lacrima di Morro d'Alba is still produced in sweetish and sweet versions.
An extraordinary wine with a nose of Turkish Delight, but a dry palate, exhibiting cherryish, rose-scented fruit. Benefited in the second tasting from being sampled before the Kotsifali. Would take being lightly chilled in summer time perhaps.
Lacrima di Morro: Marotti Campi Rùbico Lacrima di Morro d’Alba 2006 Oddbins £8.29
Kekfrankos (in its cross-border guise as Blaufrankisch)
One of the Hungarian names for the Blaufränkisch, although Gamé is used as well. Kékfrankos can produce wines with smooth tannins and a very deep and rich extraction. Spicy flavors and aromas of blueberries, anise and black pepper are common. The best examples of Kékfrankos (or Kákfrankos as it is also known) come from the southern Hungarian areas of Villány and Szekszárd.
Gernot Heinrich has 30 hectares of vineyards in the Neusiedlersee area, Austria’s easternmost point, on the border with Hungary. The climate is continental with hot summers which means that it is the most important place in Austria for red wines. Unlike some producers in this part of the world, Gernot is very devoted to native varieties.
This variety is thought by many to be similar to Gamay from Beaujolais - indeed, the Bulgarians still call it Gamé. There are similarities in the light, zippy style of the wine. Blaufrankisch however is gutsier and spicy than Gamay ever really gets, with fruit that is sweeter and more lustrous balancing the rustic spice.
Our version would never be mistaken for Gamay; it was altogether more hefty and spicy. Hungarian examples do tend to be lighter.
Kekfrankos: Heinrich Blaufrankisch Burgenland 2004, Green & Blue £12.75
A red-wine grape grown mainly in Italy's Trentino-Alto Adige region. Lagrein is vinified into deep, dark reds (known as Lagrein Dunkel or Lagrein Scuro) and rosés (called Lagrein Kretzer or Lagrein Rosato). The rosés are considered to be some of Italy's best; the reds can have wonderful chocolatey nuances and rich fruit flavors. A small amount of Lagrein is used to bolster the Schiava grape in the DOC wines of Santa Maddalena. This variety is also known as Lagrain and Lagarino.
A very classy wine… as its price tag would suggest.
Lagrein: Cornell Alto Adige Lagrein Enotria £20.86
The ones that got away:
Limnio: Greece -- I was unable to source a 100% example.
Jaen Portugal – will put in an appearance as its Spanish synonym, Mencia.
Kerner A Riesling/Trollinger cross that has now migrated out of Germany; Roberson have a Friulian number at £14.50.
Loureirou Superior Vinho Verde?
Huxelrebe Low in acidity; tending to find its spiritual home in England, in multi-varietal blends. Can make nice semi-sweet “dessert” wines.