Wine club 2 – this time it’s serious

At the RAW wine fair last month I tried a Hungarian wine that really impressed me and wanted to know how much it was and where I could buy it. The producer told me that it wasn’t imported to Britain. In a slightly rash moment, I emailed him when I got home and ordered 20 cases of the stuff:

Kurucver 2007, Badacsony, Csobanci Bormanufaktura

It’s an amazing wine, a blend of Pinot Noir, Kékfrankos (better known by its Austrian name of Blaufränkisch) and something else beginning with K. It’s also organic and low in sulphur for people who are interested in such things. I’m more interested in how it tastes: it reminds me of a slightly wild woodland Burgundy. There’s a lot of autumn fruit but also some woodiness that comes with age. A 2007 this wine is perfectly mature now. I’m offering it for £9.81 a bottle which is a bargain. I’d say that if this wine was on sale in a fashionable East London wine shop it would cost about £14. A Burgundy of similar quality would be about £20. You would have to buy a case which is a total of £117.72, if you want 6 bottles, I can find someone to split the case with you. Delivery in Central London or near Amersham Bucks is free. If you live further afield, I can arrange a courier at your expense. Email me on henrygjeffreys@gmail.com for details.

If I find enough takers then this will be a regular thing. Very good unusual wine at a reasonable price. I might start to specialise in wines from the former Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Grape varieties don’t matter

The much-hyped comedy Sideways left me cold. I did leave the cinema, however, with the warm glow of the pedant for noticing that the grape varieties the Paul Giamatti character is most rude about, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, are the two that go into his beloved Cheval Blanc,  I remember thinking isn’t that just like Hollywood to make such a basic mistake. I now think it was a sly nod to the cognoscenti. Perhaps one of the film’s points is that grape varieties are not paramount, where a wine comes from, the skill with which the grapes are nurtured and the wine made is more important than the type of grape used.

The varieties that come in for the most flack are the German crosses, Huxelrebe, Bacchus, Muller-Thurgau etc. These grapes, normally crossings of Riesling with something that ripens earlier, were designed to have some of the flavour of their noble ancestor but be easier to grow consistently in Germany. They, especially Muller-Thurgau, are held responsible for the precipitous decline in German wines reputation since the War. So when at a recent tasting I was offered a glass of wine made from this variety I declined. The producer, La Vis from Trentino in Italy, insisted and watched with amusement as my face lit up: it was delicious. My notes say: ‘floral, v.fresh, spicy.’ It tasted like one of those madly fashionable Austrian wines and not at all ‘vaguely peachy with a flat, flaccid mid-palate, too often with a slight-suspicion of rot’ (the tasting note from the Oxford Companion to Wine.) It wasn’t Riesling but it wasn’t trying to be. I have the suspicion that those awful German wines owe more ludicrously high yields, bad quality fruit and huge quantities of sugar than any intrinsic varietal qualities. With those practices, the wines would have been awful no matter what grape variety they used.

Due to our damp cold climate, most English wines apart from the champagne-style sparkling wines are made from these Germanic crosses. I have always avoided them. Why have a Bacchus when you could have a Fiano was my reasoning. Well at the same Italian tasting I tried a dull dilute Fiano, a dreary Falanghina and hopeless Greco di Tufo (all Campanian grapes which can be excellent.) Perhaps it is time to try change my view. Wine critics have been praising wines such as the Chapel Down Bacchus for many years now. They have transcended their humble varietals. They are bought because of the reputation of the company rather, at the other end of the scale, as Cheval Blanc is.

La Vis Cru also do a lovely Gewurztraminer and a Pinot Grigio.  They are distributed by United Wineries.

Chapel Down Bacchus widely available.

Cheval Blanc widely available for those who can afford it. Petite Cheval, the second wine, offers some of the magic for a more reasonable price. Try Berry Bros & Rudd.