Last week’s NEWTS tasting was one for my fellow Wine Centurions, a selection of unusual grape varieties rarely seen in bottle or review. I took a slightly perverse enjoyment seeing the look of confusion on many of the faces in the room as the wine lists were passed around and people struggled to decide which was the producer and which was the grape, although I have to admit I also struggled with a few of them as well!
For the second month running there was a healthy balance of white and red grapes, even if one of them did its best to make us think it was dark skinned!
First out of the bottle was the 2009 Malagousia from Domaine Gerovassiliou, a 12.5% Regional wine of Epanomi from Greek Macedonia, near Thessaloniki. Winemaker Evangelos Gerovassiliou seems to have been almost singlehandedly responsible for resurrecting this almost extinct white varietal while working for Domaine Porto Carras before setting up his own estate.
The Malagousia, £8.99 from Laithewaites (currently out of stock), a 2010 Decanter Gold Award winner, was feremented in steel and lees matured for several months. There was a touch of sulphur on the herbal nose and the taste had a buttery aspect with a little almond and peach, overall a pretty good value 3 star wine.
Then to a Pecorino, the liquid version from Contesa with the 2009 Colline Pescaresi, a 13% IGT wine from Abruzzo. Pecorino is another white grape rescued from oblivion after a few wild vines were discovered in a canyon in Italy’s Le Marche region. Believed to be named after the local sheep (Pecora) who enjoyed feasting on the berries (Pecorino the cheese is made from ewe’s milk) this version has 10% Trebbiano and 5% Chardonnay in the mix and comes in at £9.95 from the Wine Society (no longer available).
With part of the blend fermented in steel, part in oak barrels, this was a full bodied wine with a rich, focusssed and somewhat mineral nose. In the mouth the mid-palate is rounded and fills out into a long finish, there’s a danger of it becoming too flabby, but it just about escapes and is an equally good 3 star wine.
Spain next, and the rugged northwest with the Louro do Bolo 2009 Godello by Rafael Palacios, son of José Palacios Remondo (Rioja) and brother to the famous Álvaro Palacios (Priorato). Godello was hardly used after the 1970s but has started to increase in popularity and is the authorised white grape for D.O. Valdeorras in Galicia.
At 13.5% this wine is aged for 8 months in French oak Foudres (typically large oak casks holding about 200 to 300 hectolitres) and came from The Wine Society for £13.95. It had a savoury, floral nose with a creamy citrus approach, turning a little lemony but then dropping off and leaving a touch of heat on the very short finish.
Although popular with many in the room I found little to warrant the additional price in comparison to the starters from Greece and Italy which I enjoyed more.
The final white had many confused, as the Heinrich Hartl 2008 Rotgipfler sounded somewhat “redder” until we saw the bottle! Rotgipfler, a crossing of Traminer and Roter Veltliner, is named for the red tips on the vine shoots and is related to Grüner Veltliner (aka Weißgipfler…confused?… I am!). Its home is in Austria’s Thermenregion, as is Heinrich Hart III’s winery in Oberwaltersdorf, just south of Vienna.
This Decanter 2010 Regional Trophy winner came from Waitrose for £12.36 (currently £15.66) with 10% of the blend spending time on oak barrels. At 13% alcohol the wine has a sweet lime attack which then goes a touch sour into the finish. This was a full, very well integrated, complex wine with a plenty of acidity behind the sugar, but balanced and beautiful to drink, a 4 star bottle and my favourite white of the night.
We finished the evening with 5 unusual reds, which you can read about in Part II.