Uniqueness is a good thing..

Verdell Whaddahell??!!
This is about a journey beyond the comfort zone of well known grape varietals. What about all those unknown ones? what about the totally forgotten grapes, that never made it to international fame and aknowledgement?
When I come across an unknown grape varietal, I always feel excited. It is the excitement of leaving the known terrain, it is the “everything is possible” feeling that catches me. Do not get me wrong. I do love my Chardonnays (yes, even with oak), Cabernet’s excite me, and Syrah’s are delicious. But if you spend too long with the “usual suspects, the threshold of the “whooooaaaaa” kind of wine tasting gets very high…

So what are the unknown ones to get excited by? This is a very good question, as this humble grapevine has a few thousand variations. If you take it into consideration that only a handful of these made an international career, there is a whole new universe to discover.

Since Vitis Vinifera has a great potential for mutation, unknown new/old varietals have always been around. It used to be a bit of an insurance thing. The more varietals in the same vineyard means that the different vines resistance adds up, therefore no matter how bad the vintage, there will be some fruit to make wine.

The best example is the Douro valley in Portugal, where Port is made. When asked about what grape varietals they use, the locals generously pointed towards the terraces in the valley. No-one knew what they are. They’ve been there forever, they produce a crop, who cares about the titles… A couple of studies identified at least 50 native varietals from there. But no-one is planning to  start listing them on the back of a bottle.

Obviously through the centuries of winemaking the most flavoursome, most resistant varietals got selected. But what about the local ones, that are a delicate, or maybe they maintain a curious flavour. Are they any worse?

The great thing about these unknown varietals, that you do not know what to expect. I have this new one right one in front of me, Verdil from Valencia.  All we know about this new kid on the block, is that there are about 10 hectars of this varietal in a steep valley somewhere above Valencia. The place is called Fontanars dels Alforin  I am not going to tell you about any flavours, I think everyone should discover them for themselves… By tasting a unique wine from such a small area, you join a very exclusive club…

And we have a few bottles of this rare wine. Come down on Saturday to Borough Market, and taste some of it with us!

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