It’s true to say that Indian viticulture has historically had its ups and downs and with it the quality of the wine.  But these days, the winemaking expertise is worthy of mention and we’re as proud to bang the Indian drum as any other wine producing nation.

Grape picking in India

Indeed India has a pretty long history of grape growing.  Historical evidence suggests vines were introduced from Persia (more recently known as Iran).  During the British and Portuguese colonial years, winemaking flourished, only to be scuppered by the pesky phylloxera louse which, as we know, took its toll across much of the winemaking world.

Indian vineyards took time to recover from phylloxera but did begin to thrive once more in the early 1900s.  Frustratingly for the grape farmers, religious and public opinion then started a campaign towards alcohol prohibition.  This was fueled by independence from the British Empire and many states eventually banned alcohol altogether.   The farmers had no choice but to convert to table grape production at this time and winemaking disastrously went out the window.

During the late 20th century, winemaking pretty much exploded in India – a boom in the economy and the rising yuppy-ism suggested that huge domestic demand was just around the corner.  In fact, the boom lasted well over a decade, giving aspiring young winemakers plenty of time to prove that it really is possible to produce impressive, world-class wines.

Tragically, many wineries were hit by world recession, leaving them strapped for cash.  They struggled to successfully promote their wines, finding the world market somewhat saturated, ignorant and with little or no appetite to provide space for an Indian wine category.  Many simply didn’t have deep enough pockets (or maybe the desire) to spend on extravagant advertising.   As such, the turn of the 21st century witnessed many estates close their doors, grub up their vines and replace with alternative, more profitable vegetable crops.

The good news is that the few wineries that survived are thriving, producing the quality and quantity suitable for export, all the while encouraging a massive uptake in local wine tourism.  Sula Vineyards alone see literally thousands of tourists flooding through their cellars every weekend as Indians up and down the country relish the intrigue and excitement of experiencing wine for the first time.

We’re shining a spotlight on Dindori Shiraz this spring – find out more here.

First thing’s first…where is it?

Located in the Balkan region of Europe, in 1991 it declared its independence but from the 15th to 20th century was passed successively to Moldavia, the Ottoman Empire, Russia, Romania, the Soviet Union, and Ukraine.

This is a tiny nation with around 3.5 million citizens, and it’s the poorest in Europe. Approximately 1/5 of the working age population earn money from the wine industry.  Moldova produces the highest amount of wine per capita in the world.

The climate is ‘warm and moderately continental’ and the average annual temperature is between 6º – 12ºC (for the UK it is between 6º and 14ºC).

The Wine Industry

Moldova has been growing grapes for over 5,000 years so it’s no newcomer.  The country grows a mix of international and regional grape varieties.  In truth, many producers opt to plant the more recognisable varietals, but the local grapes are far more interesting.  You will see varieties such as Fetească Neagră, Fetească Alba, Rară Neagră and Plavai – also found in the neighbouring wine regions in Romania and Bulgaria.

Every October, Moldova hosts the National Wine Day festival. There are free shuttles between wineries and exceptionally cheap wine tastings too.

Five years ago Moldova was the least visited country in Europe.   Then, the Lonely Planet named it #2 ‘off-the-beaten-path’ destination in the world.  And what a boost that was – now it sits proudly one from the bottom with Liechtenstein below it!

The wines from Moldova, like every country, vary from distinctly average to really rather good.  There is excellent value to be found but the Moldovan wine renaissance has only just begun…

You can enjoy the two wines we have from the Bostovan winery whilst we keep an eye out for more treasures from this fascinating country…

Moldovan Wines


Let’s face it, with the squalls of the last few days, autumn is definitely upon us!   And with that, it’s time to pull back on our stocks of the pink stuff.  Don’t fret though, we’ll always have our delicious rosé wines throughout the year, we just manage our stocks a little closer.  It is a simple fact that rosé is enjoyed best when the sun is beating down on us and not when its blowing a hoolie outside!

One rosé that we have always enjoyed hails from an unusual origin – Morocc0 – and is made at Domaine de la Zouina, near Meknes.  The wine is called Volubilia, named after the ancient city of Volubilis, 30km north of Meknes.  Wanting to know a little more about the origins of the name, I discovered that Volubilia (Volubilis) translates from Latin as rolling, or revolving, or in constant movement.  Indeed, how many of us ever stopped to think about the origins of the famous Volvo car manufacturer?  It translates to ‘I am rolling’.

The city of Volubilis was founded in the 2nd century and thrived under Roman rule in its early years thanks to an extensive olive industry (grape vines came a little later).  Wealth was plentiful and with it brought fine architecture and extensive mosaics. The uncovering of the site is in part thanks to a collaboration of the Getty Conservation Institute with local archeologists and is considered to be one of the best-preserved Roman ruins in Morocco.  Now an established UNESCO world heritage site, it’s definitely worth a visit.

As for the wine, Volubilia is available throughout the year – deliciously pale and dry, it makes for a great glass of wine at the end of the working day!

Vines growing on organic soils in the Canaries

Vines growing on organic soils in the Canaries

It’s extraordinary to think that volcanic soils are amongst the most fertile, yet it’s true. As volcanic soils begin to age, they begin the processing of breaking down, releasing the very nutrients and minerals that allow plants to prosper – nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous and chlorophyll. And because volcanic soil is virgin soil, it’s entirely organic with no chemical fertilizers, additives or the like, so no unwelcome contaminants.

With Mount Etna anything but dormant, grapes have been thriving on the foothills for centuries.   Mount Vesuvius (that hasn’t exploded for centuries) is considered to be one of the top ten active volcanoes in the world and is equally covered in crops.  Generally, the higher the altitude of the vines, the better the quality (cooler temperatures mean longer, more even grape maturation on the vine).

Check out our volcanic wines – they rate amongst the most naturally produced wines in the world.

For more information on organic and naturally produced wines, click here>



Today sees the launch of a new listing for us from a super producer, based in the stunning Paarl region of the South African Winelands.

Anyone who has taken time to visit the wineries of the Western Cape will know that the region is arguably one of the gems of the wine world.  My first venture to South Africa was in the Year 2000, when sanctions had only recently been lifted, and expertise was joined with excitement in the development of their wine industry.  Throughout the apartheid era, a co-operative (KWV) monopolised the industry, and whilst volume was not inconsiderable, quality was lacking in most areas.  Insufficient funding to sustain wineries, poor winemaking and often lack of hygiene were all contributors to a nation’s wine industry that was lagging way behind the buoyant Aussies and Kiwi production that we have come to love so much.

Those days are in the past, and South Africa these days is well positioned in the everyday, less expensive category, right up to the best of the boutique range.  And we Brits can’t get enough of them.  I for one am amongst their #1 fans – how a country could turn an industry in such a short space of time has to be admired.   Visiting those Winelands time and again is a joy that everyone who has a penchant for wine and travel should explore.  (Give me a shout if you want any advice on where to go.)

Our latest additions – a white and a red known as Jonty’s Ducks have a delightful story.  Organic is their middle name – just watch this video and our web-footed friends and you’ll be instantly charmed.  As for the wine, well if this isn’t worth a look, then….

Find the wines here>



IMG_4509During a recent visit to the gastronomic region of Italy, Emilia Romagna, we stumbled across a wine which we really weren’t expecting – and it was everywhere!

But first, the food.   Bologna is the real foodie capital of Italy, with the local Tortellini, Lasagne and Tagiatelli on every menu in town.  Just up the road is Modena – the home of Balsamic Vinegar.  Then 40 minutes further west (north-west) is Parma – you guessed it, Parma Ham and Parmesan cheese.

The wines from the region of Emilia Romagna are somewhat overshadowed buy it’s neighbouring states, but there are some fantastic wines being
produced in this area.IMG_4510

We visited Monte Delle Vigne, outside a town called Ozzano Taro (20km from Parma).  This is a modern and spacious property, the vines looked in great condition and the state of the art winery was very impressive.   They produce a number of high quality wines here but what we were interested was their Lambrusco(s).

Now why does this word strike fear into our hearts?  Is it due to the similarly named Lambrini?  The ‘Urban Dictionary’s’ definition of which is amusingly as follows: Lambrini is cheapo wine that is around 7% and its only about £2.00 Mainly drunk by chavs because they cant afford any decent sort of beverage.”

That aside, Lambrusco is a red grape of which there are around 60 different varieties – similar to Muscat in that sense.  The grape skins carry a rich pigment which produces ruby coloured wines, whose foam can only be likened to cherryade.IMG_4514

We were interested in their most traditional style wine, ‘I Calanchi’, which is made from Lambrusco Colli di Parma.  This wine is totally dry – whereas some of the scary Lambruscos we had dared to taste in Bologna were much sweeter.   Actually, pleasantly surprised.  Served at a nice chilled 12 degrees or so with some delicious Parma Ham and Parmesan, this wine was actually very pleasant and made for a nice change.

You will see in the video below that we were actually slightly frightened by the look of it, but, don’t be, if you see it, it’s really worth a go.

See our video here:

Ridgeview Vineyard Chardonnay Vines

Ridgeview Vineyard Chardonnay Vines

We decided to take a mosey down to Sussex this weekend and have a nose around a producer who has been on our radar for some time. Ridgeview Vineyard was founded in 1994 by Mike and Chris Roberts.  Their mission – “to produce world class sparkling wines in the South Downs of England”.  Members of the second generation of the family are now established in key roles within Ridgeview, keeping the family tradition going. They have their original vineyard right next to the winery which is 100% Chardonnay and produces their Blanc de Blancs – a zesty, crisp little number.  Their other vines are dotted around the surrounding countryside. We were met at the winery by the lovely Hannah, who generously took us through the 6 wines of Ridgeview.  They only produce vintage wines these days, so no blended non-vintages.  We were tasting 2013 (2012 was a disastrous year in the industry and the previous vintages were like the proverbial ‘hot cake’). English sparkling wines are growing a strong reputation in the wine industry and amongst consumers too.  We hope to have one of the Ridgeview family and their wines at our up coming tasting so stay tuned! View our other sparkling wines here >

Ridgeview Vineyard Wine Tasting

Ridgeview Vineyard Wine Tasting

Ridgeview Vineyard Wines

Ridgeview Vineyard Wines


KeisersbergIf you’ve never visited Alsace, put it on your list of places to visit before you die.  The region is, without question, a ‘must see’.  What’s more, we’ll put you in touch with our good friend Christophe Scherer, son of Andre, who will delight in showing you around his impressive (albeit tiny) cellar.

Known to most for their Rieslings, there are in fact several more grape varieties to choose from.  The most notable are Sylvaner, Muscat, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Noir.   Then there’s the Cremant d’Alsace – made in exactly the same way as Champagne, but a fraction of the price (more on Cremant to follow shortly).

Unlike other French regions, local Alsatian wine regulations state that the grape variety must appear on the front label.   You might argue that this could be to do with the Germanic influence in the region (remember Alsace has passed from German to French rule fairly regularly and as such has its own very unique way of going about things).

We visited Christophe Scherer last year who, with his wife, now runs the family business of Andre Scherer Wines.   Welcoming us to his property in nothing more than shorts, T-shirt and wellies, we knew we had a friend and Scherer Signsupporter of Hannibal Brown forever!

JK and Christoph Scherer

Jude and Christoph Scherer in his cellar

Christophe prefers to pick his Riesling relatively early, focussing on freshness with good, racy acidity.  His Riesling Reserve Particuliere is a great example of the style that he favours.  His Pinot Gris Reserve is a new addition to our range – full-flavoured and ripe, it makes for a wonderful contrast to the zippy Riesling.

The beauty of Alsace is extraordinary, the wines are delightful and the romance is well and truly alive.

And when you’ve had enough of the Route du Vin d’Alsace, step onto the Route du Fromage – this is Munster land afterall!

I recall when is was a kiddy, my Mother used to keep a bottle of a well known brand of dry sherry under the kitchen sink.  Those were the days when Sunday Lunch was a real family affair.  Nowadays, Mother’s tipple has shifted towards jolly nice white wines supplied by yours truly in bucket loads.  (Curiously,  I don’t remember there being wine on the Sunday Lunch table, but I cannot imagine she drank sherry throughout the meal.  I assume there must have been wine – either that or she’s busy makng up for lost time..)

Don't try this at home!

Don’t try this at home!

So how surprised were we, in our recent outing to the Canaries, to discover there was very little in the form of sherry available.  Clearly, these Spanish islands prefer to stick to their local wines.  One waitress looked blankly when we asked for sherry, though she did turn out to be Argentine so we let her off the ignorant hook and made no mention of the Falklands.

Fortunately, we did find a very delicious bottle of dry Manzanilla during our travels and some exceptional roasted almonds – a must with any dry sherry.  Socks chilled off, this makes for one heavenly sun-downer!  The incredible dryness is something one has to become comfortable with.  Once that hurdle is overcome, the challenge is not to polish off the bottle in one sitting!  But beware – the alcohol on dry sherries is between 15 and 17% ABV.

Duty Free out of The Canaries sells litres of sherry for just 5 euros, so indulge we did and continue to enjoy the distinctive nutty ‘flor’ character that makes sherry so unique.

Old hat?  Not in my book – watch this space whilst we source the perfect Manzanilla for you…

More on sherry in tomorrow’s blog.





Taking Hannibal on his winter hols is always a treat.  Leaving the depths of winter in favour of the warmer climes of the Canaries this January proved not only a perfect break but a delve into some intriguing new wine discoveries.

The lengths of protection, vines are buried deep into volcanic soil

The lengths of protection, vines are buried deep into volcanic soil

Had we not opted to ‘dangle’ Hannibal off the end of a kite surf of the coast of Fuerteventura, or give him a daily trouncing in the plentiful surf around the island, we would still be in total Canarian wine ignorance.  Yet the islands are alive with inexpensive wine curios that leave most of their imported counterparts for qualitative dust.

The Canaries, unsurprisingly import pretty much everything.  Way down in the south Atlantic, a stone’s throw from Africa, you can rely on year-round warmth (the temperature never dips below 18 degrees, even at night!), but you cannot rely on the prawns and calamari – frozen, tasteless and a real disappointment*.

As for wine, it’s Senor Torres of mainland Spanish fame who has a handle on wine consumption here.  There’s even Torres Olive Oil and Torres Balsamic vinegar to dip in your bread!    But we opted for sampling the local grog and in so doing, not only saved money (Torres – you are getting unnecessarily pricey, Sir) but enjoyed an array of flavoursome dry whites made from the local and widely abundant Malvasia grape.

The Canarians know a thing or two about winemaking – they’ve been growing grapes for hundreds of years to worldwide acclaim.  The sweet styles were highly sought after in 15th to 18th centuries and the likes of Shakespeare and Agatha Christie amongst others make reference in their respective novels.

We steered clear of the roses, fearful of the luminescence of many(!) and only sampled a handful of reds (the climate lends itself best to refreshing whites).   Our two favourites by far were a mouthfulling Lanzarote Malvasia from El Grifo that packs a refreshing punch; and in particular a Listan Blanco (grape used in dry Sherry) from Bodega Tajinaste, farmed up in the high, cooler hills.   Both were enjoyed with *home-prepared fresh prawns in garlic & chilli (thank goodness for self-catering) and both clearly favour fish dishes in a thumpingly well prepared garlic based jus.

Lanzarote and Fuerteventura are renowned for high winds, making both watersports and growing grapes a bit of a challenge.   But Canarians masters at both and when not riding their very own Kahuna, hey’re busy protecting their vines from the elements to ensure clean, dry, impressively well valued wines.  Check out Bodega Tajinaste here>

Volcanic circles form natural barriers to the elements

Volcanic circles form natural barriers to the elements

Circular vine protection from prevailing winds

Circular vine protection from prevailing winds

Viticulture in India has a long history and there is historical evidence of grapevines being introduced from Persia.

Sula Vineyards Grape Harvesting

Harvest time at Sula Vinyards

During the time of the Portuguese and British colonisation winemaking flourished in India. The end of the 19th century saw the phylloxera louse take its toll on the Indian wine industry as with much of the world.  Then religious and public opinion started to move towards the prohibition of alcohol.

After independence from the British Empire a number of states became ‘dry states’ and the government encouraged vineyards to convert to table grape production.

In the 1980s and 1990s the Indian wine industry was revived as international influences and the growing middle classes started increasing demand.  Now there are very few wineries who produce the quality and quantity suitable for export.  Sula Vineyards in Maharashtra state are one of the few who do and their Syrah and Viognier are fabulous.

View the wines here >

Preparations are under way for the arrival of Hannibal’s latest discoveries from unusual corners of the world.

Right now, he’s making his way through  Lebanon, towards the Bekaa Valley on the east side of the country.  Bekaa is one of the oldest wine regions in the world, dating back over 5,000 years and it’s said that this is where Jesus turned water to wine.

Lebanon mapThe Bekaa Valley is very much the fruit ‘n veg garden of Lebanon.   With the less fertile northern limits reserved for nomadic cattle grazing, the more southerly reaches are renowned for an array of vegetables and cotton.

Poppy Fields

Pretty Poppies

Thanks to the work of Jesuit monks in the mid 19th century, many of the best Lebanese vineyards are planted with French grape varietals – all the classic grape varieties are found in abundance.  And with the best wineries embracing modern techniques, it’s not difficult to understand why Lebanon has the capability of producing wines of world renowned quality

Hannibal will be launching his Lebanese wine range on 1st June, so stayed tuned.

For more on Hannibal’s wines for unusual origins, follow this link>