Sparkling Wines from Slovenia & England Feature on Most Interesting Wedding Wine List

3rd February 2016

Sparkling wines from Slovenia and England feature on ‘the most interesting wedding wine list’

Father hijacks daughter’s wedding theme to promote obscure grape varieties

Don’t tell the bride, but her wine-loving father has hijacked her theme to promote some obscure grape varieties.

Wine writer and part-time winemaker Chris Boiling aims to use his daughter’s wedding to raise the profile of Laški Rizling, Juhfark, Blaufränkisch, Kadarka, Furmint, Plavac Mali and Rară Neagră.

“These are some of the world’s finest and least-known grape varieties,” Chris said, as he unpacked the latest delivery of wedding wine – 24 bottles of Juhfark from a variety of producers in Somló, Hungary.

obscure wines

“I think the official theme for the wedding is green, as my daughter’s name is Jade,” Chris said. “I’ve been put in charge of the wine and I’m sort of sticking with the theme in that half the grapes were green before they were turned into wine and most of the bottles are green. But I think it’s a great opportunity to convince the 70 guests to look beyond Pinot Grigio and Merlot. All the wines I’ve selected are from lesser-known wine regions and feature lesser-known and vastly underrated grape varieties.”

He said he is turning his father-of-the-bride speech into a wine tasting that will span the course of the meal, with the descriptions and stories behind the wines tenuously linked to stories of the bride and groom. He reckons the welcome drink, the Zlati Grič Konjiška Penina 2015 – a sparkling rosé made from young Blaufränkisch vines – is like the newlyweds: “Young, fresh and sparkling.” He says the Schieber Bikavér 2013 reminds him of his son-in-law-to-be: “When we first met Phil he’d spent the night on a park bench after coming back from Spain late at night. His hair was all over the place and he was unshaven. When I first encountered Bikavér it was known as Bull’s Blood – it was cheap and rough – but now it is quite sophisticated. It’s a smooth, stylish blend featuring Blaufränkisch and Kadarka.”

No wedding is complete without the rare Hungarian grape Juhfark, argues Chris. “It was THE wedding wine during the Austro-Hungarian Empire,” he said. “The Hapsburgs used to order it for royal weddings because the grapes are grown on an extinct volcano and the high mineral content was thought to be the cause of the higher proportion of males born in the area. That’s one reason I’m using it, the other is for the sniggers – Juhfark is pronounced you-fark.”

The main focus, however, will be the four Laški Rizling wines. This is because this is the grape variety that Chris and wife Karen grow at their small vineyard in northeast Slovenia, in the historic wine-producing region of Jeruzalem-Ormož. “It’s the workhorse variety of Central Europe but in the right hands – not mine, obviously – but in the hands of Philipp Oser at Villa Tolnay in Hungary and Uroš Valcl of Marof in Slovenia, it becomes a delicious, special white wine that ages with interesting results. Philipp says it’s the best ambassador of terroir that he has found. As a surprise for the bride and groom there is also a Laški from their birth year – 1990. It’s an auslese from the archive of P&F in Slovenia.”

Chris had the idea for educating the 70 wedding guests about the delights of Laški (also known as Welschriesling, Graševina and Olaszrizling in different parts of the world)  “When I bought our vineyard in Slovenia, in a moment of madness, I asked about the grapes, heard the word ‘rizling’ and thought the grape variety was Riesling. But Laški Rizling is not even related. However, it does have its own merits and I thought more people should know about them. I’m using the occasion to give our family and friends their first taste of the wine I have made, but I also wanted to show them the best two examples I have found – the wines I aspire to make.”

Asked if he feels guilty about turning his father-of-the-bride speech into a Laški Rizling wine tasting, Chris said: “My daughter only has herself to blame. When she left home for university, my wife was devastated. Jade is our youngest daughter. My response to empty-nest syndrome was to find a project for my wife and me. A new hobby in a new country seemed like the ideal solution!”

For the toast, Chris has selected something very special, of course – a flagship English sparkling wine, the Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs 2010. Chris says: “I know Chardonnay is not a lesser-known grape variety but England certainly is an up-and-coming wine region that deserves more attention.”

Written by Chris Boiling

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