I spent the morning filming undercover with the BBC (which was very exciting; I’ll tell you more when I can), before heading over to Aspinall’s on Curzon Street for an incredible lunch (see The Metro review), with a vertical of the wines of Josko Gravner, one of the world’s most interesting wine growers.
Aspinall’s is a private gambling club for gentlemen, and in the toilets there are two leaflets – one to help those with gambling problems, and the second explaining the house edge. You could say that Gravner, with his lengthy macerations on skins (these are white wines) and unusual elevage, is a wine gambler. But his wines today showed brilliantly, without exception, back to 1998.
Gravner is famous for his adoption of amphorae (large clay pots, sealed with beeswax) for elevage. His view is that you aren’t really using amphorae (which are imported from Georgia, one of the few remaining countries with the facilities for firing large examples) if you only have a few – now every wine he makes is fermented in them. But even the wines from 2000, 1999 and 1998 that we tasted, which predated this switch, were fantastic, and developing beautifully.
The wines showed very well, and worked with an adventurous menu from Alberico Penati. It’s a privilege indeed to be able to taste the Ribolla Gialla and Breg in pairs from 2005 back to 1999, with a 1998 Ribolla Reserva and 2003 Pignolo Rosso to finish. I found myself straining for descriptors for these wines, which all seemed youthful and full of life. To score them made me feel I was committing some sort of absurdity. There is an honesty to these wines that makes you question your approach as a journalist.
Despite the incredible wines and fine food, the lunch was also a poignant one. Almost exactly a year ago, Josko’s son Miha died in a motorcycle accident, and there was a long silence, filled with sadness, when Josko mentioned his son’s name in an anecdote.
I really like these wines, and a full write up will follow. They are available in the UK from Zubair Mohammed at Raeburn (one of the wine world’s geniuses), who hosted the lunch along with his colleague David Harvey. I felt like I wanted to take just one of these wines home and spend an evening with it: these are wines that repay attention and reward the patient, observant taster.
Pictured top Josko, his daughter Jana, and Filippo Polidori (friend of the family and sales manager).