FINE WINE Fine Wine GUIDE THE FINER THINGS IN LIFE Wine and Food Diary of Giles MacDonogh

April Wines, Poles Apart.

Written by Giles MacDonogh

April Wines, Poles Apart.

Giles MacDonogh


April certainly lived up to its reputation for being the ‘cruellest month’ this year. We were endlessly putting the heating back on (and at a price!), or lighting log fires, while the rain pummelled the pavements outside, but there were plenty of tastings to distract me at least,…Such as an interesting evening of Polish wine and food at their stately embassy in Portland Place. The Polish city of Zielona Góra in Silesia has produced wine for centuries, particularly during the time it was Prussian Grünberg. It has to be said that Grünberg was never really a byword for quality. During the Seven Years War, Frederick the Great treated the woes of his winemakers with unconcealed sarcasm, and in the late nineteenth century Berliners dismissed any sour wine by saying ‘it tastes like a Grünberger from the dark side of the valley.’

I think Grünberger was chiefly a sparkling wine, which would make sense. It would have allowed winemakers to add sugar to their musts, which might have been low in potential alcohol.Grünberg reverted to the name Zielona Góra in 1945, and wine-making ceased.

The last parcel of ancient Sylvaner vines was pulled up to make way for a block of flats in the seventies.The revival came later, after the Fall of the Iron Curtain and the city now benefits from a nation-wide enthusiasm for wine. I am surprised they didn’t replant Sylvaner, but it is a tricky vine. Austria used to have huge plantations of Sylvaner until the Lenz Moser method of high-training was introduced in the sixties.This suited Grüner Veltliner much better. The Sylvaner was grubbed up and replaced by Veltliner. Nowadays, Sylvaner only makes good wine in German Franconia.Wine is now made all over Poland. Like England and Wales, much of it is produced from hybrid grapes.

There were one or two decent Rieslings on show, however, such as the 2022 from Ferdynand Wspaniała near Wroclaw as well as Kamil Barczentewich’s from Dobre.Some of the hybrids were successful: from Łukasz Winnica there was a Dryling Johanniter and Winnica Opera had a good Solaris Sol Sol and there was another from Sadyba. A Souvignier Gris from Dom Charbielin was pleasant and even better was a convincing muscat-like hybrid, but we are not given lists of the wines and I had to scrawl my notes on a napkin. From Korona there was a very drinkable 2023 pink Zweigelt. Austrian Burgenland is far better known for Zweigelt and has the advantage of being warmer than Poland. In the north, wine-making is heavily influenced by the large, shallow Neusiedler lake and the tasting concentrated on the role of the lake in lending character to the wines. The three Zweigelts that impressed me most were from Nestor in Halbturn, Georg Preisinger and Artisan Wines.

“They showed some excellent whites too, chiefly made from the ‘Burgunder’ varieties. I am not wholly convinced by Burgenland Grüner Veltliner. The best for me were the 2023 Grauburgunder from Seegut Lentsch, a 2022 Weissburgunder from Salzl Seewinkelhof, a 2021 Chardonnay Reserve from Allacher and the 2022 Splitterfasernackt from Markus Iro.”

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Giles MacDonogh

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