Be more Unicorn

By on April 1st, 2022 in Blog
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“Always be yourself, unless you can be a Unicorn.  Then, always be a Unicorn.”

Ready for some facts about Unicorns? Nope? Me neither. Unicorns are precisely what you want them to be. They embody the fantastical in our imaginations and understandably hold a very special place in our hearts.

One thing we can all agree on is that Unicorns are rare. Possibly so rare they may not exist, but that’s not the point. The child in us deserves a little nurturing now and again. By never quite losing that sliver of hope that magic does exist, we stave off cynicism and preserve the joy of wonder.

Saturday 9th April is National Unicorn Day so we’ve chosen four fantastic, unique wines whose rare qualities are a little bit magic.

Always be yourself, unless you can be a unicorn. Then, always be a unicorn.


For Pedro’s sake!

Ever heard of Pedro Ximénez? No? Hardly surprising really. Unless you like sweet Sherry, it’s unlikely you’ll have come across this somewhat esoteric Spanish grape.

Pedro Ximénez (PX) is a grape used as a blending component in medium and sweeter Sherries (think Harvey’s Bristol Cream).  PX is rarely made into a dry, unfortified wine. Unless, of course, you’re a winemaker from Bodegas Ximénez Spinola.

9 generations of the same winemaking family have run this exceptional Bodega which dates back to 1729. Making some seriously high quality and hard-to-pigeonhole wines, they only grow and vinify PX. A winery that focuses solely on one variety is very unusual indeed. That they have chosen such an esoteric and ‘unfashionable’ grape puts them in a category all of their own.

Ximénez Spinola Exceptional Harvest is a genuinely thrilling white wine. There’s so much dried and red berry fruit character that if you tried it blindfolded you’d be hard pushed to even tell what it was! Is it white, red or fortified? Whatever it is, it’s delicious.

It does have a little residual sugar, but it’s at the very dry end of off-dry and has a dry finish. This means there are none of the usual sensations associated with regular non-dry wines. Because the fruit intensity is so strong, you pretty much forget there’s actual sweetness there.

Plums, citrus, dried herbs, golden raisins, white pepper, clotted cream… the list of flavours just goes on and on.

It’s brilliant on its own and you could pair it with almost any food. Absorbing, confusing and completely beguiling, this is the definition of a unicorn wine. And in case there was any doubt, it’s bloody D-Licious.

ximinez spinola exceptional harvest


Flor-ed Genius

Sticking with the sweet wine and Sherry theme, our next unicorn wine comes from Hungary.

Tokaji is most famous as a sweet, dessert wine, lauded as some of the best money can buy, along with the likes of Sauternes and Barsac. Less well known are the excellent dry white wines this region produces.

Chateau Megyer is one of Hungary’s top Tokaji producers. Highly regarded for their sweet and dry wines, they also make a couple of interesting outliers, one of which we were very surprised to discover.

Employing a technique used by those clever Sherry-making folk in Jerez, the winemaker leaves a gap at the top of a barrel of ageing wine so a fungus called ‘flor’ can grow over the wine’s surface area. This imparts a uniquely savoury flavour, adored by Sherry lovers, that gives Fino and Manzanilla (and to a lesser extent Oloroso and Amontillado) their distinctive tang.

Chateau Megyer Szamorodni Aged Under Flor employs this method masterfully. Imagine all the lovely umami, savoury flavours of an elegant Amontillado, then strip out the oaky characteristics and add a drop of Fino. Super nutty, citric, honeyed and floral, this is a Sherry-file’s delight. A little more subtle and delicate than most dry sherries, the relative lack of oak influence allows a rarely found clarity to shine through, making this wine about as unique as they come.

chateau megyer flor aged Always be yourself


Renegades of Funk

‘Natural Wine’ is such an odd term. In many ways, all wine is ‘natural’ – it comes from a fruit that is provided by nature. It can also be argued that there is very little ‘natural’ about any wine – it is a farmed fruit and by necessity is the product of a monoculture, which is very much ‘unnatural’.

In essence ‘Natural Wine’ has become a somewhat flawed way of describing low-intervention wines. Wines that have been allowed to oxidise somewhat in their processing, use indigenous yeasts, spontaneous fermentation and avoid filtration and the use of sulphur. Known to exhibit a certain ‘funk’ these wines can range from the barely drinkable to the completely sublime.

Joiseph is one of those rare producers, with the skill to harness the funk and balance it in just the right way to provide something different and interesting, but still approachable and delicious.

Joiseph BFF is a red wine made from Blaufränkisch. Not a very well known grape on these shores, but one beautifully suited to the Austrian region of Burgenland, from where they hail.

This bright, lively red has lovely red and dark fruit flavours and an excellent acid balance with well-controlled tannins. Just a little of that funky character comes through, but only a smidge, making this a true crowd-pleaser and a wonderful introduction to the low-intervention way of doing things. In a world where wine is often either very traditional or super weird, BFF treads the line between the two like very little else. A rare thing indeed.

Joiseph BFF Blaufränkisch Austria


The Odd Couple

Last in our quartet of the rare and seldom found is a veritable ’mash-up’ of unexpected bedfellows.

On the one hand, you have Pinot Noir. Famously at the more subtle end of the spectrum: perfumed; low in tannin; prized for its elegance and delicacy. On the other, you have Syrah (or Shiraz for those with a more Antipodean disposition). Big, bold, dark fruit flavours, a distinctive black pepper character and plenty of tannins. The vast majority of wines made with these grapes are single varietal, that is to say, they are either 100% Pinot Noir or 100% Syrah. Well not here.

Domaine de Ribonnet is located in South West France, just south of Toulouse and within sight of the Pyrenees. This 200-year-old chateau and estate were acquired by a Swiss family by the name of Gerber nearly 50 years ago. They were determined to forge their own path. Taking the bold decision to avoid any of the legal Appellation frameworks. Producing wine with no constraints.

Successfully blending varieties as disparate as Pinot Noir and Syrah takes no inconsiderable amount of skill.  The best of both worlds is achieved by oak ageing the Pinot noir for 11 months before blending it with unoaked Syrah.

Red and dark berry fruits, black olives, ground pepper and dark chocolate mingle delicately with floral overtones. Silky smooth but with excellent structure and just enough of a rustic edge, Domaine de Ribonnet’s Pinot Noir-Syrah is not only a treat on its own, but a super versatile food-pairer.

Domaine Ribonnet Pinot noir Syrah Always be yourself