Kania Lodge Wine

From pallets to containers

Sixteen years ago I imported what was probably the first pallet of New Zealand Sauvignon to be landed in Poland. It came from Soljans, a small family-owned winery from just north of Auckland run by the ever-smiling Tony Soljan whose family had emigrated from Croatia to New Zealand in the early part of the 20th century.
It was an instant success. I had bought the Sauvignon Blanc especially for Kania Lodge so that I could offer guests something a bit more interesting than was generally available in Poland at that time. But guests immediately began taking a case or two with them when they left. Soon I was getting phone calls from Warsaw and other cities from people desperate to get their hands on some of Tony’s Sauvignon Blanc.
That was the genesis of Wine Express, a mail order company I started a year later to cater what was clearly a demand for more exotic wines than currently available. Soon we had an ever-expanding list of wines from family-owned wineries, some of them famous, from most wine producing countries in the world.

Photo courtesy of

But we kept promoting NZ Sauvignon Blanc. While continuing with Soljans, we quickly expanded our range of New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs to include wines from Dog Point, Jules Taylor, Rockburn, Te Mata Estate, Kumeu River and, more recently, Woollaston and Supernatural. We’ve for sure the largest range of Sauvignon Blanc available in Poland.
Now we have turned out attention to promoting other wines that New Zealand does so well. Kumeu River, for example produces some of the world’s best Chardonnay. Pinot Noirs are coming along too and there were plenty of them at the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise wine tasting in Warsaw last week. The on-line wine magazine Winicjatywa voted Jules Taylor’s Pinot Noir as the best at the show and praised their new Gruner Veltliner. Te Mata’s Gamay Noir was also singled out for high praise.
Of course there were many other top class wineries exhibiting at the show and I hope they find importers for their wines. They’ll join a dozen or two already here. Many of them , like us, are now importing container loads rather than the single pallets I started out with all those years ago.

John Borrell

Travel Wine

The judgement of Paris

Californian wine came of age in 1976 at a blind tasting in Paris which pitted the top Chateau from Bordeaux against some largely unknown wines from the Napa Valley. To everyone surprise and the French wine industry’s mortification, previously unsung Californian producers like Stag’s Leap and Montelana bested Bordeaux icons like Chateaux Mouton-Rothschild and Haut-Brion. California has never looked back. Top wines from the Napa Valley fetch hundreds of dollars a bottle, and there are long waiting lists for the tiniest of allocations of the now great Californian names.

But in the last decade or so, something interesting has happened. Californian wines have become a bit more like those from Bordeaux. And Bordeaux has become a bit more Californian-like. That is to say that the top Californian wines have become a little less voluptuously fruity and oaked, and top Bordeaux reds a little fruiter and more rounder. Warmer weather in Bordeaux has played a part in this, but winemakers on both sides of the Atlantic have consciously incorporated some their rivals’ best features into their own winemaking. The winners are neither California nor Bordeaux, but us, the consumer.

John Borrell

Restaurant Wine

Shining brightly

It’s great that Poland now has a Michelin star restaurant, and a very good one at that. Atelier Amaro was awarded its first star last week, an acknowledgement that owner Wojciech Amaro has created something uniquely Polish that measures up to some of the best cooking in the world. It helped, of course, that Wojciech has worked in some of the world’s top restaurants including El Bulli in Spain and Noma in Denmark, both winners of the prestigious “best restaurant in the world” award.

At Atelier Amaro, which you’ll find at Agrykola 1 next to Lazienki Park, Wojciech has built his ever-changing menu around traditional Polish ingredients, some well known but many of them grains and plants that once formed part of the Polish diet but no longer do. When I say menu, this is not a telephone-directory size book with hundreds of choices. You simply choose the three, five or eight-course tasting menu.

I chose the eight course option when I ate there with my wife this winter, a rare act of gluttony on my part. I’m glad I did. The food was spectacular. I particularly enjoyed the plum soup with linseed oil and onion dumplings and the fact that the fish course was served with millet and the duck with buckwheat. Confirmation of just how good the then star-less Atelier Amaro was, came when I visited Berlin with my family over Christmas. As a treat, we dined at the 2-star Michelin Lorenz Adlon Esszimmer in the Adlon Hotel overlooking the Brandenburg Gate. It was very good. But Atelier Amaro was better.

Needless to say you’ll find our wines at Atelier Amaro, including two of New Zealand’s very best; Kumeu River’s sensational Estate Chardonnay and Dog Point’s Sauvignon Blanc. You’ll be in the hands of an excellent Sommelier, Pawel Białęcki, who will tell you all about them.

John Borrell