Dublin Wine Fest Day 3 – Riesling Flight @ Ely Wine Bar

This is as close as I’ve ever come to a live blog…

BANNER_WINE_NEW

This is the second in a series of festivals run in Dublin this year by Great Irish Beverages, and of course the most relevant to me.  After a fantastic launch party last week, this week has five (5) days of interesting and exciting wine-related treats in bars, restaurants, wine merchants and hotels across the city.

A Pair of Italian Whites

A Pair of Italian Whites at the launch party

A Pair of Italian Reds at the launch party

A Pair of Italian Reds at the launch party

So what’s the story?

By purchasing a €5 wristband here, you will receive a 30% discount on at least two festival wines at 32 Dublin bars and restaurants. And to keep things interesting, each venue is offering a unique ‘Dublin Wine Experience’ for the week of the festival. These range from food pairings and post-work aperitivos to wine-based cocktails, flights of wine and self-guided tastings.

To my shame, I didn’t manage to get to any venues on Monday or Tuesday, but I did pop my head into Ely Wine Bar on my way home today as I heard they have Riesling!

Apologies for rubbish photos, my smartphone doesn’t do well with low light:

Flight of Rieslings

Flight of Rieslings, tasted from right to left

With a Dublin Wine Fest wristband, a modest sum entitles you to a decent taste of four fantastic Rieslings at Ely’s Georgian Wine Bar.  Monday was a flight of sparkling wines which I was gutted to miss

A Fancy Flight

A Fancy Flight

Castell d’Encus DO Costers del Segre Ekam Riesling 2009

Ekam Riesling

Ekam Riesling

Cool climate Riesling from the far north east of Spain (yes, Spain!) into the Pyrenees, with a dash of Albariño.  Around 30% of the grapes have noble rot, but everything is fermented to dryness, leaving racy acidity and lots of body without the easy trick of leaving residual sugar.  Would be amazing with all sorts of seafood or as an aperitif.

Sipp Mack Alsace Grand Cru Rosacker Riesling 2009

Sipp Mack Rosacker

Sipp Mack Rosacker

From one of my favourite Alsace producers, this is something that I could sip in the sun all day.  There may be a hint of sweetness here but it’s not a sweet wine – there are lemons and limes galore in there which keep everything fresh and zippy.  Rosacker is one of the best of the best in Alsace, and this vineyard near Hunawihr is home to the wine regarded as the epitome of Alsace wine – Trimbach’s Clos Ste Hune –  which would be in the region of €250 on a restaurant wine list.

Mount Horrocks Clare Valley Watervale Riesling 2012

Mount Horrocks Clare Valley Riesling

Mount Horrocks Clare Valley Riesling (this pic is the sweeter Cordon Cut)

Watervale is regarded as second in the Clare Valley subregions after Polish Hill, but for many people its wines are fruitier and more approachable.  Amazingly for such a young wine, this had already started developing some diesel aromas, and was thoroughly delicious.

Weingut Max Fed. Richter Mosel Riesling Spätlese

Weingut Max Fed. Richter Mosel Riesling

Weingut Max Fed. Richter Mosel Riesling

The Mosel has a strong claim for the best Rieslings in the world.  Vines on steep hillsides running down to the river have to be tended and harvested by hand, with several casualties every year.  Being so far north means that, even if the grapes reach high enough sugar content, their acidity is on the high side.  Traditional winemaking techniques advise leaving some sugar in the finished wine to offset the acidity, making for a refreshing but fruity wine.

Conclusion

My favourite?  You’ve got to be kidding!  They were all high quality, interesting wines.  I’d love to try the same four again but with food…

Classics… and new Classics

I was delighted to recently invite myself be invited to Classic Drinks‘ Portfolio Tasting at Fade Street Social Restaurant in the heart of Dublin.  Classic supply both on and off trade in Ireland and given their portfolio of 800 wines there’s a good chance that the average Irish wine drinker has tried one.

Here are a few of the wines which stood out for me:

Champagne Pannier Brut NV (RRP €52.99)

Champagne Pannier Brut NV

Champagne Pannier Brut NV

Given my proclivities for quality fizz (a friend and fellow wine blogger dubbed me a “Bubbles Whore”, to which I have no retort) it was no surprise to see me making a beeline for the Champagne.

Louis-Eugène Pannier founded his eponymous Champagne house in 1899 at Dizy, just outside Epernay, later moving to Château-Thierry in the Vallée de la Marne.  The current Cellar Master, Philippe Dupuis, has held the position for over 25 years.  Under him the house has developed a reputation for Pinot-driven but elegant wines.

The Non Vintage is close to a three way equal split of 40% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir and 30% Pinot Meunier. The black grapes provide body and red fruit characters, but the good whack (technical term) of Chardonnay gives citrus, flowers and freshness.  A minimum of 3 years ageing adds additional layers of brioche.  It’s a well balanced and classy Champagne.

Tenuta Sant’ Antonio Scaia Garganega / Chardonnay IGT Veneto 2013 (RRP €16.99)

Tenuta Sant’ Antonio Scaia Garganega / Chardonnay IGT Veneto 2013

Tenuta Sant’ Antonio Scaia Garganega / Chardonnay IGT Veneto 2013

From near Venice comes this blend of local and international white varieties: Garganega 50%, Chardonnay  30%, Trebbiano di Soave 20%.

Garganega is probably most well known for being the basis of Soave DOC / DOCG wines, whose blends often include the other local grape here, Trebbiano di Soave.  In fact, the latter is also known as Verdicchio in the Marche region where it is most popular.

So how is it?  Amazing bang for your buck. More than anything this is peachy – so peachy, in fact, that you can’t be 100% convinced they haven’t put peaches in with the grapes when fermenting!  More info here.

Angove Butterfly Ridge South Australia Riesling Gewurztraminer 2013 (RRP €13.99)

Angove Butterfly Ridge South Australia Riesling Gewurztraminer 2013

Angove Butterfly Ridge South Australia Riesling Gewurztraminer 2013

Angove was founded in the beautiful region of Mclaren Vale (just south of Adelaide in South Australia) in 1886, and are still family run and owned, now by the fifth generation.  The company has sixteen sub-ranges which span a large range of quality levels (and price brackets).

So why doesn’t the new World do more of this type of blend?  Lots of citrus zing from the Riesling with just a touch of peachy body and spicy aromas from the Gewurz.  The precise blend was the matter of some contention, with both (40% / 60%) and (30% / 30%) being quoted, though my guess would be closer to 80% / 20% as otherwise Gewurz would totally steal the show on the nose.

This would be great as an aperitif or flexible enough to cope with many different Asian cuisines – Indian, Thai, Chinese and Japanese.

Seifried Nelson Pinot Gris 2012 (RRP €20.99)

Seifried Nelson Pinot Gris 2012

Seifried Nelson Pinot Gris 2012

Internationally, Nelson is firmly in the shadow of Marlborough when it comes to both export volumes and familiarity with consumers.  Although Nelson isn’t far from Marlborough at the top of the South Island, it gets more precipitation and produces wines of a different style.

Neudorf is one Nelson producer which has received accolades for its owners Tim and Judy Finn, and Seifried is another.  From their website:

The Seifried family have been making stylish food-friendly wines since 1976. The range includes rich full Chardonnays, fine floral Rieslings, lively Sauvignon Blancs, warm plummy Pinot Noirs and intensely delicious dessert wines.

If you see the Seifried “Sweet Agnes” Riesling then snap it up, it’s delicious!

The 2012 Pinot Gris has an Alsace Grand Cru standard and style nose – so much stone fruit, exotic fruit and floral notes.  On the palate these are joined by spice, pear and ginger.  This would be a great food wine with its comforting texture

For my personal taste it would be even better with a touch more residual sugar than its 5g/L, but that’s just me and my Alsace bias.  A lovely wine.

Laroche Chablis Premier Cru AOP Chantrerie 2011 (RRP €32.99)

Laroche Chablis Premier Cru AOP Chantrerie 2011

Laroche Chablis Premier Cru AOP Chantrerie 2011

More than just Chardonnay, more than just Chablis…in fact this is more than just 1er Cru Chablis, it’s a great effort.  There’s a hint of something special on the nose but it really delivers on the palate – it just sings.

Laroche tells us that the fruit is sourced from several Premier Cru vineyards such as Vosgros, Vaucoupins and Vaulignau (I don’t know if selection is alphabetical…) and then blended together so the wine is more than the sum of its parts.

The majority (88%) is aged in stainless steel and the remainder (12%) in oak barrels. The texture and palate weight might lead you to believe that more oak was involved, but this also comes from nine months ageing on fine lees and the minimal filtration. Full info here.

Thanks to Classic Drinks and venue hosts Fade Street Social!

Five of the best Reds from Sweeney’s Wine Fair

I’ve already picked out five whites from the Sweeney’s Wine Fair that really impressed me, so now it’s turn for my selection of reds.  But first a brief introduction of the people behind the name:

Finian Sweeney, proprietor

Finian Sweeney, proprietor, after winning another award

Kevin (R) about to host the Wines of the Year Award & glamourous guest Tara (L)

Kevin (R) about to host the Wines of the Year Award & glamourous guest Tara (L)

Lynda (with a "y") enjoying dessert at a food & wine matching meal, the last night of the Sweeney's Learn About Wine Course

Lynda (with a “y”) enjoying dessert at a food & wine matching meal, the last night of the Sweeney’s Learn About Wine Course

Apparently, for those who like that sort of thing, Sweeney’s also have a great range of artisan cheese from Sheridan’s cheesemonger.

So now for the reds:

5 Vigneti Del Salento I Muri IGT Puglia 2012 (Liberty Wines, €15.95, 2 for €28.00)

Vigneti Del Salento I Muri IGT Puglia 2012

Vigneti Del Salento I Muri IGT Puglia 2012

Grape: Negroamaro

A favourite with Sweeney’s staff and customers alike for a few years, I Muri hails from the heel of Italy – the beautiful region of Puglia. The most important local grape is Negroamaro, literally translated as “black and bitter”, and while this wine is listed as a 100% varietal Negroamaro it shows no bitterness. It does have black – blackberry and blackcurrant fruit, with a savoury edge but a polished finish.

4 Herdade de Rocim “Rocim” VR Alentejano 2010 (Grace Campbell Wines, €19.00)

Herdade de Rocim “Rocim” VR Alentejano 2010

Herdade de Rocim “Rocim” VR Alentejano 2010

Grapes: Aragonez / Alicante Bouchet / Others

Aragonez is the Portuguese name for the grape known as Tempranillo in Spain (well, in Rioja at least).  Alicante Bouchet is a teinturier, the term for a (very rare) type of grape with red flesh, so both the skin and flesh give colour to a wine.

Do you remember the scene in the film Ratatouille where restaurant critic Anton Ego tastes the eponymous dish and is instantly transported to his childhood?  Tasting Herdade de Rocim gave me exactly the same sensation, except I was magically transported to a summer barbecue, drinking wine.  I think it’s a sign.

3 Marchese Antinori “Marchese” Riserva DOCG Chianti Classico 2006 (Findlater WSG, €28.00)

Marchese Antinori “Marchese” Riserva DOCG Chianti Classico 2006

Marchese Antinori “Marchese” Riserva DOCG Chianti Classico 2006

Grape: Sangiovese

Check out the vintage!  The current release is 2011, so it’s quite rare to see older vintages on the shelves, even in a good independent wine merchants, but this is entirely deliberate; Finian bought several cases of this when it was released and has kept it in bond to be released when ready.  And boy, is it ready!

It has all the hallmarks of good Chianti Classico – liquorice, tobacco, acidity, tannin, black cherry – but the extra years maturing have seen them knit into a smooth, harmonious whole.  I think it’s now closer in style to its big brother Badia a Passignano, which still remains the smoothest Chianti I’ve experienced.

Hearsay at the Wine Fair suggested I might be in the minority liking this bottle (it’s not the first time and certainly won’t be the last time I’m in a minority); reflection has led me to believe that some people who are used to drinking young Chianti prefer, or at least expect, the components mentioned above to stand out individually.  If that is more to your taste then I suggest trying the 2011 Marchese, reviewed here.

2 Torres “Celeste” Crianza DOCa Ribera del Duero 2011 (Findlater WSG, €20.00, 2 for €34.00)

Torres “Celeste” Crianza DOCa Ribera del Duero

Torres “Celeste” Crianza DOCa Ribera del Duero

Grape: Tempranillo

While also in the north of Spain and often using the same grapes as Rioja, Ribera del Duero isn’t a clone of its more famous counterpart. For a long time only the renowned Vega Sicilia made wines drunk elsewhere in Spain, never mind exported. Now the region’s reputation is on the up, with national heavyweights such as Torres joining the ranks of local producers.

Tempranillo here is usually known as Tinto Fino, and often has support from Bordeaux grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec. However, even on its own it can show darker fruit than in Rioja.

Celeste has a nice name and a pretty bottle, but the contents surpass both of them. Bright red and black fruit are offset by creamy vanilla from the oak. It has wild strawberries rather than the poly-tunnel farmed ones that cheap Rioja can have, with blackberry and cherry riding shotgun. It’s a serious wine, yet it’s a fun wine.

1 Domaine Treloar “Le Ciel Vide” AC Cotes de Roussillon 2012 (Distinctive Drinks, €16.00)

Domaine Treloar “Le Ciel Vide” AC Cotes de Roussillon

Domaine Treloar “Le Ciel Vide” AC Cotes de Roussillon

Grapes: Syrah (45%) / Grenache (40%) / Mourvèdre (15%)

This wine is a rockstar – it stood out as the best wine of any colour from the whole tasting as it was just so interesting and funky.  Lots of fresh berry fruit is accompanied by smoke, earthiness and just a hint of farmyard.

Looking into the story of the Domaine is fascinating – it deserves a full post all to itself. The name of the wine is a direct translation of “Empty Sky”, a Bruce Springsteen song, which evoke memories of 9/11 for the owners who were working just one block away when the planes hit.

The blend of this wine has changed every year depending on the grapes available locally and how each variety fared in a particular harvest:

Le Ciel Vide blend by year, measured in litres of bottled wine

Le Ciel Vide blend by year, measured in litres of bottled wine

I love the complete honesty of co-owner Jonathan Hesford when discussing the first two vintages of this wine (2008 and 2009):

I’m not sure how these wines will age. They have the potential to develop even more fragrant aromas but don’t have the tannin structure of my other red wines.

His honesty is as refreshing as his wines!

Miguel Torres Santa Digna Gewurztraminer Central Valley 2005

Miguel Torres Santa Digna Gewurztraminer 2005

Miguel Torres Santa Digna Gewürztraminer 2005

I’ll cut to the chase: this is the best Chilean white wine I have ever tasted

A friend recently opened a random bottle of white wine which happened to be a Chilean Gewürz*, not the most common combination.  On closer inspection of the label it was a ten year old Chilean Gewurz*!  Fearing something old, possibly oxidised or just out of condition, a few sips revealed something wonderful: a well made, maturing, but far-from-over-the-hill, delicious white wine.

One of my mantras on wine is that most of us drink wine too young – particularly white wine – and this wine only serves to reinforce it.

Miguel Torres Chile is an offshoot from the Spanish Torres family who have been producing wine since the 19th Century.  From the website:

Miguel A. Torres decided to begin the Chilean project on the advice of Alejandro Parot, a Chilean friend and classmate from his studies in Dijon (France).

Winemaking is ultra-clean and intended to have minimal impact on the finished wine:

  • No skin contact
  • No oak ageing
  • Bottled five months after picking

Notes on the latest vintage state that it is “an ideal match for shellfish (particularly oysters) and most fish dishes”.  Without doing extensive vertical tastings I can’t argue against that, but I actually think the 2005 is far more versatile than the above suggests – quite possibly as a result of bottle ageing.

There’s texture and much more body than expected for a white.  Acidity is still present but perfectly counterbalanced by the modest residual sugar (7.5g/L).  The exotic tropical fruits of youth are now a little more subtle but still present and correct.

For Alsace fans such as myself, this wine was a revelation.  Tasted blind, I wouldn’t have been shocked to hear it was from a big name Grand Cru producer such as Zind-Humbrecht.

I now need to work out how to collect more vintages of it…

*Note: in Germany Gewürztraminer has an umlaut, in Alsace they leave it off.  I’ve tried to randomly represent both parties in this article.  I’d like to think of myself as an equal opportunities speller.

This Summer’s BBQ Wines #1

The past week in Dublin has seen some unusual weather patterns – a big yellow disc has been seen in the sky and admittances to hospitals for hypothermia are on the wane.  In short, Spring has sprung!

The first thing any Dub does is to assess whether it’s warm enough to sunbathe – and to be honest it’s still marginal.  The second thing is to fire up the barbecue!  Who knows if we’ll get another chance to use it this year?

If you’re wondering what you could be drinking with your charcoaled oops I mean chargrilled food then this delicious South African Shiraz could be right up your street.

Disclosure: Sample was provided, but opinions are entirely my own

Bellow’s Rock Coastal Region Shiraz 2013 (€15.49 down to €9.99, O’Briens)

Bellow's Rock Coastal Region Shiraz 2013

Bellow’s Rock Coastal Region Shiraz 2013

As you can see the Coastal Region is a large region, with a considerable distance between the littoral and most inland parts – expect quite a big temperature variation.

"South African wine regions" by Western_Cape_rural_education_districts.svg: Htonlderivative work: Agne27 (talk) - Western_Cape_rural_education_districts.svg. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:South_African_wine_regions.jpg#/media/File:South_African_wine_regions.jpg

“South African wine regions” by Western_Cape_rural_education_districts.svg:

South Africa makes quite a range of styles of Shiraz, and the style in the bottle is sometimes – but not always – indicated by the use of Syrah (more Northern Rhône) or Shiraz (more Australian).

This is firmly in the latter camp, with big, sumptuous, sweet berry fruit and a little vanilla oak on the finish.  It’s closed with a handy screw cap and was still drinking very well five days after being opened.

It tastes like a premium wine and €15.49 is a good price, but €9.99?  Get several while it lasts and your BBQ reds are sorted for the whole summer!

 

And as an aside, here’s my regular soundtrack to the summer – at the first sight of sun each spring I always play Chicane’s “Behind The Sun”

Five of the best Whites from Sweeney’s Wine Fair

Sweeneys Wine Merchants, Glasnevin, Dublin

Sweeneys Wine Merchants, Glasnevin, Dublin

Sweeney’s Wine Merchants in Glasnevin recently held a Wine Fair to celebrate 60 years of business, and 10 at their current home on Hart’s Corner after 50 years closer to town on Dorset Street.  Find them on the web, Facebook and Twitter.

As well as four tables of wines hosted by suppliers there were also Irish craft beers from Kinnegar Brewery plus Gin and  Vodka from Dingle Distillery.  While I enjoyed the sideshows I have chosen five of the best white wines from the main event:

5 Pato Frio DOC Alentejo 2013 (Grace Campbell Wines, €15.00)

Pato Frio DOC Alentejo 2013

Pato Frio DOC Alentejo 2013

Grape: Antão Vaz

As the saying goes, if it looks like a duck, talks like a duck, then it must be a dangerously drinkable Portuguese white wine. I might have made that last bit up. It’s a quacker!

OK, enough of the lame duck jokes now. This is several steps above almost anything you will find in your local Spar, Centra or petrol station (Peter!), but without costing much more. It’s crisp and refreshing with zingy citrus.  It would be delightfully fresh on its own – as an aperitif or sitting out in the sun – or with seafood in particular.

The 2012 vintage showed very well in a tasting of Alentejo wines hosted by Kevin O’Hara of Grace Campbell wines last year.

4 Wild Earth Central Otago Riesling 2011 (Liberty Wines, €22.00)

Wild Earth Central Otago Riesling 2011

Wild Earth Central Otago Riesling 2011

Grape: Erm Riesling

Central Otago, or “Central” as the locals call it (well two syllables is quicker to say than five), is being feted as possibly the best place for Pinot Noir in New Zealand – and therefore a contender for the world outside BurXXXdy. But it is also home to some magnificent Chardonnay and Riesling.

This is just off dry, but you don’t notice the sweetness unless you look for it. Instead, there’s a kiss of sugar enhancing the fruitiness. If it was a young bottle that would have been about it, and very nice it would be too. But this 2011 has close to four years bottle age, so has now developed considerable tertiary flavours and (in particular) aromas.

Aged Riesling is one of the “holy grails” that wine aficionados look for, and of all wines that deserve to be given a chance to age, it’s the big R. To the uninitiated, descriptions of petrol, diesel or even Jet A1 sound far from appealing, but they are enchanting.

The aromas coming off this Wild Earth Riesling were so beguiling that they would have kept me happy all afternoon…though I knew there were lots more wine to taste!

3 Coto de Gomariz DO Ribeiro 2012 (Distinctive Drinks, €20.00)

Coto de Gomariz DO Ribeiro

Coto de Gomariz DO Ribeiro

Grapes: Treixadura / Godello / Loureira / Albariño

This is damned interesting wine that hails from one of Spain’s less well known wine regions, Ribeiro, close to Rías Baixas in Galicia.  Ribeiro shares many grapes with its neighbours in Galicia and just over the border into Portugal

Coto de Gomariz is a grown up wine, fine to drink on its own but perhaps a little subtle in that role. I think it would really shine at the table, where its freshness and texture would be a great partner for seafood, light poultry dishes or even just nibbles.

2 Herdade do Rocim Branco VR Alentejano 2012 (Grace Campbell Wines, €16.50)

Herdade do Rocim Branco VR Alentejano 2012

Herdade do Rocim Branco VR Alentejano 2012

Grapes: Antão Vaz / Arinto / Roupeiro

You might never have heard of the grapes before, but don’t worry, this is a quality wine. One of the attractions of Portuguese wine is that indigenous grapes are still used in the vast majority of wines, so there are still new tastes and sensations to be discovered.  As winemaking has modernised dramatically over the past few decades there are some old vines whose fruit is finally … erm… bearing fruit in the shape of quality wine.

There’s a little fresh citrus but it’s stone fruit to the fore here, peach and apricot.  It is lovely now but I could see this evolving for several years.  The quality is such that I’d happily pay a tenner more than the actual price.

1 Louis Jadot “Bourgogne Blanc” AC Bourgogne 2013 (Findlater WSG, €18.50)

Louis Jadot “Bourgogne Blanc” AC Bourgogne 2013

Louis Jadot “Bourgogne Blanc” AC Bourgogne 2013

Grape: Chardonnay

It’s rare that I would countenance picking up a white Burgundy saying just that – and no more than that – on the label. It’s close to the bottom of the many rungs in Burgundy and so is often used for collecting dilute, unripe and characterless grapes together into a big vat and charging money for the B word.

Jadot take a different approach and are highly selective about the grapes that go into their Bourgogne Blanc. I suspect that some were grown in more prestigious appellations and declassified, as well as growers outside the posh areas who value quality as well as quantity.

Oak is apparent on the nose, though at the tasting this was emphasised by the ISO/INAO tasting glasses which don’t allow Chardonnay to shine (or many grapes, to be Frank). As well as citrus and a hint of stone fruit there’s a lovely creamy texture to this wine, most likely the result of lees stirring. The oak is soft and well integrated on the palate, it doesn’t overpower the fruit in any way.

Real fruit, real oak, and most importantly, the fruit to justify the oak.  This is a real bargain in my eyes and was my favourite white wine of the tasting.

Highlights from the Lidl Xmas Tasting (Part two)

frankstero:

It’s #ThrowbackThursday so I thought I would reblog the post which has been most popular so far this year (outside of my Top 10 lists)…

…and it’s still a post from last year on some of the best red wines I enjoyed at the Lidl Press lasting. It just goes to show, that while we all enjoy fine wine, and I am occasionally privileged to try some great wines at tastings, it’s the wines that people want to spend a few more € when putting a bottle in their trolley with the weekly shopping that are most important to people.

Originally posted on Frankly Wines:

Part one covered the sparklers and the whites, now here’s a look at some of the red wines which I enjoyed at the Lidl Xmas Press Tasting:

Bordeaux Superieur AOP 2012 (€7.49)

Bordeaux Supérieur AOP Bordeaux Supérieur AOP 2012

This is traditional fare to go with steak or roast beef.  I’m sure someone could also recommend a cheese this would be a great match for…but that someone’s not me!  Ignore the Supérieur part of the label – it means the wine is at least 10.5% alcohol versus 10.0% for Bordeaux on its own – and in the last few decades missing that target has been rare.

Soft black fruit wrapped up in silky tannins, this is proper Bordeaux at a properly low price. A majority of Merlot gives plum and blackcurrant with just a touch of leather.  Decant for a few hours to help it open up.

Cepa Lebrel Rioja DOCa Joven 2013…

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Stanley, Andrew and Yves

Stanley's of St. Andrew's Street (Photo credit: Ruth Maria Murphy)

Stanley’s of St. Andrew’s Street (Photo credit: Ruth Maria Murphy)

In February I was delighted to accept an invitation to an exciting wine and food event at Stanley’s Restaurant & Wine Bar on St Andrew’s Street in Dublin.  The wines were from Northern Rhône star Yves Cuilleron, which gives us a full house of names.

The wines were selected by Wine Director Morgan Vanderkamer and introduced by Yves himself.  As one of the few other French speakers I was given the honour of occasional interpreter.  The amazing menu was put together by proprietor & Head Chef Stephen McArdle (nickname Stanley!) who takes inspiration from French cuisine in particular.

Cave Yves Cuilleron

Yves Cuilleron

Yves Cuilleron at home

Yves elucidates the history behind his family vineyards on his website but, en bref, he took over the family vineyards when his uncle retired in 1987 – he surprised his relatives by throwing himself into the family business.  He has constantly innovated and invested since then, building a new cellar then later a new winery, and expanding his vineyards across most of the northern Rhône’s appellations.

Stone and earthworks

Stone and earthwork terrace to help stop soil erosion

For around ten years, Cuilleron wines have been brought into Ireland by Le Caveau.

Stanley’s Restaurant & Wine Bar

Stanley’s has a wine bar on the ground floor, with a well-curated and interesting list by the bottle and by the glass.  Where else could you try a mini-flight of skin contact orange wines?

Stanley's Wine Bar

Stanley’s Wine Bar with super-quick barman

Upstairs is the main dining room – light and airy during the day but feeling more sophisticated in the evening.  The top floor has also been made available as a private dining room (no photos yet, it’s that new!)

Light feature

Light feature

The faux-military portraits are great talking points.

Portraits

Portraits – isn’t that….

So now we’ve set the scene and done a bit of a guided tour, down to business with the food and wine!

Canapés

Yves Cuilleron Marsanne IGP Collines Rhodaniennes 2012

Yves Cuilleron Marsanne

Yves Cuilleron Marsanne

This is a simple wine made to be drunk young, but is very approachable.  I was lucky enough (by virtue of my linguistics) to be able to taste the single bottle of 2012 available. There’s fresh peach and a hint of honey with a touch of breadiness from time on the lees.

Amuse Bouche
Yves Cuilleron Marsanne IGP Collines Rhodaniennes 2013

For his IGP wines, Yves tries to bring out the characteristics of the grape, which of course can be stated on the label for IGP wines but not for AOP wines.  Marsanne is often partnered with Roussanne in the northern Rhône but here it shines on its own.

Wild Irish rabbit, foie gras parfait, carrot, pistachio, pain d’epices
Yves Cuilleron AOP Cornas “Le Village” 2012

Yves Cuilleron Cornas “Le Village” 2012

Yves Cuilleron Cornas “Le Village” 2012

Cornas is a mono-cépage wine, i.e. it’s a 100% varietal under AOP regulations – and that variety is Syrah. Until relatively recently, Cornas wines were often rough round the edges, euphemistically termed “rustic”.  They needed time in the bottle to soften up, and you just had to hope that there was enough fruit left by then.

Yves’s Cornas is modern, clean and fruity, without being “manufactured”.  There’s power here but it’s from intensity of flavour rather than high alcohol.  Black cherry, blackberry and plum combine with tobacco and spice – the latter particularly hitting it off with the gingerbread.

When it comes to foodstuffs, some people can be funny buggers.  Unfortunately, I’m one of them – and rabbit is never on the menu in my house.  Out of respect for my hosts and fellow dinners I tried the dish – and was astounded!  I’ve been missing out on delicious things like this for years!  Bunny owners better put some good latches on your hutches!

Venison loin, cauliflower, apricot, truffle potato purée
Yves Cuilleron AOP Côte Rôtie “Madinières” 2009

Yves Cuilleron Côte Rôtie “Madinières” 2009

Yves Cuilleron Côte Rôtie “Madinières” 2009

Up to 20% Viognier is permitted in the red wines of this appellation, as long as the grapes are cofermented, though in practice it is rarely that high.  Traditionally Côte Rôtie is split between the Côte Brune in the north with dark, iron-rich schist and the Côte Blonde in the south with pale granite and schist soil.  Yves is more a believer in the importance of each vineyard’s aspect, i.e. which direction it faces.

2009 was a very good, warm vintage across much of France, including the northern Rhône.  This comes through in power, warmth and fruit – venturing more into the red fruit part of the spectrum than the Cornas.  There’s also both floral and savoury notes on the nose – sounds like quite a contradiction, but lovel – and an amazing match with the rich venison!

Extra mature Cashel blue, walnut toast, celery, salted caramel
Yves Cuilleron AOC Condrieu Moelleux “Ayguets” 2007

Yves Cuilleron Condrieu Moelleux “Ayguets” 2007

Yves Cuilleron Condrieu Moelleux “Ayguets” 2007

This is a sweet, Late Harvest style with some botrytis (noble rot).  The semi-dessicated grapes are hand-picked with several sorting stages from mid-October to mid-November, then pressed and left to settle.

It has around 100 g/L of residual sugar, but is soft and soothing without being cloying.  A simple rule of thumb for dessert wines is, does the acidity balance the sugar?  And in this case, undoubtedly yes!

As regular readers will know I’m far from a cheese fan myself, but I was told the Cashel Blue was lovely and went well with the Condrieu.  I can attest, however, that the latter was lovely with the salted caramel.

Mascarpone, white chocolate, pear
Yves Cuilleron Condrieu “La Petite Côte” 2013

Yves Cuilleron Condrieu “la Petite Côte” 2013

Yves Cuilleron Condrieu “la Petite Côte” 2013

This is the sort of wonderfully rich wine that a novice taster might think was sweet – it isn’t, but shows apparent sweetness due to abundant fruit and a slight oiliness in the mouth. It’s dry but not Sahara dry.

It was something of a bold selection – moving back to a dry wine to accompany dessert – but it worked because the dessert wasn’t super sweet, with acidity from the pear, and the honeyed notes from the wine.

Many thanks to Patrick, Stephen, Morgan and Yves for a fantastic evening!

Blogging Basics (1): Three Cardinal Rules to help every aspiring blogger improve their writing

recite-1er0vvx

I’ve been seriously into wine for over two decades, but only writing about it for less than two years.  Blogging is a great way of expressing your passion, whatever it is, and can be thoroughly rewarding.

The hardest part is starting, but then it’s important to get a bit of momentum.  I think these three fairly self-evident rules are the A-B-C of improving the quality of your writing.

Read More

books

Unless you’re a natural born writer, reading other writers’ output can help improve your own for several reasons:

Firstly, just seeing how other people use words can inspire you to use language better, how to express what you’re saying succinctly and eloquently.  We’re not going for the Pulitzer or Booker Prizes, but it can make your writing more readable.

Secondly, even if you’re knowledgeable about the subject matter, it won’t hurt to read others’ viewpoints, and the chances are that you will learn plenty.  Speaking just about wine, the more you learn the more you realise you don’t know…

And finally, for now, you can see what works in terms of structure, layout, titles, images, labelling – all the fiddly bits that take a while to get used to, even on easy to use blog packages such as WordPress.  They aren’t part of your writing per se, but they are part of communication, which is what it’s all about.

Write More

writing

Practice makes perfect, so they say, but even if in reality perfection is unobtainable, nothing makes writing better and easier than doing it.

It often takes a while to find a writing style or “voice” that you’re comfortable with, but just keep going.  In some ways it’s like speaking in public, with all the guidance in the world you need to keep doing it to put tips and tricks into practice.

If you’ve got a dozen posts under your belt, then take the time to have a rest and re-evaluate what you’ve written.

Edit

edit1

Some people can just start writing there and then, and end up saying exactly what they want in the way they wanted to say it.  I admire these rare beasts, but I am not among their number.

If your spelling and grammar aren’t great this is a must.  Even if your readers don’t judge you when you use poor grammar, as the meme goes, it can distract them from the content of your blog.

If there’s any factual content, then asking the google to check it can help to stop you from looking silly.

If you can get someone else to read what you’ve done, even better, as a second pair of eyes is always useful.

So for me, it’s much better to get as much down as possible, even if it’s stream-of consciousness stuff, then come back to edit it later.

And if your subject happens to be wine, and you’re “investigating” a particular topic, then it wouldn’t hurt to follow Ernest Hemingway’s maxim:

recite-psro0m

Neither fish nor fowl – what’s the point of rosé?

Either a glass of rosé or a dull-billed platypus

Either a glass of rosé or a duck-billed platypus

For a long time I was almost purely a red wine drinker.  Then, due for inconvenient minor health reasons I had to give up red wine, so I became solely a white wine drinker.  That led me to putting some serious “research” into white wine, so now although I drink red again, over 70% of my cellar is white.

But what about rosé?  It’s neither fish nor fowl, neither red nor white – why does it even exist?

It’s the duck-billed platypus of wine!

It doesn’t have the freshness of white or the pleasing body of red – it falls between two stools and does neither thing well.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that it’s the fastest growing wine category in France, so if you venture into a French supermarket you will see more pink than white – what gives?

This isn’t a rant about pink things for the sake of it – I’m quite metrosexual in my dress sense and will happily wear pink shirts and / or ties.

And then the solution finally dawned on me.  If it’s any good, treat a rosé like a light red and chill it very slightly, but drink it out of proper red wine glasses.  That’s what I did with this delicious Masi rosato.

Rose del Masi

Rosa del Masi

I do keep harping on about the temperature of wine, but it’s so important for acidity, sweetness, aromas and flavours.

It turns out I’ve been drinking rosé wrong all this time!