Make Mine A Double #03 – Contrasting Nebbiolo Wines from Piedmont

Nebbiolo is something of an enigma; it’s hard to love and definitely something of an acquired taste, but those who do like it, almost canonise it.  At the suggestion of Anne from @liqueurplate, a recent gathering of Dublin bloggers set to on a short tasting exploration.

Map of Piedmont / Piemonte

Map of Piedmont / Piemonte (Credit: Guild of Sommeliers)

These two Nebbiolos (Nebbioli?) are two very different styles – at different price points – which most piqued my interest from the selection.  Both are from Piedmont, specifically the Langhe, which is probably the region most closely connected to the grape.  The “King and Queen” of the region are Barolo and Barbaresco respectively are the most prestigious names associated with the grape.  I highly recommend Kerin O’Keefe’s book on them.

Guidobono Langhe Nebbiolo 2013 (€17.95, Mitchell & Son) 14.0%

Guidobono Langhe Nebbiolo 2013

Guidobono Langhe Nebbiolo 2013

This is probably the most fruit-forward style of Nebbiolo I’ve tried (though I don’t claim any expertise on the grape).  Although not austere, it does have the tannin and acidity that Nebbiolo is renowned for, along with roses on the nose.  But there’s also lots of juicy dark fruit which makes it very moreish.  A great introduction to Nebbiolo, and very good value for money.

Elio Grasso Barolo “Ginestra Casa Mate” 2006 (~€65, Sweeney’s of Glasnevin) 14.0%

Elio Grasso Barolo "Ginestra Casa Mate" 2006

Elio Grasso Barolo “Ginestra Casa Mate” 2006

Finian Sweeney of the eponymous Wine Merchants in Glasnevin imports this himself and recommended it to me as a serious, but accessible Barolo.  At nine years old it is now ready to drink, but still has some way to go until it hits its peak.

Elio Grasso is based in Monforte d’Alba, the most southerly major commune in the Barolo wine region.  They have just 18 hectares, mainly planted with local grapes Nebbiolo, Dolcetto and Barbera.  Elio Grasso makes three Barolos, which have been bottled separately since 1978 with an eye on constantly improving quality.

Elio Grasso vineyards

The estate produces an average of 14,000 bottles of this Ginestra Casa Maté per year from three hectares.

Vinification is modern – temperature controlled in stainless steel – before the wine is transferred to large 2,500 litre Slavonian (Croatian) oak casks for maturation.  Once bottled it is held back to mature further for another eight to ten months.

So given the much higher price tag, is this a much better wine than the first?  In my opinion probably not quite, at the moment.  I will qualify that by adding that, for most people the Elio Grasso isn’t that accessible right now, even though it’s lovely to drink.  However, with a few more years in bottle I think it could turn out to be much, much more than it’s showing now.  This is a wine to revisit towards the end of the decade!

Make Mine a Double #02 – Two Fresh Loire Sauvignons

This series of articles each covers two wines that have something in common, and most likely some point of difference. Compare and contrast is the order of the day – so make mine a double!

Two Fresh Loire Sauvignons

Giennoix & Sancerre

Giennoix & Sancerre

Two wines: same grape, same year, same region, different producers and adjoining appellations – the perfect way to understand the similarities and differences.

The Loire Valley is one of the most under-rated wine regions in Europe.  It actually consists of several different sub-regions by the course of the river which specialise in different groups of grapes: Melon de Bourgogne in Muscadet, then Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Gamay and others in the middle, and finally Sauvignon Blanc to the east.

Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé are the most well-known and prestigious Sauvignon areas, but there are plenty of quality producers in the others:

Central Loire Vineyards (DalGobboM¿!i? & Louis Kehlweiler)

Central Loire Vineyards (Credit: DalGobboM¿!i? & Louis Kehlweiler)

The Terres Blanches in the name of the first wine refers to white clay soils.  The producer is based at Bué en Sancerre, and also make Pouilly Fumé and Sancerre wines.  Coteaux du Giennois is a much less well known appellation next door to Sancerre with the vineyards split:

White: 95 hectares planted – 2,900 hl produced – 65 hl/ha max yield – Sauvignon Blanc variety
Red: 78 hectares planted – 3,200 hl produced – 59 hl/ha max yield – Pinot Noir & Gamay varieties (80% maximum of either variety in a blend)
Rosé: 20 hectares planted – 600 hl produced – 63 hl/ha max yield – Pinot Noir & Gamay varieties

So now to the two wines themselves (note: both kindly given by SuperValu):

Domaine de Terres Blanches Coteaux du Giennois AOC 2014 (€10.00, SuperValu) 12.5%

Coteaux du Giennois Blanc Alchimie 2014

Coteaux du Giennois Blanc Alchimie 2014

On opening this is obviously from the Loire, it couldn’t be anywhere else.  If has primary gooseberry on the nose, joined by quince and grapefruit on the palate.  It’s too young for asparagus characters, too Loire for the tropical passionfruit and mango which some Kiwi Savvies exhibit.

It’s fresh and juicy, not austere, with plenty of fruit. The initial big hit fades quickly, but lessens rather than fading totally away. Enjoyable on its own or – I’d imagine – with goats cheese.

Guy Saget Sancerre AOC 2014 (€14.00, SuperValu) 12.5%

Guy Saget Sancerre Blanc 2014

Guy Saget Sancerre Blanc 2014

Sancerre’s soils are a mix of Kimmeridgian clay, dry limestone with lots of pebbles and flint.  A typical example of Sancerre, this has plenty of green fruit but is also very mineral, perhaps even saline.  It has more acidity yet is somehow a little smoother than the Giennois.

Split The Difference

The Giennois is slightly more eager to please, whereas the Sancerre is a little standoffish – you have to make a little more effort with it, but it’s worth it.  Amazingly it is the more expensive Sancerre which has a screwtop while the Coteaux du Giennois is under cork.  I really like both of these wines; I’d be very happy with the Giennois any day, but to drink with fine food at the table then I’d choose the slightly more refined Sancerre.

Also see:

Make Mine a Double #01 – Paddy Borthwick & Pegasus Bay Rieslings

 

 

Make Mine a Double #01 – Paddy Borthwick and Pegasus Bay Riesling

When I’m hosting wine tastings, especially for less experienced tasters, I try my best to serve wines in related pairs to best illustrate the differences made by one particular factor.

For example, tasting a McLaren Vale GSM blend back to back with a Chateauneuf du Pape from the same year is more illuminating than comparing the later with a mature Barossa Shiraz.

And now I’m going to apply that principle to wine reviews – a series of articles where each covers two wines that have something in common, and most likely some point of difference.  Compare and contrast is the order of the day – so make mine a double!

Two New Zealand Rieslings

Pegasus Bay Encore Noble Riesling (L) and Paddy Borthwick Riesling (R)

Pegasus Bay Encore Noble Riesling (L) and Paddy Borthwick Riesling (R)

As well as the runaway export leader Sauvignon Blanc, NZ is noted for its Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays.  However, other aromatic varieties in addition to SB also perform well in many parts of the country – Pinot Gris, Grüner Veltliner and Riesling.  Here are two that I recently enjoyed together, from places with similar (at first) looking names but actually on different islands.

Paddy Borthwick Wairarapa Riesling 2013 (€14.95, Wines Direct)

Paddy Borthwick Wairarapa Riesling 2013

Paddy Borthwick Wairarapa Riesling 2013

Disclosure: Sample kindly provided for review

Although the name wouldn’t seem out of place in Dublin, Paddy Borthwick is a fifth generation Kiwi farmer based in Gladstone at the heart of Wairarapa, close to Wellington. 90% of his produce is exported, including Sauvignon Blanc (amazingly tropical, mango and passion fruit) and Pinot Gris (to die for).

Wairarapa (www.nzwine.com)

Wairarapa (www.nzwine.com)

Fairly pale in colour, though not water white, this is unmistakably Riesling on the nose – very aromatic.  There’s a sense of sweet fruit in the aromas, even though sugar isn’t supposed to be volatile (explain THAT, Mr WSET!)

The palate is tangy and fresh, with enticing flavours of grapefruit, ginger and exotic spices, lemon and lime – there’s striking acidity through the middle and a touch of sweetness, perfectly balanced.  Although this was lovely to drink on it’s own it would really shine with East or mild-medium spiced South Asian food.

Pegasus Bay Waipara Encore Noble Riesling 2008 (~£25 375ml, The Wine Society)

Pegasus Bay Encore Noble Riesling

Pegasus Bay Encore Noble Riesling

Pegasus Bay is one of the standout producers of Waipara, part of the larger Canterbury wine region north west of Christchurch.  They produce a wine range of wines from which it is difficult to choose a favourite.  I particularly enjoyed the Chardonnay and several Rieslings when tasting at the cellar door in 2009.

Waipara / Canterbury (www.nzwine.com)

Waipara / Canterbury

The Noble in the name of the wine of course refers to noble rot, Botrytis cinerea, which is allowed to grow on grapes left late on the vine.  This reduces the water content of the grapes, hence concentrating the sugars, and also adds complex flavours.

This 2008 is almost gold in colour, a combination of the sweetness, age and botrytis (here’s a reminder).  It’s lusciously sweet, but not cloying; the residual sugar levels are high but balanced by the acidic streak running through the wine.  Although now seven years old it’s still tangy, with rich flavours of peach,apricot and nectarine, plus some mushroom notes from the botrytis.  Above all it’s an interesting wine!

#MWWC19 CHOICE – How to Choose a Burgundy?

wine-stain1-3-300x300This is my (long overdue) second submission to the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge (my first was #MWWC6 – Mystery back in January 2014).

If you enjoy a variety of writing styles and subjects, all linked in someway to wine, then follow the central MWWC Blog founded and run by Jeff aka The Drunken Cyclist.

This month’s theme was set by Elizabeth of Travelling Wine Chick who won #MWWC18.

Many things have been said about Burgundy, many of which are true, but not all of them are true all of the time. 

One that remains a permanent feature of the region is complexity.  Burgundy is a veritable minefield, leaving many people – even knowledgeable wine aficionados – somewhat bewildered – there’s so much CHOICE!  And given many of the prices, the wrong choice could prove costly and disappointing…

Even more than Bordeaux, Burgundy wines are sold on the strength of their appellation. But with so many producers in each appellation, is this a reliable guide to quality? In a word: no!  Because there are so few quality checks to make the grade in each appellation, producers can trade on the name without necessarily concerning themselves with quality. For me, this is the main drawback of the whole AOC system.

But what about upsides?  Many wine aficionados regard (especially red) Burgundy as the Holy Grail of wine, something that transcends a mere beverage and becomes life-affirming.  I sometimes wonder if mastering the complexity is part of the attraction, whether that’s joy at an achievement or membership of some elitist club (those that get Burgundy).

Question: As it can take a life’s work to become intimately familiar with the area, how else could one navigate a way through the minefield of Burgundy?

Answer: Trust an excellent wine importer or wine merchant to advise you and help you with your choice.

Almost a year ago I was privileged to attend an excellent Burgundy tasting, courtesy of Le Caveau, a wine importer, wholesaler and online retailer based in Kilkenny.  I enjoyed every wine I tried, at quite different price points.  However, looking back on my notes it is obvious which wines were among the best, as I was almost struck dumb – my tasting notes for some are incredibly short and to the point.

For illustration, here are just a few of the excellent wines I tasted, with Le Caveau’s notes and my own.

Domaine Larue Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru “La Garenne” 2010 (2013: €49.90, Le Caveau)

Garenne 2Le Caveau: Light intensity on the nose with baked apple, spice, a touch of fudge or caramel. Dry, light bodied, open, fresh acidity, finishes with a really fresh grip of minerality. Med + finish length.

Frankly Wines: Nectar of the gods.  What do I need to sell to afford more of this?

Henri et Gilles Buisson Meursault “Les Chevalières” 2011 (€51.25, Le Caveau)

Meursault 2Le Caveau: 60 + year old vines in the lieu-dit of Les Chevalieres. A little muted on the nose at first, but the palate blossoms with ripe, peachy fruit, white flowers, gently toasted bread crusts and grilled almonds. Rounded, slightly buttery and ripe, with a long persistent acidity and finish.

Frankly Wines: Special, on another level from most other white wine.

Maison Ambroise Nuits-St-Georges “Haut Pruliers” 2010 (€46.35, Le Caveau)

Nuits-St-Georges 2

Le Caveau: Les Haut Pruliers vineyards are located on a very steep slope, just above Nuits Saint Georges 1er Cru ‘Pruliers’, at the top of the Nuits hill and at the limit of the forest. Hauts Pruliers has an enticing nose of lightly spiced, creamy black berries. The multi-layered palate shows great complexity, with flavours of red and black berries mingling with more serious gamey notes.

Frankly Wines: F**k me, that’s what it’s all about!

 

 

 

So as you can see, when it comes to both your trusted merchant and reviewer of fine wine, choice is very important!

Frankie’s Single Bottle Review #2 – Château du Donjon AOC Minervois Blanc 2014

Minervois is one of the names I remember from when I first got into wine as an impecunious student living in France for a year. Back in 1993 the appellation was still less than ten years old, and the wines were a small step up from the Vin de Pay d’Oc bottles on nearby shelves, but they were noticeably different from Bordeaux, Chinon and the like.

I was recently given a sample of Minervois to taste by the folks at Molloy’s Liquour Stores (an Irish off licence chain) so I thought I’d do a quick recap on some facts the Minervois delineated area:

Minervois

  • One of the biggest wine areas within the Languedoc-Roussillon region with around 15,000 ha under vine.
  • Of this around 5,000 ha grow grapes for AOC wines, with the rest mainly Vin de Pays..
  • Historically, the region’s capital has been the village of Minerve
  • In addition to the main AOC Minervois there is also the longstanding AOC Muscat de Saint Jean de Minervois (a vin doux naturel from the north east of the Minervois area) and the more recent AOC Minervois – La Livinière.
  • AOC Minervois covers 61 communes (villages, 16 in the Hérault and 45 in the Aude)
  • Maximum yields are 48 hl/ha
  • AOC regulations require the wine to be blended, so single varietals are necessarily Vin de Pays.
  • The vast majority of production is Red (84%) with some Rosé (13%) and a little White also made (3%)
  • The main grapes for red and rosé are Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, Cinsault and Mourvèdre
  • The main grapes for white are Grenache, Bourboulenc, Maccabeu, Marsanne and Roussanne
Languedoc Wine Areas

Languedoc Wine Areas

Château du Donjon AOP Minervois Blanc 2014 (€12.95 Molloy’s)

Château du Donjon AOP Minervois Blanc 2014

Château du Donjon AOP Minervois Blanc 2014

So to the wine itself. And the first surprise for me, given my experience, was the colour – a rare Minervois Blanc! Before doing a bit of research I hadn’t even known about the whites, shame on me. The producer’s name translates as “Castle of the Keep” rather than directly relating to dungeons, but it’s pretty cool anyway.

Their Minervois Blanc is a blend of Vermentino and Roussane. Vermentino originally hails from Sardinia, though is also known as Rolle in the South of France, as Favorita in Piedmont.  Roussane is well known in the Rhône and the rest of Southern France.

This is a fairly straight forward wine with lots of citrus and stone fruit, plus pleasant herb notes. It has good acidity which make it refreshing on a summer’s day, and could partner well with seafood or salad. Perfect for a summer picnic!

Frankie’s Single Bottle Review #01 – “Alambre” ® 2008

In with the Old, in with the New…

While on a family sun holiday in Portugal I tried several wines in the resort’s mini-supermercado, all of which were enjoyable and great value for money. Only one was good enough, and different enough, to make it into a suitcase for the return trip:

José Maria da Fonseca “Alambre” ® DO Moscatel de Setúbal 2008

Alambre Moscatel de Sétubal 2008

Alambre Moscatel de Setúbal 2008

Before opening I read a few interest notes on the box:

  • “Aged in oak barrels” – so expect some oxidative notes and / or darker colour
  • “Serve chilled” – makes sense for a sweeter wine
  • “This wine may become cloudy and throw a sediment” – hasn’t been over-filtered/fined, to help preserve flavour compounds.

Of course Muscat is one of the oldest extant grapes used today, especially in the Mediterranean. There are lots of different versions, often fortified in southern France as a Vin Doux Naturel. Sétubal is a peninsula close to Lisbon which has its own DO for Muscat – here called Muscatel.

When poured it had a gorgeous golden hue, akin to aged Cognac. The nose was toffee and caramel, good enough to just enjoy the aromas for their own sake. The higher alcohol was detectable on the nose, undoubtedly fortified, though not out of balance.

The toffee notes expanded onto the palate – every kind of toffee you could name – liqueur toffee, soft caramel, bonfire toffee. Soft and seductive, sweet but not cloying.
It has a long, long complex finish, quite astonishing.

This would be an amazing aperitif (with the proviso that you might want to skip dinner and keep on drinking it instead) or paired with a medium-sweet dessert. To be frank, I’d quite happily drink it on its own!

Think of this as a lighter version of Rutherglen Muscat – not as heavy nor as sweet. It’s probably the best Muscat variant I’ve ever tasted!

PS the price – less than €7 in Portugal!

This Summer’s BBQ Wines #9 Langlois Crémant

Better than Moët for half the price!  Do I have your attention now?  Read on…

If you’re in a happy mood and fancy a glass of fizz sat on the patio, this might just be your thing.

Langlois-Château vineyards

Langlois-Château vineyards

Langlois-Château Crémant de Loire Brut NV (€23.99, O’Briens)

Langlois-Château Crßmant de Loire Brut NV

Langlois-Château Crßmant de Loire Brut NV

Crémant de Loire is one of the many traditional method sparkling wines made in France in addition to Champagne.  The Loire Valley is home to the second by volume after Alsace; Burgundy, Bordeaux and the Jura also make good examples.  The method for Crémant is the same as for Champagne, but the grape varieties differ depending on the area, and the minimum time ageing on the lees is shorter than Champagne’s 15 months (for non-vintage).

Langlois-Chateau is actually owned by Champagne House Bollinger, who know a few things about quality sparkling wine.  The blend for this bottling is :

  • Chenin Blanc (a Loire white grape)
  • Chardonnay (the ultimate white grape for sparkling wine)
  • Cabernet Franc (a versatile black Loire grape used for red, rosé and sparkling wine)
Langlois-Chaâteau exterior (thewinesleuth.co.uk)

Langlois-Chaâteau exterior (thewinesleuth.co.uk)

As soon as you pour a glass the fine mousse and persistent fine bubbles show the wine’s class.  On the nose there’s rich citrus and red fruit, wrapped in lovely pastry – the sign of significant lees ageing.  It’s heavenly to drink, as the aromas flow through to the palate, with acidity and sweetness beautifully poised.

People who know good Crémants often mention how good value they are; while this fact is true, bottles such as this deserve to be assessed purely on quality grounds – it’s a damn fine drop!

This Summer’s BBQ Wines:

#1 – Bellow’s Rock Coastal Region Shiraz 2013

#2 – Château Michel Cazevieille Origine 1922 AC Saint Chinian 2012

#3 – and #4! Domaine de Maubet IGP Côtes de Gascogne 2014 & Venturer Côtes de Gascogne 2014

#5 – Byron Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir 2012

#6 – Lot #01 Mendoza Malbec Cabernet 2013

#7 and #8 – Quinta da Alorna

#9 – Langlois-Château Crémant de Loire Brut NV

 

Blogging Basics (2): Promoting your blog

Following on from Blogging Basics Part 1, these are some of the ideas that I’ve jotted down on how to increase awareness of – and subscribers to – a wine blog.  Most of them could be extended to writing on other topics. I’m not claiming to be the world’s foremost expert here, but they seem to have worked well for me.

Ambassadors in Wine Merchants and other wine retailers

fine-wine-3

  • If you recommend one or more wines carried by a particular outlet then that merchant is highly likely to be a supporter.
  • I think many merchants would be prepared to have business-type cards visible by their tills, or even offer them to people who are obviously interested in wine.
  • Nowadays business cards are pretty cheap, I got mine from Vistaprint – and then a Frankly Wines t-shirt for good measure.
  • Even without business cards it would be good to have all the major wine merchants in your town or city aware of your blog – drop in, buy a bottle and mention your blog.

Being noticed at tastings

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  • The biggest promotional tool for your blog is YOU.
  • If you’re at a trade or consumer tasting then whoever we are talking to should know about your blog.
  • This could be through wearing a T-Shirt or even something small like a badge – and if they ask about it, even better.
  • I have found the vast majority of established Irish Wine Writers to be very helpful and supportive – don’t be afraid to ask for advice.

Using Twitter

  • Without Social Media it is very difficult to gain more readers and more subscribers.
  • Tweets with pictures get far more attention that without, so try to put at least one appropriate picture up whenever you tweet about your blog.
  • Tagging people in pictures (up to ten) means you can have far more people tagged than mentioning them in the 140 characters of text.
  • Three photos looks the prettiest in my opinion; try to have one portrait and two landscape orientated photos, and add them in the order:Order

 

Ambassadors on Twitter

  • When I put up a link to a new blog post on Twitter, I’m very lucky in that lots of people like and share it, by:
  1. Liking my tweet (nice, but no big deal)
  2. Retweeting my tweet (great)
  3. Following the link then tweeting from WordPress (even better, as I can then RT that myself later)
  4. Reblogging on WordPress (fantastic, though quite rare)
  5. Liking on WordPress
  6. Leaving a comment on WordPress (shows engagement)
  • Some of these people are just interested in wine, some are wine writers/bloggers themselves.
  • To encourage this, it’s always good to thank people and take an interest in their views.
  • For the second category, reciprocation is also important, so help by sharing their posts and tweets.

When you post an article

  • It’s good to know who is likely to want the tweets (and therefore the article being linked to) read by more people.
  • For example, if I were tweeting a post from either Craggy Range or Nyetimber (two of my favourite producers) I would try and tag some or all of the following:
Category Craggy Range Nyetimber
Producers @craggyrange @nyetimber
Winemakers @crmattstafford @greatrixbrad
Regional Associations @WineHawkesBay @englishwine
Importers @Tindalwines, @HarrietTindal @libertyireland
Retailers / Restaurants @sweeneyswine @elywinebar
Brand Ambassadors @crmaryjeanne @EmmaLambie
  • Some of these aren’t always easy to remember / find on the fly, so preparation and organisation are important.

This Summer’s BBQ Wines #7 and #8 Quinta da Alorna

Quinta da Alorna Tasting Evening at Fade St Social

Quinta da Alorna Tasting Evening at Fade St Social

A few weeks ago I was the guest of thetaste.ie at Fade St Social where Colly Murray from RetroVino was showcasing the wines from Quinta da Alorna.  Representing Alorna was André Almeida, a true gentleman, who explained some of the philosophy behind each wine.  The talented chefs at Fade St Social prepared a dish to match each wine.  You can read a great report from the evening on the blog of my friend Laura.

I was very impressed with the wines overall, and will give a more in-depth report on the estate in the coming weeks.  What did strike me was that the wines were very good value, and were versatile enough to be enjoyed on their own or with food.  In other words, they would be great for a barbecue!  Here are the “entry level” white and red:

Quinta da Alorna Branco Vinho Regional Tejo 2013 (RetroVino: Fade St Social, Brasserie Sixty 6, Rustic Stone, Taste at Rustic)

Quinta da Alorna Branco 2013

Quinta da Alorna Branco Vinho Regional Tejo 2013

This white is a blend of two indigenous Portuguese grapes:

Arinto is known for its high acidity and citrus aromas and flavours.  It’s also grown extensively in Bucelas (so much so that it is sometimes known as Arinto de Bucelas) and in Vinho Verde, where it is often blended with Alvarinho and Loureiro.

Arinto grapes

Arinto grapes (www.winemakingtalk.com)

Fernão Pires has a more spicy aromatic character, often with exotic fruity notes.  As well as Tejo it is also grown in Bairrada, sometimes under the pseudonym Maria Gomes.

The two grapes are pressed and vinified separately at low temperature (12ºC) in stainless steel tanks to preserve freshness.  The two varieties are then blended, cold stabilised and clarified before bottling.

What this gives is a wine which can pair well with lots of different dishes, as different aromas and flavours from the wine are highlighted by the food.  Seafood is well complemented by the lemon and lime of the Arinto and its cutting acidity.  Asian and more expressive dishes are well matched by the exotic fruit of the Fernão Pires.  Chili and lime marinated prawns on the barbecue would be perfection!

Cardal Tinto Vinho Regional Tejo 2012 (RetroVino: Fade St Social, Brasserie Sixty 6, Rustic Stone, Taste at Rustic)

Cardal Tinto Vinho Regional Tejo 2012

Cardal Tinto Vinho Regional Tejo 2012

Not to be outdone, this red is a blend of three indigenous Portuguese grapes: Touriga Nacional (30%), Castelão (35%), Trincadeira (35%)

Touriga Nacional is of course most famous in Port, and now “light” Douro wines, though it’s not the most widely planted grape in the Douro region.  Often floral.

Touriga Nacional grapes

Touriga Nacional grapes (www.winemakingtalk.com)

Castelão’s name is derived from the Portuguese term for parakeet.  It is high in tannin so is often a component in a blend rather than a varietal.

Trincadeira is another Port grape, also known as Tinta Amarela.  It produces dark full-bodied and rich wines, with aromas of black fruit, herbs and flowers.

Production methods were fairly similar to the Branco above, with the exception that fermentation took place at 23ºC to help extract colour, flavour and tannin.

This wine is another great example where a blend can be more than the sum of its parts. The tannins are soft and gentle, there are wonderful floral aromas on the nose, and lovely plum and berry on the palate.  Just perfect for barbecued beef, or a juicy steak from one of Dylan McGrath’s restaurants!

This Summer’s BBQ Wines:

#1 – Bellow’s Rock Coastal Region Shiraz 2013

#2 – Château Michel Cazevieille Origine 1922 AC Saint Chinian 2012

#3 – and #4! Domaine de Maubet IGP Côtes de Gascogne 2014 & Venturer Côtes de Gascogne 2014

#5 – Byron Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir 2012

#6 – Lot #01 Mendoza Malbec Cabernet 2013

#7 and #8 – Quinta da Alorna

#9 – Langlois-Château Crémant de Loire Brut NV

This Summer’s BBQ Wines #6

The first grape that many people (especially my friend Ciaran) suggest for a barbecue red is Malbec, particularly the fruit-driven style Malbecs that come out of Argentina.  Others take a different view and insist that Cabernet is King, and the extra tannin of Cabernet Sauvignon is required to tame a protein feast.

Who’s right?

Mendoza Vineyards

Mendoza Vineyards

Well of course neither are wrong – it’s personal preference after all – but there is a way to keep both parties happy – a Malbec Cabernet blend, the best of both worlds:

Lot #01 Mendoza Malbec Cabernet 2013 (€12.99, Aldi Wine)

Lot #01 Mendoza Malbec Cabernet 2013

Lot #01 Mendoza Malbec Cabernet 2013

This is a foray upmarket for Aldi, the discount Supermarket chain.  Now that we are gradually emerging from the depths of despair recession, wine drinkers are gradually willing to spend a little more, but still keeping an eye on value for money.

Aldi recently launched their Lot Wines collection, premium wines with a limited production of 25,000 – 35,000 bottles per wine.  That might still sound a lot, but in the context of the number of outlets they have in Ireland and the UK (at least) then it’s actually not that many.  Each wine in the series has its own label designed by artists local to the producing region and a tag with information about the consulting winemaker for each one. Each bottle is individually numbered which adds to the premium look and feel.

Mendoza wine region

Mendoza wine region

For Lot #01 the man with the plan was José ‘Pepe’ Galante, head winemaker at Bodégas Salentein. Most of the grapes are sourced from higher altitude sites in the Uco Valley subregion of Mendoza – the altitude gives cooler growing conditions enabling the vines to produce grapes with ripe flavours and a balance of acidity and sugar (sites further east at lower altitude might be too warm and produce jammy wines).  The grapes are hand-picked from selected parcels and matured after fermentation for twelve months in oak.

As well as the two hero grapes, there’s also a dash of Petit Verdot in here (less than 15% otherwise it would be on the front label).  As in Bordeaux, it’s added for seasoning and a bit of extra backbone – as a grape it’s very high in tannin.

So how does the wine taste?

Lot #01 Mendoza Malbec Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Lot #01 Mendoza Malbec Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

This wine has lots and lots of fruit, plum and damson from the Malbec intertwined with blackcurrant and blackberry from the Cabernet.  But it’s no fruit bomb, the tannin and acidity keep it well balanced.  It’s smooth to drink, but not so smooth that the taste jades after a glass or two.  The oak is there but accompanies rather than dominates the fruit, adding vanilla and spice notes.

I shared this bottle with French and Irish friends at a barbecue and it was very well received – one French lady almost falling off her chair in delight!

Disclosure: Sample was provided, but opinions are entirely my own (and Sabrina’s)

This Summer’s BBQ Wines:

#1 – Bellow’s Rock Coastal Region Shiraz 2013

#2 – Château Michel Cazevieille Origine 1922 AC Saint Chinian 2012

#3 – and #4! Domaine de Maubet IGP Côtes de Gascogne 2014 & Venturer Côtes de Gascogne 2014

#5 – Byron Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir 2012

#6 – Lot #01 Mendoza Malbec Cabernet 2013