Highlights of The Coman’s Silent Tasting Part Three

So part one focused on Peter Lehmann’s Barossa gems and included a joke about hand gestures.  Part two covered the wines of Lapostolle from Chile and Ochoa from Navarre, with a reference to Björk “It’s All So Quiet” (you all got that, right?  right??)

Now part three will showcase a flight of Sauvignons, amongst others, and the disclosure of why this tasting wasn’t as silent as it should have been.

The Sauvignon Blancs

The first flight looks at some of the more memorable Sauvignon Blancs brought in by Comans.

McKenna Sauvignon Blanc 2013

McKenna Sauvignon Blanc 2013

McKenna Sauvignon Blanc 2013

This is an exclusive to Comans as it’s bottled especially for them by Undurraga.  The name celebrates the historical connections between Ireland and Chile in the person of Irish-born Captain John Juan McKenna who played an important role in the rebellion of 1810.  Take a few minutes to read the details in Tomas Clancy’s post here.

It’s unusual for me to recommend an inexpensive  Chilean Sauvignon, but this is well made.  You’d never mistake it for Marlborough, but if you find some of those too much then this is a little more restrained.  The key word here is grapefruit – fruit sweetness but also acidity, making it tangy and refreshing.

Sablenay Touraine AOC Sauvignon Blanc 2012

Sablenay Touraine Sauvignon 2012

Sablenay Touraine Sauvignon 2012

In terms of bang for your buck, reliability and availability, it’s pretty hard to beat a Touraine Sauvignon.  If I were drawing up a hypothetical restaurant wine list it’s the first thing I’d put on there.

This one has the typical grassy notes of a French Sauvignon, but also sweet tropical fruit and grapefruit.  It’s much more expressive that your average Touraine, a better bet than a lower quality no-name Sancerre.  Perfect for summer on the patio!

La Rochetais AOC Pouilly Fumé 2012

La Rochetais Pouilly Fumé 2012

La Rochetais Pouilly Fumé 2012

This is a lovely, pure, almost “Riesling-like” linear wine.  It’s also an accessory to an embarrassing incident.  Now as you know at pro tastings there’s no swallowing, everything is spat – if you want to taste several dozen wines and remain upright, never mind drive home afterwards, it’s the only way forward.  Plus, not having so much alcohol in your bloodstream means your senses aren’t dulled and you can focus more on the tasting.

At the time of the tasting I was still recovering from a nasty chest infection – a colleague semi-seriously asked me if I had tuberculosis.  Now imagine a sudden coughing fit when you’ve got a mouthful of Loire Sauvignon that you’re swilling round and trying to interpret.  Instinct says spit now…but I wasn’t close to a spittoon, and so almost choked.

Thankfully the assembled members of the press were very kind and didn’t mock me which they would have been entitled to do.  Though one kind gentleman did suggest I describe this wine as “one which took me breath away”.

My friends, even wine-tasting can be an extreme sport at times!

Château de Sancerre AOC Sancerre 2012

Chateau de Sancerre 2012

Château de Sancerre 2012

Forget own label Sancerres in the French supermarkets, this is the real deal.

The Château is owned by the Marnier-Lapostolle family who Chilean operation featured in Part Two.  Both properties show the advantages of cooperation between winemakers from different areas; while the French influence can be seen in Lapostolle’s Sauvignon Blancs, for me there is a definite new world aspect to Château Sancerre – a roundness and suppleness to the fruit which make it caress the inside of your mouth.

The vineyards span four different soil types which, when blended intelligently, results in a complex yet focused wine.

Wither Hills Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2012

Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2012

Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2012

At the NZ Sauvignon Masterclass before the annual trade tasting this year, Kevin Judd et al. took us through how the marked differences in weather between 2012 and 2013 translated into markedly different flavour profiles.  Since then I’ve found it remarkably easy to identify 2012s blind – much greener, especially asparagus, and less tropical notes.

This Wither Hills 2012 wasn’t tasted blind but the asparagus character came straight through (I like it, some don’t), but with a tangy grapefruit finish.  Dare I suggest this would be amazing with an asparagus starter?

Undurraga TH Sauvignon Blanc (Single Vineyard) 2013

Undurraga TH Leyda Valley  Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Undurraga TH Leyda Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2013

So what is this?  It’s a premium, single vineyard Chilean Sauvignon Blanc.  Given how many Chilean Sauvignons are around £6 / €10 it’s quite surprising to see a producer move upmarket.  The first tasting note I wrote was “who’s just mowed their lawn” – it’s that distinctively grassy!

The grapes are sourced from a vineyard in Leyda Valley, which is only 9 miles / 14 km from the cooling Pacific Ocean.  There are some great Pinot Noirs coming from that area, but that’s a story for another day.  This 2013 vintage wine also belies its age – it has a smoother mouthfeel than one might expect from such a young wine.

So the key questions – is it a success?  Is it worth the extra money?  Right now I’d be happy to drink it, but I probably wouldn’t spend €24 of my own money in a wine merchants.  However, I reckon this will actually evolve over the next few years, so I’d be very interested to taste an example with some more bottle age to see where it goes.

The Best Of The Rest

If you’re all Sauvignoned out, here are some of the other whites which stood out for me:

Dr L Riesling 2010

Dr Loosen Riesling 2010

Dr Loosen Riesling 2010

For those scared or wary of Riesling, Dr Ernst Loosen’s entry level bottling is a great place to start. It’s fairly simple, though it has enough acidity to evolve more complexity over a decade.  It’s fresh and fruity with a touch of residual sugar, but it’s pleasant and balanced – so moreish!

Of course Dr L makes more profound and expensive Rieslings, but the true nature of the bargain is that you won’t feel like you’re missing out even if you’re a Rieslingphile.

Salterio Albariño DO Rias Biaxas 2012

Salterio Albarino DO Rias Baixas 2012

Salterio Albariño DO Rias Baixas 2012

I like Albariños on the whole, but my main beef with them is that they often don’t offer enough bang for the buck.  Meet Salterio’s offering which is a great value example from Rias Baixas.  It won’t be the best you’ve ever tasted but it’s remarkable at the price.

Protos Verdejo DO Rueda 2012

Protos Verdejo DO Rueda 2012

Protos Verdejo DO Rueda 2012

Not much to add here as I’ve recommended this Rueda several times before – it’s a cracker!

Muga Barrel Fermented White Rioja 2013

Muga White Barrel Fermented 2013

Muga White Barrel Fermented 2013

Rioja’s Viura (also Catalonia’s Macabeo) is a fairly neutral grape.  By neutral, I mean thin and often lacking in flavour.  This makes it a good base component for Cava, but can make for an uninspiring dry still white.  The winemakers of Rioja have long used two main techniques to add interest to their whites – oxidisation and barrel ageing.  As a personal preference I’m not yet a convert to oxidised styles, so such examples from Rioja leave me cold.

Happily for me, this Muga example is clean as a whistle and definitely worth a try.  It has 10% Malvasia in the blend and was fermented in new French barriques.  Maturation on the lees adds to the creamy texture, but it is tangy and fresh – a great example at a fairly modest price.

Joseph Perrier Cuvée Royal Brut NV

Joseph Perrier Cuvee Royal Brut NV

Joseph Perrier Cuvée Royale Brut NV

Good Cava and other traditional method sparklers are better than poor Champagne (the type you often see in the supermarkets at 50% off).  But good Champagne holds its own, in my opinion.

This is an almost-equal-parts blend of the main Champagne grapes – Chardonnay for lemon and freshness, Pinot Noir for red fruit and body, plus the often unfairly maligned Pinot Meunier for  white fruit and floral notes.

The Cuvée Royale has three years on the lees prior to disgorgement – far beyond the minimum for not vintage – and this is where the extra body and creaminess come from.  It’s far better value than a special offer Champagne.

 

 

 

 

The 75+ most influential wine peeps on social media

frankstero:

If you look way down the list, yours truly squeezes on to the list…surprised and well chuffed!

Originally posted on The Wine Wankers:

How The Wine Wankers appear on Klout

How The Wine Wankers appear on Klout

Over the last couple of months there have been a few “most influencial wine people on the Internet” type lists circulated.  They’ve all been quite good indicators of wine related influence on the net, within the scope of what qualifies to make each list of course.  I’ll briefly go over two of these…

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Highlights of The Coman’s Silent Tasting Part Two

Shhhhhhh!

It’s oh so quiet.

Not really.  Continuing from part one’s look at Peter Lehmann’s Barossa offerings, we now turn to a major producer from Chile whose flagship white I am a big fan of, plus a Spanish Bodega I hadn’t heard of before making top quality traditional-style reds.

Casa Lapostolle

Going under the tagline “French in essence, Chilean by birth” the house (“casa” of course) of Lapostolle is a Chilean outfit owned by the French Lapostolle-Marnier family, famous for the Grand Marnier liqueur.  Even before founding their Chilean outpost twenty years ago, the family was heavily involved in wine, particularly in the eastern Loire.

Regular readers will know that I really rate their Cuvée Alexandre Chardonnay (in fact I made it one of my favourite whites of 2013), how does the rest of the portfolio stand up?

Casa Lapostolle Sauvignon Blanc 2012

Casa Lapostolle Sauvignon Blanc

This is not your bog-standard Chilean Sauvignon, which can sometimes even be made with the inferior Sauvignonasse (or as I like to call it, Sauvignonarse) grapes.  For me this is where the French influence really shines though, it’s a great everyday-drinking bottle but would be fine to serve to guests at the weekend too.

Casa Lapostolle Chardonnay 2012

Casa Lapostolle Chardonnay

Casa Lapostolle Chardonnay 2012

The baby brother of my favourite below, how does it compare?  Well it tastes exactly like a junior version – gently toasted oak in the background and luscious tropical fruit in the mid-palate.  Grapes are sourced from the Casablanca Valley, fermented in stainless steel and then matured for seven months in a mix of old and new French oak barrels.  Bravo!

Casa Lapostolle Cuvée Alexandre Chardonnay 2011

Casa Lapostolle Cuvée Alexandre Chardonnay

Casa Lapostolle Cuvée Alexandre Chardonnay 2011

Nectar of the gods!  Melon and pineapple sing but grapefruit keeps it from getting out of hand.  Plenty of acidity to keep it from getting flabby and low residual sugar giving a dry finish.  The 2011 had 75% of whole cluster pressing and 25% of maceration into the press before fermenting. 50% was fermented in French barrels and 56% was aged in French barrels for 8 month (part news and part used) and 44% in stainless steel tanks. The wine didn’t go through malolactic fermentation which accounts for the strong streak of acidity.

Casa Lapostolle Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Casa Lapostolle Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Casa Lapostolle Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

As any wine student will tell you, wines sold in the EU have to have a minimum of 85% of the stated varieties, and therefore don’t have to tell you about the other 15%.  This Ribena-special Cabernet actually has 7% Carmenère, 3% Merlot, 3% Shiraz and 1% Cabernet Franc in the blend – and is probably all the better for it.  Cabernet can have a great attack and great finish but be a bit hollow in the middle – it sometimes gets called the “doughnut grape”.

All the grapes are harvested by hand and fermented with the native yeasts of the area (the subject of a future geeky blog post).  Maturation included six month in oak, 55% of the wine was aged in new barrels and the balance in second and third fill barrels.  If you like this style of wine (which I do), this is a steal!  Mint and chocolate really come through on the palate; tasted blind I might have guessed at my favourite red wine region of Coonawarra.

Casa Lapostolle Cuvée Alexandre Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Casa Lapostolle Cuvée Alexandre Cabernet Sauvignon

Casa Lapostolle Cuvée Alexandre Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Whereas the baby brother Cabernet above was made from grapes grown in the Rapel Valley, the Cuvée Alexandre Cabernet was grown in Lapostolle’s Apalta Vineyard in the Colchagua Valley. Cabernet vines were planted here from imported French clippings in 1920 – makes a mockery of the term “New World”

The assemblage for 2011 was 88% Cabernet Sauvignon; 7% Cabernet Franc and 5% Syrah.  It changes from year to year depending on how different parcels perform and hwo they work when blended together.  The vineyard is certified Organic by CERES, if you pay attention to that sort of thing.

100% of harvesting is by hand, then triage is done partially (77%) by optical sorting machines and the remainder (23% for those who can’t count) is hand de-stemmed. Only wild yeasts are used for fermentation; this, and the relatively shaded nature of the vineyard mean that alcohol is a relatively sensible (for such a warm climate) 14%.

So how does it taste?  It’s definitely a Cabernet, tannins are present and correct, but they are fine.  It’s approachable now but needs several more years to blossom.

Casa Lapostolle Clos Apalta 2008

Casa Lapostolle Clos Apalta

Casa Lapostolle Clos Apalta 2008

This is Lapostolle’s flagship wine, one might even use the unloved term “icon wine”, with a price tag to match.  Why is it so expensive, and is it worth the money?

The idea behind the wine is to use the best quality grapes available, give them the most painstaking manual treatment, and intervene with the winemaking process as little as possible.  For example, the fruit is harvested by hand very early in the morning (so that temperatures are still fairly cool) and then stacked in small 14 kilos cases (so there’s less chance of grapes bursting and either spontaneously fermenting or spoiling.  On arrival at the winery the grapes are 100% destemmed and sorted by hand.

After pressing, French oak fermentation vessels are filled by gravity which is the gentlest way to handle the must.  The native yeast strains that arrived with the grapes are left to their own devices, apart from temperature control keeping a ceiling of 26C.  Manual punch downs (as opposed to pumping over, for example) are used to extract colour, tannin and flavour from the macerating grapes over four to five weeks.

The juice is then racked into 100% new medium toast French oak barrels and left to go through malolactic fermentation.  After 22 months maturation the wine is bottled by gravity “without any treatment or filtration” – I don’t know if this precludes a dose of sulphur at bottling or not, but it does mean no cold stabilisation.

You might have noticed that the grape variety is absent from the front of the bottle.  The blend for 2008 was 73% Carmenère (Chile’s signature grape), 17% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot.  This is significantly different from year to year (another good reason not to put it on the front) – for example 2011 has only 57% Carmenère, 2009 has a dash of Petit Verdot (another minor Bordeaux grape).

And what is the result from all this care and expense?  It’s a monumental wine, huge, powerful and packed with flavour.  Keen tasters will notice the results of the heavy extraction process.  Although we are now over six years from the 2008 harvest, this still needs a long time to unfurl and even out.  If you want to try it now then I’d suggest several hours in a big decanter ahead of serving.  Personally, I’d buy a case and forget about it for five years!

Ochoa

Still in the Spanish speaking world, we now head to Navarre in northern Spain.  At one time considered part of the Basque Country, Navarre is now a separate autonomous community from an administrative point of view, sandwiched between the Basque country and La Rioja.

From a vinous point of view, it’s slightly more complicated as DOCa Rioja wine can include grapes from some parts of Navarre and the Basque province of Álava.  DO Navarra is for wines made in the southern part of the autonomous community, principally in the foothills of the Pyrenees.  Navarre used to be well known for its rosado wines, but now whites and especially reds are more common.  With slightly more relaxed regulations than Rioja next door, international grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are fairly common.

Ochoa are a crowd I hadn’t heard of before, but when looking at their website I learned that they are a family business who have been making wine for over six centuries – not newcomers then!  They make three distinct ranges:

The following three wines are from the latter range.

Ochoa Tempranillo Crianza DO Navarra 2010

Ochoa Crianza 2010

Ochoa Tempranillo Crianza 2010

Made from 100% of the early-ripening Tempranillo, this has spent twelve months in 225 litre American oak barrels (the same size as Bordeaux’s barrique) – double the minimum of 6 months for a Crianza.  The grapes come from the Santa Cruz estate in Traibuenas.

It’s full of voluptuous red fruit – cherry, strawberry, redcurrant, plus delicious vanilla from the oak.  Ochoa give food matching suggestions of grilled meat, stews and cured cheeses, but to be honest it’s might fine drinking on its own.

Ochoa Reserva DO Navarra 2007

Ochoa Gran Reserva 2005

Ochoa Reserva 2007

Now we have the Reserva level which means wines have to be aged for at least three years before release, of which at least one has to be in barrel.  Ochoa go a little further and have a minimum of fifteen months in oak. As there’s a step up in quality and price, they also use more expensive French oak along with the American oak.

Rather than being a single varietal, the Reserva is a blend of Tempranillo (55%), Cabernet Sauvignon (30%) and Merlot (15%).  The palate moves on from just red fruit to a blend of red and black – this makes perfect sense when it contains Cabernet.  There’s also a touch of mocha which I reckon comes from the toasted French oak.

Ochoa Gran Reserva DO Navarra 2005

Ochoa Gran Reserva 2005

Ochoa Gran Reserva 2005

I tend to steer clear of Gran Reservas.  I often find them far too woody and far too dry – a result of being aged for far too long in oak.  Don’t get me wrong, I like oak if it’s done well – but if there isn’t the fruit to support it in the first place I will happily leave it to others.

The general rules for Spanish Gran Reservas require a total ageing of five years before release, of which at least eighteen months has to be in barrel, and thirty six years in bottle.  Ochoa mature theirs in French and American oak for two years, and don’t filter, fine or cold stablilise to preserve as much of the flavour as possible.

The Gran Reserva is a Tempranillo – Cabernet – Merlot blend just as the Reserva was.  It’s a step-up in intensity of flavour and body.  Black fruit has almost totally replaced red fruit, and the mocha tones are right up front.  It’s a gorgeous drop, and I don’t find it in the slightest bit “woody” – hurrah!

Update: Stockists

In Ireland, Lapostolle wines are stocked by (amongst others)

Ochoa wines are currently only sold to the on-trade (i.e. restaurants) but in future are quite likely to be listed by:

Keep your eyes out for Part 3 which will include lots of savvy Sauvignons!

Sunshine On A Rainy Day!

If there’s one thing you can guarantee in Ireland, it’s that the weather will change during the day.  It’s not quite the “Four Seasons In One Day” that Crowded House sang of – the climate here is generally too moderate for those extremes – but rain could arrive at any time.  Sat outside in the sun at the weekend, I pooh-poohed the rain symbol on my smartphone’s weather app…

My friend and fellow ex-pat Laurent holds a barbecue every year for his birthday in July, and it has now become something of an institution.  Despite the usual poor Irish summer he has been lucky with the weather for several years now.  This year it was mixed – but I didn’t get wet so I’m all right (Jacques).

As the hosts and majority of guests are French, the format follows French protocols which are quite different to a usual Irish (or English) barbecue:

  • It stretches out over five hours or so – much more civilised than wolfing down food
  • It always starts with the apéritif, including nibbles, and often sweet wine
  • There’s loads of red wine on the go all the time
  • High quality meat on the barbecue is going to be saignant!
  • Sparkling wine with dessert (works as long as it’s not too dry)

Below I’ve picked out some of the excellent wines we had this year:

 Pol Roger “Extra Cuvée de Réserve” Brut NV

Pol Roger Extra Cuvée de Réserve NV

Pol Roger “Extra Cuvée de Réserve” Brut NV

The blend is a third of each of the classic Champagne grapes, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.  There’s (citrus and red berry) fruit and flowers in there as you’d expect from the blend, but there’s also a delicious aroma of brioche from extended lees ageing that comes through nicely on the palate.

Pol Roger is still family owned and was famously the favourite tipple of Winston Churchill – they even named their prestige cuvée after him.  You might just be able to make out the royal warrant in the photo above – the British Queen drinks it too so we’re in exalted company.

The non-vintage (NV) is also available as an ultra-dry zero-dosage “Pure” and a sweeter demi-sec “Rich”.  I haven’t tried them but my money would be on the regular Brut being the best balanced.

Muscat à petits grains Passerillé Vin de Pay d’Oc 2004

Muscat à petits grains Passerillé 2004

Muscat à petits grains Passerillé 2004

The Muscat grape is one of the oldest continually grown wine grapes around, and flourishes around the Mediterranean in particular.  It’s also one of the few whose wine actually smells and tastes of grapes.  Due to its antiquity it has had plenty of opportunities to mutate, so there are now over two hundred different varieties of Muscat.  The main four varieties used for wine-making are:

  • Muscat blanc à petits grains
  • Muscat of Alexandria
  • Muscat of Hamburg (aka Black Muscat)
  • Muscat Ottonel

In the south of France it is often fortified to make a Vin Doux Naturel such as Muscat de Beaume de Venise, Muscat de Saint-Jean de Minervois and Muscat de Rivesaltes.

This is a different kettle of fish entirely.  Instead of fortifying the fermenting grape must to increase the sweetness and alcohol levels, the Passerillé method involves drying picked grapes on straw mats so that water evaporates remaining sugar and flavour is concentrated.  It’s sometimes known as straw wine due to the process.

Having a sweet wine as an apéritif is a very French thing to do – and this oak-aged beauty was something special.

Cave de Turckheim Riesling “Marnes et Calcaires” 2010

Cave de Turckheim Riesling "Marnes et Calcaires" 2010

Cave de Turckheim Riesling “Marnes et Calcaires” 2010

Probably the best co-operative in Alsace, the Cave de Turckheim has a fantastic range of varieties, quality levels and styles on offer.  The Terroirs range has different grape and soil combinations.  This is a Riesling grown on marl and limestone and shows beautiful lemon and grapefruit cossetted by a hint of sweetness on the finish.  Perfect for a warm day and great value.

The Main Event – Les Cotes de Boeuf

Côte de Boeuf

Les Côtes de Boeuf

This is the “before” picture – it was so tasty it didn’t stand a chance of being snapped “after” being cooked!  A côte de boeuf is basically a rib-eye on the bone, but cut really thick as you can see.  Just delicious!

 Domaine de Chazalis Coteaux de l’Ardèche 2010

Domaine de Chazalis Coteaux de l'Ardèche 2010

Domaine de Chazalis Coteaux de l’Ardèche 2010

This was probably my favourite red we tried at the barbie.  It’s made in northern Rhône which is the original Syrah homeland, but just to the west of the Côtes de Rhône appellation, hence it carries the IGP tag Côteaux de l’Ardèche.

Like many a St Joseph or Cornas, it’s a very savoury style – smoky bacon! – with dark black fruit and a twist of pepper.  This example from the warm year of 2010 is great to drink now but would happily keep on evolving for the next five to seven years at least.

Wolf Blass Yellow Label Shiraz 2011

Wolf Blass Yellow Label Shiraz 2011

Wolf Blass Yellow Label Shiraz 2011

It’s a while since I last had this so I was surprised that it wasn’t totally over the top alcohol wise – 13.5% is fairly modest for a South Australian Shiraz, even in these days of modest ABVs.  The flavours and mouthfeel are pretty much what you’d expect – concentrated black fruit with a touch of vanilla from the oak, and quite chewy but with very restrained tannins.  This isn’t going to evolve into something fabulously complex but it’s very pleasant drinking right now – and it was a bargain at a fiver from Asda.

 La Domelière Rasteau 2012

La Domelière Rasteau 2012

La Domelière Rasteau 2012

Rasteau has long been an Appellation Contrôllée for fortified wines, but was promoted to AOC for dry red wines in 2010 with effect from the 2009 vintage.  Prior to that it had been a VDQS (AOC in waiting) and was also allowed to be sold as Côte de Rhône Villages-Rasteau.

Now we’re in the southern Rhône it’s Grenache, not Syrah, that dominates.  Big, bold and fruity at 14.5%, this 2012 is still very tight, and although it’s very easy drinking it will be better still with a few more years.

 Lindauer Special Reserve Blanc de Blancs NV

Lindauer Special Reserve Blanc de Blancs NV

Lindauer Special Reserve Blanc de Blancs NV

This is fab easy-drinking fizz.  The Special Reserve is a step up from the standard Lindauer range and so receives 24 months on the lees rather than the usual 15 – so it’s probably had more than many cheap Champagnes.

Being a Blanc de Blancs this is of course made from just white grapes, and it’s the classic Chardonnay of Champagne.  Lindauer source their grapes from Gisborne on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, an area noted for its Chardonnay.

 

Highlights of The Coman’s Silent Tasting

What’s a “Silent Tasting”? you may ask…one where talking isn’t allowed?  But hand gestures encouraged?  The mind may indeed boggle.

But no, a Silent Tasting is one where the tasters pour for themselves without the producer or importer giving them the background behind the wine.  The upside is that the taster can consider the wine purely on its merits, according to his/her palate, without any distractions.  The downside is that there’s no one to tell the story behind the wine, if it’s interesting, so it’s always good to have comprehensive notes provided in advance, as was the case here.

Taste In Music, Taste In Wine

Now I’m striking out on an apparent detour here when I mention some similarities between taste in music and taste in wine.  I’m not talking about music affecting how wine tastes (see this Wired article, for example).  Instead, I’m talking about the fact that, over the years, our taste in music changes and evolves, particularly as new sounds, movements and fashions come along.

The exact same could be said of the wine world – Chardonnay was the “in-thing” in mid 90s, only to usurped by Marlborough Sauvignon and Pinot Grigio.  In the 70s there was Blue Nun, Liebfraumilch, Black Tower and Mateus Rosé  Now it’s all about Picpoul, Albariño and Sherry.

Some people like being at the leading edge of fandom, and quickly disown anything which has fallen out of fashion.

I’m not one of them.

I still like Queen, Dire Straits and the Pet Shop Boys that I started liking in the 80s, though I love discovering new music.  I still like Aussie Chardonnay and Shiraz (as long as they are good examples), though I love Godello and Furmint (and yes, they have to be good examples too).

So what is the relevance of this detour?  The wines tasted from the Coman’s portfolio are fairly familiar – in fact many are personal old favourites of mine.  Of course, the wines will have evolved a little over the years, but they remain fairly modern classics in my eyes.  They aren’t all at the cutting edge of wine fashion, but they taste good and people still want to drink them.

 

Peter Lehmann

Back when I started exploring Australian wine in the early to mid 90s, the big sellers on the supermarket shelves were Jacob’s Creek and Hardy’s Nottage Hill & Stamp Series.  A step above that was Rosemount Estate (especially the purple diamond label Shiraz-Cabernet and black label straight Shiraz).  A step still higher was Peter Lehmann’s Barossa series – the Shiraz was great, but I actually preferred the Cabernet Sauvignon.

That preference still remains when tasting the 2011s, but it’s a very close call.

Peter Lehmann Barossa Cabernet Sauvignon

Peter Lehmann Barossa Shiraz

Peter Lehmann Barossa Shiraz

Like many in the Barossa, Peter Lehmann was of German ancestry.  In 1977, while working for Saltram, he was told to buy less grapes in from Barossa growers, but refused as he had given his word to them.  As a compromise he was allowed to start up his own company to buy and process the additional grapes.  When Saltram was sold to Seagram two years later he was forbidden from having a foot in both camps so he left and went full time on his own.  His loyalty to local growers and innovative methods gave rise to his sobriquet “The Baron of the Barossa”.  Although ownership of the company left family hands in 2003 (shortly after my visit!), the standard of the wines remained high.  Peter sadly passed away on 28 June 2013.

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  Peter Lehmann Futures Shiraz As well as the standard Barossa range above (too good to be called “entry level”!), there are other – increasingly serious – Shirazes.  The first is the Futures Shiraz 2009, named after the first wine Peter Lehmann sold under a “pay now, pick up in 2 years” future contract arrangement which helped generate cashflow for the fledgling business. This particular example is co-fermented with a small portion of Muscadelle, Bordeaux’s third white grape and previously known as Tokay in Australia.  This serves to balance the powerful Shiraz, just as Viognier is used by some producers in Côte Rôtie, Mclaren Vale and Stellenbosch.  Furthermore, it adds complexity to the wine’s aromas…             Next up is the Eight Songs Shiraz 2008 which takes a different approach from the norm for the Barossa. The fruit is from vineyards over a century old, meaning fantastic intensity of flavour from low-yielding vines.  The wine is matured in 100% new 300 litre French oak barrels, so it’s a wine for the long haul – though being Australian, it’s approachable in its youth. As any serious Aussie wine fan knows, 2008 was an amazing year down under – see how much of a premium the 2008 vintage of Penfold’s Grange trades as compared to other years – so this is definitely a wine to stock up on and drink over the next couple of decades.

Peter Lehmann Stonewell Shiraz

Peter Lehmann Stonewell Shiraz

And so to the flagship, Stonewell Shiraz, named after one of the oldest areas of the Barossa. When tasting this 2009 I was reminded that I bought my cousin Stuart a case of the 1995 vintage as a wedding present back in 2001.  I wonder how long they lasted?..I thought to myself.  The answer came out of the blue the next day in the form of a photo of some wine that my Aunt was clearing out from her late husband (RIP) Tony’s cellar.  Lo and behold some very nice Stonewell 1995! This 2009 is still a baby and needs lots of time to develop and open up, but my bet is that it will be spectacular             . The final Lehmann delight was the 2011 Botrytis Semillon.  As the name suggests this is a noble rot-affected dessert wine, with luscious sweetness and huge depth of flavour – and more to come as this will continue to improve with age.

To be continued with some Spanish and Chilean beauties in Part Two and some savvy Sauvignons in Part Three.

Last Minute Party

They say “Planning Prevents Poor Performance” – but sometimes it’s better to be a bit more spontaneous.  And so when my wife Jess suggested having a late-notice drinks party at the end of June, I chimed in with agreement.

Below are a few of the bottles which grabbed my attention – many of which were kindly brought by guests (you see what nice friends we have?)

A Starter For 10 – Sainsbury’s Blanc de Blancs Champagne Brut NV

Sainsbury's Blanc de Blancs Champagne Brut NV

Sainsbury’s Blanc de Blancs Champagne Brut NV

In the run up to Xmas 2012 this delightfully light and crisp Champagne was on double-bubble reduction – I ended up paying about £11.50 per bottle which is an absurdly low amount, especially when you can pay over twice as much for a very ordinary big brand.  At that price you don’t mind how many you open over the Xmas period!

The extra 18 months or so bottle age has helped add a little more funky complexity – it’s even better now, but I wouldn’t hang on to it until next summer.

The Blanc de Noirs from Sainsbury’s is great as well – especially with 25% off – and give more of a voluptuous red fruit vibe rather than citrus.

Random Light Whites

Random Light Whites

Random Light Whites

In a previous post on the Wine Society’s American Dream Tasting I mentioned Viña Litoral Sauvignon Blanc from the Leyda Valley in Chile.  That time it was the 2013, but the 2012 (on the right above) shows that well made Sauvignon Blanc doesn’t fade after a year in bottle.

The Muros Antigos Alvarinho is an Albariño-beating wine made just across the Portuguese border from Riax Baixas.  When showing it compared to some slightly pricier Spanish competitors at a tasting some years ago, even the Spanish attendees grudgingly admitted it was great.  This is probably a year or so older than you might normally drink it, but again age has been kind.  Available from Sweeney’s of Glasnevin.

This is technically a Vinho Verde, but not one of the lower alcohol types I mentioned here.

And finally, the beast in the middle – not a light white at all!  This is unreconstructed oaky Chardonnay, so beware if you don’t like that style.  The Montes Alpha range is great across the board (well done Liberty Wines), but in my biased opinion the Chardy is the best of the lot.

Riesling – The Prince Of Grapes

Riesling, Prince Of Grapes

Riesling, Prince Of Grapes

Some people remain unconverted by Riesling, but that leaves more for the rest of us.  The awesome foursome hail from the steep slopes of Alsace and the southern climes of Tasmania.

The latter was the oldest and the leanest of the lot.  Tazzie is generally the coolest state in Australia which has made it a perfect location for sparkling wine production.  It is now spearheading the cool-climate Chardonnay revolution as Penfold’s now source the majority of the grapes for their “white Grange” Yattarna from Tasmania, and Shaw + Smith bought a fantastic Chardonnay vineyard not too long ago.  Sauvignon Blanc has already found a home there, so why not Riesling?

South Pirie Riesling 2007 was lean and racy in the Eden Valley style – lime with a sideorder of lime!  Can be a little bit austere for the feint-hearted, but well worth a try.

I had seen a few of Domaine Muré’s wines in the past but it was luck and happenstance that I (almost literally) fell into their outlet in the centre of Colmar last year.  This Clos Saint-Landelin is from their own walled vineyard within the larger Vorbourg Grand Cru.  To be honest, it was nice but would really benefit from a few more years to balance out and open up.

I’ve already waxed lyrical about Bruno Sorg’s Séléction de Grains Nobles, but here we have a pair of just-off-dry Rieslings from the Grand Cru sites of Florimont (straddling the villages of Ingersheim and Katzenthal) and Pfersigberg (located close to Sorg’s home village of Eguisheim).  They aren’t sweet, but the little bit of residual sugar really balances the striking acidity and brings out the pure fruit.

A Brace Of Contrasting French Reds

Ladoix and Cahors

Ladoix and Cahors

A delicate Pinot Noir from Burgundy and a stonking 15.5% Malbec from Cahors provide proof that wines can really vary within the same country.

The Ladoix was quite flat for a good time after opening but eventually blossomed, showing red fruits sitting in a light crème anglaise.  It’s part of the Côte de Beaune, the sourthern part of Burgundy’s heartland the Côte d’Or.

The Cahors is a recent favourite from Sweeney’s of Glasnevin (it was my wine of the night at the Mackenway French tasting).  Tasted blind you would probably guess the big plum and bramble flavours were the producer of Argentina rather than south west France.

The Odd Couple

The Odd Couple

The Odd Couple

In fairness these wines aren’t a couple – just slightly off the beaten track compared to some of the more well-known bottles.

Wagner-Stempel Rosé Rheinhessen 2013 (available from The Corkscrew) has previously come close to wooing me before, but as my buddy Tara brought it round I had to give it a go.  Chris – you were right, it’s lovely.  I’m not generally a Rosé drinker, but more of this please!

Albert Mann’s Gewurztraminer Vendanges Tardives Altenbourg 2008 is a mouthful in more than one way – this is exactly how I like my Gewurz.  This late harvest beauty is something you could sit and savour at any time of the year.

The Grande Finalé

Belle Epoque & Dom Perignon

Belle Epoque & Dom Pérignon

Pretty bottles!  Belle Epoque is Perrier-Jouet’s prestige cuvée – it almost seems a shame to open such a lovely bottle.

Dom Pérignon needs no further introduction (otherwise why are you reading this blog?), but this 1995 example showed why mature Champagne is such a treat.

 

 

 

 

 

Barn-storming New Discoveries: Highlights of the H2G Tasting

So firstly to dispel any possible misunderstanding – H2G is short for Honest 2 Goodness as apposed to H2G2 which is shorthand for the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy and its associated online encyclopediaSo not really alike.  At all.

So now we’ve established that, what is H2G?  It’s based around a farmers’ market held every Saturday in Glasnevin, north Dublin, run by brother and sister team Colm and Brid Carter.  In the main Colm handles the wine and Brid the food, though of course there’s some crossover.  They sell wines at the market, online and wholesale.  The portfolio is imported directly by them, and mainly consists of sustainably-made wines from family producers in Spain, Italy, France, Austria and Germany.

And why “Barn-storming”?  Well the high ceiling and large open door of the venue bring to mind a barn.  Apart from the lack of hay.  And animals.  So perhaps a chai in the Médoc would be a more appropriate analogy…

The tasting covered a large chunk of their portfolio, including sparkling, white, rosé and red.  Here I’ve picked out a few which really caught my attention, though the overall standard was very high.

Great version of a familiar wine: Enrico Bedin Prosecco DOC Veneto Frizzante NV

Bedin Prosecco DOC Treviso

Bedin Prosecco DOC Treviso

Yes that’s right, I’ve picked a Prosecco to start with!  Regular readers may remember that I don’t usually care too much for Prosecco.  Yes, it’s the base of the famous Bellini cocktail, but usually a single glass is all I can manage before switching to something else.  If it’s only average quality, I might not even finish the glass.

Now this example surprised me – it was very pleasant to drink without being too sweet or flabby.  It’s not a terribly complex drink, with notes of citrus, apple, pear and peach, but sometimes simple is just fine.

The Bedin winery is located in the foothills close to the mediaeval town of Asolo, known as the “Colli Asolani”, fairly close to Venice.  As well as Glera (the official new name for the Prosecco grape) there’s also Bianchetta Trevigiana grown here, though that is most often used for blending or making vermouth.

This is the lighter sparkling Frizzante version; due to the lower pressure it doesn’t need a Champagne-style cork and cage so can be sold with a simple crown cap.  Happily, these means less Irish duty than most fizz so the tippler wins for a change!

Familiar Grape From A New Producer: Weingut Setzer Setzer Weinviertel DAC Reserve Grüner Veltliner “8000″

Setzer "8000" Grüner Veltliner

Setzer “8000″ Grüner Veltliner

Grüner Veltliner is Austria’s signature white grape, known as GruVee by the cool kids.  It’s a real mouthful in figurative and literal senses – it’s generally dry but more full-bodied than many other whites.  It deserves to be better known, though it’s always going to be more niche than Chardonnay.

If you like Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling then you need to give Grüner a try.

So what’s special about this example?  The other GVs made by Setzer are very drinkable, but this premium version sets itself apart by both the quality of the soil and the unusually high vine density.  In this 15 hectare vineyard vine density is right up at 8,000 vines per hectare, supposedly imitating that of the Côte d’Or in Burgundy, rather than the region’s usual 3,000 vines per hectare.  The competition between vines lowers yields per vine, extends their potential lifespan and results in more intense flavours.

The soil itself is described as loess (look it up!) over gravel and limestone, coming from a raised seabed – perfect for drainage (vines don’t like wet feet).

A New Producer, New Appellation, New Grape: Chateau Saint-Go AOC Saint Mont

Chateau Saint-Go AOC Saint Mont

Although there’s a lot of tradition in the world of wine, things do move pretty fast at times.  This appellation is located in Gascony’s Gers Department and got promoted to AOC from VDQS (the next quality level down) in 2011.

The producer, Plaimont, is a consortium of cooperatives in South West France.  Their wine production covers the appellations of AOC Saint Mont, AOC Madiran, AOC Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh and IGP Côtes de Gascogne

At the H2G tasting their entry level white “En La Tradition Blanc” was very nice, though on the simple side.  The Chateau Saint-Go itself was stunning, a wine you could happily contemplate all evening (as long as you could get a top up!)  Roundness and texture come from some oak ageing, but oak doesn’t dominate the palate.

And what is the new grape?  It’s made with Gros Manseng (which is familiar to lovers of Jurançon from further south), Petit Courbu (found in Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh AOC) and Arrufiac.  I have to confess I hadn’t heard of Arrufiac, but it transpires that its increasing popularity is mainly due to the raised profile from Plaimont.

So there you go, you never stop learning in the world of wine – and the educational experience is a fun one!

 

 

 

Alan Tay Jo at Sweeney’s

Sweeney’s in Glasnevin (Dublin) have just started listing several new Portuguese wines brought into Ireland by importer Kevin O’Hara.  Kevin was in the shop today showing the wines which were all from the Alentejo, hence the post title *cough* Alan Tay Jo which is a rough approximation of the pronunciation.  It is the largest wine producing region of Portugal and occupies pretty much all the southern half of the country except for the Algarve.

Just as in other European countries there are appellation laws, so some bottles here have the DOC Alentejo  mark, equivalent to AOC in France.  For producers wishing to use more foreign grapes not permitted by DOC laws (e.g. Syrah) there are the more forgiving regulations of Vinho Regional Alentejano .  I can understand why Portugal would like to preserve its heritage and not have it swept away by a Tsunami of Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz, but equally having international grapes in the blend does serve as an introduction to Portuguese wines for those intimidated by the unknown.

Officially, these are two different quality levels, but the reality is that one particular VR might actually be superior to a DOC – the producer isfar more important.  You may notice that, very handily for producers, the 2 labels look quite similar – something that Italian Super Tuscan and French Vin de Pays producers might well envy.

With the major disclaimer that I was tasting with a head cold, here are three of my favourites from today:

 Pato Frio DOC Alentejo 2012

Pato Frio 2012

Pato Frio 2012

This is the new house white of Michelin-starred L’Ecrivain in Dublin, chosen by their Sommèliere Martina Delaney.  One of my favourite “everyday” whites Provia Regia has been the house white for the last nine years so it comes with high expectations.

Made with 100% indigenous grape Antão Vaz, this is crisp and refreshing with zingy citrus.  It would be delightfully fresh on its own (a great aperitif) or with seafood in particular.

Herdade do Sobroso Sobro Tinto Vinho Regional Alentejano 2011

Sobro Tinto 2011

Herdade de Sobroso Sobro Tinto 2011

Made in the cork-producing heartland of Sobroso, this is a blend of Aragonez (Tempranillo in Rioja), the red-fleshed Alicante Bouschet (from the Languedoc in France), Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.

And it’s a beast!  But in a good way!   Full bodied with dark black fruit, chocolate and spice, this would stand up to barbecued meat or be a lovely winter warmer.  It had three months in American barriques to soften out the edges.  Great value.

Herdado de Rocim Vinho Regional Alentejano 2010

Herdade do Rocim 2010

Herdade do Rocim 2010

This was an altogether more serious wine, smooth and voluptuous in the mouth.  Again it is a blend of Portuguese and international grapes - Syrah, Touriga Nacional, Aragonez, Trincadeira and Alicante Bouschet.

This is gentler and more refined than the Sobro with subtle crunchy tannins balancing the red and black fruit.  Claret fans should definitely give this a try – far more wine for the money than is usual from Bordeaux.

Lower Alcohol Wines That Taste Good!

For those brave souls that clicked on this to read more, stick with me – this won’t be full or moralising on the evils of alcohol or telling you to drink less.  I’ll leave that to puritans and the government, respectively.  Neither will I be looking at Weightwatchers or Slimming World branded wines which reportedly taste of goat’s piss.  Having tasted neither the diet wines nor hircine urine this is hearsay, but I will leave that trial to others.

Instead I’d like to cover a few wines that I like which happen to be lower in alcohol than the 14%+ blockbusters which populate wine shelves nowadays.  If you fancy a couple of glasses on a school night that won’t leave you with a heavy head in the morning, this is the way to go.

As a general rule, these wines are grown in relatively cool climates.  The moderate sunshine means that grapes aren’t as high in sugar at harvest, but they should still have plenty of flavour.  Lower alcohol is a finished wine is the result of lower sugar at harvest and / or fermentation being stopped by the winemaker before all the sugar has turned to alcohol, which obviously leaves some residual sweetness.

There are lots of other viticultural and vinification techniques which can be used to moderate alcohol levels, including:

  • Picking early
  • Canopy management
  • Clonal selection
  • Yeast selection
  • Reverse osmosis
  • Spinning cone
  • Watering down (!)

So what should you try?

Mosel Riesling

Many consider the Model to be the spiritual home of the Riesling grape.  The cool climate imparts a fierce acidity to the wine, so fermentation is often stopped before all the sugar has turned to alcohol, leaving some to soften the affect of the acidity.  Alcohol levels of 8% are not uncommon here – that’s half the abv of some blockbusters from Australia and California!

German (and Austrian) wines have a fairly complex quality hierarchy based on the sugar at the time of harvest, though the RS in the finished wine is more of a stylistic choice.  If you see Trocken then the wine should taste pretty dry.

Hunter Valley Semillon

I have already established myself as a fan of this style, delicious as a fresh blast of lemon or as a mature, honey and toast loaded beauty.  Alcohol levels here are usually between 10.0% and 11.5% – but they don’t feel to be lacking it when you drink them, the sign of a good, balanced wine.

McWilliams Mount Pleasant Elizabeth is a good entry level, though of course Tyrrell’s Vat 1 is the famous star of the area.

Vinho Verde

North and East of the Port producing region Douro, Vinho Verde produces light white, rosé and red wines.  They exhibit fresh acidity and sometimes a light spritz and may not exceed 11.5% apart from one exception*.  Vinho Verde doesn’t have the best reputation, but this is undeserved – the wines won’t be the most complex but they can be delightful in summer.  Modern wine-making techniques have dramatically improved the average quality level.

*The exception is for Alvarinho (the same grape as Albariño just over the border into Galicia) from the areas around the town of Monção

Moscato d’Asti

Erm are we getting into Asti Spumante territory here?  Yes we are!  But don’t worry, like many bad memories of the ’70s, the modern truth is actually far more palatable than the shuddering recollections of the past.

This is a fizzy dessert wine made soley from the grapey grape, Moscato (often known as Muscat).  It often clocks in as low as 5% so it’s the same as many beers, but please use a wine glass, not a pint glass!

North East Italian Reds

The twins of Valpolicella and the even lighter Bardolino are made from Corvina (great), Rondinella and Molinara (neither that great) in the Veneto area between Venice and Lake Garda.  Nowadays the turbocharged Amarone della Valpolicella takes the column inches in wine reviews – and I happen to be a big fan – but at ~15% it doesn’t meet what we’re after here.  The regular table wines can be very pleasant drinking but weighing in at 11.5% or so.  There are unsubstantiated rumours that the beefier Valpolicella wines have been pumped up with stronger southern Italian reds, but surely the wine industry is free from adulteration nowadays??

Forrest Estate ‘The Doctors’

Forrest Estate in Marlborough was set up by the husband and wife team Dr John and Dr Brigid Forrest in 1988.  As well as the usual grapes Marlborough fare they make wine with a few more unusual grapes.  One of these is the Austrian black grape St Laurent which makes a light to medium bodied wine somewhere in between Pinot Noir and cool climate Syrah, though its parentage is still unproven. This comes under their sub brand The Doctors’ and has a lunchtime-friendly 11.0% on the label.

They also make a Riesling under this label which has a Mosel-like 8.5% – give it a try!

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I Know What I Like – Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc – Part 3

So, Marlborough lovers, we did a tour of New Zealand in part one and then cast the Sauvignon Blanc net further in part two.  Now we can begin to look at the broader horizon of other grapes in a similar(ish) style.  This could run to 20,000 words so I will highlight the main wines that a savvy Savvy lover should try (see what I did there?) and ones which are fairly widely available.

Spanish Whites

Some of you might be perplexed at seeing Spanish whites mentioned as an alternative to Marlborough Sauvignon, especially given some of the oxidised muck that got produced there in the past.  But Spain is probably the most exciting European country for wine at the moment, reinventing itself and applying modern viticultural and wine-making techniques to traditional grapes and areas.

Many of these grapes are indigenous to Spain, and whereas some such as Garnacha and Cariñena were adopted elsewhere in the southern Mediterranean, lots of them remain rooted in España.

Rueda

So, to begin at the beginning; Rueda is a small principally white wine region between the rugged red regions of Toro and Ribero del Duero.  For much of its history it was planted with Jerez’s Palomino Fino grape and a rustic sherry style was made there.  A few dry whites were made here and there from the Verdejo grape, but this practice was substantially boosted by the Rioja house Marqués de Riscal and now this is the main output of the region.

I mention Rueda first as a Marlborough alternative for a couple of reasons: firstly, it can be made with Sauvignon Blanc, even as a single varietal (and is usually labelled thus).  Secondly, even if made with no SB it can often show plenty of Sauvignon characteristics.  Macebeo (aka Viura) is also permitted in the blend.

Which to try?  Rueda is one of the most reliable wines around, but some stand out more than others.  Telmo Rodroguez’s Basa was the first quality Rueda that turned my head and remains a firm favourite to this day.  Marqués de Riscal produce both Sauvignon Blanc and Verdejo based wines here, so try both to compare and contrast.  A more recent discovery for me in both restaurants and wine merchants was Protos Verdejo – a fine example at a very reasonable price.

Protos Rueda Verdejo 2012

Albariño

Some wines are more known by their appellation, but others (even in the Old World) are better known by their principal grape.  Of course in Albariño’s case it could just be that the grape’s name is easier to pronounce for furriners than Rías Baixas, the main appellation in North West Spain where it is grown.  For the record it’s pronounced something like ree-ash bye-shass.

And it’s still fairly trendy, which means it can be overpriced, but the good ones are worth it.  And like Sauvignon Blanc, sometimes more complex examples are made with lees stirring and time in barrel.  For the latter, try something like Pazo Señorans Selección de Añada, or for a more straightforward, younger, example try something by Brandal.

Godello

The homeland of this grape is also North West Spain, both in Valdeorras (in Galicia, above Portugal) and Bierzo (just slightly further east, into Castilla Y Leon).  Again we have some pioneers to be thankful for.

Valdesil are the biggest vineyard owners and producers.  They make four different quality levels, starting with the fresh and simple Montenovo from vines around the Valdeorras area, then the Valdesil Sobre Lias which is more concentrated and has creamy lees characteristics.  Next up is  Pezas da Portela which (as linguists may guess) is made from individually vinified selected plots of the slate-soiled Portela vineyard.  Subtle oak tones add to the complexity.  Finally, the Valdesil range topper is Pedrouzos which has their oldest vines (claimed to be three generations old).

Telmo Rodriguez turns up here again (what’s the opposite of a bad penny?) with his Gabo do Xil Godellos.  This is and unoaked and refreshing example grown on granite and slate soils.

The King of Godello, if there were such a person, would probably be the quality fanatical Rafael Palacios.  His entry level Bolo is made in stainless steel whereas the Louro de Bolo spends four months in tight grained Norman oak foudres – the size means there is little obvious oak flavour imparted to the wine, but subtle oxygenation makes for a smoother wine.  Rafa’s top wine, reckoned by many to be the best white wine in Spain, is his As Sortes.  Still 100% Godello, but with more concentration and a lick of oak, it will develop over several years.

This is my personal favourite Godello – it isn’t cheap, but it’s worth it!

What this space for more Marlborough Sauvignon alternatives!

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