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! 

Restaurant Review: Mourne Seafood bar, Grand Canal Dock, Dublin

Mourne Seafood Bar Exterior

Mourne Seafood Bar Exterior

Originally in Belfast, Mourne Seafood Bar also has venues in Dundrum (the other Dundrum, not the one in south Dublin) and at Grand Canal Dock close to the Liffey.  Considering the size, importance and location of Dublin there are very few seafood restaurants here, so this is a welcome addition.

Mourne also has an excellent wine list, with plenty of red wines which might surprise some.  My review will concentrate on the liquids and then my friend Jayne will give an account of her visit.

A Wino’s View

Mourne Seafood Bar interior, looking over Grand Canal Dock

Mourne Seafood Bar interior, looking over Grand Canal Dock

I’m not very adventurous when it comes to seafood – fish and chips will do me just fine most of the time.  As it happens Mourne do the best fish and chips that I’ve tasted in any restaurant in Dublin, and the portions are fantastic, so I tend to stick to what I know and like.

On a recent visit I did venture slightly off piste and tried the Chowder (excellent) and the Moules Provençales (excellent and filling).  If you like seafood you owe it to yourself to give it a try.

So now I will move onto some of the wines I’ve tried and loved:

Sartarelli Verdicchio Spumante, Marche, Italy

Sartarelli Verdicchio Spumante Brut NV

Sartarelli Verdicchio Spumante Brut NV

In the April edition of TheTaste.ie I reviewed the still Verdicchio from this producer as it was poured at the Ely BIG Tasting in March, and it was a winner.  By happenstance the still wine was only there by accident, it was this Spumante which was supposed to be shown.

Not to miss out I tried it at Mourne and was very impressed.  It’s a proper wine, with plenty of zippy acidity and citrus flavour to serve as an aperitif, with seafood (makes sense!) or on its own.

La Piuma “Terre di Chieti” Pecorino, Marche, Italy

La Piuma “Terre di Chieti” Pecorino, Marche

La Piuma “Terre di Chieti” Pecorino, Marche

As a renowned cheese hater I was obviously wary of something with “Pecorino” on the label, but the beauty of wines-by-the-glass means you don’t have to take a chance on a whole bottle.  There’s flowers, soft stone fruit and racy acidity, plus a little more texture and interest than you get from everyday Italian whites.

I would be interested to see how this ages.  Take the plunge and try this wine!

Soalheiro “Allo”Alvarinho & Loureiro, Vinho Regional Minho, Portugal

 Alvarinho/Loureiro

Quinta de Soalheiro Vinho Regional Minho Allo

To be clear: this is nothing to do with Michelle from the Resistance, Réné or the Fallen Madonna with the…erm…you know whats.

This is a delicious white wine from the Vinho Verde area of northern Portugal, close to the border with Galicia.  The main difference from the Vinho Verde DOC and Minho VR is that the latter may contain non indigenous grapes – often Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon.

This bottle is a blend of two local varieties, Alvarinho (better known as Albariño in Rias Baixas and Loureiro, and for my palate it knocks spots off many more expensive wines. This does well with seafood but has enough fruity characters to be quaffed on its own.

The same crowd do a fantastic sparkling Alvarinho which I reviewed here

Domaine Octavie, Sauvignon Blanc, Touraine, France

Domaine Octavie Sauvignon de Touraine

Domaine Octavie Sauvignon de Touraine

Touraine is a reliable, easy-drinking and food-friendly wine from the area around the city of Tours in the Loire Valley.  It comes in red, rosé and white versions and can be made from a dozen permitted grapes.  Helpfully, those made from Sauvignon Blanc usually display it on the front label, still quite unusual for French wines.

Although reliable, Sauvignon de Touraine can be a bit sharp and acidic at times.  This, however, has a depth of flavour rarely encountered in the area – it could easily pass for a more expensive neighbour from Sancerre.  It’s possibly the best Touraine I’ve ever tasted.

Verdict

Taste The Sea

Taste The Sea

Food 8/10

Wine 8/10

Service 8/10

 

Given my lack of adventure with seafood, I was delighted when my Twitter friend Jayne agreed to contribute to this post after she had visited Mourne earlier in the year!

A Foodie’s View

Jayne loves shoes...and wine....and seafood!

Jayne loves shoes…and wine….and seafood!

Well, well, well.  On a rugby weekend to Dublin I had the most fantastic find of Mourne Seafood.  Set by the waterside, the setting was almost as perfect as the food.  Being a self confessed seafood and wine junkie, Mourne Seafood did not disappoint!  The only challenge was what to choose from the delights on offer.

Pil Pil Prawns

Pil Pil Prawns

Starting with the Pil Pil prawns with smoked paprika, chilli and garlic, they tasted as good as they looked and warmed me up as it sleeted outside.

Irish Scallops Linguine

Irish Scallops Linguine

After washing it down with a fresh Sauvignon Blanc, I enjoyed the delectable seared Irish scallops linguine. Cooked to perfection.

I could see all the diners thoroughly enjoying the food and atmosphere as I left to watch Ireland unashamedly beat England.  If you’re looking for a meal for 2 or group get together Mourne Seafood is a great choice.

Another one to break the mold – Nautilus Estate Marlborough Grüner Veltliner 2011

Nautilus Estate, Marlborough

Nautilus Estate, Marlborough

I’m a fan of Marlborough wines.

I’m a fan of Grüner Veltliner.

Until fairly recently I was very happy with Marlborough Groovies.

But then thanks to some excellent tastings in Dublin I began to realise that, although New Zealand GVs are very nice, they are only analogous to the simpler style of those from Austria.  Outside of those, there’s a whole world of flavours and textures to try – see here.

And now, I’ve changed my mind again!

This is why:

Nautilus Estate Marlborough Grüner Veltliner 2011

Nautilus Estate Marlborough Grüner Veltliner 2011

Nautilus Estate Marlborough Grüner Veltliner 2011

I’m a big fan of Nautilus Wines, especially their lovely fizz and gorgeous Chardonnay (one of the best in New Zealand in my opinion).  It’s great that they’ve planted other aromatic grapes as Marlborough’s dry and cool, long growing season is perfect for them.

Normally this style of Grüner is one that is supposedly best drunk young – which is pretty much true for Marlborough Sauvignons.  Alongside citrus and stone fruit and a dash of white pepper, there’s loads of freshness which makes them a joy to drink.  But once the freshness is gone, you can’t get it back – there’s no Shake n’ Vac solution here.

But this wine was inadvertently left till four years after vintage, and yes a little of the freshness had gone, but it was replaced by some lovely toasty notes – just like you would expect from a good Aussie Semillon.

It’s a delicious wine, I just wish I’d held on to my other bottles for longer!

It just goes to show: most wine is drunk far too young!

Please ponder that message and put a few “ordinary” bottles aside to try in a few years.

Lower Alcohol Wines That Taste Good!

frankstero:

For Throwback Thursday I thought I’d reblog this piece from last year which was quite popular, and it’s the kind of lighter wines that many of us are opening now we’re into Spring

Originally posted on Frankly Wines:

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…

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A half-dozen of the best from the Ely BIG Tasting

Twice a year the Ely Winebar and Restaurant Group hold consumer tastings at their larger venue in Dublin’s IFSC.  Over a dozen of their wine suppliers show a selection of their wines, both currently listed and not listed, so that consumers get a chance to try new things and their feedback might lead to new listings!

The tastings are very well organised by Ely Group Wine Manager Ian Brosnan and Head of Biz Dev Jeri Mahon – thanks to both them and all the other staff supporting the event.

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

1. Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve NV (Liberty Wine) {by the glass at Ely Place and Ely CHQ}

Champagne Charlie

Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve

Perhaps it was the occasion, the perfect serving temperature or perhaps just a little extra time in bottle since I tried this last year, but Charles was tasting fantastic. The fruit is lovely and there’s some light biscotti notes from ageing on the lees. Perfectly balanced and poised, this is a definite candidate for the best non-vintage Champagne on the market.

2. San Lorenzo Verdicchio dei Castelli de Jesi Superiore ‘Vigna delle Oche’ Marche 2012 (GrapeCircus at Sheridan’s) {by the glass at Ely Place and Ely CHQ}

San Lorenzo Verdicchio dei Castelli de Jesi Superiore ‘Vigna delle Oche’ 2012

San Lorenzo Verdicchio dei Castelli de Jesi Superiore ‘Vigna delle Oche’ 2012

San Lorenzo is a well-established family producer now run by Natalino Crognaletti – something of a madman/eccentric/genius* (delete as appropriate) who is not only organic, not only biodynamic, but also believes in being self-sufficient. This means that he follows a minimal intervention path of wine making, with much more work required in the vineyard, but even goes so far as to keep chickens so he has his own eggs for fining the wines before bottling!! (This helps remove any big particles and can be an alternative to filtration which can strip out the flavours.

So what’s the result in the glass? Loads and loads of flavour! There’s minerality, citrus and soft stone fruit – and oodles of texture, which would make it a great food wine. You need to give this a try to taste something off the beaten path.

3. Domaine des Baumard Savennières “Clos de St Yves” 2010 (Tyrrell & Co)

Domaine des Baumard Savennières "Clos St Yves"

Domaine des Baumard Savennières “Clos St Yves”

This wine sparked such a positive reaction that I was moved to note the highly articulate comment: “Toast toast toast – frickin awesome!”

Chenin Blanc is one of the world’s most under-rated grapes, and the Loire Valley is perhaps France’s most under-appreciated wine producing areas. Having said that, I don’t often fancy the drier versions, but adore the sweeter ones, all of them having a trademark streak of acidity through the middle.

This example really hit the spot! It has already started to take on more interesting flavours but hasn’t lost its freshness. Tasted blind this would fool plenty into thinking it was a posh white Burgundy.

The producer likes his wines to be as clean as possible so uses no oak barrels and seals bottles with screwcaps rather than corks – thumbs up from me.

4. Paddy Borthwick Wairarapa Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (Wines Direct) {by the glass at Ely CHQ}

Paddy Borthwick Wairarapa Sauvignon Blanc 2014

Paddy Borthwick Wairarapa Sauvignon Blanc 2014

The third word there is the wine region of Wairarapa in the south of New Zealand’s North Island, not to be confused with Waipara which is north of Cantebury on the South Island. It’s an area more well-known for its Pinot Noir, particularly in the main subregion of Martinborough (again, not to be confused with Marlborough), but it is also home to some excellent aromatic whites.

Rather than gooseberry, asparagus and grapefruit which are stereotypical Marlborough Savvy flavours, Sauvignon from here is often even more tropical. This lovely example from Paddy Borthwick had passion fruit notes jumping out of the glass – in fact it reminded me of the passion fruit Mojito that my wife had at Cleaver East on Mother’s Day!

5. Sipp Mack Alsace Grand Cru Rosacker Riesling 2009 (Mitchell & Son) {by the glass at Ely CHQ}

Sipp Mack Alsace Grand Cru Rosacker Riesling 2009

Sipp Mack Alsace Grand Cru Rosacker Riesling 2009

I could happily have spent the evening just smelling this amazing wine (but then I’d have missed out on so much else!) Sipp Mack is one of the top echelon of Alsace producers and a personal favourite of mine, especially their Grand Cru Riesling and Pinot Gris bottles. There’s a touch of sweetness which acts as a counterpoint to the zippy acidity and mineral freshness.

This is drinking gorgeously now but, if you could keep your hands off it, will be even more amazing in five years’ time.

6. D’Arenburg “Lucky Lizard” Chardonnay 2012 (Febvre)

D'Arenberg Adelaide Hills "Lucky Lizard" Chardonnay

D’Arenberg Adelaide Hills “Lucky Lizard” Chardonnay

This is Unreconstructed, All-original, Can’t be bettered, Aussie Chardonnay!

The past decade has seen Australian Chardonnay move back from big, alcoholic fruit bombs to more subtle, mineral and food-friendly styles. Mclaren Vale’s D’Arenburg hasn’t really followed that trend, which wouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who knows of the current boss Chester Osbourne – his shirts are so loud they can be seen from space and he released a wine called Fuckeliana (yes, really!)

In fairness this is actually made the other side of Adelaide from their base, up in the Adelaide Hills which is the source of Shaw + Smith’s M3 Chardonnay. It’s big but doesn’t have that buttery, especially melted butter, taste of some Chardonnays.

Why change when it’s this good?

More to come!