Frankie’s Single Bottle Review #04 – Quinta da Falorca T-Nac 2009 (#MWWC20)

Q: When is a variety not a variety? Bear with me, for I have an answer…

Having unexpectedly won Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #19 (#MWWC19) with this entry on choosing a Burgundy, I was given the winner’s prerogative of choosing the theme for #MWWC20.  The least I could do is enter myself – and it has pushed me into finally starting on a topic I have been meaning to explore for nearly two years – clones. In the fullness of time I will get into more detail (and that article will of course be called “Attack of the Clones”), but for now here’s an introduction.

“Variety” has lots of different meanings, even within the sphere of wine. The most common usage is for a type of grape, cépage in French. Thankfully, Jeff the Drunken Cyclist has already dealt with my bête noir of confusing variety (grape type) and varietal (wine made from a particular grape). The most technically correct term is actually cultivar, as pretty much all wine is made from cultivated grapes, but variety works for me.

Why is variety so important? Overall, it’s the single most important factor affecting the taste of a wine.  Yes, terroir can be very important, but that’s actually shorthand for a whole host of factors.  Additionally, (and subsequently), the way many wine drinkers outside Europe express their vinous preferences is by grape – and a fair share of those within Europe as well.

However, there are different versions of most grape varieties, and they are known as clones. These clones have subtly different characteristics, often adaptations from centuries of growing in particular places. Sometimes grape growers assist in this process by taking cuttings from the best performing vines and propagating them.

The last few decades have seen an increasingly scientific approach taken, with institutions and nurseries classifying existing and developing new clones which will thrive best in different soils and climates, or give a particular style of wine at the end. For example, producers aiming to make a richer, buttery style of Chardonnay might often chose to plant Mendoza Chardonnay clones, as their thicker skins and smaller berries make them suitable for a Meursault style.

So now for a varietal wine which involves a lot of variety from within a single grape variety (it will make sense, I promise):

Quinta da Falorca T-Nac 2009 (€23.99,

Quinta da Falorca T-Nac 2009

Quinta da Falorca T-Nac 2009

Quinta da Falorca is one of four vineyards which are part of the larger Quinta Vale Das Escadinhas in the Silgueiros sub-region of Dão in central Portugal. It was established on south-facing steep banks of the river Dão over a century ago by the Costa Barros de Figuerido family.

The Dão wine region in central Portugal (Credit: Elapsed)

The Dão wine region in central Portugal (Credit: Elapsed)

The Dão is home to dozens of indigenous grapes varieties, with the most popular being Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Jaen, Alfrocheiro Preto and Encruzado.  Indeed, the region is actually the original home of Touriga Nacional which is so vital in the Douro.  To honour this fact the Dão DOC regulations require a minimum 20% of Touriga Nacional in red wines.  

Quinta da Falorca T-Nac 2009

Quinta da Falorca T-Nac 2009

So it’s a good producer, but what’s so special about this bottle?  The name “T-Nac” gives us a clue that it’s made from Touriga Nacional, but that’s just the start.  It’s made from 100% Touriga Nacional, but 31 different clones of that variety!  It says something of the history of the area that over 30 clones of a single grape have been identified, and a lot more about a producer that can grow and vinify them!

Unlike some traditional style Dão wines it isn’t chock full of tannins from over-extraction, nor is it sullied by oak like some of the more modern style wines.  Instead it plots a happy medium course with excellent juicy black fruit fruit and fine-grained tannins that give it a real savoury edge.  This is a wine to pair beautifully with a steak or a hearty beef stew – in fact, a small glass in the stew would be perfection.

My thanks for the sample to JN Wines who will be showing this (and many other wines) at their Portfolio Tasting:

Time: Friday 6th November 18.00 – 20.00

Venue: Smock Alley Theatre, 6-8 Exchange Street Lower, Dublin 8

Tickets €15 online from Smock Alley

Frankie’s Single Bottle Review #03 – Salwey RS Weissburgunder 2013

Pinot Blanc grapes (Credit: themightyquill)

Pinot Blanc grapes (Credit: themightyquill)

As I frequently say, to those who will listen (and even those who won’t), Pinot Blanc is an under-rated grape.  It is most widely produced as a varietal in Alsace, Northern Italy (as Pinot Bianco) and Germany (as Weissburgunder), though often plays an unheralded part of blends there as well.  Even the English are getting in on the act (yes Stopham Estate, I’m looking at you!)

When made in a sympathetic way, Pinot Blanc can be both fruity and fresh, with a little bit of body, making it very versatile at the table.  Unfortunately, the powers that be in Alsace (primarily the CIVA and INAO) don’t allow Pinot Blanc wines to be granted Grand Cru status when made on the best sites, yet Muscat (in my opinion not as good a grape in Alsace) based wines are permitted under Grand Cru appellations.

Might other Pinot Blanc regions have an answer to this quality dilemma?

In advance of their Meet the Winemaker Portfolio tasting on Friday 6th November (also more details here), JN Wines kindly sent me a bottle of German Pinot Blanc, labelled of course as Weissburgunder (the white grape from Burgundy).  It’s quite simply the finest example of the grape I’ve ever tasted!

Salwey RS (Reserve Salwey) Weissburgunder 2013 (, €21.99)

Salwey RS (Reserve Salwey) Weissburgunder 2013

Salwey RS (Reserve Salwey) Weissburgunder 2013

From the Kaisterstuhl (the “Emperor’s Chair”) hills in the wine region of Baden comes Weingut Salwey, producer of several Burgundy varietals.  The Reserve Salwey range is made with fully ripe grapes from older vines, vinified to dryness (Trocken is helpfully stated on the back label).  White wines are matured in a mixture of large vats (80%) and barriques (20%).



The oak ageing is perceptible on the nose, but doesn’t dominate the apple and citrus aromas.  These all flow through to the palate, which is given additional weight by the micro-oxygenation from time spent in wood.  It’s a lovely wine which is very enjoyable on its own (just don’t drink it too cold!) or paired with lighter fish and poultry.

Considering the quality, this is an absolute bargain!

Upcoming Public Wine Events in Dublin

[Updated 12th November]

There are lots of upcoming wine events in Dublin that are open to the public – let’s spread the love and spread the word.  Here are some of the bigger events that I recommend:

O’Briens Winter Wine Fair 

Times: Friday 13th November 18.00 – 21.00, Saturday 14th 13.00 – 16.00, 17.00 – 20.00

Venue: Round Room, Mansion House, Dublin 2

Tickets €20 / €15 / €20 on the O’Briens website


They say: This year there will be over 50 of the world’s most renowned wineries represented and you will have the opportunity to meet the winemakers, and taste up to 250 wines.  All proceeds from the ticket prices go towards our charity partners Jack & Jill Children’s foundation.

I say: Fantastic event, so many great wines to taste that it pays to plan out in advance which ones you want to try.  The tables get busier towards the end of the evening so it’s good to get there on time and start tasting!

Honest 2 Goodness Christmas wine tasting

Time: Thurs 26th November 19.30 – 21.30..

Venue: H2G Café, 136a Slaney Close, Dublin Industrial Estate, Dublin 11

Tickets €30 (Wine Club members) or €35 (Non-Wine Club members) book by email


They say: Our Christmas Wine Tasting will take place on Thurs 26th of November, where you will be tasting unmissable Christmas Wines carefully selected by us to ensure that whatever you are planning to have over the Christmas, we will have some great suggestions for the wines to match, from party wines to the one special bottle for that Christmas Day dinner!

We will also be serving H2G Canapes and nibbles.  We hope to have our usual Jazz Band with us for the Christmas Tasting evening, they haven’t confirmed for sure just yet…

I say: H2G import a fantastic selection of wines, mainly from Europe, and often family producers who follow organic or sustainable practices.  If the Jazz Band play you won’t know whether to sip your wine or tap your feet!  See my write up of the big tasting last summer here.

Make Mine a Double #10 – Pinot Noirs from Burgundy and Chile

Let’s kick off with a few wine facts:

Did you know that Cono Sur is the largest single Pinot Noir producer in the world? I wasn’t aware either, until I attended a fantastic tasting of their top Ocio and 20 Barrels Pinots last year.

I also learned what Cono Sur itself means – Southern Cone. It shouldn’t have been a surprise – especially as it is hinted at graphically on some of their bottles – as it’s the nickname for the southern part of South America which is quite cone-shaped.

And finally, did you know that the Pinot family get its name because the grape bunches on the vine resemble pine cones? Thankfully they taste better than pine cones…

Pinot Noir is the perfect grape for autumn – it’s usually light and refreshing, easy to drink, but very much a food wine that can pair well with both lighter dishes and the heavier fare that we tuck into on colder days.

Louis Jadot Bourgogne “Couvent des Jacobins” 2012 and Cono Sur Single Vineyard Block 21 "Viento Mar" Pinot Noir 2012

Louis Jadot Bourgogne “Couvent des Jacobins” 2012 and Cono Sur Single Vineyard Block 21 “Viento Mar” Pinot Noir 2012

Here are a couple of Pinots that you should try this autumn

Disclosure: both bottles were provided as samples, but opinions remain totally mine

Louis Jadot Bourgogne “Couvent des Jacobins” 2012 (€17.99, Molloy’s Liquor Stores, O’Brien’s Wines, Redmond’s of Ranelagh and other good independents)

Louis Jadot Bourgogne “Couvent des Jacobins” 2012

Louis Jadot Bourgogne Pinot Noir “Couvent des Jacobins” 2012

Maison Louis Jadot was formed in 1859 and is well regarded in France and further afield. The Négotiant has holdings of 210ha spread throughout Burgundy, and from the most basic AOC to the stratospheric Grands Crus, all feature the same distinctive yellow featuring the head of Bacchus.

Louis Jadot Bourgogne “Couvent des Jacobins” 2012

Louis Jadot Bourgogne “Couvent des Jacobins” 2012

This is a blend of different parcels from throughout Burgundy, from Irancy towards Chablis in the north to the Côte Chalonnaise in the south.  The latter gives juicy fruity flavours and the more northerly plots give more acidity, tannin and structure; the blend is more than the sum of its parts (the whole point of blending!)

Light, fresh strawberry and raspberry, with the acidity to back up the fruit flavours. Surprisingly it has a reasonable amount of tannin on the finish, not in the realm of left bank Bordeaux or Madiran, but something with a savoury edge.

This is distinctively old world in sensibility – although it’s fruity it’s nothing like a fruit bomb.  Very nice to drink by itself, I suspect this would come into its own with food.

Cono Sur Single Vineyard Block 21 “Viento Mar” Pinot Noir 2012 (€19.99 from O’Brien’s Wines, Mitchell & Sons, Dublin; Redmonds of Ranelagh, Sweeney’s of Glasnevin, Jus de Vine, Portmarnock, Bradley’s of Cork, O’Driscoll’s of Cork, and other independents)

Louis Jadot Bourgogne “Couvent des Jacobins” 2012

Louis Jadot Bourgogne “Couvent des Jacobins” 2012

Most people are familiar with Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir as it is widely distributed. It has a cheerful label and a handy screwtop, all of which make it very accessible. However, there are several layers in the Cono Sur quality pyramid (or should that be quality cone?) which also deserve attention.

Constantly striving for improvements in quality led them to create a separate premium Pinot from a selected batch of their best grapes, handled in the most gentle and fastidious manner. As the volume made was only 20 barrels, that’s the name they used, and even though production has increased considerably, the name stuck. Ocio is their flagship Pinot which they created in conjunction with esteemed Burgundy winemaker Martin Prieur.

Now here is a Single Vineyard expression, from the San Antonio Valley, with two Antipodean-style names: “Block 21” indicated the particular plot it comes from, and “Viente Mar” (meaning Ocean Wind) gives you a clue as to its situation – close enough to the coast to be strongly influenced by cool coastal breezes, perfect to prevent the grapes from becoming jammy.

According to Cono Sur this spent 11 months in 100% French oak barrels, and there is a lick of vanilla on the palate, but the oak is already well integrated.  Although it has plenty of acidity to balance the concentrated fruit, this would never be mistaken for Burgundy – but that’s no bad thing in my view, it’s just so damn drinkable!   There are dense red and black fruits in play – it’s like fruits of the forest battling it out on your tongue.

The big brother Ocio is even more complex and concentrated, but this is one of the best €20 and under red wines I have tried this year.

Further reading: Make Mine a Double Index

Sémillon and Sauvignon – Together In Perfect Harmony?


For #ThrowbackThursday, here’s an article from a few years ago on Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon…

Originally posted on Frankly Wines:

Sweeneys Wine Merchants in Glasnevin, North Dublin, are both my favourite merchants to visit and happen to be my local wine shop, so I was sure to drop in to see what bargains they had on offer in their summer wine sale.  Everything they had more than a couple of bottles of was open for tasting so it was “try before you buy” for about a dozen whites and reds, with a solitary rosé holding station in the middle.

Of course I tried all of them (just for completeness, you understand), but which most piqued my interest?  There turned out to be a theme – all were Sémillon / Sauvignon Blanc blends, but from different areas.

Around ten years ago I did a “wine-walk” at the London Fine Food & Wine Show with the theme “Sémillon and Sauvignon – better on their own or together?”  Wine walks are informative and…

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Make Mine a Double #09 – Domaine Charles Baur Alsace and Alsace Grand Cru Riesling

Charles Baur Alsace vineyards

Charles Baur Alsace vineyards

For Alsace fans like myself Riesling is usually the pinnacle of any producer’s portfolio, and if they make one (or more) from a Grand Cru vineyard, then even better.  One thing to note, though, is that many producers do not make exactly the same type of wine at both quality levels; rather, there is sometimes a deliberate stylistic difference, which can be even more amplified by vintage variation and adaptive wine making.

Eguisheim, Alsace

Eguisheim, Alsace (Credit: Domaine Charles Baur)

Thanks to Cases Wine Warehouse I recently tasted a couple of lovely Alsace Rieslings which illustrated that point perfectly.  The producer was one I wasn’t that familiar with previously – Domaine Charles Baur.  However, I am quite familiar with their home village of Eguisheim (pictured above) which is the stunning setting for several excellent producers, including Domaine Bruno Sorg who I have visited a few times.

Domaine Charles Baur Rieslings

Domaine Charles Baur Rieslings

Eguisheim counts two Grand Cru vineyards close by, Eichberg and Pfersigberg.  These sites were first included in Grand Cru wines from 1972 but, there were no references to them on the label.  These lieux-dits weren’t officially adopted until 1983, and finally as AOCs in their own right in 2011.

Domaine Charles Baur “Cuvée Charles” Riesling 2012 (€19.45, Cases Wine Warehouse)

Domaine Charles Baur

Domaine Charles Baur “Cuvée Charles” Riesling 2012

Although not a Grand Cru this is a premium bottling, ahead of the standard Riesling (which I haven’t tasted).  It’s pale as you’d expect, with fresh citrus notes on the nose.  The palate has lots of concentration, zingy lemon and lime.  The finish is dry, emphasised by the acidity that runs through the wine.  Very pleasant to drink on its own, but would partner well with seafood.

Domaine Charles Baur Grand Cru Eichberg Riesling 2013 (€26.95, Cases Wine Warehouse)

Domaine Charles Baur Alsace Grand Cru Eichberg Riesling 2013

Domaine Charles Baur Alsace Grand Cru Eichberg Riesling 2013

More of the same?  Sort of…  It has more body, more residual sugar, more concentrated flavours, but they come together to make a more rounded, deeper wine.  This is still a total baby and is showing primary fruit right now, but should continue to develop over the next decade or so.  With the extra body and sweetness this would pair fabulously with mild to medium spiced Asian food.

Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #20 (#MWWC20)


Motley Cru, Vine Inspiration, Suzi’s Grape Crush, Liqueur Plate, Irish Wino…. it’s time to get off the sidelines and get in the game!

Originally posted on the drunken cyclist:

Last week, Frank of Frankly Wines won the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #19 (#MWWC19) and just like all previous winners of the Challenge, his “reward” was to choose the theme for the following Challenge (in this case #MWWC20).

A few of us started the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge a couple of years ago with the desire to promote more creative wine writing. The thought was that we get caught up in tasting notes, winery visits, and the occasional food porn and we soon forget that part of the reason we put in all the hours that we do on these silly blogs is that we love to write!


Over the course of the Challenge, there has been a variety of themes, as one might expect. Even though the English language has thousands of possible choices for the theme, each winner has no doubt faced some angst in choosing the next month’s theme.

Each month…

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H2G Organic & More Tasting

Honest 2 Goodness (H2G for short) are a small family wine importers based in Glasnevin, Dublin.  They specialise in family owned wineries throughout Europe, and in particular those with an organic, sustainable or biodynamic philosophy.

Here are a few of their wines that I enjoyed at their most recent Organic & Low Sulphite Tasting:

Domaine de Maubet Côtes de Gascogne 2014 (€14.95, 11.5%)

Domaine de Maubet Côtes de Gascogne 2014

Domaine de Maubet Côtes de Gascogne 2014

Typical South West France blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Colombard, Ugni Blanc and Gros Manseng.  Ripe green and red apples, fresh pears.  Crisp acidity, light and fruity – so easy to drink on its own, but versatile with food.

Borgo Paglianetto Verdicchio di Matelica 2014 (€18.45, 12.5%)

Borgo Paglianetto Verdicchio di Matelica 2014

Borgo Paglianetto Verdicchio di Matelica 2014

Restrained nose; soft but textured on the palate, lemon and grapefruit combined.  Tangy, don’t drink too chilled.  Marche wines are really coming to the fore at the moment.

Weingut Setzer Grüner Veltliner Weinviertal 2013 (€21.00, 12.5%)

Weingut Setzer Grüner Veltliner Weinviertal 2013

Weingut Setzer Grüner Veltliner Weinviertal 2013

A favourite producer that I’ve covered several times.  Grapefruit again, though not as juicy.  A grown up wine that would excel with food.

Château Canet Minervois Blanc 2014 (€17.95, 13.0%)

Château Canet Minervois Blanc 2014

Château Canet Minervois Blanc 2014

50% barrel fermented; blend of Roussanne and Bourboulenc, both well known in the Rhône.  Tangy, textured, pleasantly sour (Haribo Tangfastics).  Plenty of mouthfeel and soft stone fruit.  Moreish.

Casa Benasal by Pago Casa Gran Valencia 2012 (€18.95, 14.0%)

Casa Benasal by Pago Casa Gran Valencia 2012

Casa Benasal by Pago Casa Gran Valencia 2012

The Spanish equivalent of a GSM blend: Monstrell, Syrah and Garnacha Tintorera.  Plum, blackberry, and blueberry on the nose, following through onto the palate.  A full-bodied winter wine; lots of fruit with a light dusting of tannins on the finish.  Perfect with stew or casserole (depending on where you heat the pot, apparently).

Château Segue Longue Monnier Cru Bourgeois Médoc 2010 (€25.95, 13.5%)

Château Segue Longue Monnier Cru Bourgeois Médoc 2010

Château Segue Longue Monnier Cru Bourgeois Médoc 2010

A trad Médoc blend of Cab Sauv, Merlot, Cab Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot.  Very perfumed on the nose, showing black fruits, spice and parma violets.  Soft and voluptuous in the mouth – definitely from a warmer vintage.  Classy.

Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #19–The Results


Thanks to all who took part, those who kindly voted – and to Pascal and his team at Le Caveau for such delicious, inspiring wines!

Originally posted on the drunken cyclist:

The results are inIt is that time once again, time to announce the results of this month’s Monthly Wine Writing Challenge. In all this month, there were 14 entries for the theme “Choice” which was supplied by last month’s winner, Beth of Traveling Wine Chick.

Although there were a similar amount of submissions to last month, there were far fewer votes cast. The voting was also closer than it had been in recent months with the winner still in doubt through the weekend. By last night, it was clear, however, who the winner was.

So without any further ado…

And-the-Winner-IsFrankly Wines: How to Choose a Burgundy?

As the winner of this month’s challenge, Frank has the “honor” of choosing the topic for next month’s Challenge. He also gets to proudly sport the badge below on her site (if she so chooses).

Congratulations to Frank, who is a second-time contributor to the Challenge, but hopefully…

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Make Mine a Double #08 – Aromatic whites from Marks and Spencer

I have to confess I’m not that familiar with the current wine range at Marks and Spencer but I’ve heard good things recently.  When I lived in Paris I would drop in to the food and wine section of one of the large stores there to get my fix of Australian wine and Indian food, though not necessarily together…

The good folks at M&S Ireland recently sent me a few bottles to try, of which I particularly enjoyed the following pair of aromatic whites:

Bidoli Friuli Grave Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (€14.79, Marks and Spencer)

Map of Friuli wine region

Map of Friuli wine region

The far north east corner of Italy was once part of the Venetian Republic, with some sections under the influence of the Austro-Hungarian Empire for some time, and so the wines of the region have noticeable Slavic and Germanic influences. Like many parts of Italy, the mere word “Italian” does not do justice to the culture here.

Bidoli Winery was founded in 1924 by the grandparents of the current owners. The vineyards are situated in a valley that benefits from high diurnal temperature variation (hot days and cool nights) which encourages slightly thicker skins in the grapes and hence deeper flavours in the wine. The soil has lots of stone – similar name and similar soil to the Graves in Bordeaux – which reflects the sun’s rays during the day and releases accumulated heat overnight.

Bidoli Friuli Grave Sauvignon Blanc 2014

Bidoli Friuli Grave Sauvignon Blanc 2014

Even on the nose it is unmistakably a Sauvignon Blanc, though of a completely different style than NZ – more akin to a Quincy or Reuilly from the Loire. There’s attractive citrus and gooseberry – not exotic or tropical fruit – plus fennel and other herbs. I’m not a salad fan but I think this would be the perfect wine to match. A long finish on top means it’s great value.

Argyros Estate Santorini Atlantis 2013 (€15.49, Marks and Spencer)



Santorini is the name of a wine region, an archipelago north of Crete and the main island within it.  In ancient times it was known as Theira, and was a reasonably large volcanic island before one of the biggest recorded eruptions shattered it around 3,600 BCE.  The resulting tsunami is thought to have brought down the Minoan civilisation of Crete which is only 110 km due south, and may also have given rise to the myth of Atlantis.

Due to the warm climate, sweet wines were often made – Santorini is alleged to have given its name to Vin Santo which is made in Tuscany.  The main grape here is of course Assyrtiko, which makes fresh zingy whites or traditional floor cleaner flavoured Retsina.  It fares particularly well on Santorini as the volcanic soil helps it maintain its acidity, even when fully ripe.

Argyros Estate Atlantis Santorini

Argyros Estate Atlantis Santorini

This white blend consists of 90% Assyrtiko, 5% Athiri (lemony, used for Retsina on Rhodes) and 5% Aidani (floral, mainly grown in Santorini) [no I hadn’t heard of the other two before, either!]  The Argyros Estate was established in 1903 and is situated in Episkopi, where it encompasses some of the island’s oldest vines – another reason for the concentration of flavour.  If you’ve read through the notes above you will see where the name Atlantis comes from!

It’s a racy, refreshing wine, but has lots of lemon and floral character – very enjoyable on its own, but would pair with seafood or other lighter dishes.  Moreish!