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!

Make Mine a Double #07 – A Brace of Fine Burgundies

The folks at SuperValu, an Irish supermarket chain, were kind enough to invite me to their secret summer wine tasting event; it was probably the best setting I could imagine to show off the wines, most of which were being shown by their wine-maker.  As we slowly emerge from recession, SuperValu and their head wine buyer Kevin O’Callaghan are keen for consumers to see that the store carries far more than everyday, cost-conscious plonk.

I would have counted myself a sceptic before the event, though mainly on the grounds that there isn’t a SuperValu store convenient for me, but the event opened by eyes (and my mouth I guess) to some delicious wines.  Of the producers present at the event, the one whose wines I liked the most overall was André Goichot from Beaune in Burgundy. Hence I was delighted to receive some more wines to taste at my leisure at home.  Here are a couple of my favourites:

André Goichot in Beaune, Burgundy

André Goichot in Beaune, Burgundy

André Goichot Montagny “Domaine Les Guignottes” 2013 (€€22.99 down to €18.00, SuperValu) 13.0%

André Goichot Montagny Les Guignottes 2014

André Goichot Montagny Les Guignottes 2014

Montagny is in the Côte Chalonnaise subregion of Burgundy, below the famous vineyards of the Côte d’Or but above the newly trendy Maconnais.  It is something of a forgotten part of Burgundy, but does have Rully and Montagny amongst its better appellations:

Côte Chalonnaise vineyards (Credit: DalGobboM¿!i?)

Côte Chalonnaise vineyards (Credit: DalGobboM¿!i?)

Wine drinkers who are used to varieties on the front label will search in vain here – such is the French way – but it’s 100% Chardonnay.  At first you might not even recognise the grape if you’re used to New World oak monsters, even if they have toned things down over the past decade.  There is some body and texture here, but it’s all about freshness and zingy citrus fruit.  A very refreshing wine which is lovely on its own, with seafood, or even with poultry if not too chilled.

André Goichot Pouilly-Fuissé “Les Feuilles d’Or” 2014 (€22.99 down to €18.00, SuperValu) 13.0%

André Goichot Pouilly-Fuissé “Les Feuilles d’Or” 2014

André Goichot Pouilly-Fuissé “Les Feuilles d’Or” 2014

Pouilly-Fuissé is an area surround those two villages in the Maconnais, the most southerly subregion of Burgundy proper.  Given the latitude there are more ripe, tropical notes common here, though still with a backbone of acidity running through.  This has melon and pineapple, but still some racy citrus.  There’s a very mild oak influence – just a tiny hint of toasted coconut – far less than other examples I’ve tried from down there.  Compared to some it’s lean and refreshing, not fat at all, with some minerality. A very well executed wine.

Here’s a clip of the garden party tasting event – see if you can spot my half second cameo:

Make Mine a Double #06 – Spot the Difference, Puglia Style

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

Vigneti del Salento I Muri

I Muri Primitivo & I Muri Negroamaro

I Muri Primitivo & I Muri Negroamaro

The I Muri Negroamaro has been a firm staff and customer favourite at Sweeney’s of Glasnevin (Dublin) for many years – it even featured as one of my favourite reds from their wine fair earlier this year.  Now Sweeney’s are also stocking its twin, with a very similar looking label (don’t ask me the colour difference, I’m partially colourblind).

So where are they from and what is the difference?



Salento is the south eastern part of Puglia (technically Apuglia in English I suppose), the heel of Italy. This peninsula separates the Adriatic Sea from the Ionian Sea, and thus no point is ever more than 30 kilometres from the sea.

The wine here has often been quite fiery – powerful but rustic – and was historically used to (illegally) beef up the paler reds from further north in Italy.  The grapes most planted are the local specialities Primitivo and Negroamaro – and that’s exactly what we have here.

Winemaker Filippo Baccalaro is the driving force behind Vigneti del Salento, owned by the Farnese group.  He likes producing fresh whites and soft, approachable reds with as little intervention as possible.

Vigneti del Salento I Muri Primitivo IGT Puglia 2013 (€16.50, Sweeney’s and other independents) 14.0%

Vigneto del Salento I Muri Primitivo IGT Puglia 2012

Vigneto del Salento I Muri Primitivo IGT Puglia 2013

After years of guessing it was finally proved that Primitivo is the same variety as California’s Zinfandel.  Some Puglian producers are now even using oak to make their wines in a pseudo Californian style and using Zinfandel on the label for exports.  Further research showed that the impressively unpronounceable Crljenak Kaštelanski from Croatia is the same grape, before finally (for now) finding the oldest ancestral name of Tribidrag down the Dalmatian coast a little.

This Primitivo is far from rustic – it has the expected dark colour, full body and firm tannins but delivered in a smooth package, where each of the components are well balanced.  There’s a milk chocolate character to the texture, topped off by blueberry and red berry fruit.

Vigneti del Salento I Muri Negroamaro IGT Puglia 2012 (€15.95, Sweeney’s and other independents) 13.0%

Vigneti Del Salento I Muri IGT Puglia 2012

Vigneti Del Salento I Muri Negroamaro IGT Puglia 2012

Even a basic proficiency in Italian will give you a clue as to how Negroamaro tastes – black and bitter.  But not so bitter that you can’t drink it; like many Italian wines there is a certain tartness or bitterness to the fruit, but all the better for it.  Who would choose tinned black cherries over fresh ones?

The rougher edges of the grape have been rounded off by four months in French and American oak (not much of which was new, I suspect).  Black cherry and blackberry fruit are accompanied by spice and dark chocolate.  Acidity is prominent to keep it fresh but not so much that it tastes sour.

Comparison and Preference

This is very much a question of style and preference rather than a difference of quality; do you prefer dark chocolate or milk chocolate? Tasted side by side at a barbecue hosted by D, a fellow DNS Wine Club member and a food blogger, the group was almost evenly split on which they preferred – and everyone liked both of them, with just a minor preference for one.

So my advice is: buy both, and choose according to your mood!

DNS Wine Club *FUN* Tasting

After a show of hands at the previous meet, the theme of the most recent DNS Wine Club tasting was FUN! Wine can be a very technical and complicated subject, and as something of a geek that often appeals to me, but at the end of the day the main point of wine is pleasure.

So how do you make a tasting more fun? Play games! But which games? I divided the DNS gang into two teams, opened some fizz and gave them their first task.

{All the wines tasted over the evening are reviewed in the articles Le Tour de France and Around The World in Eighty Sips on}

ROUND 1 – Match the Critic

John Wilson

John Wilson, scholar and gentleman

I reviewed John Wilson’s book “Wilson On Wine 2015 – The Wines To Drink This Year” here and refer to it frequently. For each wine reviewed there are lots of details, especially on the background of the wine, along with a fairly short tasting note. As tasting is such a subjective thing (and taste too, but that’s for another day) I wondered how easy it would be to identify wines from their tasting note alone…

Example of a wine featured

Example of a wine featured in the book

Each team was given a sheet with two columns; the first had ten wine names and the second had ten tasting notes taken from John’s book. Two wines were sparkling, four white and four red. Each column was in alphabetical order and the objective was to match the tasting notes to the correct wine.

Wine Name   Tasting Note
1 Bernhard Ott Fass4 Grüner Veltliner 2013 A A superb, light, elegant wine, with piquant dark cherry and blueberry fruits.
2 Champagne Larmandier-Bernier Latitude Extra Brut NV B Almond blossoms on the nose; light, elegant, sophisticated crisp green fruits with excellent Minerality. A perennial favourite.
3 Coca y Fito DO Terra Alta Jaspi Blanc 2012 C An exuberant, fresh wine bursting with pineapples and tropical fruits.
4 Jeio Prosecco DOCG Valdobiadenne Spumante Brut NV D Bracing and herby with an inviting texture and a snappy dry finish.
5 Kasarí Zorah Areni Noir 2012 E Delectably light and tangy but with rosehips and fresh, piquant red fruits. Great with food.
6 Moric Burgenland Blaufränkish 2012 F Fresh pear and peach fruits with a good lively citrus edge
7 Pieropan Soave Classico 2013 G Intriguing, lifted fragrant black cherries with good acidity and a light earthiness, finishing on a smooth note. Different and delicious wine.
8 Quinta Milú Ribera del Duero 2013 H Pure piquant damson fruits, good acidity and a lightly tannic finish. Delicious.
9 Santa Rita Medalla Real Leyda Valley Chardonnay 2011 I Restrained peach and apple fruits with subtle toasted nuts and a core of citrus acidity.
10 Thymiopolous Naoussa Xinomavro 2013 J Succulent ripe fruits cut through with a delicious minerality and great length.

You might want to try this at home.  Bear the following hints in mind that were given on the night:

  • As both columns are in alphabetical order it is possible that a wine may still be lined up opposite its true tasting note, though most aren’t.
  • The longest tasting note belongs to (probably) the most expensive white wine.
  • The Prosecco note should be very easy to identify as it nearly always tastes of one particular fruit.
  • One of the wines includes a colour in its name (though not in English) which is included in the corresponding tasting note (in English).

Yes, most of these hints are fairly esoteric / tenuous / difficult – but that’s how I roll!

ROUND 2 – Call My (Wine) Bluff

For those know aren’t familiar with it, Call My Bluff is a long-running UK game show where celebrity contestants on a team take it in turn to give three definitions of an obscure word, only one of which is correct. The other team then tries to choose the correct definition and discard the bluffs.

The wine version has a similar structure, but instead of word definitions the guessing team has to divine which of three tasting notes they are given match the wine in their glass and their mouth!

For five white wines and three red wines, these are the choices which were proffered:

White 1
(A) Famille Bougrier Les Hautes Lieux Vin de France Sauvignon Blanc 2013
(B) José Pareinte Rueda Verdejo 2014
(C) Marqués de Riscal Rueda Sauvignon Blanc 2013

White 2
(A) Jean-Paul Brun Terres Dorées Beaujolais Blanc Chardonnay 2012
(B) Les Auzines Fleur Blanches Vin de Pays d’Oc 2014
(C) Tahbilk Victoria Marsanne 2014

White 3
(A) Frantz Saumon Minérale+ Montlouis 2012
(B) Tahbilk Victoria Marsanne 2014
(C) Trimbach Cuvé Frédéric Emile Alsace Riesling 2004

White 4
(A) Dog Point Section 94 2008
(B) Gaia Assyrtiko Wild Ferment 2013
(C) Greywacke Marlborough Wild Sauvignon 2012

White 5
(A) Frantz Saumon Minérale+ Montlouis 2012
(B) Les Auzines Fleur Blanches Vin de Pays d’Oc 2014
(C) Marqués de Riscal Rueda Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Red 1
(A) Atlantico Sur Reserve Tannat 2011
(B) Château Bouscassé Madiran 2007
(C) El Castro de Valtuille Bierzo 2013

Red 2
(A) Aldi Lot 01 Uco Valley Malbec-Cabernet 2013
(B) Château Sainte-Marie Bordeaux Supérieur 2012
(C) Domaine La Sarabande Faugères 2011

Red 3
(A) Château Milhau-Lacugue “Les Truffières” Saint Chinian 2010
(B) Domaine La Sarabande Faugères 2011
(C) Taltarni Heathcote Shiraz 2008

For the guessing team, some of the choices were more difficult if there was a similarity between the choices, e.g. for White 1 there were 2 regions and 2 grapes over 3 wines.

It was actually easiest to bluff when the reader didn’t know if they were giving the note for the correct wine or not! I suppose it is good to know that most people aren’t good liars, even if it’s just for fun.

ROUND 3 – Match the Critic (Encore)

A Book, A Bottle, A Glass

A Book, A Bottle, A Glass

Now the kicker to see if everyone had been paying attention! A double list – similar to that handed out in Round 1 – was given to each team, this time with eight wine names and tasting notes. But these weren’t just any wines taken from John’s book – they were the eight that everyone had tasted in Round 2! So of course, this final round had double points awarded.

Wine Name   Tasting Note
1 Atlantico Sur Reserve Tannat 2011 A A delicious modern style of Bordeaux with light creamy cassis fruits and a smooth easy finish.
2 Château Sainte-Marie Bordeaux Supérieur 2012 B A subtle and delectable blend of citrus and green fruits with a touch of honey
3 Domaine La Sarabande Faugères 2011 C Exhilarating precise acidity with pristine green fruits.  Inspiring, thrilling wine.
4 Gaia Assyrtiko Wild Ferment 2013 D Fresh, tangy, lemon and grapefruit, balanced out by clean green fruits, and a dry finish.
5 Jean-Paul Brun Terres Dorées Beaujolais Blanc Chardonnay 2014 E Good, deeply satisfying wine with firm, dark ripe fruits and a dry finish.
6 José Pareinte Rueda Verdejo 2013 F Light toasted nut aromas, fresh textured pineapples fruits and excellent length. Great wine at a very reasonable price.
7 Les Auzines Fleurs Blanches G Lightly toasted notes combined with peaches, almonds and honey.  Unusual and perfectly formed.
8 Tahbilk Victoria Marsanne 2014 H Succulent and ripe, filled with dark cherry fruits dusted with spices


Blind tasting, even single blind, is difficult. Tasting notes are subjective, and, unsurprisingly, it’s much easier to understand someone else’s when you’re tasting the same wine they had. Context is very important so knowing the background to a wine can give you a lot of clues about why it tastes a certain way and where it’s headed.

Above all, it’s a fun journey!

Make Mine a Double #05 – Salt and Pepper

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

No you haven’t gone mad, this is still a wine blog and not a condiments review.  Nor is it a homage to the New York female hip hop trio Salt-n-Pepa.  Read on…

salt and pepper

salt and pepper

I recently tasted two different wines, in different settings, from different countries and brought in by different companies, but one had a distinct pepper taste and one was remarkably salty, so I thought they would make for an interesting pair.

Bodegas Vegalfaro “Rebel;lia” Utiel-Requena DO 2014 (€12.95, Cases Wine Warehouse) 13.0%

Bodegas Vegalfaro “Rebel;lia” Utiel-Requena DO 2014

Bodegas Vegalfaro “Rebel;lia” Utiel-Requena DO 2014

The Utiel-Requena DO is in the Province and Autonomous Community of Valencia in eastern Spain, in the transition zone between the Mediterranean coast and La Mancha high plateau. Away from most of the softening effects of the Med, the climate is very continental (long hot, dry summers and cold winters) and one of the most severe in Spain.

Bobal is the main grape grown here, accounting for over three quarters of the land under vine. Other permitted black varieties are: Tempranillo, Garnacha, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. The authorised white varieties are: Planta Nova, Macabeo, Merseguera, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

Until fairly recently, Utiel-Requena has mainly produced bulk wine for early drinking. Some vignerons are now taking quality much more seriously, especially where vineyards are located at altitude which gives the grapes a chance to rest in the cooler evenings.

From the design of the label you can guess that Bodegas Vegalfaro is a modern winery, even putting the name of the wine upside down on the label. And so it proves in the glass. This is a blend of two French grapes – Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc – which are often seen outside France as well as in the country itself, but rarely blended together. Often single varietals, when in a blend it is often with Sémillon or Colombard rather than each other (Italy is another exception).

It is a lovely, clean wine; no overt oakiness but plenty of citrus and tropical fruit.  The acidity is refreshing and keeps your mouth watering, especially with added saltiness on the finish!  It’s beyond the saline character of some Albariños or Sancerres, but while unusual is actually quite enticing.  The perfect fish and chip wine?  Perhaps, but move over Muscadet and Chablis, this is the perfect match for oysters!

Château Goudray Côtes du Rhônes Villages–Séguret 2013 (€12.99 down to €10.00, SuperValu) 14.0%

Château Goudray Côtes du Rhônes Villages–Séguret 2013

Château Goudray Côtes du Rhônes Villages–Séguret 2013

In the Rhône Valley there is a well-recognised hierarchy amongst the AOCs, with the 16 Crus at the top and generic Côtes-du-Rhônes at the bottom. One step up is Côtes-du-Rhônes Villages which is made within some of the better villages outside the Crus, and the final step below the Crus is Côtes-du-Rhônes Villages with one of 18 village names appended, such as Séguret as we have here.

Among the dozens of varieties permitted in the Southern Rhône, most wines are primarily blends of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, GSM for short.  Grenache gives soft red fruit, some body and plenty of alcohol.  Syrah and Mourvèdre give colour, tannin, acidity and complexity, especially with pepper and spice notes.

The village of Séguret has been voted the most beautiful in France – and the vista of vines growing protected by a hill must surely have helped.

Château Goudray was built around 1815 then after changing hands a few times was bought by Marie and Hugues Meffre in 1900.  The vines were still weakened after the effects of phylloxera so they had to replant virtually all the plots.  It took until 1920 for harvests to become fully healthy and stable, so they could finally properly market their wines.

The 2013 Château Goudray Côtes du Rhônes Villages–Séguret is full of juicy red and black fruit, supple tannins and is a real pleasure to drink.  While not the most elegant of wines it is quite moreish, and easy to quaff.  I don’t know the precise blend but it does have the most pronounced black pepper notes I have encountered in a wine – most expected from Syrah dominated blends from the northern Rhône.  This surely makes it the perfect wine to pair with peppered steak!

And for those disappointed not to see Salt n Pepa:

Make Mine a Double #04 – White Graves (of the Bordeaux Kind)

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

The South-Western district of Bordeaux is known as the Graves after the gravelly soil which predominates and produces a wide range of classic red and white Bordeaux. Although much less well known than the famous communes of the Médoc on the left bank and St-Emilion and Pomerol on the right bank, Graves was actually producing quality wines even before Dutch engineers drained the marshy Médoc peninsula. In fact, Samuel Pepys even made mention of the well-established “Ho Bryan” in his eponymous diary written in the 1660s.

There are producers of top quality white wine in the rest of Bordeaux but the Graves is easily the leader for whites. Apart from Haut Brion, which was one of the original four First Growths, the remainder of the Graves was omitted from the 1855 Bordeaux Classification; the Classification of Graves was first published in 1953 for reds and whites were added in the 1959 update.

Grave Vineyards

Grave Vineyards (Credit:

The best part of the northern Graves surrounding the villages of Pessac and Léognan has had its own appellation since 1987, though the wines still show (usually Grand Vin de) Graves or Bordeaux on the label.

A word of caution for the uninitiated: whereas Bordeaux Supérieur AOC is a red wine made with slightly stricter regulations on yields and minimum alcohol (which is nowadays exceeded in most years anyway) than standard Bordeaux AOC, Graves Supérieures AOC is actually a sweet wine! It is similar in style to the more famous sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac, though usually less intense and complex. Both sweet and dry whites are generally a blend of Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc, sometimes with a dash of the third ranked white grape Muscadelle.

Having done a tour of the Graves Wine Route many years ago I can personally attest to their quality! Sadly availability in Ireland is very limited indeed. Here are a couple I have tasted and enjoyed recently.

Château Simon Graves 2013 (€15.95, Cases Wine Warehouse) 12.5%

Château Simon Graves 2013

Château Simon Graves 2013

Although based in Barsac and specialising in sweeter wines, Château Simon also produces 12,000 bottles a year of white Graves from three hectares.  Fermentation (to dryness) is in oak; batonnage is carried out for several months to add creamy lees character.

Château Simon

Château Simon

Tangy! Honey and soft white fruit from the Sémillon (50%), citrus freshness from the Sauvignon Blanc (50%). Definitely more than the sum of its parts, the two grapes work perfectly together. Lively enough to work as an aperitif or with seafood, but enough body to accompany chicken and stronger poultry, or even pork. Great value for money.

Le Must de Landiras du Château Terrefortes des Chons Graves Supérieures 2004 (direct from the Château)

Le Must de Landiras du Château Terrefortes des Chons Graves Supérieures 2004

Le Must de Landiras du Château Terrefortes des Chons Graves Supérieures 2004

A different beast entirely. If my warning above wasn’t enough, the deep golden colour should let you know that this is pretty sweet. Brought to a DNS Wine Club barbecue by my mate Paul W, it is apparently just about ready to drink according to the producer – at over ten years old.

Les Chons is smack bang halfway between the villages of Sauternes and Barsac, and the Grand Vin is indeed a Sauternes.  However, they also own other vineyards in the Graves and this is the resulting wine.

Many of the Graves Supérieures I’ve tried in the past have been disappointing – some sweetness, but not enough to qualify as a dessert wine, and not concentrated enough to be interesting as a medium / off-dry wine. This blows all of them out of the water – easily the best I’ve tasted from the region and on a par with a very good Sauternes. Honey and baked apples show on the nose and palate, with an unctuously sweet mouthfeel, but balanced by acidity. Outstanding.