Single Bottle Review

Cà dei Frati I Frati Lugana 2018

Lugana is one of Italy’s lesser-known white wine jewels.  The vines are grown close to the southern shores of Lake Garda in Lombardy, northern Italy, across from Bardolino and neighbours in the Veneto’s eastern part of the lake.  The grape used is normally known as Trebbiano di Lugana, or Turbiana by locals, but it is not the same variety as the Trebbiano (aka Ugni Blanc) which accounts for a full third of all Italian white wines; instead it is actually the same as Verdicchio from the Marche!

In addition to its location close to a large body of water, the Lugana wine region also has soils which are mainly clay, and hence are poor-draining.  The vineyards are therefore prone to flooding, which is countered by creating a dome shape to the contours of the land (encouraging water to run off) and by giving the vines long, bare stems to encourage ventilation.

As well as dry whites there are also late harvest whites and sparkling wines produced in the region, though they are far less common than even the dry whites.

The Cà dei Frati estate differs from its neighbours in several respects: the vines are actually trained lower than normal (using single or double Guyot), are planted more densely (as is the modern way, so that vines compete for nutrients) but yields are kept down.

Cà dei Frati I Frati Lugana 2018

I FRATI LUGANANew

I have recommended this wine before bu I make no apology for repeating myself – it’s an excellent wine that offers a lot of flavour at a fairly modest price point. The nose is fairly expressive, with peach and some apricot notes.  The palate is tangy, full of peach and pear.  There’s a lovely rounded aspect to the palate, helped by a little residual sugar (6.3 g/L), but a crisp, fresh finish.  This wine doesn’t need food – it’s eminently quaffable all by itself – but it would be a good partner for a wide variety of dishes – pan-fried scallops would be perfect!

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €24 – €26
  • Stockists: good independents
Single Bottle Review

A Bourgeois Sauvignon

Henri Bourgeois is one of the most well-respected producers in the Loire’s Central vineyards, with 72 hectares on both the Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé sides of the river.  Different sources give slightly different nuances to their description of the soil types, but the company’s website classifies them as the following three types:

  • Clay-limestone, which gives rise to fresh, fruity vintages;
  • Kimmeridgian marls, the memories of fossilised shells from the Jurassic Era that give intense flavours of exotic fruits and a superb structure;
  • Flint, which initiates elegant wines with smoky, roasted notes and minerality of great finesse.

Pouilly

One of the first things than a serious wineaux learns is the difference between Pouilly-Fumé (a Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc) and Pouilly-Fuissé (a Chardonnay from the Mâconnais in southern Burgundy).

Later they may stumble across the oddity that is AOP Pouilly-sur-Loire…an appellation based around the same Loire town as Fumé but based predominantly on the Chasselas grape (which is more at home in Valais (Switzerland), Baden (Germany) and Alsace (France)).

The love of Sauvignon Blanc also took the family to Marlborough where they make Clos Henri, a New Zealand Savvy with a French sensibility.

Here’s a Bourgeois wine I tried and enjoyed recently:

Disclosure: bottle was kindly provided for review, opinions remain my own

Henri Bourgeois Pouilly Fumé La Porte de l’Abbaye 2018

Henri Bourgeois Porte de l Abbaye Pouilly Fumé

For a Sauvignon this was only lightly aromatic, more subtle than those of the antipodes, but that’s no bad thing.  The palate has hints of grapefruit and gooseberry but it’s mainly lemon which shines.  The finish is long and mineral.  Overall this is somewhat on the simple side, but very pure and enjoyable.  It would be at its best with seafood – perhaps some shellfish to match the Jurassic soils on which it was grown.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €25.95
  • Stockists: O’Briens shops and obrienswine.ie
Single Bottle Review

Bodega Garzón Albariño Reserva 2018

Bodega Garzón is one of Uruguay’s best wineries, founded and funded by Argentian energy billionaire Alejandro Bulgheroni.  The winery is located close to Punte del Este (the “Saint Tropez of South America”) and charming seaside towns on Uruguay’s Riviera, facing almost due south into the Atlantic.  It’s now a destination itself with various tours and an upmarket restaurant headed by star chef Francis Mallman.

They have several ranges of wines within their portfolio:

  • Late Harvest: Petit Manseng
  • Sparkling: Extra Brut and Brut Rosé
  • Estate: Pinot Grigio, Viognier, Pinot Noir Rosé, Tannat Blend, Cabernet Franc Blend, Sauvignon Blanc
  • Reserva: Marselan, Albariño, Tannat, Cabernet Franc
  • Single Vineyard: Tannat, Albariño, Sauvignon Blanc, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Pinot Noir
  • Petit Clos: Cabernet Sauvignon, Tannat, Albariño, Cabernet Franc
  • Balasto: Flagship Red Blend

Uruguay’s signature grape is of course Tannat – originally from the other side of the Atlantic in south western France.  Garzón does make excellent Tannat, but here we focus on another grape from the eastern Atlantic coast, Galicia’s Albariño.

Of course, Galicia doesn’t have sole ownership of Albariño – it’s also grown south of the Miño/Minho as Alvarinho and is also one of the varieties being trialled in Bordeaux.  In these maritime climes the proximity of the vines to the coast has a marked effect on the style of the wine; littoral areas give more mineral and saline characteristics to the finished wine whereas inland sites lend a little more richness and fruit.  How does Garzón’s Albariño compare?

Bodega Garzón Albariño Reserva 2018

Bodega Garzón reserva albariño

I’ve been lucky enough to taste this wine several times over the past six months or so, but for some unknown reason each time I taste it I am pleasantly surprised at how good it is.  Fermentation and maturation are in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks to help preserve the bright fruit flavours, but the wine does also spend three to six months (depending on vintage) on its fine lees, adding texture, weight and a certain creaminess.

The nose shows pronounced white peach and citrus, more expressive than lesser Albariños for sure.  On the palate the citrus shines through most, with a streak of fresh acidity and a saline tinge.  It reminded me of a Rías Baixas wine from close to the coast, except with more depth of flavour – perhaps a touch more sunshine and the time on lees make the difference.  Overall, this is a delicious wine that deserves the praise and recognition it has been receiving.

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €21.95
  • Stockists: Baggot Street Wines, Blackrock Cellar, McHugh’s, Martin’s Off-licence, Gibney’s of Malahide, The Vintry, Clontarf Wines, Brady’s Shankill, Deveney’s Dundrum, Higgins Clonskeagh, 1601 Kinsale, Morton’s Salthill, World Wide Wines Waterford, Alan McGuinness, Drink Store

Thanks to Liam and Peter from DNS Wine Club who have both shown this wine in recent months.

Tasting Events

Lidl French Reds Spring 2020

Catch ’em while you can!  Below are six reds I enjoyed from the Lidl Ireland French wine event, covering Bordeaux, South West France, Beaujolais and the Rhône:

Le Clan 100% IGP Périgord 2016 (12.5%, €7.99 at Lidl Ireland)

Le Clan Perigord 2016

Périgord is not a familiar name for many people, especially in relation to wine; it’s the name of an old French region with a strong gastronomic reputation, roughly similar to today’s Dordogne département.  Before the départements were created and Bordeaux wine was demarcated within the Gironde’s borders, wines made in what is now the Dordogne were made in a similar way to Bordeaux (as now) but actually marketed as Bordeaux.  Thus seeing the Bordelais grapes Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon on the front label is not a surprise.

On the nose Le Clan 100% shows ripe plums and dark chocolate.  The palate is mainly black fruit, but it’s the style which is most noticeable – it’s an easy-drinking wine with low tannins that’s just perfect for quaffing with friends – “totes smashable” as the kids would say!

Collin-Bourisset Saint-Amour 2018 (13.5%, €12.99 at Lidl Ireland)

Collin Bourisset Saint Amour 2018

Beaujolais is on the up at the moment, especially among hip younger drinkers.  While some bottles are getting (justifiably) pricey, there are still plenty of modestly priced examples around.

The Collin-Bourisset Brouilly is also included in this French wine event and, while that’s a reasonable wine – especially with food – this Saint-Amour is significantly better in my opinion.  Blueberries and loganberries pop on the nose.  The fruit extravaganza continues on the palate, with a soft and gentle mouthfeel.  Acidity is good, making this an easy drinking wine that doesn’t pall when sipping on its own, but would be a super match for a plate of charcuterie.

Vacqueras “Les Gabets” 2018 (14.5%, €14.99 at Lidl Ireland)

Vacqueras Les Gabets 2018

As with many of the wines included in this event, all three red Rhône wines are from the 2018 vintage.  This is the most serious of the three, the most expensive by a fiver and – in my opinion – easily the best.  With more structure its youth is more evident than on its Séguret and Vinsobres counterparts, so I’d be happy to keep it for at least a year or two before cracking it open.  Cherry and raspberry are the key notes from this wine, with just a touch of earthiness.

Côtes de Bourg 2018 (13.0%, €7.99 at Lidl Ireland)

Côtes de Bourg 2018

Côtes de Bourg is one of my favourite Bordeaux appellations; it’s not that well known but can produce really good wines at very reasonable prices.  Merlot is usually the main grape, supported by small amounts of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. I don’t have the detailed blend of this particular wine but it exudes a “drink me!” sensibility so I reckon there’s over 75% Merlot (sorry Jim!)  It’s full of juicy plum fruit and the tannins are very gentle so it’s a great quaffer.  Perfect everyday Claret!

Château Blagnac Haut Médoc 2016 (13.5%, €11.99 at Lidl Ireland)

Ch Blaignac Haut Médoc 2016

Château Blagnac is the junior label of  Antoine Moueix’s Château Hanteillan, just west of Pauillac and Saint-Éstephe in the Haut-Médoc.  Blaignac’s vines are 65% Merlot and 35% Cabernet Sauvignon with an average age of 15 years, so fairly young.  Having a majority of Merlot is pretty unusual in the Haut-Médoc, but as the Mouiex family own Pétrus I’d say they know what they are doing!

The blend is evident in the ripe fruitiness of the wine, quite different from many of the austere Cabernet-dominant wines of the area.  There are Cabernet traits though, such as pencil shavings on the nose and ripe (but not over-ripe) cassis on the palate.  The acidity and tannins are good but not overbearing – this is a proper, classy Bordeaux.

Château Haut-Lavignière Saint-Émilion Grand Cru 2015 (14.0%, €16.99 at Lidl Ireland)

Ch Haut Lavignerie Saint Emilion Grand Cru

Château Haut-Lavignière extends across 12 hectares of sandy, silty soils in Saint-Émilion. Merlot is the undisputed king here with 95% of the blend and just a dash of Cab Franc. This recipe and a warm year such as 2015 makes for a big, ripe, spectacular wine.  It’s all about black fruit, with a touch of dark chocolate.  There are tannins but they are fine and ripe.  To me it tastes even higher than the stated 14.0%, so it’s not for the faint hearted!

If you haven’t already seen it then check out my post on the French Whites also included in the event.

Tasting Events

Lidl French Whites Spring 2020

Lidl Ireland have just launched a range of French wines which will be available for a limited time only – until stocks run out.  Below are brief notes on six whites that would be making their way into my trolley: two from Burgundy, two from the Loire and two from Alsace.

Wally AOP Touraine Sauvignon 2018 (13.0%, €9.99 at Lidl Ireland)

Wally Sauvignon Blanc

There are several different Touraine appellations in the Loire Valley but this is the one which removes any doubt as to which grape variety you will be drinking.  While not reaching the heights of Pouilly-Fumé, Quincy and the other Sauvignon based wines further east, Touraine is the French standard bearer for inexpensive fresh, tasty Sauvignon Blanc.

Wally has a very expressive Sauvignon nose – grass, gooseberry and grapefruit.  These notes continue through to the palate, but there are no rough edges – it’s (almost) smooth in texture.  Great value for money!

Comte d’Ardières AOP Sancerre 2018 (13.0%, RRP €16.99 at Lidl Ireland)

Lidl Sancerre

Probably the most famous Sauvignon appellation, Sancerre is one of the most prestigious wine regions of France.  Despite that, quality and style can vary as there are multiple soil types and aspects.  I don’t know who the Count of Ardières was, but the wines named after him are very elegant and mineral in style.  There’s also lots of fresh citrus and a long tangy finish.  Worth trying with delicate white fish or oysters.

Collin-Bourisset AOP Coteaux Bourguignons 2018 (13.0% €9.99 at Lidl Ireland)

Collin Bourisset Coteaux Bourguignons Blanc

For those not familiar, Coteaux Bourguignons is an appellation that covers the whole of Burgundy proper and Beaujolais, for both red and white wines.  It can thus be made with fruit from all over the region, but is often a label used for wines from the south around the Maconnais / Beaujolais border.  The grapes for this white are not given, but on tasting it appears to me to be substantially or totally Chardonnay.  It has some oak on the nose and palate plus citrus and stone fruit.  This is proper white Burgundy, a steal for a tenner!

AOP Chablis 2018 (12.5%, €12.99 at Lidl Ireland)

Lidl Chablis 2018

After the trials and tribulations of frost and hail over consecutive years, Chablis producers had to put up their prices so that they could still make a living.  The phrase “there’s no more cheap Chablis” was uttered many times.  Thankfully, the 2018 harvest was the best in 20 years according to the president of the Chablis Commission, so things are returned to normal.

At €12.99 this would definitely be considered a “cheap Chablis”, though I’d wager Lidl’s average bottle price is several Euros less.  It has the classic Chablis nose of citrus and soft malolactic character.  The palate shows red and green apples, lemon and lime fruits plus stony minerality.  This is an excellent wine for the price and was the standout wine of the tasting!

Camile Meyer AOP Alsace Gewurztraminer Vieilles Vignes 2018 (13.0%, €10.99 at Lidl Ireland)

Alsace Gewurztraminer Vieilles Vignes

When it comes to wine Irish people rarely have a sweet tooth, and usually eschew anything with more than a few grams of residual sugar.  Perhaps this is because of ‘Nam-like flashbacks from sweet, unbalanced, flabby German whites from decades past (you know the ones I’m talking about), who knows.  This means that the limited number of Alsace Gewurztraminers available in supermarkets are usually quite dry.  There’s nothing wrong with that in itself – each to his own – but for me Gewurz needs a bit of RS to complement its round, rich character.

And here’s the perfect example at an inexpensive price point.  It’s VERY Gewurz on the nose, with lychees, Turkish delight and rose petals.  The aromas continue on the palate but a little more subdued, but matched nicely by an off-dry finish.

AOP Crémant d’Alsace Brut NV (12.0%, €12.99 at Lidl Ireland)

Crémant d'Alsace Brut NV

France’s second best selling sparkling wine is represented by this fresh and fruity little number.  It’s made in the traditional method and is fully sparkling so is a steal at this price (given the double duty on such wines in Ireland).  This is a great alternative to Prosecco; fun and fruity but drier and better balanced.

 

 

 

 

Make Mine A Double, Opinion

Sweet or Dry Fortified? [Make Mine a Double #51]

SuperValu Ireland currently have their Spanish wine sale underway, running until Wednesday 4th March.  Here are a few of the wines included that I have tasted in the past and would be putting in my trolley in the next week:

  • Martin Codax Albariño (€12.00 down from €17.99)
  • Paco & Lola Albariño (€12.00 down from €14.99)
  • Segura Viudas Cava Reserva Heredad (€20.00 down from €30.00)
  • Marqués de Cáceres Rioja Gran Reserva (€20.00 down from €30.00)
  • Finca Labarca Rioja Reserva (€10.00 down from €15.99)
  • Cune Rioja Gran Reserva (€20.00 down from €30.00)

On top of the reductions there’s also €10 off any six wines – definitely worth thinking about if you’re stocking up.

Instead of picking a few of the usual table wines for my review I have instead picked two Spanish fortified wines, though they could hardly be more different:

Williams and Humbert “Dos Cortados – Oloroso” NV (19.5%, 75 cl. €20.00 at SuperValu)

Dos Cortados Sherry

From the sweet to the very dry; this is a savoury, aged Sherry which cries out for some umami accompaniment, despite having some wonderful sweet notes on the nose.  The closest I came to adequately describing the nose is salted caramel – and this follows through onto the palate, though there is no sugariness; imagine dabbing the end of your tongue with blotting paper and that might give you an idea of the dryness.  There are also rancio and yeasty notes which just add to the splendour.  This is a “special guest” wine which won’t be available indefinitely, so if you want to try it then get a move on!

Geek Speak

Now I am far from a Sherry expert – or even a regular Sherry drinker – but I do remember some of the info I learned during my WSET studies.  Very simplistically, dry Sherries are generally made in a lighter, yeast-influenced style such as a Fino or an oxygen-influenced style such as Oloroso.

There are some which start out as a Fino but where the flor yeast dies off and then oxygen does its work; this can either happen naturally or due to the addition of more alcohol.  The Sherry is then known as a Palo Cortado, or “cut stick”.

In the case of this wine the process was done twice so has been named “Dos Cortados”.  Slightly confusingly the producer calls it an Oloroso, but as it is very rich and dark in style that’s understandable.  On more recent labels Williams & Humbert does call it a Palo Cortado (thanks Sherry Notes).

Torres Floralis Moscatel Oro NV (15.0%, €15.00 down to €10.00 at SuperValu)

Torres Moscatel Oro

The name of this wine gives you plenty of  information; it’s very floral on the nose and quite golden in colour.  There are also notes of orange blossom, orange peel and Seville orange marmalade.  The palate is rich yet light, intensely sweet with 188g of residual sugar, but balanced by firm acidity – it is far from cloying.  My only criticism would be that the finish is not very long, but such a gorgeous wine at this price is well worth a try.

Geek Speak

Torres call this a “naturally sweet wine” which immediately brings to (my) mind the French term Vin Doux Naturel, a wine which is fortified before fermentation has finished so that some of the grapes’ natural sugar is left in the wine.  Muscat is often the grape of choice in France for these wines, and elsewhere around the Mediterranean: Moscatel in Spain and Portugal, Moscato in Italy.

Of course, Muscat is a family of grapes rather than a single variety; in France the smaller berries (and hence more flavoursome) Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains is often the version used, whereas other regions often use Muscat of Alexandria – as Torres do in this wine.

 

**Click here to see more posts in the Make Mine a Double Series**

Single Bottle Review

Top Notch Malbec from Trapiche [Frankie’s Single Bottle Review #29]

Trapiche make an almost bewilderingly wide range of wines, with around twenty different labels that vary from a single variety to a choice of thirteen for the “Vineyards” label.  Their “Terroirs Series” has three single vineyard Malbecs from different sites around Mendoza, an exercise in showing the effects of terroir has on the same grape.  Ambrosia comes from Gualtallary in Tupungato, the highest of the three at 1,307 metres above sea level.  The other two in the series are Suárez Lastra at 1,072m and Orellana de Escobar at a “mere” 990m.

Disclosure: this bottle was a sample, but opinions remain my own

Trapiche Terroir Series Ambrosia Single Vineyard Malbec 2014 (14.5%, RRP €36.99 at Martin’s Off Licence; Redmonds of Ranelagh; Ice Box Off Licence)

Trapiche Terroir Series Ambrosia Single Vineyard Malbec 2014

Even before the first glass is poured, on opening this reveals itself to be a serious wine, with a left bank Bordeaux sensibility: French oak rules the day.  The smokiness and hints of vanilla on the nose are joined by pencil shavings, leather, and bold black fruit.  On the palate, there’s ripe black fruit on the attack along with tangy oak.  Beautiful mineral notes join for the long, elegant finish.  Although this is a “fruity” wine, it’s far from jammy and confected; rather, it’s beautifully balanced and serious, though doesn’t take itself too seriously.   Ambrosia is well worth its status as a single vineyard wine.

Opinion

Solera Wine Selection (part 3)

It’s time for the big guns from Rioja and Tuscany!  After some fantastic whites in part 1, and some cracking reds in part 2, we now have wines from the esteemed Bodegas Roda and Mazzei.

once again, apologies for the poor quality of my snaps!

Bodegas Roda “Sela” Rioja 2016 (14.0%, RRP €27.95 at Blackrock CellarDeveney’s Dundrum; D-Six Off Licence; The CorkscrewJus de VineThe VintrySweeney’s D3Lotts & CoNectar WinesBaggot Street Wines)

Bodegas Roda Sela Rioja 2016

Bodegas Roda were founded as recently as 1987 but have already forged a reputation for excellence.  They have evaluated over 552 Tempranillo clones before settling on the best 20 to plant going forward.  French – rather that American – oak barrels are used for maturation, yet the oak treatment is always in balance with the fruit.

Sela is the “entry level” from Roda, with fruit hand harvested from 15 to 30 year old bush vines.  Maturation is for 12 months in seasoned French oak.  Of course, this wine could be labelled as a Crianza, but that term has a cheap and cheerful image in Spain, definitely not fitting for Bodegas Roda!  The blend is 87% Tempranillo, 7% Graciano and 6% Garnacha giving fresh red and black fruit.  Sela is an easy drinking style but also has the elegance to be served at the table.

Bodegas Roda “Roda” Rioja Reserva 2015 (14.0%, RRP €39.50 at 64 WinesBlackrock CellarDrink Store, Stoneybatter; Deveney’s DundrumJus de VineThe VintryNectar WinesThe Corkscrew)

Roda Roda Rioja 2015

The Roda Reserva is a clear step up from the Sela.  While the blend is almost identical –  86% Tempranillo, 6% Graciano and 8% Garnacha – the vines are all over 30 year old and yields are lower, both aiding concentration.  Alcoholic fermentation is in French oak vats followed by malolacic fermentation in French oak barrels (40% new, 60% second use) where the wine then matures for 14 months.  When bottled the Reserva is kept in Roda’s cellars for a further two and a half years before release.

The nose has red and black cherries, strawberries and raspberries with vanilla and smoky notes from the oak, and hints of cinnamon.  The wine feels thick and viscous in the mouth with the fruit aromas coming through to the palate.  The Roda Reserva is a vibrant wine, still in the flushes of youth, but should continue to evolve for the next decade or two.

Bodegas Roda “Roda I” Rioja Reserva 2012 (14.5%, RRP €64.00 at 64 WinesBaggot Street WinesBlackrock CellarClontarf WinesDeveney’s DundrumD-Six Off LicenceMartins Off-LicenceThe CorkscrewThe VintrySweeney’s D3Clontarf Wines)

Roda Roda I Rioja 2012

The main difference between Roda I and Roda (formerly Roda II) is in flavour profile – for Roda I grapes are picked from old bush vines which tend to show more black fruit characteristics rather than the red fruit of Roda.  The blend is Tempranillo dominated (96%) with a seasoning of Graciano (4%).  The oak regime is slightly different as well – the barrels are 50% new and ageing in barrel is for 16 months.

While obviously sharing some house similarities with its junior sibling, this is a different wine altogether, much more complex.  The nose is more perfumed and expressive with black fruit, smoky oak, earthiness and chocolate.  These notes continue through to the palate where some dried fruit and mineral flavours join them.  The mouth is voluptuous and soothing.  Fine grained tannins help to make a savoury, satisfying dry finish.  Although this would be a real treat to drink on its own it would shine even brighter with food.

Mazzei Castello Fonterutoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2015 (14.0%, RRP €48.95 at 64 WinesBlackrock CellarDeveney’s Dundrum)

Mazzei Castello Fonterutoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2012
Yes, I forgot to take a snap of the 2015, so here’s my snap of the 2012. If you try really hard, I’m sure you could imagine how the 2015 bottle would look…

You can read the full background on this wine in my recent post on the 2012, so I won’t repeat that here.  The blend is consistent at 92% Sangiovese and 8% Malvasia Nera & Colorino and the oak regime is the same.   The 2015 is from a slightly warmer year so the exact alcohol reading is 14.26% versus 13.73% for the 2012; not a huge difference but an indication of the vintage.  This is a fabulous wine, really smooth but tangy and fresh, with red and black fruit bursting out of the glass.  Mazzei give it an ageing potential of 20 years but when wine is this good it would be really difficult not to drink now!

Mazzei Castello Fonterutoli “Siepi” Rosso Toscana 2016 (14.5%, RRP ~ €125.00* at Blackrock Cellar)

Mazzei Castello Fonterutoli Siepi Rosso Toscana 2016
*Blackrock Cellar currently just has the 150cl magnum in stock for around €250

It does seem to this cynic that any IGT Toscana with French grapes in the blend is classed as a “Super Tuscan” these days, but this is truly deserving of the epithet.  Siepi is named after the six hectare estate vineyard from where the grapes are sourced –  one of Mazzei’s best – and has been produced since 1992.  The blend is 50% Sangiovese and 50% Merlot; the varieties are picked at different times (17 days earlier for the Merlot which is known to be an early ripener in Bordeaux) and are given different maceration times (14 days for Merlot, 18 days for Sangiovese).  Ageing is for 18 months in French barriques, 70% new and 30% used.

This 2016 was released in October 2018 and tasted 12 months later.  It was still a little shy and closed, but already showing flashes of its future grandeur.  To depart from my usual style of tasting notes, drinking this wine was like sitting in front of a warm fire on a big, well-worn sofa with soft cushions.  As I write during Storm Dennis, that would be most welcome!

 

 

Tasting Events

Solera Wine Selection (part 2)

Onwards and upwards we go!  After some fantastic whites in part 1, now we turn to some fabulous Solera reds from Puglia, Barolo and Mendoza!

once again, apologies for the poor quality of my snaps!

Cantine Paolo Leo Primanero Appassimento 2016 (13.5%, RRP €16.95 at Baggot Street Wines; Blackrock Cellar; Deveney’s Dundrum; DrinkStore, Stoneybatter; Clontarf Wines; Lotts & Co; Martins Off-Licence; The Vintry; The Grape Vine, Glasnevin)

Cantine Paolo Leo Primanero Appassimento

Over the past five to ten years there has been a large increase in Italian reds on the market which have been made in the Appassimento  method, i.e. with some or all of the grapes dried before being pressed to concentrate sugar, flavour and body.  These wines have found favour with consumers, especially at lower price points where they deliver a big bang for buck.  Unfortunately, in my not-so-humble opinion, they are often unbalanced; sometimes jammy, too sweet, and even with too much extraction (the skins being pressed hard) in trying to compensate for the jam.

However, here we have an example of Appassimento done right.  From Puglia in Italy’s “heel”, we have a blend of the two local key black grapes, 60% Primitivo and 40% Negroamaro (hence the name Primanero if you didn’t get it.  The bunch stems are partially cut when the grapes reach the desired maturity, then left to dry for 12 weeks.  The result is a wine with very ripe fruit on the nose, but a very balanced palate.  It has a bit more oomph than Puglia wines from undried grapes but has enough savoury notes to be a good partner for hearty food.  Why can’t more be like this?

Elvio Cogno Barolo Ravera Riserva Vigna Elena 2012 (14.5%, RRP €125.00 at Deveney’s Dundrum; The Corkscrew; Sweeney’s D3)

Cogno Vigna Elena Barolo Ravera Riserva 2012

Although its wines are monovarietal, Barolo is a complex area – and I don’t pretend to have got to grips with it yet – so please bear with me as we dive in.  The Elvio Cogno Winery is based in the Novello commune, one of the eleven communes within the Barolo DOCG production area.  The eponymous winery owns approximately 15 hectares and produces a spectrum of Barolos (of which this is the top), plus other Nebbiolos, Barberas and even Nascetta (a native Novello white grape variety which was pioneered by Cogno).

11.5 of the 15 hectares are in the Cru of Ravera, in the north eastern sector of Novello.  Ravera is of the most well-known Crus and is one of the highest altitude at 380m.  The particular Nebbiolo clone used (Rosè) both flowers and ripens around ten days later than other clones.  The soil is mainly limestone and the aspect is predominantly south, meaning the vines still receive plenty of sunshine and heat despite their altitude.

Barolo DOCG Riserva Ravera “Vigna Elena” is a very traditional style of Barolo that is only produced “during great vintages”.  Fermentation is in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks with pump-overs for 30 days afterwards for increased maceration.  Maturation is then in 4,000 litre Slavonian oak barrels for three years, increasing tannins still further.

Amazingly one of the notes this wine shows on the nose is chocolate cake!  There are also traditional floral and tobacco elements in the background.  When tasted (seven years after harvest) the tannins were still very grippy, but framed the fresh red fruit and exotic spices to perfection.  The finish was very long and elegant – just a fabulous wine.

Atamisque Uco Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 (14.5%, RRP €32 at The Corkscrew; The Grape Vine Glasnevin; Baggot Street Wines; Blackrock Cellar; Deveney’s Dundrum; D-Six Off Licence)

Atamisque Uco Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
According to the website, “Atamisque, is a bush of local origin, which grows naturally in the surrounding area of the winery.  It is the iconic brand of the winery.”

As Cabernet Sauvignon is my favourite black grape I was looking forward to trying this serious example from The Uco Valley in Mendoza, Argentina.  Signature grape Malbec is just one of the many grapes which prosper in Argentina, though it copes better with extremes of heat than the Cabernets which don’t like too much heat.  Bodega Atamisque are located in the Tupungato Department sub-region of Mendoza province, named after the huge Tupungato peak which reaches 6,750 m.  Of course, vines are not planted at the peak, but they are still at the high elevation of 1,300 m above sea level.  This gives the grapes excellent acidity and the day-night temperature variation gives them plenty of colour, flavour and tannin.

So what makes this wine so “serious”?  Firstly, the vines are all on their own rootstocks, i.e. ungrafted, as phylloxera is not a threat.   Secondly, yields are low at 5 tons per hectare – around 27 hl/ha.  Thirdly, there is rigorous selection for both bunches (picking is all by hand) and then berries, so only the best grapes get used.  Finally, Atamisque uses Taransaud-Demptos French oak barrels – they are considered one of the best coopers in France and supply many top Bordeaux Châteaux.  For the Cabernet Sauvignon maturation is for 14 months in 100% new barrels.

The payoff: it has an mistakable Cabernet nose, with pencil shavings and dark black fruit.  Given the grape variety and oak treatment, the obvious comparison is with Pauillac, but to be honest you wouldn’t get a wine with this amount of fruit, tannin and minerality for anything like the same price in the Médoc.  Ageing potential is given as 15 years, but I’d say it will still be going strong then.

Single Bottle Review

Mazzei Castello Fonterutoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2012 [Frankie’s Single Bottle Review #28]

What once was lost was found again!  

Let me explain.  In late 2017 I published a series of guest posts on my blog which were all on the theme of Xmas wines or. more exactly, the wines that some wine loving friends were looking forward to enjoying over the festive period.  Effi Tsournova was one of those friends and she wrote this guest post on Domaines Schlumberger Riesling Grand Cru Saering 2014 (obviously a favourite of mine) and a really good Chianti…but on top of that she arranged for a bottle of the very same Chianti to be sent to me here in Dublin!

But then, I managed to lose the bottle.  Misplace is probably a better word than lose, but I just didn’t know where it was, and assumed that it had probably been passed on as a gift to someone else (my wife is very generous with wine).  I was relieved and delighted in equal measures when I found the Lord Lucan of bottles tucked away at the back of a wine fridge.  Happy days!

Mazzei Castello Fonterutoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2012 (14.0%, RRP £49.99 at Cambridge Wine Merchants, Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Handford Wines, Whole Foods, Il Toscanaccio, The Vineking, Nickolls & Perks)

Mazzei Castello Fonterutoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2012

Over the past forty years Mazzei have proved that winemaking is a science as well as an art.  Their Chianti Classico grapes are sourced from 120 parcels (50 owned) and number 36 different clones of Sangiovese, half of which are exclusive to Fonterutoli.  In 2012 the vines ranged from 10 to 25 years old – obviously add 8 to both figures for 2020.

The final blend for 2012 was 92% Sangiovese plus 8% Malvasia Nera and Colorino.  Maturation was in 225 and 500 litre French oak barrels, 60% new and 40% used.

Compared to the 2015 I tasted recently (more on which soon), the 2012 is already a little lighter in the glass, with ruby tinges on the rim.  The nose is complex: red and black cherries, raspberry and blackberry are wrapped in a light vanilla jacket, with highlights of exotic spice and garden herbs.  Black fruits are more to the fore on the palate, though the red fruits still linger.  The acidity (present, but in no way searing) and tannins (fine, not grippy) that were there on release have softened considerably.  This is a fine wine that has entered its peak drinking window.