Make Mine A Double

Wine Review: Langlois L’Extra Crémant Rosé and Zull Lust & Laune Rosé

Yes it’s August already, so why not enhance the summer vibe with some totally drinkable rosé?

Here is a pair from O’Briens’ August wine promotions – one sparkling and one still – that are worth popping open anytime, but especially when they are on offer:

Langlois L’Extra Crémant de Loire Rosé NV

Langlois L'Extra Crémant de Loire Rosé NV

Langlois are a well-established Saumur-based Loire producer who specialise in Crémants – they have six including this rosé – as well as reds and whites from Saumur and the surrounding appellations. They have been part of the Bollinger group since 1973 and their parent’s savoir-faire has undoubtedly helped to lift quality.

There are two classes in the Anglois Crémant range. The four traditional Crémants consist of up to four varieties: Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir, in either NV or vintage expressions. The L’Extra range has a white – which is outstanding – and this rosé.

The blend for this Crémant is 70% Cabernet Franc and 30% Grolleau. The latter is a black grape primarily grown in the Loire and used for rosés – Anjou rosé and Crémant rosé – though seldomly seen on a front label. The grapes are pneumatically pressed immediately after destemming, giving 100 litres of juice from 150 kg of grapes. For this wine the free run juice (the cuvée) and some of the subsequent light pressings (the taille) are used. It spends a minimum of 12 months in bottle before disgorgement.

In the glass it is fully sparkling (the traditional method is used for all Crémants) and a pale salmon colour. The nose shows lots of fresh summer fruits, notably raspberry and strawberry. In the mouth it has a light and creany texture, with those summer fruits back again. It has a certain yeastiness, but not the full-on brioche experience of some Champagnes.

For me this rosé comes a narrow second to its white sibling, but there’s no shame in that as the Blanc is so excellent – I bought my wife a dozen for mother’s day this year. If you fancy a well-made pink fizz then there’s little to touch this at the price.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €18.95 down from €21.45 until 31/08/22
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Zull NiederÖsterrreich Lust & Laune Rosé 2021

Zull Lust & Laune Rosé

Weingut Zull is a quality Austrian producer still in the hands of its founding family. It has four ranges within its portfolio, the majority of which carry the Weinwiertel DAC appellation. The introductory range includes three “Lust & Laune” wines which are designed to be fun and accessible. The white is 100% Grüner Veltliner, the red is a blend of Zweigelt and Pinot Noir, and this rosé is similar to the red but also has dashes of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

The colour comes from 20% red wine being added to 80% clear juice – though I don’t have details of which varieties are used for the 20% – rather than the saignée method. Whichever they are, the result is a lovely glowing salmon pink. The nose features fresh, ripe red fruit aromas which jump out of the glass: strawberry, raspberry, loganberry, watermelon and fruit polos. This is a zingy, fun, fleshy, FRUITY wine, full of summer fruits but not at all flabby (residual sugar is only 4 g/L). You might even detect a hint of tannin on the finish, but it’s just a little seasoning. Wonderful stuff!

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RRP: €11.96 down from €15.95 until 31/08/22
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Conclusion

I loved both of these wines and would happily drink either again, but in terms of sheer pleasure the Zull wins the day.

 


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

Wine Of The Week

Wine of the Week: Bourcier-Martinot Mâcon

The Mâconnais

Similar to the Rhône and Beaujolais regions (the latter of which it slightly overlaps), the Mâconnais has an easy enough hierarchy to its AOCs. Furthermore, there is the possibility for wines of a village or commune to be promoted in the rankings. Starting off as a simple Mâcon, then a Mâcon-Villages, up to Mâcon hypenated with the village name (e.g. Mâcon-Uchizy) to an AOC of the village all alone (e.g. Saint Véran, my go-to Mâconnais wine).

Surpringly, these days* the most basic category is not the largest:

Pie chart showing relative size of Mâcon AOCs

Being the southern-most part of Burgundy proper, Mâcon wines tend to be riper than their northern counterparts. Chardonnay is the king here, though Pinot Noir and Gamay are permitted in the small amount of reds and rosés (they only account for around 8% of the total made).

Of course as we are in Burgundy, the producer is very important:

Bourcier-Martinot 

Bourcier-Martinot is a value-driven label owned by childhood friends Jean-Luc Terrier and Christian Collovray. The pair have a serious operation at Domaine des Deux Roches where they have been making wines for over three decades. The Domaine owns “A total of 63 hectares of vines, of which around 24 are in the Saint-Véran appellation, 25 in Mâcon-Villages, Mâcon or Mâcon Chardonnay, and Mâcon La Roche Vineuse, and 2,300 square metres in Pouilly-Fuissé…” Bourcier-Martinot gives them the opportunity to use their winemaking skills on bought in grapes from the Mâcon AOC.

Bourcier-Martinot Mâcon 2020

Bourcier Martinot Mâcon

A brief search online for previous vintages of this wine suggest that it was previously unoaked, but even the colour in the glass – light gold – suggests that this was not the case for the 2020 vintage. The nose confirms that this Mâcon has seen some oak, with vanilla and smoky notes interlaced with pip and stone fruits. The oak is also present on the palate, nice and tangy but already well integrated; I suspect that the barrels used were mainly – if not all – seasoned and not new. The orchard fruits also show in the mouth, with nice texture and weight.

For a “mere” AOC Mâcon this is excellent. Inexpensive Chardonnays rarely do it for me, but this is well worth the normal price of €20 and worth snapping up at the offer price of €17.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €19.95, currently on offer at €16.95
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

 

2010 figures taken from Wikipedia

Opinion

Piedmont and Verona Wines from the SuperValu Italian Wine Sale

The 2022 SuperValu Italian wine sale is almost over, so it’s time to pick up the last few bargains. I’ve already covered the Guest wines from Tuscany that are included in the sale; now it’s time to look at the Guest wines from Piedmont and Verona:

Ricossa Barolo 2017

Ricossa Barolo

Barolo has a great number of devotees, some of whom declare it the finest wine in the world. It’s not always the most approachable wine, however, with major tannins and acidity that can approach searing, and hence often needs significant ageing before it can be drunk. Ricossa Barolo is not made in that style and this 2017 can be drunk now, though it still shows considerable character. The Ricossa winery is located in Nizza Monferato but the fruit is sourced from across the Barolo region.

The nose shows red and black berry fruits, liquorice, tobacco and caramel. The palate is rich and very expressive, with notes of black and red liquorice, cherries and raspberries, plus those darker notes. It has tannin and acidity as a proper Barolo should, but they don’t dominate the wine. This is a great way to get a taste* for one of Italy’s most esteemed wines

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €16.70 down from €24.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Altygo Piedmont Rosso 2019

Piemonte DOC Altygo

Although Barolo is the pinacle wine of Piedmont, locals often drink more modest wines made from other indigenous varieties such as Dolcetto and Barbera. This Piemonte red blend is based on the former, which, despite its name, is not sweet in nature. Freisa and Merlot are also included to add complexity. Fermentation and ageing are in stainless steel tanks to maintain freshness, with daily pumping over to extract colour and flavour. Interestingly this is the first vintage to be released of this wine, but the makers aim to maintain the style from year to year so that consumers know what they are getting rather than the wine being an expression of the vintage.

In the glass this has a typical medium intensity, bright ruby with purple flecks. The nose shows red fruits, both ripe and fresh, with dried herbs and spices in the mix. In the mouth it is fruit driven – black and red cherry, raspberry and alpine strawberry – with a dry, savoury edge. Firm tannins and good acidity beg for red meat or a cheese and charcuterie platter. A great introduction to some lesser known Italian varieties.

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €12.00 down from €17.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Acquesi Asti NV

Acquesi Asti

The region of Asti developed a reputation for its sweet sparkling wines, but so much muck was labelled as Asti Spumante that they decided to drop the Spumante qualifier. Although the wine is sweet and sparkling, good examples are so much more than that: they are fantastically aromatic. Being made from 100% Moscato Bianco – known in French as Muscat blanc à Petits Grains – the focus on aromas is not a surprise.

This bottle has only been produced since 2018 but has been a real hit with critics and consumers for several reasons. The beautiful bottle print evokes the style of Liberty and has an image of “La Bollente”, an iconic spa in Acqui Terme from which the wine takes its name. The wine is made using the Charmat method, known locally as Martinotti Method, which is ideal for preserving aromas from the grapes.

Muscat sometimes gets a bad rep for being on the simple side, yet this sparker is anything but. Aromas of honey, stone fruits and citrus are intertwined and compete for your attention. On the palate there is freshness and sweetness simultaneously. This is a wine which is approachable yet satisfying, delicious on its own or perfect with dessert courses.

  • ABV: 7.0%
  • RRP: €12.00 down from €17.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Monte Del Fra Corvina Veronese 2019

Monte Del Fra Corvina Veronese

Corvina is one of the principal grapes of the Verona area, featuring in Valpolicella, Bardonlino and other wines, though often blended with others such as Rondinella and Molinara. This IGT is 100% Corvina Veronese with no drying of grapes in the winemaking process, and from higher altitude sites. Fermentation and maturation take place in stainless steel cuves to put the fruit first.

On the nose this shows lots of black fruit with hints of spice. The palate opens out with raspberry and blueberry on top of black cherries, but also cocoa, liquorice and black olives. There’s more tannin here than you might expect given the softness of other wines from the region, but this is where the higher altitude comes into play. The producers reckon that its acidity makes it a good match for fish as well as red meat, but I’d be thinking of an Irish stew or cold cuts.

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €12.00 down from €17.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Costa Mediana Amarone 2018

Costa Mediana Amarone

So here we have Corvina Veronese again, but this time partnered with Rondinella and from partially air-dried grapes. Drying the grapes gives a higher sugar-to-juice ratio in the press and hence more alcohol (15.0% or so) and some residual sugar. Amarone is the original appassimento wine with many imitators, but it still commands a premium.

This example is full bodied, as it should be, but with acidity to balance the sugar. There are fresh cherries from the grapes but also cocoa powder and tobacco from 12 months of oak ageing. Despite being big and bold there’s a balance here which makes it a success on its own or at the table. It’s good value at €25 but an absolute steal at €16.70.

  • ABV: 15.0%
  • RRP: €16.70 down from €24.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

*Pun fully intended

Opinion

Tuscan Wines from the SuperValu Italian Wine Sale

The 2022 edition of the SuperValu Italian Wine Sale is already in full swing and runs to the 8th of June. As well as reductions on dozens of existing lines, SuperValu Wine Manager Kevin O’Callaghan has secured some excellent “guest wines”. These are wines brought into Ireland by independent wine importers that are only available in SuperValu during the sale.

According to Kevin, “the guest wines we will showcase give our shoppers a chance to expand on their repertoire of wine, showing them the breadth of choice available with the Italian offering and the unique wines produced there. These guest wines really do represent an excitement to try new wines and we really encourage shoppers to use this event to explore new tastes and varieties within the range.”

Here are five guest wines from Cassidy Wines and Febvre & Co that hail from Tuscany:

Cortezza Vermentino Toscana 2020

Cortezza Vermentino Toscana

Vermentino is a real success story for quality Italian white wine. In Tuscany it is mainly planted on the coast, where it benefits from relected light and cooling sea breezes. It’s a late-ripening variety with plenty of aromatic goodness; more than a replacement for Pinot Grigio, it even barges into Riesling territory with its fresh citrus and acidic spine. There are also some subtle herbs on the palate, a reminder of its Mediterranean origins. This is fairly priced at €15 but a total steal at €10 on offer.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €10 down from €14.99 from 19th May until 8th June
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Cortezza Vino Nobile de Montepulciano 2017

Cortezza Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Wine geeks will probably be aware that Sangiovese, the main black grape of Tuscany, has dozens of different “clones”, slightly different versions of the grape. They arise naturally and the ones that survive are those best suited to the various soils, microclimates and altitudes of the vineyards where they grow. Montepulciano is just a few kilometres from Montalcino, the home of Brunello, but is far less famous. It has similar soil and climate but a less celebrated name and hence a much lower price.

Contezza’s fine example of Vino Nobile spends at least 24 months ageing in large oak casks. Primary aromas are strawberry and cherry, balanced with balsamic notes from the oak. This is wine that really responds to ageing, with tobacco, leather, dairy and forest floor notes joining the nose. For me this is a food wine, perfect to accompany red meat, with fine tannins and a long finish.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €15 down from €22.49 from 19th May until 8th June
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Forte Ambrone Vino Rosso

Forte Ambrone

This red blend has its roots in Tuscany but its branches stretch to Puglia where Primitivo and Nero d’Avola are sourced to add punch and bright fruit flavours to the the Tuscan Sangiovese. Despite the classic-looking label this is a new wine, designed to appear to modern wine drinkers more than traditional fans of Italian wine. It’s a smooth, rich red with the spikiness of Sangiovese softened out by the southern varieties. It’s an approachable, quaffable wine which won’t appeal to purists but could well convert new world wine drinkers to the charms of Italy.

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €10 down from €14.99 from 19th May until 8th June
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

Banfi Rosso di Montalcino 2019

Banfi Rosso Di Montalcino

The Banfi estate was set up very recently – by Italian standards – in 1978. They pride themselves on a socially fair and environmentally friendly approach  to producing wine. The estate is large, covering 3,000 contiguous hectares, though only a third of the total is planted with vines. 170 of that is dedicated to Brunello di Montalcino, their flagship wine and one of the most prestigious in Italy. The regulations that come with the reputation also come with a price in terms of cashflow; wines are usually released more than four years after the harvest, and with no en primeur-type system in place that equates to a lot of cash tied up (or “bottled up”!)

The answer is Rosso di Montalicino, a younger brother which is still made from 100% Sangiovese Grosso, aka Brunello, but only has to spend a minimum of six months in oak and twelve in the cellars in total before release. The grapes selected for the Rosso tend to be from younger vines with slightly less concentration, but the same philosophy.

The Banfi Rosso di Montalcino 2019 is a serious wine, with the high tannins and acidity that Montalcino wine is known for. It cries out for food, making the wine better and giving it proper context. It’s a young wine that really needs another decade to shine, but right now a decanter and a thick steak would really elevate it.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €18 down from €26.99 from 19th May until 8th June
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Banfi Toscana Belnero 2017

Belnero Toscana IGT

This is another serious wine form Banfi, though as it contains “international grapes” – namely Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot – in addition to Sangiovse, it is classed as a “Super Tuscan” and not a Brunello. The proportions of each variety aren’t given but the order they are given in suggests that Cabernet has the highest percentage.

It’s not too far removed in style from the Rosso above, though it does have an additional two years under its belt which help round its edges. Belnero is a big wine with lots of power and structure – though less noticeable acidity than its brother – but bright red and black fruits. Though still very young, it is drinking well already, but would obviously gain in complexity and stature over the rest of this decade.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €20 down from €29.99 from 19th May until 8th June
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

 

Wine Of The Week

Wine of the Week: Man O’ War Estate Chardonnay

This week’s Wine of the Week is a Chardonnay from Man O’War, one of the outstanding producers on Waiheke Island in New Zealand. Before we get to the wine itself, first we take a look at Waiheke Island and then the producer.

Waiheke Island

Waiheke Island

Although much further north (and therefore closer to the equator) than most of New Zealand’s quality wine regions, Waiheke Island’s climate is significantly moderated by the Hauraki Gulf surrounding it, especially with cooling sea breezes. This leads to longer growing seasons and therefore more physiologically developed grapes. Its promoximity to Auckland makes it a popular destination for wine tourism, though the wines are not “spoofy”. There are over 25 named vineyard sites across the island, including – at the northern side of Waiheke – Man O’ War, named after the bay onto which it faces.

Man O’ War Vineyards

The Man O’War Vineyards company was founded by the Kulta family (of Finnish origin) in 1993. Land under vine now totals 150 acres / 60 hectares split over 76 separate hillside blocks, each with a different combination of soil, altitude and aspect. They are vinified separately as far as possible before blending to achieve the desired style for each bottling.

Wines in blue are – or have been – available in Ireland

Kulta: Tytti Bordeaux Blend, Mathilda Chardonnay, Tulia Blanc de Blancs, Totto Syrah

Flagship: Ironclad Bordeaux Blend, Dreadnought Syrah, Valhalla Chardonnay, Exiled Pinot Gris, Gravestone Sauvingon Blanc / Semillon, Pinqué Rosé, Holystone Noble Pinot Gris

Estate: Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Island (Red) Blend, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Cactus Bay Semillon

Man O’War Waiheke Island Estate Chardonnay 2019

Man O'War Waiheke Island Estate Chardonnay

The fruit used for the Estate Chardonnay is selected from earlier-ripening vineyards, mainly on volcanic soils. The juice undergoes fermentation and ageing in 500 litre French oak puncheons (20% new, 80% used), with small amounts of sulphur added to block malolactic fermentation. The wines are left on gross lees while maturing, but no bâtonnage takes place.

The nose has substantial reduction (if that isn’t an oxymoron) and a tang from the volcanic soils. These notes are overlaid by citrus and ripe orchard fruits. The palate is quite old world in style – you know the region I’m thinking of, but not saying – as the struck match character comes through on the palate. It’s already nicely integrated, though; you don’t have to sit on this bottle to wait for things to mellow out. There’s a definite richness here, as the lees influence, oak and fruit combine beautifully, but there’s also a linear streak of acidity running though the middle (the better for MLF being blocked.)

I’m a long time fan of the Valhalla, an excellent Chardonnay from Man O’ War, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from this “lesser” bottling. I shouldn’t have worried, as it’s very good in its own right. It’s more approachable at this young age than the Valhalla, and perhaps more refreshing.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: ~€20
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: not currently available in Ireland – ask O’Briens to bring it in

 

Wine Of The Week

Wine of the Week: Château des Grands Chènes Médoc

Before looking at the wine itself, let’s set the scene by briefly discussing the wine region it comes from, the estate and its owner.

The Médoc

Map of the Médoc wine region
Credit: Bordeaux.com

AOC Médoc wines are not that frequently seen on our shelves – in fact just before opening this for a French friend she mentioned that she rarely sees them in France. Médoc wines are definitely the junior wines of the Médoc peninsula, though at least they though no longer carrying the Bas Médoc moniker. Further south, the Haut Médoc contains most of the famous Bordeaux AOCs: Margaux, Saint Julien, Pauillac and Saint Estèphe; the gravel banks close to the Gironde Estuary are perfect for Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant blends. The lower sites of the Médoc AOC tend to perform better with a larger proportion of Merlot.

A few Châteaux have flown the flag for quality in the Médoc, Château Potensac being the most obvious example: the only “Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel” of its appellation.

Bernard Magrez

Bernard Magrez started in the wine trade at a young age and was very much the entrepreneur. He was instrumental in establishing some major wine brands including Malesan and Sidi Brahim. He later began investing in prestigious Bordeaux properties, including his four grands crus classés which he still owns today

  • Château Pape Clément, Pessac-Léognan, Grand Cru Classé de Graves
  • Château La Tour Carnet, Haut-Médoc Grand Cru Classé en 1855
  • Clos Haut-Peyraguey, Premier Grand Cru Classé de Sauternes
  • Château Fombrauge, Grand Cru Classé de Saint-Émilion

He later expanded outside of Bordeaux, from the south west of France all the way round the world:

  • Rest of France (Languedoc, Roussillon, Rhone, Bergerac, Cahors, Provence, Gascony)
  • Rest of Europe (Italy, Spain)
  • Americas (USA, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Argentina)
  • Africa (Morocco)
  • Asia (Japan)

And of course, he is the proprietor of Château des Grands Chènes.

Château des Grands Chènes

The Château saw its first harvest in 1880, as proudly mentioned on the front label. Its location in Saint-Christoly-Médoc is one of the best in the Médoc, being somewhat elevated, right on the Gironde estuary and with soils consisting of gravel, clay and limestone. The Château building itself was originally a fort1 with a strategic position overlooking the water. The estate changed hands several times since its inception, with several owners investing in renovations in the vineyard and the cellars. The most notable of these was, of course, Bernard Magrez who bought it in 1998.

The Château’s vines are planted in the proportion 60% Merlot (mainly on clay) and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon (on gravel and limestone). There used to be Cabernet Franc planted but it was replaced. There is just a single wine made these days; previously there was also a Grande Cuvée made from the best grapes1, but now they all go into the main wine. The name Grands Chènes means great oaks, so it’s fitting that the wine spends time maturing in oak barrels.

Château des Grands Chènes Médoc 2019

Ch des Grands Chênes Médoc 2019

Whilst doing a quick sweep through the wine aisles of the supermarket close to my parents’ in France, I spotted this magnum on promotion. The crossed keys (from Château Pape Clément) and Bernard Magrez signature caught my eyes, so I decided to give it a try. A barbecue with friends the next evening was the perfect occaision to pop it open.

Even the colours on this wine show its youth; a black, almost opaque core is surrounded by a purple glove. The nose is aromatic, with ripe black fruits: plums, blackberry and blackcurrant. There’s sweet vanilla and a touch of spice, too. In the mouth it is powerful and smooth, but generously fruity. There’s a very attractive velvet mouthfeel, with a graphite tang and some good structure supporting all the fruit.

So, so young at the moment, this 2019 could easily last into the 2040s in magnum format, but it’s already approachable and downright delicious!

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €26.95 (magnum, in France)
  • Source: purchased from Intermarché

1Source: The Wine Cellar Insider

Wine Of The Week

Wine of the Week: St. John’s Road Motley Bunch GMS

St John’s Road is a small scale winery in South Australia’s Barossa making a small range of three Barossa Valley reds and a solitary Eden Valley white. Their wines undoubtedly reflect their origins, but also a European sense of balance and elegance – possibly due to the time their founders spent in the south of France.

Grapes for the red wines are mainly sourced from long-term partner growers in Stonewell, Light Pass, and Gomersal, plus their own small holdings.

St. John’s Road Motley Bunch GMS 2016

St. John's Road Motley Bunch Barossa Valley GMS 2016

GMS is a twist on the classic Southern Rhône GSM blend, with Mataro (a.k.a. Mourvèdre, 36%) overtaking the Shiraz (27%) in the blend, but Grenache narrowly staying up front with 37%. It’s not just a case of chucking all the grapes into a fermenter, either; they are selected, vinified and matured to give an end wine that is more than the sum of its parts. Grenache doesn’t shine with new oak nor lots of oxygen so it’s matured in old 500 litre French oak puncheons. The Mataro and Shiraz elements are aged in smaller, 300 litre hogsheads, though only 10% of this oak was new.

How does this translate in the glass? To kick off, it pours a bright, glowing ruby. The nose shows lifted strawberry aromas and perfumed redcurrants, tinged with notes of spice and earth. The palate is lithe and delicious, with delightful red and black fruits to the fore, and a touch of oak in the background. There are also savoury, gamey notes which stop this wine running away with itself, and plenty of structure to frame everything nicely.

There’s no doubt that this is an Aussie wine, but it’s a modern, food-friendly wine which speaks firmly and produly of its origins but doesn’t shout.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €20
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists (2017): jnwine.com; La Touche Wines, Greystones

 

Wine Of The Week

Wine of the Week: Pegasus Bay Sauvignon Semillon

Almost a year ago to the day I published a producer profile of Pegasus Bay, arguably the top producer in New Zealand’s Waipara, which included tasting notes on their stunning Chardonnay and Pinot Noir plus an aged sweet Riesling from my cellar. I recently spotted another of their wines for sale so snapped it up, their Sauvignon Semillon blend:

Pegasus Bay Sauvignon Semillon 2018

Pegasus Bay Sauvignon Semillon 2

The pairing of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon is a staple of Bordeaux white wines – infact you could easily call it a White Bordeaux Blend as the counterpart to Cabernet / Merlot red blends. In the Graves, these white blends often have as much prestige as the reds, if not more, and of course Sauvignon and Semillon are the basis of Sauternes and other Bordelais sweeties. As temperatures have risen in Bordeaux, the higher acidity – and hence freshness – of Sauvignon has been at a premium, so the blend has moved decisively in favour of that variety.

Outside the Gironde, the Sauvignon/ Semillon blend has proved most successful in Western Australia’s Margaret River, a wine region founded on the premise that its climate was similar to that of Bordeaux. It has become such a mainstay of the region that few producers omit if from their portfolio.

Waipara’s temperate climate is suited for what I might call “cool+” climate varieties; those such as Riesling and Pinot Noir which really need a cap on temperatures, and those such as Chardonnay which are flexible and can be grown in a range of climates, albeit with differing styles.

Pegasus Bay’s Sauvignon and Semillon vines are over 30 years old and planted on poor fertility, free-draining soil and so have low yields. The old equation that low yields = high quality doesn’t always hold, but it does in this case. Concurrent freshness and ripeness are achieved thanks to the long Waipara growing season with warm days but cool nights.

The Pegasus Bay website’s tasting notes for this wine mention “a hint of struck match complexity” but to me this is a real understatement – I found it quite pronounced on opening the bottle, initially overwhelming the fruit. It also dominates the palate at this young age – and yes, it’s still a young wine as there is only one younger vintage released (2019) which probably hasn’t yet made its way up north from New Zealand. I found it far better integrated on the second day of tasting, where the reductive notes become a foil for the fruit rather than a blunt instrument that is constantly beating it up. If1 I were to buy another bottle I would either just lay it down for a few years or be better prepared and decant it for several hours before tasting.

This is not a cheap wine, but it compares favourably with Pessac-Léognan examples at twice the price – and it has a screwcap to seal2 the deal on longer ageing.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €32.95
  • Source: purchased
  • Stockists: O’Briens; The Corkscrew, Chatham St; wineonline.ie; Barnhill Stores; Pinto Wines, Drumcondra; Deveneys Dundrum, On The Grape Vine, Dalkey

1 I know, “if” really means “when”!

2 Sorry

Wine Of The Week

Wine of the Week: Trapiche Finca Ambrosia Malbec

Argentinian Malbec is one of those wines which no wine retailer will be without, and it’s likely that most restaurants will offer one on their list – especially if they take their steaks seriously. However, Malbec is often seen as a commodity wine, one that is similar no matter who makes it, and thus price becomes the main differentiating factor.

Once you go beyond the big volume commercial blends, often in an independent off licence, the field opens up: “Mendoza” is not the only geographic designation on the label – with small sub-regions indicated – or even at all, with other regions such as Salta and San Juan also featuring. Even further down the specialisation route is the single vineyard bottling – and here’s one such expression:

Trapiche Single Vineyard Series Finca Ambrosia Malbec 2015

Terroir Series Finca Ambrosia Malbec 2Like most Malbecs, this is fairly dark in the glass, though not quite opaque. The nose is perfumed, with lifted scents of cedar and ripe blackberries, plums and blackcurrants. Just fabulous! On the palate this wine is full of youth. It’s a big mouthful, certainly; delightfully smooth, with the cedar back again with the black fruits. There is great structure here, tannins which are fairly firm but not in the slightest bit austere: the fruit has the tannins put firmly in their place.

I tried this wine before noting the vintage – to think that this is close to seven years old is incredible as it is still so powerful. But not dauntingly so, it can be enjoyed on its own without food. A winner in my book.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €38 – €40
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: Martins Off Licence, Redmonds of Ranelagh
Wine Of The Week

Wine of the Week: RhonéA Rasteau Tradition

RhonéA1 is a superco-op, an agglomeration of 5 existing co-ops from the South Rhône. Their range covers a distinct part of the Rhône méridional, based on where the member co-ops’ own members vineyards lie: the AOCs of Beaumes-de-Venise, Gigondas, Rasteau, Sablet, Vacqueyras and Visan.

Included in their range is a Côtes du Rhône blended in collaboration with local chefs – “Légende des Toques” – but for a few euro more their Rasteau blend is a distinct step up:

RhonéA Rasteau Tradition 2019

RhonéA Rasteau Tradition

Rasteau has only been an AOC for dry red wines for a dozen years or so, and still flies under the radar next to Gigondas, Vacqueras and of course Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Perhaps there’s a certain underdoggedness (if such a word exists) which makes them state that Rasteau is a “Cru” on the label; or, perhaps, it’s for the benefit of consumers who aren’t that familiar with “Rasteau” but do know “Rhône”2.

Back to the wine itself, and this is a typical southern Rhône GSM blend, consisting of 60% Grenache (Noir), 25% Syrah and 15% Mourvèdre. No oak is used for either fermentation or maturation – concrete tanks give a little softer edge than stainless steel but no added aromas or flavours.

It’s perhaps a touch darker in the glass than it’s CdR sibling: that’s the Syrah and Mourvèdre showing their face. The Grenache comes through strongly on the nose with a big hit of alpine strawberries and blackberries, but there’s also more intense and darker fruit, lavender, violets and thyme. The palate has all those herbs and dark fruit notes intertwined in a tasty package. The finish moves more towards black olive and savoury notes: once again the minor players make a big impression!

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €19.95 currently down to €16.95
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

1No, there’s no circumflex over in RhonéA, despite there being one in Rhône. And no, I don’t know why not!

2Just like “Blaye Cotes de Bordeaux”; there will be some who aren’t familiar with “Blaye” but do know “Bordeaux”!