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Top 10 O’Briens Xmas Sale Wines

I’ve already given my recommendations on Christmas wines to buy from Aldi Ireland and SuperValu; now it’s the turn of O’Briens and my selection of five whites and five reds which are not just very good wines, but also on offer!

Guerrieri Rizzardi Lugana 2020

Guerrieri Rizzardi Lugana

Straight to the point: this an excellent example of Lugana, an excellent example of Italian white wine, come to that, so it’s definitely worth snapping up while on offer at around €15. For more details see my previous article on Summer Sippers, though to be honest I’d drink this whatever the season.

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RRP: €18.95 down to €14.95
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Astrolabe Awatere Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2021

Astrolabe Awatere Valley Sauvignon Blanc

Sometimes less is more. I’m a big fan of Astrolabe’s regular Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc which is a blend of fruit from across the region. Simon Waghorn’s Awatere Valley bottling is leaner, greeener and cooler in nature; it’s less exuberant, less obvious, less tropical, but damn tasty and a little more food friendly.

The nose is big on green pepper, fennel and mangetout, with hints of grapefruit. The palate is clean, mineral and racy; it is lightness personified, herbal and distinguished. While being more food friendly it doesn’t require food. Whether looking for a premium Marlborough Sauvignon or just a change of take on the region, this is well worth a try.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €22.45 down to €19.95
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Geal Rías Baixas Albariño 2020

Geal Rías Baixas Albariño

Some wines available at O’Briens are exclusive to them in Ireland, but even more exclusive are those made by O’Briens Director of Wine Lynne Coyle MW. One is a Navarra rosé (“Rós” which is Irish for “Rose”) made in partnership with Bodegas Tandem and the other is this Geal (the Irish for “White”) Albariño made with Sonia Costa Fontán of Bodega Lagar de Costa.

The 50 year old vines are from a single vineyard within spitting distance / sea spray of the Atlantic in Galicia’s Rías Baixas. The grapes are harvested by hand from pergola frames (to be honest it would be pretty difficult to get a tractor up there) which have traditionally been used to let breezes get to the clusters and allow other crops to be grown underneath. Fermentation is with indigenous yeast and the wine matures on fine lees in a concrete egg – a shape which encourages circulation of the lees – for eight months.

Although wild yeasts are used there is no funk to this wine which you might expect from other wines which explicitly use wild yeast such as Greywacke Wild Sauvignon and Gai’a Wild Ferment Assyrtiko – it’s clean as a whistle. What it is not, however, is boring – there’s  blend of saline notes and orchard fruits on the nose, especially pear. The palate is wonderfully creamy yet still precise, with apple and pear balanced by touches of citrus on one side and white peach on the other. The finish is mouth-wateringly fresh.

The distinct salinity to this wine makes it an obvious choice to partner seafood, but it would be a treat with other light dishes or on its own.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €24.95 down to €19.95
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Delheim Stellenbosch Chardonnay Sur Lie 2020

Delheim Stellenbosch Chardonnay Sur Lie

I will be publishing an article on Delheim next year so I will save the juicy bits for that, but this is a terrific wine that is a great ambassador for South African Chardonnay. Like its sibling Chenin Blanc this wine sees plenty of time ageing in oak barrels, but it draws just as much character from lees stirring as the actual oak – hence “Sur Lie”. This isn’t one for Chablis fans but if you like a drop of Meursault (see below) then this is well worth a try.

Chanson Meursault 2018

Chanson Meursault

Before I’d heard of Montrachet and Corton-Charlemagne there was one white Burgundy AOC which stood out: Meursault. It wasn’t cheap then, as now, but remains somewhat accessible – especially when on offer. Chanson’s history dates back to 1750 but gained significant investment and additional distribution after its acquisition by Bollinger in 1999. Since then Chanson have expanded their own holdings from 38 to 45 hectares, but also brought in tighter quality control at the growers they work with.

The grapes for this 2018 Meursault are bought from four local growers, selected for a combination of elegance and depth. As you’d expect maturation is in (French) oak barrels, though the proportion of new oak is modest. The influence of the oak is noticeable on the depth of colour – it’s a lovely light gold. The oak and lees also make themselves known on the nose, though not intrusively so. The palate is generous but mineral, nutty and creamy yet with gentle orchard fruits. Decant if you can.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €55.00 down to €46.00
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Porta 6 Lisboa Red 2019

Porta 6 Lisboa Red

This is the party wine you buy in bulk when guests are going to be supping away without paying too much attention to what they’re drinking, but you don’t want to be rude and drink something different yourself: i.e. a great value red that pleases the crowd. Check out my previous review of Porta 6 for the full story and get yourself a bottle, box or case.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €12.95 down to €10.00
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie (Magnums only online right now)

Emiliana Novas Syrah Mourvèdre 2017

Emiliana Novas Syrah Mourvèdre Gran Reserva

I will have more to report on the Emiliana Novas range in due course, but this organic red blend is a flagbearer for the label. In the glass it’s almost opaque, unless you’ve just got a tasting pour which reveals a deep ruby red. The nose is phenomenal with deep, sweet-scented black fruits – blackberry and blackcurrant – with smoke, vanilla and spice also present. The palate also has a big lick of black fruit, but not at all jammy or over-the-top sweet; the 15% Mourvèdre adds a tapenade and liquorice savoury edge. Drying yet fine-grained tannins and acidity keep the keel even.

This is a really well put together, balanced, interesting and delicious wine. At €16.95 it’s good value, but at €12.95 it’s a steal!

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €16.95 down to €12.95
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Eddystone Point Tasmania Pinot Noir 2018

Eddystone Point Tasmania Pinot Noir

Tasmania is known for its cooler climate wines, especially Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and traditional method sparkling based on that pair of grapes. Tasmanian wine aficionados might be familiar with the wines from Tolpuddle; they are excellent, though priced accordingly, and somewhat shy in their youth. Eddystone Point’s Pinot Noir does not suffer the same reticence – it has bright red fruits just bursting with flavour, tinged with exotic spice. There’s a real polish to this wine without any sense of confecture or manufacture; thrilling acidity keeps the fruit and the finish vitally fresh.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €24.95 down to €20.95
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz 2018

Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz

Penfolds has always been an iconic producer for me since I caught the wine bug in the 1990s. Bin 28 was actually the first ever “Bin” wine given a commercial release by Penfolds, back in 1959. At that time it was based solely on fruit from the Kalimna vineyard in the Barossa Valley; now it is a blend from several vineyards across South Australia, though the Barossa core remains. Whereas Bin 389 Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz is sometimes known as “Baby Grange” or “Poor Man’s Grange” because some barrels which don’t quite make the cut for Grange can be included in that wine, similarly any Shiraz barrels which don’t make it into the Bin 389 can also be included in the Bin 28 as they are all matured in American oak, and so remain on style.

And what style! There’s no mistaking the origin of this wine when assessing its aromas: blackberry, plum, violet, vanilla and spice co-mingle delightfully. Black fruits are joined with fresh raspberries, thyme and rosemary plus dark chocolate on the palate, with lightly drying tannins and good acidity providing a backbone. This is lovely to drink now, but would benefit from decanting or storing for a few more years.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €37.95 down to €29.95
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores

Gérard Bertrand Maury Tuilé 2010

Gérard Bertrand Maury Tuilé

Maury is one of the trio of Vin Doux Naturel appellations in the Roussillon region (French Catalonia), the others being Rivesaltes and Banyuls. They are fortified before fermentation has finished to leave some residual sugar – hence the term which means “Naturally Sweet Wine” – somewhat similar to Port. Unlike, say, a Vintage Port which is foot trodden, fermented and bottled quickly, the grapes for this Maury spend a month in vat before being gently pressed. While Port uses its champion indigenous varieties this is made with 100% Grenache Noir, a gentler, lighter and less tannic grape. After pressing the wine spends a year ageing in barrel then a further year ageing in bottle before release.

Although it hasn’t spent a decade in barrel, this Maury is closest to a Tawny Port in style. It’s a dark amber in the glass and has wonderful aromas of spice and dried fruits. To taste, it’s almost Christmas in a glass: quite sweet, raisins, plums, nuts and mixed peel, a good shake of cinnamon. The French would drink this as an aperitif, but it makes much more sense to go with seasonal desserts or even a box of chocolates – I can confirm it was magnificent with salted caramel truffles!

  • ABV: 16.0%
  • RRP: €22.95 down to €19.95
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores (larger stores only at present)
Make Mine A Double

Protos Rueda and Protos Ribera del Duero Crianza

The history of Bodegas Protos is inherently entwined with that of Ribero del Duero. While the world famous Vega Sicila estate was founded before Protos (1864 versus 1929), Protos allowed its brand name “Ribera Duero” to be used for the Denominación de Origen when it was established in 1982.

Protos had already built a monumental ageing cellar in the previous decade. Over 2km of tunnels were bored into the side of a mountain to give them the perfect place for long ageing of wine in barrel and bottle. Four years after the creation of the DO, the Bodega built a new wine making facility closer to their Ribero del Duero vineyards in Anguix. Not resting on their laurels, they also built their own winery in the (principally) white wine DO of Rueda in 2006. Although white Ribera del Duero does exist – made in very small quantitiies from Albillo – it is the nearby Rueda which is the natural place Ribera del Duero producers look to for white wines.

Here are two of the Protos range which impressed me recently.

Protos Rueda 2020

Protos Verdejo

Protos’s Rueda vineyards have free draining gravel soils at an altitude of 800 to 900 metres above sea level, so cool night time temperatures help to preserve acidity in the grapes. The Verdejo grapes are machine harvested at night from vines over 15 years old. (Possibly coincidently, the grape which Verdejo is often compared to is Sauvignon Blanc, and night harvesting by machine is very much in vogue in Marlbourgh.)

Fermentation is carried out at cool temperature to preserve fresh flavours and then the must is aged on fine lees for around three months (“Criado sobre lias finas” as it says on the front label.)

In the glass this Rueda is a bright lemon with green flecks. The nose is expressive with lemon, lime, quince and a touch of gooseberry. These notes continue through onto the palate, but also leesy and tangy characters. In the mouth there’s also some decent texture from its time on the lees. The finish is crisp and pleasantly bittersweet. This is a superior Rueda!

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €15 – €17
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Mortons Food Stores; Fine Wines; La Touche Wines, Greystones; On the Grapevine, Dalkey; wineonline.ie; theallotment.ie

Protos Ribera del Duero Crianza 2017

Protos Ribera del Duero

Protos make several different bottlings in their home of Ribero del Duero. The youngest is the Roble which is aged for six months in a combination of French and American oak (hence the name: Roble is Spanish for oak) and six months in bottle. The Crianza spends 12 months in barrel then 12 in bottle, for the Reserva it’s 18 and 24 months respectively, and for the Gran Reserva the periods are 24 and 36 months.

The ageing regime is not the only thing that distinguishes the wines from each other; the age of the vines and the proportion of new oak also increases as we rise up the quality ladder. The Crianza therefore comes from Tinta del país (aka Tempranillo!) vines of 30 to 35 years. The year it spends in barrel is split into three parts: a third new French oak, a third one year old American and French and a third two year old American and French, with the thirds being blended back together before bottling.

So what are the results of this complex process? The wine is ruby red in the glass as one would expect for its age. The nose has rich dark fruits and a little vanilla. These are reflected on the palate which is smooth and velvety. It’s a powerful yet approachable wine, tasty yet elegant.

For me this wine is the sweetspot of the Protos range; a delicious wine that won’t break the bank, complex yet not too arcane.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €24 – €26
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Mortons Food Stores; Fine Wines; La Touche Wines, Greystones; On the Grapevine, Dalkey; wineonline.ie, theallotment.ie

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

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5 of the Best Aldi Wines for Xmas

The Irish branch of Aldi have an extensive range of special wines released for the festive period. Here we have five which have impressed me: two French fizzes (one a Blanc de Blancs and one a blanc de Noirs), a pair of Loire Sauvignon Blancs and a Tawny Port to finish off the evening. All wines tasted were samples.

Specially Selected Crémant du Jura Brut 2018

Specially Selected Crémant du Jura Brut NV

It’s back! For how long is not known, so grab it while it’s here. Aldi’s remarkable Jura Blanc de Blancs is not always available but it’s one of the best value sparklers on the market. It’s made from 100% Chardonnay in the Jura region on France’s eastern border. Jura is actually one of the few French regions outside Burgundy that does still and sparkling Chardonnay really well – though it is home to other grapes and styles.

The nose is a full on citrus experience, with touches of golden delicious apple and melon to round it off. The palate is bright and creamy with depth and no little complexity. The finish is fine, long and crisp. This could serve equally well as an aperitif with nibbles, with seafood or even on its own. In other times this has been our house fizz at this time of year – there has always been a bottle or two in the fridge to share with any visitors. Given the times we are in, I suppose I’ll have to drink it myself!

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RRP: €13.99
  • Stockists: Aldi Ireland stores and aldi.ie

Champagne Philizot Blanc de Noirs Brut NV

Champagne Philizot Et Fils Blanc de Noir Brut NV

So here we have a true Champagne made as a white sparkler (Blanc) from only black grapes (de Noirs). In fact both Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier – the two main black grapes of Champagne – are used in equal proportions. Producer Philizot et Fils also make Aldi’s staple Veuve Monsigny which has scored very well in recent high profile blind tastings. To be honest I’ve liked Veuve Monsigny when I’ve tried it but wasn’t blown away – which is fair enough for €20 in Ireland. Is this more premium offering any better?

Yes, yes it is.

The nose is wonderful, with yeasty, toasty brioche drawing you in and delicious red fruit notes partiying up your nose. It’s quite a decadent nose, actually, which is a good thing in a quality fizz. In the mouth it’s immediatel creamy and rich, yet balanced by crunchy green and softer red apple acidity. The finish is like tangy, fresh red fruits wrapped in a custard pastry – just delicious!

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RRP: €13.99
  • Stockists: Aldi Ireland stores

Specially Selected Pouilly Fumé 2019

Specially Selected Pouilly Fumé

The first of our Loire Sauvignons is from the second most famous SB appellations in France: Pouilly-Fumé is on the eastern bank of the Loire (where it runs almost due north) opposite Sancerre on the western bank. It pours as a very pale lemon, but the nose is more expressive; initially it’s more reminiscent of a sweet shop than a winebar, with fruit polos and pear drops. These then give way to aromasof gooseberry and hay, with hints of green pepper. In the mouth this Pouilly-Fumé manages to be quite round yet tangy at the same time; it’s clean and fresh but has some body and plenty of green fruit flavours. This is very good for the price; it’s perhaps a little short but everything else is in order.

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RRP: €13.99
  • Stockists: Aldi Ireland stores and aldi.ie

Winemaker’s Lot Chasseaux & Fils Sancerre 2019

Winemaker's Lot Sancerre

To the other side of the river now and the most famous Sauvignon Blanc appellation of all. This wine is from Aldi’s new “Winemaker’s Lot” series which consists of just ten premium wines from key regions. Now €14.99 is not a premium price for an independent, but for a low cost supermarket like Aldi this is probably close to twice its average bottle price.

And on opening it proves to be a different beast entirely to the Pouilly-Fumé above. It looks similarly pale in the glass but on the nose it shows  ripe and succulent green and tropical fruits – grapefuit and pineapple, guava and hints of mango. On the palate it’s quite tight and mineral initially, but opens up to reveal both fruit and a certain wild yeastiness. This is top flight stuff! A small word of caution: to a palate with broad experience such as mine this is a very good wine, but there plenty of people who would prefer the cleaner Pouilly-Fumé.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €14.99
  • Stockists: Aldi Ireland stores

Fletcher’s 10 Year Old Tawny Port

Fletcher's 10 Year Old Tawny Port

Laate Bottled Vintage (LBV) was always my go-to style of Port, but in recent years I’ve been beguiled by the charms of good Tawny Port. Tawny Ports are made from black grapes and then aged in wooden barrels for a number of years before bottling. That might be three years for a basic Tawny, seven years for a Reserve or longer with an age statement such as this 10 Year Old. Maturation in barrel leads to both evaporation – intensifying flavours – and oxidisation – giving a different aspect to the wine entirely. I haven’t heard of Fletcher’s outside of Aldi so they might be a private label.

So, onto the wine itself. Whereas a Ruby or Vintage Port might be opaque, this is lighter, and dark amber or light mahogany would be a good descriptor. The nose is heady – it does weigh in at 20% abv after all – and shows a full range of dried fruits and nuts. In other words, it smells like Christmas pudding with a splash of good brandy on it! These aromas flow through onto the palate, which is medium sweetness. It could pair well with those lovely Christmas desserts, with strong hard cheeses or even with some savoury courses that have some sweet elements to them.

And best of all, being a Tawny Port means that once opened it will keep well in the fridge for several months – if you can keep your hands off it!

  • ABV: 20.0%
  • RRP: €13.99
  • Stockists: Aldi Ireland stores

 

 

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Top 10 SuperValu Xmas Sale Wines

The Christmas Wine Sale is in full flow at Irish supermarket chain SuperValu. I’ve picked out 10 bargains which you should consider popping in your trolley this festive season.

For transparency, note that these were either samples received recently or previously this year.

1. Gran Troya Cava Brut NV

Gran Troya Cava Brut NV

If you find most affordable Proseccos too sweet – and not bubbly enough! – then Cava is a great alternative. Like many Cavas, this one from Gran Troya is made with the three tradtional grapes: Xarel·lo, Macabeo and Parellada using the traditional1 method of second fermentation in bottle. On pouring it’s a bright lemon colour and has plenty of bubbles. The nose is all about orchard fruits – apples and pears – backed up by fresh citrus. These juicy fruits certainly show up on the palate as well, with a fine, crisp finish.

I wouldn’t buy this at the full price of €26 but it offers great value at €12; it’s worthy of a pour as a budget-conscious aperitif or just for sipping while watching Die Hard.

  • ABV: 11.5%
  • RRP: €26.00 down to €12.00
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

2. Aresti Trisquel Sauvignon Blanc Gran Reserva 2020

Aresti Trisquel Sauvignon Blanc

It’s almost obligatory for every Sauvignon Blanc review to mention both the Loire and Marlborough, but this example is from neither and plows its own furrow. Fruit is not the main focus of this wine; rather it’s vegetal notes that are most obvious (would it count as one of your five a day?). Green pepper, asparagus and mangetout make for an interestingly savoury wine, but then gooseberry and lemon slip through the middle to add some citrus seasoning. This is well worth a try to explore another style of Sauvignon.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €15.99 down to €10.70
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

3. Michel Léon Alsace Riesling 2019

Michel Léon Alsace Riesling

This is not a spectacular wine but it’s a great entry into dry Alsace Riesling, and for that it must be highly commended. If you fancy a smoked salmon starter this Christmas then this clean, fresh and citrussy little number will serve you well.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €13.99 down to €12.00
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

4. André Goichot Chablis 2019

André Goichot Chablis

André Goichot’s wines are exclusive to SuperValu in Ireland and manage to be both tasty and affordable – especially when in a sale. I’ve already written in depth on a previous vintage of Goichot Chablis so I’ll spare myself from repetetion, but it’s a textbook Chablis with apple and citrus character – something clean and refreshing with depth.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €19.99 down to €13.39
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

5. Bendel Côtes de Provence Cuvée Caroline Rosé 2020

Bendel Côtes de Provence Cuvée Caroline Rosé

I know it’s not exactly “rosé season” at Christmas, but each to their own, and don’t let anyone tell you when you can drink your favourite style of wine. This is a dry-but-fruity rosé, actually very versatile during the festive period for the main meals and – possibly the best part – the leftover sambos.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €14.99 down to €10.00
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

6. Lacombe Cadiot Bordeaux Supérieur 2019

Château Lacombe Cadiot Bordeaux Supérieur

This is a modern, bright, fruit-forward and powerful Claret. I’ve already written a full description of this Bordeaux Supérieur, but it has amazing notes of cassis, chocolate, violets and hazelnuts in a voluptuous package. Buy a few for this Christmas and put a few down for future years.

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €15.99 down to €10.70
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

7. 19 Crimes Red Blend 2020

19 Crimes Red Blend

An innovative label design and a real crowd-pleaser of a wine make 19 Crimes Red Blend a popular choice for supermarket wine consumers. It offers lots of flavour and richness – perhaps too rich for some – but if you fancy a glass of red while the tin of Roses is passed around, this is your wine!

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €14.99 down to €10.00
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

8. Ricossa Barolo 2016

Ricossa Barolo

I wrote a review on Ricossa’s Gavi and Barolo earlier this year so you can refer to that post for the full story, but the TL;DR2 is that this is an excellent foray into Barolo at a very reasonable price. However, be warned: once you’ve caught the Barolo bug then you might become a long term aficionado. The acidity in this Nebbiolo means it can handle plenty of strongly flavoured foods, especially turkey and ham if that is on your Christmas menu.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €24.99 down to €20.00
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

9. Barão de Vilar Douro Reserva Tinto 2018

Barão de Vilar Douro Riserva Tinto

Just as last year, this is being offered on a case deal – six bottles for €40 – which is incredible value given that I have seen it retail elsewhere for €20 a bottle. Barão de Vilar’s Reserva is made with traditional Portuguese grapes and matured in French oak barrels. Together they give juicy black fruits around a solid structure, a tasty wine to accompany beef or an open fire.

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €40 for a case of 6
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

10. Lady de Mour Margaux 2018

Lady De Mour Margaux

Like Vanessa Williams I’ve saved the best for last! This Margaux from the De Mour group is reasonably priced at €40 but a serious bargain at less than €25. It’s a proper left-bank Bordeaux with ripe blackcurrant, violets and graphite from a majority Cabernet Sauvignon. I don’t care what you’re eating, this is a real treat of a wine that deserves a try!

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €39.99 down to €24.70
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

 

1 So yes, I suppose you could say this wine is quite traditional…

2 “TL;DR” stands for “Too Long; Didn’t Read”, i.e. to cut a story short…

Single Bottle Review

Wine Review: Mastrojanni Brunello di Montalcino 2015

Whereas Chianti has a long and storied history of making wine, its neighbour in Tuscany Montalcino is a more recent newcomer, at least at any scale. The soil around Montalcino is generally poor so few crops were grown and the land mainly given over to woodland and sheep pasture. While some grapes were planted and vinified for local consumption, it was Ferruccio Biondi-Santi who created the first “modern” Brunello and founded the house that still carries his name.

Despite the renown of his Brunello wines the area remained under-utilised. A lawyer from Rome, Gabriele Mastrojanni, bought the San Pio and Loreto estates in 1975 and turned them into vineyards. Mastrojanni followed Biondi-Santi’s lead and planted Sangiovese Grosso grapes, aka Brunello. He planted them in such a way that tractors could be used in the vineyards when desired, but still at a high enough planting density that competition between vines forced them to send down deep roots and not produce too much foliage.

Mastrojanni currently make eight wines:

  • the Brunello is made most years apart from poor harvests such as 1992 and 2002
  • a Rosso is made with similar care but with shorter ageing for earlier drinking
  • a well-established single cru Brunello di Montalcino Vigna Schiena d’Asino, a single hectare vineyard
  • a new single cru Brunello di Montalcino Vigna Loreto, also made only in exceptional years
  • a new wine made with the rare variety Ciliegiolo
  • another new bottling  Costa Colonne from the new DOC Sant’Antimo
  • a Super-Tuscan Cabernet Sauvignon-Sangiovese blend, San Pio
  • a botrytised dessert wine

Mastrojanni Brunello di Montalcino 2015

Mastrojanni Brunello di Montalcino 2015

2015 was a renowned vintage in much of Italy, so I had high hopes for this wine. On pouring – from a half bottle – it was just above medium intensity, with a ruby, somewhat watery rim. Dense black fruits dominate the nose, with black cherry and blackberry to the fore, with notes of exotic spice at the periphery. The palate is powerful and viscous, almost thick in the mouth. Voluptuous black fruits are joined with more savoury notes of black olive, leather and black liquorice. The tannins are ripe so it’s down to the acidity to provide structure and keep everything fresh.

This is a succulent, tasty wine. I hear the 2016 is even more highly regarded, so that would be a special treat to enjoy this winter.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €37.95 (375 ml) / €69.50 (750 ml)
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists (2016 750 ml): Baggot St Wines; Blackrock Cellar; The Corkscrew; Clontarf Wines; Deveneys, Dundrum; D-SIX Off Licence; Grapevine, Dalkey; Lotts and Co, Terenure; Martins Off Licence, Fairview; Michael’s Sutton; Nectar Wines; Redmonds of Ranelagh; Pembroke wines @ Roly’s Bistro; Saltwater Grocery; Sweeney’s D3; The Winehouse – Trim
Single Bottle Review

Wine Review: Porta 6 Lisboa Red 2019

Porta 6 – literally “Door No. 6” – is produced by Vidigal Wines which is headquartered in central Portugal. They produce a substantial number of different wines made in Lisbon (from 450 hectares) and across the country: Tagus, Douro, Alentejo, Dão, Beiras and Vinho Verde. Vidigal is majority family owned and run by António Mendes who has transformed the company’s operations since he took over around 25 years ago. Vidigal export 90% of their production to over 30 countries; Porta 6 is one of their key wines available in Ireland.

Porta 6 Lisboa Red 2019

Porta 6 Lisboa Red

Porta 6 is an everyday-drinking style red wine made from traditional Portuguese grapes: 50% Aragonez (aka Tempranillo), 40% Castelão and 10% Touriga Nacional. It is available in traditional 750 ml glass bottles but also in 1.5 litre and 3.0 litre bag-in-box formats – great for parties and lowering the wine’s carbon footprint by making for a lighter package to transport.

On pouring it’s nearly opaque black in the glass, with a bright purple rim. The nose is fantastic with ripe red and black fruits: think blackberry, black cherry, plum, redcurrant and cranberry, along with some exotic spices. Perhaps it’s just the coming season (no I’m not going to say the “C word”) but it’s almost like smelling a mince pie just before you take a big bite.

In the mouth it is smooth, with a whole winter fruit salad (if such a thing exists…and if it doesn’t, it should) hitting your mouth on the attack. The fruit slips away as you swallow it, leaving some fine grained tannins and a dusting of spice. There’s lots of pleasing fruit in this wine but no jamminess.

This is not a vin de garde or a highly complex one, but with oodles of fruit presented nicely and decent balance, this is worth stocking up on, especially at €10!

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €12.95 or €10.00 when on offer
  • Source: sample (1.5 litre box)
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie
Make Mine A Double

Wine Review: Aldi Specially Selected Limoux Chardonnay and Bekaa Valley Red

I might well be late to this party, but if there are either of these wines still available from Aldi’s Specially Selected range then you should definitely pop them in your trolley.

Aldi Specially Selected Limoux Chardonnay 2020

Specially Selected Limoux Chardonnay

Limoux is in the Languedoc and is most widely known for its sparkling wine production: Blanquette de Limoux, Blanquette méthode ancestrale and Crémant de Limoux. Blanquette is the local name for the Mauzac grape which stars in the first two sparklers and can feature in the Crémant. It also plays a part in the still white wine known simply as Limoux, though Chardonnay and / or Chenin Blanc are also used.

This wine is 100% Chardonnay and is made by Jean-Claude Mas. It pours as a light gold which hints at the taste profile to come. The nose is a combination of bright pineapple and cream. The palate is intensely creamy with succulent yet restrained tropical (pineapple, mango) and stone fruit (peach, apricot). This is an enticing but not overly indulgent wine with a crisp, very long finish.

I loved this wine and it shows how good French Chardonnay can be outside Burgundy.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €9.99
  • Source: sample*
  • Stockists: Aldi stores and aldi.ie

Aldi Specially Selected Bekaa Valley Lebanese Red 2019

Specially Selected Bekaa Valley Lebanese Red

This bottle stood out to me as being very unusual for a discount supermarket as it’s from Lebanon. Yes, Lebanon has a long and noble history of winemaking, but it rarely impinges on the consciousness of the supermarket shopper. Wine connoisseurs know of the great Chateau** Musar and perhaps a few others like Château Ksara and Château Kefraya, but even for them that’s about as far as it goes. So, how is this inexpensive Lebanese red?

In the glass it pours a medium to dark red, not quite opaque. The nose shows ripe brambles and cocoa powder, very appealing at this time of year. The palate is initially somewhat earthy, with a slab of dark chocolate thrown in for good measure. Then red and black fruit follow through: cherries, plums and blackberries in particular. It also has a real garrigue aspect to it with rosemary and thyme notes. The finish is dry with fine, dusty tannins. With a little time in the glass the earthy notes die down a little and the fruit shines even more.

With rich fruit and herbs this Bekaa Valley red cries out for food – I’m thinking roast lamb, or lamb chops,, or lamb stew….you get the idea.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €10.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: Aldi stores and aldi.ie

* I liked this wine enough to buy the remaining stock at my local Aldi.

** Yes I’m really particular about spelling French Châteaux names properly, but if a producer from another country wants to drop the circumflex then I’m going with their spelling.


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Single Bottle Review

Wine Review: Gai’a 4-6H Nemea Rosé 2020

Gai’a is one of the best known Greek producers in these parts, primarily due to their magnificent Wild Ferment Assyrtiko; this brilliant wine has featured several times on Frankly Wines going back as far as My Top 10 Whites of 2014. They also make a simpler Assyrtiko called Monograph which was one of My Top 10 Value Whites of 2017 Monograph is made in Nemea which is more famous for reds based on Agiorgitiko, an indigenous Greek variety. Indeed, Gai’a make a number of different Agiorgitiko-based wines, many of them single varietals but also a few blends.

Gai’a was founded just in 1994 by locals Yiannis Paraskevopoulosan and Leon Karatsalos. They decided to focus on Greece’s top red and white varieties and locations, namely Assyrtiko from Santorini and Agiorgitiko from Nemea, with a winery subsequently built in each location. For the latter they chose Koutsi, a high altitude location with poor soil fertility to give cool nights and well-drained root systems.

As well as the reds made in Nemea Gai’a also produce three rosés. The first was 14-16H, so named as the juice spends between 14 and 16 hours in contact with the skins. The second rosé in the Gai’a range is the 4-6H; it isn’t stated but I therefore infer that the 4-6H spends between four and six hours macerating on the skins.

Gai’a 4-6H Nemea Rosé 2020

Gai'a Nemea Agiorgitiko Rosé

The Agiorgitiko (literally: St George’s grape) vines for this rosé are between 15 and 30 years old and are grown on at an altitude of 450 to 550 metres ASL. The soil has a shallow clay layer over free-draining limestone subsoil and has a 15% slope (so I would imagine hand-harvested!)

The 4-6H rosé is on the pale side but not quite the virtually colourless pale wine that is currently in fashion. The nose is joyously fruity with lots of red fruit notes. The palate is…simply delicious! The finish is crisp but not sharp. If tasted straight out of a domestic fridge this is still fruity but on the redcurrant and cranberry side; as it warms up a little the fruits move across the red spectrum yet remain fresh and tasty. When left out even longer it could even double as a light red.

This wine is modestly priced but is the most enjoyable rosé I have tried this year. I could see it pairing well with a wide variety of foods but most importantly it is extremely gluggable all by itself.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP:  €15.95
  • Source: sample*
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

*Though I liked it so much that I bought myself another bottle.

Make Mine A Double

Wine Review: Bread and Butter Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon

Members of the ABC club can look away now; if either Anything But Chardonnay or Anything But Cabernet are a motto of yours then this is not the article for you. However, for the rest of us – great, right-minded people – read on!

Bread & Butter Wines

Based in the Napa Valley, Bread & Butter’s philosophy is encapsulated by their winemaker Linda Trotta’s motto “A good wine is a wine you like“. Thus, pleasure is the aim for the majority of their wines rather than following a particular trend, matching with special food or expressing the nuances of a certain terroir. “These wines pair well with a glass” is another gem they espouse. I think you’re beginning to get the picture.

Get The One That Looks Like This
A Bread & Butter slogan.

The Bread & Butter portfolio is in three distinct ranges:

  • Classically-styled Everyday Wines: Italian Prosecco (!), California Rosé, California Sauvignon Blanc, California Chardonnay, California Pinot Noir, California Cabernet Sauvignon, California Merlot
  • “To-go” Wines: Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley Merlot, Napa Valley Red Blend, Napa Valley Petite Sirah, Napa Valley Zinfandel, Napa Valley Pinot Noir, Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley Chardonnay, Napa Valley Rosé
  • “Go-to” Wines: Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon

The wines in blue and bold are available in Ireland. Quality and price increases as you move down the list. So how do the wines actually taste? Here are two from the Classically-styled Everyday Wines range:

Bread & Butter California Chardonnay 2019

Bread And Butter California Chardonnay

As its counterpart below, this is a California wine rather than any smaller AVA, so the grapes were probably sourced from several regions and blended together.

It pours a light gold in the glass, giving an indication that this is going to be a dessert wine (highly unlikely), an aged wine (nope, it’s a 2019) or an oaked wine (bingo!) And so the nose reveals: layers of vanilla and buttery toast with hints of lemon and orange. The palate is exactly how you would expect a California Chardonnay to be: lemon curd, pineapple cubes and lots of creamy texture, though not the full on butter churn experience.

While it’s far from subtle, I really like this wine. At this price point many Chardonnays are unoaked for both cost and stylistic reasons, and those that have seen some oak can be disjointed or seem confected. And I’m not alone – I have heard several wine drinkers make a beeline for this wine and declare it their new favourite.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €20 – €25
  • Source: purchased from Baggot Street Wines
  • Stockists: Fresh Smithfield and Grand Canal; Whelehans Loughlinstown, Deveney’s of Dundrum; Wine Centre Kilkenny; Morton’s of Ranelagh; Redmonds of Ranelagh; O’Donovans Cork; Robbie’s Drummartin; LaHoya Greens Terenure; Barnhill Stores; Baggot Street Wines; Martin’s of Fairview; Morton’s of Galway; Thomas’s of Foxrock; Parting Glass Enniskerry; McGuinness Dundalk; Next Door Ennis

Bread & Butter California Cabernet Sauvignon 2020

Bread And Butter California Cabernet Sauvignon

The Cabernet Sauvignon actually poured a little lighter than I expected, though we’re still not talking Poulsard here. The nose is heady, with ripe cassis and blackcurrant*, blueberry, vanilla and toast oak notes. The palate is rich and velvety, with blackcurrant and cocoa to the fore. Tannins are very restrained indeed – this is no Pauillac facsimile. The finish has some residual sugar – I couldn’t find a tech sheet but I noted that Decanter included it within the Medium – Dry, 5 – 18 g/L category. The sugar comes through as richness more than sweetness, especially to the untrained palate. This is the type of red than many drinkers go mad for at the moment; it’s not a wine I would choose for myself unless I was eating barbecue with a sweet marinade, and then it would be quaffed with extreme prejudice.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €20 – €25
  • Source: purchased from Baggot Street Wines
  • Stockists: Fresh Smithfield and Grand Canal; Whelehans Loughlinstown, Deveney’s of Dundrum; Wine Centre Kilkenny; Morton’s of Ranelagh; Redmonds of Ranelagh; O’Donovans Cork; Robbies Drumartin; LaHoya Greens Terenure; Barnhill Stores; Baggot Street Wines; Martin’s of Fairview; Morton’s of Galway; Thomas’s of Foxrock; Parting Glass Enniskerry; MacGuiness’s Dundalk; Next Door Ennis

Conclusion

These are both unabashed commercial wines which give (a good proportion of) wine drinkers exactly what they are looking for. I can imagine than some won’t like either wine, but that’s not important – they really deliver drinking pleasure to those that do. I’d be happy to share a bottle of the Cab Sauv with my wife but it’s the Chardonnay I’d order for myself.

* Yes, I know they are the same thing – for most of us at least. Just checking that you’re paying attention.


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Make Mine A Double

Wine Review: Henri Bourgeois Sancerre Rosé and Cabernet Franc

Esteemed Loire producer Domaine Henri Bourgeois is most famous for its white and red Sancerres, but it also has some other interesting wines in its portfolio. I recently reviewed Clos Henri Petit Clos Sauvignon Blanc from its Marlborough outpost, and now it’s time to look at a young vine rosé and a Cabernet Franc.

Henri Bourgeois “Les Jeunes Vignes” Sancerre Pinot Noir Rosé 2020

Henri Bourgeois Sancerre Les Jeunes Vignes Rosé

Although I’m not a vocal exponent of rosé, if I had to choose a single variety as my favourite for rosé it would be Pinot Noir. Why? Easy, really: Pinot Noir tends to be on the lighter side as black grapes go, with soft tannins and good acidity, all of which make it the perfect candidate for rosé.

It’s more common to see a mention of Vieilles Vignes (VV) on a label rather than Jeunes Vignes as we have here. VV indicates that the vines are of a significant age (often 30+ years) so yields have started to fall but concentration in the finished wines increases. Jeunes Vignes tend to make simpler wines, and in some wine regions (e.g. Alsace or Bordeaux) the grapes from young vines tend to be declassified even if from a prestigious vineyard.

However, for areas which have a strong rosé game, why not use the grapes from young vines for rosé. Domaine Henri Bourgeois take this approach, as do the notable rosé producer Domaine Tempier of Bandol.

Although Pinot Noir is a lighter grape, this rosé has more colour than the fashionable paler-than-pale Provence style which is so fashionable at the moment. For me this is a GOOD THING as it signals that there has been more flavour as well as colour extracted from those precious Pinot Noir grapes. The nose showcases an array of red fruits – strawberry, raspberry, cherry and redcurrant. These red fruits are also the key notes on the palate, which has a dry and fresh but far from austere finish.

This is a lovely, balanced rosé that would be nice to sip in the sun or with a range of lighter dishes.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP:  €24.95
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Henri Bourgeois Petit Bourgeois Cabernet Franc 2019

Henri Bourgeois Petit Bourgeois Cabernet FrancClimate change has had very mixed effects on viticulture in France. In some regions harvests are moving earlier and earlier over the years as grapes ripen earlier than before. Some regions face a future where new varieties will have to be employed as existing ones will struggle to make quality wine in a warmer climate.

There are others where global warming has helped to some extent; viz, the change in Alsace Pinot Noir from barely more than a rosé to a serious expression of the grape. Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley has been another beneficiary. No longer does it make dilute, green-pepper dominated reds in (frequent) colder years, and chapitalisation is now seldom required.

The Petit Bourgeois range is – as you might understand from the name – a junior range designed for easy drinking. Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir are the other wines in the range. In the glass this Cab Franc is mid ruby, only medium intensity. The nose is fruity yet with some character. On the palate there is juicy fruit yet a savoury aspect at the same time. Alpine strawberries, cranberries, raspberries, redcurrants, and cherries are all in the mix. There’s a nice texture to this wine, with light, crunchy tannins and good acidity. Although varietally typical and nice to drink on its own, this wine really cries out for food…a plate of charcuterie would be perfect!

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP:  €16.95
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

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