Make Mine A Double

Wine Review: Dreissigacker Riesling and Robert Weil Riesling

What’s the difference between Rheingau and Rheinhessen?

The nomenclature of German wine can be confusing – even for serious wine enthusiasts – with compound names and a quality system predicated on harvest sugar levels.  When three of the thirteen wine regions contain the word “Rhein” even the places can be confusing: Rheingau, Rheinhessen and Mittelrhein.  Until 1995 there was even a fourth with the Pfalz known as Rheinpfalz.

Rheinhessen is the largest of the 13 German wine regions and grows a large range of varieties; Riesling is the most significant but only accounts for around a sixth of the total, with Müller-Thurgau, Dornfelder and various Pinots also prominent.  Historically it was part of the Hesse region but is now part of Rheinland-Pfalz.

Confusingly, the Rheingau is part of the state of Hesse!  In her book The wines of Germany, Anne Krebiehl MW states that “No other region has shaped the identity of German wine and therefore Riesling as comprehensively as [the Rheingau]”.  Riesling is most definitely king here, accounting for 78.8% of all wines, with Spätburgunder a distant second at 12.2% then Müller-Thurgau leading the small change.

German Wine Regions

This article compares two similar Rieslings from Rheingau and Rheinhessen, both Trocken (dry), 12.0% in alcohol and retailing in the €20 – €25 bracket in Ireland.

Dreissigacker Rheinhessen Riesling Trocken 2015

Dreissigacker Estate Riesling Trocken from Rheinhessen

Jochen Dreissigacker took over his parents’ firm in Bechtheim and set about bringing it right up to date.  A modern winery building was established using gravity to move around the grapes, must and wine.  The vineyards were converted to organic production, with certification coming in 2010, and now biodynamic practices are also used for the majority of the estate.  Minimal intervention is the key so that vineyards and grapes can express themselves to the full.  Dreissigacker never use commercial yeasts, chaptalise with sugar before fermentation nor add “‘süss-reserve” for sweeter styles after fermentation.

The estate has six named vineyards around Bechtheim and Westhofen, each with their own unique soil types, microclimates and identities.  Totalling 21 hectares under vine, the most important variety is Riesling  which accounts for 55% of the total, with Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay among the others.  This estate wine is a blend of Riesling from different sites, mainly with loess and marl soils.

The nose on this wine is easily identifiable as Riesling: lime, lemon and apple blossom.  On tasting the strong core of acidity is striking, but there’s also breadth and texture – in fact more than one might expect from a Riesling.  The lime notes are joined by a touch of honey and a pleasant bittersweet tanginess, and it ends with a dry, textured finish.

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RS: 5.0%
  • RRP: €23.99 (2019 vintage)
  • Stockists: 64 Wine, Glashule; Alain and Christine Wine and Card Shop; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Martins Off Licence, Fairview; Redmonds of Ranelagh; The Wine Centre, Kilkenny; wineonline.ie; World Wide Wines, Waterford
  • Source: purchased from 64 Wine

Robert Weil Rheingau Riesling Trocken 2019

Robert Weil Rheingau Riesling Trocken

Weingut Robert Weil has over four times as much vineyard area as Dreissigacker with 90 hectares, all of which is planted to Riesling.  The eponymous Dr Robert Weil purchased his first vineyards in 1867 while teaching German at the Sorbonne, but shortly after had to return home as tensions rose between the two countries.  There he became a journalist while expanding his holdings and his range of wines; his Auslese Riesling became famous throughout Europe. 

Robert’s son Wilhelm (from 1920) helped to steer the winery through turbulent times and was a leader for the winegrowing industry.  His grandson Robert (from 1959) helped Weil’s Rieslings to regain their reputation for excellence.  The current owner/manager is another Wilhelm who took over in 1987.  He undertook serious investments in the vineyards and cellar, even introducing the distinctive and now iconic “Tiffany blue” labels.

Although they have just a single variety, Weil make an extensive range of wines, and differing sugar levels necessitate as many as 17 different passes through the vineyards during a harvest which can last ten weeks or more.  In the winery – as with Dreissigacker – gravity rather than pumps is used to move juice and wine.  Both wild and commercial yeasts are used for fermentation, with fuller bodied dry wines in large oak casks and sweeter or fruit forward wines fermented in stainless steel tanks.

This 2019 Riesling Trocken pours very pale in the glass, as you’d expect.  The nose has intense, fresh lime overlaying a mineral edge.  The palate initially shows soft citrus fruits, backed up by a strong streak of acidity which underpins the whole show, and then juicy orchard fruits.  This is a well made, balanced wine that gives a lot of pleasure.  It’s not the most complex of wines, but it is the entry level from Robert Weil and represents fantastic value for money.

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RS: 8.4 g/L
  • RRP: €24.95 (currently down to €21.95)
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswines.ie
  • Source: Sample

Conclusion

So what can these two wines tell us about the differences between the Rheingau and Rheinhessen?  I think this is too small a sample to compare the two regions, but it does make for a comparison between the two producers and two vintages.  The Dreissigacker is four years older than the Robert Weil so it is further along its journey to maturity; the Weil is still fresh and shows more primary fruit, fitting for their desire for wines to be both food-friendly and pleasant to drink on their own.  The Dreissigacker is more textured, mineral and serious, perhaps slightly less obvious or accessible for some drinkers. 

I really liked both!  For a refreshing sip in the sun with friends I’d pick the Robert Weil, but for a dinner with some good food the Dreissigacker would be my choice.  Perhaps more investigation is required…


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Single Bottle Review

Wine Review: Whitehaven “Greg” Sauvignon Blanc 2020

Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is an international success story, much aped by other wine regions to differing levels of success.  Of course the wines are not a homogenous whole, with quality and style varying from producer to producer.  So how do you find a good one?  Of course you will get good advice at your local independent merchant, but there are also some crackers outside that.  Whitehaven’s “Greg” is one of the best I’ve tasted in recent years, but first some context:

Marlborough and its Subregions

Marlborough Wine Sub-regionsMarlborough has three main subregions:

  1. Wairau Valley – mainly flat with gravelly soil, this is archetypal Sauvignon Blanc country.  Meets the ocean to the east at Cloudy Bay, so eastern vineyards have more of a maritime influence.
  2. Southern Valleys – as the plural suggests, this is a collect of several small valleys: Omaka, Fairhall, Brancott, Ben Morvan and Waihopai Valleys.  Steeper sites, especially those on clay soils, are prized for Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and other varieties.
  3. Awatere Valley – the furthest south of the three with cooler, often elevated sites that produce some Pinot Noir but especially a distinctive style of Sauvignon Blanc – easily distinguishable in a blind tasting. 

Whitehaven Wines

After hauling anchor in Marlborough Sounds while weather a storm on their yacht, Greg and Sue White decided to set down roots and plant a vineyard in Marlborough.  Whitehaven was therefore stablished in 1994 and was run by the couple until Greg’s untimely death in 2007.  From that year the “Greg” label was affixed to special releases of Sauvignon Blanc and then Pinot Noir.  

Whitehaven’s grapes come from 30 vineyards totalling 575 hectares across the three subregions.  They can be classed as three different types: estate owned, estate managed and contract growers.  The estate owned and managed vineyards are just under 40% of the total.

Since Greg’s passing Sue has been supported by a team of winemakers, viticulturalists and office staff.  Peter Jackson (no, not that one) is Chief Winemaker, Diana Katardzhieva is Senior Winemaker & Production Manager, Rowan Langdon is Winemaker and Jess Wilson is Viticulturist.  Sue and Greg’s daughter Samantha joined the firm as Process Improvement Manager with her husband Josh as Sustainability Manager.  Whitehaven therefore remains very much a family affair.

Whitehaven Wine Ranges

Whitehaven make four distinct ranges, all from Marlborough fruit.  Wines in blue and bold are available in Ireland from O’Briens.

Mansion House Bay

Named after the place where Greg proposed to Sue, these are fun, everyday drinking wines.

  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Chardonnay
  • Pinot Gris
  • Pinot Noir
  • Pinot Noir Rosé

Kōparepare

Named after the Māori for “gift” or “contribution”, these wines are made by Whitehaven in partnership with LegaSea, a “non-profit organisation that works tirelessly to protect and restore New Zealand’s coastal fisheries.”

  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Lighter Sauvignon Blanc
  • Chardonnay
  • Pinot Gris
  • Pinot Noir
  • Pinot Noir Rosé

Whitehaven

This is the senior full range of wines which are “a powerful, elegant and consistent expression of Marlborough’s classical wine styles”.

Greg

A limited edition of single vineyard releases which showcase the best that Whitehaven can make.

Whitehaven “Greg” Awatere Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2020

Whitehaven Greg Sauvignon Blanc

How special a single vineyard wine can depend on the size of the vineyard – some are mahoosive!  However, in the case of Greg Sauvignon Blanc the grapes are sourced from the Peter family’s Alton Downs Vineyard, just off the Awatere Valley Road.  The vines are all mass selection clones in East-West row orientation are were machine-harvested on the evening of 30th March 2020.  Note that harvesting by machine is preferred for Sauvignon Blanc as it tends to promote better quality.

Once picked the grapes were destemmed and pressed gently to minimise contact with the skins.  The juice was left to settle at low temperatures then cool fermented – with specially selected cultured yeasts – in stainless steel tanks.

In the glass this wine is a very pale straw yellow with green tints.  The nose is complex, with green notes of grapefruit, gooseberry and fresh (not tinned!) asparagus, along with herbs, mangetout and a mineral streak.  The aromas continue through onto the palate which is beautifully balanced, poised between fruit sweetness, tangy green notes and fresh acidity.  This wine was the absolute standout at an Aromatics virtual tasting I held with friends a few months ago and is destined to be a regular tipple chez Frankly Wines.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RS: 4.2 g/L
  • RRP: €20.45
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie
  • Source: sample*

 

*But I since bought more bottles out of my own pocket as I like it so much!

Make Mine A Double

Wine Review: Gérard Bertrand Cote des Roses and Pasqua 11 Minutes Rosé

Here we have two more rosés from the O’Briens summer rosé sale.  One is a typical blend from a Languedoc legend, the other is an unusual blend from a Veronese outfit who use both local and international varieties.  Both have a cool feature on the bottle they arrive in.

Gérard Bertrand Cote des Roses 2020

gerard bertrand cote des roses

With the untimely death of his father Georges in 1987, flank forward Gérard Bertrand had to balance his rugby career with becoming a vigneron.  He sought to increase the quality of the wines while gradually increasing the family’s holdings.  Bertrand is now an ambassador for Languedoc wines and the biodynamic approach – all his vineyards have been converted to biodynamics and certifications should be completed by 2023.  In the past 30 or so years the Domaine has grown from 60 to 920 hectares, includes 15 estates, and exports its wines to over 150 countries.

Cote des Roses [sic] is a traditional Languedoc blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah.  It’s a very pale pink (rose in French!) in the glass.  The nose simply smells of summer!  Strawberry and raspberry aromas continue onto the palate where they are joined by a steely streak of minerality.  The fruit and mineral aspects are not distinct entities but are entwined together.  They arrive together, hang out for a while then leave together hand in hand.

There’s also some texture to this wine which mean it could partner well with food.  It stands astride the line between food rosés and quaffing rosés, a great all-rounded that’s worth a try.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €14.21 down from €18.95
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Cool bottle feature: the base of the bottle is formed into a relief shaped like a rose

Gérard Bertrand Cote des Roses

Pasqua 11 Minutes Rosé 2020

Pasqua 11 Minutes Rosé

Pasqua Vigneti e Cantine, to give the firm its full name, was founded by the Pasqua brothers from Puglia in 1925.  Their original venture was intended to commercialise Puglian wines in greater Verona, but it didn’t take too long before they invested in local vineyards and began to market those wines too.  The second generation joined the business in the 1960s and were the driving force behind a focus on exports and the establishment of a research and development institute.  The new millennium saw the building of a new headquarters in Verona and dedicated export entities in the USA and China, with the third generation now taking over the reins.

The Pasqua range now extends to two dozen wines, split into five ranges: Icons, Famiglia Pasqua, Pasqua Specials, Pasqua Timeless and Independents.  11 Minutes is the Rosé member of the Icons range.  11 Minutes refers to the length of time the juice stays in contact with the skins before being separated for cold settling.  Selected yeasts are used to initiate fermentation in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks, and once completed the wine matures in the same tanks on its lees.

It’s the blend which is really unusual here: Corvina (50%; a key red wine variety of the Veneto) plus Trebbiano de Lugano (25%; a white variety which makes excellent wines on the shores of Lake Garda), Syrah (15%; from the Rhône but grown internationally) and Carmenère (10%; Bordelais in origin but now the signature variety of Chile).

Given the brief maceration time of 11 minutes it’s no surprise that this is a pale wine.  Red fruits and floral notes dominate the nose and resolve nicely on to the palate.  There are also grapefruit flavours and textures, specifically grapefruit segments in juice, pith and all.

This is a remarkably balanced and tasty rosé, undoubtedly the best I’ve tasted so far this summer!

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €14.21 down from €18.95 (75 cl) or €38.95 (150 cl)
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Cool bottle feature: the front label is actually donut shaped; if you align it correctly the image on the inside of the back label can be seen in the hole through the wine.


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Make Mine A Double

Wine Review: Les Auzines Alaina Rosé and Domaine de L’Ostal Rosé

For many wine drinkers the brighter evenings are the sign to break out the rosé.  Summer doesn’t appear to have arrived yet here in Ireland, but rosé sales are already booming.  At family-owned chain O’Briens Wines they are out in full force, with a 25% off promotion:

O'Briens Rosé Display

Here are brief notes on two from that selection which have an Irish connection, though perhaps a little tenuous…

Domaine de l’Ostal Rosé 2020

Domaine de l'Ostal Rosé

Domaine de l’Ostal is the Languedoc outpost of the JM Cazes group, named after Jean-Michel Cazes who ran the group for over 30 years until he handed the reins over to his son Jean-Charles Cazes in 2006.  L’Ostal is a large estate, with 150 ha in total of which 60 ha are under vine and 25 ha are olive groves.  I am a big fan of their Minervois La Livinière Grand Vin which punches well above its weight.

The Domaine de l’Ostal rosé is a 50-50 blend of Grenache and Syrah grapes from the coolest part of the estate.  The grapes are cold pressed to preserve aromas and freshness, and to reduce extraction of colour and flavour from the skins.  The result is a lovely pale pink wine with fresh red fruit aromas – raspberry, redcurrant and strawberry – plus pomegranate.  On the palate sweet red fruits are to the fore, but the finish remains crisp.

This is an easy-going and appealing rosé which will be a real crowd pleaser come barbecue time.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €11.96 down from €15.95
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Irish connection: the JM Cazes family also own and run Château Lynch-Bages in Pauillac which was of course founded by Irish émigré Thomas Lynch. 

Laurent Miquel Les Auzines Alaina Rosé 2020

Laurent Miquel les Auzines Alaina RosE

Laurent Miquel is the eighth generation of winemaker in his family, but he initially opted for a professional career in the automotive industry.  The family calling eventually won him over and, after studying oenology in Montpellier, he returned to the land.  His father Henri was a great innovator in his time, especially planting so much Syrah in the 1970s.

The Miguel family bought the Cazal Viel estate in 1791, and although it had been used for viticulture by its previous custodians its poor fertility meant that wine was a small part of the estate for many years.  This was added to by Laurent’s purchase of Château Les Auzines in Corbières in 2009.

Les Auzines is situated on a rocky plateau at 350 metres above sea level.  As well as being Laurent’s family home it is the source of three wines; Alaina Albariño, Alaina Rosé and Cuvée Les Garrigues.

The Rosé is a typical Languedoc blend of 40% Syrah, 30% Grenache and 30% Cinsault.  Fermentation at low temperatures and ageing are carried out in steel tanks to preserve aromas and freshness. 

When poured the wine is very pale in colour, not too far from water white, as is the fashion these days.  The nose shows delicate citrus and light red fruit aromas.  The palate is fruity but balanced.  Gentle red fruits hint at sweetness without sugariness, and there’s some texture there too.  The finish is fresh, but it does not take you down a mineral-only path, and is certainly not austere.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €12.71 down from €16.95
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Irish connection: Laurent Miquel’s wife Neasa is Irish!


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Make Mine A Double

Wine Review: Corte Alle Mine Vermentino and Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano

Here are two wines from the SuperValu Italian Wine Sale, and specifically a Piedmontese pair that caught my attention at a virtual press tasting.  These are both “Guest wines”, i.e. they are sourced via local suppliers rather than direct from the producer, giving the retailer more flexibility.

Before we get to the wines themselves, a quick look at the wine regions of Tuscany and the producer Castellani:

Tuscany

Map of Tuscany's DOC and DOCG wine areas

The most famous wine region of Tuscany (and Italy) is Chianti; I posit that most wine drinkers are still not aware of the difference between Chianti and Chianti Classico and they are grouped together in most people’s minds.  Brunello di Montalcino is less well known among the general wine buying population, though it has a strong following among the cognoscenti.  Brunello is the local synonym for Sangiovese, specifically the Sangiovese Grosso clone which is native to the area.  The third and least well-known Sangiovese area of Tuscany is Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.  This is (obviously) made in the area around the town of Montepulciano from the local Sangiovese clone called Prugnolo gentile.

One other difference between the three DOCGs is the allowance of other varieties.  Brunello – and its baby brother Rosso di Montalcino – must be 100% Sangiovese; Vino Nobile has to be a minimum 70% Sangiovese plus Canaiolo Nero, Mammolo and other local varieties; Chianti and Chianti Classico can range between 75% and 100% Sangiovese with Canaiolo and others making up the balance.

For Vino Nobile di Montepulciano the major confusion has been with Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, a red wine made from the Montepulciano grape in the province of Abruzzo.  The governing Corsorzio has therefore recently started promoting the wine as simply Vino Nobile…easier (and shorter) for folk to say and remember.

Vermentino is an Italian treasure and one of the key white varieties of Tuscany, but it is actually grown further afield under the same and other names.  It is widely planted in Sardinia under the same name, in Liguria as Pigato and as Favorita a little further north in Piedmont.  On the French Mediterranean coast (the Languedoc, Roussillon and Provence) it is usually known as Rolle, but increasingly labelled as Vermentino as customers have more awareness of this name.

In Tuscany it is generally grown close to the coast to benefit from cool coastal breezes, allowing flavours, aromas and acidity to develop without excessive alcohol.  For Castellani this Vermentino is one of their biggest sellers in Italy.  Clonal selection is very important to maintain consistency. 

Castellani

Alfredo Castellani established his winery in Montecalvoli in 1903, after previously being solely a grape grower.  His sons Duilio and Mario subsequently took over and expanded the firm significantly.  Duilio’s eldest son Giorgio coordinated a huge export drive, and was later joined in this by his brother Roberto after a serious flood.  Another disaster was to take hold in 1982 when a fire destroyed Castellani’s premises.  Giorgio and Roberto bought the Campomaggio Estate and were able to use the facilities of the new property to rebuild the business.  They were then joined by Piergiorgio who added a scientific take to the firm’s vinous artistry, and continues to run the firm to this day.

Piergiorgio has been experimenting with ways to make Tuscan wines which appeal to a younger, less tradition-bound generation.  This includes funky new labels which are less intimidating than those the consumer is used to seeing, but also by gently increasing the residual sugar to give a richer, rounder wine.  He is not aiming for noticeable sweetness, and a little tartaric acid is added to keep the wines fresh.

All that said, here are brief notes on two dry Castellani wines that I tried and really enjoyed recently:

Corte Alle Mone Vermentino Toscana 2019

Corte Alle Mine Vermentino

The Corte Alle Mone Vermentino is pale in the glass and lightly aromatic on the nose.  It shows citrus and stone fruits with hints of balsamic aromas.  The palate is bright and tangy yet creamy and round.  This is a delicious example of the variety and a great introduction to Tuscan Vermentino.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €10.00 down from €14.99 from 20th May to 9th June 2021
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

Corte Alle Mine Vino Nobile De Montepulciano 2016

Corte Alle Mine Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

The introduction to Tuscan wines above gives you the background to Vino Nobile.  This example from Castellani’s Corte Alle Mine has a textbook Sangiovese nose of dark fruits, tar, coffee and balsamic aromas – presumably from the 24 or more months it spent in large format oak casks.  The palate is smooth without being bland, with a balance between the fruit and smoky black elements.  Piergiorgio believes that a year or two more in bottle would bring out more savoury, umami tertiary notes.  If you like the sound of that then lay a few bottles down, but it’s drinking beautifully right now; this is a complex, quality wine that is an outstanding bargain at this price.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €15.00 down from €19.99 from 20th May to 9th June 2021
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

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Other Wines in the SuperValu Italian Wine Event

  • Canto Novo Pinot Grigio: €7.00 down from €15.99
  • Canto Novo Rosé: €7.00 down from €15.99
  • Emotivo Pinot Grigio: €8.00 down from €10.00
  • Castellani Arbos Sangiovese: €8.00 down from €12.99
  • Intrigo Negroamaro: €9.00 down from €11.99
  • Intrigo Primitivo: €9.00 down from €11.99
  • Ragnatella Negramaro: €9.00 down from €12.99
  • Baffo Rosse Chianti: €9.00 down from €13.99
  • Sammicheli Chianti Reserva: €9.00 down from €19.99
  • Burdizzo Vermentino Toscana: €10.00 down from €12.99
  • Barone Montalto Passivento Rosso: €10.00 down from €13.99 
  • Cantina Tombacco Aglianico: €10.00 down from €12.99
  • Castellani Chianti: €10.00 down from €13.49
  • Il Capolavoro Appassimento: €10.00 down from €14.99
  • Zonin Montepulciano D’Abruzzo: €10.00 down from €12.99
  • Zonin Pinot Grigio: €10.00 down from €12.99
  • Governo All’Uso: €10.00 down from €15.99
  • Orso D’Oro Red: €10.00 down from €14.99
  • Forte Ambrone Red: €10.00 down from €14.99
  • Castlemondo Ripasso €10.00 down from €18.00
  • Ricossa Gavi: €12.00 down from €13.99
  • Castellani Chianti Classico: €12.00 down from €15.49
  • Ill Capolavoro Primativo Di Manduria: €12.00 down from €15.99
  • Freixenet Pinot Grigio: €12.00 down from €14.99
  • Freixenet Chianti: €12.00 down from €14.99
  • Freixenet Rosé: €12.00 down from €14.99
  • Zonin Chianti: €12.00 down from €14.99
  • Masi Campofiorin: €15.00 down from €17.49
  • Barone Montalto Ammasso: €15.00 from €18.99
  • Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano D’Abruzzo: €16.99 down from €18.99
  • Grifòn Prosecco Frizzante Magnum: €18.00 down from €24.00
  • Ricossa Barolo: €20.00 down from €24.99
  • Costa Mediana Amarone Della Valpolicella: €20.00 down from €25.00
  • Masi Campofiorin Magnum: €25.00 down from €40.00
  • Barone Montalto Passivento 3 litre Bag In Box: €28.00 down from €45.00
  • Masi Costasera Amarone: €35.00 down from €37.99

Make Mine A Double

Wine Review: Ricossa Gavi and Barolo

Here are two wines from the SuperValu Italian Wine Sale, and specifically a Piedmontese pair that caught my attention at a virtual press tasting.  These are both “Guest wines”, i.e. they are sourced via local suppliers rather than direct from the producer, giving the retailer more flexibility.

Before we get to the wines themselves, a quick look at the wine regions of Piedmont:

Piedmont

Piedmont, or Piemonte to the locals, is a major region in north west Italy that runs right into the Alps.  As well as being a major industrial centre it is also home to many of Italy’s most well-known wine regions, nearly all using indigenous varieties.

Wine Regions of Piedmont / Piemonte

Ricossa Antica Casa

The Ricossa family can trace their beverage production origins back to the end of the 19th century, but it was Piedmontese spirits that they made rather than wine back then.  Now they make fifteen wines from across the region, with Nebbiolo and Barbera featuring prominently.  Below we have two excellent examples.

Ricossa Gavi 2019

Ricossa Gavi

As you can see from the map above, Gavi is very close to Piedmont’ southern border with Liguria. From there it is only around 60 kilometres to the Ligurian Sea, part of the Mediterranean, so there is a distinct coastal influence.  The estate where Ricossa source their Cortese grapes for this wine was established in 2004 on steep, rocky terrain.

In the glass this Gavi is a pale lemon, so good so far, but it’s the nose where things start to get really interesting.  The nose kicks off with an intoxicating muskiness, lifted and exciting.  It’s an unusual aroma, hard to pin down, but really special.  This then gives way to a variety of citrus notes.  The palate manages to be fresh and zesty, yet smooth, mineral yet textured.  It’s very approachable but not dumbed down in any way.

I’ve had some other good Gavis in the last decade but none have been as good as this.

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RRP: €12.00 down from €13.99 from 20th May to 9th June 2021
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

Ricossa Barolo 2016

Ricossa Barolo

Many regard Barolo as the pinnacle of Italian wine, and most consider it to be at least in the top handful.  However, many Barolos not only improve with a good amount of cellaring but are almost undrinkable in their youth.  Nebbiolo’s fiery tannins and acids can make for a drinking experience which is more masochism than hedonism.  There are some bottles which are approachable on release, such as GD Vayra’s Bricco delle Viole, but a single bottle of that won’t leave you that much change from €100 (in Ireland) , so it remains out of reach for most.

Step up Ricossa!  The grapes for this wine are from vines on calcareous silty clay soils, good for structure and complexity.  Fermentation and maceration take place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks, then maturation is in French oak barrels for two years and a further year in bottle before release.

When poured this is ruby red but with brown tints hinting at a little bit of age.  The nose shows red fruits, liquorice, caramel and spices, including a hint of vanilla.  The palate is rich and very expressive, with notes of black and red liquorice, cherries and raspberries.  This is a generous, elegant wine.  It has plenty of tannin and acidity, but they are interwoven with the fruits and other elements of the wine rather than standing in stark relief.  

This Barolo straddles the line between traditional and modern wines.  It’s highly approachable and not austere, so shouldn’t scare off any tempted to try Barolo for the first time.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €20.00 down from €24.99 from 20th May to 9th June 2021
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

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

 


Other Wines in the SuperValu Italian Wine Event

  • Canto Novo Pinot Grigio: €7.00 down from €15.99
  • Canto Novo Rosé: €7.00 down from €15.99
  • Emotivo Pinot Grigio: €8.00 down from €10.00
  • Castellani Arbos Sangiovese: €8.00 down from €12.99
  • Intrigo Negroamaro: €9.00 down from €11.99
  • Intrigo Primitivo: €9.00 down from €11.99
  • Ragnatella Negramaro: €9.00 down from €12.99
  • Baffo Rosse Chianti: €9.00 down from €13.99
  • Sammicheli Chianti Reserva: €9.00 down from €19.99
  • Burdizzo Vermentino Toscana: €10.00 down from €12.99
  • Barone Montalto Passivento Rosso: €10.00 down from €13.99 
  • Cantina Tombacco Aglianico: €10.00 down from €12.99
  • Castellani Chianti: €10.00 down from €13.49
  • Il Capolavoro Appassimento: €10.00 down from €14.99
  • Zonin Montepulciano D’Abruzzo: €10.00 down from €12.99
  • Zonin Pinot Grigio: €10.00 down from €12.99
  • Governo All’Uso: €10.00 down from €15.99
  • Corte Alle Mone Vermentino: €10.00 down from €14.99
  • Orso D’Oro Red: €10.00 down from €14.99
  • Forte Ambrone Red: €10.00 down from €14.99
  • Castlemondo Ripasso €10.00 down from €18.00
  • Castellani Chianti Classico: €12.00 down from €15.49
  • Ill Capolavoro Primativo Di Manduria: €12.00 down from €15.99
  • Freixenet Pinot Grigio: €12.00 down from €14.99
  • Freixenet Chianti: €12.00 down from €14.99
  • Freixenet Rosé: €12.00 down from €14.99
  • Zonin Chianti: €12.00 down from €14.99
  • Masi Campofiorin: €15.00 down from €17.49
  • Corte Alle Mine Vina Nobile De Montepulciano €15.00 down from €19.99
  • Barone Montalto Ammasso: €15.00 from €18.99
  • Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano D’Abruzzo: €16.99 down from €18.99
  • Grifòn Prosecco Frizzante Magnum: €18.00 down from €24.00
  • Costa Mediana Amarone Della Valpolicella: €20.00 down from €25.00
  • Masi Campofiorin Magnum: €25.00 down from €40.00
  • Barone Montalto Passivento 3 litre Bag In Box: €28.00 down from €45.00
  • Masi Costasera Amarone: €35.00 down from €37.99

 

Opinion

Wine Review: Sauvignon Blancs from SuperValu

What’s the best inexpensive Sauvignon Blanc from SuperValu?  Here are four Sauvignons from the current SuperValu sale, from four different countries: France, Australia, Chile and Argentina.

La Petite Perrière Sauvignon Blanc 2019: The minerally one

La Petite Perrière Sauvignon Blanc

It’s rather fitting that the producer of this wine is named after a stone quarry in Sancerre as it has a wonderful mineral streak through its core.  Yes there are plenty of citrus notes too – lemon, lime and grapefruit – but they are along for the journey rather than being the destination themselves.  This is a fresh style of Sauvignon Blanc that has more than a passing resemblance to a dry Alsace Riesling, which is obviously a positive in my book!

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €11.99 down to €9.00 until 19th May 2021
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie
  • Source: media sample

19 Crimes Sauv Block 2020: The soft one

19 Crimes Sauv Block

“Sauv Block” is some sort of pun on Prison Block / Sauvignon Blanc, but it’s fairly weak (yes, this is  me saying this!)  I’ve already covered the 19 Crimes Red Wine and its unusual packaging, so this time we will just consider the wine inside.  It has some of the typical grapefruit and gooseberry notes on the nose but there are also more soft and tropical fruit aromas.  The palate reflects this, with melon and pineapple alongside the green fruits.

The 19 Crimes SB doesn’t have the zing and freshness of a typical SB.  I haven’t tasted enough Aussie single varietal Sauvignons to compare it to, but this wine seems almost like it’s made with a different grape variety – something like Godello – though I’m sure it’s not.  In short, this is a Sauvignon Blanc for people who don’t normally go for this variety as they find it too sharp – but there’s nothing wrong with that!  Well chilled it is fine for sipping in the sun.

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RRP: €14.99 down to €10.00
  • Stockists: SuperValu and supervalu.ie
  • Source: media sample

Cepas Privadas Sauvignon Blanc 2019: The herby one

Cepas Privadas Sauvignon Blanc

Most wine drinkers will be familiar with Argentina’s signature black grape Malbec and the largest wine region in the country, Mendoza.  As Mendoza is principally a warm wine region it may surprise some to learn that it has cooler parts, cool enough to be suitable for Sauvignon Blanc.

The nose is initially all about green pepper and herbs, with touches of green fruits in the background.  The palate is fresh and zippy, with a core of minerality around which citrus and herbs are wrapped.  I don’t think this wine lives up to the normal RRP of €18, but for €8 it represents very good value.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €17.99 down to €8.00 until 19th May 2021
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie
  • Source: media sample

Aresti Estate Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2020: The grapefruity one

Aresti Estate Selection Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is one of the key varieties for Chile, especially in Ireland where it is available in pretty much every supermarket, convenience store and off-licence.  Hailing from Curicó Valley, Aresti are a family business with several ranges within their portfolio; Estate Selection appears to be their entry level for the Irish market.

It ticks all the boxes you’d expect from an inexpensive SB, but it’s key attribute is drinkability.  It’s not going to challenge Sancerre or Marlborough but it’s a very pleasant drop for mid week or even the weekend.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €10.99 down to €8.00 until 19th May 2021
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie
  • Source: media sample

Conclusion

These are obviously inexpensive wines which are for everyday drinking rather than a special treat.  The 19 Crimes is noticeably different in style, but has its place.  The other three are quite similar and very reasonable wines for sipping outside on a warm summer’s day (if we see one this year in Ireland!) – it comes down to small differences in flavours, aromas and drinkability.  On that basis, my narrow favourite is the best all-rounded, the Aresti Estate Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2020.

Single Bottle Review

Wine Review: Conde Valdemar Finca Alto Cantabria 2019

White Rioja gets far less attention and plaudits compared to red Rioja, mainly due to the fact that white varieties only account for 10% of the total vines in the region.  However, when one particular white Rioja recently received a glowing review from Tim Atkin I thought it would be interesting to try. I subsequently saw that Tim had given an early vintage of the same wine his “Wine of the Year” tag in 2017.  Before we look at the wine itself, we start with a refresher on the Rioja wine region and a brief background on the producer, Conde Valdemar.

The Rioja Wine Region

Administrative divisions and sub-regions

Map of the Rioja wine region by municipality and sub-region
Credit: Dieghernan84

Although Rioja is Spain’s most famous wine region, there are differences between the area of the DOCa and the administrative divisions of the area.  There have also been a few name changes over time, confusing things further.  To sum up, the wine region extends into four administrative areas:

  • La Rioja (formerly Lagroño)¹
  • Álava/Araba: a province in the Basque country
  • Navarra: historically part of the Basque region, but not currently included in the Basque Autonomous Community²
  • Burgos: just a tiny part of Burgos for a single vineyard: Hacienda El Ternero³

As can be seen from the map above, the bulk of the Rioja wine region is within the Autonomous Community of La Rioja.  The sub-regions are partly based on politics, partly on geography:

  • Rioja Alavesa: 17 municipalities, entirely within Álava from whence it takes its name
  • Rioja Alta: literally “Upper Rioja” consisting of 80 municipalities of La Rioja and 1 in Burgos
  • Rioja Oriental (formerly Rioja Baja): literally “Eastern Rioja”, nowadays preferred to “Lower Rioja” which has intimations of low quality, consisting of 42 municipalities in La Rioja and 8 in Navarra.

Structure of Rioja wine trade and 21st century innovations

Although there was a lot of influence and interest from Bordeaux producers in the later part of the nineteenth century, at a high level the Rioja wine trade is more like that of Champagne than Bordeaux; there has long been a distinction – or even divide – between small grape growers and large wine producers. 

Wines often consist of several different grapes from across different sub-regions; Rioja Alta tends to be somewhat reserved due to its altitude, Rioja Alavesa is a bit more generous while higher in acidity and Rioja Oriental can be very high in alcohol though a little less elegant.  A blend of the three is often the best compromise, though the wine can lack a sense of place and exceptional plots may ended up being blended away.

Two innovations in Rioja this century have had a small affect so far but will be increasingly important in the region.  The first has been the addition of new permitted grape varieties in 2007: Maturata Tinta (Jura’s Trousseau), Maturana blanca, Tempranillo Blanco, Turruntés, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Verdejo.  Of course it will take time for these varieties to be planted in the places most suitable for them, but in my opinion this is a good initiative – particularly for the white grapes – as Viura can be too neutral and some of the new grapes have more recognition among customers.

The second initiative is much more recent; in 2017 the Rioja wine authorities announced new label indications including Single Vineyard (Viñedo Singular), Zone and Village names.  The hope is that the cream will rise to the top and more top quality wines will emerge.

Conde Valdemar

Family and History 

The story begins with Joaquín Martínez Bujanda who began making wine in 1889.  His son Marcelino then grandson Jesús both followed into the family business.  It was the third and fourth generations – both called Jesús – who set up Conde Valdemar itself in  1985.  Today the winery is in the hands of fourth generation Jesús plus his son and daughter Jesús and Ana; the fifth generation are spearheading the family’s fortunes in Valdemar Estates in the USA.

The family has gradually expanded their holdings over the years, and bottles wines from their own estates separately.  A notable addition was the 1982 purchase of Finca del Marquesado which is now planted with over 180 hectares of vines.

White Rioja has consistently been championed by Conde Valdemar; they were the first to plant Viura in Alto Cantabria in 1975 and the first winery to make a 100% Tempranillo Blanco wine in 2005.  In between these vineyard firsts they were also the first winery to make a 100% barrel-fermented and -matured Spanish white wine in 1988.

Conde Valdemar Wine Range

There are five distinct wine ranges within the Conde Valdemar portfolio; three in Rioja, one in Ribero del Duero and one in Washington State.  Unusually for Rioja, Conde Valdemar only produces wine from its own grapes.

  • Conde Valdemar
  • Valdemar Lands / Estate Wines
  • Finca del Marquesado
  • Fincas Valdemacuco (Ribera del Duero)
  • Valdemar Estates (USA)

Details of the wines in each range are given at the bottom of this article.

Finca Alto Cantabria

Map of Finca Alto Cantabria vineyard

This map (Credit: Conde Valdemar) shows the three grapes planted on the 23.3 hectare site: Viura, Tempranillo Blanco and Tempranillo, with the first accounting for 8.6 hectares.  The vineyard is at 489 metres above sea level, 114 metres above the River Ebro.  The steep inclines at the edge of the site and strong winds help to avoid frosts and humidity which leads to disease pressure.  The soils are a combination of limestone and sandy loam.

Conde Valdemar Finca Alto Cantabria 2019

CV-Finca-Alto-Cantabria-2

So here we have a wine from a high altitude vineyard which is particularly suited to white grapes and has been classified as a “Viñedo Singular”.  As mentioned above this is a 100% Viura wine, but the excellence of the site helps it to exceed the limitations of the variety; a longer growing season means that the grapes can develop fantastic aromas and flavours by the time sugar maturity is reached.

After being hand harvested into shallow boxes the grapes are first temperature stabilised before being pressed.  Fermentation of the free run juice begins in stainless steel tanks before being transferred into French oak barrels.  The wine matures in barrel for six months with weekly lees stirring.

In the glass this wine is a mid straw yellow.  On the nose, oak dominates initially but then gives way to citrus and stone fruits with enticing blossom notes.  The palate is complex and smooth, full of ripe fruit and nutty notes, succulent and viscous, rich ripe and vibrant.

This is among the top few white Riojas I have ever tried and represents exceptional value for money.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €26 – €27
  • Stockists: wineonline.ie; The Wine House, Trim
  • Source: media sample

Conde Valdemar

These are the Bodega’s original wines:

Reds:

  • Conde Valdemar Tempranillo: 100% Tempranillo, made using a blend of carbonic and traditionally fermented grapes
  • Conde Valdemar Crianza: 90% Tempranillo, 5% Garnacha & 5% Mazuelo, matured in American oak barrels for 19 months
  • Conde Valdemar Reserva: 80% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano, 5% Maturana [aka Trousseau, Bastardo] & 5% Garnacha, matured for 27 months in American (65%) and French oak (35%) barrels
  • Conde Valdemar Gran Reserva: Old vines; 85% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano & 5% Garnacha, matured for 36 months in French (50%) and American (50%) barriques
  • Conde Valdemar Edición Limitada: a modern style Rioja made from 60% Tempranillo, 25% Maturana & 15% Graciano, matured for 24 months in French (60%) and American  (40%)oak barrels

Whites and Rosés:

  • Conde Valdemar Rosé: 75% Garnacha & 25% Mazuelo
  • Conde Valdemar Blanco: A traditional white Rioja blend of 60% Viura, 25% Tempranillo Blanco & 15% Malvasía.
  • Conde Valdemar Tempranillo Blanco: 100% Tempranillo Blanco
  • Conde Valdemar Finca Alto Cantabria: 100% Viura from a single vineyard – further details below

Valdemar Lands / Estate Wines

These are very limited edition wines made from specific single vineyards and single varieties

  • La Recaja Tempranillo: 100% Tempranillo from a two hectare portion of La Recaja vineyard in Rioja Alavesa, matured for 16 months in French oak barrels
  • Las Seis Alhajas Graciano: Named “The Six Jewels” after six different clones of Graciano planted as a trial in 1991 to bring the grape back from the brink of disappearance.  Matured for 29 months in new, fine-grained American oak barrels.
  • Balcón de Pilatos Maturana: A revival of the Maturana grape which had disappeared in Rioja during the phylloxera crisis, matured for 13 months in new, fine-grained American oak barrels

Finca del Marquesado

An estate in the east of Rioja, yet at a considerable altitude of 600 m.a.s.l., particularly suitable for Garnacha:

  • Finca del Marquesado Rosado: 75% Garnacha & 25% Mazuelo
  • Finca del Marquesado Crianza: 75% Tempranillo & 25% Garnacha, matured for 13 months in American oak barrels
  • Finca del Marquesado Selección: 80% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano & 10% Garnacha, matured for 12 months in French and American oak barrels
  • La Gargantilla Garnacha Single Estate Wine: 100% Garnacha from La Gargantilla vineyard, matured for 7 months in French Allier barriques
  • La Gargantilla Tempranillo Single Estate Wine: 100% Tempranillo from La Gargantilla vineyard, matured for 15 months in French (60%) and American (40%) fine-grained oak barrels

Fincas Valdemacuco

Wines from the Valdemar family’s new outpost in Ribero del Duero:

  • Fincas Valdemacuco Crianza: 100% Tempranillo from selected vineyards in the area of Nava de Roa (Burgos), matured for 4 months in French (70%) and American (30%) oak barrels
  • Fincas Valdemacuco Roble: 100% Tempranillo from selected vineyards in the area of Nava de Roa (Burgos), matured for 5 months in American oak barrels

Valdemar Estates (USA)

The family’s newest venture in Walla Walla, Washington State.  This was driven by Jesús and Ana Martínez Bujanda

  • Valdemar Estates Klipsun Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Klipsun Vineyard in the Red Mountain AVA, matured in French oak (60% new, 40% 3 years old) for 18 months
  • Valdemar Estates Dubrul Vineyard Chardonnay: Barrel-fermented Chardonnay from the Dubrul Vineyard in Yakima Valley, matured for 12 months in French oak (22% new, 78% 3 years old)
  • Valdemar Estates Blue Mountain Syrah: 100% Syrah from the Blue Mountain Vineyard in Walla Walla, matured for 12 months in neutral French oak

¹ The initial letters of Lagroño, Álava and Navarra were the origin of the name of Bodegas LAN, a well known producer.

² The Rioja DOCa extends into the south west part of the Autonomous Community of Navarre, separate from the Navarra DO which is further north.

³ Thanks to Tim Atkin for the info

 

Single Bottle Review

Wine Review: 19 Crimes 2020 Red Wine

19 Crimes is an Australian wine brand with a range of inexpensive, everyday wines that are available at supermarkets and other multiples.  This isn’t the normal type of wine that features on Frankly Wines, but as it’s so popular I thought it worth trying to see why so many people buy it.

I don’t know if the owners of 19 Crimes – Treasury Wine Estates (TWE) – set out to deliberately compete with the likes of Yellowtail and Barefoot, but that’s what they appear to be aiming at. The brand is built around the story of certain crimes which were punishable by deportation from Britain and Ireland to Australia in the late 18th and 19th century.

Each bottle is sealed with a cork – unusual for Aussie wine nowadays – with one of the 19 Crimes written on it. Encouragement to collect them all?  The front labels each feature a famous convict; eight from transportation times plus Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr. aka Snoop Dogg in a celebrity tie-in.

19 Crimes cork

Also of note is the innovative use of a proprietary app which makes each label “come alive”. Fair enough, this might be something of a gimmick, but wine needs innovative packaging and marketing for the mass market.

.From 29th April to 19th May the 19 Crimes Red Wine and Sauvignon Block [sic] are included in SuperValu’s wine offers.  Here are my notes on the former:

19 Crimes South Eastern Australia Red Wine 2020

19 Crimes Red Wine
This Charming Man

So, enough about the label and branding, what’s the wine like? It pours a medium intensity cherry red, implying that this is no blockbuster red. One website I found listed the varieties as Shiraz, Pinot Noir, Grenache, and Cabernet Sauvignon, and it’s the middle two grapes which give it the lighter hue.

The nose initially hits you with sweet vanilla, under which blackberries and fudge compete for attention. The palate is rich, full of vanilla and toasty oak, cherries, chocolate, dark berries, spice and caramel. I don’t have a tech sheet but the richness is obviously partly due to a good dose of residual sugar.

Similar to the Dada Art Series 1 I reviewed back in 2017, this is a wine made for pleasure and designed to match what many people actually like drinking.  Most wine drinkers – especially in the Irish market – will swear blind that they only like dry wines, but if there’s an off-dry finish to a red wine like this they won’t complain if they’re not told and don’t notice themselves.

For my personal taste, this wine is a little too confected and clumsy. But I’m not the target market, and I suspect that most people who buy it will like it – which is exactly the point!

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €14.99 down to €10 at SuperValu from 29th April to 19th May 2021
  • Source: Media sample

Single Bottle Review

Wine Review: Louis Latour Grand Cru Corton Charlemagne 2017

Way back before the pandemic I attended a tasting of wines from the Louis Latour stable .  There were lots of excellent wines, but one in particular stood out for me, the Grand Cru Corton-Charlemagne.  Before we get into the wine itself, we take a brief look at the different labels of Louis Latour and take a fly-by of the Hill of Corton.

Louis Latour

There are six parts to the Latour stable:

  1. Louis Latour – Burgundy: the original home of the Domaine, more details below
  2. Louis Latour – Les Pierres Dorées: southern Beaujolais where the clay and limestone soils are suitable for Pinot Noir
  3. Louis Latour – Ardèche: south-eastern department, just west of the break between the northern and southern Rhône wine regions, mainly planted to Chardonnay and some Viognier
  4. Louis Latour – Var: a department on the south coast; vines were planted for the first time an hour or so north of Toulon.  Clay and limestone soils are again most suitable for Pinot Noir
  5. Simonnet-Febvre – Chablis: an outstanding Chablis house founded in 1840, bought by Louis Latour in 2003
  6. Henry Fessy – Beaujolais: a well-established Brouilly-based producer founded in 1888, bought by Louis Latour in 2008

In the UK the group also has a company called Louis Latour Agencies which was founded in 1990 to represent the group in the UK market and since then has built up a small portfolio of other producers.

Focus on Domaine Louis Latour

Louis Latour proudly state their founding year as 1797, although vineyards were first bought by Denis Latour in 1731.  The family moved to their current base of Aloxe-Corton under Jean Latour in 1768, with vineyards slowly being acquired as they became available.  One important decision in Corton-Charlemagne was the decision to replant Chardonnay (grafted onto resistant rootstocks) after phylloxera had killed the Aligoté and Pinot Noir vines in their plots.  More recent developments have focused on sustainable viticulture and environmental certification.

Domaine Louis Latour now produces 21 Grand Cru wines across Burgundy, with 11 in the Côte de Beaune and 10 in the Côte de Nuits.  Its Premier Crus are more Beaune-biased with 41, plus 11 in the Côte de Nuits and 2 in the Côte Chalonnaise.

The Hill of Corton and its Appellations

The Hill of Corton is located in the north of the Côte de Beaune.  The top is densely wooded and bereft of vines.  Below that the topsoil has eroded leaving mainly limestone and marl which is most suitable for white varieties.  The lower slopes of the hill have more clay, iron and other materials making them more suitable for black varieties.

There are three overlapping Grand Cru appellations on the hill.  In practice, if there is a choice for a given site, vignerons will choose Corton for red wines and Corton-Charlemagne for whites.

Corton

The largest Grand Cru in the Côte de Beaune covering 100.6 hectares, of which 98 are Pinot Noir and 2.6 Chardonnay.  Unusually for a Côte d’Or Grand Cru – though not dissimilar from Chablis Grand Cru which is around the same size – the name of individual climats is often stated on the front label.  The three communes which the AOC covers are:

  • Aloxe-Corton (16 climats)
  • Ladoix-Serrigny (9 climats)
  • Pernand-Vergelesses (7 climats)

Corton is the only Grand Cru for red wine in the Côte de Beaune.

Corton-Charlemagne

The Corton-Charlemagne AOC is just for white wines and covers 57.7 hectares.  As Corton above it extends into the same three communes, but does not usually name the individual climat on the front label.  Whereas Corton covers the lower slopes of the hill, Corton-Charlemagne’s Chardonnay prefers the limestone further up.

Charlemagne

This is a rarely seen AOC covering just 0.28 hectares; in practice the grapes harvested from this climat are blended in with others from Corton-Charlemagne.

Louis Latour Grand Cru Corton-Charlemagne 2017

Louis Latour Corton Charlemagne 2017

Louis Latour owns 10.5 hectares in Corton-Charlemagne and so is now the biggest landowner of the AOC.  Latour’s plots have a south easterly aspect and the vines average 30 years old.  All grapes are hand picked as late as possible – for optimum ripeness – at an average yield of 40 hl/ha.

Fermentation takes place in oak barrels made in Latour’s own cooperage.  They are made from French oak – bien sûr – 100% new and with a medium toast.  The wines go though full malolactic fermentation in those barrels then age for eight to ten months before bottling.

On pouring the 2017 is a pale straw colour in the glass.  The nose has lifted aromas of nuts, smoke and vanilla.  These notes continue through to the monumental palate which also has ripe stone and citrus fruits.  There’s an impressive mineral streak which keeps the wine from feeling overblown or flabby.

This is one of the most expensive still white wines I’ve ever reviewed, so it’s difficult to assess it on a value for money basis, but it really is excellent and if you like Chardonnay it’s a wine you ought to try at least once in your life.

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €170
  • Stockists: no retail stockists at present, but a good independent wine shop should be able to order it for you
  • Source: tasted at a trade event