Make Mine A Double

Wine Review: Domaine Naturaliste Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon

Just in case you were thinking that these wines might have something to do with a nudist colony, no, it’s nothing like that. But, if you want to drink them in the buff then go ahead! This pair of wines are from Margaret River in Western Australia, so first a little reminder about the region, then an introduction to the producer, and finally notes on the wines themselves.

Margaret River

Margaret River Map
Credit: Domaine Naturaliste

Margaret River is not the only wine region in Western Australia but it surely ranks as the most important. It was famously founded as a wine region due to its climate being so close to that of Bordeaux, still a yardstick globally. As you can see from the map above, Margaret River is in the south west corner of the country, on the coast by the Indian Ocean and not too far from the chilly Southern Ocean.

The wines which MR is best known for include red and white Bordeaux blends, plus varietal Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. There’s very little – if any – bulk wine made down here. In 2009 it was reported that, although Margaret River only produced 3% of Australia’s wine output by volume, it accounted for 20% of its premium wines.

Key producers to look out for include Leeuwin Estate, Cape Mentelle, Vasse Felix, Cullen Estate and Moss Wood.

Domaine Naturaliste

Domaine Naturaliste is located close to Cape Naturaliste, just seven kilometres from the Indian Ocean. The vines are 20 years old and surround the winery building. The firm is headed up by Bruce Dukes, a WA local who has earned his winemaking spurs around the world. From their website:

With intuitive flair based on decades of experience, Bruce strikes a tender balance between taste, fragrance and texture. His passion for agriculture, respect for process and true artistry makes for an exceptional drinking experience, each and every time.

There are three quality levels in the Naturaliste portfolio, with the most interesting (to me) being the two different expressions of Margaret River Chardonnay in the Flagship range:

  • Flagship: Artus Chardonnay, Purus Chardonnay, Morus Cabernet Sauvignon, Le Naturaliste Cabernet Franc
  • Direction: Floris Chardonnay, Sauvage Sauvignon Blanc, Rachis Syrah, Rebus Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Discovery: Sauvignon Blanc / Semillon, Chardonnay, Tempranillo Rosé, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon

The wines in blue and bold are currently available in Ireland from O’Briens. So now to try two of the wines:

Domaine Naturaliste “Discovery” Margaret River Chardonnay 2019

Domaine Naturaliste Discovery Chardonnay

Fermentation and maturation of the Chardonnay grapes for this wine took place in French oak, albeit mostly second use or older. After fermentation the wine spent seven months on fine lees. Both the use of old barrels and time on lees gives a creamy texture to the wine and interesting additional notes.

In the glass it’s a bright lemon, but not the glowing gold of the oaky Chardonnays of yore. The nose eases tangy grapefruit into the conversation, promising freshness. There’s also a touch of exotic pineapple and mango, orange blossom, butterscotch and brioche. It really is perfectly poised between the steely (Chablis) and rich (Meursault) styles of Chardonnay. Those fruits reappear on the palate, which is gently tangy and fleshy.

This is a wonderful wine, and just based on the contents of the bottle I’d price it at €20 – €25 on the Irish market. That it costs less than that – significantly less on offer – makes it a joyous bargain.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €18.95 down to €15.95 from 1st to 25th September 2022
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Domaine Naturaliste “Discovery” Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

Domaine Naturaliste Discovery Cabernet Sauvignon

This Cabernet is from the same Discovery range as the Chardonnay above, and is similar in philosophy: it’s a fruit forward, accessible wine where the variety is given a chance to shine through judicious and restrained winemaking. A slight different from the Chardy is the extended maturation in French oak, twelve months versus seven for the white. I suspect the proportion of oak that is new is slightly higher for this wine as well – it can handle it.

When poured the wine is a little lighter than I’d expect from a new world Cabernet, and that’s reinforced by the nose which has as much red fruit as the black which Cab is better known for. The fruits are a mix of both fresh and compote, fresh but cosseting. Mocha and spice add interest. The palate is also aligned stylistically; it’s medium bodied rather than being a bruiser, with the oak adding toasty vanilla to the ripe berry fruits. It all comes together well a touch of tobacco and clean acidity on the finish

Cabernet Sauvignon is my favourite black grape, on its own or in a blend. While this doesn’t have the refinement and elegance of Coonawarra’s better offerings, neither does it have their price tag

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €19.95 down to €16.95 from 1st to 25th September 2022
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

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

 

Tasting Events

Wine Review: Reds from the SuperValu French & German Wine Sale

The French and German wine sale continues at SuperValu. Here are some brief notes on a half dozen of the reds that I got to try:

Street Art Gamay Vin de France

Street Art Gamay Vin de France

Street Art’s Gamay is quite different from those of Beaujolais and the Loire. The grapes for this wine are from clay vineyards in Savoie which gives spice and fruit. In the winery the grapes are given a traditional fermentation rather than carbonic fermentation which is common in Beaujolais. In the glass this pours a light ruby with a purple rim. The nose shows lots of red black and blue fruits, pepper and spice. The palate is light, fruity, fun and fresh. There are some light tannins which give it a pleasing dry finish.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €8.00 down from €11.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Street Art Syrah Vin de France

Street Art Syrah Vin de France

The degree and a half additional alcohol mean that this wine has to be slightly more expensive due to Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) in Ireland. Is it worth a few more coppers than the Gamay? It’s certainly darker than the Gamay, though not quite inky black. The nose is full of deep black fruit, blackberry and blackcurrant, with a sprinkling of spice. The palate is rich and fruity, quietly powerful, not jammy. There’s just a tiny shake of tannins and touch of violets which round out the whole.

Stylistically, it’s somewhere between New Zealand and South African Syrah styles, i.e. there’s a great balance between fruit and savoury characteristics. This is an out and out delicious wine, and yes, for me it’s definitely worth the extra.

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €8.30 down from €13.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Vignobles Vellas Max Lions Premium Grenache 2020

Max Lions Premium Grenache

The first offering from Vignobles Vellas is 100% Grenache noir, one of their star wines. It’s grown on similar terroir to their Medusa Viognier, i.e. mainly limestone, similar to Grenache’s heartland of the southern Rhône. It pours a deep ruby, with a purple rim showing its youth. It has an elegant, rich, expressive nose…strawberries from Wexford the Alps combine with hints of cinnamon and exotic spices. The palate is soft, rich and textured. This is definitely fruit-forward, but with a slightly savoury aspect which stops it from being merely jammy. This Grenache would do well with a barbecue – though it’s too late for that now in Ireland – or a hearty stew.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €10.00 down from €15.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Vignerons Catalans Signature Côtes du Roussillon Villages Tautavel 2018 

Vignerons Catalans Côtes de Roussillon Villages Signature Tautavel

Vignerons Catalans is the largest producers’ cooperative in Roussillon, with 1,500 growers over 15 different appellations. They sell 18 million bottles a year to 40 countries, so quite a significant operation. Similar to Côtes du Rhône Villages, the best villages can have their name added to the label.

Also known as French Catalonia, the region is emerging from the shadow of its neighbour the Languedoc. Wine varieties are broadly similar between the two regions: here the blend is Syrah, Grenache (Noir) and Carignan. In the glass it’s a mid ruby red, somewhat lighter than I expected for a Syrah blend. The nose is quite heady, with black fruits and spice. In the mouth this is a smooth and spicy wine, with tangy black fruits and vanilla. It’s not all fruit, though, as there are some savoury black olive (from the Syrah) and earthy (from the Carignan) notes in there as well, and some gentle tannins on the finish.

This is quite an accomplished wine, relatively approachable for a glass with friends yet with enough guts to drink with autumn and winter dishes.

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €10.00 down from €15.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Vignobles & Compagnie Les Combelles Côtes du Rhône-Villages 2021

Les Combelles Côtes du Rhône Villages Rouge

Speak of the devil, here’s a Côtes du Rhône-Villages for you. As part of their sustainablility promise, Vignobles & Compagnie plant a tree for every six bottles bought. Is this a worthwhile initiative or just a marketing gimmick? Leave a comment to let me know what your view is!

Unusually for a CdRV this is a Syrah-dominant blend, with 40% being Grenache. In colour it’s a little darker than the Catalan wine above, with purple flecks. The nose has bright red and black fruits, with spices, herbs and hints of cedarwood getting in on the act. The palate is powerful but elegant, spicier than I’d expect from this AOC – but that’s down to the high proportion of Syrah. This wine is long and sappy in the mouth and the alcohol is balanced with the red and black fruits – strawberry, raspberry and blackberry – balanced in turn by savoury notes and fine tannins.

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €10.00 down from €15.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Vignobles Vellas I’m The Boss Cahors Malbec 2020

Vignobles Vellas I'm The Boss Cahors Malbec

This wine wears its heart on its sleeve – in several ways. The branding is fun, but also hints at what kind of wine it is – big and bold! If you weren’t familiar with Cahors Malbec then the message is delivered in full. Being from the 2020 vintage this is still young, and that is reflected in its deep purple colour. The nose is all about dark black fruits: blackberry, blackcurrant and prunes, plus some spice and earthiness.

The palate has the same sensibility: it’s thick and round, big on the fruit and fairly big on the tannins too. If this wine thinks its the boss, I’d love to see a showdown with a big hunk of dry-aged ribeye to see who the victor is. I’m volunteering to be the judge…anyone else?

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €15.00 down from €22.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Conclusion

These wines vary in price from €8 to almost double at €15, and in my humble opinion the quality is good for the price. I recommend trying all of these wines if you are so inclined, but my personal preferences are influenced by my love for Syrah, so the Street Art Syrah and Côtes du Rhône-Villages are the ones I’d prioritise.

Tasting Events

Wine Review: Albert Glas

Albert Glas Never Compromise

This modern label and modern name present a light, fun wine that’s not designed to be taken too seriously. It’s a blend of Riesling, Muller-Thürgau and Sauvignon Blanc. Like all good blends, it’s more than the sum of its parts. Alcohol is modest and there’s a fair dose of residual sugar, but balanced with the inherent acidity it comes across as fruity rather than sweet. The nose has aromas of pear, peach, ripe red apples  and even mineral notes. On the palate it’s rich and round – heading for opulence but taking a last minute diversion with a crisp finish.

  • ABV: 11.5%
  • RS: 20.4 g/L
  • RRP: €10.00 down from €16.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Albert Glas Pfalz Brown Label Weissburgunder 2021

Albert Glas Tradition Weissburgunder Trocken 2020

Weißburgunder is better known as Pinot Blanc in Burgundy, Pinot Bianco in Italy and occasionally as Klevner in Alsace*. In Burgundy it lives in the shadow of Chardonnay, but elsewhere if treated well it makes some very enjoyable wines. And this is one of them.

In the glass it’s lemon to light gold, a little more colour than a Riesling for example. The nose is lovely, full of spicy pear with a touch of ripe peach and apricot. Fleshy, succulent round pear and peach feature on the palate, but with good acidity. Such sweet fruit, but with a fresh and dry finish.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RS: 8.8 g/L
  • RRP: €10.00 down from €14.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Albert Glas Pfalz Brown Label Grauburgunder 2021

Albert Glas Tradition Grauburgunder Trocken 2020

Grauburgunder is Pinot Gris in (most of)** France and of course Pinot Grigio in Italy. In Germany it is often made in a richer style, though not as sweet as in Alsace, and certainly not like the simple, fruity bulk Grigios of Italy. Poured side by side with the Weissburgunder, this is fairly similar in style…even more pearish, even spicier! It has the lovely dry mid palate that a good Gris should have. It has some complexity, subtlty and savouryiness. This is probably slightly less immediate on the palate than the Weissburgunder, so it’s more of a contemplative wine.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RS: 6.1 g/L
  • RRP: €10.00 down from €14.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Albert Glas Pfalz Black Label Sauvignon Blanc 2021

Albert Glas Black Label Sauvignon Blanc 2021

Yes, German Sauvignon Blanc! The variety does well in Germany, and indeed further south and east in Europe, though it’s obviously not as common as in France. It does need lots of attention, though, so as not to become a “diva”. 80% of the grapes are picked in the cool of early morning. They are kept cool with dry ice and in an oxygen-free environment until at the winery. They are pressed within an hour or two of arriving, with no cold maceration. The other 20% are harvested later over two or three additional passes in the vineyard.

There’s no mistaking the variety when smelling this wine; it’s all about gooseberry, grapefuit, grass and herbal goodness. The aromas are ripe, but not the full tropical explosion. It’s gentle on the palate, with fruit first and a fairly dry, herby finish, and a touch of sweetness balancing the acidity. This is nicely balanced and a different expression of Sauvignon Blanc – not French, not Kiwi, not Chilean; it has its own identity.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RS: 8.2 g/L
  • RRP: €12.00 down from €19.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Albert Glas Pfalz Black Label Riesling 2020

Albert Glas Black Label Riesling Trocken 2021

Riesling is Germany’s flagship grape, the one most closely tied to German wine in the mind of wine drinkers, with 105.000 hectares of vines. However, climate change has meant that some of the “best” sites which were previously reserved for Riesling might now be too warm for it.  This Black Label Riesling is harvested from vineyards which are not yet too warm, as evidenced by the alcohol (13.0%) and the residual sugar (not stated, but probably less than 10 g/L).

All the grapes are hand picked and undergo a cold maceration, so some of the flavour is transferred from the skins to the juice before fermentation begins. That takes place in a mixture of vessels, with both stainless steel and old large oak barrels used. The latter is not to impart flavour, but rather structure and texture. The two types are blended together after around six months.

The nose is unmistakeably Riesling, with citrus and floral notes. On the palate there’s red apple to add to the lemon, lime and flowers, plus a pithiness. The finish is dry, but this is not an austere wine that needs years before opening – it’s good to go now, though it will benefit from time laid down to evolve in complexity.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RS: n/a
  • RRP: €12.00 down from €19.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

Albert Glas Pfalz Black Label Chardonnay 2021

Albert Glas Black Label Chardonnay 2021

I showed this wine blind at DNS Wine Club, straight after the phenomenal Shafter Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay. Perhaps because it’s so different in style to the Shafer, no-one guessed that it was Chardonnay, though a few guessed it was German because of the high acidity. It just goes to show that no single style of wine is best for a variety.

It’s on the lighter side for a Chardonnay – think Chablis rather than Meursault, in weight terms at least – but very well done. There’s a certain pithiness which adds interest on top of the citrus and pip fruits. I think this will benefit from cellaring, if you’re able to keep your hands off it.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RS: 6.8 g/L
  • RRP: €12.00 down from €19.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Albert Glas Pfalz Pink Label Gewürztraminer Spätlese 2021

Albert Glas Pink Label Gewürztraminer Spätlese 2021

If you will forgive me for making yet another Alsace reference, the Spätlese reference on the front label is equivalent to Vendanges Tardives in French, that is, a late harvest wine. While the labelling regulations in Alsace are not as complex as in Germany, they both indicate that the wine is sweeter than normal.

When poured this Gewurz – sorry, Gewürz – is a bright lemon, but giving no indication of its sweetness. The nose is highly aromatic, mainly.  roses, with lychees and turkish delight only suggested; no gaudy monstrosity here. In the mouth it’s succulent and sweet, but not super sweet. This is a highly, highly drinkable wine.

  • ABV: 11.0%
  • RS: 39 g/L
  • RRP: €10.00 down from €15.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Albert Glas Pfalz Black Label Pinot Noir 2020

Albert Glas Black Label Pinot Noir 2019

If Riesling is rightly regarded as the King of German wine, then surely Pinot Noir is the Queen, whether known by that name or its synonyms Spätburgunder or Blauburgunder. Pinot Noir is probably at its best in Baden, the most southerly of Germany’s wine regions, but it can make good wine all over the country, especially with the effects of climate change.

Dominik Glas follows his grandfather’s methods, 100% destemming the grapes and fermenting in open top bins. He opts for manual punchdowns so that he keeps in touch with the progress of the wine. Fermentation usually lasts three weeks so that there is not excessive tannin extraction. Malolactive fermentation takes place in stainless steel then the wine matures in Pfalz oak, 80% old and 20% new. Overall the aim is to make a fresh and fruity Pinot Noir.

And they have succeeded! It’s fruity, easy to drink but with a savoury streak. It could be lightly chilled during summer or served at room temperature in autumn and winter. This is a great ambassador for German Pinot Noir.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RS: n/a
  • RRP: €12.00 down from €19.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

Conclusion

All these wines are great, especially at the sale prices. I would be happy with any or all of them. If I HAD to choose a few favourites, I’d probably buy the NeverCompromise and Grauburgunder to drink now and the Riesling and Chardonnay to keep for a while


Other articles on wines from the SuperValu French & German wine sale:

 

 

 

* The REALLY geeky among you will note that while Klevner is a synonym for Pinot Blanc in Alsace, Klevener is a synonym for Savagnin Rose, aka Traminer

** In Champagne and Alsace it is also known as Fromenteau

Short

Summer Sippers from O’Briens

The Last of the Summer Wine? Perhaps, perhaps not. We never know how long we will have sunshine in Ireland, so we have to enjoy every sunny day we get. Here are four summer sippers to enjoy while soaking up the last few rays:

Chatelain Desjacques Sauvignon Blanc 2020

Chatelain Desjacques Sauvignon Blanc

This Sauvignon is made by Loire Valley based Les Caves de La Loire, a quality- and sustainability-focused cooperative located in the Anjou. I did note that this particular bottling is a Vin de France rather than a Touraine or other Loire appellation, so I wondered if all the grapes were grown in the Loire. The nose of this wine is unmistakeably Sauvignon Blanc, with gooseberry and grassy notes. The palate also shows lots of typical Savvy character, though on top of the usual green-themed flavours there are also some rich tropical notes, somewhat reminiscent of Martinborough SB – Paddy Borthwick’s is a great example.

Whether they sourced some grapes from outside the Loire – for example the Languedoc – or we are now tasting the effects of global warming, the result really works. This bottle has far more character and interest than expected for €15, never mind the €10 offer price.

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RRP: €10.00 down from €14.95 until 31st August 2022
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Selbach Mosel Riesling 2020

Selbach Mosel Riesling

Germany’s numerous wine regions produce Riesling in a variety of styles, but I think it’s fair to say that the Mosel’s are the most distinctive: the highest acidity, often with some residual sugar to balance the palate. This “entry level” Riesling from Selbach fits the bill perfectly. The quotation marks are required as this is anything but a basic wine; it’s not as complex as more expensive examples but it is oh-so-juicy. The nose is fabulous, full of lime and elderflower, then the wine goes to work on your palate and delivers a wave of refreshing citrus and pip fruit. It leaves the mouth watering more than Opal Fruits, so another sip is essential. That’s what makes this wine an essential summer sipper!

  • ABV: 10.5%
  • RRP: €13.95 down from €16.95 until 31st August 2022
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Delheim Pinotage Rosé 2020

Delheim Pinotage Rosé

Pinotage might be a marmite grape for some, but lighter, less-extracted and fresher style reds seem to be increasing in popularity with drinkers. It therefore makes sense that a Pinotage rosé would have some merit – and this example from Delheim proves that it can make very tasty rosé indeed. It’s pale salmon in the glass, a little darker than is en vogue at the moment, and all the better for it: it’s also very fruity, which is something I value in a rosé, rather than the so-dry-it’s-austere style that is fashionable at the moment. Vive le fruit!

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €11.21 down from €14.95 while stocks last
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Gai’a 4-6H Agiorgitiko Rosé 2020

Gai'a 4-6H Agiorgitiko Rosé

With their distinctive – and at times unpronouncable – grape varieties, Greek wines aren’t an easy sell in Ireland. Gai’a have helped to build a bridgehead with their distinctive and outrageously good Wild Ferment Assyrtiko, and they have a handful of other wines available here through O’Briens. The ability to pronounce Agiorgitiko is not essential to buying this rosé, however (hell, I can barely spell it!). The 4-6H on the label is the maceration time, the period during which the juice is in contact with the skins (which have all the colour and some of the flavour). The result of those few hours is a magnificent wine that is not only tasty, but also interesting. Fresh red berries mingle with pomegranates and floral notes to make a wonderful combination. This is one of my favourite rosés available in Ireland!

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €12.71 down from €16.95 while stocks last
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores
Make Mine A Double

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

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

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

Langlois L’Extra Crémant de Loire Rosé NV

Langlois L'Extra Crémant de Loire Rosé NV

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zull NiederÖsterrreich Lust & Laune Rosé 2021

Zull Lust & Laune Rosé

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

 


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

Wine Of The Week

Wine of the Week: Bourcier-Martinot Mâcon

The Mâconnais

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

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

Pie chart showing relative size of Mâcon AOCs

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

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

Bourcier-Martinot 

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

Bourcier-Martinot Mâcon 2020

Bourcier Martinot Mâcon

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

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

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

 

2010 figures taken from Wikipedia

Opinion

Piedmont and Verona Wines from the SuperValu Italian Wine Sale

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

Ricossa Barolo 2017

Ricossa Barolo

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

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

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

Altygo Piedmont Rosso 2019

Piemonte DOC Altygo

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

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

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

Acquesi Asti NV

Acquesi Asti

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

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

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

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

Monte Del Fra Corvina Veronese 2019

Monte Del Fra Corvina Veronese

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

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

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

Costa Mediana Amarone 2018

Costa Mediana Amarone

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

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

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

*Pun fully intended

Opinion

Tuscan Wines from the SuperValu Italian Wine Sale

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

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

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

Cortezza Vermentino Toscana 2020

Cortezza Vermentino Toscana

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

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

Cortezza Vino Nobile de Montepulciano 2017

Cortezza Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

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

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

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

Forte Ambrone Vino Rosso

Forte Ambrone

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

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

Banfi Rosso di Montalcino 2019

Banfi Rosso Di Montalcino

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

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

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

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

Banfi Toscana Belnero 2017

Belnero Toscana IGT

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

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

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

 

Wine Of The Week

Wine of the Week: Man O’ War Estate Chardonnay

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

Waiheke Island

Waiheke Island

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

Man O’ War Vineyards

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

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

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

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

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

Man O’War Waiheke Island Estate Chardonnay 2019

Man O'War Waiheke Island Estate Chardonnay

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

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

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

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

 

Wine Of The Week

Wine of the Week: Château des Grands Chènes Médoc

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

The Médoc

Map of the Médoc wine region
Credit: Bordeaux.com

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

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

Bernard Magrez

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

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

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

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

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

Château des Grands Chènes

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

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

Château des Grands Chènes Médoc 2019

Ch des Grands Chênes Médoc 2019

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

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

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

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

1Source: The Wine Cellar Insider