Following on from my review of the sparkling and white wines in part one, here are the red and sweet wines which impressed me at the O’Briens Wines Autumn Press Tasting:
Señorio de Aldaz Tinto DO Navarra 2012 (€10.99)
Navarra (or Navarre in English) is a wine region in the north of Spain close to the more famous Rioja. It used to be well-known for its rosados but now produces plenty of quality reds and whites, from both indigenous and international grape varieties. In fact, the old Garnacha vineyards previously used for simple rosés are now being put to a more noble use in reds such as this one. The other grapes in the blend are the local Tempranillo and the international Merlot.
It’s unmistakably Spanish, with bold red and black fruit cossetted in a basket of vanilla. This is smooth and very easy to drink on it’s own, but would stand up to beef or lamb with aplomb. Great value for money.
Luzon Crianza DO Jumilla 2011 (€15.99)
The Spanish speakers among you may have spotted from the label that this was matured in oak for 12 months, and thereby qualifies for the Crianza designation. The oak used was mainly French (80%) with the balance American.
Jumilla is a region on the rise, as modern viticultural and vinification techniques are applied to some old bush vine vineyards. Monastrell (the Rhône’s Mourvèdre) dominates the blend here with beefiness and spice, augmented by Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo and a little Merlot. The fruit is black rather than red – and it almost explodes out of the bottle.
Longview The Piece Shiraz 2009 (€42.00)
Longview are based in the Adelaide Hills region of South Australia, just into the hills above….err…Adelaide! Known as a cool(er) climate region, it can produce sublime Chardonnays and is now getting a serious reputation for Shiraz: Shaw + Smith excel at both. “The Piece” is their top wine with all grapes handpicked, sorted and fermented in four separate one tonne open fermenters. It was aged for 24 months in new and old 300 litre French oak hogsheads.
At five years of age the wine has now settled down and is beginning to unfurl its petals. It has sweet black fruit with soft integrated oak. Medium acidity and silky tannins provide the structure for balance and additional ageing if you can resist drinking it now.
Château La Tour Blanche AOC Sauternes 2007 (€75.00, €67.00 in Nov/Dec)
How much? you might ask. Yes, it’s an expensive bottle, but it’s a high end wine, and if you feel like splashing out for Christmas this would be perfect. 2007 was a good year for Bordeaux’s southerly Sauternes subregion so it should last for at least a decade from now.
On opening the wine has a divine, honey and apricot nose that you just want to inhale all day. This follows through onto the palate, and while it’s definitely a dessert wine, there’s enough acidity to provide balance and stop it being cloying.
If you are a fan of foie gras then a glass of this would be a sublime match.
Gérard Bertrand AOC Rivesaltes 1989 (€27.99)
For me this was the standout wine of the tasting. For those not familiar with the term, a Vin Doux Naturel is a fortified sweet wine where grape spirit is added early in the fermentation process to kill off the yeast, stopping fermentation and leaving some of the natural sugars from the grapes. The Muscat grape is a staple for this job, especially around the Mediterranean, but Grenache offers an alternative style in several appellations.
The Rivesaltes appellation takes its name from the town of the same name in the Roussillon area, which means “High Banks” in Catalan.
The Muscat versions are often sweet, simple and grapey, nice but nothing to write home about. This 25 year old Rivesaltes demands you buy a big book of stamps!
Time has caused the colour to fade from the wine – Grenache doesn’t tend to hold on to its colour that well anyway – but in return there are layers upon layers of complexity. You could lose yourself for an hour just smelling the aromas, before diving into the heavenly Christmas pudding palate. Spice up your wine selection here!
Bethany Old Quarry Tawny (€23.99)
The obvious word missing from the name of this wine is “Port”, and that’s because it’s from Australia not Porto. Most people are very familiar with Australian table wine but aren’t aware that fortified wines were the majority of the industry’s output until the 1970s. Port and Sherry imitations dominated the domestic market but were never able to compete with the real deal overseas. Nowadays the proportion of production devoted to fortifieds is small with virtually nil exported.
Happily this is one of the bottles in that small rounding error, made from the traditional Barossa fortifieds grapes of Grenache and Shiraz. Barrel ageing has given it some wonderfully intense raisin and nutty “rancio” characters.
Try this as an alternative to LBV or Tawny Port.