The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 8,300 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
Is there any other grape which is so divisive by synonym? Possibly Syrah and Shiraz, but even then style does not necessarily follow naming convention.
Now, you may have seen the warning on my Twitter bio that “Views and taste in wine may offend” – and I find most Pinot Grigios undrinkable – the best that can be said about them is that they are wet and contain alcohol (but then, the same could be said of aftershave). Often they are thin, acidic and lacking in flavour.
The derogatory term I use is “Chick Water“. I will leave you to guess the derivation!
Pinot Grigio is of course the Italian term for the grape whereas Pinot Gris is the lesser known French equivalent. The en vogue term nowadays is “spiritual home”, and if anywhere could make a claim to be the spiritual home for Pinot Gris it is Alsace, one of my favourite wine regions in the world. There is already a lot of good Pinot Gris being made in New Zealand, which is well suited to aromatic varieties, and the cooler parts of Australia.
Mini Pinot Gris Tasting At Ely Wine Bar
As is my wont, I recently popped into my home-from-home Ely Wine Bar in Dublin and thought I try a few different Pinot Gris served there by the glass:
Verus Vineyards Ormož Pinot Gris 2012
Ormož is in North Eastern Slovenia, near the border with Hungary. Although I knew wine is produced in Slovenia I didn’t know there were “international” grapes planted there. Set up by friends and winemakers Danilo, Božidar and Rajkowho, Verus Vineyards focus on improving quality while making their wines a true expression of their origins.
As the first of the three in the line up, it was fresh with pleasant lemon notes, slightly sour but in an appealing way. There was only just a hint of sweetness on the finish – it wasn’t apparent at all at first, but as the wine warmed up slightly in the glass it tickled the tastebuds. On tasting blind would have had no idea it wasn’t from a better established /known country – I will definitely look out for more of their wines.
Innocent Bystander Yarra Valley Pinot Gris 2012
The Yarra Valley is one of the premium wine producing areas of Australia – and one of the most exciting – check out my post on De Bortoli Yarra Valley. Innocent Bystander specialise in making good value varietal wines that reflect their Yarra origins. They use 100% hand picked fruit, wild ferments and gravity-flow winemaking techniques, plus minimal filtration and fining – this is definitely on the low-intervention side.
The 2012 has a lovely texture that would make it a great food wine, though it drinks very well on its own. The main flavours are stone fruit, pear, apple and lychee, backed up by plenty of acidity!
Greywacke Marlborough Pinot Gris 2011
Kevin Judd needs no introduction, but I’ll give him one anyway. He was the chief winemaker at Cloudy Bay from its inception and launch to its 25 year anniversary. He finally left and started his own virtual winery – he bought grapes and rented winery space from former Cloudy Bay colleagues who left themselves to set up Dog Point Winery.
Although Kevin’s Sauvignons, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir take most of the limelight, his Pinot Gris is an excellent example of the variety. It’s properly off dry, rich and oily – the most Alsace-like. Flavours of peach and nectarine dominate, with a hint of crystalline ginger and cinnamon. This would be amazing with Asian food but is just so lovely to contemplate on its own.
Wine consultant and Irish Times wine correspondent John Wilson has authored and edited numerous wine books over the past decade or so. In the great tradition of Hugh Johnson, Oz Clarke and Blue Peter, his latest annual has been released just before the start of the year whose name it bears. Of course, that makes it an ideal Christmas present…
It covers the top 123 most interesting wines that he has tasted during the year and are available somewhere in Ireland, mainly from independent wine merchants. Without beavering away to confirm the fact, I think that many of the wines will be available in other territories such as the UK and USA.
Rather than a simple alphabetical or geographical listing, the wines are divided into the following categories:
Crisp refreshing white wines
Fresh and fruity white wines
Rich and rounded white wines
Light and elegant red wines
Rounded and fruity red wines
Rich and full-bodied red wines
The heading on each wine is helpfully colour coordinated with the category for those of you who aren’t colour blind (I am!)
Each wine then gets two pages which contain:
Name, area of origin and vintage
A picture of the wine (to help you find it on the shelf!)
Price and stockists
Tasting note (fairly concise, not flowery or obtuse, meaningful & helpful for most readers)
Drink with (i.e. food matching suggestion)
Backstory (the story behind the grape, the area or the producer – accessible but definitely interesting to wine geeks such as myself)
To properly assess the book I thought it only right and proper to test it by pouring one of the featured wines and comparing my thoughts to the written entry. I think it fair to say that there are some wines John likes that I’m not quite as keen on, and vice versa – but isn’t that the beauty of wine?
One type of wine we both adore is German Riesling, so I poured myself a glass of Geil Riesling Trocken 2013 from Rheinhessen. The Tasting Note reads “Free-flowing fresh and spritzy with delicate apple fruits. Summer in a glass.” Although I am enjoying this wine on a cold December night he has it summed up perfectly.
A useful and well-written book that will encourage me to drink 123 wines in 2015!
Part one of my report covered some delicious sparkling and white wines. Now it’s time to focus on the red wines that I really liked at the James Nicholson Christmas Portfolio Tasting:
Vignobles Alain Maurel Château Ventenac La Réserve de Jeanne 2012 (€15.45)
An unusual (officially speaking) but traditional (entirely off the record) blend of Bordeaux and Rhône varieties, this typically consists of Cabernet Franc (30%), Merlot (30%), Syrah (35%) and Grenache (5%), though the precise assemblage is vintage-dependent. There is a long tradition of using robust and fruity wines from the Rhône to add a bit of oomph to Burgundy and fruitiness to Bordeaux. In Australia the Shiraz-Cabernet blend is an established part of the winescape, but only recently have premium multi-region blends started to reappear in France.
Vignobles Alain Maurel is based near Carcasonne in the Languedoc-Roussillon region. Domaine Ventenac is used for everyday-drinking varietal wines whereas Château Ventenac is for terroir-driven more complex wines under the Cabardes AOC.
Vinification is in large stainless stell tanks. The grapes are cold soaked for five days then fermented at 28°C. The juice is pumped over every day for the whole 35 days of the process. 10% of the blend spends 12 months in American oak barriques and 90% spends 12 months in slightly porous concrete tanks.
Although in the south of France the aspect of the vineyards enables the wines to be kept fresh rather than jammy. This wine exhibits lots of herb and spice characters, particularly liquorice, with acidity keeping it interesting. An absolute steal at this price!
I couldn’t decide which I preferred of this pair so I put them both in! Produced in the “other” top wine area of Piedmont’s Langhe (the more famous being Barolo) this is a 100% Nebbiolo. If you are interested in the differences between the two areas then Kerin O’Keefe’s new book “Barolo and Barbaresco: The King and Queen of Italian Wine” is a great place to look further.
The winery was founded by Piero’s father in 1953 and is still a family affair – his wife Lucia, his daughter Emanuela and his son Pierguido are all intimately involved in the vineyard and the winery. Fermentation is in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks and then maturation is 18 months in large oak barrels with a further 6 months in bottle.
The biggest difference between the two wines was explained as the altitude of the respective vineyards; the Mondino is at 190 M whereas the San Stunet Stefanet M. The obvious implication is that temperatures tend to be cooler at higher altitudes and the wines are “cooler” as a consequence. On tasting, both wines showed power and tannin but finesse. The Mondino was more feminine in character, and the San Studet Stefanetto was definitely masculine. For Bordeaux lovers, Margaux v Pauillac is something of an illustration.
So which would I chose? I’m not sure the San Studet Stefanetto is worth the price premium for my palate so I’d buy the Mondino – but if someone else was paying then definitely the former!
I was lucky enough to taste this wine when James Nicholson had a table at the Big Ely Tasting (keep your eyes peeled for the post(s)!) and liked it so much that I was very keen to try it again at JN Wine’s own tasting.
Based in California’s Sonoma County, Fred and Nancy Cline started out by restoring old vineyards planted with Rhône varieties, then adding Zinfandel and later Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah. They produce several different quality levels, from “California Classics” up to more premium “Single Vineyard” bottlings.
This is their excellent version of a “cool climate” Pinot Noir, though “cooler” would be more fitting as it still manages to hit 14.5% abv. The alcohol level is not apparent when tasting as the wine is so well balanced. It’s big and powerful, yes, and more Central Otago than Marlborough, but it’s savoury and smooth rather than jammy.
Cline Vineyards Big Break Zinfandel 2011 (€29.50)
Another fine Cline wine – and if you thought the Pinot sounded big, it’s but a baby brother to this Big Zin which boasts 16.0% abv! It is a huge wine but it’s not monstrous, it’s well balanced and tasty. Black fruit rules here, with stewed, dried and fresh plums, black cherry and blackberry, along with toasted notes from the oak, and framed by firm tannins.
It’s not a summer afternoon wine, but now winter is upon us it very much fits the bill of what I want in my glass.
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Heading south from Rías Baixas in Galicia takes you over the border into Portugal and Albariño becomes Alvarinho. All good so far – and I often prefer the Portuguese stuff. But what’s this – a fizzy version?
Made by the traditional method, i.e. there’s a second alcoholic fermentation in bottle, this is fresh and fruity – and it’s real rather than artificial fruit. This might sound a bit silly – but it tastes just like you’d expect a fizzy version of Alvarinho to taste!
This is an excellent aperitif – and a refreshing different taste.
Nino Franco Prosecco San Floriano 2012 (€30.50)
Nino Franco’s Primo Franco recently won the trophy for best Prosecco in Tom Stephenson’s “Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships”. The fact that there is a Prosecco category at all is not a sop to the producers of off-dry fruity pop, but rather it’s recognition that Prosecco canbe a serious sparkling if the producer wishes.
Produced from a single vineyard after which it is named, San Floriano is made by the Charmat (or tank) method like all other Prosecco, but has four months on the lees while in tank, and therefore picks up a little autolytic character. It’s also dry and savoury, so it tastes like a serious wine – you could easily drink this with a meal as well as the usual aperitif.
Gusbourne Estate Blanc de Blancs 2009 (€46.99)
My favourite wine of the whole tasting!
The Gusbourne Estate in south east England dates back to 1410, though sparkling wine production has a much more recent history – the first vintage was in 2006! The main vineyard is on a south facing ancient escarpment in Appledore, Kent. The soil are clay and sandy loam slopes – you might expect chalk given the proximity to the White Cliffs of Dover, but it does mean that Gusbourne copes better with wet weather and drought.
Blankety-blanks (as I childishly call them) are sometimes on the simple side but this spent a full three years on the lees which gives it lots of lovely bready characters, in addition to lemon sherbet from the Chardonnay. Being an English sparkler it has lots of zippy acidity with a dosage of 10.5 g/L for balance (I guessed 10 – 11, can’t get much closer than that!) This style of wine makes a great aperitif or goes wonderfully with seafood.
Villa Wolf Gewürztraminer 2013 (Loosen Estate) (€14.99)
Although I’m a huge fan of Alsace wines, sometimes I find the Gewurztraminers made there a little dry for my tastes. Just like Pinot Gris, I prefer my Gewurz to have a little sweetness on the finish to match the richness of the mid palate. This off dry German Gewürztraminer (note the umlaut over the u) ticks all the boxes for me! The most aromatic of varieties, the nose is instantly recognisable, with rose petals and lychees jumping out of the glass. Added to these on the palate is Turkish Delight.
Gewürz is something of a marmite variety, but this is an excellent introduction.
Château Beauregard Pouilly Fuissé Vers Cras 2011 (€37.00)
One of the first things aspiring wine geeks learn is the difference between Pouilly-Fumé and Pouilly-Fuissé; although they’re both French and white they are stylistically very different. The former is one of France’s top two Sauvignon Blanc areas, just over the river from the more celebrated Sancerre. Pouilly-Fuissé is the most important appellation within the Mâconnais, the most southerly region of Burgundy proper.
Compared to the much more prestigious Côte d’Or, The Mâconnais has gentler slopes and mixed agriculture – and being a bit further south it gets more sun, so its grapes tend to be riper. Accompanying that is a tendency to use oak barrels quite liberally, especially in the better appellations, so the wines become more New World in style. Although the producer is still very important, Pouilly-Fuissé and St-Véran are white Burgundies that I would happily order from a restaurant wine menu without recognising the maker.
Château Beauregard is one of the top producers of Pouilly Fuissé. Its standard 2012 bottling (€28.75) is showing very nicely now, but I would be a little more patient and pick up the single vineyard Vers Cras. Although a year younger it had a lot more time in oak and so is not yet quite fully integrated. There’s lots of tropical fruit and toasty vanilla from the barrel ageing.
It’s not the currently fashionable cool climate style but it’s a wine I’d happily drink all evening from big fishbowl glasses.
Dog Point Section 94 Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (€30.00)
This is Marlborough Sauvignon Jim, but not as we know it.
For those who don’t know Dog Point, the founders James Healy and Ivan Sutherland are both ex-Cloudy Bay. As well as producing their own wine they sell grapes to other winemakers, including former colleague Kevin Judd who makes his Greywacke wines in their facility.
NZ Sauvignon can be sometimes be summed up as “the light that burns twice as bright burns half as long” – it has riotous explosions of fruit in its youth but fades quickly. This elegant example from Dog Point is designed to age and evolve positively. It spent 18 months in older French oak barrels so has plenty of texture and refinement. It has the tropical fruit of regular Savvy plus peach and other stone fruit – it’s just such a pleasure to drink. There’s a funky edge from the wild yeast, and as malolactic fermentation was blocked there’s plenty of fresh acidity.
If Jack Dee wrote a wine blog, it might read something like this…
Charles Jennings and Paul Keers, writing as CJ and PK respectively, have been blogging together for half a decade, ostensibly on the subject on wine. Their blog isn’t really about wine per se, it’s more about the everyday and absurdities of middle age middle class life refracted through an empty wine bottle. And it will be empty because, as their motto goes, “I’ve bought it, so I’ll drink it”.
This book is a collection of some of their favourite posts. You might not get any tips on interesting new wines to try, but you’re highly likely to find yourself grinning in recognition, wincing at some of the descriptions or laughing out loud at some of the situations. Befriending a wine merchant? Joining a wine club? Buying bin ends in supermarkets? They’re all in here.
There’s something for the casual tippler right up to serious wine lovers. Most of us wine drinkers are on a journey, and whether we are starting out on the road all freshly packed or seasoned travellers seeking the next thrill, we’re on all a similar path. We’ve all started somewhere, so we recognise the trials and tribulations that others have encountered.
Ladies don’t read this bit – look away now Gents: This is the sort of book which might well find a home in your bathroom for times when you just want to read a few pages. Nuff said.
Frankly Wines has 2 copies to give away just in time for Christmas. To enter, please answer the question below by email to frankiecook72 at gmail.com by noon on Friday 12/12/14 and put Sediment in the subject line. If there are more than 2 correct answers then 2 will be pulled from a hat
Q: which language does the term “terroir” come from?
Disclosure: the copies for review and prizes were provided by John Blake Publishing Ltd.