Make Mine A Double

Shining Lights [Make Mine a Double #66]

I’m in the very lucky position where I get to try lots of good and great wines on a regular basis, many of them sent as samples (especially in 2020!)  Sometimes, even among these wines, a few shine even brighter than the rest.  It’s often hard to put into words what makes them so special, though I do try.  Here are a couple of (unrelated) wines which stood out even in good company:

Disclosure: both bottles were kindly given as samples, opinions remain my own

Elgin Ridge 282 Elgin Chardonnay 2018

Elgin is South Africa’s coolest climate wine region, located about an hour’s drive south east of Cape Town.  Although now an exciting area for grapes, for many years it was known almost exclusively for its orchards, particularly apples and pears1; as a rule of thumb, agricultural land which is suitable for orchards is generally suitable for grapes.  Elgin is even cool enough for Riesling, with Paul Cluver’s wines leading the charge.

Elgin Ridge is the only winery in Elgin to be both certified organic and certified biodynamic (there is one other which is solely biodynamic).  It was founded by Brian and Marion Smith on the site of a former small (ten hectare) apple farm in 2007 and has remained in family hands since.  Their aim is to be self sufficient in terms of inputs (biodynamic preparations and cow manure) using sheep to control weeds and ducks to control insects and snails.

The figure 282 in the name of this wine, their flagship Chardonnay, refers to the vineyard’s altitude of 282 metres above sea level.  It pours lemon in the glass and initial aromas are predominantly of toasted coconut, indicating a fair bit of oak ageing.  Absolutely heavenly, if you like that sort of thing – which I do!  The coconut gives way to fabulous orchard fruits(!), smoke and spices.  On the palate this is a rich wine, with integrated oak and stone fruits and a touch of butterscotch.  There’s plenty of body and flavour, but this is no big butter bomb as there is a certain elegance and lightness to the finish.  In terms of style this brought to mind excellent southern hemisphere Chardonnays such as Smith + Shaw’s Adelaide Hills M3 and Man O’War’s Waiheke Island Valhalla.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €25.53
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswines.ie

Domaine Fournier Sancerre Les Belles Vignes 2019

For some reason 2020 has been the year of Sancerre for me, with lots of very enjoyable bottles showing that the average standard in the region is very high.  Even among those, this baby stood out.  But first a bit of background.

The maison mère2(!) is Fournier Père et Fils – to give it its full name – under which there are four Domaines:

  • Domaine Fournier (Sancerre &c.)
  • Domaine de Saint Romble (Sancerre)
  • Domaine des Berthiers (Pouilly-Fumé)
  • Domaine Paul Corneau (Pouilly-Fumé)

The full range of Domaine Fournier is detailed below.  As you might expect from one of the “Cuvées Appellations”, this wine is made from vines planted on the three key soil types of Sancerre: Silex, Caillottes and Terres Blanches.  The nose opens with ripe peach but also peach stone, sweet fruit reined in by acidity and a pleasant tartness.  On the palate there’s more fruit but on the citrus side of the spectrum, along with a touch of mown grass and green bell pepper.  Don’t mistake this for a Touraine Sauvignon plus, though; this is a smooth and gentle wine which showcases its different flavours on a long journey through your mouth.  A superior Sancerre.


The portfolio of Domaine Fournier comes under eight different labels:

  • Cuvées Grand Caillou: Sauvignon, Pinot Noir
  • Cuvées F: Pinot Noir, Rosé, Sauvignon
  • Cuvées Mmm: Rosé, Chenin
  • Cuvées Appellations: Menetou Salon “Côtes de Morogues” Rouge, Menetou Salon “Côtes de Morogues” Rosé, Menetou Salon “Côtes de Morogues” Blanc, Sancerre “Les Belles Vignes” Rosé, Sancerre “Les Belles Vignes” Rouge, Sancerre “Les Belles Vignes” Blanc, Pouilly-Fumé “Les Deux Cailloux”, Pouilly Sur Loire “Les Marnes”
  • Cuvée Terroirs: Cuvée Silex, Cuvée Les Terres Blanches
  • Grandes Cuvées: Sancerre “L’Ancienne Vigne” Rouge, Pouilly-Fumé Grande Cuvée, Sancerre “La Chaudouillonne”, Sancerre “L’Ancienne Vigne Blanc
  • Single Vineyard Wines: Sancerre “Les Boffants”, Sancerre “Monts Damnés”
  • Cuvées Exceptionnelles: Menetou Salon Rouge “Sourire Aux Anges”, Sancerre “No. 22”, Sancerre “Vendanges d’Hélène”

1no cockney rhyming slang here, thank you

2French for parent company, literally “mother house”, which is a little ironic as it’s a “father and son” operation.

 

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

Wine + Music

The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series #17 – Mitchell Young

In these unusual times, we all need a lift from time to time. As a change to my usual wine reviews I’ve decided to start a fun and irreverent series on matching wine and music. The basic idea is that I give participants:

  • A piece of music –> they suggest a wine to go with it, with an explanation
  • A wine –> they suggest a piece of music to go with it

It’s all for fun, so please don’t slag off anybody’s taste music (or wine!) Thanks to Michelle Williams for the inspiration – she has been matching songs to wine for years on her Rockin Red Blog.

For installment 17 of the series, the friend of Frankly Wines is a Welshman with a huge passion for Spanish food and wine, Mitchell Young.  When discussing his taste in music he mentioned bands from the 60s right up to the 2020s, but one period / movement that caught my eye was the ‘”Cool Cymru” contributions of the Manics, Stereophonics and Catatonia’ as I have several albums by these bands and have seen the Manics and Stereophonics live.

By a country mile my favourite Manics song is “Motorcycle Emptiness” which I bought as a 12″ single (that’s vinyl, for youngsters!)  Like most people who have a passing interest in these things, I always presumed that it was played on his Gibson Les Paul Standard, but was actually played on a Fender Telecaster Thinline – check out this YouTube video.

Enough of the guitar geekery and onto the wine.  As mentioned, Mitchell is a big fan of Spanish wines, but he is also partial to a good Rhône red, and over the past few years I have noticed him tweeting about a producer that he and I both like: the biodynamic specialist Montirius from the heart of the southern Rhône.  Among their wines that I’ve tried it’s their Vacqueyras that I enjoyed most, so that was my pick for Mitchell!


Manic Street Preachers – Motorcycle Emptiness

I’d like to thank Frankie for this opportunity to talk about two of my favourite things, music and wine.

The song Frankie choose for me was, “Motorcycle Emptiness” by the Alternative Rock band, Manic Street Preachers. The song was released in 1992 and was the fifth single of their debut album, “Generation Terrorists”. It was later included in the, “Forever Delayed” greatest hits album. The song was written by the four original band members; Richey Edward was to go missing in 1995, and the song is seen as a commentary on capitalism and the choices it affords to young people and the conformity it demands of them.

The “Manics” formed in Oakdale Comprehensive School in South Wales in 1986. The area, like much of industrial Britain was suffering the economic turmoil of the 1980’s and in particular from the Miners’ Strike of 1984-1985. The band never seem to have forgotten their roots and don’t seem to have flown far from the nest if regular sightings of James Dean Bradfield walking his dog near where I live is anything to go by.

I’ve been lucky enough to see them perform a number of times, once supported by Catatonia, a really, “Cool Cymru” evening.  The band have achieved global success with thirteen albums, the pick, for me, being their fifth album, “This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours”, which contains the track, “If You Tolerate this Your Children Will Be Next” a song inspired by the Welsh volunteers who went to fight in the Spanish Civil War”.

The band have firmly established as one Wales can be proud of musically, politically and culturally.

What to drink with this song? It didn’t take me long to settle on Gran Cerdo, “Big Pig”, Tempranillo. The producer, Gonzalo Gonzalo Grijalba is another “alternative”, the wine being biodynamic and natural. The wine appears to be technically a Rioja, it’s grown Rioja Alta, but Gonzalo prefers to bottle it as a Vino de España. Gonzalo is a man fiercely proud and protective of his family vineyards and its terroir.

Gonzalo’s father became ill working the vineyards during the 1970s due to his exposure to the chemicals widely used then. Gonzalo set out to not suffer the same fate as his father and set a path to produce a natural product. Much like the Manics, Gonzalo wanted to make different choices and step out of conformity. The wine’s label is a less than subtle reference to the lack of support he received from the bankers, pigs with their mouth stuffed with money, when he began this project.

The wine itself delivers a burst of dark red fruits with a hedgerow, forest floor background. Some spice, acidity and tannins make this a beautiful wine to drink. A lovely purple colour, slightly cloudy due to its biodynamic and natural production methods, with no hint of oak being produced in concrete vats. The wine appears to be developing a cult following.

I like to think the Manics and Gonzalo would really get on.

Domaine Montirius Garrigues Vacqueyras

The wine Frankie chose for me was Vacqueyras Garrigues Le Domaine Montirius, a great choice. A quick rummage through my wine “collection” revealed bottles going back to 2008 mostly bought directly from the domaine.

The wine is a fantastic example of what the Southern Rhone has to offer. Another wine produced in concrete vats using Grenache and Syrah. A deep, rich red wine with a burst of red fruits, beautiful tannins and with aromas of the “garrigue”, the herb scented scrub, that can still be found between the vineyards of the area. Another biodynamic wine with the vineyard having “converted” to biodynamics in 1996 the wine offers both characteristics of traditional Rhône wines and is an example of how new thinking will push the area forward in the future.

I first discovered Montirius in an independent wine store in Brighton, now sadly closed, and became a firm fan from the off. It was also my introduction to biodynamic wine. Its discovery coincided with a long series of family holidays to France which developed into over a decade of annual trips to the Vaucluse in Provence. The vineyards of Montirius are found here overlooked by the Dentelles and the sleeping giant of Provence, Mont Ventoux. The visit to the vineyard was always saved for the second week and always consisted of a very generous tasting session and early on I was lucky enough to be shown around by the wine maker Eric Saurel himself. When I met him, his hands were black with wine stains and he offered me an elbow which, being less Covid savvy greetings wise in those days, I think I shook!

By the time I recounted this to my boys, who were small at the time, his fingers had become vines. I think they believed me for a while. Listening to Eric tell me all about biodynamics, how the water used in making the concrete vats had stones from the vineyards left in it so it could absorb something of the terroir, how each of the vats was “earthed” into the bedrock with copper wires, how thought was given to the orientation of the buildings and so on. He may have been making some of it up but I was sold. If this much love went into making the wine it had to be great.

What to listen to with this wine? It didn’t take me long to settle on, “Omaha” by Counting Crows. Like the wine I can remember hearing this song for the first time and like the wine I was fan from that point on.

The band were formed in Berkley, California, in 1991. This song is from their first album, “August and Everything After”, released in 1993. I first saw them the year after in the Newport Leisure Centre and have seen them on every major European tour they’ve undertaken since. The band are a real ensemble of consummate musicians who have gone on to produce seven studio albums. It’s always a long wait between albums, but for me they’ve never bettered this album, being, like all subsequent albums, driven by lead singer Adam Duritz’s highly emotive and deeply personal lyrics. I love the whole album but this is the stand out track for me.

What’s the link to the wine? Spending three weeks in a car travelling the length of France, stopping typically in Reims, Valence and Nimes on the way down and Dijon and Arras on the way back meant music choices were of vital importance, with a CD player being the height of technology. With two adults, two children, everything they needed to bring with them, far too many clothes and space for wine on the return journey the number of CDs was limited to how many could be stored in the armrest storage. Much discussion took place but the Counting Crows CDs were a given for all four of us. The music, the journey, the vineyard and the wine will forever be linked.

It’s been a few years since we’ve undertaken the trip but we are planning on doing it next year Covid restrictions willing. If we do make it one thing is certain, we’ll be listening to “Omaha” visiting Montirius and drinking their Vacqueyras.

Mitchell Young

A Barry boy now residing in Cardiff, Mitchell has been married to Debbie for 32 years (she still can’t believe her luck.) They are lucky enough to have two boys who are both History graduates, which makes for some niche conversations over Sunday Lunch. He took early retirement from Primary School teaching which has given him even more time to pursue his interests of wine, food, travel and pottering about on an allotment. He has a real interest in Sherry (the best value wines in the world) and the wines of the Southern Rhône. He is also a keen cook and has a passion for Spanish food which has been encouraged by the boom in excellent tapas bars and Spanish restaurants in the Cardiff area.


The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series
No. Guest Name Music to pair Wine to pair
17 Mitchell Young Manic Street Preachers – Motorcycle Emptiness Montirius Vacqueyras “Garrigues”
16 Brad Horne Oasis – Champagne Supernova Petaluma Hanlin Hill Riesling
15 Liam Mycroft Eric Clapton – Bad Love Bodegas Garzon Albariño
14 Lee Isaacs The Rolling Stones – Gimme Shelter Domaine Jones Fitou
13 Sharon L Souls Of Mischief –  93 ‘Til Infinity Penfolds RWT
12 Tim Milford Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man Nyetimber Classic Cuvée
11 Mags McKee U2 with BB King –  When Love Comes to Town Pittnauer Zweigelt Heideboden
10 Cara Rutherford The Cure – Just Like Heaven Suertes del Marqués ‘7 Fuentes’
9 Melanie May The Cult –  She Sells Sanctuary Sipp Mack GC Rosacker Riesling
8 James Hubbard Gary Moore – Parisienne Walkways Penfolds Bin 707 Cab Sauv
7 Paul Moran Underworld – Rez Suertes del Marqués Trenzado
6 Nirina Plunkett Jamiroquai – Space Cowboy Club Remix Wolfberger Crémant d’Alsace
5 Penny Sadler Fleetwood Mac – Dreams Bollinger Special Cuvée
4 Jim Dunlop The Beatles – The Long And Winding Road Man O’ War Valhalla Chardonnay
3 Avril Kirrane McMorrough Norah Jones – Don’t Know Why Joseph Cattin Riesling Reserve
2 Tim of Soliciting Flavours Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings Viña Tondonia Blanco
1 Sinéad Smyth Stardust – Music Sounds Better With You Mullineux Syrah

 

Make Mine A Double

Love, Love me Dão [Make Mine a Double #65]

Adega de Penalva is one of the leading cooperatives in the Portuguese Dão region (I gave an overview of the Dão in a previous article here, but in summary it is in the centre of northern Portugal close to the Douro.)  The coop was formed in the ’60s and has around a thousand members – that’s a lot of coordination – but with an average of only around 1.2 hectares of vines per member the volume crushed is manageable.

Their extensive main range can be spilt into four categories:

  • Red: Adega de Penalva Reserva, Encostas de Penalva, Flor De Penalva, Flor De Penalva Reserva, Jaen, O Penalva, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Pinheira, Touriga-Nacional, Milénio
  • White: Cerceal – Branco, Encostas De Penalva, Encruzado, Flor De Penalva, Bical
  • Rosé: Adega de Penalva Rosé
  • Sparkling (Método Clássico): Milénio Reserva, Milénio Bruto, Milénio Seco, Milénio Tinto Bruto)

As you might be able to parse from the wine names, some are made to be drunk young while others will reward some cellaring.  Not featured in the main list are a red and white fun and drinkable pair made (for Portuguese Story) from blends of indigenous grapes: Adega de Penalva Indigena Blend

Disclosure: both bottles were kindly given as samples, opinions remain my own

Adega de Penalva Indigena Blend Dão Branco 2019

This white blend is composed of:

  • 40% Encruzado (a speciality of the Dão)
  • 30% Malvasia (grown all over southern Europe; the particular variant is not specified)
  • 30% Cerceal (aka Esgana Cão (“Dog Strangler”!,) or Sercial in Madeira)

According to Wine Enthusiast, “Encruzado is, arguably, Portugal’s greatest white grape” – and having enjoyed Quinta dos Carvalhais’s Dão Colheita Branco I think it is a fair statement.  Here, of course, it is not on its own and has a supporting cast of Malvasia (which adds body) and Cerceal (which adds freshness).

All grapes are hand-picked and winemaking is fairly straightforward; after destemming and pressing, the must is fermented with selected yeasts in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks.  Maturation is also in INOX – with no wood to be seen – all to preserve the wine’s inherent fruit aromas and flavours.

On the nose it shows a variety of stone fruits and quince, plus almonds and a whiff of the forest (pine? cedar?)  Ripe stone fruit return on the palate – peach, nectarine, apricot – but with a zippy fresh finish that literally makes your mouth water.  This Branco shows why the Portuguese are so keen on blending – it really is more than the sum of its parts!

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €14.95
  • Stockists: Blackrock Cellar; Sweeney’s D3, Fairview; McHugh’s Off-Licence Kilbarrack Rd; Nectar Wines, Sandyford; The GrapeVine, Glasnevin; The Wine Pair, Clanbrassil St.; Baggot Street Wines

Adega de Penalva Indigena Blend Dão Tinto 2017

The blend for the Tinto is:

  • 40% Touriga Nacional (the Douro’s (and Portugal’s?) key black grape
  • 30% Tinta Roriz (aka Tempranillo, and many other names),
  • 30% Jaen (aka Mencia in NW Spain)

The order of the varieties above is from heavier to lighter; Touriga Nacional has the most structure and weight – which is why it is so important in the Douro – with Tinta Roriz being medium bodied and more accessible, and finally Jaen being quite light and fresh.  Winemaking is similar to the Branco above apart from the use of lined concrete tanks – in addition to stainless steel – for maturation.

Unsurprisingly, given the above, the wine is a medium intensity cherry red in the glass.  The nose has vibrant red fruits – cherry, strawberry, raspberry and cranberry.  On the palate these fruits are even more vibrant and juicy, seeming to jump out of the glass.  There are also notes of blackberry, chocolate and smoke, all wrapping up in a dry but fresh finish.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €14.95
  • Stockists: Blackrock Cellar; Sweeney’s D3, Fairview; Martins Off-Licence, Fairview; McHugh’s Off-Licence Kilbarrack Rd; Nectar Wines, Sandyford; The GrapeVine, Glasnevin; The Wine Pair, Clanbrassil St.; Clontarf Wines
    DrinkStore, Stoneybatter; The Corkscrew, Chatham St.; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock

Conclusion

Yes, these wines are easy to drink.  Yes, they are quite affordable.  And yes, they have relatively modest alcohol %.

So they definitely qualify as “lunchtime wines” or “house wines”, but they are far more than that.

Such poise, balance and deliciousness has them punching well above their weight!

 


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

Make Mine A Double

The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series #16 – Brad Horne

In these unusual times, we all need a lift from time to time. As a change to my usual wine reviews I’ve decided to start a fun and irreverent series on matching wine and music. The basic idea is that I give participants:

  • A piece of music –> they suggest a wine to go with it, with an explanation
  • A wine –> they suggest a piece of music to go with it

It’s all for fun, so please don’t slag off anybody’s taste music (or wine!) Thanks to Michelle Williams for the inspiration – she has been matching songs to wine for years on her Rockin Red Blog.

The sweet sixteenth contributor to The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series is social media legend Brad Horne, aka Wine Time London.  He presents an Instagram show “Wine Social” with a dazzling array of wine guests, often winemakers from the other side of the globe. 

Among his musical preferences he mentioned “dad rock” which could actually mean several things, but I took it to mean bands such as Status Quo Oasis from the Brit pop era.  Although a total cliché now and definitely overplayed, I was going to pick Wonderwall for him before I twigged the obvious choice of a song with a wine-related title: Champagne Supernova.

The wine pick for Brad was even easier as recently we had both been waxing lyrical about a certain Aussie Riesling: Petaluma’s Hanlin Hill Riesling.


Oasis – Champagne Supernova

The song Frankie chose for me was Champagne Supernova, but the wine I’m going to pair with is not Champagne; I was close to an English Sparkling wine pairing but I’ve gone for something from Down Under: Jansz Premium Cuvée always hits the spot for me, just like Oasis.

Oasis takes me back to my adolescence with friends at gigs and nights out thinking we would ‘live forever’.

This wine with its citrus notes and slight aromas of roasted nuts plus those wonderful hints of strawberry from the Pinot Noir and that lingering creaminess on the finish almost take you ‘half a world away’ or to an Aussie Sparkling Supernova In the sky…

Petaluma Hanlin Hill Riesling

With its lively acidity and rich palate, Petaluma Hanlin Hill Clare Valley Riesling takes you on a journey, and as this wine ages it evolves like us, developing more character and flavours. To match it I’ve therefore chosen Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Never Going Back Again‘.

Young – with citrus and orange blossom flavours – or aged, with petrol notes – this Riesling (like so many of its Clare Valley counterparts) is wonderful, and like this song you think about Fleetwood at the start young in love and free and as it develops like Riesling it changes and ‘goes it’s own way’.

This vineyard was planted in 1968 and has west-facing slopes 550 meters above sea level. It produces grapes with slatey minerality – this region is perfect for growing great Riesling!

Thanks so much to Frankie; wine and music can go hand in hand, so next time you sit down for a glass of Riesling turn on this song and ‘Dreams’….

Brad Horne

Brad(ley) Horne is a Social Media and Marketing consultant for the Wine Industry.  He helps wineries and the wine trade with wine events, Social media and Marketing in the UK. He is active on Twitter under both @BradleyHorne and @winetimelondon but his busiest outlet is Instagram under @winetimelondon where his show WineSocial live goes out at 8.00pm UK time.

 


The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series
No. Guest Name Music to pair Wine to pair
16 Brad Horne Oasis – Champagne Supernova Petaluma Hanlin Hill Riesling
15 Liam Mycroft Eric Clapton – Bad Love Bodegas Garzon Albariño
14 Lee Isaacs The Rolling Stones – Gimme Shelter Domaine Jones Fitou
13 Sharon L Souls Of Mischief –  93 ‘Til Infinity Penfolds RWT
12 Tim Milford Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man Nyetimber Classic Cuvée
11 Mags McKee U2 with BB King –  When Love Comes to Town Pittnauer Zweigelt Heideboden
10 Cara Rutherford The Cure – Just Like Heaven Suertes del Marqués ‘7 Fuentes’
9 Melanie May The Cult –  She Sells Sanctuary Sipp Mack GC Rosacker Riesling
8 James Hubbard Gary Moore – Parisienne Walkways Penfolds Bin 707 Cab Sauv
7 Paul Moran Underworld – Rez Suertes del Marqués Trenzado
6 Nirina Plunkett Jamiroquai – Space Cowboy Club Remix Wolfberger Crémant d’Alsace
5 Penny Sadler Fleetwood Mac – Dreams Bollinger Special Cuvée
4 Jim Dunlop The Beatles – The Long And Winding Road Man O’ War Valhalla Chardonnay
3 Avril Kirrane McMorrough Norah Jones – Don’t Know Why Joseph Cattin Riesling Reserve
2 Tim of Soliciting Flavours Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings Viña Tondonia Blanco
1 Sinéad Smyth Stardust – Music Sounds Better With You Mullineux Syrah
Make Mine A Double

Domaine Les Yeuses [Make Mine a Double #64]

Domaine Les Yeuses is located in the heart of Picpoul de Pinet country, only eight minutes drive from the village of Pinet itself.  Lying between the coast and the Mediterranean heartland gives it plenty of sun but not too much heat.  It was the Knights Templar who constructed the Domaine on the site of an old Roman villa, though the buildings were put to several different uses over the centuries.  The name comes from a forest of evergreen oaks, “les yeuses” in French (not to be confused with “les yeux” which means eyes).

The Domaine and its wines are nowadays in the hands of the Dardé family, with brothers Jean-Paul and Michel Dardé looking after both viticulture and winemaking, plus JP’s son Sylvain and Michel’s daughter Magali also on board.  Land under vine extends to over 80 hectares, mainly on limestone.

The Domaine makes a wide range of wines:

  • Whites: Chardonnay, Viognier, Sauvignon, Vermentino, Muscat à Petits Grains, Ô d’Yeuses (Viognier/Chardonnay blend), Délicieuse (Colombard/Viognier blend)
  • Rosés: Ô d’Yeuses (Syrah/Grenache/Cinsault blend), Délicieuse (Grenache), Cuvée la Gazelle (Grenache/Syrah blend), Rosé Muscaté (Muscat Hamburg), Cinsault
  • Reds: Ô d’Yeuses (Marselan/Cabernet Franc blend), L’allée d’Oliviers (Merlot/Syrah/Cabernet Franc blend), Syrah Les Epices, Grenache Les Fruits Mûrs, La Soure (Merlot/Syrah blend), Carignan, Délicieuse (Merlot/Syrah/Cabernet Franc blend), La petite Syrah, Le petit Merlot

Here are two Les Yeuses reds that I tried and enjoyed recently:

Disclosure: both bottles were kindly provided as samples, opinions remain my own

Domaine Les Yeuses Pays d’Oc Merlot Réserve 2017

One of the things I noticed when researching this piece is that the Merlot Réserve does not feature on Les Yeuses’ website – whether it is a new or recently discontinued wine, or just an oversight, I do not know.  However, as it costs slightly more than the Syrah below – a variety which is usually regarded as more prestigious – it merits our consideration.  In fact, there is a Merlot varietal on the Domaine’s website but it is their “Petit Merlot” which (to me at least) signifies younger vines and a simpler wine.  This Réserve is therefore from older vines and is kept a little longer before release.

On the nose there are ripe red and black fruits, but also a strong graphite tang – which is often present in Cabernet Sauvignon and / or vines planted on gravel, but obviously neither of these are true for this wine.  These notes continue onto the super-smooth palate with hints of leather.  Fine tannins add structure and make this a well-rounded wine.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €16.95
  • Stockists: Boutique Wines; Barnhill stores Killaney/Dalkey; Mortons, Ranalagh; Listons, Camden street; The Wine House Trim; Emilie’s, Glenbeigh Co. Kerry; Pat Fitzgerald’s (Centra), Dingle Co. Kerry; Grape and Bean, Portlaois; The Wine Pair, Clanbrassil Street; Blackrock Cellars; Gleeson’s, Booterstown Ave

Domaine Les Yeuses Pays d’Oc Syrah “Les Epices” 2017

The eagle-eyed among you may well have noticed that this post is not the first appearance of this wine on my blog; however, as it was the delightful Avril Kirrane McMorrough who wrote that piece I can legitimately say I’m not repeating myself.  Les Epices is a selection from the Domaine’s oldest and lowest yielding Syrah parcels.

The nose is pure Syrah – spicy, red and black fruit, pepper and black olive, (parma) violets.  The palate has more red fruit than I expected from the nose – the coastal breezes keeping the wine fresh, but without the outright savouriness of the northern Rhône.  There’s a definite softness to this wine, without the jammy fruit of new world Shiraz; it’s eminently drinkable, yet doesn’t overwhelm your palate so much that you’ll hesitate at a second (or third!) glass.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €15.95
  • Stockists: Boutique Wines; Barnhill stores Killaney/Dalkey; Mortons, Ranalagh; Listons, Camden street; The Wine House Trim; Emilie’s, Glenbeigh Co. Kerry; Pat Fitzgerald’s (Centra), Dingle Co. Kerry; Grape and Bean, Portlaois; The Wine Pair, Clanbrassil Street; Blackrock Cellars; Gleeson’s, Booterstown Ave; Nectar Wines, Sandyford

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

Single Bottle Review

Grosset Polish Hill Riesling

Our first born child arrived in September 2011, and rather than just buy a case of wine for him (or us) to enjoy when he reached his majority I decided to buy a wine I could enjoy around his birthday every year as a toast to another year on earth.  In the end I settled (!) for one of Australia’s iconic white wines, generally regarded as Australia’s best Riesling: Jeffrey Grosset’s Polish Hill Riesling.  Normally I enjoy the wine so much that I completely forget to make notes, but this year at least I did write a brief tasting note.

Grosset established his eponymous winery in the small town of Auburn in 1981.  Auburn lies at the northern end of the Mount Lofty Ranges, a Nelson (111) km north of Adelaide and 25km south of the town of Clare.  The Polish Hill vineyard lies at 460 metres, covers eight hectares and is certified organic.  The soil is rocky and low in fertility making the vines work hard.  Winemaking is straight forward, trying to retain as much of the fruit’s character as it becomes wine.

Famously tight when young, the wine is made from small berries, a stark contrast to the larger grapes which grow in the Watervale sub-region of Clare Valley for Grosset’s other key Riesling, Springvale.  Acidity is high and in its youth there are pronounced chalky characteristics.  Indeed, you might say that (in most vintages) this is a wine for purists, but given time (and good care) it can blossom into something truly magnificent.

Grosset Polish Hill Clare Valley Riesling 2011

Let’s get the obvious question out of the way first: how dry or sweet is this Riesling?  Well, Clare Valley Rieslings are nearly always dry – Grosset’s Alea Riesling is an exception to that rule – and by dry I mean technically dry, i.e. the yeast could not ferment any more sugar into alcohol, leaving just 0.9 g/L.

It pours a bright lemon in the glass; I expect that it was paler on release, though I didn’t have a young equivalent to compare it to.  The nose is amazing – I could happily sniff it for hours.  There are chalky mineral notes, of course, plus lifted lime, quince and grapefruit.  There are no real kerosene notes yet, with the TDN¹ compound not present.

The palate is surprisingly soft and juicy, full of citrus with a soft chalky texture.  The softness doesn’t mean it’s gone flabby – far from it, with literally mouth-watering acidity – but any austerity it had in its youth is firmly discarded.  This is a classy, long and serene wine, nicely into the swing of things at nine years old, but with plenty to go yet.  Yes it’s far from cheap, but for this quality and ageability it’s a very fair price to pay.

 

Latest vintage available in Ireland is 2019.

¹TDN stands for 1,1,6,-trimethyl-1,2-dihydronapthalene, apparently

Wine + Music

The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series #15 – Liam Mycroft

In these unusual times, we all need a lift from time to time. As a change to my usual wine reviews I’ve decided to start a fun and irreverent series on matching wine and music. The basic idea is that I give participants:

  • A piece of music –> they suggest a wine to go with it, with an explanation
  • A wine –> they suggest a piece of music to go with it

It’s all for fun, so please don’t slag off anybody’s taste music (or wine!) Thanks to Michelle Williams for the inspiration – she has been matching songs to wine for years on her Rockin Red Blog.

Our 15th guest contributor in The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series is someone with an accent that is hard to pin down, but that makes perfect sense when you head his bio!  Liam came into wine geekery later than some others but has been making up for lost time, devouring wine knowledge (and wine bottles?) at a hectic pace.  After meeting at several consumer tastings he joined us in the Dublin North Side (DNS) Wine Club despite being a southsider.  After a few tastings he threw hit hat into the ring to present a tasting, and the favourite of the group that night is the Garzon which I picked for him below.

For music I picked a track from an artist we both love – Eric Clapton – but not one of the most obvious.  Bad Love is from his long hair period and is definitely more rock than blues, but it’s a classic.


It is with excitement and trepidation that I answer the request from Frankie to play a part in the wonderful Music and Wine Collaboration series. Excited to be asked, for sure, but the trepidation comes from following such illustrious giants from the Wine Gliteratti as James Hubbard & Jim Dunlop amongst a host of others. Frankie asked me a few weeks ago, but I had been tied up on a work project, meaning I didn’t have a lot of spare time to do justice to the cause, and lo and behold, the literary, musical and all round Wino genius, Lee Issacs, got in before me with his wonderfully descriptive scribblings. While Lee and I have never met in person, largely due to the present travel restrictions we find ourselves in, we share a common love of Argentina, and we both found our life partners roaming the Pampas, and this might explain our mutual love of Malbec, more of that to follow, as I now have to follow his words…

My musical tastes are very eclectic. Something to do with my advancing years, in that they range from the 60’s, the Beatles obviously (far better than the Stones!), through my formative years of the 70’s, with psychedelic sounds, before punk emerged, followed by a constant return to the 70’s as I got stuck in a time warp of music from that era. I still listen every week to Johnny Waler’s Sounds of the 70’s every Sunday afternoon. I have had a detour in recent years to embrace Country Music, yes, I know! It all came about from spending a few months working every year in the US back in the ’90s, and I fell for it… But I digress…

Eric Clapton – Bad Love

The Track that Frankie selected for me comes from one of my All Time Heroes, Slow Hand himself, Eric Clapton. Perhaps one of his lesser known tracks, from the 1989 Journeyman Album, “Bad Love”. Although it charted around the world, you don’t often hear it on the radio, and to be honest, although I have the album, I had forgotten the track over time. A pleasure to be reacquainted, and the lyrics rang very close to home. (This is where I turn sloppy and sentimental, which features from here on in, sorry).

The lyrics talk about being sad for the lonely people who walked through life alone for so long, as I did, but now having found their one true love, there would be no more Bad Love in their lives. This resounds with me, having met my wife late in life, after a failed marriage, and relationships in my younger days, but with all that behind me, having met Paula, my Argentine Rose, this song has new meaning.

Obviously as it reflected my life and how I had found my “Good Love” in Argentina, the wine I have selected to pair with the song, to remind me of every glorious moment, is of course, an Argentine Wine. Having been able to live just outside Buenos Aires for four years between 2009 and 2013, wines from the country became a staple, and I fell in love with Malbec as well as the woman.

I have selected a Malbec available here in Ireland, from Kaiken, ironically headed up by a Chilean, Aurelio Montes, from the Uco Valley in Mendoza. A truly memorable wine, the Kaiken Ultra Malbec is bright red in colour with an intense aroma emanating of spice and floral elegance, before the black fruits, so typical in a quality Malbec shine through. Smooth, soft tannins give way to a lengthy finish, and take me back to sitting outside in Buenos Aires as my brother in law stoked the Parilla (BBQ) and cooked an Asado to be washed down by a smooth Malbec.

Bodega Garzón Albariño

Of course, the journey doesn’t stop here, and Frankie, knowing my affection for South America, has selected an Albariño from Bodega Garzón in Uruguay for me to come up with a musical side dish to accompany this maritime delight. Albariño wines from Rías Baixas and Galicia have become very popular in Ireland in the past few years, and this Uruguayan version certainly reaches the giddy heights of the top Albariño’s Worldwide.

Pale yellow in colour, with a greenish tinge in the glass, on the nose the peachy summer fruit comes forward, with a hint of salinity, taking me to the seaside, and seafood. Citric flavours mingle with the pear in the mouth, and a long aftertaste reminds me of the smell of seaweed and brine as you walk along a coastline.

For some strange reason, my sentimentality came back to me every-time I thought about a musical pairing to go with this wine. The sea-salt took me to the Ocean, and a more local musician, with a song, not really about the ocean at all, but about life being a Voyage, and to Christy Moore, and his wonderful rendition of the Johnny Duhan penned song. The song talks about how life is an ocean, and love is a boat, and through troubled waters it keeps us afloat.

I’m not sure how a few bottles of Albariño would fare as we sail through life, but it took me back to finding my true love back in Argentina, and how we sailed the ocean back to Ireland (Ok, we flew, but its far more romantic to think of the journey being in a boat – romantic licence), and here we are, gathering around us our own crew of friends, making our life complete.

So there you have it. Two songs, two wines. The wines are linked, being both from South America, but the songs are dramatically different in their style, but are linked by their appreciation of Love and Life, hope you stayed the course.

Liam Mycroft

Having set sail for Liverpool as a 5 year old, before returning home at 40 plus, Liam has lead a roaming life, taking him from County Down to Dublin, via Liverpool, Salford, San Diego, Rhode Island, and Buenos Aires. He is a Civil Servant by day, and in recent years, a wine nerd at night and weekends. After a lifetime of living a cliché of drinking the same wines, because he liked them, upon his return from Argentina in 2013, he decided to learn more about the Grape, taking a local course with Leslie Williams, which enthused him to go down the road of the WSET exams, and, so far, he has passed Levels 2 and 3 with Merit. Next up for this self-confessed nerd is the Italian Wine Scholar Programme, as he has fallen in love with the myriad of wines from the Boot of the Mediterranean, and aims to kick on with his knowledge in the future, sharing his views via Twitter (@Liam3494) and blogging his personal wine thoughts at www.thelongwineroad.com.


The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series
No. Guest Name Music to pair Wine to pair
15 Liam Mycroft Eric Clapton – Bad Love Bodegas Garzon Albariño
14 Lee Isaacs The Rolling Stones – Gimme Shelter Domaine Jones Fitou
13 Sharon L Souls Of Mischief –  93 ‘Til Infinity Penfolds RWT
12 Tim Milford Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man Nyetimber Classic Cuvée
11 Mags McKee U2 with BB King –  When Love Comes to Town Pittnauer Zweigelt Heideboden
10 Cara Rutherford The Cure – Just Like Heaven Suertes del Marqués ‘7 Fuentes’
9 Melanie May The Cult –  She Sells Sanctuary Sipp Mack GC Rosacker Riesling
8 James Hubbard Gary Moore – Parisienne Walkways Penfolds Bin 707 Cab Sauv
7 Paul Moran Underworld – Rez Suertes del Marqués Trenzado
6 Nirina Plunkett Jamiroquai – Space Cowboy Club Remix Wolfberger Crémant d’Alsace
5 Penny Sadler Fleetwood Mac – Dreams Bollinger Special Cuvée
4 Jim Dunlop The Beatles – The Long And Winding Road Man O’ War Valhalla Chardonnay
3 Avril Kirrane McMorrough Norah Jones – Don’t Know Why Joseph Cattin Riesling Reserve
2 Tim of Soliciting Flavours Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings Viña Tondonia Blanco
1 Sinéad Smyth Stardust – Music Sounds Better With You Mullineux Syrah
Single Bottle Review

Dorigo Friuli Colli Orientali Chardonnay 2017

I introduced the wines of Dorigo – an exciting and innovative producer in Friuli – in a previous post on their Pignolo.  Pignolo is just one of their many wines, based on many rare local grapes as well as some better known international varieties.  Their range extends over four lines which are fairly self-explanatory:

  • Prestige: Chardonnay, Ronc di Juri, Montsclapade, Rosso Dorigo, Pignolo 
  • Colour: Pinot Grigio, Pinorigo, Ribolla Gialla, Sauvignon, Friulano, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Refosco, Schioppettino
  • Sweet: Picolit, Verduzzo
  • Perlage (traditional method sparkling): Dorigo Brut, Blanc de Noir, Blanc de Blancs

The winery was founded by Giralamo Dorigo in 1966 when there was very little wine – and even less quality wine – made in the eastern hills of Friuli, close to Italy’s border with Slovenia.  Today, the baton has been passed to his son Alessio who continues his father’s work.

In contrast to the very rare Pignolo, we now turn to another of their wines made from a more common grape – Chardonnay:

Dorigo Friuli Colli Orientali “Ronc di Juri” Chardonnay 2017

As you may have noticed from the information above, Chardonnay is one of Dorigo’s five Prestige bottlings – and probably my favourite grape, so it was likely to receive a good reception chez Frankly Wines.  However, its relative lack of rarity and ease of production mean that its price is much more modest (see below).

Grapes are all hand picked at full ripeness (one of the guiding principles of Dorigo’s wine making).  Triage of bunches ensures that only the best fruit is used.  Alcoholic and malolactic fermentation take place in a mixture of new and one-year old French oak barrels.  The wine is matured on its lees – with bâtonnage four times a week – for a total of ten months, before blending and bottling.

This Chardonnay pours a light gold colour in the glass.  There are intense aromas of freshly squeezed orange juice on the nose, including all the pulp and pith.  I didn’t do a comparison there and then, but it wasn’t somewhat reminiscent of fresh OJ, it was just like fresh OJ!  The palate shows lovely vanilla, buttered toast and orchard fruits.

I wouldn’t necessarily have guessed this to be a Chardonnay tasted blind…I might possibly have stabbed at a high end Godello such as As Sortes.  Perhaps it’s the lightness and freshness despite the oak cloak which make this Chardonnay different from the norm.

Dorigo give “ten years and more” as their ageing estimate for this wine.  To be honest, although delicious at the moment, I think it still has a way to go before hitting its peak.  I can’t wait!

 

Wine + Music

The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series #14 – Lee Isaacs

In these unusual times, we all need a lift from time to time. As a change to my usual wine reviews I’ve decided to start a fun and irreverent series on matching wine and music. The basic idea is that I give participants:

  • A piece of music –> they suggest a wine to go with it, with an explanation
  • A wine –> they suggest a piece of music to go with it

It’s all for fun, so please don’t slag off anybody’s taste music (or wine!) Thanks to Michelle Williams for the inspiration – she has been matching songs to wine for years on her Rockin Red Blog.

For the 14th episode of The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series we head back to England with the irrepressible polymath Lee Isaacs.  Not only does this bloke live and breathe wine, he also has a fabulous collection of shirts and plays a mean axe!  By axe I mean guitar (and probably other instruments, knowing Lee).  If anyone was the most apt person to write a guest post in this series, it’s Mr Lee Isaacs.

Now I’m not a diehard aficionado of The Stones, but their standout track for me is Gimme Shelter.  This is the group that absorbed The Blues through imported LPs and ended up taking it back to the Americans, both in their own music and the limelight they shared with Blues legends.

Lee spreads the gospel about wine over several social media platforms – which gives us mere mortals an opportunity to enjoy his shirts and his music – but he’s also generous in praising other communicators including Katie Jones, so I thought this would be the perfect wine to pick for him.


I was chuffed when Frankie asked me to write a piece matching wine and music for his site, for two main reasons. Usually the only form of writing people ask me to do for them is filling in those legal forms the prevent me from playing the guitar within a ten mile radius, but also because wine and music are two of my greatest loves in life. They are both uniquely subjective and conjure up emotions and memories beyond our control. They have the power to weaken us at the knees or make us feel like anything is possible. Wine and music both have an incredible power over our soul and…I’ll stop; you get my drift.

The Rolling Stones – Gimme Shelter

Frankie’s opening musical gambit came in the form of The Rolling Stones’ Gimme Shelter, from their 1969 album (also their best) Let It Bleed. The song sees Keef playing a portentous riff in open G while Mick Jagger and Merry Clayton trade ever darker lyrics about an impending storm of violence. This is The Stones at their very best; more than just dirty, grimy (so wrong, it’s right) blues, but deep and searing social commentary. The song is the death cry of 1960s peace and love and a dark vision of the dystopia that lay around the corner. It could have been written yesterday. Mick’s refrain of ‘If I don’t get some shelter, I’m gonna fade away’ could be any of us right now. It opens gently enough with an inviting, almost light, blues motif but it quickly builds to something much more brooding and enveloping. By the end of the song you need a breather, a chance to reflect on exactly what it all means.

But what wine to pair with this greatest of Stones tracks? Malbec may well be a superstar today, but that’s not always been the case. It was not Argentina’s most planted variety until 2006. In fact, previous to that it had been a bit of a workhorse, a variety that had yet to find it’s truest expression and was in danger of fading away without some shelter. That shelter was provided by Nicolás Catena Zapata. He gave it shelter by taking it as high as he could, planting his Adrianna Vineyard in Gualtallary at a breath taking altitude of 1,500 m.a.s.l. This was a call to arms for other producers to not only revisit Malbec but also to take on the challenge of high altitude grape growing. Nicolás saw a hard future ahead but made a stand and changed Argentine wine forever.

This Malbec is just as brooding and intense as Mick & Keef’s lyrics. It opens with a violet scented perfume while some subtle mineral notes invite you in before it quickly builds with deep black fruit and cassis flavours. Before you know it, you’re awash with dark chocolate, coffee, smoky vanilla and earthy spices. But then there’s a refrain; the violets and minerals reappear and bring you back from the blackcurrant precipice as you realise that perhaps there’s more to everything than it first seemed. By the end of the bottle one can only sit and reflect.

Domaine Jones Fitou

Frankie took his opening gambit and doubled down with the classic ‘Fitou Strategem’ first used by Francis of Gaul all those years ago. It’s a fine call as I’m a fan of the inimitable Katie Jones and her magnificent wines. It’s well documented that Katie met with some rather unfriendly locals who doubted her commitment & motivations. This only further emboldened Mrs Jones in her quest, and today she makes characterful wine with a huge sense of place. Katie takes a central theme for each wine she makes and then slowly and confidently builds to a wonderful driving crescendo.

This Fitou is a blend of Grenache, Syrah & Carignan with some of the contributing vines being over 100 years old. This brings to the wine an incredible concentration of deeply structured figgy, spicy and smoky fruit. There’s a wonderful rusticity to the wine; it’s filled with garrigue, warm herbs, roasting meats and the most alluring black fruits…all supported by melt in the mouth tannins and a fine seam of acidity. It feels like this wine, its style, its flavours, its structure…it feels like its always been here. Every time you drink it, you wonder why you drink anything else.

Led Zeppelin also met with some backlash. Indeed it’s the very origin of their name. They remained steadfast, and, building on the history that lay before them, they built something new and wonderous. It’s easy to get caught up in Stairway but Led Zep IV’s When The Levee Breaks is one of those tracks that is absolutely magical & timeless.

It is of course driven by the eternal, powerful & mesmerising drum work of John Bonham. That sound, that rhythm…it’s always been here, since the beginning of time. Jimmy Page eschews the standard I-IV-V blues tradition, instead opting for a modal approach. He takes a central theme and builds, builds, builds, to an incredible and long lasting crescendo. This song has history but also incredible depth and sophistication. Like Fitou it’s often overlooked in favour of more prestigious and well known names…but this just keeps getting better and better. Every time you hear it, you wonder why you listen to anything else.

Lee Isaacs

Lee has been around wine since the age of 5 and when he turned 18, he passed up a place at university to study law and politics in favour of working in the wine trade. His bank manager has still not forgiven him. An Oddbins refugee, he ran one of the UK’s best indies for 5 years before becoming Head of Education for Oxford’s oldest wine school. A WSET Diploma holder, Lee has taught and lectured all over the world for MWs and MSs. Widely travelled, he specialises in Argentina, a country he visits almost every year, and Italy, a country he has travelled around extensively. Published by a variety of media, Lee continues to educate, entertain and immerse himself in the world of wine, running around 100 tastings every year (pre-Covid obvs). He now works for a multinational business in training, buying and marketing. When not doing something with wine he can be found failing to play the guitar and writing dreadful stand up comedy.


The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series
No. Guest Name Music to pair Wine to pair
14 Lee Isaacs The Rolling Stones – Gimme Shelter Domaine Jones Fitou
13 Sharon L Souls Of Mischief –  93 ‘Til Infinity Penfolds RWT
12 Tim Milford Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man Nyetimber Classic Cuvée
11 Mags McKee U2 with BB King –  When Love Comes to Town Pittnauer Zweigelt Heideboden
10 Cara Rutherford The Cure – Just Like Heaven Suertes del Marqués ‘7 Fuentes’
9 Melanie May The Cult –  She Sells Sanctuary Sipp Mack GC Rosacker Riesling
8 James Hubbard Gary Moore – Parisienne Walkways Penfolds Bin 707 Cab Sauv
7 Paul Moran Underworld – Rez Suertes del Marqués Trenzado
6 Nirina Plunkett Jamiroquai – Space Cowboy Club Remix Wolfberger Crémant d’Alsace
5 Penny Sadler Fleetwood Mac – Dreams Bollinger Special Cuvée
4 Jim Dunlop The Beatles – The Long And Winding Road Man O’ War Valhalla Chardonnay
3 Avril Kirrane McMorrough Norah Jones – Don’t Know Why Joseph Cattin Riesling Reserve
2 Tim of Soliciting Flavours Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings Viña Tondonia Blanco
1 Sinéad Smyth Stardust – Music Sounds Better With You Mullineux Syrah