Opinion

Alsace from Bordeaux – with Millésima [Sponsored]

Bordeaux was the first wine region I fell in love with, no doubt influenced by the fact that I could visit several vineyards on a day trip from my parents’ home in the Charente Maritime.  To this day there is a map of “Le Vignoble de Bordeaux” in my kitchen which I bought in Saint-Émilion over twenty years ago.

Founded in the heart of Bordeaux in 1983, Millésima is a fine wine and en-primeurWhats in a name specialist which sells directly to consumers in 120 countries.  It is a family run company, now in the hands of second generation Fabrice Bernard who succeeded his father Patrick as CEO in 2017.

Before being invited to write this piece, I was already familiar with Millésima, both through online advertisements and their sponsoring of the Millésima Blog Awards (which my friends Michelle Williams and Mike Turner were winners of in 2016).

Looking further it appears to me that Millésima’s key strengths are:

  • Selection: they have 2.5 million bottles to choose from. The emphasis is on Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne, then other French regions and ten other countries.
  • Provenance: they source their wines directly from the producer so that their condition and (especially) their authenticity are guaranteed.
  • Packaging and delivery: they pride themselves on speedy deliveries which arrive in perfect condition. The wines I ordered were picked and packaged in a double-layered corrugated cardboard box covered with a thick layer of shrink-wrapped plastic.
  • Compliance: unlike some unscrupulous distributors I have heard of, they are fully compliant with the excise and tax regulations of the countries to which their wines are shipped. This is especially important in Ireland which (unfortunately) has the highest rates in Europe, and so puts Millésima on a level playing field with local importers.

So, when invited to try some wines from a Bordeaux-based fine wine supplier, what type of wine did I order?  That’s right, some of my beloved Alsace wines from the far side of the country!  But rather than being awkward, the decision was deliberate and common sense: it would show the breadth of Millésima’s range and would put me in an informed position when reviewing the wines.

To select a mixed case is simple: click on Special Offers on the far right of the top menu

Top Menu

Next menus

then Create your own tasting case

and My own tasting case.

 

The wines I chose mainly feature my two favourite grapes from Alsace – Riesling and Pinot Gris – from three top producers, and both young and aged examples:

Domaine Zind Humbrecht Pinot Gris “Heimbourg” 1997 (14.0%, €55* at millesima.ie)

Domaine Zind Humbrecht Pinot Gris Heimbourg 1997

Heimbourg is a lieu-dit or named vineyard close to Turckheim, the home village of Domaine Zind Humbrecht.  It receives a lot of sunlight as it faces onto the Munster Valley and hence isn’t overshadowed by the Vosges Mountains.

The wine pours bright gold into the glass – a combination of age, possibly some noble rot and the grape variety.  The nose is highly aromatic, mainly showing rich honey notes (I’m not a honey connoisseur, but those bees have been feasting on some pretty tasty nectar) and stewed figs.  One of the best noses I’ve ever experienced!

The palate reveals the wine to be mature with some rancio streaks, possibly just past its peak, and dry.  Being dry is no bad thing in itself but is something of a surprise given the amount of honey on the nose.  The fruit is subdued and mainly stewed, accompanied by walnuts and brazils.  For matching with food, think of mature cheeses and nuts or even slow roasted beef.

Maison Trimbach Pinot Gris Réserve Personnelle 1998 (13.0%, €45* at millesima.ie)

Maison Trimbach Pinot Gris Réserve Personnelle 1998

Trimbach is arguably the most famous producer in Alsace and its wines are well distributed.  Its main yellow label wines are often the default choice for Alsace, whereas its flagship Clos Sainte-Hune Riesling is regarded by many as the best wine of the region.  Sitting between the two are the premium range of Riesling (Cuvée Frédéric Emile), Gewurztraminer (Cuvée des Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre) and this Pinot Gris (Réserve Personnelle).

The nose is clean with no oxidative notes, showing cumquat, apricot, exotic spices such as cinnamon and star anise, wrapped up with some light honeyed notes.  The palate has medium flavour intensity and reflects the nose very well.  This is a tasty, lively wine which isn’t going to improve further and would be best drunk sooner rather than later, but it would still be going strong in a year or two.

Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris “Herrenweg de Turckheim” 1999 (13.5%, €48 at millesima.ie)

Domaine Zind Humbrecht Pinot Gris Herrenweg de Turckheim 1999

The Herrenweg is the vineyard where Zind Humbrecht’s HQ is based, on a complex mixture of sand, silt, clay and alluvial deposits.  Grapes here tend to ripen quickly and be very expressive.

When poured this Pinot Gris was an amazing amber colour – perhaps even burnished copper!  The nose is primarily stewed and some fresh stone fruit, with spice and honey.  It’s relatively subtle on the palate with the same notes but all of them are intertwined – the interplay between them is intriguing.  There’s still a little sweetness on the finish to accompany the honey aromas and flavours.

Domaine Marcel Deiss Alsace Riesling 2017 (13.0%, €28* at millesima.ie)

Domaine Marcel Deiss Riesling 2017

Domaine Marcel Deiss is an estate founded on tradition, but tradition for a reason.  Based in Bergheim, just a few clicks from Ribeauvillé, the Domaine is known for its focus on field blends – how wine was made in Alsace (and much of Europe) for centuries, before different grape varieties were properly identified and planted separately.  This, however, is from the Deiss vins de fruits or vins de cépages range – more about their grape variety than the locality where they were grown.  As with the entire range, this Riesling is Certified Organic and made following biodynamic principles from Deiss’s own vineyards only.

There’s a veritable array of citrus on the nose: lemon, lime, grapefruit and more.  The first sip shows that it has a little more body that you’d expect from a dry Riesling.  It’s young, fresh, citrus, mineral and steely with a long, dry finish.  This is quite a serious wine, but then, Riesling is a serious business!

Domaine Marcel Deiss Langenberg 2013 (12.5%, €39* at millesima.ie)

Domaine Marcel Deiss Langenberg 2013

The Langenberg is from Deiss’s Lieux-Dits range which consists of nine different named vineyards with their own distinctive terrior.  They don’t have Grand Cru status but when Alsace Premier Cru is established I’d bet that many of these nine would be included.   The Deiss website explains that Langenberg is a field blend of Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Beurot, Muscat and Pinot Noir.  To the best of my knowledge Pinot Beurot is simply a synonym for Pinot Gris, but as that is already listed it might be a particular clone.

This is a highly aromatic wine with a wealth of tropical notes: pineapple, grapefruit, guava, banana, coconut, passionfruit and exotic spices all feature.  It has a silky, generous texture in the mouth.  The enticing palate is full of the tropical fruits found on the nose (mainly contributed by the Pinots Grises and the Muscat) but brought round to a crisp conclusion by the Riesling component.  A magnificent wine!

 


*Note: all prices include Irish Duty and VAT and are the relevant prices for individual bottles as part of a mixed selection.

Disclosure: this is a sponsored post, but all opinions remain my own.

 

Advertisements
Opinion

Frankly Wines Top 10 Value Whites 2019

After a brief pause, we now head back into the Frankly Wines Top 10s, this time to “Value Whites”.  There are no hard and fast criteria for inclusion (apart from being a white wine, obviously), but the majority are among the less expensive wines to be found on the shelves in independent off-licences, off-licence chains and supermarkets in Ireland. Those which are a little higher priced than the others really earn it with extra deliciousness!

10. Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Beaune 2016

Bourgogne Hautes Cotes de Beaune, €14.99

12.5%, RRP €14.99.  Distributed by Lidl Ireland.  Also see related article here.

Low cost supermarket Lidl mainly has everyday low cost wines on its shelves, but supplements them every so often with additional – more premium – wines from countries such as Italy and France.  If you shop at Lidl it’s definitely worth looking out for these wines which are a definite step up from their regular offering.  This oaked Chardonnay is one of the best I’ve ever tried from Lidl, and will improve over the next five years or so if you manage to find (and keep!) any.

9. Vigneti del Vulture “Pipoli” Greco / Fiano 2017

Vigneti del Vulture Pipoli Bianco

12.5%, RRP €17.99.  Distributed by Liberty Wines.  Also see related article here.

Greco and Fiano are two ancient grape varieties that are thought to have Greek origins – with the former, it couldn’t be more obvious – that are now being made into fantastic modern, clean wines in southern Italy.  What better than blending them, in this beauty from Basilicata?  It shows lots of zip and tangy character that make it a pleasure for sipping with lighter dishes or quaffing on its own.

8. Horst Sauer Esherndorfer Silvaner Trocken 2016

Horst Sauer Escherndorfer Silvaner Trocken 2

11.5%, RRP €20.90.  Distributed by Karwig Wines.  Also see related article here.

This bottle is tricky to ship, tricky to show on a wine shop’s shelves and tricky to put into a blog post without taking up lots of room – but the wine is worth it.  Whatever the origins of the bottle shape, it’s nice to see something distinctive which contains something distinctive – Silvaner from its home region of Franken in Germany.  It’s fresh, mineral, tangy, and a delight in the glass.

7. Weingut Rabl Grüner Veltliner Käferberg 2015

rabl gruner kaferberg

13.5%, RRP €24.95. Distributed by O’Briens.  Also see related article here.

Not only does this wine feature in John Wilson’s 2019 Wilson on Wine, it was also one of the favourites at the DNS Wine Club event where we blind tasted and bluffed our way through a selection of the wines from the book.  If you’ve tried and liked regular Grüner Veltliner but you’ve never moved past it, try Rabl’s Käferberg to see how expressive it can be as a grape.

6. Stonier Mornington Peninsula Chardonnay 2016

stonier mornington peninsula chardonnay

13.5%, RRP €26.95.  Distributed by O’Briens.  Also see related article here.

From the very same event, one of the stand-out producers from Victoria’s under-the-radar Mornington Peninsula.  I suppose you could call this “Victoria’s Secret” if you really wanted.  Reductive winemaking – where oxygen levels are kept low – give this wine a struck-match tang which evokes Burgundy rather than Australia – it’s a ripper!

5. Agusti Torello Mata Xarel·lo “Xic” 2017

augusti torello mata xarel-lo xic

11.0%, RRP €18.00.  Distributed by GrapeCircus.  Also see related article here.

For years I had been misspelling Xarel·lo as Xarel-lo; that’s right, with the floating dot · replaced by the impostor hyphen -.  Now that I’m on the right track I can tell you about this still white wine made with a grape most well known for Cava.  It’s damned delicious and damned drinkable, so go buy it!

4. Plaimont “En La Tradition” Blanc 2016

Plaimont Saint Mont En La Tradition Blanc

13.0%, RRP €15.95 – €16.95.  Distributed by Honest 2 Goodness.  Also see related article here.

When size is a good thing: Producteurs Plaimont are a major presence in south west France, but I’d argue that they are a force for good, both in terms of making and marketing the region’s wines, but also helping to preserve its vinous heritage.  More on that in a future post, but this is a wine available here and now that is really worth seeking out.  It combines succulent stone fruit with some pizzazz from grapefruit and is absolutely stunning value for money.

3. Pequenos Rebentos Vinho Verde 2017

Vinho Verde

11.5%, RRP €15.50.  Distributed by Vinostito.  Also see related article here.

There are lots of different Vinho Verde wines available in Ireland, but of the more moderately priced this is the best I have tasted by a margin.  It has fresh citrus fruit, a touch of sea salt and moderate alcohol, but somehow the fruit is so much juicier that in equivalent wines.  However they do it, you have to try it for yourself.

2. Trisquel Series Origen Semillión 2017

Trisquel Semillon

12.5%, RRP €16.99.  Distributed by SuperValu.  Also see related article here.

This wine deserves its inclusion for two entirely different reasons.  Firstly, it’s a very nice and interesting wine that is well worth the price.  Secondly, it introduces a type of wine to Irish supermarkets that I don’t believe has been seen before – skin contact white wine.  It’s a fairly subtle example, such that an average wine drinker wouldn’t be put off by the additional texture and touch of tannins, but it’s a bold move nevertheless.  There’s a big gap between a lot of the wines sold in specialist independents and those sold in supermarkets here, so the bravery is to be commended.

1. Meinklang “Burgenlandweiß” 2017

meinklang burgenlandweiss

11.0%, RRP €19.  Distributed by GrapeCircus.  Also see related article here.

Anyone who has seen my tweets on this wine over the last year or two won’t be surprised by its inclusion or indeed its ranking.  This is a fantastic Austrian blend that does the most important thing: it’s more than the sum of its parts.  Yes I love Grüner Veltliner, and a dash of Muscat definitely enlivens the aromatics; I haven’t tried enough Welschriesling to have an informed opinion but it all works so well together.  And it’s got a price tag that means you don’t have to save it for a special occasion, even if it tastes special!

 


The Frankly Wines 2019 Top 10s:

  • Top 10 Whites
  • Top 10 Fizz
  • Top 10 Value Whites
  • Top 10 Reds
  • Top 10 Value Reds
  • Top 10 Sweets
  • Top 10 Alsace wines tasted in Ireland
  • Top 10 Alsace wines tasted in Alsace
Make Mine A Double, Opinion

SuperValu Italian Red Duo [Make Mine a Double #44]

In edition #43 of Make Mine a Double I reviewed two whites from the forthcoming SuperValu Italian Wine Sale.  Now I look at a couple of reds from Piedmont and Tuscany which will feature in the same even.  In fact, they are by the same pair of producers as the white wines, so you already know the background to the producers.  Below are therefore just some brief tasting notes

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

Ricossa Barbera d’Asti 2016 (13.5%, RRP €12.99 down to €10.00 in the Italian Wine Sale starting 23rd May at SuperValu)

Risocca Barbera D'AstiIt’s a fairly established truism now that winemakers in Piedmont rarely drink Nebbiolo themselves, even if they produce it.  Barbera is the leading candidate to accompany their evening meal, and to be honest it would be mine too.

This is a damned drinkable example from Ricossa.  It shows warm red and black fruit on the nose, especially fresh and stewed plum, plus a sprinkle of chocolate.  This continues through to the palate which shows the same fruits and a touch of chocolate, plus fine tannins and lip-smackingly fresh cherry on the finish.  This is a belter at the normal price, nevermind the special offer!

Castellani Chianti Classico 2016 (12.5%, RRP €15.99 down to €12.00 at SuperValu)

Castellani Chianti Classico

Given the modest alcohol of 12.5% this wine might be considered a lightweight by today’s standards, but it doesn’t feel like it is lacking.  The body is medium or so and it’s an approachable wine where nothing juts out too much; there’s a little bit of tannin, a decent splash of acidity and lots of juicy black fruit – blackberry and black cherry in particular.  There’s a hint of liquorice for the Sangiovese purists but this is more about being a very drinkable wine than being recognisably Chianti Classico.

It doesn’t live up to some of the much more expensive wines which display the Gallo Nero, but if you take it within its price bracket then it will do very nicely.  This would be great with the Friday night pizza or just on its own as a glass to quaff.

 

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

Uncategorized

Alsace in Numbers

As we approach Alsace Wine Week 2019, a reblog of this post seems appropriate!

Frankly Wines

After a successful first #AlsaceWineWeek in Ireland  I thought I’d pick out a few key numbers to give readers a background to the region.

2 Departments

2

The Alsace region is divided administratively into 2 Départements

  1. Haut Rhin (Upper Rhine)
  2. Bas Rhin (Lower Rhine)

4 Noble Grapes

Channel-4-logo

  1. Riesling
  2. Pinot Gris
  3. Gewurztraminer
  4. Muscat (usually Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains)

As a general rule, Grand Cru wines can only be made from one of these noble grapes.

4% of vineyard area is Grand Cru

4-Percent

This compares to approximately 2% of Burgundy being Grand Cru (with a further 12% being Bourgogne Premier Cru).

7 Featured Grapes

7

In addition to the 4 noble grapes above, there are also

  1. Pinot Blanc
  2. Pinot Noir
  3. Sylvaner

These three plus the four noble grapes above are the most commonly seen on wine labels.

13 Total Grapes

13

Apart from the featured grapes there are six others which can legitimately be used…

View original post 337 more words

Tasting Events

Fruit and Balance [Alsace Vault Vol. 1]

cof
Françoise Gilley (L) & Agathe Bursin (R)

Last year, thanks to the generosity of Françoise and Seán Gilley of Terroirs in Donnybrook, Dublin, I had the opportunity to meet one of the young stars of Alsace wine, Agathe Bursin.  And not only meet her, but to have her guide us through a tasting of her wines and then try the wines with the excellent food of Forest Avenue.

Like many people in Alsace, Agathe Bursin had a connection to winemaking when she grew up, although not directly from her parents like some.  In her small infant school she was the only girl along with four boys; that is, four boys who all wanted to be a tractor driver on their family’s vineyards, so it was only natural for the young Agathe to dream of this as well.

Secondly, while her family had been selling their grapes to the local cooperative since 1956, her grandfather did make some small amount of wine for family consumption – and Agathe was fascinated by the equipment and the process.

Fast forward several years to 2000, and she graduated in Oenology, but when her first wines were made back home in accordance with her textbooks, they didn’t feel like her wines at all.  She learnt from this minor setback and took an entirely new approach; stripped back and providing a gentle hand of direction only when required.

Since then she has followed organic and biodynamic practices (though has not sought certification) including the use of herbal teas in the vineyard and only indigenous yeast for fermentation.  Interestingly, it is the yeast present in the cellar rather than the vineyard that usually win the biochemical war that is fermentation.  She neither encourages nor discourages malolactic fermentation, it is simply permitted to happen if it happens.  Thankfully though, it usually happens spontaneously in the red wines and not in the whites.

Agathe’s Domaine now totals around 5.5 hectares, split over the Grand Cru Zinnkoepflé and the Lieux-dits Bollenberg, Dirstelberg, Strangenberg, all around her home village of Westhalten.  The split of varieties is: 5% Muscat, 15% Pinot Gris, 20% Riesling, 20% Gewurztraminer and 20% Sylvaner.  Some of the vines are co-planted – more on which later.

Here are my tasting notes on the wines, with the rider that je ne crache pas les blancs….

mdePinot Noir Strangenberg 2015 is from grapes grown on marl and limestone soil.  The grapes are hand picked then partially de-stemmed (40% – 60% depending on the vintage).  There is no cold soak; fermentation begins in stainless steel tanks with eight days of maceration (longer would lead to the wine being too vegetal) before being transferred into used 228 litre pièces to complete the two months of fermentation.  Maturation is for 20 months.  This Pinot Noir shows bright red and black cherry fruit; it’s a smooth wine that has taken a touch of weight and roundness from its time in oak but very little obvious flavour.

Dirstelberg Riesling 2016.jpgRiesling Dirstelberg 2016 is grown on the highest vineyard in Alsace at 500 metres above sea-level.  The soil is red sandstone, sheltered from the wind but still cool (which Riesling prefers).  The vines are trained as Double Guyot which tends to give small berries.  According to Agathe, with age these wines take on chalky, mineral characters rather than diesel.  At this young age it is racy, nervous and tangy, full of fresh citrus – lime lemon and grapefruit – and orange blossom.

mdePinot Blanc Parad’Aux 2016 is a blend of Pinot Blanc and its close relation Auxerrois.  The former has high acidity (which is why it is so popular in Crémant d’Alsace) whereas the latter is quite floral and has moderate acidity.  The two varieties are co-fermented and the local yeast naturally leaves a little bit of residual sugar (6 g/L) which comes across as roundness rather than sweetness (Agathe believes her indigenous yeast are “quite lazy”).  Soft stone fruits are the order of the day here, with a touch of peach, apricot and nectarine.

mdeL’As de B 2016 is a proper field blend, where the different varieties are all planted in the same plot, are harvested and then vinified together.  Bizarrely, while the different varieties would normally ripen at different times in their own blocks, when planted together they mature together!  The blend is – are you ready for this? – 5% Muscat, 15% Pinot Gris, 20% Gewurztraminer, 20% Riesling, 20% Pinot Blanc and 20% Sylvaner.  The residual sugar for the blend falls between 10 and 20 g/L depending on vintage.  The 2016 shows lots of spice, with the Gewurz and Pinot Gris particularly showing through.   Interestingly, although the blend stays the same from year to year, different grapes seem to come to the fore with each vintage.

mdeL’As de B 2008 shows how well this wine can age – it still shows great freshness as well as development, but is not yet fully mature.  It seems soft and gentle, as though it had settled in to itself with age.

As I speak reasonable French I presumed that “As de B” signified “L’As de Bursin”, i.e Bursin’s Ace, but this is not the case.  The grapes all come from the Bollenberg; the story is that when the blend was first vinified, someone chalked “Edelzwicker” on the tank – the traditional Alsace blend – but as Edelzwicker is not usually a field blend, Agathe didn’t want to use that term.  Instead she preferred “Assemblage de Bollenberg”, but as that was far too long she settled for L’As de B – and the name stuck.

Dirstelberg Pinot Gris 2016.jpgPinot Gris Dirstelberg 2016 is grown on the same red sandstone as the Riesling.  RS is off-dry at 14 g/L which is my preferred style for the grape.  The palate has delicious quince and pear plus exotic spices.  It is rich but nowhere near cloying.

Per Agathe, with age the Pinot Gris Dirstelberg gains notes of smoke, toast and flint – this sounds very intriguing and something I hope to experience for myself in the not too distant future!

mdeGewurztraminer Dirstelberg 2016 is the wine which gave Agathe the most worry.  On the Dirstelberg, Gewurz naturally produces lots of leaves, but as winds tend not to be strong there is a significant risk of bunch rot if they are not trimmed back.  Once harvested, the grapes are given a very gentle pressing over 6 to 8 hours in order to extract only moderate phenolics – this also results in the wine looking somewhat paler than the average young Gewurz.  This is a gentle, restrained Gewurztraminer that really does live up to Agathe’s desire for fruit and balance.  If only more could be like this, I think the grape would have more fans.

mdeRiesling Grand Cru Zinnkoeplé Vendanges Tardives 2015 shows how sweet Riesling can be a magnificent, balanced rapier.  Residual sugar of 65 g/L is the counterpoint to thrilling, racy acidity.

It’s still very young and tangy – and very enjoyable – but has years of magnificence ahead of it.  If I had a case or two, then yes I’d be tempted to dive in now and again, but I think, despite the expletives of joy in my tasting notes, this is one that will be legendary in a decade’s time.

mdeGewurztraminer Grand Cru Zinnkoeplé Vendanges Tardives 2015 is getting on for the longest name of any wine I’ve ever reviewed!  Harvesting took place at the beginning of November, so this is a true Vendanges Tardives.

Obviously sweeter on the palate than the Riesling above – both in terms of higher RS at 89 g/L and softer acidity – this is a mighty fine example of late harvest Gewurz.  Compared to some it’s relatively muted – but as the grape can be such an overblown, blousy, tart’s boudoir, this is not necessarily a bad thing.

 


Post Script: Does Agathe drive a tractor now?  You bet she does!

 

Make Mine A Double, Opinion

Italian White Duo from SuperValu [Make Mine a Double #43]

According to the Celtic calendar, summer starts on 1st May – which is earlier than when summer starts in many other European traditions. It does seem this year that the summer here in Ireland started and finished on the same day, which is quite unusual to say the least. Hopefully the sunshine will return and barbecues will be in action again soon. If you fancy a nice white wine to sip when the sun does return, you could do far worse than this pair from SuperValu, currently in their Italian Wine Sale:

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

Ricossa Gavi 2016 (12.0%, RRP €13.99 down to €10.00 in the Italian Wine Sale starting 23rd May at SuperValu)

Ricossa Gavi

Ricossa have the words “Antica Casa” below their name on wine labels, which (I believe) translates literally as “Ancient House,” but perhaps would be better represented by “Historic House”. Ricossa are based close to the town of Asti in Piedmont (or Piemonte if you prefer) and make wines from the regions’s well known areas – Barbera d’Asti, Barolo and Barbaresco, plus a Barbera Appassimento which is very much en vogue at the moment (or should that be di moda? My Italian is very poor, I apologise!)

Cortese di Gavi is – funnily enough – the DOCG for wines from 100% Cortese made in eleven communes in and around Gavi. Usually just known as Gavi (or Gavi di Gavi if made in the actual commune of Gavi), the wines were granted DOC status in 1974 and then DOCG in 1998.

This is a nice tangy example, with both ripe peach and dry peach stone, flowers, a touch of citrus, and dry herbs. This would be fantastic with a dish using white fish baked with herbs.

Castellani Collesano Vermentino IGT Toscana 2017 (12.5%, RRP €16.99 down to €10.00 in the Italian Wine Sale starting 23rd May at SuperValu)

Castellani Collesano Vermentino

The Castellani family made the move from grape-growers to wine producers in 1903 and haven’t looked back since. They now have a stable of six estates across Tuscany, with Chianti and Chianti Classico being major strengths.

Away from the reds, Vermentino is one of the few white grapes that flourishes in Tuscany. In a broad swathe from Tuscany round to the Languedoc in France – taking in Sardinia on the way – it is well established but with a variety of local synonyms, including: Pigato (Liguria), Favorita (Piedmont) and Rolle (Provence).

This has a lovely nose of aromatic stone fruit, a pinch of spice and a hint of musk. It’s a pleasant easy drinking wine with nice mouthfeel; there’s juicy stone fruit in the mid-palate and a dry but mouth-watering finish.

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

Tasting Events

Tindal Treats (part 1 – Schlumberger)

In the lead up to #AlsaceWineWeek 2019 (starting 20th May) I will be publishing a series of Alsace-related articles – though, given my tastes, that’s not such a big surprise anyway.

The wines of Domaines Schlumberger will be on the Tindal / Searson’s table at the #BigAlsaceTasting on 22nd May – see here for more details.

Earlier this year I dropped in to the Tindal Wines portfolio tasting and tried the wines from several producers, including the excellent Domaines Schlumberger (from the town of Guebwiller in the south of the Alsace wine region) which were being shown by Séverine Schlumberger.  Her commentary was very insightful and has been paraphrased in the notes below.

Most of the land around Guebwiller had been owned by the Prince Abbots of Murbach Abbey – hence the name of the Princes Abbés wines – but it was taken out of their hands during the French Revolution.  Later, the shrewd Ernest Schlumberger added to the family’s holdings by buying up plots in the early 1800s.

carte_schlumberger

The map on the left gives you an idea how steep the hillsides are around Guebwiller – as steep as 50% incline, and coming right down into the town.  The map also highlights the four Grand Cru vineyards of Guebwiller (the only town or village in Alsace to have four, all of which were among the first batch of 25 recognised in 1983); Schlumberger have land across all four amounting to 70 hectares, half of their total holdings.

 

Domaines Schlumberger Les Princes Abbés Alsace Riesling 2014 (12.5%, 2.8 g/L, RRP €22.95 at Searsons, Monkstown; searsons.com)

Domaines Schlumberger Les Princes Abbés Riesling

With its large number of Grands Crus (51), permitted grape varieties (13) and soil types (13), Alsace is complex – but it doesn’t have to be complicated!  With so much choice some sommeliers and retailers don’t even know where to start, but a clean, dry, fruity Alsace Riesling is an excellent place to start.  If there is a dish which partners well with a crisp, dry white wine – think Sancerre, Chablis, Muscadet etc. – then a Riesling such as this “Les Princes Abbés” would also be well suited – it’s dry (2.8 g/L of residual sugar), clean and has zesty lime fruit.

Domaines Schlumberger Les Princes Abbés Alsace Pinot Gris 2016 (13.5%, 9.6 g/L, RRP €22.95 at Searsons, Monkstown; searsons.com; JJ. Fields and Co, Skibbereen)

Domaines Schlumberger Les Princes Abbés Pinot Gris

Alsace Pinot Gris is the ultimate all-rounder at the table – it can partner well with so many dishes – shellfish, fish, chicken, pork etc. – that, if a group are sharing a bottle but eating different foods then this is the one which works best.  The technical analysis reveals this to be very slightly off-dry, but sweetness is hardly noticeable at all – instead, it adds to the roundness and mouthfeel of the wine.

Domaines Schlumberger Les Princes Abbés Alsace Gewurztraminer 2016 (13.4%, 20.4 g/L, RRP €26.95 at Searsons, Monkstown and searsons.com)

Domaines Schlumberger Les Princes Abbés Gewurztraminer

Gewurztraminer is a speciality of Domaines Schlumberger.  This “Les Princes Abbés” is so good that for most restaurants and merchants there’s little point in listing both this and the Grand Cru Kitterlé – it’s one or the other.  This is a very well balanced example of Gewurz – for me, balance is the biggest let down of many Alsace Gewurz wines.  The nose has floral notes but they are not overdone.  On the palate this is clean with a mineral streak but nice roundness.

Domaines Schlumberger ,Alsace Grand Cru Saering Riesling 2015 (14.0%, 4.3 g/L, RRP €31.95 at The Parting Glass, Enniskerry; Daly’s Drinks, Boyle; Searsons, Monkstown and searsons.com)

Domaines Schlumberger Grand Cru Saering Riesling

Schlumberger make three Grand Cru Rieslings; Kitterlé, Kessler and this Saering.  This is the most flexible of the three so tends to be the one picked when a restaurants wants to list a single Grand Cru Riesling.  The 2015 Saering is powerful with 14.0% alcohol but not hot.  Dry, floral and zesty, it has a lovely citrus sensibility with a strong mineral backbone and a long, elegant finish.

Domaines Schlumberger Alsace Grand Cru Spiegel Pinot Gris 2014 (12.4%, 28.4 g/L, RRP €31.95 at Searsons, Monkstown and searsons.com)

Domaines Schlumberger Grand Cru Spiegel Pinot Gris

In Alsace, Pinot Gris grapes destined for inclusion in Grand Cru wines is picked later than that for normal Pinot Gris wines (this was worded very carefully as some fruit from Grand Cru vineyards is used in the second wines).  This gives the grapes higher ripeness but does have a cost; as a grape it has a very short harvest window (between sufficient ripeness and over-ripeness) so needs to be monitored very carefully.  This is a luscious and generous wine, spicy and rich.  It is style unique to Alsace which makes Pinot Gris narrowly my second favourite variety of this amazing region.

 

Opinion, Single Bottle Review

Plaimont Saint Mont “En La Tradition” Blanc 2016 [Frankie’s Single Bottle Review #23]

Producteurs Plaimont are a co-operative wine producing organisation based in south western France.  They produce AOC wines from Madiran, Pacherenc and Saint-Mont plus IGP Côtes de Gascogne.  I won’t go into lots of detail on them here as they will feature in a future article in my series on Co-operatives.

Saint-Mont is a small commune of around 300 people in the Gers department, located in the new Occitanie region of south-west France.  Côtes de Saint-Mont was created as a VDQS in 1981, lost the “Côtes de” in 2007 and was then promoted to AOC in 2011 when the VDQS level was eliminated.  The permitted zone of production is around 1,200 hectares reaching across 46 communes.

Both reds and whites are produced here.  Permitted grapes are:
  • Red wines: Tannat (minimum 60%),  Fer Servadou (minimum 20%), Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • White wines: Arrufiac, Petit Courbu, Petit Manseng and Gros Manseng

Plaimont Saint Mont “En La Tradition” Blanc 2016 (13.0%, RRP €15.95 – €16.95 at Baggot Street Wines, D4; Honest 2 Goodness, Glasnevin; Ardkeen Stores, Waterford; Daly’s Drinks, Boyle, Co. Roscommon)

Plaimont Saint Mont En La Tradition Blanc

Either consciously or subconsciously, many wine enthusiasts think of an inverse correlation between quantity and quality, i.e. if there’s a lot of it, it’s not going to be that good.  This wine smashes that theory as it is anything but small production, yet tastes absolutely delicious!  It’s very aromatic on the nose, with fleshy peach, apricot, mandarin and grapefruit on the palate.  Generous fruit sweetness on the mid-palate gives way to mineral notes and a long, fresh finish.  With fruit, texture and acidity this would be a very flexible wine for food matching.

Opinion, Single Bottle Review

Castello di Ama “Ama” Chianti Classico 2015 [Frankie’s Single Bottle Review #22]

Great wines have been made around the village of Ama for centuries, but the Castello di Ama winery was only founded in the 1970s by a group of local families who were keen to revive the area’s vinous fortunes.  Over the years they developed a significant range of Chianti wines – including several single vineyard wines that became part of the Gran Selezione classification – plus some IGTs including a Pinot Nero and a Chardonnay.

However, a significant milestone was  in 2010 when parts of each of the four vineyards were planted with new, high quality clones of Sangiovese.  As Sangiovese is prone to mutate quicker than many varieties (as in the case with Pinot Noir), a co-ordinated project within the Chianti Classico region was launched to improve the genetic material in the vineyards.  Of course, this cannot be done in a single go without huge quality and cashflow issues so it is done piecemeal.  Once the new vines were old enough to bear good grapes they were harvested and blended into a new cuvée, simply known as “Ama”.

Vineyard Technical Data (from website):

  • Total vineyard area: 80 hectares (198 acres)
  • Vineyard names: Bellavista, Casuccia, San Lorenzo and Montebuoni
  • Exposure: North-West, South-East
  • Soil: clay and calcareous
  • Altitude: 460-525 metres above sea level.
  • Training system: vertical trellis with single Guyot
  • Vine density: 5,200 vines/ha
  • Clone selections (for “Ama”): Sangiovese: CC2000, CC2004, AGRI45; Merlot: 343; Rootstock: 420

Castello di Ama “Ama” Chianti Classico 2015 (12.5%, RRP €32.95 at Karwig Wines and Mitchell & Son)

Castello di Ama

For me there is a lot of ordinary Chianti around (although this could be said for many well-known regions) and the wines can be quite thin and tannic without any fruit to counterbalance.  Despite 2015 being a warm and excellent year, the indicated alcohol of Ama is only 12.5%, which is a touch lighter than I would have expected both before and after tasting it.

Wine Technical Data (assembled from website):

  • Blend: 96% Sangiovese, 4% Merlot
  • 2015 Harvest dates: 22nd September (Merlot), 5th to 8th October (Sangiovese)
  • Yeasts: Ambient yeasts
  • Fermentation time: 25 days (varieties fermented separately)
  • Malolactic fermentation: Yes, in stainless steel tanks
  • Maturation: After blending, in second-use tight-grained oak casks
  • Bottled: January 2017

This is a smooth, quite powerful and spicy wine which is recognisably Sangiovesi and recognisably Chianti but is quite self-assured.  To have these results from such young vines is a testament to the plan of using new clones, the potential of the site and very accomplished wine-making.  After being disappointed too often this has renewed my love of Chianti!