Author: frankstero

Wines at Xmas #8 – Mick O’Connell MW [Guest Post]

For winelovers, Christmas is a time when we look forward to drinking – and even sharing – a special bottle or two.  This might be a classic wine with traditional fare or just something different we’ve wanted to try for a while.  I asked some wine loving friends what they were looking forward to and they have kindly agreed to write a blog post for me.

Mick O’Connell is an Irish Master of Wine working for Findlater & Co, a Wine and Spirits importer with some excellent names in their portfolio.


Roisin Curley Saint-RomainWhile I’ve accumulated a decent enough stash of mature wines through the years Christmas is all about drinking youthful wines from Burgundy – they just go so well with the food.  This year my Christmas day pair will be Le Grappin Beaune 1er Cru Boucherottes and Maison Róisín Curley’s St Romain Blanc both from the stellar 2015 vintage.

This will be a year of the micro negociants for me.  These are young winemakers trying to craft interesting wines from the most hallowed terroir of all, Burgundy.  With the various sales of famous domaines this year for ridiculous sums of cash (Clos de Tart rumoured at approx. €33 million per hectare) being a micro negociant is the only option for a generation of people wanting to create their own Burgundy cuvées.

Róisín is a Mayo native who works in Beaune purchasing fruit and then vinifying them in her own facility. Her St. Romain is fabulous. Linear, precise and mineral with the trademark 2015 lusciousness.  It’s perfect Christmas wine – it works so well with Turkey dinner with all the trimmings and arguably even better with Stephen’s Day Turkey & Stuffing sambos!

le grappin les boucherottes beaune premier cru 2015Andrew and Emma Nielsen are the husband and wife team behind Le Grappin who, like Róisín, are also based in Beaune in the old cellars of Fanny Sabre where Philippe Pacalet also worked.  Their premier cru Beaune Boucherottes is focused, bright and pure – a glass or two of this and I can happily pass on the cranberry sauce aspect and get all my tart, crunchy red berry fruit in vinous form.

Maison Róisín Curley St Romain Blanc 2015:  RRP €51 from Whelehans, Green Man Wines, 64 wines & Wine Library Dun Laoghaire

Le Grappin Beaune 1er Cru Boucherottes 2015: RRP €70 from Green Man Wines

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Wines at Xmas #7 – Jim Dunlop [Guest Post]

For winelovers, Christmas is a time when we look forward to drinking – and even sharing – a special bottle or two.  This might be a classic wine with traditional fare or just something different we’ve wanted to try for a while.  I asked some wine loving friends what they were looking forward to and they have kindly agreed to write a blog post for me.

Jim Dunlop is a canny Scotsman who is seemly always on holiday somewhere – though that somewhere is usually a wine region whether in the Pfalz, northern Italy or the Canaries.


Antoniolo Gattinara 2006Many say Barolo or Barbaresco are the only wines that matter with regards to Nebbiolo but to the north of the Tanaro River and the Langhe, in Piemonte, there lies the Sesia River where both Gattinara and Ghemme are produced.  The wines here are more delicate and balanced than some of the forceful wine produced in the Langhe. This 2006 offering by Antoniolo is, for me, the top of the pile at Gattinara.  A classic red with a fantastic balance in the mouth, liquid velvet and so soothing – just right for a winter’s evening dinner.  This wine ages well, maybe for 10 to 15 years.

Antoniolo Gattinara DOCG 2006 (Piemonte, Italy): Purchased at Winery but similar offerings can be purchased from Tannico UK (Ave Price in UK: £20 to £30)


Riesling Rural trocken Weingut Heinrich Spindler PfalzFor me I always have a decision as to what is my favourite Riesling area, the top two being the Mosel or the Pfalz.  Recently my thinking is to prefer the more rounded style of the Pfalz compared with the austere style of the Mosel.  This offering from Spindler (based at Forst on the Weinstrasse near Deidesheim in the Pfalz) is just gob smacking amazing.  If anything, the 2015 harvest produced a better balance than the 2016.  Loads of Granny Smith on the front of the palate but huge soft fruit with balanced acidity at the rear of the palate and the finish goes on forever.

Heinrich Spindler Pfalz Riesling Trocken 2016 (12.0%): Purchased at the Weinhaus in Kallstadt, but similar offerings can be purchased from The Wine Society (Ave Price in UK: around £11)

Wines at Xmas #6 – Jean Smullen [Guest Post]

For winelovers, Christmas is a time when we look forward to drinking – and even sharing – a special bottle or two.  This might be a classic wine with traditional fare or just something different we’ve wanted to try for a while.  I asked some wine loving friends what they were looking forward to and they have kindly agreed to write a blog post for me.

Jean Smullen has been involved in the Irish wine trade for 26 years, including education, organising generic tastings for multitude of bodies, and communications through newspapers, TV and her radio spot on “Movies and Booze”.


This Christmas I will be drinking something fizzy from Italy that isn’t Prosecco! Franciacorta is a DOCG in Lombardy where they use French grapes to make sparkling wine using the traditional method (second fermentation in bottle The region’s reputation has been built on their outstanding bottle fermented sparkling wines. Franciacorta is Italy’s largest producer of metodo classico sparkling wines.

Remontage in Franciacorta.jpg

The different types of Franciacorta are distinguished by different dosages of liqueur de tirage added after disgorging.  For example, Franciacorta Satèn is a style unique to the region.  This blanc de blanc is made from (mostly) Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco.  A Brut dosage of sugar less than 12 g/l is added and the resultant wine has less atmospheric pressure (4.5 vs the standard 6.0 atm); this means that this unique sparking style has less mousse and a softer finish.

Alma Gran Cuveé Brut

 

Bellavista Alma Cuvée Brut RRP €45.99 at: 64 Wine; Donnybrook Fair, Green Man Wines, Jus de Vine, Terroirs, The Corkscrew, Mitchell & Son, The Wine Centre (Kilkenny), Baggot Street Wines, Clontarf Wines, and Searsons Wine Merchants.

This is made from 80% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Nero, and is a world class sparkling wine, on a par with Champagne, it simply says quality.  The blending process is the key to this wine and hinges on the quality of the Reserve wines they use.  One of the characteristics I found in sparkling wine from Franciacorta is a lovely floral aroma of white flowers, this has that but on the palate it has a soft subtle finish and a lovely gentle mousse.  Bella Vista means “beautiful view” in this case it also means beautiful wine!

Wines at Xmas #5 – Joe Coyle [Guest Post]

For winelovers, Christmas is a time when we look forward to drinking – and even sharing – a special bottle or two.  This might be a classic wine with traditional fare or just something different we’ve wanted to try for a while.  I asked some wine loving friends what they were looking forward to and they have kindly agreed to write a blog post for me.

Joe Coyle is Head of Sales for Liberty Wines Ireland, a wine importer with an impressive portfolio with great coverage of Italy, NZ and Australia in particular.


At Christmas I like to serve a mix of tried-and-tested favourites alongside new wines that have excited me through the year.

CH Brut reserveA firm favourite that I always go back to is the dangerously drinkable Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve.  Charles Heidsieck is one of the most awarded Champagne houses, and it’s not hard to see why.  With at least five years on the lees and 40% reserve wines in the blend, their flagship Brut Réserve is rich and complex.

The nose is characterised by complex pastry aromas, with an opulent combination of ripe apricot, mango and greengages, dried fruits, pistachio and almond.  The palate begins with a silky-smooth sensation, developing into ripe fleshy apricot, melon and enticing plum pastry notes and delicate spice.

There is perfect balance of freshness and generosity.  Plus, the story of Charles Heidsieck, the original Champagne Charlie, includes Atlantic crossings, American high society, Mississippi swamp jails, political intrigue and financial windfalls.  It never fails to entertain!


Casa Ferreirinha Vinha Grande Red 2014This year, my most exciting discoveries have come from Portugal.  Like Liberty Wines’ traditional stronghold in Italy, Portugal has dozens of native grape varieties to explore, from Alvarinho and Loureira in Vinho Verde through the Touriga Nacional based wines in the Douro and Dao to the intriguingly minerally white wines made from Enruzado in Dão.

The flavour profiles of these native grapes varieties are as diverse and exciting in Portugal as they are in Italy.   Perhaps it is this affinity, or just a search for originality and diversity, that drew us to Portugal. I’ll be serving Casa Ferreirinha Vinha Grande Douro Tinto 2015 with dinner this year, its juicy red berry notes and subtle vanilla making it the perfect match with Christmas turkey.

 

 

Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve NV: available at around €65 at O’Briens and independent wine merchants.

Casa Ferreirinha Vinha Grande Douro Tinto 2015: available at around €19.99 at J.J. O’Driscoll Cork, Clontarf Wines. Wine Online

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wines at Xmas #4 – Phil Green [Guest Post]

For winelovers, Christmas is a time when we look forward to drinking – and even sharing – a special bottle or two.  This might be a classic wine with traditional fare or just something different we’ve wanted to try for a while.  I asked some wine loving friends what they were looking forward to and they have kindly agreed to write a blog post for me.

Phil Green is a wine blogger in his spare time under the moniker Phil My Glass, but spends his weekdays as a wine consultant to restaurants and is also currently representing Champagne Perrier-Jouët.


Dreaming of a Red Christmas

Christmas is my favourite time of year.  Not only because of visiting family, time off work and eating more food than you could fit in a supermarket trolley, but also because it’s a great excuse to open one of my bottles of wine that I’ve been keeping stored away.  This year I’ll be cracking into one of my Château Phélan-Ségur 2010 bottles that has been giving me the glad eye all year.

Phelan Segur 2010Château Phélan-Ségur takes its name from original owner, Irishman Bernard Phelan, who acquired Domaine le Clos de Garamey in 1805 and Ségur de Cabernac in 1810. These estates were combined to create Château Ségur de Garamey.  The estate was passed on to Bernard’s son, Frank Phelan in 1841 when Bernard passed away, and Frank renamed the estate as Chateau Phelan Segur.

The reputation of this château exceeds its placing in Bordeaux’s rankings.  Not included in the original classification of 1855, the wine was classified as one of 9 Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnels in 2003 and has been rated highly by critics such as Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson.

Situated in the commune of St Estèphe on Bordeaux’s left bank, the wine shows the trademark power of a Cabernet Sauvignon blend from this area of Bordeaux. The style of the chateau is to be fruit forward and have a good balance of oak.  The last time I tasted this was about 2 years ago and I’m very interested to see how it has developed in a couple of years in the bottle, especially from a great vintage such as 2010.

Wines such as this deserve to be enjoyed with friends and family and be enjoyed slowly over the course of the evening and I will be looking forward to enjoying my bottle on Christmas day!

Château Phélan-Ségur 2010: available from McHughs at €70 (14.0%)

Wines at Xmas #3 – Carol Smaul [Guest post]

For winelovers, Christmas is a time when we look forward to drinking – and even sharing – a special bottle or two.  This might be a classic wine with traditional fare or just something different we’ve wanted to try for a while.  I asked some wine loving friends what they were looking forward to and they have kindly agreed to write a blog post for me.

Carol Smaul is the talented lady behind Gin & Griddle, a food and drink blog which won Food Review Blog of the Year 2017 in the Irish Blog Awards. 


This Christmas we will be in California – LA, Santa Barbara, Palm Springs – before finishing in Seattle.  So there’s no doubt the wines we will be drinking and enjoying over Christmas and New Year will be from the US.  We both love Californian wines, the big Cabernet Sauvignons, bold and smoky Zinfandels, lighter Pinot Noirs and buttery Chardonnays, all typical of the region.

Cali Wines SB at CaliWineFair
Californian wines at the California Wine Fair in Dublin

As we’ll be in Southern California we hope to try homegrown wines from Santa Barbara wine country as much as possible. In Santa Barbara, we plan to do the Urban Wine Trail, sampling wines from local wineries in the town.  We’re excited to discover new wines from this region and will certainly be buying a few bottles to enjoy over the rest of our holiday.

Au Bon Climate Pinot NoirCalifornian wine can be a little more challenging to locate in Ireland than its European counterparts, but it is definitely possible, once you’re willing to pay a little more (excise and tax have not been kind to US wine in Ireland).  Places such as Searsons, Baggot Street Wines, Blackrock Cellars and O’Briens have reasonable selections and always ask in your local off licence or wine shop, particularly if they import their wine.

One of our favourite wines from the Southern California region is from Au Bon Climat, Pinot Noir. It would be a great choice for Christmas, an intense yet light red, with lots of character, earthy and fruity; an ideal accompaniment to the Turkey & Ham.  The Au Bon Climat Santa Barbara Pinot Noir is currently in stock in Baggot Street Wines, priced at €37 (abv 13.5%).

Wines at Xmas #2 – Jérémy Delannoy [Guest post]

For winelovers, Christmas is a time when we look forward to drinking – and even sharing – a special bottle or two.  This might be a classic wine with traditional fare or just something different we’ve wanted to try for a while.  I asked some wine loving friends what they were looking forward to and they have kindly agreed to write a blog post for me.

Jérémy Delannoy is the Director of SIYPS (Sommeliers In Your Pockets), a new online wine retail business in Ireland that offers sustainable wines from boutique producers. 


MoncuitWhen it comes to Christmas we all love Champagne, especially French people like me.  As far as I can remember, in my house Champagne has always been part of Christmas celebrations.  Bubbles contribute to the magic of Christmas time.  In my family, we would enjoy Champagne before and also after our meal.

Here in Ireland it’s not easy to find a good Champagne from a small producer. I do believe this is the perfect one we are all looking for.  Champagne Pierre Moncuit comes from the ‘Côte des Blancs’ subregion of Champagne.  Made with 100% Chardonnay, as one would expect from a Champagne from this particular area.  The south facing slopes give this Champagne a stunning creamy flavour, a soft and tender texture, with a beautiful subtle hint of apple.

Based on this, I would recommend starting the celebrations with this champagne. Champagne Pierre Moncuit “Cuvée H. Coulmet” would make an ideal match with prawns, or with any kind of nibbles.  It will certainly help make a memorable moment while celebrating with friends and family. I am definitely looking forward to opening this bottle on the 25th with my Irish family before we even start dinner. If not before…

Champagne Pierre Moncuit “Cuvée H. Coulmet”: €43 from SIYPS.ie (12.0% abv)

Wines at Xmas #1 – Sam Logan [Guest post]

For winelovers, Christmas is a time when we look forward to drinking – and even sharing – a special bottle or two.  This might be a classic wine with traditional fare or just something different we’ve wanted to try for a while.  I asked some wine loving friends what they were looking forward to and they have kindly agreed to write a blog post for me.

First up is Sam Logan, Copywriter & Social Media Editor of Wines Direct, a family wine wholesale and retail business in Ireland.


Bera Moscato d'Asti 2015When it comes to Christmas, I’m a bit of a Grinch.

I always feel coerced into taking part in the season. Somehow, I always emerge from the season of carols, crowds, and cards with no more than my normal quota of comfort and joy.

Bah Humbug!

However, something I really love about Christmas is that food and drink take centre stage, and normal standards of restraint and decency are temporarily suspended.

Our modern Christmas holidays have their origins in the Roman winter festival of Saturnalia. And the Romans didn’t mess about when it was time for a party. Saturnalia seems to have been a solid week of feasting, including all the fun of non-stop carnivals, gambling and an inversion of social norms.

I do my best to pay homage to the Romans, and my personal Saturnalia always starts with a special, late breakfast on Christmas morning. To classic scrambled eggs on toast, I add a layer of Alpine cheese (this year it’ll be Schnebelhorn or Neufenen) and top it all with Ed Hick’s Bacon Jam. Christmas comes but once a year after all.

Now, this is all very rich and savoury, so I’m going to enjoy it with a glass of Bera Moscato d’Asti 2015. Moscato d’Asti is a wonderful combination of sweetness and sparkles, with enough crisp acidity and blossom aromatics to keep it from becoming cloying. This Moscato d’Asti is a great example of the style with vibrant stone fruit, honey and citrus flavours. It’s delicate, effervescent and absolutely perfect with salty, savoury food. Conveniently, it’s also very low in alcohol at just 5% ABV.

With the spotlight on Dinner, Christmas Breakfast usually gets neglected. I like to start my festivities as I mean to continue and, for me, Bera Moscato d’Asti 2015 is the perfect start to Saturnalia.

Bera Moscato D’Asti 2015: €18.95 from Winesdirect.ie, Wines Direct Shops in Mullingar and Arnotts, Dublin 1

The Fifth Element – Part 5

Fizz and friends from the Quintessential Wines tasting earlier this year:

Druisan Prosecco Colfondo NV (12.5%, RRP €17.95 at Quintessential Wines, Drogheda & quintessentialwines.ie)

Drusian Prosecco Col Fondo

A world away from the cheap and (sometimes not so) cheerful industrial Prosecco which is on special offer in the supermarket, this is an entirely different style of fizz.  Whereas the vast majority Prosecco undergoes a second fermentation in a tank, with colfondo this takes place in the bottle.  Unlike the traditional method there is no disgorgement, so the lees remain in the bottle.

This is much more yeasty and smooth than “normal” Prosecco. With no disgorgement there’s no dosage either, but it really doesn’t miss the addition of sugar.  This is a wine of character, far more interesting than other sparkling wines in this price bracket.

 

Loxarel Refugi Brut Nature Reserva  2013 (12.5%, RRP €33.50 at Quintessential Wines, Drogheda)

Refugi Brut Nature 2013 Loxarel

On to Spain now, and a fantastic Cava made in the Penedès by Loxarel (who also make the natural orange wine reviewed in Part 3).   This is predominantly made from the local
speciality Xarel-lo; the vines are over 70 years old and a portion of the base wine was fermented in 300-litre old oak barrels which adds texture and longevity.  A touch of Chardonnay is included for freshness.  After the second fermentation the wine spends three years on the lees before disgorgement, with no dosage.  In short, this is bloody lovely!  There’s lots of lovely creamy lees character and a dry finish.

 

Vilmart Grand Cellier Brut NV (12.5%, RRP €64.95 at Quintessential Wines, Drogheda)

Vilmart Grand Cellier NV

The final fizz is from France, more specifically Rilly-la-Montagne in the Montagne de Reims subregion of Champagne.  The blend is 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir from two specific parcels: “Les Hautes Grèves” and “Les Basses Grèves”, the upper and lower (river) banks respectively .  Vilmart’s house style involves blocking (or not encouraging) malolactic fermentation for freshness, and ageing the base wines in old, larger-format oak barrels for texture and longevity (through micro-oxygenation).

This is well made, classy, proper Champagne.  There’s a citrus frame (from the Chardonnay) with some red fruit notes (from the Pinot) interwoven.  Biscuit creaminess in enhanced by very fine bubbles and a lively crisp finish.

 

Château de la  Roulerie Coteaux du Layon 1er Cru Chaume Les Aunis 2013 (12.0%, RRP €34.50 at Quintessential Wines, Drogheda)

Le Roulerie Les Aunis Chaume

Sweet Loire wines are one of the most overlooked wine categories (closely followed by most of the rest of the Loire) and hence reasonably priced. Chenin Blanc excels in this role as it can produce high levels of sugar while maintaining balancing acidity.

Château de la Roulerie make three different sweet wines; the standard Coteaux du Layon, Coteaux du Layon 1er Cru Chaume (which is the area just around the village of Chaume) and then this wine from a specific vineyard.  All of them have botrytised grapes, but climbing the quality ladder gives increased concentration.  The perfect balance of sweetness, acidity and oak.  Sauternes, eat your heart out!

 

Quintessential and the Fifth Element

The Fifth Element

So finally, in what is fittingly the fifth part of this series, I can explain the jeu de mots in the title, the relationship between Quintessential and The Fifth Element.  In classical times it was believed that everything in the physical world was made up of a small number of elements.  One version according to Empedocles gave four: earth, water, air and fire.  Plato, Aristole and others added a fifth called (a)ether, also known as quintessence.

Over time, quintessential came to mean the more perfect example of a particular type of thing.  Given how I have described some of Quintessential Wines’ bottles as ethereal, I think it’s a perfectly fitting name!

 

The Fifth Element Series:

The Fifth Element – Part 4

A medley of reds from the Quintessential Wines tasting earlier this year:

 

Bodegas Mengoba Flor de Brezo by Gregory Perez Mencia 2015 (13.0%, RRP 23.95 at Quintessential Wines, Drogheda & quintessentialwines.ie)

 

Mengoba Flor de Brezo

Mencia is definitely a trendy grape at the moment, riding the light red zeitgeist.  It is usually unoaked, fairly moderate in alcohol and high in acidity.  But it isn’t for me – usually!  This is the wine that breaks that rule.  In addition to Mencia it has a good proportion (40%) of Garnacha Tintorera – better known as Alicante Bouschet, a rare teinturier grape with red flesh and juice.

Despite his Spanish sounding name, Gregory Perez is a Bordelais, but he has worked in Bierzo for around fifteen years.  He takes a natural, sustainable approach to his wine making with as little intervention as possible.  This bottle shows how good wines in the area can be.  It shows soft black (and some red) fruit, with a touch of smokiness adding interest.  It’s a supple and approachable wine, with fresh acidity and soft tannins.

 

Mas des Agrunelles Coteaux du Languedoc L’Indigène 2014 (13.0%, RRP €19.95 at Quintessential Wines, Drogheda)

Mas Des Agrunelles L'Indigene

Made by the team of Stéphanie Ponsot & Frédéric Porro, this is a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan, the indigenous grapes of the Languedoc (hence the name!)  Interestingly, among the sites where grapes are selected for this cuvée the plots of Syrah face west and those of Grenache face east.  I would imagine (and I’m happy to be corrected) that this is to tame the Grenache slightly (morning sun tends to have a little less heat) while letting the Syrah ripen more fully with afternoon heat.

This is a powerful, savoury wine which makes you sit up and take note.  It’s fiery and smoky, with black pepper, black fruit and tapenade.

 

Vigne Medaglini Montecucco Sangiovesi L’Addobbo 2013 (14.0%, RRP €24.95 at Quintessential Wines, Drogheda)

vegni-medaglini-l-addobbo-montecucco-sangiovese

Montecucco Sangiovesi is one of the lesser known DOCs in Tuscany – it’s not a variant of Chianti and neither is it a Super Tuscan.  Based in the hills around Mount Amiata in the province of Grosseto, it is a historic region for wine, but agriculture is mixed – olives and cereals are also grown.  Whereas Montecucco Rosso DOC has a minimum of 60% Sangiovesi, this DOC requires a minimum of 85% (in line with EU varietal labelling).

The Vigne Medaglini estate borders the Brunello di Montalcino which augers well.  This bottling is 100% Sangiovesi and has typical varietal notes of red and black cherry, tobacco and liquorice, but softened out by the 15 to 18 months spent in a mixture of barriques and (larger) tonneaux.

 

Mahi Marlborough Pinot Noir 2015 (14.0%, RRP €28.95 at Quintessential Wines, Drogheda & quintessentialwines.ie)

Mahi Marlborough Pinot Noir 2015

A cool climate makes Marlborough a good bet for Pinot Noir, but the first plantings didn’t work out that well as they were often inferior clones and not planted in the most appropriate places.  Lessons have been learned now and there is growing number of producers who are making excellent Pinot Noir.

The first word I wrote on tasting this Mahi Pinot was “woah!” (am I channelling The Drunken Cyclist?  It’s full of supple strawberries and fresh raspberries; despite the 14.0% abv it’s not at all jammy, though it does have considerable body and power behind it – something I tend to associate more with Martinborough and Central Otago than Marlborough.  Definitely one of the best Pinots from the region.

 

Ar.Pe.Pe. Valtellina Superiore Sassella Riserva “Rocce Rossa” 2007 (13.5%, RRP 76.95 at Quintessential Wines, Drogheda)

ArPePe Sassella Rocce Rosse 2007

Ar.Pe.Pe. is one of the most famous producers in the Alpine region of Valtellina, the most northerly wine region of Lombardy.  Nebbiolo is the speciality here, known locally as Chiavennasca but with the higher altitude it is often lighter than the more famous Barolo and Barberesco from Piedmont.

This was the third of three Ar.Pr.Pe. wines shown by Quintessential, and definitely a step or three above the baby brothers (not that they are exactly cheap themselves).  In comparison it is lighter, more delicate, ethereal – just a finer wine altogether.  It still has Nebbiolo’s trademark tannin and acidity – and that’s ten years after vintage – but they are a pleasant framework for the bright red cherry fruit and herbsA stunning wine.

 

The Fifth Element Series: