As any good sci-fi geek knows, 42 is Deep Thought’s Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything, and so it’s fitting that the theme of this 42nd edition of Make Mine a Double is Bordeaux, probably the most important wine region in the world (and definitely the most self-important). Bordeaux was the first wine region I got to know reasonably well and remains the reference for many other country’s red wines.
These two wines are both from the Merlot-dominated right bank, where Cabernet Sauvignon is nearly always a minor player – if it plays a part at all – and Cabernet Franc can play a great supporting role. Saint Emilion is the star appellation on the right bank, with Pomerol less famous but home to the legendary Château Petrus. Fronsac is less well known still, but often offers great value. These two wines are both from the very good but not amazing 2014 vintage – Red Bordeaux 2014s are rated 8/10 by Berry Brothers & Rudd and 7/10 by The Wine Society.
Disclosure: both bottles were kindly provided as samples, but opinions remain my own
Château Clos du Roy Fronsac 2014 (14.0%, €29.95 down to €22.95 at O’Briens)
The name of this producer translates literally as the Castle of the King’s Walled Garden. Horticulture aside for a moment, this is a blend of 85% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc.
The nose is tremendous, with dark fruit (plums, blackcurrants, blackberries), chocolate and spices. The fruit is very ripe on the palate – this is a powerful wine. Fine grained tannins give a satisfying dry edge to the finish. Although still quite young this is drinking magnificently now. At the reduced price it would be worth buying a few and seeing how it evolves over the next decade.
Château Franc-Maillet Pomerol 2014 (13.5%, €42.95 down to €34.35 at O’Briens)
You might just be able to make out “Depuis 1919” on the bottle shot above, as it was started by a soldier returning from the First World War. It has been in the same family since, who now make wines in Pomerol (plus satellite AOC Lalande de Pomerol), and Saint-Emilion (plus one of the four satellite AOCs, Montagne-Saint-Emilion.) The blend is 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc.
The nose is spicy and smoky with red and black fruits. On the palate there is a whole variety of red (red cherry, raspberry, cranberry) and black (plum, black cherry and blackberry) fruits. There are also some subtle vanilla notes from maturation in barrique and ripe tannins.
In my opinion these are two excellent wines that do a great job of representing their appellations and right bank Bordeaux in general. There’s little to chose between them in quality; it’s more a question of a slight difference in style between the power and spice of the Fronsac and the elegance, cherry and vanilla of the Pomerol. Both for me please!
As Roses aren’t my area of expertise I’ve
stolen borrowed some of the classifications from Wikipedia. Of course different species and cultivars are found in different places, depending on local climatic conditions – terroir.
8. Carolinae – white, pink, and bright pink flowered species all from North America.
5. Gymnocarpae – one species in western North America (Rosa gymnocarpa), others in east Asia.
4. Laevigatae – a single white flowered species from China.
3. Pimpinellifoliae – white, pink, bright yellow, mauve and striped roses from Asia and Europe.
2. Rosa (syn. sect. Cinnamomeae) – white, pink, lilac, mulberry and red roses from everywhere but North Africa
1. Synstylae – white, pink, and crimson flowered roses from all areas.
Apologies for anyone expecting wine. Punctuation, grammar and spelling matter – these are Roses not Rosés ;o)
My interest in good and great bubbly is well known, so there are some crackers in my Top 10 Fizz this year. It’s dominated by Champagnes, which reflects both my preferences and the wines that I’ve been able to taste in the last year or so – but try as many as you can and make your mind up for yourself:
10. Champagne Beaumont des Crayères Fleur Blanche 2009
12.0%, RRP €47.00. Distributed by O’Briens.
Co-operative Beaumont des Crayères’ regular bottle is their Grande Réserve NV which is a very acceptable bottle itself, but this vintage Blanc de Blancs is a whole new level. For non-francophones, the name “Fleur Blanche” simply translates as “White Flower” which both hints at its composition and evokes its aromas. The palate shows evidence of extended lees ageing with lovely toasted brioche topped by citrus and stone fruit. 2009 is a very good vintage so this is something that you could lay down and enjoy a bottle every so often over the next decade.
9. Champagne Laherte Frères Extra Brut “Ultradition” NV
12.5%, RRP €53.00. Distributed by GrapeCircus. Also see related article here.
This Champagne is part of the Pinot Meunier comeback (more on which later) – the region’s third grape variety is somewhat unloved as it doesn’t have the cachet of the big two – Pinot Noir and Chardonnay – nor, according to many, the same ageing potential. However, Meunier has plenty of character of its own which can really shine through when it’s done properly as in the hands of the Laherte brothers. The nose evokes flowers but the palate has both red and citrus fruit plus some nice leesy notes.
8. Champagne Leclerc-Briant Brut Réserve NV
12.0%, RRP €62.00. Distributed by Nomad Wines. Also see related article here.
Another Meunier dominated non vintage Champagne with an extra brut dosage, this is a lively, fruity little number that tastes fresh rather than dry – it has lots of red fruit but they tend towards redcurrant and even cranberry, a sign of zippy acidity. Depending on your personal preferences, this could be laid down for several years for it to round out and develop more complexity with bottle age – or just enjoy right now!
7. Champagne Salon Cuvée “S” Le Mesnil 2007
12.0%, RRP €530. Distributed by Pembroke Wines.
Salon is something of a legend in Champagne circles, but amongst regular and even enthusiast wine drinkers it is not well known – mainly down to the very small production volumes and minimal advertising (oh yes, and the price). All the grapes are sourced from one of the Côte des Blancs’ best Grand Cru villages, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger. It’s a special enough place that master blenders Krug released their first single vineyard Champagne from there: Krug Clos Le Mesnil. Salon only produce a single, vintage wine and then only in very good years; 2007 is only the 38th release since the first in 1921, and the 2008 is only going to be released in magnum format (form an orderly queue please). So how is the 2007? Intense, bready, taut, young…almost raw in fact. But the inherent splendour can be guessed at – if you are prepared to wait a while then break open the piggy bank and stash a bottle or two.
6. Arcari + Danesi Franciacorta “Dosaggio Zero” 2013
12.5%, RRP €60. Distributed by GrapeCircus. Also see related article here.
This is the best Franciacorta I have tasted by a country mile. It has no dosage but doesn’t need one – there’s loads of juicy fruit sweetness without any extra sugar. Talking of which, Arcari + Danesi don’t even use sugar or the second alcoholic fermentation, but rather grape juice from their own harvest. If you’ve been underwhelmed by the Franciacortas available where you are (and I was) then this shows you how good they can be.
5. Nyetimber Classic Cuvée MV
12.5%, RRP €61.99. Distributed by Liberty Ireland. Also see related article here.
More and more English sparkling wines are coming to the market each year and the overall quality keeps getting higher, but for me Nyetimber are still top of the pops. So how do they stay ahead of the chasing pack? A relentless drive to improve has made their Classic Cuvée better with each subsequent release. Is there a ceiling? I don’t know, but it will be fun finding out!
4. Champagne Alfred Gratien Cuvée Paradis NV
12.0%, RRP £125.00 (magnum). Distributed in the UK by The Wine Society.
Alfred Gratien doesn’t receive the kudos that some of the big houses do, but their no-nonsense Champagnes have plenty of fans. This is a magnum of their top offering; with several years post-disgorgement it’s on the mature side (which is a good thing) but has plenty of years left (also a good thing). I’ve tried it twice in the past 18 months and it was even better the second time. If you can get your hands on some, do!
3. Champagne Gosset Grand Millésime 2004
12.0%, RRP €95. Distributed in Ireland by Mackenway and in the UK by BBR.
The oldest extant Champagne house, Gosset was founded in 1584 – before Champagne wines were even sparkling. They have a fantastic range, with the Petite Douceur Extra Dry Rosé and Blanc de Blancs also being big favourites of mine. I’ve been lucky to try the Grand Millésime 2004 several times recently and it’s truly magnificent – such finesse and complexity. It’s even found a fan in my dad who doesn’t normally bother with anything sparkling. The blend is 55% Chardonnay and 45% Pinot Noir, neither of which go through malolactic fermentation, preserving freshness. A minimum of six years’ ageing on lees before disgorgement is not as long as some prestige cuvées but helps to generate lots of interesting creamy, nutty and fruity notes. A real treat!
2. Champagne R&L Legras Cuvée Exceptionelle Saint-Vincent 1996
12.0%. Distributed in the UK by BBR. Also see related article here.
While this is also a treat, it’s not for everyone as it is quite mature in style (apparently, some people don’t like mature Champagne – what gives?). But I bloody love it! From the village of Chouilly, this is 100% Grand Cru Chardonnay. Quite tight and structured on release, a dozen or so additional years of bottle ageing have added layers of spice and baked apple onto the citrus and brioche framework. This is mature but far from tired, so don’t be in a hurry to drink it.
1. Champagne Dom Pérignon P2 2000
12.5%, RRP €420. Distributed in Ireland by Edward Dillon; retailed by SIYPS.
Even people quite familiar with Dom Pérignon – it is the best selling luxury cuvée, after all – might not be aware of the house’s P2 and P3 Oenothèque releases. The “standard” or “regular” (how inadequate those words sound!) Dom Pérignon 2000 was released in 2008 after disgorgement the previous year, so after six or so years on the lees. Some of the wines were held back and aged on lees for an additional nine years, apparently the wine’s second peak (or “Plenitude“). The result is not just more autolytic notes, but it’s a turbocharged Dom Pérignon, with nuts, cream, coffee, honey….the list goes on, as it stands as one of the best wines I’ve ever tasted (of any type). Yes, it’s just over double the price of the current release of DP, (around €200) but it’s not that much more than the DP Rosé which I think it is far better than. If you get chance to taste this, you must.
The Frankly Wines 2019 Top 10s:
- Top 10 Whites
- Top 10 Fizz
- Top 10 Reds
- Top 10 Sweet
- Top 10 Value Whites
- Top 10 Value Reds
- Top 10 Alsace wines tasted in Ireland
- Top 10 Alsace wines tasted in Alsace
As I started in the reverse order from normal, part 1 looked at the red wines in Lidl Ireland’s French Wine Cellars promotion and now part 2 looks at the whites. As with the reds, Bordeaux is well represented, but Burgundy also has some decent quaffing whites for your consideration. Here are my brief notes:
Jean Cornelius Alsace Riesling 2017 (12.5%, €9.99 at Lidl Ireland)
I’ve tried and liked previous vintages of this wine. It’s straight-up, straight-forward Alsace Riesling – dry, clean and unoaked, with nice lime and lemon freshness. No, it doesn’t have the concentration of the best producers’ wines, but it makes for a nice mid week sip on its own, or with a big tureen of moules marinères.
Les Celliers du Bellay Touraine Sauvignon 2016 (12.0%, €7.99 at Lidl Ireland)
Ask people to name a Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley and the chances are they will say “Sancerre” or perhaps “Pouilly Fumé”, but the lesser-know appellations such as Touraine can be the source of very drinkable wines too – without the hefty price tags. At €7.99 this really is a bargain – it has more character than you’d expect for €10, never mind €8. Grapefruit is the theme, clean, fresh, juicy and zesty.
Château La Payrère Bordeaux Blanc 2018 (11.5%, €7.99 at Lidl Ireland)
Both the dry and sweet wines of Bordeaux usually feature Sauvignon Blanc, with or without companions Semillon, Muscadelle or even Sauvignon Gris. This dry Bordeaux Blanc has a lovely fragrant nose with green pepper and gooseberry – all suggesting a large proportion of Sauvignon. Fairly light in alcohol, this is another great sunshine sipper or pair with a fancy salad.
Château Rivière Lacoste Graves Blanc 2017 (12.0%, €9.99 at Lidl Ireland)
The Bordelais love drinking white Graves as it means they don’t have to resort to whites from the other place – Burgundy! As with the reds, the best Graves whites are made in the separate sub-appellation of Pessac-Léognan, but the Graves AOC has plenty ot offer. This Château Rivière Lacoste is quite rich for a white Bordeaux – white possibly some Semillon in the blend adding texture and some stone fruit notes.
Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Beaune 2016 (12.5%, €14.99 at Lidl Ireland)
The Hautes Côtes de Beaune – like their counterpart the Hautes Côtes de Nuits – come from the upper slopes of the ridge running down the middle of Burgundy. Most of the “fine wine” is further down the slopes, but climate change and better winemaking has significantly improved the quality of wines from these more exposed areas. The first sniff is greeted with a lovely oaky nose, and a taste reveals great texture and mouthfeel, broad but fresh. It’s very nice now but would benefit from another six months’ rest before being enjoyed.
Collin-Bourisset Mâcon-Villages 2017 (13.0%, €9.99 at Lidl Ireland)
The Mâconnais is the most southerly sub-region of Burgundy proper, and with the more southerly latitude comes more heat and sunshine. This results in wines which are somewhat New World in style – and that’s what we have here. This Mâcon-Villages is quite tropical and broad, but wears no new oak. Swirl this in a big glass and don’t drink too cold.
De Oliveira Lecestre Chablis 2017 (13.0%, €17.99 at Lidl Ireland)
Chablis has a certain cachet so its wines are never cheap. They can be good value, although for me the best value is usually up at Premier and Grand Cru level. AOC Chablis is nearly always unoaked and mineral which this example from De Oliveira Lecestre is, but unlike poor Chablis it isn’t lean or austere. Instead it’s chalky, mineral, and fresh, a great way to try Chablis at a reasonable cost.
Val de Salis Pays d’Oc Chardonnay 2017 (13.5%, €8.99 at Lidl Ireland)
This is the first Chardonnay in this article which isn’t from Burgundy, and it shows – it’s very different in style from all the others above. It has more body and texture, and a definite herbal edge (not uncommon in Languedoc wines). Try with prawns in garlic and herbs, and save a glass for the chef!
Lidl Ireland’s “French Wine Cellars” promotion runs from Monday 25th March while stocks last. It’s not a “sale” as such – rather a group of seasonal wines which are available in limited quantities. First we turn our attention to the reds, with emphasis on Bordeaux and the Rhône Valley.
Château Saint Antoine Bordeaux Supérieur 2016 (13.5%, €9.99 at Lidl Ireland)
The regulations to make Bordeaux Supérieur are not that significant – slightly higher vine density, slightly lower yields and slightly higher minimum alcohol – but when was the last time you saw a Bordeaux wine at less than 10.0% abv? I remember some as low as 11.0% in the early nineties but that rule is largely irrelevant now. This is modern, approachable Bordeaux, with lots of black fruit and liquorice. There’s a touch of leather and soft tannins, but this is not austere. Would be perfect for steak, but quaffable on its own if decanted.
Baron de Portets Graves 2016 (13.5%, €9.99 at Lidl Ireland)
Graves in part of Bordeaux’s lower left bank, and was in fact making great wines before the Médoc was drained by Dutch engineers. The best areas of the Graves were sectioned off into a new appellation – Pessac-Léognan – in 1987, leaving the remaining area as more everyday producers. And I don’t think I’m being unfair in calling this Baron de Portets an everyday wine – it’s only a tenner after all – but it’s far better than I’d expect from left bank Bordeaux at this price. It’s seductive and smooth with lots of black fruit and a touch of red. A hint of liquorice on the finish keeps it on the savoury side.
Château Fonguillon Montagne-Saint-Emilion 2015 (13.5%, €11.99 at Lidl Ireland)
Although this is from one of Saint-Emilion’s four satellite appellations (there’s another in this offer which wasn’t to my taste), it’s very well put together – the full Saint-Emilion experience. Dominated by Merlot, it boasts rich plum and blackberry fruit balanced by soft tannins. Château Fonguillon is quite a mouthful (yes, in both senses), but it’s not jammy and is definitely worth a try.
Château Haut-Plaisance Montagne-Saint-Emilion 2016 (14.0%, €12.99 at Lidl Ireland)
If ever a wine had a promising name, Château “High Pleasure” would be it. And it is a pleasurable wine – fruit forward with quite a bit of oak (some may prefer to let it breathe properly before drinking). Blackberry, damson and plum are the order of the day, but fresh and with a streak of acidity. Great value for money.
Château Saint-Rémy Fronsac 2017 (14.5%, €11.99 at Lidl Ireland)
Just north of the right bank’s leading town, Libourne, Fronsac is one of the best value appellations within Bordeaux. Château Saint-Rémy has 17 hectares of vineyards which follow the normal patterns of right bank wine: 80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a ripe, thick and rich red wine, though there’s no heat on the finish that the 14.5% (!) alcohol might imply. It’s not everyone’s idea of Bordeaux, but as a bridge between France and the new world it works a treat!
Clos des Batuts Cahors 2017 (13.0%, €9.99 at Lidl Ireland)
Cahors and its “black wines” are the original home of Malbec, though the variety is also found in Bordeaux, the Loire Valley and – most famously – Argentina. In the past Cahors wines have needed some time in bottle before drinking, but this is a very drinkable example. It’s mid weight rather than hefty, clean and full of red and black fruit. Tannins are present and correct but not too dry. This will do well at summer barbecues, if we get a summer this year…
Cru des Côtes du Rhône Vinsobres 2017 (14.5%, €9.99 at Lidl Ireland)
Vinsobres is one of the more recent Rhône areas to be promoted up to a Cru – in 2006 in fact. It still isn’t that well known which means that there are some bargains to be had. AOC rules stipulate minima of 50% Grenache and 25% Syrah and / or Mourvèdre, so expect big and bold fruit – and that is exactly what we have here. Tannins are fairly low and acidity is reasonable (the Grenache component is probably over 60%) so this is a very approachable wine. Give me more!
Dame de Clochevigne Rasteau 2017 (14.0%, €9.99 at Lidl Ireland)
This is not a terribly complex wine, but it’s juicy and quaffable – nice enough to crack open on a school night with dinner or out on the patio now that we’re getting a bit of a stretch in the evenings. The breakdown of grape varieties isn’t given, but being southern Rhône it’s highly likely to be a GSM – and given its flavour profile the emphasis is very much on Grenache.
Gigondas 2017 (14.5%, €16.99 at Lidl Ireland)
Gigondas is considered second in the southern Rhône hierarchy – after Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but doesn’t have the latter’s instant recognition – or price tags to match. This is, however, the most expensive red in Lidl Ireland’s offering, though still fairly modest by independent wine shop standards. It’s cossetting and smooth, quite a cozy wine in fact (if that term means anything to anyone). It’s not light but it does have a touch of sophistication and elegance. This is how southern Rhône reds should be, and it’s well worth the premium on the others above.
It’s awards season, with the Golden Globes and Oscars over it’s now time for the Frankly Wines Top Tens. So here we go, kicking off with 10 fantastic white wines that I have really enjoyed in the past 12 months, and you should try to get hold of if you haven’t already:
10. Luigi Baudana “Dragon” Langhe Bianco 2017
14.0%, RRP €23.99. Distributed by Liberty Ireland. Also see related article here.
This wine could well have topped the list on the Frankly Wines Top Ten Value Whites, such is the bang you get for your buck, bitcoin, or other currency of choice, but for me it’s just a great wine full stop. To stand out amongst the Langhe’s great reds is a great achievement.
9. Chalk Hill McLaren Vale Fiano 2017
12.0%, RRP €21.95. Distributed by Tindal Wine Merchants. Also see related article here.
McLaren Vale is one of the key Australian regions where Italian varieties are being treated seriously, not just as a novelty but as a serious alternative to international (i.e. French) varieties. Mandrarossa’s Sicilian Fiano was a revelation when I first tried it a few years ago, but Chalk Hill have pushed the bar even higher. Try this tropical citrus beauty and you will become a convert too.
8. Ovum Wines Oregon Big Salt 2017
12.9%, RRP €33.95. Distributed by Le Caveau. Also see related article here.
In my notes below I state that there are no Alsace wines in my Top 10 whites this year, and while that is true it does not preclude Alsace-style whites from elsewhere. The long, cool growing season of Oregon’s coast is perfect for aromatic varieties: Muscat, Riesling and Gewurztraminer combine elegantly to make Oregon’s very own Gentil.
7. Domaine Marc Sorrel Hermitage Blanc “Les Rocoules” 1999
14.5%, RRP €98.45. Distributed by Karwig Wines.
Producers who make wine in Hermitage number less than a score so it is something of a rarity (especially compared to Crozes-Hermitage); the whites are rarer still. They can be made from any combination of Marsanne and Roussanne, with the former usually dominant or alone. Marc Sorrel is a modest man who makes wines that aren’t flashy, but very long-lived and interesting. This is from a single plot called Les Rocoules; it is intensely aromatic with herbs, elderflower and honeysuckle on the nose. The palate is a little drier than expected but reflects the herbs and honey notes of the nose. It’s round and savoury – obviously well developed at twenty years old – with an interesting tang and even some crisp green vegetal notes. White Hermitage is rare enough, but to try a two decade old single vineyard wine is a real treat.
6. Au Bon Climat “Wild Boy” Santa Barbara County Chardonnay 2017
13.5%, RRP €39.95. Distributed by Berry Bros & Rudd. Also see related article here.
Jim Clendenen is rightly a legend of Californian wine, particularly those made from Burgundian varieties, so it’s fitting that a god-like portrait appears on the front label of this wine. This wine has a slightly different sensibility to ABC’s regular bottlings, best summed up by the legend (in the other sense) at the bottom of the label:
Instructions to winemaker: I said “Hey dude, Make a wine on the Wild Side”
5. Domaine Stéphane Ogier Viognier de Rosine 2016
12.5%, RRP €31.95. Distributed by Tindal Wine Merchants.
Viognier almost disappeared in the 20th Century, with just a small amount left in Condrieu. It is now planted in many parts of the Rhône and further afield in California, Australia and elsewhere. This wine is from the northern Rhône but outside the boundaries of the Appellation Controllée areas, making it an IGP. Such is the quality of the terroir at Rosine and the wines made there, that I reckon it might well gain an AOC of its own in the future. This is textbook Viognier, full of rich apricot, peach and pineapple fruits, and better than many more expensive Condrieus.
4. L.A.S. Vino Margaret River Chardonnay 2016
13.5%, RRP €59.99. Distributed by Liberty Ireland. Also see related article here.
When we think of “natural” or “low intervention” wines we often think of the new wave of winemakers in Europe who have rejected the use of excessive chemicals in the vineyard and reverted back to their grandfathers’ methods. In my eyes, Australia didn’t have the same issues, partly due to a drier climate and partly due to a more technical approach in bigger vineyards. However, the focus on making wines that are consistent (vintage indifferent) and technically correct (starbright, clean, no trace of brett or VA) has sometimes encouraged wines which are lacking in character.
This Margaret River Chardonnay has character for days!
3. Rafael Palacios Valdeorras “As Sortes” 2016
14.0%, RRP €46.00. Distributed by Vinostito.
From the famous Palacios Spanish winemaking family, Rafael Palacios is the “God of Godello”, based in Valdeorras, Galicia. He takes the grape to heights that have to be tasted to be believed, with low yields from seven plots totalling only 4.6 hectares and judicious use of oak. There is tropical , soft stone and citrus fruit, all elegantly framed by a mineral, saline streak. This is the type of wine which appeals to lovers of Chardonnay and Albariño alike.
2. Domaine JB Ponsot Rully “En Bas de Vauvry” 2016
13.0%, RRP €29.90. Distributed by Nomad Wines. Also see related article here.
Rully is on the rise – as land in the Côte Chalonnaise is significantly cheaper than the Cote d’Or (for now, at least) more vineyards there are getting serious attention and investment. If you want excellent white Burgundy without a second mortgage, this is for you.
1. Julien Brocard La Boissonneuse Chablis 2017
13.0%, RRP €28.45. Distributed by O’Briens. Also see related article here.
When whittling down my longlists to get to the shortlists of ten wines, quality considerations are paramount – balance, concentration and complexity, for example. This wine has all those, plus something else – it redefines how good a certain type of wine can be – in this case AOC Chablis. There’s a long established hierarchy in Chablis with Petit Chablis at the bottom, then Chablis, a multitude of Chablis Premiers Crus with the seven (or eight, depending on who you ask) Grands Crus at the top – but this wine’s vast array of aromas and flavours show that, with care and dedication, anything is possible.
The bar for AOC Chablis has been significantly raised. The rest of Chablis – it’s over to you!
As this is the first of my Top 10s to be published, I first ought to mention a few obvious things:
- The timing of the articles is better in the first quarter of the new year rather than racing to get them all done at the end of a year, hence no 2018 edition.
- There will be no Alsace wines in the “Top 10 Whites” or “Top 10 Value Whites” categories – but do not adjust your sets, Alsace wines will have their own dedicated pieces.
- These lists are entirely subjective and are based on my personal opinions of the wines I’ve tasted, not an inclusive list of the best wines in the world (funnily enough I didn’t get sent any DRC or Bordeaux First Growth samples this year), so if you think there are obvious errors or omissions then please feel free to write about your own favourites on your own blog.
The Frankly Wines 2019 Top 10s:
- Top 10 Whites
- Top 10 Fizz
- Top 10 Reds
- Top 10 Sweet
- Top 10 Value Whites
- Top 10 Value Reds
- Top 10 Alsace wines tasted in Ireland
- Top 10 Alsace wines tasted in Alsace
How does the 2019 edition of Wilson on Wine compare to the first from 2015? Well it’s a different colour for a start, but the changes have been subtle improvements with each edition. The indices in the back are very helpful, so you can look up particular wines or see which wines are listed from your favourite wine merchants. For the first time there’s a natural wine section – wines that can be a little different so might not suit the unprepared – but what better way to prepare than having someone recommend a few!
Part 1 looked at the wines we tasted that were particularly good value for money; now we look at some which were just exceedingly good:
Granzamy Brut Champagne NV (12.0%, RRP €34.95 at O’Briens)
This Champagne has a few unusual facets considering its distribution through a multiple retailer:
- It’s a “Grower Champagne”, i.e. the grapes used are the producer’s own rather than being bought in (see this post on Champagne types for more background).
- It’s made from 100% Pinot Meunier, the third Champagne grape which is often unfairly looked down upon.
- It’s totally delicious!!
Granzamy fully deserves its normal price of €34.95 but is sometime on promotion at €5 or even €10 less, making it an absolute steal. When Champagnes are discounted this low they aren’t usually that nice, but this is an exception. Looks out for promotions and fill your boots!
Gaia Wild Ferment Assyrtiko 2016 (13.0%, RRP €24.95 at O’Briens)
Gaia’s Wild Ferment Assyrtiko is a regular on Frankly Wines and the 2016 vintage is now singing sweetly. It manages to reflect both its volcanic and maritime origins with thrilling acidity and soft stone fruit. As always, the Wild Ferment makes itself known through an attractive funkiness on the nose. The simpler little brother Monograph gives a good introduction to the grape, but this is still one of the finest examples I’ve tried.
Stonier Mornington Peninsula Chardonnay 2016 (13.5%, RRP €26.95 at O’Briens)
The Mornington Peninsula is one of the most southerly wine regions in mainland Australia, giving cool conditions which are great for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. For me, this wine is the proof that natural wine is not the only way to make good wine. I do like plenty of wines which are considered natural, but judicious intervention in terms of wine making choices can add interest, without artificial chemicals in the vineyard or winery. The grapes are sourced from different sites around the region, and then around half (from the coolest sites) are allowed to go through malolactic fermentation which softens and rounds the wine. Some oak is used in various formats, but only 15% is new.
With its struck match reductive funky nose and fleshy citrus mouthfeel, this is the sort of wine that would have a €60+ price tag on it if it was from Burgundy!
Weingut Rabl Grüner Veltliner Käferberg 2015 (13.5%, RRP €24.95 at O’Briens)
I like “regular” Grüners, whether from Austria, New Zealand or elsewhere, but special ones like this make a really good ambassador for the grape. It has texture, richness and a depth of flavour that place “Beetle Mountain” ahead of the rest. For Alsace fans this has quite a lot in common with a superior Pinot Gris (perhaps one from Kaefferkopf which is “Beetle Head”). I’d be very interested to see how this develops over the next half decade or so, but to be honest it’s so delicious now I don’t think I’d be able to keep my hands off it!
Domaine Tempier Bandol Rouge 2014 (14.5%, RRP €39.95 at Karwig Wines)
Bandol is one of the most famous Provence AOCs and Domaine Tempier have been a leading producer since the nineteenth century. Red, white and rosé are produced, but here we focus on the red, Mourvèdre dominated but augmented by a little Grenache and Cinsault. Bandol is the only place in France with enough sun and heat to properly ripen Mourvèdre, and boy does it show – there are intensely concentrated black and red berries bursting out of the glass, and lifted, spicy aromatics. This is a wine which could last decades but is already really special.
It has become something of a tradition at DNS Wine Club for one of our events every year to be a fun event based on Irish Times wine columnist John Wilson’s annual book, “Wilson On Wine”. Here’s the post I did on our first such event back in 2015 which explains how it works in more detail. If you have a wine tasting / drinking group of six or more people then I highly recommend giving it a go.
For the first time, DNS were joined by the main man himself. John is a complete gentleman, and was unfailingly polite despite the far-fetched tales told about each wine by the club (which is all part of the fun of “call my wine bluff”). As I was keeping tight control of the answers he was left to guess the wine along with the rest of the gang, but of course he was spot on every time.
This first article will focus on the less expensive wines which shone on the night – all of course featured in Wilson On Wine 2019.
Aldi Exquisite Collection Crémant du Jura 2014 (12.0%, RRP €11.99 at Aldi)
This fizz will be familiar to many as it’s a reliable, great value for money crémant which is perfect for parties. So much so, in fact, that it has appeared in every edition of Wilson On Wine to date. During our tasting it suffered from following a more sophisticated (and more expensive) Champagne, but I’d rather drink this than the vast majority of Prosecco on the market.
Pequenos Rebentos Vinho Verde 2017 (11.5%, RRP €15.50 at Baggot Street Wines and other good independents)
For me Vinho Verde usually falls into one of two categories – cheap and cheerful blends of local grapes or slightly more serious varietal Alvarinho, with the latter coming from the premium subregion of Monção & Melgaço. This is one of the cheap and cheerful types in terms of price and grapes, but for me rises above its lowly origins. The typical citrus and saline notes are present, but the fruit is so damn juicy! It has a certain je ne sais quoi which makes it one of the best Vinho Verdes I’ve ever tried.
Bairrada Messias Bairrada Selection 2014 (13.5%, RRP €12.65 at Karwig Wines)
Here we have another inexpensive Portuguese wine which rises above its modest origins. In decades past Bairrada was mainly a source of rough and ready bulk wine that was sold by the carafe in restaurants, but like many “lesser” European wine regions, quality has increased significantly with modern equipment and a firm eye on quality. The clay soils here are best known for the Baga grape, but this wine is actually more of a Douro (or Port) blend as it’s made with Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz (aka Tempranillo), Touriga Nacional and Tinta Barroca. Red and black fruits abound, but again with a nice dash of acidity. This is a really well put together wine that I’d be happy to drink any time of the year.
Ingata Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2017 (12.5%, RRP €18.00 at Baggot Street Wines and other good independents)
Outside of a few brands such as Villa Maria and Brancott Estate, less expensive Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is something I tend to avoid. It tends to be overly aromatic and intensely acidic – it gets plenty of attention with the first few sips but even a second glass is often too much. Trading up to the likes of Tinpot Hut, Mahi or Greywacke more than pays back the price differential. Here is one that breaks the mold -it’s a true but gentle expression of Marlborough Sauvignon, with all its components in balance. In fact, this is even worth a try for folks who “don’t like New Zealand Sauvignon” -they might be pleasantly surprised
Apart from the Aldi Crémant I hadn’t tasted any of these wines before, yet they really shone above and beyond their price tags. That’s one of the real positives of being able to rely on someone pre-tasting wines for you!
The Irish wing of supermarket Lidl kicked off their Valentine’s Wine Sale on Monday 11th February. Like their French and Italian wine sales which I have covered previously, these events aren’t price reduction but rather the introduction of a number of wines for a limited time, usually until such time as the finite stocks run out.
The Valentine’s range consists of five sparkling, eleven white and eleven red; the vast majority are Italian with a sprinkling of new world representatives from the USA, Canada, South Africa and Chile. Below I review a sparkling and a white from
Disclosure: both wines kindly supplied as samples, opinions remain my own
Gewürztraminer Südtirol / Alto Adige 2017 (14.0%, RRP €12.99 at Lidl)
If you aren’t familiar with the geopolitical landscape of northern Italy then this wine might be a touch confusing, but in reality it makes perfect sense. Alto Adige is the Italian name for the Alpine province which borders Austria – and was indeed in Austria (and predecessor entities) from the 9th century until 1919. The German name Südtirol makes perfect sense when we consider that the Austrian state immediately north of it is Tirol, divided into Nordtirol and Osttirol.
One of the municipalities in Alto Adige/Südtirol is Tramin, the birthplace of the Traminer grape (aka Savagnin) which mutated to become Gewürztraminer – the grape we have here.
Aroma-wise, this shows rose and elderflower with a suggestion of sweetness, and yes there is a little Turkish Delight if you go looking for it, though the nose isn’t overblown compared to many (phew!) The palate is surprisingly dry, though not when the abv of 14.0% is taken into account. There’s plenty of texture and soft stone fruit; in fact, this wine is not a million miles away from a white Rhône blend.
My preferences when it comes to Gewurz are off-dry or sweeter, so this isn’t my favoured style. However, for those who prefer a dry style this is well worth a try.
Nure Moscato d’Asti 2017 (5.5 %, RRP €11.99 at Lidl)
Piedmontese wine is best known for the Nebbiolo-based Barolo and Barbaresco plus supporting acts Barbera and Dolcetto, but the Muscat-based sparklers Asti (Spumanti) and Moscato d’Asti also show a lot of character. It’s the latter we have here, with very low alcohol and lots of sweetness. In Piedmont it’s often drunk as a palate-cleanser after savoury food and then with dessert. Of course Muscat is one of the few varieties that smell or taste of grapes, but there’s also a spiciness or muskiness to it. When well made there is acidity to balance the sweetness, and that makes this example absolutely delicious! It’s not the most complex Moscato d’Asti I’ve tried but it’s fantastic value for money and guaranteed to put a smile on your face.