Make Mine A Double, Opinion

Attractive Opposites [Make Mine a Double #46]

Despite its fall out of fashion with the Sauvignon [Blanc] and Pinot [Grigio] set, Chardonnay remains one of the great grape varieties of the world.  It is beloved of winemakers who love to use their skills to craft something beautiful, yet it is also a transparent grape when the winemaker lets the terroir do the talking.

Here are a tasty pair of Chardies made in very differerent styles from opposite ends of the earth, northern Burgundy and northern New Zealand.

Disclosure: both of these bottles were kindly provided as samples, but opinions remain my own.

Jean-Marc Brocard Petit Chablis 2018 (12.5%, €22.95 down to €17.95 until 1st Sept 2019 at O’Briens stores)

Jean Marc Brocard Petit Chablis

Regular readers may remember that Julien Brocard’s Chablis La Boissoneuse was the Frankly Wines Top White of 2019; when Julien joined the family firm he was allowed to treat that vineyard as a special project and hence it has his name on.  Even though he now runs the whole firm he has left all the other wines as Jean-Marc Brocard, including this organic Petit Chablis.

AOC Petit Chablis is for Chardonnay made from vineyards around Chablis which have Portlandian soil compared to the Kimmeridgian soil of Chablis and its Crus.  This is treated in more detail in Rosemary George MW’s excellent Third Edition of The wines of Chablis and the Grand Auxerrois (review in the pipeline) but the difference is not huge.

It may not have the status of a Chablis proper but deserves respect in its own right.  If well made (an important qualifier), Petit Chablis is an attractive, unoaked and fruit-driven wine, and that’s exactly what we have here.  It’s a fresh, zippy wine but smooth at the same time.  It offers lemon, lime and grapefruit notes with a hint of exotic fruit.  Definitely recommended!

Man O’War Valhalla Waiheke Island Chardonnay 2016 (13.5%, €32.95 down to €29.95 until 1st Sept 2019 at O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie)

Man O War Valhalla Chardonnay

And now to another hemisphere, a country more famous for Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, but where Chardonnay makes compelling wines in pretty much every region: New Zealand.  The Man O’War winery is based on the eastern coast of Waiheke Island, which is close to Auckland.  The legend is that:

It was along this coastline that Captain James Cook came to anchor during his first voyage around the islands of New Zealand in 1769. Upon sighting the ancient stands of magnificent Kauri trees ashore, Cook noted in his journals that they would make ideal masts for the Man O’ War warships of the Royal Navy. Thus the name Man O’ War was bestowed upon this unique land.

Valhalla is a premium Chardonnay in the Man O’War range, made from selected barrels which house grapes from hilltop volcanic vineyards (giving finesse) and some on sheltered clay slopes (which give power).

The grapes are hand harvested and pressed in whole bunches before undergoing a wild yeast fermentation without temperature control.  After alcoholic fermentation, malolactic fermentation is blocked to preserve freshness.  Maturation takes place in a mix of new and used French oak puncheons – for 2016 this was 36% new and 64% seasoned.

While many wine drinkers expect new world wines to be very similar from year to year, most of New Zealand does experience vintage variation.  Just as in Europe, the key is to make the best possible wine each year given the raw materials that nature provides.  The alcohol on this wine proves the point: for 2016 it is 13.5% but has been a whole point higher in other years.

It pours quite golden in the glass which gives a good clue as to what you’re getting into.  The powerful nose has ripe citrus and pineapple cubes, and there’s no doubt that oak has played a part.  The citrus is joined by fleshier fruit on the palate, but still balanced by a streak of acidity.  The decision to block malo means there is no butteriness, and while I like that in some wines it would be overpowering and out of place here.  At around three and a half years from harvest this 2016 is absolutely singing, but would be enjoyable for several more years to come.  Truly a wine fit for a feast with the gods!

 

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

 

 

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Make Mine A Double, Tasting Events

Pink Fizz [Make Mine a Double #45]

Although my favourite rosés are often Champagnes, my favourite Champagnes aren’t often rosés.  If you followed this then you will realise that it takes a very good pink fizz to get my recommendation – and here are TWO stunners I tasted chez Tindals earlier this year:

Champagne Gremillet Brut Rosé NV (12.0%, RRP €50.00 at Searsons)

Champagne Gremillet Brut Rose NV

Champagne Gremillet is situated in the Côte des Bar, the most southerly of Champagne’s subregions which lends itself to Pinot Noir dominated wines.  It was founded by Jean-Michel Gremillet in 1979, now joined by his children Anne and Jean-Christophe.  They have 33 hectares of their own vines, split 85% Pinot Noir and 15% Chardonnay, and purchase grapes from around 80 other growers each harvest.

This rosé is from their “entry level” range, if there is such a thing in Champagne.  As you’d expect it is Pinot dominant, with the blend being 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay.  The colour comes from the addition of 10% red wine, and 20% of the total is from reserve wines of several prior vintages.  The blend spends at least 22 months on the lees and dosage is fairly standard at 9g/L. This is a lovely, soft rosé that is neither too acidic nor too sweet, but shows bright red and black fruit in a very approachable Champagne.  For the quality in the bottle this is a real bargain.

Champagne Henriot Brut Rosé NV (12.0%, RRP €80.00 at Searsons)

Champagne Henriot Brut Rose NV

Champagne Henriot are more than a Champagne house – they also own Bouchard Père et Fils (Côte de Beaune), William Fèvre (Chablis) and Villa Ponciago (Beaujolais).  Based in Reims, Henriot are known for their Chardonnay-dominant wines (their Blanc de Blancs is fantastic) mainly sourced from chalk soils.

The Brut Rosé is a blend of Montagne de Reims Pinot Noir (50%) and Meunier (10%) with the balance (40%) Chardonnay; around 12% of red wine is included.  70% of the grapes are from Grand or Premier Cru villages, and reserve wines make up 35% of the blend. Maturation on the lees is for three years with dosage at 9g/L or less.

The nose shows abundant lifted aromas of citrus and red fruits.  On the palate it is very gentle, perhaps not as immediate as the Gremillet, but instead elegance personified.  Juicy grapefruit and lemon are joined by fresh raspberries and strawberries – very delicious indeed!

 

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

 

 

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.

 

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**

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**

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!

 

Opinion

In Praise of Co-operatives – Part 2 – Produttori del Barbaresco

Very few co-operatives are talked about in the same revered tones as Produttori del Barbaresco (“Producers of Barbaresco”, known as “Produttori” for short).  They have something of a cult following, and in good vintages their nine single vineyard (or “Cru”) Riserva wines are eagerly anticipated.

In fact, the single vineyard wines are only released when the winery believe that all nine are deserving of an individual release, otherwise the wines are blended into the Barbaresco DOCG (and, I’d imagine, some of the grapes which would go into that wine in a good year are declassified down into Langhe Nebbiolo).  That doesn’t mean that every single grape from those Cru will go into the Riserva wines; there is strict quality control.

The family name of each grower is included on the back label of each single vineyard wine (see below), even if there is an odd year where their grapes are not included for some reason.  As some of the owners’ surnames are the same there might appear to be some who own land in several different Crus!

Key Facts:

  • Founded: 1958
  • Location: Barbaresco, Piedmont, Italy
  • No. of members: 50*
  • Grape varieties: Nebbiolo (100%)
  • Vineyard area: 250 acres / 100 hectares
  • Annual production (typical): 550,000 bottles / 45,000 cases
  • Labelled as (in good vintages):
    • Barbaresco (50%)
    • Single vineyard Barbarescos (30%)
    • Nebbiolo Langhe (20%)

A crucial fact about the whole winemaking process is that grapes from all nine single vineyards are treated the same, so that terroir rather than winemaking is the distinguishing factor.  For the 2013 vintage the following applies to the Crus:

  • Vinification: fermentation at 30°c (85°f), 28 days of skin contact time, malolactic completed
  • Ageing: 36 months in large oak barrels and 12 months in bottles
  • Bottling date: April 2017
  • Longevity: 20 years from the vintage

Below are brief tasting notes from the full range of wines supplemented by some relevant information from the Produttori website and a concise** overall summary of each Cru by Managing Director Aldo Vacca.

Produttori del Barbaresco, Langhe Nebbiolo 2015 (14.5%, RRP €28)

Langhe Nebbiolo

Website info:

  • Soil: limestone and clay, rich in calcium with sandy veins
  • Vinification: fermentation in concrete tanks at 28°C (83°F), 24 days on the skins, pumping over twice a day, malolactic fermentation completed
  • Ageing: in large oak barrels (25, 35 and 50 HL)
  • Bottling date: September 2017
  • Total production: 100,000 bottles (8,500 cases)

The Langhe Nebbiolo is made from lighter grapes across the 100 hectare estate, especially from younger vines or those with a less directly southerly aspect.  Quite floral on the nose, it shows lots of soft red fruit on the palate, particularly fresher red berries such as cranberry and raspberry.  The finish has plenty of tannin to remind you that you’re drinking Nebbiolo, but this is an approachable style and a great starting point for the estate.

Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco 2013 (14.0%, RRP ~€45)

Barbaresco 2013

Website info:

  • Vineyard exposure: south, west, east
  • Soil: limestone and clay, rich in calcium with sandy veins
  • Vinification: in stainless steel tanks, at 30°C (85°F), 28 days on the skins, pumping over 2-3 times a day, malolactic completed
  • Ageing: 24 months approx.
  • Bottling date: April 2016
  • Total production: approx. 220,000 bottles
    (18,500 cases)

This regular (non “Riserva”) Barbaresco is a midway point between the Langhe Nebbiolo and the single vineyard wines.  The texture is super smooth, showing that Barbaresco’s tag as “feminine” rings true.  It has the same fresh red fruit as the junior wine but moving into softer red fruits such as strawberries.  This has a lovely balance to it and a long finish.

Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco Riserva “Pora” 2013 (14.0%, RRP ~€60)

Pora2013

Bottle tasted: 7,525 / 16,666

Website info:

  • Vineyard size: 10.7 hectares (26.4 acres)
  • Vineyard exposure: south, south-west
  • Soil: calcareous limestone with sandy veins
  • Vineyard owners: Dellaferrera, Manzone

Aldo Vacca one word review: Approachable

I concur with the “approachable” description, though it is a little more serious than the standard Barbaresco.  There’s lovely red fruit in there but the finish is a little tannic and drying for my tastes when drunk on its own.  (Pro Tip: drink it with food!)

Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco Riserva “Rio Sordo” 2013 (14.0%, RRP ~€60)

Rio Sordo

Bottle tasted: 12,439 / 13,333

Website info:

  • Vineyard size: 4.5 hectares (11.0 acres)
  • Vineyard exposure: south – west
  • Soil: calcareous limestone with sandy veins
  • Vineyard owners: Alutto, Marengo

Aldo Vacca one word review: Elegant

This is an altogether deeper, richer wine than the Pora.  It shows a range of delicious red to black fruits with a pinch of exotic spice.  Sumptuous and well balanced, this is an outstanding wine.

Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco Riserva “Asili” 2013 (14.0%, RRP ~€60)

Asili2013

Bottle tasted: 10,432 / 13,333

Website info:

  • Vineyard size: 2.28 hectares (5.63 acres)
  • Vineyard exposure: south / south – west
  • Soil: calcareous limestone with sandy veins
  • Vineyard owners: Conti, Giacosa, Viglino

Aldo Vacca one word review: Austere

I didn’t find this wine austere, but it was medium rather than full bodied with considerable acidity.  We’re back to red fruit and floral notes here; the Asili is finely balanced and poised – a fine wine in several senses.

Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco Riserva “Pajè” 2013 (14.0%, RRP ~€60)

Paje2013

Bottle tasted: 7,698 / 10,000

Website info:

  • Vineyard size: 1.8 hectares (4.5 acres)
  • Vineyard exposure: south – west / west
  • Soil: calcareous limestone with sandy veins
  • Vineyard owners: Basso, Giordano

Aldo Vacca one word review: Bright

Among the red fruit notes which are close to ubiquitous in Produttori’s wine, the Pajè has a whole rack of herbs.  This is a tangy wine which I found to be slightly shorter than the others, but very nice drinking nevertheless.

Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco Riserva “Ovello” 2013 (14.0%, RRP ~€60)

Ovello2013

Bottle tasted: 7,572 / 17,160

Website info:

  • Vineyard size: 20.3 hectares (50 acres)
  • Vineyard exposure: south – west / south east
  • Soil: calcareous limestone and clay
  • Vineyard owners: Audasso, Cavallo, Cravanzola, Gonella, Grasso, Maffei, Odore, Sarotto, Unio, Vacca, Varaldo

Aldo Vacca one word review: Lively

The clay in Ovello’s soils has helped to produce a wine which has less pronounced acidity and tannin than most of its counterparts.  Instead there’s fruit – lots of fruit! – and power.  There are tannins at the end but they are fine and not drying.  This is a Nebbiolo that is delicious on its own.

Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco Riserva “Muncagota” 2013 (14.0%, RRP ~€60)

Muncagota

Bottle tasted: 12,892 / 13,333

Website info:

  • Vineyard size: 4.5 hectares (11 acres)
  • Vineyard exposure: south – west
  • Soil: calcareous limestone
  • Vineyard owners: Bellora, Casetta, Lignana, Viglino

Aldo Vacca one word review: Floral

Muncagota is floral but it’s also the results of a raid on your spice cupboard.  Bright red and black cherries greet the palate, with a finish of tobacco and liquorice which are reminiscent of a Tuscan Sangiovesi.  This is no shrinking violet and would pair well with game such as venison or wild boar.

Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco Riserva “Rabajà” 2013 (14.0%, RRP ~€60)

Rabaja

Bottle tasted: 8,512 / 17,040

Website info:

  • Vineyard size: 3.7 hectares (9.14 acres)
  • Vineyard exposure: south – west
  • Soil: calcareous limestone with sandy veins
  • Vineyard owners: Antona, Arossa, Casetta, Lembo, Lignana, Manzone, Rocca, Vacca, Vezza

Aldo Vacca one word review: Complete

With nine families owning a total of just 3.7 hectares (only the much larger Ovello has more owners), the Rabajà shows exactly why co-operatives can be the best choice of ownership and vinification models.  The 2013 is powerful but on the dry side, with some intriguing menthol notes, herbs and spices overlaid on the red fruit.

Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco Riserva “Montestefano” 2013 (14.0%, RRP ~€60)

Montestefano

Bottle tasted: 8,114 / 17,104

Website info:

  • Vineyard size: 4.5 hectares (11 acres)
  • Vineyard exposure: south
  • Soil: calcareous limestone
  • Vineyard owners: Gonella, Maffei, Marcarino, Rivella, Rocca, Vacca

Aldo Vacca one word review: Powerful

For me the Montestefano is a great all-rounder, with the positive points from all the others rolled into once – lovely fruit and floral notes, decent but not harsh acidity and tannin, balance and poise – the full package.

Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco Riserva “Montefico” 2013 (14.0%, RRP ~€60)

Montefico2013

Bottle tasted: 11,099 / 13,333

Website info:

  • Vineyard size: 3.9 hectares (9.6 acres)
  • Vineyard exposure: south
  • Soil: calcareous limestone
  • Vineyard owners: Grasso, Rocca, Vacca

Aldo Vacca one word review: Austere

As this was the last of the wines I tasted, perhaps my palate had become well accustomed to the above average acidity and tannin in these wines – I didn’t find it austere at all and actually quite similar to the Montestefano.  In my defence they have the same calcareous limestoil soil type and southerly aspect, and they are both delicious!

Conclusions

These are all fantastic wines, and great value at each price point.  It’s a fascinating way to taste your way round a wine region, so if you have the means and opportunity I highly recommend trying as many of them as you can.

Unlike Aldo Vacca, I can play favourites, but I can’t pick just one – so my three favourite of the range would be the Rio Sordo, Asili and Montestefano.


* The precise number of growers differs throughout the website

** 7WWR eat your heart out!

Make Mine A Double, Opinion

Right Bank 2014s [Make Mine a Double #42]

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)

Chateau Clos du Roy Fronsac 2014

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)

Chateau Franc-Maillet 2014

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.

Conclusion

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!

 

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