Opinion

Wine Review: Bordeaux Bargains in the SuperValu French Wine Sale

It’s September so it must be the SuperValu French Wine Sale in Ireland.  This year the Sale runs from Thursday 2nd to Wednesday 22nd September and applies to over 80 wines, including those from producers such as André Goichot and Guy Saget that I have reviewed previously. In addition to reductions on existing listings there will be a number of “guest wines” sourced via Irish importer / distributor Febvre that are available solely during the sale period.

This article will focus on the four red Bordeaux wines included in the Sale.  All four are from the De Mour group, so first a little background on De Mour, then the wines themselves followed by my pick(s) of the bunch.

De Mour

De Mour logo

The above logo actually tells us a lot about the De Mour group.  Firstly, it is wholly owned by the De Schepper family who founded it in Ghent (Belgium) back in 1938.  Secondly, there are essentially two sides to the De Mour business, a negociant side and their own châteaux. 

Emile De Schepper and Ghislaine de Moor started a business producing local gins and liqueurs, but after a decade they began to take a serious interest in quality French wines.  Historically, the right bank of Bordeaux has had close ties to Belgium and The Netherlands (with the left bank being linked to Britain), so it made sense for their first investment to be Château Tour Baladoz in Saint Emilion.

Over the years the family expanded their own holdings and contracts with Bordelais growers whose grapes they would vinify and bottle under their own labels. The aim is to produce high quality wines that are also approachable and attainable (i.e. affordable).

The De Mour properties are:

  • Château Haut Breton Larigaudière (Margaux)
  • Château La Croizille (Saint-Emilion Grand Cru)
  • Château Lacombe Cadiot (Bordeaux Supérieur)
  • Château Tayet (Bordeaux Supérieur)
  • Château Tour Baladoz (Saint-Emilion Grand Cru)

The negociant business boasts over 65 different wines from across the Bordeaux area, though nearly all dry reds.

Château Moulin Lafitte Bordeaux 2016

Château Moulin Lafitte Bordeaux

This is a standalone Château but does not belong to the De Mour group; rather it belongs to friends of theirs who call on the heft of the De Mour Group for sales and distribution. The Château is located in the Entre Deux Mers region – between the Dordogne and Garonne rivers – though cannot (as yet, watch this space) use that appellation as it currently applies only to white wines. 

The vineyards are south facing and the vines are predominantly Merlot as you’d expect; the blend for this wine is 80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc. Despite the very good vintage (2016) and preponderance of Merlot, this wine has a modest (by modern standards) alcohol of 13.0%.  To me this indicates that the goal was balance rather than super-ripe fruit.

In the glass the wine has a bright ruby core with a rim that is turning to garnet.  The nose has a combination of fruit and tertiary aromas – there’s earth and leather but also fresh and poached plums and a twist of spice.  Lifted aromas give a little funk without a full-on stink.  The palate is round and smooth with those plums to the fore, plus tinned strawberries and the earthiness in the background. Acidity and tannins are present and correct but well integrated.

This is a classic-style claret with quite a bit of development already under its belt.  This would pair well with game such as wild boar, lamb or a sharp cheddar.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €12.70 down from €18.99 from Thurs 2nd Sept to Wed 22nd Sept 2021
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and SuperValu.ie

Château Lacombe Cadiot Bordeaux Supérieur 2019

Château Lacombe Cadiot Bordeaux Supérieur

Château Lacombe Cadiot is unusual among “mere” Bordeaux Supérieurs in that it is located on the Médoc peninsula (though it does actually share that status with stablemate Château Tayet). Its home commune of Ludon Médoc is home to more famous estates such as Château La Lagune and Château d’Agassac. The Château’s vineyards are planted in the proportion 60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Petit Verdot – the precise blend in the final wine will fluctuate a little from year to year.

The Château was bought by De Mour in 1982 and has been an important part of their portfolio ever since.  This is a modern style of Bordeaux, not lean and green, but rather more of a generous and ripe nature.  In the glass the wine is dark ruby with a purple rim – no surprises there.  But the nose – what a nose!  I immediately looked around for an Ambassador as there were such intense aromas of Ferrero Rocher!  Blackcurrant and pencil shavings completed the olfactory picture. 

The palate shows voluptuous black fruits and violets, smooth yet with tannins arriving in a rush at the end.  I did find some hints of unripe green notes in there – perhaps another year or two would integrate them nicely.  In the meantime I would serve this wine with a medium rare entrecôt!

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €10.70 down from €15.99 from Thurs 2nd Sept to Wed 22nd Sept 2021
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and SuperValu.ie

Château Tour Baladoz Saint Emilion Grand Cru 2018

Château Tour Baladoz Saint Emilion Grand Cru

Château Tour Baladoz is surrounded by Grand Cru Classé vineyards, so they have finally bitten the bullet and submitted their dosier for potential inclusion from 2022 onwards.  The Château was bought by De Mour back in 1950 so is their longest-held property.  The vines cover ten hectares on slopes that range from 110 down to 45 metres above sea level – a significant gradient. The current encépagement is 70% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot, though additional plantings of Petit Verdot, Carmenère and Malbec were made in 2019 (I imagine as a response to climate change).

This 2018 is still a baby – that much is obvious from simply pouring it into a glass where there are still purple tints on the rim.  The nose is wonderfully perfumed, though somewhat restrained.  The palate is classy, with toasty oak and vanilla notes overlaying plush plum and cassis fruit.  The texture is soft, yet powerful, and velvety.  This is a real treat of a wine that is enjoyable now and for the next decade or so.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €30.00 down from €44.99 from Thurs 2nd Sept to Wed 22nd Sept 2021
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and SuperValu.ie

Lady de Mour Margaux 2018

Lady De Mour Margaux

Finally we come to De Mour’s namesake wine, albeit a wine made from bought-in rather than owned grapes.  Among the four poshest AOCs of the Médoc, Margaux is renowned for the elegance of its wines, partially due to a lower proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon compared to Saint Estèphe, Saint Julien and Pauillac. 

However, compared to some Margaux the Lady de Mour has a high proportion of Cab Sauv: 63%, with 31% Merlot and 6% Petit Verdot.Precisely when to pick is a very important decision – too early and green, vegetal notes creep in – too late and acidity is too low and the wine becomes jammy.

In the glass the wine is dark, though not quite opaque, with a bright purple rim.  On the nose it is fabulously aromatic, full of dark fruit and graphite notes; plum cassis and spice.  These notes continue through onto the palate, joined by violets.  The texture is supreme – I don’t know if it’s silk or velvet, but it’s just so pleasing.  Although the alcohol is on the low side for a Margaux – 12’5% – this wine does not feel thin or lacking at all, just very well balanced.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €24.75 down from €36.99 from Thurs 2nd Sept to Wed 22nd Sept 2021
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and SuperValu.ie

Conclusion

I think it’s fair to group this quartet into two pairs, two “weekday wines” and two “weekend wines”.  For me the Moulin Lafitte is the more interesting of the junior pair right now, so that would be my choice for drinking this year; the Lacombe Cadiot would be worth buying several of for laying down and breaking out for Xmas 2024.

I did really enjoy the Tour Baladoz, but the aromatics of the Lady de Mour carried the day for me, and that’s the one I will be buying for myself!


* My guess when I tried the same vintage of this wine in November last year was 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc – not too far off I reckon

Opinion

Producer Profile: Liberator Wines

Liberator Wines is the brainchild of Englishman Richard Kelley under his alter ego Rick. After I was kindly sent a couple of bottles to try by Irish distributor Boutique Wines I was interested in finding out more about the operation.

Much of the detail below is sourced from an interview he did with my friend Lee Isaacs aka WineMan147 – you can watch the whole thing on his website Freestyle Wines.

Richard Kelley MW

Richard Kelley MW
Rick the Chenin Evangelist (source: Liberator Wines Twitter)

 

If you were to choose a hypothetical background for a Master of Wine, you probably wouldn’t dream that he or she came from a family of teetotallers. However, for Richard Kelley MW that was precisely the case – his parents didn’t drink at all. Leaving school at 16 might not be expected either, but the following nine years he spent as a chef makes perfect sense; food is often a gateway to wine.

Fast forward to the end of Kelley’s MW studies and his thesis was on the importance of temperature control in red wine making in the Old World versus the New World, with South Africa used as the New World example.  Two weeks after finishing his MW course he moved to South Africa to live and work, initially for a six month contract which ended up lasting seven years. He even met his expat Welsh wife in the Republic. He built up a fantastic network of contacts down there and of course receives respect from his MW qualification.

Liberator Wines

The premise of Liberator Wines is that some talented winemakers have a special wine in their cellar but don’t know what to do with it. The wine could be in barrel, tank, or bottle, labelled or not labelled. Kelley terms them “vinous orphans looking for a home”, and rather than being blended away or sold as bulk wine they are allowed to shine. The producer gets a better price and the consumer gets a good wine at a good price. 

Each wine – or “episode” – gets a different label which reflects the story behind it. After all, as Kelley notes, consumers respond to storytelling, not pH levels. In this regard I think there are strong parallels with Pieter H Walser’s BlankBottle wines (though of course they are all vinified and matured in house).

The wines are sourced from some of the best winemakers in the country – Eden Sadie and André van Rensburg are given as examples – though their identity is sometimes kept off the label. Quantities also differ for each episode, ranging from a single barrel (30 cases) up to 1,600 cases. The sources, styles, varieties and price points can all vary, but the wines will always be under the Liberator label and be from South Africa. 

It took five years to get to Episode No. 5, but the pace has since picked up considerably. Kelley now has winemakers contacting him (“we have something you might be interested in”) rather than him having to hunt for everything.

Below are my notes on two Episodes I tried earlier this year:

Liberator Wines Episode 29 Chenin No. 5 2019

The Liberator Episode 29 Chenin No 5 Chenin Blanc

As the fifth Chenin Blanc release, the name Chenin No. 5 came easily, of course riffing on the name of Coco Chanel’s iconic perfume. The source of this wine is a closely guarded secret (“a very good address”), and given how good it is that’s no surprise. This is classic South African Chenin, true to its variety and location. The nose shows a combination of fresh and baked apples with a hint of honey. The orchard theme continues onto the palate where stone fruits such as peaches also shine. There’s great texture here – this would make a superb and versatile food wine – with fresh acidity that cuts through the fruit and honey sweetness. The finish is dry but not austere.

Interestingly this is one of the Liberator wines chosen for release as “Rick in a Tin” – great for picnics and a midweek sip.

Liberator Wines Episode 24: Four and Twenty Blackbirds

The Liberator Episode 24 Four and Twenty Blackbirds

If you tilt your head sideways you will notice the French term “Le Merle Noir” – meaning blackbird – after which the black skinned Merlot grape is supposedly named. This being the 24th Episode, the third line of the nursery rhyme “Sing a Song of Sixpence” sprang to mind:

Sing a song of sixpence,
A pocket full of rye.
Four and twenty blackbirds,
Baked in a pie.

This is a 100% Merlot which, to my great surprise, was harvested over 12 years ago; the vintage is written on the back label but not the front. Opening the wine reveals a Nederburg stamp on the cork, so the origins of this wine are very much not a secret.

The wine pours almost an opaque black, with only faint hints as to its age at the rim; if you know the age you might spot the reddy-brown rim it but it doesn’t pop out to the unknowing eye. The nose has intense aromas of plum, blackberry, blackcurrant and vanilla – really enticing. The palate showcases all these notes on the tongue, with a touch of leather and perhaps a slight hint of volatile acidity. The tannins are present yet supple and there’s enough acidity to keep the fruit from running away with itself.

In style I would liked this wine to a top-notch Saint-Emilion satellite village wine – perhaps a touch more extraction than is common from the vast majority of wines from Saint-Emilion proper but arguably better balanced than some of those wines are nowadays. This was an excellent, tasty drop.

Conclusion

Too often these days there is often a choice between well-marketed but lower quality wines on one hand versus well-made but obscure wines on the other. Liberator Wines does both things well; the story of the company is interesting, the labels and wine names are original and the wines themselves are excellent. The two wines tasted are both great value, tasty wines…of the two it’s the Blackbird which really excels.

 

Opinion

Eight Years of Frankly Wines: Passion Conquers Everything

Today – 2nd of July 2021 – marks eight years since the first post on Frankly Wines!

8 gif

Longevity

In May 2015 I corralled fellow members of DNS Wineclub and some fellow wine bloggers from Dublin into attending a public tasting at Honest 2 Goodness in Glasnevin, Dublin.  During a memorable evening of great wines and great company, Paddy from The vine Inspiration posited that not all of us present would still be writing in a year or two’s time.

From our original gang of five wine bloggers I am the only one to still be posting regularly.  Lots has happened in those eight years…life just takes over sometimes, including “proper” jobs and children (we have gone from a total of 3 kids between us in 2013 to now having 12!  Perhaps a parenting blog might have been more appropriate…)

Style

I try to strike a balance on Frankly Wines between information, entertainment and accessibility.  Where possible I like to use a map to explain where a particular wine region on winery is located because location is one of the key things to understanding most wines (plus I love maps…)

Above all they have been fun to write!  I never thought of myself as a writer before starting Frankly Wines, although I know my English is excellent [/humblebrag], but passion conquers everything.  One thing I try to do with every article is improve my knowledge with the research I do in advance of actually writing

Guest Posts

This is the 452nd post on Frankly Wines, but not all have been written by me.  I have had very generous guest posters for three different series:

  1. Valentines’ Day Wines (2015)
  2. Wines for Xmas (2017)
  3. Wine + Music Matching (2020)

Thanks again to all those who have contributed over the years.

Top Posts

Easily the most popular theme – in terms of views – across my posts has been wines from Supermarket Lidl.  This is undoubtedly due to the fact that they are an international outfit and so people search for reviews of their wines in many countries.  Of course, it helps that I have a good relationship with Lidl Ireland and receive plenty of samples from them to write about.

The second most popular theme is my (admittedly irregular) Top 10 posts; Top 10 Reds of the year, Top 10 Value Whites, etc.  While they might seem like clickbait, they are a genuine attempt to list wines (out of the hundreds or thousands that I might taste in a year) that most impressed me.

An older standalone post that has resurged in popularity over the past few years is Who’s The Dada, a post from 2017 which ended up being the most popular overall of 2020.  I don’t know why this post became so popular, though it is about a very commercial and high selling wine, but it appears as the #4 on Google results for “Dada Wine Review”.  For 2021, a new rival popular wine post has emerged: 19 Crimes Red.

Of course I would love for articles on wines from boutique and specialist importers to be more popular, but as the biggest source of views on my page is through search engines it is the popular wines that will tend to wine out.

My Favourite Posts

Above we’ve looked at the most popular posts, but which have been my favourite posts to write?  Here are a dozen I look back on with fond memories:

Thank You!

Thank you to all my readers, past, present and future.  Your views, likes and comments have inspired me to keep writing throughout the years.

Opinion

Wine Review: Sauvignon Blancs from SuperValu

What’s the best inexpensive Sauvignon Blanc from SuperValu?  Here are four Sauvignons from the current SuperValu sale, from four different countries: France, Australia, Chile and Argentina.

La Petite Perrière Sauvignon Blanc 2019: The minerally one

La Petite Perrière Sauvignon Blanc

It’s rather fitting that the producer of this wine is named after a stone quarry in Sancerre as it has a wonderful mineral streak through its core.  Yes there are plenty of citrus notes too – lemon, lime and grapefruit – but they are along for the journey rather than being the destination themselves.  This is a fresh style of Sauvignon Blanc that has more than a passing resemblance to a dry Alsace Riesling, which is obviously a positive in my book!

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €11.99 down to €9.00 until 19th May 2021
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie
  • Source: media sample

19 Crimes Sauv Block 2020: The soft one

19 Crimes Sauv Block

“Sauv Block” is some sort of pun on Prison Block / Sauvignon Blanc, but it’s fairly weak (yes, this is  me saying this!)  I’ve already covered the 19 Crimes Red Wine and its unusual packaging, so this time we will just consider the wine inside.  It has some of the typical grapefruit and gooseberry notes on the nose but there are also more soft and tropical fruit aromas.  The palate reflects this, with melon and pineapple alongside the green fruits.

The 19 Crimes SB doesn’t have the zing and freshness of a typical SB.  I haven’t tasted enough Aussie single varietal Sauvignons to compare it to, but this wine seems almost like it’s made with a different grape variety – something like Godello – though I’m sure it’s not.  In short, this is a Sauvignon Blanc for people who don’t normally go for this variety as they find it too sharp – but there’s nothing wrong with that!  Well chilled it is fine for sipping in the sun.

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RRP: €14.99 down to €10.00
  • Stockists: SuperValu and supervalu.ie
  • Source: media sample

Cepas Privadas Sauvignon Blanc 2019: The herby one

Cepas Privadas Sauvignon Blanc

Most wine drinkers will be familiar with Argentina’s signature black grape Malbec and the largest wine region in the country, Mendoza.  As Mendoza is principally a warm wine region it may surprise some to learn that it has cooler parts, cool enough to be suitable for Sauvignon Blanc.

The nose is initially all about green pepper and herbs, with touches of green fruits in the background.  The palate is fresh and zippy, with a core of minerality around which citrus and herbs are wrapped.  I don’t think this wine lives up to the normal RRP of €18, but for €8 it represents very good value.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €17.99 down to €8.00 until 19th May 2021
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie
  • Source: media sample

Aresti Estate Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2020: The grapefruity one

Aresti Estate Selection Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is one of the key varieties for Chile, especially in Ireland where it is available in pretty much every supermarket, convenience store and off-licence.  Hailing from Curicó Valley, Aresti are a family business with several ranges within their portfolio; Estate Selection appears to be their entry level for the Irish market.

It ticks all the boxes you’d expect from an inexpensive SB, but it’s key attribute is drinkability.  It’s not going to challenge Sancerre or Marlborough but it’s a very pleasant drop for mid week or even the weekend.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €10.99 down to €8.00 until 19th May 2021
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie
  • Source: media sample

Conclusion

These are obviously inexpensive wines which are for everyday drinking rather than a special treat.  The 19 Crimes is noticeably different in style, but has its place.  The other three are quite similar and very reasonable wines for sipping outside on a warm summer’s day (if we see one this year in Ireland!) – it comes down to small differences in flavours, aromas and drinkability.  On that basis, my narrow favourite is the best all-rounded, the Aresti Estate Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2020.

Opinion

Producer Profile: Pegasus Bay of Glasnevin

Pegasus Bay sign

Waipara and North Canterbury

When it comes to naming New Zealand’s wine regions, the significant region which is most often forgotten or overlooked is North Canterbury, close to the major city of Christchurch on the South Island.  North Canterbury includes the sub-region of Waipara which is more often seen on wine labels (though not to be confused with Wairarapa which is at the bottom of the North Island and includes Martinborough).  I’m not sure why Canterbury is overlooked – perhaps because it doesn’t specialise in Sauvignon Blanc? – but some great wines are made here.

Not too dissimilar to Marlborough which is further north on the South Island, Waipara is situated in the rain- (and wind-) shadow of the Southern Alps and is close to the sea, giving temperate summers with cool nights and dry autumns which allow grapes to achieve full phenolic ripeness as their own pace.  The most important varieties here are Riesling and Pinot Noir, though other aromatic whites and Chardonnay also do well.

To show how the terms can be used interchangeably, note that the sign above mentions Waipara whereas the website banner states “Fine North Canterbury Wine” under “Pegasus Bay”

Background to Pegasus Bay

It started with a doctor reading a book.  The doctor was Neurologist Ivan Donaldson and the book was one of Hugh Johnson’s wine books, “Wine”, given to him by his then girlfriend Christine.  The book lit a fire within him; he journeyed round many of Europe’s well-established wine regions, and on his return he planted Canterbury’s first vines in 1976.  This first vineyard was in Mountain View, just south west of Christchurch, and was very experimental in nature.  Ivan managed to fit in his wine hobby in between hospital and private consulting work.

Almost a decade later, Ivan and Chris decided to make the jump from a hobby to a proper enterprise.  By now they had four sons, so it was a combined family effort to plant vines in the Waipara Valley.  They named their winery Pegasus Bay after the large bay running from the City of Canterbury up to the mouth of the Waipara River.1

The first vintage was 1991 which Ivan made in his garage.  The family gradually expanded the winery, cellar door, restaurant and gardens.  All four sons are now involved in the winery, with the eldest – Matthew, a Roseworthy graduate – being chief winemaker.  As well as estate wines under the Pegasus Bay label the Donaldsons also make Main Divide wines from bought in fruit.

Pegasus Bay Wine Styles and Philosophy

In a nutshell, Pegasus bay wines have something of a Burgundian sensibility but they reflect Waipara and the vintage in which they are made.  In a interview that Ed Donaldson gave for the Wine Zealand Project2 in 2016 he expounds the family’s philosophy:

So what drives us is – hopefully – making better wine all the time

One of the advantages [we have is that] my brother Matt’s taken over the winemaking so he has a lot of time to experiment, and to tweak, and to change, and see the wines age, and the vines getting some vine age, and just seeing what works and what doesn’t work, and continually trying to evolve and make better wine.

Our winemaking style is to be true to ourselves, not trying to emulate anything.  We have a lot of respect for the old world and its wine styles.  We as a family drink a lot of wine from all over the world but we’re not necessarily trying to emulate them, we’re trying to make the best example of what we think expresses the region and the season as best we can.  Trying not to follow trends, we try to make the best wine we can and find a home for it.

We’ve been members of the Sustainable Winegrowers Programme pretty much since its inception, and we make wine as naturally as possible.

Pegasus Bay Wine Ranges

There are two main ranges, Estate and Reserve.  The Estate wines are (obviously) made only with their own fruit, and although they are perhaps the junior wines in the Pegasus Bay portfolio they are not what you or I would call “entry level”, which has connotations of lower quality, simpler wines for drinking very young.  Make no mistake, the Estate wines are seriously good.

The Reserve range is a significant step up again, in both quality and corresponding prices.  This range includes two botrytis sweet wines; a Semillon Sauvignon blend reminiscent of Sauternes and a Riesling which evokes the Rhine.  The Reserve wines are named with an operatic theme as Chris Donaldson is an opera devotee.

The Vengence range has just two experimental wines whose composition varies from year to year.  They are totally different in style from the main two ranges; they are fun and quirky rather than being serious.  They give the winemakers the opportunity to play around with different vineyard and winery choices that they couldn’t just jump into with the main ranges.

  • Estate: Sauvignon/Semillon, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Muscat, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot/Cabernet, Malbec
  • Reserve: Bel Canto Dry Riesling, Aria Late Picked Riesling, Virtuoso Chardonnay, Prima Donna Pinot Noir, Maestro Merlot/Malbec, Encore Noble Riesling, Finale Noble Semillon Sauvignon
  • Vergence: Vergence White (Semillon blend), Vergence Red (Pinot Noir)

Wines in bold are reviewed below

Pegasus Bay Chardonnay 2017

As with most of Pegasus Bay’s vines, this Chardonnay is harvested from vines which are mainly ungrafted.  The vines now average 30 years old and are planted on rocky soils which are free draining and low in fertility. These facts all lead to lower yields but with concentrated flavours.  The climate is warm, rather than hot, yet with cool nights, so the growing season is long.

I mentioned above that there’s a Burgundian sensibility to Pegasus Bay wines, but in the case of this Chardonnay the winemaking is definitely Burgundian in nature.  Multiple passes were made to hand harvest the fruit at optimum ripeness.  The grapes were whole bunch pressed then transferred to 500 litre oak barrels, 30% new and 70% used.  Spontaneous fermentation took place in these puncheons and the young wine was left to mature on its lees over winter and spring.  Malolactic fermentation started naturally into the summer months, with the winemaking team halting it based on regular tasting to get the balance between fresh malic and round lactic acids.

When poured this Chardonnay is a normal lemon colour.  On the nose there are citrus fruits but they initially take a side seat to outstanding “struck-match” reductive notes.  There are also soft yellow fruits and a stony mineral streak.  The palate is magnificent, a really grown up Chardonnay that balances fruit, tanginess, minerality, freshness, texture and roundness.  This is one of the most complete Chardonnays I’ve had the pleasure of trying in many years.

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €38
  • Stockists: Donnybrook Fair, Donnybrook; The Corkscrew, Chatham St.
  • Source: media sample

Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir 2016

This 2016 pours a medium intensity ruby red, consistent across the glass.  The nose has lots of fruit, more black than red; the black fruits appear at first (blackberry and black cherry) but gradually cede attention to red (red cherry and pomegranate).  Enticing savoury notes and spice complete the olfactory picture.  It’s a very sophisticated and complex nose that deserves – nay demands – frequent revisits.

The palate is savoury and fruity in taste.  Those same black fruits come to the fore but with black liquorice and black olive counterpoints,  Fine grained tannins and acidity provide a fantastic structure, but this is a supple and sappy wine, not austere.

The alcohol is little higher than we usually see in a Pinot Noir, but the 14.5% does not stick out at all when tasting.  This is a well-balanced wine, albeit a powerful one.  When it comes to food pairing, Pinot Noir is often matched with mid level meats such as veal or pork – and to be fair this would be excellent with charcuterie – but this has the weight and intensity to match well with game, lamb or even beef.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €45
  • Stockists: 64 Wine, Glasthule; World Wide Wines, Waterford: The Corkscrew, Chatham St; Donnybrook Fair, Donnybrook; La Touche Wines, Greystones; D-Six, Harolds Cross
  • Source: media sample

Pegasus Bay Encore Noble Riesling 2008

Pegasus Bay have four Rieslings in their portfolio, as befitting a top Waipara producer:

  • The Estate Riesling is produced every year
  • The Bel Canto (Reserve) Dry Riesling has a little botrytis and is made in two out of every three years, depending on vintage conditions
  • The Aria (Reserve) Late Picked Riesling is a late harvest style that often has a small proportion of Botryis grapes and is made roughly one on two years, vintage dependent
  • The Encore (Reserve) Noble Riesling is only made with fully botrytised berries, often requiring multiple passes, and of course when there are sufficient grapes in a particular vintage.

Only in very exceptional years such as 2008 and 2014 are all four styles made.  The Riesling vines are on a rocky outcrop which has warm days but very cool nights, helping to maintain acidity and thus preserve freshness.

As the pure botrytis (and therefore sweetest) Riesling in their range, Pegasus Bay liken it in style to a Séléction de Grains Nobles (SGN) from Alsace or a Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA) from Germany.  When harvested the grapes are totally shrivelled and so produce a very small amount of juice – but such luscious juice!  After clarification the juice is allowed to ferment naturally; when the yeast finishes its task there is plenty of residual sugar, though the precise figure is not published.

On the nose it’s instantly identifiable as Riesling, but with honey and tropical fruits to the fore.  In addition to the pineapple, mango and grapefruit there are also hints of mushroom.  The palate is beautiful but perhaps confounding for the uninitiated – it’s rich and sweet yet full of acidity, giving your palate a smorgasbord of experiences.  The finish is amazingly long.

At 13 years of age this bottle has had plenty of development, possibly rounding off the acidity slightly while also tapering the apparent sweetness to some degree (the mechanism for which is not yet understood).  It still has plenty of life left though – it could easily keep to the end of this decade.

  • ABV: 11.0%
  • RRP: €35 for 2016 vintage (375ml bottle)
  • Stockists: currently no retail stockists, but available in some restaurants
  • Source: own cellar

Other Pegasus Bay Wines available in Ireland

In addition to the three wines reviewed above there are three further Pegasus Bay wines available in Ireland

  • Sauvignon / Semillon: RRP €29, Stockists: Barnhill Stores, Dalkey; The Corkscrew; Jus De Vine, Portmarnock
  • Bel Canto Dry Riesling: RRP €35, currently no retail stockists, but available in some restaurants
  • Prima Donna Pinot Noir: RRP €75, Stockist: The Wine House, Trim

 


Frankly Wines and Pegasus Bay

Now, those who follow me on Instagram may realise that I live in the Dublin suburb of Glasnevin, also home to the National Botanic Gardens, the Irish Met office and the large Glasnevin cemetery.  It was therefore a huge surprise when, while touring New Zealand on honeymoon, we suddenly realised that we were driving through Glasnevin, Canterbury.  And where was our first stop?  Pegasus Bay, of course!

Yours truly, about to go through the entire Pegasus Bay range at their Cellar Door.

…and afterwards, very happy with his purchases to be supped on the journey round the South Island.


1Ironically Pegasus Bay was originally known as “Cook’s Mistake” – I’m glad I didn’t find that out on my honeymoon!

2Taken from the YouTube video A Day In Pegasus Bay  Any transcription errors are my own.

Make Mine A Double, Opinion

Wine Review: Alsace and Burgundy from Lidl [Make Mine a Double #70]

As a devoted fan of Alsace wines I’m heartened that Lidl include one or more examples in their limited release French wine events.  For example, in 2017 I have really enjoyed Jean Cornelius Sylvaner, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Blanc.  I also tried the Jean Cornelius Riesling in 2019.

The next Lidl Ireland French wine event starts Thursday 25th February and includes eight whites and eight reds.  Below I briefly review two of the whites which I enjoyed.

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

Jean Cornelius Alsace Riesling 2019

This is an entry level Alsace Riesling, presumably from vineyards on the flat and productive plains heading east towards the Rhine.  The nose is muted, though it does give hints of Riesling goodness.  The palate is bone dry, with zesty lime and a squeeze of juicy stone fruit, finished off by tinned grapefruit notes.  This isn’t a wine to get too excited about but it managed to combine freshness and roundness in a pretty tasty package.  Would be perfect with seafood or as an aperitif.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €10.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland stores from 25th Feb 2021, while stocks last

Bourgogne Aligoté 2018

Aligoté won’t be that familiar to many supermarket shoppers, and if they have tasted the grape it’s just likely to have been in a (proper) Kir cocktail as on its own.  The variety originated in Burgundy as a cross between Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc, making it a full sibling of Chardonnay and Auxerrois, among many others.  It ranks as the second most planted white grape in Burgundy, but in reality it’s way behind big brother Chardonnay.  Long derided, Aligoté is on the comeback – more on which in a future article.

This example is one of many Lidl wines which don’t mention the producer on the label, so I opened it with caution, but for such an inexpensive wine and a modest grape it has plenty going on.  It is bone dry with Aligoté’s trademark high acidity, but there are also notes of melon and stone fruits.  There’s also a little smokiness, minerality and herbiness to the wine, and more texture than I anticipated.  There’s no overt oakiness though perhaps a little leesiness.  This wine does cry out for food or, if that’s not forthcoming, another glass!

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RRP: €9.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland stores from 25th Feb 2021, while stocks last

Other Wines

Other wines included in the Lidl Ireland French Wine events are:

White Wines

  • Jean Cornelius Alsace Pinot Blanc 2019 €9.99
  • Bourgogne Chardonnay 2018 €9.99
  • Château Jourdan Bordeaux Blanc 2018 €7.99
  • Domaine de la Pierre Pays d’Oc Muscat Moelleux 2019 €9.99
  • Rocher Saint-Victor Picpoul de Pinet 2019 €8.99
  • Val de Salis Pays d’Oc Vermentino 2019 €9.99

Red Wines

  • Les Aumôniers Côtes du Rhône Villages Séguret 2019 €9.99
  • Château Montaigu Côtes du Rhône 2019 €9.99
  • Puech Morny Gigondas 2019 €16.99
  • La Croix Du Grand Jard Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux 2018 €8.99
  • Lussac-Saint-Émilion 2018 €10.99
  • La Roche D’Argent Saint-Émilion 2018 €12.99
  • Haut de Saint Laurent Haut-Médoc 2019 €11.99
  • Domaine Coudougno Faugères 2019 €8.99

Conclusion

The Jean Cornelius Riesling was much better than the Pinot Blanc which I also tried, but it cannot hold a candle to the very tasty and amazing value Bourgogne Aligoté!


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

 

Opinion, Single Bottle Review

Wine Review: Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay

Before the arrival of this wine into Dublin I have to confess that I was only distantly aware of Wente Vineyards and their home of Livermore Valley in California’s Central Coast.  The two are inextricably linked, but first here’s a map for us to get our bearings:

Livermore Valley in California

 

As you can see, Livermore Valley is at the top of the Central Coast region, across the Bay from San Francisco.  Cooling sea breezes and fogs from San Francisco Bay give the valley more significant diurnal temperature variation, helpful for producing quality wine.

Although not that well known today – in Europe at least – grapes were first planted in Livermore in the 1840s, before the Bordeaux Classification of 1855 and well before phylloxera devastated European vineyards.

There was a flurry of winery openings in the 1880s, with Cresta Blanca Winery in 1882 followed by Concannon Vineyard and Wente Vineyards in 1883.  Colcannon and Wente are still in operation today, with Wente being the biggest.  In fact, it was Wente who ended up buying the land that Cresta Blanca had used and replanted it after decades of being barren.

Livermore Valley’s influence on Californian wine extended beyond its immediate borders:

  1. Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon grown there originated from vine cuttings taken from Château d’Yquem
  2. Livermore was the first area in California that labelled wines by their variety
  3. As one of the oldest places planted to Chardonnay, it is the genetic source of 80% of Californian Chardonnay

Wente Vineyards

Wente Vineyards are proud of their status as “the country’s longest, continuously operated family-owned winery”.  They have now reached five generations of family winegrowers:

  1. Carl H. Wente founded the vineyard with the purchase of 47 acres in 1883
  2. Ernest Wente imported Chardonnay cuttings from Montpellier in 1912 and established the Wente Clone.  His brother Herman Wente helped to found the California Wine Institute in 1936
  3. Karl L. Wente joined the business in 1949 and greatly expanded US and international distribution.  He also expanded the family’s holdings into Arroyo Secco (Monterey)
  4. Eric, Philip and Carolyn Wente took over management of the business in 1977
  5. Christine, Karl, Jordan, Niki and Aly Wente hold various positions in the business

Not content to simply fall back on with their long history, Wente are also embracing the future with the first ever virtual wine tasting accessed through Alexa or Google.

In addition to producing wine the estate also features a restaurant, 18 hole golf course and concert venue.  But it’s the wine that matters most to us!  The Wente wine portfolio consists of several ranges.  In approximate order of most to least expensive they are:

  • The Nth Degree
  • Small Lot
  • Single Vineyard
  • Wente Winemakers Studio
  • Estate Grown

It’s not unusual for Estate wines to be the top range in a producer’s portfolio, so this indicates a high quality level.  To evaluate this theory we now turn to a specific wine from the Estate Grown range.

Disclosure: This bottle was kindly provided as a sample

Wente Morning Fog Livermore Valley Chardonnay 2018

Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay from Livermore Valley

The Wente Vineyards “Morning Fog” Livermore Valley Chardonnay is made by fifth generation Karl Wente.  Its name evokes the fogs that roll across San Francisco Bay and into the east-west trained vines of Livermore Valley.  Various Wente Chardonnay clones are used, including “Old Wente” which have been propagated without going though heat treatment at UC Davis.  Each parcel is harvested and vinified separately.

After the grapes are pressed the must is split into two parts: 50% is fermented in old American oak and 50% is fermented in stainless steel tanks.  The barrel fermented portion remains in those containers for five months and undergoes monthly lees stirring.  The Inox portion is split further; half remains on its lees and receives bâtonnage while half is racked into clean tanks.  All vessels are then blended together before bottling.

When poured the wine is lemon, not as deep as some other (more oaky) Chardonnays.  It’s highly aromatic on the nose – helped by 2% Gewürztraminer – full of toasty, leesy notes and fresh citrus.  The palate is fresh and clean, but with lovely texture.  Unlike some Cali Chardonnays, the texture doesn’t get in the way of the wine or stand out awkwardly, but rather comes along for the journey.  There’s a fine mineral streak through the wine and a fresh finish.

Overall this is a very well put together wine, rising above many confected and manufactured rivals at this price point.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €27
  • Stockists: Baggot Street Wines; Blackrock Cellar; Clontarf Wines; The Corkscrew; Deveney’s Dundrum; D-SIX Off Licence; Jus de Vine; Lotts and Co; Martins Off Licence; McHughs Kilbarrack and Malahide; Mitchell and Son Glasthule and CHQ; Nectar Wines, Sandyford; Power & Co Fine Wines; Sweeney’s D3; Redmonds of Ranelagh; The GrapeVine, Glasnevin; The Wine Pair; Thomas’s Foxrock
Opinion

Super Value Xmas Wines 2020 part 2

Here are four more of the wines that Kevin O’Callaghan has selected for the SuperValu Classic Christmas promotion.  If you missed Part 1 you can find it here.

Barão de Vilar Douro Tinto Reserva 2018

There’s the well worn saying that “if something seems too good to be true, it probably is”, so it was with not inconsiderable wariness that I approached this wine as it is on offer at almost half price.  There are some labels which are so regularly on promotion in supermarkets that the “real” price – if there is such a thing – is far from clear.

Some brands are even created with the specific purpose of being listed at a high price then discounted by 50% on a regular basis.  For me this is a cynical and misleading practice.  Happily, the wine reviewed below is emphatically not one of those wines, and it’s even listed with a well established Dublin wine merchant for €19.95!

Anyway, back to the wine itself.  The key grapes are Douro stalwarts Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca and Tinto Cão.  After alcoholic and malolactic fermentation the wine spends 14 months in French oak.  This is a dark and concentrated wine with bold black fruits, decent acidity and grainy tannins, but compared to some Douro wines I’ve tried it pulls everything together really well; all the components work together as part of an integrated whole, making for an elegant wine.  Yes, it’s still very young so could happily lay down for a year or ten, but it’s tasty enough that you might not be able to wait.  If you can’t wait, decant if possible and serve with red meat or other rich dishes.

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €14.83 or case deal of 6 for €50.00 from 5th Nov to 30th Dec while stocks last
  • Stockists: SuperValu Ireland stores

Pagos de Labarca AEX Rioja 2016

Pagos de Labarca is one of the labels of Bodegas Covila, a well-regarded Rioja co-operative.  The AEX is one of Covila’s signature wines, made in small quantities from old (35 years+) bush vine Tempranillo.   Alcoholic fermentation is carried out in stainless steel tanks, after which the wine is transferred into new American and French oak barrels with varying levels of toast.  There, the wine goes through malolactic fermentation and matures for a total of 17 months before being blended back together and bottled.

The nose is very expressive; rich red berries (from the Tempranillo) and vanilla (from the American oak) combine with fine herbs and hints of chocolate and coffee.  Succulent, rich red fruits abound on the palate – red cherry, strawberry and raspberry – overlaid with vanilla bean custard.  Darker fruits then emerge, still fighting for your attention with the vanilla.

This is not a Rioja which could be mistaken for a Ribero del Duero or Toro – it’s too refined and bright.  Although it’s not too tight and dense, it would definitely benefit from decanting or a large glass to allow its complex aromas to fully develop.  A real treat of a wine!

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €22.62 down to €20.00 from 26th Nov to 30th Dec while stocks last
  • Stockists: SuperValu Ireland stores and supervalu.ie

Château Lacombe-Cadiot Bordeaux Supérieur 2018

The De Mour group is a Bordeaux-based wine company with five Châteaux and a negociant line where grapes and / or wines are bought in from other producers.  One of their properties whose wines I have tried and enjoyed several times is Château Tayet, located in Macau just south of Margaux.  Château Lacombe-Cadiot is situated in the Ludon, the next commune south of Macau and close to the Garonne.

Although we’re in the Médoc, Merlot is still the most important grape (sorry Jim!) in this Bordeaux Supérieur with 80% of the blend and Cabernet Sauvignon the balance.  In the glass the wine has a deep core with the rim turning from purple to ruby.  Initially the nose gives a huge hit of exotic spice then black fruit and a hint of vanilla.  On the palate plums abound, both red and purple, along with brambles and the vanilla again.

The technical sheet for this wine states that fermentation and maturation are in stain less steel tanks, but I could swear that some portion of it has spent time in oak.  It has great concentration and a dusting of light tannins on the finish.  This is a smooth and rewarding wine that is well worth its normal price tag, but represents excellent value on offer.

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €15.73 down to €13.00 from 26th Nov to 30th Dec while stocks last
  • Stockists: SuperValu Ireland stores and supervalu.ie

Lady de Mour Margaux 2018

Hopping back up two communes from the Lacombe-Cadiot gets us to Margaux itself, one of the top four appellations of the Médoc.  Margaux wines are nearly always majority Cabernet Sauvignon though a lower proportion than the other three appellations.  I don’t have the precise blend of Lady de Mour but I would guess something like 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc.  It is lighter in both style and alcohol compared to the Lacombe-Cadiot, mainly due to the difference in blend.

The Lady has a mid to dark core in the glass but a very purple rim, indicating relative youth.  It’s quite muted on the nose – you have to search for the dark fruit aromas rather than them leaping out of the glass.  Black fruits delight on the attack, but are then overtaken by graphite, violets and a touch of green bell pepper.  This is a really elegant Margaux, not as juicy as the little brother but a great introduction to proper left bank Claret.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €34.42 down to €25.00 from 26th Nov to 30th Dec while stocks last
  • Stockists: SuperValu Ireland stores

 

 

Opinion

Super Value Xmas Wines 2020 part 1

I’m a big fan of the smaller wine importers and distributors in Ireland and the independent wine shops where many of their wines are sold.  Neither of these roles is easy or that well paid, but require a passion for wine.  The other part of wine retail is the supermarkets and multiples who have higher quantities but lower priced offerings.  The challenges here – especially in supermarkets – are very different.  Wines have to be very commercial – which I use in a factual and not derogatory sense – as wines have to mainstream and meet customers’ expectations rather than being quirky or unusual.  They often have to have attractive packaging and offer very good value for money – there’s no hand-selling like in an indie – and they have to sell.

The Irish supermarket that strikes the best balance for me is SuperValu and its head of wine Kevin O’Callaghan.  I write about their wines frequently for two main reasons:

  1. I taste a lot of their wines (which are usually samples, and are disclosed as such)
  2. Their wines nearly always offer great value for money, especially when on promotion

And, just as for all retails and importers who send me samples, if I don’t like a wine I just don’t mention it.

In addition to the noted price reductions SuperValu also offer €10 off any six bottles from Thursday 26th November to Wednesday 9th December.  Below I review some of the “Classic Christmas Wines” that Kevin has selected for their Xmas promotion.

Disclosure: all bottles were kindly sent as samples, but opinions remain my own

André Goichot Chablis 2018

I reviewed this vintage back in September of this year and liked it; if you like Chablis or clean, dry but fruity whites, then this citrus and green appled wine is definitely worth a try.  Great for seafood or as an aperitif.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €19.66 down to €15.00 from 26th Nov to 30th Dec
  • Stockists: SuperValu Ireland stores and supervalu.ie

Guy Saget Sancerre 2018 

I also reviewed this wine in September, but I think it’s showing even better with a few more months.  The mid-palate has some particularly tasty tropical notes, along with gooseberry and just a little grassiness.  At the regular price of just under €20 this Sancerre is very good, but at €15 it is a real bargain.  Just don’t drink it too cold!

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €19.66 down to €15.00 from 26th Nov to 30th Dec while stocks last
  • Stockists: SuperValu Ireland stores and supervalu.ie

André Goichot Fleurie 2018

Another wine from the Goichot stable, but this time a Cru Beaujolais.  Fleurie is one of the lighter Crus, and it shows in this wine which is quite pale in the glass – I could read print through a tasting sample.  The nose has both fresh and tinned strawberries, with a touch of black cherry reminding me of Ski yoghurts in an ’80s flashback.  The strawberries are also prominent on the palate, but with a hint of spice in the background.  There’s a nice texture and fresh acidity to this wine which make it very quaffable.  This isn’t the best Fleurie I’ve ever tried but at €12 on offer it’s a great mid-week quaffer to have on the wine rack, or with cold cuts over Xmas.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €14.66 down to €12.00 from 26th Nov to 30th Dec
  • Stockists: SuperValu Ireland stores and supervalu.ie

Rémy Ferbras Vacqueyras 2018

Vacqueyras, for those who don’t know it, is a southern Rhône Grenache-Syrah-Mourvèdre (GSM) blend which offers a bold fruity red wine in the vein of Châteauneuf du Pape but at a lower price.  Grenache gives easy drinking red fruits, Syrah gives pepper, spice and more savoury notes while Mourvèdre gives grip, perfume and meaty aspects.  The precise ratio between the three components depends on what style the winemaker is looking to achieve.

The nose on this wine is all about the fruit; blueberry, wild strawberry and tinned strawberry.  These notes continue through onto the palate where black fruits and herbs also appear.  The finish is quite dry which made me think there there’s a good proportion of Syrah and Mourvèdre in the blend; subsequent investigation revealed there to be 20% and 10% respectively which fits my observations.

This is a reasonable effort.  I don’t think I’d buy it at full price but the significant reduction puts it into the “worth a try” category.

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €20.65 down to €14.00 from 26th Nov to 30th Dec while stocks last
  • Stockists: SuperValu Ireland stores or supervalu.ie

Vivaldi Ripasso 2018

The Ripasso style is a half way house between normal Valpolicella and Amarone, made by pumping Valpolicella wine into a tank which was used for fermenting Amarone, after that wine has been pumped out leaving the gross lees (mainly grape skins) behind which still have some fermentable sugars left.  The end wine has a little more alcohol and (usually) a little more residual sugar than the plain Valpolicella.

This example from Vivaldi is made from three classic local grapes: Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella.  For real wine geeks (such as myself) it is interesting that the initial fermentation was at 25°C – 28°C whereas the subsequent fermentation was carried out at just 15°C.  Maturation was in wood before bottling.

That last sentence is important; for me the (unspecified) wood had an important influence on the wine, adding creamy vanilla and toasty notes to the bright cherry fruits from the grapes.  Residual sugar is 8.5 g/L which is mainly perceived as extra body and roundness rather than sugariness.  It’s the velvety texture which will appeal to most about this wine, though the downside is not quite as much freshness as I’d like myself.  It’s definitely worth a try at the normal price of €15.65 but it’s an absolute steal at 6 for €40!

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €15.65 or case deal of 6 for €40.00 from 17th to 20th Dec while stocks last
  • Stockists: SuperValu Ireland stores

 

Opinion

Lidl Xmas 2020 Wines

Lidl Ireland are launching their Christmas wines in two separate parts, the first of which is already underway.  In addition to those limited release wines – marked * below – they are stocking up on new vintages of regular favourites.  My reviews below are not unqualified recommendations; other wines of the same type are available which offer better quality, though not better value.  I let you, dear readers, decide on whether each wine sounds like its worth putting in your trolley.

Disclosure: bottles were kindly sent as samples, but opinions remain my own

Clare Valley Riesling 2019*

This is a gentle Riesling, very drinkable and with no sharp edges.  When compared to the best Clare Valley Rieslings such as Grosset Polish Hill or Petaluma Hanlin Hill it’s a much simpler wine, with a shorter finish and even has a touch of residual sugar.  However, this is aimed at the casual drinker and I doubt that many people would be in the market for both styles; Lidl’s example is actually more approachable so might actually be more preferable for those looking for an easy-going (and less expensive) tipple.

When to drink: Whenever you like!

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €8.84
  • Stockists:  Lidl Ireland

Sauvignon Blanc Gran Reserva 2020

While the Riesling above isn’t very “Riesling” this 2020 Gran Reserva is VERY “Sauvignon Blanc”!  By this I mean that it is very young and expressive, and needs a little more time before settling down.  The key is one of the “Gs”, the aromas and flavours found in this Chilean Savvy:

  • Grass
  • Green (bell) pepper
  • Gooseberry
  • Grapefruit

For me the green pepper sticks out a little too much at the moment, so if you aren’t fond of that flavour then this wine isn’t for you.  However, if you are ambivalent or like green capsicums then you might be a fan.  Try decanting!

When to drink: With a fresh green salad or with goats cheese.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €12.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Il Santo Bevitore IGT Isola Dei Nuraghi 2019

This wine was a total unknown to me so I had to do a little research.  Isole dei Nuraghi is an IGT which covers the whole of Sardinia.  Many international grapes are used plus a few local specialities.  My guess was that this was a Syrah / Merlot blend but I was unable to confirm this.  The nose is smoky with red and black fruits.  The palate has black cherries and sour red cherries, overlain by a touch of vanilla.  Acidity is medium to high but not jarring.

When to drink: With just about anything apart from fish or seafood.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €11.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Barossa Valley Shiraz 2017*

In a similar vein to the Clare Valley Riesling, this is a very approachable, easy-going wine that doesn’t demand too much from its drinkers – it’s made in a deliberately commercial style.  The nose shows blackberry, blackcurrant and a little vanilla.  These notes continue through onto the palate but adding a little stewed fruit to the fresh.  Light tannins round off the wine nicely, though the finish is a little short.

When to drink: Very quaffable on its own, or pair with richer foods.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €8.84
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Carménère Gran Reserva 2020

Carménère is one of Bordeaux’s six black grapes, though it’s hardly grown there at all these days.  Instead it has become the flagship black grape of Chile, where it was mistaken for Merlot for over a century.  In the glass it pours a bright purple, typical of the variety.  The nose is lovely, with rich cassis, spice and blackberry.  These notes are repeated on the palate though they are somewhat barged out of the way by our friend green pepper; these green pepper notes tend to appear in Carménère when the grapes are picked before they have reached full phenolic ripeness, often when they are harvested at the same time as the earlier-ripening Merlot.  In this case, seeing the 14.5% alcohol, I wager that this wine was made from very warm vineyards where the sugar outpaced the flavours.  At any rate, the finish is nice and smooth.

When to drink: Beef or lamb stew.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €11.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Corte Alle Mure DOCG Chianti Riserva 2015*

2015 was an excellent year throughout most of Italy so I was eager to try this Chianti Riserva.  This isn’t what I’d call a polished wine, but it is very Chianti, by which I mean it has typical tobacco and liquorice on the nose, Morello cherries and a hint of oak on the palate.  Acidity is prominent which makes it a food wine rather than a comfortable sipper

When to drink: Charcuterie or mixed Christmas leftovers.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €9.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland