Make Mine A Double

Wine Review: Guerrieri Rizzardi Lugana and Château Albajan Picpoul de Pinet

An interesting pair of whites that are perfect for summer sipping

Although the summer of ’21 has been punctuated with thunderstorms (and disastrously so in some countries) there are still some sunny evenings to be had.  Here are a couple of new listings at O’Briens which are worth seeking out.

Guerrieri Rizzardi Lugana 2020

Guerrieri Rizzardi Lugana 2020

Rizzardi are well known for their Veneto wines, from humble Pinot Grigio and Prosecco up to their flagship Calcarole Amarone.  The winery arose from the joining together of two prominent wine making families and can trace their roots back to the 1600s.

This Lugana is new to Ireland and, of course, is made from the Turbiana grape on the shores of Lake Garda.  Also known as Trebbiano di Lugana, Turbiana has very little recognition among most wine drinkers, but much more character than the Veneto interpretation of Pinot Grigio.  The vines are around 25 years old and are planted on clay-rich soils, giving extra power.  Ageing on fine lees gives additional creaminess and texture.  The nose has intense floral, citrus and pear notes which continue through to the palate.  The texture is wonderful, pithy and sappy, yet with a mouth-wateringly fresh finish.  This is a really good effort!

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RRP: €18.95 or €14.95 when on offer
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Château Albajan Picpoul de Pinet 2020

Château Albajan Picpoul de Pinet 2020

Picpoul de Pinet has become a staple of the wine scene in the last decade or so, taking on the mantle of Muscadet for a clean and fresh white that’s great with seafood and doesn’t break the bank.  The downside to Picpoul is that – like many other popular wines – it has become a commodity; one producer is not differentiated from another so people just buy the cheapest one they see.

There are a few fighting against this commoditisation, however; Villa Des Crois is one and now this new offering from O’Briens is another.  It has the classic saline tang of Piquepoul* but also some fleshy, juicy citrus in between – a combination of lemon, lime, orange and grapefruit.  There are also herbs as well; in fact this is a more interesting wine than Picpoul de Pinet usually is…and it pairs amazingly well with lemon and herb olives!

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €16.95 or €12.95 when on offer
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Conclusion

I would happily buy both wines at full price, though they are somewhat different in character; the saline sharpness and citrus of the Picpoul versus the broader palate of the Lugana.  If I had to choose between the two (I know, why not both?) then the key tell is that I went back to buy another bottle of the Picpoul out of my own pocket money.

* For some reason the wine is spelt Picpoul de Pinet but the grape is Piquepoul


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Wine Review: De Alberto Organic Verdejo and Pazo do Mar Treixadura

For the next 12 days (until 2nd August) O’Briens are running a Spanish Wine Sale.  As you might expect, Rioja and Rías Baixas are the key areas for reds and whites respectively out of a total of 69 wines.  However, I thought I’d try a couple of whites from slightly less well-known – though far from obscure – Spanish regions: Rueda and Ribeiro.  Here are my brief notes:

De Alberto Rueda Organic Verdejo 2019

Rueda has a claim to being one of Spain’s most consistent white wine regions; good value, approachable, fruity yet refreshing wines that are pleasant to sip on their own but can handle plenty of food pairings.

For a long time, Rueda’s whites were often Palomino based “Sherry style” wines, and that variety is still permitted, but Verdejo is the king now.  Viura, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Viognier are also permitted for whites (I’ve seen 100% Sauvignon Blanc and Viura as a minor component in a blend, but I have yet to see the other two on a label.  Much rarer red Rueda can be made from Tempranillo, Garnacha, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot.

To give them their full name, this wine is made by Bodegas Hijos de Alberto Gutiérrez, S.A., named after the founder of the family firm.  In 1941 they took over a long standing farmhouse which had made wines since being established by the Dominican order in the 17th century, and this is their base today.

The nose is bright and fruity, with a slight saline tang, plus fennel, garden herbs and gentle stone fruit.  These continue onto the tangy palate which adds plenty of grassiness to proceedings.  The finish is fresh, nay FRESH!  As a grape Verdejo is most often compared to Sauvignon Blanc, and tasted blind I would probably have guessed this to be a South African Sauvignon Blanc due to its body and alcohol while not tasting French nor Kiwi.

When it comes to food pairing this Rueda can swap in for a Sauvignon with a classic goats cheese or take on trays of shellfish with abandon.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €14.95 (currently down to €11.95)
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Pazo do Mar Ribeiro Treixadura 2020

Pazo Do Mar Treixidura

Ribeiro is one of the five wine regions of Galicia, along with the more famous Rías Baixas, Monterrei, Ribera Sacra and Valdeorras.  Up until the 1700s it was best known for its sweet wines which were popular with passing pilgrims.  Treixadura is the key white variety nowadays, though other permitted grapes are Torrontés*, Godello, Loureira, Albariño, Palomino, Albillo, and Macabeo.  Among many synonyms, Treixadura is sometimes known as Trajadura or Trincadeira.  It is rarely found outside Galicia or Vinho Verde and is often part of a blend.

The Pazo do Mar Group is a collection of three different wineries: Pazo do Mar itself in Ribeiro, Pazo das Tapias in Monterrei (mainly Mencía and Godello) and Veiga da Princesa in Rías Baixas (focussing on Albariño).  Pazo do Mar offer four wines: Nerieda (Treixadura, Torrontés, Godello and Palomino), Pazo do Mar White (Treixadura, Torrontés and Godello), Pazo do Mar Red (Mencía and Tempranillo) plus the Treixadura-based (plus a dash of Albariño) Expression.

Expression is straw yellow in the glass with tints of green.  The nose is instantly saline, accompanied by juicy citrus and hints of tropical fruits and spice.  The palate immediately starts with those saline waves, and citrus and stone fruit in the background.  Acidity is mouth-watering and demands another sip.  The mid palate is broad and textured, making this a great foil for plenty of foods.  If I have to be critical I’d say that there is perhaps a lack of flavour in the mid-palate, but this could even be by design: to leave space in the mix for food – think paella or lobster rolls.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €16.95 (currently down to €13.56)
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Conclusion

If you’re already a fan of Albariño but rarely stray from that grape in Spain then you definitely need to give both of these a try.  I think they are fairly priced at their regular price points so the reductions when on offer are a worthwhile saving.  Of the two I’d narrowly choose the Treixadura…but I might change my mind when I try them again!

* Note this is not the same variety as Torrontés found in Argentina


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Wine Review: Nivei Rioja Blanco and Encoastas de Caiz Vinho Verde from Lidl

Limited edition wines from Spain and Portugal at Lidl Ireland

Once again a new batch of limited release wines are going to be released into Lidl Ireland stores.  The majority are red, plus one sweet white and two dry whites reviewed here.  The others are listed at the bottom of this article.

Nivei Rioja Blanco 2018

Nivei Rioja Blanco 2018

White Rioja is traditionally mainly Viura, the same grape known as Macabeo in Catalonia, but since 2007 it can be made with up to nine different varieties:

  • Traditional varieties: Viura, Malvasia and Garnacha Blanca
  • Newly allowed local varieties: Maturana Blanca, Tempranillo Blanco and Turruntés
  • New non-local varieties: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Verdejo

In finest Countdown Numbers Game fashion, this wine is made with one from the top row, two from the middle row and three from the bottom row (all in blue), though percentages were not available.

I have to be honest and admit that I committed a schoolboy error tasting this wine; on a warm, muggy day I poured myself a big glass from the fridge and sipped away.  Of course it was nicely chilled, but far too chilled for tasting – it showed very little on the nose or the palate, but it was pleasant enough so I just mentalled tagged it as an inexpensive, inoffensive white wine.  However, as I’d left the bottle out of the fridge, when I poured another glass the wine had opened up considerably!  Aromas of citrus and stone fruit held my attention, then those notes followed through as flavours on the palate, lovely and tangy.  For €9 it’s well worth a try.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €8.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Encostas de Caiz Vinho Verde 2019

Encostas de Caiz Vinho Verde 2019

Vinho Verde is the northern Portuguese wine region famous for its young (literally “green”) fresh whites.  Around one in seven bottles is actually red, though they are seldom seen in Ireland or the UK.  Vinho Verde has nine sub-regions, though it is rare to see their names on bottles apart from the most prestigious Monção e Melgaço.

The white grapes used in the region are classed as either “recommended” or “permitted” varieties:

  • Recommended white grapes: Alvarinho, Arinto, Avesso, Azal, Batoca, Loureiro, and Trajadura
  • Permitted white grapes: Branco-Escola, Cainho de Moreira, Cascal, Douradinha, Esganinho, Esganoso de Castelo de Paiva, Esganoso de Lima, Fernão Pires, Lameiro, Rabigato, S. Mamede and Semilão

This wine helpfully gives the single variety on the front label – Avesso – and states the sub-region on the back label – Amarante.  Avesso is known for its ability to produce higher than average alcohol for Vinho Verde, substantial body yet with good acidity.  This example is true to form, being clean and fresh yet with plenty of oomph behind its stone and citrus fruits.  There’s also a nice mineral streak which makes this much more complex than many of the wines available at Lidl.  This is a must try summer white.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €12.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Other wines included in the event

Spain

  • Vespral Reserva Terra Alta 2016 €7.99
  • Fincas del Lebrel Rioja Reserva 2015 €12.99

Portugal

  • Cardal Tejo 2019 €7.99
  • Pinha do Ribeiro Santa Dão 2019 €9.99

France

  • Saumur Champigny 2019 €9.99
  • Château Calvimont Graves 2018 €11.99
  • Domaine Tournants Lirac 2019 €11.99

Other countries

  • How To Avoid Everything Western Cape Merlot €9.99 (South Africa)
  • Chloe California Pinot Noir 2019 €11.99 (USA)
  • Luna de Finca la Anita Grand Reserve Malbec €8.99 (Argentina)
  • Szamorodni Édes Tokaji 2018 €9.99 (Hungary) (Sweet white)

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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.

Make Mine A Double

Wine Review: Dreissigacker Riesling and Robert Weil Riesling

What’s the difference between Rheingau and Rheinhessen?

The nomenclature of German wine can be confusing – even for serious wine enthusiasts – with compound names and a quality system predicated on harvest sugar levels.  When three of the thirteen wine regions contain the word “Rhein” even the places can be confusing: Rheingau, Rheinhessen and Mittelrhein.  Until 1995 there was even a fourth with the Pfalz known as Rheinpfalz.

Rheinhessen is the largest of the 13 German wine regions and grows a large range of varieties; Riesling is the most significant but only accounts for around a sixth of the total, with Müller-Thurgau, Dornfelder and various Pinots also prominent.  Historically it was part of the Hesse region but is now part of Rheinland-Pfalz.

Confusingly, the Rheingau is part of the state of Hesse!  In her book The wines of Germany, Anne Krebiehl MW states that “No other region has shaped the identity of German wine and therefore Riesling as comprehensively as [the Rheingau]”.  Riesling is most definitely king here, accounting for 78.8% of all wines, with Spätburgunder a distant second at 12.2% then Müller-Thurgau leading the small change.

German Wine Regions

This article compares two similar Rieslings from Rheingau and Rheinhessen, both Trocken (dry), 12.0% in alcohol and retailing in the €20 – €25 bracket in Ireland.

Dreissigacker Rheinhessen Riesling Trocken 2015

Dreissigacker Estate Riesling Trocken from Rheinhessen

Jochen Dreissigacker took over his parents’ firm in Bechtheim and set about bringing it right up to date.  A modern winery building was established using gravity to move around the grapes, must and wine.  The vineyards were converted to organic production, with certification coming in 2010, and now biodynamic practices are also used for the majority of the estate.  Minimal intervention is the key so that vineyards and grapes can express themselves to the full.  Dreissigacker never use commercial yeasts, chaptalise with sugar before fermentation nor add “‘süss-reserve” for sweeter styles after fermentation.

The estate has six named vineyards around Bechtheim and Westhofen, each with their own unique soil types, microclimates and identities.  Totalling 21 hectares under vine, the most important variety is Riesling  which accounts for 55% of the total, with Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay among the others.  This estate wine is a blend of Riesling from different sites, mainly with loess and marl soils.

The nose on this wine is easily identifiable as Riesling: lime, lemon and apple blossom.  On tasting the strong core of acidity is striking, but there’s also breadth and texture – in fact more than one might expect from a Riesling.  The lime notes are joined by a touch of honey and a pleasant bittersweet tanginess, and it ends with a dry, textured finish.

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RS: 5.0%
  • RRP: €23.99 (2019 vintage)
  • Stockists: 64 Wine, Glashule; Alain and Christine Wine and Card Shop; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Martins Off Licence, Fairview; Redmonds of Ranelagh; The Wine Centre, Kilkenny; wineonline.ie; World Wide Wines, Waterford
  • Source: purchased from 64 Wine

Robert Weil Rheingau Riesling Trocken 2019

Robert Weil Rheingau Riesling Trocken

Weingut Robert Weil has over four times as much vineyard area as Dreissigacker with 90 hectares, all of which is planted to Riesling.  The eponymous Dr Robert Weil purchased his first vineyards in 1867 while teaching German at the Sorbonne, but shortly after had to return home as tensions rose between the two countries.  There he became a journalist while expanding his holdings and his range of wines; his Auslese Riesling became famous throughout Europe. 

Robert’s son Wilhelm (from 1920) helped to steer the winery through turbulent times and was a leader for the winegrowing industry.  His grandson Robert (from 1959) helped Weil’s Rieslings to regain their reputation for excellence.  The current owner/manager is another Wilhelm who took over in 1987.  He undertook serious investments in the vineyards and cellar, even introducing the distinctive and now iconic “Tiffany blue” labels.

Although they have just a single variety, Weil make an extensive range of wines, and differing sugar levels necessitate as many as 17 different passes through the vineyards during a harvest which can last ten weeks or more.  In the winery – as with Dreissigacker – gravity rather than pumps is used to move juice and wine.  Both wild and commercial yeasts are used for fermentation, with fuller bodied dry wines in large oak casks and sweeter or fruit forward wines fermented in stainless steel tanks.

This 2019 Riesling Trocken pours very pale in the glass, as you’d expect.  The nose has intense, fresh lime overlaying a mineral edge.  The palate initially shows soft citrus fruits, backed up by a strong streak of acidity which underpins the whole show, and then juicy orchard fruits.  This is a well made, balanced wine that gives a lot of pleasure.  It’s not the most complex of wines, but it is the entry level from Robert Weil and represents fantastic value for money.

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RS: 8.4 g/L
  • RRP: €24.95 (currently down to €21.95)
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswines.ie
  • Source: Sample

Conclusion

So what can these two wines tell us about the differences between the Rheingau and Rheinhessen?  I think this is too small a sample to compare the two regions, but it does make for a comparison between the two producers and two vintages.  The Dreissigacker is four years older than the Robert Weil so it is further along its journey to maturity; the Weil is still fresh and shows more primary fruit, fitting for their desire for wines to be both food-friendly and pleasant to drink on their own.  The Dreissigacker is more textured, mineral and serious, perhaps slightly less obvious or accessible for some drinkers. 

I really liked both!  For a refreshing sip in the sun with friends I’d pick the Robert Weil, but for a dinner with some good food the Dreissigacker would be my choice.  Perhaps more investigation is required…


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Wine Review: Gérard Bertrand Cote des Roses and Pasqua 11 Minutes Rosé

Here we have two more rosés from the O’Briens summer rosé sale.  One is a typical blend from a Languedoc legend, the other is an unusual blend from a Veronese outfit who use both local and international varieties.  Both have a cool feature on the bottle they arrive in.

Gérard Bertrand Cote des Roses 2020

gerard bertrand cote des roses

With the untimely death of his father Georges in 1987, flank forward Gérard Bertrand had to balance his rugby career with becoming a vigneron.  He sought to increase the quality of the wines while gradually increasing the family’s holdings.  Bertrand is now an ambassador for Languedoc wines and the biodynamic approach – all his vineyards have been converted to biodynamics and certifications should be completed by 2023.  In the past 30 or so years the Domaine has grown from 60 to 920 hectares, includes 15 estates, and exports its wines to over 150 countries.

Cote des Roses [sic] is a traditional Languedoc blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah.  It’s a very pale pink (rose in French!) in the glass.  The nose simply smells of summer!  Strawberry and raspberry aromas continue onto the palate where they are joined by a steely streak of minerality.  The fruit and mineral aspects are not distinct entities but are entwined together.  They arrive together, hang out for a while then leave together hand in hand.

There’s also some texture to this wine which mean it could partner well with food.  It stands astride the line between food rosés and quaffing rosés, a great all-rounded that’s worth a try.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €14.21 down from €18.95
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Cool bottle feature: the base of the bottle is formed into a relief shaped like a rose

Gérard Bertrand Cote des Roses

Pasqua 11 Minutes Rosé 2020

Pasqua 11 Minutes Rosé

Pasqua Vigneti e Cantine, to give the firm its full name, was founded by the Pasqua brothers from Puglia in 1925.  Their original venture was intended to commercialise Puglian wines in greater Verona, but it didn’t take too long before they invested in local vineyards and began to market those wines too.  The second generation joined the business in the 1960s and were the driving force behind a focus on exports and the establishment of a research and development institute.  The new millennium saw the building of a new headquarters in Verona and dedicated export entities in the USA and China, with the third generation now taking over the reins.

The Pasqua range now extends to two dozen wines, split into five ranges: Icons, Famiglia Pasqua, Pasqua Specials, Pasqua Timeless and Independents.  11 Minutes is the Rosé member of the Icons range.  11 Minutes refers to the length of time the juice stays in contact with the skins before being separated for cold settling.  Selected yeasts are used to initiate fermentation in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks, and once completed the wine matures in the same tanks on its lees.

It’s the blend which is really unusual here: Corvina (50%; a key red wine variety of the Veneto) plus Trebbiano de Lugano (25%; a white variety which makes excellent wines on the shores of Lake Garda), Syrah (15%; from the Rhône but grown internationally) and Carmenère (10%; Bordelais in origin but now the signature variety of Chile).

Given the brief maceration time of 11 minutes it’s no surprise that this is a pale wine.  Red fruits and floral notes dominate the nose and resolve nicely on to the palate.  There are also grapefruit flavours and textures, specifically grapefruit segments in juice, pith and all.

This is a remarkably balanced and tasty rosé, undoubtedly the best I’ve tasted so far this summer!

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €14.21 down from €18.95 (75 cl) or €38.95 (150 cl)
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Cool bottle feature: the front label is actually donut shaped; if you align it correctly the image on the inside of the back label can be seen in the hole through the wine.


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Wine Review: Les Auzines Alaina Rosé and Domaine de L’Ostal Rosé

For many wine drinkers the brighter evenings are the sign to break out the rosé.  Summer doesn’t appear to have arrived yet here in Ireland, but rosé sales are already booming.  At family-owned chain O’Briens Wines they are out in full force, with a 25% off promotion:

O'Briens Rosé Display

Here are brief notes on two from that selection which have an Irish connection, though perhaps a little tenuous…

Domaine de l’Ostal Rosé 2020

Domaine de l'Ostal Rosé

Domaine de l’Ostal is the Languedoc outpost of the JM Cazes group, named after Jean-Michel Cazes who ran the group for over 30 years until he handed the reins over to his son Jean-Charles Cazes in 2006.  L’Ostal is a large estate, with 150 ha in total of which 60 ha are under vine and 25 ha are olive groves.  I am a big fan of their Minervois La Livinière Grand Vin which punches well above its weight.

The Domaine de l’Ostal rosé is a 50-50 blend of Grenache and Syrah grapes from the coolest part of the estate.  The grapes are cold pressed to preserve aromas and freshness, and to reduce extraction of colour and flavour from the skins.  The result is a lovely pale pink wine with fresh red fruit aromas – raspberry, redcurrant and strawberry – plus pomegranate.  On the palate sweet red fruits are to the fore, but the finish remains crisp.

This is an easy-going and appealing rosé which will be a real crowd pleaser come barbecue time.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €11.96 down from €15.95
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Irish connection: the JM Cazes family also own and run Château Lynch-Bages in Pauillac which was of course founded by Irish émigré Thomas Lynch. 

Laurent Miquel Les Auzines Alaina Rosé 2020

Laurent Miquel les Auzines Alaina RosE

Laurent Miquel is the eighth generation of winemaker in his family, but he initially opted for a professional career in the automotive industry.  The family calling eventually won him over and, after studying oenology in Montpellier, he returned to the land.  His father Henri was a great innovator in his time, especially planting so much Syrah in the 1970s.

The Miguel family bought the Cazal Viel estate in 1791, and although it had been used for viticulture by its previous custodians its poor fertility meant that wine was a small part of the estate for many years.  This was added to by Laurent’s purchase of Château Les Auzines in Corbières in 2009.

Les Auzines is situated on a rocky plateau at 350 metres above sea level.  As well as being Laurent’s family home it is the source of three wines; Alaina Albariño, Alaina Rosé and Cuvée Les Garrigues.

The Rosé is a typical Languedoc blend of 40% Syrah, 30% Grenache and 30% Cinsault.  Fermentation at low temperatures and ageing are carried out in steel tanks to preserve aromas and freshness. 

When poured the wine is very pale in colour, not too far from water white, as is the fashion these days.  The nose shows delicate citrus and light red fruit aromas.  The palate is fruity but balanced.  Gentle red fruits hint at sweetness without sugariness, and there’s some texture there too.  The finish is fresh, but it does not take you down a mineral-only path, and is certainly not austere.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €12.71 down from €16.95
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Irish connection: Laurent Miquel’s wife Neasa is Irish!


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Wine Review: Corte Alle Mine Vermentino and Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano

Here are two wines from the SuperValu Italian Wine Sale, and specifically a Piedmontese pair that caught my attention at a virtual press tasting.  These are both “Guest wines”, i.e. they are sourced via local suppliers rather than direct from the producer, giving the retailer more flexibility.

Before we get to the wines themselves, a quick look at the wine regions of Tuscany and the producer Castellani:

Tuscany

Map of Tuscany's DOC and DOCG wine areas

The most famous wine region of Tuscany (and Italy) is Chianti; I posit that most wine drinkers are still not aware of the difference between Chianti and Chianti Classico and they are grouped together in most people’s minds.  Brunello di Montalcino is less well known among the general wine buying population, though it has a strong following among the cognoscenti.  Brunello is the local synonym for Sangiovese, specifically the Sangiovese Grosso clone which is native to the area.  The third and least well-known Sangiovese area of Tuscany is Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.  This is (obviously) made in the area around the town of Montepulciano from the local Sangiovese clone called Prugnolo gentile.

One other difference between the three DOCGs is the allowance of other varieties.  Brunello – and its baby brother Rosso di Montalcino – must be 100% Sangiovese; Vino Nobile has to be a minimum 70% Sangiovese plus Canaiolo Nero, Mammolo and other local varieties; Chianti and Chianti Classico can range between 75% and 100% Sangiovese with Canaiolo and others making up the balance.

For Vino Nobile di Montepulciano the major confusion has been with Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, a red wine made from the Montepulciano grape in the province of Abruzzo.  The governing Corsorzio has therefore recently started promoting the wine as simply Vino Nobile…easier (and shorter) for folk to say and remember.

Vermentino is an Italian treasure and one of the key white varieties of Tuscany, but it is actually grown further afield under the same and other names.  It is widely planted in Sardinia under the same name, in Liguria as Pigato and as Favorita a little further north in Piedmont.  On the French Mediterranean coast (the Languedoc, Roussillon and Provence) it is usually known as Rolle, but increasingly labelled as Vermentino as customers have more awareness of this name.

In Tuscany it is generally grown close to the coast to benefit from cool coastal breezes, allowing flavours, aromas and acidity to develop without excessive alcohol.  For Castellani this Vermentino is one of their biggest sellers in Italy.  Clonal selection is very important to maintain consistency. 

Castellani

Alfredo Castellani established his winery in Montecalvoli in 1903, after previously being solely a grape grower.  His sons Duilio and Mario subsequently took over and expanded the firm significantly.  Duilio’s eldest son Giorgio coordinated a huge export drive, and was later joined in this by his brother Roberto after a serious flood.  Another disaster was to take hold in 1982 when a fire destroyed Castellani’s premises.  Giorgio and Roberto bought the Campomaggio Estate and were able to use the facilities of the new property to rebuild the business.  They were then joined by Piergiorgio who added a scientific take to the firm’s vinous artistry, and continues to run the firm to this day.

Piergiorgio has been experimenting with ways to make Tuscan wines which appeal to a younger, less tradition-bound generation.  This includes funky new labels which are less intimidating than those the consumer is used to seeing, but also by gently increasing the residual sugar to give a richer, rounder wine.  He is not aiming for noticeable sweetness, and a little tartaric acid is added to keep the wines fresh.

All that said, here are brief notes on two dry Castellani wines that I tried and really enjoyed recently:

Corte Alle Mone Vermentino Toscana 2019

Corte Alle Mine Vermentino

The Corte Alle Mone Vermentino is pale in the glass and lightly aromatic on the nose.  It shows citrus and stone fruits with hints of balsamic aromas.  The palate is bright and tangy yet creamy and round.  This is a delicious example of the variety and a great introduction to Tuscan Vermentino.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €10.00 down from €14.99 from 20th May to 9th June 2021
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

Corte Alle Mine Vino Nobile De Montepulciano 2016

Corte Alle Mine Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

The introduction to Tuscan wines above gives you the background to Vino Nobile.  This example from Castellani’s Corte Alle Mine has a textbook Sangiovese nose of dark fruits, tar, coffee and balsamic aromas – presumably from the 24 or more months it spent in large format oak casks.  The palate is smooth without being bland, with a balance between the fruit and smoky black elements.  Piergiorgio believes that a year or two more in bottle would bring out more savoury, umami tertiary notes.  If you like the sound of that then lay a few bottles down, but it’s drinking beautifully right now; this is a complex, quality wine that is an outstanding bargain at this price.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €15.00 down from €19.99 from 20th May to 9th June 2021
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

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


Other Wines in the SuperValu Italian Wine Event

  • Canto Novo Pinot Grigio: €7.00 down from €15.99
  • Canto Novo Rosé: €7.00 down from €15.99
  • Emotivo Pinot Grigio: €8.00 down from €10.00
  • Castellani Arbos Sangiovese: €8.00 down from €12.99
  • Intrigo Negroamaro: €9.00 down from €11.99
  • Intrigo Primitivo: €9.00 down from €11.99
  • Ragnatella Negramaro: €9.00 down from €12.99
  • Baffo Rosse Chianti: €9.00 down from €13.99
  • Sammicheli Chianti Reserva: €9.00 down from €19.99
  • Burdizzo Vermentino Toscana: €10.00 down from €12.99
  • Barone Montalto Passivento Rosso: €10.00 down from €13.99 
  • Cantina Tombacco Aglianico: €10.00 down from €12.99
  • Castellani Chianti: €10.00 down from €13.49
  • Il Capolavoro Appassimento: €10.00 down from €14.99
  • Zonin Montepulciano D’Abruzzo: €10.00 down from €12.99
  • Zonin Pinot Grigio: €10.00 down from €12.99
  • Governo All’Uso: €10.00 down from €15.99
  • Orso D’Oro Red: €10.00 down from €14.99
  • Forte Ambrone Red: €10.00 down from €14.99
  • Castlemondo Ripasso €10.00 down from €18.00
  • Ricossa Gavi: €12.00 down from €13.99
  • Castellani Chianti Classico: €12.00 down from €15.49
  • Ill Capolavoro Primativo Di Manduria: €12.00 down from €15.99
  • Freixenet Pinot Grigio: €12.00 down from €14.99
  • Freixenet Chianti: €12.00 down from €14.99
  • Freixenet Rosé: €12.00 down from €14.99
  • Zonin Chianti: €12.00 down from €14.99
  • Masi Campofiorin: €15.00 down from €17.49
  • Barone Montalto Ammasso: €15.00 from €18.99
  • Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano D’Abruzzo: €16.99 down from €18.99
  • Grifòn Prosecco Frizzante Magnum: €18.00 down from €24.00
  • Ricossa Barolo: €20.00 down from €24.99
  • Costa Mediana Amarone Della Valpolicella: €20.00 down from €25.00
  • Masi Campofiorin Magnum: €25.00 down from €40.00
  • Barone Montalto Passivento 3 litre Bag In Box: €28.00 down from €45.00
  • Masi Costasera Amarone: €35.00 down from €37.99

Make Mine A Double

Wine Review: Ricossa Gavi and Barolo

Here are two wines from the SuperValu Italian Wine Sale, and specifically a Piedmontese pair that caught my attention at a virtual press tasting.  These are both “Guest wines”, i.e. they are sourced via local suppliers rather than direct from the producer, giving the retailer more flexibility.

Before we get to the wines themselves, a quick look at the wine regions of Piedmont:

Piedmont

Piedmont, or Piemonte to the locals, is a major region in north west Italy that runs right into the Alps.  As well as being a major industrial centre it is also home to many of Italy’s most well-known wine regions, nearly all using indigenous varieties.

Wine Regions of Piedmont / Piemonte

Ricossa Antica Casa

The Ricossa family can trace their beverage production origins back to the end of the 19th century, but it was Piedmontese spirits that they made rather than wine back then.  Now they make fifteen wines from across the region, with Nebbiolo and Barbera featuring prominently.  Below we have two excellent examples.

Ricossa Gavi 2019

Ricossa Gavi

As you can see from the map above, Gavi is very close to Piedmont’ southern border with Liguria. From there it is only around 60 kilometres to the Ligurian Sea, part of the Mediterranean, so there is a distinct coastal influence.  The estate where Ricossa source their Cortese grapes for this wine was established in 2004 on steep, rocky terrain.

In the glass this Gavi is a pale lemon, so good so far, but it’s the nose where things start to get really interesting.  The nose kicks off with an intoxicating muskiness, lifted and exciting.  It’s an unusual aroma, hard to pin down, but really special.  This then gives way to a variety of citrus notes.  The palate manages to be fresh and zesty, yet smooth, mineral yet textured.  It’s very approachable but not dumbed down in any way.

I’ve had some other good Gavis in the last decade but none have been as good as this.

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RRP: €12.00 down from €13.99 from 20th May to 9th June 2021
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

Ricossa Barolo 2016

Ricossa Barolo

Many regard Barolo as the pinnacle of Italian wine, and most consider it to be at least in the top handful.  However, many Barolos not only improve with a good amount of cellaring but are almost undrinkable in their youth.  Nebbiolo’s fiery tannins and acids can make for a drinking experience which is more masochism than hedonism.  There are some bottles which are approachable on release, such as GD Vayra’s Bricco delle Viole, but a single bottle of that won’t leave you that much change from €100 (in Ireland) , so it remains out of reach for most.

Step up Ricossa!  The grapes for this wine are from vines on calcareous silty clay soils, good for structure and complexity.  Fermentation and maceration take place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks, then maturation is in French oak barrels for two years and a further year in bottle before release.

When poured this is ruby red but with brown tints hinting at a little bit of age.  The nose shows red fruits, liquorice, caramel and spices, including a hint of vanilla.  The palate is rich and very expressive, with notes of black and red liquorice, cherries and raspberries.  This is a generous, elegant wine.  It has plenty of tannin and acidity, but they are interwoven with the fruits and other elements of the wine rather than standing in stark relief.  

This Barolo straddles the line between traditional and modern wines.  It’s highly approachable and not austere, so shouldn’t scare off any tempted to try Barolo for the first time.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €20.00 down from €24.99 from 20th May to 9th June 2021
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

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

 


Other Wines in the SuperValu Italian Wine Event

  • Canto Novo Pinot Grigio: €7.00 down from €15.99
  • Canto Novo Rosé: €7.00 down from €15.99
  • Emotivo Pinot Grigio: €8.00 down from €10.00
  • Castellani Arbos Sangiovese: €8.00 down from €12.99
  • Intrigo Negroamaro: €9.00 down from €11.99
  • Intrigo Primitivo: €9.00 down from €11.99
  • Ragnatella Negramaro: €9.00 down from €12.99
  • Baffo Rosse Chianti: €9.00 down from €13.99
  • Sammicheli Chianti Reserva: €9.00 down from €19.99
  • Burdizzo Vermentino Toscana: €10.00 down from €12.99
  • Barone Montalto Passivento Rosso: €10.00 down from €13.99 
  • Cantina Tombacco Aglianico: €10.00 down from €12.99
  • Castellani Chianti: €10.00 down from €13.49
  • Il Capolavoro Appassimento: €10.00 down from €14.99
  • Zonin Montepulciano D’Abruzzo: €10.00 down from €12.99
  • Zonin Pinot Grigio: €10.00 down from €12.99
  • Governo All’Uso: €10.00 down from €15.99
  • Corte Alle Mone Vermentino: €10.00 down from €14.99
  • Orso D’Oro Red: €10.00 down from €14.99
  • Forte Ambrone Red: €10.00 down from €14.99
  • Castlemondo Ripasso €10.00 down from €18.00
  • Castellani Chianti Classico: €12.00 down from €15.49
  • Ill Capolavoro Primativo Di Manduria: €12.00 down from €15.99
  • Freixenet Pinot Grigio: €12.00 down from €14.99
  • Freixenet Chianti: €12.00 down from €14.99
  • Freixenet Rosé: €12.00 down from €14.99
  • Zonin Chianti: €12.00 down from €14.99
  • Masi Campofiorin: €15.00 down from €17.49
  • Corte Alle Mine Vina Nobile De Montepulciano €15.00 down from €19.99
  • Barone Montalto Ammasso: €15.00 from €18.99
  • Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano D’Abruzzo: €16.99 down from €18.99
  • Grifòn Prosecco Frizzante Magnum: €18.00 down from €24.00
  • Costa Mediana Amarone Della Valpolicella: €20.00 down from €25.00
  • Masi Campofiorin Magnum: €25.00 down from €40.00
  • Barone Montalto Passivento 3 litre Bag In Box: €28.00 down from €45.00
  • Masi Costasera Amarone: €35.00 down from €37.99

 

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.