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.

Make Mine A Double

Wine Review: Traminer Aromatico Friuli and Camille Meyer Grand Cru Mambourg Gewurztraminer from Lidl

Two different styles of Gewurz from the Lidl Easter Wine Cellar

I recently posted a review of two easy drinking whites from the Lidl Easter Wine Cellar. Now it’s time to look at two different Gewurztraminers, hailing from different countries and made in very different styles.

Traminer Aromatico Friuli 2019

This wine is from the north eastern Italian area of Friuli, part of the Friuli Venezia Giulia region that borders Slovenia to the east and Austria to the north. The name Traminer Aromatico is simply the Italian for “Aromatic Traminer” rather than “Spicy Traminer” which is the literal translation of its full German name.

“So when did Italian Gewürztraminer become a thing?” you might ask. Well the grape actually has its origins in Italy, in the South-Tyrolean1 village of Tramin. A couple of mutations during its travels around Europe turned it pink and made it very aromatic. In Jura the pink but non-spicy version is known as Savagnin (Rose); in a few villages in the north of Alsace the same grape is responsible for the mouthful that is Klevener de Heiligenstein.

When poured this Traminer does actually have a tinge of colour, unlike many other aromatic wines which can be water white. The nose is restrained but has touches of Turkish delight and lychees. The palate is something of a surprise, with crisp, green notes and no rich oiliness. Whereas Gewurz usually shows exotic spices this has more of a herb garden to it.

This is a gentle wine that, for me, has more in common with a good Argentinian Torrontés or a Jura Savagnin than a typical Gewurz; the 12.5% alcohol is a good indicator of its weight.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €8.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland stores from Thursday 25th March 2021
  • Source: Media sample

Camille Meyer Alsace Grand Cru Mambourg Gewurztraminer 2018

There are records of wine grapes being produced on the Mambourg hillside dating back to 783. Situated by the town of Sigolsheim, this Grand Cru vineyard is over 1.3 km across and nearly 62 hectares in area. Gewurztraminer is the main variety grown but there are also plantings of the other three noble grapes: Pinot Gris, Muscat and Riesling. Being such a large Cru means that quality might vary from plot to plot. The celebrated Marcel Deiss makes a fantastic Grand Cru Mambourg blend which shows that it can make stunning wines.

Whereas above we looked at a wine in the style of Traminer and Savagnin Rose, full-on spicy Gewurztraminer is one of the most recognisable wines from Alsace – and this bottle from Camille Meyer is exactly that. The nose is very expressive, so you can tick off the typical notes of lychee, rose petals and Turkish delight. There are a few herbal notes on the palate but spices are to the fore, particularly ginger.

There’s a decent level of residual sugar in this wine – which is a big positive for me in an Alsace Gewurz – and a finger in the air figure of 25 g/L is my guess. The sugar does mask a lack of complexity, and the level of oiliness is lower than many.

I believe that Camille Meyer is a private label owned by Lidl, and given the price it’s totally understandable that this wine doesn’t have the class that I’d expect from a Grand Cru wine. Indeed, there are non Grand Cru Gewurztraminers that are significantly better than this wine – Meyer Fonné comes to mind – but they are also significantly more expensive. This bottle therefore represents very good value for money.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €14.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland stores from Thursday 25th March 2021
  • Source: Media sample

Conclusion

Although ostensibly made from the same grape variety these two wines are totally different in style. If you are already a lower of good Gewurz then it’s the Alsace bottle that you should put in your trolley. If you prefer drier, more restrained wines than give the Italian bottle a try. And if you’re not sure, buy both and compare for yourself!


The full list of wines included in the Lidl Ireland Easter Wine Cellar is below, with links to reviews as applicable.

Whites:

Reds:

  • Mészáros Pinot Noir, €9.99
  • Casato dei Medici Riccardi Chianti Colli Senesi 2018, €11.99
  • Casato dei Medici Riccardi Chianti Rufina 2018, €9.99
  • Bellanova Primitivo di Manduria 2019, €9.99
  • Duca di Sasseta Ser Passo Toscana Rosso 2018, €12.99
  • La Croix des Celestins Beaujolais Brouilly 2019, €11.99

1 The South Tyrol (Südtirol in German, Alto Adige in Italian) was formerly part of Austria-Hungary but annexed by Italy at the end of the second World War. After many deliberations and consultations since then, it is now fully bilingual and has a large degree of autonomy.


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

Make Mine A Double

Wine Review: Giulio Pasotti Lugana and Patricius Tokaji Furmint from Lidl

Two Easy Drinking White Wines From The Lidl Easter Wine Cellar

Lidl Ireland are set to release a dozen wines onto their shelves on Thursday 25th March, just in time for Easter.  Consisting of six white and six reds – see the list further down – the wines will be available in limited quantities.

Here are my brief notes on two of the whites which will be included in this event.

Giulio Pasotti Lugana 2019

Giulio Pasotti Lugana

A brief search indicates that this wine may only be available from Lidl stores in various countries, so Giulio Pasitto is quite possibly a private label (though happy to be corrected).  For those not familar with it, Lugana is an Italian wine region in the Veneto on the shores of Lake Garda – see my review of Cà dei Frati I Frati for more details.

This Lidl Lugana pours a pale lemon and has spicy orchard fruits on the nose.  The palate is lithe, easy drinking, with a little bittersweet grapefruit.  It’s perhaps a little lacking in acidity for my tastes, but it serves as a good introduction to the wines of the region.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €9.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland stores from Thursday 25th March 2021
  • Source: Media sample

Patricius “Vicarius” Tokaji Furmint 2019

Dry Furmint is becoming less the exception and more the rule in Tokaji, as climate change has led to far fewer vintages with sufficient botrytised grapes to make the region’s famous sweet wines.

The Patricius estate extends to an impressive 85 hectares and has seven historic first-growth vineyards.  The winery is run by father and daughter team Dezső and Katinka Kékessy who come from long lines of winemaking stock.  They are very proud of their dry Furmint as well as their Aszú sweet wines, with each plot being vinified and matured separately.

The Vicarius appears to be their entry level wine.  It’s made in a fresh, easy-to-drink style but still is a great showcase for dry Furmint.  The nose is very expressive, with stones and smoke drifting over melon and citrus.  These notes continue onto the palate which is framed by intertwining minerality and acidity.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €9.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland stores from Thursday 25th March 2021
  • Source: Media sample

Conclusion

Both of these wines are made in a simple, easy-drinking style; they are pleasant to drink and give a good representation of their respective regions and grapes without reaching the levels of more expensive examples.  At €9.99 both would be fine for a mid-week tipple, though the extra freshness of the Furmint makes it the winner for me.


The full list of wines included in the Lidl Ireland Easter Wine Cellar is below, with links to reviews as applicable.

Whites:

  • Patricius Tokaji Furmint 2019, €9.99
  • Traminer Aromatico Friuli 2019, €8.99
  • Lugana 2019, €9.99
  • Trésors de Loire Pouilly-Fumé 2019, €12.99
  • Camille Meyer Alsace Grand Cru Mambourg Gewurztraminer 2018, €14.99
  • Chablis 2019, €12.99

Reds:

  • Mészáros Pinot Noir, €9.99
  • Casato dei Medici Riccardi Chianti Colli Senesi 2018, €11.99
  • Casato dei Medici Riccardi Chianti Rufina 2018, €9.99
  • Bellanova Primitivo di Manduria 2019, €9.99
  • Duca di Sasseta Ser Passo Toscana Rosso 2018, €12.99
  • La Croix des Celestins Beaujolais Brouilly 2019, €11.99

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

Make Mine A Double

Wine Review: Maison Ambroise Bourgogne Aligoté and Domaine Michel Lafarge Bourgogne Aligoté

Aligoté is on the comeback trail, a grape which used to looked down upon for its acidity and rusticity is now producing treasured wines, especially in its homeland of greater Burgundy.  I recently praised one inexpensive specimen of Bourgogne Aligoté from Lidl, but now we have two more accomplished examples from well reputed producers:

Maison Ambroise Bourgogne Aligoté 2017

Maison Ambroise Bourgogne Aligoté

Maison Ambroise have been a favoured Burgundy producer of mine for several years.  The family grow and source grapes from 20 hectares split over 20 different appellations.  Of those available in Ireland, the Hautes Côtes de Nuits white and Côtes de Nuits Villages red are excellent mid range wines.  The entry level here is the red and white pair of Lettre d’Eloïse, while there are other treats available such as the stunning Nuits-St-Georges “Haut Pruliers”.

Ambroise’s Aligoté tucks in just behind the Lettre d’Eloïse Chardonnay in the range.  It has an intriguing nose of pear, citrus and herbs.  Textbook strong acidity make this a fresh wine, but fleshy texture and ripe citrus notes also give it some body.  There’s also a strong mineral streak which is almost metallic in character.  This is a tangy, mouth-watering and delicious example of the grape.  Ambroise themselves suggest pairing it with fish, and especially Sushi.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €20
  • Stockists: The Wine Pair; Avoca; Le Caveau Kilkenny; MacGuiness wines; Redmonds of Ranelagh; Martins Off License; Station to Station wines; Listons
  • Source: purchased from The Wine Pair

Domaine Michel Lafarge Raisins Dorés Bourgogne Aligoté 2018

If Ambroise is small with 20 hectares, then Domaine Michel Lafarge is even smaller at about half the size.  Based in Volnay, the Domaine is now run by Frédéric and his daughter Clothilde, the second and third generation respectively.  The estate is certified organic and biodynamic, with a low-intervention approach to winemaking.  

Whereas Ambroise’s vines are 40 years old, Lafarge’s Aligoté vines are more than twice that.  After whole-cluster pressing, fermentation takes place spontaneously with wild yeast in stainless steel tanks.  The wine is then matured between three and six months in older oak barrels, depending on the vintage.  Before bottling the wine may be fined and / or filtered, again vintage-dependent.

I don’t think I’m doing this bottle of Raisins Dorés (Golden Grapes) a disservice by saying that it’s fairly similar to the Ambroise, but more so: aromas and flavours are much more concentrated, there’s more smoke and fleshy texture, and such a long finish.  It’s almost as though this is the wine that Riesling and Albariño want to be when they grow up.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €32
  • Stockists: the current allocation of 32 bottles for Ireland has already sold out.
  • Source: media sample

Conclusion

There’s no doubt that the Lafarge is the better of these two wines in my eyes (or should that be “in my mouth”?), but the real question is their comparative quality to price ratio.  Which is the better value for money?  The extremely low availability of the Lafarge take it out of the buying equation right now, but I’d say that the two wines are equal in the VFM stakes.  If you just want to spend €20 then buy the Ambroise, but if you can spend just over €30 and can find the Lafarge wine then snap it up!


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

 

 

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

 

Make Mine A Double

Big and Bold from Boutique [Make Mine a Double #69]

On this 69th installment of Make Mine a Double (the favourite installment of Bill S. Preston Esq. and Ted “Theodore” Logan of course1) we look at two big and bold reds from Boutique Wines, a small wine importer based in Dublin.  One is from South West France made (primarily) with a grape that has found fame in Argentina: Malbec.  Outside of south western France, Malbec is used in the Loire and as a minor blending grape in Bordeaux (though its ability to thrive in warmer weather is likely to see its importance there rise again.)

Another Bordeaux blending grape that has found success in Argentina, though on a much smaller scale, is Petit Verdot.  The Bordelais use it as a seasoning grape, adding a dash of colour and tannin when 5% or so is added into a blend.  The second wine below is 100% Petit Verdot but from a different warm, Spanish speaking country – Spain itself!

Disclosure: the Cahors was a sample but opinions remain my own (the Petit Verdot was an unrelated gift2)

Château Nozières Ambroise de l’Her Cahors Malbec 2016

Château Nozières owns 55 hectares in total spread close to its home in Vire-sur-Lot.  They are on a continuous journey to understand the nuances of each site.  For this “Ambroise de l’Her” the fruit is selected from older parcels of Malbec (90%) and Merlot (10%) grown on clay / limestone terraces of the Lot River.  Yields are kept at 40 hl/ha and canopy management is by hand.  Harvesting is by a combination of machine and hand followed by fermentation in temperature controlled vats over three weeks.  MLF takes place in the same vats followed by maturation in used (between one and five years) oak barrels for 12 to 14 months.

Whether it’s climate change or the rise of Argentine Malbec that has a bigger influence on Cahors is unclear, but their effects are reflected in this ripe, fruit driven bottle from Château Nozières.  Although ripe and full-bodied, it’s not at all jammy as tannins keep exuberance in check.  The balance is enough for it to be quaffed on its own, enjoying the sweet black fruits, but it also works superbly with hearty winter food.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €16.95 (down from €21.00)
  • Stockists: Boutique Wines, Barnhill stores Killaney/Dalkey; Mortons, Ranalagh; Listons, Camden street; The Wine House Trim; Emilie’s, Glenbeigh Co. Kerry; Pat Fitzgerald’s (Centra), Dingle Co. Kerry; Grape and Bean, Portlaois; The Wine Pair, Clanbrassil Street; Blackrock Cellars; Gleeson’s, Booterstown Ave

Bodegas Señorio de Iniesta “Colección 34”  La Tierra de Castilla Petit Verdot 2018

Bodega Iniesta is a relatively new venture – very new in Spanish terms! – as the winery was only built in 2010.  Located an hour an a half’s drive west of Valencia, the Bodega has in excess of 300 hectares of vines, including both Spanish and international varieties.  They make a wide range of styles and quality levels – and even offer olive oil.  Petit Verdot is an unusual variety to plant, but I’m glad they did because it really works!

In the glass it pours a dark red with a purple rim.  On the nose it shows an array of ripe black fruit: blackberries, blueberries and blackcurrant, but with delightful violet aromas floating over the top.  These notes all continue onto the velvety palate with vanilla also appearing.  Pleasant, slightly drying tannins integrate well into the long finish.  Although it’s not sweet like a dessert, for me this wine evokes blackberry crumble with vanilla custard – just delicious!

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €14.95
  • Stockists: Boutique Wines, Barnhill stores Killaney/Dalkey; Mortons, Ranalagh; Listons, Camden street; The Wine House Trim; Emilie’s, Glenbeigh Co. Kerry; Pat Fitzgerald’s (Centra), Dingle Co. Kerry; Grape and Bean, Portlaois; The Wine Pair, Clanbrassil Street; Blackrock Cellars; Gleeson’s, Booterstown Ave

Conclusion

These are both well-made wines – at any price point.  When the prices are taken into account then they offer remarkable value for money.  I’d be very happy with either wine but the Petit Verdot is outrageously good for €15 in Ireland, so that would be my pick of the two.

 

1 Bill S. Preston Esq. and Ted “Theodore” Logan are – of course – known better as just Bill and Ted

2 Thanks Sinéad!


 

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