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**

Opinion

Lidl Xmas 2020 Wines

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

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

Clare Valley Riesling 2019*

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

When to drink: Whenever you like!

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

Sauvignon Blanc Gran Reserva 2020

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

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

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

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

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

Il Santo Bevitore IGT Isola Dei Nuraghi 2019

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

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

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

Barossa Valley Shiraz 2017*

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

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

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

Carménère Gran Reserva 2020

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

When to drink: Beef or lamb stew.

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

Corte Alle Mure DOCG Chianti Riserva 2015*

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

When to drink: Charcuterie or mixed Christmas leftovers.

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

 

Opinion

Five Festive Flagons

As we roll on towards the festive season, despite the pandemic. many of us are starting to plan which wines we want to have in stock for drinking over the Christmas period (Christmas don’t care ’bout Covid!)  Here are five wines that you should consider this Yule:

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

Perelada Cava Reserva Brut

I reviewed this wine just over three years ago and the salient points of that article remain valid:

  • There’s a lot of very ordinary Cava out there, at very low prices (often €12 or less)
  • Small-scale, renowned producers such as Llopart and Raventos i Blanc are available from around €30 upwards in Ireland (and are usually better than any Champagnes down at that price)
  • That leaves a big gap in the market between the two price points which is neatly filled by Perelada

This Reserva Brut bottling is made from the traditional three Cava grapes: Macabeo (30%), Xarel·lo (45%) and Parellada (25%) with 15 months maturation on the lees – significantly more than the nine months minimum for Cava.  It’s highly aromatic, just a delight to sniff, but very attractive on the palate with apple, pear and citrus notes.  The finish is crisp, perhaps a little dry for some tastes (though not mine).

When to drink: This would be a great start to Xmas morning, good enough to sip on its own, with nibbles or even a smoked salmon starter.

  • ABV: 11.5%
  • RRP: €20
  • Stockists: The Drink Store, Stoneybatter D7 / Higgins Off Licence, Clonskeagh / Jus de Vine, Portmarnock, Fine Wines O/L Group.

Fontanafredda Gavi di Gavi 2019

Amongst a group of my friends we have a running joke that one (Gosia) would often select Gavi di Gavi from a wine list when there were other, more interesting, options available.  This wine shows that joke to be hollow as it’s a cracking wine, full of flowers and spicy pear on the nose, sensual texture on the palate and soft stone fruit flavours.  There’s a racy acidity to the wine but it isn’t lean, just refreshing.

When to drink: With shellfish, white fish or even lighter poultry.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €20 – €21
  • Stockists: Redmonds of Ranelagh; Martins Off Licence, Fairview; D-SIX Wines, Harolds Cross

Trapiche Malbec Reserva Malbec 2019

Trapiche have several different quality levels within their line-up, including the excellent Terroir Series Ambrosia Single Vineyard Malbec which I reviewed here.  This Reserva is a more of an everyday wine, but is true to its variety with bold plum and blackberry fruits and a touch of vanilla.  It’s an easy-going red that doesn’t hit the heights but hits the spot with a steak.

When to drink: With red meat or just with your feet up in front of the TV

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €13 – €15
  • Stockists: Dunnes Stores; Nolans Supermarket, Clontarf

Mommessin Domaine de la Presle Fleurie 2018

Fleurie is Ireland’s favourite Beaujolais Cru by some distance, perhaps helped by the easily pronounceable name.  It’s a relatively light Cru so sits as a happy medium in depth of colour.  The nose shows a variety of cherries, blueberries and red table grape skins.  On the palate we find freshly-made home-made jam from a variety of red and black fruits, a little garden thyme and pencil shavings.  On it’s own I thought it a good but not great wine, but when my wife tried it with extra mature cheddar she though it magnificent – the fruit of the wine counters the saltiness of the cheese and the cheese softens the acidity of the wine.  As a non-cheese eater I will take her word for it!

When to drink: With hard cheese, charcuterie, wild boar sausages, venison, duck, or nut roast

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €18 – €20
  • Stockists: Fine Wines Off Licence; The Drink Store, Stoneybatter; Nolans Supermarket, Clontarf; Kellers Carry Out, Nenagh.

Boutinot La Côte Sauvage Cairanne 2017

Cairanne only became a named village or Cru in its own right a few years ago, though 20% of the land was effectively demoted at the same time (1,088 hectares of the original 1,350 survived the increased standards).  Being in the Southern Rhône this is a GSM blend, consisting of Grenache Noir (60%), Syrah (20%), Mourvèdre (10%) and Carignan (10%).  The minor grapes add considerable colour as the wine is darker than many Grenache based wines.  Their influence is felt on the nose, too, which has rich black fruit and spice, something like blackberry crumble in a glass.  These notes continue through to the palate which is velvety and powerful.  This is heady stuff, perfect for Xmas or winter celebrations.

When to drink: With friends, family, or on your own.  Treat yourself!

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €23
  • Stockists: Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; La Touche Wines, Greystones; Martins, Fairview; The Drink Store, Stoneybatter; Fine Wines O/L Group

 

Make Mine A Double

A Brace of Barossa Beauties [Make Mine a Double #68]

Many a time and oft on this blog I have rated Peter Lehmann wines for their aromas and their flavours, as they were one of my reference wine producers once I “discovered” wine.  As most people know the company was founded by Peter Lehmann himself as part of his initiative to save the livelihood of many Barossa wine growers when a major buyer’s orders dropped off.

The company has changed ownership a few times, being publicly owned after a floatation in 1992, bought by the Swiss Hess group in 2003 and then back in Australian hands with Casella Family Brands from 2016.  You might not recognise the Casella name, but they own the mass market brand Yellowtail as well as boutique operations such as Brand’s Laira of Coonawarra, Morris of Rutherglen and Baileys of Glenrowan (all of which I have visited, by coincidence!)

I recently got to try two very different Peter Lehmann wines, one a traditional Barossa Shiraz and the other an aged botrytis Semillon:

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

Peter Lehmann The Barossan Shiraz 2016

This bottling is new to me but appears to be somewhere around the middle of the Lehmann hierarchy, above the Portrait series whose Cabernet Sauvignon wooed me many years ago.  There are also Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon varietals of The Barossan.  Those with a keen eye may notice the underlining of “THE” on the label, with the emphasis probably signifying the late Peter Lehmann’s moniker of “The Baron of the Barossa”.

In the glass it is opaque, with the rim still showing youthful purple.  The nose shows juicy red and black cherries, blackcurrant, blackberry and exotic spices.  Those fruit and spice notes continue onto the palate where they are joined by coffee and chocolate, hints of vanilla, and menthol.  This is a real winter warmer of a wine, perfect for the weather as it is now!  A friend and colleague who blind tasted this wine estimate the price to be around €30 with which I concur, so in the low 20s it also offers great value.

Peter Lehmann Botrytis Semillon 2011

This bottle is from the Peter Lehmann Masters Series which includes some fantastic wines such as the Mentor Cabernet Sauvignon, Eight Songs Shiraz, Wigan Riesling and Margaret Semillon.  The current release in Australia is now the 2017 so trying the 2011 with an additional six years bottle age is a real treat.  In fact, the back label shows that it was made when PL was under the Hess umbrella as mentioned in the introduction.

Apparently the idea for a botrytis Semillon came to former Chief Winemaker Andrew Wigan (something of a wine legend in his own right) when visiting Château d’Yquem in 1981.  Of course Sauternes is usually made with a majority of Semillon which is a grape well planted in the Barossa.  The warm summers there are conducive to the development of Botrytis Cinera (aka “noble rot”) which shrivels the grapes (raising average sugar content in the juice) and gives a pleasant mushroomy aspect.

Young, dry Semillon can be very pale in appearance, but this aged sticky poured a deep gold, heading towards amber.  The nose is outrageously expressive, with layer upon layer of honey.  On tasting this is a luscious wine, bursting with bitter orange marmalade, apricot and tropical fruits.  It’s the kind of wine you want to just swirl around your mouth for an age, but isn’t cloying as there is still freshening acidity.

This is a fantastic sweet wine which I will personally be hunting down to add to my cellar!

  • ABV: 11.0%
  • RRP: €15 – €17 (375 ml)
  • Stockists: Redmonds, Ranelagh

 

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Make Mine A Double

Dynamic Douro Duo [Make Mine a Double #67]

Port wine is world famous, known wherever wine is drunk.  It’s a powerful, sweet, fortified wine that has become the name of a style – just like Champagne – even though it should only be used for geographically demarcated wines from Portugal.  Although the Port Houses are innovating, with a multitude of styles and colours being marketed, demand for their fortified wines isn’t as strong as it could be, considering their quality.

Table wines from the Douro have therefore increased in importance.  The style of Douro wines is evolving as well; initially they were often “dry Ports”, made from the same varieties and full of alcohol, flavour and body.  Although popular, some of them were a little rustic and lacked elegance.  Enter Casa Ferreirinha, taken from the Liberty Wines Ireland website:

Founded in 1952, with the production of the first ever vintage of Barca Velha, Casa Ferreirinha pioneered the quality revolution in Douro still wines and was the first producer in the region dedicated entirely to producing wine, rather than port. Named after the legendary Porto matriarch Dona Antónia Ferreira, Casa Ferreirinha, pays homage to the memory of this visionary woman. Today, the winemaking is headed up by Luís Sottomayor, who restrains the Douro’s natural exuberance to produce wines that have a vibrant freshness allied to a lovely texture and depth.

Earlier this year I joined a zoom masterclass presented by Luís Sottomayor himself and got to taste some of the wines (disclosure: which were samples, obvs):

Casa Ferreirinha “Vinha Grande” Douro Branco 2019

Although there are white Port grapes grown in the Douro (white Port and tonic is the “in” summer drink these days) we don’t tend to think of dry white Douro wines.  The Vinha Grande Branco has been made since 2005 since the acquisition of 25 hectares of suitable vineyards at high altitude.  The precise blend changes from year to year, but for 2019 it is:

  • 40% Viosinho – a well balanced and highly aromatic local variety
  • 35% Arinto (aka Pedernã) – a high acidity grape, better known in Bucelas
  • 15% Rabigato – a high acidity grape almost solely grown in the Douro
  • 10% Gouveio (aka Godello) – which gives roundness and complexity

Vinification took place in stainless steel tank and then the wine was split into two; 50% was aged in 500 litre barrels and 50% in steel tanks.  Both halves received regular lees stirring and then were recombined after six months.  Per Luis, the aim of using oak is to add complexity and capacity for ageing, but only 50% as they don’t want oak to dominate the fruit.

Initially it shows white fruits and flowers on the nose, then citrus and passionfruit, rounding off with some oak notes.  The high altitude of the vineyard shows up on the palate which is very fresh and has good acidity.  There’s some body to this wine and beautiful ripe fruit notes in the mid palate.  Overall this is an excellent wine, and one that I suspect will continue to improve for several years.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €21.99
  • Stockists: Blackrock Cellar; Egans, Portlaoise; Ely Wine Store, Maynooth; The Corkscrew, Chatham St.; wineonline.ie

Casa Ferreirinha “Vinha Grande” Douro Tinto 2017

 

This is the daddy, one of the first Douro reds, and originally was made with grapes sourced from a specific vineyard called Vinha Grande; nowadays the wine includes grapes from Cima Corgo and Douro Superior subregions.  I don’t have the exact varietal composition for 2017 but for 2018 the blend was:

  • 40% Touriga Franca – the most widely planted black grape in the Douro
  • 30% Touriga Nacional – perfumed and powerful king of the Douro
  • 25% Tinta Roriz (aka Tempranillo) – for suppleness, the second most important black grape
  • 5% Tinta Barroca – early ripening Douro grape which adds colour and alcohol

Alcoholic fermentation is carried out – separately in each subregion – in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks, with some maceration to extract colour, flavours and tannins.  The two are then blended together and matured in used (two to four year old) French barrels.  Luis stated that French oak is regarded as more neutral, less aromatic than American oak.  Portuguese oak was used until 2001 when supplies dried up – it gave more tannins and was more aromatically neutral still, but was a little rustic.

The nose of the Vinha Grande Tinto exudes rich black and red fruits, spice, freshly made coffee and hints of cedar.  The palate is lovely and supple, with blueberry, blackberry and plum plus smoky notes.  The body is generous but not too thick; with its soft tannins this is a refined and elegant wine.

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €21.99
  • Stockists: Avoca Handweavers, Ballsbridge; Baggot Street Wines; Blackrock Cellar; Martins Off Licence, Fairview; McHughs, Kilbarrack Road; Terroirs, Donnybrook; The Corkscrew, Chatham St.; The Parting Glass, Enniskerry; The Wine Centre, Kilkenny; wineonline.ie

 

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Make Mine A Double

Shining Lights [Make Mine a Double #66]

I’m in the very lucky position where I get to try lots of good and great wines on a regular basis, many of them sent as samples (especially in 2020!)  Sometimes, even among these wines, a few shine even brighter than the rest.  It’s often hard to put into words what makes them so special, though I do try.  Here are a couple of (unrelated) wines which stood out even in good company:

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

Elgin Ridge 282 Elgin Chardonnay 2018

Elgin is South Africa’s coolest climate wine region, located about an hour’s drive south east of Cape Town.  Although now an exciting area for grapes, for many years it was known almost exclusively for its orchards, particularly apples and pears1; as a rule of thumb, agricultural land which is suitable for orchards is generally suitable for grapes.  Elgin is even cool enough for Riesling, with Paul Cluver’s wines leading the charge.

Elgin Ridge is the only winery in Elgin to be both certified organic and certified biodynamic (there is one other which is solely biodynamic).  It was founded by Brian and Marion Smith on the site of a former small (ten hectare) apple farm in 2007 and has remained in family hands since.  Their aim is to be self sufficient in terms of inputs (biodynamic preparations and cow manure) using sheep to control weeds and ducks to control insects and snails.

The figure 282 in the name of this wine, their flagship Chardonnay, refers to the vineyard’s altitude of 282 metres above sea level.  It pours lemon in the glass and initial aromas are predominantly of toasted coconut, indicating a fair bit of oak ageing.  Absolutely heavenly, if you like that sort of thing – which I do!  The coconut gives way to fabulous orchard fruits(!), smoke and spices.  On the palate this is a rich wine, with integrated oak and stone fruits and a touch of butterscotch.  There’s plenty of body and flavour, but this is no big butter bomb as there is a certain elegance and lightness to the finish.  In terms of style this brought to mind excellent southern hemisphere Chardonnays such as Smith + Shaw’s Adelaide Hills M3 and Man O’War’s Waiheke Island Valhalla.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €25.53
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswines.ie

Domaine Fournier Sancerre Les Belles Vignes 2019

For some reason 2020 has been the year of Sancerre for me, with lots of very enjoyable bottles showing that the average standard in the region is very high.  Even among those, this baby stood out.  But first a bit of background.

The maison mère2(!) is Fournier Père et Fils – to give it its full name – under which there are four Domaines:

  • Domaine Fournier (Sancerre &c.)
  • Domaine de Saint Romble (Sancerre)
  • Domaine des Berthiers (Pouilly-Fumé)
  • Domaine Paul Corneau (Pouilly-Fumé)

The full range of Domaine Fournier is detailed below.  As you might expect from one of the “Cuvées Appellations”, this wine is made from vines planted on the three key soil types of Sancerre: Silex, Caillottes and Terres Blanches.  The nose opens with ripe peach but also peach stone, sweet fruit reined in by acidity and a pleasant tartness.  On the palate there’s more fruit but on the citrus side of the spectrum, along with a touch of mown grass and green bell pepper.  Don’t mistake this for a Touraine Sauvignon plus, though; this is a smooth and gentle wine which showcases its different flavours on a long journey through your mouth.  A superior Sancerre.


The portfolio of Domaine Fournier comes under eight different labels:

  • Cuvées Grand Caillou: Sauvignon, Pinot Noir
  • Cuvées F: Pinot Noir, Rosé, Sauvignon
  • Cuvées Mmm: Rosé, Chenin
  • Cuvées Appellations: Menetou Salon “Côtes de Morogues” Rouge, Menetou Salon “Côtes de Morogues” Rosé, Menetou Salon “Côtes de Morogues” Blanc, Sancerre “Les Belles Vignes” Rosé, Sancerre “Les Belles Vignes” Rouge, Sancerre “Les Belles Vignes” Blanc, Pouilly-Fumé “Les Deux Cailloux”, Pouilly Sur Loire “Les Marnes”
  • Cuvée Terroirs: Cuvée Silex, Cuvée Les Terres Blanches
  • Grandes Cuvées: Sancerre “L’Ancienne Vigne” Rouge, Pouilly-Fumé Grande Cuvée, Sancerre “La Chaudouillonne”, Sancerre “L’Ancienne Vigne Blanc
  • Single Vineyard Wines: Sancerre “Les Boffants”, Sancerre “Monts Damnés”
  • Cuvées Exceptionnelles: Menetou Salon Rouge “Sourire Aux Anges”, Sancerre “No. 22”, Sancerre “Vendanges d’Hélène”

1no cockney rhyming slang here, thank you

2French for parent company, literally “mother house”, which is a little ironic as it’s a “father and son” operation.

 

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