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.


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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

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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!


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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!


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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!


 

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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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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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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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Love, Love me Dão [Make Mine a Double #65]

Adega de Penalva is one of the leading cooperatives in the Portuguese Dão region (I gave an overview of the Dão in a previous article here, but in summary it is in the centre of northern Portugal close to the Douro.)  The coop was formed in the ’60s and has around a thousand members – that’s a lot of coordination – but with an average of only around 1.2 hectares of vines per member the volume crushed is manageable.

Their extensive main range can be spilt into four categories:

  • Red: Adega de Penalva Reserva, Encostas de Penalva, Flor De Penalva, Flor De Penalva Reserva, Jaen, O Penalva, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Pinheira, Touriga-Nacional, Milénio
  • White: Cerceal – Branco, Encostas De Penalva, Encruzado, Flor De Penalva, Bical
  • Rosé: Adega de Penalva Rosé
  • Sparkling (Método Clássico): Milénio Reserva, Milénio Bruto, Milénio Seco, Milénio Tinto Bruto)

As you might be able to parse from the wine names, some are made to be drunk young while others will reward some cellaring.  Not featured in the main list are a red and white fun and drinkable pair made (for Portuguese Story) from blends of indigenous grapes: Adega de Penalva Indigena Blend

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

Adega de Penalva Indigena Blend Dão Branco 2019

This white blend is composed of:

  • 40% Encruzado (a speciality of the Dão)
  • 30% Malvasia (grown all over southern Europe; the particular variant is not specified)
  • 30% Cerceal (aka Esgana Cão (“Dog Strangler”!,) or Sercial in Madeira)

According to Wine Enthusiast, “Encruzado is, arguably, Portugal’s greatest white grape” – and having enjoyed Quinta dos Carvalhais’s Dão Colheita Branco I think it is a fair statement.  Here, of course, it is not on its own and has a supporting cast of Malvasia (which adds body) and Cerceal (which adds freshness).

All grapes are hand-picked and winemaking is fairly straightforward; after destemming and pressing, the must is fermented with selected yeasts in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks.  Maturation is also in INOX – with no wood to be seen – all to preserve the wine’s inherent fruit aromas and flavours.

On the nose it shows a variety of stone fruits and quince, plus almonds and a whiff of the forest (pine? cedar?)  Ripe stone fruit return on the palate – peach, nectarine, apricot – but with a zippy fresh finish that literally makes your mouth water.  This Branco shows why the Portuguese are so keen on blending – it really is more than the sum of its parts!

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €14.95
  • Stockists: Blackrock Cellar; Sweeney’s D3, Fairview; McHugh’s Off-Licence Kilbarrack Rd; Nectar Wines, Sandyford; The GrapeVine, Glasnevin; The Wine Pair, Clanbrassil St.; Baggot Street Wines

Adega de Penalva Indigena Blend Dão Tinto 2017

The blend for the Tinto is:

  • 40% Touriga Nacional (the Douro’s (and Portugal’s?) key black grape
  • 30% Tinta Roriz (aka Tempranillo, and many other names),
  • 30% Jaen (aka Mencia in NW Spain)

The order of the varieties above is from heavier to lighter; Touriga Nacional has the most structure and weight – which is why it is so important in the Douro – with Tinta Roriz being medium bodied and more accessible, and finally Jaen being quite light and fresh.  Winemaking is similar to the Branco above apart from the use of lined concrete tanks – in addition to stainless steel – for maturation.

Unsurprisingly, given the above, the wine is a medium intensity cherry red in the glass.  The nose has vibrant red fruits – cherry, strawberry, raspberry and cranberry.  On the palate these fruits are even more vibrant and juicy, seeming to jump out of the glass.  There are also notes of blackberry, chocolate and smoke, all wrapping up in a dry but fresh finish.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €14.95
  • Stockists: Blackrock Cellar; Sweeney’s D3, Fairview; Martins Off-Licence, Fairview; McHugh’s Off-Licence Kilbarrack Rd; Nectar Wines, Sandyford; The GrapeVine, Glasnevin; The Wine Pair, Clanbrassil St.; Clontarf Wines
    DrinkStore, Stoneybatter; The Corkscrew, Chatham St.; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock

Conclusion

Yes, these wines are easy to drink.  Yes, they are quite affordable.  And yes, they have relatively modest alcohol %.

So they definitely qualify as “lunchtime wines” or “house wines”, but they are far more than that.

Such poise, balance and deliciousness has them punching well above their weight!

 


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The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series #16 – Brad Horne

In these unusual times, we all need a lift from time to time. As a change to my usual wine reviews I’ve decided to start a fun and irreverent series on matching wine and music. The basic idea is that I give participants:

  • A piece of music –> they suggest a wine to go with it, with an explanation
  • A wine –> they suggest a piece of music to go with it

It’s all for fun, so please don’t slag off anybody’s taste music (or wine!) Thanks to Michelle Williams for the inspiration – she has been matching songs to wine for years on her Rockin Red Blog.

The sweet sixteenth contributor to The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series is social media legend Brad Horne, aka Wine Time London.  He presents an Instagram show “Wine Social” with a dazzling array of wine guests, often winemakers from the other side of the globe. 

Among his musical preferences he mentioned “dad rock” which could actually mean several things, but I took it to mean bands such as Status Quo Oasis from the Brit pop era.  Although a total cliché now and definitely overplayed, I was going to pick Wonderwall for him before I twigged the obvious choice of a song with a wine-related title: Champagne Supernova.

The wine pick for Brad was even easier as recently we had both been waxing lyrical about a certain Aussie Riesling: Petaluma’s Hanlin Hill Riesling.


Oasis – Champagne Supernova

The song Frankie chose for me was Champagne Supernova, but the wine I’m going to pair with is not Champagne; I was close to an English Sparkling wine pairing but I’ve gone for something from Down Under: Jansz Premium Cuvée always hits the spot for me, just like Oasis.

Oasis takes me back to my adolescence with friends at gigs and nights out thinking we would ‘live forever’.

This wine with its citrus notes and slight aromas of roasted nuts plus those wonderful hints of strawberry from the Pinot Noir and that lingering creaminess on the finish almost take you ‘half a world away’ or to an Aussie Sparkling Supernova In the sky…

Petaluma Hanlin Hill Riesling

With its lively acidity and rich palate, Petaluma Hanlin Hill Clare Valley Riesling takes you on a journey, and as this wine ages it evolves like us, developing more character and flavours. To match it I’ve therefore chosen Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Never Going Back Again‘.

Young – with citrus and orange blossom flavours – or aged, with petrol notes – this Riesling (like so many of its Clare Valley counterparts) is wonderful, and like this song you think about Fleetwood at the start young in love and free and as it develops like Riesling it changes and ‘goes it’s own way’.

This vineyard was planted in 1968 and has west-facing slopes 550 meters above sea level. It produces grapes with slatey minerality – this region is perfect for growing great Riesling!

Thanks so much to Frankie; wine and music can go hand in hand, so next time you sit down for a glass of Riesling turn on this song and ‘Dreams’….

Brad Horne

Brad(ley) Horne is a Social Media and Marketing consultant for the Wine Industry.  He helps wineries and the wine trade with wine events, Social media and Marketing in the UK. He is active on Twitter under both @BradleyHorne and @winetimelondon but his busiest outlet is Instagram under @winetimelondon where his show WineSocial live goes out at 8.00pm UK time.

 


The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series
No. Guest Name Music to pair Wine to pair
16 Brad Horne Oasis – Champagne Supernova Petaluma Hanlin Hill Riesling
15 Liam Mycroft Eric Clapton – Bad Love Bodegas Garzon Albariño
14 Lee Isaacs The Rolling Stones – Gimme Shelter Domaine Jones Fitou
13 Sharon L Souls Of Mischief –  93 ‘Til Infinity Penfolds RWT
12 Tim Milford Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man Nyetimber Classic Cuvée
11 Mags McKee U2 with BB King –  When Love Comes to Town Pittnauer Zweigelt Heideboden
10 Cara Rutherford The Cure – Just Like Heaven Suertes del Marqués ‘7 Fuentes’
9 Melanie May The Cult –  She Sells Sanctuary Sipp Mack GC Rosacker Riesling
8 James Hubbard Gary Moore – Parisienne Walkways Penfolds Bin 707 Cab Sauv
7 Paul Moran Underworld – Rez Suertes del Marqués Trenzado
6 Nirina Plunkett Jamiroquai – Space Cowboy Club Remix Wolfberger Crémant d’Alsace
5 Penny Sadler Fleetwood Mac – Dreams Bollinger Special Cuvée
4 Jim Dunlop The Beatles – The Long And Winding Road Man O’ War Valhalla Chardonnay
3 Avril Kirrane McMorrough Norah Jones – Don’t Know Why Joseph Cattin Riesling Reserve
2 Tim of Soliciting Flavours Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings Viña Tondonia Blanco
1 Sinéad Smyth Stardust – Music Sounds Better With You Mullineux Syrah