Make Mine A Double

Wine Review: Bread and Butter Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon

Members of the ABC club can look away now; if either Anything But Chardonnay or Anything But Cabernet are a motto of yours then this is not the article for you. However, for the rest of us – great, right-minded people – read on!

Bread & Butter Wines

Based in the Napa Valley, Bread & Butter’s philosophy is encapsulated by their winemaker Linda Trotta’s motto “A good wine is a wine you like“. Thus, pleasure is the aim for the majority of their wines rather than following a particular trend, matching with special food or expressing the nuances of a certain terroir. “These wines pair well with a glass” is another gem they espouse. I think you’re beginning to get the picture.

Get The One That Looks Like This
A Bread & Butter slogan.

The Bread & Butter portfolio is in three distinct ranges:

  • Classically-styled Everyday Wines: Italian Prosecco (!), California Rosé, California Sauvignon Blanc, California Chardonnay, California Pinot Noir, California Cabernet Sauvignon, California Merlot
  • “To-go” Wines: Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley Merlot, Napa Valley Red Blend, Napa Valley Petite Sirah, Napa Valley Zinfandel, Napa Valley Pinot Noir, Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley Chardonnay, Napa Valley Rosé
  • “Go-to” Wines: Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon

The wines in blue and bold are available in Ireland. Quality and price increases as you move down the list. So how do the wines actually taste? Here are two from the Classically-styled Everyday Wines range:

Bread & Butter California Chardonnay 2019

Bread And Butter California Chardonnay

As its counterpart below, this is a California wine rather than any smaller AVA, so the grapes were probably sourced from several regions and blended together.

It pours a light gold in the glass, giving an indication that this is going to be a dessert wine (highly unlikely), an aged wine (nope, it’s a 2019) or an oaked wine (bingo!) And so the nose reveals: layers of vanilla and buttery toast with hints of lemon and orange. The palate is exactly how you would expect a California Chardonnay to be: lemon curd, pineapple cubes and lots of creamy texture, though not the full on butter churn experience.

While it’s far from subtle, I really like this wine. At this price point many Chardonnays are unoaked for both cost and stylistic reasons, and those that have seen some oak can be disjointed or seem confected. And I’m not alone – I have heard several wine drinkers make a beeline for this wine and declare it their new favourite.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €20 – €25
  • Source: purchased from Baggot Street Wines
  • Stockists: Fresh Smithfield and Grand Canal; Whelehans Loughlinstown, Deveney’s of Dundrum; Wine Centre Kilkenny; Morton’s of Ranelagh; Redmonds of Ranelagh; O’Donovans Cork; Robbie’s Drummartin; LaHoya Greens Terenure; Barnhill Stores; Baggot Street Wines; Martin’s of Fairview; Morton’s of Galway; Thomas’s of Foxrock; Parting Glass Enniskerry; McGuinness Dundalk; Next Door Ennis

Bread & Butter California Cabernet Sauvignon 2020

Bread And Butter California Cabernet Sauvignon

The Cabernet Sauvignon actually poured a little lighter than I expected, though we’re still not talking Poulsard here. The nose is heady, with ripe cassis and blackcurrant*, blueberry, vanilla and toast oak notes. The palate is rich and velvety, with blackcurrant and cocoa to the fore. Tannins are very restrained indeed – this is no Pauillac facsimile. The finish has some residual sugar – I couldn’t find a tech sheet but I noted that Decanter included it within the Medium – Dry, 5 – 18 g/L category. The sugar comes through as richness more than sweetness, especially to the untrained palate. This is the type of red than many drinkers go mad for at the moment; it’s not a wine I would choose for myself unless I was eating barbecue with a sweet marinade, and then it would be quaffed with extreme prejudice.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €20 – €25
  • Source: purchased from Baggot Street Wines
  • Stockists: Fresh Smithfield and Grand Canal; Whelehans Loughlinstown, Deveney’s of Dundrum; Wine Centre Kilkenny; Morton’s of Ranelagh; Redmonds of Ranelagh; O’Donovans Cork; Robbies Drumartin; LaHoya Greens Terenure; Barnhill Stores; Baggot Street Wines; Martin’s of Fairview; Morton’s of Galway; Thomas’s of Foxrock; Parting Glass Enniskerry; MacGuiness’s Dundalk; Next Door Ennis

Conclusion

These are both unabashed commercial wines which give (a good proportion of) wine drinkers exactly what they are looking for. I can imagine than some won’t like either wine, but that’s not important – they really deliver drinking pleasure to those that do. I’d be happy to share a bottle of the Cab Sauv with my wife but it’s the Chardonnay I’d order for myself.

* Yes, I know they are the same thing – for most of us at least. Just checking that you’re paying attention.


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Wine Review: Henri Bourgeois Sancerre Rosé and Cabernet Franc

Esteemed Loire producer Domaine Henri Bourgeois is most famous for its white and red Sancerres, but it also has some other interesting wines in its portfolio. I recently reviewed Clos Henri Petit Clos Sauvignon Blanc from its Marlborough outpost, and now it’s time to look at a young vine rosé and a Cabernet Franc.

Henri Bourgeois “Les Jeunes Vignes” Sancerre Pinot Noir Rosé 2020

Henri Bourgeois Sancerre Les Jeunes Vignes Rosé

Although I’m not a vocal exponent of rosé, if I had to choose a single variety as my favourite for rosé it would be Pinot Noir. Why? Easy, really: Pinot Noir tends to be on the lighter side as black grapes go, with soft tannins and good acidity, all of which make it the perfect candidate for rosé.

It’s more common to see a mention of Vieilles Vignes (VV) on a label rather than Jeunes Vignes as we have here. VV indicates that the vines are of a significant age (often 30+ years) so yields have started to fall but concentration in the finished wines increases. Jeunes Vignes tend to make simpler wines, and in some wine regions (e.g. Alsace or Bordeaux) the grapes from young vines tend to be declassified even if from a prestigious vineyard.

However, for areas which have a strong rosé game, why not use the grapes from young vines for rosé. Domaine Henri Bourgeois take this approach, as do the notable rosé producer Domaine Tempier of Bandol.

Although Pinot Noir is a lighter grape, this rosé has more colour than the fashionable paler-than-pale Provence style which is so fashionable at the moment. For me this is a GOOD THING as it signals that there has been more flavour as well as colour extracted from those precious Pinot Noir grapes. The nose showcases an array of red fruits – strawberry, raspberry, cherry and redcurrant. These red fruits are also the key notes on the palate, which has a dry and fresh but far from austere finish.

This is a lovely, balanced rosé that would be nice to sip in the sun or with a range of lighter dishes.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP:  €24.95
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Henri Bourgeois Petit Bourgeois Cabernet Franc 2019

Henri Bourgeois Petit Bourgeois Cabernet FrancClimate change has had very mixed effects on viticulture in France. In some regions harvests are moving earlier and earlier over the years as grapes ripen earlier than before. Some regions face a future where new varieties will have to be employed as existing ones will struggle to make quality wine in a warmer climate.

There are others where global warming has helped to some extent; viz, the change in Alsace Pinot Noir from barely more than a rosé to a serious expression of the grape. Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley has been another beneficiary. No longer does it make dilute, green-pepper dominated reds in (frequent) colder years, and chapitalisation is now seldom required.

The Petit Bourgeois range is – as you might understand from the name – a junior range designed for easy drinking. Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir are the other wines in the range. In the glass this Cab Franc is mid ruby, only medium intensity. The nose is fruity yet with some character. On the palate there is juicy fruit yet a savoury aspect at the same time. Alpine strawberries, cranberries, raspberries, redcurrants, and cherries are all in the mix. There’s a nice texture to this wine, with light, crunchy tannins and good acidity. Although varietally typical and nice to drink on its own, this wine really cries out for food…a plate of charcuterie would be perfect!

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP:  €16.95
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

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Wine Review: Torre de Ferro Dão Reserva and Cepa Lebrel Rioja Gran Reserva from Lidl Ireland

We’ve already had a look at two easy drinking whites from the Lidl Ireland September Wine Event, so now it’s the turn of a couple of inexpensive reds. They hail from neighbouring countries, are the same price, have the same alcohol content and even share a grape variety – but are they alike and are they different in quality? Read on…

Torre de Ferro Dão Reserva 2018

Torre de Ferro Dão Reserva

The Dão doesn’t have the name recognition that other Portuguese wine regions have in these islands, but that’s good news for drinkers who don’t mind exploring a little further afield. Red wines make up around 80% of total production and are made from Touriga Nacional (which must be at least 20% of the blend), Tinta Roriz (aka Tempranillo), Jaen (aka Mencia), and Alfrocheiro Preto. Whites are mainly made from Encruzado with Bical and Malvasia Fina also making an appearance.

Unlike in some countries (Chile, I’m looking at you!), Reserva in Portugal has a formal meaning: wines have to be 0.5% higher in alcohol than the minimum for the particular DO they come from, and have to spend both a year and barrel and a year in bottle before release.

Torre de Ferro is true to the local style, being made from Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Alfrocheiro Preto. It is close to opaque in the glass yet has a distinctly purple rim. The nose is fantastic, combining spice, earth, red and black fruits. In the mouth it is a sappy, easy drinking wine. It shows red fruits, framed by very gentle tannins, and finishes with fresh acidity. For autumn into winter, this is a great wine to have on hand.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €12.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland stores

Cepa Lebrel Rioja Gran Reserva 2011

Cepa Lebrel Rioja Gran Reserva 2011

Spanish wine quality levels are predicated on ageing in wood and in bottle, with the assumption that only the best fruit is used for wines that undergo the longest ageing. From youngest to oldest, the scale is Joven – Crianza – Reserva – Gran Reserva. While there are some moves away from this nomenklatura, it remains the established system.

So here we have a modestly-priced Rioja with the Gran Reserva label, and ten years old at that! When poured the red brick rim already gives an indication of its (relative) age. The nose is quite unusual – dried cranberries and strawberries are set against a wild, almost savage backdrop; this is mainly the results of significant ageing but could also be due to hints of brett and / or volatile acidity. The palate is medium bodied, lithe, and continues the journey that the nose began.

No doubt about it, this is a very different wine from those normally seen in supermarkets, especially so-called discounters. I would hesitate to recommend this for the very casual wine drinker, but for those open to something a little different I give it a whole-hearted thumbs up!

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €12.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland stores

Conclusion

Although these wines have lots in common they are remarkably different. The Torre de Ferro Dão is a worthy wine, though a safe choice; the Cepa Lebrel Gran Reserva offers a taste of mature Rioja that usually costs several times the price, and for that it narrowly wins the contest for me.


Other wines included in the Lidl Ireland September Wine Cellar

Whites:

Reds:

  • La Roche d’Argent Saint-Emilion (€11.99)
  • Dame de Clochevigne Vacqueyras 2019 (€12.99)
  • Rioja Reserva (€9.99)
  • Entre Quintas Douro (€11.99)

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Wine Review: Blume Rueda Verdejo and Château Jourdan Bordeaux Blanc from Lidl Ireland

September 2021 sees the introduction of a new batch of wines to Lidl Ireland shelves. Some have been there before but not on a permanent basis; the idea is that a special batch of wines are released into stores and once they are gone, they are gone. Some eventually become regular listed wines and are available all year round.

Here are two whites that I tried recently and enjoyed:

Blume Rueda Verdejo 2020

Blume Rueda Verdejo 2020

Rueda is a region in central / NW Spain that is best known for white wines made from the Verdejo grape. However, there are almost a dozen permitted varieties:

  • Traditional white varieties: Verdejo, Viura, Sauvignon blanc, Palomino Fino
  • Newly approved white varieties: Chardonnay, Viognier
  • Authorised black varieties: Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Garnacha.

It’s not for no reason that Rueda is the most reliable white wine on the market (© Kevin Summons-Walsh). Even when made with 100% Verdejo as this wine is, Rueda tends to be fresh without being austere and not too dissimilar to Sauvignon Blanc in style.

The cheapest Ruedas can be a little too simple, but this example is simply delicious – full of citrus and ripe stone fruits, all coalescing into a lip-smackingly tasty wine that will be finished quickly. This is probably the best Rueda I’ve tried under €13 in Ireland.

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

Château Jourdan Bordeaux Blanc 2019

Château Jourdan Bordeaux Blanc 2019

White Bordeaux is an under-rated wine category in my opinion, all the way from AOC Bordeaux like this one, Entre-Deux-Mers, Graves and the top wines of Pessac-Léognan which can rival the Grand Crus of Burgundy for complexity and excellence. There are actually a good number of permitted varieties in white Bordeaux:

  • Common traditional grapes: Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadelle
  • Rarer traditional grapes: Sauvignon gris, Ugni blanc, Colombard, Merlot blanc, Ondenc, Mauzac
  • New introductions: Alvarinho, Petit Manseng, Liliorila

Although Semillon is still the most widely planted white grape, Sauvignon Blanc is catching up fast, especially for unoaked dry whites where freshness is a key virtue.

The assemblage of this wine isn’t given but I’d hazard a guess at 80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Semillon.  It’s highly aromatic with grapefruit, gooseberry and grass on the nose (the 3 Gs of SB) along with some quince and stone fruit. The palate is fresh with tangy, succulent citrus fruit.

This is a well-made, inexpensive, everyday drinking wine. It’s the sort of wine that would be perfect with a salad at luncheon (especially with its modest 11.5% ABV), as an aperitif with nibbles or as an accompaniment to seafood.

  • ABV: 11.5%
  • RRP: €9.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland stores

Conclusion

I was very taken with the Château Jourdan and it offers great value at a tenner, but the Bloom Rueda was even tastier in my opinion – and at a Euro less it should be snapped up.


Other wines included in the Lidl Ireland September Wine Cellar

Whites:

  • Les Caves Gilles Gobin Touraine Sauvignon 2019 (€9.99)
  • Nivei Rioja Blanco 2018 (€11.99)
  • Salneval Rías Baixas Albariño (€14.99)

Reds:

  • La Roche d’Argent Saint-Emilion (€11.99)
  • Dame de Clochevigne Vacqueyras 2019 (€12.99)
  • Rioja Reserva (€9.99)
  • Cepa Lebrel Rioja Gran Reserva 2011 (€12.99)
  • Entre Quintas Douro (€11.99)
  • Torre de Ferro Dão Reserva 2018 (€12.99)

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Wine Review: Mazzei Codice V Vermentino and Gérard Bertrand Orange Gold

Whether you call them “orange wines”, “amber wines” or “skin-contact white wines”, these postmodern wines are here to stay. However, are they going to remain a niche curiosity drunk only by the adventurous or will they break out from the independent wine specialist sector into multiples and even supermarkets? Here are two skin-contact whites which are leading the way.

Mazzei Tenuta Belguardo Codice V Maremma Vermentino 2019

Mazzei Belguardo Codice V Vermentino

I previously reviewed the “regular” Mazzei Belguardo Vermentino and found it excellent, so I was keen to taste this pull-out-all-the-stops flagship version. To make the best Vermentino they could, Mazzei started with clones from Corsica, the spiritual home and likely origin of the Vermentino grape. Of course they were planted in Maremma on the Tyrrhenian coast as the cooling effect of sea breezes is important for retaining freshness. The vineyard site is 30 to 50 metres above sea level and is orientated south / south-west on predominantly sandy soils.

Harvesting is all by hand but it’s vinification where things start to get really interesting:

  • 20% is fermented and aged on the skins in amphorae for nine months
  • 30% is fermented and aged on the skins in stainless steel tanks for nine months
  • 50% is fermented and aged on fine lees in stainless steel tanks (I presume for nine months)

The construction material and any lining of the amphorae is not specified.  After blending back together the wine is bottled and stored for a further six months before release.

If someone had already tasted the regular Vermentino then the Codice V would be quite familiar, though they might feel they had been missing half of the story. The nose shows complex aromas of citrus and stone fruit, with hints of smoke. These elements continue onto the palate where they intertwine with mellow savoury notes and layers of mixed peel and ginger. The finish is fresh and mouth-watering.

  • ABV: 13.0%*
  • RRP: €33
  • Source: Sample
  • Stockists: SC Grocer; Martins Off-licence; Clontarf Wines; Sweeneys D3; The Corkscrew; Blackrock Cellar

Gérard Bertrand Orange Gold 2020

gérard bertrand orange gold

I have reviewed Gérard Bertrand‘s wines widely over the years; his impressive range includes whites, rosés and reds from the Languedoc at several different price points, many of which are organic and / or biodynamic.  To those colours he has added an orange wine, a homage to Georgian wines of 4,500 years ago. It is a real blend, being made with seven different varieties: Chardonnay, Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Marsanne, Mauzac, Muscat and Clairette.

When perfectly ripe, the grapes are hand-picked in whole bunches and transferred to vat without any destemming or crushing, as with many red wines. The grapes then ferment, partially in the normal way and partially carbonicly (where the weight of the grapes causes some to ferment within their skins. After 10 to 15 days the grapes are separated and pressed to extract colour and tannin; this press wine is then added to the existing must in stainless steel tanks to finish fermenting. Finally, the wine is put into used barrels to mature.

In the glass (and in the bottle) this is a vibrant gold colour, and could be easily mistaken for a Sauternes or Tokaji. The nose is complex, with apple blossom, marmalade, apricot jam and pear drops – very enticing.  The palate is dry but with fruit sweetness on the mid palate. There’s a real savoury complexity to this wine, and a light saline tang with some tannins on the finish. From one point of view it could be said that the nose and the palate offer entirely different aspects, but that is a truism for orange wines in general. Once expectations are reasonably set I think this is a tasty wine that many would enjoy.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €21.95
  • Source: Sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Conclusion

These wines are quite different, taking different approaches to producing a balanced wine, and a single varietal compared to a blend. Although the number of orange wines available in Ireland is fairly low at the moment it doesn’t mean that any particular wine can represent a whole colour. What they do have in common is that they are both delicious and approachable, while maintaining a savoury character that expands their interest and versatility.

For me the Codice V is the better wine, but of course has a higher price. Due to its fairly widespread availability and lower price I think the Orange Gold is more likely to tempt more casual wine drinkers into trying an orange wine for the first time – but hopefully not the last time!


*Any wine geeks among you may have noticed that the alcohol for this wine is a little higher than the regular Vermentino I reviewed a year ago (13.39% v 12.5% on the respective tech sheets). This is due to vintage variation (2019 v 2018) rather than differences in winemaking; the 2018 vintage of the Codice V also had 12.5% alcohol.


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

An interesting pair of whites that are perfect for summer sipping

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

Guerrieri Rizzardi Lugana 2020

Guerrieri Rizzardi Lugana 2020

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

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

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

Château Albajan Picpoul de Pinet 2020

Château Albajan Picpoul de Pinet 2020

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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


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

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

De Alberto Rueda Organic Verdejo 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pazo do Mar Ribeiro Treixadura 2020

Pazo Do Mar Treixidura

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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


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

Limited edition wines from Spain and Portugal at Lidl Ireland

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

Nivei Rioja Blanco 2018

Nivei Rioja Blanco 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Encostas de Caiz Vinho Verde 2019

Encostas de Caiz Vinho Verde 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Other wines included in the event

Spain

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

Portugal

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

France

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

Other countries

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

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Wine Review: Dreissigacker Riesling and Robert Weil Riesling

What’s the difference between Rheingau and Rheinhessen?

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

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

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

German Wine Regions

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

Dreissigacker Rheinhessen Riesling Trocken 2015

Dreissigacker Estate Riesling Trocken from Rheinhessen

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

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

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

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

Robert Weil Rheingau Riesling Trocken 2019

Robert Weil Rheingau Riesling Trocken

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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


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

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

Gérard Bertrand Cote des Roses 2020

gerard bertrand cote des roses

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

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

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

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

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

Gérard Bertrand Cote des Roses

Pasqua 11 Minutes Rosé 2020

Pasqua 11 Minutes Rosé

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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