Single Bottle Review, Tasting Events

Shaw + Smith “M3” Chardonnay [Wine Review]

This is the second amazing Aussie wine from the Liberty Ireland wine tasting earlier this year

Shaw + Smith “M3” Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2022

Shaw + Smith M3 Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2022 bottle shot

Messrs Shaw and Smith are cousins as well as being partners, having joined forced in 1989. Their wines are mainly from the cool climate Adelaide Hills regions, with a newer outpost in the even cooler Tasmania. The varieties they grow are suited to their sites, with Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling the whites and Pinot Noir and Shiraz the reds. For me it’s their Chardonnays which top the bill – this “M3” and the flagship Lenswood Vineyard. “M3” is in quotation marks not just because it’s a name, but the original vineyard from where fruit was sourced has been sold on in favour of sites with different clones and locations. In fact, much of the grapes in M3 now come from the high altitude Lenswood vineyard which S+S bought in 2012, plus their Piccadilly and Lobethal sites.

After hand picking, the grapes are cooled then pressed in whole bunches. The juice is then transferred to French barriques (1/3 new, 2/3 pre-used) to undergo alcoholic and malolactic fermentations. Maturation is over nine months, with some bâtonnage, before blending in steel tanks then bottling.

The 2022 M3 has a fabulously funky nose, yeasty and reductive. Flowers and fresh citrus too. Even smelling it is a treat. The palate has great texture, with creamy notes from MLF and oak. There are stone fruits added to the citrus that comes through from the nose.

For such a young wine this is already showing so well. The price in Ireland has risen somewhat over the last few years (what hasn’t?), but it remains a classy wine and represents good value.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RS: 0.3 g/L
  • RRP: €44.99
  • Stockists: The Corkscrew, Blackrock Cellar, Fallon & Byrne, Mitchell & Son, wineonline.ie, 64 Wine
  • Other Shaw + Smith wines available in Ireland: Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc, Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir, Adelaide Hills Shiraz, “Balhannah Vineyard” Adelaide Hills Shiraz, “Lenswood Vineyard” Adelaide Hills Chardonnay, “Lenswood Vineyard” Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir
Single Bottle Review

Oyster Bay Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc [Wine Review]

Oyster Bay is ubiquitous on the shelves of supermarkets and convenience stores in Ireland and the UK, and this accessibility makes it one of the best known Kiwi wines available in these parts. Of course popularity doesn’t automaticlly infer quality, which give us the obvious question: is Oyster Bay a good wine?

Oyster Bay Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2023

Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc bottle shot

The name Oyster Bay makes one think of the pioneering Marlborough Sauvignon producer Cloudy Bay, but of course those wines are at the other end of the price spectrum for that type of wine.

As well as the region’s signature SB, in Marlborough Oyster Bay also make a Chardonnay and both red and rosé Pinot Noirs. The label also produces wines from Hawke’s Bay on the east coast of the North Island – Pinot Grigio and Merlot still wines plus white (100% Chardonnay) and rosé (Chardonnay / Pinot Noir blend) sparkling.

As expected, the wine is very pale in the glass, almost water white. The nose is surprisingly tropical, something I would expect from Sauvignons at a higher price point or those from Wairarapa across the Cook Strait. There are pineapple and mango aromas, offset by fresh grapefruit, and just a touch of herbs.

The palate is varietally typical with gooseberry and grapefruit, and a nice bit of texture. This isn’t a one dimensional wine, it has competing sweet and sour notes, though more sour and sweet if described by the relative intensity of those properties.

I have to confess that I have not bought a bottle of Oyster Bay for many years, so receiving this bottle gave me a chance to revisit the brand. Odd bottles I had in the past weren’t to my taste, but this was definitely better. So to answer the question posed above – is Oyster Bay a good wine? – I would say it’s OK but not great. It’s not going to win over many people who don’t like Marlborough Sauvignon, and I think there are significantly better bottles out there for a few Euros more. But if you aren’t near an independent wine shop, and you have a hankering for some Savvy, then this might just fit the bill.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RS: 4 g/L
  • RRP: €13 – €17
  • Source: gift
  • Stockists: widely available at supermarkets, convenience stores and some multiples

 

Single Bottle Review

Belondrade Quinta Apolonia [Wine Review]

When I started going to regular tastings in Dublin in 2008, one of the areas where I climbed a steep learning curve was Spanish white wines. As I had been focused on French and “new world” whites up to that point, Verdejo, Albariño, Godello and others were totally new to me. I learnt quickly! But it’s only in the last five years that I’ve come to realise that there are no real limits on how good these wines can be. Along with Rafael Palacios, Belondrade’s wines keep on pushing the boundaries for Spanish whites.

Verdejo and Rueda

Although Verdejo and Rueda are inextricably linked, Verdejo is actually thought to have originated in North Africa, and was brought to northern Spain by Christians under Muslim rule around a millennium ago. The wines were made for centuries in an oxidative style, not unlike Sherry, until the variety almost died out. Ángel Rodríguez Vidal of Bodega Martinsancho saved Verdejo from extinction and used it to make a fresher style of table wine, helping to establish the Rueda DO. His success was amplified by Rioja’s Marqués de Riscal who, seeking a source of fruity whites to sell alongside their own reds, poured significant investment into the area.

The fortified wines are still made in Rueda, as is a sparkling wine, but the still fresh style is by some margin the most popular. Verdejo is also grown in Castilla-La Mancha and Estremadura.

Sauvignon Blanc is also grown in Rueda, either as a blending component with Verdejo or as a principal variety. My person experience with these wines has been less favourable than Vedejo dominant wines.

Monsieur / Señor Didier Belondrade: A Frenchman in Spain

Didier Belondrade
Credit: Sobremesa

The third act of the Rueda story belongs to Didier Belondrade. he has recognised the potential in Rueda’s Verdejo and moved there to begin his own project in 1994. The first wine he produced was under the label Belondrade y Lurton, and showed a distinctly Bugundian approach, with oak and less used for both fermentation and maturation. The estate covers 40 hectares divided into 23 plots, each picked and vinified separately. Viticulture us certified organic but this isn’t mentioned on the label.

Quality has been improved year on year, with a big step coming after the construction of a new winery at La Seca in 2000. The range was extended with two wines named after his two daughters: a 100% rosé Tempranillo named Quinta Clarisa and a 100% Verdejo named Quinta Apolonia (the wine detailed below).  Producing the latter as a second wine means that only the very best grapes go into the first wine, enhancing its quality.

Balancing delicately at the very top of the Belondrade quality pyramid is Les Parcelles, a super-premium wine made from grapes harvested from two plots over two days in 2018. After 18 months in the barrel, 1994 bottles were filled and laid down for a further three years before release. The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that the number of bottles corresponds to the year the winery was founded. As wellas the quality being super-premium, the price is super-premium at €410 on their website.

Belondrade Quinta Apolonia Vino de la Tierra Castilla Y León 2020

Belondrade Quinta Apolonia

As mentioned above, one of the reasons for the creation of this wine was to find a home for fruit that weren’t the very best, and thus excluded from the flagship wine. However, this doesn’t mean substandard fruit are used, just those berries which might not be the most complex or concentrated. Quinta Apolonia is designed to showcase the Verdejo variety rather than the wine-making, so it’s a fresher and more accessible style than Belondrade Y Lurton. Alcoholic fermentation is with natural yeast, but temperature controlled to preserve freshness. After ten months ageing on the lees, a blend is made from different plots and different fermenation vessels, then bottled for five months before release.  Quinta Apolonia is designed to be drunk within six to eight years of vintage. 

I tried this bottle at three and a half to four years after vintage, smack bang in the middle of the suggested drinking range. And it’s singing! the nose is elegantly perfumed with fresh pip and stone fruit. The palate is deliciously creamy and textured, with more fruit than a smoothie, and great acidity. It manages to be simultaeously a wine to pair with white fish and a wine to pair with roast chicken – very few can do both well.

In the low to mid twenties retail price point in Ireland, there’s very little to touch this wine.

Conclusion

I’ve been lucky enough to taste both this wine and the big sister Belondrade Y Lurton several times over the past five years. On each occasion, I prefered the junior wine. I found the Y Lurton too closed and not expressive enough, even with price taken out of the equation. So what gives? In essence, I think the senior wine needs time, time which I’ve been unable to give it.

However, I did just stumble across this article on Belondrade Y Lurton from my esteemed colleague John Wilson. Please do read it for yourself, but – writing in 2023 – he calls the 2018 an “Outstanding wine”. So perhaps I need to lay a few down myself.

 

 

 

 

Single Bottle Review, Tasting Events

Mount Pleasant “Lovedale” Hunter Valley Semillon [Wine Review]

There are always new wines to discover at the Liberty Wines portfolio tasting, but sometimes it’s nice to revisit new vintages of old favourites…just to see how they’re getting on.

Here’s the first of my many favourite Australian wines from the Liberty stable.

Mount Pleasant “Lovedale” Hunter Valley Semillon 2018

Mount Pleasant Lovedale Hunter Valley Semillon 2018 bottle shot

Hunter Valley

The Hunter Valley is one of the best known Australian wine regions, albeit with its relative proximity to Sydney being a key factor in its success. Hunter Valley Semillon is arguably one of Australia’s key original wine styles. By that I mean that it’s not just a better, or different, version of a wine made elsewhere, but it is a true original. Even other Aussie wine regions which grow Semillon, such as the the Barossa and Margaret River, just can’t produce wine in the same style.

Hunter Valley Wine Region map
Credit: Australian Wine Discovered

Mount Pleasant

Mount Pleasant is one of the “OG” Hunter producers, founded over a century ago by the pioneering Maurice O’Shea (now there’s a fine Irish name). He spent six years in France studying and then lecturing in viticulture, before bringing this knowledge and expertise back to Australia. O’Shea is regarded as a founder of modern Australian wine making, and the top Shiraz produced by Mount Pleasant bears his name.

Before Covid I had the pleasure of tasting through some of the Mount Pleasant wines with Scott McWilliams, as McWilliams were the owners at that time. Sadly, subsequently McWilliams went into administration, and after almost 80 years under the McWilliams umbrella, Mount Pleasant was bought by NSW property and hotel business Medich Family Office. The additional resources have enabled the cellar door to be renovated, and the switch to only estate fruit from the Hunter, without the safety net of buying in grapes from neighbouring areas in case of poor vintage conditions.

Mount Pleasant have four heritage vineyards. Old Hill is the most venerable, planted with Shiraz in 1880, though wasn’t bought by Mount Pleasant until the 1920s. At that point Maurice also bought some adjoining plots and planted them with cuttings from Old Hill; these plots were named Old Paddock. In 1945 he bought Rosehill vineyard, identified as being extremely well suited to Shiraz, and Lovedale, which was mainly planted with Semillon. Today Lovedale is regarded by many as the finest Semillon vineyard in Australia.

Looking at some of Mount Pleasant’s recent accolades*, the Maurice O’Shea Shiraz has won awards at three to four years old whereas the Lovedale Semillon has been recognised at seven to eight years after vintage.

Lovedale Vineyard

Mount Pleasant Lovedale vineyard
Credit: Mount Pleasant

Lovedale is located close to Pokolbin at 60 metres above sea level. In total it covers 31.1 hectares, planted with Semillon (22.1ha), Chardonnay (7.4ha) and Verdelho (1.6ha). The vines are predominantly in an east-west orientation, with 3.35m between rows and 1.5m between vines and an average of 2,000 vines per hectare. The soil is “sandy aggregate loam topsoil, with friable red and yellow clay lower root zones”, giving the vines the potential to grow deep. Drip irrigation is used when necessary, and trellising is a combination of vertical shoot positioning and cordon ballerina. These methods give the grapes maximum access to sunlight, reducing the risk of diseases which are a significatn risk in the Hunter’s humid climate.

Mount Pleasant “Lovedale” Hunter Valley Semillon 2018

… the nose is so beguiling that it demands contemplation before even moving on to a sip.

So, onto the wine itself! At six years old this 2018 it is still a baby in Hunter Semillon terms, but it is already hugely expressive. The nose is complex, already displaying typical toasty aromas that allude to time in oak, despite the wine spending zero time in any oak vessel. In fact the nose is so beguiling that it demands contemplation before even moving on to a sip. But once tasting there are no regrets, only joy. Tangy pear and toasty notes endure, but against a backdrop of citrus and soft stone fruits. This is by no means a cheap wine, but in a world where white Burgundies can go for several hundreds euros, it begins to look like (relatively) good value for money.

What a wine!

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RS: 0.3 g/L
  • RRP: €74.99
  • Stockists: 2017 vintage is available at Ely Wine Store, Maynooth
  • Other Mount Pleasant wines available in Ireland: “Estate Grown” Hunter Valley Semillon, “Elizabeth” Cellar Aged Hunter Valley Semillon, “Maurice O’Shea” Hunter Valley Shiraz, “Rosehill” Hunter Valley Shiraz, “Old Paddock & Old Hill” Hunter Valley Shiraz

* Note the lower case “a”!

Single Bottle Review, Wine Of The Week

Wine Review: Longview Adelaide Hills “The Piece” Shiraz 2016

A delicious Aussie Shiraz with a bit of age – what’s not to like? First a quick overview of its home region, Adelaide Hills, followed by an introduction to its producer, Lonview Vineyard, and finally some tasting notes.

Adelaide Hills

Adelaide Hills is the coolest region within South Australia, the biggest source of quality wine within Australia. Climate change has made its precious altitiude even more vital. The majority of plantings are varieties which thrive in cool climates – Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris – but also those which are happy across different climatic conditions, especially Chardonnay, and as we have here, Shiraz.

Adelaide Hills Wine Region Map
Credit: wineaustralia.com

Adelaide Hills only became a protected Geographic Indication (GI) 25 years ago, which shows that it is a relative newcomer compared to South Australia’s internationally famous regions such as Coonawarra and the Barossa Valley. Its cool climate is partially from its relative proximity to the Southern Ocean, but even more than that due to its elevation. The hills to the east of Adelaide form part of the Mount Lofty Ranges (yet another super original Australian name!) There are two official sub-regions, Lenswood and Piccadilly, the latter of which is particularly renowned for its Chardonnay.

Longview Vineyard

Notice that the name includes Vineyard, singular? I had to catch myself from adding an ‘s’, but the moniker is deliberate as the property consists of a single vineyard. As Longview was founded in 1995 it predates the GI, though the first vintage wasn’t until 2001. Admittedly it’s a large vineyard at 65 hectares, and reaches up to 410m at its highest point. Ownership is in the hands of brothers Mark and Peter Saturno; their Italian heritage is supported by the inclusion of Italian varieties Nebbiolo, Barbera and Pinot Grigio.

The current range extends to around twenty wines, of which five are currently available in Ireland:

  • LV Shiraz Cabernet
  • Vista Shiraz Barbera
  • Devil’s Elbow Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Yakka Shiraz
  • The Piece Shiraz

Among those not available here are those in the Macclesfield Range which they call “our collection of premium, small-batch wines that reflect the unique geology and climate of Macclesfield.” Interestingly one is labelled as a Syrah rather than Shiraz. Perhaps we might see some of these up here in the future?

Longview “The Piece” 2016

Longview Vineyard Adelaide Hills The Piece Shiraz 2016 Bottle and Canister

Before we even get into the wine itself, a few words on the label and packaging. Yes, in the end it’s “the juice” that counts, but if a label or a container helps to catch the eye of a wine lover browsing the shelves, I have no problem with that. Innovation should be encouraged!

The 2016 bottling of The Piece has a grafitti theme, and came in a container looking like a spray-can. I particularly liked the “Shiraz Gloss” label just above the vintage label. The theme arose as a tribute to Longview’s “The Piece Project” where Australian street artists compete to have their work featured on the label.

Now, onto the wine! Grapes for The Piece are a very small part of the estates Shiraz production; the best rows in the best blocks are harvested separately from the surrounding vines. Alcoholic fermentation is temperature controlled, after which the wine is transferred to old French oak hogsheads and puncheons. Malolactic fermentation takes place there, and the wine is left to mature for another year and a half. There’s then a final selection of the best barrels – ten in the case of the 2016 vintage, but as few as five for 2019.

The wine team aim for “cool climate spice” as one of the key attributes of this wine, and it really shows on the nose – it’s like Christmas cake without the icing; sweet, confected fruits with spice and treacle. The palate also has sweet berry fruit, though it’s rich and appealing without being sugary. The finish has fine tannins and a balancing streak of acidity. Overall this is a well-made, nicely balanced wine.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €42 (2018/9)
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: 2018/9 at O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

 

 

 

 

 

Single Bottle Review

Wine Review: Astrolabe Taihoa Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2020

Astrolabe’s winemaker Simon Waghorn is a master of his trade. Speaking to him recently, I was reminded of a chef who can make Bib gourmand bistro-style food but also Michelin-starred fine dining – though without the airs and graces.

As you move up the Astrolabe Sauvingon Blanc range the wines go from tasty all-rounders to increasingly complex; the fruit sources move from the whole region, to sub-regions, to single vineyard. For example, the Awatere Valley bottling is a real showcase of tha sub-region’s style, with leafy and herbal notes developed over a longer growing season, but some of the fruit from the Awatere also goes into the Province Sauvingon Blanc. Similarly, fruit from the Taihoa vineyard is bottled on its own – as below – but also with other Kēkerengū fruit as the Kēkerengū Coast Sauvignon Blanc.

I tried the 2017 vintage of the Taihoa a few years ago and was very impressed, so was keeen to try the current vintage: 2020.

Astrolabe Taihoa Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2020

It is not well appreciated by folks up here that the Marlborough Wine GI actually extends down the coast to include the Kaikōura District as well as the Marlborough District itself:

Marlborough wine region map
Credit: Jonathan Harker

Plantings are much more scarce compared to the main three sub-regions and farming is often mixed

The Taihoa Vineyard is on the Kēkerengū Coast, just over the administrative border into Kaikōura District. The vineyard is owned by Paddy and Anna Trolove and consists of two small blocks on flat terraces close to the sea. The influence of the sea extends the growing season in both directions; budburst arrives early yet the cold winds from the south delay full ripening until after the rest of Marlborough.

Unlike in central Marlborough, grapes from the Taihoa vineyard are hand-picked.  Fermentation is in barrel with indigenous yeasts, followed by maturation in French oak barrels. These practices impart significant body and texture to the wine, as well as additional aromas and flavours.

In the glass this 2020 vintage is lemony-gold, just a fraction darker than the more modest Sauvignons. The nose is very expressive, with lots of rich lees character coming through on top of typical Sauvignon notes of grapefruit, lemon and passionfruit. The mouthfeel is what really sets it apart, with an almost chewy texture. The lees influence is still prominent on the palate, along with tropical fruit and nutty notes

This is Astrolabe’ top Sauvignon Blanc and retails for a little over twice the price of its Regions Marlborough Sauvignon. Is it worth the money? It really depends what you’re after; it’s a weekend treat rather than a weekday sipper. At O’Briens it’s €0.50 more than Cloudy Bay, and as good as Cloudy Bay is, I find the Taihoa Vineyard much more interesting. I think I’ll treat myself!

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €39.45
  • Source: tasted at O’Briens Wine Festival #obwinefest
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie
Single Bottle Review

Wine Review: Mastrojanni Brunello di Montalcino 2015

Whereas Chianti has a long and storied history of making wine, its neighbour in Tuscany Montalcino is a more recent newcomer, at least at any scale. The soil around Montalcino is generally poor so few crops were grown and the land mainly given over to woodland and sheep pasture. While some grapes were planted and vinified for local consumption, it was Ferruccio Biondi-Santi who created the first “modern” Brunello and founded the house that still carries his name.

Despite the renown of his Brunello wines the area remained under-utilised. A lawyer from Rome, Gabriele Mastrojanni, bought the San Pio and Loreto estates in 1975 and turned them into vineyards. Mastrojanni followed Biondi-Santi’s lead and planted Sangiovese Grosso grapes, aka Brunello. He planted them in such a way that tractors could be used in the vineyards when desired, but still at a high enough planting density that competition between vines forced them to send down deep roots and not produce too much foliage.

Mastrojanni currently make eight wines:

  • the Brunello is made most years apart from poor harvests such as 1992 and 2002
  • a Rosso is made with similar care but with shorter ageing for earlier drinking
  • a well-established single cru Brunello di Montalcino Vigna Schiena d’Asino, a single hectare vineyard
  • a new single cru Brunello di Montalcino Vigna Loreto, also made only in exceptional years
  • a new wine made with the rare variety Ciliegiolo
  • another new bottling  Costa Colonne from the new DOC Sant’Antimo
  • a Super-Tuscan Cabernet Sauvignon-Sangiovese blend, San Pio
  • a botrytised dessert wine

Mastrojanni Brunello di Montalcino 2015

Mastrojanni Brunello di Montalcino 2015

2015 was a renowned vintage in much of Italy, so I had high hopes for this wine. On pouring – from a half bottle – it was just above medium intensity, with a ruby, somewhat watery rim. Dense black fruits dominate the nose, with black cherry and blackberry to the fore, with notes of exotic spice at the periphery. The palate is powerful and viscous, almost thick in the mouth. Voluptuous black fruits are joined with more savoury notes of black olive, leather and black liquorice. The tannins are ripe so it’s down to the acidity to provide structure and keep everything fresh.

This is a succulent, tasty wine. I hear the 2016 is even more highly regarded, so that would be a special treat to enjoy this winter.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €37.95 (375 ml) / €69.50 (750 ml)
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists (2016 750 ml): Baggot St Wines; Blackrock Cellar; The Corkscrew; Clontarf Wines; Deveneys, Dundrum; D-SIX Off Licence; Grapevine, Dalkey; Lotts and Co, Terenure; Martins Off Licence, Fairview; Michael’s Sutton; Nectar Wines; Redmonds of Ranelagh; Pembroke wines @ Roly’s Bistro; Saltwater Grocery; Sweeney’s D3; The Winehouse – Trim
Single Bottle Review

Wine Review: Porta 6 Lisboa Red 2019

Porta 6 – literally “Door No. 6” – is produced by Vidigal Wines which is headquartered in central Portugal. They produce a substantial number of different wines made in Lisbon (from 450 hectares) and across the country: Tagus, Douro, Alentejo, Dão, Beiras and Vinho Verde. Vidigal is majority family owned and run by António Mendes who has transformed the company’s operations since he took over around 25 years ago. Vidigal export 90% of their production to over 30 countries; Porta 6 is one of their key wines available in Ireland.

Porta 6 Lisboa Red 2019

Porta 6 Lisboa Red

Porta 6 is an everyday-drinking style red wine made from traditional Portuguese grapes: 50% Aragonez (aka Tempranillo), 40% Castelão and 10% Touriga Nacional. It is available in traditional 750 ml glass bottles but also in 1.5 litre and 3.0 litre bag-in-box formats – great for parties and lowering the wine’s carbon footprint by making for a lighter package to transport.

On pouring it’s nearly opaque black in the glass, with a bright purple rim. The nose is fantastic with ripe red and black fruits: think blackberry, black cherry, plum, redcurrant and cranberry, along with some exotic spices. Perhaps it’s just the coming season (no I’m not going to say the “C word”) but it’s almost like smelling a mince pie just before you take a big bite.

In the mouth it is smooth, with a whole winter fruit salad (if such a thing exists…and if it doesn’t, it should) hitting your mouth on the attack. The fruit slips away as you swallow it, leaving some fine grained tannins and a dusting of spice. There’s lots of pleasing fruit in this wine but no jamminess.

This is not a vin de garde or a highly complex one, but with oodles of fruit presented nicely and decent balance, this is worth stocking up on, especially at €10!

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €12.95 or €10.00 when on offer
  • Source: sample (1.5 litre box)
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie
Single Bottle Review

Wine Review: Gai’a 4-6H Nemea Rosé 2020

Gai’a is one of the best known Greek producers in these parts, primarily due to their magnificent Wild Ferment Assyrtiko; this brilliant wine has featured several times on Frankly Wines going back as far as My Top 10 Whites of 2014. They also make a simpler Assyrtiko called Monograph which was one of My Top 10 Value Whites of 2017 Monograph is made in Nemea which is more famous for reds based on Agiorgitiko, an indigenous Greek variety. Indeed, Gai’a make a number of different Agiorgitiko-based wines, many of them single varietals but also a few blends.

Gai’a was founded just in 1994 by locals Yiannis Paraskevopoulosan and Leon Karatsalos. They decided to focus on Greece’s top red and white varieties and locations, namely Assyrtiko from Santorini and Agiorgitiko from Nemea, with a winery subsequently built in each location. For the latter they chose Koutsi, a high altitude location with poor soil fertility to give cool nights and well-drained root systems.

As well as the reds made in Nemea Gai’a also produce three rosés. The first was 14-16H, so named as the juice spends between 14 and 16 hours in contact with the skins. The second rosé in the Gai’a range is the 4-6H; it isn’t stated but I therefore infer that the 4-6H spends between four and six hours macerating on the skins.

Gai’a 4-6H Nemea Rosé 2020

Gai'a Nemea Agiorgitiko Rosé

The Agiorgitiko (literally: St George’s grape) vines for this rosé are between 15 and 30 years old and are grown on at an altitude of 450 to 550 metres ASL. The soil has a shallow clay layer over free-draining limestone subsoil and has a 15% slope (so I would imagine hand-harvested!)

The 4-6H rosé is on the pale side but not quite the virtually colourless pale wine that is currently in fashion. The nose is joyously fruity with lots of red fruit notes. The palate is…simply delicious! The finish is crisp but not sharp. If tasted straight out of a domestic fridge this is still fruity but on the redcurrant and cranberry side; as it warms up a little the fruits move across the red spectrum yet remain fresh and tasty. When left out even longer it could even double as a light red.

This wine is modestly priced but is the most enjoyable rosé I have tried this year. I could see it pairing well with a wide variety of foods but most importantly it is extremely gluggable all by itself.

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

*Though I liked it so much that I bought myself another bottle.

Single Bottle Review

Wine Review: Clos Henri “Petit Clos” Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc

Which makes better Sauvignon Blanc, the Loire Valley or Marlborough?

The Loire versus Marlborough debate about which region makes the best Sauvignon Blanc will rumble on for years to come, with each side proclaiming victory. The Loirists can point to the fact that they have the original home of Sauvignon Blanc and the famous duo (amongst others) of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. Marlboroughites may boast that very few people even knew what Sauvignon Blanc was before they started making it a world famous variety, and no other region can rival their Savvy’s aromatics.

Domaine Henri Bourgeois and Clos Henri

On the sidelines we have Sancerre based producer Domaine Henri Bourgeois, now in the capable hands of the tenth generation of winemakers, who has ventured down to Aotearoa to establish their own take on Marlborough Sauvignon, Clos Henri. It was set up in Marlborough’s most popular subregion, Wairau Valley, which has greywacke (whence Kevin Judd’s outfit takes its name) soil, essentially gravels and pebbles laid down over millennia by the wandering Wairau river. Viticulture is practising, but not certified, organic

Clos Henri has six wines, three whites (Sauvignon Blanc) and three reds (Pinot Noir) with three labels each:

  • Clos Henri Sauvignon Blanc: 8 – 13 year old vines on greywacke
  • Bel Echo Sauvignon Blanc: 9 – 13 year old vines on clay
  • Petit Clos Sauvignon Blanc: 3 – 7 year old vines on greywacke and clay
  • Clos Henri Pinot Noir: 8 – 13 year old vines on clay
  • Bel Echo Pinot Noir: 8 – 13 year old vines on greywacke
  • Petit Clos Pinot Noir: 3 – 7 year old vines on clay and greywacke

Note how greywacke is the optimum soil for Sauvignon and clay for Pinot.

Clos Henri “Petit Clos” Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2019

Clos Henri Petit Clos Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc

As you can ascertain from the information above, Petit Clos Sauvignon Blanc is made using young vines predominantly grown on greywacke soil. Following Sancerre practices, vines are planted close together to make them compete for nutrients and encourage them to focus their energy on producing fruit more than foliage. Clos Henri is fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks to best preserve aromatics, but it also enjoys three months of bâtonnage which both helps preserve the wine and gives it a creamy, rounded texture.

The noses shows grassy aromas (harking back to Sancerre again), plus citrus notes such as lime and grapefruit. These continue onto the palate where they are joined by some lighter tropical notes – pineapple and passionfruit. This wine has a dry finish and excellent length. It is far more elegant than the vast majority of Marlborough Sauvignons, and that’s where the Bourgeois family’s Loire expertise comes into play – it really is the best of both worlds.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €19.95 or €13.95 when on offer
  • Source: purchased from O’Briens Glasnevin
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores or obrienswine.ie