Single Bottle Review

The Only Way Is Up! [Frankie’s Single Bottle Review #19]

In the search for cooler sites, particularly in these days of noticeable climate change, vignerons have a number of options open to them:

  • Head north: more northerly climates tend to be cooler (note the Champenois taking a keen interest in southern England).
  • The north face: vineyards with a northerly aspect receive less sun than those facing south, making them a little cooler.
  • To the coast: large bodies of water – such as oceans, seas and even lakes – moderate land temperatures – even more so if they help generate a bit of fog.
  • Where the wind blows: even if not that close to the coast, having regular strong winds helps to keep the temperature down, for example in the northern Rhône

Of course, the first two points are reversed for the southern hemisphere!

El Coto 875m Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2017 (12.0%, RRP €18.99 at Vintry Rathgar, DrinkStore Stoneybatter, McHughs Malahide Rd & Kilbarrack Rd, O’Donovans Cork, World Wide Wines Waterford, Sweeney’s, Gibney’s Malahide & Deveneys Dundrum)

Global Image Projects S.L.

In Rioja, the four options above aren’t readily available, so for its new plantings of Chardonnay, major producer El Coto followed a different path: the only way is up (the mountain)!  As highlighted on the label, the vineyard is at 875 metres, the highest point in the whole of Rioja.  The altitude promotes acidity and minerality, while the longer growing season allows some light tropical notes to show through.  The barrels used for fermentation are not toasted (steam is used to bend them into shape instead of a fire) so the oak notes are not overly prominent, with just a touch of vanilla added to the citrus.

This is no Meursault wannabe, it’s far more subtle than that.  Keeping with the Burgundy parallels, I’d say a closer description would be Chablis 1er Cru from a warm vintage – a great effort indeed for a new variety in Rioja!

Rioja

And for those who may remember it, here’s the track I referenced in the article title:

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Single Bottle Review

Giorgia on my Mind [Frankie’s Single Bottle Review #18]

Giorgia

There’s so much dull Prosecco made that it could probably have its own lake in north east Italy, but a little searching can bring great rewards in terms of both outright quality and interest.  On one hand there are some fantastic Col Fondo Proseccos which are aligned with the natural wine movement and low intervention.  There are also some quality conscious producers – particularly in the DOCG areas of Conegliano, Valdobbiadene and Asolo – who strive for more interesting wines through planting on hillsides, harvesting at low yields and controlling quality.

One of Valdobbiadene’s innovators, Ca’ Salina, has chosen another route for one of its wines, using technology as a way to produce a cleaner wine:

Disclosure: sample provided for review, opinions my own

Ca’ Salina Giorgia Vino Spumante Brut 2016 (11.5%, RRP £17.99 from Just Perfect Wines)

Giorgia Brut

Ca’ Salina are located in the heart of the Valdobbiadene DOCG area and have an excellent reputation for quality.  However, this offering does not carry the DOCG label – or even the lesser DOC tag – due to innovative methods used in the production process.

The “Flotation Method” is designed to remove from the juice anything which isn’t directly from the grapes – yeast, bacteria, other fungi and anything else coming in from the vineyard.  Air is mixed into the must using a centrifuge pump which creates billions of tiny bubbles.  Their electrostatic charge attracts the impurities and so the bubbles and detritus all rise to the top as a dark foam over a perfectly clear juice.  This process takes a few hours, after which the foam is removed and selected yeasts are added to begin the second fermentation.

The purity of the must means that for this wine no sulphur is added at any part of the process.  Of course naturally occuring sulphites are still present, as in all wine, but at the very low level of 10 mg/L compared to the legal limit of 210 mg/L.  The dosage is on the light side at 8 g/L, making this a Brut.

And the most important part – the taste!  Firstly, this is unmistakably a sparkling wine from north east Italy, no matter whether it has the DOCG label or not.  Made from 100% Glera (the grape formerly known as Prosecco) is has lovely citrus and pear notes, with just a touch of biscuit and brioche.  The modest dosage allows the refined fruit to come through without being swamped in sugar and leaves a crisp finish.  This is better than pretty much all Prosecco you will find in a supermarket.

I don’t know if this new technique will catch on, but in the hands of a good producer such as Ca’ Salina it can make a very good wine!

Single Bottle Review

Chalk Hill McLaren Vale Fiano 2017 [Frankie’s Single Bottle Review #17]

Chalk Hill Fiano

Fiano is predominantly grown in southern Italy – Campania and Sicily – and so has risen in prominence with the quality revolution in Italian white wine.  Grapes don’t generally get tried in the New World until they have already been a success in the Old World – and even then it can be a struggle to get noticed alongside the big guns of Cabernet, Syrah, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.  However, it’s now Fiano’s turn to start making a mark down under.

Chalk Hill is a family owned producer in South Australia’s McLaren Vale, now in the capable hands of the sixth generation of the Harvey family.  I tend to think of the Vale as being one of the homes of Italian varieties in Australia – whether that’s just my perception or backed up with more than a grain of truth, I don’t know.

Lithe, with a whole range of citrus fruits on show, with a slight touch of both the vegetal – think mangetout – and the tropical – mangos FTW!  With a very reasonable ABV of 12.0% this is a great summer wine, especially with lime and ginger prawns on the barbie…

I’m already a fan of Mandrarossa’s Sicilian Fiano, but Chalk Hill have moved the game on several leagues with this wine.  I’m going to have to seek out the very top Italian Fianos to see how they match up!

Available by the glass at Ely Wine Bar, Ely Place, Dublin

Champagne, Single Bottle Review

Gustave Lorenz L’Ami des Crustacés [Frankie’s Single Bottle Review #16]

The shape of Alsace wine bottles (the “Rhine flute”) is distinctive and can be off-putting to some consumers who (unfairly) associate it with the flabby Liebfraumilch of the ’70s and ’80s, and for some the Gothic script used on the labels is a little intimidating; I like it, but I understand why others wouldn’t.  Here’s an example also from Gustave Lorenz:

Gustave_Lorentz_Riesling_Burg_Bottle

So Gustave Lorenz have taken a slightly different approach for one of their wines – far less emphasis on geographic origin and grape variety, far more emphasis on food matching, and hoping to attract slightly younger drinkers.  Thus we have L’Ami des Crustaces which is probably best translated as “Great with Shellfish” as the literal “Friend of Crustaceans” doesn’t quite fit.

Where you stand on shellfish will be a major indicator of whether you like the label of this wine. Those that like seafood platters piled up with all manner of claws and tentacles and surgical tools to dismember will definitely love it, whereas those with shellfish allergies will probably be put off it.

I’m somewhere in between; I like the food but I prefer it shelled, de-boned and on a plate ready for me!

If you look at the label you can see “Pinot Blanc Classique”, so the variety isn’t being hidden (it’s more of an aside), but neither the producer name nor region are mentioned on the front.

Gustave Lorenz L’Ami des Crustacés Pinot Blanc Classique 2016 (12.5%, RRP ~ €16.50 via Febvre)

Ami des Crustaces

And so on to the most important part (for me), the wine itself.  And it’s marvelous!  It has plenty of texture, in good part due to the majority Auxerrois in the blend (see my post on Alsace blends for further info), and plenty of zippy acidity, so as well as briny seafood such as oysters the wine would actually work well with more flavoured seafood dishes and even poultry.

This wine is new to the Irish market but once available commercially I think I will treat myself to a case for picnics, barbecues and days ending in “y”!

 

Single Bottle Review, Tasting Events

GrapeCircus Round 3

Finally, a Franciacorta that I love!  As a winelover there are wines that I know I will love before I even taste them, and some that I don’t think I will like, but I try to keep an open mind.  Back in early 2014 I gave myself the task of trying more of a few different wines:

  • Muscadet
  • Cava
  • Prestige Cuvée Champagne
  • Franciacorta

Since then I’ve tried some lovely Muscadet, some excellent Cava and some Champagne that’s absolutely to die for.  I’ve had plenty of Franciacorta that I like, but up until now not one that I love.  Why is this?  I think the fundamental issue is that some Franciacorta producers are trying to make their own version of Champagne, picking the grapes early to preserve acidity and then adding a dosage after disgorgement for balance, but without the cool growing conditions that permit flavours to develop so well.

Arcari + Danesi Franciacorta “Dosaggio Zero” 2013 (12.5%, RRP ~ €55 – €60)

franciacorta dosaggio zero arcari danesi

The alternative is to make the best sparkling wine based on the local conditions.  Arcari + Danesi pick their Chardonnay grapes when they are quite ripe and full of flavour; the resulting richness and moderate acidity negate the need for dosage.

Not only is this sparkler made without additional sugar after disgorgement (hence “Dosaggio Zero“), neither is any used for the second fermentation in bottle.  The apparent contradiction there is because – under the “SoloUva Method” grape juice is used instead of sugar from beet or cane.

After 31 months on the lees there are some lovely autolytic notes, together with tangy tropical fruit.  The finish is dry but not austere.  What a fabulous wine!

 

Single Bottle Review

Wayne Thomas McLaren Vale Dry Riesling 2006 [Frankie’s Single Bottle Review #15]

Wayne Thomas McLaren Vale Dry Riesling 2006 (12.5%, €18.46 down to €16.61 at Karwig’s)

Disclosure: bottle kindly provided as a sample, opinions my own

When I think of Aussie Riesling I think of Clare Valley, Eden Valley and Great Southern – in that order.  As Australia has a fairly warm climate, higher altitude sites are often best for Riesling as it likes to be fairly cool.

But here’s one from McLaren Vale which is probably best known for its GSM blends.  The grapes are from the sandy Oliver Creek Vineyards of McLaren Flat.  Unfortunately, the winemaker Wayne Thomas passed away around ten years ago so there is no more of this wine being produced; his son is also in the wine business, but making quite different wines up in the Hunter Valley.

On the nose this shows lots of development: petrol and kerosene with a little tropical fruit.  The palate is textured and racy, with chalky, mineral notes and fresh lime and grapefruit.  The back label suggests 3 – 6 years ageing but this is still going very well – and an absolute bargain at the reduced price!

 

Single Bottle Review

Who’s the Dada? [Frankie’s Single Bottle Review #14]

As most regular readers will know, I’m very lucky to receive sample wine bottles on a regular basis, in addition to invitations to trade and press tastings.  While spitting at tastings is de rigueur (and, quite frankly, necessary if you want to maintain both your palate and the ability to walk unaided), sample bottles are drunk without spitting chez moi.

So what do you do when you have a good few samples that you need to try, but you’re cutting back on the booze for a bit?  Share them with wine friends is the obvious answer! Thus, at an informal dinner with friends from the DNS Wine Club I produced four bottles of relatively inexpensive red wine all wrapped in foil – for a mini blind tasting.

The objective of the blind tasting wasn’t to see which was the best wine, but rather to see how good we were at guessing the vintage, main grape(s), country of origin etc.  And we were painfully average at that!  However, one wine was agreed to be the tastiest – and happened to be the go-to bottle of one of the tasters:

Finca Las Moras Dadá Art Series 1 2016 (12.5%, €10.00, widely available at SuperValu, Dunnes Stores and all good independent off licences)

Las Moras Dada Bonarda Malbec

There are actually lots of different wines in the Dadá Art Series, but this Bonarda / Malbec blend is the most widely available.  It’s actually quite an unusual blend, as Bonarda in Argentina is the same grape as the obscure Deuce Noir from Savoie in France (and formerly part of Italy) rather than the slightly better known Bonarda Piemontese.  Malbec is of course Argentina’s signature black grape.

Obscure or unusual don’t matter in the end, it’s what’s in the glass that counts – and this is lovely!  Blackberry crumble with lashings of custard, it’s that kind of lovely – black fruit from the grapes with plenty of vanilla from the American oak.  And for a tenner in Ireland, this is great value for money!

 

 

Single Bottle Review

Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz 2004 [Frankie’s Single Bottle Review #13]

Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz 2004 (14.5%, €20.00 at Sweeney’s – current vintages c. €35.00)

Bin 28

Like many large producers, Penfolds has distinct ranges of wine so that some sort of hierarchy can be recognised, especially when a handful of grape varieties are used for the majority of their best red wines.  Bin 28 is part of the Penfolds Collection which includes the flagship Grange, Bin 707 and Yattarna wines.

Kalimna comes from the prestigious Barossa Valley Kalimna Vineyard which Penfolds bought in 1945 and was the original sole source of the grapes for this wine.  Like the majority of Penfolds wines, it is now a multi-region, multi-vineyard blend, with that blend changing from year to year depending on the characteristics of the vintage and the fruit available to the winemakers.

Bin 28 was simply the name of the huge container that the wine was made in.

Although these wines are often drunk soon after release, the peak drinking window extends 15 to 20 years after vintage, so 2017 is a pretty good time to be drinking the 2004.  Two rounds of duty increases plus a big swing in the AUD/EUR exchange rate mean that the €20 I paid for the 2004 some years ago looks like an incredible bargain!

The nose is full of fresh black fruit with a twist of spice, plus a slightly meaty edge.  This follows through to the palate which shows blackberries and blueberries, lots of meat and black olive notes (umami heaven!) – though the fruit is still fresh rather than stewed or dried.  There are still vanilla echoes from the American oak, though they are very much in the background rather than being dominant.  There’s a little fine tannin remaining on the finish, but this adds to the savoury side rather than grippy.

This is a spectacular wine which is maturing but still has plenty of powerful fruit and could easily have lasted another five years.

Single Bottle Review

Rosé “Prosecco” – Really? Yes, REALLY!

Strictly speaking, there’s no such thing as Rosé Prosecco , as the DOC and DOCG rules do not permit it, but if they did then this wine would be a great example.  Furlan was founded in the 1930s and is now in the hands of the third generation.  They have vineyards in the DOCG Conegliano-Valdobbiadene, DOC Treviso and DOC Piave areas, producing sparkling and still wines from indigenous and international grape varieties.

Furlan Rosé Spumante Brut 2015 (12.0%, €17.99 at Just Perfect Wines)

furlan

Let’s start with the blend: 70% Glera, 27% Manzoni Bianco and 3% Cabernet Sauvignon. Of course Glera is the grape formerly known as Prosecco, so no surprise there.  Manzoni Bianco is intriguing – it’s a (deliberate) cross between Riesling and Pinot blanc, created nearly a century ago by Professor Luigi Manzoni at Italy’s oldest school of oenology located in Conegliano.  Among the many crosses created by the eminent professor, this is probably the most successful and is well established in the Veneto.  And finally, Cabernet Sauvignon adds the magical colour.

With 13 g/L of residual sugar, this technically creeps into the Extra Dry bracket, though to be honest the Brut label it has is a better descriptor – the sugar balances the acidity well and adds to the fruitiness without making it overtly sweet.

On pouring this has a lovely strawberry nose, then a smorgasbord of fresh red fruit on the palate – redcurrant, raspberry and strawberry – plus some pear and floral notes.  For me the key is the balance between fruit and sweetness, this would make an excellent wine for the table as well as aperitivo!

 

Disclosure: sample kindly provided for tasting; opinions are mine and mine alone.

Single Bottle Review

Astrolabe Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2015 [Frankie’s Single Bottle Review #12]

As a wine drinker, it’s always good to revisit favourites – might they have changed, or my palate?  The familiar offers reassurance and a chance to recalibrate.

Here is one of my favourite Marlborough Sauvignons that I have tasted regularly over the past decade – can’t wait to see how the next vintage tastes!

Disclosure: sample kindly provided for review

Astrolabe Marlborough “Province”Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (13.5%, €19.95 down to €15.95, O’Briens)

pro-mar-sav-15-print

This is the standard Sauvignon from Simon Waghorn and team at Astrolabe, formerly known as “Voyage” but now dubbed “Province” to reflect the fact that it is a blend of fruit from different Marlborough sub-regions.pro-details

Compared to some Marlborough SBs it is on the savoury side, with a little fruit sweetness on the mid palate but a very dry finish rather than the tropical flourish of some.  The technical notes show it has only 1.4 g/L of residual sugar which bears out the subjective style.

The main notes of this 2015 are green bell pepper, gooseberry and grapefruit – there’s a definite tartness to it which would make it fantastic with salad or seafood.  If drinking on its own I’d recommend taking it out of the fridge for 20 – 30 minutes before opening.  This wine really hits the spot!