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
Tasting Events

The Pommery Champagne Terrace at the Dylan Hotel

Pommery Champagne Terrace at the Dylan Hotel

I was recently invited to the 2024 launch of the Pommery Champagne Terrace at the Dylan Hotel in Dublin. As a bubbly fanatic I didn’t have to be asked twice! Although I was a guest of Dalcassian, Pommery’s representatives in Dublin, I wasn’t asked to write this article, which contains my opinions only.

The Dylan Hotel is tucked away in Ballsbridge, the only boutique 5 star hotel in Dublin. I have happy memories of a work dinner / wine tasting there some years ago where I was set loose on the wine list.

The Pommery Champagne Terrace

The Terrace is located at the front of the Dylan Hotel, a few feet above road level and protected by a hedge. There are lots of parasols to protect against the morning sun plus dark blue Pommery branded cushions and blankets to stave off a Dublin evening chill.

Of course there is a theme to the drinks list on the terrace, and it’s Pommery Champagne. For the more adventurous there are also three Pommery-based cocktails, including a Bellini (that’s right, changing up from the original recipe with Prosecco!) The real action though is in the different Pommery Cuvées, from the “standard” (I wouldn’t dare call it entry level) Brut Royal all the way up to the iconic Cuvée Louise.

Dylan Menu drinks

The food menu is casual but high quality, with a seafood bias that’s perfect for chilled Champagne. Of course the cheese is lost on me, but I really enjoyed the charcuterie that I tried.

Dylan Menu bites

Champagne Pommery

Monsieur Alexandre-Louis Pommery and his wife Madame Jeanne Alexandrine Pommery had an unexpected addition to their family when she was 38 and he was already retired. Needing a regular income again to raise their child, he decided to go back into business, but this time buying into the booming Champagne trade on top of his textile business. He became a senior partner in Pommery & Greno, with Narcisse Greno continuing as a junior partner.

Sadly Alexandre died only two years later, so Veuve Pommery took over the running of Champagne Pommery herself. She was a formidable businesswoman and very innovative, making a much-derided decision to reduce the houses dosage and produce the first commercially available Brut style in 1874. This proved to be hugely popular in the English market which had less of a sweet tooth than the American and Russian markets. This success gave Pommery enough of a financial cushion to invest in a huge cellar complex, digging into the chalk seams dozens of metres underground.

Fast forward to the present day, and Champagne Pommery remains a Grande Marque and is part of the Vranken-Pommery Monopole group, the second largest in Champagne. Partnering with Hattingley Valley, Pommery also produces English Sparkling Wine under the label Louis Pommery

Today the Champagne Pommery range has 4 lines:

  • Royal: Brut Royal, Brut Rosé Royal, Royal Blue Sky, Grand Cru Royal
  • Cuvée Apanage: Brut, Rosé, Blanc de Blancs, Blanc de Noirs
  • Cuvée Louise: Brut Millésime, Rosé Millésime, Brut Nature Millésime
  • Les Clos Pompadour: A 100% Grand Cru super premium cuvée with Chardonnay from Avize & Cramant and Pinot Noir from Aÿ, aged on the lees en magnum for 15 years

Champagne Pommery Brut Royale NV

Champagne Pommery Brut Royal NV bottle shot

So onto the wine itself, the star of the show. The blend is approximately equal thirds of the three main Champange grapes, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, with the precise percentages changing slightly depending on the bottling. The grapes are sourced from a large number of villages around the Champagne region – many of them Grand and Premier Cru – to give the cellarmaster a broad choice of elements with which to make his assemblage.

Ageing in Pommery’s famous cellars takes 36 months, over double the regulatory minimum of 15 months, and enough to gain noticeable leesy character. On the nose it’s the Chardonnay that grabs the attention with fresh lemon and lime notes, but then on the palate there are also appley notes (from the Meunier) and red fruits (from the Pinot Noir). This is a very well put together wine which deserves more recognition for its quality – and has a great story behind it, too.

 

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”!

Tasting Events

Wine Review: Four Festive Treats from O’Briens

If there is any style of wine that we automatically think of during the colder months, it’s Port. Like dogs, Port is not just for Christmas: it can be enjoyed at any time of the year. But there is something to be said about our drinking choices being informed by the seasons, even if those seasons aren’t as marked in Ireland as in continental climes.

That being said, as any WSET graduate will tell you, “Port-style” is shorthand for a fortified wine where grape spirit has been added during fermentation to stop the sugars turning into more alcohol, thus preserving some of the natural sweetness from the grapes. This method is used in many other places, both in Europe and further afield.

Here are four sweet wines from O’Briens that are all worth a try:

Smith Woodhouse 10-year old Tawny Port

Smith Woodhouse 10 year old Tawny Port bottle shot

So we start our quartet with an actual Port, from Oporto. Next year Smith Woodhouse will be celebrating its 240th anniversary, but it remains an under-the-radar producer, despite being part of the renowned Symington Family portfolio. The lack of brand recognition is actually good news for drinkers as Smith Woodhouse wines tend to represent great value for money.

Like most Ports this is a blend of local varieties: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz and Tinto Cão, each of which bring something different to the blend. After fermentation has begun, premium grape spirit is added to stop fermentation. The wine is then aged for a minimum of 10 years in old oak barrels, without topping up, so the ingress of oxygen can magically transform the wine over time. That magic turns ripe fresh berry flavours into dried fruit notes, with an assortment of nuts and burnt caramel. The tannins and acidity haven’t faded away over the decade so they provide a firm structure for the fruit and nuts.

Such a nutty and funky wine, a real pleasure.

  • RRP: €34.95 for 750 ml (current down to €31.95)
  • ABV: 20.0%
  • Source: O’Briens press tasting
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie (currently out of stock online)

San Felice Vin Santo del Chainti Classico 2014

San Felice Belcaro Vin Santo 2014 bottle shot

The origins of Vin Santo are disputed, but it has long been established thoughout Italy. Chianti is home to the best examples, which tend to be more oxygen-influenced than in other regions. Unlike the great majority of Ports, Vin Santo is made with white grapes – in this case Malvasia and Trebbiano – which are air-dried for three months to concentrate sugar and flavours. The shriveled grapes are pressed ever-so-gently so that harsh compounds are not extracted from the skins, and then the juice is transferred to small oak barrels for a slow fermentation and maturation.

The finished wine is rich but balanced, with acidity offsetting the sweet dried fruits (think sultanas rather than raisins), nuts and mixed peel. I’ve tried some Vin Santos before which missed the mark, but this is simply delicious!

  • RRP: €22.95 for 375 ml (current down to €19.95)
  • ABV: 15.5%
  • Source: O’Briens press tasting
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie (currently out of stock online)

Gérard Bertrand Maury Tuilé 2010

Gérard Bertrand Maury Tuilé 2010 bottle shot

Vin Doux Naturel (VDN) could be seen as France’s answer to Port, though they tend to be a little lighter than their Portuguese cousins, whether Muscat-based whites or Grenache-based reds. The AOCs are mainly found in the Rhône, the Languedoc and its neighbour Roussillon. Along with Rivesaltes and Banyuls, Maury is one of three red Roussillon appellations. A variety of styles are made, mainly depending on the length of maturation in barrel (“Tuilé”, giving a brick- or tile-red colour) or in demi-johns exposed to the sun “Rancio” which are lighter still.

This example is a Tuilé made by southern superstar Gérard Bertrand. Although regulations demand a minimum of 75% Grenache, this is 100% late-harvested Grenache Noir. Pneumatic presses are used for their gentle touch, with grape spirit added to arrest fermentation. Maturation is in oak barrels for a year then in bottle for another year before release, so it is somewhere between Ruby and Late Bottled Vintage in Port terminology.

Although made in a similar way, this is lighter in both alcohol and structure than most ports; the latter due mainly to the relative softness of Grenache compared to the Port varieties. This does make it more approachable, and it’s the perfect partner for chocolate! The fruits here are stewed rather than dried, so it’s a fresher style – sup away!

  • RRP: €25.45 for 750 ml (current down to €22.95)
  • ABV: 16.0%
  • Source: Sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Bethany “Old Quarry” Tawny NV

Bethany Old Quarry Tawny NV bottle shot

Although table wines have been made in Australia for centuries, fortified wines were the mainstay of the industry for much of its history. Given the (ab)use of terms such as Burgundy and Claret, it’s no surprise that sweet fortified reds were known as Port down under. The varieties used weren’t those of Portugal, however; the Rhône favourites of Grenache and Shiraz were favoured.

Bethany is a well-established producer in the Barossa Valley, in the heart of South Australia. In fact, the village of Bethany was the first settlement in the Barossa after Silesian immigrants moved there in 1842. The Schrapel family trace their roots in the area back to 1844 and planted the first vineyard there just eight years later. Fifth generation brothers Geoff and Robert set up Bethany Wines in 1981, with the sixth generation Tania now also in the business. The winery and cellar door lie within the former quarry which the Schrapel family operated up to the 1930 – hence the name of this wine and also their “Blue Quarry Wines” range.

Of course nowadays the “P-word” can’t be used on the label, but “Tawny” is perfectly acceptible. And indeed this is Tawny in style, with ten years of maturation in old oak barrels giving complex notes of dried fruits and nuts. It’s a rich wine, but well balanced and approachable, and for me the spicy Shiraz just add that extra dimension.

  • RRP: €24.95 for 750 ml
  • ABV: 18.5%
  • Source: Sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie (currently out of stock online)

 

 

 

Tasting Events

Wine Review: Lidl Ireland Summer 23

As well as its regular range of wines, Lidl Ireland have some newcomers which will be available in tranches over the summer months. Below are three that are worth trying: a full set, with a white, a rosé, and a red.

Gavi DOCG 2021

Gavi DOCG Lidl bottle shot

The comune of Gavi in in the south of Piedmont, north west Italy. It’s about 50 km north of Genoa on the coast, so it has some coastal influences. The grape here is Cortese, sometimes even prefixed to the name of the appellation as Cortese di Gavi. Like many Italian wine regions, it has been expanded wider than its initial village. Those villagers pushed for a distinct appellation for the core village wines – often a “Classico” suffix elsewhere – do Gavi di Gavi DOCG was also created.

This wine is not the latter, though for an RRP under ten Euros I think that’s understandable. The nose has attractive spicy pear notes, quite aromatic. The palate shows pears and also apples – it’s an orchard in a glass. There’s good texture and herbs here as well, making it a very food-friendly wine.

This is a great value wine that I would be very happy to sip in the back garden this summer.

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RRP: €9.49
  • Source: Press tasting
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Doppio Selone Puglia Primitivo Rosato 2021

Doppio Selone Puglia Primitivo Rosato - bottle shot

Primitivo makes great reds in Puglia, south east Italy, and also richer wines under the new name Zinfandel in California. Of course, California is where “white Zinfandel” was created, a sweet “blush” (rosé) wine made from over-cropped and under-appreciated Zinfandel grapes. Occasionally Primitivo is used to make rosé in Puglia, but here they are vinified dry.

This Doppio Selone is darker in hue than the modern fashion for super pale Provence-style pinks…it’s heading towards a light red. The nose has bright red fruits, and they also show on the palate. There’s some structure here, in fitting with the deeper colour. It’s a hearty wine, but bold and fruity. This is my kind of rosé.

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RRP: €8.99
  • Source: Press tasting
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Ser Tosco Chianti Classico 2019

SerTosco Chianti Classico Riserva - bottle shot

Just as I discussed with Gavi above, Chianti Classico is the original, central part of Chianti. One difference, however, is that Chianti Classico is regulated and administered totally separately from the other Chianti appellations. It’s almost like there’s a huge wall around the Classico area, patrolled by black roosters.

The permitted grapes for Chianti have changed several times, with Sangiovese and Canaiolo prominent. A minimum of 75% Sangiovese is required, and now 100% is allowed. A Classico Riserva must spend a minimum of 2 years in the winery’s cellars, including time in barrel and resting in bottle.

Even on the nose this wine shows its noble origins – it reeks of class, probably down to the lifted oak notes entwined with the red and black fruit aromas. It has some weight – it’s somewhat chewy – and great acidity, though it’s not overly thick. Cherry, redcurrant and brambles are enhanced with sweet exotic spices. Fine-grained tannins seal the deal.

I tasted this wine before I saw the price. Even knowing that Lidl wines tend to be low in price, I guessed at a price of €15. For €10 it’s an amazing bargain.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €9.99
  • Source: Press tasting
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland
Tasting Events

Wine Review: Reds from the SuperValu French & German Wine Sale

The French and German wine sale continues at SuperValu. Here are some brief notes on a half dozen of the reds that I got to try:

Street Art Gamay Vin de France

Street Art Gamay Vin de France

Street Art’s Gamay is quite different from those of Beaujolais and the Loire. The grapes for this wine are from clay vineyards in Savoie which gives spice and fruit. In the winery the grapes are given a traditional fermentation rather than carbonic fermentation which is common in Beaujolais. In the glass this pours a light ruby with a purple rim. The nose shows lots of red black and blue fruits, pepper and spice. The palate is light, fruity, fun and fresh. There are some light tannins which give it a pleasing dry finish.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €8.00 down from €11.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Street Art Syrah Vin de France

Street Art Syrah Vin de France

The degree and a half additional alcohol mean that this wine has to be slightly more expensive due to Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) in Ireland. Is it worth a few more coppers than the Gamay? It’s certainly darker than the Gamay, though not quite inky black. The nose is full of deep black fruit, blackberry and blackcurrant, with a sprinkling of spice. The palate is rich and fruity, quietly powerful, not jammy. There’s just a tiny shake of tannins and touch of violets which round out the whole.

Stylistically, it’s somewhere between New Zealand and South African Syrah styles, i.e. there’s a great balance between fruit and savoury characteristics. This is an out and out delicious wine, and yes, for me it’s definitely worth the extra.

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €8.30 down from €13.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Vignobles Vellas Max Lions Premium Grenache 2020

Max Lions Premium Grenache

The first offering from Vignobles Vellas is 100% Grenache noir, one of their star wines. It’s grown on similar terroir to their Medusa Viognier, i.e. mainly limestone, similar to Grenache’s heartland of the southern Rhône. It pours a deep ruby, with a purple rim showing its youth. It has an elegant, rich, expressive nose…strawberries from Wexford the Alps combine with hints of cinnamon and exotic spices. The palate is soft, rich and textured. This is definitely fruit-forward, but with a slightly savoury aspect which stops it from being merely jammy. This Grenache would do well with a barbecue – though it’s too late for that now in Ireland – or a hearty stew.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €10.00 down from €15.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Vignerons Catalans Signature Côtes du Roussillon Villages Tautavel 2018 

Vignerons Catalans Côtes de Roussillon Villages Signature Tautavel

Vignerons Catalans is the largest producers’ cooperative in Roussillon, with 1,500 growers over 15 different appellations. They sell 18 million bottles a year to 40 countries, so quite a significant operation. Similar to Côtes du Rhône Villages, the best villages can have their name added to the label.

Also known as French Catalonia, the region is emerging from the shadow of its neighbour the Languedoc. Wine varieties are broadly similar between the two regions: here the blend is Syrah, Grenache (Noir) and Carignan. In the glass it’s a mid ruby red, somewhat lighter than I expected for a Syrah blend. The nose is quite heady, with black fruits and spice. In the mouth this is a smooth and spicy wine, with tangy black fruits and vanilla. It’s not all fruit, though, as there are some savoury black olive (from the Syrah) and earthy (from the Carignan) notes in there as well, and some gentle tannins on the finish.

This is quite an accomplished wine, relatively approachable for a glass with friends yet with enough guts to drink with autumn and winter dishes.

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €10.00 down from €15.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Vignobles & Compagnie Les Combelles Côtes du Rhône-Villages 2021

Les Combelles Côtes du Rhône Villages Rouge

Speak of the devil, here’s a Côtes du Rhône-Villages for you. As part of their sustainablility promise, Vignobles & Compagnie plant a tree for every six bottles bought. Is this a worthwhile initiative or just a marketing gimmick? Leave a comment to let me know what your view is!

Unusually for a CdRV this is a Syrah-dominant blend, with 40% being Grenache. In colour it’s a little darker than the Catalan wine above, with purple flecks. The nose has bright red and black fruits, with spices, herbs and hints of cedarwood getting in on the act. The palate is powerful but elegant, spicier than I’d expect from this AOC – but that’s down to the high proportion of Syrah. This wine is long and sappy in the mouth and the alcohol is balanced with the red and black fruits – strawberry, raspberry and blackberry – balanced in turn by savoury notes and fine tannins.

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €10.00 down from €15.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Vignobles Vellas I’m The Boss Cahors Malbec 2020

Vignobles Vellas I'm The Boss Cahors Malbec

This wine wears its heart on its sleeve – in several ways. The branding is fun, but also hints at what kind of wine it is – big and bold! If you weren’t familiar with Cahors Malbec then the message is delivered in full. Being from the 2020 vintage this is still young, and that is reflected in its deep purple colour. The nose is all about dark black fruits: blackberry, blackcurrant and prunes, plus some spice and earthiness.

The palate has the same sensibility: it’s thick and round, big on the fruit and fairly big on the tannins too. If this wine thinks its the boss, I’d love to see a showdown with a big hunk of dry-aged ribeye to see who the victor is. I’m volunteering to be the judge…anyone else?

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €15.00 down from €22.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Conclusion

These wines vary in price from €8 to almost double at €15, and in my humble opinion the quality is good for the price. I recommend trying all of these wines if you are so inclined, but my personal preferences are influenced by my love for Syrah, so the Street Art Syrah and Côtes du Rhône-Villages are the ones I’d prioritise.

Tasting Events

Wine Review: Albert Glas

Albert Glas Never Compromise

This modern label and modern name present a light, fun wine that’s not designed to be taken too seriously. It’s a blend of Riesling, Muller-Thürgau and Sauvignon Blanc. Like all good blends, it’s more than the sum of its parts. Alcohol is modest and there’s a fair dose of residual sugar, but balanced with the inherent acidity it comes across as fruity rather than sweet. The nose has aromas of pear, peach, ripe red apples  and even mineral notes. On the palate it’s rich and round – heading for opulence but taking a last minute diversion with a crisp finish.

  • ABV: 11.5%
  • RS: 20.4 g/L
  • RRP: €10.00 down from €16.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Albert Glas Pfalz Brown Label Weissburgunder 2021

Albert Glas Tradition Weissburgunder Trocken 2020

Weißburgunder is better known as Pinot Blanc in Burgundy, Pinot Bianco in Italy and occasionally as Klevner in Alsace*. In Burgundy it lives in the shadow of Chardonnay, but elsewhere if treated well it makes some very enjoyable wines. And this is one of them.

In the glass it’s lemon to light gold, a little more colour than a Riesling for example. The nose is lovely, full of spicy pear with a touch of ripe peach and apricot. Fleshy, succulent round pear and peach feature on the palate, but with good acidity. Such sweet fruit, but with a fresh and dry finish.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RS: 8.8 g/L
  • RRP: €10.00 down from €14.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Albert Glas Pfalz Brown Label Grauburgunder 2021

Albert Glas Tradition Grauburgunder Trocken 2020

Grauburgunder is Pinot Gris in (most of)** France and of course Pinot Grigio in Italy. In Germany it is often made in a richer style, though not as sweet as in Alsace, and certainly not like the simple, fruity bulk Grigios of Italy. Poured side by side with the Weissburgunder, this is fairly similar in style…even more pearish, even spicier! It has the lovely dry mid palate that a good Gris should have. It has some complexity, subtlty and savouryiness. This is probably slightly less immediate on the palate than the Weissburgunder, so it’s more of a contemplative wine.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RS: 6.1 g/L
  • RRP: €10.00 down from €14.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Albert Glas Pfalz Black Label Sauvignon Blanc 2021

Albert Glas Black Label Sauvignon Blanc 2021

Yes, German Sauvignon Blanc! The variety does well in Germany, and indeed further south and east in Europe, though it’s obviously not as common as in France. It does need lots of attention, though, so as not to become a “diva”. 80% of the grapes are picked in the cool of early morning. They are kept cool with dry ice and in an oxygen-free environment until at the winery. They are pressed within an hour or two of arriving, with no cold maceration. The other 20% are harvested later over two or three additional passes in the vineyard.

There’s no mistaking the variety when smelling this wine; it’s all about gooseberry, grapefuit, grass and herbal goodness. The aromas are ripe, but not the full tropical explosion. It’s gentle on the palate, with fruit first and a fairly dry, herby finish, and a touch of sweetness balancing the acidity. This is nicely balanced and a different expression of Sauvignon Blanc – not French, not Kiwi, not Chilean; it has its own identity.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RS: 8.2 g/L
  • RRP: €12.00 down from €19.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Albert Glas Pfalz Black Label Riesling 2020

Albert Glas Black Label Riesling Trocken 2021

Riesling is Germany’s flagship grape, the one most closely tied to German wine in the mind of wine drinkers, with 105.000 hectares of vines. However, climate change has meant that some of the “best” sites which were previously reserved for Riesling might now be too warm for it.  This Black Label Riesling is harvested from vineyards which are not yet too warm, as evidenced by the alcohol (13.0%) and the residual sugar (not stated, but probably less than 10 g/L).

All the grapes are hand picked and undergo a cold maceration, so some of the flavour is transferred from the skins to the juice before fermentation begins. That takes place in a mixture of vessels, with both stainless steel and old large oak barrels used. The latter is not to impart flavour, but rather structure and texture. The two types are blended together after around six months.

The nose is unmistakeably Riesling, with citrus and floral notes. On the palate there’s red apple to add to the lemon, lime and flowers, plus a pithiness. The finish is dry, but this is not an austere wine that needs years before opening – it’s good to go now, though it will benefit from time laid down to evolve in complexity.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RS: n/a
  • RRP: €12.00 down from €19.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

Albert Glas Pfalz Black Label Chardonnay 2021

Albert Glas Black Label Chardonnay 2021

I showed this wine blind at DNS Wine Club, straight after the phenomenal Shafter Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay. Perhaps because it’s so different in style to the Shafer, no-one guessed that it was Chardonnay, though a few guessed it was German because of the high acidity. It just goes to show that no single style of wine is best for a variety.

It’s on the lighter side for a Chardonnay – think Chablis rather than Meursault, in weight terms at least – but very well done. There’s a certain pithiness which adds interest on top of the citrus and pip fruits. I think this will benefit from cellaring, if you’re able to keep your hands off it.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RS: 6.8 g/L
  • RRP: €12.00 down from €19.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Albert Glas Pfalz Pink Label Gewürztraminer Spätlese 2021

Albert Glas Pink Label Gewürztraminer Spätlese 2021

If you will forgive me for making yet another Alsace reference, the Spätlese reference on the front label is equivalent to Vendanges Tardives in French, that is, a late harvest wine. While the labelling regulations in Alsace are not as complex as in Germany, they both indicate that the wine is sweeter than normal.

When poured this Gewurz – sorry, Gewürz – is a bright lemon, but giving no indication of its sweetness. The nose is highly aromatic, mainly.  roses, with lychees and turkish delight only suggested; no gaudy monstrosity here. In the mouth it’s succulent and sweet, but not super sweet. This is a highly, highly drinkable wine.

  • ABV: 11.0%
  • RS: 39 g/L
  • RRP: €10.00 down from €15.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Albert Glas Pfalz Black Label Pinot Noir 2020

Albert Glas Black Label Pinot Noir 2019

If Riesling is rightly regarded as the King of German wine, then surely Pinot Noir is the Queen, whether known by that name or its synonyms Spätburgunder or Blauburgunder. Pinot Noir is probably at its best in Baden, the most southerly of Germany’s wine regions, but it can make good wine all over the country, especially with the effects of climate change.

Dominik Glas follows his grandfather’s methods, 100% destemming the grapes and fermenting in open top bins. He opts for manual punchdowns so that he keeps in touch with the progress of the wine. Fermentation usually lasts three weeks so that there is not excessive tannin extraction. Malolactive fermentation takes place in stainless steel then the wine matures in Pfalz oak, 80% old and 20% new. Overall the aim is to make a fresh and fruity Pinot Noir.

And they have succeeded! It’s fruity, easy to drink but with a savoury streak. It could be lightly chilled during summer or served at room temperature in autumn and winter. This is a great ambassador for German Pinot Noir.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RS: n/a
  • RRP: €12.00 down from €19.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

Conclusion

All these wines are great, especially at the sale prices. I would be happy with any or all of them. If I HAD to choose a few favourites, I’d probably buy the NeverCompromise and Grauburgunder to drink now and the Riesling and Chardonnay to keep for a while


Other articles on wines from the SuperValu French & German wine sale:

 

 

 

* The REALLY geeky among you will note that while Klevner is a synonym for Pinot Blanc in Alsace, Klevener is a synonym for Savagnin Rose, aka Traminer

** In Champagne and Alsace it is also known as Fromenteau

Tasting Events

SuperValu Spanish and Portuguese Reds

My last post looked at some of the whites in SuperValu’s Spanish and Portuguese wine sale. Now it’s time for a few choice red wines:

Fado Friendship Lisboa Reserva D’Amizade 2019

Friendship Fado ReservaThe colourful label of this wine reminds me of another Lisbon red, Porta 6, though I don’t believe they are related. The blend here is 40% Tinta Roriz (a.k.a. Tempranillo), 30% Alicante Bouschet and 30% Syrah. The vineyards are fairly young (around 15 years of age) on clay calcarous soils close to the coast. This all makes for a fruit-forward, easy drinking wine, though with plenty of body and richness.

The fruits cover quite a spectrum – red, blue and black, with a nice lick of vanilla. There are some gentle tannins to give a bit of structure, but this is a wine to be enjoyed now rather than several years hence. Drink with lamb tagine, marinated barbecue dishes or just with Friends…

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €13.99 down to €10.00 from 10th February 2022 to 2nd March 2022
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

Casa de La Ermita Lunatico Jumilla Monastrell 2019

Casa de La Ermita Lunatico

The label shows a cyclist riding a penny farthing on the moon, so that’s definitely one version of a “lunatic”! Jumilla is in south eastern Spain to has plenty of the sunshine required to fully ripen Monastrell, known as Mourvèdre in France. By far the most important variety in Jumilla, it makes up 100% of this bottle.

After fermentation it spends 12 months in French barriques, the effects of which are certainly apparent on the palate – there’s a really creamy vanilla aspect to the wine against which the rich fruit is set. In the grand scheme of things the Lunatico isn’t a million miles away from the Fado about, but it’s bigger, bolder and a little more serious. €14 is a steal for this wine!

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €19.99 down to €13.39 from 10th February 2022 to 2nd March 2022
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

Finca Tobella Mosaic Priorat Winemaker’s Selection 2020

mosaic de finca tobella priorat

Priorat is something of an insider’s pick, the sort of wine that’s not common on supermarket shelves in these parts, and seldom inexpensive. This is an “entry level” Priorat, designed to be approachable and refreshing but also affordable. Like many wines from Priorat it’s a blend of local varieties and some from across the northern border: 38% Garnacha (Grenache), 32%  Syrah, 26% Carignan and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon.

In the glass it has a dark core and a purple rim. The nose has notes of strawberries and blackberries, blackcurrant, spice and a touch of black olive. There’s a nice custard creaminess as well. The palate has a pleasing richness and body, but not too jammy. There are tangy black fruits and vanilla, but the acidity keeps it all in balance. A touch of tannin features on the finish, but it’s not too drying. This is a pretty good wine for the normal RRP, very good for the offer price!

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €19.99 down to €13.39 from 10th February 2022 to 2nd March 2022
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

La Única IV Edition

La única IV Edition

Make yourself comfortable, because this is a different kind of wine entirely. La Única is the result of a collaboration between famous Argentine artist Marinao Rinaldi Goñi and the Solís family who make wine across northern Spain. The fourth edition is a blend of Tempranillo under its local names in different wine regions: 60% Tinto Fino from Ribero del Duero, 30% Tempranillo from Rioja and 10% Tinta de Toro from Toro. The final blend is the result of extensive tasting with renowned Spanish and international wine experts, partially virtual for the fourth edition due to Covid.

The nose immediately announces this as a special wine. It’s perfumed, wild, and oaky, with fresh red and black fruits. It’s the sort of nose that could prevent you from drinking – as you don’t want to tear your nose away from the glass! The palate is so juicy and alive, with a cornucopia of red fruits dancing on your tongue. It has heft but isn’t heavy; it has freshness and richness at the same time. This is a truly exceptional wine.

And the price? . As so many wines get promoted at half price, there’s a tendancy to view half price offers with scepticism – has the regular price been inflated just so that the wine can go on a half price promotion? I can categorically state that this is not the case with this wine – the only issue is that many stores have already sold their allocations.

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €49.99 down to €25.00 from 10th February 2022 to 2nd March 2022
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

 

 

Tasting Events

SuperValu Spanish and Portuguese Whites

After several years of successful French and Italian Wine Sales, Irish supermarket chain have launched a joint Spanish and Portuguese Wine Sale, running from 10th February to 2nd March. Bargains galore are to be had, but which are good and which are great? Here are brief notes on four whites which are all worth picking up.

Abellio Albariño 2021

Abellio Albariño

This is a bright, refreshing Albariño from north west Spain; a variety that is very popular in these parts, and sometimes overpriced due to customer recognition. This example is on the simple side, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. The citrus fruits are joined by the saline notes typical of the Atlantic coast. The normal price is perhaps a little steep, but on offer at a tenner it’s one to buy in bulk in preparation for longer spring evenings.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €14.99 down to €10.00 from 10th February 2022 to 2nd March 2022
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Five Hidden Lagoons Sauvignon Blanc 2021

Five Hidden Lagoons Organic Sauvignon Blanc

What’s this, a SPANISH Sauvignon Blanc? Yes, and it’s not the first either as varietal examples in Rueda are not uncommon. Whereas those I’ve tried from Ruesda have been somewhat similar to less expensive Sauvignons from the Loire, this is more New Zealand in style. The nose has lots of tropical notes: passionfruit, mango, pineapple and grapefruit. The palate is tangy, slightly more centred with grapefruit and gooseberry to the fore but those exotic fruits still in the background. The acidity is good but not searing, making for a crisp finish, dry but not bone dry.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €14.99 down to €10.00 from 10th February 2022 to 2nd March 2022
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Marqués de Cáceres Rueda 2021

Marqués de Cáceres Rueda Verdejo

Rueda is increasingly the white wine playground of major players from Rioja, offering an alternative to white Rioja which is seldom expensive and doesn’t rely on oak or oxidative ageing for character – Verdejo has plenty, thanks. This is a clean, fresh wine, all about stone fruit, lemon, lime and orange. It’s pithy and tangy with great texture, a great example of the grape and the region.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €14.99 down to €10.00 from 10th February 2022 to 2nd March 2022
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie and supervalu.ie

Viñas del Vero Somontano Gewürztraminer 2021

Viñas Del Vero Somontano Gewürztraminer

Sticking with the German rather than Alsatian spelling, this Gewürztraminer is from the fairly new region of Somontano, in the foothills of the Pyrenees. Unlike the wines above it does have some colour, though not as dark as some Gewurz I’ve seen. True to form, it’s highly aromatic, though not like sniffing perfume; gentle rose petals and other floral notes float out of the glass. Almost a touch musky. The palate is perfectly poised! A little sweetness, though only a little, and a round, enticing mouthfeel. There’s almost a touch of sweet and sour, though scaled down from the Chinese sauce. A wine in balance, then, and not overblown. This is actually a great introduction to the grape.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €14.99 down to €10.00 from 10th February 2022 to 2nd March 2022
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Frankly Wines Pick

The order of the wines above ended up being my order of preference. It’s rare to find a balanced Gewurz that hits the spot, but the example from Viñas del Vero does exactly that – and it’s incredible value at €10.

 

 

Tasting Events

Fresh Italian Reds [GrapeCircus 2020 Round 3]

No Shake n’ Vac required here, the freshness is already there – it never left!  Here are three of my favourite Italian reds that I tried at the GrapeCircus portfolio tasting earlier this year.

Fattoria San Lorenzo Rosso Piceno “Burello” 2013

Yes there’s a pretty bunny on the front label but this is far from a “critter wine”.  Rather than simply to look good on a shelf, the picture represents Natalino Crognaletti’s love of the animals which reside on his family’s estate and are part of the wholistic view they take.  Based in the Marche, San Lorenzo produces whites made from Verdicchio and a range of red blends using Montepulciano and Sangiovese.  All are organic and biodynamic.

The Burello is made from Rosso Piceno DOC fruit in the proportion 60% Montepulciano and 40% Sangiovese.  Fermentation is with indigenous yeasts in concrete tanks but maturation is for 18 months in stainless steel for the Sangiovese and oak for the Montepulciano.  The size and age of the oak vessels is not given but this is not an oak dominated wine so we’re not talking 100% new barriques here.

It may be just my perception but I tend to think of Sangiovese being a more noticeable or expressive variety than Montepulciano, so it shines through in this blend, though tamed by the Montepulciano.  The nose has dark fruit and tobacco; black berries and black cherries dominate the palate with hints of herbs and tobacco again.  There’s lovely texture here and high-ish acidity which keep the whole thing fresh.

Cantina Sampietrana Primitivo del Salento “I Saraceni” 2018

Cantina Sampietrana has been making wine in Puglia since 1952.  They very much follow their maxim “Loyal to tradition, but always moving with the times”, with the local varieties Negroamaro, Primitivo and Malvasia to the fore, trained in the “alberello pugliese” method (which they translate as “Apulian small tree”).  They also have smaller plots of Susumaniello, Aglianico, Montepulciano, Lambrusco, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay, Fiano and Verdeca.

This Primitivo is a fruit-driven wine, full of plums, prunes and blackberry.  The palate is mouth-filling and warming, a real winter wine.  In fact there’s so much big juicy fruit that it tastes more like 14% than 13% abv, though it doesn’t finish hot.  This is a great value, crowd pleasing wine that deserves a try.

Cantina Sampietrana Salento Negroamaro “Parnanio” 2018

Another from Cantina Sampietrana, this Negroamaro is the big brother of the Primitivo above.  Despite these varieties’ propensity to produce lots of sugar and hence alcohol, the location of the vineyards close to the coast helps to keep things cool and balanced.  We’re a long way from Cali Zins with 16% and upward of (potential) alcohol.

True to its name, this Negroamaro is black and bitter!  It has smooth, voluptuous black fruit with spicy and a savoury, herby edge.  This would be a very versatile food pairing wine – anything from charcuterie, winter stews, steaks or Moroccan lamb.


GrapeCircus 2020: