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:

Tasting Events

Whites From Off The Beaten Track [GrapeCircus 2020 Round 2]

After the Champagnes of Laherte Frères in Part 1, we now turn to a trio of unusual whites.  They aren’t that obscure, but they aren’t going to appear in your local supermarket.  They are all made by small, family owned producers who prefer to do work in the vineyard rather than the winery.  Note: I tasted these wines back in February this year so some outlets may well have moved onto the 2019 vintages of the respective wines.

M & A Arndorfer Gemischter Satz Weiss 2018

Martin and Anna Arndorfer are part of the new generation in Austria, acknowledging their respective families’ deep ties to their region of Kamptal but breaking free and setting down their own roots.  Their approach might be described as “hands-off”, but that would belittle the work they do in the vineyard, fully respectful of nature’s gifts.

This is the first time I have reviewed the M & A Arndorfer Gemischter Satz (field blend), though I have previously reviewed their single varietal 2015 Grüner Veltliner  and their 2016 Vorgeschmack white.  As the latter is no longer available and consisted of the same blend (80% Grüner Veltliner & 20% Riesling) as this wine I believe it is simply a matter of renaming.

Those familiar with the component varieties – hopefully a decent majority of you – should be able to imagine its style; decent body with lots of spice and pip fruit, but a racy finish.  Apples and pears meet lemon and lime?  What’s not to like?

Burja “Petit Burja” Zelen 2018

When faced with this label most wine drinkers would be forgiven for thinking “what even is that?”  (Confession: I thought exactly that!)  So: “Burja” is the name of the estate, “Zelen” is the name of the grape and “Petit Burja” is the name of the bottling.  Burja is run by Primož Lavrenčič who named it after the Mistral-like wind which can blow through the vines.  Zelen is a local grape variety named after the Slovenian word for ‘green’ which is the colour that it apparently takes on when fermenting.  The estate is run on both organic and biodynamic lines.

So how does this unusual grape taste?  It doesn’t taste exactly like anything else, but in a word, great!  It’s highly aromatic, with floral and citrus notes to the fore.  These continue onto the palate which is juicy and tangy, but also mineral and linear.  This wine could be the jolt that your palate needs!

Domaine de Montcy Cheverny Blanc 2018

I have reviewed the red wine from this stable before; Domaine de Montcy Cheverny Rouge was the Frankly Wines #2 Value Red of 2017.  The Domaine has been run by Italian Laura Semeria for 13 years; she has woven the new (converting viticulture to organic and then biodynamic) with the old (maintaining local varieties including the rare Romorantin).  The vines cover a surface area of 20 hectares and vary in age up to 80 years old.

Just as the Arndorfer wine above, this is an 80/20 blend, but this time 80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Chardonnay (yes, Chardonnay is grown in the Loire!)  This blend is rarely seen in France, nor even Australia or New Zealand, but does occur in northern Italy.  Although unusual, the blend is seamless, showing floral, herby and citrus notes.  It’s a light yet thrilling, real wine.


GrapeCircus 2020:

Tasting Events

Champagne Laherte Frères [GrapeCircus 2020 Round 1]

Champagne Laherte Frères is based in the village of Chavot, a ten minute drive south-ish of Epernay.  The estate was established in 1889 by Jean-Baptiste Laherte and was expanded incrementally over the generations.  The estate is named after sixth generation brothers Christian and Thierry, though I couldn’t confirm if they were the first to make the big leap from growing grapes to making their own Champagne.  Thierry’s son Aurélien has been a part of the firm for the last fifteen years.

Laherte’s 11.38 hectares of vineyards are covered in detail on their website.  The majority are in villages of the Coteaux Sud d’Epernay, split 4.22 ha planted to Chardonnay, 3.88 to Pinot Meunier and others 1.18 ha.  A further 1.48 of Pinot Meunier is in the Vallée de la Marne and 0.62 of Chardonnay on the Côte des Blancs.  They have identified 75 different plots which are vinified separately; 80% of the wines are fermented and matured in wood barrels or casks.

Credit: Laherte Frères

Since 2011 Laherte has also bought in grapes from growers who farm around 4 hectares in the Montagne de Reims, Vallée de la Marne and Côte des Blancs; of course these growers share the same philosophy.

This is our way of celebrating the terroir: by respecting differences, promoting uniqueness, and letting the soil express itself.

In his excellent book on Grower Champagne “Bursting Bubbles”, Robert Walters makes some excellent point about the style and quality of Grower Champagnes in general.  Firstly, many who make Champagne under the Récoltant-Manipulant (RM) label are simply much smaller versions of the big Houses; it is those who focus on their terroir and allowing their wines to express it that can make great Grower Champagnes.  Secondly, small producers who take such care but also buy a small amount of grapes from close contacts – and therefore have the Négociant-Manipulant (NM) label – can also make excellent terroir Champagnes.

Aurelien Laherte was noted as a promising grower in Bursting Bubbles, but of course as the firm now buys in grapes  they are classed as NM.  Walters specifically mentions Jacquesson & Fils as an example of terroir focused small houses, but I believe that Laherte Frères would also qualify for that accolade.

Laherte make a large number of different wines, grouped into three different types.  The wines in blue are reviewed below.

  • Ultradition: Brut, Brut Rosé, Brut Blanc de Blancs
  • Special & Original Cuvées: Ultradition Extra Brut, Blanc de Blancs Brut Nature, Rosé de Meunier Extra Brut
  • Terroir Fundamentals Cuvées: Les Beaudiers (Rosé de Saignée Meunier), Les Longues Voyes (Blanc de Noirs 1er Cru), Les 7 (all 7 Champagne grapes in a “solera” system), Les Vignes d’Autrefois (Old Vine Meunier), Les Grandes Crayères (Vintage Blanc de Blancs)

Champagne Laherte Frères “Ultradition” Extra Brut NV

This is a blend of the three main varieties: 60% Pinot Meunier (60%), Chardonnay (30%) and Pinot Noir (10%).  40% of the total is from reserve wines which are kept in barrel and add complexity.  Malolactic fermentation is blocked for a portion of the base wines to give a mix of roundness and freshness.  Those base wines also spend six months on their lees while maturing.

Ultradition Extra Brut has an amazing nose of lifted floral, citrus and pear aromas; so lifted, in fact, that you feel like you’ve got the elevator to the top of the Empire State Building.  In the mouth it pulls off the trick of being both creamy and fresh, briochey and citrusy, with a lively mousse and a satisfying, fresh finish.

Champagne Lahertes Frères Rosé de Meunier Extra Brut NV

This is a “Rosé d’Assemblage”, incorporating both saignée and pressée techniques.  Made solely from old vine Pinot Meunier, it consists of 30% macerated wine, 10% red wine and 60 % white wine.  40% of the later is from reserve wines aged in barrels.  Vinification is the same as for the Ultradition Extra Brut, though dosage is even lower at 2.5 g/L.

The nose is full of juicy red fruits that leap out of the glass.  On the palate they are further defined as strawberry, cherry and raspberry.  The dosage is low, even for an Extra Brut, but the quality of the fruit and the fact they are picked when fully ripe means that more is not required.  The fruits are so fresh and vivid that, if tasted blindfolded, you’d be peeking to see if any berries were floating in your glass.

Champagne Lahertes Frères Blancs de Blancs “Les Grandes Crayères” 2014

This is a single vineyard, single variety, single vintage wine made from one of Laherte’s best sites.  As you might be able to guess from the name “Les Grandes Crayères” the vines are grown on chalky soils.  Not in the Côte des Blancs, however, but rather in their home village of Chavot where the chalk  in some plots is only 20 cm down.  Unlike the other cuvées above, MLF is totally blocked for this wine to preserve acidity as the wine ages over the years.

The Champagne geeks among you might wonder what the single variety is; for the vast majority of Blanc de Blancs Champagnes this would automatically be Chardonnay, but when a producer makes a wine with all seven permitted varieties (five white, two black) then it could be any one of five.  But it’s Chardonnay!

And what a Chardonnay!  The nose has layers of flowers, lime and toast plus a little candied peel.  In the mouth it is creamy yet fresh and refined, with mineral notes and a certain tanginess.  This is an amazing wine that could be nothing else than a Blanc de Blancs Champagne.


GrapeCircus 2020:

Tasting Events

Lidl’s September Wine Cellar – Other Reds

Lidl Ireland are introducing some limited release French wines in their stores from Thursday 24th September 2020 in what they are calling their “September Wine Cellar”. I tasted the majority of them at the first press tasting since Covid first hit and can give them all a thumbs up. They aren’t likely to win any major awards but they are very good value for money and give wine drinkers a chance to try something representative of a style they might not have tried before.

Here are my brief notes on four more reds included in the event:

Val de Salis Syrah Pays d’Oc 2019

Syrah’s home is in the northern Rhône where it is the only black grape used; it is also an important component of southern Rhône blends where it provides aromatics and a backbone to Grenache.  Such is the standing of Syrah in France that planting it in the Languedoc has been positively encouraged by the French wine authorities who deem it to be an “improving grape”, i.e. better than many others planted there.  This Val de Salis Syrah is mid to dark in the glass with a youthful purple rim.  The nose shows bountiful blackberry along with sweet / savoury liquorice.  This is a warming wine to taste (despite the reasonable alcohol) with tasty red and black fruits.  There are also interesting notes of spice, liquorice and black olive giving a nice savoury finish.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €8.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Val de Salis Syrah Viognier Réserve Pays d’Oc 2019

In my reference to the northern Rhône above I stated that Syrah is the only black grape permitted there.  While this is 100% true, it’s not the full picture; some red wine AOC regulations permit the addition of white grapes(!) when making red wine, either Viognier (Côte Rôtie) or Marsanne and/or Roussanne (Saint-Joseph, Crozes Hermitage and Hermitage).  What the darned heck is that all about? you may ask.  The white grapes serve to soften the Syrah, add their own aromatics to the wine and also help the Syrah’s own aromas to fully bloom.

Like the varietal Syrah above this is  mid to dark intensity in the glass with a purple rim.  The nose is very aromatic, ripe deep black fruit and spice.  There are also hints of oak treatment and some graphite.  It is lovely and round in the mouth, fill of black and red fruit, lots of toasty vanilla and smooth chocolate (think Galaxy).  Such a delicious wine!

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €8.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Château Gabier Cahors 2018

From the Languedoc we now head north west to Cahors (administratively in the south west of France for wine purposes).  Of course Cahors is the original home of Malbec, a grape which has expanded outside its heartland to Bordeaux and the Loire Valley, among other places (I hear reports that some is planted in Argentina).  As you’d expect from the “Black Wine of Cahors” this is dark in the glass, though not quite opaque.  The nose features redcurrants, raspberries and blackberries, wrapped in a seductive smokiness.  On the palate the black fruit comes to the fore, but there are also red fruit notes providing great acidity and freshness.  This is nothing like an Argie Malbec, but it’s worth a try to see if you like this style.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €9.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Organic Vacqueyras 2019

Information on the front label is again somewhat lacking, though at the top it does tell you that this is a “Cru de la Vallée du Rhône” (which you can hopefully translate for yourselves) and there’s a symbol confirming that it’s certified organic.  The papal crossed keys are deliberately reminiscent of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s crossed keys and tiara – in fact Vaqueyras producers are being a little naughty with this (see this Yapp Brothers’ blog post for a full explanation).  Like most southern Rhône reds Vacqueyras wines tend to be a Grenache-Syrah-Mourvèdre (GSM) blend.

In the glass this is quite dark for the southern Rhône which makes me think there’s a good proportion of Syrah (which is darker than Grenache) in the blend.  The nose exhibits luscious strawberries and spice.  This is a big and fairly rich wine; voluptuous, but with a certain lightness as well.  Strawberry notes dominate the attack but there is also a dry, herbal finish.  This is a fantastic winter wine.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €14.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Star Pick

The amazing aromatics of the Val de Salis Syrah Viognier make this an easy pick of the bunch for me.


Lidl’s September Wine Cellar Posts:

 

 

Tasting Events

Lidl’s September Wine Cellar – Rounder Whites

Lidl Ireland are introducing some limited release French wines in their stores from Thursday 24th September 2020 in what they are calling their “September Wine Cellar”.  I tasted the majority of them at the first press tasting since Covid first hit and can give them all a thumbs up.  They aren’t likely to win any major awards but they are very good value for money and give wine drinkers a chance to try something representative of a style they might not have tried before.

Here are my brief notes on four of the rounder whites included in the event:

Bourgogne Chardonnay 2018


The labelling couldn’t be much more basic for this wine, with no producer name on the front – at least the grape variety is given!  Burgundy is obviously the home of Chardonnay but the wines made with the simple Bourgogne appellation can vary hugely in quality, very much dependent on the producer.  This example pours lemon in the glass, not quite as light as the four pale wines in my previous post.  The nose has the faintest suggestion of oak, but is actually more likely to be leesiness from bâtonnage (they are easily confused by some people, i.e. me).  There are also some confected fruits on the nose, but pleasant.  The palate, by contrast, is not confected at all; it’s light and lithe, with red and green apple plus melon, but very mineral and fresh.  This is a great example of Burgundy on a budget!

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €8.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Val de Salis Pays d’Oc Réserve Chardonnay 2019

The same grape as above, made in the same country, but a different region: this makes for a totally different experience.  While lean and racy wines can be made in the Languedoc (see Picpoul de Pinet), this Chardonnay revels in its breadth and juiciness.  On the nose there is ripe melon (no, I’m not going to specify the type of melon), its anagram lemon and a touch of red apple.  It has a very appealing bouquet that demands attention.  The palate is soft and round, but still fresh.  There’s a mineral, smoky finish to round it all off.  This is a French Chardonnay which would appeal to fans of the grape grown in sunny places such as Australia or South Africa – a different but equally valid style compared to the Burgundy above.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €9.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Côtes de Gascogne Colombard Sauvignon 2019

From the eastern half of France we now move down to the south west, below Bordeaux, and my regular pick for best value French wine: Côte de Gascogne.  This one is made with local grape Colombard and stalwart Sauvignon Blanc.  It pours lemon in the glass and is – unusually for a Gascon wine – quite muted on the nose.  The palate is far from muted, however.  It shows ripe melon and pear, plus super zingy citrus, with a mouth-watering finish from the Sauvignon Blanc.  This is a super tasty wine and represents great value for money.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €7.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Vallis Quietus Vaucluse Viognier 2019

Viognier is one of those grapes that I find difficult to get on with; it’s not that I don’t like it, it’s just that many examples of it don’t suit my tastes.  Its homeland is the Rhône and that is where this example comes from, more specifically the département of Vaucluse.  However, white wines make up just 15% of Vaucluse wines and Viognier is not even in the five most popular grapes, so this is still something of a rarity.  And on opening it proves such with distinct honey notes on the nose, just gorgeous, with a hint of confected fruit and cooking spices.  This is followed by a very rich mid-palate and a dry finish.  I’d have preferred a sweeter finish myself but this is a really good example of inexpensive Viognier.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €9.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Star Pick

The more-ishness and freshness of the Bourgogne Chardonnay make it my favourite of the four.


Lidl’s September Wine Cellar Posts:

Tasting Events

Lidl’s September Wine Cellar – “French B” Reds

Lidl Ireland are introducing some limited release French wines in their stores from Thursday 24th September 2020 in what they are calling their “September Wine Cellar”.  I tasted the majority of them at the first press tasting since Covid first hit and can give them all a thumbs up.  They aren’t likely to win any major awards but they are very good value for money and give wine drinkers a chance to try something representative of a style they might not have tried before.

Here are my brief notes on four of the reds included in the event, from Burgundy / Bourgogne, Bordeaux and Beaujolais’s Brouilly:

Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2018

Just like its white counterpart in the first post of this series, this Burgundy Pinot Noir is very light when poured.  In these days of big-hitting Pinots from California and Central Otago there’s something comforting about an old school pale one.  The nose is greeted by spice – in fact it’s more spice-driven than fruity – but fresh redcurrant, raspberry and strawberry do make an appearance in the bouquet.  The palate is full of juicy rich red fruits, and a nice fresh finish.  This is amazing Pinot Noir for €11, especially from Burgundy!

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €10.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Château Margerots Bordeaux Supérieur 2019

Now to Bordeaux, the most famous red wine area in the world.  Although the famous Châteaux get the lion’s share of attention, the vast majority of Bordelais wine is much more modest…such as this Bordeaux Supérieur.  The Supérieur tag isn’t that meaningful these days, but the reds are normally quite drinkable Merlot-based blends.  The assemblage here fits that bill: 50% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot.  In fact there’s quite a lot of Cab Sauv for such a “Petit Château” – and it’s one of the reasons why this wine is so dark when poured, though still exhibiting a youthful purple tinge.  The nose is centred around a graphite core (typical from Cabernet Sauvignon) surrounded by tight black fruit.  The fruit opens up on the palate which shows juicy blackcurrant and plum, with a touch of leather and soft tannin on the finish.  What a great way to get into Bordeaux!

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

Haut de Saint Laurent Haut-Médoc 2019

On to a slighter posher Bordeaux address (apologies if I’m chanelling Jancis), the Haut-Médoc.  This is the southern part of the Médoc peninsula, but in the centre rather than the eastern shore where the top end stuff is made.  Wines here tend to be 50% Cab Sauv and 50% Merlot / other grapes, but the only information available for this wine was that it consists of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.  Again this is quite dark in the glass; the nose is lifted with notes of cedar wood and blackberry.  The palate delights in lush but fresh red and black fruit; tannins  and noticeable though fine-grained.  This is real Bordeaux, though made in an easy drinking style.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €11.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Jean Desvignes La Croix des Célestins Brouilly 2019

Brouilly is one of Beaujolais’s ten crus, the best villages which carry their own name on the label (and, unhelpfully for casual wine drinkers, Beaujolais isn’t mentioned at all).  The name La Croix des Célestins comes from the cross of a monastic order called the Celestines (in English), a brand of the Benedictines whose founder became Pope Celestine V.  As with all red Beaujolais (white wines account for only 3%) this Brouilly is made form 100% Gamay.  The colour in the glass is middling in intensity, somewhere between the Bourgogne and the Bordeaux.  The nose has lovely red and black fruit, so enticing.  The palate is juicyyyy! Intense blueberry and blackberry run the show here, with a dry finish.   This is a really nice easy-drinking red.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €11.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Star Pick

It’s hard to pick a favourite from these wines, especially the first three, but in the end my top pick is the Bourgogne Pinot Noir.


Lidl’s September Wine Cellar Posts: