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:

 

Tasting Events

Lidl’s September Wine Cellar – Lighter 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 light whites included in the event:

Le Rocher de Saint Victor Picpoul de Pinet 2019

As I am fond of saying, Picpoul is the “new Muscadet” (see an example of the “old Muscadet” below).  It is generally light and clean, unoaked and somewhat saline – and rarely expensive.  Unfortunately it can also be lacking and flavour and overly acidic.  Not this Picpoul!  It does have the saline streak – which makes perfect sense given that the AOP overlooks the brackish Etang de Thau – but also some juicy citrus fruit.  A default phrase to accompany Picpoul de Pinet is “great with seafood”, but this goes beyond that – it’s like licking oyster shells!  This is a Picpoul full of character for very little moolah.

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

Domaine des Deux Vallons Muscadet Sèvre et Maine 2019

If you are new to Muscadet then the label above contains two very important pieces of information:

  1. The wine is made in the Sèvre et Maine subregion (named after the two rivers which flow through)
  2. The wine has spent time Sur Lie, i.e. in contact with the dead yeast cells which fermented the wine and give it a creamy, bready aspect.

What the label doesn’t impart is the quality of the wine – but thankfully it gets the thumbs up from me.  Compared to many Muscadets this has very good depth of flavour, not that easy to produce on the Loire’s Atlantic Coast.  It’s full of Granny Smiths apples and zesty citrus, perfect for an aperitif or with oysters.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €9.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Les Aubrières Val de Loire Sauvignon Blanc 2019

This is an IGP Val de Loire wine, the former Vin de Pays category.  The exact location(s) the grapes were sourced from isn’t known but it’s made in a Touraine Sauvignon style.  It pours very pale in the glass and has a very expressive nose of cut grass.  This isn’t like realising that a neighbour is mowing their lawn, it’s like seeing a pile of cut grass and face planting in it!  Mouth closed, obviously.  There’s also a hint of green bell pepper on the nose.  These aromas continue onto the palate but the grassiness is joined by a herby character.  This is a very appealing wine.

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

Trésors de Loire Pouilly-Fumé 2019

We stay in the Loire with this Treasure, but more specifically in the famous appellation of Pouilly-Fumé, over the river from Sancerre.  Although also 100% Sauvignon Blanc, this wine is quite different in character from the one above.  It still pours a very light green in the glass but the concentrated aromas and flavours are fruity rather than grassy.  I Intense citrus come to the fore in the shape of lemon and grapefruit, but also ripe gooseberry too.  The flinty finish is long and elegant.  This is one of the best whites I’ve ever tasted from Lidl.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €14.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Star Pick

My pick of the four wines above is the Pouilly-Fumé, a Treasure by name and a Treasure by nature.


Lidl’s September Wine Cellar Posts:

Make Mine A Double, Tasting Events

A Pair of Pretty Pinots [Make Mine a Double #58]

Pinot Noir can be tricky to make well.  It is very particular about the climate it’s grown in – not too hot, not too cold.  Here are a pair of antipodean cool climate Pinots that are worth your hard-earned:

Innocent Bystander Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2018

Innocent Bystander Pinot Noir

The Yarra Valley is part of the Port Philip zone which surrounds Melbourne in Australia.  Its proximity to Melbourne makes it a popular wine tourism destination; indeed, my first trip there was on a day trip wine tour from Melbourne.  That should not detract from its status as one of the best cool climate regions of Australia, with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir starring – both still and sparkling.

Innocent Bystander was founded in 1996 by Phil Sexton after selling his previous Margaret River venture Devil’s Lair.  Innocent Bystander (IB) wines are often blends from multiple sites to achieve complexity and balance at a reasonable price point.  Alongside IB, in 1998 Sexton also began creating single vineyard wines under the Giant Steps label.

The Pink Moscato explosion in Aussie wine led to a large increase in volumes being made and sold by IB, so Sexton sold it to another family owned Victorian wine producer – Brown Brothers of Milawa – in order to concentrate on Giant Steps.  Once picked IB’s grapes now make a three hour journey in refrigerated trucks to be crushed at Brown Bros’ winery.  Sexton’s Yarra Valley tasting room wasn’t part of the transaction so Brown Bros bought and converted a brewery – formerly run by Phil Sexton!

The wines in the Innocent Bystander portfolio include the following:

  • Pinot Noir
  • Chardonnay
  • Moscato
  • Pinot Gris
  • Gamay
  • Gamay / Pinot Noir blend
  • Syrah
  • Tempranillo
  • Arneis

It’s the last two which are the most unusual for Australia, and therefore piqued my interest, though sadly they haven’t yet made their way to Ireland.

In the main this Pinot Noir is fruit-driven: raspberry, blackberry and tart red cherries dominate the nose and palate, though there are also herb and spice notes in the background.  It is not, however, a “fruit-bomb”; acidity and gentle tannins provide a framework against which the fruit can sing, and boy do they sing!

Framingham Marlborough Pinot Noir 2017

Framingham Pinot Noir

Marlborough’s Framingham is probably the most respected producer of Riesling in New Zealand, but has added additional varieties across its three ranges:

  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Pinot Gris
  • Chardonnay
  • Viognier
  • Gewurztraminer
  • Montepulciano
  • Pinot Noir

Their wines are all very well crafted and offer a substantial step up from everyday Marlborough wines, but prices are sensible.  The firm’s winemaker for 18 years was Dr Andrew Hedley, who was then succeeded by the returning Andrew Brown at the beginning of this year (what a year to join!)  In between his stints at Framingham, “Brownie” had worked in several cool climate regions including Alsace, so he has great experience with Riesling.

Framingham’s own vineyards and those of partner winegrowers are all in the Wairau Valley, the central open plain of Marlborough which is on a mixture of alluvial and clay soil.  Each parcel is harvested and vinified separately, with grapes from clay soils in particular receiving more time on the skins.  MLF and maturation takes place in new (20%) and used French oak barrels, before final blending and bottling.  No fining or filtering is carried out to preserve flavour and mouthfeel.

When speaking to Jared Murtha (Framingham’s Global Sales Manager) earlier this year  I remarked that the Pinot Noir seemed more like a Martinborough Pinot than a typical Marlborough one to me.  This was meant as a compliment and taken as one, as I find many Marlborough Pinot Noirs to be light, simple and less than interesting.  Jared replied diplomatically that Framingham aren’t aiming to make a “smashable” wine, but rather one which is a little more serious and gastronomic.

And hell have they succeeded!  It has typical Pinot red fruit notes – cherry and wild strawberry – but also layer upon layer of smoky, spicy and savoury characters.  There are lovely round tannins giving the wine additional structure.  Umami fans will love this wine!

Conclusion

These two wines are made from the same grape variety in neighbouring countries (yeah, still quite a journey) and are close in price, so a like for like comparison is perfectly fair.  The most obvious difference, though, is their style.  The Innocent Bystander is a great, fruit-forward all-rounder and would really appeal to the casual wine drinker.  The Framingham is a different proposition, more savoury and serious, and would shine the brightest in a setting with food – though it’s not a “this needs food” wine.  My preference would be to spend the extra €4 on the Framingham … but if someone offers me a glass of Innocent Bystander I would be delighted.

 

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Sherwood Forrester [Make Mine a Double #57]

What Would Robin Hood Drink (WWRHD) if he were around today?  What would make his men merry?  I put it to you that he would enjoy the fine wines of Sherwood Estate and Ken Forrester!

Robin Hood
Robin likes the “straight as an arrow” acidity of Sauvignon Blanc

These two fine producers make wines from several other varieties, but for comparative purposes I will review their equivalent Sauvignon Blancs:

 

Sherwood Estate Waipara Sauvignon Blanc 2018

sherwood estate waipara sauvignon blanc
No outlaws were harmed during the making of this wine

One mistake many people make is too assume that all New Zealand Sauvignons are from Marlborough.  Yes, the north east of the South Island is the biggest Sauvignon producing region and has become the ambassador for Kiwi wine, but Nelson (north west of the South Island), Wairarapa (south of the North Island) and Waipara (north of Canterbury on the South Island) also make some great examples.

In 1987 – still the early days of the modern NZ wine industry – Jill and Dayne Sherwood dived headlong into producing wine at West Melton, just west of Christchurch.  The industry was in turmoil at the time, but they were successful enough to survive and outgrow their West Melton property.  They then moved around an hour north into Waipara which was an area full of unrealised promise.  With their drive and perseverance they turned Sherwood Estate into one of the largest independent New Zealand wineries.

The firm now has six different vineyard sites around Waipara including Glasnevin, named after a famous district of Dublin.  Their wine offerings have also branched out (pun intended) to four different ranges plus two different sparklers.  The Sherwood range wines “are premium, everyday wines, made in a ‘hands-off’ style with little interruption in the winery” and consist of five varietals:

  • Chardonnay
  • Pinot Gris
  • Pinot Noir
  • Riesling
  • Sauvignon Blanc

The Sauvignon Blanc we have here is unoaked and made conventionally.  The juice undergoes a cool fermentation for three weeks.  The must is then left on the fine lees for three months which adds depth.  The finished wine combines green (herbs, bell pepper, grass) and fruit (lime, lemon, grapefruit and passion fruit) notes.  This zesty wine shows how good Sauvignon Blanc can be outside Marlborough.

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

Ken Forrester Stellenbosch Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2018

ken forrester sauvignon blanc reserve
Robin sympathizes with Ken’s status as a legend

Ken Forrester is something of a legend in Stellenbosch and South Africa as a whole.  He and his wife Teresa bought a derelict farm in 1993, though the property was created as far back as 1689.

All the pruning and harvesting work in the vineyard is done by hand for two reasons.  Firstly, it allows the vineyard team to pay very close attention to detail for quality reasons.  Secondly, it offers more employment for people in the local community.

There are currently four separate ranges which each have several blends and varietals:

  • Petit: Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Rosé (Grenache/ Viognier) , Natural Sweet (Chenin blend), Pinotage
  • Reserve: Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Renegade (Rhône blend), Pat’s Garden Merlot
  • Icon: The FMC (Chenin), The Gypsy, (Rhône blend), T Noble Late Harvest (Chenin)
  • Cellar door exclusives – Sparklehorse MCC, Three Halves (Rhône blend), Roussanne, Dirty Little Secret TWO (Natural Chenin)

The grapes for the Reserve Sauvignon come from three are sourced from 3 vineyard sites scattered across the coastal region: Stellenbosch, Elim and Darling.  Some – though not all – are old vines, increasing concentration and depth of flavour.  After fermentation the wine spends eight weeks on fine lees.

For many years I have regarded South African Sauvignons as being stylistically half way between Loire and NZ styles, but I think it’s time we (I) forgot the comparisons and just regard them as their own thing.  This one has lots of green notes, but is not under-ripe; mangetout is then joined by some juicy stone fruit and the finish is long, crisp and clean. Unlike some other SA SBs I’ve tried, the alcohol is fairly restrained at 13.0%.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €17.95 (currently on offer at €15.95)
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

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Making Wine Amid Moving Borders [Make Mine a Double #56]

European Borders

For those of us living in the UK or Ireland it is rare to think of international borders moving.  Yes, there’s the Northern Ireland border between the two sovereign states, but that hasn’t moved since its inception a century ago and is hopefully fading away.  Because we live on islands even the concept of driving to another country seems a little strange for many, never mind that border moving over time.

The movement of borders has created some unusual situations for wine folk, such as the Becker family in Germany’s Pfalz – whose vineyards run into Alsace – and also the Gravner family – whose lands were in the Austro-Hungarian Empire at one point but now lie (just) in Italy.

This all came to mind as I was thinking about a pair of wines I tasted earlier in the year.  They are based on the same geological set of hills (Gorizia Hills in English, Collio Goriziano in Italian or Goriška Brda in Slovene) but in different countries.  The drive between them is less than an hour an a half:

map 1

So now for that pair of wines:

Gašper Rebula 2016

Gasper Rebula

First things first: Gašper is the name of the producer (literally, as Gašper Čarman is the gentleman who own and runs the place) and Rebula is the grape variety.  The latter is better known to most of us as Ribolla Gialla in Friuli but it is a major variety in Brda.

Gašper’s vines are planted in “opaka” soil (silica-calcite sedimentary rock) on terraces between 80 and 200 metres above sea level.  Both altitude and proximity to the sea help to retain aromas and freshness in the wine.

This Rebula is made with 16 hours skin contact – far more than more white wines but nowhere near as long as orange / amber wines.  Fermentation is in huge (4,000 litre) casks, temperature controlled to preserve fruit characters and freshness.  Maturation takes place first in old French barriques (1 year) then in old, large big format Slavonian oak casks.

The time spent on skins adds a real depth of colour to the wine – it deserves the “Gialla” (yellow) descriptor in its Italian name.  The nose shows bright citrus – lemon, grapefruit, orange – and mixed citrus peel.  The palate is soft, not too shouty with great texture.  The fresh and dried fruits are joined by a certain creaminess and they resolve in a clean, fresh finish.

Gašper himself told me that the wine has great ageing potential – and I have every reason to believe him.

 

Livio Felluga “Illivio” Pinot Bianco / Chardonnay / Picolit 2017 

Livio Felluga Illivio

After two World Wars Friuli’s agriculture and viticulture was significantly diminished and almost abandoned by the flight from countryside to city.  Livio Felluga was one who had a great vision of restoring Fruili’s proud tradition of winemaking.  He bought up old vineyards planted new ones and over the course of decades reinvigorated the region.  He has long been acknowledged as the driving force behind the restoration of Friuli and as an ambassador for its wines.

Illivio was created as by Livio’s children to celebrate his 85th birthday.  It’s a blend of Pinot Bianco (60%), Chardonnay (30%) and indigenous variety Picolit (10%).  Picolit was traditionally used for sweet wines as it has a good balance between sugar and acidity,  with a flavour profile not too far form Viognier, and had a cult following in the 1960s and ’70s.

The wine is fermented in small oak casks then left on the lees in those barrels for 10 months.  While oaked Chardonnay is of course very common internationally, oaked Pinot Blanc is mainly an Italian thing – but it can make for excellent wines.

Illivio pours yellow in the glass, though not from skin contact as the Gašper Rebula above, but rather from the influence of oak.  The nose is intense, as floral and fruit notes compete with rich smoky notes from the oak.  The palate is rich yet tangy, with buttered brioche and juicy fruit exquisitely mixed.  This is a serious wine, but seriously nice!

 

 

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