Tasting Events

Liberty Portfolio Tasting 2019 (part 4 – New World Reds)

“New World” is not a great term as it basically means “outside Europe”, so it includes many different countries which are different in style.  Just for convenience, it allows us to look at a selection wines from California, Central Otago, Southern Australia and Ningxia, all available from Liberty Wines.

Pine Ridge Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 (15.0%, RRP €72.99 at Blackrock Cellar; The Corkscrew; La Touche Wines, Greystones; McHugh’s; Redmonds of Ranelagh; Terroirs)

Pine Ridge Vineyards CabSauv NapaValley

I’ve been a fan of the Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc / Viognier blend for some time (see review here) but as this is Napa then the Cabernet is the real deal.  Pine Ridge Vineyards was first established in Stags Leap District in the late 70s with a single vineyard next to a – you guessed it – pine ridge.  Their vineyards now number 12 and total 80 hectares over five Napa sub-zones: Stags Leap District, Rutherford, Carneros, Howell Mountain and Oakville.  Pine Ridge produce a number of different wines, including several from individual sub-zones, but this is a blend across the five.

This bottle is labelled as a varietal Cabernet Sauvignon but that is 91% of the blend, with the balance made up by 6% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc.  35% of the 2016 was aged in new American oak for 18 months, giving creamy vanilla to go with the blackcurrant, cherry and blackberry notes.  This is a big, lush, heady wine that is not light and shouldn’t be taken lightly.  It’s not for those who like racy reds but it’s imposing and delicious.

New Kanaan Pretty Pony 2013 (14.0%, €52.99 at Cinnamon Cottage, Cork; The Corkscrew; The Malt House; Mitchell & Son; Terroirs)

Kanaan Winery, `Pretty Pony` FS

Ningxia is of course the most important Chinese region for wine.  Some years ago I reviewed Château Changyu Moser XV 2008 which had an abv of 12.5% and was reminiscent of old school Bordeaux (think mid ’90s).  The Pretty Pony is a very good wine, regardless of origin. It has oak, lovely black fruit and is already showing a nice bit of development.  This is not like old school Bordeaux – this is like modern Bordeaux!

Akarua “Rua” Central Otago Pinot Noir 2017 (14.0%, RRP €29.99 at Avoca; Baggot Street Wines; Blackrock Cellar; Clontarf Wines; The Corkscrew; Mitchell & Son; Red Nose Wine; 1601, Kinsale; www.wineonline.ie)

Akarua Rua Pinot Noir

When Central Otago Pinot Noir began to enter into the consciousness of wine drinkers it was almost the opposite of Marlborough Pinot – big, bold and powerful – with alcohol to match.  It was almost a Pinot Noir for Cabernet drinkers – no bad thing in my eyes as Cab is my favourite black grape – but times, and the wines, have changed.  Now elegance and balance are to the fore, without losing the intensity that made them such a hit in the first place.  This is a great example of Central Pinot – especially for the relatively modest price.  It has a core of ripe red fruit and a slight smoky, savoury edge that gives it some seriousness.

Burn Cottage Central Otago Pinot Noir 2016 (13.5%, RRP €69.99 at The Corkscrew; www.wineonline.ie and good independents nationwide)

Burn Cottage Central Otago Pinot Noir

Another Central Pinot, but totally different in style.  Burn Cottage has been practising biodynamic since the first vines were planted in 2003, and there is a low intervention approach to winemaking.  Whole bunch fermentation allows the wine’s aromas to develop fully – it smells…special, for want of a better term.  This is a fine, fine wine which delights all the senses but the mind too.

Mitolo “G.A.M.” McLaren Vale Shiraz 2015 (14.5%, RRP €39.99 at Blackrock Cellar; www.wineonline.ie and good independents nationwide)

Mitolo GAM Shiraz

Like many McLaren Vale vineyards, Mitolo has Italian roots through its founder Frank Mitolo.  It also has an influx of German genes through winemaker and business partner Ben Glaetzer, scion of the Barossa producer Glaetzer wines.  The Mitolo portfolio is split into three ranges: Jester, Small Batch and Single Vineyard.

The G.A.M. Shiraz was the first wine produced by Mitolo; it’s not an alternative to GSM which is prevalent in the Vale, but actually stands for the initials of Frank’s three children, Gemma, Alex and Marco.  The fruit is sourced from a vineyard belonging to family friends and fellow Italian immigrants the Lopresti vineyards, in particular their “Chinese Block”.  As it’s located at the bottom end of McLaren Vale, the block benefits from cooling sea breezes.  The vines are over 40 years old and are planted on a type of clay.  Fermentation is kept on the cool side to preserve fruit flavours and then fermentation is in French oak (30% new, 70% used) for 15 months.  Only at that point are barrels given final selection for inclusion in the G.A.M. Shiraz.

Aussie Shiraz is a great crowd-pleaser but this is way above that – it has phenomenal structure and intense, opulent-but-not-jammy black fruit.  The Jester Shiraz is a great introduction to the style at a little over half the price of the G.A.M., but I’d argue that the latter is more than twice as good and represents great value at this price point.

Grosset Gaia Clare Valley 2014 (14.0%, RRP €66.99 at good independents nationwide)

Grosset Gaia

Grosset are best known for their Rieslings, especially the Polish Hill and Springvale bottlings, but they also make some great reds too, including a Pinot Noir and this “Gaia” Bordeaux blend.  I say Bordeaux blend though its precise proportions of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc would rarely be found in the Gironde.  At five years old this 2014 still has bright berry, blackcurrant and plum fruit.  It does have a dry leathery side, with grippy tannins and good acidity.  As this is Clare there is of course a screwcap closure; a challenge to the Bordelais to catch up?  This will be drinking well for years and years.

 

Liberty Portfolio Tasting 2019

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Liberty Portfolio Tasting 2019 (part 3 – Old World Reds)

Part 1 covered French wines and Part 2 some Portuguese and NZ whites.  Now for some Italian reds, plus an interloper from Croatia – though, to be fair, made with a grape that has Venetian origins:

Matošević “Grimalda” Red 2016 (13.0%, RRP €36.99 at Blackrock Cellar; Redmonds of Ranelagh; Searsons; www.wineonline.ie)

Grimalda crna

A few firsts for me with this wine.  Firstly, it’s from the Croatian province of Istria, and although I’ve had Croatian wines before, never (knowingly) one from Istria.  Secondly, 30% of the blend is contributed by a grape I’ve never heard of – Teran – though I have heard of the Refosco family of which it is a member.  The remaining components are much more familiar –  Merlot (60%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (10%) – as are the French barrels in which the wine is matured for 15 months.  The vineyard is located in Brdo (surely a place name with too few vowels) in Central Istria.  The winemaker is pioneer and living legend Ivica Matošević.

The French and local varieties complement each other well – the Merlot gives plum and dark chocolate notes, filling the mid palate, while the Teran gives fresh, ripe-but-tart forest fruits.  Overall, it’s velvety smooth goodness all the way.

Massolino Barolo 2014 (13.5%, RRP €54.99 at 64 Wine; The Corkscrew; Fallon & Byrne; Hole in The Wall; La Touche Wines, Greystones; Mitchell & Son; www.wineonline.ie)

Massonlino Barolo

Though I’m far from an expert in Piedmontese wines, it’s easily understandable that there are differences even within DOC and DOCG areas.  Franco Massolino sources his Nebbiolo grapes from several plots in the Commune of Serralunga d’Alba at an altitude of 320m – 360m.  The soils are mainly limestone and the vines age from 10 up to 60 years old.  Serralunga d’Alba is regarded as one of the best parts of Barolo and produces well-structured wines that can age for decades, so it’s a little surprising that this 2014 is already so accessible – softer and more approachable, in fact, than Massolino’s 2016 Langhe Nebbiolo.  The nose is floral with forest fruits and the palate has rich, smooth black and red fruits, kept fresh by a streak of acidity.

Poderi Aldo Conterno Barolo “Cicala” 2014 (14.0%, RRP €162.99 at 64 Wine; Mitchell & Son; The Corkscrew)

Poderi Aldo Conterno Cicala Barolo

One of the unique things about this producer is that they have reduced their output over the last twenty years, more than halving production from 180,000 bottles to 80,000 bottles from the same 25 hectares of vines, all with an eye to improving quality.  It seems to have worked!  Established by Aldo Conterno himself in 1969, nowadays his son Stefano is the winemaker, with his other sons running the business.  The Cicala name comes from the single vineyard where the grapes are sourced from.  This 2014 is half a percent lighter in alcohol than other recent vintages, but it’s no lightweight – it’s an immense wine, though not impenetrable.  The nose is enticing and rewarding; it’s worth just enjoying the rose and tar aromas for a while before even taking a sip.  On the palate there’s still plenty of oak evident, but balanced by ripe fruits.  This is an “Oh wow” wine.

Petra “Hebo” 2016 (14.0%, RRP €25.99 at Baggot Street Wines; Cinnamon Cottage, Cork; The CorkscrewClontarf Wines; Red Island Wine, Skerries; www.wineonline.ie)

Petra Hebo

The Petra estate is large compared to the Barolos above at 300 hectares.  It was created close to the Tuscan coast by the Moretti family of Bellavista fame (particularly known for their Franciacorta).  This is Super-Tuscan territory, borne out by the blend: 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot and 10% Sangiovese.  However, this is not a Bordeaux copy; it has some similarities with Médoc wines but tastes Italian – whether due to terroir or the 10% Sangiovese is up for debate.  With ripe red and black fruits framed by tannin and acidity, this is a well put-together wine that offers better value than most Bordeaux at this price.

Petra “Petra” 2014 (14.0%, RRP €69.99 at Baggot Street Wines; The Corkscrew; www.wineonline.ie)

Petra Petra

This is the Petra estate’s top wine, a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot.  The must is fermented in open top 100 hl vessels, then matured in barriques, of which 30% are new.  It has a highly perfumed nose, full of violets and a whiff of vanilla.  There’s lots of structure here, but also juicy cherry, blackberry and blueberry fruit.  At five years old this is still in the flushes of youth, so I’d expect it to keep evolving and improving over the next decade or so.  A Super-Tuscan which is expensive, but doesn’t cost the earth.

 

 

Liberty Portfolio Tasting 2019

Tasting Events

Liberty Portfolio Tasting 2019 (part 2 – other whites)

In part 1 I mentioned that Liberty’s Portfolio Tasting is the biggest on the Irish wine trade calendar, and the evidence is below in the number of independent off licences which stock the wines I’ve recommended.  This part will focus on some delicious whites, mainly from Portugal but with an excellent Kiwi Sauvignon thrown in for good measure.

Framingham Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2018 (12.5%, RRP €23.99 at 64 Wine; Avoca; Cinnamon Cottage, Cork; Clontarf Wines; The Corkscrew; Ely Wine Store, Maynooth; Fallon & Byrne; Green Man Wines; JJ O’Driscoll, Cork; The Wine House, Trim; www.wineonline.ie; World Wide Wines, Waterford)

Framingham Sauvignon Blanc

Unusually for Marlborough, Framingham started out producing just Riesling in 1994 and are still best known for that variety, in both dry (reviewed here) and botrytised styles.  However, here we have their Sauvignon Blanc, the variety for which Marlborough and New Zealand in general is best known.  While not in the funky wild yeast style, this is more interesting than most Marlborough Sauvignons, with real texture and depth of flavour, no doubt aided by partial maturation in acacia wood.  A special wine from a special producer.

Azevedo Loureiro / Alvarinho Vinho Verde 2018 (12.0%, RRP €16.99 at Baggot Street Wines; Blackrock Cellar; Bradleys, Cork; Cinnamon Cottage, Cork; Clontarf Wines; The Drink Store; Egans Wines, Portlaoise; Ely Wine Store, Maynooth; Grapevine, Dalkey; Myles Creek, Kilkee; The Wine House, Trim; McHugh’s; The Parting Glass; Redmonds of RanelaghThomas’s of Foxrock; Thomas Woodberry’s, Galway; World Wide Wines, Waterford; www.wineonline.ie)

Azevedo Screwcap

At a high level it’s easy to split the wines of Vinho Verde into two types – the everyday tipples, usually blends, which are pleasant but not exciting, and the more serious varietal Alvarinhos, mostly from Monção & Melgaço.  However, there are some producers who take their blends more seriously, such as this single estate blend of Loureiro (70%) and Alvarinho (30%).  Lees stirring adds a little heft and texture, though the wine is still lovely and fresh with a long, zingy finish.

Azevedo Quinta de Azevedo Vinho Verde Reserva 2017 (12.0%, RRP €17.99 at Clontarf Wines; Gibney’s of MalahideMcHugh’sThomas’s of Foxrock; www.wineonline.ie)

Quinta Azevedo

From the same producer, this is like the wine above but more so.  It is crafted from the best Loureiro and Alvarinho grapes on the estate, given a 24 hour cold soak before fermentation.  It may seem contradictory, but this is both finer and more textured than the regular wine, with lifted aromatics of citrus and tropical fruit.  The Quinta wine is less obvious, but more rewarding.

Morgadio da Torre Alvarinho Vinho Verde 2017 (12.5%, RRP €25.99 at Bradley’s, Cork; Clontarf Wines; www.wineonline.ie)

Morgadio da Torre Alvarinho 2014_Packshot_sem fundo  (01)

This wine is from the Monção & Melgaço subregion which I mentioned above, the furthest one from the Atlantic and therefore with the potential to show more power and concentration.  The Quinta da Torre estate was established in 1603 and is now owned by Mafalda da Cunha Guedes and her relatives; the wines are made by Antonio Braga who is also the guiding hand behind Azevedo.  This is a fabulous example of Vinho Verde, and a fabulous Alvarinho in general.  It has sublime texture with a saline edge; the palate shows soft citrus and stone fruit, all framed by fresh acidity.

Duque de Viseu Dão Branco 2018 (13.0%, RRP €16.99 at Egans Wines, Portlaoise; Gibney’s Of Malahide; Myles Creek, Kilkee; www.wineonline.ie)

Duque de Viseu Branco

You call that a blend?  Hold my glass!  This Dão is made from four local grape varieties: Encruzado (43%), Malvasia Fina (30%), Bical (17%) and Gouveio (10%).  It’s an entirely different style of wine from the Vinho Verdes above, much softer and rounder.  It does show citrus notes but they are accents around soft stone and pip fruits.  This is an enticing wine, lovely and soft, inviting, with nice texture and a crisp finish.

 

Liberty Portfolio Tasting 2019

Tasting Events

Liberty Portfolio Tasting 2019 (part 1 – France)

Earlier this year, the biggest portfolio tasting on the Irish wine trade calendar – Liberty Wines Ireland – was, for a change, held at The Westbury Hotel.  I didn’t have anywhere near as much time as I’d have liked – given that there were close to 350 bottles open – but such is the quality on show that even a limited tasting throws up lots of wines that demand a recommendation.

To keep your attention I have broken the list up into several posts.  This first post covers French whites and reds, including Les Hauts de Milly which is new to Liberty.

Domaine des Ballandors Quincy 2018 (13.5%, RRP €24.99 at Baggot Street Wines; Clontarf Wines; www.wineonline.ie)

Domaine Ballandors Quincy

The new vintage is fantastic straight out of the blocks, unlike some Sauvignons which need a little time to settle down and find their poise.  This Quincy just has so much flavour; it’s an amazing Sauvignon Blanc with luscious green and yellow fruit that is a delight to drink, and tastier than many from famous neighbours Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé.

Les Hauts de Milly Chablis 1er Cru “Côte de Léchet” 2016 (13.0%, RRP €39.99 at Egans Wines, Portlaoise and good independents nationwide)

Milly Chablis Lechet

Les Hauts de Milly is a new addition to the Liberty stable, and what a coup!  They have 27 hectares in Chablis (from Didier Defaix’s side of the family) and Rully (from his wife Hélène Jaeger-Defaix’s side).  Due to an extremely challenging harvest in Chablis in 2016 they lost their organic certification but are endeavouring  to regain it.

This Premier Cru Chablis  is made with grapes from 25 separate parcels in the Côte de Léchet vineyard.  It spent eight months of its maturation in a mix of stainless steel (75%) and one to six year old 228 litre oak barrels (25%).  With a mineral streak, plenty of acidity and citrus, it is recognisably Chablis, but such is the quality here that it transcends its northern origins and is truly a great white Burgundy.

Les Hauts de Milly Rully 1er Cru “Mont Palais” 2015 (13.5%, RRP €39.99 at good independents nationwide)

Milly Rully

Now to the other side of the family, with a Côte Chalonnaise from two plots within a single hectare Premier Cru vineyard, the Mont Palais.  The soils are clay and limestone, giving power and finesse respectively.  As was the case in much of Europe, 2015 was an excellent vintage in Burgundy and the warmth of the weather is reflected in tangy tropical notes.  Four years on from vintage it is absolutely singing, a very well put together wine.

Ch Larose Perganson Haut-Médoc 2014 (13.5%, RRP €35.99 at 64 Wine; Baggot Street Wines; Clontarf Wines; Hole in The Wall; Jus De Vine; Redmonds of Ranelagh; The Vintry; www.wineonline.ie)

Larose Perganson

The Larose Perganson 2010 was drinking beautifully last year, but as stocks of that vintage are depleted, the current 2014 is worth a try.  While 2014 wasn’t as stellar a year in Bordeaux as 2010 (as previously noted here) it was still very good.  As in the norm for Haut-Médoc reds, the blend is Cabernet Sauvignon (58%) and Merlot (40%) with just a little Petit Verdot (2%) for seasoning.  The body is only medium – no 15.0% fruit and oak monster here – but it has lots of nice, classic black fruit flavours, with a smoky edge.  The second wine Les Hauts de Perganson is around two thirds the price but for me it’s definitely worth paying the extra for the Fully Monty.

François et Fils Côte-Rôtie 2016 (13.0%, RRP €61.99 at 64 Wine; Thomas’s of Foxrock; www.wineonline.ie)

François et Fils Côte Rôtie

And so we meet again, a fine ambassador for the Rhône’s most northerly appellation.  Interestingly the François are primarily dairy farmers and cheese makers, with just four hectares of vines in Côte Rôtie.  The wine is silky (100%) Syrah, with aromas so lifted they are heavenly.  Sweet blackberries are tamed by fine tannins and a savoury edge.  A superior wine which lives up to its price tag.

Domaine Barge Côte-Rôtie “Côte Brune” 2015 (13.5%, RRP €78.99 at good independents nationwide)

Barge Côte Rôtie Côte Brune

Boom! (1) 2015 was a whopper in the Rhône, so even the more subtle AOCs received plenty of heat and sunshine, translating into powerful wines like this.  Big black fruit is matched by a big structure – tannin and particularly acidity – which stop it running away with itself.  5% Viognier helps to round the edges even further and adds floral aromas.  This is a hedonist’s delight at the moment, but will age gracefully for the next decade or so.

 

Liberty Portfolio Tasting 2019

  • Part 1 – France, Whites & Reds
  • Part 2 – Other whites
  • Part 3 – Old World Reds
  • Part 4 – New World Reds

 


(1) An excerpt from Private S. Baldrick’s poem, “The German Guns”

Make Mine A Double, Tasting Events

Domaine Thomas Sancerre [Make Mine a Double 47]

The compare and contrast idea behind Make Mine a Double is really honed in this review: two wines made from the same grape in the same region by the same producer…just grown in plots with different soil types.

Domaine Thomas is now in the hands of Julien and his partner Justine, but still with advice from his father Jean.  The Domaine traces its origins back to the 17th century and Julien is keen to preserve this heritage, but with his own take on making wines in a fairly natural and biodynamic way.

Here are two Sancerre Blancs from Domaine Thomas which offer a real taste of their terroir:

Domaine Thomas Sancerre Le Perrier 2017 (12.5%, RRP €24.95 at Searsons)

Le-Pierrier-Sancerre Domaine Thomas

Pierrier” translates as “scree”, a collection of broken rock fragments that have usually accumulated over time from rockfalls.  The soil is limestone and of course the grapes are 100% Sauvignon Blanc.  There’s a lot said about minerality in wines these days, even if the mechanism for grapes developing a mineral taste is not well understood, but this wine is very mineral and fresh indeed.  There is fruit as well, with grapefruit and green apple; although these are green fruit and there are no exuberant tropical notes, this is not an under-ripe wine in any respect.  The finish is longer than The Blue Room by The Orb – this is a seriously good wine.

Domaine Thomas Sancerre “Grand’Chaille” 2016 (12.5%, RRP €27.95 at Searsons)

Grande-Chaille-Sancerre

The Grand’Chaille vineyard is a mixture of clay and silex; clay is known for adding power to wines and so it proves here.  The wine is much rounder in the mouth than Le Pierrier, with fruit more to the fore: lemon, lime, grapefruit and gooseberry.  Yes, there are still mineral notes but this is a more generous wine.  Whereas Le Pierrier would be perfect for oysters and other shellfish, this cuvée could handle stronger fare such as goat’s cheese tart and similar dishes.  Personally, I’ll pass on the cheese and take the wine!

Conclusion

As you may have gathered from my notes above, these wines are both excellent but have a different profile and focus.  I defy anyone to taste them back to back and say that terroir does not matter.  In terms of preference, it really comes down to the context, and in particular if they are being taken with food.  Le Pierrier is perhaps a greater wine in my eyes but Grand’Chaille is more accessible.

 

 

 


**Click here to see more posts in the Make Mine a Double Series**

Tasting Events

Super French Wines (part 2)

Following on from part 1 which mainly featured Loire Sauvignon Blancs, this part 2 looks at some of the Bordeaux wines which will feature in the SuperValu French Wine Sale running from  5th to 26th September in store and online.  As previously mentioned,  the sale includes some “Special Guest Wines” which are available for a limited time only – marked with *.

Château Moulin Lafitte 2014 (12.5%, €18.99 down to €14.00 at SuperValu)

CH Moulin Lafitte

This Château is located just above the River Garonne as it stretches out eastwards after Langon.  The soil is mainly clay (80%) which adds power to the wines and makes it perfect for Merlot.  The blend of this 2014 is 80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon.  In fact, such is the power and roundness of the wine that it feels significantly higher than its stated 12.5% alcohol.  A very nice Claret.

Château Pey La Tour Bordeaux 2016 (14.5%, €19.99 down to €9.99 at SuperValu)

Pey la Tour.jpgIn the Entre-Deux-Mers region again, this time with a Vignobles Dourthe property.  Dourthe was founded in 1840 and now have over a dozen Châteaux across Bordeaux plus some two dozen branded wines.  The blend for this bottling is 90% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon.  It results in a soft, fruity wine which is simultaneously smooth and powerful.

Château Sissan Grande Réserve Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux 2016 (13.5%, €23.99 down to €11.99 at SuperValu)

Chateau Sissan Grand Reserve

The Château Sissan estate extends over 25 hectares in Cadillac, Entre-Deux-Mers, just over the River Garonne from Sauternes.  It benefits from gravel soil, up to 4 metres deep in places, no doubt left by the Garonne as its course has gradually changed over the centuries.  The blend is 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon – with more of the latter than normally seen in this part of Bordeaux due to the free draining gravel soil (which is seen in the likes of Pessac-Léognan and Pauillac).  The nose is rather spicy (apparently due to the Cab) and interesting.  The palate is generous with plush red and black fruit, soft tannins and a spicy finish.  Delicious!

Lady De Mour Margaux 2016 (13.0%, €34.99 down to €20.00 at SuperValu)

Lady De Mour Margaux

Left bank Bordeaux is not usually that approachable in its youth, but if any of the top four appellations are worth committing infanticide with then its the supple wines of Margaux. Lady De Mour consists of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot; after fermentation the wine receives 12 to 15 months in French oak, a quarter of which is new.  It does taste wonderful but it’s the mouthfeel rather than the specific flavours which really shine – like velvet wrapped in satin!  This is amazingly approachable for a Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated blend, but then it is Margaux and the excellent De Mour group (who also produce another favourite Château Tayet)

Château Tour Baladoz Saint-Emilion Grand Cru 2015 (14.0%, €44.99 down to €25.00 at SuperValu)

Tour Baladoz

Château Tour Baladoz is situated just three kilometres south east of the village of Saint-Emilion, with 70% of its vines on the plateau and 30% on slopes.  Sources differ on the assemblage for the 2015, but given the warm year this seems reasonable: 70% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot.  After a cold maceration, each parcel is vinified separately depending on the variety, age of the vine and terroir.  Maturation is for 17 months in oak barrels (70% new) sourced from ten  (!) different coopers.  It has a beautifully fragrant nose which exudes class.  The palate shows silky tannins with chewy, soft fruit.  This is an accessible but classy wine.

Château La Garde Pessac Léognan Rouge 2010* (14.0%, €49.99 down to €30.00 at SuperValu)

CH.La Garde 2010

All the reds above have been fairly young, spanning 2014-16.  This is something different, a left bank Bordeaux which is starting to mature – and from an excellent vintage too.  I tend to think of Pessac wines as having a similar blend to Margaux, which rings true when you compare La Garde to Lady De Mour above: it consists of 67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot and 2% Petit Verdot.  Maturation is for 14 months in specially selected barrels, of which a third were new.  Tasted from decanter, this was glorious, with notes of graphite, spice, plum, blackberry, and even a savoury meatiness!  This is definitely a treat wine which deserves matching with a good meal.

Château Roumieu Sauternes 2014 (14.0%, 375ml, €19.99 down to €10.00 at SuperValu)

Sauternes Roumieu

Bordeaux does have some great (dry) whites, but the excellence of its sweet wines is even more overlooked.  These wines are very expensive to produce, as the grapes are only harvested when the bunch is at the right stage of noble rottenness (is that a word?) necessitating many passes through the vineyard.  The amount of juice per vine is also very low as botrytis reduces the water content.  But the payoff?  Amazing sweet wines.

Château Roumieu has some celebrated next door neighbours in Châteaux Climens and Doisy-Védrines.  The blend is fairly typical with 89% Semillon, 10% Sauvignon Blanc and 1% Muscadelle.  Still in its youth, this 2014 is very intense with marmalade, apricot and floral notes.  Obviously a sweet wine – I’d guess north of 100 g/L residual sugar – it is nevertheless nicely balanced and just so lovely to drink!

Tasting Events

Super French Wines (part 1)

The end of summer in Ireland means it’s time for SuperValu’s French Wine Sale, running from 5th to 26th September in store and online.  As well as the usual favourites there will be a dozen “Special Guest Wines” which are available for a limited time only – marked with *.

Part 2 will look at some great Bordeaux wines from the sale; this part 1 looks at some of the others I enjoyed:

La Petite Perrière Sauvignon Blanc Vin de France 2018* (12.5%, €11.99 down to €9.00 at SuperValu)

La Petite Perriere Sauvignon Blanc

For this cuvée La Perrière blended Sauvignon Blanc grapes from their home in the Loire with others sourced from the Languedoc and the Gers, adding ripe southern fruit to crisp Loire grapes.  In my view this has been very successful as overall it presents appealing ripeness with a fresh finish.  The nose and palate reflect the Gs: gooseberry, grapefruit and grass.

La Petite Perrière Rosé 2017* (11.5%, €11.99 down to €9.00 at SuperValu)

La Petite Perrier Rose

It is rare for me to recommend a rosé, and outside of quality sparkling or excellent wines like Domaine Tempier of Bandol, I actually prefer the simpler, cheaper wines to the fancier ones.  This doesn’t have a celebrity owner or producer, but it’s accessible and affordable, with appealing red fruit and a fresh finish.  Why can’t more rosés be like this?

Alma Cersius Coteaux de Béziers Rouge 2017* (13.5%, €14.99 down to €10.00 at SuperValu)

Diapositive 1The IGP Coteaux de Béziers is in the Languedoc’s Hérault department and up until 2015 was known as Coteaux-du-Libron, the change effected for better name recognition.  The IGP regulations are very wide in terms of permitted grape varieties, but the three used here are among the most well known: 50% Syrah, 25%Merlot and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon.  This is a fruit forward wine with very soft tannins, showing blackcurrant, plum and raspberry notes.  A great quaffing wine to have in the cupboard when friends pop round for a drink.

Coteaux du Giennois Alchimie 2018 (13.5%, €14.99 down to €10.00 at SuperValu)

Alchimie White.jpg

In years past I have reviewed the 2014 and 2015 vintages so it’s fair to say that it’s a favourite.  The vines are on sandy soil, deposited when the Loire was broader and slow-moving at the edges.  This makes for a soft, gentle wine which it great for sipping.  Wild yeast fermentation adds a bit of interest.

Guy Saget Sancerre 2018 (13.0%, €19.99 down to €15.00 at SuperValu)

Guy Saget Sancerre

Into more serious territory now, a wine aged for seven months on the lees in stainless steel tank.  This is an expressive wine with a slightly saline, mineral character backed up by floral notes and tangy fruit.  The 2018 vintage is drinking now but if well kept should develop nicely over the next few years.

Guy Saget Pouilly-Fumé 2016 (12.5%, €19.99 down to €15.00 at SuperValu)

Guy Saget Pouilly

From Sancerre we now cross directly from the left (southern) bank of the Loire to the right bank and Pouilly-Fumé.  Sancerre has a more rolling landscape and more diverse soils, whereas Pouilly-Fumé is flatter, and also closer to the river.  We also have an additional two years of bottle age with this 2016, which shows white flowers and green fruit in an elegant package.

Simonnet-Febvre Crémant de Bourgogne NV* (12.0%, €26.99 down to €19.00 at SuperValu)

Cremant-de-bourgogne-Brut

This was one of my highlights of the tasting, an excellent traditional method sparkling from the Chablis area (the black grapes coming from the Auxerrois).  Simmonet-Febvre is in fact the only producer of Crémant de Bourgogne in the far north of Burgundy and has been making it since 1840.  The blend is 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir, with the wine resting on its lees after the second fermentation for 24 months.  This is notably well in excess of the 9 months required for non-vintage crémant and even the 15 months required for NV Champagne.  On pouring it has a nice weight to it, with citrus and red fruits lifted by some bready notes.  A classy wine!

Mégalithe Sancerre 2016* (12.5%, €29.99 down to €22.00 at SuperValu)

La Perrière Sancerre Blanc Mégalithe_2016

Now we have a different beast entirely.  Of course this is 100% Sauvignon Blanc but 40% of the must is fermented (with wild yeast) and matured in new French oak.  Over this eight to nine month period the fine lees are stirred regularly.  The other 60% is vinified in stainless steel and the two batches blended before bottling.  It has a little more weight and funk than the Guy Saget wines above but not that much compared to, say, Greywacke Wild Sauvignon.  This is a gentle, gorgeous wine that will drink well now and for the next few years.

Louis Latour Meursault 2017* (13.5%, €59.99 down to €42.00 at SuperValu)

Louis Latour Meursault

As long as I have been into wine Meursault has been a premium wine with a premium price.  After the Montrachet twins it’s the next most celebrated white wine commune of the Côte de Beaune, with a reputation for medium to full bodies oak-aged wines.  Louis Latour’s history goes back to 1797 and has been in family hands ever since.  Outside of the Côte d’Or the firm also owns Simmonet-Febvre (see above) and produces wines in the Ardèche.

The Louis Latour 2017 Meursault is fermented in oak barrels where it also goes through MLF.  Maturation is also in medium toast oak barrels (from its own cooperage), 15% of which are new.  This is a generous wine with lovely heft and mouthfeel, full of soft fruits and a touch if vanilla from the oak.  2017 is a fairly accessible vintage but if put away for another year it would be even more of a treat.

 

 

Make Mine A Double, Tasting Events

Pink Fizz [Make Mine a Double #45]

Although my favourite rosés are often Champagnes, my favourite Champagnes aren’t often rosés.  If you followed this then you will realise that it takes a very good pink fizz to get my recommendation – and here are TWO stunners I tasted chez Tindals earlier this year:

Champagne Gremillet Brut Rosé NV (12.0%, RRP €50.00 at Searsons)

Champagne Gremillet Brut Rose NV

Champagne Gremillet is situated in the Côte des Bar, the most southerly of Champagne’s subregions which lends itself to Pinot Noir dominated wines.  It was founded by Jean-Michel Gremillet in 1979, now joined by his children Anne and Jean-Christophe.  They have 33 hectares of their own vines, split 85% Pinot Noir and 15% Chardonnay, and purchase grapes from around 80 other growers each harvest.

This rosé is from their “entry level” range, if there is such a thing in Champagne.  As you’d expect it is Pinot dominant, with the blend being 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay.  The colour comes from the addition of 10% red wine, and 20% of the total is from reserve wines of several prior vintages.  The blend spends at least 22 months on the lees and dosage is fairly standard at 9g/L. This is a lovely, soft rosé that is neither too acidic nor too sweet, but shows bright red and black fruit in a very approachable Champagne.  For the quality in the bottle this is a real bargain.

Champagne Henriot Brut Rosé NV (12.0%, RRP €80.00 at Searsons)

Champagne Henriot Brut Rose NV

Champagne Henriot are more than a Champagne house – they also own Bouchard Père et Fils (Côte de Beaune), William Fèvre (Chablis) and Villa Ponciago (Beaujolais).  Based in Reims, Henriot are known for their Chardonnay-dominant wines (their Blanc de Blancs is fantastic) mainly sourced from chalk soils.

The Brut Rosé is a blend of Montagne de Reims Pinot Noir (50%) and Meunier (10%) with the balance (40%) Chardonnay; around 12% of red wine is included.  70% of the grapes are from Grand or Premier Cru villages, and reserve wines make up 35% of the blend. Maturation on the lees is for three years with dosage at 9g/L or less.

The nose shows abundant lifted aromas of citrus and red fruits.  On the palate it is very gentle, perhaps not as immediate as the Gremillet, but instead elegance personified.  Juicy grapefruit and lemon are joined by fresh raspberries and strawberries – very delicious indeed!

 

**Click here to see more posts in the Make Mine a Double Series**

 

 

Tasting Events

Fruit and Balance [Alsace Vault Vol. 1]

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Françoise Gilley (L) & Agathe Bursin (R)

Last year, thanks to the generosity of Françoise and Seán Gilley of Terroirs in Donnybrook, Dublin, I had the opportunity to meet one of the young stars of Alsace wine, Agathe Bursin.  And not only meet her, but to have her guide us through a tasting of her wines and then try the wines with the excellent food of Forest Avenue.

Like many people in Alsace, Agathe Bursin had a connection to winemaking when she grew up, although not directly from her parents like some.  In her small infant school she was the only girl along with four boys; that is, four boys who all wanted to be a tractor driver on their family’s vineyards, so it was only natural for the young Agathe to dream of this as well.

Secondly, while her family had been selling their grapes to the local cooperative since 1956, her grandfather did make some small amount of wine for family consumption – and Agathe was fascinated by the equipment and the process.

Fast forward several years to 2000, and she graduated in Oenology, but when her first wines were made back home in accordance with her textbooks, they didn’t feel like her wines at all.  She learnt from this minor setback and took an entirely new approach; stripped back and providing a gentle hand of direction only when required.

Since then she has followed organic and biodynamic practices (though has not sought certification) including the use of herbal teas in the vineyard and only indigenous yeast for fermentation.  Interestingly, it is the yeast present in the cellar rather than the vineyard that usually win the biochemical war that is fermentation.  She neither encourages nor discourages malolactic fermentation, it is simply permitted to happen if it happens.  Thankfully though, it usually happens spontaneously in the red wines and not in the whites.

Agathe’s Domaine now totals around 5.5 hectares, split over the Grand Cru Zinnkoepflé and the Lieux-dits Bollenberg, Dirstelberg, Strangenberg, all around her home village of Westhalten.  The split of varieties is: 5% Muscat, 15% Pinot Gris, 20% Riesling, 20% Gewurztraminer and 20% Sylvaner.  Some of the vines are co-planted – more on which later.

Here are my tasting notes on the wines, with the rider that je ne crache pas les blancs….

mdePinot Noir Strangenberg 2015 is from grapes grown on marl and limestone soil.  The grapes are hand picked then partially de-stemmed (40% – 60% depending on the vintage).  There is no cold soak; fermentation begins in stainless steel tanks with eight days of maceration (longer would lead to the wine being too vegetal) before being transferred into used 228 litre pièces to complete the two months of fermentation.  Maturation is for 20 months.  This Pinot Noir shows bright red and black cherry fruit; it’s a smooth wine that has taken a touch of weight and roundness from its time in oak but very little obvious flavour.

Dirstelberg Riesling 2016.jpgRiesling Dirstelberg 2016 is grown on the highest vineyard in Alsace at 500 metres above sea-level.  The soil is red sandstone, sheltered from the wind but still cool (which Riesling prefers).  The vines are trained as Double Guyot which tends to give small berries.  According to Agathe, with age these wines take on chalky, mineral characters rather than diesel.  At this young age it is racy, nervous and tangy, full of fresh citrus – lime lemon and grapefruit – and orange blossom.

mdePinot Blanc Parad’Aux 2016 is a blend of Pinot Blanc and its close relation Auxerrois.  The former has high acidity (which is why it is so popular in Crémant d’Alsace) whereas the latter is quite floral and has moderate acidity.  The two varieties are co-fermented and the local yeast naturally leaves a little bit of residual sugar (6 g/L) which comes across as roundness rather than sweetness (Agathe believes her indigenous yeast are “quite lazy”).  Soft stone fruits are the order of the day here, with a touch of peach, apricot and nectarine.

mdeL’As de B 2016 is a proper field blend, where the different varieties are all planted in the same plot, are harvested and then vinified together.  Bizarrely, while the different varieties would normally ripen at different times in their own blocks, when planted together they mature together!  The blend is – are you ready for this? – 5% Muscat, 15% Pinot Gris, 20% Gewurztraminer, 20% Riesling, 20% Pinot Blanc and 20% Sylvaner.  The residual sugar for the blend falls between 10 and 20 g/L depending on vintage.  The 2016 shows lots of spice, with the Gewurz and Pinot Gris particularly showing through.   Interestingly, although the blend stays the same from year to year, different grapes seem to come to the fore with each vintage.

mdeL’As de B 2008 shows how well this wine can age – it still shows great freshness as well as development, but is not yet fully mature.  It seems soft and gentle, as though it had settled in to itself with age.

As I speak reasonable French I presumed that “As de B” signified “L’As de Bursin”, i.e Bursin’s Ace, but this is not the case.  The grapes all come from the Bollenberg; the story is that when the blend was first vinified, someone chalked “Edelzwicker” on the tank – the traditional Alsace blend – but as Edelzwicker is not usually a field blend, Agathe didn’t want to use that term.  Instead she preferred “Assemblage de Bollenberg”, but as that was far too long she settled for L’As de B – and the name stuck.

Dirstelberg Pinot Gris 2016.jpgPinot Gris Dirstelberg 2016 is grown on the same red sandstone as the Riesling.  RS is off-dry at 14 g/L which is my preferred style for the grape.  The palate has delicious quince and pear plus exotic spices.  It is rich but nowhere near cloying.

Per Agathe, with age the Pinot Gris Dirstelberg gains notes of smoke, toast and flint – this sounds very intriguing and something I hope to experience for myself in the not too distant future!

mdeGewurztraminer Dirstelberg 2016 is the wine which gave Agathe the most worry.  On the Dirstelberg, Gewurz naturally produces lots of leaves, but as winds tend not to be strong there is a significant risk of bunch rot if they are not trimmed back.  Once harvested, the grapes are given a very gentle pressing over 6 to 8 hours in order to extract only moderate phenolics – this also results in the wine looking somewhat paler than the average young Gewurz.  This is a gentle, restrained Gewurztraminer that really does live up to Agathe’s desire for fruit and balance.  If only more could be like this, I think the grape would have more fans.

mdeRiesling Grand Cru Zinnkoeplé Vendanges Tardives 2015 shows how sweet Riesling can be a magnificent, balanced rapier.  Residual sugar of 65 g/L is the counterpoint to thrilling, racy acidity.

It’s still very young and tangy – and very enjoyable – but has years of magnificence ahead of it.  If I had a case or two, then yes I’d be tempted to dive in now and again, but I think, despite the expletives of joy in my tasting notes, this is one that will be legendary in a decade’s time.

mdeGewurztraminer Grand Cru Zinnkoeplé Vendanges Tardives 2015 is getting on for the longest name of any wine I’ve ever reviewed!  Harvesting took place at the beginning of November, so this is a true Vendanges Tardives.

Obviously sweeter on the palate than the Riesling above – both in terms of higher RS at 89 g/L and softer acidity – this is a mighty fine example of late harvest Gewurz.  Compared to some it’s relatively muted – but as the grape can be such an overblown, blousy, tart’s boudoir, this is not necessarily a bad thing.

 


Post Script: Does Agathe drive a tractor now?  You bet she does!

 

Tasting Events

Tindal Treats (part 1 – Schlumberger)

In the lead up to #AlsaceWineWeek 2019 (starting 20th May) I will be publishing a series of Alsace-related articles – though, given my tastes, that’s not such a big surprise anyway.

The wines of Domaines Schlumberger will be on the Tindal / Searson’s table at the #BigAlsaceTasting on 22nd May – see here for more details.

Earlier this year I dropped in to the Tindal Wines portfolio tasting and tried the wines from several producers, including the excellent Domaines Schlumberger (from the town of Guebwiller in the south of the Alsace wine region) which were being shown by Séverine Schlumberger.  Her commentary was very insightful and has been paraphrased in the notes below.

Most of the land around Guebwiller had been owned by the Prince Abbots of Murbach Abbey – hence the name of the Princes Abbés wines – but it was taken out of their hands during the French Revolution.  Later, the shrewd Ernest Schlumberger added to the family’s holdings by buying up plots in the early 1800s.

carte_schlumberger

The map on the left gives you an idea how steep the hillsides are around Guebwiller – as steep as 50% incline, and coming right down into the town.  The map also highlights the four Grand Cru vineyards of Guebwiller (the only town or village in Alsace to have four, all of which were among the first batch of 25 recognised in 1983); Schlumberger have land across all four amounting to 70 hectares, half of their total holdings.

 

Domaines Schlumberger Les Princes Abbés Alsace Riesling 2014 (12.5%, 2.8 g/L, RRP €22.95 at Searsons, Monkstown; searsons.com)

Domaines Schlumberger Les Princes Abbés Riesling

With its large number of Grands Crus (51), permitted grape varieties (13) and soil types (13), Alsace is complex – but it doesn’t have to be complicated!  With so much choice some sommeliers and retailers don’t even know where to start, but a clean, dry, fruity Alsace Riesling is an excellent place to start.  If there is a dish which partners well with a crisp, dry white wine – think Sancerre, Chablis, Muscadet etc. – then a Riesling such as this “Les Princes Abbés” would also be well suited – it’s dry (2.8 g/L of residual sugar), clean and has zesty lime fruit.

Domaines Schlumberger Les Princes Abbés Alsace Pinot Gris 2016 (13.5%, 9.6 g/L, RRP €22.95 at Searsons, Monkstown; searsons.com; JJ. Fields and Co, Skibbereen)

Domaines Schlumberger Les Princes Abbés Pinot Gris

Alsace Pinot Gris is the ultimate all-rounder at the table – it can partner well with so many dishes – shellfish, fish, chicken, pork etc. – that, if a group are sharing a bottle but eating different foods then this is the one which works best.  The technical analysis reveals this to be very slightly off-dry, but sweetness is hardly noticeable at all – instead, it adds to the roundness and mouthfeel of the wine.

Domaines Schlumberger Les Princes Abbés Alsace Gewurztraminer 2016 (13.4%, 20.4 g/L, RRP €26.95 at Searsons, Monkstown and searsons.com)

Domaines Schlumberger Les Princes Abbés Gewurztraminer

Gewurztraminer is a speciality of Domaines Schlumberger.  This “Les Princes Abbés” is so good that for most restaurants and merchants there’s little point in listing both this and the Grand Cru Kitterlé – it’s one or the other.  This is a very well balanced example of Gewurz – for me, balance is the biggest let down of many Alsace Gewurz wines.  The nose has floral notes but they are not overdone.  On the palate this is clean with a mineral streak but nice roundness.

Domaines Schlumberger ,Alsace Grand Cru Saering Riesling 2015 (14.0%, 4.3 g/L, RRP €31.95 at The Parting Glass, Enniskerry; Daly’s Drinks, Boyle; Searsons, Monkstown and searsons.com)

Domaines Schlumberger Grand Cru Saering Riesling

Schlumberger make three Grand Cru Rieslings; Kitterlé, Kessler and this Saering.  This is the most flexible of the three so tends to be the one picked when a restaurants wants to list a single Grand Cru Riesling.  The 2015 Saering is powerful with 14.0% alcohol but not hot.  Dry, floral and zesty, it has a lovely citrus sensibility with a strong mineral backbone and a long, elegant finish.

Domaines Schlumberger Alsace Grand Cru Spiegel Pinot Gris 2014 (12.4%, 28.4 g/L, RRP €31.95 at Searsons, Monkstown and searsons.com)

Domaines Schlumberger Grand Cru Spiegel Pinot Gris

In Alsace, Pinot Gris grapes destined for inclusion in Grand Cru wines is picked later than that for normal Pinot Gris wines (this was worded very carefully as some fruit from Grand Cru vineyards is used in the second wines).  This gives the grapes higher ripeness but does have a cost; as a grape it has a very short harvest window (between sufficient ripeness and over-ripeness) so needs to be monitored very carefully.  This is a luscious and generous wine, spicy and rich.  It is style unique to Alsace which makes Pinot Gris narrowly my second favourite variety of this amazing region.