Tasting Events

Lidl French Reds Spring 2020

Catch ’em while you can!  Below are six reds I enjoyed from the Lidl Ireland French wine event, covering Bordeaux, South West France, Beaujolais and the Rhône:

Le Clan 100% IGP Périgord 2016 (12.5%, €7.99 at Lidl Ireland)

Le Clan Perigord 2016

Périgord is not a familiar name for many people, especially in relation to wine; it’s the name of an old French region with a strong gastronomic reputation, roughly similar to today’s Dordogne département.  Before the départements were created and Bordeaux wine was demarcated within the Gironde’s borders, wines made in what is now the Dordogne were made in a similar way to Bordeaux (as now) but actually marketed as Bordeaux.  Thus seeing the Bordelais grapes Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon on the front label is not a surprise.

On the nose Le Clan 100% shows ripe plums and dark chocolate.  The palate is mainly black fruit, but it’s the style which is most noticeable – it’s an easy-drinking wine with low tannins that’s just perfect for quaffing with friends – “totes smashable” as the kids would say!

Collin-Bourisset Saint-Amour 2018 (13.5%, €12.99 at Lidl Ireland)

Collin Bourisset Saint Amour 2018

Beaujolais is on the up at the moment, especially among hip younger drinkers.  While some bottles are getting (justifiably) pricey, there are still plenty of modestly priced examples around.

The Collin-Bourisset Brouilly is also included in this French wine event and, while that’s a reasonable wine – especially with food – this Saint-Amour is significantly better in my opinion.  Blueberries and loganberries pop on the nose.  The fruit extravaganza continues on the palate, with a soft and gentle mouthfeel.  Acidity is good, making this an easy drinking wine that doesn’t pall when sipping on its own, but would be a super match for a plate of charcuterie.

Vacqueras “Les Gabets” 2018 (14.5%, €14.99 at Lidl Ireland)

Vacqueras Les Gabets 2018

As with many of the wines included in this event, all three red Rhône wines are from the 2018 vintage.  This is the most serious of the three, the most expensive by a fiver and – in my opinion – easily the best.  With more structure its youth is more evident than on its Séguret and Vinsobres counterparts, so I’d be happy to keep it for at least a year or two before cracking it open.  Cherry and raspberry are the key notes from this wine, with just a touch of earthiness.

Côtes de Bourg 2018 (13.0%, €7.99 at Lidl Ireland)

Côtes de Bourg 2018

Côtes de Bourg is one of my favourite Bordeaux appellations; it’s not that well known but can produce really good wines at very reasonable prices.  Merlot is usually the main grape, supported by small amounts of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. I don’t have the detailed blend of this particular wine but it exudes a “drink me!” sensibility so I reckon there’s over 75% Merlot (sorry Jim!)  It’s full of juicy plum fruit and the tannins are very gentle so it’s a great quaffer.  Perfect everyday Claret!

Château Blagnac Haut Médoc 2016 (13.5%, €11.99 at Lidl Ireland)

Ch Blaignac Haut Médoc 2016

Château Blagnac is the junior label of  Antoine Moueix’s Château Hanteillan, just west of Pauillac and Saint-Éstephe in the Haut-Médoc.  Blaignac’s vines are 65% Merlot and 35% Cabernet Sauvignon with an average age of 15 years, so fairly young.  Having a majority of Merlot is pretty unusual in the Haut-Médoc, but as the Mouiex family own Pétrus I’d say they know what they are doing!

The blend is evident in the ripe fruitiness of the wine, quite different from many of the austere Cabernet-dominant wines of the area.  There are Cabernet traits though, such as pencil shavings on the nose and ripe (but not over-ripe) cassis on the palate.  The acidity and tannins are good but not overbearing – this is a proper, classy Bordeaux.

Château Haut-Lavignière Saint-Émilion Grand Cru 2015 (14.0%, €16.99 at Lidl Ireland)

Ch Haut Lavignerie Saint Emilion Grand Cru

Château Haut-Lavignière extends across 12 hectares of sandy, silty soils in Saint-Émilion. Merlot is the undisputed king here with 95% of the blend and just a dash of Cab Franc. This recipe and a warm year such as 2015 makes for a big, ripe, spectacular wine.  It’s all about black fruit, with a touch of dark chocolate.  There are tannins but they are fine and ripe.  To me it tastes even higher than the stated 14.0%, so it’s not for the faint hearted!

If you haven’t already seen it then check out my post on the French Whites also included in the event.

Tasting Events

Lidl French Whites Spring 2020

Lidl Ireland have just launched a range of French wines which will be available for a limited time only – until stocks run out.  Below are brief notes on six whites that would be making their way into my trolley: two from Burgundy, two from the Loire and two from Alsace.

Wally AOP Touraine Sauvignon 2018 (13.0%, €9.99 at Lidl Ireland)

Wally Sauvignon Blanc

There are several different Touraine appellations in the Loire Valley but this is the one which removes any doubt as to which grape variety you will be drinking.  While not reaching the heights of Pouilly-Fumé, Quincy and the other Sauvignon based wines further east, Touraine is the French standard bearer for inexpensive fresh, tasty Sauvignon Blanc.

Wally has a very expressive Sauvignon nose – grass, gooseberry and grapefruit.  These notes continue through to the palate, but there are no rough edges – it’s (almost) smooth in texture.  Great value for money!

Comte d’Ardières AOP Sancerre 2018 (13.0%, RRP €16.99 at Lidl Ireland)

Lidl Sancerre

Probably the most famous Sauvignon appellation, Sancerre is one of the most prestigious wine regions of France.  Despite that, quality and style can vary as there are multiple soil types and aspects.  I don’t know who the Count of Ardières was, but the wines named after him are very elegant and mineral in style.  There’s also lots of fresh citrus and a long tangy finish.  Worth trying with delicate white fish or oysters.

Collin-Bourisset AOP Coteaux Bourguignons 2018 (13.0% €9.99 at Lidl Ireland)

Collin Bourisset Coteaux Bourguignons Blanc

For those not familiar, Coteaux Bourguignons is an appellation that covers the whole of Burgundy proper and Beaujolais, for both red and white wines.  It can thus be made with fruit from all over the region, but is often a label used for wines from the south around the Maconnais / Beaujolais border.  The grapes for this white are not given, but on tasting it appears to me to be substantially or totally Chardonnay.  It has some oak on the nose and palate plus citrus and stone fruit.  This is proper white Burgundy, a steal for a tenner!

AOP Chablis 2018 (12.5%, €12.99 at Lidl Ireland)

Lidl Chablis 2018

After the trials and tribulations of frost and hail over consecutive years, Chablis producers had to put up their prices so that they could still make a living.  The phrase “there’s no more cheap Chablis” was uttered many times.  Thankfully, the 2018 harvest was the best in 20 years according to the president of the Chablis Commission, so things are returned to normal.

At €12.99 this would definitely be considered a “cheap Chablis”, though I’d wager Lidl’s average bottle price is several Euros less.  It has the classic Chablis nose of citrus and soft malolactic character.  The palate shows red and green apples, lemon and lime fruits plus stony minerality.  This is an excellent wine for the price and was the standout wine of the tasting!

Camile Meyer AOP Alsace Gewurztraminer Vieilles Vignes 2018 (13.0%, €10.99 at Lidl Ireland)

Alsace Gewurztraminer Vieilles Vignes

When it comes to wine Irish people rarely have a sweet tooth, and usually eschew anything with more than a few grams of residual sugar.  Perhaps this is because of ‘Nam-like flashbacks from sweet, unbalanced, flabby German whites from decades past (you know the ones I’m talking about), who knows.  This means that the limited number of Alsace Gewurztraminers available in supermarkets are usually quite dry.  There’s nothing wrong with that in itself – each to his own – but for me Gewurz needs a bit of RS to complement its round, rich character.

And here’s the perfect example at an inexpensive price point.  It’s VERY Gewurz on the nose, with lychees, Turkish delight and rose petals.  The aromas continue on the palate but a little more subdued, but matched nicely by an off-dry finish.

AOP Crémant d’Alsace Brut NV (12.0%, €12.99 at Lidl Ireland)

Crémant d'Alsace Brut NV

France’s second best selling sparkling wine is represented by this fresh and fruity little number.  It’s made in the traditional method and is fully sparkling so is a steal at this price (given the double duty on such wines in Ireland).  This is a great alternative to Prosecco; fun and fruity but drier and better balanced.

 

 

 

 

Tasting Events

Solera Wine Selection (part 2)

Onwards and upwards we go!  After some fantastic whites in part 1, now we turn to some fabulous Solera reds from Puglia, Barolo and Mendoza!

once again, apologies for the poor quality of my snaps!

Cantine Paolo Leo Primanero Appassimento 2016 (13.5%, RRP €16.95 at Baggot Street Wines; Blackrock Cellar; Deveney’s Dundrum; DrinkStore, Stoneybatter; Clontarf Wines; Lotts & Co; Martins Off-Licence; The Vintry; The Grape Vine, Glasnevin)

Cantine Paolo Leo Primanero Appassimento

Over the past five to ten years there has been a large increase in Italian reds on the market which have been made in the Appassimento  method, i.e. with some or all of the grapes dried before being pressed to concentrate sugar, flavour and body.  These wines have found favour with consumers, especially at lower price points where they deliver a big bang for buck.  Unfortunately, in my not-so-humble opinion, they are often unbalanced; sometimes jammy, too sweet, and even with too much extraction (the skins being pressed hard) in trying to compensate for the jam.

However, here we have an example of Appassimento done right.  From Puglia in Italy’s “heel”, we have a blend of the two local key black grapes, 60% Primitivo and 40% Negroamaro (hence the name Primanero if you didn’t get it.  The bunch stems are partially cut when the grapes reach the desired maturity, then left to dry for 12 weeks.  The result is a wine with very ripe fruit on the nose, but a very balanced palate.  It has a bit more oomph than Puglia wines from undried grapes but has enough savoury notes to be a good partner for hearty food.  Why can’t more be like this?

Elvio Cogno Barolo Ravera Riserva Vigna Elena 2012 (14.5%, RRP €125.00 at Deveney’s Dundrum; The Corkscrew; Sweeney’s D3)

Cogno Vigna Elena Barolo Ravera Riserva 2012

Although its wines are monovarietal, Barolo is a complex area – and I don’t pretend to have got to grips with it yet – so please bear with me as we dive in.  The Elvio Cogno Winery is based in the Novello commune, one of the eleven communes within the Barolo DOCG production area.  The eponymous winery owns approximately 15 hectares and produces a spectrum of Barolos (of which this is the top), plus other Nebbiolos, Barberas and even Nascetta (a native Novello white grape variety which was pioneered by Cogno).

11.5 of the 15 hectares are in the Cru of Ravera, in the north eastern sector of Novello.  Ravera is of the most well-known Crus and is one of the highest altitude at 380m.  The particular Nebbiolo clone used (Rosè) both flowers and ripens around ten days later than other clones.  The soil is mainly limestone and the aspect is predominantly south, meaning the vines still receive plenty of sunshine and heat despite their altitude.

Barolo DOCG Riserva Ravera “Vigna Elena” is a very traditional style of Barolo that is only produced “during great vintages”.  Fermentation is in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks with pump-overs for 30 days afterwards for increased maceration.  Maturation is then in 4,000 litre Slavonian oak barrels for three years, increasing tannins still further.

Amazingly one of the notes this wine shows on the nose is chocolate cake!  There are also traditional floral and tobacco elements in the background.  When tasted (seven years after harvest) the tannins were still very grippy, but framed the fresh red fruit and exotic spices to perfection.  The finish was very long and elegant – just a fabulous wine.

Atamisque Uco Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 (14.5%, RRP €32 at The Corkscrew; The Grape Vine Glasnevin; Baggot Street Wines; Blackrock Cellar; Deveney’s Dundrum; D-Six Off Licence)

Atamisque Uco Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
According to the website, “Atamisque, is a bush of local origin, which grows naturally in the surrounding area of the winery.  It is the iconic brand of the winery.”

As Cabernet Sauvignon is my favourite black grape I was looking forward to trying this serious example from The Uco Valley in Mendoza, Argentina.  Signature grape Malbec is just one of the many grapes which prosper in Argentina, though it copes better with extremes of heat than the Cabernets which don’t like too much heat.  Bodega Atamisque are located in the Tupungato Department sub-region of Mendoza province, named after the huge Tupungato peak which reaches 6,750 m.  Of course, vines are not planted at the peak, but they are still at the high elevation of 1,300 m above sea level.  This gives the grapes excellent acidity and the day-night temperature variation gives them plenty of colour, flavour and tannin.

So what makes this wine so “serious”?  Firstly, the vines are all on their own rootstocks, i.e. ungrafted, as phylloxera is not a threat.   Secondly, yields are low at 5 tons per hectare – around 27 hl/ha.  Thirdly, there is rigorous selection for both bunches (picking is all by hand) and then berries, so only the best grapes get used.  Finally, Atamisque uses Taransaud-Demptos French oak barrels – they are considered one of the best coopers in France and supply many top Bordeaux Châteaux.  For the Cabernet Sauvignon maturation is for 14 months in 100% new barrels.

The payoff: it has an mistakable Cabernet nose, with pencil shavings and dark black fruit.  Given the grape variety and oak treatment, the obvious comparison is with Pauillac, but to be honest you wouldn’t get a wine with this amount of fruit, tannin and minerality for anything like the same price in the Médoc.  Ageing potential is given as 15 years, but I’d say it will still be going strong then.

Tasting Events

Solera Wine Selection (part 1)

Solera Wine Merchants is a specialist wine importer based in Dublin.  MD and owner Albert Baginski spent over 14 years working as a sommelier and restaurant wine director before going full time with Solera.  He is known for being a gentleman, a true professional and – perhaps most importantly – a really nice bloke.

Albert Baginski

The Solera portfolio is still growing, but from my perspective it has some of the real stars from each region that is represented – Fritz Haag from the Mosel, Roda from Rioja and Mazzei from Tuscany, to name just a few.  Below are some brief notes on the white wines I tasted with Albert late last year.

Villa Des Croix Picpoul de Pinet 2018 (12.5%, RRP €16.95 at Baggot Street Wines; Blackrock Cellar; Deveney’s Dundrum)

Villa des Croix Picpoul de Pinet

When twitter discussions on wine scoring circle round again and again, especially whether they are absolute or relative scores; Picpoul is sometimes given as a wine which will never hit the high 90s as it’s somewhat neutral and lacking in character, and therefore lends to credence to scores being relative.

Well, there are exceptions to every rule, and this is comfortably the most flavoursome and characterful Picpoul de Pinet that I’ve tried.  It’s highly aromatic, with light fruits and flowers on the nose.  The palate is fresh with lots of citrus and more depth of flavour than usually found in the grape.  This would be a great alternative to Loire Sauvignon Blanc.

Bodegas Altos de Torona Rías Baixas Godello 2018 (13.0%, RRP €20.95 at Baggot Street WinesBlackrock CellarMartins Off-LicenceNectar Wines)

Altos de Torono Rias Baixas Godello

Rías Baixas is (quite rightly) best known for being the home of some excellent Albariños, but other varieties are grown there, such as this Godello from Altos de Torona.  The wine is unoaked but has spent six months on fine lees which imparts a little texture and a creaminess.  Conference pears and red apples complete the palate.

Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer Grosses Gewächs Riesling Trocken 2017 (12.5%, RRP €38.95 at Baggot Street Wines; Blackrock Cellar; Sweeney’s D3; The Corkscrew)

Fritz Haag Juffer Riesling Trocken

This is the first of two Fritz Haag Rieslings from the Mosel, though they are very different in character.  This is a dry Grosses Gewächs (Grand Cru) from the Juffer vineyard in Brauneberg (note that Brauneberger isn’t stated on the front label, probably to avoid confusion with the bottling of the best part of the vineyard around the sundial which is labelled Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr).

The nose is only lightly aromatic, but the palate is much more intense.  It tastes dry (residual sugar is 7.9 g/L) and refreshing with grapefruit, lime and quince on the palate. This is a veritable pleasure to drink now but is surely destined for greatness over the next two decades.

Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel 2017 (7.5%, RRP €33.95 (375ml) at Blackrock Cellar; Clontarf Wines)

fritz haag brauneberger juffer riesling auslese goldkapsel
Sorry, forgot to snap this bottle myself!

From the same vineyard as the dry GG above, we now have the sweet Auslese Riesling.  If you are not fluent in German wine terms – no I’m not either – a bit of decoding is in order.  Auslese means “selected harvest” and is on the third rung of the Prädikatswein classification above Kabinett and Spatlese.  Goldkapsel refers to the gold capsule covering the cork, and signifies that this bottling is from the producer’s ripest and best grapes.

Coming in at 125.8 g/L of residual sugar this is definitely in dessert wine territory, but, as it’s a Mosel Riesling there is plenty of acidity to go with it (7.5 g/L TA in fact).  This is a fabulous, unctuous wine that creeps over your palate and isn’t in a hurry to leave.  “Make yourself comfortable”, your taste buds say.  It’s almost a crime to swallow, but the sweet flavours hitting your throat make up for it.  With honey, crystalline pineapple and a dash of lime this wine is close to perfection.

Part 2 will cover the fabulous reds

Tasting Events

Unfinished Sympathy

After a little reflection, one of the most important characteristics of a great winemaker (in my humble opinion) is sympathy for the vineyards they pick from and the grapes that they harvest.  Underlying this are intelligence, knowledge, and more than a little humility.

Many winemakers develop this sympathetic nature over the course of decades with a small number of plots of land and as few as two or even just one grape variety, as is the case in Burgundy.  Indeed, sometimes it’s an ancestral connection with knowledge that has been passed down in the family for generations.

In stark contrast to the timescale of the Burgundians, I give you Pieter Hauptfleisch Walser of BLANKbottle.  Pieter has 58 different varieties growing all over the Western Cape, though you won’t see them mentioned on the bottle.  A few months ago, thanks to WineMason I had the opportunity to try eight of this wines which were new to the Irish market (and only available in very small quantities).  Each has an intriguing backstory and a interesting label to go with it.

with apologies for the quality of my snaps…

Rabbitsfoot 2018 (14.5%, RRP ~ €30)

BLANKbottle Rabbits Foot 2018

We start with a Sauvignon Blanc, but not that you would probably recognise at first – it’s not like a Loire or Kiwi Sauvignon, and to be honest it’s not even like other South African Savvies, although perhaps some could be though of as baby versions of this.  It has more body, texture and alcohol than most Sauvignons, still grassy but with spicy notes.  Tasted blind my first guess would have been Grüner Veltliner!

Full details here

BOBERG 2018 (13.5%, RRP ~ €33)

BLANKbottle BOBERG 2018

Boberg means “on top of the mountain” and the mountain is pictured on the label – but not on its own.  It is depicted as being overlooked by seven generations of Pieter’s family who lived on the farm next to it.  These Chenin Blanc vines are old and low yielding, and have recently been certified organic.  For 2018 they were picked early and fermented in old French oak barrels with natural yeast.  The wine is fresh but with real depth; a whole basket of Granny Smith apples with a few Golden Delicious and lemons.

Full details here

Kortpad Kaaptoe 2018 (13.0%, RRP ~ €33)

BLANKbottle Kortpad Kaaptoe 2018

Pieter found these vines while on his travels and took a backroad shortcut to get to his next appointment – the name means “shortcut to Cape Town”.  The grape variety used is even more obscure (especially in South Africa): Fernão Pires!  If you’re a fan of Portuguese wine then it might not be so obscure as it is grown throughout Portugal, sometimes under the moniker Maria Gomes.  It’s a highly aromatic grape, somewhere in the realm of Gewurztraminer and Viognier, though fairly gentle (Alsace aficianados: think of Klevener de Heiligenstein).  I liked this wine though it didn’t shine quite as brightly for me as the two whites above.

Full details here

B.O.E.T. 2017 (14.0%, RRP ~ €36)

BLANKbottle B.O.E.T. 2017

It’s fairly well known among wine geeks that South Africa’s signature variety Pinotage was created as a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut (the Rhône’s Cinsault, then known as Hermitage in South Africa).  This wine is something of a family reunion as it features all three grapes, though Pinotage is dominant with small amounts of Cinsaut and Pinot Noir.  On the nose I would never have guessed this to be a Pinotage blend – my best guess would perhaps have been a Languedoc red.  The palate is lighter, with medium body, lithe red fruit and good acidity.  This is the perfect example of BLANKbottle’s labelling philosophy – those who would be put off by the varieties might well love this wine if tasted without knowing.  I certainly loved it!

Full details here

My Koffer 2018 (13.5%, RRP ~ €37)

BLANKbottle My Köffer 2018

This is single vineyard Cinsaut (without the “l” as usually spelt in South Africa) – a variety known for high yields and large berries which is often used to make rosé or inexpensive bulk red wine.  It’s not a grape I taste as a single varietal very often, but if it’s as good as this then I definitely should.  The nose is all cherries, following through onto the palate where they are joined by exotic spices.  The finish is pleasantly dry.

Full details here

My eie Stofpad 2017 (14.5%, RRP ~ €38)

BLANKbottle My eie Stofpad 2017

This wine is principally Cabernet Franc but also has a splash of Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec, all from different vineyards, so it’s technically a Bordeaux blend.  It tastes nothing like a Bordeaux, with thick mouthfeel and ripe blackcurrant fruit.  There’s a savoury edge as well plus fine grained tannins.  An excellent wine.

Oppie Koppie 2017 (14.5%, RRP ~ €39)

BLANKbottle Oppie Koppie 2017

This lovely Syrah reminded me of St Joseph or Hawke’s Bay on steroids – but not as ripe and juicy as most Aussie Syrah/Shiraz.  Perhaps we (I) just just stop with the comparisons and say it’s a great example of South African Syrah.  Whole bunch fermentation is used in varying degrees depending on the vintage (and in particular how ripe the stems are) – for this 2017 80% was whole bunch.  2017 was the first vintage that a little Syrah from Swartland and Cinsaut from Breedekloof were added to the main Syrah from Voor-Paardeberg, all for additional complexity.  The result is a fantastic red wine that is rich yet fresh, full of black and red fruit and spice, but no jamminess.

Full details here

B.I.G. 2017 (14.5%, RRP ~ €41)

BLANKbottle B.I.G. 2017

This is a single varietal blend; if that sounds strange it’s because it’s made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes grown in eight different vineyards across South Africa.  Well, normally eight, from sea level up to mountain tops, except for the 2017 vintage which saw the fruit from two of the vineyards lost to smoke taint from fires – depicted on the label.  This is definitely a Cabernet Sauvignon but it’s not too far in character from the Cabernet Franc above, just a little richer and with more pronounced blackberry and blackcurrant fruit.  As you’d expect there are fine grained tannins to keep everything in check. A truly delicious wine.

Full details here

Make Mine A Double, Opinion, Tasting Events

Kiwi Chardonnays [Make Mine a Double #50]

Despite receiving flak from some, Sauvignon Blanc is still the key variety in New Zealand, accounting for 75.8% of the 2019 harvest.  There are three other varieties that lead the chasing pack; Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris:

Picture1

As you can see, vintage variations account for a lot of the movement over the ten year period, but there is a definite upward trend in both Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, with Chardonnay being fairly stable/stagnant (choose your own descriptor) in quantity.

Whereas Sauvignon Blanc is concentrated in Marlborough, which has the most distinctive style, the varieties above prosper in several NZ regions.  The most adaptable – in my opinion – is Chardonnay, which makes excellent wines in:

  • Auckland – e.g. Kumeu River
  • Gisborne – e.g. Wrights
  • Hawke’s Bay – e.g. Trinity Hill
  • Wairarapa – e.g. Ata Rangi
  • Nelson – e.g. Neudorf
  • Marlborough – e.g. Cloudy Bay
  • Canterbury – e.g. Bell Hill
  • Central Otago – e.g. Felton Road

Below are a couple of Chardonnays that impressed me at the recent “New Zealand in a Glass” tasting in Dublin.  They are both from the Villa Marie group, though different producers and quite different price points.

Vidal Legacy Reserve Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2018 (13.5%, RRP €35 – €43 at winesoftheworld.ie)

vidal legacy chardonnay

Unlike many New Zealand wineries which were founded by immigrants from the Balkans, Vidal was founded by a Spaniard – Anthony Joseph Vidal – in 1905.  He planted vines in Hastings (Hawke’s Bay, not Sussex) and the winery is still based there today (I actually visited it with my wife in 2009).

The Vidal range has four levels (in order of increasing quality):

  • Estate
  • Reserve
  • Soler
  • Legacy

The two reds in the Legacy range are a Cabernet Sauvignon/ Merlot blend and a single varietal Syrah, both from the Gimblett Gravels sub-region of Hawke’s Bay.  The sole Legacy white is this Chardonnay, but it stands alone proudly.  Unlike the wine below, quantities were relatively small (33 barriques which would produce less than 10,000 bottles) and from a single region.  Fermentation used wild yeast and took place in a mixture of new (45%) and old French barriques.  Maturation was for 10 months in those barriques (I assume with lees stirring) then a further 2 months in tank to blend the barrels together.

If I said I didn’t want to taste this wine, that might sound like I’m slating it…but I didn’t want to taste it as that would tear me away from its magnificent nose (Lady Gaga, you’ve got nothing on this wine!)  It’s obviously very young indeed, but it has amazing struck-match reductive aromas with rich fruit notes and toasty, tangy oak.  The palate is slightly less impactful as there’s an underlying freshness rather than butteriness, but it’s still fabulous.  For the price, this wine over-delivers.  Interestingly, on Vidal’s own website they offer this 2018 but also a mature release 2011.

Villa Maria Private Bin East Coast Chardonnay 2018 (13.0%, RRP €14.99 at SuperValu & Centra stores)

Villa Maria East Coast Chardonnay

If you look at a map of New Zealand’s wine regions then you find the majority of them on the East Coast; the East Coast designation is therefore a useful label for inter-regional blends which doesn’t necessarily mean much in itself.  Without spending hours on the origin of the term, my instinct is that it was brought in to satisfy EU regulations (similar to South Eastern Australia) though happy to be proven wrong.

For this wine the fruit came mainly from the warm climes of Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay, with a small dash from Marlborough for extra freshness.  The winemaking decisions were taken on a parcel by parcel basis; for some, indigenous yeast was used while others had cultured yeast; malolactic fermentation was encouraged – followed by bâtonnage – for some parcels while being blocked for others.  For all, fermentation took place “in contact with premium French oak”; given the modest price one might assume that the oak was in the form of chips or staves as there is no mention of actual oak barrels.

After all that, how did the wine turn out?  Very well indeed actually!  This entry level Chardonnay really surprised me as to how appealing it was.  The nose is balanced between pip fruit, stone fruit and oak tones, with a touch of flint and reduction.  There’s a real creamy texture from the lees work and tangy oak on top of the fruit.  It’s ready to drink now but another year or two wouldn’t hurt at all.

 

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

Make Mine A Double, Opinion, Tasting Events

Earth Angel – Domaine des Anges [Make Mine a Double #49]

An Englishman, and Irishman and a Frenchman climb up a mountain…and make some great wine!  Domaine des Anges was established on the slopes of Mont Ventoux by English couple Malcolm and Janet Swan in 1973.  At that point grapes were mainly being processed by the local cooperative, so it was a bold venture, but help and advice was surprisingly forthcoming from the famous but less-than-approachable Jacques Rayas of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

The Swans had variable levels of success, and after 20 or so years they sold the estate to Irishman Gay McGuinness.  He increased investment and hired professional winemakers – fellow Irishman Ciaran Rooney and after a decade Florent Chave.  Quality has continually increased and Domaine des Anges has received a plethora of praise from critics and consumers.

I recently had the opportunity to taste through the Domaine des Anges range thanks to a kind invitation from Boutique Wines, their Irish representative.  The wines were presented by historian and oenophile Giles MacDonogh – a close friend of the proprietors – and whose notes I have cribbed for background information.  While I liked all the wines I tried, two in particular stood out for me: the white and red AOC Ventoux “Archange” wines:

Domaine des Anges Archange Ventoux Blanc 2016 (14.5%, RRP €21 at La Touche, Greystones; Sweeney’s D3, Fairview; Blackrock Cellar; Grape and Grain, Stillorgan; The Winehouse, Trim; Browns Vineyard, Portlaoise; Bakers Corner, Kill of the Grange; Mortons, Ranelagh)

Domaine des Anges archange Ventoux blanc

Whereas the regular Domaine des Anges Ventoux Blanc is a third each of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and Bourboulenc, the Archange is 100% Roussanne – a grape that rarely gets the limelight all to itself.  In fact the winemaking is as much the star of the show here, with techniques very reminiscent of Burgundy.  The wine is aged in small oak barrels, giving notes of toast, toffee and vanilla.  Malolactic fermentation is blocked to preserve freshness, and regular lees stirring gives a wonderful creamy aspect.  The varietal character does come through the middle of all of this as an intriguing peachy tanginess…it’s like Burgundy but with a bit more going on.  The only downside to this wine is that it’s perhaps too good to drink every day – perhaps just save it for the weekend?

Domaine des Anges Archange Ventoux Rouge 2015 (14.5%, RRP €21 at La Touche, Greystones; Sweeney’s D3, Fairview; Blackrock Cellar; Grape and Grain, Stillorgan; The Winehouse, Trim; Browns Vineyard, Portlaoise; Bakers Corner, Kill of the Grange; Mortons, Ranelagh)

Domaine des Anges archange Ventoux rouge

Although the Rhône Méridional is known for its Grenache-based blends, in the cooler heights of Mont Ventoux Syrah can play a much bigger role.  In this blend it accounts for a full 90% with the balance being Grenache.  As the 14.5% alcohol indicates this is a powerful wine, but it does not have the sweetness of a Barossa Shiraz, for example. There’s a distinct richness, but with smoky notes, black pepper, black fruits and leather, with an altogether savoury finish.  My “go-to” Rhône appellation is Saint-Joseph with its savoury Syrahs, but this Ventoux presents a great alternative – and at a great price.

Conclusion

These two wines are an outstanding pair and really over-deliver for the price tag.  They won’t fade in a hurry, either, so it would be well-worth putting a few (dozen) down to see how they evolve over time.

 

 

And for you film buffs out there, here’s a clip from the film which inspired part of the title of this post:

Opinion, Single Bottle Review, Tasting Events

Spearmint Rhino [Frankie’s Single Bottle Review #26]

Cabernet from Napa and Sonoma is a key part of California wine’s reputation – big, bold, ripe, and not for the faint hearted.  Some wines have almost become parodies of the style, with too much oak, too much extraction and too much alcohol.  Thankfully, they aren’t all like that, and balance is becoming more fashionable again.

Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (14.2%, RRP €80 at O’Briens)

Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 3

 

The Alexander Valley AVA is part of Sonoma County and was purportedly named after the first man to introduce vines to the area in 1843, Cyrus Alexander.  After prohibition it remained a bulk wine area until the late ’60s when innovative, quality winemaking returned to the area.  For all my talk of balance above, the wines here are still powerful and voluptuous.  Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are the leading black varieties and Chardonnay for white.

Silver Oak was set up in 1972 by business partners Raymond Twomey Duncan and Justin Meyer.  They originally set out to make just top notch Cabernet Sauvignon, matured in American Oak and able to repay decades of cellaring.  Napa Valley Cabernet and this Alexander Valley Cabernet are the twin kings of the winery, with other varieties released under the related Twomey label.

The 2012 vintage of this wine consists of 98% Cabernet Sauvignon with just a 2% splash of Merlot.  Seven years after vintage it is settling down nicely and ready to drink, but should develop for a further 15 years if kept well.  The nose has powerful blackcurrant and red fruit aromas with vanilla from two years in oak.  Cassis is also present on the muscular palate, along with a distinct spearmint streak and cocoa powder.  Fine grained tannins seal the deal.

This is a very well made, enjoyable wine.  It may look expensive without context, but for this quality in the Médoc even more money would be exchanged.  Due to its heft this should be saved for a treat (who drinks €80 bottles on a weekday, anyway?) to be shared with fellow wine lovers.  And what a treat!

Disclaimer: there is no link between this wine and the Spearmint Rhino clubs

Tasting Events

DNS Holiday Wines 2019

When restarting the DNS Wine Club tasting calendar after the summer break it has become a tradition to start with wines that members have enjoyed on their holidays.  It’s always a nice and relaxed event and gives a far more idiosyncratic range than is the norm at DNS.

September 2019 had us meet and taste wines from Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal, France, Australia and….Yorkshire!  Here they are in the order of tasting (and with apologies for the quality of the photos from my phone):

Yorkshire Heart Sparkling Rosé NV (11.0%)

Yorkshire Heart Sparkling Rosé NV

The best English wines tend to come from the south of the country: south coast counties like Kent, Sussex, Hampshire and Cornwall.  Whereas southern English producers used to focus on varieties that could prosper despite a damp and cold climate, global warming and experience has led to a boom in sparkling wine production, usually with the three main Champagne grapes.  Further north in Yorkshire, however, the climate is now mild enough for the special cross and hybrid varieties to survive (though prosper might be a little overstating the case just now.)

Yorkshire Heart are based close to York, so the name is apt.  They also have a brewery and a cider orchard so most bases are covered.  The vineyard has 17 varieties across ten acres, so it is still fairly small scale and experimental.  The grapes used for the sparkling rosé are not disclosed apart from the use of Pinot Noir to create the pink hue.  It’s made using the traditional method with the wine resting on its lees for 12 months – not as long as Champagne but longer than some NV Cava.

The wine has a fruity nose and a nice mousse when poured, but unfortunately it was not persistent.  The palate is full of summer fruits; raspberry, strawberry, cranberry and a touch of blackberry competed for attention.  As this is an English wine there’s ample acidity, though the finish resolves with fruit sweetness.

Read more about Yorkshire Heart here.

Principe Strozzi Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2017 (13.0%)

Principe Strozzi Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2017

Following the Italian wine naming convention of [grape] from [place], this is a 100% Vernaccia from San Gimignano in Tuscany (aka Chiantishire).  On the nose the wine evokes wet stones – can you get more mineral than that?  On the palate, it’s as though fresh lemons have been squeezed onto said stones – a real citrus zing on top of the minerality.  It has a touch more body than I had at first expected.  This is a well-made wine which, while not setting the world alight, makes for some very pleasant drinking.

Tesco Finest Tingleup Great Southern Riesling 2018 (12.0%)

Tesco Finest Tingleup Great Southern Riesling 2018

Of all the wines brought to this tasting, this Australian Riesling was from the furthest away.  However, DNS member Michelle was blagging this one as she had not been to Australia, and had instead spent her holidays in the local Tesco.  The wine is made for Tesco by Howard Park who are based in Western Australia and specialise in wines from Margaret River and Great Southern.  On the nose it has aromas of lime and…well…Riesling!  The palate is full of refreshing, zingy citrus and there’s just a kiss of sweetness on the finish.  A great way to get into Riesling.

Read more on Howard Park Wines here.

Mar de Frades Rías Baixas Albariño Atlántico 2018 (12.5%)

Mar de Frades Albarino Atlantico Rias Baixas 2018

So let’s count up the nautical references: the producer is Mar de Frades (which translates as something like “Sea of Friars”), the wine is Albariño Atlántico which indicates that it’s from the part of Rías Baixas close to the ocean, and the label depicts huge crashing waves and a chuffing seagull!  Message understood, loud and clear!  Thankfully the wine is very nice, despite being the producer’s “entry level” effort.  It spends six months on the lees which adds a nice bit of texture to the pear and peach fruit.  A saline finish seasons it perfectly.  In a sea (sorry, it’s catching) of samey Albariño, this is a winner.

Read more on Mar de Frades here.

Tenute delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso 2017 (14.0%)

Tenuta Delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso 2017.jpg

Tenuta delle Terre Nere takes its name from the black basalt and pumice stones which cover much of the estate on the northern side of Mount Etna.  Its surface area totals 55 hectares and is far from homogeneous – the 24 parcels range from 600 to 1,000 metres above sea level and (apart from a few new plantings) between 50 and 100 years old.

This Rosso is mainly Nerello Mascalese (95%) with a dash of Nerello Cappuccio (5%).  The soil is volcanic soil, obviously (I bleedin’ hope it’s obvious!!).  Stylistically the wine is somewhat Pinot Noir like, but with a touch more body and spice.  It has delicious smoky black and red fruit plus a certain chewy earthiness. 

Read more on Tenuta delle Terre Nere here.

Domaine du Bois de St Jean “Les Ventssssss” Côtes du Rhône 2016 (14.0%)

Domaine du Bois Les Ventssssss CdR 2016

The Domaine is located near Avignon and has a range of different red, white and rosé Côtes du Rhône wines plus Crus Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Vacqueras.  One notable wine is “Pur Cent”a cuvée first released 9 years ago made from 16 different varieties, all planted when the estate was founded in 1910, i.e. one hundred year old vines.

The odd name of this wine – which you can see in the heading above, but not so well on the label – is because the six Ss at the end of Ventssssss represent the six different names for the main wind which affects the Rhône: The Mistral.   The vines are planted on sand and pebble soils, north-facing slopes (presumably not too steep an incline) at around 400m.  The vines vary between 60 and 80 years old and consist of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan, Counoise and Cinsault.  For the 2016 only the first four varieties were used, but the precise blend is a family secret.

The wine is extremely smooth and elegant, attributable (in my humble opinion) to the sandy soils and north facing aspect respectively.  The velvet texture immediately reminded me of the Mas Saint-Louis Châteauneuf-du-Pape which is also predominantly Grenache grown on sandy soils – and that’s a real compliment.  Quite simply this is the best AOC Côtes du Rhône I’ve ever tasted.

Read more on the Domaine du Bois de Saint Jean here.

Quinta dos Aciprestes Douro Tinto 2016 (14.5%)

Quinta dos Aciprestes Douro Tinto 2016

One of my wine rules of thumb is that, when a place is famous for wine derived drinks other than regular table wines, if they were to produce table wines they would be quite poor.  When was the last time you had a regular table wine from the Sherry, Champagne or Cognac regions?  The Douro is a prominent exception to that rule of thumb with some excellent, characterful and drinkable wines, especially reds.

Quinta dos Aciprestes” means “Estate of the Cypress Trees“; the three depicted on the front label are most likely a representation of the three Quintas which were joined together to make the estate.  The grapes are a typical Port blend, including Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), Tinto Cão and Tinta Barocca.  Maturation is for 12 months in French oak (I suspect mainly older barrels).  This is a rich wine, typical of the Douro, but still round and soft – softer than the 14.5% alcohol would imply.

Château Nico Lazaridi Drama 2016 (15.0%)

Ch Nico Lazaridi Drama 2016

Let’s get the bad pun out of the way first: the phrase “no drama” is usually taken to be a good thing – but not in this case!  Drama is a municipality in the East Macedonia and Thrace region of north east Greece and home to Italophile wine producer Nico Lazaridis.  French grapes predominate with some Sangiovese and autochthonous varieties.

The eponymous Château Nico Lazaridi wine is 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 10% Sangiovese – what might be termed a Super Tuscan blend – that has spent 12 months in French oak.  It has an enticing, fragrant but gentle nose.  The palate is rich, explosive but smooth – cherries, chocolate and luscious black fruits all wrapped in velvet.  At 15% there’s also a suggestion of Napa Valley style power and sweetness.  This is a fabulous wine!

Read more on Château Laziridi here.

The Votes From Our North Side Jury

All of these holiday wines were good and worth trying, but two did stand out as the best and second best of the tasting:

  1. Château Nico Lazaridi received 8 votes (out of 18 total)
  2. Domaine du Bois de St Jean “Les Ventssssss” received 4 votes (out of 18 total)
Tasting Events

Lidl France 2019 (part 2 – Reds)

While part 1 covered my favourite white wines from the Lidl France “sale”, this part 2 looks at reds from Burgundy, the Rhône, Bordeaux and the Languedoc:

Les Paroisses Côte de Beaune-Villages 2016 (13.0%, €16.99 at Lidl)

Les Paroisses Côte de Beaune-Villages AOP, €16.99

Les Paroisses” means “The Parishes“; it’s made from 100% Pinot Noir sourced from the southern part of the Côte d’Or, Burgundy.  Although I liked this wine I musty give it a health warning – it’s a bit stinky!  Although this funk is probably a fault (such as brettanomyces) it didn’t put me off – and there was plenty of red fruit on the nose as well.  It pours light in the glass as you’d expect from Burgundy.  The palate is soft and round, very inviting.  This is Proper Burgundy!

Comtes de Lorgeuil “Les Pierres” Cabardès 2016 (13.5%, €9.99 at Lidl)

Les Pierres Languedoc-Roussillon Cabardès AOP, €9.99

Cabardès is just inside the northwestern border of the Languedoc-Roussillon wine region, just north of the tourist trap that is Carcassonne.  As an AOC it is much smaller (500 ha) than its Languedoc neighbours Minervois (5,100 ha) or Corbières (15,000 ha), and due to its position between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, its vignerons are required to grow grape varieties from both coasts and blend them (with at least 40% of both) in the finished wine.

This wine has a slight Atlantic bias with 40% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon versus 30% Syrah and 10% Grenache.  It’s thick and chewy in the mouth, quite savoury with lots of black fruit.  It is a little bit rustic, but it’s charming too – a great winter wine to have with hearty food.

Château Roque le Mayne Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux 2017 (14.0%, €14.99 at Lidl)

Château Roque le Mayne Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux AOC, €14.99

Castillon-la-Bataille is on the north bank of the Dordogne, to the east of the much more famous Saint-Emilion.  It’s quite an up-and-coming sub-region at the moment, with quality rising all the time.  The blend is 80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Malbec.  It has a ripe, expressive nose with explosive black fruit.  The palate is rich, oaked and smooth – there are lovely soft tannins.  A very fruity wine, but still recognisably Bordelais.

Collin-Bourisset Coteaux Bourguignons Rouge 2018 (14.0%, €8.99 at Lidl)

Collin Bourisset Coteaux Bourguignons AOP red, €8.99

As I mentioned in part 1, Coteaux Bourguignons can be red or white and covers the whole of Beaujolais and Burgundy proper.  Collin-Bourisset is based in Beaujolais so it makes sense that this is 100% Gamay.  It has a typical Gamay nose of blueberries and damsons.  It has a juicy palate of red and black fruit and very soft tannins.  It’s quite a light wine with decent acidity so perfect for lunchtime with a platter of charcuterie.

Dame de Clochevigne Rasteau 2018 (14.5%, €9.99 at Lidl)

Rasteau Dame de Clochevigne AOP, €9.99

Now “Cloche” means “Clock” and “Vigne” means “Vine” so does “Clochevigne” mean “Vineclock“?  Perhaps we could ask the Dame.  The southern Rhône is GSM territory and this Rasteau fits that template perfectly: 76% Grenache, 22% Syrah and 2% Mourvèdre.  The juicy red fruit is thick and chewy – it’s a meal all in itself.  Black olive and liquorice finish keep a savoury edge.  Drink with a spoon!

Vinsobres Cru des Côtes du Rhône 2017 (14.5%, €9.99 at Lidl)

Cru des Côtes du Rhône Vinsobres AOP, €9.99

This Vinsobres is pretty similar to the Rasteau above, perhaps a touch softer.  The blend here is 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah and 10% Mourvèdre.  The extra year it has compared to the Rasteau really helps the wine to settle and relax, though decanting (a simple jug is all that’s really required) would help the strawberry and raspberry fruit to shine.