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Single Vineyard Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs [Make Mine a Double #53]

New Zealand Winegrowers are holding their first ever virtual New Zealand Wine Week in February 2021 so I decided to mark the occasion by reblogging some old (but gold) posts which focus on Kiwi wine.

Frankly Wines

For Sauvignon Blanc Day, what better wines to be comparing than two Marlborough Sauvignons.  There are some people who don’t care for the variety and / or the particular expression that is created in Marlborough – perhaps it’s just “tall poppy syndrome” – but I’m not one of the naysayers.   Marlborough Sauvignon is now one of the key recognisable styles in the world of wine and has many imitators, though few are successful.

That said, although nearly all of them would be recognised blind (many at the point where the wine is opened), there are significant variations in style and flavour profile within the region.  Some of that is down to terroir; my humble palate can often distinguish between Savvy made in the Awatere Valley from one made in the Wairau Valley (and of course that’s before smaller terroir differences are considered).  There’s also the winemaker and his or…

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A Taste that’s out of this World

New Zealand Winegrowers are holding their first ever virtual New Zealand Wine Week in February 2021 so I decided to mark the occasion by reblogging some old (but gold) posts which focus on Kiwi wine.

Frankly Wines

Peregrine Winery Central Otago Peregrine Winery Central Otago

Some parts of Central Otago look like another world – wild doesn’t even start to cover it. Now vying with Martinborough as the best place for Pinot Noir in New Zealand, there’s an amazing variety of landscapes – some more resembling moonscapes in the former gold-mining areas.

It’s rugged, but beautifully rugged, even on an overcast day.

But it’s not just about Pinot – other varieties do well in the cooler climate down here as well. Chardonnay is an obvious one (Felton Road for example) and so is Riesling.  I think it’s fair to say that New Zealand is still finding its feet with Riesling, but there are some increasingly complex, balanced and just plain delicious wines being made.

Peregrine Central Otago Peregrine Winery

Peregrine Central Otago Riesling 2010

With excellent acidity, this tastes nigh on dry – the 5 g/l of Residual Sugar adds body and balance without being obviously sweet…

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I Know What I Like – Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc – Part 1

New Zealand Winegrowers are holding their first ever virtual New Zealand Wine Week in February 2021 so I decided to mark the occasion by reblogging some old (but gold) posts which focus on Kiwi wine.

Here’s the first in a three part series for casual drinkers who like a drop of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.

Frankly Wines

This post is the first of several which encourage newcomers to wine or creatures of habit to try something a bit different from their usual drop.

It was prompted by a few requests from friends plus some of the twitter debates over the past few months or so, including whether wine expertise is bunkum or not.  More precisely, one phrase often declared by novice wine drinkers is “I know what I like”, with the follow on (usually unspoken) being “I know what wine is best for me and I won’t try anything else”.  Now, I’m not going to tell those people they are wrong (as such!) – I just want to give those that are hesitant to try something other than their favourite type a path which they could explore.

So firstly, why do people like Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc??

It’s crisp, fruity, fresh, widely available, consistent in quality and reasonably…

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Alsace in Numbers

As we approach Alsace Wine Week 2019, a reblog of this post seems appropriate!

Frankly Wines

After a successful first #AlsaceWineWeek in Ireland  I thought I’d pick out a few key numbers to give readers a background to the region.

2 Departments

2

The Alsace region is divided administratively into 2 Départements

  1. Haut Rhin (Upper Rhine)
  2. Bas Rhin (Lower Rhine)

4 Noble Grapes

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  1. Riesling
  2. Pinot Gris
  3. Gewurztraminer
  4. Muscat (usually Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains)

As a general rule, Grand Cru wines can only be made from one of these noble grapes.

4% of vineyard area is Grand Cru

4-Percent

This compares to approximately 2% of Burgundy being Grand Cru (with a further 12% being Bourgogne Premier Cru).

7 Featured Grapes

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In addition to the 4 noble grapes above, there are also

  1. Pinot Blanc
  2. Pinot Noir
  3. Sylvaner

These three plus the four noble grapes above are the most commonly seen on wine labels.

13 Total Grapes

13

Apart from the featured grapes there are six others which can legitimately be used…

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The Fifth Element – Part 5

Fizz and friends from the Quintessential Wines tasting earlier this year:

Druisan Prosecco Colfondo NV (12.5%, RRP €17.95 at Quintessential Wines, Drogheda & quintessentialwines.ie)

Drusian Prosecco Col Fondo

A world away from the cheap and (sometimes not so) cheerful industrial Prosecco which is on special offer in the supermarket, this is an entirely different style of fizz.  Whereas the vast majority Prosecco undergoes a second fermentation in a tank, with colfondo this takes place in the bottle.  Unlike the traditional method there is no disgorgement, so the lees remain in the bottle.

This is much more yeasty and smooth than “normal” Prosecco. With no disgorgement there’s no dosage either, but it really doesn’t miss the addition of sugar.  This is a wine of character, far more interesting than other sparkling wines in this price bracket.

 

Loxarel Refugi Brut Nature Reserva  2013 (12.5%, RRP €33.50 at Quintessential Wines, Drogheda)

Refugi Brut Nature 2013 Loxarel

On to Spain now, and a fantastic Cava made in the Penedès by Loxarel (who also make the natural orange wine reviewed in Part 3).   This is predominantly made from the local
speciality Xarel-lo; the vines are over 70 years old and a portion of the base wine was fermented in 300-litre old oak barrels which adds texture and longevity.  A touch of Chardonnay is included for freshness.  After the second fermentation the wine spends three years on the lees before disgorgement, with no dosage.  In short, this is bloody lovely!  There’s lots of lovely creamy lees character and a dry finish.

 

Vilmart Grand Cellier Brut NV (12.5%, RRP €64.95 at Quintessential Wines, Drogheda)

Vilmart Grand Cellier NV

The final fizz is from France, more specifically Rilly-la-Montagne in the Montagne de Reims subregion of Champagne.  The blend is 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir from two specific parcels: “Les Hautes Grèves” and “Les Basses Grèves”, the upper and lower (river) banks respectively .  Vilmart’s house style involves blocking (or not encouraging) malolactic fermentation for freshness, and ageing the base wines in old, larger-format oak barrels for texture and longevity (through micro-oxygenation).

This is well made, classy, proper Champagne.  There’s a citrus frame (from the Chardonnay) with some red fruit notes (from the Pinot) interwoven.  Biscuit creaminess in enhanced by very fine bubbles and a lively crisp finish.

 

Château de la  Roulerie Coteaux du Layon 1er Cru Chaume Les Aunis 2013 (12.0%, RRP €34.50 at Quintessential Wines, Drogheda)

Le Roulerie Les Aunis Chaume

Sweet Loire wines are one of the most overlooked wine categories (closely followed by most of the rest of the Loire) and hence reasonably priced. Chenin Blanc excels in this role as it can produce high levels of sugar while maintaining balancing acidity.

Château de la Roulerie make three different sweet wines; the standard Coteaux du Layon, Coteaux du Layon 1er Cru Chaume (which is the area just around the village of Chaume) and then this wine from a specific vineyard.  All of them have botrytised grapes, but climbing the quality ladder gives increased concentration.  The perfect balance of sweetness, acidity and oak.  Sauternes, eat your heart out!

 

Quintessential and the Fifth Element

The Fifth Element

So finally, in what is fittingly the fifth part of this series, I can explain the jeu de mots in the title, the relationship between Quintessential and The Fifth Element.  In classical times it was believed that everything in the physical world was made up of a small number of elements.  One version according to Empedocles gave four: earth, water, air and fire.  Plato, Aristole and others added a fifth called (a)ether, also known as quintessence.

Over time, quintessential came to mean the more perfect example of a particular type of thing.  Given how I have described some of Quintessential Wines’ bottles as ethereal, I think it’s a perfectly fitting name!

 

The Fifth Element Series:

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Frankly Wines Top 10 Sweet wines of 2016

As a wise man once said to me, don’t call them “dessert wines” as that implies they are only fit to drink with a dessert!  Categorising wines isn’t always an easy task, as even simple descriptors such as colour are open to interpretation (see this article).  Where do sweet wines fit in?  In the end, the label isn’t important, what’s in the glass is.

10. Tarin Pineau des Charentes Blanc Vieilli 3 Ans

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Pronounced the same as “Pinot”, this is the secret fortified drink of France’s west country. Made by adding eau de vie to grape must that has barely begun fermenting, it can only be produced in the Charente and Charente-Maritime departments – also the home of Cognac. That’s no coincidence as the grape spirit used for Pineau is the same that is aged to eventually become Cognac.

This example has received 3 years of ageing which gives it a slight “rancio” character – enough to add interest but not so much that it dominates.  The only downside is that it is so moreish!

9. Sipp Mack Gewurztraminer Vieilles Vignes 2012

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This Gewurz isn’t intended to be a sweet wine as such, but given the grape’s natural flavour profile, low acidity and a bit of residual sugar it tastes far sweeter than other many wines of Alsace.  As a general rule I do like some sweetness in my Gewurz, and this Sipp Mack does deliver that, but with an incredible intensity of flavour thanks to its old vines. See here for the full review.

8. GD Vajra Moscato d’Asti 2015

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Moscato from Australia and elsewhere gained a lot of ground in recent years – fresh and fruity, sweet and easy to drink yet with very moderate alcohol, it became something of a party drink.  Hopefully this will shine a light back on Piedmont, the pioneering region of this style (though obviously not of the Muscat grape!)

Moscato d’Asti might also qualify as a party drink for some, but its true value is at the table, mainly with fruit based desserts where it excels.  The best – such as GD Vajra’s – have a mouthwatering balance of acidity and sweetness.  See here for the full review

7. Max Ferd. Richter Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese

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For many wine aficionados, Germany is the ultimate country for Riesling.  The sheer variety of styles is one of its key strengths, from bone-dry to intensely sweet, and just about every spot in between.  This Mosel Spätlese (late harvest) is just wonderful and was my narrow favourite of an all-Riesling tasting at DNS Wineclub.  See here for the full review

6. Zantho Scheurebe Trockenbeerenauslese 2012

zantho

Zantho is a joint venture between two famous names of Austrian wine, viticulturist Josef Umathum and winemaker Wolfgang Peck of Winzerkeller Andau.  As well as dry whites and reds they also make three dessert wines (pictured above) which are all glorious, with the TBA (for short) being my favourite.  Germanic grape Scheurebe works best as a sweet wine and excels in Zantho’s TBA from close to the border with Hungary.

5. Nyetimber Demi-Sec NV

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I’m a long standing fan of Nyetimber and I’ve been pleased to see them popping up here and there in Ireland.  When back in England in the summer I picked up a bottle of their Demi-Sec – which I haven’t yet seen here in Ireland – and took it to a DNS Wineclub tasting.  It was absolutely magnificent and reinforced my admiration for Brad Greatrix and Cherie Spriggs.

Not stated on the front label is that this is 100% Chardonnay, and therefore a Blanc-de-Blancs.  Dosage is 45g/L giving it perfect balance – typical English acidity is the counter to the sugar.  This was the first English Demi-Sec to be released but I would go further and state that it’s one of the top few Demi-Secs made anywhere in the world.

4. Domaine de Bois Mozé Coteaux de l’Aubance 2008

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The Loire Valley is probably France’s most underrated wine region and its Chenin based dessert wines probably the least well known – which is a total shame as they can be world class without a world class price.  Coteaux  de l’Aubance is even less well known than Coteaux du Layon and Quarts de Chaume, but the best sites can yield beauties such as this. In my opinion these wines are the ultimate expression of Chenin Blanc – and this is still a youngster at nine years of age.

3. Donnafugata Ben Ryé Passito di Pantelleria 2014

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The grape variety for this wine is known locally as Zibibbo, but further afield as Muscat of Alexandria – a very ancient grape.  “Local” here is the tiny island of Pantelleria which is between Sicily and Tunisia.  The grapes are dried after picking to concentrate the flavours and sugars, similar to “straw wines” elsewhere.  This is a wine of staggering complexity for such a young vintage, the biggest threat to ageing being its utter deliciousness!

2. Cascina Garitina Niades

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Many readers will be drawing a blank at the name of this wine which could have been in any (or all!) of my red, sparkling and sweet Top 10 lists.  Formerly carrying the DOCG of Brachetto d’Acqui, it could be thought of as the red equivalent of Moscato d’Asti – though even better, in this case.

When I tried it and tweeted about it, one wag did reply “can’t see the point” – and admittedly, before I tried it I can’t say it was missing from my life – but once tried this wine is never forgotten.  Fresh red fruit, acidity and sweetness combine to make wine heaven – it’s Eton Mess in a glass!

1. Léon Beyer Gewurztraminer Vendanges Tardives 1998

gewurztraminer.vt.leonbeyer

This was the unexpected runaway winner of the DNS Wineclub Alsace tasting, against some pretty stiff competition (including #2 in this Top 10).  Léon Beyer is based in the achingly beautiful village of Eguisheim and has Domaines Zinck and Bruno Sorg as neighbours.  “The house style is dry” said the lady at the counter, “apart from the sweet wines” – such as this rare Late Harvest Gewurz.  The Léon Beyer website give a drinking window of 10 to 20 years from vintage, but this tasted like it had another decade left at least.  If I had another bottle it would probably make my Top 10 sweet wines of 2026!

 

 

 

 

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Rhône Wine Week Ireland 2016 #5

Rhône Wine Week is the fourth such celebration of the wines of the Rhône Valley and runs in Ireland from 29th October to 5th November 2016.  Events and promotions will be held at good independent wine shops and restaurants throughout the country.

Each day during this year’s celebration will have its own wine to try:

Domaine des Remizières Crozes Hermitage 2013 (13.0%, €22.95 at Wines Direct)

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Crozes Hermitage reds are always predominantly Syrah-based, but can be made with up to 15% Marsanne and / or Roussanne added (the same varieties grapes are also used in white Crozes Hermitage).  The use of white grapes to soften the wine is less common nowadays and 100% Syrah Crozes (such as this one) is more usual.

Being a couple of years younger than the Cave de Tain, this 2013 has both more black fruit and more tannin. This would definitely improve with another year or two laid down in a good cellar, but if you can’t wait then decant and serve with steak!