Information, Single Bottle Review

Pignolo, The Lazarus Grape

Have you heard of Pignolo?  I hadn’t until recently – when I tasted the wine below) – though I since spotted it in one of my friend Cara Rutherford’s posts.  Now I could be forgiven for this as I’m no expert on Italian wines, though Pignolo does feature as one of Jancis, Julia and José’s 1,368 Wine Grapes.  However, it nearly disappeared after its native Friuli was ravaged by phylloxera over a century ago, and it was forgotten about; low yielding vines and susceptibility to powdery mildew put it at a disadvantage when it came to replanting.

Fast forward to the 1970s and Pignolo vines were found (on their own rootstocks) at the Abbey of Rosazzo.  Cuttings were taken from these hundred plus year old vines and a new vineyard planted by Girolamo Dorigo (no relation to the former England footballer Tony Dorigo, to the best of my knowledge).  Other producers in Friuli have since planted Pignolo so that a tiny 20 hectares in 2000 had grown to (a still modest) 93 hectares in 2010 (let’s not ask about 2020 just yet!)

I had the opportunity to taste Dorigo’s Pignolo earlier this year and I was astounded at its expressiveness and quality:

Dorigo Friuli Colli Orientali Pignolo 2015

Pignolo

 

On pouring it shows a medium intensity, more red than black, and a lighter garnet towards the rim.

The nose is just amazing.  Firstly there is new oak, not as you would typically find it in a wine’s aromas, but rather more like being in a Médoc chais.  If you’ve ever had the chance to be in such an establishment the oak is lifted, intertwined with evaporating alcohol from the wine.  Freshly made milk chocolate and lightly roasted coffee and exotic spices (so exotic, in fact, that they are hard to pin down!)

The aromas continue through to the palate, though the oak is a little more pronounced now but fresh raspberries, cranberries and alpine strawberries have joined the fray.  The palate is super-smooth, with gentle tannins just hovering in the background.  Acidity is firm but not intrusive, just giving a fresh aspect to the ripe fruit flavours.

This is still a very young wine, especially in magnum, which will develop gracefully over the next few decades.  Even in this youthful stage, I have to include it among the top five wines I’ve ever tasted and declare it as the best nose on any red wine I’ve tasted, ever.  This wine is made in very small quantities but if you ever get chance to enjoy a bottle chais vous (you see what I did there?) then you owe it to yourself to snap it up!

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €60 bottle / €120 magnum
  • Stockists: Deveney’s of Dundrum (magnum)

 

 

Make Mine A Double

Give Me A Riesling [Make Mine a Double #61]

As Sonny Fodera almost said, “Give Me A Riesling”.  Of course that’s a bit silly – who wants just one Riesling?  Riesling is known as one of the most terroir-transparent grapes around, i.e. the aromas, flavours and texture of the wine are very dependent on where it is grown.  Wine-making techniques to influence the style of the wine are used sparingly – oak influence is rarely seen, for example – but there is one major decision that winemakers take: to vinify the wine dry or to leave some residual sugar.  Here are two excellent Rieslings which showcase different styles:

Disclosure: both bottles were kindly provided as samples, opinions remain my own

Petaluma Hanlin Hill Clare Valley Riesling 2016

petaluma-hanlin-hill-riesling

Petaluma is a premium wine producer located in the Adelaide Hills, just east of the city of Adelaide.  They were founded in 1976 with the aim of making excellent wines from the regions and vineyards most suited to each variety.  Their range has expanded gradually and now includes:

  • White Label (everyday wines): Dry Rosé, Chardonnay, Adelaide Hills Pinot Gris, Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc, Adelaide Hills Shiraz, Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Crozer Sparkling: Adelaide Hills Non Vintage Sparkling, Adelaide Hills Non Vintage Sparkling Rosé, Piccadilly Valley Vintage Sparkling
  • Petaluma Project Co. (experimental bottlings): Barbera, Malbec
  • Yellow Label & Specials (top tier range): Hanlin Hill Riesling, Cane Cut Clare Valley Riesling, Essence Botrytis (Sauvignon Blanc / Semillon blend), Piccadilly Valley Chardonnay, B&V Vineyard Adelaide Hills Shiraz, Coonawarra Merlot, Evans Vineyard Coonawarra (Cab Sauv / Merlot / Shiraz blend), Tiers Chardonnay

Clare Valley is in South Australia, almost due north from Adelaide and at the top of the Mount Lofty Ranges (Australia’s literal naming convention strikes again).  Even within this small region there are significant stylistic differences, most easily illustrated by Grosset’s Polish Hill and Springvale Rieslings. 

Although Riesling is the king here, there are red wines made from varieties that are more closely associated with warmer climates: Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec.  This apparent departure from the norm is because of the high diurnal range which gives the black grapes enough sun and heat but cools down enough at night to keep the Riesling grapes happy.

This Riesling – as the name suggests – is from the Hanlin Hill single vineyard which sits at 550 metres altitude.  At four years from vintage it still pours a pale lemon colour.  Lime and slate open the aromas along with grapefruit and peach stone.  There’s a very light whiff of kerosene but its lack of intensity shows that this wine is till fairly young.

On the palate this wine is very clean (but not Clean!) and fresh, but still pithy and with some body.  It’s very dry (probably technically dry, i.e. as dry as fermentation could take it) as is the norm in the Clare Valley, but the mid-palate has plenty of fruit sweetness with peach and grapefruit joining racy lemon and juicy lime. 

This bottle opened up more as I returned to taste it over several days; if consuming in one sitting I would actually recommend decanting it, not something I would usually think of for Rieslings.  And I liked it so much, I think I will definitely find some more of this…and hopefully taste it with some more age!

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €31.95
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

 

Selbach-Oster Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett 2017

selbach-wehlener-sonnenuhr

I’ve already explained the subregions of the Mosel in a recent post, so I won’t repeat it all here.  You may remember my reference to “the famous sundial vineyards” of the Bernkastel District…well the German for sundial is Sonnenuhr so we have one of those here!  

Selbach-Oster is a very traditional producer based in Zeltingen in the Middle Mosel, with a family history in wine spanning four centuries (to date!)  The business has two sides: a negociant operation J. & H. Selbach which uses bought in fruit, and the estate proper Weingut Selbach-Oster.  Their vineyards amount to 24 hectares in total and are located in Zeltinger itself plus Wehlen and Graach:

  • Zeltinger Himmelreich
  • Zeltinger Schlossberg
  • Zeltinger Sonnenuhr
  • Wehlener Sonnenuhr
  • Graacher Domprobst

The biggest giveaway as to the style of this wine is the alcohol: 8.5% abv.  The relatively low alcohol – even for a northerly country such as Germany – indicates that some of the sugar in the grapes has not been fermented and so is present as residual sugar.  The trend in Germany is for drier wines, even Rieslings which have usually had some sweetness to them, so this is very much a traditional style.

I was unable to find a residual sugar figure for this wine so my best guess as to its sweetness would be medium – definitely sweeter than off-dry but not into dessert wine territory.  However, due to its thrilling acidity, the sweetness is received by the palate as fruitiness more than sugariness.  Although sugar isn’t volatile (i.e. smellable) there are sweet notes on the nose of this wine.  It isn’t that complex though…just totally delicious!

  • ABV: 8.5%
  • RRP: €20.45
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Conclusion

Tasted back to back these two wines are remarkably different, yet share some vital things in common: citrus aromas and flavours, lifted aromatics and the minerality plus racy acidity that typifies Riesling.  The Mosel example is easier to like but the Clare Riesling is more cerebral; pick the one you feel in the mood for!

 

And for those who might recognise the song alluded to in the title, here’s Sonny Fodera ft. Janai – Give Me A Riesling Reason

 

 

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

 

 

 

Make Mine A Double

Hãhã – but it’s no laughing matter! [Make Mine a Double #60]

A new Kiwi label “Hãhã” has just been launched in Ireland, but it’s not a spoof – Hãhã is actually a Mãori word meaning savoury and luscious.  It was established less than ten years ago in 2011 by four families, and is still owned by the same folk.  Their wines hail from Hawke’s Bay and Marlborough and include most of the most popular varieties from New Zealand: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Syrah.  There are also sparkling wines and rosé in the portfolio (with the Hawke’s Bay rosé even having a dash of Malbec).

As the wines have just been launched only the key wines are currently available in Ireland.  Here are two that I tried and enjoyed recently:

Disclosure: bottles were kindly provided as samples, opinions remain my own

Hãhã Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2019

The nose shows citrus (lime and lemon) plus ripe green bell peppers.  These notes continue though onto the palate, and unusually for Marlborough Sauvignon there are no real tropical notes.  Despite the green notes this is a mellow rather than sharp wine; it’s very mouthwatering but the acidity is fresh and pleasant rather than harsh.

If I had tasted this blind it would have stumped me as to its real origins – I might have guessed a classy Italian or German Sauvignon (if you haven’t tried examples from those countries then my postulation was a compliment!)  Despite Marlborough Sauvignon’s popularity, even its fans would admit that it’s often too aromatic and exuberant to make a good partner for food, but Hãhã Sauvignon is a delicious exception to this rule!

Hãhã Marlborough Pinot Noir 2017

Hãhã’s Marlborough Pinot Noir is one of the top wines in their range.  As you’d expect it’s fruity, and a lighter style of Pinot, but despite the fruit it’s not simply a smashable wine.  The nose is lovely, with rich strawberry, raspberry, cherry plus spice and a touch of mocha.  In the mouth it’s smooth and medium bodied, with the red fruit now joined by black.  Tannins are present but modest.  Overall this is a supple, easy-to drink wine that would also serve well at the dinner table.

Conclusion

Returning to the translation of Hãhã for a moment, I don’t think that “luscious” is that apt for these wines, but “savoury” definitely is!  They manage to bridge the worlds of quaffing wine and serious food wine.  They both have fruit but a superb savoury aspect which makes them very easy to like.

 

And, for those who were clubbing in the mid ’90s, this is the track which immediately sprang to mind when writing this piece:

 

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

 

Single Bottle Review

Rolly-Gassman Alsace Pinot Gris VT 1996

Rolly Gassmann
Rolly-Gassmann tasting room (Credit: Pays de Ribeauvillé & Riquewihr)

Rolly-Gassmann is based in Rorschwihr, a small Alsatian village close to Ribeauvillé; a ten minute drive along the D18 takes you past André Kientler on the outskirts of Ribeauvillé and close to Gustave Lorentz and Marcel Deiss in Bergheim.  Even amid Alsace’s highly diverse soil types Rorschwihr is something of an extreme case; the faultline that passes through the village created 21 different soil types, and so there are lots of small climats with their own peculiarities and specificites.  These are so important to the local vignerons that, when the powers than be tried to amalgamate them into larger plots for grand cru classification purposes, they refused and said that “either there would be 12 Rorschwihr Grand Crus or none at all”.  So none it is!

Rolly-Gassmann’s Domaine dates back to 1611 but the current name is decades rather than centuries old after two wine families became intertwined through marriage.  The estate includes 40ha in Rorschwihr plus 10ha in Bergheim, all run on organic and biodynamic lines.  Despite the lack of grands crus, there are lots of lieux-dits belonging to the domaine, each suited to a certain grape variety.

  • Silberberg – Riesling
  • Kappelweg – Riesling
  • Pflaenzerreben – Rieslings
  • Rotleibel – Pinot Gris
  • Oberer Weingarten – Gewurztraminer
  • Stegreben – Gewurztraminer

Rolly-Gassmann is well known among Alsace cognoscenti but aren’t seen outside France that much; it transpires that only around 20% of sales are exports, and that the domaine has a large cellar of bottles including many older vintages, so well worth a visit.

The bottle I review below was a very kind gift from my good friend Peter Dickens.  I had saved it for a special occasion and shared it with my wife last weekend, though didn’t manage to take a photo before the bottle was whipped off to recycling (first world problem, I know) so I even nicked Peter’s photo!

Rolly-Gassman Alsace Pinot Gris Rotleibel de Rorschwihr Vendanges Tardives 1996

Rolly Gassmann Pinot Gris Vendanges Tardives 1996
Credit: Peter Dickens

When you open a bottle of white wine that’s over twenty years old there’s a definite pang of nervousness: will it be totally oxidised? corked? vinegar?  While good Alsace Pinot Gris definitely benefits from a bit of bottle age it’s not normally regarded as having the longevity of Riesling.  This bottle had also been in and out of the wine fridge several times as it was going to be opened on a few previous occasions .

But thankfully the wine was amazing!  Not even a cracked cork!

Vendanges Tardives (VT) is the Alsace term for “late harvests”, a sweet wine from grapes that are left on the vine for several weeks after the regular harvest so that they continue to ripen and produce more sugar.  Rotleibel de Rorschwihr is the name of the lieu-dit, literally meaning “red soil” – which I imagine includes plenty of iron oxide – that are perfect for the extravagance of Pinot Gris.

And extravagant this wine is – so powerful yet fresh, full of ripe tropical fruits, ginger, cinnamon, honey and marmalade.  It’s a sweet wine without any hint of flabbiness, and one that could happily pair with certain main courses as well as desserts.  The complexity is mindblowing.

Thanks again Peter for an amazing wine!

 

 

Single Bottle Review

Remelluri “Granje Remelluri” Gran Reserva 2012

While the Remelluri estate’s origins hark back over six hundred years, the Rodríguez family’s involvement started relatively recently in 1967 when Jaime Rodríguez bought the key vineyards.  They lie on the high slopes of the Sierra de Toloño mountains – at a high altitude, but with a  southerly exposure and protected from overly harsh weather.  Significant diurnal temperature swings help the grapes to become fully ripe yet retain flavour and acidity.

Chemicals have never been used in the vineyards but the organic approach has been extended to a holistic system; far from being a monoculture, the estate has fruit groves and hedges to maintain a natural balance.

After decades spent raising the bar in Rueda, Ribero del Duero and Galicia, prodigal son Telmo Rodríguez returned to Rioja in 2010 and set about further developing the Remelluri estate.  Amongst his initiatives are reexamining old training systems and evaluating the best variety for each specific plot and microclimate.

There are currently five wines in the Remelluri range:

  • Remelluri Blanco
  • Lindes de Remelluri ‘Viñedos de San Vicente’
  • Lindes de Remelluri ‘Viñedos de Labastida’
  • Remelluri Reserva
  • Granja Remelluri Gran Reserva

The two Lindes wines are made from the grapes of growers in the surrounding villages.  Now we turn our attention to the top wine in the stable:

Remelluri “Granje Remelluri” Gran Reserva 2012

Granja Remelluri Gran Reserva 2012

The “Granje Remelluri” Gran Reserva is made only in the best years, and then only in very small quantities.  The blend for 2012 breaks down as 70% Tempranillo, 25% Garnacha and 5% Graciano.

The vines selected for the Gran Reserva vary in age from 40 to over 90 years old and are at elevations between 480m and 705m.  Vinification takes place in small wooden vats with ambient yeasts, followed by maturation for 24 months in a variety of seasoned oak vessels from 225L barriques up to 2,000L foudres.  After bottling the wine is kept in Remelluri’s cellars for a further five years before release.

This is an epic, immense wine still in the early stages of youth.  The nose has a cornucopia of fruit: blackberries, plums, black cherries and wild strawberries joined by cedar, exotic spice and vanilla from the oak.  It is warming and powerful in the mouth, with dark fruits and vanilla, yet with elegance and freshness.  No shrinking violet this, it’s a substantial wine that would be best with hearty food now or to be kept for the long haul.  If I had the spare readies I’d be opening one every couple of years.

Make Mine A Double

Puglia in your Pocket [Make Mine a Double #59]

Puglia Map

Like many European wine regions, Puglia has several different quality levels which overlap when shown on a map.  In general, the lower quality regions (IGP in the map above) are the largest in area and the highest quality regions are the smallest (DOCG).

In a recent post on Puglian wines I reviewed two red wines which were quite rich and even a little sweetness, so perfect for barbecues.  They were both IGT wines from Salento; now we have two DOC wines which are still fruity a little more serious:

Disclosure: bottles were kindly provided as samples, but opinions remain my own

Marchese di Borgosole Salice Salentino Riserva 2016

Marchese-di-Borgasole

The grapes for this wine – over 85% Negroamaro – are fully destemmed before undergoing seven to eight days maceration.  Alcoholic and malolactic fermentation take place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks, with 24 months maturation mixed between tank and wooden barrels.

In the glass this wine is still dark in the body but is already a little light at the rim.  The nose has wonderful bramble fruit and exotic spice.  The palate is all about fresh morello cherry and raspberry, giving a pleasant tartness, and rich black fruits.  The body is full but not huge, and fine tannins help to give a savoury edge.

This is a lovely example of Salice Salentino, an easy drinking wine which is well put together.

Corte Ottone Brindisi Riserva 2016

Corte-Ortoni

From Salice Salentino we head slightly north to Brindisi.  Vinification is similar to its southern neighbour except that the 24 months maturation is entirely in wood.  Negroamaro is again the principal grape, backed up by Malvasia Nera and Sangiovese.

The nose has sweet – ripe, not sugary – black fruit such as blackberry and black cherry, with some hints of wild herbs.  The palate has a nervous energy to it; tart cherry and cranberry and lively raspberry plus some exotic spice and cedarwood.  The acidity is marked and thus the wine remains fresh.  This would be great with some charcuterie or tomato based dishes.

 

 

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

Single Bottle Review

Pentagons and Pyramids: Mazzei Vermentino

It was said – by Jancis Robinson if my memory serves me well – that the vignerons of the Médoc are glad to put white Graves on the table when a dish calls for white wine so that they don’t have to resort to serving Burgundy.  The same dilemma faces the producers of Tuscany; with so much red wine made, what whites should be served?  One answer is Vernaccia di San Gimignano, but many now turn to Vermentino as a fresh white wine.

This variety is well established in southern France and north western Italy – including the major islands of Corsica and Sardinia – under several different names:

  • Rolle in Provence, especially around Nice (a former Italian county)
  • Favorita in Piedmont
  • Pigato in Liguria
  • Vermentino in Sardinia, Corsica, Languedoc-Roussillon and Tuscany

Vermentino can be used in a Tuscan DOC wine -Colli di Luni which crosses the border into Liguria – but often features in IGT Toscana.  Here’s one I tried recently and really enjoyed:

Disclosure: bottle was kindly supplied as a sample, but opinions remain my own

Mazzei Tenuta Belguardo Vermentino di Toscana 2018

mazzei vermentino

Mazzei is of course best known for its excellent Chianti Classico wines (see my reviews of the Castello Fonterutoli Gran Selezione 2012 and 2015).  However, although the climate of northern Siena is perfect for Sangiovese, it is too warm for fresh white wines.  Hence, Vermentino is usually grown in the Province of Grosseto, close to the cooling sea breezes of the Tyrrhenian.

Provinces_of_Tuscany_map
Provinces of Tuscany (Credit: Norman Einstein)

This Vermentino is a complex wine.  The nose has some smoky reduction followed by ripe grapefruit, peach and a hint of mango.  It’s the sort of nose that unrolls as a story for your olfactory senses.  Those smoke and fruit notes follow through to the palate where they are joined by fresher fruit – quince and lemon – and a mineral core.  The finish is a little coy, but very long and fresh.

With average alcohol (12.5%) and both fruit and clean aspects to it, this is a delicious and versatile wine that would be great with a wide range of foods or simply as an alternative to Chablis style wines.

PS: the title Pentagons and Pyramids refers to the shape of Vermentino’s leaves and grape bunches, respectively.

Wine + Music

The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series #12 – Tim Milford

In these unusual times, we all need a lift from time to time. As a change to my usual wine reviews I’ve decided to start a fun and irreverent series on matching wine and music. The basic idea is that I give participants:

  • A piece of music –> they suggest a wine to go with it, with an explanation
  • A wine –> they suggest a piece of music to go with it

It’s all for fun, so please don’t slag off anybody’s taste music (or wine!) Thanks to Michelle Williams for the inspiration – she has been matching songs to wine for years on her Rockin Red Blog.

The twelfth installment of The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series is hosted by  Germanophile Englishman Tim Milford.  If I said that he likes to “blow his own trumpet” and dubs himself “The King of Wine” I would be correct; however, this would be in a literal sense only, as he is an orchestral trumpet player(!) and a total gentleman with a well developed sense of humour to boot. 

I am something of a philistine when it comes to classical / orchestral music – I know a few tunes that I like but that’s about it.  However, when choosing a piece for Tim there was one that immediately came to mind as it featured trumpets: Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man. When I was young living at home with my parents this was a favourite of my dad’s so I heard it many times.

The easy option for the wine pick would have been German Riesling, but I side-stepped that and chose an English sparkling wine that I know Tim and I both hold in high estimation: Nyetimber’s Classic Cuvée MV.  It’s a wine that I have been following for many years, with each successive vintage getting better.  Now that it is a multi-vintage it has stepped up even more.

I was delighted when Frankie asked me to contribute to his wine and music blog series, but also a little nervous as all of the other posts have been so good!

Frankie has chosen a classical theme for me, which I was really pleased about. I have been a trumpet player since I was eight years old and have been fortunate enough to play in some excellent bands and orchestras over the years. Music, just like wine, has been an amazing way for me to make friends and also to get to know more about the world that we live in.

My music taste is pretty eclectic, but I have always enjoyed classical music particularly. I think a good symphony is like test cricket (another one of my passions!) – the time that you have in this format allows you to appreciate the waxing and waning of the music, the development of intricate sub-plots within pieces. Whereas your average three minute rock or pop song is more like T20 cricket – it starts: crash, bang, wallop, it ends.

My favourite music in the classical space tends to be the bigger, grander, darker, more evocative music from the German and Russian masters: Mahler, Bruckner, Beethoven, Shostakovich and Prokofiev; but in truth there is so much variety out there that you just feel blessed that all of these incredible people have created such beauty – exactly how I feel about wine!

So, on to my pairings!

Nyetimber’s Classic Cuvée MV

Nyetimber-Our-Wines-Homepage-ClassicCuvee
Credit: Nyetimber

For the wine, Frankie selected for me Nyetimber’s Multi Vintage (MV) Classic Cuvée – a wine that I know very well and I knew straight away exactly where I was going to go for my music selection: Glenn Gould’s famous recordings of Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Why did I choose this? The Goldberg variations are a masterpiece of composition – combining moments of pure beauty, with complicated, intricate melodies and counter-melodies. But how does it make me feel when I listen to it? I often listen to this recording when I need to concentrate on something at work; it feels serene, it feels sophisticated, it feels masterly.

These are the kinds of feelings that I get when I think of Nyetimber’s Classic Cuvée; it’s a wine of breathtaking refinement, with layers of texture to it that are all perfectly balanced to give an immensely pleasurable drinking experience. It is pretty well known now that good English sparkling wine is giving Champagne a proper run for its money – and Nyetimber is absolutely one of those producers that I would point to. That’s before we start looking at their vintage BdBs, which are simply spectacular.

There’s another reason that I wanted to choose Glenn Gould’s version of the Goldberg Variations – Gould was Canadian and I wanted to give a little nod to Nyetimber’s head wine makers, Cherie Spriggs and Brad Greatrix, Canadians themselves. Cherie and Brad have done wonderful things during their tenure at Nyetimber and I thought this would be a nice tribute to them.

Aaron Copland – Fanfare for the Common Man

For my musical selection, Frankie gave me Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” – a selection that I was delighted with! As a trumpet player, fanfares are always a fun experience to play, but the opening of this piece isn’t a fanfare in the sense that we might think of; it is altogether more refined. A lot of fanfares are designed to be regal and triumphal, this though seems to be a little less bombastic – which I guess is borne out in the piece’s name. This isn’t a piece celebrating the crowning of a king or a queen, but a celebration of the common man (and woman!).

I also like the structure of the piece, which builds layers as it goes through, starting with the timpani, followed by the trumpets; but then augmented by the rest of the brass section and more percussion players. When I listen to this piece there is something Olympic about it in the soaring notes for the trumpet, which sounds so powerful, so graceful, so majestic. Something that says: we have mastered this, we are in control and we know what we are doing.

The Milf
Credit: Tim Milford

So, what wine could I choose that gives you the same sentiment? I decided to pair this piece with a 2016 Santa Barbara Pinot Noir from the legends at Au Bon Climat in California. The wine is an absolute classic, coming from a coastal region in California it benefits from those sea breezes, which gives it a delicious freshness. It is fairly commonly observed that this is a wine made in a Burgundian style, which I think in this instance means that it has a poise and refinement, an elegance and class. It tantalises the tastebuds and excites the nostrils, but it does it all in a controlled and self-confident way. It is not over-the-top and showy, instead it sits there quietly exuding its grace and majesty.

This is a celebration of the majesty of Pinot Noir, one of the most loved and most temperamental grapes in the wine world. But it is a celebration held in a booth in a classy restaurant with fine food and fine wine, not a party held in some gaudy Mayfair nightclub favoured by those with too much money and too little class. The wines of Au Bon Climat are rightly revered for being right at the top of their game and this is no exception. A superb wine to match with a superb piece of music!

Tim Milford

Tim Milford is a project manager by day and an enthusiastic wine enthusiast by night! He is no expert when it comes to wine, but likes learning about the wine world one bottle at a time and has a particular penchant for German wine. Tim writes about wine (not as often as he would like) at www.vinspireuk.com and sometimes writes restaurant reviews (even less often, particularly recently) on his own website www.timmilford.com. You can find Tim on Twitter (@timmilford) and Instagram (@tjmilford), should you like to do those kinds of thing.

Make Mine A Double, Tasting Events

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

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

Innocent Bystander Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2018

Innocent Bystander Pinot Noir

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

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

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

The wines in the Innocent Bystander portfolio include the following:

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

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

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

Framingham Marlborough Pinot Noir 2017

Framingham Pinot Noir

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

 

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

Single Bottle Review

Classic and Classy: Fritz Haag Riesling

My love for Alsace wines – especially its Rieslings – is without parallel, yet even I am forced to concede: Other Rieslings Are Available!  Given the grape’s Germanic origins and it’s position as the most widely planted grape there (23% of vineyard area as of 2015) it is only fair to look to Germany.  Of all Germany’s 13 wine regions, for me the most synonymous with quality Riesling is the Mosel.

The Mosel wine region had SaarRuwer appended to its name until 1st August 2007, and those two names still account for two of the six Mosel Districts (Bereiche).   Also, adjacent to Luxembourg, the Obermosel and Moseltor Districts are home to modest wines – still and sparkling – made from Elbing and other “lesser” grapes.  The final two Mosel Districts are the most important.  The Berg Cochem District is also known as the Terraced Mosel (Terrassenmosel) as many of its slopes are incredibly steep and are terraced so that they can be worked.  The final District is Bernkastel which includes the famous sundial vineyards.

The Haag family have run their estate in Brauneberg, Bernkastel District,  since 1605.  I have previously reviewed their Brauneberger Juffer Grosses Gewächs Riesling and Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel.  Now I turn to their “entry level” dry Riesling.

Disclosure: bottle was kindly given as a sample, opinions remain my own

Fritz Haag Mosel Riesling Trocken 2018

fritz-haag-riesling-trocken

Weingut Fritz Haag hand pick their Riesling grapes for this wine from their slate-soil vineyards around their home base of Brauneberg.  Fermentation takes place in both large wooden vats (for a touch of roundness) and stainless-steel tanks (for freshness).  As many who are fluent in wine know “Trocken” means dry in German, so the fermentation is not stopped early to make the wine sweet (although Fritz Haag does make some brilliant sweet wines).

This estate Riesling pours a light lemon in the glass.  The nose is full of citrus with lifted mineral tones – and unmistakable Riesling character.

The measured residual sugar is 7.5 g/L which would be creeping into off-dry territory for some grapes, but set against this Riesling’s acidity it merely tames the zing a little and brings out the fruitiness of the wine.

On the palate we find fleshy lime, grapefruit and peach combined – you don’t taste them individually but there’s a new super-fruit that combines all their characteristics!  Light and lithe, a wine that dances on your tongue before disappearing down your throat.  Once in your stomach it sends a direct signal to your brain for another taste!  The finish is dry as you’d expect from a Trocken wine, but the fruit sweetness in the mid-palate banishes any thoughts of this being too dry.

The TL;DR review: tastes of deliciousness!

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RS: 7.5 g/L
  • RRP: €23
  • Stockists: Blackrock Cellar; Clontarf wines; F.X. Buckley Victualler & Grocer; Jus de Vine; McHugh’s Off-Licences, Kilbarrack Rd & Malahide Rd; Nectar Wines; The Vintry; The Wine Pair; Sweeney’s D3; Avoca Ballsbridge; The Corkscrew; Deveney’s Dundrum; D-SIX Off Licence; Drink Store Stoneybatter; Grapevine, Dalkey; La Touche, Greystones; Lotts & Co.; Martins Off Licence; Terroirs, Donnybrook