Tasting Events

SuperValu Spanish and Portuguese Whites

After several years of successful French and Italian Wine Sales, Irish supermarket chain have launched a joint Spanish and Portuguese Wine Sale, running from 10th February to 2nd March. Bargains galore are to be had, but which are good and which are great? Here are brief notes on four whites which are all worth picking up.

Abellio Albariño 2021

Abellio Albariño

This is a bright, refreshing Albariño from north west Spain; a variety that is very popular in these parts, and sometimes overpriced due to customer recognition. This example is on the simple side, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. The citrus fruits are joined by the saline notes typical of the Atlantic coast. The normal price is perhaps a little steep, but on offer at a tenner it’s one to buy in bulk in preparation for longer spring evenings.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €14.99 down to €10.00 from 10th February 2022 to 2nd March 2022
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Five Hidden Lagoons Sauvignon Blanc 2021

Five Hidden Lagoons Organic Sauvignon Blanc

What’s this, a SPANISH Sauvignon Blanc? Yes, and it’s not the first either as varietal examples in Rueda are not uncommon. Whereas those I’ve tried from Ruesda have been somewhat similar to less expensive Sauvignons from the Loire, this is more New Zealand in style. The nose has lots of tropical notes: passionfruit, mango, pineapple and grapefruit. The palate is tangy, slightly more centred with grapefruit and gooseberry to the fore but those exotic fruits still in the background. The acidity is good but not searing, making for a crisp finish, dry but not bone dry.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €14.99 down to €10.00 from 10th February 2022 to 2nd March 2022
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Marqués de Cáceres Rueda 2021

Marqués de Cáceres Rueda Verdejo

Rueda is increasingly the white wine playground of major players from Rioja, offering an alternative to white Rioja which is seldom expensive and doesn’t rely on oak or oxidative ageing for character – Verdejo has plenty, thanks. This is a clean, fresh wine, all about stone fruit, lemon, lime and orange. It’s pithy and tangy with great texture, a great example of the grape and the region.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €14.99 down to €10.00 from 10th February 2022 to 2nd March 2022
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie and supervalu.ie

Viñas del Vero Somontano Gewürztraminer 2021

Viñas Del Vero Somontano Gewürztraminer

Sticking with the German rather than Alsatian spelling, this Gewürztraminer is from the fairly new region of Somontano, in the foothills of the Pyrenees. Unlike the wines above it does have some colour, though not as dark as some Gewurz I’ve seen. True to form, it’s highly aromatic, though not like sniffing perfume; gentle rose petals and other floral notes float out of the glass. Almost a touch musky. The palate is perfectly poised! A little sweetness, though only a little, and a round, enticing mouthfeel. There’s almost a touch of sweet and sour, though scaled down from the Chinese sauce. A wine in balance, then, and not overblown. This is actually a great introduction to the grape.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €14.99 down to €10.00 from 10th February 2022 to 2nd March 2022
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Frankly Wines Pick

The order of the wines above ended up being my order of preference. It’s rare to find a balanced Gewurz that hits the spot, but the example from Viñas del Vero does exactly that – and it’s incredible value at €10.

 

 

Wine Of The Week

Wine of the Week: Astrolabe Southern Valleys Chenin Blanc

Family-owned Marlborough winery Astrolabe make some excellent Sauvignon Blancs including their Province Sauvignon Blanc and Awatere Valley Sauvignon Blanc. The full range made at the winery is significantly more extensive than is available to us here in Ireland, but one relatively new release here is their Chenin Blanc Sec from Marlborough’s Southern Valleys:

Astrolabe Southern Valleys Sec Chenin Blanc 2020

Astrolabe Southern Valleys Chenin Blanc Sec

Chenin Blanc is up there with Riesling as one of the most versatile grape varieties around – it makes great sparkling wine, and still wines that can range from bone dry to intensely sweet. Outside of South Africa it hasn’t had the same press as Riesling, however – how many winemakers outside Europe dream of making a great Chenin compared to dreams of Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir? 

Marlborough’s long, cool growing season is perfect for aromatic varieties, and while Sauvignon Blanc is the runaway favourite there it has also been a successful home to Riesling, Grüner Veltiner and others. So why not Chenin?

In the glass this Southern Valleys Chenin Blanc pours a bright straw yellow, something that sets it apart from Marlborough Sauvignon. The nose is fruit driven with notes of apple blossom, orange peel, pink grapefruit and some pip fruit. The palate is all Tarte Normande1, minerals, honey and fresh citrus.

So yes, this wine definitely has some sweetness. It’s labelled as a “Sec” i.e. a dry wine, but dry doesn’t always mean dry. In Champagne, for example, a Sec has between 17 and 32 g/L of residual sugar, with demi-sec above that at 32 to 50. Tellingly, the Astrolabe product page for this wine did have demi-sec in its description before being corrected.

In the end it’s not the amount of residual sugar on its own that determines how sweet a wine tastes, the flavours and acidity profile have a significant effect. I would classify this wine as off-dry, but more importantly as delicious!

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

1That’s an apple tarte from Normandy, you heathens!

 

 

Wine Of The Week

Wine of the Week: Domaine Fournier Pouilly Fumé “Les Deux Cailloux”

Domaine Fournier are a class outfit based in the Loire Valley’s two most renowned Sauvignon Blanc appellations, Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. I really enjoyed their Sancerre Les Belles Vignes when I tried it a year or so ago. I recently tried the counterpart to that wine from the other side of the river:

Domaine Fournier Père et Fils Pouilly Fumé “Les Deux Cailloux” 2020

Fournier Pouilly Fumé Les Deux Cailloux 2020

For those who don’t speak French, “Les Deux Cailloux” just means “The Two Pebbles”, a reference to the stony soils of the area. This makes perfect sense for a river-based wine region!

The wine itself is lemony gold in the glass. It has an expressive nose with juicy, succulent gooseberry and grapefruit drawing you in. These notes follow through to the palate where they are joined by green pepper, smoke and minerality. It’s quite round and supple in the mid-palate – something which elevates it above the simpler wines of the Loire – though there’s no doubting the crisp Sauvignon finish.

This is a well-put-together, gastronomic wine. While it doesn’t offer anything particularly original and might seem similar in style to many other Loire Sauvignons, it is definitely a cut above most of them and well worth a try.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €29.95
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: Deveneys Dundrum; Saltwater Grocery; SC Grocer, Monkstown
Wine Of The Week

Wine of the Week: Stonier Mornington Peninsula Chardonnay 2016

Kicking off my new Wine of the Week series, here’s a classy modern Aussie Chardonnay that doesn’t break the bank.

Stonier Mornington Peninsula Chardonnay 2016

Stonier Mornington Peninsula Chardonnay

The 2020 vintage of this wine was released recently, so I plucked this 2016 bottling out of my wine fridge to see how it was getting on. In fact I reviewed the 2016  Stonier Chardonnay almost three years ago.

As the climate continues to warm, the southern-most wine regions of Australia have moved into focus. The key places for Aussie Chardonnay are now South Australia’s Adelaide Hills, parts of Tasmania, Victoria’s Yarra Valley and Mornington Pensinsula. Coastal exposure is the key to their microclimates, along with any altitude that’s available.

As might be inferred from its name, the Mornington Peninsula is surrounded by water on three sides. Grapes for this wine are sourced from a variety of vineyards across the area. Those from the coolest sites are allowed to go through malolactic fermentation (MLF) to round out the acidity and the remainder have MLF blocked to provide freshness to the blend. Oak is used for maturing a good portion of the wine, but only a small fraction is new – it’s all about texture and body.

At close to six years of age this wine retains the struck-match reductive character on the nose that it had on release. It also has plenty of fruit on offer, largely pineapple with hints of grapefuit and lemon. The finish is long and fresh, with a keen mineral streak thoughout.

Although this wine has been on offer at O’Briens (it is exclusive to them in Ireland) it is well worth the normal full sticker price

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €27.95
  • Source: purchased
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie
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Top 10 O’Briens Xmas Sale Wines

I’ve already given my recommendations on Christmas wines to buy from Aldi Ireland and SuperValu; now it’s the turn of O’Briens and my selection of five whites and five reds which are not just very good wines, but also on offer!

Guerrieri Rizzardi Lugana 2020

Guerrieri Rizzardi Lugana

Straight to the point: this an excellent example of Lugana, an excellent example of Italian white wine, come to that, so it’s definitely worth snapping up while on offer at around €15. For more details see my previous article on Summer Sippers, though to be honest I’d drink this whatever the season.

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RRP: €18.95 down to €14.95
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Astrolabe Awatere Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2021

Astrolabe Awatere Valley Sauvignon Blanc

Sometimes less is more. I’m a big fan of Astrolabe’s regular Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc which is a blend of fruit from across the region. Simon Waghorn’s Awatere Valley bottling is leaner, greeener and cooler in nature; it’s less exuberant, less obvious, less tropical, but damn tasty and a little more food friendly.

The nose is big on green pepper, fennel and mangetout, with hints of grapefruit. The palate is clean, mineral and racy; it is lightness personified, herbal and distinguished. While being more food friendly it doesn’t require food. Whether looking for a premium Marlborough Sauvignon or just a change of take on the region, this is well worth a try.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €22.45 down to €19.95
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Geal Rías Baixas Albariño 2020

Geal Rías Baixas Albariño

Some wines available at O’Briens are exclusive to them in Ireland, but even more exclusive are those made by O’Briens Director of Wine Lynne Coyle MW. One is a Navarra rosé (“Rós” which is Irish for “Rose”) made in partnership with Bodegas Tandem and the other is this Geal (the Irish for “White”) Albariño made with Sonia Costa Fontán of Bodega Lagar de Costa.

The 50 year old vines are from a single vineyard within spitting distance / sea spray of the Atlantic in Galicia’s Rías Baixas. The grapes are harvested by hand from pergola frames (to be honest it would be pretty difficult to get a tractor up there) which have traditionally been used to let breezes get to the clusters and allow other crops to be grown underneath. Fermentation is with indigenous yeast and the wine matures on fine lees in a concrete egg – a shape which encourages circulation of the lees – for eight months.

Although wild yeasts are used there is no funk to this wine which you might expect from other wines which explicitly use wild yeast such as Greywacke Wild Sauvignon and Gai’a Wild Ferment Assyrtiko – it’s clean as a whistle. What it is not, however, is boring – there’s  blend of saline notes and orchard fruits on the nose, especially pear. The palate is wonderfully creamy yet still precise, with apple and pear balanced by touches of citrus on one side and white peach on the other. The finish is mouth-wateringly fresh.

The distinct salinity to this wine makes it an obvious choice to partner seafood, but it would be a treat with other light dishes or on its own.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €24.95 down to €19.95
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Delheim Stellenbosch Chardonnay Sur Lie 2020

Delheim Stellenbosch Chardonnay Sur Lie

I will be publishing an article on Delheim next year so I will save the juicy bits for that, but this is a terrific wine that is a great ambassador for South African Chardonnay. Like its sibling Chenin Blanc this wine sees plenty of time ageing in oak barrels, but it draws just as much character from lees stirring as the actual oak – hence “Sur Lie”. This isn’t one for Chablis fans but if you like a drop of Meursault (see below) then this is well worth a try.

Chanson Meursault 2018

Chanson Meursault

Before I’d heard of Montrachet and Corton-Charlemagne there was one white Burgundy AOC which stood out: Meursault. It wasn’t cheap then, as now, but remains somewhat accessible – especially when on offer. Chanson’s history dates back to 1750 but gained significant investment and additional distribution after its acquisition by Bollinger in 1999. Since then Chanson have expanded their own holdings from 38 to 45 hectares, but also brought in tighter quality control at the growers they work with.

The grapes for this 2018 Meursault are bought from four local growers, selected for a combination of elegance and depth. As you’d expect maturation is in (French) oak barrels, though the proportion of new oak is modest. The influence of the oak is noticeable on the depth of colour – it’s a lovely light gold. The oak and lees also make themselves known on the nose, though not intrusively so. The palate is generous but mineral, nutty and creamy yet with gentle orchard fruits. Decant if you can.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €55.00 down to €46.00
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Porta 6 Lisboa Red 2019

Porta 6 Lisboa Red

This is the party wine you buy in bulk when guests are going to be supping away without paying too much attention to what they’re drinking, but you don’t want to be rude and drink something different yourself: i.e. a great value red that pleases the crowd. Check out my previous review of Porta 6 for the full story and get yourself a bottle, box or case.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €12.95 down to €10.00
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie (Magnums only online right now)

Emiliana Novas Syrah Mourvèdre 2017

Emiliana Novas Syrah Mourvèdre Gran Reserva

I will have more to report on the Emiliana Novas range in due course, but this organic red blend is a flagbearer for the label. In the glass it’s almost opaque, unless you’ve just got a tasting pour which reveals a deep ruby red. The nose is phenomenal with deep, sweet-scented black fruits – blackberry and blackcurrant – with smoke, vanilla and spice also present. The palate also has a big lick of black fruit, but not at all jammy or over-the-top sweet; the 15% Mourvèdre adds a tapenade and liquorice savoury edge. Drying yet fine-grained tannins and acidity keep the keel even.

This is a really well put together, balanced, interesting and delicious wine. At €16.95 it’s good value, but at €12.95 it’s a steal!

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €16.95 down to €12.95
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Eddystone Point Tasmania Pinot Noir 2018

Eddystone Point Tasmania Pinot Noir

Tasmania is known for its cooler climate wines, especially Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and traditional method sparkling based on that pair of grapes. Tasmanian wine aficionados might be familiar with the wines from Tolpuddle; they are excellent, though priced accordingly, and somewhat shy in their youth. Eddystone Point’s Pinot Noir does not suffer the same reticence – it has bright red fruits just bursting with flavour, tinged with exotic spice. There’s a real polish to this wine without any sense of confecture or manufacture; thrilling acidity keeps the fruit and the finish vitally fresh.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €24.95 down to €20.95
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz 2018

Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz

Penfolds has always been an iconic producer for me since I caught the wine bug in the 1990s. Bin 28 was actually the first ever “Bin” wine given a commercial release by Penfolds, back in 1959. At that time it was based solely on fruit from the Kalimna vineyard in the Barossa Valley; now it is a blend from several vineyards across South Australia, though the Barossa core remains. Whereas Bin 389 Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz is sometimes known as “Baby Grange” or “Poor Man’s Grange” because some barrels which don’t quite make the cut for Grange can be included in that wine, similarly any Shiraz barrels which don’t make it into the Bin 389 can also be included in the Bin 28 as they are all matured in American oak, and so remain on style.

And what style! There’s no mistaking the origin of this wine when assessing its aromas: blackberry, plum, violet, vanilla and spice co-mingle delightfully. Black fruits are joined with fresh raspberries, thyme and rosemary plus dark chocolate on the palate, with lightly drying tannins and good acidity providing a backbone. This is lovely to drink now, but would benefit from decanting or storing for a few more years.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €37.95 down to €29.95
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores

Gérard Bertrand Maury Tuilé 2010

Gérard Bertrand Maury Tuilé

Maury is one of the trio of Vin Doux Naturel appellations in the Roussillon region (French Catalonia), the others being Rivesaltes and Banyuls. They are fortified before fermentation has finished to leave some residual sugar – hence the term which means “Naturally Sweet Wine” – somewhat similar to Port. Unlike, say, a Vintage Port which is foot trodden, fermented and bottled quickly, the grapes for this Maury spend a month in vat before being gently pressed. While Port uses its champion indigenous varieties this is made with 100% Grenache Noir, a gentler, lighter and less tannic grape. After pressing the wine spends a year ageing in barrel then a further year ageing in bottle before release.

Although it hasn’t spent a decade in barrel, this Maury is closest to a Tawny Port in style. It’s a dark amber in the glass and has wonderful aromas of spice and dried fruits. To taste, it’s almost Christmas in a glass: quite sweet, raisins, plums, nuts and mixed peel, a good shake of cinnamon. The French would drink this as an aperitif, but it makes much more sense to go with seasonal desserts or even a box of chocolates – I can confirm it was magnificent with salted caramel truffles!

  • ABV: 16.0%
  • RRP: €22.95 down to €19.95
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores (larger stores only at present)
Make Mine A Double

Protos Rueda and Protos Ribera del Duero Crianza

The history of Bodegas Protos is inherently entwined with that of Ribero del Duero. While the world famous Vega Sicila estate was founded before Protos (1864 versus 1929), Protos allowed its brand name “Ribera Duero” to be used for the Denominación de Origen when it was established in 1982.

Protos had already built a monumental ageing cellar in the previous decade. Over 2km of tunnels were bored into the side of a mountain to give them the perfect place for long ageing of wine in barrel and bottle. Four years after the creation of the DO, the Bodega built a new wine making facility closer to their Ribero del Duero vineyards in Anguix. Not resting on their laurels, they also built their own winery in the (principally) white wine DO of Rueda in 2006. Although white Ribera del Duero does exist – made in very small quantitiies from Albillo – it is the nearby Rueda which is the natural place Ribera del Duero producers look to for white wines.

Here are two of the Protos range which impressed me recently.

Protos Rueda 2020

Protos Verdejo

Protos’s Rueda vineyards have free draining gravel soils at an altitude of 800 to 900 metres above sea level, so cool night time temperatures help to preserve acidity in the grapes. The Verdejo grapes are machine harvested at night from vines over 15 years old. (Possibly coincidently, the grape which Verdejo is often compared to is Sauvignon Blanc, and night harvesting by machine is very much in vogue in Marlbourgh.)

Fermentation is carried out at cool temperature to preserve fresh flavours and then the must is aged on fine lees for around three months (“Criado sobre lias finas” as it says on the front label.)

In the glass this Rueda is a bright lemon with green flecks. The nose is expressive with lemon, lime, quince and a touch of gooseberry. These notes continue through onto the palate, but also leesy and tangy characters. In the mouth there’s also some decent texture from its time on the lees. The finish is crisp and pleasantly bittersweet. This is a superior Rueda!

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €15 – €17
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Mortons Food Stores; Fine Wines; La Touche Wines, Greystones; On the Grapevine, Dalkey; wineonline.ie; theallotment.ie

Protos Ribera del Duero Crianza 2017

Protos Ribera del Duero

Protos make several different bottlings in their home of Ribero del Duero. The youngest is the Roble which is aged for six months in a combination of French and American oak (hence the name: Roble is Spanish for oak) and six months in bottle. The Crianza spends 12 months in barrel then 12 in bottle, for the Reserva it’s 18 and 24 months respectively, and for the Gran Reserva the periods are 24 and 36 months.

The ageing regime is not the only thing that distinguishes the wines from each other; the age of the vines and the proportion of new oak also increases as we rise up the quality ladder. The Crianza therefore comes from Tinta del país (aka Tempranillo!) vines of 30 to 35 years. The year it spends in barrel is split into three parts: a third new French oak, a third one year old American and French and a third two year old American and French, with the thirds being blended back together before bottling.

So what are the results of this complex process? The wine is ruby red in the glass as one would expect for its age. The nose has rich dark fruits and a little vanilla. These are reflected on the palate which is smooth and velvety. It’s a powerful yet approachable wine, tasty yet elegant.

For me this wine is the sweetspot of the Protos range; a delicious wine that won’t break the bank, complex yet not too arcane.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €24 – €26
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Mortons Food Stores; Fine Wines; La Touche Wines, Greystones; On the Grapevine, Dalkey; wineonline.ie, theallotment.ie

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

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5 of the Best Aldi Wines for Xmas

The Irish branch of Aldi have an extensive range of special wines released for the festive period. Here we have five which have impressed me: two French fizzes (one a Blanc de Blancs and one a blanc de Noirs), a pair of Loire Sauvignon Blancs and a Tawny Port to finish off the evening. All wines tasted were samples.

Specially Selected Crémant du Jura Brut 2018

Specially Selected Crémant du Jura Brut NV

It’s back! For how long is not known, so grab it while it’s here. Aldi’s remarkable Jura Blanc de Blancs is not always available but it’s one of the best value sparklers on the market. It’s made from 100% Chardonnay in the Jura region on France’s eastern border. Jura is actually one of the few French regions outside Burgundy that does still and sparkling Chardonnay really well – though it is home to other grapes and styles.

The nose is a full on citrus experience, with touches of golden delicious apple and melon to round it off. The palate is bright and creamy with depth and no little complexity. The finish is fine, long and crisp. This could serve equally well as an aperitif with nibbles, with seafood or even on its own. In other times this has been our house fizz at this time of year – there has always been a bottle or two in the fridge to share with any visitors. Given the times we are in, I suppose I’ll have to drink it myself!

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RRP: €13.99
  • Stockists: Aldi Ireland stores and aldi.ie

Champagne Philizot Blanc de Noirs Brut NV

Champagne Philizot Et Fils Blanc de Noir Brut NV

So here we have a true Champagne made as a white sparkler (Blanc) from only black grapes (de Noirs). In fact both Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier – the two main black grapes of Champagne – are used in equal proportions. Producer Philizot et Fils also make Aldi’s staple Veuve Monsigny which has scored very well in recent high profile blind tastings. To be honest I’ve liked Veuve Monsigny when I’ve tried it but wasn’t blown away – which is fair enough for €20 in Ireland. Is this more premium offering any better?

Yes, yes it is.

The nose is wonderful, with yeasty, toasty brioche drawing you in and delicious red fruit notes partiying up your nose. It’s quite a decadent nose, actually, which is a good thing in a quality fizz. In the mouth it’s immediatel creamy and rich, yet balanced by crunchy green and softer red apple acidity. The finish is like tangy, fresh red fruits wrapped in a custard pastry – just delicious!

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RRP: €13.99
  • Stockists: Aldi Ireland stores

Specially Selected Pouilly Fumé 2019

Specially Selected Pouilly Fumé

The first of our Loire Sauvignons is from the second most famous SB appellations in France: Pouilly-Fumé is on the eastern bank of the Loire (where it runs almost due north) opposite Sancerre on the western bank. It pours as a very pale lemon, but the nose is more expressive; initially it’s more reminiscent of a sweet shop than a winebar, with fruit polos and pear drops. These then give way to aromasof gooseberry and hay, with hints of green pepper. In the mouth this Pouilly-Fumé manages to be quite round yet tangy at the same time; it’s clean and fresh but has some body and plenty of green fruit flavours. This is very good for the price; it’s perhaps a little short but everything else is in order.

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RRP: €13.99
  • Stockists: Aldi Ireland stores and aldi.ie

Winemaker’s Lot Chasseaux & Fils Sancerre 2019

Winemaker's Lot Sancerre

To the other side of the river now and the most famous Sauvignon Blanc appellation of all. This wine is from Aldi’s new “Winemaker’s Lot” series which consists of just ten premium wines from key regions. Now €14.99 is not a premium price for an independent, but for a low cost supermarket like Aldi this is probably close to twice its average bottle price.

And on opening it proves to be a different beast entirely to the Pouilly-Fumé above. It looks similarly pale in the glass but on the nose it shows  ripe and succulent green and tropical fruits – grapefuit and pineapple, guava and hints of mango. On the palate it’s quite tight and mineral initially, but opens up to reveal both fruit and a certain wild yeastiness. This is top flight stuff! A small word of caution: to a palate with broad experience such as mine this is a very good wine, but there plenty of people who would prefer the cleaner Pouilly-Fumé.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €14.99
  • Stockists: Aldi Ireland stores

Fletcher’s 10 Year Old Tawny Port

Fletcher's 10 Year Old Tawny Port

Laate Bottled Vintage (LBV) was always my go-to style of Port, but in recent years I’ve been beguiled by the charms of good Tawny Port. Tawny Ports are made from black grapes and then aged in wooden barrels for a number of years before bottling. That might be three years for a basic Tawny, seven years for a Reserve or longer with an age statement such as this 10 Year Old. Maturation in barrel leads to both evaporation – intensifying flavours – and oxidisation – giving a different aspect to the wine entirely. I haven’t heard of Fletcher’s outside of Aldi so they might be a private label.

So, onto the wine itself. Whereas a Ruby or Vintage Port might be opaque, this is lighter, and dark amber or light mahogany would be a good descriptor. The nose is heady – it does weigh in at 20% abv after all – and shows a full range of dried fruits and nuts. In other words, it smells like Christmas pudding with a splash of good brandy on it! These aromas flow through onto the palate, which is medium sweetness. It could pair well with those lovely Christmas desserts, with strong hard cheeses or even with some savoury courses that have some sweet elements to them.

And best of all, being a Tawny Port means that once opened it will keep well in the fridge for several months – if you can keep your hands off it!

  • ABV: 20.0%
  • RRP: €13.99
  • Stockists: Aldi Ireland stores

 

 

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Top 10 SuperValu Xmas Sale Wines

The Christmas Wine Sale is in full flow at Irish supermarket chain SuperValu. I’ve picked out 10 bargains which you should consider popping in your trolley this festive season.

For transparency, note that these were either samples received recently or previously this year.

1. Gran Troya Cava Brut NV

Gran Troya Cava Brut NV

If you find most affordable Proseccos too sweet – and not bubbly enough! – then Cava is a great alternative. Like many Cavas, this one from Gran Troya is made with the three tradtional grapes: Xarel·lo, Macabeo and Parellada using the traditional1 method of second fermentation in bottle. On pouring it’s a bright lemon colour and has plenty of bubbles. The nose is all about orchard fruits – apples and pears – backed up by fresh citrus. These juicy fruits certainly show up on the palate as well, with a fine, crisp finish.

I wouldn’t buy this at the full price of €26 but it offers great value at €12; it’s worthy of a pour as a budget-conscious aperitif or just for sipping while watching Die Hard.

  • ABV: 11.5%
  • RRP: €26.00 down to €12.00
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

2. Aresti Trisquel Sauvignon Blanc Gran Reserva 2020

Aresti Trisquel Sauvignon Blanc

It’s almost obligatory for every Sauvignon Blanc review to mention both the Loire and Marlborough, but this example is from neither and plows its own furrow. Fruit is not the main focus of this wine; rather it’s vegetal notes that are most obvious (would it count as one of your five a day?). Green pepper, asparagus and mangetout make for an interestingly savoury wine, but then gooseberry and lemon slip through the middle to add some citrus seasoning. This is well worth a try to explore another style of Sauvignon.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €15.99 down to €10.70
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

3. Michel Léon Alsace Riesling 2019

Michel Léon Alsace Riesling

This is not a spectacular wine but it’s a great entry into dry Alsace Riesling, and for that it must be highly commended. If you fancy a smoked salmon starter this Christmas then this clean, fresh and citrussy little number will serve you well.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €13.99 down to €12.00
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

4. André Goichot Chablis 2019

André Goichot Chablis

André Goichot’s wines are exclusive to SuperValu in Ireland and manage to be both tasty and affordable – especially when in a sale. I’ve already written in depth on a previous vintage of Goichot Chablis so I’ll spare myself from repetetion, but it’s a textbook Chablis with apple and citrus character – something clean and refreshing with depth.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €19.99 down to €13.39
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

5. Bendel Côtes de Provence Cuvée Caroline Rosé 2020

Bendel Côtes de Provence Cuvée Caroline Rosé

I know it’s not exactly “rosé season” at Christmas, but each to their own, and don’t let anyone tell you when you can drink your favourite style of wine. This is a dry-but-fruity rosé, actually very versatile during the festive period for the main meals and – possibly the best part – the leftover sambos.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €14.99 down to €10.00
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

6. Lacombe Cadiot Bordeaux Supérieur 2019

Château Lacombe Cadiot Bordeaux Supérieur

This is a modern, bright, fruit-forward and powerful Claret. I’ve already written a full description of this Bordeaux Supérieur, but it has amazing notes of cassis, chocolate, violets and hazelnuts in a voluptuous package. Buy a few for this Christmas and put a few down for future years.

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €15.99 down to €10.70
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

7. 19 Crimes Red Blend 2020

19 Crimes Red Blend

An innovative label design and a real crowd-pleaser of a wine make 19 Crimes Red Blend a popular choice for supermarket wine consumers. It offers lots of flavour and richness – perhaps too rich for some – but if you fancy a glass of red while the tin of Roses is passed around, this is your wine!

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €14.99 down to €10.00
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

8. Ricossa Barolo 2016

Ricossa Barolo

I wrote a review on Ricossa’s Gavi and Barolo earlier this year so you can refer to that post for the full story, but the TL;DR2 is that this is an excellent foray into Barolo at a very reasonable price. However, be warned: once you’ve caught the Barolo bug then you might become a long term aficionado. The acidity in this Nebbiolo means it can handle plenty of strongly flavoured foods, especially turkey and ham if that is on your Christmas menu.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €24.99 down to €20.00
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

9. Barão de Vilar Douro Reserva Tinto 2018

Barão de Vilar Douro Riserva Tinto

Just as last year, this is being offered on a case deal – six bottles for €40 – which is incredible value given that I have seen it retail elsewhere for €20 a bottle. Barão de Vilar’s Reserva is made with traditional Portuguese grapes and matured in French oak barrels. Together they give juicy black fruits around a solid structure, a tasty wine to accompany beef or an open fire.

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €40 for a case of 6
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

10. Lady de Mour Margaux 2018

Lady De Mour Margaux

Like Vanessa Williams I’ve saved the best for last! This Margaux from the De Mour group is reasonably priced at €40 but a serious bargain at less than €25. It’s a proper left-bank Bordeaux with ripe blackcurrant, violets and graphite from a majority Cabernet Sauvignon. I don’t care what you’re eating, this is a real treat of a wine that deserves a try!

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €39.99 down to €24.70
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

 

1 So yes, I suppose you could say this wine is quite traditional…

2 “TL;DR” stands for “Too Long; Didn’t Read”, i.e. to cut a story short…

Single Bottle Review

Wine Review: Mastrojanni Brunello di Montalcino 2015

Whereas Chianti has a long and storied history of making wine, its neighbour in Tuscany Montalcino is a more recent newcomer, at least at any scale. The soil around Montalcino is generally poor so few crops were grown and the land mainly given over to woodland and sheep pasture. While some grapes were planted and vinified for local consumption, it was Ferruccio Biondi-Santi who created the first “modern” Brunello and founded the house that still carries his name.

Despite the renown of his Brunello wines the area remained under-utilised. A lawyer from Rome, Gabriele Mastrojanni, bought the San Pio and Loreto estates in 1975 and turned them into vineyards. Mastrojanni followed Biondi-Santi’s lead and planted Sangiovese Grosso grapes, aka Brunello. He planted them in such a way that tractors could be used in the vineyards when desired, but still at a high enough planting density that competition between vines forced them to send down deep roots and not produce too much foliage.

Mastrojanni currently make eight wines:

  • the Brunello is made most years apart from poor harvests such as 1992 and 2002
  • a Rosso is made with similar care but with shorter ageing for earlier drinking
  • a well-established single cru Brunello di Montalcino Vigna Schiena d’Asino, a single hectare vineyard
  • a new single cru Brunello di Montalcino Vigna Loreto, also made only in exceptional years
  • a new wine made with the rare variety Ciliegiolo
  • another new bottling  Costa Colonne from the new DOC Sant’Antimo
  • a Super-Tuscan Cabernet Sauvignon-Sangiovese blend, San Pio
  • a botrytised dessert wine

Mastrojanni Brunello di Montalcino 2015

Mastrojanni Brunello di Montalcino 2015

2015 was a renowned vintage in much of Italy, so I had high hopes for this wine. On pouring – from a half bottle – it was just above medium intensity, with a ruby, somewhat watery rim. Dense black fruits dominate the nose, with black cherry and blackberry to the fore, with notes of exotic spice at the periphery. The palate is powerful and viscous, almost thick in the mouth. Voluptuous black fruits are joined with more savoury notes of black olive, leather and black liquorice. The tannins are ripe so it’s down to the acidity to provide structure and keep everything fresh.

This is a succulent, tasty wine. I hear the 2016 is even more highly regarded, so that would be a special treat to enjoy this winter.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €37.95 (375 ml) / €69.50 (750 ml)
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists (2016 750 ml): Baggot St Wines; Blackrock Cellar; The Corkscrew; Clontarf Wines; Deveneys, Dundrum; D-SIX Off Licence; Grapevine, Dalkey; Lotts and Co, Terenure; Martins Off Licence, Fairview; Michael’s Sutton; Nectar Wines; Redmonds of Ranelagh; Pembroke wines @ Roly’s Bistro; Saltwater Grocery; Sweeney’s D3; The Winehouse – Trim
Single Bottle Review

Wine Review: Porta 6 Lisboa Red 2019

Porta 6 – literally “Door No. 6” – is produced by Vidigal Wines which is headquartered in central Portugal. They produce a substantial number of different wines made in Lisbon (from 450 hectares) and across the country: Tagus, Douro, Alentejo, Dão, Beiras and Vinho Verde. Vidigal is majority family owned and run by António Mendes who has transformed the company’s operations since he took over around 25 years ago. Vidigal export 90% of their production to over 30 countries; Porta 6 is one of their key wines available in Ireland.

Porta 6 Lisboa Red 2019

Porta 6 Lisboa Red

Porta 6 is an everyday-drinking style red wine made from traditional Portuguese grapes: 50% Aragonez (aka Tempranillo), 40% Castelão and 10% Touriga Nacional. It is available in traditional 750 ml glass bottles but also in 1.5 litre and 3.0 litre bag-in-box formats – great for parties and lowering the wine’s carbon footprint by making for a lighter package to transport.

On pouring it’s nearly opaque black in the glass, with a bright purple rim. The nose is fantastic with ripe red and black fruits: think blackberry, black cherry, plum, redcurrant and cranberry, along with some exotic spices. Perhaps it’s just the coming season (no I’m not going to say the “C word”) but it’s almost like smelling a mince pie just before you take a big bite.

In the mouth it is smooth, with a whole winter fruit salad (if such a thing exists…and if it doesn’t, it should) hitting your mouth on the attack. The fruit slips away as you swallow it, leaving some fine grained tannins and a dusting of spice. There’s lots of pleasing fruit in this wine but no jamminess.

This is not a vin de garde or a highly complex one, but with oodles of fruit presented nicely and decent balance, this is worth stocking up on, especially at €10!

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €12.95 or €10.00 when on offer
  • Source: sample (1.5 litre box)
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie