Wine Of The Week

Wine of the Week: St. John’s Road Motley Bunch GMS

St John’s Road is a small scale winery in South Australia’s Barossa making a small range of three Barossa Valley reds and a solitary Eden Valley white. Their wines undoubtedly reflect their origins, but also a European sense of balance and elegance – possibly due to the time their founders spent in the south of France.

Grapes for the red wines are mainly sourced from long-term partner growers in Stonewell, Light Pass, and Gomersal, plus their own small holdings.

St. John’s Road Motley Bunch GMS 2016

St. John's Road Motley Bunch Barossa Valley GMS 2016

GMS is a twist on the classic Southern Rhône GSM blend, with Mataro (a.k.a. Mourvèdre, 36%) overtaking the Shiraz (27%) in the blend, but Grenache narrowly staying up front with 37%. It’s not just a case of chucking all the grapes into a fermenter, either; they are selected, vinified and matured to give an end wine that is more than the sum of its parts. Grenache doesn’t shine with new oak nor lots of oxygen so it’s matured in old 500 litre French oak puncheons. The Mataro and Shiraz elements are aged in smaller, 300 litre hogsheads, though only 10% of this oak was new.

How does this translate in the glass? To kick off, it pours a bright, glowing ruby. The nose shows lifted strawberry aromas and perfumed redcurrants, tinged with notes of spice and earth. The palate is lithe and delicious, with delightful red and black fruits to the fore, and a touch of oak in the background. There are also savoury, gamey notes which stop this wine running away with itself, and plenty of structure to frame everything nicely.

There’s no doubt that this is an Aussie wine, but it’s a modern, food-friendly wine which speaks firmly and produly of its origins but doesn’t shout.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €20
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists (2017): jnwine.com; La Touche Wines, Greystones

 

Wine Of The Week

Wine of the Week: Pegasus Bay Sauvignon Semillon

Almost a year ago to the day I published a producer profile of Pegasus Bay, arguably the top producer in New Zealand’s Waipara, which included tasting notes on their stunning Chardonnay and Pinot Noir plus an aged sweet Riesling from my cellar. I recently spotted another of their wines for sale so snapped it up, their Sauvignon Semillon blend:

Pegasus Bay Sauvignon Semillon 2018

Pegasus Bay Sauvignon Semillon 2

The pairing of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon is a staple of Bordeaux white wines – infact you could easily call it a White Bordeaux Blend as the counterpart to Cabernet / Merlot red blends. In the Graves, these white blends often have as much prestige as the reds, if not more, and of course Sauvignon and Semillon are the basis of Sauternes and other Bordelais sweeties. As temperatures have risen in Bordeaux, the higher acidity – and hence freshness – of Sauvignon has been at a premium, so the blend has moved decisively in favour of that variety.

Outside the Gironde, the Sauvignon/ Semillon blend has proved most successful in Western Australia’s Margaret River, a wine region founded on the premise that its climate was similar to that of Bordeaux. It has become such a mainstay of the region that few producers omit if from their portfolio.

Waipara’s temperate climate is suited for what I might call “cool+” climate varieties; those such as Riesling and Pinot Noir which really need a cap on temperatures, and those such as Chardonnay which are flexible and can be grown in a range of climates, albeit with differing styles.

Pegasus Bay’s Sauvignon and Semillon vines are over 30 years old and planted on poor fertility, free-draining soil and so have low yields. The old equation that low yields = high quality doesn’t always hold, but it does in this case. Concurrent freshness and ripeness are achieved thanks to the long Waipara growing season with warm days but cool nights.

The Pegasus Bay website’s tasting notes for this wine mention “a hint of struck match complexity” but to me this is a real understatement – I found it quite pronounced on opening the bottle, initially overwhelming the fruit. It also dominates the palate at this young age – and yes, it’s still a young wine as there is only one younger vintage released (2019) which probably hasn’t yet made its way up north from New Zealand. I found it far better integrated on the second day of tasting, where the reductive notes become a foil for the fruit rather than a blunt instrument that is constantly beating it up. If1 I were to buy another bottle I would either just lay it down for a few years or be better prepared and decant it for several hours before tasting.

This is not a cheap wine, but it compares favourably with Pessac-Léognan examples at twice the price – and it has a screwcap to seal2 the deal on longer ageing.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €32.95
  • Source: purchased
  • Stockists: O’Briens; The Corkscrew, Chatham St; wineonline.ie; Barnhill Stores; Pinto Wines, Drumcondra; Deveneys Dundrum, On The Grape Vine, Dalkey

1 I know, “if” really means “when”!

2 Sorry

Wine Of The Week

Wine of the Week: Trapiche Finca Ambrosia Malbec

Argentinian Malbec is one of those wines which no wine retailer will be without, and it’s likely that most restaurants will offer one on their list – especially if they take their steaks seriously. However, Malbec is often seen as a commodity wine, one that is similar no matter who makes it, and thus price becomes the main differentiating factor.

Once you go beyond the big volume commercial blends, often in an independent off licence, the field opens up: “Mendoza” is not the only geographic designation on the label – with small sub-regions indicated – or even at all, with other regions such as Salta and San Juan also featuring. Even further down the specialisation route is the single vineyard bottling – and here’s one such expression:

Trapiche Single Vineyard Series Finca Ambrosia Malbec 2015

Terroir Series Finca Ambrosia Malbec 2Like most Malbecs, this is fairly dark in the glass, though not quite opaque. The nose is perfumed, with lifted scents of cedar and ripe blackberries, plums and blackcurrants. Just fabulous! On the palate this wine is full of youth. It’s a big mouthful, certainly; delightfully smooth, with the cedar back again with the black fruits. There is great structure here, tannins which are fairly firm but not in the slightest bit austere: the fruit has the tannins put firmly in their place.

I tried this wine before noting the vintage – to think that this is close to seven years old is incredible as it is still so powerful. But not dauntingly so, it can be enjoyed on its own without food. A winner in my book.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €38 – €40
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: Martins Off Licence, Redmonds of Ranelagh
Wine Of The Week

Wine of the Week: RhonéA Rasteau Tradition

RhonéA1 is a superco-op, an agglomeration of 5 existing co-ops from the South Rhône. Their range covers a distinct part of the Rhône méridional, based on where the member co-ops’ own members vineyards lie: the AOCs of Beaumes-de-Venise, Gigondas, Rasteau, Sablet, Vacqueyras and Visan.

Included in their range is a Côtes du Rhône blended in collaboration with local chefs – “Légende des Toques” – but for a few euro more their Rasteau blend is a distinct step up:

RhonéA Rasteau Tradition 2019

RhonéA Rasteau Tradition

Rasteau has only been an AOC for dry red wines for a dozen years or so, and still flies under the radar next to Gigondas, Vacqueras and of course Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Perhaps there’s a certain underdoggedness (if such a word exists) which makes them state that Rasteau is a “Cru” on the label; or, perhaps, it’s for the benefit of consumers who aren’t that familiar with “Rasteau” but do know “Rhône”2.

Back to the wine itself, and this is a typical southern Rhône GSM blend, consisting of 60% Grenache (Noir), 25% Syrah and 15% Mourvèdre. No oak is used for either fermentation or maturation – concrete tanks give a little softer edge than stainless steel but no added aromas or flavours.

It’s perhaps a touch darker in the glass than it’s CdR sibling: that’s the Syrah and Mourvèdre showing their face. The Grenache comes through strongly on the nose with a big hit of alpine strawberries and blackberries, but there’s also more intense and darker fruit, lavender, violets and thyme. The palate has all those herbs and dark fruit notes intertwined in a tasty package. The finish moves more towards black olive and savoury notes: once again the minor players make a big impression!

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €19.95 currently down to €16.95
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

1No, there’s no circumflex over in RhonéA, despite there being one in Rhône. And no, I don’t know why not!

2Just like “Blaye Cotes de Bordeaux”; there will be some who aren’t familiar with “Blaye” but do know “Bordeaux”!

Tasting Events

SuperValu Spanish and Portuguese Reds

My last post looked at some of the whites in SuperValu’s Spanish and Portuguese wine sale. Now it’s time for a few choice red wines:

Fado Friendship Lisboa Reserva D’Amizade 2019

Friendship Fado ReservaThe colourful label of this wine reminds me of another Lisbon red, Porta 6, though I don’t believe they are related. The blend here is 40% Tinta Roriz (a.k.a. Tempranillo), 30% Alicante Bouschet and 30% Syrah. The vineyards are fairly young (around 15 years of age) on clay calcarous soils close to the coast. This all makes for a fruit-forward, easy drinking wine, though with plenty of body and richness.

The fruits cover quite a spectrum – red, blue and black, with a nice lick of vanilla. There are some gentle tannins to give a bit of structure, but this is a wine to be enjoyed now rather than several years hence. Drink with lamb tagine, marinated barbecue dishes or just with Friends…

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €13.99 down to €10.00 from 10th February 2022 to 2nd March 2022
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

Casa de La Ermita Lunatico Jumilla Monastrell 2019

Casa de La Ermita Lunatico

The label shows a cyclist riding a penny farthing on the moon, so that’s definitely one version of a “lunatic”! Jumilla is in south eastern Spain to has plenty of the sunshine required to fully ripen Monastrell, known as Mourvèdre in France. By far the most important variety in Jumilla, it makes up 100% of this bottle.

After fermentation it spends 12 months in French barriques, the effects of which are certainly apparent on the palate – there’s a really creamy vanilla aspect to the wine against which the rich fruit is set. In the grand scheme of things the Lunatico isn’t a million miles away from the Fado about, but it’s bigger, bolder and a little more serious. €14 is a steal for this wine!

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €19.99 down to €13.39 from 10th February 2022 to 2nd March 2022
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

Finca Tobella Mosaic Priorat Winemaker’s Selection 2020

mosaic de finca tobella priorat

Priorat is something of an insider’s pick, the sort of wine that’s not common on supermarket shelves in these parts, and seldom inexpensive. This is an “entry level” Priorat, designed to be approachable and refreshing but also affordable. Like many wines from Priorat it’s a blend of local varieties and some from across the northern border: 38% Garnacha (Grenache), 32%  Syrah, 26% Carignan and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon.

In the glass it has a dark core and a purple rim. The nose has notes of strawberries and blackberries, blackcurrant, spice and a touch of black olive. There’s a nice custard creaminess as well. The palate has a pleasing richness and body, but not too jammy. There are tangy black fruits and vanilla, but the acidity keeps it all in balance. A touch of tannin features on the finish, but it’s not too drying. This is a pretty good wine for the normal RRP, very good for the offer price!

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €19.99 down to €13.39 from 10th February 2022 to 2nd March 2022
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

La Única IV Edition

La única IV Edition

Make yourself comfortable, because this is a different kind of wine entirely. La Única is the result of a collaboration between famous Argentine artist Marinao Rinaldi Goñi and the Solís family who make wine across northern Spain. The fourth edition is a blend of Tempranillo under its local names in different wine regions: 60% Tinto Fino from Ribero del Duero, 30% Tempranillo from Rioja and 10% Tinta de Toro from Toro. The final blend is the result of extensive tasting with renowned Spanish and international wine experts, partially virtual for the fourth edition due to Covid.

The nose immediately announces this as a special wine. It’s perfumed, wild, and oaky, with fresh red and black fruits. It’s the sort of nose that could prevent you from drinking – as you don’t want to tear your nose away from the glass! The palate is so juicy and alive, with a cornucopia of red fruits dancing on your tongue. It has heft but isn’t heavy; it has freshness and richness at the same time. This is a truly exceptional wine.

And the price? . As so many wines get promoted at half price, there’s a tendancy to view half price offers with scepticism – has the regular price been inflated just so that the wine can go on a half price promotion? I can categorically state that this is not the case with this wine – the only issue is that many stores have already sold their allocations.

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €49.99 down to €25.00 from 10th February 2022 to 2nd March 2022
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

 

 

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
Information

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)