Wine + Music

The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series #9 – Melanie May

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.

Our ninth contributor to this series is the magnificent Melanie May.  Amongst other wines she mentioned that Riesling is her favourite white grape so of course I had to select an Alsace Riesling.  But not any Alsace Riesling, Sipp Mack’s Grand Cru Rosacker which has been a favourite of mine for the best part of a decade.  The 2011 was an amazingly big and heady vintage (at 14.0%!) which will remain in my top wines tasted, but the 2014 is a more elegant and subtle expression at 13.0%.  At around €30 in Ireland it is sensationally good value for money.

On the music side I chose a perennial favourite from the mid ’80s which straddled the rock and goth genres.  Billy Duffy’s powerful riffs help propel the song forward but for me it’s Nigel Preston’s pounding drums which really make the song excel.  This was Preston’s last track with The Cult, and didn’t even feature in the video as his replacement Mark Brzezicki featured instead.

Sipp Mack Alsace Grand Cru Rosacker Riesling 2014 

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Credit: Melanie May

When Frankie asked me to contribute to his wine and music blog series I jumped at the chance. Not only because it gives me an opportunity to combine my love of writing, wine and music, but also my love of psychology too.

A little background, I used to take photographs of musicians and travelled around the UK snapping bands like The White Stripes, Razorlight, Stereophonics and The Libertines. My life revolved around going to gigs and backstage parties. Of course, that rock and roll lifestyle is well behind me now but my love of music is still as strong as ever.

Nowadays, I am a food and drink and travel writer and I have a WSET Level 3 Award in Wines. Before becoming a full-time writer though, I was studying to become a Clinical Psychologist and did my dissertation in Neuroscience.

Through my studies in psychology, I became aware of how different sensory experiences complement each other. There has been a few studies showing how music effects the perception and taste of wine. Did you know that people will buy significantly more expensive wine if classical music is playing than if the Top 40 is on? Apparently classical music encourages consumers to look for quality wines. Try it in your wine shop and see!

So, this pairing wine and music challenge is right up my street! I love this stuff.

I told Frankie that Riesling was my favourite white. So, when he asked me to pair a song to the 2014 Sipp Mack Riesling Grand Cru Rosacker my mouth instantly started watering. I had not tried that particular wine before, but knowing Frankie’s love of Alsace wine, I knew this was going to be a cracker.

And I was right. What a beautiful wine.

On the nose, the wine is floral with loads of juicy apple and bright citrus notes and a hint of petrol coming through too. The flavours are granny smith apples, cut red apple and baked apple too, lemon and lime. There is a wonderful chalky minerality to it too. It has an elegant mouthfeel and a long finish. It is super delicious.

The bright acidity and citrus notes of this wine are well matched to an upbeat pop song. The minerality and high acidity give this wine great structure, so I picked a song with a similar tight structure. The wine, with its delightful floral aromas and fruity flavours, is playful on the palate and even though it is high in acid it is quite smooth too. So, again, the song I chose is playful and smooth. The wine also has a great purity, it’s not encumbered with oak or other interfering wine making techniques, much like the matching song.

The song I paired with the 2014 Sipp Mack Riesling Grand Cru Rosacker is Good Day Sunshine by The Beatles – quite possibly my all time favourite band.

Good Day Sunshine is a bight and breezy, structured pop song – it is one of just a handful Beatles songs to use contiguous choruses. It is a pure pop song with no exotic instruments or tape loops. It is just Paul singing, Lennon harmonising and a piano and drums and very little guitar on the backing track. So, like the wine, it is bright, has great structure and is pure in taste and style.

Both the wine and the song capture the essence of carefree sunny days and both are good-mood enhancing. What a combo.

This wine is perfect for a barefoot picnic in the grass and this feel-good song is a magic, musical accompaniment.

I truly believe that when you pair the right wine with the right music, you get a heightened sensory experience that hits all the right notes. Maybe, one day, wine labels will say: ‘pairs well with shellfish and The Beatles’.

She Sells Sanctuary – The Cult

When Frankie asked me to pair a wine with the song ‘She Sells Sanctuary’ by The Cult I knew exactly what wine to choose: Château Vincens Les Graves De Paul Cahors 2014 

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Credit: Melanie May

She Sells Sanctuary has been described as ‘a goth milestone’ and ‘quite possibly the most famous goth-rock song’. So, a fitting pairing is a ‘black’ wine. Well, I was hardly going to choose a Champagne, goths aren’t exactly known for being bubbly now, are they?

Black wine is Malbec from Cahors in France and its dark colour is caused by a high concentration of polyphenols from the Malbec grape skins.

This particular wine I choose has a dark label and gothic script – goths love flourishes like that. This bottle will therefore co-ordinate perfectly with their crushed velvet jackets and the writing is big enough to read though all their eye makeup.

This wine tastes best if you let the air at it for a little while, so pour it into your best chalice or goblet and leave it to breathe whist you go write some awful poetry.

When you listen to She Sells Sanctuary you’ll notice the soft build-up of the intro and then Ian Astbury’s impassioned vocals before the drama of the instrumental break hits. There is a great structure to this song and that’s thanks to pop producer Steve Brown, he worked with Wham!.

The wine also follows a similar trajectory. When you first sniff you get a soft build up of aromas like dark fruits, bramble, tobacco and woody spices. Then, when you first sip, you taste the fruit but it is balanced out with lovely savoury, smoky and spicy flavours. Then the drama of the mineral backbone, hint of oak and smooth tannins hit. This wine is intense, rich and elegant with great structure. Just like the song. As for the impassioned vocals? Well, this is a heartfelt wine with a sense of place. You can taste the terroir. It also has a restrained power, much like the vocal style of the lead singer.

Like most goths, this wine isn’t fully mature. The oak and tannins means you could age it for a few more years. I think ageing would smooth everything out just a tad more and let those lovely savoury flavours develop too.

With a wine this intense and rich you can pair it with big intense food. I chose to pair mine with steak because of its high iron content, cause, let’s face it, most goths look anaemic.

I think pairing a goth-rock song with a black wine helps keep the proper morbid mood, don’t you think? However, as this particular song has expressive pop overtones, I think this expressive, fruit-driven wine with smooth tannins and good structure is a harmonious match.

Overall, it’s a rich, complex and age-worthy wine that is delicious to drink now but could be something even more special if left to age for a few more years. It might even get a cult following!

It’s not hard to see why some wines from Cahors have a cult following! Get it? Cult? The Cult?

I’ll get my coat.

Melanie May

Melanie May is a food and wine writer and travel journalist from Dublin. She won the ‘Best Newcomer’ award at the 2019 Travel Extra Travel Journalist of the Year Awards and she is a member of the British Guild of Travel Writers and is a Guild of Fine Food, Great Taste Judge.

Her love of wine began in her early 20s when she worked in a wine shop in Dublin and she has been developing her palate and tasting skills ever since. She has a WSET Level 2 Award in Wines & Spirits and a WSET Level 3 Award in Wines and uses this knowledge to inform the wine articles she writes for her blog, Travel Eat Write Repeat.

You can also follow her gastronomic adventures on Twitter and on Instagram.

 

Single Bottle Review

Riesling With a Difference – Marc Kreydenweiss Andlau Riesling

Domaine Marc Kreydenweiss

The Domaine dates back to the 1600s but gained its current name when Marc took over in 1971.  His son Antoine has been involved for over 20 years and took over running the Domaine in 2007.  The total area under vines is now 13.5 hectares including four Grand Cru sites in the vicinity of their Andlau base.

Alsace Wine Route

Here’s an extract from the Alsace Wine Route map to help you get your bearings:

Andau, Eichhoffen and Mittelbergheim are just below the town of Barr.

See the full Alsace Wine Route map here

One of the defining features of Alsace is its mosaic of thirteen soil types, the result of complex geological activity over time.  The term mosaic is particularly apt as the soils can change over very short distances.

There are, however, some groupings which can act as a guide.  The Sub-Vosges hills have six of the thirteen soil types and Domaine Marc Kreydenweiss has several across its small holdings.

From their website:

The diversity of the soils is an added advantage for the wines. The vineyard is planted 80% on slopes or half-hills, in south-south-east exposition.

The soil composition is complex, with pink sandstone, granite, schist gray/blue or black, sediment, limestone that bring finesse, minerality and freshness to the wines.

The vineyard is located in a radius of 10 km around the village of Andlau, but also to the neighboring villages as Eichhoffen, Mittelbergheim and Barr.

Like most Alsace producers they make sweet wines (Vendanges Tardives (VT) and Sélection de Grains Nobles (SGN)) and spirits, but still dry wines are the focus.  There are three main ranges of wines, in ascending quality:

Fruit [Driven] Wines:

  • Kritt Pinot Blanc
  • Andlau Riesling
  • Lerchenberg Pinot Gris
  • Kritt Gewurztraminer
  • Kritt Klevner
  • Pinot Boir Alsace Blanc (a white blend)
  • Pinot Boir Pinot Noir

Terroir wines

  • La Fontaine aux Enfants – Pinot Blanc
  • Stierkopf (Pinot Blanc & Riesling)
  • Clos Rebgarten (Gewurztraminer)
  • Clos du Val d’Eléon (Riesling & Pinot Gris)
  • Clos Rebberg (Riesling)

Grands Crus

  • Wiebelsberg Grand Cru (Riesling)
  • Moenschberg Grand Cru (Pinot Gris)
  • Kastelberg Grand Cru (Riesling)
  • Kirschberg de Barr Grand Cru (Pinot Noir)

The Fruit and Terroir wines are made from their own grapes and those of close friends, but the Grands Crus are entirely Domaine grapes.

In terms of viticulture they have nearly a full house of postmodern winemaking terms: Organic, Biodynamic and Natural.  Conversion to biodynamics started under Marc himself in 1989, with certification from 1991.

I have tried the Kritt Gewurztraminer several times (and liked it), so when I spotted a bottle of the Andlau Riesling I had to extend my empirical knowledge of the producer:

Marc Kreydenweiss Andlau Riesling 2017

marc-kreydenweiss-andlau-riesling

This Riesling is made from grapes of the Domaine and from growers André and Yann, over 2.2 hectares in the foothills abutting the Grand Cru Wiebelsberg.  The sub-soil is a pink sandstone known as “Grès des Vosges” which is known to impart a minerality to Riesling.  The wine is certified Organic by Demeter and certified Biodynamic by Biodyvin.

On pouring it is clean and clear, a light lemon colour and a little lighter than the Kritt Gewurz.  The nose is a big surprise, given the conventionality of the Gewurz: it has a distinctly “natural” aspect.  For those not familiar with natural wine, it often has a certain rawness or earthiness which defies easy description but is very recognisable.  Beyond that there are juicy stone fruit aromas.

The default flavour notes for Riesling are lime and lemon, but this wine is different – fleshy stone fruit appear again, with suggestions of fruit sweetness but actually resolutely dry.  The finish is long, mineral, slightly sour (though not unpleasantly so).  I found this wine improved over the course of an hour so it needs a bit of air and not to be drunk too cold.

Conclusion

This wine may be a little strange for the uninitiated, but if you already like natural wines or are willing to be a little adventurous then this is an excellent example to try.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: ~ €22
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores

Wine + Music

The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series #3 – Avril Kirrane McMorrough

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.

For the third installment in this series we are back to Dublin with the well-travelled Avril Kirrane McMorrough (see her bio below). For Avril’s wine there was an obvious choice – the Joseph Cattin Riesling Reserve that I recently wrote about myself and which Avril mentioned she is a fan of.

The track I selected for Avril is one of my favourites: “Don’t Know Why” from Norah Jones‘s debut album Come Away With Me.  I could ramble on about this song for ages with its understated elegance, but really all I need to do is show the chorus lyrics:

My heart is drenched in wine

But you’ll be on my mind

Forever

Joseph Cattin Riesling Reserve

Joseph Cattin Alsace Riesling

Riesling is arguably one of the world’s finest white wine grape variety. It can produce a range of styles to suit every palate ranging from light and floral to dry and spicy, rich and fruity or absolutely bone dry. It is also a wine with amazing cellaring potential. The North Eastern French region of Alsace produces some of the world’s best aromatic wines.

The Cattin family of Swiss descent have a long history in the Alsace, dating back to 1720. With knowledge and experience that has been passed down through the generations, the family now own 60 hectares of vines around Voegtlinshoffen, 10 kms South of the Alsatian wine capital of Colmar. Joseph Cattin became renowned for his pioneering work in grafting and is widely credited for saving some of Alsace’s best vineyards from Phylloxera.

Joseph Cattin Riesling Reserve fits into the dry, minerally, floral with lots of citrus lemon and lime category. On the palate there are expressions of apple and peach with a vibrant acidity and a long finish.

Our sense of taste, smell, hearing and sight can lead one to a magical memory that especially in these times can seem like a very long time ago. This Riesling reminds me of days spent in balmy summer evenings, out in the open air, carefree and laughing with loved ones while cooking seafood over an open fire. The liveliness of this wine is a perfect accompaniment not only to the food but to a happy atmosphere.

The track I have chosen “Time of the season” by The Zombies, with its psychedelic keyboard and vague jazzy feeling summons those exact joyful and warm memories. Its heady ambiance would make you get up, glass of Riesling in hand and boogie your way around that open fire. Both bring a sense of carefree gaiety, they are my perfect music/wine duet.

Norah Jones – Don’t Know Why

“Don’t Know Why” was recorded in one take in October 2000 for it was deemed good enough. The producer used the original demo as the final vocal take and added guitars and vocal harmonies to make it sound as if Jones was harmonizing with herself.  I have chosen to pair this song with Domaine Les Yeuses Syrah ‘Les Epices’.

Located in Mèze in the Languedoc region of France, between the Mediterranean and the Etang de Thau, Domaine Les Yeuses was built in the 13th century by the Templars at the site of an ancient Roman villa. The estate gets its name from a forest of evergreen oak trees (‘Yeuses’ in the local dialect). Today they have nearly disappeared, replaced by a path of olive trees. The estate has been in the Dardé family for more than 30 years. Jean Paul and Michel, brothers, share the vineyard and winemaking responsibilities. Their winery is continually recognised for its wide range of varietal wines; indeed, the geography of their vineyard gives their wines a lively acidity and distinctive profile.

Domaine Les Yeuses Syrah Les Epices

Their Syrah ‘Les Epices’ has been compared by some critics to a young Crozes-Hermitage, so value for money is achieved with this wine. A luscious dark garnet colour with purple hues, Les Epices is round and harmonious with an elegant softness. Hints of spice and notes of ripe black fruits, cherries and sweet liquorice and toffee lends itself to a velvety, sensual feeling in the mouth.

Elegant, soft ,round and structured can describe both wine and song. My perfect wine & song pairing.

Avril Kirrane McMorrough

Avril is the business development manager and in house sommelier for Boutique Wines and is WEST 3 qualified. Having previously gained 20 years experience working in the restaurant business, most notably St John (London) and The Vintage Kitchen (Dublin), she provides a unique understanding of people’s needs with an emphasis on customer service and thrives on guiding people through their wine selections. Contact avril@boutiquewines.ie for more information.

Single Bottle Review

Hauller Alsace Sylvaner Vieilles Vignes 2017

Last year our family holiday (remember them?) was in Brittany which, although convenient for the ferry ports, isn’t a quality wine producing region.  My vinous needs therefore have to be met by trying various wines from the supermarkets, and of course many of those were from Alsace.  Two rules of thumb were therefore brought into play:

  1. French supermarket wines aren’t always great; they tend to be sold on the appellation name and at a low price, so the bottle contents (especially without a reputable producer on the label) tend to be very average.
  2. Alsace has many family names shared by different wineries – so don’t assume it’s the same one.

On the second point, when researching the producer of this wine I found Famille Hauller in Dambach-la-Ville, but there was no sign of Hauts de Hauller on the website.  A forensic review of the back label found that it was bottled by “JHF”; that turned out to be J. Hauller et Fils, a different company entirely!

Hauller “Hauts de Hauller” Alsace Sylvaner Vieilles Vignes 2017 

Hauller Alsace Sylvaner Vielles Vignes 2017

Sylvaner can be a bit meh, but this bottle sported the magic words “Vieilles Vignes”.  Old vines are prized for the additional concentration and depth of flavour they can bring to the finished wine, offset (for the vigneron) by lower yields.  A modest price premium over wines made from younger vines is the balancing factor and looks after both the consumer and producer…happy days!

I picked a bottle of this up in Intermarché and liked it so much I managed to bring a couple home as well.  I’ve often posited that Alsace Sylvaner is somewhere between the out-and-out raciness of Riesling and the rounder fruit tones of Pinot Blanc.  These aspects are true for this Vieilles Vignes example, but it also has richness and some weight – almost like a dash of good Pinot Gris was added to the recipe.  The end combination is a wine that is dry, crisp, refreshing yet incredibly appealing.  I just wish I’d brought more back with me!

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RRP: ~ €7
  • Stockists: Intermarché (France)
Single Bottle Review

Château d’Orschwihr Pinot Gris 2014

It’s fair to say that all châteaux, castles and palaces have history – they’ve generally been around a long time – but some have more than others.  The first recorded mention of Château d’Orschwihr dates from 1049 – almost a thousand years ago, and even before the Battle of Hastings – so that’s old in anyone’s book.  It has changed hands many times over the centuries, but one notable owner was royalty: at the end of the 13th century it was bought by Rudolf Habsburg, founder of the Habsburg dynasty, King of Germany and Holy Roman Emperor.

Wine has been made in the area since Roman times, but the earliest existing record of wine made at Château d’Orschwihr is from the 16th century.  Viticulture waxed and waned over the years, but the Hartmann family reestablished it in the 1950s (Martin) and significantly expanded it in the 1980s (Hubert).  Gautier joined the family business in 2006 and took over as head in 2011.

The Alsace Wine Hierarchy

Most wine lovers know that there are three appellations in Alsace, namely:

  • AOC Crémant d’Alsace
  • AOC Alsace
  • AOC Alsace Grand Cru

Since 2011 each Grand Cru has its own AOC rather than just being mentioned after Alsace Grand Cru.  Other changes were introduced in the same year; unknown to most, there are three “sub-divisions” of AOC Alsace which have increasingly stringent regulations to improve quality.  They are:

  • Regional – just AOC Alsace
  • Communal / Inter-communal – AOC Alsace followed by a name (normally that of a commune)
  • Lieu-dit – AOC Alsace followed by the name of a specific vineyard

There are around 130 of the communal labels – they are specifically mentioned by name in the regulations – but there is no official list of the lieux-dits.  The best and most consistent of them have the chance to be part of the future Alsace Premier Cru designation, whenever that comes to pass!

Château d’Orschwihr Alsace “Bollenberg” Pinot Gris 2014

Pinot-Gris-Bollenberg

Bollenberg is a lieu-dit, and is one of the highest climats in Alsace at 363m (see also Agathe Bursin’s L’As de B, Assemblage de Bollenberg).  Château d’Orschwihr make five different varietals here including this Pinot Gris and an excellent Riesling.  The Gris vines were planted in 1963 (80%) and 1990 (20%) so a Vieilles Vignes bottling would certainly be possible!

When poured it shows as medium gold in the glass, mainly due to age as it sees no new oak and is dry.  The nose is complex and spicy, with hints of lemon and lime twisted around quince and peach.  These notes continue onto the palate where they are joined by (preserved) mixed peel.  The wine is technically dry but has a real richness about it that comes with top drawer Pinot Gris.  This wine would definitely deserve a Premier Cru label!

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RS: 2.4 g/L
  • RRP: ~ €20
  • Stockists: currently unavailable in Ireland

 

Single Bottle Review

Cattin’ for Riesling

Even as a passionate fan of Alsace and a reasonable French speaker, I’m not confident of my ability to pronounce Voegtlinshoffen, the home village of Maison Joseph Cattin.  The firm’s origins lie at the end of the 17th century with Francois Cattin, a Swiss builder who subsequently turned winemaker in 1720.  “Depuis 1720” thus surrounds the family’s crest on their bottles.

130 years later his descendant Antoine Cattin became a full time vigneron; it was common then for grape growers to also have other crops or animals, so this was a significant step.  Antoine’s son Joseph followed in his father’s footsteps and became a major figure in Alsace wine.  The firm’s success was helped by being featured in Parisian Alsace-themed restaurant La Cigogne, run by Joseph’s brother Théodore.

Major expansion took place in the last quarter of the 20th century; holdings of 7 hectares were expanded to over 60 by Joseph’s grandsons Jacques and Jean-Marie.  Cattin is now run by Jacques Cattin junior and his wife Anaïs – the eleventh generation of the Cattin family.

Cattin AOC Alsace wines consist of:

  • 2 Rieslings (the regular Riesling below plus Lieu-dit Elsbourg
  • 2 Pinot Noirs (red and rosé)
  • Gewurztraminer
  • Muscat
  • Pinot Blanc
  • Pinot Gris
  • Sylvaner

They also make several VTs and SGNS, Crémants and other special bottlings.  Their Grand Cru holdings are all in the Hatschbourg, where they make wines from all four noble varieties.

Joseph Cattin Alsace Riesling Réserve 2016

Joseph Cattin Alsace Riesling

Although a few years on from release, this Riesling is still pale in colour, very light gold with flecks of green.  The nose combines citrus with mineral and floral notes.  The palate is crisp and fresh, full of racy lime and lemon, a hint of peach and a long mineral finish.  If this 2016 doesn’t exhibit the rapier-sharp freshness that it would have had on release, then perhaps sabre-sharp freshness, if such a term exists, is the best descriptor.  Maison Cattin suggest an ageing potential of five years, but I think this will be lovely well after that.  A delicious Alsace Riesling!

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RS: 3.9 g/L
  • RRP: ~ €20
  • Stockists: contact Boutique Wines for availability
Single Bottle Review

Dopff & Irion Cuvée René Dopff Alsace Gewurztraminer 2015

In common with tight-knit communities the world over, there are several common surnames in Alsace – including those which are common affixed to the door of wineries – so often first names are added to surnames, or another family name such as a mother or wife’s maiden name, to distinguish one Sipp or Meyer from another.

Dopff & Irion are based in Riquewihr, a contender for prettiest village in Alsace (and that’s saying something!) and certainly one of the most visited.  As alluded to above, they have a (semi) namesake in their home village with the respected producer Dopff au Moulin, a specialist in crémant.

Riquewihr_-_2016
Riquewihr in 2016 (Credit: Elekes Andor)

Dopff & Irion have 27 hectares of vines at Riquewihr – including those bottled as Château de Riquewihr – plus the Clos Château d’Isenbourg near Rouffach.  Their holdings break down as three key varieties: Riesling 35.8%, Gewurztraminer 29.4%, Pinot Gris 23.5%, plus smaller amounts of Pinot Noir 5.5% and Muscat 4.3%.

Cuvée René Dopff is the “everyday plus” label of Dopff & Irion; it’s not the best range they make but is of a high standard.  There are seven single varietals in the range: the five mentioned just above plus Sylvaner and Pinot Blanc, these two I presume from bought in grapes.

Dopff & Irion Cuvée René Dopff Alsace Gewurztraminer 2015

Dopff-Irion-Gewurztraminer1-500x500

Gewurztraminer is one of the most expressively aromatic grapes around, so needs to be handled with kid gloves during the wine making process.  For this wine the press was deliberately set at low pressure to minimise extraction from the skins and fermentation was at a controlled temperature.

The depth of colour in the glass gives a strong indication that this is something with a bit of oomph.  The nose is textbook Gewurz – Turkish delight (the rose flavoured one, not lemon) and lychees, with a little exotic spice.  These notes follow through on the palate which is generous, rich and round.  There’s some residual sugar but it’s certainly not “sugary”, still fresh with a crisp finish.  The overall sensation is one of balance – often difficult to achieve with this grape – and excellence.  The company’s website gives an ageing potential of five years for this wine, but it is nowhere near tired and has several years left in it.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €21.99
  • Stockists: Vanilla Grape, Kenmare; JJ O’Driscoll, County Cork
Tasting Events

Lidl French Whites Spring 2020

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

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

Wally Sauvignon Blanc

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

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

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

Lidl Sancerre

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

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

Collin Bourisset Coteaux Bourguignons Blanc

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

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

Lidl Chablis 2018

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

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

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

Alsace Gewurztraminer Vieilles Vignes

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

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

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

Crémant d'Alsace Brut NV

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

 

 

 

 

Opinion

Alsace from Bordeaux – with Millésima [Sponsored]

Bordeaux was the first wine region I fell in love with, no doubt influenced by the fact that I could visit several vineyards on a day trip from my parents’ home in the Charente Maritime.  To this day there is a map of “Le Vignoble de Bordeaux” in my kitchen which I bought in Saint-Émilion over twenty years ago.

Founded in the heart of Bordeaux in 1983, Millésima is a fine wine and en-primeurWhats in a name specialist which sells directly to consumers in 120 countries.  It is a family run company, now in the hands of second generation Fabrice Bernard who succeeded his father Patrick as CEO in 2017.

Before being invited to write this piece, I was already familiar with Millésima, both through online advertisements and their sponsoring of the Millésima Blog Awards (which my friends Michelle Williams and Mike Turner were winners of in 2016).

Looking further it appears to me that Millésima’s key strengths are:

  • Selection: they have 2.5 million bottles to choose from. The emphasis is on Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne, then other French regions and ten other countries.
  • Provenance: they source their wines directly from the producer so that their condition and (especially) their authenticity are guaranteed.
  • Packaging and delivery: they pride themselves on speedy deliveries which arrive in perfect condition. The wines I ordered were picked and packaged in a double-layered corrugated cardboard box covered with a thick layer of shrink-wrapped plastic.
  • Compliance: unlike some unscrupulous distributors I have heard of, they are fully compliant with the excise and tax regulations of the countries to which their wines are shipped. This is especially important in Ireland which (unfortunately) has the highest rates in Europe, and so puts Millésima on a level playing field with local importers.

So, when invited to try some wines from a Bordeaux-based fine wine supplier, what type of wine did I order?  That’s right, some of my beloved Alsace wines from the far side of the country!  But rather than being awkward, the decision was deliberate and common sense: it would show the breadth of Millésima’s range and would put me in an informed position when reviewing the wines.

To select a mixed case is simple: click on Special Offers on the far right of the top menu

Top Menu

Next menus

then Create your own tasting case

and My own tasting case.

 

The wines I chose mainly feature my two favourite grapes from Alsace – Riesling and Pinot Gris – from three top producers, and both young and aged examples:

Domaine Zind Humbrecht Pinot Gris “Heimbourg” 1997 (14.0%, €55* at millesima.ie)

Domaine Zind Humbrecht Pinot Gris Heimbourg 1997

Heimbourg is a lieu-dit or named vineyard close to Turckheim, the home village of Domaine Zind Humbrecht.  It receives a lot of sunlight as it faces onto the Munster Valley and hence isn’t overshadowed by the Vosges Mountains.

The wine pours bright gold into the glass – a combination of age, possibly some noble rot and the grape variety.  The nose is highly aromatic, mainly showing rich honey notes (I’m not a honey connoisseur, but those bees have been feasting on some pretty tasty nectar) and stewed figs.  One of the best noses I’ve ever experienced!

The palate reveals the wine to be mature with some rancio streaks, possibly just past its peak, and dry.  Being dry is no bad thing in itself but is something of a surprise given the amount of honey on the nose.  The fruit is subdued and mainly stewed, accompanied by walnuts and brazils.  For matching with food, think of mature cheeses and nuts or even slow roasted beef.

Maison Trimbach Pinot Gris Réserve Personnelle 1998 (13.0%, €45* at millesima.ie)

Maison Trimbach Pinot Gris Réserve Personnelle 1998

Trimbach is arguably the most famous producer in Alsace and its wines are well distributed.  Its main yellow label wines are often the default choice for Alsace, whereas its flagship Clos Sainte-Hune Riesling is regarded by many as the best wine of the region.  Sitting between the two are the premium range of Riesling (Cuvée Frédéric Emile), Gewurztraminer (Cuvée des Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre) and this Pinot Gris (Réserve Personnelle).

The nose is clean with no oxidative notes, showing cumquat, apricot, exotic spices such as cinnamon and star anise, wrapped up with some light honeyed notes.  The palate has medium flavour intensity and reflects the nose very well.  This is a tasty, lively wine which isn’t going to improve further and would be best drunk sooner rather than later, but it would still be going strong in a year or two.

Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris “Herrenweg de Turckheim” 1999 (13.5%, €48 at millesima.ie)

Domaine Zind Humbrecht Pinot Gris Herrenweg de Turckheim 1999

The Herrenweg is the vineyard where Zind Humbrecht’s HQ is based, on a complex mixture of sand, silt, clay and alluvial deposits.  Grapes here tend to ripen quickly and be very expressive.

When poured this Pinot Gris was an amazing amber colour – perhaps even burnished copper!  The nose is primarily stewed and some fresh stone fruit, with spice and honey.  It’s relatively subtle on the palate with the same notes but all of them are intertwined – the interplay between them is intriguing.  There’s still a little sweetness on the finish to accompany the honey aromas and flavours.

Domaine Marcel Deiss Alsace Riesling 2017 (13.0%, €28* at millesima.ie)

Domaine Marcel Deiss Riesling 2017

Domaine Marcel Deiss is an estate founded on tradition, but tradition for a reason.  Based in Bergheim, just a few clicks from Ribeauvillé, the Domaine is known for its focus on field blends – how wine was made in Alsace (and much of Europe) for centuries, before different grape varieties were properly identified and planted separately.  This, however, is from the Deiss vins de fruits or vins de cépages range – more about their grape variety than the locality where they were grown.  As with the entire range, this Riesling is Certified Organic and made following biodynamic principles from Deiss’s own vineyards only.

There’s a veritable array of citrus on the nose: lemon, lime, grapefruit and more.  The first sip shows that it has a little more body that you’d expect from a dry Riesling.  It’s young, fresh, citrus, mineral and steely with a long, dry finish.  This is quite a serious wine, but then, Riesling is a serious business!

Domaine Marcel Deiss Langenberg 2013 (12.5%, €39* at millesima.ie)

Domaine Marcel Deiss Langenberg 2013

The Langenberg is from Deiss’s Lieux-Dits range which consists of nine different named vineyards with their own distinctive terrior.  They don’t have Grand Cru status but when Alsace Premier Cru is established I’d bet that many of these nine would be included.   The Deiss website explains that Langenberg is a field blend of Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Beurot, Muscat and Pinot Noir.  To the best of my knowledge Pinot Beurot is simply a synonym for Pinot Gris, but as that is already listed it might be a particular clone.

This is a highly aromatic wine with a wealth of tropical notes: pineapple, grapefruit, guava, banana, coconut, passionfruit and exotic spices all feature.  It has a silky, generous texture in the mouth.  The enticing palate is full of the tropical fruits found on the nose (mainly contributed by the Pinots Grises and the Muscat) but brought round to a crisp conclusion by the Riesling component.  A magnificent wine!

 


*Note: all prices include Irish Duty and VAT and are the relevant prices for individual bottles as part of a mixed selection.

Disclosure: this is a sponsored post, but all opinions remain my own.

 

Tasting Events

Fruit and Balance [Alsace Vault Vol. 1]

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Françoise Gilley (L) & Agathe Bursin (R)

Last year, thanks to the generosity of Françoise and Seán Gilley of Terroirs in Donnybrook, Dublin, I had the opportunity to meet one of the young stars of Alsace wine, Agathe Bursin.  And not only meet her, but to have her guide us through a tasting of her wines and then try the wines with the excellent food of Forest Avenue.

Like many people in Alsace, Agathe Bursin had a connection to winemaking when she grew up, although not directly from her parents like some.  In her small infant school she was the only girl along with four boys; that is, four boys who all wanted to be a tractor driver on their family’s vineyards, so it was only natural for the young Agathe to dream of this as well.

Secondly, while her family had been selling their grapes to the local cooperative since 1956, her grandfather did make some small amount of wine for family consumption – and Agathe was fascinated by the equipment and the process.

Fast forward several years to 2000, and she graduated in Oenology, but when her first wines were made back home in accordance with her textbooks, they didn’t feel like her wines at all.  She learnt from this minor setback and took an entirely new approach; stripped back and providing a gentle hand of direction only when required.

Since then she has followed organic and biodynamic practices (though has not sought certification) including the use of herbal teas in the vineyard and only indigenous yeast for fermentation.  Interestingly, it is the yeast present in the cellar rather than the vineyard that usually win the biochemical war that is fermentation.  She neither encourages nor discourages malolactic fermentation, it is simply permitted to happen if it happens.  Thankfully though, it usually happens spontaneously in the red wines and not in the whites.

Agathe’s Domaine now totals around 5.5 hectares, split over the Grand Cru Zinnkoepflé and the Lieux-dits Bollenberg, Dirstelberg, Strangenberg, all around her home village of Westhalten.  The split of varieties is: 5% Muscat, 15% Pinot Gris, 20% Riesling, 20% Gewurztraminer and 20% Sylvaner.  Some of the vines are co-planted – more on which later.

Here are my tasting notes on the wines, with the rider that je ne crache pas les blancs….

mdePinot Noir Strangenberg 2015 is from grapes grown on marl and limestone soil.  The grapes are hand picked then partially de-stemmed (40% – 60% depending on the vintage).  There is no cold soak; fermentation begins in stainless steel tanks with eight days of maceration (longer would lead to the wine being too vegetal) before being transferred into used 228 litre pièces to complete the two months of fermentation.  Maturation is for 20 months.  This Pinot Noir shows bright red and black cherry fruit; it’s a smooth wine that has taken a touch of weight and roundness from its time in oak but very little obvious flavour.

Dirstelberg Riesling 2016.jpgRiesling Dirstelberg 2016 is grown on the highest vineyard in Alsace at 500 metres above sea-level.  The soil is red sandstone, sheltered from the wind but still cool (which Riesling prefers).  The vines are trained as Double Guyot which tends to give small berries.  According to Agathe, with age these wines take on chalky, mineral characters rather than diesel.  At this young age it is racy, nervous and tangy, full of fresh citrus – lime lemon and grapefruit – and orange blossom.

mdePinot Blanc Parad’Aux 2016 is a blend of Pinot Blanc and its close relation Auxerrois.  The former has high acidity (which is why it is so popular in Crémant d’Alsace) whereas the latter is quite floral and has moderate acidity.  The two varieties are co-fermented and the local yeast naturally leaves a little bit of residual sugar (6 g/L) which comes across as roundness rather than sweetness (Agathe believes her indigenous yeast are “quite lazy”).  Soft stone fruits are the order of the day here, with a touch of peach, apricot and nectarine.

mdeL’As de B 2016 is a proper field blend, where the different varieties are all planted in the same plot, are harvested and then vinified together.  Bizarrely, while the different varieties would normally ripen at different times in their own blocks, when planted together they mature together!  The blend is – are you ready for this? – 5% Muscat, 15% Pinot Gris, 20% Gewurztraminer, 20% Riesling, 20% Pinot Blanc and 20% Sylvaner.  The residual sugar for the blend falls between 10 and 20 g/L depending on vintage.  The 2016 shows lots of spice, with the Gewurz and Pinot Gris particularly showing through.   Interestingly, although the blend stays the same from year to year, different grapes seem to come to the fore with each vintage.

mdeL’As de B 2008 shows how well this wine can age – it still shows great freshness as well as development, but is not yet fully mature.  It seems soft and gentle, as though it had settled in to itself with age.

As I speak reasonable French I presumed that “As de B” signified “L’As de Bursin”, i.e Bursin’s Ace, but this is not the case.  The grapes all come from the Bollenberg; the story is that when the blend was first vinified, someone chalked “Edelzwicker” on the tank – the traditional Alsace blend – but as Edelzwicker is not usually a field blend, Agathe didn’t want to use that term.  Instead she preferred “Assemblage de Bollenberg”, but as that was far too long she settled for L’As de B – and the name stuck.

Dirstelberg Pinot Gris 2016.jpgPinot Gris Dirstelberg 2016 is grown on the same red sandstone as the Riesling.  RS is off-dry at 14 g/L which is my preferred style for the grape.  The palate has delicious quince and pear plus exotic spices.  It is rich but nowhere near cloying.

Per Agathe, with age the Pinot Gris Dirstelberg gains notes of smoke, toast and flint – this sounds very intriguing and something I hope to experience for myself in the not too distant future!

mdeGewurztraminer Dirstelberg 2016 is the wine which gave Agathe the most worry.  On the Dirstelberg, Gewurz naturally produces lots of leaves, but as winds tend not to be strong there is a significant risk of bunch rot if they are not trimmed back.  Once harvested, the grapes are given a very gentle pressing over 6 to 8 hours in order to extract only moderate phenolics – this also results in the wine looking somewhat paler than the average young Gewurz.  This is a gentle, restrained Gewurztraminer that really does live up to Agathe’s desire for fruit and balance.  If only more could be like this, I think the grape would have more fans.

mdeRiesling Grand Cru Zinnkoeplé Vendanges Tardives 2015 shows how sweet Riesling can be a magnificent, balanced rapier.  Residual sugar of 65 g/L is the counterpoint to thrilling, racy acidity.

It’s still very young and tangy – and very enjoyable – but has years of magnificence ahead of it.  If I had a case or two, then yes I’d be tempted to dive in now and again, but I think, despite the expletives of joy in my tasting notes, this is one that will be legendary in a decade’s time.

mdeGewurztraminer Grand Cru Zinnkoeplé Vendanges Tardives 2015 is getting on for the longest name of any wine I’ve ever reviewed!  Harvesting took place at the beginning of November, so this is a true Vendanges Tardives.

Obviously sweeter on the palate than the Riesling above – both in terms of higher RS at 89 g/L and softer acidity – this is a mighty fine example of late harvest Gewurz.  Compared to some it’s relatively muted – but as the grape can be such an overblown, blousy, tart’s boudoir, this is not necessarily a bad thing.

 


Post Script: Does Agathe drive a tractor now?  You bet she does!