Single Bottle Review, Tasting Events

Mount Pleasant “Lovedale” Hunter Valley Semillon [Wine Review]

There are always new wines to discover at the Liberty Wines portfolio tasting, but sometimes it’s nice to revisit new vintages of old favourites…just to see how they’re getting on.

Here’s the first of my many favourite Australian wines from the Liberty stable.

Mount Pleasant “Lovedale” Hunter Valley Semillon 2018

Mount Pleasant Lovedale Hunter Valley Semillon 2018 bottle shot

Hunter Valley

The Hunter Valley is one of the best known Australian wine regions, albeit with its relative proximity to Sydney being a key factor in its success. Hunter Valley Semillon is arguably one of Australia’s key original wine styles. By that I mean that it’s not just a better, or different, version of a wine made elsewhere, but it is a true original. Even other Aussie wine regions which grow Semillon, such as the the Barossa and Margaret River, just can’t produce wine in the same style.

Hunter Valley Wine Region map
Credit: Australian Wine Discovered

Mount Pleasant

Mount Pleasant is one of the “OG” Hunter producers, founded over a century ago by the pioneering Maurice O’Shea (now there’s a fine Irish name). He spent six years in France studying and then lecturing in viticulture, before bringing this knowledge and expertise back to Australia. O’Shea is regarded as a founder of modern Australian wine making, and the top Shiraz produced by Mount Pleasant bears his name.

Before Covid I had the pleasure of tasting through some of the Mount Pleasant wines with Scott McWilliams, as McWilliams were the owners at that time. Sadly, subsequently McWilliams went into administration, and after almost 80 years under the McWilliams umbrella, Mount Pleasant was bought by NSW property and hotel business Medich Family Office. The additional resources have enabled the cellar door to be renovated, and the switch to only estate fruit from the Hunter, without the safety net of buying in grapes from neighbouring areas in case of poor vintage conditions.

Mount Pleasant have four heritage vineyards. Old Hill is the most venerable, planted with Shiraz in 1880, though wasn’t bought by Mount Pleasant until the 1920s. At that point Maurice also bought some adjoining plots and planted them with cuttings from Old Hill; these plots were named Old Paddock. In 1945 he bought Rosehill vineyard, identified as being extremely well suited to Shiraz, and Lovedale, which was mainly planted with Semillon. Today Lovedale is regarded by many as the finest Semillon vineyard in Australia.

Looking at some of Mount Pleasant’s recent accolades*, the Maurice O’Shea Shiraz has won awards at three to four years old whereas the Lovedale Semillon has been recognised at seven to eight years after vintage.

Lovedale Vineyard

Mount Pleasant Lovedale vineyard
Credit: Mount Pleasant

Lovedale is located close to Pokolbin at 60 metres above sea level. In total it covers 31.1 hectares, planted with Semillon (22.1ha), Chardonnay (7.4ha) and Verdelho (1.6ha). The vines are predominantly in an east-west orientation, with 3.35m between rows and 1.5m between vines and an average of 2,000 vines per hectare. The soil is “sandy aggregate loam topsoil, with friable red and yellow clay lower root zones”, giving the vines the potential to grow deep. Drip irrigation is used when necessary, and trellising is a combination of vertical shoot positioning and cordon ballerina. These methods give the grapes maximum access to sunlight, reducing the risk of diseases which are a significatn risk in the Hunter’s humid climate.

Mount Pleasant “Lovedale” Hunter Valley Semillon 2018

… the nose is so beguiling that it demands contemplation before even moving on to a sip.

So, onto the wine itself! At six years old this 2018 it is still a baby in Hunter Semillon terms, but it is already hugely expressive. The nose is complex, already displaying typical toasty aromas that allude to time in oak, despite the wine spending zero time in any oak vessel. In fact the nose is so beguiling that it demands contemplation before even moving on to a sip. But once tasting there are no regrets, only joy. Tangy pear and toasty notes endure, but against a backdrop of citrus and soft stone fruits. This is by no means a cheap wine, but in a world where white Burgundies can go for several hundreds euros, it begins to look like (relatively) good value for money.

What a wine!

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RS: 0.3 g/L
  • RRP: €74.99
  • Stockists: 2017 vintage is available at Ely Wine Store, Maynooth
  • Other Mount Pleasant wines available in Ireland: “Estate Grown” Hunter Valley Semillon, “Elizabeth” Cellar Aged Hunter Valley Semillon, “Maurice O’Shea” Hunter Valley Shiraz, “Rosehill” Hunter Valley Shiraz, “Old Paddock & Old Hill” Hunter Valley Shiraz

* Note the lower case “a”!

Single Bottle Review, Wine Of The Week

Wine Review: Longview Adelaide Hills “The Piece” Shiraz 2016

A delicious Aussie Shiraz with a bit of age – what’s not to like? First a quick overview of its home region, Adelaide Hills, followed by an introduction to its producer, Lonview Vineyard, and finally some tasting notes.

Adelaide Hills

Adelaide Hills is the coolest region within South Australia, the biggest source of quality wine within Australia. Climate change has made its precious altitiude even more vital. The majority of plantings are varieties which thrive in cool climates – Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris – but also those which are happy across different climatic conditions, especially Chardonnay, and as we have here, Shiraz.

Adelaide Hills Wine Region Map
Credit: wineaustralia.com

Adelaide Hills only became a protected Geographic Indication (GI) 25 years ago, which shows that it is a relative newcomer compared to South Australia’s internationally famous regions such as Coonawarra and the Barossa Valley. Its cool climate is partially from its relative proximity to the Southern Ocean, but even more than that due to its elevation. The hills to the east of Adelaide form part of the Mount Lofty Ranges (yet another super original Australian name!) There are two official sub-regions, Lenswood and Piccadilly, the latter of which is particularly renowned for its Chardonnay.

Longview Vineyard

Notice that the name includes Vineyard, singular? I had to catch myself from adding an ‘s’, but the moniker is deliberate as the property consists of a single vineyard. As Longview was founded in 1995 it predates the GI, though the first vintage wasn’t until 2001. Admittedly it’s a large vineyard at 65 hectares, and reaches up to 410m at its highest point. Ownership is in the hands of brothers Mark and Peter Saturno; their Italian heritage is supported by the inclusion of Italian varieties Nebbiolo, Barbera and Pinot Grigio.

The current range extends to around twenty wines, of which five are currently available in Ireland:

  • LV Shiraz Cabernet
  • Vista Shiraz Barbera
  • Devil’s Elbow Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Yakka Shiraz
  • The Piece Shiraz

Among those not available here are those in the Macclesfield Range which they call “our collection of premium, small-batch wines that reflect the unique geology and climate of Macclesfield.” Interestingly one is labelled as a Syrah rather than Shiraz. Perhaps we might see some of these up here in the future?

Longview “The Piece” 2016

Longview Vineyard Adelaide Hills The Piece Shiraz 2016 Bottle and Canister

Before we even get into the wine itself, a few words on the label and packaging. Yes, in the end it’s “the juice” that counts, but if a label or a container helps to catch the eye of a wine lover browsing the shelves, I have no problem with that. Innovation should be encouraged!

The 2016 bottling of The Piece has a grafitti theme, and came in a container looking like a spray-can. I particularly liked the “Shiraz Gloss” label just above the vintage label. The theme arose as a tribute to Longview’s “The Piece Project” where Australian street artists compete to have their work featured on the label.

Now, onto the wine! Grapes for The Piece are a very small part of the estates Shiraz production; the best rows in the best blocks are harvested separately from the surrounding vines. Alcoholic fermentation is temperature controlled, after which the wine is transferred to old French oak hogsheads and puncheons. Malolactic fermentation takes place there, and the wine is left to mature for another year and a half. There’s then a final selection of the best barrels – ten in the case of the 2016 vintage, but as few as five for 2019.

The wine team aim for “cool climate spice” as one of the key attributes of this wine, and it really shows on the nose – it’s like Christmas cake without the icing; sweet, confected fruits with spice and treacle. The palate also has sweet berry fruit, though it’s rich and appealing without being sugary. The finish has fine tannins and a balancing streak of acidity. Overall this is a well-made, nicely balanced wine.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €42 (2018/9)
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: 2018/9 at O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

 

 

 

 

 

Wine Of The Week

Wine Review: Kangarilla Road McLaren Vale Terzetto

Among the criticism thrown at Australian wine – with a little justification, I feel – is that there isn’t enough variety in the grapes grown. This is borne out in the figures, with the top eight varieties accounting for close to 75% of all wine grown in the country.

Thankfully, there are other interesting grapes grown in Oz, and for me McLaren Vale stands out for its Italian varieties. Kangarilla Road make one such wine, but before we look at the wine itself, let’s have a reminder on McLaren Vale and Kangarilla Road.

McLaren Vale

McLaren Vale map

Which wine styles come to mind when you think of McLaren Vale? Shiraz and southern Rhône-style GSM blends are certainly the most important, even if the GSM order is often rearranged. Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc also make an appearance as key international varieties. However, the other varieties that the Vale specialises in are those of the Mediterranean, including:

  • Sangiovese, Montepulciano, Vermentino and Fiano (from Italy)
  • Grenache Blanc and Roussanne (from the Rhône / Spain / southern France)
  • Tempranillo (from Spain)

I don’t know for sure why McLaren Vale became the hub for Italian varieties in Australia. Most likely there were Italian immigrants in the area (as was the case across much of Australia) and they found that the vine cuttings they brought worked really well in the Vale.

Kangarilla Road

Kangarilla Road Winery was founded by Kevin O’Brien (no relation to O’Briens Wines, as far as I know) in 1997. He caught the wine bug at university as a member of the Rowing Club – they often drank wine at social events and organised tours to Australian wine regions. He was hooked; he changed from a general science degree to Oenology and pursued a career in wine. He combined a research-heavy role at the Australian Research Institute (AWRI) with travelling and working in European countries such as France, Italy, Spain and Portugal.

He met and subsequently married a like-minded soul in Helen. Together they pursued a dream of having their own winery, and in 1997 bought the former Cambrai vineyard on McLaren Vale Flats. At that time it already had Australia’s largest plantings of Zinfandel / Primitivo, then came Chardonnay, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, and finally more Italian varieties.

This is the current Kangarilla Road portfolio:

  • Kangarillo Road Whites: Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, “Sixmo” Chardonnay, Fiano, Duetto (Vermentino & Fiano), “The Veil” Vermentino Under Flor
  • Kangarilla Road Reds: Shiraz, “Thieving Angels” Shiraz, Nero d’Avola, Montepulciano, Sangiovese, Primitivo, “Black St Peter’s” Zinfandel, “Devil’s Whiskers” Shiraz, “Alluvial Fans” Shiraz, “Blanche Point” Shiraz, “Q” Shiraz
  • Other labels: Strada Bianco (Chardonnay & Vermentino), Sparkling Chardonnay / Pinot NV, Street Cred Sparkling Shiraz NV, 2Up Shiraz

You may notice that Terzetto is not on the list above; I understand that this blend is no longer made, so snap it up while you can!

Kangarilla Road McLaren Vale Terzetto 2013

Kangarilla Road Terzetto

Before researching this wine I wondered if Terzetto was an obscure Italian grape that I hadn’t yet tried. Alas, no: Terzetto is simply the Italian term for “Trio”, perfectly apt as this is a blend of three Italian varieties:

  • Sangiovese (from Tuscany, but widely grown in other Italian regions)
  • Primitivo (from Puglia)
  • Nebbiolo (from Piedmont)

Each Kangarilla Road wine has an image of its variety’s leaf on the label, so for this wine all three are featured.

It pours a cherry red, most definitely not the Shiraz (which is also available in Ireland). It has a very perfumed nose, with deep red fruit notes – fresh and dried – plus orange peel, tobacco, balsamic, vanilla and herbs. In the mouth it has lovely fruits, just as on the nose. The mouthfeel is soft in the centre but with prickly edges – often a sign of acidity. Although now nine years old there is still some evidence of oak, tobacco and balsamic notes and the palate, with a chocolate finish

This is a modestly priced wine which tastes much more expensive. It’s more interesting than most wines at this price point and higher. As it looks like there won’t be any more of this coming our way I’ve already bought a few more bottles to enjoy over the coming years.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €17.95
  • Source: purchased from O’Briens
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores, though only a few bottles left
Wine Of The Week

Wine Review: Grosset Polish Hill Riesling 2011

If you vaguely remember seeing this wine before on Frankly Wines then you are not mistaken. I bought a dozen of the 2011 vintage of Polish Hill many years ago, and I drink a bottle every autumn to celebrate my eldest son’s birthday. If you haven’t guessed yet, he was born in the year 2011, hence my choice of vintage.

Before the tasting notes themselves, brief reminders on Clare Valley and Grosset Wines

Clare Valley

Clare Valley map
Credit: wineaustralia.com

Clare Valley is located around two hours’ drive north of Adelaide, into the northern Mt Lofty Ranges. It is subdivided into five sub-regions: Auburn, Clare, Polish Hill River, Sevenhill and Watervale

European settlement began in the 1830s, and it only took a few years for them to plant vineyards and make wine. Many of these immigrants were from Germany and Italy, countries with long established wine cultures, so it was natural for them to bring cuttings with them and develop vineyards, whether for commercial or personal consumption.

Being a hilly region, there are lots of different soil types* – eleven in fact, with red soil over limestone (similar to Coonawarra’s terra rossa) in Watervale and broken slate in Polish Hill River. These soil types obviously have an effect on the style of wines made. Across Clare Valley as a whole, Riesling is the most popo

Grosset Wines

We all have our own story of how we caught the wine bug. For Jeffrey Grosset, it was at the tender age of 15 when he tasted a bottle of wine his dad brought home for dinner. He signed up at Roseworthy Agricultural College – Australia’s premier wine college – on his 16th birthday then spent five years studying Agriculture and Oenology, learning both sides of the trade. After graduating he had a series of roles in Australia and Germany, but at 26 in 1981 he decided to strike out on his own and founded Grosset Wines.

Jeffrey’s focus has always been on quality, so even as additional vineyards were added to the firm over the years, he maintained control and wasn’t subject to the whims of partners or shareholders. Even 40 years later there are only eight people in the whole company, many of them long term employees. He was also at the forefront of the Clare Valley producer movement to screwcaps, to preserve Riesling’s gentle aromatics. In the vineyard, sustainable practices and intimate knowledge of the vines eventually led to organic and biodynamic certification.

The Grosset Wines portfolio now extends to ten wines, eight from Clare and two from Piccadilly Valley in Adelaide Hills:

Riesling

  • Polish Hill (the Flagship)
  • Springvale (from the Watervale sub-region)
  • Alea (from Grosset’s Rockwood Vineyard, just off-dry)
  • G110 (made from a single Riesling clone in a single plot)
  • Rockwood (also from the Rockwood Vineyard)

Other Clare Valley Wines

  • Apiana (Fiano)
  • Gaia (~ 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc)
  • Nereus (Shiraz with a little Nero d’Avola)

Piccadilly Wines

  • Chardonnay
  • Pinot Noir

So now onto my notes on Grosset’s top Riesling

Grosset Polish Hill Riesling 2011

Grosset Polish Hill Riesling 2011

The key to this Riesling’s power and longevity is its tough upbringing. The Polish Hill vineyard has dry, slatey soil which forces the vines to send their roots deep. It’s also fairly cool, even for the Clare Valley. Bunches tend to be small, with small berries, so flavour is concentrated:

Grosset Riesling grape bunches from Springvale and Polish Hill
Credit: Grosset Wines

Most dry Rieslings are very light in colour when young, but 11 years have seen this bottle take on a little colour, so it’s now on the borderline between deep lemon and light gold. The nose shows even more evolution; on release it was tight, almost unapproachable, but now the lime, lemongrass and subtle herb notes have relaxed a little. It’s so nice to sniff that you might even forget to taste it!

When you do taste it, the attack is dry and subtle, but is quickly overwhelmed by a fruity mid palate: lime, grapefruit and quince. They fade out very gently over the long finish. There’s plenty of texture – small berries encourage a fleshy character, and the wine was not fined or filtered before bottling.

When I bought this wine, Grosset wines were a little cagey on ageing, suggesting that 15 years was probably the top end, but Jeffrey himself has said that some vintages can cellar for 25 years. It’s easy to see why this has become an Aussie icon, and an example of how good Australian Riesling can be.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €50 – €58 for current vintages
  • Source: purchased from The Wine Society
  • Stockists: good independents

 

* mountains and hills are caused by existing soils being uplifted, often twisted at the same time, so various layers are brought to the surface.

Make Mine A Double

Wine Review: Domaine Naturaliste Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon

Just in case you were thinking that these wines might have something to do with a nudist colony, no, it’s nothing like that. But, if you want to drink them in the buff then go ahead! This pair of wines are from Margaret River in Western Australia, so first a little reminder about the region, then an introduction to the producer, and finally notes on the wines themselves.

Margaret River

Margaret River Map
Credit: Domaine Naturaliste

Margaret River is not the only wine region in Western Australia but it surely ranks as the most important. It was famously founded as a wine region due to its climate being so close to that of Bordeaux, still a yardstick globally. As you can see from the map above, Margaret River is in the south west corner of the country, on the coast by the Indian Ocean and not too far from the chilly Southern Ocean.

The wines which MR is best known for include red and white Bordeaux blends, plus varietal Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. There’s very little – if any – bulk wine made down here. In 2009 it was reported that, although Margaret River only produced 3% of Australia’s wine output by volume, it accounted for 20% of its premium wines.

Key producers to look out for include Leeuwin Estate, Cape Mentelle, Vasse Felix, Cullen Estate and Moss Wood.

Domaine Naturaliste

Domaine Naturaliste is located close to Cape Naturaliste, just seven kilometres from the Indian Ocean. The vines are 20 years old and surround the winery building. The firm is headed up by Bruce Dukes, a WA local who has earned his winemaking spurs around the world. From their website:

With intuitive flair based on decades of experience, Bruce strikes a tender balance between taste, fragrance and texture. His passion for agriculture, respect for process and true artistry makes for an exceptional drinking experience, each and every time.

There are three quality levels in the Naturaliste portfolio, with the most interesting (to me) being the two different expressions of Margaret River Chardonnay in the Flagship range:

  • Flagship: Artus Chardonnay, Purus Chardonnay, Morus Cabernet Sauvignon, Le Naturaliste Cabernet Franc
  • Direction: Floris Chardonnay, Sauvage Sauvignon Blanc, Rachis Syrah, Rebus Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Discovery: Sauvignon Blanc / Semillon, Chardonnay, Tempranillo Rosé, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon

The wines in blue and bold are currently available in Ireland from O’Briens. So now to try two of the wines:

Domaine Naturaliste “Discovery” Margaret River Chardonnay 2019

Domaine Naturaliste Discovery Chardonnay

Fermentation and maturation of the Chardonnay grapes for this wine took place in French oak, albeit mostly second use or older. After fermentation the wine spent seven months on fine lees. Both the use of old barrels and time on lees gives a creamy texture to the wine and interesting additional notes.

In the glass it’s a bright lemon, but not the glowing gold of the oaky Chardonnays of yore. The nose eases tangy grapefruit into the conversation, promising freshness. There’s also a touch of exotic pineapple and mango, orange blossom, butterscotch and brioche. It really is perfectly poised between the steely (Chablis) and rich (Meursault) styles of Chardonnay. Those fruits reappear on the palate, which is gently tangy and fleshy.

This is a wonderful wine, and just based on the contents of the bottle I’d price it at €20 – €25 on the Irish market. That it costs less than that – significantly less on offer – makes it a joyous bargain.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €18.95 down to €15.95 from 1st to 25th September 2022
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Domaine Naturaliste “Discovery” Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

Domaine Naturaliste Discovery Cabernet Sauvignon

This Cabernet is from the same Discovery range as the Chardonnay above, and is similar in philosophy: it’s a fruit forward, accessible wine where the variety is given a chance to shine through judicious and restrained winemaking. A slight different from the Chardy is the extended maturation in French oak, twelve months versus seven for the white. I suspect the proportion of oak that is new is slightly higher for this wine as well – it can handle it.

When poured the wine is a little lighter than I’d expect from a new world Cabernet, and that’s reinforced by the nose which has as much red fruit as the black which Cab is better known for. The fruits are a mix of both fresh and compote, fresh but cosseting. Mocha and spice add interest. The palate is also aligned stylistically; it’s medium bodied rather than being a bruiser, with the oak adding toasty vanilla to the ripe berry fruits. It all comes together well a touch of tobacco and clean acidity on the finish

Cabernet Sauvignon is my favourite black grape, on its own or in a blend. While this doesn’t have the refinement and elegance of Coonawarra’s better offerings, neither does it have their price tag

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €19.95 down to €16.95 from 1st to 25th September 2022
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

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

 

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: 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)
Single Bottle Review

Wine Review: 19 Crimes 2020 Red Wine

19 Crimes is an Australian wine brand with a range of inexpensive, everyday wines that are available at supermarkets and other multiples.  This isn’t the normal type of wine that features on Frankly Wines, but as it’s so popular I thought it worth trying to see why so many people buy it.

I don’t know if the owners of 19 Crimes – Treasury Wine Estates (TWE) – set out to deliberately compete with the likes of Yellowtail and Barefoot, but that’s what they appear to be aiming at. The brand is built around the story of certain crimes which were punishable by deportation from Britain and Ireland to Australia in the late 18th and 19th century.

Each bottle is sealed with a cork – unusual for Aussie wine nowadays – with one of the 19 Crimes written on it. Encouragement to collect them all?  The front labels each feature a famous convict; eight from transportation times plus Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr. aka Snoop Dogg in a celebrity tie-in.

19 Crimes cork

Also of note is the innovative use of a proprietary app which makes each label “come alive”. Fair enough, this might be something of a gimmick, but wine needs innovative packaging and marketing for the mass market.

.From 29th April to 19th May the 19 Crimes Red Wine and Sauvignon Block [sic] are included in SuperValu’s wine offers.  Here are my notes on the former:

19 Crimes South Eastern Australia Red Wine 2020

19 Crimes Red Wine
This Charming Man

So, enough about the label and branding, what’s the wine like? It pours a medium intensity cherry red, implying that this is no blockbuster red. One website I found listed the varieties as Shiraz, Pinot Noir, Grenache, and Cabernet Sauvignon, and it’s the middle two grapes which give it the lighter hue.

The nose initially hits you with sweet vanilla, under which blackberries and fudge compete for attention. The palate is rich, full of vanilla and toasty oak, cherries, chocolate, dark berries, spice and caramel. I don’t have a tech sheet but the richness is obviously partly due to a good dose of residual sugar.

Similar to the Dada Art Series 1 I reviewed back in 2017, this is a wine made for pleasure and designed to match what many people actually like drinking.  Most wine drinkers – especially in the Irish market – will swear blind that they only like dry wines, but if there’s an off-dry finish to a red wine like this they won’t complain if they’re not told and don’t notice themselves.

For my personal taste, this wine is a little too confected and clumsy. But I’m not the target market, and I suspect that most people who buy it will like it – which is exactly the point!

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €14.99 down to €10 at SuperValu from 29th April to 19th May 2021
  • Source: Media sample

Opinion

Lidl Xmas 2020 Wines

Lidl Ireland are launching their Christmas wines in two separate parts, the first of which is already underway.  In addition to those limited release wines – marked * below – they are stocking up on new vintages of regular favourites.  My reviews below are not unqualified recommendations; other wines of the same type are available which offer better quality, though not better value.  I let you, dear readers, decide on whether each wine sounds like its worth putting in your trolley.

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

Clare Valley Riesling 2019*

This is a gentle Riesling, very drinkable and with no sharp edges.  When compared to the best Clare Valley Rieslings such as Grosset Polish Hill or Petaluma Hanlin Hill it’s a much simpler wine, with a shorter finish and even has a touch of residual sugar.  However, this is aimed at the casual drinker and I doubt that many people would be in the market for both styles; Lidl’s example is actually more approachable so might actually be more preferable for those looking for an easy-going (and less expensive) tipple.

When to drink: Whenever you like!

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €8.84
  • Stockists:  Lidl Ireland

Sauvignon Blanc Gran Reserva 2020

While the Riesling above isn’t very “Riesling” this 2020 Gran Reserva is VERY “Sauvignon Blanc”!  By this I mean that it is very young and expressive, and needs a little more time before settling down.  The key is one of the “Gs”, the aromas and flavours found in this Chilean Savvy:

  • Grass
  • Green (bell) pepper
  • Gooseberry
  • Grapefruit

For me the green pepper sticks out a little too much at the moment, so if you aren’t fond of that flavour then this wine isn’t for you.  However, if you are ambivalent or like green capsicums then you might be a fan.  Try decanting!

When to drink: With a fresh green salad or with goats cheese.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €12.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Il Santo Bevitore IGT Isola Dei Nuraghi 2019

This wine was a total unknown to me so I had to do a little research.  Isole dei Nuraghi is an IGT which covers the whole of Sardinia.  Many international grapes are used plus a few local specialities.  My guess was that this was a Syrah / Merlot blend but I was unable to confirm this.  The nose is smoky with red and black fruits.  The palate has black cherries and sour red cherries, overlain by a touch of vanilla.  Acidity is medium to high but not jarring.

When to drink: With just about anything apart from fish or seafood.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €11.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Barossa Valley Shiraz 2017*

In a similar vein to the Clare Valley Riesling, this is a very approachable, easy-going wine that doesn’t demand too much from its drinkers – it’s made in a deliberately commercial style.  The nose shows blackberry, blackcurrant and a little vanilla.  These notes continue through onto the palate but adding a little stewed fruit to the fresh.  Light tannins round off the wine nicely, though the finish is a little short.

When to drink: Very quaffable on its own, or pair with richer foods.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €8.84
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Carménère Gran Reserva 2020

Carménère is one of Bordeaux’s six black grapes, though it’s hardly grown there at all these days.  Instead it has become the flagship black grape of Chile, where it was mistaken for Merlot for over a century.  In the glass it pours a bright purple, typical of the variety.  The nose is lovely, with rich cassis, spice and blackberry.  These notes are repeated on the palate though they are somewhat barged out of the way by our friend green pepper; these green pepper notes tend to appear in Carménère when the grapes are picked before they have reached full phenolic ripeness, often when they are harvested at the same time as the earlier-ripening Merlot.  In this case, seeing the 14.5% alcohol, I wager that this wine was made from very warm vineyards where the sugar outpaced the flavours.  At any rate, the finish is nice and smooth.

When to drink: Beef or lamb stew.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €11.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Corte Alle Mure DOCG Chianti Riserva 2015*

2015 was an excellent year throughout most of Italy so I was eager to try this Chianti Riserva.  This isn’t what I’d call a polished wine, but it is very Chianti, by which I mean it has typical tobacco and liquorice on the nose, Morello cherries and a hint of oak on the palate.  Acidity is prominent which makes it a food wine rather than a comfortable sipper

When to drink: Charcuterie or mixed Christmas leftovers.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €9.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland