Tasting Events

Whites From Off The Beaten Track [GrapeCircus 2020 Round 2]

After the Champagnes of Laherte Frères in Part 1, we now turn to a trio of unusual whites.  They aren’t that obscure, but they aren’t going to appear in your local supermarket.  They are all made by small, family owned producers who prefer to do work in the vineyard rather than the winery.  Note: I tasted these wines back in February this year so some outlets may well have moved onto the 2019 vintages of the respective wines.

M & A Arndorfer Gemischter Satz Weiss 2018

Martin and Anna Arndorfer are part of the new generation in Austria, acknowledging their respective families’ deep ties to their region of Kamptal but breaking free and setting down their own roots.  Their approach might be described as “hands-off”, but that would belittle the work they do in the vineyard, fully respectful of nature’s gifts.

This is the first time I have reviewed the M & A Arndorfer Gemischter Satz (field blend), though I have previously reviewed their single varietal 2015 Grüner Veltliner  and their 2016 Vorgeschmack white.  As the latter is no longer available and consisted of the same blend (80% Grüner Veltliner & 20% Riesling) as this wine I believe it is simply a matter of renaming.

Those familiar with the component varieties – hopefully a decent majority of you – should be able to imagine its style; decent body with lots of spice and pip fruit, but a racy finish.  Apples and pears meet lemon and lime?  What’s not to like?

Burja “Petit Burja” Zelen 2018

When faced with this label most wine drinkers would be forgiven for thinking “what even is that?”  (Confession: I thought exactly that!)  So: “Burja” is the name of the estate, “Zelen” is the name of the grape and “Petit Burja” is the name of the bottling.  Burja is run by Primož Lavrenčič who named it after the Mistral-like wind which can blow through the vines.  Zelen is a local grape variety named after the Slovenian word for ‘green’ which is the colour that it apparently takes on when fermenting.  The estate is run on both organic and biodynamic lines.

So how does this unusual grape taste?  It doesn’t taste exactly like anything else, but in a word, great!  It’s highly aromatic, with floral and citrus notes to the fore.  These continue onto the palate which is juicy and tangy, but also mineral and linear.  This wine could be the jolt that your palate needs!

Domaine de Montcy Cheverny Blanc 2018

I have reviewed the red wine from this stable before; Domaine de Montcy Cheverny Rouge was the Frankly Wines #2 Value Red of 2017.  The Domaine has been run by Italian Laura Semeria for 13 years; she has woven the new (converting viticulture to organic and then biodynamic) with the old (maintaining local varieties including the rare Romorantin).  The vines cover a surface area of 20 hectares and vary in age up to 80 years old.

Just as the Arndorfer wine above, this is an 80/20 blend, but this time 80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Chardonnay (yes, Chardonnay is grown in the Loire!)  This blend is rarely seen in France, nor even Australia or New Zealand, but does occur in northern Italy.  Although unusual, the blend is seamless, showing floral, herby and citrus notes.  It’s a light yet thrilling, real wine.


GrapeCircus 2020:

Wine + Music

The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series #11 – Mags McKee

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 eleventh edition of this series we are in the capable hands of Mags McKee, a great friend and fellow DNSer (even though she lives south of the Liffey) . Mags has a long held passion for wine and has taken it to the next level with The Wine Pair, a wine bar and shop she opened with her husband Canice.  When I quizzed Mags on her taste in music, among many things she mentioned both U2 and the Blues, so there was an immediately obvious choice: a fantastic track from U2’s Rattle & Hum album featuring guitar and vocals from Riley B. King, aka the King of the Blues BB King.  This was in fact the track that really turned me on to the blues and it has since been one of my favourite genres.

There were so many wines I’ve tasted with Mags at consumer and DNS tastings over the years that I was spoiled for choice. Running through the wine list of The Wine Pair to narrow it down, I spotted one of my favourite Austrian reds: Pittnauer Zweigelt “Heideboden”. I was lucky enough to meet Gerhard Pittnauer and taste through his wines a few years ago.

When Love Comes to Town – U2 with BB King

I was delighted when Frankie gave me my music choice When Love Comes to Town – U2 with BB King as I am a big fan of U2, with Rattle and Hum being one of my favourite U2 albums. I am also an avid Blues fan and love the edge that the King of the Blues brings to this version. I know it may seem weird to some but listening to Blues makes me happy.

Love coming to town automatically made me think of a sparkling wine and as this is a rock song with the addition of the wonderful BB King what better than a naturally sparkling Pétillant Naturel, or Pet Nat for short. Pet Nat is made in the ‘methode ancestrale’, i.e. bottled before primary fermentation has finished (i.e. with yeast still alive and sugar remaining)  which then continues to ferment in the bottle, finishing relatively dry with pleasantly frothy bubbles.

A great natural Pet Nat I have been enjoying recently and a firm favourite with The Wine Pair customers is the deliciously ripe and Dangerously drinkable, Tour de Gendres. Its frothy bubbles release delicious tart orchard fruit and citrus notes. The bright acidity balances the slight sweetness as it dances on the tongue reminding me of how we have boogied to this great song.

Chateau-Tour-des-Gendres-pet-nat

This interesting and fun to drink Pet Nat is made from predominantly Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc (30%) by Luc di Conti in Bergerac, Southwest France, close to Bordeaux. Luc farms biodynamically on his 54 hectare vineyard, located on the bank of the Dordogne River, and uses seaweed, and other natural resources, to nourish the soil. The de Conti family has run the farm here since the early 1900s, but only in 1986 did Luc de Conti and his brother, Jean, decide to plant the vineyard and embark on a new adventure of viticulture and winemaking. In 1994, they became the first in the region to move away from pesticides and chemicals and turn to 100 percent organic farming.

The grapes from low yielding vines are allowed to fully ripen and are manually crushed. Partial fermentation, with indigenous yeasts, is in stainless steel vats with final fermentation in the bottle. It is bottled without fining, filtering or the addition of sulphur making it vegan friendly and a little cloudy.

This is wonderfully drinkable, and would be a great alternative for Prosecco drinkers looking for something a little more interesting while still being easy and fun to drink and its only 11% ABV.

We usually have it as an aperitif but I think it would go great with Sushi or Smoked fish. My cheese pairing for this would be a goat’s cheese maybe a St Tola or Cooleeney, Gortnamona to bring even more love to town.

This bright vibrant wine certainly brings Love to Town for me and its fantastic label from is pretty cool too. If you haven’t tried it yet “catch that flame” and “jump on that train”.

Pittnauer Zweigelt Heideboden

Pittnauer Zweigelt Heideboden

My wine choice from Frankie, Pittnauer Zweigelt Heideboden, was again one my favourites so gave me a great excuse to drink more and think about my choice of music for this wine.

I am a big fan of the high quality wines coming from Austria and my first visit to Vienna was booked for the end of March this year. I was really looking forward to trying some great Austrian wines whilst there but it didn’t happen due to Covid-19. The disappointment of my cancelled trip is reflected in my music choice – Vienna Calling by Falco. The lively and glamorous song from 1985 was the follow on hit to his other big hit song Rock me Amadeus.

A Mozart piece may have been an obvious choice for this wine but my eclectic music choices are hugely influenced by the 80’s and I love electronic music. Falco and his music sits in the genre of West German Rock, Neue Deutsche Welle “New German Wave”) which is originally derived from post punk and new wave with electronic influences, so I’m sure the music scene in Austria in the mid 80s was greatly influenced by one of my favourite groups Kraftwerk. Anyway, there is a nod to a Viennese waltz at the start of the song.

In the mid 80s, while Falco was rocking Amadeus, the Austrian wine industry was rocking in the midst of scandal and chaos , Gerhard Pittnaur, then only 18, started the Weingut Pittnauer business in Burgenland in the eastern corner of Austria. He had to train himself to make wine and chose to farm the indigenous grapes of the region. He thinks to ‘grow’ wine rather than to ‘make’ it in the cellar. Gerhard and his wife Brigitte decided to create what they call living wines. All work is done manually from composting to pruning. There is no calendar that drives them. Nothing is rushed: they believe in quality over speed. They taste for perfect ripeness, select the cleanest grapes, and begin the wine in the cellar.

Pittnauer Zweigelt Heideboden is 100% Zweigelt. Zweigelt is the most popular red wine variety in Austria and originates from the crossing of St. Laurent with Blaufrankisch. It is characterised by its cherry fruit and a juicy, soft style. This wine is bursting with red cherries, blueberries, blackberries and plums with hints of violet and black pepper. It’s an elegant wine with a long complex finish. As Falco says ‘Oh o Ho’.

This is one of my go to wines for a cheese and meat platter as it pairs well with most cheeses and cured meats and its acidity stands up to any pickled accompaniments giving no taste clashes.

Platter

So Hello, Vienna is still calling me and I will get there but until I do I can still enjoy great Austrian wines.

Mags McKee

Mags is one half of The Wine Pair, the other being Canice (who, in an amazing coincidence, also has the surname McKee!)  They opened The Wine Pair late last year with the aim of providing an informal neighbourhood wine bar where people could relax with a favourite glass (or carafe, or bottle) and choose small cheese or charcuterie plates to pair with it.  They also offered the option of take-home sales and in these Covid-19 affected times they have been busy offering collection and local delivery.

As well as their website you can find The Wine Pair on Instagram or Twitter.  They also have their own Twitter accounts: Mags & Canice.


The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series
No. Guest Name Music to pair Wine to pair
14 Lee Isaacs The Rolling Stones – Gimme Shelter Domaine Jones Fitou
13 Sharon L Souls Of Mischief –  93 ‘Til Infinity Penfolds RWT
12 Tim Milford Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man Nyetimber Classic Cuvée
11 Mags McKee U2 with BB King –  When Love Comes to Town Pittnauer Zweigelt Heideboden
10 Cara Rutherford The Cure – Just Like Heaven Suertes del Marqués ‘7 Fuentes’
9 Melanie May The Cult –  She Sells Sanctuary Sipp Mack GC Rosacker Riesling
8 James Hubbard Gary Moore – Parisienne Walkways Penfolds Bin 707 Cab Sauv
7 Paul Moran Underworld – Rez Suertes del Marqués Trenzado
6 Nirina Plunkett Jamiroquai – Space Cowboy Club Remix Wolfberger Crémant d’Alsace
5 Penny Sadler Fleetwood Mac – Dreams Bollinger Special Cuvée
4 Jim Dunlop The Beatles – The Long And Winding Road Man O’ War Valhalla Chardonnay
3 Avril Kirrane McMorrough Norah Jones – Don’t Know Why Joseph Cattin Riesling Reserve
2 Tim of Soliciting Flavours Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings Viña Tondonia Blanco
1 Sinéad Smyth Stardust – Music Sounds Better With You Mullineux Syrah
Book Review, Tasting Events

DNS host Wilson on Wine (Part 2)

How does the 2019 edition of Wilson on Wine compare to the first from 2015?  Well it’s a different colour for a start, but the changes have been subtle improvements with each edition.  The indices in the back are very helpful, so you can look up particular wines or see which wines are listed from your favourite wine merchants.  For the first time there’s a natural wine section – wines that can be a little different so might not suit the unprepared – but what better way to prepare than having someone recommend a few!

Wilson On Wine 2019

Part 1 looked at the wines we tasted that were particularly good value for money; now we look at some which were just exceedingly good:

Granzamy Brut Champagne NV (12.0%, RRP €34.95 at O’Briens)

granzamy brut-nv champagne

This Champagne has a few unusual facets considering its distribution through a multiple retailer:

  1. It’s a “Grower Champagne”, i.e. the grapes used are the producer’s own rather than being bought in (see this post on Champagne types for more background).
  2. It’s made from 100% Pinot Meunier, the third Champagne grape which is often unfairly looked down upon.
  3. It’s totally delicious!!

Granzamy fully deserves its normal price of €34.95 but is sometime on promotion at €5 or even €10 less, making it an absolute steal.  When Champagnes are discounted this low they aren’t usually that nice, but this is an exception.  Looks out for promotions and fill your boots!

Gaia Wild Ferment Assyrtiko 2016 (13.0%, RRP €24.95 at O’Briens)

gaia assyrtiko wild ferment

Gaia’s Wild Ferment Assyrtiko is a regular on Frankly Wines and the 2016 vintage is now singing sweetly.  It manages to reflect both its volcanic and maritime origins with thrilling acidity and soft stone fruit.  As always, the Wild Ferment makes itself known through an attractive funkiness on the nose.  The simpler little brother Monograph gives a good introduction to the grape, but this is still one of the finest examples I’ve tried.

Stonier Mornington Peninsula Chardonnay 2016 (13.5%, RRP €26.95 at O’Briens)

stonier mornington peninsula chardonnay

The Mornington Peninsula is one of the most southerly wine regions in mainland Australia, giving cool conditions which are great for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  For me, this wine is the proof that natural wine is not the only way to make good wine.  I do like plenty of wines which are considered natural, but judicious intervention in terms of wine making choices can add interest, without artificial chemicals in the vineyard or winery.  The grapes are sourced from different sites around the region, and then around half (from the coolest sites) are allowed to go through malolactic fermentation which softens and rounds the wine.  Some oak is used in various formats, but only 15% is new.

With its struck match reductive funky nose and fleshy citrus mouthfeel, this is the sort of wine that would have a €60+ price tag on it if it was from Burgundy!

Weingut Rabl Grüner Veltliner Käferberg 2015 (13.5%, RRP €24.95 at O’Briens)

rabl gruner kaferberg

I like “regular” Grüners, whether from Austria, New Zealand or elsewhere, but special ones like this make a really good ambassador for the grape.  It has texture, richness and a depth of flavour that place “Beetle Mountain” ahead of the rest.  For Alsace fans this has quite a lot in common with a superior Pinot Gris (perhaps one from Kaefferkopf which is “Beetle Head”).  I’d be very interested to see how this develops over the next half decade or so, but to be honest it’s so delicious now I don’t think I’d be able to keep my hands off it!

Domaine Tempier Bandol Rouge 2014 (14.5%, RRP €39.95 at Karwig Wines)

domaine tempier bandol rouge

Bandol is one of the most famous Provence AOCs and Domaine Tempier have been a leading producer since the nineteenth century.  Red, white and rosé are produced, but here we focus on the red, Mourvèdre dominated but augmented by a little Grenache and Cinsault.  Bandol is the only place in France with enough sun and heat to properly ripen Mourvèdre, and boy does it show – there are intensely concentrated black and red berries bursting out of the glass, and lifted, spicy aromatics.  This is a wine which could last decades but is already really special.

 

 

Opinion

GrapeCircus Round 2

Another round of fantastic whites from GrapeCircus!

Disclosure: samples kindly provided for review, opinions are my own

Cantina Roccafiori Bianco “Fiorfiore” 2015 (14.0%, RRP €22.00 at Sheridan’s, Mitchell & Son and SIYPS)

Roccafiori 2

We met Roccafiori’s Fiordaliso in Round 1; whereas that was a blend of 85% Grechetto di Todi and 15% Trebbiano Spoletino, their flagship wine Fiorfiore is 100% Grechetto di Todi.  It’s matured in large (5,000L) Slavonian oak casks which add texture and complexity but very little actual oak flavour.  This is a grown up, powerful and savoury wine which still manages to be fresh – a wine for contemplation.

La Marca di San Michele Verdicchio “Saltatempo” 2016 (12.5%, RRP €21.00 at Sheridan’s, Mitchell & Son)

Saltatempo 2

The La Marca di San Michele estate in Cupramontana was founded by siblings Alessandro Bonci, Beatrice Bonci, and Daniela Quaresima in 2007.  They are certified organic and take a low intervention approach.  This Verdicchio has quite a floral nose but plenty of apple and pear to go with it.  In the mouth it’s lithe and fluid, fruit and minerality competing for your attention.  Just a stunning wine that you won’t be able to resist!

M&A Arndorfer Vorgeschmack White 2016 (11.5%, RRP €21.00 at Sheridan’s and SIYPS)

Arndorfer Vorgeschmack white 2016 2

Vorgeschmack means a “taster” as in an introduction.  The Arndorfers have both red and white Vorgeschmacks which are both blends; 80% Zweigelt and 20% Pinot Noir for the red and 80% Grüner Veltliner plus 20% Riesling for this white.  I really like their straight GV but this is even more interesting – two of Austria’s key white grapes combining to make a tangy, fresh combination.  Very versatile for food matching!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tasting Events

GrapeCircus Round 1

Led by Venetian Enrico Fantsia, GrapeCircus is an Irish wine importer that specialises in natural, vibrant wines from Italy and other parts of Europe.  His wines are stocked at famous Irish cheesemonger Sheridan’s (with whom he has a partnership) and elsewhere. Here are a few of my favourites:

Cantina Roccafiori Roccafiori Bianco “Fiordaliso” 2015 (12.5%, RRP €17.95 at Sheridans Cheesemongers, SIPYS, Mitchell & Son, Green Man Wines)

Roccafiore Bianco Fiordaliso 2015

Umbria is one of Italy’s less-heralded wine regions, but rising standards have caused its wines to be increasingly sought out.  Roccafiore is situated in the hills of Todi and runs on a natural and environmentally-friendly basis, even going so far as to use solar power for their energy needs.  Fiordaliso is a blend of local grapes Grechetto di Todi (85%) and Trebbiano Spoletino (15%).  It’s a dry, crisp wine with Granny Smith apples and fresh citrus zest.

M&A Arndorfer Strass Im Sassertale Kamptal Grüner Veltliner 2015 (12.5%, RRP €18.95 at Sheridans Cheesemongers, SIPYS)

Arndorfer GV

Martin & Anna Arndorfer both come from well respected winemaking families in Kamptal, Niederösterreich, but have become recognised for the purity and originality of their own wines.  This is a clean, dry introduction to Austria’s signature grape Grüner Veltliner.  Minimal intervention allows the characteristics of the variety to shine through – soft pip fruit and floral notes, medium body and a white pepper kick to the finish.

Roncus Friuli Ribolla Gialla 2016 (12.0%, RRP €22.50 at Sheridans Cheesemongers, SIPYS, Green Man Wines)

Roncus Ribolla Gialla

Ribolla Gialla is probably my favourite native Italian white grape as it just has so much character.  It’s a speciality of Friuli in the north east of Italy, bordering Austria and Slovenia, where local grape Friulano (aka Sauvignonasse, Sauvignon Vert) is also prominent.  Roncus’s example has plenty of soft pip fruit but also intriguing aromas and flavours of almond.  As I love almonds, perhaps that’s why I love this wine so much?

Domaine Vinci Côtes Catalanes “Coyade” 2014 (12.0%, RRP €31.50 at Sheridans Cheesemongers, SIPYS, Green Man Wines)

Vinci Cotes Catalan Coyade

Domaine Vinci’s Olivier Varichon and Emanuelle Vinci take a natural approach to winemaking, using wild yeast for fermentation and bottling with no fining or filtration.  It seems fitting that a wine from French Catalonia uses grapes also found on the Spanish side of the border – Maccabeu (aka Macabeo, 70%), Grenache Blanc (20%) and Carignan Blanc (10%).  Maccabeu can be somewhat boring neutral, but given some diurnal variation from altitude and sensible yields it can produce interesting, aromatic wines such as Coyade.  This is a fresh, mineral wine which would partner well with shellfish and other seafood, but has enough flavour and interest to be delightful on its own.

Tenuta Ansitz Dornach Pinot Bianco “XY” 2010 (12.5%, RRP €38.00 at Sheridans Cheesemongers, SIYPS, Mitchell & Son)

Pinot Bianco XY

Trentino / Alto Adige has both Italian and Austrian roots, so there’s no surprise that the gamut of grape varieties runs from Pinot Grigio to Müller-Thurgau.  However, this Alpine region also makes some classy Pinot Bianco – a grape which is often suited to everyday drinking but is rarely treated seriously.  The “XY” cuvée is treated more like a Chardonnay than a Pinot Blanc – it spends at least twenty months on the lees in second use French oak barriques, giving it texture and flavour.  There’s a little vanilla from the oak but more nuts and toastiness, all on top of fresh apple and citrus.  This is a refined, poised wine which would turn any white Burgundy-lover’s head.

Tasting Events

Another Brick In The Wall – Part 5

 

It was a real pleasure to meet Gerhard Pittnauer and taste his wines at the WineMason tasting earlier this year.  Weingut Pittnauer is based in Austria’s Burgenland, at the north east corner of Lake Neusiedl (the Neusiedlersee: area 9 in the map below); the body of water prevents winters being too harsh so it’s great for producing red wines.

Austrian wine regions
1: Wachau 2: Kremstal 3: Kamptal 4: Traisental 5: Wagram (bis 2006: Donauland) 6: Weinviertel 7: Carnuntum 8: Thermenregion 9: Neusiedlersee 10: Neusiedlersee-Hügelland 11: Mittelburgenland 12: Südburgenland 13: Wien 14: Vulkanland Steiermark (bis 2015: Süd-Oststeiermark) 15: Südsteiermark 16: Weststeiermark [Credit: Robert Kropf]
These are the wines which impressed me most:

Pittnauer Pitt Nat 2016 (10.5%, RRP €32 but currently only in restaurants)

Pitt Nat is a pun on Pét-Nat, the trendy slang for Pétillant-Naturel, a naturally sparkling style of wine that predates Champagne, Prosecco and the rest.  Rather than sugar and yeast being added to an already fully fermented wine, the wine is bottled before it has finished its primary fermentation, and thus the carbon dioxide produced is dissolved into the liquid.

2016 is only Pittnauer’s second vintage of this wine but it’s so successful I hope they retain it in their range.  It’s a light rosé made from 90% Zweigelt and 10% Blaufrankisch, slightly cloudy from remaining yeast.  Fruity with a touch of pleasant sourness, it finishes dry (as their is no dosage, of course).  Very nice drinking!

 

Pittnauer Pitti 2015 (13.5%, RRP €19 at Baggot St Wines, Blackrock Cellar, Mitchells, Redmonds & SIYPS)

Pitti is the all-rounder red of the range, made of 50% Zweigelt, 40% Blaufränkisch and 10% Merlot.  It shows a little red but mainly black fruit – blackberries in particular.  There’s also something of the other in there – pepper and black olive – which add savoury notes to the fruit.  A great introduction to red Austrian wine.

 

Pittnauer Zweigelt Heideboden 2015 (13.5%, RRP €21 at Red Island, The Corkscrew, 1601 Kinsale & SIYPS)

Zweigelt is an Austrian-born cross of St. Laurent and Blaufränkisch which is now the country’s most widely grown black grape.  It’s not the only varietal Zweigelt made by Pittnauer, but it’s from a single village and is more intensely fruity and structured.  A mixture of new and old oak was used to add a little heft, but it doesn’t obscure the delicious black fruit – nor the hint of liquorice.  Acidity is present and correct; this is a great food wine.

 

Pittnauer St Laurent Dorflagen 2015 (12.0%, RRP €25 at 1601 Kinsale, The Corkscrew & Redmonds)

Pittnauer St Laurent Dorflagen

Saint or Sankt Laurent is the most widely plated black grape in the Czech Republic, second in Slovakia and third in Austria.  Its origins are uncertain but it can be loosely thought of as Pinot Noir with a bit more oomph!  Compared to the other Pittnauer reds this is a lighter  wine – the 12.0% abv gives a clue – with red and black fruit sharing the stage.  Fresh acidity and light, crunchy tannins complete the picture

 

Another Brick in the Wall series:

Tasting Events

Another Brick In The Wall – Part 2

WineMason is an Irish wine importer run by husband and wife team Ben Mason and Barbara Boyle MW.  They specialise in wines from Germany, Portugal and Austria, but their expanding portfolio now encompasses France, South Africa, Spain and Italy.

Here are four of the Germanic whites (three from Germany, one from Austria) that I really enjoyed at their tasting earlier this year.

German wine regions
German Wine Regions (in French!) Credit: DalGobboM

 

Geil Rheinhessen Pinot Blanc 2016 (12.0%, RRP €17 at Baggot St Wines, Clontarf Wines, Lilac Wines, Martin’s Off Licence, Blackrock Cellar, D-Six, Greenman Wines, Listons, McHughs, Mortons Galway, Mortons Ranelagh, Nectar OTGV, Sweeney’s, WWC)

Pinot-Blanc-Rheinhessen

Rheinhessen, sometimes known as Rhine Hesse in English (or Hesse Rhénane in French as on the map above), is the largest of Germany’s 13 wine regions.  It produces plenty of ordinary wine, but the best sites in the hands of a good producer can produce fantastic wines.  Johannes Geil-Bierschenk is an innovative young producer based in Bechtheim.  In particular he focuses on low yields, early pressing of whites and fermentation with indigenous yeast.

Just as in Alsace, Pinot Blanc (also known as Weissburgunder) is usually under-rated in Germany, but here makes for a very appealing and easy-drinking wine.  It’s dry and fresh with citrus and stone fruit notes.  A long finish seals the deal – and great value at €17

Geil Rheinhessen Riesling 2016 (12.0%, RRP €17 at Baggot St Wines, Clontarf Wines, Lilac Wines, Martin’s Off Licence, Blackrock Cellar, D-Six, Green Man Wines, Listons, McHughs, Mortons Galway, Mortons Ranelagh, Nectar OTGV, Sweeney’s, WWC)

riesling-geil 2

Geil’s most extensive variety is Riesling which is bottled from different terroirs and in different styles.  This is the straight forward dry Riesling which – I must whisper quietly – stands up against many similar examples from my beloved Alsace.  It has zippy lime and tangy lemon notes – very refreshing indeed!

Max Ferd. Richter Zeppelin Riesling 2015 (11.0%, RRP €18 at The Corkscrew, McHughs, Blackrock Cellar, Mitchells, 64 Wines, Nectar, Martin’s Off Licence, Lilac Wines, Green Man Wines, D-Six)

max-ferd-zeppelin

And so to another German Riesling, but this time from the Mosel and quite different in style.  In contrast to the modern Geil labels above and the more traditional ones on the rest of the Max Ferd. Richter range, this has an art deco style label harking back to the time of the Zeppelin airships.  The link is no marketing gimmick as wines from Mulheim (Max Fed. Richter’s home) were actually served on the Zeppelins!

So how does it taste?  Yum yum yum is the answer!  There’s a little bit of residual sugar to balance the acidity and enhance the fruitiness, but it’s by no means a sweet wine.  One of the most drinkable wines I’ve had this year!

Groiss Weinviertel Gemischter Satz 2016 (12.5%, RRP €21 at Green Man Wines, The Corkscrew, 64 Wines)

groiss gemischter satz

This wine is always a crowd-pleaser – but for a good reason: it’s fab!  The 2015 vintage was showing really well when I tasted it at the Ely Big Tasting last year.  It’s no ordinary wine though, despite its charms and moderate price tag – it’s a field blend of (at least) 17 different varieties:

Chardonnay, Müller Thurgau, Welschriesling, Grüner Veltliner, Riesling, Grauburgunder, Pinot Blanc, Frühroter Veltliner, Neuburger, Zierfandler, Rotgipfler, Sämling, Roter Veltliner, Grauer Vöslauer, Hietl Rote, Weiße Vöslauer and Silberweiße.

Winemaker and owner Ingrid Groiss is a firm fan of traditional viticulture and vinification, hence an old-school wine where the different varieties are planted together, harvested at the same time and vinified together.  It’s full of tangy peach and apricot but dry, mineral and fresh.  This is a wonderful wine that you must try.

Opinion, Uncategorized

Frankly Wines Top 10 Sweet wines of 2016

As a wise man once said to me, don’t call them “dessert wines” as that implies they are only fit to drink with a dessert!  Categorising wines isn’t always an easy task, as even simple descriptors such as colour are open to interpretation (see this article).  Where do sweet wines fit in?  In the end, the label isn’t important, what’s in the glass is.

10. Tarin Pineau des Charentes Blanc Vieilli 3 Ans

2017-01-02-13-52-20

Pronounced the same as “Pinot”, this is the secret fortified drink of France’s west country. Made by adding eau de vie to grape must that has barely begun fermenting, it can only be produced in the Charente and Charente-Maritime departments – also the home of Cognac. That’s no coincidence as the grape spirit used for Pineau is the same that is aged to eventually become Cognac.

This example has received 3 years of ageing which gives it a slight “rancio” character – enough to add interest but not so much that it dominates.  The only downside is that it is so moreish!

9. Sipp Mack Gewurztraminer Vieilles Vignes 2012

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This Gewurz isn’t intended to be a sweet wine as such, but given the grape’s natural flavour profile, low acidity and a bit of residual sugar it tastes far sweeter than other many wines of Alsace.  As a general rule I do like some sweetness in my Gewurz, and this Sipp Mack does deliver that, but with an incredible intensity of flavour thanks to its old vines. See here for the full review.

8. GD Vajra Moscato d’Asti 2015

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Moscato from Australia and elsewhere gained a lot of ground in recent years – fresh and fruity, sweet and easy to drink yet with very moderate alcohol, it became something of a party drink.  Hopefully this will shine a light back on Piedmont, the pioneering region of this style (though obviously not of the Muscat grape!)

Moscato d’Asti might also qualify as a party drink for some, but its true value is at the table, mainly with fruit based desserts where it excels.  The best – such as GD Vajra’s – have a mouthwatering balance of acidity and sweetness.  See here for the full review

7. Max Ferd. Richter Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese

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For many wine aficionados, Germany is the ultimate country for Riesling.  The sheer variety of styles is one of its key strengths, from bone-dry to intensely sweet, and just about every spot in between.  This Mosel Spätlese (late harvest) is just wonderful and was my narrow favourite of an all-Riesling tasting at DNS Wineclub.  See here for the full review

6. Zantho Scheurebe Trockenbeerenauslese 2012

zantho

Zantho is a joint venture between two famous names of Austrian wine, viticulturist Josef Umathum and winemaker Wolfgang Peck of Winzerkeller Andau.  As well as dry whites and reds they also make three dessert wines (pictured above) which are all glorious, with the TBA (for short) being my favourite.  Germanic grape Scheurebe works best as a sweet wine and excels in Zantho’s TBA from close to the border with Hungary.

5. Nyetimber Demi-Sec NV

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I’m a long standing fan of Nyetimber and I’ve been pleased to see them popping up here and there in Ireland.  When back in England in the summer I picked up a bottle of their Demi-Sec – which I haven’t yet seen here in Ireland – and took it to a DNS Wineclub tasting.  It was absolutely magnificent and reinforced my admiration for Brad Greatrix and Cherie Spriggs.

Not stated on the front label is that this is 100% Chardonnay, and therefore a Blanc-de-Blancs.  Dosage is 45g/L giving it perfect balance – typical English acidity is the counter to the sugar.  This was the first English Demi-Sec to be released but I would go further and state that it’s one of the top few Demi-Secs made anywhere in the world.

4. Domaine de Bois Mozé Coteaux de l’Aubance 2008

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The Loire Valley is probably France’s most underrated wine region and its Chenin based dessert wines probably the least well known – which is a total shame as they can be world class without a world class price.  Coteaux  de l’Aubance is even less well known than Coteaux du Layon and Quarts de Chaume, but the best sites can yield beauties such as this. In my opinion these wines are the ultimate expression of Chenin Blanc – and this is still a youngster at nine years of age.

3. Donnafugata Ben Ryé Passito di Pantelleria 2014

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The grape variety for this wine is known locally as Zibibbo, but further afield as Muscat of Alexandria – a very ancient grape.  “Local” here is the tiny island of Pantelleria which is between Sicily and Tunisia.  The grapes are dried after picking to concentrate the flavours and sugars, similar to “straw wines” elsewhere.  This is a wine of staggering complexity for such a young vintage, the biggest threat to ageing being its utter deliciousness!

2. Cascina Garitina Niades

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Many readers will be drawing a blank at the name of this wine which could have been in any (or all!) of my red, sparkling and sweet Top 10 lists.  Formerly carrying the DOCG of Brachetto d’Acqui, it could be thought of as the red equivalent of Moscato d’Asti – though even better, in this case.

When I tried it and tweeted about it, one wag did reply “can’t see the point” – and admittedly, before I tried it I can’t say it was missing from my life – but once tried this wine is never forgotten.  Fresh red fruit, acidity and sweetness combine to make wine heaven – it’s Eton Mess in a glass!

1. Léon Beyer Gewurztraminer Vendanges Tardives 1998

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This was the unexpected runaway winner of the DNS Wineclub Alsace tasting, against some pretty stiff competition (including #2 in this Top 10).  Léon Beyer is based in the achingly beautiful village of Eguisheim and has Domaines Zinck and Bruno Sorg as neighbours.  “The house style is dry” said the lady at the counter, “apart from the sweet wines” – such as this rare Late Harvest Gewurz.  The Léon Beyer website give a drinking window of 10 to 20 years from vintage, but this tasted like it had another decade left at least.  If I had another bottle it would probably make my Top 10 sweet wines of 2026!

 

 

 

 

Opinion

Frankie, my dear, I don’t give a damn

Inspired by a comment from Mr Richie Magnier of The Motley Cru, here are 10 wines / grapes / regions / producers with some connection – however tenuous – to the name FRANKIE!  If this seems somewhat vain, well maybe it is, but hopefully also a bit of fun…

1. Cabernet Franc (Loire & Bordeaux)

Cabernet-franc
From Viala & Vermorel – Ampélographie

So we kick off with one of the classiest Francs around, a stalwart black grape of Loire and Bordeaux that’s also becoming quite trendy in Argentina.

In Bordeaux it’s a useful blending component on both Left and Right banks, especially as it ripens before its offspring Cabernet Sauvignon.  In fact, in Bourg, Saint-Emilion and Pomerol it’s not usual for “Cabernets” plural to indicate a mix of the two without giving their relative proportions.

In the Loire Cab Franc is important in Saumur, Chinon, Anjou and Bourgueil.  It’s often a single varietal here, whether as a red or a rosé such as Cabernet d’Anjou.

2. Blaufränkisch / Kékfrankos

Blaufrankisch_close_upIn case you weren’t aware, these two names are the same grape in different languages – German and Hungarian respectively.  The origin stems from the colour – blue – and the supposed more noble Frankish (well I’m hardly going to disagree with that!) origins of Charlemagne’s Franks.

Blaufränkisch is grown across central Europe including Austria, the Czech Republic and many parts of former Yugoslavia, with just a few brave pioneers trying it in Adelaide Hills and Washington State.

3. Frank Phélan

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Château Phélan Ségur of Saint-Estèphe in the Médoc was founded by Irishman Bernard Phelan who acquired and joined two existing estates in the early 1800s.  On his death the Château passed to his son Frank who spent a total of thirty years as the Mayor of the town.

The second wine of Phélan Ségur is named after Frank, and is both cheaper and more approachable than the Grand Vin.  It often receives accolades for quality v price (well this is Bordeaux) and its big and bold fruit shouldn’t be a surprise when you find out that Michel Rolland is the consulting oenologist here.

4. Ezerjó

What?  Who?  Where?  According to St Jancis of Robinson this is apparently a white Hungarian wine grape grown primarily in the Mór region which is mainly used for dessert wines.  And??  In the listings of the Vitis International Variety Catalogue (essential reading, I’m sure you’ll agree) Ezerjó is also known by the synonyms Biella, Budai Feher, Budicsin, Budicsina, Cirfondli, Ezer Jo, Feher Bakator, Feher Budai, Feher Sajgo, Feher Szagos, Frank, Kerekes, Kolmreifer, Kolmreifler, Konreifler, Korpavai, Korponai, Korponoi, Matyok, Predobre, Refosco, Refosco Weiss, Romandi, Satoki, Scheinkern, Scheinkernweiss, Shaikern, Staloci, Szadocsina, Szadoki, Szatoki, Szatoky, Tausendfachgute, Tausendgerte, Tausendgut, Tausendgute, and Trummertraube.

Wake up, you missed it!  I put it in bold and you fell asleep!  Shame on you!

5. Dr Frank Wine Cellars (Finger Lakes)

DF WinesDr Konstantin Frank emigrated to New York State from the Ukraine in 1951.  After years of research he became convinced that Vitis Vinifera (proper vines) could flourish in the cool climate of upstate New York if they were grafted onto the right rootstock.

He founded Vinifera Wine Cellars in 1962 and his Rieslings soon became successful.  The company is now run by the third generation with the fourth in training!  Rumours that Dr Frank used to gig with Dr John could not be confirmed.

6. Franken

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Known as Franken in German or Franconia in English, this is one of Germany’s quality wine regions, and is the only wine region within Bavaria (I understand they make beer there as well).

The wines made are nearly always single varietals rather than blends and tend to be dry – even more dry than they have to be under German labelling laws.

The tasty-but-unfashionable Sylvaner is reputed to hit its heights here, though there is still more of the workhorse Müller-Thurgau at the moment.

Franconian wines are often easy to spot by their round, flattened flask shaped bottle known as a Bocksbeutel.

7. Frank Family Vineyards

Frank Family

In the heart of Napa Valley is the winery belonging to former Disney big cheese Rich Frank (I presume short for Richard, or perhaps he is just very wealthy).

Established as the Larkmead Winery in 1884, the building is now on the National Register of Historical Places and is listed as a Point of Historical Interest in the state of California.  Wines made here include the usual Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Petite Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon but also Sangiovese.

8. Bleasdale Frank Potts

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Bleasdale winery was founded in 1850 by English-born Frank Potts in Langhorne Creek, South Australia.  The firm remains in family hands – now onto the 6th generation – and so their flagship Cabernet blend is named after the founder.

This wine actually ticks five out of the six permitted black varieties in Bordeaux – Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.  Bravo, Frank!

9. Francis Ford Coppola Winery

Francis Ford Coppola WineryWhen The Godfather was a critical and financial success for director Francis Ford Coppola he splashed out on a winery in Sonoma County, and quietly made wines there without ever referring to his film career.

Okay that last bit is a lie!  Among the many levels of Mr Coppola’s portfolio you can find both the Director’s and Director’s Cut ranges – including the  limited release “Cinema” blend – alongside the quotation: “Winemaking and filmmaking are two great art forms” stated by….Francis Ford Coppola of course!

10.Frankly Wines

And finally…

Frankly Wines

No, this isn’t my blog, it’s another Frankly Wines – it’s a wine shop in New York City run by Christy Frank, previously of LVMH’s US operation (which is where Kevin Judd (of Greywacke and formerly Cloudy Bay) knows her from – and he once thought my Frankly Wines t-shirt referred to her shop!).  Ok, no more brackets.

I hope you enjoyed the ride!

 

 

 

 

Tasting Events

Build – A little more from WineMason

Masonry
Masonry

My article in the latest edition of The Taste gives some of my recommendations from the WineMason portfolio tasting I attended many weeks back.  Here are a few more fresh whites which I loved but didn’t have room for on The Taste:

Eichinger Grüner Veltliner “Wechselberg” Kamptal 2013 (€23, 64 Wine, Redmond’s)

Wechselberg

A step up from an entry level summer style of Grüner, this has more weight, more flavour and more interest. The nose gets you first – nectarine and peach – followed by a fruit explosion in your mouth. This wine has sweet fruit but isn’t sugary, as linear acidity provides something for it to lean on.

If you’ve only tried junior Grüners then you owe it to yourself to try this style!

Max Ferd Richter Veldenzer Elisenberg Riesling Auslese Cask 77 Mosel 2005 (€40, Redmond’s, 64 Wine)

Cask 77

Whereas its younger brother had dessert apples, this is a desert island wine, just spectacular. It’s far from cheap, but it offers great value. Auslese means “selected harvest”, so you know the grapes were picked when perfectly ripe. In the Mosel, this means they will still have refreshing acidity and lots of flavour. Now almost ten years on from harvest, this specially selected cask still has freshness but has developed more mature notes such as marmalade, peach and apricot. Lip-smackingly good!

Thanks again to Ben, Barbara and the WineMason team for an excellent tasting!

And of course, the title above was partially inspired by this favourite from the 80s:

The Housemartins – Build

check out Norman Cook’s basslines!