Quintessential Wines are are specialist wine importers, distributors and retailers based in Drogheda, just north of Dublin, and with an online store. Here are some more of their wines which really took my fancy at their portfolio tasting in April:
Quinta da Raza Grande Escolha Vinho Verde 2016 (12.0%, €17.50 at Quintessential Wines, Drogheda & quintessentialwines.ie)
North west “Green” Spain’s best known white wines are probable the Albariños of Rías Baixas (see below). Less well known are the Alvarinhos of northern Portugal, just the other side of the Minho river in the Vinho Verde region. Alvarinho is just one of several local grapes which are often blended to make refreshing, easily approachable young wines. Some of them are a notch or two above that, however, and Quinta da Raza’s Grande Escolha is one of them. This is a blend of Alvarinho and Trajadura, also known as Treixadura in Galicia. Although modest in alcohol (12.0%), it is packed full of flavour – melon and fruit polos! (I shit you not!) great value for money.
Bodegas Zarate Rías Baixas Albariño 2015 (12.5%, €21.25 at Quintessential Wines, Drogheda & quintessentialwines.ie)
The Zarate family have been making wine in the Salnes Valley for over 300 years and have been at the forefront of modern winemaking in the area. This is their “entry level” Albariño, made from vines with an average age of 35 years. It’s made in the normal style – clean, fresh, young, fruity – but is a great example of that style. It shows a variety of citrus: lemon, lime and grapefruit and has a long, clean finish.
Mahi Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (13.5%, €22.50 at Quintessential Wines, Drogheda & quintessentialwines.ie)
Brian Bicknell is regarded as one of the most accomplished winemakers in Marlborough. He did a tour of duty that took him from the antipodes to Hungary, France, Chile and finally back to New Zealand. After five years of planning, Mahi made their first vintage in 2001 and then established their winery in Renwick (pictured above from my visit) in 2006. The grapes come from owned and rented vineyards, currently extending to five varieties (but no Riesling yet, which is a pity!)
This is Mahi’s standard Sauvignon Blanc, but it’s a world away from the Marlborough Sauvignon on offer in the local supermarket – in fact, it’s one of the best examples of straight Sauvignon you can find. It shows grapefruit, gooseberries and cut grass, green but ripe, and wonderfully balanced.
Mahi Boundary Road Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (14.0%, €25.95 at Quintessential Wines, Drogheda & quintessentialwines.ie)
Whereas the regular Sauvignon above is blend from across all Mahi’s vineyards, this is a single vineyard wine, but also a different expression of the grape through different winemaking techniques. The vines are in a north-facing (the warmest aspect in the southern hemisphere) plot close to the edge (hence “Boundary Farm”) of Blenheim. The grapes are handpicked compared to the normal practice of machine harvesting. They are whole-cluster pressed, fermented with wild yeast in French oak barriques and then matured in the barrel for a further eleven months. The result is a totally different style of wine: smoky, oaky and intense funky flavours over a lemon, lime and orange citrus core. If anything, this 2014 was slightly too smoky on the finish for me, but as it’s only just been released I would expect it to calm down somewhat and integrate more over the coming months and years. Smoked salmon anyone?
Bodegas Zarate Rías Baixas Tras da Viña 2015 (12.5%, €29.95 at Quintessential Wines, Drogheda)
Tras da Viña is a tiny hillside parcel of only 0.6 hectares, facing south for maximum sunshine. The Albariño vines were replanted in 1965 so they were celebrating their 50th birthday for this vintage. Such age has given the wine a fantastic intensity of flavour, and a very long finish. It is classic Albariño, with a slightly saline edge, but much more than that – lithe and liquid on the tongue. This is a refined wine that would be perfect for delicately flavoured dishes, flattering them rather than overpowering them.
Domaine Fèvre Chablis 1er Cru “Fourchaume” 2015 (13.0%, €32.50 at Quintessential Wines, Drogheda)
Fourchaume is generally rated in the top echelon of Chablis’s Premiers Crus, with an easterly aspect that bathes it in the morning sun – this promotes ripeness without overblown alcohol or losing freshness. Domaine Fèvre have 10 hectares in the middle of the Cru, all based on Kimmeridgian limestone. Fermentation and maturation on fine lees take place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. This is a grown up Chablis, already very approachable despite the young age. Tangy citrus and mineral notes combine with a delightful texture and sublime poise. Top class Chablis!
See also: Part 1