Tag: Bordeaux

Wines at Xmas #4 – Phil Green [Guest Post]

For winelovers, Christmas is a time when we look forward to drinking – and even sharing – a special bottle or two.  This might be a classic wine with traditional fare or just something different we’ve wanted to try for a while.  I asked some wine loving friends what they were looking forward to and they have kindly agreed to write a blog post for me.

Phil Green is a wine blogger in his spare time under the moniker Phil My Glass, but spends his weekdays as a wine consultant to restaurants and is also currently representing Champagne Perrier-Jouët.


Dreaming of a Red Christmas

Christmas is my favourite time of year.  Not only because of visiting family, time off work and eating more food than you could fit in a supermarket trolley, but also because it’s a great excuse to open one of my bottles of wine that I’ve been keeping stored away.  This year I’ll be cracking into one of my Château Phélan-Ségur 2010 bottles that has been giving me the glad eye all year.

Phelan Segur 2010Château Phélan-Ségur takes its name from original owner, Irishman Bernard Phelan, who acquired Domaine le Clos de Garamey in 1805 and Ségur de Cabernac in 1810. These estates were combined to create Château Ségur de Garamey.  The estate was passed on to Bernard’s son, Frank Phelan in 1841 when Bernard passed away, and Frank renamed the estate as Chateau Phelan Segur.

The reputation of this château exceeds its placing in Bordeaux’s rankings.  Not included in the original classification of 1855, the wine was classified as one of 9 Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnels in 2003 and has been rated highly by critics such as Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson.

Situated in the commune of St Estèphe on Bordeaux’s left bank, the wine shows the trademark power of a Cabernet Sauvignon blend from this area of Bordeaux. The style of the chateau is to be fruit forward and have a good balance of oak.  The last time I tasted this was about 2 years ago and I’m very interested to see how it has developed in a couple of years in the bottle, especially from a great vintage such as 2010.

Wines such as this deserve to be enjoyed with friends and family and be enjoyed slowly over the course of the evening and I will be looking forward to enjoying my bottle on Christmas day!

Château Phélan-Ségur 2010: available from McHughs at €70 (14.0%)

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Another Brick In The Wall – Part 6

Another Brick In The Wall – Part 6

Château Tayet is a 10 hectare estate located at the south east corner of the Médoc peninsula, in the commune of Macau.  As it’s just south of the Margaux appellation it is simply AOC Bordeaux, or AOC Bordeaux Supérieur (which is not that meaningful in itself).  However, the potential of the property is definitely greater than its simple appellation would indicate.

The name itself only dates back to 1994 when it was taken over by the people behind Château Haut Breton Larigaudière in Margaux itself; it was previously known as Cru de Noë and then Château Les Charmilles.  1994 was also the start of the Cuvée Prestige, made with the best fruit and matured in a mixture of new and old oak for six months.

The vineyards are planted to Merlot (55%), Cabernet Sauvignon (40%) and Petit Verdot (5%).  While the Médoc is though of as Cabernet country, it tends to be the Crus Classés of Pauillac which are very Cabernet dominated (over 80% in some vintages); Margaux is less so, and Haut-Médoc wines are often a 50% Cabernet – 50% Merlot blend.  That perspective shows that Château Tayet is aiming for a certain style and quality of wine.

At the WineMasons tasting earlier in the year I had the opportunity to taste two vintages back to back:

Château Tayet Cuvée Prestige Bordeaux Supérieur 2009 (13.0%, €21 at The Corkscrew, Blackrock Cellar, D-Six, Green Man Wines & McHughs)

Tayet 2009

2009 was a fabulous year for Bordeaux, so much so that some commentators said it was hard to make a bad wine in such a vintage.  The richness that is so typical of 2009 really comes through, with soft, velvety fruit that’s very approachable and rewarding.  There’s still power there, even eight years after vintage – in fact I’d say this is at peak drinking right now.

Château Tayet Cuvée Prestige Bordeaux Supérieur 2011 (13.5%, €19 at Drinkstore)

Tayet 2011

2011 was a cooler vintage in Bordeaux and in general was rated a few notches below 2009.  The cooler year means that richness is dialed back a little, and savoury characters fill in the gap.  Black fruit is joined by black olive and tobacco notes, and prominent acidity gives freshness.  In other words, this is more of a classic claret.

Decisions, Decisions

So which is better?  At the tasting I wrote “you pays your money, you take your choice” as these are both very good wines, though different in style.  If all depends what you like, and particularly if you plan to drink the wine on its own (go for 2009) or with food (go for 2011.  My personal preference is for the 2009, so grab it while you can!

 

Another Brick in the Wall series:

 

10 Top Reds from O’Briens

Ranging from €14 to €49, here are some of my favourite reds from the recent O’Briens Wine Fair:

Viña Chocálan Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (14.5%, €13.95 at O’Briens)

Cab Sauv

Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon is usually pretty good, even when inexpensive, as Chile has enough sunshine to fully ripen the fruit but the temperatures aren’t so high that it becomes jammy and unbalanced.  This is full of juicy blackcurrant but also has a little bit of cedar wood and graphite which adds interest.

Sierra Cantabria Rioja Crianza 2013 (14.0%, €17.95 down to €15.95 for May at O’Briens)

Sierra-Cantabria-Rioja-Crianza

Particularly at Crianza level, Rioja is known for red fruit flavours (strawberry, raspberry, redcurrant, red cherry) with a good helping of vanilla from American oak.  Sierra Cantabria doesn’t follow this plan at all – it’s all about black fruit and intensity of flavour, much more akin to a good Ribera del Duero than most Riojas.  Why not try it back to back with the Reserva?

Urlar Gladstone Pinot Noir 2014 (14.5%, €23.95 at O’Briens)

Urlar-Pinot-Noir_1

At the bottom of New Zealand’s North Island is the Wairarapa wine region (not to be confused with Waipara near Christchurch).  The oldest part is probably Martinborough (not to be confused with Marlborough at the top of the South Island) but there are other notable areas within the Wairarapa such as Gladstone.  Urlar (from the Gaelic for “Earth”) is an organic and practicing biodynamic producer which makes fantastic Pinot Noir.  While full of fruit it has a savoury, umami edge, and will undoubtedly continue to develop complexity over the coming years.

Viña Chocálan Vitrum Blend 2013 (14.5%, €24.95 down to €22.95 for May at O’Briens)

Vitrium Blend

Sitting just below their icon wine Alexia, Vitrum is Chocalan’s premium range, so named as the owners Toro family have been in the glass bottle making business for over 80 years.  As stated it this wine is a blend, and the grapes aren’t named on the front label as there are so many of them! (for reference the 2013 is: 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Syrah, 8% Cabernet Franc, 8% Malbec, 4% Carmenère, 2% Petit Verdot).  All these different varieties make for an interesting wine – quite full bodied and with considerable structure, but balanced and drinkable.

Domaine Olivier Santenay Temps des C(e)rises 2014 (13.0%, €28.95 down to €23.16 for May at O’Briens)

Domaine-Olivier-Sant-Temps-des-Crises_1

If you don’t speak French then you’d be forgiven for missing the jeu de mot in the name of this wine: temps des crises is the time of crises and temps des cerises is the time of cherries – and also the name of a famous French revolutionary song.  Anyway, on to the wine itself: this is a mid weight Pinot Noir from Santenay in Burgundy’s Côte de Beaune.  It has delightful red currant and red cherry with a touch of smokiness from barrel ageing.  It’s a food friendly wine which could also be drunk on its own.  While ready to drink now I would (try to!) keep this for a few more years before drinking.  Great Burgundy for the €€!

Château Fourcas Hosten Listrac-Médoc 2009 (13.0%, €29.95 down to €23.95 for May at O’Briens)

Ch_teau-Fourcas-Hosten-2009_1

Listrac is one of the two villages (with Moulis) in Bordeaux’s Médoc peninsula outside of the famous four that have their name on an appellation, but is rarely seen in Ireland. Château Fourcas Hosten was bought by the family behind the Hermès luxury goods group around a decade ago and they have invested significantly in quality since then.  As 2009 was an excellent vintage in Bordeaux this is a fairly ripe and accessible wine.

Unusually for a warm vintage it has quite a bias towards Merlot (65%) versus Cabernet Sauvignon (35%), even though they make up 45% each of the vineyard area (and Cabernet Franc being the final 10%).  This wine shows fresh and dried black fruit with some pencil shavings and tobacco – classy, accessible Bordeaux!

Cambria “Julia’s Vineyard” Pinot Noir 2012 (13.5%, €29.95 at O’Briens)

Cambria-Julias-Vineyard-P-Noir

The spotlight on US Pinot Noir mainly falls on Oregon and its Willamette Valley, but California shouldn’t be ignored – especially Santa Barbara County, which was of course the setting for Sideways.  The cool climate here, especially in Santa Mary Valley, helps Pinot Noir develop fully, keeping acidity and light to medium tannins to frame the fresh red fruit.   One of my favourite American Pinots!

Man O’War Waiheke Island Ironclad 2012 (14.5%, €34.45 at O’Briens)

Man-O_War-Ironclad-Bordeaux

I’m a big fan of Man O’War’s premium range, all nautically named and great examples of their type (I’m just gutted that demand for their Julia sparkling wine at their winery restaurant means that it won’t be exported anymore).  Ironclad is the Bordeaux blend; the blend changes from year to year depending on how each variety fared, with any fruit that doesn’t make the grade being declassified into the next tier down.

The current release is the 2012 which is 45% Cabernet Franc, 20% Merlot, 14% Petit Verdot, 13% Malbec and 8% Cabernet Sauvignon – only Carménère misses out from Bordeaux’s black grapes, and hardly anyone grows that in Bordeaux nowadays anyway. It’s full of ripe blackberry, blackcurrant and blueberry fruit with some graphite.  It would pair well with red meat, but being a bit riper in style than most Bordeaux means it drinks well on its own.

Frank Phélan 2012 (13.0%, €34.95 down to €27.95 for May at O’Briens)

Frank-Phelan

Back to Bordeaux proper again with the second wine of Château Phélan Ségur, named after the son of the original Irish founder Bernard Phelan.  As a second wine it mainly uses younger fruit than the Grand Vin, a shorter time in barrel and a higher proportion of Merlot (this is 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon).  All these lead to it being a more supple wine, and more approachable in its youth.  For me this was quite similar to the Fourcas Hosten – dark black fruit in particular – but younger and with a little more tannin and graphite notes.  Steak anyone?

Torbreck The Struie 2014 (14.5%, €49.00 down to €42 for May at O’Briens)

Torbreck-Struie

It’s fair to say that Barossa Shiraz is one of Australia’s most well-recognised wine styles, but there are actually significant differences within the Barossa.  The most notable difference is that there are actually two distinct valleys – the Barossa Valley itself and the Eden Valley which is at a higher altitude and hence has a cooler climate (there’s some great Riesling grown in the latter but very little in the former!)

The Struie is a blend of fruit from both valleys: 77% Barossa (for power and richness) and 23% Eden (for acidity and elegance), all aged in a mix of old and new French oak barrels.  There’s intense blackberry and plum fruit with a twist of spice.

This is a fairly monumental wine which actually deserves a bit more time before drinking, so buy a few and lay them down…but if you can’t wait, decant!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SuperValu Christmas Wine Selection Reds

One of the best things about wine retail – from the customer’s point of view – is that the bargains are available before rather than after Xmas, so if you want to choose a few nice bottles for yourself, buy a few gifts or just stock up in anticipation of thirsty visitors, now is a great time to do it.

Here are some of the SuperValu reds which I’d be very happy to sup this yuletide.

Disclosure: samples were provided for review

André Goichot Mercurey 2013 (12.5%, €22.99 down to €15.00)

mercurey

I’m a fan of the André Goichot range, which is predominantly white Burgundy, but also includes this Pinot Noir from Mercurey in the Côte Chalonnaise.  It’s a light wine (for NZ fans think Marlborough rather than Central Otago) than needs a bit of air to come out of its shell, but once it does the aromas are stunning.  Relatively high acidity and moderate tannins mean that this might well be the crowd pleaser to go with most dishes at the Xmas table.

Castellani Arbos Sangiovese 2013 (13.5%, €12.99 down to €10.00)

castellani-arbos-sangiovese

Cheap Chianti is rarely a bargain as it tends to have the tannin and acidity typical of the area without its usual bright cherry fruit and hence being unbalanced or even unpleasant. If you’re on a budget and like the flavour of Chianti’s Sangiovese grape then far better to avoid paying a premium for the Chianti label and go for a less fancy one with lots of tasty wine behind it!

Nugan Estate Alfredo Dry Grape Shiraz 2013 (15.0%, €19.99 down to €15.00)

nugan-estate-alfredo-dried-grape-shiraz-2013-coa

Drying grapes before pressing to increase flavour and sugar concentration isn’t a new technique (it’s the secret behind Amarone afterall) but it is still less than common in Australia.  Here it’s used to add extra berry-tastic richness to supercharge this Shiraz named after the winery’s founder, Spanish emigré Alfredo Nugan.  Like many Amarone wines there is a hint of sweetness on the finish but it works well with the rich character of the wine.  For those of you who like blue cheese I reckon this would be a real treat!

Lady de Mour Margaux 2012 (13.0%, €34.99 down to €20.00)

lady

Margaux is one of the most famous parts of Bordeaux, helped by having one of the top ranked producers with the same name (Château Margaux) and being easy for English speakers to pronounce (I’m only half-joking there).  Margaux wines are typical left bank blends but with generally a bit less Cabernet Sauvignon than the other famous villages such as St-Estephe and Pauillac.  They are considered to be somewhat feminine and elegant, so a wine called “Lady” is definitely on the right track!  This is a refined, classy wine with dark berry fruit and complex layers of graphite, tobacco and cedar – and a steal at €20!

 

 

SuperValu French Wine Sale

flag_of_france-svg

Irish supermarket chain SuperValu has an extensive range of French wines at keen prices, which are even keener during their French Wine Sale.  Here are a few which will make their way into my shopping trolley:

Château Moulin Lafitte Bordeaux 2012 (12.5%, €18.99 down to €14.00 or 2 for €20.00 at SuperValu)

chateau-moulin-lafitte-neutreThis is much how Bordeaux wines tasted before Robert “Bob” Parker started leading vignerons astray with his flattery.  A blend of 80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc, it has both red and black fruit characters, with a touch of spice.  It’s lighter and fresher than many, and would go well with BBQ pork / blue cheese or raspberry tart – whichever takes your fancy!

Château Lacombe Cadiot Bordeaux Superieur 2011 (13.5%, €16.99 down to €13.00 or 2 for €20.00 at SuperValu)

chateau-lacombe-cadiot-avec-blason

A blend of classic Bordeaux varieties, with Merlot providing the plum and Cabernet Sauvignon the blackberry.  There’s also a savoury note, whether it’s black olive or black liquorice I can’t decide, plus pencil shavings which mark it out as a proper Claret.

Château La Baronnerie Grand Vin Bordeaux 2010 (14.0%, €15.99 down to €12.00, 2 for €20.00 at SuperValu)

chateau-baronnerie-grand-vin-rouge-2010

When I began my adventure into wine it was in France where Bordeaux reds were freely available. At that time it was not unusual to see Claret at 12.0% or even 11.5% – so this 14.0% is a far cry from the weedy reds of 20 years ago.  Like most wine made in France, Bordeaux shines best at the table, but this doesn’t need food – it has voluptuous, but powerful fruit with a lick of vanilla.  If I could only buy one wine from this selection then Château La Baronnerie takes the prize!

Saint Auriol Chatelaine Corbières Blanc 2015 (12.5%, €14.99 down to €10.00 at SuperValu)

St Auriol Chatelaine Corbieres small

I tried this wine for the first time recently and was very impressed – not just by how nice it tasted but also by its potential for ageing, a rare trait in inexpensive white wines.  See here for my full review.

Domaine de Terres Blanches Coteaux du Giennois AOC 2015 (12.5%, €14.99 down to €12.00 at SuperValu)

Coteaux du Giennois Blanc Alchimie 2014

I tasted the 2014 of this wine last year and was blown away by its freshness and intensity of flavour for the price.  It is absolutely a Loire style Savvy, but a very approachable and enjoyable one.

 

 

 

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

frank-phelan-saint-estephe

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

franconia

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

bleasdale-frank-potts-blend

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!

 

 

 

 

A Dozen Valentine’s Treats

A Dozen Valentine’s Treats

Valentine’s Day is associated with romance, and hence the colour pink.  This often means that rosé wines are promoted at this time of year, but as they aren’t generally my thing I thought I would recommend a dozen wines of differing hues from O’Briens, who are offering 10% back on their loyalty card (or wine savings account as I call it).

These wines are mainly higher priced for which I make no excuse – these are treats for yourself and / or your significant other!  Of course, they would make a nice treat for Mother’s Day or at any time of year…

Chateau Kirwan Margaux Troisième Cru 2010 (€95.00)

Chateau-Kirwan-2010

The last of Bordeaux’s fantastic four vintages within eleven years (2000, 2005 2009, 2010) allows this Margaux to show its class but be more approachable than in leaner years.  You could keep this for another decade or two if you didn’t want to drink it yet.  Decant for several hours after opening if you can, and serve with beef.

Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (€62.00)

Penfolds-Bin-407-Cabernet-Sauv

One of Penfolds’ top Cabernet Sauvignons which combines power, fruit and elegance. 2010 happened to be a great vintage in South Australia as well, so if you’re climbing the quality tree it’s a good time to do it.  Being a Cab means it’s all about cassis, intense blackcurrant aromas and flavours, with some vanilla to go with it.

1757 Bordeaux 2012 (€49.99)

1757-Bordeaux

This is a very interesting wine for the geeks out there as it is a custom blend of parcels from well known appellations from around Bordeaux including Paulliac, Graves and Canon-Fronsac.  It was created by JM Cazes group winemaker Daniel Llose and O’Briens Head of Wine Buying Lynne Coyle MW.  Oh, and it tastes wonderful as well!

Ata Rangi Crimson Pinot Noir 2013 (€27.95)

Ata-Rangi-Crimson-Pinot-Noir

Ata Rangi is one of stars of Martinbrough, an hour or so drive from Wellington in the south of New Zealand’s North Island.  Crimson is their second wine intended to be drunk while young rather than laid down, but it is first rate in quality.  Beats any Pinot from France at this price point.

Lanson Rose Label NV (€57.95 down to €45.00)

 

Lanson-Rose-Label-NV

This isn’t a token rosé, it’s a proper Champagne which happens to be pink.  Lanson’s house style is based on preventing / not encouraging malolactic fermentation in the base wines, meaning they remain fresh and zippy even after the secondary alcoholic fermentation which produces the fizz.  Texture is key here as well, and the lovely red fruits have a savoury edge.  You could even drink this with pork or veal.  Great value when on offer.

Beaumont des Crayeres Grande Réserve NV Champagne (€36.95 down to €30.00)

Beaumont-des-Crayeres-GR

Another Champagne which is even less expensive, but still a few steps above most Prosecco and Cava on the market.  The regulations for non vintage Champagne stipulate a minimum of 15 months ageing on the lees, but the lovely toasty notes from this show it has significantly more than that.  Punches well above its price.

L’Extra par Langlois NV (€19.99)

L_extra-par-Langlois

The Loire Valley is home to a multitude of wine styles, including Crémant (traditional method sparkling) such as this.  Made from internationally famous Chardonnay and local speciality Chenin, it doesn’t taste the same as Champagne – but then why should it?  The quality makes it a valid alternative, not surprising when you learn that it’s owned by Bollinger!

Graham’s Port LBV 2009 (€22.99)

Grahams

Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) is a great way to get into serious quality Port without paying the full price for Vintage Port.  Whereas the latter is bottled quickly after fermentation and laid down for many years, LBV spends time maturing in casks.  There it slowly loses colour and tannin but gains complexity.  Graham’s is one of the most celebrated Port Houses and their LBV is one of the benchmarks for the category.

Chanson Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2010 (€60.49)

Chanson-Chab-GrandCru-Les-Clos

Grand Cru Chablis is a very different beast from ordinary Chablis.  It’s often oaked, though sympathetically rather than overpoweringly, and can develop astounding complexity.  Among the seven (or eight, depending on who you ask) Grand Crus, Les Clos is often regarded as the best of the best.  At just over five years from vintage this is still a baby – it would be even better in another five years but it might be impossible to resist!

Château-Fuissé les Brûlés 2012 (€42.00)

Ch-Fuisse-les-Brules

Pouilly-Fuissé is probably the best appellation of the Maconnais, Burgundy proper’s most southerly subregion which borders the north of Beaujolais.  The white wines here are still Chardonnay, of course, but the southerly latitude gives it more weight and power than elsewhere in Burgundy.  Oak is often used in generous proportions as the wine has the fruit to stand up to it.  This Château-Fuissé is one of my favourites from the area!

Greywacke Wild Ferment Sauvignon 2013 (29.95)

Greywacke-Wild-Ferment-Sauvignon

It’s a Sauvignon Blanc, but then it’s not just a Sauvignon Blanc.  Kevin Judd was the long time winemaker of Cloudy Bay, finally branching out on his own a few years ago.  The wild yeast and partially oaking give this a very different sensibility from ordinary Sauvignons.  It’s not for everybody, but those that like it, love it!

Man O’War Valhalla Chardonnay 2011 (€29.45)

Man-O_War-Valhalla-Chardonnay

One of my favourite New Zealand wines, full stop.  I have mentioned this wine several times over the past few years…mainly as I just can’t get enough of it!  It’s made in Waiheke Island in Auckland Bay so has more weight than, say, a Marlborough Chardonnay, but still enough acidity to keep it from being flabby.  Tropical fruit abounds here – just make sure you don’t drink it too cold!

 

 

 

 

 

Frankly Wines Top 10 Reds of 2015

Frankly Wines Top 10 Reds of 2015

As I said at the beginning of my review pieces, for me 2015 was an excellent year for wine.  If one region really stood out for me in 2015 it would be Languedoc-Roussillon in the south of France; already well known for bulk wine and subsequently good value bottles, it has a growing reputation for excellence in the hands of dedicated producers.

Here are ten of the reds which most impressed me in the year:

10. Château de Rousselet Côtes de Bourg 2009 (€12.99, Lidl)

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For about 17 years my parents lived close to La Rochelle in the Charente Maritime department – much better known for Cognac than wine.  But happily it was close enough to Bordeaux that day trips were quite easy, and so at least once a summer I would head down in the car for some tasting and buying.

Heading south, the first subregions encountered are the Côtes de Blaye (now renamed) and Côtes de Bourg.  Touring around with a visitors booklet I would try new vineyards every year, plus return to a chosen few of the best.  Château de Rousselet was one I returned to year after year, as Francis Sou and son Emmanuel continued to gradually improve the quality of their wines.  Here are a few of the older bottles I still have:

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So I was surprised and delighted to see a fairly recent vintage being sold through Lidl! The 2009 vintage was outstanding in Bordeaux, and even modest areas such as the Côtes de Bourg produced some crackers – classic claret, still great for food, but also round and fruity enough to be drunk by itself.  Sadly the Lidl stores close to me didn’t have any stock when I visited!

9. Château Paul Mas Clos de Mures Coteaux du Languedoc 2013 (€16.99, Molloys)

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Paul Mas is one of the star estates of the Languedoc. There are several different quality levels of which Château Paul Mas is around the top – “Everyday luxury”.  The equivalent white also featured in my Top 10 whites of 2015.

As it common in the Languedoc this is a blend, comprising 83% Syrah, 12% Grenache and 5% Mourvèdre – so it’s a GSM blend of sorts, though showing more black than red fruit due to the higher Syrah content.  This wine was one of the surprise stars of the (as yet unpublished) DNS tastings on Syrah and Shiraz – both for the absolute quality and the value for money at €16.99.  

8. Condado De Haza Crianza DO Ribero del Duero 2011 (€23, JN Wine and others)

Condado de Haza

Pesquera’s sister property in a warmer part of the Ribero del Duero shares much in terms of ethos and quality but has a different sensibility – it’s more fun and accessible, with an emphasis on fruit and pleasure rather than refinement.  Plum, blackcurrant and black cherry are rounded off by vanilla from 18 months in American oak.

There’s no doubt that Tinta Pesquera is the senior sibling but this crowd-pleaser is a lot of wine for sensible money, and is the one I would chose to drink on its own.  

See this article for more details.

7. Cono Sur Single Vineyard Block 21 “Viento Mar” Pinot Noir 2012 (€19.99 from O’Brien’s Wines, Mitchell & Sons, Redmonds of Ranelagh, Sweeney’s of Glasnevin, Jus de Vine, Portmarnock, Bradley’s and O’Driscoll’s of Cork)

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Cono Sur do a great range of Pinot Noirs from the everyday Bicicleta up to the prestigious Ocio.  This is a single vineyard release Pinot which sits roughly in the middle of the range; there are also seven other varietal single vineyard releases including Riesling, Carmenère and Syrah – I’d like to try them at some point as well!

The vineyard itself is nicknamed the Spanish for “Sea Wind”, invoking the coastal breezes which help keep the temperature relatively cool in San Antonio Valley – ideal for Pinot Noir.

Luscious black and red fruits combine with a hint of vanilla – it’s got lots of fruit but fresh rather than confected fruit.  Amazingly drinkable, and knocks spots off Burgundy (and most other regions’) Pinot at this price.

See this article for more details.

6. Domaine L’Ostal Cazes Grand Vin Minervois La Livinère 2011 (€23.49, O’Briens)

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The general Minervois appellation has around 800ha planted to vines and the smaller, more prestigious, Minervois La Livinière appellation is around a quarter of that, with lower yields and a higher proportion of better-regarded grapes such as Syrah.

The JM Cazes group of Château Lynch-Bages fame first ventured outside of Bordeaux when they acquired this property in 2002.  The Grand Vin composes 70% Syrah, 15% Carignan, 10% Grenache and 5% Mourvèdre and weighs in at 14.0%, so in weight terms it’s somewhere in between northern and southern Rhône.

Although it doesn’t have the stature of its more well-known stablemates, it’s more accessible than most of them – especially those from Paulliac and Saint-Estèphe – and would be the one I reached for most often given the choice of all of them.

5. Alpha Zeta Amarone della Valpolicella 2011 (€35, Sweeney’s of Glasnevin)

2015-09-02 19.23.59

Amarone is one of the first Italian wines that people fall in love with, enjoying its big rich flavours and textures, though they come at a premium price.  It’s a wine that’s easy to love.  Sometimes it can get a bit too much, with jammy fruit and high alcohol making too much of a mouthful for a second glass.

This example from Alpha Zeta is one of the most well-balanced I’ve come across, and while it might still be too fruit forward for Barolo loving masochists it doesn’t intimidate. Also, compared to many it is (relatively) inexpensive at €35 a bottle (many others go far north of €40).

This was the bottle I took along to a meal with fellow wine blogger friends at Dada Moroccan restaurant in Dublin.  The touch of sweetness and richness turned out to be a perfect match for the lamb and apricot tagine I ordered – probably the favourite wine of the evening.

4. Uno de Mil Tempranillo & Petit Verdot (€23.95, Cases Wine Warehouse)

2015-08-26 14.46.23

A pretty label and a stunning wine, which happens to be organic and biodynamic.  Such is the explosion of fresh fruit and vanilla in the mouth that it instantly made me think of a blueberry muffin!  Made from a blend of Tempranillo (from Rioja and Ribero del Duero) and Petit Verdot (a small part of some Bordeaux reds), it’s from the less well-known region of La Mancha – but knocks spots of plenty of Rioja that I’ve had!

3. E.Guigal “Lieu-Dit Saint-Joseph” Saint-Joseph 2005 (2009: €46, Sweeney’s of Glasnevin)

Saint Joseph

 

Saint-Joseph has become my go-to Rhône appellation, with its lovely blackberry, black olive and sour black cherry flavours.  What I hadn’t appreciated was that the appellation was named after an actual vineyard, itself named after Holy Joe himself who was reputed to have lived there.

Now in the hands of famed Rhône producer Guigal, the “lieu-dit” Saint-Joseph produces both red and white wines of superlative quality.  2005 was an exceptional year in the northern Rhône (10/10 according to The Wine Society) and this wine was at its peak.  It showed all the trademark Saint-Joseph notes but with a polish and complexity that stood out.

2. D’Arenberg The Dead Arm McLaren Vale Shiraz 2005 (2008: €54.99 from O’Briens and independent merchants)

Dead Arm

D’Arenberg are one of the standout producers of McLaren Vale, south of Adelaide in Australia.  Led by the colourful (in several senses) Chester Osbourne,  they have a wide portfolio of wines with different quality levels and varieties.  The Dead Arm is one of their three Icon bottlings, along with The Coppermine Road (which I once realised I was driving on!) Cabernet Sauvignon and Ironstone Pressings Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre.

And the unusual name?  From the d’Arenberg website:

Dead Arm is a vine disease caused by the fungus Eutypa Lata that randomly affects vineyards all over the world. Often affected vines are severely pruned or replanted. One half, or an ‘arm’ of the vine slowly becomes reduced to dead wood. That side may be lifeless and brittle, but the grapes on the other side, while low yielding, display amazing intensity

The 2005 is beautifully mature, though far from over the hill.  It has the blackberry and plum fruit, pepper and spice plus vanilla notes as you’d expect from an Aussie Shiraz, but these flavours are all now interwoven and settled in; they are speaking in harmony rather than shouting individually.  I just wish I’d bought more than one bottle!

1. Penfolds Bin 707 South Australia 1996 (~€115, Sweeney’s of Glasnevin and other independents)

Bin707

And so for the third year running my favourite wine of the year is a Penfolds red!  In 2013 it was the 1998 Bin 707, then in 2014 I was lucky enough to try the Grange 2008.  The former would have has a good shout again in 2015 but the bottle of 1998 I had planned to open with Christmas dinner didn’t actually get opened until 2016.  I did, however, open both 1996 and 1997 and it was narrowly the former which I favoured.

The biggest surprise was that although it showed signs of maturity in the brick red rim, the nose and palate still showed lots of fruit – overwhelmingly blackcurrant, of course, given that this is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.  There were some touches of cedar and pencil shavings that pointed to its age, but they were knitted in.

Bin 707 stands second to Grange in the Penfolds hierarchy, but for my tastes it runs it very close or even beats it sometimes!

 

Also check out the Frankly Wines Top 10 Whites, Top 10 Fizz and Top 10 Sweet wines of 2015.

 

 

Frankly Wines Top 10 Sweet Wines of 2015

Frankly Wines Top 10 Sweet Wines of 2015

I love sweet wines, whether with dessert, instead of dessert, or at any time I fancy them. They can actually pair well with savoury dishes of many types, depending on their prominent flavours, richness, acidity and sugar levels.  For example, late harvest Gewurztraminer from Alsace is amazing with foie gras, and off dry to medium wines often work well with exotic Asian fare.

There are several methods of making sweet wines, the simplest being to leave the grapes on the vine while they continue to produce sugars, and harvest them later.  A further step is to allow noble rot (botrytis cinerea) to attack the grapes and dry them out, thereby concentrating the sugars.  Other traditions involve sun or air drying to reduce water levels.

Whichever way is used, balance is the key, particularly the balance between sugar and acidity.  This means that even lusciously sweet wines can avoid being cloying, which is usually a turn off.

Here are ten of the sweet wines which really impressed me in 2015:

 

10. Berton Riverina Botrytis Semillon 2013 (€9.99 (375ml), Aldi)

Berton_Botrytis_Semillon-500x500

I first tried a Berton wine from Coonawarra, my favourite red wine region of the world.  It was perhaps a little less fruit forward than some from the area but had the most pronounced spearmint aromas that I’ve ever encountered in a wine (for the avoidance of doubt this is a positive for me!)

The Riverina area in the middle of New South Wales is an irrigated bulk wine producing region, and is where many of Australia’s inexpensive bottles (and boxes!) are produced. Due to humidity close to the major rivers it is also a source for excellent botrytis style stickies (as the locals call them), including the fabulous De Bortoli Noble One.

Semillon’s thin skins make it particularly susceptible to noble rot – which is why it is so successful in Sauternes and Barsac – and so it proves in Berton’s version.  I’m not going to claim that this has the intensity of Noble One but it does a damned good impression – and at a far lower price.  Amazing value for money!

9. Miguel Torres Vendimia Tardia “Nectaria” Botrytis Riesling 2009 (€19.99 (375ml) Sweeney’s of Glasnevin  and Carry Out Off-Licence in Ongar, Dublin 15)

2015-09-15 18.04.56

Familiarity with Spanish or another romance language reveals that this is a Late Harvest style, with the addition of Botrytis characters.  It was one of the stand out wines of the Chilean Wine Fair – though being different in a sea of Sauvignon, Carmenère and Cabernet probably helped.

As you may or may not know, Miguel Torres wines are the Chilean outpost of the Spanish Torres family’s operations, with quality and value both prominent.  The key to this wine is the streak of acidity cutting through the sweetness – the hallmark of a great Riesling dessert wine.  

8. San Felice Vin Santo 2007 (€19.49 (375ml) O’Briens)

Vin Santo

As someone who generally likes Italian wine and has a soft spot for sweet wines, I’ve nearly always been disappointed by Vin Santos I’ve tried. I don’t think my expectations were too high, it’s just that the oxidative (Sherry-like) notes dominated the other aspects of the wines.

This is different – perfectly balanced with lovely caramel and nut characters.  It’s made from widely grown grapes Trebbiano Toscano (75%) and Malvasia del Chianti (25%) which aren’t generally known for their character, but it’s the wine-making process that makes the difference.  Bunches of grapes are dried on mats to reduce water content then pressed as normal.  After fermentation the wine is aged five years in French barriques then a further year in bottle.   A real treat!

7. Le Must de Landiras Graves Supérieurs 2004 (Direct from Château)

Le Must de Landiras

White Graves – particularly those from the subregion of Pessac-Léognan – are in my opinion the most underappreciated of all Bordeaux wines.  Even less commonly known are the sweeter wines from the area – and to be honest the average wine drinker would be hard pressed to know when there’s often no mention of sweetness on the bottle, they are just “expected to know” that “Graves Supérieures” indicated higher sugar rather than higher quality.

Being close to Sauternes shouldn’t make the production of sweet wines a surprise, but then few people carry a map around in their head when tasting!

Simply put, this is probably the best sweet Graves I’ve ever had.  See this article for more details.

6. Longview Epitome Late Harvest Riesling 2013 (€16.99, O’Briens)

2015-10-15 13.34.30

Riesling in Australia is nearly always bone dry and dessert wines usually use Semillon for late harvest styles or Rhône varieties for fortifieds, but when done well they can be sensational.

This was such a hit at the O’Briens Autumn Press Tasting that two other of my fellow wine writers picked it out for recommendation, namely Richie Magnier writing as The Motley Cru and Suzi Redmond writing for The Taste.  Imagine the softness of honey with the fresh zip of lime at the same time – something of a riddle in your mouth, but so moreish!

5. De Trafford Straw Wine 2006 (€29.50 (375ml), Kinnegar Wines)

de trafford strawwinelabel00-1_m

In its home region of the Loire, Chenin Blanc comes in all different types of sweetness, with and without botrytis.  Its natural acidity makes it a fine grape for producing balanced sweet wines.

David Trafford picks the Chenin grapes for his straw wine at the same time as those for his dry white, but then has the bunches dried outside for three weeks before pressing. After a very long fermentation (the yeast takes a long time to get going in such a high sugar environment) the wine is matured in barriques for two years.

I had the good fortune to try this delicious wine with David Trafford himself over dinner at Stanley’s Restaurant & Wine Bar – for a full report see here.  Apricot and especially honey notes give away the Chenin origins, and layers of sweetness remain framed by fresh acidity.

 

4. Pegasus Bay Waipara “Encore” Noble Riesling 2008 (~£25 (375ml) The Wine Society

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This is the gift that keeps on giving…I bought my wife a six pack of this wine a few years ago, as it was one we really enjoyed on our honeymoon tour of New Zealand, and she is so parsimonious that we haven’t finished them yet!

This is in a similar vein to the Epitome Riesling but has more botrytis character – giving a mushroom edge, which is much nicer than in sounds – and additional bottle age which has allowed more tangy, tropical fruit flavours to develop and resolve.  A truly wonderful wine.

See this article for more details.

3. José Maria da Fonseca “Alambre” ® DO Moscatel de Setúbal 2008 (€6.45, Portugal)

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I had been meaning to try a Moscatel de Setúbal since a former colleague from the area told me about it.  A holiday to the Algarve provided the perfect opportunity, and I found this beauty in the small supermarket attached to the holiday complex we stayed in – at the ridiculous price of €6.45!

Moscatel / Muscat / Moscato is one of the chief grapes used for dessert wine around the Mediterranean – and can make very dull wines.  This is by some margin the best I’ve tasted to date!   I’m sure most people would swear that toffee had been mixed in, the toffee flavours are so demonstrative.

See this article for more details.

2. Chateau Dereszla Tokaji 5 Puttonyos 2006 (€38.95 (500ml) The Corkscrew)

Château Dereszla Tokaji

Tokaji is one of the great sweet wines of the world – in fact it’s one of the great wines of the world full stop.  It’s usually a blend of a normal grapes and botrytised grapes in differing proportions, the actual blend being the main indicator of sweetness.

Apricot and marmalade are the first things which spring to mind on tasting this, though time has added toffee and caramel notes.  This is the sort of wine that I would happily take instead of dessert pretty much any time!

See this article for more details.

 

1. Donnafugata Ben Ryé Passito di Pantelleria 2013 (Liberty, from good wine merchants)

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I first came across this wine at Ely Wine Bar on my wife’s birthday a few years ago.  After a filling starter and main course neither of us had room for dessert, but fancied something sweet; Ely is a treat for winelovers as it has an unrivaled selection of wines by the glass, so like a kid in a sweetshop I ordered a flight of different sweeties for us to try:

2014-08-02 23.15.01-2

All four were lovely but it was the Ben Ryé which stood out.

At a later trade event put on by Liberty Wines, I noticed that this was one of their wines open for tasting.  With a room full of hardened trade pros (and myself) it was amusing to notice how many people just dropped by the sweet and fortified for a drop of this!

My mate Paddy Murphy of The Vine Inspiration also covered this wine.

 

Don’t forget to also check out Frankly Wines Top 10 Fizz of 2015 and Top 10 Whites of 2015!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lidl French Reds for February

Lidl French Reds for February

As well as their permanent range which has an emphasis on good value bottles for everyday drinking, discount supermarket Lidl also offer limited quantities of slightly more upmarket wines at different points during the year.

22nd February 2016 will see the Ireland launch of their special French wines, only available while stocks last – and some will be so limited that you’ll have to strike up a friendship with someone from Lidl Customer Services!

Here are 5 reds which impressed me, all from Bordeaux:

Château de Francs, Francs-Côtes de Bordeaux 2011 (€12.99)

Ch de Francs Francz-Côtes de Bordeaux 2011

Of the five I’ve chosen this is perhaps the most traditional in character, coming from a cooler year.  However, the producer has obviously gone to great lengths to make a fruit forward wine – blackcurrant, blackberry and plum compete for your palate’s attention, along with classic notes of pencil shavings and cedar wood.  Of the wines I’ve picked this has perhaps the most noticeable tannins, so it would shine with a steak!

The label shows 14.0% which is significantly higher than the vast majority of Bordeaux was when I cut my teeth on it in the early 90s – though that’s a story for another day.  It does give you an idea of the body and power this wine has – not for shrinking violets!

Fronsac Château de Carles 2008 (€17.99)

Ch de Carles 2008

Fronsac is close to St-Emilion and while it doesn’t have its neighbour’s cachet it is capable of producing some excellent wines, often priced favourably.  2008 was a good but not great year in general, but is often overlooked as the following 2009 and 2010 vintages were excellent.  Predominantly Merlot fruit gives big ripe plum and blackberry flavours; the tannins are very soft making this very drinkable indeed.  Would keep for several more years but at its peak now.

Château Cos Fontaine Francs-Côtes de Bordeaux 2010 (€12.99)

Ch Clos Fontaine Francs Cotes de Bordeaux 2010

Ripe fruit – mainly plum and blackberry – suggest a majority of Merlot in this right bank red.  At just over five years of age it is showing some development, so tannins have softened and fruit is settling in.  Being from the fantastic 2010 vintage helps to make it seriously drinkable, and a great bargain at that.

Josephine de Boyd Margaux 2009 (€24.99)

Josephine de Boyd Margaux 2009

Margaux is probably the most celebrated appellations of the Médoc, at its best producing silky feminine reds based on a majority of Cabernet Sauvignon but with a good proportion of Merlot and other minor players.  This is the second wine of Château Boyd Cantenac which was awarded Third Growth status in the 1855 Classification – obviously some time ago but still has some relevance today.  In a great year like 2009 it makes sense to go for a second wine as there is so much quality fruit on each estate that the second wine gets plenty rather than just whatever is left over after making the Grand Vin.

This is a great example of Margaux, silky and seductive, well structured and classy with a very long finish.

Fleur Quercus Saint-Emilion Grand Cru 2010 (€24.99)

Fleur Quercus Saint-Emilion Grand Cru 2010.jpg

Wow!  Another beauty from 2010, but this time a few rungs up the quality scale.  Saint-Emilion is a world famous part of Bordeaux (and a lovely little town to visit if you ever get the chance), which means some producers can cash in on the cachet.  Not here though, it is fully deserving of the appellation.

Intense black berry fruit is complemented by anise and other spices.  It’s soft, seductive and dangerously easy to drink – even at 14.0%.

Money no object, this was my favourite red of the whole tasting!

Also check out my Top 5 Whites from the same tasting.