Single Bottle Review

Boutique Montepulciano d’Abruzzo?

The Abruzzo region is geographically in the centre of Italy* but is considered to be part of southern Italy for cultural and historical reasons.  Grapes are grown throughout all four provinces of this hilly region: L’Aquila, Teramo, Pescara, and Chieti – with the last being the most productive, ranking as the fifth highest wine producing province in Italy.

2000px-Map_Region_of_Abruzzo.svg
Abruzzo within Italy (Credit: Gigillo83 (Wikipedia))

Trebbiano d’Abruzzo is the main white wine of the region and Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is the main red.  At this point I feel duty bound to include the standard remark that the latter is not to be confused with the Sangiovese-based Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

Montepulciano_wine_regions_in_Italy

Under DOC regulations Montepulciano d’Abruzzo must be composed of a minimum of 85% Montepulciano with up to 15% Sangiovese for the balance.  Standard DOC wines must be aged for a minimum of 5 months prior to release with Riservas requiring 24 months, of which at least 9 months must be in wood barrels.

Although we think of Abruzzo as being the home of Montepulciano, it is in fact used throughout a large swathe of Italy from Emilia-Romagna to Puglia (see left).

It’s success is due to it being relatively easy to grow and producing high yields, yet still plenty of colour from the thin skins.  Acidity tends to be moderate and tannins are present but not too harsh.

Here’s a cracking Montepulciano d’Abruzzo which I tried recently:

Disclosure: bottle was kindly provided as a sample, opinions remain my own

Tor del Colle Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva 2016

TOR_DEL_COLLE_Montepulciano_DAbruzzo_Doc_Riserva

Tor del Colle is a label used for wines from Abruzzo, Molise and Puglia, three regions along the Adriatic Coast.  The brand is owned by the Botter group who trace their origins to 1928 Venice.

Grapes were fully destemmed and macerated for 7 to 8 days before temperature-controlled alcoholic and malolactic fermentation in stainless steel tanks.  Maturation is for 12 months in barrels (size & age not given) and 12 months in steel tanks.

The wine pours a bright cherry red, though not that deep.  The nose is intensely aromatic with alpine strawberries and cherry, plus cinnamon and other spices in the background.  The palate is rich and lithe, full of red and black fruit.  It’s a soft and supple wine; tannins are present but ripe.

Due to its ubiquity and relatively low price we are used to Montepulciano d’Abruzzo as a great glugging wine – probably the first wine that springs to mind when we’re asked to suggest a wine to go with pizza.  Although it’s not expensive, this wine shows that it can be so much more than that.  It retains the fresh flavours, balanced acidity and soft tannins of an everyday Montepulciano d’Abruzzo but adds additional layers of complexity which don’t weigh it down.

This is a lip-smackingly good wine, the best value red wine I’ve had so far this year!

 

*Just like the Mid-West of the USA is actually in the eastern half of the country**

**No I don’t know why either, ask them!

Make Mine A Double

Puglia Pair for BBQ Season [Make Mine a Double #56]

With the current restrictions on being able to visit restaurants in many countries, eating – and drinking – at home has become the new dining out.  As we have been lucky with the weather in Ireland so far this summer the siren call of the barbecue has been heard throughout the land.

How should we choose the wines to drink with our charcoal cooked food?  For me there are a few key criteria:

  1. Drinkability: this doesn’t mean a dichotomy between wine that is either palatable enough to be drunk or wine to be poured down the sink, it means a BBQ wine should be approachable, gluggable, and not austere.
  2. Robustness: barbecue food has lots of strong flavours and needs wines that can stand up to it and take it on.  There’s little point drinking a delicate Tasmanian Pinot Noir with flame-grilled burgers or sticky ribs
  3. Affordability: barbecues are an informal affair – you’re often eating without utensils, possibly on paper plates, and quaffing multiple glasses, so reasonably priced wine makes the most sense.

Here are a couple of wines I tried recently that perfectly fit the bill – and as it happens they are both from Puglia in Italy.

Disclosure: Both bottles kindly provided as samples, opinions remain my own.

Old True Zin Barrel Aged Zinfandel Salento IGT 2018

Old-True-Zin-Organic-Zinfandel

The name and label design of this wine are more reminiscent of a beer than a wine, and using the better known term Zinfandel rather than its Puglian name Primitivo give it an American image.  Is this misleading?  Perhaps a little, but the most important aspect of any bottle of wine is the liquid, and its that which I am assessing.

The bright purple colour in the glass gives you an idea of what you’re in for.  The nose showcases an intense collection of fruits – plum, black cherry, blackberry and blackcurrant among them – plus notes of coffee and chocolate – mocha anyone – and vanilla from the barrel ageing.  The flavours on the palate are a continuation, so no surprises there, but even given the richness of the nose the full-on explosion of flavour might take you back.  It’s the richness and sweetness together which make this such a mouthful.

On reflection, if this wine suggests that it is a Californian Zinfandel then that it is fair enough as it is exactly in that style!

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €17.95
  • Stockists: Mortons, Ranelagh; Listons Camden Street; Barnhill Stores, Dalkey; La Touche, Greystones; Gleeson’s, Booterstown; Molloys Liquor Stores; The Old Orchard Off Licence, Rathfarnham

Bacca Nera Negroamaro Primitivo Salento IGT 2018

Bacca Nera Negroamaro Primitivo

The Bacca Nera is from the same place as the Old True Zin and is the same vintage, but differs in two main respects; firstly, it has (attractive) conventional packaging with an Italian name, and secondly that Puglia’s other main grape: Negroamaro.  It’s a little less deep in colour than the Zin, but we’re not talking Pinot Noir here.

The nose is delightfully spicy at first, then revealing dark berry fruits.  In fact “Bacca Nera” means “Black Berry” according to google translate, so the name is apt.  On tasting this wine is a big mouthful – round and powerful with sweet and rich fruit – very more-ish.  The fruit flavours are both red (strawberry, raspberry and red cherry) and black (blackberry and black cherry), tamed by a touch of bitterness (that would be the Amaro) which adds interest and partially offsets the sweetness.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €17.95
  • Stockists: Mortons Ranelagh; Listons Camden Street; Barnhill Stores, Dalkey; La Touche, Greystones; Gleeson’s, Booterstown; Molloys Liquor Stores; The Old Orchard Off Licence, Rathfarnham

Conclusion

These wines both fit the bill perfectly.  There’s little to choose between them in quality and just a slight difference in style.  With my BBQ ribs I would narrowly choose the Bacca Nera!  Now where are my coals…

 

 

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

Wine + Music

The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series #1 – Sinéad Smyth

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.

Kicking off the series is Sinéad Smyth, a fellow Dubliner (see her bio below).  For Sinéad’s wine I chose Mullineux Syrah from South Africa; this was one of the highlights of the Mullineux tasting I attended at the South African Embassy in Dublin last year with Kinnegar Wines, and it also showed very well at the DNS Wine Club South African tasting.

The track I chose for Sinéad was the French club hit “Music Sounds Better With You” by Stardust, an offshoot of Daft Punk.  I loved this song when it came out and it remains one of the songs which will call me onto the dancefloor, no questions asked!.

Mullineux Syrah

Mullineux Range Syrah

Hailing from Swartland just an hour away from Cape Town, Mullineux Syrah is a multi award-winning wine. Located in the Western Cape of South Africa, Swartland is renowned for its Syrah & Chenin Blanc. Winemaker Andrea Mullineux was awarded Wine Enthusiast’s International Wine Maker of the Year in 2016. Mullineux Syrah gives a true expression of the terroir of the area; Schist, Shale, Granite, Quartz & Iron soils make up the vineyards. Their approach to winemaking involves minimal intervention, with only minimal amounts of sulphur added in the cellar. Mullineux wines are unfined and unfiltered, which I think is a little like jazz music. Sometimes it can be a little bit underappreciated which is why I choose Baby I’m a Fool by Melody Gardot to pair with this wine.

It’s a smooth jazz number that at first listen, sounds like a simple refined tune, but if you listen back you’ll hear layers upon layers of individual elements that combine to make one easy listening song.

This silky Syrah is elegance defined. Half its grapes have been whole bunch fermented, giving it a strong backbone of tannins. Open an hour before you drink and allow this supple wine to open up fully, and while you do let yourself listen back to Melody Gardot’s mellow voice envelope your mind. Mullineux Syrah is a wine to be savoured, it’s a special wine that deserves your full attention, so I think this song is the perfect match!

The song begins with the most wonderful arrangement of strings, with soft notes gently rising and falling until a brief pause before a solo guitar plays, gently plucking its strings as the singer’s raspy voice joins.

Andrea Mullineux said she believes Syrah expresses the site on which it’s grown unlike any other variety, and that’s exactly what good jazz does. It makes you feel the emotions of the music. So uncork that bottle and pop on your favourite records.

Stardust – Music Sounds Better With You

When this song was released I was just 8 years old! I remember hearing it on the radio and throughout my house as my 3 older brothers made mix tapes (remember mix tapes? Waiting for your favourite song to come on the radio and the race to press record!). Every time I hear this song it makes me want to dance. The heavy beat of the drum and the repeating upstrokes on the guitar, it’s almost impossible not to bob your head or tap your feet along to the music.

To pair with this dancey, upbeat tune I thought of a tipple that would be perfect for parties and is a crowd-pleaser. Something that you can easily sip and raise a glass with while boogying down on the dance floor. I’ve chosen Casa di Malia Prosecco DOC from Boutique Wines. Produced in the Botter Winery (close to Venice) the grapes for their wines come from Tenuta Divici which is a collection of family-owned vineyards (all certified organic), on the hills around the area of Treviso.

Botter Prosecco

It’s crisp and full of refreshing citrus flavours of lemon zest and crisp green apple on the nose. Made with 100% Glera grapes this wine is organic with an ABV of 11% – so you won’t trip over your dancing shoes anytime soon.

While it would be nice with light appetisers or shellfish I think it’s the perfect aperitif. It’s light, fresh and well balanced. I also love the easy to reseal closure on the bottle, plus the label is absolutely beautiful.

Sinéad Smyth

Sinéad is a freelance food & travel writer from Dublin. With a BA in Culinary Arts and a Wine Spirit Education Trust Level 2 qualification this girl knows her food and wine. When she’s not feasting she’s exploring the world, seeking out the next great adventure. She has travelled extensively throughout Europe and even further afield to China and the Caribbean. You can find delicious food and travel inspiration on her site over at glamorousglobetrotting.com. You can also follow Sinéad’s adventures on Instagram and Twitter.

Single Bottle Review

Cattin’ for Riesling

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

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

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

Cattin AOC Alsace wines consist of:

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

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

Joseph Cattin Alsace Riesling Réserve 2016

Joseph Cattin Alsace Riesling

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

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RS: 3.9 g/L
  • RRP: ~ €20
  • Stockists: contact Boutique Wines for availability
Make Mine A Double, Opinion, Tasting Events

Earth Angel – Domaine des Anges [Make Mine a Double #49]

An Englishman, and Irishman and a Frenchman climb up a mountain…and make some great wine!  Domaine des Anges was established on the slopes of Mont Ventoux by English couple Malcolm and Janet Swan in 1973.  At that point grapes were mainly being processed by the local cooperative, so it was a bold venture, but help and advice was surprisingly forthcoming from the famous but less-than-approachable Jacques Rayas of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

The Swans had variable levels of success, and after 20 or so years they sold the estate to Irishman Gay McGuinness.  He increased investment and hired professional winemakers – fellow Irishman Ciaran Rooney and after a decade Florent Chave.  Quality has continually increased and Domaine des Anges has received a plethora of praise from critics and consumers.

I recently had the opportunity to taste through the Domaine des Anges range thanks to a kind invitation from Boutique Wines, their Irish representative.  The wines were presented by historian and oenophile Giles MacDonogh – a close friend of the proprietors – and whose notes I have cribbed for background information.  While I liked all the wines I tried, two in particular stood out for me: the white and red AOC Ventoux “Archange” wines:

Domaine des Anges Archange Ventoux Blanc 2016 (14.5%, RRP €21 at La Touche, Greystones; Sweeney’s D3, Fairview; Blackrock Cellar; Grape and Grain, Stillorgan; The Winehouse, Trim; Browns Vineyard, Portlaoise; Bakers Corner, Kill of the Grange; Mortons, Ranelagh)

Domaine des Anges archange Ventoux blanc

Whereas the regular Domaine des Anges Ventoux Blanc is a third each of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and Bourboulenc, the Archange is 100% Roussanne – a grape that rarely gets the limelight all to itself.  In fact the winemaking is as much the star of the show here, with techniques very reminiscent of Burgundy.  The wine is aged in small oak barrels, giving notes of toast, toffee and vanilla.  Malolactic fermentation is blocked to preserve freshness, and regular lees stirring gives a wonderful creamy aspect.  The varietal character does come through the middle of all of this as an intriguing peachy tanginess…it’s like Burgundy but with a bit more going on.  The only downside to this wine is that it’s perhaps too good to drink every day – perhaps just save it for the weekend?

Domaine des Anges Archange Ventoux Rouge 2015 (14.5%, RRP €21 at La Touche, Greystones; Sweeney’s D3, Fairview; Blackrock Cellar; Grape and Grain, Stillorgan; The Winehouse, Trim; Browns Vineyard, Portlaoise; Bakers Corner, Kill of the Grange; Mortons, Ranelagh)

Domaine des Anges archange Ventoux rouge

Although the Rhône Méridional is known for its Grenache-based blends, in the cooler heights of Mont Ventoux Syrah can play a much bigger role.  In this blend it accounts for a full 90% with the balance being Grenache.  As the 14.5% alcohol indicates this is a powerful wine, but it does not have the sweetness of a Barossa Shiraz, for example. There’s a distinct richness, but with smoky notes, black pepper, black fruits and leather, with an altogether savoury finish.  My “go-to” Rhône appellation is Saint-Joseph with its savoury Syrahs, but this Ventoux presents a great alternative – and at a great price.

Conclusion

These two wines are an outstanding pair and really over-deliver for the price tag.  They won’t fade in a hurry, either, so it would be well-worth putting a few (dozen) down to see how they evolve over time.

 

 

And for you film buffs out there, here’s a clip from the film which inspired part of the title of this post: