Make Mine A Double

Wine Review: Henri Bourgeois Sancerre Rosé and Cabernet Franc

Esteemed Loire producer Domaine Henri Bourgeois is most famous for its white and red Sancerres, but it also has some other interesting wines in its portfolio. I recently reviewed Clos Henri Petit Clos Sauvignon Blanc from its Marlborough outpost, and now it’s time to look at a young vine rosé and a Cabernet Franc.

Henri Bourgeois “Les Jeunes Vignes” Sancerre Pinot Noir Rosé 2020

Henri Bourgeois Sancerre Les Jeunes Vignes Rosé

Although I’m not a vocal exponent of rosé, if I had to choose a single variety as my favourite for rosé it would be Pinot Noir. Why? Easy, really: Pinot Noir tends to be on the lighter side as black grapes go, with soft tannins and good acidity, all of which make it the perfect candidate for rosé.

It’s more common to see a mention of Vieilles Vignes (VV) on a label rather than Jeunes Vignes as we have here. VV indicates that the vines are of a significant age (often 30+ years) so yields have started to fall but concentration in the finished wines increases. Jeunes Vignes tend to make simpler wines, and in some wine regions (e.g. Alsace or Bordeaux) the grapes from young vines tend to be declassified even if from a prestigious vineyard.

However, for areas which have a strong rosé game, why not use the grapes from young vines for rosé. Domaine Henri Bourgeois take this approach, as do the notable rosé producer Domaine Tempier of Bandol.

Although Pinot Noir is a lighter grape, this rosé has more colour than the fashionable paler-than-pale Provence style which is so fashionable at the moment. For me this is a GOOD THING as it signals that there has been more flavour as well as colour extracted from those precious Pinot Noir grapes. The nose showcases an array of red fruits – strawberry, raspberry, cherry and redcurrant. These red fruits are also the key notes on the palate, which has a dry and fresh but far from austere finish.

This is a lovely, balanced rosé that would be nice to sip in the sun or with a range of lighter dishes.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP:  €24.95
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Henri Bourgeois Petit Bourgeois Cabernet Franc 2019

Henri Bourgeois Petit Bourgeois Cabernet FrancClimate change has had very mixed effects on viticulture in France. In some regions harvests are moving earlier and earlier over the years as grapes ripen earlier than before. Some regions face a future where new varieties will have to be employed as existing ones will struggle to make quality wine in a warmer climate.

There are others where global warming has helped to some extent; viz, the change in Alsace Pinot Noir from barely more than a rosé to a serious expression of the grape. Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley has been another beneficiary. No longer does it make dilute, green-pepper dominated reds in (frequent) colder years, and chapitalisation is now seldom required.

The Petit Bourgeois range is – as you might understand from the name – a junior range designed for easy drinking. Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir are the other wines in the range. In the glass this Cab Franc is mid ruby, only medium intensity. The nose is fruity yet with some character. On the palate there is juicy fruit yet a savoury aspect at the same time. Alpine strawberries, cranberries, raspberries, redcurrants, and cherries are all in the mix. There’s a nice texture to this wine, with light, crunchy tannins and good acidity. Although varietally typical and nice to drink on its own, this wine really cries out for food…a plate of charcuterie would be perfect!

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP:  €16.95
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

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

Opinion

Wine Review: Bordeaux Bargains in the SuperValu French Wine Sale

It’s September so it must be the SuperValu French Wine Sale in Ireland.  This year the Sale runs from Thursday 2nd to Wednesday 22nd September and applies to over 80 wines, including those from producers such as André Goichot and Guy Saget that I have reviewed previously. In addition to reductions on existing listings there will be a number of “guest wines” sourced via Irish importer / distributor Febvre that are available solely during the sale period.

This article will focus on the four red Bordeaux wines included in the Sale.  All four are from the De Mour group, so first a little background on De Mour, then the wines themselves followed by my pick(s) of the bunch.

De Mour

De Mour logo

The above logo actually tells us a lot about the De Mour group.  Firstly, it is wholly owned by the De Schepper family who founded it in Ghent (Belgium) back in 1938.  Secondly, there are essentially two sides to the De Mour business, a negociant side and their own châteaux. 

Emile De Schepper and Ghislaine de Moor started a business producing local gins and liqueurs, but after a decade they began to take a serious interest in quality French wines.  Historically, the right bank of Bordeaux has had close ties to Belgium and The Netherlands (with the left bank being linked to Britain), so it made sense for their first investment to be Château Tour Baladoz in Saint Emilion.

Over the years the family expanded their own holdings and contracts with Bordelais growers whose grapes they would vinify and bottle under their own labels. The aim is to produce high quality wines that are also approachable and attainable (i.e. affordable).

The De Mour properties are:

  • Château Haut Breton Larigaudière (Margaux)
  • Château La Croizille (Saint-Emilion Grand Cru)
  • Château Lacombe Cadiot (Bordeaux Supérieur)
  • Château Tayet (Bordeaux Supérieur)
  • Château Tour Baladoz (Saint-Emilion Grand Cru)

The negociant business boasts over 65 different wines from across the Bordeaux area, though nearly all dry reds.

Château Moulin Lafitte Bordeaux 2016

Château Moulin Lafitte Bordeaux

This is a standalone Château but does not belong to the De Mour group; rather it belongs to friends of theirs who call on the heft of the De Mour Group for sales and distribution. The Château is located in the Entre Deux Mers region – between the Dordogne and Garonne rivers – though cannot (as yet, watch this space) use that appellation as it currently applies only to white wines. 

The vineyards are south facing and the vines are predominantly Merlot as you’d expect; the blend for this wine is 80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc. Despite the very good vintage (2016) and preponderance of Merlot, this wine has a modest (by modern standards) alcohol of 13.0%.  To me this indicates that the goal was balance rather than super-ripe fruit.

In the glass the wine has a bright ruby core with a rim that is turning to garnet.  The nose has a combination of fruit and tertiary aromas – there’s earth and leather but also fresh and poached plums and a twist of spice.  Lifted aromas give a little funk without a full-on stink.  The palate is round and smooth with those plums to the fore, plus tinned strawberries and the earthiness in the background. Acidity and tannins are present and correct but well integrated.

This is a classic-style claret with quite a bit of development already under its belt.  This would pair well with game such as wild boar, lamb or a sharp cheddar.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €12.70 down from €18.99 from Thurs 2nd Sept to Wed 22nd Sept 2021
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and SuperValu.ie

Château Lacombe Cadiot Bordeaux Supérieur 2019

Château Lacombe Cadiot Bordeaux Supérieur

Château Lacombe Cadiot is unusual among “mere” Bordeaux Supérieurs in that it is located on the Médoc peninsula (though it does actually share that status with stablemate Château Tayet). Its home commune of Ludon Médoc is home to more famous estates such as Château La Lagune and Château d’Agassac. The Château’s vineyards are planted in the proportion 60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Petit Verdot – the precise blend in the final wine will fluctuate a little from year to year.

The Château was bought by De Mour in 1982 and has been an important part of their portfolio ever since.  This is a modern style of Bordeaux, not lean and green, but rather more of a generous and ripe nature.  In the glass the wine is dark ruby with a purple rim – no surprises there.  But the nose – what a nose!  I immediately looked around for an Ambassador as there were such intense aromas of Ferrero Rocher!  Blackcurrant and pencil shavings completed the olfactory picture. 

The palate shows voluptuous black fruits and violets, smooth yet with tannins arriving in a rush at the end.  I did find some hints of unripe green notes in there – perhaps another year or two would integrate them nicely.  In the meantime I would serve this wine with a medium rare entrecôt!

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €10.70 down from €15.99 from Thurs 2nd Sept to Wed 22nd Sept 2021
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and SuperValu.ie

Château Tour Baladoz Saint Emilion Grand Cru 2018

Château Tour Baladoz Saint Emilion Grand Cru

Château Tour Baladoz is surrounded by Grand Cru Classé vineyards, so they have finally bitten the bullet and submitted their dosier for potential inclusion from 2022 onwards.  The Château was bought by De Mour back in 1950 so is their longest-held property.  The vines cover ten hectares on slopes that range from 110 down to 45 metres above sea level – a significant gradient. The current encépagement is 70% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot, though additional plantings of Petit Verdot, Carmenère and Malbec were made in 2019 (I imagine as a response to climate change).

This 2018 is still a baby – that much is obvious from simply pouring it into a glass where there are still purple tints on the rim.  The nose is wonderfully perfumed, though somewhat restrained.  The palate is classy, with toasty oak and vanilla notes overlaying plush plum and cassis fruit.  The texture is soft, yet powerful, and velvety.  This is a real treat of a wine that is enjoyable now and for the next decade or so.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €30.00 down from €44.99 from Thurs 2nd Sept to Wed 22nd Sept 2021
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and SuperValu.ie

Lady de Mour Margaux 2018

Lady De Mour Margaux

Finally we come to De Mour’s namesake wine, albeit a wine made from bought-in rather than owned grapes.  Among the four poshest AOCs of the Médoc, Margaux is renowned for the elegance of its wines, partially due to a lower proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon compared to Saint Estèphe, Saint Julien and Pauillac. 

However, compared to some Margaux the Lady de Mour has a high proportion of Cab Sauv: 63%, with 31% Merlot and 6% Petit Verdot.Precisely when to pick is a very important decision – too early and green, vegetal notes creep in – too late and acidity is too low and the wine becomes jammy.

In the glass the wine is dark, though not quite opaque, with a bright purple rim.  On the nose it is fabulously aromatic, full of dark fruit and graphite notes; plum cassis and spice.  These notes continue through onto the palate, joined by violets.  The texture is supreme – I don’t know if it’s silk or velvet, but it’s just so pleasing.  Although the alcohol is on the low side for a Margaux – 12’5% – this wine does not feel thin or lacking at all, just very well balanced.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €24.75 down from €36.99 from Thurs 2nd Sept to Wed 22nd Sept 2021
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and SuperValu.ie

Conclusion

I think it’s fair to group this quartet into two pairs, two “weekday wines” and two “weekend wines”.  For me the Moulin Lafitte is the more interesting of the junior pair right now, so that would be my choice for drinking this year; the Lacombe Cadiot would be worth buying several of for laying down and breaking out for Xmas 2024.

I did really enjoy the Tour Baladoz, but the aromatics of the Lady de Mour carried the day for me, and that’s the one I will be buying for myself!


* My guess when I tried the same vintage of this wine in November last year was 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc – not too far off I reckon

Opinion

Super Value Xmas Wines 2020 part 2

Here are four more of the wines that Kevin O’Callaghan has selected for the SuperValu Classic Christmas promotion.  If you missed Part 1 you can find it here.

Barão de Vilar Douro Tinto Reserva 2018

There’s the well worn saying that “if something seems too good to be true, it probably is”, so it was with not inconsiderable wariness that I approached this wine as it is on offer at almost half price.  There are some labels which are so regularly on promotion in supermarkets that the “real” price – if there is such a thing – is far from clear.

Some brands are even created with the specific purpose of being listed at a high price then discounted by 50% on a regular basis.  For me this is a cynical and misleading practice.  Happily, the wine reviewed below is emphatically not one of those wines, and it’s even listed with a well established Dublin wine merchant for €19.95!

Anyway, back to the wine itself.  The key grapes are Douro stalwarts Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca and Tinto Cão.  After alcoholic and malolactic fermentation the wine spends 14 months in French oak.  This is a dark and concentrated wine with bold black fruits, decent acidity and grainy tannins, but compared to some Douro wines I’ve tried it pulls everything together really well; all the components work together as part of an integrated whole, making for an elegant wine.  Yes, it’s still very young so could happily lay down for a year or ten, but it’s tasty enough that you might not be able to wait.  If you can’t wait, decant if possible and serve with red meat or other rich dishes.

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €14.83 or case deal of 6 for €50.00 from 5th Nov to 30th Dec while stocks last
  • Stockists: SuperValu Ireland stores

Pagos de Labarca AEX Rioja 2016

Pagos de Labarca is one of the labels of Bodegas Covila, a well-regarded Rioja co-operative.  The AEX is one of Covila’s signature wines, made in small quantities from old (35 years+) bush vine Tempranillo.   Alcoholic fermentation is carried out in stainless steel tanks, after which the wine is transferred into new American and French oak barrels with varying levels of toast.  There, the wine goes through malolactic fermentation and matures for a total of 17 months before being blended back together and bottled.

The nose is very expressive; rich red berries (from the Tempranillo) and vanilla (from the American oak) combine with fine herbs and hints of chocolate and coffee.  Succulent, rich red fruits abound on the palate – red cherry, strawberry and raspberry – overlaid with vanilla bean custard.  Darker fruits then emerge, still fighting for your attention with the vanilla.

This is not a Rioja which could be mistaken for a Ribero del Duero or Toro – it’s too refined and bright.  Although it’s not too tight and dense, it would definitely benefit from decanting or a large glass to allow its complex aromas to fully develop.  A real treat of a wine!

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €22.62 down to €20.00 from 26th Nov to 30th Dec while stocks last
  • Stockists: SuperValu Ireland stores and supervalu.ie

Château Lacombe-Cadiot Bordeaux Supérieur 2018

The De Mour group is a Bordeaux-based wine company with five Châteaux and a negociant line where grapes and / or wines are bought in from other producers.  One of their properties whose wines I have tried and enjoyed several times is Château Tayet, located in Macau just south of Margaux.  Château Lacombe-Cadiot is situated in the Ludon, the next commune south of Macau and close to the Garonne.

Although we’re in the Médoc, Merlot is still the most important grape (sorry Jim!) in this Bordeaux Supérieur with 80% of the blend and Cabernet Sauvignon the balance.  In the glass the wine has a deep core with the rim turning from purple to ruby.  Initially the nose gives a huge hit of exotic spice then black fruit and a hint of vanilla.  On the palate plums abound, both red and purple, along with brambles and the vanilla again.

The technical sheet for this wine states that fermentation and maturation are in stain less steel tanks, but I could swear that some portion of it has spent time in oak.  It has great concentration and a dusting of light tannins on the finish.  This is a smooth and rewarding wine that is well worth its normal price tag, but represents excellent value on offer.

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €15.73 down to €13.00 from 26th Nov to 30th Dec while stocks last
  • Stockists: SuperValu Ireland stores and supervalu.ie

Lady de Mour Margaux 2018

Hopping back up two communes from the Lacombe-Cadiot gets us to Margaux itself, one of the top four appellations of the Médoc.  Margaux wines are nearly always majority Cabernet Sauvignon though a lower proportion than the other three appellations.  I don’t have the precise blend of Lady de Mour but I would guess something like 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc.  It is lighter in both style and alcohol compared to the Lacombe-Cadiot, mainly due to the difference in blend.

The Lady has a mid to dark core in the glass but a very purple rim, indicating relative youth.  It’s quite muted on the nose – you have to search for the dark fruit aromas rather than them leaping out of the glass.  Black fruits delight on the attack, but are then overtaken by graphite, violets and a touch of green bell pepper.  This is a really elegant Margaux, not as juicy as the little brother but a great introduction to proper left bank Claret.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €34.42 down to €25.00 from 26th Nov to 30th Dec while stocks last
  • Stockists: SuperValu Ireland stores

 

 

Tasting Events

Lidl’s September Wine Cellar – “French B” Reds

Lidl Ireland are introducing some limited release French wines in their stores from Thursday 24th September 2020 in what they are calling their “September Wine Cellar”.  I tasted the majority of them at the first press tasting since Covid first hit and can give them all a thumbs up.  They aren’t likely to win any major awards but they are very good value for money and give wine drinkers a chance to try something representative of a style they might not have tried before.

Here are my brief notes on four of the reds included in the event, from Burgundy / Bourgogne, Bordeaux and Beaujolais’s Brouilly:

Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2018

Just like its white counterpart in the first post of this series, this Burgundy Pinot Noir is very light when poured.  In these days of big-hitting Pinots from California and Central Otago there’s something comforting about an old school pale one.  The nose is greeted by spice – in fact it’s more spice-driven than fruity – but fresh redcurrant, raspberry and strawberry do make an appearance in the bouquet.  The palate is full of juicy rich red fruits, and a nice fresh finish.  This is amazing Pinot Noir for €11, especially from Burgundy!

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €10.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Château Margerots Bordeaux Supérieur 2019

Now to Bordeaux, the most famous red wine area in the world.  Although the famous Châteaux get the lion’s share of attention, the vast majority of Bordelais wine is much more modest…such as this Bordeaux Supérieur.  The Supérieur tag isn’t that meaningful these days, but the reds are normally quite drinkable Merlot-based blends.  The assemblage here fits that bill: 50% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot.  In fact there’s quite a lot of Cab Sauv for such a “Petit Château” – and it’s one of the reasons why this wine is so dark when poured, though still exhibiting a youthful purple tinge.  The nose is centred around a graphite core (typical from Cabernet Sauvignon) surrounded by tight black fruit.  The fruit opens up on the palate which shows juicy blackcurrant and plum, with a touch of leather and soft tannin on the finish.  What a great way to get into Bordeaux!

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €8.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Haut de Saint Laurent Haut-Médoc 2019

On to a slighter posher Bordeaux address (apologies if I’m chanelling Jancis), the Haut-Médoc.  This is the southern part of the Médoc peninsula, but in the centre rather than the eastern shore where the top end stuff is made.  Wines here tend to be 50% Cab Sauv and 50% Merlot / other grapes, but the only information available for this wine was that it consists of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.  Again this is quite dark in the glass; the nose is lifted with notes of cedar wood and blackberry.  The palate delights in lush but fresh red and black fruit; tannins  and noticeable though fine-grained.  This is real Bordeaux, though made in an easy drinking style.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €11.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Jean Desvignes La Croix des Célestins Brouilly 2019

Brouilly is one of Beaujolais’s ten crus, the best villages which carry their own name on the label (and, unhelpfully for casual wine drinkers, Beaujolais isn’t mentioned at all).  The name La Croix des Célestins comes from the cross of a monastic order called the Celestines (in English), a brand of the Benedictines whose founder became Pope Celestine V.  As with all red Beaujolais (white wines account for only 3%) this Brouilly is made form 100% Gamay.  The colour in the glass is middling in intensity, somewhere between the Bourgogne and the Bordeaux.  The nose has lovely red and black fruit, so enticing.  The palate is juicyyyy! Intense blueberry and blackberry run the show here, with a dry finish.   This is a really nice easy-drinking red.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €11.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Star Pick

It’s hard to pick a favourite from these wines, especially the first three, but in the end my top pick is the Bourgogne Pinot Noir.


Lidl’s September Wine Cellar Posts:

 

Tasting Events

Unfinished Sympathy

After a little reflection, one of the most important characteristics of a great winemaker (in my humble opinion) is sympathy for the vineyards they pick from and the grapes that they harvest.  Underlying this are intelligence, knowledge, and more than a little humility.

Many winemakers develop this sympathetic nature over the course of decades with a small number of plots of land and as few as two or even just one grape variety, as is the case in Burgundy.  Indeed, sometimes it’s an ancestral connection with knowledge that has been passed down in the family for generations.

In stark contrast to the timescale of the Burgundians, I give you Pieter Hauptfleisch Walser of BLANKbottle.  Pieter has 58 different varieties growing all over the Western Cape, though you won’t see them mentioned on the bottle.  A few months ago, thanks to WineMason I had the opportunity to try eight of this wines which were new to the Irish market (and only available in very small quantities).  Each has an intriguing backstory and a interesting label to go with it.

with apologies for the quality of my snaps…

Rabbitsfoot 2018 (14.5%, RRP ~ €30)

BLANKbottle Rabbits Foot 2018

We start with a Sauvignon Blanc, but not that you would probably recognise at first – it’s not like a Loire or Kiwi Sauvignon, and to be honest it’s not even like other South African Savvies, although perhaps some could be though of as baby versions of this.  It has more body, texture and alcohol than most Sauvignons, still grassy but with spicy notes.  Tasted blind my first guess would have been Grüner Veltliner!

Full details here

BOBERG 2018 (13.5%, RRP ~ €33)

BLANKbottle BOBERG 2018

Boberg means “on top of the mountain” and the mountain is pictured on the label – but not on its own.  It is depicted as being overlooked by seven generations of Pieter’s family who lived on the farm next to it.  These Chenin Blanc vines are old and low yielding, and have recently been certified organic.  For 2018 they were picked early and fermented in old French oak barrels with natural yeast.  The wine is fresh but with real depth; a whole basket of Granny Smith apples with a few Golden Delicious and lemons.

Full details here

Kortpad Kaaptoe 2018 (13.0%, RRP ~ €33)

BLANKbottle Kortpad Kaaptoe 2018

Pieter found these vines while on his travels and took a backroad shortcut to get to his next appointment – the name means “shortcut to Cape Town”.  The grape variety used is even more obscure (especially in South Africa): Fernão Pires!  If you’re a fan of Portuguese wine then it might not be so obscure as it is grown throughout Portugal, sometimes under the moniker Maria Gomes.  It’s a highly aromatic grape, somewhere in the realm of Gewurztraminer and Viognier, though fairly gentle (Alsace aficianados: think of Klevener de Heiligenstein).  I liked this wine though it didn’t shine quite as brightly for me as the two whites above.

Full details here

B.O.E.T. 2017 (14.0%, RRP ~ €36)

BLANKbottle B.O.E.T. 2017

It’s fairly well known among wine geeks that South Africa’s signature variety Pinotage was created as a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut (the Rhône’s Cinsault, then known as Hermitage in South Africa).  This wine is something of a family reunion as it features all three grapes, though Pinotage is dominant with small amounts of Cinsaut and Pinot Noir.  On the nose I would never have guessed this to be a Pinotage blend – my best guess would perhaps have been a Languedoc red.  The palate is lighter, with medium body, lithe red fruit and good acidity.  This is the perfect example of BLANKbottle’s labelling philosophy – those who would be put off by the varieties might well love this wine if tasted without knowing.  I certainly loved it!

Full details here

My Koffer 2018 (13.5%, RRP ~ €37)

BLANKbottle My Köffer 2018

This is single vineyard Cinsaut (without the “l” as usually spelt in South Africa) – a variety known for high yields and large berries which is often used to make rosé or inexpensive bulk red wine.  It’s not a grape I taste as a single varietal very often, but if it’s as good as this then I definitely should.  The nose is all cherries, following through onto the palate where they are joined by exotic spices.  The finish is pleasantly dry.

Full details here

My eie Stofpad 2017 (14.5%, RRP ~ €38)

BLANKbottle My eie Stofpad 2017

This wine is principally Cabernet Franc but also has a splash of Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec, all from different vineyards, so it’s technically a Bordeaux blend.  It tastes nothing like a Bordeaux, with thick mouthfeel and ripe blackcurrant fruit.  There’s a savoury edge as well plus fine grained tannins.  An excellent wine.

Oppie Koppie 2017 (14.5%, RRP ~ €39)

BLANKbottle Oppie Koppie 2017

This lovely Syrah reminded me of St Joseph or Hawke’s Bay on steroids – but not as ripe and juicy as most Aussie Syrah/Shiraz.  Perhaps we (I) just just stop with the comparisons and say it’s a great example of South African Syrah.  Whole bunch fermentation is used in varying degrees depending on the vintage (and in particular how ripe the stems are) – for this 2017 80% was whole bunch.  2017 was the first vintage that a little Syrah from Swartland and Cinsaut from Breedekloof were added to the main Syrah from Voor-Paardeberg, all for additional complexity.  The result is a fantastic red wine that is rich yet fresh, full of black and red fruit and spice, but no jamminess.

Full details here

B.I.G. 2017 (14.5%, RRP ~ €41)

BLANKbottle B.I.G. 2017

This is a single varietal blend; if that sounds strange it’s because it’s made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes grown in eight different vineyards across South Africa.  Well, normally eight, from sea level up to mountain tops, except for the 2017 vintage which saw the fruit from two of the vineyards lost to smoke taint from fires – depicted on the label.  This is definitely a Cabernet Sauvignon but it’s not too far in character from the Cabernet Franc above, just a little richer and with more pronounced blackberry and blackcurrant fruit.  As you’d expect there are fine grained tannins to keep everything in check. A truly delicious wine.

Full details here

Opinion

O’Briens Fine Wine Sale 2019

The Irish off-licence chain O’Briens has various promotions on throughout the year, but probably the most eagerly awaited is the annual Fine Wine Sale.  This year it runs from Monday 9th to Sunday 15th December.  Below are the wines I’d be snapping up this year.  Note that I haven’t necessarily tried the vintage stated of each wine, but I have tasted them often enough over the years to comfortably recommend them.

Gaia Santorini Assyrtiko Wild Ferment 2016 (13.0%, €24.95 down to €22.95 at O’Briens)

Gaia-Assyrtiko-Wild-Ferment

I have previously written about the 2013 and 2016 vintages of this wine as well as its younger brother Monograph, and tasted it many times in between; it remains one of my favourite “mid-priced” white wines available in Ireland.

Cloudy Bay Marlborough  Sauvignon Blanc 2018 (13.0%, €35.95 down to €24.95 at O’Briens)

Cloudy-Bay-Sauvignon-Blanc

An iconic wine at a very reasonable price!  I recently tried the 2017 (which was maturing nicely) and the 2019 which, for such a young wine, was surprisingly settled and ready to go

Julien Brocard Chablis La Boissoneuse 2018 (12.5%, €29.95 down to €25.95 at O’Briens)

Brocard-La-Boissoneuse-Organic

The 2017 vintage was #1 in my Top 10 Whites of 2019 so any reduction in price of this fantastic organic, biodynamic Chablis makes it worth snapping up!

Chanson Chablis 1er Cru Montmains 2017 (12.5%, €34.95 down to €24.95 at O’Briens)

Chanson-Chablis-1er-Cru-Montmains

Chanson has been part of the Bollinger group for two decades and produces consistently good wines.  This Montmains is an excellent Premier Cru and while delicious now, deserves another five years or so before being opened.

Man O’War Waiheke Island Valhalla Chardonnay 2017 (14.5%, €32.95 down to €28.95 at O’Briens)

Man-O_War-Valhalla-Chardonnay

I wrote about the 2010 vintage (in 2014) the 2011 (in 2016) and the 2016 (earlier this year) and loved them all.  This is a fairly full on Chardonnay which will please those who like bold wines – and that includes me.

L’Ostal Cazes Minervois La Livinière Grand Vin 2015 (14.5%, €23.95 down to €20.95 at O’Briens)

L_Ostal-Cazes-Grand-Vin

The JM Cazes family who have long owned Lynch Bages in Bordeaux have spread their interests to the Rhône and Languedoc, amongst other places.  In my not-so-humble-opinion this Minervois La Livinère is the best value wine in their portfolio.

Château Franc-Maillet Pomerol 2015 (13.5%, €48.00 down to €42.00 at O’Briens)

Ch_teau-Franc-Maillet

The 2014 of this wine was very good, so the even better vintage of 2015 is definitely worth a shout.  This wine is worthy of a place on my Christmas dinner table, so it’s definitely worthy of yours, too!

Sierra Cantabria Rioja Gran Reserva 2008 (14.0%, €32.95 down to €23.95 at O’Briens)

Sierra-Cantabria-Gran-Reserva

If you like Tempranillo-based wines but tend to favour Ribero del Duero, this a Rioja house which can match the black fruited savoury wines from there.  I have previously tried the 2010 Crianza which was great, but a Gran Reserva from 2008 should be even more of a stunner!

d’Arenberg  McLaren Vale Dead Arm Shiraz 2015 (14.6%, €54.95 down to €44.95 at O’Briens)

d_Arenberg-Dead-Arm-Shiraz

While Penfolds Grange prices have rocketed off into the stratosphere, here’s an iconic Aussie wine that is (relatively) more affordable – and approachable at a younger age, too, though if you manage to keep your hands away it will last for a decade or two.

Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (13.8%, €80 down to €68 at O’Briens)

Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 3

The (virtual) ink has only just dried on my review of the 2012 vintage of this wine but it’s already included in the fine wine sale.  If you want to treat yourself for Christmas (2019 or 2029) then this is a great bet!

Tasting Events

Liberty Portfolio Tasting 2019 (part 4 – New World Reds)

“New World” is not a great term as it basically means “outside Europe”, so it includes many different countries which are different in style.  Just for convenience, it allows us to look at a selection wines from California, Central Otago, Southern Australia and Ningxia, all available from Liberty Wines.

Pine Ridge Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 (15.0%, RRP €72.99 at Blackrock Cellar; The Corkscrew; La Touche Wines, Greystones; McHugh’s; Redmonds of Ranelagh; Terroirs)

Pine Ridge Vineyards CabSauv NapaValley

I’ve been a fan of the Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc / Viognier blend for some time (see review here) but as this is Napa then the Cabernet is the real deal.  Pine Ridge Vineyards was first established in Stags Leap District in the late 70s with a single vineyard next to a – you guessed it – pine ridge.  Their vineyards now number 12 and total 80 hectares over five Napa sub-zones: Stags Leap District, Rutherford, Carneros, Howell Mountain and Oakville.  Pine Ridge produce a number of different wines, including several from individual sub-zones, but this is a blend across the five.

This bottle is labelled as a varietal Cabernet Sauvignon but that is 91% of the blend, with the balance made up by 6% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc.  35% of the 2016 was aged in new American oak for 18 months, giving creamy vanilla to go with the blackcurrant, cherry and blackberry notes.  This is a big, lush, heady wine that is not light and shouldn’t be taken lightly.  It’s not for those who like racy reds but it’s imposing and delicious.

New Kanaan Pretty Pony 2013 (14.0%, €52.99 at Cinnamon Cottage, Cork; The Corkscrew; The Malt House; Mitchell & Son; Terroirs)

Kanaan Winery, `Pretty Pony` FS

Ningxia is of course the most important Chinese region for wine.  Some years ago I reviewed Château Changyu Moser XV 2008 which had an abv of 12.5% and was reminiscent of old school Bordeaux (think mid ’90s).  The Pretty Pony is a very good wine, regardless of origin. It has oak, lovely black fruit and is already showing a nice bit of development.  This is not like old school Bordeaux – this is like modern Bordeaux!

Akarua “Rua” Central Otago Pinot Noir 2017 (14.0%, RRP €29.99 at Avoca; Baggot Street Wines; Blackrock Cellar; Clontarf Wines; The Corkscrew; Mitchell & Son; Red Nose Wine; 1601, Kinsale; www.wineonline.ie)

Akarua Rua Pinot Noir

When Central Otago Pinot Noir began to enter into the consciousness of wine drinkers it was almost the opposite of Marlborough Pinot – big, bold and powerful – with alcohol to match.  It was almost a Pinot Noir for Cabernet drinkers – no bad thing in my eyes as Cab is my favourite black grape – but times, and the wines, have changed.  Now elegance and balance are to the fore, without losing the intensity that made them such a hit in the first place.  This is a great example of Central Pinot – especially for the relatively modest price.  It has a core of ripe red fruit and a slight smoky, savoury edge that gives it some seriousness.

Burn Cottage Central Otago Pinot Noir 2016 (13.5%, RRP €69.99 at The Corkscrew; www.wineonline.ie and good independents nationwide)

Burn Cottage Central Otago Pinot Noir

Another Central Pinot, but totally different in style.  Burn Cottage has been practising biodynamic since the first vines were planted in 2003, and there is a low intervention approach to winemaking.  Whole bunch fermentation allows the wine’s aromas to develop fully – it smells…special, for want of a better term.  This is a fine, fine wine which delights all the senses but the mind too.

Mitolo “G.A.M.” McLaren Vale Shiraz 2015 (14.5%, RRP €39.99 at Blackrock Cellar; www.wineonline.ie and good independents nationwide)

Mitolo GAM Shiraz

Like many McLaren Vale vineyards, Mitolo has Italian roots through its founder Frank Mitolo.  It also has an influx of German genes through winemaker and business partner Ben Glaetzer, scion of the Barossa producer Glaetzer wines.  The Mitolo portfolio is split into three ranges: Jester, Small Batch and Single Vineyard.

The G.A.M. Shiraz was the first wine produced by Mitolo; it’s not an alternative to GSM which is prevalent in the Vale, but actually stands for the initials of Frank’s three children, Gemma, Alex and Marco.  The fruit is sourced from a vineyard belonging to family friends and fellow Italian immigrants the Lopresti vineyards, in particular their “Chinese Block”.  As it’s located at the bottom end of McLaren Vale, the block benefits from cooling sea breezes.  The vines are over 40 years old and are planted on a type of clay.  Fermentation is kept on the cool side to preserve fruit flavours and then fermentation is in French oak (30% new, 70% used) for 15 months.  Only at that point are barrels given final selection for inclusion in the G.A.M. Shiraz.

Aussie Shiraz is a great crowd-pleaser but this is way above that – it has phenomenal structure and intense, opulent-but-not-jammy black fruit.  The Jester Shiraz is a great introduction to the style at a little over half the price of the G.A.M., but I’d argue that the latter is more than twice as good and represents great value at this price point.

Grosset Gaia Clare Valley 2014 (14.0%, RRP €66.99 at good independents nationwide)

Grosset Gaia

Grosset are best known for their Rieslings, especially the Polish Hill and Springvale bottlings, but they also make some great reds too, including a Pinot Noir and this “Gaia” Bordeaux blend.  I say Bordeaux blend though its precise proportions of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc would rarely be found in the Gironde.  At five years old this 2014 still has bright berry, blackcurrant and plum fruit.  It does have a dry leathery side, with grippy tannins and good acidity.  As this is Clare there is of course a screwcap closure; a challenge to the Bordelais to catch up?  This will be drinking well for years and years.

 

Liberty Portfolio Tasting 2019

Tasting Events

Super French Wines (part 2)

Following on from part 1 which mainly featured Loire Sauvignon Blancs, this part 2 looks at some of the Bordeaux wines which will feature in the SuperValu French Wine Sale running from  5th to 26th September in store and online.  As previously mentioned,  the sale includes some “Special Guest Wines” which are available for a limited time only – marked with *.

Château Moulin Lafitte 2014 (12.5%, €18.99 down to €14.00 at SuperValu)

CH Moulin Lafitte

This Château is located just above the River Garonne as it stretches out eastwards after Langon.  The soil is mainly clay (80%) which adds power to the wines and makes it perfect for Merlot.  The blend of this 2014 is 80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon.  In fact, such is the power and roundness of the wine that it feels significantly higher than its stated 12.5% alcohol.  A very nice Claret.

Château Pey La Tour Bordeaux 2016 (14.5%, €19.99 down to €9.99 at SuperValu)

Pey la Tour.jpgIn the Entre-Deux-Mers region again, this time with a Vignobles Dourthe property.  Dourthe was founded in 1840 and now have over a dozen Châteaux across Bordeaux plus some two dozen branded wines.  The blend for this bottling is 90% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon.  It results in a soft, fruity wine which is simultaneously smooth and powerful.

Château Sissan Grande Réserve Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux 2016 (13.5%, €23.99 down to €11.99 at SuperValu)

Chateau Sissan Grand Reserve

The Château Sissan estate extends over 25 hectares in Cadillac, Entre-Deux-Mers, just over the River Garonne from Sauternes.  It benefits from gravel soil, up to 4 metres deep in places, no doubt left by the Garonne as its course has gradually changed over the centuries.  The blend is 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon – with more of the latter than normally seen in this part of Bordeaux due to the free draining gravel soil (which is seen in the likes of Pessac-Léognan and Pauillac).  The nose is rather spicy (apparently due to the Cab) and interesting.  The palate is generous with plush red and black fruit, soft tannins and a spicy finish.  Delicious!

Lady De Mour Margaux 2016 (13.0%, €34.99 down to €20.00 at SuperValu)

Lady De Mour Margaux

Left bank Bordeaux is not usually that approachable in its youth, but if any of the top four appellations are worth committing infanticide with then its the supple wines of Margaux. Lady De Mour consists of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot; after fermentation the wine receives 12 to 15 months in French oak, a quarter of which is new.  It does taste wonderful but it’s the mouthfeel rather than the specific flavours which really shine – like velvet wrapped in satin!  This is amazingly approachable for a Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated blend, but then it is Margaux and the excellent De Mour group (who also produce another favourite Château Tayet)

Château Tour Baladoz Saint-Emilion Grand Cru 2015 (14.0%, €44.99 down to €25.00 at SuperValu)

Tour Baladoz

Château Tour Baladoz is situated just three kilometres south east of the village of Saint-Emilion, with 70% of its vines on the plateau and 30% on slopes.  Sources differ on the assemblage for the 2015, but given the warm year this seems reasonable: 70% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot.  After a cold maceration, each parcel is vinified separately depending on the variety, age of the vine and terroir.  Maturation is for 17 months in oak barrels (70% new) sourced from ten  (!) different coopers.  It has a beautifully fragrant nose which exudes class.  The palate shows silky tannins with chewy, soft fruit.  This is an accessible but classy wine.

Château La Garde Pessac Léognan Rouge 2010* (14.0%, €49.99 down to €30.00 at SuperValu)

CH.La Garde 2010

All the reds above have been fairly young, spanning 2014-16.  This is something different, a left bank Bordeaux which is starting to mature – and from an excellent vintage too.  I tend to think of Pessac wines as having a similar blend to Margaux, which rings true when you compare La Garde to Lady De Mour above: it consists of 67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot and 2% Petit Verdot.  Maturation is for 14 months in specially selected barrels, of which a third were new.  Tasted from decanter, this was glorious, with notes of graphite, spice, plum, blackberry, and even a savoury meatiness!  This is definitely a treat wine which deserves matching with a good meal.

Château Roumieu Sauternes 2014 (14.0%, 375ml, €19.99 down to €10.00 at SuperValu)

Sauternes Roumieu

Bordeaux does have some great (dry) whites, but the excellence of its sweet wines is even more overlooked.  These wines are very expensive to produce, as the grapes are only harvested when the bunch is at the right stage of noble rottenness (is that a word?) necessitating many passes through the vineyard.  The amount of juice per vine is also very low as botrytis reduces the water content.  But the payoff?  Amazing sweet wines.

Château Roumieu has some celebrated next door neighbours in Châteaux Climens and Doisy-Védrines.  The blend is fairly typical with 89% Semillon, 10% Sauvignon Blanc and 1% Muscadelle.  Still in its youth, this 2014 is very intense with marmalade, apricot and floral notes.  Obviously a sweet wine – I’d guess north of 100 g/L residual sugar – it is nevertheless nicely balanced and just so lovely to drink!

Make Mine A Double, Opinion

Right Bank 2014s [Make Mine a Double #42]

As any good sci-fi geek knows, 42 is Deep Thought’s Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything, and so it’s fitting that the theme of this 42nd edition of Make Mine a Double is Bordeaux, probably the most important wine region in the world (and definitely the most self-important).  Bordeaux was the first wine region I got to know reasonably well and remains the reference for many other country’s red wines.

These two wines are both from the Merlot-dominated right bank, where Cabernet Sauvignon is nearly always a minor player – if it plays a part at all – and Cabernet Franc can play a great supporting role.  Saint Emilion is the star appellation on the right bank, with Pomerol less famous but home to the legendary Château Petrus.  Fronsac is less well known still, but often offers great value.  These two wines are both from the very good but not amazing 2014 vintage – Red Bordeaux 2014s are rated 8/10 by Berry Brothers & Rudd and 7/10 by The Wine Society.

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

Château Clos du Roy Fronsac 2014 (14.0%, €29.95 down to €22.95 at O’Briens)

Chateau Clos du Roy Fronsac 2014

The name of this producer translates literally as the Castle of the King’s Walled Garden.  Horticulture aside for a moment, this is a blend of 85% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc.

The nose is tremendous, with dark fruit (plums, blackcurrants, blackberries), chocolate and spices.  The fruit is very ripe on the palate – this is a powerful wine.  Fine grained tannins give a satisfying dry edge to the finish.  Although still quite young this is drinking magnificently now.  At the reduced price it would be worth buying a few and seeing how it evolves over the next decade.

Château Franc-Maillet Pomerol 2014 (13.5%, €42.95 down to €34.35 at O’Briens)

Chateau Franc-Maillet 2014

You might just be able to make out “Depuis 1919” on the bottle shot above, as it was started by a soldier returning from the First World War.  It has been in the same family since, who now make wines in Pomerol (plus satellite AOC Lalande de Pomerol), and Saint-Emilion (plus one of the four satellite AOCs, Montagne-Saint-Emilion.)  The blend is 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc.

The nose is spicy and smoky with red and black fruits.  On the palate there is a whole variety of red (red cherry, raspberry, cranberry) and black (plum, black cherry and blackberry) fruits.  There are also some subtle vanilla notes from maturation in barrique and ripe tannins.

Conclusion

In my opinion these are two excellent wines that do a great job of representing their appellations and right bank Bordeaux in general.  There’s little to chose between them in quality; it’s more a question of a slight difference in style between the power and spice of the Fronsac and the elegance, cherry and vanilla of the Pomerol.  Both for me please!

 

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

Tasting Events

Lidl French Wine Cellars (part 1 – red)

Lidl Ireland’s “French Wine Cellars” promotion runs from Monday 25th March while stocks last.  It’s not a “sale” as such – rather a group of seasonal wines which are available in limited quantities.  First we turn our attention to the reds, with emphasis on Bordeaux and the Rhône Valley.

Château Saint Antoine Bordeaux Supérieur 2016 (13.5%, €9.99 at Lidl Ireland)

Château Saint Antoine Bordeaux Supérieur, €9.99

The regulations to make Bordeaux Supérieur are not that significant – slightly higher vine density, slightly lower yields and slightly higher minimum alcohol – but when was the last time you saw a Bordeaux wine at less than 10.0% abv?  I remember some as low as 11.0% in the early nineties but that rule is largely irrelevant now.  This is modern, approachable Bordeaux, with lots of black fruit and liquorice.  There’s a touch of leather and soft tannins, but this is not austere.  Would be perfect for steak, but quaffable on its own if decanted.

Baron de Portets Graves 2016 (13.5%, €9.99 at Lidl Ireland)

Baron de Portets Graves, €9.99Graves in part of Bordeaux’s lower left bank, and was in fact making great wines before the Médoc was drained by Dutch engineers.  The best areas of the Graves were sectioned off into a new appellation – Pessac-Léognan – in 1987, leaving the remaining area as more everyday producers.  And I don’t think I’m being unfair in calling this Baron de Portets an everyday wine – it’s only a tenner after all – but it’s far better than I’d expect from left bank Bordeaux at this price.  It’s seductive and smooth with lots of black fruit and a touch of red.  A hint of liquorice on the finish keeps it on the savoury side.

Château Fonguillon Montagne-Saint-Emilion 2015 (13.5%, €11.99 at Lidl Ireland)

Rotwein, Frankrech, LIDL

Although this is from one of Saint-Emilion’s four satellite appellations (there’s another in this offer which wasn’t to my taste), it’s very well put together – the full Saint-Emilion experience.  Dominated by Merlot, it boasts rich plum and blackberry fruit balanced by soft tannins.  Château Fonguillon is quite a mouthful (yes, in both senses), but it’s not jammy and is definitely worth a try.

Château Haut-Plaisance Montagne-Saint-Emilion 2016 (14.0%, €12.99 at Lidl Ireland)

Château Haut-Plaisance Saint-Émilion, €12.99

If ever a wine had a promising name, Château “High Pleasure” would be it.  And it is a pleasurable wine – fruit forward with quite a bit of oak (some may prefer to let it breathe properly before drinking).  Blackberry, damson and plum are the order of the day, but fresh and with a streak of acidity.  Great value for money.

Château Saint-Rémy Fronsac 2017 (14.5%, €11.99 at Lidl Ireland)

Château Saint-Rémy Fronsac, €11.99

Just north of the right bank’s leading town, Libourne, Fronsac is one of the best value appellations within Bordeaux.  Château Saint-Rémy has 17 hectares of vineyards which follow the normal patterns of right bank wine: 80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon.  This is a ripe, thick and rich red wine, though there’s no heat on the finish that the 14.5% (!) alcohol might imply.  It’s not everyone’s idea of Bordeaux, but as a bridge between France and the new world it works a treat!

Clos des Batuts Cahors 2017 (13.0%, €9.99 at Lidl Ireland)

Clos des Batuts Cahors, €9.99

Cahors and its “black wines” are the original home of Malbec, though the variety is also found in Bordeaux, the Loire Valley and – most famously – Argentina.  In the past Cahors wines have needed some time in bottle before drinking, but this is a very drinkable example.  It’s mid weight rather than hefty, clean and full of red and black fruit.  Tannins are present and correct but not too dry.  This will do well at summer barbecues, if we get a summer this year…

Cru des Côtes du Rhône Vinsobres 2017 (14.5%, €9.99 at Lidl Ireland)

Vinsobres is one of the more recent Rhône areas to be promoted up to a Cru – in 2006 in fact.  It still isn’t that well known which means that there are some bargains to be had.  AOC rules stipulate minima of 50% Grenache and 25% Syrah and / or Mourvèdre, so expect big and bold fruit – and that is exactly what we have here.  Tannins are fairly low and acidity is reasonable (the Grenache component is probably over 60%) so this is a very approachable wine.  Give me more!

Dame de Clochevigne Rasteau 2017 (14.0%, €9.99 at Lidl Ireland)

Rasteau, €9.99

This is not a terribly complex wine, but it’s juicy and quaffable – nice enough to crack open on a school night with dinner or out on the patio now that we’re getting a bit of a stretch in the evenings.  The breakdown of grape varieties isn’t given, but being southern Rhône it’s highly likely to be a GSM – and given its flavour profile the emphasis is very much on Grenache.

Gigondas 2017 (14.5%, €16.99 at Lidl Ireland)

Gigondas, €16.99

Gigondas is considered second in the southern Rhône hierarchy – after Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but doesn’t have the latter’s instant recognition – or price tags to match.  This is, however, the most expensive red in Lidl Ireland’s offering, though still fairly modest by independent wine shop standards.  It’s cossetting and smooth, quite a cozy wine in fact (if that term means anything to anyone).  It’s not light but it does have a touch of sophistication and elegance.  This is how southern Rhône reds should be, and it’s well worth the premium on the others above.