Single Bottle Review

Wine review: Coca i Fitó Negre Montsant 2012

I recently got to try a really tasty Spanish red from a little known region of Catalonia.  Before we look at the wine itself, we have to look at: Where is Montsant? and What are Montsant wines like?

Montsant

Map of Priorat and Montsant wine regions
Map of Priorat (dark centre area) and Montsant (light outer area)

Montsant is an under-appreciated wine region in Catalonia, almost completely surrounding the more famous Priorat.  It was formerly part of the Falset subzone of the Tarragona DO and only appeared on labels from 2002.  Montsant has prospered under its own name, increasing from 28 Bodegas in 2002 to 55 in 2020.  In contrast, the Priorat DO was created in 1954 and upgraded to DOQ (under Catalan regulations, anyway) from 2000.

Montsant production focuses on red wines which account for 94% of the total made.  Grapes used are a combination of local and international varieties: Garnatxa Negra, Carinyena (Carignan), Ull de Llebre (Tempranillo), Syrah, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon.  The small amount of white wine mainly uses local varieties: Garnatxa Blanca, Macabeu / Viura, Moscatell d’Alexandria and Xarel·lo…plus the omni-present Chardonnay.

As might be expected in a region with “Mont” in the name, elevation ranges significantly: vineyards are planted between 200 and 700 metres.  There are three main soil types: chalky clay, granitic sand and slate, each rendering a different profile to wines made thereon.  Many Montsant wines are powerful in both body and alcohol, in a similar style to Priorat wines, especially if made with old Garnatxa and / or Carinyena vines.

Celler Coca i Fitó

The Coca i Fitó winery is owned and managed by Catalan brothers Toni and Miquel Coca i Fitó.  Toni is a well established winemaker and is Technical Director at the Celler Cooperatiu de Gandesa in the nearby DO Terra Alta; in fact, the co-ops facilities are used to make some of the brothers’ local white wines (see below).  A variety of fermentation vessels are used: stainless steel tanks, concrete eggs, amphorae, standard and large format oak barrels.

Although the contents of each bottle are the key, the labels of each are specially designed by Oriol Malet and Jaume Coca:

Each design has been created to convey the essence of the wine by describing the sensations that they provoke, whether it be freshness, typicity or other sensorial experiences.

The company’s wine ranges (in addition to olive oil!) are:

  • Coca i Fitó: the company’s flagship wines, including blends, varietals and special wines from DO Montsant and DO Terra Alta
  • Jaspi: more accessible wines from young(er) vines in DO Montsant and DO Terra Alta
  • Samsara Priorat: a joint venture with Eva Escudé and the Vives brothers, creating a modern style of Priorat
  • Tocat de l’Ala: a joint venture in DO Empordà with Roig Parals
  • Tolo do Xisto: a joint venture in DO Ribeira Sacra with Andrea Obenza
  • Aloja: a new range of softer wines from DO Montsant and DO Terra Alta

Coca i Fitó Negre Montsant 2012

coca i fito negre Montsant

Even smelling the cork was enough to let me know that this wine was going to be special – a rare occurrence.  Perhaps the eight or so years maturing in bottle helped.  The blend for this wine is 50% Syrah, 30% Grenache (both from 60 – 70 year old vines) and 20% Carignan (from 20 – 30 year old vines).  The grapes  are picked from a single vineyard with limestone soils.  After fermentation the wine is aged between 12 to 14 months, vintage dependant, in new French oak (90%) and American oak barrels (10%)

Despite its age this wine almost opaque in the glass; quite fitting for a wine called “negre”.  The nose shows lifted aromatics of dark black fruits and spices, with strong hints of oak ageing.  The palate is powerful, rich and voluptuous, with sweet blackberry, cassis and plum fruits to the fore.  This 2012 is only just hitting its straps and has many years left to go.  At this price it’s a real bargain.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €35.95
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Single Bottle Review

Wine Review: 19 Crimes 2020 Red Wine

19 Crimes is an Australian wine brand with a range of inexpensive, everyday wines that are available at supermarkets and other multiples.  This isn’t the normal type of wine that features on Frankly Wines, but as it’s so popular I thought it worth trying to see why so many people buy it.

I don’t know if the owners of 19 Crimes – Treasury Wine Estates (TWE) – set out to deliberately compete with the likes of Yellowtail and Barefoot, but that’s what they appear to be aiming at. The brand is built around the story of certain crimes which were punishable by deportation from Britain and Ireland to Australia in the late 18th and 19th century.

Each bottle is sealed with a cork – unusual for Aussie wine nowadays – with one of the 19 Crimes written on it. Encouragement to collect them all?  The front labels each feature a famous convict; eight from transportation times plus Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr. aka Snoop Dogg in a celebrity tie-in.

19 Crimes cork

Also of note is the innovative use of a proprietary app which makes each label “come alive”. Fair enough, this might be something of a gimmick, but wine needs innovative packaging and marketing for the mass market.

.From 29th April to 19th May the 19 Crimes Red Wine and Sauvignon Block [sic] are included in SuperValu’s wine offers.  Here are my notes on the former:

19 Crimes South Eastern Australia Red Wine 2020

19 Crimes Red Wine
This Charming Man

So, enough about the label and branding, what’s the wine like? It pours a medium intensity cherry red, implying that this is no blockbuster red. One website I found listed the varieties as Shiraz, Pinot Noir, Grenache, and Cabernet Sauvignon, and it’s the middle two grapes which give it the lighter hue.

The nose initially hits you with sweet vanilla, under which blackberries and fudge compete for attention. The palate is rich, full of vanilla and toasty oak, cherries, chocolate, dark berries, spice and caramel. I don’t have a tech sheet but the richness is obviously partly due to a good dose of residual sugar.

Similar to the Dada Art Series 1 I reviewed back in 2017, this is a wine made for pleasure and designed to match what many people actually like drinking.  Most wine drinkers – especially in the Irish market – will swear blind that they only like dry wines, but if there’s an off-dry finish to a red wine like this they won’t complain if they’re not told and don’t notice themselves.

For my personal taste, this wine is a little too confected and clumsy. But I’m not the target market, and I suspect that most people who buy it will like it – which is exactly the point!

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €14.99 down to €10 at SuperValu from 29th April to 19th May 2021
  • Source: Media sample

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:

 

Make Mine A Double

SuperValu South of France Reds [Make Mine a Double #62]

Wednesday 3rd September is the start of the SuperValu French Wine Sale, running for three weeks through to the 23rd.  Reductions are significant, with many wines having a third knocked off their price.  For the first two weeks there is an additional €10 off any six bottles – so get them while they last!  On top if this there are also ten “special guest wines” which are available on a limited basis only.  To whet your appetite here are a couple of reds from the south of France that are worth putting in your trolley:

Disclosure: these bottles were kindly sent as samples, opinions remain my own

Alma Cersius IGP Coteaux de Béziers 2018

For those not familiar with it, Béziers is located in the Hérault département of the Languedoc, now part of the Occitanie administrative region (formed from joining Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées.)  It is set by the River Orb and only ten kilometres from the Mediterranean.  Wine has been made in Béziers for millennia – it was even exported to Rome.  The town has been the site of many battles and massacres over the centuries, including the Revolt of the Languedoc winegrowers in the early twentieth century.

Up until the end of the 18th century, vines were one of several crops planted in each holding, along with olive groves and fields of cereals.  The turn of the century saw an expansion of the land under vine, with quality improving slowly but surely.  Béziers wines were included in Vin de Pays d’Oc from 1982 and eventually the area was granted its own Vin de Pays designation as VDP Coteaux-du-Libron in 2011.  Even less well known than Béziers, which at least has a renowned rugby team, Libron is the name of a local coastal river.  The common sense change to Coteaux de Béziers came in late 2015.  The IGP rules allow around a hundred different varieties – black, white, pink, grey and red – including several that I’d never heard of.  The main three colours of wine are made: red, white and rosé.

So out of the scores of grapes permitted, which ones make it into this Coteaux-de-Béziers?  The blend sticks to “international grapes”, a term often used for French varieties which are well known; Syrah (50%), Cabernet Sauvignon (25%) and Merlot (25%).  In the glass this wine pours a deep purple, showing its young age.  On the first sniff there’s an intense hit of violets – reminding me of Parma Violet sweets which were around when I was a kid.  There are also blackcurrant and blackberry notes, a hint of red fruit and some spice.

In the mouth this is quite thick, full of sweet red and black fruit with a little dash of umami on the finish.  Cersius Rouge is a juicy, easy drinking style of wine…not that complex but perfect for a Friday night tipple sat in the garden or to crack open at a barbecue.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €14.75 down to €9.84 from 3rd to 23rd Sept (plus buy any 6 bottles save €10 from 3rd to 16th Sept)
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

Georges Vigoureux “Pigmentum” Cahors Malbec 2018

Nearly all of you will be familiar with Malbec and most of you will know its original home of Cahors.  Although made with the same grape as Argentina’s blockbusters, Cahors would rarely be mistaken for one in a blind tasting.  It tends to be a little lighter, with more tannin and acidity, and often a certain earthiness.

Not only does Monsieur Vigoureux have vineyards, he also has a Château – the beautiful Château de Mercuès with lots of magnificent turrets (I bloody love turrets!) – and a restaurant.  There are several important vineyards around Cahors and further out into Occitanie, with the wines being grouped:

  • Main Châteaux: de Mercuès (Cahors) de Haute-Serre (Cahors), Leret-Monpezat (Cahors), Tournelles (Buzet)
  • Other Collections: Château Pech de Jammes, Crocus, Traditional Familiale, Pigmentum, Antisto, Gouleyant

As well as the straight Malbec we are looking at here, the Pigmentum collection also includes a Merlot Malbec blend, a Malbec rosé, dry whites made from Sauvignon Blanc and Ugni Blanc & Colombard plus a Gros Manseng sweetie.

So how is this “Black wine of Cahors”?  It’s actually more purple than black, but nigh on opaque.  The nose does have plenty of black stuff: black cherry, blackcurrant, blackberry, black liquorice and…black earth!  We’re talking fresh topsoil here.  From behind all this there emerges softly stewed damsons and prunes.

The palate reflects all of the notes on the nose, but rather than being picked out one-by-one they arrive together, somehow integrated.  Pigmentum Malbec has a fairly smooth texture but lively acidity helps it to stay fresh and – as Colin Chapman would have liked – adds a certain lightness, though this is not a lightweight wine by any means.

If you like Cahors or other earthy red wines then go ahead and fill your boots trolley.  If you are a little hesitant then I would definitely recommend decanting this wine to help emphasise the fruit flavours.  Best of all, though, would be to crack open a bottle with a nice rustic cassoulet!

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €14.75 down to €9.84 from 3rd to 23rd Sept (plus buy any 6 bottles save €10 from 3rd to 16th Sept)
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

 

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

 

Wine + Music

The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series #8 – James Hubbard

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.

Part 8 of this series is in the capable hands of James Hubbard, a fellow wine tweeter who also wrote a guest piece for me in 2017.  The track I chose for him is a modern blues-rock classic from the onetime Thin Lizzy guitarist Gary Moore (who I saw “support” BB King in 2006).  Parisienne Walkways contains the lines:

I remember Paris in ’49
The Champs Elysee, Saint Michel
And old Beaujolais wine

which was a chance for James to run with a Beaujolais, but he resisted the easy score as you will see below. 

James posts up some cracking Australian wines on Twitter and Instagram so I though I’d go with a real big-hitter: Penfolds Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon, one of their very top red wines and named after the Boeing 707.  The 1998 707 is still the best red wine I have ever tasted.

Gary Moore – Parisienne Walkways

So when Frankie contacted me to ask if I would like to take part in his Wine and music series, I jumped at the chance. What fun! I’ll get a piece of Italian opera, maybe. Easy, right?

Then Frankie sent me the song: Parisienne Walkways, by Gary Moore. Mind. Blown. What on earth can I pair with this?? A 9-minute opus (well, live anyway) full of ridiculously long guitar notes. I mean it’s iconic, it’s brilliant but at the same time rather self-indulgent (or at least that’s how I remembered it).

However, as I listened to it several times, it all fell into place. I could easily have gone with a Beaujolais – Paris, steak frites and some bojo, right? I mean he even mentions it in the song, for goodness’ sake! And my goodness I love Beaujolais. Gamay rocks, as apparently does Gary Moore. But that would be too easy. Come on, James. Work a bit harder than that. As I delved deeper, I realised that what I used to think of as self-indulgence is actually self-knowing. Yes it’s a serious piece of music but it’s actually not taking itself too seriously. Then the penny dropped.

Bonny Doon ‘Le Cigare Volant’, from the amazing Randall Grahm.

Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant

Just like the song, there’s a bit of everything in there (usually about 5 different grapes, a real Rhône Ranger) but the blend is just spot-on. It opens up so early and so well and it hits all the right notes throughout (unlike Morecambe and Wise, in the right order as well). This is an incredible wine. It’s earthy, rich yet playful, full-bodied yet perfectly balanced. Above all, it’s a wine that demands your attention but ultimately doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Penfolds Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon

Penfolds Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon

For my music choice, I was invited to find an appropriate accompaniment to Penfolds Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon. Wow. This is a wine that can live forever and is somewhat in the shadows of its more-famous sibling, but sorry Oasis you’re not coming in on this occasion. I need something more refined. Bin 707 is Tom Finney to Stanley Matthews’ Grange. Less lauded but the professionals always knew who was the greater.

Step forward the one, the only Bob Dylan. ‘One More Cup of Coffee’.

A song about unrequited love, taken from one of Dylan’s lesser-known albums. As with wine tastings, this is best enjoyed live and the version from Dylan’s Bootleg Series 5, The Rolling Thunder Revue is my personal favourite. Just like the 707, this has such a rich tapestry. It’s long and hauntingly beautiful. Once heard, never forgotten yet rarely spoken about in the same breath of some of Dylan’s other work.

Oh and whilst you’re at it, come for one more cup of coffee and stay for the entirety of the Bootleg live album. Just like delving into Penfolds’ catalogue and discovering other incredible wines you’d never realised were there, you’ll discover genius that truly will live forever.

James Hubbard

James Hubbard is a passionate wine amateur with an eclectic collection and a vastly inferior palate to that of his wife. A Europhile, he works for a major FMCG company as their EMEA Head of Talent Acquisition (a fancy way of saying ‘recruitment’). Lover of virtually all sports (particularly cricket, rugby union and American Football). You can follow him under @jameshubbard113 on both Twitter and Instagram.


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

Opinion, Single Bottle Review, Tasting Events

Spearmint Rhino [Frankie’s Single Bottle Review #26]

Cabernet from Napa and Sonoma is a key part of California wine’s reputation – big, bold, ripe, and not for the faint hearted.  Some wines have almost become parodies of the style, with too much oak, too much extraction and too much alcohol.  Thankfully, they aren’t all like that, and balance is becoming more fashionable again.

Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (14.2%, RRP €80 at O’Briens)

Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 3

 

The Alexander Valley AVA is part of Sonoma County and was purportedly named after the first man to introduce vines to the area in 1843, Cyrus Alexander.  After prohibition it remained a bulk wine area until the late ’60s when innovative, quality winemaking returned to the area.  For all my talk of balance above, the wines here are still powerful and voluptuous.  Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are the leading black varieties and Chardonnay for white.

Silver Oak was set up in 1972 by business partners Raymond Twomey Duncan and Justin Meyer.  They originally set out to make just top notch Cabernet Sauvignon, matured in American Oak and able to repay decades of cellaring.  Napa Valley Cabernet and this Alexander Valley Cabernet are the twin kings of the winery, with other varieties released under the related Twomey label.

The 2012 vintage of this wine consists of 98% Cabernet Sauvignon with just a 2% splash of Merlot.  Seven years after vintage it is settling down nicely and ready to drink, but should develop for a further 15 years if kept well.  The nose has powerful blackcurrant and red fruit aromas with vanilla from two years in oak.  Cassis is also present on the muscular palate, along with a distinct spearmint streak and cocoa powder.  Fine grained tannins seal the deal.

This is a very well made, enjoyable wine.  It may look expensive without context, but for this quality in the Médoc even more money would be exchanged.  Due to its heft this should be saved for a treat (who drinks €80 bottles on a weekday, anyway?) to be shared with fellow wine lovers.  And what a treat!

Disclaimer: there is no link between this wine and the Spearmint Rhino clubs

Tasting Events

DNS Holiday Wines 2019

When restarting the DNS Wine Club tasting calendar after the summer break it has become a tradition to start with wines that members have enjoyed on their holidays.  It’s always a nice and relaxed event and gives a far more idiosyncratic range than is the norm at DNS.

September 2019 had us meet and taste wines from Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal, France, Australia and….Yorkshire!  Here they are in the order of tasting (and with apologies for the quality of the photos from my phone):

Yorkshire Heart Sparkling Rosé NV (11.0%)

Yorkshire Heart Sparkling Rosé NV

The best English wines tend to come from the south of the country: south coast counties like Kent, Sussex, Hampshire and Cornwall.  Whereas southern English producers used to focus on varieties that could prosper despite a damp and cold climate, global warming and experience has led to a boom in sparkling wine production, usually with the three main Champagne grapes.  Further north in Yorkshire, however, the climate is now mild enough for the special cross and hybrid varieties to survive (though prosper might be a little overstating the case just now.)

Yorkshire Heart are based close to York, so the name is apt.  They also have a brewery and a cider orchard so most bases are covered.  The vineyard has 17 varieties across ten acres, so it is still fairly small scale and experimental.  The grapes used for the sparkling rosé are not disclosed apart from the use of Pinot Noir to create the pink hue.  It’s made using the traditional method with the wine resting on its lees for 12 months – not as long as Champagne but longer than some NV Cava.

The wine has a fruity nose and a nice mousse when poured, but unfortunately it was not persistent.  The palate is full of summer fruits; raspberry, strawberry, cranberry and a touch of blackberry competed for attention.  As this is an English wine there’s ample acidity, though the finish resolves with fruit sweetness.

Read more about Yorkshire Heart here.

Principe Strozzi Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2017 (13.0%)

Principe Strozzi Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2017

Following the Italian wine naming convention of [grape] from [place], this is a 100% Vernaccia from San Gimignano in Tuscany (aka Chiantishire).  On the nose the wine evokes wet stones – can you get more mineral than that?  On the palate, it’s as though fresh lemons have been squeezed onto said stones – a real citrus zing on top of the minerality.  It has a touch more body than I had at first expected.  This is a well-made wine which, while not setting the world alight, makes for some very pleasant drinking.

Tesco Finest Tingleup Great Southern Riesling 2018 (12.0%)

Tesco Finest Tingleup Great Southern Riesling 2018

Of all the wines brought to this tasting, this Australian Riesling was from the furthest away.  However, DNS member Michelle was blagging this one as she had not been to Australia, and had instead spent her holidays in the local Tesco.  The wine is made for Tesco by Howard Park who are based in Western Australia and specialise in wines from Margaret River and Great Southern.  On the nose it has aromas of lime and…well…Riesling!  The palate is full of refreshing, zingy citrus and there’s just a kiss of sweetness on the finish.  A great way to get into Riesling.

Read more on Howard Park Wines here.

Mar de Frades Rías Baixas Albariño Atlántico 2018 (12.5%)

Mar de Frades Albarino Atlantico Rias Baixas 2018

So let’s count up the nautical references: the producer is Mar de Frades (which translates as something like “Sea of Friars”), the wine is Albariño Atlántico which indicates that it’s from the part of Rías Baixas close to the ocean, and the label depicts huge crashing waves and a chuffing seagull!  Message understood, loud and clear!  Thankfully the wine is very nice, despite being the producer’s “entry level” effort.  It spends six months on the lees which adds a nice bit of texture to the pear and peach fruit.  A saline finish seasons it perfectly.  In a sea (sorry, it’s catching) of samey Albariño, this is a winner.

Read more on Mar de Frades here.

Tenute delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso 2017 (14.0%)

Tenuta Delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso 2017.jpg

Tenuta delle Terre Nere takes its name from the black basalt and pumice stones which cover much of the estate on the northern side of Mount Etna.  Its surface area totals 55 hectares and is far from homogeneous – the 24 parcels range from 600 to 1,000 metres above sea level and (apart from a few new plantings) between 50 and 100 years old.

This Rosso is mainly Nerello Mascalese (95%) with a dash of Nerello Cappuccio (5%).  The soil is volcanic soil, obviously (I bleedin’ hope it’s obvious!!).  Stylistically the wine is somewhat Pinot Noir like, but with a touch more body and spice.  It has delicious smoky black and red fruit plus a certain chewy earthiness. 

Read more on Tenuta delle Terre Nere here.

Domaine du Bois de St Jean “Les Ventssssss” Côtes du Rhône 2016 (14.0%)

Domaine du Bois Les Ventssssss CdR 2016

The Domaine is located near Avignon and has a range of different red, white and rosé Côtes du Rhône wines plus Crus Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Vacqueras.  One notable wine is “Pur Cent”a cuvée first released 9 years ago made from 16 different varieties, all planted when the estate was founded in 1910, i.e. one hundred year old vines.

The odd name of this wine – which you can see in the heading above, but not so well on the label – is because the six Ss at the end of Ventssssss represent the six different names for the main wind which affects the Rhône: The Mistral.   The vines are planted on sand and pebble soils, north-facing slopes (presumably not too steep an incline) at around 400m.  The vines vary between 60 and 80 years old and consist of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan, Counoise and Cinsault.  For the 2016 only the first four varieties were used, but the precise blend is a family secret.

The wine is extremely smooth and elegant, attributable (in my humble opinion) to the sandy soils and north facing aspect respectively.  The velvet texture immediately reminded me of the Mas Saint-Louis Châteauneuf-du-Pape which is also predominantly Grenache grown on sandy soils – and that’s a real compliment.  Quite simply this is the best AOC Côtes du Rhône I’ve ever tasted.

Read more on the Domaine du Bois de Saint Jean here.

Quinta dos Aciprestes Douro Tinto 2016 (14.5%)

Quinta dos Aciprestes Douro Tinto 2016

One of my wine rules of thumb is that, when a place is famous for wine derived drinks other than regular table wines, if they were to produce table wines they would be quite poor.  When was the last time you had a regular table wine from the Sherry, Champagne or Cognac regions?  The Douro is a prominent exception to that rule of thumb with some excellent, characterful and drinkable wines, especially reds.

Quinta dos Aciprestes” means “Estate of the Cypress Trees“; the three depicted on the front label are most likely a representation of the three Quintas which were joined together to make the estate.  The grapes are a typical Port blend, including Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), Tinto Cão and Tinta Barocca.  Maturation is for 12 months in French oak (I suspect mainly older barrels).  This is a rich wine, typical of the Douro, but still round and soft – softer than the 14.5% alcohol would imply.

Château Nico Lazaridi Drama 2016 (15.0%)

Ch Nico Lazaridi Drama 2016

Let’s get the bad pun out of the way first: the phrase “no drama” is usually taken to be a good thing – but not in this case!  Drama is a municipality in the East Macedonia and Thrace region of north east Greece and home to Italophile wine producer Nico Lazaridis.  French grapes predominate with some Sangiovese and autochthonous varieties.

The eponymous Château Nico Lazaridi wine is 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 10% Sangiovese – what might be termed a Super Tuscan blend – that has spent 12 months in French oak.  It has an enticing, fragrant but gentle nose.  The palate is rich, explosive but smooth – cherries, chocolate and luscious black fruits all wrapped in velvet.  At 15% there’s also a suggestion of Napa Valley style power and sweetness.  This is a fabulous wine!

Read more on Château Laziridi here.

The Votes From Our North Side Jury

All of these holiday wines were good and worth trying, but two did stand out as the best and second best of the tasting:

  1. Château Nico Lazaridi received 8 votes (out of 18 total)
  2. Domaine du Bois de St Jean “Les Ventssssss” received 4 votes (out of 18 total)