Opinion

Wine Review: Reds from the 2023 SuperValu French Wine Sale

The 2023 edition of the SuperValu French Wine Sale is upon us. As last year, some German wines are included, specifically those from producer Albert Glas. This post will cover five of the red wines which are among the 40 included in the sale which kicks off on Friday 1st September. They hail from Bordeaux, the Rhône and the Pfalz.

Albert Glas Black Label Pinot Noir 2020

Albert Glas Black Label Pinot Noir 2020 Bottle Shot

As I mentioned in the sister post on the white wines in the 2023 SuperValu French wine sale, Dominik Glas follows the techniques of his grandfather Albert. Overall, 2020 was a good vintage in the Pfalz, with some frost in the the spring which impacted yields, but overall left a good quality crop. The grapes in different plots all ripened around the same time which made harvest time very pressured.

After 100% hand picking, the grapes are macerated and fermented in 600 litre bins, with gentle push-downs by hand and no pumping over. Maturation then takes place in both Pfalz (80%) and French (20%) oak barrels for 12 to 18 months.

This is archetypal European Pinot Noir. Is has the typical light colour, quite different to the other wines below. It is, however, full of flavour, with cherry and other red fruits, spice and a lick of oak. It’s still young, with refreshing acidity, but is an elegant light wine that’s perfect for the late summer sun.

  • ABV: 13.0 %
  • RRP: €12 down from €20
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

Château Lacombe Cadiot Bordeaux Supérieur 2020

Château Lacombe Cadiot Bordeaux Supérieur 2020 Bottle Shot

Château Lacombe Cadiot is one of six Bordeaux properties owned by the Belgian De Schepper family under the De Mour banner. De Mour also has a negotiant business but do not sell their own wines through that system, instead establishing more direct relationships. The first property acquired was Tour Baladoz (see below) in 1950, and the latest was Lacombe Cadiot which was added in 2004.

Lacombe Cadiot’s wines are classed as Bordeaux Supérieur, a prominent red Bordeaux appellation, but they are unusual in being from the Médoc; only 4% of Supérieur vineyards are in the Médoc, with the remainder mainly being in the Entre-Deux-Mers and north of Libourne. In fact, Lacombe Cadiot and its sister property Château Tayet (another Bordeaux Supérieur from close to Macau) are known as “Baby Margaux”. De Mour aim to make fresh, drinkable wines that can still age – the best of both worlds.

This 2020 is made of 60% Merlot*, 30% Cabernet-Sauvignon and 10% Petit Verdot from 15 hectares of vines. That’s quite a high proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon for an AOC Bordeaux / Supérieur, partly due to the vineyards’ location and partly because 2020 was an excellent vintage in Bordeaux – the third in a row in fact – which is when Cab Sauv tends to shine. After pressing and fermentation, the wine matured for 12 months, 60% in barrels (including 25% new) with 40% in vats.

In the glass it’s a very deep red in colour, almost black. The nose is heady, with deep black and red fruits, plus some tobacco notes. The palate is soft and voluptuous. Intense fruit is framed by silky, soft tannins. It makes for a very approachable, quaffable wine, one that can be drunk on its own or with food, one that can be consumed now or kept until the end of the decade.

I’ve tried several vintages of this wine over the years, but this is the best one yet.

    • ABV: 14.0%
    • RRP: €13 down from €16.99
    • Source: sample
    • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

Château Tour Baladoz Saint-Émilion Grand Cru 2020

Château Tour Baladoz Saint-Emilion Grand Cru 2020 Bottle Shot

In contrast to the top wines of Bordeaux’s Médoc, which are often from large estates and need years to enter their drinking window, those of the right bank – Saint-Émilion and Pomerol – are often from smaller estates but are approachable at an earlier age. Saint-Emilion also has a completely different classification system, one that is somewhat merit-based and is revised every ten years, rather than being ossified in 1855.

Château Tour Baladoz was recently promoted to Grand Cru Classé status with effect from the 2022 vintage. The evaluation process included the tasting by a professional panel of ten different vintages on five different occasions, so it would be fair to say that this 2020 vintage is of Grand Cru Classé quality, if not status.

Tour Baladoz’s nine hectares of vineyards are 105 metres above sea level, which doesn’t sound very high, but as Bordeaux is a maritime region it’s one of the higher points. 70% are on a limestone plateau with 30% on gentle slopes. There’s a thin layer of clay over the limestone, adding a touch of power to the latter’s freshness. Vine roots have even pushed beneath the limestone into the Château’s underground cellars.

The blend is a full house of traditional black Bordeaux varieties (excluding the new experimental varieties): Merlot* (75%), Cabernet Franc (10%), Cabernet Sauvignon (5%), Petit Verdot (6%), Malbec (2%) and Carmenérè (2%). After fermentation, the whe wines are aged for 15 to 20 months in French oak barrels from 10 different cooperages, including 70% new barrels.

Even on the eye it is apparent that this is an intense, young wine. The nose is fragrant and complex, with red and black fruits, vanilla, smoke, graphite and even a touch of aniseed. The palate is very primary at this stage, with powerful plum, blackberry and vanilla. There’s a dusting of dark chocolate on the finish, which also shows grippy tannins.

It’s obvious that this is going to be a spectacular wine, but it’s just not ready yet. The component parts are a little disjointed, and the alcohol is a little too obvious. For those who buy bottles to lay down for a few years this is worth buying, but for immediate drinking I would be cautious.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €30 down from €44.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

Granits Saint-Joseph 2021

Granits Saint-Joseph 2021 Bottle Shot

Saint-Joseph is a “Cru” or prestigious appellation from the Northern Rhône – Vallée du Rhône Septentrionale in the local lingo – and hence is Syrah based – 100% Syrah in fact. It’s actually my go-to AOC in the Northern Rhône as it offers a great mix of quality and affordability. Côte Rôtie and Hermitage wines can be exceptional wines, but so can their prices.

This wine is made from vines on granite soils in the north of the AOC, close to Condrieu. Harvesting was all by hand and whole bunches were fermented together. For ageing the wine was split 50/50 between stainless steel tanks and used oak barrels. 2021 was a fairly wet and cold vintage for the Rhône, giving reds that are naturally high in acidity and can age gravefully for years.

At ony just twenty four months old this is indeed a young wine, with a bright purple rim and deep colour. The nose is typical Rhône Syrah, showing blueberry and blackberry fruit, but also a sniff of menthol and eucaplyptus. That fruit is very evident on the palate, along with parma violets (violet flavoured sweets, for those not familiar). It’s quite a tannin wine which gives the drinker three options: put it away for a few years, decant it for several hours, or drink it at the table with steak. If any of those options appeal, snap it up!

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €15 down from €25
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Domaine St. Patrice “Vieilles Vignes” Châteauneuf du Pape 2017

Domaine St Patrice Châteauneuf du Pape 2017 Bottle Shot
Still in the Rhône, but this time the Southern Rhône, we now have a wine from the world famous Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Apparently a favourite of James Joyce, Domaine St. Patrice’s vines total 40 hectares across several parcels, predominantly on sandy-clay soils. The Domaine makes three different wines: a “regular” CNDP, this “Vieilles Vignes” (Old Vines) bottling and a “Monopole” from the 1.8 hectare Clos St Patrice which is solely owned by the Domaine.

In a slight tweak to the usual GSM+ CNDP blend, although the relative percentages of the different varieties are not given, it appears to be a Grenache-Mourvèdre-Syrah blend, with a seasoning of little Counoise and Cinsault. Most of the vines are between 40 and 70 years old.

2017 was a warm, dry year with low yields. The wines made were naturally intense and concentrated. The low rainfal led to slightly delayed phenolic ripeness so harvesting was late in the season. Whole bunch fermentation was used for differeing proportions of the grapes depending on variety. Ageing is in a mix of large steel tanks and foudres.

At six years old this wine is nicely hitting its straps. In the glass, the rim is already brick red, heading towards garnet. The components are nicely integrated and the flavours are blossoming. Aromas are intriguing and enticing, with a bouquet garni embedded in sweet fruits. The palate is rich, round, but velvety soft. The alcohol is high (well this is a Châteauneuf-du-Pape!) but it doesn’t stick out jarringly.

This is a very attractive wine which performs well for its normal price of €40, but at €30 it’s a bargain. If ever there was a wine worth trading up to, this is it.

  • ABV: 15.5 %
  • RRP: €30 down from €40
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Conclusion

These wines vary significantly in style but all have their positives. The Albert Glas is light, fruity and gluggable, drinking well right now. The Saint-Joseph and Tour Baladoz both need time and / or food. For drinking now (or later), on their own (or with food), the two that stand out for me are the Lacombe Cadiot (classy but not snobby according to my friends Una and Peter) and the Saint-Patrice. Those are the two that will be going in my shopping trolley.

 


*sorry Jim

Make Mine A Double

Wine Review: Domaine Naturaliste Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon

Just in case you were thinking that these wines might have something to do with a nudist colony, no, it’s nothing like that. But, if you want to drink them in the buff then go ahead! This pair of wines are from Margaret River in Western Australia, so first a little reminder about the region, then an introduction to the producer, and finally notes on the wines themselves.

Margaret River

Margaret River Map
Credit: Domaine Naturaliste

Margaret River is not the only wine region in Western Australia but it surely ranks as the most important. It was famously founded as a wine region due to its climate being so close to that of Bordeaux, still a yardstick globally. As you can see from the map above, Margaret River is in the south west corner of the country, on the coast by the Indian Ocean and not too far from the chilly Southern Ocean.

The wines which MR is best known for include red and white Bordeaux blends, plus varietal Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. There’s very little – if any – bulk wine made down here. In 2009 it was reported that, although Margaret River only produced 3% of Australia’s wine output by volume, it accounted for 20% of its premium wines.

Key producers to look out for include Leeuwin Estate, Cape Mentelle, Vasse Felix, Cullen Estate and Moss Wood.

Domaine Naturaliste

Domaine Naturaliste is located close to Cape Naturaliste, just seven kilometres from the Indian Ocean. The vines are 20 years old and surround the winery building. The firm is headed up by Bruce Dukes, a WA local who has earned his winemaking spurs around the world. From their website:

With intuitive flair based on decades of experience, Bruce strikes a tender balance between taste, fragrance and texture. His passion for agriculture, respect for process and true artistry makes for an exceptional drinking experience, each and every time.

There are three quality levels in the Naturaliste portfolio, with the most interesting (to me) being the two different expressions of Margaret River Chardonnay in the Flagship range:

  • Flagship: Artus Chardonnay, Purus Chardonnay, Morus Cabernet Sauvignon, Le Naturaliste Cabernet Franc
  • Direction: Floris Chardonnay, Sauvage Sauvignon Blanc, Rachis Syrah, Rebus Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Discovery: Sauvignon Blanc / Semillon, Chardonnay, Tempranillo Rosé, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon

The wines in blue and bold are currently available in Ireland from O’Briens. So now to try two of the wines:

Domaine Naturaliste “Discovery” Margaret River Chardonnay 2019

Domaine Naturaliste Discovery Chardonnay

Fermentation and maturation of the Chardonnay grapes for this wine took place in French oak, albeit mostly second use or older. After fermentation the wine spent seven months on fine lees. Both the use of old barrels and time on lees gives a creamy texture to the wine and interesting additional notes.

In the glass it’s a bright lemon, but not the glowing gold of the oaky Chardonnays of yore. The nose eases tangy grapefruit into the conversation, promising freshness. There’s also a touch of exotic pineapple and mango, orange blossom, butterscotch and brioche. It really is perfectly poised between the steely (Chablis) and rich (Meursault) styles of Chardonnay. Those fruits reappear on the palate, which is gently tangy and fleshy.

This is a wonderful wine, and just based on the contents of the bottle I’d price it at €20 – €25 on the Irish market. That it costs less than that – significantly less on offer – makes it a joyous bargain.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €18.95 down to €15.95 from 1st to 25th September 2022
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Domaine Naturaliste “Discovery” Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

Domaine Naturaliste Discovery Cabernet Sauvignon

This Cabernet is from the same Discovery range as the Chardonnay above, and is similar in philosophy: it’s a fruit forward, accessible wine where the variety is given a chance to shine through judicious and restrained winemaking. A slight different from the Chardy is the extended maturation in French oak, twelve months versus seven for the white. I suspect the proportion of oak that is new is slightly higher for this wine as well – it can handle it.

When poured the wine is a little lighter than I’d expect from a new world Cabernet, and that’s reinforced by the nose which has as much red fruit as the black which Cab is better known for. The fruits are a mix of both fresh and compote, fresh but cosseting. Mocha and spice add interest. The palate is also aligned stylistically; it’s medium bodied rather than being a bruiser, with the oak adding toasty vanilla to the ripe berry fruits. It all comes together well a touch of tobacco and clean acidity on the finish

Cabernet Sauvignon is my favourite black grape, on its own or in a blend. While this doesn’t have the refinement and elegance of Coonawarra’s better offerings, neither does it have their price tag

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €19.95 down to €16.95 from 1st to 25th September 2022
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

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

 

Make Mine A Double

Wine Review: Langlois L’Extra Crémant Rosé and Zull Lust & Laune Rosé

Yes it’s August already, so why not enhance the summer vibe with some totally drinkable rosé?

Here is a pair from O’Briens’ August wine promotions – one sparkling and one still – that are worth popping open anytime, but especially when they are on offer:

Langlois L’Extra Crémant de Loire Rosé NV

Langlois L'Extra Crémant de Loire Rosé NV

Langlois are a well-established Saumur-based Loire producer who specialise in Crémants – they have six including this rosé – as well as reds and whites from Saumur and the surrounding appellations. They have been part of the Bollinger group since 1973 and their parent’s savoir-faire has undoubtedly helped to lift quality.

There are two classes in the Anglois Crémant range. The four traditional Crémants consist of up to four varieties: Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir, in either NV or vintage expressions. The L’Extra range has a white – which is outstanding – and this rosé.

The blend for this Crémant is 70% Cabernet Franc and 30% Grolleau. The latter is a black grape primarily grown in the Loire and used for rosés – Anjou rosé and Crémant rosé – though seldomly seen on a front label. The grapes are pneumatically pressed immediately after destemming, giving 100 litres of juice from 150 kg of grapes. For this wine the free run juice (the cuvée) and some of the subsequent light pressings (the taille) are used. It spends a minimum of 12 months in bottle before disgorgement.

In the glass it is fully sparkling (the traditional method is used for all Crémants) and a pale salmon colour. The nose shows lots of fresh summer fruits, notably raspberry and strawberry. In the mouth it has a light and creany texture, with those summer fruits back again. It has a certain yeastiness, but not the full-on brioche experience of some Champagnes.

For me this rosé comes a narrow second to its white sibling, but there’s no shame in that as the Blanc is so excellent – I bought my wife a dozen for mother’s day this year. If you fancy a well-made pink fizz then there’s little to touch this at the price.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €18.95 down from €21.45 until 31/08/22
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Zull NiederÖsterrreich Lust & Laune Rosé 2021

Zull Lust & Laune Rosé

Weingut Zull is a quality Austrian producer still in the hands of its founding family. It has four ranges within its portfolio, the majority of which carry the Weinwiertel DAC appellation. The introductory range includes three “Lust & Laune” wines which are designed to be fun and accessible. The white is 100% Grüner Veltliner, the red is a blend of Zweigelt and Pinot Noir, and this rosé is similar to the red but also has dashes of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

The colour comes from 20% red wine being added to 80% clear juice – though I don’t have details of which varieties are used for the 20% – rather than the saignée method. Whichever they are, the result is a lovely glowing salmon pink. The nose features fresh, ripe red fruit aromas which jump out of the glass: strawberry, raspberry, loganberry, watermelon and fruit polos. This is a zingy, fun, fleshy, FRUITY wine, full of summer fruits but not at all flabby (residual sugar is only 4 g/L). You might even detect a hint of tannin on the finish, but it’s just a little seasoning. Wonderful stuff!

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RRP: €11.96 down from €15.95 until 31/08/22
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Conclusion

I loved both of these wines and would happily drink either again, but in terms of sheer pleasure the Zull wins the day.

 


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

Opinion

Tuscan Wines from the SuperValu Italian Wine Sale

The 2022 edition of the SuperValu Italian Wine Sale is already in full swing and runs to the 8th of June. As well as reductions on dozens of existing lines, SuperValu Wine Manager Kevin O’Callaghan has secured some excellent “guest wines”. These are wines brought into Ireland by independent wine importers that are only available in SuperValu during the sale.

According to Kevin, “the guest wines we will showcase give our shoppers a chance to expand on their repertoire of wine, showing them the breadth of choice available with the Italian offering and the unique wines produced there. These guest wines really do represent an excitement to try new wines and we really encourage shoppers to use this event to explore new tastes and varieties within the range.”

Here are five guest wines from Cassidy Wines and Febvre & Co that hail from Tuscany:

Cortezza Vermentino Toscana 2020

Cortezza Vermentino Toscana

Vermentino is a real success story for quality Italian white wine. In Tuscany it is mainly planted on the coast, where it benefits from relected light and cooling sea breezes. It’s a late-ripening variety with plenty of aromatic goodness; more than a replacement for Pinot Grigio, it even barges into Riesling territory with its fresh citrus and acidic spine. There are also some subtle herbs on the palate, a reminder of its Mediterranean origins. This is fairly priced at €15 but a total steal at €10 on offer.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €10 down from €14.99 from 19th May until 8th June
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Cortezza Vino Nobile de Montepulciano 2017

Cortezza Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Wine geeks will probably be aware that Sangiovese, the main black grape of Tuscany, has dozens of different “clones”, slightly different versions of the grape. They arise naturally and the ones that survive are those best suited to the various soils, microclimates and altitudes of the vineyards where they grow. Montepulciano is just a few kilometres from Montalcino, the home of Brunello, but is far less famous. It has similar soil and climate but a less celebrated name and hence a much lower price.

Contezza’s fine example of Vino Nobile spends at least 24 months ageing in large oak casks. Primary aromas are strawberry and cherry, balanced with balsamic notes from the oak. This is wine that really responds to ageing, with tobacco, leather, dairy and forest floor notes joining the nose. For me this is a food wine, perfect to accompany red meat, with fine tannins and a long finish.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €15 down from €22.49 from 19th May until 8th June
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Forte Ambrone Vino Rosso

Forte Ambrone

This red blend has its roots in Tuscany but its branches stretch to Puglia where Primitivo and Nero d’Avola are sourced to add punch and bright fruit flavours to the the Tuscan Sangiovese. Despite the classic-looking label this is a new wine, designed to appear to modern wine drinkers more than traditional fans of Italian wine. It’s a smooth, rich red with the spikiness of Sangiovese softened out by the southern varieties. It’s an approachable, quaffable wine which won’t appeal to purists but could well convert new world wine drinkers to the charms of Italy.

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €10 down from €14.99 from 19th May until 8th June
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

Banfi Rosso di Montalcino 2019

Banfi Rosso Di Montalcino

The Banfi estate was set up very recently – by Italian standards – in 1978. They pride themselves on a socially fair and environmentally friendly approach  to producing wine. The estate is large, covering 3,000 contiguous hectares, though only a third of the total is planted with vines. 170 of that is dedicated to Brunello di Montalcino, their flagship wine and one of the most prestigious in Italy. The regulations that come with the reputation also come with a price in terms of cashflow; wines are usually released more than four years after the harvest, and with no en primeur-type system in place that equates to a lot of cash tied up (or “bottled up”!)

The answer is Rosso di Montalicino, a younger brother which is still made from 100% Sangiovese Grosso, aka Brunello, but only has to spend a minimum of six months in oak and twelve in the cellars in total before release. The grapes selected for the Rosso tend to be from younger vines with slightly less concentration, but the same philosophy.

The Banfi Rosso di Montalcino 2019 is a serious wine, with the high tannins and acidity that Montalcino wine is known for. It cries out for food, making the wine better and giving it proper context. It’s a young wine that really needs another decade to shine, but right now a decanter and a thick steak would really elevate it.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €18 down from €26.99 from 19th May until 8th June
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Banfi Toscana Belnero 2017

Belnero Toscana IGT

This is another serious wine form Banfi, though as it contains “international grapes” – namely Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot – in addition to Sangiovse, it is classed as a “Super Tuscan” and not a Brunello. The proportions of each variety aren’t given but the order they are given in suggests that Cabernet has the highest percentage.

It’s not too far removed in style from the Rosso above, though it does have an additional two years under its belt which help round its edges. Belnero is a big wine with lots of power and structure – though less noticeable acidity than its brother – but bright red and black fruits. Though still very young, it is drinking well already, but would obviously gain in complexity and stature over the rest of this decade.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €20 down from €29.99 from 19th May until 8th June
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

 

Wine Of The Week

Wine of the Week: Château des Grands Chènes Médoc

Before looking at the wine itself, let’s set the scene by briefly discussing the wine region it comes from, the estate and its owner.

The Médoc

Map of the Médoc wine region
Credit: Bordeaux.com

AOC Médoc wines are not that frequently seen on our shelves – in fact just before opening this for a French friend she mentioned that she rarely sees them in France. Médoc wines are definitely the junior wines of the Médoc peninsula, though at least they though no longer carrying the Bas Médoc moniker. Further south, the Haut Médoc contains most of the famous Bordeaux AOCs: Margaux, Saint Julien, Pauillac and Saint Estèphe; the gravel banks close to the Gironde Estuary are perfect for Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant blends. The lower sites of the Médoc AOC tend to perform better with a larger proportion of Merlot.

A few Châteaux have flown the flag for quality in the Médoc, Château Potensac being the most obvious example: the only “Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel” of its appellation.

Bernard Magrez

Bernard Magrez started in the wine trade at a young age and was very much the entrepreneur. He was instrumental in establishing some major wine brands including Malesan and Sidi Brahim. He later began investing in prestigious Bordeaux properties, including his four grands crus classés which he still owns today

  • Château Pape Clément, Pessac-Léognan, Grand Cru Classé de Graves
  • Château La Tour Carnet, Haut-Médoc Grand Cru Classé en 1855
  • Clos Haut-Peyraguey, Premier Grand Cru Classé de Sauternes
  • Château Fombrauge, Grand Cru Classé de Saint-Émilion

He later expanded outside of Bordeaux, from the south west of France all the way round the world:

  • Rest of France (Languedoc, Roussillon, Rhone, Bergerac, Cahors, Provence, Gascony)
  • Rest of Europe (Italy, Spain)
  • Americas (USA, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Argentina)
  • Africa (Morocco)
  • Asia (Japan)

And of course, he is the proprietor of Château des Grands Chènes.

Château des Grands Chènes

The Château saw its first harvest in 1880, as proudly mentioned on the front label. Its location in Saint-Christoly-Médoc is one of the best in the Médoc, being somewhat elevated, right on the Gironde estuary and with soils consisting of gravel, clay and limestone. The Château building itself was originally a fort1 with a strategic position overlooking the water. The estate changed hands several times since its inception, with several owners investing in renovations in the vineyard and the cellars. The most notable of these was, of course, Bernard Magrez who bought it in 1998.

The Château’s vines are planted in the proportion 60% Merlot (mainly on clay) and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon (on gravel and limestone). There used to be Cabernet Franc planted but it was replaced. There is just a single wine made these days; previously there was also a Grande Cuvée made from the best grapes1, but now they all go into the main wine. The name Grands Chènes means great oaks, so it’s fitting that the wine spends time maturing in oak barrels.

Château des Grands Chènes Médoc 2019

Ch des Grands Chênes Médoc 2019

Whilst doing a quick sweep through the wine aisles of the supermarket close to my parents’ in France, I spotted this magnum on promotion. The crossed keys (from Château Pape Clément) and Bernard Magrez signature caught my eyes, so I decided to give it a try. A barbecue with friends the next evening was the perfect occaision to pop it open.

Even the colours on this wine show its youth; a black, almost opaque core is surrounded by a purple glove. The nose is aromatic, with ripe black fruits: plums, blackberry and blackcurrant. There’s sweet vanilla and a touch of spice, too. In the mouth it is powerful and smooth, but generously fruity. There’s a very attractive velvet mouthfeel, with a graphite tang and some good structure supporting all the fruit.

So, so young at the moment, this 2019 could easily last into the 2040s in magnum format, but it’s already approachable and downright delicious!

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €26.95 (magnum, in France)
  • Source: purchased from Intermarché

1Source: The Wine Cellar Insider

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

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: