Make Mine A Double, Tasting Events

Making Wine Amid Moving Borders [Make Mine a Double #56]

European Borders

For those of us living in the UK or Ireland it is rare to think of international borders moving.  Yes, there’s the Northern Ireland border between the two sovereign states, but that hasn’t moved since its inception a century ago and is hopefully fading away.  Because we live on islands even the concept of driving to another country seems a little strange for many, never mind that border moving over time.

The movement of borders has created some unusual situations for wine folk, such as the Becker family in Germany’s Pfalz – whose vineyards run into Alsace – and also the Gravner family – whose lands were in the Austro-Hungarian Empire at one point but now lie (just) in Italy.

This all came to mind as I was thinking about a pair of wines I tasted earlier in the year.  They are based on the same geological set of hills (Gorizia Hills in English, Collio Goriziano in Italian or Goriška Brda in Slovene) but in different countries.  The drive between them is less than an hour an a half:

map 1

So now for that pair of wines:

Gašper Rebula 2016

Gasper Rebula

First things first: Gašper is the name of the producer (literally, as Gašper Čarman is the gentleman who own and runs the place) and Rebula is the grape variety.  The latter is better known to most of us as Ribolla Gialla in Friuli but it is a major variety in Brda.

Gašper’s vines are planted in “opaka” soil (silica-calcite sedimentary rock) on terraces between 80 and 200 metres above sea level.  Both altitude and proximity to the sea help to retain aromas and freshness in the wine.

This Rebula is made with 16 hours skin contact – far more than more white wines but nowhere near as long as orange / amber wines.  Fermentation is in huge (4,000 litre) casks, temperature controlled to preserve fruit characters and freshness.  Maturation takes place first in old French barriques (1 year) then in old, large big format Slavonian oak casks.

The time spent on skins adds a real depth of colour to the wine – it deserves the “Gialla” (yellow) descriptor in its Italian name.  The nose shows bright citrus – lemon, grapefruit, orange – and mixed citrus peel.  The palate is soft, not too shouty with great texture.  The fresh and dried fruits are joined by a certain creaminess and they resolve in a clean, fresh finish.

Gašper himself told me that the wine has great ageing potential – and I have every reason to believe him.

 

Livio Felluga “Illivio” Pinot Bianco / Chardonnay / Picolit 2017 

Livio Felluga Illivio

After two World Wars Friuli’s agriculture and viticulture was significantly diminished and almost abandoned by the flight from countryside to city.  Livio Felluga was one who had a great vision of restoring Fruili’s proud tradition of winemaking.  He bought up old vineyards planted new ones and over the course of decades reinvigorated the region.  He has long been acknowledged as the driving force behind the restoration of Friuli and as an ambassador for its wines.

Illivio was created as by Livio’s children to celebrate his 85th birthday.  It’s a blend of Pinot Bianco (60%), Chardonnay (30%) and indigenous variety Picolit (10%).  Picolit was traditionally used for sweet wines as it has a good balance between sugar and acidity,  with a flavour profile not too far form Viognier, and had a cult following in the 1960s and ’70s.

The wine is fermented in small oak casks then left on the lees in those barrels for 10 months.  While oaked Chardonnay is of course very common internationally, oaked Pinot Blanc is mainly an Italian thing – but it can make for excellent wines.

Illivio pours yellow in the glass, though not from skin contact as the Gašper Rebula above, but rather from the influence of oak.  The nose is intense, as floral and fruit notes compete with rich smoky notes from the oak.  The palate is rich yet tangy, with buttered brioche and juicy fruit exquisitely mixed.  This is a serious wine, but seriously nice!

 

 

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

Wine + Music

The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series #6 – Nirina Plunkett

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.

For Part 6 of the Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series we return to Dublin and the choices of the bubbly (-lover) Nirina Plunkett.  The song I chose for Nirina is Jamiroquai’s Space Cowboy, though not the original version; while that has its appeal as a funky, soulful track it’s rather downbeat – if I want depressing I’ll listen to The Cure or The Smiths, thank you very much!  Instead this is the result of a major reworking by the legendary David Morales of Def Mix Productions, turning in into upbeat, uplifting dance floor classic.

The wine choice for Nirina was dead easy – she was an enthusiastic participant in Alsace Wine Week in Ireland last year, including the live Twitter tasting where she extolled the virtues of Wolfberger Crémant d’Alsace!

My good friend and fellow wine enthusiast Frankie invited me to take part in his new Frankly Wines & Friends: Wine and Music Series, and naturally I accepted! It’s no secret that I am a big wine fan, and always love exploring and learning more, and also that I LOVE music. I literally listen to music every day, when I’m blogging, writing, cooking, doing my makeup and even as I fall asleep. I’m kinda obsessed!

Therefore this series is pretty ideal for me as it brings together two of my favourite things. Today I’ll feature two different songs matched with two wines and a little chat about them. One of each has been chosen for me by Frankie, and I’ve then paired them with my own choices.

“Space Cowboy” (David Morales Classic Club Remix) By Jamiroquai

This remixed song choice from Frankie sure takes me back to when I was in my early twenties, and seems like it’d be hard to match with wine. But because of its party vibe, it’s got to be a bubbly choice for me. This Bottega Gold Prosecco, which hails from the Valdobbiadene hills in Northern Italy, is one of my favourites.

Bottega Gold Prosecco Cookie FM Frankly Wines

This sparker is made from a tasty blend of the varieties Moscato, Glera (Prosecco), Pinot Nero, and Raboso Piave, and together they give this Prosecco a fresh and fruity aroma. And then there’s the sweet fizz and the gorgeous gold bottle – ideal for any party occasion! I can picture myself and the gals with a bottle of Bottega Gold Prosecco as the club soaks up the atmosphere with this song blasting away. Plus popping any bottle of bubbly instantly puts a smile on my face, it’s my favourite sound!

Wolfberger Crémant d’Alsace Brut

Wolfberger Brut Crémant d'Alsace Cookie FM Frankly Wines

I do love a good bottle of fizz, and this Wolfberger Brut Crémant d’Alsace is such a beauty. I was fortunate enough to try this last year but I will always remember it for its lively and light floral notes. It’s made with five traditional varieties of the Alsace region as well as the Chardonnay grape, that altogether give a slight apple finish. I do find this Wolfberger more elegant than the aforementioned Prosecco, and therefore with such a bubbly brut, I’ve chosen this classic Rihanna song “Diamonds”

I feel it’s the right song to sip on this sparkling wine, played extra loud, of course. I can picture myself out the back garden as dusk settles, with my best friend, chatting the night away and pouring glass after glass of this Wolfberger with a minimal cheese & cracker platter.

Nirina Plunkett

Nirina Plunkett, 29, is from Dublin and of Irish and Malagasy ethnicity and has been a blogger and website owner since she was 10 years old! Nirina’s blog Killer Fashion celebrates 10 years this year, while she started Cookie FM in 2015, a food & lifestyle blog, to explore her love for food, music and adventures even more. Nirina loves trying new recipes, dining out, tasting new cuisines, learning about wine and having delicious cocktails. If you want to drop Nirina an email about anything contact KillerFashionNP@gmail.com

Wine + Music

The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series #4 – Jim Dunlop

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.

The fourth part in this series is in the capable hands of Jim Dunlop, a canny Scotsman who loves wine but doesn’t take it too seriously.  The wine I chose for him was a New Zealand Chardonnay that I love (and have recommended many times in these pages) and that he had enjoyed on a recent trip to New Zealand: Man O’War’s Valhalla Chardonnay.

The song I chose for Jim was one that holds a dear place in my heart due to hearing it played many times on family holidays when I was young: The Long And Winding Road by The Beatles.  It’s only in the last decade that I’ve learned that Paul McCartney hated the additional strings and choir added by Phil Spector – and even cited it as a reason for leaving The Beatles.  However, it remains my favourite version and – in my opinion – one of the best songs ever made by the Fab Four.

Man O’ War Valhalla Chardonnay

When Frankie asked me to put music to wine and wine to music, it seemed a good thing as usually our preference is open a bottle and have memories of the area it has come from.

Man-O_War-Valhalla-Chardonnay

The wine I know is one of Frankie’s favourites and we would not have tasted it had he not mentioned while on our recent (non wine holiday) circumnavigation to visit Waiheke island while stopping over in Auckland. We will ever be grateful for that tip as Waiheke is a rather special island and it was there at lunch we selected Valhalla from Man O’ War winery. The winery is located in a distant spot on the island and we did not have time to visit it. This is probably the finest example of Chardonnay we have ever tasted but there again maybe the view out to sea and the sunshine helped a lot. Frankie has assured me that in wet grey Dublin it is still a magical wine.

So I had many songs to choose from but in the end I came down for Sing a Song of Love to me by Chris Rea.

The second verse is just right for this Chardonnay:

Cause if you sing a song of love to me

I will always find a smile

That will warm my cold cold heart

Just for a while

The Beatles – The Long And Winding Road

The song Frankie selected was The Long and winding Road

Here it was easy to make a choice for it is truly a long and very winding road to get to the winery from any direction, coming from the north taking the Spluga Pass from near the source of the Rhine over into to Italy and down to Valchiavenna there to find the glorious Nebbiolo of Valtellina.

spluga
Credit: Jim Dunlop

If you come at it from the east then you have the even more amazing Stelvio Pass. Both are squeaky bottom drives but most enjoyable. There are so many fine wines in this area but I have to make it one from our friend Mamete Prevostini and his wonderful Valtellina Superiore Riserva.

WP_20180907_13_54_09_Pro (2)
Credit: Jim Dunlop

Words fail me on this beauty which should be given time to sleep and not many have heard me propose that about wine.

mamete prevostini riserva valtellina superiore
Credit: Mamete Prevostini

Jim Dunlop

Jim is retired from a life involved with printing presses and packaging. He now enjoys the beauty of the world in “travels with Julia”, groundwork for a possible travel blog (that might happen if he ever gets round to it). Pre-COVID19 he seemed to be away on holiday more than at home, and even “non-wine” trips involved wine. Jim has semi-professional tasting experience in the wines of Northern Italy, Germany, New Zealand and the Canaries which he often shares on his Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Make Mine A Double

A Lidl Bit Chile For Summer? [Make Mine a Double #55]

How well do you know Chile?  It’s the slim country running down to the west of the Andes to the Pacific Ocean:

Chile Chili
Credit: Nolo Sanchesky (via The Language Nerds, Facebook)

Joking aside, here’s how the country is broken down into different wine regions:

WoC_Map2
Credit: Wines of Chile winesofchile.org

The two wines we are looking at here are from different – though relatively close – sub-regions.  If you find the capital Santiago on the map above and head due north into the Aconcagua region you find the Aconcagua Valley and thus the Aconcagua Mountain after which the region is named.  Best known for red wines – including Errázuriz’s super-premium “Seña” – it also makes fuller bodied whites.

South west of Santiago and on the coast is the Leyda Valley, attached to the more established San Antonio Valley.  Due to the influence of the Pacific the climate is cool here and so the best performing varieties tend to be Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc.  In Ireland at least, Leyda Valley has become a name to look out for on the label of these wines.

The two wines below are available from Lidl Ireland as a limited release from Thursday 21st May, while stocks last.

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

V Selection Valle de Leyda Sauvignon Blanc Gran Reserva 2019

211113 Sauvignon Blanc Gran Reserva Valle de Leyda €9.99

Emblazoned with a Chilean flamingo, this Sauvignon Blanc has the label “Gran Reserva” – a term with no standing in Chile – the grapes were picked barely 12 months ago – but nevertheless designed to communicate a high quality level.  Sauvignon Blanc is a key white variety for Chile and is often recognisable in blind tastings by strong hints of fennel.

Any hints of fennel are subtle in this wine, but the overwhelming aroma and flavour is of asparagus!  It’s not that rare in Sauvignons as such but it ordinarily tends to be just a component of the nose and / or palate.  The only other I can think of with such an asparagus bias is the very cool climate Astrolabe Kekerengu SB from the southern part of Malborough.  But it’s not just asparagus, there’s also lime and lemon rounding off the palate and a lovely crisp, clean finish.  This Leyda Valley wine is perfect for salads and seafood.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €9.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

V Selection Valle del Aconcagua Chardonnay Gran Reserva 2018

242485 Chardonnay Aconcagua €10.99

The national bird of choice for this Chardonnay is the Humboldt penguin, what a cute little thing!  Again we have a Gran Reserva, but at least this one is two years old.  There’s a tropical tinge to the nose, though not overpowering.  This does continue though to the palate but it is very restrained; tasted blind I would probably have guessed it to be from southern Burgundy.  There’s a lot of texture on the wine, partially from the high altitude vineyard and partially from the use of (mainly seasoned) oak.

Don’t make the mistake of drinking this wine straight from the fridge; give it at least half an hour and drink from your biggest wine glass for extra swirlage.

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €10.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Conclusion

These are both good wines that offer very good value for money.  Compared to the New Zealand pair I reviewed previously that are part of the same release, I am not quite as enthusiastic, but they are both worth a try – unless you hate asparagus, in which case you should pass on the Sauvignon and just head for the Chardonnay!

 

 

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

Make Mine A Double

Lidl’s New Zealand Outlook

Lidl Ireland’s latest wine promotion is broadly termed “Iberian” – very broadly in fact as it includes Chile (Spanish speaking, granted) as well as Australian and New Zealand wines.  Kicking off on Thursday 21st May, the wines will be on limited release – once they are gone, they are gone.

Here I look at two examples from New Zealand.  The first is from NZ’s biggest and best known region – Marlborough – though isn’t a Sauvignon Blanc.  The second is from one of the longest standing NZ wine regions – Hawke’s Bay – which is roughly two thirds the way down the east coast of the North Island.  The brand Outlook Bay appears to be a Lidl private label, i.e. you only find these wines in their stores.

nz-regions.DcoCkA
Credit: nzwine.com

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

Outlook Bay Marlborough P.G.R. 2019

242394 Outlook Bay Marlborough €9.99

P.G.R. stands for Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer1 & Riesling, though immediately below the wine name on the back label it gives the blend as Pinot Gris, Riesling & Gewürztraminer2, so P.R.G. would be a better name.  Perhaps PGR is now a “thing” in New Zealand, or sounds better in other languages?  Ours is not to reason why…

Although the blend might be unusual for New Zealand, it makes sense; all three grapes are classed as aromatic and the long, cool growing season in much of Aotearoa – particularly Marlborough – therefore suits them, just as it suits Sauvignon Blanc.  And where else is famous for its aromatic wines?  Alsace of course!  And as these are the three key Alsace grapes (in my opinion) I have no compunction in calling this an Alsace blend.

The nose is very floral (apple blossom?) with lychees – that’s the Gewurz3 showing its superpowers.  The palate is something of a conundrum; it has a gentle, juicy attack then a textured, dry mid-palate.  There’s round pear and apple yet spice as well.  There is a little sweetness here, but the slight (pleasant) bitter hints on the crisp, citrus finish resolve it as fruit sweetness rather than sugar.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €9.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Outlook Bay Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2018

242393 Outlook Bay Chardonnay €9.99

Marlborough does make some remarkable Chardonnay, but Hawke’s4 Bay’s richer style seems to be more in demand at the moment, and that is where this wine hails from.  It’s unmistakably oaked Chardonnay on the nose, with toasted coconut and pineapple – almost like the coconut “mushrooms” and pineapple cubes that were around when I was a nipper – but not as synthetic.

The aromas continue through onto the palate which has a rich, creamy, tasty texture.  The sweetness promised by the tropical fruit on the nose is more moderate in the mouth; I would guess that a good proportion has been though MLF but not overwhelmingly so as there is lots of tangy freshness.

This isn’t going to covert (m)any people of the ABC = Anything But Chardonnay crowd, but for those in my ABC = Always Buy Chardonnay camp this is a cracking example and ridiculously good value for money at a tenner.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €9.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Conclusion

An easy one – buy both!!  These two wines are quite different in style, but happen to be styles that I’m very partial to.  They are well made and absolute bargains at the price.

 

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

 


  1. Notice the German spelling with an umlaut
  2. It’s still there!
  3. Arghhh sorry I forgot it this time
  4. Hawke’s more often than not has the apostrophe, so I’ve put it in, even though the label omits it
Tasting Events

Lidl French Whites Spring 2020

Lidl Ireland have just launched a range of French wines which will be available for a limited time only – until stocks run out.  Below are brief notes on six whites that would be making their way into my trolley: two from Burgundy, two from the Loire and two from Alsace.

Wally AOP Touraine Sauvignon 2018 (13.0%, €9.99 at Lidl Ireland)

Wally Sauvignon Blanc

There are several different Touraine appellations in the Loire Valley but this is the one which removes any doubt as to which grape variety you will be drinking.  While not reaching the heights of Pouilly-Fumé, Quincy and the other Sauvignon based wines further east, Touraine is the French standard bearer for inexpensive fresh, tasty Sauvignon Blanc.

Wally has a very expressive Sauvignon nose – grass, gooseberry and grapefruit.  These notes continue through to the palate, but there are no rough edges – it’s (almost) smooth in texture.  Great value for money!

Comte d’Ardières AOP Sancerre 2018 (13.0%, RRP €16.99 at Lidl Ireland)

Lidl Sancerre

Probably the most famous Sauvignon appellation, Sancerre is one of the most prestigious wine regions of France.  Despite that, quality and style can vary as there are multiple soil types and aspects.  I don’t know who the Count of Ardières was, but the wines named after him are very elegant and mineral in style.  There’s also lots of fresh citrus and a long tangy finish.  Worth trying with delicate white fish or oysters.

Collin-Bourisset AOP Coteaux Bourguignons 2018 (13.0% €9.99 at Lidl Ireland)

Collin Bourisset Coteaux Bourguignons Blanc

For those not familiar, Coteaux Bourguignons is an appellation that covers the whole of Burgundy proper and Beaujolais, for both red and white wines.  It can thus be made with fruit from all over the region, but is often a label used for wines from the south around the Maconnais / Beaujolais border.  The grapes for this white are not given, but on tasting it appears to me to be substantially or totally Chardonnay.  It has some oak on the nose and palate plus citrus and stone fruit.  This is proper white Burgundy, a steal for a tenner!

AOP Chablis 2018 (12.5%, €12.99 at Lidl Ireland)

Lidl Chablis 2018

After the trials and tribulations of frost and hail over consecutive years, Chablis producers had to put up their prices so that they could still make a living.  The phrase “there’s no more cheap Chablis” was uttered many times.  Thankfully, the 2018 harvest was the best in 20 years according to the president of the Chablis Commission, so things are returned to normal.

At €12.99 this would definitely be considered a “cheap Chablis”, though I’d wager Lidl’s average bottle price is several Euros less.  It has the classic Chablis nose of citrus and soft malolactic character.  The palate shows red and green apples, lemon and lime fruits plus stony minerality.  This is an excellent wine for the price and was the standout wine of the tasting!

Camile Meyer AOP Alsace Gewurztraminer Vieilles Vignes 2018 (13.0%, €10.99 at Lidl Ireland)

Alsace Gewurztraminer Vieilles Vignes

When it comes to wine Irish people rarely have a sweet tooth, and usually eschew anything with more than a few grams of residual sugar.  Perhaps this is because of ‘Nam-like flashbacks from sweet, unbalanced, flabby German whites from decades past (you know the ones I’m talking about), who knows.  This means that the limited number of Alsace Gewurztraminers available in supermarkets are usually quite dry.  There’s nothing wrong with that in itself – each to his own – but for me Gewurz needs a bit of RS to complement its round, rich character.

And here’s the perfect example at an inexpensive price point.  It’s VERY Gewurz on the nose, with lychees, Turkish delight and rose petals.  The aromas continue on the palate but a little more subdued, but matched nicely by an off-dry finish.

AOP Crémant d’Alsace Brut NV (12.0%, €12.99 at Lidl Ireland)

Crémant d'Alsace Brut NV

France’s second best selling sparkling wine is represented by this fresh and fruity little number.  It’s made in the traditional method and is fully sparkling so is a steal at this price (given the double duty on such wines in Ireland).  This is a great alternative to Prosecco; fun and fruity but drier and better balanced.

 

 

 

 

Make Mine A Double, Opinion, Tasting Events

Kiwi Chardonnays [Make Mine a Double #50]

Despite receiving flak from some, Sauvignon Blanc is still the key variety in New Zealand, accounting for 75.8% of the 2019 harvest.  There are three other varieties that lead the chasing pack; Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris:

Picture1

As you can see, vintage variations account for a lot of the movement over the ten year period, but there is a definite upward trend in both Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, with Chardonnay being fairly stable/stagnant (choose your own descriptor) in quantity.

Whereas Sauvignon Blanc is concentrated in Marlborough, which has the most distinctive style, the varieties above prosper in several NZ regions.  The most adaptable – in my opinion – is Chardonnay, which makes excellent wines in:

  • Auckland – e.g. Kumeu River
  • Gisborne – e.g. Wrights
  • Hawke’s Bay – e.g. Trinity Hill
  • Wairarapa – e.g. Ata Rangi
  • Nelson – e.g. Neudorf
  • Marlborough – e.g. Cloudy Bay
  • Canterbury – e.g. Bell Hill
  • Central Otago – e.g. Felton Road

Below are a couple of Chardonnays that impressed me at the recent “New Zealand in a Glass” tasting in Dublin.  They are both from the Villa Marie group, though different producers and quite different price points.

Vidal Legacy Reserve Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2018 (13.5%, RRP €35 – €43 at winesoftheworld.ie)

vidal legacy chardonnay

Unlike many New Zealand wineries which were founded by immigrants from the Balkans, Vidal was founded by a Spaniard – Anthony Joseph Vidal – in 1905.  He planted vines in Hastings (Hawke’s Bay, not Sussex) and the winery is still based there today (I actually visited it with my wife in 2009).

The Vidal range has four levels (in order of increasing quality):

  • Estate
  • Reserve
  • Soler
  • Legacy

The two reds in the Legacy range are a Cabernet Sauvignon/ Merlot blend and a single varietal Syrah, both from the Gimblett Gravels sub-region of Hawke’s Bay.  The sole Legacy white is this Chardonnay, but it stands alone proudly.  Unlike the wine below, quantities were relatively small (33 barriques which would produce less than 10,000 bottles) and from a single region.  Fermentation used wild yeast and took place in a mixture of new (45%) and old French barriques.  Maturation was for 10 months in those barriques (I assume with lees stirring) then a further 2 months in tank to blend the barrels together.

If I said I didn’t want to taste this wine, that might sound like I’m slating it…but I didn’t want to taste it as that would tear me away from its magnificent nose (Lady Gaga, you’ve got nothing on this wine!)  It’s obviously very young indeed, but it has amazing struck-match reductive aromas with rich fruit notes and toasty, tangy oak.  The palate is slightly less impactful as there’s an underlying freshness rather than butteriness, but it’s still fabulous.  For the price, this wine over-delivers.  Interestingly, on Vidal’s own website they offer this 2018 but also a mature release 2011.

Villa Maria Private Bin East Coast Chardonnay 2018 (13.0%, RRP €14.99 at SuperValu & Centra stores)

Villa Maria East Coast Chardonnay

If you look at a map of New Zealand’s wine regions then you find the majority of them on the East Coast; the East Coast designation is therefore a useful label for inter-regional blends which doesn’t necessarily mean much in itself.  Without spending hours on the origin of the term, my instinct is that it was brought in to satisfy EU regulations (similar to South Eastern Australia) though happy to be proven wrong.

For this wine the fruit came mainly from the warm climes of Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay, with a small dash from Marlborough for extra freshness.  The winemaking decisions were taken on a parcel by parcel basis; for some, indigenous yeast was used while others had cultured yeast; malolactic fermentation was encouraged – followed by bâtonnage – for some parcels while being blocked for others.  For all, fermentation took place “in contact with premium French oak”; given the modest price one might assume that the oak was in the form of chips or staves as there is no mention of actual oak barrels.

After all that, how did the wine turn out?  Very well indeed actually!  This entry level Chardonnay really surprised me as to how appealing it was.  The nose is balanced between pip fruit, stone fruit and oak tones, with a touch of flint and reduction.  There’s a real creamy texture from the lees work and tangy oak on top of the fruit.  It’s ready to drink now but another year or two wouldn’t hurt at all.

 

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

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

Dog Point Chardonnay [Frankie’s Single Bottle Review #27]

Marlborough’s Sauvignon Blanc is known throughout the wine drinking world and is the key export variety for New Zealand.  Although Pinot Noir is regarded as the next in line, for me Chardonnay is Aotearoa’s best grape, making excellent examples in nearly every Kiwi wine region.  Acidity is generally quite prominent, even after MLF, as this is mainly a cool climate country.  Here’s a bottle I tried recently with a bit of age on it:

Dog Point Vineyard Marlborough Chardonnay 2012 (13.5%, RRP €36.50 (2016/7 vintages) at Blackrock Cellars, Baggot St Wines, Donnybrook Fair, The Corkscrew, jnwine.com)

Dog Point Chardonnay

I recently did an article on Cloudy Bay and mentioned that the head winemaker for many years was Kevin Judd.  As the company grew they took on more staff in the vineyard, in the winery and back office functions such as marketing.  Two of the winemaking team – Ivan Sutherland and James Healy – eventually decided to branch out and set up by themselves.

With the support of their wives Margaret and Wendy (respectively) they launched their 2002 vintage in early 2004.  They gradually expanded their range and make several different wines, including the excellent and age-worthy Section 94 Sauvignon Blanc (I tried the 2010 in 2014).

Interestingly, when Kevin Judd himself founded Greywacke later the same decade, he got agreement from his old colleagues at Dog Point to use their winery facilities.

At seven and a half years from vintage, this bottle is much older than most you will see around on the shelves in wine merchants; many have the 2016 or even 2017 vintages of the Chardonnay available (I bought this bottle from my old haunt Sweeney’s of Glasnevin which closed this summer.)  It has a very yeasty, toasty nose – possibly because of lees work while maturing.  The funk continues onto the palate where it is joined by soft citrus, pineapple and hints of stone fruit.  Trademark NZ acidity is still present to prevent the wine from being at all flabby.

This 2012 is probably at its peak and ready to decline gently, so I would not keep it for much longer if I had another bottle, but it’s drinking beautifully now.  If you buy a younger vintage, try keeping it a while (if you can keep it well) to see how it evolves.

 

Make Mine A Double, Opinion

Domaine Lafage whites [Make Mine a Double #48]

The Languedoc-Roussillon wine is often shortened to simply “The Languedoc”, but that does a disservice to Roussillon, the French part of Catalonia which stretches down to the border with Spain.  It does have its stars in the fortified sweet wines of Maury, Rivesaltes and Banyuls, but here we turn our attention to its table wines.

Domaine Lafage are based in Perpignan and produce a large number of different cuvées – white, rosé, red and Vins Doux Naturels.  I’ve enjoyed some of their bottles before, including their Nicolas (made from old vine Grenache Noir) and Côté Est (a blend of Grenache Blanc, Chardonnay and Rolle), but here are two that I tried recently that really impressed me:

Lafage “Centenaire” Côtes du Roussillon AOP 2018 (13.0%, RRP €19.95 at Baggot Street Wines, McHugh’s, Sweeny’s D3, DrinkStore, Redmonds of Ranalagh, Martins of Fairview, The Vintry Rathgar and Blackrock Cellar)

Domaine Lafage Centenaire Blanc

The name of this wine comes from the age of the vines – some of them are a hundred years old with the rest not far behind.  80% is made up by Grenaches Gris and Blanc (the split is not given) and the remaining 20% is Roussanne.  Such old vines have very low yields (30 hl/ha) but give intense concentration of flavour.  30% of the blend is aged in new French oak for 4 months, with bâtonnage.

Being mainly Grenache the Centenaire has a broad palate, rich but dry and herby.  This might sound something of a contradiction, but the spicy pear and quince fruit comes in the attack and mid palate with the finish being crisp and dry.  In terms of style it is not dissimilar to a southern Rhône white, but crisper on the finish than most.

Lafage Cadireta Côtes Catalanes IGP 2018 (13.0%, RRP €19.95 at Baggot Street Wines, McHugh’s, Sweeny’s D3, DrinkStore, Redmonds of Ranalagh, Martins of Fairview, The Vintry Rathgar and Blackrock Cellar)

Domaine Lafage Cadireta Blanc

The Cadireta name is of a specific climat which has deep, rocky soils.  Vines are a mixture of trellised and bush vines, planted in an east-west orientation to preserve acidity as much as possible.  The grapes are harvested in the (relative) cool of night, a practice common in Australia.  30% of the wine is fermented and matured in new Burgundian oak barrels, similar to the Centenaire, with 70% cool fermented in stainless steel.  Only 8% of the final blend goes through malolactic fermentation, adding a touch of roundness.

Now for the unusual feature of this wine: the grapes harvested are 100% Chardonnay but they are matured on Viognier lees – something which is quite innovative and adds a real depth of flavour.  Melon and red apple from the Chardonnay and vanilla from the oak are joined by apricot, peach and floral notes from the Viognier.  It’s a lusciously peachy wine yet remarkably fresh and crisp.  This much flavour and interest yet perfectly in balance make for a wine worthy of much praise.

Conclusion

These are both very good wines and excellent value for money.  For drinking on their own my marked preference is for the Cadireta – and I’m not alone as it has just won the White Wine of the Year at the Irish Wine Show!  With food, I think that the Centenaire would be a little more versatile…so perhaps a bottle glass of each!

 

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