The Long Little Dog White 2014 (12.5%, €9.95 at Sweeney’s)
Unsung hero Colombard takes a starring role in this “critter wine”, with the balance of 30% contributed by Chardonnay. These varieties don’t feature on the front or even back label as it’s not really a wine aimed at aficionados – it doesn’t even shout about its origins either, with a subtle Produit de France underneath the vintage.
It only takes a sip to realise that, despite the commercial packaging, this is actually a very pleasant wine – crisp, fruity and really enjoyable. For a tenner in Ireland, you will struggle to beat it!
Honest 2 Goodness (H2G for short) are a small family wine importers based in Glasnevin, Dublin. They specialise in family owned wineries throughout Europe, and in particular those with an organic, sustainable or biodynamic philosophy.
Here are a few of their wines that I enjoyed at their most recent Organic & Low Sulphite Tasting:
Domaine de Maubet Côtes de Gascogne 2014 (€14.95, 11.5%)
Typical South West France blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Colombard, Ugni Blanc and Gros Manseng. Ripe green and red apples, fresh pears. Crisp acidity, light and fruity – so easy to drink on its own, but versatile with food.
Borgo Paglianetto Verdicchio di Matelica 2014 (€18.45, 12.5%)
Restrained nose; soft but textured on the palate, lemon and grapefruit combined. Tangy, don’t drink too chilled. Marche wines are really coming to the fore at the moment.
A favourite producer that I’ve covered several times. Grapefruit again, though not as juicy. A grown up wine that would excel with food.
Château Canet Minervois Blanc 2014 (€17.95, 13.0%)
50% barrel fermented; blend of Roussanne and Bourboulenc, both well known in the Rhône. Tangy, textured, pleasantly sour (Haribo Tangfastics). Plenty of mouthfeel and soft stone fruit. Moreish.
Casa Benasal by Pago Casa Gran Valencia 2012 (€18.95, 14.0%)
The Spanish equivalent of a GSM blend: Monstrell, Syrah and Garnacha Tintorera. Plum, blackberry, and blueberry on the nose, following through onto the palate. A full-bodied winter wine; lots of fruit with a light dusting of tannins on the finish. Perfect with stew or casserole (depending on where you heat the pot, apparently).
Château Segue Longue Monnier Cru Bourgeois Médoc 2010 (€25.95, 13.5%)
A trad Médoc blend of Cab Sauv, Merlot, Cab Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. Very perfumed on the nose, showing black fruits, spice and parma violets. Soft and voluptuous in the mouth – definitely from a warmer vintage. Classy.
A white for summer barbecues – though to be honest there’s no bad time to drink this tasty, versatile wine. Crisp, dry and fruity, it’s great for quaffing on its own or with lighter food. It has more going on that virtually any other wine you can get for the same price.
Where is Gascogne?
Gascony is in South west France, and is now generally thought of as the area below Bordeaux. As a larger historical region it included Bordeaux’s Medoc peninsula and the Basque Country of the Pyrenees. Culturally, it was the literary home of d’Artagnan (perhaps Dogtanian as well, I’m not sure) and Cyrano de Bergerac.
Beverage wise its most famous product is Armagnac, the other quality grape brandy which is lesser known than Cognac. But now its undistilled wines are increasingly popular.
Here are a couple I’ve tried and enjoyed recently:
Domaine de Maubet IGP Côtes de Gascogne 2014 (€14.99, Honest 2 Goodness)
This is a blend of Colombard, Ugni Blanc, Gros Manseng and Sauvignon Blanc (proportions not given) and weighs in at a very lunch-friendly 11.5% abv. For a Vin de Pays it has remarkable concentration, with lemon and grapefruit keeping it fresh and some tropical notes adding another dimension. There’s no sign of oak – and nor should there be, the fruit is allowed to express itself.
Venturer IGP Côtes de Gascogne 2014 (€6.99, Aldi)
No the price is not a misprint / typo / mistake! Again this is a very fruity, easy-drinking style of wine. It has far more character that you’ve a right to expect for this price tag – and it comes with a handy screwcap so there’s no synthetic cork you normally get with less expensive wine.
The blend is 80% Colombard, 20% Gros Manseng giving citrus and a touch of melon. At this price you can fill your fridge!
The region’s viticultural borders now align with those of Armagnac, across the three departments of Gers, Landes and Lot-et-Garonne. In the Gers the production volumes are approximately: 91% white, 8% red and 1% rosé wine. This is very atypical for the southwest of France, because in neighbouring departments mainly red wine is produced (e.g. Madiran). Around three quarters of production is exported.
The white grapes of Côtes de Gascogne are:
Colombard is the mainstay of the area, sometimes seen in cheaper blends from California, South Africa and Australia, but at its best here
Ugni Blanc is used for Armagnac production, and even more so for Cognac production (the other side of Bordeaux). It also features in Italy under the name Trebbiano (yuck!)
Petit and Gros Manseng are traditional grapes of SW France, particularly Saint-Mont and Jurancon.
Muscadelle, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc are of course the three white grapes permitted in white Bordeaux wine.
Len de l’El (aka Cavalier, prominent in AC Gaillac) is a rarity.
Molloys Liquor Stores is a off licence group with 10 outlets around Dublin plus their website www.molloys.com. Their range is biased towards cost-conscious everyday bottles, but as they import many of them exclusively they can cut out the middle-man and offer good value for money.
Here are some of the highlights from their recent press tasting:
Champagne Jean Comyn “Harmonie” Brut NV (€34.99)
It’s a bakery in a bottle! An amazing brioche nose points to extended ageing on the lees – the minimum for a non vintage Champagne is 15 months but I would guess at double that or more. There’s fresh strawberry on the attack (from Pinots Noir and Meunier) followed by lemon (from Chardonnay), and a crisp finish.
This won a silver medal at last year’s IWC which is impressive for an unknown (to me at least) brand. Please don’t buy Moët, buy this instead – it’s far nicer.
Decoding the label tells us that this Prosecco is fully sparkling (Spumante) and north of off-dry – confusingly Extra Dry means no such thing, but consumers like to thinkthat they like dry wines. This is the most expensive of the five Proseccos that Molloys import – the extra tax on Spumante compared to Frizzante ensures it’s not one of the cheapest – but I think it’s also the best value.
I don’t mind a glass of Prosecco but I rarely fancy a second – this is an exception to that rule. This has a grapey nose (go figure!) and then pear and red apple on the palate, wrapped in a creamy lemon mousse. It’s not trying to be Champagne but it is a grown up drink that should please most.
Colombelle l’Original IGP Côtes de Gascogne 2013 (€8.99)
Gascony is more famous for its brandy – Armagnac – than for its wines. Thankfully this means that they remain a relative bargain. Colombard is usually the main grape, supported by Ugni Blanc and / or Sauvignon Blanc for a bit of extra zip. This example comes from Producteurs Plaimont, a quality and value conscious cooperative from South West France.
And it’s wonderful! So much fruit – ripe, round apples and peachy stone fruit – but with a crisp finish. This isn’t amazingly complex but it’s a very enjoyable tipple – and at a modest 11.0% abv a glass or two in the week won’t hurt. I’d serve this as an aperitif or as a match for roast chicken or a mild curry.
Beauvignac Chardonnay, IGP Pay d’Oc (€10.49)
In addition to various Pay d’Oc varietals, this modern producerCave Pomerols also makes AOP Picpoul de Pinet.
Tropical fruit is the order of the day here – pineapple, passionfruit and grapefruit dance around the nose. A touch of vanilla also becomes apparent on the palate suggesting some light oak ageing, but it’s well integrated and doesn’t jar at all. Malolactic fermentation is deliberately blocked which gives it a crisp, fresh finish.
So many inexpensive Chardonnays taste artificial but this is a nice drop. Would be amazing with scallops!
Heritiers Dubois AOC Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur lie 2012 (€11.49)
If you’ve ever shopped in a French supermarket you will no doubt have noticed a half dozen different bottles of Muscadet on sale. You might even have tried a few – after all, they’re quite inexpensive in France. But the odds are, you didn’t go back and buy more of the same. Muscadet’s reputation is not the best at the moment, mainly due to low quality / high yield production which results in austere, acidic and fruitless swill.
But every cloud and all that – those producers who do care about quality are unable to command high prices due to the general reputation of the area – and that means there are bargains to be had!
Sèvre et Maine is a subregion of Muscadet but doesn’t signify that much as it accounts for 80% of all Muscadets. Sur Lie means the wine was matured on its lees, i.e. the dead yeast cells left over from fermentation. This gives it a creamy texture and a bit more interest in terms of flavour.
So how does this taste? Full of lemon zest! It’s not austere, though it is racy and lean. It cries out for shellfish or delicate white fish. I expected not to like this, but it surprised me!
Château Bonnin Pichon AOC Lussac-St-Emilion 2008 (€15.49)
Lussac is one of the four satellite villages that can suffix the coveted name of St-Emilion to their wines. These villages don’t reach the heights attained in St-Emilion proper, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t offer some well made, drinkable wine. 2008 was a pretty-good-but-not-excellent vintage in Bordeaux; modern viticulture and winemaking means that the best can be brought out of whatever nature has presented.
As normal for right bank Bordeaux it’s Merlot that takes the lead (81%), with Cabernet Franc (15%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (4%) playing supporting roles. Oak, fruit and tannin are well balanced now and would evolve slowly over the next five years or so. I would guess some proportion of American oak given the flavour profile The fruit is dark – plum , blackberry and blackcurrant.
Drink this on its own or with red meat such as beef or lamb.
Gran Passione IGT Rosse del Veneto 2013 (€14.99)
From the hinterland of Venice, this big and velvety red is perfect a perfect winter’s night. Tannin and acidity are present and correct – it is very young – so decant for a few hours if you have chance, or serve with a hearty stew.
Think of this as a baby Amarone – it weighs in at 14.5% – but less complex and certainly cheaper! The grapes aren’t stated but I would guess at the typical Corvina / Rondinella / Molinara.
Cellier des Princes AOC Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2012 (€24.99)
The world famous southern Rhône appellation of Châteauneuf-du-Pape perhaps faces the opposite challenge to Muscadet – its reputation is so good that pretty much any bottle carrying its name can be sold for a premium, so someproducers churn out very average wine and put it in a fancy bottle. Thus the cheapest CNDP may not be a bargain at all.
Thankfully Molloys have got it right with this selection! It’s principally Grenache (90%), with Mourvèdre (5%) and Syrah (5%). Weighing in at a whopping 15%, this has bags of dark black fresh and dried fruit and Christmas spice. It’s wonderfully big and robust but velvety and smooth. It’s really far too young to drink now – it will open up a lot more over the next five to ten years – but it’s so delicious that it would be too tempting!