WineMason is an Irish wine importer run by husband and wife team Ben Mason and Barbara Boyle MW. They specialise in wines from Germany, Portugal and Austria, but their expanding portfolio now encompasses France, South Africa, Spain and Italy.
Here are a pair of outstanding wines from the Languedoc that I tried for the first time earlier this year:
Domaine Turner Pageot “Le Blanc” Coteaux du Languedoc 2015 (14.0%, RRP €23, though currently only in restaurants)
At first the name of this producer might mislead you in to saying “Turner” with French pronunciation, just like Palmer of Margaux, but in fact it is the surname of anglophone Karen Turner, the Australian lady who is half of this partnership. The other half is her other half, Frenchman Emmanuel Pageot. After over ten years of making wine around the world, they set up a domaine together in the Languedoc of just 3.5 hectares, now expanded to 10 Ha. These 10 Ha are split over 17 different parcels, mainly facing north or north west (which makes sense in these southerly latitudes. Viticulture is biodynamic – they even feature quotations from Rudolf Steiner on their website.
Le Blanc is a blend of 80% Roussanne and 20% Marsanne, though the latter punches above its weight due to 30 days of fermentation on skins to extract as many varietal aromas as possible. This wine therefore gives an introduction to the orange wine category. It’s quite full bodied for a white and combines stone fruit (apricot, peach) with nuts, beeswax and tropical fruits. A very impressive wine.
Domaine Turner Pageot “Les Choix” Vin de France 2014 (13.5%, RRP €39, though currently only in restaurants)
If Le Blanc was an introduction into orange wine, then Les Choix is at the forefront. This is 100% Marsanne from steep north – north-west slopes, fermented in whole bunches. The juice spends five weeks being macerated on the skins, including regular pigeages(punching down the floating cap of solids) and wild yeast fermentation is not temperature controlled – this helps to bring the funk!
Perhaps showing the power of suggestion, I did imagine some orange notes when tasting this orange wine – and what a great ambassador for the category it is! It has texture and tannin but fruit too – an incredibly complex wine that deserves serious consideration and contemplation. Orange wine is still something of a rarity, but wines like this show what they can do; they really do belong in their own category beside red, white and rosé!
After another successful O’Briens Wine Fair, I find myself with the usual predicament of too many good wines to recommend. I have therefore picked my 10 favourite whites listed at €15.00 or under – before any promotional offers.
Examining the list shows that:
Several varieties are repeated: Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Colombard and (unoaked) Chardonnay
Several places are repeated: Chile, the Loire and Gascony
From which you could draw certain conclusions:
Obviously, there’s a link between variety and place!
Certain varieties are better for making good yet inexpensive wines
Oak is a significant cost so is seldom used for the least expensive wines
Here are the ten wines:
Domaine Duffour Côtes de Gascogne 2016 (12.0%, €11.45 or 2 for €20 during summer at O’Briens)
From the land of d’Artagnan (and Dogtanian as well, for all I know) come probably the best value white wines of France – Côtes de Gascogne of south west France. Nicolas Duffour is a big fan of local star Colombardwhich gives ripe melon flavours; Ugni Blanc (more commonly distilled into Cognac or Armagnac) adds freshness while Gros Manseng (well-established in Jurançon) gives complexity. Summer in a glass!
Viña Chocálan Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (13.5%, €13.95 at O’Briens)
This wine is so grassy that you might wonder if you have face-planted into a pile of mown grass. It’s fresh and linear, with a juicy citrus finish. Tasted blind I would probably have guessed it hailed from the Loire Valley, perhaps a Touraine, but this is actually from a family run winery in Chile’s Maipo Valley.
Famille Bougrier Les Hauts Lieux Chenin Blanc 2015 (12.0%, €13.95 down to €10.95 for May at O’Briens)
The Bougrier Family make several Loire wines (their Sauvignon Blanc was just 45 cents too much to make it into this article) labelled as Vin de France, giving them flexibility over grape sourcing and varietal labelling. I found the Chenin just off dry, emphasizing the ripe stone and pip fruit, with the acidity keeping it fresh. So drinkable!
Viña Leyda Chardonnay Reserva 2014 (14.0%, €14.95 at O’Briens)
This Chardonnay is unoaked but is not a lean-Chablis like wine (the 14.0% alcohol might have been a clue). Viña Leyda are based in the Leyda Valley (no surprise there) and so are close enough to benefit from cooling coastal breezes – these help extend the growing season and help to increase intensity of flavour while maintaining aromatics. This is a great example of ripe but unoaked Chardonnay, full of tropical fruits and citrus.
Domaine Langlois-Château Saumur Blanc 2014 (12.0%, €14.95 at O’Briens)
The Maison des Vins de Saumur is one of my favourite places to taste wine in France – it has close to a hundred wines of all types from the Anjou-Saumur sub-region of the Loire. The white wine of Saumur itself are unfairly overlooked in favour of Vouvray and other appellations for white and Saumur’s own reds and rosés. Of course this is Chenin Blanc and its perfect balance of acidity and fruit sweetness makes it a great drink to sip on a nice sunny day.
Los Vascos Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (13.0%, €14.95 at O’Briens)
Los Vascos is a project of the Lafite branch of the Rothschild family, sourcing wines from both Argentina and Chile. This Chilean Sauvignon is very racy and less exuberantly aromatic compared to many – it’s probably closer to a Touraine Sauvignon or even a Chablis than most Savvies (Marlborough it ain’t!) Appealing mineral noteswould make it a great accompaniment for oysters or other shellfish.
Hijos de Alberto Gutiérrez Monasterio de Palazuelos Rueda Verdejo 2016 (13.0%, €13.95 down to €10.95 for May at O’Briens)
Rueda and its Verdejo is often overlooked in favour of Albariño and Godello from north west Spain. And that’s ok with me as Rueda wines are consistently good quality and good value for money. This one has lovely melon and citrus notes, so soft and approachable that you will be pouring a second glass quickly!
Boatshed Bay Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (13.0%, €14.95 down to €11.95 for May at O’Briens)
Different Sauvignons from Marlborough offer flavours from a wide spectrum, but often concentrating on one part of it. This seems to have nearly all of them! There’s tropical and green fruit such as passionfruit, grapefruit, gooseberry and pineapple, but also green pepper and asparagusnotes. Compared to – say – the Los Vascos Sauvignon, it’s probably the other end of the spectrum – a wine great for quaffing on its own.
Producteurs Plaimont Labyrinthe de Cassaigne Côtes de Gascogne 2015 (11.5%, €13.95 down to €9.95 for May at O’Briens)
This is a single estate Côtes de Gascogne from the north of the area, close to Condom (make your own jokes please). Tropical fruit from Colombard and Gros Manseng make this a real Vin de Plaisir – and fairly light in alcohol at 11.5%. Good value for money at €14, great value at €10!
Los Vascos Chardonnay 2015 (14.0%, €14.95 at O’Briens)
Like its sister Sauvignon above, this unoaked Chardonnay has a great deal of mineralitywhich make it ideal for shellfish and other seafood. It does have more body, however; enough to almost give it the feel of an oaked wine, though not the flavour. The finish is zesty citrus and stays with you for quite some time.
As a wise man once said to me, don’t call them “dessert wines” as that implies they are only fit to drink with a dessert! Categorising wines isn’t always an easy task, as even simple descriptors such as colour are open to interpretation (see this article). Where do sweet wines fit in? In the end, the label isn’t important, what’s in the glass is.
10. Tarin Pineau des Charentes Blanc Vieilli 3 Ans
Pronounced the same as “Pinot”, this is the secret fortified drink of France’s west country. Made by adding eau de vie to grape must that has barely begun fermenting, it can only be produced in the Charente and Charente-Maritime departments – also the home of Cognac. That’s no coincidence as the grape spirit used for Pineau is the same that is aged to eventually become Cognac.
This example has received 3 years of ageing which gives it a slight “rancio” character – enough to add interest but not so much that it dominates. The only downside is that it is so moreish!
9. Sipp Mack Gewurztraminer Vieilles Vignes 2012
This Gewurz isn’t intended to be a sweet wine as such, but given the grape’s natural flavour profile, low acidity and a bit of residual sugar it tastes far sweeter than other many wines of Alsace. As a general rule I do like some sweetness in my Gewurz, and this Sipp Mack does deliver that, but with an incredible intensity of flavour thanks to its old vines. See herefor the full review.
8. GD Vajra Moscato d’Asti 2015
Moscato from Australia and elsewhere gained a lot of ground in recent years – fresh and fruity, sweet and easy to drink yet with very moderate alcohol, it became something of a party drink. Hopefully this will shine a light back on Piedmont, the pioneering region of this style (though obviously not of the Muscat grape!)
Moscato d’Asti might also qualify as a party drink for some, but its true value is at the table, mainly with fruit based desserts where it excels. The best – such as GD Vajra’s – have a mouthwatering balance of acidity and sweetness. See here for the full review
7. Max Ferd. Richter Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese
For many wine aficionados, Germany is the ultimate country for Riesling. The sheer variety of styles is one of its key strengths, from bone-dry to intensely sweet, and just about every spot in between. This Mosel Spätlese (late harvest) is just wonderful and was my narrow favourite of an all-Riesling tasting at DNS Wineclub. See here for the full review
6. Zantho Scheurebe Trockenbeerenauslese 2012
Zantho is a joint venture between two famous names of Austrian wine, viticulturist Josef Umathum and winemaker Wolfgang Peck of Winzerkeller Andau. As well as dry whites and reds they also make three dessert wines (pictured above) which are all glorious, with the TBA (for short) being my favourite. Germanic grape Scheurebe works best as a sweet wine and excels in Zantho’s TBA from close to the border with Hungary.
5. Nyetimber Demi-Sec NV
I’m a long standing fan of Nyetimber and I’ve been pleased to see them popping up here and there in Ireland. When back in England in the summer I picked up a bottle of their Demi-Sec – which I haven’t yet seen here in Ireland – and took it to a DNS Wineclub tasting. It was absolutely magnificent and reinforced my admiration for Brad Greatrix and Cherie Spriggs.
Not stated on the front label is that this is 100% Chardonnay, and therefore a Blanc-de-Blancs. Dosage is 45g/L giving it perfect balance – typical English acidity is the counter to the sugar. This was the first English Demi-Sec to be released but I would go further and state that it’s one of the top few Demi-Secs made anywhere in the world.
4. Domaine de Bois Mozé Coteaux de l’Aubance 2008
The Loire Valley is probably France’s most underrated wine region and its Chenin based dessert wines probably the least well known – which is a total shame as they can be world class without a world class price. Coteaux de l’Aubance is even less well known than Coteaux du Layon and Quarts de Chaume, but the best sites can yield beauties such as this. In my opinion these wines are the ultimate expression of Chenin Blanc – and this is still a youngster at nine years of age.
3. Donnafugata Ben Ryé Passito di Pantelleria 2014
The grape variety for this wine is known locally as Zibibbo, but further afield as Muscat of Alexandria – a very ancient grape. “Local” here is the tiny island of Pantelleria which is between Sicily and Tunisia. The grapes are dried after picking to concentrate the flavours and sugars, similar to “straw wines” elsewhere. This is a wine of staggering complexity for such a young vintage, the biggest threat to ageing being its utter deliciousness!
2. Cascina Garitina Niades
Many readers will be drawing a blank at the name of this wine which could have been in any (or all!) of my red, sparkling and sweet Top 10 lists. Formerly carrying the DOCG of Brachetto d’Acqui, it could be thought of as the red equivalent of Moscato d’Asti – though even better, in this case.
When I tried it and tweeted about it, one wag did reply “can’t see the point” – and admittedly, before I tried it I can’t say it was missing from my life – but once tried this wine is never forgotten. Fresh red fruit, acidity and sweetness combine to make wine heaven – it’s Eton Mess in a glass!
This was the unexpected runaway winner of the DNS Wineclub Alsace tasting, against some pretty stiff competition (including #2 in this Top 10). Léon Beyer is based in the achingly beautiful village of Eguisheim and has Domaines Zinck and Bruno Sorg as neighbours. “The house style is dry” said the lady at the counter, “apart from the sweet wines” – such as this rare Late Harvest Gewurz. The Léon Beyer website give a drinking window of 10 to 20 years from vintage, but this tasted like it had another decade left at least. If I had another bottle it would probably make my Top 10 sweet wines of 2026!
Domaine de la Pinte Arbois Chardonnay 2014 (12.5%, €23.50)
The region of eastern France is gradually gaining significant recognition for its wide variety of grapes and styles, many of which are particular to the area. This is something more conventional, being a Chardonnay made in the “ouillé” style whereby evaporation losses are topped up to prevent too much oxygen in the barrel. This has far more texture and flavour than you’d expect from a “Chardonnay” – it’s different but well worth a try.
Chapel Down Lamberhurst Estate Bacchus Reserve 2015 (11.5%, €19.50)
I have been a keen supporter of English sparkling wine for over a decade, but I haven’t shared the same enthusiasm about English still wines. However, there are a growing number of very good still wines that deserve your attention. Bacchus was created in 1930s Germany – and is still grown there – but has found a second home in the cool English climate. Chapel Down’s Reserve bottling is full of stone, tropical and citrus fruit. It’s well balanced and has a touch of residual sugar to counterpoint the mouth watering acidity.
Cupcake Vineyards Chardonnay 2014 (13.0%, €15.50)
The Central Coast on the front label is of course the Central Coast of California, which includes Santa Barbara of Sideways fame and Monterey County, where the majority of the Chardonnay grapes were sourced from.
Part of the fermented juice was matured in (mainly old, I reckon) oak barrels and part underwent softening malolactic fermentation in stainless steel tanks, followed by lees stirring. When recombined this wine gives the best of both world – it has some oak, but not too much, and some creamy lees flavours. Great value for money – just don’t drink it too cold.
Atlantis Santorini 2015 (13.0%, €15.50)
Santorini is my favourite wine region of Greece for whites, especially those made wholly or predominantly from Assyrtiko as this is. Due to its latitude the island receives lots of sun but this is somewhat tempered by sea breezes. It sees no oak nor malolactic fermentation so remains clean and linear.
Earth’s End Central Otago Riesling 2015 (12.5%, €20.50)
Central Otago in the deep south of New Zealand is primarily known for its Pinot Noirs – and rightly so – but its long cool growing season is also suitable for Chardonnay and Riesling. This has lovely lime notes, and an off dry finish perfectly balances the vibrant acidity. With Haka instructions on the front, surely this would be a great present for a rugby fan?
Terre di Chieti Pecorino 2015 (12.5%, €15.00)
Another recent favourite of mine is Pecorino, an everyday Italian white wine with far more character than the lakes of uninteresting Pinot Grigio that clog up most supermarket shelves. Both oranges and lemons feature on the palate – it’s a great drop at a keen price.
Villiera Traditional Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc 2016 (14.0%, €18.50)
Modest packaging belies a sublime wine, one of the most enjoyable South African Chenins I’ve had for a long time. The complexity is due to the variety of choices made by winemaker Jeff Grier – a small amount of botrytised grapes was used, part of the wine went through malolactic and part did not, both new and second-use French oak barrels were used. The end result is a marvel of honey and vanilla – amazingly complex for such a young wine.
Germany’s Pfalz region is beloved of the Wine Hunter himself, Jim Dunlop, and of course makes some great Riesling. The alcohol of 13.0% is much higher than an average Mosel Riesling, for example, which indicates that this is likely to be significantly drier and more full bodied. Apricot, lemon, lime and orange make an appearance – just such a lovely wine!
Red Claw Mornington Peninsula Chardonnay 2015 (13.0%, €27.00)
From one of Australia’s premium cool climate regions, this is a Chardonnay to make Burgundy lovers weep – or convert! The fermented wines are matured on their lees in 500L barrels (over double the standard barrique of 225L) with no malolactic fermentation allowed, so freshness is maintained. This is a grown up wine with lots of lees character and reductive notes.
Another installment in the Frankly Wines ABC = Always Buy Chardonnay odyssey! These two wines from different countries and made in different styles show what a versatile grape Chardonnay is.
Tesco Finest Bourgogne Blanc Chardonnay 2014 (12.5%, €12.00 from Tesco)
The small print and the back label reveal that this wine is made by the Vignerons de Buxy co-operative in the Côte Chalonnaise. This is an under-appreciated area – Chablis is world famous, as are the majestic vineyards of the Côtes de Nuits and Beaune. The southernmost area of the Maconnais is now receiving lots of attention but the Chalonnaise remains off the radar.
At a fairly light 12.5% this is made in a fresher style. The main notes are ripe (but not over-ripe) honeydew melon and apple, with just a kiss of vanilla hinting at a small proportion matured in oak. A far more accessible wine than I expected, and great value for money.
Marques de Casa Concha DO Limari Chardonnay 2010 (14.0%, €17.00* from Sweeney’s)
Marques de Casa Concha is one of the upmarket labels of Concha Y Toro, the Chilean giant. This Chardonnay is made from grapes in the Quebrada Seca Vineyard, 190 m above sea level and just 19km from the Pacific Ocean, giving it a relatively cool microclimate. That said, at 14.0% this is no Chablis (nor Côte Chalonnaise!) More recent vintages are noted as spending eleven months in French oak and the flavour profile of this 2010 suggests it probably did too – though not a large proportion of it new.
Flavour wise this is all about apple pie, with cream! Perhaps a touch of pineapple candy and vanilla on the side. It has quite a bit of body so would stand up to creamy chicken, pork or veal dishes. At six years after vintage the 2010 is holding up well, but I’d probably look to drink it in the next few years rather than leave it for another six.
*This bottle has been tucked away in one of my wine fridges for a fair while – possibly several years – so the price is likely to have been before some of the disproportionate increases in taxes on wine in Ireland. I’d imagine €20 is a more realistic price now.
When DNS Wine Club recently met to taste a few different Rieslings, two significant conclusions presented themselves:
Although Riesling can be very pleasant in the €15 – €20 bracket (in Ireland), it’s at €25+ where the wines start to be special
Despite normally being a 100% varietal, Riesling can taste incredibly different depending on where and how it is made.
Here are the three which really stood out:
Pewsey Vale The Contours Eden Valley Riesling 2010 (12.5%, €24.95 at The Corkscrew)
While the cool Clare Valley is celebrated as the home of most of Australia’s best Riesling, the higher parts of the Eden Valley are also favourable for the variety. Pewsey Vale winery can claim a number of firsts:
It was the first winery founded in (what is now) the Eden Valley in 1847
It was the first winery to plant Riesling in Australia (also in 1847)
It became the first winery in Australia to use the Stelvin screw cap closure in 1977
The Contours is Pewsey’s flagship single vineyard bottling that they only release five years after vintage as a “Museum Release” – so it already shows significant development. And that development shows most on the nose, an amazingly intense cocktail of toast, brioche, lime, sage and petrol. The palate is just a little less intense, but still beautiful.
Sipp Mack Grand Cru Rosacker Riesling 2011 (14.0%, €30.00 at Mitchell & Son)
As the DNS Wine Club had already held an Alsace tasting earlier in the year, and given my predilection for the region’s wines, I had intended not to include any Alsace wines in the Riesling tasting. However, I failed! As the Sipp Mack Vieilles Vignes Gewurztraminer showed so well previously I was minded to show the equivalent Riesling, but as stocks of that had not quite arrived in the shops from the docks I was “forced” to step up to the Grand Cru!
Of all the Rieslings we tried this had the highest alcohol at 14.0% – the Grand Cru sites get lots of sun (so the grapes develop lots of sugar) and Sipp Mack’s house style is to ferment until totally dry, so all the sugar is turned into alcohol. This Rosacker is super smooth, with appleand tangylimefruit plus chalky minerality. A profound wine.
Weingut Max Ferd. Richter Wehlener Sonnenuhr Mosel Riesling Spätlese 2013 (8.0%, €29.95 at The Corkscrew)
The Mosel is considered by some to be the ultimate region for Riesling, with steep slate-laden vineyards running down to the river. Being relatively far north makes the ripening season longer and so flavours get even more chance to develop. While there is a modern trend toward dry Riesling, for me the beauty still lies in the traditional sweeter wines such as this Spätlese (literally “late harvest”.
Sonnenuhr literally means “sun-hour” or “sun-clock”, but is better translated as sundial! The significance seems to be that the prime south facing sites were the ones where a sundial would work so they made sure to advertise the fact.
Even before pouring it was obvious that this wine was different from the others with its golden hues. Residual sugar is not “volatile” meaning it can’t be detected by the human nose, but the aromas of honey, soft stone fruit and flowerswere phenomenal. I did see one taster look shocked on first sniffing this wine – it’s that good! Although quite sweet on the palate this Spätlese was perfectly balanced with zingy acidity.
All three of these wines were excellent, and well worth the price tags. I would be extremely happy drinking any of them and all were well received by the club, but by a narrow margin the Max Ferd. Richter was declared wine of the night!
And here’s the musical reference from the article title…
Did you know that Cono Sur is the largest single Pinot Noir producer in the world? I wasn’t aware either, until I attended a fantastic tasting of their top Ocio and 20 Barrels Pinots last year.
I also learned what Cono Sur itself means – Southern Cone. It shouldn’t have been a surprise – especially as it is hinted at graphically on some of their bottles – as it’s the nickname for the southern part of South America which is quite cone-shaped.
And finally, did you know that the Pinot family get its name because the grape bunches on the vine resemble pine cones? Thankfully they taste better than pine cones…
Pinot Noir is the perfect grape for autumn – it’s usually light and refreshing, easy to drink, but very much a food wine that can pair well with both lighter dishes and the heavier fare that we tuck into on colder days.
Here are a couple of Pinots that you should try this autumn
Disclosure: both bottles were provided as samples, but opinions remain totally mine
Louis Jadot Bourgogne “Couvent des Jacobins” 2012 (€17.99, Molloy’s Liquor Stores, O’Brien’s Wines, Redmond’s of Ranelagh and other good independents)
Maison Louis Jadot was formed in 1859 and is well regarded in France and further afield. The Négotiant has holdings of 210ha spread throughout Burgundy, and from the most basic AOC to the stratospheric Grands Crus, all feature the same distinctive yellow featuring the head of Bacchus.
This is a blend of different parcels from throughout Burgundy, from Irancy towards Chablis in the north to the Côte Chalonnaise in the south. The latter gives juicy fruity flavours and the more northerly plots give more acidity, tannin and structure; the blend is more than the sum of its parts (the whole point of blending!)
Light, fresh strawberry and raspberry, with the acidity to back up the fruit flavours. Surprisingly it has a reasonable amount of tannin on the finish, not in the realm of left bank Bordeaux or Madiran, but something with a savoury edge.
This is distinctively old world in sensibility – although it’s fruity it’s nothing like a fruit bomb. Very nice to drink by itself, I suspect this would come into its own with food.
Cono Sur Single Vineyard Block 21 “Viento Mar” Pinot Noir 2012 (€19.99 from O’Brien’s Wines, Mitchell & Sons, Dublin; Redmonds of Ranelagh, Sweeney’s of Glasnevin, Jus de Vine, Portmarnock, Bradley’s of Cork, O’Driscoll’s of Cork, and other independents)
Most people are familiar with Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir as it is widely distributed. It has a cheerful label and a handy screwtop, all of which make it very accessible. However, there are several layers in the Cono Sur quality pyramid (or should that be quality cone?) which also deserve attention.
Constantly striving for improvements in quality led them to create a separate premium Pinot from a selected batch of their best grapes, handled in the most gentle and fastidious manner. As the volume made was only 20 barrels, that’s the name they used, and even though production has increased considerably, the name stuck. Ocio is their flagship Pinot which they created in conjunction with esteemed Burgundy winemaker Martin Prieur.
Now here is a Single Vineyard expression, from the San Antonio Valley, with two Antipodean-style names: “Block 21” indicated the particular plot it comes from, and “Viente Mar” (meaning Ocean Wind) gives you a clue as to its situation – close enough to the coast to be strongly influenced by cool coastal breezes, perfect to prevent the grapes from becoming jammy.
According to Cono Sur this spent 11 months in 100% French oak barrels, and there is a lick of vanilla on the palate, but the oak is already well integrated. Although it has plenty of acidity to balance the concentrated fruit, this would never be mistaken for Burgundy – but that’s no bad thing in my view, it’s just so damn drinkable! There are dense red and black fruits in play – it’s like fruits of the forest battling it out on your tongue.
The big brother Ocio is even more complex and concentrated, but this is one of the best €20 and under red wines I have tried this year.
On we roll with a summer, of sorts, here in Ireland. Here’s an outstanding bottle of wine from Sweeney’s in Glasnevin, that I tried recently which calls, nay demands, a barbecue.
Château Michel Cazevieille Origine 1922 AC Saint Chinian 2012
As is the norm for the Languedoc this is a blend, but only has two components – Syrah and Grenache – which are both considered well suited to the area. (Carignan is also still grown in the area and can be very average if overcropped).
Michel Cazevieille created Origine 1922 as a homage to his grandfather Paul who set up in Cazedarnes at the beginning of the 20th century. Since then the family has gradually expanded their holdings so that today they have 22 hectares of vines across plateaus and clay / limestone hills.
Lots of deep black fruit framed with a touch of tannin and spice, and a smokey character that would pair so well with barbecue marinades. The alcohol is quite high at 14.5%, though not uncommon for such a southerly location, but it comes across as richness rather than heat. It’s a well balanced wine.
If you’re not familiar with Saint Chinian (there are so many Saint- wines in France that confusion sometimes reigns), it’s in the central part of the Languedoc, an arc stretching from just above the Spanish border on the eastern side of the Pyrenees, around the Mediterranean past Montpellier:
And the best bit about this wine? It’s only €12.99, what a bargain!
Dublin isn’t overwhelmed with BYO restaurants, particularly those that don’t charge corkage, but of those that do let you bring in your own wine, many are southern and/or eastern Mediterranean-themed. Of course this makes sense when those areas have high numbers of practising Muslims who don’t drink alcohol, and don’t want to profit from selling it, but are happy for you to drink with their food.
Among the best of those BYOs is Keshk Café Restaurant, just by the Canal on Dublin’s southside. So what better place for five like-minded wine bloggers to meet up for food, drinks and a natter!
The food was lovely and may have been inadvertently on the healthy side, with fresh salads and grilled meat. I will leave further description of the food to others, but below are the wines we tasted. As co-ordinator I suggested two criteria for each diner’s choice of wine:
1) A retail price of between €20 and €30 (after a few years of duty rises this is now the sweetspot for wine in Ireland)
2) The wine should be a favourite or something the person fancied trying (all grapes and all regions allowed!)
Codorniú Anna Blanc de Noirs NV (€10, Madrid Airport)
Along with Frexinet, Cordoniu is one of two big Cava houses who dominate sales volumes. Every year they pump out hectolitres of ordinary fizz, which is exactly the sort of thing that I avoid. You know the stuff I mean – and it’s undercut in the UK and Ireland by even less expensive supermarket own-label pap. This race to compete on cost and not quality has done significant damage to the Cava brand, so obtaining a fair price for a well-made one is difficult.
Thankfully a few well-made ones do find their way over here, even if it’s just a chance purchase at Madrid Airport. This is a 100% Blanc de Noirs made from Pinot Noir, one of the two main black grapes of Champagne. Of course being a DO Cava it is made in the traditional method, though the regulations for Cava are not as strict as those for the Champenois.
Given its constituent variety there was no surprise to find lovely red fruit, primarily strawberry and raspberry, but there was also stone fruit such as apricot, and even lees characters which confirm that this is a level above everyday Cava.
Anna is very well put together and something I will look out for in future.
The alcohol of 11.0% gives you a good clue as to the style of this Groovy – light quaffing material. The wino who brought this is a big fan of the variety, especially after attending a 100% varietal tasting last year (which I covered here). It’s not the type of wine to win lots of Parker Points or Wines Of The Year Awards but it’s just very pleasant to drink.
I have a feeling this will be seeing a lot more glasses in the summer months.
Jean Chartron AOP Rully “Montmorin” 2012 (€30 down to €20, The Corkscrew)
Well that’s one way of hitting both ends of the suggested price range! Rully is one of the better communes on the Côte Chalonnaise, the section of Burgundy in between The Côte d’Or and the Mâconnais. This was amazing complexity for such a young wine. To be honest if I’d tasted that blind I’d have guessed at something north of €40 from the Côte de Beaune.
The producer Jean Charton is based in Puligny-Montrachet but also produces whites in Chassagne-Montrachet, Saint-Aubin, Rully and the generic Burgundy appellation.
There was a definite vanilla and toast influence from oak, but not the full butterscotch sauce experience. I’m guessing that quite a bit of the creaminess came from lees stirring rather than extended ageing in barrel. Monsieur Colm from the Corkscrew says they have experienced a little more bottle variation than normal, but most of them ZING!
Meyer-Fonné AOP Alsace Gewurztraminer Réserve 2013 (€22.95, The Corkscrew)
This is one of my favourite Alsace producers with a fantastic range. My lubricated French came out with the term “correct” which is a handy shorthand for a wine that accurately reflects its ingredients and origins, and is well made, but is somewhat prosaic, nothing that makes you go “Wow”.
This Gewurz was off dry, with the variety’s typical lychees and flowers, plus some spicy ginger. It would probably have shone more with spicier food; given where we were eating there was a good chance of some heat, but I think we made conservative food choices when it actually came to ordering so we’d be able to give all the wines an even chance.
Château Musar Bekaa Valley 2003
In a Mediterranean restaurant, what would be more fitting than a true Mediterranean wine? From the some-time war zone of the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon comes a wine which is full of contradictions:
It’s an alcoholic product from a country with a good number of Muslims.
It’s made with Bordeaux’s flagship grape Cabernet Sauvignon and the southern Rhône’s Cinsault, Carignan, Mourvèdre and Grenache. The proportions change from vintage to vintage.
On the nose there’s a big whiff of nail polish remover, a sign of Volatile Acidity which is considered a major fault in wine.
After that there’s a fair dose of farmyard, to be polite, or horseshit, to be less polite. This is another fault caused by the pernicious strain of yeast Brettanomyces, called Brett for short.
Yet it works! And boy does it work!
This bottle had been double decanted which gave it a real chance to shine. At 12 years from vintage it’s still a callow youth, with plenty of years ahead of it.
Domaine Coursodon AOP Saint Joseph “L’Olivaie” 2012 (€40, Wine Workshop)
For this cuvée maturation is shared between demi-muids (20% new) and pièces (0% new). Although not specifically parcellaire, the components of this cuvée come mainly from St Jean de Muzols and the vines average over 60 years in age.
A lovely wine showing poise and potential but not yet unfurling its wings. Brooding dark black fruit and a twist of black pepper meet on the palate. Saint Joseph is rapidly becoming my go-to appellation in the northern Rhône
A couple of hours decanting would have shown it at its current best. I’d love to try this again with more sympathetic treatment (and earlier in the evening!)
Carlo Gentili Chianti DOCG Riserva 2010
Just a random Chianti which I had lying around at home. It was the seventh bottle of the evening. It had great aromas of Chianti which followed through to the palate – fantastic Chianti flavour. For further info have a look here.
This is as close as I’ve ever come to a live blog…
This is the second in a series of festivals run in Dublin this year by Great Irish Beverages, and of course the most relevant to me. After a fantastic launch party last week, this week has five (5) days of interesting and exciting wine-related treats in bars, restaurants, wine merchants and hotels across the city.
So what’s the story?
By purchasing a €5 wristband here, you will receive a 30% discount on at least two festival wines at 32 Dublin bars and restaurants. And to keep things interesting, each venue is offering a unique ‘Dublin Wine Experience’ for the week of the festival. These range from food pairings and post-work aperitivos to wine-based cocktails, flights of wine and self-guided tastings.
To my shame, I didn’t manage to get to any venues on Monday or Tuesday, but I did pop my head into Ely Wine Bar on my way home today as I heard they have Riesling!
Apologies for rubbish photos, my smartphone doesn’t do well with low light:
With a Dublin Wine Fest wristband, a modest sum entitles you to a decent taste of four fantastic Rieslings at Ely’s Georgian Wine Bar. Monday was a flight of sparkling wines which I was gutted to miss
Castell d’Encus DO Costers del Segre Ekam Riesling 2009
Cool climate Riesling from the far north east of Spain (yes, Spain!) into the Pyrenees, with a dash of Albariño. Around 30% of the grapes have noble rot, but everything is fermented to dryness, leaving racy acidity and lots of body without the easy trick of leaving residual sugar. Would be amazing with all sorts of seafood or as an aperitif.
Sipp Mack Alsace Grand Cru Rosacker Riesling 2009
From one of my favourite Alsace producers, this is something that I could sip in the sun all day. There may be a hint of sweetness here but it’s not a sweet wine – there are lemons and limes galore in there which keep everything fresh and zippy. Rosacker is one of the best of the best in Alsace, and this vineyard near Hunawihr is home to the wine regarded as the epitome of Alsace wine – Trimbach’s Clos Ste Hune – which would be in the region of €250 on a restaurant wine list.
Mount Horrocks Clare Valley Watervale Riesling 2012
Watervale is regarded as second in the Clare Valley subregions after Polish Hill, but for many people its wines are fruitier and more approachable. Amazingly for such a young wine, this had already started developing some diesel aromas, and was thoroughly delicious.
Weingut Max Fed. Richter Mosel Riesling Spätlese
The Mosel has a strong claim for the best Rieslings in the world. Vines on steep hillsides running down to the river have to be tended and harvested by hand, with several casualties every year. Being so far north means that, even if the grapes reach high enough sugar content, their acidity is on the high side. Traditional winemaking techniques advise leaving some sugar in the finished wine to offset the acidity, making for a refreshing but fruity wine.
My favourite? You’ve got to be kidding! They were all high quality, interesting wines. I’d love to try the same four again but with food…