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!
While we are still clinging to summer (here in Dublin at any rate) here are a couple of fresh whites that make for a perfect summer tipple:
Palais Des Anciens Gaillac Perlé 2013 (12.0%, €8.99 at Tesco)
This wine has a very interesting background, so please excuse me if I get a little wine geeky here.
- Gaillac is one of the oldest wine-producing areas of France: there are records showing wines being made there in the first century CE (only Côte Rôtie is thought to be older)
- Some rare varieties are grown here, including Mauzac and Len de l’El*
- This “Perlé” style white is bottled just before fermentation has ended, and thus the carbon dioxide produced is retained in the wine as a slight spritz!
I first tasted this wine nearly two years ago (see my friend Anne’s review) and I do remember it had a light spritz at the time, not unlike some Vinho Verde does. Now the fizz has faded, but the wine still tastes fresh. It has an almost saline quality to it with Mediterranean herbs. There’s far more character here than you might expect from a €9 wine!
*Len de l’El is the official name for this grape – based in the Occitan language – and is also known an Loin-de-l’Oeil (amongst other names) which is the French term for the same thing: “far from the eye”. This is because the stalks attaching the grape clusters to the vine are relatively far away from the bud, or “eye”
Tesco Finest Terre de Chieti Passerina 2015 (13.0%, €9.99 at Tesco)
Passerina is a grape that I first came across when discussing Pecorino wine with Fergus O’Halloran, General Manager & Sommelier of The Twelve Hotel in County Galway. The producer in the Marche that Fergus sources his Pecorino from – Il Crinale – also make a fresh, dry and aromatic wine from Passerina.
Now Tesco are in on the act! Just like Pecorino, Passerina is predominantly made in the Marche and Abruzzo regions (the latter of which is obviously more famous for its Montepulciano reds). Tesco’s “Finest” Passerina is made in Chieti in Abruzzo, a stone’s throw from the Adriatic.
As an Italian white, the obvious comparison is with the ubiquitous Pinot Grigio, and (thankfully) it has far more going on than the average PG plonk. It is dry with crisp acidity, but has an array of citrus and stone fruit on the nose and the palate. It’s a perfect patio wine!
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As I’ve hinted at many times, Gewurztraminer isn’t always a guaranteed winner with me – sometimes it’s glorious, but sometimes it doesn’t quite sit right – some of the elements out of kilter. When the DNS Wine Club met recently for an all-Alsace tasting, two Gewurz were the value-for-money and money-no-object winners of the night – much to everyone’s surprise!
Sipp Mack Gewurztraminer Vieilles Vignes 2012 (13.5%, €24.00 Mitchell & Son)
Sipp-Mack has been a favourite producer of mine for several years, and one I was able to visit when over in Hunawihr a few years ago. Their Rosacker Grand Cru Riesling is a regular tipple at Ely – the whole range has great depth of flavour. At the time this wine was made the winery was “in conversion” to organic practices, and are now certified.
The helpful label on the back describes the sweetness of this wine as “medium” – and at 51 g/L of residual sugar it would never be mistaken for dry. It’s one of the most remarkably balance Gewurz I’ve ever had – lots of lychee, floral and ginger flavours from the old vines but also acidity to balance that sweetness. This is as good as some of the Grand Cru Gewurz wines I’ve had from other producers – a veritable bargain.
Léon Beyer Gewurztraminer Vendanges Tardives 1998 (13.5%, €39.90 Léon Beyer)
I happened across the little shop front of Léon Beyer after buying several cases from Domaine Bruno Sorg in the same village of Eguisheim. Leaving my wife in a souvenir shop I dashed through the wines open for tasting. “The house style is dry” said the lady at the counter, “apart from the sweet wines”. Although this might sound like nonsense, of course she was referring to the Vendanges Tardives (late harvest) and Sélection de Grains Nobles (botrytised grapes) dessert wines. The dry wines were indeed dry, and lovely, but this late harvest wine really stood out.
Opening an 18 year old wine does leave you a bit on edge, but I needn’t have worried – it was magnificent. And so fresh! It didn’t taste in the slightest bit tired. 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. Some measure of the wine’s rarity can be garnered from the fact that only 4 more vintages have been produced since the 1998.
Although not cheap at around €40 (for 750ml) in France, this wine was jaw-droppingly good. If I’d had another bottle I might have been mugged for it by the rest of the wine club!