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Top 10 O’Briens Xmas Sale Wines

I’ve already given my recommendations on Christmas wines to buy from Aldi Ireland and SuperValu; now it’s the turn of O’Briens and my selection of five whites and five reds which are not just very good wines, but also on offer!

Guerrieri Rizzardi Lugana 2020

Guerrieri Rizzardi Lugana

Straight to the point: this an excellent example of Lugana, an excellent example of Italian white wine, come to that, so it’s definitely worth snapping up while on offer at around €15. For more details see my previous article on Summer Sippers, though to be honest I’d drink this whatever the season.

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RRP: €18.95 down to €14.95
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Astrolabe Awatere Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2021

Astrolabe Awatere Valley Sauvignon Blanc

Sometimes less is more. I’m a big fan of Astrolabe’s regular Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc which is a blend of fruit from across the region. Simon Waghorn’s Awatere Valley bottling is leaner, greeener and cooler in nature; it’s less exuberant, less obvious, less tropical, but damn tasty and a little more food friendly.

The nose is big on green pepper, fennel and mangetout, with hints of grapefruit. The palate is clean, mineral and racy; it is lightness personified, herbal and distinguished. While being more food friendly it doesn’t require food. Whether looking for a premium Marlborough Sauvignon or just a change of take on the region, this is well worth a try.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €22.45 down to €19.95
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Geal Rías Baixas Albariño 2020

Geal Rías Baixas Albariño

Some wines available at O’Briens are exclusive to them in Ireland, but even more exclusive are those made by O’Briens Director of Wine Lynne Coyle MW. One is a Navarra rosé (“Rós” which is Irish for “Rose”) made in partnership with Bodegas Tandem and the other is this Geal (the Irish for “White”) Albariño made with Sonia Costa Fontán of Bodega Lagar de Costa.

The 50 year old vines are from a single vineyard within spitting distance / sea spray of the Atlantic in Galicia’s Rías Baixas. The grapes are harvested by hand from pergola frames (to be honest it would be pretty difficult to get a tractor up there) which have traditionally been used to let breezes get to the clusters and allow other crops to be grown underneath. Fermentation is with indigenous yeast and the wine matures on fine lees in a concrete egg – a shape which encourages circulation of the lees – for eight months.

Although wild yeasts are used there is no funk to this wine which you might expect from other wines which explicitly use wild yeast such as Greywacke Wild Sauvignon and Gai’a Wild Ferment Assyrtiko – it’s clean as a whistle. What it is not, however, is boring – there’s  blend of saline notes and orchard fruits on the nose, especially pear. The palate is wonderfully creamy yet still precise, with apple and pear balanced by touches of citrus on one side and white peach on the other. The finish is mouth-wateringly fresh.

The distinct salinity to this wine makes it an obvious choice to partner seafood, but it would be a treat with other light dishes or on its own.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €24.95 down to €19.95
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Delheim Stellenbosch Chardonnay Sur Lie 2020

Delheim Stellenbosch Chardonnay Sur Lie

I will be publishing an article on Delheim next year so I will save the juicy bits for that, but this is a terrific wine that is a great ambassador for South African Chardonnay. Like its sibling Chenin Blanc this wine sees plenty of time ageing in oak barrels, but it draws just as much character from lees stirring as the actual oak – hence “Sur Lie”. This isn’t one for Chablis fans but if you like a drop of Meursault (see below) then this is well worth a try.

Chanson Meursault 2018

Chanson Meursault

Before I’d heard of Montrachet and Corton-Charlemagne there was one white Burgundy AOC which stood out: Meursault. It wasn’t cheap then, as now, but remains somewhat accessible – especially when on offer. Chanson’s history dates back to 1750 but gained significant investment and additional distribution after its acquisition by Bollinger in 1999. Since then Chanson have expanded their own holdings from 38 to 45 hectares, but also brought in tighter quality control at the growers they work with.

The grapes for this 2018 Meursault are bought from four local growers, selected for a combination of elegance and depth. As you’d expect maturation is in (French) oak barrels, though the proportion of new oak is modest. The influence of the oak is noticeable on the depth of colour – it’s a lovely light gold. The oak and lees also make themselves known on the nose, though not intrusively so. The palate is generous but mineral, nutty and creamy yet with gentle orchard fruits. Decant if you can.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €55.00 down to €46.00
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Porta 6 Lisboa Red 2019

Porta 6 Lisboa Red

This is the party wine you buy in bulk when guests are going to be supping away without paying too much attention to what they’re drinking, but you don’t want to be rude and drink something different yourself: i.e. a great value red that pleases the crowd. Check out my previous review of Porta 6 for the full story and get yourself a bottle, box or case.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €12.95 down to €10.00
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie (Magnums only online right now)

Emiliana Novas Syrah Mourvèdre 2017

Emiliana Novas Syrah Mourvèdre Gran Reserva

I will have more to report on the Emiliana Novas range in due course, but this organic red blend is a flagbearer for the label. In the glass it’s almost opaque, unless you’ve just got a tasting pour which reveals a deep ruby red. The nose is phenomenal with deep, sweet-scented black fruits – blackberry and blackcurrant – with smoke, vanilla and spice also present. The palate also has a big lick of black fruit, but not at all jammy or over-the-top sweet; the 15% Mourvèdre adds a tapenade and liquorice savoury edge. Drying yet fine-grained tannins and acidity keep the keel even.

This is a really well put together, balanced, interesting and delicious wine. At €16.95 it’s good value, but at €12.95 it’s a steal!

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €16.95 down to €12.95
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Eddystone Point Tasmania Pinot Noir 2018

Eddystone Point Tasmania Pinot Noir

Tasmania is known for its cooler climate wines, especially Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and traditional method sparkling based on that pair of grapes. Tasmanian wine aficionados might be familiar with the wines from Tolpuddle; they are excellent, though priced accordingly, and somewhat shy in their youth. Eddystone Point’s Pinot Noir does not suffer the same reticence – it has bright red fruits just bursting with flavour, tinged with exotic spice. There’s a real polish to this wine without any sense of confecture or manufacture; thrilling acidity keeps the fruit and the finish vitally fresh.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €24.95 down to €20.95
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz 2018

Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz

Penfolds has always been an iconic producer for me since I caught the wine bug in the 1990s. Bin 28 was actually the first ever “Bin” wine given a commercial release by Penfolds, back in 1959. At that time it was based solely on fruit from the Kalimna vineyard in the Barossa Valley; now it is a blend from several vineyards across South Australia, though the Barossa core remains. Whereas Bin 389 Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz is sometimes known as “Baby Grange” or “Poor Man’s Grange” because some barrels which don’t quite make the cut for Grange can be included in that wine, similarly any Shiraz barrels which don’t make it into the Bin 389 can also be included in the Bin 28 as they are all matured in American oak, and so remain on style.

And what style! There’s no mistaking the origin of this wine when assessing its aromas: blackberry, plum, violet, vanilla and spice co-mingle delightfully. Black fruits are joined with fresh raspberries, thyme and rosemary plus dark chocolate on the palate, with lightly drying tannins and good acidity providing a backbone. This is lovely to drink now, but would benefit from decanting or storing for a few more years.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €37.95 down to €29.95
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores

Gérard Bertrand Maury Tuilé 2010

Gérard Bertrand Maury Tuilé

Maury is one of the trio of Vin Doux Naturel appellations in the Roussillon region (French Catalonia), the others being Rivesaltes and Banyuls. They are fortified before fermentation has finished to leave some residual sugar – hence the term which means “Naturally Sweet Wine” – somewhat similar to Port. Unlike, say, a Vintage Port which is foot trodden, fermented and bottled quickly, the grapes for this Maury spend a month in vat before being gently pressed. While Port uses its champion indigenous varieties this is made with 100% Grenache Noir, a gentler, lighter and less tannic grape. After pressing the wine spends a year ageing in barrel then a further year ageing in bottle before release.

Although it hasn’t spent a decade in barrel, this Maury is closest to a Tawny Port in style. It’s a dark amber in the glass and has wonderful aromas of spice and dried fruits. To taste, it’s almost Christmas in a glass: quite sweet, raisins, plums, nuts and mixed peel, a good shake of cinnamon. The French would drink this as an aperitif, but it makes much more sense to go with seasonal desserts or even a box of chocolates – I can confirm it was magnificent with salted caramel truffles!

  • ABV: 16.0%
  • RRP: €22.95 down to €19.95
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores (larger stores only at present)
Make Mine A Double

Wine Review: Aldi Specially Selected Limoux Chardonnay and Bekaa Valley Red

I might well be late to this party, but if there are either of these wines still available from Aldi’s Specially Selected range then you should definitely pop them in your trolley.

Aldi Specially Selected Limoux Chardonnay 2020

Specially Selected Limoux Chardonnay

Limoux is in the Languedoc and is most widely known for its sparkling wine production: Blanquette de Limoux, Blanquette méthode ancestrale and Crémant de Limoux. Blanquette is the local name for the Mauzac grape which stars in the first two sparklers and can feature in the Crémant. It also plays a part in the still white wine known simply as Limoux, though Chardonnay and / or Chenin Blanc are also used.

This wine is 100% Chardonnay and is made by Jean-Claude Mas. It pours as a light gold which hints at the taste profile to come. The nose is a combination of bright pineapple and cream. The palate is intensely creamy with succulent yet restrained tropical (pineapple, mango) and stone fruit (peach, apricot). This is an enticing but not overly indulgent wine with a crisp, very long finish.

I loved this wine and it shows how good French Chardonnay can be outside Burgundy.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €9.99
  • Source: sample*
  • Stockists: Aldi stores and aldi.ie

Aldi Specially Selected Bekaa Valley Lebanese Red 2019

Specially Selected Bekaa Valley Lebanese Red

This bottle stood out to me as being very unusual for a discount supermarket as it’s from Lebanon. Yes, Lebanon has a long and noble history of winemaking, but it rarely impinges on the consciousness of the supermarket shopper. Wine connoisseurs know of the great Chateau** Musar and perhaps a few others like Château Ksara and Château Kefraya, but even for them that’s about as far as it goes. So, how is this inexpensive Lebanese red?

In the glass it pours a medium to dark red, not quite opaque. The nose shows ripe brambles and cocoa powder, very appealing at this time of year. The palate is initially somewhat earthy, with a slab of dark chocolate thrown in for good measure. Then red and black fruit follow through: cherries, plums and blackberries in particular. It also has a real garrigue aspect to it with rosemary and thyme notes. The finish is dry with fine, dusty tannins. With a little time in the glass the earthy notes die down a little and the fruit shines even more.

With rich fruit and herbs this Bekaa Valley red cries out for food – I’m thinking roast lamb, or lamb chops,, or lamb stew….you get the idea.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €10.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: Aldi stores and aldi.ie

* I liked this wine enough to buy the remaining stock at my local Aldi.

** Yes I’m really particular about spelling French Châteaux names properly, but if a producer from another country wants to drop the circumflex then I’m going with their spelling.


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Wine Review: Henri Bourgeois Sancerre Rosé and Cabernet Franc

Esteemed Loire producer Domaine Henri Bourgeois is most famous for its white and red Sancerres, but it also has some other interesting wines in its portfolio. I recently reviewed Clos Henri Petit Clos Sauvignon Blanc from its Marlborough outpost, and now it’s time to look at a young vine rosé and a Cabernet Franc.

Henri Bourgeois “Les Jeunes Vignes” Sancerre Pinot Noir Rosé 2020

Henri Bourgeois Sancerre Les Jeunes Vignes Rosé

Although I’m not a vocal exponent of rosé, if I had to choose a single variety as my favourite for rosé it would be Pinot Noir. Why? Easy, really: Pinot Noir tends to be on the lighter side as black grapes go, with soft tannins and good acidity, all of which make it the perfect candidate for rosé.

It’s more common to see a mention of Vieilles Vignes (VV) on a label rather than Jeunes Vignes as we have here. VV indicates that the vines are of a significant age (often 30+ years) so yields have started to fall but concentration in the finished wines increases. Jeunes Vignes tend to make simpler wines, and in some wine regions (e.g. Alsace or Bordeaux) the grapes from young vines tend to be declassified even if from a prestigious vineyard.

However, for areas which have a strong rosé game, why not use the grapes from young vines for rosé. Domaine Henri Bourgeois take this approach, as do the notable rosé producer Domaine Tempier of Bandol.

Although Pinot Noir is a lighter grape, this rosé has more colour than the fashionable paler-than-pale Provence style which is so fashionable at the moment. For me this is a GOOD THING as it signals that there has been more flavour as well as colour extracted from those precious Pinot Noir grapes. The nose showcases an array of red fruits – strawberry, raspberry, cherry and redcurrant. These red fruits are also the key notes on the palate, which has a dry and fresh but far from austere finish.

This is a lovely, balanced rosé that would be nice to sip in the sun or with a range of lighter dishes.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP:  €24.95
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Henri Bourgeois Petit Bourgeois Cabernet Franc 2019

Henri Bourgeois Petit Bourgeois Cabernet FrancClimate change has had very mixed effects on viticulture in France. In some regions harvests are moving earlier and earlier over the years as grapes ripen earlier than before. Some regions face a future where new varieties will have to be employed as existing ones will struggle to make quality wine in a warmer climate.

There are others where global warming has helped to some extent; viz, the change in Alsace Pinot Noir from barely more than a rosé to a serious expression of the grape. Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley has been another beneficiary. No longer does it make dilute, green-pepper dominated reds in (frequent) colder years, and chapitalisation is now seldom required.

The Petit Bourgeois range is – as you might understand from the name – a junior range designed for easy drinking. Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir are the other wines in the range. In the glass this Cab Franc is mid ruby, only medium intensity. The nose is fruity yet with some character. On the palate there is juicy fruit yet a savoury aspect at the same time. Alpine strawberries, cranberries, raspberries, redcurrants, and cherries are all in the mix. There’s a nice texture to this wine, with light, crunchy tannins and good acidity. Although varietally typical and nice to drink on its own, this wine really cries out for food…a plate of charcuterie would be perfect!

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP:  €16.95
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

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Make Mine A Double

Wine Review: Blume Rueda Verdejo and Château Jourdan Bordeaux Blanc from Lidl Ireland

September 2021 sees the introduction of a new batch of wines to Lidl Ireland shelves. Some have been there before but not on a permanent basis; the idea is that a special batch of wines are released into stores and once they are gone, they are gone. Some eventually become regular listed wines and are available all year round.

Here are two whites that I tried recently and enjoyed:

Blume Rueda Verdejo 2020

Blume Rueda Verdejo 2020

Rueda is a region in central / NW Spain that is best known for white wines made from the Verdejo grape. However, there are almost a dozen permitted varieties:

  • Traditional white varieties: Verdejo, Viura, Sauvignon blanc, Palomino Fino
  • Newly approved white varieties: Chardonnay, Viognier
  • Authorised black varieties: Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Garnacha.

It’s not for no reason that Rueda is the most reliable white wine on the market (© Kevin Summons-Walsh). Even when made with 100% Verdejo as this wine is, Rueda tends to be fresh without being austere and not too dissimilar to Sauvignon Blanc in style.

The cheapest Ruedas can be a little too simple, but this example is simply delicious – full of citrus and ripe stone fruits, all coalescing into a lip-smackingly tasty wine that will be finished quickly. This is probably the best Rueda I’ve tried under €13 in Ireland.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €8.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland stores

Château Jourdan Bordeaux Blanc 2019

Château Jourdan Bordeaux Blanc 2019

White Bordeaux is an under-rated wine category in my opinion, all the way from AOC Bordeaux like this one, Entre-Deux-Mers, Graves and the top wines of Pessac-Léognan which can rival the Grand Crus of Burgundy for complexity and excellence. There are actually a good number of permitted varieties in white Bordeaux:

  • Common traditional grapes: Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadelle
  • Rarer traditional grapes: Sauvignon gris, Ugni blanc, Colombard, Merlot blanc, Ondenc, Mauzac
  • New introductions: Alvarinho, Petit Manseng, Liliorila

Although Semillon is still the most widely planted white grape, Sauvignon Blanc is catching up fast, especially for unoaked dry whites where freshness is a key virtue.

The assemblage of this wine isn’t given but I’d hazard a guess at 80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Semillon.  It’s highly aromatic with grapefruit, gooseberry and grass on the nose (the 3 Gs of SB) along with some quince and stone fruit. The palate is fresh with tangy, succulent citrus fruit.

This is a well-made, inexpensive, everyday drinking wine. It’s the sort of wine that would be perfect with a salad at luncheon (especially with its modest 11.5% ABV), as an aperitif with nibbles or as an accompaniment to seafood.

  • ABV: 11.5%
  • RRP: €9.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland stores

Conclusion

I was very taken with the Château Jourdan and it offers great value at a tenner, but the Bloom Rueda was even tastier in my opinion – and at a Euro less it should be snapped up.


Other wines included in the Lidl Ireland September Wine Cellar

Whites:

  • Les Caves Gilles Gobin Touraine Sauvignon 2019 (€9.99)
  • Nivei Rioja Blanco 2018 (€11.99)
  • Salneval Rías Baixas Albariño (€14.99)

Reds:

  • La Roche d’Argent Saint-Emilion (€11.99)
  • Dame de Clochevigne Vacqueyras 2019 (€12.99)
  • Rioja Reserva (€9.99)
  • Cepa Lebrel Rioja Gran Reserva 2011 (€12.99)
  • Entre Quintas Douro (€11.99)
  • Torre de Ferro Dão Reserva 2018 (€12.99)

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Wine Review: Mazzei Codice V Vermentino and Gérard Bertrand Orange Gold

Whether you call them “orange wines”, “amber wines” or “skin-contact white wines”, these postmodern wines are here to stay. However, are they going to remain a niche curiosity drunk only by the adventurous or will they break out from the independent wine specialist sector into multiples and even supermarkets? Here are two skin-contact whites which are leading the way.

Mazzei Tenuta Belguardo Codice V Maremma Vermentino 2019

Mazzei Belguardo Codice V Vermentino

I previously reviewed the “regular” Mazzei Belguardo Vermentino and found it excellent, so I was keen to taste this pull-out-all-the-stops flagship version. To make the best Vermentino they could, Mazzei started with clones from Corsica, the spiritual home and likely origin of the Vermentino grape. Of course they were planted in Maremma on the Tyrrhenian coast as the cooling effect of sea breezes is important for retaining freshness. The vineyard site is 30 to 50 metres above sea level and is orientated south / south-west on predominantly sandy soils.

Harvesting is all by hand but it’s vinification where things start to get really interesting:

  • 20% is fermented and aged on the skins in amphorae for nine months
  • 30% is fermented and aged on the skins in stainless steel tanks for nine months
  • 50% is fermented and aged on fine lees in stainless steel tanks (I presume for nine months)

The construction material and any lining of the amphorae is not specified.  After blending back together the wine is bottled and stored for a further six months before release.

If someone had already tasted the regular Vermentino then the Codice V would be quite familiar, though they might feel they had been missing half of the story. The nose shows complex aromas of citrus and stone fruit, with hints of smoke. These elements continue onto the palate where they intertwine with mellow savoury notes and layers of mixed peel and ginger. The finish is fresh and mouth-watering.

  • ABV: 13.0%*
  • RRP: €33
  • Source: Sample
  • Stockists: SC Grocer; Martins Off-licence; Clontarf Wines; Sweeneys D3; The Corkscrew; Blackrock Cellar

Gérard Bertrand Orange Gold 2020

gérard bertrand orange gold

I have reviewed Gérard Bertrand‘s wines widely over the years; his impressive range includes whites, rosés and reds from the Languedoc at several different price points, many of which are organic and / or biodynamic.  To those colours he has added an orange wine, a homage to Georgian wines of 4,500 years ago. It is a real blend, being made with seven different varieties: Chardonnay, Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Marsanne, Mauzac, Muscat and Clairette.

When perfectly ripe, the grapes are hand-picked in whole bunches and transferred to vat without any destemming or crushing, as with many red wines. The grapes then ferment, partially in the normal way and partially carbonicly (where the weight of the grapes causes some to ferment within their skins. After 10 to 15 days the grapes are separated and pressed to extract colour and tannin; this press wine is then added to the existing must in stainless steel tanks to finish fermenting. Finally, the wine is put into used barrels to mature.

In the glass (and in the bottle) this is a vibrant gold colour, and could be easily mistaken for a Sauternes or Tokaji. The nose is complex, with apple blossom, marmalade, apricot jam and pear drops – very enticing.  The palate is dry but with fruit sweetness on the mid palate. There’s a real savoury complexity to this wine, and a light saline tang with some tannins on the finish. From one point of view it could be said that the nose and the palate offer entirely different aspects, but that is a truism for orange wines in general. Once expectations are reasonably set I think this is a tasty wine that many would enjoy.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €21.95
  • Source: Sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Conclusion

These wines are quite different, taking different approaches to producing a balanced wine, and a single varietal compared to a blend. Although the number of orange wines available in Ireland is fairly low at the moment it doesn’t mean that any particular wine can represent a whole colour. What they do have in common is that they are both delicious and approachable, while maintaining a savoury character that expands their interest and versatility.

For me the Codice V is the better wine, but of course has a higher price. Due to its fairly widespread availability and lower price I think the Orange Gold is more likely to tempt more casual wine drinkers into trying an orange wine for the first time – but hopefully not the last time!


*Any wine geeks among you may have noticed that the alcohol for this wine is a little higher than the regular Vermentino I reviewed a year ago (13.39% v 12.5% on the respective tech sheets). This is due to vintage variation (2019 v 2018) rather than differences in winemaking; the 2018 vintage of the Codice V also had 12.5% alcohol.


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Make Mine A Double

Wine Review: Guerrieri Rizzardi Lugana and Château Albajan Picpoul de Pinet

An interesting pair of whites that are perfect for summer sipping

Although the summer of ’21 has been punctuated with thunderstorms (and disastrously so in some countries) there are still some sunny evenings to be had.  Here are a couple of new listings at O’Briens which are worth seeking out.

Guerrieri Rizzardi Lugana 2020

Guerrieri Rizzardi Lugana 2020

Rizzardi are well known for their Veneto wines, from humble Pinot Grigio and Prosecco up to their flagship Calcarole Amarone.  The winery arose from the joining together of two prominent wine making families and can trace their roots back to the 1600s.

This Lugana is new to Ireland and, of course, is made from the Turbiana grape on the shores of Lake Garda.  Also known as Trebbiano di Lugana, Turbiana has very little recognition among most wine drinkers, but much more character than the Veneto interpretation of Pinot Grigio.  The vines are around 25 years old and are planted on clay-rich soils, giving extra power.  Ageing on fine lees gives additional creaminess and texture.  The nose has intense floral, citrus and pear notes which continue through to the palate.  The texture is wonderful, pithy and sappy, yet with a mouth-wateringly fresh finish.  This is a really good effort!

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RRP: €18.95 or €14.95 when on offer
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Château Albajan Picpoul de Pinet 2020

Château Albajan Picpoul de Pinet 2020

Picpoul de Pinet has become a staple of the wine scene in the last decade or so, taking on the mantle of Muscadet for a clean and fresh white that’s great with seafood and doesn’t break the bank.  The downside to Picpoul is that – like many other popular wines – it has become a commodity; one producer is not differentiated from another so people just buy the cheapest one they see.

There are a few fighting against this commoditisation, however; Villa Des Crois is one and now this new offering from O’Briens is another.  It has the classic saline tang of Piquepoul* but also some fleshy, juicy citrus in between – a combination of lemon, lime, orange and grapefruit.  There are also herbs as well; in fact this is a more interesting wine than Picpoul de Pinet usually is…and it pairs amazingly well with lemon and herb olives!

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €16.95 or €12.95 when on offer
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Conclusion

I would happily buy both wines at full price, though they are somewhat different in character; the saline sharpness and citrus of the Picpoul versus the broader palate of the Lugana.  If I had to choose between the two (I know, why not both?) then the key tell is that I went back to buy another bottle of the Picpoul out of my own pocket money.

* For some reason the wine is spelt Picpoul de Pinet but the grape is Piquepoul


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Opinion

Super Value Xmas Wines 2020 part 2

Here are four more of the wines that Kevin O’Callaghan has selected for the SuperValu Classic Christmas promotion.  If you missed Part 1 you can find it here.

Barão de Vilar Douro Tinto Reserva 2018

There’s the well worn saying that “if something seems too good to be true, it probably is”, so it was with not inconsiderable wariness that I approached this wine as it is on offer at almost half price.  There are some labels which are so regularly on promotion in supermarkets that the “real” price – if there is such a thing – is far from clear.

Some brands are even created with the specific purpose of being listed at a high price then discounted by 50% on a regular basis.  For me this is a cynical and misleading practice.  Happily, the wine reviewed below is emphatically not one of those wines, and it’s even listed with a well established Dublin wine merchant for €19.95!

Anyway, back to the wine itself.  The key grapes are Douro stalwarts Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca and Tinto Cão.  After alcoholic and malolactic fermentation the wine spends 14 months in French oak.  This is a dark and concentrated wine with bold black fruits, decent acidity and grainy tannins, but compared to some Douro wines I’ve tried it pulls everything together really well; all the components work together as part of an integrated whole, making for an elegant wine.  Yes, it’s still very young so could happily lay down for a year or ten, but it’s tasty enough that you might not be able to wait.  If you can’t wait, decant if possible and serve with red meat or other rich dishes.

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €14.83 or case deal of 6 for €50.00 from 5th Nov to 30th Dec while stocks last
  • Stockists: SuperValu Ireland stores

Pagos de Labarca AEX Rioja 2016

Pagos de Labarca is one of the labels of Bodegas Covila, a well-regarded Rioja co-operative.  The AEX is one of Covila’s signature wines, made in small quantities from old (35 years+) bush vine Tempranillo.   Alcoholic fermentation is carried out in stainless steel tanks, after which the wine is transferred into new American and French oak barrels with varying levels of toast.  There, the wine goes through malolactic fermentation and matures for a total of 17 months before being blended back together and bottled.

The nose is very expressive; rich red berries (from the Tempranillo) and vanilla (from the American oak) combine with fine herbs and hints of chocolate and coffee.  Succulent, rich red fruits abound on the palate – red cherry, strawberry and raspberry – overlaid with vanilla bean custard.  Darker fruits then emerge, still fighting for your attention with the vanilla.

This is not a Rioja which could be mistaken for a Ribero del Duero or Toro – it’s too refined and bright.  Although it’s not too tight and dense, it would definitely benefit from decanting or a large glass to allow its complex aromas to fully develop.  A real treat of a wine!

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €22.62 down to €20.00 from 26th Nov to 30th Dec while stocks last
  • Stockists: SuperValu Ireland stores and supervalu.ie

Château Lacombe-Cadiot Bordeaux Supérieur 2018

The De Mour group is a Bordeaux-based wine company with five Châteaux and a negociant line where grapes and / or wines are bought in from other producers.  One of their properties whose wines I have tried and enjoyed several times is Château Tayet, located in Macau just south of Margaux.  Château Lacombe-Cadiot is situated in the Ludon, the next commune south of Macau and close to the Garonne.

Although we’re in the Médoc, Merlot is still the most important grape (sorry Jim!) in this Bordeaux Supérieur with 80% of the blend and Cabernet Sauvignon the balance.  In the glass the wine has a deep core with the rim turning from purple to ruby.  Initially the nose gives a huge hit of exotic spice then black fruit and a hint of vanilla.  On the palate plums abound, both red and purple, along with brambles and the vanilla again.

The technical sheet for this wine states that fermentation and maturation are in stain less steel tanks, but I could swear that some portion of it has spent time in oak.  It has great concentration and a dusting of light tannins on the finish.  This is a smooth and rewarding wine that is well worth its normal price tag, but represents excellent value on offer.

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €15.73 down to €13.00 from 26th Nov to 30th Dec while stocks last
  • Stockists: SuperValu Ireland stores and supervalu.ie

Lady de Mour Margaux 2018

Hopping back up two communes from the Lacombe-Cadiot gets us to Margaux itself, one of the top four appellations of the Médoc.  Margaux wines are nearly always majority Cabernet Sauvignon though a lower proportion than the other three appellations.  I don’t have the precise blend of Lady de Mour but I would guess something like 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc.  It is lighter in both style and alcohol compared to the Lacombe-Cadiot, mainly due to the difference in blend.

The Lady has a mid to dark core in the glass but a very purple rim, indicating relative youth.  It’s quite muted on the nose – you have to search for the dark fruit aromas rather than them leaping out of the glass.  Black fruits delight on the attack, but are then overtaken by graphite, violets and a touch of green bell pepper.  This is a really elegant Margaux, not as juicy as the little brother but a great introduction to proper left bank Claret.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €34.42 down to €25.00 from 26th Nov to 30th Dec while stocks last
  • Stockists: SuperValu Ireland stores

 

 

Make Mine A Double

Big and Bold from Boutique [Make Mine a Double #69]

On this 69th installment of Make Mine a Double (the favourite installment of Bill S. Preston Esq. and Ted “Theodore” Logan of course1) we look at two big and bold reds from Boutique Wines, a small wine importer based in Dublin.  One is from South West France made (primarily) with a grape that has found fame in Argentina: Malbec.  Outside of south western France, Malbec is used in the Loire and as a minor blending grape in Bordeaux (though its ability to thrive in warmer weather is likely to see its importance there rise again.)

Another Bordeaux blending grape that has found success in Argentina, though on a much smaller scale, is Petit Verdot.  The Bordelais use it as a seasoning grape, adding a dash of colour and tannin when 5% or so is added into a blend.  The second wine below is 100% Petit Verdot but from a different warm, Spanish speaking country – Spain itself!

Disclosure: the Cahors was a sample but opinions remain my own (the Petit Verdot was an unrelated gift2)

Château Nozières Ambroise de l’Her Cahors Malbec 2016

Château Nozières owns 55 hectares in total spread close to its home in Vire-sur-Lot.  They are on a continuous journey to understand the nuances of each site.  For this “Ambroise de l’Her” the fruit is selected from older parcels of Malbec (90%) and Merlot (10%) grown on clay / limestone terraces of the Lot River.  Yields are kept at 40 hl/ha and canopy management is by hand.  Harvesting is by a combination of machine and hand followed by fermentation in temperature controlled vats over three weeks.  MLF takes place in the same vats followed by maturation in used (between one and five years) oak barrels for 12 to 14 months.

Whether it’s climate change or the rise of Argentine Malbec that has a bigger influence on Cahors is unclear, but their effects are reflected in this ripe, fruit driven bottle from Château Nozières.  Although ripe and full-bodied, it’s not at all jammy as tannins keep exuberance in check.  The balance is enough for it to be quaffed on its own, enjoying the sweet black fruits, but it also works superbly with hearty winter food.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €16.95 (down from €21.00)
  • Stockists: Boutique Wines, Barnhill stores Killaney/Dalkey; Mortons, Ranalagh; Listons, Camden street; The Wine House Trim; Emilie’s, Glenbeigh Co. Kerry; Pat Fitzgerald’s (Centra), Dingle Co. Kerry; Grape and Bean, Portlaois; The Wine Pair, Clanbrassil Street; Blackrock Cellars; Gleeson’s, Booterstown Ave

Bodegas Señorio de Iniesta “Colección 34”  La Tierra de Castilla Petit Verdot 2018

Bodega Iniesta is a relatively new venture – very new in Spanish terms! – as the winery was only built in 2010.  Located an hour an a half’s drive west of Valencia, the Bodega has in excess of 300 hectares of vines, including both Spanish and international varieties.  They make a wide range of styles and quality levels – and even offer olive oil.  Petit Verdot is an unusual variety to plant, but I’m glad they did because it really works!

In the glass it pours a dark red with a purple rim.  On the nose it shows an array of ripe black fruit: blackberries, blueberries and blackcurrant, but with delightful violet aromas floating over the top.  These notes all continue onto the velvety palate with vanilla also appearing.  Pleasant, slightly drying tannins integrate well into the long finish.  Although it’s not sweet like a dessert, for me this wine evokes blackberry crumble with vanilla custard – just delicious!

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €14.95
  • Stockists: Boutique Wines, Barnhill stores Killaney/Dalkey; Mortons, Ranalagh; Listons, Camden street; The Wine House Trim; Emilie’s, Glenbeigh Co. Kerry; Pat Fitzgerald’s (Centra), Dingle Co. Kerry; Grape and Bean, Portlaois; The Wine Pair, Clanbrassil Street; Blackrock Cellars; Gleeson’s, Booterstown Ave

Conclusion

These are both well-made wines – at any price point.  When the prices are taken into account then they offer remarkable value for money.  I’d be very happy with either wine but the Petit Verdot is outrageously good for €15 in Ireland, so that would be my pick of the two.

 

1 Bill S. Preston Esq. and Ted “Theodore” Logan are – of course – known better as just Bill and Ted

2 Thanks Sinéad!


 

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Opinion

Five Festive Flagons

As we roll on towards the festive season, despite the pandemic. many of us are starting to plan which wines we want to have in stock for drinking over the Christmas period (Christmas don’t care ’bout Covid!)  Here are five wines that you should consider this Yule:

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

Perelada Cava Reserva Brut

I reviewed this wine just over three years ago and the salient points of that article remain valid:

  • There’s a lot of very ordinary Cava out there, at very low prices (often €12 or less)
  • Small-scale, renowned producers such as Llopart and Raventos i Blanc are available from around €30 upwards in Ireland (and are usually better than any Champagnes down at that price)
  • That leaves a big gap in the market between the two price points which is neatly filled by Perelada

This Reserva Brut bottling is made from the traditional three Cava grapes: Macabeo (30%), Xarel·lo (45%) and Parellada (25%) with 15 months maturation on the lees – significantly more than the nine months minimum for Cava.  It’s highly aromatic, just a delight to sniff, but very attractive on the palate with apple, pear and citrus notes.  The finish is crisp, perhaps a little dry for some tastes (though not mine).

When to drink: This would be a great start to Xmas morning, good enough to sip on its own, with nibbles or even a smoked salmon starter.

  • ABV: 11.5%
  • RRP: €20
  • Stockists: The Drink Store, Stoneybatter D7 / Higgins Off Licence, Clonskeagh / Jus de Vine, Portmarnock, Fine Wines O/L Group.

Fontanafredda Gavi di Gavi 2019

Amongst a group of my friends we have a running joke that one (Gosia) would often select Gavi di Gavi from a wine list when there were other, more interesting, options available.  This wine shows that joke to be hollow as it’s a cracking wine, full of flowers and spicy pear on the nose, sensual texture on the palate and soft stone fruit flavours.  There’s a racy acidity to the wine but it isn’t lean, just refreshing.

When to drink: With shellfish, white fish or even lighter poultry.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €20 – €21
  • Stockists: Redmonds of Ranelagh; Martins Off Licence, Fairview; D-SIX Wines, Harolds Cross

Trapiche Malbec Reserva Malbec 2019

Trapiche have several different quality levels within their line-up, including the excellent Terroir Series Ambrosia Single Vineyard Malbec which I reviewed here.  This Reserva is a more of an everyday wine, but is true to its variety with bold plum and blackberry fruits and a touch of vanilla.  It’s an easy-going red that doesn’t hit the heights but hits the spot with a steak.

When to drink: With red meat or just with your feet up in front of the TV

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €13 – €15
  • Stockists: Dunnes Stores; Nolans Supermarket, Clontarf

Mommessin Domaine de la Presle Fleurie 2018

Fleurie is Ireland’s favourite Beaujolais Cru by some distance, perhaps helped by the easily pronounceable name.  It’s a relatively light Cru so sits as a happy medium in depth of colour.  The nose shows a variety of cherries, blueberries and red table grape skins.  On the palate we find freshly-made home-made jam from a variety of red and black fruits, a little garden thyme and pencil shavings.  On it’s own I thought it a good but not great wine, but when my wife tried it with extra mature cheddar she though it magnificent – the fruit of the wine counters the saltiness of the cheese and the cheese softens the acidity of the wine.  As a non-cheese eater I will take her word for it!

When to drink: With hard cheese, charcuterie, wild boar sausages, venison, duck, or nut roast

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €18 – €20
  • Stockists: Fine Wines Off Licence; The Drink Store, Stoneybatter; Nolans Supermarket, Clontarf; Kellers Carry Out, Nenagh.

Boutinot La Côte Sauvage Cairanne 2017

Cairanne only became a named village or Cru in its own right a few years ago, though 20% of the land was effectively demoted at the same time (1,088 hectares of the original 1,350 survived the increased standards).  Being in the Southern Rhône this is a GSM blend, consisting of Grenache Noir (60%), Syrah (20%), Mourvèdre (10%) and Carignan (10%).  The minor grapes add considerable colour as the wine is darker than many Grenache based wines.  Their influence is felt on the nose, too, which has rich black fruit and spice, something like blackberry crumble in a glass.  These notes continue through to the palate which is velvety and powerful.  This is heady stuff, perfect for Xmas or winter celebrations.

When to drink: With friends, family, or on your own.  Treat yourself!

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €23
  • Stockists: Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; La Touche Wines, Greystones; Martins, Fairview; The Drink Store, Stoneybatter; Fine Wines O/L Group

 

Make Mine A Double

Shining Lights [Make Mine a Double #66]

I’m in the very lucky position where I get to try lots of good and great wines on a regular basis, many of them sent as samples (especially in 2020!)  Sometimes, even among these wines, a few shine even brighter than the rest.  It’s often hard to put into words what makes them so special, though I do try.  Here are a couple of (unrelated) wines which stood out even in good company:

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

Elgin Ridge 282 Elgin Chardonnay 2018

Elgin is South Africa’s coolest climate wine region, located about an hour’s drive south east of Cape Town.  Although now an exciting area for grapes, for many years it was known almost exclusively for its orchards, particularly apples and pears1; as a rule of thumb, agricultural land which is suitable for orchards is generally suitable for grapes.  Elgin is even cool enough for Riesling, with Paul Cluver’s wines leading the charge.

Elgin Ridge is the only winery in Elgin to be both certified organic and certified biodynamic (there is one other which is solely biodynamic).  It was founded by Brian and Marion Smith on the site of a former small (ten hectare) apple farm in 2007 and has remained in family hands since.  Their aim is to be self sufficient in terms of inputs (biodynamic preparations and cow manure) using sheep to control weeds and ducks to control insects and snails.

The figure 282 in the name of this wine, their flagship Chardonnay, refers to the vineyard’s altitude of 282 metres above sea level.  It pours lemon in the glass and initial aromas are predominantly of toasted coconut, indicating a fair bit of oak ageing.  Absolutely heavenly, if you like that sort of thing – which I do!  The coconut gives way to fabulous orchard fruits(!), smoke and spices.  On the palate this is a rich wine, with integrated oak and stone fruits and a touch of butterscotch.  There’s plenty of body and flavour, but this is no big butter bomb as there is a certain elegance and lightness to the finish.  In terms of style this brought to mind excellent southern hemisphere Chardonnays such as Smith + Shaw’s Adelaide Hills M3 and Man O’War’s Waiheke Island Valhalla.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €25.53
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswines.ie

Domaine Fournier Sancerre Les Belles Vignes 2019

For some reason 2020 has been the year of Sancerre for me, with lots of very enjoyable bottles showing that the average standard in the region is very high.  Even among those, this baby stood out.  But first a bit of background.

The maison mère2(!) is Fournier Père et Fils – to give it its full name – under which there are four Domaines:

  • Domaine Fournier (Sancerre &c.)
  • Domaine de Saint Romble (Sancerre)
  • Domaine des Berthiers (Pouilly-Fumé)
  • Domaine Paul Corneau (Pouilly-Fumé)

The full range of Domaine Fournier is detailed below.  As you might expect from one of the “Cuvées Appellations”, this wine is made from vines planted on the three key soil types of Sancerre: Silex, Caillottes and Terres Blanches.  The nose opens with ripe peach but also peach stone, sweet fruit reined in by acidity and a pleasant tartness.  On the palate there’s more fruit but on the citrus side of the spectrum, along with a touch of mown grass and green bell pepper.  Don’t mistake this for a Touraine Sauvignon plus, though; this is a smooth and gentle wine which showcases its different flavours on a long journey through your mouth.  A superior Sancerre.


The portfolio of Domaine Fournier comes under eight different labels:

  • Cuvées Grand Caillou: Sauvignon, Pinot Noir
  • Cuvées F: Pinot Noir, Rosé, Sauvignon
  • Cuvées Mmm: Rosé, Chenin
  • Cuvées Appellations: Menetou Salon “Côtes de Morogues” Rouge, Menetou Salon “Côtes de Morogues” Rosé, Menetou Salon “Côtes de Morogues” Blanc, Sancerre “Les Belles Vignes” Rosé, Sancerre “Les Belles Vignes” Rouge, Sancerre “Les Belles Vignes” Blanc, Pouilly-Fumé “Les Deux Cailloux”, Pouilly Sur Loire “Les Marnes”
  • Cuvée Terroirs: Cuvée Silex, Cuvée Les Terres Blanches
  • Grandes Cuvées: Sancerre “L’Ancienne Vigne” Rouge, Pouilly-Fumé Grande Cuvée, Sancerre “La Chaudouillonne”, Sancerre “L’Ancienne Vigne Blanc
  • Single Vineyard Wines: Sancerre “Les Boffants”, Sancerre “Monts Damnés”
  • Cuvées Exceptionnelles: Menetou Salon Rouge “Sourire Aux Anges”, Sancerre “No. 22”, Sancerre “Vendanges d’Hélène”

1no cockney rhyming slang here, thank you

2French for parent company, literally “mother house”, which is a little ironic as it’s a “father and son” operation.

 

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