Solera Wine Merchants is a specialist wine importer based in Dublin. MD and owner Albert Baginski spent over 14 years working as a sommelier and restaurant wine director before going full time with Solera. He is known for being a gentleman, a true professional and – perhaps most importantly – a really nice bloke.
The Solera portfolio is still growing, but from my perspective it has some of the real stars from each region that is represented – Fritz Haag from the Mosel, Roda from Rioja and Mazzei from Tuscany, to name just a few. Below are some brief notes on the white wines I tasted with Albert late last year.
Villa Des Croix Picpoul de Pinet 2018 (12.5%, RRP €16.95 at Baggot Street Wines; Blackrock Cellar; Deveney’s Dundrum)
When twitter discussions on wine scoring circle round again and again, especially whether they are absolute or relative scores; Picpoul is sometimes given as a wine which will never hit the high 90s as it’s somewhat neutral and lacking in character, and therefore lends to credence to scores being relative.
Well, there are exceptions to every rule, and this is comfortably the most flavoursome and characterful Picpoul de Pinet that I’ve tried. It’s highly aromatic, with light fruits and flowers on the nose. The palate is fresh with lots of citrus and more depth of flavour than usually found in the grape. This would be a great alternative to Loire Sauvignon Blanc.
Bodegas Altos de Torona Rías Baixas Godello 2018 (13.0%, RRP €20.95 at Baggot Street Wines; Blackrock Cellar; Martins Off-Licence; Nectar Wines)
Rías Baixas is (quite rightly) best known for being the home of some excellent Albariños, but other varieties are grown there, such as this Godello from Altos de Torona. The wine is unoaked but has spent six months on fine lees which imparts a little texture and a creaminess. Conference pears and red apples complete the palate.
Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer Grosses Gewächs Riesling Trocken 2017 (12.5%, RRP €38.95 at Baggot Street Wines; Blackrock Cellar; Sweeney’s D3; The Corkscrew)
This is the first of two Fritz Haag Rieslings from the Mosel, though they are very different in character. This is a dry Grosses Gewächs (Grand Cru) from the Juffer vineyard in Brauneberg (note that Brauneberger isn’t stated on the front label, probably to avoid confusion with the bottling of the best part of the vineyard around the sundial which is labelled Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr).
The nose is only lightly aromatic, but the palate is much more intense. It tastes dry (residual sugar is 7.9 g/L) and refreshing with grapefruit, lime and quince on the palate. This is a veritable pleasure to drink now but is surely destined for greatness over the next two decades.
Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel 2017 (7.5%, RRP €33.95 (375ml) at Blackrock Cellar; Clontarf Wines)
From the same vineyard as the dry GG above, we now have the sweet Auslese Riesling. If you are not fluent in German wine terms – no I’m not either – a bit of decoding is in order. Auslese means “selected harvest” and is on the third rung of the Prädikatswein classification above Kabinett and Spatlese. Goldkapsel refers to the gold capsule covering the cork, and signifies that this bottling is from the producer’s ripest and best grapes.
Coming in at 125.8 g/L of residual sugar this is definitely in dessert wine territory, but, as it’s a Mosel Riesling there is plenty of acidity to go with it (7.5 g/L TA in fact). This is a fabulous, unctuous wine that creeps over your palate and isn’t in a hurry to leave. “Make yourself comfortable”, your taste buds say. It’s almost a crime to swallow, but the sweet flavours hitting your throat make up for it. With honey, crystalline pineapple and a dash of lime this wine is close to perfection.
Part 2 will cover the fabulous reds