As I frequently say, to those who will listen (and even those who won’t), Pinot Blanc is an under-rated grape. It is most widely produced as a varietal in Alsace, Northern Italy (as Pinot Bianco) and Germany (as Weissburgunder), though often plays an unheralded part of blends there as well. Even the English are getting in on the act (yes Stopham Estate, I’m looking at you!)
When made in a sympathetic way, Pinot Blanc can be both fruity and fresh, with a little bit of body, making it very versatile at the table. Unfortunately, the powers that be in Alsace (primarily the CIVA and INAO) don’t allow Pinot Blanc wines to be granted Grand Cru status when made on the best sites, yet Muscat (in my opinion not as good a grape in Alsace) based wines are permitted under Grand Cru appellations.
Might other Pinot Blanc regions have an answer to this quality dilemma?
In advance of their Meet the Winemaker Portfolio tasting on Friday 6th November (also more details here), JN Wines kindly sent me a bottle of German Pinot Blanc, labelled of course as Weissburgunder (the white grape from Burgundy). It’s quite simply the finest example of the grape I’ve ever tasted!
From the Kaisterstuhl (the “Emperor’s Chair”) hills in the wine region of Baden comes Weingut Salwey, producer of several Burgundy varietals. The Reserve Salwey range is made with fully ripe grapes from older vines, vinified to dryness (Trocken is helpfully stated on the back label). White wines are matured in a mixture of large vats (80%) and barriques (20%).
The oak ageing is perceptible on the nose, but doesn’t dominate the apple and citrus aromas. These all flow through to the palate, which is given additional weight by the micro-oxygenation from time spent in wood. It’s a lovely wine which is very enjoyable on its own (just don’t drink it too cold!) or paired with lighter fish and poultry.
Considering the quality, this is an absolute bargain!
My article in thelatest edition of The Taste gives some of my recommendations from the WineMason portfolio tasting I attended many weeks back. Here are a few more fresh whites which I loved but didn’t have room for on The Taste:
A step up from an entry level summer style of Grüner, this has more weight, more flavour and more interest. The nose gets you first – nectarine and peach – followed by a fruit explosion in your mouth. This wine has sweet fruit but isn’t sugary, as linear acidity provides something for it to lean on.
If you’ve only tried junior Grüners then you owe it to yourself to try this style!
Whereas its younger brother had dessert apples, this is a desert island wine, just spectacular. It’s far from cheap, but it offers great value. Auslese means “selected harvest”, so you know the grapes were picked when perfectly ripe. In the Mosel, this means they will still have refreshing acidity and lots of flavour. Now almost ten years on from harvest, this specially selected cask still has freshness but has developed more mature notes such as marmalade, peach and apricot. Lip-smackingly good!
Thanks again to Ben, Barbara and the WineMason team for an excellent tasting!
And of course, the title above was partially inspired by this favourite from the 80s:
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…
One of the best parts about becoming a blogger has been meeting other bloggers from near and far – from literally round the corner to the other side of the world. Reading their blogs has been interesting in itself, but has also been very helpful in learning how to make my own blog better. Everyone I have met has been polite, pleasant and generous.
For some time now I had been meaning to try collaborating with some of my fellow bloggers – and then I hit on the idea of asking them to contribute a recommendation for a Valentine’s Day wine. A cheesy romantic link to V-Day was optional – it could just be a wine that the writer really liked and so would recommend – and just a couple of lines was requested, though some wrote more.
I was bowled over by the reaction – everyone I asked agreed to join in! Some even gave the background as to why a particular wine was romanic for them.
I’m not a V-day person, but I’ll go for Astrolabe Sauvignon Blanc, because a friend served it as the white wine at their wedding which was one of the most beautiful and romantic weddings I’ve attended.
It was a beautiful summer day and it really was the perfect wine for it.
Crafted by brothers Giovanni and Alberto Masini on their family’s estate near Reggio Emilia in Northern Italy. The vineyards are certified organic, and the brothers do not use chemicals in any process of winemaking, including sulphur and additives. Wines are left unfiltered and unfined.
Not for the faint of heart, this will funkafy your Valentines Day. Inky violet red with pink bubbles, black cherry and blackberry flavours ride along a current of vivacious fizz, backed by barn door funky earth notes and a cleansing acidity that harmonises with the fruity, dry finish.
Blend of Lambrusco Grasparossa, Lambrusco Maestri and Malbo Gentile
Heading south from Rías Baixas in Galicia takes you over the border into Portugal and Albariño becomes Alvarinho. All good so far – and I often prefer the Portuguese stuff. But what’s this – a fizzy version?
Made by the traditional method, i.e. there’s a second alcoholic fermentation in bottle, this is fresh and fruity – and it’s real rather than artificial fruit. This might sound a bit silly – but it tastes just like you’d expect a fizzy version of Alvarinho to taste!
This is an excellent aperitif – and a refreshing different taste.
Nino Franco Prosecco San Floriano 2012 (€30.50)
Nino Franco’s Primo Franco recently won the trophy for best Prosecco in Tom Stephenson’s “Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships”. The fact that there is a Prosecco category at all is not a sop to the producers of off-dry fruity pop, but rather it’s recognition that Prosecco canbe a serious sparkling if the producer wishes.
Produced from a single vineyard after which it is named, San Floriano is made by the Charmat (or tank) method like all other Prosecco, but has four months on the lees while in tank, and therefore picks up a little autolytic character. It’s also dry and savoury, so it tastes like a serious wine – you could easily drink this with a meal as well as the usual aperitif.
Gusbourne Estate Blanc de Blancs 2009 (€46.99)
My favourite wine of the whole tasting!
The Gusbourne Estate in south east England dates back to 1410, though sparkling wine production has a much more recent history – the first vintage was in 2006! The main vineyard is on a south facing ancient escarpment in Appledore, Kent. The soil are clay and sandy loam slopes – you might expect chalk given the proximity to the White Cliffs of Dover, but it does mean that Gusbourne copes better with wet weather and drought.
Blankety-blanks (as I childishly call them) are sometimes on the simple side but this spent a full three years on the lees which gives it lots of lovely bready characters, in addition to lemon sherbet from the Chardonnay. Being an English sparkler it has lots of zippy acidity with a dosage of 10.5 g/L for balance (I guessed 10 – 11, can’t get much closer than that!) This style of wine makes a great aperitif or goes wonderfully with seafood.
Villa Wolf Gewürztraminer 2013 (Loosen Estate) (€14.99)
Although I’m a huge fan of Alsace wines, sometimes I find the Gewurztraminers made there a little dry for my tastes. Just like Pinot Gris, I prefer my Gewurz to have a little sweetness on the finish to match the richness of the mid palate. This off dry German Gewürztraminer (note the umlaut over the u) ticks all the boxes for me! The most aromatic of varieties, the nose is instantly recognisable, with rose petals and lychees jumping out of the glass. Added to these on the palate is Turkish Delight.
Gewürz is something of a marmite variety, but this is an excellent introduction.
Château Beauregard Pouilly Fuissé Vers Cras 2011 (€37.00)
One of the first things aspiring wine geeks learn is the difference between Pouilly-Fumé and Pouilly-Fuissé; although they’re both French and white they are stylistically very different. The former is one of France’s top two Sauvignon Blanc areas, just over the river from the more celebrated Sancerre. Pouilly-Fuissé is the most important appellation within the Mâconnais, the most southerly region of Burgundy proper.
Compared to the much more prestigious Côte d’Or, The Mâconnais has gentler slopes and mixed agriculture – and being a bit further south it gets more sun, so its grapes tend to be riper. Accompanying that is a tendency to use oak barrels quite liberally, especially in the better appellations, so the wines become more New World in style. Although the producer is still very important, Pouilly-Fuissé and St-Véran are white Burgundies that I would happily order from a restaurant wine menu without recognising the maker.
Château Beauregard is one of the top producers of Pouilly Fuissé. Its standard 2012 bottling (€28.75) is showing very nicely now, but I would be a little more patient and pick up the single vineyard Vers Cras. Although a year younger it had a lot more time in oak and so is not yet quite fully integrated. There’s lots of tropical fruit and toasty vanilla from the barrel ageing.
It’s not the currently fashionable cool climate style but it’s a wine I’d happily drink all evening from big fishbowl glasses.
Dog Point Section 94 Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (€30.00)
This is Marlborough Sauvignon Jim, but not as we know it.
For those who don’t know Dog Point, the founders James Healy and Ivan Sutherland are both ex-Cloudy Bay. As well as producing their own wine they sell grapes to other winemakers, including former colleague Kevin Judd who makes his Greywacke wines in their facility.
NZ Sauvignon can be sometimes be summed up as “the light that burns twice as bright burns half as long” – it has riotous explosions of fruit in its youth but fades quickly. This elegant example from Dog Point is designed to age and evolve positively. It spent 18 months in older French oak barrels so has plenty of texture and refinement. It has the tropical fruit of regular Savvy plus peach and other stone fruit – it’s just such a pleasure to drink. There’s a funky edge from the wild yeast, and as malolactic fermentation was blocked there’s plenty of fresh acidity.