After the Champagnes of Laherte Frères in Part 1, we now turn to a trio of unusual whites. They aren’t that obscure, but they aren’t going to appear in your local supermarket. They are all made by small, family owned producers who prefer to do work in the vineyard rather than the winery. Note: I tasted these wines back in February this year so some outlets may well have moved onto the 2019 vintages of the respective wines.
M & A Arndorfer Gemischter Satz Weiss 2018
Martin and Anna Arndorfer are part of the new generation in Austria, acknowledging their respective families’ deep ties to their region of Kamptal but breaking free and setting down their own roots. Their approach might be described as “hands-off”, but that would belittle the work they do in the vineyard, fully respectful of nature’s gifts.
This is the first time I have reviewed the M & A Arndorfer Gemischter Satz (field blend), though I have previously reviewed their single varietal 2015 Grüner Veltliner and their 2016 Vorgeschmack white. As the latter is no longer available and consisted of the same blend (80% Grüner Veltliner & 20% Riesling) as this wine I believe it is simply a matter of renaming.
Those familiar with the component varieties – hopefully a decent majority of you – should be able to imagine its style; decent body with lots of spice and pip fruit, but a racy finish. Apples and pears meet lemon and lime? What’s not to like?
When faced with this label most wine drinkers would be forgiven for thinking “what even is that?” (Confession: I thought exactly that!) So: “Burja” is the name of the estate, “Zelen” is the name of the grape and “Petit Burja” is the name of the bottling. Burja is run by Primož Lavrenčič who named it after the Mistral-like wind which can blow through the vines. Zelen is a local grape variety named after the Slovenian word for ‘green’ which is the colour that it apparently takes on when fermenting. The estate is run on both organic and biodynamic lines.
So how does this unusual grape taste? It doesn’t taste exactly like anything else, but in a word, great! It’s highly aromatic, with floral and citrus notes to the fore. These continue onto the palate which is juicy and tangy, but also mineral and linear. This wine could be the jolt that your palate needs!
I have reviewed the red wine from this stable before; Domaine de Montcy Cheverny Rouge was the Frankly Wines #2 Value Red of 2017. The Domaine has been run by Italian Laura Semeria for 13 years; she has woven the new (converting viticulture to organic and then biodynamic) with the old (maintaining local varieties including the rare Romorantin). The vines cover a surface area of 20 hectares and vary in age up to 80 years old.
Just as the Arndorfer wine above, this is an 80/20 blend, but this time 80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Chardonnay (yes, Chardonnay is grown in the Loire!) This blend is rarely seen in France, nor even Australia or New Zealand, but does occur in northern Italy. Although unusual, the blend is seamless, showing floral, herby and citrus notes. It’s a light yet thrilling, real wine.
How does the 2019 edition of Wilson on Wine compare to the first from 2015? Well it’s a different colour for a start, but the changes have been subtle improvements with each edition. The indices in the back are very helpful, so you can look up particular wines or see which wines are listed from your favourite wine merchants. For the first time there’s a natural wine section – wines that can be a little different so might not suit the unprepared – but what better way to prepare than having someone recommend a few!
Part 1 looked at the wines we tasted that were particularly good value for money; now we look at some which were just exceedingly good:
Granzamy Brut Champagne NV (12.0%, RRP €34.95 at O’Briens)
This Champagne has a few unusual facets considering its distribution through a multiple retailer:
It’s a “Grower Champagne”, i.e. the grapes used are the producer’s own rather than being bought in (see this post on Champagne types for more background).
It’s made from 100% Pinot Meunier, the third Champagne grape which is often unfairly looked down upon.
It’s totally delicious!!
Granzamy fully deserves its normal price of €34.95 but is sometime on promotion at €5 or even €10 less, making it an absolute steal. When Champagnes are discounted this low they aren’t usually that nice, but this is an exception. Looks out for promotions and fill your boots!
Gaia Wild Ferment Assyrtiko 2016 (13.0%, RRP €24.95 at O’Briens)
Gaia’s Wild Ferment Assyrtiko is a regular on Frankly Wines and the 2016 vintage is now singing sweetly. It manages to reflect both its volcanic and maritime origins with thrilling acidity and soft stone fruit. As always, the Wild Ferment makes itself known through an attractive funkiness on the nose. The simpler little brother Monograph gives a good introduction to the grape, but this is still one of the finest examples I’ve tried.
Stonier Mornington Peninsula Chardonnay 2016 (13.5%, RRP €26.95 at O’Briens)
The Mornington Peninsula is one of the most southerly wine regions in mainland Australia, giving cool conditions which are great for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. For me, this wine is the proof that natural wine is not the only way to make good wine. I do like plenty of wines which are considered natural, but judicious intervention in terms of wine making choices can add interest, without artificial chemicals in the vineyard or winery. The grapes are sourced from different sites around the region, and then around half (from the coolest sites) are allowed to go through malolactic fermentation which softens and rounds the wine. Some oak is used in various formats, but only 15% is new.
With its struck match reductive funky nose and fleshy citrus mouthfeel, this is the sort of wine that would have a €60+ price tag on it if it was from Burgundy!
I like “regular” Grüners, whether from Austria, New Zealand or elsewhere, but special ones like this make a really good ambassador for the grape. It has texture, richness and a depth of flavour that place “Beetle Mountain” ahead of the rest. For Alsace fans this has quite a lot in common with a superior Pinot Gris (perhaps one from Kaefferkopf which is “Beetle Head”). I’d be very interested to see how this develops over the next half decade or so, but to be honest it’s so delicious now I don’t think I’d be able to keep my hands off it!
Bandol is one of the most famous Provence AOCs and Domaine Tempier have been a leading producer since the nineteenth century. Red, white and rosé are produced, but here we focus on the red, Mourvèdre dominated but augmented by a little Grenache and Cinsault. Bandol is the only place in France with enough sun and heat to properly ripen Mourvèdre, and boy does it show – there are intensely concentrated black and red berries bursting out of the glass, and lifted, spicy aromatics. This is a wine which could last decades but is already really special.
One of the other great strengths of Liberty Wines’ portfolio is its antipodean selection – so much so that they seem to have the largest number of wines open for tasting at both the NZ and Australian trade tastings in Ireland. However, I’ve covered many of them before on Frankly Wines, so this article will review a few that I tried for the first time plus some fantastic European whites.
Jurançon wines are among the most under-rated in France, both the sweet (“Jurançon”) and dry (“Jurançon Sec”) styles. Don’t base your opinions on the bottles available in French supermarkets, though – they tend to lack concentration and be pleasantly innocuous at best. This is one of the best examples I’ve come across in Ireland, especially at a fairly moderate price. Split 50/50 between local varieties Petit Manseng and Gros Manseng, It shows plenty of ripe stone fruit, almost fleshy, but a crisp dry finish.
Mosel Riesling is one of the great wines of the world, but it’s rarely “cheap”. This one is very reasonably priced and serves as a great introduction to the area. The grapes are partly from the producer’s own estate and partly from contract growers in the Mosel region. It shows white flowers, stone and citrus fruit plus minerality – a great example of Mosel Riesling, and/ great value for money!
Château Moncontour Vouvray Sec 2017 (13.0%, RRP €21.99)
Many of my comments above about Jurançon also hold true for the Chenin-derived wines of the Loire. This Château Moncontour helpfully says “Sec” on the label, and it is dry – but not bone dry or austere. There’s a touch of residual sugar (apparently 6.7 g/L for those who are interested in such things) but lots more fruit sweetness, balanced by fresh acidity. Such a more-ish wine!
Matt Thomson is a legend in the world of wine – but he’s also a top bloke. After doing both northern and southern hemisphere vintages for 20 years, he finally decided to make his own wine, partnered by his wife Sophie. The Blank Canvas Chardonnay featured in my 2017 Top 10 whites so I was keen to try the Grüner. The long, cool growing season in Marlborough is perfect for GV, as it is for other aromatics such as Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Pinot Gris. This is a cracker – smooth yet textured, nicely balanced between fruit sweetness and refreshing acidity.
Framingham are unusual in Marlborough – actually in the whole of New Zealand – in that Riesling is their biggest focus. And boy, does it show! The Classic is their “entry level” Riesling, but it gives a flavour of what the rest of the range holds. This is particularly true of the 2015 as 10% of the grapes were botrytised, with nobly rotten grapes normally going into a special cuvée. This is a lovely wine to drink but just AMAZING on the nose. It has that hard-to-define “otherness” which only Riesling has (“Rieslingness”?)
Kaiken Ultra Mendoza Chardonnay 2016 (14.0%, RRP €24.99)
Rather than go west – which would have taken them into the Pacific, Montes headed east from Chile to Argentina and created Kaiken. The fruit is sourced from the Uco Valley in Mendoza, mostly in cooler parts which give freshness and minerality – despite the 14.0% alcohol and partial (35%) maturation in new oak, this is far from the butter-bomb new world Chardonnays of the 1990s. It has lots of tangy, tropical flavours, but mainly from the grapes rather than the oak.
Santiago Ruiz “O Rosal” Rías Biaxas 2017 (13.0%, RRP €24.99)
From the O Rosal subregion of Galicia’s Rías Biaxas, this is an Albariño blend with several other local varieties playing supporting roles: it consists of 76% Albariño, 11% Loureiro, 5% Treixadura, 4% Godello and 4% other. I like Albariño as a grape, but – for all its popularity – it’s wines are more often simple than complex. Simple doesn’t necessarily mean bad or boring, but there is definitely a place for interesting. The O Rosal is quite long and serious; it’s a cerebral rather than obvious wine which definitely deserves a try.
Domaine des Ballandors Quincy 2017 (13.5%, RRP €24.99)
After Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Quincy was the second Appellation Controllée created in France. Since then it hasn’t really been at the forefront of drinkers’ minds – Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé stole the limelight and the column inches. The upside is that quality wines from Quincy can offer great value for money. The nose is very grassy, the palate herby with quince (no relation) and gooseberry notes. This Sauvignon Blanc for adults.
L.A.S. Vino Margaret River Chardonnay 2016 (13.5%, RRP €59.99)
Margaret River is well known for its Bordeaux blends – Cabernet-Merlot reds and Semillon-Sauvignon whites – but also for some fantastic Chardies. L.A.S. is actually an acronym, standing for “Luck of the weather, the Art of creating and the Science that underpins this creativity.” This is world class, amazing stuff. You need to try this wine. Sell an organ. Sell your car. Even sell your house, but don’t sell your soul as this Chardonnay will capture it.
Another round of fantastic whites from GrapeCircus!
Disclosure: samples kindly provided for review, opinions are my own
Cantina Roccafiori Bianco “Fiorfiore” 2015 (14.0%, RRP €22.00 at Sheridan’s, Mitchell & Son and SIYPS)
We met Roccafiori’s Fiordaliso in Round 1; whereas that was a blend of 85% Grechetto di Todi and 15% Trebbiano Spoletino, their flagship wine Fiorfiore is 100% Grechetto di Todi. It’s matured in large (5,000L) Slavonian oak casks which add texture and complexity but very little actual oak flavour. This is a grown up, powerful and savoury wine which still manages to be fresh – a wine for contemplation.
La Marca di San Michele Verdicchio “Saltatempo” 2016 (12.5%, RRP €21.00 at Sheridan’s, Mitchell & Son)
The La Marca di San Michele estate in Cupramontana was founded by siblings Alessandro Bonci, Beatrice Bonci, and Daniela Quaresima in 2007. They are certified organic and take a low intervention approach. This Verdicchio has quite a floral nose but plenty of apple and pear to go with it. In the mouth it’s lithe and fluid, fruit and minerality competing for your attention. Just a stunning wine that you won’t be able to resist!
M&A Arndorfer Vorgeschmack White 2016 (11.5%, RRP €21.00 at Sheridan’s and SIYPS)
Vorgeschmack means a “taster” as in an introduction. The Arndorfers have both red and white Vorgeschmacks which are both blends; 80% Zweigelt and 20% Pinot Noir for the red and 80% Grüner Veltliner plus 20% Riesling for this white. I really like their straight GV but this is even more interesting – two of Austria’s key white grapes combining to make a tangy, fresh combination. Very versatile for food matching!
Led by Venetian Enrico Fantsia, GrapeCircus is an Irish wine importer that specialises in natural, vibrant wines from Italy and other parts of Europe. His wines are stocked at famous Irish cheesemonger Sheridan’s (with whom he has a partnership) and elsewhere. Here are a few of my favourites:
Cantina Roccafiori Roccafiori Bianco “Fiordaliso” 2015 (12.5%, RRP €17.95 at Sheridans Cheesemongers, SIPYS, Mitchell & Son, Green Man Wines)
Umbria is one of Italy’s less-heralded wine regions, but rising standards have caused its wines to be increasingly sought out. Roccafiore is situated in the hills of Todi and runs on a natural and environmentally-friendly basis, even going so far as to use solar power for their energy needs. Fiordaliso is a blend of local grapes Grechetto di Todi (85%) and Trebbiano Spoletino (15%). It’s a dry, crisp wine with Granny Smith apples and fresh citrus zest.
M&A Arndorfer Strass Im Sassertale Kamptal Grüner Veltliner 2015 (12.5%, RRP €18.95 at Sheridans Cheesemongers, SIPYS)
Martin & Anna Arndorfer both come from well respected winemaking families in Kamptal, Niederösterreich, but have become recognised for the purity and originality of their own wines. This is a clean, dry introduction to Austria’s signature grape Grüner Veltliner. Minimal intervention allows the characteristics of the variety to shine through – soft pip fruit and floral notes, medium body and a white pepper kick to the finish.
Roncus Friuli Ribolla Gialla 2016 (12.0%, RRP €22.50 at Sheridans Cheesemongers, SIPYS, Green Man Wines)
Ribolla Gialla is probably my favourite native Italian white grape as it just has so much character. It’s a speciality of Friuli in the north east of Italy, bordering Austria and Slovenia, where local grape Friulano (aka Sauvignonasse, Sauvignon Vert) is also prominent. Roncus’s example has plenty of soft pip fruit but also intriguing aromas and flavours of almond. As I love almonds, perhaps that’s why I love this wine so much?
Domaine Vinci Côtes Catalanes “Coyade” 2014 (12.0%, RRP €31.50 at Sheridans Cheesemongers, SIPYS, Green Man Wines)
Domaine Vinci’s Olivier Varichon and Emanuelle Vinci take a natural approach to winemaking, using wild yeast for fermentation and bottling with no fining or filtration. It seems fitting that a wine from French Catalonia uses grapes also found on the Spanish side of the border – Maccabeu (aka Macabeo, 70%), Grenache Blanc (20%) and Carignan Blanc (10%). Maccabeu can be somewhat boring neutral, but given some diurnal variation from altitude and sensible yields it can produce interesting, aromatic wines such as Coyade. This is a fresh, mineral wine which would partner well with shellfish and other seafood, but has enough flavour and interest to be delightful on its own.
Trentino / Alto Adige has both Italian and Austrian roots, so there’s no surprise that the gamut of grape varieties runs from Pinot Grigio to Müller-Thurgau. However, this Alpine region also makes some classy Pinot Bianco – a grape which is often suited to everyday drinking but is rarely treated seriously. The “XY” cuvée is treated more like a Chardonnay than a Pinot Blanc – it spends at least twenty months on the lees in second use French oak barriques, giving it texture and flavour. There’s a little vanilla from the oak but more nuts and toastiness, all on top of fresh apple and citrus. This is a refined, poised wine which would turn any white Burgundy-lover’s head.
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 four of the Germanic whites (three from Germany, one from Austria) that I really enjoyed at their tasting earlier this year.
Rheinhessen, sometimes known as Rhine Hesse in English (or Hesse Rhénane in French as on the map above), is the largest of Germany’s 13 wine regions. It produces plenty of ordinary wine, but the best sites in the hands of a good producer can produce fantastic wines. Johannes Geil-Bierschenk is an innovative young producer based in Bechtheim. In particular he focuses on low yields, early pressing of whites and fermentation with indigenous yeast.
Just as in Alsace, Pinot Blanc (also known as Weissburgunder) is usually under-rated in Germany, but here makes for a very appealing and easy-drinking wine. It’s dry and fresh with citrus and stone fruit notes. A long finish seals the deal – and great value at €17
Geil Rheinhessen Riesling 2016 (12.0%, RRP €17 at Baggot St Wines, Clontarf Wines, Lilac Wines, Martin’s Off Licence, Blackrock Cellar, D-Six, Green Man Wines, Listons, McHughs, Mortons Galway, Mortons Ranelagh, Nectar OTGV, Sweeney’s, WWC)
Geil’s most extensive variety is Riesling which is bottled from different terroirs and in different styles. This is the straight forward dry Riesling which – I must whisper quietly – stands up against many similar examples from my beloved Alsace. It has zippy lime and tangy lemon notes – very refreshing indeed!
Max Ferd. Richter Zeppelin Riesling 2015 (11.0%, RRP €18 at The Corkscrew, McHughs, Blackrock Cellar, Mitchells, 64 Wines, Nectar, Martin’s Off Licence, Lilac Wines, Green Man Wines, D-Six)
And so to another German Riesling, but this time from the Mosel and quite different in style. In contrast to the modern Geil labels above and the more traditional ones on the rest of the Max Ferd. Richter range, this has an art deco style label harking back to the time of the Zeppelin airships. The link is no marketing gimmick as wines from Mulheim (Max Fed. Richter’s home) were actually served on the Zeppelins!
So how does it taste? Yum yum yum is the answer! There’s a little bit of residual sugar to balance the acidity and enhance the fruitiness, but it’s by no means a sweet wine. One of the most drinkable wines I’ve had this year!
Groiss Weinviertel Gemischter Satz 2016 (12.5%, RRP €21 at Green Man Wines, The Corkscrew, 64 Wines)
This wine is always a crowd-pleaser – but for a good reason: it’s fab! The 2015 vintage was showing really well when I tasted it at the Ely Big Tasting last year. It’s no ordinary wine though, despite its charms and moderate price tag – it’s a field blend of (at least) 17 different varieties:
Winemaker and owner Ingrid Groiss is a firm fan of traditional viticulture and vinification, hence an old-school wine where the different varieties are planted together, harvested at the same time and vinified together. It’s full of tangy peach and apricot but dry, mineral and fresh. This is a wonderful wine that you must try.
Honest 2 Goodness (H2G for short) are a small family wine importers based in Glasnevin, Dublin. They specialise in family owned wineries throughout Europe, and in particular those with an organic, sustainable or biodynamic philosophy.
Here are a few of their wines that I enjoyed at their most recent Organic & Low Sulphite Tasting:
Domaine de Maubet Côtes de Gascogne 2014 (€14.95, 11.5%)
Typical South West France blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Colombard, Ugni Blanc and Gros Manseng. Ripe green and red apples, fresh pears. Crisp acidity, light and fruity – so easy to drink on its own, but versatile with food.
Borgo Paglianetto Verdicchio di Matelica 2014 (€18.45, 12.5%)
Restrained nose; soft but textured on the palate, lemon and grapefruit combined. Tangy, don’t drink too chilled. Marche wines are really coming to the fore at the moment.
A favourite producer that I’ve covered several times. Grapefruit again, though not as juicy. A grown up wine that would excel with food.
Château Canet Minervois Blanc 2014 (€17.95, 13.0%)
50% barrel fermented; blend of Roussanne and Bourboulenc, both well known in the Rhône. Tangy, textured, pleasantly sour (Haribo Tangfastics). Plenty of mouthfeel and soft stone fruit. Moreish.
Casa Benasal by Pago Casa Gran Valencia 2012 (€18.95, 14.0%)
The Spanish equivalent of a GSM blend: Monstrell, Syrah and Garnacha Tintorera. Plum, blackberry, and blueberry on the nose, following through onto the palate. A full-bodied winter wine; lots of fruit with a light dusting of tannins on the finish. Perfect with stew or casserole (depending on where you heat the pot, apparently).
Château Segue Longue Monnier Cru Bourgeois Médoc 2010 (€25.95, 13.5%)
A trad Médoc blend of Cab Sauv, Merlot, Cab Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. Very perfumed on the nose, showing black fruits, spice and parma violets. Soft and voluptuous in the mouth – definitely from a warmer vintage. Classy.
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:
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.
Lionel Richie’s Commodores were easy on Sunday morning, but when it’s a bank holiday weekend it means Sunday evenings are even better than the mornings.
This Sunday evening I was invited to my brother-in-law Andrew’s for take out and wine – what a relaxing way to spend a Sunday evening – with the rider that his wine-loving friend Noel and family would also be there. Andrew sorted the food, and Noel provided most of the wine, with a bit chipped in from Andrew and myself.
Although it was easy, it was also a very enjoyable evening, with some cracking wines noted below. Where there is an Irish stockist listed on Wine Searcher I have added it, otherwise a UK stockist.
A good rule of thumb for Austrian Grüners is that the alcohol level is an indicator of the wine’s style, and so the 12.0% of this Birgit Eichinger proved true to be a light, summer-quaffing style. Fresh and light, it doesn’t scream its grape variety, but is remarkably easy to drink.
Pauillac is probably the most prestigious appellation on the Médoc peninsula, Bordeaux’s left bank with grand names and grander buildings. Three of the five First growths are in the commune – Châteaux Lafite, Latour and Mouton-Rothschild – with world famous reputations and prices to match.
The small village of Saint-Lambert within the Commune of Pauillac is home to the much more modestly priced Château Gaudin. Its wines are very much true to the general Pauillac style, being dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon (85%) with support from Merlot (10%) and Carménère (5%) plus tiny dashes of Petit Verdot and Malbec.
2009 was the middle year of three fantastic vintages within six years (2005 – 2009 – 2010) and was perfect for Cab Sauv. With such a high percentage of that grape one might think that five or six years from harvest is too short a time for a wine to be approachable, but this is already drinking fantastically now. The fruit is still dense and the evidence of 18 months ageing in new oak barrels is still apparent, but there’s no reason to wait!
Château La Tour Carnet Haut-Médoc Grand Cru Classé 2010 (€55, O’Briens)
Made by widely admired superstar Bernard Magrez of Pessac’s Pape-Clement, La Tour Carnet was officially classed as a Fourth Growth in 1855. Debate as to the relevancy of that classification continues, but it is useful as a general indicator of quality.
Average vine-age is 30 years. The precise blend changes from year to year, but it is usually led by Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, with small contributions from Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. After fermentation, 70% of the blend was aged on the lees in French oak barrels for 18 months (30% of which new) and the balance in stainless steel.
Although from a very good year, in comparison with the Ch. Gaudin above it was perhaps a little awkward and not quite sure what it wanted to be. A very nice drop which, with a bit of patience, might integrate more fully and blossom in a few years.
Castellare I Sodi Di San Niccolo IGT Toscana 2010 (GBP 40.42, Exel, €61.67 (2011) Millesima)
I have to confess I hadn’t heard of this wine before, but after asking the google it seems as though I really should have! Widely decorated, it’s a blend of 85% Sangioveto (the local name for Sangiovese) with 15% Malvasia Nera. The name “I Sodi” refers to land so steep and uneven that it has to be worked manually, not even using horses.
Castellare di Castellina was born in 1968 from the consolidation of five farms in the Chianti Classico region, and became solely owned by Paolo Panerai around ten years later. At that point he carried out a detailed survey of all the vines on the property so that the best genetic material could be selected.
Subsequently Paolo engaged in partnership with the University of Milan, the University of Florence and the Institute of San Michele all’Adige to carry out ongoing research on the best clones as well as the production of grapevines selected for the renovation of the vineyards.
On pouring I thought it very pleasant, but not amazing; very smooth and drinkable without bring special. However, after a bit of time in the glass it really started to open up, herbs and liquorice layers on top of cherries and blackberries. This is a fine wine that I will definitely be trying again.
An interjection between the reds, something sweet to go with dessert. From the pride of Ribeauvillé, this is a late harvest (that’s exactly what Vendanges Tardives means in French, or Spätlese in German) Gewurztraminer from 2001.
Probably not overly sweet in its youth, it is still sweeter than a normal Gewurz but is not at all “sticky”. The ageing process reduces the wine’s sweetness (though I have not yet found the mechanism) and there is still some acidity to offer balance. As you expect from Gewurz there’s a real floral aspect to it on the nose, with stone / white fruit such as peach and lychee on the palate.
It was actually a little too restrained for the chocolate brownie and ice cream dessert, but off itself was delicious. It’s showing no sign of slowing down at the moment so it might well make it as far as its 20th birthday.
Château Giscours Margaux 3ème Cru Classé 2009 (€100, McHugh’s)
Giscours was a Third Growth in the 1855 Classification, but its fortunes have waxed and waned several times since, mainly as ownership has changed and more or less was put into the vineyards. Margaux is the most feminine of the Médoc’s big four appellations, often with a higher percentage of Merlot than the others and a certain silkiness to the wines.
For the whole Giscours estate’s 94 hectares under vine, the split of grape varieties is 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Merlot and the balance Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Of course the Grand Vin receives a higher proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon than the second and third wines, particularly in a good year such as 2009. The estate matures the Grand Vin in 100 % French oak barrels (fine grain and medium toast) for 15 to 18 months, 50% of which are new and 50% have had one previous use.
Although still relatively young, this was not dumb, tight or closed – it was already singing. Modern Claret is sometimes overdone in the search for Parker points and so needs a decade before approaching, but it wasn’t the case here. Perhaps this was infanticide on a wine that will go on to greatness, only time will tell.
Penfolds Bin 707 South Australia 1998 (GBP 180, WinePro)
Grange occupies the sole spot at the top of the Penfolds pyramid, but Bin 707 isn’t too far behind. Whereas Grange is virtually all Shiraz based, the 707 is the King of Cabernet., allegedly named after the fancy new Boeing airliner of the time.
Grange’s first (though non-commercial) release was in 1951 and the 707’s inaugural vintage was 1964. It hasn’t been made every year since; between 1970 and 1975 there was a conscious decision to put the best Cabernet fruit in other wines, then in the years 1981, 1995, 2000, 2003 and 2011 winemakers didn’t have access to the appropriate style and quality of fruit.
Both Grange and Bin 707 are both multi-regional blends, that is, the fruit comes from several different vineyards in several different regions within South Australia. For the 707 these are Barossa Valley, Coonawarra, Padthaway, Robe and Wrattonbully. Maturation is for 18 months in 100% new American oak hogsheads (300 litres).
So 17 years on, how did it fare? To the eye the age was apparent on the rim which was quite red brick in hue, though the core was still opaque black. The nose showed spearmint, menthol & eucalyptus with dried black fruit and just a tiny hint of oxidisation.
To taste there was a touch of mint and lots of fresh blackcurrant, with some raisins in the background. It was really smooth and still monumental in mouthfeel, despite an abv of 13.5% which is quite modest by today’s standards. Above all it had an amazing length, a small sip lingered in the mouth for several minutes. A stunning wine.
Château Dereszla Tokaji Azsú 5 Puttonyos 2006
To cap it all off was a sweet – sweet wine. As I’ve mentioned before I reckon 5 putts is probably the *ahem* sweet spot for Tokaji, the perfect balance between flavour, sugar and acidity. Château Dereszla also produce 3 and 6 puttonyos wines, plus the legendary Aszú Eszencia
This showed typical apricot, honey and marmalade notes, quite sweet but not at all cloying. This is a wine to get up in the night to drink!