Opinion

Super Value Xmas Wines 2020 part 1

I’m a big fan of the smaller wine importers and distributors in Ireland and the independent wine shops where many of their wines are sold.  Neither of these roles is easy or that well paid, but require a passion for wine.  The other part of wine retail is the supermarkets and multiples who have higher quantities but lower priced offerings.  The challenges here – especially in supermarkets – are very different.  Wines have to be very commercial – which I use in a factual and not derogatory sense – as wines have to mainstream and meet customers’ expectations rather than being quirky or unusual.  They often have to have attractive packaging and offer very good value for money – there’s no hand-selling like in an indie – and they have to sell.

The Irish supermarket that strikes the best balance for me is SuperValu and its head of wine Kevin O’Callaghan.  I write about their wines frequently for two main reasons:

  1. I taste a lot of their wines (which are usually samples, and are disclosed as such)
  2. Their wines nearly always offer great value for money, especially when on promotion

And, just as for all retails and importers who send me samples, if I don’t like a wine I just don’t mention it.

In addition to the noted price reductions SuperValu also offer €10 off any six bottles from Thursday 26th November to Wednesday 9th December.  Below I review some of the “Classic Christmas Wines” that Kevin has selected for their Xmas promotion.

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

André Goichot Chablis 2018

I reviewed this vintage back in September of this year and liked it; if you like Chablis or clean, dry but fruity whites, then this citrus and green appled wine is definitely worth a try.  Great for seafood or as an aperitif.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €19.66 down to €15.00 from 26th Nov to 30th Dec
  • Stockists: SuperValu Ireland stores and supervalu.ie

Guy Saget Sancerre 2018 

I also reviewed this wine in September, but I think it’s showing even better with a few more months.  The mid-palate has some particularly tasty tropical notes, along with gooseberry and just a little grassiness.  At the regular price of just under €20 this Sancerre is very good, but at €15 it is a real bargain.  Just don’t drink it too cold!

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €19.66 down to €15.00 from 26th Nov to 30th Dec while stocks last
  • Stockists: SuperValu Ireland stores and supervalu.ie

André Goichot Fleurie 2018

Another wine from the Goichot stable, but this time a Cru Beaujolais.  Fleurie is one of the lighter Crus, and it shows in this wine which is quite pale in the glass – I could read print through a tasting sample.  The nose has both fresh and tinned strawberries, with a touch of black cherry reminding me of Ski yoghurts in an ’80s flashback.  The strawberries are also prominent on the palate, but with a hint of spice in the background.  There’s a nice texture and fresh acidity to this wine which make it very quaffable.  This isn’t the best Fleurie I’ve ever tried but at €12 on offer it’s a great mid-week quaffer to have on the wine rack, or with cold cuts over Xmas.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €14.66 down to €12.00 from 26th Nov to 30th Dec
  • Stockists: SuperValu Ireland stores and supervalu.ie

Rémy Ferbras Vacqueyras 2018

Vacqueyras, for those who don’t know it, is a southern Rhône Grenache-Syrah-Mourvèdre (GSM) blend which offers a bold fruity red wine in the vein of Châteauneuf du Pape but at a lower price.  Grenache gives easy drinking red fruits, Syrah gives pepper, spice and more savoury notes while Mourvèdre gives grip, perfume and meaty aspects.  The precise ratio between the three components depends on what style the winemaker is looking to achieve.

The nose on this wine is all about the fruit; blueberry, wild strawberry and tinned strawberry.  These notes continue through onto the palate where black fruits and herbs also appear.  The finish is quite dry which made me think there there’s a good proportion of Syrah and Mourvèdre in the blend; subsequent investigation revealed there to be 20% and 10% respectively which fits my observations.

This is a reasonable effort.  I don’t think I’d buy it at full price but the significant reduction puts it into the “worth a try” category.

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €20.65 down to €14.00 from 26th Nov to 30th Dec while stocks last
  • Stockists: SuperValu Ireland stores or supervalu.ie

Vivaldi Ripasso 2018

The Ripasso style is a half way house between normal Valpolicella and Amarone, made by pumping Valpolicella wine into a tank which was used for fermenting Amarone, after that wine has been pumped out leaving the gross lees (mainly grape skins) behind which still have some fermentable sugars left.  The end wine has a little more alcohol and (usually) a little more residual sugar than the plain Valpolicella.

This example from Vivaldi is made from three classic local grapes: Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella.  For real wine geeks (such as myself) it is interesting that the initial fermentation was at 25°C – 28°C whereas the subsequent fermentation was carried out at just 15°C.  Maturation was in wood before bottling.

That last sentence is important; for me the (unspecified) wood had an important influence on the wine, adding creamy vanilla and toasty notes to the bright cherry fruits from the grapes.  Residual sugar is 8.5 g/L which is mainly perceived as extra body and roundness rather than sugariness.  It’s the velvety texture which will appeal to most about this wine, though the downside is not quite as much freshness as I’d like myself.  It’s definitely worth a try at the normal price of €15.65 but it’s an absolute steal at 6 for €40!

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €15.65 or case deal of 6 for €40.00 from 17th to 20th Dec while stocks last
  • Stockists: SuperValu Ireland stores

 

Opinion

Lidl Xmas 2020 Wines

Lidl Ireland are launching their Christmas wines in two separate parts, the first of which is already underway.  In addition to those limited release wines – marked * below – they are stocking up on new vintages of regular favourites.  My reviews below are not unqualified recommendations; other wines of the same type are available which offer better quality, though not better value.  I let you, dear readers, decide on whether each wine sounds like its worth putting in your trolley.

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

Clare Valley Riesling 2019*

This is a gentle Riesling, very drinkable and with no sharp edges.  When compared to the best Clare Valley Rieslings such as Grosset Polish Hill or Petaluma Hanlin Hill it’s a much simpler wine, with a shorter finish and even has a touch of residual sugar.  However, this is aimed at the casual drinker and I doubt that many people would be in the market for both styles; Lidl’s example is actually more approachable so might actually be more preferable for those looking for an easy-going (and less expensive) tipple.

When to drink: Whenever you like!

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €8.84
  • Stockists:  Lidl Ireland

Sauvignon Blanc Gran Reserva 2020

While the Riesling above isn’t very “Riesling” this 2020 Gran Reserva is VERY “Sauvignon Blanc”!  By this I mean that it is very young and expressive, and needs a little more time before settling down.  The key is one of the “Gs”, the aromas and flavours found in this Chilean Savvy:

  • Grass
  • Green (bell) pepper
  • Gooseberry
  • Grapefruit

For me the green pepper sticks out a little too much at the moment, so if you aren’t fond of that flavour then this wine isn’t for you.  However, if you are ambivalent or like green capsicums then you might be a fan.  Try decanting!

When to drink: With a fresh green salad or with goats cheese.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €12.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Il Santo Bevitore IGT Isola Dei Nuraghi 2019

This wine was a total unknown to me so I had to do a little research.  Isole dei Nuraghi is an IGT which covers the whole of Sardinia.  Many international grapes are used plus a few local specialities.  My guess was that this was a Syrah / Merlot blend but I was unable to confirm this.  The nose is smoky with red and black fruits.  The palate has black cherries and sour red cherries, overlain by a touch of vanilla.  Acidity is medium to high but not jarring.

When to drink: With just about anything apart from fish or seafood.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €11.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Barossa Valley Shiraz 2017*

In a similar vein to the Clare Valley Riesling, this is a very approachable, easy-going wine that doesn’t demand too much from its drinkers – it’s made in a deliberately commercial style.  The nose shows blackberry, blackcurrant and a little vanilla.  These notes continue through onto the palate but adding a little stewed fruit to the fresh.  Light tannins round off the wine nicely, though the finish is a little short.

When to drink: Very quaffable on its own, or pair with richer foods.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €8.84
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Carménère Gran Reserva 2020

Carménère is one of Bordeaux’s six black grapes, though it’s hardly grown there at all these days.  Instead it has become the flagship black grape of Chile, where it was mistaken for Merlot for over a century.  In the glass it pours a bright purple, typical of the variety.  The nose is lovely, with rich cassis, spice and blackberry.  These notes are repeated on the palate though they are somewhat barged out of the way by our friend green pepper; these green pepper notes tend to appear in Carménère when the grapes are picked before they have reached full phenolic ripeness, often when they are harvested at the same time as the earlier-ripening Merlot.  In this case, seeing the 14.5% alcohol, I wager that this wine was made from very warm vineyards where the sugar outpaced the flavours.  At any rate, the finish is nice and smooth.

When to drink: Beef or lamb stew.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €11.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Corte Alle Mure DOCG Chianti Riserva 2015*

2015 was an excellent year throughout most of Italy so I was eager to try this Chianti Riserva.  This isn’t what I’d call a polished wine, but it is very Chianti, by which I mean it has typical tobacco and liquorice on the nose, Morello cherries and a hint of oak on the palate.  Acidity is prominent which makes it a food wine rather than a comfortable sipper

When to drink: Charcuterie or mixed Christmas leftovers.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €9.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

 

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

 

Information, Single Bottle Review

Pignolo, The Lazarus Grape

Have you heard of Pignolo?  I hadn’t until recently – when I tasted the wine below) – though I since spotted it in one of my friend Cara Rutherford’s posts.  Now I could be forgiven for this as I’m no expert on Italian wines, though Pignolo does feature as one of Jancis, Julia and José’s 1,368 Wine Grapes.  However, it nearly disappeared after its native Friuli was ravaged by phylloxera over a century ago, and it was forgotten about; low yielding vines and susceptibility to powdery mildew put it at a disadvantage when it came to replanting.

Fast forward to the 1970s and Pignolo vines were found (on their own rootstocks) at the Abbey of Rosazzo.  Cuttings were taken from these hundred plus year old vines and a new vineyard planted by Girolamo Dorigo (no relation to the former England footballer Tony Dorigo, to the best of my knowledge).  Other producers in Friuli have since planted Pignolo so that a tiny 20 hectares in 2000 had grown to (a still modest) 93 hectares in 2010 (let’s not ask about 2020 just yet!)

I had the opportunity to taste Dorigo’s Pignolo earlier this year and I was astounded at its expressiveness and quality:

Dorigo Friuli Colli Orientali Pignolo 2015

Pignolo

 

On pouring it shows a medium intensity, more red than black, and a lighter garnet towards the rim.

The nose is just amazing.  Firstly there is new oak, not as you would typically find it in a wine’s aromas, but rather more like being in a Médoc chais.  If you’ve ever had the chance to be in such an establishment the oak is lifted, intertwined with evaporating alcohol from the wine.  Freshly made milk chocolate and lightly roasted coffee and exotic spices (so exotic, in fact, that they are hard to pin down!)

The aromas continue through to the palate, though the oak is a little more pronounced now but fresh raspberries, cranberries and alpine strawberries have joined the fray.  The palate is super-smooth, with gentle tannins just hovering in the background.  Acidity is firm but not intrusive, just giving a fresh aspect to the ripe fruit flavours.

This is still a very young wine, especially in magnum, which will develop gracefully over the next few decades.  Even in this youthful stage, I have to include it among the top five wines I’ve ever tasted and declare it as the best nose on any red wine I’ve tasted, ever.  This wine is made in very small quantities but if you ever get chance to enjoy a bottle chais vous (you see what I did there?) then you owe it to yourself to snap it up!

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €60 bottle / €120 magnum
  • Stockists: Deveney’s of Dundrum (magnum)

 

 

Wine + Music

The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series #6 – Nirina Plunkett

In these unusual times, we all need a lift from time to time. As a change to my usual wine reviews I’ve decided to start a fun and irreverent series on matching wine and music. The basic idea is that I give participants:

  • A piece of music –> they suggest a wine to go with it, with an explanation
  • A wine –> they suggest a piece of music to go with it

It’s all for fun, so please don’t slag off anybody’s taste music (or wine!) Thanks to Michelle Williams for the inspiration – she has been matching songs to wine for years on her Rockin Red Blog.

For Part 6 of the Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series we return to Dublin and the choices of the bubbly (-lover) Nirina Plunkett.  The song I chose for Nirina is Jamiroquai’s Space Cowboy, though not the original version; while that has its appeal as a funky, soulful track it’s rather downbeat – if I want depressing I’ll listen to The Cure or The Smiths, thank you very much!  Instead this is the result of a major reworking by the legendary David Morales of Def Mix Productions, turning in into upbeat, uplifting dance floor classic.

The wine choice for Nirina was dead easy – she was an enthusiastic participant in Alsace Wine Week in Ireland last year, including the live Twitter tasting where she extolled the virtues of Wolfberger Crémant d’Alsace!


My good friend and fellow wine enthusiast Frankie invited me to take part in his new Frankly Wines & Friends: Wine and Music Series, and naturally I accepted! It’s no secret that I am a big wine fan, and always love exploring and learning more, and also that I LOVE music. I literally listen to music every day, when I’m blogging, writing, cooking, doing my makeup and even as I fall asleep. I’m kinda obsessed!

Therefore this series is pretty ideal for me as it brings together two of my favourite things. Today I’ll feature two different songs matched with two wines and a little chat about them. One of each has been chosen for me by Frankie, and I’ve then paired them with my own choices.

“Space Cowboy” (David Morales Classic Club Remix) By Jamiroquai

This remixed song choice from Frankie sure takes me back to when I was in my early twenties, and seems like it’d be hard to match with wine. But because of its party vibe, it’s got to be a bubbly choice for me. This Bottega Gold Prosecco, which hails from the Valdobbiadene hills in Northern Italy, is one of my favourites.

Bottega Gold Prosecco Cookie FM Frankly Wines

This sparker is made from a tasty blend of the varieties Moscato, Glera (Prosecco), Pinot Nero, and Raboso Piave, and together they give this Prosecco a fresh and fruity aroma. And then there’s the sweet fizz and the gorgeous gold bottle – ideal for any party occasion! I can picture myself and the gals with a bottle of Bottega Gold Prosecco as the club soaks up the atmosphere with this song blasting away. Plus popping any bottle of bubbly instantly puts a smile on my face, it’s my favourite sound!

Wolfberger Crémant d’Alsace Brut

Wolfberger Brut Crémant d'Alsace Cookie FM Frankly Wines

I do love a good bottle of fizz, and this Wolfberger Brut Crémant d’Alsace is such a beauty. I was fortunate enough to try this last year but I will always remember it for its lively and light floral notes. It’s made with five traditional varieties of the Alsace region as well as the Chardonnay grape, that altogether give a slight apple finish. I do find this Wolfberger more elegant than the aforementioned Prosecco, and therefore with such a bubbly brut, I’ve chosen this classic Rihanna song “Diamonds”

I feel it’s the right song to sip on this sparkling wine, played extra loud, of course. I can picture myself out the back garden as dusk settles, with my best friend, chatting the night away and pouring glass after glass of this Wolfberger with a minimal cheese & cracker platter.

Nirina Plunkett

Nirina Plunkett, 29, is from Dublin and of Irish and Malagasy ethnicity and has been a blogger and website owner since she was 10 years old! Nirina’s blog Killer Fashion celebrates 10 years this year, while she started Cookie FM in 2015, a food & lifestyle blog, to explore her love for food, music and adventures even more. Nirina loves trying new recipes, dining out, tasting new cuisines, learning about wine and having delicious cocktails. If you want to drop Nirina an email about anything contact KillerFashionNP@gmail.com


The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series
No. Guest Name Music to pair Wine to pair
14 Lee Isaacs The Rolling Stones – Gimme Shelter Domaine Jones Fitou
13 Sharon L Souls Of Mischief –  93 ‘Til Infinity Penfolds RWT
12 Tim Milford Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man Nyetimber Classic Cuvée
11 Mags McKee U2 with BB King –  When Love Comes to Town Pittnauer Zweigelt Heideboden
10 Cara Rutherford The Cure – Just Like Heaven Suertes del Marqués ‘7 Fuentes’
9 Melanie May The Cult –  She Sells Sanctuary Sipp Mack GC Rosacker Riesling
8 James Hubbard Gary Moore – Parisienne Walkways Penfolds Bin 707 Cab Sauv
7 Paul Moran Underworld – Rez Suertes del Marqués Trenzado
6 Nirina Plunkett Jamiroquai – Space Cowboy Club Remix Wolfberger Crémant d’Alsace
5 Penny Sadler Fleetwood Mac – Dreams Bollinger Special Cuvée
4 Jim Dunlop The Beatles – The Long And Winding Road Man O’ War Valhalla Chardonnay
3 Avril Kirrane McMorrough Norah Jones – Don’t Know Why Joseph Cattin Riesling Reserve
2 Tim of Soliciting Flavours Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings Viña Tondonia Blanco
1 Sinéad Smyth Stardust – Music Sounds Better With You Mullineux Syrah
Single Bottle Review

Vigneti del Salento”I Muri” Primitivo 2018

Puglia
Puglia within Italy.  Salento is the southern peninsular part of Puglia.

The Farnesi Vini group – itself a part of the Fantini Group – has three separate wineries in Puglia: Cantina Sava, Luccarelli and Vigneti del Salento.  The Salento crowd have different labels within their range, including the “I Muri” for the less-well-heeled (sorry!) and “Zolla” ranges.

The I Muri Primitivo is a long-standing favourite of mine since I first tried it at Sweeney’s of Glasnevin.  It is widely available in Ireland, though of course in these difficult times not many wine retailers are open.  Still, if you like the sound of this wine then put it on your list to buy when things return closer to normality.

Vigneti del Salento”I Muri” Puglia Primitivo 2018

I Muri Primitivo

Consultant winemaker Filippo Baccalaro is not a native of the area – he is from Piedmont – but has spent several decades in the area which make it a second home for him now.  The grapes are bought in but from growers with whom Filippo has a long term relationship and don’t dilute concentration in the hunt for maximum yields.

Winemaking is modern, with inoculated yeasts, temperature controlled fermentation and maturation in stainless steel tanks.

Primitivo is of course one of the key grapes of Puglia, along with Negroamaro, and it’s a real sun-worshipper.  Ripeness is a key feature of the wines down here and this shows immediately on the nose; intense black and red berries vie for attention, along with exotic spices.  Those berries continue through to the palate, which is soft and generous.  There’s a rich, luxurious feel to this wine which belies its modest price.  Yes, this is still a winner!

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €15 – €17
  • Stockists (*indicated currently closed): Baggot Street Wines*; Blackrock Cellar*; Cashel Wine Cellar; Donnybrook Fair; JJ O’Driscoll; McHughs Kilbarrack Road & Malahide Road; Mortons Dunville Avenue; Sweeneys D3; wineonline.ie; 64 Wine  
Single Bottle Review

Cà dei Frati I Frati Lugana 2018

Lugana is one of Italy’s lesser-known white wine jewels.  The vines are grown close to the southern shores of Lake Garda in Lombardy, northern Italy, across from Bardolino and neighbours in the Veneto’s eastern part of the lake.  The grape used is normally known as Trebbiano di Lugana, or Turbiana by locals, but it is not the same variety as the Trebbiano (aka Ugni Blanc) which accounts for a full third of all Italian white wines; instead it is actually the same as Verdicchio from the Marche!

In addition to its location close to a large body of water, the Lugana wine region also has soils which are mainly clay, and hence are poor-draining.  The vineyards are therefore prone to flooding, which is countered by creating a dome shape to the contours of the land (encouraging water to run off) and by giving the vines long, bare stems to encourage ventilation.

As well as dry whites there are also late harvest whites and sparkling wines produced in the region, though they are far less common than even the dry whites.

The Cà dei Frati estate differs from its neighbours in several respects: the vines are actually trained lower than normal (using single or double Guyot), are planted more densely (as is the modern way, so that vines compete for nutrients) but yields are kept down.

Cà dei Frati I Frati Lugana 2018

I FRATI LUGANANew

I have recommended this wine before bu I make no apology for repeating myself – it’s an excellent wine that offers a lot of flavour at a fairly modest price point. The nose is fairly expressive, with peach and some apricot notes.  The palate is tangy, full of peach and pear.  There’s a lovely rounded aspect to the palate, helped by a little residual sugar (6.3 g/L), but a crisp, fresh finish.  This wine doesn’t need food – it’s eminently quaffable all by itself – but it would be a good partner for a wide variety of dishes – pan-fried scallops would be perfect!

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €24 – €26
  • Stockists (*indicate currently closed): Baggot Street Wines*; Blackrock Cellar*; Ely Wine Store, Maynooth; Fresh Outlets, Dublin; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; La Touche Wines, Greystones; Sweeneys D3; The Corkscrew, Chatham St; wineonline.ie; World Wide Wines; Whelehans Wines; 64 Wine 
Opinion, Single Bottle Review

Castello di Ama “Ama” Chianti Classico 2015 [Frankie’s Single Bottle Review #22]

Great wines have been made around the village of Ama for centuries, but the Castello di Ama winery was only founded in the 1970s by a group of local families who were keen to revive the area’s vinous fortunes.  Over the years they developed a significant range of Chianti wines – including several single vineyard wines that became part of the Gran Selezione classification – plus some IGTs including a Pinot Nero and a Chardonnay.

However, a significant milestone was  in 2010 when parts of each of the four vineyards were planted with new, high quality clones of Sangiovese.  As Sangiovese is prone to mutate quicker than many varieties (as in the case with Pinot Noir), a co-ordinated project within the Chianti Classico region was launched to improve the genetic material in the vineyards.  Of course, this cannot be done in a single go without huge quality and cashflow issues so it is done piecemeal.  Once the new vines were old enough to bear good grapes they were harvested and blended into a new cuvée, simply known as “Ama”.

Vineyard Technical Data (from website):

  • Total vineyard area: 80 hectares (198 acres)
  • Vineyard names: Bellavista, Casuccia, San Lorenzo and Montebuoni
  • Exposure: North-West, South-East
  • Soil: clay and calcareous
  • Altitude: 460-525 metres above sea level.
  • Training system: vertical trellis with single Guyot
  • Vine density: 5,200 vines/ha
  • Clone selections (for “Ama”): Sangiovese: CC2000, CC2004, AGRI45; Merlot: 343; Rootstock: 420

Castello di Ama “Ama” Chianti Classico 2015 (12.5%, RRP €32.95 at Karwig Wines and Mitchell & Son)

Castello di Ama

For me there is a lot of ordinary Chianti around (although this could be said for many well-known regions) and the wines can be quite thin and tannic without any fruit to counterbalance.  Despite 2015 being a warm and excellent year, the indicated alcohol of Ama is only 12.5%, which is a touch lighter than I would have expected both before and after tasting it.

Wine Technical Data (assembled from website):

  • Blend: 96% Sangiovese, 4% Merlot
  • 2015 Harvest dates: 22nd September (Merlot), 5th to 8th October (Sangiovese)
  • Yeasts: Ambient yeasts
  • Fermentation time: 25 days (varieties fermented separately)
  • Malolactic fermentation: Yes, in stainless steel tanks
  • Maturation: After blending, in second-use tight-grained oak casks
  • Bottled: January 2017

This is a smooth, quite powerful and spicy wine which is recognisably Sangiovesi and recognisably Chianti but is quite self-assured.  To have these results from such young vines is a testament to the plan of using new clones, the potential of the site and very accomplished wine-making.  After being disappointed too often this has renewed my love of Chianti!

 

Tasting Events

GrapeCircus Round 1

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)

Roccafiore Bianco Fiordaliso 2015

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)

Arndorfer GV

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)

Roncus Ribolla Gialla

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)

Vinci Cotes Catalan Coyade

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.

Tenuta Ansitz Dornach Pinot Bianco “XY” 2010 (12.5%, RRP €38.00 at Sheridans Cheesemongers, SIYPS, Mitchell & Son)

Pinot Bianco XY

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.

Opinion

Wines at Xmas #11 – James Hubbard [Guest Post]

For winelovers, Christmas is a time when we look forward to drinking – and even sharing – a special bottle or two.  This might be a classic wine with traditional fare or just something different we’ve wanted to try for a while.  I asked some wine loving friends what they were looking forward to and they have kindly agreed to write a blog post for me.

James Hubbard is a sports mad family man who follows teams as diverse as the San Francisco 49ers and Preston North End.  Of course he’s a big fan of wine and is a regular on #ukwinehour


Elio Perrone 2Are you bored of Buck’s Fizz and trying to work out how early is too early for a Christmas morning tipple?  Then I just may have the answer.

This charming sparkling Moscato d’Asti is is from a single vineyard called Sourgal and is absolutely delightful.  Jam-packed with ripe fruits – apples, apricots and peaches abound – the micro bubbles caress the palate and gets it ready for those invariable midday Christmas canapés/nibbles – and, at just 5%, it’s virtually a guilt-free drop too!

With quite a high (almost dessert wine) level of sweetness one glass is enough to stimulate the senses. This could either serve 4-6 as a Buck’s Fizz alternative or, if there are fewer of you, save some (if you can!) and finish it up with the Christmas pudding later.

Elio Perrone Moscato d’Asti £8.25/bottle via The Wine Society.

 

 

 


The full series of Wines at Xmas: