Opinion

Piedmont and Verona Wines from the SuperValu Italian Wine Sale

The 2022 SuperValu Italian wine sale is almost over, so it’s time to pick up the last few bargains. I’ve already covered the Guest wines from Tuscany that are included in the sale; now it’s time to look at the Guest wines from Piedmont and Verona:

Ricossa Barolo 2017

Ricossa Barolo

Barolo has a great number of devotees, some of whom declare it the finest wine in the world. It’s not always the most approachable wine, however, with major tannins and acidity that can approach searing, and hence often needs significant ageing before it can be drunk. Ricossa Barolo is not made in that style and this 2017 can be drunk now, though it still shows considerable character. The Ricossa winery is located in Nizza Monferato but the fruit is sourced from across the Barolo region.

The nose shows red and black berry fruits, liquorice, tobacco and caramel. The palate is rich and very expressive, with notes of black and red liquorice, cherries and raspberries, plus those darker notes. It has tannin and acidity as a proper Barolo should, but they don’t dominate the wine. This is a great way to get a taste* for one of Italy’s most esteemed wines

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €16.70 down from €24.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Altygo Piedmont Rosso 2019

Piemonte DOC Altygo

Although Barolo is the pinacle wine of Piedmont, locals often drink more modest wines made from other indigenous varieties such as Dolcetto and Barbera. This Piemonte red blend is based on the former, which, despite its name, is not sweet in nature. Freisa and Merlot are also included to add complexity. Fermentation and ageing are in stainless steel tanks to maintain freshness, with daily pumping over to extract colour and flavour. Interestingly this is the first vintage to be released of this wine, but the makers aim to maintain the style from year to year so that consumers know what they are getting rather than the wine being an expression of the vintage.

In the glass this has a typical medium intensity, bright ruby with purple flecks. The nose shows red fruits, both ripe and fresh, with dried herbs and spices in the mix. In the mouth it is fruit driven – black and red cherry, raspberry and alpine strawberry – with a dry, savoury edge. Firm tannins and good acidity beg for red meat or a cheese and charcuterie platter. A great introduction to some lesser known Italian varieties.

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €12.00 down from €17.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Acquesi Asti NV

Acquesi Asti

The region of Asti developed a reputation for its sweet sparkling wines, but so much muck was labelled as Asti Spumante that they decided to drop the Spumante qualifier. Although the wine is sweet and sparkling, good examples are so much more than that: they are fantastically aromatic. Being made from 100% Moscato Bianco – known in French as Muscat blanc à Petits Grains – the focus on aromas is not a surprise.

This bottle has only been produced since 2018 but has been a real hit with critics and consumers for several reasons. The beautiful bottle print evokes the style of Liberty and has an image of “La Bollente”, an iconic spa in Acqui Terme from which the wine takes its name. The wine is made using the Charmat method, known locally as Martinotti Method, which is ideal for preserving aromas from the grapes.

Muscat sometimes gets a bad rep for being on the simple side, yet this sparker is anything but. Aromas of honey, stone fruits and citrus are intertwined and compete for your attention. On the palate there is freshness and sweetness simultaneously. This is a wine which is approachable yet satisfying, delicious on its own or perfect with dessert courses.

  • ABV: 7.0%
  • RRP: €12.00 down from €17.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Monte Del Fra Corvina Veronese 2019

Monte Del Fra Corvina Veronese

Corvina is one of the principal grapes of the Verona area, featuring in Valpolicella, Bardonlino and other wines, though often blended with others such as Rondinella and Molinara. This IGT is 100% Corvina Veronese with no drying of grapes in the winemaking process, and from higher altitude sites. Fermentation and maturation take place in stainless steel cuves to put the fruit first.

On the nose this shows lots of black fruit with hints of spice. The palate opens out with raspberry and blueberry on top of black cherries, but also cocoa, liquorice and black olives. There’s more tannin here than you might expect given the softness of other wines from the region, but this is where the higher altitude comes into play. The producers reckon that its acidity makes it a good match for fish as well as red meat, but I’d be thinking of an Irish stew or cold cuts.

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €12.00 down from €17.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Costa Mediana Amarone 2018

Costa Mediana Amarone

So here we have Corvina Veronese again, but this time partnered with Rondinella and from partially air-dried grapes. Drying the grapes gives a higher sugar-to-juice ratio in the press and hence more alcohol (15.0% or so) and some residual sugar. Amarone is the original appassimento wine with many imitators, but it still commands a premium.

This example is full bodied, as it should be, but with acidity to balance the sugar. There are fresh cherries from the grapes but also cocoa powder and tobacco from 12 months of oak ageing. Despite being big and bold there’s a balance here which makes it a success on its own or at the table. It’s good value at €25 but an absolute steal at €16.70.

  • ABV: 15.0%
  • RRP: €16.70 down from €24.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

*Pun fully intended

Opinion

Tuscan Wines from the SuperValu Italian Wine Sale

The 2022 edition of the SuperValu Italian Wine Sale is already in full swing and runs to the 8th of June. As well as reductions on dozens of existing lines, SuperValu Wine Manager Kevin O’Callaghan has secured some excellent “guest wines”. These are wines brought into Ireland by independent wine importers that are only available in SuperValu during the sale.

According to Kevin, “the guest wines we will showcase give our shoppers a chance to expand on their repertoire of wine, showing them the breadth of choice available with the Italian offering and the unique wines produced there. These guest wines really do represent an excitement to try new wines and we really encourage shoppers to use this event to explore new tastes and varieties within the range.”

Here are five guest wines from Cassidy Wines and Febvre & Co that hail from Tuscany:

Cortezza Vermentino Toscana 2020

Cortezza Vermentino Toscana

Vermentino is a real success story for quality Italian white wine. In Tuscany it is mainly planted on the coast, where it benefits from relected light and cooling sea breezes. It’s a late-ripening variety with plenty of aromatic goodness; more than a replacement for Pinot Grigio, it even barges into Riesling territory with its fresh citrus and acidic spine. There are also some subtle herbs on the palate, a reminder of its Mediterranean origins. This is fairly priced at €15 but a total steal at €10 on offer.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €10 down from €14.99 from 19th May until 8th June
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Cortezza Vino Nobile de Montepulciano 2017

Cortezza Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Wine geeks will probably be aware that Sangiovese, the main black grape of Tuscany, has dozens of different “clones”, slightly different versions of the grape. They arise naturally and the ones that survive are those best suited to the various soils, microclimates and altitudes of the vineyards where they grow. Montepulciano is just a few kilometres from Montalcino, the home of Brunello, but is far less famous. It has similar soil and climate but a less celebrated name and hence a much lower price.

Contezza’s fine example of Vino Nobile spends at least 24 months ageing in large oak casks. Primary aromas are strawberry and cherry, balanced with balsamic notes from the oak. This is wine that really responds to ageing, with tobacco, leather, dairy and forest floor notes joining the nose. For me this is a food wine, perfect to accompany red meat, with fine tannins and a long finish.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €15 down from €22.49 from 19th May until 8th June
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Forte Ambrone Vino Rosso

Forte Ambrone

This red blend has its roots in Tuscany but its branches stretch to Puglia where Primitivo and Nero d’Avola are sourced to add punch and bright fruit flavours to the the Tuscan Sangiovese. Despite the classic-looking label this is a new wine, designed to appear to modern wine drinkers more than traditional fans of Italian wine. It’s a smooth, rich red with the spikiness of Sangiovese softened out by the southern varieties. It’s an approachable, quaffable wine which won’t appeal to purists but could well convert new world wine drinkers to the charms of Italy.

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €10 down from €14.99 from 19th May until 8th June
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

Banfi Rosso di Montalcino 2019

Banfi Rosso Di Montalcino

The Banfi estate was set up very recently – by Italian standards – in 1978. They pride themselves on a socially fair and environmentally friendly approach  to producing wine. The estate is large, covering 3,000 contiguous hectares, though only a third of the total is planted with vines. 170 of that is dedicated to Brunello di Montalcino, their flagship wine and one of the most prestigious in Italy. The regulations that come with the reputation also come with a price in terms of cashflow; wines are usually released more than four years after the harvest, and with no en primeur-type system in place that equates to a lot of cash tied up (or “bottled up”!)

The answer is Rosso di Montalicino, a younger brother which is still made from 100% Sangiovese Grosso, aka Brunello, but only has to spend a minimum of six months in oak and twelve in the cellars in total before release. The grapes selected for the Rosso tend to be from younger vines with slightly less concentration, but the same philosophy.

The Banfi Rosso di Montalcino 2019 is a serious wine, with the high tannins and acidity that Montalcino wine is known for. It cries out for food, making the wine better and giving it proper context. It’s a young wine that really needs another decade to shine, but right now a decanter and a thick steak would really elevate it.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €18 down from €26.99 from 19th May until 8th June
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Banfi Toscana Belnero 2017

Belnero Toscana IGT

This is another serious wine form Banfi, though as it contains “international grapes” – namely Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot – in addition to Sangiovse, it is classed as a “Super Tuscan” and not a Brunello. The proportions of each variety aren’t given but the order they are given in suggests that Cabernet has the highest percentage.

It’s not too far removed in style from the Rosso above, though it does have an additional two years under its belt which help round its edges. Belnero is a big wine with lots of power and structure – though less noticeable acidity than its brother – but bright red and black fruits. Though still very young, it is drinking well already, but would obviously gain in complexity and stature over the rest of this decade.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €20 down from €29.99 from 19th May until 8th June
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

 

Single Bottle Review

Wine Review: Mastrojanni Brunello di Montalcino 2015

Whereas Chianti has a long and storied history of making wine, its neighbour in Tuscany Montalcino is a more recent newcomer, at least at any scale. The soil around Montalcino is generally poor so few crops were grown and the land mainly given over to woodland and sheep pasture. While some grapes were planted and vinified for local consumption, it was Ferruccio Biondi-Santi who created the first “modern” Brunello and founded the house that still carries his name.

Despite the renown of his Brunello wines the area remained under-utilised. A lawyer from Rome, Gabriele Mastrojanni, bought the San Pio and Loreto estates in 1975 and turned them into vineyards. Mastrojanni followed Biondi-Santi’s lead and planted Sangiovese Grosso grapes, aka Brunello. He planted them in such a way that tractors could be used in the vineyards when desired, but still at a high enough planting density that competition between vines forced them to send down deep roots and not produce too much foliage.

Mastrojanni currently make eight wines:

  • the Brunello is made most years apart from poor harvests such as 1992 and 2002
  • a Rosso is made with similar care but with shorter ageing for earlier drinking
  • a well-established single cru Brunello di Montalcino Vigna Schiena d’Asino, a single hectare vineyard
  • a new single cru Brunello di Montalcino Vigna Loreto, also made only in exceptional years
  • a new wine made with the rare variety Ciliegiolo
  • another new bottling  Costa Colonne from the new DOC Sant’Antimo
  • a Super-Tuscan Cabernet Sauvignon-Sangiovese blend, San Pio
  • a botrytised dessert wine

Mastrojanni Brunello di Montalcino 2015

Mastrojanni Brunello di Montalcino 2015

2015 was a renowned vintage in much of Italy, so I had high hopes for this wine. On pouring – from a half bottle – it was just above medium intensity, with a ruby, somewhat watery rim. Dense black fruits dominate the nose, with black cherry and blackberry to the fore, with notes of exotic spice at the periphery. The palate is powerful and viscous, almost thick in the mouth. Voluptuous black fruits are joined with more savoury notes of black olive, leather and black liquorice. The tannins are ripe so it’s down to the acidity to provide structure and keep everything fresh.

This is a succulent, tasty wine. I hear the 2016 is even more highly regarded, so that would be a special treat to enjoy this winter.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €37.95 (375 ml) / €69.50 (750 ml)
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists (2016 750 ml): Baggot St Wines; Blackrock Cellar; The Corkscrew; Clontarf Wines; Deveneys, Dundrum; D-SIX Off Licence; Grapevine, Dalkey; Lotts and Co, Terenure; Martins Off Licence, Fairview; Michael’s Sutton; Nectar Wines; Redmonds of Ranelagh; Pembroke wines @ Roly’s Bistro; Saltwater Grocery; Sweeney’s D3; The Winehouse – Trim
Make Mine A Double

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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Make Mine A Double

Wine Review: Corte Alle Mine Vermentino and Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano

Here are two wines from the SuperValu Italian Wine Sale, and specifically a Piedmontese pair that caught my attention at a virtual press tasting.  These are both “Guest wines”, i.e. they are sourced via local suppliers rather than direct from the producer, giving the retailer more flexibility.

Before we get to the wines themselves, a quick look at the wine regions of Tuscany and the producer Castellani:

Tuscany

Map of Tuscany's DOC and DOCG wine areas

The most famous wine region of Tuscany (and Italy) is Chianti; I posit that most wine drinkers are still not aware of the difference between Chianti and Chianti Classico and they are grouped together in most people’s minds.  Brunello di Montalcino is less well known among the general wine buying population, though it has a strong following among the cognoscenti.  Brunello is the local synonym for Sangiovese, specifically the Sangiovese Grosso clone which is native to the area.  The third and least well-known Sangiovese area of Tuscany is Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.  This is (obviously) made in the area around the town of Montepulciano from the local Sangiovese clone called Prugnolo gentile.

One other difference between the three DOCGs is the allowance of other varieties.  Brunello – and its baby brother Rosso di Montalcino – must be 100% Sangiovese; Vino Nobile has to be a minimum 70% Sangiovese plus Canaiolo Nero, Mammolo and other local varieties; Chianti and Chianti Classico can range between 75% and 100% Sangiovese with Canaiolo and others making up the balance.

For Vino Nobile di Montepulciano the major confusion has been with Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, a red wine made from the Montepulciano grape in the province of Abruzzo.  The governing Corsorzio has therefore recently started promoting the wine as simply Vino Nobile…easier (and shorter) for folk to say and remember.

Vermentino is an Italian treasure and one of the key white varieties of Tuscany, but it is actually grown further afield under the same and other names.  It is widely planted in Sardinia under the same name, in Liguria as Pigato and as Favorita a little further north in Piedmont.  On the French Mediterranean coast (the Languedoc, Roussillon and Provence) it is usually known as Rolle, but increasingly labelled as Vermentino as customers have more awareness of this name.

In Tuscany it is generally grown close to the coast to benefit from cool coastal breezes, allowing flavours, aromas and acidity to develop without excessive alcohol.  For Castellani this Vermentino is one of their biggest sellers in Italy.  Clonal selection is very important to maintain consistency. 

Castellani

Alfredo Castellani established his winery in Montecalvoli in 1903, after previously being solely a grape grower.  His sons Duilio and Mario subsequently took over and expanded the firm significantly.  Duilio’s eldest son Giorgio coordinated a huge export drive, and was later joined in this by his brother Roberto after a serious flood.  Another disaster was to take hold in 1982 when a fire destroyed Castellani’s premises.  Giorgio and Roberto bought the Campomaggio Estate and were able to use the facilities of the new property to rebuild the business.  They were then joined by Piergiorgio who added a scientific take to the firm’s vinous artistry, and continues to run the firm to this day.

Piergiorgio has been experimenting with ways to make Tuscan wines which appeal to a younger, less tradition-bound generation.  This includes funky new labels which are less intimidating than those the consumer is used to seeing, but also by gently increasing the residual sugar to give a richer, rounder wine.  He is not aiming for noticeable sweetness, and a little tartaric acid is added to keep the wines fresh.

All that said, here are brief notes on two dry Castellani wines that I tried and really enjoyed recently:

Corte Alle Mone Vermentino Toscana 2019

Corte Alle Mine Vermentino

The Corte Alle Mone Vermentino is pale in the glass and lightly aromatic on the nose.  It shows citrus and stone fruits with hints of balsamic aromas.  The palate is bright and tangy yet creamy and round.  This is a delicious example of the variety and a great introduction to Tuscan Vermentino.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €10.00 down from €14.99 from 20th May to 9th June 2021
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

Corte Alle Mine Vino Nobile De Montepulciano 2016

Corte Alle Mine Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

The introduction to Tuscan wines above gives you the background to Vino Nobile.  This example from Castellani’s Corte Alle Mine has a textbook Sangiovese nose of dark fruits, tar, coffee and balsamic aromas – presumably from the 24 or more months it spent in large format oak casks.  The palate is smooth without being bland, with a balance between the fruit and smoky black elements.  Piergiorgio believes that a year or two more in bottle would bring out more savoury, umami tertiary notes.  If you like the sound of that then lay a few bottles down, but it’s drinking beautifully right now; this is a complex, quality wine that is an outstanding bargain at this price.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €15.00 down from €19.99 from 20th May to 9th June 2021
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

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Other Wines in the SuperValu Italian Wine Event

  • Canto Novo Pinot Grigio: €7.00 down from €15.99
  • Canto Novo Rosé: €7.00 down from €15.99
  • Emotivo Pinot Grigio: €8.00 down from €10.00
  • Castellani Arbos Sangiovese: €8.00 down from €12.99
  • Intrigo Negroamaro: €9.00 down from €11.99
  • Intrigo Primitivo: €9.00 down from €11.99
  • Ragnatella Negramaro: €9.00 down from €12.99
  • Baffo Rosse Chianti: €9.00 down from €13.99
  • Sammicheli Chianti Reserva: €9.00 down from €19.99
  • Burdizzo Vermentino Toscana: €10.00 down from €12.99
  • Barone Montalto Passivento Rosso: €10.00 down from €13.99 
  • Cantina Tombacco Aglianico: €10.00 down from €12.99
  • Castellani Chianti: €10.00 down from €13.49
  • Il Capolavoro Appassimento: €10.00 down from €14.99
  • Zonin Montepulciano D’Abruzzo: €10.00 down from €12.99
  • Zonin Pinot Grigio: €10.00 down from €12.99
  • Governo All’Uso: €10.00 down from €15.99
  • Orso D’Oro Red: €10.00 down from €14.99
  • Forte Ambrone Red: €10.00 down from €14.99
  • Castlemondo Ripasso €10.00 down from €18.00
  • Ricossa Gavi: €12.00 down from €13.99
  • Castellani Chianti Classico: €12.00 down from €15.49
  • Ill Capolavoro Primativo Di Manduria: €12.00 down from €15.99
  • Freixenet Pinot Grigio: €12.00 down from €14.99
  • Freixenet Chianti: €12.00 down from €14.99
  • Freixenet Rosé: €12.00 down from €14.99
  • Zonin Chianti: €12.00 down from €14.99
  • Masi Campofiorin: €15.00 down from €17.49
  • Barone Montalto Ammasso: €15.00 from €18.99
  • Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano D’Abruzzo: €16.99 down from €18.99
  • Grifòn Prosecco Frizzante Magnum: €18.00 down from €24.00
  • Ricossa Barolo: €20.00 down from €24.99
  • Costa Mediana Amarone Della Valpolicella: €20.00 down from €25.00
  • Masi Campofiorin Magnum: €25.00 down from €40.00
  • Barone Montalto Passivento 3 litre Bag In Box: €28.00 down from €45.00
  • Masi Costasera Amarone: €35.00 down from €37.99

Make Mine A Double

Wine Review: Ricossa Gavi and Barolo

Here are two wines from the SuperValu Italian Wine Sale, and specifically a Piedmontese pair that caught my attention at a virtual press tasting.  These are both “Guest wines”, i.e. they are sourced via local suppliers rather than direct from the producer, giving the retailer more flexibility.

Before we get to the wines themselves, a quick look at the wine regions of Piedmont:

Piedmont

Piedmont, or Piemonte to the locals, is a major region in north west Italy that runs right into the Alps.  As well as being a major industrial centre it is also home to many of Italy’s most well-known wine regions, nearly all using indigenous varieties.

Wine Regions of Piedmont / Piemonte

Ricossa Antica Casa

The Ricossa family can trace their beverage production origins back to the end of the 19th century, but it was Piedmontese spirits that they made rather than wine back then.  Now they make fifteen wines from across the region, with Nebbiolo and Barbera featuring prominently.  Below we have two excellent examples.

Ricossa Gavi 2019

Ricossa Gavi

As you can see from the map above, Gavi is very close to Piedmont’ southern border with Liguria. From there it is only around 60 kilometres to the Ligurian Sea, part of the Mediterranean, so there is a distinct coastal influence.  The estate where Ricossa source their Cortese grapes for this wine was established in 2004 on steep, rocky terrain.

In the glass this Gavi is a pale lemon, so good so far, but it’s the nose where things start to get really interesting.  The nose kicks off with an intoxicating muskiness, lifted and exciting.  It’s an unusual aroma, hard to pin down, but really special.  This then gives way to a variety of citrus notes.  The palate manages to be fresh and zesty, yet smooth, mineral yet textured.  It’s very approachable but not dumbed down in any way.

I’ve had some other good Gavis in the last decade but none have been as good as this.

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RRP: €12.00 down from €13.99 from 20th May to 9th June 2021
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

Ricossa Barolo 2016

Ricossa Barolo

Many regard Barolo as the pinnacle of Italian wine, and most consider it to be at least in the top handful.  However, many Barolos not only improve with a good amount of cellaring but are almost undrinkable in their youth.  Nebbiolo’s fiery tannins and acids can make for a drinking experience which is more masochism than hedonism.  There are some bottles which are approachable on release, such as GD Vayra’s Bricco delle Viole, but a single bottle of that won’t leave you that much change from €100 (in Ireland) , so it remains out of reach for most.

Step up Ricossa!  The grapes for this wine are from vines on calcareous silty clay soils, good for structure and complexity.  Fermentation and maceration take place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks, then maturation is in French oak barrels for two years and a further year in bottle before release.

When poured this is ruby red but with brown tints hinting at a little bit of age.  The nose shows red fruits, liquorice, caramel and spices, including a hint of vanilla.  The palate is rich and very expressive, with notes of black and red liquorice, cherries and raspberries.  This is a generous, elegant wine.  It has plenty of tannin and acidity, but they are interwoven with the fruits and other elements of the wine rather than standing in stark relief.  

This Barolo straddles the line between traditional and modern wines.  It’s highly approachable and not austere, so shouldn’t scare off any tempted to try Barolo for the first time.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €20.00 down from €24.99 from 20th May to 9th June 2021
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

**Click here to see more posts in the Make Mine a Double Series**

 


Other Wines in the SuperValu Italian Wine Event

  • Canto Novo Pinot Grigio: €7.00 down from €15.99
  • Canto Novo Rosé: €7.00 down from €15.99
  • Emotivo Pinot Grigio: €8.00 down from €10.00
  • Castellani Arbos Sangiovese: €8.00 down from €12.99
  • Intrigo Negroamaro: €9.00 down from €11.99
  • Intrigo Primitivo: €9.00 down from €11.99
  • Ragnatella Negramaro: €9.00 down from €12.99
  • Baffo Rosse Chianti: €9.00 down from €13.99
  • Sammicheli Chianti Reserva: €9.00 down from €19.99
  • Burdizzo Vermentino Toscana: €10.00 down from €12.99
  • Barone Montalto Passivento Rosso: €10.00 down from €13.99 
  • Cantina Tombacco Aglianico: €10.00 down from €12.99
  • Castellani Chianti: €10.00 down from €13.49
  • Il Capolavoro Appassimento: €10.00 down from €14.99
  • Zonin Montepulciano D’Abruzzo: €10.00 down from €12.99
  • Zonin Pinot Grigio: €10.00 down from €12.99
  • Governo All’Uso: €10.00 down from €15.99
  • Corte Alle Mone Vermentino: €10.00 down from €14.99
  • Orso D’Oro Red: €10.00 down from €14.99
  • Forte Ambrone Red: €10.00 down from €14.99
  • Castlemondo Ripasso €10.00 down from €18.00
  • Castellani Chianti Classico: €12.00 down from €15.49
  • Ill Capolavoro Primativo Di Manduria: €12.00 down from €15.99
  • Freixenet Pinot Grigio: €12.00 down from €14.99
  • Freixenet Chianti: €12.00 down from €14.99
  • Freixenet Rosé: €12.00 down from €14.99
  • Zonin Chianti: €12.00 down from €14.99
  • Masi Campofiorin: €15.00 down from €17.49
  • Corte Alle Mine Vina Nobile De Montepulciano €15.00 down from €19.99
  • Barone Montalto Ammasso: €15.00 from €18.99
  • Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano D’Abruzzo: €16.99 down from €18.99
  • Grifòn Prosecco Frizzante Magnum: €18.00 down from €24.00
  • Costa Mediana Amarone Della Valpolicella: €20.00 down from €25.00
  • Masi Campofiorin Magnum: €25.00 down from €40.00
  • Barone Montalto Passivento 3 litre Bag In Box: €28.00 down from €45.00
  • Masi Costasera Amarone: €35.00 down from €37.99

 

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