Tag: Italy

Frankly Wines Top 10 Sweet wines of 2016

As a wise man once said to me, don’t call them “dessert wines” as that implies they are only fit to drink with a dessert!  Categorising wines isn’t always an easy task, as even simple descriptors such as colour are open to interpretation (see this article).  Where do sweet wines fit in?  In the end, the label isn’t important, what’s in the glass is.

10. Tarin Pineau des Charentes Blanc Vieilli 3 Ans

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Pronounced the same as “Pinot”, this is the secret fortified drink of France’s west country. Made by adding eau de vie to grape must that has barely begun fermenting, it can only be produced in the Charente and Charente-Maritime departments – also the home of Cognac. That’s no coincidence as the grape spirit used for Pineau is the same that is aged to eventually become Cognac.

This example has received 3 years of ageing which gives it a slight “rancio” character – enough to add interest but not so much that it dominates.  The only downside is that it is so moreish!

9. Sipp Mack Gewurztraminer Vieilles Vignes 2012

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This Gewurz isn’t intended to be a sweet wine as such, but given the grape’s natural flavour profile, low acidity and a bit of residual sugar it tastes far sweeter than other many wines of Alsace.  As a general rule I do like some sweetness in my Gewurz, and this Sipp Mack does deliver that, but with an incredible intensity of flavour thanks to its old vines. See here for the full review.

8. GD Vajra Moscato d’Asti 2015

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Moscato from Australia and elsewhere gained a lot of ground in recent years – fresh and fruity, sweet and easy to drink yet with very moderate alcohol, it became something of a party drink.  Hopefully this will shine a light back on Piedmont, the pioneering region of this style (though obviously not of the Muscat grape!)

Moscato d’Asti might also qualify as a party drink for some, but its true value is at the table, mainly with fruit based desserts where it excels.  The best – such as GD Vajra’s – have a mouthwatering balance of acidity and sweetness.  See here for the full review

7. Max Ferd. Richter Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese

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For many wine aficionados, Germany is the ultimate country for Riesling.  The sheer variety of styles is one of its key strengths, from bone-dry to intensely sweet, and just about every spot in between.  This Mosel Spätlese (late harvest) is just wonderful and was my narrow favourite of an all-Riesling tasting at DNS Wineclub.  See here for the full review

6. Zantho Scheurebe Trockenbeerenauslese 2012

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Zantho is a joint venture between two famous names of Austrian wine, viticulturist Josef Umathum and winemaker Wolfgang Peck of Winzerkeller Andau.  As well as dry whites and reds they also make three dessert wines (pictured above) which are all glorious, with the TBA (for short) being my favourite.  Germanic grape Scheurebe works best as a sweet wine and excels in Zantho’s TBA from close to the border with Hungary.

5. Nyetimber Demi-Sec NV

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I’m a long standing fan of Nyetimber and I’ve been pleased to see them popping up here and there in Ireland.  When back in England in the summer I picked up a bottle of their Demi-Sec – which I haven’t yet seen here in Ireland – and took it to a DNS Wineclub tasting.  It was absolutely magnificent and reinforced my admiration for Brad Greatrix and Cherie Spriggs.

Not stated on the front label is that this is 100% Chardonnay, and therefore a Blanc-de-Blancs.  Dosage is 45g/L giving it perfect balance – typical English acidity is the counter to the sugar.  This was the first English Demi-Sec to be released but I would go further and state that it’s one of the top few Demi-Secs made anywhere in the world.

4. Domaine de Bois Mozé Coteaux de l’Aubance 2008

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The Loire Valley is probably France’s most underrated wine region and its Chenin based dessert wines probably the least well known – which is a total shame as they can be world class without a world class price.  Coteaux  de l’Aubance is even less well known than Coteaux du Layon and Quarts de Chaume, but the best sites can yield beauties such as this. In my opinion these wines are the ultimate expression of Chenin Blanc – and this is still a youngster at nine years of age.

3. Donnafugata Ben Ryé Passito di Pantelleria 2014

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The grape variety for this wine is known locally as Zibibbo, but further afield as Muscat of Alexandria – a very ancient grape.  “Local” here is the tiny island of Pantelleria which is between Sicily and Tunisia.  The grapes are dried after picking to concentrate the flavours and sugars, similar to “straw wines” elsewhere.  This is a wine of staggering complexity for such a young vintage, the biggest threat to ageing being its utter deliciousness!

2. Cascina Garitina Niades

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Many readers will be drawing a blank at the name of this wine which could have been in any (or all!) of my red, sparkling and sweet Top 10 lists.  Formerly carrying the DOCG of Brachetto d’Acqui, it could be thought of as the red equivalent of Moscato d’Asti – though even better, in this case.

When I tried it and tweeted about it, one wag did reply “can’t see the point” – and admittedly, before I tried it I can’t say it was missing from my life – but once tried this wine is never forgotten.  Fresh red fruit, acidity and sweetness combine to make wine heaven – it’s Eton Mess in a glass!

1. Léon Beyer Gewurztraminer Vendanges Tardives 1998

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This was the unexpected runaway winner of the DNS Wineclub Alsace tasting, against some pretty stiff competition (including #2 in this Top 10).  Léon Beyer is based in the achingly beautiful village of Eguisheim and has Domaines Zinck and Bruno Sorg as neighbours.  “The house style is dry” said the lady at the counter, “apart from the sweet wines” – such as this rare Late Harvest Gewurz.  The Léon Beyer website give a drinking window of 10 to 20 years from vintage, but this tasted like it had another decade left at least.  If I had another bottle it would probably make my Top 10 sweet wines of 2026!

 

 

 

 

Top M&S Whites

Last month I picked out six super sparklers from Marks and Spencer.  Now it’s time for some of my favourite M&S whites:

Domaine de la Pinte Arbois Chardonnay 2014 (12.5%, €23.50)

arbois

The region of eastern France is gradually gaining significant recognition for its wide variety of grapes and styles, many of which are particular to the area.  This is something more conventional, being a Chardonnay made in the “ouillé” style whereby evaporation losses are topped up to prevent too much oxygen in the barrel.  This has far more texture and flavour than you’d expect from a “Chardonnay” – it’s different but well worth a try.

Chapel Down Lamberhurst Estate Bacchus Reserve 2015 (11.5%, €19.50)

bacchus

I have been a keen supporter of English sparkling wine for over a decade, but I haven’t shared the same enthusiasm about English still wines.  However, there are a growing number of very good still wines that deserve your attention.  Bacchus was created in 1930s Germany – and is still grown there – but has found a second home in the cool English climate.  Chapel Down’s Reserve bottling is full of stone, tropical and citrus fruit. It’s well balanced and has a touch of residual sugar to counterpoint the mouth watering acidity.

Cupcake Vineyards Chardonnay 2014 (13.0%, €15.50)

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The Central Coast on the front label is of course the Central Coast of California, which includes Santa Barbara of Sideways fame and Monterey County, where the majority of the Chardonnay grapes were sourced from.

Part of the fermented juice was matured in (mainly old, I reckon) oak barrels and part underwent softening malolactic fermentation in stainless steel tanks, followed by lees stirring.  When recombined this wine gives the best of both world – it has some oak, but not too much, and some creamy lees flavours. Great value for money – just don’t drink it too cold.

Atlantis Santorini 2015 (13.0%, €15.50)

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Santorini is my favourite wine region of Greece for whites, especially those made wholly or predominantly from Assyrtiko as this is.  Due to its latitude the island receives lots of sun but this is somewhat tempered by sea breezes.  It sees no oak nor malolactic fermentation so remains clean and linear.

Earth’s End Central Otago Riesling 2015 (12.5%, €20.50)

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Central Otago in the deep south of New Zealand is primarily known for its Pinot Noirs – and rightly so – but its long cool growing season is also suitable for Chardonnay and Riesling.  This has lovely lime notes, and an off dry finish perfectly balances the vibrant acidity.  With Haka instructions on the front, surely this would be a great present for a rugby fan?

Terre di Chieti Pecorino 2015 (12.5%, €15.00)

pecorino

Another recent favourite of mine is Pecorino, an everyday Italian white wine with far more character than the lakes of uninteresting Pinot Grigio that clog up most supermarket shelves.  Both oranges and lemons feature on the palate – it’s a great drop at a keen price.

Villiera Traditional Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc 2016 (14.0%, €18.50)

villiera

Modest packaging belies a sublime wine, one of the most enjoyable South African Chenins I’ve had for a long time.  The complexity is due to the variety of choices made by winemaker Jeff Grier – a small amount of botrytised grapes was used, part of the wine went through malolactic and part did not, both new and second-use French oak barrels were used.  The end result is a marvel of honey and vanilla – amazingly complex for such a young wine.

Stepp Riesling *S* Kallstadter Saumagen 2015 (13.0%, €22.00)

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Germany’s Pfalz region is beloved of the Wine Hunter himself, Jim Dunlop, and of course makes some great Riesling.  The alcohol of 13.0% is much higher than an average Mosel Riesling, for example, which indicates that this is likely to be significantly drier and more full bodied.  Apricot, lemon, lime and orange make an appearance – just such a lovely wine!

Red Claw Mornington Peninsula Chardonnay 2015 (13.0%, €27.00)

red-claw

From one of Australia’s premium cool climate regions, this is a Chardonnay to make Burgundy lovers weep – or convert!  The fermented wines are matured on their lees in 500L barrels (over double the standard barrique of 225L) with no malolactic fermentation allowed, so freshness is maintained.  This is a grown up wine with lots of lees character and reductive notes.

Top Selection of Whites [Make Mine a Double #26]

UK wine importers Top Selection have an enviable portfolio of exclusive niche wines (and spirits) across the price spectrum.  Here are a couple of their fresh whites which impressed me recently:

Angel Sequeiros Rías Baixas Albariño “Evoe” 2013 (13.0%, £17.50 at Top Selection)

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Not long after gourmets and gourmands started using the term “food porn”, winelovers hit back with the equally hyperbolic “wine porn”.  Although the term is supposed to be figurative, it’s not far off the literal truth for this bottle!

Founder Angel Sequeiros bought the already-established Finca Quinta Gaviñeira on his return to Galicia in 1960.  The Rías Baixas estate is 100% Albariño and is now run by Angel’s son Clement.  Clement has been making his own mark with the estate since his first release in 2009.

It’s floral, fresh, and gently fruity – pleasant drinking on its own but not so intense that you couldn’t bring it to the table.  This is one of the most balanced Albariños I’ve tried!

Apparently, “evoe” in English means “an exclamation of Bacchic frenzy” – and looking at the label I’d say that’s not too far off the mark!

Villa Mattielli Soave Classico Campolungo 2015 (13.0%, £17.00 at Top Selection)

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As I have opined many a time and oft* on this blog, Soave from the Veneto in north eastern Italy continues to be unfairly looked down on because of the inexpensive and unexpressive bulk wine made in the region.  In fact, going back to the 1970s, Soave sales in some export markets rivalled that of Chianti.  In spite of the burgeoning quality of many other Italian wines, Chianti is still seen as the “go-to” Italian red wine in export markets, whereas Soave has been overtaken by the infamous Pinot Grigio (most of which, itself, is not exactly characterful).

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Soave vineyards (Credit: Alessandro Pighi)

Thankfully Villa Mattielli are a quality-orientated family producer with 30 hectares of vines across the Soave Classico and Valpolicella DOCs.  Winemaker Roberta is the fourth generation of the family to run the firm, along with her husband Giacomo and her sister Valeria.

The wine has a lovely orange and peach nose; it explodes with the same in the mouth, round and luscious.  Unlike many Italian white wines, it has too much flavour for oysters or delicate white fish – instead try it with king scallops or garlic and ginger prawns.

*The wine is made in the area around Venice, hence the literary reference**

**Don’t tell me you didn’t get the reference!

Disclosure: both wines kindly provided for review

 

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

A Lidl Italian Wine

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If you cast your mind back all the way to February of this year, you may remember that supermarket group Lidl launched a limited release of new French wines in Ireland (here are my posts on the Reds and Whites).

Now they’re going to do the same with a batch of Italian wines, set for release on Monday 13th June, and available while stocks last.  The wines in this batch don’t reach quite as high as the more expensive French ones did, but they are still worth seeking out.

Gavi di Gavi DOCG 2014 (12.5%, €9.99)

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Gavi is the town in Piedmont (NW Italy) where this wine is made from the Cortese grape (which I always think sounds like a family from The Godfather) – and the wine is sometimes usefully called Cortese di Gavi, in case you forget.  Wines from the production area closest to the town are called Gavi di Gavi as we have here.

By the way, if that’s all too confusing, feel free to call it “Gavin”.  The wine won’t mind either way.

The wine is clean and unoaked, with pear and stone fruit flavours.  It has some texture too, so it could stand up against seafood and lighter chicken dishes.  Make sure you give it a chance to warm a little if it’s been in the fridge for a while.

Soave Classico DOC 2015 (12.0%, €9.99)

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I suspect I’m not the only person who has been put off “Soave” by the cheap swill on the cheapest supermarket or convenience store shelves – but when it’s done right, it can be a very pleasant drink.  Trademark Italian acidity is still there but with soft citrus, pear and apple fruit.  The perfect drink for sitting in the back garden – especially if someone else is doing the gardening!

Barbera d’Asti DOCG 2015 (12.5%, €7.99)

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Barbera is the grape here and Asti is the province in north-west Italy where it’s made – together with Alexandria next door.  As part of Piedmont (or Piemonte to the locals) it tends to fall into the shadow of Nebbiolo, especially Barolo and Barbareseco, the “King and Queen” of the area.  Barbera can make top class wines, but even the more economical end of the market gives some very drinkable examples such as this.  It’s full of soft, juicy red and black fruit, with a slight smokiness.  Remarkable for the price.

Teroldego Rotaliano DOP Superiore Riserva 2012 (12.5%, €8.99)

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Teroldego is the grape in this wine.  Haven’t heard of it?  don’t worry, neither had I!  It’s from the Trentino area of northern Italy, Superiore meaning it’s 12.0% minimum and Riserva meaning it has spent at least 24 months maturing before release.

This wine has lots of character – it’s zippier than a gobshite from Rainbow!  Super fresh acidity makes it mouthwateringly tasty and really food friendly.

Nero d’Avola Terre Siciliane IGP (13.0%, €13.99 – 1.5L)

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At first glance this might appear a bit more expensive than the other wines – but it’s a double sized bottle!  Magnums are great fun at parties, so buy a few for a BBQ and you’re sorted!  Nero d’Avola is a popular grape in Sicily, giving spice, dark berries and chocolate.  It’s very drinkable, just make sure you don’t get carried away on a school night!

Larger format bottles are nearly all named after Biblical figures such as  Methuselah and Salmanazar – the Magnum is the exception as it was named after a Private Investigator*

Salice Salentino DOC Riserva 2013 (13.5%, €9.99)

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Now we’re in the heel of Italy’s boot, in Puglia.  Salice Salentino is the staple of Italian restaurants everywhere – for good reason!  It’s made from the Negroamaro grape which translates as “black and bitter”, but if there is any bitterness it is pleasant.  What it does have is spicy black fruit, and it’s so more-ish!  A barbecue wine that you will want to carry on drinking after the food has all disappeared.

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2011 (13.5%, €9.99)

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Up to now, all the wines I’ve recommended have been in the easy drinking style.  This is a bit different – not for the uninitiated, unless you are prepared to try something new.  The heart of Tuscan wine is Chianti, particularly the original central area which is now Chianti Classico.

This is a Riserva – aged in barrel for 24 month then 3 further months in bottle.  It has the full on Chianti experience – tobacco, liquorice, cherry and a touch of vanilla.  This should keep for another five years at least, and will soften and mellow over that time.  Who am I kidding?  This is going to be drunk within a week!

 

*this may not be 100% factually accurate.

 

 

Frankie’s Single Bottle Review #05 – Rizzardi Costeggiola Soave 2014

Frankie’s Single Bottle Review #05 – Rizzardi Costeggiola Soave 2014

Soave-Top

Rizzardi Costeggiola Soave 2014 (12.5%, €15.45, O’Briens)

Let’s get the obvious out of the way – most Soave is swill.

Well, to be fair, most is technically drinkable, if fairly simple, but lacking in flavour. It’s what you see on the label of the cheapest whites at your local convenience store. Over 85% of Soave production is made by co-operatives, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but when prices are fairly low then production targets are nearly always based on quantity rather than quality.

After a fantastic Amarone masterclass given by Count Guiseppe Rizzardi, we were treated to a glass of Rizzardi’s Soave with the first course of lunch. It is produced from a single vineyard on the hill of Costeggiola in the oldest part of the Soave wine region, just to the east of Verona. The soil is volcanic and the slope of the hill is steep enough to require terracing – add all of this to a southerly aspect and you have the right ingredients for some serious wine.

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The blend is 70% Garganega (the minimum stipulated by the DOC regulations) and 30% Chardonnay (with other varieties also permitted). The vines are between 10 and 40 years old, a good indicator of potential quality. As is the norm the wines do not see any oak during fermentation or maturation.  2014 was a cooler vintage in Soave, meaning a longer growing season.

The 2014 is clean, tangy, with appreciable texture. It has citrus, tropical and stone fruit notes – it’s a complex, versatile, enjoyable wine.

Suffice it to say that I popped to my local O’Briens store and cleaned them out of this wine!

 

 

Make Mine A Double #11 – Keep up your pecker with Pecorino!

Offida (Credit: Pizzodisevo)
Offida (Credit: Pizzodisevo)

It’s no secret that I don’t like cheese – in fact I hate the damned stuff – so it should come as no surprise that a wine with the same name as a prominent cheese was waaay down the list of new tipples for me to try.

Thankfully, Pecorino doesn’t taste of its namesake cheese, though there are unconfirmed rumours that they happen to go well together.  I took the plunge a few years ago after I noticed it on the by-the-glass list at West (the restaurant of The Twelve Hotel in Barna, near Galway), which has an excellent list all round, put together by General Manager & Sommelier Fergus O’Halloran.

Since then I’ve tried many Pecorinos? Pecorini? Pecorino-based wines that I’ve liked. The majority come from the Marche region of Italy which doesn’t get as many wine column inches as Tuscany, Piedmont and others, but has its unique charms.  As an interesting alternative to the ubiquitous Pinot Grigio the white wines of the area are popping up in more and more merchants, supermarkets and restaurants.

Here are a couple of contrasting examples that I’ve tried recently:

Umani Ronchi Terre di Chiete IGT Pecorino 2014 (€14.99, Marks and Spencer)

Terre di Chieti Pecorino
Terre di Chieti Pecorino

{Disclosure: sample kindly provided for review on request}

This is a relatively straightforward example of the grape,which sports a modest 12.5% alcohol.  Healthy grapes are cold fermented in stainless steel tanks to retain fresh fruity flavours.  It doesn’t go through “malo” (malolactic fermentation) so keeps zippy acidity, but does spend four to five months on the lees for additional texture and flavour.

Compared to many Italian whites, especially though of the 1990s, this is a well made wine which can still do the main job of accompanying seafood, but has enough about it to be enjoyed on its own.  If you’re having smoked salmon anytime soon (you know the season to which I’m referring) then this would be a perfect partner!

Le Caniette ‘Io Sono Gaia Non Sono Lucrezia’ Pecorino, Offida DOCG 2012 (€29.95, Honest 2 Goodness)

Io Gaia Sono La Canietta
Le Caniette ‘Io Sono Gaia Non Sono Lucrezia’ Pecorino

Recognisably the same grape, but in a different style, this Pecorino is unlike any of the others I’ve tasted.  It’s oaked!  This might seems a strange thing to do to a fresh zippy grape, but then this approach has been followed for Sauvignon Blanc (Cloudy Bay Te Koko, Torres Fransola) and Godello (Rafael Palacios As Sortes) among others.

Whereas the Umani Ronchi above is an IGT, this is a fully classified DOCG.  Ripe grapes are hand-picked and collected in small boxes for minimal bruising under their own weight. The gentle treatment treatment continues in the winery, followed by 12 to 14 months ageing in barriques, plus 4 months bâtonnage.

This wine first came to my attention at an Honest 2 Goodness tasting attended by a large contingent from DNS Wine Club – it was the standout bottle from the whole tasting in my view.  Further reflection with a full bottle reinforced this – the oak is in no way dominant, and adds another dimension to the flavour profile rather than riding roughshod over the tangy citrus fruit.  This DOCG wine’s alcohol is a couple of notches higher than the IGT at 13.5% which matches the texture and mouthfeel well.

So how do the wines compare given their disparity in price?  Both are great wines, and great value for money.  For me it just depends on my mood, and what / who I’m drinking the wine with, which would determine which of them I popped open on any particular day.

 

Further reading: Make Mine a Double Index

Make Mine a Double #06 – Spot the Difference, Puglia Style

Make Mine a Double #06 – Spot the Difference, Puglia Style

This series of articles each covers two wines that have something in common, and most likely some point of difference. Compare and contrast is the order of the day – so make mine a double!

Vigneti del Salento I Muri

I Muri Primitivo & I Muri Negroamaro
I Muri Primitivo & I Muri Negroamaro

The I Muri Negroamaro has been a firm staff and customer favourite at Sweeney’s of Glasnevin (Dublin) for many years – it even featured as one of my favourite reds from their wine fair earlier this year.  Now Sweeney’s are also stocking its twin, with a very similar looking label (don’t ask me the colour difference, I’m partially colourblind).

So where are they from and what is the difference?

Salento
Salento

Salento is the south eastern part of Puglia (technically Apuglia in English I suppose), the heel of Italy. This peninsula separates the Adriatic Sea from the Ionian Sea, and thus no point is ever more than 30 kilometres from the sea.

The wine here has often been quite fiery – powerful but rustic – and was historically used to (illegally) beef up the paler reds from further north in Italy.  The grapes most planted are the local specialities Primitivo and Negroamaro – and that’s exactly what we have here.

Winemaker Filippo Baccalaro is the driving force behind Vigneti del Salento, owned by the Farnese group.  He likes producing fresh whites and soft, approachable reds with as little intervention as possible.

Vigneti del Salento I Muri Primitivo IGT Puglia 2013 (€16.50, Sweeney’s and other independents) 14.0%

Vigneto del Salento I Muri Primitivo IGT Puglia 2012
Vigneto del Salento I Muri Primitivo IGT Puglia 2013

After years of guessing it was finally proved that Primitivo is the same variety as California’s Zinfandel.  Some Puglian producers are now even using oak to make their wines in a pseudo Californian style and using Zinfandel on the label for exports.  Further research showed that the impressively unpronounceable Crljenak Kaštelanski from Croatia is the same grape, before finally (for now) finding the oldest ancestral name of Tribidrag down the Dalmatian coast a little.

This Primitivo is far from rustic – it has the expected dark colour, full body and firm tannins but delivered in a smooth package, where each of the components are well balanced.  There’s a milk chocolate character to the texture, topped off by blueberry and red berry fruit.

Vigneti del Salento I Muri Negroamaro IGT Puglia 2012 (€15.95, Sweeney’s and other independents) 13.0%

Vigneti Del Salento I Muri IGT Puglia 2012
Vigneti Del Salento I Muri Negroamaro IGT Puglia 2012

Even a basic proficiency in Italian will give you a clue as to how Negroamaro tastes – black and bitter.  But not so bitter that you can’t drink it; like many Italian wines there is a certain tartness or bitterness to the fruit, but all the better for it.  Who would choose tinned black cherries over fresh ones?

The rougher edges of the grape have been rounded off by four months in French and American oak (not much of which was new, I suspect).  Black cherry and blackberry fruit are accompanied by spice and dark chocolate.  Acidity is prominent to keep it fresh but not so much that it tastes sour.

Comparison and Preference

This is very much a question of style and preference rather than a difference of quality; do you prefer dark chocolate or milk chocolate? Tasted side by side at a barbecue hosted by D, a fellow DNS Wine Club member and a food blogger, the group was almost evenly split on which they preferred – and everyone liked both of them, with just a minor preference for one.

So my advice is: buy both, and choose according to your mood!

Five of the best Reds from Sweeney’s Wine Fair

I’ve already picked out five whites from the Sweeney’s Wine Fair that really impressed me, so now it’s turn for my selection of reds.  But first a brief introduction of the people behind the name:

Finian Sweeney, proprietor
Finian Sweeney, proprietor, after winning another award
Kevin (R) about to host the Wines of the Year Award & glamourous guest Tara (L)
Kevin (R) about to host the Wines of the Year Award & glamourous guest Tara (L)
Lynda (with a "y") enjoying dessert at a food & wine matching meal, the last night of the Sweeney's Learn About Wine Course
Lynda (with a “y”) enjoying dessert at a food & wine matching meal, the last night of the Sweeney’s Learn About Wine Course

Apparently, for those who like that sort of thing, Sweeney’s also have a great range of artisan cheese from Sheridan’s cheesemonger.

So now for the reds:

5 Vigneti Del Salento I Muri IGT Puglia 2012 (Liberty Wines, €15.95, 2 for €28.00)

Vigneti Del Salento I Muri IGT Puglia 2012
Vigneti Del Salento I Muri IGT Puglia 2012

Grape: Negroamaro

A favourite with Sweeney’s staff and customers alike for a few years, I Muri hails from the heel of Italy – the beautiful region of Puglia. The most important local grape is Negroamaro, literally translated as “black and bitter”, and while this wine is listed as a 100% varietal Negroamaro it shows no bitterness. It does have black – blackberry and blackcurrant fruit, with a savoury edge but a polished finish.

4 Herdade de Rocim “Rocim” VR Alentejano 2010 (Grace Campbell Wines, €19.00)

Herdade de Rocim “Rocim” VR Alentejano 2010
Herdade de Rocim “Rocim” VR Alentejano 2010

Grapes: Aragonez / Alicante Bouchet / Others

Aragonez is the Portuguese name for the grape known as Tempranillo in Spain (well, in Rioja at least).  Alicante Bouchet is a teinturier, the term for a (very rare) type of grape with red flesh, so both the skin and flesh give colour to a wine.

Do you remember the scene in the film Ratatouille where restaurant critic Anton Ego tastes the eponymous dish and is instantly transported to his childhood?  Tasting Herdade de Rocim gave me exactly the same sensation, except I was magically transported to a summer barbecue, drinking wine.  I think it’s a sign.

3 Marchese Antinori “Marchese” Riserva DOCG Chianti Classico 2006 (Findlater WSG, €28.00)

Marchese Antinori “Marchese” Riserva DOCG Chianti Classico 2006
Marchese Antinori “Marchese” Riserva DOCG Chianti Classico 2006

Grape: Sangiovese

Check out the vintage!  The current release is 2011, so it’s quite rare to see older vintages on the shelves, even in a good independent wine merchants, but this is entirely deliberate; Finian bought several cases of this when it was released and has kept it in bond to be released when ready.  And boy, is it ready!

It has all the hallmarks of good Chianti Classico – liquorice, tobacco, acidity, tannin, black cherry – but the extra years maturing have seen them knit into a smooth, harmonious whole.  I think it’s now closer in style to its big brother Badia a Passignano, which still remains the smoothest Chianti I’ve experienced.

Hearsay at the Wine Fair suggested I might be in the minority liking this bottle (it’s not the first time and certainly won’t be the last time I’m in a minority); reflection has led me to believe that some people who are used to drinking young Chianti prefer, or at least expect, the components mentioned above to stand out individually.  If that is more to your taste then I suggest trying the 2011 Marchese, reviewed here.

2 Torres “Celeste” Crianza DOCa Ribera del Duero 2011 (Findlater WSG, €20.00, 2 for €34.00)

Torres “Celeste” Crianza DOCa Ribera del Duero
Torres “Celeste” Crianza DOCa Ribera del Duero

Grape: Tempranillo

While also in the north of Spain and often using the same grapes as Rioja, Ribera del Duero isn’t a clone of its more famous counterpart. For a long time only the renowned Vega Sicilia made wines drunk elsewhere in Spain, never mind exported. Now the region’s reputation is on the up, with national heavyweights such as Torres joining the ranks of local producers.

Tempranillo here is usually known as Tinto Fino, and often has support from Bordeaux grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec. However, even on its own it can show darker fruit than in Rioja.

Celeste has a nice name and a pretty bottle, but the contents surpass both of them. Bright red and black fruit are offset by creamy vanilla from the oak. It has wild strawberries rather than the poly-tunnel farmed ones that cheap Rioja can have, with blackberry and cherry riding shotgun. It’s a serious wine, yet it’s a fun wine.

1 Domaine Treloar “Le Ciel Vide” AC Cotes de Roussillon 2012 (Distinctive Drinks, €16.00)

Domaine Treloar “Le Ciel Vide” AC Cotes de Roussillon
Domaine Treloar “Le Ciel Vide” AC Cotes de Roussillon

Grapes: Syrah (45%) / Grenache (40%) / Mourvèdre (15%)

This wine is a rockstar – it stood out as the best wine of any colour from the whole tasting as it was just so interesting and funky.  Lots of fresh berry fruit is accompanied by smoke, earthiness and just a hint of farmyard.

Looking into the story of the Domaine is fascinating – it deserves a full post all to itself. The name of the wine is a direct translation of “Empty Sky”, a Bruce Springsteen song, which evoke memories of 9/11 for the owners who were working just one block away when the planes hit.

The blend of this wine has changed every year depending on the grapes available locally and how each variety fared in a particular harvest:

Le Ciel Vide blend by year, measured in litres of bottled wine
Le Ciel Vide blend by year, measured in litres of bottled wine

I love the complete honesty of co-owner Jonathan Hesford when discussing the first two vintages of this wine (2008 and 2009):

I’m not sure how these wines will age. They have the potential to develop even more fragrant aromas but don’t have the tannin structure of my other red wines.

His honesty is as refreshing as his wines!

A half-dozen of the best from the Ely BIG Tasting

Twice a year the Ely Winebar and Restaurant Group hold consumer tastings at their larger venue in Dublin’s IFSC.  Over a dozen of their wine suppliers show a selection of their wines, both currently listed and not listed, so that consumers get a chance to try new things and their feedback might lead to new listings!

The tastings are very well organised by Ely Group Wine Manager Ian Brosnan and Head of Biz Dev Jeri Mahon – thanks to both them and all the other staff supporting the event.

Here are a few of the wines which really stood out for me:

1. Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve NV (Liberty Wine) {by the glass at Ely Place and Ely CHQ}

Champagne Charlie
Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve

Perhaps it was the occasion, the perfect serving temperature or perhaps just a little extra time in bottle since I tried this last year, but Charles was tasting fantastic. The fruit is lovely and there’s some light biscotti notes from ageing on the lees. Perfectly balanced and poised, this is a definite candidate for the best non-vintage Champagne on the market.

2. San Lorenzo Verdicchio dei Castelli de Jesi Superiore ‘Vigna delle Oche’ Marche 2012 (GrapeCircus at Sheridan’s) {by the glass at Ely Place and Ely CHQ}

San Lorenzo Verdicchio dei Castelli de Jesi Superiore ‘Vigna delle Oche’ 2012
San Lorenzo Verdicchio dei Castelli de Jesi Superiore ‘Vigna delle Oche’ 2012

San Lorenzo is a well-established family producer now run by Natalino Crognaletti – something of a madman/eccentric/genius* (delete as appropriate) who is not only organic, not only biodynamic, but also believes in being self-sufficient. This means that he follows a minimal intervention path of wine making, with much more work required in the vineyard, but even goes so far as to keep chickens so he has his own eggs for fining the wines before bottling!! (This helps remove any big particles and can be an alternative to filtration which can strip out the flavours.

So what’s the result in the glass? Loads and loads of flavour! There’s minerality, citrus and soft stone fruit – and oodles of texture, which would make it a great food wine. You need to give this a try to taste something off the beaten path.

3. Domaine des Baumard Savennières “Clos de St Yves” 2010 (Tyrrell & Co)

Domaine des Baumard Savennières "Clos St Yves"
Domaine des Baumard Savennières “Clos St Yves”

This wine sparked such a positive reaction that I was moved to note the highly articulate comment: “Toast toast toast – frickin awesome!”

Chenin Blanc is one of the world’s most under-rated grapes, and the Loire Valley is perhaps France’s most under-appreciated wine producing areas. Having said that, I don’t often fancy the drier versions, but adore the sweeter ones, all of them having a trademark streak of acidity through the middle.

This example really hit the spot! It has already started to take on more interesting flavours but hasn’t lost its freshness. Tasted blind this would fool plenty into thinking it was a posh white Burgundy.

The producer likes his wines to be as clean as possible so uses no oak barrels and seals bottles with screwcaps rather than corks – thumbs up from me.

4. Paddy Borthwick Wairarapa Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (Wines Direct) {by the glass at Ely CHQ}

Paddy Borthwick Wairarapa Sauvignon Blanc 2014
Paddy Borthwick Wairarapa Sauvignon Blanc 2014

The third word there is the wine region of Wairarapa in the south of New Zealand’s North Island, not to be confused with Waipara which is north of Cantebury on the South Island. It’s an area more well-known for its Pinot Noir, particularly in the main subregion of Martinborough (again, not to be confused with Marlborough), but it is also home to some excellent aromatic whites.

Rather than gooseberry, asparagus and grapefruit which are stereotypical Marlborough Savvy flavours, Sauvignon from here is often even more tropical. This lovely example from Paddy Borthwick had passion fruit notes jumping out of the glass – in fact it reminded me of the passion fruit Mojito that my wife had at Cleaver East on Mother’s Day!

5. Sipp Mack Alsace Grand Cru Rosacker Riesling 2009 (Mitchell & Son) {by the glass at Ely CHQ}

Sipp Mack Alsace Grand Cru Rosacker Riesling 2009
Sipp Mack Alsace Grand Cru Rosacker Riesling 2009

I could happily have spent the evening just smelling this amazing wine (but then I’d have missed out on so much else!) Sipp Mack is one of the top echelon of Alsace producers and a personal favourite of mine, especially their Grand Cru Riesling and Pinot Gris bottles. There’s a touch of sweetness which acts as a counterpoint to the zippy acidity and mineral freshness.

This is drinking gorgeously now but, if you could keep your hands off it, will be even more amazing in five years’ time.

6. D’Arenburg “Lucky Lizard” Chardonnay 2012 (Febvre)

D'Arenberg Adelaide Hills "Lucky Lizard" Chardonnay
D’Arenberg Adelaide Hills “Lucky Lizard” Chardonnay

This is Unreconstructed, All-original, Can’t be bettered, Aussie Chardonnay!

The past decade has seen Australian Chardonnay move back from big, alcoholic fruit bombs to more subtle, mineral and food-friendly styles. Mclaren Vale’s D’Arenburg hasn’t really followed that trend, which wouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who knows of the current boss Chester Osbourne – his shirts are so loud they can be seen from space and he released a wine called Fuckeliana (yes, really!)

In fairness this is actually made the other side of Adelaide from their base, up in the Adelaide Hills which is the source of Shaw + Smith’s M3 Chardonnay. It’s big but doesn’t have that buttery, especially melted butter, taste of some Chardonnays.

Why change when it’s this good?

More to come!

Valentines Wines (VII) Bloggers Of The World Unite (episode 4)

One of the best parts about becoming a blogger has been meeting other bloggers from near and far – from literally round the corner to the other side of the world.  Reading their blogs has been interesting in itself, but has also been very helpful in learning how to make my own blog better.  Everyone I have met has been polite, pleasant and generous.

For some time now I had been meaning to try collaborating with some of my fellow bloggers – and then I hit on the idea of asking them to contribute a recommendation for a Valentine’s Day wine.  A cheesy romantic link to V-Day was optional – it could just be a wine that the writer really liked and so would recommend – and just a couple of lines was requested, though some wrote more.

I was bowled over by the reaction – everyone I asked agreed to join in!  Some even gave the background as to why a particular wine was romanic for them.

So sincere thanks to all who contributed!

Champagne Marie-Courtin “Résonance” Brut NV by Paddy Murphy (@VineInspiration) of The Vine Inspiration

Champagne Marie-Courtin "Résonance" Brut NV
Champagne Marie-Courtin “Résonance” Brut NV

When I was asked to pick a Valentine’s Day wine, Frankie assured me it didn’t have to be in any way traditional or cheesy.  Still, it’s hard to resist suggesting Champagne for this or indeed any celebratory occasion.

I first tasted Dominique Moreau’s Champagnes a couple of years ago and instantly fell in love (see…I can do cheesy!?).  Dominique’s estate is in the Côte des Bar and named after her grandmother ‘Marie Courtin’.  The vineyards are farmed biodynamically and most of the Champagnes are bottled in an Extra Brut style.

I say most – in reality I thought all her Champagnes were made in this style until I found her Résonance Brut NV (100% Pinot Noir) lurking on the shelves of The Organic Supermarket in Blackrock. If I’m truly honest, it probably does’t thrill me as much as the Extra Brut NV, but even with that caveat it’s worth tracking down this delicious Champagne.

€45.49 from The Organic Supermarket

Valentine’s Wines by Suzi Redmond of Suzi’s Grape Crush

Brunello di Montalcino
Brunello di Montalcino

So chatting with friends I usually get asked for any new recommendations for wine, beer or spirits… with valentines up-coming so did the topic of going for pinks or not…

Pinks are always fun and cute for Valentines but after thinking about it I asked what they wanted from their evening, as in light breezy, more seductive or maybe a slight blend…

For wine, if you want to go bright breezy then a good pink bubbly followed by either a more reasonably priced bottle of bubbles or a lovely rose from the Loire should fit the bill.  If a blend of fun and seduction then bubbles (Celtic Whiskey shop has some half bottles on sale for €9.99) followed by an elegant red.

For me nothing says seduction than a northern Italian red especially a Brunello di Montalcino – pure seduction! It does depend on your menu and budget. If cash is a touch tight go for its second wine Rosso di Montalcino which is quite beautiful.

See Suzi’s full post including beers and spirits recommendations here.

Love Noir California Pinot Noir 2012 by Loie (@cheapwinecurius) of Cheap Wine Curious

Love Noir California Pinot Noir 2012
Love Noir California Pinot Noir 2012Love Noir California Pinot Noir 2012

Perfectly situated in the Valentine’s Day wine section, I found this beauty on the bottom shelf. I’m one to plunder the shelves down under so I bought this wine with cupidity. My expectations for this Pinot were as low as the dust bunnies I am accustomed to shooing away in aisle. However, once home Love Noir had some surprises.

What is that saying? Love thy neighbor? In this case, I bumped into a neighbor fleeing from her inlaws. It was opportune as I was a neighbor in search of a drinking buddy. To tip the scales, the in laws were watching the children. My friend’s walk “to get some fresh air” detoured to my kitchen table and we started to discuss today’s tasting.

Very first thing we noted was the lovely labeling. Gold foil on black matte paper was very classé, and you would never believe it was merely $11 and some change.  But haven’t we all been fooled before.  There was no coincidence that a wine with “LOVE” in the name was launched during the Valentine’s Day holiday season. I also caught a bit of naughtiness in how they positioned this wine. This is what I read on the back:

“Deep & Rich In Style
Silky & Smooth In Taste
LOVE NOIR
Obsession. Desire. Passion.
This is Love Noir.”

Really? I thought I was reading the book jacket of a subgenre of romance novels. My faith with this vintage was waning. But I poured anyways.

Color was a dark, red purple. The nose was pomegranate, plum, cedar. There was good structure and I could identify 3 distinct layers; fruit first, balanced acids and smooth tannins second and thirdly a lingering woodsy, berry, oak finish.  Whether aged in barrel or not, there was distinctly oak in the finish and it was pleasant and complimented the bold fruit nicely.

Hey, “every wine has a darker side.” I think I’ve surrendered to the “LOVE NOIR.” The “richness” of this wine was able to “spark intensity and intrigue.”  If I can, I am certain you will “succumb to your urges and experience LOVE NOIR. Love. Changes. Everything.”

I’m not slavish to reading labels, but if you buy this wine, it is the gift with purchase. I rate this wine as a buy again – was quite good for the price and a pleasure to both drink and read aloud even in mixed company!

$11.49 Available at Target (USA)

Stay curious!
Loie

The full list of 2015 Valentines Wines posts: