Information, Single Bottle Review

Pignolo, The Lazarus Grape

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

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

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

Dorigo Friuli Colli Orientali Pignolo 2015

Pignolo

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Single Bottle Review

Boutique Montepulciano d’Abruzzo?

The Abruzzo region is geographically in the centre of Italy* but is considered to be part of southern Italy for cultural and historical reasons.  Grapes are grown throughout all four provinces of this hilly region: L’Aquila, Teramo, Pescara, and Chieti – with the last being the most productive, ranking as the fifth highest wine producing province in Italy.

2000px-Map_Region_of_Abruzzo.svg
Abruzzo within Italy (Credit: Gigillo83 (Wikipedia))

Trebbiano d’Abruzzo is the main white wine of the region and Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is the main red.  At this point I feel duty bound to include the standard remark that the latter is not to be confused with the Sangiovese-based Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

Montepulciano_wine_regions_in_Italy

Under DOC regulations Montepulciano d’Abruzzo must be composed of a minimum of 85% Montepulciano with up to 15% Sangiovese for the balance.  Standard DOC wines must be aged for a minimum of 5 months prior to release with Riservas requiring 24 months, of which at least 9 months must be in wood barrels.

Although we think of Abruzzo as being the home of Montepulciano, it is in fact used throughout a large swathe of Italy from Emilia-Romagna to Puglia (see left).

It’s success is due to it being relatively easy to grow and producing high yields, yet still plenty of colour from the thin skins.  Acidity tends to be moderate and tannins are present but not too harsh.

Here’s a cracking Montepulciano d’Abruzzo which I tried recently:

Disclosure: bottle was kindly provided as a sample, opinions remain my own

Tor del Colle Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva 2016

TOR_DEL_COLLE_Montepulciano_DAbruzzo_Doc_Riserva

Tor del Colle is a label used for wines from Abruzzo, Molise and Puglia, three regions along the Adriatic Coast.  The brand is owned by the Botter group who trace their origins to 1928 Venice.

Grapes were fully destemmed and macerated for 7 to 8 days before temperature-controlled alcoholic and malolactic fermentation in stainless steel tanks.  Maturation is for 12 months in barrels (size & age not given) and 12 months in steel tanks.

The wine pours a bright cherry red, though not that deep.  The nose is intensely aromatic with alpine strawberries and cherry, plus cinnamon and other spices in the background.  The palate is rich and lithe, full of red and black fruit.  It’s a soft and supple wine; tannins are present but ripe.

Due to its ubiquity and relatively low price we are used to Montepulciano d’Abruzzo as a great glugging wine – probably the first wine that springs to mind when we’re asked to suggest a wine to go with pizza.  Although it’s not expensive, this wine shows that it can be so much more than that.  It retains the fresh flavours, balanced acidity and soft tannins of an everyday Montepulciano d’Abruzzo but adds additional layers of complexity which don’t weigh it down.

This is a lip-smackingly good wine, the best value red wine I’ve had so far this year!

 

*Just like the Mid-West of the USA is actually in the eastern half of the country**

**No I don’t know why either, ask them!

Wine + Music

The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series #4 – Jim Dunlop

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

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

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

The fourth part in this series is in the capable hands of Jim Dunlop, a canny Scotsman who loves wine but doesn’t take it too seriously.  The wine I chose for him was a New Zealand Chardonnay that I love (and have recommended many times in these pages) and that he had enjoyed on a recent trip to New Zealand: Man O’War’s Valhalla Chardonnay.

The song I chose for Jim was one that holds a dear place in my heart due to hearing it played many times on family holidays when I was young: The Long And Winding Road by The Beatles.  It’s only in the last decade that I’ve learned that Paul McCartney hated the additional strings and choir added by Phil Spector – and even cited it as a reason for leaving The Beatles.  However, it remains my favourite version and – in my opinion – one of the best songs ever made by the Fab Four.

Man O’ War Valhalla Chardonnay

When Frankie asked me to put music to wine and wine to music, it seemed a good thing as usually our preference is open a bottle and have memories of the area it has come from.

Man-O_War-Valhalla-Chardonnay

The wine I know is one of Frankie’s favourites and we would not have tasted it had he not mentioned while on our recent (non wine holiday) circumnavigation to visit Waiheke island while stopping over in Auckland. We will ever be grateful for that tip as Waiheke is a rather special island and it was there at lunch we selected Valhalla from Man O’ War winery. The winery is located in a distant spot on the island and we did not have time to visit it. This is probably the finest example of Chardonnay we have ever tasted but there again maybe the view out to sea and the sunshine helped a lot. Frankie has assured me that in wet grey Dublin it is still a magical wine.

So I had many songs to choose from but in the end I came down for Sing a Song of Love to me by Chris Rea.

The second verse is just right for this Chardonnay:

Cause if you sing a song of love to me

I will always find a smile

That will warm my cold cold heart

Just for a while

The Beatles – The Long And Winding Road

The song Frankie selected was The Long and winding Road

Here it was easy to make a choice for it is truly a long and very winding road to get to the winery from any direction, coming from the north taking the Spluga Pass from near the source of the Rhine over into to Italy and down to Valchiavenna there to find the glorious Nebbiolo of Valtellina.

spluga
Credit: Jim Dunlop

If you come at it from the east then you have the even more amazing Stelvio Pass. Both are squeaky bottom drives but most enjoyable. There are so many fine wines in this area but I have to make it one from our friend Mamete Prevostini and his wonderful Valtellina Superiore Riserva.

WP_20180907_13_54_09_Pro (2)
Credit: Jim Dunlop

Words fail me on this beauty which should be given time to sleep and not many have heard me propose that about wine.

mamete prevostini riserva valtellina superiore
Credit: Mamete Prevostini

Jim Dunlop

Jim is retired from a life involved with printing presses and packaging. He now enjoys the beauty of the world in “travels with Julia”, groundwork for a possible travel blog (that might happen if he ever gets round to it). Pre-COVID19 he seemed to be away on holiday more than at home, and even “non-wine” trips involved wine. Jim has semi-professional tasting experience in the wines of Northern Italy, Germany, New Zealand and the Canaries which he often shares on his Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Tasting Events

DNS Holiday Wines 2019

When restarting the DNS Wine Club tasting calendar after the summer break it has become a tradition to start with wines that members have enjoyed on their holidays.  It’s always a nice and relaxed event and gives a far more idiosyncratic range than is the norm at DNS.

September 2019 had us meet and taste wines from Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal, France, Australia and….Yorkshire!  Here they are in the order of tasting (and with apologies for the quality of the photos from my phone):

Yorkshire Heart Sparkling Rosé NV (11.0%)

Yorkshire Heart Sparkling Rosé NV

The best English wines tend to come from the south of the country: south coast counties like Kent, Sussex, Hampshire and Cornwall.  Whereas southern English producers used to focus on varieties that could prosper despite a damp and cold climate, global warming and experience has led to a boom in sparkling wine production, usually with the three main Champagne grapes.  Further north in Yorkshire, however, the climate is now mild enough for the special cross and hybrid varieties to survive (though prosper might be a little overstating the case just now.)

Yorkshire Heart are based close to York, so the name is apt.  They also have a brewery and a cider orchard so most bases are covered.  The vineyard has 17 varieties across ten acres, so it is still fairly small scale and experimental.  The grapes used for the sparkling rosé are not disclosed apart from the use of Pinot Noir to create the pink hue.  It’s made using the traditional method with the wine resting on its lees for 12 months – not as long as Champagne but longer than some NV Cava.

The wine has a fruity nose and a nice mousse when poured, but unfortunately it was not persistent.  The palate is full of summer fruits; raspberry, strawberry, cranberry and a touch of blackberry competed for attention.  As this is an English wine there’s ample acidity, though the finish resolves with fruit sweetness.

Read more about Yorkshire Heart here.

Principe Strozzi Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2017 (13.0%)

Principe Strozzi Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2017

Following the Italian wine naming convention of [grape] from [place], this is a 100% Vernaccia from San Gimignano in Tuscany (aka Chiantishire).  On the nose the wine evokes wet stones – can you get more mineral than that?  On the palate, it’s as though fresh lemons have been squeezed onto said stones – a real citrus zing on top of the minerality.  It has a touch more body than I had at first expected.  This is a well-made wine which, while not setting the world alight, makes for some very pleasant drinking.

Tesco Finest Tingleup Great Southern Riesling 2018 (12.0%)

Tesco Finest Tingleup Great Southern Riesling 2018

Of all the wines brought to this tasting, this Australian Riesling was from the furthest away.  However, DNS member Michelle was blagging this one as she had not been to Australia, and had instead spent her holidays in the local Tesco.  The wine is made for Tesco by Howard Park who are based in Western Australia and specialise in wines from Margaret River and Great Southern.  On the nose it has aromas of lime and…well…Riesling!  The palate is full of refreshing, zingy citrus and there’s just a kiss of sweetness on the finish.  A great way to get into Riesling.

Read more on Howard Park Wines here.

Mar de Frades Rías Baixas Albariño Atlántico 2018 (12.5%)

Mar de Frades Albarino Atlantico Rias Baixas 2018

So let’s count up the nautical references: the producer is Mar de Frades (which translates as something like “Sea of Friars”), the wine is Albariño Atlántico which indicates that it’s from the part of Rías Baixas close to the ocean, and the label depicts huge crashing waves and a chuffing seagull!  Message understood, loud and clear!  Thankfully the wine is very nice, despite being the producer’s “entry level” effort.  It spends six months on the lees which adds a nice bit of texture to the pear and peach fruit.  A saline finish seasons it perfectly.  In a sea (sorry, it’s catching) of samey Albariño, this is a winner.

Read more on Mar de Frades here.

Tenute delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso 2017 (14.0%)

Tenuta Delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso 2017.jpg

Tenuta delle Terre Nere takes its name from the black basalt and pumice stones which cover much of the estate on the northern side of Mount Etna.  Its surface area totals 55 hectares and is far from homogeneous – the 24 parcels range from 600 to 1,000 metres above sea level and (apart from a few new plantings) between 50 and 100 years old.

This Rosso is mainly Nerello Mascalese (95%) with a dash of Nerello Cappuccio (5%).  The soil is volcanic soil, obviously (I bleedin’ hope it’s obvious!!).  Stylistically the wine is somewhat Pinot Noir like, but with a touch more body and spice.  It has delicious smoky black and red fruit plus a certain chewy earthiness. 

Read more on Tenuta delle Terre Nere here.

Domaine du Bois de St Jean “Les Ventssssss” Côtes du Rhône 2016 (14.0%)

Domaine du Bois Les Ventssssss CdR 2016

The Domaine is located near Avignon and has a range of different red, white and rosé Côtes du Rhône wines plus Crus Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Vacqueras.  One notable wine is “Pur Cent”a cuvée first released 9 years ago made from 16 different varieties, all planted when the estate was founded in 1910, i.e. one hundred year old vines.

The odd name of this wine – which you can see in the heading above, but not so well on the label – is because the six Ss at the end of Ventssssss represent the six different names for the main wind which affects the Rhône: The Mistral.   The vines are planted on sand and pebble soils, north-facing slopes (presumably not too steep an incline) at around 400m.  The vines vary between 60 and 80 years old and consist of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan, Counoise and Cinsault.  For the 2016 only the first four varieties were used, but the precise blend is a family secret.

The wine is extremely smooth and elegant, attributable (in my humble opinion) to the sandy soils and north facing aspect respectively.  The velvet texture immediately reminded me of the Mas Saint-Louis Châteauneuf-du-Pape which is also predominantly Grenache grown on sandy soils – and that’s a real compliment.  Quite simply this is the best AOC Côtes du Rhône I’ve ever tasted.

Read more on the Domaine du Bois de Saint Jean here.

Quinta dos Aciprestes Douro Tinto 2016 (14.5%)

Quinta dos Aciprestes Douro Tinto 2016

One of my wine rules of thumb is that, when a place is famous for wine derived drinks other than regular table wines, if they were to produce table wines they would be quite poor.  When was the last time you had a regular table wine from the Sherry, Champagne or Cognac regions?  The Douro is a prominent exception to that rule of thumb with some excellent, characterful and drinkable wines, especially reds.

Quinta dos Aciprestes” means “Estate of the Cypress Trees“; the three depicted on the front label are most likely a representation of the three Quintas which were joined together to make the estate.  The grapes are a typical Port blend, including Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), Tinto Cão and Tinta Barocca.  Maturation is for 12 months in French oak (I suspect mainly older barrels).  This is a rich wine, typical of the Douro, but still round and soft – softer than the 14.5% alcohol would imply.

Château Nico Lazaridi Drama 2016 (15.0%)

Ch Nico Lazaridi Drama 2016

Let’s get the bad pun out of the way first: the phrase “no drama” is usually taken to be a good thing – but not in this case!  Drama is a municipality in the East Macedonia and Thrace region of north east Greece and home to Italophile wine producer Nico Lazaridis.  French grapes predominate with some Sangiovese and autochthonous varieties.

The eponymous Château Nico Lazaridi wine is 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 10% Sangiovese – what might be termed a Super Tuscan blend – that has spent 12 months in French oak.  It has an enticing, fragrant but gentle nose.  The palate is rich, explosive but smooth – cherries, chocolate and luscious black fruits all wrapped in velvet.  At 15% there’s also a suggestion of Napa Valley style power and sweetness.  This is a fabulous wine!

Read more on Château Laziridi here.

The Votes From Our North Side Jury

All of these holiday wines were good and worth trying, but two did stand out as the best and second best of the tasting:

  1. Château Nico Lazaridi received 8 votes (out of 18 total)
  2. Domaine du Bois de St Jean “Les Ventssssss” received 4 votes (out of 18 total)
Opinion

Frankly Wines Top 10 Whites 2019

It’s awards season, with the Golden Globes and Oscars over it’s now time for the Frankly Wines Top Tens.  So here we go, kicking off with 10 fantastic white wines that I have really enjoyed in the past 12 months, and you should try to get hold of if you haven’t already:

10. Luigi Baudana “Dragon” Langhe Bianco 2017

Luigi Baudana Dragon

14.0%, RRP €23.99.  Distributed by Liberty Ireland.  Also see related article here.

This wine could well have topped the list on the Frankly Wines Top Ten Value Whites, such is the bang you get for your buck, bitcoin, or other currency of choice, but for me it’s just a great wine full stop.  To stand out amongst the Langhe’s great reds is a great achievement.

9. Chalk Hill McLaren Vale Fiano 2017

Chalk Hill Fiano

12.0%, RRP €21.95.  Distributed by Tindal Wine Merchants.  Also see related article here.

McLaren Vale is one of the key Australian regions where Italian varieties are being treated seriously, not just as a novelty but as a serious alternative to international (i.e. French) varieties.  Mandrarossa’s Sicilian Fiano was a revelation when I first tried it a few years ago, but Chalk Hill have pushed the bar even higher.  Try this tropical citrus beauty and you will become a convert too.

8. Ovum Wines Oregon Big Salt 2017

ovum big salt

12.9%, RRP €33.95.  Distributed by Le Caveau.  Also see related article here.

In my notes below I state that there are no Alsace wines in my Top 10 whites this year, and while that is true it does not preclude Alsace-style whites from elsewhere.  The long, cool growing season of Oregon’s coast is perfect for aromatic varieties: Muscat, Riesling and Gewurztraminer combine elegantly to make Oregon’s very own Gentil.

7. Domaine Marc Sorrel Hermitage Blanc “Les Rocoules” 1999

domaine-marc-sorrel-hermitage-les-rocoules-white

14.5%, RRP €98.45.  Distributed by Karwig Wines.

Producers who make wine in Hermitage number less than a score so it is something of a rarity (especially compared to Crozes-Hermitage); the whites are rarer still.  They can be made from any combination of Marsanne and Roussanne, with the former usually dominant or alone.  Marc Sorrel is a modest man who makes wines that aren’t flashy, but very long-lived and interesting.  This is from a single plot called Les Rocoules; it is intensely aromatic with herbs, elderflower and honeysuckle on the nose.  The palate is a little drier than expected but reflects the herbs and honey notes of the nose.  It’s round and savoury – obviously well developed at twenty years old – with an interesting tang and even some crisp green vegetal notes.  White Hermitage is rare enough, but to try a two decade old single vineyard wine is a real treat.

6. Au Bon Climat “Wild Boy” Santa Barbara County Chardonnay 2017

au bon climat wild boy chardonnay

13.5%, RRP €39.95.  Distributed by Berry Bros & Rudd.  Also see related article here.

Jim Clendenen is rightly a legend of Californian wine, particularly those made from Burgundian varieties, so it’s fitting that a god-like portrait appears on the front label of this wine.  This wine has a slightly different sensibility to ABC’s regular bottlings, best summed up by the legend (in the other sense) at the bottom of the label:

Instructions to winemaker: I said “Hey dude, Make a wine on the Wild Side”

5. Domaine Stéphane Ogier Viognier de Rosine 2016

Viognier de Rosine

12.5%, RRP €31.95.  Distributed by Tindal Wine Merchants.

Viognier almost disappeared in the 20th Century, with just a small amount left in Condrieu.  It is now planted in many parts of the Rhône and further afield in California, Australia and elsewhere.  This wine is from the northern Rhône but outside the boundaries of the Appellation Controllée areas, making it an IGP.  Such is the quality of the terroir at Rosine and the wines made there, that I reckon it might well gain an AOC of its own in the future.  This is textbook Viognier, full of rich apricot, peach and pineapple fruits, and better than many more expensive Condrieus.

4. L.A.S. Vino Margaret River Chardonnay 2016

LAS Vino MR Chardonnay

13.5%, RRP €59.99.  Distributed by Liberty Ireland.  Also see related article here.

When we think of “natural” or “low intervention” wines we often think of the new wave of winemakers in Europe who have rejected the use of excessive chemicals in the vineyard and reverted back to their grandfathers’ methods.  In my eyes, Australia didn’t have the same issues, partly due to a drier climate and partly due to a more technical approach in bigger vineyards.  However, the focus on making wines that are consistent (vintage indifferent) and technically correct (starbright, clean, no trace of brett or VA) has sometimes encouraged wines which are lacking in character.

This Margaret River Chardonnay has character for days!

3. Rafael Palacios Valdeorras “As Sortes” 2016 

As Sortes

14.0%, RRP €46.00.  Distributed by Vinostito.

From the famous Palacios Spanish winemaking family, Rafael Palacios is the “God of Godello”, based in Valdeorras, Galicia.  He takes the grape to heights that have to be tasted to be believed, with low yields from seven plots totalling only 4.6 hectares and judicious use of oak.  There is tropical , soft stone and citrus fruit, all elegantly framed by a mineral, saline streak.  This is the type of wine which appeals to lovers of Chardonnay and Albariño alike.

2. Domaine JB Ponsot Rully “En Bas de Vauvry” 2016

jean-baptiste ponsot rully

13.0%, RRP €29.90.  Distributed by Nomad Wines.  Also see related article here.

Rully is on the rise – as land in the Côte Chalonnaise is significantly cheaper than the Cote d’Or (for now, at least) more vineyards there are getting serious attention and investment.  If you want excellent white Burgundy without a second mortgage, this is for you.

1. Julien Brocard La Boissonneuse Chablis 2017

CHABLIS-BOISSONNEUSE-JEAN-MARC-BROCARD

13.0%, RRP €28.45.  Distributed by O’Briens.  Also see related article here.

When whittling down my longlists to get to the shortlists of ten wines, quality considerations are paramount – balance, concentration and complexity, for example. This wine has all those, plus something else – it redefines how good a certain type of wine can be – in this case AOC Chablis.  There’s a long established hierarchy in Chablis with Petit Chablis at the bottom, then Chablis, a multitude of Chablis Premiers Crus with the seven (or eight, depending on who you ask) Grands Crus at the top – but this wine’s vast array of aromas and flavours show that, with care and dedication, anything is possible.

The bar for AOC Chablis has been significantly raised. The rest of Chablis – it’s over to you!

 


As this is the first of my Top 10s to be published, I first ought to mention a few obvious things:

  1. The timing of the articles is better in the first quarter of the new year rather than racing to get them all done at the end of a year, hence no 2018 edition.
  2. There will be no Alsace wines in the “Top 10 Whites” or “Top 10 Value Whites” categories – but do not adjust your sets, Alsace wines will have their own dedicated pieces.
  3. These lists are entirely subjective and are based on my personal opinions of the wines I’ve tasted, not an inclusive list of the best wines in the world (funnily enough I didn’t get sent any DRC or Bordeaux First Growth samples this year), so if you think there are obvious errors or omissions then please feel free to write about your own favourites on your own blog.

 

The Frankly Wines 2019 Top 10s:

  • Top 10 Whites
  • Top 10 Fizz
  • Top 10 Reds
  • Top 10 Sweet
  • Top 10 Value Whites
  • Top 10 Value Reds
  • Top 10 Alsace wines tasted in Ireland
  • Top 10 Alsace wines tasted in Alsace
Make Mine A Double, Opinion

Song For Whoever [Make Mine a Double #39]

The Beautiful South’s debut single was released almost 30 years ago and has been a subversive classic ever since.

Oh Shirley, oh Deborah, oh Julie, oh Jane
I wrote so many songs about you
I forget your name, I forget your name
Jennifer, Alison, Phillipa, Sue, Deborah, Annabel, too
I forget your name
Jennifer, Alison, Phillipa, Sue, Deborah, Annabel, too
I forget your name

It recently came to mind when I was tasting some Italian wines from the Fontanafredda (Freddie) group – their Gavi (Gavin) and Raimonda (Raymond) Barbera (Barbara) d’Alba!

Raymond, Freddie, Barbara and Gavin aren’t subversive, however; they are easy drinking wines that serve as a great introduction to their regions if you aren’t already familiar with them.  Rather than “Wine For Whoever”, their song is “Wine For Everyone”!

Fontanafredda Gavi 2017 (12.0%, RRP €15 at Martins Off Licence, Hole In The Wall & Jerry’s In Skerries)

Fontanafredda Gavi

Gavi is a Piedmontese white wine of some renown, hailing from the Province of Alessandria which has the Commune of Gavi at its heart.  Made from 100% Cortese, the speciality grape of the area, it’s a very flexible and appealing wine; soft fruity flavours with some body and enough acidity to remain fresh without removing the enamel from your teeth.  Locally it is paired with seafood, but it would also be a great aperitif or a simple sipper with good company.

Fontanafredda also make a Gavi di Gavi which has increased concentration, slightly higher alcohol (12.5%) and a heftier price tag (€25).

Fontanafredda Raimondo Barbera d’Alba 2017 (13.5%, RRP €18 at Martins Off Licence, Hole In The Wall & Jerry’s In Skerries)

 

Fontanafredda Raimondo Barbera dAlba

Barbera is the unsung hero of Piedmont, making some great wines in Alba, Asti and especially Nizza, the new Barbera-only DOCG.  Far more approachable than Nebbiolo in its youth, this is what Barolo producers drink at home.  The Fontanafredda Barbera d’Alba shows red fruit and lots of dark spice on the nose.  It’s soft and supple on the palate, with redcurrant and cranberry surrounded by blackberry and hints of tapenade – fruity and savoury at the same time.

 

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

Book Review

Amber Revolution by Simon J Woolf [Book Review]

Amber Revolution

In my not-so-humble opinion, the best wine books are those where the authorSJW-pub-shot-Apr2017-pc-sm-300x295 demonstrates three important qualities: a passion for the subject at hand, a deep understanding of the topic and an inviting writing style.  Even from the opening few pages of Amber Revolution, it is obvious that Simon J Woolf has all three of these in abundance.

 

The (main) title of this book might leave even the most wine-literate scratching their heads (“what the heck is ‘amber’?”) but the subtitle makes it clear that this book is about orange wine – a small but important category which has been lauded by many sommeliers and some critics but is still being discovered and appraised by numerous others.  A slightly less cryptic “Orange Revolution” would have been somewhat divisive in these parts…

The main narrative of the book is a damn good read.  Woolf moves technical notes and references to footnotes so that the text flows well, neither overly technical nor dumbed-down.  Side panels for additional information are used judiciously, and Ryan Opaz’s atmospheric photography illustrates what the words cannot.  75 pages of short producer profiles (by country) also serve as a useful reference.

A quick word about the quality of this book – it’s a proper hardback with quality paper and a bound bookmark, very legible text and high resolution images.  Woolf’s Morning Claret Productions have done a fantastic job.

As a taster, here are three of the things I learnt from this book:

  1. Although people look to Georgia and its millennia-old tradition of making orange wine in Qvevri, Soviet rule and subsequent geopolitical difficulties meant that the use of these amphorae had almost died out.  Inward investment is now seeing their use increasing significantly, with enough produced to cater for export demand from experimental winemakers overseas.
  2. One of the pioneers of skin contact wine in Collio – the formidable Joško Gravner – was actually a leading proponent of modern technical winemaking in north east Italy and was very influential amongst his peers – before seeing the (amber) light and choosing a different directions.
  3. Although new to many palates (mine included), orange wine has a long and distinguished history in north east Italy and adjacent regions – it was employed as a deliberate technique after much trial and error, rather than (as I naively assumed) due to blind adherence to tradition.

There are so many more interesting snippets that I would like to share, but I will leave them for you to discover.

Book available from Morning Claret Productions.

 

Note: I was proud to be one of the many (388!) people who pledged financial support for this book on the Kickstarter platform, but my opinions remain my own.

Make Mine A Double, Opinion

Monsoon in the Sahara [Make Mine a Double #33]

The Muscat family of grapes is one of the oldest known extant grape families, and has made a home all the way round the Mediterranean and beyond.  Muscat wines come in a variety of styles, from bone dry through to very sweet, from light in alcohol to fortified, from subtle to all-guns-blazingly aromatic. n In the end, whatever their style, most are recognisable as the grapey grape, Muscat!

Here are two very different expression from Top Selection’s portfolio, one very dry (the “Sahara”) and the other quite opposite (the “monsoon”!)

Terra Tangra Thracian Mountain Wine Tamianka 2016 (12.5%, RRP £14.77 from Top Selection)

Tamianka

Tamianka is regarded as a Muscat-like indigenous variety in its home of Bulgaria, but a little digging through Wine Grapes (Robinson, Vouillamoz, Harding) reveals that Tamyanka (and various alternative spellings) is a synonym for Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, and so it truly is Muscat!

This is a rather aromatic wine, with lots of grape and floral notes on the nose.  The palate shows citrus – particularly grapefruit – and a distinct chalkiness.  It’s pithy, with only a little weight, but a lot of texture.  This is more of a food wine than a sipping wine.

Top Selection recommend pairing it “with white meats with a bit of spice heat – for example, spicy marinated chicken served on a bed of black Thai rice and bok choi.”

 

Cereto Santo Stefano Moscato d’Asti 2015 (5.5%, RRP £13.92 (375ml) from Top Selection)

ceretto moscato dasti

There are three main ways to make sweet Muscat:

  1. Pick the grapes late, i.e. a late harvest style, so the grapes have more sugar when picked;
  2. Fortify the wine before fermentation has finished, thereby killing the yeast and leaving plenty of sugar unfermented (like the Vin Doux Naturel style);
  3. Stop fermentation early by chilling, without the addition of grape spirit, so the resulting wine is sweet and fairly low in alcohol.

Moscato d’Asti goes for the third route, with some bubbles for good measure!  “Moscato” is now a popular style in Australia and the US due to its eminent drinkability, but Italy still produces the best examples.  This example from Ceretto is sweet but not sickly, lithe, alert, aromatic, heady and refined….just bloody gorgeous!!

The folks at Top Selection recommend partnering Ceretto Moscato d’Asti with Ceretto’s own Panettone – or alternatively a fresh fruit-based dessert.

 

Click here for more “Make Mine A Double” Posts

 

 

 

Single Bottle Review, Tasting Events

GrapeCircus Round 3

Finally, a Franciacorta that I love!  As a winelover there are wines that I know I will love before I even taste them, and some that I don’t think I will like, but I try to keep an open mind.  Back in early 2014 I gave myself the task of trying more of a few different wines:

  • Muscadet
  • Cava
  • Prestige Cuvée Champagne
  • Franciacorta

Since then I’ve tried some lovely Muscadet, some excellent Cava and some Champagne that’s absolutely to die for.  I’ve had plenty of Franciacorta that I like, but up until now not one that I love.  Why is this?  I think the fundamental issue is that some Franciacorta producers are trying to make their own version of Champagne, picking the grapes early to preserve acidity and then adding a dosage after disgorgement for balance, but without the cool growing conditions that permit flavours to develop so well.

Arcari + Danesi Franciacorta “Dosaggio Zero” 2013 (12.5%, RRP ~ €55 – €60)

franciacorta dosaggio zero arcari danesi

The alternative is to make the best sparkling wine based on the local conditions.  Arcari + Danesi pick their Chardonnay grapes when they are quite ripe and full of flavour; the resulting richness and moderate acidity negate the need for dosage.

Not only is this sparkler made without additional sugar after disgorgement (hence “Dosaggio Zero“), neither is any used for the second fermentation in bottle.  The apparent contradiction there is because – under the “SoloUva Method” grape juice is used instead of sugar from beet or cane.

After 31 months on the lees there are some lovely autolytic notes, together with tangy tropical fruit.  The finish is dry but not austere.  What a fabulous wine!

 

Opinion

Wines at Xmas #17 – Sorcha Holloway [Guest Post]

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

Sorcha Holloway is the founder and owner of luxury wine tour company Away With Wine and also hosts the Twitter Chat #ukwinehour on Thursday evenings at 19.00 GMT / 20.00 CET


I’m dreaming of a Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona Christmas…
My Christmas Wine will not be a surprise to anyone who knows me and my passion for Sangiovese, Brunello di Montalcino in particular.  I discovered Brunello on my first trip to Montalcino with Mr H in 2007, a destination chosen because of Isabella Dusi’s book “Vanilla Beans and Brodo” (Christmas gift tip for Brunello-lovers!).  I fell under the spell of both this magical medieval town and its magnificent wine.  IMG-4533I have been a regular visitor since and I’m pretty sure I leave another little piece of my heart there every time.  This is where my love affair with fine wine really began, and probably where the seed for Away With Wine was first planted.
When on a wine tour there this summer I returned to this fabulous winery with its ancient and modern cellars, and family of wolves for good measure!  After a comprehensive tasting in the company of the charming owner, Paolo Bianchini, I was tempted, unsurprisingly, to ship some treasures home, including this – a magnum of 2007 Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona single vineyard Pianrosso Brunello di Montalcino.  I promise to share with my family in Ireland on Christmas Day.
It has been snowing in Montalcino this last few days – since I can’t have Christmas there, then this is the next best option.  A presto, Montalcino!
Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona Pianrosso Brunello di Montalcino 2007 (14.5%): not currently available in UK/Ire – bought at the winery, but delighted to report that Mentzendorff have recently started working with Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona so we hope to see more of their wines available in the UK soon.

The full series of Wines at Xmas: