Opinion

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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Opinion

Wines at Xmas #7 – Jim Dunlop [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.

Jim Dunlop is a canny Scotsman who is seemly always on holiday somewhere – though that somewhere is usually a wine region whether in the Pfalz, northern Italy or the Canaries.


Antoniolo Gattinara 2006Many say Barolo or Barbaresco are the only wines that matter with regards to Nebbiolo but to the north of the Tanaro River and the Langhe, in Piemonte, there lies the Sesia River where both Gattinara and Ghemme are produced.  The wines here are more delicate and balanced than some of the forceful wine produced in the Langhe. This 2006 offering by Antoniolo is, for me, the top of the pile at Gattinara.  A classic red with a fantastic balance in the mouth, liquid velvet and so soothing – just right for a winter’s evening dinner.  This wine ages well, maybe for 10 to 15 years.

Antoniolo Gattinara DOCG 2006 (Piemonte, Italy): Purchased at Winery but similar offerings can be purchased from Tannico UK (Ave Price in UK: £20 to £30)


Riesling Rural trocken Weingut Heinrich Spindler PfalzFor me I always have a decision as to what is my favourite Riesling area, the top two being the Mosel or the Pfalz.  Recently my thinking is to prefer the more rounded style of the Pfalz compared with the austere style of the Mosel.  This offering from Spindler (based at Forst on the Weinstrasse near Deidesheim in the Pfalz) is just gob smacking amazing.  If anything, the 2015 harvest produced a better balance than the 2016.  Loads of Granny Smith on the front of the palate but huge soft fruit with balanced acidity at the rear of the palate and the finish goes on forever.

Heinrich Spindler Pfalz Riesling Trocken 2016 (12.0%): Purchased at the Weinhaus in Kallstadt, but similar offerings can be purchased from The Wine Society (Ave Price in UK: around £11)

Tasting Events

The Fifth Element – Part 4

A medley of reds from the Quintessential Wines tasting earlier this year:

 

Bodegas Mengoba Flor de Brezo by Gregory Perez Mencia 2015 (13.0%, RRP 23.95 at Quintessential Wines, Drogheda & quintessentialwines.ie)

 

Mengoba Flor de Brezo

Mencia is definitely a trendy grape at the moment, riding the light red zeitgeist.  It is usually unoaked, fairly moderate in alcohol and high in acidity.  But it isn’t for me – usually!  This is the wine that breaks that rule.  In addition to Mencia it has a good proportion (40%) of Garnacha Tintorera – better known as Alicante Bouschet, a rare teinturier grape with red flesh and juice.

Despite his Spanish sounding name, Gregory Perez is a Bordelais, but he has worked in Bierzo for around fifteen years.  He takes a natural, sustainable approach to his wine making with as little intervention as possible.  This bottle shows how good wines in the area can be.  It shows soft black (and some red) fruit, with a touch of smokiness adding interest.  It’s a supple and approachable wine, with fresh acidity and soft tannins.

 

Mas des Agrunelles Coteaux du Languedoc L’Indigène 2014 (13.0%, RRP €19.95 at Quintessential Wines, Drogheda)

Mas Des Agrunelles L'Indigene

Made by the team of Stéphanie Ponsot & Frédéric Porro, this is a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan, the indigenous grapes of the Languedoc (hence the name!)  Interestingly, among the sites where grapes are selected for this cuvée the plots of Syrah face west and those of Grenache face east.  I would imagine (and I’m happy to be corrected) that this is to tame the Grenache slightly (morning sun tends to have a little less heat) while letting the Syrah ripen more fully with afternoon heat.

This is a powerful, savoury wine which makes you sit up and take note.  It’s fiery and smoky, with black pepper, black fruit and tapenade.

 

Vigne Medaglini Montecucco Sangiovesi L’Addobbo 2013 (14.0%, RRP €24.95 at Quintessential Wines, Drogheda)

vegni-medaglini-l-addobbo-montecucco-sangiovese

Montecucco Sangiovesi is one of the lesser known DOCs in Tuscany – it’s not a variant of Chianti and neither is it a Super Tuscan.  Based in the hills around Mount Amiata in the province of Grosseto, it is a historic region for wine, but agriculture is mixed – olives and cereals are also grown.  Whereas Montecucco Rosso DOC has a minimum of 60% Sangiovesi, this DOC requires a minimum of 85% (in line with EU varietal labelling).

The Vigne Medaglini estate borders the Brunello di Montalcino which augers well.  This bottling is 100% Sangiovesi and has typical varietal notes of red and black cherry, tobacco and liquorice, but softened out by the 15 to 18 months spent in a mixture of barriques and (larger) tonneaux.

 

Mahi Marlborough Pinot Noir 2015 (14.0%, RRP €28.95 at Quintessential Wines, Drogheda & quintessentialwines.ie)

Mahi Marlborough Pinot Noir 2015

A cool climate makes Marlborough a good bet for Pinot Noir, but the first plantings didn’t work out that well as they were often inferior clones and not planted in the most appropriate places.  Lessons have been learned now and there is growing number of producers who are making excellent Pinot Noir.

The first word I wrote on tasting this Mahi Pinot was “woah!” (am I channelling The Drunken Cyclist?  It’s full of supple strawberries and fresh raspberries; despite the 14.0% abv it’s not at all jammy, though it does have considerable body and power behind it – something I tend to associate more with Martinborough and Central Otago than Marlborough.  Definitely one of the best Pinots from the region.

 

Ar.Pe.Pe. Valtellina Superiore Sassella Riserva “Rocce Rossa” 2007 (13.5%, RRP 76.95 at Quintessential Wines, Drogheda)

ArPePe Sassella Rocce Rosse 2007

Ar.Pe.Pe. is one of the most famous producers in the Alpine region of Valtellina, the most northerly wine region of Lombardy.  Nebbiolo is the speciality here, known locally as Chiavennasca but with the higher altitude it is often lighter than the more famous Barolo and Barberesco from Piedmont.

This was the third of three Ar.Pr.Pe. wines shown by Quintessential, and definitely a step or three above the baby brothers (not that they are exactly cheap themselves).  In comparison it is lighter, more delicate, ethereal – just a finer wine altogether.  It still has Nebbiolo’s trademark tannin and acidity – and that’s ten years after vintage – but they are a pleasant framework for the bright red cherry fruit and herbsA stunning wine.

 

The Fifth Element Series:

Tasting Events

The Fifth Element – Part 3

A pair of funky “whites” from the Quintessential wines tasting earlier this year:

 

 

Pierluigi Zampaglione Don Chisciotte Fiano 2015 (12.5%, RRP €26.95 at Quintessential Wines, Drogheda & quintessentialwines.ie)

Fiano

This actual colour of this wine is why these wines are described as “whites” and not whites – it’s orange, which is a whole new category and kettle of fish.  In simple terms, orange wines are made with white grapes but using red wine instead of white wine production methods – the major difference of course being the time that the juice has in contact with the skins (where the colour comes from).  It’s also a natural wine as the grapes are farmed organically, wild yeast is used and intervention during winemaking is minimal.

Pier Luigi Zampaglione makes this wine from a 2 hectare vineyard at 800 metres above sea-level in Campania – the altitude results in high acidity levels which help with ageing and make for a fresh wine.  The number of days of skin contact varies from year to year depending on the quality and style of the grapes harvested – in some years it can be apparently as long as 20 days (2011) but was 6 days for the 2016 vintage.

Ignoring its origins for a moment, this is just a thoroughly enjoyable wine.  It’s not the most extreme orange wine around so it would serve as a great introduction.  The key flavours for me were almond and ginger biscuits!

 

Loxarel A Pèl 2016 (12.5%, RRP €22.50 at Quintessential Wines, Drogheda & quintessentialwines.ie)

Loxarel a Pel

If the Fiano above would serve as a moderate example of a natural, orange wine then this is a no-holds-barred full-on example.  Again it’s a 100% varietal, but this time with Catalonia’s Xarel-lo, better known as one of the three traditional Cava grapes.  As before the grapes are grown organically, but also biodynamically; wild yeast are used for fermentation and there is skin contact, but much more than in the A Pèl.  With no fining or filtration the wine ends up somewhat cloudy in the bottle.

Quintessential Wines are known for having some unusual wines in their portfolio and I would suggest that this is the most left-field of the lot!  Aromas and flavours are not so much about the grape or the soil, but more about the natural microbial environment.  It’s definitely not for everyone but it really brings the funk and so deserves to be tried.

 

The Fifth Element Series:

Opinion, Uncategorized

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

zantho

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

gewurztraminer.vt.leonbeyer

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!

 

 

 

 

Opinion, Tasting Events

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)

cupcake

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)

atlantis

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)

earths-end

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)

stepp

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.

Make Mine A Double, Opinion

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).

landscape_soave
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**

Tasting Events

A Lidl Italian Wine

Flag_of_Italy

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.

 

 

Opinion, Tasting Events

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.

06WITA014-Rizzardi-Costeggiola-Soave

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

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