Make Mine A Double

Wine Review: Mazzei Codice V Vermentino and Gérard Bertrand Orange Gold

Whether you call them “orange wines”, “amber wines” or “skin-contact white wines”, these postmodern wines are here to stay. However, are they going to remain a niche curiosity drunk only by the adventurous or will they break out from the independent wine specialist sector into multiples and even supermarkets? Here are two skin-contact whites which are leading the way.

Mazzei Tenuta Belguardo Codice V Maremma Vermentino 2019

Mazzei Belguardo Codice V Vermentino

I previously reviewed the “regular” Mazzei Belguardo Vermentino and found it excellent, so I was keen to taste this pull-out-all-the-stops flagship version. To make the best Vermentino they could, Mazzei started with clones from Corsica, the spiritual home and likely origin of the Vermentino grape. Of course they were planted in Maremma on the Tyrrhenian coast as the cooling effect of sea breezes is important for retaining freshness. The vineyard site is 30 to 50 metres above sea level and is orientated south / south-west on predominantly sandy soils.

Harvesting is all by hand but it’s vinification where things start to get really interesting:

  • 20% is fermented and aged on the skins in amphorae for nine months
  • 30% is fermented and aged on the skins in stainless steel tanks for nine months
  • 50% is fermented and aged on fine lees in stainless steel tanks (I presume for nine months)

The construction material and any lining of the amphorae is not specified.  After blending back together the wine is bottled and stored for a further six months before release.

If someone had already tasted the regular Vermentino then the Codice V would be quite familiar, though they might feel they had been missing half of the story. The nose shows complex aromas of citrus and stone fruit, with hints of smoke. These elements continue onto the palate where they intertwine with mellow savoury notes and layers of mixed peel and ginger. The finish is fresh and mouth-watering.

  • ABV: 13.0%*
  • RRP: €33
  • Source: Sample
  • Stockists: SC Grocer; Martins Off-licence; Clontarf Wines; Sweeneys D3; The Corkscrew; Blackrock Cellar

Gérard Bertrand Orange Gold 2020

gérard bertrand orange gold

I have reviewed Gérard Bertrand‘s wines widely over the years; his impressive range includes whites, rosés and reds from the Languedoc at several different price points, many of which are organic and / or biodynamic.  To those colours he has added an orange wine, a homage to Georgian wines of 4,500 years ago. It is a real blend, being made with seven different varieties: Chardonnay, Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Marsanne, Mauzac, Muscat and Clairette.

When perfectly ripe, the grapes are hand-picked in whole bunches and transferred to vat without any destemming or crushing, as with many red wines. The grapes then ferment, partially in the normal way and partially carbonicly (where the weight of the grapes causes some to ferment within their skins. After 10 to 15 days the grapes are separated and pressed to extract colour and tannin; this press wine is then added to the existing must in stainless steel tanks to finish fermenting. Finally, the wine is put into used barrels to mature.

In the glass (and in the bottle) this is a vibrant gold colour, and could be easily mistaken for a Sauternes or Tokaji. The nose is complex, with apple blossom, marmalade, apricot jam and pear drops – very enticing.  The palate is dry but with fruit sweetness on the mid palate. There’s a real savoury complexity to this wine, and a light saline tang with some tannins on the finish. From one point of view it could be said that the nose and the palate offer entirely different aspects, but that is a truism for orange wines in general. Once expectations are reasonably set I think this is a tasty wine that many would enjoy.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €21.95
  • Source: Sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Conclusion

These wines are quite different, taking different approaches to producing a balanced wine, and a single varietal compared to a blend. Although the number of orange wines available in Ireland is fairly low at the moment it doesn’t mean that any particular wine can represent a whole colour. What they do have in common is that they are both delicious and approachable, while maintaining a savoury character that expands their interest and versatility.

For me the Codice V is the better wine, but of course has a higher price. Due to its fairly widespread availability and lower price I think the Orange Gold is more likely to tempt more casual wine drinkers into trying an orange wine for the first time – but hopefully not the last time!


*Any wine geeks among you may have noticed that the alcohol for this wine is a little higher than the regular Vermentino I reviewed a year ago (13.39% v 12.5% on the respective tech sheets). This is due to vintage variation (2019 v 2018) rather than differences in winemaking; the 2018 vintage of the Codice V also had 12.5% alcohol.


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Make Mine A Double

Wine Review: Les Auzines Alaina Rosé and Domaine de L’Ostal Rosé

For many wine drinkers the brighter evenings are the sign to break out the rosé.  Summer doesn’t appear to have arrived yet here in Ireland, but rosé sales are already booming.  At family-owned chain O’Briens Wines they are out in full force, with a 25% off promotion:

O'Briens Rosé Display

Here are brief notes on two from that selection which have an Irish connection, though perhaps a little tenuous…

Domaine de l’Ostal Rosé 2020

Domaine de l'Ostal Rosé

Domaine de l’Ostal is the Languedoc outpost of the JM Cazes group, named after Jean-Michel Cazes who ran the group for over 30 years until he handed the reins over to his son Jean-Charles Cazes in 2006.  L’Ostal is a large estate, with 150 ha in total of which 60 ha are under vine and 25 ha are olive groves.  I am a big fan of their Minervois La Livinière Grand Vin which punches well above its weight.

The Domaine de l’Ostal rosé is a 50-50 blend of Grenache and Syrah grapes from the coolest part of the estate.  The grapes are cold pressed to preserve aromas and freshness, and to reduce extraction of colour and flavour from the skins.  The result is a lovely pale pink wine with fresh red fruit aromas – raspberry, redcurrant and strawberry – plus pomegranate.  On the palate sweet red fruits are to the fore, but the finish remains crisp.

This is an easy-going and appealing rosé which will be a real crowd pleaser come barbecue time.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €11.96 down from €15.95
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Irish connection: the JM Cazes family also own and run Château Lynch-Bages in Pauillac which was of course founded by Irish émigré Thomas Lynch. 

Laurent Miquel Les Auzines Alaina Rosé 2020

Laurent Miquel les Auzines Alaina RosE

Laurent Miquel is the eighth generation of winemaker in his family, but he initially opted for a professional career in the automotive industry.  The family calling eventually won him over and, after studying oenology in Montpellier, he returned to the land.  His father Henri was a great innovator in his time, especially planting so much Syrah in the 1970s.

The Miguel family bought the Cazal Viel estate in 1791, and although it had been used for viticulture by its previous custodians its poor fertility meant that wine was a small part of the estate for many years.  This was added to by Laurent’s purchase of Château Les Auzines in Corbières in 2009.

Les Auzines is situated on a rocky plateau at 350 metres above sea level.  As well as being Laurent’s family home it is the source of three wines; Alaina Albariño, Alaina Rosé and Cuvée Les Garrigues.

The Rosé is a typical Languedoc blend of 40% Syrah, 30% Grenache and 30% Cinsault.  Fermentation at low temperatures and ageing are carried out in steel tanks to preserve aromas and freshness. 

When poured the wine is very pale in colour, not too far from water white, as is the fashion these days.  The nose shows delicate citrus and light red fruit aromas.  The palate is fruity but balanced.  Gentle red fruits hint at sweetness without sugariness, and there’s some texture there too.  The finish is fresh, but it does not take you down a mineral-only path, and is certainly not austere.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €12.71 down from €16.95
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Irish connection: Laurent Miquel’s wife Neasa is Irish!


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Wine + Music

The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series #19 – Alan March

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 nineteenth installment in the Frankly Wines and Friends Music and Wine series comes from another fellow wine blogger Alan March.  The big difference between us is that I taste wines sat at home whereas Alan reports from the vineyard and cellar of a renowned Languedoc producer – he’s walking the walk as well as talking the talk.

While I respect the impact that David Bowie has had on English and world music I wouldn’t count myself as a devoted fan; I’m more of a Greatest Hits listener than scouring every track on a album.  However, where Alan and I agree is that Heroes is Bowie’s best ever track – it’s a masterpiece.

Of course Alan’s articles are mainly about Mas Coutelou, but in scanning his previous posts I noticed that he had reviewed the Sauvignon Blanc from a producer – Elgin Ridge – whose Chardonnay I reviewed myself quite recently, so that was an easy choice.


David Bowie – Heroes

When Frankie selected ‘Heroes’ I smiled. It is my favourite song. Bowie has been my musical hero for almost 50 years, my first gig was Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust in Newcastle City Hall. Through various guises he refreshed and widened my musical influences. In 1976, very ill through cocaine addiction, Bowie moved to Berlin to clean up. The three ‘Berlin’ albums (though only Heroes was recorded in Berlin) mark another shift, this time to European electronica, collaborating with Eno, Fripp and Visconti. The song itself is a reflection of time and place, the synthesisers and lyrics featuring Bowie’s observation of Visconti’s embrace with a lover by the Berlin Wall next to the recording studio.

Collaboration, bringing the best out of everyone plus his own touch of genius, intriguing lyrics and a deep and evolving sound, though Heroes has become one of those songs played almost too much it still makes me joyful every time I hear it. So, a wine to match it? Well, it has to be Jeff Coutelou’s La Vigne Haute (LVH).

2012 and 15 on Jeff’s table (Credit: Alan March)

I am biased of course. As my biography notes say spending time learning about soils, vines and wines was a huge change from my previous career. A former teacher himself, Jeff taught me about the vineyards, nature and natural winemaking.

Most Coutelou wines are blends, LVH is unusual in being from one grape, Syrah, and from one vineyard which faces north to avoid the hottest sun. It reflects the place with warmth, fruit and complexity from the various geological strands of La Garrigue. Hallmark Coutelou freshness is balanced by a depth of flavours. LVH is only made in years with exceptional fruit, Jeff extracts the best from the terroir. Like Heroes it is ageless but can be enjoyed at any time. For me, time in the Coutelou vineyards marked a period of healing just as Berlin did for Bowie.

Put the song and wine together and I am in heaven.

Elgin Ridge 282 Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon; so is this the grassy green of the Loire or the tropical fruits of Marlborough? Well, neither. Biodynamically grown, ducks for pest control, low enough SO2 levels for RAW – this is my kind of Sauvignon. The use of barrels, some new, adds a different flavour profile to the norm; creamier and fuller but cut through with green apples and freshness. Above all it is balanced and very drinkable.

I was tempted to select a Graceland period track from Paul Simon but opted instead for First Aid Kit’s ‘Emmylou’.

When the Söderberg sisters performed it live for TV on a Glastonbury show the harmonies and melody hooked me in. Those features made me pair it to the nominated wine. The nod to country music’s roots through Johnny and June, Gram and Emmylou whilst adding their own Swedish pop influence reflects the South African twist on Elgin Ridge’s wine. It is a country whose wines are quickly becoming top quality and regulars in my wine racks, Emmylou is a song whose quality makes it one of my most played these days.

This is the TV performance which made me stop:

Alan March

County Durham born and bred, I was a teacher for 34 years with a passion for learning. Two years of ill health for me including a ruptured Achilles and ongoing ME persuaded my wife and I to move to the Languedoc. A passion for wine had led to us holidaying in wine regions for many years and being in the Languedoc for most of the last 6-7 years (until the tribulations of 2020) meant that I could spend time learning about wine with my friend Jeff Coutelou. Planting, grafting and harvesting, bottling, labelling and promoting the wines has given me a deeper understanding of the world of wines, especially natural wines. My blog A March in the Vines was created to share my learning and I am grateful for the surprising numbers who read it. I am also on Twitter and Instagram.


The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series
No. Guest Name Music to pair Wine to pair
19 Alan March David Bowie – Heroes Elgin Ridge 282 Sauvignon Blanc
18 David Crossley Talking Heads – Road to Nowhere Dom. Rietsch Sylvaner Vieille Vigne
17 Mitchell Young Manic Street Preachers – Motorcycle Emptiness Montirius Vacqueyras “Garrigues”
16 Brad Horne Oasis – Champagne Supernova Petaluma Hanlin Hill Riesling
15 Liam Mycroft Eric Clapton – Bad Love Bodegas Garzon Albariño
14 Lee Isaacs The Rolling Stones – Gimme Shelter Domaine Jones Fitou
13 Sharon L Souls Of Mischief –  93 ‘Til Infinity Penfolds RWT
12 Tim Milford Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man Nyetimber Classic Cuvée
11 Mags McKee U2 with BB King –  When Love Comes to Town Pittnauer Zweigelt Heideboden
10 Cara Rutherford The Cure – Just Like Heaven Suertes del Marqués ‘7 Fuentes’
9 Melanie May The Cult –  She Sells Sanctuary Sipp Mack GC Rosacker Riesling
8 James Hubbard Gary Moore – Parisienne Walkways Penfolds Bin 707 Cab Sauv
7 Paul Moran Underworld – Rez Suertes del Marqués Trenzado
6 Nirina Plunkett Jamiroquai – Space Cowboy Club Remix Wolfberger Crémant d’Alsace
5 Penny Sadler Fleetwood Mac – Dreams Bollinger Special Cuvée
4 Jim Dunlop The Beatles – The Long And Winding Road Man O’ War Valhalla Chardonnay
3 Avril Kirrane McMorrough Norah Jones – Don’t Know Why Joseph Cattin Riesling Reserve
2 Tim of Soliciting Flavours Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings Viña Tondonia Blanco
1 Sinéad Smyth Stardust – Music Sounds Better With You Mullineux Syrah

 

Tasting Events

Lidl’s September Wine Cellar – Lighter Whites

Lidl Ireland are introducing some limited release French wines in their stores from Thursday 24th September 2020 in what they are calling their “September Wine Cellar”.  I tasted the majority of them at the first press tasting since Covid first hit and can give them all a thumbs up.  They aren’t likely to win any major awards but they are very good value for money and give wine drinkers a chance to try something representative of a style they might not have tried before.

Here are my brief notes on four of the light whites included in the event:

Le Rocher de Saint Victor Picpoul de Pinet 2019

As I am fond of saying, Picpoul is the “new Muscadet” (see an example of the “old Muscadet” below).  It is generally light and clean, unoaked and somewhat saline – and rarely expensive.  Unfortunately it can also be lacking and flavour and overly acidic.  Not this Picpoul!  It does have the saline streak – which makes perfect sense given that the AOP overlooks the brackish Etang de Thau – but also some juicy citrus fruit.  A default phrase to accompany Picpoul de Pinet is “great with seafood”, but this goes beyond that – it’s like licking oyster shells!  This is a Picpoul full of character for very little moolah.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €8.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Domaine des Deux Vallons Muscadet Sèvre et Maine 2019

If you are new to Muscadet then the label above contains two very important pieces of information:

  1. The wine is made in the Sèvre et Maine subregion (named after the two rivers which flow through)
  2. The wine has spent time Sur Lie, i.e. in contact with the dead yeast cells which fermented the wine and give it a creamy, bready aspect.

What the label doesn’t impart is the quality of the wine – but thankfully it gets the thumbs up from me.  Compared to many Muscadets this has very good depth of flavour, not that easy to produce on the Loire’s Atlantic Coast.  It’s full of Granny Smiths apples and zesty citrus, perfect for an aperitif or with oysters.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €9.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Les Aubrières Val de Loire Sauvignon Blanc 2019

This is an IGP Val de Loire wine, the former Vin de Pays category.  The exact location(s) the grapes were sourced from isn’t known but it’s made in a Touraine Sauvignon style.  It pours very pale in the glass and has a very expressive nose of cut grass.  This isn’t like realising that a neighbour is mowing their lawn, it’s like seeing a pile of cut grass and face planting in it!  Mouth closed, obviously.  There’s also a hint of green bell pepper on the nose.  These aromas continue onto the palate but the grassiness is joined by a herby character.  This is a very appealing wine.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €9.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Trésors de Loire Pouilly-Fumé 2019

We stay in the Loire with this Treasure, but more specifically in the famous appellation of Pouilly-Fumé, over the river from Sancerre.  Although also 100% Sauvignon Blanc, this wine is quite different in character from the one above.  It still pours a very light green in the glass but the concentrated aromas and flavours are fruity rather than grassy.  I Intense citrus come to the fore in the shape of lemon and grapefruit, but also ripe gooseberry too.  The flinty finish is long and elegant.  This is one of the best whites I’ve ever tasted from Lidl.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €14.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Star Pick

My pick of the four wines above is the Pouilly-Fumé, a Treasure by name and a Treasure by nature.


Lidl’s September Wine Cellar Posts:

Make Mine A Double

Kiss From a Rosé [Make Mine a Double #63]

Wine drinkers’ thirst for rosé appears to be boundless, with pink wines from all major wine producing nations experiencing growth.  In French supermarkets there are far more rosé wines than whites on the shelves, and rosé is even the category driving growth in Champagne.

The increase in rosé volume has also been accompanied by an increase in the number of premium rosés on the market.  Some are made with a firm eye on quality, some are marketing-led trendy wines with celebrity producers getting in on the game.  Provence rosé is the most fashionable style at present: pale in colour, lightly fruity and dry, with mineral and / or herbal notes.  Producers from other areas are emulating this style; of course they can’t call it “Provence rosé” but they can mention it is similar in style.

I’m a rosé skeptic; I’m very hard to please when it comes to rosé and I am suspicious of wines with a hefty advertising budget behind them.  There are two styles I have found myself enjoying in the past:

  1. simple, fruit forward (though still dry) rosés, especially Pinot Noir rosés
  2. serious styles which are made to age and come close to a light red, such as Bandol’s Domaine Tempier.

Among many that I’ve been luck to try recently, two in particular stood out for me.  One is from Provence and the home of the very trendy Whispering Angel – Château d’Esclans – and the other is from further west in the Languedoc, south west of Monpellier.  Below is a map showing their respective locations on the French coast.

Morin-Langaran and Château d’Esclans in the South Of France: Languedoc to the left and Provence to the right (Source: Google Maps)

Disclosure: both bottles were kindly given as samples, opinions remain my own

Domaine Morin-Langaran IGP Pays d’Oc Rosé Prestige 2018

Domaine Morin-Langaran is in Picpoul de Pinet country, right by the Étang de Thau between Béziers and Montpelier.  In fact, the vineyard’s borders are entirely within the Picpoul de Pinet AOC limits, with 36 hectares of the total 58 being planted to white grapes and the remaining 22 black.  The vineyard was created right back in 1330 by a religious order who eventually lost it during the wars of religion.  After changing hands several times over the centuries, it was bought by the Morin family in 1966.  They themselves had been making wine down the generations since 1830.

The vines for the Rosé Prestige are mainly Syrah plus a few Cinsault, all on limestone-clay soils.  Harvesting takes place in the cool of night and the must is cold-settled after pressing.  Bâtonnage is used to add creaminess and body to the wine without the need for excessive extraction in the press.

On pouring, the wine is a little darker than the ultra pale rosés which are so en vogue at the moment, but all the better for it. The nose shows strawberry and redcurrant plus some brioche notes from the bâtonnage.  The palate is full of sweet red fruits, but finishes crisp and clean.  This is an unpretentious wine which goes down well on its own or perhaps with lightly spiced food.

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RRP: €14.95
  • Stockists: Boutique Wines; Barnhill stores Killaney/Dalkey; Mortons, Ranalagh; Listons, Camden street; The Wine House Trim; Emilie’s, Glenbeigh Co. Kerry; Pat Fitzgerald’s (Centra), Dingle Co. Kerry; Grape and Bean, Portlaois; The Wine Pair, Clanbrassil Street; Blackrock Cellars; Gleeson’s, Booterstown Ave

Château d’Esclans Rock Angel Côtes de Provence 2018 

Sacha Lichine was born into Bordeaux royalty – his family owned the Margaux Châteaux Prieuré Lichine and Lascombes – but also became an entrepreneur in the USA where he studied at university.  His big move into rosé was the purchase of Château d’Esclans in 2006, which he transformed with the help of the late Patrick Léon (a consultant winemaker and formerly the Technical Director of Mouton Rothschild).

By pricing its top wine “Garrus”at £60 in 2008, Château d’Esclans essentially created the super-premium rosé category – and prices have obviously risen since then.  From the top down, the range is:

  • Château d’Esclans Garrus
  • Château d’Esclans Les Clans
  • Château d’Esclans (ROI RRP €45)
  • Caves d’Esclans Rock Angel (ROI RRP €40)
  • Caves d’Esclans Whispering Angel (ROI RRP €25)

My presumption is that the Caves wines are from bought in fruit whereas the Château bottlings are from estate grapes.

Over the past decade Whispering Angel has become one of the trendiest rosés around, one that some people are very happy to flash in front of their friends: wine as a luxury or fashion statement.  A change of gear kicked in from the late 2019 acquisition of a 55% stake in Château d’Esclans by Moët Hennessy – part of LVMH, one of the leading luxury groups in the world (and with some amazing wines in their portfolio).

But enough about the image, what about the wine?  The 2018 Rock Angel is a blend of 85% Grenache and 15% Rolle (the local name for Vermentino).  The vines are 20 to 25 years old and are planted on clay and limestone soils.  Vinification and maturation take place in stainless steel (60%) and 600 litre French oak demi-muids, with bâtonnage of both formats then blending before bottling.

This is a very pale rosé, so the juice has had very little contact with the skins.  The nose has soft red fruits, flowers and spicy vanilla from the oak.  Red fruit comes to the fore on the palate, which is rich yet racy; fresh acidity is paired with mineral notes and even a kiss of tannin on the finish.  This is a serious, grown-up wine that belongs more at the table than on its own.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €40
  • Stockists: The Corkscrew, Chatham Street; Morton’s; The Wine Centre, Kilkenny; Eldons, Clonmel; Dicey Reillys, Donegal; Baggot Street Wines

Conclusion

There’s obviously a huge price difference between these two rosés, and this is after the price reductions brought on by the LVMH purchase and change in distribution.  I find both of them have more character than the junior Whispering Angel, which is around half way between the two prices.  The Domaine Morin-Langaran is excellent value for money so I heartily recommend it.  The Rock Angel isn’t quite as good value – premium wine rarely is – but it exceeded my expectations so I think it’s definitely worth splashing out on if you’re a rosé fan.

 

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

Make Mine A Double

SuperValu South of France Reds [Make Mine a Double #62]

Wednesday 3rd September is the start of the SuperValu French Wine Sale, running for three weeks through to the 23rd.  Reductions are significant, with many wines having a third knocked off their price.  For the first two weeks there is an additional €10 off any six bottles – so get them while they last!  On top if this there are also ten “special guest wines” which are available on a limited basis only.  To whet your appetite here are a couple of reds from the south of France that are worth putting in your trolley:

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

Alma Cersius IGP Coteaux de Béziers 2018

For those not familiar with it, Béziers is located in the Hérault département of the Languedoc, now part of the Occitanie administrative region (formed from joining Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées.)  It is set by the River Orb and only ten kilometres from the Mediterranean.  Wine has been made in Béziers for millennia – it was even exported to Rome.  The town has been the site of many battles and massacres over the centuries, including the Revolt of the Languedoc winegrowers in the early twentieth century.

Up until the end of the 18th century, vines were one of several crops planted in each holding, along with olive groves and fields of cereals.  The turn of the century saw an expansion of the land under vine, with quality improving slowly but surely.  Béziers wines were included in Vin de Pays d’Oc from 1982 and eventually the area was granted its own Vin de Pays designation as VDP Coteaux-du-Libron in 2011.  Even less well known than Béziers, which at least has a renowned rugby team, Libron is the name of a local coastal river.  The common sense change to Coteaux de Béziers came in late 2015.  The IGP rules allow around a hundred different varieties – black, white, pink, grey and red – including several that I’d never heard of.  The main three colours of wine are made: red, white and rosé.

So out of the scores of grapes permitted, which ones make it into this Coteaux-de-Béziers?  The blend sticks to “international grapes”, a term often used for French varieties which are well known; Syrah (50%), Cabernet Sauvignon (25%) and Merlot (25%).  In the glass this wine pours a deep purple, showing its young age.  On the first sniff there’s an intense hit of violets – reminding me of Parma Violet sweets which were around when I was a kid.  There are also blackcurrant and blackberry notes, a hint of red fruit and some spice.

In the mouth this is quite thick, full of sweet red and black fruit with a little dash of umami on the finish.  Cersius Rouge is a juicy, easy drinking style of wine…not that complex but perfect for a Friday night tipple sat in the garden or to crack open at a barbecue.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €14.75 down to €9.84 from 3rd to 23rd Sept (plus buy any 6 bottles save €10 from 3rd to 16th Sept)
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

Georges Vigoureux “Pigmentum” Cahors Malbec 2018

Nearly all of you will be familiar with Malbec and most of you will know its original home of Cahors.  Although made with the same grape as Argentina’s blockbusters, Cahors would rarely be mistaken for one in a blind tasting.  It tends to be a little lighter, with more tannin and acidity, and often a certain earthiness.

Not only does Monsieur Vigoureux have vineyards, he also has a Château – the beautiful Château de Mercuès with lots of magnificent turrets (I bloody love turrets!) – and a restaurant.  There are several important vineyards around Cahors and further out into Occitanie, with the wines being grouped:

  • Main Châteaux: de Mercuès (Cahors) de Haute-Serre (Cahors), Leret-Monpezat (Cahors), Tournelles (Buzet)
  • Other Collections: Château Pech de Jammes, Crocus, Traditional Familiale, Pigmentum, Antisto, Gouleyant

As well as the straight Malbec we are looking at here, the Pigmentum collection also includes a Merlot Malbec blend, a Malbec rosé, dry whites made from Sauvignon Blanc and Ugni Blanc & Colombard plus a Gros Manseng sweetie.

So how is this “Black wine of Cahors”?  It’s actually more purple than black, but nigh on opaque.  The nose does have plenty of black stuff: black cherry, blackcurrant, blackberry, black liquorice and…black earth!  We’re talking fresh topsoil here.  From behind all this there emerges softly stewed damsons and prunes.

The palate reflects all of the notes on the nose, but rather than being picked out one-by-one they arrive together, somehow integrated.  Pigmentum Malbec has a fairly smooth texture but lively acidity helps it to stay fresh and – as Colin Chapman would have liked – adds a certain lightness, though this is not a lightweight wine by any means.

If you like Cahors or other earthy red wines then go ahead and fill your boots trolley.  If you are a little hesitant then I would definitely recommend decanting this wine to help emphasise the fruit flavours.  Best of all, though, would be to crack open a bottle with a nice rustic cassoulet!

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €14.75 down to €9.84 from 3rd to 23rd Sept (plus buy any 6 bottles save €10 from 3rd to 16th Sept)
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

 

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

 

Wine + Music

The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series #3 – Avril Kirrane McMorrough

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

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

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

For the third installment in this series we are back to Dublin with the well-travelled Avril Kirrane McMorrough (see her bio below). For Avril’s wine there was an obvious choice – the Joseph Cattin Riesling Reserve that I recently wrote about myself and which Avril mentioned she is a fan of.

The track I selected for Avril is one of my favourites: “Don’t Know Why” from Norah Jones‘s debut album Come Away With Me.  I could ramble on about this song for ages with its understated elegance, but really all I need to do is show the chorus lyrics:

My heart is drenched in wine

But you’ll be on my mind

Forever

Joseph Cattin Riesling Reserve

Joseph Cattin Alsace Riesling

Riesling is arguably one of the world’s finest white wine grape variety. It can produce a range of styles to suit every palate ranging from light and floral to dry and spicy, rich and fruity or absolutely bone dry. It is also a wine with amazing cellaring potential. The North Eastern French region of Alsace produces some of the world’s best aromatic wines.

The Cattin family of Swiss descent have a long history in the Alsace, dating back to 1720. With knowledge and experience that has been passed down through the generations, the family now own 60 hectares of vines around Voegtlinshoffen, 10 kms South of the Alsatian wine capital of Colmar. Joseph Cattin became renowned for his pioneering work in grafting and is widely credited for saving some of Alsace’s best vineyards from Phylloxera.

Joseph Cattin Riesling Reserve fits into the dry, minerally, floral with lots of citrus lemon and lime category. On the palate there are expressions of apple and peach with a vibrant acidity and a long finish.

Our sense of taste, smell, hearing and sight can lead one to a magical memory that especially in these times can seem like a very long time ago. This Riesling reminds me of days spent in balmy summer evenings, out in the open air, carefree and laughing with loved ones while cooking seafood over an open fire. The liveliness of this wine is a perfect accompaniment not only to the food but to a happy atmosphere.

The track I have chosen “Time of the season” by The Zombies, with its psychedelic keyboard and vague jazzy feeling summons those exact joyful and warm memories. Its heady ambiance would make you get up, glass of Riesling in hand and boogie your way around that open fire. Both bring a sense of carefree gaiety, they are my perfect music/wine duet.

Norah Jones – Don’t Know Why

“Don’t Know Why” was recorded in one take in October 2000 for it was deemed good enough. The producer used the original demo as the final vocal take and added guitars and vocal harmonies to make it sound as if Jones was harmonizing with herself.  I have chosen to pair this song with Domaine Les Yeuses Syrah ‘Les Epices’.

Located in Mèze in the Languedoc region of France, between the Mediterranean and the Etang de Thau, Domaine Les Yeuses was built in the 13th century by the Templars at the site of an ancient Roman villa. The estate gets its name from a forest of evergreen oak trees (‘Yeuses’ in the local dialect). Today they have nearly disappeared, replaced by a path of olive trees. The estate has been in the Dardé family for more than 30 years. Jean Paul and Michel, brothers, share the vineyard and winemaking responsibilities. Their winery is continually recognised for its wide range of varietal wines; indeed, the geography of their vineyard gives their wines a lively acidity and distinctive profile.

Domaine Les Yeuses Syrah Les Epices

Their Syrah ‘Les Epices’ has been compared by some critics to a young Crozes-Hermitage, so value for money is achieved with this wine. A luscious dark garnet colour with purple hues, Les Epices is round and harmonious with an elegant softness. Hints of spice and notes of ripe black fruits, cherries and sweet liquorice and toffee lends itself to a velvety, sensual feeling in the mouth.

Elegant, soft ,round and structured can describe both wine and song. My perfect wine & song pairing.

Avril Kirrane McMorrough

Avril is the business development manager and in house sommelier for Boutique Wines and is WEST 3 qualified. Having previously gained 20 years experience working in the restaurant business, most notably St John (London) and The Vintage Kitchen (Dublin), she provides a unique understanding of people’s needs with an emphasis on customer service and thrives on guiding people through their wine selections. Contact avril@boutiquewines.ie for more information.


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

Fine Time (Part 2 – France)

There are few words that bring joy to a winelover’s ears as much as “fine wine sale”.  Below are some of the French wines included in Irish chain O’Briens’ fine wine sale that I have tried and enjoyed this year.  I will leave the discussion on what constitutes “fine wine” for another day!

Note: these offers are in-store only, and for a short time.

Julien Brocard La Boissonneuse Chablis 2017 (13.0%, €28.45 down to €21.95)

CHABLIS-BOISSONNEUSE-JEAN-MARC-BROCARD

After studying engineering Julien Brocard joined the family firm in the 90s.  At first he concentrated on some special wines before eventually taking over the reins from his father.  Although he doesn’t necessarily use the term itself, he has followed the principle of Kaizen – continuous improvement in the vineyard, winery and onwards.

This is a very special wine indeed, and not just because it is from organic and biodynamically grown grapes – no easy thing in the northern climes of Chablis.  It’s simply the most accomplished and interesting Chablis I’ve ever tasted.  Yes it’s on offer in the Fine Wine Sale, but to be honest this is an absolute steal at its regular price.  There’s vibrant lemon and lime and a funkiness which I find really appealing.  The only reason for you not to buy this wine is to leave more for me!

Domaine des Sénéchaux Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge 2015 (14.5%, €43.95 down to €29.95 at O’Briens)

Domaine_des_Senechaux_CNDP

This wine has two prestigious  names behind it – Châteauneuf-du-Pape of course and the JM Cazes family of Lynch Bages fame.  Complexity comes through three distinct soil types: stony clay-limestone, deep sand and mollassic sandstone.  The assemblage is the traditional GSM blend, with 64% Grenache, 19% Syrah and 15% Mourvèdre plus a dash of Vaccarèse and Cinsault (2% together).  It’s a great example of CNDP which has some serious competition at €44, but is an absolute steal at €30!

Domaine L’Ostal Cazes Grand Vin Minervois La Livinière 2015 (14.5%, €23.95 down to €18.95 at O’Briens)

L Ostal Cazes Grand Vin

The Grand Vin of L’Ostal Cazes is probably my favourite wine of the JM Cazes family, especially when value for money comes into the equation.  It’s made in one of the top appellations of the Languedoc  – Minervois La Livinière – which has as few as 30 producers.  The blend is 90% Syrah plus 10% Grenache, all aged for 15 months in French oak barrels.  There’s no mistaking that this is predominantly Syrah based, though it’s richer and spicier than the northern Rhône’s reds.  This is the perfect wine for cold winter nights.

Gérard Bertrand Cigalus Rouge 2015 (14.5%, €38.95 down to €29.95 at O’Briens)

cigalus rouge 4

This is a premium cuvée from Gérard Bertrand, rugbyman (a word which works equally well in French as in Irish English) turned biodynamic winemaker.  The blend for Cigalus is (I hope you’re sitting down): Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, Grenache and Caladoc.  The last grape is a cross of Grenache and Malbec that is grown here and there in the Languedoc but is not generally permitted in AOC wines.  As this is an IGP there’s no issue!  Given the long list of grapes it’s no surprise that the wine is a mouthful, but in a good way – smooth and rich, it’s a very satisfying wine full of fruits of the forest.  Definitely one to quaff with a stew or a good book!

Château Phélan Ségur Saint-Estèphe Cru Bourgeois 2015 (13.5%, €70.00 down to €50.00)

Phelan Segur

Buy this wine, but don’t drink it.  I’m serious!  Well, sort of…I mean don’t drink it now, but lay it down out of sight and out of mind for several years before opening it.  You will reap the rewards.

With obvious Irish roots, Phélan Ségur is officially a Cru Bourgeois but is often talked about as being of Cru Classé…erm…class.  2015 was a great vintage in Bordeaux so this is definitely one to snap up if you can.  The blend is 53% Cabernet Sauvignon and 47% Merlot giving a mix of blackcurrant and plum with a structure that will stand it in good stead for the long haul.  Second wine Frank Phélan is worth its €39.95 so for a tenner more this is a bargain.

Also see my NZ & Aus picks in part 1

Opinion

Wines at Xmas #13 – Alan March [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.

Alan March is different from most wine bloggers – while we wax lyrically about various bottles of wine we have tasted he is actually at the “coalface” helping to make innovative wine in the Languedoc.  His aptly titled A March in the Vines is well worth a follow.


Mas Coutelou La Vigne Haute.jpgChristmas is about family and friends, sharing and reflection on the year which is fading. My choice of wine reflects these. I have lived most of the last 3 years in the Languedoc and spent much of the time helping at and writing about Mas Coutelou.  Jean-François (Jeff) Coutelou makes a series of excellent natural wines but for this special occasion I shall choose La Vigne Haute 2013.

The wine is pure Syrah, it is labelled as a Vin De France because Jeff chooses to avoid the rules of appellation status which would, for example, mean that a single grape wine would not be allowed.  Syrah is one of the main five Languedoc red grapes along with Grenache, Carignan, Cinsault and Mourvèdre.  The grapes which make La Vigne Haute are grown in a vineyard called La Garrigue planted on two sides of a ridge, Grenache facing the southerly sun and Syrah, more sheltered and cool, facing north.

2013 was the last vintage of La Vigne Haute, if the grapes and quality are not high enough they will be used in other wines. (Happily, 2017 will see a new vintage!).  The 2013 offers warmth, long flavours of red fruits and soft tannins, great with Christmas food.  Made by my friend, shared with family and a reminder of so many happy days in Puimisson.


The full series of Wines at Xmas:

 

Tasting Events

Another Brick In The Wall – Part 1

WineMason is an Irish wine importer run by husband and wife team Ben Mason and Barbara Boyle MW.  They specialise in wines from Germany, Portugal and Austria, but their expanding portfolio now encompasses France, South Africa, Spain and Italy.

Here are a pair of outstanding wines from the Languedoc that I tried for the first time earlier this year:

Domaine Turner Pageot “Le Blanc” Coteaux du Languedoc 2015 (14.0%, RRP €23, though currently only in restaurants)

Le Blanc

At first the name of this producer might mislead you in to saying “Turner” with French pronunciation, just like Palmer of Margaux, but in fact it is the surname of anglophone Karen Turner, the Australian lady who is half of this partnership.  The other half is her other half, Frenchman Emmanuel Pageot.  After over ten years of making wine around the world, they set up a domaine together in the Languedoc of just 3.5 hectares, now expanded to 10 Ha.  These 10 Ha are split over 17 different parcels, mainly facing north or north west (which makes sense in these southerly latitudes.  Viticulture is biodynamic – they even feature quotations from Rudolf Steiner on their website.

Le Blanc is a blend of 80% Roussanne and 20% Marsanne, though the latter punches above its weight due to 30 days of fermentation on skins to extract as many varietal aromas as possible.  This wine therefore gives an introduction to the orange wine category.  It’s quite full bodied for a white and combines stone fruit (apricot, peach) with nuts, beeswax and tropical fruits.  A very impressive wine.

Domaine Turner Pageot “Les Choix” Vin de France 2014 (13.5%, RRP €39, though currently only in restaurants)

Les Choix

If Le Blanc was an introduction into orange wine, then Les Choix is at the forefront.  This is 100% Marsanne from steep north – north-west slopes, fermented in whole bunches.  The juice spends five weeks being macerated on the skins, including regular pigeages (punching down the floating cap of solids) and wild yeast fermentation is not temperature controlled – this helps to bring the funk!

Perhaps showing the power of suggestion, I did imagine some orange notes when tasting this orange wine – and what a great ambassador for the category it is!  It has texture and tannin but fruit too – an incredibly complex wine that deserves serious consideration and contemplation.  Orange wine is still something of a rarity, but wines like this show what they can do; they really do belong in their own category beside red, white and rosé!