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.

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!

Tasting Events

The Fifth Element – Part 1

Quintessential Wines are are specialist wine importers, distributors and retailers based in Drogheda, just north of Dublin, and with an online store.  Here are a few of their wines which really took my fancy at their portfolio tasting in April:

Doran Vineyards Paarl Arya 2015 (13.0%, RRP €18.50 at Quintessential Wines, Drogheda & quintessentialwines.ie)

Doran Vineyards Arya

Doran Vineyards is the baby of Irish born Edwin Doran, partnered by South African winemaking legend André (“Adi”) Badenhorst.  “Baby” is actually quite apt as the winery was redeveloped as recently as 2012.

This wine is quite an unusual blend, one that could only really be from South Africa: 57% Chenin Blanc, 22% Grenache Blanc and 21% Roussanne.  The nose has citrus, herbs and floral notes; the wine is soft and supple in the mouth with fresh apple, stone fruit, citrus and a hint of nuts.  This blend is lovely to drink on its own but is also very food friendly.

Clos Cazalet Tursan Carpe Diem 2015 (12.5%, RRP €16.95 at Quintessential Wines, Drogheda)

carpe-diem-clos-cazalet-blanc-sec 2

Tursan is one of the lesser known appellations of south west France, spanning the border between the new regions of Nouvelle-Aquitaine and Occitanie.  It also has a lesser known grape at the heart of its white wines – the delightfully named Baroque which must be between 30% and 90% of the blend.  The balance is made up by a combination of Gros Manseng, Petit Manseng and Sauvignon Blanc.  Reds are based on Tannat (40% maximum), Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Clos Cazalet is one of the few independent producers in Tursan.  Their Carpe Diem comprises 60% Gros Manseng, 30% Baroque and 10% Petit Manseng.  This blend gives a full “here comes the Lilt man” tropical experience – pineapple, peach, pear and grapefruit.  it’s soft and round in the mouth,  a perfect summer drink!

Mas des Agrunelles Barbaste 2016 (13.0%, RRP €22.50 at Quintessential Wines, Drogheda)

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We’re on a go-slow here – well a go-sloe to be exact, as Agrunelles are sloes which are common round this area.  And what an area – a part of the Languedoc traditionally not used for viticulture given the cool micro-climate, and instead given over to sheep grazing and charcoal production.

The Domaine was set up by Frédéric Porro of Domaine La Marèle and Stéphanie Ponson of Mas Nicot as the antithesis of bulk cooperative grape production – each small plot is harvested and vinified separately so production is spread over a large number of different wines, though volumes of each are small.  It is also worthy of note that Mas des Agrunelles is both organic and biodynamic.

Barbaste is a blend of Chardonnay, Roussanne and Marsanne; it’s a thing of beauty, tangy yet soft (some oxidative softening, perhaps?) with spicy pear and fennel flavours.  Very moreish!

Mas des Agrunelles Camp de Lèbre 2015 (12.5%, RRP €27.95 at Quintessential Wines, Drogheda)

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Another wine from Mas des Agrunelles…whereas Barbaste means “white frost” in Occitan (the local language), Camp de Lèbre means “Field of hares”, as the local varmints help themselves to the tasty wine buds in spring.  This is a varietal wine, being 100% Carignan Blanc planted on clay and limestone.

The first line of my tasting notes was: “What the hell is that?  it’s Magnificent!”  There’s lots of texture and roundness in the mouth (possibly from some time in oak?).  Aniseed and herbs partner soft pip and stone fruit – deliciously tangy!

 

The Fifth Element Series:

Tasting Events

O’Briens Fine Wines Sale – My Selection

Leading Irish off licence chain O’Briens have some excellent premium wines and some are on sale (in store only) for a short time.  Here is a selection of my favourites:

Freemark Abbey Napa Valley Viognier 2012 (14.5%, €31.95 down to €25.56)

 

viognier

I had tried this wine previously and, although it was pretty good, I wasn’t overly impressed.  Tasting is such a subjective pastime that I’m always ready to give a wine another try – and I’m so glad I did!  I didn’t find this as oily as some Rhône Viogniers but it was peachy and rich – the abv of 14.5% should be a hint that it’s on the dry side.  More of a food wine than a quaffing wine, but very well crafted.

Henri Bourgeois Sancerre d’Antan 2014 (13.5%, €45.00 down to €36.00)

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This upmarket Sancerre is not for the casual drinker; it’s pricey but excellent.  If I bought it I’d stick it away for a few years at least – it’s still fairly tight and closed up, but undoubtedly has fabulous potential.

La Comtesse de Pazo Barrantes Albariño 2013 (13.5%, €42.00 down to €33.60)

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This is a fine wine to sit and sip, and to reflect upon the world.  It has lees work and some oak, so it’s unlike most Albariños on the market, but it’s no Chardonnay clone either. Probably my favourite Albariño ever tasted!

Chanson Puligny-Montrachet 2013 (13.5%, €55.00 down to €44.00)

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Top class Burgundy isn’t cheap, so why not try it when it’s on offer?  This is another youngster that really needs putting away for a while, or at least decanting for a few hours if drinking now.  Oak is noticeable on the nose (which I like, but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea) and adds depth to the palate.  Don’t drink it too cold, and only share with friends who appreciate good wine!

Caro 2013 (14.5%, €50.00 down to €40.00)

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This is a serious Malbec – Cabernet Sauvignon blend which is the result of collaboration between Bordeaux’s Domaines Barons de Rothschild-Lafite and the Catena family.  At this young age it still has lots of oak and tannin and primary plum and blackcurrant fruit characters, but also cedar and sandalwood notes.  Far better value than most posh Bordeaux reds, keep it for as long as you can bare!

Marqués de Murrietta Gran Reserva 2007 (14.0%, €34.95 down to €24.95)

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When it comes to Rioja I normally go for a Crianza or Reserva style where the fruit is more prominent than the longer aged Gran Reservas.  They can be too dry and “woody” (for me “oaky” can be good but “woody” rarely is).  Marqués de Murrietta have a beauty on their hands with the 2007 – it’s exactly how Gran Reservas should be: lots of fruit (strawberry, raspberry and blackberry) with vanilla,  all in a soft and cosseting package.  Get in!

Delheim Grand Reserve 2013 (14.0%, €36.95 down to €29.56)

delheim

This is of course a South African wine but – tasted blind – does a great impression of a classy left bank Bordeaux.  The main difference is that it is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, a grape which never ripens sufficiently to be used as a varietal in Bordeaux (though can be a very high percentage of some Pauillacs).  It’s definitely a dry wine, with pencil shavings and cedar notes that you’d associate with a more mature wine – so treat yourself to a bottle and a big steak!  More info here.

Gérard Bertrand Cigalus 2014 (14.5%, €38.95 down to €29.95)

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Probably the best wine in Gérard Bertrand’s portfolio, this is a biodynamically produced blend using both Bordeaux and Languedoc varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, Grenache, Carignan and Caladoc (a cross between Grenache and Malbec). Interestingly, the Syrah and Carignan undergo whole berry carbonic maceration (similar to Gamay in Beaujolais) which adds a little approachability – it’s a big wine, but not too intimidating.

Make Mine A Double, Opinion

A Walk on the Wild Side [Make Mine a Double #25]

There are lots of trends in wine which compete for our attention at the moment – orange wines, natural wines, organic, biodynamic, lutte raisonnée, skin contact, wild ferment, pet-nat, and many more.  Some are almost interchangeable and some are ill-defined.

Against this backdrop, many producers continue to improve quality by taking care in the vineyard, first and foremost, and allowing the terroir to be expressed in the wine.  One of the key ways of doing this is to use “wild” yeast, i.e. the yeast which occurs naturally in the vineyard, rather than commercial or cultured yeast.

Here are two wild yeast fermented wines from France which I tried recently:

Domaine des Chezelles Touraine Sauvignon 2015 (12.5%, €13.85 at Wines Direct)

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Touraine Sauvignon is a banker for me, always fresh and fruity, great value for money…in a word, reliable.  Although this might sound like damning with faint praise, it isn’t; while not hitting the heights of Loire neighbours Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, it’s the appellation I actually buy the most of.

Domaine des Chezelles practises wild yeast fermentation and organic techniques but haven’t been certified (which can be an expensive process).  They’re using organic methods because they think it’s the right thing to do, rather than a sales tool.

In the glass it’s recognisably a Touraine Sauvignon, with lots of pleasant green flavours – gooseberry, grapefruit, green pepper and grass – but more exuberantly fruity than the norm.  Drink as an aperitif or with dishes containing asparagus or shellfish.

Château La Baronne Corbières “Les Chemins” 2013 (14.5%, €22.75 at Wines Direct)

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Corbières was one of the first Languedoc appellations that I became familiar with, but quality has certainly increased over the past 20 years or so.  The reds (which are over 90% of all Corbières wines produced) are generally a blend composed of some or all of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan and Cinsault – what I call GSM-CC.

Les Chemins (“The Paths” or “The Ways”) is particularly interesting as it’s a naturally-produced wine from Corbières, but can’t be labelled as “natural” because of the sulphur levels – though no sulphur is added, the amount which occurs naturally is just over the threshold.  The blend is Carignan, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvère – the Lignères Family who own the Château are particularly fond of Carignan so it is the biggest component of the wine.

On pouring the wine has a wonderfully fruity nose – fruits of the forest in particular.  On the palate there are wondrous red and (mainly) black fruits – red and black cherry, blackberry and blackcurrant.  It’s the sort of wine that autumn really calls for!

Disclosure: both wines kindly provided for review

 

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