Single Bottle Review, Tasting Events

Mount Pleasant “Lovedale” Hunter Valley Semillon [Wine Review]

There are always new wines to discover at the Liberty Wines portfolio tasting, but sometimes it’s nice to revisit new vintages of old favourites…just to see how they’re getting on.

Here’s the first of my many favourite Australian wines from the Liberty stable.

Mount Pleasant “Lovedale” Hunter Valley Semillon 2018

Mount Pleasant Lovedale Hunter Valley Semillon 2018 bottle shot

Hunter Valley

The Hunter Valley is one of the best known Australian wine regions, albeit with its relative proximity to Sydney being a key factor in its success. Hunter Valley Semillon is arguably one of Australia’s key original wine styles. By that I mean that it’s not just a better, or different, version of a wine made elsewhere, but it is a true original. Even other Aussie wine regions which grow Semillon, such as the the Barossa and Margaret River, just can’t produce wine in the same style.

Hunter Valley Wine Region map
Credit: Australian Wine Discovered

Mount Pleasant

Mount Pleasant is one of the “OG” Hunter producers, founded over a century ago by the pioneering Maurice O’Shea (now there’s a fine Irish name). He spent six years in France studying and then lecturing in viticulture, before bringing this knowledge and expertise back to Australia. O’Shea is regarded as a founder of modern Australian wine making, and the top Shiraz produced by Mount Pleasant bears his name.

Before Covid I had the pleasure of tasting through some of the Mount Pleasant wines with Scott McWilliams, as McWilliams were the owners at that time. Sadly, subsequently McWilliams went into administration, and after almost 80 years under the McWilliams umbrella, Mount Pleasant was bought by NSW property and hotel business Medich Family Office. The additional resources have enabled the cellar door to be renovated, and the switch to only estate fruit from the Hunter, without the safety net of buying in grapes from neighbouring areas in case of poor vintage conditions.

Mount Pleasant have four heritage vineyards. Old Hill is the most venerable, planted with Shiraz in 1880, though wasn’t bought by Mount Pleasant until the 1920s. At that point Maurice also bought some adjoining plots and planted them with cuttings from Old Hill; these plots were named Old Paddock. In 1945 he bought Rosehill vineyard, identified as being extremely well suited to Shiraz, and Lovedale, which was mainly planted with Semillon. Today Lovedale is regarded by many as the finest Semillon vineyard in Australia.

Looking at some of Mount Pleasant’s recent accolades*, the Maurice O’Shea Shiraz has won awards at three to four years old whereas the Lovedale Semillon has been recognised at seven to eight years after vintage.

Lovedale Vineyard

Mount Pleasant Lovedale vineyard
Credit: Mount Pleasant

Lovedale is located close to Pokolbin at 60 metres above sea level. In total it covers 31.1 hectares, planted with Semillon (22.1ha), Chardonnay (7.4ha) and Verdelho (1.6ha). The vines are predominantly in an east-west orientation, with 3.35m between rows and 1.5m between vines and an average of 2,000 vines per hectare. The soil is “sandy aggregate loam topsoil, with friable red and yellow clay lower root zones”, giving the vines the potential to grow deep. Drip irrigation is used when necessary, and trellising is a combination of vertical shoot positioning and cordon ballerina. These methods give the grapes maximum access to sunlight, reducing the risk of diseases which are a significatn risk in the Hunter’s humid climate.

Mount Pleasant “Lovedale” Hunter Valley Semillon 2018

… the nose is so beguiling that it demands contemplation before even moving on to a sip.

So, onto the wine itself! At six years old this 2018 it is still a baby in Hunter Semillon terms, but it is already hugely expressive. The nose is complex, already displaying typical toasty aromas that allude to time in oak, despite the wine spending zero time in any oak vessel. In fact the nose is so beguiling that it demands contemplation before even moving on to a sip. But once tasting there are no regrets, only joy. Tangy pear and toasty notes endure, but against a backdrop of citrus and soft stone fruits. This is by no means a cheap wine, but in a world where white Burgundies can go for several hundreds euros, it begins to look like (relatively) good value for money.

What a wine!

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RS: 0.3 g/L
  • RRP: €74.99
  • Stockists: 2017 vintage is available at Ely Wine Store, Maynooth
  • Other Mount Pleasant wines available in Ireland: “Estate Grown” Hunter Valley Semillon, “Elizabeth” Cellar Aged Hunter Valley Semillon, “Maurice O’Shea” Hunter Valley Shiraz, “Rosehill” Hunter Valley Shiraz, “Old Paddock & Old Hill” Hunter Valley Shiraz

* Note the lower case “a”!

Wine Of The Week

Wine Review: Grosset Polish Hill Riesling 2011

If you vaguely remember seeing this wine before on Frankly Wines then you are not mistaken. I bought a dozen of the 2011 vintage of Polish Hill many years ago, and I drink a bottle every autumn to celebrate my eldest son’s birthday. If you haven’t guessed yet, he was born in the year 2011, hence my choice of vintage.

Before the tasting notes themselves, brief reminders on Clare Valley and Grosset Wines

Clare Valley

Clare Valley map
Credit: wineaustralia.com

Clare Valley is located around two hours’ drive north of Adelaide, into the northern Mt Lofty Ranges. It is subdivided into five sub-regions: Auburn, Clare, Polish Hill River, Sevenhill and Watervale

European settlement began in the 1830s, and it only took a few years for them to plant vineyards and make wine. Many of these immigrants were from Germany and Italy, countries with long established wine cultures, so it was natural for them to bring cuttings with them and develop vineyards, whether for commercial or personal consumption.

Being a hilly region, there are lots of different soil types* – eleven in fact, with red soil over limestone (similar to Coonawarra’s terra rossa) in Watervale and broken slate in Polish Hill River. These soil types obviously have an effect on the style of wines made. Across Clare Valley as a whole, Riesling is the most popo

Grosset Wines

We all have our own story of how we caught the wine bug. For Jeffrey Grosset, it was at the tender age of 15 when he tasted a bottle of wine his dad brought home for dinner. He signed up at Roseworthy Agricultural College – Australia’s premier wine college – on his 16th birthday then spent five years studying Agriculture and Oenology, learning both sides of the trade. After graduating he had a series of roles in Australia and Germany, but at 26 in 1981 he decided to strike out on his own and founded Grosset Wines.

Jeffrey’s focus has always been on quality, so even as additional vineyards were added to the firm over the years, he maintained control and wasn’t subject to the whims of partners or shareholders. Even 40 years later there are only eight people in the whole company, many of them long term employees. He was also at the forefront of the Clare Valley producer movement to screwcaps, to preserve Riesling’s gentle aromatics. In the vineyard, sustainable practices and intimate knowledge of the vines eventually led to organic and biodynamic certification.

The Grosset Wines portfolio now extends to ten wines, eight from Clare and two from Piccadilly Valley in Adelaide Hills:

Riesling

  • Polish Hill (the Flagship)
  • Springvale (from the Watervale sub-region)
  • Alea (from Grosset’s Rockwood Vineyard, just off-dry)
  • G110 (made from a single Riesling clone in a single plot)
  • Rockwood (also from the Rockwood Vineyard)

Other Clare Valley Wines

  • Apiana (Fiano)
  • Gaia (~ 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc)
  • Nereus (Shiraz with a little Nero d’Avola)

Piccadilly Wines

  • Chardonnay
  • Pinot Noir

So now onto my notes on Grosset’s top Riesling

Grosset Polish Hill Riesling 2011

Grosset Polish Hill Riesling 2011

The key to this Riesling’s power and longevity is its tough upbringing. The Polish Hill vineyard has dry, slatey soil which forces the vines to send their roots deep. It’s also fairly cool, even for the Clare Valley. Bunches tend to be small, with small berries, so flavour is concentrated:

Grosset Riesling grape bunches from Springvale and Polish Hill
Credit: Grosset Wines

Most dry Rieslings are very light in colour when young, but 11 years have seen this bottle take on a little colour, so it’s now on the borderline between deep lemon and light gold. The nose shows even more evolution; on release it was tight, almost unapproachable, but now the lime, lemongrass and subtle herb notes have relaxed a little. It’s so nice to sniff that you might even forget to taste it!

When you do taste it, the attack is dry and subtle, but is quickly overwhelmed by a fruity mid palate: lime, grapefruit and quince. They fade out very gently over the long finish. There’s plenty of texture – small berries encourage a fleshy character, and the wine was not fined or filtered before bottling.

When I bought this wine, Grosset wines were a little cagey on ageing, suggesting that 15 years was probably the top end, but Jeffrey himself has said that some vintages can cellar for 25 years. It’s easy to see why this has become an Aussie icon, and an example of how good Australian Riesling can be.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €50 – €58 for current vintages
  • Source: purchased from The Wine Society
  • Stockists: good independents

 

* mountains and hills are caused by existing soils being uplifted, often twisted at the same time, so various layers are brought to the surface.

Make Mine A Double

Wine Review: Dreissigacker Riesling and Robert Weil Riesling

What’s the difference between Rheingau and Rheinhessen?

The nomenclature of German wine can be confusing – even for serious wine enthusiasts – with compound names and a quality system predicated on harvest sugar levels.  When three of the thirteen wine regions contain the word “Rhein” even the places can be confusing: Rheingau, Rheinhessen and Mittelrhein.  Until 1995 there was even a fourth with the Pfalz known as Rheinpfalz.

Rheinhessen is the largest of the 13 German wine regions and grows a large range of varieties; Riesling is the most significant but only accounts for around a sixth of the total, with Müller-Thurgau, Dornfelder and various Pinots also prominent.  Historically it was part of the Hesse region but is now part of Rheinland-Pfalz.

Confusingly, the Rheingau is part of the state of Hesse!  In her book The wines of Germany, Anne Krebiehl MW states that “No other region has shaped the identity of German wine and therefore Riesling as comprehensively as [the Rheingau]”.  Riesling is most definitely king here, accounting for 78.8% of all wines, with Spätburgunder a distant second at 12.2% then Müller-Thurgau leading the small change.

German Wine Regions

This article compares two similar Rieslings from Rheingau and Rheinhessen, both Trocken (dry), 12.0% in alcohol and retailing in the €20 – €25 bracket in Ireland.

Dreissigacker Rheinhessen Riesling Trocken 2015

Dreissigacker Estate Riesling Trocken from Rheinhessen

Jochen Dreissigacker took over his parents’ firm in Bechtheim and set about bringing it right up to date.  A modern winery building was established using gravity to move around the grapes, must and wine.  The vineyards were converted to organic production, with certification coming in 2010, and now biodynamic practices are also used for the majority of the estate.  Minimal intervention is the key so that vineyards and grapes can express themselves to the full.  Dreissigacker never use commercial yeasts, chaptalise with sugar before fermentation nor add “‘süss-reserve” for sweeter styles after fermentation.

The estate has six named vineyards around Bechtheim and Westhofen, each with their own unique soil types, microclimates and identities.  Totalling 21 hectares under vine, the most important variety is Riesling  which accounts for 55% of the total, with Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay among the others.  This estate wine is a blend of Riesling from different sites, mainly with loess and marl soils.

The nose on this wine is easily identifiable as Riesling: lime, lemon and apple blossom.  On tasting the strong core of acidity is striking, but there’s also breadth and texture – in fact more than one might expect from a Riesling.  The lime notes are joined by a touch of honey and a pleasant bittersweet tanginess, and it ends with a dry, textured finish.

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RS: 5.0%
  • RRP: €23.99 (2019 vintage)
  • Stockists: 64 Wine, Glashule; Alain and Christine Wine and Card Shop; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Martins Off Licence, Fairview; Redmonds of Ranelagh; The Wine Centre, Kilkenny; wineonline.ie; World Wide Wines, Waterford
  • Source: purchased from 64 Wine

Robert Weil Rheingau Riesling Trocken 2019

Robert Weil Rheingau Riesling Trocken

Weingut Robert Weil has over four times as much vineyard area as Dreissigacker with 90 hectares, all of which is planted to Riesling.  The eponymous Dr Robert Weil purchased his first vineyards in 1867 while teaching German at the Sorbonne, but shortly after had to return home as tensions rose between the two countries.  There he became a journalist while expanding his holdings and his range of wines; his Auslese Riesling became famous throughout Europe. 

Robert’s son Wilhelm (from 1920) helped to steer the winery through turbulent times and was a leader for the winegrowing industry.  His grandson Robert (from 1959) helped Weil’s Rieslings to regain their reputation for excellence.  The current owner/manager is another Wilhelm who took over in 1987.  He undertook serious investments in the vineyards and cellar, even introducing the distinctive and now iconic “Tiffany blue” labels.

Although they have just a single variety, Weil make an extensive range of wines, and differing sugar levels necessitate as many as 17 different passes through the vineyards during a harvest which can last ten weeks or more.  In the winery – as with Dreissigacker – gravity rather than pumps is used to move juice and wine.  Both wild and commercial yeasts are used for fermentation, with fuller bodied dry wines in large oak casks and sweeter or fruit forward wines fermented in stainless steel tanks.

This 2019 Riesling Trocken pours very pale in the glass, as you’d expect.  The nose has intense, fresh lime overlaying a mineral edge.  The palate initially shows soft citrus fruits, backed up by a strong streak of acidity which underpins the whole show, and then juicy orchard fruits.  This is a well made, balanced wine that gives a lot of pleasure.  It’s not the most complex of wines, but it is the entry level from Robert Weil and represents fantastic value for money.

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RS: 8.4 g/L
  • RRP: €24.95 (currently down to €21.95)
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswines.ie
  • Source: Sample

Conclusion

So what can these two wines tell us about the differences between the Rheingau and Rheinhessen?  I think this is too small a sample to compare the two regions, but it does make for a comparison between the two producers and two vintages.  The Dreissigacker is four years older than the Robert Weil so it is further along its journey to maturity; the Weil is still fresh and shows more primary fruit, fitting for their desire for wines to be both food-friendly and pleasant to drink on their own.  The Dreissigacker is more textured, mineral and serious, perhaps slightly less obvious or accessible for some drinkers. 

I really liked both!  For a refreshing sip in the sun with friends I’d pick the Robert Weil, but for a dinner with some good food the Dreissigacker would be my choice.  Perhaps more investigation is required…


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

Single Bottle Review

Wine Review: Offley Vintage Port

Vintage Port is the pinnacle of the Port quality tree, only made in the best years and very rarely in two successive years.  It’s a wine made for the long haul, able to last for several decades and often entering its peak drinking window after one or two.  The drawback is, however, that it is often unapproachable in its youth.  A very small proportion of wine drinkers buy bottles to drink a decade hence, leaving Port producers with something of a dilemma.

A few months ago I attended a zoom masterclass with Luís Sottomayor, winemaker at Offley Port and Casa Ferreirinha (I have already written about the latter’s Vinha Grande Branco and Tinto here).  Luís gave an overview of the 2018 harvest and the background to the 2018 Vintage Port: Spring 2018 was wet and the Summer not particularly hot.  The harvest started earlier than usual in mid September, but was done very slowly as maturity was quite uneven.  Overall 2018 was similar to the 2016 vintage apart from a slightly hotter summer in ’16.

The principal varieties used are Touriga Francesa, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Tinta Cão.  To make this Port more approachable the proportion of Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo) was increased; it has a high level of tannins but they are soft.

The grapes were foot-trodden in traditional lagars for maximum flavour and colour extraction without bitter phenolics.  Normal corks are used as, in Luís’s considered opinion, they are the best closure for ageing.  The wines have great body, acidity and structure making 2018 a classic Port vintage, though the crop was small.  Luís characterises it as a fairly simple wine, easy to understand, drinkable when young but capable of ageing for decades.

Offley Vintage Port 2018

It might be approachable but this Vintage Port is opaque in the glass, as it should be.  The nose has intense, rich black fruits, lifted aromas including spice and balsamic notes.  The palate shows both red and black fruits, balsamic notes, chocolate, all kept fresh by good acidity.  It’s a very generous but not overwhelming wine; it flows straight down without having to chew.  Perhaps this is Goldilocks’ Port?  Not too sweet, not too tannic or dry, not a blockbuster, but not too light.  In a word, accessible!

Luís recommends drinking with cheese or – as the locals do – with Feijoada, a Portuguese black bean and meat stew.

  • ABV: 20.0%
  • RRP: €78.99
  • Stockists: Terroirs, Donnybrook; The Corkscrew, Chatham St; wineonline.ie
Single Bottle Review

Grosset Polish Hill Riesling

Our first born child arrived in September 2011, and rather than just buy a case of wine for him (or us) to enjoy when he reached his majority I decided to buy a wine I could enjoy around his birthday every year as a toast to another year on earth.  In the end I settled (!) for one of Australia’s iconic white wines, generally regarded as Australia’s best Riesling: Jeffrey Grosset’s Polish Hill Riesling.  Normally I enjoy the wine so much that I completely forget to make notes, but this year at least I did write a brief tasting note.

Grosset established his eponymous winery in the small town of Auburn in 1981.  Auburn lies at the northern end of the Mount Lofty Ranges, a Nelson (111) km north of Adelaide and 25km south of the town of Clare.  The Polish Hill vineyard lies at 460 metres, covers eight hectares and is certified organic.  The soil is rocky and low in fertility making the vines work hard.  Winemaking is straight forward, trying to retain as much of the fruit’s character as it becomes wine.

Famously tight when young, the wine is made from small berries, a stark contrast to the larger grapes which grow in the Watervale sub-region of Clare Valley for Grosset’s other key Riesling, Springvale.  Acidity is high and in its youth there are pronounced chalky characteristics.  Indeed, you might say that (in most vintages) this is a wine for purists, but given time (and good care) it can blossom into something truly magnificent.

Grosset Polish Hill Clare Valley Riesling 2011

Let’s get the obvious question out of the way first: how dry or sweet is this Riesling?  Well, Clare Valley Rieslings are nearly always dry – Grosset’s Alea Riesling is an exception to that rule – and by dry I mean technically dry, i.e. the yeast could not ferment any more sugar into alcohol, leaving just 0.9 g/L.

It pours a bright lemon in the glass; I expect that it was paler on release, though I didn’t have a young equivalent to compare it to.  The nose is amazing – I could happily sniff it for hours.  There are chalky mineral notes, of course, plus lifted lime, quince and grapefruit.  There are no real kerosene notes yet, with the TDN¹ compound not present.

The palate is surprisingly soft and juicy, full of citrus with a soft chalky texture.  The softness doesn’t mean it’s gone flabby – far from it, with literally mouth-watering acidity – but any austerity it had in its youth is firmly discarded.  This is a classy, long and serene wine, nicely into the swing of things at nine years old, but with plenty to go yet.  Yes it’s far from cheap, but for this quality and ageability it’s a very fair price to pay.

 

Latest vintage available in Ireland is 2019.

¹TDN stands for 1,1,6,-trimethyl-1,2-dihydronapthalene, apparently

Wine + Music

The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series #15 – Liam Mycroft

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.

Our 15th guest contributor in The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series is someone with an accent that is hard to pin down, but that makes perfect sense when you head his bio!  Liam came into wine geekery later than some others but has been making up for lost time, devouring wine knowledge (and wine bottles?) at a hectic pace.  After meeting at several consumer tastings he joined us in the Dublin North Side (DNS) Wine Club despite being a southsider.  After a few tastings he threw hit hat into the ring to present a tasting, and the favourite of the group that night is the Garzon which I picked for him below.

For music I picked a track from an artist we both love – Eric Clapton – but not one of the most obvious.  Bad Love is from his long hair period and is definitely more rock than blues, but it’s a classic.


It is with excitement and trepidation that I answer the request from Frankie to play a part in the wonderful Music and Wine Collaboration series. Excited to be asked, for sure, but the trepidation comes from following such illustrious giants from the Wine Gliteratti as James Hubbard & Jim Dunlop amongst a host of others. Frankie asked me a few weeks ago, but I had been tied up on a work project, meaning I didn’t have a lot of spare time to do justice to the cause, and lo and behold, the literary, musical and all round Wino genius, Lee Issacs, got in before me with his wonderfully descriptive scribblings. While Lee and I have never met in person, largely due to the present travel restrictions we find ourselves in, we share a common love of Argentina, and we both found our life partners roaming the Pampas, and this might explain our mutual love of Malbec, more of that to follow, as I now have to follow his words…

My musical tastes are very eclectic. Something to do with my advancing years, in that they range from the 60’s, the Beatles obviously (far better than the Stones!), through my formative years of the 70’s, with psychedelic sounds, before punk emerged, followed by a constant return to the 70’s as I got stuck in a time warp of music from that era. I still listen every week to Johnny Waler’s Sounds of the 70’s every Sunday afternoon. I have had a detour in recent years to embrace Country Music, yes, I know! It all came about from spending a few months working every year in the US back in the ’90s, and I fell for it… But I digress…

Eric Clapton – Bad Love

The Track that Frankie selected for me comes from one of my All Time Heroes, Slow Hand himself, Eric Clapton. Perhaps one of his lesser known tracks, from the 1989 Journeyman Album, “Bad Love”. Although it charted around the world, you don’t often hear it on the radio, and to be honest, although I have the album, I had forgotten the track over time. A pleasure to be reacquainted, and the lyrics rang very close to home. (This is where I turn sloppy and sentimental, which features from here on in, sorry).

The lyrics talk about being sad for the lonely people who walked through life alone for so long, as I did, but now having found their one true love, there would be no more Bad Love in their lives. This resounds with me, having met my wife late in life, after a failed marriage, and relationships in my younger days, but with all that behind me, having met Paula, my Argentine Rose, this song has new meaning.

Obviously as it reflected my life and how I had found my “Good Love” in Argentina, the wine I have selected to pair with the song, to remind me of every glorious moment, is of course, an Argentine Wine. Having been able to live just outside Buenos Aires for four years between 2009 and 2013, wines from the country became a staple, and I fell in love with Malbec as well as the woman.

I have selected a Malbec available here in Ireland, from Kaiken, ironically headed up by a Chilean, Aurelio Montes, from the Uco Valley in Mendoza. A truly memorable wine, the Kaiken Ultra Malbec is bright red in colour with an intense aroma emanating of spice and floral elegance, before the black fruits, so typical in a quality Malbec shine through. Smooth, soft tannins give way to a lengthy finish, and take me back to sitting outside in Buenos Aires as my brother in law stoked the Parilla (BBQ) and cooked an Asado to be washed down by a smooth Malbec.

Bodega Garzón Albariño

Of course, the journey doesn’t stop here, and Frankie, knowing my affection for South America, has selected an Albariño from Bodega Garzón in Uruguay for me to come up with a musical side dish to accompany this maritime delight. Albariño wines from Rías Baixas and Galicia have become very popular in Ireland in the past few years, and this Uruguayan version certainly reaches the giddy heights of the top Albariño’s Worldwide.

Pale yellow in colour, with a greenish tinge in the glass, on the nose the peachy summer fruit comes forward, with a hint of salinity, taking me to the seaside, and seafood. Citric flavours mingle with the pear in the mouth, and a long aftertaste reminds me of the smell of seaweed and brine as you walk along a coastline.

For some strange reason, my sentimentality came back to me every-time I thought about a musical pairing to go with this wine. The sea-salt took me to the Ocean, and a more local musician, with a song, not really about the ocean at all, but about life being a Voyage, and to Christy Moore, and his wonderful rendition of the Johnny Duhan penned song. The song talks about how life is an ocean, and love is a boat, and through troubled waters it keeps us afloat.

I’m not sure how a few bottles of Albariño would fare as we sail through life, but it took me back to finding my true love back in Argentina, and how we sailed the ocean back to Ireland (Ok, we flew, but its far more romantic to think of the journey being in a boat – romantic licence), and here we are, gathering around us our own crew of friends, making our life complete.

So there you have it. Two songs, two wines. The wines are linked, being both from South America, but the songs are dramatically different in their style, but are linked by their appreciation of Love and Life, hope you stayed the course.

Liam Mycroft

Having set sail for Liverpool as a 5 year old, before returning home at 40 plus, Liam has lead a roaming life, taking him from County Down to Dublin, via Liverpool, Salford, San Diego, Rhode Island, and Buenos Aires. He is a Civil Servant by day, and in recent years, a wine nerd at night and weekends. After a lifetime of living a cliché of drinking the same wines, because he liked them, upon his return from Argentina in 2013, he decided to learn more about the Grape, taking a local course with Leslie Williams, which enthused him to go down the road of the WSET exams, and, so far, he has passed Levels 2 and 3 with Merit. Next up for this self-confessed nerd is the Italian Wine Scholar Programme, as he has fallen in love with the myriad of wines from the Boot of the Mediterranean, and aims to kick on with his knowledge in the future, sharing his views via Twitter (@Liam3494) and blogging his personal wine thoughts at www.thelongwineroad.com.


The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series
No. Guest Name Music to pair Wine to pair
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
Make Mine A Double, Tasting Events

A Pair of Pretty Pinots [Make Mine a Double #58]

Pinot Noir can be tricky to make well.  It is very particular about the climate it’s grown in – not too hot, not too cold.  Here are a pair of antipodean cool climate Pinots that are worth your hard-earned:

Innocent Bystander Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2018

Innocent Bystander Pinot Noir

The Yarra Valley is part of the Port Philip zone which surrounds Melbourne in Australia.  Its proximity to Melbourne makes it a popular wine tourism destination; indeed, my first trip there was on a day trip wine tour from Melbourne.  That should not detract from its status as one of the best cool climate regions of Australia, with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir starring – both still and sparkling.

Innocent Bystander was founded in 1996 by Phil Sexton after selling his previous Margaret River venture Devil’s Lair.  Innocent Bystander (IB) wines are often blends from multiple sites to achieve complexity and balance at a reasonable price point.  Alongside IB, in 1998 Sexton also began creating single vineyard wines under the Giant Steps label.

The Pink Moscato explosion in Aussie wine led to a large increase in volumes being made and sold by IB, so Sexton sold it to another family owned Victorian wine producer – Brown Brothers of Milawa – in order to concentrate on Giant Steps.  Once picked IB’s grapes now make a three hour journey in refrigerated trucks to be crushed at Brown Bros’ winery.  Sexton’s Yarra Valley tasting room wasn’t part of the transaction so Brown Bros bought and converted a brewery – formerly run by Phil Sexton!

The wines in the Innocent Bystander portfolio include the following:

  • Pinot Noir
  • Chardonnay
  • Moscato
  • Pinot Gris
  • Gamay
  • Gamay / Pinot Noir blend
  • Syrah
  • Tempranillo
  • Arneis

It’s the last two which are the most unusual for Australia, and therefore piqued my interest, though sadly they haven’t yet made their way to Ireland.

In the main this Pinot Noir is fruit-driven: raspberry, blackberry and tart red cherries dominate the nose and palate, though there are also herb and spice notes in the background.  It is not, however, a “fruit-bomb”; acidity and gentle tannins provide a framework against which the fruit can sing, and boy do they sing!

Framingham Marlborough Pinot Noir 2017

Framingham Pinot Noir

Marlborough’s Framingham is probably the most respected producer of Riesling in New Zealand, but has added additional varieties across its three ranges:

  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Pinot Gris
  • Chardonnay
  • Viognier
  • Gewurztraminer
  • Montepulciano
  • Pinot Noir

Their wines are all very well crafted and offer a substantial step up from everyday Marlborough wines, but prices are sensible.  The firm’s winemaker for 18 years was Dr Andrew Hedley, who was then succeeded by the returning Andrew Brown at the beginning of this year (what a year to join!)  In between his stints at Framingham, “Brownie” had worked in several cool climate regions including Alsace, so he has great experience with Riesling.

Framingham’s own vineyards and those of partner winegrowers are all in the Wairau Valley, the central open plain of Marlborough which is on a mixture of alluvial and clay soil.  Each parcel is harvested and vinified separately, with grapes from clay soils in particular receiving more time on the skins.  MLF and maturation takes place in new (20%) and used French oak barrels, before final blending and bottling.  No fining or filtering is carried out to preserve flavour and mouthfeel.

When speaking to Jared Murtha (Framingham’s Global Sales Manager) earlier this year  I remarked that the Pinot Noir seemed more like a Martinborough Pinot than a typical Marlborough one to me.  This was meant as a compliment and taken as one, as I find many Marlborough Pinot Noirs to be light, simple and less than interesting.  Jared replied diplomatically that Framingham aren’t aiming to make a “smashable” wine, but rather one which is a little more serious and gastronomic.

And hell have they succeeded!  It has typical Pinot red fruit notes – cherry and wild strawberry – but also layer upon layer of smoky, spicy and savoury characters.  There are lovely round tannins giving the wine additional structure.  Umami fans will love this wine!

Conclusion

These two wines are made from the same grape variety in neighbouring countries (yeah, still quite a journey) and are close in price, so a like for like comparison is perfectly fair.  The most obvious difference, though, is their style.  The Innocent Bystander is a great, fruit-forward all-rounder and would really appeal to the casual wine drinker.  The Framingham is a different proposition, more savoury and serious, and would shine the brightest in a setting with food – though it’s not a “this needs food” wine.  My preference would be to spend the extra €4 on the Framingham … but if someone offers me a glass of Innocent Bystander I would be delighted.

 

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Make Mine A Double, Tasting Events

Making Wine Amid Moving Borders [Make Mine a Double #56]

European Borders

For those of us living in the UK or Ireland it is rare to think of international borders moving.  Yes, there’s the Northern Ireland border between the two sovereign states, but that hasn’t moved since its inception a century ago and is hopefully fading away.  Because we live on islands even the concept of driving to another country seems a little strange for many, never mind that border moving over time.

The movement of borders has created some unusual situations for wine folk, such as the Becker family in Germany’s Pfalz – whose vineyards run into Alsace – and also the Gravner family – whose lands were in the Austro-Hungarian Empire at one point but now lie (just) in Italy.

This all came to mind as I was thinking about a pair of wines I tasted earlier in the year.  They are based on the same geological set of hills (Gorizia Hills in English, Collio Goriziano in Italian or Goriška Brda in Slovene) but in different countries.  The drive between them is less than an hour an a half:

map 1

So now for that pair of wines:

Gašper Rebula 2016

Gasper Rebula

First things first: Gašper is the name of the producer (literally, as Gašper Čarman is the gentleman who own and runs the place) and Rebula is the grape variety.  The latter is better known to most of us as Ribolla Gialla in Friuli but it is a major variety in Brda.

Gašper’s vines are planted in “opaka” soil (silica-calcite sedimentary rock) on terraces between 80 and 200 metres above sea level.  Both altitude and proximity to the sea help to retain aromas and freshness in the wine.

This Rebula is made with 16 hours skin contact – far more than more white wines but nowhere near as long as orange / amber wines.  Fermentation is in huge (4,000 litre) casks, temperature controlled to preserve fruit characters and freshness.  Maturation takes place first in old French barriques (1 year) then in old, large big format Slavonian oak casks.

The time spent on skins adds a real depth of colour to the wine – it deserves the “Gialla” (yellow) descriptor in its Italian name.  The nose shows bright citrus – lemon, grapefruit, orange – and mixed citrus peel.  The palate is soft, not too shouty with great texture.  The fresh and dried fruits are joined by a certain creaminess and they resolve in a clean, fresh finish.

Gašper himself told me that the wine has great ageing potential – and I have every reason to believe him.

 

Livio Felluga “Illivio” Pinot Bianco / Chardonnay / Picolit 2017 

Livio Felluga Illivio

After two World Wars Friuli’s agriculture and viticulture was significantly diminished and almost abandoned by the flight from countryside to city.  Livio Felluga was one who had a great vision of restoring Fruili’s proud tradition of winemaking.  He bought up old vineyards planted new ones and over the course of decades reinvigorated the region.  He has long been acknowledged as the driving force behind the restoration of Friuli and as an ambassador for its wines.

Illivio was created as by Livio’s children to celebrate his 85th birthday.  It’s a blend of Pinot Bianco (60%), Chardonnay (30%) and indigenous variety Picolit (10%).  Picolit was traditionally used for sweet wines as it has a good balance between sugar and acidity,  with a flavour profile not too far form Viognier, and had a cult following in the 1960s and ’70s.

The wine is fermented in small oak casks then left on the lees in those barrels for 10 months.  While oaked Chardonnay is of course very common internationally, oaked Pinot Blanc is mainly an Italian thing – but it can make for excellent wines.

Illivio pours yellow in the glass, though not from skin contact as the Gašper Rebula above, but rather from the influence of oak.  The nose is intense, as floral and fruit notes compete with rich smoky notes from the oak.  The palate is rich yet tangy, with buttered brioche and juicy fruit exquisitely mixed.  This is a serious wine, but seriously nice!

 

 

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Single Bottle Review

Vigneti del Salento”I Muri” Primitivo 2018

Puglia
Puglia within Italy.  Salento is the southern peninsular part of Puglia.

The Farnesi Vini group – itself a part of the Fantini Group – has three separate wineries in Puglia: Cantina Sava, Luccarelli and Vigneti del Salento.  The Salento crowd have different labels within their range, including the “I Muri” for the less-well-heeled (sorry!) and “Zolla” ranges.

The I Muri Primitivo is a long-standing favourite of mine since I first tried it at Sweeney’s of Glasnevin.  It is widely available in Ireland, though of course in these difficult times not many wine retailers are open.  Still, if you like the sound of this wine then put it on your list to buy when things return closer to normality.

Vigneti del Salento”I Muri” Puglia Primitivo 2018

I Muri Primitivo

Consultant winemaker Filippo Baccalaro is not a native of the area – he is from Piedmont – but has spent several decades in the area which make it a second home for him now.  The grapes are bought in but from growers with whom Filippo has a long term relationship and don’t dilute concentration in the hunt for maximum yields.

Winemaking is modern, with inoculated yeasts, temperature controlled fermentation and maturation in stainless steel tanks.

Primitivo is of course one of the key grapes of Puglia, along with Negroamaro, and it’s a real sun-worshipper.  Ripeness is a key feature of the wines down here and this shows immediately on the nose; intense black and red berries vie for attention, along with exotic spices.  Those berries continue through to the palate, which is soft and generous.  There’s a rich, luxurious feel to this wine which belies its modest price.  Yes, this is still a winner!

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €15 – €17
  • Stockists (*indicated currently closed): Baggot Street Wines*; Blackrock Cellar*; Cashel Wine Cellar; Donnybrook Fair; JJ O’Driscoll; McHughs Kilbarrack Road & Malahide Road; Mortons Dunville Avenue; Sweeneys D3; wineonline.ie; 64 Wine  
Single Bottle Review

Cà dei Frati I Frati Lugana 2018

Lugana is one of Italy’s lesser-known white wine jewels.  The vines are grown close to the southern shores of Lake Garda in Lombardy, northern Italy, across from Bardolino and neighbours in the Veneto’s eastern part of the lake.  The grape used is normally known as Trebbiano di Lugana, or Turbiana by locals, but it is not the same variety as the Trebbiano (aka Ugni Blanc) which accounts for a full third of all Italian white wines; instead it is actually the same as Verdicchio from the Marche!

In addition to its location close to a large body of water, the Lugana wine region also has soils which are mainly clay, and hence are poor-draining.  The vineyards are therefore prone to flooding, which is countered by creating a dome shape to the contours of the land (encouraging water to run off) and by giving the vines long, bare stems to encourage ventilation.

As well as dry whites there are also late harvest whites and sparkling wines produced in the region, though they are far less common than even the dry whites.

The Cà dei Frati estate differs from its neighbours in several respects: the vines are actually trained lower than normal (using single or double Guyot), are planted more densely (as is the modern way, so that vines compete for nutrients) but yields are kept down.

Cà dei Frati I Frati Lugana 2018

I FRATI LUGANANew

I have recommended this wine before bu I make no apology for repeating myself – it’s an excellent wine that offers a lot of flavour at a fairly modest price point. The nose is fairly expressive, with peach and some apricot notes.  The palate is tangy, full of peach and pear.  There’s a lovely rounded aspect to the palate, helped by a little residual sugar (6.3 g/L), but a crisp, fresh finish.  This wine doesn’t need food – it’s eminently quaffable all by itself – but it would be a good partner for a wide variety of dishes – pan-fried scallops would be perfect!

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €24 – €26
  • Stockists (*indicate currently closed): Baggot Street Wines*; Blackrock Cellar*; Ely Wine Store, Maynooth; Fresh Outlets, Dublin; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; La Touche Wines, Greystones; Sweeneys D3; The Corkscrew, Chatham St; wineonline.ie; World Wide Wines; Whelehans Wines; 64 Wine