Does the word “Château” as part of a wine name impress you or leave you indifferent? Here are a couple of excellent Château-monikered wines from regions which are not synonymous with that word on the label:
Château de Sancerre 2016 (13.0%, RRP ~ €28 at independent wine merchants)
The Loire Valley is probably home to the most celebrated châteaux in the country, if not Europe as a succession of French kings tried to outdo each other in their weekend retreats. To my shame I became very bored of the them and didn’t even try the local wine on my last holiday there – but in fairness I was only ten years old.
As experienced wine drinkers we try to discipline ourselves not to judge books by their covers, but we can at least admire beautiful covers like this one. Thankfully, the contents live up to the label’s promise. it has typical Sauvignon Blanc freshness, but isn’t hollow, like some Sancerres. It has a touch of richness and body which elevate it above the hoi polloi – to be honest you would expect refinement in this price bracket but you don’t always get it. Regular readers will know that cheese isn’t my thang, but the classical match of Sancerre with goat’s cheese would work well, or alternatively a lightly spiced stir fry.
A quick flick at any tourist guide will tell you that there are lots of châteaux in Alsace. However, unlike the palaces of the Loire, many were functioning fortified castles – and bear the scars of countless battles. This is the only one I know of which is a wine producing entity in Alsace – and it’s a beauty. The Château d’Orschwihr make some excellent Grand Cru wines (watch this space) but this particular bottle is from the lieu-dit of Bollenberg – perhaps a future Alsace Premier Cru?
Both the 2010 and 2014 were tried at a DNS Wineclub tasting earlier this year and the differences were an excellent illustration of how wines can change from year to year – vintage variation. Age itself is a factor, of course, but the particularities of each vintage and how the producer adapts to them in the vineyard and the winery are part of what makes wine so interesting. 2010 was a very warm year and so the grapes had lots of sugar at harvest time – much was turned into alcohol (14.6%!) but a little was left as residual sugar (9 g/L). The resulting wine is rich but not flabby – the alcohol doesn’t stand out and the slightly off dry finish is the perfect compliment to the ginger, pear and honey notes. Cries out for Thai!
Irish supermarket chain SuperValu is probably the best in the country when it comes to wine. There won’t always be the oddities that you’d find in an independent wine merchant but for good wines at good prices it’s hard to beat.
The current SuperValu wine sale runs from Thursday 6th to Wednesday 26th September and includes some customer favourites at 3 for €25, plus the Duo des Mers Sauvignon Viognier which I reviewed in June down from €11.99 to €9.00 in the sale.
Here are another couple of whites which I highly recommend:
Disclosure: samples kindly provided for review, opinions remain my own
Guy Saget Sancerre 2016 (13.0%, €22.99 down to €15.00 at SuperValu)
This is textbook Loire Sauvignon – reminding us why it became popular here in the first place – and definitely a fruit forward style of Sancerre. There’s lots of grapefruitand gooseberry, giving both lip-smacking tartness and fruit sweetnessat the same time.
The back label suggests the usual food pairing of goat’s cheese and seafood, but interestingly also tandoori chicken skewers (where the aromatics and fruit sweetness balance the spices and chili) and sushi & sashimi (where the acidity and clean finish come to the fore, but the fruit sweetness can also counterbalance the heat of wasabi).
For the avoidance of doubt, this wine is also great on its own!
André Goichot Mâcon-Lugny 2016 (13.0%, €14.99 down to €10.00 at SuperValu)
Wines from Burgundy-proper’s most southerly region, the Mâconnais, are often great value as they don’t have the prestige of the big guns from the Côte d’Or. There’s a local hierarchy that’s handy to know if you’re navigating the area:
The “Crus” – Pouilly-Fuissé, Pouilly-Loché, Pouilly-Vinzelles, Saint-Véran, Viré-Clessé.
Mâcon + Village name: over 20 villages can add their name, many for red, white or rosé, some for just white and one for just red or rosé.
Pouilly-Fuissé and Saint-Véran are probably the most celebrated of the “Crus” (a term I have appropriated from Beaujolais), but there are plenty of very good wines elsewhere in the hierarchy. As always in Burgundy, the producer is very important.
This Mâcon-Lugny from the very consistent André Goichot is a winner, even at the usual price of €15. 100% Chardonnay, there’s lifted citrus on the nose which continues on to the palate, but then broadens out into melonand peach. The textureand bodyof the wine – despite not being oaked at all – differentiate it from the more linear Chardonnays of Chablis. There’s a clean, crisp finish to round it off.
After another successful O’Briens Wine Fair, I find myself with the usual predicament of too many good wines to recommend. I have therefore picked my 10 favourite whites listed at €15.00 or under – before any promotional offers.
Examining the list shows that:
Several varieties are repeated: Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Colombard and (unoaked) Chardonnay
Several places are repeated: Chile, the Loire and Gascony
From which you could draw certain conclusions:
Obviously, there’s a link between variety and place!
Certain varieties are better for making good yet inexpensive wines
Oak is a significant cost so is seldom used for the least expensive wines
Here are the ten wines:
Domaine Duffour Côtes de Gascogne 2016 (12.0%, €11.45 or 2 for €20 during summer at O’Briens)
From the land of d’Artagnan (and Dogtanian as well, for all I know) come probably the best value white wines of France – Côtes de Gascogne of south west France. Nicolas Duffour is a big fan of local star Colombardwhich gives ripe melon flavours; Ugni Blanc (more commonly distilled into Cognac or Armagnac) adds freshness while Gros Manseng (well-established in Jurançon) gives complexity. Summer in a glass!
Viña Chocálan Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (13.5%, €13.95 at O’Briens)
This wine is so grassy that you might wonder if you have face-planted into a pile of mown grass. It’s fresh and linear, with a juicy citrus finish. Tasted blind I would probably have guessed it hailed from the Loire Valley, perhaps a Touraine, but this is actually from a family run winery in Chile’s Maipo Valley.
Famille Bougrier Les Hauts Lieux Chenin Blanc 2015 (12.0%, €13.95 down to €10.95 for May at O’Briens)
The Bougrier Family make several Loire wines (their Sauvignon Blanc was just 45 cents too much to make it into this article) labelled as Vin de France, giving them flexibility over grape sourcing and varietal labelling. I found the Chenin just off dry, emphasizing the ripe stone and pip fruit, with the acidity keeping it fresh. So drinkable!
Viña Leyda Chardonnay Reserva 2014 (14.0%, €14.95 at O’Briens)
This Chardonnay is unoaked but is not a lean-Chablis like wine (the 14.0% alcohol might have been a clue). Viña Leyda are based in the Leyda Valley (no surprise there) and so are close enough to benefit from cooling coastal breezes – these help extend the growing season and help to increase intensity of flavour while maintaining aromatics. This is a great example of ripe but unoaked Chardonnay, full of tropical fruits and citrus.
Domaine Langlois-Château Saumur Blanc 2014 (12.0%, €14.95 at O’Briens)
The Maison des Vins de Saumur is one of my favourite places to taste wine in France – it has close to a hundred wines of all types from the Anjou-Saumur sub-region of the Loire. The white wine of Saumur itself are unfairly overlooked in favour of Vouvray and other appellations for white and Saumur’s own reds and rosés. Of course this is Chenin Blanc and its perfect balance of acidity and fruit sweetness makes it a great drink to sip on a nice sunny day.
Los Vascos Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (13.0%, €14.95 at O’Briens)
Los Vascos is a project of the Lafite branch of the Rothschild family, sourcing wines from both Argentina and Chile. This Chilean Sauvignon is very racy and less exuberantly aromatic compared to many – it’s probably closer to a Touraine Sauvignon or even a Chablis than most Savvies (Marlborough it ain’t!) Appealing mineral noteswould make it a great accompaniment for oysters or other shellfish.
Hijos de Alberto Gutiérrez Monasterio de Palazuelos Rueda Verdejo 2016 (13.0%, €13.95 down to €10.95 for May at O’Briens)
Rueda and its Verdejo is often overlooked in favour of Albariño and Godello from north west Spain. And that’s ok with me as Rueda wines are consistently good quality and good value for money. This one has lovely melon and citrus notes, so soft and approachable that you will be pouring a second glass quickly!
Boatshed Bay Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (13.0%, €14.95 down to €11.95 for May at O’Briens)
Different Sauvignons from Marlborough offer flavours from a wide spectrum, but often concentrating on one part of it. This seems to have nearly all of them! There’s tropical and green fruit such as passionfruit, grapefruit, gooseberry and pineapple, but also green pepper and asparagusnotes. Compared to – say – the Los Vascos Sauvignon, it’s probably the other end of the spectrum – a wine great for quaffing on its own.
Producteurs Plaimont Labyrinthe de Cassaigne Côtes de Gascogne 2015 (11.5%, €13.95 down to €9.95 for May at O’Briens)
This is a single estate Côtes de Gascogne from the north of the area, close to Condom (make your own jokes please). Tropical fruit from Colombard and Gros Manseng make this a real Vin de Plaisir – and fairly light in alcohol at 11.5%. Good value for money at €14, great value at €10!
Los Vascos Chardonnay 2015 (14.0%, €14.95 at O’Briens)
Like its sister Sauvignon above, this unoaked Chardonnay has a great deal of mineralitywhich make it ideal for shellfish and other seafood. It does have more body, however; enough to almost give it the feel of an oaked wine, though not the flavour. The finish is zesty citrus and stays with you for quite some time.
Along its many twists, turns and tributaries, the Loire River encompasses a multitude of wine styles: white, rosé and red (plus orange nowadays); bone dry though off dry, medium and sweet; still, lightly and fully sparkling; neutral to highly aromatic. After all, at over a thousand kilometres in length, it dwarfs (swamps?) the Shannon (360 km) and Thames (346 km) as it winds through 15 départements.
In some ways the different sub-regions are not that related, especially when it comes to grape varieties, but the key thing the wines generally share is acidity, even in sweet wines – all down to a relatively northern latitude.
The Loir(no “e”) River is a sub-tributary of the Loire(with an “e”) River via the Sarthe River and runs fairly parallel to the north. Close to the city of Tours is the appellation of Coteaux-du-Loir which covers 80 ha and can be used for white, rosé or red wines. Adjoining the top of this area is the AOC of Jasnières which only produces white wines from Chenin Blanc.
Here are a couple of stunning Loir wines from the Nomad Wine Importers tasting:
Domaine de la Bellivière Coteaux du Loir “Eparses Vieilles Vignes” 2013(13.0%, RRP €46 at SIYPS, ~ €116 in restaurants: L’Ecrivain, Patrick Guilbaud and Ely Wine Bar)
Domaine de la Bellivière was set up in 1995, ad has been run on organic lines since 2005 and was certified as such from the 2011 vintage.
This wine is made from various parcels of old Chenin Blanc vines – and old is really apt here as they are between 50 and 80 years old – mainly planted on clay with flint over “tuffeau” (the famous local limestone).
Natural yeast fermentation is in one to three year old barrels (75%) and new oak (25%). The different parcels are vinified and matured (for at least a year) separately before being assembled to produce the final cuvée for bottling.
This is a deliberately dry wine, still with Chenin’s typical honey notes but also floral and stone fruit aspects. Very fresh and intense!
Domaine de la Bellivière Jasnières “Calligramme” 2013(13.0%, ~ €137 in restaurant: The Greenhouse)
The Calligramme is made in Jasnières itself so is of course (you have been paying attention, haven’t you?) 100% Chenin Blanc. The vines are from 50+ year old plots which are mainly southerly in aspect, on the slopes (“Coteaux“!) down to the Loir River.
As with all the Domaine’s wines, the sweetness of the final wine depends on the character of the vintage; only in years where botrytis is well developed are the wines left with some residual sugar. In other years – such as 2013 we have here – the wine is dry but intense. Apple, peach and floral notes are joined by minerality, giving the wine a real versatility for food matching.
And finally, the obscure reference in the title of these articles on Nomad’s wines: those of a certain vintage and taste in music (such as myself) might have recognised the allusion to the 1991 dance music classic “I Wanna Give You Devotion” by Nomad!
As a wise man once said to me, don’t call them “dessert wines” as that implies they are only fit to drink with a dessert! Categorising wines isn’t always an easy task, as even simple descriptors such as colour are open to interpretation (see this article). Where do sweet wines fit in? In the end, the label isn’t important, what’s in the glass is.
10. Tarin Pineau des Charentes Blanc Vieilli 3 Ans
Pronounced the same as “Pinot”, this is the secret fortified drink of France’s west country. Made by adding eau de vie to grape must that has barely begun fermenting, it can only be produced in the Charente and Charente-Maritime departments – also the home of Cognac. That’s no coincidence as the grape spirit used for Pineau is the same that is aged to eventually become Cognac.
This example has received 3 years of ageing which gives it a slight “rancio” character – enough to add interest but not so much that it dominates. The only downside is that it is so moreish!
9. Sipp Mack Gewurztraminer Vieilles Vignes 2012
This Gewurz isn’t intended to be a sweet wine as such, but given the grape’s natural flavour profile, low acidity and a bit of residual sugar it tastes far sweeter than other many wines of Alsace. As a general rule I do like some sweetness in my Gewurz, and this Sipp Mack does deliver that, but with an incredible intensity of flavour thanks to its old vines. See herefor the full review.
8. GD Vajra Moscato d’Asti 2015
Moscato from Australia and elsewhere gained a lot of ground in recent years – fresh and fruity, sweet and easy to drink yet with very moderate alcohol, it became something of a party drink. Hopefully this will shine a light back on Piedmont, the pioneering region of this style (though obviously not of the Muscat grape!)
Moscato d’Asti might also qualify as a party drink for some, but its true value is at the table, mainly with fruit based desserts where it excels. The best – such as GD Vajra’s – have a mouthwatering balance of acidity and sweetness. See here for the full review
7. Max Ferd. Richter Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese
For many wine aficionados, Germany is the ultimate country for Riesling. The sheer variety of styles is one of its key strengths, from bone-dry to intensely sweet, and just about every spot in between. This Mosel Spätlese (late harvest) is just wonderful and was my narrow favourite of an all-Riesling tasting at DNS Wineclub. See here for the full review
6. Zantho Scheurebe Trockenbeerenauslese 2012
Zantho is a joint venture between two famous names of Austrian wine, viticulturist Josef Umathum and winemaker Wolfgang Peck of Winzerkeller Andau. As well as dry whites and reds they also make three dessert wines (pictured above) which are all glorious, with the TBA (for short) being my favourite. Germanic grape Scheurebe works best as a sweet wine and excels in Zantho’s TBA from close to the border with Hungary.
5. Nyetimber Demi-Sec NV
I’m a long standing fan of Nyetimber and I’ve been pleased to see them popping up here and there in Ireland. When back in England in the summer I picked up a bottle of their Demi-Sec – which I haven’t yet seen here in Ireland – and took it to a DNS Wineclub tasting. It was absolutely magnificent and reinforced my admiration for Brad Greatrix and Cherie Spriggs.
Not stated on the front label is that this is 100% Chardonnay, and therefore a Blanc-de-Blancs. Dosage is 45g/L giving it perfect balance – typical English acidity is the counter to the sugar. This was the first English Demi-Sec to be released but I would go further and state that it’s one of the top few Demi-Secs made anywhere in the world.
4. Domaine de Bois Mozé Coteaux de l’Aubance 2008
The Loire Valley is probably France’s most underrated wine region and its Chenin based dessert wines probably the least well known – which is a total shame as they can be world class without a world class price. Coteaux de l’Aubance is even less well known than Coteaux du Layon and Quarts de Chaume, but the best sites can yield beauties such as this. In my opinion these wines are the ultimate expression of Chenin Blanc – and this is still a youngster at nine years of age.
3. Donnafugata Ben Ryé Passito di Pantelleria 2014
The grape variety for this wine is known locally as Zibibbo, but further afield as Muscat of Alexandria – a very ancient grape. “Local” here is the tiny island of Pantelleria which is between Sicily and Tunisia. The grapes are dried after picking to concentrate the flavours and sugars, similar to “straw wines” elsewhere. This is a wine of staggering complexity for such a young vintage, the biggest threat to ageing being its utter deliciousness!
2. Cascina Garitina Niades
Many readers will be drawing a blank at the name of this wine which could have been in any (or all!) of my red, sparkling and sweet Top 10 lists. Formerly carrying the DOCG of Brachetto d’Acqui, it could be thought of as the red equivalent of Moscato d’Asti – though even better, in this case.
When I tried it and tweeted about it, one wag did reply “can’t see the point” – and admittedly, before I tried it I can’t say it was missing from my life – but once tried this wine is never forgotten. Fresh red fruit, acidity and sweetness combine to make wine heaven – it’s Eton Mess in a glass!
This was the unexpected runaway winner of the DNS Wineclub Alsace tasting, against some pretty stiff competition (including #2 in this Top 10). Léon Beyer is based in the achingly beautiful village of Eguisheim and has Domaines Zinck and Bruno Sorg as neighbours. “The house style is dry” said the lady at the counter, “apart from the sweet wines” – such as this rare Late Harvest Gewurz. The Léon Beyer website give a drinking window of 10 to 20 years from vintage, but this tasted like it had another decade left at least. If I had another bottle it would probably make my Top 10 sweet wines of 2026!
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.
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)
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)
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!
Here are a couple of lovely French whites from the excellent 2015 vintage, both fairly moderate in alcohol at 12.5% but very different in style:
Saint Auriol Chatelone Corbières 2015 (12.5%, €12.99 at SuperValu / Centra)
Corbières is the biggest Appellation Contrôlée within the Languedoc-Roussillon wine region of France, the central part of southern France stretching from the Spanish border across the Mediterranean coast up to Provence. It’s obviously a sunny place so has long been the source of easy-drinking, fruity reds which are produced in abundance. It is very much a region on the up, with a new wave of quality-conscious producers making their own wines with low yields rather than selling grapes to the local co-operative.
This is a white Corbières, which makes up only around 2% of the AOC’s production, so it is something of a rarity. The wine is a blend of grapes popular in the Rhône, Provence and Languedoc – Marsanne, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc & Bourboulenc. The vines face south-east so they get plenty of sun but not too much heat in the afternoon.
Each of the grapes adds something to the wine – there’s soft pear, appleand stone fruit, a touch of citrusand nuttynotes – and a delightful texture. The back label suggests drinking between 10C and 12C – so make sure it’s not served straight from a domestic fridge which would be too cold.
The back label also has another surprising snippet: the producer reckons the wine will keep for 6 years or more if stored well – if you are the sort of person who likes to see how a wine evolves and gains in complexity over time then this would be a great bottle to try it with!
La Vigne Des Sablons Vouvray 2015 (12.5%, €14.99 at SuperValu / Centra)
Still in France but further north, Vouvray is made in the Touraine region around the city of Tours. Touraine region wines can be red, white, rosé or sparkling; reds are made from Gamay, Pinot Noir, Côt (Malbec) and Breton (Cabernet Franc), amongst others with Sauvignon Blanc and Pineau Blanc de la Loire (Chenin Blanc) the main white grapes.
Vouvrayis east by north east of Tours and is predominantly Chenin country. The sweetness of the wines varies considerably from producer to producer, and particularly from vintage to vintage – warmer years mean more sugar in the grapes and usually more sugar in the finished wine.
This bottle by La Vigne des Sablons is off-dry or perhaps a touch sweeter, but doesn’t taste overtly sweet due to Chenin’s naturally high acidity. The main notes are freshand bakedapple, drizzled with a touch of honey. It’s dangerously drinkable! A great introduction to Vouvray from which you could explore others.
Inspired by a comment from Mr Richie Magnier of The Motley Cru, here are 10 wines / grapes / regions / producers with some connection – however tenuous – to the name FRANKIE! If this seems somewhat vain, well maybe it is, but hopefully also a bit of fun…
1. Cabernet Franc (Loire & Bordeaux)
So we kick off with one of the classiest Francs around, a stalwart black grape of Loire and Bordeaux that’s also becoming quite trendy in Argentina.
In Bordeaux it’s a useful blending component on both Left and Right banks, especially as it ripens before its offspring Cabernet Sauvignon. In fact, in Bourg, Saint-Emilion and Pomerol it’s not usual for “Cabernets” plural to indicate a mix of the two without giving their relative proportions.
In the Loire Cab Franc is important in Saumur, Chinon, Anjou and Bourgueil. It’s often a single varietal here, whether as a red or a rosé such as Cabernet d’Anjou.
2. Blaufränkisch / Kékfrankos
In case you weren’t aware, these two names are the same grape in different languages – German and Hungarian respectively. The origin stems from the colour – blue – and the supposed more noble Frankish(well I’m hardly going to disagree with that!) origins of Charlemagne’s Franks.
Blaufränkisch is grown across central Europe including Austria, the Czech Republic and many parts of former Yugoslavia, with just a few brave pioneers trying it in Adelaide Hills and Washington State.
3. Frank Phélan
Château Phélan Ségur of Saint-Estèphe in the Médoc was founded by Irishman Bernard Phelan who acquired and joined two existing estates in the early 1800s. On his death the Château passed to his son Frank who spent a total of thirty years as the Mayor of the town.
The second wine of Phélan Ségur is named after Frank, and is both cheaper and more approachable than the Grand Vin. It often receives accolades for quality v price (well this is Bordeaux) and its big and bold fruit shouldn’t be a surprise when you find out that Michel Rolland is the consulting oenologist here.
What? Who? Where? According to St Jancis of Robinson this is apparently a white Hungarian wine grape grown primarily in the Mór region which is mainly used for dessert wines. And?? In the listings of the Vitis International Variety Catalogue (essential reading, I’m sure you’ll agree) Ezerjó is also known by the synonyms Biella, Budai Feher, Budicsin, Budicsina, Cirfondli, Ezer Jo, Feher Bakator, Feher Budai, Feher Sajgo, Feher Szagos, Frank, Kerekes, Kolmreifer, Kolmreifler, Konreifler, Korpavai, Korponai, Korponoi, Matyok, Predobre, Refosco, Refosco Weiss, Romandi, Satoki, Scheinkern, Scheinkernweiss, Shaikern, Staloci, Szadocsina, Szadoki, Szatoki, Szatoky, Tausendfachgute, Tausendgerte, Tausendgut, Tausendgute, and Trummertraube.
Wake up, you missed it! I put it in boldand you fell asleep! Shame on you!
5. Dr Frank Wine Cellars (Finger Lakes)
Dr Konstantin Frank emigrated to New York State from the Ukraine in 1951. After years of research he became convinced that Vitis Vinifera (proper vines) could flourish in the cool climate of upstate New York if they were grafted onto the right rootstock.
He founded Vinifera Wine Cellars in 1962 and his Rieslings soon became successful. The company is now run by the third generation with the fourth in training! Rumours that Dr Frank used to gig with Dr John could not be confirmed.
Known as Franken in German or Franconia in English, this is one of Germany’s quality wine regions, and is the only wine region within Bavaria (I understand they make beer there as well).
The wines made are nearly always single varietals rather than blends and tend to be dry – even more dry than they have to be under German labelling laws.
The tasty-but-unfashionable Sylvaner is reputed to hit its heights here, though there is still more of the workhorse Müller-Thurgau at the moment.
Franconian wines are often easy to spot by their round, flattened flask shaped bottle known as a Bocksbeutel.
7. Frank Family Vineyards
In the heart of Napa Valley is the winery belonging to former Disney big cheese Rich Frank (I presume short for Richard, or perhaps he is just very wealthy).
Established as the Larkmead Winery in 1884, the building is now on the National Register of Historical Places and is listed as a Point of Historical Interest in the state of California. Wines made here include the usual Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Petite Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon but also Sangiovese.
8. Bleasdale Frank Potts
Bleasdale winery was founded in 1850 by English-born Frank Potts in Langhorne Creek, South Australia. The firm remains in family hands – now onto the 6th generation – and so their flagship Cabernet blend is named after the founder.
This wine actually ticks five out of the six permitted black varieties in Bordeaux – Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Bravo, Frank!
9. Francis Ford Coppola Winery
When The Godfather was a critical and financial success for director Francis Ford Coppola he splashed out on a winery in Sonoma County, and quietly made wines there without ever referring to his film career.
Okay that last bit is a lie! Among the many levels of Mr Coppola’s portfolio you can find both the Director’s and Director’s Cut ranges – including the limited release “Cinema” blend – alongside the quotation: “Winemaking and filmmaking are two great art forms” stated by….Francis Ford Coppola of course!
No, this isn’t my blog, it’s another Frankly Wines – it’s a wine shop in New York City run by Christy Frank, previously of LVMH’s US operation (which is where Kevin Judd (of Greywacke and formerly Cloudy Bay) knows her from – and he once thought my Frankly Wines t-shirt referred to her shop!). Ok, no more brackets.
Valentine’s Day is associated with romance, and hence the colour pink. This often means that rosé wines are promoted at this time of year, but as they aren’t generally my thing I thought I would recommend a dozen wines of differing hues from O’Briens, who are offering 10% back on their loyalty card (or wine savings account as I call it).
These wines are mainly higher priced for which I make no excuse – these are treats for yourself and / or your significant other! Of course, they would make a nice treat for Mother’s Day or at any time of year…
Chateau Kirwan Margaux Troisième Cru 2010 (€95.00)
The last of Bordeaux’s fantastic four vintages within eleven years (2000, 2005 2009, 2010) allows this Margaux to show its class but be more approachable than in leaner years. You could keep this for another decade or two if you didn’t want to drink it yet. Decant for several hours after opening if you can, and serve with beef.
One of Penfolds’ top Cabernet Sauvignons which combines power, fruit and elegance. 2010 happened to be a great vintage in South Australia as well, so if you’re climbing the quality tree it’s a good time to do it. Being a Cab means it’s all about cassis, intense blackcurrant aromas and flavours, with some vanilla to go with it.
This is a very interesting wine for the geeks out there as it is a custom blend of parcels from well known appellations from around Bordeaux including Paulliac, Graves and Canon-Fronsac. It was created by JM Cazes group winemaker Daniel Llose and O’Briens Head of Wine Buying Lynne Coyle MW. Oh, and it tastes wonderful as well!
Ata Rangi is one of stars of Martinbrough, an hour or so drive from Wellington in the south of New Zealand’s North Island. Crimson is their second wine intended to be drunk while young rather than laid down, but it is first rate in quality. Beats any Pinot from France at this price point.
This isn’t a token rosé, it’s a proper Champagne which happens to be pink. Lanson’s house style is based on preventing / not encouraging malolactic fermentation in the base wines, meaning they remain fresh and zippy even after the secondary alcoholic fermentation which produces the fizz. Texture is key here as well, and the lovely red fruits have a savoury edge. You could even drink this with pork or veal. Great value when on offer.
Another Champagne which is even less expensive, but still a few steps above most Prosecco and Cava on the market. The regulations for non vintage Champagne stipulate a minimum of 15 months ageing on the lees, but the lovely toasty notes from this show it has significantly more than that. Punches well above its price.
The Loire Valley is home to a multitude of wine styles, including Crémant (traditional method sparkling) such as this. Made from internationally famous Chardonnay and local speciality Chenin, it doesn’t taste the same as Champagne – but then why should it? The quality makes it a valid alternative, not surprising when you learn that it’s owned by Bollinger!
Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) is a great way to get into serious quality Port without paying the full price for Vintage Port. Whereas the latter is bottled quickly after fermentation and laid down for many years, LBV spends time maturing in casks. There it slowly loses colour and tannin but gains complexity. Graham’s is one of the most celebrated Port Houses and their LBV is one of the benchmarks for the category.
Grand Cru Chablis is a very different beast from ordinary Chablis. It’s often oaked, though sympathetically rather than overpoweringly, and can develop astounding complexity. Among the seven (or eight, depending on who you ask) Grand Crus, Les Clos is often regarded as the best of the best. At just over five years from vintage this is still a baby – it would be even better in another five years but it might be impossible to resist!
Pouilly-Fuissé is probably the best appellation of the Maconnais, Burgundy proper’s most southerly subregion which borders the north of Beaujolais. The white wines here are still Chardonnay, of course, but the southerly latitude gives it more weight and power than elsewhere in Burgundy. Oak is often used in generous proportions as the wine has the fruit to stand up to it. This Château-Fuissé is one of my favourites from the area!
It’s a Sauvignon Blanc, but then it’s not just a Sauvignon Blanc. Kevin Judd was the long time winemaker of Cloudy Bay, finally branching out on his own a few years ago. The wild yeast and partially oaking give this a very different sensibility from ordinary Sauvignons. It’s not for everybody, but those that like it, love it!
One of my favourite New Zealand wines, full stop. I have mentioned this wine several times over the past few years…mainly as I just can’t get enough of it! It’s made in Waiheke Island in Auckland Bay so has more weight than, say, a Marlborough Chardonnay, but still enough acidity to keep it from being flabby. Tropical fruit abounds here – just make sure you don’t drink it too cold!