After the Champagnes of Laherte Frères in Part 1, we now turn to a trio of unusual whites. They aren’t that obscure, but they aren’t going to appear in your local supermarket. They are all made by small, family owned producers who prefer to do work in the vineyard rather than the winery. Note: I tasted these wines back in February this year so some outlets may well have moved onto the 2019 vintages of the respective wines.
M & A Arndorfer Gemischter Satz Weiss 2018
Martin and Anna Arndorfer are part of the new generation in Austria, acknowledging their respective families’ deep ties to their region of Kamptal but breaking free and setting down their own roots. Their approach might be described as “hands-off”, but that would belittle the work they do in the vineyard, fully respectful of nature’s gifts.
This is the first time I have reviewed the M & A Arndorfer Gemischter Satz (field blend), though I have previously reviewed their single varietal 2015 Grüner Veltliner and their 2016 Vorgeschmack white. As the latter is no longer available and consisted of the same blend (80% Grüner Veltliner & 20% Riesling) as this wine I believe it is simply a matter of renaming.
Those familiar with the component varieties – hopefully a decent majority of you – should be able to imagine its style; decent body with lots of spice and pip fruit, but a racy finish. Apples and pears meet lemon and lime? What’s not to like?
When faced with this label most wine drinkers would be forgiven for thinking “what even is that?” (Confession: I thought exactly that!) So: “Burja” is the name of the estate, “Zelen” is the name of the grape and “Petit Burja” is the name of the bottling. Burja is run by Primož Lavrenčič who named it after the Mistral-like wind which can blow through the vines. Zelen is a local grape variety named after the Slovenian word for ‘green’ which is the colour that it apparently takes on when fermenting. The estate is run on both organic and biodynamic lines.
So how does this unusual grape taste? It doesn’t taste exactly like anything else, but in a word, great! It’s highly aromatic, with floral and citrus notes to the fore. These continue onto the palate which is juicy and tangy, but also mineral and linear. This wine could be the jolt that your palate needs!
I have reviewed the red wine from this stable before; Domaine de Montcy Cheverny Rouge was the Frankly Wines #2 Value Red of 2017. The Domaine has been run by Italian Laura Semeria for 13 years; she has woven the new (converting viticulture to organic and then biodynamic) with the old (maintaining local varieties including the rare Romorantin). The vines cover a surface area of 20 hectares and vary in age up to 80 years old.
Just as the Arndorfer wine above, this is an 80/20 blend, but this time 80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Chardonnay (yes, Chardonnay is grown in the Loire!) This blend is rarely seen in France, nor even Australia or New Zealand, but does occur in northern Italy. Although unusual, the blend is seamless, showing floral, herby and citrus notes. It’s a light yet thrilling, real wine.
I’m a big fan of the smaller wine importers and distributors in Ireland and the independent wine shops where many of their wines are sold. Neither of these roles is easy or that well paid, but require a passion for wine. The other part of wine retail is the supermarkets and multiples who have higher quantities but lower priced offerings. The challenges here – especially in supermarkets – are very different. Wines have to be very commercial – which I use in a factual and not derogatory sense – as wines have to mainstream and meet customers’ expectations rather than being quirky or unusual. They often have to have attractive packaging and offer very good value for money – there’s no hand-selling like in an indie – and they have to sell.
The Irish supermarket that strikes the best balance for me is SuperValu and its head of wine Kevin O’Callaghan. I write about their wines frequently for two main reasons:
I taste a lot of their wines (which are usually samples, and are disclosed as such)
Their wines nearly always offer great value for money, especially when on promotion
And, just as for all retails and importers who send me samples, if I don’t like a wine I just don’t mention it.
In addition to the noted price reductions SuperValu also offer €10 off any six bottles from Thursday 26th November to Wednesday 9th December. Below I review some of the “Classic Christmas Wines” that Kevin has selected for their Xmas promotion.
Disclosure: all bottles were kindly sent as samples, but opinions remain my own
André Goichot Chablis 2018
I reviewed this vintage back in September of this year and liked it; if you like Chablis or clean, dry but fruity whites, then this citrus and green appled wine is definitely worth a try. Great for seafood or as an aperitif.
RRP: €19.66 down to €15.00 from 26th Nov to 30th Dec
I also reviewed this wine in September, but I think it’s showing even better with a few more months. The mid-palate has some particularly tasty tropical notes, along with gooseberry and just a little grassiness. At the regular price of just under €20 this Sancerre is very good, but at €15 it is a real bargain. Just don’t drink it too cold!
RRP: €19.66 down to €15.00 from 26th Nov to 30th Dec while stocks last
Another wine from the Goichot stable, but this time a Cru Beaujolais. Fleurie is one of the lighter Crus, and it shows in this wine which is quite pale in the glass – I could read print through a tasting sample. The nose has both fresh and tinned strawberries, with a touch of black cherry reminding me of Ski yoghurts in an ’80s flashback. The strawberries are also prominent on the palate, but with a hint of spice in the background. There’s a nice texture and fresh acidity to this wine which make it very quaffable. This isn’t the best Fleurie I’ve ever tried but at €12 on offer it’s a great mid-week quaffer to have on the wine rack, or with cold cuts over Xmas.
RRP: €14.66 down to €12.00 from 26th Nov to 30th Dec
Vacqueyras, for those who don’t know it, is a southern Rhône Grenache-Syrah-Mourvèdre (GSM) blend which offers a bold fruity red wine in the vein of Châteauneuf du Pape but at a lower price. Grenache gives easy drinking red fruits, Syrah gives pepper, spice and more savoury notes while Mourvèdre gives grip, perfume and meaty aspects. The precise ratio between the three components depends on what style the winemaker is looking to achieve.
The nose on this wine is all about the fruit; blueberry, wild strawberry and tinned strawberry. These notes continue through onto the palate where black fruits and herbs also appear. The finish is quite dry which made me think there there’s a good proportion of Syrah and Mourvèdre in the blend; subsequent investigation revealed there to be 20% and 10% respectively which fits my observations.
This is a reasonable effort. I don’t think I’d buy it at full price but the significant reduction puts it into the “worth a try” category.
RRP: €20.65 down to €14.00 from 26th Nov to 30th Dec while stocks last
The Ripasso style is a half way house between normal Valpolicella and Amarone, made by pumping Valpolicella wine into a tank which was used for fermenting Amarone, after that wine has been pumped out leaving the gross lees (mainly grape skins) behind which still have some fermentable sugars left. The end wine has a little more alcohol and (usually) a little more residual sugar than the plain Valpolicella.
This example from Vivaldi is made from three classic local grapes: Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella. For real wine geeks (such as myself) it is interesting that the initial fermentation was at 25°C – 28°C whereas the subsequent fermentation was carried out at just 15°C. Maturation was in wood before bottling.
That last sentence is important; for me the (unspecified) wood had an important influence on the wine, adding creamy vanilla and toasty notes to the bright cherry fruits from the grapes. Residual sugar is 8.5 g/L which is mainly perceived as extra body and roundness rather than sugariness. It’s the velvety texture which will appeal to most about this wine, though the downside is not quite as much freshness as I’d like myself. It’s definitely worth a try at the normal price of €15.65 but it’s an absolute steal at 6 for €40!
RRP: €15.65 or case deal of 6 for €40.00 from 17th to 20th Dec while stocks last
I’m in the very lucky position where I get to try lots of good and great wines on a regular basis, many of them sent as samples (especially in 2020!) Sometimes, even among these wines, a few shine even brighter than the rest. It’s often hard to put into words what makes them so special, though I do try. Here are a couple of (unrelated) wines which stood out even in good company:
Disclosure: both bottles were kindly given as samples, opinions remain my own
Elgin Ridge 282 Elgin Chardonnay 2018
Elgin is South Africa’s coolest climate wine region, located about an hour’s drive south east of Cape Town. Although now an exciting area for grapes, for many years it was known almost exclusively for its orchards, particularly apples and pears1; as a rule of thumb, agricultural land which is suitable for orchards is generally suitable for grapes. Elgin is even cool enough for Riesling, with Paul Cluver’s wines leading the charge.
Elgin Ridge is the only winery in Elgin to be both certified organic and certified biodynamic (there is one other which is solely biodynamic). It was founded by Brian and Marion Smith on the site of a former small (ten hectare) apple farm in 2007 and has remained in family hands since. Their aim is to be self sufficient in terms of inputs (biodynamic preparations and cow manure) using sheep to control weeds and ducks to control insects and snails.
The figure 282 in the name of this wine, their flagship Chardonnay, refers to the vineyard’s altitude of 282 metres above sea level. It pours lemon in the glass and initial aromas are predominantly of toasted coconut, indicating a fair bit of oak ageing. Absolutely heavenly, if you like that sort of thing – which I do! The coconut gives way to fabulous orchard fruits(!), smoke and spices. On the palate this is a rich wine, with integrated oak and stone fruits and a touch of butterscotch. There’s plenty of body and flavour, but this is no big butter bomb as there is a certain elegance and lightness to the finish. In terms of style this brought to mind excellent southern hemisphere Chardonnays such as Smith + Shaw’s Adelaide Hills M3 and Man O’War’s Waiheke Island Valhalla.
For some reason 2020 has been the year of Sancerre for me, with lots of very enjoyable bottles showing that the average standard in the region is very high. Even among those, this baby stood out. But first a bit of background.
The maison mère2(!) is Fournier Père et Fils – to give it its full name – under which there are four Domaines:
Domaine Fournier (Sancerre &c.)
Domaine de Saint Romble (Sancerre)
Domaine des Berthiers (Pouilly-Fumé)
Domaine Paul Corneau (Pouilly-Fumé)
The full range of Domaine Fournier is detailed below. As you might expect from one of the “Cuvées Appellations”, this wine is made from vines planted on the three key soil types of Sancerre: Silex, Caillottes and Terres Blanches. The nose opens with ripe peach but also peach stone, sweet fruit reined in by acidity and a pleasant tartness. On the palate there’s more fruit but on the citrus side of the spectrum, along with a touch of mown grass and green bell pepper. Don’t mistake this for a Touraine Sauvignon plus, though; this is a smooth and gentle wine which showcases its different flavours on a long journey through your mouth. A superior Sancerre.
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.
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:
The wine is made in the Sèvre et Maine subregion (named after the two rivers which flow through)
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.
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.
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.
My pick of the four wines above is the Pouilly-Fumé, a Treasure by name and a Treasure by nature.
New Zealand – and more specifically Marlborough – is now thought of as the main home of Sauvignon Blanc for the average wine drinker. But Savvy’s time there is measured in decades, not centuries, and its success there would not have happened if it had not created a global reputation in its original homeland of the Loire Valley. Of all the Loire appellations, Sancerre is the name which carries the biggest cachet and is still thought of as a style leader.
But what is that style? The Sancerre appellation covers 15 villages with three main soil types:
Clay & limestone, aka “white soils”, including some Kimmeridgean marl (we aren’t that far from Chablis here) which lend body and power to wines
Gravel & limestone which give lighter, more delicate wines
Flint, the famous “silex” soils which give very aromatic wines with pronounced mineral notes that can be capable of long ageing
Sancerre was the Sauvignon Blanc I tried and loved, over twenty years ago, so it still has a special place in my heart. Here are two from the current SuperValu French Wine Sale that are worth seeking out:
Disclosure: both bottles were kindly sent as samples, opinions remain my own
Guy Saget Sancerre 2019
The Saget family originally come from Pouilly-sur-Loire, the other side of the river from Sancerre, and still have a base there (Domaine Saget). However, they have expanded their operations over the past few decades to encompass around thirty different appellations to showcase the wines of the whole Loire under the Guy Saget label.
Guy Saget wines are currently made by Laurent Saget using grapes from long term contract growers. Their vines are mainly on Kimmeridgian soils. No oak is used at any point to help preserve fresh fruit flavours; stainless steel tanks are preferred and bâtonnage is carried out over the six month maturation period.
On the nose there are intense grapefruit aromas, accompanied by gooseberry and a hint of grass. These notes continue onto the palate but there is also a striking stony mineral tone. Rather than just grapefruit juice this fruity aspect is more like chomping down onto a few juicy grapefruit segment which explode into your mouth. This is a delicious, accessible Sancerre which can brighten up your day.
RRP: €19.66 down to €14.76 from 3rd to 23rd Sept (plus buy any 6 bottles save €10 from 3rd to 16th Sept)
In contrast to Guy Saget, La Perrière only make Sancerre wines. There are several in the range, however;
Straight Sancerrein white, rosé and red versions (the latter two obviously made from Pinot Noir)
Two different Comte de la Perrière bottlings, one from flinty Silex soil and one from marl & gravel Caillottes soil
A flagship red Sacrilègegrown on chalk and limestone soil
A flagship white Mégalithegrown on silica (Silex!) soils which is the wine we have here.
After a gentle pressing, the juice for Mégalithe is split two ways; 60% of the must is fermented and matured in stainless steel tanks, but 40% receives an altogether different treatment. This portion is fermented in 300 litre (“Cognac type”) barrels made from Allier oak (a top source of oak barrels that is conveniently close to Sancerre). Maturation is for eight or nine months during which frequent bâtonnage takes place. Both the inox and barrel matured wines are blended together before bottling.
The first sniff of Mégalithe reveals that this is a totally different wine to the Guy Saget, even though they are both AOC Sancerre. There are citrus notes but they are in the background; the foreground is occupied by smoke, wood, nuts and vanilla. The palate is creamy, yeasty and tangy. This is a wonderfully expressive wine which is great to drink now but will reward several years’ patience with more development and integration.
RRP: €31.48 down to €21.64 from 3rd to 23rd Sept (plus buy any 6 bottles save €10 from 3rd to 16th Sept)
One little bit of information I didn’t mention above was that Guy Saget and La Perrière are part of the same group: Maison Saget La Perrière. The Guy Saget Sancerre is available at SuperValu all year round but the Mégalithe is a “special guest” only available during the French Wine Sale; this makes perfect sense when you consider their relative styles. The Guy Saget is a real crowd pleaser, fruity and accessible, though still showing Sancerre’s mineral streak, whereas the Mégalithe is much more of a focused wine that might not be to everyone’s taste, but is undoubtedly a more accomplished wine.
To compare with a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, the Guy Saget is more like Kevin Judd’s regular Greywacke whereas the Mégalithe is more like his Wild Sauvignon. Liking one doesn’t mean you would like the other, but you owe it to yourself to try them both!
In many ways these wines reflect what happens when you go up the price scale of wine in general; wines become better, but often a little more niche. When comparing more expensive wines the differences are more often in style than to quality per se. Try both!
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.
My guest for this tenth post in The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series is Cara Rutherford, a great friend whose knowledge and passion for Italian wine and loud trousers really puts me in the shade (though I might have an advantage on loud shirts). Cara and I have a lot in common when it comes to wine but even more when it comes to music – I think we are of a similar vintage, but I would never ask a lady her age!
The Cure’s music has defied easy categorisation over the years, but has encompassed goth (a term they dislike), straight up pop (Friday I’m In Love) and rock (Shake Dog Shake). I’ve been a fan of The Cure since the late ’80s. Initially it was Standing on a Beach / Staring at the Sea which I had on repeat and then Disintegration, the best album ever per Kyle Broflovski. The previous album Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me had passed me by somewhat, but my favourite track from that album – Just Like Heaven – was played all three times I’ve seen them in concert (1992, 2002 & 2019). It manages to be a really hooky pop song while still preserving The Cure’s sensibility. Check out this analysis by Rick Beato.
While Cara’s main vinous focus is Italy, she also reviews plenty of wines from other countries – especially if they are made a low intervention style. I’ve already chosen one wine from Suertes del Marqués in this series, but as I’m such a fan of their wines and had the pleasure of meeting Jonatan Garcia Lima earlier this year, I thought I’d chose their fabulous ‘7 Fuentes’ red which Cara had already reviewed and was familiar with.
The Cure – Just Like Heaven
I was delighted when Frankie sent me ‘Just Like Heaven’ to pair with a wine for his Wine & Music Series. Even though I’ve only had the pleasure of hanging out with Frankie one fantastic evening, he clearly sussed out my post-punk origins and general angst vibes.
As a GenXer, the Cure is one of the bands that not only changed but assisted in formulating and developing who I am. Robert Smith’s lyrics introduced and beckoned me into the existential cosmos of Nietzsche, Sartre and Camus. A philosophy that became my backbone growing up in the wasteland of upstate NY.
The otherworld, velvet flanger layers of his guitar, his imploring, flirtatious, angst saturated voice and words, his cascade of birds’ nest hair. The avante-guard Tim Pope videos that allowed an innocent, silly facet to shine through.
And the memories, I could go on and on; the thousands of times I made my saint of a grandmother watch the nearly 2 hours of magnificence that is The Cure in Orange with me in the afternoons after school. She was from London, so I rationalized that she would of course want to watch it over and over and over again with me……stockpiling Mary Quant liquid eyeliner when in London [I had read in an interview somewhere that was the brand he used]…..the years I lived in Dublin where I had the opportunity to track down the 7” & 12” records with their cool pastel or translucent vinyl bearing the ultimate in Cure treasures; ethereal b-sides that were held in god-like esteem for those fortunate enough to have actually found them.
So back to the pairing. ‘Just Like Heaven’ was one of the Cure’s biggest singles, with many accolades and perhaps the song that officially established them in the States.
‘Just Like Heaven’ is a glistening love song filled with dizzying iconography and shimmering melody. Looking for the same character in a wine, I immediately knew it would be sparkling and French, rooted in devotion and otherworldliness. It had to be Jean-Christophe Jezequel ‘Mademoiselle’ Vin de France 2018.
Jean-Christophe Jezequel passionately cares for his 5 hectares of old vine vineyards in Faverolles-sur-Cher in the Loire Valley. He recovered and rehabilitated old, abandoned vineyards with vines dating back to 1945, none of which have ever seen chemicals. His grapes traditionally were sold to iconic ancestral method/pet-nat winemakers Pascal Potaire and Moses Gadouche of Domaine Les Capriades. In 2019, he released his first wine, ‘Mademoiselle’ the 2017 vintage, on his own label. Just a year later, he has 5 more wines in production.
Grapes are from old vines in clay, sand, and silex over limestone soils, harvested at the beginning of September. Followed by direct pressing of the two varieties together, then fermentation in fiberglass vats with multiple rackings. After a month of fermentation, the wine is hand and gravity bottled in early October, aged a little over a year on its lees.
Coral pink in colour, with delicate aromas of strawberry, rose petal, dusty earth and a wisp of frankincense. Red currant, wild strawberry, lemon, hibiscus flower and chalky minerality are buoyed by packed, tiny bubbles and tangy acidity. Pink grapefruit and green apple linger on the fizzy, mineral driven finish. Bright, engaging and refined.
Suertes del Marqués ‘7 Fuentes’
Frankie’s wine choice was Suertes del Marqués ‘7 Fuentes’ Valle de la Orotava DO 2017, a favourite of mine that holds a place in my ‘house wine’ rotation. Jonatan Garcia Lima has 11 hectares of vineyards on the slopes of Teide, an active volcano in the northern part of Tenerife in the Canary Islands.
He is dedicated to low intervention, organic and sustainable practices in both the vineyards and cellar. 7 Fuentes is composed of 35 plots from area winegrowers and from the estate vineyards with vines ranging from 10 to 180 years old, at elevations 250 to 800 meters above sea level, in volcanic soils. Each plot is vinified separately. Fermented in concrete and stainless steel with native yeasts, 70% aged in concrete while the remaining 30% aged in used 500-liter oak barrels for nine months, unfined and unfiltered.
Dark ruby red in colour with engaging aromas of campfire, tarry earth, ash, grilled herbs, black cherry, candied violet and a wisp of burnt marshmallow. Silky layers of black cherry, raspberry, cranberry, red currant, clove, coriander, rose petal and grilled herbs are wrapped in saline minerality and drape across a framework of tangy acidity and firm tannins. Smoke, tarry earth crushed black peppercorn, roasted rosemary and baked cranberry linger on the plush finish. Striking, complex and velvety.
I felt only a Foo Fighters song would be able to echo the sinuous fusion of boldness and silky symmetry whirling through every sip of 7 Fuentes. Enter ‘The Line’, with exhilarating guitars, heart pounding drums and Dave’s legendary angst driven screams that meld seamlessly with blissful, dreamy melody and charged lyrics. Dave Grohl has stated that the song expresses “a search for hope in this day and age where you feel as if you’re fighting for your life with every passing moment, and everything is on the line.” The centuries old, braided vines set into a prehistoric, other planet looking environment of black volcanic earth at dizzying elevations have fought many battles and come out on the other side victorious.
Cara Rutherford has been exploring and writing about wine for nearly a decade. Over the years her expertise has become razor-focused on Italian wines and the people who craft them. Having a Master’s in applied art and background in ancient art, she honed her art criticism and writing skills whilst working at Christie’s in New York City. Certified 3iC Central Italy Specialist, she is currently pursuing additional 3iC Specialist certifications [Italian International Indigenous Wine and Food Studies Center] under Ian D’Agata. Additionally, she holds a Highest Honors Italian Wine Scholar certificate, along with WSET 2 designation, with distinction. Check out her website caravino.net or follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
Henri Bourgeois is one of the most well-respected producers in the Loire’s Central vineyards, with 72 hectares on both the Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé sides of the river. Different sources give slightly different nuances to their description of the soil types, but the company’s website classifies them as the following three types:
Clay-limestone, which gives rise to fresh, fruity vintages;
Kimmeridgian marls, the memories of fossilised shells from the Jurassic Era that give intense flavours of exotic fruits and a superb structure;
Flint, which initiates elegant wines with smoky, roasted notes and minerality of great finesse.
One of the first things than a serious wineaux learns is the difference between Pouilly-Fumé (a Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc) and Pouilly-Fuissé (a Chardonnayfrom the Mâconnais in southern Burgundy).
Later they may stumble across the oddity that is AOP Pouilly-sur-Loire…an appellation based around the same Loire town as Fumé but based predominantly on the Chasselas grape (which is more at home in Valais (Switzerland), Baden (Germany) and Alsace (France)).
The love of Sauvignon Blanc also took the family to Marlborough where they make Clos Henri, a New Zealand Savvy with a French sensibility.
Here’s a Bourgeois wine I tried and enjoyed recently:
Disclosure: bottle was kindly provided for review, opinions remain my own
Henri Bourgeois Pouilly Fumé La Porte de l’Abbaye 2018
For a Sauvignon this was only lightly aromatic, more subtle than those of the antipodes, but that’s no bad thing. The palate has hints of grapefruitand gooseberrybut it’s mainly lemonwhich shines. The finish is long and mineral. Overall this is somewhat on the simple side, but very pure and enjoyable. It would be at its best with seafood – perhaps some shellfish to match the Jurassic soils on which it was grown.
Lidl Ireland have just launched a range of French wines which will be available for a limited time only – until stocks run out. Below are brief notes on six whites that would be making their way into my trolley: two from Burgundy, two from the Loire and two from Alsace.
Wally AOP Touraine Sauvignon 2018 (13.0%, €9.99 at Lidl Ireland)
There are several different Touraine appellations in the Loire Valley but this is the one which removes any doubt as to which grape variety you will be drinking. While not reaching the heights of Pouilly-Fumé, Quincy and the other Sauvignon based wines further east, Touraine is the French standard bearer for inexpensive fresh, tasty Sauvignon Blanc.
Wally has a very expressive Sauvignon nose – grass, gooseberry and grapefruit. These notes continue through to the palate, but there are no rough edges – it’s (almost) smooth in texture. Great value for money!
Comte d’Ardières AOP Sancerre 2018 (13.0%, RRP €16.99 at Lidl Ireland)
Probably the most famous Sauvignon appellation, Sancerre is one of the most prestigious wine regions of France. Despite that, quality and style can vary as there are multiple soil types and aspects. I don’t know who the Count of Ardières was, but the wines named after him are very elegant and mineral in style. There’s also lots of fresh citrus and a long tangy finish. Worth trying with delicate white fish or oysters.
Collin-Bourisset AOP Coteaux Bourguignons 2018 (13.0% €9.99 at Lidl Ireland)
For those not familiar, Coteaux Bourguignons is an appellation that covers the whole of Burgundy proper and Beaujolais, for both red and white wines. It can thus be made with fruit from all over the region, but is often a label used for wines from the south around the Maconnais / Beaujolais border. The grapes for this white are not given, but on tasting it appears to me to be substantially or totally Chardonnay. It has some oak on the nose and palate plus citrus and stone fruit. This is proper white Burgundy, a steal for a tenner!
AOP Chablis 2018 (12.5%, €12.99 at Lidl Ireland)
After the trials and tribulations of frost and hail over consecutive years, Chablis producers had to put up their prices so that they could still make a living. The phrase “there’s no more cheap Chablis” was uttered many times. Thankfully, the 2018 harvest was the best in 20 years according to the president of the Chablis Commission, so things are returned to normal.
At €12.99 this would definitely be considered a “cheap Chablis”, though I’d wager Lidl’s average bottle price is several Euros less. It has the classic Chablis nose of citrus and soft malolactic character. The palate shows red and green apples, lemon and lime fruits plus stony minerality. This is an excellent wine for the price and was the standout wine of the tasting!
When it comes to wine Irish people rarely have a sweet tooth, and usually eschew anything with more than a few grams of residual sugar. Perhaps this is because of ‘Nam-like flashbacks from sweet, unbalanced, flabby German whites from decades past (you know the ones I’m talking about), who knows. This means that the limited number of Alsace Gewurztraminers available in supermarkets are usually quite dry. There’s nothing wrong with that in itself – each to his own – but for me Gewurz needs a bit of RS to complement its round, rich character.
And here’s the perfect example at an inexpensive price point. It’s VERY Gewurz on the nose, with lychees, Turkish delight and rose petals. The aromas continue on the palate but a little more subdued, but matched nicely by an off-dry finish.
AOP Crémant d’Alsace Brut NV (12.0%, €12.99 at Lidl Ireland)
France’s second best selling sparkling wine is represented by this fresh and fruity little number. It’s made in the traditional method and is fully sparkling so is a steal at this price (given the double duty on such wines in Ireland). This is a great alternative to Prosecco; fun and fruity but drier and better balanced.
Earlier this year, the biggest portfolio tasting on the Irish wine trade calendar – Liberty Wines Ireland – was, for a change, held at The Westbury Hotel. I didn’t have anywhere near as much time as I’d have liked – given that there were close to 350 bottles open – but such is the quality on show that even a limited tasting throws up lots of wines that demand a recommendation.
To keep your attention I have broken the list up into several posts. This first post covers French whites and reds, including Les Hauts de Milly which is new to Liberty.
The new vintage is fantastic straight out of the blocks, unlike some Sauvignons which need a little time to settle down and find their poise. This Quincy just has so much flavour; it’s an amazing Sauvignon Blanc with luscious green and yellow fruit that is a delight to drink, and tastier than many from famous neighbours Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé.
Les Hauts de Milly Chablis 1er Cru “Côte de Léchet” 2016 (13.0%, RRP €39.99 at Egans Wines, Portlaoise and good independents nationwide)
Les Hauts de Milly is a new addition to the Liberty stable, and what a coup! They have 27 hectares in Chablis (from Didier Defaix’s side of the family) and Rully (from his wife Hélène Jaeger-Defaix’s side). Due to an extremely challenging harvest in Chablis in 2016 they lost their organic certification but are endeavouring to regain it.
This Premier Cru Chablis is made with grapes from 25 separate parcels in the Côte de Léchet vineyard. It spent eight months of its maturation in a mix of stainless steel (75%) and one to six year old 228 litre oak barrels (25%). With a mineral streak, plenty of acidity and citrus, it is recognisably Chablis, but such is the quality here that it transcends its northern origins and is truly a great white Burgundy.
Les Hauts de Milly Rully 1er Cru “Mont Palais” 2015 (13.5%, RRP €39.99 at good independents nationwide)
Now to the other side of the family, with a Côte Chalonnaise from two plots within a single hectare Premier Cru vineyard, the Mont Palais. The soils are clay and limestone, giving power and finesse respectively. As was the case in much of Europe, 2015 was an excellent vintage in Burgundy and the warmth of the weather is reflected in tangy tropical notes. Four years on from vintage it is absolutely singing, a very well put together wine.
The Larose Perganson 2010 was drinking beautifully last year, but as stocks of that vintage are depleted, the current 2014 is worth a try. While 2014 wasn’t as stellar a year in Bordeaux as 2010 (as previously noted here) it was still very good. As in the norm for Haut-Médoc reds, the blend is Cabernet Sauvignon (58%) and Merlot (40%) with just a little Petit Verdot (2%) for seasoning. The body is only medium – no 15.0% fruit and oak monster here – but it has lots of nice, classic black fruit flavours, with a smoky edge. The second wine Les Hauts de Perganson is around two thirds the price but for me it’s definitely worth paying the extra for the Fully Monty.
And so we meet again, a fine ambassador for the Rhône’s most northerly appellation. Interestingly the François are primarily dairy farmers and cheese makers, with just four hectares of vines in Côte Rôtie. The wine is silky (100%) Syrah, with aromas so lifted they are heavenly. Sweet blackberries are tamed by fine tannins and a savoury edge. A superior wine which lives up to its price tag.
Domaine Barge Côte-Rôtie “Côte Brune” 2015 (13.5%, RRP €78.99 at good independents nationwide)
Boom! (1)2015 was a whopper in the Rhône, so even the more subtle AOCs received plenty of heat and sunshine, translating into powerful wines like this. Big black fruit is matched by a big structure – tannin and particularly acidity – which stop it running away with itself. 5% Viognier helps to round the edges even further and adds floral aromas. This is a hedonist’s delight at the moment, but will age gracefully for the next decade or so.
Liberty Portfolio Tasting 2019
Part 1 – France, Whites & Reds
Part 2 – Other whites
Part 3 – Old World Reds
Part 4 – New World Reds
(1) An excerpt from Private S. Baldrick’s poem, “The German Guns”
One of the other great strengths of Liberty Wines’ portfolio is its antipodean selection – so much so that they seem to have the largest number of wines open for tasting at both the NZ and Australian trade tastings in Ireland. However, I’ve covered many of them before on Frankly Wines, so this article will review a few that I tried for the first time plus some fantastic European whites.
Jurançon wines are among the most under-rated in France, both the sweet (“Jurançon”) and dry (“Jurançon Sec”) styles. Don’t base your opinions on the bottles available in French supermarkets, though – they tend to lack concentration and be pleasantly innocuous at best. This is one of the best examples I’ve come across in Ireland, especially at a fairly moderate price. Split 50/50 between local varieties Petit Manseng and Gros Manseng, It shows plenty of ripe stone fruit, almost fleshy, but a crisp dry finish.
Mosel Riesling is one of the great wines of the world, but it’s rarely “cheap”. This one is very reasonably priced and serves as a great introduction to the area. The grapes are partly from the producer’s own estate and partly from contract growers in the Mosel region. It shows white flowers, stone and citrus fruit plus minerality – a great example of Mosel Riesling, and/ great value for money!
Château Moncontour Vouvray Sec 2017 (13.0%, RRP €21.99)
Many of my comments above about Jurançon also hold true for the Chenin-derived wines of the Loire. This Château Moncontour helpfully says “Sec” on the label, and it is dry – but not bone dry or austere. There’s a touch of residual sugar (apparently 6.7 g/L for those who are interested in such things) but lots more fruit sweetness, balanced by fresh acidity. Such a more-ish wine!
Matt Thomson is a legend in the world of wine – but he’s also a top bloke. After doing both northern and southern hemisphere vintages for 20 years, he finally decided to make his own wine, partnered by his wife Sophie. The Blank Canvas Chardonnay featured in my 2017 Top 10 whites so I was keen to try the Grüner. The long, cool growing season in Marlborough is perfect for GV, as it is for other aromatics such as Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Pinot Gris. This is a cracker – smooth yet textured, nicely balanced between fruit sweetness and refreshing acidity.
Framingham are unusual in Marlborough – actually in the whole of New Zealand – in that Riesling is their biggest focus. And boy, does it show! The Classic is their “entry level” Riesling, but it gives a flavour of what the rest of the range holds. This is particularly true of the 2015 as 10% of the grapes were botrytised, with nobly rotten grapes normally going into a special cuvée. This is a lovely wine to drink but just AMAZING on the nose. It has that hard-to-define “otherness” which only Riesling has (“Rieslingness”?)
Kaiken Ultra Mendoza Chardonnay 2016 (14.0%, RRP €24.99)
Rather than go west – which would have taken them into the Pacific, Montes headed east from Chile to Argentina and created Kaiken. The fruit is sourced from the Uco Valley in Mendoza, mostly in cooler parts which give freshness and minerality – despite the 14.0% alcohol and partial (35%) maturation in new oak, this is far from the butter-bomb new world Chardonnays of the 1990s. It has lots of tangy, tropical flavours, but mainly from the grapes rather than the oak.
Santiago Ruiz “O Rosal” Rías Biaxas 2017 (13.0%, RRP €24.99)
From the O Rosal subregion of Galicia’s Rías Biaxas, this is an Albariño blend with several other local varieties playing supporting roles: it consists of 76% Albariño, 11% Loureiro, 5% Treixadura, 4% Godello and 4% other. I like Albariño as a grape, but – for all its popularity – it’s wines are more often simple than complex. Simple doesn’t necessarily mean bad or boring, but there is definitely a place for interesting. The O Rosal is quite long and serious; it’s a cerebral rather than obvious wine which definitely deserves a try.
Domaine des Ballandors Quincy 2017 (13.5%, RRP €24.99)
After Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Quincy was the second Appellation Controllée created in France. Since then it hasn’t really been at the forefront of drinkers’ minds – Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé stole the limelight and the column inches. The upside is that quality wines from Quincy can offer great value for money. The nose is very grassy, the palate herby with quince (no relation) and gooseberry notes. This Sauvignon Blanc for adults.
L.A.S. Vino Margaret River Chardonnay 2016 (13.5%, RRP €59.99)
Margaret River is well known for its Bordeaux blends – Cabernet-Merlot reds and Semillon-Sauvignon whites – but also for some fantastic Chardies. L.A.S. is actually an acronym, standing for “Luck of the weather, the Art of creating and the Science that underpins this creativity.” This is world class, amazing stuff. You need to try this wine. Sell an organ. Sell your car. Even sell your house, but don’t sell your soul as this Chardonnay will capture it.