When restarting the DNS Wine Club tasting calendar after the summer break it has become a tradition to start with wines that members have enjoyed on their holidays. It’s always a nice and relaxed event and gives a far more idiosyncratic range than is the norm at DNS.
September 2019 had us meet and taste wines from Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal, France, Australia and….Yorkshire! Here they are in the order of tasting (and with apologies for the quality of the photos from my phone):
Yorkshire Heart Sparkling Rosé NV (11.0%)
The best English wines tend to come from the south of the country: south coast counties like Kent, Sussex, Hampshire and Cornwall. Whereas southern English producers used to focus on varieties that could prosper despite a damp and cold climate, global warming and experience has led to a boom in sparkling wine production, usually with the three main Champagne grapes. Further north in Yorkshire, however, the climate is now mild enough for the special cross and hybrid varieties to survive (though prosper might be a little overstating the case just now.)
Yorkshire Heart are based close to York, so the name is apt. They also have a brewery and a cider orchard so most bases are covered. The vineyard has 17 varieties across ten acres, so it is still fairly small scale and experimental. The grapes used for the sparkling rosé are not disclosed apart from the use of Pinot Noir to create the pink hue. It’s made using the traditional method with the wine resting on its lees for 12 months – not as long as Champagne but longer than some NV Cava.
The wine has a fruity nose and a nice mousse when poured, but unfortunately it was not persistent. The palate is full of summer fruits; raspberry, strawberry, cranberry and a touch of blackberry competed for attention. As this is an English wine there’s ample acidity, though the finish resolves with fruit sweetness.
Read more about Yorkshire Heart here.
Principe Strozzi Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2017 (13.0%)
Following the Italian wine naming convention of [grape] from [place], this is a 100% Vernaccia from San Gimignano in Tuscany (aka Chiantishire). On the nose the wine evokes wet stones – can you get more mineral than that? On the palate, it’s as though fresh lemons have been squeezed onto said stones – a real citrus zing on top of the minerality. It has a touch more body than I had at first expected. This is a well-made wine which, while not setting the world alight, makes for some very pleasant drinking.
Tesco Finest Tingleup Great Southern Riesling 2018 (12.0%)
Of all the wines brought to this tasting, this Australian Riesling was from the furthest away. However, DNS member Michelle was blagging this one as she had not been to Australia, and had instead spent her holidays in the local Tesco. The wine is made for Tesco by Howard Park who are based in Western Australia and specialise in wines from Margaret River and Great Southern. On the nose it has aromas of lime and…well…Riesling! The palate is full of refreshing, zingy citrus and there’s just a kiss of sweetness on the finish. A great way to get into Riesling.
Read more on Howard Park Wines here.
Mar de Frades Rías Baixas Albariño Atlántico 2018 (12.5%)
So let’s count up the nautical references: the producer is Mar de Frades (which translates as something like “Sea of Friars”), the wine is Albariño Atlántico which indicates that it’s from the part of Rías Baixas close to the ocean, and the label depicts huge crashing waves and a chuffing seagull! Message understood, loud and clear! Thankfully the wine is very nice, despite being the producer’s “entry level” effort. It spends six months on the lees which adds a nice bit of texture to the pear and peach fruit. A saline finish seasons it perfectly. In a sea (sorry, it’s catching) of samey Albariño, this is a winner.
Read more on Mar de Frades here.
Tenute delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso 2017 (14.0%)
Tenuta delle Terre Nere takes its name from the black basalt and pumice stones which cover much of the estate on the northern side of Mount Etna. Its surface area totals 55 hectares and is far from homogeneous – the 24 parcels range from 600 to 1,000 metres above sea level and (apart from a few new plantings) between 50 and 100 years old.
This Rosso is mainly Nerello Mascalese (95%) with a dash of Nerello Cappuccio (5%). The soil is volcanic soil, obviously (I bleedin’ hope it’s obvious!!). Stylistically the wine is somewhat Pinot Noir like, but with a touch more body and spice. It has delicious smoky black and red fruit plus a certain chewy earthiness.
Read more on Tenuta delle Terre Nere here.
Domaine du Bois de St Jean “Les Ventssssss” Côtes du Rhône 2016 (14.0%)
The Domaine is located near Avignon and has a range of different red, white and rosé Côtes du Rhône wines plus Crus Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Vacqueras. One notable wine is “Pur Cent”, a cuvée first released 9 years ago made from 16 different varieties, all planted when the estate was founded in 1910, i.e. one hundred year old vines.
The odd name of this wine – which you can see in the heading above, but not so well on the label – is because the six Ss at the end of Ventssssss represent the six different names for the main wind which affects the Rhône: The Mistral. The vines are planted on sand and pebble soils, north-facing slopes (presumably not too steep an incline) at around 400m. The vines vary between 60 and 80 years old and consist of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan, Counoise and Cinsault. For the 2016 only the first four varieties were used, but the precise blend is a family secret.
The wine is extremely smooth and elegant, attributable (in my humble opinion) to the sandy soils and north facing aspect respectively. The velvet texture immediately reminded me of the Mas Saint-Louis Châteauneuf-du-Pape which is also predominantly Grenache grown on sandy soils – and that’s a real compliment. Quite simply this is the best AOC Côtes du Rhône I’ve ever tasted.
Read more on the Domaine du Bois de Saint Jean here.
Quinta dos Aciprestes Douro Tinto 2016 (14.5%)
One of my wine rules of thumb is that, when a place is famous for wine derived drinks other than regular table wines, if they were to produce table wines they would be quite poor. When was the last time you had a regular table wine from the Sherry, Champagne or Cognac regions? The Douro is a prominent exception to that rule of thumb with some excellent, characterful and drinkable wines, especially reds.
“Quinta dos Aciprestes” means “Estate of the Cypress Trees“; the three depicted on the front label are most likely a representation of the three Quintas which were joined together to make the estate. The grapes are a typical Port blend, including Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), Tinto Cão and Tinta Barocca. Maturation is for 12 months in French oak (I suspect mainly older barrels). This is a rich wine, typical of the Douro, but still round and soft – softer than the 14.5% alcohol would imply.
Château Nico Lazaridi Drama 2016 (15.0%)
Let’s get the bad pun out of the way first: the phrase “no drama” is usually taken to be a good thing – but not in this case! Drama is a municipality in the East Macedonia and Thrace region of north east Greece and home to Italophile wine producer Nico Lazaridis. French grapes predominate with some Sangiovese and autochthonous varieties.
The eponymous Château Nico Lazaridi wine is 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 10% Sangiovese – what might be termed a Super Tuscan blend – that has spent 12 months in French oak. It has an enticing, fragrant but gentle nose. The palate is rich, explosive but smooth – cherries, chocolate and luscious black fruits all wrapped in velvet. At 15% there’s also a suggestion of Napa Valley style power and sweetness. This is a fabulous wine!
Read more on Château Laziridi here.
The Votes From Our North Side Jury
All of these holiday wines were good and worth trying, but two did stand out as the best and second best of the tasting:
- Château Nico Lazaridi received 8 votes (out of 18 total)
- Domaine du Bois de St Jean “Les Ventssssss” received 4 votes (out of 18 total)