Single Bottle Review

Wine Review: Gai’a 4-6H Nemea Rosé 2020

Gai’a is one of the best known Greek producers in these parts, primarily due to their magnificent Wild Ferment Assyrtiko; this brilliant wine has featured several times on Frankly Wines going back as far as My Top 10 Whites of 2014. They also make a simpler Assyrtiko called Monograph which was one of My Top 10 Value Whites of 2017 Monograph is made in Nemea which is more famous for reds based on Agiorgitiko, an indigenous Greek variety. Indeed, Gai’a make a number of different Agiorgitiko-based wines, many of them single varietals but also a few blends.

Gai’a was founded just in 1994 by locals Yiannis Paraskevopoulosan and Leon Karatsalos. They decided to focus on Greece’s top red and white varieties and locations, namely Assyrtiko from Santorini and Agiorgitiko from Nemea, with a winery subsequently built in each location. For the latter they chose Koutsi, a high altitude location with poor soil fertility to give cool nights and well-drained root systems.

As well as the reds made in Nemea Gai’a also produce three rosés. The first was 14-16H, so named as the juice spends between 14 and 16 hours in contact with the skins. The second rosé in the Gai’a range is the 4-6H; it isn’t stated but I therefore infer that the 4-6H spends between four and six hours macerating on the skins.

Gai’a 4-6H Nemea Rosé 2020

Gai'a Nemea Agiorgitiko Rosé

The Agiorgitiko (literally: St George’s grape) vines for this rosé are between 15 and 30 years old and are grown on at an altitude of 450 to 550 metres ASL. The soil has a shallow clay layer over free-draining limestone subsoil and has a 15% slope (so I would imagine hand-harvested!)

The 4-6H rosé is on the pale side but not quite the virtually colourless pale wine that is currently in fashion. The nose is joyously fruity with lots of red fruit notes. The palate is…simply delicious! The finish is crisp but not sharp. If tasted straight out of a domestic fridge this is still fruity but on the redcurrant and cranberry side; as it warms up a little the fruits move across the red spectrum yet remain fresh and tasty. When left out even longer it could even double as a light red.

This wine is modestly priced but is the most enjoyable rosé I have tried this year. I could see it pairing well with a wide variety of foods but most importantly it is extremely gluggable all by itself.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP:  €15.95
  • Source: sample*
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

*Though I liked it so much that I bought myself another bottle.

Make Mine A Double

Wine Review: Henri Bourgeois Sancerre Rosé and Cabernet Franc

Esteemed Loire producer Domaine Henri Bourgeois is most famous for its white and red Sancerres, but it also has some other interesting wines in its portfolio. I recently reviewed Clos Henri Petit Clos Sauvignon Blanc from its Marlborough outpost, and now it’s time to look at a young vine rosé and a Cabernet Franc.

Henri Bourgeois “Les Jeunes Vignes” Sancerre Pinot Noir Rosé 2020

Henri Bourgeois Sancerre Les Jeunes Vignes Rosé

Although I’m not a vocal exponent of rosé, if I had to choose a single variety as my favourite for rosé it would be Pinot Noir. Why? Easy, really: Pinot Noir tends to be on the lighter side as black grapes go, with soft tannins and good acidity, all of which make it the perfect candidate for rosé.

It’s more common to see a mention of Vieilles Vignes (VV) on a label rather than Jeunes Vignes as we have here. VV indicates that the vines are of a significant age (often 30+ years) so yields have started to fall but concentration in the finished wines increases. Jeunes Vignes tend to make simpler wines, and in some wine regions (e.g. Alsace or Bordeaux) the grapes from young vines tend to be declassified even if from a prestigious vineyard.

However, for areas which have a strong rosé game, why not use the grapes from young vines for rosé. Domaine Henri Bourgeois take this approach, as do the notable rosé producer Domaine Tempier of Bandol.

Although Pinot Noir is a lighter grape, this rosé has more colour than the fashionable paler-than-pale Provence style which is so fashionable at the moment. For me this is a GOOD THING as it signals that there has been more flavour as well as colour extracted from those precious Pinot Noir grapes. The nose showcases an array of red fruits – strawberry, raspberry, cherry and redcurrant. These red fruits are also the key notes on the palate, which has a dry and fresh but far from austere finish.

This is a lovely, balanced rosé that would be nice to sip in the sun or with a range of lighter dishes.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP:  €24.95
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Henri Bourgeois Petit Bourgeois Cabernet Franc 2019

Henri Bourgeois Petit Bourgeois Cabernet FrancClimate change has had very mixed effects on viticulture in France. In some regions harvests are moving earlier and earlier over the years as grapes ripen earlier than before. Some regions face a future where new varieties will have to be employed as existing ones will struggle to make quality wine in a warmer climate.

There are others where global warming has helped to some extent; viz, the change in Alsace Pinot Noir from barely more than a rosé to a serious expression of the grape. Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley has been another beneficiary. No longer does it make dilute, green-pepper dominated reds in (frequent) colder years, and chapitalisation is now seldom required.

The Petit Bourgeois range is – as you might understand from the name – a junior range designed for easy drinking. Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir are the other wines in the range. In the glass this Cab Franc is mid ruby, only medium intensity. The nose is fruity yet with some character. On the palate there is juicy fruit yet a savoury aspect at the same time. Alpine strawberries, cranberries, raspberries, redcurrants, and cherries are all in the mix. There’s a nice texture to this wine, with light, crunchy tannins and good acidity. Although varietally typical and nice to drink on its own, this wine really cries out for food…a plate of charcuterie would be perfect!

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP:  €16.95
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

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Single Bottle Review

Wine Review: Clos Henri “Petit Clos” Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc

Which makes better Sauvignon Blanc, the Loire Valley or Marlborough?

The Loire versus Marlborough debate about which region makes the best Sauvignon Blanc will rumble on for years to come, with each side proclaiming victory. The Loirists can point to the fact that they have the original home of Sauvignon Blanc and the famous duo (amongst others) of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. Marlboroughites may boast that very few people even knew what Sauvignon Blanc was before they started making it a world famous variety, and no other region can rival their Savvy’s aromatics.

Domaine Henri Bourgeois and Clos Henri

On the sidelines we have Sancerre based producer Domaine Henri Bourgeois, now in the capable hands of the tenth generation of winemakers, who has ventured down to Aotearoa to establish their own take on Marlborough Sauvignon, Clos Henri. It was set up in Marlborough’s most popular subregion, Wairau Valley, which has greywacke (whence Kevin Judd’s outfit takes its name) soil, essentially gravels and pebbles laid down over millennia by the wandering Wairau river. Viticulture is practising, but not certified, organic

Clos Henri has six wines, three whites (Sauvignon Blanc) and three reds (Pinot Noir) with three labels each:

  • Clos Henri Sauvignon Blanc: 8 – 13 year old vines on greywacke
  • Bel Echo Sauvignon Blanc: 9 – 13 year old vines on clay
  • Petit Clos Sauvignon Blanc: 3 – 7 year old vines on greywacke and clay
  • Clos Henri Pinot Noir: 8 – 13 year old vines on clay
  • Bel Echo Pinot Noir: 8 – 13 year old vines on greywacke
  • Petit Clos Pinot Noir: 3 – 7 year old vines on clay and greywacke

Note how greywacke is the optimum soil for Sauvignon and clay for Pinot.

Clos Henri “Petit Clos” Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2019

Clos Henri Petit Clos Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc

As you can ascertain from the information above, Petit Clos Sauvignon Blanc is made using young vines predominantly grown on greywacke soil. Following Sancerre practices, vines are planted close together to make them compete for nutrients and encourage them to focus their energy on producing fruit more than foliage. Clos Henri is fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks to best preserve aromatics, but it also enjoys three months of bâtonnage which both helps preserve the wine and gives it a creamy, rounded texture.

The noses shows grassy aromas (harking back to Sancerre again), plus citrus notes such as lime and grapefruit. These continue onto the palate where they are joined by some lighter tropical notes – pineapple and passionfruit. This wine has a dry finish and excellent length. It is far more elegant than the vast majority of Marlborough Sauvignons, and that’s where the Bourgeois family’s Loire expertise comes into play – it really is the best of both worlds.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €19.95 or €13.95 when on offer
  • Source: purchased from O’Briens Glasnevin
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores or obrienswine.ie

 

 

 

 

Make Mine A Double

Wine Review: Mazzei Codice V Vermentino and Gérard Bertrand Orange Gold

Whether you call them “orange wines”, “amber wines” or “skin-contact white wines”, these postmodern wines are here to stay. However, are they going to remain a niche curiosity drunk only by the adventurous or will they break out from the independent wine specialist sector into multiples and even supermarkets? Here are two skin-contact whites which are leading the way.

Mazzei Tenuta Belguardo Codice V Maremma Vermentino 2019

Mazzei Belguardo Codice V Vermentino

I previously reviewed the “regular” Mazzei Belguardo Vermentino and found it excellent, so I was keen to taste this pull-out-all-the-stops flagship version. To make the best Vermentino they could, Mazzei started with clones from Corsica, the spiritual home and likely origin of the Vermentino grape. Of course they were planted in Maremma on the Tyrrhenian coast as the cooling effect of sea breezes is important for retaining freshness. The vineyard site is 30 to 50 metres above sea level and is orientated south / south-west on predominantly sandy soils.

Harvesting is all by hand but it’s vinification where things start to get really interesting:

  • 20% is fermented and aged on the skins in amphorae for nine months
  • 30% is fermented and aged on the skins in stainless steel tanks for nine months
  • 50% is fermented and aged on fine lees in stainless steel tanks (I presume for nine months)

The construction material and any lining of the amphorae is not specified.  After blending back together the wine is bottled and stored for a further six months before release.

If someone had already tasted the regular Vermentino then the Codice V would be quite familiar, though they might feel they had been missing half of the story. The nose shows complex aromas of citrus and stone fruit, with hints of smoke. These elements continue onto the palate where they intertwine with mellow savoury notes and layers of mixed peel and ginger. The finish is fresh and mouth-watering.

  • ABV: 13.0%*
  • RRP: €33
  • Source: Sample
  • Stockists: SC Grocer; Martins Off-licence; Clontarf Wines; Sweeneys D3; The Corkscrew; Blackrock Cellar

Gérard Bertrand Orange Gold 2020

gérard bertrand orange gold

I have reviewed Gérard Bertrand‘s wines widely over the years; his impressive range includes whites, rosés and reds from the Languedoc at several different price points, many of which are organic and / or biodynamic.  To those colours he has added an orange wine, a homage to Georgian wines of 4,500 years ago. It is a real blend, being made with seven different varieties: Chardonnay, Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Marsanne, Mauzac, Muscat and Clairette.

When perfectly ripe, the grapes are hand-picked in whole bunches and transferred to vat without any destemming or crushing, as with many red wines. The grapes then ferment, partially in the normal way and partially carbonicly (where the weight of the grapes causes some to ferment within their skins. After 10 to 15 days the grapes are separated and pressed to extract colour and tannin; this press wine is then added to the existing must in stainless steel tanks to finish fermenting. Finally, the wine is put into used barrels to mature.

In the glass (and in the bottle) this is a vibrant gold colour, and could be easily mistaken for a Sauternes or Tokaji. The nose is complex, with apple blossom, marmalade, apricot jam and pear drops – very enticing.  The palate is dry but with fruit sweetness on the mid palate. There’s a real savoury complexity to this wine, and a light saline tang with some tannins on the finish. From one point of view it could be said that the nose and the palate offer entirely different aspects, but that is a truism for orange wines in general. Once expectations are reasonably set I think this is a tasty wine that many would enjoy.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €21.95
  • Source: Sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Conclusion

These wines are quite different, taking different approaches to producing a balanced wine, and a single varietal compared to a blend. Although the number of orange wines available in Ireland is fairly low at the moment it doesn’t mean that any particular wine can represent a whole colour. What they do have in common is that they are both delicious and approachable, while maintaining a savoury character that expands their interest and versatility.

For me the Codice V is the better wine, but of course has a higher price. Due to its fairly widespread availability and lower price I think the Orange Gold is more likely to tempt more casual wine drinkers into trying an orange wine for the first time – but hopefully not the last time!


*Any wine geeks among you may have noticed that the alcohol for this wine is a little higher than the regular Vermentino I reviewed a year ago (13.39% v 12.5% on the respective tech sheets). This is due to vintage variation (2019 v 2018) rather than differences in winemaking; the 2018 vintage of the Codice V also had 12.5% alcohol.


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Make Mine A Double

Wine Review: Guerrieri Rizzardi Lugana and Château Albajan Picpoul de Pinet

An interesting pair of whites that are perfect for summer sipping

Although the summer of ’21 has been punctuated with thunderstorms (and disastrously so in some countries) there are still some sunny evenings to be had.  Here are a couple of new listings at O’Briens which are worth seeking out.

Guerrieri Rizzardi Lugana 2020

Guerrieri Rizzardi Lugana 2020

Rizzardi are well known for their Veneto wines, from humble Pinot Grigio and Prosecco up to their flagship Calcarole Amarone.  The winery arose from the joining together of two prominent wine making families and can trace their roots back to the 1600s.

This Lugana is new to Ireland and, of course, is made from the Turbiana grape on the shores of Lake Garda.  Also known as Trebbiano di Lugana, Turbiana has very little recognition among most wine drinkers, but much more character than the Veneto interpretation of Pinot Grigio.  The vines are around 25 years old and are planted on clay-rich soils, giving extra power.  Ageing on fine lees gives additional creaminess and texture.  The nose has intense floral, citrus and pear notes which continue through to the palate.  The texture is wonderful, pithy and sappy, yet with a mouth-wateringly fresh finish.  This is a really good effort!

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RRP: €18.95 or €14.95 when on offer
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Château Albajan Picpoul de Pinet 2020

Château Albajan Picpoul de Pinet 2020

Picpoul de Pinet has become a staple of the wine scene in the last decade or so, taking on the mantle of Muscadet for a clean and fresh white that’s great with seafood and doesn’t break the bank.  The downside to Picpoul is that – like many other popular wines – it has become a commodity; one producer is not differentiated from another so people just buy the cheapest one they see.

There are a few fighting against this commoditisation, however; Villa Des Crois is one and now this new offering from O’Briens is another.  It has the classic saline tang of Piquepoul* but also some fleshy, juicy citrus in between – a combination of lemon, lime, orange and grapefruit.  There are also herbs as well; in fact this is a more interesting wine than Picpoul de Pinet usually is…and it pairs amazingly well with lemon and herb olives!

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €16.95 or €12.95 when on offer
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Conclusion

I would happily buy both wines at full price, though they are somewhat different in character; the saline sharpness and citrus of the Picpoul versus the broader palate of the Lugana.  If I had to choose between the two (I know, why not both?) then the key tell is that I went back to buy another bottle of the Picpoul out of my own pocket money.

* For some reason the wine is spelt Picpoul de Pinet but the grape is Piquepoul


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

Make Mine A Double

Wine Review: De Alberto Organic Verdejo and Pazo do Mar Treixadura

For the next 12 days (until 2nd August) O’Briens are running a Spanish Wine Sale.  As you might expect, Rioja and Rías Baixas are the key areas for reds and whites respectively out of a total of 69 wines.  However, I thought I’d try a couple of whites from slightly less well-known – though far from obscure – Spanish regions: Rueda and Ribeiro.  Here are my brief notes:

De Alberto Rueda Organic Verdejo 2019

Rueda has a claim to being one of Spain’s most consistent white wine regions; good value, approachable, fruity yet refreshing wines that are pleasant to sip on their own but can handle plenty of food pairings.

For a long time, Rueda’s whites were often Palomino based “Sherry style” wines, and that variety is still permitted, but Verdejo is the king now.  Viura, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Viognier are also permitted for whites (I’ve seen 100% Sauvignon Blanc and Viura as a minor component in a blend, but I have yet to see the other two on a label.  Much rarer red Rueda can be made from Tempranillo, Garnacha, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot.

To give them their full name, this wine is made by Bodegas Hijos de Alberto Gutiérrez, S.A., named after the founder of the family firm.  In 1941 they took over a long standing farmhouse which had made wines since being established by the Dominican order in the 17th century, and this is their base today.

The nose is bright and fruity, with a slight saline tang, plus fennel, garden herbs and gentle stone fruit.  These continue onto the tangy palate which adds plenty of grassiness to proceedings.  The finish is fresh, nay FRESH!  As a grape Verdejo is most often compared to Sauvignon Blanc, and tasted blind I would probably have guessed this to be a South African Sauvignon Blanc due to its body and alcohol while not tasting French nor Kiwi.

When it comes to food pairing this Rueda can swap in for a Sauvignon with a classic goats cheese or take on trays of shellfish with abandon.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €14.95 (currently down to €11.95)
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Pazo do Mar Ribeiro Treixadura 2020

Pazo Do Mar Treixidura

Ribeiro is one of the five wine regions of Galicia, along with the more famous Rías Baixas, Monterrei, Ribera Sacra and Valdeorras.  Up until the 1700s it was best known for its sweet wines which were popular with passing pilgrims.  Treixadura is the key white variety nowadays, though other permitted grapes are Torrontés*, Godello, Loureira, Albariño, Palomino, Albillo, and Macabeo.  Among many synonyms, Treixadura is sometimes known as Trajadura or Trincadeira.  It is rarely found outside Galicia or Vinho Verde and is often part of a blend.

The Pazo do Mar Group is a collection of three different wineries: Pazo do Mar itself in Ribeiro, Pazo das Tapias in Monterrei (mainly Mencía and Godello) and Veiga da Princesa in Rías Baixas (focussing on Albariño).  Pazo do Mar offer four wines: Nerieda (Treixadura, Torrontés, Godello and Palomino), Pazo do Mar White (Treixadura, Torrontés and Godello), Pazo do Mar Red (Mencía and Tempranillo) plus the Treixadura-based (plus a dash of Albariño) Expression.

Expression is straw yellow in the glass with tints of green.  The nose is instantly saline, accompanied by juicy citrus and hints of tropical fruits and spice.  The palate immediately starts with those saline waves, and citrus and stone fruit in the background.  Acidity is mouth-watering and demands another sip.  The mid palate is broad and textured, making this a great foil for plenty of foods.  If I have to be critical I’d say that there is perhaps a lack of flavour in the mid-palate, but this could even be by design: to leave space in the mix for food – think paella or lobster rolls.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €16.95 (currently down to €13.56)
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Conclusion

If you’re already a fan of Albariño but rarely stray from that grape in Spain then you definitely need to give both of these a try.  I think they are fairly priced at their regular price points so the reductions when on offer are a worthwhile saving.  Of the two I’d narrowly choose the Treixadura…but I might change my mind when I try them again!

* Note this is not the same variety as Torrontés found in Argentina


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Single Bottle Review

Wine review: Coca i Fitó Negre Montsant 2012

I recently got to try a really tasty Spanish red from a little known region of Catalonia.  Before we look at the wine itself, we have to look at: Where is Montsant? and What are Montsant wines like?

Montsant

Map of Priorat and Montsant wine regions
Map of Priorat (dark centre area) and Montsant (light outer area)

Montsant is an under-appreciated wine region in Catalonia, almost completely surrounding the more famous Priorat.  It was formerly part of the Falset subzone of the Tarragona DO and only appeared on labels from 2002.  Montsant has prospered under its own name, increasing from 28 Bodegas in 2002 to 55 in 2020.  In contrast, the Priorat DO was created in 1954 and upgraded to DOQ (under Catalan regulations, anyway) from 2000.

Montsant production focuses on red wines which account for 94% of the total made.  Grapes used are a combination of local and international varieties: Garnatxa Negra, Carinyena (Carignan), Ull de Llebre (Tempranillo), Syrah, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon.  The small amount of white wine mainly uses local varieties: Garnatxa Blanca, Macabeu / Viura, Moscatell d’Alexandria and Xarel·lo…plus the omni-present Chardonnay.

As might be expected in a region with “Mont” in the name, elevation ranges significantly: vineyards are planted between 200 and 700 metres.  There are three main soil types: chalky clay, granitic sand and slate, each rendering a different profile to wines made thereon.  Many Montsant wines are powerful in both body and alcohol, in a similar style to Priorat wines, especially if made with old Garnatxa and / or Carinyena vines.

Celler Coca i Fitó

The Coca i Fitó winery is owned and managed by Catalan brothers Toni and Miquel Coca i Fitó.  Toni is a well established winemaker and is Technical Director at the Celler Cooperatiu de Gandesa in the nearby DO Terra Alta; in fact, the co-ops facilities are used to make some of the brothers’ local white wines (see below).  A variety of fermentation vessels are used: stainless steel tanks, concrete eggs, amphorae, standard and large format oak barrels.

Although the contents of each bottle are the key, the labels of each are specially designed by Oriol Malet and Jaume Coca:

Each design has been created to convey the essence of the wine by describing the sensations that they provoke, whether it be freshness, typicity or other sensorial experiences.

The company’s wine ranges (in addition to olive oil!) are:

  • Coca i Fitó: the company’s flagship wines, including blends, varietals and special wines from DO Montsant and DO Terra Alta
  • Jaspi: more accessible wines from young(er) vines in DO Montsant and DO Terra Alta
  • Samsara Priorat: a joint venture with Eva Escudé and the Vives brothers, creating a modern style of Priorat
  • Tocat de l’Ala: a joint venture in DO Empordà with Roig Parals
  • Tolo do Xisto: a joint venture in DO Ribeira Sacra with Andrea Obenza
  • Aloja: a new range of softer wines from DO Montsant and DO Terra Alta

Coca i Fitó Negre Montsant 2012

coca i fito negre Montsant

Even smelling the cork was enough to let me know that this wine was going to be special – a rare occurrence.  Perhaps the eight or so years maturing in bottle helped.  The blend for this wine is 50% Syrah, 30% Grenache (both from 60 – 70 year old vines) and 20% Carignan (from 20 – 30 year old vines).  The grapes  are picked from a single vineyard with limestone soils.  After fermentation the wine is aged between 12 to 14 months, vintage dependant, in new French oak (90%) and American oak barrels (10%)

Despite its age this wine almost opaque in the glass; quite fitting for a wine called “negre”.  The nose shows lifted aromatics of dark black fruits and spices, with strong hints of oak ageing.  The palate is powerful, rich and voluptuous, with sweet blackberry, cassis and plum fruits to the fore.  This 2012 is only just hitting its straps and has many years left to go.  At this price it’s a real bargain.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €35.95
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

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…


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Single Bottle Review

Wine Review: Whitehaven “Greg” Sauvignon Blanc 2020

Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is an international success story, much aped by other wine regions to differing levels of success.  Of course the wines are not a homogenous whole, with quality and style varying from producer to producer.  So how do you find a good one?  Of course you will get good advice at your local independent merchant, but there are also some crackers outside that.  Whitehaven’s “Greg” is one of the best I’ve tasted in recent years, but first some context:

Marlborough and its Subregions

Marlborough Wine Sub-regionsMarlborough has three main subregions:

  1. Wairau Valley – mainly flat with gravelly soil, this is archetypal Sauvignon Blanc country.  Meets the ocean to the east at Cloudy Bay, so eastern vineyards have more of a maritime influence.
  2. Southern Valleys – as the plural suggests, this is a collect of several small valleys: Omaka, Fairhall, Brancott, Ben Morvan and Waihopai Valleys.  Steeper sites, especially those on clay soils, are prized for Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and other varieties.
  3. Awatere Valley – the furthest south of the three with cooler, often elevated sites that produce some Pinot Noir but especially a distinctive style of Sauvignon Blanc – easily distinguishable in a blind tasting. 

Whitehaven Wines

After hauling anchor in Marlborough Sounds while weather a storm on their yacht, Greg and Sue White decided to set down roots and plant a vineyard in Marlborough.  Whitehaven was therefore stablished in 1994 and was run by the couple until Greg’s untimely death in 2007.  From that year the “Greg” label was affixed to special releases of Sauvignon Blanc and then Pinot Noir.  

Whitehaven’s grapes come from 30 vineyards totalling 575 hectares across the three subregions.  They can be classed as three different types: estate owned, estate managed and contract growers.  The estate owned and managed vineyards are just under 40% of the total.

Since Greg’s passing Sue has been supported by a team of winemakers, viticulturalists and office staff.  Peter Jackson (no, not that one) is Chief Winemaker, Diana Katardzhieva is Senior Winemaker & Production Manager, Rowan Langdon is Winemaker and Jess Wilson is Viticulturist.  Sue and Greg’s daughter Samantha joined the firm as Process Improvement Manager with her husband Josh as Sustainability Manager.  Whitehaven therefore remains very much a family affair.

Whitehaven Wine Ranges

Whitehaven make four distinct ranges, all from Marlborough fruit.  Wines in blue and bold are available in Ireland from O’Briens.

Mansion House Bay

Named after the place where Greg proposed to Sue, these are fun, everyday drinking wines.

  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Chardonnay
  • Pinot Gris
  • Pinot Noir
  • Pinot Noir Rosé

Kōparepare

Named after the Māori for “gift” or “contribution”, these wines are made by Whitehaven in partnership with LegaSea, a “non-profit organisation that works tirelessly to protect and restore New Zealand’s coastal fisheries.”

  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Lighter Sauvignon Blanc
  • Chardonnay
  • Pinot Gris
  • Pinot Noir
  • Pinot Noir Rosé

Whitehaven

This is the senior full range of wines which are “a powerful, elegant and consistent expression of Marlborough’s classical wine styles”.

Greg

A limited edition of single vineyard releases which showcase the best that Whitehaven can make.

Whitehaven “Greg” Awatere Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2020

Whitehaven Greg Sauvignon Blanc

How special a single vineyard wine can depend on the size of the vineyard – some are mahoosive!  However, in the case of Greg Sauvignon Blanc the grapes are sourced from the Peter family’s Alton Downs Vineyard, just off the Awatere Valley Road.  The vines are all mass selection clones in East-West row orientation are were machine-harvested on the evening of 30th March 2020.  Note that harvesting by machine is preferred for Sauvignon Blanc as it tends to promote better quality.

Once picked the grapes were destemmed and pressed gently to minimise contact with the skins.  The juice was left to settle at low temperatures then cool fermented – with specially selected cultured yeasts – in stainless steel tanks.

In the glass this wine is a very pale straw yellow with green tints.  The nose is complex, with green notes of grapefruit, gooseberry and fresh (not tinned!) asparagus, along with herbs, mangetout and a mineral streak.  The aromas continue through onto the palate which is beautifully balanced, poised between fruit sweetness, tangy green notes and fresh acidity.  This wine was the absolute standout at an Aromatics virtual tasting I held with friends a few months ago and is destined to be a regular tipple chez Frankly Wines.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RS: 4.2 g/L
  • RRP: €20.45
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie
  • Source: sample*

 

*But I since bought more bottles out of my own pocket as I like it so much!

Make Mine A Double

Wine Review: Gérard Bertrand Cote des Roses and Pasqua 11 Minutes Rosé

Here we have two more rosés from the O’Briens summer rosé sale.  One is a typical blend from a Languedoc legend, the other is an unusual blend from a Veronese outfit who use both local and international varieties.  Both have a cool feature on the bottle they arrive in.

Gérard Bertrand Cote des Roses 2020

gerard bertrand cote des roses

With the untimely death of his father Georges in 1987, flank forward Gérard Bertrand had to balance his rugby career with becoming a vigneron.  He sought to increase the quality of the wines while gradually increasing the family’s holdings.  Bertrand is now an ambassador for Languedoc wines and the biodynamic approach – all his vineyards have been converted to biodynamics and certifications should be completed by 2023.  In the past 30 or so years the Domaine has grown from 60 to 920 hectares, includes 15 estates, and exports its wines to over 150 countries.

Cote des Roses [sic] is a traditional Languedoc blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah.  It’s a very pale pink (rose in French!) in the glass.  The nose simply smells of summer!  Strawberry and raspberry aromas continue onto the palate where they are joined by a steely streak of minerality.  The fruit and mineral aspects are not distinct entities but are entwined together.  They arrive together, hang out for a while then leave together hand in hand.

There’s also some texture to this wine which mean it could partner well with food.  It stands astride the line between food rosés and quaffing rosés, a great all-rounded that’s worth a try.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €14.21 down from €18.95
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Cool bottle feature: the base of the bottle is formed into a relief shaped like a rose

Gérard Bertrand Cote des Roses

Pasqua 11 Minutes Rosé 2020

Pasqua 11 Minutes Rosé

Pasqua Vigneti e Cantine, to give the firm its full name, was founded by the Pasqua brothers from Puglia in 1925.  Their original venture was intended to commercialise Puglian wines in greater Verona, but it didn’t take too long before they invested in local vineyards and began to market those wines too.  The second generation joined the business in the 1960s and were the driving force behind a focus on exports and the establishment of a research and development institute.  The new millennium saw the building of a new headquarters in Verona and dedicated export entities in the USA and China, with the third generation now taking over the reins.

The Pasqua range now extends to two dozen wines, split into five ranges: Icons, Famiglia Pasqua, Pasqua Specials, Pasqua Timeless and Independents.  11 Minutes is the Rosé member of the Icons range.  11 Minutes refers to the length of time the juice stays in contact with the skins before being separated for cold settling.  Selected yeasts are used to initiate fermentation in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks, and once completed the wine matures in the same tanks on its lees.

It’s the blend which is really unusual here: Corvina (50%; a key red wine variety of the Veneto) plus Trebbiano de Lugano (25%; a white variety which makes excellent wines on the shores of Lake Garda), Syrah (15%; from the Rhône but grown internationally) and Carmenère (10%; Bordelais in origin but now the signature variety of Chile).

Given the brief maceration time of 11 minutes it’s no surprise that this is a pale wine.  Red fruits and floral notes dominate the nose and resolve nicely on to the palate.  There are also grapefruit flavours and textures, specifically grapefruit segments in juice, pith and all.

This is a remarkably balanced and tasty rosé, undoubtedly the best I’ve tasted so far this summer!

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €14.21 down from €18.95 (75 cl) or €38.95 (150 cl)
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Cool bottle feature: the front label is actually donut shaped; if you align it correctly the image on the inside of the back label can be seen in the hole through the wine.


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