Tasting Events

Wine Review: Four Festive Treats from O’Briens

If there is any style of wine that we automatically think of during the colder months, it’s Port. Like dogs, Port is not just for Christmas: it can be enjoyed at any time of the year. But there is something to be said about our drinking choices being informed by the seasons, even if those seasons aren’t as marked in Ireland as in continental climes.

That being said, as any WSET graduate will tell you, “Port-style” is shorthand for a fortified wine where grape spirit has been added during fermentation to stop the sugars turning into more alcohol, thus preserving some of the natural sweetness from the grapes. This method is used in many other places, both in Europe and further afield.

Here are four sweet wines from O’Briens that are all worth a try:

Smith Woodhouse 10-year old Tawny Port

Smith Woodhouse 10 year old Tawny Port bottle shot

So we start our quartet with an actual Port, from Oporto. Next year Smith Woodhouse will be celebrating its 240th anniversary, but it remains an under-the-radar producer, despite being part of the renowned Symington Family portfolio. The lack of brand recognition is actually good news for drinkers as Smith Woodhouse wines tend to represent great value for money.

Like most Ports this is a blend of local varieties: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz and Tinto Cão, each of which bring something different to the blend. After fermentation has begun, premium grape spirit is added to stop fermentation. The wine is then aged for a minimum of 10 years in old oak barrels, without topping up, so the ingress of oxygen can magically transform the wine over time. That magic turns ripe fresh berry flavours into dried fruit notes, with an assortment of nuts and burnt caramel. The tannins and acidity haven’t faded away over the decade so they provide a firm structure for the fruit and nuts.

Such a nutty and funky wine, a real pleasure.

  • RRP: €34.95 for 750 ml (current down to €31.95)
  • ABV: 20.0%
  • Source: O’Briens press tasting
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie (currently out of stock online)

San Felice Vin Santo del Chainti Classico 2014

San Felice Belcaro Vin Santo 2014 bottle shot

The origins of Vin Santo are disputed, but it has long been established thoughout Italy. Chianti is home to the best examples, which tend to be more oxygen-influenced than in other regions. Unlike the great majority of Ports, Vin Santo is made with white grapes – in this case Malvasia and Trebbiano – which are air-dried for three months to concentrate sugar and flavours. The shriveled grapes are pressed ever-so-gently so that harsh compounds are not extracted from the skins, and then the juice is transferred to small oak barrels for a slow fermentation and maturation.

The finished wine is rich but balanced, with acidity offsetting the sweet dried fruits (think sultanas rather than raisins), nuts and mixed peel. I’ve tried some Vin Santos before which missed the mark, but this is simply delicious!

  • RRP: €22.95 for 375 ml (current down to €19.95)
  • ABV: 15.5%
  • Source: O’Briens press tasting
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie (currently out of stock online)

Gérard Bertrand Maury Tuilé 2010

Gérard Bertrand Maury Tuilé 2010 bottle shot

Vin Doux Naturel (VDN) could be seen as France’s answer to Port, though they tend to be a little lighter than their Portuguese cousins, whether Muscat-based whites or Grenache-based reds. The AOCs are mainly found in the Rhône, the Languedoc and its neighbour Roussillon. Along with Rivesaltes and Banyuls, Maury is one of three red Roussillon appellations. A variety of styles are made, mainly depending on the length of maturation in barrel (“Tuilé”, giving a brick- or tile-red colour) or in demi-johns exposed to the sun “Rancio” which are lighter still.

This example is a Tuilé made by southern superstar Gérard Bertrand. Although regulations demand a minimum of 75% Grenache, this is 100% late-harvested Grenache Noir. Pneumatic presses are used for their gentle touch, with grape spirit added to arrest fermentation. Maturation is in oak barrels for a year then in bottle for another year before release, so it is somewhere between Ruby and Late Bottled Vintage in Port terminology.

Although made in a similar way, this is lighter in both alcohol and structure than most ports; the latter due mainly to the relative softness of Grenache compared to the Port varieties. This does make it more approachable, and it’s the perfect partner for chocolate! The fruits here are stewed rather than dried, so it’s a fresher style – sup away!

  • RRP: €25.45 for 750 ml (current down to €22.95)
  • ABV: 16.0%
  • Source: Sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Bethany “Old Quarry” Tawny NV

Bethany Old Quarry Tawny NV bottle shot

Although table wines have been made in Australia for centuries, fortified wines were the mainstay of the industry for much of its history. Given the (ab)use of terms such as Burgundy and Claret, it’s no surprise that sweet fortified reds were known as Port down under. The varieties used weren’t those of Portugal, however; the Rhône favourites of Grenache and Shiraz were favoured.

Bethany is a well-established producer in the Barossa Valley, in the heart of South Australia. In fact, the village of Bethany was the first settlement in the Barossa after Silesian immigrants moved there in 1842. The Schrapel family trace their roots in the area back to 1844 and planted the first vineyard there just eight years later. Fifth generation brothers Geoff and Robert set up Bethany Wines in 1981, with the sixth generation Tania now also in the business. The winery and cellar door lie within the former quarry which the Schrapel family operated up to the 1930 – hence the name of this wine and also their “Blue Quarry Wines” range.

Of course nowadays the “P-word” can’t be used on the label, but “Tawny” is perfectly acceptible. And indeed this is Tawny in style, with ten years of maturation in old oak barrels giving complex notes of dried fruits and nuts. It’s a rich wine, but well balanced and approachable, and for me the spicy Shiraz just add that extra dimension.

  • RRP: €24.95 for 750 ml
  • ABV: 18.5%
  • Source: Sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie (currently out of stock online)

 

 

 

Single Bottle Review, Wine Of The Week

Wine Review: Longview Adelaide Hills “The Piece” Shiraz 2016

A delicious Aussie Shiraz with a bit of age – what’s not to like? First a quick overview of its home region, Adelaide Hills, followed by an introduction to its producer, Lonview Vineyard, and finally some tasting notes.

Adelaide Hills

Adelaide Hills is the coolest region within South Australia, the biggest source of quality wine within Australia. Climate change has made its precious altitiude even more vital. The majority of plantings are varieties which thrive in cool climates – Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris – but also those which are happy across different climatic conditions, especially Chardonnay, and as we have here, Shiraz.

Adelaide Hills Wine Region Map
Credit: wineaustralia.com

Adelaide Hills only became a protected Geographic Indication (GI) 25 years ago, which shows that it is a relative newcomer compared to South Australia’s internationally famous regions such as Coonawarra and the Barossa Valley. Its cool climate is partially from its relative proximity to the Southern Ocean, but even more than that due to its elevation. The hills to the east of Adelaide form part of the Mount Lofty Ranges (yet another super original Australian name!) There are two official sub-regions, Lenswood and Piccadilly, the latter of which is particularly renowned for its Chardonnay.

Longview Vineyard

Notice that the name includes Vineyard, singular? I had to catch myself from adding an ‘s’, but the moniker is deliberate as the property consists of a single vineyard. As Longview was founded in 1995 it predates the GI, though the first vintage wasn’t until 2001. Admittedly it’s a large vineyard at 65 hectares, and reaches up to 410m at its highest point. Ownership is in the hands of brothers Mark and Peter Saturno; their Italian heritage is supported by the inclusion of Italian varieties Nebbiolo, Barbera and Pinot Grigio.

The current range extends to around twenty wines, of which five are currently available in Ireland:

  • LV Shiraz Cabernet
  • Vista Shiraz Barbera
  • Devil’s Elbow Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Yakka Shiraz
  • The Piece Shiraz

Among those not available here are those in the Macclesfield Range which they call “our collection of premium, small-batch wines that reflect the unique geology and climate of Macclesfield.” Interestingly one is labelled as a Syrah rather than Shiraz. Perhaps we might see some of these up here in the future?

Longview “The Piece” 2016

Longview Vineyard Adelaide Hills The Piece Shiraz 2016 Bottle and Canister

Before we even get into the wine itself, a few words on the label and packaging. Yes, in the end it’s “the juice” that counts, but if a label or a container helps to catch the eye of a wine lover browsing the shelves, I have no problem with that. Innovation should be encouraged!

The 2016 bottling of The Piece has a grafitti theme, and came in a container looking like a spray-can. I particularly liked the “Shiraz Gloss” label just above the vintage label. The theme arose as a tribute to Longview’s “The Piece Project” where Australian street artists compete to have their work featured on the label.

Now, onto the wine! Grapes for The Piece are a very small part of the estates Shiraz production; the best rows in the best blocks are harvested separately from the surrounding vines. Alcoholic fermentation is temperature controlled, after which the wine is transferred to old French oak hogsheads and puncheons. Malolactic fermentation takes place there, and the wine is left to mature for another year and a half. There’s then a final selection of the best barrels – ten in the case of the 2016 vintage, but as few as five for 2019.

The wine team aim for “cool climate spice” as one of the key attributes of this wine, and it really shows on the nose – it’s like Christmas cake without the icing; sweet, confected fruits with spice and treacle. The palate also has sweet berry fruit, though it’s rich and appealing without being sugary. The finish has fine tannins and a balancing streak of acidity. Overall this is a well-made, nicely balanced wine.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €42 (2018/9)
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: 2018/9 at O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

 

 

 

 

 

Single Bottle Review

Wine Review: Astrolabe Taihoa Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2020

Astrolabe’s winemaker Simon Waghorn is a master of his trade. Speaking to him recently, I was reminded of a chef who can make Bib gourmand bistro-style food but also Michelin-starred fine dining – though without the airs and graces.

As you move up the Astrolabe Sauvingon Blanc range the wines go from tasty all-rounders to increasingly complex; the fruit sources move from the whole region, to sub-regions, to single vineyard. For example, the Awatere Valley bottling is a real showcase of tha sub-region’s style, with leafy and herbal notes developed over a longer growing season, but some of the fruit from the Awatere also goes into the Province Sauvingon Blanc. Similarly, fruit from the Taihoa vineyard is bottled on its own – as below – but also with other Kēkerengū fruit as the Kēkerengū Coast Sauvignon Blanc.

I tried the 2017 vintage of the Taihoa a few years ago and was very impressed, so was keeen to try the current vintage: 2020.

Astrolabe Taihoa Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2020

It is not well appreciated by folks up here that the Marlborough Wine GI actually extends down the coast to include the Kaikōura District as well as the Marlborough District itself:

Marlborough wine region map
Credit: Jonathan Harker

Plantings are much more scarce compared to the main three sub-regions and farming is often mixed

The Taihoa Vineyard is on the Kēkerengū Coast, just over the administrative border into Kaikōura District. The vineyard is owned by Paddy and Anna Trolove and consists of two small blocks on flat terraces close to the sea. The influence of the sea extends the growing season in both directions; budburst arrives early yet the cold winds from the south delay full ripening until after the rest of Marlborough.

Unlike in central Marlborough, grapes from the Taihoa vineyard are hand-picked.  Fermentation is in barrel with indigenous yeasts, followed by maturation in French oak barrels. These practices impart significant body and texture to the wine, as well as additional aromas and flavours.

In the glass this 2020 vintage is lemony-gold, just a fraction darker than the more modest Sauvignons. The nose is very expressive, with lots of rich lees character coming through on top of typical Sauvignon notes of grapefruit, lemon and passionfruit. The mouthfeel is what really sets it apart, with an almost chewy texture. The lees influence is still prominent on the palate, along with tropical fruit and nutty notes

This is Astrolabe’ top Sauvignon Blanc and retails for a little over twice the price of its Regions Marlborough Sauvignon. Is it worth the money? It really depends what you’re after; it’s a weekend treat rather than a weekday sipper. At O’Briens it’s €0.50 more than Cloudy Bay, and as good as Cloudy Bay is, I find the Taihoa Vineyard much more interesting. I think I’ll treat myself!

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €39.45
  • Source: tasted at O’Briens Wine Festival #obwinefest
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie
Wine Of The Week

Wine Review: Kangarilla Road McLaren Vale Terzetto

Among the criticism thrown at Australian wine – with a little justification, I feel – is that there isn’t enough variety in the grapes grown. This is borne out in the figures, with the top eight varieties accounting for close to 75% of all wine grown in the country.

Thankfully, there are other interesting grapes grown in Oz, and for me McLaren Vale stands out for its Italian varieties. Kangarilla Road make one such wine, but before we look at the wine itself, let’s have a reminder on McLaren Vale and Kangarilla Road.

McLaren Vale

McLaren Vale map

Which wine styles come to mind when you think of McLaren Vale? Shiraz and southern Rhône-style GSM blends are certainly the most important, even if the GSM order is often rearranged. Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc also make an appearance as key international varieties. However, the other varieties that the Vale specialises in are those of the Mediterranean, including:

  • Sangiovese, Montepulciano, Vermentino and Fiano (from Italy)
  • Grenache Blanc and Roussanne (from the Rhône / Spain / southern France)
  • Tempranillo (from Spain)

I don’t know for sure why McLaren Vale became the hub for Italian varieties in Australia. Most likely there were Italian immigrants in the area (as was the case across much of Australia) and they found that the vine cuttings they brought worked really well in the Vale.

Kangarilla Road

Kangarilla Road Winery was founded by Kevin O’Brien (no relation to O’Briens Wines, as far as I know) in 1997. He caught the wine bug at university as a member of the Rowing Club – they often drank wine at social events and organised tours to Australian wine regions. He was hooked; he changed from a general science degree to Oenology and pursued a career in wine. He combined a research-heavy role at the Australian Research Institute (AWRI) with travelling and working in European countries such as France, Italy, Spain and Portugal.

He met and subsequently married a like-minded soul in Helen. Together they pursued a dream of having their own winery, and in 1997 bought the former Cambrai vineyard on McLaren Vale Flats. At that time it already had Australia’s largest plantings of Zinfandel / Primitivo, then came Chardonnay, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, and finally more Italian varieties.

This is the current Kangarilla Road portfolio:

  • Kangarillo Road Whites: Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, “Sixmo” Chardonnay, Fiano, Duetto (Vermentino & Fiano), “The Veil” Vermentino Under Flor
  • Kangarilla Road Reds: Shiraz, “Thieving Angels” Shiraz, Nero d’Avola, Montepulciano, Sangiovese, Primitivo, “Black St Peter’s” Zinfandel, “Devil’s Whiskers” Shiraz, “Alluvial Fans” Shiraz, “Blanche Point” Shiraz, “Q” Shiraz
  • Other labels: Strada Bianco (Chardonnay & Vermentino), Sparkling Chardonnay / Pinot NV, Street Cred Sparkling Shiraz NV, 2Up Shiraz

You may notice that Terzetto is not on the list above; I understand that this blend is no longer made, so snap it up while you can!

Kangarilla Road McLaren Vale Terzetto 2013

Kangarilla Road Terzetto

Before researching this wine I wondered if Terzetto was an obscure Italian grape that I hadn’t yet tried. Alas, no: Terzetto is simply the Italian term for “Trio”, perfectly apt as this is a blend of three Italian varieties:

  • Sangiovese (from Tuscany, but widely grown in other Italian regions)
  • Primitivo (from Puglia)
  • Nebbiolo (from Piedmont)

Each Kangarilla Road wine has an image of its variety’s leaf on the label, so for this wine all three are featured.

It pours a cherry red, most definitely not the Shiraz (which is also available in Ireland). It has a very perfumed nose, with deep red fruit notes – fresh and dried – plus orange peel, tobacco, balsamic, vanilla and herbs. In the mouth it has lovely fruits, just as on the nose. The mouthfeel is soft in the centre but with prickly edges – often a sign of acidity. Although now nine years old there is still some evidence of oak, tobacco and balsamic notes and the palate, with a chocolate finish

This is a modestly priced wine which tastes much more expensive. It’s more interesting than most wines at this price point and higher. As it looks like there won’t be any more of this coming our way I’ve already bought a few more bottles to enjoy over the coming years.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €17.95
  • Source: purchased from O’Briens
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores, though only a few bottles left
Make Mine A Double

Wine Review: Domaine Naturaliste Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon

Just in case you were thinking that these wines might have something to do with a nudist colony, no, it’s nothing like that. But, if you want to drink them in the buff then go ahead! This pair of wines are from Margaret River in Western Australia, so first a little reminder about the region, then an introduction to the producer, and finally notes on the wines themselves.

Margaret River

Margaret River Map
Credit: Domaine Naturaliste

Margaret River is not the only wine region in Western Australia but it surely ranks as the most important. It was famously founded as a wine region due to its climate being so close to that of Bordeaux, still a yardstick globally. As you can see from the map above, Margaret River is in the south west corner of the country, on the coast by the Indian Ocean and not too far from the chilly Southern Ocean.

The wines which MR is best known for include red and white Bordeaux blends, plus varietal Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. There’s very little – if any – bulk wine made down here. In 2009 it was reported that, although Margaret River only produced 3% of Australia’s wine output by volume, it accounted for 20% of its premium wines.

Key producers to look out for include Leeuwin Estate, Cape Mentelle, Vasse Felix, Cullen Estate and Moss Wood.

Domaine Naturaliste

Domaine Naturaliste is located close to Cape Naturaliste, just seven kilometres from the Indian Ocean. The vines are 20 years old and surround the winery building. The firm is headed up by Bruce Dukes, a WA local who has earned his winemaking spurs around the world. From their website:

With intuitive flair based on decades of experience, Bruce strikes a tender balance between taste, fragrance and texture. His passion for agriculture, respect for process and true artistry makes for an exceptional drinking experience, each and every time.

There are three quality levels in the Naturaliste portfolio, with the most interesting (to me) being the two different expressions of Margaret River Chardonnay in the Flagship range:

  • Flagship: Artus Chardonnay, Purus Chardonnay, Morus Cabernet Sauvignon, Le Naturaliste Cabernet Franc
  • Direction: Floris Chardonnay, Sauvage Sauvignon Blanc, Rachis Syrah, Rebus Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Discovery: Sauvignon Blanc / Semillon, Chardonnay, Tempranillo Rosé, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon

The wines in blue and bold are currently available in Ireland from O’Briens. So now to try two of the wines:

Domaine Naturaliste “Discovery” Margaret River Chardonnay 2019

Domaine Naturaliste Discovery Chardonnay

Fermentation and maturation of the Chardonnay grapes for this wine took place in French oak, albeit mostly second use or older. After fermentation the wine spent seven months on fine lees. Both the use of old barrels and time on lees gives a creamy texture to the wine and interesting additional notes.

In the glass it’s a bright lemon, but not the glowing gold of the oaky Chardonnays of yore. The nose eases tangy grapefruit into the conversation, promising freshness. There’s also a touch of exotic pineapple and mango, orange blossom, butterscotch and brioche. It really is perfectly poised between the steely (Chablis) and rich (Meursault) styles of Chardonnay. Those fruits reappear on the palate, which is gently tangy and fleshy.

This is a wonderful wine, and just based on the contents of the bottle I’d price it at €20 – €25 on the Irish market. That it costs less than that – significantly less on offer – makes it a joyous bargain.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €18.95 down to €15.95 from 1st to 25th September 2022
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Domaine Naturaliste “Discovery” Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

Domaine Naturaliste Discovery Cabernet Sauvignon

This Cabernet is from the same Discovery range as the Chardonnay above, and is similar in philosophy: it’s a fruit forward, accessible wine where the variety is given a chance to shine through judicious and restrained winemaking. A slight different from the Chardy is the extended maturation in French oak, twelve months versus seven for the white. I suspect the proportion of oak that is new is slightly higher for this wine as well – it can handle it.

When poured the wine is a little lighter than I’d expect from a new world Cabernet, and that’s reinforced by the nose which has as much red fruit as the black which Cab is better known for. The fruits are a mix of both fresh and compote, fresh but cosseting. Mocha and spice add interest. The palate is also aligned stylistically; it’s medium bodied rather than being a bruiser, with the oak adding toasty vanilla to the ripe berry fruits. It all comes together well a touch of tobacco and clean acidity on the finish

Cabernet Sauvignon is my favourite black grape, on its own or in a blend. While this doesn’t have the refinement and elegance of Coonawarra’s better offerings, neither does it have their price tag

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €19.95 down to €16.95 from 1st to 25th September 2022
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

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

 

Short

Summer Sippers from O’Briens

The Last of the Summer Wine? Perhaps, perhaps not. We never know how long we will have sunshine in Ireland, so we have to enjoy every sunny day we get. Here are four summer sippers to enjoy while soaking up the last few rays:

Chatelain Desjacques Sauvignon Blanc 2020

Chatelain Desjacques Sauvignon Blanc

This Sauvignon is made by Loire Valley based Les Caves de La Loire, a quality- and sustainability-focused cooperative located in the Anjou. I did note that this particular bottling is a Vin de France rather than a Touraine or other Loire appellation, so I wondered if all the grapes were grown in the Loire. The nose of this wine is unmistakeably Sauvignon Blanc, with gooseberry and grassy notes. The palate also shows lots of typical Savvy character, though on top of the usual green-themed flavours there are also some rich tropical notes, somewhat reminiscent of Martinborough SB – Paddy Borthwick’s is a great example.

Whether they sourced some grapes from outside the Loire – for example the Languedoc – or we are now tasting the effects of global warming, the result really works. This bottle has far more character and interest than expected for €15, never mind the €10 offer price.

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RRP: €10.00 down from €14.95 until 31st August 2022
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Selbach Mosel Riesling 2020

Selbach Mosel Riesling

Germany’s numerous wine regions produce Riesling in a variety of styles, but I think it’s fair to say that the Mosel’s are the most distinctive: the highest acidity, often with some residual sugar to balance the palate. This “entry level” Riesling from Selbach fits the bill perfectly. The quotation marks are required as this is anything but a basic wine; it’s not as complex as more expensive examples but it is oh-so-juicy. The nose is fabulous, full of lime and elderflower, then the wine goes to work on your palate and delivers a wave of refreshing citrus and pip fruit. It leaves the mouth watering more than Opal Fruits, so another sip is essential. That’s what makes this wine an essential summer sipper!

  • ABV: 10.5%
  • RRP: €13.95 down from €16.95 until 31st August 2022
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Delheim Pinotage Rosé 2020

Delheim Pinotage Rosé

Pinotage might be a marmite grape for some, but lighter, less-extracted and fresher style reds seem to be increasing in popularity with drinkers. It therefore makes sense that a Pinotage rosé would have some merit – and this example from Delheim proves that it can make very tasty rosé indeed. It’s pale salmon in the glass, a little darker than is en vogue at the moment, and all the better for it: it’s also very fruity, which is something I value in a rosé, rather than the so-dry-it’s-austere style that is fashionable at the moment. Vive le fruit!

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €11.21 down from €14.95 while stocks last
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Gai’a 4-6H Agiorgitiko Rosé 2020

Gai'a 4-6H Agiorgitiko Rosé

With their distinctive – and at times unpronouncable – grape varieties, Greek wines aren’t an easy sell in Ireland. Gai’a have helped to build a bridgehead with their distinctive and outrageously good Wild Ferment Assyrtiko, and they have a handful of other wines available here through O’Briens. The ability to pronounce Agiorgitiko is not essential to buying this rosé, however (hell, I can barely spell it!). The 4-6H on the label is the maceration time, the period during which the juice is in contact with the skins (which have all the colour and some of the flavour). The result of those few hours is a magnificent wine that is not only tasty, but also interesting. Fresh red berries mingle with pomegranates and floral notes to make a wonderful combination. This is one of my favourite rosés available in Ireland!

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €12.71 down from €16.95 while stocks last
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores
Make Mine A Double

Wine Review: Langlois L’Extra Crémant Rosé and Zull Lust & Laune Rosé

Yes it’s August already, so why not enhance the summer vibe with some totally drinkable rosé?

Here is a pair from O’Briens’ August wine promotions – one sparkling and one still – that are worth popping open anytime, but especially when they are on offer:

Langlois L’Extra Crémant de Loire Rosé NV

Langlois L'Extra Crémant de Loire Rosé NV

Langlois are a well-established Saumur-based Loire producer who specialise in Crémants – they have six including this rosé – as well as reds and whites from Saumur and the surrounding appellations. They have been part of the Bollinger group since 1973 and their parent’s savoir-faire has undoubtedly helped to lift quality.

There are two classes in the Anglois Crémant range. The four traditional Crémants consist of up to four varieties: Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir, in either NV or vintage expressions. The L’Extra range has a white – which is outstanding – and this rosé.

The blend for this Crémant is 70% Cabernet Franc and 30% Grolleau. The latter is a black grape primarily grown in the Loire and used for rosés – Anjou rosé and Crémant rosé – though seldomly seen on a front label. The grapes are pneumatically pressed immediately after destemming, giving 100 litres of juice from 150 kg of grapes. For this wine the free run juice (the cuvée) and some of the subsequent light pressings (the taille) are used. It spends a minimum of 12 months in bottle before disgorgement.

In the glass it is fully sparkling (the traditional method is used for all Crémants) and a pale salmon colour. The nose shows lots of fresh summer fruits, notably raspberry and strawberry. In the mouth it has a light and creany texture, with those summer fruits back again. It has a certain yeastiness, but not the full-on brioche experience of some Champagnes.

For me this rosé comes a narrow second to its white sibling, but there’s no shame in that as the Blanc is so excellent – I bought my wife a dozen for mother’s day this year. If you fancy a well-made pink fizz then there’s little to touch this at the price.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €18.95 down from €21.45 until 31/08/22
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Zull NiederÖsterrreich Lust & Laune Rosé 2021

Zull Lust & Laune Rosé

Weingut Zull is a quality Austrian producer still in the hands of its founding family. It has four ranges within its portfolio, the majority of which carry the Weinwiertel DAC appellation. The introductory range includes three “Lust & Laune” wines which are designed to be fun and accessible. The white is 100% Grüner Veltliner, the red is a blend of Zweigelt and Pinot Noir, and this rosé is similar to the red but also has dashes of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

The colour comes from 20% red wine being added to 80% clear juice – though I don’t have details of which varieties are used for the 20% – rather than the saignée method. Whichever they are, the result is a lovely glowing salmon pink. The nose features fresh, ripe red fruit aromas which jump out of the glass: strawberry, raspberry, loganberry, watermelon and fruit polos. This is a zingy, fun, fleshy, FRUITY wine, full of summer fruits but not at all flabby (residual sugar is only 4 g/L). You might even detect a hint of tannin on the finish, but it’s just a little seasoning. Wonderful stuff!

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RRP: €11.96 down from €15.95 until 31/08/22
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Conclusion

I loved both of these wines and would happily drink either again, but in terms of sheer pleasure the Zull wins the day.

 


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Wine Of The Week

Wine of the Week: Bourcier-Martinot Mâcon

The Mâconnais

Similar to the Rhône and Beaujolais regions (the latter of which it slightly overlaps), the Mâconnais has an easy enough hierarchy to its AOCs. Furthermore, there is the possibility for wines of a village or commune to be promoted in the rankings. Starting off as a simple Mâcon, then a Mâcon-Villages, up to Mâcon hypenated with the village name (e.g. Mâcon-Uchizy) to an AOC of the village all alone (e.g. Saint Véran, my go-to Mâconnais wine).

Surpringly, these days* the most basic category is not the largest:

Pie chart showing relative size of Mâcon AOCs

Being the southern-most part of Burgundy proper, Mâcon wines tend to be riper than their northern counterparts. Chardonnay is the king here, though Pinot Noir and Gamay are permitted in the small amount of reds and rosés (they only account for around 8% of the total made).

Of course as we are in Burgundy, the producer is very important:

Bourcier-Martinot 

Bourcier-Martinot is a value-driven label owned by childhood friends Jean-Luc Terrier and Christian Collovray. The pair have a serious operation at Domaine des Deux Roches where they have been making wines for over three decades. The Domaine owns “A total of 63 hectares of vines, of which around 24 are in the Saint-Véran appellation, 25 in Mâcon-Villages, Mâcon or Mâcon Chardonnay, and Mâcon La Roche Vineuse, and 2,300 square metres in Pouilly-Fuissé…” Bourcier-Martinot gives them the opportunity to use their winemaking skills on bought in grapes from the Mâcon AOC.

Bourcier-Martinot Mâcon 2020

Bourcier Martinot Mâcon

A brief search online for previous vintages of this wine suggest that it was previously unoaked, but even the colour in the glass – light gold – suggests that this was not the case for the 2020 vintage. The nose confirms that this Mâcon has seen some oak, with vanilla and smoky notes interlaced with pip and stone fruits. The oak is also present on the palate, nice and tangy but already well integrated; I suspect that the barrels used were mainly – if not all – seasoned and not new. The orchard fruits also show in the mouth, with nice texture and weight.

For a “mere” AOC Mâcon this is excellent. Inexpensive Chardonnays rarely do it for me, but this is well worth the normal price of €20 and worth snapping up at the offer price of €17.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €19.95, currently on offer at €16.95
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

 

2010 figures taken from Wikipedia

Wine Of The Week

Wine of the Week: Man O’ War Estate Chardonnay

This week’s Wine of the Week is a Chardonnay from Man O’War, one of the outstanding producers on Waiheke Island in New Zealand. Before we get to the wine itself, first we take a look at Waiheke Island and then the producer.

Waiheke Island

Waiheke Island

Although much further north (and therefore closer to the equator) than most of New Zealand’s quality wine regions, Waiheke Island’s climate is significantly moderated by the Hauraki Gulf surrounding it, especially with cooling sea breezes. This leads to longer growing seasons and therefore more physiologically developed grapes. Its promoximity to Auckland makes it a popular destination for wine tourism, though the wines are not “spoofy”. There are over 25 named vineyard sites across the island, including – at the northern side of Waiheke – Man O’ War, named after the bay onto which it faces.

Man O’ War Vineyards

The Man O’War Vineyards company was founded by the Kulta family (of Finnish origin) in 1993. Land under vine now totals 150 acres / 60 hectares split over 76 separate hillside blocks, each with a different combination of soil, altitude and aspect. They are vinified separately as far as possible before blending to achieve the desired style for each bottling.

Wines in blue are – or have been – available in Ireland

Kulta: Tytti Bordeaux Blend, Mathilda Chardonnay, Tulia Blanc de Blancs, Totto Syrah

Flagship: Ironclad Bordeaux Blend, Dreadnought Syrah, Valhalla Chardonnay, Exiled Pinot Gris, Gravestone Sauvingon Blanc / Semillon, Pinqué Rosé, Holystone Noble Pinot Gris

Estate: Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Island (Red) Blend, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Cactus Bay Semillon

Man O’War Waiheke Island Estate Chardonnay 2019

Man O'War Waiheke Island Estate Chardonnay

The fruit used for the Estate Chardonnay is selected from earlier-ripening vineyards, mainly on volcanic soils. The juice undergoes fermentation and ageing in 500 litre French oak puncheons (20% new, 80% used), with small amounts of sulphur added to block malolactic fermentation. The wines are left on gross lees while maturing, but no bâtonnage takes place.

The nose has substantial reduction (if that isn’t an oxymoron) and a tang from the volcanic soils. These notes are overlaid by citrus and ripe orchard fruits. The palate is quite old world in style – you know the region I’m thinking of, but not saying – as the struck match character comes through on the palate. It’s already nicely integrated, though; you don’t have to sit on this bottle to wait for things to mellow out. There’s a definite richness here, as the lees influence, oak and fruit combine beautifully, but there’s also a linear streak of acidity running though the middle (the better for MLF being blocked.)

I’m a long time fan of the Valhalla, an excellent Chardonnay from Man O’ War, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from this “lesser” bottling. I shouldn’t have worried, as it’s very good in its own right. It’s more approachable at this young age than the Valhalla, and perhaps more refreshing.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: ~€20
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: not currently available in Ireland – ask O’Briens to bring it in

 

Wine Of The Week

Wine of the Week: Pegasus Bay Sauvignon Semillon

Almost a year ago to the day I published a producer profile of Pegasus Bay, arguably the top producer in New Zealand’s Waipara, which included tasting notes on their stunning Chardonnay and Pinot Noir plus an aged sweet Riesling from my cellar. I recently spotted another of their wines for sale so snapped it up, their Sauvignon Semillon blend:

Pegasus Bay Sauvignon Semillon 2018

Pegasus Bay Sauvignon Semillon 2

The pairing of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon is a staple of Bordeaux white wines – infact you could easily call it a White Bordeaux Blend as the counterpart to Cabernet / Merlot red blends. In the Graves, these white blends often have as much prestige as the reds, if not more, and of course Sauvignon and Semillon are the basis of Sauternes and other Bordelais sweeties. As temperatures have risen in Bordeaux, the higher acidity – and hence freshness – of Sauvignon has been at a premium, so the blend has moved decisively in favour of that variety.

Outside the Gironde, the Sauvignon/ Semillon blend has proved most successful in Western Australia’s Margaret River, a wine region founded on the premise that its climate was similar to that of Bordeaux. It has become such a mainstay of the region that few producers omit if from their portfolio.

Waipara’s temperate climate is suited for what I might call “cool+” climate varieties; those such as Riesling and Pinot Noir which really need a cap on temperatures, and those such as Chardonnay which are flexible and can be grown in a range of climates, albeit with differing styles.

Pegasus Bay’s Sauvignon and Semillon vines are over 30 years old and planted on poor fertility, free-draining soil and so have low yields. The old equation that low yields = high quality doesn’t always hold, but it does in this case. Concurrent freshness and ripeness are achieved thanks to the long Waipara growing season with warm days but cool nights.

The Pegasus Bay website’s tasting notes for this wine mention “a hint of struck match complexity” but to me this is a real understatement – I found it quite pronounced on opening the bottle, initially overwhelming the fruit. It also dominates the palate at this young age – and yes, it’s still a young wine as there is only one younger vintage released (2019) which probably hasn’t yet made its way up north from New Zealand. I found it far better integrated on the second day of tasting, where the reductive notes become a foil for the fruit rather than a blunt instrument that is constantly beating it up. If1 I were to buy another bottle I would either just lay it down for a few years or be better prepared and decant it for several hours before tasting.

This is not a cheap wine, but it compares favourably with Pessac-Léognan examples at twice the price – and it has a screwcap to seal2 the deal on longer ageing.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €32.95
  • Source: purchased
  • Stockists: O’Briens; The Corkscrew, Chatham St; wineonline.ie; Barnhill Stores; Pinto Wines, Drumcondra; Deveneys Dundrum, On The Grape Vine, Dalkey

1 I know, “if” really means “when”!

2 Sorry