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


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

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…


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

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.


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

Make Mine A Double

Wine Review: Les Auzines Alaina Rosé and Domaine de L’Ostal Rosé

For many wine drinkers the brighter evenings are the sign to break out the rosé.  Summer doesn’t appear to have arrived yet here in Ireland, but rosé sales are already booming.  At family-owned chain O’Briens Wines they are out in full force, with a 25% off promotion:

O'Briens Rosé Display

Here are brief notes on two from that selection which have an Irish connection, though perhaps a little tenuous…

Domaine de l’Ostal Rosé 2020

Domaine de l'Ostal Rosé

Domaine de l’Ostal is the Languedoc outpost of the JM Cazes group, named after Jean-Michel Cazes who ran the group for over 30 years until he handed the reins over to his son Jean-Charles Cazes in 2006.  L’Ostal is a large estate, with 150 ha in total of which 60 ha are under vine and 25 ha are olive groves.  I am a big fan of their Minervois La Livinière Grand Vin which punches well above its weight.

The Domaine de l’Ostal rosé is a 50-50 blend of Grenache and Syrah grapes from the coolest part of the estate.  The grapes are cold pressed to preserve aromas and freshness, and to reduce extraction of colour and flavour from the skins.  The result is a lovely pale pink wine with fresh red fruit aromas – raspberry, redcurrant and strawberry – plus pomegranate.  On the palate sweet red fruits are to the fore, but the finish remains crisp.

This is an easy-going and appealing rosé which will be a real crowd pleaser come barbecue time.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €11.96 down from €15.95
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Irish connection: the JM Cazes family also own and run Château Lynch-Bages in Pauillac which was of course founded by Irish émigré Thomas Lynch. 

Laurent Miquel Les Auzines Alaina Rosé 2020

Laurent Miquel les Auzines Alaina RosE

Laurent Miquel is the eighth generation of winemaker in his family, but he initially opted for a professional career in the automotive industry.  The family calling eventually won him over and, after studying oenology in Montpellier, he returned to the land.  His father Henri was a great innovator in his time, especially planting so much Syrah in the 1970s.

The Miguel family bought the Cazal Viel estate in 1791, and although it had been used for viticulture by its previous custodians its poor fertility meant that wine was a small part of the estate for many years.  This was added to by Laurent’s purchase of Château Les Auzines in Corbières in 2009.

Les Auzines is situated on a rocky plateau at 350 metres above sea level.  As well as being Laurent’s family home it is the source of three wines; Alaina Albariño, Alaina Rosé and Cuvée Les Garrigues.

The Rosé is a typical Languedoc blend of 40% Syrah, 30% Grenache and 30% Cinsault.  Fermentation at low temperatures and ageing are carried out in steel tanks to preserve aromas and freshness. 

When poured the wine is very pale in colour, not too far from water white, as is the fashion these days.  The nose shows delicate citrus and light red fruit aromas.  The palate is fruity but balanced.  Gentle red fruits hint at sweetness without sugariness, and there’s some texture there too.  The finish is fresh, but it does not take you down a mineral-only path, and is certainly not austere.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €12.71 down from €16.95
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Irish connection: Laurent Miquel’s wife Neasa is Irish!


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

Make Mine A Double

Shining Lights [Make Mine a Double #66]

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.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €25.53
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswines.ie

Domaine Fournier Sancerre Les Belles Vignes 2019

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.


The portfolio of Domaine Fournier comes under eight different labels:

  • Cuvées Grand Caillou: Sauvignon, Pinot Noir
  • Cuvées F: Pinot Noir, Rosé, Sauvignon
  • Cuvées Mmm: Rosé, Chenin
  • Cuvées Appellations: Menetou Salon “Côtes de Morogues” Rouge, Menetou Salon “Côtes de Morogues” Rosé, Menetou Salon “Côtes de Morogues” Blanc, Sancerre “Les Belles Vignes” Rosé, Sancerre “Les Belles Vignes” Rouge, Sancerre “Les Belles Vignes” Blanc, Pouilly-Fumé “Les Deux Cailloux”, Pouilly Sur Loire “Les Marnes”
  • Cuvée Terroirs: Cuvée Silex, Cuvée Les Terres Blanches
  • Grandes Cuvées: Sancerre “L’Ancienne Vigne” Rouge, Pouilly-Fumé Grande Cuvée, Sancerre “La Chaudouillonne”, Sancerre “L’Ancienne Vigne Blanc
  • Single Vineyard Wines: Sancerre “Les Boffants”, Sancerre “Monts Damnés”
  • Cuvées Exceptionnelles: Menetou Salon Rouge “Sourire Aux Anges”, Sancerre “No. 22”, Sancerre “Vendanges d’Hélène”

1no cockney rhyming slang here, thank you

2French for parent company, literally “mother house”, which is a little ironic as it’s a “father and son” operation.

 

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

Make Mine A Double

Give Me A Riesling [Make Mine a Double #61]

As Sonny Fodera almost said, “Give Me A Riesling”.  Of course that’s a bit silly – who wants just one Riesling?  Riesling is known as one of the most terroir-transparent grapes around, i.e. the aromas, flavours and texture of the wine are very dependent on where it is grown.  Wine-making techniques to influence the style of the wine are used sparingly – oak influence is rarely seen, for example – but there is one major decision that winemakers take: to vinify the wine dry or to leave some residual sugar.  Here are two excellent Rieslings which showcase different styles:

Disclosure: both bottles were kindly provided as samples, opinions remain my own

Petaluma Hanlin Hill Clare Valley Riesling 2016

petaluma-hanlin-hill-riesling

Petaluma is a premium wine producer located in the Adelaide Hills, just east of the city of Adelaide.  They were founded in 1976 with the aim of making excellent wines from the regions and vineyards most suited to each variety.  Their range has expanded gradually and now includes:

  • White Label (everyday wines): Dry Rosé, Chardonnay, Adelaide Hills Pinot Gris, Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc, Adelaide Hills Shiraz, Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Crozer Sparkling: Adelaide Hills Non Vintage Sparkling, Adelaide Hills Non Vintage Sparkling Rosé, Piccadilly Valley Vintage Sparkling
  • Petaluma Project Co. (experimental bottlings): Barbera, Malbec
  • Yellow Label & Specials (top tier range): Hanlin Hill Riesling, Cane Cut Clare Valley Riesling, Essence Botrytis (Sauvignon Blanc / Semillon blend), Piccadilly Valley Chardonnay, B&V Vineyard Adelaide Hills Shiraz, Coonawarra Merlot, Evans Vineyard Coonawarra (Cab Sauv / Merlot / Shiraz blend), Tiers Chardonnay

Clare Valley is in South Australia, almost due north from Adelaide and at the top of the Mount Lofty Ranges (Australia’s literal naming convention strikes again).  Even within this small region there are significant stylistic differences, most easily illustrated by Grosset’s Polish Hill and Springvale Rieslings. 

Although Riesling is the king here, there are red wines made from varieties that are more closely associated with warmer climates: Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec.  This apparent departure from the norm is because of the high diurnal range which gives the black grapes enough sun and heat but cools down enough at night to keep the Riesling grapes happy.

This Riesling – as the name suggests – is from the Hanlin Hill single vineyard which sits at 550 metres altitude.  At four years from vintage it still pours a pale lemon colour.  Lime and slate open the aromas along with grapefruit and peach stone.  There’s a very light whiff of kerosene but its lack of intensity shows that this wine is till fairly young.

On the palate this wine is very clean (but not Clean!) and fresh, but still pithy and with some body.  It’s very dry (probably technically dry, i.e. as dry as fermentation could take it) as is the norm in the Clare Valley, but the mid-palate has plenty of fruit sweetness with peach and grapefruit joining racy lemon and juicy lime. 

This bottle opened up more as I returned to taste it over several days; if consuming in one sitting I would actually recommend decanting it, not something I would usually think of for Rieslings.  And I liked it so much, I think I will definitely find some more of this…and hopefully taste it with some more age!

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €31.95
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

 

Selbach-Oster Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett 2017

selbach-wehlener-sonnenuhr

I’ve already explained the subregions of the Mosel in a recent post, so I won’t repeat it all here.  You may remember my reference to “the famous sundial vineyards” of the Bernkastel District…well the German for sundial is Sonnenuhr so we have one of those here!  

Selbach-Oster is a very traditional producer based in Zeltingen in the Middle Mosel, with a family history in wine spanning four centuries (to date!)  The business has two sides: a negociant operation J. & H. Selbach which uses bought in fruit, and the estate proper Weingut Selbach-Oster.  Their vineyards amount to 24 hectares in total and are located in Zeltinger itself plus Wehlen and Graach:

  • Zeltinger Himmelreich
  • Zeltinger Schlossberg
  • Zeltinger Sonnenuhr
  • Wehlener Sonnenuhr
  • Graacher Domprobst

The biggest giveaway as to the style of this wine is the alcohol: 8.5% abv.  The relatively low alcohol – even for a northerly country such as Germany – indicates that some of the sugar in the grapes has not been fermented and so is present as residual sugar.  The trend in Germany is for drier wines, even Rieslings which have usually had some sweetness to them, so this is very much a traditional style.

I was unable to find a residual sugar figure for this wine so my best guess as to its sweetness would be medium – definitely sweeter than off-dry but not into dessert wine territory.  However, due to its thrilling acidity, the sweetness is received by the palate as fruitiness more than sugariness.  Although sugar isn’t volatile (i.e. smellable) there are sweet notes on the nose of this wine.  It isn’t that complex though…just totally delicious!

  • ABV: 8.5%
  • RRP: €20.45
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Conclusion

Tasted back to back these two wines are remarkably different, yet share some vital things in common: citrus aromas and flavours, lifted aromatics and the minerality plus racy acidity that typifies Riesling.  The Mosel example is easier to like but the Clare Riesling is more cerebral; pick the one you feel in the mood for!

 

And for those who might recognise the song alluded to in the title, here’s Sonny Fodera ft. Janai – Give Me A Riesling Reason

 

 

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

 

 

 

Make Mine A Double, Tasting Events

Sherwood Forrester [Make Mine a Double #57]

What Would Robin Hood Drink (WWRHD) if he were around today?  What would make his men merry?  I put it to you that he would enjoy the fine wines of Sherwood Estate and Ken Forrester!

Robin Hood
Robin likes the “straight as an arrow” acidity of Sauvignon Blanc

These two fine producers make wines from several other varieties, but for comparative purposes I will review their equivalent Sauvignon Blancs:

 

Sherwood Estate Waipara Sauvignon Blanc 2018

sherwood estate waipara sauvignon blanc
No outlaws were harmed during the making of this wine

One mistake many people make is too assume that all New Zealand Sauvignons are from Marlborough.  Yes, the north east of the South Island is the biggest Sauvignon producing region and has become the ambassador for Kiwi wine, but Nelson (north west of the South Island), Wairarapa (south of the North Island) and Waipara (north of Canterbury on the South Island) also make some great examples.

In 1987 – still the early days of the modern NZ wine industry – Jill and Dayne Sherwood dived headlong into producing wine at West Melton, just west of Christchurch.  The industry was in turmoil at the time, but they were successful enough to survive and outgrow their West Melton property.  They then moved around an hour north into Waipara which was an area full of unrealised promise.  With their drive and perseverance they turned Sherwood Estate into one of the largest independent New Zealand wineries.

The firm now has six different vineyard sites around Waipara including Glasnevin, named after a famous district of Dublin.  Their wine offerings have also branched out (pun intended) to four different ranges plus two different sparklers.  The Sherwood range wines “are premium, everyday wines, made in a ‘hands-off’ style with little interruption in the winery” and consist of five varietals:

  • Chardonnay
  • Pinot Gris
  • Pinot Noir
  • Riesling
  • Sauvignon Blanc

The Sauvignon Blanc we have here is unoaked and made conventionally.  The juice undergoes a cool fermentation for three weeks.  The must is then left on the fine lees for three months which adds depth.  The finished wine combines green (herbs, bell pepper, grass) and fruit (lime, lemon, grapefruit and passion fruit) notes.  This zesty wine shows how good Sauvignon Blanc can be outside Marlborough.

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

Ken Forrester Stellenbosch Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2018

ken forrester sauvignon blanc reserve
Robin sympathizes with Ken’s status as a legend

Ken Forrester is something of a legend in Stellenbosch and South Africa as a whole.  He and his wife Teresa bought a derelict farm in 1993, though the property was created as far back as 1689.

All the pruning and harvesting work in the vineyard is done by hand for two reasons.  Firstly, it allows the vineyard team to pay very close attention to detail for quality reasons.  Secondly, it offers more employment for people in the local community.

There are currently four separate ranges which each have several blends and varietals:

  • Petit: Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Rosé (Grenache/ Viognier) , Natural Sweet (Chenin blend), Pinotage
  • Reserve: Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Renegade (Rhône blend), Pat’s Garden Merlot
  • Icon: The FMC (Chenin), The Gypsy, (Rhône blend), T Noble Late Harvest (Chenin)
  • Cellar door exclusives – Sparklehorse MCC, Three Halves (Rhône blend), Roussanne, Dirty Little Secret TWO (Natural Chenin)

The grapes for the Reserve Sauvignon come from three are sourced from 3 vineyard sites scattered across the coastal region: Stellenbosch, Elim and Darling.  Some – though not all – are old vines, increasing concentration and depth of flavour.  After fermentation the wine spends eight weeks on fine lees.

For many years I have regarded South African Sauvignons as being stylistically half way between Loire and NZ styles, but I think it’s time we (I) forgot the comparisons and just regard them as their own thing.  This one has lots of green notes, but is not under-ripe; mangetout is then joined by some juicy stone fruit and the finish is long, crisp and clean. Unlike some other SA SBs I’ve tried, the alcohol is fairly restrained at 13.0%.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €17.95 (currently on offer at €15.95)
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

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

Single Bottle Review

Wine Review: Marc Kreydenweiss Alsace Riesling

Domaine Marc Kreydenweiss

The Domaine dates back to the 1600s but gained its current name when Marc took over in 1971.  His son Antoine has been involved for over 20 years and took over running the Domaine in 2007.  The total area under vines is now 13.5 hectares including four Grand Cru sites in the vicinity of their Andlau base.

Alsace Wine Route

Here’s an extract from the Alsace Wine Route map to help you get your bearings:

Andau, Eichhoffen and Mittelbergheim are just below the town of Barr.

See the full Alsace Wine Route map here

One of the defining features of Alsace is its mosaic of thirteen soil types, the result of complex geological activity over time.  The term mosaic is particularly apt as the soils can change over very short distances.

There are, however, some groupings which can act as a guide.  The Sub-Vosges hills have six of the thirteen soil types and Domaine Marc Kreydenweiss has several across its small holdings.

From their website:

The diversity of the soils is an added advantage for the wines. The vineyard is planted 80% on slopes or half-hills, in south-south-east exposition.

The soil composition is complex, with pink sandstone, granite, schist gray/blue or black, sediment, limestone that bring finesse, minerality and freshness to the wines.

The vineyard is located in a radius of 10 km around the village of Andlau, but also to the neighboring villages as Eichhoffen, Mittelbergheim and Barr.

Like most Alsace producers they make sweet wines (Vendanges Tardives (VT) and Sélection de Grains Nobles (SGN)) and spirits, but still dry wines are the focus.  There are three main ranges of wines, in ascending quality:

Fruit [Driven] Wines:

  • Kritt Pinot Blanc
  • Andlau Riesling
  • Lerchenberg Pinot Gris
  • Kritt Gewurztraminer
  • Kritt Klevner
  • Pinot Boir Alsace Blanc (a white blend)
  • Pinot Boir Pinot Noir

Terroir wines

  • La Fontaine aux Enfants – Pinot Blanc
  • Stierkopf (Pinot Blanc & Riesling)
  • Clos Rebgarten (Gewurztraminer)
  • Clos du Val d’Eléon (Riesling & Pinot Gris)
  • Clos Rebberg (Riesling)

Grands Crus

  • Wiebelsberg Grand Cru (Riesling)
  • Moenschberg Grand Cru (Pinot Gris)
  • Kastelberg Grand Cru (Riesling)
  • Kirschberg de Barr Grand Cru (Pinot Noir)

The Fruit and Terroir wines are made from their own grapes and those of close friends, but the Grands Crus are entirely Domaine grapes.

In terms of viticulture they have nearly a full house of postmodern winemaking terms: Organic, Biodynamic and Natural.  Conversion to biodynamics started under Marc himself in 1989, with certification from 1991.

I have tried the Kritt Gewurztraminer several times (and liked it), so when I spotted a bottle of the Andlau Riesling I had to extend my empirical knowledge of the producer:

Marc Kreydenweiss Andlau Riesling 2017

marc-kreydenweiss-andlau-riesling

This Riesling is made from grapes of the Domaine and from growers André and Yann, over 2.2 hectares in the foothills abutting the Grand Cru Wiebelsberg.  The sub-soil is a pink sandstone known as “Grès des Vosges” which is known to impart a minerality to Riesling.  The wine is certified Organic by Demeter and certified Biodynamic by Biodyvin.

On pouring it is clean and clear, a light lemon colour and a little lighter than the Kritt Gewurz.  The nose is a big surprise, given the conventionality of the Gewurz: it has a distinctly “natural” aspect.  For those not familiar with natural wine, it often has a certain rawness or earthiness which defies easy description but is very recognisable.  Beyond that there are juicy stone fruit aromas.

The default flavour notes for Riesling are lime and lemon, but this wine is different – fleshy stone fruit appear again, with suggestions of fruit sweetness but actually resolutely dry.  The finish is long, mineral, slightly sour (though not unpleasantly so).  I found this wine improved over the course of an hour so it needs a bit of air and not to be drunk too cold.

Conclusion

This wine may be a little strange for the uninitiated, but if you already like natural wines or are willing to be a little adventurous then this is an excellent example to try.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: ~ €22
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores