Tag: Pinot Grigio

Life After Malbec

As most people know, Malbec is the signature grape of Argentina.  It’s become the classic match for steak and anecdotal evidence suggests that it’s one of the few red wines that casual wine-drinking blokes are prepared to pay a little more for.

But as so often is the case, when a signature grape becomes almost synonymous with a country, other varieties are unfairly overlooked.  Here are a few examples of Life After Malbec:

Callia “Alta” Pinot Grigio 2016 (13.5%, RRP 12.99 at Fresh Stores; McHuhes; D-Six Harolds Cross; DrinkStore.ie; Donnybrook Fair)

Pinot Grigio

Regular readers may be quite flabbergasted by the inclusion of a Pinot Grigio, and it’s true that I rarely like wines labelled as such, but for me this wine is leagues ahead of the cheap “chick water” that flows out of Italy.  Compared to Alsatian Pinot Gris it does exhibit some of the varietal characteristics such as stone fruit and spiciness (particularly ginger) and has decent acidity, but it isn’t at all oily (which I like but isn’t for everyone). Just so nice to drink!

Amalaya Torrontés / Riesling 2016 (13.0%, RRP €16.99 at Martin’s Off Licence; Red Island Wine Company; Red Nose Wine; World Wide Wines; Blackrock Cellar; Sweeney’s)
Amalaya

Apart from a few exceptions I rarely enjoy varietal Torrontés as I find it a bit too full on – too perfumed, too flowery, and in all honesty better suited as air freshener rather than wine.  The Hess Family have a solution with their Torrontés / Riesling blend – 85% of the former is freshened by 15% of the latter, and it really is more than the sum of its parts. This is one of my go-to Argentinian white wines.

Domaine Bousquet Chardonnay Grande Reserve 2014 (13.5%, RRP €23.99 at Searson’s)

Bousquet Chardonnay

The Bousquets are a southern French wine-making family, now into the fourth generation of vignerons.  They began looking into vineyard sites in Argentina in 1990 and took the plunge with a purchase in 1997.  This is a fairly full on Chardonnay with eight to twelve months maturation in French oak, depending on the vintage.  I found the 2014 still a little young so would benefit from being decanted; when I tasted the 2011 in 2016 it was already well-integrated.  This level of quality costs much more in other countries!

Alta Vista Premium Bonarda 2012 (15.0%, €20.00 at Mitchell & Son)

Bonarda

Italian wine fans might be saying “Oh, Bonarda in Argentina? Makes sense with all the Italian migration to Argentina in the past”, and they’d be partially right – this isn’t the same grape as the Bonarda of Piedmont, but has been found to be the same as Deuce Noir which originated in the (formerly Italian, now French) region of Savoie.  This is a fairly big wine (15% abv!) with lots of red and black fruit but enough acidity to keep it fresh.

Bodegas Salentein Portillo Pinot Noir 2014 (14.3%, €12.99 at Wines On The Green; Baggot Street Wines; Clontarf Wines; Fresh, Stepaside; McCabes, Blackrock)

portillo-PinotNoir

Although widely planted in Chile, Pinot Noir is not that common in Argentina; it’s a finicky grape that needs fairly cool growing conditions and much of Argentina is just too warm.  Bodegas Salentein make several Pinots at different price points, and this is the entry level from their Portillo range.  Despite the low price tag this is proper Pinot Noir – it’s amazingly drinkable for the price.

Callia “Magna” Shiraz 2014 (14.5%, RRP €18.99 at Redmonds Ranelagh; Vintry Rathgar; World Wide Wines Waterford; Bradley’s Cork; Sweeney’s; McHughes)

260x510_p1463059311149_shiraz

Callia’s “Magna” range sits above their “Alta” (see Pinot Grigio above) and “Selected” ranges.  All of Callia’s wines come from their home San Juan province, but for Magna wines the grapes come from specific sub-regions – in the case of the Shiraz (also labelled as Syrah in some markets) this is the Tulum Valley (don’t worry, I hadn’t heard of it either).  This Shiraz is round and full bodied with lots of delicious black fruit, but also some black olive / tapenade notes.

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The Victorians at Molloys [Make Mine a Double #23]

2016-09-17-21-28-35

Once past the humongously big area that is “South Eastern Australia”, the next level of appellation is usually the state.  As the biggest wine producing state it’s usually South Australia that is most prominent on the wine shelves, with perhaps Western Australia next (WA is a relatively small producer in volume terms though it does produce a good proportion of Australia’s quality wines).  NSW has the Hunter Valley and others, but it’s those regions whose names make it onto labels.

Victoria has lots of quality wine regions such as the Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula and Heathcote, but blends between them are not that common either.  Here are a couple of Victorian wines I tried recently that are multi-region blends:

MWC Pinot Gris Victoria 2015 (13.5%, €18 down to €15 in September at Molloy’s)

mvc-pinot-gris

The stylistic division between Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris is quite a divider (and I’ve commented on it myself several times).  The divide is now being blurred by many wine makers who want to make a fresh, mineral style but with a lot more flavour than bulk Italian Pinot Grigio – Fiona Turner at Tinpot Hut is one.

This example is quite rich, though not as sweet or oily as Alsace versions can be.  There’s lots of tangy fruit flavours as a result of extended time on the skins.  It’s got enough to please both crowds without selling out to either – a great achievement!

MWC Shiraz Mourvedre Victoria 2014 (14.0%, €18 down to €15 in September at Molloy’s)

mvc-shiraz-mourvedre

Wines sold in the EU don’t have to mention minor parts of the blend if they are less than 15% in total, so mentioning the Mourvedre component of this 95% Shiraz 5% Mourvedre wine is a deliberate choice by the producers.  That tells you something – they want to stand out from the crowd of varietal Shiraz and they also think that even 5% of a variety adds something to the final wine.

As its sibling above, this is a blend from different premium vineyards across Victoria.  My educated guess would be that it contains a fair bit from the cooler southern regions such as Yarra Valley as it’s much lighter than most I’ve had from the warmer inland areas.  In the mouth it’s nice and smooth, but well-balanced.  It has the usual black fruit and spice but they are fresh rather than stewed or jammy.  This Shiraz blend would be fantastic with a peppered steak!

Disclosure: both wines kindly provided for review

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

Make Mine a Double #14 – Wines With B-Rio

With the Rio Olympics looming over the horizon, what better time to sample Brazil’s vinous delights.  What?  Brazilian wine?  Yes indeed, and though as a whole the country isn’t a viticultural paradise there are some tasty wines being made there.  Here are a couple from M&S that I tried recently:

Riosecco Sparkling Glera NV (11.5%, €13.29)

Riosecco trimmed small

Riosecco is a portmanteau of Rio and Prosecco, a not too subtle hint that this is a Brazilian alternative to Italy’s Prosecco.  Before 2009 the grape used in DOC Prosecco was often referred to as by the same name, which meant that other areas could use the Prosecco name without being made in the same region (…or even country). When the even stricter DOCG was created in 2009 the old synonym Glera was adopted, and that’s what we have on this Latin American bubbly.

It’s pleasantly fruity but refreshing and dry on the finish.  A better effort that many ordinary Proseccos.  Give it a try!

Araucria Riesling Pinot Grigio 2015 (12.5%, €13.29)

Riesling Pinot Grigio trimmed small

I tasted this without looking closely at the information provided and was a bit stumped – I just didn’t know what to make of it.  “Can I get back to you on this?” I told my notepad. Then, noticing the blend was 70% Riesling and 30% Pinot Grigio, it started to make sense.

It has the refreshing acidity and citrus bite of Riesling plus a bit of the rounder fruit and texture from Pinot Grigio.  This could actually pass for an Alsace blend from a cooler year – not quite as round as an average Edelzwicker as it doesn’t have any Pinot Blanc.  It’s a well made, modern wine which deserves to be sipped while sitting in the sun.

And just because I can, here is another Rio:

I Don’t Like Pinot Grigio, I Love Pinot Gris

Is there any other grape which is so divisive by synonym?  Possibly Syrah and Shiraz, but even then style does not necessarily follow naming convention.

I don't Love Pinot Grigio
I DON’T Love Pinot Grigio

Now, you may have seen the warning on my Twitter bio that “Views and taste in wine may offend” – and I find most Pinot Grigios undrinkable – the best that can be said about them is that they are wet and contain alcohol (but then, the same could be said of aftershave).  Often they are thin, acidic and lacking in flavour.

The derogatory term I use is “Chick Water“.  I will leave you to guess the derivation!

Pinot Grigio is of course the Italian term for the grape whereas Pinot Gris is the lesser known French equivalent.  The en vogue term nowadays is “spiritual home”, and if anywhere could make a claim to be the spiritual home for Pinot Gris it is Alsace, one of my favourite wine regions in the world.  There is already a lot of good Pinot Gris being made in New Zealand, which is well suited to aromatic varieties, and the cooler parts of Australia.

Mini Pinot Gris Tasting At Ely Wine Bar

Trio of Pinot Gris at Ely Wine Bar
Trio of Pinot Gris at Ely Wine Bar

As is my wont, I recently popped into my home-from-home Ely Wine Bar in Dublin and thought I try a few different Pinot Gris served there by the glass:

Verus Vineyards Ormož Pinot Gris 2012

Verus Vineyards Ormož Pinot Gris 2012
Verus Vineyards Ormož Pinot Gris 2012

Ormož is in North Eastern Slovenia, near the border with Hungary.  Although I knew wine is produced in Slovenia I didn’t know there were “international” grapes planted there.  Set up by friends and winemakers Danilo, Božidar and Rajkowho, Verus Vineyards focus on improving quality while making their wines a true expression of their origins.

As the first of the three in the line up, it was fresh with pleasant lemon notes, slightly sour but in an appealing way.  There was only just a hint of sweetness on the finish – it wasn’t apparent at all at first, but as the wine warmed up slightly in the glass it tickled the tastebuds.  On tasting blind would have had no idea it wasn’t from a better established / known country – I will definitely look out for more of their wines.

Innocent Bystander Yarra Valley Pinot Gris 2012

Innocent Bystander Pinot Gris
Innocent Bystander Yarra Valley Pinot Gris 2012

The Yarra Valley is one of the premium wine producing areas of Australia – and one of the most exciting – check out my post on De Bortoli Yarra Valley.  Innocent Bystander specialise in making good value varietal wines that reflect their Yarra origins.  They use 100% hand picked fruit, wild ferments and gravity-flow winemaking techniques, plus minimal filtration and fining – this is definitely on the low-intervention side.

The 2012 has a lovely texture that would make it a great food wine, though it drinks very well on its own.  The main flavours are stone fruit, pear, apple and lychee, backed up by plenty of acidity!

Greywacke Marlborough Pinot Gris 2011

Greywacke Marlborough Pinot Gris 2011
Greywacke Marlborough Pinot Gris 2011

Kevin Judd needs no introduction, but I’ll give him one anyway.  He was the chief winemaker at Cloudy Bay from its inception and launch to its 25 year anniversary.  He finally left and started his own virtual winery – he bought grapes and rented winery space from former Cloudy Bay colleagues who left themselves to set up Dog Point Winery.

Although Kevin’s Sauvignons, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir take most of the limelight, his Pinot Gris is an excellent example of the variety.  It’s properly off dry, rich and oily – the most Alsace-like.  Flavours of peach and nectarine dominate, with a hint of crystalline ginger and cinnamon.  This would be amazing with Asian food but is just so lovely to contemplate on its own.