Make Mine A Double

Chablis: Still or Sparkling?

This might sound like an odd (or even stupid) question, but bear with me. Among lovers of bubbly, especially those with a keen eye for a bargain, Crémant de Bourgogne is well appreciated. However, I would hazard a guess that only a small proportion of those folk would know (or care) exactly where in Burgundy those bubbles are made.

Under the Appellation Contrôlée system, Crémant de Bourgogne can be made from grapes grown anywhere in greater Burgundy, i.e.:

  • The Côte de Beaune
  • The Côte de Nuits
  • The Côte Chalonnaise
  • The Mâconnais
  • The Chablis region(!)
  • Beaujolais(!!)

Given Chablis’s northerly latitude – famously closer to Champagne’s Côte des Bar than to Dijon – its suitability for growing grapes with the high acidity and moderate alcohol required for sparkling production (not to mention an appropriate variety) should not be a surprise.  Rewind to the end of the 19th century and early 20th century. and sparkling wine from Chablis would be even less of a surprise – it was normally labelled as such.  Also, at that time, some Champagne maisons bought grapes from outside their own region and labelled their fizz as Champagne on the basis that they were made by a Champagne house.  This was one of the key causes of the Champagne Riots in 1910 and 1911.

I recently got chance to try two wines from the Chablis area that are included in the SuperValu French Wine Sale, one still and one sparkling:

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

André Goichot Chablis 2018 

Maison André Goichot is a Burgundy Negociant founded in 1947.  They offer a wide range of red and white Burgundies, many of which are available at SuperValu in Ireland.  Also included in the current French Wine Sale are Goichot wines from Fleurie, Mercurey, Pouilly-Fuissé, Montagny and Mâcon-Lugny.

In the glass this is a pale lemon, as expected from a young and unoaked Chablis.  The nose shows lots of citrus, primarily lemon and lime, with a little green apple; it’s a little more fruity than some generic Chablis can be.  The citrus and green apple notes also show on the palate which is slightly lean in character, but not austere.

Chablis is known as a great match for shellfish – especially oysters – and this example would fit that role perfectly, but it also has enough appeal to be drunk on its own or with nibbles as an aperitif.  Great value in the sale!

  • ABV: 12.5.%
  • RRP: €19.66 down to €14.75 from 3rd to 23rd Sept (plus buy any 6 bottles save €10 from 3rd to 16th Sept)
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

Simonnet-Febvre Crémant de Bourgone Brut Blanc NV

Simonnet-Febvre traces its history back to 1840 when a monsieur Jean Febvre bought a Chablis wine merchant.  Even back then, sparkling Chablis was a speciality of the firm.  By the next generation Simonnet was added to the company name and continued expanding through the years.  In 2003 it was bought by Louis Latour, but remains a separate entity and continues to make “sparkling Chablis” – alongside a range of still Chablis wines – to this day.

This Crémant is actually one of the five they make.  The assemblage is 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir – traditional grapes for both Burgundy and Champagne.  The wine is made using the traditional method, of course, and spends a total of 24 months in the cellars.  Labelled as Brut, it has 7 g/L of residual sugar which puts it only 1 g/L above the maximum for Extra Brut.

Once popped it has a creamy mousse with a persistent bead.  The main aromas are of citrus and green apples, plus bready notes.  These continue through to the palate which is ultra fresh, almost tart (though in a pleasant way) due to the low dosage.  Simonnet-Febvre recommend serving this as an aperitif, or even with crème de cassis.  It certainly wakes up your palate!

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RRP: €29.50 down to €24.59 from 3rd to 23rd Sept (plus buy any 6 bottles save €10 from 3rd to 16th Sept)
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

SuperValu French Wine Sale posts:

 

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

Make Mine A Double

Hãhã – but it’s no laughing matter! [Make Mine a Double #60]

A new Kiwi label “Hãhã” has just been launched in Ireland, but it’s not a spoof – Hãhã is actually a Mãori word meaning savoury and luscious.  It was established less than ten years ago in 2011 by four families, and is still owned by the same folk.  Their wines hail from Hawke’s Bay and Marlborough and include most of the most popular varieties from New Zealand: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Syrah.  There are also sparkling wines and rosé in the portfolio (with the Hawke’s Bay rosé even having a dash of Malbec).

As the wines have just been launched only the key wines are currently available in Ireland.  Here are two that I tried and enjoyed recently:

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

Hãhã Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2019

The nose shows citrus (lime and lemon) plus ripe green bell peppers.  These notes continue though onto the palate, and unusually for Marlborough Sauvignon there are no real tropical notes.  Despite the green notes this is a mellow rather than sharp wine; it’s very mouthwatering but the acidity is fresh and pleasant rather than harsh.

If I had tasted this blind it would have stumped me as to its real origins – I might have guessed a classy Italian or German Sauvignon (if you haven’t tried examples from those countries then my postulation was a compliment!)  Despite Marlborough Sauvignon’s popularity, even its fans would admit that it’s often too aromatic and exuberant to make a good partner for food, but Hãhã Sauvignon is a delicious exception to this rule!

Hãhã Marlborough Pinot Noir 2017

Hãhã’s Marlborough Pinot Noir is one of the top wines in their range.  As you’d expect it’s fruity, and a lighter style of Pinot, but despite the fruit it’s not simply a smashable wine.  The nose is lovely, with rich strawberry, raspberry, cherry plus spice and a touch of mocha.  In the mouth it’s smooth and medium bodied, with the red fruit now joined by black.  Tannins are present but modest.  Overall this is a supple, easy-to drink wine that would also serve well at the dinner table.

Conclusion

Returning to the translation of Hãhã for a moment, I don’t think that “luscious” is that apt for these wines, but “savoury” definitely is!  They manage to bridge the worlds of quaffing wine and serious food wine.  They both have fruit but a superb savoury aspect which makes them very easy to like.

 

And, for those who were clubbing in the mid ’90s, this is the track which immediately sprang to mind when writing this piece:

 

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

 

Wine + Music

The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series #12 – Tim Milford

In these unusual times, we all need a lift from time to time. As a change to my usual wine reviews I’ve decided to start a fun and irreverent series on matching wine and music. The basic idea is that I give participants:

  • A piece of music –> they suggest a wine to go with it, with an explanation
  • A wine –> they suggest a piece of music to go with it

It’s all for fun, so please don’t slag off anybody’s taste music (or wine!) Thanks to Michelle Williams for the inspiration – she has been matching songs to wine for years on her Rockin Red Blog.

The twelfth installment of The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series is hosted by  Germanophile Englishman Tim Milford.  If I said that he likes to “blow his own trumpet” and dubs himself “The King of Wine” I would be correct; however, this would be in a literal sense only, as he is an orchestral trumpet player(!) and a total gentleman with a well developed sense of humour to boot. 

I am something of a philistine when it comes to classical / orchestral music – I know a few tunes that I like but that’s about it.  However, when choosing a piece for Tim there was one that immediately came to mind as it featured trumpets: Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man. When I was young living at home with my parents this was a favourite of my dad’s so I heard it many times.

The easy option for the wine pick would have been German Riesling, but I side-stepped that and chose an English sparkling wine that I know Tim and I both hold in high estimation: Nyetimber’s Classic Cuvée MV.  It’s a wine that I have been following for many years, with each successive vintage getting better.  Now that it is a multi-vintage it has stepped up even more.

I was delighted when Frankie asked me to contribute to his wine and music blog series, but also a little nervous as all of the other posts have been so good!

Frankie has chosen a classical theme for me, which I was really pleased about. I have been a trumpet player since I was eight years old and have been fortunate enough to play in some excellent bands and orchestras over the years. Music, just like wine, has been an amazing way for me to make friends and also to get to know more about the world that we live in.

My music taste is pretty eclectic, but I have always enjoyed classical music particularly. I think a good symphony is like test cricket (another one of my passions!) – the time that you have in this format allows you to appreciate the waxing and waning of the music, the development of intricate sub-plots within pieces. Whereas your average three minute rock or pop song is more like T20 cricket – it starts: crash, bang, wallop, it ends.

My favourite music in the classical space tends to be the bigger, grander, darker, more evocative music from the German and Russian masters: Mahler, Bruckner, Beethoven, Shostakovich and Prokofiev; but in truth there is so much variety out there that you just feel blessed that all of these incredible people have created such beauty – exactly how I feel about wine!

So, on to my pairings!

Nyetimber’s Classic Cuvée MV

Nyetimber-Our-Wines-Homepage-ClassicCuvee
Credit: Nyetimber

For the wine, Frankie selected for me Nyetimber’s Multi Vintage (MV) Classic Cuvée – a wine that I know very well and I knew straight away exactly where I was going to go for my music selection: Glenn Gould’s famous recordings of Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Why did I choose this? The Goldberg variations are a masterpiece of composition – combining moments of pure beauty, with complicated, intricate melodies and counter-melodies. But how does it make me feel when I listen to it? I often listen to this recording when I need to concentrate on something at work; it feels serene, it feels sophisticated, it feels masterly.

These are the kinds of feelings that I get when I think of Nyetimber’s Classic Cuvée; it’s a wine of breathtaking refinement, with layers of texture to it that are all perfectly balanced to give an immensely pleasurable drinking experience. It is pretty well known now that good English sparkling wine is giving Champagne a proper run for its money – and Nyetimber is absolutely one of those producers that I would point to. That’s before we start looking at their vintage BdBs, which are simply spectacular.

There’s another reason that I wanted to choose Glenn Gould’s version of the Goldberg Variations – Gould was Canadian and I wanted to give a little nod to Nyetimber’s head wine makers, Cherie Spriggs and Brad Greatrix, Canadians themselves. Cherie and Brad have done wonderful things during their tenure at Nyetimber and I thought this would be a nice tribute to them.

Aaron Copland – Fanfare for the Common Man

For my musical selection, Frankie gave me Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” – a selection that I was delighted with! As a trumpet player, fanfares are always a fun experience to play, but the opening of this piece isn’t a fanfare in the sense that we might think of; it is altogether more refined. A lot of fanfares are designed to be regal and triumphal, this though seems to be a little less bombastic – which I guess is borne out in the piece’s name. This isn’t a piece celebrating the crowning of a king or a queen, but a celebration of the common man (and woman!).

I also like the structure of the piece, which builds layers as it goes through, starting with the timpani, followed by the trumpets; but then augmented by the rest of the brass section and more percussion players. When I listen to this piece there is something Olympic about it in the soaring notes for the trumpet, which sounds so powerful, so graceful, so majestic. Something that says: we have mastered this, we are in control and we know what we are doing.

The Milf
Credit: Tim Milford

So, what wine could I choose that gives you the same sentiment? I decided to pair this piece with a 2016 Santa Barbara Pinot Noir from the legends at Au Bon Climat in California. The wine is an absolute classic, coming from a coastal region in California it benefits from those sea breezes, which gives it a delicious freshness. It is fairly commonly observed that this is a wine made in a Burgundian style, which I think in this instance means that it has a poise and refinement, an elegance and class. It tantalises the tastebuds and excites the nostrils, but it does it all in a controlled and self-confident way. It is not over-the-top and showy, instead it sits there quietly exuding its grace and majesty.

This is a celebration of the majesty of Pinot Noir, one of the most loved and most temperamental grapes in the wine world. But it is a celebration held in a booth in a classy restaurant with fine food and fine wine, not a party held in some gaudy Mayfair nightclub favoured by those with too much money and too little class. The wines of Au Bon Climat are rightly revered for being right at the top of their game and this is no exception. A superb wine to match with a superb piece of music!

Tim Milford

Tim Milford is a project manager by day and an enthusiastic wine enthusiast by night! He is no expert when it comes to wine, but likes learning about the wine world one bottle at a time and has a particular penchant for German wine. Tim writes about wine (not as often as he would like) at www.vinspireuk.com and sometimes writes restaurant reviews (even less often, particularly recently) on his own website www.timmilford.com. You can find Tim on Twitter (@timmilford) and Instagram (@tjmilford), should you like to do those kinds of thing.

Make Mine A Double, Tasting Events

A Pair of Pretty Pinots [Make Mine a Double #58]

Pinot Noir can be tricky to make well.  It is very particular about the climate it’s grown in – not too hot, not too cold.  Here are a pair of antipodean cool climate Pinots that are worth your hard-earned:

Innocent Bystander Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2018

Innocent Bystander Pinot Noir

The Yarra Valley is part of the Port Philip zone which surrounds Melbourne in Australia.  Its proximity to Melbourne makes it a popular wine tourism destination; indeed, my first trip there was on a day trip wine tour from Melbourne.  That should not detract from its status as one of the best cool climate regions of Australia, with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir starring – both still and sparkling.

Innocent Bystander was founded in 1996 by Phil Sexton after selling his previous Margaret River venture Devil’s Lair.  Innocent Bystander (IB) wines are often blends from multiple sites to achieve complexity and balance at a reasonable price point.  Alongside IB, in 1998 Sexton also began creating single vineyard wines under the Giant Steps label.

The Pink Moscato explosion in Aussie wine led to a large increase in volumes being made and sold by IB, so Sexton sold it to another family owned Victorian wine producer – Brown Brothers of Milawa – in order to concentrate on Giant Steps.  Once picked IB’s grapes now make a three hour journey in refrigerated trucks to be crushed at Brown Bros’ winery.  Sexton’s Yarra Valley tasting room wasn’t part of the transaction so Brown Bros bought and converted a brewery – formerly run by Phil Sexton!

The wines in the Innocent Bystander portfolio include the following:

  • Pinot Noir
  • Chardonnay
  • Moscato
  • Pinot Gris
  • Gamay
  • Gamay / Pinot Noir blend
  • Syrah
  • Tempranillo
  • Arneis

It’s the last two which are the most unusual for Australia, and therefore piqued my interest, though sadly they haven’t yet made their way to Ireland.

In the main this Pinot Noir is fruit-driven: raspberry, blackberry and tart red cherries dominate the nose and palate, though there are also herb and spice notes in the background.  It is not, however, a “fruit-bomb”; acidity and gentle tannins provide a framework against which the fruit can sing, and boy do they sing!

Framingham Marlborough Pinot Noir 2017

Framingham Pinot Noir

Marlborough’s Framingham is probably the most respected producer of Riesling in New Zealand, but has added additional varieties across its three ranges:

  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Pinot Gris
  • Chardonnay
  • Viognier
  • Gewurztraminer
  • Montepulciano
  • Pinot Noir

Their wines are all very well crafted and offer a substantial step up from everyday Marlborough wines, but prices are sensible.  The firm’s winemaker for 18 years was Dr Andrew Hedley, who was then succeeded by the returning Andrew Brown at the beginning of this year (what a year to join!)  In between his stints at Framingham, “Brownie” had worked in several cool climate regions including Alsace, so he has great experience with Riesling.

Framingham’s own vineyards and those of partner winegrowers are all in the Wairau Valley, the central open plain of Marlborough which is on a mixture of alluvial and clay soil.  Each parcel is harvested and vinified separately, with grapes from clay soils in particular receiving more time on the skins.  MLF and maturation takes place in new (20%) and used French oak barrels, before final blending and bottling.  No fining or filtering is carried out to preserve flavour and mouthfeel.

When speaking to Jared Murtha (Framingham’s Global Sales Manager) earlier this year  I remarked that the Pinot Noir seemed more like a Martinborough Pinot than a typical Marlborough one to me.  This was meant as a compliment and taken as one, as I find many Marlborough Pinot Noirs to be light, simple and less than interesting.  Jared replied diplomatically that Framingham aren’t aiming to make a “smashable” wine, but rather one which is a little more serious and gastronomic.

And hell have they succeeded!  It has typical Pinot red fruit notes – cherry and wild strawberry – but also layer upon layer of smoky, spicy and savoury characters.  There are lovely round tannins giving the wine additional structure.  Umami fans will love this wine!

Conclusion

These two wines are made from the same grape variety in neighbouring countries (yeah, still quite a journey) and are close in price, so a like for like comparison is perfectly fair.  The most obvious difference, though, is their style.  The Innocent Bystander is a great, fruit-forward all-rounder and would really appeal to the casual wine drinker.  The Framingham is a different proposition, more savoury and serious, and would shine the brightest in a setting with food – though it’s not a “this needs food” wine.  My preference would be to spend the extra €4 on the Framingham … but if someone offers me a glass of Innocent Bystander I would be delighted.

 

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

Wine + Music

The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series #6 – Nirina Plunkett

In these unusual times, we all need a lift from time to time. As a change to my usual wine reviews I’ve decided to start a fun and irreverent series on matching wine and music. The basic idea is that I give participants:

  • A piece of music –> they suggest a wine to go with it, with an explanation
  • A wine –> they suggest a piece of music to go with it

It’s all for fun, so please don’t slag off anybody’s taste music (or wine!) Thanks to Michelle Williams for the inspiration – she has been matching songs to wine for years on her Rockin Red Blog.

For Part 6 of the Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series we return to Dublin and the choices of the bubbly (-lover) Nirina Plunkett.  The song I chose for Nirina is Jamiroquai’s Space Cowboy, though not the original version; while that has its appeal as a funky, soulful track it’s rather downbeat – if I want depressing I’ll listen to The Cure or The Smiths, thank you very much!  Instead this is the result of a major reworking by the legendary David Morales of Def Mix Productions, turning in into upbeat, uplifting dance floor classic.

The wine choice for Nirina was dead easy – she was an enthusiastic participant in Alsace Wine Week in Ireland last year, including the live Twitter tasting where she extolled the virtues of Wolfberger Crémant d’Alsace!

My good friend and fellow wine enthusiast Frankie invited me to take part in his new Frankly Wines & Friends: Wine and Music Series, and naturally I accepted! It’s no secret that I am a big wine fan, and always love exploring and learning more, and also that I LOVE music. I literally listen to music every day, when I’m blogging, writing, cooking, doing my makeup and even as I fall asleep. I’m kinda obsessed!

Therefore this series is pretty ideal for me as it brings together two of my favourite things. Today I’ll feature two different songs matched with two wines and a little chat about them. One of each has been chosen for me by Frankie, and I’ve then paired them with my own choices.

“Space Cowboy” (David Morales Classic Club Remix) By Jamiroquai

This remixed song choice from Frankie sure takes me back to when I was in my early twenties, and seems like it’d be hard to match with wine. But because of its party vibe, it’s got to be a bubbly choice for me. This Bottega Gold Prosecco, which hails from the Valdobbiadene hills in Northern Italy, is one of my favourites.

Bottega Gold Prosecco Cookie FM Frankly Wines

This sparker is made from a tasty blend of the varieties Moscato, Glera (Prosecco), Pinot Nero, and Raboso Piave, and together they give this Prosecco a fresh and fruity aroma. And then there’s the sweet fizz and the gorgeous gold bottle – ideal for any party occasion! I can picture myself and the gals with a bottle of Bottega Gold Prosecco as the club soaks up the atmosphere with this song blasting away. Plus popping any bottle of bubbly instantly puts a smile on my face, it’s my favourite sound!

Wolfberger Crémant d’Alsace Brut

Wolfberger Brut Crémant d'Alsace Cookie FM Frankly Wines

I do love a good bottle of fizz, and this Wolfberger Brut Crémant d’Alsace is such a beauty. I was fortunate enough to try this last year but I will always remember it for its lively and light floral notes. It’s made with five traditional varieties of the Alsace region as well as the Chardonnay grape, that altogether give a slight apple finish. I do find this Wolfberger more elegant than the aforementioned Prosecco, and therefore with such a bubbly brut, I’ve chosen this classic Rihanna song “Diamonds”

I feel it’s the right song to sip on this sparkling wine, played extra loud, of course. I can picture myself out the back garden as dusk settles, with my best friend, chatting the night away and pouring glass after glass of this Wolfberger with a minimal cheese & cracker platter.

Nirina Plunkett

Nirina Plunkett, 29, is from Dublin and of Irish and Malagasy ethnicity and has been a blogger and website owner since she was 10 years old! Nirina’s blog Killer Fashion celebrates 10 years this year, while she started Cookie FM in 2015, a food & lifestyle blog, to explore her love for food, music and adventures even more. Nirina loves trying new recipes, dining out, tasting new cuisines, learning about wine and having delicious cocktails. If you want to drop Nirina an email about anything contact KillerFashionNP@gmail.com

Make Mine A Double

A Cheeky Pair of Pinots From Romania [Make Mine a Double #52]

Since the turn of the millennium the most notable Romanian exports have been the Cheeky Girls, a pair of identical twin sisters who – somehow – had 4 top 10 hits in the UK. While their music was aimed at pre-teens, Romania has much better products for adults: wine!

When I got into wine in the early/mid ’90s, Deulu Mare Pinot Noir from the south of Romania was a staple in the supermarkets, which had a much better range back then.  Romania is reportedly the sixth largest producer of wine in Europe, making wines from:

  • International varieties such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay
  • Mid / Eastern European varieties such as Zweigelt and Blaufränkisch
  • Romanian varieties such as Tămâioasă Românească and Busuioacă de Bohotin

Little Romanian wine seems to hit our shores these days, but the Wildflower range are welcome recent arrivals.

Wildflower Pinot Grigio 2018

wildflower pinot grigio

As a confirmed Grigio skeptic I approached this wine with caution, but rather than being dilute this wine was light; the difference might seem subtle but it’s important.  The nose is attractive, floral and fruity.  On the palate the fun continues with fresh citrus and pip fruit, and a clean crisp finish.  This isn’t a complex wine, and doesn’t pretend to be, but it’s perfect for a mid-week glass or three.

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RRP: €13.95 (until 1st June: €9.00, 6 for €50)
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswines.ie

Wildflower Pinot Noir 2018

wildflower pinot noir

As Pinot Noir is notoriously difficult to grow well, i.e. make reasonable wine out of, an inexpensive one might raise an eyebrow or two.  However, this is recognisably Pinot Noir with its medium intensity colour, fragrant nose and supple palate.  It’s light enough that twenty minutes in the fridge before pouring at a barbecue would be perfect.  It has soft red fruit – raspberry, cherry and strawberry – and gentle tannins, with fresh acidity for added structure.  Just remember to use a wine glass and not a pint glass!

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €13.95 (until 1st June: €9.00, 6 for €50)
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswines.ie

Conclusion

These wines – and their counterpart Wildflower Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz – are described as “party wines” by O’Briens.  For me this has two slightly different connotations;

  1. It could be the cheap-as-chips / industrially produced swill that a host will lay on at a big party or function while they drink something else (we all know one of those kind of people).  The kind of wine that you wince slightly while drinking, but you drink anyway because there’s no alternative
  2. Or, it could be an easy drinking wine that a party host is happy to drink with his guests because wine isn’t the focus of the party, but the crowd are likely to consume quite a lot of it!

The Wildflower Pinots Grigio and Noir definitely fall into the second category.  They are acceptably priced at €13.95 (especially the Pinot Noir) but a complete steal when on offer for €9.  Given the current lock down the potential for partying is rather limited…but for those who work from home (and thus don’t have to drive) or are furloughed and want a great VFM tipple, fill your boots!

 

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

Tasting Events

Unfinished Sympathy

After a little reflection, one of the most important characteristics of a great winemaker (in my humble opinion) is sympathy for the vineyards they pick from and the grapes that they harvest.  Underlying this are intelligence, knowledge, and more than a little humility.

Many winemakers develop this sympathetic nature over the course of decades with a small number of plots of land and as few as two or even just one grape variety, as is the case in Burgundy.  Indeed, sometimes it’s an ancestral connection with knowledge that has been passed down in the family for generations.

In stark contrast to the timescale of the Burgundians, I give you Pieter Hauptfleisch Walser of BLANKbottle.  Pieter has 58 different varieties growing all over the Western Cape, though you won’t see them mentioned on the bottle.  A few months ago, thanks to WineMason I had the opportunity to try eight of this wines which were new to the Irish market (and only available in very small quantities).  Each has an intriguing backstory and a interesting label to go with it.

with apologies for the quality of my snaps…

Rabbitsfoot 2018 (14.5%, RRP ~ €30)

BLANKbottle Rabbits Foot 2018

We start with a Sauvignon Blanc, but not that you would probably recognise at first – it’s not like a Loire or Kiwi Sauvignon, and to be honest it’s not even like other South African Savvies, although perhaps some could be though of as baby versions of this.  It has more body, texture and alcohol than most Sauvignons, still grassy but with spicy notes.  Tasted blind my first guess would have been Grüner Veltliner!

Full details here

BOBERG 2018 (13.5%, RRP ~ €33)

BLANKbottle BOBERG 2018

Boberg means “on top of the mountain” and the mountain is pictured on the label – but not on its own.  It is depicted as being overlooked by seven generations of Pieter’s family who lived on the farm next to it.  These Chenin Blanc vines are old and low yielding, and have recently been certified organic.  For 2018 they were picked early and fermented in old French oak barrels with natural yeast.  The wine is fresh but with real depth; a whole basket of Granny Smith apples with a few Golden Delicious and lemons.

Full details here

Kortpad Kaaptoe 2018 (13.0%, RRP ~ €33)

BLANKbottle Kortpad Kaaptoe 2018

Pieter found these vines while on his travels and took a backroad shortcut to get to his next appointment – the name means “shortcut to Cape Town”.  The grape variety used is even more obscure (especially in South Africa): Fernão Pires!  If you’re a fan of Portuguese wine then it might not be so obscure as it is grown throughout Portugal, sometimes under the moniker Maria Gomes.  It’s a highly aromatic grape, somewhere in the realm of Gewurztraminer and Viognier, though fairly gentle (Alsace aficianados: think of Klevener de Heiligenstein).  I liked this wine though it didn’t shine quite as brightly for me as the two whites above.

Full details here

B.O.E.T. 2017 (14.0%, RRP ~ €36)

BLANKbottle B.O.E.T. 2017

It’s fairly well known among wine geeks that South Africa’s signature variety Pinotage was created as a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut (the Rhône’s Cinsault, then known as Hermitage in South Africa).  This wine is something of a family reunion as it features all three grapes, though Pinotage is dominant with small amounts of Cinsaut and Pinot Noir.  On the nose I would never have guessed this to be a Pinotage blend – my best guess would perhaps have been a Languedoc red.  The palate is lighter, with medium body, lithe red fruit and good acidity.  This is the perfect example of BLANKbottle’s labelling philosophy – those who would be put off by the varieties might well love this wine if tasted without knowing.  I certainly loved it!

Full details here

My Koffer 2018 (13.5%, RRP ~ €37)

BLANKbottle My Köffer 2018

This is single vineyard Cinsaut (without the “l” as usually spelt in South Africa) – a variety known for high yields and large berries which is often used to make rosé or inexpensive bulk red wine.  It’s not a grape I taste as a single varietal very often, but if it’s as good as this then I definitely should.  The nose is all cherries, following through onto the palate where they are joined by exotic spices.  The finish is pleasantly dry.

Full details here

My eie Stofpad 2017 (14.5%, RRP ~ €38)

BLANKbottle My eie Stofpad 2017

This wine is principally Cabernet Franc but also has a splash of Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec, all from different vineyards, so it’s technically a Bordeaux blend.  It tastes nothing like a Bordeaux, with thick mouthfeel and ripe blackcurrant fruit.  There’s a savoury edge as well plus fine grained tannins.  An excellent wine.

Oppie Koppie 2017 (14.5%, RRP ~ €39)

BLANKbottle Oppie Koppie 2017

This lovely Syrah reminded me of St Joseph or Hawke’s Bay on steroids – but not as ripe and juicy as most Aussie Syrah/Shiraz.  Perhaps we (I) just just stop with the comparisons and say it’s a great example of South African Syrah.  Whole bunch fermentation is used in varying degrees depending on the vintage (and in particular how ripe the stems are) – for this 2017 80% was whole bunch.  2017 was the first vintage that a little Syrah from Swartland and Cinsaut from Breedekloof were added to the main Syrah from Voor-Paardeberg, all for additional complexity.  The result is a fantastic red wine that is rich yet fresh, full of black and red fruit and spice, but no jamminess.

Full details here

B.I.G. 2017 (14.5%, RRP ~ €41)

BLANKbottle B.I.G. 2017

This is a single varietal blend; if that sounds strange it’s because it’s made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes grown in eight different vineyards across South Africa.  Well, normally eight, from sea level up to mountain tops, except for the 2017 vintage which saw the fruit from two of the vineyards lost to smoke taint from fires – depicted on the label.  This is definitely a Cabernet Sauvignon but it’s not too far in character from the Cabernet Franc above, just a little richer and with more pronounced blackberry and blackcurrant fruit.  As you’d expect there are fine grained tannins to keep everything in check. A truly delicious wine.

Full details here

Tasting Events

Lidl France 2019 (part 2 – Reds)

While part 1 covered my favourite white wines from the Lidl France “sale”, this part 2 looks at reds from Burgundy, the Rhône, Bordeaux and the Languedoc:

Les Paroisses Côte de Beaune-Villages 2016 (13.0%, €16.99 at Lidl)

Les Paroisses Côte de Beaune-Villages AOP, €16.99

Les Paroisses” means “The Parishes“; it’s made from 100% Pinot Noir sourced from the southern part of the Côte d’Or, Burgundy.  Although I liked this wine I musty give it a health warning – it’s a bit stinky!  Although this funk is probably a fault (such as brettanomyces) it didn’t put me off – and there was plenty of red fruit on the nose as well.  It pours light in the glass as you’d expect from Burgundy.  The palate is soft and round, very inviting.  This is Proper Burgundy!

Comtes de Lorgeuil “Les Pierres” Cabardès 2016 (13.5%, €9.99 at Lidl)

Les Pierres Languedoc-Roussillon Cabardès AOP, €9.99

Cabardès is just inside the northwestern border of the Languedoc-Roussillon wine region, just north of the tourist trap that is Carcassonne.  As an AOC it is much smaller (500 ha) than its Languedoc neighbours Minervois (5,100 ha) or Corbières (15,000 ha), and due to its position between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, its vignerons are required to grow grape varieties from both coasts and blend them (with at least 40% of both) in the finished wine.

This wine has a slight Atlantic bias with 40% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon versus 30% Syrah and 10% Grenache.  It’s thick and chewy in the mouth, quite savoury with lots of black fruit.  It is a little bit rustic, but it’s charming too – a great winter wine to have with hearty food.

Château Roque le Mayne Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux 2017 (14.0%, €14.99 at Lidl)

Château Roque le Mayne Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux AOC, €14.99

Castillon-la-Bataille is on the north bank of the Dordogne, to the east of the much more famous Saint-Emilion.  It’s quite an up-and-coming sub-region at the moment, with quality rising all the time.  The blend is 80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Malbec.  It has a ripe, expressive nose with explosive black fruit.  The palate is rich, oaked and smooth – there are lovely soft tannins.  A very fruity wine, but still recognisably Bordelais.

Collin-Bourisset Coteaux Bourguignons Rouge 2018 (14.0%, €8.99 at Lidl)

Collin Bourisset Coteaux Bourguignons AOP red, €8.99

As I mentioned in part 1, Coteaux Bourguignons can be red or white and covers the whole of Beaujolais and Burgundy proper.  Collin-Bourisset is based in Beaujolais so it makes sense that this is 100% Gamay.  It has a typical Gamay nose of blueberries and damsons.  It has a juicy palate of red and black fruit and very soft tannins.  It’s quite a light wine with decent acidity so perfect for lunchtime with a platter of charcuterie.

Dame de Clochevigne Rasteau 2018 (14.5%, €9.99 at Lidl)

Rasteau Dame de Clochevigne AOP, €9.99

Now “Cloche” means “Clock” and “Vigne” means “Vine” so does “Clochevigne” mean “Vineclock“?  Perhaps we could ask the Dame.  The southern Rhône is GSM territory and this Rasteau fits that template perfectly: 76% Grenache, 22% Syrah and 2% Mourvèdre.  The juicy red fruit is thick and chewy – it’s a meal all in itself.  Black olive and liquorice finish keep a savoury edge.  Drink with a spoon!

Vinsobres Cru des Côtes du Rhône 2017 (14.5%, €9.99 at Lidl)

Cru des Côtes du Rhône Vinsobres AOP, €9.99

This Vinsobres is pretty similar to the Rasteau above, perhaps a touch softer.  The blend here is 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah and 10% Mourvèdre.  The extra year it has compared to the Rasteau really helps the wine to settle and relax, though decanting (a simple jug is all that’s really required) would help the strawberry and raspberry fruit to shine.

Tasting Events

Liberty Portfolio Tasting 2019 (part 4 – New World Reds)

“New World” is not a great term as it basically means “outside Europe”, so it includes many different countries which are different in style.  Just for convenience, it allows us to look at a selection wines from California, Central Otago, Southern Australia and Ningxia, all available from Liberty Wines.

Pine Ridge Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 (15.0%, RRP €72.99 at Blackrock Cellar; The Corkscrew; La Touche Wines, Greystones; McHugh’s; Redmonds of Ranelagh; Terroirs)

Pine Ridge Vineyards CabSauv NapaValley

I’ve been a fan of the Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc / Viognier blend for some time (see review here) but as this is Napa then the Cabernet is the real deal.  Pine Ridge Vineyards was first established in Stags Leap District in the late 70s with a single vineyard next to a – you guessed it – pine ridge.  Their vineyards now number 12 and total 80 hectares over five Napa sub-zones: Stags Leap District, Rutherford, Carneros, Howell Mountain and Oakville.  Pine Ridge produce a number of different wines, including several from individual sub-zones, but this is a blend across the five.

This bottle is labelled as a varietal Cabernet Sauvignon but that is 91% of the blend, with the balance made up by 6% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc.  35% of the 2016 was aged in new American oak for 18 months, giving creamy vanilla to go with the blackcurrant, cherry and blackberry notes.  This is a big, lush, heady wine that is not light and shouldn’t be taken lightly.  It’s not for those who like racy reds but it’s imposing and delicious.

New Kanaan Pretty Pony 2013 (14.0%, €52.99 at Cinnamon Cottage, Cork; The Corkscrew; The Malt House; Mitchell & Son; Terroirs)

Kanaan Winery, `Pretty Pony` FS

Ningxia is of course the most important Chinese region for wine.  Some years ago I reviewed Château Changyu Moser XV 2008 which had an abv of 12.5% and was reminiscent of old school Bordeaux (think mid ’90s).  The Pretty Pony is a very good wine, regardless of origin. It has oak, lovely black fruit and is already showing a nice bit of development.  This is not like old school Bordeaux – this is like modern Bordeaux!

Akarua “Rua” Central Otago Pinot Noir 2017 (14.0%, RRP €29.99 at Avoca; Baggot Street Wines; Blackrock Cellar; Clontarf Wines; The Corkscrew; Mitchell & Son; Red Nose Wine; 1601, Kinsale; www.wineonline.ie)

Akarua Rua Pinot Noir

When Central Otago Pinot Noir began to enter into the consciousness of wine drinkers it was almost the opposite of Marlborough Pinot – big, bold and powerful – with alcohol to match.  It was almost a Pinot Noir for Cabernet drinkers – no bad thing in my eyes as Cab is my favourite black grape – but times, and the wines, have changed.  Now elegance and balance are to the fore, without losing the intensity that made them such a hit in the first place.  This is a great example of Central Pinot – especially for the relatively modest price.  It has a core of ripe red fruit and a slight smoky, savoury edge that gives it some seriousness.

Burn Cottage Central Otago Pinot Noir 2016 (13.5%, RRP €69.99 at The Corkscrew; www.wineonline.ie and good independents nationwide)

Burn Cottage Central Otago Pinot Noir

Another Central Pinot, but totally different in style.  Burn Cottage has been practising biodynamic since the first vines were planted in 2003, and there is a low intervention approach to winemaking.  Whole bunch fermentation allows the wine’s aromas to develop fully – it smells…special, for want of a better term.  This is a fine, fine wine which delights all the senses but the mind too.

Mitolo “G.A.M.” McLaren Vale Shiraz 2015 (14.5%, RRP €39.99 at Blackrock Cellar; www.wineonline.ie and good independents nationwide)

Mitolo GAM Shiraz

Like many McLaren Vale vineyards, Mitolo has Italian roots through its founder Frank Mitolo.  It also has an influx of German genes through winemaker and business partner Ben Glaetzer, scion of the Barossa producer Glaetzer wines.  The Mitolo portfolio is split into three ranges: Jester, Small Batch and Single Vineyard.

The G.A.M. Shiraz was the first wine produced by Mitolo; it’s not an alternative to GSM which is prevalent in the Vale, but actually stands for the initials of Frank’s three children, Gemma, Alex and Marco.  The fruit is sourced from a vineyard belonging to family friends and fellow Italian immigrants the Lopresti vineyards, in particular their “Chinese Block”.  As it’s located at the bottom end of McLaren Vale, the block benefits from cooling sea breezes.  The vines are over 40 years old and are planted on a type of clay.  Fermentation is kept on the cool side to preserve fruit flavours and then fermentation is in French oak (30% new, 70% used) for 15 months.  Only at that point are barrels given final selection for inclusion in the G.A.M. Shiraz.

Aussie Shiraz is a great crowd-pleaser but this is way above that – it has phenomenal structure and intense, opulent-but-not-jammy black fruit.  The Jester Shiraz is a great introduction to the style at a little over half the price of the G.A.M., but I’d argue that the latter is more than twice as good and represents great value at this price point.

Grosset Gaia Clare Valley 2014 (14.0%, RRP €66.99 at good independents nationwide)

Grosset Gaia

Grosset are best known for their Rieslings, especially the Polish Hill and Springvale bottlings, but they also make some great reds too, including a Pinot Noir and this “Gaia” Bordeaux blend.  I say Bordeaux blend though its precise proportions of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc would rarely be found in the Gironde.  At five years old this 2014 still has bright berry, blackcurrant and plum fruit.  It does have a dry leathery side, with grippy tannins and good acidity.  As this is Clare there is of course a screwcap closure; a challenge to the Bordelais to catch up?  This will be drinking well for years and years.

 

Liberty Portfolio Tasting 2019

Tasting Events

Super French Wines (part 1)

The end of summer in Ireland means it’s time for SuperValu’s French Wine Sale, running from 5th to 26th September in store and online.  As well as the usual favourites there will be a dozen “Special Guest Wines” which are available for a limited time only – marked with *.

Part 2 will look at some great Bordeaux wines from the sale; this part 1 looks at some of the others I enjoyed:

La Petite Perrière Sauvignon Blanc Vin de France 2018* (12.5%, €11.99 down to €9.00 at SuperValu)

La Petite Perriere Sauvignon Blanc

For this cuvée La Perrière blended Sauvignon Blanc grapes from their home in the Loire with others sourced from the Languedoc and the Gers, adding ripe southern fruit to crisp Loire grapes.  In my view this has been very successful as overall it presents appealing ripeness with a fresh finish.  The nose and palate reflect the Gs: gooseberry, grapefruit and grass.

La Petite Perrière Rosé 2017* (11.5%, €11.99 down to €9.00 at SuperValu)

La Petite Perrier Rose

It is rare for me to recommend a rosé, and outside of quality sparkling or excellent wines like Domaine Tempier of Bandol, I actually prefer the simpler, cheaper wines to the fancier ones.  This doesn’t have a celebrity owner or producer, but it’s accessible and affordable, with appealing red fruit and a fresh finish.  Why can’t more rosés be like this?

Alma Cersius Coteaux de Béziers Rouge 2017* (13.5%, €14.99 down to €10.00 at SuperValu)

Diapositive 1The IGP Coteaux de Béziers is in the Languedoc’s Hérault department and up until 2015 was known as Coteaux-du-Libron, the change effected for better name recognition.  The IGP regulations are very wide in terms of permitted grape varieties, but the three used here are among the most well known: 50% Syrah, 25%Merlot and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon.  This is a fruit forward wine with very soft tannins, showing blackcurrant, plum and raspberry notes.  A great quaffing wine to have in the cupboard when friends pop round for a drink.

Coteaux du Giennois Alchimie 2018 (13.5%, €14.99 down to €10.00 at SuperValu)

Alchimie White.jpg

In years past I have reviewed the 2014 and 2015 vintages so it’s fair to say that it’s a favourite.  The vines are on sandy soil, deposited when the Loire was broader and slow-moving at the edges.  This makes for a soft, gentle wine which it great for sipping.  Wild yeast fermentation adds a bit of interest.

Guy Saget Sancerre 2018 (13.0%, €19.99 down to €15.00 at SuperValu)

Guy Saget Sancerre

Into more serious territory now, a wine aged for seven months on the lees in stainless steel tank.  This is an expressive wine with a slightly saline, mineral character backed up by floral notes and tangy fruit.  The 2018 vintage is drinking now but if well kept should develop nicely over the next few years.

Guy Saget Pouilly-Fumé 2016 (12.5%, €19.99 down to €15.00 at SuperValu)

Guy Saget Pouilly

From Sancerre we now cross directly from the left (southern) bank of the Loire to the right bank and Pouilly-Fumé.  Sancerre has a more rolling landscape and more diverse soils, whereas Pouilly-Fumé is flatter, and also closer to the river.  We also have an additional two years of bottle age with this 2016, which shows white flowers and green fruit in an elegant package.

Simonnet-Febvre Crémant de Bourgogne NV* (12.0%, €26.99 down to €19.00 at SuperValu)

Cremant-de-bourgogne-Brut

This was one of my highlights of the tasting, an excellent traditional method sparkling from the Chablis area (the black grapes coming from the Auxerrois).  Simmonet-Febvre is in fact the only producer of Crémant de Bourgogne in the far north of Burgundy and has been making it since 1840.  The blend is 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir, with the wine resting on its lees after the second fermentation for 24 months.  This is notably well in excess of the 9 months required for non-vintage crémant and even the 15 months required for NV Champagne.  On pouring it has a nice weight to it, with citrus and red fruits lifted by some bready notes.  A classy wine!

Mégalithe Sancerre 2016* (12.5%, €29.99 down to €22.00 at SuperValu)

La Perrière Sancerre Blanc Mégalithe_2016

Now we have a different beast entirely.  Of course this is 100% Sauvignon Blanc but 40% of the must is fermented (with wild yeast) and matured in new French oak.  Over this eight to nine month period the fine lees are stirred regularly.  The other 60% is vinified in stainless steel and the two batches blended before bottling.  It has a little more weight and funk than the Guy Saget wines above but not that much compared to, say, Greywacke Wild Sauvignon.  This is a gentle, gorgeous wine that will drink well now and for the next few years.

Louis Latour Meursault 2017* (13.5%, €59.99 down to €42.00 at SuperValu)

Louis Latour Meursault

As long as I have been into wine Meursault has been a premium wine with a premium price.  After the Montrachet twins it’s the next most celebrated white wine commune of the Côte de Beaune, with a reputation for medium to full bodies oak-aged wines.  Louis Latour’s history goes back to 1797 and has been in family hands ever since.  Outside of the Côte d’Or the firm also owns Simmonet-Febvre (see above) and produces wines in the Ardèche.

The Louis Latour 2017 Meursault is fermented in oak barrels where it also goes through MLF.  Maturation is also in medium toast oak barrels (from its own cooperage), 15% of which are new.  This is a generous wine with lovely heft and mouthfeel, full of soft fruits and a touch if vanilla from the oak.  2017 is a fairly accessible vintage but if put away for another year it would be even more of a treat.