Opinion

Wine Review: Reds from the 2023 SuperValu French Wine Sale

The 2023 edition of the SuperValu French Wine Sale is upon us. As last year, some German wines are included, specifically those from producer Albert Glas. This post will cover five of the red wines which are among the 40 included in the sale which kicks off on Friday 1st September. They hail from Bordeaux, the Rhône and the Pfalz.

Albert Glas Black Label Pinot Noir 2020

Albert Glas Black Label Pinot Noir 2020 Bottle Shot

As I mentioned in the sister post on the white wines in the 2023 SuperValu French wine sale, Dominik Glas follows the techniques of his grandfather Albert. Overall, 2020 was a good vintage in the Pfalz, with some frost in the the spring which impacted yields, but overall left a good quality crop. The grapes in different plots all ripened around the same time which made harvest time very pressured.

After 100% hand picking, the grapes are macerated and fermented in 600 litre bins, with gentle push-downs by hand and no pumping over. Maturation then takes place in both Pfalz (80%) and French (20%) oak barrels for 12 to 18 months.

This is archetypal European Pinot Noir. Is has the typical light colour, quite different to the other wines below. It is, however, full of flavour, with cherry and other red fruits, spice and a lick of oak. It’s still young, with refreshing acidity, but is an elegant light wine that’s perfect for the late summer sun.

  • ABV: 13.0 %
  • RRP: €12 down from €20
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

Château Lacombe Cadiot Bordeaux Supérieur 2020

Château Lacombe Cadiot Bordeaux Supérieur 2020 Bottle Shot

Château Lacombe Cadiot is one of six Bordeaux properties owned by the Belgian De Schepper family under the De Mour banner. De Mour also has a negotiant business but do not sell their own wines through that system, instead establishing more direct relationships. The first property acquired was Tour Baladoz (see below) in 1950, and the latest was Lacombe Cadiot which was added in 2004.

Lacombe Cadiot’s wines are classed as Bordeaux Supérieur, a prominent red Bordeaux appellation, but they are unusual in being from the Médoc; only 4% of Supérieur vineyards are in the Médoc, with the remainder mainly being in the Entre-Deux-Mers and north of Libourne. In fact, Lacombe Cadiot and its sister property Château Tayet (another Bordeaux Supérieur from close to Macau) are known as “Baby Margaux”. De Mour aim to make fresh, drinkable wines that can still age – the best of both worlds.

This 2020 is made of 60% Merlot*, 30% Cabernet-Sauvignon and 10% Petit Verdot from 15 hectares of vines. That’s quite a high proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon for an AOC Bordeaux / Supérieur, partly due to the vineyards’ location and partly because 2020 was an excellent vintage in Bordeaux – the third in a row in fact – which is when Cab Sauv tends to shine. After pressing and fermentation, the wine matured for 12 months, 60% in barrels (including 25% new) with 40% in vats.

In the glass it’s a very deep red in colour, almost black. The nose is heady, with deep black and red fruits, plus some tobacco notes. The palate is soft and voluptuous. Intense fruit is framed by silky, soft tannins. It makes for a very approachable, quaffable wine, one that can be drunk on its own or with food, one that can be consumed now or kept until the end of the decade.

I’ve tried several vintages of this wine over the years, but this is the best one yet.

    • ABV: 14.0%
    • RRP: €13 down from €16.99
    • Source: sample
    • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

Château Tour Baladoz Saint-Émilion Grand Cru 2020

Château Tour Baladoz Saint-Emilion Grand Cru 2020 Bottle Shot

In contrast to the top wines of Bordeaux’s Médoc, which are often from large estates and need years to enter their drinking window, those of the right bank – Saint-Émilion and Pomerol – are often from smaller estates but are approachable at an earlier age. Saint-Emilion also has a completely different classification system, one that is somewhat merit-based and is revised every ten years, rather than being ossified in 1855.

Château Tour Baladoz was recently promoted to Grand Cru Classé status with effect from the 2022 vintage. The evaluation process included the tasting by a professional panel of ten different vintages on five different occasions, so it would be fair to say that this 2020 vintage is of Grand Cru Classé quality, if not status.

Tour Baladoz’s nine hectares of vineyards are 105 metres above sea level, which doesn’t sound very high, but as Bordeaux is a maritime region it’s one of the higher points. 70% are on a limestone plateau with 30% on gentle slopes. There’s a thin layer of clay over the limestone, adding a touch of power to the latter’s freshness. Vine roots have even pushed beneath the limestone into the Château’s underground cellars.

The blend is a full house of traditional black Bordeaux varieties (excluding the new experimental varieties): Merlot* (75%), Cabernet Franc (10%), Cabernet Sauvignon (5%), Petit Verdot (6%), Malbec (2%) and Carmenérè (2%). After fermentation, the whe wines are aged for 15 to 20 months in French oak barrels from 10 different cooperages, including 70% new barrels.

Even on the eye it is apparent that this is an intense, young wine. The nose is fragrant and complex, with red and black fruits, vanilla, smoke, graphite and even a touch of aniseed. The palate is very primary at this stage, with powerful plum, blackberry and vanilla. There’s a dusting of dark chocolate on the finish, which also shows grippy tannins.

It’s obvious that this is going to be a spectacular wine, but it’s just not ready yet. The component parts are a little disjointed, and the alcohol is a little too obvious. For those who buy bottles to lay down for a few years this is worth buying, but for immediate drinking I would be cautious.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €30 down from €44.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

Granits Saint-Joseph 2021

Granits Saint-Joseph 2021 Bottle Shot

Saint-Joseph is a “Cru” or prestigious appellation from the Northern Rhône – Vallée du Rhône Septentrionale in the local lingo – and hence is Syrah based – 100% Syrah in fact. It’s actually my go-to AOC in the Northern Rhône as it offers a great mix of quality and affordability. Côte Rôtie and Hermitage wines can be exceptional wines, but so can their prices.

This wine is made from vines on granite soils in the north of the AOC, close to Condrieu. Harvesting was all by hand and whole bunches were fermented together. For ageing the wine was split 50/50 between stainless steel tanks and used oak barrels. 2021 was a fairly wet and cold vintage for the Rhône, giving reds that are naturally high in acidity and can age gravefully for years.

At ony just twenty four months old this is indeed a young wine, with a bright purple rim and deep colour. The nose is typical Rhône Syrah, showing blueberry and blackberry fruit, but also a sniff of menthol and eucaplyptus. That fruit is very evident on the palate, along with parma violets (violet flavoured sweets, for those not familiar). It’s quite a tannin wine which gives the drinker three options: put it away for a few years, decant it for several hours, or drink it at the table with steak. If any of those options appeal, snap it up!

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €15 down from €25
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Domaine St. Patrice “Vieilles Vignes” Châteauneuf du Pape 2017

Domaine St Patrice Châteauneuf du Pape 2017 Bottle Shot
Still in the Rhône, but this time the Southern Rhône, we now have a wine from the world famous Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Apparently a favourite of James Joyce, Domaine St. Patrice’s vines total 40 hectares across several parcels, predominantly on sandy-clay soils. The Domaine makes three different wines: a “regular” CNDP, this “Vieilles Vignes” (Old Vines) bottling and a “Monopole” from the 1.8 hectare Clos St Patrice which is solely owned by the Domaine.

In a slight tweak to the usual GSM+ CNDP blend, although the relative percentages of the different varieties are not given, it appears to be a Grenache-Mourvèdre-Syrah blend, with a seasoning of little Counoise and Cinsault. Most of the vines are between 40 and 70 years old.

2017 was a warm, dry year with low yields. The wines made were naturally intense and concentrated. The low rainfal led to slightly delayed phenolic ripeness so harvesting was late in the season. Whole bunch fermentation was used for differeing proportions of the grapes depending on variety. Ageing is in a mix of large steel tanks and foudres.

At six years old this wine is nicely hitting its straps. In the glass, the rim is already brick red, heading towards garnet. The components are nicely integrated and the flavours are blossoming. Aromas are intriguing and enticing, with a bouquet garni embedded in sweet fruits. The palate is rich, round, but velvety soft. The alcohol is high (well this is a Châteauneuf-du-Pape!) but it doesn’t stick out jarringly.

This is a very attractive wine which performs well for its normal price of €40, but at €30 it’s a bargain. If ever there was a wine worth trading up to, this is it.

  • ABV: 15.5 %
  • RRP: €30 down from €40
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Conclusion

These wines vary significantly in style but all have their positives. The Albert Glas is light, fruity and gluggable, drinking well right now. The Saint-Joseph and Tour Baladoz both need time and / or food. For drinking now (or later), on their own (or with food), the two that stand out for me are the Lacombe Cadiot (classy but not snobby according to my friends Una and Peter) and the Saint-Patrice. Those are the two that will be going in my shopping trolley.

 


*sorry Jim

Tasting Events

Wine Review: Albert Glas

Albert Glas Never Compromise

This modern label and modern name present a light, fun wine that’s not designed to be taken too seriously. It’s a blend of Riesling, Muller-Thürgau and Sauvignon Blanc. Like all good blends, it’s more than the sum of its parts. Alcohol is modest and there’s a fair dose of residual sugar, but balanced with the inherent acidity it comes across as fruity rather than sweet. The nose has aromas of pear, peach, ripe red apples  and even mineral notes. On the palate it’s rich and round – heading for opulence but taking a last minute diversion with a crisp finish.

  • ABV: 11.5%
  • RS: 20.4 g/L
  • RRP: €10.00 down from €16.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Albert Glas Pfalz Brown Label Weissburgunder 2021

Albert Glas Tradition Weissburgunder Trocken 2020

Weißburgunder is better known as Pinot Blanc in Burgundy, Pinot Bianco in Italy and occasionally as Klevner in Alsace*. In Burgundy it lives in the shadow of Chardonnay, but elsewhere if treated well it makes some very enjoyable wines. And this is one of them.

In the glass it’s lemon to light gold, a little more colour than a Riesling for example. The nose is lovely, full of spicy pear with a touch of ripe peach and apricot. Fleshy, succulent round pear and peach feature on the palate, but with good acidity. Such sweet fruit, but with a fresh and dry finish.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RS: 8.8 g/L
  • RRP: €10.00 down from €14.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Albert Glas Pfalz Brown Label Grauburgunder 2021

Albert Glas Tradition Grauburgunder Trocken 2020

Grauburgunder is Pinot Gris in (most of)** France and of course Pinot Grigio in Italy. In Germany it is often made in a richer style, though not as sweet as in Alsace, and certainly not like the simple, fruity bulk Grigios of Italy. Poured side by side with the Weissburgunder, this is fairly similar in style…even more pearish, even spicier! It has the lovely dry mid palate that a good Gris should have. It has some complexity, subtlty and savouryiness. This is probably slightly less immediate on the palate than the Weissburgunder, so it’s more of a contemplative wine.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RS: 6.1 g/L
  • RRP: €10.00 down from €14.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Albert Glas Pfalz Black Label Sauvignon Blanc 2021

Albert Glas Black Label Sauvignon Blanc 2021

Yes, German Sauvignon Blanc! The variety does well in Germany, and indeed further south and east in Europe, though it’s obviously not as common as in France. It does need lots of attention, though, so as not to become a “diva”. 80% of the grapes are picked in the cool of early morning. They are kept cool with dry ice and in an oxygen-free environment until at the winery. They are pressed within an hour or two of arriving, with no cold maceration. The other 20% are harvested later over two or three additional passes in the vineyard.

There’s no mistaking the variety when smelling this wine; it’s all about gooseberry, grapefuit, grass and herbal goodness. The aromas are ripe, but not the full tropical explosion. It’s gentle on the palate, with fruit first and a fairly dry, herby finish, and a touch of sweetness balancing the acidity. This is nicely balanced and a different expression of Sauvignon Blanc – not French, not Kiwi, not Chilean; it has its own identity.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RS: 8.2 g/L
  • RRP: €12.00 down from €19.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Albert Glas Pfalz Black Label Riesling 2020

Albert Glas Black Label Riesling Trocken 2021

Riesling is Germany’s flagship grape, the one most closely tied to German wine in the mind of wine drinkers, with 105.000 hectares of vines. However, climate change has meant that some of the “best” sites which were previously reserved for Riesling might now be too warm for it.  This Black Label Riesling is harvested from vineyards which are not yet too warm, as evidenced by the alcohol (13.0%) and the residual sugar (not stated, but probably less than 10 g/L).

All the grapes are hand picked and undergo a cold maceration, so some of the flavour is transferred from the skins to the juice before fermentation begins. That takes place in a mixture of vessels, with both stainless steel and old large oak barrels used. The latter is not to impart flavour, but rather structure and texture. The two types are blended together after around six months.

The nose is unmistakeably Riesling, with citrus and floral notes. On the palate there’s red apple to add to the lemon, lime and flowers, plus a pithiness. The finish is dry, but this is not an austere wine that needs years before opening – it’s good to go now, though it will benefit from time laid down to evolve in complexity.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RS: n/a
  • RRP: €12.00 down from €19.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

Albert Glas Pfalz Black Label Chardonnay 2021

Albert Glas Black Label Chardonnay 2021

I showed this wine blind at DNS Wine Club, straight after the phenomenal Shafter Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay. Perhaps because it’s so different in style to the Shafer, no-one guessed that it was Chardonnay, though a few guessed it was German because of the high acidity. It just goes to show that no single style of wine is best for a variety.

It’s on the lighter side for a Chardonnay – think Chablis rather than Meursault, in weight terms at least – but very well done. There’s a certain pithiness which adds interest on top of the citrus and pip fruits. I think this will benefit from cellaring, if you’re able to keep your hands off it.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RS: 6.8 g/L
  • RRP: €12.00 down from €19.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Albert Glas Pfalz Pink Label Gewürztraminer Spätlese 2021

Albert Glas Pink Label Gewürztraminer Spätlese 2021

If you will forgive me for making yet another Alsace reference, the Spätlese reference on the front label is equivalent to Vendanges Tardives in French, that is, a late harvest wine. While the labelling regulations in Alsace are not as complex as in Germany, they both indicate that the wine is sweeter than normal.

When poured this Gewurz – sorry, Gewürz – is a bright lemon, but giving no indication of its sweetness. The nose is highly aromatic, mainly.  roses, with lychees and turkish delight only suggested; no gaudy monstrosity here. In the mouth it’s succulent and sweet, but not super sweet. This is a highly, highly drinkable wine.

  • ABV: 11.0%
  • RS: 39 g/L
  • RRP: €10.00 down from €15.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Albert Glas Pfalz Black Label Pinot Noir 2020

Albert Glas Black Label Pinot Noir 2019

If Riesling is rightly regarded as the King of German wine, then surely Pinot Noir is the Queen, whether known by that name or its synonyms Spätburgunder or Blauburgunder. Pinot Noir is probably at its best in Baden, the most southerly of Germany’s wine regions, but it can make good wine all over the country, especially with the effects of climate change.

Dominik Glas follows his grandfather’s methods, 100% destemming the grapes and fermenting in open top bins. He opts for manual punchdowns so that he keeps in touch with the progress of the wine. Fermentation usually lasts three weeks so that there is not excessive tannin extraction. Malolactive fermentation takes place in stainless steel then the wine matures in Pfalz oak, 80% old and 20% new. Overall the aim is to make a fresh and fruity Pinot Noir.

And they have succeeded! It’s fruity, easy to drink but with a savoury streak. It could be lightly chilled during summer or served at room temperature in autumn and winter. This is a great ambassador for German Pinot Noir.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RS: n/a
  • RRP: €12.00 down from €19.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

Conclusion

All these wines are great, especially at the sale prices. I would be happy with any or all of them. If I HAD to choose a few favourites, I’d probably buy the NeverCompromise and Grauburgunder to drink now and the Riesling and Chardonnay to keep for a while


Other articles on wines from the SuperValu French & German wine sale:

 

 

 

* The REALLY geeky among you will note that while Klevner is a synonym for Pinot Blanc in Alsace, Klevener is a synonym for Savagnin Rose, aka Traminer

** In Champagne and Alsace it is also known as Fromenteau

Make Mine A Double

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

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

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

Langlois L’Extra Crémant de Loire Rosé NV

Langlois L'Extra Crémant de Loire Rosé NV

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zull NiederÖsterrreich Lust & Laune Rosé 2021

Zull Lust & Laune Rosé

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

 


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

Information

Top 10 O’Briens Xmas Sale Wines

I’ve already given my recommendations on Christmas wines to buy from Aldi Ireland and SuperValu; now it’s the turn of O’Briens and my selection of five whites and five reds which are not just very good wines, but also on offer!

Guerrieri Rizzardi Lugana 2020

Guerrieri Rizzardi Lugana

Straight to the point: this an excellent example of Lugana, an excellent example of Italian white wine, come to that, so it’s definitely worth snapping up while on offer at around €15. For more details see my previous article on Summer Sippers, though to be honest I’d drink this whatever the season.

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RRP: €18.95 down to €14.95
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Astrolabe Awatere Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2021

Astrolabe Awatere Valley Sauvignon Blanc

Sometimes less is more. I’m a big fan of Astrolabe’s regular Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc which is a blend of fruit from across the region. Simon Waghorn’s Awatere Valley bottling is leaner, greeener and cooler in nature; it’s less exuberant, less obvious, less tropical, but damn tasty and a little more food friendly.

The nose is big on green pepper, fennel and mangetout, with hints of grapefruit. The palate is clean, mineral and racy; it is lightness personified, herbal and distinguished. While being more food friendly it doesn’t require food. Whether looking for a premium Marlborough Sauvignon or just a change of take on the region, this is well worth a try.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €22.45 down to €19.95
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Geal Rías Baixas Albariño 2020

Geal Rías Baixas Albariño

Some wines available at O’Briens are exclusive to them in Ireland, but even more exclusive are those made by O’Briens Director of Wine Lynne Coyle MW. One is a Navarra rosé (“Rós” which is Irish for “Rose”) made in partnership with Bodegas Tandem and the other is this Geal (the Irish for “White”) Albariño made with Sonia Costa Fontán of Bodega Lagar de Costa.

The 50 year old vines are from a single vineyard within spitting distance / sea spray of the Atlantic in Galicia’s Rías Baixas. The grapes are harvested by hand from pergola frames (to be honest it would be pretty difficult to get a tractor up there) which have traditionally been used to let breezes get to the clusters and allow other crops to be grown underneath. Fermentation is with indigenous yeast and the wine matures on fine lees in a concrete egg – a shape which encourages circulation of the lees – for eight months.

Although wild yeasts are used there is no funk to this wine which you might expect from other wines which explicitly use wild yeast such as Greywacke Wild Sauvignon and Gai’a Wild Ferment Assyrtiko – it’s clean as a whistle. What it is not, however, is boring – there’s  blend of saline notes and orchard fruits on the nose, especially pear. The palate is wonderfully creamy yet still precise, with apple and pear balanced by touches of citrus on one side and white peach on the other. The finish is mouth-wateringly fresh.

The distinct salinity to this wine makes it an obvious choice to partner seafood, but it would be a treat with other light dishes or on its own.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €24.95 down to €19.95
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Delheim Stellenbosch Chardonnay Sur Lie 2020

Delheim Stellenbosch Chardonnay Sur Lie

I will be publishing an article on Delheim next year so I will save the juicy bits for that, but this is a terrific wine that is a great ambassador for South African Chardonnay. Like its sibling Chenin Blanc this wine sees plenty of time ageing in oak barrels, but it draws just as much character from lees stirring as the actual oak – hence “Sur Lie”. This isn’t one for Chablis fans but if you like a drop of Meursault (see below) then this is well worth a try.

Chanson Meursault 2018

Chanson Meursault

Before I’d heard of Montrachet and Corton-Charlemagne there was one white Burgundy AOC which stood out: Meursault. It wasn’t cheap then, as now, but remains somewhat accessible – especially when on offer. Chanson’s history dates back to 1750 but gained significant investment and additional distribution after its acquisition by Bollinger in 1999. Since then Chanson have expanded their own holdings from 38 to 45 hectares, but also brought in tighter quality control at the growers they work with.

The grapes for this 2018 Meursault are bought from four local growers, selected for a combination of elegance and depth. As you’d expect maturation is in (French) oak barrels, though the proportion of new oak is modest. The influence of the oak is noticeable on the depth of colour – it’s a lovely light gold. The oak and lees also make themselves known on the nose, though not intrusively so. The palate is generous but mineral, nutty and creamy yet with gentle orchard fruits. Decant if you can.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €55.00 down to €46.00
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Porta 6 Lisboa Red 2019

Porta 6 Lisboa Red

This is the party wine you buy in bulk when guests are going to be supping away without paying too much attention to what they’re drinking, but you don’t want to be rude and drink something different yourself: i.e. a great value red that pleases the crowd. Check out my previous review of Porta 6 for the full story and get yourself a bottle, box or case.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €12.95 down to €10.00
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie (Magnums only online right now)

Emiliana Novas Syrah Mourvèdre 2017

Emiliana Novas Syrah Mourvèdre Gran Reserva

I will have more to report on the Emiliana Novas range in due course, but this organic red blend is a flagbearer for the label. In the glass it’s almost opaque, unless you’ve just got a tasting pour which reveals a deep ruby red. The nose is phenomenal with deep, sweet-scented black fruits – blackberry and blackcurrant – with smoke, vanilla and spice also present. The palate also has a big lick of black fruit, but not at all jammy or over-the-top sweet; the 15% Mourvèdre adds a tapenade and liquorice savoury edge. Drying yet fine-grained tannins and acidity keep the keel even.

This is a really well put together, balanced, interesting and delicious wine. At €16.95 it’s good value, but at €12.95 it’s a steal!

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €16.95 down to €12.95
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Eddystone Point Tasmania Pinot Noir 2018

Eddystone Point Tasmania Pinot Noir

Tasmania is known for its cooler climate wines, especially Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and traditional method sparkling based on that pair of grapes. Tasmanian wine aficionados might be familiar with the wines from Tolpuddle; they are excellent, though priced accordingly, and somewhat shy in their youth. Eddystone Point’s Pinot Noir does not suffer the same reticence – it has bright red fruits just bursting with flavour, tinged with exotic spice. There’s a real polish to this wine without any sense of confecture or manufacture; thrilling acidity keeps the fruit and the finish vitally fresh.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €24.95 down to €20.95
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz 2018

Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz

Penfolds has always been an iconic producer for me since I caught the wine bug in the 1990s. Bin 28 was actually the first ever “Bin” wine given a commercial release by Penfolds, back in 1959. At that time it was based solely on fruit from the Kalimna vineyard in the Barossa Valley; now it is a blend from several vineyards across South Australia, though the Barossa core remains. Whereas Bin 389 Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz is sometimes known as “Baby Grange” or “Poor Man’s Grange” because some barrels which don’t quite make the cut for Grange can be included in that wine, similarly any Shiraz barrels which don’t make it into the Bin 389 can also be included in the Bin 28 as they are all matured in American oak, and so remain on style.

And what style! There’s no mistaking the origin of this wine when assessing its aromas: blackberry, plum, violet, vanilla and spice co-mingle delightfully. Black fruits are joined with fresh raspberries, thyme and rosemary plus dark chocolate on the palate, with lightly drying tannins and good acidity providing a backbone. This is lovely to drink now, but would benefit from decanting or storing for a few more years.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €37.95 down to €29.95
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores

Gérard Bertrand Maury Tuilé 2010

Gérard Bertrand Maury Tuilé

Maury is one of the trio of Vin Doux Naturel appellations in the Roussillon region (French Catalonia), the others being Rivesaltes and Banyuls. They are fortified before fermentation has finished to leave some residual sugar – hence the term which means “Naturally Sweet Wine” – somewhat similar to Port. Unlike, say, a Vintage Port which is foot trodden, fermented and bottled quickly, the grapes for this Maury spend a month in vat before being gently pressed. While Port uses its champion indigenous varieties this is made with 100% Grenache Noir, a gentler, lighter and less tannic grape. After pressing the wine spends a year ageing in barrel then a further year ageing in bottle before release.

Although it hasn’t spent a decade in barrel, this Maury is closest to a Tawny Port in style. It’s a dark amber in the glass and has wonderful aromas of spice and dried fruits. To taste, it’s almost Christmas in a glass: quite sweet, raisins, plums, nuts and mixed peel, a good shake of cinnamon. The French would drink this as an aperitif, but it makes much more sense to go with seasonal desserts or even a box of chocolates – I can confirm it was magnificent with salted caramel truffles!

  • ABV: 16.0%
  • RRP: €22.95 down to €19.95
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores (larger stores only at present)
Information

5 of the Best Aldi Wines for Xmas

The Irish branch of Aldi have an extensive range of special wines released for the festive period. Here we have five which have impressed me: two French fizzes (one a Blanc de Blancs and one a blanc de Noirs), a pair of Loire Sauvignon Blancs and a Tawny Port to finish off the evening. All wines tasted were samples.

Specially Selected Crémant du Jura Brut 2018

Specially Selected Crémant du Jura Brut NV

It’s back! For how long is not known, so grab it while it’s here. Aldi’s remarkable Jura Blanc de Blancs is not always available but it’s one of the best value sparklers on the market. It’s made from 100% Chardonnay in the Jura region on France’s eastern border. Jura is actually one of the few French regions outside Burgundy that does still and sparkling Chardonnay really well – though it is home to other grapes and styles.

The nose is a full on citrus experience, with touches of golden delicious apple and melon to round it off. The palate is bright and creamy with depth and no little complexity. The finish is fine, long and crisp. This could serve equally well as an aperitif with nibbles, with seafood or even on its own. In other times this has been our house fizz at this time of year – there has always been a bottle or two in the fridge to share with any visitors. Given the times we are in, I suppose I’ll have to drink it myself!

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RRP: €13.99
  • Stockists: Aldi Ireland stores and aldi.ie

Champagne Philizot Blanc de Noirs Brut NV

Champagne Philizot Et Fils Blanc de Noir Brut NV

So here we have a true Champagne made as a white sparkler (Blanc) from only black grapes (de Noirs). In fact both Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier – the two main black grapes of Champagne – are used in equal proportions. Producer Philizot et Fils also make Aldi’s staple Veuve Monsigny which has scored very well in recent high profile blind tastings. To be honest I’ve liked Veuve Monsigny when I’ve tried it but wasn’t blown away – which is fair enough for €20 in Ireland. Is this more premium offering any better?

Yes, yes it is.

The nose is wonderful, with yeasty, toasty brioche drawing you in and delicious red fruit notes partiying up your nose. It’s quite a decadent nose, actually, which is a good thing in a quality fizz. In the mouth it’s immediatel creamy and rich, yet balanced by crunchy green and softer red apple acidity. The finish is like tangy, fresh red fruits wrapped in a custard pastry – just delicious!

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RRP: €13.99
  • Stockists: Aldi Ireland stores

Specially Selected Pouilly Fumé 2019

Specially Selected Pouilly Fumé

The first of our Loire Sauvignons is from the second most famous SB appellations in France: Pouilly-Fumé is on the eastern bank of the Loire (where it runs almost due north) opposite Sancerre on the western bank. It pours as a very pale lemon, but the nose is more expressive; initially it’s more reminiscent of a sweet shop than a winebar, with fruit polos and pear drops. These then give way to aromasof gooseberry and hay, with hints of green pepper. In the mouth this Pouilly-Fumé manages to be quite round yet tangy at the same time; it’s clean and fresh but has some body and plenty of green fruit flavours. This is very good for the price; it’s perhaps a little short but everything else is in order.

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RRP: €13.99
  • Stockists: Aldi Ireland stores and aldi.ie

Winemaker’s Lot Chasseaux & Fils Sancerre 2019

Winemaker's Lot Sancerre

To the other side of the river now and the most famous Sauvignon Blanc appellation of all. This wine is from Aldi’s new “Winemaker’s Lot” series which consists of just ten premium wines from key regions. Now €14.99 is not a premium price for an independent, but for a low cost supermarket like Aldi this is probably close to twice its average bottle price.

And on opening it proves to be a different beast entirely to the Pouilly-Fumé above. It looks similarly pale in the glass but on the nose it shows  ripe and succulent green and tropical fruits – grapefuit and pineapple, guava and hints of mango. On the palate it’s quite tight and mineral initially, but opens up to reveal both fruit and a certain wild yeastiness. This is top flight stuff! A small word of caution: to a palate with broad experience such as mine this is a very good wine, but there plenty of people who would prefer the cleaner Pouilly-Fumé.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €14.99
  • Stockists: Aldi Ireland stores

Fletcher’s 10 Year Old Tawny Port

Fletcher's 10 Year Old Tawny Port

Laate Bottled Vintage (LBV) was always my go-to style of Port, but in recent years I’ve been beguiled by the charms of good Tawny Port. Tawny Ports are made from black grapes and then aged in wooden barrels for a number of years before bottling. That might be three years for a basic Tawny, seven years for a Reserve or longer with an age statement such as this 10 Year Old. Maturation in barrel leads to both evaporation – intensifying flavours – and oxidisation – giving a different aspect to the wine entirely. I haven’t heard of Fletcher’s outside of Aldi so they might be a private label.

So, onto the wine itself. Whereas a Ruby or Vintage Port might be opaque, this is lighter, and dark amber or light mahogany would be a good descriptor. The nose is heady – it does weigh in at 20% abv after all – and shows a full range of dried fruits and nuts. In other words, it smells like Christmas pudding with a splash of good brandy on it! These aromas flow through onto the palate, which is medium sweetness. It could pair well with those lovely Christmas desserts, with strong hard cheeses or even with some savoury courses that have some sweet elements to them.

And best of all, being a Tawny Port means that once opened it will keep well in the fridge for several months – if you can keep your hands off it!

  • ABV: 20.0%
  • RRP: €13.99
  • Stockists: Aldi Ireland stores

 

 

Make Mine A Double

Wine Review: Henri Bourgeois Sancerre Rosé and Cabernet Franc

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

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

Henri Bourgeois Sancerre Les Jeunes Vignes Rosé

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

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

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

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

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

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

Henri Bourgeois Petit Bourgeois Cabernet Franc 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Uncategorized

Wine Review: Louis Latour whites in the SuperValu French Wine Sale

I’ve already offered my thoughts on the De Mour Bordeaux wines in the SuperValu 2021 French Wine Sale, so now it’s the turn of the whites from Louis Latour. These are all guest wines courtesy of Irish importer / distributor Febvre, and so are not normally available in SuperValu.

My article in April on Latour’s Grand Cru Corton Charlemagne gave a brief overview of the Louis Latour stable; this article includes wines from three of the six divisions.

Simonnet-Febvre Crémant de Bourgogne Brut NV

Simonnet-Febvre Crémant de Bourgogne Brut NV

Simonnet-Febvre is a venerable and venerated Chablis house founded in 1840 and purchased by Latour in 2003. It is the only Chablis estate to produce sparkling wine, and reportedly Louis Latour himself celebrated the acquisition of a vineyard in 1891 by cracking open three bottles of Simonnet-Febvre. Better than buying from the Champenois?

The assemblage is 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir, and the dominance of the former is notable on both the nose and the palate; the nose shows piercing lemon and lime and fresh citrus is evident in the mouth. There is a creamy aspect to this fizz, most likely from some time ageing on fine lees. A fairly low dosage of 7 g/L keeps freshness to the fore.

Warning: if you try this as an alternative to an “extra dry” Prosecco you might well find this Crémant too sharp (it has more acidity and around half the sugar of such Proseccos. However, if you prefer fresher, drier wines then this might well be your cup of tea. It would be great as an aperitif or with freshly shucked oysters – and it’s an absolute steal at €18.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €18.00 down from €29.99 from Thurs 2nd Sept to Wed 22nd Sept 2021
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Louis Latour Grand Ardèche Chardonnay 2019

Louis Latour Grand Ardèche Chardonnay

This wine is from Latour’s outpost in the…erm…Ardèche. It was established in 1979 with a simple Chardonnay, using Burgundian expertise to craft balanced wines in a different environment. The unoaked “Ardèche” wine was followed up by the first vintage of the Grand Ardèche in 1985. Fermentation and ten months’ maturation take place in oak barrels, 80% used and 20% new.

Oak really comes through on the nose, with lovely vanilla, toast and almonds. The nuts continue onto the palate which has texture, depth and great length, yet is perfectly balanced and poised.

This wine is made outside Burgundy but epitomises what great white Burgundy can be – all at a seriously bargain price.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €18.00 down from €22.99 from Thurs 2nd Sept to Wed 22nd Sept 2021
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and SuperValu.ie

Louis Latour Chablis 2018

Louis Latour Chablis

Chablis has become something of a commodity for many people – it’s a brand in itself and often receives more recognition than producers’ name. Nearly all Chablis share certain characteristics: they are usually fresh and / or lean, with apple and citrus aspects. Some just stop right there, and there’s nothing wrong with those, especially if the price is right and the drinker just wants a simple, unoaked Chardonnay.

But some can offer more, much more – Julien Brocard’s La Boissonneuse is a great example of how good even AOC Chablis can be. I would put this wine in the same category; still unoaked and fresh but not lean, and most of all a fabulous intensity…the kind of intensity that makes you stare into the wine glass in wonder, before swiftly having another taste.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €20.00 down from €29.99 from Thurs 2nd Sept to Wed 22nd Sept 2021
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Louis Latour Meursault 2018

Louis Latour Meursault

Meursault is the largest prestige AOC for white wine in the Côte d’Or and has been one of my favourites for over two decades. The wines are usually somewhat oaked and generous, though rarely dripping with butter as the archetypal Aussie Chard used to be, and develop earlier than the neighbouring (and even more prestigious appellations of Puligny- and Chassagne-Montrachet.

Latour’s Meursault is made with grapes grown on limestone soils then barrel fermented and matured for around ten months. If this sounds familiar then it’s the template that Latour used for the Grand Ardèche above. It’s a delicious yet subtle example, elegant and balanced yet with a profound depth of flavour. It’s not going to convert many of the ABC club but it’s a magnificent wine that Chardonnay and Burgundy lovers should seek out.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €45.00 down from €65.00 from Thurs 2nd Sept to Wed 22nd Sept 2021
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and SuperValu.ie

Conclusion

It really comes down to price; if someone else is paying then my hand would go straight up for the Meursault as it’s the best wine of the four, though even with the significant sale reduction it is far from cheap. If I’m spending my own meagre pennies then it’s really a toss up between the Chablis and the Grand Ardèche – both are excellent wines and great value for money at the offer prices.

Single Bottle Review

Wine Review: 19 Crimes 2020 Red Wine

19 Crimes is an Australian wine brand with a range of inexpensive, everyday wines that are available at supermarkets and other multiples.  This isn’t the normal type of wine that features on Frankly Wines, but as it’s so popular I thought it worth trying to see why so many people buy it.

I don’t know if the owners of 19 Crimes – Treasury Wine Estates (TWE) – set out to deliberately compete with the likes of Yellowtail and Barefoot, but that’s what they appear to be aiming at. The brand is built around the story of certain crimes which were punishable by deportation from Britain and Ireland to Australia in the late 18th and 19th century.

Each bottle is sealed with a cork – unusual for Aussie wine nowadays – with one of the 19 Crimes written on it. Encouragement to collect them all?  The front labels each feature a famous convict; eight from transportation times plus Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr. aka Snoop Dogg in a celebrity tie-in.

19 Crimes cork

Also of note is the innovative use of a proprietary app which makes each label “come alive”. Fair enough, this might be something of a gimmick, but wine needs innovative packaging and marketing for the mass market.

.From 29th April to 19th May the 19 Crimes Red Wine and Sauvignon Block [sic] are included in SuperValu’s wine offers.  Here are my notes on the former:

19 Crimes South Eastern Australia Red Wine 2020

19 Crimes Red Wine
This Charming Man

So, enough about the label and branding, what’s the wine like? It pours a medium intensity cherry red, implying that this is no blockbuster red. One website I found listed the varieties as Shiraz, Pinot Noir, Grenache, and Cabernet Sauvignon, and it’s the middle two grapes which give it the lighter hue.

The nose initially hits you with sweet vanilla, under which blackberries and fudge compete for attention. The palate is rich, full of vanilla and toasty oak, cherries, chocolate, dark berries, spice and caramel. I don’t have a tech sheet but the richness is obviously partly due to a good dose of residual sugar.

Similar to the Dada Art Series 1 I reviewed back in 2017, this is a wine made for pleasure and designed to match what many people actually like drinking.  Most wine drinkers – especially in the Irish market – will swear blind that they only like dry wines, but if there’s an off-dry finish to a red wine like this they won’t complain if they’re not told and don’t notice themselves.

For my personal taste, this wine is a little too confected and clumsy. But I’m not the target market, and I suspect that most people who buy it will like it – which is exactly the point!

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €14.99 down to €10 at SuperValu from 29th April to 19th May 2021
  • Source: Media sample

Opinion

Producer Profile: Pegasus Bay of Glasnevin

Pegasus Bay sign

Waipara and North Canterbury

When it comes to naming New Zealand’s wine regions, the significant region which is most often forgotten or overlooked is North Canterbury, close to the major city of Christchurch on the South Island.  North Canterbury includes the sub-region of Waipara which is more often seen on wine labels (though not to be confused with Wairarapa which is at the bottom of the North Island and includes Martinborough).  I’m not sure why Canterbury is overlooked – perhaps because it doesn’t specialise in Sauvignon Blanc? – but some great wines are made here.

Not too dissimilar to Marlborough which is further north on the South Island, Waipara is situated in the rain- (and wind-) shadow of the Southern Alps and is close to the sea, giving temperate summers with cool nights and dry autumns which allow grapes to achieve full phenolic ripeness as their own pace.  The most important varieties here are Riesling and Pinot Noir, though other aromatic whites and Chardonnay also do well.

To show how the terms can be used interchangeably, note that the sign above mentions Waipara whereas the website banner states “Fine North Canterbury Wine” under “Pegasus Bay”

Background to Pegasus Bay

It started with a doctor reading a book.  The doctor was Neurologist Ivan Donaldson and the book was one of Hugh Johnson’s wine books, “Wine”, given to him by his then girlfriend Christine.  The book lit a fire within him; he journeyed round many of Europe’s well-established wine regions, and on his return he planted Canterbury’s first vines in 1976.  This first vineyard was in Mountain View, just south west of Christchurch, and was very experimental in nature.  Ivan managed to fit in his wine hobby in between hospital and private consulting work.

Almost a decade later, Ivan and Chris decided to make the jump from a hobby to a proper enterprise.  By now they had four sons, so it was a combined family effort to plant vines in the Waipara Valley.  They named their winery Pegasus Bay after the large bay running from the City of Canterbury up to the mouth of the Waipara River.1

The first vintage was 1991 which Ivan made in his garage.  The family gradually expanded the winery, cellar door, restaurant and gardens.  All four sons are now involved in the winery, with the eldest – Matthew, a Roseworthy graduate – being chief winemaker.  As well as estate wines under the Pegasus Bay label the Donaldsons also make Main Divide wines from bought in fruit.

Pegasus Bay Wine Styles and Philosophy

In a nutshell, Pegasus bay wines have something of a Burgundian sensibility but they reflect Waipara and the vintage in which they are made.  In a interview that Ed Donaldson gave for the Wine Zealand Project2 in 2016 he expounds the family’s philosophy:

So what drives us is – hopefully – making better wine all the time

One of the advantages [we have is that] my brother Matt’s taken over the winemaking so he has a lot of time to experiment, and to tweak, and to change, and see the wines age, and the vines getting some vine age, and just seeing what works and what doesn’t work, and continually trying to evolve and make better wine.

Our winemaking style is to be true to ourselves, not trying to emulate anything.  We have a lot of respect for the old world and its wine styles.  We as a family drink a lot of wine from all over the world but we’re not necessarily trying to emulate them, we’re trying to make the best example of what we think expresses the region and the season as best we can.  Trying not to follow trends, we try to make the best wine we can and find a home for it.

We’ve been members of the Sustainable Winegrowers Programme pretty much since its inception, and we make wine as naturally as possible.

Pegasus Bay Wine Ranges

There are two main ranges, Estate and Reserve.  The Estate wines are (obviously) made only with their own fruit, and although they are perhaps the junior wines in the Pegasus Bay portfolio they are not what you or I would call “entry level”, which has connotations of lower quality, simpler wines for drinking very young.  Make no mistake, the Estate wines are seriously good.

The Reserve range is a significant step up again, in both quality and corresponding prices.  This range includes two botrytis sweet wines; a Semillon Sauvignon blend reminiscent of Sauternes and a Riesling which evokes the Rhine.  The Reserve wines are named with an operatic theme as Chris Donaldson is an opera devotee.

The Vengence range has just two experimental wines whose composition varies from year to year.  They are totally different in style from the main two ranges; they are fun and quirky rather than being serious.  They give the winemakers the opportunity to play around with different vineyard and winery choices that they couldn’t just jump into with the main ranges.

  • Estate: Sauvignon/Semillon, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Muscat, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot/Cabernet, Malbec
  • Reserve: Bel Canto Dry Riesling, Aria Late Picked Riesling, Virtuoso Chardonnay, Prima Donna Pinot Noir, Maestro Merlot/Malbec, Encore Noble Riesling, Finale Noble Semillon Sauvignon
  • Vergence: Vergence White (Semillon blend), Vergence Red (Pinot Noir)

Wines in bold are reviewed below

Pegasus Bay Chardonnay 2017

As with most of Pegasus Bay’s vines, this Chardonnay is harvested from vines which are mainly ungrafted.  The vines now average 30 years old and are planted on rocky soils which are free draining and low in fertility. These facts all lead to lower yields but with concentrated flavours.  The climate is warm, rather than hot, yet with cool nights, so the growing season is long.

I mentioned above that there’s a Burgundian sensibility to Pegasus Bay wines, but in the case of this Chardonnay the winemaking is definitely Burgundian in nature.  Multiple passes were made to hand harvest the fruit at optimum ripeness.  The grapes were whole bunch pressed then transferred to 500 litre oak barrels, 30% new and 70% used.  Spontaneous fermentation took place in these puncheons and the young wine was left to mature on its lees over winter and spring.  Malolactic fermentation started naturally into the summer months, with the winemaking team halting it based on regular tasting to get the balance between fresh malic and round lactic acids.

When poured this Chardonnay is a normal lemon colour.  On the nose there are citrus fruits but they initially take a side seat to outstanding “struck-match” reductive notes.  There are also soft yellow fruits and a stony mineral streak.  The palate is magnificent, a really grown up Chardonnay that balances fruit, tanginess, minerality, freshness, texture and roundness.  This is one of the most complete Chardonnays I’ve had the pleasure of trying in many years.

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €38
  • Stockists: Donnybrook Fair, Donnybrook; The Corkscrew, Chatham St.
  • Source: media sample

Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir 2016

This 2016 pours a medium intensity ruby red, consistent across the glass.  The nose has lots of fruit, more black than red; the black fruits appear at first (blackberry and black cherry) but gradually cede attention to red (red cherry and pomegranate).  Enticing savoury notes and spice complete the olfactory picture.  It’s a very sophisticated and complex nose that deserves – nay demands – frequent revisits.

The palate is savoury and fruity in taste.  Those same black fruits come to the fore but with black liquorice and black olive counterpoints,  Fine grained tannins and acidity provide a fantastic structure, but this is a supple and sappy wine, not austere.

The alcohol is little higher than we usually see in a Pinot Noir, but the 14.5% does not stick out at all when tasting.  This is a well-balanced wine, albeit a powerful one.  When it comes to food pairing, Pinot Noir is often matched with mid level meats such as veal or pork – and to be fair this would be excellent with charcuterie – but this has the weight and intensity to match well with game, lamb or even beef.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €45
  • Stockists: 64 Wine, Glasthule; World Wide Wines, Waterford: The Corkscrew, Chatham St; Donnybrook Fair, Donnybrook; La Touche Wines, Greystones; D-Six, Harolds Cross
  • Source: media sample

Pegasus Bay Encore Noble Riesling 2008

Pegasus Bay have four Rieslings in their portfolio, as befitting a top Waipara producer:

  • The Estate Riesling is produced every year
  • The Bel Canto (Reserve) Dry Riesling has a little botrytis and is made in two out of every three years, depending on vintage conditions
  • The Aria (Reserve) Late Picked Riesling is a late harvest style that often has a small proportion of Botryis grapes and is made roughly one on two years, vintage dependent
  • The Encore (Reserve) Noble Riesling is only made with fully botrytised berries, often requiring multiple passes, and of course when there are sufficient grapes in a particular vintage.

Only in very exceptional years such as 2008 and 2014 are all four styles made.  The Riesling vines are on a rocky outcrop which has warm days but very cool nights, helping to maintain acidity and thus preserve freshness.

As the pure botrytis (and therefore sweetest) Riesling in their range, Pegasus Bay liken it in style to a Séléction de Grains Nobles (SGN) from Alsace or a Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA) from Germany.  When harvested the grapes are totally shrivelled and so produce a very small amount of juice – but such luscious juice!  After clarification the juice is allowed to ferment naturally; when the yeast finishes its task there is plenty of residual sugar, though the precise figure is not published.

On the nose it’s instantly identifiable as Riesling, but with honey and tropical fruits to the fore.  In addition to the pineapple, mango and grapefruit there are also hints of mushroom.  The palate is beautiful but perhaps confounding for the uninitiated – it’s rich and sweet yet full of acidity, giving your palate a smorgasbord of experiences.  The finish is amazingly long.

At 13 years of age this bottle has had plenty of development, possibly rounding off the acidity slightly while also tapering the apparent sweetness to some degree (the mechanism for which is not yet understood).  It still has plenty of life left though – it could easily keep to the end of this decade.

  • ABV: 11.0%
  • RRP: €35 for 2016 vintage (375ml bottle)
  • Stockists: currently no retail stockists, but available in some restaurants
  • Source: own cellar

Other Pegasus Bay Wines available in Ireland

In addition to the three wines reviewed above there are three further Pegasus Bay wines available in Ireland

  • Sauvignon / Semillon: RRP €29, Stockists: Barnhill Stores, Dalkey; The Corkscrew; Jus De Vine, Portmarnock
  • Bel Canto Dry Riesling: RRP €35, currently no retail stockists, but available in some restaurants
  • Prima Donna Pinot Noir: RRP €75, Stockist: The Wine House, Trim

 


Frankly Wines and Pegasus Bay

Now, those who follow me on Instagram may realise that I live in the Dublin suburb of Glasnevin, also home to the National Botanic Gardens, the Irish Met office and the large Glasnevin cemetery.  It was therefore a huge surprise when, while touring New Zealand on honeymoon, we suddenly realised that we were driving through Glasnevin, Canterbury.  And where was our first stop?  Pegasus Bay, of course!

Yours truly, about to go through the entire Pegasus Bay range at their Cellar Door.
…and afterwards, very happy with his purchases to be supped on the journey round the South Island.

1Ironically Pegasus Bay was originally known as “Cook’s Mistake” – I’m glad I didn’t find that out on my honeymoon!

2Taken from the YouTube video A Day In Pegasus Bay  Any transcription errors are my own.

Tasting Events

Lidl’s September Wine Cellar – “French B” Reds

Lidl Ireland are introducing some limited release French wines in their stores from Thursday 24th September 2020 in what they are calling their “September Wine Cellar”.  I tasted the majority of them at the first press tasting since Covid first hit and can give them all a thumbs up.  They aren’t likely to win any major awards but they are very good value for money and give wine drinkers a chance to try something representative of a style they might not have tried before.

Here are my brief notes on four of the reds included in the event, from Burgundy / Bourgogne, Bordeaux and Beaujolais’s Brouilly:

Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2018

Just like its white counterpart in the first post of this series, this Burgundy Pinot Noir is very light when poured.  In these days of big-hitting Pinots from California and Central Otago there’s something comforting about an old school pale one.  The nose is greeted by spice – in fact it’s more spice-driven than fruity – but fresh redcurrant, raspberry and strawberry do make an appearance in the bouquet.  The palate is full of juicy rich red fruits, and a nice fresh finish.  This is amazing Pinot Noir for €11, especially from Burgundy!

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €10.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Château Margerots Bordeaux Supérieur 2019

Now to Bordeaux, the most famous red wine area in the world.  Although the famous Châteaux get the lion’s share of attention, the vast majority of Bordelais wine is much more modest…such as this Bordeaux Supérieur.  The Supérieur tag isn’t that meaningful these days, but the reds are normally quite drinkable Merlot-based blends.  The assemblage here fits that bill: 50% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot.  In fact there’s quite a lot of Cab Sauv for such a “Petit Château” – and it’s one of the reasons why this wine is so dark when poured, though still exhibiting a youthful purple tinge.  The nose is centred around a graphite core (typical from Cabernet Sauvignon) surrounded by tight black fruit.  The fruit opens up on the palate which shows juicy blackcurrant and plum, with a touch of leather and soft tannin on the finish.  What a great way to get into Bordeaux!

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €8.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Haut de Saint Laurent Haut-Médoc 2019

On to a slighter posher Bordeaux address (apologies if I’m chanelling Jancis), the Haut-Médoc.  This is the southern part of the Médoc peninsula, but in the centre rather than the eastern shore where the top end stuff is made.  Wines here tend to be 50% Cab Sauv and 50% Merlot / other grapes, but the only information available for this wine was that it consists of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.  Again this is quite dark in the glass; the nose is lifted with notes of cedar wood and blackberry.  The palate delights in lush but fresh red and black fruit; tannins  and noticeable though fine-grained.  This is real Bordeaux, though made in an easy drinking style.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €11.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Jean Desvignes La Croix des Célestins Brouilly 2019

Brouilly is one of Beaujolais’s ten crus, the best villages which carry their own name on the label (and, unhelpfully for casual wine drinkers, Beaujolais isn’t mentioned at all).  The name La Croix des Célestins comes from the cross of a monastic order called the Celestines (in English), a brand of the Benedictines whose founder became Pope Celestine V.  As with all red Beaujolais (white wines account for only 3%) this Brouilly is made form 100% Gamay.  The colour in the glass is middling in intensity, somewhere between the Bourgogne and the Bordeaux.  The nose has lovely red and black fruit, so enticing.  The palate is juicyyyy! Intense blueberry and blackberry run the show here, with a dry finish.   This is a really nice easy-drinking red.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €11.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Star Pick

It’s hard to pick a favourite from these wines, especially the first three, but in the end my top pick is the Bourgogne Pinot Noir.


Lidl’s September Wine Cellar Posts: