Opinion

A Dozen Valentine’s Treats

Valentine’s Day is associated with romance, and hence the colour pink.  This often means that rosé wines are promoted at this time of year, but as they aren’t generally my thing I thought I would recommend a dozen wines of differing hues from O’Briens, who are offering 10% back on their loyalty card (or wine savings account as I call it).

These wines are mainly higher priced for which I make no excuse – these are treats for yourself and / or your significant other!  Of course, they would make a nice treat for Mother’s Day or at any time of year…

Chateau Kirwan Margaux Troisième Cru 2010 (€95.00)

Chateau-Kirwan-2010

The last of Bordeaux’s fantastic four vintages within eleven years (2000, 2005 2009, 2010) allows this Margaux to show its class but be more approachable than in leaner years.  You could keep this for another decade or two if you didn’t want to drink it yet.  Decant for several hours after opening if you can, and serve with beef.

Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (€62.00)

Penfolds-Bin-407-Cabernet-Sauv

One of Penfolds’ top Cabernet Sauvignons which combines power, fruit and elegance. 2010 happened to be a great vintage in South Australia as well, so if you’re climbing the quality tree it’s a good time to do it.  Being a Cab means it’s all about cassis, intense blackcurrant aromas and flavours, with some vanilla to go with it.

1757 Bordeaux 2012 (€49.99)

1757-Bordeaux

This is a very interesting wine for the geeks out there as it is a custom blend of parcels from well known appellations from around Bordeaux including Paulliac, Graves and Canon-Fronsac.  It was created by JM Cazes group winemaker Daniel Llose and O’Briens Head of Wine Buying Lynne Coyle MW.  Oh, and it tastes wonderful as well!

Ata Rangi Crimson Pinot Noir 2013 (€27.95)

Ata-Rangi-Crimson-Pinot-Noir

Ata Rangi is one of stars of Martinbrough, an hour or so drive from Wellington in the south of New Zealand’s North Island.  Crimson is their second wine intended to be drunk while young rather than laid down, but it is first rate in quality.  Beats any Pinot from France at this price point.

Lanson Rose Label NV (€57.95 down to €45.00)

 

Lanson-Rose-Label-NV

This isn’t a token rosé, it’s a proper Champagne which happens to be pink.  Lanson’s house style is based on preventing / not encouraging malolactic fermentation in the base wines, meaning they remain fresh and zippy even after the secondary alcoholic fermentation which produces the fizz.  Texture is key here as well, and the lovely red fruits have a savoury edge.  You could even drink this with pork or veal.  Great value when on offer.

Beaumont des Crayeres Grande Réserve NV Champagne (€36.95 down to €30.00)

Beaumont-des-Crayeres-GR

Another Champagne which is even less expensive, but still a few steps above most Prosecco and Cava on the market.  The regulations for non vintage Champagne stipulate a minimum of 15 months ageing on the lees, but the lovely toasty notes from this show it has significantly more than that.  Punches well above its price.

L’Extra par Langlois NV (€19.99)

L_extra-par-Langlois

The Loire Valley is home to a multitude of wine styles, including Crémant (traditional method sparkling) such as this.  Made from internationally famous Chardonnay and local speciality Chenin, it doesn’t taste the same as Champagne – but then why should it?  The quality makes it a valid alternative, not surprising when you learn that it’s owned by Bollinger!

Graham’s Port LBV 2009 (€22.99)

Grahams

Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) is a great way to get into serious quality Port without paying the full price for Vintage Port.  Whereas the latter is bottled quickly after fermentation and laid down for many years, LBV spends time maturing in casks.  There it slowly loses colour and tannin but gains complexity.  Graham’s is one of the most celebrated Port Houses and their LBV is one of the benchmarks for the category.

Chanson Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2010 (€60.49)

Chanson-Chab-GrandCru-Les-Clos

Grand Cru Chablis is a very different beast from ordinary Chablis.  It’s often oaked, though sympathetically rather than overpoweringly, and can develop astounding complexity.  Among the seven (or eight, depending on who you ask) Grand Crus, Les Clos is often regarded as the best of the best.  At just over five years from vintage this is still a baby – it would be even better in another five years but it might be impossible to resist!

Château-Fuissé les Brûlés 2012 (€42.00)

Ch-Fuisse-les-Brules

Pouilly-Fuissé is probably the best appellation of the Maconnais, Burgundy proper’s most southerly subregion which borders the north of Beaujolais.  The white wines here are still Chardonnay, of course, but the southerly latitude gives it more weight and power than elsewhere in Burgundy.  Oak is often used in generous proportions as the wine has the fruit to stand up to it.  This Château-Fuissé is one of my favourites from the area!

Greywacke Wild Ferment Sauvignon 2013 (29.95)

Greywacke-Wild-Ferment-Sauvignon

It’s a Sauvignon Blanc, but then it’s not just a Sauvignon Blanc.  Kevin Judd was the long time winemaker of Cloudy Bay, finally branching out on his own a few years ago.  The wild yeast and partially oaking give this a very different sensibility from ordinary Sauvignons.  It’s not for everybody, but those that like it, love it!

Man O’War Valhalla Chardonnay 2011 (€29.45)

Man-O_War-Valhalla-Chardonnay

One of my favourite New Zealand wines, full stop.  I have mentioned this wine several times over the past few years…mainly as I just can’t get enough of it!  It’s made in Waiheke Island in Auckland Bay so has more weight than, say, a Marlborough Chardonnay, but still enough acidity to keep it from being flabby.  Tropical fruit abounds here – just make sure you don’t drink it too cold!

 

 

 

 

 

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Make Mine A Double

Make Mine a Double #07 – A Brace of Fine Burgundies

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CEaxHlSWYAAT3_V.jpg
https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CEaxHlSWYAAT3_V.jpg

The folks at SuperValu, an Irish supermarket chain, were kind enough to invite me to their secret summer wine tasting event; it was probably the best setting I could imagine to show off the wines, most of which were being shown by their wine-maker.  As we slowly emerge from recession, SuperValu and their head wine buyer Kevin O’Callaghan are keen for consumers to see that the store carries far more than everyday, cost-conscious plonk.

I would have counted myself a sceptic before the event, though mainly on the grounds that there isn’t a SuperValu store convenient for me, but the event opened by eyes (and my mouth I guess) to some delicious wines.  Of the producers present at the event, the one whose wines I liked the most overall was André Goichot from Beaune in Burgundy. Hence I was delighted to receive some more wines to taste at my leisure at home.  Here are a couple of my favourites:

André Goichot in Beaune, Burgundy
André Goichot in Beaune, Burgundy

André Goichot Montagny “Domaine Les Guignottes” 2013 (€€22.99 down to €18.00, SuperValu) 13.0%

André Goichot Montagny Les Guignottes 2014
André Goichot Montagny Les Guignottes 2014

Montagny is in the Côte Chalonnaise subregion of Burgundy, below the famous vineyards of the Côte d’Or but above the newly trendy Maconnais.  It is something of a forgotten part of Burgundy, but does have Rully and Montagny amongst its better appellations:

Côte Chalonnaise vineyards (Credit: DalGobboM¿!i?)
Côte Chalonnaise vineyards (Credit: DalGobboM¿!i?)

Wine drinkers who are used to varieties on the front label will search in vain here – such is the French way – but it’s 100% Chardonnay.  At first you might not even recognise the grape if you’re used to New World oak monsters, even if they have toned things down over the past decade.  There is some body and texture here, but it’s all about freshness and zingy citrus fruit.  A very refreshing wine which is lovely on its own, with seafood, or even with poultry if not too chilled.

André Goichot Pouilly-Fuissé “Les Feuilles d’Or” 2014 (€22.99 down to €18.00, SuperValu) 13.0%

André Goichot Pouilly-Fuissé “Les Feuilles d’Or” 2014
André Goichot Pouilly-Fuissé “Les Feuilles d’Or” 2014

Pouilly-Fuissé is an area surround those two villages in the Maconnais, the most southerly subregion of Burgundy proper.  Given the latitude there are more ripe, tropical notes common here, though still with a backbone of acidity running through.  This has melon and pineapple, but still some racy citrus.  There’s a very mild oak influence – just a tiny hint of toasted coconut – far less than other examples I’ve tried from down there.  Compared to some it’s lean and refreshing, not fat at all, with some minerality. A very well executed wine.

Here’s a clip of the garden party tasting event – see if you can spot my half second cameo:

Tasting Events

My Favourites from the James Nicholson Christmas Portfolio Tasting (Part one)

James Nicholson is an award-winning wine merchant based in Northern Ireland.  For over 35 years he has been supplying wines wholesale, to restaurants and to the public, all over the island of Ireland.

James Nicholson, Crossgar
James Nicholson, Crossgar

I was recently invited to their “Meet The Winemakers” tasting event in Dublin – a great opportunity to speak to the people who produce the wine, and of course to taste it!

Although it was difficult to narrow it down, here are a few of the sparkling and white wines that I really liked:

Quinta Soalheiro Alvarinho Espumante 2012 (€28.50)

Quinta Soalheiro Alvarinho Espumante 2012
Quinta Soalheiro Alvarinho Espumante 2012

Heading south from Rías Baixas in Galicia takes you over the border into Portugal and Albariño becomes Alvarinho.  All good so far – and I often prefer the Portuguese stuff.  But what’s this – a fizzy version?

Made by the traditional method, i.e. there’s a second alcoholic fermentation in bottle, this is fresh and fruity – and it’s real rather than artificial fruit.  This might sound a bit silly – but it tastes just like you’d expect a fizzy version of Alvarinho to taste!

This is an excellent aperitif – and a refreshing different taste. 

Nino Franco Prosecco San Floriano 2012 (€30.50)

Nino Franco Prosecco San Floriano 2012
Nino Franco Prosecco San Floriano 2012

Nino Franco’s Primo Franco recently won the trophy for best Prosecco in Tom Stephenson’s “Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships”.  The fact that there is a Prosecco category at all is not a sop to the producers of off-dry fruity pop, but rather it’s recognition that Prosecco can be a serious sparkling if the producer wishes.

Produced from a single vineyard after which it is named, San Floriano is made by the Charmat (or tank) method like all other Prosecco, but has four months on the lees while in tank, and therefore picks up a little autolytic character.  It’s also dry and savoury, so it tastes like a serious wine – you could easily drink this with a meal as well as the usual aperitif.

Gusbourne Estate Blanc de Blancs 2009 (€46.99)

Gusbourne Estate Blanc de Blancs 2009
Gusbourne Estate Blanc de Blancs 2009

My favourite wine of the whole tasting!

The Gusbourne Estate in south east England dates back to 1410, though sparkling wine production has a much more recent history – the first vintage was in 2006!  The main vineyard is on a south facing ancient escarpment in Appledore, Kent.  The soil are clay and sandy loam slopes – you might expect chalk given the proximity to the White Cliffs of Dover, but it does mean that Gusbourne copes better with wet weather and drought.

Blankety-blanks (as I childishly call them) are sometimes on the simple side but this spent a full three years on the lees which gives it lots of lovely bready characters, in addition to lemon sherbet from the Chardonnay.  Being an English sparkler it has lots of zippy acidity with a dosage of 10.5 g/L for balance (I guessed 10 – 11, can’t get much closer than that!)  This style of wine makes a great aperitif or goes wonderfully with seafood.

Villa Wolf Gewürztraminer 2013 (Loosen Estate) (€14.99)

Villa Wolf Gewürztraminer 2013
Villa Wolf Gewürztraminer 2013

Although I’m a huge fan of Alsace wines, sometimes I find the Gewurztraminers made there a little dry for my tastes.  Just like Pinot Gris, I prefer my Gewurz to have a little sweetness on the finish to match the richness of the mid palate.  This off dry German Gewürztraminer (note the umlaut over the u) ticks all the boxes for me!  The most aromatic of varieties, the nose is instantly recognisable, with rose petals and lychees jumping out of the glass.  Added to these on the palate is Turkish Delight.

Gewürz is something of a marmite variety, but this is an excellent introduction.

Château Beauregard Pouilly Fuissé Vers Cras 2011 (€37.00)

Château Beauregard Pouilly Fuissé Vers Cras 2011
Château Beauregard Pouilly Fuissé Vers Cras 2011

One of the first things aspiring wine geeks learn is the difference between Pouilly-Fumé and Pouilly-Fuissé; although they’re both French and white they are stylistically very different.  The former is one of France’s top two Sauvignon Blanc areas, just over the river from the more celebrated Sancerre.  Pouilly-Fuissé is the most important appellation within the Mâconnais, the most southerly region of Burgundy proper.

Compared to the much more prestigious Côte d’Or, The Mâconnais has gentler slopes and mixed agriculture – and being a bit further south it gets more sun, so its grapes tend to be riper.  Accompanying that is a tendency to use oak barrels quite liberally, especially in the better appellations, so the wines become more New World in style.  Although the producer is still very important, Pouilly-Fuissé and St-Véran are white Burgundies that I would happily order from a restaurant wine menu without recognising the maker.

Château Beauregard is one of the top producers of Pouilly Fuissé.  Its standard 2012 bottling (€28.75) is showing very nicely now, but I would be a little more patient and pick up the single vineyard Vers Cras.  Although a year younger it had a lot more time in oak and so is not yet quite fully integrated.  There’s lots of tropical fruit and toasty vanilla from the barrel ageing.

It’s not the currently fashionable cool climate style but it’s a wine I’d happily drink all evening from big fishbowl glasses.

Dog Point Section 94 Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (€30.00)

Dog Point Section 94 Sauvignon Blanc 2010
Dog Point Section 94 Sauvignon Blanc 2010

This is Marlborough Sauvignon Jim, but not as we know it.

For those who don’t know Dog Point, the founders James Healy and Ivan Sutherland are both ex-Cloudy Bay.  As well as producing their own wine they sell grapes to other winemakers, including former colleague Kevin Judd who makes his Greywacke wines in their facility.

NZ Sauvignon can be sometimes be summed up as “the light that burns twice as bright burns half as long” – it has riotous explosions of fruit in its youth but fades quickly.  This elegant example from Dog Point is designed to age and evolve positively.  It spent 18 months in older French oak barrels so has plenty of texture and refinement.  It has the tropical fruit of regular Savvy plus peach and other stone fruit – it’s just such a pleasure to drink.  There’s a funky edge from the wild yeast, and as malolactic fermentation was blocked there’s plenty of fresh acidity.

 

Part two looks at a few of my favourite reds from the tasting!