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

Wine + Music

The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series #1 – Sinéad Smyth

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.

Kicking off the series is Sinéad Smyth, a fellow Dubliner (see her bio below).  For Sinéad’s wine I chose Mullineux Syrah from South Africa; this was one of the highlights of the Mullineux tasting I attended at the South African Embassy in Dublin last year with Kinnegar Wines, and it also showed very well at the DNS Wine Club South African tasting.

The track I chose for Sinéad was the French club hit “Music Sounds Better With You” by Stardust, an offshoot of Daft Punk.  I loved this song when it came out and it remains one of the songs which will call me onto the dancefloor, no questions asked!.

Mullineux Syrah

Mullineux Range Syrah

Hailing from Swartland just an hour away from Cape Town, Mullineux Syrah is a multi award-winning wine. Located in the Western Cape of South Africa, Swartland is renowned for its Syrah & Chenin Blanc. Winemaker Andrea Mullineux was awarded Wine Enthusiast’s International Wine Maker of the Year in 2016. Mullineux Syrah gives a true expression of the terroir of the area; Schist, Shale, Granite, Quartz & Iron soils make up the vineyards. Their approach to winemaking involves minimal intervention, with only minimal amounts of sulphur added in the cellar. Mullineux wines are unfined and unfiltered, which I think is a little like jazz music. Sometimes it can be a little bit underappreciated which is why I choose Baby I’m a Fool by Melody Gardot to pair with this wine.

It’s a smooth jazz number that at first listen, sounds like a simple refined tune, but if you listen back you’ll hear layers upon layers of individual elements that combine to make one easy listening song.

This silky Syrah is elegance defined. Half its grapes have been whole bunch fermented, giving it a strong backbone of tannins. Open an hour before you drink and allow this supple wine to open up fully, and while you do let yourself listen back to Melody Gardot’s mellow voice envelope your mind. Mullineux Syrah is a wine to be savoured, it’s a special wine that deserves your full attention, so I think this song is the perfect match!

The song begins with the most wonderful arrangement of strings, with soft notes gently rising and falling until a brief pause before a solo guitar plays, gently plucking its strings as the singer’s raspy voice joins.

Andrea Mullineux said she believes Syrah expresses the site on which it’s grown unlike any other variety, and that’s exactly what good jazz does. It makes you feel the emotions of the music. So uncork that bottle and pop on your favourite records.

Stardust – Music Sounds Better With You

When this song was released I was just 8 years old! I remember hearing it on the radio and throughout my house as my 3 older brothers made mix tapes (remember mix tapes? Waiting for your favourite song to come on the radio and the race to press record!). Every time I hear this song it makes me want to dance. The heavy beat of the drum and the repeating upstrokes on the guitar, it’s almost impossible not to bob your head or tap your feet along to the music.

To pair with this dancey, upbeat tune I thought of a tipple that would be perfect for parties and is a crowd-pleaser. Something that you can easily sip and raise a glass with while boogying down on the dance floor. I’ve chosen Casa di Malia Prosecco DOC from Boutique Wines. Produced in the Botter Winery (close to Venice) the grapes for their wines come from Tenuta Divici which is a collection of family-owned vineyards (all certified organic), on the hills around the area of Treviso.

Botter Prosecco

It’s crisp and full of refreshing citrus flavours of lemon zest and crisp green apple on the nose. Made with 100% Glera grapes this wine is organic with an ABV of 11% – so you won’t trip over your dancing shoes anytime soon.

While it would be nice with light appetisers or shellfish I think it’s the perfect aperitif. It’s light, fresh and well balanced. I also love the easy to reseal closure on the bottle, plus the label is absolutely beautiful.

Sinéad Smyth

Sinéad is a freelance food & travel writer from Dublin. With a BA in Culinary Arts and a Wine Spirit Education Trust Level 2 qualification this girl knows her food and wine. When she’s not feasting she’s exploring the world, seeking out the next great adventure. She has travelled extensively throughout Europe and even further afield to China and the Caribbean. You can find delicious food and travel inspiration on her site over at glamorousglobetrotting.com. You can also follow Sinéad’s adventures on Instagram and Twitter.

Tasting Events

Free Pour (Part 3 – Fizz)

For part 3, we now cover a trio of sparkling wines that most impressed me from Liberty Ireland’s portfolio:

Ca’ Morlin Prosecco Superiore Spumante Asolo NV (11.0%, RRP €29.99)

Asolo Prosecco Superiore.jpg

Although Prosecco continues to dominate the market for fizz in these parts, I usually don’t care for it; a single glass is often enough, and sometimes too much.  Prosecco Superiore DOCG is another kettle of fish – indeed another drink – entirely.  There are two main sub-regions – the larger Conegliano Valdobbiadene and the lesser known Asolo which we have here.  Quite simply this is one of the best Proseccos I’ve tasted, and while that might sound like being damned by faint praise, it isn’t – this is worthy of your attention.

Nyetimber Classic Cuvée MV (12.0%, RRP €61.99)

picture 86377

When Nyetimber brought out their 2009 vintage Classic Cuvée it was hailed as their best yet, as was the 2010 which followed.  The subsequent Multi-Vintage (MV) version was rated even better, and even Nyetimber fanbois such as myself could not help reserving a bit of skepticism for the claims – isn’t this what the Bordelais are wont to do?  The proof of the fizz is in the tasting, so to speak, and in my not-so-humble opinion the MV is on another level still from the already very good vintage Classic Cuvée.  Good enough, in fact, that it was the fizz I chose to celebrate my wedding anniversary on a trip away with my wife to The Twelve in County Galway.

For a touch of perspective, I recently retasted (drank!) the 2009.  With several years bottle age it now shows softly baked apples, caramel and cinnamon -what a divine combination!  The MV is obviously a little fresher in style but does show a little more red fruit character, despite the assemblage being broadly similar (MV: 60% Chardonnay / 30% Pinot Noir / 10% Pinot Meunier; 2009: 55% Chardonnay / 26% Pinot Noir / 19% Pinot Meunier).  For those who like good Champagne, this is in the same class as Charles Heidsieck and Bollinger.

Champagne Devaux “Cuvée D” NV (12.0%, RRP €67.99)

Cuvee D Champagne Devaux

Even though discussions on extending the permitted vineyard area for Champagne are (seemingly permanently) ongoing, it is noteworthy that some parts of the region are still recovering their former glory.  The southerly Côte des Bar is one such region, with a few key producers flying the flag like Drappier, Albert Beerens and Devaux.  Pinot Noir is king down here, with only around 10% of vines being Chardonnay and less than half that being Pinot Meunier (There are also minuscule amounts of Champagne’s other four grapes down here: Arbane, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Petit Meslier.)

For their top “Cuvées D” (plural because the bottle and magnum are a little different), 40% of the blend is Chardonnay from the Côte des Blancs (what better place?!), Vitry and Montgueux plus 60% locally grown Pinot Noir.  Only the finest first-run juice “cœur de cuvée” is used for the base wine, 90% of which is fermented in stainless steel and 10% in 300 litre old oak barrels.  The reserve wines are very interesting: a quarter of them are kept in a “perpetual cuvées” (sometimes called a “perpetual solera”, but there is only a single layer of barrels from which older blended wines are drawn and to which newer wines are added.)  The reserve wines make up 40% of a standard bottle or 50% of a magnum.  After the prise de mousse the wines are matured for five years (bottle) or seven years (magnum) – several factors in excess of the mandatory minimum 15 months!

It’s a while since I tried a bottle of Cuvée D but I can happily report that – en magnum – it is a magnificent wine, with a combination of freshness and mature notes, red fruit and citrus, with lots of lovely brioche.  Time to find myself a case of mags I think!

The Free Pour Series:

 

Single Bottle Review

Giorgia on my Mind [Frankie’s Single Bottle Review #18]

Giorgia

There’s so much dull Prosecco made that it could probably have its own lake in north east Italy, but a little searching can bring great rewards in terms of both outright quality and interest.  On one hand there are some fantastic Col Fondo Proseccos which are aligned with the natural wine movement and low intervention.  There are also some quality conscious producers – particularly in the DOCG areas of Conegliano, Valdobbiadene and Asolo – who strive for more interesting wines through planting on hillsides, harvesting at low yields and controlling quality.

One of Valdobbiadene’s innovators, Ca’ Salina, has chosen another route for one of its wines, using technology as a way to produce a cleaner wine:

Disclosure: sample provided for review, opinions my own

Ca’ Salina Giorgia Vino Spumante Brut 2016 (11.5%, RRP £17.99 from Just Perfect Wines)

Giorgia Brut

Ca’ Salina are located in the heart of the Valdobbiadene DOCG area and have an excellent reputation for quality.  However, this offering does not carry the DOCG label – or even the lesser DOC tag – due to innovative methods used in the production process.

The “Flotation Method” is designed to remove from the juice anything which isn’t directly from the grapes – yeast, bacteria, other fungi and anything else coming in from the vineyard.  Air is mixed into the must using a centrifuge pump which creates billions of tiny bubbles.  Their electrostatic charge attracts the impurities and so the bubbles and detritus all rise to the top as a dark foam over a perfectly clear juice.  This process takes a few hours, after which the foam is removed and selected yeasts are added to begin the second fermentation.

The purity of the must means that for this wine no sulphur is added at any part of the process.  Of course naturally occuring sulphites are still present, as in all wine, but at the very low level of 10 mg/L compared to the legal limit of 210 mg/L.  The dosage is on the light side at 8 g/L, making this a Brut.

And the most important part – the taste!  Firstly, this is unmistakably a sparkling wine from north east Italy, no matter whether it has the DOCG label or not.  Made from 100% Glera (the grape formerly known as Prosecco) is has lovely citrus and pear notes, with just a touch of biscuit and brioche.  The modest dosage allows the refined fruit to come through without being swamped in sugar and leaves a crisp finish.  This is better than pretty much all Prosecco you will find in a supermarket.

I don’t know if this new technique will catch on, but in the hands of a good producer such as Ca’ Salina it can make a very good wine!

Information, Opinion

brandinG wiNe

Celebrity wine is not a new thing and it doesn’t show any sign of slowing down.  among the “celebs” with their name attached to a wine are people from sport (golfers Nick Faldo, Ernie Els, Greg Norman…), the music business (Cliff Richard, Madonna, Sting…) and the film industry (Jolie-Pitt, Sam Neill, Francis Ford Coppola).

The degree of involvement varies significantly; some of them are simply adding their name to the label of a wine made entirely by someone else, whereas others such as Francis Ford Coppola come from a family with a tradition of winemaking and are directly involved.  Sam Neill’s Central Otago wines have been recognised for their intrinsic excellence and are aimed at serious wine aficionados with regards to their price, style and availability.

Flamboyant chat show host Graham Norton was approached by New Zealand newcomers Invivo in 2011 to see if he’d like to try their wines, and he liked them so much that he ended up producing his own varietal Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc with them from the 2014 vintage onwards.

To that were soon added a New Zealand Rosé (Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc grapes from Marlborough (50%), Gisborne (30%), Hawke’s Bay (20%)) and a South Australian Shiraz.  Last year the Sauvignon and the Rosé accounted for 10% of all Kiwi wines sold in Ireland.  Norton isn’t involved in the vineyards but he does have the final call on the blend – even single varietal wines are usually a blend of different sources of fruit – so he does more than just add his name to the label.

How have the wines become so successful?  In my view there are a number of factors:

  • The wine categories themselves are well known and popular (there’s no Graham Norton Franciacorta, for example)
  • Each wine is made in a very approachable, drinkable style to appeal to a large number of people
  • There’s a good match between the populism of Norton’s TV programmes and the style of the wines – unpretentious and accessible

Invivo_web_Prosecco600x600px1_grande

The latest addition to the portfolio is “Graham Norton’s Own Prosecco DOC Extra Dry”.  It follows the same principles as the previous wines – Prosecco is the most popular type of sparkling wine in the UK and Ireland, and it’s made in a medium-dry style (confusingly labelled Extra Dry, but that won’t put many people off).

As the (much bigger) UK market is more of a target than Ireland, the decision to go for a fully sparkling Spumante style rather than Frizzante makes sense – the wire cage over cork closure projects more quality than the latter’s bit of string.  It does make the wine a little more expensive in Ireland than it needed to be due to the double duty attached to Spumante (as is the case for Champagne, Cava, Crémant etc) but the retail price of €17.99 at Tesco Ireland should still see it flying off the shelves!

What will come next?  My guess is either a Pinot Grigio or an Argentinian Malbec…

 

Opinion

Wines at Xmas #12 – Julia Phillips [Guest Post]

For winelovers, Christmas is a time when we look forward to drinking – and even sharing – a special bottle or two.  This might be a classic wine with traditional fare or just something different we’ve wanted to try for a while.  I asked some wine loving friends what they were looking forward to and they have kindly agreed to write a blog post for me.

Julia Phillips founded Just Perfect Wines to further her passion for wines and apply her knowledge of marketing.  She works with family firms in the DOCG regions of Conegliano-Valdobbiadene and Asolo.


A Twist on Prosecco for Christmas

This Christmas I am particularly looking forward to sharing with friends a couple of my Prosecco based wines which both have something a little different about them.

Giorgia 1The first is ‘Giorgia’, my new Italian sparkling wine.  It’s made by one of my Prosecco wineries, Ca’Salina, using Glera grapes from the premium Prosecco region, Valdobbiadene – however, it can’t be called Prosecco as it’s made in a different way (the floatation tank method).

The result is an amazing well-balanced sparkling wine with fruity notes, plus a subtle layer of complexity that you tend to get from wines made in the Champagne method, with aromas of honey, butter and brioche, giving a clean and fresh taste. A Brut style with 8g sugar/ litre, 11.5% abv and wait for this….no added sulphites, so in theory no hangover!  Just perfect don’t you think?!  Something I shall be putting to the test with friends over the festive season, perhaps even one for Christmas Eve when you want to enjoy a good wine but don’t want to feel any ill effects the next day.

Tasting Furlan Rose at Furlan wineryMy second wine is the beautiful ‘Furlan Rosé Spumante Brut’. As Rosé Prosecco doesn’t exist, this pink sparkler comes close being a blend of Glera, Manzoni Bianco (a white grape which adds complexity and increases the abv to 12%) and Cabernet Sauvignon. I really love this blend; the gorgeous pink colour and the wonderful aromas and taste of strawberries and cream is divine.

I’m sure this one will be making an appearance on Christmas Day.

 

Both wines have a RRP of £17.99 and are available from www.justperfectwines.com, Amazon or il Gusto stores in Staffordshire.


The full series of Wines at Xmas:

 

Single Bottle Review

Rosé “Prosecco” – Really? Yes, REALLY!

Strictly speaking, there’s no such thing as Rosé Prosecco , as the DOC and DOCG rules do not permit it, but if they did then this wine would be a great example.  Furlan was founded in the 1930s and is now in the hands of the third generation.  They have vineyards in the DOCG Conegliano-Valdobbiadene, DOC Treviso and DOC Piave areas, producing sparkling and still wines from indigenous and international grape varieties.

Furlan Rosé Spumante Brut 2015 (12.0%, €17.99 at Just Perfect Wines)

furlan

Let’s start with the blend: 70% Glera, 27% Manzoni Bianco and 3% Cabernet Sauvignon. Of course Glera is the grape formerly known as Prosecco, so no surprise there.  Manzoni Bianco is intriguing – it’s a (deliberate) cross between Riesling and Pinot blanc, created nearly a century ago by Professor Luigi Manzoni at Italy’s oldest school of oenology located in Conegliano.  Among the many crosses created by the eminent professor, this is probably the most successful and is well established in the Veneto.  And finally, Cabernet Sauvignon adds the magical colour.

With 13 g/L of residual sugar, this technically creeps into the Extra Dry bracket, though to be honest the Brut label it has is a better descriptor – the sugar balances the acidity well and adds to the fruitiness without making it overtly sweet.

On pouring this has a lovely strawberry nose, then a smorgasbord of fresh red fruit on the palate – redcurrant, raspberry and strawberry – plus some pear and floral notes.  For me the key is the balance between fruit and sweetness, this would make an excellent wine for the table as well as aperitivo!

 

Disclosure: sample kindly provided for tasting; opinions are mine and mine alone.

Make Mine A Double, Tasting Events

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

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

Riosecco Sparkling Glera NV (11.5%, €13.29)

Riosecco trimmed small

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

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

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

Riesling Pinot Grigio trimmed small

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

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

And just because I can, here is another Rio:

Tasting Events

DNS Wine Club *FUN* Tasting

After a show of hands at the previous meet, the theme of the most recent DNS Wine Club tasting was FUN! Wine can be a very technical and complicated subject, and as something of a geek that often appeals to me, but at the end of the day the main point of wine is pleasure.

So how do you make a tasting more fun? Play games! But which games? I divided the DNS gang into two teams, opened some fizz and gave them their first task.

{All the wines tasted over the evening are reviewed in the articles Le Tour de France and Around The World in Eighty Sips on TheTaste.ie}

ROUND 1 – Match the Critic

John Wilson
John Wilson, scholar and gentleman

I reviewed John Wilson’s book “Wilson On Wine 2015 – The Wines To Drink This Year” here and refer to it frequently. For each wine reviewed there are lots of details, especially on the background of the wine, along with a fairly short tasting note. As tasting is such a subjective thing (and taste too, but that’s for another day) I wondered how easy it would be to identify wines from their tasting note alone…

Example of a wine featured
Example of a wine featured in the book

Each team was given a sheet with two columns; the first had ten wine names and the second had ten tasting notes taken from John’s book. Two wines were sparkling, four white and four red. Each column was in alphabetical order and the objective was to match the tasting notes to the correct wine.

Wine Name   Tasting Note
1 Bernhard Ott Fass4 Grüner Veltliner 2013 A A superb, light, elegant wine, with piquant dark cherry and blueberry fruits.
2 Champagne Larmandier-Bernier Latitude Extra Brut NV B Almond blossoms on the nose; light, elegant, sophisticated crisp green fruits with excellent Minerality. A perennial favourite.
3 Coca y Fito DO Terra Alta Jaspi Blanc 2012 C An exuberant, fresh wine bursting with pineapples and tropical fruits.
4 Jeio Prosecco DOCG Valdobiadenne Spumante Brut NV D Bracing and herby with an inviting texture and a snappy dry finish.
5 Kasarí Zorah Areni Noir 2012 E Delectably light and tangy but with rosehips and fresh, piquant red fruits. Great with food.
6 Moric Burgenland Blaufränkish 2012 F Fresh pear and peach fruits with a good lively citrus edge
7 Pieropan Soave Classico 2013 G Intriguing, lifted fragrant black cherries with good acidity and a light earthiness, finishing on a smooth note. Different and delicious wine.
8 Quinta Milú Ribera del Duero 2013 H Pure piquant damson fruits, good acidity and a lightly tannic finish. Delicious.
9 Santa Rita Medalla Real Leyda Valley Chardonnay 2011 I Restrained peach and apple fruits with subtle toasted nuts and a core of citrus acidity.
10 Thymiopolous Naoussa Xinomavro 2013 J Succulent ripe fruits cut through with a delicious minerality and great length.

You might want to try this at home.  Bear the following hints in mind that were given on the night:

  • As both columns are in alphabetical order it is possible that a wine may still be lined up opposite its true tasting note, though most aren’t.
  • The longest tasting note belongs to (probably) the most expensive white wine.
  • The Prosecco note should be very easy to identify as it nearly always tastes of one particular fruit.
  • One of the wines includes a colour in its name (though not in English) which is included in the corresponding tasting note (in English).

Yes, most of these hints are fairly esoteric / tenuous / difficult – but that’s how I roll!

ROUND 2 – Call My (Wine) Bluff

For those know aren’t familiar with it, Call My Bluff is a long-running UK game show where celebrity contestants on a team take it in turn to give three definitions of an obscure word, only one of which is correct. The other team then tries to choose the correct definition and discard the bluffs.

The wine version has a similar structure, but instead of word definitions the guessing team has to divine which of three tasting notes they are given match the wine in their glass and their mouth!

For five white wines and three red wines, these are the choices which were proffered:

White 1
(A) Famille Bougrier Les Hautes Lieux Vin de France Sauvignon Blanc 2013
(B) José Pareinte Rueda Verdejo 2014
(C) Marqués de Riscal Rueda Sauvignon Blanc 2013

White 2
(A) Jean-Paul Brun Terres Dorées Beaujolais Blanc Chardonnay 2012
(B) Les Auzines Fleur Blanches Vin de Pays d’Oc 2014
(C) Tahbilk Victoria Marsanne 2014

White 3
(A) Frantz Saumon Minérale+ Montlouis 2012
(B) Tahbilk Victoria Marsanne 2014
(C) Trimbach Cuvé Frédéric Emile Alsace Riesling 2004

White 4
(A) Dog Point Section 94 2008
(B) Gaia Assyrtiko Wild Ferment 2013
(C) Greywacke Marlborough Wild Sauvignon 2012

White 5
(A) Frantz Saumon Minérale+ Montlouis 2012
(B) Les Auzines Fleur Blanches Vin de Pays d’Oc 2014
(C) Marqués de Riscal Rueda Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Red 1
(A) Atlantico Sur Reserve Tannat 2011
(B) Château Bouscassé Madiran 2007
(C) El Castro de Valtuille Bierzo 2013

Red 2
(A) Aldi Lot 01 Uco Valley Malbec-Cabernet 2013
(B) Château Sainte-Marie Bordeaux Supérieur 2012
(C) Domaine La Sarabande Faugères 2011

Red 3
(A) Château Milhau-Lacugue “Les Truffières” Saint Chinian 2010
(B) Domaine La Sarabande Faugères 2011
(C) Taltarni Heathcote Shiraz 2008

For the guessing team, some of the choices were more difficult if there was a similarity between the choices, e.g. for White 1 there were 2 regions and 2 grapes over 3 wines.

It was actually easiest to bluff when the reader didn’t know if they were giving the note for the correct wine or not! I suppose it is good to know that most people aren’t good liars, even if it’s just for fun.

ROUND 3 – Match the Critic (Encore)

A Book, A Bottle, A Glass
A Book, A Bottle, A Glass

Now the kicker to see if everyone had been paying attention! A double list – similar to that handed out in Round 1 – was given to each team, this time with eight wine names and tasting notes. But these weren’t just any wines taken from John’s book – they were the eight that everyone had tasted in Round 2! So of course, this final round had double points awarded.

Wine Name   Tasting Note
1 Atlantico Sur Reserve Tannat 2011 A A delicious modern style of Bordeaux with light creamy cassis fruits and a smooth easy finish.
2 Château Sainte-Marie Bordeaux Supérieur 2012 B A subtle and delectable blend of citrus and green fruits with a touch of honey
3 Domaine La Sarabande Faugères 2011 C Exhilarating precise acidity with pristine green fruits.  Inspiring, thrilling wine.
4 Gaia Assyrtiko Wild Ferment 2013 D Fresh, tangy, lemon and grapefruit, balanced out by clean green fruits, and a dry finish.
5 Jean-Paul Brun Terres Dorées Beaujolais Blanc Chardonnay 2014 E Good, deeply satisfying wine with firm, dark ripe fruits and a dry finish.
6 José Pareinte Rueda Verdejo 2013 F Light toasted nut aromas, fresh textured pineapples fruits and excellent length. Great wine at a very reasonable price.
7 Les Auzines Fleurs Blanches G Lightly toasted notes combined with peaches, almonds and honey.  Unusual and perfectly formed.
8 Tahbilk Victoria Marsanne 2014 H Succulent and ripe, filled with dark cherry fruits dusted with spices

Conclusions

Blind tasting, even single blind, is difficult. Tasting notes are subjective, and, unsurprisingly, it’s much easier to understand someone else’s when you’re tasting the same wine they had. Context is very important so knowing the background to a wine can give you a lot of clues about why it tastes a certain way and where it’s headed.

Above all, it’s a fun journey!

Tasting Events

Valentines Wines (I) The Tasting Panel

For the first of my posts on Valentine’s Wines I thought I would try something a little bit different from the norm. My wife and I invited her elder brother Andrew and his girlfriend Paula round for dinner to and to try some different wines in advance of Valentine’s Day.

It’s good to hear the opinions of other people – wine tasting can be very social and lots of fun. I heartily recommend you try forming your own tasting panel now and again, with friends from absolute novices to MWs.

Before we get into the wines, here is the delicious meal they accompanied:

Starter:

Cantaloupe Melon drenched in Pineau des Charentes

Main:

Slow Roasted Loin of Pork with a Bramley apple glaze, server with roasted potatoes, julienne carrots and petits pois, roasted root vegetables, apple and citrus jus

Dessert:

Apple Strudel with Cornish Vanilla Ice cream and / or Homemade Vanilla Custard

Cheese:

Selection of: Brie de Meaus, Abbaye du Mont des Cats, Diliskus semi-soft Herbed.

The wines

Disclosure: the wines tasted below were kindly provided by O’Briens, but opinions are entirely our own.

Rizzardi Prosecco DOC Spumante Extra Dry NV (€20.99, currently €17.99)

Valentine’s connection: who doesn’t like popping the cork on some fizz?

Rizzardi Prosecco DOC Spumante Extra Dry NV
Rizzardi Prosecco DOC Spumante Extra Dry NV

The label “Extra Dry” on Prosecco is usually a misnomer – the wine is often on the sweet side. A little sweetness can make Prosecco very easy to drink and is one of the factors behind its current boom in sales. However, Rizzardi’s style is actually dry on the palate. Being a Spumante it had a proper cork and was fully sparkling.

On tasting the main flavours we noted were pip fruit such as Granny Smith’s apple and pear, citrus (even Lemon Sherbet) and a sour sweetness (if that makes any sense) – a bit like the sensation from Sour Squirms sweets.

A little sweetness did come through on the finish once it had warmed up a little in the glass (it was served straight from a domestic fridge).

Panel Votes:

  • Andrew 5 [not a fan of fizz]
  • Paula 8 [can I have another glass please?]
  • Jess 4 [found it too dry]
  • Frankie 7 [preferred it to most other Proseccos]

Verdict:

This wine clearly divided opinion on the panel, but that’s no bad thing. Hopefully the comments give you the information to decide whether this Prosecco is for you, or perhaps try a sweeter one.

Les Auzines Fleurs Blanches Vin de France 2013 (€14.49, currently €12.99, O’Briens)

Valentine’s connection: say it with (white) flowers

Les Auzines Fleurs Blanches Vin de France 2013
Les Auzines Fleurs Blanches Vin de France 2013

Although labelled as a Vin de France, which could come from almost anywhere in France, this was made in the Corbières region of the Languedoc, quite close to the Mediterranean coast.  The name property name “Les Auzines” comes from the Occitan meaning “little leaves from the oak tree”, owned by Laurent Miquel and his Irish wife Neasa Corish.

The blend is based on Grenache Gris, with perhaps a dash of Grenache Blanc.  It is classed as an oaked white as 85% was fermented and aged in second and third-use oak barrels, but although it has gained texture and complexity it doesn’t taste typically “oaky”.

Smooth and rich but tangy, it shows flavours of Macadamia nuts, lime, gravel and mineral, fennel, lavender and other herbs – it’s really interesting.  Alcohol is surprisingly modest at 11.5% – it doesn’t feel lacking in any way.

Panel Votes:

  • Andrew 7 [Nuts and gravel]
  • Paula 8 [Soft and easy-drinking]
  • Jess 7 [A white wine for red wine drinkers]
  • Frankie 8 [what a find!]

Verdict:

Fleurs Blanches was an amazing match for the main course – perhaps helped by the dash of Fleurs Blanches which went in the jus.  O’Briens’ notes reckon that it “bears a closer resemblance to fine Burgundy than to Corbiéres” – I would clarify that by saying it could double for mature fine Burgundy – it’s that good!

Henri Bourgeois La Porte Caillou Sancerre 2013 (€22.99, currently €19.99, O’Briens)

Valentine’s connection: woo your Valentine with a classy, classic white wine.

Henri Bourgeois La Porte Caillou Sancerre 2013
Henri Bourgeois La Porte Caillou Sancerre 2013

Sancerre was the first wine region famous for varietal Sauvignon Blanc, but as is the way with Appellation-based fame, it is open to use and abuse.  If you’ve ever bought a Sancerre in a French supermarket then you will know that quality can be very variable…

So what to do?  Find a good producer, of course – or a great producer, such as Henri Bourgeois.

Minerality is a buzzword in wine at the moment, but the chalk soils of HB’s vineyards impart a magnificent flint character to his wines.  The very name “Porte de Caillou” means Pebble Gate, so that should give you an idea!

As well as the minerality (liked by one taster to sucking on gravel!), there’s lots and lots of fruit: very green, but ripe, fruit such as gooseberry and grapefruit, plus a little restrained tropical fruit.  There’s lots of acidity but it’s smooth rather than spiky, with more body and texture than you might expect from a Sauvignon.

Panel Votes:

  • Andrew 8 [An integrated continuum from the nose though to the palate]
  • Paula 7 [Lovely and fresh]
  • Jess 6 [Prefer fruity Sauvignons]
  • Frankie 8 [Classic Sancerre!]

Verdict:

Food friendly Sauvignon that the Kiwis are now trying to emulate.  This shows how Sancerre should be done, and why it became a classic in the first place.

Ars Nova Navarra Gran Reserva 2007 (€17.49, O’Briens)

Valentine’s connection: an appeal to the finer things in life – and seductive in the glass.

Ars Nova Navarra Gran Reserva 2007
Ars Nova Navarra Gran Reserva 2007

Named after the Mediaeval Latin for “New Art” (as in New Technique), this is a blend of 40% Tempranillo (well known in Rioja and elsewhere in Spain), 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot (both from Bordeaux).  Its home region of Navarra had non-native (mainly French) varieties planted from the 1980s onwards, so now winemakers have a wide choice of ingredients.

As a Gran Reserva it has spent eighteen months maturing before being bottled – the producer mentions nine months in French oak so I’m guessing a further nine in a larger format of vessel.  Alcohol is punchy but not overblown at 14.0%.

It shows smoke rather than vanilla characters from the oak, followed by red fruit (strawberry) moving into black fruit (blackberry, blackcurrant, blueberry) and a savoury finish.  There’s perhaps an edge of leather and liquorice but they don’t dominate.  Overall the impression is of fruit sweetness, plenty of tannin, well balanced.

Panel Votes:

  • Andrew 8 [My kind of wine, fruit and tannin together]
  • Paula 9 [My favourite wine of the night]
  • Jess 9 [Easy going, smooth, could drink this every day]
  • Frankie 8 [Spain meets Bordeaux, incredible value]

Verdict:

Perfectly poised between (fruit) sweet and (tannin) savoury, this was a big hit with everyone.  It was a good match for the cheese but would also be great with beef, lamb or venison.  Without the renown of Rioja, the winemakers of Navarra have really upped their game.  The only downside to this wine was that a Lussac St-Emilion tasted afterwards was dry and thin in comparison!

More Valentine’s Wines to come!