Tasting Events

Some Highlights from the Molloys Press Tasting

Molloys Liquor Stores is a off licence group with 10 outlets around Dublin plus their website www.molloys.com.  Their range is biased towards cost-conscious everyday bottles, but as they import many of them exclusively they can cut out the middle-man and offer good value for money.

Here are some of the highlights from their recent press tasting:

Champagne Jean Comyn “Harmonie” Brut NV (€34.99)

Champagne Jean Comyn "Harmonie" Brut NV
Champagne Jean Comyn “Harmonie” Brut NV

It’s a bakery in a bottle!  An amazing brioche nose points to extended ageing on the lees – the minimum for a non vintage Champagne is 15 months but I would guess at double that or more.  There’s fresh strawberry on the attack (from Pinots Noir and Meunier) followed by lemon (from Chardonnay), and a crisp finish.

This won a silver medal at last year’s IWC which is impressive for an unknown (to me at least) brand.  Please don’t buy Moët, buy this instead – it’s far nicer.

Botter Prosecco DOC Spumante “Extra Dry” NV (€16.49)

Botter Prosecco DOC Spumante "Extra Dry" NV
Botter Prosecco DOC Spumante “Extra Dry” NV

Decoding the label tells us that this Prosecco  is fully sparkling (Spumante) and north of off-dry – confusingly Extra Dry means no such thing, but consumers like to think that they like dry wines.  This is the most expensive of the five Proseccos that Molloys import – the extra tax on Spumante compared to Frizzante ensures it’s not one of the cheapest – but I think it’s also the best value.

I don’t mind a glass of Prosecco but I rarely fancy a second – this is an exception to that rule.  This has a grapey nose (go figure!) and then pear and red apple on the palate, wrapped in a creamy lemon mousse.  It’s not trying to be Champagne but it is a grown up drink that should please most.

Colombelle l’Original IGP Côtes de Gascogne 2013 (€8.99)

Colombelle l'Original IGP Côtes de Gascogne 2013
Colombelle l’Original IGP Côtes de Gascogne 2013

Gascony is more famous for its brandy – Armagnac – than for its wines.  Thankfully this means that they remain a relative bargain.  Colombard is usually the main grape, supported by Ugni Blanc and / or Sauvignon Blanc for a bit of extra zip.  This example comes from Producteurs Plaimont, a quality and value conscious cooperative from South West France.

And it’s wonderful!  So much fruit – ripe, round apples and peachy stone fruit – but with a crisp finish.  This isn’t amazingly complex but it’s a very enjoyable tipple – and at a modest 11.0% abv a glass or two in the week won’t hurt.  I’d serve this as an aperitif or as a match for roast chicken or a mild curry.

Beauvignac Chardonnay, IGP Pay d’Oc (€10.49)

Beauvignac Chardonnay, IGP Pay d'Oc
Beauvignac Chardonnay, IGP Pay d’Oc

In addition to various Pay d’Oc varietals, this modern producer Cave Pomerols also makes AOP Picpoul de Pinet.

Tropical fruit is the order of the day here – pineapple, passionfruit and grapefruit dance around the nose.  A touch of vanilla also becomes apparent on the palate suggesting some light oak ageing, but it’s well integrated and doesn’t jar at all.  Malolactic fermentation is deliberately blocked which gives it a crisp, fresh finish.

So many inexpensive Chardonnays taste artificial but this is a nice drop.  Would be amazing with scallops!

Heritiers Dubois AOC Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur lie 2012 (€11.49)

Heritiers Dubois AOC Muscadet 2012
Heritiers Dubois AOC Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie 2012

If you’ve ever shopped in a French supermarket you will no doubt have noticed a half dozen different bottles of Muscadet on sale.  You might even have tried a few – after all, they’re quite inexpensive in France.  But the odds are, you didn’t go back and buy more of the same.  Muscadet’s reputation is not the best at the moment, mainly due to low quality / high yield production which results in austere, acidic and fruitless swill.

But every cloud and all that – those producers who do care about quality are unable to command high prices due to the general reputation of the area – and that means there are bargains to be had!

Sèvre et Maine is a subregion of Muscadet but doesn’t signify that much as it accounts for 80% of all Muscadets.  Sur Lie means the wine was matured on its lees, i.e. the dead yeast cells left over from fermentation.  This gives it a creamy texture and a bit more interest in terms of flavour.

So how does this taste?  Full of lemon zest!  It’s not austere, though it is racy and lean.  It cries out for shellfish or delicate white fish.  I expected not to like this, but it surprised me!

Château Bonnin Pichon AOC Lussac-St-Emilion 2008 (€15.49)

Château Bonnin Pichon AOC Lussac-St-Emilion 2008
Château Bonnin Pichon AOC Lussac-St-Emilion 2008

Lussac is one of the four satellite villages that can suffix the coveted name of St-Emilion to their wines.  These villages don’t reach the heights attained in St-Emilion proper, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t offer some well made, drinkable wine.  2008 was a pretty-good-but-not-excellent vintage in Bordeaux; modern viticulture and winemaking means that the best can be brought out of whatever nature has presented.

As normal for right bank Bordeaux it’s Merlot that takes the lead (81%), with Cabernet Franc (15%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (4%) playing supporting roles.  Oak, fruit and tannin are well balanced now and would evolve slowly over the next five years or so.  I would guess some proportion of American oak given the flavour profile  The fruit is dark – plum , blackberry and blackcurrant.

Drink this on its own or with red meat such as beef or lamb.

Gran Passione IGT Rosse del Veneto 2013 (€14.99)

Gran Passione IGT Rosse del Veneto 2013
Gran Passione IGT Rosso del Veneto 2013

From the hinterland of Venice, this big and velvety red is perfect a perfect winter’s night. Tannin and acidity are present and correct – it is very young – so decant for a few hours if you have chance, or serve with a hearty stew.

Think of this as a baby Amarone – it weighs in at 14.5% – but less complex and certainly cheaper!  The grapes aren’t stated but I would guess at the typical Corvina / Rondinella / Molinara.

 Cellier des Princes AOC Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2012 (€24.99)

Cellier des Princes AOC Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2012
Cellier des Princes AOC Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2012

The world famous southern Rhône appellation of Châteauneuf-du-Pape perhaps faces the opposite challenge to Muscadet – its reputation is so good that pretty much any bottle carrying its name can be sold for a premium, so some producers churn out very average wine and put it in a fancy bottle.  Thus the cheapest CNDP may not be a bargain at all.

Thankfully Molloys have got it right with this selection!  It’s principally Grenache (90%), with Mourvèdre (5%) and Syrah (5%).  Weighing in at a whopping 15%, this has bags of dark black fresh and dried fruit and Christmas spice.  It’s wonderfully big and robust but velvety and smooth.  It’s really far too young to drink now – it will open up a lot more over the next five to ten years – but it’s so delicious that it would be too tempting!

 

 

Tasting Events

Barn-storming New Discoveries: Highlights of the H2G Tasting

So firstly to dispel any possible misunderstanding – H2G is short for Honest 2 Goodness as apposed to H2G2 which is shorthand for the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy and its associated online encyclopediaSo not really alike.  At all.

So now we’ve established that, what is H2G?  It’s based around a farmers’ market held every Saturday in Glasnevin, north Dublin, run by brother and sister team Colm and Brid Carter.  In the main Colm handles the wine and Brid the food, though of course there’s some crossover.  They sell wines at the market, online and wholesale.  The portfolio is imported directly by them, and mainly consists of sustainably-made wines from family producers in Spain, Italy, France, Austria and Germany.

And why “Barn-storming”?  Well the high ceiling and large open door of the venue bring to mind a barn.  Apart from the lack of hay.  And animals.  So perhaps a chai in the Médoc would be a more appropriate analogy…

The tasting covered a large chunk of their portfolio, including sparkling, white, rosé and red.  Here I’ve picked out a few which really caught my attention, though the overall standard was very high.

Great version of a familiar wine: Enrico Bedin Prosecco DOC Veneto Frizzante NV

Bedin Prosecco DOC Treviso
Bedin Prosecco DOC Treviso

Yes that’s right, I’ve picked a Prosecco to start with!  Regular readers may remember that I don’t usually care too much for Prosecco.  Yes, it’s the base of the famous Bellini cocktail, but usually a single glass is all I can manage before switching to something else.  If it’s only average quality, I might not even finish the glass.

Now this example surprised me – it was very pleasant to drink without being too sweet or flabby.  It’s not a terribly complex drink, with notes of citrus, apple, pear and peach, but sometimes simple is just fine.

The Bedin winery is located in the foothills close to the mediaeval town of Asolo, known as the “Colli Asolani”, fairly close to Venice.  As well as Glera (the official new name for the Prosecco grape) there’s also Bianchetta Trevigiana grown here, though that is most often used for blending or making vermouth.

This is the lighter sparkling Frizzante version; due to the lower pressure it doesn’t need a Champagne-style cork and cage so can be sold with a simple crown cap.  Happily, these means less Irish duty than most fizz so the tippler wins for a change!

Familiar Grape From A New Producer: Weingut Setzer Setzer Weinviertel DAC Reserve Grüner Veltliner “8000”

Setzer "8000" Grüner Veltliner
Setzer “8000” Grüner Veltliner

Grüner Veltliner is Austria’s signature white grape, known as GruVee by the cool kids.  It’s a real mouthful in figurative and literal senses – it’s generally dry but more full-bodied than many other whites.  It deserves to be better known, though it’s always going to be more niche than Chardonnay.

If you like Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling then you need to give Grüner a try.

So what’s special about this example?  The other GVs made by Setzer are very drinkable, but this premium version sets itself apart by both the quality of the soil and the unusually high vine density.  In this 15 hectare vineyard vine density is right up at 8,000 vines per hectare, supposedly imitating that of the Côte d’Or in Burgundy, rather than the region’s usual 3,000 vines per hectare.  The competition between vines lowers yields per vine, extends their potential lifespan and results in more intense flavours.

The soil itself is described as loess (look it up!) over gravel and limestone, coming from a raised seabed – perfect for drainage (vines don’t like wet feet).

A New Producer, New Appellation, New Grape: Chateau Saint-Go AOC Saint Mont

Chateau Saint-Go AOC Saint Mont

Although there’s a lot of tradition in the world of wine, things do move pretty fast at times.  This appellation is located in Gascony’s Gers Department and got promoted to AOC from VDQS (the next quality level down) in 2011.

The producer, Plaimont, is a consortium of cooperatives in South West France.  Their wine production covers the appellations of AOC Saint Mont, AOC Madiran, AOC Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh and IGP Côtes de Gascogne

At the H2G tasting their entry level white “En La Tradition Blanc” was very nice, though on the simple side.  The Chateau Saint-Go itself was stunning, a wine you could happily contemplate all evening (as long as you could get a top up!)  Roundness and texture come from some oak ageing, but oak doesn’t dominate the palate.

And what is the new grape?  It’s made with Gros Manseng (which is familiar to lovers of Jurançon from further south), Petit Courbu (found in Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh AOC) and Arrufiac.  I have to confess I hadn’t heard of Arrufiac, but it transpires that its increasing popularity is mainly due to the raised profile from Plaimont.

So there you go, you never stop learning in the world of wine – and the educational experience is a fun one!

 

 

 

Short

#MWWC6 – Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #6 – Mystery

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This is the sixth installment of the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge, but the first one I have been able to enter.  The theme of “Mystery” was set by The Drunken Cyclist who won the previous month’s challenge.

Normally I read the other entries which are posted to get an idea, but on a couple of occasions I’ve seen other people have already had a great idea which was at the back of my mind – and plagiarism isn’t good, even the appearance of it.

So for this challenge I’ve gone way out of my comfort zone and attempted a short bit of fiction – something I haven’t done since English class at school!  A little inspiration came from the badge created by The Armchair Cyclist…

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The door was unlocked so I let myself into the hallway; the rain was coming down like bullets into the night so I needed to get out of the rain. I peeked round the corner – nobody there, so I headed down the stairs and took a seat at the bar.

“How are you Frank? What’ll you have?” said the bartender. He was new. His accent was strange..somewhere from the mid-Atlantic. His pale skin and red hair made him look like he would get sunburn from a lightbulb. He must have heard my name from the boss.

“Champagne. Bollinger. Vintage.”

“A glass?”

“No. A bottle” He obviously didn’t know me. Not. At. All.

“Two glasses then? Are you waiting for someone?”

“Do I look like I want company?” I growled. “Open the goddam bottle will you?”

The bartender opened the bottle with a brief sigh (the bottle, not him) and poured me a glass. He put the bottle in an ice bucket with a fancy towel over top. It said “Ely” on the towel.

I knocked back a mouthful – man, this was great stuff. Creamy, complex, red fruits and biscuit with a long finish. My kind of drink. In fact, it was my regular drink at Ely. Don’t get me wrong, I like some of the other fizzy stuff they had, but not the Italian or Spanish garbage – far too simple, far too easy.

I quaffed the rest of the glass then poured myself another. The bar owner walked in and nodded to me as he walked past. “On the usual, I see, Frank”. Obervant as usual. He was a nice guy, real friendly, but left me alone when I wanted to be.

“You still have eyes then, Fred” I muttered. “You know me, I know what I like.”

“Come on, my old friend, tonight you should try something else.” A raised eyebrow made him pause. “On the house!”

“Okay Fred, just to make you happy, I’ll try them again. Then you won’t ask me again, right?”

“Great, I’m sure you will like some of them, Frank!” He seemed excited, like a puppy. This had better be quick and had better get him off my case.

“Pour away, Fred. This here..” I tapped the bottle of Bollinger Grand Année. “This here is my benchmark. Whatever you give me has to match this baby.”

He took a bottle out of the fridge behind the bar and popped the cork. Reaching up, he grabbed a couple of glasses from the shelf above the bar.

“What the heck is that? That’s no Champagne cork!”

“My friend, this is frizzante Prosecco. It doesn’t need a big cork and wire cage, it’s not as fizzy as other sparklers.”

I didn’t like Prosecco. I hated it. In fact, I hated it with a loathing far beyond mere contempt. It was a chick’s drink. As Fred poured us both a glass, I looked round to make sure no-one else could see I was trying such an absurd drink.

Bam! Fruit all the way! But then it was gone, as quickly as it came, leaving a slight prick of acid in my throat. It was like using a water pistol instead of a real gun – surprise from the impact, but no lasting effect.

“Fred that’s nowhere near close,” I said. “I hope you’ve got something better than that”

“Coming right up, my friend.” He fished another bottle out of the fridge. This time it looked to have a regular Champagne cork.

Another pair of glasses. He poured again. At least this seemed to be properly fizzy.

“So you reckon this is better, huh? Where’s it from?” I asked.

“Just try it and see what you think, Frank.”

I took a mouthful. Nice and round in the mouth. Not sweet. Biscuitty. Chewy even. But then it faded quickly; far too simple. The label said Freixenet Elyssia. Sounded more like a medical complaint than a drink.

“Well Fred…it’s just like I thought. Those other drinks, now they’re just fine for other folks. But not for me, they’re far too simple. I need a bit of wonder in my beverages.  I need mystery.”

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