Tasting Events

A Lidl Italian Wine

Flag_of_Italy

If you cast your mind back all the way to February of this year, you may remember that supermarket group Lidl launched a limited release of new French wines in Ireland (here are my posts on the Reds and Whites).

Now they’re going to do the same with a batch of Italian wines, set for release on Monday 13th June, and available while stocks last.  The wines in this batch don’t reach quite as high as the more expensive French ones did, but they are still worth seeking out.

Gavi di Gavi DOCG 2014 (12.5%, €9.99)

202888_Gavi_di_Gavi

Gavi is the town in Piedmont (NW Italy) where this wine is made from the Cortese grape (which I always think sounds like a family from The Godfather) – and the wine is sometimes usefully called Cortese di Gavi, in case you forget.  Wines from the production area closest to the town are called Gavi di Gavi as we have here.

By the way, if that’s all too confusing, feel free to call it “Gavin”.  The wine won’t mind either way.

The wine is clean and unoaked, with pear and stone fruit flavours.  It has some texture too, so it could stand up against seafood and lighter chicken dishes.  Make sure you give it a chance to warm a little if it’s been in the fridge for a while.

Soave Classico DOC 2015 (12.0%, €9.99)

213281_Soave_Classico

I suspect I’m not the only person who has been put off “Soave” by the cheap swill on the cheapest supermarket or convenience store shelves – but when it’s done right, it can be a very pleasant drink.  Trademark Italian acidity is still there but with soft citrus, pear and apple fruit.  The perfect drink for sitting in the back garden – especially if someone else is doing the gardening!

Barbera d’Asti DOCG 2015 (12.5%, €7.99)

211240_Barbera DAsti

Barbera is the grape here and Asti is the province in north-west Italy where it’s made – together with Alexandria next door.  As part of Piedmont (or Piemonte to the locals) it tends to fall into the shadow of Nebbiolo, especially Barolo and Barbareseco, the “King and Queen” of the area.  Barbera can make top class wines, but even the more economical end of the market gives some very drinkable examples such as this.  It’s full of soft, juicy red and black fruit, with a slight smokiness.  Remarkable for the price.

Teroldego Rotaliano DOP Superiore Riserva 2012 (12.5%, €8.99)

211104_Teroldego_Rotaliano

Teroldego is the grape in this wine.  Haven’t heard of it?  don’t worry, neither had I!  It’s from the Trentino area of northern Italy, Superiore meaning it’s 12.0% minimum and Riserva meaning it has spent at least 24 months maturing before release.

This wine has lots of character – it’s zippier than a gobshite from Rainbow!  Super fresh acidity makes it mouthwateringly tasty and really food friendly.

Nero d’Avola Terre Siciliane IGP (13.0%, €13.99 – 1.5L)

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At first glance this might appear a bit more expensive than the other wines – but it’s a double sized bottle!  Magnums are great fun at parties, so buy a few for a BBQ and you’re sorted!  Nero d’Avola is a popular grape in Sicily, giving spice, dark berries and chocolate.  It’s very drinkable, just make sure you don’t get carried away on a school night!

Larger format bottles are nearly all named after Biblical figures such as  Methuselah and Salmanazar – the Magnum is the exception as it was named after a Private Investigator*

Salice Salentino DOC Riserva 2013 (13.5%, €9.99)

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Now we’re in the heel of Italy’s boot, in Puglia.  Salice Salentino is the staple of Italian restaurants everywhere – for good reason!  It’s made from the Negroamaro grape which translates as “black and bitter”, but if there is any bitterness it is pleasant.  What it does have is spicy black fruit, and it’s so more-ish!  A barbecue wine that you will want to carry on drinking after the food has all disappeared.

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2011 (13.5%, €9.99)

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Up to now, all the wines I’ve recommended have been in the easy drinking style.  This is a bit different – not for the uninitiated, unless you are prepared to try something new.  The heart of Tuscan wine is Chianti, particularly the original central area which is now Chianti Classico.

This is a Riserva – aged in barrel for 24 month then 3 further months in bottle.  It has the full on Chianti experience – tobacco, liquorice, cherry and a touch of vanilla.  This should keep for another five years at least, and will soften and mellow over that time.  Who am I kidding?  This is going to be drunk within a week!

 

*this may not be 100% factually accurate.

 

 

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Make Mine A Double

Make Mine a Double #06 – Spot the Difference, Puglia Style

This series of articles each covers two wines that have something in common, and most likely some point of difference. Compare and contrast is the order of the day – so make mine a double!

Vigneti del Salento I Muri

I Muri Primitivo & I Muri Negroamaro
I Muri Primitivo & I Muri Negroamaro

The I Muri Negroamaro has been a firm staff and customer favourite at Sweeney’s of Glasnevin (Dublin) for many years – it even featured as one of my favourite reds from their wine fair earlier this year.  Now Sweeney’s are also stocking its twin, with a very similar looking label (don’t ask me the colour difference, I’m partially colourblind).

So where are they from and what is the difference?

Salento
Salento

Salento is the south eastern part of Puglia (technically Apuglia in English I suppose), the heel of Italy. This peninsula separates the Adriatic Sea from the Ionian Sea, and thus no point is ever more than 30 kilometres from the sea.

The wine here has often been quite fiery – powerful but rustic – and was historically used to (illegally) beef up the paler reds from further north in Italy.  The grapes most planted are the local specialities Primitivo and Negroamaro – and that’s exactly what we have here.

Winemaker Filippo Baccalaro is the driving force behind Vigneti del Salento, owned by the Farnese group.  He likes producing fresh whites and soft, approachable reds with as little intervention as possible.

Vigneti del Salento I Muri Primitivo IGT Puglia 2013 (€16.50, Sweeney’s and other independents) 14.0%

Vigneto del Salento I Muri Primitivo IGT Puglia 2012
Vigneto del Salento I Muri Primitivo IGT Puglia 2013

After years of guessing it was finally proved that Primitivo is the same variety as California’s Zinfandel.  Some Puglian producers are now even using oak to make their wines in a pseudo Californian style and using Zinfandel on the label for exports.  Further research showed that the impressively unpronounceable Crljenak Kaštelanski from Croatia is the same grape, before finally (for now) finding the oldest ancestral name of Tribidrag down the Dalmatian coast a little.

This Primitivo is far from rustic – it has the expected dark colour, full body and firm tannins but delivered in a smooth package, where each of the components are well balanced.  There’s a milk chocolate character to the texture, topped off by blueberry and red berry fruit.

Vigneti del Salento I Muri Negroamaro IGT Puglia 2012 (€15.95, Sweeney’s and other independents) 13.0%

Vigneti Del Salento I Muri IGT Puglia 2012
Vigneti Del Salento I Muri Negroamaro IGT Puglia 2012

Even a basic proficiency in Italian will give you a clue as to how Negroamaro tastes – black and bitter.  But not so bitter that you can’t drink it; like many Italian wines there is a certain tartness or bitterness to the fruit, but all the better for it.  Who would choose tinned black cherries over fresh ones?

The rougher edges of the grape have been rounded off by four months in French and American oak (not much of which was new, I suspect).  Black cherry and blackberry fruit are accompanied by spice and dark chocolate.  Acidity is prominent to keep it fresh but not so much that it tastes sour.

Comparison and Preference

This is very much a question of style and preference rather than a difference of quality; do you prefer dark chocolate or milk chocolate? Tasted side by side at a barbecue hosted by D, a fellow DNS Wine Club member and a food blogger, the group was almost evenly split on which they preferred – and everyone liked both of them, with just a minor preference for one.

So my advice is: buy both, and choose according to your mood!

Tasting Events

Five of the best Reds from Sweeney’s Wine Fair

I’ve already picked out five whites from the Sweeney’s Wine Fair that really impressed me, so now it’s turn for my selection of reds.  But first a brief introduction of the people behind the name:

Finian Sweeney, proprietor
Finian Sweeney, proprietor, after winning another award
Kevin (R) about to host the Wines of the Year Award & glamourous guest Tara (L)
Kevin (R) about to host the Wines of the Year Award & glamourous guest Tara (L)
Lynda (with a "y") enjoying dessert at a food & wine matching meal, the last night of the Sweeney's Learn About Wine Course
Lynda (with a “y”) enjoying dessert at a food & wine matching meal, the last night of the Sweeney’s Learn About Wine Course

Apparently, for those who like that sort of thing, Sweeney’s also have a great range of artisan cheese from Sheridan’s cheesemonger.

So now for the reds:

5 Vigneti Del Salento I Muri IGT Puglia 2012 (Liberty Wines, €15.95, 2 for €28.00)

Vigneti Del Salento I Muri IGT Puglia 2012
Vigneti Del Salento I Muri IGT Puglia 2012

Grape: Negroamaro

A favourite with Sweeney’s staff and customers alike for a few years, I Muri hails from the heel of Italy – the beautiful region of Puglia. The most important local grape is Negroamaro, literally translated as “black and bitter”, and while this wine is listed as a 100% varietal Negroamaro it shows no bitterness. It does have black – blackberry and blackcurrant fruit, with a savoury edge but a polished finish.

4 Herdade de Rocim “Rocim” VR Alentejano 2010 (Grace Campbell Wines, €19.00)

Herdade de Rocim “Rocim” VR Alentejano 2010
Herdade de Rocim “Rocim” VR Alentejano 2010

Grapes: Aragonez / Alicante Bouchet / Others

Aragonez is the Portuguese name for the grape known as Tempranillo in Spain (well, in Rioja at least).  Alicante Bouchet is a teinturier, the term for a (very rare) type of grape with red flesh, so both the skin and flesh give colour to a wine.

Do you remember the scene in the film Ratatouille where restaurant critic Anton Ego tastes the eponymous dish and is instantly transported to his childhood?  Tasting Herdade de Rocim gave me exactly the same sensation, except I was magically transported to a summer barbecue, drinking wine.  I think it’s a sign.

3 Marchese Antinori “Marchese” Riserva DOCG Chianti Classico 2006 (Findlater WSG, €28.00)

Marchese Antinori “Marchese” Riserva DOCG Chianti Classico 2006
Marchese Antinori “Marchese” Riserva DOCG Chianti Classico 2006

Grape: Sangiovese

Check out the vintage!  The current release is 2011, so it’s quite rare to see older vintages on the shelves, even in a good independent wine merchants, but this is entirely deliberate; Finian bought several cases of this when it was released and has kept it in bond to be released when ready.  And boy, is it ready!

It has all the hallmarks of good Chianti Classico – liquorice, tobacco, acidity, tannin, black cherry – but the extra years maturing have seen them knit into a smooth, harmonious whole.  I think it’s now closer in style to its big brother Badia a Passignano, which still remains the smoothest Chianti I’ve experienced.

Hearsay at the Wine Fair suggested I might be in the minority liking this bottle (it’s not the first time and certainly won’t be the last time I’m in a minority); reflection has led me to believe that some people who are used to drinking young Chianti prefer, or at least expect, the components mentioned above to stand out individually.  If that is more to your taste then I suggest trying the 2011 Marchese, reviewed here.

2 Torres “Celeste” Crianza DOCa Ribera del Duero 2011 (Findlater WSG, €20.00, 2 for €34.00)

Torres “Celeste” Crianza DOCa Ribera del Duero
Torres “Celeste” Crianza DOCa Ribera del Duero

Grape: Tempranillo

While also in the north of Spain and often using the same grapes as Rioja, Ribera del Duero isn’t a clone of its more famous counterpart. For a long time only the renowned Vega Sicilia made wines drunk elsewhere in Spain, never mind exported. Now the region’s reputation is on the up, with national heavyweights such as Torres joining the ranks of local producers.

Tempranillo here is usually known as Tinto Fino, and often has support from Bordeaux grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec. However, even on its own it can show darker fruit than in Rioja.

Celeste has a nice name and a pretty bottle, but the contents surpass both of them. Bright red and black fruit are offset by creamy vanilla from the oak. It has wild strawberries rather than the poly-tunnel farmed ones that cheap Rioja can have, with blackberry and cherry riding shotgun. It’s a serious wine, yet it’s a fun wine.

1 Domaine Treloar “Le Ciel Vide” AC Cotes de Roussillon 2012 (Distinctive Drinks, €16.00)

Domaine Treloar “Le Ciel Vide” AC Cotes de Roussillon
Domaine Treloar “Le Ciel Vide” AC Cotes de Roussillon

Grapes: Syrah (45%) / Grenache (40%) / Mourvèdre (15%)

This wine is a rockstar – it stood out as the best wine of any colour from the whole tasting as it was just so interesting and funky.  Lots of fresh berry fruit is accompanied by smoke, earthiness and just a hint of farmyard.

Looking into the story of the Domaine is fascinating – it deserves a full post all to itself. The name of the wine is a direct translation of “Empty Sky”, a Bruce Springsteen song, which evoke memories of 9/11 for the owners who were working just one block away when the planes hit.

The blend of this wine has changed every year depending on the grapes available locally and how each variety fared in a particular harvest:

Le Ciel Vide blend by year, measured in litres of bottled wine
Le Ciel Vide blend by year, measured in litres of bottled wine

I love the complete honesty of co-owner Jonathan Hesford when discussing the first two vintages of this wine (2008 and 2009):

I’m not sure how these wines will age. They have the potential to develop even more fragrant aromas but don’t have the tannin structure of my other red wines.

His honesty is as refreshing as his wines!