SPIT is actually an acronym for Specialist Professional Independent Tasting, but to be honest that’s too much of a mouthful so I will stick to the shorter version. SPIT brings together four of the best independent wine importers working in Ireland with trade tastings in Cork and Dublin plus an evening consumer event in Dublin. This series of posts will cover some of my favourite wines tasted at the most recent SPIT fest in Dublin.
First up is WineMason:
WineMason is an importer and agent of original and distinctive wines from Germany, Portugal, Austria, Spain, France, Italy and South Africa. We work with 50 wineries over 8 countries and have listed just under 300 wines. We distribute these wines to Ireland’s best restaurants, winebars and independent retailers. We help shape and build tailored wine lists for the on and off trade that are exciting, well priced and trending. From emerging wine regions to discovering the potential of local grape varieties, we are constantly evolving with the ever-changing wine world and we work to reflect this in the wines we sell.
Niepoort Redoma Douro Branco 2017 (13.0%, RRP €23.50 at Redmonds of Ranalagh; SIYPS; Morton’s; Nectar Wines, Sandyford; Blackrock Cellar)
Niepoort is one of the few famous Port houses which doesn’t have an English family name. In fact their origins are Dutch, and fifth generation Dirk van der Niepoort has been head of the business since his father retired in 2005. Niepoort are more than just a Port house, though; they make fantastic dry reds in the Douro, including some fairly eccentric wines such as Clos de Crappe.
And this is something else again, a Douro white made from a wonderous blend of local grapes: Rabigato, Códega do Larinho, Viosinho, Donzelinho and Gouveio. It has a lovely, round texture but isn’t heavy – it dances around the tongue with sweet stone and pip fruit.
Keermont Terrasse Stellenbosch 2015 (13.5% RRP €29.50 at The Corkscrew, Chatham St.; SIYPS)
The Keermont range so fantastic across the board that it was difficult to narrow my selection down at all. The delightful white blend “Terrasse” begged for inclusion, really punching above its weight. The blend is 56% Chenin Blanc then roughly equal parts Viognier, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Helpfully, the Keermont website features this table of which blocks and which varieties are used in the 2015 vintage. Each component is barrel fermented and matured separately, then blended before bottling. Each variety adds something to the wine (which is the point of blends, I suppose) – there’s spiciness, fruit, acidity and richness all humming along together in harmony.
Keermont Stellenbosch Estate Reserve 2012 (14.5%, RRP €37.00 at Gibneys, Malahide; The Corkscrew, Chatham St.; Blackrock Cellar)
The block figures on the right are for the 2013 vintage so there might be some small differences for the 2012 tasted, but the Estate Reserve is pretty much a red Bordeaux blend with a splash of Syrah. The 2012 is nicely settled in now, still showing lots of pristine black fruit and a very Graves-like graphite edge. The main difference between this wine and an actual red from Bordeaux is not the splash of Syrah – it’s that to get this amount of fruit and complexity from Bordeaux you’d have to pay double or more!
Keermont Topside Syrah 2014 (13.5%, RRP €53.00 at The Corkscrew, Chatham St. (also poured at Forest & Marcy))
The previous two wines are from the “Keermont” range, sitting in the middle of the hierarchy above the “Companion” wines and below the “Single Vineyard” series. Now we have one of the latter, which also features a Chenin Blanc, a Cabernet Franc and another (“Steepside”) Syrah. The Topside Vineyard is well named, being high up on the west-facing slopes of the Stellenbosch Mountain Range. The soil is mainly rock with some patches of sand, and with the altitude of 350 – 400m the wines grown here have a real freshness to them. Compared to the Steepside, the Topside sees less oak (used 500 litre barrels only), has a full percent less alcohol and has more acidity. There’s a place for both, but for me the Topside shows some of the best aspects of warm climate and cool climate Syrah in the same wine. Bravo!
Emrich-Schönleber Halenberg Großes Gewächs (12.5%, RRP €65.00 at 64 Wine (also poured at Dromoland Castle))
Separate from the potential sweetness-based Prädikat system (which goes from Kabinett to Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA for short)), members of the VDP* may also be able to use the relatively new terms Erstes Gewächs or Großes Gewächs (GG) for their best dry wines. I have to confess that I didn’t really understand the first few GG wines I tried – they were sort of nice but not exactly delicious drinking – and given their premium prices that put me off somewhat.
This wine, with more syllables than you shake a stick at, shows me what I was missing out on. With a few years behind it this Halenberg Riesling starts to reveal what a great GG can do. There’s amazing sweet fruit on the attack and mid-palate, extraordinary length and a mineral, dry finish.
*VDP stands for Verband Deutscher Prädikats- und Qualitätsweingüter, so let’s just keep using VDP!
The SPIT series: