If you vaguely remember seeing this wine before on Frankly Wines then you are not mistaken. I bought a dozen of the 2011 vintage of Polish Hill many years ago, and I drink a bottle every autumn to celebrate my eldest son’s birthday. If you haven’t guessed yet, he was born in the year 2011, hence my choice of vintage.
Before the tasting notes themselves, brief reminders on Clare Valley and Grosset Wines
Clare Valley is located around two hours’ drive north of Adelaide, into the northern Mt Lofty Ranges. It is subdivided into five sub-regions: Auburn, Clare, Polish Hill River, Sevenhill and Watervale
European settlement began in the 1830s, and it only took a few years for them to plant vineyards and make wine. Many of these immigrants were from Germany and Italy, countries with long established wine cultures, so it was natural for them to bring cuttings with them and develop vineyards, whether for commercial or personal consumption.
Being a hilly region, there are lots of different soil types* – eleven in fact, with red soil over limestone (similar to Coonawarra’s terra rossa) in Watervale and broken slate in Polish Hill River. These soil types obviously have an effect on the style of wines made. Across Clare Valley as a whole, Riesling is the most popo
We all have our own story of how we caught the wine bug. For Jeffrey Grosset, it was at the tender age of 15 when he tasted a bottle of wine his dad brought home for dinner. He signed up at Roseworthy Agricultural College – Australia’s premier wine college – on his 16th birthday then spent five years studying Agriculture and Oenology, learning both sides of the trade. After graduating he had a series of roles in Australia and Germany, but at 26 in 1981 he decided to strike out on his own and founded Grosset Wines.
Jeffrey’s focus has always been on quality, so even as additional vineyards were added to the firm over the years, he maintained control and wasn’t subject to the whims of partners or shareholders. Even 40 years later there are only eight people in the whole company, many of them long term employees. He was also at the forefront of the Clare Valley producer movement to screwcaps, to preserve Riesling’s gentle aromatics. In the vineyard, sustainable practices and intimate knowledge of the vines eventually led to organic and biodynamic certification.
The Grosset Wines portfolio now extends to ten wines, eight from Clare and two from Piccadilly Valley in Adelaide Hills:
Polish Hill (the Flagship)
Springvale (from the Watervale sub-region)
Alea (from Grosset’s Rockwood Vineyard, just off-dry)
G110 (made from a single Riesling clone in a single plot)
Rockwood (also from the Rockwood Vineyard)
Other Clare Valley Wines
Gaia (~ 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc)
Nereus (Shiraz with a little Nero d’Avola)
So now onto my notes on Grosset’s top Riesling
Grosset Polish Hill Riesling 2011
The key to this Riesling’s power and longevity is its tough upbringing. The Polish Hill vineyard has dry, slatey soil which forces the vines to send their roots deep. It’s also fairly cool, even for the Clare Valley. Bunches tend to be small, with small berries, so flavour is concentrated:
Most dry Rieslings are very light in colour when young, but 11 years have seen this bottle take on a little colour, so it’s now on the borderline between deep lemon and light gold. The nose shows even more evolution; on release it was tight, almost unapproachable, but now the lime, lemongrass and subtle herb notes have relaxed a little. It’s so nice to sniff that you might even forget to taste it!
When you do taste it, the attack is dry and subtle, but is quickly overwhelmed by a fruity mid palate: lime, grapefruit and quince. They fade out very gently over the long finish. There’s plenty of texture – small berries encourage a fleshy character, and the wine was not fined or filtered before bottling.
When I bought this wine, Grosset wines were a little cagey on ageing, suggesting that 15 years was probably the top end, but Jeffrey himself has said that some vintages can cellar for 25 years. It’s easy to see why this has become an Aussie icon, and an example of how good Australian Riesling can be.
RRP: €50 – €58 for current vintages
Source: purchased from The Wine Society
Stockists: good independents
* mountains and hills are caused by existing soils being uplifted, often twisted at the same time, so various layers are brought to the surface.
For the first time, this year’s SuperValu French Wine Sale includes some German wines from the Pfalz, so that makes it the French and German wine sale!
The Pfalz is essential directly north of Alsace and there is some similarity in the styles of wines made. Somewhat unusually, when appropriate, oak barrels are used for ageing – but not just any oak barrels; the trees are sourced from a nearby forest, and so we wine geeks have another type of oak to mention on top of French, American and Slavonian. However, the wines are rarely “oaky” in taste.
The Pfalz wines included in the sale are from Albert Glas, a family owned concern with around 20 hectares of vines. It’s a fairly warm region so the focus is on preserving acidity for balance and freshness. The firm is run today by Dominik Glas, an engaging man who emphasises the Glas passion for wine, love of their homeland and repsect for nature. His aim with Glas is to make wines that have a constant taste through the palate, i.e. the attack, mid-palate and finish, rather than missing an important part. As you might gather from his name he is part of the founding family, and is the grandson of Albert.
Below are eight of the Albert Glas wines available in the superValu French and German Wine Sale. I’ve written a conclusion at the bottom, but the TL;DR is: they are all very good wines, buy as many as you can afford!
Albert Glas Pfalz NeverCompromise 2021
This modern label and modern name present a light, fun wine that’s not designed to be taken too seriously. It’s a blend of Riesling, Muller-Thürgau and Sauvignon Blanc. Like all good blends, it’s more than the sum of its parts. Alcohol is modest and there’s a fair dose of residual sugar, but balanced with the inherent acidity it comes across as fruity rather than sweet. The nose has aromas of pear, peach, ripe red apples and even mineral notes. On the palate it’s rich and round – heading for opulence but taking a last minute diversion with a crisp finish.
RS: 20.4 g/L
RRP: €10.00 down from €16.99
Stockists: SuperValu stores
Albert Glas Pfalz Brown Label Weissburgunder 2021
Weißburgunder is better known as Pinot Blanc in Burgundy, Pinot Bianco in Italy and occasionally as Klevner in Alsace*. In Burgundy it lives in the shadow of Chardonnay, but elsewhere if treated well it makes some very enjoyable wines. And this is one of them.
In the glass it’s lemon to light gold, a little more colour than a Riesling for example. The nose is lovely, full of spicy pear with a touch of ripe peach and apricot. Fleshy, succulent round pear and peach feature on the palate, but with good acidity. Such sweet fruit, but with a fresh and dry finish.
RS: 8.8 g/L
RRP: €10.00 down from €14.99
Stockists: SuperValu stores
Albert Glas Pfalz Brown Label Grauburgunder 2021
Grauburgunder is Pinot Gris in (most of)** France and of course Pinot Grigio in Italy. In Germany it is often made in a richer style, though not as sweet as in Alsace, and certainly not like the simple, fruity bulk Grigios of Italy. Poured side by side with the Weissburgunder, this is fairly similar in style…even more pearish, even spicier! It has the lovely dry mid palate that a good Gris should have. It has some complexity, subtlty and savouryiness. This is probably slightly less immediate on the palate than the Weissburgunder, so it’s more of a contemplative wine.
RS: 6.1 g/L
RRP: €10.00 down from €14.99
Stockists: SuperValu stores
Albert Glas Pfalz Black Label Sauvignon Blanc 2021
Yes, German Sauvignon Blanc! The variety does well in Germany, and indeed further south and east in Europe, though it’s obviously not as common as in France. It does need lots of attention, though, so as not to become a “diva”. 80% of the grapes are picked in the cool of early morning. They are kept cool with dry ice and in an oxygen-free environment until at the winery. They are pressed within an hour or two of arriving, with no cold maceration. The other 20% are harvested later over two or three additional passes in the vineyard.
There’s no mistaking the variety when smelling this wine; it’s all about gooseberry, grapefuit, grass and herbal goodness. The aromas are ripe, but not the full tropical explosion. It’s gentle on the palate, with fruit first and a fairly dry, herby finish, and a touch of sweetness balancing the acidity. This is nicely balanced and a different expression of Sauvignon Blanc – not French, not Kiwi, not Chilean; it has its own identity.
RS: 8.2 g/L
RRP: €12.00 down from €19.99
Stockists: SuperValu stores
Albert Glas Pfalz Black Label Riesling 2020
Riesling is Germany’s flagship grape, the one most closely tied to German wine in the mind of wine drinkers, with 105.000 hectares of vines. However, climate change has meant that some of the “best” sites which were previously reserved for Riesling might now be too warm for it. This Black Label Riesling is harvested from vineyards which are not yet too warm, as evidenced by the alcohol (13.0%) and the residual sugar (not stated, but probably less than 10 g/L).
All the grapes are hand picked and undergo a cold maceration, so some of the flavour is transferred from the skins to the juice before fermentation begins. That takes place in a mixture of vessels, with both stainless steel and old large oak barrels used. The latter is not to impart flavour, but rather structure and texture. The two types are blended together after around six months.
The nose is unmistakeably Riesling, with citrus and floral notes. On the palate there’s red apple to add to the lemon, lime and flowers, plus a pithiness. The finish is dry, but this is not an austere wine that needs years before opening – it’s good to go now, though it will benefit from time laid down to evolve in complexity.
I showed this wine blind at DNS Wine Club, straight after the phenomenal Shafter Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay. Perhaps because it’s so different in style to the Shafer, no-one guessed that it was Chardonnay, though a few guessed it was German because of the high acidity. It just goes to show that no single style of wine is best for a variety.
It’s on the lighter side for a Chardonnay – think Chablis rather than Meursault, in weight terms at least – but very well done. There’s a certain pithiness which adds interest on top of the citrus and pip fruits. I think this will benefit from cellaring, if you’re able to keep your hands off it.
RS: 6.8 g/L
RRP: €12.00 down from €19.99
Stockists: SuperValu stores
Albert Glas Pfalz Pink Label Gewürztraminer Spätlese 2021
If you will forgive me for making yet another Alsace reference, the Spätlese reference on the front label is equivalent to Vendanges Tardives in French, that is, a late harvest wine. While the labelling regulations in Alsace are not as complex as in Germany, they both indicate that the wine is sweeter than normal.
When poured this Gewurz – sorry, Gewürz – is a bright lemon, but giving no indication of its sweetness. The nose is highly aromatic, mainly. roses, with lychees and turkish delight only suggested; no gaudy monstrosity here. In the mouth it’s succulent and sweet, but not super sweet. This is a highly, highly drinkable wine.
RS: 39 g/L
RRP: €10.00 down from €15.99
Stockists: SuperValu stores
Albert Glas Pfalz Black Label Pinot Noir 2020
If Riesling is rightly regarded as the King of German wine, then surely Pinot Noir is the Queen, whether known by that name or its synonyms Spätburgunder or Blauburgunder. Pinot Noir is probably at its best in Baden, the most southerly of Germany’s wine regions, but it can make good wine all over the country, especially with the effects of climate change.
Dominik Glas follows his grandfather’s methods, 100% destemming the grapes and fermenting in open top bins. He opts for manual punchdowns so that he keeps in touch with the progress of the wine. Fermentation usually lasts three weeks so that there is not excessive tannin extraction. Malolactive fermentation takes place in stainless steel then the wine matures in Pfalz oak, 80% old and 20% new. Overall the aim is to make a fresh and fruity Pinot Noir.
And they have succeeded! It’s fruity, easy to drink but with a savoury streak. It could be lightly chilled during summer or served at room temperature in autumn and winter. This is a great ambassador for German Pinot Noir.
All these wines are great, especially at the sale prices. I would be happy with any or all of them. If I HAD to choose a few favourites, I’d probably buy the NeverCompromise and Grauburgunder to drink now and the Riesling and Chardonnay to keep for a while
Other articles on wines from the SuperValu French & German wine sale:
The Last of the Summer Wine? Perhaps, perhaps not. We never know how long we will have sunshine in Ireland, so we have to enjoy every sunny day we get. Here are four summer sippers to enjoy while soaking up the last few rays:
Chatelain Desjacques Sauvignon Blanc 2020
This Sauvignon is made by Loire Valley based Les Caves de La Loire, a quality- and sustainability-focused cooperative located in the Anjou. I did note that this particular bottling is a Vin de France rather than a Touraine or other Loire appellation, so I wondered if all the grapes were grown in the Loire. The nose of this wine is unmistakeably Sauvignon Blanc, with gooseberry and grassy notes. The palate also shows lots of typical Savvy character, though on top of the usual green-themed flavours there are also some rich tropical notes, somewhat reminiscent of Martinborough SB – Paddy Borthwick’s is a great example.
Whether they sourced some grapes from outside the Loire – for example the Languedoc – or we are now tasting the effects of global warming, the result really works. This bottle has far more character and interest than expected for €15, never mind the €10 offer price.
RRP:€10.00 down from €14.95 until 31st August 2022
Germany’s numerous wine regions produce Riesling in a variety of styles, but I think it’s fair to say that the Mosel’s are the most distinctive: the highest acidity, often with some residual sugar to balance the palate. This “entry level” Riesling from Selbach fits the bill perfectly. The quotation marks are required as this is anything but a basic wine; it’s not as complex as more expensive examples but it is oh-so-juicy. The nose is fabulous, full of lime and elderflower, then the wine goes to work on your palate and delivers a wave of refreshing citrus and pip fruit. It leaves the mouth watering more than Opal Fruits, so another sip is essential. That’s what makes this wine an essential summer sipper!
RRP:€13.95 down from €16.95 until 31st August 2022
Pinotage might be a marmite grape for some, but lighter, less-extracted and fresher style reds seem to be increasing in popularity with drinkers. It therefore makes sense that a Pinotage rosé would have some merit – and this example from Delheim proves that it can make very tasty rosé indeed. It’s pale salmon in the glass, a little darker than is en vogue at the moment, and all the better for it: it’s also very fruity, which is something I value in a rosé, rather than the so-dry-it’s-austere style that is fashionable at the moment. Vive le fruit!
With their distinctive – and at times unpronouncable – grape varieties, Greek wines aren’t an easy sell in Ireland. Gai’a have helped to build a bridgehead with their distinctive and outrageously good Wild Ferment Assyrtiko, and they have a handful of other wines available here through O’Briens. The ability to pronounce Agiorgitiko is not essential to buying this rosé, however (hell, I can barely spell it!). The 4-6H on the label is the maceration time, the period during which the juice is in contact with the skins (which have all the colour and some of the flavour). The result of those few hours is a magnificent wine that is not only tasty, but also interesting. Fresh red berries mingle with pomegranates and floral notes to make a wonderful combination. This is one of my favourite rosés available in Ireland!
What’s the difference between Rheingau and Rheinhessen?
The nomenclature of German wine can be confusing – even for serious wine enthusiasts – with compound names and a quality system predicated on harvest sugar levels. When three of the thirteen wine regions contain the word “Rhein” even the places can be confusing: Rheingau, Rheinhessen and Mittelrhein. Until 1995 there was even a fourth with the Pfalz known as Rheinpfalz.
Rheinhessen is the largest of the 13 German wine regions and grows a large range of varieties; Riesling is the most significant but only accounts for around a sixth of the total, with Müller-Thurgau, Dornfelder and various Pinots also prominent. Historically it was part of the Hesse region but is now part of Rheinland-Pfalz.
Confusingly, the Rheingau is part of the state of Hesse! In her book The wines of Germany, Anne Krebiehl MW states that “No other region has shaped the identity of German wine and therefore Riesling as comprehensively as [the Rheingau]”. Riesling is most definitely king here, accounting for 78.8% of all wines, with Spätburgunder a distant second at 12.2% then Müller-Thurgau leading the small change.
This article compares two similar Rieslings from Rheingau and Rheinhessen, both Trocken (dry), 12.0% in alcohol and retailing in the €20 – €25 bracket in Ireland.
Dreissigacker Rheinhessen Riesling Trocken 2015
Jochen Dreissigacker took over his parents’ firm in Bechtheim and set about bringing it right up to date. A modern winery building was established using gravity to move around the grapes, must and wine. The vineyards were converted to organic production, with certification coming in 2010, and now biodynamic practices are also used for the majority of the estate. Minimal intervention is the key so that vineyards and grapes can express themselves to the full. Dreissigacker never use commercial yeasts, chaptalise with sugar before fermentation nor add “‘süss-reserve” for sweeter styles after fermentation.
The estate has six named vineyards around Bechtheim and Westhofen, each with their own unique soil types, microclimates and identities. Totalling 21 hectares under vine, the most important variety is Riesling which accounts for 55% of the total, with Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay among the others. This estate wine is a blend of Riesling from different sites, mainly with loess and marl soils.
The nose on this wine is easily identifiable as Riesling: lime, lemon and apple blossom. On tasting the strong core of acidity is striking, but there’s also breadth and texture – in fact more than one might expect from a Riesling. The lime notes are joined by a touch of honey and a pleasant bittersweet tanginess, and it ends with a dry, textured finish.
RRP: €23.99 (2019 vintage)
Stockists: 64 Wine, Glashule; Alain and Christine Wine and Card Shop; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Martins Off Licence, Fairview; Redmonds of Ranelagh; The Wine Centre, Kilkenny; wineonline.ie; World Wide Wines, Waterford
Source: purchased from 64 Wine
Robert Weil Rheingau Riesling Trocken 2019
Weingut Robert Weil has over four times as much vineyard area as Dreissigacker with 90 hectares, all of which is planted to Riesling. The eponymous Dr Robert Weil purchased his first vineyards in 1867 while teaching German at the Sorbonne, but shortly after had to return home as tensions rose between the two countries. There he became a journalist while expanding his holdings and his range of wines; his Auslese Riesling became famous throughout Europe.
Robert’s son Wilhelm (from 1920) helped to steer the winery through turbulent times and was a leader for the winegrowing industry. His grandson Robert (from 1959) helped Weil’s Rieslings to regain their reputation for excellence. The current owner/manager is another Wilhelm who took over in 1987. He undertook serious investments in the vineyards and cellar, even introducing the distinctive and now iconic “Tiffany blue” labels.
Although they have just a single variety, Weil make an extensive range of wines, and differing sugar levels necessitate as many as 17 different passes through the vineyards during a harvest which can last ten weeks or more. In the winery – as with Dreissigacker – gravity rather than pumps is used to move juice and wine. Both wild and commercial yeasts are used for fermentation, with fuller bodied dry wines in large oak casks and sweeter or fruit forward wines fermented in stainless steel tanks.
This 2019 Riesling Trocken pours very pale in the glass, as you’d expect. The nose has intense, fresh lime overlaying a mineral edge. The palate initially shows soft citrus fruits, backed up by a strong streak of acidity which underpins the whole show, and then juicy orchard fruits. This is a well made, balanced wine that gives a lot of pleasure. It’s not the most complex of wines, but it is the entry level from Robert Weil and represents fantastic value for money.
So what can these two wines tell us about the differences between the Rheingau and Rheinhessen? I think this is too small a sample to compare the two regions, but it does make for a comparison between the two producers and two vintages. The Dreissigacker is four years older than the Robert Weil so it is further along its journey to maturity; the Weil is still fresh and shows more primary fruit, fitting for their desire for wines to be both food-friendly and pleasant to drink on their own. The Dreissigacker is more textured, mineral and serious, perhaps slightly less obvious or accessible for some drinkers.
I really liked both! For a refreshing sip in the sun with friends I’d pick the Robert Weil, but for a dinner with some good food the Dreissigacker would be my choice. Perhaps more investigation is required…
When it comes to naming New Zealand’s wine regions, the significant region which is most often forgotten or overlooked is North Canterbury, close to the major city of Christchurch on the South Island. North Canterbury includes the sub-region of Waipara which is more often seen on wine labels (though not to be confused with Wairarapa which is at the bottom of the North Island and includes Martinborough). I’m not sure why Canterbury is overlooked – perhaps because it doesn’t specialise in Sauvignon Blanc? – but some great wines are made here.
Not too dissimilar to Marlborough which is further north on the South Island, Waipara is situated in the rain- (and wind-) shadow of the Southern Alps and is close to the sea, giving temperate summers with cool nights and dry autumns which allow grapes to achieve full phenolic ripeness as their own pace. The most important varieties here are Riesling and Pinot Noir, though other aromatic whites and Chardonnay also do well.
To show how the terms can be used interchangeably, note that the sign above mentions Waipara whereas the website banner states “Fine North Canterbury Wine” under “Pegasus Bay”
Background to Pegasus Bay
It started with a doctor reading a book. The doctor was Neurologist Ivan Donaldson and the book was one of Hugh Johnson’s wine books, “Wine”, given to him by his then girlfriend Christine. The book lit a fire within him; he journeyed round many of Europe’s well-established wine regions, and on his return he planted Canterbury’s first vines in 1976. This first vineyard was in Mountain View, just south west of Christchurch, and was very experimental in nature. Ivan managed to fit in his wine hobby in between hospital and private consulting work.
Almost a decade later, Ivan and Chris decided to make the jump from a hobby to a proper enterprise. By now they had four sons, so it was a combined family effort to plant vines in the Waipara Valley. They named their winery Pegasus Bay after the large bay running from the City of Canterbury up to the mouth of the Waipara River.1
The first vintage was 1991 which Ivan made in his garage. The family gradually expanded the winery, cellar door, restaurant and gardens. All four sons are now involved in the winery, with the eldest – Matthew, a Roseworthy graduate – being chief winemaker. As well as estate wines under the Pegasus Bay label the Donaldsons also make Main Divide wines from bought in fruit.
Pegasus Bay Wine Styles and Philosophy
In a nutshell, Pegasus bay wines have something of a Burgundian sensibility but they reflect Waipara and the vintage in which they are made. In a interview that Ed Donaldson gave for the Wine Zealand Project2 in 2016 he expounds the family’s philosophy:
So what drives us is – hopefully – making better wine all the time
One of the advantages [we have is that] my brother Matt’s taken over the winemaking so he has a lot of time to experiment, and to tweak, and to change, and see the wines age, and the vines getting some vine age, and just seeing what works and what doesn’t work, and continually trying to evolve and make better wine.
Our winemaking style is to be true to ourselves, not trying to emulate anything. We have a lot of respect for the old world and its wine styles. We as a family drink a lot of wine from all over the world but we’re not necessarily trying to emulate them, we’re trying to make the best example of what we think expresses the region and the season as best we can. Trying not to follow trends, we try to make the best wine we can and find a home for it.
We’ve been members of the Sustainable Winegrowers Programme pretty much since its inception, and we make wine as naturally as possible.
Pegasus Bay Wine Ranges
There are two main ranges, Estate and Reserve. The Estate wines are (obviously) made only with their own fruit, and although they are perhaps the junior wines in the Pegasus Bay portfolio they are not what you or I would call “entry level”, which has connotations of lower quality, simpler wines for drinking very young. Make no mistake, the Estate wines are seriously good.
The Reserve range is a significant step up again, in both quality and corresponding prices. This range includes two botrytis sweet wines; a Semillon Sauvignon blend reminiscent of Sauternes and a Riesling which evokes the Rhine. The Reserve wines are named with an operatic theme as Chris Donaldson is an opera devotee.
The Vengence range has just two experimental wines whose composition varies from year to year. They are totally different in style from the main two ranges; they are fun and quirky rather than being serious. They give the winemakers the opportunity to play around with different vineyard and winery choices that they couldn’t just jump into with the main ranges.
Reserve: Bel Canto Dry Riesling, Aria Late Picked Riesling, Virtuoso Chardonnay, Prima Donna Pinot Noir, Maestro Merlot/Malbec, Encore Noble Riesling, Finale Noble Semillon Sauvignon
Vergence: Vergence White (Semillon blend), Vergence Red (Pinot Noir)
Wines in bold are reviewed below
Pegasus Bay Chardonnay 2017
As with most of Pegasus Bay’s vines, this Chardonnay is harvested from vines which are mainly ungrafted. The vines now average 30 years old and are planted on rocky soils which are free draining and low in fertility. These facts all lead to lower yields but with concentrated flavours. The climate is warm, rather than hot, yet with cool nights, so the growing season is long.
I mentioned above that there’s a Burgundian sensibility to Pegasus Bay wines, but in the case of this Chardonnay the winemaking is definitely Burgundian in nature. Multiple passes were made to hand harvest the fruit at optimum ripeness. The grapes were whole bunch pressed then transferred to 500 litre oak barrels, 30% new and 70% used. Spontaneous fermentation took place in these puncheons and the young wine was left to mature on its lees over winter and spring. Malolactic fermentation started naturally into the summer months, with the winemaking team halting it based on regular tasting to get the balance between fresh malic and round lactic acids.
When poured this Chardonnay is a normal lemon colour. On the nose there are citrus fruits but they initially take a side seat to outstanding “struck-match” reductive notes. There are also soft yellow fruits and a stony mineral streak. The palate is magnificent, a really grown up Chardonnay that balances fruit, tanginess, minerality, freshness, texture and roundness. This is one of the most complete Chardonnays I’ve had the pleasure of trying in many years.
Stockists: Donnybrook Fair, Donnybrook; The Corkscrew, Chatham St.
Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir 2016
This 2016 pours a medium intensity ruby red, consistent across the glass. The nose has lots of fruit, more black than red; the black fruits appear at first (blackberry and black cherry) but gradually cede attention to red (red cherry and pomegranate). Enticing savoury notes and spice complete the olfactory picture. It’s a very sophisticated and complex nose that deserves – nay demands – frequent revisits.
The palate is savoury and fruity in taste. Those same black fruits come to the fore but with black liquorice and black olive counterpoints, Fine grained tannins and acidity provide a fantastic structure, but this is a supple and sappy wine, not austere.
The alcohol is little higher than we usually see in a Pinot Noir, but the 14.5% does not stick out at all when tasting. This is a well-balanced wine, albeit a powerful one. When it comes to food pairing, Pinot Noir is often matched with mid level meats such as veal or pork – and to be fair this would be excellent with charcuterie – but this has the weight and intensity to match well with game, lamb or even beef.
Stockists: 64 Wine, Glasthule; World Wide Wines, Waterford: The Corkscrew, Chatham St; Donnybrook Fair, Donnybrook; La Touche Wines, Greystones; D-Six, Harolds Cross
Pegasus Bay Encore Noble Riesling 2008
Pegasus Bay have four Rieslings in their portfolio, as befitting a top Waipara producer:
The Estate Riesling is produced every year
The Bel Canto (Reserve) Dry Riesling has a little botrytis and is made in two out of every three years, depending on vintage conditions
The Aria (Reserve) Late Picked Riesling is a late harvest style that often has a small proportion of Botryis grapes and is made roughly one on two years, vintage dependent
The Encore (Reserve) Noble Riesling is only made with fully botrytised berries, often requiring multiple passes, and of course when there are sufficient grapes in a particular vintage.
Only in very exceptional years such as 2008 and 2014 are all four styles made. The Riesling vines are on a rocky outcrop which has warm days but very cool nights, helping to maintain acidity and thus preserve freshness.
As the pure botrytis (and therefore sweetest) Riesling in their range, Pegasus Bay liken it in style to a Séléction de Grains Nobles (SGN) from Alsace or a Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA) from Germany. When harvested the grapes are totally shrivelled and so produce a very small amount of juice – but such luscious juice! After clarification the juice is allowed to ferment naturally; when the yeast finishes its task there is plenty of residual sugar, though the precise figure is not published.
On the nose it’s instantly identifiable as Riesling, but with honey and tropical fruits to the fore. In addition to the pineapple, mango and grapefruit there are also hints of mushroom. The palate is beautiful but perhaps confounding for the uninitiated – it’s rich and sweet yet full of acidity, giving your palate a smorgasbord of experiences. The finish is amazingly long.
At 13 years of age this bottle has had plenty of development, possibly rounding off the acidity slightly while also tapering the apparent sweetness to some degree (the mechanism for which is not yet understood). It still has plenty of life left though – it could easily keep to the end of this decade.
RRP: €35 for 2016 vintage (375ml bottle)
Stockists: currently no retail stockists, but available in some restaurants
Source: own cellar
Other Pegasus Bay Wines available in Ireland
In addition to the three wines reviewed above there are three further Pegasus Bay wines available in Ireland
Sauvignon / Semillon: RRP €29, Stockists: Barnhill Stores, Dalkey; The Corkscrew; Jus De Vine, Portmarnock
Bel Canto Dry Riesling: RRP €35, currently no retail stockists, but available in some restaurants
Prima Donna Pinot Noir: RRP €75, Stockist: The Wine House, Trim
Frankly Wines and Pegasus Bay
Now, those who follow me on Instagram may realise that I live in the Dublin suburb of Glasnevin, also home to the National Botanic Gardens, the Irish Met office and the large Glasnevin cemetery. It was therefore a huge surprise when, while touring New Zealand on honeymoon, we suddenly realised that we were driving through Glasnevin, Canterbury. And where was our first stop? Pegasus Bay, of course!
1Ironically Pegasus Bay was originally known as “Cook’s Mistake” – I’m glad I didn’t find that out on my honeymoon!
As a devoted fan of Alsace wines I’m heartened that Lidl include one or more examples in their limited release French wine events. For example, in 2017 I have really enjoyed Jean Cornelius Sylvaner, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Blanc. I also tried the Jean Cornelius Riesling in 2019.
The next Lidl Ireland French wine event starts Thursday 25th February and includes eight whites and eight reds. Below I briefly review two of the whites which I enjoyed.
Disclosure: both bottles were kindly sent as samples, but opinions remain my own
Jean Cornelius Alsace Riesling 2019
This is an entry level Alsace Riesling, presumably from vineyards on the flat and productive plains heading east towards the Rhine. The nose is muted, though it does give hints of Riesling goodness. The palate is bone dry, with zesty lime and a squeeze of juicy stone fruit, finished off by tinned grapefruit notes. This isn’t a wine to get too excited about but it managed to combine freshness and roundness in a pretty tasty package. Would be perfect with seafood or as an aperitif.
Stockists: Lidl Ireland stores from 25th Feb 2021, while stocks last
Bourgogne Aligoté 2018
Aligoté won’t be that familiar to many supermarket shoppers, and if they have tasted the grape it’s just likely to have been in a (proper) Kir cocktail as on its own. The variety originated in Burgundy as a cross between Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc, making it a full sibling of Chardonnay and Auxerrois, among many others. It ranks as the second most planted white grape in Burgundy, but in reality it’s way behind big brother Chardonnay. Long derided, Aligoté is on the comeback – more on which in a future article.
This example is one of many Lidl wines which don’t mention the producer on the label, so I opened it with caution, but for such an inexpensive wine and a modest grape it has plenty going on. It is bone dry with Aligoté’s trademark high acidity, but there are also notes of melon and stone fruits. There’s also a little smokiness, minerality and herbiness to the wine, and more texture than I anticipated. There’s no overt oakiness though perhaps a little leesiness. This wine does cry out for food or, if that’s not forthcoming, another glass!
Stockists: Lidl Ireland stores from 25th Feb 2021, while stocks last
Other wines included in the Lidl Ireland French Wine events are:
After the Champagnes of Laherte Frères in Part 1, we now turn to a trio of unusual whites. They aren’t that obscure, but they aren’t going to appear in your local supermarket. They are all made by small, family owned producers who prefer to do work in the vineyard rather than the winery. Note: I tasted these wines back in February this year so some outlets may well have moved onto the 2019 vintages of the respective wines.
M & A Arndorfer Gemischter Satz Weiss 2018
Martin and Anna Arndorfer are part of the new generation in Austria, acknowledging their respective families’ deep ties to their region of Kamptal but breaking free and setting down their own roots. Their approach might be described as “hands-off”, but that would belittle the work they do in the vineyard, fully respectful of nature’s gifts.
This is the first time I have reviewed the M & A Arndorfer Gemischter Satz (field blend), though I have previously reviewed their single varietal 2015 Grüner Veltliner and their 2016 Vorgeschmack white. As the latter is no longer available and consisted of the same blend (80% Grüner Veltliner & 20% Riesling) as this wine I believe it is simply a matter of renaming.
Those familiar with the component varieties – hopefully a decent majority of you – should be able to imagine its style; decent body with lots of spice and pip fruit, but a racy finish. Apples and pears meet lemon and lime? What’s not to like?
When faced with this label most wine drinkers would be forgiven for thinking “what even is that?” (Confession: I thought exactly that!) So: “Burja” is the name of the estate, “Zelen” is the name of the grape and “Petit Burja” is the name of the bottling. Burja is run by Primož Lavrenčič who named it after the Mistral-like wind which can blow through the vines. Zelen is a local grape variety named after the Slovenian word for ‘green’ which is the colour that it apparently takes on when fermenting. The estate is run on both organic and biodynamic lines.
So how does this unusual grape taste? It doesn’t taste exactly like anything else, but in a word, great! It’s highly aromatic, with floral and citrus notes to the fore. These continue onto the palate which is juicy and tangy, but also mineral and linear. This wine could be the jolt that your palate needs!
I have reviewed the red wine from this stable before; Domaine de Montcy Cheverny Rouge was the Frankly Wines #2 Value Red of 2017. The Domaine has been run by Italian Laura Semeria for 13 years; she has woven the new (converting viticulture to organic and then biodynamic) with the old (maintaining local varieties including the rare Romorantin). The vines cover a surface area of 20 hectares and vary in age up to 80 years old.
Just as the Arndorfer wine above, this is an 80/20 blend, but this time 80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Chardonnay (yes, Chardonnay is grown in the Loire!) This blend is rarely seen in France, nor even Australia or New Zealand, but does occur in northern Italy. Although unusual, the blend is seamless, showing floral, herby and citrus notes. It’s a light yet thrilling, real wine.
Lidl Ireland are launching their Christmas wines in two separate parts, the first of which is already underway. In addition to those limited release wines – marked * below – they are stocking up on new vintages of regular favourites. My reviews below are not unqualified recommendations; other wines of the same type are available which offer better quality, though not better value. I let you, dear readers, decide on whether each wine sounds like its worth putting in your trolley.
Disclosure: bottles were kindly sent as samples, but opinions remain my own
Clare Valley Riesling 2019*
This is a gentle Riesling, very drinkable and with no sharp edges. When compared to the best Clare Valley Rieslings such as Grosset Polish Hill or Petaluma Hanlin Hill it’s a much simpler wine, with a shorter finish and even has a touch of residual sugar. However, this is aimed at the casual drinker and I doubt that many people would be in the market for both styles; Lidl’s example is actually more approachable so might actually be more preferable for those looking for an easy-going (and less expensive) tipple.
When to drink: Whenever you like!
Stockists: Lidl Ireland
Sauvignon Blanc Gran Reserva 2020
While the Riesling above isn’t very “Riesling” this 2020 Gran Reserva is VERY “Sauvignon Blanc”! By this I mean that it is very young and expressive, and needs a little more time before settling down. The key is one of the “Gs”, the aromas and flavours found in this Chilean Savvy:
Green (bell) pepper
For me the green pepper sticks out a little too much at the moment, so if you aren’t fond of that flavour then this wine isn’t for you. However, if you are ambivalent or like green capsicums then you might be a fan. Try decanting!
When to drink: With a fresh green salad or with goats cheese.
Stockists: Lidl Ireland
Il Santo Bevitore IGT Isola Dei Nuraghi 2019
This wine was a total unknown to me so I had to do a little research. Isole dei Nuraghi is an IGT which covers the whole of Sardinia. Many international grapes are used plus a few local specialities. My guess was that this was a Syrah / Merlot blend but I was unable to confirm this. The nose is smoky with red and black fruits. The palate has black cherries and sour red cherries, overlain by a touch of vanilla. Acidity is medium to high but not jarring.
When to drink: With just about anything apart from fish or seafood.
Stockists: Lidl Ireland
Barossa Valley Shiraz 2017*
In a similar vein to the Clare Valley Riesling, this is a very approachable, easy-going wine that doesn’t demand too much from its drinkers – it’s made in a deliberately commercial style. The nose shows blackberry, blackcurrant and a little vanilla. These notes continue through onto the palate but adding a little stewed fruit to the fresh. Light tannins round off the wine nicely, though the finish is a little short.
When to drink: Very quaffable on its own, or pair with richer foods.
Stockists: Lidl Ireland
Carménère Gran Reserva 2020
Carménère is one of Bordeaux’s six black grapes, though it’s hardly grown there at all these days. Instead it has become the flagship black grape of Chile, where it was mistaken for Merlot for over a century. In the glass it pours a bright purple, typical of the variety. The nose is lovely, with rich cassis, spice and blackberry. These notes are repeated on the palate though they are somewhat barged out of the way by our friend green pepper; these green pepper notes tend to appear in Carménère when the grapes are picked before they have reached full phenolic ripeness, often when they are harvested at the same time as the earlier-ripening Merlot. In this case, seeing the 14.5% alcohol, I wager that this wine was made from very warm vineyards where the sugar outpaced the flavours. At any rate, the finish is nice and smooth.
When to drink: Beef or lamb stew.
Stockists: Lidl Ireland
Corte Alle Mure DOCG Chianti Riserva 2015*
2015 was an excellent year throughout most of Italy so I was eager to try this Chianti Riserva. This isn’t what I’d call a polished wine, but it is very Chianti, by which I mean it has typical tobacco and liquorice on the nose, Morello cherries and a hint of oak on the palate. Acidity is prominent which makes it a food wine rather than a comfortable sipper
When to drink: Charcuterie or mixed Christmas leftovers.
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.
The sweet sixteenth contributor to The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series is social media legend Brad Horne, aka Wine Time London. He presents an Instagram show “Wine Social” with a dazzling array of wine guests, often winemakers from the other side of the globe.
Among his musical preferences he mentioned “dad rock” which could actually mean several things, but I took it to mean bands such as Status Quo Oasis from the Brit pop era. Although a total cliché now and definitely overplayed, I was going to pick Wonderwall for him before I twigged the obvious choice of a song with a wine-related title: Champagne Supernova.
The wine pick for Brad was even easier as recently we had both been waxing lyrical about a certain Aussie Riesling: Petaluma’s Hanlin Hill Riesling.
Oasis – Champagne Supernova
The song Frankie chose for me was Champagne Supernova, but the wine I’m going to pair with is not Champagne; I was close to an English Sparkling wine pairing but I’ve gone for something from Down Under: Jansz Premium Cuvée always hits the spot for me, just like Oasis.
Oasis takes me back to my adolescence with friends at gigs and nights out thinking we would ‘live forever’.
This wine with its citrus notes and slight aromas of roasted nuts plus those wonderful hints of strawberry from the Pinot Noir and that lingering creaminess on the finish almost take you ‘half a world away’ or to an Aussie Sparkling Supernova In the sky…
Petaluma Hanlin Hill Riesling
With its lively acidity and rich palate, Petaluma Hanlin Hill Clare Valley Riesling takes you on a journey, and as this wine ages it evolves like us, developing more character and flavours. To match it I’ve therefore chosen Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Never Going Back Again‘.
Young – with citrus and orange blossom flavours – or aged, with petrol notes – this Riesling (like so many of its Clare Valley counterparts) is wonderful, and like this song you think about Fleetwood at the start young in love and free and as it develops like Riesling it changes and ‘goes it’s own way’.
This vineyard was planted in 1968 and has west-facing slopes 550 meters above sea level. It produces grapes with slatey minerality – this region is perfect for growing great Riesling!
Thanks so much to Frankie; wine and music can go hand in hand, so next time you sit down for a glass of Riesling turn on this song and ‘Dreams’….
Brad(ley) Horne is a Social Media and Marketing consultant for the Wine Industry. He helps wineries and the wine trade with wine events, Social media and Marketing in the UK. He is active on Twitter under both @BradleyHorne and @winetimelondon but his busiest outlet is Instagram under @winetimelondon where his show WineSocial live goes out at 8.00pm UK time.
Our first born child arrived in September 2011, and rather than just buy a case of wine for him (or us) to enjoy when he reached his majority I decided to buy a wine I could enjoy around his birthday every year as a toast to another year on earth. In the end I settled (!) for one of Australia’s iconic white wines, generally regarded as Australia’s best Riesling: Jeffrey Grosset’s Polish Hill Riesling. Normally I enjoy the wine so much that I completely forget to make notes, but this year at least I did write a brief tasting note.
Grosset established his eponymous winery in the small town of Auburn in 1981. Auburn lies at the northern end of the Mount Lofty Ranges, a Nelson (111) km north of Adelaide and 25km south of the town of Clare. The Polish Hill vineyard lies at 460 metres, covers eight hectares and is certified organic. The soil is rocky and low in fertility making the vines work hard. Winemaking is straight forward, trying to retain as much of the fruit’s character as it becomes wine.
Famously tight when young, the wine is made from small berries, a stark contrast to the larger grapes which grow in the Watervale sub-region of Clare Valley for Grosset’s other key Riesling, Springvale. Acidity is high and in its youth there are pronounced chalky characteristics. Indeed, you might say that (in most vintages) this is a wine for purists, but given time (and good care) it can blossom into something truly magnificent.
Grosset Polish Hill Clare Valley Riesling 2011
Let’s get the obvious question out of the way first: how dry or sweet is this Riesling? Well, Clare Valley Rieslings are nearly always dry – Grosset’s Alea Riesling is an exception to that rule – and by dry I mean technically dry, i.e. the yeast could not ferment any more sugar into alcohol, leaving just 0.9 g/L.
It pours a bright lemon in the glass; I expect that it was paler on release, though I didn’t have a young equivalent to compare it to. The nose is amazing – I could happily sniff it for hours. There are chalky mineral notes, of course, plus lifted lime, quince and grapefruit. There are no real kerosene notes yet, with the TDN¹ compound not present.
The palate is surprisingly soft and juicy, full of citrus with a soft chalky texture. The softness doesn’t mean it’s gone flabby – far from it, with literally mouth-watering acidity – but any austerity it had in its youth is firmly discarded. This is a classy, long and serene wine, nicely into the swing of things at nine years old, but with plenty to go yet. Yes it’s far from cheap, but for this quality and ageability it’s a very fair price to pay.