Wine + Music

The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series #19 – Alan March

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 nineteenth installment in the Frankly Wines and Friends Music and Wine series comes from another fellow wine blogger Alan March.  The big difference between us is that I taste wines sat at home whereas Alan reports from the vineyard and cellar of a renowned Languedoc producer – he’s walking the walk as well as talking the talk.

While I respect the impact that David Bowie has had on English and world music I wouldn’t count myself as a devoted fan; I’m more of a Greatest Hits listener than scouring every track on a album.  However, where Alan and I agree is that Heroes is Bowie’s best ever track – it’s a masterpiece.

Of course Alan’s articles are mainly about Mas Coutelou, but in scanning his previous posts I noticed that he had reviewed the Sauvignon Blanc from a producer – Elgin Ridge – whose Chardonnay I reviewed myself quite recently, so that was an easy choice.


David Bowie – Heroes

When Frankie selected ‘Heroes’ I smiled. It is my favourite song. Bowie has been my musical hero for almost 50 years, my first gig was Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust in Newcastle City Hall. Through various guises he refreshed and widened my musical influences. In 1976, very ill through cocaine addiction, Bowie moved to Berlin to clean up. The three ‘Berlin’ albums (though only Heroes was recorded in Berlin) mark another shift, this time to European electronica, collaborating with Eno, Fripp and Visconti. The song itself is a reflection of time and place, the synthesisers and lyrics featuring Bowie’s observation of Visconti’s embrace with a lover by the Berlin Wall next to the recording studio.

Collaboration, bringing the best out of everyone plus his own touch of genius, intriguing lyrics and a deep and evolving sound, though Heroes has become one of those songs played almost too much it still makes me joyful every time I hear it. So, a wine to match it? Well, it has to be Jeff Coutelou’s La Vigne Haute (LVH).

2012 and 15 on Jeff’s table (Credit: Alan March)

I am biased of course. As my biography notes say spending time learning about soils, vines and wines was a huge change from my previous career. A former teacher himself, Jeff taught me about the vineyards, nature and natural winemaking.

Most Coutelou wines are blends, LVH is unusual in being from one grape, Syrah, and from one vineyard which faces north to avoid the hottest sun. It reflects the place with warmth, fruit and complexity from the various geological strands of La Garrigue. Hallmark Coutelou freshness is balanced by a depth of flavours. LVH is only made in years with exceptional fruit, Jeff extracts the best from the terroir. Like Heroes it is ageless but can be enjoyed at any time. For me, time in the Coutelou vineyards marked a period of healing just as Berlin did for Bowie.

Put the song and wine together and I am in heaven.

Elgin Ridge 282 Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon; so is this the grassy green of the Loire or the tropical fruits of Marlborough? Well, neither. Biodynamically grown, ducks for pest control, low enough SO2 levels for RAW – this is my kind of Sauvignon. The use of barrels, some new, adds a different flavour profile to the norm; creamier and fuller but cut through with green apples and freshness. Above all it is balanced and very drinkable.

I was tempted to select a Graceland period track from Paul Simon but opted instead for First Aid Kit’s ‘Emmylou’.

When the Söderberg sisters performed it live for TV on a Glastonbury show the harmonies and melody hooked me in. Those features made me pair it to the nominated wine. The nod to country music’s roots through Johnny and June, Gram and Emmylou whilst adding their own Swedish pop influence reflects the South African twist on Elgin Ridge’s wine. It is a country whose wines are quickly becoming top quality and regulars in my wine racks, Emmylou is a song whose quality makes it one of my most played these days.

This is the TV performance which made me stop:

Alan March

County Durham born and bred, I was a teacher for 34 years with a passion for learning. Two years of ill health for me including a ruptured Achilles and ongoing ME persuaded my wife and I to move to the Languedoc. A passion for wine had led to us holidaying in wine regions for many years and being in the Languedoc for most of the last 6-7 years (until the tribulations of 2020) meant that I could spend time learning about wine with my friend Jeff Coutelou. Planting, grafting and harvesting, bottling, labelling and promoting the wines has given me a deeper understanding of the world of wines, especially natural wines. My blog A March in the Vines was created to share my learning and I am grateful for the surprising numbers who read it. I am also on Twitter and Instagram.


The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series
No. Guest Name Music to pair Wine to pair
19 Alan March David Bowie – Heroes Elgin Ridge 282 Sauvignon Blanc
18 David Crossley Talking Heads – Road to Nowhere Dom. Rietsch Sylvaner Vieille Vigne
17 Mitchell Young Manic Street Preachers – Motorcycle Emptiness Montirius Vacqueyras “Garrigues”
16 Brad Horne Oasis – Champagne Supernova Petaluma Hanlin Hill Riesling
15 Liam Mycroft Eric Clapton – Bad Love Bodegas Garzon Albariño
14 Lee Isaacs The Rolling Stones – Gimme Shelter Domaine Jones Fitou
13 Sharon L Souls Of Mischief –  93 ‘Til Infinity Penfolds RWT
12 Tim Milford Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man Nyetimber Classic Cuvée
11 Mags McKee U2 with BB King –  When Love Comes to Town Pittnauer Zweigelt Heideboden
10 Cara Rutherford The Cure – Just Like Heaven Suertes del Marqués ‘7 Fuentes’
9 Melanie May The Cult –  She Sells Sanctuary Sipp Mack GC Rosacker Riesling
8 James Hubbard Gary Moore – Parisienne Walkways Penfolds Bin 707 Cab Sauv
7 Paul Moran Underworld – Rez Suertes del Marqués Trenzado
6 Nirina Plunkett Jamiroquai – Space Cowboy Club Remix Wolfberger Crémant d’Alsace
5 Penny Sadler Fleetwood Mac – Dreams Bollinger Special Cuvée
4 Jim Dunlop The Beatles – The Long And Winding Road Man O’ War Valhalla Chardonnay
3 Avril Kirrane McMorrough Norah Jones – Don’t Know Why Joseph Cattin Riesling Reserve
2 Tim of Soliciting Flavours Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings Viña Tondonia Blanco
1 Sinéad Smyth Stardust – Music Sounds Better With You Mullineux Syrah

 

Opinion

Lidl Xmas 2020 Wines

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!

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €8.84
  • 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:

  • Grass
  • Green (bell) pepper
  • Gooseberry
  • Grapefruit

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.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €12.99
  • 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.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €11.99
  • 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.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €8.84
  • 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.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €11.99
  • 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.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €9.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

 

Make Mine A Double

Shining Lights [Make Mine a Double #66]

I’m in the very lucky position where I get to try lots of good and great wines on a regular basis, many of them sent as samples (especially in 2020!)  Sometimes, even among these wines, a few shine even brighter than the rest.  It’s often hard to put into words what makes them so special, though I do try.  Here are a couple of (unrelated) wines which stood out even in good company:

Disclosure: both bottles were kindly given as samples, opinions remain my own

Elgin Ridge 282 Elgin Chardonnay 2018

Elgin is South Africa’s coolest climate wine region, located about an hour’s drive south east of Cape Town.  Although now an exciting area for grapes, for many years it was known almost exclusively for its orchards, particularly apples and pears1; as a rule of thumb, agricultural land which is suitable for orchards is generally suitable for grapes.  Elgin is even cool enough for Riesling, with Paul Cluver’s wines leading the charge.

Elgin Ridge is the only winery in Elgin to be both certified organic and certified biodynamic (there is one other which is solely biodynamic).  It was founded by Brian and Marion Smith on the site of a former small (ten hectare) apple farm in 2007 and has remained in family hands since.  Their aim is to be self sufficient in terms of inputs (biodynamic preparations and cow manure) using sheep to control weeds and ducks to control insects and snails.

The figure 282 in the name of this wine, their flagship Chardonnay, refers to the vineyard’s altitude of 282 metres above sea level.  It pours lemon in the glass and initial aromas are predominantly of toasted coconut, indicating a fair bit of oak ageing.  Absolutely heavenly, if you like that sort of thing – which I do!  The coconut gives way to fabulous orchard fruits(!), smoke and spices.  On the palate this is a rich wine, with integrated oak and stone fruits and a touch of butterscotch.  There’s plenty of body and flavour, but this is no big butter bomb as there is a certain elegance and lightness to the finish.  In terms of style this brought to mind excellent southern hemisphere Chardonnays such as Smith + Shaw’s Adelaide Hills M3 and Man O’War’s Waiheke Island Valhalla.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €25.53
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswines.ie

Domaine Fournier Sancerre Les Belles Vignes 2019

For some reason 2020 has been the year of Sancerre for me, with lots of very enjoyable bottles showing that the average standard in the region is very high.  Even among those, this baby stood out.  But first a bit of background.

The maison mère2(!) is Fournier Père et Fils – to give it its full name – under which there are four Domaines:

  • Domaine Fournier (Sancerre &c.)
  • Domaine de Saint Romble (Sancerre)
  • Domaine des Berthiers (Pouilly-Fumé)
  • Domaine Paul Corneau (Pouilly-Fumé)

The full range of Domaine Fournier is detailed below.  As you might expect from one of the “Cuvées Appellations”, this wine is made from vines planted on the three key soil types of Sancerre: Silex, Caillottes and Terres Blanches.  The nose opens with ripe peach but also peach stone, sweet fruit reined in by acidity and a pleasant tartness.  On the palate there’s more fruit but on the citrus side of the spectrum, along with a touch of mown grass and green bell pepper.  Don’t mistake this for a Touraine Sauvignon plus, though; this is a smooth and gentle wine which showcases its different flavours on a long journey through your mouth.  A superior Sancerre.


The portfolio of Domaine Fournier comes under eight different labels:

  • Cuvées Grand Caillou: Sauvignon, Pinot Noir
  • Cuvées F: Pinot Noir, Rosé, Sauvignon
  • Cuvées Mmm: Rosé, Chenin
  • Cuvées Appellations: Menetou Salon “Côtes de Morogues” Rouge, Menetou Salon “Côtes de Morogues” Rosé, Menetou Salon “Côtes de Morogues” Blanc, Sancerre “Les Belles Vignes” Rosé, Sancerre “Les Belles Vignes” Rouge, Sancerre “Les Belles Vignes” Blanc, Pouilly-Fumé “Les Deux Cailloux”, Pouilly Sur Loire “Les Marnes”
  • Cuvée Terroirs: Cuvée Silex, Cuvée Les Terres Blanches
  • Grandes Cuvées: Sancerre “L’Ancienne Vigne” Rouge, Pouilly-Fumé Grande Cuvée, Sancerre “La Chaudouillonne”, Sancerre “L’Ancienne Vigne Blanc
  • Single Vineyard Wines: Sancerre “Les Boffants”, Sancerre “Monts Damnés”
  • Cuvées Exceptionnelles: Menetou Salon Rouge “Sourire Aux Anges”, Sancerre “No. 22”, Sancerre “Vendanges d’Hélène”

1no cockney rhyming slang here, thank you

2French for parent company, literally “mother house”, which is a little ironic as it’s a “father and son” operation.

 

**Click here to see more posts in the Make Mine a Double Series**

Tasting Events

Lidl’s September Wine Cellar – Rounder Whites

Lidl Ireland are introducing some limited release French wines in their stores from Thursday 24th September 2020 in what they are calling their “September Wine Cellar”.  I tasted the majority of them at the first press tasting since Covid first hit and can give them all a thumbs up.  They aren’t likely to win any major awards but they are very good value for money and give wine drinkers a chance to try something representative of a style they might not have tried before.

Here are my brief notes on four of the rounder whites included in the event:

Bourgogne Chardonnay 2018


The labelling couldn’t be much more basic for this wine, with no producer name on the front – at least the grape variety is given!  Burgundy is obviously the home of Chardonnay but the wines made with the simple Bourgogne appellation can vary hugely in quality, very much dependent on the producer.  This example pours lemon in the glass, not quite as light as the four pale wines in my previous post.  The nose has the faintest suggestion of oak, but is actually more likely to be leesiness from bâtonnage (they are easily confused by some people, i.e. me).  There are also some confected fruits on the nose, but pleasant.  The palate, by contrast, is not confected at all; it’s light and lithe, with red and green apple plus melon, but very mineral and fresh.  This is a great example of Burgundy on a budget!

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €8.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Val de Salis Pays d’Oc Réserve Chardonnay 2019

The same grape as above, made in the same country, but a different region: this makes for a totally different experience.  While lean and racy wines can be made in the Languedoc (see Picpoul de Pinet), this Chardonnay revels in its breadth and juiciness.  On the nose there is ripe melon (no, I’m not going to specify the type of melon), its anagram lemon and a touch of red apple.  It has a very appealing bouquet that demands attention.  The palate is soft and round, but still fresh.  There’s a mineral, smoky finish to round it all off.  This is a French Chardonnay which would appeal to fans of the grape grown in sunny places such as Australia or South Africa – a different but equally valid style compared to the Burgundy above.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €9.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Côtes de Gascogne Colombard Sauvignon 2019

From the eastern half of France we now move down to the south west, below Bordeaux, and my regular pick for best value French wine: Côte de Gascogne.  This one is made with local grape Colombard and stalwart Sauvignon Blanc.  It pours lemon in the glass and is – unusually for a Gascon wine – quite muted on the nose.  The palate is far from muted, however.  It shows ripe melon and pear, plus super zingy citrus, with a mouth-watering finish from the Sauvignon Blanc.  This is a super tasty wine and represents great value for money.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €7.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Vallis Quietus Vaucluse Viognier 2019

Viognier is one of those grapes that I find difficult to get on with; it’s not that I don’t like it, it’s just that many examples of it don’t suit my tastes.  Its homeland is the Rhône and that is where this example comes from, more specifically the département of Vaucluse.  However, white wines make up just 15% of Vaucluse wines and Viognier is not even in the five most popular grapes, so this is still something of a rarity.  And on opening it proves such with distinct honey notes on the nose, just gorgeous, with a hint of confected fruit and cooking spices.  This is followed by a very rich mid-palate and a dry finish.  I’d have preferred a sweeter finish myself but this is a really good example of inexpensive Viognier.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €9.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Star Pick

The more-ishness and freshness of the Bourgogne Chardonnay make it my favourite of the four.


Lidl’s September Wine Cellar Posts:

Tasting Events

Lidl’s September Wine Cellar – Lighter Whites

Lidl Ireland are introducing some limited release French wines in their stores from Thursday 24th September 2020 in what they are calling their “September Wine Cellar”.  I tasted the majority of them at the first press tasting since Covid first hit and can give them all a thumbs up.  They aren’t likely to win any major awards but they are very good value for money and give wine drinkers a chance to try something representative of a style they might not have tried before.

Here are my brief notes on four of the light whites included in the event:

Le Rocher de Saint Victor Picpoul de Pinet 2019

As I am fond of saying, Picpoul is the “new Muscadet” (see an example of the “old Muscadet” below).  It is generally light and clean, unoaked and somewhat saline – and rarely expensive.  Unfortunately it can also be lacking and flavour and overly acidic.  Not this Picpoul!  It does have the saline streak – which makes perfect sense given that the AOP overlooks the brackish Etang de Thau – but also some juicy citrus fruit.  A default phrase to accompany Picpoul de Pinet is “great with seafood”, but this goes beyond that – it’s like licking oyster shells!  This is a Picpoul full of character for very little moolah.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €8.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Domaine des Deux Vallons Muscadet Sèvre et Maine 2019

If you are new to Muscadet then the label above contains two very important pieces of information:

  1. The wine is made in the Sèvre et Maine subregion (named after the two rivers which flow through)
  2. The wine has spent time Sur Lie, i.e. in contact with the dead yeast cells which fermented the wine and give it a creamy, bready aspect.

What the label doesn’t impart is the quality of the wine – but thankfully it gets the thumbs up from me.  Compared to many Muscadets this has very good depth of flavour, not that easy to produce on the Loire’s Atlantic Coast.  It’s full of Granny Smiths apples and zesty citrus, perfect for an aperitif or with oysters.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €9.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Les Aubrières Val de Loire Sauvignon Blanc 2019

This is an IGP Val de Loire wine, the former Vin de Pays category.  The exact location(s) the grapes were sourced from isn’t known but it’s made in a Touraine Sauvignon style.  It pours very pale in the glass and has a very expressive nose of cut grass.  This isn’t like realising that a neighbour is mowing their lawn, it’s like seeing a pile of cut grass and face planting in it!  Mouth closed, obviously.  There’s also a hint of green bell pepper on the nose.  These aromas continue onto the palate but the grassiness is joined by a herby character.  This is a very appealing wine.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €9.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Trésors de Loire Pouilly-Fumé 2019

We stay in the Loire with this Treasure, but more specifically in the famous appellation of Pouilly-Fumé, over the river from Sancerre.  Although also 100% Sauvignon Blanc, this wine is quite different in character from the one above.  It still pours a very light green in the glass but the concentrated aromas and flavours are fruity rather than grassy.  I Intense citrus come to the fore in the shape of lemon and grapefruit, but also ripe gooseberry too.  The flinty finish is long and elegant.  This is one of the best whites I’ve ever tasted from Lidl.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €14.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Star Pick

My pick of the four wines above is the Pouilly-Fumé, a Treasure by name and a Treasure by nature.


Lidl’s September Wine Cellar Posts:

Make Mine A Double

Imitation is the Sancerre-est Form of Flattery

New Zealand – and more specifically Marlborough – is now thought of as the main home of Sauvignon Blanc for the average wine drinker.  But Savvy’s time there is measured in decades, not centuries, and its success there would not have happened if it had not created a global reputation in its original homeland of the Loire Valley.  Of all the Loire appellations, Sancerre is the name which carries the biggest cachet and is still thought of as a style leader.

Loire Valley Wines with Sancerre to the far right. (Image from https://www.experienceloire.com/loire-valley-wines.htm)

But what is that style?  The Sancerre appellation covers 15 villages with three main soil types:

  • Clay & limestone, aka “white soils”, including some Kimmeridgean marl (we aren’t that far from Chablis here) which lend body and power to wines
  • Gravel & limestone which give lighter, more delicate wines
  • Flint, the famous “silex” soils which give very aromatic wines with pronounced mineral notes that can be capable of long ageing

Sancerre was the Sauvignon Blanc I tried and loved, over twenty years ago, so it still has a special place in my heart.  Here are two from the current SuperValu French Wine Sale that are worth seeking out:

Disclosure: both bottles were kindly sent as samples, opinions remain my own

Guy Saget Sancerre 2019

The Saget family originally come from Pouilly-sur-Loire, the other side of the river from Sancerre, and still have a base there (Domaine Saget).  However, they have expanded their operations over the past few decades to encompass around thirty different appellations to showcase the wines of the whole Loire under the Guy Saget label.

Guy Saget wines are currently made by Laurent Saget using grapes from long term contract growers.  Their vines are mainly on Kimmeridgian soils.  No oak is used at any point to help preserve fresh fruit flavours; stainless steel tanks are preferred and bâtonnage is carried out over the six month maturation period.

On the nose there are intense grapefruit aromas, accompanied by gooseberry and a hint of grass.  These notes continue onto the palate but there is also a striking stony mineral tone.  Rather than just grapefruit juice this fruity aspect is more like chomping down onto a few juicy grapefruit segment which explode into your mouth.  This is a delicious, accessible Sancerre which can brighten up your day.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €19.66 down to €14.76 from 3rd to 23rd Sept (plus buy any 6 bottles save €10 from 3rd to 16th Sept)
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

La Perrière Mégalithe Sancerre 2017

In contrast to Guy Saget, La Perrière only make Sancerre wines.  There are several in the range, however;

  • Straight Sancerre in white, rosé and red versions (the latter two obviously made from Pinot Noir)
  • Two different Comte de la Perrière bottlings, one from flinty Silex soil and one from marl & gravel Caillottes soil
  •  A flagship red Sacrilège grown on chalk and limestone soil
  • A flagship white Mégalithe grown on silica (Silex!) soils which is the wine we have here.

After a gentle pressing, the juice for Mégalithe is split two ways; 60% of the must is fermented and matured in stainless steel tanks, but 40% receives an altogether different treatment.  This portion is fermented in 300 litre (“Cognac type”) barrels made from Allier oak (a top source of oak barrels that is conveniently close to Sancerre).  Maturation is for eight or nine months during which frequent bâtonnage takes place.  Both the inox and barrel matured wines are blended together before bottling.

The first sniff of Mégalithe reveals that this is a totally different wine to the Guy Saget, even though they are both AOC Sancerre.  There are citrus notes but they are in the background; the foreground is occupied by smoke, wood, nuts and vanilla.  The palate is creamy, yeasty and tangy.  This is a wonderfully expressive wine which is great to drink now but will reward several years’ patience with more development and integration.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €31.48 down to €21.64 from 3rd to 23rd Sept (plus buy any 6 bottles save €10 from 3rd to 16th Sept)
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

Conclusion

One little bit of information I didn’t mention above was that Guy Saget and La Perrière are part of the same group: Maison Saget La Perrière.  The Guy Saget Sancerre is available at SuperValu all year round but the Mégalithe is a “special guest” only available during the French Wine Sale; this makes perfect sense when you consider their relative styles.  The Guy Saget is a real crowd pleaser, fruity and accessible, though still showing Sancerre’s mineral streak, whereas the Mégalithe is much more of a focused wine that might not be to everyone’s taste, but is undoubtedly a more accomplished wine.

To compare with a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, the Guy Saget is more like Kevin Judd’s regular Greywacke whereas the Mégalithe is more like his Wild Sauvignon.  Liking one doesn’t mean you would like the other, but you owe it to yourself to try them both!

In many ways these wines reflect what happens when you go up the price scale of wine in general; wines become better, but often a little more niche.  When comparing more expensive wines the differences are more often in style than to quality per se.  Try both!


SuperValu French Wine Sale posts:

 

 

**Click here to see more posts in the Make Mine a Double Series**

Make Mine A Double

Hãhã – but it’s no laughing matter! [Make Mine a Double #60]

A new Kiwi label “Hãhã” has just been launched in Ireland, but it’s not a spoof – Hãhã is actually a Mãori word meaning savoury and luscious.  It was established less than ten years ago in 2011 by four families, and is still owned by the same folk.  Their wines hail from Hawke’s Bay and Marlborough and include most of the most popular varieties from New Zealand: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Syrah.  There are also sparkling wines and rosé in the portfolio (with the Hawke’s Bay rosé even having a dash of Malbec).

As the wines have just been launched only the key wines are currently available in Ireland.  Here are two that I tried and enjoyed recently:

Disclosure: bottles were kindly provided as samples, opinions remain my own

Hãhã Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2019

The nose shows citrus (lime and lemon) plus ripe green bell peppers.  These notes continue though onto the palate, and unusually for Marlborough Sauvignon there are no real tropical notes.  Despite the green notes this is a mellow rather than sharp wine; it’s very mouthwatering but the acidity is fresh and pleasant rather than harsh.

If I had tasted this blind it would have stumped me as to its real origins – I might have guessed a classy Italian or German Sauvignon (if you haven’t tried examples from those countries then my postulation was a compliment!)  Despite Marlborough Sauvignon’s popularity, even its fans would admit that it’s often too aromatic and exuberant to make a good partner for food, but Hãhã Sauvignon is a delicious exception to this rule!

Hãhã Marlborough Pinot Noir 2017

Hãhã’s Marlborough Pinot Noir is one of the top wines in their range.  As you’d expect it’s fruity, and a lighter style of Pinot, but despite the fruit it’s not simply a smashable wine.  The nose is lovely, with rich strawberry, raspberry, cherry plus spice and a touch of mocha.  In the mouth it’s smooth and medium bodied, with the red fruit now joined by black.  Tannins are present but modest.  Overall this is a supple, easy-to drink wine that would also serve well at the dinner table.

Conclusion

Returning to the translation of Hãhã for a moment, I don’t think that “luscious” is that apt for these wines, but “savoury” definitely is!  They manage to bridge the worlds of quaffing wine and serious food wine.  They both have fruit but a superb savoury aspect which makes them very easy to like.

 

And, for those who were clubbing in the mid ’90s, this is the track which immediately sprang to mind when writing this piece:

 

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Wine + Music

The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series #11 – Mags McKee

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 the eleventh edition of this series we are in the capable hands of Mags McKee, a great friend and fellow DNSer (even though she lives south of the Liffey) . Mags has a long held passion for wine and has taken it to the next level with The Wine Pair, a wine bar and shop she opened with her husband Canice.  When I quizzed Mags on her taste in music, among many things she mentioned both U2 and the Blues, so there was an immediately obvious choice: a fantastic track from U2’s Rattle & Hum album featuring guitar and vocals from Riley B. King, aka the King of the Blues BB King.  This was in fact the track that really turned me on to the blues and it has since been one of my favourite genres.

There were so many wines I’ve tasted with Mags at consumer and DNS tastings over the years that I was spoiled for choice. Running through the wine list of The Wine Pair to narrow it down, I spotted one of my favourite Austrian reds: Pittnauer Zweigelt “Heideboden”. I was lucky enough to meet Gerhard Pittnauer and taste through his wines a few years ago.

When Love Comes to Town – U2 with BB King

I was delighted when Frankie gave me my music choice When Love Comes to Town – U2 with BB King as I am a big fan of U2, with Rattle and Hum being one of my favourite U2 albums. I am also an avid Blues fan and love the edge that the King of the Blues brings to this version. I know it may seem weird to some but listening to Blues makes me happy.

Love coming to town automatically made me think of a sparkling wine and as this is a rock song with the addition of the wonderful BB King what better than a naturally sparkling Pétillant Naturel, or Pet Nat for short. Pet Nat is made in the ‘methode ancestrale’, i.e. bottled before primary fermentation has finished (i.e. with yeast still alive and sugar remaining)  which then continues to ferment in the bottle, finishing relatively dry with pleasantly frothy bubbles.

A great natural Pet Nat I have been enjoying recently and a firm favourite with The Wine Pair customers is the deliciously ripe and Dangerously drinkable, Tour de Gendres. Its frothy bubbles release delicious tart orchard fruit and citrus notes. The bright acidity balances the slight sweetness as it dances on the tongue reminding me of how we have boogied to this great song.

Chateau-Tour-des-Gendres-pet-nat

This interesting and fun to drink Pet Nat is made from predominantly Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc (30%) by Luc di Conti in Bergerac, Southwest France, close to Bordeaux. Luc farms biodynamically on his 54 hectare vineyard, located on the bank of the Dordogne River, and uses seaweed, and other natural resources, to nourish the soil. The de Conti family has run the farm here since the early 1900s, but only in 1986 did Luc de Conti and his brother, Jean, decide to plant the vineyard and embark on a new adventure of viticulture and winemaking. In 1994, they became the first in the region to move away from pesticides and chemicals and turn to 100 percent organic farming.

The grapes from low yielding vines are allowed to fully ripen and are manually crushed. Partial fermentation, with indigenous yeasts, is in stainless steel vats with final fermentation in the bottle. It is bottled without fining, filtering or the addition of sulphur making it vegan friendly and a little cloudy.

This is wonderfully drinkable, and would be a great alternative for Prosecco drinkers looking for something a little more interesting while still being easy and fun to drink and its only 11% ABV.

We usually have it as an aperitif but I think it would go great with Sushi or Smoked fish. My cheese pairing for this would be a goat’s cheese maybe a St Tola or Cooleeney, Gortnamona to bring even more love to town.

This bright vibrant wine certainly brings Love to Town for me and its fantastic label from is pretty cool too. If you haven’t tried it yet “catch that flame” and “jump on that train”.

Pittnauer Zweigelt Heideboden

Pittnauer Zweigelt Heideboden

My wine choice from Frankie, Pittnauer Zweigelt Heideboden, was again one my favourites so gave me a great excuse to drink more and think about my choice of music for this wine.

I am a big fan of the high quality wines coming from Austria and my first visit to Vienna was booked for the end of March this year. I was really looking forward to trying some great Austrian wines whilst there but it didn’t happen due to Covid-19. The disappointment of my cancelled trip is reflected in my music choice – Vienna Calling by Falco. The lively and glamorous song from 1985 was the follow on hit to his other big hit song Rock me Amadeus.

A Mozart piece may have been an obvious choice for this wine but my eclectic music choices are hugely influenced by the 80’s and I love electronic music. Falco and his music sits in the genre of West German Rock, Neue Deutsche Welle “New German Wave”) which is originally derived from post punk and new wave with electronic influences, so I’m sure the music scene in Austria in the mid 80s was greatly influenced by one of my favourite groups Kraftwerk. Anyway, there is a nod to a Viennese waltz at the start of the song.

In the mid 80s, while Falco was rocking Amadeus, the Austrian wine industry was rocking in the midst of scandal and chaos , Gerhard Pittnaur, then only 18, started the Weingut Pittnauer business in Burgenland in the eastern corner of Austria. He had to train himself to make wine and chose to farm the indigenous grapes of the region. He thinks to ‘grow’ wine rather than to ‘make’ it in the cellar. Gerhard and his wife Brigitte decided to create what they call living wines. All work is done manually from composting to pruning. There is no calendar that drives them. Nothing is rushed: they believe in quality over speed. They taste for perfect ripeness, select the cleanest grapes, and begin the wine in the cellar.

Pittnauer Zweigelt Heideboden is 100% Zweigelt. Zweigelt is the most popular red wine variety in Austria and originates from the crossing of St. Laurent with Blaufrankisch. It is characterised by its cherry fruit and a juicy, soft style. This wine is bursting with red cherries, blueberries, blackberries and plums with hints of violet and black pepper. It’s an elegant wine with a long complex finish. As Falco says ‘Oh o Ho’.

This is one of my go to wines for a cheese and meat platter as it pairs well with most cheeses and cured meats and its acidity stands up to any pickled accompaniments giving no taste clashes.

Platter

So Hello, Vienna is still calling me and I will get there but until I do I can still enjoy great Austrian wines.

Mags McKee

Mags is one half of The Wine Pair, the other being Canice (who, in an amazing coincidence, also has the surname McKee!)  They opened The Wine Pair late last year with the aim of providing an informal neighbourhood wine bar where people could relax with a favourite glass (or carafe, or bottle) and choose small cheese or charcuterie plates to pair with it.  They also offered the option of take-home sales and in these Covid-19 affected times they have been busy offering collection and local delivery.

As well as their website you can find The Wine Pair on Instagram or Twitter.  They also have their own Twitter accounts: Mags & Canice.


The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series
No. Guest Name Music to pair Wine to pair
14 Lee Isaacs The Rolling Stones – Gimme Shelter Domaine Jones Fitou
13 Sharon L Souls Of Mischief –  93 ‘Til Infinity Penfolds RWT
12 Tim Milford Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man Nyetimber Classic Cuvée
11 Mags McKee U2 with BB King –  When Love Comes to Town Pittnauer Zweigelt Heideboden
10 Cara Rutherford The Cure – Just Like Heaven Suertes del Marqués ‘7 Fuentes’
9 Melanie May The Cult –  She Sells Sanctuary Sipp Mack GC Rosacker Riesling
8 James Hubbard Gary Moore – Parisienne Walkways Penfolds Bin 707 Cab Sauv
7 Paul Moran Underworld – Rez Suertes del Marqués Trenzado
6 Nirina Plunkett Jamiroquai – Space Cowboy Club Remix Wolfberger Crémant d’Alsace
5 Penny Sadler Fleetwood Mac – Dreams Bollinger Special Cuvée
4 Jim Dunlop The Beatles – The Long And Winding Road Man O’ War Valhalla Chardonnay
3 Avril Kirrane McMorrough Norah Jones – Don’t Know Why Joseph Cattin Riesling Reserve
2 Tim of Soliciting Flavours Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings Viña Tondonia Blanco
1 Sinéad Smyth Stardust – Music Sounds Better With You Mullineux Syrah
Make Mine A Double, Tasting Events

Sherwood Forrester [Make Mine a Double #57]

What Would Robin Hood Drink (WWRHD) if he were around today?  What would make his men merry?  I put it to you that he would enjoy the fine wines of Sherwood Estate and Ken Forrester!

Robin Hood
Robin likes the “straight as an arrow” acidity of Sauvignon Blanc

These two fine producers make wines from several other varieties, but for comparative purposes I will review their equivalent Sauvignon Blancs:

 

Sherwood Estate Waipara Sauvignon Blanc 2018

sherwood estate waipara sauvignon blanc
No outlaws were harmed during the making of this wine

One mistake many people make is too assume that all New Zealand Sauvignons are from Marlborough.  Yes, the north east of the South Island is the biggest Sauvignon producing region and has become the ambassador for Kiwi wine, but Nelson (north west of the South Island), Wairarapa (south of the North Island) and Waipara (north of Canterbury on the South Island) also make some great examples.

In 1987 – still the early days of the modern NZ wine industry – Jill and Dayne Sherwood dived headlong into producing wine at West Melton, just west of Christchurch.  The industry was in turmoil at the time, but they were successful enough to survive and outgrow their West Melton property.  They then moved around an hour north into Waipara which was an area full of unrealised promise.  With their drive and perseverance they turned Sherwood Estate into one of the largest independent New Zealand wineries.

The firm now has six different vineyard sites around Waipara including Glasnevin, named after a famous district of Dublin.  Their wine offerings have also branched out (pun intended) to four different ranges plus two different sparklers.  The Sherwood range wines “are premium, everyday wines, made in a ‘hands-off’ style with little interruption in the winery” and consist of five varietals:

  • Chardonnay
  • Pinot Gris
  • Pinot Noir
  • Riesling
  • Sauvignon Blanc

The Sauvignon Blanc we have here is unoaked and made conventionally.  The juice undergoes a cool fermentation for three weeks.  The must is then left on the fine lees for three months which adds depth.  The finished wine combines green (herbs, bell pepper, grass) and fruit (lime, lemon, grapefruit and passion fruit) notes.  This zesty wine shows how good Sauvignon Blanc can be outside Marlborough.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €21.95
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Ken Forrester Stellenbosch Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2018

ken forrester sauvignon blanc reserve
Robin sympathizes with Ken’s status as a legend

Ken Forrester is something of a legend in Stellenbosch and South Africa as a whole.  He and his wife Teresa bought a derelict farm in 1993, though the property was created as far back as 1689.

All the pruning and harvesting work in the vineyard is done by hand for two reasons.  Firstly, it allows the vineyard team to pay very close attention to detail for quality reasons.  Secondly, it offers more employment for people in the local community.

There are currently four separate ranges which each have several blends and varietals:

  • Petit: Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Rosé (Grenache/ Viognier) , Natural Sweet (Chenin blend), Pinotage
  • Reserve: Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Renegade (Rhône blend), Pat’s Garden Merlot
  • Icon: The FMC (Chenin), The Gypsy, (Rhône blend), T Noble Late Harvest (Chenin)
  • Cellar door exclusives – Sparklehorse MCC, Three Halves (Rhône blend), Roussanne, Dirty Little Secret TWO (Natural Chenin)

The grapes for the Reserve Sauvignon come from three are sourced from 3 vineyard sites scattered across the coastal region: Stellenbosch, Elim and Darling.  Some – though not all – are old vines, increasing concentration and depth of flavour.  After fermentation the wine spends eight weeks on fine lees.

For many years I have regarded South African Sauvignons as being stylistically half way between Loire and NZ styles, but I think it’s time we (I) forgot the comparisons and just regard them as their own thing.  This one has lots of green notes, but is not under-ripe; mangetout is then joined by some juicy stone fruit and the finish is long, crisp and clean. Unlike some other SA SBs I’ve tried, the alcohol is fairly restrained at 13.0%.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €17.95 (currently on offer at €15.95)
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

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Make Mine A Double

A Lidl Bit Chile For Summer? [Make Mine a Double #55]

How well do you know Chile?  It’s the slim country running down to the west of the Andes to the Pacific Ocean:

Chile Chili
Credit: Nolo Sanchesky (via The Language Nerds, Facebook)

Joking aside, here’s how the country is broken down into different wine regions:

WoC_Map2
Credit: Wines of Chile winesofchile.org

The two wines we are looking at here are from different – though relatively close – sub-regions.  If you find the capital Santiago on the map above and head due north into the Aconcagua region you find the Aconcagua Valley and thus the Aconcagua Mountain after which the region is named.  Best known for red wines – including Errázuriz’s super-premium “Seña” – it also makes fuller bodied whites.

South west of Santiago and on the coast is the Leyda Valley, attached to the more established San Antonio Valley.  Due to the influence of the Pacific the climate is cool here and so the best performing varieties tend to be Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc.  In Ireland at least, Leyda Valley has become a name to look out for on the label of these wines.

The two wines below are available from Lidl Ireland as a limited release from Thursday 21st May, while stocks last.

Disclosure: both bottles were kindly provided as samples, but opinions remain my own

V Selection Valle de Leyda Sauvignon Blanc Gran Reserva 2019

211113 Sauvignon Blanc Gran Reserva Valle de Leyda €9.99

Emblazoned with a Chilean flamingo, this Sauvignon Blanc has the label “Gran Reserva” – a term with no standing in Chile – the grapes were picked barely 12 months ago – but nevertheless designed to communicate a high quality level.  Sauvignon Blanc is a key white variety for Chile and is often recognisable in blind tastings by strong hints of fennel.

Any hints of fennel are subtle in this wine, but the overwhelming aroma and flavour is of asparagus!  It’s not that rare in Sauvignons as such but it ordinarily tends to be just a component of the nose and / or palate.  The only other I can think of with such an asparagus bias is the very cool climate Astrolabe Kekerengu SB from the southern part of Malborough.  But it’s not just asparagus, there’s also lime and lemon rounding off the palate and a lovely crisp, clean finish.  This Leyda Valley wine is perfect for salads and seafood.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €9.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

V Selection Valle del Aconcagua Chardonnay Gran Reserva 2018

242485 Chardonnay Aconcagua €10.99

The national bird of choice for this Chardonnay is the Humboldt penguin, what a cute little thing!  Again we have a Gran Reserva, but at least this one is two years old.  There’s a tropical tinge to the nose, though not overpowering.  This does continue though to the palate but it is very restrained; tasted blind I would probably have guessed it to be from southern Burgundy.  There’s a lot of texture on the wine, partially from the high altitude vineyard and partially from the use of (mainly seasoned) oak.

Don’t make the mistake of drinking this wine straight from the fridge; give it at least half an hour and drink from your biggest wine glass for extra swirlage.

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €10.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Conclusion

These are both good wines that offer very good value for money.  Compared to the New Zealand pair I reviewed previously that are part of the same release, I am not quite as enthusiastic, but they are both worth a try – unless you hate asparagus, in which case you should pass on the Sauvignon and just head for the Chardonnay!

 

 

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