Wine Of The Week

Wine of the Week: St. John’s Road Motley Bunch GMS

St John’s Road is a small scale winery in South Australia’s Barossa making a small range of three Barossa Valley reds and a solitary Eden Valley white. Their wines undoubtedly reflect their origins, but also a European sense of balance and elegance – possibly due to the time their founders spent in the south of France.

Grapes for the red wines are mainly sourced from long-term partner growers in Stonewell, Light Pass, and Gomersal, plus their own small holdings.

St. John’s Road Motley Bunch GMS 2016

St. John's Road Motley Bunch Barossa Valley GMS 2016

GMS is a twist on the classic Southern Rhône GSM blend, with Mataro (a.k.a. Mourvèdre, 36%) overtaking the Shiraz (27%) in the blend, but Grenache narrowly staying up front with 37%. It’s not just a case of chucking all the grapes into a fermenter, either; they are selected, vinified and matured to give an end wine that is more than the sum of its parts. Grenache doesn’t shine with new oak nor lots of oxygen so it’s matured in old 500 litre French oak puncheons. The Mataro and Shiraz elements are aged in smaller, 300 litre hogsheads, though only 10% of this oak was new.

How does this translate in the glass? To kick off, it pours a bright, glowing ruby. The nose shows lifted strawberry aromas and perfumed redcurrants, tinged with notes of spice and earth. The palate is lithe and delicious, with delightful red and black fruits to the fore, and a touch of oak in the background. There are also savoury, gamey notes which stop this wine running away with itself, and plenty of structure to frame everything nicely.

There’s no doubt that this is an Aussie wine, but it’s a modern, food-friendly wine which speaks firmly and produly of its origins but doesn’t shout.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €20
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists (2017): jnwine.com; La Touche Wines, Greystones

 

Information

Top 10 O’Briens Xmas Sale Wines

I’ve already given my recommendations on Christmas wines to buy from Aldi Ireland and SuperValu; now it’s the turn of O’Briens and my selection of five whites and five reds which are not just very good wines, but also on offer!

Guerrieri Rizzardi Lugana 2020

Guerrieri Rizzardi Lugana

Straight to the point: this an excellent example of Lugana, an excellent example of Italian white wine, come to that, so it’s definitely worth snapping up while on offer at around €15. For more details see my previous article on Summer Sippers, though to be honest I’d drink this whatever the season.

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RRP: €18.95 down to €14.95
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Astrolabe Awatere Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2021

Astrolabe Awatere Valley Sauvignon Blanc

Sometimes less is more. I’m a big fan of Astrolabe’s regular Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc which is a blend of fruit from across the region. Simon Waghorn’s Awatere Valley bottling is leaner, greeener and cooler in nature; it’s less exuberant, less obvious, less tropical, but damn tasty and a little more food friendly.

The nose is big on green pepper, fennel and mangetout, with hints of grapefruit. The palate is clean, mineral and racy; it is lightness personified, herbal and distinguished. While being more food friendly it doesn’t require food. Whether looking for a premium Marlborough Sauvignon or just a change of take on the region, this is well worth a try.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €22.45 down to €19.95
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Geal Rías Baixas Albariño 2020

Geal Rías Baixas Albariño

Some wines available at O’Briens are exclusive to them in Ireland, but even more exclusive are those made by O’Briens Director of Wine Lynne Coyle MW. One is a Navarra rosé (“Rós” which is Irish for “Rose”) made in partnership with Bodegas Tandem and the other is this Geal (the Irish for “White”) Albariño made with Sonia Costa Fontán of Bodega Lagar de Costa.

The 50 year old vines are from a single vineyard within spitting distance / sea spray of the Atlantic in Galicia’s Rías Baixas. The grapes are harvested by hand from pergola frames (to be honest it would be pretty difficult to get a tractor up there) which have traditionally been used to let breezes get to the clusters and allow other crops to be grown underneath. Fermentation is with indigenous yeast and the wine matures on fine lees in a concrete egg – a shape which encourages circulation of the lees – for eight months.

Although wild yeasts are used there is no funk to this wine which you might expect from other wines which explicitly use wild yeast such as Greywacke Wild Sauvignon and Gai’a Wild Ferment Assyrtiko – it’s clean as a whistle. What it is not, however, is boring – there’s  blend of saline notes and orchard fruits on the nose, especially pear. The palate is wonderfully creamy yet still precise, with apple and pear balanced by touches of citrus on one side and white peach on the other. The finish is mouth-wateringly fresh.

The distinct salinity to this wine makes it an obvious choice to partner seafood, but it would be a treat with other light dishes or on its own.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €24.95 down to €19.95
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Delheim Stellenbosch Chardonnay Sur Lie 2020

Delheim Stellenbosch Chardonnay Sur Lie

I will be publishing an article on Delheim next year so I will save the juicy bits for that, but this is a terrific wine that is a great ambassador for South African Chardonnay. Like its sibling Chenin Blanc this wine sees plenty of time ageing in oak barrels, but it draws just as much character from lees stirring as the actual oak – hence “Sur Lie”. This isn’t one for Chablis fans but if you like a drop of Meursault (see below) then this is well worth a try.

Chanson Meursault 2018

Chanson Meursault

Before I’d heard of Montrachet and Corton-Charlemagne there was one white Burgundy AOC which stood out: Meursault. It wasn’t cheap then, as now, but remains somewhat accessible – especially when on offer. Chanson’s history dates back to 1750 but gained significant investment and additional distribution after its acquisition by Bollinger in 1999. Since then Chanson have expanded their own holdings from 38 to 45 hectares, but also brought in tighter quality control at the growers they work with.

The grapes for this 2018 Meursault are bought from four local growers, selected for a combination of elegance and depth. As you’d expect maturation is in (French) oak barrels, though the proportion of new oak is modest. The influence of the oak is noticeable on the depth of colour – it’s a lovely light gold. The oak and lees also make themselves known on the nose, though not intrusively so. The palate is generous but mineral, nutty and creamy yet with gentle orchard fruits. Decant if you can.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €55.00 down to €46.00
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Porta 6 Lisboa Red 2019

Porta 6 Lisboa Red

This is the party wine you buy in bulk when guests are going to be supping away without paying too much attention to what they’re drinking, but you don’t want to be rude and drink something different yourself: i.e. a great value red that pleases the crowd. Check out my previous review of Porta 6 for the full story and get yourself a bottle, box or case.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €12.95 down to €10.00
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie (Magnums only online right now)

Emiliana Novas Syrah Mourvèdre 2017

Emiliana Novas Syrah Mourvèdre Gran Reserva

I will have more to report on the Emiliana Novas range in due course, but this organic red blend is a flagbearer for the label. In the glass it’s almost opaque, unless you’ve just got a tasting pour which reveals a deep ruby red. The nose is phenomenal with deep, sweet-scented black fruits – blackberry and blackcurrant – with smoke, vanilla and spice also present. The palate also has a big lick of black fruit, but not at all jammy or over-the-top sweet; the 15% Mourvèdre adds a tapenade and liquorice savoury edge. Drying yet fine-grained tannins and acidity keep the keel even.

This is a really well put together, balanced, interesting and delicious wine. At €16.95 it’s good value, but at €12.95 it’s a steal!

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €16.95 down to €12.95
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Eddystone Point Tasmania Pinot Noir 2018

Eddystone Point Tasmania Pinot Noir

Tasmania is known for its cooler climate wines, especially Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and traditional method sparkling based on that pair of grapes. Tasmanian wine aficionados might be familiar with the wines from Tolpuddle; they are excellent, though priced accordingly, and somewhat shy in their youth. Eddystone Point’s Pinot Noir does not suffer the same reticence – it has bright red fruits just bursting with flavour, tinged with exotic spice. There’s a real polish to this wine without any sense of confecture or manufacture; thrilling acidity keeps the fruit and the finish vitally fresh.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €24.95 down to €20.95
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz 2018

Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz

Penfolds has always been an iconic producer for me since I caught the wine bug in the 1990s. Bin 28 was actually the first ever “Bin” wine given a commercial release by Penfolds, back in 1959. At that time it was based solely on fruit from the Kalimna vineyard in the Barossa Valley; now it is a blend from several vineyards across South Australia, though the Barossa core remains. Whereas Bin 389 Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz is sometimes known as “Baby Grange” or “Poor Man’s Grange” because some barrels which don’t quite make the cut for Grange can be included in that wine, similarly any Shiraz barrels which don’t make it into the Bin 389 can also be included in the Bin 28 as they are all matured in American oak, and so remain on style.

And what style! There’s no mistaking the origin of this wine when assessing its aromas: blackberry, plum, violet, vanilla and spice co-mingle delightfully. Black fruits are joined with fresh raspberries, thyme and rosemary plus dark chocolate on the palate, with lightly drying tannins and good acidity providing a backbone. This is lovely to drink now, but would benefit from decanting or storing for a few more years.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €37.95 down to €29.95
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores

Gérard Bertrand Maury Tuilé 2010

Gérard Bertrand Maury Tuilé

Maury is one of the trio of Vin Doux Naturel appellations in the Roussillon region (French Catalonia), the others being Rivesaltes and Banyuls. They are fortified before fermentation has finished to leave some residual sugar – hence the term which means “Naturally Sweet Wine” – somewhat similar to Port. Unlike, say, a Vintage Port which is foot trodden, fermented and bottled quickly, the grapes for this Maury spend a month in vat before being gently pressed. While Port uses its champion indigenous varieties this is made with 100% Grenache Noir, a gentler, lighter and less tannic grape. After pressing the wine spends a year ageing in barrel then a further year ageing in bottle before release.

Although it hasn’t spent a decade in barrel, this Maury is closest to a Tawny Port in style. It’s a dark amber in the glass and has wonderful aromas of spice and dried fruits. To taste, it’s almost Christmas in a glass: quite sweet, raisins, plums, nuts and mixed peel, a good shake of cinnamon. The French would drink this as an aperitif, but it makes much more sense to go with seasonal desserts or even a box of chocolates – I can confirm it was magnificent with salted caramel truffles!

  • ABV: 16.0%
  • RRP: €22.95 down to €19.95
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores (larger stores only at present)
Single Bottle Review

Wine Review: 19 Crimes 2020 Red Wine

19 Crimes is an Australian wine brand with a range of inexpensive, everyday wines that are available at supermarkets and other multiples.  This isn’t the normal type of wine that features on Frankly Wines, but as it’s so popular I thought it worth trying to see why so many people buy it.

I don’t know if the owners of 19 Crimes – Treasury Wine Estates (TWE) – set out to deliberately compete with the likes of Yellowtail and Barefoot, but that’s what they appear to be aiming at. The brand is built around the story of certain crimes which were punishable by deportation from Britain and Ireland to Australia in the late 18th and 19th century.

Each bottle is sealed with a cork – unusual for Aussie wine nowadays – with one of the 19 Crimes written on it. Encouragement to collect them all?  The front labels each feature a famous convict; eight from transportation times plus Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr. aka Snoop Dogg in a celebrity tie-in.

19 Crimes cork

Also of note is the innovative use of a proprietary app which makes each label “come alive”. Fair enough, this might be something of a gimmick, but wine needs innovative packaging and marketing for the mass market.

.From 29th April to 19th May the 19 Crimes Red Wine and Sauvignon Block [sic] are included in SuperValu’s wine offers.  Here are my notes on the former:

19 Crimes South Eastern Australia Red Wine 2020

19 Crimes Red Wine
This Charming Man

So, enough about the label and branding, what’s the wine like? It pours a medium intensity cherry red, implying that this is no blockbuster red. One website I found listed the varieties as Shiraz, Pinot Noir, Grenache, and Cabernet Sauvignon, and it’s the middle two grapes which give it the lighter hue.

The nose initially hits you with sweet vanilla, under which blackberries and fudge compete for attention. The palate is rich, full of vanilla and toasty oak, cherries, chocolate, dark berries, spice and caramel. I don’t have a tech sheet but the richness is obviously partly due to a good dose of residual sugar.

Similar to the Dada Art Series 1 I reviewed back in 2017, this is a wine made for pleasure and designed to match what many people actually like drinking.  Most wine drinkers – especially in the Irish market – will swear blind that they only like dry wines, but if there’s an off-dry finish to a red wine like this they won’t complain if they’re not told and don’t notice themselves.

For my personal taste, this wine is a little too confected and clumsy. But I’m not the target market, and I suspect that most people who buy it will like it – which is exactly the point!

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €14.99 down to €10 at SuperValu from 29th April to 19th May 2021
  • Source: Media sample

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

 

Wine + Music

The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series #13 – Sharon L

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 latest installment of The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series is hosted by new California resident Sharon L.  Though she calls herself a diva on her social media handles she is knowledgeable on wine and fun to talk to.

On discussing this guest post she mentioned that she likes lots of different kinds of music, including hip hop.  Though I am far from an expert on the genre – despite avidly devouring all the episodes of Hip hop evolution on Netflix – there are some tracks which feature heavily on my playlists.  One such track is 93 ‘Til Infinity by Souls of Mischief.  I originally discovered this as part of the excellent Another Late Night compilation by Zero 7.  As suits the idea of late night listening, it’s a very laid back “head-nodding” track, not too far removed from the trip hop of Massive Attack and Tricky in style.

When it came to wine, there was an amazing wine that Sharon had tweeted about in the last few months: Penfolds RWT.  RWT stands for Red Winemaking Trial which was an experiment that went right.  Whereas their flagship Grange is made from parcels all over South Australia and matured in American Oak, RWT is just from one region – the Barossa Valley – and is matured in French oak.  It is made to be drunk a little younger than Grange and is released earlier, but it is still a monumental wine.


I was very excited when Frankie approached me for a wine and music guest post. Wine is so evocative for me, and so is music. Pairing the two felt only natural. I love nothing better than to come home after a long day and pop a favorite old school vinyl into my record player, while sipping on a glass of vino.

Souls Of Mischief’ – 93 ‘Til Infinity

To be honest, the first time I heard Souls Of Mischief’s 93 ‘Til Infinity was when Frankie sent it to me for this article (I was still living in China when it came out and a bit too young), but I was immediately hooked – the smooth beats, the “chill-ness” of the song – just made me want to sit back, relax, and not think too much about anything at all. This is why I think it pairs perfectly with a natty wine like Broc Cellars Chenin Blanc.

Broc Cellars makes exclusively “natural” – think spontaneous fermentation, unfiltered, unfined wines – from organic grapes. They are an urban winery operating out of a warehouse building in Berkley. Chris Brockway, the winemaker, produces some of the most interesting and unique wines in California today, with grapes both familiar (Zinfandel) and obscure (Counoise).

Broc’s chenin is flavorfully complex but well balanced, with floral and fresh summer fruit notes and refreshing acidity on the finish. It’s the absolute summer porch sipper, or pounder, if you will. I don’t think it would be difficult imagining the wine as an embodiment of Souls Of Mischief: the producer of chill beats and smooth complicated rhyme flows. Moreover, they both all from Northern California! But again, I have been known to make eccentric analogies. Both wine and music are subjective, after all.

Penfolds RWT Shiraz 2008

The wine Frankie picked is none other than the Penfolds RWT Shiraz 2008. I happened to have bought 2 of them of 5 years ago. I opened a bottle in 2015, and the other this year. It’s amazing to see this wine develop over time. The flavors of dark chocolate, moss, cigar, and earth were all present 5 years ago, but in such a tightly wound and sequestered state. However, this year the wine was ready for its full debut. Darker notes of peat, leather, tobacco leaves, and cigar box opened up after 1-2 hours of decanting into a supple, juicy number bursting with cherries, blueberries, plums, and chocolate, enrobing your tongue like plush velvet, ending with lasting, chewy tannins. It’s a plush, rich wine that would be most delicious with any bloody carnivorous meal.

The way Penfolds RWT crescendoed with time reminds me of the building up of psychological intensity in the song Blinding Lights by The Weeknd. You have to see the music video to understand fully (and please do watch it – it’s a masterpiece directed by Anton Tammi).

The Joker-esque short film begins with the singer speeding through empty streets in a city with his psyche progressively spinning out of control, until he ends up with gruesome slathering of blood dripping down his face. If you want to inject some intensity into your life, drink the Penfolds to the reel of Blinding Lights.

Sharon L

Sharon discovered the incredible world of wine while living in Cambridge, Massachusetts after college. Its boutique wine shops opened her eyes far beyond the realm of boring supermarket selections. Though far from being an expert, she enjoys learning about wines by traveling and drinking her around the globe. These days Sharon works as an Ear, Nose and Throat surgeon in Northern California. Outside of work, she is an intrepid adventurer; always on the hunt for interesting wines to drink, challenging activities to conquer, and new locales to explore. Depending on her mood, she can be a painter as well. You can find her on Twitter (DivaVinophile) and Instagram (Divavinophile) to share in her experiences.


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
Opinion

O’Briens Fine Wine Sale 2019

The Irish off-licence chain O’Briens has various promotions on throughout the year, but probably the most eagerly awaited is the annual Fine Wine Sale.  This year it runs from Monday 9th to Sunday 15th December.  Below are the wines I’d be snapping up this year.  Note that I haven’t necessarily tried the vintage stated of each wine, but I have tasted them often enough over the years to comfortably recommend them.

Gaia Santorini Assyrtiko Wild Ferment 2016 (13.0%, €24.95 down to €22.95 at O’Briens)

Gaia-Assyrtiko-Wild-Ferment

I have previously written about the 2013 and 2016 vintages of this wine as well as its younger brother Monograph, and tasted it many times in between; it remains one of my favourite “mid-priced” white wines available in Ireland.

Cloudy Bay Marlborough  Sauvignon Blanc 2018 (13.0%, €35.95 down to €24.95 at O’Briens)

Cloudy-Bay-Sauvignon-Blanc

An iconic wine at a very reasonable price!  I recently tried the 2017 (which was maturing nicely) and the 2019 which, for such a young wine, was surprisingly settled and ready to go

Julien Brocard Chablis La Boissoneuse 2018 (12.5%, €29.95 down to €25.95 at O’Briens)

Brocard-La-Boissoneuse-Organic

The 2017 vintage was #1 in my Top 10 Whites of 2019 so any reduction in price of this fantastic organic, biodynamic Chablis makes it worth snapping up!

Chanson Chablis 1er Cru Montmains 2017 (12.5%, €34.95 down to €24.95 at O’Briens)

Chanson-Chablis-1er-Cru-Montmains

Chanson has been part of the Bollinger group for two decades and produces consistently good wines.  This Montmains is an excellent Premier Cru and while delicious now, deserves another five years or so before being opened.

Man O’War Waiheke Island Valhalla Chardonnay 2017 (14.5%, €32.95 down to €28.95 at O’Briens)

Man-O_War-Valhalla-Chardonnay

I wrote about the 2010 vintage (in 2014) the 2011 (in 2016) and the 2016 (earlier this year) and loved them all.  This is a fairly full on Chardonnay which will please those who like bold wines – and that includes me.

L’Ostal Cazes Minervois La Livinière Grand Vin 2015 (14.5%, €23.95 down to €20.95 at O’Briens)

L_Ostal-Cazes-Grand-Vin

The JM Cazes family who have long owned Lynch Bages in Bordeaux have spread their interests to the Rhône and Languedoc, amongst other places.  In my not-so-humble-opinion this Minervois La Livinère is the best value wine in their portfolio.

Château Franc-Maillet Pomerol 2015 (13.5%, €48.00 down to €42.00 at O’Briens)

Ch_teau-Franc-Maillet

The 2014 of this wine was very good, so the even better vintage of 2015 is definitely worth a shout.  This wine is worthy of a place on my Christmas dinner table, so it’s definitely worthy of yours, too!

Sierra Cantabria Rioja Gran Reserva 2008 (14.0%, €32.95 down to €23.95 at O’Briens)

Sierra-Cantabria-Gran-Reserva

If you like Tempranillo-based wines but tend to favour Ribero del Duero, this a Rioja house which can match the black fruited savoury wines from there.  I have previously tried the 2010 Crianza which was great, but a Gran Reserva from 2008 should be even more of a stunner!

d’Arenberg  McLaren Vale Dead Arm Shiraz 2015 (14.6%, €54.95 down to €44.95 at O’Briens)

d_Arenberg-Dead-Arm-Shiraz

While Penfolds Grange prices have rocketed off into the stratosphere, here’s an iconic Aussie wine that is (relatively) more affordable – and approachable at a younger age, too, though if you manage to keep your hands away it will last for a decade or two.

Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (13.8%, €80 down to €68 at O’Briens)

Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 3

The (virtual) ink has only just dried on my review of the 2012 vintage of this wine but it’s already included in the fine wine sale.  If you want to treat yourself for Christmas (2019 or 2029) then this is a great bet!

Tasting Events

Liberty Portfolio Tasting 2019 (part 4 – New World Reds)

“New World” is not a great term as it basically means “outside Europe”, so it includes many different countries which are different in style.  Just for convenience, it allows us to look at a selection wines from California, Central Otago, Southern Australia and Ningxia, all available from Liberty Wines.

Pine Ridge Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 (15.0%, RRP €72.99 at Blackrock Cellar; The Corkscrew; La Touche Wines, Greystones; McHugh’s; Redmonds of Ranelagh; Terroirs)

Pine Ridge Vineyards CabSauv NapaValley

I’ve been a fan of the Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc / Viognier blend for some time (see review here) but as this is Napa then the Cabernet is the real deal.  Pine Ridge Vineyards was first established in Stags Leap District in the late 70s with a single vineyard next to a – you guessed it – pine ridge.  Their vineyards now number 12 and total 80 hectares over five Napa sub-zones: Stags Leap District, Rutherford, Carneros, Howell Mountain and Oakville.  Pine Ridge produce a number of different wines, including several from individual sub-zones, but this is a blend across the five.

This bottle is labelled as a varietal Cabernet Sauvignon but that is 91% of the blend, with the balance made up by 6% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc.  35% of the 2016 was aged in new American oak for 18 months, giving creamy vanilla to go with the blackcurrant, cherry and blackberry notes.  This is a big, lush, heady wine that is not light and shouldn’t be taken lightly.  It’s not for those who like racy reds but it’s imposing and delicious.

New Kanaan Pretty Pony 2013 (14.0%, €52.99 at Cinnamon Cottage, Cork; The Corkscrew; The Malt House; Mitchell & Son; Terroirs)

Kanaan Winery, `Pretty Pony` FS

Ningxia is of course the most important Chinese region for wine.  Some years ago I reviewed Château Changyu Moser XV 2008 which had an abv of 12.5% and was reminiscent of old school Bordeaux (think mid ’90s).  The Pretty Pony is a very good wine, regardless of origin. It has oak, lovely black fruit and is already showing a nice bit of development.  This is not like old school Bordeaux – this is like modern Bordeaux!

Akarua “Rua” Central Otago Pinot Noir 2017 (14.0%, RRP €29.99 at Avoca; Baggot Street Wines; Blackrock Cellar; Clontarf Wines; The Corkscrew; Mitchell & Son; Red Nose Wine; 1601, Kinsale; www.wineonline.ie)

Akarua Rua Pinot Noir

When Central Otago Pinot Noir began to enter into the consciousness of wine drinkers it was almost the opposite of Marlborough Pinot – big, bold and powerful – with alcohol to match.  It was almost a Pinot Noir for Cabernet drinkers – no bad thing in my eyes as Cab is my favourite black grape – but times, and the wines, have changed.  Now elegance and balance are to the fore, without losing the intensity that made them such a hit in the first place.  This is a great example of Central Pinot – especially for the relatively modest price.  It has a core of ripe red fruit and a slight smoky, savoury edge that gives it some seriousness.

Burn Cottage Central Otago Pinot Noir 2016 (13.5%, RRP €69.99 at The Corkscrew; www.wineonline.ie and good independents nationwide)

Burn Cottage Central Otago Pinot Noir

Another Central Pinot, but totally different in style.  Burn Cottage has been practising biodynamic since the first vines were planted in 2003, and there is a low intervention approach to winemaking.  Whole bunch fermentation allows the wine’s aromas to develop fully – it smells…special, for want of a better term.  This is a fine, fine wine which delights all the senses but the mind too.

Mitolo “G.A.M.” McLaren Vale Shiraz 2015 (14.5%, RRP €39.99 at Blackrock Cellar; www.wineonline.ie and good independents nationwide)

Mitolo GAM Shiraz

Like many McLaren Vale vineyards, Mitolo has Italian roots through its founder Frank Mitolo.  It also has an influx of German genes through winemaker and business partner Ben Glaetzer, scion of the Barossa producer Glaetzer wines.  The Mitolo portfolio is split into three ranges: Jester, Small Batch and Single Vineyard.

The G.A.M. Shiraz was the first wine produced by Mitolo; it’s not an alternative to GSM which is prevalent in the Vale, but actually stands for the initials of Frank’s three children, Gemma, Alex and Marco.  The fruit is sourced from a vineyard belonging to family friends and fellow Italian immigrants the Lopresti vineyards, in particular their “Chinese Block”.  As it’s located at the bottom end of McLaren Vale, the block benefits from cooling sea breezes.  The vines are over 40 years old and are planted on a type of clay.  Fermentation is kept on the cool side to preserve fruit flavours and then fermentation is in French oak (30% new, 70% used) for 15 months.  Only at that point are barrels given final selection for inclusion in the G.A.M. Shiraz.

Aussie Shiraz is a great crowd-pleaser but this is way above that – it has phenomenal structure and intense, opulent-but-not-jammy black fruit.  The Jester Shiraz is a great introduction to the style at a little over half the price of the G.A.M., but I’d argue that the latter is more than twice as good and represents great value at this price point.

Grosset Gaia Clare Valley 2014 (14.0%, RRP €66.99 at good independents nationwide)

Grosset Gaia

Grosset are best known for their Rieslings, especially the Polish Hill and Springvale bottlings, but they also make some great reds too, including a Pinot Noir and this “Gaia” Bordeaux blend.  I say Bordeaux blend though its precise proportions of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc would rarely be found in the Gironde.  At five years old this 2014 still has bright berry, blackcurrant and plum fruit.  It does have a dry leathery side, with grippy tannins and good acidity.  As this is Clare there is of course a screwcap closure; a challenge to the Bordelais to catch up?  This will be drinking well for years and years.

 

Liberty Portfolio Tasting 2019

Tasting Events

Dream Sweets (Are Made Like This)

DNS Wine Club were recently treated to a sneak peak of the sweet wines shown to the Irish press.  The trio below were the standouts, but please remember – sweet wines are not just for dessert!

 

Château Rieussec Sauternes 2014 (14.0%, RRP €50.00 (375ml) at O’Briens)

Chateau Rieussec 2014 Half Bottle

We start with the smallest bottle and lowest abv yet highest price – and all these facts are related.  Sauternes is an expensive wine to produce, as botrytised grapes (shrivelled by noble rot) contain less juice than normal grapes, and picking them at optimum levels often requires several passes in the vineyard.

Château Rieussec is one of 11 Premiers Crus (just below the sole Premier Cru Supérieur of Château d’Yquem) established by the 1855 Classification.  It was bought by the Lafite branch of the Rothschilds in 1984 and benefitted from their marketing and distribution efforts, though (thankfully) pricing is still a fraction of Lafite-Rothschild’s Grand Vin.  A second sweet wine (Carmes de Rieussec) and a dry white (R de Rieussec) complete the range.

This 2014 is made from the traditional Sauternes blend of Sémillon (93%), Sauvignon Blanc (5%) and Muscadelle (2%) and is an exuberant delight for the senses.  Still very young, it has a highly perfumed nose of stone fruit, whisky marmalade and ginger.  The spice is somewhat muted on the palate at present, as apricot, peach and citrus dominate, wrapped in an envelope of sweetness that is cosseting but not cloying.  As one DNS member put it “this tastes of money” – it’s a fabulous, beautiful wine.

 

Gérard Bertrand Banyuls 2011 (16.0%, RRP €23.95 (750ml) at O’Briens)

 

Gerard Bertrand Banyuls

Along with Maury and Rivesaltes, Banyuls is one of the three Vin Doux Naturel producing areas in Roussillon, French Catalonia.  As with the VDNs produced throughout France, grape spirit is added early on during fermentation to kill the yeast, leaving plenty of sugar left in the juice – and plenty of alcohol too!  This is the same method as used in Porto, so the end result is not unlike Port.

Grenache is the king in these parts, not least because of the grape’s ability to produce high sugar levels and moderate tannin levels.  Bottling is relatively quick after mutage as Grenache is susceptible to unwanted oxidation if left in oak, but once under cork the wine can last for decades.

At 16.0% Gérard Bertrand’s Banyuls comes in at around the same as some Californian and Italian wines – and tastes lighter than the vintage Port it was tried against.  Grenache Gris supports the mainstay Grenache Noir and adds elegance.  Fruit is the key here, both dried and fresh, with a little tannin and acidity supporting the show.  This would be superb with some fruit cake but perfect for contemplation on its own.

 

Bethany Old Quarry Tawny NV (19.0%, €24.95 (750ml) at O’Briens)

Bethany Old Quarry Tawny

Most of us don’t associate fortified wines with Australia, but for the majority of the twentieth century locally produced “port” and “sherry” dominated the market.  Once dry table wines had taken off, the Grenache and Shiraz vines that were the source of grapes for fortifieds were still used to some extent, but as varieties they fell behind Cabernet Sauvignon in the fashion stakes, so many older vines were sadly ripped up and replaced.  Thankfully, some still survive and make brilliant port style wines – though of course they can’t be labelled as such in the EU – and are the highlight of many winelovers’ discoveries on visiting Australian cellar doors.

This is a rare example which is available up here – in Ireland at least.  Produced by the ever-excellent Geoff Schrapel at Bethany in the Barossa, it is a blend of late harvested Grenache and Shiraz, aged together in old oak casks for an average of ten years before bottling.  As with tawny Port, this gives a lighter – almost brown – colour to the wine, with dried fruit and nutty flavours.  This is a delightful drink, especially in the coming darker months, and has more flavour than most Ports at this price.

Information, Opinion

brandinG wiNe

Celebrity wine is not a new thing and it doesn’t show any sign of slowing down.  among the “celebs” with their name attached to a wine are people from sport (golfers Nick Faldo, Ernie Els, Greg Norman…), the music business (Cliff Richard, Madonna, Sting…) and the film industry (Jolie-Pitt, Sam Neill, Francis Ford Coppola).

The degree of involvement varies significantly; some of them are simply adding their name to the label of a wine made entirely by someone else, whereas others such as Francis Ford Coppola come from a family with a tradition of winemaking and are directly involved.  Sam Neill’s Central Otago wines have been recognised for their intrinsic excellence and are aimed at serious wine aficionados with regards to their price, style and availability.

Flamboyant chat show host Graham Norton was approached by New Zealand newcomers Invivo in 2011 to see if he’d like to try their wines, and he liked them so much that he ended up producing his own varietal Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc with them from the 2014 vintage onwards.

To that were soon added a New Zealand Rosé (Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc grapes from Marlborough (50%), Gisborne (30%), Hawke’s Bay (20%)) and a South Australian Shiraz.  Last year the Sauvignon and the Rosé accounted for 10% of all Kiwi wines sold in Ireland.  Norton isn’t involved in the vineyards but he does have the final call on the blend – even single varietal wines are usually a blend of different sources of fruit – so he does more than just add his name to the label.

How have the wines become so successful?  In my view there are a number of factors:

  • The wine categories themselves are well known and popular (there’s no Graham Norton Franciacorta, for example)
  • Each wine is made in a very approachable, drinkable style to appeal to a large number of people
  • There’s a good match between the populism of Norton’s TV programmes and the style of the wines – unpretentious and accessible

Invivo_web_Prosecco600x600px1_grande

The latest addition to the portfolio is “Graham Norton’s Own Prosecco DOC Extra Dry”.  It follows the same principles as the previous wines – Prosecco is the most popular type of sparkling wine in the UK and Ireland, and it’s made in a medium-dry style (confusingly labelled Extra Dry, but that won’t put many people off).

As the (much bigger) UK market is more of a target than Ireland, the decision to go for a fully sparkling Spumante style rather than Frizzante makes sense – the wire cage over cork closure projects more quality than the latter’s bit of string.  It does make the wine a little more expensive in Ireland than it needed to be due to the double duty attached to Spumante (as is the case for Champagne, Cava, Crémant etc) but the retail price of €17.99 at Tesco Ireland should still see it flying off the shelves!

What will come next?  My guess is either a Pinot Grigio or an Argentinian Malbec…

 

Make Mine A Double

Indian Wines for an Indian Summer? [Make Mine a Double #35]

Akluj

Ten years ago my (now) wife took me to India, specifically Kerala in the far south. After finding that a few of the hotels on our itinerary were Muslim-owned – and therefore dry – it was a pleasant surprise to be given a bottle of Indian wine by the local representative of the tour operator. It wasn’t fine wine, but it was drinkable. A decade on, Indian wine is being taken more seriously, so I jumped at the chance to try these wines which are being imported into Ireland by Liberty Wines.

M/S is a joint venture between Fratelli owners Kapil and Gaurav Sekhri and Italian Piero Masi and Englishman Steven Spurrier. They were obviously unable to use their initials joined by an ampersand as retailer Marks & Spencer already have that moniker, and simply reversing the order could have led to all sorts of misunderstandings…

Among Piero Masi’s former roles, the acclaimed producer Isole e Olena stands out. Steven Spurrier is probably best known as a writer and former merchant, but also has his own Bride Valley vineyard in Dorset and founded the Wine Society of India

Akluj in Maharashtra
Approx location of Akluj within Maharashtra (credit: Maximilian Dörrbecker (Chumwa))

I wonder what a wine map of India will look like in another decade or two…

M/S Akluj Chardonnay/Sauvignon Blanc 2017 (12.5%, RRP €19.99 at Blackrock Cellar, The Corkscrew, Michaels of Mount Merrion, Baggot Street Wines and wineonline.ie)

M-S_WHITE NV FS

The challenges of making a wine in a sub tropical climate are countered through planting at altitude and blocking malolactic fermentation – of course it could be argued that adding 20% Sauvignon Blanc also helps.

It’s unusual to find these two grapes blended together, either in their home country of France or in the new world countries where they have also prospered – but perhaps the key here is the Italian influences on the wine, as Chardonnay / Sauvignon Blanc blends can be found in northern Italy – viticultural colonists from Napoleonic times.

As well as avoiding MLF the winemakers also eschew oak barrels, though there’s an overt tanginess which I suspect comes from some lees work. In fact, if this is tasted straight from a domestic fridge the tanginess ramps up to tartness – pour it into a big glass and swirl away, or even decant the bottle if you can, and the wine really opens up. There’s a refreshing fizziness on the tongue from the acidity, with lemon and quince flavours to the fore.

M/S Akluj Sangiovese / Cabernet Franc / Shiraz 2017 (12.5%, RRP €19.99 at Blackrock Cellar, The Corkscrew, Michaels of Mount Merrion, Baggot Street Wines and wineonline.ie)

M-S_RED NV FS.jpg

If Italian influences on the white had to be deduced then they are writ large on the M/S red – the champion black grape of Tuscany is still very much linked to that region.

The Sangiovesi is present from the attack to the finish, with notes of leather, tobacco and smoke. It’s soon joined by juicy blackberry and plum from the Shiraz, followed by blackcurrant and a touch of green pepper from the Cab Franc. Then the Sangiovesi has the finish to itself. There’s plenty of acidity and tannin – no fruit bomb here – so medium rare rib eye steak straight off the barbie would be just perfect!

Given the paucity of Indian wines available in this part of the world I don’t have any others to compare this pair to, but they seem quite Italian in sensibility to me – which is no bad thing! Both are worth a try, with the red shading the white in my view.