Let’s get the obvious out of the way – most Soave is swill.
Well, to be fair, most is technically drinkable, if fairly simple, but lacking in flavour. It’s what you see on the label of the cheapest whites at your local convenience store. Over 85% of Soave production is made by co-operatives, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but when prices are fairly low then production targets are nearly always based on quantity rather than quality.
After a fantastic Amarone masterclass given by Count Guiseppe Rizzardi, we were treated to a glass of Rizzardi’s Soave with the first course of lunch. It is produced from a single vineyard on the hill of Costeggiola in the oldest part of the Soave wine region, just to the east of Verona. The soil is volcanic and the slope of the hill is steep enough to require terracing – add all of this to a southerly aspect and you have the right ingredients for some serious wine.
The blend is 70% Garganega (the minimum stipulated by the DOC regulations) and 30% Chardonnay (with other varieties also permitted). The vines are between 10 and 40 years old, a good indicator of potential quality. As is the norm the wines do not see any oak during fermentation or maturation. 2014 was a cooler vintage in Soave, meaning a longer growing season.
The 2014 is clean, tangy, with appreciable texture. It has citrus, tropical and stone fruit notes – it’s a complex, versatile, enjoyable wine.
Suffice it to say that I popped to my local O’Briens store and cleaned them out of this wine!
Did you know that Cono Sur is the largest single Pinot Noir producer in the world? I wasn’t aware either, until I attended a fantastic tasting of their top Ocio and 20 Barrels Pinots last year.
I also learned what Cono Sur itself means – Southern Cone. It shouldn’t have been a surprise – especially as it is hinted at graphically on some of their bottles – as it’s the nickname for the southern part of South America which is quite cone-shaped.
And finally, did you know that the Pinot family get its name because the grape bunches on the vine resemble pine cones? Thankfully they taste better than pine cones…
Pinot Noir is the perfect grape for autumn – it’s usually light and refreshing, easy to drink, but very much a food wine that can pair well with both lighter dishes and the heavier fare that we tuck into on colder days.
Here are a couple of Pinots that you should try this autumn
Disclosure: both bottles were provided as samples, but opinions remain totally mine
Louis Jadot Bourgogne “Couvent des Jacobins” 2012 (€17.99, Molloy’s Liquor Stores, O’Brien’s Wines, Redmond’s of Ranelagh and other good independents)
Maison Louis Jadot was formed in 1859 and is well regarded in France and further afield. The Négotiant has holdings of 210ha spread throughout Burgundy, and from the most basic AOC to the stratospheric Grands Crus, all feature the same distinctive yellow featuring the head of Bacchus.
This is a blend of different parcels from throughout Burgundy, from Irancy towards Chablis in the north to the Côte Chalonnaise in the south. The latter gives juicy fruity flavours and the more northerly plots give more acidity, tannin and structure; the blend is more than the sum of its parts (the whole point of blending!)
Light, fresh strawberry and raspberry, with the acidity to back up the fruit flavours. Surprisingly it has a reasonable amount of tannin on the finish, not in the realm of left bank Bordeaux or Madiran, but something with a savoury edge.
This is distinctively old world in sensibility – although it’s fruity it’s nothing like a fruit bomb. Very nice to drink by itself, I suspect this would come into its own with food.
Cono Sur Single Vineyard Block 21 “Viento Mar” Pinot Noir 2012 (€19.99 from O’Brien’s Wines, Mitchell & Sons, Dublin; Redmonds of Ranelagh, Sweeney’s of Glasnevin, Jus de Vine, Portmarnock, Bradley’s of Cork, O’Driscoll’s of Cork, and other independents)
Most people are familiar with Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir as it is widely distributed. It has a cheerful label and a handy screwtop, all of which make it very accessible. However, there are several layers in the Cono Sur quality pyramid (or should that be quality cone?) which also deserve attention.
Constantly striving for improvements in quality led them to create a separate premium Pinot from a selected batch of their best grapes, handled in the most gentle and fastidious manner. As the volume made was only 20 barrels, that’s the name they used, and even though production has increased considerably, the name stuck. Ocio is their flagship Pinot which they created in conjunction with esteemed Burgundy winemaker Martin Prieur.
Now here is a Single Vineyard expression, from the San Antonio Valley, with two Antipodean-style names: “Block 21” indicated the particular plot it comes from, and “Viente Mar” (meaning Ocean Wind) gives you a clue as to its situation – close enough to the coast to be strongly influenced by cool coastal breezes, perfect to prevent the grapes from becoming jammy.
According to Cono Sur this spent 11 months in 100% French oak barrels, and there is a lick of vanilla on the palate, but the oak is already well integrated. Although it has plenty of acidity to balance the concentrated fruit, this would never be mistaken for Burgundy – but that’s no bad thing in my view, it’s just so damn drinkable! There are dense red and black fruits in play – it’s like fruits of the forest battling it out on your tongue.
The big brother Ocio is even more complex and concentrated, but this is one of the best €20 and under red wines I have tried this year.