On this 69th installment of Make Mine a Double (the favourite installment of Bill S. Preston Esq. and Ted “Theodore” Logan of course1) we look at two big and bold reds from Boutique Wines, a small wine importer based in Dublin. One is from South West France made (primarily) with a grape that has found fame in Argentina: Malbec. Outside of south western France, Malbec is used in the Loire and as a minor blending grape in Bordeaux (though its ability to thrive in warmer weather is likely to see its importance there rise again.)
Another Bordeaux blending grape that has found success in Argentina, though on a much smaller scale, is Petit Verdot. The Bordelais use it as a seasoning grape, adding a dash of colour and tannin when 5% or so is added into a blend. The second wine below is 100% Petit Verdot but from a different warm, Spanish speaking country – Spain itself!
Disclosure: the Cahors was a sample but opinions remain my own (the Petit Verdot was an unrelated gift2)
Château Nozières Ambroise de l’Her Cahors Malbec 2016
Château Nozières owns 55 hectares in total spread close to its home in Vire-sur-Lot. They are on a continuous journey to understand the nuances of each site. For this “Ambroise de l’Her” the fruit is selected from older parcels of Malbec (90%) and Merlot (10%) grown on clay / limestone terraces of the Lot River. Yields are kept at 40 hl/ha and canopy management is by hand. Harvesting is by a combination of machine and hand followed by fermentation in temperature controlled vats over three weeks. MLF takes place in the same vats followed by maturation in used (between one and five years) oak barrels for 12 to 14 months.
Whether it’s climate change or the rise of Argentine Malbec that has a bigger influence on Cahors is unclear, but their effects are reflected in this ripe, fruit driven bottle from Château Nozières. Although ripe and full-bodied, it’s not at all jammy as tannins keep exuberance in check. The balance is enough for it to be quaffed on its own, enjoying the sweet black fruits, but it also works superbly with hearty winter food.
RRP: €16.95 (down from €21.00)
Stockists:Boutique Wines, Barnhill stores Killaney/Dalkey; Mortons, Ranalagh; Listons, Camden street; The Wine House Trim; Emilie’s, Glenbeigh Co. Kerry; Pat Fitzgerald’s (Centra), Dingle Co. Kerry; Grape and Bean, Portlaois; The Wine Pair, Clanbrassil Street; Blackrock Cellars; Gleeson’s, Booterstown Ave
Bodegas Señorio de Iniesta “Colección 34” La Tierra de Castilla Petit Verdot 2018
Bodega Iniesta is a relatively new venture – very new in Spanish terms! – as the winery was only built in 2010. Located an hour an a half’s drive west of Valencia, the Bodega has in excess of 300 hectares of vines, including both Spanish and international varieties. They make a wide range of styles and quality levels – and even offer olive oil. Petit Verdot is an unusual variety to plant, but I’m glad they did because it really works!
In the glass it pours a dark red with a purple rim. On the nose it shows an array of ripe black fruit: blackberries, blueberries and blackcurrant, but with delightful violet aromas floating over the top. These notes all continue onto the velvety palate with vanilla also appearing. Pleasant, slightly drying tannins integrate well into the long finish. Although it’s not sweet like a dessert, for me this wine evokes blackberry crumble with vanilla custard – just delicious!
Stockists:Boutique Wines, Barnhill stores Killaney/Dalkey; Mortons, Ranalagh; Listons, Camden street; The Wine House Trim; Emilie’s, Glenbeigh Co. Kerry; Pat Fitzgerald’s (Centra), Dingle Co. Kerry; Grape and Bean, Portlaois; The Wine Pair, Clanbrassil Street; Blackrock Cellars; Gleeson’s, Booterstown Ave
These are both well-made wines – at any price point. When the prices are taken into account then they offer remarkable value for money. I’d be very happy with either wine but the Petit Verdot is outrageously good for €15 in Ireland, so that would be my pick of the two.
1 Bill S. Preston Esq. and Ted “Theodore” Logan are – of course – known better as just Bill and Ted
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.
Our ninth contributor to this series is the magnificent Melanie May. Amongst other wines she mentioned that Riesling is her favourite white grape so of course I had to select an Alsace Riesling. But not any Alsace Riesling, Sipp Mack’s Grand Cru Rosacker which has been a favourite of mine for the best part of a decade. The 2011 was an amazingly big and heady vintage (at 14.0%!) which will remain in my top wines tasted, but the 2014 is a more elegant and subtle expression at 13.0%. At around €30 in Ireland it is sensationally good value for money.
On the music side I chose a perennial favourite from the mid ’80s which straddled the rock and goth genres. Billy Duffy’s powerful riffs help propel the song forward but for me it’s Nigel Preston’s pounding drums which really make the song excel. This was Preston’s last track with The Cult, and didn’t even feature in the video as his replacement Mark Brzezicki featured instead.
Sipp Mack Alsace Grand Cru Rosacker Riesling 2014
When Frankie asked me to contribute to his wine and music blog series I jumped at the chance. Not only because it gives me an opportunity to combine my love of writing, wine and music, but also my love of psychology too.
A little background, I used to take photographs of musicians and travelled around the UK snapping bands like The White Stripes, Razorlight, Stereophonics and The Libertines. My life revolved around going to gigs and backstage parties. Of course, that rock and roll lifestyle is well behind me now but my love of music is still as strong as ever.
Nowadays, I am a food and drink and travel writer and I have a WSET Level 3 Award in Wines. Before becoming a full-time writer though, I was studying to become a Clinical Psychologist and did my dissertation in Neuroscience.
Through my studies in psychology, I became aware of how different sensory experiences complement each other. There has been a few studies showing how music effects the perception and taste of wine. Did you know that people will buy significantly more expensive wine if classical music is playing than if the Top 40 is on? Apparently classical music encourages consumers to look for quality wines. Try it in your wine shop and see!
So, this pairing wine and music challenge is right up my street! I love this stuff.
I told Frankie that Riesling was my favourite white. So, when he asked me to pair a song to the 2014 Sipp Mack Riesling Grand Cru Rosacker my mouth instantly started watering. I had not tried that particular wine before, but knowing Frankie’s love of Alsace wine, I knew this was going to be a cracker.
And I was right. What a beautiful wine.
On the nose, the wine is floral with loads of juicy apple and bright citrus notes and a hint of petrol coming through too. The flavours are granny smith apples, cut red apple and baked apple too, lemon and lime. There is a wonderful chalky minerality to it too. It has an elegant mouthfeel and a long finish. It is super delicious.
The bright acidity and citrus notes of this wine are well matched to an upbeat pop song. The minerality and high acidity give this wine great structure, so I picked a song with a similar tight structure. The wine, with its delightful floral aromas and fruity flavours, is playful on the palate and even though it is high in acid it is quite smooth too. So, again, the song I chose is playful and smooth. The wine also has a great purity, it’s not encumbered with oak or other interfering wine making techniques, much like the matching song.
The song I paired with the 2014 Sipp Mack Riesling Grand Cru Rosacker is Good Day Sunshine by The Beatles – quite possibly my all time favourite band.
Good Day Sunshine is a bight and breezy, structured pop song – it is one of just a handful Beatles songs to use contiguous choruses. It is a pure pop song with no exotic instruments or tape loops. It is just Paul singing, Lennon harmonising and a piano and drums and very little guitar on the backing track. So, like the wine, it is bright, has great structure and is pure in taste and style.
Both the wine and the song capture the essence of carefree sunny days and both are good-mood enhancing. What a combo.
This wine is perfect for a barefoot picnic in the grass and this feel-good song is a magic, musical accompaniment.
I truly believe that when you pair the right wine with the right music, you get a heightened sensory experience that hits all the right notes. Maybe, one day, wine labels will say: ‘pairs well with shellfish and The Beatles’.
She Sells Sanctuary – The Cult
When Frankie asked me to pair a wine with the song ‘She Sells Sanctuary’ by The Cult I knew exactly what wine to choose: Château VincensLes Graves De Paul Cahors 2014
She Sells Sanctuary has been described as ‘a goth milestone’ and ‘quite possibly the most famous goth-rock song’. So, a fitting pairing is a ‘black’ wine. Well, I was hardly going to choose a Champagne, goths aren’t exactly known for being bubbly now, are they?
Black wine is Malbec from Cahors in France and its dark colour is caused by a high concentration of polyphenols from the Malbec grape skins.
This particular wine I choose has a dark label and gothic script – goths love flourishes like that. This bottle will therefore co-ordinate perfectly with their crushed velvet jackets and the writing is big enough to read though all their eye makeup.
This wine tastes best if you let the air at it for a little while, so pour it into your best chalice or goblet and leave it to breathe whist you go write some awful poetry.
When you listen to She Sells Sanctuary you’ll notice the soft build-up of the intro and then Ian Astbury’s impassioned vocals before the drama of the instrumental break hits. There is a great structure to this song and that’s thanks to pop producer Steve Brown, he worked with Wham!.
The wine also follows a similar trajectory. When you first sniff you get a soft build up of aromas like dark fruits, bramble, tobacco and woody spices. Then, when you first sip, you taste the fruit but it is balanced out with lovely savoury, smoky and spicy flavours. Then the drama of the mineral backbone, hint of oak and smooth tannins hit. This wine is intense, rich and elegant with great structure. Just like the song. As for the impassioned vocals? Well, this is a heartfelt wine with a sense of place. You can taste the terroir. It also has a restrained power, much like the vocal style of the lead singer.
Like most goths, this wine isn’t fully mature. The oak and tannins means you could age it for a few more years. I think ageing would smooth everything out just a tad more and let those lovely savoury flavours develop too.
With a wine this intense and rich you can pair it with big intense food. I chose to pair mine with steak because of its high iron content, cause, let’s face it, most goths look anaemic.
I think pairing a goth-rock song with a black wine helps keep the proper morbid mood, don’t you think? However, as this particular song has expressive pop overtones, I think this expressive, fruit-driven wine with smooth tannins and good structure is a harmonious match.
Overall, it’s a rich, complex and age-worthy wine that is delicious to drink now but could be something even more special if left to age for a few more years. It might even get a cult following!
It’s not hard to see why some wines from Cahors have a cult following! Get it? Cult? The Cult?
I’ll get my coat.
Melanie May is a food and wine writer and travel journalist from Dublin. She won the ‘Best Newcomer’ award at the 2019 Travel Extra Travel Journalist of the Year Awards and she is a member of the British Guild of Travel Writers and is a Guild of Fine Food, Great Taste Judge.
Her love of wine began in her early 20s when she worked in a wine shop in Dublin and she has been developing her palate and tasting skills ever since. She has a WSET Level 2 Award in Wines & Spirits and a WSET Level 3 Award in Wines and uses this knowledge to inform the wine articles she writes for her blog, Travel Eat Write Repeat.
Lidl Ireland’s annual French Wine event sees several dozen French wines added to the racks in their stores, from 30th September onwards while stocks last. These are some of the whites which grabbed my attention at the press tasting. They aren’t going to be the best examples of their type as the price tags are very modest, but they offer a great introduction to the various styles and represent very good value for money.
Château Petit Mouta “Sélection Les Carmes” 2018 (12.0%, €10.99 at Lidl)
White Bordeaux is often overlooked, especially AOC Graves which is generally a step up from Bordeaux Blanc and Entre-Deux-Mers but still offers great value. This “Sélection Les Carmes” cuvée is mainly Sauvignon Blanc (90%) with the remainder (10%) Semillon. The nose shows lots of lovely green aromas – gooseberry, grapefruit and granny smith apples – with hints of tropical fruits. On the palate it is tangy and fresh with those green notes coming through again. It has more body than a Loire Sauvignon due to extra ripeness and the presence of Semillon in the blend. The finish is clean and long-lasting, with no oak evident. Great value for money.
Domaine Deux Vallons Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur Lie 2018 (12.0%, €8.99 at Lidl)
As I have opined many times on these pages, Muscadet (100% Melon de Bourgogne of course) has an indifferent reputation which is partially deserved – there are plenty of this, acidic and flavourless examples out there (see those in French supermarkets). However, this example does have some character; yes, it is very dry but it has a very pleasing minerality to accompany the light citrus palate. The finish is mouth-wateringly acidic, so it cries out for shellfish or nibbles.
Wally Touraine Blanc 2018 (13.0%, €9.99 at Lidl)
Whether the “Wally” in question is a fool, a pickled gherkin or simply a bloke called Walter is moot. The wine is a 100% Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire; it has the usual gooseberry and grapefruit notes, but also grass…freshly mown grass, and is not too far removed sticking your head into a pile of grass cuttings and inhaling. It’s a fairly simple wine to go with salads, goats cheese or with itself at a party.
Madame Claude Parmentier Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2017 (13.0%, €9.99 at Lidl)
We now move to the southern Rhône, and if the Sauvignons above could be said to be “vertical” on the palate then this is much more “horizontal” – not that you will be on your back after a glass, but rather than it’s broad in the mouth, much more about texture than flavour. Like me you might guess that this is predominantly Grenache and so it is: 70% Grenache Blanc, 15% Roussanne and 15% Marsanne. If you haven’t had this type of wine before then it’s well worth a try – something completely outside the Sauvignon / Chardonnay / Pinot Grigio mainstream.
Collin Bourisset Coteaux Bourguignons Blanc 2018 (13.0%, €9.99 at Lidl)
“Coteaux Bourguignons” means “Burgundian Hills”, and can be made anywhere in greater Burgundy, from Chablis and Auxerre in the north to Beaujolais in the south. There are red and white variants (the red version of this wine is in the next post) which can be made from several grape varieties, though Pinot Noir and Gamay are most common for the reds and Chardonnay and Aligoté for the whites. This example is 100% Chardonnay and has a ripe, fruity nose which expresses its southerly roots. On the palate it seamlessly blends citrus (lemon and lime), pip fruit (red and green apples) and tropical fruit (melon and pineapple). This is a very well put together unoaked Chardonnay that’s tasty and tangy.
Expression de Saint Mont 2017 (13.0%, €8.99 at Lidl)
And so to the star of the show, a fantastic white wine from South West France. The blend was not available but I suspect it is predominantly Gros Manseng supported by Colombard, Ugni Blanc or Sauvignon Blanc. The nose is very expressive, full of melon and mango. It’s round in the mouth as they follow through onto the palate, though in a restrained manner. A lovely fresh finish is the perfect ending. I’ve been praising Côtes de Gascogne and Saint Mont for years now, and with wine this good for little money this make a very good case for the region.
One of the other great strengths of Liberty Wines’ portfolio is its antipodean selection – so much so that they seem to have the largest number of wines open for tasting at both the NZ and Australian trade tastings in Ireland. However, I’ve covered many of them before on Frankly Wines, so this article will review a few that I tried for the first time plus some fantastic European whites.
Jurançon wines are among the most under-rated in France, both the sweet (“Jurançon”) and dry (“Jurançon Sec”) styles. Don’t base your opinions on the bottles available in French supermarkets, though – they tend to lack concentration and be pleasantly innocuous at best. This is one of the best examples I’ve come across in Ireland, especially at a fairly moderate price. Split 50/50 between local varieties Petit Manseng and Gros Manseng, It shows plenty of ripe stone fruit, almost fleshy, but a crisp dry finish.
Mosel Riesling is one of the great wines of the world, but it’s rarely “cheap”. This one is very reasonably priced and serves as a great introduction to the area. The grapes are partly from the producer’s own estate and partly from contract growers in the Mosel region. It shows white flowers, stone and citrus fruit plus minerality – a great example of Mosel Riesling, and/ great value for money!
Château Moncontour Vouvray Sec 2017 (13.0%, RRP €21.99)
Many of my comments above about Jurançon also hold true for the Chenin-derived wines of the Loire. This Château Moncontour helpfully says “Sec” on the label, and it is dry – but not bone dry or austere. There’s a touch of residual sugar (apparently 6.7 g/L for those who are interested in such things) but lots more fruit sweetness, balanced by fresh acidity. Such a more-ish wine!
Matt Thomson is a legend in the world of wine – but he’s also a top bloke. After doing both northern and southern hemisphere vintages for 20 years, he finally decided to make his own wine, partnered by his wife Sophie. The Blank Canvas Chardonnay featured in my 2017 Top 10 whites so I was keen to try the Grüner. The long, cool growing season in Marlborough is perfect for GV, as it is for other aromatics such as Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Pinot Gris. This is a cracker – smooth yet textured, nicely balanced between fruit sweetness and refreshing acidity.
Framingham are unusual in Marlborough – actually in the whole of New Zealand – in that Riesling is their biggest focus. And boy, does it show! The Classic is their “entry level” Riesling, but it gives a flavour of what the rest of the range holds. This is particularly true of the 2015 as 10% of the grapes were botrytised, with nobly rotten grapes normally going into a special cuvée. This is a lovely wine to drink but just AMAZING on the nose. It has that hard-to-define “otherness” which only Riesling has (“Rieslingness”?)
Kaiken Ultra Mendoza Chardonnay 2016 (14.0%, RRP €24.99)
Rather than go west – which would have taken them into the Pacific, Montes headed east from Chile to Argentina and created Kaiken. The fruit is sourced from the Uco Valley in Mendoza, mostly in cooler parts which give freshness and minerality – despite the 14.0% alcohol and partial (35%) maturation in new oak, this is far from the butter-bomb new world Chardonnays of the 1990s. It has lots of tangy, tropical flavours, but mainly from the grapes rather than the oak.
Santiago Ruiz “O Rosal” Rías Biaxas 2017 (13.0%, RRP €24.99)
From the O Rosal subregion of Galicia’s Rías Biaxas, this is an Albariño blend with several other local varieties playing supporting roles: it consists of 76% Albariño, 11% Loureiro, 5% Treixadura, 4% Godello and 4% other. I like Albariño as a grape, but – for all its popularity – it’s wines are more often simple than complex. Simple doesn’t necessarily mean bad or boring, but there is definitely a place for interesting. The O Rosal is quite long and serious; it’s a cerebral rather than obvious wine which definitely deserves a try.
Domaine des Ballandors Quincy 2017 (13.5%, RRP €24.99)
After Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Quincy was the second Appellation Controllée created in France. Since then it hasn’t really been at the forefront of drinkers’ minds – Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé stole the limelight and the column inches. The upside is that quality wines from Quincy can offer great value for money. The nose is very grassy, the palate herby with quince (no relation) and gooseberry notes. This Sauvignon Blanc for adults.
L.A.S. Vino Margaret River Chardonnay 2016 (13.5%, RRP €59.99)
Margaret River is well known for its Bordeaux blends – Cabernet-Merlot reds and Semillon-Sauvignon whites – but also for some fantastic Chardies. L.A.S. is actually an acronym, standing for “Luck of the weather, the Art of creating and the Science that underpins this creativity.” This is world class, amazing stuff. You need to try this wine. Sell an organ. Sell your car. Even sell your house, but don’t sell your soul as this Chardonnay will capture it.
Quintessential Wines are are specialist wine importers, distributors and retailers based in Drogheda, just north of Dublin, and with an online store. Here are a few of their wines which really took my fancy at their portfolio tasting in April:
Doran Vineyardsis the baby of Irish born Edwin Doran, partnered by South African winemaking legend André (“Adi”) Badenhorst. “Baby” is actually quite apt as the winery was redeveloped as recently as 2012.
This wine is quite an unusual blend, one that could only really be from South Africa: 57% Chenin Blanc, 22% Grenache Blanc and 21% Roussanne. The nose has citrus, herbs and floral notes; the wine is soft and supple in the mouth with fresh apple, stone fruit, citrus and a hint of nuts. This blend is lovely to drink on its own but is also very food friendly.
Clos Cazalet Tursan Carpe Diem 2015 (12.5%, RRP €16.95 at Quintessential Wines, Drogheda)
Tursanis one of the lesser known appellations of south west France, spanning the border between the new regions of Nouvelle-Aquitaine and Occitanie. It also has a lesser known grape at the heart of its white wines – the delightfully named Baroque which must be between 30% and 90% of the blend. The balance is made up by a combination of Gros Manseng, Petit Manseng and Sauvignon Blanc. Reds are based on Tannat (40% maximum), Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Clos Cazalet is one of the few independent producers in Tursan. Their Carpe Diem comprises 60% Gros Manseng, 30% Baroque and 10% Petit Manseng. This blend gives a full “here comes the Lilt man” tropical experience – pineapple, peach, pear and grapefruit. it’s soft and round in the mouth, a perfect summer drink!
Mas des Agrunelles Barbaste 2016 (13.0%, RRP €22.50 at Quintessential Wines, Drogheda)
We’re on a go-slow here – well a go-sloe to be exact, as Agrunelles are sloes which are common round this area. And what an area – a part of the Languedoctraditionally not used for viticulture given the cool micro-climate, and instead given over to sheep grazing and charcoal production.
The Domaine was set up by Frédéric Porro of Domaine La Marèle and Stéphanie Ponson of Mas Nicot as the antithesis of bulk cooperative grape production – each small plot is harvested and vinified separately so production is spread over a large number of different wines, though volumes of each are small. It is also worthy of note that Mas des Agrunelles is both organic and biodynamic.
Barbasteis a blend of Chardonnay, Roussanne and Marsanne; it’s a thing of beauty, tangy yet soft(some oxidative softening, perhaps?) with spicy pear and fennel flavours. Very moreish!
Mas des Agrunelles Camp de Lèbre 2015 (12.5%, RRP €27.95 at Quintessential Wines, Drogheda)
Another wine from Mas des Agrunelles…whereas Barbaste means “white frost” in Occitan (the local language), Camp de Lèbre means “Field of hares”, as the local varmints help themselves to the tasty wine buds in spring. This is a varietal wine, being 100% Carignan Blancplanted on clay and limestone.
The first line of my tasting notes was: “What the hell is that? it’s Magnificent!” There’s lots of texture and roundness in the mouth (possibly from some time in oak?). Aniseed and herbs partner soft pip and stone fruit – deliciously tangy!
Following on from a pair of whites from France’s mountainous eastern marches in Part 1, we now turn to some excellent Jurançonwines distributed by Nomad Wine Importers.
The wines of South West France receive only limited recognition outside of their region(s) – and to be honest the plural is more fitting here as they are actually a diverse collection of wine regions with some geographical proximity.
In fact, looking at a map of south west (no caps) France shows that the biggest wine region of the area – Bordeaux – is not included in South West (with caps) France.
Located in the foothills of the Pyrenees, south and west of Pau, Jurançon is an area whose wines I am quite familiar with after visiting the area several times.
At least I thought I was, anyway – cheap examples of an appellation picked up at a supermarket aren’t a good indicator of the quality available within a region.
The most important thing to know is that there are two different appellations, Jurançonitself which is sweet (moelleux) and Jurançon Sec which is dry. Not the easiest for novices to remember, just like Bordeaux’s Graves-Supérieures is actually sweet.
There are five grapes permitted for both AOCs – Petit Manseng and Gros Manseng (which must make up at least 50% of each blend), (Petit) Courbu(which ripens early and adds acidity) and the minor legacy varieties Camaralet de Lasseube and Lauzet.
Camin Larreyda is currently run by Jean-Marc Grussaute, son of Jean & Jany Grussaute who terraced and replanted the family property in 1970. The Domaine has been certified organic since 2007 and has 9.5 ha planted to 65% Petit Manseng, 27% Gros Manseng and the remaining 8% Petit Courbu and Camaralet. They also make wine from their neighbours’ grapes.
Here are the four wines I tasted recently, each named after the plots where the grapes are grown:
Domaine Larredya Jurançon Sec “la Part Davant” 2015(14.0%, RRP €28 at Jus de Vine, Green Man Wines, SIYPS)
The “entry level” wine from Larredya consists of 50% (very ripe) Gros Manseng, 35% Petit Manseng and 15% Petit Courbu & Camaralet. The Part Davant plot is 4.5 ha and is farmed organically.
This is a lighter and fresher style than the other wines made by Larredya – there’s the typical peach stone fruit notes but also citrus and a touch of minerality. For me this is a pleasant drinking wine but even better with food such as white fish, poultry, pork or veal.
Domaine Larredya Jurancon Sec “la Virada” 2015(14.0%, RRP €40 at Jus de Vine, SIYPS)
This is a blend of equal parts Petit Manseng, Gros Manseng and Petit Courbu, harvested at a very low 20 hl/ha. The grapes are whole bunch pressed then fermented with natural yeast. Fermentation and maturation take place in barriques and foudres.
The alcohol is quite high at 14.0% as all the sugar has been fermented to dryness, but it doesn’t stand out on the palate. Peach and apricot fruit flavours are to the fore, but there’s also honey all the way through with a bracing, fresh finish. Superb!
Just below the name of the appellation on the label, “Les Grains des Copains” shows that this wine was made from their friends’ grapes rather than their own. The average age of the source vines is 25 years and the different vineyards are either organic or “lutte raisonnée” which roughly translates as sustainable. Yields are between 30 and 35 hl/ha and the blend is 70% Petit and 30% Gros Manseng.
This is definitely a sweet wine but the sweetness enhances the exotic fruit flavours rather than dominating them. This could be the perfect wine to match with a fruit salad!
Domaine Larredya Jurancon “Au Capceu” 2015(13.0%, 130g/L RS, RRP €42 at 64 Wine and SIYPS)
This cuvée is 100% Petit Manseng and is from a three hectare plot, mainly higher altitude terraced vines with a southerly or eastern orientation; the location is excellent for producing late harvest wines without grey rot. The vines are 30 years old and yields are low at 20 hl/ha. Fermentation and maturation (for a year) are in a mix of barriques and foudres.
This is an intensely concentrated wine with a combination of stone fruit and citrus – it also reminded me somewhat of whisky marmalade. Although quite sweet it is nicely balanced and not at all cloying. An absolute treat!
A white for summer barbecues – though to be honest there’s no bad time to drink this tasty, versatile wine. Crisp, dry and fruity, it’s great for quaffing on its own or with lighter food. It has more going on that virtually any other wine you can get for the same price.
Where is Gascogne?
Gascony is in South west France, and is now generally thought of as the area below Bordeaux. As a larger historical region it included Bordeaux’s Medoc peninsula and the Basque Country of the Pyrenees. Culturally, it was the literary home of d’Artagnan (perhaps Dogtanian as well, I’m not sure) and Cyrano de Bergerac.
Beverage wise its most famous product is Armagnac, the other quality grape brandy which is lesser known than Cognac. But now its undistilled wines are increasingly popular.
Here are a couple I’ve tried and enjoyed recently:
Domaine de Maubet IGP Côtes de Gascogne 2014 (€14.99, Honest 2 Goodness)
This is a blend of Colombard, Ugni Blanc, Gros Manseng and Sauvignon Blanc (proportions not given) and weighs in at a very lunch-friendly 11.5% abv. For a Vin de Pays it has remarkable concentration, with lemon and grapefruit keeping it fresh and some tropical notes adding another dimension. There’s no sign of oak – and nor should there be, the fruit is allowed to express itself.
Venturer IGP Côtes de Gascogne 2014 (€6.99, Aldi)
No the price is not a misprint / typo / mistake! Again this is a very fruity, easy-drinking style of wine. It has far more character that you’ve a right to expect for this price tag – and it comes with a handy screwcap so there’s no synthetic cork you normally get with less expensive wine.
The blend is 80% Colombard, 20% Gros Manseng giving citrus and a touch of melon. At this price you can fill your fridge!
The region’s viticultural borders now align with those of Armagnac, across the three departments of Gers, Landes and Lot-et-Garonne. In the Gers the production volumes are approximately: 91% white, 8% red and 1% rosé wine. This is very atypical for the southwest of France, because in neighbouring departments mainly red wine is produced (e.g. Madiran). Around three quarters of production is exported.
The white grapes of Côtes de Gascogne are:
Colombard is the mainstay of the area, sometimes seen in cheaper blends from California, South Africa and Australia, but at its best here
Ugni Blanc is used for Armagnac production, and even more so for Cognac production (the other side of Bordeaux). It also features in Italy under the name Trebbiano (yuck!)
Petit and Gros Manseng are traditional grapes of SW France, particularly Saint-Mont and Jurancon.
Muscadelle, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc are of course the three white grapes permitted in white Bordeaux wine.
Len de l’El (aka Cavalier, prominent in AC Gaillac) is a rarity.