Tag: Spain

Top Selection of Reds [Make Mine a Double #29]

Here are a couple of fab reds from Top Selection, an interesting UK-based boutique wine merchant:

Habla de la Tierra Vino de la Tierra de Extremadura 2014 (13.5%, £14 from Top Selection)

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This is a modern Spanish wine made from a blend of Cab Franc and Tempranillo.

Unlike its offspring Cabernet Sauvignon (see here), Cabernet Franc is far less celebrated. In its home of the Loire Valley it can make some fantastic mid-weight reds, but as that region is often overlooked Cab Franc is rarely shouted about.  In Bordeaux it’s a useful blending grape on both banks, but very rarely makes up the majority of a cuvee. Perhaps its route to fame will be in Argentina where it has been the Next Big Thing for some time.

Extremadura is a Spanish province which has Andalucia to the south and Portugal to the west, with the Douro dipping into its northern reaches.  The only (exclusive*) Denominacion de Origen here is DO Ribera del Guadiana around the banks of the River Guardiana; the Vino de la Tierra Extremadura covers the whole province.

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Credit: Emilio Gomez Fernandez

*DO Cava can also be made in Extremadura, but production is very small.

Vinos_DO_de_España
Credit: Emilio Gomez Fernandez

So how does this unusual blend work?  Very well, actually!  It has the bright, fresh raspberry character of Cab Franc on the attack, with the supple roundness of Tempranillo on the finish – a thoroughly delicious wine!

Harwood Hall Central Otago Pinot Noir 2012 (13.5% £19 from Top Selection)

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Most people know where New Zealand is but even seasoned NZ wine fans might not know where the different Kiwi wine regions are in the country.  Central Otago is the most southerly of NZ’s wine regions – and in fact the most southerly place where wine is produced on a commercial basis in any country.  It’s relatively dry, and semi-continental which gives it hot summer days but cool nights and cold winters.

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Credit: Wines Of New Zealand

All these factors give Central Otago wines a great intensity of flavour while preserving acidity and freshness.  Although relatively new as a wine region – even by NZ standards – it is among the top places to grow Pinot Noir in the country.

Harwood Hall is a joint venture between two New Zealanders who have worked in the industry for 20 years.  The simple instructions to accompany this wine should be: open, pour, lock the doors, enjoy the wine!  It’s super smooth, pure velvet in the glass.  There are red and black cherries and red berries with a touch of spice, a heavenly combination.

 

Disclosure: both wines kindly provided for review

 

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

 

Top Selection of Whites [Make Mine a Double #26]

UK wine importers Top Selection have an enviable portfolio of exclusive niche wines (and spirits) across the price spectrum.  Here are a couple of their fresh whites which impressed me recently:

Angel Sequeiros Rías Baixas Albariño “Evoe” 2013 (13.0%, £17.50 at Top Selection)

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Not long after gourmets and gourmands started using the term “food porn”, winelovers hit back with the equally hyperbolic “wine porn”.  Although the term is supposed to be figurative, it’s not far off the literal truth for this bottle!

Founder Angel Sequeiros bought the already-established Finca Quinta Gaviñeira on his return to Galicia in 1960.  The Rías Baixas estate is 100% Albariño and is now run by Angel’s son Clement.  Clement has been making his own mark with the estate since his first release in 2009.

It’s floral, fresh, and gently fruity – pleasant drinking on its own but not so intense that you couldn’t bring it to the table.  This is one of the most balanced Albariños I’ve tried!

Apparently, “evoe” in English means “an exclamation of Bacchic frenzy” – and looking at the label I’d say that’s not too far off the mark!

Villa Mattielli Soave Classico Campolungo 2015 (13.0%, £17.00 at Top Selection)

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As I have opined many a time and oft* on this blog, Soave from the Veneto in north eastern Italy continues to be unfairly looked down on because of the inexpensive and unexpressive bulk wine made in the region.  In fact, going back to the 1970s, Soave sales in some export markets rivalled that of Chianti.  In spite of the burgeoning quality of many other Italian wines, Chianti is still seen as the “go-to” Italian red wine in export markets, whereas Soave has been overtaken by the infamous Pinot Grigio (most of which, itself, is not exactly characterful).

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Soave vineyards (Credit: Alessandro Pighi)

Thankfully Villa Mattielli are a quality-orientated family producer with 30 hectares of vines across the Soave Classico and Valpolicella DOCs.  Winemaker Roberta is the fourth generation of the family to run the firm, along with her husband Giacomo and her sister Valeria.

The wine has a lovely orange and peach nose; it explodes with the same in the mouth, round and luscious.  Unlike many Italian white wines, it has too much flavour for oysters or delicate white fish – instead try it with king scallops or garlic and ginger prawns.

*The wine is made in the area around Venice, hence the literary reference**

**Don’t tell me you didn’t get the reference!

Disclosure: both wines kindly provided for review

 

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

A Fun Blind Tasting Event

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When I was asked to put on a wine tasting event for a birthday party, I asked what format the host wanted and the average level of wine knowledge among the guests. He replied that he was open about the format but that the partygoers would have varying levels of interest and knowledge in wine (a couple of heathens not even liking wine!) Furthermore, there would be different groups within the guests, so an arrangement which got them to mix well would be preferable.

The format we agreed on was one that has worked well for me at many events in the past, and has been progressively honed over the years. I split the guests into two teams, led by the birthday boy and his wife respectively. Six wines were served blind: two sparkling, two white and two red. For each wine, the teams had to guess five aspects:

  1. Geographical Origin
  2. Grape(s)
  3. ABV %
  4. Vintage
  5. Price Band

Now, blind tasting is actually pretty difficult even for seasoned professionals, so to make things a bit more reasonable there were 5 answers to chose from for each question, for each wine.  The teams could then go for more points if they were pretty sure what the wine was (e.g. choosing “Italy – Veneto” for origin and “Glera” for grape(s) if they thought it was a Prosecco) or hedging their bets.

As for the wines selected?  The host is a fan of classic Bordeaux and Burgundy but wanted to try other styles, so he asked me to choose some personal favourites.  I sourced them from Tesco (supermarket) and Sweeney’s wine merchants, so that if attendees liked the wines they would have a reasonable chance of finding them later.

So without further ado, here are the wines and the options for each question:

Marqués de la Concordia Cava 2013 (11.5%, €17.99 at Sweeney’s)

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sparkling-1

Both teams guessed this was a Cava and had it in the right price band.  I’m not a fan of cheap Cava but this is actually a nice bottle at a pretty nice price.  I’d much prefer to drink this than most budget Proseccos!

Tesco Finest Vintage Grand Cru Champagne 2007 (12.5%, €35.00 at Tesco)

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Perhaps the proliferation of cheaper Champagnes at Lidl and Aldi have changed people’s preconceptions of how much Champagne costs, as both teams selected €20 – €30.  The biggest Champagne brand in the world – Möet & Chandon – is usually listed at €50+…but I reckon this is far better, at a significantly lower price.

Prova Regia Arinto VR Lisboa 2014 (12.0%, €13.00 at Sweeney’s)

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This is an old favourite of mine from the days of Sweeney’s regular tastings.  It now comes in two versions, the above pictured Vinho Regional and a slightly more upmarket DOC. Whispers of “It’s Riesling, look at the bottle” were heard, and I can see the logic (the bottles were wrapped in foil so the silhouette was visible).  Several tasters thought it didn’t taste of much at all, and I’d have to agree to a certain extent – it’s definitely worth trading up to the DOC for more flavour intensity.

McWilliams Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Hunter Valley Semillon 2005 (12.0%, €19.99 at Tesco)

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This was a really polarising wine, and one that totally misled tasters as to its age – most thought it a 2015 or 2014, when in fact it was from the 2005 vintage!  Hunter Valley Semillon is one of the true original styles to have come from Australia.  Unoaked, it is all fresh lemon in its youth, but with significant bottle age it gains toastiness and rich flavours.  This is a bottle you can buy now and hide in the bottom of a wardrobe for a decade!

Cono Sur 20 Barrels Pinot Noir 2014 (13.5%, €26.00 at Sweeney’s)

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Probably the best-received wine of the evening!  This is a lovely wine, and one that beats off most of the competition at anything close to the price.  Its richness and spiciness (for a Pinot Noir) did lead some to think it was a Shiraz – understandable.  This was the wine which people queued up to snap the label of so that they could seek it out!

Diemersfontein Pinotage 2014 (14.0%, €23.00 at Sweeney’s)

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Another polarising wine, with several not sure if they liked it or not – and to be fair, it’s not for everyone.  This is the “Original Coffee and Chocolate Pinotage” and I happen to like it – don’t listen to the Mochas (sorry!) Of course the grape and origin weren’t explicitly listed so they were both “other” – a bit sneaky on my part?  Perhaps…

**If you are interested in having a wine tasting party or other event then please ask me for details**

 

 

Spanish Treats from O’Briens

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Here are a few of my favourite Spanish wines available at O’Briens – and until 17th August they are on sale with 20% or more off, so it’s a great time to snap them up!

Martín Códax Rías Baixas Albariño 2013 (12.5%, €17.95 down to €14.36 at O’Briens)

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The fresh one: Named after a literary hero from Galicia in northwest Spain, this wine also uses the celebrated local grape Albariño.  While some examples can be a little too tart for my taste, several months of ageing on the lees before bottling and a few years’ rest make this wonderfully round, though still fruity and refreshing.  Expect citrus and soft stone fruit notes.

Marqués de Murrieta Rioja Capellanía 2010 (13.5%, €24.95 down to €19.96 at O’Briens)

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The Marmite one: this is generally a love or loathe type of wine due to the deliberate introduction of some oxygen during the winemaking process – i.e. giving it a slight “Sherry” taste.  It’s how traditional style white Rioja is made – and to be honest I’m all for it as technically better modern examples are often a bit dull.  I also tasted a 2005 vintage recently and it was still going strong, so don’t be in a hurry to drink it!

Torres Ribero del Duero Crianza Celeste 2012 (14.0%, €21.95 down to €17.56 at O’Briens)

Celeste

The regular one: Although it’s fairly well distributed, this is a classy wine that always delivers – it’s a regular tipple for me.  It’s made from Tempranillo which is of course the mainstay of red Rioja, but the hotter days and cooler nights of the Ribero del Duero give the local variant a thicker skin and hence the wine has more colour and flavour – dark berries with a pinch of spice!

Monte Real Rioja Gran Reserva 2007 (14.0%, €30.45 down to €24.36 at O’Briens)

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The surprising one: This wine was one of the stand outs for me at the O’Briens Spring Wine Fair.  When it comes to Rioja I don’t usually go for a Gran Reserva as they can be woody and dried out from too much time in oak, but this was a revelation.  30 months in American oak followed by 3 years in bottle have set it up superbly.  The strawberry fruit is so, so soft with vanilla on the side, and a slight smoky edge to the wine.  The oak is definitely noticeable but it’s now well integrated.  A fabulous wine!

Marques de Murrieta Castillo De Ygay Gran Reserva Especial 2007 (14.0%, €85.00 down to €68.00 at O’Briens)

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The no-expense spared one: Yes, this is an expensive wine, but it is counted among the best in Spain, so if you’re splashing out then why not?  It’s a blend of 86% Tempranillo and 14% Mazuelo (a.k.a. Carignan) matured in oak for 28 months.  It tastes pretty damned amazing, but it’s still a baby – put a couple of bottles away for a special occasion in a few years time!

Frankie’s Single Bottle Review #06 – Sierra Cantabria Rioja Crianza 2010

Frankie’s Single Bottle Review #06 – Sierra Cantabria Rioja Crianza 2010

As it’s the long Eostre / Easter weekend my wife suggested roast lamb, which got a thumbs up from me as I’m very partial to lamb (sorry Flossie).  There are a few classic wine matches for lamb; Saint-Emilion or Crianza / Reserva Rioja.  As I happened to have a sample bottle of Crianza Rioja to hand the game was afoot!

Sierra Cantabria Rioja Crianza 2010 (14.0%, €17.95, O’Briens)

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Rioja is traditionally made with a large majority of Tempranillo grapes, supported by small amounts of Garnacha, Graciano, Mazuelo.  American oak is typically used for maturation before bottling, with the length of time linked to classification as Joven, Crianza, Reserva or Gran Reserva.  All this together gives a “strawberries and cream” effect, especially for Crianzas.

But this wine didn’t taste like that at all!

Rather than strawberry or any other red fruit, the palate had dark, black fruit – blackberry and damsons.  Instead of creamy vanilla there was a smoky, savoury edge.  If I had been given this wine to try blind I think the closest I would have guessed would have been Ribero del Duero, not Rioja at all.

However, I should have read the “small print”.  Not all Rioja Crianzas are supposed to taste like strawberries and cream!  Modern style Rioja is often made with French oak (which gives smoky rather than vanilla flavours) and the grapes are well macerated to extract lots of colour and tannin.

So this is a lovely wine, and would actually go better with a steak than with lamb – but I’m not complaining, not me!

DNS Wine Club *FUN* Tasting

After a show of hands at the previous meet, the theme of the most recent DNS Wine Club tasting was FUN! Wine can be a very technical and complicated subject, and as something of a geek that often appeals to me, but at the end of the day the main point of wine is pleasure.

So how do you make a tasting more fun? Play games! But which games? I divided the DNS gang into two teams, opened some fizz and gave them their first task.

{All the wines tasted over the evening are reviewed in the articles Le Tour de France and Around The World in Eighty Sips on TheTaste.ie}

ROUND 1 – Match the Critic

John Wilson
John Wilson, scholar and gentleman

I reviewed John Wilson’s book “Wilson On Wine 2015 – The Wines To Drink This Year” here and refer to it frequently. For each wine reviewed there are lots of details, especially on the background of the wine, along with a fairly short tasting note. As tasting is such a subjective thing (and taste too, but that’s for another day) I wondered how easy it would be to identify wines from their tasting note alone…

Example of a wine featured
Example of a wine featured in the book

Each team was given a sheet with two columns; the first had ten wine names and the second had ten tasting notes taken from John’s book. Two wines were sparkling, four white and four red. Each column was in alphabetical order and the objective was to match the tasting notes to the correct wine.

Wine Name   Tasting Note
1 Bernhard Ott Fass4 Grüner Veltliner 2013 A A superb, light, elegant wine, with piquant dark cherry and blueberry fruits.
2 Champagne Larmandier-Bernier Latitude Extra Brut NV B Almond blossoms on the nose; light, elegant, sophisticated crisp green fruits with excellent Minerality. A perennial favourite.
3 Coca y Fito DO Terra Alta Jaspi Blanc 2012 C An exuberant, fresh wine bursting with pineapples and tropical fruits.
4 Jeio Prosecco DOCG Valdobiadenne Spumante Brut NV D Bracing and herby with an inviting texture and a snappy dry finish.
5 Kasarí Zorah Areni Noir 2012 E Delectably light and tangy but with rosehips and fresh, piquant red fruits. Great with food.
6 Moric Burgenland Blaufränkish 2012 F Fresh pear and peach fruits with a good lively citrus edge
7 Pieropan Soave Classico 2013 G Intriguing, lifted fragrant black cherries with good acidity and a light earthiness, finishing on a smooth note. Different and delicious wine.
8 Quinta Milú Ribera del Duero 2013 H Pure piquant damson fruits, good acidity and a lightly tannic finish. Delicious.
9 Santa Rita Medalla Real Leyda Valley Chardonnay 2011 I Restrained peach and apple fruits with subtle toasted nuts and a core of citrus acidity.
10 Thymiopolous Naoussa Xinomavro 2013 J Succulent ripe fruits cut through with a delicious minerality and great length.

You might want to try this at home.  Bear the following hints in mind that were given on the night:

  • As both columns are in alphabetical order it is possible that a wine may still be lined up opposite its true tasting note, though most aren’t.
  • The longest tasting note belongs to (probably) the most expensive white wine.
  • The Prosecco note should be very easy to identify as it nearly always tastes of one particular fruit.
  • One of the wines includes a colour in its name (though not in English) which is included in the corresponding tasting note (in English).

Yes, most of these hints are fairly esoteric / tenuous / difficult – but that’s how I roll!

ROUND 2 – Call My (Wine) Bluff

For those know aren’t familiar with it, Call My Bluff is a long-running UK game show where celebrity contestants on a team take it in turn to give three definitions of an obscure word, only one of which is correct. The other team then tries to choose the correct definition and discard the bluffs.

The wine version has a similar structure, but instead of word definitions the guessing team has to divine which of three tasting notes they are given match the wine in their glass and their mouth!

For five white wines and three red wines, these are the choices which were proffered:

White 1
(A) Famille Bougrier Les Hautes Lieux Vin de France Sauvignon Blanc 2013
(B) José Pareinte Rueda Verdejo 2014
(C) Marqués de Riscal Rueda Sauvignon Blanc 2013

White 2
(A) Jean-Paul Brun Terres Dorées Beaujolais Blanc Chardonnay 2012
(B) Les Auzines Fleur Blanches Vin de Pays d’Oc 2014
(C) Tahbilk Victoria Marsanne 2014

White 3
(A) Frantz Saumon Minérale+ Montlouis 2012
(B) Tahbilk Victoria Marsanne 2014
(C) Trimbach Cuvé Frédéric Emile Alsace Riesling 2004

White 4
(A) Dog Point Section 94 2008
(B) Gaia Assyrtiko Wild Ferment 2013
(C) Greywacke Marlborough Wild Sauvignon 2012

White 5
(A) Frantz Saumon Minérale+ Montlouis 2012
(B) Les Auzines Fleur Blanches Vin de Pays d’Oc 2014
(C) Marqués de Riscal Rueda Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Red 1
(A) Atlantico Sur Reserve Tannat 2011
(B) Château Bouscassé Madiran 2007
(C) El Castro de Valtuille Bierzo 2013

Red 2
(A) Aldi Lot 01 Uco Valley Malbec-Cabernet 2013
(B) Château Sainte-Marie Bordeaux Supérieur 2012
(C) Domaine La Sarabande Faugères 2011

Red 3
(A) Château Milhau-Lacugue “Les Truffières” Saint Chinian 2010
(B) Domaine La Sarabande Faugères 2011
(C) Taltarni Heathcote Shiraz 2008

For the guessing team, some of the choices were more difficult if there was a similarity between the choices, e.g. for White 1 there were 2 regions and 2 grapes over 3 wines.

It was actually easiest to bluff when the reader didn’t know if they were giving the note for the correct wine or not! I suppose it is good to know that most people aren’t good liars, even if it’s just for fun.

ROUND 3 – Match the Critic (Encore)

A Book, A Bottle, A Glass
A Book, A Bottle, A Glass

Now the kicker to see if everyone had been paying attention! A double list – similar to that handed out in Round 1 – was given to each team, this time with eight wine names and tasting notes. But these weren’t just any wines taken from John’s book – they were the eight that everyone had tasted in Round 2! So of course, this final round had double points awarded.

Wine Name   Tasting Note
1 Atlantico Sur Reserve Tannat 2011 A A delicious modern style of Bordeaux with light creamy cassis fruits and a smooth easy finish.
2 Château Sainte-Marie Bordeaux Supérieur 2012 B A subtle and delectable blend of citrus and green fruits with a touch of honey
3 Domaine La Sarabande Faugères 2011 C Exhilarating precise acidity with pristine green fruits.  Inspiring, thrilling wine.
4 Gaia Assyrtiko Wild Ferment 2013 D Fresh, tangy, lemon and grapefruit, balanced out by clean green fruits, and a dry finish.
5 Jean-Paul Brun Terres Dorées Beaujolais Blanc Chardonnay 2014 E Good, deeply satisfying wine with firm, dark ripe fruits and a dry finish.
6 José Pareinte Rueda Verdejo 2013 F Light toasted nut aromas, fresh textured pineapples fruits and excellent length. Great wine at a very reasonable price.
7 Les Auzines Fleurs Blanches G Lightly toasted notes combined with peaches, almonds and honey.  Unusual and perfectly formed.
8 Tahbilk Victoria Marsanne 2014 H Succulent and ripe, filled with dark cherry fruits dusted with spices

Conclusions

Blind tasting, even single blind, is difficult. Tasting notes are subjective, and, unsurprisingly, it’s much easier to understand someone else’s when you’re tasting the same wine they had. Context is very important so knowing the background to a wine can give you a lot of clues about why it tastes a certain way and where it’s headed.

Above all, it’s a fun journey!

Make Mine a Double #05 – Salt and Pepper

Make Mine a Double #05 – Salt and Pepper

This series of articles each covers two wines that have something in common, and most likely some point of difference. Compare and contrast is the order of the day – so make mine a double!

No you haven’t gone mad, this is still a wine blog and not a condiments review.  Nor is it a homage to the New York female hip hop trio Salt-n-Pepa.  Read on…

salt and pepper
salt and pepper

I recently tasted two different wines, in different settings, from different countries and brought in by different companies, but one had a distinct pepper taste and one was remarkably salty, so I thought they would make for an interesting pair.

Bodegas Vegalfaro “Rebel;lia” Utiel-Requena DO 2014 (€12.95, Cases Wine Warehouse) 13.0%

Bodegas Vegalfaro “Rebel;lia” Utiel-Requena DO 2014
Bodegas Vegalfaro “Rebel;lia” Utiel-Requena DO 2014

The Utiel-Requena DO is in the Province and Autonomous Community of Valencia in eastern Spain, in the transition zone between the Mediterranean coast and La Mancha high plateau. Away from most of the softening effects of the Med, the climate is very continental (long hot, dry summers and cold winters) and one of the most severe in Spain.

Bobal is the main grape grown here, accounting for over three quarters of the land under vine. Other permitted black varieties are: Tempranillo, Garnacha, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. The authorised white varieties are: Planta Nova, Macabeo, Merseguera, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

Until fairly recently, Utiel-Requena has mainly produced bulk wine for early drinking. Some vignerons are now taking quality much more seriously, especially where vineyards are located at altitude which gives the grapes a chance to rest in the cooler evenings.

From the design of the label you can guess that Bodegas Vegalfaro is a modern winery, even putting the name of the wine upside down on the label. And so it proves in the glass. This is a blend of two French grapes – Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc – which are often seen outside France as well as in the country itself, but rarely blended together. Often single varietals, when in a blend it is often with Sémillon or Colombard rather than each other (Italy is another exception).

It is a lovely, clean wine; no overt oakiness but plenty of citrus and tropical fruit.  The acidity is refreshing and keeps your mouth watering, especially with added saltiness on the finish!  It’s beyond the saline character of some Albariños or Sancerres, but while unusual is actually quite enticing.  The perfect fish and chip wine?  Perhaps, but move over Muscadet and Chablis, this is the perfect match for oysters!

Château Goudray Côtes du Rhônes Villages–Séguret 2013 (€12.99 down to €10.00, SuperValu) 14.0%

Château Goudray Côtes du Rhônes Villages–Séguret 2013
Château Goudray Côtes du Rhônes Villages–Séguret 2013

In the Rhône Valley there is a well-recognised hierarchy amongst the AOCs, with the 16 Crus at the top and generic Côtes-du-Rhônes at the bottom. One step up is Côtes-du-Rhônes Villages which is made within some of the better villages outside the Crus, and the final step below the Crus is Côtes-du-Rhônes Villages with one of 18 village names appended, such as Séguret as we have here.

Among the dozens of varieties permitted in the Southern Rhône, most wines are primarily blends of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, GSM for short.  Grenache gives soft red fruit, some body and plenty of alcohol.  Syrah and Mourvèdre give colour, tannin, acidity and complexity, especially with pepper and spice notes.

The village of Séguret has been voted the most beautiful in France – and the vista of vines growing protected by a hill must surely have helped.

Château Goudray was built around 1815 then after changing hands a few times was bought by Marie and Hugues Meffre in 1900.  The vines were still weakened after the effects of phylloxera so they had to replant virtually all the plots.  It took until 1920 for harvests to become fully healthy and stable, so they could finally properly market their wines.

The 2013 Château Goudray Côtes du Rhônes Villages–Séguret is full of juicy red and black fruit, supple tannins and is a real pleasure to drink.  While not the most elegant of wines it is quite moreish, and easy to quaff.  I don’t know the precise blend but it does have the most pronounced black pepper notes I have encountered in a wine – most expected from Syrah dominated blends from the northern Rhône.  This surely makes it the perfect wine to pair with peppered steak!

And for those disappointed not to see Salt n Pepa:

The Field of Dreams – Tinto Pesquera

The Field of Dreams – Tinto Pesquera

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In April I was delighted to be invited to lunch at Dublin’s Shelbourne Hotel to meet Miguel Angel Bocos from Pesquera, one of the foremost producers in Spain’s Ribero del Duero. Along with a tasty lunch Miguel took us through five of the Pesquera Group’s current releases. But first, a bit of background to set the scene…

Disclosure: food and wine were covered by generous hosts James Nicholson Wine Merchant; opinions are mine alone.

Origins and Development of Pesquera

Quite simply Pesquera exists due to one man, Alejandro Fernández, and one place, the Ribero del Duero in northern Spain.  Raised in a traditional small-holding family, Alejandro had a burning desire to create his own Bodega.  He chose the Ribero del Duero region which, at that time, was barely known apart from the very grand Vega Sicilia.  After 10 years of hard work, he restored a modest 16th century stone-built bodega in the village of Pesquera and began to bottle his wine.

Barrel hall
Barrel hall

Compared to the well-established Vega Sicilia, which included Bordeaux grapes Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Merlot in their blends, Alejandro produced wines which were 100% Tinto Fino – the local name for Tempranillo.  Whereas some Rioja wines can be on the light side, when it comes to Tempranillo fruit, and so can need beefing up, well grown Tinto Fino vines in the Ribero produce thicker skinned grapes and hence darker, deeper coloured wines.  There may well be some clonal differences between the two regions, but essentially it’s the sharper differences between day and night temperatures plus poor soil which turbocharge Ribero’s grapes.

Sunset
Sunset

After years of success, Alejandro gradually expanded the group.  Firstly, Condado de Haza was also established in the Ribero del Duero, though with a subtly different microclimate and soil profile.  Later he expanded further west with Dehesa La Granja and further south in La Mancha with El Vínculo.

Condado De Haza Crianza DO Ribero del Duero 2011 (RRP €23)

100% Tempranillo, 14.0%, 18 months in American oak barrels then 6 months in bottle

Condado De Haza Crianza DO Ribero del Duero 2011
Condado De Haza Crianza DO Ribero del Duero 2011

Although in the same region as Tinto Pesquera, the climate, aspect and soil are different for this sister winery. The powerful fruit is able to take significant oak, and thus spent 18 months in 100% new 225 litre American oak barrels. Condado de Haza is a south-facing slope along one kilometre of the Duero River, planted from 1989 onwards.

This is the real crowd pleaser of the range; this is the wine that Miguel would open to suit a variety of tastes and dishes. It obviously has structure and opulent fruit so will age for many years, but it’s just so balanced, approachable and lovely to drink right now. Ripe plum, juicy black cherry and blackcurrant compete for your palate’s attention. The oak is very much in evidence but it is well integrated and serves as the custard on a fruits of the forest pudding.

Dehesa La Granja Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y León 2007 (RRP €20)

100% Tempranillo, 14.0%, 24 months in American oak barrels then 12 months in bottle

Dehesa La Granja Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y León 2007
Dehesa La Granja Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y León 2007

Heading west from Ribero, past Toro, around 50km from the Portuguese border we reach the town of Zamora.  Here lies the 800 hectare Dehesa La Granja vineyard, stretching magnificently along the banks of the River Guareña.  The climate is quite Continental and the soil is Clay, giving extra power to the wines.  The estate is self-sufficiently Organic; they even have the animals on the property to make the natural fertilizer they need

This is still a powerful wine, but it also has elegance.  There are layers of fine tannins which add interest when the wine in young, but are entirely in keeping with the fruit.  I would be very interested to see how this continues to develop.

El Vínculo Crianza DO La Mancha 2010 (RRP €22)

100% Tempranillo, 14.0%, 18 months in American oak

El Vínculo Crianza DO La Mancha 2010
El Vínculo Crianza DO La Mancha 2010

My Spanish is the remnants of two terms at night school back in the early nineties, but I do remember a couple of important points: the accent on a Spanish word tells you which syllable is to be stressed, and the letter V is pronounced almost the same as a B. These two facts are important when saying the name of this wine to a Spanish speaker as they might otherwise think you are talking about their bottom.

Yields in La Mancha are often twice the national Average of Spain, mainly because of bulk produced grapes which will end up in a distillery for brandy.  However, for Pesquera’s vines here the yield is around a quarter of the Spanish average, so this is a different beast from the usual industrial juice.  La Mancha is very dry: it is baking hot in summer, yet cold in winter (often below freezing) with low levels of precipitation.

Although quality wine is still a rarity here, Pesquera believe that it has the potential to be the best appellation in Spain.  For a group based in Ribero del Duero, that’s quite a bold statement!

This 2010 example showed leather and liquorice plus hints of spice and stewed black fruits.  The leather suggests a cooler climate whereas the stewed fruit suggests a warmer climate – quite a conundrum.

Oh yes, the name – it’s the Spanish word for “link”, as the estate represents the link between tradition and innovation.

Tinto Pesquera Crianza DO Ribero del Duero 2012 (RRP €26 to €30)

100% Tempranillo, 13.5%, 18 months in American oak barrels

Tinto Pesquera Crianza DO Ribero del Duero 2012
Tinto Pesquera Crianza DO Ribero del Duero 2012

So now we’re onto the original Pesquera, the real deal.  At 1050m it is possibly the highest vineyard in Spain.

Whereas the previous three wines had a certain playful side to them, this is a serious, grown up wine.  Although it’s unmistakably Spanish, I hope the folks at Pesquera will excuse me for saying it has a certain French sensibility about it.  It’s not trying to ape French wine, but it has a certain polish and class that left bank Bordeaux often brings to the table.  It’s ironic that Alejandro declined to use Bordeaux grapes but has created something with a Bordeaux feel that doesn’t need those varieties.

Black cherry and black berries are surrounded by vanilla on the nose, with just a hint of smoke.  The fruit expand out into your mouth when tasting, but with a side order of tannin – not big heavy gum-stripping tannins, but fine-grained savoury tannins.  It’s lighter in style than the previous three, probably due to the vineyard’s elevation, so perhaps less obvious, but this obviously has the fruit and the structure to age for at least another decade.

Tinto Pesquera Reserva DO Ribero del Duero 2011 (RRP €37 to €42)

100% Tempranillo, 13.5%, 24 months in American oak barrels

Tinto Pesquera Reserva DO Ribero del Duero 2011
Tinto Pesquera Reserva DO Ribero del Duero 2011

The Reserva does all that the Crianza does, but more so.  Going from junior to senior is like listening to a favourite song that suddenly switches from mono to stereo – it’s not necessarily louder, it just seems more alive and more real…it makes more sense.  The same components are there, just in higher fidelity.  The fruit is more intense and rich, there’s more toast and smoke and spicy vanilla from the barrels, but it all hangs together. With a few more years there will be harmony to add to the melody.

I’ll just leave you with the line up:

Pesquera wines tasted at The Shelbourne
Pesquera wines tasted at The Shelbourne

Dublin Wine Fest Day 3 – Riesling Flight @ Ely Wine Bar

This is as close as I’ve ever come to a live blog…

BANNER_WINE_NEW

This is the second in a series of festivals run in Dublin this year by Great Irish Beverages, and of course the most relevant to me.  After a fantastic launch party last week, this week has five (5) days of interesting and exciting wine-related treats in bars, restaurants, wine merchants and hotels across the city.

A Pair of Italian Whites
A Pair of Italian Whites at the launch party
A Pair of Italian Reds at the launch party
A Pair of Italian Reds at the launch party

So what’s the story?

By purchasing a €5 wristband here, you will receive a 30% discount on at least two festival wines at 32 Dublin bars and restaurants. And to keep things interesting, each venue is offering a unique ‘Dublin Wine Experience’ for the week of the festival. These range from food pairings and post-work aperitivos to wine-based cocktails, flights of wine and self-guided tastings.

To my shame, I didn’t manage to get to any venues on Monday or Tuesday, but I did pop my head into Ely Wine Bar on my way home today as I heard they have Riesling!

Apologies for rubbish photos, my smartphone doesn’t do well with low light:

Flight of Rieslings
Flight of Rieslings, tasted from right to left

With a Dublin Wine Fest wristband, a modest sum entitles you to a decent taste of four fantastic Rieslings at Ely’s Georgian Wine Bar.  Monday was a flight of sparkling wines which I was gutted to miss

A Fancy Flight
A Fancy Flight

Castell d’Encus DO Costers del Segre Ekam Riesling 2009

Ekam Riesling
Ekam Riesling

Cool climate Riesling from the far north east of Spain (yes, Spain!) into the Pyrenees, with a dash of Albariño.  Around 30% of the grapes have noble rot, but everything is fermented to dryness, leaving racy acidity and lots of body without the easy trick of leaving residual sugar.  Would be amazing with all sorts of seafood or as an aperitif.

Sipp Mack Alsace Grand Cru Rosacker Riesling 2009

Sipp Mack Rosacker
Sipp Mack Rosacker

From one of my favourite Alsace producers, this is something that I could sip in the sun all day.  There may be a hint of sweetness here but it’s not a sweet wine – there are lemons and limes galore in there which keep everything fresh and zippy.  Rosacker is one of the best of the best in Alsace, and this vineyard near Hunawihr is home to the wine regarded as the epitome of Alsace wine – Trimbach’s Clos Ste Hune –  which would be in the region of €250 on a restaurant wine list.

Mount Horrocks Clare Valley Watervale Riesling 2012

Mount Horrocks Clare Valley Riesling
Mount Horrocks Clare Valley Riesling (this pic is the sweeter Cordon Cut)

Watervale is regarded as second in the Clare Valley subregions after Polish Hill, but for many people its wines are fruitier and more approachable.  Amazingly for such a young wine, this had already started developing some diesel aromas, and was thoroughly delicious.

Weingut Max Fed. Richter Mosel Riesling Spätlese

Weingut Max Fed. Richter Mosel Riesling
Weingut Max Fed. Richter Mosel Riesling

The Mosel has a strong claim for the best Rieslings in the world.  Vines on steep hillsides running down to the river have to be tended and harvested by hand, with several casualties every year.  Being so far north means that, even if the grapes reach high enough sugar content, their acidity is on the high side.  Traditional winemaking techniques advise leaving some sugar in the finished wine to offset the acidity, making for a refreshing but fruity wine.

Conclusion

My favourite?  You’ve got to be kidding!  They were all high quality, interesting wines.  I’d love to try the same four again but with food…

Five of the best Reds from Sweeney’s Wine Fair

I’ve already picked out five whites from the Sweeney’s Wine Fair that really impressed me, so now it’s turn for my selection of reds.  But first a brief introduction of the people behind the name:

Finian Sweeney, proprietor
Finian Sweeney, proprietor, after winning another award
Kevin (R) about to host the Wines of the Year Award & glamourous guest Tara (L)
Kevin (R) about to host the Wines of the Year Award & glamourous guest Tara (L)
Lynda (with a "y") enjoying dessert at a food & wine matching meal, the last night of the Sweeney's Learn About Wine Course
Lynda (with a “y”) enjoying dessert at a food & wine matching meal, the last night of the Sweeney’s Learn About Wine Course

Apparently, for those who like that sort of thing, Sweeney’s also have a great range of artisan cheese from Sheridan’s cheesemonger.

So now for the reds:

5 Vigneti Del Salento I Muri IGT Puglia 2012 (Liberty Wines, €15.95, 2 for €28.00)

Vigneti Del Salento I Muri IGT Puglia 2012
Vigneti Del Salento I Muri IGT Puglia 2012

Grape: Negroamaro

A favourite with Sweeney’s staff and customers alike for a few years, I Muri hails from the heel of Italy – the beautiful region of Puglia. The most important local grape is Negroamaro, literally translated as “black and bitter”, and while this wine is listed as a 100% varietal Negroamaro it shows no bitterness. It does have black – blackberry and blackcurrant fruit, with a savoury edge but a polished finish.

4 Herdade de Rocim “Rocim” VR Alentejano 2010 (Grace Campbell Wines, €19.00)

Herdade de Rocim “Rocim” VR Alentejano 2010
Herdade de Rocim “Rocim” VR Alentejano 2010

Grapes: Aragonez / Alicante Bouchet / Others

Aragonez is the Portuguese name for the grape known as Tempranillo in Spain (well, in Rioja at least).  Alicante Bouchet is a teinturier, the term for a (very rare) type of grape with red flesh, so both the skin and flesh give colour to a wine.

Do you remember the scene in the film Ratatouille where restaurant critic Anton Ego tastes the eponymous dish and is instantly transported to his childhood?  Tasting Herdade de Rocim gave me exactly the same sensation, except I was magically transported to a summer barbecue, drinking wine.  I think it’s a sign.

3 Marchese Antinori “Marchese” Riserva DOCG Chianti Classico 2006 (Findlater WSG, €28.00)

Marchese Antinori “Marchese” Riserva DOCG Chianti Classico 2006
Marchese Antinori “Marchese” Riserva DOCG Chianti Classico 2006

Grape: Sangiovese

Check out the vintage!  The current release is 2011, so it’s quite rare to see older vintages on the shelves, even in a good independent wine merchants, but this is entirely deliberate; Finian bought several cases of this when it was released and has kept it in bond to be released when ready.  And boy, is it ready!

It has all the hallmarks of good Chianti Classico – liquorice, tobacco, acidity, tannin, black cherry – but the extra years maturing have seen them knit into a smooth, harmonious whole.  I think it’s now closer in style to its big brother Badia a Passignano, which still remains the smoothest Chianti I’ve experienced.

Hearsay at the Wine Fair suggested I might be in the minority liking this bottle (it’s not the first time and certainly won’t be the last time I’m in a minority); reflection has led me to believe that some people who are used to drinking young Chianti prefer, or at least expect, the components mentioned above to stand out individually.  If that is more to your taste then I suggest trying the 2011 Marchese, reviewed here.

2 Torres “Celeste” Crianza DOCa Ribera del Duero 2011 (Findlater WSG, €20.00, 2 for €34.00)

Torres “Celeste” Crianza DOCa Ribera del Duero
Torres “Celeste” Crianza DOCa Ribera del Duero

Grape: Tempranillo

While also in the north of Spain and often using the same grapes as Rioja, Ribera del Duero isn’t a clone of its more famous counterpart. For a long time only the renowned Vega Sicilia made wines drunk elsewhere in Spain, never mind exported. Now the region’s reputation is on the up, with national heavyweights such as Torres joining the ranks of local producers.

Tempranillo here is usually known as Tinto Fino, and often has support from Bordeaux grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec. However, even on its own it can show darker fruit than in Rioja.

Celeste has a nice name and a pretty bottle, but the contents surpass both of them. Bright red and black fruit are offset by creamy vanilla from the oak. It has wild strawberries rather than the poly-tunnel farmed ones that cheap Rioja can have, with blackberry and cherry riding shotgun. It’s a serious wine, yet it’s a fun wine.

1 Domaine Treloar “Le Ciel Vide” AC Cotes de Roussillon 2012 (Distinctive Drinks, €16.00)

Domaine Treloar “Le Ciel Vide” AC Cotes de Roussillon
Domaine Treloar “Le Ciel Vide” AC Cotes de Roussillon

Grapes: Syrah (45%) / Grenache (40%) / Mourvèdre (15%)

This wine is a rockstar – it stood out as the best wine of any colour from the whole tasting as it was just so interesting and funky.  Lots of fresh berry fruit is accompanied by smoke, earthiness and just a hint of farmyard.

Looking into the story of the Domaine is fascinating – it deserves a full post all to itself. The name of the wine is a direct translation of “Empty Sky”, a Bruce Springsteen song, which evoke memories of 9/11 for the owners who were working just one block away when the planes hit.

The blend of this wine has changed every year depending on the grapes available locally and how each variety fared in a particular harvest:

Le Ciel Vide blend by year, measured in litres of bottled wine
Le Ciel Vide blend by year, measured in litres of bottled wine

I love the complete honesty of co-owner Jonathan Hesford when discussing the first two vintages of this wine (2008 and 2009):

I’m not sure how these wines will age. They have the potential to develop even more fragrant aromas but don’t have the tannin structure of my other red wines.

His honesty is as refreshing as his wines!