The colourful label of this wine reminds me of another Lisbon red, Porta 6, though I don’t believe they are related. The blend here is 40% Tinta Roriz (a.k.a. Tempranillo), 30% Alicante Bouschet and 30% Syrah. The vineyards are fairly young (around 15 years of age) on clay calcarous soils close to the coast. This all makes for a fruit-forward, easy drinking wine, though with plenty of body and richness.
The fruits cover quite a spectrum – red, blue and black, with a nice lick of vanilla. There are some gentle tannins to give a bit of structure, but this is a wine to be enjoyed now rather than several years hence. Drink with lamb tagine, marinated barbecue dishes or just with Friends…
RRP: €13.99 down to €10.00 from 10th February 2022 to 2nd March 2022
Casa de La Ermita Lunatico Jumilla Monastrell 2019
The label shows a cyclist riding a penny farthing on the moon, so that’s definitely one version of a “lunatic”! Jumilla is in south eastern Spain to has plenty of the sunshine required to fully ripen Monastrell, known as Mourvèdre in France. By far the most important variety in Jumilla, it makes up 100% of this bottle.
After fermentation it spends 12 months in French barriques, the effects of which are certainly apparent on the palate – there’s a really creamy vanilla aspect to the wine against which the rich fruit is set. In the grand scheme of things the Lunatico isn’t a million miles away from the Fado about, but it’s bigger, bolder and a little more serious. €14 is a steal for this wine!
RRP: €19.99 down to €13.39 from 10th February 2022 to 2nd March 2022
Priorat is something of an insider’s pick, the sort of wine that’s not common on supermarket shelves in these parts, and seldom inexpensive. This is an “entry level” Priorat, designed to be approachable and refreshing but also affordable. Like many wines from Priorat it’s a blend of local varieties and some from across the northern border: 38% Garnacha (Grenache), 32% Syrah, 26% Carignan and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon.
In the glass it has a dark core and a purple rim. The nose has notes of strawberries and blackberries, blackcurrant, spice and a touch of black olive. There’s a nice custard creaminess as well. The palate has a pleasing richness and body, but not too jammy. There are tangy black fruits and vanilla, but the acidity keeps it all in balance. A touch of tannin features on the finish, but it’s not too drying. This is a pretty good wine for the normal RRP, very good for the offer price!
RRP: €19.99 down to €13.39 from 10th February 2022 to 2nd March 2022
Make yourself comfortable, because this is a different kind of wine entirely. La Única is the result of a collaboration between famous Argentine artist Marinao Rinaldi Goñi and the Solís family who make wine across northern Spain. The fourth edition is a blend of Tempranillo under its local names in different wine regions: 60% Tinto Fino from Ribero del Duero, 30% Tempranillo from Rioja and 10% Tinta de Toro from Toro. The final blend is the result of extensive tasting with renowned Spanish and international wine experts, partially virtual for the fourth edition due to Covid.
The nose immediately announces this as a special wine. It’s perfumed, wild, and oaky, with fresh red and black fruits. It’s the sort of nose that could prevent you from drinking – as you don’t want to tear your nose away from the glass! The palate is so juicy and alive, with a cornucopia of red fruits dancing on your tongue. It has heft but isn’t heavy; it has freshness and richness at the same time. This is a truly exceptional wine.
And the price? . As so many wines get promoted at half price, there’s a tendancy to view half price offers with scepticism – has the regular price been inflated just so that the wine can go on a half price promotion? I can categorically state that this is not the case with this wine – the only issue is that many stores have already sold their allocations.
RRP: €49.99 down to €25.00 from 10th February 2022 to 2nd March 2022
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
RRP: €12.95 down to €10.00
Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie (Magnums only online right now)
Emiliana Novas Syrah Mourvèdre 2017
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!
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.
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.
RRP: €37.95 down to €29.95
Stockists: O’Briens stores
Gérard Bertrand Maury Tuilé 2010
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!
RRP: €22.95 down to €19.95
Stockists: O’Briens stores (larger stores only at present)
The history of Bodegas Protos is inherently entwined with that of Ribero del Duero. While the world famous Vega Sicila estate was founded before Protos (1864 versus 1929), Protos allowed its brand name “Ribera Duero” to be used for the Denominación de Origen when it was established in 1982.
Protos had already built a monumental ageing cellar in the previous decade. Over 2km of tunnels were bored into the side of a mountain to give them the perfect place for long ageing of wine in barrel and bottle. Four years after the creation of the DO, the Bodega built a new wine making facility closer to their Ribero del Duero vineyards in Anguix. Not resting on their laurels, they also built their own winery in the (principally) white wine DO of Rueda in 2006. Although white Ribera del Duero does exist – made in very small quantitiies from Albillo – it is the nearby Rueda which is the natural place Ribera del Duero producers look to for white wines.
Here are two of the Protos range which impressed me recently.
Protos Rueda 2020
Protos’s Rueda vineyards have free draining gravel soils at an altitude of 800 to 900 metres above sea level, so cool night time temperatures help to preserve acidity in the grapes. The Verdejo grapes are machine harvested at night from vines over 15 years old. (Possibly coincidently, the grape which Verdejo is often compared to is Sauvignon Blanc, and night harvesting by machine is very much in vogue in Marlbourgh.)
Fermentation is carried out at cool temperature to preserve fresh flavours and then the must is aged on fine lees for around three months (“Criado sobre lias finas” as it says on the front label.)
In the glass this Rueda is a bright lemon with green flecks. The nose is expressive with lemon, lime, quince and a touch of gooseberry. These notes continue through onto the palate, but also leesy and tangy characters. In the mouth there’s also some decent texture from its time on the lees. The finish is crisp and pleasantly bittersweet. This is a superior Rueda!
RRP: €15 – €17
Stockists:Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Mortons Food Stores; Fine Wines; La Touche Wines, Greystones; On the Grapevine, Dalkey; wineonline.ie; theallotment.ie
Protos Ribera del Duero Crianza 2017
Protos make several different bottlings in their home of Ribero del Duero. The youngest is the Roble which is aged for six months in a combination of French and American oak (hence the name: Roble is Spanish for oak) and six months in bottle. The Crianza spends 12 months in barrel then 12 in bottle, for the Reserva it’s 18 and 24 months respectively, and for the Gran Reserva the periods are 24 and 36 months.
The ageing regime is not the only thing that distinguishes the wines from each other; the age of the vines and the proportion of new oak also increases as we rise up the quality ladder. The Crianza therefore comes from Tinta del país (aka Tempranillo!) vines of 30 to 35 years. The year it spends in barrel is split into three parts: a third new French oak, a third one year old American and French and a third two year old American and French, with the thirds being blended back together before bottling.
So what are the results of this complex process? The wine is ruby red in the glass as one would expect for its age. The nose has rich dark fruits and a little vanilla. These are reflected on the palate which is smooth and velvety. It’s a powerful yet approachable wine, tasty yet elegant.
For me this wine is the sweetspot of the Protos range; a delicious wine that won’t break the bank, complex yet not too arcane.
RRP: €24 – €26
Stockists:Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Mortons Food Stores; Fine Wines; La Touche Wines, Greystones; On the Grapevine, Dalkey; wineonline.ie, theallotment.ie
We’ve already had a look at two easy drinking whites from the Lidl Ireland September Wine Event, so now it’s the turn of a couple of inexpensive reds. They hail from neighbouring countries, are the same price, have the same alcohol content and even share a grape variety – but are they alike and are they different in quality? Read on…
Torre de Ferro Dão Reserva 2018
The Dão doesn’t have the name recognition that other Portuguese wine regions have in these islands, but that’s good news for drinkers who don’t mind exploring a little further afield. Red wines make up around 80% of total production and are made from Touriga Nacional (which must be at least 20% of the blend), Tinta Roriz (aka Tempranillo), Jaen (aka Mencia), and Alfrocheiro Preto. Whites are mainly made from Encruzado with Bical and Malvasia Fina also making an appearance.
Unlike in some countries (Chile, I’m looking at you!), Reserva in Portugal has a formal meaning: wines have to be 0.5% higher in alcohol than the minimum for the particular DO they come from, and have to spend both a year and barrel and a year in bottle before release.
Torre de Ferro is true to the local style, being made from Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Alfrocheiro Preto. It is close to opaque in the glass yet has a distinctly purple rim. The nose is fantastic, combining spice, earth, red and black fruits. In the mouth it is a sappy, easy drinking wine. It shows red fruits, framed by very gentle tannins, and finishes with fresh acidity. For autumn into winter, this is a great wine to have on hand.
Stockists:Lidl Ireland stores
Cepa Lebrel Rioja Gran Reserva 2011
Spanish wine quality levels are predicated on ageing in wood and in bottle, with the assumption that only the best fruit is used for wines that undergo the longest ageing. From youngest to oldest, the scale is Joven – Crianza – Reserva – Gran Reserva. While there are some moves away from this nomenklatura, it remains the established system.
So here we have a modestly-priced Rioja with the Gran Reserva label, and ten years old at that! When poured the red brick rim already gives an indication of its (relative) age. The nose is quite unusual – dried cranberries and strawberries are set against a wild, almost savage backdrop; this is mainly the results of significant ageing but could also be due to hints of brett and / or volatile acidity. The palate is medium bodied, lithe, and continues the journey that the nose began.
No doubt about it, this is a very different wine from those normally seen in supermarkets, especially so-called discounters. I would hesitate to recommend this for the very casual wine drinker, but for those open to something a little different I give it a whole-hearted thumbs up!
Stockists:Lidl Ireland stores
Although these wines have lots in common they are remarkably different. The Torre de Ferro Dão is a worthy wine, though a safe choice; the Cepa Lebrel Gran Reserva offers a taste of mature Rioja that usually costs several times the price, and for that it narrowly wins the contest for me.
Other wines included in the Lidl Ireland September Wine Cellar
September 2021 sees the introduction of a new batch of wines to Lidl Ireland shelves. Some have been there before but not on a permanent basis; the idea is that a special batch of wines are released into stores and once they are gone, they are gone. Some eventually become regular listed wines and are available all year round.
Here are two whites that I tried recently and enjoyed:
Blume Rueda Verdejo 2020
Rueda is a region in central / NW Spain that is best known for white wines made from the Verdejo grape. However, there are almost a dozen permitted varieties:
Traditional white varieties: Verdejo, Viura, Sauvignon blanc, Palomino Fino
Newly approved white varieties: Chardonnay, Viognier
Authorised black varieties: Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Garnacha.
The cheapest Ruedas can be a little too simple, but this example is simply delicious – full of citrus and ripe stone fruits, all coalescing into a lip-smackingly tasty wine that will be finished quickly. This is probably the best Rueda I’ve tried under €13 in Ireland.
Stockists:Lidl Ireland stores
Château Jourdan Bordeaux Blanc 2019
White Bordeaux is an under-rated wine category in my opinion, all the way from AOC Bordeaux like this one, Entre-Deux-Mers, Graves and the top wines of Pessac-Léognan which can rival the Grand Crus of Burgundy for complexity and excellence. There are actually a good number of permitted varieties in white Bordeaux:
Common traditional grapes: Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadelle
New introductions: Alvarinho, Petit Manseng, Liliorila
Although Semillon is still the most widely planted white grape, Sauvignon Blanc is catching up fast, especially for unoaked dry whites where freshness is a key virtue.
The assemblage of this wine isn’t given but I’d hazard a guess at 80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Semillon. It’s highly aromatic with grapefruit, gooseberry and grass on the nose (the 3 Gs of SB) along with some quince and stone fruit. The palate is fresh with tangy, succulent citrus fruit.
This is a well-made, inexpensive, everyday drinking wine. It’s the sort of wine that would be perfect with a salad at luncheon (especially with its modest 11.5% ABV), as an aperitif with nibbles or as an accompaniment to seafood.
Stockists:Lidl Ireland stores
I was very taken with the Château Jourdan and it offers great value at a tenner, but the Bloom Rueda was even tastier in my opinion – and at a Euro less it should be snapped up.
Other wines included in the Lidl Ireland September Wine Cellar
Les Caves Gilles Gobin Touraine Sauvignon 2019 (€9.99)
For the next 12 days (until 2nd August) O’Briens are running a Spanish Wine Sale. As you might expect, Rioja and Rías Baixas are the key areas for reds and whites respectively out of a total of 69 wines. However, I thought I’d try a couple of whites from slightly less well-known – though far from obscure – Spanish regions: Rueda and Ribeiro. Here are my brief notes:
De Alberto Rueda Organic Verdejo 2019
Rueda has a claim to being one of Spain’s most consistent white wine regions; good value, approachable, fruity yet refreshing wines that are pleasant to sip on their own but can handle plenty of food pairings.
For a long time, Rueda’s whites were often Palomino based “Sherry style” wines, and that variety is still permitted, but Verdejo is the king now. Viura, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Viognier are also permitted for whites (I’ve seen 100% Sauvignon Blanc and Viura as a minor component in a blend, but I have yet to see the other two on a label. Much rarer red Rueda can be made from Tempranillo, Garnacha, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot.
To give them their full name, this wine is made by Bodegas Hijos de Alberto Gutiérrez, S.A., named after the founder of the family firm. In 1941 they took over a long standing farmhouse which had made wines since being established by the Dominican order in the 17th century, and this is their base today.
The nose is bright and fruity, with a slight saline tang, plus fennel, garden herbs and gentle stone fruit. These continue onto the tangy palate which adds plenty of grassiness to proceedings. The finish is fresh, nay FRESH! As a grape Verdejo is most often compared to Sauvignon Blanc, and tasted blind I would probably have guessed this to be a South African Sauvignon Blanc due to its body and alcohol while not tasting French nor Kiwi.
When it comes to food pairing this Rueda can swap in for a Sauvignon with a classic goats cheese or take on trays of shellfish with abandon.
Ribeiro is one of the five wine regions of Galicia, along with the more famous Rías Baixas, Monterrei, Ribera Sacra and Valdeorras. Up until the 1700s it was best known for its sweet wines which were popular with passing pilgrims. Treixadura is the key white variety nowadays, though other permitted grapes are Torrontés*, Godello, Loureira, Albariño, Palomino, Albillo, and Macabeo. Among many synonyms, Treixadura is sometimes known as Trajadura or Trincadeira. It is rarely found outside Galicia or Vinho Verde and is often part of a blend.
The Pazo do Mar Group is a collection of three different wineries: Pazo do Mar itself in Ribeiro, Pazo das Tapias in Monterrei (mainly Mencía and Godello) and Veiga da Princesa in Rías Baixas (focussing on Albariño). Pazo do Mar offer four wines: Nerieda (Treixadura, Torrontés, Godello and Palomino), Pazo do Mar White (Treixadura, Torrontés and Godello), Pazo do Mar Red (Mencía and Tempranillo) plus the Treixadura-based (plus a dash of Albariño) Expression.
Expression is straw yellow in the glass with tints of green. The nose is instantly saline, accompanied by juicy citrus and hints of tropical fruits and spice. The palate immediately starts with those saline waves, and citrus and stone fruit in the background. Acidity is mouth-watering and demands another sip. The mid palate is broad and textured, making this a great foil for plenty of foods. If I have to be critical I’d say that there is perhaps a lack of flavour in the mid-palate, but this could even be by design: to leave space in the mix for food – think paella or lobster rolls.
If you’re already a fan of Albariño but rarely stray from that grape in Spain then you definitely need to give both of these a try. I think they are fairly priced at their regular price points so the reductions when on offer are a worthwhile saving. Of the two I’d narrowly choose the Treixadura…but I might change my mind when I try them again!
* Note this is not the same variety as Torrontés found in Argentina
I recently got to try a really tasty Spanish red from a little known region of Catalonia. Before we look at the wine itself, we have to look at: Where is Montsant? and What are Montsant wines like?
Montsant is an under-appreciated wine region in Catalonia, almost completely surrounding the more famous Priorat. It was formerly part of the Falset subzone of the Tarragona DO and only appeared on labels from 2002. Montsant has prospered under its own name, increasing from 28 Bodegas in 2002 to 55 in 2020. In contrast, the Priorat DO was created in 1954 and upgraded to DOQ (under Catalan regulations, anyway) from 2000.
Montsant production focuses on red wines which account for 94% of the total made. Grapes used are a combination of local and international varieties: Garnatxa Negra, Carinyena (Carignan), Ull de Llebre (Tempranillo), Syrah, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The small amount of white wine mainly uses local varieties: Garnatxa Blanca, Macabeu / Viura, Moscatell d’Alexandria and Xarel·lo…plus the omni-present Chardonnay.
As might be expected in a region with “Mont” in the name, elevation ranges significantly: vineyards are planted between 200 and 700 metres. There are three main soil types: chalky clay, granitic sand and slate, each rendering a different profile to wines made thereon. Many Montsant wines are powerful in both body and alcohol, in a similar style to Priorat wines, especially if made with old Garnatxa and / or Carinyena vines.
Celler Coca i Fitó
The Coca i Fitó winery is owned and managed by Catalan brothers Toni and Miquel Coca i Fitó. Toni is a well established winemaker and is Technical Director at the Celler Cooperatiu de Gandesa in the nearby DO Terra Alta; in fact, the co-ops facilities are used to make some of the brothers’ local white wines (see below). A variety of fermentation vessels are used: stainless steel tanks, concrete eggs, amphorae, standard and large format oak barrels.
Although the contents of each bottle are the key, the labels of each are specially designed by Oriol Malet and Jaume Coca:
Each design has been created to convey the essence of the wine by describing the sensations that they provoke, whether it be freshness, typicity or other sensorial experiences.
The company’s wine ranges (in addition to olive oil!) are:
Coca i Fitó: the company’s flagship wines, including blends, varietals and special wines from DO Montsant and DO Terra Alta
Jaspi:more accessible wines from young(er) vines in DO Montsant and DO Terra Alta
Samsara Priorat: a joint venture with Eva Escudé and the Vives brothers, creating a modern style of Priorat
Tocat de l’Ala: a joint venture in DO Empordà with Roig Parals
Tolo do Xisto: a joint venture in DO Ribeira Sacra with Andrea Obenza
Aloja: a new range of softer wines from DO Montsant and DO Terra Alta
Coca i Fitó Negre Montsant 2012
Even smelling the cork was enough to let me know that this wine was going to be special – a rare occurrence. Perhaps the eight or so years maturing in bottle helped. The blend for this wine is 50% Syrah, 30% Grenache (both from 60 – 70 year old vines) and 20% Carignan (from 20 – 30 year old vines). The grapes are picked from a single vineyard with limestone soils. After fermentation the wine is aged between 12 to 14 months, vintage dependant, in new French oak (90%) and American oak barrels (10%)
Despite its age this wine almost opaque in the glass; quite fitting for a wine called “negre”. The nose shows lifted aromatics of dark black fruits and spices, with strong hints of oak ageing. The palate is powerful, rich and voluptuous, with sweet blackberry, cassis and plum fruits to the fore. This 2012 is only just hitting its straps and has many years left to go. At this price it’s a real bargain.
Here are four more of the wines that Kevin O’Callaghan has selected for the SuperValu Classic Christmas promotion. If you missed Part 1 you can find it here.
Barão de Vilar Douro Tinto Reserva 2018
There’s the well worn saying that “if something seems too good to be true, it probably is”, so it was with not inconsiderable wariness that I approached this wine as it is on offer at almost half price. There are some labels which are so regularly on promotion in supermarkets that the “real” price – if there is such a thing – is far from clear.
Some brands are even created with the specific purpose of being listed at a high price then discounted by 50% on a regular basis. For me this is a cynical and misleading practice. Happily, the wine reviewed below is emphatically not one of those wines, and it’s even listed with a well established Dublin wine merchant for €19.95!
Anyway, back to the wine itself. The key grapes are Douro stalwarts Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca and Tinto Cão. After alcoholic and malolactic fermentation the wine spends 14 months in French oak. This is a dark and concentrated wine with bold black fruits, decent acidity and grainy tannins, but compared to some Douro wines I’ve tried it pulls everything together really well; all the components work together as part of an integrated whole, making for an elegant wine. Yes, it’s still very young so could happily lay down for a year or ten, but it’s tasty enough that you might not be able to wait. If you can’t wait, decant if possible and serve with red meat or other rich dishes.
RRP: €14.83 or case deal of 6 for €50.00 from 5th Nov to 30th Dec while stocks last
Stockists: SuperValu Ireland stores
Pagos de Labarca AEX Rioja 2016
Pagos de Labarca is one of the labels of Bodegas Covila, a well-regarded Rioja co-operative. The AEX is one of Covila’s signature wines, made in small quantities from old (35 years+) bush vine Tempranillo. Alcoholic fermentation is carried out in stainless steel tanks, after which the wine is transferred into new American and French oak barrels with varying levels of toast. There, the wine goes through malolactic fermentation and matures for a total of 17 months before being blended back together and bottled.
The nose is very expressive; rich red berries (from the Tempranillo) and vanilla (from the American oak) combine with fine herbs and hints of chocolate and coffee. Succulent, rich red fruits abound on the palate – red cherry, strawberry and raspberry – overlaid with vanilla bean custard. Darker fruits then emerge, still fighting for your attention with the vanilla.
This is not a Rioja which could be mistaken for a Ribero del Duero or Toro – it’s too refined and bright. Although it’s not too tight and dense, it would definitely benefit from decanting or a large glass to allow its complex aromas to fully develop. A real treat of a wine!
RRP: €22.62 down to €20.00 from 26th Nov to 30th Dec while stocks last
The De Mour group is a Bordeaux-based wine company with five Châteaux and a negociant line where grapes and / or wines are bought in from other producers. One of their properties whose wines I have tried and enjoyed several times is Château Tayet, located in Macau just south of Margaux. Château Lacombe-Cadiot is situated in the Ludon, the next commune south of Macau and close to the Garonne.
Although we’re in the Médoc, Merlot is still the most important grape (sorry Jim!) in this Bordeaux Supérieur with 80% of the blend and Cabernet Sauvignon the balance. In the glass the wine has a deep core with the rim turning from purple to ruby. Initially the nose gives a huge hit of exotic spice then black fruit and a hint of vanilla. On the palate plums abound, both red and purple, along with brambles and the vanilla again.
The technical sheet for this wine states that fermentation and maturation are in stain less steel tanks, but I could swear that some portion of it has spent time in oak. It has great concentration and a dusting of light tannins on the finish. This is a smooth and rewarding wine that is well worth its normal price tag, but represents excellent value on offer.
RRP: €15.73 down to €13.00 from 26th Nov to 30th Dec while stocks last
Hopping back up two communes from the Lacombe-Cadiot gets us to Margaux itself, one of the top four appellations of the Médoc. Margaux wines are nearly always majority Cabernet Sauvignon though a lower proportion than the other three appellations. I don’t have the precise blend of Lady de Mour but I would guess something like 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. It is lighter in both style and alcohol compared to the Lacombe-Cadiot, mainly due to the difference in blend.
The Lady has a mid to dark core in the glass but a very purple rim, indicating relative youth. It’s quite muted on the nose – you have to search for the dark fruit aromas rather than them leaping out of the glass. Black fruits delight on the attack, but are then overtaken by graphite, violets and a touch of green bell pepper. This is a really elegant Margaux, not as juicy as the little brother but a great introduction to proper left bank Claret.
RRP: €34.42 down to €25.00 from 26th Nov to 30th Dec while stocks last
As we roll on towards the festive season, despite the pandemic. many of us are starting to plan which wines we want to have in stock for drinking over the Christmas period (Christmas don’t care ’bout Covid!) Here are five wines that you should consider this Yule:
Disclosure: bottles were kindly sent as samples, but opinions remain my own
Perelada Cava Reserva Brut
I reviewed this wine just over three years ago and the salient points of that article remain valid:
There’s a lot of very ordinary Cava out there, at very low prices (often €12 or less)
Small-scale, renowned producers such as Llopart and Raventos i Blanc are available from around €30 upwards in Ireland (and are usually better than any Champagnes down at that price)
That leaves a big gap in the market between the two price points which is neatly filled by Perelada
This Reserva Brut bottling is made from the traditional three Cava grapes: Macabeo (30%), Xarel·lo (45%) and Parellada (25%) with 15 months maturation on the lees – significantly more than the nine months minimum for Cava. It’s highly aromatic, just a delight to sniff, but very attractive on the palate with apple, pear and citrus notes. The finish is crisp, perhaps a little dry for some tastes (though not mine).
When to drink: This would be a great start to Xmas morning, good enough to sip on its own, with nibbles or even a smoked salmon starter.
Stockists: The Drink Store, Stoneybatter D7 / Higgins Off Licence, Clonskeagh / Jus de Vine, Portmarnock, Fine Wines O/L Group.
Fontanafredda Gavi di Gavi 2019
Amongst a group of my friends we have a running joke that one (Gosia) would often select Gavi di Gavi from a wine list when there were other, more interesting, options available. This wine shows that joke to be hollow as it’s a cracking wine, full of flowers and spicy pear on the nose, sensual texture on the palate and soft stone fruit flavours. There’s a racy acidity to the wine but it isn’t lean, just refreshing.
When to drink: With shellfish, white fish or even lighter poultry.
RRP: €20 – €21
Stockists: Redmonds of Ranelagh; Martins Off Licence, Fairview; D-SIX Wines, Harolds Cross
Trapiche Malbec Reserva Malbec 2019
Trapiche have several different quality levels within their line-up, including the excellent Terroir Series Ambrosia Single Vineyard Malbec which I reviewed here. This Reserva is a more of an everyday wine, but is true to its variety with bold plum and blackberry fruits and a touch of vanilla. It’s an easy-going red that doesn’t hit the heights but hits the spot with a steak.
When to drink: With red meat or just with your feet up in front of the TV
Fleurie is Ireland’s favourite Beaujolais Cru by some distance, perhaps helped by the easily pronounceable name. It’s a relatively light Cru so sits as a happy medium in depth of colour. The nose shows a variety of cherries, blueberries and red table grape skins. On the palate we find freshly-made home-made jam from a variety of red and black fruits, a little garden thyme and pencil shavings. On it’s own I thought it a good but not great wine, but when my wife tried it with extra mature cheddar she though it magnificent – the fruit of the wine counters the saltiness of the cheese and the cheese softens the acidity of the wine. As a non-cheese eater I will take her word for it!
When to drink: With hard cheese, charcuterie, wild boar sausages, venison, duck, or nut roast
RRP: €18 – €20
Stockists: Fine Wines Off Licence; The Drink Store, Stoneybatter; Nolans Supermarket, Clontarf; Kellers Carry Out, Nenagh.
Boutinot La Côte Sauvage Cairanne 2017
Cairanne only became a named village or Cru in its own right a few years ago, though 20% of the land was effectively demoted at the same time (1,088 hectares of the original 1,350 survived the increased standards). Being in the Southern Rhône this is a GSM blend, consisting of Grenache Noir (60%), Syrah (20%), Mourvèdre (10%) and Carignan (10%). The minor grapes add considerable colour as the wine is darker than many Grenache based wines. Their influence is felt on the nose, too, which has rich black fruit and spice, something like blackberry crumble in a glass. These notes continue through to the palate which is velvety and powerful. This is heady stuff, perfect for Xmas or winter celebrations.
When to drink: With friends, family, or on your own. Treat yourself!
Stockists: Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; La Touche Wines, Greystones; Martins, Fairview; The Drink Store, Stoneybatter; Fine Wines O/L Group
In these unusual times, we all need a lift from time to time. As a change to my usual wine reviews I’ve decided to start a fun and irreverent series on matching wine and music. The basic idea is that I give participants:
A piece of music –> they suggest a wine to go with it, with an explanation
A wine –> they suggest a piece of music to go with it
It’s all for fun, so please don’t slag off anybody’s taste music (or wine!) Thanks to Michelle Williams for the inspiration – she has been matching songs to wine for years on her Rockin Red Blog.
For installment 17 of the series, the friend of Frankly Wines is a Welshman with a huge passion for Spanish food and wine, Mitchell Young. When discussing his taste in music he mentioned bands from the 60s right up to the 2020s, but one period / movement that caught my eye was the ‘”Cool Cymru” contributions of the Manics, Stereophonics and Catatonia’ as I have several albums by these bands and have seen the Manics and Stereophonics live.
By a country mile my favourite Manics song is “Motorcycle Emptiness” which I bought as a 12″ single (that’s vinyl, for youngsters!) Like most people who have a passing interest in these things, I always presumed that it was played on his Gibson Les Paul Standard, but was actually played on a Fender Telecaster Thinline – check out this YouTube video.
Enough of the guitar geekery and onto the wine. As mentioned, Mitchell is a big fan of Spanish wines, but he is also partial to a good Rhône red, and over the past few years I have noticed him tweeting about a producer that he and I both like: the biodynamic specialist Montirius from the heart of the southern Rhône. Among their wines that I’ve tried it’s their Vacqueyras that I enjoyed most, so that was my pick for Mitchell!
Manic Street Preachers – Motorcycle Emptiness
I’d like to thank Frankie for this opportunity to talk about two of my favourite things, music and wine.
The song Frankie choose for me was, “Motorcycle Emptiness” by the Alternative Rock band, Manic Street Preachers. The song was released in 1992 and was the fifth single of their debut album, “Generation Terrorists”. It was later included in the, “Forever Delayed” greatest hits album. The song was written by the four original band members; Richey Edward was to go missing in 1995, and the song is seen as a commentary on capitalism and the choices it affords to young people and the conformity it demands of them.
The “Manics” formed in Oakdale Comprehensive School in South Wales in 1986. The area, like much of industrial Britain was suffering the economic turmoil of the 1980’s and in particular from the Miners’ Strike of 1984-1985. The band never seem to have forgotten their roots and don’t seem to have flown far from the nest if regular sightings of James Dean Bradfield walking his dog near where I live is anything to go by.
I’ve been lucky enough to see them perform a number of times, once supported by Catatonia, a really, “Cool Cymru” evening. The band have achieved global success with thirteen albums, the pick, for me, being their fifth album, “This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours”, which contains the track, “If You Tolerate this Your Children Will Be Next” a song inspired by the Welsh volunteers who went to fight in the Spanish Civil War”.
The band have firmly established as one Wales can be proud of musically, politically and culturally.
What to drink with this song? It didn’t take me long to settle on Gran Cerdo, “Big Pig”, Tempranillo. The producer, Gonzalo Gonzalo Grijalba is another “alternative”, the wine being biodynamic and natural. The wine appears to be technically a Rioja, it’s grown Rioja Alta, but Gonzalo prefers to bottle it as a Vino de España. Gonzalo is a man fiercely proud and protective of his family vineyards and its terroir.
Gonzalo’s father became ill working the vineyards during the 1970s due to his exposure to the chemicals widely used then. Gonzalo set out to not suffer the same fate as his father and set a path to produce a natural product. Much like the Manics, Gonzalo wanted to make different choices and step out of conformity. The wine’s label is a less than subtle reference to the lack of support he received from the bankers, pigs with their mouth stuffed with money, when he began this project.
The wine itself delivers a burst of dark red fruits with a hedgerow, forest floor background. Some spice, acidity and tannins make this a beautiful wine to drink. A lovely purple colour, slightly cloudy due to its biodynamic and natural production methods, with no hint of oak being produced in concrete vats. The wine appears to be developing a cult following.
I like to think the Manics and Gonzalo would really get on.
Domaine Montirius Garrigues Vacqueyras
The wine Frankie chose for me was Vacqueyras Garrigues Le Domaine Montirius, a great choice. A quick rummage through my wine “collection” revealed bottles going back to 2008 mostly bought directly from the domaine.
The wine is a fantastic example of what the Southern Rhone has to offer. Another wine produced in concrete vats using Grenache and Syrah. A deep, rich red wine with a burst of red fruits, beautiful tannins and with aromas of the “garrigue”, the herb scented scrub, that can still be found between the vineyards of the area. Another biodynamic wine with the vineyard having “converted” to biodynamics in 1996 the wine offers both characteristics of traditional Rhône wines and is an example of how new thinking will push the area forward in the future.
I first discovered Montirius in an independent wine store in Brighton, now sadly closed, and became a firm fan from the off. It was also my introduction to biodynamic wine. Its discovery coincided with a long series of family holidays to France which developed into over a decade of annual trips to the Vaucluse in Provence. The vineyards of Montirius are found here overlooked by the Dentelles and the sleeping giant of Provence, Mont Ventoux. The visit to the vineyard was always saved for the second week and always consisted of a very generous tasting session and early on I was lucky enough to be shown around by the wine maker Eric Saurel himself. When I met him, his hands were black with wine stains and he offered me an elbow which, being less Covid savvy greetings wise in those days, I think I shook!
By the time I recounted this to my boys, who were small at the time, his fingers had become vines. I think they believed me for a while. Listening to Eric tell me all about biodynamics, how the water used in making the concrete vats had stones from the vineyards left in it so it could absorb something of the terroir, how each of the vats was “earthed” into the bedrock with copper wires, how thought was given to the orientation of the buildings and so on. He may have been making some of it up but I was sold. If this much love went into making the wine it had to be great.
What to listen to with this wine? It didn’t take me long to settle on, “Omaha” by Counting Crows. Like the wine I can remember hearing this song for the first time and like the wine I was fan from that point on.
The band were formed in Berkley, California, in 1991. This song is from their first album, “August and Everything After”, released in 1993. I first saw them the year after in the Newport Leisure Centre and have seen them on every major European tour they’ve undertaken since. The band are a real ensemble of consummate musicians who have gone on to produce seven studio albums. It’s always a long wait between albums, but for me they’ve never bettered this album, being, like all subsequent albums, driven by lead singer Adam Duritz’s highly emotive and deeply personal lyrics. I love the whole album but this is the stand out track for me.
What’s the link to the wine? Spending three weeks in a car travelling the length of France, stopping typically in Reims, Valence and Nimes on the way down and Dijon and Arras on the way back meant music choices were of vital importance, with a CD player being the height of technology. With two adults, two children, everything they needed to bring with them, far too many clothes and space for wine on the return journey the number of CDs was limited to how many could be stored in the armrest storage. Much discussion took place but the Counting Crows CDs were a given for all four of us. The music, the journey, the vineyard and the wine will forever be linked.
It’s been a few years since we’ve undertaken the trip but we are planning on doing it next year Covid restrictions willing. If we do make it one thing is certain, we’ll be listening to “Omaha” visiting Montirius and drinking their Vacqueyras.
A Barry boy now residing in Cardiff, Mitchell has been married to Debbie for 32 years (she still can’t believe her luck.) They are lucky enough to have two boys who are both History graduates, which makes for some niche conversations over Sunday Lunch. He took early retirement from Primary School teaching which has given him even more time to pursue his interests of wine, food, travel and pottering about on an allotment. He has a real interest in Sherry (the best value wines in the world) and the wines of the Southern Rhône. He is also a keen cook and has a passion for Spanish food which has been encouraged by the boom in excellent tapas bars and Spanish restaurants in the Cardiff area.