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.
SuperValu Ireland currently have their Spanish wine sale underway, running until Wednesday 4th March. Here are a few of the wines included that I have tasted in the past and would be putting in my trolley in the next week:
Martin Codax Albariño (€12.00 down from €17.99)
Paco & Lola Albariño (€12.00 down from €14.99)
Segura Viudas Cava Reserva Heredad (€20.00 down from €30.00)
Marqués de Cáceres Rioja Gran Reserva (€20.00 down from €30.00)
Finca Labarca Rioja Reserva (€10.00 down from €15.99)
Cune Rioja Gran Reserva (€20.00 down from €30.00)
On top of the reductions there’s also €10 off any six wines – definitely worth thinking about if you’re stocking up.
Instead of picking a few of the usual table wines for my review I have instead picked two Spanish fortified wines, though they could hardly be more different:
Williams and Humbert “Dos Cortados – Oloroso” NV (19.5%, 75 cl. €20.00 at SuperValu)
From the sweet to the very dry; this is a savoury, aged Sherry which cries out for some umami accompaniment, despite having some wonderful sweet notes on the nose. The closest I came to adequately describing the nose is salted caramel – and this follows through onto the palate, though there is no sugariness; imagine dabbing the end of your tongue with blotting paper and that might give you an idea of the dryness. There are also rancio and yeasty notes which just add to the splendour. This is a “special guest” wine which won’t be available indefinitely, so if you want to try it then get a move on!
Now I am far from a Sherry expert – or even a regular Sherry drinker – but I do remember some of the info I learned during my WSET studies. Very simplistically, dry Sherries are generally made in a lighter, yeast-influenced style such as a Fino or an oxygen-influenced style such as Oloroso.
There are some which start out as a Fino but where the flor yeast dies off and then oxygen does its work; this can either happen naturally or due to the addition of more alcohol. The Sherry is then known as a Palo Cortado, or “cut stick”.
In the case of this wine the process was done twice so has been named “Dos Cortados”. Slightly confusingly the producer calls it an Oloroso, but as it is very rich and dark in style that’s understandable. On more recent labels Williams & Humbert does call it a Palo Cortado (thanks Sherry Notes).
Torres Floralis Moscatel Oro NV (15.0%, €15.00 down to €10.00 at SuperValu)
The name of this wine gives you plenty of information; it’s very floral on the nose and quite golden in colour. There are also notes of orange blossom, orange peel and Seville orange marmalade. The palate is rich yet light, intensely sweet with 188g of residual sugar, but balanced by firm acidity – it is far from cloying. My only criticism would be that the finish is not very long, but such a gorgeous wine at this price is well worth a try.
Torres call this a “naturally sweet wine” which immediately brings to (my) mind the French term Vin Doux Naturel, a wine which is fortified before fermentation has finished so that some of the grapes’ natural sugar is left in the wine. Muscat is often the grape of choice in France for these wines, and elsewhere around the Mediterranean: Moscatel in Spain and Portugal, Moscato in Italy.
Of course, Muscat is a family of grapes rather than a single variety; in France the smaller berries (and hence more flavoursome) Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains is often the version used, whereas other regions often use Muscat of Alexandria – as Torres do in this wine.
Although red wine is the king in northern Spain – especially going west / south west from Navarra, Rioja, Ribero del Duero, Cigales and Toro – there is an outlier: Rueda and its refreshing whites. Established as a Denominacíon de Origen (DO) as recently as 1980, Rueda is now established as an ultra-reliable source of easy-drinking white wines. There are four permitted white varieties:
Verdejo (indigenous to Rueda, not too dissimilar to Sauvignon Blanc in profile)
Viura (the white grape of Rioja, aka Macabeo in Cava)
Palomino Fino (the main Sherry grape, also used for Sherry-style fortifieds in Rueda)
SuperValu Ireland recently won Best Supermarket Wine Outlet 2019 in the Sunday Business Post Gold Star Awards. Below are two contrasting Rueda wines which are on special promotion from 14th Feb to 6th Mar 2019.
Disclosure: both wines kindly supplied as samples, opinions remain my own
Blume Rueda Sauvignon Blanc 2017 (12.5%, RRP €11.99 down to €8.00 at SuperValu)
This is a very green style of Sauvignon – which is neither criticism or praise, simply an observation – with gooseberry, grapefruit, grass and green pepper notes. It has striking acidity which make it great for pouring at parties or acting as a foil for shellfish. Tasted blind it could be taken for a Loire Sauvignon such as a Touraine, so goat’s cheese would be another great pairing (I’m speaking hypothetically here as I don’t do cheese!)
Viña Albali Rueda Verdejo 2017 (13.0%, RRP €11.99 down to €8.00 at SuperValu)
From 100% Sauvignon Blanc to 100% Verdejo, the autochthonous grape of Rueda. The label shows the herons which famously nest in the area – another indigenous species. This is a clean, unoaked wine with a little more body than the Blume above, and is somewhat softer in nature – the acidity is less obvious and the fruits are more rounded – some juicy peach and pear in among the citrus. This would also be a great party wine but could partner well with a range of dishes, from salads or seafood to poultry.
Both these wines are inexpensive at their regular price and are fair value. They show two different sides to the Rueda region and so are interesting to try together. On a warm day (perhaps difficult to imagine in Ireland right now) I’d take the refreshing savvy, otherwise I’d chose the Verdejo.
One of the other great strengths of Liberty Wines’ portfolio is its antipodean selection – so much so that they seem to have the largest number of wines open for tasting at both the NZ and Australian trade tastings in Ireland. However, I’ve covered many of them before on Frankly Wines, so this article will review a few that I tried for the first time plus some fantastic European whites.
Jurançon wines are among the most under-rated in France, both the sweet (“Jurançon”) and dry (“Jurançon Sec”) styles. Don’t base your opinions on the bottles available in French supermarkets, though – they tend to lack concentration and be pleasantly innocuous at best. This is one of the best examples I’ve come across in Ireland, especially at a fairly moderate price. Split 50/50 between local varieties Petit Manseng and Gros Manseng, It shows plenty of ripe stone fruit, almost fleshy, but a crisp dry finish.
Mosel Riesling is one of the great wines of the world, but it’s rarely “cheap”. This one is very reasonably priced and serves as a great introduction to the area. The grapes are partly from the producer’s own estate and partly from contract growers in the Mosel region. It shows white flowers, stone and citrus fruit plus minerality – a great example of Mosel Riesling, and/ great value for money!
Château Moncontour Vouvray Sec 2017 (13.0%, RRP €21.99)
Many of my comments above about Jurançon also hold true for the Chenin-derived wines of the Loire. This Château Moncontour helpfully says “Sec” on the label, and it is dry – but not bone dry or austere. There’s a touch of residual sugar (apparently 6.7 g/L for those who are interested in such things) but lots more fruit sweetness, balanced by fresh acidity. Such a more-ish wine!
Matt Thomson is a legend in the world of wine – but he’s also a top bloke. After doing both northern and southern hemisphere vintages for 20 years, he finally decided to make his own wine, partnered by his wife Sophie. The Blank Canvas Chardonnay featured in my 2017 Top 10 whites so I was keen to try the Grüner. The long, cool growing season in Marlborough is perfect for GV, as it is for other aromatics such as Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Pinot Gris. This is a cracker – smooth yet textured, nicely balanced between fruit sweetness and refreshing acidity.
Framingham are unusual in Marlborough – actually in the whole of New Zealand – in that Riesling is their biggest focus. And boy, does it show! The Classic is their “entry level” Riesling, but it gives a flavour of what the rest of the range holds. This is particularly true of the 2015 as 10% of the grapes were botrytised, with nobly rotten grapes normally going into a special cuvée. This is a lovely wine to drink but just AMAZING on the nose. It has that hard-to-define “otherness” which only Riesling has (“Rieslingness”?)
Kaiken Ultra Mendoza Chardonnay 2016 (14.0%, RRP €24.99)
Rather than go west – which would have taken them into the Pacific, Montes headed east from Chile to Argentina and created Kaiken. The fruit is sourced from the Uco Valley in Mendoza, mostly in cooler parts which give freshness and minerality – despite the 14.0% alcohol and partial (35%) maturation in new oak, this is far from the butter-bomb new world Chardonnays of the 1990s. It has lots of tangy, tropical flavours, but mainly from the grapes rather than the oak.
Santiago Ruiz “O Rosal” Rías Biaxas 2017 (13.0%, RRP €24.99)
From the O Rosal subregion of Galicia’s Rías Biaxas, this is an Albariño blend with several other local varieties playing supporting roles: it consists of 76% Albariño, 11% Loureiro, 5% Treixadura, 4% Godello and 4% other. I like Albariño as a grape, but – for all its popularity – it’s wines are more often simple than complex. Simple doesn’t necessarily mean bad or boring, but there is definitely a place for interesting. The O Rosal is quite long and serious; it’s a cerebral rather than obvious wine which definitely deserves a try.
Domaine des Ballandors Quincy 2017 (13.5%, RRP €24.99)
After Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Quincy was the second Appellation Controllée created in France. Since then it hasn’t really been at the forefront of drinkers’ minds – Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé stole the limelight and the column inches. The upside is that quality wines from Quincy can offer great value for money. The nose is very grassy, the palate herby with quince (no relation) and gooseberry notes. This Sauvignon Blanc for adults.
L.A.S. Vino Margaret River Chardonnay 2016 (13.5%, RRP €59.99)
Margaret River is well known for its Bordeaux blends – Cabernet-Merlot reds and Semillon-Sauvignon whites – but also for some fantastic Chardies. L.A.S. is actually an acronym, standing for “Luck of the weather, the Art of creating and the Science that underpins this creativity.” This is world class, amazing stuff. You need to try this wine. Sell an organ. Sell your car. Even sell your house, but don’t sell your soul as this Chardonnay will capture it.