Wine Of The Week

Wine of the Week: RhonéA Rasteau Tradition

RhonéA1 is a superco-op, an agglomeration of 5 existing co-ops from the South Rhône. Their range covers a distinct part of the Rhône méridional, based on where the member co-ops’ own members vineyards lie: the AOCs of Beaumes-de-Venise, Gigondas, Rasteau, Sablet, Vacqueyras and Visan.

Included in their range is a Côtes du Rhône blended in collaboration with local chefs – “Légende des Toques” – but for a few euro more their Rasteau blend is a distinct step up:

RhonéA Rasteau Tradition 2019

RhonéA Rasteau Tradition

Rasteau has only been an AOC for dry red wines for a dozen years or so, and still flies under the radar next to Gigondas, Vacqueras and of course Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Perhaps there’s a certain underdoggedness (if such a word exists) which makes them state that Rasteau is a “Cru” on the label; or, perhaps, it’s for the benefit of consumers who aren’t that familiar with “Rasteau” but do know “Rhône”2.

Back to the wine itself, and this is a typical southern Rhône GSM blend, consisting of 60% Grenache (Noir), 25% Syrah and 15% Mourvèdre. No oak is used for either fermentation or maturation – concrete tanks give a little softer edge than stainless steel but no added aromas or flavours.

It’s perhaps a touch darker in the glass than it’s CdR sibling: that’s the Syrah and Mourvèdre showing their face. The Grenache comes through strongly on the nose with a big hit of alpine strawberries and blackberries, but there’s also more intense and darker fruit, lavender, violets and thyme. The palate has all those herbs and dark fruit notes intertwined in a tasty package. The finish moves more towards black olive and savoury notes: once again the minor players make a big impression!

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €19.95 currently down to €16.95
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

1No, there’s no circumflex over in RhonéA, despite there being one in Rhône. And no, I don’t know why not!

2Just like “Blaye Cotes de Bordeaux”; there will be some who aren’t familiar with “Blaye” but do know “Bordeaux”!

Tasting Events

SuperValu Spanish and Portuguese Reds

My last post looked at some of the whites in SuperValu’s Spanish and Portuguese wine sale. Now it’s time for a few choice red wines:

Fado Friendship Lisboa Reserva D’Amizade 2019

Friendship Fado ReservaThe 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…

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €13.99 down to €10.00 from 10th February 2022 to 2nd March 2022
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

Casa de La Ermita Lunatico Jumilla Monastrell 2019

Casa de La Ermita Lunatico

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!

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €19.99 down to €13.39 from 10th February 2022 to 2nd March 2022
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

Finca Tobella Mosaic Priorat Winemaker’s Selection 2020

mosaic de finca tobella priorat

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!

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €19.99 down to €13.39 from 10th February 2022 to 2nd March 2022
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

La Única IV Edition

La única IV Edition

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.

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €49.99 down to €25.00 from 10th February 2022 to 2nd March 2022
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

 

 

Information

Top 10 O’Briens Xmas Sale Wines

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

Guerrieri Rizzardi Lugana

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.

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RRP: €18.95 down to €14.95
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Astrolabe Awatere Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2021

Astrolabe Awatere Valley Sauvignon Blanc

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.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €22.45 down to €19.95
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Geal Rías Baixas Albariño 2020

Geal Rías Baixas Albariño

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.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €24.95 down to €19.95
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Delheim Stellenbosch Chardonnay Sur Lie 2020

Delheim Stellenbosch Chardonnay Sur Lie

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

Chanson Meursault

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.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €55.00 down to €46.00
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Porta 6 Lisboa Red 2019

Porta 6 Lisboa Red

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.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €12.95 down to €10.00
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie (Magnums only online right now)

Emiliana Novas Syrah Mourvèdre 2017

Emiliana Novas Syrah Mourvèdre Gran Reserva

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!

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €16.95 down to €12.95
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Eddystone Point Tasmania Pinot Noir 2018

Eddystone Point Tasmania Pinot Noir

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.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €24.95 down to €20.95
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz 2018

Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz

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.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €37.95 down to €29.95
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores

Gérard Bertrand Maury Tuilé 2010

Gérard Bertrand Maury Tuilé

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!

  • ABV: 16.0%
  • RRP: €22.95 down to €19.95
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores (larger stores only at present)
Make Mine A Double

Wine Review: Aldi Specially Selected Limoux Chardonnay and Bekaa Valley Red

I might well be late to this party, but if there are either of these wines still available from Aldi’s Specially Selected range then you should definitely pop them in your trolley.

Aldi Specially Selected Limoux Chardonnay 2020

Specially Selected Limoux Chardonnay

Limoux is in the Languedoc and is most widely known for its sparkling wine production: Blanquette de Limoux, Blanquette méthode ancestrale and Crémant de Limoux. Blanquette is the local name for the Mauzac grape which stars in the first two sparklers and can feature in the Crémant. It also plays a part in the still white wine known simply as Limoux, though Chardonnay and / or Chenin Blanc are also used.

This wine is 100% Chardonnay and is made by Jean-Claude Mas. It pours as a light gold which hints at the taste profile to come. The nose is a combination of bright pineapple and cream. The palate is intensely creamy with succulent yet restrained tropical (pineapple, mango) and stone fruit (peach, apricot). This is an enticing but not overly indulgent wine with a crisp, very long finish.

I loved this wine and it shows how good French Chardonnay can be outside Burgundy.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €9.99
  • Source: sample*
  • Stockists: Aldi stores and aldi.ie

Aldi Specially Selected Bekaa Valley Lebanese Red 2019

Specially Selected Bekaa Valley Lebanese Red

This bottle stood out to me as being very unusual for a discount supermarket as it’s from Lebanon. Yes, Lebanon has a long and noble history of winemaking, but it rarely impinges on the consciousness of the supermarket shopper. Wine connoisseurs know of the great Chateau** Musar and perhaps a few others like Château Ksara and Château Kefraya, but even for them that’s about as far as it goes. So, how is this inexpensive Lebanese red?

In the glass it pours a medium to dark red, not quite opaque. The nose shows ripe brambles and cocoa powder, very appealing at this time of year. The palate is initially somewhat earthy, with a slab of dark chocolate thrown in for good measure. Then red and black fruit follow through: cherries, plums and blackberries in particular. It also has a real garrigue aspect to it with rosemary and thyme notes. The finish is dry with fine, dusty tannins. With a little time in the glass the earthy notes die down a little and the fruit shines even more.

With rich fruit and herbs this Bekaa Valley red cries out for food – I’m thinking roast lamb, or lamb chops,, or lamb stew….you get the idea.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €10.99
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: Aldi stores and aldi.ie

* I liked this wine enough to buy the remaining stock at my local Aldi.

** Yes I’m really particular about spelling French Châteaux names properly, but if a producer from another country wants to drop the circumflex then I’m going with their spelling.


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

 

 

Single Bottle Review

Wine review: Coca i Fitó Negre Montsant 2012

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

Map of Priorat and Montsant wine regions
Map of Priorat (dark centre area) and Montsant (light outer area)

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

coca i fito negre Montsant

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.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €35.95
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Make Mine A Double

Wine Review: Gérard Bertrand Cote des Roses and Pasqua 11 Minutes Rosé

Here we have two more rosés from the O’Briens summer rosé sale.  One is a typical blend from a Languedoc legend, the other is an unusual blend from a Veronese outfit who use both local and international varieties.  Both have a cool feature on the bottle they arrive in.

Gérard Bertrand Cote des Roses 2020

gerard bertrand cote des roses

With the untimely death of his father Georges in 1987, flank forward Gérard Bertrand had to balance his rugby career with becoming a vigneron.  He sought to increase the quality of the wines while gradually increasing the family’s holdings.  Bertrand is now an ambassador for Languedoc wines and the biodynamic approach – all his vineyards have been converted to biodynamics and certifications should be completed by 2023.  In the past 30 or so years the Domaine has grown from 60 to 920 hectares, includes 15 estates, and exports its wines to over 150 countries.

Cote des Roses [sic] is a traditional Languedoc blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah.  It’s a very pale pink (rose in French!) in the glass.  The nose simply smells of summer!  Strawberry and raspberry aromas continue onto the palate where they are joined by a steely streak of minerality.  The fruit and mineral aspects are not distinct entities but are entwined together.  They arrive together, hang out for a while then leave together hand in hand.

There’s also some texture to this wine which mean it could partner well with food.  It stands astride the line between food rosés and quaffing rosés, a great all-rounded that’s worth a try.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €14.21 down from €18.95
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Cool bottle feature: the base of the bottle is formed into a relief shaped like a rose

Gérard Bertrand Cote des Roses

Pasqua 11 Minutes Rosé 2020

Pasqua 11 Minutes Rosé

Pasqua Vigneti e Cantine, to give the firm its full name, was founded by the Pasqua brothers from Puglia in 1925.  Their original venture was intended to commercialise Puglian wines in greater Verona, but it didn’t take too long before they invested in local vineyards and began to market those wines too.  The second generation joined the business in the 1960s and were the driving force behind a focus on exports and the establishment of a research and development institute.  The new millennium saw the building of a new headquarters in Verona and dedicated export entities in the USA and China, with the third generation now taking over the reins.

The Pasqua range now extends to two dozen wines, split into five ranges: Icons, Famiglia Pasqua, Pasqua Specials, Pasqua Timeless and Independents.  11 Minutes is the Rosé member of the Icons range.  11 Minutes refers to the length of time the juice stays in contact with the skins before being separated for cold settling.  Selected yeasts are used to initiate fermentation in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks, and once completed the wine matures in the same tanks on its lees.

It’s the blend which is really unusual here: Corvina (50%; a key red wine variety of the Veneto) plus Trebbiano de Lugano (25%; a white variety which makes excellent wines on the shores of Lake Garda), Syrah (15%; from the Rhône but grown internationally) and Carmenère (10%; Bordelais in origin but now the signature variety of Chile).

Given the brief maceration time of 11 minutes it’s no surprise that this is a pale wine.  Red fruits and floral notes dominate the nose and resolve nicely on to the palate.  There are also grapefruit flavours and textures, specifically grapefruit segments in juice, pith and all.

This is a remarkably balanced and tasty rosé, undoubtedly the best I’ve tasted so far this summer!

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €14.21 down from €18.95 (75 cl) or €38.95 (150 cl)
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Cool bottle feature: the front label is actually donut shaped; if you align it correctly the image on the inside of the back label can be seen in the hole through the wine.


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

Make Mine A Double

Wine Review: Les Auzines Alaina Rosé and Domaine de L’Ostal Rosé

For many wine drinkers the brighter evenings are the sign to break out the rosé.  Summer doesn’t appear to have arrived yet here in Ireland, but rosé sales are already booming.  At family-owned chain O’Briens Wines they are out in full force, with a 25% off promotion:

O'Briens Rosé Display

Here are brief notes on two from that selection which have an Irish connection, though perhaps a little tenuous…

Domaine de l’Ostal Rosé 2020

Domaine de l'Ostal Rosé

Domaine de l’Ostal is the Languedoc outpost of the JM Cazes group, named after Jean-Michel Cazes who ran the group for over 30 years until he handed the reins over to his son Jean-Charles Cazes in 2006.  L’Ostal is a large estate, with 150 ha in total of which 60 ha are under vine and 25 ha are olive groves.  I am a big fan of their Minervois La Livinière Grand Vin which punches well above its weight.

The Domaine de l’Ostal rosé is a 50-50 blend of Grenache and Syrah grapes from the coolest part of the estate.  The grapes are cold pressed to preserve aromas and freshness, and to reduce extraction of colour and flavour from the skins.  The result is a lovely pale pink wine with fresh red fruit aromas – raspberry, redcurrant and strawberry – plus pomegranate.  On the palate sweet red fruits are to the fore, but the finish remains crisp.

This is an easy-going and appealing rosé which will be a real crowd pleaser come barbecue time.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €11.96 down from €15.95
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Irish connection: the JM Cazes family also own and run Château Lynch-Bages in Pauillac which was of course founded by Irish émigré Thomas Lynch. 

Laurent Miquel Les Auzines Alaina Rosé 2020

Laurent Miquel les Auzines Alaina RosE

Laurent Miquel is the eighth generation of winemaker in his family, but he initially opted for a professional career in the automotive industry.  The family calling eventually won him over and, after studying oenology in Montpellier, he returned to the land.  His father Henri was a great innovator in his time, especially planting so much Syrah in the 1970s.

The Miguel family bought the Cazal Viel estate in 1791, and although it had been used for viticulture by its previous custodians its poor fertility meant that wine was a small part of the estate for many years.  This was added to by Laurent’s purchase of Château Les Auzines in Corbières in 2009.

Les Auzines is situated on a rocky plateau at 350 metres above sea level.  As well as being Laurent’s family home it is the source of three wines; Alaina Albariño, Alaina Rosé and Cuvée Les Garrigues.

The Rosé is a typical Languedoc blend of 40% Syrah, 30% Grenache and 30% Cinsault.  Fermentation at low temperatures and ageing are carried out in steel tanks to preserve aromas and freshness. 

When poured the wine is very pale in colour, not too far from water white, as is the fashion these days.  The nose shows delicate citrus and light red fruit aromas.  The palate is fruity but balanced.  Gentle red fruits hint at sweetness without sugariness, and there’s some texture there too.  The finish is fresh, but it does not take you down a mineral-only path, and is certainly not austere.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €12.71 down from €16.95
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Irish connection: Laurent Miquel’s wife Neasa is Irish!


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

Tasting Events

Fresh Italian Reds [GrapeCircus 2020 Round 3]

No Shake n’ Vac required here, the freshness is already there – it never left!  Here are three of my favourite Italian reds that I tried at the GrapeCircus portfolio tasting earlier this year.

Fattoria San Lorenzo Rosso Piceno “Burello” 2013

Yes there’s a pretty bunny on the front label but this is far from a “critter wine”.  Rather than simply to look good on a shelf, the picture represents Natalino Crognaletti’s love of the animals which reside on his family’s estate and are part of the wholistic view they take.  Based in the Marche, San Lorenzo produces whites made from Verdicchio and a range of red blends using Montepulciano and Sangiovese.  All are organic and biodynamic.

The Burello is made from Rosso Piceno DOC fruit in the proportion 60% Montepulciano and 40% Sangiovese.  Fermentation is with indigenous yeasts in concrete tanks but maturation is for 18 months in stainless steel for the Sangiovese and oak for the Montepulciano.  The size and age of the oak vessels is not given but this is not an oak dominated wine so we’re not talking 100% new barriques here.

It may be just my perception but I tend to think of Sangiovese being a more noticeable or expressive variety than Montepulciano, so it shines through in this blend, though tamed by the Montepulciano.  The nose has dark fruit and tobacco; black berries and black cherries dominate the palate with hints of herbs and tobacco again.  There’s lovely texture here and high-ish acidity which keep the whole thing fresh.

Cantina Sampietrana Primitivo del Salento “I Saraceni” 2018

Cantina Sampietrana has been making wine in Puglia since 1952.  They very much follow their maxim “Loyal to tradition, but always moving with the times”, with the local varieties Negroamaro, Primitivo and Malvasia to the fore, trained in the “alberello pugliese” method (which they translate as “Apulian small tree”).  They also have smaller plots of Susumaniello, Aglianico, Montepulciano, Lambrusco, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay, Fiano and Verdeca.

This Primitivo is a fruit-driven wine, full of plums, prunes and blackberry.  The palate is mouth-filling and warming, a real winter wine.  In fact there’s so much big juicy fruit that it tastes more like 14% than 13% abv, though it doesn’t finish hot.  This is a great value, crowd pleasing wine that deserves a try.

Cantina Sampietrana Salento Negroamaro “Parnanio” 2018

Another from Cantina Sampietrana, this Negroamaro is the big brother of the Primitivo above.  Despite these varieties’ propensity to produce lots of sugar and hence alcohol, the location of the vineyards close to the coast helps to keep things cool and balanced.  We’re a long way from Cali Zins with 16% and upward of (potential) alcohol.

True to its name, this Negroamaro is black and bitter!  It has smooth, voluptuous black fruit with spicy and a savoury, herby edge.  This would be a very versatile food pairing wine – anything from charcuterie, winter stews, steaks or Moroccan lamb.


GrapeCircus 2020:

Opinion

Super Value Xmas Wines 2020 part 1

I’m a big fan of the smaller wine importers and distributors in Ireland and the independent wine shops where many of their wines are sold.  Neither of these roles is easy or that well paid, but require a passion for wine.  The other part of wine retail is the supermarkets and multiples who have higher quantities but lower priced offerings.  The challenges here – especially in supermarkets – are very different.  Wines have to be very commercial – which I use in a factual and not derogatory sense – as wines have to mainstream and meet customers’ expectations rather than being quirky or unusual.  They often have to have attractive packaging and offer very good value for money – there’s no hand-selling like in an indie – and they have to sell.

The Irish supermarket that strikes the best balance for me is SuperValu and its head of wine Kevin O’Callaghan.  I write about their wines frequently for two main reasons:

  1. I taste a lot of their wines (which are usually samples, and are disclosed as such)
  2. Their wines nearly always offer great value for money, especially when on promotion

And, just as for all retails and importers who send me samples, if I don’t like a wine I just don’t mention it.

In addition to the noted price reductions SuperValu also offer €10 off any six bottles from Thursday 26th November to Wednesday 9th December.  Below I review some of the “Classic Christmas Wines” that Kevin has selected for their Xmas promotion.

Disclosure: all bottles were kindly sent as samples, but opinions remain my own

André Goichot Chablis 2018

I reviewed this vintage back in September of this year and liked it; if you like Chablis or clean, dry but fruity whites, then this citrus and green appled wine is definitely worth a try.  Great for seafood or as an aperitif.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €19.66 down to €15.00 from 26th Nov to 30th Dec
  • Stockists: SuperValu Ireland stores and supervalu.ie

Guy Saget Sancerre 2018 

I also reviewed this wine in September, but I think it’s showing even better with a few more months.  The mid-palate has some particularly tasty tropical notes, along with gooseberry and just a little grassiness.  At the regular price of just under €20 this Sancerre is very good, but at €15 it is a real bargain.  Just don’t drink it too cold!

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €19.66 down to €15.00 from 26th Nov to 30th Dec while stocks last
  • Stockists: SuperValu Ireland stores and supervalu.ie

André Goichot Fleurie 2018

Another wine from the Goichot stable, but this time a Cru Beaujolais.  Fleurie is one of the lighter Crus, and it shows in this wine which is quite pale in the glass – I could read print through a tasting sample.  The nose has both fresh and tinned strawberries, with a touch of black cherry reminding me of Ski yoghurts in an ’80s flashback.  The strawberries are also prominent on the palate, but with a hint of spice in the background.  There’s a nice texture and fresh acidity to this wine which make it very quaffable.  This isn’t the best Fleurie I’ve ever tried but at €12 on offer it’s a great mid-week quaffer to have on the wine rack, or with cold cuts over Xmas.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €14.66 down to €12.00 from 26th Nov to 30th Dec
  • Stockists: SuperValu Ireland stores and supervalu.ie

Rémy Ferbras Vacqueyras 2018

Vacqueyras, for those who don’t know it, is a southern Rhône Grenache-Syrah-Mourvèdre (GSM) blend which offers a bold fruity red wine in the vein of Châteauneuf du Pape but at a lower price.  Grenache gives easy drinking red fruits, Syrah gives pepper, spice and more savoury notes while Mourvèdre gives grip, perfume and meaty aspects.  The precise ratio between the three components depends on what style the winemaker is looking to achieve.

The nose on this wine is all about the fruit; blueberry, wild strawberry and tinned strawberry.  These notes continue through onto the palate where black fruits and herbs also appear.  The finish is quite dry which made me think there there’s a good proportion of Syrah and Mourvèdre in the blend; subsequent investigation revealed there to be 20% and 10% respectively which fits my observations.

This is a reasonable effort.  I don’t think I’d buy it at full price but the significant reduction puts it into the “worth a try” category.

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €20.65 down to €14.00 from 26th Nov to 30th Dec while stocks last
  • Stockists: SuperValu Ireland stores or supervalu.ie

Vivaldi Ripasso 2018

The Ripasso style is a half way house between normal Valpolicella and Amarone, made by pumping Valpolicella wine into a tank which was used for fermenting Amarone, after that wine has been pumped out leaving the gross lees (mainly grape skins) behind which still have some fermentable sugars left.  The end wine has a little more alcohol and (usually) a little more residual sugar than the plain Valpolicella.

This example from Vivaldi is made from three classic local grapes: Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella.  For real wine geeks (such as myself) it is interesting that the initial fermentation was at 25°C – 28°C whereas the subsequent fermentation was carried out at just 15°C.  Maturation was in wood before bottling.

That last sentence is important; for me the (unspecified) wood had an important influence on the wine, adding creamy vanilla and toasty notes to the bright cherry fruits from the grapes.  Residual sugar is 8.5 g/L which is mainly perceived as extra body and roundness rather than sugariness.  It’s the velvety texture which will appeal to most about this wine, though the downside is not quite as much freshness as I’d like myself.  It’s definitely worth a try at the normal price of €15.65 but it’s an absolute steal at 6 for €40!

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €15.65 or case deal of 6 for €40.00 from 17th to 20th Dec while stocks last
  • Stockists: SuperValu Ireland stores

 

Opinion

Lidl Xmas 2020 Wines

Lidl Ireland are launching their Christmas wines in two separate parts, the first of which is already underway.  In addition to those limited release wines – marked * below – they are stocking up on new vintages of regular favourites.  My reviews below are not unqualified recommendations; other wines of the same type are available which offer better quality, though not better value.  I let you, dear readers, decide on whether each wine sounds like its worth putting in your trolley.

Disclosure: bottles were kindly sent as samples, but opinions remain my own

Clare Valley Riesling 2019*

This is a gentle Riesling, very drinkable and with no sharp edges.  When compared to the best Clare Valley Rieslings such as Grosset Polish Hill or Petaluma Hanlin Hill it’s a much simpler wine, with a shorter finish and even has a touch of residual sugar.  However, this is aimed at the casual drinker and I doubt that many people would be in the market for both styles; Lidl’s example is actually more approachable so might actually be more preferable for those looking for an easy-going (and less expensive) tipple.

When to drink: Whenever you like!

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €8.84
  • Stockists:  Lidl Ireland

Sauvignon Blanc Gran Reserva 2020

While the Riesling above isn’t very “Riesling” this 2020 Gran Reserva is VERY “Sauvignon Blanc”!  By this I mean that it is very young and expressive, and needs a little more time before settling down.  The key is one of the “Gs”, the aromas and flavours found in this Chilean Savvy:

  • Grass
  • Green (bell) pepper
  • Gooseberry
  • Grapefruit

For me the green pepper sticks out a little too much at the moment, so if you aren’t fond of that flavour then this wine isn’t for you.  However, if you are ambivalent or like green capsicums then you might be a fan.  Try decanting!

When to drink: With a fresh green salad or with goats cheese.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €12.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Il Santo Bevitore IGT Isola Dei Nuraghi 2019

This wine was a total unknown to me so I had to do a little research.  Isole dei Nuraghi is an IGT which covers the whole of Sardinia.  Many international grapes are used plus a few local specialities.  My guess was that this was a Syrah / Merlot blend but I was unable to confirm this.  The nose is smoky with red and black fruits.  The palate has black cherries and sour red cherries, overlain by a touch of vanilla.  Acidity is medium to high but not jarring.

When to drink: With just about anything apart from fish or seafood.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €11.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Barossa Valley Shiraz 2017*

In a similar vein to the Clare Valley Riesling, this is a very approachable, easy-going wine that doesn’t demand too much from its drinkers – it’s made in a deliberately commercial style.  The nose shows blackberry, blackcurrant and a little vanilla.  These notes continue through onto the palate but adding a little stewed fruit to the fresh.  Light tannins round off the wine nicely, though the finish is a little short.

When to drink: Very quaffable on its own, or pair with richer foods.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €8.84
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Carménère Gran Reserva 2020

Carménère is one of Bordeaux’s six black grapes, though it’s hardly grown there at all these days.  Instead it has become the flagship black grape of Chile, where it was mistaken for Merlot for over a century.  In the glass it pours a bright purple, typical of the variety.  The nose is lovely, with rich cassis, spice and blackberry.  These notes are repeated on the palate though they are somewhat barged out of the way by our friend green pepper; these green pepper notes tend to appear in Carménère when the grapes are picked before they have reached full phenolic ripeness, often when they are harvested at the same time as the earlier-ripening Merlot.  In this case, seeing the 14.5% alcohol, I wager that this wine was made from very warm vineyards where the sugar outpaced the flavours.  At any rate, the finish is nice and smooth.

When to drink: Beef or lamb stew.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €11.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland

Corte Alle Mure DOCG Chianti Riserva 2015*

2015 was an excellent year throughout most of Italy so I was eager to try this Chianti Riserva.  This isn’t what I’d call a polished wine, but it is very Chianti, by which I mean it has typical tobacco and liquorice on the nose, Morello cherries and a hint of oak on the palate.  Acidity is prominent which makes it a food wine rather than a comfortable sipper

When to drink: Charcuterie or mixed Christmas leftovers.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €9.99
  • Stockists: Lidl Ireland