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
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
Porta 6 – literally “Door No. 6” – is produced by Vidigal Wines which is headquartered in central Portugal. They produce a substantial number of different wines made in Lisbon (from 450 hectares) and across the country: Tagus, Douro, Alentejo, Dão, Beiras and Vinho Verde. Vidigal is majority family owned and run by António Mendes who has transformed the company’s operations since he took over around 25 years ago. Vidigal export 90% of their production to over 30 countries; Porta 6 is one of their key wines available in Ireland.
Porta 6 Lisboa Red 2019
Porta 6 is an everyday-drinking style red wine made from traditional Portuguese grapes: 50% Aragonez (aka Tempranillo), 40% Castelão and 10% Touriga Nacional. It is available in traditional 750 ml glass bottles but also in 1.5 litre and 3.0 litre bag-in-box formats – great for parties and lowering the wine’s carbon footprint by making for a lighter package to transport.
On pouring it’s nearly opaque black in the glass, with a bright purple rim. The nose is fantastic with ripe red and black fruits: think blackberry, black cherry, plum, redcurrant and cranberry, along with some exotic spices. Perhaps it’s just the coming season (no I’m not going to say the “C word”) but it’s almost like smelling a mince pie just before you take a big bite.
In the mouth it is smooth, with a whole winter fruit salad (if such a thing exists…and if it doesn’t, it should) hitting your mouth on the attack. The fruit slips away as you swallow it, leaving some fine grained tannins and a dusting of spice. There’s lots of pleasing fruit in this wine but no jamminess.
This is not a vin de garde or a highly complex one, but with oodles of fruit presented nicely and decent balance, this is worth stocking up on, especially at €10!
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
Port wine is world famous, known wherever wine is drunk. It’s a powerful, sweet, fortified wine that has become the name of a style – just like Champagne – even though it should only be used for geographically demarcated wines from Portugal. Although the Port Houses are innovating, with a multitude of styles and colours being marketed, demand for their fortified wines isn’t as strong as it could be, considering their quality.
Table wines from the Douro have therefore increased in importance. The style of Douro wines is evolving as well; initially they were often “dry Ports”, made from the same varieties and full of alcohol, flavour and body. Although popular, some of them were a little rustic and lacked elegance. Enter Casa Ferreirinha, taken from the Liberty Wines Ireland website:
Founded in 1952, with the production of the first ever vintage of Barca Velha, Casa Ferreirinha pioneered the quality revolution in Douro still wines and was the first producer in the region dedicated entirely to producing wine, rather than port. Named after the legendary Porto matriarch Dona Antónia Ferreira, Casa Ferreirinha, pays homage to the memory of this visionary woman. Today, the winemaking is headed up by Luís Sottomayor, who restrains the Douro’s natural exuberance to produce wines that have a vibrant freshness allied to a lovely texture and depth.
Earlier this year I joined a zoom masterclass presented by Luís Sottomayor himself and got to taste some of the wines (disclosure: which were samples, obvs):
Casa Ferreirinha “Vinha Grande” Douro Branco 2019
Although there are white Port grapes grown in the Douro (white Port and tonic is the “in” summer drink these days) we don’t tend to think of dry white Douro wines. The Vinha Grande Branco has been made since 2005 since the acquisition of 25 hectares of suitable vineyards at high altitude. The precise blend changes from year to year, but for 2019 it is:
40% Viosinho – a well balanced and highly aromatic local variety
35% Arinto (aka Pedernã) – a high acidity grape, better known in Bucelas
15% Rabigato – a high acidity grape almost solely grown in the Douro
10% Gouveio (aka Godello) – which gives roundness and complexity
Vinification took place in stainless steel tank and then the wine was split into two; 50% was aged in 500 litre barrels and 50% in steel tanks. Both halves received regular lees stirring and then were recombined after six months. Per Luis, the aim of using oak is to add complexity and capacity for ageing, but only 50% as they don’t want oak to dominate the fruit.
Initially it shows white fruits and flowers on the nose, then citrus and passionfruit, rounding off with some oak notes. The high altitude of the vineyard shows up on the palate which is very fresh and has good acidity. There’s some body to this wine and beautiful ripe fruit notes in the mid palate. Overall this is an excellent wine, and one that I suspect will continue to improve for several years.
This is the daddy, one of the first Douro reds, and originally was made with grapes sourced from a specific vineyard called Vinha Grande; nowadays the wine includes grapes from Cima Corgo and Douro Superior subregions. I don’t have the exact varietal composition for 2017 but for 2018 the blend was:
40% Touriga Franca – the most widely planted black grape in the Douro
30% Touriga Nacional – perfumed and powerful king of the Douro
25% Tinta Roriz (aka Tempranillo) – for suppleness, the second most important black grape
5% Tinta Barroca – early ripening Douro grape which adds colour and alcohol
Alcoholic fermentation is carried out – separately in each subregion – in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks, with some maceration to extract colour, flavours and tannins. The two are then blended together and matured in used (two to four year old) French barrels. Luis stated that French oak is regarded as more neutral, less aromatic than American oak. Portuguese oak was used until 2001 when supplies dried up – it gave more tannins and was more aromatically neutral still, but was a little rustic.
The nose of the Vinha Grande Tinto exudes rich black and red fruits, spice, freshly made coffee and hints of cedar. The palate is lovely and supple, with blueberry, blackberry and plum plus smoky notes. The body is generous but not too thick; with its soft tannins this is a refined and elegant wine.
Stockists: Avoca Handweavers, Ballsbridge; Baggot Street Wines; Blackrock Cellar; Martins Off Licence, Fairview; McHughs, Kilbarrack Road; Terroirs, Donnybrook; The Corkscrew, Chatham St.; The Parting Glass, Enniskerry; The Wine Centre, Kilkenny; wineonline.ie
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.
Bodegas Roda were founded as recently as 1987 but have already forged a reputation for excellence. They have evaluated over 552 Tempranillo clones before settling on the best 20 to plant going forward. French – rather that American – oak barrels are used for maturation, yet the oak treatment is always in balance with the fruit.
Sela is the “entry level” from Roda, with fruit hand harvested from 15 to 30 year old bush vines. Maturation is for 12 months in seasoned French oak. Of course, this wine could be labelled as a Crianza, but that term has a cheap and cheerful image in Spain, definitely not fitting for Bodegas Roda! The blend is 87% Tempranillo, 7% Graciano and 6% Garnacha giving fresh red and black fruit. Sela is an easy drinking style but also has the elegance to be served at the table.
The Roda Reserva is a clear step up from the Sela. While the blend is almost identical – 86% Tempranillo, 6% Graciano and 8% Garnacha – the vines are all over 30 year old and yields are lower, both aiding concentration. Alcoholic fermentation is in French oak vats followed by malolacic fermentation in French oak barrels (40% new, 60% second use) where the wine then matures for 14 months. When bottled the Reserva is kept in Roda’s cellars for a further two and a half years before release.
The nose has red and black cherries, strawberries and raspberries with vanilla and smoky notes from the oak, and hints of cinnamon. The wine feels thick and viscous in the mouth with the fruit aromas coming through to the palate. The Roda Reserva is a vibrant wine, still in the flushes of youth, but should continue to evolve for the next decade or two.
The main difference between Roda I and Roda (formerly Roda II) is in flavour profile – for Roda I grapes are picked from old bush vines which tend to show more black fruit characteristics rather than the red fruit of Roda. The blend is Tempranillo dominated (96%) with a seasoning of Graciano (4%). The oak regime is slightly different as well – the barrels are 50% new and ageing in barrel is for 16 months.
While obviously sharing some house similarities with its junior sibling, this is a different wine altogether, much more complex. The nose is more perfumed and expressive with black fruit, smoky oak, earthiness and chocolate. These notes continue through to the palate where some dried fruit and mineral flavours join them. The mouth is voluptuous and soothing. Fine grained tannins help to make a savoury, satisfying dry finish. Although this would be a real treat to drink on its own it would shine even brighter with food.
You can read the full background on this wine in my recent post on the 2012, so I won’t repeat that here. The blend is consistent at 92% Sangiovese and 8% Malvasia Nera & Colorino and the oak regime is the same. The 2015 is from a slightly warmer year so the exact alcohol reading is 14.26% versus 13.73% for the 2012; not a huge difference but an indication of the vintage. This is a fabulous wine, really smooth but tangy and fresh, with red and black fruit bursting out of the glass. Mazzei give it an ageing potential of 20 years but when wine is this good it would be really difficult not to drink now!
It does seem to this cynic that any IGT Toscana with French grapes in the blend is classed as a “Super Tuscan” these days, but this is truly deserving of the epithet. Siepi is named after the six hectare estate vineyard from where the grapes are sourced – one of Mazzei’s best – and has been produced since 1992. The blend is 50% Sangiovese and 50% Merlot; the varieties are picked at different times (17 days earlier for the Merlot which is known to be an early ripener in Bordeaux) and are given different maceration times (14 days for Merlot, 18 days for Sangiovese). Ageing is for 18 months in French barriques, 70% new and 30% used.
This 2016 was released in October 2018 and tasted 12 months later. It was still a little shy and closed, but already showing flashes of its future grandeur. To depart from my usual style of tasting notes, drinking this wine was like sitting in front of a warm fire on a big, well-worn sofa with soft cushions. As I write during Storm Dennis, that would be most welcome!
The Irish off-licence chain O’Briens has various promotions on throughout the year, but probably the most eagerly awaited is the annual Fine Wine Sale. This year it runs from Monday 9th to Sunday 15th December. Below are the wines I’d be snapping up this year. Note that I haven’t necessarily tried the vintage stated of each wine, but I have tasted them often enough over the years to comfortably recommend them.
Gaia SantoriniAssyrtiko Wild Ferment 2016 (13.0%, €24.95 down to €22.95 at O’Briens)
I have previously written about the 2013 and 2016 vintages of this wine as well as its younger brother Monograph, and tasted it many times in between; it remains one of my favourite “mid-priced” white wines available in Ireland.
Cloudy Bay Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2018 (13.0%, €35.95 down to €24.95 at O’Briens)
An iconic wine at a very reasonable price! I recently tried the 2017 (which was maturing nicely) and the 2019 which, for such a young wine, was surprisingly settled and ready to go
Julien Brocard Chablis La Boissoneuse 2018 (12.5%, €29.95 down to €25.95 at O’Briens)
The 2017 vintage was #1 in my Top 10 Whites of 2019 so any reduction in price of this fantastic organic, biodynamic Chablis makes it worth snapping up!
Chanson Chablis 1er Cru Montmains 2017 (12.5%, €34.95 down to €24.95 at O’Briens)
Chanson has been part of the Bollinger group for two decades and produces consistently good wines. This Montmains is an excellent Premier Cru and while delicious now, deserves another five years or so before being opened.
Man O’War Waiheke Island Valhalla Chardonnay 2017 (14.5%, €32.95 down to €28.95 at O’Briens)
I wrote about the 2010 vintage (in 2014) the 2011 (in 2016) and the 2016 (earlier this year) and loved them all. This is a fairly full on Chardonnay which will please those who like bold wines – and that includes me.
L’Ostal Cazes Minervois La Livinière Grand Vin 2015 (14.5%, €23.95 down to €20.95 at O’Briens)
The JM Cazes family who have long owned Lynch Bages in Bordeaux have spread their interests to the Rhône and Languedoc, amongst other places. In my not-so-humble-opinion this Minervois La Livinère is the best value wine in their portfolio.
Château Franc-Maillet Pomerol 2015 (13.5%, €48.00 down to €42.00 at O’Briens)
The 2014 of this wine was very good, so the even better vintage of 2015 is definitely worth a shout. This wine is worthy of a place on my Christmas dinner table, so it’s definitely worthy of yours, too!
Sierra Cantabria Rioja Gran Reserva 2008 (14.0%, €32.95 down to €23.95 at O’Briens)
If you like Tempranillo-based wines but tend to favour Ribero del Duero, this a Rioja house which can match the black fruited savoury wines from there. I have previously tried the 2010 Crianza which was great, but a Gran Reserva from 2008 should be even more of a stunner!
d’Arenberg McLaren Vale Dead Arm Shiraz 2015 (14.6%, €54.95 down to €44.95 at O’Briens)
While Penfolds Grange prices have rocketed off into the stratosphere, here’s an iconic Aussie wine that is (relatively) more affordable – and approachable at a younger age, too, though if you manage to keep your hands away it will last for a decade or two.
Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (13.8%, €80 down to €68 at O’Briens)
The (virtual) ink has only just dried on my review of the 2012 vintage of this wine but it’s already included in the fine wine sale. If you want to treat yourself for Christmas (2019 or 2029) then this is a great bet!
The Navarra Denominación de Origen (DO) is often overlooked in favour of its more famous neighbour Rioja; after all, the latter does extend into the Autonomous Community of Navarre, leaving the southern part for the Navarra DO. Rosé – well, Rosado more properly – was the style which Navarra became most well known for, but increasingly its reds are gaining in prominence and recognition.
Bodegas Ochoa is currently in the hands of the fifth (Javier Ochoa) and sixth generations (his daughters Adriana and Beatriz), with each generation improving both the quality and diversity of the range. When I tried the Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva four years ago I was very impressed. When I recently got the opportunity to try the current release of the Reserva I didn’t have to be asked twice!
Disclosure: sample was kindly provided, opinions remain my own
Ochoa Navarra Tinto Reserva 2010 (13.5%, RRP €20 at Hole in the Wall, Cabra; O’Donovan’s, Cork; Morton’s Ranelagh)
The blend here is very typical of Navarra: Tempranillo, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Maturation is between 15 to 18 months in French and American barriques (225 litre oak barrels) then a further five or so years in bottle before release.
The result is a wine which is simply bursting with ripe fruit! Even though this wine is eight years old, tasting it is like munching on fresh blackcurrants and blueberries, with a touch of vanilla. It’s not a jammy fruit bomb, though – it’s very smooth and elegant but complex at the same time.
If you’ve never had Navarra before, this sets the bar very high indeed!
For winelovers, Christmas is a time when we look forward to drinking – and even sharing – a special bottle or two. This might be a classic wine with traditional fare or just something different we’ve wanted to try for a while. I asked some wine loving friends what they were looking forward to and they have kindly agreed to write a blog post for me.
Kerri Judge is the Marketing Manager of Febvre, an importer who has been a stalwart of the Irish wine trade for over 50 years and who represent a few of my favourite producers.
One of my favourites at Christmas is from the family owned estate of Bodegas Valdemar in Rioja. Their Conde Valdemar Gran Reserva 2008 is rich and so very smooth. Lovely dark brambly fruits with a touch of vanilla and spice with soft tannins.
A perfect glass on its own, with a piece of hard cheese like Hegarty’s Cheddar or with a melt in your mouth piece of fillet beef sliced thinly with a drizzle of olive oil and salt. Also, great I found with leftover Turkey and Ham fried up the day after Christmas with a bit of stuffing.
Conde Valdemar Gran Reserva 2008(13.5%): on promotion this Christmas at €20 (usually €32) in O’Briens and Independent Off-Licences.
I always have a bottle of the Warre’s Otima 10 year old Tawny Port in the fridge at Christmas. A glass of Otima watching It’s a Wonderful Life with a bowl of walnuts and the fire lit on Christmas Eve is my idea of Christmas!
Think a rich fruit cake – dried fruits, orange peel, caramel and honey flavours with a toasty finish and great length. Chilling the Otima cuts the taste of Alcohol and enhances the fruit flavours.
Warre’s Otima 10 year old Tawny Port(20.0%): available at around €28 (50cl bottle) at Independent Off-Licences and selected SuperValu Stores.