Tag: Torrontes

Life After Malbec

As most people know, Malbec is the signature grape of Argentina.  It’s become the classic match for steak and anecdotal evidence suggests that it’s one of the few red wines that casual wine-drinking blokes are prepared to pay a little more for.

But as so often is the case, when a signature grape becomes almost synonymous with a country, other varieties are unfairly overlooked.  Here are a few examples of Life After Malbec:

Callia “Alta” Pinot Grigio 2016 (13.5%, RRP 12.99 at Fresh Stores; McHuhes; D-Six Harolds Cross; DrinkStore.ie; Donnybrook Fair)

Pinot Grigio

Regular readers may be quite flabbergasted by the inclusion of a Pinot Grigio, and it’s true that I rarely like wines labelled as such, but for me this wine is leagues ahead of the cheap “chick water” that flows out of Italy.  Compared to Alsatian Pinot Gris it does exhibit some of the varietal characteristics such as stone fruit and spiciness (particularly ginger) and has decent acidity, but it isn’t at all oily (which I like but isn’t for everyone). Just so nice to drink!

Amalaya Torrontés / Riesling 2016 (13.0%, RRP €16.99 at Martin’s Off Licence; Red Island Wine Company; Red Nose Wine; World Wide Wines; Blackrock Cellar; Sweeney’s)
Amalaya

Apart from a few exceptions I rarely enjoy varietal Torrontés as I find it a bit too full on – too perfumed, too flowery, and in all honesty better suited as air freshener rather than wine.  The Hess Family have a solution with their Torrontés / Riesling blend – 85% of the former is freshened by 15% of the latter, and it really is more than the sum of its parts. This is one of my go-to Argentinian white wines.

Domaine Bousquet Chardonnay Grande Reserve 2014 (13.5%, RRP €23.99 at Searson’s)

Bousquet Chardonnay

The Bousquets are a southern French wine-making family, now into the fourth generation of vignerons.  They began looking into vineyard sites in Argentina in 1990 and took the plunge with a purchase in 1997.  This is a fairly full on Chardonnay with eight to twelve months maturation in French oak, depending on the vintage.  I found the 2014 still a little young so would benefit from being decanted; when I tasted the 2011 in 2016 it was already well-integrated.  This level of quality costs much more in other countries!

Alta Vista Premium Bonarda 2012 (15.0%, €20.00 at Mitchell & Son)

Bonarda

Italian wine fans might be saying “Oh, Bonarda in Argentina? Makes sense with all the Italian migration to Argentina in the past”, and they’d be partially right – this isn’t the same grape as the Bonarda of Piedmont, but has been found to be the same as Deuce Noir which originated in the (formerly Italian, now French) region of Savoie.  This is a fairly big wine (15% abv!) with lots of red and black fruit but enough acidity to keep it fresh.

Bodegas Salentein Portillo Pinot Noir 2014 (14.3%, €12.99 at Wines On The Green; Baggot Street Wines; Clontarf Wines; Fresh, Stepaside; McCabes, Blackrock)

portillo-PinotNoir

Although widely planted in Chile, Pinot Noir is not that common in Argentina; it’s a finicky grape that needs fairly cool growing conditions and much of Argentina is just too warm.  Bodegas Salentein make several Pinots at different price points, and this is the entry level from their Portillo range.  Despite the low price tag this is proper Pinot Noir – it’s amazingly drinkable for the price.

Callia “Magna” Shiraz 2014 (14.5%, RRP €18.99 at Redmonds Ranelagh; Vintry Rathgar; World Wide Wines Waterford; Bradley’s Cork; Sweeney’s; McHughes)

260x510_p1463059311149_shiraz

Callia’s “Magna” range sits above their “Alta” (see Pinot Grigio above) and “Selected” ranges.  All of Callia’s wines come from their home San Juan province, but for Magna wines the grapes come from specific sub-regions – in the case of the Shiraz (also labelled as Syrah in some markets) this is the Tulum Valley (don’t worry, I hadn’t heard of it either).  This Shiraz is round and full bodied with lots of delicious black fruit, but also some black olive / tapenade notes.

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The American Dream – Highlights of The Wine Society Tasting in Dublin

The American Dream – Highlights of The Wine Society Tasting in Dublin

The Wine Society is a mutually-owned wine buying club based in Stevenage in England.  Since its inception in 1874 as The International Exhibition Co-operative Wine Society Limited its aim has been to buy wines direct from growers to ensure their authenticity and quality and to offer them to members at fair prices.

The Society has over 120,000 active members in the UK and Ireland which gives it great purchasing power and a licence to list more unusual bottles.  They run various tasting events throughout the UK and one in Dublin most years.  The most recent one focused on wines from the Americas, and below are my personal highlights.  Our hosts were the charming Simon Mason and the lovely Isobel Cooper.

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Viña Litoral Sauvignon Blanc, Leyda Valley, Chile 2013

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Leyda Valley Sauvignon Blanc

Leyda is situated close to the Pacific coast (as you might guess from “Litoral”) with its cooling sea breezes and thus is well suited to Sauvignon Blanc.  This example has ripe grapefruit and gooseberry balanced by refreshing acidity.  The 13.5% abv gives it a generous roundness in the mouth.

Concha y Toro Corte Ignacio Casablanca Riesling (Chile) 2013

From a very cool, top vineyard in western Casablanca, this is a
medium-dry riesling with about a third of the harvest affected by
noble rot, overlaying a lovely light honeyed aroma and flavour
over a bright, fresh palate. Drink now to 2018. 12%

Primus Maipo Cabernet Sauvignon (Chile) 2011

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Primus Maipo Cabernet Sauvignon

A textbook example of Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, not terribly complex but bursting with fruit and the beginnings of cedar and tabacco notes.  Drinkable on its own mid week or with a medium rare steak.

Faldeos Nevados Torrontés (Argentina) 2013

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Valdeos Nevados Torrontes

Torrontés is Argentina’s signature white grape, with aromas and flavours somewhere between Muscat, Gewurztraminer and Viognier.  At 14% abv it has plenty of body to match the bold grape and stone fruit flavours.

Norman Hardie Chardonnay Unfiltered, Ontario (Canada) 2011

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Norman Hardie Chardonnay

The first Canadian wine I have tasted that wasn’t an Ice Wine.  The aim here is more Burgundy than California – it has a modest 12.5% abv and a streak of minerality through the middle.  It reminded me most of Premier Cru Chablis.  In my view a little less oak would let the fruit shine more.

Weinert Carrascal (Argentina) 2008

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This is a blend of 40% Malbec, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Merlot, all Bordeaux varieties, although of course Malbec is mainly reduced to a minor supporting role in Bordeaux nowadays.  No shrinking violet, this is a big, rich, in-your-face wine with a velvety finish.  Great for cold nights or with red meat.

Ravenswood Lodi Old-Vine Zinfandel (USA) 2011

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Ravenswood Lodi Old-Vine Zinfandel

Ravenswood make some fantastic Zin; big, bold and very gluggable. Their Lodi Old-Vine is slightly more expensive but more concentrated, higher in alcohol and will live for longer.  It’s a world away from “blush” white Zinfandel.

Ridge Geyserville (USA) 2011

Ridge is almost legendary among Californian producers.  This is a Zinfandel-Carignan(e) blend based on some of California’s oldest vines; the youngest are 10 years old, the oldest over 120 years, with 60% 40 years old or more.  It is very dense at first – takes a while to open up in the glass – then the powerful dark black fruit comes through, wrapped in vanilla.  This will surely continue to develop over the next 10 years.

Quartet Anderson Valley Brut Roederer Estates (USA) NV

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Quartet Anderson Valley Brut, Roederer Estate

For me this was the star of the whole event.  It is a traditional method sparkling wine from Mendocino County in California. The grapes are sourced from four separate vineyards (hence the name) in the northern Anderson Valley, cooled by the proximity of the Pacific Ocean.  On the palette the 30% Pinot Noir initially gives lots of soft strawberry flavours and then the 70% Chardonnay comes through as bright citrus.  The finish has classic brioche richness from ageing on the lees.  Wonderfully balanced and put together.