An interesting pair of whites that are perfect for summer sipping
Although the summer of ’21 has been punctuated with thunderstorms (and disastrously so in some countries) there are still some sunny evenings to be had. Here are a couple of new listings at O’Briens which are worth seeking out.
Guerrieri Rizzardi Lugana 2020
Rizzardi are well known for their Veneto wines, from humble Pinot Grigio and Prosecco up to their flagship Calcarole Amarone. The winery arose from the joining together of two prominent wine making families and can trace their roots back to the 1600s.
This Lugana is new to Ireland and, of course, is made from the Turbiana grape on the shores of Lake Garda. Also known as Trebbiano di Lugana, Turbiana has very little recognition among most wine drinkers, but much more character than the Veneto interpretation of Pinot Grigio. The vines are around 25 years old and are planted on clay-rich soils, giving extra power. Ageing on fine lees gives additional creaminess and texture. The nose has intense floral, citrus and pear notes which continue through to the palate. The texture is wonderful, pithy and sappy, yet with a mouth-wateringly fresh finish. This is a really good effort!
Picpoul de Pinet has become a staple of the wine scene in the last decade or so, taking on the mantle of Muscadet for a clean and fresh white that’s great with seafood and doesn’t break the bank. The downside to Picpoul is that – like many other popular wines – it has become a commodity; one producer is not differentiated from another so people just buy the cheapest one they see.
There are a few fighting against this commoditisation, however; Villa Des Crois is one and now this new offering from O’Briens is another. It has the classic saline tang of Piquepoul* but also some fleshy, juicy citrus in between – a combination of lemon, lime, orange and grapefruit. There are also herbs as well; in fact this is a more interesting wine than Picpoul de Pinet usually is…and it pairs amazingly well with lemon and herb olives!
I would happily buy both wines at full price, though they are somewhat different in character; the saline sharpness and citrus of the Picpoul versus the broader palate of the Lugana. If I had to choose between the two (I know, why not both?) then the key tell is that I went back to buy another bottle of the Picpoul out of my own pocket money.
* For some reason the wine is spelt Picpoul de Pinet but the grape is Piquepoul
Two Easy Drinking White Wines From The Lidl Easter Wine Cellar
Lidl Ireland are set to release a dozen wines onto their shelves on Thursday 25th March, just in time for Easter. Consisting of six white and six reds – see the list further down – the wines will be available in limited quantities.
Here are my brief notes on two of the whites which will be included in this event.
Giulio Pasotti Lugana 2019
A brief search indicates that this wine may only be available from Lidl stores in various countries, so Giulio Pasitto is quite possibly a private label (though happy to be corrected). For those not familar with it, Lugana is an Italian wine region in the Veneto on the shores of Lake Garda – see my review of Cà dei Frati I Frati for more details.
This Lidl Lugana pours a pale lemon and has spicy orchard fruits on the nose. The palate is lithe, easy drinking, with a little bittersweet grapefruit. It’s perhaps a little lacking in acidity for my tastes, but it serves as a good introduction to the wines of the region.
Stockists: Lidl Ireland stores from Thursday 25th March 2021
Source: Media sample
Patricius “Vicarius” Tokaji Furmint 2019
Dry Furmint is becoming less the exception and more the rule in Tokaji, as climate change has led to far fewer vintages with sufficient botrytised grapes to make the region’s famous sweet wines.
The Patricius estate extends to an impressive 85 hectares and has seven historic first-growth vineyards. The winery is run by father and daughter team Dezső and Katinka Kékessy who come from long lines of winemaking stock. They are very proud of their dry Furmint as well as their Aszú sweet wines, with each plot being vinified and matured separately.
The Vicarius appears to be their entry level wine. It’s made in a fresh, easy-to-drink style but still is a great showcase for dry Furmint. The nose is very expressive, with stones and smoke drifting over melon and citrus. These notes continue onto the palate which is framed by intertwining minerality and acidity.
Stockists: Lidl Ireland stores from Thursday 25th March 2021
Source: Media sample
Both of these wines are made in a simple, easy-drinking style; they are pleasant to drink and give a good representation of their respective regions and grapes without reaching the levels of more expensive examples. At €9.99 both would be fine for a mid-week tipple, though the extra freshness of the Furmint makes it the winner for me.
The full list of wines included in the Lidl Ireland Easter Wine Cellar is below, with links to reviews as applicable.
Spit Festival is an annual event showcasing some exceptional wines from four of Ireland’s key boutique wine importers. Most of their wines are from small, family run wineries who practise organic, biodynamic or natural techniques.
Here are just of few of the biodynamic wines I loved from the 2018 event (# number refers to the trade tasting booklet):
#23 Domaine Turner Pageot Le Blanc 2017 (RRP ~€23 WineMason)
A previous vintage of this wine was a favourite of mine at the WineMason portfolio tasting and it’s great to see the 2017 is also showing very well. A blend of 80% Roussanne and 20% Marsanne, the later undergo contact with their skins for around a month. This gives lovely mouthfeel and a bit of grip – it’s not a full orange wine, but it gives you a good idea of what to expect from the full blown orange experience (aka “Les Choix”!)
Leclerc Briant was the first organic and biodynamic producer in Champagne (Demeter certified in 2003) – no easy feat considering the marginal climatic conditions there. They are based in the Vallée de la Marne so it’s no surprise to see that Pinot Meunier is a large component of the blend (40%) along with Pinot Noir (40%) and Chardonnay (20%). The grapes come from a single harvest, despite no vintage being declared on the bottle, and lees ageing is well in excess of the 15 month minimum for an NV (in fact it’s around the minimum 36 months required for a vintage Champagne). Dosage is very low at 4 g/L; it could be labelled as Extra Brut” if they so desired.
Thanks to the majority of black grapes, it’s red fruit that really comes to the fore on the nose and palate, with raspberry, redcurrant and even cranberry making an appearance. There’s also a lovely brioche character from the time on the lees, and a crisp lemony finish from the Chardonnay. Some fantastic elements, but taken together the whole package is even better!
Bodegas Ponce (probably sounds more dignified in Spanish) is based in Manchuela, a high altitude region east of Madrid, which also happens to be one of the main homes of the Albillo/Albilla grape. It’s a highly aromatic grape, sometimes being added in to reds from Ribero del Duero for extra fragrance and elegance. With the extended cool growing season in Manchuela it shows green apples and a touch of spice, with lots of texture – even being slightly waxy. A brilliant match for shellfish, veal or pork.
#105 Monte dei Roari Custoza “Boscaroi” 2017 (RRP ~€18, GrapeCircus)
This Venetian beauty is a blend of four grapes:
Trebbiano di Soave (famous for Soave, obviously!)
Garganega (also Soave)
Fernanda (aka Cortese – best known for Gavi)
Trebbianello (another version of Trebbiano)
…all gently fermented in amphorae, and bottled without fining or filtering. The result is dry, pale and interesting – more subtle than most, but beautiful nonetheless. The nose is floral and there is an array of fresh, juicy fruits on the palate, particularly grapefruit and other citrus. Would be amazing paired with a delicate white fish.
UK wine importers Top Selection have an enviable portfolio of exclusive niche wines (and spirits) across the price spectrum. Here are a couple of their fresh whites which impressed me recently:
Angel Sequeiros Rías Baixas Albariño “Evoe” 2013 (13.0%, £17.50 at Top Selection)
Not long after gourmets and gourmands started using the term “food porn”, winelovers hit back with the equally hyperbolic “wine porn”. Although the term is supposed to be figurative, it’s not far off the literal truth for this bottle!
Founder Angel Sequeiros bought the already-established Finca Quinta Gaviñeira on his return to Galicia in 1960. The Rías Baixas estate is 100% Albariño and is now run by Angel’s son Clement. Clement has been making his own mark with the estate since his first release in 2009.
It’s floral, fresh, and gently fruity – pleasant drinking on its own but not so intense that you couldn’t bring it to the table. This is one of the most balanced Albariños I’ve tried!
Apparently, “evoe” in English means “an exclamation of Bacchic frenzy” – and looking at the label I’d say that’s not too far off the mark!
Villa Mattielli Soave Classico Campolungo 2015 (13.0%, £17.00 at Top Selection)
As I have opined many a time and oft* on this blog, Soave from the Veneto in north eastern Italy continues to be unfairly looked down on because of the inexpensive and unexpressive bulk wine made in the region. In fact, going back to the 1970s, Soave sales in some export markets rivalled that of Chianti. In spite of the burgeoning quality of many other Italian wines, Chianti is still seen as the “go-to” Italian red wine in export markets, whereas Soave has been overtaken by the infamous Pinot Grigio (most of which, itself, is not exactly characterful).
Thankfully Villa Mattielli are a quality-orientated family producer with 30 hectares of vines across the Soave Classico and Valpolicella DOCs. Winemaker Roberta is the fourth generation of the family to run the firm, along with her husband Giacomo and her sister Valeria.
The wine has a lovely orange and peach nose; it explodes with the same in the mouth, round and luscious. Unlike many Italian white wines, it has too much flavour for oysters or delicate white fish – instead try it with king scallops or garlic and ginger prawns.
*The wine is made in the area around Venice, hence the literary reference**
I was delighted to recently invite myself be invited to Classic Drinks‘ Portfolio Tasting at Fade Street Social Restaurant in the heart of Dublin. Classic supply both on and off trade in Ireland and given their portfolio of 800 wines there’s a good chance that the average Irish wine drinker has tried one.
Here are a few of the wines which stood out for me:
Champagne Pannier Brut NV (RRP €52.99)
Given my proclivities for quality fizz (a friend and fellow wine blogger dubbed me a “Bubbles Whore”, to which I have no retort) it was no surprise to see me making a beeline for the Champagne.
Louis-Eugène Pannier founded his eponymous Champagne house in 1899 at Dizy, just outside Epernay, later moving to Château-Thierry in the Vallée de la Marne. The current Cellar Master, Philippe Dupuis, has held the position for over 25 years. Under him the house has developed a reputation for Pinot-driven but elegant wines.
The Non Vintage is close to a three way equal split of 40% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir and 30% Pinot Meunier. The black grapes provide body and red fruit characters, but the good whack (technical term) of Chardonnay gives citrus, flowers and freshness. A minimum of 3 years ageing adds additional layers of brioche. It’s a well balanced and classy Champagne.
From near Venice comes this blend of local and international white varieties: Garganega 50%, Chardonnay 30%, Trebbiano di Soave 20%.
Garganega is probably most well known for being the basis of Soave DOC / DOCG wines, whose blends often include the other local grape here, Trebbiano di Soave. In fact, the latter is also known as Verdicchio in the Marche region where it is most popular.
So how is it? Amazing bang for your buck. More than anything this is peachy – so peachy, in fact, that you can’t be 100% convinced they haven’t put peaches in with the grapes when fermenting! More info here.
Angove Butterfly Ridge South Australia Riesling Gewurztraminer 2013 (RRP €13.99)
Angove was founded in the beautiful region of Mclaren Vale (just south of Adelaide in South Australia) in 1886, and are still family run and owned, now by the fifth generation. The company has sixteen sub-ranges which span a large range of quality levels (and price brackets).
So why doesn’t the new World do more of this type of blend? Lots of citrus zing from the Riesling with just a touch of peachy body and spicy aromas from the Gewurz. The precise blend was the matter of some contention, with both (40% / 60%) and (30% / 30%) being quoted, though my guess would be closer to 80% / 20% as otherwise Gewurz would totally steal the show on the nose.
This would be great as an aperitif or flexible enough to cope with many different Asian cuisines – Indian, Thai, Chinese and Japanese.
Seifried Nelson Pinot Gris 2012 (RRP €20.99)
Internationally, Nelson is firmly in the shadow of Marlborough when it comes to both export volumes and familiarity with consumers. Although Nelson isn’t far from Marlborough at the top of the South Island, it gets more precipitation and produces wines of a different style.
Neudorf is one Nelson producer which has received accolades for its owners Tim and Judy Finn, and Seifried is another. From their website:
The Seifried family have been making stylish food-friendly wines since 1976. The range includes rich full Chardonnays, fine floral Rieslings, lively Sauvignon Blancs, warm plummy Pinot Noirs and intensely delicious dessert wines.
If you see the Seifried “Sweet Agnes” Riesling then snap it up, it’s delicious!
The 2012 Pinot Gris has an Alsace Grand Cru standard and style nose – so much stone fruit, exotic fruit and floral notes. On the palate these are joined by spice, pear and ginger. This would be a great food wine with its comforting texture
For my personal taste it would be even better with a touch more residual sugar than its 5g/L, but that’s just me and my Alsace bias. A lovely wine.
Laroche Chablis Premier Cru AOP Chantrerie 2011 (RRP €32.99)
More than just Chardonnay, more than just Chablis…in fact this is more than just 1er Cru Chablis, it’s a great effort. There’s a hint of something special on the nose but it really delivers on the palate – it just sings.
Laroche tells us that the fruit is sourced from several Premier Cru vineyards such as Vosgros, Vaucoupins and Vaulignau (I don’t know if selection is alphabetical…) and then blended together so the wine is more than the sum of its parts.
The majority (88%) is aged in stainless steel and the remainder (12%) in oak barrels. The texture and palate weight might lead you to believe that more oak was involved, but this also comes from nine months ageing on fine lees and the minimal filtration. Full info here.
Thanks to Classic Drinks and venue hosts Fade Street Social!
For the first of my posts on Valentine’s Wines I thought I would try something a little bit different from the norm. My wife and I invited her elder brother Andrew and his girlfriend Paula round for dinner to and to try some different wines in advance of Valentine’s Day.
It’s good to hear the opinions of other people – wine tasting can be very social and lots of fun. I heartily recommend you try forming your own tasting panel now and again, with friends from absolute novices to MWs.
Before we get into the wines, here is the delicious meal they accompanied:
Cantaloupe Melon drenched in Pineau des Charentes
Slow Roasted Loin of Pork with a Bramley apple glaze, server with roasted potatoes, julienne carrots and petits pois, roasted root vegetables, apple and citrus jus
Apple Strudel with Cornish Vanilla Ice cream and / or Homemade Vanilla Custard
Selection of: Brie de Meaus, Abbaye du Mont des Cats, Diliskus semi-soft Herbed.
Disclosure: the wines tasted below were kindly provided by O’Briens, but opinions are entirely our own.
Rizzardi Prosecco DOC Spumante Extra Dry NV (€20.99, currently €17.99)
Valentine’s connection: who doesn’t like popping the cork on some fizz?
The label “Extra Dry” on Prosecco is usually a misnomer – the wine is often on the sweet side. A little sweetness can make Prosecco very easy to drink and is one of the factors behind its current boom in sales. However, Rizzardi’s style is actually dry on the palate. Being a Spumante it had a proper cork and was fully sparkling.
On tasting the main flavours we noted were pip fruit such as Granny Smith’s apple and pear, citrus (even Lemon Sherbet) and a sour sweetness (if that makes any sense) – a bit like the sensation from Sour Squirms sweets.
A little sweetness did come through on the finish once it had warmed up a little in the glass (it was served straight from a domestic fridge).
Andrew 5 [not a fan of fizz]
Paula 8 [can I have another glass please?]
Jess 4 [found it too dry]
Frankie 7 [preferred it to most other Proseccos]
This wine clearly divided opinion on the panel, but that’s no bad thing. Hopefully the comments give you the information to decide whether this Prosecco is for you, or perhaps try a sweeter one.
Les Auzines Fleurs Blanches Vin de France 2013 (€14.49, currently €12.99, O’Briens)
Valentine’s connection: say it with (white) flowers
Although labelled as a Vin de France, which could come from almost anywhere in France, this was made in the Corbières region of the Languedoc, quite close to the Mediterranean coast. The name property name “Les Auzines” comes from the Occitan meaning “little leaves from the oak tree”, owned by Laurent Miquel and his Irish wife Neasa Corish.
The blend is based on Grenache Gris, with perhaps a dash of Grenache Blanc. It is classed as an oaked white as 85% was fermented and aged in second and third-use oak barrels, but although it has gained texture and complexity it doesn’t taste typically “oaky”.
Smooth and rich but tangy, it shows flavours of Macadamia nuts, lime, gravel and mineral, fennel, lavender and other herbs – it’s really interesting. Alcohol is surprisingly modest at 11.5% – it doesn’t feel lacking in any way.
Andrew 7 [Nuts and gravel]
Paula 8 [Soft and easy-drinking]
Jess 7 [A white wine for red wine drinkers]
Frankie 8 [what a find!]
Fleurs Blanches was an amazing match for the main course – perhaps helped by the dash of Fleurs Blanches which went in the jus. O’Briens’ notes reckon that it “bears a closer resemblance to fine Burgundy than to Corbiéres” – I would clarify that by saying it could double for maturefine Burgundy – it’s that good!
Henri Bourgeois La Porte Caillou Sancerre 2013 (€22.99, currently €19.99, O’Briens)
Valentine’s connection: woo your Valentine with a classy, classic white wine.
Sancerre was the first wine region famous for varietal Sauvignon Blanc, but as is the way with Appellation-based fame, it is open to use and abuse. If you’ve ever bought a Sancerre in a French supermarket then you will know that quality can be very variable…
So what to do? Find a good producer, of course – or a greatproducer, such as Henri Bourgeois.
Minerality is a buzzword in wine at the moment, but the chalk soils of HB’s vineyards impart a magnificent flint character to his wines. The very name “Porte de Caillou” means Pebble Gate, so that should give you an idea!
As well as the minerality (liked by one taster to sucking on gravel!), there’s lots and lots of fruit: very green, but ripe, fruit such as gooseberry and grapefruit, plus a little restrained tropical fruit. There’s lots of acidity but it’s smooth rather than spiky, with more body and texture than you might expect from a Sauvignon.
Andrew 8 [An integrated continuum from the nose though to the palate]
Paula 7 [Lovely and fresh]
Jess 6 [Prefer fruity Sauvignons]
Frankie 8 [Classic Sancerre!]
Food friendly Sauvignon that the Kiwis are now trying to emulate. This shows how Sancerre should be done, and why it became a classic in the first place.
Ars Nova Navarra Gran Reserva 2007 (€17.49, O’Briens)
Valentine’s connection: an appeal to the finer things in life – and seductive in the glass.
Named after the Mediaeval Latin for “New Art” (as in New Technique), this is a blend of 40% Tempranillo (well known in Rioja and elsewhere in Spain), 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot (both from Bordeaux). Its home region of Navarra had non-native (mainly French) varieties planted from the 1980s onwards, so now winemakers have a wide choice of ingredients.
As a Gran Reserva it has spent eighteen months maturing before being bottled – the producer mentions nine months in French oak so I’m guessing a further nine in a larger format of vessel. Alcohol is punchy but not overblown at 14.0%.
It shows smoke rather than vanilla characters from the oak, followed by red fruit (strawberry) moving into black fruit (blackberry, blackcurrant, blueberry) and a savoury finish. There’s perhaps an edge of leather and liquorice but they don’t dominate. Overall the impression is of fruit sweetness, plenty of tannin, well balanced.
Andrew 8 [My kind of wine, fruit and tannin together]
Paula 9 [My favourite wine of the night]
Jess 9 [Easy going, smooth, could drink this every day]
Perfectly poised between (fruit) sweet and (tannin) savoury, this was a big hit with everyone. It was a good match for the cheese but would also be great with beef, lamb or venison. Without the renown of Rioja, the winemakers of Navarra have really upped their game. The only downside to this wine was that a Lussac St-Emilion tasted afterwards was dry and thin in comparison!
Molloys Liquor Stores is a off licence group with 10 outlets around Dublin plus their website www.molloys.com. Their range is biased towards cost-conscious everyday bottles, but as they import many of them exclusively they can cut out the middle-man and offer good value for money.
Here are some of the highlights from their recent press tasting:
Champagne Jean Comyn “Harmonie” Brut NV (€34.99)
It’s a bakery in a bottle! An amazing brioche nose points to extended ageing on the lees – the minimum for a non vintage Champagne is 15 months but I would guess at double that or more. There’s fresh strawberry on the attack (from Pinots Noir and Meunier) followed by lemon (from Chardonnay), and a crisp finish.
This won a silver medal at last year’s IWC which is impressive for an unknown (to me at least) brand. Please don’t buy Moët, buy this instead – it’s far nicer.
Decoding the label tells us that this Prosecco is fully sparkling (Spumante) and north of off-dry – confusingly Extra Dry means no such thing, but consumers like to thinkthat they like dry wines. This is the most expensive of the five Proseccos that Molloys import – the extra tax on Spumante compared to Frizzante ensures it’s not one of the cheapest – but I think it’s also the best value.
I don’t mind a glass of Prosecco but I rarely fancy a second – this is an exception to that rule. This has a grapey nose (go figure!) and then pear and red apple on the palate, wrapped in a creamy lemon mousse. It’s not trying to be Champagne but it is a grown up drink that should please most.
Colombelle l’Original IGP Côtes de Gascogne 2013 (€8.99)
Gascony is more famous for its brandy – Armagnac – than for its wines. Thankfully this means that they remain a relative bargain. Colombard is usually the main grape, supported by Ugni Blanc and / or Sauvignon Blanc for a bit of extra zip. This example comes from Producteurs Plaimont, a quality and value conscious cooperative from South West France.
And it’s wonderful! So much fruit – ripe, round apples and peachy stone fruit – but with a crisp finish. This isn’t amazingly complex but it’s a very enjoyable tipple – and at a modest 11.0% abv a glass or two in the week won’t hurt. I’d serve this as an aperitif or as a match for roast chicken or a mild curry.
Beauvignac Chardonnay, IGP Pay d’Oc (€10.49)
In addition to various Pay d’Oc varietals, this modern producerCave Pomerols also makes AOP Picpoul de Pinet.
Tropical fruit is the order of the day here – pineapple, passionfruit and grapefruit dance around the nose. A touch of vanilla also becomes apparent on the palate suggesting some light oak ageing, but it’s well integrated and doesn’t jar at all. Malolactic fermentation is deliberately blocked which gives it a crisp, fresh finish.
So many inexpensive Chardonnays taste artificial but this is a nice drop. Would be amazing with scallops!
Heritiers Dubois AOC Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur lie 2012 (€11.49)
If you’ve ever shopped in a French supermarket you will no doubt have noticed a half dozen different bottles of Muscadet on sale. You might even have tried a few – after all, they’re quite inexpensive in France. But the odds are, you didn’t go back and buy more of the same. Muscadet’s reputation is not the best at the moment, mainly due to low quality / high yield production which results in austere, acidic and fruitless swill.
But every cloud and all that – those producers who do care about quality are unable to command high prices due to the general reputation of the area – and that means there are bargains to be had!
Sèvre et Maine is a subregion of Muscadet but doesn’t signify that much as it accounts for 80% of all Muscadets. Sur Lie means the wine was matured on its lees, i.e. the dead yeast cells left over from fermentation. This gives it a creamy texture and a bit more interest in terms of flavour.
So how does this taste? Full of lemon zest! It’s not austere, though it is racy and lean. It cries out for shellfish or delicate white fish. I expected not to like this, but it surprised me!
Château Bonnin Pichon AOC Lussac-St-Emilion 2008 (€15.49)
Lussac is one of the four satellite villages that can suffix the coveted name of St-Emilion to their wines. These villages don’t reach the heights attained in St-Emilion proper, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t offer some well made, drinkable wine. 2008 was a pretty-good-but-not-excellent vintage in Bordeaux; modern viticulture and winemaking means that the best can be brought out of whatever nature has presented.
As normal for right bank Bordeaux it’s Merlot that takes the lead (81%), with Cabernet Franc (15%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (4%) playing supporting roles. Oak, fruit and tannin are well balanced now and would evolve slowly over the next five years or so. I would guess some proportion of American oak given the flavour profile The fruit is dark – plum , blackberry and blackcurrant.
Drink this on its own or with red meat such as beef or lamb.
Gran Passione IGT Rosse del Veneto 2013 (€14.99)
From the hinterland of Venice, this big and velvety red is perfect a perfect winter’s night. Tannin and acidity are present and correct – it is very young – so decant for a few hours if you have chance, or serve with a hearty stew.
Think of this as a baby Amarone – it weighs in at 14.5% – but less complex and certainly cheaper! The grapes aren’t stated but I would guess at the typical Corvina / Rondinella / Molinara.
Cellier des Princes AOC Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2012 (€24.99)
The world famous southern Rhône appellation of Châteauneuf-du-Pape perhaps faces the opposite challenge to Muscadet – its reputation is so good that pretty much any bottle carrying its name can be sold for a premium, so someproducers churn out very average wine and put it in a fancy bottle. Thus the cheapest CNDP may not be a bargain at all.
Thankfully Molloys have got it right with this selection! It’s principally Grenache (90%), with Mourvèdre (5%) and Syrah (5%). Weighing in at a whopping 15%, this has bags of dark black fresh and dried fruit and Christmas spice. It’s wonderfully big and robust but velvety and smooth. It’s really far too young to drink now – it will open up a lot more over the next five to ten years – but it’s so delicious that it would be too tempting!
So firstly to dispel any possible misunderstanding – H2G is short for Honest 2 Goodness as apposed to H2G2 which is shorthand for the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy and its associated online encyclopedia. So not really alike. At all.
So now we’ve established that, what is H2G? It’s based around a farmers’ market held every Saturday in Glasnevin, north Dublin, run by brother and sister team Colm and Brid Carter. In the main Colm handles the wine and Brid the food, though of course there’s some crossover. They sell wines at the market, online and wholesale. The portfolio is imported directly by them, and mainly consists of sustainably-made wines from family producers in Spain, Italy, France, Austria and Germany.
And why “Barn-storming”? Well the high ceiling and large open door of the venue bring to mind a barn. Apart from the lack of hay. And animals. So perhaps a chai in the Médoc would be a more appropriate analogy…
The tasting covered a large chunk of their portfolio, including sparkling, white, rosé and red. Here I’ve picked out a few which really caught my attention, though the overall standard was very high.
Great version of a familiar wine: Enrico Bedin Prosecco DOC Veneto Frizzante NV
Yes that’s right, I’ve picked a Prosecco to start with! Regular readers may remember that I don’t usually care too much for Prosecco. Yes, it’s the base of the famous Bellini cocktail, but usually a single glass is all I can manage before switching to something else. If it’s only average quality, I might not even finish the glass.
Now this example surprised me – it was very pleasant to drink without being too sweet or flabby. It’s not a terribly complex drink, with notes of citrus, apple, pear and peach, but sometimes simple is just fine.
The Bedin winery is located in the foothills close to the mediaeval town of Asolo, known as the “Colli Asolani”, fairly close to Venice. As well as Glera (the official new name for the Prosecco grape) there’s also Bianchetta Trevigiana grown here, though that is most often used for blending or making vermouth.
This is the lighter sparkling Frizzante version; due to the lower pressure it doesn’t need a Champagne-style cork and cage so can be sold with a simple crown cap. Happily, these means less Irish duty than most fizz so the tippler wins for a change!
Familiar Grape From A New Producer: Weingut Setzer Setzer Weinviertel DAC Reserve Grüner Veltliner “8000”
Grüner Veltliner is Austria’s signature white grape, known as GruVee by the cool kids. It’s a real mouthful in figurative and literal senses – it’s generally dry but more full-bodied than many other whites. It deserves to be better known, though it’s always going to be more niche than Chardonnay.
If you like Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling then you need to give Grüner a try.
So what’s special about this example? The other GVs made by Setzer are very drinkable, but this premium version sets itself apart by both the quality of the soil and the unusually high vine density. In this 15 hectare vineyard vine density is right up at 8,000 vines per hectare, supposedly imitating that of the Côte d’Or in Burgundy, rather than the region’s usual 3,000 vines per hectare. The competition between vines lowers yields per vine, extends their potential lifespan and results in more intense flavours.
The soil itself is described as loess(look it up!) over gravel and limestone, coming from a raised seabed – perfect for drainage (vines don’t like wet feet).
A New Producer, New Appellation, New Grape: Chateau Saint-Go AOC Saint Mont
Although there’s a lot of tradition in the world of wine, things do move pretty fast at times. This appellation is located in Gascony’s Gers Department and got promoted to AOC from VDQS (the next quality level down) in 2011.
The producer, Plaimont, is a consortium of cooperatives in South West France. Their wine production covers the appellations of AOC Saint Mont, AOC Madiran, AOC Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh and IGP Côtes de Gascogne
At the H2G tasting their entry level white “En La Tradition Blanc” was very nice, though on the simple side. The Chateau Saint-Go itself was stunning, a wine you could happily contemplate all evening (as long as you could get a top up!) Roundness and texture come from some oak ageing, but oak doesn’t dominate the palate.
And what is the new grape? It’s made with Gros Manseng (which is familiar to lovers of Jurançon from further south), Petit Courbu (found in Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh AOC) and Arrufiac. I have to confess I hadn’t heard of Arrufiac, but it transpires that its increasing popularity is mainly due to the raised profile from Plaimont.
So there you go, you never stop learning in the world of wine – and the educational experience is a fun one!