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Wednesday, March 28, 2018
Three Well Recommended from South America
Altos Las Hormigas Valle de Uco Mendoza Argentina Malbec Terroir 2015, 13.5%, €25.99 Wine Online
The ants (Las Hormigas) love newly planted vines. But the owners didn't want to poison them, after all the ants were the original inhabitants; they lived with the nuisance and then found that the ants had no interest in the vines once they began to grow. (Source: Wines of South America by Evan Goldstein.)
The fruit for this one hundred per cent Malbec comes from the Valle de Uco, an area known for its fine fruit and floral bouquets. It can age for up to five years. Fifty per cent is aged in cement piletas (pools) for 12 months, 25% in stainless steel vats and 25% in untoasted large oak foudres.
Colour is a mid to deep ruby and there are aromas of plum and cherry. So smooth, fresh and spicy too, the perfect introduction. And so it progresses harmoniously across the palate, the lively acidity playing its part, all the way through to the long finalé. This is a marvellous Malbec, from producers well known for their Malbec, and is Very Highly Recommended.
Montes Alpha Malbec Valle de Colchagua (DO) 2013, 14.5%, €22.99 JJ O’Driscoll’s Wine Online
This wine comes from the Colchagua Valley in the centre of Chile. The Montes vines are irrigated under a Sustainable Dry Farming regime that has led to a 65% decrease in their water footprint.
It has a dark ruby robe, the legs slow to clear. The aromatic nose gives ripe dark fruits, toasty notes, hints of vanilla too. Palate is quite complex and intense, plums now prominent in the flavours, sweet notes too, though more or less well balanced. From a dry and sunny terroir, with outstanding fruit and aromas, this is a great example of Malbec from Chile and Very Highly Recommended.
According to the Wines of South America, Montes (founded in 1988) is credited for its pioneering work in the Colchagua’s Apalta district, the first to realise its potential as one of the best locations for red wines in Chile and “is among the most important wineries in Chile today”. As a further endorsement, their Alpha “M” (very limited production) is listed as one of the top 20 South American wines to drink before you die.
Amalaya Blanco de Corte, Valle Calchagui Argentina 2017, 12.5%, €17.99 JJ O’Driscoll’s Cork, Wine Online
Amalaya make only blends and this is a mix of Torrontés (85%) and Riesling (15%). In Salta’s high dessert, Amalaya vineyards begin a mile above sea level and are well known for Torrontés and Malbec. The journey up “is not for the faint-hearted” according to Wines of South America, who recommend Amalaya as a top producer in the area.
Colour is a mid-straw yellow. White fruits feature in the moderately intense aromas. Beautiful fresh flavours, grapefruit and citrus, on the silky smooth palate, the crisp acidity provides balance. Fruit stays to the finish where mineral notes are much in evidence. Highly Recommended.
Wednesday, October 4, 2017
Two Cracking Bordeaux Blends. But not from France
Bodegas Caro Amancaya Gran Reserva Mendoza (Argentina) 2015, 14.5%, €20.95 (I got it on offer at 16.95) O’Brien Wines
Bodegas Caro, founded in 1999, is a Catena family partnership with Domaines Barons de Rothschild, the owners of Chateau Lafite. “The operation focuses on classic red Bordeaux blends,” according to Wines of South America. “…all grapes for this project are purchased.” Caro tastings are held in their vineyard caves that date back to 1884. So there is some pedigree in both sides of the partnership.
The signature wine is Caro and other main labels are Aruma and Amancaya. The blend for the latter is based “on the elegant texture of Cabernet Sauvignon enhanced by the fruit of the Argentinean Malbec”. It has been aged in French oak and is more fruity due to the higher percentage of Malbec and shorter ageing. The name is the native Indian name of a flower found at high altitudes in the Andes in the Mendoza area.
Colour is ruby, the legs slow to clear. There are generous aromas of cherries and dark berries, plus sweet spice too. The palate has fruit (no shortage) and vanilla (from the oak) and it is noticeably dry. Tannins are still at play here in a smooth and elegant wine, supple and satisfying right up to and through the long finish. Very good on the first day and even better on the second; decant and take your time! Very Highly Recommended. A match with beef is guaranteed but venison may be the pairing to remember!
Marks & Spencer Margaret River (Australia) Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, 14%, €16.50 M & S
The Margaret River area, in Western Australia, is justifiably famous for its smooth and complex Cabernet Sauvignon, though usually at a higher price than this. Winemaker is Matt Byrne and producers Marks and Spencer say this is “a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon with Merlot (12%)”. The Decanter tasting panel recently gave it a score of 95 and awarded it Platinum: Best Value Australian Red Bordeaux Varietals.
Colour is a deep ruby. Dark red fruits feature in the aromas. It is indeed complex and smooth on the palate, juicy and full of intense blackcurrant flavours, some spice too, tannins on the lips (inside and out); the finish is very satisfying with the fruit still a factor and hints of the oak there too. Elegant and well balanced this is Very Highly Recommended.
Wednesday, December 7, 2016
Valle Aldino Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Central Valley (Chile), 13%, €12.70 Karwig Wine
Have you been reading The 24 Hour Wine Expert by Jancis Robinson? At €6.80 (Waterstones), it is well worth getting.
In a section called Be Adventurous, she lists 15 pairs, one wine The Obvious Choice, the other tagged The Clever Alternative. In Sauvignon Blanc, the obvious is Marlborough while the alternative is Chile.
The alternative, she says, can “be sometimes cheaper, often more interesting”. This Valle Aldino is certainly cheaper and, while not more interesting than the better Marlboroughs, is a good alternative at a decent price.
Colour is a light straw with tints of green. Fresh and grassy aromas, white fruits there too. Gooseberries and citrus flavours, with strong melon-y notes too, on the zesty palate, plus a decent finish. Recommended.
In 1990, the Bousquet family from Carcassonne in Southern France began to explore wine-making possibilities in Argentina. In 1997, they settled in Tupungato (Mendoza) in one of the highest vineyards in the world.
Mendoza’s Domaine Bousquet
A Blend Double
In 1990, the Bousquet family from Carcassonne in Southern France began to explore wine-making possibilities in Argentina. In 1997, they settled in Tupungato (Mendoza) in one of the highest vineyards in the world.
It is no less than 1,200 meters above sea level. There is a large difference between day and night temperatures. This variation (the thermal amplitude) helps create fully ripened grapes with good acidity. The heat of the day promotes the ripening, the chill of the night preserves acidity. Grapes are hand-picked and the vineyard is certified organic.
Domaine Bousquet Chardonnay - Pinot Gris Reserva 2010 (Tupungato, Mendoza, ARG), 14%, €18.80 Mary Pawle Wines
Colour is a light gold, clean and bright and a ring of bubbles stay around the rim for a while. It is strongly aromatic, some exotic white fruit and floral notes too. Concentrated white fruit flavours announce its arrival on the palate and the acidity ensures a happy balance. It is an elegant style with a dry and pleasing finish. Highly Recommended.
The mix is 85% Chardonnay and 15% Pinot Gris. And the Reserve apparently means that the grapes have been picked from the best plots.
Domaine Bousquet Cameleon Selection Torrontes - Chardonnay 2014 (Tupungato, Mendoza, ARG), 14%, O’Donovan’s Off Licence.
The Cameleon, one of their brands, symbolises the family story of Jean Bousquet, the leaving of France and adapting to the new life in Argentina. Adapted quite well going by this bottle, also Highly Recommended.
The blend here is fifty fifty. Aging is in stainless steel plus four months in bottle. Ideal, they say for seafood, fish dishes and cheeses. I say fine on its own and worth a try too with white meat and Asian dishes.
Colour is a light gold, clean and bright, much like the first bottle above. Aromas are of white fruits, floral notes too. On the palate there are fresh white fruit flavors, some sweet spice, an oily mouthfeel, more body here, that expected acidity and a long, dry and very pleasing finish.
This is what the family wanted from the blend and from their soil. “With its subtle attunement, this Chameleon is a conspicuous presence in a landscape of indistinguishable wine.” Don't know what the neighbours made of that statement!
Thursday, May 19, 2016
Cahors and its Marvellous MalbecAnd an Argentinian Gem
|A meander of the Lot|
This little piece was originally intended to put the spotlight on the under-rated Malbecs of Cahors (France), often regarded as the home of the grape. I had picked up two excellent examples, one organic, in Bradley’s, North Main Street. And then along came the outstanding Bousquet (also organic), from Argentina, where Malbec has found a new and very agreeable home. To read more about Cahors, check out this article in wine-searcher.com
Cahors was famous for its “black wines” even before Bordeaux became established as a producing area. It has had its problems, including phylloxera in 1883-1885. There was a rebirth for Malbec with the founding of the Parnac Coop in 1947. But trouble again in February 1956 when frosts wiped out almost all the vineyards of the region, which thus needed to be replanted en masse. In this replanting, Malbec became more dominant than it had been before. Cahors was awarded AOC status in 1971. Most of the vineyards are planted close to the River Lot as it winds its way west.
While Argentina led the major Malbec breakthrough in the United States, Cahors also made big strides there, once the Americans were informed that it was Malbec in the bottle! Quality Malbec too as you can see from the two below. Next time, you see Cahors on the label, have confidence!
Domaine Bousquet Malbec Reserve 2012 (Tupungato Valley, Mendoza, Argentina), 14.5%, €18.80 Mary Pawle
Colour here is a deep violet, close to black and there are intense jammy dark fruits on the nose. The palate is full of flavour, dark fruits, even a hint of coffee, very intense, strong but not at all heavy, excellent acidity and amazing length. A more mature number than either of the Cahors and Very Highly Recommended.
The blend here is Malbec (85%), Cabernet Sauvignon (5), Merlot (5) and Syrah (5). Aged in French Oak for 10 months. They say it is ideal with red meats,sauces, cheeses and pasta dishes.
|Got lost up in this area, even the Sat Nav got confused!|
Chateau Leret Malbec Reserve 2012 (Cahors, France), 14.5%, €16.95 Bradley’s Offlicence
This is a favourite in Bradley’s, a rich wine, intense, tannic, with great mouthfeel. Merlot and Tannat figure in the blend (up to 20% between the two possible). A wine to keep and when opened to enjoy “with game and complex dishes”.
This has a ruby red robe (well supported - love those Google translations!).The mix in the aromas is of black and mainly red fruits, jammy. There is a lovely balance of juicy fruit (some spice) and good acidity, fine tannins are gentle in the mix, and it all ends in long dry finish. Highly Recommended.
|In 1947, a few growers founded this cooperative in Parnac. Their goal was to revive the Malbec , the grape of Cahors. They succeeded and were still going strong a few years back when I called.|
Chateau du Cedre 2012 (Cahors, France), 13%, €18.95 Bradley’s Offlicence, Le Caveau
Another excellent wine from the land of the Lot. The blend here is Malbec (90%), Tannat (5) and Merlot (5). It has spent 22 months in a mixture of Troncais oak (⅓ rd new) and the winery is certified organic by Ecocert. Would you like to see what the certificate looks like? Check here.
This purple wine has aromas of dark fruits, some savoury notes too in there. Dark fruit too on the palate, ripe, rich and rounded, yet this medium-bodied wine, thanks to a lively acidity, has a youthful engaging aspect. Highly Recommended.
By the way, if you've bought a lot of this, don’t worry. Stored correctly (at 10/15 degrees and with an air moisture of at least 70%), the winemaker will “guarantee the quality of this cuvée for the next ten years”. Just saying.
Monday, April 11, 2016
This Bordeaux Is Hors Catégorie!
|Looking out over the vineyards from the top of the Sauve-Majeure Abbey|
Chateau Turcaud Cuvée Majeure 2014 Bordeaux blanc, 13.5%, €18.95 Le Caveau
Not too sure I should be shouting off the rooftops about this Bordeaux beauty. It is a perfect match - for me! I’m drawn first by its light gold colour. It almost sparkles in the glass. And then those complex aromas of white fruits (apple, pear) along with floral and minty hints and more. The deliciousness continues on the palate, enhanced by a rich voluptuous texture, a very pleasing balance of fruit and acidity, the oak nicely integrated, and a finish that lingers, reluctant to say goodbye.
Later, too late on this occasion, I read on the Chateau website that it “can benefit from decanting a half hour to a full hour before the meal, and is ideal served chilled but not too cold.” This wine, they add, is at its best as an aperitif or with marinated salmon, foie gras, fish terrine, scampi, scallops, lobster, fish in a sauce, white meat, and most cheeses.
Sauvignon gris (30%) plays a big role in the blend; also here are Sauvignon blanc (55%) and Semillon (15%). After fermentation in French oak (40% new), it is aged for six months on fine lees which are “stirred with a stick (bâtonnage) once a week to put the lees into suspension in order to produce more complex, aromatic wine”. I reckon they got it right! Very Highly Recommended or maybe, as they say in the Tour de France, hors catégorie.
Familia Cecchin Malbec 2015 (Maipu, Mendoza), 13.6%, €20.35 Le Caveau
Over-the-top labels usually make me quite cautious about the wine in the bottle. And when I saw that this Malbec expresses the “soul of those who make it”, I was thinking that's a bit over the top. But maybe not! This one, made from organic grapes, is Very Highly Recommended!
It has a dark violet colour with rich fruit aromas and a peppery drift as well. On the palate it may not be quite as in your face as some traditional Argentinian Malbecs but there is a gorgeous restrained rush of fruit flavours and a lively matching acidity, a delightful balance achieved, and with a smashing finalé.
Familia Cecchin, who farm in Maipu, Mendoza, is the first Argentinian winery to become part of the Artisan Craftsman Growers, a worldwide association of high quality winemakers. They work in a traditional manner, according to the Wines of South America -”They use horse-drawn plows, minimize the use of agricultural chemicals and use only native yeasts. The vineyards are bordered with aromatic plants.. to attract animal pests and keep them away from the vines.” They are well known for their Malbec, Carignan and Olive Oil!
Color is a lovely light gold, a bright one! The aromas include white fruit and blossom. Excellent white fruit (melon, peach) with good concentration, well rounded and refreshing overall plus a good finish. Eight months maturing on the lees helps. Highly Recommended.
This is the family speciality, their favourite! It is made from Sémillon harvested very ripe and partially passerillé (dried out). The full blend here (it will vary from season to season) is Semillon 70%, Sauvignon blanc 20, Muscadelle 10. They advise serving it with seafood, pike with white butter, grilled fish, a Cabécou. I’d like to try it with some of that fresh Goatsbridge Farm trout, also available in Kilkenny of course, and in many supermarkets.
Viticulture is biodynamic, the soil is nourished with seaweed and silica treatments to encourage microbial activity. Yields are low.
Menade Nosso Verdejo natural 2014, 13%, Vino de la tierra de Castilla y León, 13%, €19.95 (now 17.96) Le Caveau.
Castilla y Leon is a large region in northwest Spain that includes Rueda, now the undisputed home of Verdejo. The grapes for this wine come from Rueda itself, from Finca Menade. No added sulphur is used and the cork is covered by a waxy cap. Besides, a box of this wine will be packed with straw, perhaps to signify that it is a natural wine. Unlike its cousin (reviewed here too), it doesn't have the Rueda DO but don't worry, this is an exceptional wine and Very Highly Recommended.
There is a good depth of colour, strawy, and it is bright and clean. Aromas of white fruits and some herby hints too. Amazing mouthfeel, superb volume, impressive balance and a finish that goes on and on. If this is organic, keep the real wines coming, waxy cap and all!
I’ve seen the words greasy and oily used to describe the feel of this wine but don't let this put you off. It just means that there is more viscosity - you’ll note that the legs (or tears) on the glass are slow to clear.
Menade Verdejo 2014 (Rueda DO), 13%, €15.95 Le Caveau
This family run vineyard, just south of Valladolid, in Rueda, is certified organic. Hand-harvesting, carbonic snow (instead of sulphur), natural yeasts and low yields are among the techniques used to produce pure and expressive wines.
And this light gold Verdejo is a very good example. Aromas are of white fruits (citrus to the fore) and there are floral hints too. It has lovely fresh fruit, a refreshing acidity, dry, well balanced and an excellent finish. Highly Recommended.
Maison Ambroise, Nuits-Saint-Georges ‘Les Hauts Pruliers’ 2010, 13%, €46.35 Le Caveau.
Once on a vineyard visit, I noticed our guide was vigilant in moving us further away every time the tractor and sprayer came anywhere near our group. Now I read this about Maison Ambroise: Ludivine (Ambroise) explained the move to organic viticulture is one of true belief as she lost her grandfather due to illness caused by chemicals used in the fields.
The Les Hauts Pruliers vineyards are located on a very steep slope, just above Nuits Saint Georges 1er Cru ‘Pruliers’. Harvested manually, neither filtered nor fined, the wines are classic and expressive with distinct terroir-influenced personalities. This is quite a gem.
It has the typical lighter red colour of Pinot Noir and a bright one too. There is a tempting nose of black and red berries, some spice too. And this is echoed on the palate; smooth and elegant. Deep and rich, nicely balanced, a vibrant mid-palate all heading towards a long finish.
If Burgundy is Pinot Noir heaven, then this wine comes from a special piece of paradise. Maybe I should have waxed a little more on the lyrical side with this one, but the city below is flooded, the rain lashing down outside. Very Highly Recommended.
Thursday, January 21, 2016
From Both Sides of the Andes
|Cono Sur winemaker Adolfo Hurtado in the Opera House last year.|
“The Los Cardos wines are readily available and are among the world’s great values.” So says the recently published Wines of South America. Not that readily available around here but did find this one in the city centre Tesco a few weeks before Christmas and alongside it was the Block 18 which is made by Cono Sur winemaker Adolfo Hurtado who, coincidentally, was hosting a wine tasting in the Opera House at the time. “That will be good,” he told me. And he was right, as he usually is! The prices at the time of purchase were €18.00 for the Doña Paula and €20 for the Block 18 (a Tesco Finest).
Cabernet Sauvignon makes wine that can age for decades. The two below are very young but don’t worry. “South American Cabernets...are bursting with flavour at only a couple of years old.” declares Grapes and Wines. I think this pair confirm that.
Doña Paula Los Cardos Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Mendoza (Argentina), 14%
Los Cardos means thistles, “a sign of good terroir” according to the bottle. The vineyards, by the way, are at about 1050 metres up. Doña Paula is the Argentinian arm of the Chilean company Santa Rita. Malbec is their signature wine but they are also well respected for their Cabernet Sauvignon and more as you can see from the Wines of South America endorsement.
Despite the large size of the company, they make quite a lot of wine, including this one, from estate grown fruit. Colour is deep ruby and the aromas are quite expressive, featuring mainly dark fruit including typical blackcurrant scents. Quite an intense attack from this one, smooth fruit, spice and fine tannins and a long finish and Highly Recommended.
El Recurso Vineyard Block 18 Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Valle de Maipo (Chile), 14%,
This is also a dark ruby and the aromas are a shade more intense with dark berries and plums to the fore. It is smoother and rounder and more complete on the palate, more full bodied than the Doña Paula and the long lingering finish too is superior. Twelve months in French oak has had the desired effect in terms of complexity and smoothness. Very Highly Recommended.
The El Recurso Estate has vineyards divided into blocks and the grapes for this wine, carefully selected by Adolfo, come from number 18, selected for its privileged location in the upper north east Maipo Valley. The rocky, alluvial soil here contributes to the impressive colour and marked intensity. Great with grilled, roasted or barbecued meat.
Tuesday, December 8, 2015
All Red For YouGarnacha-Syrah-Nebbiolo
Ricossa Barola 2010 (DOCG), 14%, €17.00 (down from 22.99), SuperValu Christmas
In the Langhe hills it’s the aromas - of truffles, mushrooms, hazelnuts, coffee, and above all else, Barolo or Barbaresco wine - that sweep people off their feet. (Vino Italia).
Barolo, by the way, is a place in Piedmonte (Italy) and the grape is Nebbiolo. There is a minimum aging requirement of three years (two in barrel) and the result has been described as the king of wine, the wine of kings.
So let's be king for a day and try this vibrant ruby red. And yes there are gorgeous dark red fruit (cherries mainly) wafting up from the glass. The Riedel (Veritas 6449/67) has been made for New World Pinot Noir but it certainly works well here! The fruits are agreeably prominent on the palate but there is a great balance, some spicy elements too, a sweet and savoury experience and then the long dry finish. I really like this one, feeling rather royal! Very Highly Recommended.
Marco Real Corraliza de Los Roncaleses 2012, Santacara (Navarra DO), 15%, €15.50 Karwig Wines
Colour here is a bright cherry, long lasting legs. For me, nose is more fruit (cherry) than floral (which is highlighted on the label). Soft and full-bodied and elegant too, moderate acidity and yet, despite the high abv, the balance is fine; the finish is long and pleasant. Highly Recommended.
It is one hundred per cent Garnacha and wines made from this variety can be high in alcohol (as is the case here) and heady (not the case here!). By the way, I had this with Poulet Basquaise and it was an excellent match.
Think I may have been fairly close to this vineyard a few years ago when I came over the mountains from France to Roncesvalles, a major stop on the camino to Santiago. It was lunchtime and I was hoping to get the Pilgrim’s Meal but was told it was available only in the evening!
Finca Pasion Mi Fuego Syrah 2012 (Argentina), 13.5%, €13.50 Karwig Wines
Colour is a dark red (with a lighter rim) and it has ripe fruits aromas. Then you get the fruit again on the palate, spice too and quite fine tannins, a pleasant presence in the mouth plus persistent finish. Hand-harvested and estate bottled, this is easily quaffable and Highly Recommended.
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
White Across The WorldChardonnay-Riesling-Gruner Veltliner
El Grano Chardonnay 2013 (Chile), 13.5%, €14.30 Le Caveau
Sun, the snow capped Andes, and the Pacific Ocean have all influenced the character of this El Grano Chardonnay. So too has the French father and son winemaking team of Denis and Gregoire Duveau. Chile is their Pays de Rêves, their country of dreams, and their organic wines are known for their very pleasant roundness.
Colour is quite a pale gold. There is a nice aromatic drift of white fruits and blossoms. The palate is loaded with fruit, fresh and round and smooth, a very pleasant balance and long echoing finish. Does this please me? Answer is a resounding yes. Very Highly Recommended.
Another everyday wine, unoaked, from Mendoza. If giving this as a present, you can add your own personalised greeting on the specially designed back label.
And there’s no reason why you wouldn't give it as a gift. Its colour is a light gold, very bright. White fruits and floral notes on the nose, a good feel, flavours and finish from a lively and pleasant wine. Recommended.
Colour is a shiny light gold, totally clean; micro bubbles cling to the glass. Aromas are citric and orchard, even a weak drift of petrol. Tempting flush of fruit on the attack, crisp with a little tingle too in the mouth, a refreshing acidity and a long flavourful finish. Another thoroughbred from the Ehrhard stable and Very Highly Recommended.
Johann Strauss Gruner Veltliner 2013, Kremser Sandgrube Kremstal DAC (Austria), 12.5%, €16.15 Karwig Wines
Colour here is a light to medium gold, not quite as golden as the famous Strauss statue in the Stadtpark in Vienna. White fruits in the aromas, some blossom too. Minerality and fruit front the initial attack and then refreshing flavours take over, yet balance is perfect; all combine for an excellent finale, little wave after little wave.
The Kremser has long been recognised, the Romans among its early fans, as excellent for viticulture and this Gruner is Very Highly Recommended. The producers suggest matching it with asparagus, fish, pork and scallops. I found it excellent too as an aperitif.