Showing posts with label Australia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Australia. Show all posts

Monday, February 6, 2017

Irish Focus at Australian Day Tasting. Classics and New Wave Impress

Irish Focus at Australian Day Tasting
Classics and New Wave Impress
I was determined to concentrate on the Focus Table, this year featuring a selection of 31 wines by Irish wine personalities who have a keen interest in Australia, including Liam Campbell, Martin Moran, Harriet Tindal, Colm McCan (Ballymaloe) and Gavin Ryan (Black Pig, Kinsale). The figure was supposed to be 24 wines but it did get extended!


Laura Jewell MW, Wine Australia Head of Market EMEA, said:  We hope this new section adds an extra dimension to this year’s event. Having looked at the nominations, these wines really do highlight the diversity of Australian wine and reinforce the country’s reputation as a premium wine producer.” 

The promise, and it was kept, was that “great classic wines from the likes of Cullen, Clonakilla and Bindi will be on show, plus new-wave artisans like Jauma, Ochota Barrels and Gentle Folk”.  

So the signs were good as I arrived at the Royal Hibernian Academy and sought out the Focus Table. And I made a sparkling start with the House of Arras ‘EJ Carr Late Disgorged’ Tasmania Chardonnay Pinot Noir 2003. Fresh and vibrant, an amazing sparkling wine.

Then followed a string of young Rieslings, including the Josef Chromy ‘SGR’ Tasmania Riesling 2016 with an ABV of just 7.5% and a delicious Skillogalee Clare Valley 2015 by Dave Palmer, “mineral, dry and crisp” as noted by Gavin Ryan from Kinsale’s Black Pig who selected it.

The Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Hunter Valley Semillon 2011  was superb, “intense and complex, but elegant and refreshing” noted Martin Moran. It was all good around here and the standard was maintained by the Bird in Hand Adelaide Hills Grüner Veltliner, the grapes picked in the cold of the night to retain flavour and freshness.

Maximum drinkability and enjoyment is the aim of the producers of the Gentle Folk Forest Range Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir 2015, the first of the reds and the first of Ballymaloe's Colm McCan’s selections for the table. I reckon the producers got it right as did Colm.

There were quite a few Syrah and Shiraz at this point, all very good including the Payton and Jones ‘Major Kong - Planet of the Grapes’, Yarra Valley 2015. My favourite though was the blend: De Bortoli ‘La Boheme Act Four’ Yarra Valley Syrah Gamay, imported by Febvre and a Liam Campbell pick. 

The Colm McCann selection, Jauma ‘Audrey’ McLaren Vale Shiraz 2015, is produced biologically and intrigued with its “cider-y” notes.

Some excellent Grenache on the table too including Ochota Barrels ‘The Fugazi Vineyard’ McLaren Vale 2015, the Willunga 100 McLaren Vale 2015, and the Cirillo ‘1850 Ancestor Wine’ Barossa Valley 2011. The Cirillo was chosen by Ian Brosnan of Ely and he admitted that, until recently, he had never tasted Grenache of this quality.

And quality too, at a very good price, in Kevin O’Brien’s Kangarilla Road Terzetto, a McLaren Vale blend of Sangiovese, Primitivo and Nebbiolo. It is a favourite of mine, was chosen by Liam Campbell and is available at O’Brien Wines.

Perhaps the best blend of the lot came towards the end: the Cullen ‘Diana Madeline’ Margaret River Cabernet Blend 2014, imported by Liberty Wines and nominated by Gavin Ryan who has fond memories of enjoying it at a full moon harvest party in Margaret River.

Time then for a chat at the Liberty Wines stand with Garry Gunnigan and new recruit Marcus Gates and a tasting of their sweet wines before heading into the general wine area.

Here we soon met up with Jonny Callan of Cabroso Wines who import the Kelly’s Patch range to Ireland and we hope to link up in Cork soon and find out more about the company.

Having concentrated on the Focus Table we missed out on many stalls, including McGuigan where they were tasting the impressive Founder’s Series that I enjoyed in Kinsale a few months ago.

Hard to go wrong with the Deakin Estate and Katnook Wines that are imported by Findlater (and available in Cork in Bradley's and other outlets). 

Next time I'm up in North Main Street, I'll be looking at some of the Penfolds that Laura introduced me to at the Findlater’s stand. Both the Bin 2 South Australian Shiraz Mataro (that is what the Australians call Mourvedre) 2012 and the Bin 28 South Australian Shiraz 2011 impressed.

With Marcus (Liberty Wines)
Been writing this and wondering how the Australians get to name their wines. Heard a good story from Michael at the Lanchester Wines stand as we sampled the excellent ‘Don’t Tell Gary’, a McPherson Shiraz 2015 from the Strathbogie Ranges. 

This wine is a labour of love - one the accountants didn't know about.  In 2014, winemaker Jo Nash discovered an exceptional parcel of Shiraz from the Grampians which she gently crushed, then tucked away in some ridiculously expensive French oak barrels to age for 12 months.  

All the while, she was urging her fellow employees: “Don’t tell Gary”. No one did tell Gary, her boss. Now the wine speaks for itself - minimal intervention, purity of fruit, Shiraz at its best and Jo has been given free rein to investigate other possibilities in the vineyard!
John (left) and Michael at Lanchester Wines
See also earlier article on great selection of fortified sweet wines at the tasting here.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Tawny. Muscat. Topaque. Top Sweet Wines from Australia.

Tawny. Muscat. Topaque.
Top Sweet Wines from Australia.

Australia’s wine industry began with sweet fortified wines and the stickies were in great form at the Australia Day Tasting last Monday in Dublin’s Royal Hibernians Academy.

I was determined to concentrate on the Focus Table, this year featuring a selection of 31 wines by Irish wine personalities who have a keen interest in Australia, including Liam Campbell, Martin Moran, Harriet Tindal, Colm McCan (Ballymaloe) and Gavin Ryan (Black Pig, Kinsale). The figure was supposed to be 24 wines but it did get extended.
Chris Pfeiffer

It included three sweet wines so I had to be patient, working my way through the white and the red before getting my hands on them. The d’Arenberg ‘Nostalgia Rare’, a McLaren Vale Tawny, more tawny port style than ruby, according to Liam Campbell’s note, was delicious. McCan’s choice, the Skillogalee ‘Liqueur’ Clare Valley Muscat NV, from Dave and Diane Palmer, poured slowly from the stubby bottle, a sweet stream, sweet but with balance.



And it was the Pfeiffer Wines Rutherglen Muscat NV, a Martin Moran pick, with its heady complexity and orange notes that was my favourite of the trio.

And there were more from the Rutherglen area at the Liberty Wine table, sipped as we chatted with Gerry Gunnigan and new recruit Marcus Gates. First up was the Chambers Rosewood Muscat à Petits Grains Rouge NV (€18.99) and the direct comparison was with the ‘Old Vine’ Rutherglen Muscat à Petits (34.99).

The first is unctuous and rich, yet balanced. The ‘Old Vine’ , with orange, raisin and floral aromas, and a concentration of riches on the amazing palate, and again that balance. Both delicious but, if feeling flush, go for the Old Vine which has had the benefit of going through their specific Solera System.


Back then to visit Chris and Robyn Pfeiffer at their stand and, first to try their Topaque Rutherglen Muscadelle NV (previously called Tokay). “This is 100% Moscatel. It is well ripened. There is plenty of accumulated sugar but we don't lose the fruit.” And this luscious flavour-full wine is another stickie gem.

On a previous visit to Cork, Chris revealed that the table wines “pay” for the fortified wines which are regarded as “an accountant’s nightmare, because they tie up so much capital”. Fortunately, thanks to people like Chris, the accountants don't always have their way. “Fortified wines are undervalued...they deliver great punch for your pound!”

Colm picked a good one.
And, on that occasion, at The Hayfield Manor, I had the pleasure of sampling the even rarer Pfeiffer Grand Muscat. It is twenty years old and has spent most of that time in barrel. “It is a very special occasion wine (like old Cognac). It is very complex and you don't need much.”

That left me wishing for a tasting of their Rare Muscat, four years older than the Grand. “Like to get a  sip or two of that sometime”, I said to myself that night. And it finally happened in the RHA when Robyn produced a bottle and we drank the amazing wine, clinking our glasses in honour of the departed Joe Karwig, the wine-person’s wine-person who left us too soon (in late 2015). A fitting end to my stickie excursion at the Australia Day Tasting.
Rich and rare
Robyn Pfeiffer and Johnny McDonald

Monday, November 28, 2016

A Hat Trick of Quality Reds

A Hat Trick of Quality Reds

Iniza 4 Cepas 2009, Vino de la Tierra Laujar-Alpujarra, 14%, €18.30 Le Caveau

Here’s a pleasant surprise for me, for you. Made organically by Bodega el Cortijo in the Almeria region of Spain, where summer days are hot and the nights cool, this was an unexpected beauty, an Almerian ambush of the most pleasant kind. It is a blend as you’ve probably guessed from the name and the four grapes are Tempranillo (30%), Syrah (40), Merlot (20) and Petit Verdot (10).

Colour is a dark red and the aromas are of red and darker fruits, spices too. It is full bodied, full flavoured, spice again, fine tannins, a lovely balancing acidity and long finish. An excellent wine and Very Highly Recommended. Great value too.

Quinta do Penedo Tinto 2010, DAO (DOC) Portugal, 12%, €17,25 Karwig Wines

Grown on granite soil that helps produce fresh and mineral wine, this is a good one. The blend is Touriga Nacional (70%) and the deep coloured Alfrocheiro. Foot-treading is employed before the wine is aged in used French and US oak barrels.

Deep ruby is the colour and the aromas speak of ripe dark fruits with slight spices notes there too. There is excellent acidity in this fresh well-balanced medium-bodied wine. Tannins are ripe and the finalé is soft and lingering. Highly Recommended. Possible food pairings: red meats, liver, salami and game.

Wolf Blass Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon (South Australia) 2014, 13.5%, widely available c. €13.00, €14.00
This wine is part of a rugby (union) linked promotional drive to mark the winery’s 50th anniversary. A message under the cap tells instantly if you’ve won a prize such as a Rugby Capital Weekend. Of course, you also get instant confirmation if you’ve lost! That was my fate and I felt the ball had fallen off the tee even before I got my kick away. Ah well, better luck next time I “chase the cap”.

The winery has long been producing very good wines under the Yellow Label, ten varieties in all, all meant to be “bright fruit-driven and full of flavours” and they certainly hit the target with this one which is Highly Recommended.


This dark red has ripe fruits (Cassis mainly) in the aromas. It is full of luscious dark fruit flavours but very well balanced. Some oak has been used in the maturation but it has been nicely judged, the effect subtle. Fine tannins and sufficient acidity to make it a good food wine - steak recommended!


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Top Red Trio from SuperValu. Delicious Whites too.

Top Red Trio from SuperValu
The annual SuperValu Christmas showcase gets underway tomorrow, 24th of November, and here are three reds (from many) to watch out for. My top three consist of an Italian style Shiraz from Australia, a lovely food-friendly Sangiovese from Tuscany and a delicious Rioja to try with the red meats, leg of lamb in particular. Cheers!

Nugan Alfredo Dried Grape Shiraz 2012 (Australia), 14.5%, €19.99 (15.00 from 24/11) SuperValu

The dried grape technique is borrowed from Italy. It is used mainly to increase concentration. Five days then in contact with the skins before going on to spend 12 months in French and US oak. It comes in a noticeably heavy bottle!

Darkly coloured (garnet), it is lighter towards the rim.  It has very inviting fruit aromas, cherry and plum. And the velvety palate is certainly concentrated, complex deep flavours (that cherry again), some spice too; quite intense; excellent acidity too and it has a long finish. Very Highly Recommended.

Castellani Arbos Sangiovese (IGT Tuscany) 2013, 13.5%, €12.99 (10.00 from 24th Nov) SuperValu
Vanilla is prominent in the aromas of this Highly Recommended medium red; darker fruits there too. On the palate, it is smooth and fruity (cherries and plums), drifts of spice too, plus that quintessential acidity (almost an ever-present in Italian wines), and fine sweet tannins make it a pleasure in the mouth and the dry finish ain't bad either. Great value.

The producers aim has been to use the best Sangiovese grapes “to produce a Tuscan red dominated by fruity and spice notes, typical of the grape”. This worthy effort may be enjoyed with red meats and pasta dishes.

Pagos de Labarca AEX Rioja (DOC) 2011, 14.5%, €22.99 (18.00 from 24th Nov) SuperValu
Vanilla for sure in the complex nose but fruit shines through as well in this dark cherry red. That excellent balance is also noted on the smooth palate, tannins close to fine, plus some spice too, fruit and wood are well integrated and then follows a long and juicy finish with the dark fruit and vanilla still in harmony. Highly Recommended.

Bodega Covila, a co-op in Alavesa, regard this, rightly I think, as a Premium wine. It is a limited edition, just 6,400 bottles. It has excellent acidity and should be a good match for roast leg of lamb (no mint sauce though!), a match to repel the December chill and reinforce the Christmas cheer.

All Right With SuperValu Whites

Coopers Creek Dillons Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Marlborough (New Zealand), 12.5%, €14.99 (12.00 from 3.11) SuperValu
Best enjoyed young and fresh, say Coopers. So let's get at this Dillons, part of their Select Vineyards series.  It is light gold in colour with white fruit aromas (gooseberry, lime and peach in the mix). A power of flavour on the intense palate, balanced by a delicious acidity. Young and fresh it comes with a reverberating finish. Not to be left on the shelf. Highly Recommended.

Abellio Albarino 2015 Rias Baixas (DO), 12.5%, €13.99 (10.00 from 24/11) Supervalu

Liked the colour of this immediately, an inviting medium gold. It is hand-harvested and ideal with shellfish and fish and also recommended for lightly spiced Asian chicken dishes. The medium intense aromas are of white fruit. It has a smooth character on the palate, intense fruit (pear, apple and peach) with refreshing minerality. It is zesty and well balanced and Highly Recommended.

Domaine Les Guignottes, Les Resses Montagny 1er Cru 2014, 13%, €24.99 (€20.00 from 24/11) SuperValu




Not too much to say about this - just go out and buy and enjoy! This classic Chardonnay has beautiful intense white fruit aromas, peach the most prominent. Colour is a bright gold and there are amazing fruit and nut flavours, some spice too. The acidity too is outstanding. Fresh, with  a gorgeous mouthfeel and a long finish. Very Highly Recommended. 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Neil McGuigan in Kinsale. Where Everybody Knows Your Wine

Neil McGuigan in Kinsale
Where Everybody Knows Your Wine

  

Neil McGuigan of Australia’s McGuigan Wines was delighted to be back in Ireland - where people pronounce his name correctly. It had been a busy week for the Chief Winemaker, with engagements in Dubai and Malta and then time out in London to celebrate the company being named International Winemaker of the Year for a record fourth time.

Twenty four hours after collecting the trophy, Neil was speaking at Friday's wine dinner in the Pier One Restaurant in the Trident Hotel, with the bow of an ocean-going freighter about 25 yards behind him (it was tied up!). Carole Norman welcomed him on behalf of the Order of the Wine Geese and also introduced Michael Barry of Barry and Fitzwilliam who import the wines.

Neil lauded the involvement with Barry’s saying it is much more than commercial at this stage. “We got Kate (Barry) out to Australia to do a vintage and we sent son Matthew over to Ireland. I reckon we got the better deal!”, he joked.
Frizzante!
They are well known for their Black Label series and are building on that with the intention to go “iconic”. He acknowledged James Busby as “the father of the Australian wine industry”. And he listed other pioneers including Penfolds in 1844 and, joking again, McGuigan in 1992! The early winemakers concentrated on making fortified wines, helping the government get drinkers off the much stronger rum that was then popular.

“Table wine was a late starter and it was only in the 1970s that it took off. Before that we had no idea that we could make wine.” And he pointed to the fact that they started putting the variety on the label and that proved to be their toe-in-the-door of the international market. “We made it simple for consumers and the move helped Australia go forward to Europe and the world.”
My favourite on the night

Then he paid tribute to his family, recalling how his grandfather “got us involved”. His father worked with Penfolds for decades and “we got him to one hundred and he was a wonderful guidance to us”. Neil's brother Brian established the brand “giving me a vehicle to drive”.

“I run a wine company and it is all about the wine. We want to over-deliver on quality at every price point. Purity of fruit is our aim, to see the grape reflected in every bottle. Awards are all well and good but innovation is very important.”

And that had been illustrated as we came in. Our welcome drink was a McGuigan Frizzante (Neil loved pronouncing that one!) and it comes in a resealable bottle. Produced from Semillon grapes, it is “easy drinking, for everyday”. 
The beef, tender and delicious

Yours truly with Neil McGuigan (left)
The Trident kitchen were in top form and our first plate was a delicious Smoked Duck, caramelised plum and celeriac remoulade and the wine here was Tempus Two Silver Series Pinot Gris. Tempus is a “boutique winery” in McGuigan and the wine was “French style, pears on nose, richness on the palate”.

Next plate was a delightful soup with a crunch: Wild Mushroom, Truffle Oil and Hazelnut Soup. And the wine was a killer, perhaps the best of the night, for me anyhow. Any remaining prejudice against Australian Chardonnay will be blown away by one sip of the McGuigan Founders Series. 

“Chardonnay is the prince of white grape varieties. We may have put people off but we have brought the pendulum back. Grapes are no longer over-ripe; these come from the cool climate of the Adelaide Hills.”

It is lovely, elegant and refreshing, an outstanding example of the grape. Neil told me that it is well oaked but you hardly notice it as the freshness is amazing. “Getting the pH right in the vineyard is key”, he emphasised.

After that, we enjoyed the Brioche crumbed scallops, Rosscarbery black pudding, pear and cauliflower puree. While I was really enjoying the Chardonnay, I found the Pinot Gris a better match with this dish!

There was a choice of mains: Port Wine Braised Jacobs Ladder (beef), Brussels sprouts and chestnut potato or Grilled fillet of sea-bream, pumpkin and cumin mashed potato, chilli and coriander butter.

Their 2013 Cabernet, part of the Founders Series, had great balance and was very approachable, just the job for the beef. “We find the Cabernet has lots of early flavour and then tannic at the end but has a hole in the middle! We fill that hole with richness from the oak. Coonawarra is great for Cabernet”.

The wine suggested for the Sea Bream was a Rhone style blend, their Tempus Two Silver Series Grenache (75%), Shiraz and Mourvedre. Rich, vibrant and full bodied, it was soft and rounded and absolutely spot-on with the fish.
Frizzante!

And that Founder Series Cabernet was very much in evidence again as we finished off a superb evening of food and wine and no little chat with a delicious Munster Cheese plate. Neil was on his feet for one final time, extending thanks to the Trident kitchen and staff. 

And he re-affirmed that special relationship with the Barry family. “Ireland is special to us and we will continue working with the Barry family. We are excited, tirelessly seeking new things, new varieties, new styles.” 

A few hours later, he was on his way to catch a flight from Dublin to Dubai, hoping to be back in Australia on Sunday evening. Such is the life of a wine-maker. You can make all the wines you want but someone must get out and sell them! Bon voyage and see you next time.


* McGuigan cultivates grapes in the Lower and Upper Hunter, Mudgee, Cowra, Adelaide Plain and Adelaide Hills, Murray Valley, Barossa and the Limestone Coast and processes in three operating wineries. No wonder they claim to be "The Flavour of Australia".

This fisherman, sculpted by Graham Brett and seated in the
forecourt of The Trident, endured a frosty night.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Down Under with O’Brien’s. Advice: Watch those sales!

Down Under with O’Brien’s
Advice: Watch those sales!

I always try and keep an eye out for the regular sales at O’Brien’s Wines. Some are quite short-lived. That was the case with their Australian & New Zealand one. But I did make that and bought these two, the Penfolds at 16.76, the D’Arenberg at 15.96. A decent saving and very decent wines indeed. I should follow my own advice more often!

Penfolds Koonunga Hill Seventy Six Shiraz Cabernet 2014, South Australia, 14.5%, €20.95 O’Briens

The name Seventy Six is a tribute to the “original and now legendary 1976” Shiraz Cabernet. This multi-regional blend is Shiraz (c.80%) and Cabernet Sauvignon and is regularly billed as a “retro” wine.

It is a deep red to purple with a lighter rim and the legs are slow to clear (you know why!). There are intense dark fruit aromas and pretty intense on the palate too. Dark fruits, some spice (it has spent 15 months in a mix of old and new (15%) oak, silky tannins and impressive length. Highly Recommended.

Penfolds are master blenders, “able to craft wines of distinction without ever compromising on quality”. Andrew Baldwin is one of their winemakers and, last November, I met him here in Cork and asked for a few tips on starting to explore Penfolds.

Without hesitation, he recommended this very wine because of “its drinkability, lots of fruit”. By the way, he also told me that the Koonunga Hill Chardonnay is “really approachable”. So there’s another tip for you!

D’Arenberg The Footbolt Shiraz 2012, McLaren Vale (Australia), 14.6%, €19.45 O’Brien’s Wine

Tasted this early in the year at the Australia Day tasting in Dublin, so I knew I was on to a little beauty.

It is one hundred per cent Shiraz, harvested in small batches, gently crushed and then transferred to open fermenters. Foot treading is undertaken two thirds of the way through fermentation. The wine is basket pressed and then aged in a mixture of new and used French and American oak for 12-18 months.

The Footbolt names comes not from the treading but from a favourite racehorse of the Osbourne family. In 1912, Joseph Osbourne made the hard decision to sell his horses to buy d’Arenberg.

Colour is a clean and bright purple. No need to nose the glass here as the aromas - attractive dark berries and plums mainly - come up to meet you. Terrific fruit too on the palate with great balance, tannins are fine, lovely sophie too and a lingering dry finish. Ootbolt is a favourite here and Very Highly Recommended.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Saturday is Cabernet Day. Two to enjoy!


Saturday is Cabernet Day
Cabernet Sauvignon accounts for nearly 65% of the vines planted in the Margaux appellation. “It gives wine structure, bouquet, and a potential to age.”

The related Cabernets, Franc and Sauvignon, celebrate their day this coming Saturday (September 3rd).

Cabernet Sauvignon is the most famous red wine grape. It is highly adaptable, will grow in different climates and soils. So expect good quality examples from many countries, especially from France (mainly Bordeaux), USA (California), Australia (below) and Chile (Cono Sur’s Silencio is a prime example, if an expensive one). Good Cabernet Sauvignon can pop in from anywhere, including from Craggy Range in New Zealand and Ernie Els in South Africa.

It is also a very well-known variety so its name on a bottle means that the customer has a familiarity with it and that gives the marketing people an immediate edge. No wonder it  sells well in so many countries.

But you still have to be careful. It is a high-yielding vine and that means producers can go for quantity over quality! So the words Cabernet Sauvignon on the label are not a guarantee of a good bottle. The two below though are good!

Cabernet Sauvignon originated in Bordeaux and is grown all around the region, invariably blended (though there is no universal formula for the mix). Regular blend partners are Merlot and Cabernet Franc and sometimes a little Petit Verdot is added.

DNA profiling (should we all get it done? Maybe not!) has confirmed Cabernet Franc is the daddy of Cabernet Sauvignon and that Sauvignon Blanc is the mammy.


Tahbilk Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Victoria (AUS), 13.5%, €18.25 Wines Direct

For decades now, Australian has been associated with top class Cabernet Sauvignon. Margaret River in the west has outstanding examples. Our excellent example comes from the east, from the Nagambie Lakes region of central Victoria, one of the nation’s premier viticultural areas. Since 2012, Tahbilk Winery has been certified Carbon Neutral.

Nothing neutral about this violet beauty though. Blackcurrants, and some spice, feature in the pleasant aromas. Some serious flavours on a well rounded palate, tannins are fine and the finish is good. A excellent example indeed and Very Highly Recommended.

Lalaurie T’Wines Cabernet Sauvignon - Syrah, Pays d’Oc (IGT), 2015, 13.5%, €11.75 Wines Direct

Once upon a time, according to Grapes and Wine (2015), the classic Bordeaux blend included Syrah. This blend is very popular nowadays in Australia but the one we’ve got comes from much nearer home, from the Languedoc.

Bit wary of these funny wine names, this one coming because the two leading women in the winery are twins (and one is a marketing expert!). But I needn’t have worried. This is a very engaging wine and good value to boot.

It has a bright ruby colour and the aromas are mainly of blackcurrant. It is very approachable, medium bodied, well balanced between fruit and acidity, minimum tannin presence. Not the longest but a decent finish nonetheless. Easy drinking and easy to Recommend!