Showing posts with label Classic Drinks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Classic Drinks. Show all posts

Thursday, February 18, 2016

From Rioja to Veneto. Crianza - Reserva - Ripasso

From Rioja to Veneto

Crianza - Reserva - Ripasso

Today, we travel from the Rioja in Northern Spain to the east of Lake Garda in the Veneto region of Northern Italy. And we have three pretty good wines to sample along the way! We’ll take it nice and easy and throw in a few not too difficult technical terms at the end.

Muriel Fincas de la Villa Rioja Crianza 2012, 13%, €14.99 (stockists include: Ardkeen Quality Foodstore (Waterford), Carpenters Off Licence (Dublin), Comet Off Licence (Dublin), JJ Gibneys (Dublin), La Touche Wines (Wicklow), Number 21 Off Licence (Cork), and The Wine Centre (Kilkenny).

Poor Soil is the Key!
This crianza is one hundred per cent Tempranillo and has spent 12 months in oak, and comes from the bottle with a nice bright cherry red robe. The aromas are of red fruit, wafts of vanilla. No shortage of flavour on the palate, some spice too, fine tannins and a lengthy finish. Highly Recommended.

Poor soil is the magic catalyst here, according to the winemakers. “The secret of the quality and expressiveness of our wines is the poor and balanced nature of our soil, exceptionally suitable for the vine.” Bodegas Muriel are in Elciego, one of the most famous villages of Rioja Alavesa.

Faustino V Rioja Reserva 2010, 13.5%, €18.98 (widely available, so shop around!)

9,000,000 bottles!
Faustino, with vineyards in the best parts of Rioja, is the largest privately owned vineyard in the region. “The winery holds more than 50,000 oak barrels and a permanent stock of some 9 million bottles - without doubt, the largest bottle collection we’ve ever seen”, says The Finest Wines of Rioja (2011).

Cherry red is the colour of this reserva and there are fairly concentrated dark fruit aromas, vanilla and spice notes too. Fruity and peppery, smooth with well integrated tannins and a good long finish. Highly Recommended.

The grapes are Tempranillo and Mazuelo (10%). It has spent 16 months in American oak and 24 months more in bottle. Match it with red meats and mature cheeses, says the winery. And they also recommend “flavourful fish such as tuna and squid in its ink”.
See more about Rioja and its wines here in a recent post.

Campolieti Valpolicella Ripasso 2012, €13.5%, €17.70 Karwig Wines

Second Time Around

Campolieti means happy fields and this Classico Superiore is produced by Luigi Righetti with Corvina as the main grape of the blend. 

In the heart of Valpolicella Classico, the Luigi Righetti estate is a small to mid-sized family run winery. The most exciting tradition to evolve from the Veneto region is the process used to dry grapes prior to pressing. Amarone and "Campolieti", the ripasso Valpolicella, have traditionally been the products to benefit from this process.

Aromas of plum and blackberry are noted in this rather fruity ruby red wine. Much the same fruits can be detected in the flavours. This has been made from grapes dried and put through the Ripasso method (see link below); this enhances the concentration. It also has a good dry finish. Ideal with Pasta, Risotto, Roasts, Red Meats. Highly Recommended.

Technical Terms
The red label (crianza) indicates 1 year in oak, 1 in bottle.
The burgundy label (reserva) indicates 1 year in oak, 2 in bottle.
Read all about the Ripasso method here.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Wines of Springfield Estate. Unfiltered. Unfined. Oozing Class!

The Wines of Springfield Estate.
Unfiltered. Unfined. Oozing Class!
Springfield Estate “The Work of Time” 2008, Robertson Valley (Western Cape, South Africa).

The Wines of South Africa's Springfield Estate are unfiltered, unfined, unstabilised. No pumps. No crushers. So how does this 2008 Bordeaux blend stack up? Brilliantly! And I'm not the only one impressed. In the latest edition of the Hugh Johnson Pocket Wine Book, the Springfield wines are lauded: “All ooze class, personality.”

The blend is Cabernet Franc (31%), Merlot (30), Cabernet Sauvignon (25) and Petit Verdot (14). They made their “maiden” vintage in 2001 from specially planted vines that were then nine years old.

This is how they produced the 2008: Grapes fermented whole (according to our ancient custom) and left for five weeks on their skins. A slow 2 years of barrel maturation followed and a further 4 years of bottle maturation. Finally, we released this wine, rich, classic and complex from age - of vines and wine. This long wait, justified only by our passion, does bear fruit. Its called “The Work of Time”.
Three of my Christmas five

In the aromas there is an immediately attractive mix of dark fruits (berries,plums) and the superb first impression is maintained on the palate, a delicious mix of fruit and spice, a fresh and lively personality, really well-balanced fine tannins too and a long finalé. Very Highly Recommended.
Springfield is a fairly common Irish placename. I live in one such and had over the years toyed with the idea of getting my hands on some wines from Springfield Estate. This Christmas (2015) I did something about it  and, as you can read, it proved to be something of an eye-opener! (Next year? Well, I notice there is an English sparkling wine called Mayfield!).

In a Cork connection (admittedly a rather roundabout one), the family that run Springfield Estate is the 4th generation of Huguenot refugees that left the Loire (with bundles of vines) in 1688. This particular group headed to South Africa while others made their way to Cork. And there is another Cork connection as Springfield's Jeanette Bruwer visited Cork a few years back and indeed gave a tasting during a class in the Ballymaloe Cookery School.


Thanks to the hard-working brother and sister team of Abrie and Jeanette, and using a combination of sometimes risky winemaking techniques (natural wild yeast for example), traditional methods and modern technology, Springfield produces a wine they are proud to call their own. Made on honour, as the bottle states. “Our honour is our conscience.” We need more producers like this, and not just in wine. An amazing story and you may read more of it here.

In all, I've tasted five of their wines recently including a pair of Sauvignon blanc. “Life from Stone” is one and, as the name suggests, this has a clean minerality about it. The other, “Special Cuvée” is more fruity and floral.

The Whole Berry Cabernet Sauvignon is another gem, intense, juicy and easy-drinking. Didn't make too many notes on these as we had them at the Christmas dinner. The rich creamy Wild Yeast Chardonnay was another that went down well on the day.

This beautifully balanced Bordeaux blend though is the star and Very Highly Recommended as indeed are the remarkable people behind Springfield Estate. The wines are imported by Classic Drinks.
Abrie and Jeanette Bruwer

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Rioja whites. Young ones are easy; old ones are worth chasing!

Rioja whites

Young ones are easy; old ones are worth chasing!

The old ones, the great ones, are found here in Haro

Vina Tondonia Aged Whites

Most Riojan whites are for made for easy consumption but some are not. Vina Tondonia aged whites are a different kettle of fish entirely and Jancis Robinson has been known to praise both them and “the waxy whites” by Marques de Murrieta.

Don't think I’ve ever had any of those waxy whites but I did call to Tondonia (or Bodegas Lopez de Heredia/Tondonia to give them their full title). I was then on the hunt for their famous aged Rosada but they had none, they don't produce it every year. You may read about the visit here.

I spotted racks of whites, all with a rich golden colour and, thinking out loud, said they must be sweet. “No,” said the assistant behind me (who had studied English in Ireland). “All our whites are dry.” After a tasting in their ancient bar in its ultra modern setting, I was convinced and bought a bunch of them. Needless to say, they are long gone.
They are not easy to get here but an internet search revealed that Dublin’s Black Pig have some on offer and you may check them out here. It will be well worth your while!

The Young Ones

Zuazo Gaston Rioja blanco 2013, 13%, 15.99
Stockists: The Goose Off Licence, Co. Dublin. Matson's Wine Store Grange & Bandon, Co. Cork.  Sweeneys's Wine Merchants, Co. Dublin. Number 21 Off Licence, Co. Cork.
Zuazo vineyard
This is a 100% Viura, the most widely grown white grape in Rioja, known as Macabeo in other Spanish regions and as Macabeu in France. It is also one of the main varieties of Cava. This Basque vineyard has been in the same family since 1850 and this comes to you in a Burgundy style bottle.

It is lemon/straw colour with green tints, really bright. The aromas, floral and fruity, have been enhanced by cold maceration of the must in contact with the skins. The palate is fresh and aromatic, creamy and generous, rich and round, yet well balanced and it has a quality finish as well. Highly Recommended.

El Coto Rioja blanco 2013, 12%, €11.75 Karwig Wines

This Viura has a very light straw colour with a nice intensity of white fruit aromas. On the palate, it is fresh, fruity (citrus mainly) and zesty, a decent mouthfeel, good acidity and a refreshing finish. Hardly a heavyweight but a pleasant lightweight, well priced and Recommended.

Muriel Vendimia Seleccionada Rioja blanco (DOC) 2014, 12.5%, 13.99

Stockists: Ardkeen Quality Food Store, Co. Waterford. The Parting Glass, Co. Wicklow. Simply Delicious, Co. Dublin. Matson's Wine Store Grange & Bandon, Co. Cork.



This is another Viura, another with the basic green sticker. Colour is a light gold but oh so bright and there’s a great floral and fruity mix in the aromas. Nothing too complex here, good fruit and acidity, with a pretty good finish, easy drinking and Recommended. Should match well with most types of salad and light food, as they say on the label.

Check out our mini-feature on leading Spanish winemaker Alvaro Palacios and how he is changing the balance in your Riojan red!
Watch out too for Rioja Rocks - some fabulous reds featured here.



Rioja Rocks. Voluptuous Red Wines

Rioja Rocks


Rioja wines are voluptuous; they  are round and full and rich. They are not Audrey Hepburn; they are more Marilyn Monroe.*
Samaniego, between Haro and Logroño (2012)

Rioja in the north of Spain is one of the great red wine areas of the world. Like some of the other big red wine areas, there is a river running through it. The Ebro, the longest river in Spain with more than 200 tributaries, has given its name to the peninsula. But where has the name Rioja come from … Hard to say! Ana Fabiano in her 2012 book, The Wine Region of Rioja, says there are twenty two theories! But she narrows it down to two serious ones.


One of the pair does include the River Oja, Rio Oja, a tributary that joins the Ebro near Haro, in the mix. It is convenient for the modern reader to jump to that conclusion. But, as Ana points out, it is too simple. The origin is clouded in history and by versions in so many languages, including local, invader and Euskara (Basque). Much easier though to work your way through the wineries, even if many of them have Basque names!

Must admit I didn't know until recently that Rioja (the wine region) and La Rioja (the administrative region) are not exactly the same. Vines don't recognise where the border ends and so a Rioja vineyard can extend into Navarra or Álava. Rioja is divided into three sub regions: Alta, Alavesa and Baja.

Tempranillo is the main grape in Rioja. She (yes, it is a she) is so called because she ripens early and the Spanish word Temprano means early.

*The Wine Region of Rioja by Ana Fabiano.

Rioja red wine stickers:

The green label (cosecha) indicates less than one year in oak, less than one in bottle.

The red label (crianza) indicates 1 year in oak, 1 in bottle.
The burgundy (reserva) indicates 1 year in oak, 2 in bottle.
The royal blue (gran reserva) indicates 2 years in oak, three years in bottle.


Finca Cien Vacas Tempranillo 2012 (Rioja), 13%, €11.95 Karwig Wines

Decent fruit and a matching acidity combine to make this a quality, easy drinking wine. Colour is ruby and you have a bowl of ripe red fruit in the aromas. It is one hundred per cent Tempranillo and has been produced by a family undertaking to be “pleasant, healthy and for daily consumption,.... reflect in a straightforward manner the qualities of the environment and the benefits of the vintage”. All sounds honest to me and the wine is Recommended.

This bottle has a green label indicating less than one year in oak, less than one in bottle. This level of wine is often spoken of as being joven (young) but you may never see that word on the label. More than likely, you’ll see cosecha (harvest).



Ardo by M. de Riscal Rioja 2013, 13.5%, €10.99 *

You’ll love the colour of this one, ruby with a shine. There are intense aromas of ripe red fruits. Fruit and spice combine in impressive attack, fine tannins too, superb body and balance and finish. This, made from younger grapes, has had a few months in oak. It is very good indeed for your basic cosecha (green sticker) and Highly Recommended.

Torres Altos Ibéricos Crianza 2012, 13.5%, €16.99 *


While Torres is synonymous with wine in Spain, it was only in 2005 that they first purchased land in Rioja. This wine is 100% Tempranillo and has spent 12 months in French and American oak. It bears the red crianza sticker. It was first produced in 2007. Torres don't rush and they now have just two wines from here, the second a Graciano. Watch this space methinks!
This deep cherry wine has aromas of ripe fruits, wood and spices. Quite a serious wine this monovarietal, bold and confident with fruit galore, elements of the oak too, a tannic grip, and a balancing acidity. Not of the easy drinking variety but well worth making the effort to get acquainted with this smooth customer. Very Highly Recommended.

M. de Riscal Arienzo Crianza 2010 (Rioja), 14% *
In 2008 Tempranillo, Spain’s flagship variety, accounted for 80% of the red wine harvest in Rioja. You’ll also see it called Tinta del Pais, Tinta Roriz (Portugal), Tinta de Toro, and more. The blend here is Tempranillo (90%) and five per cent each of Graciano and Mazuelo (Carignan).

Colour is ruby (with a super sheen) and it has ripe fruit aromas. Vibrant wash of fresh fruits leads the soft attack, some sweet spice there too and other hints of its 18 months in oak. The finalé doesn't lack for length. May not make the top wines of Riscal - after all it is a newcomer (2007) to the stable - but it will sit nicely on my short list. Very Highly Recommended.

Zuazo Gaston Rioja Crianza 2012, 13.5%, 17.99
Stockists: Ardkeen Quality Food Store, Co. Waterford. Carpenters Off Licence Castleknock, Co. Dublin. Chill in Off Licence, Co. Dublin. JJ Gibneys, Co. Dublin. Matsons Wine Store Grange & Bandon, Co. Cork. The Wine Well, Co. Meath
Zuazo
This comes with dark fruits aromas, hints too of its 12 months in oak. Fruit and spice on the palate, fine tannins too and sufficient acidity, complex and elegant, all before a long pleasant finish (with a hint of fruit sweetness). Highly Recommended.
This is listed as one of the best crianzas in Ana Fabiano’s Rioja. Can't argue with that. Indeed, it is that listing that alerted me to Zuazo Gaston. The bottle is of an unusual colour, frosted dark green which, when full, looks totally black. Looks well on the outside, and what is inside tastes well when you get it out!

CUNE Rioja 2011 Crianza (Spain), 13.5%, €10.00 Tesco
This bottle, from one of the longest established wineries in Rioja, has the bright red sticker that indicates its a Crianza with a minimum of 12 months in oak. It is drinking very well now. Uncomplicated, easy to drink and Highly Recommended. Penin, the leading Spanish wine guide, gave it 90 points.
Colour is a Cherry Red and there are very pleasant fruit aromas. Fruit flavours, fine tannins, plus the influence of its time in the oak and a matching acidity make this a very agreeable wine indeed and it has a decent finish too.
CUNE was founded in Haro 1879 as Compania Vinicola del Norte de Espana (CVNE). The transformed acronym, pronounced coo-nay, grew somewhere along the way! The sixth generation of the Madrazo family are now in charge.


Coto de Imaz Rioja Reserva 2010, 13.5%, €18.50 Karwig Wines
The bottle has the burgundy sticker indicating Reserva status. It is dark cherry in the glass with aromas of fruit (ripe, red) and spice. No shortage of power here, fruit, spice and wood wonderfully combining in a smooth show of Tempranillo at its best, power yes but in a velvet glove. It has spent 17 months in oak, well over the minimum twelve.
Founded in 1970, Bodegas El Coto is one of the “younger” Rioja producers and its wines are regarded as “wonderful Classic Riojas”. And indeed reverence is due here, excellent structure, well rounded and balanced and Very Highly Recommended.

Marques de Riscal Rioja Reserva 2011, 14%, €19.99 (down from 23.49) *

This superb reserva is made mainly from Tempranillo vines planted in the 70s. The Graciano and Mazuelo varieties, whose presence in the blend does not exceed 10%, provide crispness and a lively colour. The fruit has been hand-picked and the wine has spent 26 months in American oak.

That colour is a dark cherry and the aromas are of concentrated ripe fruits, hints too of the oak and also balsamic notes.  The palate is superbly rounded, smooth and elegant, tannins are very soft and there is a long finish, A top drop for sure and Very Highly Recommended.

They recommend pairing it with ham, mild cheeses, casseroles which are not highly spiced, bean and pulse dishes, poultry, red meat, grills and roasts.

* At leading independents, including Bradley's and O'Driscoll's of Cork and also available on-trade at leading restaurants and bars.

Check out our mini-feature on leading Spanish winemaker Alvaro Palacios and how he is changing the balance in your Riojan red!
More here on Rioja whites 

Alvaro Palacios. At home in Rioja.

Alvaro Palacios. At home in Rioja.
Decanter Man of the Year 2015.


Me, and a tub of Alvaro's favourite grape
Wine drinkers can be a bit like race-horse followers. When betting, the race horse fan may follow the form, may follow the trainer, maybe the jockey, maybe a combination. Wine drinkers too have their favourite region, a favourite grape, and sometimes a favourite wine-maker. Quite a few these days are following ace Spanish winemaker Alvaro Palacios (quite a few of his wines are imported by Classic Drinks).


“His pioneering nature helped to rescue both Priorat and Bierzo from oblivion,” said the April 2015 edition of Decanter when they named him their Man of the Year. His current focus is on the family vineyard in Rioja Baja. He is out of mainstream Rioja, away in the far eastern corner, in what he calls “Garnachaland”. “And I’m so happy about that.”


He sure loves his Garnacha as the following quote from The Finest Wines of Rioja shows. “Through its behavior, we can see that Garnacha is a very Spanish variety - perhaps even more than Tempranillo itself. It likes the sun, the heat, the stress from drought.”


“Alvaro has great affection for his vineyards and a relationship with the wines and the soil. That is where his passion lies. His great joy comes from growing old vines and maximising their ability and expression”, according to Ana Fabiano in Rioja, a recommended book on the region.


In the hilly vineyards of Priorat, he made his name with L’Ermita, “widely considered to be the most important Spanish wine of the modern era”. Made some money too with it: this will cost you a four figure sum! Not bad going for the seventh son of a family of nine. Fortunately for us, his Camins del Priorat and a few others are much more affordable, as are the majority of his Rioja wines, including the gorgeous pair below, so different to any Rioja red I’ve tasted before.

Palacios Remondo La Vendimia 2014, 14%, €17.99
Stockists: Ardkeen Quality Food Store, Co. Waterford. Baggot Street Wines, Co. Dublin. D6Wines, Co. Dublin.  The Wine Centre, Co. Kilkenny. Number 21 Off Licence, Co. Cork


Every now and then, a wine comes along and makes your tastebuds sit up and notice, makes you sit up and notice. That’s what happened when I was introduced to this amazing opulent  blend of Tempranillo and Garnacha from the far eastern corner of Rioja. The unusual element here is that there’s 50% Garnacha in the mix. Here too, in the area around the town of Alfaro, is where the first Rioja grapes are harvested each year.


Ruby is the colour of the Vendemia, perhaps a shade darker than most of the other young Riojas I’ve come across the past few weeks. There is rich mix in the aromas, fruit (cherry, plum), mineral, even herbal notes, also hints of vanilla. A soft mouthfeel, the wine is pleasant and full of fruit, no shortage of acidity, fine tannins, some spice too and a good finish as well. Very Highly Recommended and leaves me looking forward to their crianza.


Palacios Remondo La Montesa Rioja Crianza 2012, 14%,  €23.99
Stockists: Ardkeen Quality Food Store, Co. Waterford. Carpenters Off Licence, Castleknock, Co. Dublin. The Corkscrew Off Licence, Co. Dublin. Jus de Vine, Co. Dublin. Matson's Wine Store Grange & Bandon, Co. Cork. The Parting Glass, Co. Wicklow.

Named after the hill side slope (1800 feet) on which the fruit is grown, this unfiltered blend of Garnacha (70%), Tempranillo (25%) and Mazuelo (5%), is another gem from the Alfaro region of eastern Rioja, “a wine that invites you to enjoy life” according to the winemaker.

Ruby is the colour and there is a complex aromatic mix of fruit (cherry) and floral elements. With rounded fruit flavours and an immediately compatible mouthfeel, it flows smoothly across the palate, great finesse and elegance enthral and all before a stunning finish from a terrific wine produced from a year of “austere weather conditions”.
Just looking here at the winemaker’s notes and would have to agree: Perfect by-the-glass on its own or when paired with flavourful cuisine, La Montesa is a welcoming wine from Rioja that is sure to please both the novice and the true wine connoisseur alike. Very Highly Recommended. Lets hope Alvaro's love-affair with Garnacha continues.

Recent Rioja posts: Rioja Rocks and also Rioja whites.