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Wednesday, August 9, 2017
A Grand Sparkler and a Little Scamp!
Meyer-Fonné Crémant d’Alsace (AOC) Brut Extra NV, 12%, €26.85, Le Caveau
Crémant is the term for any French sparkling wine produced by the méthode traditionnelle, outside of the Champagne region. Subject to similar rigid guidelines, Crémant d’Alsace is produced at the highest level of quality, but available at a fraction of the cost. The Alsace version scores well on quality and price and Crémant d’Alsace is a top-seller in France.
This blend, imported by Le Caveau, uses Pinot Blanc, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir. It is champagne in everything but name and price. These organic bubbles will grace any celebration, from a wedding to the sun coming out in these parts.
Dry and tangy and then a wave of ripe apple flavours that goes all the way to a tingling finish. This is a serious and distinguished wine, with appealing aromatics, well balanced with lip smacking acidity. This won't let you or your guests down and is Very Highly Recommended.
Terra di Pietra Piccola Peste Valpolicella (DOC) 2015, 12%, €18.95 Le Caveau
Here, technology has little influence: “..what’s needed are hands, nose, heart and passion, every day.” Farming is organic, conversion started in 2011. The blend is mainly Corvina and Corvinone, with some Rondinella and Molinara. The label is drawn by the children of wine-maker Laura Albertini, a young mother who tragically died earlier this year.
The colour is a pale to medium ruby. Fairly straight-forward cherry aromas. Straight-up cherry too on the palate, nice acidity to balance. And, a tip from the importers: “..despite being light-bodied, when aerated for a while, this shows surprising depth.” Yes indeed. And a decent finish too. Highly Recommended.
Wednesday, August 2, 2017
Azienda Ampeleia ‘Un Litro’ Costa Toscano (IGT) 2016, 12.5%, €21.95 Le Caveau
Vines in the Wild
This relatively new estate - Ampeleia is the Greek for wine - is certified organic and biodynamic; it is biodiverse with the vineyards interspersed with chestnut and cork oak forests as well as scrub.
This particular wine comes in a squat green one litre bottle - hence the name - and is a blend of Alicante (Grenache), Carignan and Alicante Bouschet which has spent 6 months in cement tanks. It is unfined, unfiltered and has no added SO2.
Colour is between a deep pink and a pale ruby. Aromas, say Le Caveau, have balsamic notes, plus wild herbs and spice hints and I find no reason to disagree! It is juicy, light and youthful on the palate with an engaging purity of fruit, a light mist of spice and then a dry yet fruity finish. Highly Recommended.
Mas Igneus FA206 Priorat (DOG) 2005, 15%, €21.75 Mary Pawle Wines
Mas is a traditional farmhouse found in the Provence (eg Mas de la Dame, winemakers in the Vaucluse) and Midi regions of France, as well as in the Catalan regions of both France and Spain. And FA206 means six months in second year barrels. Agricultura Ecologica is the method use by Mas Igneus, one of the newer wineries in the Priorat region. The blend is Garnacha, Carignan, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
It is a deep ruby and you also note the long legs, slow to clear. There are beautiful aromas of ripe dark fruits, a touch of vanilla. It is smooth, concentrated, spice also, a warming mouthfeel, plus a long and rounded finish. Quite a superb wine, an oldie but goldie, and Very Highly Recommended.
Henri Nordoc Cabernet Sauvignon Pays d’Oc (IGP) 2014, 12.5%, €11.75 Le Caveau
No blending here, just 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. The colour is a rich ruby. There are intense aromas: dark fruits, vanilla and toast. Dark fruits follow on the palate, fresh and juicy, spice and tannins also in play but neither prominent. This Highly Recommended wine finishes well and is good value also.
The great concentration and purity comes from vines that are well cared for; they aim for a low yield. Later, the wine spends 8 months on its fine lees. The back label promises a wine “characteristic of the Languedoc terroir which produces rich wines bursting with flavour”. I reckon Henri and the Languedoc have delivered.
Monday, January 16, 2017
Superb Red and White Double
from de Brau
The Taris, Gabriel and Wenny, of Chateau de Brau, are too close to the Languedoc ground to get carried way with the romantic cliches that winemakers (and their sellers) use willy nilly.
They farm in the area of Carcassonne, a town known to Irish holiday makers and rugby followers. It is not sunshine all the way: "Not all vintages are exceptional. There are the weather conditions. And the weeds that we will never overcome. And the little beasts and larger animals who demand their share."
That they share with the little and larger of the local animal world gives you the clue that the work here is more in cooperation with nature than against it. The effort made in the vineyard to obtain healthy and well balanced grapes is thus optimised in the cellar for the vinification and maturing of genuine wines. And it is that effort, and no little skill, that has produced these two beauties. And more.
Domaine de Brau PURE Pinot Noir, Pays D’Oc (IGP) 2015, 14%, €16.60 Mary Pawle Wines
This organic wine is part of the winery’s PURE range, started in 2006. Other single varietals include Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah along with Viognier, Egiodola, Petit Verdot, and Fer Servadou. Some unusual grapes there!
It has a lovely ruby colour, a degree darker than usual. Aromas are more raspberry than strawberry, herbal hints too. More like cherry on the palate, a full and generous mouthfeel, tannins still in play as this approachable wine, more supple than some Pinot Noirs, moves to a long finalé. The Languedoc may not be the usual place for Pinot Noir but this is a winner all the way and Very Highly Recommended.
Domaine de Brau Chardonnay, Pays D’Oc (IGP) 2011, 13.5%, €16.50 Mary Pawle Wines
This lightly oaked 100% Chardonnay organic wine has a lovely bright gold colour. The aromas are of white fruit, honey and spice notes too. It is rich and round, with an almost creamy mouthfeel; there are fresh tropical fruit flavours in a beautiful elegant wine with a long dry finish. Surprisingly very good indeed and Very Highly Recommended.
Monday, January 9, 2017
Three Classy Reds
Don't judge a book by the cover. The plain label on the Gamay could well lead you to believe this is a bottom shelf wine whereas it is anything but. Perhaps, especially if you bought bottom shelf Moroccan wines on French holidays years ago, you wouldn't be expecting a great deal from the Volubilia but it is a lovely surprise. And no surprise really with the Italian. You'd expect this to be good and it is very good indeed.
Clos du Tue-Boeuf Gamay 2015, Vin de France, 12%, €18.85 Le Caveau
Light red, fairly typical of the grape, is the colour of this natural beauty. The aromas are of strawberries and raspberries. On the vibrant palate, you'll find the same mix of fruit flavours, with a light tang of cider apples; it is light and fresh and smooth for sure, fine tannins and then a long finish.
The two Puzelat brothers, regarded, by Jamie Goode, as “natural wine royalty”, mature this for 4-6 months in large wooden vats. The organic grapes are bought in from trusted local winegrowers in the Loire. “The wines are quite unique, highly expressive of their terroir, authentic, filled with life and have a very strong personality.” That lively personality is very evident, pleasingly so, in this example and it is Very Highly Recommended. By the way, it is neither filtered nor fined, so do decant!
La Zouina Volubilia Classic Red, Morocco 2012, 13.5%, €22.95 Le Caveau
This is a relatively new French run chateau. Bordeaux know-how plus freedom to experiment has helped produce this excellent result from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (50%), Syrah, Mourvedre, and Tempranillo.
Colour is medium red. And the aromas include warm blackcurrant. It is medium bodied, smooth and fresh, well endowed with concentrated berry flavours, medium spice, fine tannins. It is well balanced with a long and juicy finish. A surprise from Africa and Very Highly Recommended.
Ascheri Coste & Bricco Barolo (DOCG) 2010, 14.5%, €47.00 (down to 30 in recent Fine Wine sale) O’Brien Wines
No surprise that this one was good as I had tasted it at the O’Brien Wine Fair in Cork. Nebbiolo is the grape here. Made from two select plots from Ascheri’s single vineyard, this is their top cuvée.
The wine has spent 26 months in Slavonian barrels, six months in steel and a further nine in bottle before release. According to Grapes & Wines, Italian Nebbiolo ages better than those of California and Australia. And indeed the producers reckon this will last for 18 to 20 years if kept in a cool dark place.
I couldn't wait that long to tuck into this garnet coloured wine. Small red fruits feature in the aromas, also some herbal hints. It has a palate full of rich flavours, spice too and an acidity that helps put all in harmony. This elegant and inviting wine is Very Highly Recommended.
They, Ascheri, recommended matching it with hard mature cheese, pheasant, pigeon, roast lamb and beef, Mediterranean vegetables. I've tried and tested it here with Parmesan and Walnut crusted rack of lamb with roasted vegetables, the lamb bought at our local craft butchers, Davidson’s of Montenotte, Cork.
Wednesday, December 21, 2016
Sainte Croix Magneric, Corbieres (AC) 2012, 14.5%, Mary Pawle Wines
Fruit, spice, and power feature in this well-balanced blend of Carignan (42%), Grenache (29) and Syrah (29). The vineyard, run by an English couple, Jon and Elizabeth Bowen, has been organic since 2008 and they recommend pairing it with anything from Spiced lamb tagine to Roast venison.
This is a dark, medium to full bodied, wine with ripe dark fruit aromas to match. That fruit, spice too, on the palate, concentrated, with outstanding freshness, tannins soft and ripe and no slacking off in the long aromatic finalé. Power and elegance in the one package and Very Highly Recommended.
We had another beauty from the same vineyard a month or so back. Check out Le Fournas here.
Il Grigio da San Felice Gran Selezione Chianti Classico (DOCG) 2013, 13.5%, €34.95 (27.95 in recent sale) O’Brien’s Wines.
Made from “our finest Sangiovese (80%), enriched with other ancient indigenous varieties”, the result is a superbly complex wine of great elegance and concentration. Just 40,000 bottles are produced of this particular wine which has an ageing potential of 15 years. It has been aged for 24 months in mixed oak plus 8 months in bottle.
Sangiovese, also known as Brunello and Bonarda, is a top red grape in Italy. Tuscany is its home but it is grown all over Italy, also in the US, Australia and Argentina.
Colour is medium red and the aromas feature ripe red fruit (strawberries, cherries). There is terrific concentration in this medium-bodied gem, spice too and a superb acidity to balance and it boasts a long dry and spicy finish. Very Highly Recommended.
Matches suggested are red meat, pasta and pizza. You could also do as I did and try it with cheese. I had Carrigaline, both the original and the smoked, and all got on very well together!
Jerome Quiot Cairanne Côtes du Rhone Villages (AC) 2014, 13.5%, €18.30 Karwig Wines
The family Quiot began their wine story in the Vaucluse when they acquired a few hectares there in 1748, so the nod to tradition is to be expected. This wine is made from the traditional grapes of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and old vines of Carignan. Old style vinification too in tanks and oak barrels.
Colour is a lovely ruby and there are raspberry and cherry in the aromas. On the palate, it is fruity for sure, spice also, a very good depth of flavour, nicely balanced; the tannins are close to smooth in this medium bodied wine and there is an excellent finish as well. It packs quite a punch for such a smooth wine and is Very Highly Recommended.
That noticeable acidity helps make it a good food wine, lamb, roasted meat and cheeses are recommend by the producers. I found it a terrific match with Moussaka, especially the version made using this recent recipe from Dublin's Tang Restaurant in association with Glenisk - see the details here.
Wednesday, December 14, 2016
Wines Direct Hit Double Top With French Pair
Domaine des Corbillieres Sauvignon Blanc Touraine (AOC) 2015, 13%, €14.35 Wines Direct
Sometimes it pays to go back to the source. And, in this case, you don't have to pay all that much to get a prime bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, one the world’s favourite grapes and certainly one of its favourite wines.
This is a little known classic from the Loire. Well maybe not that little known. M. Robert Palmer has credited the winery with producing “some of the consistently finest, not to mention best value, Sauvignon Blanc on the planet.”
High praise indeed and well deserved for the organic winemakers. This Sauvignon Blanc has the classic aromas of gooseberry and pear, herbaceous and citrus elements on the palate and a strong minerality in the dry finish. Light bodied and high quality. It may not have much colour but it has everything else. What a pleasant surprise. Very Highly Recommended.
Chateau de Cardaillan Graves (AOC) 2012, 14%, €23.15 Wines Direct
Cardaillan is a vineyard on the eastern edge of Graves, part of the better known Chateau de Malle (famous for its Sauternes). The blend here is fifty fifty between Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and it is matured in oak for 12-18 months (depending on the vintage).
It is quite a deep red with a pronounced bouquet of ripe red fruit. The complex fruit flavours and almost velvety tannins endow this medium bodied blend with finesse and an easy drinking elegance. There is a good long finish and acidity enough for food. Wines Direct recommend T-bones but why stop at beef? Try it with lamb and venison too. Very Highly Recommended
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
Three Rivers. Three Reds
Rhone. Dordogne. Piave.
|The arena in Arles|
Vines need water and no surprise then that so many of the world's best known vineyards are planted on the banks of rivers. You’re all familiar with the spectacular pictures from the Douro and the Rhine, both World Heritage sites. Two of the rivers below, the Rhône and the Dordogne, will be well known to you. I suspect that not may be the case with the Piava.
The Rhône is one of the major rivers of Europe, rising in Switzerland, passing through Lake Geneva and running through southeastern France where it splits into two near Arles - its delta encloses much of the Camargue - before entering the sea. It is 812 kilometres long.
|Monbazillac, one of the sweet wine areas on the Dordogne.|
The Piave is the baby of these three. It begins in the Alps and flows southeast for 220 kilometres into the Adriatic Sea near the city of Venice. There is a cow's milk cheese with the same name and the river is known too for the Battle of the Piave (1918), the decisive battle of World War I on the Italian Front.
The RhonePierre Amadieu Côtes du Rhone (AOC) Grande Réserve 2011, 14%, €16.00 O’Donovan’s Off Licences
This well balanced wine, a blend of Grenache and Syrah, has a violet colour, the legs slow to clear. Blackberry and plum more than red berries feature on a somewhat muted nose, hints of clove too. It is smooth, concentrated and spicy, tannins are silky, acidity not too obvious, but it is well balanced overall, a powerful palate but not short on finesse and with a very pleasing finish.
The grapes are grown different soils, clay and limestone for the Grenache, pebbles and gravel for the Syrah. The fruit used is a “very careful selection”. Harvesting is manual and the wine is matured for six months in oak barrels. A good result! Very Highly Recommended.
Feely La Source Vin de France 2011, 13%, €23.50 Mary Pawle Wines
Saussignac, like neighbouring Monbazillac, is perhaps best known as an area that produces sweet wines. And it is here that Sean and Carlo Feely produce organic wines that are not sweet! Their vineyard is certified organic and biodynamic. Hand-crafted from old vines, this wine is aged gently for 18 months in French oak barrels. It is handpicked, basket pressed, with indigenous yeasts; it is unfined and unfiltered.
Colour is a deep purple. Plum is prominent in the aromas. Quite a depth of flavour (including plum), nice bit of spice too, concentrated and well balanced and the finish is good too. This 2011 blend is Merlot (80%) and Cabernet and is Highly Recommended.
The Feely suggests an Irish (Wine-Geese) connection to this Bergerac vineyard and there is. Read about it here. By the way, if you are in the area, why not visit Chateau Feely; it is just 75 minutes from Bordeaux and 15 from Bergerac. If you can't make it to Saussignac, maybe you'd like a little share in the vineyard? Details here.
Conte Loredan Gasparini Malbec Colli Trevigiani (IGT) 2015, 12.5%, €18.30 Karwig Wines
Colour here is a fairly intense violet and red fruits feature in the aromas. Rich flavours on the palate plus a good input of spice, excellent acidity too. Tannins are fine. Very smooth and approachable and then a good long finish. Very good indeed and Highly Recommended.
While this particular wine is labelled IGT, the winery has been cultivating Malbec for the past fifty years as part of their DOC Venegazzu. They say it is ideal as an aperitif (I can vouch for that!), with fried food and red meat.
Wednesday, July 6, 2016
Today we feature three lovely reds, including a bargain Pinot Noir from the Ardeche of all places. Not too far away from the Ardeche, comes the “poetic” La Cantilene from the little La Liviniere appellation in Minervois. And then a dash across Provence and into Italy for Mary Pawle’s soft and gorgeous Valpolicella import.
La Boussole Pinot Noir Les Grandes Cotes (Pays D’Oc, IGP) 2014, 12.5%, €13.45 Le Caveau
Colour is a bright ruby and the aromas feature strawberries. It is medium bodied, smooth and juicy. Light fruit flavours much in evidence as is a lively acidity, a little spice and an excellent fruity finish. Very Highly Recommended and great value too.
Winemaker Claude Serra employs, among other things, low yields and “a ruthless approach to quality control” to ensure a wine that reflects the variety and its terroir. And that terroir is in the Ardeche region of western Provence. The fact that it’s a cool-ish area helps the Pinot Noir.
By the way, if you ever have the good luck to be in the area, try the clafoutis! And try everything else as well. All with a glass or two of this Pinot, a very good food wine. Bon Appetit!
Chateau Sainte-Eulalie “La Cantilene” Minervois La Liviniere (AOC) 2013, 14%, €22.50 Karwig Wines
“Eulalie was a good girl
She had a beautiful body, a soul more beautiful still.
The enemies of God wanted to overcome her,
They wanted to make her serve the devil.”
From the heart of the Minervois, from an area called La Liviniere, Karwig Wines in Carrigaline bring you this superb red, a blend of Syrah (55%), Grenache (20) and Carignan (25). La Cantilene (881 AD) is the first romanesque poetic work, stanza above.
Close to Canal du Midi, north east of Carcassonne, north west of Beziers, Laurent and Isabelle Coustal run “an outstanding estate” and are one of the leading producers, respecting nature including the environment. For instance, their 2006 warehouse has its temperature controlled by a geothermal system rather than an energy hungry air conditioner.
La Cantilene has dark fruit aromas, notes of toast. Warm fruit flavours, vanilla notes, some spice too, fine tannins and a decent finish too from this full and rich wine. Recommended for game, grilled red meat and cheese. And the wine itself is Highly Recommended.
The wine area La Liviniere has a reputation for producing some of the finest red wines of the region. Read more here.
Fasoli Gino La Corte del Pozzo, Valpolicella (DOC) 2014, 14%, €20.20 Mary Pawle Wines
Corvina and Rondinella, often seen in the Amarone blend, are the grapes in this vibrant red. And indeed, a portion of these grapes is dried for 15-20 days ‘to increase the proportion of sugar and aromatic contents”. Ten to twelve months later, the two portions are blended. Harvesting is by hand and it is Vino Biologico (organic). Highly Recommended.
It is a bright ruby. It has red fruit aromas plus some vanilla. All follow through to the smooth and balanced, rich and soft, palate experience. Suggestions for pairing include: pasta, rice; also good with grilled red meats and medium mature cheeses.
Sunday, June 12, 2016
Dao. Burgundy. Lodi.
A Trio of Reds
Casa de Mouraz 2011 (DAO), 13.5%, €17.50 Mary Pawle
The grapes for this excellent red come from several vineyards of Casa de Mouraz “some of which are mentioned in documents from the 16th century”. They were no doubt organic then and are organic now.
The wine has been matured in fine Nevers oak for 8 months and is a blend of local grapes: Touriga Nacional, Tinto Roriz, Alfrocheiro, Jaen and the almost unknown Agua Santa.
It is an intense red colour with violet hue and the legs are in no hurry to clear. You’ll find ripe rich fruits in the aromas. It is smooth, spicy, with a lovely mineral streak, and a lasting finish. A serious drop indeed and Highly Recommended.
Ambroise Lettre d’Eloïse Coteaux Bourguignons 2013, 13%, €17.85 Le Caveau
The wines of Maison Ambroise, certified organic since 2013, are regarded as classic Burgundy “with distinct terroir influenced personalities”. This, new to the Le Caveau range, is 100 per cent Pinot Noir and has been aged in 400l barrels, two to five year old, for ten months. No fining or filtration has been applied so be sure to decant.
By the way, did you know that synonyms for Pinot Noir include Pinot Nero, Pinot Negro, Spatburgunder, Blauburgunder.
By the way, did you know that synonyms for Pinot Noir include Pinot Nero, Pinot Negro, Spatburgunder, Blauburgunder.
Colour here is a pale ruby; red fruits in the aromas, most noticeably cherry. It is wonderfully fresh, the lively fruit flavours well matched by the acidity, a perfect balance, plus an excellent finish. Highly Recommended.
Saw a few matching suggestions and the one that made most sense was Roasted duck breast with plum sauce. One from BBC Food here.
Jewel Collection Old Vine Zinfandel 2012 (Lodi, California), 14%, €16.90 Karwig Wines
Interestingly, this was “tested” on a Friday, then the Vacuvin was applied. The bottle was finished off on the following Wednesday and a small improvement was noted! The vine is made by a cooperative of growers from “gnarled 40 year old vines”.
Ruby is the colour, tending towards violet. And there are rich jammy aromas, plus vanilla. All that rich fruit appears too on the warm palate but nicely balanced by the acidity, some spice too, vanilla again, plus a decent finish. Pair with hearty dishes of beef, pork, fowl and various game. Recommended.
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Laurent MiquelBlending Tradition And Innovation
|The hill-top fort at Ensérune, not too far from Miquel's Beziers vineyard,|
was occupied continuously, including by the Romans,
from the 6th century BC to the beginning of the first century AD.
Laurent and Neasa, a Dubliner, got married in 2007 after a long courtship (11 years!). Before and since, she has been busy on the marketing side and has opened up new avenues for the excellent wines of the two estates. I certainly enjoyed the three below and there are others available.
|Via Domitia, preserved in Narbonne centre|
Laurent Miquel Albarino 2014 (Vin de France, Lagrasse), 13%, €15.00, Dunnes Stores
I didn't mention Spain in the preamble but the limestone soils coupled with a uniquely cool microclimate and access to water makes Les Azines the perfect place for this audacious Albarino project by the innovative Laurent.
According to Laurent, this is a “repatriation”: Albarino was first brought to the Galicia region of Spain by the French monks from Cluny along the fabled route of Santiago de Compostela many centuries ago.
Forget the history for a moment and let us taste this light and bright gold wine with its aromas of citrus fruit and floral notes too. Crisp and dry and lively, terrific minerality, no shortage of refreshing fruit with a good long finish. A great match for seafood. This elegant wine is Very Highly Recommended and one to watch for the future!
Laurent Miquel Père et Fils Chardonnay Viognier 2014 (IGP Pays d’Oc), 13%, €12.00 Dunnes Stores
This blend has the colour of bright honey with very pleasant peach-y aromas, some floral notes too. There are fresh fruit flavours with a lively refreshing mouthfeel and this very agreeable wine has quite a finish as well. This is a gorgeous blend of Chardonnay (65%) and Viognier (35%).
The Miquels are regarded as leading growers of Viognier and, though it is in the minority in the bottle, it plays quite a role. Impressed and Very Highly Recommended. This wine is ideal for pre-dinner drinks, salads, all types of seafood or poultry dishes.
Laurent Miquel Père et Fils Syrah 2014 (IGP Pays d’Oc), 13%, €9.00, Dunnes Stores
Syrah is another of the grapes that the Miquel family specialises in and this is a good example. Colour is purple and there are aromas of rich dark red fruits, spices notes too. It is smooth, fruity and spicy on the palate, fine tannins, excellent balance plus a persistent finalé. Well made (cool nights and long sunny days help), well priced and Highly Recommended. A natural for your rack of lamb!
All pics (c) Billy Lyons
All pics (c) Billy Lyons