Showing posts with label Grenache. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Grenache. Show all posts

Monday, August 13, 2018

A Very Likeable Rogue. And One Sweet Wine.


A Very Likeable Rogue in his Sunday best

Matsu “El Picaro” Tinta de Toro (DO) 2017, 14.5%, €16.95 Bradley’s


Le Rogue
This “series” of wine, Matsu de Domingo”, recalls the spirit of the old Spanish Sunday: rest, church in your Sunday best, special dishes and the best wine opened. Check the website here for more details on this and others in the series.

Tinta de Toro is, as you probably know, Tempranillo, and the Matsu vines in the Toro region are cultivated using organic techniques. Like the man on the label, this El Picaro has youth on its side,  even if the fruit comes from 90 year old vines. The other wines show progressively older faces - worth a look on their website.

And that youth is illustrated in the deep ruby colour. There are intense dark berry aromas. On the palate, fruit flavours are the prominent feature as this fresh wine makes his merry way to a very pleasant finish indeed. Very Highly Recommended. I told you this is a engaging rogue! Even if some frown when there is a giggle, with El Picaro at its source, in the back of the chapel.

“The freshly ironed new shirt, the shiny shoes and the special hat. The best stews and the best wine. Tomorrow they will go back to work, but today is a day to rest and celebrate.  Today is Sunday.”  Enjoy!

Sweetly Traditional

Gerard Bertrand Banyuls Traditionnel (AP) 2013, 16%, €23.95 (got it on sale 19.16) O’Brien’s


Grenache, mostly from ancient bushes and often harvested only when they have reached the dried wrinkly stage (like raisins), is the main grape in this naturally sweet wine (vin doux naturel or VDN for short).  The fruit is grown in Mediterranean cooled French vineyards around Banyuls-sur-Mer, close to the Spanish border. 

While the traditional vinification process is underway and when the alcohol reaches 8 or 9 per cent, fermentation is halted by light fortification with a spirit. That full-stop leaves some sugar in the wine.

Banyuls is often compared to Port but is a gorgeous dessert wine in its own right, tasting drier than it actually is - no cloying syrupy stuff here. 

In the Rhone area of Rasteau they make a similar red dessert wine that also goes well with blue cheese (among other things, including chocolate). The World Atlas of Wine says straight out that Banyuls is France’s finest VDN.

Our Gerard Bertrand has a garnet colour; the aromas are of small red and darker fruit. On the palate it is full and well-balanced, fresh, elegant, yet with power and persistence. Very Highly Recommended.

They recommend pairing it with desserts of fruit, with créme brulée, with foie gras and also as an aperitif. I tried it with a mature Cashel Blue and it was quite a treat.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Sarabande's GSM. Where Syrah dances on a windy hill. And partners well with Grenache and Mourvedre.


Sarabande's GSM. Where Syrah dances on a windy hill
And partners well with Grenache and Mourvedre.
Isla and Paul, when I
met them in Cork

The Syrah for the wines below is trellised across the top of a windy hill in the Languedoc that was planted with the aid of dynamite. The earth is completely made up of classic blue/grey schist with practically no topsoil. Therefore the rock had to be blown up so that the vines could find some dirt where they could anchor.

Despite these kind of local obstacles, there are more vines growing in the Languedoc than in Australia. Paul Gordon should know. He is Australian and he and his Carlow wife Isla work (and I mean work) the Sarabande vineyard, about twenty minutes drive from Beziers. The rugby-loving couple’s vineyard is called Domaine la Sarabande. 

They met in New Zealand in 2003 and then spent five or six years in wine in Marlborough. In 2009, they settled in France and raised some €40,000 from relations and friends in return for wine in the future. Isla: “There is just the two of us. We are very small; everything is gently worked and done by hand..” 

With so many vineyards in the area, there is much competition locally and so the pair export most of their wine, mainly to English speaking countries. And indeed, those same countries (Ireland, US, Australia and New Zealand) are all happy with the Sarabande screw caps but not so the French. 

Today, working with some unique terroirs and old vineyards treated organically and by hand, the Gordons, according to their importers O’Brien’s, “produce some stunningly good old world wines but with a modern Oz twang”.

Sarabande “Les Rabasses” Faugeres (AP) 2014, 14.5%, €21.45 (got it for 17.16 in sale) O’Brien’s

The aromas of the Faugeres are dominated by black cherries and plums as is this blend. The Syrah, on its exploded base, is trellised across the top of the windy hill. Unlike the Syrah (the dominant grape - about 50% - in this GSM blend), the Grenache and Mourvedre are grown as bush vines. They sit on a south facing slope which is well drained. This is particularly important for the notoriously late ripening Mourvedre variety.

And so it is from this hilltop vineyard that this Les Rabasses comes with its hard-won flavours. Keep it, they say, or drink it now with “equally flavoursome food”. Suggested are: Cold meats/pâtés, Duck, Hard mature cheese, Roast lamb/beef, Slow cooked shoulder of lamb.

Colour is a mid to dark ruby. There are strong aromas of dark fruit, spicy. Fruit forward and deep, power and finesse in equal measure, that spice too, excellent acidity as well; the finish is pure, long and also balanced. Very Highly Recommended.

Sarabande “Misterioso” Faugeres (AP) 2014, 14.5%, 16.95 (13.56 in sale) O’Brien’s 

Sarabande tell us that “bright cherry flavours are the backbone of this cheeky little number…that will invite itself.” Indeed, it is mainly cherry all the way from the colour to the aromas to the dry finalé. A slash of spice too, fine tannins and well balanced acidity add to the easy-drinking enjoyment. Highly Recommended.

The blend this time is mostly Grenache and Syrah with “a small amount of Mourvedre.” Only the best quality fruit survives the sorting stage.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

A Red and White worth noting. From the heart of the Corbieres garrigue.

 A Cathar castle in Villerouge-Termenès about 30 minutes from the chateau.
A summer festival when I visited a few years back but in 1321 the last of the Cathar leaders were burnt alive here.
Château Beauregard Mirouze Campana rouge Corbieres (AC) 2015, 13.5%, €14.85 Bradley’s Cork, Le Caveau
This is a blend of 50% Syrah (some over 40 years old) and 50% Grenache. It is produced in small vineyard parcels, actual clearings in the heart of the Corbieres garrigue (scrub), by organic methods. Add in low yields and you get a “really honest… satisfying red”. The winemakers suggest pairing it with strips of duck breast with ratatouille. 

One advantage of being surrounded by garrigue is that the vines are well away from the sprays of neighbours. On the other hand, wild boar enjoy the cover of the scrub and so the Mirouze family have to use an electric fence to deter them.

Colour is a deep ruby. Something wild, funky they say, about the nose, perhaps it’s the garrigue. Quickly on the palate, fruit, juice and spice emerge in intense and happy combination. Good body too, a tannic backbone and a persistent finish. No shrinking violet this yet it is much more finesse than rustic. A well made and friendly wine and Very Highly Recommended. It is indeed honest and satisfying and, by the way, well priced too.

Château Beauregard Mirouze Campana blanc Corbieres (AC) 2015, 12.5%, €14.85 Bradley’s Cork, Le Caveau

Again, like the red, this is a Bio wine, certified organic. It is produced from the fruit of vines well known in the Mediterranean area, Marsanne (60%), Roussane (20) and Vermentino (20). They hand-harvest; fermentation and ageing takes places in large vats. And the makers have a preference for matching it with Fried shrimp with coriander and other herbs.

It has an inviting golden colour. The aromas also attract, with fruit and floral elements prominent. There are gorgeous peachy and melon flavours on the elegant palate, a fresh and edgy acidity to balance and an excellent finish to boot. Very Highly Recommended.


One of the better-known Languedoc appellations, Corbieres is also one of the most productive. Its vineyards, situated south and west of Narbonne, are best known for its red wines, and there is now an increasing number of good whites. Château Beauregard is less then fifty minutes from Carcassonne, less than half that to Narbonne (and its Roman Road, the Via Domitia).

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Three Excellent Reds From Karwigs

Teruzzi Puthod Peperino Toscano (IGT) 2014, 13.5%, €19.35 Karwig Wines

From the heart of Tuscany comes this deep-ruby wine. Fragrant for sure, all the way through to the end. In between, you’ll find it well-balanced and satisfying on the palate, tannins assertive, spice much less so. A very pleasant amalgam indeed and Highly Recommended. They also make a lovely white Vernaccia.

The grapes in this blend of Sangiovese and Merlot are grown on the little hills around San Gimignano, well-known for its medieval towers, including the Torre Grossa. Well-known too for its ice-cream which is certainly very good. What I didn't fancy very much was the cappuccino I got in the lovely old Piazza della Cisterna. The wine spends 8 months in barriques, 10% new, and  they say it’s fine for meats and cheeses.

Cà Vittoria Apassimento Gold Release Puglia (IGT) 2015, 14.5%, €16.95 Karwig

Late ripening and then the harvest is followed by a period of drying in trays. When the grapes are close to being raisins, the wine is made. This Appassimento process increases fruit concentration but leaves enough acidity to balance the rich fruit. Grapes used in this bottle are Negroamaro (60%),  Merlot (25%) and Primitivo (15%).

Gold Release may refer to the fact that this mid-purple coloured wine from Puglia in the south of Italy (the heel) has won a few awards. The aromas, like the colour, are intense, mainly plum, hints of sweetness. 

And that fruit concentration, typical of appassimento, is immediately obvious on the palate, that sweetness too. But there is indeed enough acidity to balance; the tannins still grippy. Overall, a pleasant easy-drinking wine. Highly Recommended.

Chateau La Bastide L’Optimée Corbieres (AOP) 2012, 14%, €19.25 Karwig
This is a blend of 80% Syrah and 20% Grenache and has spent some 12 months in Bordelaise barriques. Recommended serving temperature is 16-17 degrees. 


It has a dark red colour, slightly lighter at the rim. Quite an intense red fruit aroma, plus a bit of spice. Intense too on the palate, dark fruit and spice again, ripe round tannins and a long lingering finish. A very pleasant wine indeed and, like earlier editions, Very Highly Recommended. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Three Rivers. Three Reds. Rhone. Dordogne. Piave.

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.
Venice
The Dordogne is a river in south-central and south-west France. The river and its watershed was designated Biosphere Reserve by the UNESCO in 2012. It flows generally west about 500 kilometres through the Limousin and Périgord regions before flowing into the Gironde, its common estuary with the Garonne in Bordeaux. It flows through many vineyards, including those of Bergerac and Bordeaux, and there is much to see in terms of history (e.g. Castelnaud) and prehistory (Lascaux for example) in the area.
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 Rhone
Pierre 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.


The Dordogne
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.


The Piave
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.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Winning Grenache from a Solera in Gigondas

Winning Grenache from a Solera in Gigondas
Saint Cosme Little James Basket Press, Non Vintage Red (Vin de France), 13%, €15.99 (12.79 August) at Curious Wines

The Rhone cased Chateau de Saint Cosme (est. 1570), a negociant-vigneron, uses the Solera blending technique, usually associated with sherry, to produce this excellent non vintage Grenache.

Unlike a vintage wine, Little James “is a permanent creation of a solera, which gets more and more complex every year with an irresistible crunchy fruit”. The typical bottle has fifty per cent of the current vintage and fifty per cent from wines of the previous decade.

There are aromas of darker fruits (plum and cherry for me) and some pepper in this dark red wine. On the palate, you'll find lots of fruit and that pepper again and great flavours all the way through the long finish. “A winner” according to Robert Parker. Very interesting and Very Highly Recommended.

Happy Day! Dining in Gigondas

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Last Minute Wine Suggestions

Last Minute Wine Suggestions
 Top one goes with "a variety of meats" - ideal for Christmas!

Tim Adams, Bluey’s Block Single Vineyard Grenache, Clare Valley 2009, 14.5%, €16.99 Curious Wines 



Colour is a very light red and the aromatics are pretty if restrained. The magic is on the palate. Fruity for sure but very very refined and so well balanced. It has of course, the typical spice of the variety and, what you might not expect, an ABV of 14.5%. Must say it was love at first bite (well, first sip) with this mouth filling beauty, with its subtle tannins (supple, the label says) and its long fruity driven finish. Goes with a variety of meats and is Very Highly Recommended.

Viñedos Iberian, Yaso, Tinta de Toro 2010, 13.5%, stockists 

Familia Osborne (of Sherry fame) owns Viñedos Iberian and this Tinta de Toro (Tempranillo to most of us!) is a classy bottle. Yaso comes from a selection of old vineyards in the Zamora region of the Toro DO. They’ve been growing vines here for over 2000 years and this is named after the Greek goddess of healing.



Not sure I needed any healing when I opened this red the other day but I sure felt good as the initial sips came in and better as the silky liquid reached all areas.  It has an intense concentration of red fruits – you see it in the bright cherry colour and catch it in the aromas – and it is prominent again on the long finish. Highly Recommended.

Kerpen Riesling 2010 (Blauschiefer, Bernkastel, Mosel), €17.52, Karwig Wines

This estate bottled Riesling is a my favourite of mine, confirmed as recently as last Sunday. It is bright with straw green colours and modestly aromatic. Ripe fruits reach all areas before a long dry finish. Luscious apple-ly fruits yet really well balanced and with a great texture. Good with fish with light sauces or on its own as an aperitif. Highly recommended, not for the first time!.

The vineyards are on the slopes of the River Mosel, a tributary of the Rhine.

Check out the full 2013 list of recommendations here