Showing posts with label Le Caveau. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Le Caveau. Show all posts

Friday, April 13, 2018

Frogs Attack #1. Do It Again. Soon!


Frogs Attack #1. Do It Again. Soon!

They came. They saw. They conquered. They, collectively the Frogs Attack, being two pioneering natural winemakers (Jean Foillard and Thierry Puzelat), a guerrilla chef (Antony Cointre) and a comedian (Sebastien Barrier) and they cornered their willing victims in a packed Latitude 51. 
Cork’s leading wine bar was the ideal venue for the French influenced evening. Beverley and her staff caught the informal spirit of the occasion perfectly and we wined and dined, and laughed a lot too. 

Hard to keep up with Sebastien as he roamed between the two floors. He even wandered outside at one stage, startling the customers by banging on the window and, with his phone, taking photos of the surprised faces. We were wondering was the ebullient funny man in trouble a few minutes later when a couple of cops appeared at the door but nothing to do with Sebastien!

May I introduce Jean Foillard to you, via Le Caveau catalogue: A vigneron like Jean Foillard doesn’t come around too often. Jean Foillard and his wife Agnès started their handkerchief-size domain in Morgon in the 1980’s when the majority of appellation, driven by big negoces, were (and are still) producing industrial wines. Undeterred by their surroundings, Jean and Agnès decided to embark on their own path. They returned to honest vine growing and wine making the way their grandparents did. The vines are grown organically. The same attention is paid in their cellar. There are no additives in the cellar to hide shortcuts in the vineyards because there are no shortcuts in the vineyards. The hand-harvested grapes are fermented using natural yeasts only. 
Cooking done and Le Gros relaxes 

And, quoting from the same source, Thierry Puzelat: Having met and worked with Francois Dutheil (Bandol) and Marcel Lapierre (Morgon), two pioneers of the ‘natural’ wine movement, Thierry decided he too, wanted to make his wines as naturally as possible. Puzelat’s wines are quite unique, they are highly expressive of their terroir, authentic, filled with life and have very strong personality.
Le Caveau borrowed, as we do here, this quote from Jamie Goode: ‘Thierry and Jean-Marie Puzelat—brothers—are natural wine royalty. They are making some of the Loire’s most interesting wines and are at the heart of the natural wine movement.’
Behind the counter: Jules and Beverley

And the wines really are superb. The night’s list: Thierry’s Clos du Tue Boeuf, blanc and rouge, and the three Morgons from Jean, all 2016, including his “Cote du Py” and the “Corcelette”. And to make things even better, they were available at shop (rather than restaurant) prices. A nice touch that!

According to his website, Antony Cointre, aka Le Gros, is not an ordinary chef, he is an enthusiastic cookHe does not have a permanent restaurant because he likes to change atmosphere and to touch lots of different audiences. …. making tasting meals in 10 steps at home for 6 or popular banquets of 650 people or even weddings in unlikely conditions. 

And Le Gros, in the tiny kitchen, came up with some tasty dishes at L’Atitude. They included a Feta and Kumquat starter, then a Monkfish carpaccio with Harissa sauce, three French cheeses with date, and dessert of chocolate and, believe or not, rhubarb.
Sebastien attacks the window!

In between the six courses, Sebastian kept us entertained and joined up with some Irish friends to play some tunes. And all the time, we were sipping and enjoying those natural wines, the real stars of the show!

I’ll finish with a message to the frogs: Please attack us again, soon!



Sunday, March 25, 2018

Mathews & McCan Take A Walk on the Wine Side


Mathews & McCan Take A Walk on the Wine Side
Mary and Kevin Parsons with Café Paradiso's Ger O'Toole (right)

Colm McCan talked the talk and walked the walk as he guided a group of Munster Wine & Dine members around the wine history of Cork City last Saturday. The meeting point was St Peter’s Church in the ancient heart of the city and as we sipped the first of our wines, the Elgin Ridge 282 Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa, Colm filled us in on the huge appetite for wine that our ancestors, especially our mayors, including one called Richard Wine (1273), had for wine. Don't think though that they'd have enjoyed the delicious Ardsallagh Ash Pyramid Goats Cheese that we sampled with the first wine.

Marian Smith, from Ballyjamesduff, is co-owner of Elgin Ridge and all the wines that we’d taste at the various stops would have an Irish connection, the Irish loosely interpreted in some cases! 
Did we lose someone?

Hugh Lawton
Next stop was almost next door at Bradley’s where Michael proudly showed us the amazing gate (really a map in metal of the old city) that his brother mounted on one of many old lanes off North Main Street. Many of the lanes are gone or are blocked up but their names can be seen on plaques built into the pavement. Woodford Bourne is a name linked with the wine trade so it was appropriate that we'd make a stop there.

Then it was on to the Crawford Art Gallery. The older part of this building was once the Custom House and ships, often with wine onboard, would dock here in Emmet Place, now a busy square, and the captains would go in to pay their duty.

In the gallery itself, we stopped in front of the large portrait of Hugh Lawton, mayor of Cork in 1776 and a direct ancestor of Pierre Lawton, the influential Bordeaux based negociant. In a cabinet we saw Penrose glassware. Cork glass pre-dated Waterford crystal and was made from 1783 onwards. 
HM are the missing letters!

The city also produced some of the earliest wine writers, including the famous Maurice Healy. As we moved to our next stop, we passed the GPO which stands on what once was Lawton’s Quay. You can guess what cargoes came in here!

Kevin Parsons has spent a lifetime in wine and he (and his wife Mary) was a guest on the walk and came up with some good stories. In Jacques, as we warmed up with a delicious tagine and a wine (Zouina’s Volubilia Rouge, made in Morocco by a French company with an Irish connection), Kevin told us about famous winemakers he had done business with, including the Mahoneys of the Napa Valley, John Horgan of Western Australia, even the then nascent Nyetimber of England. He is well known for his posters of the Wine Geese and used one of a few mounted in Jacques to illustrate. You may check those posters whenever you’re in the Oliver Plunket Street venue.

Kevin and the rest of us were looking forward to our next arranged halt, at the Old Bond. We did get into the area. Lots of keys available but those to the old vaults couldn’t be found and we had to make do with looking at the exterior, perhaps for the final time, as there are plans afoot to develop this point of land, the final point at the eastern end of the island city. Kevin had been a daily visitor here for decades.
Jules (pic Colm McCan)

So back to the warmth of the top wine venue in Cork, L’Atitude 51. Beverley had been with us all day, helping Colm with the commentaries, and now she was our host, greeting us with a glass of 1701 Franciacorta. The Irish connection here is Rhona Cullinane, a Clonakilty lady who works with this family owned vineyard between Lake Garda and Verona.

Wexford man Pat Neville was described as one of “modern day wine geese” as we sipped his Domaine Aonghusa Bentouly 2014. All the while, there were contributions of mainly Irish interest coming from Colm, Beverley and Kevin.

And then it was time for the finalé: Le Cèdre Malbec vintage 2012. And very nice too, its sweetness a lovely match with the chocolate covered figs from the L’Atitude kitchen. 
And who better to tell us about the wine than Jules, the son of the vignerons, who just happens to be doing work experience at L’Atitude. “It is a Vin doux naturel, raised by organic methods, with an abv of 16%.” When it comes to wine, Mathews and McCan always find an Irish connection! Salut. Cheers. Slainte. 

The old (1724) custom house, now part of the Crawford Gallery







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).

Monday, March 19, 2018

Two Top Whites from Bergerac and Rias Baixas

Eidos de Padriñán Albariño, Rias Baixas (DO) 2015, 12.5%, €18.30 Karwig Wines

This enjoyable well-made wine, with enough freshness to balance the fruitiness, is made by a family winery in Val do Sainés, a sub region of Rias Baixas which claims to be the birthplace of the popular Albariño grape. 

It is said of the family that “they empty the grape of virtue”. Sounds a bit drastic. I think they mean to say they get the best from it.

It has a beautiful mid-gold colour. Peach and pear among the aromas, honeysuckle too. Melon and citrus add to the flavours on the palate; it is round and fresh and has that excellent acidity that makes this versatile wine a winning match with many cuisines, including Asian. A long finish, no shortage of minerality, completes a pleasant experience. Highly Recommended.


Get the best from the wine, empty it of virtue, by making sure it is nicely chilled, ideally between nine and ten degrees celsius. Then you can drink like a monarch! The King of Spain chose Albariño wines to celebrate his marriage to Queen Letizia.

Tour des Gendres Cuvée des Conti Bergerac sec (AOC) 2013, 13%, €17.15 Bradley’s (Cork), Le Caveau

I’m always partial to a Bergerac or Bordeaux white that has more Semillon than Sauvignon blanc and this is the case with this organic white which has 70% Semillon, 20% Sauvignon and 10% Muscadelle. 

You might think that this basic entry level wine might not get that much attention. But, in Cork last year, Guillaume de Conti told me this is one that gets full attention. “It bears the family name, and it gets great care so that each vintage is of a high level.” And this, helped by six months on the lees, certainly is. Good value too.

Not too sure of the colour! Tasting was by candlelight during a power cut, glimpses of gold spotted. Quite an intense bouquet though, fruit (white) and floral. It is fruity for sure but acidity is lively too, so well balanced, and there’s a long dry finish. Great purity and intensity and Highly Recommended.

The Conti family moved from Italy to France in 1925. In the recently published Wine Revolution, author Jane Aston recommends that you try their "Pét-Nat from 100% Sauvignon Blanc vines, bottled with no added sulphur." 

Sunday, March 11, 2018

A Hundred of the Best from Le Caveau. Starting with Franciacorta and a Clonakilty Girl


A Hundred of the Best from Le Caveau
Starting with a Franciacorta and a Clonakilty Girl
Meeting Rhona at St Peter's last week

“We are a small vineyard, ten hectares in total, eight planted with Chardonnay, two with Pinot Noir,” said Rhona Cullinane of the 1701 vineyard in the Franciacorta region of Italy when I met her at the Le Caveau portfolio tasting in Cork’s old St Peter's Church last Thursday. So I hear you asking: Rhona Cullinane, from an Italian vineyard? Well, Rhona is from Clonakilty and went to Sienna to finish off third level education and fell in love with the country and now divides her time between the 1701 vineyard and London with plenty of opportunities to get back to Clon.

1701 is an unusual name for a winery . It comes from the year of the first vinification there by the Conti Bettoni Cazzago family; that was in the “brolo”, a four hectare vineyard framed by X1 century walls. In 2012, brother and sister Federico and Silvia Stefini took over the estate and the winery and named it 1701 in honour of that long-ago first vintage. Rhona works with the Stefinis and they were the first in the Franciacorta region to be awarded the coveted biodynamic Demeter certification in July 2016.

There are about 100 to 120 producers in the area and they are now “slowly focusing” on external markets, Rhona told me last week. “there is a regional ambition to move to organic and biodynamic”. 

Rhona was showing the 1701 Franciacorta Brut DOCG. It is a blend of Chardonnay (85%) and Pinot Noir (15%).  The summer heat of the vineyard is tempered by the breeze from the lake (Iseo) and the mountains to the north. “We choose to keep it on the lees for 30 months, well above the appellation minimum. It is made in the traditional manner, manually harvested, with the indigenous yeasts, and a secondary fermentation in the bottle but with zero dosage.
Ballymaloe sommelier Samuel (left) and Damiem of Clos de Caveau

St Peter's
It is a gorgeous sparkling wine, the palate full and generous, clean, fresh and elegant, apple notes, citrus too and that typical brioche note, beautifully balanced and a dry finish. Expect to pay in the mid 30s, considerably less than what you'd pay for the bigger names of the region; lovely wine, great value.

Jules, who is spending a few month in L’Atitude (Cork) improving his English, was keen to show me some of the wines he was familiar with from his home in the south west of France, beginning with the family’s impressive Chateau de Cedre héritage. “This is 95% Malbec, 5% Merlot,” he said. “Four of the five parcels are organic but the next vintage will be fully organic. It is started in cement tanks, matured in barrels.” 

It is medium to full bodied, gorgeous black fruits on the silky palate with a clean finish. Colour is a light ruby, it is easy-going, no shortage of drinkability. Another quality wine at a very good price (15.40).

The small Mirouze vineyard in Corbieres produces some excellent wines, including that Ciel du Sud that Jules showed. It is a lovely lively blend, 50% Grenache, 50% Carignan. It is raised in cement tanks and no sulphur is added. 
Margaret of Le Caveau and, right, Dave of Café Paradiso

The little vineyard is surrounded by garrigue. That means 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.
My cuvée!!

Domaine No Control is into wine (of course) and music. One of their Gamay is called Fusion, the other Rockaille Billy. I had spotted the Billy on the list early on and wasn't leaving until I had a taste of it. The domaine consists of just five hectares and Jules agreed that this was that bit different to Beaujolais Gamay. “Lovely, great drinkability”. Must get a few bottles of that for the table when I have guests!

from Oregon
The next chat I had was with Damiem and he was showing the Clos de Caveau Vacqueyras AC Carmin Brilliant. Vacqueyras village, under the shade of its large trees, stays cool when the vineyards all around are warm. 

And this is one cool wine, coming from a height of 200m, higher than most of its neighbours, and bearing the distinctive diagonal wraparound label designed by Karl Lagerfeld. It is a superb blend of 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah, natural yeast is used and nothing is added. Good structure and bite, lovely ripe tannins, excellent acidity and freshness.
Sustenance via L'Atitude 51

Superb
Then it was on to the Alsace table where there was a strong showing from Meyer-Fonné. Always find the Gentil wines from the Alsace very drinkable and the MF 2016 was typical. Later, I would come across a similar effort from Oregon’s Ovum Wines called Big Salt! 

The Meyer-Fonné Gewürztraminer 2015 Réserve was aromatic and rich. Hints of sweetness too in the Pinot Blanc but this was dry with  a minerally finish. Also excellent - it suited my palate well - was the 2015 Riesling while the 2013 Grand Cru didn't quite do it for me, almost always find it hard to tune out that whiff of petrol. 
Mayer-Fonné well represented on Le Caveau list

The 2016 Pinot Gris was much more to my liking and the winery points to this one as “the archetypical Pinot Gris for the table”. Will put that on my list. Indeed, I think I may just make a list of all the Meyer-Fonné wines and see how I get on.

I had been pointed towards the Kumpf et Meyer 2016 Riesling by Ballymaloe sommelier Samuel. And with good reason. From its fresh, fragrant and full nose through its complex palate to the long and savoury finish, this is worth a second longer look and so another that will make my ever lengthening shopping list!






Wednesday, February 28, 2018

A Loire White From The Banks Of The Cher. Plus a lovely Chablis.

Loire White From The Banks Of The Cher. Plus A Lovely Chablis.
The historic chateau of Chenonceau

Domaine du Haut Perron Touraine Chenonceau (AC) 2015, 13.5%, €19.95 Le Caveau, Bradley’s Cork

The vineyards for this Guy Allion Sauvignon Blanc are planted on slopes overlooking the Cher River (a Loire tributary), close to the gorgeous chateau of Chenonceauand not too far from historic Amboise (once home of the French royal court) where Leonardo Da Vinci spent the closing years of his life.

No problem with planning permission in 16th century. Just demolish most of the existing structure and build your own. That was how Thomas Bohier and his wife got to build the fantastic Château of Chenonceau that now straddles the River Cher in the Loire. It is one of the loveliest of the Loire chateaus and also one of the most popular. 

And there were more fascinating ladies right up to the 20th century when Simone Menier was in charge when two galleries of the chateau were transformed, at her family’s expenses, into a hospital for the wounded of the Great War. During World War 11, Chenonceau was on the line of demarcation and then Simone carried out numerous actions for the resistance. Simone, who died in 1972, was a member of the Menier family, the chocolatiers, who bought the chateau in 1913 and still own it today.

Last year in Cork, I met Nicolas Donne, a representative of Guy Allion, and he was delighted with this wine: “It can be made only in the valley of the Cher, a new appellation since 2011. Aromatic and elegant, it comes in its own unique bottle (made in Italy) and can age for ten years”.


Colour of this well balanced wine is a very light straw. Aromas, of moderate intensity, feature white fruits. It is a crisp wine with delicate fruit flavours (apple, pear, melon), citrus notes too, a noticeable tingle of minerality, all retained to the end. Highly Recommended.

Domaine Gérard Tremblay Chablis (AC) 2015, 12.5%, €20.80 Bradley’s Cork, Le Caveau

Unoaked and produced from 10 to 30 year old vines. Take a look and you’ll see the characteristic light yellow with green tints. Take a sniff and you’ll note the white stone fruits aromas typical of this Kimmeridgian soil. Take a sip and you’ll taste the fruits, lime and apple, on the generous, almost creamy, palate, the local minerality also showing through. Perfectly balanced, more or less, this well made Chablis finishes well and is Highly Recommended.


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Pheasant's Tears Wines. Flavours From Generations Past

Pheasant's Tears Wines
Flavours From Georgia's Past And Present.
By Levan Gokadze from Tbilisi, Georgia - Flickr.com, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=56889960; Qvevri buried in the winery.

John Wurdeman, ex Virginia (US), and Gela Patalashvili are the men behind Pheasant’s Tears, a natural winery and vineyards in the far east of Georgia (where Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan are among the neighbours). They could have taken the oak route, even the chemical route but, with guidance from the local bishop, they stuck with the local tradition, a vine and wine tradition that goes back hundreds, maybe thousands, of years.

Vegetables and herbs grow among the Georgian vines. In the wineries, many of them very basic, skin contact is employed extensively, but what makes Georgian winemaking different is their use of the qvevri, huge earthenware vats sunk into the ground and used for fermentation and storage. They are made from the local terracotta clay, survive in the ground for generations and have been awarded a place on the UN Intangible Cultural Heritage List. Other winemakers, even in Italy and France, are beginning to use them.
By Levan Totosashvili - https://www.flickr.com/photos/conversum/4066312418/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38658843
Qvevri above ground.

At the start of her book (below), Alice Feiring wonders about the future of the Georgian approach to wine production. Remarkable that is has survived “vicious invasions” and the “assault of Soviet industrialisation”.  But…“Could Georgians resist the onslaught of wine consultants….? Could they resist chemical salesmen….?”  

They have been stubborn in holding on to their methods in the past. Fingers crossed that they’ll be just as stubborn in the present and future as the get-rich flag is flown in their faces.

  • Info on Georgian wines is not all that easy to come by but I was helped by reading For Love of Wine by Alice Feiring, also the Le Caveau catalogue, and by listening to relevant podcasts on BBC Radio Four Food. 
  • A Youtube video on Georgian wine https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eoyI2bJrTnU, one of a few.

Pheasant’s Tears Saperavi Kakheti (Georgia) 2015, 14%, €27.40 Bradley’s Cork, Le Caveau.

This must-try wine is made in the historical province of Kakheti from Saperavi, the “hero” grape of Georgia. Hero because it survived decades (beginning in 1920) of Soviet centralisation, ironically under the Georgia born Stalin (who liked his wine!), a policy that aimed to eliminate most of the region’s hundreds of varieties, aiming to leave only a handful of the most productive ones.

But the Saperavi survived and eventually thrived again. Indeed, it has been planted in 25 Australian vineyards and the reports are good. By the way, be careful you don't spill this juice on your best white top. Unlike most red grapes, the pulp here is also red and so more liable to stain than normal.

The ancient grape has provided wine for many generations. Even during the worst of the Soviet times, householders kept growing it in the gardens, without chemicals, to make wine for the house. And nothing is wasted. The leftovers (the pomace) from the initial wine-making are distilled to make the Georgian Chacha, their fiery equivalent of Italy's Grappa.

Colour of our Saperavi is a deep purple. The aromas are of cherry, savoury notes too. On the palate it is fresh, full of vitality, cheerful blackcurrant flavours feature, tannins are pretty firm. While there is some little sweetness on the palate, the long finish is dry. Check your lips! It is a most satisfying wine, eminently drinkable and digestible and Very Highly Recommended. One can see why the Georgians allow three litres per guest at weddings and other excuses (readily found, apparently) for feasting! It is said that Georgians rarely eat; they feast.

This is quite magnificent with lamb, either roasted or stewed, Georgian-style, with aubergine.

Pheasant’s Tears Shavkapito Kartli (Georgia) 2014, 13%, €27.25 Bradley’s Cork, Le Caveau

The fruit for this one comes from Mukhrani in Kartli. The Shavkapito grape is a rare Georgian variety, praised for its refreshing tones of violets and forest earth. If you were lucky enough to have been part of the Georgian royal circle in ancient times you would have seen the king reach out for a glass of Shavkapito on a regular basis.


Colour is a dark ruby and the legs are surprisingly slow to clear and you’ll note dark fruit among the aromas. A juicy fruity palate (plum, cherry) also features persistent grainy tannins and there is a velvety spicy finalé. Oak comes to mind but the wine has seen no wood only the inside of the qvevri. A natural with game and with lamb. Highly Recommended, perhaps Very Highly Recommended in a few years time when the tannins have calmed down a bit!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

A Couple of Recommended Reds to Consider!

Thierry Germain Saumur-Champigny (AC) 2015, 13%, €26.45 Bradley’s Cork, Le Caveau,
Chateau de Saumur
Saumur, on the Loire in Western France, is a great town to visit. Highlights include the medieval fort (Chateau de Saumur), the underground Musée du Champignons, plus wine tours and tastings. Saumur-Champigny is a red wine appellation for the two named places and six neighbouring villages. The wines are made, almost exclusively, from Cabernet Franc.

Germain is biodynamic and produces Cabernet Franc with purity, finesse and drinkability, wines that feature “generous and ripe darker fruit flavours”. His cellars are in “tuffeau” caves below the winery. Tuffeau is the soft local limestone and you see it in many buildings in the area.

Le Revue des Vins des France gave the domaine its coveted Three Star designation and later made him Winegrower of the Year in 2011.

Colour is a mid to dark ruby. There are fruity aromas, ripe berry mainly, floral notes too. Fruit flavours follow through to the palate, amazingly generous for such a young wine; freshness and purity too plus an excellent finish. Very Highly Recommended.

It is made from the fruit of vines with an average age fo 25 years and harvested to preserve aroma and freshness. It is raised for 3 to 4 months in a combination of stainless steel and foudres (large wooden vats). A good partner with a variety of dishes. Thierry himself recommends ballotine of chicken with cracked black pepper.

Aplanta Alentejano (IG) 2015, 14%, €13.95 Bradley’s Cork


I like this mid to dark ruby Portuguese wine with its dark fruit aromas. Palate has that fruit, cherry prominent, spice too, a hint of vanilla, soft tannins. It is quite plush but good acidity makes for excellent balance. A well made everyday wine that won't be out of place at the weekend! Like many wines from Portugal it over delivers at the price. Quite a lot of character in this refreshing glass and Highly Recommended.



As you might expect it is a blend, produced by Obrigado with grapes from a community vineyard. It is 70% Aragonez (Tempranillo) and 30% Alicante (Garnacha). They recommend pairing it with grilled meat (burgers, steaks), charcuterie and “sharp” cheeses!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Two Splendid and Delightful Whites.

Chateau de Chatelard Beaujolais Blanc (AOP), Cuvée Secret de Chardonnay 2016, 13%, €18.30 Karwig’s

Given the Beaujolais bias toward Gamay, it is not surprising that Beaujolais Blanc is little-known. Just two per cent of the crop is Chardonnay. Chatelard do quite a few good reds also and Karwig’s have a selection.

This white has a light gold colour, clear and bright. There are fairly intense aromas, fruity and floral, all present too in an ample palate. There is a creamy texture plus a superb balance and the finish is soft with a nice length. A pleasant surprise and Very Highly Recommended. Good on its own or with seafood and fish (don't forget freshwater fish too, such as trout).

The winemakers tell us that about twenty per cent has been aged in barrels to “give more fatness and complexity”. Vintage is by hand and this is a natural product so you may find a soft and light deposit (a sign of quality!).

Meyer-Fonné Vin D’Alsace (AOC) Gentil 2015, 12.5%, €16.65 Le Caveau, Bradley's Cork
Felix Meyer makes his wines in accord with biodynamic principles and “with unmatched precision, depth, purity and expression of terroir”. This Gentil (many Alsace winemakers produce a gentil) is a blend of Muscat, Pinot blanc, Riesling and Gewürztraminer, “a perfectly balanced and serious wine”.

The denomination Gentil is reserved for AOC Alsace wines that fit within the standards of a superior quality blend. I reckon this one had no problem meeting the criteria. I have also found over the years that the Gentils are fairly priced, good quality and good value.


This has a beautiful light gold colour and bubbles tend to linger. There are intense white fruit aromas, a waft of blossom too. The palate is engagingly fruity, spice in the mix too, excellent texture and a long dry finish. Quite a gem at the price and Very Highly Recommended.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Maule Family "at Forefront of Natural Wine Movement"

Maule Family "at Forefront of Natural Wine Movement" 
Francesco Maule
La Biancara was born in the end of 80s, when pizza makers Angiolino and Rosamaria Maule bought a small plot of land, about six hectares, in the hills of Gambellara. Since the beginning, they work to develop their personal idea of wine; a wine created by the exaltation of nature, without chemicals interferences in wineyard or in cellar, in order to obtain the highest expression of terroir in every bottle. 

No chemicals? How can this be done? Here’s one way. In La Biancara, there are 14 specimens of mites predators every 10 cm of shoot. Read more here

Last September, at a Veneto Masterclass in Dublin, Dario Poddana (Les Caves de Pyrene) praised the Maule family and said they were at the forefront of the natural wine movement, and not just in Italy. “It is interesting to see how classic ways are being rediscovered, a mix of extreme tradition and extreme modernism." 

Pascal of Le Caveau (who import the Maule wines to Ireland) said that this type of wine seems to have found a natural ally in the chefs that forage and said these restaurants “react well to it”.

And, in general, Francesco Maule, the son of the founders, stressed the importance of having a “very good quality grape”, otherwise there is the risk of extracting “bad things”. In the cellar, “nothing is added, nothing is removed”.

La Biancara is in Gambellara. Vino Italiano, which praises the vineyard (as does the World Atlas of Wine), says it could be argued that the (white) wines are purer expressions of Garganega than those of neighbouring Soave. Garganega is thought by some to be related to the Greco (another Mediterranean grape that I favour) of southern Italy.

Maule Garganega Masieri Veneto (IGT) 2016, 12%, €17.95 Bradley’s Cork, Le Caveau.

So here I am in deep Winter with a couple of bottles of Maule, starting with the white. Garganega is the grape from which Soave is made and here it accounts for 90% of the blend that also includes Trebbiano. The vines grow in volcanic soil. Both wines are unfiltered and no sulphites are added.

It has a strawy colour, slightly clouded. It is dry, fresh and is smooth and dewy on the palate. The year 2016 was a very hot one and the fruit benefited. The finish is lengthy with no shortage of minerality. Very Highly Recommended.

The family produce, also from the Garganega, a frizzante and a recioto. Le Caveau list the former but, sadly, not the latter!

Maule Masieri rosso Veneto (IGT) 2016, 14%, €20.95 Bradley’s Cork, Le Caveau.


In Dublin, Francesco called this their “basic red”. It is a blend of Merlot (50%), Tai Rosso (40) and Cabernet Sauvignon (10), again from the hot 2016 vintage. Tai Rosso is more or less the same grape as Grenache.


This deep ruby wine has ripe red fruit and hints of spice in the aromas. It is fresh with red fruit on the palate and that spice too. Francesco described the tannins as “a little aggressive” but, by Christmas, they have calmed down! Quality on the palate and on the finish as well. Really well-balanced and Very Highly Recommended.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Curious. Orange.The Fourth Wine?

Curious: Orange
The Fourth Wine?

You’ll read that orange wine is like rosé. Not really. Not at all. Many wine novices could start with rosé and like it straight off. If they start with orange, they may never drink wine again. 

I reckon you have to serve a general apprenticeship, a rather pleasant broad-based one like I did, before you are ready for orange, at least the orange I've been tasting the past year or so, beginning with La Stoppa’s Ageno.  Well, I did start at the top as this wine has been declared, by Decanter, as the best orange in the world.

The orange colour of these wines, obtained by leaving the skins in contact with the juice, is not uniform for various reasons to do with varieties, geography and time in contact (weeks, even months). The Ageno above spends 30 days on the skins, the Dinavolina below has had four months of contact, the Baglio just four days!

Essentially they are white wines - both examples below are labelled bianco - but they also have a higher level of tannins, more like a red wine, and indeed can match foods where previously red would have been the only choice. Welcome to the fourth wine!

Baglio Bianco Catarratto Terre Siciliane (IGP) 2014, 12%, €19.50 Le Caveau, Bradley's Cork.

Bianco is certainly a bit of a misnomer here as this is most definitely an orange wine, a cloudy deep amber in colour, unfined and unfiltered. And Le Caveau say it is a “fantastic introduction” to orange, “both from a flavour and price point of view”.

A nose of baked apple, cinnamon, and nutmeg is promised and delivered. There are strong reminders of a flavoursome dry cider as this wine spreads across the palate. A fantastic concentration of the flavours follows through to a lip-smacking finish. Highly Recommended.


Pairings suggested by the importers are free range pork with apple sauce; a herby roast chicken; and cheeses such as Durrus. Catarratto, by the way, is Sicily’s, and Italy’s, most popular white wine grape.

Azienda Agricola Dinavolo Dinavolina Bianco Vino D’Italia 2013, 10.5%, €21.65 Le Caveau, Bradley's Cork.

And now, from a vineyard height of 1,500 feet, with no added sulphurs, we bring you Dinavolina, the personal project of Giulio Armani, the winemaker at La Stoppa in Emilia Romagna, where Ageno is produced. This “left of centre” wine is a blend of Malvasia di Candida Aromatico, Marsanne, Ortrugo and an unidentifiable ancient local grape.

The amber colour here is clear, unlike the cloudy Baglio. Again there are hints of the apple orchard in the aromas but not as pronounced as in the Catarratto. The acidity is certainly a striking feature, reminiscent of the Basque wine Txakoli.

Fruit flavours are spare but insistent - four months on skins have seen to that colour and the tannins. The finish replicates the palate and one can see how the Dinavolina would go well with the recommended dishes: salt cod; ricotta filled pasta; or hard cheese. Personally, I’d add pork. The wine itself is Highly Recommended.