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

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Two Amazing Whites from Italy.

When I started on this Italian odyssey,  using The Modern History of Italian Wine as my main guide, I was prepared to be impressed by the reds, less prepared to be bowled over by a couple of lesser-known whites. But it is well worth getting acquainted with this superb duo.

Colle Stephano Verdicchio di Matelica (DOC) 2015, 12.5%, €16.15 Le Caveau

Its lovely fruit acidity makes it lively and distinctive, and so good with food. This organic wine is produced in Matelica in Italy’s Marche. Matelica is an inland area, higher and cooler, well in from the coast of the Adriatic. 

Importers Le Caveau say you could eat off the floor of the winery “and hygiene is very important when making this kind of white wine. We love it this for its racy, stony and revitalising mouthfeel”. Sounds like a Sauvignon Blanc to me and indeed Le Caveau recommend using it like a Marlborough SB.

And its not just le Caveau that are impressed. In 2013, the Decanter Italy supplement raved about it: “Italy's best-buy of all time? Unbelievable quality for the price.” Just wonder how well that went down in nearby Jesi, another area well known for its Verdicchio!

Colour is quite a light straw. Aromas are herby, grassy, minerally, reminiscent indeed of Sauvignon Blanc. With its herbal tang, it is lively and refreshing on the palate, zesty with the sourness of green apples and quince. And, like many Italian wines, the crisp acidity means it is superb with food (sea-food ready is a term I've heard used in connection with Verdicchio from this area). Very Highly Recommended.

Terredora Di Paolo “Loggia Della Serra” Greco di Tufo (DOCG) 2015, 12.5%, €18.95 (€16.95 on offer) O’Brien’s

The grape is Greco (nothing to do with Greece, according to Vines and Wines) and the village is Tufo in Campania. The grape and the terroir here seem made for each other and the combination “gives Loggia Della Serra a particular complexity and personality”. Pair with fish, soups and tasty pasta and serve at 10 degrees.

The vineyard’s high opinion of this wine is widely shared. It is highlighted in Vino Italiano as a consistently accurate expression of the grape. It is not “… a long ager. …at its best one or two years from the vintage”. So my timing on this one is spot-on.

The recently published The Modern History of Italian Wine also has high praise for Terredora. “The vineyards are… among the best in Irpinia. Terredora cultivates indigenous grapes only.”

Colour is a light straw and the intense aromas feature white fruits and blossoms. The intensity is also on the palate, citrus notes here too and a rich minerality also prominent in this elegant and full-bodied wine. Definitely has that strong personality and a long dry finish. Very Highly Recommended.



Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Three Lesser-known Grapes. Petit Verdot, Pinotage, Cinsault

Three Lesser-known Grapes
Petit Verdot, Pinotage, Cinsault

You won't find any of this trio in the comfort zone of “international” grapes. And, aside from Pinotage, you’ll not often find them in a bottle on their own. But I have and I’m very glad I did.

Petit Verdot is highly valued in Bordeaux but generally only as a small contributor to the red blend there. It ripens late and is therefore well suited to the Languedoc where our delicious example comes from.

Pinotage, according to Grapes and Vines, “is potentially South Africa’s greatest treasure…. and yet South Africans are some of its fiercest critics”. The varietal was created in Stellenbosch (it is a university town) in 1925 by crossing Pinot Noir and Cinsault. Our bottle is one of the more modern lighter types, bright and juicy.

And that same Cinsault (Samsó in Spain, Cinsaut in most other countries) is found in our other bottle, all sourced by the way by Le Caveau in Kilkenny. The producer in Chile, a Frenchman, has made a natural aromatic wine and spells it Cinsault.

At a tasting last year in L’Atitude, Francesca Jara said of it: “Five years ago, natural wine was almost an underground movement in Chile. This is 100% Cinsault, from really old vines (80 years plus), no added sulphites, no oak.”

Les Hauts de Median Petit Verdot, Pays D’Oc (IGP) 2015, 13%, €13.95  Le Caveau

These Petit Verdot grapes are grown on the slopes of a volcano in the Languedoc (between Béziers and the sea). Winemaker Aurélie Trebuchon-Vic advises there may be a slight deposit - “a sign of traditional wine-making that respects the natural qualities of the fruit". No chemicals and no pesticides are used.

Colour is a deep enough red, a glossy one. Aromas are pretty intense, dark fruits and herby notes too. And there is a super balance of fruit (mainly cherry), spice and acidity in the medium body. It is harmonious, fresh and delicious, with good length, a lovely surprise and Very Highly Recommended. Aurélie recommends enjoying it “with some friends and grilled meat”. More at www.preignes.com


Inkawu Pinotage 2013, Laibach Vineyards, Stellenbosch (South Africa), 14.5%, €22.90 Le Caveau


Laibach Vineyards, who specialise in natural and organic wine,  is situated in one of the prime red wine growing areas of South Africa. Early morning picking means no warm fruit reaches the cellar. This particular wine was aged in French oak (75% new) for 15 months. An entirely natural sediment may form, so decant. By the way, no deposit at all in my bottle.

It has a ruby red colour and you’ll find dark fruit and vanilla in the aromas. It is rich and spicy, complex, lots of flavours (including red cherry, toast). The balance is spot-on and there is a long dry finish. 

Inkawu is the Xhosa name for fun monkeys, a hint that the wine is “a playful, high-spirited expression” of the new South Africa. Maybe so. In any event, the care and hard work, the respect for the land and the fruit, has been rewarded and you may share by enjoying this Very Highly Recommended wine.



Louis-Antoine Luyt Cinsault 2013, Maule Valley (Chile), 14%, €23.50 Le Caveau


Louis-Antoine Luyt, trained by the renowned Marcel Lapierre in Beaujolais, is renowned for the character of his Chilean wines which are organic and natural, some made from very old vines indeed. Quite a character himself - some more detail here.  

This full-bodied ruby red, with no added sulphites and no oak, has inviting aromas of cherry fruit. Lots of fruit flavour, some spice, notes of aniseed follow along with a refreshing acidity and then comes the long dry finalé. Tannins are a little rustic but less so than when I tasted it a year ago. Easy drinking and, as importer Pascal Rossignol might say, easy to digest, this Cinsault is Highly Recommended. Be sure to decant this one!

At last year’s tasting, Francisca said Chile has more than cheap wines, more than the major varieties. “Irish supermarkets don't have what we drink in Chile.” You won’t find this in supermarkets either so major thanks to Le Caveau for giving us the chance to get out of the comfort zone.


* The striking label is based on old Chilean bus signage.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Three Delightful Whites. Chapeau Chaps!

Three Delightful Whites
Chapeaux Chaps!

We have been traveling all over to assemble this top notch trio of white wines for you. Maybe just a trio but they amount to quite an orchestra, maybe even capable of a symphony. The traveling has not been done by me personally but by the folks from Wine Mason, Mary Pawle and Le Caveau. They have bought well. So, let us doff the hats and say Chapeaux to the chaps and chapesses!


Turner Pageot Le Blanc 2015, Languedoc (AOP), 14%, €19.95 Bradley’s, North Main Street, Cork.

Colour is a shiny pale gold. The nose, slightly honeyed, is of ripe apricot and exotic fruit. Ripe fruit abounds on the medium-dry palate. This is fruity, rich and round and quite a powerful wine with a long and mineral  finish. Very Highly Recommended.

It is an organic blend of Roussane (80%) and Marsanne (20). Turner Pageot, imported by the Wine Mason, produce a range of “gastronomic wines” and say the striking colourful collage on the label suggests exciting food and wine matches.

And the food and wine pairings they suggest are Fish and crustaceans in sauce; Saint Jacques with black truffle; Pike dumplings Nantua sauce; Noble poultry; White sausage. Old-fashioned veal blanquette. Mushrooms with cream. 

Noble poultry, how are ye! Well, come to think of it, there was some right royal Irish chicken in the Thai Green Curry from Cinnamon Cottage. I tried the wine with that delicious dish and they got on very well together!

Diwald Goldberg Grüner Veltliner, Wagram (Austria) 2013, 12.5%, €20.75 Mary Pawle Wines

The low-yielding vineyard overlooks the Danube and this organic trocken (dry) white wine has spent 8 months on lees. Importer Mary Pawle recommends matching it with scallops. It is often recommended with Asian also. Indeed, Grüner Veltliner is a very good food wine, very versatile, so much so that sommeliers regularly mention it, especially if a small group is hesitating over which wine to order.

This Diwald bottle boasts an attractive light gold colour. You’ll first meet its light fruit (apples, citrus) and white pepper on the nose. A tingly feel introduces it to the palate, that clean fruit fresh is there too, balanced by a lively and lovely acidity. Very Highly Recommended.

Framingham Classic Riesling, Marlborough 2009, 12%, €22.65 Le Caveau
Colour is an inviting rich yellow. Floral and citrus elements in the aromas and a hint of diesel too followed by a mouthful of delicious complex flavours. It is just off-dry with a little sweetness in the mix - think Mosel rather than Rhine.

Texture has been reinforced by some six months spent on lees. Balance comes from the juicy acidity and the finish is long and drying. Overall quite a rich Riesling and a Highly Recommended one.


The diesel is almost always an unwanted distraction for me in New Zealand (and Australian) Rieslings but here it is just about noticeable and hardly at all with food, especially with that delicious Skeaghanore Smoked Duck Breast.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

From Sharecroppers to Entrepreneurs. The Modern History of Italian Wine

From Sharecroppers to Entrepreneurs
The Modern History of Italian Wine

At a lunch last April in West Cork, Italian winemaker Elena Pantaleoni (La Stoppa) told me that farmers were , not so long ago, looked down on in Italy, that her farmer brother had to leave Italy for France to gain some respect in his chosen profession. I was just a few pages into The Modern History of Italian Wine (edited by Walter Filiputti) when I was reminded of that conversation in the Good Things in Skibbereen.

“The modern history of Italian wine, which began to take shape in the late 1960s and the early 1970s, is the finest page ever written by our agriculture.
It gave birth to the most important agrarian revolution, in a few years turning poor farmers into entrepreneurs whose bottles are now found worldwide. ‘Contadino’ (peasant/farmer) was a derogatory term, sometimes used offensively. Until the 1970s, it was very difficult for a farm/peasant boy in the Friuli countryside, for example, to marry outside of his social class.”

In those few transformative years, a new awareness of public health emerged and production processes, previously heedlessly helped by chemicals, was enhanced by the arrival of “cold technology, laying the groundwork for mechanical oenology or knowledge”

And then the US market took off for Italy, helped hugely by the Italians in the states, in their restaurants in general and by Robert Mondavi in particular. The fascinating book takes us through the decades that followed and “is a history of labour and creativity that is all Italian, something to be proud of”.
Other famous names emerged in Italy. And famous wines too, such as the “Super Tuscan” Tignanello, Sassicaia (100 points from Parker for 1985 vintage and another Super Tuscan), Castello Banfi’s Brunello (which established itself as “a symbol of Italian quality in the wider world”.

The US market was becoming increasingly important and “indeed began to drive the industry”. In the 1990s, Angelo Gaia, another leading figure in the renaissance, noted the change in America: “they were understanding our fine clean wines”.

There were many breakthroughs including the Masi’s innovative Ripasso method and Campofiorin, a Super Venetian and “the inspiration for a while series of wines". 

And then came the setback of the methanol scandal in 1986 when over twenty people died. But Italy acted quickly to tighten quality controls. And the renaissance continued, moving the industry ever further from chemistry towards sustainability.

And that progress is being marked on the landscape (on it and under it) by some amazing wineries, quite a few of them illustrated in the 400 page book. Most of us know the very spectacular wineries of Spain but they are matched in Italy. 

Just take a look at some of my favourites, the L’Ammiraglia in Tuscany, the Cantina Khamma and the Feudo di Mezzo (both in Sicily), the Petra in Tuscany, La Brunella in Piedmont, and Cantina Jermann di Ruttars in Friuli.

There are separate chapters on the 60s, 70, and each decade right up to the present. Here the winemakers who were prominent in each decade are mentioned. Just two hundred or so in all, so many will be disappointed but the editor says the book is dedicated “to all Italian vintners” and also to those not mentioned (who are asked to “please be understanding”).

Factors leading to the breakthrough in the 60s were the controversial introduction of the DOCs in 1962 and the abolition of sharecropping in 1964. Many sharecroppers left the countryside and the old vines (and many native varieties) were at risk. But many former sharecroppers became modern farmers and many entrepreneurs joined them in the vineyards.

Fontanafredda, many of whose wines are available here (Karwig Wines, for example), go back a bit further than the 60s and the estate was, in 1858, part of the heritage of King Vittorio Emanuele 11.  They were making excellent Barolo at least as far back as 1924. In recent times, “the property passed to another visionary, Oscar Farinetti, who revitalized its sale and the commercial image of this brand which today, with its 90 hectares and concessions, produces about 7.5 million bottles”.

In the early 70s, “we saw the beginning of the long process that would lead knowledgeable oenology to drive the chemistry away from the temple”. As Piero Antinori said: “Modern technology simply allows us to express our full potential”. Leonildo Pieropan figures prominently in this decade. In 1971, he produced the Soave Calvarino and in 1978, Soave La Rocca, aged in wood, “another revolution for his territory”.  Liberty Wines import the wines of Pieropan to Ireland.


The “mastery of oenological science” put the Italians in position to tackle global markets and, despite the methanol setback, they did so in style during the 80s. But Angela Piotti Velenosi first had to conquer her local area of the Marches and Piceno where only cooperative wineries and bulk wine reigned. 

Angela and her husband founded their winery in 1984 starting with just five hectares. Three decades later, the vineyards stretch to 105 hectares and produce 2.5 millions bottles, “of which a large share is exported to five continents”. Quite a lot it makes its way here to Ireland and Karwigs have quite a selection.

In the 1990s, Italian winemakers, who had mastered the technology, began to look at their vineyards “as the source of better quality. Viticulture took its place again at the centre of the wine system.” Italy was flying in world markets, Brunello di Montalcino “a symbol of this extraordinary success”.

The islands of Sicily and Sardinia are major players in the Italian wine industry yet one of the smallest producers is among those chosen to represent the 1990s. “One label, one wine and a success for twenty years”, the Galardi estate is on the slopes of..an extinct volcano. The four owners started to recover the old vineyards in 1991 and now produce, organically since 1997, some 33,000 bottles of IGT Roccamonfina Terra di Lavoro, a blend of Aglianico and a small percentage of Piedirosso, “the essence of the south”.

Sustainability was the model to follow as the new millennium dawned. Wine tourism too began to build and, speaking of building, famous architects designed inspiring wineries. And who do I see listed as one of the “representatives" of this decade? None other then Colutta (Friuli Venezia Giulia) whose owner Giorgio Colutta visited Cork last year.
Giorgio (right) in Cork last year.

Giorgio explained that he is not organic (that's easier to do in the warmer south!) but this former pharmacist has introduced environmentally sustainable cultivation techniques and is self sufficient with regard to energy consumption. His is a small company but has reached out around the world, especially to the Far East. Fortunately he is on the books of Wines Direct where you may purchase his amazing Pinot Grigio and the even more amazing Schioppettino. 

The Schioppettino grape variety is from the local area and has a history there dating back to at least the 13th century. Giorgio told me the name means “little bang”, the sound the grape makes when you pop a ripe one into your mouth!

The chapter on the current decade features Up and Coming winemakers and ideas. The future may be in the past if the exploits of father and son team, Pasquale and Umberto Ceratti, are anything to go by. In Calabria, they make “precious wine with ancient methods”.  Following these antique methods, they make a few thousand bottles of Greco di Bianco from a vine that came with the Greeks in the 8th century BC.
Elena Pantaleoni (front, 1st left), at lunch in Skibbereen

So back to Elena and her vineyard La Stoppa. Her family bought the old place in 1973, and revived the vineyards and the winery. Nowadays, using organic methods, La Stoppa specialises in the production of wines derived from the local varieties: Malvasia di Candia Aromatica, as well as from Barbera and Bonarda, in addition to the wines derived from the historically introduced varieties of French origin: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Semillon. Beautiful wines from a beautiful place and available here from Le Caveau. Just thought I'd get that in, even if the editors couldn't!

Divided into three parts (“The Renaissance of Italian Wine,” “Italian Wine. Innovation” and “The Geography of Italian Wine”), the book narrates a never-before-told, all-Italian story of hard work and creativity. It leads readers on a journey through the sun-drenched regions of Italy, a country that has dramatically revamped its wine-growing and vinification procedures since the 1970s. All in all, it is a marvellous book, full of detail and passion, and well illustrated too.

  • Just one criticism: While there are indices for winemakers and another for names, there is no overall index. If I want find Valtellina (which is mentioned at least three times), for example, I just have to go through the whole book. Why Valtellina? Well, we had an Italian night in the Farmgate in 2015 and the wines came from there as does Farmgate front-of-house Mirco! The Italians and their wines are everywhere - thankfully. 
  • The Modern History of Italian Wine is edited by Walter Filiputti and is published by Skira. It is available from Eason's (€58.80) and online from the publishers (€46.75).  

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Ribera Del Duero. Special Land. Special Wines

Ribera Del Duero
Special Land. Special Wines

Tempranillo, in many Irish people’s minds, is the grape of Rioja. And it is. But, now, the bodegas of Ribera Del Duero, all 300 of them operating over 22,400 has of vineyards, are also laying a strong claim to the grape by making some excellent wines with it.

Wine has been produced in this beautiful region since Roman times, though it became well known outside of Spain only in the 1990s. North west of Madrid and south west of Rioja, in the Castilla y León region, the vines grow on a flowing swathe of land that’s approximately 115 kms long and 35 kms wide. 

The vast majority (including Fuentenarro, near La Horra) grow in the province of Burgos but some too in Segovia, Soria (Antidoto, for example) and Valladolid. See the map here

Two related factors that make Ribera different are the average altitude of 850 metres and the big variations in summer between the heat of the day and the cool of the night. The heat of the day promotes the ripening, the chill of the night preserves acidity. 

This is a land of sudden storms, dismal winds, intense frosts (often in late spring), a hot (42 degrees in summer, though it can dive to minus 29 in winter) and dry environment. 

But the best wines are often made in extreme conditions, on the edge between possible and impossible, and I think we have two very good examples below, even if neither is a Crianza or Reserva.

Fuentenarro Vendemia Seleccionada, Ribera del Duero (DO) 2011, 14%, €23.70 Le Caveau

This one hundred per cent Tempranillo is from old vines (average age 56 years) grown at 840 metres with organic principles applied. It spends 12 months in French and US oak and a further twelve in bottle (in a cellar 8 metres underground) before release.

It has a very dark ruby colour. Aromas are complex, plum and other dark fruits, chocolate notes too. You find the same dense combination on the palate, spice too; it is soft and smooth, with tannins very much in play and boasts a long and dry finish. Needs food though, venison perhaps! Highly Recommended.

Hernando y Sourdais Antidoto, Ribera del Duero (DO) 2011, 14.5%, €22.15 le Caveau

Again, organic principles are employed and other similarities with the Fuentenarro include old vines, ancient (60 year old Tinto del Pais, the local name for Tempranillo), grown between 750 and 1000 metres.

And yes, Antidoto means antidote, as winemaker Bertrand Sourdais envisages this creation as an antithesis of big heavy “international” style Ribera wines. You’ll find a much more prosaic dictionary meaning on the label. The wine has matured for 12 months in barrels, previously used to make Haut Brion.

The colour is a very dark but glossy red. Aromas are a mix of plum, blackberry and spice. On the palate, it is noticeably very smooth; the plum and blackberry combine, spice again, tannins too (not as obvious as in the Fuentenarro) and a dry persistent finalé. Smooth and elegant, a most delicious “medicine”, and Very Highly Recommended.

You'll note both wines above are 2011. It was a good year!

 JESÚS SASTRE'S GUIDE TO VINTAGES IN RIBERA DEL DUERO

  • 2004. “Outrageously ripe”. Reds had low pH and very high alcohol levels, up to 16%”. 
  • 2005. “Fantastic vintage, one of the best in the past 15 years with balanced alcohol levels”.
  • 2006. “A good, abundant vintage, yet fine and balanced. Relatively early expression but it is coming along well”.
  • 2007. “Awful. We suffered hail and then frosts in September.  Out of our top reds we only produced Pesus, which didn’t reach 14.5% of alcohol. Production was very low”.
  • 2008. “A very cool vintage, grapes hardly ripened and botrytis was an issue”. No premium reds were made. Their grapes were destined to the Crianza and those usually used for the Crianza went to the entry-level Roble.
  • 2009. “Acidity was a bit low, but it was a remarkable vintage”.
  • 2010. “Cool, high-acidity vintage but with no botrytis at all. Very good”.
  • 2011. “A really great vintage and the very best since 2005”.
  • 2012. “A balanced vintage but it didn’t reach the level of the more powerful 2011. Wines were really easy to make and I find our Crianza outstanding”.
  • 2013. “Very much in line with 2008, perhaps worse”.
  • 2014. “Mind-blowingly good; all the grapes were fine and we had quantity as well; it could be as remarkable as 2005 and 2011”.
  • 2015. “Another good, easy vintage for us, perhaps more tannic and less abundant than 2014, but the quality is high”.
  • 2016. “Similar to 2015 and to 2006; the wines show good balance”.
  • An extra tip: “Vintages finished in ‘7’ have a poor reputation in the area: 1967, 1977 and 1987 were very bad: 1997 was even worse; 2007 was terrible”. Could 2017 break the trend?
This guide is taken from a recent edition of The Spanish Wine Lover. Much more info on Ribera here

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Exciting White Trio. Albarino, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling

Terras Gauda Abadío de San Campio Albarino, Rías Baixas (DO) 2014, 12%, €20.35 Le Caveau

Thought to be related to Riesling and presumably brought by Cluny monks to 12th century Iberia, via France, the recently fashionable Albarino grape is now mainly associated with Rías Baixas in north western Spain. It is also grown in neighbouring areas in Portugal where it is known as Alvarinho.

I was expecting good things in this bottle and I got them, even better than anticipated. Colour is mid-gold, bright and clean and there is no shortage of white fruits in the aromas. On the palate, it is bright and fruity, citrus in the tingle, minerality to the fore, a superb combination overall and that includes the long finish. Ticks all the boxes for a classy Albarino and is Very Highly Recommended.

The producers say it is ideal with seafood, shellfish and fish and especially with Tuna steaks.

Elgin Ridge 282 Sauvignon Blanc, South Africa 2014, 14%, €19.95 Le Caveau
At 282 metres above sea-level, we are at the ideal height to create cool climate Sauvignon Blanc in the Elgin Valley. The organic farming methods give the wine its elegance and unique flavour.

So says Marion Smith, ex Ballyjamesduff, who now runs the winery with her husband Brian. By the way, Dexter cattle, a native Irish breed, figure in the organic farming, grazing between the rows of vines and indeed Marion has the biggest herd of Dexter in the Western Cape.

Dexters aren’t the only “helpers” for Marion and Brian, who planted their first vines here in 2007. They also use Dorper sheep, chickens and Peking ducks to control the weeds and pests. Looks like the combination is working very well indeed.

Colour is a medium-gold with green tints. The aromas are fresh and cool. That freshness extends to the palate, tingly with concentrated white fruit, including gooseberry, citrus also prominent, pepper and spice too and then an excellent finish. Highly Recommended.

Carl Ehrhard Rüdesheim Riesling trocken, Rheingau 2015, 12%, €17.80 Karwig Wines

Grapes are hand-picked and indeed the vinification is focussed on “preserving the natural fruit”. This is facilitated by natural and gentle fining and slow cool fermentation. As usual Carl Ehrhard gets it right.


Colour is pale gold with greenish tints and you'll note micro bubbles clinging to the glass. Aromas are a gentle mix of apple and citrus. It tingles the palate; the intense fruit, now with more than a hint of grapefruit, and a super refreshing acidity combine well all the way to a long finish. This dry wine is Very Highly Recommended. Perfect for aperitif and with seafood and Riesling is regularly recommended for Asian.