Showing posts with label Liam Campbell. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Liam Campbell. Show all posts

Monday, February 6, 2017

Irish Focus at Australian Day Tasting. Classics and New Wave Impress

Irish Focus at Australian Day Tasting
Classics and New Wave Impress
I was determined to concentrate on the Focus Table, this year featuring a selection of 31 wines by Irish wine personalities who have a keen interest in Australia, including Liam Campbell, Martin Moran, Harriet Tindal, Colm McCan (Ballymaloe) and Gavin Ryan (Black Pig, Kinsale). The figure was supposed to be 24 wines but it did get extended!

Laura Jewell MW, Wine Australia Head of Market EMEA, said:  We hope this new section adds an extra dimension to this year’s event. Having looked at the nominations, these wines really do highlight the diversity of Australian wine and reinforce the country’s reputation as a premium wine producer.” 

The promise, and it was kept, was that “great classic wines from the likes of Cullen, Clonakilla and Bindi will be on show, plus new-wave artisans like Jauma, Ochota Barrels and Gentle Folk”.  

So the signs were good as I arrived at the Royal Hibernian Academy and sought out the Focus Table. And I made a sparkling start with the House of Arras ‘EJ Carr Late Disgorged’ Tasmania Chardonnay Pinot Noir 2003. Fresh and vibrant, an amazing sparkling wine.

Then followed a string of young Rieslings, including the Josef Chromy ‘SGR’ Tasmania Riesling 2016 with an ABV of just 7.5% and a delicious Skillogalee Clare Valley 2015 by Dave Palmer, “mineral, dry and crisp” as noted by Gavin Ryan from Kinsale’s Black Pig who selected it.

The Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Hunter Valley Semillon 2011  was superb, “intense and complex, but elegant and refreshing” noted Martin Moran. It was all good around here and the standard was maintained by the Bird in Hand Adelaide Hills Grüner Veltliner, the grapes picked in the cold of the night to retain flavour and freshness.

Maximum drinkability and enjoyment is the aim of the producers of the Gentle Folk Forest Range Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir 2015, the first of the reds and the first of Ballymaloe's Colm McCan’s selections for the table. I reckon the producers got it right as did Colm.

There were quite a few Syrah and Shiraz at this point, all very good including the Payton and Jones ‘Major Kong - Planet of the Grapes’, Yarra Valley 2015. My favourite though was the blend: De Bortoli ‘La Boheme Act Four’ Yarra Valley Syrah Gamay, imported by Febvre and a Liam Campbell pick. 

The Colm McCann selection, Jauma ‘Audrey’ McLaren Vale Shiraz 2015, is produced biologically and intrigued with its “cider-y” notes.

Some excellent Grenache on the table too including Ochota Barrels ‘The Fugazi Vineyard’ McLaren Vale 2015, the Willunga 100 McLaren Vale 2015, and the Cirillo ‘1850 Ancestor Wine’ Barossa Valley 2011. The Cirillo was chosen by Ian Brosnan of Ely and he admitted that, until recently, he had never tasted Grenache of this quality.

And quality too, at a very good price, in Kevin O’Brien’s Kangarilla Road Terzetto, a McLaren Vale blend of Sangiovese, Primitivo and Nebbiolo. It is a favourite of mine, was chosen by Liam Campbell and is available at O’Brien Wines.

Perhaps the best blend of the lot came towards the end: the Cullen ‘Diana Madeline’ Margaret River Cabernet Blend 2014, imported by Liberty Wines and nominated by Gavin Ryan who has fond memories of enjoying it at a full moon harvest party in Margaret River.

Time then for a chat at the Liberty Wines stand with Garry Gunnigan and new recruit Marcus Gates and a tasting of their sweet wines before heading into the general wine area.

Here we soon met up with Jonny Callan of Cabroso Wines who import the Kelly’s Patch range to Ireland and we hope to link up in Cork soon and find out more about the company.

Having concentrated on the Focus Table we missed out on many stalls, including McGuigan where they were tasting the impressive Founder’s Series that I enjoyed in Kinsale a few months ago.

Hard to go wrong with the Deakin Estate and Katnook Wines that are imported by Findlater (and available in Cork in Bradley's and other outlets). 

Next time I'm up in North Main Street, I'll be looking at some of the Penfolds that Laura introduced me to at the Findlater’s stand. Both the Bin 2 South Australian Shiraz Mataro (that is what the Australians call Mourvedre) 2012 and the Bin 28 South Australian Shiraz 2011 impressed.

With Marcus (Liberty Wines)
Been writing this and wondering how the Australians get to name their wines. Heard a good story from Michael at the Lanchester Wines stand as we sampled the excellent ‘Don’t Tell Gary’, a McPherson Shiraz 2015 from the Strathbogie Ranges. 

This wine is a labour of love - one the accountants didn't know about.  In 2014, winemaker Jo Nash discovered an exceptional parcel of Shiraz from the Grampians which she gently crushed, then tucked away in some ridiculously expensive French oak barrels to age for 12 months.  

All the while, she was urging her fellow employees: “Don’t tell Gary”. No one did tell Gary, her boss. Now the wine speaks for itself - minimal intervention, purity of fruit, Shiraz at its best and Jo has been given free rein to investigate other possibilities in the vineyard!
John (left) and Michael at Lanchester Wines
See also earlier article on great selection of fortified sweet wines at the tasting here.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Beaujolais: Wines of Character. Gamay and Granite good for each other!

Beaujolais: Wines of Character.
Gamay and Granite good for each other!
Liam Campbell (standing)
Did you know that the Gamay grape is an exile? In 1395, it was outlawed by Royal decree as being “a very bad and disloyal plant”. Sixty years later another edict was issued against it. And so it was pushed out of Burgundy and south into neighbouring Beaujolais where it has thrived on the granite based soils. Wonder what those royals, Philippe the Bold and Philippe the Good, would have made of last week’s Beaujolais masterclass in Cork’s L'Atitude 51.

Indeed, I was wondering a bit myself in advance, not knowing very much about the region other than the famous Nouveau and the Villages and a few crus. But I needn't have worried. Liam Campbell, who took us through the masterclass, had no less than 14 examples of the Beaujolais wines and very impressive they were.

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. Liam had just one example and the Domaine du Vissoux was a fresh and unoaked beauty, an immediate favourite with me. “Very versatile,” he said. “Good fruit and acidity and moderate alcohol, a great house wine in a restaurant”.

Best drunk young. And best young too applied to the Chateau de Grandmont Rosé 2014, crisp and refreshing, but not available in Ireland, seeking distribution. Liam emphasised the acidity of both these openers. Acidity is good - “it makes your mouth water.” Tannins, on the other hand, “dry the mouth” but “they are great with meat”!
Seven down, seven to go!
Onto to the reds now and a “basic” Beaujolais: Domaine Dominique Piron, Les Cadoles de la Chanaise 2014 (a good year!). Pale ruby with a nose of summery red fruit and a palate that was dry, with gentle tannins and that essential acidity again!

Moved on up then to a Beaujolais Villages, Domaine Moillard 2013. This was a very agreeable wine, again with lightweight tannins and excellent acidity and Liam reckons there is better value to be had at this level as against the general Beaujolais.

Ten Crus, the “flagship wines”, remained and here, for me, it was the finish of the wines that now began to take the attention. The Crus come from the granite hills of the northern part of Beaujolais.

Before I go into a little detail, it might be no harm here to quote from Grapes & Wine (2015 edition): “Good Beaujolais is delicious: mineral, focussed, with fruit of raspberries, black pepper, cherries; it's never overstated or blockbusting, but it has character, balanced acidity, lightness and freshness”. Reckon Oz Clarke and Margaret Rand got it more or less correct there
Jean Bourjade, MD Inter Beaujolais, speaks at the event. Nouveau? They don't
promote it anymore in Ireland....But do in some of their larger customers, such as Japan.
Chiroubles, Domaine Patrick Bouland, Vieilles Vignes 2015, seeking distribution
Liam remarked that this might need another six months. Will be worth waiting for - “2015 was a gift from the gods; 2010 and 2005 were also very good”.

Saint Amour, Maison Jean Loron, Domaine Des Billards 2011, €23.99 Classic Drinks.
The Saint of Love is the most northerly Cru. Colour is a youthful ruby - “..plenty of fuel in the tank”.

Fleurie, Maison Louis Jadot, Poncereau 2014, €19.99, Findlaters
One of the most recognizable of the Crus, grown on pink granite. It has spent 8 to 10 months in oak and “is a little bit young yet”. “This is more of a marathon runner than a sprinter. Keep for a year.”

Régnié, Domaine Rochette 2012, €17.50 James Nicholson
On the other hand, this one, which has seen no wood, “is much more concentrated, great balance and very lovely now.” Régnié is the most recently created cru.

Brouilly, Chateau du Chatelard 2014, €19.25 Karwig Wines
Brouilly is the largest Cru and this bottle has concentrated aromas and flavours. Liam found a little sediment so advised to decant it. Got a bottle of this the other day myself so looking forward to a longer acquaintance!
Jean Bourjade
As the Macon overlaps Beaujolais,
 many white wines made in northern Beaujolais
 are sold under the better-known Macon appellation.
Côte de Brouilly, Domaine de Terres Dorées, €21.15 Wines Direct
“Very savoury aromas..not typical,” said Liam. But it is rich, great balance and a great finish. One of my favourites of the class.

Juliénas, Domaine de la Conseillère 2012, €20.95, O’Brien’s
This is pretty much faultless: expressive fruity aromas, well rounded, ripe fruit, long finish.

Chénas, Paul-Henri Thillardon, Les Carrières 2012, seeking distribution
This was a “challenging vintage”, according to Liam. Jean Smullen, the event organiser, emphasised that Beaujolaise has ageing potential. “And this is an example.”

Morgon, Domaine Jean Foillard, Côte Du Py 2012, €36.95 Mitchell & Son
Côte Du Py comes from a single vineyard in the 2nd largest cru area. It is a natural wine, a risky operation, which partly accounts for the high price. Liam noted that the wine was “slightly cloudy, it is a  natural wine but, on the palate, you're in for a treat folks.” And we were. This was a higher level, great red fruit flavours, an outstanding wine. Five star. Maybe six!

Moulin-a-Vent, Didier Desvignes, Close les Charmes 2010, €23.95, Le Caveau
“This is the most regal of all the crus,” declared Liam. From crumbly pink granite soil, come some of the most intensely flavoured and multi-layered wines of the entire region, according to the Le Caveau listing. And this organic beauty was a terrific example. “Look at the colour,” said Liam. “Totally ruby, not a hint of aging. On the palate, it is very rich, dry, great flavors, long finish, a great food wine.” It was one my stars here. A great finalé.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Liam Campbell hosts Beaujolais MasterClass in Cork

Liam Campbell hosts Beaujolais MasterClass in Cork

The event is open to bone fide trade (on or off) and press. 
Contact: Jean Smullen Tel: (086) 816 8468

Sunday, March 13, 2016

California Wines at Ballymaloe. Variety Under The Sun

California Wines at Ballymaloe
Variety Under The Sun

 No less than eight grape varieties featured as Liam Campbell, in association with Wines of California, presented a very interesting and high quality tasting at the Grainstore in Ballymaloe last Wednesday.

The big “spread” was no accident as Liam deliberately chose to show that the Sunshine State can grow any variety under the sun. “No matter what variety, you can be sure that someone in California is experimenting with it.”
When you think of California, you bring up some lovely images: “Tee-shorts, shorts, flip-flops, beach, laid-back, easy-going. And the producers embrace that friendly attitude and praise one another’s wine.”

He started the whites with Paul Dolan’s 2012 organic Chardonnay from Mendocino. Classic Drinks are the importers and rrp is €26.99. The Dolan family has a Waterford connection. This “is totally dry but fruity with medium acidity”. It is full-bodied, with a persistent finish. Dolan is a leading proponent of biodynamic and organic grape farming, according to Wines of California (2014). This was my favourite of the three whites.

The Benziger 2012 Sauvignon blanc, imported by Febvre (rrp €24.99), “has quite a European accent”, according to Liam. “Great acidity with lemon, lime and apple characteristics, a very versatile food wine”. It certainly went well with the St Tola Ash Goat Cheese.

Benziger, not to be confused with the Beringers, are another vineyard that use natural farming methods and to quote from Wines of California: “The rolling hills of their Glen Ellen estate are, cattle, and a host of bugs and birds that keep the vineyard in balance."

In between the whites and the reds, Liam spoke about the Morgan Bay 2014 Zinfandel Rose that we had started with as we took our seats in the grainstore. At 10% abv it is a light drink, also a little bit sweet. “But like Blue Nun, it gets people into wine; it is fresh and fruity and a great cheese partner.” Now it was time “to move on to the dark side”.

The reds started with a Pinot Noir, the La Crema (Monterey) 2012, imported by Celtic Whiskey & Wines with an rrp of €31.99. Liam praised it for its high acidity, a great summer wine, versatile and very good with food, not just red meats but may be served cool with poultry, fish and so on. Again, the vineyard is sustainably farmed. 

Wines are produced in four quality levels. We had an excellent example in Ballymaloe but apparently the Point Noir to watch out for is the third tier Russian River Valley 2011 from the Appellation series.

Liam continued his exploration of the many varieties when he next introduced the Barbera 2010 from Montevino (Spanish for mountain wine). “It has  a gentle ruby colour, looks very young for a 2010, plummy aromas now..mouth-watering, gentle tannins, high acidity that cuts the fat in your chorizo!” Sure did. It is imported by Findlaters and rrp is €14.50.

Wouldn't be a Californian tasting without a good red Zinfandel and our example was a Bonterra 2013, with a big abv of 15%, imported by Richmond Market, rrp €18.00. This has a pale-ish ruby colour with black fruits and gentle tannins and was a perfect match with that delicious Mossfield cheese. Bonterra, well known for their Merlot, are the leading producer of organic wines in California.

The Delicato Vineyards are one of the leading family vineyards in the US and produce under a variety of labels including Gnarly Head that you will see in Ireland. We enjoyed their First Press 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, imported by Cassidy Wines and with an rrp of €26.99 .This is ageing well, “a perfect ruby to the edge” and went down well. Liam’s tip here was to decant!

We finished on a high note with a Syrah, the Tepusquet 2013 from Cambria. You'll find it in O'Brien’s at €24.99. The Tepusquet vineyard has been replanted over the past 20 years. Liam: “The nose is subdued but there is a deep mine of flavour, black fruit characteristics and great acidity. Great with steak… but try it with fried calamari! The temptation is to use it now but it will age well.”

It was quite a tasting with nine wines in all. Thanks to Liam, Justine Adams from Wines of California and to Colm McCan of Ballymaloe. Thanks too to Ballymaloe for their terrific matching bites all through.

Some very recent post on California and its wines.
1 - California Trio. Zin, Zin and PN.
2 -Wines from California. Serious. Cheeky and Over Here