Showing posts with label Merlot. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Merlot. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Three cracking reds

Marco Real Colection Privado Crianza Navarra (DOC) 2013, 14.5%, €17.40 Karwig

The wines of Navarra are not as prominent in the Irish market as those of Rioja, its next door neighbour in Spain's North West. But this impressive amalgam of Merlot, Tempranillo and Syrah, illustrates well why it should be taken more seriously. 

The grapes are hand-picked and sorted twice on arrival at the winery. Twelve months in new French oak barrels is followed by 12 months in bottle and that earns it the Crianza sticker (on the back of the bottle).

The legs here, as you might expect, are slow to clear; colour is a deep ruby. There is an attractive mix of aromas (mainly ripe red fruits) plus hints of oak. Silky, Fruity. Spicy. Tannins are more or less totally integrated as is the oak. This full-bodied intense wine has a persistent finish and is Very Highly Recommended. Good value as well.




Casa de la Ermita Idílico Jumilla (DOP) 2012, 14.5%, €19.99 (€15.00 on offer from 23/11 to 1/3) SuperValu

A blend of Petit Verdot and Monastrell, this Crianza comes from old vines grown at 700 metres above sea-level.

It has an intense garnet colour, the legs slow to clear as you'd expect. Intense aromas too: darker fruits, plum prominent, hints of mint too. Rich on the palate, full of concentrated fruit flavours, spice too and close-to-smooth tannins. Excellent finish also, leaving you with that second glass feeling. This newcomer to SuperValu is very welcome and Highly Recommended.

Koha (Merlot, Cabernet Franc) Hawkes Bay (New Zealand) 2016, 13%, €14.00 Marks and Spencer
As you can see, this is a blend of Merlot (80%) and Cabernet Franc. It won Platinum for the producers, the Giesen family, in the recent Decanter awards and it is exclusive to Marks and Spencer. The sunny region of Hawkes Bay is perfect for Merlot. Just noticed that the Giesens produce an unusual style “blend” of hard apple cider and white wine, in a can!

Back to our smooth and fruity wine with its deep purple colour. Warm dark fruits prominent in a lovely mix of aromas.  Plums and berries on the juicy palate, oak in the background. Fresh and vibrant, this smooth engaging young wine, medium to full-bodied, is worth getting to know. Highly Recommended. Pretty good value too. Match with roasts and BBQ.

The Koha, by the way, is a long tailed cuckoo, a summer visitor to New Zealand.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Chile's Aresti Family Wines. Plus A Lovely Albarino.

The Aresti Family, Highly Rated Chilean Winemakers
Jon (right) with Yours Truly
Though established in 1951, it was 1999 before the Aresti family began producing wine under their own label on their Bellavista estate in Chile’s Curicó Valley. Now, according to Wines of South America, they have “one thousand cultivated acres”. Their signature line is the Aresti Family Collection (also carried by SuperValu). 

Their winemaker, since 2005, is the experienced Jon Usabiaga, highly respected by fellow Chilean winemakers and a regular visitor to Ireland. I met him a couple of years back and he told me: “The main aim for me is to show the real character of every variety. If someone is choosing a Cabernet Sauvignon, it should taste like a Cabernet Sauvignon”.

Aresti Bellavista Reserva Merlot Curicó Valley (Chile) 2015, 13%,  €12.99 (offer €10.00 until 6/09/17) SuperValu.
Unusually, there is a truck on the label. It is the first truck, “La Perica”, that arrived in Bellavista, the founding vineyard of Aresti. Both the truck and the vineyard date back to 1951.

Colour of this Merlot is ruby. It boasts aromas of ripe red fruit, hints of vanilla too. The juicy palate has strawberry flavours and spice too, tannins are mild, and the finish is long and dry. Highly Recommended.


Aresti Bellavista Reserva Chardonnay Curicó Valley (Chile) 2016, 13%,  €12.99 (offer €10.00 until 6/09/17) SuperValu.
This is another of SuperValu’s Specially Sourced wines, an increasingly important part of their wine offering. “Delivering new and exciting wines to cater for all tastes is top of our agenda,” says Kevin O’Callaghan, Head of Wine.

Like the Merlot, the Chardonnay is produced at Bellavista (note the lorry again!), the original Aresti venture. You’ll also find Bellavista Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon in SuperValu.

The colour is straw, with tints of green. No need to get really close in this instance as intense tropical fruit aromas rise from the glass. The fresh fruit features too on the creamy palate and good acidity keeps all in balance. A long dry finish lingers. This harmonious wine is Highly Recommended.



A Lovely Albarino
Bodegas Gallegas 'Abellio' Albarino, Rias Baixas (Spain) 2016, €12.99 (€10.00 when on offer) 12.5%, SuperValu

We leave Argentina now and cross the Atlantic to Spain, to Galicia and this attractively labelled Albarino. I know Kevin O’Callaghan is very proud of this one as he helped design the label (just one of the ways in which SuperValu help their producers sell their wines).

Winemaker Xoan Casiano Rego Ribeiro (call him Joan for short) is a defender of Galician wines, of the native varieties in particular, and has done a great job here with the hand-harvested Albarino fruit. 



The wine has the typical mid-gold colour.With its excellent aromas (white fruit) and flavours, it is ideal with shellfish and fish and also recommended for lightly spiced Asian chicken dishes. It is smooth and intense on the palate, with refreshing minerality and well balanced. Very Highly Recommended.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Three Wines. And a few beers!

Three Wines. And a few beers!
Valdivia Dorius Amontillado seco sherry, Jerez (DO), 18%, €17.85 (50cls) Karwig Wines.

This dry amontillado is the perfect match for meat dishes and mature cheese and vanished very quickly here, where it was used as an aperitif - so quickly, I didn't have time to take any notes. 

To get the best from its generous aromas and flavours, serve it at between 12 and 14 degrees. It has lovely amber colour, a rich almond nose, a nutty and tangy flavour and the superb finish goes on and on. And you can get all this from just one little sip. Very Highly Recommended. Enjoy, with all five senses, as they invite on the bottle.

Exquisite Collection Cremant du Jura (AOP) Chardonnay 2014, 12%, €11.29 Aldi

Had to pick up a sparkling wine in a hurry and got this Brut (dry) in at the local Aldi. A few hours later, I was very impressed with it. This sparkling Chardonnay, made using the same methods as they use in making champagne, was perfect for our little celebration. It is not lacking in complexity, has light fruit flavours, a hint of biscuit (that you find in champagnes), and a fine finish. Good price too. Very Highly Recommended.


Barefoot Merlot (California), 13.5%, €10.00 O’Donovan’s Off Licence
“Wine tastes better in a tee than in a tux”, Barefoot say. So you’re thinking cheap and cheerful, nothing wrong with that and nothing wrong with this Merlot either.  This is smooth and warming, full of raspberry and blackberry flavours, mild tannins, well balanced too and with a decent finish. It is an easy-drinker and good value. 

Beer Bullets

Cloudwater Session IPA Wai-iti 4.5%
Thought this was an American brewery but they are from Manchester. Brexit or not, this is an excellent beer, a superb IPA. You’ll get hoppier but the balance here is spot-on and as a result, the beer is well worth a try. You may not get it in Old Trafford or The Etihad but you’ll certainly find a bottle in Bradley’s.

St Bernardus Wit, 5.5%, 

St Bernardus has quite a smile and his abbey beers deliver every time. As they do with this perfect wheat beer. This traditional Belgian wheat beer is more or less a perfect example of the type, with clove notes, very refreshing, your perfect thirst quencher. Thirsty? Bradley’s have this answer.

St Bernardus Abt 12, 10%
Another big delivery from the Belgians, the big here referring to the alcohol at 10%. Not a big worry though; the beer is perfectly balanced between malty, bitter and sweet. It has fruity aromas, is full bodied with a hoppy touch on the finish.


They say: It is the pride of our stable, the nec plus ultra of our brewery. Abbey ale brewed in the classic 'Quadrupel' style of Belgium's best Abbey Ales.  

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.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Wines From California. Serious. Cheeky. And Over Here.

Wines From California
Serious. Cheeky. And Over Here.


California Wines – Less is More is the title of a Wine Event in Ballymaloe next month and here, by way of introduction, are three wines from the Golden State. Two are reasonably serious players, the other not serious at all!
Still on the lookout for Californian wines, so let me know if you have a tip!


Joel Gott Chardonnay (California) 2013, 13.8%, €14.99 Bradley’s, Cork.


This has a bright golden colour, micro-bubbles clinging to the sides of the glass. Aromas of white fruits, blossoms too. Fresh and fruity on the palate, tingles as it spreads its lively acidity, all combining in a really long finish. This elegant wine is unoaked and Very Highly Recommended.


The grapes come from three different counties of California; from Monterey (which enhances the acidity) and from Sonoma and Napa (for better concentration). It is all stainless steel after that with some time sur lies to “improve viscosity”.


The Gott family have been making wine in California for five generations and are also well known for Gott’s Roadside where you can get “great burgers and milk shakes” according to Wines of California which itself has Joel's recipe for Fish Tacos (paired with Sauvignon blanc). Watch out too for their Cabernet Sauvignon and Alakai (a red blend).
See the maker’s short video on the Chardonnay here.  
Wilson Vineyard The Crusher Chardonnay (Clarksburg) 2011, €16.90 Karwig Wines

Another with a bright golden colour, tints of green too. Aromas of white fruit, blossoms, even hints of herb. Great mix of fruit on the fresh palate, nicely restrained though, beautiful rounded mouthfeel, enough acidity to balance and a long engaging finish.

This well balanced wine is “a perfect candidate for a bevy of dishes. Try pairing with halibut with lemon butter atop of rice pilaf or a delicious vegetable stir-fry with soy sauce”. There is, by the way, a small percentage of Viognier included.

The Crusher, from Clarksburg (beginning to emerge on the wine scene), captures the freshness of this world-class growing region, and is Very Highly Recommended.
Barefoot Merlot (California), 13.5%, €10.00 O’Donovan’s Off Licence

“Wine tastes better in a tee than in a tux” is the motto, one of them anyway, for Barefoot who pride themselves on making wines “free from the tyranny of all wine snobbery”.  Jennifer Wall, their winemaker since 1995, is best known in-house as Pinky Toe and, with some 2,000 medals to her credit, Pinky is quite a success story. Barefoot is part of E & J Gallo since 2005.

Merlot, of course, is also quite a success story in California. In 1990, 15,205 tons of Merlot were crushed here and that had risen to 282,300 by 2014. In the US overall, consumption figures for the grape are 2.8 million cases in 1990, 18 million in 2014.

This Barefoot is a fun wine with 76% Merlot and 24% other red wines. The Merlot grapes were harvested from select vineyards in The Central Valley, at the mouth of the Sacramento Delta, a location which provides beautiful warm days and cool breezy nights that foster ideal weather conditions for perfect fruit ripeness.

Colour is purple and there are red and dark fruit aromas (mainly plum, cherry). This medium bodied wine is smooth and warming, full of raspberry and blackberry flavours, mild tannins, well balanced too and with a decent finish. It is an easy-drinker, good value and Recommended. One half of the house is more inclined to make that Highly Recommended, so I used my casting vote! It is versatile too and Barefoot say it may be served with beef, poultry, pasta (with tomato sauce), cheese and dessert.
Merlot. And Barefoot friends





Thursday, July 9, 2015

In Margaux Once. Must visit again!

In Margaux Once.
Must call again!

The vineyards of Margaux, on the south bank of the Garonne estuary (many Irish holidaymakers will know Royan on the opposite bank), grow mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The classic  blend is always a combination of these two “majors” and sometimes a little of Cabernet  Franc, maybe some Petit Verdot, more rarely Malbec and other old varieties.


According to the Maison du Vin de Margaux, where I bought the bottles below (along with some more!), Cabernet Sauvignon accounts for nearly 65% of the vines planted in the appellation. “It gives wine structure, bouquet, and a potential to age.”


Merlot brings roundness, generosity and complexity to the aromas. Cabernet Franc, much rarer, brings an extra touch of of elegance and suppleness while Petit Verdot produces wines “that are fairly rich in colour, fruit and tannins”.


The vines and the soil all play a part in making a Margaux and so does the climate of each year. “This variability, known as the effet millésime (vintage effect), is at the origin of variations in wines’ quality and expression.”


The variables will test the expertise of the winemaker who also has to contend with different harvest times for the different grapes. Merlot is first, then comes Cabernet Franc followed by Cabernet Sauvignon and then the Petit Verdot.

Take good care of your Margaux wines. They recommend “to open them one or two hours before service and present them in a nice carafe or decanter. Perfect service temperature is 19 degrees. Their finesse and subtlety show themselves in accompaniment with red meats or cheeses with delicate aromas”. Margaux wines are widely available in Ireland. Enjoy!

Some of my 2014 purchases
Chateau La Galiane 2009, 13.5%, 16.50 in Margaux

Gorgeous intense dark fruit aromas. Then there are rich fruit flavours, with a wee bit of spice, ripe tannins, and good balance. All in all, a classic well rounded Bordeaux with good structure and no little finesse, a lovely blend in which Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are the major grapes.

Chateau La Tour De Bessan Crus Bourgeois 2011, 13%, 20.30 in Margaux

Even more intense wave of aromas, slightly different to the Galiane. It is rich and complex, full bodied and, again, ripe tannins. Great flavours of red fruits in this smooth Cru Bourgeois. The blend here is Merlot (62%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (38%). A marginally better wine than the Galiane. It has spent 12 months in French oak and the average age of the vines is 25 years.

Labastide Dauzac 2008, 13%, €23.00 in Margaux

Garnet is the colour, the aromas full and harmonious. This is full-bodied, red fruits, some spice too, pleasant and smooth on the palate, and with a long finish. Again the classic blend of Merlot (57%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (43%) and Very Highly Recommended.

This is the second wine of Dauzac, made from younger vines. It has spent 12 months in oak (not all new) and, if I had to pick one from the three, this would be it.
Take your pick!
In a pioneering book on matching food and wine called The Head of the Household from his Cellar to his Table, conceived and started in a WW2 prisoner of war camp, the author Frenchman Roger Ribaud, knowing that the Bordelais had been trapping pigeons, recommended that they match their catch with a Margaux. (Source: Wine & War by Don & Petie Kladstrup).

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Dipping into Bordeaux and its 6000 chateaux. The easy way!

Dipping into Bordeaux and its 6000 chateaux.
The easy way!

In Bordeaux last June, while I was searching in vain for a particular local wine, a wine-shop proprietor said to me, by way of excuse for not having it in stock: “You know there six thousand castles in Bordeaux”. That is a lot of wine, hard to get around to all those chateaux.


But you don’t don’t even have to go to Bordeaux at the moment as the Supervalu French wine sale kicks off this week. Most areas of the France are covered and there are quite a few wines on sale. While Bordeaux often gets a bad press because of “gambling” at the higher end, it is hard to go wrong with a regular wine from the area. The sale starts tomorrow (Thursday September 25th) and goes on until October 10th.
No need to go to Bordeaux!

Chateau Haut Bertinerie, Blaye Cotes de Bordeaux, 2011, 13.5%. (12.00, down from 15.99)

A blend of sixty per cent Merlot and forty per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, this has dark fruits (plums mainly) and traces of spice on the nose. It is good and fruity, smooth and elegant, tannins barely noticeable. It is an excellent well balanced wine, with second glass appeal.

This is a rather special wine for the chateau, a “terroir cuvée” produced from a selection of their oldest vines, the fruit hand-picked and sorted. Lots of TLC too in the wine-making which includes 12 months in new French casks. I reckon all the effort pays off. Very Highly Recommended.


Saint-Emilion

Les Hauts de Gros Caillou, Saint-Emilion 2011, 13% (14.00, down from 27.99)
A different blend here: Merlot (65%) and Cabernet Franc (35). This beautiful dark red wine has an inviting nose of ripe red fruit. It is rather soft and lush on the palate, flavours of dark fruits, some spice too; tannins present but nothing approaching severe.

This is a well made wine, typical of the area, and very highly recommended. Pair with red meats and cheeses. Label also recommends turkey but I'm not too sure. Depends on the sauce, I suppose. Then again, if you like red wine with your turkey, go for it.

Michel Lynch Barrel Select Sauvignon Blanc Bordeaux 2012, 12% (10.00, down from 19.99)

Bordeaux whites are generally taken as being a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon but that is not always the case and indeed the area is making some terrific wine with one hundred per cent Sauvignon, as is the case here.

In the glass it is pale gold and stunningly bright and has aromas of citrus, pineapple and blossom. On the palate it is fresh and fruity (maybe without the rush of flavour you’d get from a Marlborough SB), with an almost creamy mouthfeel and a persistent finish. In terms of Sauvignon Blanc, this is well up the rankings and highly recommended.

* Getting the correct serving temperature is quite important - I’ve had a few hiccups recently. There are some good guidelines here.





Tuesday, August 26, 2014

An Exquisite Riesling and a Curious Duo

Exquisite Riesling
from the steep slopes of Nahe
Mathern

Mathern 2012 Niederhäuser Riesling Trocken, Nahe (Germany), 12.5%, €16.90 Karwig Wines

This Riesling, from the Nahe village of Niederhäuser, speaks for itself. It is simply superb and Very Highly Recommended.

Colour is a very pale honey with hints of green. On the palate, it is tangy and lively, green apples for sure, and with a good dry finish. Nothing at all complex here. Well made. Excellent. Buy it and try it!

Curious Duo

Chateau Saint Louis La Perdrix, Costieres de Nimes blanc 2011, 13%, €13.99 (11.19 for August)
Moulin de Gassac Merlot, Pays D’Herault 2013, 13.5%, €12.49 (9.99 for August).

There is a French sale at Curious Wines this month and you get 20% off when you but two French wines at €25.00 or under. These are two of the cheaper wines, both from the South of France, and two that I enjoyed.

Nimes is where denim comes from (de Nimes) and also where this white originates. The fact that it was made mainly from the Roussane grape caught my attention. I like the Roussane and liked this bottle, fresh and fruity and easy to drink.

Moulin de Gassac, farmed organically, overlooks the Med near Sete in the Languedoc and “offer a collection of wines highlighting the special characteristics of each grape varietal”. This medium bodied Merlot is one of the series, a rather friendly one, easy drinking and great value, especially at the moment.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Sipping, almost slipping, in Saint Emilion

Sipping, almost slipping, in Saint Emilion
The hand of man and mammon can seem particularly powerful here. This quote from the World Atlas of Wine refers to Saint Emilion and indeed rings true as you walk around the narrow streets of this much visited historic town, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1999.


The little town is a busy commercial spot. Here, in the blink of an eye, a restaurant can fill up with a bus load of tourists and the shiny wine shops invite you in to talk about en primeur. It is not easy to find parking here. You’ll have to queue for the toilet, though I followed the example of the local males and used the open air pissoir (it did have metal wings at the sides to provide decent cover). And you won't get too far without someone offering you a little taste of their famous macaroons.


But even Atlas of Wine authors, Michael Johnson and Jancis Robinson, acknowledge it is not all about mammon. “...the comfort of St-Emilion to the ordinary wine-lover is the number of .. chateaux of moderate fame and consistently high standards which can provide relatively early maturing, utterly enjoyable, reasonably affordable wine”.


Here are three, from that category, that I sipped. And the slipping? Well there was a close call or two on one of the steepish streets. Here the surface consists of big stones, but so well worn and shiny - the Romans were here - that you can find yourself slipping even in dry conditions. So, careful as you reach out for that macaroon sample!



#1 - Chateau Haut Traquart, La Grace Dieu Cuvee Passion, St-Emilion Grand Cru 2010, 13.5%, €28.55
#2 - Chateau Haut Rocher, St-Emilion Grand Cru 2009, 14.5%, €18.35.
#3 - Chateau La Grace Dieu, St-Emilion Grand Cru 2009, 14%, €17.85.

As you probably know, the plump Merlot is the most widely planted variety here and, more often or not, its main partner in the blend is Cabernet Franc (known locally, I’m told, as Bouchet). The pattern is followed in these three: #1 90% M, 10% CF; #2 65% M, 20% CF, 15% Cab Sauv; #3 80% M, 20% CF.

All three have Grand Cru on the label but this doesn't mean a great deal, "rather akin to the difference between basic Bordeaux and Bordeaux Superieur" according to the Wine Doctor Chris Kissack, a regular commentator on the area. 

Nevertheless, these are three really good wines with #1 having something more. It is warm and smooth, well balanced, good fruit and some pepper notes, barely noticeable tannins and an excellent finish.

#2 also has an excellent “final”, as Sean Kelly might say. Another well balanced wine, a harmonious blend, red and black fruits and again some spice.

#3 is quite lush, those same fruits evident, again some spice, tannins yes but just about in play, and again an excellent finish.

Bought all three at the Maison du Vin in Saint-Emilion itself last month and the prices quoted are those that I paid on the day. If you’d like to try wines from this area - you may not get these three exactly - why not check with the likes of Mitchell & Sons, Terroirs, Honest2Goodness, Wines Direct, Tindal, Karwig, Bubble Brothers, Curious Wines and Le Caveau. For short account of my trip to Saint-Emilion, click here.



Friday, July 11, 2014

Satellite Merlot

Satellite Merlot. Lussac Saint-Emilion
Chateau Haut-Jamard 2011, 12.5%, €8.00.
Chateau Busquet 2008, 13%, €13.35.
Chateau Lucas, Grand Cuvée de Lucas Cuvée Prestige 2010, 14%, €12.35.

You like Merlot in a Bordeaux blend? But how much of it?

If you buy a bottle in Lussac, one of the four satellite towns of St Emilion, you’ll have a choice. Take the three bottles above, for instance. All are from Lussac and all have Merlot but the amount in the blend ranges from 50% in the last to 80% in the first!

Generally you won't know from the bottle. In a conversation with a French wine worker in the Dordogne a few years back, it was suggested that France had lost out in world markets because it didn't have the variety on the label. The man, a Serb who had settled locally, was fed up with such suggestions. “Around here we can use up to 13 varieties. How are we going to get all of them on the label?” A not unreasonable reaction.

But things could be changing. Chateau Lucas had the blend on the label and it was fifty fifty Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Jamard is 80 Merlot, 15 Cab Sauv and 5 Cab Franc while Busquet is 60 Merlot, 30 Cab Franc and 10 Cab Sauv. Quite a difference between the three.

Must say I preferred the Lucas and not just because of its motto: Sans Ceres et Bacchus, Venus est de glace. My translation: Without Ceres (food) and Bacchus (wine), Venus (love) is ice. We need a little of all three. In any event, I would be disposed to a wine in which Merlot and Cab Franc are major constituents.

And some love has already been expended on this wine as it comes with three silver medals to its credit. Harvesting is manual and they've come up with a near perfect blend, full and balanced and generous of flavour, with a lovely long finish.
Who's for the washing up?
The Haut-Jamard is the youngest of the three and quite a pleasant wine. On the palate it is round, tannins present but quite soft and again the finish is long.

All three are aromatic, the Busquet perhaps a bit more pronounced. This is smooth and mildly spicy, really well balanced, the tannins present but almost unnoticeable.

All three were bought last month in the Maison des Vins in St Emilion itself. While the blend info does not generally appear on the bottles, they had mini-info cards mounted alongside each bottle that gave the breakdown and other info such as the appellation and the soil type.

The other three satellites of St Emilion are Montagne, Puisseguin and St Georges. “At their best, the wines from these areas are every bit as good as a Saint-Emilion grand cru. At their worst, they are attenuated and rustic.” I quote from the Wines of Bordeaux by Clive Coates. This was published in 2004.

Rustic is often used when speaking of lesser known appellations, often applied to the likes of Listrac and Moulis as well. But times have changed as Coates noticed in 2004 “the last few years have seen an encouraging increase in quality”.

Indeed, he also had good things to say about the Lucas wines. And the prices are attractive. Three bottles from the satellites cost me €33.70 while three from main AOC came to €64.75, not a very scientific comparison admittedly. But do watch out for quality good value wines from Lussac in places like Mitchell’s, Curious Wines, Tindals and Le Caveau.

* By the way, I have updated the 2014 list of favourite wines here.