Showing posts with label O'Brien's Wine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label O'Brien's Wine. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Two Cracking Bordeaux Blends. But not from France

Two Cracking Bordeaux Blends. But not from France

Bodegas Caro Amancaya Gran Reserva Mendoza (Argentina) 2015, 14.5%, €20.95 (I got it on offer at 16.95) O’Brien Wines

Bodegas Caro, founded in 1999, is a Catena family partnership with Domaines Barons de Rothschild, the owners of Chateau Lafite. “The operation focuses on classic red Bordeaux blends,” according to Wines of South America.  “…all grapes for this project are purchased.” Caro tastings are held in their vineyard caves that date back to 1884. So there is some pedigree in both sides of the partnership. 

The signature wine is Caro and other main labels are Aruma and Amancaya. The blend for the latter is based “on the elegant texture of Cabernet Sauvignon enhanced by the fruit of the Argentinean Malbec”. It has been aged in French oak and is more fruity due to the higher percentage of Malbec and shorter ageing. The name is the native Indian name of a flower found at high altitudes in the Andes in the Mendoza area.


Colour is ruby, the legs slow to clear. There are generous aromas of cherries and dark berries, plus sweet spice too. The palate has fruit (no shortage) and vanilla (from the oak) and it is noticeably dry. Tannins are still at play here in a smooth and elegant wine, supple and satisfying right up to and through the long finish. Very good on the first day and even better on the second; decant and take your time! Very Highly Recommended. A match with beef is guaranteed but venison may be the pairing to remember!

Marks & Spencer Margaret River (Australia) Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, 14%, €16.50 M & S

The Margaret River area, in Western Australia, is justifiably famous for its smooth and complex Cabernet Sauvignon, though usually at a higher price than this. Winemaker is Matt Byrne and producers Marks and Spencer say this is “a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon with Merlot (12%)”. The Decanter tasting panel recently gave it a score of 95 and awarded it Platinum: Best Value Australian Red Bordeaux Varietals. 

Colour is a deep ruby. Dark red fruits feature in the aromas. It is indeed complex and smooth on the palate, juicy and full of intense blackcurrant flavours, some spice too, tannins on the lips (inside and out); the finish is very satisfying with the fruit still a factor and hints of the oak there too. Elegant and well balanced this is Very Highly Recommended.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Three Wines of Gérard Bertrand

Three Wines of Gérard Bertrand
Gérard Bertrand’s company in the south of France now has a total of 14 vineyards. Two thirds or so have been converted to biodynamic and his plan is to make all 750 hectares biodynamique by 2020, according to Decanter (August) 2017),”making this the largest group of biodynamic estates in the world”. L’Hospitalet is their flagship vineyard and, according to the Bertrand website, “the jewel of the Languedoc-Roussillon”. 

Gérard was an accomplished rugby player, capped three times by France “A” and played at a high level with local club Narbonne. His love of both rugby and wine was encouraged by his father, a Corbieres grower and a top-level ruby referee.

Gérard Bertrand Cigalus Sud de France (IGP) 2014, 15%, €38.95 (got it at 28.95 on offer) O’Brien’s.

The majority of the Bertrand wines are the issue of “agriculture biodynamique” and this is one. The fruit has been sourced from the best sites on Domaine Cigalus and the varietals are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, Grenache, Carignan and Caladoc - “Bordeaux varietals with local Languedoc varieties" as he told me in Cork last November.

The Cigalus colour is a deep ruby and legs, as you'd expect, are slow to clear. Aromas were aptly summed up by a tasting partner as “yummy plum-y”. It is opulent on the palate, dark fruit again featuring strongly, some spice too. The sun and moon play a part in all vineyard decisions and it worked out well here, leaving us with a celestial finalé. Very Highly Recommended. Try with roasted red meat, poultry “en sauce”, mature cheeses.
An old "tracteur" in a Languedoc Wine Museum

Gérard Bertrand Domaine de Villemajou Corbieres Boutenac (AP) 2014, 14.5%, €20.95 (got it at 16.76 on offer) O’Brien’s

Villemajou, planted mainly with Syrah and Carignan, was the family home and is the spearhead of the Boutenac Premier Cru appellation in the low barren hills of the northern part of Corbieres, split by the A61 between Carcassonne and Narbonne. The wines are fruity, spicy and, even when young, have silky and incredibly fine tannins.


The blend in this red is mainly Syrah and Carignan while Grenache and Mourvedre are also used; it spends 10-12 months in oak. It is a fairly deep garnet with aromas of stewed fruit aromas, hints of coffee. On the palate, it is fruity, spicy and silky. Quite an impressive concentrated drop - the vineyard predicts it will age well - and Highly Recommended.



Gérard Bertrand Domaine de L’Aigle Pinot Noir Haut Vallée de L’Aude (IGP) 2014, 13.5%, €19.95 (got it at 15.56 on offer) O’Brien’s


The domaine, at 500 metres, is high for the Languedoc and harvests are later. The combination has its advantages: “..it preserves the aromas of the grapes as well as giving the wine a durability… and maintains a high natural acidity…. The characteristic vinification process focuses on the important effect of wood.. the use of barrels is significant.”

Colour is a mid ruby red. There is an aromatic nose indeed but it is the vanilla that seems to dominate the fruit. So, as they say themselves, the nine months in French oak is significant.

On the palate, it is soft, elegant, fruity and spicy. Must say I was relieved to sense the fruit back in velvety control here plus that matching acidity, all the way through to a long finish. Another well-structured Bertrand wine and another Highly Recommended.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Have you met Dornfelder? Let me introduce you.

Lingenfelder Dornfelder 2011, Grosskarlbacher Osterberg Pfalz, 12.5%, €18.95 O’Brien’s

The Dornfelder grape is a modern (1955) crossing which is well suited to the cool climate of Germany (and getting popular in England too). It is packed with red berry fruit and soft round tannins and this delicious example is reminiscent of good Pinot Noir.

The Lingenfelder brothers, Karl-Friedrich (left) and Georg, gave me a crash course on the grape when I met them at O’Brien's November Wine Fair. Their Dornfelder grapes come from a single vineyard Osterberg (Easter Hill). 

They practice sustainable viticulture and promote bio-diversity on all their vineyards and in the cellar there is no yeast culture addition, no fining, minimal filtering and no chaptalisation. The family, centuries in wine-making, are best known for their Rieslings.

The Dornfelder, which has spent six months in big oak barrels, ancient containers, has a rich ruby colour. The fresh and fragrant aromas speak of red fruit, floral notes too, herbs, maybe something even wilder. It is full bodied, red berry fruit (cherry, blackberry), slightly spicy, a touch tannic too. I found it very satisfying at the Wine Fair last November and this bottle confirms that good first impression. Very Highly Recommended.


Grapes and Wine may not go as far (perhaps they haven’t tasted the Lingenfelder version) but admit the grape, the second most planted red in Germany, has a certain honesty: “..it doesn't pretend to be more than a well-coloured, juicily fruited grape… and it fulfils that role very well.”

Pinot Noir is the most important red wine grape in Germany. Known as Spätburgunder, nearly 11,5% of the vineyard area is planted with it. On the white side, Riesling and Müller-Thurgau account for some 43% of Germany's 105,000 hectares of vineyards. (source: http://www.germanwines.de/ )

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Italian Wines From Recent Tastings. A Short List Of Favourites!



Italian Wines From Recent Tastings. 
A Short List Of Favourites!

With a little help from the recently published The Modern History of Italian Wine, we have been tasting our way through quite a few wines from the peninsula and its islands. Such a range of terroirs, such a range of wines from the cool foothills of the Alps to the heat of Puglia out to the hot islands with their cooling breezes. You won't find the very expensive classics here but I think the selection below contains some excellent wines at reasonable prices. And they all are readily available in Ireland. Just click on the links for review, supplier and price details and don't forget to come back here. Enjoy.


Red
Cantina Tollo Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (DOP) Bio 2015
Innocenti Rosso di Montepulciano (DOC) 2012
La Vigne di Sammarco Salice Salentino (DOP) 2014
La Vigne di Sammarco Primitivo di Manduria (DOP) 2015
Ciabot Berton Barolo (DOCG) “La Morra” 2011
Luigi Righetti Amarone della Valpolicella (DOCG) Classico 2012
Terrabianca Scassino Chianti Classico (DOCG)
Carminucci Naumakos Rosso Piceno Superiore (DOC) 2013
Fontanafredda Raimonda, Barbera D’Alba (DOC) 2009

Orange
La Stoppa, Ageno, Emilia, Emilia Romagna, Italy, 2011


White
Pighin Pinot Grigio Grave del Friuli (DOC) 2015
Cantina Sociale Gallura Vermentino di Gallura Superiore (DOCG) Gemellae, 2013
Carminucci Naumakos Falerio (DOC) 2015, 12.5%
Colle Stephano Verdicchio di Matelica (DOC) 2015
Terredora Di Paolo “Loggia Della Serra” Greco di Tufo (DOCG) 2015
Colutta Pinot Grigio Friuli Colli Orientali (DOC), 2015
Les Crêtes Petite Arvine Valle D’Aosta (DOP) 2012

Dessert
Masi Angelorum Recioto della Valpolicella Classico (DOC) 2012

Context: The Modern History of Italian Wine

 See the posts from the Italian series:

Pighin's "Grave wines are bargains". Good too!

Puglia: Cool Wines From The Hot Heel Of Italy.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

From the Islands. Vermentino from Sardinia And a Grillo from Sicily

From the Islands
Vermentino from Sardinia

And a Grillo from Sicily

According to Vino Italiano, “the deepest expression of the grape is found among the Vermentino di Gallura DOCG wines” and we've got a beauty for you below.

Over the centuries, and up to quite recently, Sardinia (just like Italy in general) was going for quantity over quality in wine. For example Vino Italia says that in 1974, the island’s Trexenta Co-op made about 100,000 hectolitres from more than two thousand acres. By the early years of this century, they were producing 15,000 to 20,000 hectolitres from 700 acres approx.

No wonder then that The Modern History of Italian Wine, a book I keep referring to in this current series, hail Cantina Gallura in the zone of the same name, under director Dino Addis, as one of the most influential Italian wine-makers of the 1990s. The large co-operative was persuaded to reduce yield from 150 to 90 quintals. There were other changes, most noticeably “an immediate loss of income”.

But, “the courage to change” led to “a winning decision” and in 1996, they obtained the DOCG, “the first and only one in Sardinia”. 

Cantina Sociale Gallura Vermentino di Gallura Superiore (DOCG) Gemellae, 2013, 12%, €17.85 Le Caveau
Colour here is a light straw. There are modest white fruit aromas, floral notes too. Smooth, dry and fruity on the palate, a great depth of flavour (apple and melon) and concentration along with a long citrus-y finish. Good acidity too and they recommend trying it with fish dishes, vegetable soups, salads, and white meats. I found it excellent as an aperitif. Don't over-chill this gem, serve at 10-12 degrees and you'll have a very agreeable winner. Very Highly Recommended.

Cusumano Shamaris Grillo Sicilia (DOC) 2015, 13%, €18.95 (€14.95 on sale) O’Brien’s

A surprisingly excellent wine of no little heft, helped by four months on fine lees, from a modest grape, Grillo, that is supposed to be on the wane on the island of Sicily. US wine critic James Suckling regularly gives Shamaris good marks, including 91 points for this vintage.

It has a mid gold colour, bright. There are inviting white fruit aromas, blossom notes too. Fresh and lively fruit (including melon), good body, lovely balance, acidity of course and a decent finish. Highly Recommended.

According to The Modern History of Italian Wine (my current “bible” on the subject), Cusumano (founded in 2001) are one of the drivers of Italian wine in this century and “an extraordinary commercial success”. “There’s a piece of the land..in each of our labels”.  Their other varietals (which include Nero D’Avola) may well be worth watching out for.

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.

See also from this current Italian series:
Wines from Italy's Marche
Fontanafreddo, important player in Italian wine



Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Love Red? Three of the Best.

Sainte Croix Magneric, Corbieres (AC) 2012, 14.5%, Mary Pawle Wines

Fruit, spice, and power feature in this well-balanced blend of Carignan (42%), Grenache (29) and Syrah (29). The vineyard, run by an English couple, Jon and Elizabeth Bowen, has been organic since 2008 and they recommend pairing it with anything from Spiced lamb tagine to Roast venison.

This is a dark, medium to full bodied, wine with ripe dark fruit aromas to match. That fruit, spice too, on the palate, concentrated, with outstanding freshness, tannins soft and ripe and no slacking off in the long aromatic finalé. Power and elegance in the one package and Very Highly Recommended.

We had another beauty from the same vineyard a month or so back. Check out Le Fournas here

Il Grigio da San Felice Gran Selezione Chianti Classico (DOCG) 2013, 13.5%, €34.95 (27.95 in recent sale) O’Brien’s Wines.

Made from “our finest Sangiovese (80%), enriched with other ancient indigenous varieties”, the result is a superbly complex wine of great elegance and concentration. Just 40,000 bottles are produced of this particular wine which has an ageing potential of 15 years. It has been aged for 24 months in mixed oak plus 8 months in bottle. 

Sangiovese, also known as Brunello and Bonarda, is a top red grape in Italy. Tuscany is its home but it is grown all over Italy, also in the US, Australia and Argentina.

Colour is medium red and the aromas feature ripe red fruit (strawberries, cherries). There is terrific concentration in this medium-bodied gem, spice too and a superb acidity to balance and it boasts a long dry and spicy finish. Very Highly Recommended.

Matches suggested are red meat, pasta and pizza. You could also do as I did and try it with cheese. I had Carrigaline, both the original and the smoked, and all got on very well together!

Jerome Quiot Cairanne Côtes du Rhone Villages (AC) 2014, 13.5%, €18.30 Karwig Wines

The family Quiot began their wine story in the Vaucluse when they acquired a few hectares there in 1748, so the nod to tradition is to be expected. This wine is made from the traditional grapes of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and old vines of Carignan. Old style vinification too in tanks and oak barrels.

Colour is a lovely ruby and there are raspberry and cherry in the aromas. On the palate, it is fruity for sure, spice also, a very good depth of flavour, nicely balanced; the tannins are close to smooth in this medium bodied wine and there is an excellent finish as well. It packs quite a punch for such a smooth wine and is Very Highly Recommended.




That noticeable acidity helps make it a good food wine, lamb, roasted meat and cheeses are recommend by the producers. I found it a terrific match with Moussaka, especially the version made using this recent recipe from Dublin's Tang Restaurant in association with Glenisk - see the details here.  

Monday, November 14, 2016

O'Brien Wine Fair. A Cracker at the Clarion

O'Brien Wine Fair. A Cracker at the Clarion!
Eye-catching labels on Coco I Fitó bottles


Last Thursday’s O’Brien Wine Fair was a cracker. Some great wines, great wine-makers there too and a big crowd and all in a good cause: Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind.  

I thought the Italian exhibitors put in a strong showing; I very much enjoyed meeting the lads from Germany’s Lingenfelder, the Pinot Noirs in general, the amazing Tawny from Bethany, the Albarinos, the Rieslings (the Europeans rather than the dieseled Australians), Bonpas from the Rhone and my favourite exhibitor was Gérard Bertrand with wines from their 11 vineyards.

The Lingenfelder guys are the 14th generation of a family that has been making wine for 500 years! They like visiting Ireland and are regulars at these fairs. Very much enjoyed a couple of their whites, firstly the Hare-label Gewürztraminer Qba 2013 and then the Bird-label Riesling Qba 2013, both off dry, both delicious.

Perhaps their big surprise, for me at least, was the gorgeous red Dornfelder Qba Osterberg Single. This is 100% Dornfelder from the single vineyard Osterberg. “Winemaking is beyond organic: no yeast culture addition, no fining, no chaptalization”. 
The message from Lingenfelders: keep calm and drink wine. Karl-Friedrich (left) and Georg 
It has spent six months in big oak barrels, barrels that are no less than 120 years old! A red delight for €18.95. Lingenfelder is in the Palatine area of Germany, which has historic connections since the early 18th century with County Limerick.

Matteo Ascheri had his wines nearby. He believes in letting the grapes and soil speak and they almost sang in the light and bright Barbera d’Alba 2015.  Much more serious was the superb Barolo Coste & Brico, a 100% Nebbiolo from two select plots. Aged for 28 months in oak, it is one worth looking out for, particularly when O’Brien’s brief Fine Wine Sale starts on December 1st, when it will  be marked down to €30.00 from €47.00.

I enjoyed some of Guerrieri Rizzardi’s wines earlier in the year and this time concentrated towards the high end. Pojega Ripasso, a blend hand-picked from the single vineyard of the same name, got us off to a good start.

Then it was on to a couple of classic Amarone, where grapes have been dried to increase concentration. The Villa Rizzardi Amarone 2009 is very highly recommended, a superb wine. But even that was outshone somewhat by the Calcarole Amarone 2009 where Corvina provides 70% of the blend. This is a single vineyard classic and both are reduced in the Fine Wine Sale.

Time then for San Felice and some Chianti, Chianti Classico that is. Their Classico 2012 is 80% Sangiovese and has been matured in large Slavonian oak Botti for ten months. These are large, 10,000 litres worth! The wine is excellent.

Still there is a noticeable step up when we taste the Il Grigio Chianti Riserva 2012. This is 100% Sangiovese and 80% of it has been matured in Slavonian oak. Can Chianti get any better? 

It can, as we found out when sampling the Il Grigio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2013. Sangiovese makes up 80% of the blend and it too spends two years in oak. A very fine wine indeed and also marked down in the Fine Wine Sale.


Hard to pass Burgundy and neighbouring Beaujolais so there was a guaranteed stop at Jean Loron.  The first call was to taste the Duc de Belmont Bourgogne Blanc 2014, a 100% Chardonnay from soil close to Beaujolais, aged for 8 months on fine lees. 

I liked that very much but I liked the Chateau de Fleurie 2014 even better. This 100% Gamay is from a small estate on some of the best terroir in Fleurie. Very Highly Recommended.

There were excellent Albarinos from Monte Real, from Marques de Murrieta and from Coco I Fitó. The latter’s Lagar de Costa 2015, hand-picked from old vines in cool coastal vineyards, really hit the spot. It is cool fermented and later rested on its lees for 3 months. At €16.95 it well worth looking out for.


This Catalonian based company had another gem in their reds, the Sao Abrivat, at €20.95. This is a lovely blend of Tempranillo (40%), Grenache (35%), and Cabernet Sauvignon (15%) and has been aged for 12 months in a mix of French and American oak.
Another label from Coco I Fitó.

Speaking of blends, there were two outstanding examples of the Bordeaux style, one of them, the Vitrum Blend 2012 from Chile. Viña Chocálan’s Aida Toro told us the mix is Cabernet Sauvignon 35%, Syrah 27%, Malbec 13%, Cabernet Franc 18%, Carmenere 5%, and Petit Verdot 2%. Not quite the Bordeaux blend but quite an brilliant wine that has been matured in French oak for 12 months. By the way, her Vitrum Malbec is excellent too.

Another superb blend was found at the outstanding exhibit from Gérard Bertrand, the Cigalus Rouge 2014. This is a seven grape blend of “Bordeaux varietals with local Languedoc varieties”, from the biodynamic Cigalus Estate. Absolutely brilliant and another to watch out in the Fine Wine Sale.

We has begun here with the Cigalus Blanc, another blend, “great with scallops..pork,” he told us. The grapes are Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier and it is also a superb wine. Also worth trying is their Corbieres red blend, Domaine de Villemajou.

And don’t forget their Domaine d L’Aigle Pinot Noir 2013. Top class as well. It wasn't the only superb Pinot Noir in the hall at the Clarion (now the Clayton). Jackson Family Wines brought two beauties from the US. 

We started with the Byron Pinot Noir Santa Barbara 2013. Hard to beat that, I thought. But the Cambria Pinot Noir Julia’s Vineyard 2012 was even better and one of the stars of the show.

We got a nice little masterclass in Rhone wines at the Bonpas stand, starting with the Reserve de Bonpas Cote du Rhone 2014. “Very good, very popular and sells well every year.” Yes indeed, a cracker marked down to €11.95 for November and December.

Up a rung then to the Sieur Alphonse Gigondas 2015, predominantly Grenache, and a gorgeous wine even if more or less twice the price of the opener. For another seven euro, you’ll find yourself in Rhone heaven, sipping the Domaine Herbert Bonpas Chateauneuf du Pape 2014, again predominantly Grenache.

So, how to finish? Why, with a few sweet ones of course. So back to Bertrand for a sip of the Rivesaltes Vin Doux Naturel 2002, a 100% Grenache and “extensively” aged in oak casks. Served colder than the other sweet wines but has good acidity and is an excellent drop.

Longview Epitome Late Harvest Riesling, from the Adelaide Hills, was the lightest of the three, again with nice acidity, gorgeous wine and great value at the current €12.95. My favourite though was next door at the Bethany display, the Old Quarry Tawny, a blend of Grenache and Shiraz from some of their oldest vines. This has been fortified and aged in old French and American oak. Superb, and a lovely way to finish a lovely evening.


Many of the wines are marked down for November and December so be sure and check the O’Brien website here.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Down Under with O’Brien’s. Advice: Watch those sales!

Down Under with O’Brien’s
Advice: Watch those sales!

I always try and keep an eye out for the regular sales at O’Brien’s Wines. Some are quite short-lived. That was the case with their Australian & New Zealand one. But I did make that and bought these two, the Penfolds at 16.76, the D’Arenberg at 15.96. A decent saving and very decent wines indeed. I should follow my own advice more often!

Penfolds Koonunga Hill Seventy Six Shiraz Cabernet 2014, South Australia, 14.5%, €20.95 O’Briens

The name Seventy Six is a tribute to the “original and now legendary 1976” Shiraz Cabernet. This multi-regional blend is Shiraz (c.80%) and Cabernet Sauvignon and is regularly billed as a “retro” wine.

It is a deep red to purple with a lighter rim and the legs are slow to clear (you know why!). There are intense dark fruit aromas and pretty intense on the palate too. Dark fruits, some spice (it has spent 15 months in a mix of old and new (15%) oak, silky tannins and impressive length. Highly Recommended.

Penfolds are master blenders, “able to craft wines of distinction without ever compromising on quality”. Andrew Baldwin is one of their winemakers and, last November, I met him here in Cork and asked for a few tips on starting to explore Penfolds.

Without hesitation, he recommended this very wine because of “its drinkability, lots of fruit”. By the way, he also told me that the Koonunga Hill Chardonnay is “really approachable”. So there’s another tip for you!

D’Arenberg The Footbolt Shiraz 2012, McLaren Vale (Australia), 14.6%, €19.45 O’Brien’s Wine

Tasted this early in the year at the Australia Day tasting in Dublin, so I knew I was on to a little beauty.

It is one hundred per cent Shiraz, harvested in small batches, gently crushed and then transferred to open fermenters. Foot treading is undertaken two thirds of the way through fermentation. The wine is basket pressed and then aged in a mixture of new and used French and American oak for 12-18 months.

The Footbolt names comes not from the treading but from a favourite racehorse of the Osbourne family. In 1912, Joseph Osbourne made the hard decision to sell his horses to buy d’Arenberg.

Colour is a clean and bright purple. No need to nose the glass here as the aromas - attractive dark berries and plums mainly - come up to meet you. Terrific fruit too on the palate with great balance, tannins are fine, lovely sophie too and a lingering dry finish. Ootbolt is a favourite here and Very Highly Recommended.