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

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.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Terzetto and Gentil. Blends from Australia & Alsace

Terzetto and Gentil
Blends from Australia & Alsace


Today, we have two blends for you, one of three Italian grapes, not from Italy but from the McLaren Vale in Australia, the other a more formal blend of white grapes, known as Gentil, from the Alsace. Both wines are excellent, each Highly Recommended. As you might expect, the alcohol in the Australian is much higher, 14.5% as against a moderate 12%.


Terzetto is Italian for a trio and the three grapes in Kevin O’Brien’s wine of the same name are Sangiovese (45%), Primitivo (40%), and Nebbiolo (15%). The percentages will vary from vintage to vintage. Kevin likes this one: “On their own, these varieties shine but… this threesome.. create a compelling wine that is perfumed, enticing and beautifully structured.”


Gentil started as an kind of all-in white grape blend in the 1920s. Today, the name Gentil is reserved for AOC Alsace wines conforming to the standards of a blend of superior quality. This blend must be composed of a minimum of 50% Riesling, Muscat, Pinot Gris and/or Gewurztraminer, with the rest made up of Sylvaner, Chasselas and/or Pinot Blanc. Before blending, each varietal must be vinified separately and must officially qualify as AOC Alsace wine. Gentil must mention the vintage and may not be sold commercially until after quality control certification in bottle.


Kangarilla Road Terzetto 2013, McLaren Vale (AUS), 14.5%, €17.95 (14.36 at sale earlier) O’Brien’s.


Violet is the colour and the slow-clearing legs hint at the high ABV. Red fruits dominate the aromas. Juicy and fruity; the fruit flavours carry a hint of sweetness but are really well balanced with a delicious savouriness, good acidity too and tannins at play as well. All that and a very pleasing finish. Quite a blend from Kevin O'Brien (great to see his wines back on Irish shelves) and Highly Recommended.


Usually, O’Brien’s bottles have beautifully executed hand-drawings of the leaf of the grape variety. This one has no less than three, of course.


Meyer-Fonné Gentil 2014, Vin d’Alsace, 12%, €16.65 Le Caveau.


Light gold is the colour of this white blend from the Alsace. There are subtle white fruit (peach, melon, citrus) aromas, some blossom too. It is fruity and refreshing on the palate, includes hints of sweetness, lively acidity too, plus a decent finish. A very agreeable little number and again Highly Recommended.


And this agreeable little number is his “entry level wine”, leaving one very keen indeed to try the full range, right up to a highly rated Cremant, from this organic producer. The current official word on the Gentil blend (the practice goes back to the 1920s) is above but this Meyer-Fonné consists of Muscat, Pinot blanc, Riesling and Gewurztraminer.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

O’Brien’s July Sale. Three to Consider

O’Brien’s July Sale
Three to Consider


The monthly sales at O’Brien’s are always worth a look. I’m afraid I was a little late getting to Douglas this time. But the bottles I wanted were still there and here are three of them, from a great selection of close to one hundred! Check them out here.

Tons de Duorum, Douro (DOC) 2014, 13.5%, €15.45 (11.95 in July sale) O’Brien’s

The name is inspired by the bright colours that result from the reflections of the sun on the Douro creating different tones in the vineyard. Local grapes Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz are used; they are hand-harvested and the wine goes on to spend six months in oak.

Intense dark and red fruit aromas greet you from this ruby to violet coloured wine and the legs are slow enough to clear. No shortage of ripe fruit flavours on the elegant palate, refreshing with a little spice there too, fine tannins and a lovely soft finish. Another good value wine from the Douro and Highly Recommended.
Brocard La Boissoneuse, Chablis (AOC) 2013, 12.5%, €24.95 (22.95 in July sale) O’Brien’s

You really don't have to wait to get this light gold wine into your glass to appreciate the gorgeous aromas. The white fruits and some floral hints emerge from the bottle the minute you extract the cork.

The cork has a wax coating. A bit of a nuisance I thought - until I looked up this You Tube demo. Suitably instructed, I warmed the top of the wax with the palm of my hand and then extracted the cork as normal, the wax top breaking off cleanly as the cork emerged.

There is true harmony on the palate, those white fruit flavours (apple, citrus) and a charge of bracing minerality giving a superbly clean combination and a long and very satisfying finish.

The winery has respect for its ancient soils and notes the cycles of the sun and the moon, all with the aim of bringing the Chardonnay grapes to “perfect harmony”. Their organic principles have been rewarded with this Very Highly Recommended Wine. Two euros off may not be a great draw. Definitely you’ll get bigger bargains in the sale but few better wines than this. O’Brien’s themselves say it “leaves some of the best Premier Crus in its wake... a revelation”. "Not your typical Chablis," says Nicolas, the Douglas manager. But a very good one.
Bethany Creek Shiraz, Barossa 2011, 13.5%, €19.95 (€12.95 in July sale) O’Brien’s

The grapes for this excellent wine come, as is not uncommon in Australia, from their own and a number of neighbouring vineyards. Vintage commenced on 4 March at Bethany Wines, later than usual and a full month later than in 2010; the cooler temperatures resulting in slow, even ripening of the fruit and good flavour development. So, no harm done! On the contrary.

Colour is purple and there are fruity aromas, some spice too. Those red cherry characters follow through to the palate, fruity and spicy with fine tannins, a soft mouthfeel, an elegant wine that has “gained from two years careful oak maturation”. This approachable well-balanced wine is Highly Recommended. So get in quick as stocks, at this bargain price, may not last until the end of the month!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

O’Brien’s March Offers. April's on the way...

O’Brien’s March Offers
April's on the way...


O’Brien’s, who have branches nationwide, have regular offers, including one that features dozens of wines with reduced prices for each month. I bought a few of the March bottles and two are featured below. Time is running out! But if you’re too late for March, then you’re in time for April.

Kreydenweiss Kritt Pinot Blanc 2014 (Alsace AOC), 12%, €17.95 (March offer 15.95) O’Brien’s
The initial contacts are promising, including the attractive front label. Color is a bright light gold and the aromas of white fruit are inviting. “A delicate fruity wine” it says on the label and I wouldn't argue too much with that. Delicate, yes, but with a very pleasant presence on the palate, an excellent balance of white fruit flavours, acidity and minerality, and a persistent finish.

This aromatic and dry wine is Highly Recommended. And not just by me. Parker has called it the best value wine in Alsace and our own John Wilson has termed it “captivating”.

Kritt is the vineyard name and it is a stony place. The wine, which features Pinot Blanc on the front label, has a quantity of Pinot Auxerrois blended in according to the back label.


Bethany G6 Semillon 2010 (Barossa, Australia), 12.5%, €18.45 (16.50) O’Brien’s

I do like Semillon on its own and have found some good examples from Bordeaux and from the Hunter Valley in Australia. This though is from the Barossa, where six generations of the Schrapel family have farmed on the same land, hence the G6 title of a series that also includes Riesling, Semillon Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz Cabernet, and Cabernet Merlot.

Colour here is light gold with the aromas featuring grapefruit and I detected a little diesel there too which reminded me of a very sociable woman that I met at the Blarney St Patrick's Day Parade who was in her element as the vintage tractors rolled slowly by: “I love diesel!”. Indeed, my tasting partner asked me if we were tasting Riesling.

This Bethany is rather full on the palate, a great balance of fruit (citrus) and a crisp acidity. It has been sparingly oaked to enhance complexity and bottled early “to retain fresh fruit characteristics”. Recommended