Showing posts with label Portugal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Portugal. Show all posts

Monday, November 28, 2016

A Hat Trick of Quality Reds

A Hat Trick of Quality Reds

Iniza 4 Cepas 2009, Vino de la Tierra Laujar-Alpujarra, 14%, €18.30 Le Caveau

Here’s a pleasant surprise for me, for you. Made organically by Bodega el Cortijo in the Almeria region of Spain, where summer days are hot and the nights cool, this was an unexpected beauty, an Almerian ambush of the most pleasant kind. It is a blend as you’ve probably guessed from the name and the four grapes are Tempranillo (30%), Syrah (40), Merlot (20) and Petit Verdot (10).

Colour is a dark red and the aromas are of red and darker fruits, spices too. It is full bodied, full flavoured, spice again, fine tannins, a lovely balancing acidity and long finish. An excellent wine and Very Highly Recommended. Great value too.

Quinta do Penedo Tinto 2010, DAO (DOC) Portugal, 12%, €17,25 Karwig Wines

Grown on granite soil that helps produce fresh and mineral wine, this is a good one. The blend is Touriga Nacional (70%) and the deep coloured Alfrocheiro. Foot-treading is employed before the wine is aged in used French and US oak barrels.

Deep ruby is the colour and the aromas speak of ripe dark fruits with slight spices notes there too. There is excellent acidity in this fresh well-balanced medium-bodied wine. Tannins are ripe and the finalé is soft and lingering. Highly Recommended. Possible food pairings: red meats, liver, salami and game.

Wolf Blass Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon (South Australia) 2014, 13.5%, widely available c. €13.00, €14.00
This wine is part of a rugby (union) linked promotional drive to mark the winery’s 50th anniversary. A message under the cap tells instantly if you’ve won a prize such as a Rugby Capital Weekend. Of course, you also get instant confirmation if you’ve lost! That was my fate and I felt the ball had fallen off the tee even before I got my kick away. Ah well, better luck next time I “chase the cap”.

The winery has long been producing very good wines under the Yellow Label, ten varieties in all, all meant to be “bright fruit-driven and full of flavours” and they certainly hit the target with this one which is Highly Recommended.


This dark red has ripe fruits (Cassis mainly) in the aromas. It is full of luscious dark fruit flavours but very well balanced. Some oak has been used in the maturation but it has been nicely judged, the effect subtle. Fine tannins and sufficient acidity to make it a good food wine - steak recommended!


Monday, October 17, 2016

Portuguese Pair Show Quality and Value

Portuguese Pair Show Quality and Value

The inspiration for trying this Portuguese pair, well at least the red, came from Jancis Robinson’s The 24 Hour Wine Expert. She has a page of Obvious and Alternative wines. In one pairing the obvious is Bordeaux red, the alternative is red from Portugal’s Douro. 

Spotted this Esporão in Karwig’s and, though it’s not from the Douro exactly, thought that it would fit the bill. Then I saw the white and thought if they can make a good red, they should be able to make a good white. The white is good and the red is quite superb and would leave many from Bordeaux in its wake.

Esporão Reserva Red Alentejo DOC (Portugal) 2013, 14.5%, €26.65 Karwig Wines
First things first. This is a gem and Very Highly Recommended. It is a blend of Alicante Bouschet, Aragones, Cabernet Sauvignon and Trincadeira.

It has a deep red colour. And there are concentrated aromas of ripe red fruits and that follows through to the palate. Here you find a dense concentration of flavours, spice too, firm tannins, along with a long satisfying finish.

Esporão Reserva White Alentejo DOC (Portugal) 2014, 14%, €20.90 Karwig Wines

This deft combination of fruit and acidity is based on a blend that includes Antao Vaz, Arinto, Rouheiro, and Semillon. The fruit is picked early in the morning and it has seen “partial ageing” for 6 months in French and US oak. They call it “a wine for special occasions” and it is indeed very good and Highly Recommended.


You notice the bright light gold colour with tints of green. Aromas are of soft white fruits, with peach and grapefruit flavours on the almost creamy palate. The oak is well integrated. Fruity and mineral-y and, though not exactly bone-dry, this is a well balanced wine with a long finish.

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!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Two Ports And A Tinto. A Taste of the Douro

Two Ports And A Tinto
A Taste of the Douro

Porto, on the Douro and the second biggest city in Portugal, is the home of Port. It is also known as Oporto. The long established wine-growing area is a World Heritage site and a gorgeous place to visit.

The modern style of Port can be traced back to 1678, when the Abbot of Lamego was adding brandy to the wine before it had finished fermenting. By arresting fermentation, he could retain the natural sweetness of the ultra-ripe Port-grape varieties and create a fortified wine capable of improving with age.
Read much more on the subject by wine-searchers.com here.

Taylor’s Fine White Port (Portugal), 20%, €19.99 Bradley’s

First you notice that lovely gold colour - sunset on the Douro, I wish!; and then the tears that are extra slow to clear. Then the rich aromas, mellow fruit. And it is full bodied, velvety on the palate and a great finish. Very Highly Recommended.

Taylor’s Fine White Port is a blend of wines produced from white grapes grown mainly on the upper slopes of the Douro Valley.  The grapes used include the Arinto, Boal (Semillon), Codega, Esgana Cão, Folgasão, Gouveio, Viosinho and Rabigato varieties.

The individual wines are aged in oak vats for about three years, where they acquire mellowness and character.  They are blended to produce a rich white port in the traditional smooth, full-bodied style.

Taylor’s pioneered dry white aperitif port more than 60 years ago under the Chip Dry label, first blended in 1934. That was the one I had intended to buy in Bradley’s but decided to try this, a much sweeter version.

You can drink it in the traditional way, chilled on its own, or with a twist of lemon, accompanied by roasted almonds, olives or dry biscuits. My favourite pairing though is with Barrie Tyner’s Cognac infused chicken liver paté (try catching him at the Mahon and Midleton markets). You’ll have a great laugh and a great paté. And now a great match!

Casal dos Jordoes Finest Reserve Port (Portugal), 20%, €17.20 (375ml) Mary Pawle Wines



Warm, sweet (not cloying) and spicy, this is your classic Port offering, tradition with high quality from organic grapes. Masses of fruit, excellent concentration from this Port which features the Touriga Francesca grape. Delicious on its own before and after meals and the importer’s tip is to try it with chocolate desserts! Highly Recommended




Casal dos Jordoes Quinta da Esteveira Douro Reserva Tinto 2011 (Portugal), 13.5%, €15.20 Mary Pawle Wines
Made from organic grapes (including Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca), the human touch is all important here. The grapes are harvested by hand and are then crushed “by feet of man”, part of a system “utilised by the Romans”, a tried and tested method that increases colour and tannin extraction.

That colour is a deep red and the tears are slow to clear. Aromas are of dark fruit, good and strong. Fruit, spice and acidity combine in quite an engaging mouthful and there is an excellent finish too. Made by the same vineyard that produces the port (above), this is Highly Recommended.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Dao. Burgundy. Lodi. A Trio of Reds

Dao. Burgundy. Lodi.

A Trio of Reds
Casa de Mouraz 2011 (DAO), 13.5%, €17.50 Mary Pawle

The grapes for this excellent red come from several vineyards of Casa de Mouraz “some of which are mentioned in documents from the 16th century”. They were no doubt organic then and are organic now.

The wine has been matured in fine Nevers oak for 8 months and is a blend of local grapes: Touriga Nacional, Tinto Roriz, Alfrocheiro, Jaen and the almost unknown Agua Santa.

It is an intense red colour with violet hue and the legs are in no hurry to clear. You’ll find ripe rich fruits in the aromas. It is smooth, spicy, with a lovely mineral streak, and a lasting finish. A serious drop indeed and Highly Recommended.




Ambroise Lettre d’Eloïse Coteaux Bourguignons 2013, 13%, €17.85 Le Caveau

The wines of Maison Ambroise, certified organic since 2013, are regarded as classic Burgundy “with distinct terroir influenced personalities”. This, new to the Le Caveau range, is 100 per cent Pinot Noir and has been aged in 400l barrels, two to five year old, for ten months. No fining or filtration has been applied so be sure to decant. 

By the way, did you know that synonyms for Pinot Noir include Pinot Nero, Pinot Negro, Spatburgunder, Blauburgunder.

Colour here is a pale ruby; red fruits in the aromas, most noticeably cherry. It is wonderfully fresh, the lively fruit flavours well matched by the acidity, a perfect balance, plus an excellent finish.  Highly Recommended.

Saw a few matching suggestions and the one that made most sense was Roasted duck breast with plum sauce. One from BBC Food here.
Jewel Collection Old Vine Zinfandel 2012 (Lodi, California), 14%, €16.90 Karwig Wines

Interestingly, this was “tested” on a Friday, then the Vacuvin was applied. The bottle was finished off on the following Wednesday and a small improvement was noted! The vine is made by a cooperative of growers from “gnarled 40 year old vines”.

Ruby is the colour, tending towards violet. And there are rich jammy aromas, plus vanilla. All that rich fruit appears too on the warm palate but nicely balanced by the acidity, some spice too, vanilla again, plus a decent finish. Pair with hearty dishes of beef, pork, fowl and various game. Recommended.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Best of Blends. More than 15 varieties in one

Best of Blends.
More than 15 varieties in one.


Blending has been a part of winemaking for many generations. Probably started by accident. But no accident in the Douro below where more than 15 grape varieties are used! Sometimes, as it in the majority here, just two grapes are used. There can be up to six in Port and sometimes more than double that in Cotes du Rhone. Blends everywhere then, including our two from South America.

Quinta do Judeu Vinho tinto 2010, Douro (DOC), 13%, Curious Wines

Colour is somewhere between violet and purple. It has a smooth silky feel, rounded flavours, some spice, some grip, quite intense yet harmonious in all aspects, not least in the long finish. Much to be said for the human touch: this has been foot trodden in granite lagares. Hope that bare-footed gang had as much fun trampling forwards and back on it as I had drinking it. Very Highly Recommended.

It is not filtered so should be decanted. I got this bottle as a present from Maurice O'Mahony (of the former Wine Alliance) and it is “made from more than 15 Douro varieties from old vineyards, with the predominance of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinto Roriz and Tinta Amarela”. Curious Wines are now selling the wines of Quinta do Judeu.





Chateau de Rochemorin 2009, Pessac-Leognan (France), 13%, €16.40 in Graves. Bordeaux wines are widely available in Ireland.
This “assemblage” is the classic Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, with Cab Sauv supplying 60 per cent of the mix. The aim is to produce a well balanced wine that is the best possible expression of the terroir.

This left bank bottle comes from a Lurton vineyard, a family “who have strived for excellence...this family’s passion for viticulture goes back a long way”. The Lurtons, particularly André, are highly respected.

Colour is purple and on the nose there are berries, vanilla, even a drift of tobacco. Two thousand and nine was one of those very good years so this expression is one of the best, elegant and smooth and drinking so well now. Soft and easy drinking, fresh with ripe tannins, long, flavoursome and Very Highly Recommended.

Finca 878 Clásico Vino Tinto Malbec Merlot 2012, Argentina, 13%, €13.95 Karwig Wines (now reduced to 11.15, great value).
This blend is popular in Argentina and, according to Wine Searcher, is becoming popular in New Zealand. This 878 is designed for the younger drinker. The producers’ translator calls them junior drinkers but it went down well with this senior imbiber!

This medium red gives off aromas of ripe red fruit. Palate is pretty smooth, fruit yes but with good balance, easy drinking, finish not the longest but Highly Recommended. In Argentina, they grow over 90,000 acres of these two grapes, four times more Malbec than Merlot. Most Argentinian Merlot ends up in blends.

Something to check before you start drinking. The bottom eight on the label is upside down!

Dóna Paula Malbec Syrah 2011, Mendoza (Argentina), 14%, €10.00 O’Donovan’s Off Licence.

This is a rich dark red and aromas of plum dominate. Beautiful fruit flavours follow, sweet notes yes, yet very good acidity, a pleasant mouthfeel with a long finish. Good wine, good value and Highly Recommended.

The estate, part of the Chilean Santa Rita group, in the foothills of the Andes, has “always been managed using Sustainable Agricultural practices”. Watch out too for their Los Cardos wines which, according to Wines of South America, “are among the world’s great values”.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Two Portuguese Reds. One Rhone Ranger

Two Portuguese Reds.
One Rhone Ranger.


If it’s a red weekend (and the weather forecast indicates that it is), Karwig Wines have got you covered with this trio: two serious contenders from Portugal (and there are more on the way) and a consistently good performer from the banks (both of them!) of the Rhone. Check them out in the store or online.
Quinta do Penedo Dao 2009 (DOC), 13%, €17.25, Karwig Wines

It seems that many wine-drinkers now realise that Portuguese wines are by no means short of personality and class. Quite often, in the reds, that class is supplied by the native grape Touriga Nacional. It makes up 70 per cent of this blend while another indigenous grape, Alfrocheiro, accounts for the balance.

They sure seem to work well together in this dark red with its beautiful intense and warm aromas of juicy dark fruit. That intensity is also evident on the palate, some spice too; it is complex and elegant, with soft tannins and an impressive finish. This friendly juicy wine is Very Highly Recommended.

Herdade do Esporao Monte Velho (Vinho Regional Alentejano, Portugal) 2013, 13.5%, €14.35, Karwig Wines.

Touriga Nacional pops up again in this blend along with Aragonez, Trincadeira, and Syrah and a pretty good blend it is too. Colour is a light ruby with aromas of ripe red fruit. On the palate, it is fresh, fruity, light and elegant, with a fairly serious structure, well balanced and boasting a decent finish as well. Highly Recommended. The estate was founded in 1267, so they should know what they are doing.
Domaine André Brunel Est-Ouest 2011, Cotes du Rhone (AOC), 13.5%, €13.95 Karwig Wines


More often than not, Cotes du Rhone, whether from a tanker at a crossroads in Provence or at a top class northern city restaurant, delivers. This one sure does and is highly recommended.


The family estate is located on both sides of the Rhone. In the east, there is the stony soil of the Vaucluse and, in the west, the sandy slopes of Gard. Garnache (75%) is the lead grape in the blend, supported by Cinsault (15) and Syrah (10).

The red colour is medium, tending to light, and it has aromas of fruit (blackcurrant prominent). It is fruity upfront, spicy too, well balanced for sure, and the fruit element is maintained through the pretty long finish as well.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Pearls of Portugal. Super Reds & A Port!

Pearls of Portugal. Super Reds & A Port!



Messias Grande Escolha red 2011 (Douro DOC), 14%. €16.30 Karwig Wines

Colour is an opaque purple and it has intense aromas, more or less the raisins and spices the winery itself mentions. In the mouth, the fruit is intense, some spice, silky smooth, tannins quite fine, with a dry and persistent finish. Very Highly Recommended.


This is a blend of traditional grape varieties: Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, and Touriga Nacional.


Quinta do Valdoeiro red Reserva 2009 (Bairrada DOC), 14%, €19.20 Karwig Wines

Another gem from Messias, this from a different area and the blend here is the local Baga with Cabernet Sauvignon. Again, Very Highly Recommended.


It has a deep violet colour with complex aromas featuring mainly dark fruits. There is a superb supple structure, tannins are fine and the balance overall is excellent with an imposing length at the finish. Worth taking your time with this one; you'll appreciate it all the more.


Messias Porto LBV 2007, 19.5%, €21.85 Karwig Wines

Picked this up when I bought some Portuguese wines in Karwig’s and it turns out to be an excellent Late Bottled Vintage at a very good price indeed. Not one of the big names in port in Ireland but Very Highly Recommended. It is made from much the same grape varieties that go into the Grande Escolha above.

It is tawny colored as you'd expect, with a warm, rich and complex aroma with notes of dried fruit. It is satisfyingly full in the mouth, very smooth and finishes long. Well worth a try.

Messias was founded in 1926 and nowadays produces high quality wines from several demarcated regions: Dão, Bairrada, Douro, Vinho Verde, Beiras, Terras do Sado and Vinho do Porto.

Late Bottled Vintage, as the name suggests, is bottled later, remaining in wood between four and six years. All the fruit used is from that one year. During this relatively long period of wood ageing, an LBV matures and settles down.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Reds from the Edges

Reds from the Edges
Thanks to the independents
Some unfamiliar grapes figure in these two excellent reds from the edges of old Europe, one from Austria, the other from Portugal. Not many of us, even if regular customers, will have heard of either the Blaufränkisch or the Alfrocheiro. The names of these grapes, excellent in their original areas, are not an advertiser’s dream (much easier to dream up a slogan for Merlot or Chardonnay).

But they survive, thanks primarily to the local winemakers and thanks to the independent wine merchants, of which we have a fair share in Ireland. They know, and more of their customers are coming to realise, that the bigger picture is made up of little gems whose names may not lend themselves to a catch-all slogan. Best of goods come in small parcels! (Not a bad slogan, come to think of it.)

Wohlmuth Aristos 2009 Burgenland (Austria), 13.5%, €20.59 Karwig Wines
You won’t find Wohlmuth in Hugh Johnson’s current handbook but, thankfully, you’ll find their wines in Karwig’s of Carrigaline. The Aristos, a blend of the local Blaufränkisch and Cabernet Sauvignon, is a product of the Neckenmarkt vineyard, one of a few owned by the Wohlmuth family, winemakers since 1803. The “most rigorous quality criteria” are applied while the terroir is regarded as ideal for the two varieties.

Austria is predominantly white wine country but it is a different story in the Mittelburgenland (close to the border with Hungary). Here the continental climate is ideal, especially for the juicy Blaufränkisch which also brings relatively high acidity to a blend.
Two thousand and nine was a good year in the area and it shows in this Very Highly Recommended wine. It is clean and bright with a medium red colour and aromas of dark berries. On the palate, you find the berries again, spice too, soft tannins and, yes, that balancing acidity, all the way to a long dry finish. Went well with steak the other night and the producers also recommended trying it with Lamb cutlets, also duck breast on lentils.

Flor de Viseu, Tinto Selection 2009, Dao (Portugal), 13%, €12.99-13.99, Wine Alliance stockists

Most people with a passing acquaintance of Portuguese wine will have heard of Touriga Nacional but Alfrocheiro, the main grape here, will no doubt raise a few eyebrows. Both are local grapes and popular in the Dao region.


The region, named after the local river, is the home of juicy friendly wines and this is one of them. You find red fruit aromas and a healthy looking ruby colour. The wine itself is warm, fruity and spicy. It is rather smooth with mild tannins, very engaging at all points of the palate and has a persistent dry finish. Very Highly Recommended.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Pamper Your Pinot Gris

Pamper Your Pinot Gris


Little Beauty Pinot Gris 2010 (Marlborough NZ), 14%, €21.99 to 22.99), Wine Alliance stockists

This Pinot Gris comes from less than two hectares of vines. “Pinot Gris loves the stones, the water, and the sun", said Little Beauty's Fleur McCree during one of last year’s Wine Geese events. 
It just takes off in these conditions and that can, in the wrong hands, lead to quantity over quality. So it has to be reined in. Bunches are removed. Must be done by hand as machines can’t decide which bunches to discard. “Concentration in Pinot Gris means quality” and it is “the most pampered variety in the vineyard”.

Worth the effort though.  Here you have lip smacking flavour, oily, yet drier than their Riesling. Don’t over-chill it and use with nuts, pork, crab and so on. Very Highly Recommended.

Chateau de Petit Thouars, Cuvee Amiral 2009 Touraine (France), 12.5%, €15.00 at the chateau.
“Many great men of our family served in the French Navy” and so the top wine at the Chateau, near where the Vienne and the Loire meet, is called Amiral. It is a press wine made from the Cabernet France grape. All the refreshing characteristics of this variety are present here, even if the wine has spent some two years in previously used oak.
As you’d expect, it is a medium dark red with red fruits prominent in the bouquet. On the palate, it is fresh and light and rather smooth, terrific concentration and with a slight spiciness plus a pronounced dry lengthy finish. This is tailored for a long keep but only if you have proper storage available.
Highly Recommended, possibly Very Highly Recommended in a few years!

Pegões Stella Rosso 2009 (Setubal, Portugal), 13.5%, €10.99,  Wine Alliance stockists
This was one of the first red wines that the then newly formed Wine Alliance brought in from Portugal. It was a winner then and is a winner now.
Made from the local Castelão (50%) and the international Syrah (50%) grapes, this rich easy drinking red is good on its own and even better with red meats. It is full, fruity and spicy, with a soft supple texture, carries flavours of black cherries and plums and is very well balanced.
Six months in American oak barrels followed by four in bottle before release. An excellent Highly Recommended wine.