Showing posts with label Rhone. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rhone. Show all posts

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.
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, April 20, 2016

Raise Your Hat to Syrah! Praise Too The Shiraz.

Raise Your Hat to Syrah!
Praise Too The Shiraz.

Syrah is one the best known grapes in the world. The origins of this dark-skinned red have been widely debated but, according to, its modern viticultural home is unquestionably the northern Rhone Valley of eastern France. In Australia, Syrah is overwhelmingly (but not exclusively) known as Shiraz, and is regarded as the country's national grape.

There is a wee chapel dedicated to St Christopher on the top of Hermitage in the Rhone. But was it St Patrick who started Syrah’s rise to world fame? In Grapes and Wine (published 2015), the story that the Irish saint planted the first wines on the famous cnoc as he made his way to the island monastery of Lérins is raised.

Another famous visitor to the area was Alexandre Dumas. “In 1834, Alexandre Dumas travelled to the South of France along with his friend Jadin, arriving one evening at Tain-l’Hermitage. ‘On entering the hotel, I took Jadin over to the window and invited him to raise his hat to the hill that towered over the town. This Jadin did, and when I told him that these were the slopes of the Hermitage, he took it upon himself to raise his hat a second time.’ “  The above quote is from About Our Wines (a Cotes du Rhone booklet).

Wayne Thomas Shiraz 2004 (McLaren Vale), 14.5%, €26.80 Karwig Wines

Twelve years old but still displaying a great depth of colour, dark with only a slight lightening at the rim; legs slow to slide down. Aromas of berries and spice. Superb rich fruit and spice on the palate too, oak is well integrated and a long finish. Robust and balanced or, as his son said, Big and ballsy! This is more or less perfect and Very Highly Recommended.

Get on down to Karwig’s, or just go online, while they still have some of it. Sadly, Wayne Thomas died in 2007 and though his son is a winemaker he operates not in the McLaren but in the Hunter Valley.

Wayne “Thommo” Thomas was quite a character and you may read a tribute to him here.

Clairmont Classique rouge Crozes-Hermitage 2008, 13%, €22.50 Karwig Wines
This one hundred per cent Syrah (from vines over 30 years old) has a purple colour, slightly less so towards the rim; legs slow to clear. Red fruits are prominent in the aromas. Again, good fruit, some spice too on the palate, smooth with fine tannins, excellent balance and long finalé. Somewhat more restrained than the Thomas and also Very Highly Recommended.

The producers indicate that this red Crozes-Hermitage will pair well with grilled lamb, cold meat or roast turkey. Aged, it will be a great match to any kind of stew.                                        

Much larger than the prestigious Hermitage appellation which it surrounds, Crozes-Hermitage is also much more prolific.

Morambro Creek Shiraz 2008 (Padthaway, Australia), 14.5%, €23.40 Karwig Wines

The Bryson family “employ sustainable environmentally friendly viticulture” and “meticulous traditional winemaking”. It all adds up to gems like this!

It is purple in colour, a little less so at the rim, legs slow to clear. Ripe fruits and more in the aromas, blackcurrant for sure. Expansive on the palate, full of fruit and spice, yet great harmony there too, soft and balanced with a hint of sweetness, the wood is well integrated and you have a long and pleasant finish. Another excellent Shiraz and Very Highly Recommended.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

M. Chapoutier. Poet of the Rhone

M. Chapoutier. Poet of the Rhone.
Enjoy. Don’t Over Analyse.

The M. Chapoutier motto is Fac et Spera - do and hope. Two words that sum up all the patience and daring that this art demands: patience in relation to nature which presides; daring for the winemaker, who observes, chooses and assists.The wine will be the faithful expression of this alchemy.

This winery and negociant business is situated in the Rhone area (and with vineyards further afield, including Australia). “Our own vineyards and the single vineyards that we select from are cultivated either organically or biodynamically.”

Michael, who introduced labels in Braille for his wines in 1999, is very much his own man as you can see from the numerous videos available on-line. I have  a short-list below and the first one is probably the best.
Lovely 2011 drive through the vineyards after coming down
 from a misty Mt Ventoux. Wish I was there now!

Michel, a terroir lover, is the current man but the family have been making wines for over two hundred years and there are other M. Chapoutiers in and coming into the business. I’ve read that If you are a Chapoutier baby, your first name will begin with M!

To give you an idea of Michel’s character, before you check the videos, I have a few quotes below. In one of the videos, you’ll hear him say that it was the English who added the H to Ermitage! Some of his wines are named Ermitage.

“I will not use the power of death (herbicides, pesticides, other -ides) but I will use the power of life.”

“Two people talk about love, the poet and the gynaecologist. I prefer the poet.” In other words, don't overanalyze as you may take the fun out of wine.

“It is very easy to concentrate a wine but it is gross….. Stuff fragrance…”

Quite a man. And quite a wine-maker too, one of the big names of the Rhone, according to Larousse. He makes beautiful wines and I enjoyed a few of them recently.

Chapoutier links:

No shortage of choice when I sat down
for lunch in Gigondas in June 2011

M. Chapoutier Gigondas (AOC) 2014, 14%, €25.95 Bradley’s

According to M. Chapoutier, texture, flavour, length and body are more important than fruit, much more important than fragrance. “Stuff fragrance,” he emphasises in one of the videos above. Reckon he followed his own advice here with this Rhone gem, though there is no shortage of aromas in this bright and healthy looking ruby wine, an attractive mash of red fruit (strawberries mainly) on the nose.

It is strikingly fresh on the palate, superb body with no shortage of flavours, acidity light and effective in the balance, and the finish goes on and on. Chapoutier makes wine to go with food and this is just one excellent example. A classy wine and Very Highly Recommended.

Grenache is the main grape here, with Syrah, Cinsault and Mourvedre playing the supporting roles. A part of the wine is aged in oak casks before being blended with the other part. This wine is then aged from 12 to 16 months before bottling.

The village of Gigondas was a winegrowing area up until the time of the phylloxera epidemic at the end of the XXth Century. As a consequence of the disaster, Gigondas chose to turn towards olive growing. However, following the " Black Frosts " in 1956 which destroyed the greater part of its olive trees Gigondas reverted to winegrowing, re-implanting high quality vineyards- and which nevertheless had to wait until 1971 before gaining A.O.C. acknowledgement.

M. Chapoutier Rasteau (AOC) 2013, 14%, €19.95 Bradley’s

Colour of this blend of Grenache and Syrah is a quite a deep crimson. And there are rather intense aromas of very ripe fruit, also a little pepper. Generous fruit and some spice too on the palate, juicy in a light manner, lively acidity, well balanced and an excellent warm finish. Highly Recommended.

Rasteau is one of the Crus of the Cotes du Rhone; it is allowed use just the village name on the label and is a step up on the AC Cotes du Rhone Villages named village, two steps up on AC Cotes du Rhone Villages and three steps up on the AC Cotes du Rhone! Other villages on a par with Rasteau include Gigondas, Vinsobres and Vacqueyras. Rasteau and the neighbouring Beaumes de Venise also make a fortified wine, a red one in the case of Rasteau.

M. Chapoutier Belleruche Cotes du Rhone (AOC) 2014, 13.5%, €14.95 Bradley’s

Garnet is the colour of this blend of mainly Grenache and Syrah. Aromas are mainly red fruit (cherry), some spice too. On the palate, you get that fruit again, a lovely drift of spice, good acidity, fine tannins too. An excellent and rather complex example of a very well made Rhone wine, at a level close to higher applications, and Highly Recommended

The vineyards of the red Côtes du Rhône “Belleruche” covers 4 departments (Drôme, Vaucluse, Gard and Ardèche) on different soils (clay and calcareous alluvial deposit terraces, clay…) giving to the “Belleruche” an extraordinary richness and complexity.

Also available in white.
Arriving in Beaumes de Venise

M. Chapoutier Muscat de Beaumes de Venise (AOC) 2012, 15.5%, €17.95 (37.5cl) Bradley’s
Vin doux naturel (vdn), or naturally sweet wines, have a long history. Like port, a spirit (in this case, a neutral grape spirit), is added before all the sugar has been converted to alcohol. Chapoutier also makes a similar wine to this in Banyuls in the Languedoc. Both are intended to “prolong the pleasure of a good meal”.

Colour is a light (and bright) gold and the attractive aromas are of candied fruits and there are also floral notes. The aromas continue strong in this well balanced wine. There is no excessive sweetness here, no cloying stickiness. Light and lovely and Very Highly Recommended.

The grape by the way is Muscat petit grains. Beaumes de Venise is quite a small place, in the shadow of Mont Ventoux. I have happy memories of a visit there. I had just come down from a grey drizzle on top of the mountain and a temperature of about six degrees. Down in the valley as we drove towards Beaumes it rose to the mid twenties.

We had a tasting in a shop in the village and a friendly lady was very generous when she poured the golden liquid into your tasting glass. There was no spittoon! And so we had to cut our tasting mission short but got back to the nearby villages, including Gigondas and Vacqueyras, a few days later.

La Bernardine Chateauneuf du Pape 2013, €39.95
Les Meysonniers Crozes Hermitage, €21.95 See my recent review here. Very Highly Recommended.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

France. Via le route rouge

France. Via le route rouge

Let’s take a red wine trip in France, not all encompassing by any means. Indeed, I’m being a bit contrary here as two of our areas visited, the left bank in Graves and the Loire valley, are perhaps better known for their white wines. But they've got some red gems from those gravelly soils as well.
Passed these vineyards in Graves a few times

Clos Floridene Graves (AOC) 2011, 13.5%, €16.35 Maison des Vins, Podensac.

D’accord, let us begin in Podensac, in Graves. It’s a small enough town with a nice restaurant called Chez Charlotte where a three course meal cost me €22.00 in 2014. The friendly proprietor speaks good English and is also proud of the area, listing the main attractions as Charlotte (big smile!), the Lillet Distillery, the Maison des Vins and the fact that they have a water tower by the famous architect Le Corbusier.

Denis Dubourdieu is also renowned in the Bordeaux area but as a wine-maker. In 1982, he and his wife founded Clos Floridene. This wine is a fresh and fruity blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (72%) and Merlot (28%).

Colour is a deep garnet and blackcurrant dominates the aromas. The palate is an intense mix of fruit, and tannic flavours, some spice too and, with a long silky finish, this left bank red is Very Highly Recommended.

Chateau Saint Eugène Martillac 2011, Pessac-Léognan (AOC), 13%, €12.80 in Graves

Colour is cherry red, a shiny one! Ripe red fruits and violets feature in the aromas. On the palate, there are excellent fruit flavours and a matching acidity, fine tannins at play here too. Rather powerful, with some spice, dry and warm and a long finish. Very Highly Recommended. The blend is 70% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot and it has spent 12 months in barriques.

The chateau is located in the heart of Martillac and its clay-limestone soil was newly planted, mainly with Merlot, in 1998. Owners are the Gonet family, well known as owners in the Champagne region for over 200 years. Martillac is a commune in the Pessac-Léognan area which itself is in the outskirts of Bordeaux and includes the legendary Haut-Brion.
Found this old vineyard tractor in Languedoc museum
Chateau la Bastide L’Optime 2011, Corbieres (AOC), 14%, €18.30 Karwig Wines

Let’s now take the L'Autoroute des Deux Mers from Bordeaux towards Narbonne - you’ll be glad of a glass of wine after driving around Toulouse on the peripherique - and head for Corbieres, one of the biggest appellations in the Languedoc.

We are tasting another blend, this of 80% Syrah and 20% Grenache, from vines whose average age is 50 years. It has spent 12 months in barriques bordelaises. Colour is a dark red with a lighter rim. Intense red fruity nose along with some spice. The attack is fairly intense, fruit and pepper combining, round tannins there too, but it is smooth and warm as it spreads across the palate to a long dry finish. Powerful and concentrated, this too is Very Highly Recommended.
Lunch in a Rhone village
Cellier de Monterail Cotes du Rhone 2014, 13%, c. €12.50 O’Donovan’s Off Licence
It is just a short trip from the Languedoc to the Southern Rhone where most of the generic Cotes du Rhone is produced. Grenache is usually the main grape, as it is here with over 40%; its companions in this bottle are Syrah and Mourvedre (the usual suspects in the GSM trio) along with Cinsault.

Quite a light red with pleasant enough red fruit aromas on the nose. This basic wine of the region illustrates why the Cotes du Rhone is so popular and so well known in Ireland. It is well balanced, round and full with some spice and the tannins remind you gently that they in play. Recommended.

O’Donovan’s choose this to represent France in their recent Rugby World Cup promotion though they picked an even better French wine (Chateau de la Ligne) to represent Ireland!

Driving through Southern Rhone vineyards
M. Chapoutier Les Meysonniers, Crozes-Hermitage (AOC) 2012, 13%, €21.95 Bradley’s Offlicence

The highly respected winemaker Michel Chapoutier, one of the big names in the Rhone (ref: Larousse)  is an uncompromising terroir lover and committed too to organic and biological winemaking, preferring to “use the power of life” rather than “the power of death”, the -ides (herbicides, pesticides etc), in the vineyard. He doesn't like to see wine being over-analyzed as it takes the fun out of it and you’ll note that all his labels are marked in Braille.

And, yes, as well as talking the talk he walks the walk. Just take a glass of this hand-harvested foot-treaded Syrah from the Northern Rhone. It is in the classic style, fresh and fruity. Colour is a medium to dark red with a bright hue. Aromas are of ripe red fruit. The initial fresh and fruity attack is long lasting, tannins there too but smooth; it is ample and round and then the long finish. Superbly balanced wine and Very Highly Recommended.
On the Loire. I was safely on the bank, glass in hand!
Chateau du Petit Thouars, Cuvee Amiral 2009 Touraine (France), 12.5%, €15.00 at the chateau
After the Rhone we head to the north and to the area around the town of Chinon in the Loire which we will leave with the boot full of wine and just a short journey to the ferry port of Roscoff!

“Many great men of our family served in the French Navy,” owner Sebastien du Petit Thouars told me when we called to his chateau near where the Vienne and Loire rivers meet.  And so, in memory of those great men, he called his top wine Amiral.

Colour is a deep red, close to purple, with a great sheen. Red fruit dominates the intense aromas. Fruit, fresh, juicy with a lively acidity and a pronounced dry and lengthy finish. Tasted this first when I bought it two years ago and it is definitely heading in the right direction. Only trouble for me is that this was my last bottle of the Very Highly Recommended wine. By the way, du Petit Thouars wines now come under the Chinon designation.

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.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Crus of the Côtes du Rhône

Crus of the Côtes du Rhône.
Take Three. More If You Like!
Vines under the Dentelles in Provence.
Dentelles means lace

Taking a look today at three wines from the Rhône. The first two are from the northern Rhone, the third from the south. All are crus of the Côtes du Rhône in the same way that Gigondas and Condrieu, for example, are. All three examples, currently featuring in the SuperValu French Wine Sale, are pretty good, though my preference is for the Vacqueyras. By the way, there are 16 crus in all along the Rhone.

Croze Hermitage rouge Etienne Barret 2012, 12.5%, €10.00 SuperValu

Hermitage is perhaps the most highly regarded of the Northern Rhône villages and Croze Hermitage is a larger area that surrounds it and covers 11 communes. You'll pay a premium for the Hermitage wines but there is some class in this one also. Fruit aromas and spice on the nose and there are clear black fruit flavours on the finely textured palate and then a good finish. Highly Recommended.
They suggest pairing it with lamb and red meats generally. We found it a great match with Comeragh Mountain Lamb. (Just pure chance that we had some handy!).

Saint Joseph Les Chapponnes 2012, 12.5%, €12.00 SuperValu
The Saint Joseph area is on the opposite bank, more or less directly opposite Hermitage and, like the Croze Hermitage above this is made from one hundred percent Syrah. Color is a deep red and there are fruity aromas. On the palate you have the darker fruits (plums and tart black currants) and some pepper in a smooth mouthfeel, the finish good and long. This bottle was tested over two nights and on the second tasting, the blackcurrant dominated as the plum had on the first. In any case, the wine is Highly Recommended.

Vacqueyras Domaine St Roch 2013, 13.5%, €12.00 now down to €10.00 SuperValu
The Southern Rhône is mostly in Provence and Saint Roch is located in front of the Dentelles de Montmirail mountains (hills really) between Vacqueyras and Sarrians and close to other famous wine villages such as Gigondas and Beaumes de Venise, all under the gaze of white topped Mont Ventoux. It is the classic GSM blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre.

This dark red has fruity aromas and hints of liquorice. There is an excellent balance of fruit and spice on the palate; it is full-bodied, round and robust, with a nice texture and a good finish and is Very Highly Recommended.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Great Rhone Run Continues. Bourgogne Angels Deliver

Great Rhone Run Continues

Bourgogne Angels Deliver For Christmas
Domaine Chaume-Arnaud, Vinsobres Rhone (Fr) 2012, 14.5%, c. €21.00, Le Caveau Kilkenny.

Vinsobres (once famous for its olive groves) is a hillside village in the Southern Rhone, just to the south-east of Montelimar (famous for it nougat). It obtained its local appellation (red wine only) as recently as 2005. Minimum alcohol content, according to AOC rules, is 12.5% but that is well exceeded here. I've had a great run on the Rhone recently and this is another excellent bottle. Very Highly Recommended.

There are generous red-fruit aromas from this ruby wine, spice too with vanilla and pepper prominent. This is the Rhone, powerful and refreshing, in a glass and on a palate. Rich fruit flavours abound and no shortage of spice either. Full bodied and earthy, with fine tannins, it has a quality aftertaste. Pair it with red meat, game, cheese.

The blend is the usual Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre but with a splash of Cinsault. No chemical fertilisers are used and harvesting is by hand on this biodynamic vineyard run by husband and wife team Philippe and Valerie Chaume-Arnaud.

Les Couteaux Des Anges, Pinot Noir (Bourgogne) 2013, 12.5%, €10.00 SuperValu ‘til 31st Dec.

Burgundy is the place for Pinot Noir and this is a very good example. Colour is the typical light red, clean and bright and the aromas are of red cherry. There are beautiful soft fruit flavours and a lovely balancing acidity. This medium bodied wine is a real pleasure on the palate, light and fruity, and it has quite an elegant finish to boot. Don't be afraid to agitate it slightly while in the mouth - you’ll be well rewarded! Very Highly Recommended.

SuperValu recommend you try it with their Salmon Mulled Wine Christmas dinner. I think it would also go well with Scallops and Truly Irish Rashers (of which we’ve had some recent experience!) Generally though, it should match with meaty fish, mushrooms, soft cheese, poultry and cured meats.

Speaking of matching, the recently reviewed Vinha de Foral Moscatel de Setubal is a natural with mince pies!