Showing posts with label Rioja. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rioja. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

A Delicious Double from Le Caveau


Arianna Occhipinti SP 68 Rosso Terre Siciliane (IGT) 2016, 12.5%, €26.35 64 Wine Dublin, Bradley’s of Cork, Greenman Dublin, Le Caveau Kilkenny
Get your kicks on route sixty-eight. Doesn't rhyme! This super wine, liquid poetry, is named after the road that passes by the Sicilian vineyard where Arianna Occhipinti happily produces the clean wines that have given her quite a reputation.

“Arianna Occhipinti is a real star of ‘natural wine’. …Good agriculture and minimal intervention in the cellar bring light to every label in production. No accident today that her Frappato is on the wine lists at the worldliest tables of Parisian neo-bistros.”

So says the authoritative Modern History of Italian Wine speaking of Arianna whom they include in a very short list of the most influential Italian winemakers of the current decade.

And that Frappato grape is included in the blend here, its partner being the much better known Nero D’Avola. Gorgeous aromatics here, a melange of fruit (red) and floral, herb notes too, even a wee bit of pepper. On the palate, it is light and bright with berry (raspberry from the Frappato) and red cherry fruit, energy and grace in every sip, excellent acidity too, very refreshing, an exquisite balance of power and finesse and those lips drying at the finalé. Very Highly Recommended.

And if the Irish weather is warm when you get your hands on a bottle, don't hesitate to chill it a little, about forty minutes in the fridge did it for me. There was a little sediment, so maybe decant. If you forget, don’t worry!

Viña Albergada Tempranillo Rioja (DOC) 2016,  13%, €12.95 64 Wine Dublin, Bradley’s of Cork, Greenman Dublin, Le Caveau Kilkenny

The colour of this young wine, a joven, is a dark ruby. There are expressive aromas of ripe red fruit (cherry, plum). On the palate it is juicy and fruity, with a touch of spice, very good acidity, quite refreshing. Perhaps not the longest of finishes but a good one. Highly Recommended.

The unoaked joven is a lighter, easy-drinking style of Rioja that offers great value-for-money. Great too, they hint, as an aperitif with Banderillas tapas (green olives, gherkins, onions and pimenta). And it is one of those reds that may be tried chilled.
.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

A Trio of Excellent Reds from Mary Pawle Wines


A Trio of Excellent Reds 
from Mary Pawle Wines

According to Ana Fabiano in her 2012 book, The Wine Region of Rioja, you can expect good things from the winemakers of Rioja Baja. Their spirit is “based on enormous reverence for their land, respect for the heritage of their ancestors, and a commitment to carry it forward”. By the way, she mentions Luis Jiménez as one of the producers worth seeking out in the area and we have two of his below.


Ruiz Jiménez Paisajes Rioja (DOC) 2015, 14%, €17.70 Mary Pawle Wines


This organic Rioja is an “edition especial Garnacha 2015”, special because it is 100% Garnacha, not a drop of the customary Tempranillo. It is also rather special as “100% of the creative process is in our own hands.”

It is mid to deep ruby, bright and clear, legs reluctant to clear. Aromas of sweet red fruit, hints too of its season in the oak. Fruity and dry, elegant on the palate, this well balanced wine maintains its smooth power right through to the persistent finish, tannins still a factor. Beautifully reined-in power and Very Highly Recommended.


Pago de Valcaliente Rioja 2015, 14.5%, €26.30 Mary Pawle Wines

This organic wine has a cherry red colour. Fairly intense aromas of dark and red fruit fruits, and a hint of spice. Juicy, fruity and spicy, this young wine with its smooth tannins and balancing acidity is a tasty drop indeed and Highly Recommended.

The Valcaliente vineyard is in the Rioja Baja, one of the three areas of Rioja, and the producer is Luis Jiménez. This wine, a blend of Tempranillo and Garnacha, is aged in a concrete egg.

Domaine Bassac Syrah Côtes de Thongue (IGP) 2015, 13.5% €13.25 Mary Pawle Wines.

Produced by a young duo that started working here in the Languedoc in 2014, this Syrah is organic. It has a nice mid ruby colour and a moderately intense nose of blackcurrant. There is a fair concentration of fruit and spice in the palate. 

You’ll come across some much brasher Shiraz but this is a restrained and well-made Syrah, a rounded and a good warm wine and Highly Recommended. Importer Mary Pawle suggests trying it with Lamb Tagine. 

A young enough wine but do not hesitate to open an hour or two in advance and do also decant. Well worth the effort.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Lopez de Haro. The Classica Collection from Rioja.


Lopez de Haro. The Classica Collection
On the outskirts of Haro

Lopez de Haro are based a short drive east of Haro, a historic wine town in Rioja. You’ll also hear La Rioja used but that refers to the administrative area rather than the wine region.

Wine has been made here for over 2,000 years. While Haro may not trip off the lips, as would St Emilion for example, it is still a hive of activity and, with so many bodegas there, it will drive your Sat-Nav crazy, not to mention the driver! 

However, even with Sat-Nav Susie confused, it is very easy to find an interesting bodega, almost by chance. I certainly enjoyed my visits to Bodegas Lopez de Heredia/Tondonia with their old timber buildings and modern bar and, across the road at Bodegas la Rioja Alta, well known for their Arana and Ardanza reds.

For all that the bodegas and wine activity, Haro is a small enough town with a population of around 12,000 people. The completion of the train station in 1880 led to the concentration of wineries here. When very few European cities had electricity, Haro (and Jerez) had it. In the way that every street in France seems to have a pharmacy, every street in Haro then had a bank. 

Aside from the practical benefits of railway and electricity (and banks), the town also benefits from the soil of the region, a combination of soil and clay that deliver complexity, according to the Finest Wines of Rioja, a recommended book that concentrates on the top producers not alone in Rioja but in NW Spain. 

For more on Haro, and Rioja in general, you could do worse than get your hands on the easy-reading The Wine Regions of Rioja by Ana Fabiano. And for more on its wines, why not start with this excellent trio, new to the Findlater portfolio and all available at Bradley’s of Cork. Good value too.

Lopez de Hara Rosada Rioja (DO) 2017, 13.5%, €14.95, Bradley’s Cork.
This rosada is a blend of Garnacha and Viura (the Riojan white grape) picked from low producing old vines in Rioja Alta and like the other two here is part of their Classica Collection.

Colour is a clean pale salmon. Red fruits, and banana notes, on the nose, floral notes too. There is an unexpected depth of flavour on the palate with a touch of sweetness, a pleasant mouthfeel, well balanced, fresh and lively and a lip-smacking finish. Highly Recommended.


Lopez de Hara Rioja blanco (DO) 2017, 12.5%, €14.95, Bradley’s Cork.


The main grape is Viura (also known elsewhere in Spain as Macabeu), again from old vines. There is a small percentage of other local grapes blended in and the wine is matured for 3 months in French oak barrels.

Colour is a pale straw, light and bright. Ripe fruits feature on the complex nose. Palate is amazingly fresh, edgy fruit and tart acidity combine all the way to a long finalé. Subtly oaked with a lip-smacking farewell, this wine is a steal and Highly Recommended.

Lopez de Hara Rioja Crianza (DO) 2015, 13.5%, €14.95, Bradley’s Cork.
From old vines, in a privileged location between the River Ebro and the Sierra de Tolono, comes this crianza, mainly Tempranillo but with Garnacha and Graciano also in the mix. It has spent 18 months in French and American oak.

Colour is a dark cherry. Aromas of ripe red fruit, liquorice, and vanilla from the oak. Warm and rich with a soft mouthfeel, tannins silky (little grip), hugely impressive on the palate, elegant and accessible through to the finish. No wonder Decanter put this multi-award winner in its Top 50 Best Buy Rioja in 2016. This skilful harmonious combination of fruit and wood is Very Highly Recommended and, by the way, great value as well.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Good food. Good Wine. And Two Amigos. Equals A Fun Experience in the Maryborough

Good food. Good Wine. And Two Amigos.

Add Up To A Fun Experience in the Maryborough
Venison

The Maryborough Hotel held their first ever wine dinner this week and it was a resounding sold-out success. Stanley A. Moss, representing the Riojan winery Luis Cañas, set the tone early on, promising to “be fun, not geeky” and fellow presenter John Wilson, the Irish Times wine writer, had no problem in making it a double act. The duo went to successfully impart plenty of information on the various wines without tying us up in technical knots.

Towards the end, John described the experience as “one of the bargains of the century!”, referring to the brilliant wines and the excellent food, and that was the cue for a round of applause for the Maryborough’s outstanding chef Gemma Murphy, with thanks too of course to Luis Cañas from Rioja Alavesa.

We were warmly welcomed at a lovely reception. Cava was on offer, a drink that John Wilson says is getting better and better, “different, distinctive”. The same words could well be attached to the Kalak vodka, produced by Tipperary man Patrick Shelley, “a rare single malt Irish vodka, distilled four times in Skibbereen” and available at the reception in a lovely cocktail.
Cod
Verdejo is one of my favourites white wine grapes and so I was delighted to see the Val de Vid 2016 paired with Scallops, Mandarin salsa and Yuzu Foam. Stanley said this aromatic and flavourful wine comes from Rueda and the production, from old vineyards, is small. It is difficult to obtain in Ireland and only available in restaurants.

John remarked that he thinks of it as the “Spanish Sauvignon blanc, with citrus, green fruits and dry like a New Zealand Sauvignon blanc.” He remarked that there are some cheap Verdejos out there and advised paying “a bit more to get the quality”. Tasty, aromatic and satiny and it got us off to a great start at the table.

We were now on to Cod, compressed cucumber, radish, shimeji, wakame, dashi, matcha green tea. More Verdejo? No, the reds were introduced, a lightly oaked elegant Crianza 2014, fruity on the nose and palate with a lively acidity playing a key role. John Wilson said that Rioja wines come ready to drink because of the ageing and classification system.  The pairing, by the way, was quite a success.
Beef Cheek Ravioli

Third course was Foie Gras, Crispy Chicken skin, Hazelnut and miso caramel and this was matched with the Luis Cañas Reserva 2011. John pointed out the main grape in Rioja is Tempranillo, “the Spanish variety”. Stanley said they do their best to produce good fruit. Sometimes that means cutting back on the yield and less grapes means more expensive wine. “But usually you get what you pay for.”

There was a double step up in class with the Gran Reserva being by-passed as we were treated to the Cañas Reserva La Familia 2011, a good year here in Rioja. With its pleasant and complex nose, round palate with great structure and juicy tannins, it was a super match with the Assiette of Ballinwillin Venison, perhaps the highlight of the meal.

And it paired well too with the next course, Beef Cheek Ravioli, kohlrabi, cured egg yolk and spilt red wine jus, 
Chocolate
This Familia is 85% Tempranillo with only the best of the grapes being selected to “magnify the good side”. It is a superb wine, intense and complex on the nose, “milkier, creamier on the palate”, powerful with chocolate notes (which came in handy as the dessert was Chocolate Pave with Cherry).

At that stage, some more “sweets” appeared as well, as did a Black Twist Cocktail. Black Twist, invented by Conor Coughlan, is a blend of coffee and whiskey and you may read more about it here.  

All good things come to an end but I have the strong impression that the Maryborough will soon have another wine dinner. Watch this space!

* For more info on the wines check on Searsons.com


Food & Wine Event February 13th 2018 Tasting Menu 
Scallops, mandarin salsa, yuzu foam. 
Foie Gras, crispy chicken skin, hazelnut, miso caramel. 
Cod, compressed cucumber, radish, shimeji, wakame, dashi & matcha green tea oil. 
Assiette of Ballinwillin Venison Beef cheek ravioli, kohlrabi, cured egg yolk, spilt red wine jus. 
Beef Cheek Ravioli, kohlrabi, cured egg yolk and spilt red wine jus
Chocolate pave with cherry.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

SuperValu Christmas Wines. Six of the Best!


SuperValu Christmas Wines
Six of the Best!


SuperValu’s wine expert Kevin O’Callaghan has brought together a great collection of wines for Christmas and the New Year. Wines from all over the world (though the six we’ve tried are from France mainly and Spain), including some Premium wines at unmissable prices. 

Kevin: “Those looking for gorgeous gift offerings won't be disappointed with our selection of market leading case deals from magnums of red wine to 6 bottle cases from Bordeaux and an organic from Spain.” There are discounts galore until the end of the year.

Pagos de Labarca AEX Rioja (DOC) 2014, 13.5%, €22.99 (€18.00 until 31/12/17) 

It won’t be all turkey over the Christmas. There’ll be beef and some good hard cheese and then you’ll be glad you have a bottle of this Rioja on hand. Maybe a bit too much for Ireland’s favourite bird but its rich fruit and spice guarantees it a welcome on the festive table. This limited edition, just over 6,000 bottles, is a big wine for a big occasion. AEX by the way stands for the Spanish Alta Expression, highest expression.

Colour is a mid to deep purple. Rich concentrated dark fruit aromas and maybe even more intense on the palate. Warm, rounded and spicy, juicy too, with excellent persistence. Quite a treat and Very Highly Recommended. I've heard Kevin O’Callaghan describe this as a blockbuster and it certainly lives up to the billing.
Rioja vineyards seen through the glass of Bai Gorri Winery

Lunatico Monastrell Jumilla (DOP) 2015, 14%, €18.99 (€14.00 until 31/12/17)

This young red wine is part of SuperValu’s Specially Sourced Signature Range and has spent 12 months in French oak. It is 100% Monastrell (probably better known to many by its French name Mourvedre). Jumilla is one of the better areas for this grape.

Kevin O'Callaghan says this is “the new favourite wine of the moment”. He also has an eye for a good label and says this the art on this one is only surpassed by the art inside, “dark and rich with no rough edges”.

Colour is medium purple with the legs slow to clear. Black berries feature in the aromas. On the palate, the rich berry flavours are enhanced by the sweet oak spice. It is rich and smooth overall with a long and pleasant finish. Highly Recommended.

Keep an eye out too for other wines from Casa de la Ermita, especially the Idílico and the Crianza.

Chateau Tour Baladoz Saint Emilion Grand Cru (AOC) 2005, 13.5%, €44.99 (€25.00 until 31/12/17)

The Bordeaux vintage of 2005 is legendary and this rich, plummy wine is just gorgeous. Merlot is the main grape here with both Cabernets also in the mix, Franc at 20%, Sauvignon at 10%.

Colour is purple and the aromas are concentrated, ripe dark fruits plus fragrant floral notes. Full bodied for sure, sublime soft fruits with great balance, tannins now very soft indeed and this well-rounded rich and splendid wine provides a beautiful lingering finish. One to take your time with, small sips recommended. The wine itself is Very Highly Recommended.

Andre Guichot Pouilly-Fuissé (AOC) 2014, 13%, €22.99 (€18.00 until 31/12/17)

Colour is a medium gold and there are aromas of citrus and white fruits among quite a medley. In the mouth, it is smooth, close to creamy, richly fruited and soft with good acidity too plus a lingering finish. An elegant wine indeed and Very Highly Recommended. Recommended with shell fish, king prawns, lobster, crab or poultry in cream sauce as well as goat’s cheese. 

Andre Guichot Meursault (AOC) 2014,13%, €44.99 (€35.00 until 31/12/17)

Colour is a greenish gold, limpid and brilliant, and here again the fruit and acidity match up in an exceptional balance. Fresh and smooth it has an excellent refined mouthfeel with a streak of minerality and a long finish that keeps giving. This is indeed excellent and Highly Recommended.

On the area’s website, I read: “Nowhere in the Côte de Beaune does the Chardonnay grape do better that its does here”. Former US president Thomas Jefferson once visited the region and reported: "..at Meursault only white wines are made, because there is too much stone for the red".  


Andre Guichot Vin Mousseux Blanc de Blancs Brut, 11.5%, €17.49 (14.00 until 31/12/17)

Andre Goichot, best known as a negociant but who is also a producer, has been here in Burgundy since 1947; watch out also for his Chablis. He is well known too for his bubbles and this Blanc de Blancs (just means it’s a white from white grapes) is a delightful way to start your evening. Bubbles in your glass will also be welcome before that Christmas lunch or at any gathering around the big day. Just serve a few nibbles with it as those bubbles go straight to the head!

And if you like it, and many of you will, Guichot promises “a perfect match with all food styles”. It is off dry, the bubbles very evident immediately after pouring. There are lovely fruit flavours before a good dry finish. Recommended for sure and good value as well. Bonne Noël!

This particular AG Collection also includes a Demi-sec and a Rosé Prestige.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Three Lovely Presents! More Like These Please!

Three Lovely Presents!
More Like These Please!

Christmas and a birthday came in fairly quick succession. At least it seemed like that. These three wines were among the most appreciated presents! Thank you - you know who you are!

Chateau Batailley Grand Cru Classé Pauillac (AC) 2008, 13%.

The chateau name comes from an important battle fought here during the 100 war while the Grand Cru dates to the 1855 classification created by Napoleon 111. Batailley is regarded as a typical Pauillac with cassis flavours and good structure. Pauillac wines are generally expensive so I was very happy to get this as a Christmas present! The 2008 is a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, and 3% Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.

It is indeed a high quality wine with plum colour. Blackcurrants and cherry are prominent in the aromas. It is amazingly smooth and elegant, superbly rounded fruit with a little spice, a rich texture, tannins integrated, and well balanced  (a streak of acidity playing its part all through) and there is a persistent savoury finish. Very Highly Recommended.

The Wine Advocate reckoned it could last 15+ years. Not around here!

Vincent Giradin Les Gravieres, 1er Cru Santenay (AC) 2011, 13.5%, Le Caveau

Light red is the colour of this Pinot Noir. The aromas have dark berries and spices, floral elements too. Fruit (blackberry) and spice on the palate, rich and silky with tannins at play; it is light-bodied and throughly delicious with a long and dry finish to boot. No shortage of finesse here and it is Very Highly Recommended.

Importers Le Caveau report that, over the past decade, the focus for Vincent Giradin in his Meursault vineyard has shifted from the cellar to “trying to obtain the fullest expression possible from his vineyard”. The Les Gravieres plot, by the way, is regarded as the best in the area.

Ageing includes 14 months on fine lees and the lunar calendar (“fruit day”) is followed for the bottling, without fining and filtering. Match with red meats, game, various cheeses.

AGE Marques del Romeral, Rioja (DO) Reserva 2010, 13.5%, Marks & Spencer
Vineyards in Rioja

This is a Marks & Spencer wine and it does have the official Reserva stamp firmly attached. It is a blend of Tempranillo (mainly), Graciano and Mazuela and has been aged for two years in oak (American and French) and one year in bottle.

It is a glossy medium red colour. Ripe red fruits on the nose, spice and vanilla too. Well rounded fruit flavours follow in the smooth medium bodied wine. There is spice too, tannins close to fine. It is easy-drinking, a good example of the grape, the reserva designation of the area and is Highly Recommended. Try it with roasts and cheese.

Tempranillo is not ranked as “international” by World Atlas of Wine. Instead it is on a select list of “regional” grapes. They confirm though that  it is “Spain’s most famous grape….valued internationally for fine wine”.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Top Red Trio from SuperValu. Delicious Whites too.

Top Red Trio from SuperValu
The annual SuperValu Christmas showcase gets underway tomorrow, 24th of November, and here are three reds (from many) to watch out for. My top three consist of an Italian style Shiraz from Australia, a lovely food-friendly Sangiovese from Tuscany and a delicious Rioja to try with the red meats, leg of lamb in particular. Cheers!

Nugan Alfredo Dried Grape Shiraz 2012 (Australia), 14.5%, €19.99 (15.00 from 24/11) SuperValu

The dried grape technique is borrowed from Italy. It is used mainly to increase concentration. Five days then in contact with the skins before going on to spend 12 months in French and US oak. It comes in a noticeably heavy bottle!

Darkly coloured (garnet), it is lighter towards the rim.  It has very inviting fruit aromas, cherry and plum. And the velvety palate is certainly concentrated, complex deep flavours (that cherry again), some spice too; quite intense; excellent acidity too and it has a long finish. Very Highly Recommended.

Castellani Arbos Sangiovese (IGT Tuscany) 2013, 13.5%, €12.99 (10.00 from 24th Nov) SuperValu
Vanilla is prominent in the aromas of this Highly Recommended medium red; darker fruits there too. On the palate, it is smooth and fruity (cherries and plums), drifts of spice too, plus that quintessential acidity (almost an ever-present in Italian wines), and fine sweet tannins make it a pleasure in the mouth and the dry finish ain't bad either. Great value.

The producers aim has been to use the best Sangiovese grapes “to produce a Tuscan red dominated by fruity and spice notes, typical of the grape”. This worthy effort may be enjoyed with red meats and pasta dishes.

Pagos de Labarca AEX Rioja (DOC) 2011, 14.5%, €22.99 (18.00 from 24th Nov) SuperValu
Vanilla for sure in the complex nose but fruit shines through as well in this dark cherry red. That excellent balance is also noted on the smooth palate, tannins close to fine, plus some spice too, fruit and wood are well integrated and then follows a long and juicy finish with the dark fruit and vanilla still in harmony. Highly Recommended.

Bodega Covila, a co-op in Alavesa, regard this, rightly I think, as a Premium wine. It is a limited edition, just 6,400 bottles. It has excellent acidity and should be a good match for roast leg of lamb (no mint sauce though!), a match to repel the December chill and reinforce the Christmas cheer.

All Right With SuperValu Whites

Coopers Creek Dillons Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Marlborough (New Zealand), 12.5%, €14.99 (12.00 from 3.11) SuperValu
Best enjoyed young and fresh, say Coopers. So let's get at this Dillons, part of their Select Vineyards series.  It is light gold in colour with white fruit aromas (gooseberry, lime and peach in the mix). A power of flavour on the intense palate, balanced by a delicious acidity. Young and fresh it comes with a reverberating finish. Not to be left on the shelf. Highly Recommended.

Abellio Albarino 2015 Rias Baixas (DO), 12.5%, €13.99 (10.00 from 24/11) Supervalu

Liked the colour of this immediately, an inviting medium gold. It is hand-harvested and ideal with shellfish and fish and also recommended for lightly spiced Asian chicken dishes. The medium intense aromas are of white fruit. It has a smooth character on the palate, intense fruit (pear, apple and peach) with refreshing minerality. It is zesty and well balanced and Highly Recommended.

Domaine Les Guignottes, Les Resses Montagny 1er Cru 2014, 13%, €24.99 (€20.00 from 24/11) SuperValu




Not too much to say about this - just go out and buy and enjoy! This classic Chardonnay has beautiful intense white fruit aromas, peach the most prominent. Colour is a bright gold and there are amazing fruit and nut flavours, some spice too. The acidity too is outstanding. Fresh, with  a gorgeous mouthfeel and a long finish. Very Highly Recommended. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Celebrating international Tempranillo Day?

Celebrating international Tempranillo Day?
In Rioja, you may well hear familiar accents

If you ever find yourself in Rioja searching for Tempranillo, don't be surprised if you hear familiar accents in the bodegas. I was there a few years ago and at each of the three wineries visited in one afternoon, I was greeted by someone who had learned their English in Ireland, two in Dublin and one in Cork.
Rioja vineyards seen through the glass of Bai Gorri.
The receptionist here had learned her English in Cork. Doubcha by gorri.

Vinasperi Rioja (DOC) Crianza 2012, 13.5%, €15.15 Wines Direct

Celebrating international Tempranillo Day? Here’s a duo of bottles to help, one from Rioja Alavese and one below from Alta. Alavese is the most northerly of the three Rioja sub regions; the others are Alta (to the South West) and Baja (to the South East). 

This light bodied dry red is said to be a good example of the “modern style of Rioja”, a very pleasant one at that. It is quite a dark red and has pretty intense dark fruit aromas. And attractive fruit flavours also feature on the plum-y palate, barely a trace of tannins, just light and juicy, very approachable with a persistent finish. Highly Recommended.


Bodegas Gran Martinez Gold Selection Rioja (DOC) Crianza 2013, 13%, €17.30 Bubble Brothers (this bottle bought at Cinnamon Cottage).

This is a medium red colour with cherries and raspberries in the aromas and on the palate too where you'll also notice smoothness and power, vanilla and spice, fine tannins and a decent finish. Delicious and a touch more serious than the Vinasperi and also Highly Recommended.

The fruit comes from 40 year old vines; it spends 12 months in French and US oak and they recommend pairing it with roast lamb or beef.

Tempranillo, indigenous to Spain and used in the great Rioja and Ribera del Duero wines, is planted in 500,000 acres of the world’s vineyards, making it the fourth most planted wine grape, and that would be enough to celebrate.

Until recently, this noble grape’s entire acreage was almost all grown in Spain. But things have changed. Tempranillo today is grown in many more countries including the United States, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Australia, France, Portugal, Turkey, Canada, China, Thailand, and more.

You’ll notice a Crianza sticker on these bottles and other coloured stickers on other bottles from Rioja. Here’s the key:
The green label (cosecha) indicates less than one year in oak, less than one in bottle.
The red label (crianza) indicates 1 year in oak, 1 in bottle.
The burgundy (reserva) indicates 1 year in oak, 2 in bottle.
The royal blue (gran reserva) indicates 2 years in oak, three years in bottle.

The periods are mimimum.

* 2017 Australia Day Tastings will be held in London on the 24 January at a brand new venue, B1 Bloomsbury Square, in Edinburgh on 26 January at The Balmoral Hotel and in Dublin on 30 January at the RHA Gallery.


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Wines Of The Marques de Caceres. For Food, And Afterwards!

Wines Of The Marques de Caceres.
For Food, And Afterwards!

In Jacques Restaurant on Wednesday evening, a Frenchman told us the story of the Spanish family that employs him, before we got down to tasting a series of their gorgeous wines. 


The Forner family had been involved in wine for decades before having to flee to France during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), having “lost everything”.


Eventually, they began making wine in Bordeaux before, many years later, finding their way back to Spain to begin a winery in Rioja. Forner are better known to us as Marques de Caceres and the Frenchman, Florent Thibaut, is their Export Sales Manager. Florent was introduced to the attendance in Jacques by Dave Buckley of Cassidy Wines.

Florent started us off with a gorgeous Verdejo, saying that in fairly recent times, Marques de Caceres had began to make white wines in Rueda and Rias Baixas. “This grape is local in Rueda, giving a dry but aromatic wine, very pleasant on its own or with food (fish, salad).” It certainly was vibrant and fresh in the mouth with a delightful bouquet.
Next up was another white, their Albarino from Rias Baixas in Galicia. Think he said Galicia means mother earth, and he mentioned that the name of the wine indicated that it came, possibly via the Santiago de Compostella route,  from the Rhine (-rino) and was brought by a  monk (of course!).
He highlighted its minerality and said it is a great match with seafood, especially oysters. Jacques, who know a thing or two about matching food and wine, came up with some excellent pairings and the first was their Salted Cod Croquettes, a good match with the two whites.


Florent had excellent English and well able to hold his own in the banter that broke out from time to time. On being asked about the contribution of the Riedel glass to the wine, he said: “The glass is to the wine like the dress is to the lady!” Another quote, not from Florent, came to mind: Rioja wines are voluptuous; they  are round and full and rich. They are not Audrey Hepburn; they are more Marilyn Monroe.
So now we were on to those voluptuous reds, all from Rioja, starting with a very highly rated Crianza, which is for restaurants. “It is one hundred per cent Tempranillo from older vineyards.. with typical pepper, spice, a great choice with charcuterie, chorizo.., very much a wine for food… very pleasant but a serious wine.” Indeed, Excellens is a wine with great character and was quite a hit in the room.
And speaking of chorizo! As the reds were being tasted, Jacques served up a tasty dish of Basmati Rice, chorizo, peppers and chilli. Oddly enough, the Reserva didn't go down as well as the Crianza! Maybe, it was because “the nose was less expressive”. Florent went on to say that the Crianza “was more full-bodied, more tannic...for food.. Matches well with lamb”. And on cue, Jacques had some delicious lamb chops on the table!
In time too for the Gran Reserva which, Dave Buckley, told us “is not made every year”, only when  the fruit is very very good. ”Florent enthused: “And this eight year wine is very good indeed, from older vineyards. Very gentle, with smooth tannins. See that fresh colour…. Very fruit-driven, dark fruits.. Blackcurrant...that pepper and spice (from the oak) is there too..balsamic. For food, and for relaxing afterwards.”

Speaking further on this Gran Reserva, Florent noted its complexity and elegance. “Wine doesn't always have to be easy… sometimes you have to travel towards the wine.. From Cork to Rioja!” Reckon he had a busful of volunteers at that stage!

  • Most Rioja reds will have spent some time in oak. Check out the various designations below:
The green label (cosecha) indicates less than one year in oak, less than one in bottle.
The red label (crianza) indicates 1 year in oak, 1 in bottle.
The burgundy (reserva) indicates 1 year in oak, 2 in bottle.
The royal blue (gran reserva) indicates 2 years in oak, three years in bottle.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

From Rioja to Veneto. Crianza - Reserva - Ripasso

From Rioja to Veneto

Crianza - Reserva - Ripasso

Today, we travel from the Rioja in Northern Spain to the east of Lake Garda in the Veneto region of Northern Italy. And we have three pretty good wines to sample along the way! We’ll take it nice and easy and throw in a few not too difficult technical terms at the end.

Muriel Fincas de la Villa Rioja Crianza 2012, 13%, €14.99 (stockists include: Ardkeen Quality Foodstore (Waterford), Carpenters Off Licence (Dublin), Comet Off Licence (Dublin), JJ Gibneys (Dublin), La Touche Wines (Wicklow), Number 21 Off Licence (Cork), and The Wine Centre (Kilkenny).

Poor Soil is the Key!
This crianza is one hundred per cent Tempranillo and has spent 12 months in oak, and comes from the bottle with a nice bright cherry red robe. The aromas are of red fruit, wafts of vanilla. No shortage of flavour on the palate, some spice too, fine tannins and a lengthy finish. Highly Recommended.

Poor soil is the magic catalyst here, according to the winemakers. “The secret of the quality and expressiveness of our wines is the poor and balanced nature of our soil, exceptionally suitable for the vine.” Bodegas Muriel are in Elciego, one of the most famous villages of Rioja Alavesa.

Faustino V Rioja Reserva 2010, 13.5%, €18.98 (widely available, so shop around!)

9,000,000 bottles!
Faustino, with vineyards in the best parts of Rioja, is the largest privately owned vineyard in the region. “The winery holds more than 50,000 oak barrels and a permanent stock of some 9 million bottles - without doubt, the largest bottle collection we’ve ever seen”, says The Finest Wines of Rioja (2011).

Cherry red is the colour of this reserva and there are fairly concentrated dark fruit aromas, vanilla and spice notes too. Fruity and peppery, smooth with well integrated tannins and a good long finish. Highly Recommended.

The grapes are Tempranillo and Mazuelo (10%). It has spent 16 months in American oak and 24 months more in bottle. Match it with red meats and mature cheeses, says the winery. And they also recommend “flavourful fish such as tuna and squid in its ink”.
See more about Rioja and its wines here in a recent post.

Campolieti Valpolicella Ripasso 2012, €13.5%, €17.70 Karwig Wines

Second Time Around

Campolieti means happy fields and this Classico Superiore is produced by Luigi Righetti with Corvina as the main grape of the blend. 

In the heart of Valpolicella Classico, the Luigi Righetti estate is a small to mid-sized family run winery. The most exciting tradition to evolve from the Veneto region is the process used to dry grapes prior to pressing. Amarone and "Campolieti", the ripasso Valpolicella, have traditionally been the products to benefit from this process.

Aromas of plum and blackberry are noted in this rather fruity ruby red wine. Much the same fruits can be detected in the flavours. This has been made from grapes dried and put through the Ripasso method (see link below); this enhances the concentration. It also has a good dry finish. Ideal with Pasta, Risotto, Roasts, Red Meats. Highly Recommended.

Technical Terms
The red label (crianza) indicates 1 year in oak, 1 in bottle.
The burgundy label (reserva) indicates 1 year in oak, 2 in bottle.
Read all about the Ripasso method here.