Showing posts with label Spain. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Spain. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Franciacorta, An Italian Gem. Best of Bubbles.


Franciacorta, An Italian Gem
Best of Bubbles. 


Alma Gran Cuvée Bellavista Brut Franciacorta (DOCG), 12.5%, €52.99, Wine Online.

From Franciacorta in Lombardy, to the south of Lake Iseo and to the west of the better-known Lake Garda, comes some of Italy’s finest sparkling wine and it’s not Prosecco. Franciacorta is made in the same way as champagne, with the second fermentation in the bottle, all the better for the character of the wine. 

For the past forty years, Vittorio and Francesca Moretti have been producing excellent Franciacorta at their Bellavista estate. Our bottle has a blend of 80% Chardonnay, 19% Pinot Noir and 1% Pinot Blanc.

It has a light straw colour with green tints. There are intense fountains of long-lasting small bubbles, pin-point and tiny. You may well note in the aromas the biscuit characters that turn up in good champagne, white fruit notes too including peach and citrus, plus floral and vanilla hints. It is intense also on the palate, fine, silky, beautifully balanced and then a lip-smackingly dry finish. Definitely makes a very good impression from first acquaintance and Very Highly Recommended.

Better than most Prosecco and as good as many Champagnes, this lovely wine is a welcome aperitif. Remember though that those bubbles go to the head faster than normal wines, so do provide a few nibbles, eg toasted almonds or cheese bits.

Interestingly, the area was once well-known for metallurgy and firearms (including the Beretta handgun, made outside of Brescia). Now, besides sparkling wine, it has some great cheeses such as Taleggio, Gran Padano and Gorgonzola. Franciacorta is a relatively recent phenomenon. "In 1968, there was nothing here," Maurizio Zanella, the unofficial ambassador of the wine, is quoted as saying.



Bargain Bubbles
Gran Troya Cava Brut NV 11.5%, €12.00 SuperValu

At a recent wine dinner in Cork, Irish Times writer John Wilson declared that Cava is getting better and better, “different, distinctive”. Yet many of us have yet to discover the Spanish sparkler, made in the same way as Champagne. This bottle, bought at twelve euro just before Christmas, is quite a good introduction. Recommended!

Colour is a pale yellow and there is no shortage of tiny bubbles rising to the top and forming a ring around the perimeter of the glass. It is intense and fruity with a long dry finish. A classic Cava. The grapes used are the traditional Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada “from our own vineyards”. Chardonnay is allowed but not used in this case. Try with olives, grilled almonds.

Covides Viñedos y Bodegas are the leading wine co-op in Catalonia in terms of volume and make their Cava using the método tradicional (same as Champagne). That means a thorough selection to get the best fruit, a careful blending process, secondary fermentation and subsequent ageing in the cellars at Sant Sadurni d’Anoia, a small town not too far from Barcelona. 


Thursday, January 4, 2018

Excellent Spanish Organic Wine at SuperValu.

Flor de Anon Garnacha Campo de Borja (DO) 2015, 14.5%, €11.99 SuperValu

Red cherry is the attractive colour; quite light and could be mistaken in appearance for a Pinot Noir or Gamay. Nothing shy about the intense and complex mix of red and dark berries in the aromas (floral notes too). On the rounded palate it is engaging, the lingering concentrated fruit is well balanced by the acidity and the flavours fade hardly at all in the long soft finish. Easy drinking and Very Highly Recommended. Good value too, by the way.

So a quality organic from a  supermarket! Whatever next? It is not the first organic from Kevin O’Callaghan and his team at SuperValu but is one that has been highly anticipated. It is produced from the fruit of 20 year old vines and you are recommended to serve it between 14 and 16 degrees.

Campo de Borja doesn’t exact spring to mind if you are asked to name a Spanish wine region. I looked it up for you! It is an inland area in the north east, some 45 minutes north-west of Zaragoza, 75 minutes south-east of Logrono (Rioja). Your Supervalu though will be easier to find!


*Just noticed, on a leaflet via our post box, that SuperValu have an interesting organic wine from the Languedoc as Wine of the Month. You can get the Grain De Bio Des Terres De Gaujac for ten euro, marked down from €12.99. Great colour, great nose, full and smooth, according to the blurb. Sounds good. Must get my hands on one.

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, November 22, 2017

Three cracking reds

Marco Real Colection Privado Crianza Navarra (DOC) 2013, 14.5%, €17.40 Karwig

The wines of Navarra are not as prominent in the Irish market as those of Rioja, its next door neighbour in Spain's North West. But this impressive amalgam of Merlot, Tempranillo and Syrah, illustrates well why it should be taken more seriously. 

The grapes are hand-picked and sorted twice on arrival at the winery. Twelve months in new French oak barrels is followed by 12 months in bottle and that earns it the Crianza sticker (on the back of the bottle).

The legs here, as you might expect, are slow to clear; colour is a deep ruby. There is an attractive mix of aromas (mainly ripe red fruits) plus hints of oak. Silky, Fruity. Spicy. Tannins are more or less totally integrated as is the oak. This full-bodied intense wine has a persistent finish and is Very Highly Recommended. Good value as well.




Casa de la Ermita Idílico Jumilla (DOP) 2012, 14.5%, €19.99 (€15.00 on offer from 23/11 to 1/3) SuperValu

A blend of Petit Verdot and Monastrell, this Crianza comes from old vines grown at 700 metres above sea-level.

It has an intense garnet colour, the legs slow to clear as you'd expect. Intense aromas too: darker fruits, plum prominent, hints of mint too. Rich on the palate, full of concentrated fruit flavours, spice too and close-to-smooth tannins. Excellent finish also, leaving you with that second glass feeling. This newcomer to SuperValu is very welcome and Highly Recommended.

Koha (Merlot, Cabernet Franc) Hawkes Bay (New Zealand) 2016, 13%, €14.00 Marks and Spencer
As you can see, this is a blend of Merlot (80%) and Cabernet Franc. It won Platinum for the producers, the Giesen family, in the recent Decanter awards and it is exclusive to Marks and Spencer. The sunny region of Hawkes Bay is perfect for Merlot. Just noticed that the Giesens produce an unusual style “blend” of hard apple cider and white wine, in a can!

Back to our smooth and fruity wine with its deep purple colour. Warm dark fruits prominent in a lovely mix of aromas.  Plums and berries on the juicy palate, oak in the background. Fresh and vibrant, this smooth engaging young wine, medium to full-bodied, is worth getting to know. Highly Recommended. Pretty good value too. Match with roasts and BBQ.

The Koha, by the way, is a long tailed cuckoo, a summer visitor to New Zealand.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Shiraz and Tempranillo. No exotic grapes this week!

Shiraz and Tempranillo. No exotic grapes this week!

Okay, so I've been pushing some unusual grapes your way in recent posts. This week though, it's back to a couple of familiar old reliables, Shiraz and Tempranillo. Both are mainstream.

Shiraz is the common New World name for the French Syrah while Tempranillo (I regularly omit the "p") is grown worldwide but synonymous with Spain, especially with Rioja and Ribera Del Douro regions. I think you'll enjoy these two very drinkable expressions.

Flores de Callejo Ribera del Duero (DO) 2015, 14%, €17.70 Karwig

This organic wine is 100% Tempranillo and has spent six months in French oak. Not overly surprising that it is an excellent one. The 2015 has been declared a “good, easy vintage for us, perhaps less tannic and less abundant than 2014, but the quality is high”. And a tip for you: the good news continued into 2016.

You’ll note the typical cherry colour on the 2015. Quite an intense aroma, berries red and black, cherry too. Fruity and spicy, rather silky, on the palate, followed by a persistent finish. All in all a bright fruit-driven wine, well crafted, well balanced and, at first meeting, highly recommended. The softness of this one grows on you though and I revised the “verdict” to Very Highly Recommended.

Mt Monster Shiraz, Limestone Coast (Australia) 2011, 14.5%, €17.35 Karwig Wines

The Mount Monster wines are produced by the Bryson family who also do the Morambro Creek and Jip Jip Rocks labels. French and American oak has been used with this particular Shiraz but sparingly, the better to ensure that “maximum fruit expression is retained in the final wine”.

Colour is a pretty deep purple. Blackberry and plum on the nose with a bit of spice too. That policy with oak has paid off and there is no shortage of fruit on the palate, a little spice too. Sweet tannins add to the softness and all elements combine in a generous finish. Highly Recommended.

When wine-maker Brad Rey visited Cork a few years back he was thrilled with the 2008 version, thrilled that the minimum oak policy had worked so well. He said it may be served slightly chilled. “It is light fruit, blueberries and raspberries and the tannins are fruit tannins. This is about balance and reminds me of the joven I used to make in Spain.”


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Two Reds From Uruguay and Spain. Worth Noting For Your Weekend!

Casa de la Ermita Crianza Jumilla (DOP) 2013, 14% (€12.00 from 12th of October to 1st of November) SuperValu

This is a blend of Monastrell, Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon, the grapes grown at a height of 700 metres. It has spent nine months in new oak barrels and is new to Supervalu. Did you know that Monastrell is regarded as “the queen grape” of Jumilla. Ermita also do a sweet dessert wine from Monastrell.

This blend has a deep garnet colour. On the nose, there are intense dark fruits (berries, plums), hints of oak too. The palate is full of those intense fruit flavours, juicy too, tannins are soft (barely at play), and there is a good length to the finish. Elegant and fruity, a lovely amalgam of the three grapes, and Highly Recommended.

Pisano Cisplatino Tannat 2015, Progresso (Uruguay), 13.5%, €14.00 Marks and Spencer. 

You may be familiar with Tannat, a grape from the French south-west (Madiran, Irouléguy). Yes indeed it was the Basques that brought the grape to South America where it is “becoming Uruguay’s signature grape”. 

Its stern reputation in France can put punters off. “A man’s drink,” you hear (from men). But I don't think they've tried Argi D’Ansa Rosé (80% Tannat) in St Etienne de Baigorry (Irouleguy) as I did in 2011 nor indeed this excellent example from South America.

Colour is purple and there are expressive aromas of plum mainly, also a whiff of vanilla. It is fresh, juicy and fruity, flavours of red and darker berries, some spice too, tannins close to soft and has a lengthy dry finish. Highly Recommended.

Label suggests trying it with meaty dishes, particularly lamb shoulder, moussaka, shepherd’s pie or spicy empanadas.


The three Pisano brothers follow biodynamic methods and use strains of native yeast, according to Decanter, who gave this wine a Platinum for Best Value Red Single Variety.


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Three Handsome Reds! One in a Litre Bottle.

Azienda Ampeleia ‘Un Litro’ Costa Toscano (IGT) 2016, 12.5%, €21.95 Le Caveau
Vines in the Wild

This relatively new estate - Ampeleia is the Greek for wine - is certified organic and biodynamic; it is biodiverse with the vineyards interspersed with chestnut and cork oak forests as well as scrub.

This particular wine comes in a squat green one litre bottle - hence the name - and is a blend of Alicante (Grenache), Carignan and Alicante Bouschet which has spent 6 months in cement tanks. It is unfined, unfiltered and has no added SO2.

Colour is between a deep pink and a pale ruby. Aromas, say Le Caveau, have balsamic notes, plus wild herbs and spice hints and I find no reason to disagree! It is juicy, light and youthful on the palate with an engaging purity of fruit, a light mist of spice and then a dry yet fruity finish. Highly Recommended.

Mas Igneus FA206 Priorat (DOG) 2005, 15%, €21.75 Mary Pawle Wines

Mas is a traditional farmhouse found in the Provence (eg Mas de la Dame, winemakers in the Vaucluse) and Midi regions of France, as well as in the Catalan regions of both France and Spain. And FA206 means six months in second year barrels. Agricultura Ecologica is the method use by Mas Igneus, one of the newer wineries in the Priorat region. The blend is Garnacha, Carignan, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

It is a deep ruby and you also note the long legs, slow to clear. There are beautiful aromas of ripe dark fruits, a touch of vanilla. It is smooth, concentrated, spice also, a warming mouthfeel, plus a long and rounded finish. Quite a superb wine, an oldie but goldie, and Very Highly Recommended.

Henri Nordoc Cabernet Sauvignon Pays d’Oc (IGP) 2014, 12.5%, €11.75 Le Caveau

No blending here, just 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. The colour is a rich ruby. There are intense aromas: dark fruits, vanilla and toast. Dark fruits follow on the palate, fresh and juicy, spice and tannins also in play but neither prominent. This Highly Recommended wine finishes well and is good value also.

The great concentration and purity comes from vines that are well cared for; they aim for a low yield. Later, the wine spends 8 months on its fine lees. The back label promises a wine “characteristic of the Languedoc terroir which produces rich wines bursting with flavour”. I reckon Henri and the Languedoc have delivered.


Chile's Aresti Family Wines. Plus A Lovely Albarino.

The Aresti Family, Highly Rated Chilean Winemakers
Jon (right) with Yours Truly
Though established in 1951, it was 1999 before the Aresti family began producing wine under their own label on their Bellavista estate in Chile’s Curicó Valley. Now, according to Wines of South America, they have “one thousand cultivated acres”. Their signature line is the Aresti Family Collection (also carried by SuperValu). 

Their winemaker, since 2005, is the experienced Jon Usabiaga, highly respected by fellow Chilean winemakers and a regular visitor to Ireland. I met him a couple of years back and he told me: “The main aim for me is to show the real character of every variety. If someone is choosing a Cabernet Sauvignon, it should taste like a Cabernet Sauvignon”.

Aresti Bellavista Reserva Merlot Curicó Valley (Chile) 2015, 13%,  €12.99 (offer €10.00 until 6/09/17) SuperValu.
Unusually, there is a truck on the label. It is the first truck, “La Perica”, that arrived in Bellavista, the founding vineyard of Aresti. Both the truck and the vineyard date back to 1951.

Colour of this Merlot is ruby. It boasts aromas of ripe red fruit, hints of vanilla too. The juicy palate has strawberry flavours and spice too, tannins are mild, and the finish is long and dry. Highly Recommended.


Aresti Bellavista Reserva Chardonnay Curicó Valley (Chile) 2016, 13%,  €12.99 (offer €10.00 until 6/09/17) SuperValu.
This is another of SuperValu’s Specially Sourced wines, an increasingly important part of their wine offering. “Delivering new and exciting wines to cater for all tastes is top of our agenda,” says Kevin O’Callaghan, Head of Wine.

Like the Merlot, the Chardonnay is produced at Bellavista (note the lorry again!), the original Aresti venture. You’ll also find Bellavista Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon in SuperValu.

The colour is straw, with tints of green. No need to get really close in this instance as intense tropical fruit aromas rise from the glass. The fresh fruit features too on the creamy palate and good acidity keeps all in balance. A long dry finish lingers. This harmonious wine is Highly Recommended.



A Lovely Albarino
Bodegas Gallegas 'Abellio' Albarino, Rias Baixas (Spain) 2016, €12.99 (€10.00 when on offer) 12.5%, SuperValu

We leave Argentina now and cross the Atlantic to Spain, to Galicia and this attractively labelled Albarino. I know Kevin O’Callaghan is very proud of this one as he helped design the label (just one of the ways in which SuperValu help their producers sell their wines).

Winemaker Xoan Casiano Rego Ribeiro (call him Joan for short) is a defender of Galician wines, of the native varieties in particular, and has done a great job here with the hand-harvested Albarino fruit. 



The wine has the typical mid-gold colour.With its excellent aromas (white fruit) and flavours, it is ideal with shellfish and fish and also recommended for lightly spiced Asian chicken dishes. It is smooth and intense on the palate, with refreshing minerality and well balanced. Very Highly Recommended.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Exciting White Trio. Albarino, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling

Terras Gauda Abadío de San Campio Albarino, Rías Baixas (DO) 2014, 12%, €20.35 Le Caveau

Thought to be related to Riesling and presumably brought by Cluny monks to 12th century Iberia, via France, the recently fashionable Albarino grape is now mainly associated with Rías Baixas in north western Spain. It is also grown in neighbouring areas in Portugal where it is known as Alvarinho.

I was expecting good things in this bottle and I got them, even better than anticipated. Colour is mid-gold, bright and clean and there is no shortage of white fruits in the aromas. On the palate, it is bright and fruity, citrus in the tingle, minerality to the fore, a superb combination overall and that includes the long finish. Ticks all the boxes for a classy Albarino and is Very Highly Recommended.

The producers say it is ideal with seafood, shellfish and fish and especially with Tuna steaks.

Elgin Ridge 282 Sauvignon Blanc, South Africa 2014, 14%, €19.95 Le Caveau
At 282 metres above sea-level, we are at the ideal height to create cool climate Sauvignon Blanc in the Elgin Valley. The organic farming methods give the wine its elegance and unique flavour.

So says Marion Smith, ex Ballyjamesduff, who now runs the winery with her husband Brian. By the way, Dexter cattle, a native Irish breed, figure in the organic farming, grazing between the rows of vines and indeed Marion has the biggest herd of Dexter in the Western Cape.

Dexters aren’t the only “helpers” for Marion and Brian, who planted their first vines here in 2007. They also use Dorper sheep, chickens and Peking ducks to control the weeds and pests. Looks like the combination is working very well indeed.

Colour is a medium-gold with green tints. The aromas are fresh and cool. That freshness extends to the palate, tingly with concentrated white fruit, including gooseberry, citrus also prominent, pepper and spice too and then an excellent finish. Highly Recommended.

Carl Ehrhard Rüdesheim Riesling trocken, Rheingau 2015, 12%, €17.80 Karwig Wines

Grapes are hand-picked and indeed the vinification is focussed on “preserving the natural fruit”. This is facilitated by natural and gentle fining and slow cool fermentation. As usual Carl Ehrhard gets it right.


Colour is pale gold with greenish tints and you'll note micro bubbles clinging to the glass. Aromas are a gentle mix of apple and citrus. It tingles the palate; the intense fruit, now with more than a hint of grapefruit, and a super refreshing acidity combine well all the way to a long finish. This dry wine is Very Highly Recommended. Perfect for aperitif and with seafood and Riesling is regularly recommended for Asian.

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!


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Ribera del Duero. “Cradle of the greatest wines”

Ribera del Duero
“Cradle of the greatest wines”
Tempranillo
Wine has been produced in the beautiful wine region of Ribera del Duero since Roman times, though it became well known outside of Spain only in the 1990s. Just two hours north of Madrid, there are over 270 vineyards following the banks of the Duero River in the Castilla y León region, a flowing swathe of land that’s approximately 115 kms long and 35 kms wide.

According to the World Atlas of Wine, there were just 24 bodegas in the region when the DO was created in 1982 and now there close to 300. You’ll find big companies there, such as Faustino and Torres, and many smaller outfits. And there are many small growers who sell their grapes to the winemakers.

Earlier in the week, at Cork’s Farmgate Cafe, Agustin Alonso González, Technical Director of D.O. Ribera del Duero and Vicente Marco Casamayor, the D.O. Ribera del Duero Director of Communications, led a tasting masterclass, ranging from the young ‘Joven’ wines to the ‘Reservas’ – wines of exemplary depth and balance, powerful and elegant, and great wines for food.

A few years ago, Larousse Wine described the DO as “truly the queen of the Iberian peninsula and the cradle of the greatest wines”. And Alonso echoed that with his opening rhetorical question: “Why are we different? Why are we not just another region? Why are we nowadays touted as a Premier area?”

There is of course more than one answer, though Alonso says that the average altitude of 850 metres “says everything”. The best wines are often made in extreme conditions, on the edge between possible and impossible.

 And Ribera is on the edge, certainly in terms of frost - they get a lot of it in the spring. Indeed, the rule, he said, is that you must have 200 frost free days per annum to make wine; they get a few less than that. Temperatures in summer can see big variations between the heat of the day and the cool of the night. And even more so between the summer (up to the mid 40s) and winter (down to minus 20).
The lone rosé

While other grapes are grown here, Tempranillo accounts for 96.5% of the harvest. Known locally as Tinta del Pais, the berries are smaller with a thicker skin. Because of the different proportion of fruit to skin, “it is better to make richer wines”. By the way, the DO does not include white wines, just rosé and red.

At The Farmgate, we would soon find out how good the wines were. We started off with a rosé and a few of the younger wines before moving on to those normally drank with food including a lovely Emilio Moro 2014, the “very typical crianza” produced by Valduero, and the Protos Crianza, “a very classical wine, French style, from the complicated harvest of 2013”.

At this tutored stage of the tasting, we had about ten wines and naturally finished with the best. I thought so and so did a few close by. Here are my top three, in no particular order.

Resalte Crianza 2011, a renowned wine say the producers; an exceptional vintage from a very hot year, according to Alonso. It has spent 14 months in oak (80% French, 20 American) and the promise of its “ripe fruit and typical oak aromas” is carried all the way to the finish. A powerful well-balanced wine with great potential for ageing (another feature of Ribera wines).

Pradorey, from Finca La Mina, was another star, this a reserva. This has spent 18 months in American oak, 6 in Nevers oak vats. “Iron fist in a velvet glove” was the phrase used on the day and its not too far off. It impresses all the way through, a gorgeous bouquet, fresh, balanced, silky on the palate and a long finish.

And like the Pradorey, the Protos Reserva “can last another 25 years”. This has been aged 18 months in oak and 18 in bottle. It has a beautiful “typical” cherry colour, a complex nose (includes jammy red fruits) and a powerful silky presence on the palate. Soft but with good acidity (for the food!) and a “lingering finish”. Superb. A good one for Christmas (although it was the Fournier Spiga 2010 that Alonso recommended for turkey!

That ended the “formal” part of the afternoon and then we tucked into a few nibbles from The Farmgate and tried a few other wines that were open. Here, I noted the aromatic Verónica Salgado Capricho Crianza 2012 as a favourite for its rich and vibrant palate and a long finish.

No shortage of good wines from “the modern red wine miracle of northern Spain”, a title bestowed on Ribera byThe World Atlas of Wine. Thanks to Wines of Spain, the Ribera DO, and Host & Co. for organising the opportunity and to The Farmgate, led by Mirko, for hosting.

Resalte Crianza 2011 - Smith & Whelan
Pradorey - GHS Classic Drinks
Protos - Comans Wholesale

The Farmgate. Bodega for a day.
How did Ribera do in the 2016 vintage? The full harvest story from Spain here.
Read all Ribera's Alejandro Fernández here, making wine his own way since 1975.

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.