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Last week, one hundred bottles of “wine without make-up” were up for tasting in the River Lee Hotel thanks to the combined efforts of four Dublin wine companies. Spit, as the combination is called, consists of Winemason, Nomad Wine, Vinostito, and Grapecircus and virtually all the wines were organic. And there wasn't a dud among them. In this post, we’ll look at Ben Mason and his Winemason contribution.
Winemason is owned by Barbara Boyle (MW) and Ben and they provide restaurants and independent retailers with original and distinctive wines from Germany, Portugal (a favourite), Austria Spain, France, Italy and South Africa. “We are constantly evolving with the ever-changing wine world and we work to reflect this in the wines we sell.”
Graham was helping Ben in the River Lee and I asked him if there was a wine on the stand that deserved to be better known, one that was maybe under-appreciated at present, and he soon filled me a taster of the Julien Schaal Mountain Vineyards Chardonnay 2016. The winery is in Elgin Ridge, South Africa, the winemaker is “from Alsace” and the wine itself is very pleasantly distinctive. Crisp on the palate with citrusy flavours and minerality, tart on the finish, very engaging indeed.
I had picked a trio of Rieslings and started with one from the Nahe region, the ES Trocken 2016 by Emrich Schonleber. Quite intense on the palate, with a light spiciness and outstanding minerality. My favourite kind of Riesling.
Chardonnay to note
from South Africa
The next Riesling came from the Mosel and was the Zeppelin (Mulheim) 2016 by Max Ferdinand Richter. Apparently this wine was served on the flying Zeppelins. This too is elegant, no shortage of minerality, well balanced, and it is the tropical nature of the fruit flavours that catches your attention.
And, if we were in the skies for the Zeppelin, we now moved up a notch to the Kingdom of Heaven with the JJ Prum Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett 2016, the Himmelreich being the heaven. Here the aromas are a subtle but tempting floral, it is soft and fruity right through to a sustained finalé. Quite a hat trick of Rieslings there!
Ben had a superb selection of reds also but again I focused on a hat trick, all from Portugal, an area where Winemason is strong though Ben has noted that prices are rising there. First up was the Mouchao Dom Rafael Tinto 2015 from Alentejo, a blend of Alicante Bouschet, Aragonez, Trincadeira. Ripe dark fruits and tannins, a bit of spice too, combine in a rich and complex wine.
Next we called to the Lisbon area and tasted the Fossil Tinto 2015 by Vale da Capucha, an organic producer; this a blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Syrah. Rich dark fruits, hints of spice, fresh and elegant, and with a long dry finish. Excellent.
Then I enjoyed very much the Niepoort Vertente 2015 from the Douro, enjoyed it as Graham sang its praises: the rich blend (Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional and others), its long dry finish. “And it’s low in alcohol as well,” he said. It’s a gem, elegant and smooth. One to stock up on before those prices rise or even when they do!
Would have loved to have stayed longer and tried more of the Winemason wines, including those from Austria and South Africa, but time to move on up the line! Here’s to the next Spit.
Nine generations of the Wagner family have been involved in wine-making here since 1845. Daniel Wagner has been the wine-maker since the early 90s and under him they have converted to organic production methods.
According to the Finest Wines of Germany, he has proved that “forgotten or previously unconsidered terroirs can be of exceptional quality when they are interpreted properly”. Harvest is late (October/November) and the wines are kept on their lees until the end of May.This one, labelled trocken, is imported by the Wine Mason.
Colour is light straw, tints of green, micro-bubbles cling to the glass. Quite a bunch of aromas, fruit, herbs, even a hint of smoke. A fresh and fruity vibrancy emerges as soon as it meets the palate - notes of melon, spice and yellow apple - all balanced by a keen acidity; the long flavourful finish is lip smackingly dry. Very Highly Recommended.
A superb uncomplicated wine to be enjoyed with or without food. I enjoyed it with Hederman’s smoked mackerel, freshly boiled beetroot from the garden, and salad leaves with some roasted pepper.
Johann Strauss Zweigelt Reserve Austria (QaO) 2011, 13.5%, €20.50 Karwig Wines
Zweigelt is the grape and Kremstal is the area in Austria where this fragrant and elegant wine comes from. The blue/black Zweigelt is the most widespread red wine grape in Austria. A cross between St Laurent and Blaufränkisch, it was developed in 1922 and is said to deliver full bodied wines with tones of morello cherries. The morello is black and a sour kind of cherry.
Our Zweigelt has a mid-ruby robe and a fragrant nose of dark red fruits, hints too of pepper. Rather elegant introduction with soft tannins. Restrained waves of those cherry flavours follow, a touch of spice too and then a lingering finish. A pleasure to drink this one and Highly Recommended.
We have been traveling all over to assemble this top notch trio of white wines for you. Maybe just a trio but they amount to quite an orchestra, maybe even capable of a symphony. The traveling has not been done by me personally but by the folks from Wine Mason, Mary Pawle and Le Caveau. They have bought well. So, let us doff the hats and say Chapeaux to the chaps and chapesses!
Turner Pageot Le Blanc 2015, Languedoc (AOP), 14%, €19.95 Bradley’s, North Main Street, Cork.
Colour is a shiny pale gold. The nose, slightly honeyed, is of ripe apricot and exotic fruit. Ripe fruit abounds on the medium-dry palate. This is fruity, rich and round and quite a powerful wine with a long and mineral finish. Very Highly Recommended.
It is an organic blend of Roussane (80%) and Marsanne (20). Turner Pageot, imported by the Wine Mason, produce a range of “gastronomic wines” and say the striking colourful collage on the label suggests exciting food and wine matches.
And the food and wine pairings they suggest are Fish and crustaceans in sauce; Saint Jacques with black truffle; Pike dumplings Nantua sauce; Noble poultry; White sausage. Old-fashioned veal blanquette. Mushrooms with cream.
Noble poultry, how are ye! Well, come to think of it, there was some right royal Irish chicken in the Thai Green Curry from Cinnamon Cottage. I tried the wine with that delicious dish and they got on very well together!
The low-yielding vineyard overlooks the Danube and this organic trocken (dry) white wine has spent 8 months on lees. Importer Mary Pawle recommends matching it with scallops. It is often recommended with Asian also. Indeed, Grüner Veltliner is a very good food wine, very versatile, so much so that sommeliers regularly mention it, especially if a small group is hesitating over which wine to order.
This Diwald bottle boasts an attractive light gold colour. You’ll first meet its light fruit (apples, citrus) and white pepper on the nose. A tingly feel introduces it to the palate, that clean fruit fresh is there too, balanced by a lively and lovely acidity. Very Highly Recommended.
Framingham Classic Riesling, Marlborough 2009, 12%, €22.65 Le Caveau
Colour is an inviting rich yellow. Floral and citrus elements in the aromas and a hint of diesel too followed by a mouthful of delicious complex flavours. It is just off-dry with a little sweetness in the mix - think Mosel rather than Rhine. Texture has been reinforced by some six months spent on lees. Balance comes from the juicy acidity and the finish is long and drying. Overall quite a rich Riesling and a Highly Recommended one.
The diesel is almost always an unwanted distraction for me in New Zealand (and Australian) Rieslings but here it is just about noticeable and hardly at all with food, especially with that delicious Skeaghanore Smoked Duck Breast.