Showing posts with label sweet. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sweet. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Topaques of Rutherglen. Intense. Luscious. Rich.

The Topaques of Rutherglen
Intense. Luscious. Rich.

Pfeiffer Rutherglen Topaque (Australia), 17.5%, €24.80 (50cl) Karwig Wines

Rutherglen fortified wine are internationally acclaimed for their intense luscious flavours and unsurpassed richness.

I wouldn't dream of disagreeing with this statement on the front label. These gorgeous wines though did have their problems and had to endure a name change when the Hungarians objected to the Australians using the Tokay name.

Sweet and silky, yet with a light feel to the texture, this golden vibrant Muscadelle is really quite superb. “This is 100% Muscadelle. No Botrytis here but it is well ripened. There is plenty of accumulated sugar but we don't lose the fruit,”  said Chris Pfeiffer when he introduced the wine here in Cork a few years ago.

James Halliday's Wine Atlas says these fortified wines are "absolutely unique; nowhere else in the world is an aged, fortified wine produced as this is from the Muscadelle grape." Grapes & Wines says the grape "reaches its apogee" in Rutherglen and is "less fleshy and syrupy" than Muscat.

Dessert wines are collectively known as stickies in Australia and you can see one of the reasons why on your glass: just note how long those legs take to slide down. But there is a beautiful lightness on the palate and finish. Silky and luscious yes, lovely aromas of honey and apricots too, yet the overall effect is a non-cloying sweetness. A delight and Very Highly Recommended.

The Rutherglen Topaques are classified under four descriptions which mark a progression in richness, complexity and intensity of flavour: Topaque, Classic Topaque, Grand Topaque, and Rare Topaque.

Never got to taste the Rare but, thanks to Chris Pfeiffer’s visit, did have the privilege a few years back of tasting the Grand. This expensive wine is not available in Ireland so I made the most of our taster, taking it tiny sip by tiny sip. It was twenty years old and had spent most of that time in barrel. Producer Chris said: “It is a very special occasion wine (like old Cognac). It is very complex and you don't need much.”

Might not be able to get the top ones here (the Rare is four years older than the Grand)  but the gorgeous Rutherglen Topaque, a delicious first step on the ladder, will do for now!

Pair with honeycomb ice cream, fruit based desserts, soft cheeses, chilled as an aperitif or as an after dinner drink with coffee. These suggestions came from a producer. We enjoyed it as aperitif and disgestif, also with St Tola Goats Cheese (Ash) and a Chocolate Biscuit Cake.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Chaume Sweet Chaume

Chaume Sweet Chaume

Chateau Soucherie Coteaux du Layon Chaume, 2010 France, 12%



Soucherie in the summer of 2013
A remarkable wine, according to reliable French guide Hachette. But we rarely see the sweet Coteaux du Layon wines here in Ireland. I bought a box in the Chateau Soucherie in the western Loire in 2013 and just finished the last bottle!

Harvested from 70 year old Chenin blanc grapes, it is a gem, a gem “with dainty fresh magic” according to Guide Hachette.  This golden coloured wine has delicious gentle aromas, including hints of mango. The palate is rich, full and smooth, concentrated, balanced so without too much sweetness. A perfect sweet wine for your dessert and Very Highly Recommended.

And perfect too as an aperitif. It has been going well here the past few days, matching brilliantly with Almond and Pistachio Nougat by Miena, perfect with the Christmas cake (a light one) and with the Panatone, and I particularly enjoyed it with the Pisachio baklava (from Cork’s Sultan’s Delights).

The vineyard in Soucherie does not use chemicals, herbicides or synthetic fertiliser.

You may read some background here on these sweet wines and see how the morning mists that rise from the river Layon in late summer promote the development of botrytis (noble rot) – an essential ingredient in the finest Coteaux du Layon Chaume wines. And see too how the grapes are hand-picked in a number of sweeps, explaining to some degree why the wines are expensive.

Indeed, the methods used here are much the same as in Sauternes. I know that Karwig Wines give the wines of Bergerac (including the sweet Monbazillac) shelf space to compete with their Bordeaux neighbours but I don't think many Irish importers do so.  And often it seems as if Sauternes is king, the one and only.

And it is a shame that the impression gets around because there are so many more sweet wines available, including the magnificent Tokaji from Hungary and some terrific examples from Australia and elsewhere. 

But even in France itself, you have the aforementioned Monbazillac, Beaumes de Venise, Rasteau, Jurancon, Banyul, Muscat de Rivesaltes, Bonnezeaux (also in the Loire), and so many more. Even in Bordeaux, you've got Barsac (linked with Sauternes) and, a little further away, Tour de Calens.

These wines vary a bit so you'll have to do some research! Still, if you're looking for a classic, why not try a Chaume?

  • Sauternes has a long head-start. In 1790, Thomas Jefferson ordered thirty dozen bottles of Yquem for George Washington and himself.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

A Sweet Exception

A Sweet Exception

Chateau Tour de Calens, Graves Superieures 2010.


The big sweet wines of France are pretty well known. Sauternes will top most lists but next door in the Dordogne you’ve got Monbazillac. In the Loire, they’ll boast of their Layon and more. 

But the French do make many sweet wines, not all as intense as those previously mentioned, and you'll find gorgeous and versatile moelleuxs (semi-sweet), such as the white of Jurancon and the red vin doux naturel (naturally sweet) of Rasteau, all over the place.

I was up and down Bordeaux’s left bank a few times recently and, of course, a call to Sauternes (what a tiny little place) was on the cards. Before that though, I made a couple of visits to the Maison des Vins de Graves in Podensac and got educated.

While Sauternes (and its entwined neighbour Barsac) are on the left bank, their wines were not on sale in the Maison. But that doesn't mean there is no sweet wine produced in the rest of the area. Indeed, there are quite a few and they are labelled Graves Superieures.

I got to taste a few of the fifteen they had in stock, including Chateau Rougemont 2006 and Chateau Cherchy Desqueyroux 2011. Enjoyed both and also the winner of their 2013 Gold Medal for the category, Chateau Brondelle 2011.
But the one that caught my sweet tooth was the Chateau Tour de Calens 2010, the category winner in 2012. “This is the exception that proves the rule,” said my hostess as she poured. All the others are from land adjoining Sauternes or Barsac to the east (where you'd expect the Botrytis cinerea mould that gives the sweetness to occur) but the Calens is out on its own in the west. It is produced on the bank of the Gironde in the environs of the town of Beautiran, closer to Bordeaux itself than to Barsac. 

The Doublet family are the producers and offer both Red Graves (75% Cabernet Sauvignon) and White (a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon blanc). In exceptional years, “a few feet of vines, harvested in late fall, allow the development of the Graves Supérieures : a soft sweet wine with a rich palette of candied fruit”.

I bought a few bottles and one made it home. Sipping it now, the €8.80 I paid for the half litre was money well spent. But where will the replacement come from? Pretty sure it is not on sale in Ireland.

* There are a few ways of producing sweet wines. Noble Rot (Botrytis cinerea), as in Sauternes, is probably the best known. The other main method is Late Harvest (Vendage Tardive), used in Alsace for example. Read more on the subject here.

Two drinks events, cider and champagne.
* The multi-award winning Franciscan Well Brewery is proud to host its first Summer Cider Festival from 4th July to 6th July. Cider makers showing include MacIvors, Tempted Cider, Craigies, Cork’s very own Stonewell Cider and Little Island Cider and Scott's Irish Cider, to name but a few.   The Cider Festival will open at 2pm on Friday 4thSaturday 5th and Sunday6th
Admission is free.

On Thursday, 24th July, at 7.00pm, a Krug Champagne tasting with Nicole Burke, Krug USA Brand Ambassador, will be held in the Ballymaloe Cookery School (note venue). Contact colm@ballymaloe.ie for further details and bookings.