Wednesday, May 11, 2016

James Nicholson at The Opera House. No Shortage of Stars

James Nicholson at The Opera House
No Shortage of Stars
Marc Kent of Boekenhoutskloof
James Nicholson Wines, came, saw and conquered at the Cork Opera House last Monday, three South African producers starring in the impressive portfolio tasting. Burgundy's Bertrand Ody of Chateau De Beauregard had just three wines but what a superb hat trick. Verdicchio featured strongly at organic Umani Ronchi; the Plenio was amazing. Liked too the Freestyle Range from Domaine Gayda (Languedoc), especially the easy-drinking Cabernet Franc.

Louis Strydom of Ernie Els Wines was proud to fly the flag for South Africa: “We over-deliver at every price point”. And I think the best examples of that were his Sauvignon Blanc (16.95) and The Big Easy White, a 100% Chenin Blanc (14.95). “The Chenin is our most planted grape, our most exported wine. We are proud producers of the grape. This is uncomplicated, lemon, zesty, great noses. Very versatile, excellent for the on-trade. And it ages well.”

The Els Proprietor's Cabernet Sauvignon (34.99) is a good one. But I had a slight preference for the Proprietor's Syrah (29.99). It is 95% Syrah and is called Syrah (rather than Shiraz) to indicate that it has been made in a Rhone style. The big one here though was the Ernie Els Signature 2012 (58.99), a Bordeaux blend with 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, some Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc.
Over-delivery came to mind again when tasting the Wolftrap Red 2014 (14.49). Winemaker Marc Kent was on hand to explain that it is a blend that includes Syrah and Mourvedre. They marry nicely. Marc, from the Boekenhoutskloof winery in Franschhoek, was much in demand as he had the iconic Chocolate Block (29.00) up for tasting and that, with 73% Shiraz in the blend, had no shortage of fans.

And there was no shortage of South African quality at the Rustenberg stand where I met Murray Barlow. His basic Sauvignon Blanc (14.75) and especially the “quite complex” Chardonnay (18.99) were excellent. The John X Merriman (19.99), named after the previous owner, an estate blend of mainly Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, is quite superb, even if still young.

Top of his whites though, and one of the very best in the room, was the Five Soldiers Chardonnay (35.95), excellent fruit and finish here. And there was also a very high class red, the Peter Barlow 2009 (35.95). This is named after his grandfather who bought the property in 1941. It has spent two years in oak and four in bottle. “This has seven years on it,” he said. “And is getting better.” Before we left Murray, we enjoyed a sip of their Straw Wine, a farewell treat!

Nicolas Sordon of  Demazet had a beautiful Armoires White 2013 for just €12.99, same price as the entry level Verdicchio Villa Bianchi from Umani Ronchi. But the Verdicchio to get your hands on is the Plenio. Not sure it is available here yet but do try the Casal di Serra 2013 (17.99), fresh, fruity and aromatic.
Leticia of Grupo Pesquera
And then, at the Grupo Pesquera stand, there was a white or was it? This the 100% Alejairen 2012 (25.75). It spends 8 days on lees and then two years in US oak. It has many of the characteristics of a red.

By the way, they use all US oak here and Alejandro Fernandez was “the first to make a 100% Tempranillo wine”. More US oak, two years again, has had its impact on the excellent Dehesa la Granja 2007 (19.99). It is full bodied, great with food and “we expect it to be better with time”.

Nicholson’s themselves had a big selection of their other wines on show and I very much enjoyed the Soalheiro Alvarinho 2015 (18.99). Great acidity here with nicely restrained fruit, a really good example of the grape.

And they also had the very affordable and very good Uno Pio Uno 2015 (14.95). This is a blend of Primitivo and Nero Troia. It is organic, is new to the Nicholson range and is already selling well. I could see why.
A Very Good View!

I suppose we should never be surprised when we see something different from the Languedoc but I did ask Tim Ford of Gayda about the lovely fresh Cabernet Franc (21.99). “There are not many in our area,” he said. "But our winemaker is from the Loire and he insisted on making it. It is my TV wine!” I certainly loved it as I did the more serious Chemin de Moscou 2013, its seductive palate with restrained fruit followed by  a great finish. It is an IGP and the blend is 62% Syrah, 32% Grenache, 6% Cinsault.

I didn't get to all the tables but one I wasn't going to miss was Chateau De Beauregard from Burgundy and the three top class wines that Bertran Ody was showing. The St Veran 2014 (22.85) and the Pouilly Fuisse 2013 (28.95) were real treats but my favourite was the Fleurie Classique 2012 (22.85), with its floral aromas, fruity palate, its smoothness and long finish. Superb.

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