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Wednesday, May 8, 2019
Binner Cuvée Béatrice Pinot Noir Alsace (AOP) 2016, 13.5%, €36.50
This Pinot Noir from Alsace was, for me, one of the stars of the Le Caveau portfolio tasting in Cork in March. Heartened by that tasting and also the words of Jean Frédéric Hugel (at a February tasting) that Pinot Noir from the Alsace is now “incomparable to what it was twenty years ago”. I put it on my buying list and didn’t wait long before giving the wine an extended “trial”. I wasn’t disappointed.
I removed the glass closure and poured, its deep pink (rosé, if you like) filling the bottom of the glass. Concentrated red fruit aromas rise up. Those juicy red fruits flavours (mainly strawberry, cherry) engage you as the juice spreads across the palate. Don’t judge a wine by its colour - this has quite a backbone, no wilting rose. Tannins are smooth and there’s a long and satisfying finish. A generous unfiltered Pinot Noir that stands out from the crowd and Very Highly Recommended.
Good acidity too and that makes it an excellent food wine. Recommended pairings are: Filet-mignon, cold meats and terrine with friends, with a white meat, or simply to accompany the cheese plate. Serve at 18 degrees. The label discloses that this organic wine has spent 11 months on lees in traditional large oak foudres (casks).
The Winery doesn’t add sulphur and poses an interesting question about it. I quote, without correction of any kind: When it comes to the idea that natural wines age badly, we must now twist it! Sulfur, and the "wine pharmacopoeia" that appeared only 60 years ago, never helped to preserve the first great wines. It is only after the appearance of fertilizers and pesticides that sulfur has invaded our cellars to rectify the imbalances introduced to the vineyard. How did they do before modern oenology?
I’ve been enjoying some excellent Pinot Noir recently. Any tips on what I should add to this list:
Sokol Blosser Estate Pinot Noir Dundee Hills (Oregon USA) 2014
Justin Girardin “Clos Rousseau” Santenay 1er Cru 2015
De Loach Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2015, Sonoma County (California)
Binner Cuvée Béatrice Pinot Noir Alsace (AOP) 2016
Prophet’s Rock Home Vineyard New Zealand
Craggy Range Martinborough New Zealand
Little Yering Pinot Noir Australia
Joseph Mellot Le Connétable, Cuvée Prestige, Loire
Hugel 2009 Pinot Noir Alsace.
Wednesday, December 5, 2018
Karwig Gems from Alsace and Ribeiro.
Chateau D’Orschwihr Pinot Gris Bollenberg Alsace (AOC) 2010, 14.6%, €20.95 Karwig Wine
This is not your usual Pinot Gris.This is from the Alsace where they make them full-bodied, wines of substance and character. “At table,” says the World Atlas of Wine, “it offers a realistic alternative to a white Burgundy.” Different for sure but Very Highly Recommended.
For a start, you are advised to “Take your time to discover this golden yellow coloured wine”.
And that colour is amazing, a brilliant golden yellow, very much like you’d find in a dessert wine such as Monbazillac. The intense exotic nose gives ripe yellow fruits (apricots), floral notes too, even a hint of honey. The palate’s rich with flavour, a creamy mouthfeel, but with an excellent balance and persistent finish.
This full-bodied wine, according to the chateau’s website, “is perfect with white meats, fish or seafood in sauce. It is particularly suited to fit scallop dishes”.
I think though you can be more adventurous. Bolder suggestions include broiled salmon, rich lentil stews, roast duck and washed rind cheeses. And, with the hints of sweetness (it does have a sugar content at 9g/l), I tried it with a few pitted Tunisian dates (from Bradley’s of Cork) and thought they went perfectly well together. Different strokes for different folks!
Cuñas Davia Ribeiro (DO) 2016, 13.5%, €24.95 Karwig Wine
This pleasant young red wine from Spain is not that widely available; just 2,125 bottles were produced from this vintage and the number on my bottle is #477. It is a blend of 40% Mencía 30% Brancellao 15% Caíño 15% Sousón, not the best known of grapes! Raised for 6-8 months in casks made from French oak and 6 months in the bottle.
It is lovely wine with a dark ruby colour, the rim a little lighter. Fresh and intense aromas of darker fruits (plum, cassis), hints of oak. Warm and smooth on the palate, black and red berry flavours, pleasant acidity, tannins are pleasant too, and there is a long dry finish. Highly Recommended.
The acidity marks it as a wine for food and the makers say it matches perfectly with Galician style octopus, blue fish, grilled meats and earthy casseroles.
Alberto joined his father Antonio García Carrasco in the vineyard in 2009. Alberto says his father “learned the basics of biodynamism - the interaction of cultivation, wine and the Cosmos - from my grandfather, along with a great respect for sustainability and the environment. With these principles, he founded Valdavia in April 2004. My sister, María, and I accompany him on this journey.”
Wednesday, September 5, 2018
Two Grand Crus from Alsace
Alsace, in north eastern France, has 51 Grand Crus. The system, and not everyone there agrees with it, is terroir based and allows (mostly) just one varietal per wine. So in the pair below, we have Riesling on its own and Pinot Gris also on its own.
The area has never been reluctant to blend though and one such to watch out for is Gentil. Most wine producers have a Gentil in their portfolio. It is a blend of most of their varieties and the Alsatians are quite proud of it. They have to meet a high standard to qualify and Gentils are often reasonably priced. Try Trimbach, Hugel and Meyer-Fonné for a start - it is a very cool introduction to the Alsace wines.
Riesling, used for dry and sweet wines in the general Alsace area, is the king here and the Alsatians are extremely proud of it. And indeed, unusually for France, you will see the grape name (not just Riesling) mentioned on the bottle label. Chateau D’Orschwihr is in the extreme south of the region as are the Grand Crus Kitterlé and Pfingstberg.
Chateau D’Orschwihr Grand Cru Kitterlé Riesling 2008, 12.6%, Karwig Wines.
Yellow going on gold is the colour of this old-stager! Intense nose, the expected petrol aromas almost camouflaged by the fruit. Exuberant on the palate, fruit flavours, minerality and excellent acidity, all in perfect harmony up to and through the long lip-smacking finish, a finish that lingers. Very Highly Recommended. A power packed wine and should go well with spicy Asian dishes, so often recommended for the grape.
It is not often you see Vin Non Chaptalisé (no added sugar) on the label. The practice is still permitted, mostly in northern countries, including in France and Germany, where grapes are produced with low sugar content. It is forbidden in California but producers there can add grape concentrate. Acidification is the other side of the coin. Read more here.
Chateau D’Orschwihr Grand Cru Pfingstberg Pinot Gris 2013, 13.5%, Karwig Wines.
Colour is a mid straw. A fruity nose, hints of spice. Rounded, rich and complex, the merest touch of sweetness, with a very pleasant mouthfeel. Nicely balanced, without the minerality of the Riesling. An easy drinking yet compelling wine, well made, quite elegant and Very Highly Recommended.
Pinot Gris, you’ll read, takes the middle path between “acidic” Riesling and “possibly over-sweet’ Gewürztraminer, and this is certainly the case here. Praise too for the Alsace Pinot Gris, from the World Atlas of Wine: “..the fullest-bodied but least perfumed wine of the region; at table it offers a realistic alternative to a white Burgundy.”
Monday, July 2, 2018
Trimbach Riesling Alsace (AC) 2015, 13%, €15.96 (was 19.95) O’Brien’s
Trimbach (not Jean methinks!) sum up their wine story that began in 1626: “exceptional terroirs and fine wines”. And so they continue. This is “a great example of dry Riesling” according to Decanter, talking about the 2014 edition.
It is indeed a lovely wine with a light strawy colour. Apples and a touch of lime in the restrained aromas. Smooth on the palate with terrific white fruit flavours and the amazing dry finish goes on and on. Well made as you’d expect from this producer and Very Highly Recommended (even at the regular price - I got this in a sale).
Gitton Père & Fils Les Montachins Sancerre (AC) 2014, 12.5%, €23.95 Karwig Wines
Colour of this 100% Sauvignon Blanc is a light straw, tints of green. Fairly intense aromas, lime and apple, mineral notes too. Terrific rush of outstanding flavours, citrus now prominent, matched by an equal burst of the most refreshing acidity. And the finish lacks nothing at all, long and satisfying. No need to say too much about this one, just Very Highly Recommended.
Speaking of the variety, Wine-Searcher.com says the key selling point of Sauvignon Blanc “is its straightforwardness” and that is certainly the case here. Its home land is the Loire and it is now found growing successfully in quite a few countries, notably in New Zealand.
Pair with oysters, crab, delicate white fish, green vegetables and salads, and cheese (goats in particular).
Albet i Noya El Fanio Xarel-lo 2016 Penedes (DO), 13%, now €17.00 Mary Pawles Wines.
Colour of this organic wine is light gold.
Citrus, gooseberry, floral notes too, in the nose.
Lovely creamy mouthfeel here - it had been on lees for six months; herb flavours to the fore, thyme and rosemary and other notes from the local scrub, fresh and lively acidity too make this a very friendly wine indeed, a distinctive one also and Very Highly Recommended. Great value as well.
El Fanio is the name of the vineyard and the grape variety is Xarel-lo, familiar to many of you as a key grape in Cava. The wine is aged in cement eggs (not very romantic!) and in acacia barrels.
Wednesday, January 31, 2018
Chateau de Chatelard Beaujolais Blanc (AOP), Cuvée Secret de Chardonnay 2016, 13%, €18.30 Karwig’s
Given the Beaujolais bias toward Gamay, it is not surprising that Beaujolais Blanc is little-known. Just two per cent of the crop is Chardonnay. Chatelard do quite a few good reds also and Karwig’s have a selection.
This white has a light gold colour, clear and bright. There are fairly intense aromas, fruity and floral, all present too in an ample palate. There is a creamy texture plus a superb balance and the finish is soft with a nice length. A pleasant surprise and Very Highly Recommended. Good on its own or with seafood and fish (don't forget freshwater fish too, such as trout).
The winemakers tell us that about twenty per cent has been aged in barrels to “give more fatness and complexity”. Vintage is by hand and this is a natural product so you may find a soft and light deposit (a sign of quality!).
Meyer-Fonné Vin D’Alsace (AOC) Gentil 2015, 12.5%, €16.65 Le Caveau, Bradley's Cork
Felix Meyer makes his wines in accord with biodynamic principles and “with unmatched precision, depth, purity and expression of terroir”. This Gentil (many Alsace winemakers produce a gentil) is a blend of Muscat, Pinot blanc, Riesling and Gewürztraminer, “a perfectly balanced and serious wine”.
The denomination Gentil is reserved for AOC Alsace wines that fit within the standards of a superior quality blend. I reckon this one had no problem meeting the criteria. I have also found over the years that the Gentils are fairly priced, good quality and good value.
This has a beautiful light gold colour and bubbles tend to linger. There are intense white fruit aromas, a waft of blossom too. The palate is engagingly fruity, spice in the mix too, excellent texture and a long dry finish. Quite a gem at the price and Very Highly Recommended.
Wednesday, July 26, 2017
The Wines of Chateau d'Orschwihr: Hard to spell, easy to drink!
The Celtic God of Fire is associated with the warm hillside vineyard of Bollenberg in Alsace. That Celtic god was Belen or Belenus and he was also associated with pastoral life. The Mont de Belen is said to be an ancient place of sun worship and indeed it still enjoys “an exceptional amount of sunshine.”
The general timeframe of grape growth and wine production is about five or six years. The aim at d’Orschwihr is to develop a sustainable and environmentally friendly viticulture which produces a raw material that in turn produces remarkable wine. This is achieved by applying certain principles and you may read about the château’s philosophy here.
Chateau d’Orschwihr Riesling Bollenberg Alsace (AOC), 13%, €19.30 Karwig Wines
Colour is an appealing light gold. There are white fruit aromas, with citrus prominent. The palate is mouth-watering and flavourful, well structured with a balancing backbone of acidity, well balanced all the way through to the long rich finish. This gorgeous golden wine is Very Highly Recommended. Try with seafood and fish, not forgetting freshwater fish, pork and poultry too.
Again, we have a lovely gold colour. Intense aromas, fruit, hint of honey. Intensity of fruit on the palate also, a terrific mouthfeel too, and a rich finish. Some sweetness too. After all, the residual sugar count is 9.3 gr/l, about twice as much as the Riesling. But it is pretty well camouflaged by the other elements. Very Highly Recommended.
Match, they say, with spicy Asian dishes of fish and meat, especially Japanese food.
My tip, tried and tested: Try it with Citrus White Chocolate Truffles by Skelligs Chocolate.
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Terzetto and GentilBlends from Australia & Alsace
Today, we have two blends for you, one of three Italian grapes, not from Italy but from the McLaren Vale in Australia, the other a more formal blend of white grapes, known as Gentil, from the Alsace. Both wines are excellent, each Highly Recommended. As you might expect, the alcohol in the Australian is much higher, 14.5% as against a moderate 12%.
Terzetto is Italian for a trio and the three grapes in Kevin O’Brien’s wine of the same name are Sangiovese (45%), Primitivo (40%), and Nebbiolo (15%). The percentages will vary from vintage to vintage. Kevin likes this one: “On their own, these varieties shine but… this threesome.. create a compelling wine that is perfumed, enticing and beautifully structured.”
Gentil started as an kind of all-in white grape blend in the 1920s. Today, the name Gentil is reserved for AOC Alsace wines conforming to the standards of a blend of superior quality. This blend must be composed of a minimum of 50% Riesling, Muscat, Pinot Gris and/or Gewurztraminer, with the rest made up of Sylvaner, Chasselas and/or Pinot Blanc. Before blending, each varietal must be vinified separately and must officially qualify as AOC Alsace wine. Gentil must mention the vintage and may not be sold commercially until after quality control certification in bottle.
Kangarilla Road Terzetto 2013, McLaren Vale (AUS), 14.5%, €17.95 (14.36 at sale earlier) O’Brien’s.
Violet is the colour and the slow-clearing legs hint at the high ABV. Red fruits dominate the aromas. Juicy and fruity; the fruit flavours carry a hint of sweetness but are really well balanced with a delicious savouriness, good acidity too and tannins at play as well. All that and a very pleasing finish. Quite a blend from Kevin O'Brien (great to see his wines back on Irish shelves) and Highly Recommended.
Usually, O’Brien’s bottles have beautifully executed hand-drawings of the leaf of the grape variety. This one has no less than three, of course.
Meyer-Fonné Gentil 2014, Vin d’Alsace, 12%, €16.65 Le Caveau.
Light gold is the colour of this white blend from the Alsace. There are subtle white fruit (peach, melon, citrus) aromas, some blossom too. It is fruity and refreshing on the palate, includes hints of sweetness, lively acidity too, plus a decent finish. A very agreeable little number and again Highly Recommended.
And this agreeable little number is his “entry level wine”, leaving one very keen indeed to try the full range, right up to a highly rated Cremant, from this organic producer. The current official word on the Gentil blend (the practice goes back to the 1920s) is above but this Meyer-Fonné consists of Muscat, Pinot blanc, Riesling and Gewurztraminer.
Wednesday, March 23, 2016
O’Brien’s March Offers
April's on the way...
O’Brien’s, who have branches nationwide, have regular offers, including one that features dozens of wines with reduced prices for each month. I bought a few of the March bottles and two are featured below. Time is running out! But if you’re too late for March, then you’re in time for April.
Kreydenweiss Kritt Pinot Blanc 2014 (Alsace AOC), 12%, €17.95 (March offer 15.95) O’Brien’s
The initial contacts are promising, including the attractive front label. Color is a bright light gold and the aromas of white fruit are inviting. “A delicate fruity wine” it says on the label and I wouldn't argue too much with that. Delicate, yes, but with a very pleasant presence on the palate, an excellent balance of white fruit flavours, acidity and minerality, and a persistent finish.
This aromatic and dry wine is Highly Recommended. And not just by me. Parker has called it the best value wine in Alsace and our own John Wilson has termed it “captivating”.
Kritt is the vineyard name and it is a stony place. The wine, which features Pinot Blanc on the front label, has a quantity of Pinot Auxerrois blended in according to the back label.
Bethany G6 Semillon 2010 (Barossa, Australia), 12.5%, €18.45 (16.50) O’Brien’s
I do like Semillon on its own and have found some good examples from Bordeaux and from the Hunter Valley in Australia. This though is from the Barossa, where six generations of the Schrapel family have farmed on the same land, hence the G6 title of a series that also includes Riesling, Semillon Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz Cabernet, and Cabernet Merlot.
Colour here is light gold with the aromas featuring grapefruit and I detected a little diesel there too which reminded me of a very sociable woman that I met at the Blarney St Patrick's Day Parade who was in her element as the vintage tractors rolled slowly by: “I love diesel!”. Indeed, my tasting partner asked me if we were tasting Riesling.
This Bethany is rather full on the palate, a great balance of fruit (citrus) and a crisp acidity. It has been sparingly oaked to enhance complexity and bottled early “to retain fresh fruit characteristics”. Recommended
Thursday, March 5, 2015
Your Weekend Whites
Trio with Brio!
Colour is a very light gold and there are fruity aromas. On the palate you’ll find concentrated fresh fruit (nectarines, apricots), a slight tingly mouthfeel. Superb, this well balanced wine needs to be sipped and a sip will go a long way! Very Highly Recommended.
This has the VDP eagle displayed on the neck, “a guarantee of pure wine pleasure”, not a bad start. The stiftung means a foundation and for many years the winery was a foundation for the benefit of the town of Eltville in the Hattenheim region. In 2003, it came back into private ownership. Peter Winter, a one-time boss and long-time friend of Joe Karwig, is the new owner and kept the existing name.
Hugel Gentil 2013, Alsace, 12.5%, €13.99 Bradley’s
This gorgeous wine, an “assemblage” of all the local grape varieties, is Hugel’s best seller, available throughout the world. The grapes are hand-picked and the blend is 15% Riesling, 19% Gewürztraminer, 2% Muscat, 24% Pinot Gris and 40% Sylvaner & Pinot Blanc. Closure by the way is also rather unusual as they us the DIAM method.
Not strong on colour, a light silver and traces of green, and there are attractive aromas (including fruit and floral elements). On the palate, is has a soft and supple feel, is full of flavour, dry and with a great finalé. The well balanced gem is “a delicious bargain” according to Hugh Johnson. Very Highly Recommended.
Mas Peuch Picpoul de Pinet 2013 (Languedoc), 12.5%, €10.00 SuperValu
Light gold in colour, this aromatic wine, a refreshing mouthful, has white fruit and good acidity. Tart enough but no sign of the lip-stinging. Excellent as an aperitif and fine too with this evening’s sea-bream from Ballycotton Seafood in the English Market.
Picpoul means lip-stinger in the local dialect and refers to the zestiness and almost salty tang. The grape is often blended to moderate the sting! I have come across some strongly acidic examples but there is nothing extreme in this one; it is moderate and is Highly Recommended.
Friday, March 1, 2013
Hugel Gentil 2011, Alsace (France),
12.5%, €13.99 Bradley’s Off Licence.
That is what it says on the back label and I found it pretty accurate. Colour is light green, pale yellow, very bright. And it is aromatic, mainly floral. On the palate, it is fruity, not overly so. It is fresh and fleshy. Dry, gently so, as they say. Highly recommended.
The grapes are hand harvested and the blend is Gewürztraminer (11%), Pinot Gris (18), Riesling (16), Muscat (7), Sylvaner and Pinot Blanc (48).
The closure is DIAM and you may read about this method here.
Bradley’s also stock the Hugel 2011 Riesling, a great drink methinks.
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Hugel 2011: My kind of Riesling
Hugel Riesling 2011, Alsace (France), 12.5%, €19.99 at Bradley’s Off Licence
Nothing is left to chance by the Hugel family, whose winegrowing tradition in the very centre of Alsace goes back to 1639. The Michelin Wine Regions of France gives the demanding details: “Meticulous harvesting and wine-making methods include the absence of fertilisers, hand-picked grapes, ruthless selection of stock and voluntary restricted yields.”
Sounds pretty severe but one of the result is this Riesling gem.
This is a bright wine, with a mainly straw colour with hints of green. The nose is fresh and fruity and on the palate it is beautiful and fresh and absolutely dry. A lovely, lively example of the variety with a citrus tinged finish. Very Highly Recommended.
Thursday, July 5, 2012
|Colm McCan (left) and Jean Trimbach|
|Vendanges Tardive 2002|
Trimbach, family run since 1626!
Close to four hundred years ago, a Swiss called Jean from the village of Trimbach (not far from Basle) left and crossed the Rhine to Alsace and in 1626 the young man, now called Jean Trimbach, founded the wine business that stills bears his name.
Last night in Ballymaloe, his descendant, also Jean Trimbach, took us through four flights of their top class wines and matched them with charcuterie and cheeses made by two of Ireland’s leading food families, the Fergusons of West Cork and the Furno’s of Tipperary.
There was so much went on in the Grainstore last night that I think I will reserve the Ferguson and Furno stories, even if they do not go back to 1626, for future posts. Watch this space – I won’t delay! Well, except for a family wedding tomorrow.
Jean first showed three Rieslings, “all bone dry”. The 2006 Reserve was “creamy, crisp, refreshing, very versatile with food”. Then came the Cuvée Frederic Emile 2004, named after his great great grandfather: “..dry Riesling at its very best, voted top dry in the world, a serious wine”.
Serious work too he said because of the steep slopes on which the wines are planted. If you don’t watch your step and your bucket while picking, you could well accompany it in a roll down the hill.
The third, the Clos Ste Hune 2004, was a real treat for us. “Just 800 cases for the world. Just beautiful. One of the finest in the world. Collectible. The one to collect right now is 1985.” The match with these three was the Gubbeen chorizo.
Then Jean presented two Pinot Gris, at pains to point out that this was originally a grape from Burgundy and not Pinot Grigio as some people might think. This is fuller, richer, creamier, great with Foie Gras. They were matched with the impressive Crozier Blue (8 weeks).
First was the Reserve 2008, “a bring me home tonight wine and value for money”. Then we had the Reserve Personnelle 2001, which is not produced every year. “This,” said Jean, “was bottled in April 2002 but it looks as if it was bottled yesterday.” It went very well indeed with the cheese.
The next flight was two of the Trimbach Gewürztraminer. Gewurz means spicy, he told us. We first tasted the 2009: “elegance, finesse, focus. Just like the cheese, a beautiful match”. The cheese this time was Gubbeen smoked which also went well with the Cuvée des Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre 2005, a wine deemed worthy enough to pay “homage to the counts of the village”.
We ended the evening with a couple of dessert wines. The Pinot Gris Vendanges Tardive 2000 was paired with the Cashel Blue (14 weeks) while the Gewurztraminer Vendanges Tardive 2002 was matched to the Crozier (16 weeks), both perfect pairings.
Jean explained about Botrytis (the Noble Rot) and praised his brother Pierre, the Trimbach winemaker, as indeed he had throughout the evening, in his management of this dodgy process.
Balance is everything. As the rot sets in, the sugar goes up and so too does the acidity. But at a certain point, they can get out of synch and the winemaker must make his own decision, daily testing, to pick the shrunken fruit at the optimum time. “Sweet yes but think about balance.” I think everyone agreed that Pierre got it right with this pair as he did with all the others.
Next, a surprise as Jean came back to the mike and, accompanied by Ballymaloe’s superb sommelier Colm McCan, treated us to a song. Then we all moved outside to the Wildside Catering barbecue. A superb evening and more about the charcuterie and cheeses in posts over the next few days.
The visit was arranged through Des King and Claire Lomasney of Gleesons/Gilbey Wine Merchants and enjoyed our table chat with them and also with Eileen and Michael Fleming, long time friends and supporters of Jean.