Showing posts with label Bibendum. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bibendum. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Well balanced and delicious. A Very Highly Recommended Rioja Reserva.

Well balanced and delicious. A Very Highly Recommended Rioja Reserva.

Ramon Bilbao Rioja Reserva (DOC) 2015, 14% ABV

€19.50 in Dunnes Stores.

“ Rioja with a twist”. That’s how Ramon Bilbao, who have enhanced their “historical range..with modern approach”, describe their wines. Their “style” is well appreciated in Spain where they have 9% of the market.

This Rioja Reserva has a deep ruby colour, somewhat lighter on the rim. It is clear and bright and you’ll notice those tears, indicating a high alcohol count, though 14 % is not that unusual in warm countries. 

Aromas are quite intense, dark and fed fruit. In the mouth, you notice an excellent acidity along with the fresh fruit flavours, and a touch of vanilla from the oak. Fruit and spice are also in the finish. Tannins are fine, all part of the balance of this delicious wine.

The producers say their style is fresh, elegant and fruity. And this is a very good example, light and bright and a long way from some of those heavyweight traditional Riojas. Drinking very well now and there seems broad agreement that it can evolve further in the bottle, even into the 2030s.

Best served between 17º C and 18º C, this wine pairs perfectly with traditional food such as red meats, game and mature cheeses. Very Highly Recommended.

The 2015 harvest “will go down as one of the earliest and quickest harvests in history”, according to Ramon Bilbao, thanks in no small way to July “with the highest temperatures ever recorded”. The results were clean and fruity wines. They use “pre-fermentation maceration for 3 to 4 days, post-fermentation maceration for 5 to 7 days, overpumping and daily plunging. Filtering and clarification did not take place until the end. Ageing: American Oak Barrel for 20 months: Missouri and Ohio, and a further 20 months in bottle”. 

Rioja Classifications Guide

Wondering what a Crianza is? Well, it is one of the classifications that indicates the age of the wine in your bottle and you’ll see a stamp at the rear to confirm it. Reserva is another but you should note that Rioja takes these terms seriously, it is a guarantee, and you can rely on the system. In some countries, reserva is at the producer's whim, with no supervisory system in place!

Generic: This category guarantees the origin and vintage of wine. They are usually wines in their first or second year, which keep their primary freshness and fruit. This category may also include other wines that do not fit into the categories of Crianza, Reserva or Gran Reserva, if they have been subjected to an ageing process that is not certified by the Control Board.

Crianzas are wines which are at least in their third year, having spent a minimum of one year in oak barrels. For white wines, the minimum barrel ageing period is 6 months.

Reserva These are meticulously selected wines with a minimum ageing between oak barrels and the bottle of three years, of which at least one has to be in barrels, followed and complemented by a minimum 6 months’ ageing in the bottle. For white wines, the minimum ageing period is 2 years, with at least 6 months in barrels.

Gran Reserva These are wines of great vintages that have been painstakingly aged for a total of sixty months with at least two years in oak barrels and two years in the bottle. For white wines, the minimum ageing period is 4 years, with at least 6 months in barrels.

The labels are colour coded. You’ll see the Reserva has a burgundy colour while Gran Reserva has a (royal) blue.

* The GranReserva is also a beauty and we’ll have a post on it in a week or so.


Check my growing list of top wines for 2023


Check out my Good Value Wine List here


Tuesday, October 24, 2023

PepperBox Shiraz Will Spice Up Your Home Cooking

PepperBox Shiraz Will Spice Up Your Home Cooking 

PepperBox Shiraz SE Australia 2019, 14% ABV

€13.50 in Supervalu and Dunnes Stores; also available in Carry Out stores

“Bring your food to life with the spicy aromas and blackcurrant and cherry flavours of Pepperbox Shiraz. The wine's sublime intensity is hard to resist, especially if you are slow cooking, searing or grilling.” That’s the encouraging call from producers Casella to try their Australian Shiraz.

So let us try! The colour is a deep ruby. Aromas are rich, and peppery. And these aromas accompany superb flavours, ripe fruit character (blackcurrant and cherry) and smooth tannins, all the way to a spicy finalé, a peppery punch which is a trademark of Shiraz, especially Australian Shiraz. As the label says, “It’s what makes the PepperBox the perfect partner if you are eating chargrilled, seared, roasted or slow cooked…..”

Might be no harm to put a few bottles aside for the Christmas as it pairs well with most meats right the way through to chocolate desserts. Naturally intense, it is the perfect partner for great food and the ideal choice for get-togethers and special occasions with friends and family.

Specific parcels of fruit were selected across a variety of regions in South Australia. These parcels had a full, rich flavour profile and contained certain characteristics the winemaking team wanted to showcase. The fermentation of the fruit was across a span of 5-7 days at mild to warmer temperatures. Wines then spent up to 9 months in contact with a mixture of new and second-year oak prior to bottling.

PepperBox comes from sunny South Eastern Australia. It's a part of Casella Family Brands, the largest family-owned wine brand in Australia. Started in 1969 by Filippo and Maria Casella and is now run by their son John Casella.

While Casella had a long experience of wine in Italy, it wasn’t exactly an overnight success in Oz. But their turn-of-the-century partnership with a leading American distributor changed all that. Their spectacular rise to prominence in the US led renowned Australian wine writer AD Halliwell to call Cassella “A modern-day fairytale success story”. 

So there are good reasons to keep an eye on this relatively recently launched PepperBox which is aimed at “the more adventurous shopper who has a keen interest in cooking at home, and who is prepared to pay a little more for their wine to match this food and impress their hosts, or indeed for the guests to choose a wine to take round to their hosts and impress.”

I reckon they are pretty much on the bullseye with this Shiraz. Highly Recommended

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Alsace Makes Pinot Gris Tick. Just ask Jean Trimbach!

Jean's everyday wine!

Alsace Makes Pinot Gris Tick. 

Just ask Jean Trimbach!

Trimbach Pinot Gris Réserve Alsace (AC) 2017, 14% ABV

(c. €27.00)

For 13 generations, beginning in 1626, Maison Trimbach in Ribeauvillé, in the heart of Alsace, has devoted all its resources to producing great Alsace wines. This is one of them based on one of their remarkable Alsace grape varieties, the Pinot Gris. Delicious when young, these reach their finest expressions after some years of ageing.


It has a beautiful light gold colour. Aromas are gentle, a mix of floral and fruit (peaches, pears) and flowers. It is full-bodied with a gorgeous fruity palate, subtle spices, and a long finish. A generous wine, an ideal partner at the table. Suggested pairings include terrines, shellfish, oily fish, smoked fish, in sauce and raw, sushi, white meats, sweetbreads, mushrooms, spicy and aromatic dishes, Asian cuisine … Versatile, isn’t it?

Very Highly Recommended.

At a Kinsale tasting this year, Jean Trimbach (right) started with the 2018 vintage of this Pinot Gris Reserve. He was at pains to emphasise that this is a French grape, distinct from Pinot Grigio!

The grape now known in Alsace as Pinot Gris is thought to have originated in the Burgundy region of France. It is a colour mutation of Pinot Noir, and has been known since the Middle Ages. For centuries, it was called Tokay d’Alsace In Alsace until in relatively recent times, Hungary and the EU put an end to that.

Grapes & Wines indicates that Pinot Gris can produce really good wines in many countries “but I still go back to Alsace to see what makes it tick” and points the finger at the climate. in Alsace where “long hang times are possible; you can pick late for dry or off-dry, and even later for sweet ones.”

In Germany, Pinot Gris is known as Grauburgunder. It is a popular grape in the Baden region and, just like Alsace, is used to make a variety of wines, from dry to sweet.


Check my growing list of top wines for 2023


Check out my Good Value Wine List here


Jean Trimbach’s remarks on his Pinot Gris being a French grape rather than an Italian one is made with a smile but the popularity of the Italian wine must still be irksome to some degree.

Jean is rarely slow to push the cause of Alsace in the wider world. And he also had a crack at Burgundy in Kinsale. Jean, who has been in this sales/marketing role since 1985, is always quick to point to the advantages that Alsace has, particularly when it comes to the more famous French region. “We have more Grand Cru wines than Burgundy because they have no granite, no volcanic, no slate… We have them all!” That big smile followed!

Trimbach wines are widely available in Ireland. I don't have a list of stockists for this but Dublin's 64 Wine has it.

Friday, July 21, 2023

Trimbach Wines Shine in Kinsale Tasting. Founded in Alsace in 1626. "The family is still the soul."

Trimbach Wines Shine in Kinsale. Founded in Alsace in 1626. "The family is still the soul."

An iconic wine, at No 6 in the most searched for Riesling
on Their Le Clos Sainte Hune is No 1

“I can retire slowly but I don't want to do it, even though the 13th and 14th generations of the family are now getting into it.” That was the legendary Jean Trimbach of the legendary Alsace family speaking, with a big smile,  during a tasting of his wines (organised by Bibendum Ireland) in The White House (Kinsale).

Hard to blame him for staying on: ”Long lazy lunches and dinners, with great food and wine. No need to leave.”  These are also the reasons why the younger generations get drawn into the family business which started in 1626.

"We are one of the largest vineyards in Alsace, in terms of hectares," said Jean.
 "But not in terms of production. We have no desire to be the largest winery.
With us, it is quality ahead of quantity."”

Believe it or not, it was another Jean who started the business all those centuries ago. He left Switzerland and ended up in Alsace. His surname wasn’t Trimbach but that name stuck as it was the name of the Swiss village that he had left behind.

Jean emphasised that the business is “all about the family style”. And so we have crisp Riesling, elegant Pinot Noir and so on. His brother Pierre and Jean's son Julien are now in charge of production. “I see reports in the wine press how this winemaker has moved to a different winery and that winemaker has replaced him. I wonder what happens to the soul of the winery in that case. In Trimbach, the family is at the soul of the winemaking.”

Jean's everyday wine!

We did of course get to taste that elegant Pinot Noir, a grape that he admitted that they knew little about  30 years ago. Now, “we understand it better, much better, keep the yields low. And the quality will grow into the future. No oak in these wines except foudres, some of them really old”.

A few years back, Jean-Fredéric Hugel (of another leading Alsace family) told me that, due to global warming, the quality of Alsace Pinot Noir is  “incomparable to that of 20 years previously”. Jean Trimbach acknowledged climate change but was more inclined to credit the improvement in the Pinot to the growing expertise of the winemakers over those decades.

He did say though that “climate is the first problem”. “In 2003, we knew nothing, now we know.” But he was encouraged by how the land has reacted: “Vineyards handle the heat better than us!”

The tasting started with the crystal clear Pinot Gris Reserve 2018. Jean was at pains to emphasise that this is a French grape, distinct from Pinot Grigio! We soon confirmed that its generous character goes wonderfully with the pleasures of the table, thanks to a selection of very tasty bites from the White House Kitchen.

Then we were onto “a treasure of the castle on the hill”. The Schlossberg Grand Cru Riesling, dry, delicate, and chiseled, comes from a granitic terroir, all the other grapes at the tasting grow on a limestone base. Great to have a glass of this in hand as it has a very limited production.

Jean, who has been in this role since 1985, is always quick to point to the advantages that Alsace has, particularly when it comes to Burgundy. “We have more Grand Cru wines than Burgundy because they have no granite, no volcanic, no slate.. We have them all!” That big smile followed!

They export all over the world but France is a most important market and the home country gets a bigger allocation of their Grand Cru wines. “There are some thirty 3-star Michelin restaurants in France, we are in 27 of them and are talking to the other three!” And the person doing that hard talking is none other than Jean’s daughter Pauline who heads up the sales team in France.

Now we were on to another treasure, the prestigious signature of the house (first seen in 1967), Cuvée Frédéric Emile, a dry and powerful Riesling, an iconic wine and Jean’s favourite. Really amazing and a privilege to taste.

Just one red in the tasting and that was the Pinot Noir Réserve 2020. “Easy drinking,” declared Jean, “almost a glu-glu wine.” He had earlier used glu-glu to describe the Pinot Gris. Charcuterie, smoked meats, poultry, certain cheeses are among the Pinot Noir pairings but Jean, pointing to its smoke aromas, said it is also a terrific match for smoked salmon and underlined that by saying “We sell a lot of it in Japan”.

There was of course something sweet to finish on: Gewurztraminer Vendanges Tardives (which is only produced in great years). Vendanges Tardives means late harvest and the very ripe grapes are usually (nowadays) picked in mid-October, well before the danger of frost which doesn't hit the Alsace until December. We enjoyed its natural sweetness. Jean’s verdict: “..not super sweet but sweet enough.”

Not super sweet but sweet enough

The producers recommend it as an aperitif or with foie gras, dishes in rich sauces, veal, and poultry with cream and mushrooms. It can also be fully appreciated with spicy cuisine such as Chinese cuisine, lacquered duck for example, powerful cheeses, and fresh and fruity desserts.

And a few minutes later Jean, who had flown in early that morning for the Kinsale lunch, left the room and, with Bibendum’s Mark Redmond at the wheel, was driven off to the Cashel Palace for a sold-out wine dinner a few hours later. 

Busy man!

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Bibendum and La Rousse . Portfolio Tastings in Cork

 Bibendum and La Rousse 

Portfolio Tastings in Cork

Choices galore last Monday: Sauvignon Blanc from Le Rousse and Chardonnay from Bibendum

Very seldom indeed that you get two wine companies doing their portfolio tastings in Cork on the same day but that was the case last Monday when Bibendum and La Rousse came to town. 

For me, the more impressive wines came from Portugal and South Africa at the well-attended Bibendum event at Hotel Montenotte while a Telmo Rodriguez quartet and a couple of Slovenians alerted the tastebuds in the Glass Curtain where La Rousse displayed their excellent range.


The Glasshouse, an excellent venue

Bibendum were very happy indeed with the impressive Glasshouse in Montenotte, a very bright and colourful room, with views over the city and ideal for this and similar events.

I had been hoping to taste a share of Portuguese wines here and at The Glass Curtain. But, with a combined total of close to 200 wines for tasting, there were just two. Both of these were Bibendum’s and each was excellent.

One was the Conde Villar Alvarinho Vinho Verde (DOC). In an unusual tall bottle (right), it was engaging from first contact, floral aromas, fresh and elegant, rich and full bodied, memorable. It is 100% Alvarinho, the same grape that grows across the border in Spain’s Rias Baixas. Really excellent and worth looking out for.

The second was from the Alentejo, the red Tapada de Villar, and this too was excellent. It is a blend of Alicante Bouschet, Touriga Nacional, Aragonez and Trincadeira. Intense aromatics, ripe red fruit flavours in the mouth, soft and elegant. Another to note.

Tom Hanson-Smith of Journey's End

Next up was a rewarding stop at the Journey’s End table where Tom Hanson-Smith was showing three of the wines from their Stellenbosch vineyard (the second wine farm in SA to be solar powered).  The Haystack Chardonnay had a great balance of oak and fruit and gets a major thumbs up.

And I went on to complete the hat-trick with two super reds, the Huntsman (a blend of Shiraz, Mourvèdre and Grenache) and Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2017. The Single Vineyard was premier class but I would be reluctant to leave the Huntsman behind.

There was one other wine that I wasn’t leaving without tasting. It was at the Fine Wine Table. Here, I rebuffed a whole lot of temptation, treating myself only to the Chateau Kirwan Margaux 3eme Cru Classé. No Irish connection there now but, for old times sake, I sipped sinfully before saying au revoir to Mark Redmond and the lovely and helpful Bibendum crew.

La Rousse

Thompson ladies. Le Rousse wine.

A refreshing stroll down the hill then to the Glass Curtain and a lovely warm welcome from Vera O’Grady of La Rousse. She gave me a few helpful tips before I made a start in this excellent Cork restaurant.

I enjoy white Mediterranean grapes and they came up trumps in whites such as Eric Texier’s Roussane, JL Chaves Hermitage Marsanne, Le Soula white blend and Gilles Troullier’s Macabeu. More excellent stuff from Italy, the Monte Tondo Soave Classico and the Mora e Memo Tino Vermentino (left).

And right at the end of that line came Telmo Rodriquez. I met him last in Ballymaloe about nine years ago. He could have had comfortably slotted into the family winery Remelluri but, after an intensive wine education in France, he eventually headed off on his own, to the most unlikely places. Barren hillsides where vineyards had been abandoned. Sometimes a few survived with practices dating back five hundred years, including “beautiful bush vines”. 

Telmo (left) and yours truly. Ballymaloe 2013

He still makes wines all over Spain and his smooth and excellent Basa (Verdejo, Viura) from Rueda is one to note as is the Branco de Santa Cruz (Bierzo), an gorgeous blend of Godello, Treixadura, Dona Alana.

Next for me was an orange wine from Slovenia. The Guerilla Retro Selection (Pinela, Zelen, Rebula and Malvazija) was just beautiful. And they also had an excellent 2020 Barbera. This, also marked by Vera, was different class, quite amazing.

Slovenia impressed
Last, but by no means least, was Telmo again, with two beauties. First top was the young 2021 LZ, a bright and delightfully easy-drinking un-oaked (aged in concrete) Rioja. It comes from the village of Lanciego and is organic, same blend as the Lanzaga below.

The Lanzaga (a field bland of Tempranillo, Garnacha and Graciano) is oaked, organic, elegant, full of dark fruits and a smokey finalé.

Quite a finalé then for me at the Glass Curtain. Time to say goodbye to Vera and head for the hills.

What a double to finish on!

Monday, May 24, 2021

Sparkling Online Event With Sandro Bottega

Sparkling Online Tasting With Sandro Bottega

Lovely to get an invitation from Bibendum Ireland to take part in an online tasting with Sandro Bottega. Not just virtual. We had real bottles of Prosecco, along with a selection of Italian delicacies.

The Bottega family is no lightweight in the world of wine. Indeed, it is ranked at number two in terms of sales volume, headed only by Moet et Chandon. And the energetic Sandro is no lightweight either - he was The Riedel® Winemaker of the Year Award in 2018 for “having enchanted wine and gastronomic art lovers since 1977, in over 120 countries worldwide, with his artistic skills, the entrepreneurial ability and energy, and the quality and genuineness of the products“. 

“So here I am in the Veneto,” he said as he greeted us to his well-laden table. “Forty-five kms north of Venice with the Dolomites to my north. It’s a good place to live: the sea, the vineyards, the mountains.” While they are mainly associated with the Veneto they also have vineyards in Montalcino where they produce some superb Tuscan wines. They also have a distillery where Grappa, Gin and Vodka is produced.

It is a major operation, yet so much is done by hand, even down to “manual control of each bottle”. Their preferred option is organic. Their vineyards and wineries are examples of diversity and sustainability. Just a few figures: their CO2 emissions are 88% less than the industry average; they support the Slow Food Foundation for Diversity; Geothermal air-conditioning saves 756 tons of C02 each year; their organic farming techniques avoids using 1000 tons of synthetic chemicals each year. Impressive.

There are of course setbacks. The hail doesn’t know organic from non-organic and Bottega lost 10% of the potential harvest the week before the online tasting. Sandro also pointed out that Prosecco, a symbol of Italian gastronomy and culture, is not a cheap drink to produce. To cultivate one hectare of Prosecco DOCG costs €12,000 while Champagne comes in at €7,500.

So what is the best Prosecco? “The first glass of the day,” according to a smiling Sandro. “That first glass is the best of the day.” Of course, Sandro has no less than 12 Prosecco to choose from! He had another piece of advice: “Drink always with a little bite. A glass of wine is nothing without a good bite”. 

I’ve often heard myself that wine with bubbles goes to the head faster, so if you are serving guests a sparkling wine, be sure and provide a few nibbles as well! What kind of glass? “Aperitif is fine in flute but to get the perfect sensation (including recognising the aromas) with food, use a large wine glass.” Also avoid shaking the glass - that way you lose your bubbles!

Now we began the tasting with POETI PROSECCO DOC BRUT

I have to admit, I began earlier at lunch, pairing it with the suggested San Daniele ham, the White Scamorza cheese and Stiratini (breadsticks).  Sandro: “Clean, fresh and fruity. Green apple… golden apple..little bit of pear..even more exotic like peach. It is soft and dry, the aftertaste is also soft with apple and peach. Good with soft cheeses, eg Mozzarella and Scamorza, also prosciutto. Good too with the white asparagus. I like olives myself with it very evening. Great too for cocktails, including Bellini.”

Then we were on to the Bottega Gold Prosecco DOC Spumante Brut

This, like the first wine,  is made from 100% Glera grapes. “This is fresher, more complete, more personality, more intensity. Also brut of course but more floral notes and more fruity.” Suggested pairings included: Milano Salami, Parmesan  Cheese 40 months, and those Stiratini (breadsticks). 

Next up was Il Vino Dei Poeti Prosecco Rosé Venezia DOC Spumante Brut, “a sparkling wine in our tradition”.. “ripe berry bouquet…including cherry..stronger acidity…great with Pecorino or Parmesan cheeses..good value for money..respects our tradition..”. It is made from grapes (Glera 60% and Raboso) grown in the provinces of Trevisio and Venice and is made like Prosecco with the same yeast.

Bottega Pink Gold Prosecco DOC Rosé Spumante Brut
is a blend of Glera and Pinot Noir (10-15%). Thanks to the Pinot, this has a light pink colour, the better to see the fountains of very refined bubbles rising. Floral notes and raspberry feature in the gentle aromas and it is quite creamy in the mouth followed by a nutty aftertaste.

Website pairing suggestions Excellent as an aperitif accompanied by mixed Neapolitan fried food, it is a wine for the whole meal that goes well with cold dishes of raw fish (tartare and carpaccio), with radicchio and sausage risottos, second courses of meat and fish not too elaborate, also a pork fillet with vegetables or baked redfish with potatoes.

The final wine was Bottega Rose Gold Pinot Nero Spumante Brut Rosé. “This is a little bit darker. It is 100% Pinot Noir.  Raspberry….vanilla…summer flowers…more acidity. Some examples of matching are with chicken, bruschetta with foie (pepperoni)…shrimp., lobster….green asparagus.” Sounds great!

Attention to detail pays off here. The grapes are hand-picked and destemmed. The must is left in contact with the skins for 24 hours at 5 °C. The cold maceration favours the extraction of colour substances and the primary aromas of the grapes.
• The must is separated from the skins using soft pressing. The fermentation takes place at a controlled temperature of 18 °C. 

  • The base wine undergoes a second fermentation according to the Martinotti method (also known as the Italian Method), in cuve close at 14 °C with the addition of selected yeasts. The wine is left in contact with the lees and finally is filtered and bottled.

Superb sparkling wines, some lovely food and an energetic, efficient and informative host with a great sense of humour. Well done and thanks Sandro!