Showing posts with label Chenin Blanc. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chenin Blanc. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Whites Shine in O'Brien's Summer Promotion


Whites Shine in O'Brien's Summer Promotion

There's a whole world of white wine out there aside from the big names such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio. The O'Brien's Summer Promotion, now in full swing (until July 21st), gives you the chance to try something new. I took advantage myself as I sampled a few, including a gorgeous Verdejo from Spain, a fresh and fruity Verdicchio from Italy, a Grüner Veltliner (a long-time favourite of mine) from Austria, and a top notch Chenin Blanc from South Africa. Terrific wines and now at very attractive prices. While I did concentrate on the whites, the reds too are excellent and that Sicilian Appassimento will go down well at most tables.

De Alberto Organic Verdejo Rueda (DO) 13.5%, on offer 12.95 (was 14.95). New at O’Brien’s


The more I drink Spanish whites, like this Verdejo (new to O'Brien's), the more I begin to appreciate them. This organic wine, by De Alberto, is refreshing and quite intense (with citrus to the fore) and is Very Highly Recommended.

Colour is a light straw, clean and bright, with a green tint. Ripe white fruit, herby notes too in the aromas. Superb fruit flavours make their presence felt instantly, a lively citrus-y acidity too, lips a tingle and a persistent and very pleasing finish. Enjoy with poultry, fish and seafood

The 2018 vintage enjoyed good weather conditions, no extremes at all, and this meant the grape stayed healthy and reached an optimum state of maturity.

Verdejo, which may not be familiar to us as Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay, is an aromatic grape variety behind the crisp white wines of Rueda, its undisputed home in central Spain. Wine-Searcher says that full-bodied Verdejo wines are held in high regard, displaying herbaceous, nutty characters with balanced acidity and some cellaring potential.

Marotti “Albiano” Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi (DOC) Classico 2018, 13%, €11.95 on offer, was 14.95. O’Brien’s

I’m a big fan of Verdicchio, whether it is from Castelli di Jesi or from Matelica (a bit further inland). Both are in the Marche in the central eastern part of Italy. And this typically refreshingly crisp Albiano is as good an example as you are likely to come across.

It comes in a light straw colour, greenish tinges, lots of micro-bubbles clinging to the sides of the glass. There’s a pleasant aromatic mix of floral and white fruit, moderate rather than intense. Bright and lively palate, citrus led flavours with a barely noticeable herbaceousness, and that typical zesty acidity. 

Unoaked, there is nothing overly complex here, dry, fresh, fruity. Good finish too and this well-made wine is Very Highly Recommended, a good one to start your relationship with this grape if you haven’t already done so!

I enjoyed this as an aperitif but I’ve read that it goes well with Brodetto di Pesce, a rich seafood stew made locally in the Marche. You may not be able to get that here and other recommendations include seared scallops, Linguini with clams, other shellfish, with pasta and rice dishes, and salads, even pecorino cheese. It is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Rabl Grüner Veltliner Löss Kamptal (DAC) 2018, 11.5%, €14.95 (was 18.95). O’Brien’s

From peachy attack to citrus finish, this Grüner Veltliner goes the delicious distance. The Grüner Veltliner grape, known for its aromatic fruity wines, gets on very well with the local Löss soil.

Colour is light gold. There is a fresh bouquet of white and yellow fruit, a touch of white pepper. Peach and citrus mingle well in the tingly palate. Mineral notes too plus excellent acidity. All followed by a lip-smacking dry finish. Fresh, crisp and zesty, a refreshing experience and Highly Recommended.

The Rabl Winery in Langenlois has three guiding principles: 1. Only perfect grapes can yield a top wine. 2. Must from perfect grapes allows minimal intervention. 3. No fear of powerful wines! Rabl are well regarded and they recommend pairing this generous and refreshing wine with light starters or as an aperitif. Should go well too with simple fish dishes, fresh shellfish and salads.





This is new to O’Brien’s and worth keeping an eye out for. The fruits are hand-harvested with careful selection, barrel and tank fermented and the wine is further barrel matured for a rounded complexity. Ideal, according to the label, with seafood and shellfish, also with mildly spiced curries and lovely with saffron.



This ia regular award winner over recent years and comes in light gold colour. White fruit and honey notes in moderately intense aromas. A good depth of flavour follows: apricot, melon, plus touch of vanilla. No shortage of acidity either. Quite a mouthfeel too - it has spent some 9 months on lees. It is harmonious all the way through to a very satisfying finalé. Another ace Chenin Blanc from Forrester and this rich and ripe wine is Very Highly Recommended.


Fonte do Ouro Branco DÃO (DOC) 2018, 13%, on offer 13.95, was 16.95. O’Brien’s




Portuguese wines can often be a hard sell because of the unfamiliar names of the grapes but don’t let that put you off. You could be missing out on some real gems such as this white blend of Arinto and Encruzado, ideal with starters, seafood and fish when served at 10 degrees. Like the way Boas Quintas (the producers) sum it up on the label: green colour, apple, pear, and tropical fruit aromas, good structure, fresh and mineral.


Pretty accurate too, I’d have to say. Colour is a light straw with a pronounced green influence. You’ll find peach, apple, pear and more exotic notes too in the aromas. A very pleasant melange of flavours on the palate, mouthfeel also impressive, fresh too with minerality, and acidity enough to balance. Finish is persistent. Highly Recommended.

Fonte do Ouro Tinto DÃO (DOC) 2017, 13%, on offer 13.95, was 16.95. O’Brien’s
And here's another good one from the same stable, a blend of Touriga Nacional, Alfrocheiro and Jaen. This fresh and smooth wine has spent six months in oak and should be served at 16 to 18 degrees and will go well with red meats.

It has a dark ruby colour. Fairly rich aromas of blackcurrant and cherry. I see lots of references to Earl Grey Tea but must admit I didn't pick it up in the nose. There’s a great mix of those fruit flavours on the palate, fresh, with a touch of spice, smooth tannins and a very satisfying finish. Highly Recommended.

All three grapes are popular in the region. The Alfrocheiro adds depth of colour, Touriga Nacional is considered to be the country’s finest, while Jaen is the local name for the what the Spanish call Mencía.



Colpasso Nero D’Avola Appassimento Sicily (DOC) 2018, 14%, on offer at €12.95 (was 15.95). New to O’Brien’s.

Appassimento? You may well ask. If you ask Wine Spectator, they’ll tell you it is the Italian term for drying harvested grapes, traditionally on bamboo racks or straw mats, for a few weeks up to several months, to concentrate the sugars and flavors. 

Appassimento is most associated with northern Italy but there are many examples in the south and this Colpasso is one. Here they make a careful selection of the very best Nero D’Avola grape in the Sicilian area of Agrigento and Vittoria. Some of the grapes are partially dried prior to vinification “giving the wine an incredible intense flavour”. You’ll note that intensity at your very first sip.

Colour is a dark ruby. Those rich red fruit are noticeable in the aromas, immediately. And the flavours are indeed rich and intense, the main feature of the velvety palate, some spice there too, and a hint of sweetness. A good example of appassimento, easy drinking and Highly Recommended.

Check out my post on a few of the O'Brien rosés here




Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Superb Riesling and Chenin Blanc from Karwigs.


Superb Riesling and Chenin Blanc
from Karwig Wine.

Carl Ehrhard Rüdesheim Riesling (Rhinegau) 2017, 12%, €16.90 Karwig Wine

I’ve long been a fan of Carl Ehrhard’s wines. I met the man himself at a Ballymaloe wine event a few years back and there he described Riesling as “the most fantastic white variety”. This particular bottle is one of his everyday wines but an above average one, well priced too.

The Rheingau is the spiritual heart of German wine, the birthplace of Riesling, according to the World Atlas of Wine. The area in general is well known for its dry Rieslings - “full bodied with racy acidity”.

Colour is a light straw with greenish tints and you'll note micro bubbles clinging to the glass. Aromas are a gentle mix of apple and citrus, with the slightest hint of diesel. There is that trademark tingle on the palate. Intense fruit, now led by citrus, and that bracing and refreshing acidity combine well all the way to a long and satisfying finish. This dry wine is Very Highly Recommended. 

Might be no harm, I say to myself, to get a few of these in for the summer evenings in the back garden. Perfect for aperitif and with seafood and Riesling is regularly recommended for Asian food. The vinification is directed towards preserving the natural fruit and, not for the first time, Mr Ehrhard succeeds. One of the most reliable winemakers.

Some helpful German wine words:
Rüdesheim is the town.
Riesling is the grape.
Trocken means dry.
Rheingau is the wine district.
Ehrhard - you’re on a winner!

Bourillon Dorléans “La Coulée d’Argent Vouvray” (AOC) 2015, 13%, €21.50 Karwig Wines

We’re on a good thing here. I’ve given the 2013 vintage a big thumbs up in the past and this 2015 is also Very Highly Recommended. I have the guys at Grape and Wines “behind” me as the book lists Bourillon as a leading maker of Chenin Blanc and, in addition, lists this Coulée d’Argent as one of the top five classic dry Loire wines. 

Chenin was first planted in the Loire in the 15th century and still the best Chenin wines come from here. Quite a range actually as the grape is used to make sparkling wines, dry wines, even sweet ones. But this one is dry, very dry, you’ll note the sec on the bottle. You’ll also see the words Vieilles Vignes (old vines) on the label.

It has a mid straw colour. Moderate aromas, with quince, apple and pear to the fore. On the palate, it is bone dry with mouthwateringly high acidity. That expected minerality is not shy either though it is moderated by the fruit and even a touch of sweetness. It has quite a strong character, the body having a little more heft than expected, and also an invigorating finish. It is made from those old vines and has been aged on its lees for six months. This bracingly dry Chenin Blanc, from what is regarded as the homeland of the variety, is excellent and Very Highly Recommended.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

CB+V and Zin. Star Wines from the Sunshine State.


CB+V and Zin. Star Wines from the Sunshine State.

Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc + Viognier White Blend (California) 2016, 12.5%,  €24.99
JJ O’Driscolls, Ballinlough, Baggot Street Wines, Terroirs, La Touche Wines, Greystones, Martins Off Licence, www.wineonline.ie

You’ll see CB+V on top of the screw cap and you’ll be wondering. The label will soon make it clear. This is a distinctive white blend of Chenin Blanc (80%) and Viognier (20%). Quite a versatile wine as it turns out. Enjoy a glass on its own or try it alongside your favourite seafood or spicy dish.

Colour is a light to mid gold with tints of green. Aromatic, with blossom notes, citrus and tropical fruit. Lime and grapefruit among the flavours in the palate which is crisp and bright, with a slight mineral accent in there too, plus a balancing acidity taking it through to a gentle and refreshing finish.

The crisp fruit of the Chenin and the softer notes of the Viognier marry well here. A lush, versatile and delicious wine, and I feel no compulsion at all to argue with that. Highly Recommended. 

The Chenin Blanc/Viognier is made from fruit grown in Clarksburg in the Sacramento river delta. The climate here is warm but there is an almost constant breeze, which helps to retain freshness and acidity in the grapes. Rhône varieties like Viognier adapt well in this exciting appellation. 

By the way, Pine Ridge say the original blending was just an experiment. They are very happy with the result: “.. we tasted it and realized we had created a masterpiece. Together, they deliver a unique tapestry of flavors and aromas that are elegant and easy to enjoy.”

Seghesio Sonoma County Zinfandel 2015, 15%, €37.99
Thomas Woodberry’s, Galway; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Redmond of Ranelagh; Red Island Wine, Skerries; Lilac Wines, Fairview; The Corkscrew, Dublin 2; Power & Co Fine Wines, Lucan;  www.wineonline.ie

In 1895, Italian emigrant Edoardo Seghesio planted his first Alexander Vineyard in California. Over 120 years later, though now part of the Crimson Wine Group, the family still farms 300 acres of Zin and Italian varietals in Dry Creek, Alexander and Russian River valleys. And their Zinfandels are regular winners in Decanter and International Wine Challenge.

Colour is a dark ruby. It is not all Zinfandel by the way as a “small amount of Petite Sirah is added to honour century old traditions”. It is aromatic, ripe red fruits, some from the garden, some from woods. A youthful juicy wine from old vines with a touch of spice among that melange of fruit. Big and bold and full to the brim with fruit, amazing concentration, yet the power is well harnessed and the balance spot-on, the finish long and satisfying. This is balanced, fresh, elegant and approachable - qualities not always noticeable in Zinfandel - this is Very Highly Recommended.



Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Three of the Best from JN Wine


Boekenhoutskloof Wolftrap Red 2016 Western Cape (South Africa), 14.5%, €14.50 Bradley’s Off, Matson’s, Cashel Wine Cellar. JN Wine online

This James Nicholson import is a very popular wine and you’ll see it on quite a few restaurant lists. It is a dark ruby colour, the legs slow to clear. Ripe fruits (plums, blackberries) feature in the enticing aromas, also a touch of vanilla. That fruit is also there on the vibrant palate, a drift of spice too, smooth with silky tannins, well balanced and with an excellent finish. This full-bodied dry wine is Very Highly Recommended. 
It is mainly Syrah (86%) and the other grapes in the blend are Mourvèdre (13) and Viognier (1). It is fermented in stainless steel and aged in French oak prior to blending and bottling.

According to The Wine Advocate, Boekenhoutskloof is the only outstanding South African wine estate. The reputation of the winery is built as much on the outstanding value of the everyday wines as it is on the quality of the flagship bottles. This is an outstanding example of one of their everyday wines - the Wolftrap white is another beauty - and goes well with steaks and barbecued meats.

Boekenhoutskloof Wolftrap White 2017 Western Cape (South Africa), 14.5%, €14.50 Bradley’s Off, Matson’s, Cashel Wine Cellar. JN Wine online


Boekenhoutskloof was awarded 2012 Winery of the Year by the prestigious Platter's Guide to South African Wine Guide. This Wolftrap white was also accorded Superquaffer of the Year status in the Guide.

I didn’t know that when I first came across it at a Fish Banquet in Ballycotton’s marvellous Bayview Hotel in September last, enjoyed with a dish that had a quirky title: My Ding A Ling! Better explain this was Torched Ling with Salt Baked Celeriac, Little gem, Hazelnut & Gubbeen Pesto, Smoked Skeaghanore Duck-breast,  a superb combination. And this vibrant wine here made a terrific impression at the table and, with its fantastic aromas and flavours, proved a great match.

It is an unusual blend of Viognier 48% (for spice), Chenin Blanc 41% (melon) and Grenache Blanc 11% (white peach), all contributing to the experience. The different grapes are fermented and aged partially in French oak before blending and bottling. 

It has a very clean light yellow colour with green tints. Pleasant white/yellow fruits, plus floral notes, feature in the inviting aromas. Fresh and fruity, unexpected depth in this elegant body, a lively acidity all through and then a lip-smacking finish. Superquaffer indeed and Very Highly Recommended. Excellent value also.

The name goes back to the early days of the European pioneers who erected a wolftrap. To date, no wolf  (an animal of the northern hemisphere, though there is a relation in Ethiopia) has been seen in the valley!

Domaine Bellevue Chardonnay Val de Loire (IGP) 2017, 12.5%, €14.50 Bradley’s Off Licence, Matson’s, Cashel Wine Cellar, JN Wine online


The Loire Valley is better known for its Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon so this Chardonnay is something of a surprise. But a very pleasant one indeed. It has spent some time on its lees, is unoaked, and that, with its northern freshness, gives the wine a lovely mouthfeel, excellent depth of fruit there too. Very Highly Recommended.

It has a lovely mid-gold colour. Intense aromas of pear, pineapple. Fresh and lively on the palate, excellent fruit flavours, and no slacking off in either flavour or aroma in the finalé. Had a glass of this at a FEAST Fish Event in Ballycotton's Bayview. It was paired with Deep fried monkfish, octopus, pea, lemon and potato purée, fried capers, oyster mayonnaise, Jerusalem artichoke chips - the Bayview’s version of Fish ’n Chips!  I was impressed by the wine’s performance. More impressed now after having had a bottle to play with!

It was introduced at the dinner by Richard Reeve of JN Wines. "Chardonnay," he said, "was the variety of the 90s, before oak on the cheap gave it a bad name and it fell out of fashion. It is coming back now in an unoaked style as this is. From a sauvignon Blanc region of the Loire, it is rich and fresh, a big favourite of mine. Enjoy!"

Domaine de Bellevue is situated not far from the city of Nantes and is a young wine estate created in 2005 by the talented young winemaker Jérôme Bretaudeau. By the way, earlier vintages of this Chardonnay had what they describe as “a very good evolution; a conservation of five years seems reasonable”. In other words, you may hold on to it for a few years and it should improve! Recommended pairings are as “a great accompaniment to just about every white meat or fish dish and also makes a delicious aperitif”.




Monday, December 18, 2017

Into the Loire Valley with Karwig Wines

Into the Loire Valley with Karwig Wines
Focus on the classic white grapes: Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc
Hardworking winemakers in Vouvray

The Loire Valley has claims, quite strong, to being the birthplace of Sauvignon Blanc. Eventually it got together with Cabernet Franc, another grape widely-grown in the valley, and produced Cabernet Sauvignon. "..wine lovers would have to thank it for that," say Grapes and Wines. The name of the grape was rarely on labels until its debut in the 70s in New Zealand and then everyone got to know it through the pungent wines from Marlborough. Well-made Loire examples, while usually somewhat more restrained, are still worth checking out. And the bottle below from Menetou-Salon is excellent and at a good price too.

While Sauvignon Blanc is now grown all over the world, Chenin Blanc has a much less extensive footprint, mainly found in the Loire and in South Africa. Here in Ireland, we get examples that are usually dry but it is a versatile fruit as you can read below. Vouvray is in the middle of the Loire Valley, not too far from the historic city of Tours. St Martin, the patron saint of wine, was a bishop here.

Bourillon Coup de Trique Vouvray (AOC) 2014, 13.5%, €21.15 Karwig Wine

From a troglodyte cellar in the Loire Valley and bearing a very modern fancy orange cork (100% recyclable nomacorc), comes this Highly Recommended Chenin Blanc from Vouvray.

You’ll note the word sec (dry) on the front label, unusual for French still wine labels. But this Chenin Blanc is a very versatile wine. “In the Loire… its wines go from scaringly dry, to dry, to fairly dry, to vaguely off-dry, to off-sweet, sweet, very, very sweet - and there’s good Chenin fizz too.” Grapes and Wine go on to detail an equally long list of styles from South Africa (where Chenin is well-known) and  where it makes “an awful lot of brandy”.



This has quite a bright light straw colour. Aromas feature white fruit, floral and herbal notes. A lively attack with white pepper in among the fruit and the long very satisfying palate is followed by a lengthy and equally satisfying finish. 

Jean-Max Roger Morgues Le Petit Clos Menetou-Salon (AOC) 2015, 13%, €21.55 Karwig

Menetou-Salon is a village at the eastern end of the Loire Valley wine region and considered an up and coming rival to its famous neighbour Sancerre. Inhabitants are known as Monestrosaloniens and you thought Corkonian was a mouthful!

This 100% Sauvignon blanc has a lovely gold colour. In the aromas you’ll find white fruit (citrus to the fore) and floral elements too. Excellent mouthfeel, fresh and fruity, and matching acidity all the way through to the long finish. Highly Recommended.

Fish, shellfish, white meats and goats cheese are the suggested pairings. “It is an ideal way to start a meal or to enjoy with friends during the day.”