Showing posts with label Dessert Wines. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dessert Wines. Show all posts

Monday, August 13, 2018

A Very Likeable Rogue. And One Sweet Wine.

A Very Likeable Rogue in his Sunday best

Matsu “El Picaro” Tinta de Toro (DO) 2017, 14.5%, €16.95 Bradley’s

Le Rogue
This “series” of wine, Matsu de Domingo”, recalls the spirit of the old Spanish Sunday: rest, church in your Sunday best, special dishes and the best wine opened. Check the website here for more details on this and others in the series.

Tinta de Toro is, as you probably know, Tempranillo, and the Matsu vines in the Toro region are cultivated using organic techniques. Like the man on the label, this El Picaro has youth on its side,  even if the fruit comes from 90 year old vines. The other wines show progressively older faces - worth a look on their website.

And that youth is illustrated in the deep ruby colour. There are intense dark berry aromas. On the palate, fruit flavours are the prominent feature as this fresh wine makes his merry way to a very pleasant finish indeed. Very Highly Recommended. I told you this is a engaging rogue! Even if some frown when there is a giggle, with El Picaro at its source, in the back of the chapel.

“The freshly ironed new shirt, the shiny shoes and the special hat. The best stews and the best wine. Tomorrow they will go back to work, but today is a day to rest and celebrate.  Today is Sunday.”  Enjoy!

Sweetly Traditional

Gerard Bertrand Banyuls Traditionnel (AP) 2013, 16%, €23.95 (got it on sale 19.16) O’Brien’s

Grenache, mostly from ancient bushes and often harvested only when they have reached the dried wrinkly stage (like raisins), is the main grape in this naturally sweet wine (vin doux naturel or VDN for short).  The fruit is grown in Mediterranean cooled French vineyards around Banyuls-sur-Mer, close to the Spanish border. 

While the traditional vinification process is underway and when the alcohol reaches 8 or 9 per cent, fermentation is halted by light fortification with a spirit. That full-stop leaves some sugar in the wine.

Banyuls is often compared to Port but is a gorgeous dessert wine in its own right, tasting drier than it actually is - no cloying syrupy stuff here. 

In the Rhone area of Rasteau they make a similar red dessert wine that also goes well with blue cheese (among other things, including chocolate). The World Atlas of Wine says straight out that Banyuls is France’s finest VDN.

Our Gerard Bertrand has a garnet colour; the aromas are of small red and darker fruit. On the palate it is full and well-balanced, fresh, elegant, yet with power and persistence. Very Highly Recommended.

They recommend pairing it with desserts of fruit, with créme brulée, with foie gras and also as an aperitif. I tried it with a mature Cashel Blue and it was quite a treat.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Swing Low, Sweet Cherry. Sweet Captivating Italian

Swing Low, Sweet Cherry

Sweet Captivating Italian

QA Velenosi Visciole NV, 13.5%, 50cl, €18.95 Karwig Wines

I was introduced to this beauty by Betty Karwig a few weeks back but it didn't get serious until the other night when I sipped it for the very first time.

When I got close, there were sensual aromas, intense and rich. Then the deep ruby red passed my lips and all heaven broke loose, a gentle riot of sweet fruit flavours, captivating cherries, full bodied, fresh and so well balanced. I just sipped and sipped this intriguing stranger, new to Karwig’s and new to me too. Very Highly Recommended, by the way.

So where did this perfectly formed dessert wine come from. I’ll let the winery explain:
The basic ingredient for this cherry wine is an ancient variety of wild cherry, namely “visciola” (Prunus cerasus), which has a deep red colour and sour taste. Based on the traditional recipe, sour cherries are harvested when ripe, during the first weeks of July, and left to soak in sugar, partly whole and partly smashed; thus fermentation starts and slowly brings the juice to a delicate and aromatic syrup. This product is then decanted for a few days and finally filtered. The result is a syrup with a high sugar concentration, which is added to the wine starting a second fermentation. So wine and syrup are blended together. Fermentation is stopped when 14% alcohol by volume is achieved, with a residual sugar which makes this product more enjoyable.

They recommend pairing it with petit fours with bitter chocolate. It can also be drunk as a wine for meditation or as a digestive at the end of a meal, they say. 

But I've been working hard on your behalf and have come up with these matches, tried and tested:
with Almond and Raspberry financiers (not the kind you'll find in a bank!);
even better with the dark chocolate made by Allison of Clonakilty Chocolate;
and also with Crozier Blue cheese.
Will let you know if I find anymore, but my bottle is nearly finished!

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, December 11, 2014

Wine. Two for the Meat. One for the Sweet.

Wine: Two for the Meat. One for the Sweet

I have been dipping into SuperValu’s 12 wines for Christmas and reckon these three are ideal companions for the season. The first can match most desserts while the others will go well with your roasts, including the turkey. All are reduced from the 10th of December until the end of the month.

Vinha do Foral Moscatel de Setubal (Portugal), 17.5%, €12.00 SuperValu
The beautiful amber colour catches your eye and the aromas (orange skin, honey) are quite intense. On the palate, this sweet wine, well balanced and not at all “sticky”, is crisp and fresh, enough sweetness to pair with desserts (even the Christmas pudding), yet dry enough to shine as an aperitif, maybe even as an apres digestif. Either way there is a prolonged finish. Oh, by the way, it seems you can have it with two or three ice cubes. I haven’t tried that.

Made by the Cooperativa de Pegoes from one hundred per cent Moscatel grapes, this is a Very Highly Recommended. Do note the higher alcohol content. Like Port, this is a fortified wine.
Right bank ahead. Crossing the Garonne
at Langoiran

Chateau Sissan Grande Reserve 2011, Cadillac Cotes de Bordeaux, 13.5%, €10.00 SuperValu.

This is a relatively new (2008) denomination and covers a narrow strip on the right bank of the Garonne, more or less across the river from Barsac and Sauternes. According to the World Atlas of Wine, the area produces “toothsome reds”.

And this one certainly is toothsome! It has a lovely ruby robe and, on the nose, has lots of red fruit aromas, some spice too. A well made wine with superb ripe soft fruits on the palate and again hints of spice; it is full bodied, mellow and with a lingering finish.

Blend of Merlot (55%), Cabernet Sauvignon (40%) and Cabernet Franc (5%). Very Highly Recommended.

La Rioja

Finca Labarca Reserva 2007 (Rioja), 14%, €10.00, SuperValu
Rioja, and its Tempranillo, is a favourite here, so this was welcome when it arrived and even more so after opening. It may well be seven years old and the red may not be as deep as early on but there is no shortage of fruit on the palate and there is lively spice as well (quite a match for the local spiced beef!). The oak has been well integrated, the tannins are soft, the finish long. Another wine for the Christmas where its versatility will be a bonus. Very Highly Recommended.

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 for further details and bookings.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

BEAUMES DE VENISE - Stronger and Sweeter


Having completed a long promised trip to the top of Mont Ventoux, the white mountain of Provence (and of the Tour de France), we found that the temperature (which had been 6 degrees at the top) was a very pleasant 26 in the valley.

By the time we got to Malaucene at the foot of the 1912 metre high mountain, we were ready for more. On the map, I spotted a road linking us with Beaumes. It turned out to be a beautiful country road through the vineyards and passed close to the mountains called the Dentelles (lace).

It was mid-afternoon when we reached Beaumes and the cafes were busy in the otherwise sleepy village. Could perhaps have sought out the Cooperative but, in the heat,  settled for the convenient shop of Domaine des Richard  in the centre of the hamlet where a lady, with two year’s English, took great care of us.

Her tasting samples were generous to say the least and we left well stocked with the famous fortified (15%) sweet wine called Beaumes de Venise and also the producer’s own Plan de Dieu, a lovely red.

Opened a bottle in the sunny garden last Sunday at lunchtime and the promise from those generous tastings was fulfilled. Well worth a try and, while making a call this week to Bradley’s in North Main Street for that new Stonewell Cider, I spotted that they had some of the Beaumes on the shelves, though not the exact bottle that I am enjoying – still have some left!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010



Looking for something to drink with your festival dessert? Then, I suggest you call down to Karwig Wines  in Carrigaline as they have quite a large selection, featuring wines from Germany, Hungary, France, Australia....

I was there for that very purpose this morning and got a warm welcome and advice, not to mention a tasting or two, from busy Emily and later met Joe Karwig himself and wife Betty, always in great form. Must say though the first friendly greeting was from the family dog!

My to-get list included a German Eiswein and that box was ticked with the purchase of a Dexheimer Sonnenberg Scheurebe Eiswein 2004, ABV 9.5%. The grape variety here is the Scheurebe and the wine has a golden colour, showing layers of apricot, pineapple and passion fruit. The sweetness and fruit is beautifully balanced by crisp acidity. An ideal companion for fine desserts and blue cheeses or simply on its own.

This Eiswein, much lower in alcohol, is nowhere near as heavy or as “sticky” as your Sauternes or Tokaji. It has its own admirable lighter qualities and indeed may be better with the dessert than some of the “stickies” which can sometimes overpower the dessert and are often best drunk on their own, maybe just after the pudding!

We did get to taste one of

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Never know what you'll see in an Austrian field!


Unless you can get yourself to a tasting, you’ll have to fund your first steps into sweet or dessert wine. And quite a few of these can be