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Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Two From Fleurie
Beaujolais Gems From the Granite
Fleurie, like all ten crus, is in the north east of the Beaujolais region. Here the Gamay grape, thrives on the granite soil, the wines always refreshing and never short of acidity. Fleurie, with delicious cherry scents, flavours of red berries, is an elegant and excellent partner for a wide variety of lighter dishes.
Did you know that the Gamay grape is an exile in Beaujolais? In 1395, it was outlawed by Royal decree as being “a very bad and disloyal plant”. Sixty years later another edict was issued against it. And so it was pushed out of Burgundy and south into neighbouring Beaujolais where it has thrived on the granite based soils.
In Beaujolais generally, there is a continuity of quality, almost a guarantee of it, if you move up a step or two to the ten crus and the Villages that ring them.
In 2016, May and June, it wasn't at all pleasant in Beaujolais. In the area where the crus are situated, the hail came with a vengeance and, according to Decanter, Beaujolais authorities reported some plots in the appellations of Chiroubles and Fleurie were completely destroyed. But that fickle spring was followed by a splendid summer and a friendly autumn and the result, with less fruit, was a very fine vintage indeed.
By the way, the ten crus that produce the flagship wines are: Chiroubles, Saint Amour, Fleurie, Régnié, Brouilly, Cote de Brouilly, Juliénas, Chénas, Morgon and Moulin-à-Vent.
Dominique Morel Fleurie (AP) 2016, 12.5%, €23.99 JJ O’Driscoll, Cork; Wine Online
Dominique Morel has set himself a target: “I make wines that I like to drink, with lots of fruit, good colour and a rounded mouthfeel". And this light ruby coloured wine, with delicate cherry aromas, also floral notes, is silky with superb fruit, just as M. Morel would have wanted. Silky and with terrific concentration and lovely velvety tannins. Very Highly Recommended.
Colour of this beauty is a bright mid-ruby. Abundant aromas of cherries and spice. Juicy in the mouth; no shortage of red berries (strawberries, raspberries) and sweet cherry in delicious combination, smooth and well balanced, refreshing too with excellent length. Impeccable and Very Highly Recommended. It is, of course, 100% Gamay and no oak has been used by Chanson who are both négociants and winemakers.
Wednesday, June 13, 2018
Two Superb Reds.
A Morgon by a Maestro. A Malbec from the High Desert.
Jean Foillard Côte du Py Morgon (AOC) 2016, 13%, €35.60 64 Wine Dublin, Bradley’s of Cork, Greenman Dublin, Le Caveau Kilkenny
Every month in the vineyard, there are decisions to be made, practical crossroads to be negotiated. They concern, for instance, cultivating and fertilising soil, planting, training and pruning vines, and when to begin picking the grapes. But before all that, the vineyard is shaped at a philosophy crossroads. Quantity before quality. Chemical or organic. Fortunately for us, Jean and Agnes Foillard gave the thumbs down to the industrial and choose the natural organic route. Their healthy and beautiful wines are their reward and our pleasure.
In Morgon, Foillard wines express the terroir like a maestro musician. “The aromatics soar and the texture is silky and fine”. Try it in three movements: Le Classique, Cotes de Py, and Corcelette. Long may the maestro of Morgon play on.
The fruit for our Côte du Py, also known as Le Classique, is grown on a hill that is actually an extinct volcano and is masterfully transformed into a soft delicious vibrant-red wine with superb depth of vivacious flavours and a refreshing acidity. There are cherry and raspberry notes, floral too, in the aromas. On the palate, it is elegant with no shortage of minerality, tannins are a very fine influence here and the finish just goes on and on.
Foillard, a leading natural winemaker, has been described as the master of this hill (Côte de Py) and this stunning 2016 will serve to reinforce that claim. Very Highly Recommended. Give this a few more years and it will be even more rewarding.
There are ten crus in the Beaujolais region and Morgon, as you probably know, is one of them. With the typical acidity, these wines can match a range of foods. One suggestion that I fancy is Moroccan Lamb Tagine with apricot.
Amalaya Gran Corte Barrel Selection, Valle Calchaqui (Argentina) 2015, 14.5%, €24.99 JJ O’Driscoll, Wine Online
In Salta’s high desert, for centuries farmers made offerings in hope of a miracle for a bountiful harvest. Esperanza por un milagro is on the front label and the miracle has come to pass inside.
This Gran Corte is an amalgam of Malbec (85%), Tannat and Cabernet Franc. Twelve months in oak has added complexity and roundness.
Amalaya is acknowledged as a leading producer in this region. Owned by the Hess family, they are best known for their Malbec and Torrontés and this Gran Corte is their signature wine.
Colour is purple and there are aromas of red and black fruit. A superbly concentrated wine with a wash of spice, complex of flavour with rounded tannins and a long spice-driven finish. The winery, by the way, makes only blends and this man-made Malbec miracle is Very Highly Recommended.
Sunday, March 11, 2018
A Hundred of the Best from Le Caveau
Starting with a Franciacorta and a Clonakilty Girl
|Meeting Rhona at St Peter's last week|
“We are a small vineyard, ten hectares in total, eight planted with Chardonnay, two with Pinot Noir,” said Rhona Cullinane of the 1701 vineyard in the Franciacorta region of Italy when I met her at the Le Caveau portfolio tasting in Cork’s old St Peter's Church last Thursday. So I hear you asking: Rhona Cullinane, from an Italian vineyard? Well, Rhona is from Clonakilty and went to Sienna to finish off third level education and fell in love with the country and now divides her time between the 1701 vineyard and London with plenty of opportunities to get back to Clon.
1701 is an unusual name for a winery . It comes from the year of the first vinification there by the Conti Bettoni Cazzago family; that was in the “brolo”, a four hectare vineyard framed by X1 century walls. In 2012, brother and sister Federico and Silvia Stefini took over the estate and the winery and named it 1701 in honour of that long-ago first vintage. Rhona works with the Stefinis and they were the first in the Franciacorta region to be awarded the coveted biodynamic Demeter certification in July 2016.
There are about 100 to 120 producers in the area and they are now “slowly focusing” on external markets, Rhona told me last week. “there is a regional ambition to move to organic and biodynamic”.
Rhona was showing the 1701 Franciacorta Brut DOCG. It is a blend of Chardonnay (85%) and Pinot Noir (15%). The summer heat of the vineyard is tempered by the breeze from the lake (Iseo) and the mountains to the north. “We choose to keep it on the lees for 30 months, well above the appellation minimum. It is made in the traditional manner, manually harvested, with the indigenous yeasts, and a secondary fermentation in the bottle but with zero dosage.
|Ballymaloe sommelier Samuel (left) and Damiem of Clos de Caveau|
It is a gorgeous sparkling wine, the palate full and generous, clean, fresh and elegant, apple notes, citrus too and that typical brioche note, beautifully balanced and a dry finish. Expect to pay in the mid 30s, considerably less than what you'd pay for the bigger names of the region; lovely wine, great value.
Jules, who is spending a few month in L’Atitude (Cork) improving his English, was keen to show me some of the wines he was familiar with from his home in the south west of France, beginning with the family’s impressive Chateau de Cedre héritage. “This is 95% Malbec, 5% Merlot,” he said. “Four of the five parcels are organic but the next vintage will be fully organic. It is started in cement tanks, matured in barrels.”
It is medium to full bodied, gorgeous black fruits on the silky palate with a clean finish. Colour is a light ruby, it is easy-going, no shortage of drinkability. Another quality wine at a very good price (15.40).
The small Mirouze vineyard in Corbieres produces some excellent wines, including that Ciel du Sud that Jules showed. It is a lovely lively blend, 50% Grenache, 50% Carignan. It is raised in cement tanks and no sulphur is added.
|Margaret of Le Caveau and, right, Dave of Café Paradiso|
The little vineyard is surrounded by garrigue. That means the vines are well away from the sprays of neighbours. On the other hand, wild boar enjoy the cover of the scrub and so the Mirouze family have to use an electric fence to deter them.
Domaine No Control is into wine (of course) and music. One of their Gamay is called Fusion, the other Rockaille Billy. I had spotted the Billy on the list early on and wasn't leaving until I had a taste of it. The domaine consists of just five hectares and Jules agreed that this was that bit different to Beaujolais Gamay. “Lovely, great drinkability”. Must get a few bottles of that for the table when I have guests!
The next chat I had was with Damiem and he was showing the Clos de Caveau Vacqueyras AC Carmin Brilliant. Vacqueyras village, under the shade of its large trees, stays cool when the vineyards all around are warm.
And this is one cool wine, coming from a height of 200m, higher than most of its neighbours, and bearing the distinctive diagonal wraparound label designed by Karl Lagerfeld. It is a superb blend of 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah, natural yeast is used and nothing is added. Good structure and bite, lovely ripe tannins, excellent acidity and freshness.
|Sustenance via L'Atitude 51|
Then it was on to the Alsace table where there was a strong showing from Meyer-Fonné. Always find the Gentil wines from the Alsace very drinkable and the MF 2016 was typical. Later, I would come across a similar effort from Oregon’s Ovum Wines called Big Salt!
The Meyer-Fonné Gewürztraminer 2015 Réserve was aromatic and rich. Hints of sweetness too in the Pinot Blanc but this was dry with a minerally finish. Also excellent - it suited my palate well - was the 2015 Riesling while the 2013 Grand Cru didn't quite do it for me, almost always find it hard to tune out that whiff of petrol.
|Mayer-Fonné well represented on Le Caveau list|
The 2016 Pinot Gris was much more to my liking and the winery points to this one as “the archetypical Pinot Gris for the table”. Will put that on my list. Indeed, I think I may just make a list of all the Meyer-Fonné wines and see how I get on.
I had been pointed towards the Kumpf et Meyer 2016 Riesling by Ballymaloe sommelier Samuel. And with good reason. From its fresh, fragrant and full nose through its complex palate to the long and savoury finish, this is worth a second longer look and so another that will make my ever lengthening shopping list!
Monday, January 9, 2017
Three Classy Reds
Don't judge a book by the cover. The plain label on the Gamay could well lead you to believe this is a bottom shelf wine whereas it is anything but. Perhaps, especially if you bought bottom shelf Moroccan wines on French holidays years ago, you wouldn't be expecting a great deal from the Volubilia but it is a lovely surprise. And no surprise really with the Italian. You'd expect this to be good and it is very good indeed.
Clos du Tue-Boeuf Gamay 2015, Vin de France, 12%, €18.85 Le Caveau
Light red, fairly typical of the grape, is the colour of this natural beauty. The aromas are of strawberries and raspberries. On the vibrant palate, you'll find the same mix of fruit flavours, with a light tang of cider apples; it is light and fresh and smooth for sure, fine tannins and then a long finish.
The two Puzelat brothers, regarded, by Jamie Goode, as “natural wine royalty”, mature this for 4-6 months in large wooden vats. The organic grapes are bought in from trusted local winegrowers in the Loire. “The wines are quite unique, highly expressive of their terroir, authentic, filled with life and have a very strong personality.” That lively personality is very evident, pleasingly so, in this example and it is Very Highly Recommended. By the way, it is neither filtered nor fined, so do decant!
La Zouina Volubilia Classic Red, Morocco 2012, 13.5%, €22.95 Le Caveau
This is a relatively new French run chateau. Bordeaux know-how plus freedom to experiment has helped produce this excellent result from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (50%), Syrah, Mourvedre, and Tempranillo.
Colour is medium red. And the aromas include warm blackcurrant. It is medium bodied, smooth and fresh, well endowed with concentrated berry flavours, medium spice, fine tannins. It is well balanced with a long and juicy finish. A surprise from Africa and Very Highly Recommended.
Ascheri Coste & Bricco Barolo (DOCG) 2010, 14.5%, €47.00 (down to 30 in recent Fine Wine sale) O’Brien Wines
No surprise that this one was good as I had tasted it at the O’Brien Wine Fair in Cork. Nebbiolo is the grape here. Made from two select plots from Ascheri’s single vineyard, this is their top cuvée.
The wine has spent 26 months in Slavonian barrels, six months in steel and a further nine in bottle before release. According to Grapes & Wines, Italian Nebbiolo ages better than those of California and Australia. And indeed the producers reckon this will last for 18 to 20 years if kept in a cool dark place.
I couldn't wait that long to tuck into this garnet coloured wine. Small red fruits feature in the aromas, also some herbal hints. It has a palate full of rich flavours, spice too and an acidity that helps put all in harmony. This elegant and inviting wine is Very Highly Recommended.
They, Ascheri, recommended matching it with hard mature cheese, pheasant, pigeon, roast lamb and beef, Mediterranean vegetables. I've tried and tested it here with Parmesan and Walnut crusted rack of lamb with roasted vegetables, the lamb bought at our local craft butchers, Davidson’s of Montenotte, Cork.