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Jancis Robinson and New World’s New Wave Wine on the Move, Fresher and Lighter
The Drinks Theatre at Ballymaloe’s annual LitFest was packed for Saturday’s talk and tasting by Jancis Robinson. The Master of Wine’s talk was entitled Wine’s New Wave - Lighter and Fresher. Jancis, quite deliberately, had chosen mainly New World wines and those from areas that were previously best known for “monster wines”, those big in fruit and alcohol! It was acknowledged that parts of the Old World had been producing this lighter style for quite a while.
Ballymaloe’s Colm McCan welcomed Jancis and she replied saying she was very comfortable, really at home, in the converted tractor shed as she was brought up in a small village herself.
Over recent years, while doing research for her various books, she received reports from all over the world, “from people with their fingers on the pulse”, of a trend towards lighter fresher wines.
The move is to make wines “that express the vineyard”, in a trend towards “single vineyard, even small plot, wines”. The first wine was a Californian Chardonnay 2012, from Sandhi in the new appellation of Santa Rita Hills. This comes from a high-ish site, 200-500 feet. ‘It is almost Chablis like in its acidity,” she said. “But the aim here is for balance.” It was a good start.
Next stop was Stellenbosch, South Africa and a Mourvedre Rosé, Cape Coral 2014. “Not for keeping,” she warned! This lovely pale salmon pink is soft and gentle, bone dry and low in acidity. “Good for food, especially aioli.”
The winemaker here, she told us, has had Southern Rhone experience and uses biodynamic viticulture. "Sounds potty but it seems to produce the goods. The vines look healthier and the soil is also healthy. People all over the world are much more interested in local vines, recuperating older ones”. In response to a question by beer ace Garrett Oliver, Jancis said that all the interesting wine in the world is craft wine.
On then to a couple of Pinot Noirs, the first a Chilean 2012, the Clos Fous by Pucalan, weighing in at 14.5%. Not quite light maybe but beautifully balanced, lovely texture and “satin smoothness, right amount of acidity. A complete steal at ten pounds!”. The vineyard is north of Santiago and “very influenced by the cool ocean”.
The Sonoma County Littorai 2012 will cost you about seven times as much. “This is biodynamic and has the hallmarks of freshness and acidity and this was a very good vintage after the disaster of 2011. More complex, more Burgundian and its lovely texture caresses the palate - think I'll swallow that!” I think we all followed suit.
Now let us hop over to Australia and the BK Wines Syrah 2014 from the Adelaide Hills, “a wine of recreation, rather than contemplation” and chosen more “as an interesting example rather than a fine wine. This is the type served up by the bucket in wine bars.”
Okay then. There would be a good Australian to finish on but first the one nod to the old world: a 2013 Garnacha from a high altitude (550-650 metres) in Mentrida. “This is a new style in Spain, made from up to fifty year old vines. You can smell the sweetness of the Garnacha plus you have masses of natural acidity and a fresh stoniness”.
Many of us here in Ireland appreciate the excellent wines made by Cullen in Margaret River in Western Australia and Jancis produced a winner to finish on: the Diana Madeline 2009, a Bordeaux blend (including 88% Cabernet Sauvignon). “The Cullens were early adopters of bio-dynamic in Australia and this is an Australian classic, the best balanced Bordeaux out of Australia. It is very fragrant, you have that savoury note at the end, a wine of real quality.”
So now you know. If that new wave washes you up on the beautiful beaches of the Margaret River, just head to over to the Cullens. Then again, it might be easier just to check where Liberty Wines distribute them here.
Relaxing in the Guildhall (l to r): Tony Ambrosini, David Bird MW and Maurice.
Those of us who have been watching the rise of wine importers
Wine Alliance in recent years know that founder and director Maurice O’Mahony
knows his wines.
And that was confirmed
when the Corkman successfully came through his examination for the WSET Diploma in Wines
and Spirits. Maurice emerged as the highest achieving student in Europe
and he was awarded the body’s prestigious Wine Australia Scholarship in a grand
ceremony in London’s Guildhall this week.
The WSETis the only wine and spirit education organisation approved by the UK government as a national
awarding body of vocational qualifications.
WSET Awards also co-ordinate the
annual selection of outstanding candidates to be presented with industry
And some 600 were in the attendance as Maurice received his diploma from WSET
President Jancis Robinson and his scholarship from Yvonne May of Wine
“It is a very prestigious award and I am very proud. The
ninety minute ceremony was fantastic. Jancis was charming and the location was
stunning,” said a delighted Maurice.
The scholarship is a two week trip to Australia, beginning in
Sydney. While details for Maurice’s tour are yet to be finalised he will visit
most if not all of the country's wine regions. It will be quite an experience
as iconic wineries will be visited, the key personalities behind the vineyards
will be on hand to talk with Maurice and he’ll get to taste their very best wines.
But is has been a tough road to get this far, to the top of the
European tree, studying hard while also building his company. Minimum of 600
hours study is required and Maurice reckons he well exceeded that in the two
years leading up to the Diploma exam.
They started off with a Commercial Unit and that was followed
by a Viticulture and Vinification Unit. Unit 3 was on the Still Wines of the
World and then followed units on Fortified, Sparkling and Spirits, all involving
theory and blind tastings.
He reckons Unit 3 was the toughest. In one particular day, he
had to blind taste 12 wines and then do a three hour exam on wine theory! “Five
hours in all,” he recalls. “That was a killer!” But the Glanmire resident came through
that and all hurdles with flying colours and deserves all the congratulations
coming his way.
Guildhall, built between 1411 and 1440
You may read Maurice’s own take on the Guildhall event hereand below we reprint a few questions and his answers for
scholarship sponsors Wine Australia.
does this scholarship mean to you?
Winning the Wine Australia Scholarship is a dream come true.
I can clearly remember one of our lecturers speaking of it in our first class a
couple of years ago. The prize seemed so far away and out of reach. When I was
notified that I'd won I was thrilled and when I walked on stage with Yvonne May
to be presented with my prize by Jancis Robinson MW in the Guildhall at the
WSET Awards Ceremony, it was a surreal moment.
do you love about Australian wine?
There’s lots to love about Australian wine and I have been a
fan for many years. Australia was one of the first countries that got me
interested in wine. I love the variety of Australian wines and the way that
there are wines of every style, grape variety and price level. Everything is
covered from entry level well made value wines to iconic wines that compete
with the world’s best.
are you most excited about your visit to Australia?
I have never been to Australia so that alone will be a
thrill. I am a wine obsessive so the opportunity to visit some of the world
famous wine regions that I have read about and studied for many years is
incredibly exciting. I always find that when I visit vineyards, it enhances my
relationship with the wines and the winery.