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

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.



Sunday, April 14, 2019

Two Pinots From De Loach In California


Two Pinots From De Loach In California

De Loach  Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2015, Sonoma County (California), 14.5%, €34.99 
JJ O’Driscolls, Ballinlough; Baggot Street Wines; Mitchell & Son Wine Merchants; Redmonds of Ranelagh;  www.wineonline.ie

Jean-Charles Boisset, of De Loach, has been hailed as being among the “Top 59 Power Brokers” in the wine world by Decanter while Wine Enthusiast has accorded him the title of “Innovator of the Year”.

The Boisset family, with vineyards in Burgundy, have owned De Loach in California since 2003. Jean-Charles immediately noticed the similarities with Burgundy and the potential for producing excellent Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

The Boissets recognised that the land needed its health restored. They dug up all the existing vineyards and replanted using biodynamic techniques and produced their first wines in 2010. In addition to De Loach they own these other Californian vineyards (according to Wines of California): Raymond in the Napa Valley and, since 2011, the legendary Buena Vista, the sunshine state’s first and most historic winery.

This Russian Valley Pinot has a delightful mid ruby colour; it shines in the glass. Pleasant aromas of ripe dark and red fruit feature in the nose, mainly cherry and raspberry, and there’s a hint of vanilla there too. Delicious light red fruit flavours, a touch of sweet spice, a bright acidity, very smooth tannins and a long dry finish. No shortage of backbone either but it is soft with a velvety mouthfeel, easy drinking, very enjoyable and Very Highly Recommended. 

The winemaker says the wine, from different clones, was fermented for 16 months in individual lots with native yeasts in open top fermenters, basket-pressed and aged on lees before being blended together and aged for an additional 2 months. They recommend pairing with wood-fired pizza or mushroom risotto.
Fermentors

“Heritage Reserve” Pinot Noir 2016 California 13.5%, €24.99 JJ O’Driscolls, Ballinlough; Mitchell & Son Wine Merchants; La Touche Wines; Donnybrook Fair; Clontarf Wines; The Wicklow Wine Co; La Touche Wines, Greystones; Searsons Wine Merchants; Redmonds of Ranelagh; Lilac Wines; Martins Off Licence www.winesonline.ie

De Loach: As leaders in the world of Pinot Noir, we take special pride in the wines that we produce. Believing that fine wine is “grown” in the vineyard, we crafted this Pinot Noir using fruit carefully selected from premium vineyards throughout northern and central California. This effort helps us achieve the unique balance of delicate Pinot characteristics and the more intense fruit flavors found in the different terroirs that comprise our California Pinot Noir.

The Heritage Collection range is designed to offer superb value and quality for mid-priced Californian wines. The fruit for this Pinot Noir is primarily from the Delta region of California and is it fermented in closed-top fermenters. A small portion is aged in seasoned barrels to impart slight oak characteristics to the wine, but most is kept in stainless steel in order to stay true to the wine’s lighter, food-friendly style.

Colour is light to mid Ruby. Raspberry and cherry feature in the fresh, if modest, aromas. Lovely light red fruit flavours follow, spice too, juicy from start to finish, a hint of sweetness but acidity enough to make it food-friendly, smooth tannins play a role in the lengthy finish of this well-balanced medium-bodied wine. Highly Recommended.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Two Highly Commended Whites from Liberty: Marlborough and Chablis


Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2017, 12%, €21.99, Egans Off Licence, World Wide Wines, Jus de Vine, Wine Well Off-Licence, 64 Wine, Baggot Street Wines


Once on a guided tour of Switzerland, I met a New Zealand couple, sheep farmers from Queenstown. They were outgoing and friendly, no humming or hawing.
“Will we jump off at the next stop,” I’d asked on a descending ski-lift. “and walk down.”
“Yeah, right, no problem.” They’d answered. This wine reminds me of them.

Not particularly because it is a beautiful light gold with green tints, the sheep farmers were well tanned. Nor because of the exuberant tropical aromas, that typical cut grass too. The palate is awash with tangy citrus, pineapple and ripe white fruit flavours, fresh and refreshing. All positive and Highly Recommended, just like my Kiwis and "no problem". Crisp and satisfying, try it with fresh seafood, goats cheese salads or just on its own.

Kim Crawford, by the way, gather the fruit from all over the Marlborough region, but emphasise that seasoned winemaker, Anthony Walkenhorst, had individual blocks targeted for their strengths and overall contribution to the blend. It is a pattern established early on by Kim and his wife Erica when they started at the turn of the century without owning grapevines or tanks. 

The vines for this Sauvignon Blanc ranged in age, up to 14 years, bringing a mix of youthful vigour and depth of flavour. Anthony has won local awards for his Sauvignon and Pinot Noir.

Les Hauts de Milly Chablis 2017,  12.5% , RRP €29.99 Cinnamon Cottage The Wine Centre wineonline.ie

This fresh and youthful Chablis has a light straw colour, green tints (or was that from the Christmas tree?). You'll note white fruit and floral notes in the aromas. There is a prominent citrus element on the palate flavours. The best part of a year on its fine lees has contributed to the excellent structure and complexity of flavour. Fresh and mineral with an excellent finish. An excellent good quality early-drinking Chablis and Highly Recommended.

In the vineyards a totally natural approach is adopted, herbicides and pesticides are banned. The little fertiliser used is organic compost. The wines are pure, fresh and textural. This Chablis is vinified on its fine lees for 10 months before bottling and you are advised to serve it at 11 degrees. I would err on the upper end rather than risk it too cold.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Flavours of New Zealand


Flavours of New Zealand


New Zealand wine-growers came in force to Dublin last Monday and the tasting at the Radisson Blu in Golden Lane was appropriately called Flavours of New Zealand. Delicious flavours both in very approachable entry level wines and even more so in the very desirable top end wines, both in red and white.

Sauvignon Blanc is THE white wine grape associated with New Zealand and, aside from the individual wineries, the event featured a SB Table. The seven wines had been picked by sommeliers who had visited New Zealand on scholarship. I noted three, beginning with the very refreshing Clos Henri Marlborough 2016, imported by Les Caves de Pyrene. We two had a bit of a contest between the Framingham F-Series and the Greywhacke Wild, both Marlborough, and the less expensive Framingham got the nod, both very very good, both distributed by Liberty Wines.
Great to see Findlater still going strong at the New Zealand tasting. They were founded in 1823.
This bike, donated by the company, is an exhibit at the Little Museum of Dublin.

New Zealand is not that well known as a Chardonnay producer. But it is grown throughout the country, reflecting the terroir and the wide regional diversity. This grape also had its own table. Two of the best ones from the eight on the table, I thought, were the Lawson’s Dry Hills Reserve (Marlborough) and the outstanding Pegasus Bay Virtuoso (North Canterbury) . Both are distributed here by Febvre.
Stunning Pinot Noir
One to keep!

Mount (Mt.) Beautiful was a winery table with a full hand of excellent well-priced wines and, like quite a few of the wineries here, they are seeking representation in the Irish market. David Teece and his wife Leigh started by purchasing four farms in 2003 and wasted no time in planting vines. We tasted three whites (Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Riesling) along with their Pinot Noir, all certified-sustainable and estate-grown, and all better than normal. Only eleven kilometres from the ocean, the vines are protected by Mt Beautiful and the couple, who also do conventional farming, make the best of their terroir.

We had a similar success at the multi-award winning Saint Clair Family Estate table. Luckily you can get their wines here as they are distributed by Findlater & Co. The entry level Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir were very acceptable and the higher levels had that bit more going for them by way of restraint and sophistication and, yet, the price difference isn’t all that much. Watch out for Saint Clair.
Excellent!

One of the more unusual Sauvignon Blancs came from the well-known Brancott Estate (distributed here by Pernod Ricard). They are one of the vineyards trying to include naturally lower alcohol wines in their portfolio. I tasted one, the Flight 2017 (Maryborough). Just 9% but no lack of flavour at all - very encouraging, like the recent Dr John Forrest one purchased from Marks and Spencer.

Our second stroll around the tables saw us concentrate on the reds and here it was mostly about the Point Noirs! Felton Road had a strong hand as you'd expect from a vinery with a “formidable worldwide reputation for Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Noir”. They are very special wines and pricey.

I’d have been very happy with the first Bannockburn, a really top notch Pinot at €52.99. And then came their Block 3 Bannockburn, an even better wine, matched by the one from Block 5, each at €79.99. Pricey yes but really very special and imported by JN Wine.

Gru-Vee!
And speaking of special takes me back to Cloudy Bay, distributed here by Edward Dillon. Again there was a great start with the 2016 Pinot Noir from Marlborough (45.60). And then I spotted a Te Wahi from Central Otago. I was told excitedly that this comes from a new project and is produced to be “age-able”. 

Otago is way down south and the fruit comes from two small “very high” parcels. The intent to make it “age-able” is underlined by the use of cork as a closure - all the others on the table had screw-cap. It does however cost €87.90. Happy Birthday. Happy Christmas. Happy Anniversary. I’ll think of something.

Seifried Estate had a full range, everything from bubbles to dessert and including Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. I more or less went off piste here and came up with a handy double, from grapes normally used in Austria. Their Grüner Veltliner Nelson 2016 was a beauty (and, dare I say it, a great change from SB and Chard!). And I was equally impressed with the flavour and finish from their Zweigelt Nelson 2014. Both are distributed by Classic Drinks so do watch out for them.

Began to run out of puff (and time) at that stage and had to leave without trying all the tables. Nonetheless it was quite an afternoon of tasting, more than enough to illustrate that New Zealand is a major player and a welcome one in the Irish market, two islands from opposite ends of the world helping one another one in trade even if we knock one another out on the rugby field.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

A Sparkling New Year to you. Not forgetting Nollag na mBan



The only grape used in this stunning champagne is the black Pinot Meunier, leaving both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (the other regular champagne grapes) out of this particular equation.

It has an inviting eye-catching light gold colour - the bubbles look even better! Aromas are light and fruity (strawberry). Light fruit on the palate also, refreshing and well-rounded, well balanced with a lip-smacking long finish with typical brioche (biscuity, like Marietta!) aftertaste.

The vineyard is planted on the privileged Epernay soil; Epernay is the capital of Champagne and also a town of artistic and historical importance. And, yes,Granzamy do blends of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.

Here, a small number of growers are concentrating their efforts into bringing Pinot Meunier back into the limelight as a variety which produces quality Champagnes and not just a varietal to compliment a blend. Granzamy is one of those growers.


Akarua Brut NV, Central Otago (New Zealand), 13%, €43.99 Tindal Wine Merchants Limited, Baggot Street Wines, Searsons Wine Merchants,The Corkscrew, Mitchell & Son Wine Merchants WINEONLINE.IE
Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are the grapes used here and, yes, it may be New Zealand but this is made in the Methode Traditionelle, that is the champagne way, and it spends a minimum of 18 months ageing on yeast lees. 

A serious contender then with an inviting gold colour and very good small-bubble flow. Aromas are floral, savoury and that brioche is there too. It is almost creamy in the mouth followed by that long crisp brut (dry) finish.

Sparkling wines are a relatively new operation of the vineyard but already Akarua has been bringing in the medals, mainly gold. This Brut NV (non vintage) is a fine aperitif wine and is ideal for celebrating with friends whenever and wherever you get together, be it New Year’s Eve, birthday or anniversary, or Nollag na mBan! If using it as an aperitif (it was outstanding here on Christmas morning), don’t forget to provide some nibbles - these bubbles go to the head faster than still wine!

Here’s another lovely bottle of bubbles from O’Brien’s. This is from Australia and is a rosé. Again, it is made by the Traditional Method (same way as champagne) and is a blend of selected vintages, hence the NV. 

Produced from Pinot Noir grapes, it comes in a gorgeous pastel salmon hue in which fountains of micro-bubbles constantly rise. There are delicate scents of strawberry and pomegranate. The palate is more intense than the nose, strawberry again and now cherry as well, and a pleasing refined finish and, along the way, you come across that bread-biscuit flavour. Another superb and delicious aperitif and, again, don’t forget those nibbles for yourself and your guests! Happy New Year.






Exquisite Collection Crémant du Jura (AOP) Chardonnay 2014, 12%, €12.00 Aldi

Got this Brut (dry) at the local Aldi. I was very impressed with it. This sparkling Chardonnay, again made using the same methods as they use in making champagne, is perfect for any celebration (big or small). It is not lacking in complexity, has light fruit flavours, that hint of biscuit and a fine finish. Good price too, bubbles on a budget.

French sparkling wines made by the méthode champenoise but falling outside the boundaries of the Champagne region are termed Crémant. Grapes other than the traditional Champagne varieties may also be used.They are produced in many regions of the country including Bordeaux, Loire, Burgundy, Limoux, Alsace, and the Rhone (known as Crémant de Die).

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Christmas Couples. One White. One Red.


Christmas Couples




A couple of bottles of wine, one red, one white, can go a long way at the Christmas meal. Lots of lovely couples below!







Karwig Double

Cunas Davia Ribeiro (DO) 2016, €21.15 Karwig Wine
It has a light straw colour. And a lovely intense nose where floral and herbal notes mingle with ripe white fruits. Rich, long and balanced on the palate, fruit and fresh acidity in perfect harmony and there is a long citrus led finalé. A pleasure!

Herdade Do Esporão Quatro Castas, Vinho Regional Alentejano 2014, €20.95 Karwig Wine
This deep ruby red wine has concentrated red fruit aromas, also a little spice and a little vanilla. Fresh, fruity and spicy on the palate with a very acceptable balance. Lovely mouthfeel and long finish. Just another beauty from this area of Portugal and Very Highly Recommended.

Two from South Africa

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

Boekenhoutskloof Wolftrap White 2014 Western Cape (South Africa), 14.5%, €14.50 Bradley’s Off, Matson’s, Cashel Wine Cellar. JN Wine online

This James Nicholson red 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.

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.

The Wolftrap white was accorded Superquaffer of the Year by the prestigious Platter's Guide to South African Wine.

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.

Two from Portugal

Herdade do Peso Trinca Bolotas Alentejo (DOC) 2016, 14%, RRP € 19.99 wineonline.ie

It’s a vinho tinto (red wine), a blend of Alicante Bouschet, Touriga Nacional and Aragonez (Tempranillo). It has a vibrant mid ruby colour and intense ripe berry aromas. Fruity and dry, full-bodied, very well balanced with a prolonged finish. Thanks to the equilibrium of tannins, acidity and fruit, this is an excellent food wine and Very Highly Recommended.

After malolactic fermentation, the wines are transferred to French and Caucasian oak barrels, where they are matured for around six months. To maintain its high quality, the wines are bottled without cold stabilisation. It may thus throw a slight deposit during bottle-ageing.

Herdade do Peso Sossego Branco Alentejano (IG) 2016, 13%, 
RRP €16.99, Matson Wine Store 

The local tranquility wasn’t too bad either as I opened the Sossego with its light yellow colour and tints of green. Scents of citrus fruit and blossoms, more floral than fruity, enhance the mood. Lively and fresh on the palate, the fruit flavours are balanced by excellent acidity and a good dry finish follows. Refreshing and flavourful. 

The grapes used by winemaker Luis Cabral de Almeida were 75% Antão Vaz, 20% Arinto, 5% Roupeiro. This may be enjoyed on its own or as an aperitif. It pairs wonderfully with various fish dishes, some white meats and an array of salads. 

Australian Pair 

Free Run Juice “Samurai” Chardonnay (Australia) 2016, 13%, €14.95 64 Wine Dublin, Bradley’s of Cork, Greenman Dublin, Le Caveau Kilkenny

Tastes, they say, like rain on a hot day. In any event, this organic wine tastes very well indeed, is Very Highly Recommended and is also excellent value.

Colour is a light straw. Aromas are fairly classic Chardonnay, melon and peach. A hint of a tingle on the palate as the creamy textured liquid, laden with rich fruit flavours, spreads across. A crisp acidity balances it and a persistent finish crowns it.

Free Run Juice “Samurai” Shiraz (Australia) 2016, 13.5%, €14.95  

“Tastes like Australian sunshine, and ninjas”. Not familiar with either! Conditions were “ideal” for the harvest, giving a delicious richness and intensity. Another remarkable wine, remarkable value too, and Very Highly Recommended.

A crimson red pours from the bottle with that cracking label. Aromas speak of spice and vanilla but mostly of intense plum. Medium to full bodied, flavours of juicy dark cherries and berries, velvety tannins and a finish that reverberates. A rich and delicious Shiraz. Go for it.

Spanish Couple

Dominio de Punctum Finca Fabian Verdejo Castilla (Vino de la Terra) 2016, 12.5%, €12.20, Mary Pawle Wines


This Verdejo is made  from organically grown grapes, night harvested and cold maceration before fermenting. Colour is straw yellow, bright and clear and there are white fruits in the aromas, floral notes too.

It is fresh and a little livelier than many Verdejos, excellent fruit flavours and balancing acidity. A lovely drop indeed with a long and pleasant finish. Highly Recommended. Good value also, by the way. 

Punctum Viento Aliseo La Mancha (DO) 2016, 13.5%, €13.30 Mary Pawle Wines

This joven (young) wine is a blend of Tempranillo (70%) and Petit Verdot. Organically and biodynamically farmed (Demeter approved) and made from “our estate-grown grapes”.

Cherry is the colour. Cherries and blackberries feature in the aromas. And the same fruit too on the full and smooth palate, matched by a lively acidity, the tannins just about in evidence. Quite complex for a joven and Highly Recommended. Good value also.

Gary’s Pair

Haven’t tasted these in quite a while but must say I like the look of this pair from the excellent Luis Canas at Gary O’Donovan’s. The red is the Madurado Tempranillo/Garnacha while the white is Viura/Malvasia. Both are 2017 and the total cost of the presentation two-pack is €25.00. 

The white blend is dense and unctuous on the palate, with a good balance between acidity and alcohol. The aftertaste brings notes of ripe fruit and minerality.

The red blend has spent 12 months in oak, is fruity on the nose, all enveloping on the palate while it finishes well with fruit and acidity.

Duo from O'Brien's

Gaia Assyrtiko Wild Ferment €21.95 (was 24.95).

The grapes are grown high up in circles around the top of the craters on Santorini, one of the Greek islands. Sometimes wines from hot climates lack acidity, but that is not the case here. Try it with shellfish, also smoked fish. The grapes are soaked on the skins after crushing for a long period. This gives the wines their excellent structure and complexity of flavour. Well worth a try!

d'Arenberg Footbolt Shiraz Australia, 19.95 
Colour is a clean and bright purple. No need to nose the glass here as the aromas - attractive dark berries and plums mainly - come up to meet you. Terrific fruit too on the palate with great balance, tannins are fine, lovely and a lingering dry finish. Footbolt is a favourite here and Very Highly Recommended.


The Odd Couple

Elgin Ridge 232 Sauvignon Blanc South Africa (from Le Caveau).
Decanter praise: vibrant, at once savoury and saline, yet ripe and tropical. 

Made by Brian and Marion Smith. Marion’s from Cavan. I’ve sampled this a few times and have a bottle in the house for the festivities. Well worth a try.

Winzer Krems Blauer Zweigelt “St Severin” trocken (Austria) 13%, €14.45 Karwig Wines

This well-priced quality red wine has gorgeous and intense fruit aromas. Also engaging red fruit flavours (cherries, berries, redcurrants), a touch of spice, full bodied and quite dry to the finalé. This is easy drinking, light and bright, not unlike Pinot Noir.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Three Mid-Winter Reds. Santa Will Love Them.


Three Mid-Winter Reds. Santa Will Love Them.

Dear Santa. I have been a little bit naughty but I have said sorry am I still aloud a present. I would love these three bottles of red, please.

Hello CorkBilly: I heard about the naughty bit! We'll get over that. These three would work for the Christmas /festive season and or as winter warmers. They are sustainable and/or organic in the production of the wine.

And Marcus, who was an able deputy for Santa, says "these wines reflect the Liberty wines ethos and continue our sustainability focus and curb the effects of climate change by reducing our carbon footprint." You will also note that Rudolph will be wearing a nappy this year; Santa was in Killarney in July checking out the jarveys and their horses.



Bodegas Arráez Monastrell Barrica “Vivir sin Dormir” Jumilla (DOC) 2016, 14.5%, €18.99 Blackrock Cellar, JJ O’Driscoll Cork, Wineonline.ie

An eye-catching label and a rather fancy name draws you to this Spanish red on the shelf. The 100% Monastrell (Mourvedre in France) is grown organically on limestone soils in a high hot region 90 kilometres from the Mediterranean.

Colour is a dark ruby and the legs are slow to clear, confirming the 14.5% alcohol. Aromas are quite intense, cherry and plum noted. Intense too on the fruit-forward palate, warm and spicy also, good fresh acidity, a hint also of its few months in a mix of Hungarian, French and US oak. Good length on the finish also, the fruit still vibrant. A superb expression of the grape and Very Highly Recommended. Food match: Himalayan Salt Aged Cote de Boeuf. 



Blanville Merlot Pays D’Oc (IGP) 2017, 13%, RRP €14.99 Cinnamon Cottage Cork, Menloe Store Cork, Next door Off licence Ennis and  wineonline.ie

From the Sud de France comes a Merlot to appreciate. Colour is mid to dark ruby and in the aromas there is a mix of red and dark fruit, a hint of liquorice also. It is certainly a smooth customer on the palate, full of flavour with terrific balance, some sweet spice and plush tannins. This very approachable wine has a superb long finish and is Very Highly Recommended.

The family-owned estate, built parcel by parcel from scratch in 1997, recommend serving it at 16-17 degrees and pairing with red meat and cheese.

The year in the vineyard didn’t get off to the best of starts with a cold rainy winter followed by very frosty spring. Early heavy rains though helped the vines through the exceptionally dry and warm mid-summer and harvest, at the end of August, was “one of the earliest on record”.

Bernard and Beatrice Nivollet came from Paris to realise their dream of becoming wine producers and now have some 40 hectares. No chemical fertilisers are used as they practice “organic cultivation and biodynamics”.

Zabu “Il Passo Verde” Nero D’Avola Sicily (DOC) 2017, 13.5%, €17.99 RRP, McHughs Off Licence - Kilbarrack Rd, Baggot Street Wines, Finian Sweeney,   


This Vignetti Zabù organic wine is a dark ruby colour. Intense dark and red fruit aromas. Same intensity on the palate, elegant juicy fruit, spicy too, and no let-up in the long lingering finish. 

Quite an excellent expression of the Nero D’Avola grape, full-bodied and deep-coloured, and Very Highly Recommended, particularly with red meat and game; they also recommended medium aged cheese.

The vineyards were planted in 2005 around Lake Arancio in Sambucca di Sicilia. The crystal clear waters provides an ideal micro-climate for the low-yielding vines, and protects them from the heat of the summer. This too was a hot summer, just three showers in July and August!

Only the best grapes were selected and they had a long fermentation, the aim being to extract colour, body and aromas. Half were aged in barriques, the rest in concrete tanks, both for six months. 

Nero D’Avola, almost always part of a blend in the previous century, is now regularly bottled as a varietal. It is often compared to Syrah because it likes similar growing conditions (Sicily has a hot Mediterranean climate) and exhibits many similar characteristics.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Portuguese Perfection Bottled


Quinta dos Carvalhais Alfrocheiro Dão (DOC) 2015, 14%, €31.99 Wine Online

Mid to dark ruby is the colour. Plum and a touch of vanilla in the complex and pleasant aromas. Smooth and elegant in the mouth with concentrated dark fruit flavours, a little spice, soft tannins and there’s a long lip-smacking finish. Quite the complete wine and Very Highly Recommended.

The different Alfrocheiro grapes (sourced from 3 different vineyards) are matured for 9 months in used French oak barrels. The final blend consisted of wine aged in oak (94%) and wine retained in stainless steel tanks (6%). 

The wine underwent fining and filtration prior to bottling. In order to preserve the wine at its peak, in terms of quality, it was bottled without cold treatment and natural deposits may therefore form as it ages. They recommended decanting and that may be more necessary as the wine gets older. I decanted mine but no sign of sediment.

Carvalhais comes under the Sogrape umbrella and they are regarded as one of the top Alfrocheiro producers in Portugal. By the way, they say, that once opened, consume the same day - although the wine should retain its quality for some time providing it is kept in a well-stoppered bottle (ideally vacuum-sealed).

Alfrocheiro is a not a grape you come across every day. Alfrocheiro Preto, to give it its full title, is found in Portugal and grown mainly in Dão. Because of it susceptibility to fungal attack, it is a bit of a gamble and the rewards are deep colour, balanced sugars and acidity. See here for more detail.

Herdade do Peso Sossego Branco Alentejano (IG) 2016, 13%, 
RRP €16.99, Matson Wine Store,  wineonline.ie

Serve, Hardade do Peso advise, at 9 to 11 degrees. That helps for sure. But the real secret for the perfect serve is that this white blend requires tranquility, “an Alentejan calm, free from daily concerns, as peaceful as the rolling plains .. where this wine was born. Listen, breathe, taste. In Portuguese, 'sossego' means 'peace' or 'quiet'. The name says it all.”

The local tranquility wasn’t too bad either as I opened the Sossego with its light yellow colour and tints of green. Scents of citrus fruit and blossoms, more floral than fruity, enhance the mood. Lively and fresh on the palate, the fruit flavours are balanced by excellent acidity and a good dry finish follows. Refreshing and flavourful, and tranquil too, it is Highly Recommended.


The grapes used by winemaker Luis Cabral de Almeida were 75% Antão Vaz, 20% Arinto, 5% Roupeiro.  After fermentation, the wines remained in vats for around three months. The wine underwent gentle fining, stabilisation and filtration before bottling.This may be enjoyed on its own or as an aperitif. It pairs wonderfully with various fish dishes, some white meats and an array of salads.


Wednesday, November 7, 2018

French Riverbank Classics. Bordeaux and Chinon


Chateau de Fontenille Bordeaux (AOC) 2015, 13.5%, €21.99 JJ O’Driscoll Cork, Wineonline
Up with the birds in the Abbaye de la Sauve Majeure

Vines have been grown in this area between the Garonne and Dordogne rivers (Entre-deux-mers) since the 13th century. A pilgrimage route, protected by UNESCO (half of France seems to be protected!), ran through here to the nearby Abbaye de la Sauve Majeure whose monks tended the vines for hundreds of years.

Stéphane Defraine bought this property in 1989 and went on to renovate and extend the vineyards. This particular blend is Merlot (80%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (20). 

The weather in 2015 was excellent and the grapes ripened fully. The varieties were vinified separately and 50% was aged in French oak barrels for 18 months, one third of which were new. The other 50% aged in vats. The wine was then blended and bottled.

It is a darkish ruby, indicative of youth. Fairly intense aromas of dark fruit (plum, berries). Intense flavours too, background of smoky spice, tannins just about noticeable and a good dry finish. Elegant and round, with an approachable modern Bordeaux style, it keeps you engaged all the way through and is Highly Recommended.

Coudray-Montpensier Chinon (AC) 2016, 12.5%, €19.99 Bradley’s Cork, JJ O’Driscoll Cork, Wine Online
Chinon, not on the Loire but on the Vienne
This Chinon red is, as they are, 100 per cent Cabernet Franc. Colour is a light to mid ruby, vigorous aromas of dark fruits, notes too of vanilla. That fruit, and the freshness typical of the grape, come through on the palate, tannins are round and there are notes too of spice; there’s an excellent robust finish. Highly Recommended.

The wine spent between six and 12 months in oak barrels. Not the best of seasons here, spring frosts and a wet summer saw the wine-makers scramble to make the best of it. Going by this one, Gilles Feray succeeded at Coudray-Montpensier.

Suggested Food Pairings: grilled red meat, turkey; Swiss, cheddar, and gouda cheese.