Showing posts with label Little Beauty. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Little Beauty. Show all posts

Monday, September 22, 2014

Sparkling and Still on Skype. Wine Geese on the World Wide Web.

Sparkling and Still on Skype.
Wine Geese on the World Wide Web.
Dermot Sugrue, at home in Wiston, talks to the tasters in Cork
A Decanter Gold Medal winner was among the wines featured at a novel international tasting based at L’Atitude 51 (Cork) last Friday as part of the nationwide Culture Night. The work of three of the younger generation of Ireland's Wine Geese was celebrated with the winemakers talking about their vineyards (in Sussex, South Africa and New Zealand), telling us all in L’Atitude about their various wines as we sipped them in Cork and watched the winemakers on Skype (big screen, bien sur).

Beverly Mathews, Colm McCann and Maurice O'Mahony, who organised the 2013 series of Wine Geese visits, were behind this venture, the first public internet wine-tasting in Ireland, and the speakers on the other side of Skype were Dermot Sugrue (Wiston Estates, Sussex), Marion Smith (Elgin Ridge, South Africa) and Fleur McCree (Little Beauty, New Zealand).

Dermot, a Limerick man, had wanted to be a winemaker since he was 16 but it was some thirteen years later before he started a Viticulture and Winemaking Course in England's Plumpton College. His progress was astonishingly rapid thereafter, much like the English sparkling wine industry, and his Wiston wines are regular award winners.

Wiston Estate vineyards are on pure chalk soil, just like in Champagne… This gives finesse, aging potential and a certain Je ne sais quoi. They are showing so beautiful, though still so young. And are in the top restaurants in the UK."

We tasted two. First up was the Blanc de Blancs NV. This has been voted the best in England. “It has a sense of richness that belies its youth. It is one hundred per cent Chardonnay, mostly 2011 plus reserve from 2010 and has spent 18 months on its lees.”

He described the Rosé 2011 as “a freak of nature”. The year was unbelievably warm, a poor Spring but a great Summer that extended into September eventually yielding very ripe grapes. “An accidental Rosé, our most successful wine, still very young and so exuberant early on.

“That exuberance is now fading and it is maturing into a sour cherry type. From over one hundred English sparkling wines, this Rosé has won one of just Decanter three golds.” It may be a freak of nature but Dermot hopes to replicate it in 2014. This year has been similar in many respects to 2011 and fingers are crossed for the harvest next month.

Marion, in the vineyard
Next stop was Elgin Ridge in South Africa and here we met Marion Smith (right) from Ballyjamesduff - her cousins still run the family farm there. The farming goes on at Elgin Ridge and Marian is the largest breeder of Dexter cattle (the native Irish breed) in the Western Cape. Sheep “mow” the grass between the vines. Elgin Ridge is organic.

The Dexters
But there were no vines there when Marion and her husband Brian arrived about eight years back. The farm had lain idle for some time and that made it easier to go organic. “We are living the dream and have wonderful workers here.” 

As she spoke the vineyard behind rapidly fell into total darkness. “I miss the long bright evenings sitting out in Ireland”, she said and invited anyone visiting in the area to drop in and see them. Be sure and take a look at the website. It is a gorgeous place, so many animals.

We tasted their 282 Sauvignon Blanc. The vineyard is 282 metres above sea level and the vines benefit from the cool afternoon breeze and the proximity of the ocean. It is a different style of Sauvignon Blanc with a beautiful freshness.

Fleur McCree, whose ancestors (the Cox family) hail from Passage West, is a serious winemaker but is always game for a laugh. We were thanking her for getting up early in Marlborough until she pulled the curtain behind her and showed us the Tower Bridge in London. Fleur spends much of her time on the road selling her gorgeous Little Beauty wines.

Marlborough is famous for its Sauvignon Blanc but this time we were tasting Little Beauty’s Pinot Gris. “We have a tiny strip of Pinot Gris. ..The bad weather doesn't get to the East Coast … We have huge sunshine hours and not much rain… Hot by day, cold by night is good for Pinot Gris.”

"It is a prolific grower, too much so, too much fruit is no good! You must discipline the variety, quite hard - cut the bunches by hand! It is also thick-skinned and that stops the sunshine getting through. So open up the canopy to aid ripening. The fruit is hand harvested and it is gentle handling all the way after that".

“The aromas are herbaceous, stone fruits (peaches, nectarines). It is almost creamy, hints of mild spice. Notice that textured element when you lick your lips and inside your mouth. It is an interesting wine from a sensation perspective, oily and concentrated. It is better served not so cold as it then expresses itself better, not so shy. It is a very popular variety, very approachable.” It sure is. One of the best of its kind as far as I am concerned!

“What would you pair it with?”, somebody queried.
“With your cornflakes,” came the rapid reply. “One of your five a day!”.  She did go on to say Asian, particularly Asian with nuts, peanut Satay is her own favourite. She also recommended Pork belly with chilli and garlic etc or maybe pork roast with apricots.

And then she pulled that curtain, bringing this innovative long distance tasting to an end.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Sauvignon Blanc Still Sings

Sauvignon Blanc Still Sings
Marlborough New Zealand
Very recently, one of Ireland's top wine writers admitted that he had been avoiding Sauvignon Blanc for a few years despite never really disliking the variety. But now he is back and enjoying one of the most popular of what are termed the “international” varieties.

Many of us, including myself, my motto being variety is the spice of life, regularly try the lesser known grapes. But it would be a mistake to totally ignore the internationals. By coincidence, I've been trying a few Sauvignon Blancs recently. Last summer, enjoyed some terrific ones in the Loire area but the three here are from Chile and New Zealand’s Marlborough (where the variety does particularly well).
First though, there was an example of why our aforementioned writer and indeed anyone with a wee bit of wine knowledge may be turned off and that bottle came as a gift that had been bought via a supermarket offer. It was a Chilean but had so little to offer, no discernible aromas, very little flavour, no finish worth talking about, that it was poured down the sink with some gusto.
Viento Monte, Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Chile, 13%, €10.30 Karwig Wines
That Chile can produce decent Sauvignon Blanc and at a very good price is well known and indeed well illustrated by this bottle. It has a pale yellow colour with green highlights and an intense aroma of citrus, green apples and the typical (maybe a little less than normal) hint of grass. On the palate it is crisp and refreshing, quite a light mouthfeel and a very fresh finish. Recommended. I'm told their Chardonnay is also excellent. Must try that soon!
Greyrock Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough 2012, 12.5%, €13.80 Karwig Wines.
Greywacke is getting much attention recently but, for a tenner or so less, this Greyrock is well worth a try. By the way, they also produce a sparkling Sauvignon Blanc!
This 2012 still example is light gold, again with green tints and the nose has that fresh grassy element. On the palate, it is fresh and fruity with a mouthfeel that is both intense and lively, very refreshing,almost bubbly, and then a good dry finish. Highly Recommended.
Little Beauty Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough 2011, 13%, €18.99 Wine Alliance stockists
Sauvignon Blanc is the flagship grape of New Zealand, accounting for the majority of the harvest in Marlborough where it grows best. And this Little Beauty is one of its best!
Little Beauty’s Fleur McCree was at a tasting in Cork last year and told us that the different blocks around the vineyard ripen at different times yet the intense fruit is preserved and there is “a build-up of layers of flavour to enhance the experience. Mango, Passion fruit at the start followed by Citrusy flavours mid-palate and then basil at the back of the tongue”. Really top notch, distinctive (somewhat more refined than your usual SB from here), and Very Highly Recommended.
* Note that you are now more likely to find the 2012 version of Little Beauty in the shops.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Little Beauty Comes Home

Little Beauty Comes Home
Bringing Gold
Maurice O'Mahony of Wine Alliance introduces
Little Beauty's Fleur McCree.
Little Beauty’s Fleur McCree says demand is high for her 600 cases of limited edition Riesling. She even sells it into Germany and has had a recent query from Japan where the grape is "all the rage with the young affluent Japanese woman”. It will be all the rage in other places too with yesterday’s news that her 2010 from Marlborough has won the New Zealand Regional Award (for Riesling selling at under fifteen pounds sterling) in the Decanter World Wine Awards!

The wine, made from less than 2 hectares of vines, is a “refreshing lemon lime” and “deliberately made dry”. It is the drink anytime wine, the “lager of wine” according to Fleur who loves it with roast pork.

The second wine at last week’s tasting in L’Atitude 51, who supplied some really tasty bites for each wine, was the Pinot Gris, again from less than two hectares of vines. “Pinot Gris loves the stones, the water, and the sun.” It just takes off in these conditions and that can, in the wrong hands, lead to quantity over quality.

So it has to be reined in. Bunches are removed. Must be done by hand as machines can’t decide which bunches to discard. “Concentration in Pinot Gris means quality” and it is “the most pampered variety in the vineyard”. Here you have lip smacking flavour, oily, yet drier than the Riesling. Don’t over chill it and use with nuts, pork crab and so on.

Sauvignon Blanc is perhaps the typical Marlborough wine. Little Beauty’s 2010 is, I think, a little bit more restrained than the usual Marlborough and the better for it. The different blocks around the vineyard ripen at different times yet the intense fruit is preserved and there is “a build-up of layers of flavour to enhance the experience. Mango, Passion fruit at the start followed by Citrusy flavours mid-palate and then basil at the back of the tongue”. Really top notch.

The Gold medal news was the first surprise at the well attended tasting. You can’t taste gold medals but we could taste the second surprise: the Black Beauty Edition of Sauvignon Blanc. Only 200 cases were produced from a few selected rows and this was a world first for Ireland. “...quick harvested...and then put into small old barriques (French), barriques that are ten to twenty years stainless steel is used..fermentation is in the cultured yeast...just the local wild yeast”.

And that intensive management pays off. “It is a beautiful fruit wine..lots of texture..creamier...richer...use with pork chops and garlic.”

“Hello, you exotic Little Beauty”, was Fleur’s greeting to the next wine, the Gewurztraminer, as she sniffed the Turkish Delight on the nose. This comes from two different one hectare plots, from two different clones of a variety that is “lazy in the vineyard”.

Its sweet fruitiness is balanced by “a clear acidity”. “It is a food wine, very versatile.” She advised us to try it with Cheeses, Foie Gras, Terrines, spicy crab and fragrant curries.

Now it was time for the final wine, Pinot Noir, the only red in the Little Beauty team. The Marlborough sun will not ripen the likes of Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz and so Pinot Noir is the most common red variety in the area.

This, hand harvested from between six and seven hectares, has a short spell in stainless steel before aging for 12 months in oak. It is a terrific example of the variety. “Complex but in a friendly way! Soft silky and a hint of tannins. Enjoy, definitely, with Pan-fried duck breasts.”

Just another Little Beauty in a beautiful wine tasting in L’Atitude’s superbly appointed upstairs room, made for just such an occasion. May there be many more of them. 

Little Beauty wines are imported by Wine Alliance. It is widely available around the country so check out the stockists here.

Wine Geese events

Tuesday May 28th, Cafe Paradiso: Presentation & Tasting with winemaker Emma Cullen of Cullen Wines, Margaret River, Australia in Café Paradiso in association with Liberty Wines.

July 11th, Crawford Art Gallery: “A Bordeaux Evening in Cork” with Pierre Lawton, Bordeaux and Ted Murphy, author of “A Kingdom of Wine – a Celebration of Ireland’s Wine Geese”.

 (Part Two)

Little Beauty Comes Home

 (Part One)

In 1825, thirty year old John Cox welcomed his new son William into the world in Passage West, Co. Cork. William, who married in 1846, was one of the first Europeans to settle in New Zealand and died there in 1899.

William was the great, great great grandfather of Fleur McCree, co-owner of Marlborough winery Little Beauty, who was back in town last Thursday evening, her tutored wine-tasting, in Union Quay’s L’Atitude 51, part of the current Wine Geese Series.

“Marlborough is the home of Little Beauty and a very important place for me,” she said. “There we have 2,500 hours of sunshine annually and clear skies. If you go to New Zealand be sure to have your sunglasses with you when you land in Auckland, it is so bright.”

Marlborough is into farming both on land and on sea and has “a huge reputation for such a little place”. But its grape history is a very short one. The first were planted in 1972 and the hopeful farmer was told he “was bonkers”.

Fleur, who had always had a terrific affinity with nature (sleeping as a child on her trampoline under those bright bright stars),decided in the late 90s to get into wine – for keeps!

The apprenticeship took quite a while. Scouting trips to Alsace, Burgundy, the Douro, Napa Valley and Mendoza (among other places) yielded valuable knowledge before she and her partner decided to settle back home. But then they spent years in London, working to raise capital before eventually starting up in Marlborough where they now farm 41 hectares of vines, which is a tiny area, considering that there are 33,000 hectares under production in New Zealand.

They first planted in 2002/3 and then of course they had to wait for their first harvest. But two years later they were in for a big shock when a severe frost wiped out blocks of their Sauvignon Blanc. And two years later again, a once in a sixty year flood caused major damage again. Tears then but only for a brief period. “Then I realised we were essentially farmers. This was what we had to deal with.” And deal with it they did. It is not an easy life ”but rewarding”.

Labour is scare here and machines are necessary (though not used in all areas, Pinot Gris and Noir are hand harvested for example). The versatile tractor is put to good use. To preserve the freshness and flavours, they have to use the machines to make the harvest “really quick”.

Perhaps one of the most ingenious machines is what looks like a windmill and nine of these are scattered around the vineyard and used to prevent the blanket of frost settling. While New Zealand enjoys long hours of sunshine, the day’s highs (maybe late twenties) can be followed by very cold nights. But the blades on these machines oscillate and rotate and succeed in fighting off the frost.

A state of the art technology network across the site captures real time data variables from Mother Nature and, among other things, helps dictate when the wind machines (and which wind machine) comes into play. The use of stainless steel, copied from the thriving local dairy industry, is widespread, though oak barriques are also used in Little Beauty.

The fledging Little Beauty earned its early keep by selling its Sauvignon grapes to Cloudy Bay. The cash helped them develop the vineyard and then they got a huge boost when Eveline Fraser, then head wine-maker with Cloudy Bay, decided to join the rookies!

You’ve often heard of the passionate vineyard owner. Last Thursday night we saw one in action in L’Atitude. “I’m very fussy over where Little Beauty goes. Come hell or high water, you’ll never find Little Beauty in a supermarket. It goes only to good homes. Integrity is very important nowadays. A wine made with integrity or an accountant’s wine. Which would you prefer?”

I reckon William Cox would have been proud of his great great great grand daughter!

Fleur also had a couple of real surprises for us during the tasting and I’ll have that and more on the Little Beauty wines themselves in Part Two tomorrow.

Friday, May 3, 2013

This Sauvignon Blanc is a Sophisticated Beauty

Fleur McCree (centre) at L'Atitude
with Beverly (left) and Emma.

Sophisticated Beauty

Little Beauty Sauvignon Blanc Limited Edition 2010, Marlborough (New Zealand), 13.5%, €17.99-18.99,  stockists

Aromatic, with a pale yellow colour, this wine is, they say, “a fine example of an intense and mouth-watering single vineyard Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc”.

And it is all that, and a little bit more sophisticated than some of its neighbours. Maybe that is why this fine and elegant wine is holding top spot as the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc at London’s Claridge Hotel. It is also a Gold Medal winner at the Mundus Vini International Wine Awards.

So grab a bottle or two while you can as this is only ever going to be available as a limited release. In fact, so limited “my annual production volume represents a tiny 0.0005% of total market share in the UK”. Very Highly Recommended.

Fleur McCree is the face of Little Beauty wine in these parts and she will be here on Thursday May 16th in Latitude 51 (No. 1, Union Quay) as part of the ongoing WineGeese series.

Fleur will retrace her family steps back to Cork in a presentation and tasting of her wines in association with Maurice O’Mahony of Wine Alliance. Varieties include Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Riesling and Gewurztraminer. Check with the venue ((021) 239 0219) for tickets details.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

You may take this Little Beauty anywhere..

Little Beauty's Fleur McCree with
Maurice O'Mahony of importers Wine Alliance

You may take this Little Beauty anywhere, but she's a star in Asia.
 Little Beauty, Pinot Gris 2010 (Limited Edition), Marlborough (New Zealand), 14% abv, €19-21 various stockists countrywide.

You may take this Little Beauty anywhere but she shines in Asia as I found out more by accident than design.

Colour is just about present in the tasting sample in the glass, just pale hints of gold, grey and green. Nose is tempting; aromatic and musky notes draw you in. On the palate it is fruity and dry with an excellent finish. Orange zest and apricots, some would say, according to her cheeky label. She is a little forward but I wouldn’t disagree.

It is full, almost creamy, a really delightful example of the grape’s potential and, as I found out, excellent with Asian Cuisine. Have you been following Rachel Allen’s Easy Meals on RTE TV? I have and last weekend matched Little Beauty with her Thai style Pan-fried Chicken with Mango Salsa and also with her Grilled Squid starter. Little Beauty handled both without a bother. QED.

For more on the wine and her equally attractive cousins (including Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Pinot Noir) check here

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Little Beauty Comes To Town

Fleur (centre) with L'Atitude owners Beverley (left) and Emma
Tom (left, Fleur and Cathal

Fleur with Maurice of Wine Alliance

Little Beauty Comes To Town

In 2002, the land in Waihopai Valley, Marlborough, New Zealand, where the grapes for the Little Beauty wines  now grow, was a sheep farm. Fleur McCree and her partner spotted its potential and got to work, planting from scratch and patiently waiting three years for their first crop.

“It was exactly the kind of place we were looking for and we wanted to work it,” she told the appreciative audience as she held a tutored tasting of the wines upstairs in the newly opened L’Atitude Wine Cafe at No 1 Union Quay.

There were many hurdles to overcome, including starting to sell their first wines as the recession hit. But sell she did and sell she does, this Irish call the prelude to trips to Scandanavia and Russia and maybe a call to Pro-Wine.

She sells these wines to luxury hotels in the UK and the prices there really underscore the point that Little Beauty’s Irish Importer Maurice O’Mahony of Wine Alliance  makes frequently: these wines over perform at their price points.

Irish stockists sell the range at anything from €15.00 for the Sauvignon Blanc to 25 for the Pinot Noir. In the likes of Claridges, the Savoy and the Gleneagles you’d be paying anything from 50 pounds sterling to 70.

Prices could well rise here. The emergence of China, Hong Kong and Japan as big markets for NZ wine has pushed Ireland from 5th to 8th in the league of NZ wine importers. If that trend continues, it is possible that less and less wine from that beautiful far country will find its way here.

We started off with the 2009 dry Riesling. This was bursting with flavours, fine, balanced and refreshing. A Bronze Medal Winner at the Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Challenge, this wine is currently being presented at 2* Michelin Restaurant, Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles, Scotland.

Marlborough is the home of NZ Sauvignon Blanc and when you know that the Little Beauty winemaker Eveline Fraser was “stolen” form Cloudy Bay, you know this is going to be good, and it didn’t disappoint. It is indeed “A fine example of an aromatic, intense and mouth-watering single vineyard Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc”.

The limited edition Pinot Gris was next up and by the way all the wines were accompanied by really tasty nibbles from the kitchen at L’Atitude, quite a reminder to the punters that this a venue worth visiting on a regular basis. The pale Pinot Gris had a fresh and inviting aroma and felt full and creamy on the palate, a step up for sure on some regular Pinot Grigio visitors to these parts.

Fleur and yours truly
Next tasting was the 2009 Gewürztraminer. This was strongly aromatic and pleasingly luscious but stopped well before reaching full sweetness. Goes well with Asian cuisine.

And then came the Pinot Noir, the silky star of an altogether excellent show, and Fleur recommended matching it with lamb. It is a gorgeous wine, full of plum, raspberry and red cherry flavours. It has an attractive background spice and has benefitted from 12 months in new French oak.

A Little Beauty to finish a delightful session in L’Atitude. The Wine Cafe intends holding a series of these events and the next, on the Rhone (presented by Simon Tyrrell of the Wine Store), takes places on Monday March 5th. Check with the venue for tickets.

And that isn't all. L’Atitude also holds classes for both novices and those interested in going further and indeed the next series is due to start shortly. The contact number is 021 2390219 or email: Also keep an eye on their Facebook page

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Little Beauty and the ladies of L'Atitude

Little Beauty's Fleur McCree hits Leeside next week!
Maurice O'Mahony, the man behind Wine Alliance, has been in touch about an exciting event at the new Wine Cafe on Union Quay, L'Atitude 51. We'll let Maurice take over and tell you all about it.
No better boy!
Its an honour for Wine Alliance to be part of L’Atitude 51′s first event in their “Meet the Winemaker” series
Fleur McCree, owner of Little Beauty of Marlborough, New Zealand will present a flight of five of her limited edition wines in a guided tasting in the newly opened L’Atitude 51 Wine Workshop (on the first floor) of . . . .
L’Atitude 51.
1 Union Quay,
Cork City 
021 2390219
Thursday February 9th From 7.00pm – 9.00pm
Entrance Fee is just €12 and places are very limited.
The line up includes a tasting of  . . . . .
  • Little Beauty Sauvignon Blanc
  • Little Beauty Riesling
  • Little Beauty Pinot Gris
  • Little Beauty Gewurztraminer
  • Little Beauty Pinot Noir
Canapés & Snacks will also be served on the evening
Fleur will walk us through the New Zealand wine landscape and will then focus on her beloved Marlborough and her privately owned vineyard. If you want to read up on Little Beauty, check out their website here
L’Atitude 51 is the perfect location for a tasting. Centrally located in in the heart of Cork’s city centre, the owners Beverley Mathews and Emmanuelle Legrand offer a beautiful selection of wines (including a big selection by the glass), craft beers and gourmet coffee and tea. They also offer a delicious selection of homecooked food in a lovely relaxing setting on the banks of the lovely Lee across the road from Cork’s City Hall.
So why not come along and sample each of these beautiful limited edition wines for yourself
Thursday February 9th From 7.00pm – 9.00pm
To book a place, call L’Atitude 51 on 021 2390219
See Fleur YouTube video here 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Another Little Beauty

Little Beauty Sauvignon Blanc Limited Edition 2009, New Zealand, 13.5%, €15.99, stockists

She may have a big nose but this tropical visitor is another Little Beauty.

Raised and finished in Marlborough by Eveline Fraser, formerly of famed Cloudy Bay, this Sauvignon Blanc takes her well deserved place in a distinguished family.

We recently met her sister, the irresistible Pinot Noir  and look forward to meeting the other siblings, especially Dry Riesling.

This 13.5% Sauvignon Blanc sports a complexion of pale gold and the vibrant sheen is enhanced by attractive aromas. On the palate, the fruit shines through, grapefruit and gooseberry for me. It is refreshing, dry and crisp with a long and satisfying finish.