Showing posts with label Loire. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Loire. Show all posts

Monday, December 5, 2022

A stunning white blend from Valencia and a delightful Cab Franc from Sancerre

A stunning white blend from Valencia and a Cab Franc gem from Sancerre


Cullerot Celler del Roure Valencia (DOP) 2021, 13%, €17.50 MacCurtain Wine Cellar

Cullerot is a white wine from the D.O. Valencia. produced by Celler del Roure. It is a blend of different grape varieties: 30% Macabeo, 30% Pedro Ximénez, 10% Chardonnay, 10% Malvasía, 10% Merseguera, 10% Verdil. Haven’t heard of the last two before. 

The wine is aged mostly in clay amphora (6 months) , a method which follows ancient winemaking traditions, and provides Cullerot with “a truly complex and unique character”. It is a blend and method that works very well indeed.

Straw yellow is the colour, clean and bright. It’s got a very interesting nose indeed, fruity, floral and herbaceous. Entry is impressive, fresh and packed with fruit flavour; it is well balanced thanks to a sharp acidity, has a beautiful texture and finishes strong and long. Very Highly Recommended.

The producers suggest serving it at 7 degrees (others say 8 to 10) with rice dishes. Others, including the Wine Society, indicate Gazpacho, Prawns, Spaghetti Puttanesca, Olives, Shellfish risotto, Salads, Aperitifs, Rice with fish, white fish, and shellfish. 

Celler del Roure, founded in 1996, is a small family winery which works with the utmost care on every inch of land. The winery also keeps its eye on the future, collaborating on various projects with the Universitat Politècnica de València.

The use of large clay amphorae may be unusual in Spain but not so in other ancient wine countries such as Georgia. Celler del Roure’s utilisation of them is a nod to the tradition as well as a means of aging without oak influence.

I bought this bottle from the relatively new MacCurtain Wine Cellar in Cork. Co-owner Sean Gargano has visited the winery and been very impressed: "We love pretty much everything from Celler del Roure. Owner Pablo Calatayud is doing heroic work bringing local Valencian varieties back into fashion. He gets help in the cellar from Javi Revert, one of Spain brightest wine makers." 

"Watch out for Valencia to become a player in the near future. And if you see Celler del Roure be it red, white or rosé, buy it.  Prices are guaranteed to go up when they get the recognition they deserve." 

Watch this space!


Best Value Wines 2022 Under €18.00. With Reviews & Irish Stockists. 


Petit Bourgeois Cabernet Franc Val de Loire (IGP), 13% ABV, €17.45 (14.95)

The town of Chinon and its surrounds is the heartland of Cabernet Franc in the Loire Valley; this one though comes from Sancerre (a few hours, along the valley, to the east), an area best known for its eponymous Sauvignon Blanc.

Freshness is taken for granted with Loire Cabernet Franc and this one certainly has it. It’s also got the fruit, both in the aromas and on the palate, lots of lighter berries (raspberries and strawberries) plus darker (blackcurrant and blackberry) as well, and there are hints of spice. The lingering finish is along the same lines. That wonderful freshness keeps it light and easy drinking. Indeed, it may be served slightly chilled but you’ll hardly need to do that this time of year. A Highly Recommended wine.

We had a beautiful plate of Organic Kerry Wild Meat at a recent meal in Kinsale’s Rare and I reckon this Cabernet Franc would have been a terrific match. And the winery’s list of suggestions includes the French version as you can see: fowl or other white meats are perfect as a wide range of prepared cold meats such as a plate of French “charcuterie”. Could go well with the turkey! 

No mention of Chavignol goats cheese. Chavignol because that is the area where producer Henri Bourgeois is based. It is a renowned 10th generation winemaking family, making exquisite award-winning wines from some of the best terroir in the Loire Valley.

A few years back I was in Chinon and failed to drink a glass of Cabernet Franc! And that meant I didn’t quite make the cut for membership when I visited the Caves Painctes of Chinon, the headquarters of the Confrerie de Bons Entonneurs Rabelaisiens, situated in a network of subterranean tunnels running beneath the town’s chateau. You have to drink a glass of wine. What’s the problem? You may well ask. The problem is the glass takes a whole bottle and you must finish it without a pause! 

Chinon (and include nearby Bourgueil) is a terrific visit, especially if you go late August/early September. Our highlight was a day-long vintage fair with an old fashioned threshing. Thirsty work and that’s why we withdrew from the streets for a spell to Caves Painctes.

* Most of you will know that Cabernet Franc appears in Bordeaux red blends where, more often than not, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot take the lead roles.


Top Wines 2022. With Reviews & Irish Stockists. 


Monday, November 29, 2021

Valleys of wine. Check out this excellent duo from the Loire and the Ebro

From the valleys of wine. Check out this excellent duo from the Loire and the Ebro

Azay le Rideau

Marie Thibault Le Grolleau Vin de France 2019, 13.5%

€26.95  64 Wine Dublin, Bradley’s of Cork, Greenman Dublin, Le Caveau Kilkenny

Grolleau, often regarded as the workhorse vine of the Loire, is seldom used on its own. 

However, according to, if yields are kept low, “Grolleau can produce a

light yet vibrant red wine, with herbaceous, 

sour-cherry flavors. Many of these are vinified as natural wines, although this is more to do with modern winemaking trends in the Loire than it is to do with the qualities of the variety itself.”

Le Grolleau comes from Azay le Rideau and this is where Marie Thibault does her stuff. Colour is mid to dark ruby. The rather intense aromas feature cherry and berries. It is light bodied and there’s a clean refreshing acidity on the palate along with much the same fruit flavours and that refreshing theme, along with a little spice, goes right through to the longer than expected finish. 

A delicious vin de soif, which essentially means unpretentious wines that are measured not by their complexity, length or ageeability but by the joy and refreshment they provide. Very Highly Recommended.

Marie Thibault grew up in the Loire Valley and began in 2002 working with François Chidaine in Montlouis, falling in love with Chenin Blanc there and making wine under her own name in 2004. She purchased her own estate in 2010 and converted to organics immediately. She has been certified with Ecocert since 2014. She works with Côt (Malbec), Gamay, Grolleau, Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon blanc. Most of her vines are at least 50 years old.    

Marie also buys some grapes from organic estates close by, which she herself harvests and vinifies in her cellar. Her husband is Frantz Saumon, another fantastic natural grower in the area, his wines also available from Le Caveau and their stockists. Marie’s wines see no additives other than a tiny addition of S02 before bottling, if any is added at all.

Viña Albergada Rioja Alavesa (DOC) 2016, 13%

€11.95 64 Wine Dublin, Bradley’s of Cork, Greenman Dublin, Le Caveau Kilkenny

Made by the same producers of the Albizu Tempranillo that we had a few weeks ago, this Tempranillo has a dark cherry colour, though maybe not quite as vibrant as it was back in 2018 when I enjoyed this same vintage last.

The red fruit aromas are a little less intense than previously. The palate though may be better.  It is attractively juicy and fruity, with a touch of spice, very good acidity, quite refreshing. And the finish is good and long. 

Highly Recommended.  This easy-drinking style of Rioja offers great value-for-money. Great too, they hint, as an aperitif with tapas. Other suggestions include queen scallops and chorizo or pan-fried garlic chicken with sun-dried tomatoes. And, just like the Albizu, it is one of those versatile reds that may be tried chilled.

Tip: Look out for a more up to date vintage than the 2016.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Muscadet and Sangiovese excel on home ground. A lovely white and red wine for you.

Muscadet and Sangiovese excel on home ground. A lovely white and red wine for you. 

La Fessardière “La Mer qu’on voit danser” Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur Lie (AC) 2015, 12%

€16.00, Mary Pawle WinesMannings Ballylickey and Little Green Grocer in Kilkenny 

Melon de Bourgogne, the grape from which Muscadet is produced, is sometimes referred to condescendingly as a “inoffensive grape or a “neutral” one. The Melon grape certainly lacks the boisterous aromas that characterise New World Sauvignon Blanc. But this lack of initial assertiveness is deceiving, especially if it has spent some time on its lees (sur lie, on the label) and, as is also the case here, a little time in oak.

Still, the aromas of this 2015 are reticent. You’ll probably get citrus but you’ll need to work harder to get more. Mid gold is the colour and it’s quite attractive. All the work and care (including a light oaking and 9 months on lees) that has been lavished here, comes through on the palate with its superb texture. Excellent citrus flavours, the fruit rounded, and well balanced by a sprightly acidity.

For decades now, it has been the traditional accompaniment to seafood, especially in this corner of France, though it will do the job just as well in Ireland. An refreshing appetiser as well.

The Domaine de la Fessardiere has produced organic wine since 1997. Michel Sauvion the former winemaker, made this choice in order to increase the quality of its Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine wine and work closer to nature. In 2014, Jérôme & Emeline met Michel Sauvion.… As wine lovers, Jérôme and Emeline were seduced by the wine and Michel’s knowhow and they choose right away to keep producing wine following the organic method. Then, they decided to value the different parts and typicity of the land and the winery through a new range of Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine wines.

Made with love. You’ll love it! Highly Recommended.

And then you can check up on the other Muscadets in the range by the same producer, including the two below, recently reviewed here, also from Mary Pawle:

L’Air Innocent

La Gloire De Nos Pères

Volpi “Boira” Sangiovese Marche (IGT) 2019, 13%,\

€14.40 Mary Pawle WinesMannings Ballylickey and Little Green Grocer in Kilkenny

This charming Sangiovese, not from Tuscany but from Marche (between the central mountains and the east coast), has a lovely ruby colour. Aromas are intense, ripe red fruit, floral and herbal notes too. Flavours are just as bright and intense, full of red and darker fruit flavours, plus a hint of vanilla. Tannins are more or less silky. Dry and harmonious, the Boira has a lingering finish. 

An organic and vegan-friendly wine, it is ideal for the table. Try it with stewed meat and aged cheeses (winery tips); other suggestions include spaghetti bolognese, lamb shank and steak Milanese, Pappardelle pasta with a rabbit and porcini mushroom ragù, Fried chicken livers, Slow-roasted pork with white bean mash. 

Speaking of pork, I had a glass of it the other night with a dish from On the Pig’s Back: Broiled Marinated Pork Chop, Savoy cabbage, Fondant Potato and Mustard Sauce. An excellent match.

Highly Recommended. Very well priced too, by the way. 

Thursday, June 25, 2020

A Trio Of Interesting Whites To Enjoy. Sancerre. Sauve. Pay D'Oc.

A Trio Of Interesting Whites To Enjoy


Jacques-Frelin Sancerre (AOP) 2018, 12.5%, €26.60 Mary Pawle Wines

Sancerre is a small wine district in the Loire Valley, famous for its crisp, aromatic white wines made from Sauvignon Blanc. This one has a light gold colour with a tint of green. The pleasant aromas of this organic wine are both floral and mineral with gooseberry. A bracing acidity makes the taste buds sit up and take notice and what they notice is the apple and pear and citrus flavours, nothing over the top, all’s in balance. 

As it happens, there is a famous goats cheese (Chavignol) in the Loire Valley, a perfect match for the wine, which will also go well with fish and seafood. I’m certain the likes of Ardsallagh and St Tola would also pair well with it. Very Highly Recommended. Serving temperature is 10-12 degrees.

For over thirty years now, Jacques Frelin has been at the forefront of the organic wine movement in France. While organic is often associated with small, this is not the case with Frelin who has vineyards all over the country, in the Languedoc (where he is headquartered), in Gascony, in the Rhone and the Loire.

Fasoli Gino “Borgoletto” Soave (DOC) 2018, 12.5%, €15.55 Mary Pawle Wines

Mary Pawle imports quite a few well-priced wines and this 100% organic Garganega is one of them. It has a light straw colour, a pleasant bouquet both floral and fruity. Fresh and fruity on the palate, quite full-bodied, no shortage of acidity, with a long and dry finish. Highly Recommended.

The producers are also obviously very happy as they say, on the label, that it is “an ode to the terroir”. It is indeed a lovely easy-drinking wine and Fasoli Gino produce more Borgoletto than any other wine in their range. 

Their back label has most of the info you need, nicely and economically laid out: Vino Biologico. Hand picked 100% Garganega. Drink up to three years. And their social media addresses are also listed.

A dry, crisp, fruity white wine, Soave's naturally refreshing appeal led it to phenomenal popularity in the second half of the 20th century (pretty sure it was our wedding wine back in the day!). say it “is arguably the most famous white wine DOC in Italy”. But I think, most current Irish wine-drinkers would nominate Pinot Grigio as the most famous Italian white.

Domaine de Brau Chardonnay Pays d’Oc (IGT) 2018, 14%, €16.50 Mary Pawle

Colour is a lovely mid-gold. Fairly intense aromas of white fruit and a hint of honey. A pleasant burst of tropical fruit finds it way across the palate, rich and round, with an almost creamy mouthfeel it finishes well with increasing citrus notes. Lightly oaked and organic, this fresh and surprising Chardonnay is Very Highly Recommended. Well priced too and that’s a bonus!

This is made from 100% Chardonnay and fermented and matured in oak. A great food wine! Serve fresh at 10 - 12°C, with white meat, poultry and fish, grilled or in sauce.

Gabriel and Wenny Taris, of Chateau de Brau, are too close to the hard Languedoc ground to get carried way with romantic cliches - it is not sunshine all the way: "Not all vintages are exceptional. There are the weather conditions. And the weeds that we will never overcome. And the little beasts and larger animals who demand their share."

That they share with the little and large of the local animal world gives you the clue that the work here is more in cooperation with nature than against it. 

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Could you drink this glass of wine? I didn't. How I Failed the Chinon test.

Could you drink this glass of wine? I didn't.
Didn't do the Chinon test*.
Domaine de Beauséjour Chinon (AOC) 2012, 13% 
Rabelais presides over the threshing in Chinon

I didn’t quite make the cut for membership when I visited the Caves Painctes of Chinon, the headquarters of the Confrerie de Bons Entonneurs Rabelaisiens, situated in a network of subterranean tunnels running beneath the chateau. You have to drink a glass of wine. What’s the problem? You may well ask. The problem is the glass takes a whole bottle and you must finish it without a pause! 

Quote from Rabelais
The town of Chinon, in the Loire Valley, is a terrific visit, especially if you go late August/ early September. We visited a few years back and the highlight was a day-long vintage fair with an old fashioned threshing. Thirsty work and, for a short spell, we withdrew from the streets to Caves Painctes.

The Chinon appellation lies, mostly, in the “vee” where the Vienne River (on whose bank Chinon stands) joins the Loire on its way west. Cabernet Franc is very much the red grape here, no rivals. The grape is also well known for its key part in Bordeaux blends.

Though Chinon Cabernet Franc can last longer, the general advice to to drink it at five years. Perhaps its best days are behind this one? That was the doubt in my mind as I started with this bottle (bought in Karwig's before the closedown) while simultaneously starting to view a film called The Help, the story of three “extraordinary” women, one white, who together question the “values” of 1960 Mississippi society in a dangerous time.

I found the “high society" accents, combined with the white attitudes (black maids, the help, couldn’t even use the same toilets as the family), hard to take. It wasn’t all racial, the rich pampered women were just as nasty towards a “white trash” woman who was hoping for acceptance into their snobby circle. At that early stage, the wine was on the quiet side for me. Happily, both the film, as the main characters began to shine (and my ear got used to the accents), and the wine improved as the evening wore on.
Chinon. Chateau is top left

Colour of this 2012 100% Cab Franc is a mid ruby. Aromas hint of harmony between fruity and floral, red fruits such as strawberry and raspberry and violet. Well rounded now, nothing too deep or intense, just a harmonious wine making its pleasant way, with a touch of tannins on the lips, to a harmonious finish. Nice bit of acidity too so should be fine with lightweight food. Not too sure about southern fried chicken though!

Unusual shoulder label on the bottle, a quote from local hero Rabelais: Very crazy who never gets drunk… That’s the Google translation. I think he means you should get drunk at least once in your life. And, since he was a native of these parts, he probably means on a bottle of Chinon. Or a glass!
Another Rabelais quote on the label here.
*  More than likely, you'd need to be invited to become a member.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Pouilly-Fumé Sauvignon Blanc is hard to beat. Loire and Marlborough getting closer?

Pouilly-Fumé Sauvignon Blanc is hard to beat
Loire and Marlborough getting closer?
The Loire

When it comes to Sauvignon Blanc, there are two main "religions" and many splinter groups. In the main, there is a "battle" between those who believe in wines made in the Loire area (the source) and those converts to the more intense Marlborough gospel. But the grape grows well in many places and SBs from Australia, Chile, and California, and more, will have their disciplines. And though you'll find excellent examples in all areas, I must admit I'm almost always more comfortable with a bottle from the Loire.

Here, there is even a split, as Sancerre is perhaps the best-known. Below, we have two from Pouilly Fumé which is generally more or less of similar standard as Sancerre (across the river). Indeed, the World Atlas of Wine declares: “It would be a brave taster who maintained he or she could always tell a Pouilly Fumé from a Sancerre. The best of each are on the same level; the Sancerre perhaps slightly fuller and more obvious, the Pouilly Fumé more perfumed.”

Perhaps though there is a middle ground emerging between the Loire and Marlborough. Just like the world in general, the wine world is changing, quite often because of the exchange of knowledge and know-how between different regions and you will read that the gap between the Loire and Marlborough is narrowing. Wines from both areas were brought together in a London tasting in 2019. Jamie Goode and Rebecca Gibb MW made the case for the regions. In blind tastings, several MWs and leading wine experts mistook New Zealand Sauvignons for Loire wines and vice versa.

Victoria Kukla told DRN: “New Zealand and the Loire are always pitted against each other when it comes to Sauvignon Blanc. People have preconceptions about both regions, but Sauvignon Blanc has evolved so much and there’s so much talent working in New Zealand and going over to the Loire, and vice versa and we just felt that with this tasting we wanted to challenge all the preconceptions that people had.” Read more here. Henri Bourgeois below are involved in wine-making in both France and New Zealand.

Henri Bourgeois La Porte de l' Abbaye Pouilly-Fumé 2018, 13%, €25.95 O’Briens Wine.

For 10 generations, the label declares, the Bourgeois family have been producing handcrafted wines that “reflect our terroirs, our traditions, our passions”. Food pairings suggested for this Sauvignon Blanc are: fish, white meat, goat cheese or a simple scallops tartare with lime. Best served 10-12 degrees. Other suggestions I’ve seen are Turbot with spinach and feta cheese, or a Crottin de Chavignol goat cheese with toasted sesame seeds.

O’Brien’s are very strong on this one: “Henri Bourgeois is one of the Loire's most celebrated premium producers. This Sauvignon Blanc has been a real revelation. This unoaked white wine has an electric balance between fresh mouth-watering fruit and a benchmark mineral character characteristic of Sauvignon Blanc grown on a great terroir. Absolutely delicious.” And, having giving it a good run, I agree.

Colour is light straw with green tints. Pear and citrus combine in the calm scents, nothing like the pungent Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs. Quite a minerally tingle on the palate, lime and pear in the mouthwatering flavour, fresh and lively and the finish is persistent and dry. Matured on its lees for five months, it has an excellent mouthfeel. Concentrated and elegant, this is Very Highly Recommended.

Gitton Père & Fils Clos Joanne D’Orion Pouilly Fumé (AOC) 2017, 13%, Karwig 13.95 in 2019 closing-down sale

This Sauvignon Blanc shows as a lovely bright gold in the glass. More herbaceous than fruity in the aromas (which are nowhere near as pungent as you’d find in the Marlborough version). Fresh and fruity on the palate. Crisp and acidic, and dry of course, and the cirtrus-y finish is long and satisfying. Suggested pairings are white fish, seafood, and goats cheese. Highly Recommended.

Pouilly Fumé is one the signature wines of the Loire area. The fumé is French for 'smoky'. According to Wine-Searcher, it denotes the struck gunflint aroma that characterises the local Sauvignon Blanc wines. This distinctive smell is often referred to as pierre à fusil, which means 'flint' (literally 'rifle stone'). It is a key point of differentiation for Pouilly-Fumé's winemakers, and a source of great local pride.” Can’t say I got any convincing trace of it in the scent here!

Monday, October 21, 2019

If strong winds are forecast, this is the wine that you need!

If strong winds are forecast, this is the wine that you need!

Breton Avis de Vin Fort Bourgueil (AOC) 2017, 12.5%, €21.95 64 Wine Dublin, Bradley’s of Cork, Greenman Dublin, Le Caveau Kilkenny

Immediately north east of the confluence of the two rivers (Loire & its tributary Vienne) you come to Bourgueil and appellations named after that town and its close neighbour St Nicolas de Bourgueil. Wine is so important here that there is a huge wine bottle outside the church in St Nicolas and a large bunch of grapes is a centrepoint on at least one roundabout. The reds here and in Chinon, across the Loire to the south, are often excellent. As the World Atlas of Wine declares: "For its quality, it is absurdly undervalued".

Cabernet Franc is the red grape in these parts and this is a slightly unusual example, made in the style of a Clairet (indicated on the label), a cross between a rosé and a red. 

Colour though is dark enough, mid to dark ruby. Aromas are of fresh red fruit. It is undeniably fresh and light on the palate, easy-drinking and something of a thirst quencher. Barely a trace of tannin, just enough to dry the lips a bit - and a pleasant finish to boot. This vin de soif is Highly Recommended for that picnic or a sneaky glass at lunch before returning to the daily grind. 

A husband-and-wife operation in the Loire Valley, Catherine and Pierre Breton, based in the commune of Restigné, have recently celebrated their 30th vintage and have built their reputation on making pure Cabernet Francs from Bourgueil and neighbouring Chinon using biodynamic viticulture and vinification.

The vineyards see ultra-intense organic care, no mean feat in this northerly clime though by no means unique either; they avoid chemical fertilisers and weed killers, restrict yields and harvest by hand. The Bretons use indigenous yeasts and their desire for “natural” winemaking comes through strong in their resistance to the use of sulphites, with typically just 10 mg/l added at bottling to many cuvées, although some are bottled without any sulphites at all. And they are bottled unfiltered. This one is raised in Grenier wood barrels until spring, bottled in April with minimal sulphur. There was a little bit of sediment in this bottle, nothing to worry about but you may prefer to decant.

The wine’s name is a reference to the maritime warning “Avis de Vent Fort” (meaning strong winds are in the forecast), and is a play on words to evoke the idea that if the weather is bad, one should sail back to shore and have a glass of wine instead.