Monday, January 7, 2019
Domaine Machard de Gramont Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Beaune (AOC) 2012, 13%, €19.95 Karwig Wines
This elegant refined wine is a beauty from the high slopes of the southern Côte d’Or. Its colour is a very light red, even for a Pinot Noir. Delightful aromas of red berries (strawberry) welcome you. Fresh and smooth, more supple (muscle, if you like) than expected, more flavour than anticipated, velvety, comfortably compelling right through to the fabulous finalé. Very Highly Recommended.
The mainly red region of Hautes-Côtes de Beaune is regarded as the poor relation of its lower altitude neighbour Cotes de Beaune. Hautes-Côtes de Beaune is more picturesque but its vineyards are cool and exposed, the fruit slow to ripen. Careful replanting (to face the sun) and a more traditional approach has paid off over the decades.
At their best, according to French Wines (1999), “these light wines are supple and fruity and offer good value for money”. This Gramont, with the emphasis on its fruit character rather than on its weight, is an excellent illustration as to how the gap between these Burgundy neighbours has closed and the current opinion seems to be that Hautes-Côtes de Beaune is now only slightly less prestigious than the neighbour!
Mas Cuvée Secrète, Merlot - Cabernet Franc, Pays D’Oc (IGP) 2017, 14%, €15.95 Karwig Wine
Colour of this red blend is a dark ruby. Aromas are rich and jammy, black berries, plum, cassis. Fruity (black and red) again on the palate but beautifully restrained, fresh acidity too and a long pleasant finish. This well-made vibrant young wine is Highly Recommended. Good value too.
Jean-Claude Mas has been working on the “Cuvée Secrete” wines for seven years. This Organic Cuvée comes from Merlot and Cabernet Franc grapes with low yields. It had no added sulphur and offers great richness – a lovely wine from the Languedoc region which is the perfect match to grilled meat, pasta, cheeses and fruit tarts.
Merlot is widely credited with giving this opulent wine its complex flavours but the Cabernet Franc must be credited for the engaging Loire-like freshness.
Ferraton “Calendes” Rouge 2015, Crozes-Hermitage (AOC), 13.5% abv, €24.90 Mary Pawle Wines
Calendes is the name for the day of the new moon and an indication of time passing, an indication also that the winemaker is guided by the lunar cycles. This Biodynamic wine is one hundred per cent Syrah. The barrel ageing (20 to 30% in new oak) lasts about 12 to 14 months depending on the vintage.
It has a deep ruby colour. Ripe red fruits on the nose. Smooth and rich too on the palate with a strong waft of spice; it is ample and generous with delicate tannins and a slight hint of vanilla and the lengthy finalé also features ripe fruity notes and spices.
They advise decanting about one hour in advance; must admit I didn’t do that. Serve at 16-18 degrees. Wines from Hermitage itself are of course the most sought after in this Northern Rhone area but you can find some good ones too in the much larger Croze-Hermitage and this is one of them. Very Highly Recommended.
According to an official Inter-Rhone information booklet, these reds in their youth combine well with delicatessen meat, lamb or roasted guinea fowl. On maturity they are the perfect accompaniment to casseroles, coq au vin, rich beef stew, beef in red wine etc.
La Marouette Blanc Pays D’Oc (IGP) 2017, 12.5%, €13.50 Mary Pawle.
Sans sulfite ajouté is proudly displayed on the front label of this organic wine, one hundred per cent Chardonnay and new to the Mary Pawle list. Mary says this is “eagerly awaited” with pleasing aromas of pineapple and honey. Well rounded and supple in the mouth and a good match with fish, chicken or salad dishes.
It is produced in the heart of the Pays d'Oc in the South of France. The vinification is done at low temperature for a good conservation of the aromas. Jacques Frelin Vignobles, formerly La Maison des Terroirs Vivants, is a major French player in organic wine.
It has a lovely light to mid-gold colour. The aromas, gentle tropical fruit, are reasonably intense. And there’s a similar persistent intensity on the palate, pineapple to the fore, fresh and with a delicately buttered body and the finish is good too. Highly Recommended. Good value also by the way. Serve between eight and ten degrees. Ideal as an aperitif or as an accompaniment to fish or shellfish.
Sunday, December 9, 2018
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.
Wednesday, October 31, 2018
La Boussole Pinot Noir Les Grandes Cotes (Pays D’Oc, IGP) 2015, 12.5%, €13.45 Le Caveau
Colour is a bright ruby and the aromas feature strawberries and raspberries. It is medium bodied, smooth and juicy. Light fruit flavours much in evidence as is a lively acidity, a little spice and an excellent fruity finish. Very Highly Recommended and great value too.
Winemaker Claude Serra employs, among other things, low yields and “a ruthless approach to quality control” to ensure a wine that reflects the variety and its terroir. And that terroir is in the Ardeche region of western Provence. The fact that it’s a cool-ish area helps the Pinot Noir.
By the way, if you ever have the good luck to be in the area, try the clafoutis! And try everything else as well. All with a glass or two of this Pinot, a very good food wine. Bon Appetit!
Domaine Ste. Croix “La Serre” Vin de France 2016, 13.5%, €20.75 Mary Pawle Wines
La Serre is the name of the limestone hill which overlooks the village of Fraïssé des Corbières. The wine is blended from the fruit of old vines grown on a limestone influenced terroir : Grenache Blanc (50%), Grenache Gris (35%), Terret Bourret (15%). Under the hot Midi sun, the vineyard produces delicious ripe fruit to make this organic dry white wine.
Colour is a mid straw and you’ll note lots of micro-bubbles hanging around in the glass. It has an aromatic nose with hints of honey. Citrus fruit flavours and a striking minerality share the spotlight on the palate. Lively acidity too and a long lip-smacking finish with the aromatics lasting the pace too. Very Highly Recommended.
M. Chapoutier Gigondas (AC) 2015, 14.5%, €34.95 Bradley's Cork
Like most Southern Rhone wines, this is a blend, mainly Grenache plus Syrah, Cinsault and Mourvedre. And it is made by a man whose philosophy is summed up by this sentence: I will not use the power of death (herbicides, pesticides, other -ides) but I will use the power of life.
And, from the dry hot Provencal climate (2,800 hours of sunshine each year), this dark ruby wine is full of life. Aromas of ripe red fruits, mainly strawberry, hints of kirsch. And magnificent fruit flavours feature prominently on the palate, well-balanced though. Chapoutier is always worth following, right to a very satisfying finalé in this case. No hesitation here: Very Highly Recommended.
The VHR was always on the cards here as both Chapoutier, “the Poet of the Rhone” and Gigondas are among my favourites. For more on this fascinating winemaker check here.
Monday, September 24, 2018
SuperValu Freshen Up Wine Offering
Two Whites and a Superb Red
Regular wine shoppers at SuperValu will have noticed many new “faces” on the wine shelves. Quite a few have eye-catching labels and Kevin O’Callaghan, Head of SuperValu Wine, while well aware that you cannot always judge a book by its cover, likes “the label to sing or depict an essence or style in the very wine they are producing. …” He reckons" the art of storytelling will be the next consumer motivator.”
So let us start with a look at three wines, including two whites, from Carcassonne wine exporters LGI Wines.
Duo de Mers Sauvignon Blanc Viognier (Vin de France) 2017, 12%, €11.99
The label here sees two fish, one heading in a directly opposite direction to the other, one darker. So what’s the story? The wine goes with fish. True. But look at the wine’s name, referring to two seas. The Sauvignon comes from Atlantic influenced Gascony while the Viognier is sourced in Mediterranean Languedoc. Similarities to Australia here with the fruit coming from different regions.
Sauvignon accounts for 70% of the blend in this pleasant easy drinking light coloured wine; the Viognier adds to the white fruit elements in the aromas. On the palate, the blend is fresh, fruity and smooth. Good value and great for a party. Try it on its own as an aperitif or with shellfish, fish, and salads.
Combeval SCG Grand Cuvée Côtes de Gascogne (IGP) 2017, 11.5%, €11.99
A relatively plain label on this one, just a selection of curved lines indicating little hills and a few words confirming that it is from the sunny slopes of the south of France. All the fruit - Sauvignon Blanc 60%, Columbard 20% and Gros Manseng 20% - comes from Gascony. Gascony may not often pop up in the wine conversation but it is a producer of lovely fresh white wines and there are many vineyards here and much of the fruit (including Columbard) is used to produce the well-known Armagnac spirit, Gascony’s worthy answer to the Charente’s Cognac.
Colour is light straw and the aromas here are mainly those you’d expect of Sauvignon, herbaceous with fruits (e.g. gooseberry, apple). On the palate, it is well endowed, thanks in part to time on both big and fine lees, a tingly touch too and a good finish, somewhat longer than the Duo above. Again pair with fish and salads and treat yourself to a glass beforehand!
The SCG is a play on the well known GSM of the Rhone and neighbouring areas. Indeed, Supervalu have the Combeval GSM and the red grapes in the blend are Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. Should be worth a try also.
Dark Apparition Alicante Bouschet Pays D’Oc (IGP) 2017, 12.5%, €12.99
The label shows an ectoplasmic figure trying to break out of its containment unit. The monochrome ghost is, according to the online blurb, apparently trying to express the full body and power of the wine. Really?
Let us move on to the grape itself. Unlike many grapes, this one has a precise birthday. In 1855, Henri Bouschet crossed Grenache Noir with Cabernet Sauvignon and this baby was born and has gone on to prove quite popular, especially in the south of France. Unusually, its pulp is red which enhances the colour. It also provides fatness to the wine. Put it all together and you have a Dark Red Apparition! Really?
Let us move on to the wine itself, let the Alicante materialise! At harvest, the fruit is divided into two sections. Some fruit goes through the modern process of thermal maceration, most is traditionally fermented on skins for three weeks and is then aged for six months with French oak which “adds complexity” providing a full-bodied cuvée when both parts regroup.
Colour is indeed a dark red. Quite a concentrated melange of scents, ripe fruit, floral and vanilla. Smooth and juicy on the palate, concentrated too with initially a slight sweetness, always the merest trace of vanilla, smooth tannins (on the lips), a good dry finish. The Alicante is well and truly out of the bottle and it is an excellent drink. Really!