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Thursday, August 30, 2018
Georgian Wine. The Ancient Becomes Cutting Edge
Pheasant’s Tears Rkatsiteli Kakheti (Georgia) 2016, 12.5%, €22.95 64 Wine Dublin, Bradley’s of Cork, Greenman Dublin, Le Caveau Kilkenny
When American artist John Wurdeman, then working in the Soviet Union, was persuaded by a new-found friend to get involved in a Georgian winery, they were thinking of using oak, like some were. But the local bishop put them on the right wine road: “Stay with tradition. Keep true to the Georgian way. Use no additives. Use qvevri. Have faith.”
And so John Wurdeman and Gela Patalashvili now use the qvevri and, “with love and awe”, make their wine as it has been made here for 8,000 years. “Our natural wines are made entirely in qvevri inside the womb of the earth.” A qvevri is huge earthenware vat sunk into the ground and used for fermentation and storage. Another difference is that the Georgians use skin contact extensively, hence the deep colours of the two wines in this post.
“At Pheasant's Tears we believe our primary task is to grow endemic grapes from unparalleled Georgian soil, harvest that fruit and then preserve it as wine using traditional Georgian methods.
In working this close to the vine we experience both heartache and celebration; yet every year there is a new harvest to cultivate, and the eventual discovery of a wine of untold beauty.” This is one of the beauties!
To read more on the amazing story, including how the Georgian winemakers survived a long period of Soviet industrialisation of the vineyard and the winery, get your hands on “For the love of wine” by Alice Feiring. And to understand better the philosophy behind the men and women of Pheasant’s Tears check out this YouTube video.
And so back to our bottle made from the white wine grape Rkatsiteli where the skin contact helps give this amazing amber colour. Nose is intense with a waft of honey. The palate is rich with range peel and dried apricot and walnut notes also. It is full-bodied and the noticeably dry finish is persistent, with tannins kissing the lips.
It is versatile with food (ask the Georgians who typically allow three litres per person at their legendary feasts). We tried it with Chicken Piri Piri (with a courgette and tomato accompaniment from the garden). Later, with a bowl of unadorned strawberries. And later again with a slice of courgette (a bit of a glut at present!) and walnut cake.
Made with love and awe. We drank it with love and awe. Very Highly Recommended.
Tbilvino Marks & Spencer Rkatsiteli Qvevri, Kakheti, Georgia, 2015, 12% abv, €15.00 (on offer at the time) M & S.
Okay, so you need a bit of translation. Tbilvino are the producers for Marks and Spencer who blended it. Rkatsiteli is the grape and the Qvevri is the Georgina underground vessel (an amphora) in which the wine has matured. Kakheti is the wine region in the far east of the country.
The company story begins in the twentieth century, in 1962, when one of the most powerful wine factories in the Soviet Union was launched in Tbilisi. For years the factory remained an essential part of the Soviet winemaking industry (nine of ten bottles of wine sold inside the country and abroad were made in this factory). The emphasis was more on quantity than quality until the early 1990s when it emerged as an independent wine company with a new philosophy.
M & S say this orange wine from the white Rkatsiteli grapes is made in the traditional manner. The grape juice and skins are fermented together, then partially matured in the Qvevri for several months developing the wine’s rich and unique style. So unique that wine beginners may not like it, so be careful who you offer it to.
The colour, some say orange, some amber, is striking in the glass and the rich aromas have hints of honey. Rich and deep too on the palate, dried fruit (apricot), some spice too, nutty notes also in the mix. And a good finish as well. Highly Recommended. I think food is an essential with this one and M&S recommend pairing it with mixed seafood platters, and spicy dishes such as chicken tagine or tandoori chicken.
See previous post on orange wines here.
Friday, April 13, 2018
Frogs Attack #1. Do It Again. Soon!
They came. They saw. They conquered. They, collectively the Frogs Attack, being two pioneering natural winemakers (Jean Foillard and Thierry Puzelat), a guerrilla chef (Antony Cointre) and a comedian (Sebastien Barrier) and they cornered their willing victims in a packed Latitude 51.
Cork’s leading wine bar was the ideal venue for the French influenced evening. Beverley and her staff caught the informal spirit of the occasion perfectly and we wined and dined, and laughed a lot too.
Hard to keep up with Sebastien as he roamed between the two floors. He even wandered outside at one stage, startling the customers by banging on the window and, with his phone, taking photos of the surprised faces. We were wondering was the ebullient funny man in trouble a few minutes later when a couple of cops appeared at the door but nothing to do with Sebastien!
May I introduce Jean Foillard to you, via Le Caveau catalogue: A vigneron like Jean Foillard doesn’t come around too often. Jean Foillard and his wife Agnès started their handkerchief-size domain in Morgon in the 1980’s when the majority of appellation, driven by big negoces, were (and are still) producing industrial wines. Undeterred by their surroundings, Jean and Agnès decided to embark on their own path. They returned to honest vine growing and wine making the way their grandparents did. The vines are grown organically. The same attention is paid in their cellar. There are no additives in the cellar to hide shortcuts in the vineyards because there are no shortcuts in the vineyards. The hand-harvested grapes are fermented using natural yeasts only.
|Cooking done and Le Gros relaxes|
And, quoting from the same source, Thierry Puzelat: Having met and worked with Francois Dutheil (Bandol) and Marcel Lapierre (Morgon), two pioneers of the ‘natural’ wine movement, Thierry decided he too, wanted to make his wines as naturally as possible. Puzelat’s wines are quite unique, they are highly expressive of their terroir, authentic, filled with life and have very strong personality.
Le Caveau borrowed, as we do here, this quote from Jamie Goode: ‘Thierry and Jean-Marie Puzelat—brothers—are natural wine royalty. They are making some of the Loire’s most interesting wines and are at the heart of the natural wine movement.’
|Behind the counter: Jules and Beverley|
And the wines really are superb. The night’s list: Thierry’s Clos du Tue Boeuf, blanc and rouge, and the three Morgons from Jean, all 2016, including his “Cote du Py” and the “Corcelette”. And to make things even better, they were available at shop (rather than restaurant) prices. A nice touch that!
According to his website, Antony Cointre, aka Le Gros, is not an ordinary chef, he is an enthusiastic cook. He does not have a permanent restaurant because he likes to change atmosphere and to touch lots of different audiences. …. making tasting meals in 10 steps at home for 6 or popular banquets of 650 people or even weddings in unlikely conditions.
And Le Gros, in the tiny kitchen, came up with some tasty dishes at L’Atitude. They included a Feta and Kumquat starter, then a Monkfish carpaccio with Harissa sauce, three French cheeses with date, and dessert of chocolate and, believe or not, rhubarb.
|Sebastien attacks the window!|
In between the six courses, Sebastian kept us entertained and joined up with some Irish friends to play some tunes. And all the time, we were sipping and enjoying those natural wines, the real stars of the show!
I’ll finish with a message to the frogs: Please attack us again, soon!
Wednesday, January 24, 2018
Maule Family "at Forefront of Natural Wine Movement"
La Biancara was born in the end of 80s, when pizza makers Angiolino and Rosamaria Maule bought a small plot of land, about six hectares, in the hills of Gambellara. Since the beginning, they work to develop their personal idea of wine; a wine created by the exaltation of nature, without chemicals interferences in wineyard or in cellar, in order to obtain the highest expression of terroir in every bottle.
No chemicals? How can this be done? Here’s one way. In La Biancara, there are 14 specimens of mites predators every 10 cm of shoot. Read more here.
Last September, at a Veneto Masterclass in Dublin, Dario Poddana (Les Caves de Pyrene) praised the Maule family and said they were at the forefront of the natural wine movement, and not just in Italy. “It is interesting to see how classic ways are being rediscovered, a mix of extreme tradition and extreme modernism."
Pascal of Le Caveau (who import the Maule wines to Ireland) said that this type of wine seems to have found a natural ally in the chefs that forage and said these restaurants “react well to it”.
And, in general, Francesco Maule, the son of the founders, stressed the importance of having a “very good quality grape”, otherwise there is the risk of extracting “bad things”. In the cellar, “nothing is added, nothing is removed”.
La Biancara is in Gambellara. Vino Italiano, which praises the vineyard (as does the World Atlas of Wine), says it could be argued that the (white) wines are purer expressions of Garganega than those of neighbouring Soave. Garganega is thought by some to be related to the Greco (another Mediterranean grape that I favour) of southern Italy.
Maule Garganega Masieri Veneto (IGT) 2016, 12%, €17.95 Bradley’s Cork, Le Caveau.
So here I am in deep Winter with a couple of bottles of Maule, starting with the white. Garganega is the grape from which Soave is made and here it accounts for 90% of the blend that also includes Trebbiano. The vines grow in volcanic soil. Both wines are unfiltered and no sulphites are added.
It has a strawy colour, slightly clouded. It is dry, fresh and is smooth and dewy on the palate. The year 2016 was a very hot one and the fruit benefited. The finish is lengthy with no shortage of minerality. Very Highly Recommended.
The family produce, also from the Garganega, a frizzante and a recioto. Le Caveau list the former but, sadly, not the latter!
Maule Masieri rosso Veneto (IGT) 2016, 14%, €20.95 Bradley’s Cork, Le Caveau.
In Dublin, Francesco called this their “basic red”. It is a blend of Merlot (50%), Tai Rosso (40) and Cabernet Sauvignon (10), again from the hot 2016 vintage. Tai Rosso is more or less the same grape as Grenache.
This deep ruby wine has ripe red fruit and hints of spice in the aromas. It is fresh with red fruit on the palate and that spice too. Francesco described the tannins as “a little aggressive” but, by Christmas, they have calmed down! Quality on the palate and on the finish as well. Really well-balanced and Very Highly Recommended.