Showing posts with label organic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label organic. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Two Highly Recommended Organic Whites From Penedès and Burgundy

Albet i Noya Lignum! Penedes (DO) 2020, 12%, 

€16.60-17.00 Wunderkaffee in Farran Village// Quay Co.Op// The Olive Branch, Clonakilty// Harringtons, Ardgroom// Taste . Castletownbere// Organico, Bantry// Sonas , Newcastle West// Morton of Galway/ The Connemara Hamper// The Vintry, Dublin// Ardkeen, Waterford// Little Green Grocer, Kilkenny. And many more.

Light straw is the colour of this  Catalonian blend. The moderate aromas, of moderate intensity, give up floral notes along with exotic fruits and a touch of oak. In the mouth it is surprisingly rich and complex, with notes of peach and citrus, and with a long lingering finish. Highly Recommended.

The blend is off Xarel-lo, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay and they come together very well indeed. The winery itself says: There are two sides to this wine. The Sauvignon gives it a perfumed, floral nose. Xarel·lo and Chardonnay together with a hint of oak (where the Chardonnay spends 2 months) give it a little body and complexity in the mouth with a long finish.

Xarel-lo, a high-yielding white grape, is best known as the main grape in the Cava blend. Mostly found in Cataluña where Albert i Noya is regarded as one of its best producers (according to Grapes and Wines).

This organic Catalonian wine is quite versatile at the table, particularly with food from the “whiter” side such as Vegetables, Salads, White fish, Rice dishes, and Seafood and, also, as aperitif. Serve at 18 degrees.

In 1903, during the phylloxera crisis, “our great great grandfather, Joan Albet i Rovirosa, arrived in the Penedès to work the the vineyards at the Can Vendrell de la Codina estate, in Sant Pau d’Ordal”. And this is where the company still operates.

In the late seventies “an opportunity knocked on our door and, restless as ever, we decided to embrace it. A Danish company was searching the Penedes for an organic wine grower. Nobody had ever heard of organic wines. But curiosity won us over and that's how we threw ourselves into this adventure.”

Josep Maria Albet i Noya decided to try one of the vineyards, despite doubts from friends and family. But it worked out well and encouraged him to extend the practice. Healthier vines and healthier wines are the result. The winery is well known for this white and also for its red equivalent also known as Lignum!

Ambroise Bourgogne Aligoté (AOC) 2020, 12.5% ABV 

€18.75 64 Wine Dublin, Bradley’s of Cork, Greenman Dublin, Le Caveau Kilkenny

Colour is mid-gold and it is clear as crystal. The aromatics are modest, citrus and floral. There’s a creamy texture. The fruit, fresh and tangy citrus, impresses, with a streak of minerality, all the way to an excellent finish. Not a Chardonnay but a very engaging white Burgundy and very well priced as well. Produced from vines located in the town of Premeaux Prissey, this cuvée aged in vats for 10 month.

Aligoté is Burgundy’s second white grape and doesn’t really get much of a vote of confidence in its few paragraphs in Grapes & Wines but Le Caveau, importers of this bottle, report that is making a comeback lately and that our bottle “is quite a delicious example of this variety”.

Back in 2017, in St Peter’s Church (not the one in Rome but the one in Cork’s North Main Street,), I was delighted to have the chance to chat to Bertrand Ambroise and taste his delicious Burgundy wines. Organic farming is a way of life for the Ambroise family. I have been a fan of the wines for quite a while but this is my first Aligoté from them. It is a good one and Highly Recommended, especially with any creamy sauce, or shared in the garden with some cheeses and meats.

Maison Ambroise is a long established, small négociant house, who operates on 21 hectares of their own vineyards and purchase grapes from another three. They own vines in Prémeaux (where the grapes for this one grow), Nuits-St-Georges, Ladoix, Meursault, the hill of Corton, Vosne-Romanée (with some Grand Cru Echezeaux!), Gevrey-Chambertin, Vougeot, Beaune and as far as Saint-Romain. 

Bertrand Ambroise was relatively recently joined by his son Francois and daughter Ludivine, they received their organic certification (2013). Ludivine explained the move to organic viticulture is one of true belief as she lost her grand-father due to illness caused by chemicals used in the fields.

Monday, July 12, 2021

O'Briens Introduce Exciting New Wines Including This Very Highly Recommended Viognier

O'Briens Introduce Exciting New Wines

Including This Very Highly Recommended Viognier

Lynne Coyle MW, O’Briens Wine Director: “We are delighted to have recently added these exciting new wines to our range over the past couple of weeks. Six of them are organic, of which three come from our long-time Chilean partners, Emiliana.”

The two wines featured below are among the newcomers and both are on offer until July 18th. Others will come on offer after that date and we’ll get to those as well (including two more from the Emiliana Novas series). 

Watch out also for the O'Briens Spanish Wine Sale between 21st July and 2nd August.

Emiliana “Novas” Viognier Gran Reserva 2020 Valle Casablanca (DO), 14%, €12.95 until July 18th (was 15.07).

Light to mid straw is the colour of this organic Viognier from Chile’s Casablanca Valley, part of a group of wines new to the O’Brien portfolio this year. Peach and nectarine feature in the pleasantly intense aromas and also on the palate. It is quite dense and silky in the mouth, certainly ample, and the balancing acidity is key to this excellent experience, right through to the harmonious finish. Very Highly Recommended.

The vineyards, just 100km north-west of Santiago, are only 30km from the Pacific Ocean, so cooling sea breezes and ocean fogs help to moderate the long hot summer days and lengthen the ripening season, allowing the grapes to develop greater complexity of flavour, whilst retaining acidity. After fermentation, the wine is aged in oak barrels for 8 months to add a creamy texture. Those cooling sea breezes are a key factor as Viognier can easily over-ripen.

The label tells us that these “Premium organic wines are made with carefully selected grapes to create unique and high-quality products that faithfully express their terroir”. The Cabernet Sauvignon was listed as the 7th best value red in Chile by Wines of South America (pub. 2014).
We’ll have another couple from Novas (a Riesling and a Syrah-Mourvedre blend) over the next few weeks and, after this, I'm really looking forward to those.

Emiliana are one of the largest producers of estate-grown organic wines in the world. Their spectacular biodynamic vineyard and winery at Los Robles is a model that attracts visiting viticulturalists and winemakers from all over the world. General Manager José Guilisasti and winemaking consultant Alvaro Espinoza were key to establishing this project to convert a large commercial winery into a commercially viable organic one. These innovative wines are made with great care and attention and the results are inspiring.

Emiliana’s “Gé” is Chile's first ever certified biodynamic wine and is listed at #9 in the Twenty Wines to Drink Before You Die (Wines of South America pub. 2014) 

Luzon Monastrell Jumilla (DOP) 2020, 14.5%, €10.95 until July 18th (was 13.95)

This unoaked Monastrell from Jumilla in Murcia, a small region on the Mediterranean coast of south-eastern Spain, has a deep cherry colour. Intense yet elegant on the nose, a pleasing melange of red and darker fruits (cherries, plums and strawberries). And, on the intro to the palate, you immediately think juicy and fresh, as the fruit and acidity combine in impressive harmony. Tannins are pretty well integrated and the finish lingers. Highly Recommended.

This excellent newcomer has no added sulphur (as you can see on the label), is certified organic and vegan. The label calls it “honest, fresh, fruity and flavoursome” and indicates it should be served at between 14 and 16 degrees.

O’Briens: Bodegas Luzón was established in 1916 and specialises in growing Jumilla´s Monastrell grape. The estate is now owned by the Fuertes Family, who have invested heavily in the vineyards and winery. Luzón are one of our top Spanish producers, making a range of good value red wines. This Monastrell is a good example. It is a very good price point and already proving popular with our customers.

Note too the climate in this part of Spain is Mediterranean, with dry, sunny growing seasons. This helps the grapes remain healthy, disease free and allows for easier implementation of sustainable farming practices. Not all plain sailing though. says that “frosts, violent storms and torrential rains still pose real threats to vines” here.

Monastrell is known as Mourvedre in France where it is a key component of the Rhone GSM (Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre) blends.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Highly Recommended Wines from The Rhone and The Danube

Highly Recommended Wines from 

The Rhone and The Danube

We've got two lovely wines for you, red from the Rhone and white from the Danube. Organic wine-maker Jacques Frelin has vineyards all over France from the Languedoc (where he is headquartered) to the Loire. The Diwald vineyard is about 20 minutes from the Danube; they have been pioneers in organic wine in Austria and are well-known for their Grüner Veltliner.

Contrefort du Delta Côtes du Rhône (AOP) 2018, 14%

€15.62 - Widely availableFields Supervalu, Skibbereen; Scally’s Supervalu, Clonakilty; Organico, Bantry; Taste, Castletownbere; Quay Co-Op, Cork; Bridge St. Kenmare; O'Donovan's Off Licence; The Grainey, Scarriff; The Connemara Hamper, Clifden, Mary Pawle Wines

Colour  of this C-d-R is ruby, slightly lighter towards the rim. Aromas are not shy and speak strongly of soft red fruit. And that pleasing red fruit is found in the soft and velvety mouth, a confident true expression of the grapes and the region, with round tannins and a persistent aftertaste. Highly Recommended.

The label is brief but gives quite a lot of info: No sulphites. Organic wine. Produced by Jacques Frelin. Well rounded and aromas of red fruit. Matches well with red meat, spaghetti Bolognese or cheese. Serve at 18 degrees.

Frelin, whose company is called Terroirs Vivants has, for over thirty years now, 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 Bordeaux, in Gascony, in the Rhone and Provence and the Loire.

Many of the wines reviewed on this blog are organic and I often take for granted that everyone knows what organic is. Just in case you don’t, here’a a pretty good definition from the producer website:

Organic wine is made from organically grown grapes in accordance with the rules of organic farming, which specifically excludes the use of artificial chemical fertilisers and pesticides.

The winemaking process must then comply to European regulations, which limit the use of SO2, ban certain physical processes and insist on the use of organically-sourced materials. All organic producers are audited each year by an independent body, which makes the European organic logo a trustworthy seal.

Diwald Grüner Veltliner Alte Weingärten Wagram 2014, 13%  

€27.00 - Organico, Bantry; Mary Pawle Wines.

Light straw, with a touch of green, is the colour of this 2014 Grüner. Spice notes in the aromas, white pepper and rocket. Vivacious on the palate where’ll you again meet the spice, also fresh flavours of apples and pears. Complex, elegant and precise and Highly Recommended.

Mary Pawle: “These vines are about 30-40 years old and the grapes are harvested in November. Would work very well with roast pork or asparagus”.

The Diwalds (Paula and Hans) are pioneers of organic wine-growing in Austria (1980), with their roots in the region of Wagram, and the younger generation is now running the show. The Alte Weingarten is Martin Diwald's top Grüner from the oldest vineyard in the village. Painstaking selection of the best grapes all the way into October pays off with this gem.

Today, the Diwald wine style follows a simple credo: the wines – whether white, red, rosé, orange or cloudy – should be lean, elegant and cheeky, but still offer depth and body. They are individual wines which speak to our – and your – taste buds…. this Gru-Vee is just one example. By the way, their other wines from this grape are also excellent and Mary Pawle has quite a few on her list.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

The Bouchard brothers of Chablis. Organic is a method. Biodynamique is a philosophy.

The Bouchard brothers of Chablis.

Organic is a method. Biodynamique's a philosophy.

That was the word from the Bouchard brothers (above), Damien and Romain (left), as they presented an lively and informative masterclass, the latest in a series of Zoom events from Liberty Wines. The brothers, the 5th generation of their family to be involved in wine run the relatively recent Domaine de L’Enclos, relatively recent  because in 2016 the family domaine concentrated their vineyards under the Domaine de L’Enclos name (Romain had been running a smaller winery since 2007). They are in the heart of Chablis with a newly acquired winery and are “living the dream”.

Going organic takes a few years. Damien: “When chemicals stopped, it takes 3 or 4 years for the soil to recover. Now we have brought back a large variety of plants in the vineyard.” The vines of course need care. Romain: “We do some treatments but really low quantities… copper has no bad influence on our soils. We use low amount, no problem. Mistakes can happen when you are not experienced but now we have the experience.”

They were asked about the costs if going organic. Romain: “Organic is more expensive, costs are higher. Much of the process is manual so more employees (they employ 15 year round), more material, and yields are a bit lower. We now spend less on treatments - chemicals cost a fortune.”

Would they consider going biodynamic? Damien: “We are often asked that question. Organic is a method, bio is more of a philosophy. Some say ‘I don’t believe in it’ but then say ‘it is working’. Next step maybe, a big maybe!”

How have your wines been received by your neighbours? “We are not alone, we have colleagues and friends, is not a problem. A lot of people are quite interested. It is moving, if slowly, but you will sell your wines!”

While they have terrific soils (Portland, J9 on map below, and Kimméridgien J8) in their fields, they also have obstacles. The weather, including cold nights and rain and hail, can be a problem and so too can the steepness of those stony slopes in the area. 

Romain: “The weather and the slopes mean there are not that many organic wine-growers in Chablis. The steep slopes and the stones make for difficult work as does the complicated climate. But we can testify that the climate is changing. Now the problem is becoming a lack of rain!”

Care of the soil is a major ongoing part of the business. They want it “living and balanced” to get plants in good health. “We don’t touch it this month (November), we let it regenerate. First ploughing will be the end of March and we will then also cut the grass that has grown between the rows. The grass and weeds would provide too much completion for the vines if allowed to thrive between March and July.”

They are happy with progress. “Now after years of organic, we can see many different varieties of grass and herbs - very satisfying. When you have healthy soil, your vines are stronger - key to making good wine.” Pruning starts December. It is long and slow work (it continues until March) but very important,

Beauroy. And its lake!

Do they net against frost? Romain: “I would prefer nothing! But, in Beauroy, we do have a lake, created in 1978 and we use the water to spray against the frost. And we pray!”

How has acidity impacted on their wine-making over the last decade? With riper fruit, acidity has reduced. Damien: “This is another frequent question but acidity is only a part of the process. I prefer to talk balance. Can we have good balance now? Yes, even if we don’t have the acidity of earlier decades. It is not just a question of acidity. Thirty years ago it was quite difficult to have balance because of the acidity at that time.”

Their winery in Chablis

Chablis is of course famous for its acidity. “It is a strength we built in the 70s and 80s, but you cannot fix nature you know! But there’s been no need to add sugar since 2011.” Romain: “Last few years, ripeness is quite high, it is a different Chablis from that if the 90s. We want to do the wines with the grapes we have.”

Could global warming lead to vineyard re-classification in Chablis? “That’s a good question,” replied Damien. But they said it would not be easy to change in the area as the slopes face in all the directions, even though Premier Cru are south-facing mostly. They emphasised that such changes would be long-term, maybe 50-years. Besides, there is a lot of politics around this question. ”Best thing may be not to touch it!”

The brothers are “very happy with the 2020 vintage” though the long dry spell (May-July) and then rains in August didn’t help. Yet harvest was early - it was their first time starting in August. Maturity was a bit lower compared to 2018 and 2019. The result “is quite a classic Chablis style, more fresh and light. You’ll see!”

Liberty MD David Gleave, who brought the masterclass to a close, has been impressed since he began to deal with the brothers, impressed “by the beauty of the property, the energy and enthusiasm of the brothers, the quality of the vineyard and the quality of the wines.” 

Here’s to many more vintages from Domaine de L’Enclos. Check out the Liberty website for availability in your area. Ireland:  


Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Organic Wine Film Features in The 1st Night of Ideas

Organic Wine Film Features in The 1st Night of Ideas

My friend Mary recalls, that back then (twenty years ago),  there were probably about 40 stands, now it’s over 1,200 and still increasing*. She was talking about the organic wine fair, Millésime Bio, in Montpelier at the end of this month. 

Funny how things come together. Just finished reading that message when I noticed this intriguing title on a Facebook post: The 1st Night of Ideas in Cork: 'Wine Calling’. As you probably guessed, the wine word hooked me.

What’s it all about? The Irish Premiere Screening of 'Wine Calling’ is the short answer. Cork International Film Festival, in partnership with the French Embassy in Ireland, Institut Français and Alliance Française Cork, presents the Irish premiere of French documentary ‘Wine Calling’ (Le vin se lève) as part of The Night of Ideas, a worldwide initiative spearheaded by the Institut Français.

The post continues: “While there are more than 3,000 (me: reckon there’s an important zero missing here) wine producers in France, less than 3% of them use natural methods of wine production. For ethical reasons, this small community has chosen environmentally friendly practices, aimed at finding the natural expression of terroir and the living character of the wine. Director Bruno Sauvard followed this revolution in the South of France over the course of a year, from the harvest to the bottling, revealing a global movement for organic taste and sustainability.”

Less than ten years ago I remember a leading executive of the very large importer (UK and Ireland) discounting the possibility. Besides, some prominent wine writers were among the sceptics.  But the message was getting across. In 2013, at that year's Lit Fest in Ballymaloe, Mary Dowey (then with the Irish Times and a source of encouragement to Mary Pawle) said she thought the move to organic and biodynamic was one of “the most positive sides to the wine world”.  

The rise of organic wine has been quite remarkable over a relatively short period of time as Mary Pawle’s experience and figures (approximate) indicate. It was indeed Mary who was telling me about Millesime Bio. She and Ivan will be there.

“Mainly,’’ she says,  “it’s a perfect opportunity to catch up with most of our producers, taste new vintages and tank samples and generally keep up to date with the ever increasing organic wine scene and we usually have one or two gaps in our range that we want to fill.’’ Bio is held over three days, 27th, 28th, 29th January.
The Cellar Theatre in the old wine vaults of Woodford Bourne on Sheares Street, a very appropriate venue.

Still a social call to some degree for the Kenmare based wine importer but Mary brings good walking shoes. “Nowadays I have to plan my meetings carefully to minimise trekking from hall to hall.  It’s not all work though and we do have plenty of fun meeting up with old friends and importers from other countries who we've known for many years and Montpellier has plenty of decent restaurants to keep us happy in the evenings.”

While Mary and Ivan will be in the south of France, the film will be screened in the intimate Cellar Theatre of the Mardyke Entertainment Complex in Sheares Street, Cork and will be followed by a panel discussion on The Night of Ideas theme “Being alive: ecological balances and the relation of man to the world, in a global context of biodiversity loss as a result of climate change” with special guest contributors: Nicolas Manuel, film producer;  Colm McCan and Pascal Rossignol, Le Caveau Wines; Dr. Oliver Moore, University College Cork Centre for Cooperative Studies and ACR2020 and Joe McNamee, Food Columnist and Food Feature Writer, the Irish Examiner, Contributing Editor with the McKennas’ Irish Food Guide, Contributing Editor with Taste of Ireland. And the finalé will be a wine reception, an opportunity to sample organic and natural French wines, specially selected by Le Caveau Wines.

Tickets: €12 / €10 concession. Book here via the Cork International Film Festival.  The January 30th event is scheduled to commence at 6.00pm and finish at 8.30pm.

Find out about more about the other Night of Ideas events in Ireland :

  • Bio is even bigger again this year. According to the official 2020 listings, Vignerons Propriétés Associés have stall number one while Les Vignerons D’Estezargues have stall number 1356.
  • Spain's Bodegas Pinuaga, one of the growers that Mary Pawle imports from, are very clear in their motives for using organic methods and they explain it well here - you may have to use the translate button! 

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Two Good Reasons to visit Killavullen Farmers Market

Two Good Reasons to visit Killavullen Farmers Market

Lots of good things available at the Killavullen Farmers Market, excellent produce and lovely people among them, but I have two major tasty reasons (out of 102) to visit: Ciaran’s Sausage Roll and Noreen’s Mince Pies. Just as well I didn’t taste them until I got home; otherwise I’d have bought the lot, each the best in its class that I’ve ever come across.

That famous Sausage Roll!
Both Ciaran and Noreen are regular stall holders here, always doing their bit to promote the market and the idea of good local food and community. Last Saturday, Ciaran told me that it is their 17th year running. “We are proud to say we are one of the longest running farmers markets in the country!” Just two dates remain for 2019: December 14th (10.30 to 1.00pm) and the very special evening Christmas market December 21st (3.00pm to 7.00pm).

Ciaran, from Maura’s Kitchen, was displaying their great assortment of homemade hedgerow cordials, and seasonal jams, free range eggs and, of course, those delicious sausage rolls made from their own free range pigs.”
El Door's Dariusz Skulimowski, better known in the market as Dar or Darek

Noreen, Noz Ni Bhriain on Facebook, has quite a variety on her stall over the season. On Saturday, we were interested in something for lunch or dinner and so we bought a few slices of quiche (of which she had a terrific selection -we got spinach/mushroom and feta/squash) and a couple of slices of her very tempting Apple and Wild Fruit Tart. And she threw in a couple of those mince pies for free as as she did with other customers. What’s not to like?

Some artisan bread? No problem. El Door is there, with a joke and smile, and lots of breads, including sourdough. Loads of doughnuts, Danish pastries, not to mention Cornish Pasties.

Moved on then to the Chemical Free Vegetable Stall and filled a bag with leeks, kale and turnips. Again there was quite a selection here.

The products available are numerous, including local fresh organic vegetables and eggs, fruit and vegetables from small local producers, potatoes and preserves, award winning cheeses, apples and apple juice, bread and baking, flowers and plants, knits and crochet, jewellery and candles, natural soaps and organic essential oils, Irish made skin & body care products, environmentally friendly cleaning products, charity bookstall, fair trade products available at tea and coffee stall. Whats on offer varies with the seasons. As Ciaran says: “Feel free to come and browse. Our prices are competitive, our quality excellent and a warm welcome awaits you.”
Chemical free

The ‘Killavullen organic buyers group’ community stall have a great range of dried goods, preserves, herbs, spices, teas and coffees to name just a few! Available at very competitive rates they also stock environmentally friendly detergents, shampoos, conditioners etc and offer refills, when you bring your own container!

The community market was founded in 2002 following a conference on the theme of "Food we buy", in response to Darina Allen’s inspirational presentation. The market is set in the peaceful surroundings of the Nano Nagle Centre in the Blackwater valley.
Mince Pies

This market promotes the very important social side of life as well as being a commercial outlet for local producers. Having a cuppa in the cafe at the end of the polytunnel is a great chance to catch up and to make new friends. The Market encourages contributions from children who participate both in the stalls and by providing music.

That polytunnel, a godsend when the weather turns to rain, is set up alongside the car park of the Nano Nagle Centre in the Blackwater valley, just off the N72. Some lovely walks, one by the banks of the Blackwater itself, in the grounds. Just another reason to visit!

Anyone for quiche? Spinach/mushroom and Feta/squash
Killavullen Farmers Market
Nano Nagle Centre
Killavullen, Mallow
Co. Cork
Tel: 085 154 7544

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Some terrific wines to look out for in the current O'Brien promotion.

As you probably know, the current O'Briens Wine promotion is up and running and will go on until the end of December. Not too sure if the two beauties below will last that long. One is biodynamic, the other is organic, and both are Very Highly Recommended. You'll find four other sale wines covered below as well, along with brief descriptions of what organic and biodynamic, and a few other wines terms, mean, terms that keep popping up on labels these days.

Musella Valpolicella Ripasso (DOC) Superiore 2016, 14%, €20.95 (22.95)

This biodynamic wine from near Verona comes in a mid to dark ruby robe. Superb intense aromas of ripe cherries. And cherry flavours are richly concentrated on the palate, a matching acidity, the mouthfeel soft, the tannins sweet. And there’s a fruity and well balanced finish. Really excellent wine, another Very Highly Recommended for you.

The concentration here is the result of the Ripasso method. Ripasso (re-passed) wines are made by fermenting young wine with the unpressed but drained skins and lees left over from making Amarone and this process can give the  Ripasso a “super-charge”. Read more details about the method here

In this case, the winery tells us this is “ripassato” on unpressed skins of Amarone “to earn colour and structure”. The blend here is the usual threesome of Corvina (the main grape), Rondinella, and Barbera and it has spent 12 months barrel ageing (French oak). Suggested pairings are cold meats/pâtés, Duck, Nutroast, Pheasant/Pigeon, Pizza/Pasta, Rib-Eye Steak, Sirloin/Striploin/Rump steak

Musella, as well as turning out rich satisfying ripassos, are also one of the 'Twelve Amarone Families', a group of the very best producers in the region in North East Verona.

By the way, I was just reading there in Vino Italiano that Valpolicella means “valley of many cellars” (vallis polis cellae). The Modern History of Italian Wine debunks that theory though, saying the POL refers to large mounds of sand and gravel left behind after flooding in the local river but goes on to confirm that “this great land of wines has always practiced the characteristic technique of over-ripening and drying the grapes”.

Symington Altano Vinho Tinto Douro (DOC) 2018, 14%, €12.45 (17.45)

Colour of this beautifully balanced organic red wine from the Douro valley in Portugal is a deep garnet. Scents of ripe red fruits are noted. On the palate it is fresh, smoothly intense, a sweet hint of smooth tannins and, with good acidity, is harmonious all the way through to a long finish. Very Highly Recommended and fantastic value at the moment.

This wine is made with 100% organically grown grapes from the family’s vineyards, the family being the Symingtons, a leading winemaking family who have been making Port in the Douro for five generations.

As you know, much the same grapes are used for port as for still red wine. The grape varieties for the Altano are Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, Touriga Nacional and Tinto Cão. The advice is to serve at 14 to 17 degrees centigrade. It is evidently ready for immediate consumption but “has the potential to continue developing favourably up to 6 years.”

Two excellent wines from South America feature in O'Brien's current promotion.

Dozens and dozens of wines are reduced in the current O'Brien's promotion that runs up to the end of the year. I've picked a few and have a couple of South American beauties below for you. Some of the others are pretty good too and I'll come to those in the next week or so. In the meantime, check out this magnificent Malbec from over 1,300 meters in the Andes foothills - that's higher than Carrauntoohill. The other, a Cinsault, a very pleasant light red, comes from the highly regard Di Martino winery in Chile.

Once upon a time, we bought red and white and maybe rosé. But now you'll see organic, biological, natural, even orange on labels. Can be confusing, I know. O'Brien's have put a handy leaflet together to explain the terms and I'll reproduce parts here from time to time. The first two are below - hope they help!

Casa de Uco El Salvaje Malbec Los Chacayes (IG) 2016, 13.5%, €16.95 (19.95)

Purple is the colour of this organic wine from a high altitude vineyard in the Mendoza region of Argentina. The rich aromas of ripe dark fruit rise to meet you. And on the palate the big flavours (plum, dark cherry and blackberry) are matched by an excellent acidity, a harmony relayed to the decent finish (not overly long). An immediately engaging wine and Very Highly Recommended. Just 2,500 bottles are produced and the wine has been fermented in large concrete eggs.

Los Chacayes is one of four wine areas in Tunuyan in the Uco valley. The vineyard Casa de Uco is located in the valley, tucked against the foothills of the Andes Mountains, and close to Mendoza. El Salvaje (wild) also figures prominently on the label and is the overall name given to a series of organic wines that also includes, among others, a Pinot Noir and a white blend.

This wine is 100% Malbec from certified organic vineyards located at 1300 metres above sea level. This elevation maintains the fresh acidity in the grapes. Unoaked, this is a pure expression of the Uco Valley terroir. 

Enjoy with beef, lamb or char-grilled vegetables. In Argentina, I’m told they pair it with juicy Sirloin of pork, Braised lamb shoulder with roasted parsnips, or Fillet steak with chimichurri. Wine Folly says the perfect Malbec Food Pairing is Black pepper buffalo burgers with blue cheese mushrooms and rosemary infused garlic kale chips. Sounds great to me.

Alberto Antonini, Winemaker Casa de Uco, is enthusiastic: "After 16 years of experience in the Uco Valley, I can affirm that this is the exact area where the best wines of Mendoza are produced. The proximity to the Andes Mountains, the ideal day to night temperature ranges, and the fertile soil with excellent drainage, make this land exceptional to produce high end wines and develop the viticulture and enology in the most natural way possible"

De Martino “Gallardia” Cinsault Itata (DO) 2017, 13%, 14.95 (19.95)

This delightful 100% Cinsault is a light ruby, quite like Pinot Noir. Aromas are rather intense: red fruit (including raspberry) mainly, plus floral elements. Mouthfeel is soft. Smooth and fresh on the palate, the raspberry prominent again, good acidity too, and a pleasing finish as well. Highly Recommended. Maybe Very Highly Recommended if you love these light dry reds as many people do nowadays.

De Martino say this, from their Guarilihue vineyard (22km from the sea), “is a tribute to the coastal vineyards located by the southern region of Chile; it is the cradle of the country’s viticulture, with vines dating back to 1551…. A sustainable agriculture, including dry farming and ploughing with horses are practiced in our vineyards.”

Wines of South America has a very high regard for De Martino and have included some of their wines in Top Ten varietal lists. De Martino winemaker Marcelo Retamal is one of the country’s most accomplished and is known as el doctor.  “He uses no new oak, preferring larger older casks, nd promotes the use of the old ceramic tinjaras, clay amphorae, for fermentation. There are no cultivated yeasts, no filtration, and no intervention.”
Head South For This Smashing Pair,
 One White, One Red.
Or Just Head to O'Brien's!

(Below, you'll find notes on two wine terms that are now current and, also a chance to read over the other four wines picked from O'Brien's November December promotion, a versatile "six-pack" for the holidays.

Domaine Begude “Etoile” Chardonnay Limoux (AOC) 2018, 13.5%, €18.95 (21.95)

Beautiful mid-gold colour. The aromatics are quite complex, regular fruit (such as apple and pear) along with the exotic (mango) in the mix. It is certainly more of the exotic on the rich palate, quite a rounded almost creamy mouthfeel, more complex than most French Chardonnays (not that there is such a thing as a typical Chardonnay as the chameleon grape makes itself at home wherever it finds itself), good acidity too though, so the long finish is harmonious.

This Highly Recommended wine should be fine with salmon and trout, with roast chicken (even roast turkey!). The winery also says it is “heavenly with Comté & other hard cheese”. Worth a try so with Hegarty’s Templegall though I know cheesemaker Jean-Baptise may prefer a Saint-Emilion.

This certified organic wine, full-bodied and smooth, is crafted from Chardonnay grapes high in the cool climate region (hot summer days and cool nights) of Limoux. Fertilised using only natural manures and cultivated with the utmost respect for the environment, this wine is vinified and matured in the very best French oak to bring you “our finest cuvée, Etoile”.

Colour is a dark red. Intense nose of dark fruits, notes of spice, perhaps a hint of the garrigue, the scrub that thrives around here. I once stayed in a gite in Languedoc owned by a Madam Garrigue. Like the senior citizen Madame, this wine is amazingly smooth (the madame used tidy up the pool in her bikini every evening). Must say that gite was great value for money and I can indeed say the same about this Prestige, fresh, and full of fruit, enhanced by nine months in oak. No pesticides, no herbicides, just excellent value (more so with the current reduction). 

Garrigue, by the way, is a feminine noun. And since I’m on gender, the French language version of the label indicates that Syrah is feminine while Carignan and Mourvedre, the other two in this blend, are masculine!

O’Brien’s tell us that Caraguilhes is completely organic, “this estate was using organic techniques when it was virtually unheard of anywhere else”. The Prestige is their oak-aged Reserve wine and is a seriously stylish wine. 

As regards keeping the wine, the winery advices that while it has potential of 6 or 7 years, it can be drunk today. Decant one hour in advance and serve at around 15 degrees. Food pairings: Provencal lamb (if you don’t have Herbes de Provence, try thyme, sage and rosemary), roast grilled beef with olives, quail in truffle sauce. Enjoy.