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THREE WISE MEN

One of the best trade tastings each year is held by three of Ireland’s best small importers, although strangely none of them is Irish! Each specializes in a particular part of Europe, and each shows around twenty wines from their part of the world. It makes for a very manageable, fascinating and varied tasting.

Tyrrell & Co.

I am not sure if it was the vintages or my mood, but the entire range of Tyrrell wines were showing really well yesterday, red and white wines. It helps if you are showing the 2010 and 2011 vintages from the Rhône Valley I suppose, but almost every wine seemed star quality. There were some stunning white wines, and I loved the fresh elegance of the 2011 red wines from the Northern Rhône.

Ventoux ‘Persia’ 2011 Domaine de Fondrèche

€25 from www.thewinestore.ie

The nose is wonderfully complex with a mix of peaches, pears and wet stone; the palate is both fresh and full with rich peach fruits and a strong mineral streak.

Crozes-Hermitage Blanc 2011 Domaine Yann Chave

€25-30 from www.thewinestore.ie

An exercise in elegance with light fresh limpid pure yellow fruits that glide across the palette seamlessly. Wonderful wine.

St. Joseph Grand Duc 2011, Domaine du Monteillet

€29.95 from www.thewienstore.ie

Superb, haunting fragrant nose, silky soft pure savoury dark fruits and liquorice on the palate. Not showing much tannic structure, but a joy to drink right now.

 

Grapecircus Wines

Enrico Fantasia, who hails from Venice, has an uncanny ability to select wines that are always interesting, often excellent and usually well-priced. It was the red wines that showed best for me yesterday, although I loved the San Lorenzo Verdicchio.  I also had a second opportunity to try the wines made on the estate belonging to rock star Sting (I don’t expect he gets too involved in the winemaking himself).  All of his wines can be bought in Sheridan’s cheese mongers. Grapecircus@gmail.com.

Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi 2011 Fattoria San Lorenzo

€16.95-17.50

A very rich intense textured Verdicchio with a panoply of exotic fruits, tangerine acidity and very good length. Yummy.

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Le Salare 2010, Barba

€11.95-12.50

I featured this as a wine of the week (and year) in 2012. It is lovely as ever with super fresh light crunchy red fruits, all elegance and style.

Marche Rosso ‘Il Casolare’ 2011 Fattoria San Lorenzo

€11.95-12.50

The brother to the Verdicchio above, this is another characterful wine with lovely fresh red and black fruits, an attractive herbiness and easy finish.

 

Nomad Wine Importers

Former sommelier at Patrick Guilbaud, Charles Derain has built up a formidable list of fine Burgundies and a few other French wines too. Charles@nomadwineimporters.com

St Bris Exogyra Virgula 2010 Domaine Goisot

€12.33 exc VAT wholsale

The Goisots make a range of thrilling white and red wines in the communes of St. Bris and Irancy. The Chardonnay, Aligoté and Pinot Noir are all delicious, but this was the first time I had tried their Sauvignon. It is a stunning light mineral-laden crisp dry wine with precise green fruits and an invigorating freshness.

Rully 2011 Domaine J.B. Ponsot

€14.92 exc VAT wholesale

This is a lovely medium-bodied wine with toasted hazelnuts on nose and palate, lightly textured with lanolin on the lengthy finish. A class above most other Rully.

Lombeline Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2011

€10 exc VAT wholesale

Lovely light delicate fragrant Pinot with fresh young cherry fruits – the sort of wine you could drink all day.

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M&S WINES FOR €7

Two wines at €7

For the most part, Marks & Spencer avoid the heavy discounting and spurious special offers favoured by some of the other chains. However, even here discounted wines seem to be on the increase. I have no objection to real offers, but in many cases the wines are simply over-priced to allow later discounting. In most instances, the real price lies somewhere between the original and offer price. I also have reservations about really cheap wines; very few are worth the money. However, if you buy direct from the producer, €7 does allow a retailer pay a reasonable €1.50 and still make a 25% margin. Included in this €7 is €4.10 on government taxes and duties, leaving €2.91 for retailer and producer margin, as well as the wine, bottle, cork, label and transport. The M&S wines I tasted are not bad (this is part of a range they have introduced at €7), and considerably better than some currently being sold at €5-7 elsewhere.  The Reserve de la Saurine has nice peach fruit and good acidity although it does fall away a bit on the finish. The red Marques de Alarcorn, a Tempranillo/Syrah blend is ok too; a little bit light and scrawny but just enough fruit to cover the cracks.  Both wines were reasonable value for €7,and thankfully didn’t have the syrupy confected flavors I find in so many wines at this price.

 

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MUSCADET FROM DUNNES STORES

Domaine du Bois Perron 2011, Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine

12%

On offer for €10 until 9th April, down from €11.50

I am very fond of Muscadet and look forward to the day when it returns to some sort of popularity in this country. A few years ago, I tasted some thrilling wines at a fair in Angers, but it is not easy to fid good example sin this country. Dunnes Stores are to be commended for brining in this decent well-made Muscadet. It is light and fresh with a good intensity of green fruits, a slight prickle on the tongue, and a dry finish. Very good everyday drinking on its own or with shellfish.

Stockists: Dunnes Stores

 

 

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Birthday Wines

Yesterday was my birthday, so I opened up a couple of bottles from the cellar. Two delicious wines and one disappointment.

Trimbach Cuvée Frédéric Emile Riesling 2001 (half-bottle)

12.5%

€19.99 for a ½ bottle

This is one of my favourite white wines, so I couldn’t resist buying a ½ bottle when I came across it in Greenacres in Wexford a year or two ago. Sadly the wine was completely oxidized, and undrinkable.

 

Gevrey-Chambertin 2006 Domaine Arlaud

13%

This came from the Wicklow Wine Company a few years back. Arlaud do not appear in the list of superstars of Burgundy, but I have always found the wines to be very good. The Gevrey was no exception; a lovely mature wine with soft dark cherry fruits, just the right amount of acidity and a pretty decent finish too. 15/20

Bought from www.wicklowwineco.com, who list the current vintage for around

Crozes-Hermitage ‘Le Rouvre’ 2005 Domaine Yann Chave

13%

I bought a half dozen bottles of this about five years ago, as part of my plan to buy more medium-priced wines that will improve for a few years. This was excellent, one of those wines that grows in stature throughout the evening. It had wonderful soft savoury dark fruits and very good length, with some dry tannins on the finish. I suspect it will improve further for another year or two. 16.5/20

Bought from www.thewinestore.ie a source of all things great from the Rhône. They are currently offering the Chave basic Hermitage 2011 for €25.

 

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CASTELLARE CHIANTI

CASTELLARE CHIANTI

Sara Biffoli of leading Chianti producer Castellare paid a flying visit today to show her wines. In addition to their Chiantis, we tasted wines from Rocca di Frassinello, their estate in Maremma, and Feudi del Pisciotto in Sicily. I really enjoyed the Castellare range; classic Chianti Classico, without too much oak or extraction, and an underlying minerality. The labels are quite distinctive too; apparently they chose one bird for each vintage, which then appears on every label. They were very reasonably priced too. Below, my picks from the ten wines we tasted. All of the wines are available from the Celtic Whiskey Shop, and possibly elsewhere too.

Chianti Classico 2009, Castellare

13.5%

€18.99

Lovely light fresh wine with perfectly ripe (but not over-ripe) dark cherry fruits, balanced by a nice acidity and good clean length. 14/20

 

Chianti Classico Riserva 2008, Castellare

13.5%

€24.99

A bigger wine, with lovely pure damson and black cherry fruits; smooth, medium-bodied with a lovely kick of ripe fruit on the dry finish. 15/20

 

Chianti Classico Riserva Vigna il Poggiolo 2008, Castellare

13.5%

€32.99

Moving up a level again, this single vineyard wine shows a little more oak, but still not excessive, alongside plenty of cool perfumed dark fruits and excellent length. 16/20

 

I.G.T Toscana I Sodi di S. Niccolo 2006

13.5%

€52.99

Powerful yet balanced wine with rich dark fruits, some mahogany polish spice, and a very stylish long finish. Refined, pleasantly austere and very Tuscan. Excellent wine. 16.5/20

 

Nero d’Avola 2009, Baglio del Sole, Feudi del Pisciotto

I.G.T. Sicilia

14%

€10.99

Lovely fresh perfumed wine with plump pure juicy dark fruits. A great value gluuger that would go with most red and white meats. 11/20

 

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Lunch with Enrico

Enrico Fantasia is one of the more interesting and engaging characters in the wine trade. Born on the island of Venice, he played French horn in the Gran Teatro La Fenice opera house in the city. Tiring of this, he ran a wine bar, and by a series of chance encounters ended up working for Sheridan’s cheesemongers in Galway, importing wine from Italy. He still supplies Sheridan’s with wine, but now runs his own wine company, Grapecircus, mainly supplying restaurants around Dublin. He is very knowledgeable about both food and wine, and even spent a few months working for Dario Cecchini, the world-famous butcher in Panzano in Chianti.

Italy is full of interesting wines that we rarely if ever see in this country. The current economic situation has made things even worse. Enrico laments the fact that the only white Italian wines that seem to sell here are Pinot Grigio and Gavi. I see most Gavi as little more than rich man’s (or woman’s) Pinot Grigio, so that says it all. Even Soave is seen as a little bit too esoteric. Why is it that we Irish don’t respect good Italian wine? It is often said that we don’t understand the food either – what Dublin really needs is one genuine high-quality Italian restaurant (London is full of them) and maybe everything would change. Enrico, however, is persevering, and with the help of Séan Gargano, one of the best sommeliers in Dublin, imports a range of really interesting, well-chosen wines. Most of them are available in Sheridan’s cheese shop in Dublin, possibly elsewhere too.

We had lunch in Dax Café on Pembroke Street, my first visit there. The place was buzzing. Over a strangely sweet salad of ham hock and other bits, followed by a plate of good cheese, we drank a bottle of Rosso di Montalcino.(Canalicchio di Sopra, €22.00 from Sheridan’s). It epitomised everything that is good about Italian and Tuscan wine; nicely concentrated with savoury dark almost bitter cherries, good acidity and a lightly tannic finish. A subtle rather than showy wine, but very enjoyable with food, one of those wines that opens out and improves as you work your way down the bottle.

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TWO SUMMER WINES

A pair of inexpensive wines from Wines Direct – usually I enjoy the white wines of the Côtes de Gascogne, and find the reds hard going. On this occasion the white was fine, but I preferred the delicious red. Wines Direct have a retail outlet in Mullingar, but most of their business is online. Their website, www.winesdirect.ie is well worth looking at; they have some great wines.

 Domaine Horgelus Columbard-Sauvignon 2011, Côtes de Gascogne

11.5%

€9.65

Good fresh easy-drinking dry wine, with plenty of Sauvignon Blanc character, and clean green fruits. Great value summer drinking.

Wines Direct, www.winesdirect.ie 1890 579 579

 

Domaine Horgelus 2010, Merlot-Tannat, Côtes de Gascogne

12.5%

€10.00

A tame Tannat – this grape is usually fairly severe and tannic, but this was an excellent light juicy tannin-free (just a little dryness on the finish) wine with amazingly supple ripe fruit. One to sip on its own or with lighter food.

Wines Direct, www.winesdirect.ie 1890 579 579

 

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A tasty white from Marks & Spencer

Saint Mont 2010, V.D.Q.S.

€10.99  13%

 

Made by the Producteurs de Plaimont, a large company based in south-west France, this is a really interesting and enjoyable wine at a very good price. A blend of three local white grapes  – Gros Manseng, Petit Courbu, Arrufiac, it has delicious peach and pear fruits, a touch of grilled nuts, good firm acidity, and a dry finish. Try it with white fish or  chicken.

 

Stockists: Marks & Spencer

 

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A Tale of Two Burgundies

A tale of two Burgundies

Inspired by a trip toGermanytasting Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir), I cracked open two bottles of redBurgundyfor dinner. The first was a recent purchase from the 2010 vintage, the second an elderly bottle from the cellar.

 Chambolle-Musigny 1er cru Aux Beaux Bruns 1993, Domaine Barthod

13%

I bought six bottles of this back in the mid-90s. Having had a brilliant bottle last year, I had high hopes, which seemed dashed when I first tasted this one; quite light and acidic, seemingly past its prime. However after ten minutes it opened out into a beautiful elegant wine with delicate silky-soft red fruits and a pleasing freshness. Great wine. As far as I know, Barthod is imported by le Caveau (www.lecaveau.ie) and Nomad Wines.

 

Bourgogne Rouge 2010 Domaine Guillot-Broux

12.5%

I really enjoyed my visit to this estate, high up in the hills of Mâcon. Emmanuel Gillot-Broux is a talented and thoughtful man making some lovely sappy light reds, and rich mineral ageworthy whites. As featured in the Times, this is a lovely fresh wine with redcurrants and summer fruits. I can see it improving further over the next year. From Cabot & Co,Westportand On the Grapevine, Dalkey for around €20.

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