Vibrant fresh dark cherry and plum fruits with a touch of spicy black pepper, good acidity and a tannin-free finish. A great all-purpose wine but best with white meats; chicken or pork chops.
€28 from Blackrock Cellar; The Corkscrew, Dublin 2; Gibney’s, Malahide; Wineonline.ie
The quality of Blaufränkisch from Austria (as well as neighbouring Hungary, Slovenia and Czech Republic) has been increasing rapidly over the last decade or so. The Ried Kulm is from a single vineyard the oldest of Heidi’s sites, planted her great aunts in 1955. Heidi Schröck was one of the first female winemakers in Austria, “certainly the first one to put it on the label” she tells me. “I didn’t think it was too difficult but looking back now it was not easy. It was physically tough. I had no forklift in 1983. Females in those days were watched very closely. I used to contact any female winemaker around the world I read about and made some life-long pen friends.” In 2001, she was a founder member of Eleven Women and their Wines, a group promoting female wine producers. In 2020, she was joined by her sons Georg and Johannes. Based in Rust on the Neusiedlersee, she makes a wide range of red, white, rosé, sparkling and sweet wines.
Spain has been one of the most exciting wine producing countries for a decade or more now. Relying on their own collection of indigenous grape varieties, every region of Spain seems to be offering great unique wines just waiting to be discovered. This week, four Spanish wines, two from well-known regions, the others from less familiar areas.
Together, they make up the complete Spanish Christmas collection.
Cava María Casanovas Brut de Brut NV Organic
Fresh orchard fruits and melons with a touch of brioche. There is plenty of citrus acidity, good depth and great length for a sparkling wine at this price. The prefect way to start proceedings at Christmas or for New Year’s Eve.
€26 from Green Man Wines, D6W; Pinto Wines, D9; Thenudewineco.ie; Corkscrew, D2; Grapevine, Dalkey; McCurtain Wine Cellar, Cork; Whelehan’s, Loughlinstown; A Taste of Spain, D2.
Made from a blend of 30% Macabeo 30% Xarel.lo 40% Parellada, this organic wine is produced on a small family-owned estate in the Penedes. I could write a book on the legal changes afoot regarding sparkling wine in Cataluyna. Suffice to say that there are some excellent sparkling wines being made at the moment, some under the Cava DO, others under the name Corpinnat, and still more labelled Clàssic Penedès. There are big moves towards better quality, and also to organic viticulture.
Gabo do Xil O Barreiro 2022, Valdeorras
Fresh and light, but not lacking in concentration, this has a lively minerality, peach and melon fruits with a lip-smacking dry finish. It has good texture and will probably fill out with time, but it is drinking beautifully now. Enjoy it with the traditional Christmas dinner starters.
€24.95 from Lilith, D7; 64 Wine, Glasthule; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Pinto Wines, D9; Deveney’s, D14.
The Godello grape, recently rescued from near extinction, is now responsible for some of the greatest white wines of Spain. Telmo Rodriguez (see below) was one of the first to become entranced by the wines produced from grapes grown on steep terraced slopes of Valdeorras. He has 23 hectares of vines here, and recently bought one small 2 hectare north-facing vineyard, which he told me, will be his final project.
Rioja Lanzaga LZ 2021 Organic
Fresh, with delightful, sweet/sour dark fruits and a tannin-free finish. Lovely purity of fruit, and decent length. This would go nicely with turkey, ham and all of the other trimmings.
€21 from Ely Maynooth; Green Man Wines, D6W; Lilith, D7; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock.
This is a traditional Basque Rioja, fermented and aged entirely in cement tanks using organic grapes from around the village of Lanziego in Rioja Alavesa.
Pablo Eguzkiza and Telmo Rodríguez met while studying wine in Bordeaux. Together they have been amongst the most influential forces in Spanish winemaking over the last few decades. Both of Basque origin, they were instrumental in reviving the winemaking history and culture in many parts of Spain. Their focus has been to work with indigenous grape varieties and local growers. Rodriguez grew up in Remelluri, the family estate in Rioja Alavesa, the Basque part of Rioja, and is focussing more of his energies here these days.
Lustau Amontillado Los Arcos NV
A lovely rich Amontillado sherry with dried fruits, toasted wood, mahogany polish and butterscotch. The perfect after dinner drink with walnuts and blue cheese.
€14.50-17 for a ½ bottle from Mitchell & Son; O’Briens; Morton’s, Ranelagh; Bradley’s, Cork; Redmond’s, D6; MacCurtain Wine Cellar, Cork; McHugh’s, D5.
In the 1980’s and 1990’s Lustau was one of the most innovative sherry producers, developing the concept of Almacenista and vintage wines. While a generation of other younger wineries now produce an amazing array of wines, Lustau remains the benchmark by which they are judged.
This week, four more wines that I couldn’t quite into my Irish Times articles but are certainly worth considering for your Christmas celebrations.
La Grange 2022 Le Landreau, Domaine Luneau-Papin Muscadet de Sèvre & Maine, Tiré sur Lie
Fresh, luscious pear and apple fruits, zingy citrus peel, and a lovely saline mineral note. Concentrated and long. All this with a mere 12% alcohol. Perfect as an aperitif, with oysters or other seafood.
€23 from Whelehan’s, Loughlinstown, whelehanswines.ie.
Luneau-Papin is one of the great producers of Muscadet, now in its 9th generation. You have to look hard to see the name Muscadet de Sèvre & Maine sur Lie on the label, as the producer would prefer us to concentrate on the village of Le Landreau where the vines are planted. From vineyards planted in 1974 around the winery, the soils are schist and mica schist, giving real verve to the wine.
Lopez de Haro Rioja Crianza 2020
Medium-bodied with smooth ripe red cherry and raspberry fruits and very subtle vanilla oak. The fruits shine through, and there is good balancing acidity to give it life. Great value for money. This would certainly go nicely with turkey, lamb or dishes with red peppers.
€16 from 64Wine, Glasthule; Green Man Wines, Dublin 6W; Martin’s Off-Licence, D3; Wineonline.ie; Thenudewineco.ie.
Lopez de Haro is part of Vintae, a very dynamic relatively young company, founded in the early part of the 21st century. They have 300 hectares of vines, half of those in Rioja, the rest in Navarra, Aragon, Toro and Ribera del Duero. The Riojas are made in a modern style with plenty of ripe fruit and subtle oak, usually offer great value for money. Look out too for their excellent white Rioja Reserva.
Chapelle de Potensac Médoc 2016
Perfectly balanced fresh, elegant blackcurrant and red cherry fruits, a light spiciness, and soft mature tannins. You could keep it a few more years, but it is perfect now. Great value for money too.
€29 from Whelehan’s, Loughlinstown. Whelehanswines.ie.
Château Potensac has always been one of my favourite wines from Bordeaux, offering a true reflection of the Médoc at very fair prices. The property is owned by Domaines Delon, also proprietors of Ch. Léoville Las Cases, Clos du Marquis and Château Nénin in Pomerol. La Chapelle is the second wine of Potensac, first released in 2002. Like its elder brother it is a classic Médoc. 75% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Cabernet Franc.
Castas Escondidas 2018, Douro, Casa Ferreirinha
Smooth and rich with intense firm dark fruits, good freshness and acidity, with plenty of well-integrated tannins. You could drink it now; I would decant it just before dinner. A bit too tannic for turkey, but this would be great with game and red meats.
Casa Ferreirinha was the first producer in the Douro region to dedicate themselves exclusively to table wine, as opposed to Port. Owned by Sogrape, they have 520 hectares of vines in various parts of the Douro valley. Castas Escondidas or ‘hidden varieties’, is a blend of some of the lesser-known grape varieties of the Douro, including Tinta Amarela, Touriga Femea, Tinta Francisca, Tinto Cão, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Bastardo, Marufo Tinto and some old field blends.
Lilian Barton Sartorius visited the K Club in Kildare recently to host a dinner featuring a selection of her wines. She was accompanied by her son, Damien and his wife Sara. Lilian’s late father Anthony Barton was born in what is now the K Club, so it was a homecoming of sorts for the family. The menu consisted almost entirely of game, not a bad thing in my book, very seasonal and very well cooked by the kitchen team.
I have always been a huge fan of both the Barton wines. The twin properties of Langoa Barton and Léoville Barton, situated opposite each other in Saint-Julien, produce classic Bordeaux at a reasonable price. In many years they are every bit as good as far more expensive second growths. In contrast to many other châteaux, they have always resisted the temptation to produce over-extracted, over-alcoholic and over-oaked wines. Damien is taking over Langoa Barton, while his sister Melanie, a qualified enologist, is working at Château Mauvesin Barton, their recent acquisition in Moulis.
All of the wines below, and other vintages, should be available through specialist wine shops.
La Réserve de Léoville-Barton 2017, Saint-Julien
Served from a magnum with guinea fowl sausage and winter truffle, this was a great start to the evening. Very much in the house style with elegant blackcurrant and dark cherry fruits, some cedarwood and spice, light tannins and a dry finish. 16/20
Château Langoa-Barton 2009 Troisième Cru Classé, Saint-Julien
Served with wild squab pigeon, smoked prune purée, parsnip crisp. Beautifully perfumed with ripe opulent rounded cassis, cedar and mahogany polish. Warming, mature and very seductive. ‘Sexy’ according to Damien Barton, and I can see what he means. 16.5/20
Château Léoville Barton 2015, Deuxième cru classé, Saint-Julien
Served with loin of venison with mushrooms, parsnip purée. Classic Léoville Barton; medium-bodied with very refined ripe blackcurrant and berry fruits, dark chocolate and very elegant but firm tannins. Linear and long. Delicious now but will certainly keep. 17/20
Château Léoville Barton 2012, Deuxième Cru Classé, Saint-Julien
A lighter more elegant style and slightly austere too, with concentrated blackcurrant fruits, good fresh acidity and a sappiness on the finish. Possibly needs a few years more? 16.5/20
Three more great wines this week that I couldn’t fit into my Irish Times articles, but they would certainly go down well with turkey, duck, beef, mushrooms or whatever Christmas dinner you are cooking this year.
Crozes Hermitage La Matinière 2021 Ferraton Père & Fils
€23.95/18.45 from O’Briens.
Smooth ripe blackcurrant and cassis fruits with a light touch of oak. This is made in a very seductive style and seems more powerful than the 12.5% advertised on the label. Not one for keeping but this would go very nicely with Christmas dinner – turkey, beef or goose.
I am just back from an excellent trip to Crozes-Hermitage, where I tried lots of exciting wines, both red and white, and mostly very reasonably priced. I didn’t visit Ferraton, who are owned by Chapoutier, but I tasted this recently and thought it offered great value for money at €18.45.
Stonier Pinot Noir 2020, Mornington Peninsula Australia
€29.96 down from €34.95 from O’Briens
Medium-bodied with fresh sweet/sour morello cherry fruits and a nice savoury touch on the finish. We enjoyed it with venison steak, but this would go with most Christmas dinner options.
The Mornington Peninsula, an hour’s drive from Melbourne, is a very popular weekend destination for Melburnians. As well as wineries, attractions include great beaches, restaurants and hot springs. Winewise, it is known for producing very high-quality Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
A delicious soft Pinot Noir with velvety dark cherries and cassis and a smooth tannin-free finish. It has just enough acidity to maintain freshness and elegance. Another wine to enjoy with whatever Christmas dinner you are serving.
As Burgundy increases in price, Pinotphiles are looking elsewhere for value. Red Sancerre has improved hugely in recent years, possibly due to climate change, but also because some growers are taking it very seriously.
I was sorry to miss the preview in St. Canice’s Cathedral in Kilkenny but delighted to receive a bottle of The Irishman Legacy, a single malt aged in barrels from Château La Nerthe in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The first known record of distillation in Ireland dates back 700 years to The Red Book of Ossory, which is kept in St. Canice’s. It is believed to have been written by the bishop shortly after his arrival from the Papal residence in Avignon, hence the connection to Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the Pope’s summer residence.
The Legacy is currently available exclusively through the ten members establishments of The Kilkenny Whiskey Guild and The Loop for €75 and will go on release elsewhere in 2024 to celebrate the 700th anniversary.
Creamy and rich with a medley of peach, blackcurrant and morello cherry fruits, a touch of caramel, backed up some subtle toasted nuts and leather. A lovely whiskey.
Spottswoode Lyndenhurst Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 A very elegant style of Napa Cabernet with cool well-balanced black cherry and blackcurrant fruits, some spicy new oak, and lingering dry tannins on the finish. Very drinkable now but will keep up to five years.
€95 – 115 a bottle from Clontarf Wines, Clontarf; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Whelehan’s Wines, Loughlinstown.
Spottswoode Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 This has more structure than the Lyndenhurst and greater concentration too. Restrained blackcurrants and dark fruits, some toast, but more a spiciness, and a firmly dry tannic finish. Classic Napa Cabernet to lay down for five years – or more.
Tiny quantities available. Try the importer Harshal@carringtonwine.com for details.
I have always had a great love for classic Napa Valley Cabernet. Today many of the wines are supercharged, overripe, sweet and over alcoholic. Not at Spottswoode, one of the great traditional Cabernet producers. I would rate them alongside those of Cathy Corison – her wines are no longer imported I think, although you may find the odd bottle in Neighbourhood Wine and other independents. Spottswoode make only three wines; a (very good, atypical) Sauvignon Blanc, the Lyndenhurst Cabernet, made from a mix of younger vines and bought-in grapes, and the Estate wine. The Cabernets are both Bordeaux blends, made in a traditional style. This means earlier picking (useful in 2020 when they had harvested prior to the fires that swept through Napa), producing wines that are lower in alcohol with good structure and ageing potential.
The Novak family moved to Napa form San Diego in the early 1970’s. “My father wanted to live in a rural environment. He was also tired of being a G.P. and wanted to do something else”, Beth Novak, Spottswoode CEO told me. He looked for somewhere large enough to raise his five children and allow his wife to enjoy her passion for gardening. They sold their grapes to other wineries for the first ten years but began bottling their own wine in 1982. Spottswoode was one of the first estates in Napa to go organic (in 1985) and are now biodynamic, solar-powered, B Corp certified, and a member of International Wineries for Climate Action.
A blend of Roussanne (35%), Verdelho (25%), Grenache Blanc (17%) and Grenache Gris (13%) this is a very seductive wine with orange peel, restrained tropical fruits, herbs and grilled nuts. A sort of Southern Rhôneish blend that really works very well.
€40-42 from Redmond’s, Ranelagh; Drinkstore, D7; Franks, D2.
Pieter Walser of Blank Bottle makes as many as fifty wines a year, most of them once-off. Each is made in small quantities from a huge variety of grape varieties sourced from all over the vineyards of South Africa. It sounds like a recipe for chaos, but it works. Obviously a talented winemaker himself, Walser has a small team of viticulturists and winemakers who work and advise growers who own plots that interest him. He refuses to put grape varieties on the label, and most of the wines are blends of two or more grapes. Every wine has a story, and a standout label too.