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Gérard Bertrand Cigalus

Gérard Bertrand Cigalus

Cigalus Blanc 2022,
€39.95 from O’Briens

Youthful, with lots of lemon zest, rich apricot and peach. Just starting to develop. There is nice grip, subtle toasty oak, hazelnuts, and plenty of body. Nice citrus length. I would keep it 3-5 years when it will take on a rich creamy texture and opulent ripe stone fruits.

Cigalus Rouge 2021
€39.95 from O’Briens

Sumptuous ripe dark fruits with subtle mint, dried herbs, and dark chocolate. Complex with polished tannins, and a freshness throughout. Very drinkable now but it will certainly develop further in the next few years.

Every wine has a time and place. I wouldn’t drink the Cigalus Rouge every day, but when I am in the mood for a big rich voluptuous red wine, it certainly hits the spot. I suspect the new oak has been toned down a little in recent years, but it is still opulent, spicy and very well-made. I have tried it twice in recent days and really enjoyed it on both occasions.

I have always really enjoyed the Cigalus Blanc, especially when it has a few years age. I have a dwindling mini-collection going back ten years. When I had dinner with Bertrand some years ago, I was pleased to see he shared my taste, serving a ten year old Cigalus Blanc with some Mediterranean red prawns. A memorable combination.

Over a short period of time, former rugby player Gérard Bertrand has built up an impressive array of estates almost exclusively in his native Languedoc. He now owns sixteen domaines spread out over the region, as well as a recent acquisition in Cahors.

He bought the 75 hectare Domaine de Cigalus in 1995. It is a large single plot located close to Narbonne in the Corbières region. Farmed biodynamically (as are most of his estates) he has planted a wide range of grape varieties, including Grenache, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet France for the red wine, and Viognier, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc for the red. Each variety is vinified separately, with a portion fermented and aged in new oak.

The Cigalus wines were originally sold as his flagship wines, although they may have been overtaken by Clos d’Ora, in Minervois and the Clos du Temple Rosé, marketed as the most expensive rosé wine in the world.

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Kumeu River Hunting Hill Chardonnay 2022, New Zealand

Kumeu River Hunting Hill Chardonnay 2022, New Zealand

€65 from Morgan’s Wines, 64wines, Glasthule, Whelehan’s, Loughlinstown and Clontarf Wines.

Fresh citrus blossom aromas, with a touch of oak; gorgeous mineral-driven lemon and lime zest with green apples and some rich fruit too. Linear with a distinctive saline finish. Not unlike a top Puligny-Montrachet with its racy acidity and structure. A brilliant wine, but one for the long haul. 18/20

Over the last few decades, the Brajkovich family has established Kumeu River as one of the world’s great producers of Chardonnay. The Brajkovich emigrated from Croatia in 1937. After a few years, they established what is now Kumeu Estate in West Auckland. Today the thirty-hectare estate is run by the third generation of the family. During the 1980s, Michael, Milan, and Paul began moving towards producing high-quality wines made from Chardonnay. Unable to expand further in Auckland due to high real estate prices, the family purchased some vineyards in Hawke’s Bay in 2017. 

Kumeu River produces a range of excellent Chardonnays, including four single vineyard wines, a delicious traditional method Crémant and a very good Pinot Noir. I have twice taken part in blind tastings where most experienced tasters present, including myself, believed the Kumeu River wines to be fine Burgundies!

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Two Great Wines From Rioja

Two Great Wines From Rioja

Two Wines on Wednesday this week, both from the Rioja 100Km of Diversity tasting last week.

Phinca Hapa 2020, Rioja Blanco, Bodegas Bhilar

Deep in colour with peaches and tangy orange peel on the nose. Both flavours continue on to the palate, blending in perfectly with opulent apricots, lime zest, and a strong mineral element. A fascinating and original wine.

#39.95, currently on offer at €25 from Searsons, Monkstown, until the 24th September.

Bodegas Bhilar was set up in 1999 by David Sampedro and his wife Melanie Hickman. He is from the Rioja Alavesa, she from Hawaii. Today the vineyards are biodynamic and they specialise in small batches of single vineyard wines. The minimal intervention sustainable winery is built partially underground with concrete fermentation tanks. It is “off grid” using solar power.

There has been a lot of excitement about a new generation of Viura-based white wines from Rioja. This wine certainly fits into this category. The single vineyard Phinca Hapa is a blend of 82% Viura, 12% Garnacha Blanca and 6% Malvasía, fermented on the skins and then aged in large oak foudres.

Cantos de Valpiedra 2019, Finca Valpiedra Rioja Crianza

This is a very attractive smooth mature wine with elegant dark fruits, a subtle spiciness and tobacco. Medium-bodied, tannin-free and supple, this modern style Rioja offers very good value for money.

€21 from,; The Vineyard, Belfast; The Vintage Wine Merchant, Antrim.

I would try this with white meats with a bit of flavour; roast pork or herby grilled chicken.

Finca Valpiedra is a single vineyard estate set up in 1994 by the well-known Martínez Bujanda family of Rioja. It has been part of the Grandes Pagos organization since its inception. The vineyard is relatively big, some 80 hectares close to the Ebro River in Rioja Alta. There is an excellent Reserva white wine fermented and matured in French and American oak, an unoaked Petra de Valpiedra, and the flagship red Finca Valpiedra Reserva. The Cantos de Valpiedra is the Crianza and comes from select stonier parcel of vines on the estate. It is made from 100% Tempranillo and aged for twelve months in 70% French and 30% American oak.

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One slightly depressing note from the otherwise interesting Wines of Argentina tasting earlier this week. Several producers and importers mentioned that it was an uphill struggle to sell Chardonnay from Argentina – or Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Torrontés for that matter. It seems everyone wants Malbec and nothing else. I have nothing against Malbec but Argentina offers so much more. Chardonnay from Argentina can be very good and very keenly priced. Its local indigenous grape variety Torrontés produces some very interesting wines, and, included below is a Sémillon from Bodegas Mendel, one of my favorite white wines.

So instead of more Malbec, five great white wines from Argentina.

La Linda Chardonnay 2022 Luigi Bosca, Mendoza

La Linda Chardonnay 2022 Luigi Bosca, Mendoza
La Linda is part of the Luigi Bosca stable of wines. An unoaked Chardonnay with fresh tropical fruits aplenty along with peaches and nectarines. Opulent but balanced nicely with good acidity. Very good value for money.

€13.95 and Mary B’s Off Licence, Arklow.

Bodegas Salentein Barrel Selection Chardonnay 2021, Uco Valley

An award winner at the Noffla awards last year, and it is easy to see why; floral aromas, rich, textured stone fruits, with subtle notes of vanilla and spice. The oak is very deftly handled and there is plenty of refreshing acidity. This has been retailing for €20 over the last year and offered great value for money. It still does at €22.

€20-€22 – Widely available in independent off-licences including Barnhill Stores, Dalkey; The CoachHouse D14; Parcel Concierge, Dunshaughlin; McHughs, D5; Baggot Street Wines.

Bodegas Mendel Sémillon 2021, Mendoza

This has been one of the greatest white wines of Argentina for many years. It has less oak than in the past, a pity in my view, but it is still provides a wonderful combination of lush fruit and lightly toasty oak. White flower aromas, rich lightly honeyed ripe stone fruits, toasted hazelnuts and lime zest with a long dry finish. Keep a few years of drink now with creamy chicken dishes.

€22.50 – €26 from Wines on the Green, D2; McHugh’s, D5; Martin’s, D3.

Bodegas Atamisque Chardonnay 2021, Tupungato, Uco Valley

Atamisque make a range of great wines, marked by an elegance, concentration and structure that suggests they will age well. The Chardonnay is a classic, linear and tight with aromas of lemon curd and herbs. The palate is fresh and lively with generous pineapple and apple fruits, subtle oak and a persistent dry finish. Great wine, with more than a nod towards Burgundy.

€32 from Mitchell & Son, Glasthule and IFSC; Deveneys Dundrum; Redmonds, D6: D-Six off licence, D6; The Winehouse, Trim; Pete’s Wine Shop, ~D5; Nectar Wines, D14; Corkscrew, D2.

Bodegas Catena Zapata Alta Historic Rows Chardonnay 2020, Mendoza

Made from grapes grown in two vineyards, both at over 1,200 metres altitude. Fermented and aged in French oak, with partial malolactic fermentation. This is an impressive wine with subtle aromas of smoky oak and acacia blossoms; it explodes with flavour on the palate; the oak is there but never dominates, the fruit is elegant but intense, finishing very long and dry.

€35 from La Touche, Greystones; 64wine, Glasthule; Deveney’s, D14; Corkscrew, D2; Kelly’s, Clontarf;

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Pranzegg Campill 2019, Vino Rosso

€40 From 64wine, Glasthule

Full of energy with piquant pure fresh dark cherries, plums and brambles. It has a mouth-watering twist of acidity that makes it a great food wine, and a light earthiness. Elegant, with a mere 12%abv.

We enjoyed a bottle of this delicious vibrant wine last weekend with salad and plainly roasted chicken. However, I suspect the vibrant acidity would give a perfect ‘cut’ to richer meat dishes.

There are times when I receive a sample of natural wine and breathe a deep sigh. While I am very much in favour of low intervention and have tasted many brilliant wines, I hate light fizzy acidic anemic red wines or even worse, wines there taste more of barnyards than fruit. So, I put off tasting this sample for a week or more, which was wrong of me. If you still need proof that low intervention wines can sing, then the Pranzegg Campill will provide ample proof.

Martin Gojer and his wife have a small vineyard in the hills above Bolzano in the South Tyrol. They farm on biodynamic lines, producing tiny quantities of white and red wines. Some of the vines are trained traditional pergola fashion.

This wine is made from the Vernatsch grape, otherwise known as Trollinger in Germany, where it is the fourth most planted variety, or Schiava in Italy. It originates in Trentino / South Tyrol.

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Matthew Dugan and winemaker Glen Snaideri.

Matthew Nugan, owner and CEO of Australian producer Nugan Estate was in town today with European sales manager Gary Janes and winemaker Glen Snaideri to host a tasting of their wines.

Matthew’s Spanish grandparents fled the Spanish fled the civil war in 1938 and began a fruit packaging business in Griffith, New South Wales. The Nugan family was once the largest exporter of carrot juice in the southern hemisphere. Most of it went to Japan, Matthew Nugan tells me. It was part of a dynamic fruit and vegetable company that began making wine in 1993.

Nugan now owns almost 600 hectares of vines, and produce wines from various Australian wine regions, including Coonawarra, McLaren Vale, King Valley, Langhorne Creek, and Riverina. The family also grows other fruits including olives and citrus fruits.

Nugan has been a mainstay of the SuperValu Australian wine offering for a decade or more now. It is easy for wine anoraks to knock their style of wine, but they are certainly popular and form a valuable bridge between everyday inexpensive brands and more niche wines.
The wines are unashamedly commercial; the whites are generally fresh and fruity, the reds rich and ripe with plenty of oak. They are one of the leading Australian producers of appassimento wines and produce Ripasso and Amarone lookalikes.

All of the wines below are available from SuperValu.

Nugan Estate Bossy Boots Sauvignon Blanc 2023, King Valley

Lightly aromatic with fresh, clean tropical fruits and a dry finish. Good everyday drinking. €12.99

Nugan Estate Single Vineyard King Valley Chardonnay 2021

Creamy, nicely textured Chardonnay with red apple and tropical fruits, subtle toasty oak and good acidity. All components work very nicely together. €17.99

Nugan Estate Third Generation Shiraz 2021, SE Australia

A classic Aussie Shiraz with rich sweet ripe dark fruits, plenty of power and an easy smooth finish. Not currently available.

Nugan Estate Stompers Cabernet Sauvignon 2021, Riverina

Sweet jammy cassis, dark fruits and milk chocolate with a touch of spice and ripe tannins. €12.99.

Nugan Estate Alfredo Second Pass Shiraz 2021, Riverina

Made in the Ripasso style using the skins of their Amarone-style Dried Grape Alfredo. Full-bodied and powerful with masses or ripe red fruits, milk chocolate and tobacco leaf. On offer at a very competitive €13.

La Brutta Zin Petit Sirah 2021, SE Australia

Big powerful wine with concentrated dark fruits, a good tannic structure and a nice bite on the finish. Perfect with steak. €14.99

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La Tremenda Bodegas Enrique Mendoza 2018

La Tremenda Bodegas Enrique Mendoza 2018

La Tremenda Bodegas Enrique Mendoza 2018, Alicante

Elegant refreshing ripe dark fruits with a savoury note of black olives, and a light toasty spiciness. There is a lovely juicy fleshy quality to the fruit. It finishes with some well-judged dry tannins.

A good medium-bodied all-purpose wine that would go well with both red and white meats as well as Mediterranean vegetables. Keep it local and drink alongside one of those lovely paella-style rice dishes.

€19.95 from Lotts & Co, D4; Nectar Wines, Sandyford; Barnhill Stores, Dalkey: Martins Off Licence, D3; Redmonds of Ranelagh, D6; The Corkscrew, D2; McHugh’s Off Licence, D5.

Enrique Mendoza is based in Alicante in south-east Spain. He was one of the first producers in the modern era to concentrate on making quality wines. Starting out with international grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, more recently he has turned his attention to Monastrell aka Mourvèdre a variety that is indigenous to the region. As I mentioned in a previous blog on Bodega El Cèrron in Jumilla, some producers in Murcia and Alicante are looking to make lighter, more elegant wines from Monastrell. Mendoza certainly falls into this category. As well as several excellent single vineyard wines, he makes La Tremenda, his entry-level wine. Made in stainless steel and then aged briefly in oak barrels, it offers great value for money.

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Château Poitevin 2016, Cru Bourgeois, Médoc

Château Poitevin 2016, Cru Bourgeois, Médoc

Château Poitevin 2016, Cru Bourgeois, Médoc
€18.95 down from €21.95 until the 27th August from O’Briens.

This is a classic medium-bodied mature Médoc with a nice concentration of just ripe blackcurrant and blackberry fruits, good structure, a touch of spice and evolved smooth tannins on the dry finish. At less than €20, this is pretty good value for money.

Perfect with red meats – the classic roast leg of lamb would be great – or firm cheeses.

After many years of wrangling, the Cru Bourgeois system was relaunched in 2020. There are now 250 Châteaux spread out across the Médoc entitled to call themselves Cru Bourgeois. 45 of those are Cru Bourgeois Supérieur, and a further 14 are Cru Bourgeois Exceptionel. A well-made Cru Bourgeois from the Médoc can offer great value for money; there are also disappointments, something to be expected when you have such a large group, but the new system seems to provide far great consistency. According to the official Bordeaux website, the Crus Bourgeois make up over 40% of the entire Médoc production.

Cru Bourgeois straddles the gap between the much more expensive Grands Crus Classés and mere petits châteaux. For me, they should have classic Médoc structure and fruit; ripe but savoury dark fruits, granular tannins and good acidity. Those from the better-known communes such as Margaux or Saint-Julien should show some typicity too.

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Bodega El Cerrón Remordimiento 2020, Jumilla

Bodega El Cerrón Remordimiento 2020, Jumilla

Bodega El Cerrón Remordimiento 2020, Jumilla

This is a delicious medium-bodied wine with supple pure dark fruits, an attractive freshness, and a herby touch with light tannins. It offers great value for money.

Food: A good all-rounder, light enough to go with most white meats, it would also make a great partner for grilled or roast lamb.

From 64 Wine, Glasthule; Redmond’s, D6; Blackrock Cellar; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Fine Wine & Food Athlone.

Monastrell grown in the Murcia region of southwest Spain can produce very big, tannic, alcoholic wines. There are exceptions though. Earlier this year, I was delighted to come across the wines of Bodega Cerrón. All four wines I tasted were fresh, elegant and vibrant with a wonderful purity of fruit. I feature the Remordimiento as it has the widest availability, but the Matas Altas (€25 from Drinkstore, D7) is well worth seeking out.

Juan José and Carlos Cerrón are the fourth generation to farm a series of small plots of vines located at 870-980 metres around the village of Fuente-Álamo in the Jumilla D.O. The ungrafted bush vines are farmed biodynamically in limestone soils.

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Herbert Zillinger – a new Austrian star.

I have tasted the wines of Herbert Zillinger three times over the last year or so. On each occasion I have been blown away by them. I met Zillinger briefly at VieVinum, the biannual showcase Austrian wine fair. He came across as modest and unassuming but very assured when talking about his wines.

Zillinger is based in Weinviertel, a large area in north-eastern Austria, better known for producing decent everyday wines, usually made from Grüner Veltliner. The Zillinger wines are anything but everyday. He and his partner Carmen farm biodynamically in deep loess soils. They work naturally, adding only a small amount of SO2. Zillinger are members of respect-BIODYN, a group of biodynamic producers in Austria, Germany and elsewhere, including some of the very best estates. The results are spectacular. As he writes on his website “we don’t compromise. We create unique wines, wines with a profile, structure and ‘USP”. I am a big fan of Grüner Veltliner from Kamptal; these wines are different but every bit as good.

Wine Mason is the Irish importer. They list four of his wines. I see from his website he produces over a dozen, all in small quantities.

Neuland Grüner Veltliner 2021, Weinviertel
Tight and closed at first, but then explodes with flavour; layers of textured ripe green fruits, lots of ginger spice, and a dry finish. 17/20

€26 from Barnhill Stores, Dalkey, Co. Dublin;; Lilith, Dublin7; La Touche, Greystones; MacCurtain Wine Cellar, Cork; The Wine Pair, Dublin 8; SIX, Dublin 6.

Horizont Grüner Veltliner 2021, Weinviertal
Intense ripe peaches and apricots, with spice aplenty, a very mineral backbone and long finish. Gorgeous wine. 17.5/20

€29-31 from Redmonds, Ranelagh, Dublin 6; La Touche, Greystones, Co. Wicklow.

Radikal Grüner Veltliner 2019, Weinviertal
Rich, powerful and exotic with intense honey, pineapple chunks, some herbal notes too. Lingering finish. A sensational wine that will develop further. 18/20

€68-70 from Lilith, 31a Prussia Street, D7.

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