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A Suitcase of Claret

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½ bottles can be very useful if dining à deux. However they are not easy to find and you will usually be charged a hefty premium. From tomorrow until the 19th April, select Centra stores nationwide will offer a six-pack of ½ bottles of Bordeaux, in a handy wooden suitcase, for a reasonable €30. I haven’t tasted all the wines yet, but the first two, Chants de Faizeau 2015, Montage St.-Emilion and Ch. de Courteillac 2015 Bordeaux, were very decent wines and good value for money at €5 each. The pack would also make a very nice gift for someone.

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BIODYNAMIC BORDEAUX – THE DELICIOUS WINES OF CH FALFAS

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CH. FALFAS

Côtes de Bourg

I have been enjoying the wines of Ch. Falfas for a few years now, and was delighted to receive an email from Terroirs in Donnybrook, mentioning that proprietor and winemaker Véronique Cochran would be showing her wines in their shop.

Véronique is originally from Saumur in the Loire, where her father Francois Bouchet, was the very first biodynamic grower. Given her upbringing it is not surprising all of her wines are biodynamic as well. ‘I could never do it another way’, she says. Their 20-hectare holding is split into two holdings, the largest part surrounding the very attractive Château. She is based in the Côtes de Bourg on the right bank of Bordeaux, and an area that can offer excellent value for money. They have around 55% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon co-planted with 10% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Malbec, all traditional in the area.

I tasted each of her three separate cuvées. The wines were of a very high quality, and well-priced too. Véronique was both charming and knowledgeable. A great way to get the weekend started.

Les Demoiselles de Falfas 2015 €23.50

Made with very little maceration, this is a delicious forward, extrovert wine with bright fresh ripe dark fruits and a good easy finish. Lovely wine and very good value. Vêronique suggests trying it with lighter foods, including tomato-based dishes. This is named in honour of her two daughters.

 

Ch. Falfas 2012 €29.50

Light elegant nose, refined blackcurrant and plum fruits, good acidity and a lightly tannic finish. Classic Bordeaux just starting to drink very well.

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Ch. Falfas 2010 €39

Excellent maturing nose and palate with leafiness, developing sweet red and black fruits, good concentration and finish. Nice wine.

 

Ch. Falfas 1995 No longer available.

Made by her late husband in a more extracted style, this had a lighter nose, showing real development, a minty, herbal character, and light red fruits. Drinking nicely now, but unlikely to improve further.

 

Le Chevalier de Ch. Falfas 2011 €59

Made from 750-780 year old vines. Super wine, with everything you look for in a young Bordeaux. Concentrated blackcurrant fruits, a lovely backbone of acidity, structured and firm with excellent length. You could drink this now, preferably decanted, but I would love to try it again in another five years.

 

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St. Patrick’s Day wine weekend

Nothing green here, but a few nice wines.

dscf7402Clos Windsbuhl Gewurztraminer 2000, Domaine Zind Humbrecht

This had been languishing in my stash for a long time, probably because I am not a huge fan of gewurz, nor of white wines that are 15% alcohol (unless its sherry of course). I took a coravined glass, and it was just as I imagined it would be; big, rich textured and sweetish, with plenty of length.

Alpha Zeta Corvina 2015

Light easy refreshing glugger, with dark cherry fruits.

Anthill Farms Tina Marie Pinot Noir 2014, Russian River, California

A present from my sister who lives in California. This might be part of the new wave of lighter more elegant Californian wines we read about. It was very good; light slightly candied ripe cherries, but with a good acidic core, and nice length. Opened out beautifully to reveal a good depth of damson fruit. 13%.

Crozes- Hermitage 2015 Yann Chave

One of my favourite wines for many years, and one that ages very well too. A bit riper and rounder than usual, probably the vintage, but very stylish elegant dark cherry and damson fruits. Will improve with time. €27.95 – will feature in the Irish Times soon.

Quinta dos Carvalhais Encruzado 2015 Dao, Portugal

An oaked aged Encruzado? It works really well, with subtle oak, lovely refreshing acidity and plenty of fruit. Not cheap at €29.99 but very nice wine.

 

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The delicious white wines of Rafael Palacios

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Regular readers will know that I am a fan of both the Godello grape and Valdeorras, the region where most of it is grown. The white wines are amongst the best, if not the best being produced in Spain at the moment (with the obvious exception of sherry). In style, with their mouth-filling fruit and excellent acidity, they have a certain resemblance to Burgundy, although usually without the oak-ageing. The quality of the wines has been recognized over the last few years, and they are now starting to take their place alongside Rías Baixas on discerning wine lists in Ireland. Yet back in the 1970’s, the grape had almost disappeared, replaced by Palomino and Alicante Bouschet. It was largely thanks to a small number of local activists, and two men from Rioja, that Godello was saved from extinction. One of those was Rafael Palacios.

Rafael Palacios is youngest of nine children. Most of the Palacios Remondo family are based in the Rioja region where they run an eponymous wine company, a restaurant and a hotel. Brother Alvaro Palacios is famous for being part of the quintet that revived the Priorat region in Catalunya, and now produces Finca Dofi and l’Ermita, two of Spain’s most revered (and expensive) wines. A nephew runs a joint venture with Alvaro in Bierzo close to Valdeorras. Rafael Palacios was always interested in white wine. On the family estate in Rioja, he pestered his father to allow him produce one; ‘I was young, I was insistent, says Rafale, ‘My father eventually allowed me to do Placet’. The white wine of Bodegas Palacios Remondo quickly became one of the most admired in Spain. ‘Then’, says Rafael, ‘In 1997 or 1998 a bottle of Godello passed my mouth. I found it completely unique as a Galician wine, a balance of Atlantic influences and richness, glycerol and body. With an altimeter in my hand I looked for the highest vineyards in Valdeorras.’

Valdeorras means Valley of Gold – the Romans mined gold here. They planted grapes when they had exhausted the mines. Over the last decade, the area has been completely revived. New plantings and new wineries abound. There are now some 2,000 growers, and 45 wineries. 90% of the wine is consumed in Spain. The climate is mainly continental but does have some Atlantic influences. The best vineyards are high up on the slopes at 500 metres, where the soils are granite and slate. The Palacios vineyards are largely in the granitic soils of Val do Bibei, one of three valleys in the D.O. They now own or farm over 100 separate parcels of vines.

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All three Palacios wines are aged in oak barrels, usually 500 litres, but any oak influence is very much in the background. Louro has some Treixadura (another local grape with real potential) blended in. Sadly the entry-level Bolo which sold for a bargain €17, is no more. Reading between the lines of what Palacios said, prices are rising and growers are increasing yields as Valdeorras becomes more popular. It is difficult for him to source good quality grapes (Bolo was partly made from bought-in grapes) at a reasonable price. The 2016 Sorte Antiga is the first vintage of this wine.

Louro 2016, Valdeorras

(tank sample) Made from 17 parcels of vines, vinified separately. Nicely aromatic, with a delicious balance of fresh, lively citrus acidity and fat pure green fruits. Lovely wine. Around €22.

 

Sorte Antiga 2016, Valdeorras (Cask Sample)

Made from a small plot of ungrafted, gobelet-trained vines planted in 1920. It took Palacios ten years to bring the vineyard back to production –‘a very emotional wine for me’ he says. There was some skin contact in the winemaking. A quite stunning wine, with grippy, slightly pithy skins, a very saline intense mineral backbone and amazing length.

 

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As Sortes 201, Valdeorras

Ripe rich melon and peach fruits, subtle grilled nuts, with a lovely elegant minerality and nice grip on the finish. Around €50

 

As Sortes 201, Valdeorras

The current vintage, and one of the stars. It has a brisker, more mineral feel than the 2015 at the moment, but still has plenty of voluptuous melon and stone fruits to back up the vibrant acidity. A great wine. Around €50

 

Sorte O Soro 2015, Valdeorras

A single-vineyard wine, north-facing and very windy, with vines planted in 1978. A herbal nose, hugely concentrated rich succulent fruit, backed up by that minerality finishing with a real flourish. Exceptional wine.

 

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My wine weekend – Babette’s Feast and more

Two bottles at home over the weekend, but scroll down for the wines we consumed at my mother-in-law’s version of Babette’s Feast.

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Occitania Mauzac Blanc 2015, Limoux, Ch. Rives-Blanques is made by a very nice Dutch-English couple, the Panmans, who have now been joined by their son. The wines were shipped by Febvre & Co for years, and James Nicholson I think. Now it is with Alken Brothers, a firm set up by Anthony & Gregory Alken. Not sure of price yet, but a delicious wine and quite unusual to see a pure Mauzac. Most of it goes into blends or the local fizz, Blanquette de Limoux. Floral, herbal nose, quite rich tropical fruits with yellow apples too, and some peach. All held together very nicely by good acidity.

La Bruja de Rozas is made by Commando G,  three young winemakers who each work in different wineries, but come together to produce a series of wines. They argue that Garnacha, as traditionally grown in the Vinos de Madrid region, south of the capital, can have something of the perfume and elegance of Pinot Nojr. It does, with plenty of alcohol and body too. This is a single village wine, from granite soils at 850 metres. Lovely wine, violet aromas, strawberry fruit, excellent mineral backbone and good tannic length. 14.5% Around €25 I think.

Babette’s Feast – in the late 1980’s, my mother-in-law, who is Danish, entertained guests to a re-creation of the menu of Babette’s Feast, a short story by Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen). It was made into an Academy Award winning film in 1988; if you haven’t seen it, it is well worth doing so, especially if you like food. My mother-in-law recently offered to cook the menu once more, and I volunteered to provide the wines. It was a hugely enjoyable evening, with excellent food. I’ll do a full blog on it shortly, but the menu runs as follows: Mock turtle soup with Amontillado sherry, blinis Demidoff (with caviar and sour cream) served with vintage Veuve Cliquot; quail en sarcophage (stuffed with foie gras, and encased in puff pastry with a truffle sauce) accompanied by Clos Vougeot. Then follows Baba au Rhum with Sauternes, and fruit and cheeses with port. It all finishes with coffee and Hine Grande Champagne Cognac. As you can see from the lineup below, I allowed myself a certain latitude with the wines, Clos Vougeot Louis Latour 1845 being scarce on the ground, but we were served excellent renditions of every dish on the menu.

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My (alcohol free) Elixir of Life

My (alcohol free) Elixir of Life

New season extra virgin olive oil.

For the last couple of years I have been given, or bought, a few bottles of new season Tuscan extra virgin olive oil. It has become one of my favourite seasonings at this time of the year.

In the past, most wine producers in Chianti Classico and elsewhere in Tuscany produced both wine and olive oil. More recently David Gleave of wine importers Liberty encouraged a handful of top estates to make high quality oil; Liberty then release the new vintage every November or December (The River Café in London are huge fans, and even have their own bottling). In some ways, it is a pity that it cannot be released freshly pressed the following summer when the salad season is in full flow. However, it is a great addition to the store cupboard in winter and spring. I have been come quite addicted to it and drizzle it at the last minute on a variety of foods, from beans, pasta dishes with courgettes, cauliflower, peppers or on plain pasta with Parmesan, roast vegetables, steak and a host of other dishes. It brightens up just about everything, adding a slightly bitter peppery kick and a pure fruity richness. With a sprinkle of pepper and salt, it becomes a perfect dressing for any winter salad too. I am sure I remember reading that extra virgin live oil is full of anti-oxidants and all sorts of other good things, so it could be classified as the most delicious of all health foods.

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The oils are expensive – €20 or more for a bottle of half-bottle, but they last a while. Not too long though; they will last a year or more but I reckon they should be finished by early summer. Check the back label for a harvest date – 2016 is what you want.

Earlier this year, David Gleave of Liberty gave a group of us an olive oil tasting in Jamie’s Italian in Dundrum. The names included Alpha Zeta, Capezzana (delicious) Petrolo, Fèlsina, and Fontodi. My favourite was the Fontodi, an organic oil, and I have a ½ bottle of that in my kitchen, but to be honest I would have been happy to have a bottle of any of these.

They are available from Fallon & Byrne; Jamie’s Italian; 64 Wine, Glasthule; Lotts & Co, D4; Thomas’s ,Foxrock, Jus De Vine, Portmarnock; Clontarf Wines; Blackrock Cellars; Terroirs, Donnybrook; Green Man Wines, Terenure; Ballymaloe Garden Café; Red Island, Skerries; Grapevine, Dalkey; Sweeney’s, Glasnevin; Hole in the Wall, D7; Redmonds of Ranelagh; Cirillo’s, Baggot Street.

 

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Tasting Dao & Friends to Dinner – the weekend in wine

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Trimbach Reserve Riesling 2010 – this featured in my wine guide this year. A great mature waxy, nutty bone dry Riesling that retails for €23. Went very nicely with prawns and a Japanese cucumber and seaweed salad.

Four wines from Dão, part of a tasting for an Irish Times article. The region produces some lovely refreshing red and white wines.

Santenay 1er cru Clos Rousseau Les Fourneaux VV 2013, Bachey-Legros – around €30 from Le Caveau, this was quite closed with spicy dark cherries and a savoury edge. Good but not great – I suspect it will improve over the next year or two, and I probably should have decanted it. Nice wine though.

Castello di Fonterutoli 2004, Chianti Classico,  Mazzei – I bought six bottles of this ten years ago. You’d need 20/20 vision to read the vintage. It was very good, medium to full-bodied, with a good tannic backbone and dark chocolate and slightly earthy very ripe dark fruits. Went well with roast lamb.

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Burgundy, Cava, Garnacha, low alcohol wine and others – the weekend in wine.

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Villa Maria Lighter Sauvignon Blanc Private Bin 2016, Marlborough

Lighter (9.5% alcohol) but still quite rich and a little sweet. It does capture the flavours of modern-day Marlborough Sauvignon. My daughter served it at her first dinner party and it went down very well. €14.99, €11 on promotion.

Segredos de Sâo Miguel, VR Alentejo

Portugal makes some very good value inexpensive red wines; this has attractive cool nicely damson fruits and a tannin-free finish. His will certainly feature again.

Agustí Torelló Mata Reserva 2011 Cava

This is the best cava I have tasted in a long time. An excellent, elegant complex glass of fizz. Not trying to be Champagne, but with a unique character all of its own. €29 from Sheridans and Mitchell & Son online only.

Marsannay ‘en Clémengeots’ 2011 , Sylvain Pataille

Given to me by Pataille on a visit there a few years back. It took a while to open out, but lovely cool savoury dark fruits, good acidity and an excellent finish. A world away from the lush ripe wines of Vosne-Romanée, but excellent Marsannay.

Vidal Reserve Syrah 2013, Gimblett Gravels, Hawke’s Bay

I raved about this wine a year ago, so I was interested to see how it has developed. The answer is very well. Lovely piquant savoury dark fruits with a very attractive slightly grainy texture. Available for €17.35 (Barry & FitzWilliam), which is fantastic value.

El Reventon 2010, Cebreros Jiminez-Landi, Vdt de Castilla y Léon

Brought by a friend to dinner, a brilliant single parcel wine, combining perfectly ripe elegant dark fruits with a fine backbone of acidity. One of the first wines made by Daniel Gomez Jiminez-Landi, a member of the Commando G gang, who make some stunning wines to the south of Madrid.

To finish, two beers to taste while watching the rugby. Could have dome with another bottle.

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Last weekend

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A very pleasant weekend, with two lovely light inexpensive Pinot Noirs and three interesting new arrivals from wine importers Vinostito, who know a thing or two about Spanish wine. A good hit rate; I reckon all of these will feature in the future, either in the Irish Times or on my blog.

Windy Peak Pinot Noir 2015 Yarra Valley

Very delicious elegant clean lively dark cherry fruits. At around €16.99 pretty good value too. This will feature as a wine of the week soon.

 

Safrà 2015, Celler del Roure

Grown high up in the mountains of Valencia, the local Mandó and Garnacha Tintorerra grape varieties make for a surprisingly light (12.5%) fruit-filled wine. Well worth investigating. Will sell for just under €20

 

Domaine de la Renne Touraine Pinot Noir 2015

A very gluggable light juicy Pinot with a slight earthiness that I enjoyed. Great value for money. €13.75 from Wines Direct

 

La Bicycleta Voladora 2015, Rioja

Apparently exclusive to 64wine in Glasthule, a delicious unoaked Rioja packed with succulent dark cherry fruits. Made by Germán Blanco, the talented winemaker responsible for the delicious wines from Quinta Milú in Ribera del Duero. (€16.50)

 

Vía Arxentea Mencía 2015, Monterrei

Missing from the pic above. I wrote about the white version least week. The red, made from Mencía, is equally good. Lovely refreshing red cherry fruits. (€17.50)

 

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2015 Burgundy – wines to buy before they disappear…

BURGUNDY 2015

This is an expanded version of an article I wrote for the Irish Times on Saturday 11th February 2017, on the 2015 vintage in Burgundy.

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I worry about Burgundy. It produces my favourite red wine, and has probably given me greater pleasure (and at times heartache) than any other wine. But now supply, always a problem at the best of times, is getting worse. And more expensive. Interest in Burgundy from the Far East and elsewhere has exploded, with collectors willing to pay very high sums for the top names. At the same time, a series of small harvests has restricted availability. And now along comes the 2015 vintage, heralded by some as the greatest since 1929. Prices are moving steadily upwards, and quantities are even more limited than usual, 20-30% less than in 2014. A number of Irish importers are currently offering ‘en primeur’ offers of 2015 Burgundy, with more to follow later this year. This means buying a wine that is still in cask, only receiving later this year or in early 2018.

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I traveled to Burgundy last November with Liam & Sinéad Cabot of specialist importer Cabot & Co. The couple work with a range of exciting producers in Burgundy, so we had the opportunity to taste a wide variety of wines. While most people tend to concentrate on red wines en primeur, they also offer some outstanding white wines as well. In addition to their own wines, the Cabots receive allocations from other importers, including a few very good names. They are also awaiting confirmation of an allocation from Georges Noellat one of the most sought-after new stars of Burgundy.

There is no doubt that 2015 was an excellent year for red wines; leaving aside the hype (and there is no shortage of that) most are laden with perfectly ripe, succulent fruit, excellent concentration and good acidic balance. In a generally warm and dry growing season, the biggest danger seems to be low acidity, and an over-supply of sugar leading to high alcohol levels. In a region that traditionally struggled to ripen grapes (and frequently added sugar to increase alcohol levels ) this is an unusual problem.

Two warnings. No matter how good the vintage, poor winemakers can still produce very average wine. Buy from producers (and importers) you feel you can trust. Many of the wines below are available in tiny quantities, so move quickly if you are interested. If you cannot find afford to buy caseloads of wine, keep an eye out for 2014 reds – an underrated vintage for both red and white Burgundy, and if you should happen to come across any from 2010, snap them up; this is an excellent vintage. I would also suggest keeping a few euros for 2015 (and apparently 2016 as well) from the Northern Rhône, as well as exceptional Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder) and Riesling from Germany. Having said that, I am certainly going to buy some 2015 Burgundy. Burgundy 2015 is being offered by Burgundy Direct, Cabot & Co., Searsons Wine Merchants and Greenacres. See below for comments on each offer.

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Cabot & Co.

According to Liam Cabot, “2015 is an outstanding vintage – it’s a vintage of pleasure and enjoyment and the wines will drink well from release, yet have the structure to age. Many are comparing it to 2005, but those of a slightly older generation also point as far back as 1949 and 1929. However there are a couple of things bear in mind. Firstly, it’s a ripe vintage which is generally good, but a few wines had excessive extraction. Those who emphasised freshness and fruit purity have produced wonderful wines. Secondly, there is quality all across the hierarchy of appellations – from the entry-level wines to the Grand Crus. Although prices are rising, it is possible to find classic wines that will deliver real pleasure at very reasonable prices. I suppose it was inevitable that prices would rise given the quality of the vintage and also the fact the vignerons now know that 2016 will be a small vintage – so for some it’s a case of “make hay while the sun shines”. That said, some producers have been a bit more in haymaking mode than others!’

Contact Cabot & Co. on 098 37000 or email sales@cabotandco.com for a copy of their Burgundy offer. Their others lists are available on their website, www.cabotandco.com My personal highlights from Cabot & Co were as follows:

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Domaine Mugneret-Gibourg

This is a great domaine, run by sisters Marie-Christine and Marie-Andrée Mugneret with their mother Jacqueline. Hard to chose here; all of the wines are impeccable, perfectly ripe and balanced, showing real elegance but with an underlying structure. I have no tasting note for the Bourgogne Rouge, but on past evidence, I would earmark this for drinking over the next few years, and the outstanding Echezeaux or Clos de Vougeot for laying down.

 

Jean Marc Millot

Jean Marc Millot, now aided by his daughter Alix, makes some beautifully understated wines with wonderful purity of fruit. I have followed the Côtes de Nuits Villages ‘Aux Falques’ for years (currently drinking the lovely 2010) and would certainly buy again. Of the other wines, I loved the fragrant, pure Vosne-Romanée, and the superb Echezeaux, but all are of a very high quality.

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Domaine Livera

The Fixin here is very reasonably priced and with its cool, crunchy dark fruits has what the French call ‘un bon typicité’.

 

Domaine Voillot

Not the most glamorous estate, but well-made wines at very fair prices. Liam Cabot tells me they age very well too. Here I enjoyed the a lovely classic reasonably-priced Volnay and an excellent Pommard Les Epenots that will certainly repay keeping.

 

Pierre-Yves Colin Morey

The intense and studious Pierre-Yves Colin Morey recently moved into a large new cellar in Chassagne. From a string of brilliant white wines, I would go for the elegant Saint Aubin ‘Le Banc’, the excellent Chassagne Caillerets, or the stunning Meursault Genévrières. To be honest though I would be very happy to have any of these wines in my cellar; they have an impeccable fresh minerality and elegance.

 

Burgundy Direct

Conor Richardson of Burgundy Direct is making his 25th Burgundy offer. He says ‘2015 Burgundy is an excellent, possibly an outstanding vintage. Though much hyped, much anticipated and certainly much sought-after, there is always the thought that perhaps ‘excellent’ and / or ‘outstanding’ vintages come around too often to merit such laurels. Skepticism is understandable in what has become an increasingly commercial world, but there will surely be no doubt that wine lovers generally and Burgundy lovers in particular can only be hugely impressed by this very, very fine vintage’.

From the very fine Burgundy Direct offer, I am a huge fan of Ann Gros and her wines, and I would love to have a few cases. I have bought both the Hautes Cotes de Nuits and Bourgogne Rouge before and always been very happy with them. But there is also Robert Chevillon, Patrick Javillier (excellent whites) de Vogué, Marc Colin, Vincent Dancer and Joblot, all excellent producers.

Nomad Wines

Ex sommeliers Charles Derain and Thierry Gillet import an excellent range of wines from Burgundy and elsewhere (see nomadwineimporters.com). Nomad Wines will wait until June to make his offer. Derain is however, very positive; ‘In Cote-d Or, the yields were quite small too, some areas showed a volume decrease of 20-30% compared to 2014. The grapes were absolutely healthy, beautiful to eat. Everything I had tried was outstanding so far, reminding me of 2005. The wines are coloured with a incredible balance and structure. It will take some time for the wine to settle. I have tried some super Bourgogne Hautes de Beaune and Nuits 2015 that will give some great value.’

Greenacres

Donal Morris reports ‘the reds are superb and certainly the best since 2005 and even surpassing it. They have a lovely purity of fruit, a luscious concentration and are very fragrant.  And this is right across the region.’ From their offer, I would head straight to Benjamin Leroux, one of the new stars of Burgundy, not forgetting Marc Morey, Robert Chevillon, Robert Groffier, Hubert Lignier and many more besides.

Searsons

Searsons of Monkstown also have a good offer. Here, I would head straight for Tollot Beaut, one of my favourite producers (the Chorey-les-Beaune and Savigny 1er cru generally offer exceptional value) and also to Comtes Lafon, including his excellent wines from the Maconnais. See searsons.com for full details.

 

 

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