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
Spit is one of my favourite tastings of the year. Sadly there is no longer an evening session open to the public, but all of the wines featured below are available through independent retailers and online shops. For Spit, four of our best importers come together for a few hours, each offering around twenty of their wines – making a manageable number of wines to taste. I tasted ten wines from each, plus a few more that I couldn’t resist. Below, four of my favourites amongst many.
TERRE DE L’ELU, ANJOU I have always been a fan of Loire Cab Franc and was delighted to come across Thomas Carson of Terre de l’Elu in Anjou who clearly shares my enthusiasm. While his Chenin was excellent and he had possibly the best Pineau d’Aunis I have ever tasted, it was the l’Aiglerie Cabernet Franc that was the star for me.
L’Aiglerie 2019, Anjou, Terre de ‘Elu Smooth refined red summer fruits with herbs and a touch of lead pencil. It has a long savoury finish and a lovely lightness and elegance throughout.
The team in Vinostito have been singing the praises of Domaine des Deux Clés for some time but I never really got the wines until now. Florian Richter had five of his wines on show, each one exceptional. I have chosen the Roussanne, the most expensive wine, but I would be happy to drink any of them.
Deux Clés Jeux des Clés Blanc 2022, IGP Made from thirty year old vines, from a vineyard at three hundred metres, fermented with indigenous yeasts, aged in Burgundy barriques, this is very refined and beautiful wine. A pure Roussanne that balances richness and texture with a fine acidity, and lovely length. The allocation for Ireland this year is 60 bottles.
€31 from Green Man Wines, D6W, 64Wine, Glasthule.
A long-time favourite producer of mine, this domaine produces authentic, pure wines with a wonderful soft elegance and seductive charming warmth. Although almost all are labelled mere Côtes du Rhône, they are as good as any in the southern Rhône. It is possible that they might improve with age but they are all instantly drinkable now and never last long in my house. Mère et fils Gramenon have been to the forefront of the low intervention, biodynamic movement in the Rhône Valley.
The La Sagesse is very Grenache with delicious complex sweet strawberry fruits that are never overly ripe or heavy, with a touch of spice. Rich and silky with excellent concentration and length.
€39 from Sheridan’s Cheesemongers and MacCurtain Wine Cellar, Cork.
DOMAINE FABIEN TROSSET, SAVOIE
Fabian Trosset and his wife Chloé run this small domaine in Savoie, in the foothills of the French Alps. As you might expect, vineyard exposure is important in the cool climate. The wines have a wonderful vibrancy freshness and delicacy. Trosset is best-known for championing the red Mondeuse grape, but it was two white wines that impressed me most at the tasting. While his more expensive Petite Arvine is exceptional, so too is the Les Cerisiers below.
Chignin Bergeron Les Cerisiers 2022
Gold in colour, this Roussanne explodes with vibrant rich pineapple, peach and apricot fruits underpinned by cleansing fresh acidity. Succulent and fleshy with good intensity of flavour. This is great wine.
Landing at the airport of Catania you are immediately aware that you are in the shadow of Europe’s most active volcano. A thick layer of dark grey dust still carpets the car park, evidence of a recent eruption that closed the airport for a few days. In the background a whisp of white smoke emanates from the top of the massive Mount Etna. The inhabitants in bustling Catania seem unperturbed.
Etna is 3,500 metres high, towering over the surrounding area. Vines have been grown here for centuries, mostly by families to make wine for their own use. Until recently the wines of Etna were unknown outside the area, although Marco de Graze of Tenuta delle Terre Nere argues that the wines were highly prized in the 1920’s. Things have certainly changed now. Over the last two decades these have become some the most sought-after vineyards in the whole of Italy.
The constant eruptions over millennia have created a unique patchwork of sites for growing vines. There is sandy volcanic ash, pebbles, rocks and solid lava. Add in some hot Mediterranean sun, a huge range of altitudes (including some of Europe’s highest vineyards) and you have an exciting, if complex range of terroirs to grow grapes. The sandy soils and relative isolation of Etna mean that there are plenty of century old pre phylloxera ungrafted vines.
Vineyards are terraced to avoid erosion and most vines are grown a l’alberello a bush vine grown up a single wooden stake to keep it upright in the constant winds. The vineyards form a crescent from north, down the eastern slopes to the south. In general the south is warmer and the wines a little riper, while the north and eastern slopes are cooler. However, elevation also plays a huge part, and a high-altitude southern vineyard can produce very crisp elegant wines.
The initial excitement surrounding Etna was all about the red wines, particularly those made using the local Nerello Mascalese grape. Some of the red wines are certainly impressive, but for the last few years, it is the white wines that have been receiving increased attention.
While there are some plantings of Catarratto, as well as Trebbiano and the local Minella, it is the indigenous Carricante that is proving the real star, a wine with the potential to vie with Italy’s greatest white wines. The wines typically have good floral aromas, a racy acidity, elegant stone fruits and a marked saline finish. While most are attractive in their youth, they age beautifully for five years or more, showing extra depth and complexity.
In this blog I feature four white wines, all available here in Ireland.
Alta Mora Etna Bianco 2020, Cusumano
Maturing nicely, taking on a little richness, with good intensity of fruit, lots of lemon peel and a lightly saline finish. Nice wine. 100% Carricante. 12.5% abv
€24.95 from O’Briens
Pietrodolce Etna Bianco 2021 12.5% €29.95
Medium-bodied with bright pear and nectarine fruits shot through with lemon zest. This shows some maturity, with a richness of fruit and touch of honey. 12.5% abv
€29.95 from Green Man Wines, D6W; Corkscrew, D2; Barnhill Stores, Dalkey; Neighbourhood Wine; Theallotment.ie; Thenudewineco.ie.
Tenuta di Terre Nere, Bianco 2022
Made from a blend of 70% Carricante, 20% Catarratto, 5% Grecanico, 5% Inzolia, all old vines. Fermented and aged in stainless steel with a gentle pressing. Bright and nervy with lime and fresh peaches, and a nervy mineral backbone. This has a real elegance and good persistence. The single vineyard Santa Spirito 2022 (Corkscrew, Harry Street, €52) is a step further upwards in quality. 12.5% abv
€30-32 from Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; The Corkscrew, D2; MacCurtain Wine Cellar, Cork; Deveney’s, Dundrum; Mitchell & Son, D1 and Sandycove; Green Man Wines, D6W.
Benanti Etna Bianco 2020
Made from 100% Carricante, this is showing some nice maturity with toasted almonds, lemon zest, apple and pear fruits. Lively and light (12% abv), there is a subtle salinity on the lengthy finish. 12% abv
€32-34 from Honest2Goodness, Glasnevin; Baggot Street Wines; Clontarf Wines.
Earlier this year I was taken on a brief trip to Germany by Generation Riesling where we visited a number of member wineries. It was a great visit, and I tasted plenty of very high-quality wines.
Generation Riesling was set up in 2006 as a means of making German wine more accessible to younger consumers. The 540 wine producers are all under thirty-six years old – apparently you receive a thirty-sixth birthday card bidding you farewell – and part of a new generation making fresh, modern, dry wines, marketing themselves using innovative methods, including lots of social media.
People who know me will be aware that I have always been a big fan of German wines, Riesling and Spätburgunder in particular. The trip certainly reinforced that and reminded of how good German Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc) and Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris) can be too. Several smaller importers import some of the finest German wines into Ireland, while the multiples also offer some very good less expensive wines. Obviously German wines sell.
None of the wineries are available in Ireland, although I understand one will shortly arrive and others are in discussion with distributors. So, this article may, for the moment, be of greater interest to our wine importers. However, I do believe that German wines will soon become an important part of every wine importers portfolio.
WEINGUT BARON KNYPHAUSEN, RHEINGAU
My first visit was to Baron Knyphausen in the Rheingau. Founded by the monks in Kloster Eberbach back in 1141, the estate has some fine vineyards including Grosse Lagen in Eberbacher Macrobrun and Hohenrain. It is currently owned and run by Frederik Baron Knyphausen. The estate has been organic for some time and will gain certification next year. They have sixteen hectares of vineyards planted with 75% Riesling, 10% Pinot Noir, as well a small amount of Red Riesling, a mutation of Rhein Riesling.
There is a very good modern visitor centre, restaurant and shop with an Enomatic tasting machine. The estate also has a ten-bed hotel with several apartments and outdoor concerts are held throughout the summer.
I met and tasted with cellarmaster Arne Wilken. I started with a very good alcohol-free Riesling, a sparkling Riesling and several other wines. The highlight was an excellent rich and full-bodied Hattenheimer Nussbrunnen Riesling Grosses Gewachs 2020. This a very good estate.
WEINGUT EGERT & WEINGUT RUSSLER
The next visit was a more relaxed affair, chatting and tasting with two female winemakers in the sunshine followed by a leisurely walk in the vineyards.
Sophie Egert runs Weingut Egert with brother Max and her parents. The nine-hectare estate is in Hattenheim, one of the famous wine villages of the Rheingau. The estate has an impressive portfolio, with holdings in 8 Große Lagen and three 3 Erste Lagen, including vineyards in Oestricher Lenchen and Hattenheimer Nussbrunnen. It is made up of 90% Riesling, 7% Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir), and 3% Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc). Tastings can be arranged, along with food, and there even a couple of guest rooms available to rent.
We started with “Viel Gebubble Riesling Sekt” a very stylish sparkling wine made by friends Sophie and Tatjana together, before moving on to two very good Rieslings, the best of which was the Nattenheimer Nussbrunnen 2020 GG. This is obviously a star estate making very high quality wines.
Tatjana Russler works in the family owned and run Friedel Russler estate. They farm 10 hectares planted with 7 different grape varieties, mainly Riesling. They are certified organic as of last month. Instead of a Riesling I tried an unusual but very good Chardonnay Grauburgunder blend, made Tatjana told me, ‘because I’m special!” The wine was pretty special too.
Incidentally Grauburgunder aka Pinot Gris is having something of a moment in Germany at present. While in the past some were quite sweet, most these days are fresh and dry, more North of Italy than Alsace.
Fritz Steitz is one of the rising stars of his generation. From a modest winery and house in the Rheinhessen, he fashions a range of wines, all good and some exceptional.
This is a family business, with 15 hectares of vines in the Rheinhessen and Nahe regions. Steitz did a degree in Business & Economics, and then a masters in Sports Management (when he worked for the Bundesliga) before studying winemaking in Geisenheim. He took over from his father. who he told me, had worked long and hard to build up the business. Much of the sales are still direct to the public. Steitz loved growing up here and loves working in the winery. He wants to offer the same opportunity to his daughter, now two years old.
Here I tasted a range of wines including a Grauburgunder, Sauvignon Blanc, Spätburgunder, St. Laurent, and two Kabinett style Riesling. However, the standouts for me were a delicious fresh crisp Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc) Quarzit and two single vineyard dry Rieslings; the Paradis 2021 from the Nahe and the Mandelbaum 2020 from the Rheinhessen.
I also tried a sweet red, made from the Regent grape, a throwback to earlier times and still popular with some of their private customers.
Viktoria Bretz is a lively, dynamic winemaker. She is the tenth generation of her family to make wine in Bretz. Prior to that the winery in the village of Bechtolsheim, was part of a monastery. The estate is relatively large, forty hectares and they buy in grapes too and produces a large range of wines.
“We are your winery next door”, Viktoria tells me, “with something for all the family. We are down to earth, our wines are well-made and well-priced.” I would have to agree. I tasted a very good sparkling wine, and a number of clean fresh well-made white wines that would work very well on the Irish market.
I had a dinner and tasting with Malenka Stenner of Weingut Stenner that evening. Very much a family affair. Malenka works with her father and brother Niklas. This is a go-ahead winery making very good wines, but also using some very innovative marketing ideas.
Stenner have developed a unique wine mosaic they use on their labels, explaining the flavours and style of each wine. Based near the city of Mainz, they produce a bewildering array of wines, covering all styles and price points. As well as wine, they make a range of spritzers, Norbert Nuss – a hazelnut flavoured liqueur, and Heidi Himbeer, a raspberry liqueur. They are also part of the Twin Wineries project that twins producers in Haifa and Mainz. They work with the Israeli Vortman winery distributing their wines in Germany.
While the Rieslings were good here, my favourites included the excellent 2021 Bodenheimer Mönchspfad Pinot Blanc and the spicy opulent Bodenheimer Grauburgunder 2021.
This is another star producer. Brother Johannes and sister Franziska Gröhl run a small estate from their winery in Weinolsheim with their parents. The family has been here since 1625. Franziska explains that her grandfather had eleven siblings, so the estate became very fragmented. Her parents inherited two hectares which they have now built up to 25. They have vineyards here and in Nierstein and Oppenheim, two better-known nearby sites. Their holdings include sought-after plots in Pettenhal, Hölle, Herrenberg and others. Johannes makes the wine (he was awarded Young Winemaker of the Year by Falstaff last year). They will be certified organic next year.
I tasted a range of excellent wines here, including the sparkling Cuvée Brut Nature, some classic Riesling Trockens and Kabinetts, and a Sauvignon Blanc. However, the highlights were three single vineyard wines, the Weissburgunder Hölle 2021, the Riesling Pettenthal 2021 and the Riesling Trocken Roter Hang 2021.
The Roter Hang, or ‘red hillside’, is a steep vineyard that runs back from the Rhine between Nierstein and Nackenheim, The exposure changes and the iron rich red soils vary as you move along. As a result, there are seven different single vineyards within the Roter Hang, all highly regarded and very much sought-after.
The Gröhl wines are now imported into Ireland by Carrington Wines.
Gina Gehring is the fourth generation of Gehring involved in the wine business, but her father was the first to concentrate solely on wine. Previous generations were coopers providing barrels to wine producers. Her father moved out of the family premises in old Nierstein in 2001, and built an impressive winery, visitor centre, restaurant and caravan park out amongst the vines. He also bought vineyards, including parcels in Ölberg, Hipping and Pettenthal in the Roter Hang. The estate is 80% white and 60% Riesling. They also grow Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Frühburgunder. They hope to be certified organic in two years’ time.
I tasted a range of wines (with some very good food) and enjoyed all. Highlights included a very good sparkling wine, a Riesling Roter Hang 2022, and a Grauburgunder Bildstock 2020.
Irish women Jennifer Thompson and Anne Rodgers spent many summers in Greece and fell in love with the culture, food and wines. They decided to form Oinos Wines, (oinos or oίνος in Greek, means wines) and import a range of Greek wines. They enlisted the help of Luis Sole Garriz, a Spanish sommelier who has worked in some of the top restaurants of Greece, and currently works in The Corkscrew wine and spirit shop in Dublin. Between them the trio have put together a very impressive range of wines, sparkling, white and red.
Three things have always held Greek wines back; firstly, they are rarely cheap. Most producers are small in scale and many of the wines are made in inaccessible parts of the country, often islands. Secondly Greece has its own amazing array of grape varieties unknown on the international market. Combine that with over thirty quality regions and more than a hundred PDIs, and you can see why many are confused.
However, many of the wines are compelling and certainly worth investigating. We see Greece as a hot sunny country so you might expect rich powerful ripe red wines. These certainly exist, but it is the white wines that have gained coverage on the international stage over the last 5-10 years. Wines made using Assyrtiko from the island of Santorini have gained a following, but there are plenty of other fascinating high-quality white wines too.
This was one of the best tastings I have attended this year, with an array of excellent wines. I urge you to try them out.
Sparkling Rosé 2021, Domaine Karanika, Amyndaio, (organic) A blend of 90% Xinomavro and 10% Assyrtiko. Delicious fresh raspberry and wild strawberry fruits and a lively crisp dry finish. 16/20 €35.50
Mantina 2020, Bosinakis Winery (organic) Made from the Moschofilero grape, this has very floral, almost Muscat aromas and a nice full rich palate of red apples and peaches, cut through with good acidity. 15/20
€26.50 from 64wine, Glasthule.
Vatistas Laconia 2021 Delicious wine and great value for money. Precise floral aromas, rich textured peaches and excellent acidity. 16/20 €23.99 Redmond’s, Ranelagh; Whelehan’s, Loughlinstown; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock.
Gerovassiliou 2022, Epanomi, Thessaloniki 100% Malagouzia. Marvellous wine with masses of orange peel, rich, ripe textured stone fruits and a lovely mineral edge. 17/20 €37 from Redmond’s, Ranelagh; 64wine, Glasthule; Searson’s, Monkstown.
Magoutes Xinamavro White Vieilles Vignes 2021, Siatista Naoussa 100% Xinomavro. Unusual in that it is made from a red grape, this is an intriguing wine with subtle strawberry fruits, a grippy note and masses of pure mineral on the lip-smacking finish. 16.5/20 €27 from Redmond’s, Ranelagh; 64wine, Glasthule; Whelehan’s, Loughlinstown; Sweeneys, D3.
Dourakis Lihnos 2021, Chania, Crete, organic 100% Vidiano. 14% Subtle rich, textured waxy with honey, herbal and floral notes and a strong mineral backbone. Lovely, subtle use of oak. 17/20
€30 Blackrock Cellar, Blackrock.
Diamantakis Petali 2022, Crete, Chania 100% Assyrtiko, 13%. Cleansing lemon zest and crisp mineral acidity with pears and a bone dry, slightly austere finish. Very well priced. 16.5
€20 from Blackrock Cellar, Blackrock; 64wines, Glasthule.
An amazing intense combination of fruit, chalky minerals with a taut, lengthy lip-smacking finish. Stunning wine. 17.5/20.
€51 from 64wine, Glasthule
Vassaltis 2022 Santorini 100% Assyrtiko 14% Fresh, lively, pure and fascinating, like licking a stone. Clean, slightly salty, with green apples, 17/20.
€66 from 64wine, Glasthule.
Diamantopetra White 2022, Crete, Heraklion, Diamantakis 50% Vidiano, 50% Assyrtiko 13.5% A fruitier style with peaches, a touch of grilled nuts, and a rounded finish. 14/20
€24.50 from Redmond’s, Ranelagh; Searson’s, Monkstown; Sweeney’s, D3.
Diamonatopetra Rosé 2022 Crete, Heraklion, Diamantakis 100% Liatiko 12.5% A distinctive rosé, quite deep in colour with minerals, red cherries, and a good dry finish. Much more interest than a Provence rosé. 15/20
€22.70 from 64wine, Glasthule.
Petali Red 2019, Crete, Heraklion, Diamantakis 100% Liatiko. Apparently Liatiko, indigenous to Crete, is difficult to grow and to make into wine. This is a fascinating wine, but I’m not sure how commercial it is. Intense aromas of green tea, herbs and black cherries, followed up by a Nebbiolo-like palate with high acidity plenty of drying tannins, and chewy dark fruits. Calls out for food. 16/20
RIo Erito Red 2022, Crete, Chania, Pateromichelakis, organic 100% Romeiko, 13% Another unusual but interesting wine. Soft, easy, leafy with sous-bois and black cherries with no real tannins. Not sure what to score it. 13.5 for quality, 16/20 for interest?
€25 from Blackrock Cellar, Blackrock.
Naoussa Red 2017, Foundi Estate 100% Xinamavro You can see why Xinomavro is so often likened to Nebbiolo. This has similarities to a (pretty good) young Barolo. Paleish in colour and firmly tannic with quite delicious savoury damsons and dark fruits. I’d love to try it in a few years’ time. 16/20.
€32 from Blackrock Cellar, Blackrock.
Naoussa Red 2020, Dalamara, organic 100% Xinomavro. My notes read ”Could be a young Barolo’. Taut and firm but the tannins are far from overwhelming. A huge concentration of high-quality dark fruits and very good length. 17/20
€38 from Blackrock Cellars, Blackrock; Sweeney’s, D3.
Old Vines Red 2019, Karanika, Amyndeon 100% Xinomavro 12.5% More open in style, pale in colour with subtle developing dark fruits and a herbal note. 15/20.
€29.95 from Redmond’s, Ranelagh; Whelehan’s, Loughlinstown; Searson’s, Monkstown.
Magoutes Red 2020, Siatista, Naoussa 100% Xinomavro 13% A very different style of Xinomavro; fragrant and floral with easy concentrated red fruits and a refined tannic structure. 17/20.
€28.95, Whelehan’s, Loughlinstown.
Moschomavro Red 2021, Siatista, Nouassa, Magoutes 100% Moschomavro, 13% Succulent red summery fruits with a leafy touch and light tannins on the finish. Attractive and very enjoyable. 15.5/20.
€26.99 from Redmond’s, Ranelagh; 64wine, Glasthule; Sweeney’s, D3; Blackrock Cellar, Blackrock; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock.
Kilma Red 2021, Crete Chania, Karavitakes A blend of Kotsifali and Mavrotrango 13% Quite pale in colour, smoky, fruity with a touch of prunes. Very pleasant, interesting and well-priced wine. 15.5/20
€24.95 from Blackrock Cellar, Blackrock; Searson’s, Monkstown; Redmond’s, Ranelagh.
Mandalari Red 2018, Crete Heraklion, Gavalas, organic 100% Mandalari, 12.7% Fresh and aromatic, with rosehips, sour cherries and grippy drying tannins. Not my favourite although others liked it. 14/20
€24.95 from Redmond’s, Ranelagh.
Diamanopetra Red 2019, Crete, Heraklion, Diamantakis 70% Syrah 30% Mandalori Earthy, leafy nose; good savoury dried fruits and cranberries with an attractive spiciness. 15/20
€24.95 No Stockists at present.
Palaia Ktima Old Vines Red 2015, Pappaiaonou Estate, organic 100% Agiorgitiko 14.5% Rich and powerful with warming red fruits, a light spiciness and smooth but present tannins on the finish. 16/20.
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 www.winesoftheworld.ie 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; Wineoneline.ie.
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.
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
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.
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; TheAllotment.com; 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