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My Top Twenty Wines from Marks & Spencer

MY TOP TWENTY WINES FROM MARKS & SPENCER

Of all the supermarkets, Marks & Spencer try the hardest; they certainly have the best and most adventurous range of wines. I think I have noticed a slight thinning out in Ireland at least, but it is still superior to all of their rivals, with an amazingly eclectic list of wines from all over the globe, with a heavy emphasis on the Mediterranean. At entry level they have a range of House Wines and other wines priced at €7.50-8.00. Some of these are very good. Below a small selection of my favourites, from €9 to €52.50 from recent tastings.

This article was first published in The Irish Times online edition.

 

 

 

SPARKLING WINES

 

 

Alcohol Free Sparkling Muscat NV

0%

€9

The alcohol is removed by a process known as reverse osmosis, leaving a fresh, juicy, fruit-filled glass of alcohol-free wine. You miss the alcohol a bit, but this would go down a treat at parties and any other get-together.

 

 

 

 

 

Rocca di Lago Spumante NV, Garda DOC

11.5%

€10.50

 

Made in the same way as Prosecco, this is a fresh, fruity, lightly sparkling wine with clean apple fruits. Not too sweet; I would prefer it to most Prosecco. Great value for money, and worth keeping in mind with the festive season ahead.

 

 

 

Champagne Delacourt NV – MAGNUM

12.5%

€81

If you are having a gang around, a magnum creates a real sense of occasion, and this one is very good. Champagne from a magnum generally tastes better too. Real depth and length, with rich creamy complex apples and brioche.

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHITE WINES

 

La Fortezza Vermentino 2017 Sicily

13%

€9

Perfumed and delicate with very attractive soft floral stone fruits and citrus. Great value for money.

Vermentino, usually found on the island of Sardinia, has been planted in Tuscany, and now Sicily in recent years. It has the great advantage of retaining acidity in warm climates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ken Forrester Workhouse Chenin Blanc 2017

12.5%

€13.30

 

An old favourite of mine. The current vintage is fresh and crisp, with lovely rich ripe peaches and subtle nuts and a dry finish. Try it with creamy pasta dishes or chicken. Excellent value for money.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Palataia Pinot Blanc 2017, Pfalz, Germany

€15

 

The Palataia Pinot Noir is pretty good and well-priced, but his was my first taste of the Pinot Blanc. It is very good, crisp and dry with very attractive pear fruits and a dry finish. A good all-purpose white to serve as an aperitif, with fish and seafood or white meats.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fresquito PX Vino Nuevo de Tinaja 2017

14%

€13.30

 

This is one of my all-time favourite M&S wines, and I was delighted to see a new vintage appear recently. Made in clay amphorae in Montilla-Moriles, it is an utterly delicious, vaguely sherry like (but unfortified) wine with delicate toasted nuts, green olives and plump apricot fruits, finishing dry. Amazing value for money.

 

 

 

 

 

Rabl Grüner Veltliner 2017, Kamptal, Austria

12%

€13.30

 

Attractive brisk gingery green apple fruits and a crisp dry finish. Well-made, easy-drinking and good value for money.

It is rare to find any Austrian wine at his sort of price, and this is a pretty good example.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Craft 3 Chardonnay 2017, Adelaide Hills, Australia

12%

€15

 

From the cooler Adelaide Hills, a very nicely crafted crisp dry Chardonnay, with no obvious oak; just ample apple and pear fruits, with a solid backbone of acidity. Light enough to partner seafood, and enough body to accompany chicken. Very good value for money.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Val de Souto 2017, Ribeiro

12.5%

€17.50

 

Galicia produces some fantastic white wines, including Albarinho from Rîas Baixas and Godello from Valdeorras. This wine, made mainly from the unpronounceable Treixadura grape, is well worth trying; very lovely plump apricots, a subtle saline touch, finishing dry. Nice wine. With scallops or prawns.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Denbies Bacchus 2017, Surrey, England

12%

€20.50

 

Very floral and aromatic, with racy acidity and attractive refreshing fruit. Nice wine. Is this how an Irish wine might taste in the future?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RED WINES

 

Madiran Terres de Moraines 2014

14%

€14

 

Madiran can be tannic and chewy, but this version is very accessible with good smooth ripe blackcurrant fruits, and light savoury tannins on the finish. Perfect with a steak or grilled duck breast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Craft 3 Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Maipo Vally, Chile

13%

€15

Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile covers all bases, from great structured wines to soft and sweet. This hits the mid range with decen structure and very good fruits.

A very fine Cabernet, with clean blackcurrants and cassis, a refreshing seam of acidity and a good dry finish. Roast lamb or beef.

 

 

 

 

 

Pisan Cisplatino Tannat 2017, Uruguay

13.5%

€15

 

Marks & Spencer has a track record for listing wines from lesser-known countries; this time it is Uruguay, producer of some very good wines, with the South-west French variety Tannat being their specialty. This version is ripe with soft dark fruits, sprinkled with spice and wood smoke. One to try with barbecued beef.

 

 

 

 

 

Dominio del Plata Terroir Series Malbec 2016, Uco Valley, Argentina

13.5%

€18.50

 

Intensely aromatic, all violets and dark fruits, with delicious fresh, lightly spicy plums, dark cherries and mint on the palate. Belly of pork or lamb chops.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ebenezer & Seppeltsfield Shiraz 2016, Barossa Valley, Australia

15%

€22.50

 

An Australian classic, of a style that is not easy to come across these days. Big, powerful hedonistic sweet ripe dark fruits, lots of spicy vanilla oak, and a very good finish. Not for the faint-hearted, but perfect with all sorts of red meats dishes on a cold winter evening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Levantine by Ch. Musar 2017, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon

14%

€24.50

A cuvée of80% Cinsault and 20% Grenache from the legendary Lebanese producer.

Juicy dark cherries and raspberries with a lovely spicy touch. Very tasty wine. With a lightly spicy lamb tagine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contino Rioja Reserva 2014

13.5%

€35.50

 

Contino was the first single-vineyard Rioja, created in 1973. The wines are always impeccably made. An excellent young Rioja with very concentrated blackcurrant fruits, firm structured tannins and great length. Ideally you would stash it away for a few years. If serving now, decant before serving. Perfect with roast lamb.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Volnay 1er cru Le Blondeau 2015 Hospices de Beaune 2015

€52.50

This was bought by Marks & Spencer at the annual auction at the Hopsices de Beaune. Expensive but good Burgundy is not cheap. A relatively young wine that will improve further with a little age. Youthful piquant ripe dark cherry, with a touch of smoky new oak, underpinned by good acidity. If you are having it for Xmas, decant ½ hour before dinner. Perfect with the Christmas turkey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FORTIFIED WINES

 

Very Rare Palo Cortado Premium Sherry ½ bottle

19%

€12

 

Made by Lustau, this is the perfect Christmas treat for the Sherry lover in your life. Intense, bone dry and wonderful, this has masses of toasted nuts, dried fruits, orange peel and much more besides. Drink with a plate of hard cheese, crackers and walnuts.

 

 

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My Favourite Festive wines from O’Briens

O’Briens has some nice wines, as usual, this season, some very keenly priced, others quirky and interesting. These offers run throughout Christmas. These wines are from two tastings I attended recently. A shorter version of this article appeared in the online Irish Times on 16th November, 2018.

 

 

Júlia Florista Branco, Portugal, NV
€9.95, down to €7.95 for November and December
Decent, slightly sweetish plump fruits with good acidity. At €7.95, very good value.

Wildflower Pinot Grigio 2017, Romania
€13.95, down to €8.95 for November and December
Attractive, plump, ripe melon and green-apple fruits. Perfect party wine, or with lighter salads. At €8.95, a steal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Côtes de Gascogne 2017, Duffour Père & Fils

€9.95

The 2017 vintage of this wine is very good: subtle fresh zesty wine with lovely green apple fruits. Great value for money; the perfect party white?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bellow’s Rock Chenin Blanc 2018, South Africa

€10.95

A very tasty crisp dry white with fresh peach and apple fruits.

 

Il Forte Gavi 2017
€15.95, down to €11.95 for November and December
I’m not a Gavi fan, but this has all the classic Gavi slightly bitter quince and green apples, at a very competitive price.

 

 

 

 

 

Pazo de Señorans Albariño 2017, Rías Baixas

€22.95

Very fresh and lively with floral aromas, and intense lemon zest on nose and palate, balanced out by pear and apricot fruits. Perfect with shellfish or smoked salmon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Domaine Olivier Santenay Blanc Clos des Champs 2015

€29.95

Refined crisp dry white Burgundy with lightly smoky oak, lemon zest and subtle concentrated nectarine fruits.

 

 

 

Wildflower Pinot Noir 2017, Romania
€13.95, down to €8.95 for November and December
Light, with sweetish plum and red-cherry fruits and a tannin-free finish. You won’t mistake it for fine Burgundy, but this would make a great party wine.

Porta 6 2016, Portugal
€12.95, down to €9.95 for November and December
Understandably one of the most popular wines at O’Briens, this is an easy-drinker with a decent concentration of dark cherry fruits, a nice earthiness and just enough acidity to balance the ripeness. A great all-purpose wine, for wet-Wednesday dinners or large parties.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bellow’s Rock Syrah 2016, South Africa

€9.95

Rich powerful spicy dark fruits, with a nice seam of acidity running through. Great value at €9.95. With grilled or barbecued red meats.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tandem Immune 2016, Navarra

€15.95

A pure unoaked Garnacha/Grenache that is one of my favourite wines; powerful (14.5%) with concentrated supple dark and red fruits with a lovely freshness.

 

 

St Hallett Gamekeeper’s Grenache Shiraz Touriga 2015
€19.95, down to €14.95 for November and December
Powerful, with rich, ripe red fruits and a touch of spice. At €14.95 a steal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Domaine Olivier Santenay Rouge 1er cru Beaurepaire 2016

€39.95

Very fine dark cherry and damson fruits, with a subtle spiciness and a good long finish. Lovely elegant Burgundy. Christmas dinner?

 

 

 

Croser Rosé Sparkling NV, Adelaide Hills, Australia
€24.95, down to €21.95 for November and December
A very classy pure Pinot Noir, with crisp strawberry and red-cherry fruits, and subtle brioche. Good concentration and length.

Granzamy Brut NV Champagne
€34.95, down to €29.95 for November and December
A Blanc  de Noirs, made from Pinot Meunier. Stylish, lightly creamy, with subtle red fruits. This has real character and a snappy dry finish.

Château Mauvesin Barton Moulis-en-Médoc 2014
€28.95, down to €24.95 for November and December
Classic, elegant claret with a lovely fragrant nose, and smooth blackcurrant fruits that glide across the palate, finishing dry.

Disznoko Furmint Late Harvest 2016, Hungary
€16.95 per half-bottle
Most at an O’Briens tasting were wowed by the Disznoko Tokaji Aszu 6 Puttonyos 2005 below. So was I, but it costs €60. This late-harvest Furmint at €16.95 is deliciously fragrant and fresh, with notes of orange peel and good acidity; sweet but never cloying.

Disznoko Tokaji Aszu 6 Puttonyos 2005
€60 (500ml)
If you have the money and enjoy sweet wines, this is an amazingly good Tokaji, with a huge intensity of grilled nuts, marzipan and orange peel, perfectly balanced by the acidity and excellent length.

Bethany Old Quarry Tawny, Australia
€24.95, down to €21.95 for November and December
This is very good, warming tawny port, with ripe raspberries, raisins and toasted nuts, plus a sprinkle of spice. Christmas in a glass, if it’s not too early. Great value for money, too.

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Tasting at Terroirs

Terroirs in Donnybrook held a tasting of a selection of their wines recently. The boutique wine and food shop import all of these directly from the producer, so they are only available from Terroirs (including online), and a few select restaurants. The line-up included a wide range of wines, primarily French. Françoise and Séan Gilley have scoured every corner of France, seeking out small, interesting quality producers. Some make well-known wines, others use lesser-known, indigenous grapes. A great many are organic or biodynamic.

This was one of the best tastings so far this year. There were some thrilling wines, sadly very few under €15, and a plenty for €30 and over, but the standard was incredibly high, and many offered great value for money. If I ever win the Lotto, this will be one of my first ports of call.

 

Champagne Agrapart & Fils Les 7 Crus Brut NV, Avize €69.50

100% Chardonnay. Superb, refined relatively full-bodied Champagne with ripe bruised strawberry fruits, subtle brioche, and lemon zest, finishing very dry. Excellent Champagne.

 

 

Jacquère 2016, Savoie, Domaine de Chevillard €29.50

Sappy, limpid, snow-like with fresh green apple fruits, real concentration and very fine crisp acidity, finishing bone dry. A counter to those who dismiss Jacquére as a grape; this a is delicious refreshing wine with real character.

 

Domaine de Montbourgeau Étoile 2015 €29.50

Elegant clean walnuts and baked apples with a subtle fino sherry notes (I’m guessing some was aged under a voile or veil of flor) and a long dry finish. Delicious wine with plenty of character and style.

 

Chablis 2015, Domaine Laurent Tribut €29.50

Classic, structured Chablis, with relatively ripe orchard fruits, lots of green apples vivid crisp mineral acidity and great length. Certainly a match for many Chablis 1er cru.

 

Maison Emmanuel Giboulot Côte de Beaune 2016, Bourgogne €29.50

Biodynamic

From the man who risked ruin and jail for his biodynamic principles, a classic Côte de Beaune, brisk and crisp with white flower aromas, hazelnuts and wet stones, alongside some precise green apple fruits.

 

 

Domaine Guiberteau Clos des Carmes 2014, Saumur Blanc €59.50

Organic

A wonderful tightly bound wine with a core of delicious rich orchard fruits, honey and nuts, with a laserlike seam of saline minerality. Expensive, but superior to many white Burgundies at the same price; this is exceptional wine. Drink now, but it will develop for years.

 

Domaine Saint Georges d’Ibry, Côtes de Thongue Cuvée des Amis  €13.95

Bubbling over with lovely lively fresh crunchy dark forest fruits. Light tannins on the finish. Perfect with charcuterie or grilled meats. A Merlot / Syrah blend that works very well.

 

 

Domaine Les Goubert, Côtes du Rhône 2017 €16.95

Very easy-drinking supple medium to full-bodied wine with sweet soft ripe fruits edged with subtle spice

 

Élian da Ros, Le Vin est une Fête 2016, Côtes du Marmandais €16.95

Biodynamic

The Abouriou (€29.50) is a great wine, but I have always had a real liking for this wine, a delicious light (12.5%) summery red with smooth delicate dark fruits, that grow on you with every sip. Great value for money too.

 

Domaine des Païssels Le Banel 2017, St. Chinian €17.95

Belies its 14.5% alcohol, with some deft elegant herby dark fruits underpinned by good acidity and freshness. A very attractive clean easy-drinking Carignan / Grenache blend with a touch of class. Serve with braises of beef.

 

Fleurie ‘Les Garants’ 2016   Pierre-Marie Chermette        €23.50

Gorgeous unputdownable wine filled with vibrant crunchy pure dark fruits, all blackcurrants and dark cherries, with real length and concentration. A true Fleurie that will last a few years, and very good value given the quality.

 

 

Domaine Arretxea Tradition 2015, Irouléguy €29.50

Biodynamic

Don’t bother trying to pronounce it (unless you speak Basque); just enjoy the wonderful pure blackcurrant and plum fruits, the subtle, maturing leafy edge, and the lightly tannic austere finish. Try with grilled Toulouse sausages.

 

La Porte Saint Jean Vieilles Vignes 2015, Saumur, €39.50

Not cheap, but this is a stunning wine, a perfect balance of ripe brambly blackcurrant and blackberry fruits, a brisk minerality, a touch of pencil shavings and a long dry finish. The flavours are intense but there is real finesse to this wine. I would dearly love to have a case in my cellar.

 

Ch. Mille Roses 2015, Margaux €39.50

Organic

Classic Margaux fragrance of cigar box and violets; a wonderfully elegant silky plush palate of cassis and blackcurrants, structured and long. Drink now or keep up to five years

 

 

 

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New Wines & Bargains from O’Briens

O’Briens held a press tasting recently to highlight their offers for the coming season, and a few new wines too. As usual some nice wines, some very keenly priced, others quirky and interesting – including an Orange wine from Marc Kreydenweiss. Most of the offers don’t begin until November and run through the Christmas season. Below, a dozen of my favourites from the tasting – white, red, sparkling, sweet and fortified!

  1. Júlia Florista Branco, Portugal, NV

€9.95, down to €7.95 for November/December

Decent slightly sweetish plump fruits with good acidity. At €7.95, very good value for money.

  1. Wildflower Pinot Grigio 2017, Romania

€13.95, down to €8.95 for November/December

Attractive plump ripe melon and green apple fruits. Perfect party wine, or with lighter salads. At €8.95, a steal.

  1. Il Forte Gavi 2017

€15.95 down to €11.95 for November/December

I’m not a huge Gavi fan but this has all the classic Gavi character – slightly bitter quince and crisp green apples- at a very competitive price.

  1. Wildflower Pinot Noir 2017, Romania

€13.95 down to €8.95

Light, with sweetish plum and red cherry fruits and a tannin-free finish. You won’t mistake it for fine Burgundy, but this would make a great party wine.

  1. Porta 6 2016, Portugal

€12.95 down to €9.95 for November/December

Understandably one of the most popular wines in O’Briens, this is an easy-drinking wine with a decent concentration of dark cherry fruits, a nice earthiness and just enough acidity to balance the ripeness. A great all-purpose wine – for wet Wednesday dinners or large parties.

  1. St. Hallett Gamekeeper’s Grenache Shiraz Touriga 2015

€19.95 down to €14.95 for November/December

Powerful with rich ripe red fruits and a touch of spice. At €14.95 a steal.

  1. Croser Rosé Sparkling NV, Adelaide Hills, Australia

€24.95 down to €21.95 for November/December

A very classy pure Pinot Noir, with crisp strawberry and red cherry fruits, and subtle brioche. Good concentration and length.

 

8.   Granzamy Brut NV, Champagne

€34.95 down to €29.95 for November/December

A Blanc de Noirs, made from Pinot Meunier. Stylish, lightly creamy, with subtle red fruits. This has real character and a snappy dry finish.

9. Ch. Mauvesin Barton, Moulis-en-Médoc 2014

€28.95 down to €24.95 for November/December

Classic, elegant claret with a lovely fragrant nose, and smooth blackcurrant fruits that glide across the palate, finishing dry.

  1. 10. Disznoko Furmint Late Harvest 2016, Hungary

€16.95 per ½ bottle

Most at the tasting were wowed by the Disznoko Tokaji Aszu 6 Putonyos 2005 below. So was I, but it costs €60. This late harvest Furmint at €16.95 was deliciously fragrant and fresh, with notes of orange peel and good acidity; sweet but never cloying. Very nice wine.

Disznoko Tokaji Aszu 6 Putonyos 2005

€60 per ½ litre bottle

If you have the money and enjoy sweet wines, this is an amazingly good Tokaji, with a huge intensity of grilled nuts, marzipan and orange peel, perfectly balanced by the acidity and excellent length.

  1. Bethany Old Quarry Tawny, Australia

€24.95 down to €21.95 for November/December

This is very good warming Tawny with ripe raspberries, raisins and toasted nuts with a sprinkle of spice. Xmas in a glass, if its not too early! Great value for money too.

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Mary Pawle Wines

Mary Pawle Wines

Mary Pawle and her husband Ivan are far to nice to say it, but they must look on the current fashion for organic, biodynamic and natural wines with a wry smile. They are certainly far too nice to complain. Mary Pawle Wines was set up by the couple twenty one years ago with the sole purpose of importing organic wines. Back then organic wines were seen by most in the business as undrinkable and of no commercial interest, bought by a small group of hippies who knew nothing about wine. ‘A lot of people thought it was a very silly notion,’ says Mary ‘and some were very confused. They thought I was going to make gorse wine or something like that.’ How times have changed! Now it seems every importer is trying to seduce us with their range of low or no-sulphur, non-interventionist organic or biodynamic wines made according to the phases of the moon.

It’s great to see’, says Mary, I’ve always wanted to keep ours as a small business but now I have competition from all sides. To be honest, in those days a lot of those organic wines, made by well-intentioned people were undrinkable. But it became very clear early on, in France in particular, that consumers were very taken with the idea.’

They have lived in Gortnamullen near Kenmare since for 40 years. This is not a fast-moving, marketing-driven company, seeking plaudits from journalists and social media. In fact it took a gentle reminder from a friend and colleague to remind me of their existence. But I have been meeting the couple at the occasional tasting every year since their inception. I have always received a genuinely warm welcome and have always enjoyed the wines too.

Once I made contact with them, I received a case of samples. Since then I have been working my way slowly through an intriguing selection. All of the wines so far have been well-made and interesting, and all pretty good value for money. Probably the best-known supplier is Ch. Feely, the biodynamic producer, also known for the books on the subject written by Caroline Feely. The emphasis is on France, and exclusively European.

They do sell wine directly to the public , but not online; you need to send an email (although their coverage is not always reliable). Alternatively you could give them a call, and receive some friendly advice. See their website, marypawlewines.com. Some of their wines are sold through independent retailers; Clontarf Wines and Morton’s in Ranelagh both stock a range. All four wines below are organic.

Foto ALR_verdeAir Vinho Verde 2016, Antonio Lopes Ribeiro

€16.60

A mere 10.5% in alcohol, this would make a great summer wine, with its light tangy fresh pear fruits and a very slight spritz. Perfect on its own or with seafood dishes. An organic wine made from three local grapes – Loureiro, Avesso and Arinto.

 

 

 

 

L’Air Innocent 2015, Vin Nature, Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine sur Lie, Domaine de la Fessardière

€18.60

Some no sulphur wines, particularly white wines, can be difficult to like., A small dose of SO2 at bottling . This sulphur-free, organic wine however, is very good indeed. A mere 12% in alcohol, with plump apple and white peach fruits, underpinned by a refreshing acidity, it is a joy to drink. Try it by itself, with shellfish, or salads. We enjoyed our bottle with a bowl of mussels with pasta.

 

curios_negre (1)Curíos 2016 Tempranillo, Albet y Noya, Penedès, Organic

€14.95

 

I am a big fan of lighter Tempranillo and this is my kind of wine; fragrant and juicy with good pure dark cherry fruits and a mineral touch. Very approachable and enjoyable, and great value for money too.

 

 

 

Pure Pinot NoirDomaine de Brau Pure Pinot Noir 2014, VDP d’Oc

€16.60

Domaine de Brau have been organic for many years. They are based in the Cabardès region of the Languedoc, where the unique climate is responsible for some unusually elegant wines. This is very palatable, a touch earthy, with plenty of concentrated pure dark cherry fruits; more burly than earthy, but attractive and very good value at the price.

 

 

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PRODUTTORI DEL BARBARESCO 2013

barbaresco pic

PRODUTTORI DEL BARBARESCO 2013

Thanks to Jürgen Karwig of Karwig Wines, I had the opportunity to taste my way through nine 2013 single vineyard releases from one of the most respected co-ops in Europe, the Produttori del Barbaresco. It was a fantastic, if slightly nerdy tasting, with some amazing wines. If you are a fan of Nebbiolo (and I am) these are wines to seek out at the addresses below. Quantities, sadly, are limited. All of the wines had been opened the day before and sealed by Vacuvin. The Reservas sell for €50-55 a bottle, very reasonable compared to rival offerings. Interested retailers and restaurants should contact Karwig Wines.

Langhe Nebbiolo 2015

A rich, relatively ripe full-bodied Nebbiolo, with plenty of fleshy fruit. Very good value for money, for drinking over the next 2-3 years. 14.5% alcohol, whereas all of the other wines were labeled 14%. 14/20

Barbaresco 2013

Fresh fragrant aromas, with violets and firm but elegant fresh red cherry fruits. Nice length too. Classic Barbaresco and very well-made wine. 15.5/20

Barbaresco Riserva Pora 2013

Wonderful lifted rose petal aromas, and a solid core of elegant sweet/sour damson and red cherry fruits and a good solid tannic structure. 16/20

Barbaresco Riserva Rio Sordo 2013

A stunning fragrant nose with lavender, rose petals and violets; supremely elegant with real depth, and refined delicate fruit and excellent length. Not the biggest, but very refined. 17.5/20

Barbaresco Riserva Ovello 2013

Excellent concentrated meaty dark pure fruits, closed yet still fragrant on the nose, with a lovely quality of concentrated red cherry fruits, and a savoury edge. 17/20

Barbaresco Riserva Muncagota 2013

Medium-bodied, with some good muscular cherry fruits, peppery spice and a solid tannic structure. Very good wine with all the right components, but somehow I couldn’t warm to it. 16.5/20

Barbaresco Riserva Rabaja 2013

Not a great bottle. Possibly it had not been sealed properly – all of the wines had been Vacuvined the previous day.

Barbaresco Riserva Montestefano 2013

A quite brilliant wine, full rich muscular, with a massive concentration of succulent dark fruits, finishing on a sweet/ripe note. Keep. 18/20

Barbaresco Riserva Asili 2013

Brilliant wine that opens out over an hour or so. Succulent elegant pure red cherry fruits, no obvious tannins, but they are there. And lovely sweet length. Excellent and a keeper. 17.5/20

Barbaresco Riserva Paje 2013

A very stylish perfectly balanced Nebbiolo. With tobacco and flowers on the nose, really lovely elegant red fruits, and a beautiful finish. Hard to resist now but will keep. 17/20

Barbaresco Riserva Montefico 2013

Distinctive nose and palate that could only be Nebbiolo, with a floral nose and deeply etched dark fruits; muscular and very long. Another keeper. 18/20

 

Stockists.

Nebbiolo Langhe €26-30: Terroirs, Donnybrook; Wine Centre, Kilkenny; Cinnamon Cottage, Cork; The Corkscrew, Chatham Street; Grapevine, Dalkey; Karwig Wines, Cork.

Barbaresco DOCG (Various vintages) €40: Terroirs, Donnybrook; Whelehan’s, Loughlinstown; The Wine Centre, Kilkenny; 64 Wine, Glasthule; Grapevine, Dalkey; The Parting Glass, Enniskerry; The Corkscrew, Chatham Street; Power and Co., Lucan.

Single Vineyard Riserva Wines: Currently being distributed. The following shops will have stocks of previous vintages; 1601 Off lIcence, Kinsale; Terroirs, Donnybrook; 64 Wine, Glasthule.

 

 

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Three Great Weekend Wines

weekend

I drank three sensationally good bottles of wine over the weekend. When you can drink wines as good as this, it makes ‘damp’ (as opposed to dry) January so much more bearable!

Bodegas Cotas 45 UBE Miraflores 2016 VdT de Cadiz

A single-vineyard unfortified Palomino Fino that has been aged in old sherry casks, this is a quite unique and compelling wine; light, fresh, toasty, bready, with delicate apple fruits and a beguiling saline finish. Brilliant wine. €23 from Green Man Wines, Terenure & 64Wines, Glasthule.

Crozes-Hermitage 2015, Grand Classique, Cave de Tain

Last week I did an unusual thing for a wine journalist; I went out and bought a case of wine! I receive so many samples, I am rarely short of wine to drink. The opposite is usually the case. However, this is an exceptionally good wine at a great price. Possibly not a surprise, as 2015 was a great vintage in the Northern Rhône, and the Cave de Tain one of the best co-ops in France. Elegant, perfectly ripe dark fruits, just enough acidity and nicely integrated tannins. Yum!

Moulin-a-Vent 2009 Les Trois Roches, Domaine Vissoux

I bought six bottles of this six years ago; the 2009 vintage was very highly touted back then and time has proved the critics right. This is a gorgeous wine, soft ripe and rounded with intense perfectly ripe dark fruits, and a great finish. A bit riper than most vintages, but a hedonist’s delight. Terroirs in Donnybrook list the 2013 for €29.50.

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Nicolas Reau Clos des Treilles Anjou 2015

Nicolas Reau Clos des Treilles Anjou 2015

Nicolas Reau Clos des Treilles Anjou 2015

clos des TreillesHaving tasted some very strange natural wines, I have to admit I put off tasting this for a while; my mistake!  This was amazingly good – it had the lightly honeyed touch of Chenin Blanc, a lovely quality of soft nuanced pear and quince fruits, well-balanced by a subtle mineral freshness. A seductive complex elegant wine that evolves with every sip.

Drink with lighter fish dishes. It went nicely with our Danish fishcakes – Fiske Frikadelle – boiled potatoes, peas and a homemade Remoulade.

Ex jazz player Nicolas Reau makes natural wine, intervening in the process as little as possible. This Chenin Blanc, from clay soils with some flint and limestone, is made from organically-grown grapes. Natural yeast are used for a fermentation without any temperature control; the wine is neither fined nor filtered, and only a small dose of sulphur is added prior to bottling.

€24.95 from Le Caveau, Kilkenny; Green Man Wines, Terenure; 64Wines, Glasthule.

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Domaine Tempier Cuvée Classique, Bandol 2013

Domaine Tempier Cuvée Classique, Bandol 2013

Domaine Tempier Cuvée Classique, Bandol 2013

Tempier Classique 2015This is a lovely big rich spicy wine full of power character. Loaded with swarthy, ripe, bold dark fruits, an earthy touch and a nice grippy finish, this can be very happily drunk now, but will keep and develop for a few years. Tempier wines, in my experience, can age for a decade or more.

Open this up when serving robust dishes featuring red meats and game. I would decant it just before serving.

This wine brought back many memories, all happy, when I drank it on a cold winter’s evening. Before he married, my dad used to spend his summers in Bandol and always waxed lyrical about the beaches and warm Mediterranean sun. Since childhood, I had always wanted to go. Eventually I made the pilgrimage with my sister, a chef, and in the event, it was slightly disappointing. Bandol has become very developed and touristy, a world away from the town he visited in the 1930’s and 1940’s. However, a visit to Domaine Tempier, a wine I had admired and enjoyed for many years, was fantastic. The wines have become more modern, but in a good way, and still retain a lovely muscular rusticity alongside great depth of ripe herby fruits. It is not cheap, and the excellent single vineyard wines are more expensive, but this is one of the great domaines of France.

€39.95 from The Corkscrew, Chatham Street; Terroirs, Donnybrook; Power and Co., Lucan; Grapevine, Dalkey; 64 Wines, Glasthule; Worldwide Wines, Waterford; Karwig Wines, Carrigaline.

 

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‘The Graham Norton Shiraz, like his other wines, is very gluggable’

Are you old enough to remember falling in love with Aussie wine? With their easy-to-read varietal labels and easier to drink wines, they introduced an entire generation of Irish people to the joys of drinking wine. You no longer needed a degree in French or Italian and an extensive knowledge of geography to order a bottle of wine.

 For much of the 1990s and the following decade, sales increased every year until Australia became the best-selling country in Ireland, outstripping France, our traditional favourite. But then it all went a little sour. As the Australian dollar soared in value, and Australian wine producers turned their eyes to China, sales of their wines here took a battering. They were even overtaken by Chile as our most popular wine. Last year China overtook the United States as Australia’s biggest market, with sales worth some $520 million, so the Australians probably weren’t too worried.

 During the same period, the world moved away from those big fruit-filled wines that Australia excelled in, and began looking for something a little more subtle. Australia has a wide range of climates (it is the same size as Europe after all) and has always produced a diverse range of wines. In addition to Shiraz and Chardonnay, you could find low-alcohol, high quality Riesling from the Eden and Clare Valleys, and Semillon from the Hunter Valley. But over the past decade, the industry, one of the most dynamic in the world, began concentrating on other cooler climates and lesser-known grape varieties. They also began focusing on high quality wines for the premium market .

 Last month the Australian wine marketing body sent a deputation here to introduce their wines to a new generation of the wine trade. We were treated to a very impressive range of wines made from Petit Manseng, Marsanne, Arneis, Grüner Veltliner, Moscato, Dolcetto, and Touriga Nacional alongside some excellent Pinot Noir, Semillon, Riesling and sparkling wines. There was plenty of Shiraz and Chardonnay too, but they were lower in alcohol and more subtle in style, so if you still see Australian wines as a blunt instrument designed to cudgel you into submission, it is time to rethink.

Premium wine costs money to make, and sadly most of the wines were over €20 a bottle, and many were not (yet) available in Ireland. If you are a Pinot fan, the brilliant Gembrook Pinot Noir is available for €576 a case from Berry Brothers. But two of those listed below were included. The Tahbilk Marsanne is one of my favourite wines and brilliant value for money. Prosecco fans should certainly try out the ridiculously moreish frothy Innocent Bystander. The Graham Norton Shiraz, like his other wines, is very gluggable.

Bargain Bottle

Exquisite Collection Limestone Coast Chardonnay 2016, Australia

14%

€8.49

 Clean fresh textured red apple and pear fruits with a hint of spice.

 Stockists: Aldi

Choice Australians

Tahbilk Marsanne 2014, Nagambie Lakes  

13%

€16.70

 Expressive fresh pear, peach and tropical fruits. Crisp and dry with a lovely unique character all of its own.

 Stockists: Wines Direct, Mullingar & Arnott’s.

Innocent Bystander Moscato 2017

€13.99

5.5%

 Dayglo pink, bubbly and sweet with juicy grape and cherry fruits. Frivolous and fun.

 Stockists: Mortons, Clontarf Wines, Drink Store, Redmonds, Martins, McHughs, Mitchells, O’Donovan’s, Red Island, Red Nose Wine, Wineonline.ie

Graham Norton Shiraz 2015, South Australia

14.5%

€15

 Exuberant and showy – not unlike Norton himself, a big wine with heady ripe plums and spice.

 Stockists: Tesco, SuperValu, Centra.

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