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I have already posted a short piece on the forthcoming Lidl French Wine Sale which starts on 12th September. Not to be outdone, Aldi will launch their own Wine Festival on 21st August, featuring wines from fifteen different countries. In the bright surroundings of the Kevin Kavanagh art gallery on Chancery Lane, we tasted our way through 26 wines. It included many decent well-made wines, and a few real stars. Below is a quick run-through of my favourites.



Tokaji Furmint 2015, Hungary €7.99
Very crisp and dry with some lean white peach fruits.


Dao Branco Ecosta da Vinha 2014, Portugal €7.99
Light melon and greengage fruits with good refreshing acidity. Made from Encruzado & Bical. Remarkable at the price.

Ried Seiber Gruner Veltliner Reserve 2015 Wachau, Austria €8.99
The star of the show amongst the whites for me. Unusual to find anything from Austria for under €15, let alone €10. From the Domaene Wachau, a high-quality co-op (despite the name)in Austria’s premier wine region, this is a very good refreshing crisp dry white wine, with decent ripe pears and peaches.

Edition Fritz Keller Baden Riesling 2015 €8.99
Off to medium-dry with clean apple fruits, but doesn’t really have much Riesling character. Good well-made white wine at a very cheap price.

Leaf Plucker Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Coastal region, South Africa €9.99
Herbaceous green peppers and lime zest, with crisp gooseberry fruits; if you like Marlborough Sauvignon and Sancerre, chances are you will enjoy this.



Edition Fritz Keller Baden Pinot Noir 2014, Germany €9.99
Fragrant, and elegant; the acidity might stick out a little, but this is a lovely light wine with red cherry fruits. Nice wine at a mouth-watering price.


De Bertoli GS Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley 2015, Australia €10.99
Richer than the German Pinot above with attractive dark cherry fruits. Again, decent wine at an incredible price for a Yarra Pinot.


Nikau Point Estate Syrah Reserve 2014, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand €9.99
Possibly a little over-extracted but this is still a very nice wine, at an incredible price. Clean herby dark savoury fruits, with a nice light tannic structure. V. good.

Nonius Estate Feteasca Neagra/Shiraz 2014, Romania €8.99
Not bad; nice plump fruit, good concentration, but finishes on a slightly bitter note. Worth trying though.


Gloria Douro Reserva 2014, Portugal €8.99
Elegant, dry light claret-like wine with dark brambly fruits. 13% alcohol. Worth trying with food.

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Canada, Croatia, Volcanoes and Boy Scouts – plus Arbois – a weekends drinking


Vina Laguna Pinot Sivi 2014, Istria, Croatia
A very pleasant Pinot Grigio with light tropical fruits. €14.95 from Mitchell & Son plus other independents.

Domaine de la Pinte Chardonnay, Arbois, Jura 2014

A beautifully crafted wine with fine green apple fruits, lemon zest, subtle hazelnuts and honey, very good acidity and dry length. According to Wink Lorch in her book Jura, Pinte have the largest holding of Savignin in the world – strange that M&S bought the Chardonnay? Biodynamic. €23.50 from Marks & Spencer.

Alonso del Yerro 2012 Ribera del Duero
A full-bodied, smooth wine, rich in velvety dark fruits, with good length and plenty of power. The kind of wine that would appeal to the hedonists/Parkerites amongst us. Sent to me by the producer. They were imported by Vinostito at one stage, but are currently seeking distribution in Ireland. Give me a shout if you are interested.

Meyer Family Vineyards Pinot Noir 2014, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

I met Brian Meyer, my former scout leader at a function recently; he told me how his cousins had emigrated to Canada decades ago, and ended up owning a vineyard. He visited them at a family reunion and they had sent him a case of Chardonnay, which he said was ‘very nice’. Two weeks later I was in Marks & Spencer and what did I see but the Meyer Family Pinot Noir. I drank it with roast duck (also from M&S) over the weekend. This is a seriously good Pinot, light and juicy but concentrated, with dark cherries and plums. Pricewise, it stacks up well against the competition from Burgundy, Germany and the New World too. €28 from Marks & Spencer

Benanti Etna Rosso 2014
Part of a tasting for a piece on Etna wines for the Irish Times. Both red and white were nice elegant wines; the red had more fruit and intensity than the white. Waiting for the pricing. Imported by Honest2Goodness.

Castel Firmian Marzemino 2014, Mezzacorona, Trentino
A very tasty light wine with leafy crunchy redcurrant fruits, and good acidity. Drank this with pork chops and mushrooms – worked very well. Nice wine. €15 from Mitchell & Son.

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Dinner chez Doorley

On the way home from a wonderful long weekend in west Cork, we stopped off for dinner with Tom and Johann Doorley. Both are great cooks, so the dinner was excellent. We went mushroom hunting in the pouring rain and were rewarded with a decent haul, providing an extra unexpected course. I brought along the Léoville-Lascases; the rest came from the Doorley cellar. Missing from the lineup is a bottle of 2001 Riesling Kabinett Graacher Himmelrich Willi Shaefer – which was superb; light, honeyed, crisp and utterly delicious.


Trimbach Cuvée Frédéric Emile 2000
Strange: the label was Fred Emile, the cork was branded Vendage Tardive. Possibly a VT sticker had fallen off. Trimbach combine the two in exceptional vintages, such as 2000. In any case sadly the wine (which seemed sweetish) was oxidised.

Ch. Léoville Lascases 1986
Drinking beautifully. Lovely slightly austere ripe blackcurrant and damson fruits, a good tannic structure and a long dry finish. Very Bordeaux, but not too tannic or severe. Excellent wine.

Clos des Lambreys 1996
A Grand Cru from Morey Saint Denis (now owned by LVMH). This was fully mature but still all there. Fragrant leafy nose, soft sweet ripe developed fruit with a savoury note and decent length. Charming wine.

Harveys Bristol Cream.
A 1962 bottling and an extraordinary wine. Apparently Frank Searson (lately of Searsons Wine Merchants) asked Harveys to use longer corks, which may account for the fantastic longevity of the wine. But obviously Harveys Bristol Cream was a different drink in those days. Deep in colour, with a complex nose and palate of figs, raisins, toasted nuts and dried fruits. Sweet, but not sickly. Obviously a lot of Pedro Ximénez used. An amazing long finish. Superb wine.

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Another weekend – Orange wine, Teroldego, Alsace and more..

Another weekend – Orange wine, Teroldego, Alsace and more..


Tenuta Valgiano 2007, Colline Lucchesi, Italy
Batič Zaria 2006, Vipavska Dolina (Kakovostno Vino ZGP)

See my blog from yesterday on Two Elderly Wines for the full story on these – both delicious wines

Three Alsace Rieslings, part of a blind tasting I did for the Irish Times. The CV de Hunawihr will feature in the Times soon. But the other two were also very good, and well-priced at €18-20 a bottle

Hugel Classic Riesling 2014
€19.99 I think; lively fresh crisp Riesling with a nice steely backbone.Nice wine.

Sipp Mack Riesling Tradition 2014
Slightly rounder with some red apple fruits and a crisp finish. Another very good wine.

Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Nuits Les Chanussets 2014, Cave Vinicole de Bourgogne

Not often you taste a red Burgundy at under €15; I cannot pretend that this will compete with a Grand Cru Gevrey, but it is recognisably Pinot, with light sweet cherry and red fruits. Very gluggable light wine. This will feature in the Lidl French Wine Sale in early September.

Teroldego Rotaliano 2015, Italy
I received both a Teroldego and a Marzemino this week, from two different sources. Haven’t got around to the Marzemino yet, but the Teroldego is a lovely light summery red wine. From Marks & Spencer for €11.79, 12.5% alcohol. €11.79 from Marks & Spencer.

Grüner Veltliner Rabl 2014, Kamptal, Austria
A light fresh zippy Grüner with mouthwatering pear fruits at a very keen price. Great summer drinking. €13.30 from Marks & Spencer.

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Two elderly wines with a long story attached.

Over the weekend, I dug out a couple of oldish bottles to try. Both had a bit of a story, and both were far better than I expected.


Tenuta di Valgiano 2007, Colline Lucchesi
60% Sangiovese, 20% each Syrah and Merlot.

Wonderful wine, medium-bodied, with a lifted bouquet of maturing, lightly leafy dark fruits; the palate is elegant and long with black pepper, savoury dark cherry fruits, nicely judged tannins and good mineral acidity. Superb.

I first met Saverio Petrelli when we were fellow students on an MW course down in Sète in the mid-1990’s. He somehow managed to tear a ligament and spent most of the course hobbling around on crutches. However, he bore his injury with great humour and was great fun to be around. He had just joined a new estate in Tuscany, near Lucca, as winemaker, having worked in Castello di Rampolla, I think. The estate was Tenuta di Valgiano.

A few years later I met him at Vinitaly, where he served me some wonderful local Tuscan foods, including some superb olive oil from the estate, along with his wine. I was working for Searsons, and soon arranged to import the wines (and superb olive oil) into Ireland. We took in several shipments, but I then left the company. When I retuned as consultant buyer six years later, they were no longer importing the wines, but had a collection of mature vintages. Some were great, others showing their age a little. Valgiano by now was fully biodynamic, and Saverio apparently one of the leading lights in the movement in Italy.

Fast forward a few years, and I was eating in Bistro One in Foxrock and talking to the owner, Mark Shannon. He had a holiday home next door to Valgiano, and imported the wines, and very kindly gave me a bottle of same as I left. I stuck it in my cellar, and somehow never found the right occasion to open it. Until Thursday night, when I felt like something different and cracked the bottle open, or rather Coravined a glass, as I was the only one drinking red wine. It was delicious; see tasting note above. I consumed the rest over the weekend. Drinking a glass of wine that has a story is always special, and this evoked some lovely memories of times past.

As for Saverio, I haven’t seen him for years, but browsing online he looks, like me, older, greyer, and, I am sure, wiser.

PS I see I am not the only Irish wine writer to fall for Valgiano; Paddy has a lovely post on

Batič Zaria 2006, Vipavska Dolina (Kakovostno Vino ZGP)

Orange in colour, lightly fizzy, with dried fruits, nuts, orange peel, spice and a strong mineral streak, finishing dry. Fascinating wine to sip over an evening. It went brilliantly with blue cheese (the new health food by the way. I am with them on this one).

I visited the Batič winery around 2005 on one of the strangest and most enjoyable press trips I have ever been on. It is in the Vipava Vally in Slovenia, not far from the Italian border. We had an interesting visit and a great tasting, and nibbled on the estate’s own Prszt (Slovenian prosciutto) and cheese. As I remember, father Ivan and son Miha produced some very good Cabernet Franc, a lovely rosé, and some very good whites, ‘made like red wine’ as they called it then. Basically the juice was left in contact with the grapes for extended periods, giving a unique flavour. We tasted a number of these on our visit, particularly in Vipava, where Batič is located.

Later that year, I was asked to choose my two favourite wines of the year for the A&A Farmar Wine Guide 2006, and included the Batič Sivi Pinot Rieserva 2003 – a Pinot Gris. I wrote then:

‘Is this a rosé or a white wine? Made from Pinot Gris, it was macerated on the skins for ten days, taking on a rosy hue. As a wine it is quite amazing; tantalizing, complex aromas of strawberries and light red fruits; a big, rich, broad palate, concentrated, slightly oily, some shortbread biscuits too; plenty of rich, ripe strawberry fruits; long and fascinating. Quite unlike any other wine I have tasted.’

A few months later, a case of wine arrived on my doorstep, accompanied by a lovely heartfelt letter from Ivan Batič, thanking me for writing about his wine. I felt a little guilty accepting the wines, but as I couldn’t send them back, I enjoyed them over the next few years; all except for one bottle that lurked somewhere in my cellar. I took it out over the weekend, expecting very little, but was very pleasantly surprised. It is made from seven grape varieties, Pinela, Zelen, Ribula Gialla, Vitovska, Klarnica, Rumeni Muskat and Chardonnay. They are grown biodynamically in the same vineyard, picked at the same time and co-fermented. This is an orange wine, fermented on the skins in open vats with no temperature control. Orange wines are controversial, but I loved this one.

I see on the internet the Batič winery is still gong strong, but sadly they are imported into Ireland – yet.


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Lidl French Wine Sale Part Two – Red Wine Preview

<strong>Lidl French Wine Sale Part Two – Red Wine Preview</strong>


As mentioned in my earlier post, Lidl will hold their French Wine Sale from 12th September onwards. I tasted my way through all of the wines. Here is a brief preview of my favourite red wines. There may well be more to add when I receive further samples shortly. There were fewer fine wines this year I think, but plenty of nicely priced wines to tempt us all. Their selection of inexpensive Bordeaux is very strong this year.

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Fleurie 2015 Mignot Père & Fils €9-11
If you are a fan of Beaujolais (and I am) you will certainly enjoy this wine. 2015 was a great vintage in Beaujolais and it shows. Very nice crunchy ripe cherry fruits and a smooth easy finish. Amazing value, particularly if it sells for less than €10.

Image 15Philippe de Bois d’Arnault Ladoix Les Gonia 2014 (€15.99-17.99)
Decent chunky dark cherry fruits with nice refreshing acidity. Good value for money.

Image 6Ch. de Rousselet 2011, Côtes de Bourg (€9-11)
Very attractive light leafy mature Bordeaux with soft blackberry fruits. This is very keenly priced, and will certainly go down well with claret lovers.

Ch. Lalande Mausse 2013, Fronsac, Bordeaux (€9-11)

Clean fresh blackcurrant fruits, with good acidity and nice weight and quality of fruit. Nice wine.
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Ch. Roylland 2012 St. Émilion Grand Cru (€19-20)
Very ripe, soft lush dark fruits; slightly animal and some new oak. Very easy commercial wine that will please the crowds, but not really my style.

Virginie de Valandraud 2014 St. Émilion Grand Cru (€33-35)

Another lush soft sexy wine with ripe cassis and some spicy new oak. As with the previous wine, it will certainly appeal to those who like rounded oaky wines.

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Ch. de la Dauphine 2011, Fronsac (€22-25)
Very good chunky ripe Bordeaux with plums, blackcurrant and cassis, a nice tannic grip, finishing well. Classic right-bank Bordeaux at a good price.
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Ch. Lagrange 2012, Saint Julien Grand Cru Classé €40
As posted earlier this is a nice wine with classic St. Julien flavours of blackcurrant, cedar wood and good fine grained tannins. Very good wine, but I would like a little more length and concentration for my €40. Still very enjoyable drinking though.

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The Secret to Baking a Great Loaf of Bread

Over the years I have gone through various bread-baking phases, trying out everything from sourdough to brioche. Much of the time I struggled to bake a loaf as good as that from a proper baker. Then, within a week the same solution was handed to me by two completely different people; Darina Allen and Paul Hollywood. The way to successfully bake a really great loaf, better than anything you will find in most supermarket bakeries is:


A cast iron casserole, a Le Creuset or Dutch Oven, as it is called in the States.

First, having completed a wine-tasting session at Ballymaloe Cookery School, I sneaked into the back of a class on fermentation, given by Darina Allen and Emer FitzGerald. It was a fascinating talk, and I wish I hadn’t been obliged to race off back to Wicklow. For me the most interesting part was the sourdough bread, which did not require any kneading and was baked in a cast iron casserole preheated in a very hot oven. The idea came from Chad Robertson of Tartine in San Francisco.

Three days later, watching Paul Hollywood on the Food Network channel, he introduced a New York baker who produced a fail-safe no-knead bread baked in the same vessel. See for the same video.

In both cases, you fold rather than knead the bread, and in both cases, you preheat the casserole, bake the bread for 20 minutes with the lid on, and then a further 15-25 minutes without the lid, allowing the crust to crisp up. I tried both out. I baked my sourdough at a very high temperature, which shattered my Le Creuset handle, and the loaf stuck a little to the bottom of the casserole. I now unscrew the handle and sprinkle a little wholemeal or rye flour on the casserole before adding the bread. It works a treat. I can now cook really good bread, both sourdough and standard, to a very high standard. I usually mix strong white flour with a proportion of whole meal, rye or granary. It may not look quite as artisanal as real bakery bread, but the crumb and moisture is good, the crust nice and crunchy, and the flavour excellent.


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A few very nice wines – the weekends modest consumption

The weekends modest consumption.


Rocca de Montemassi 2013, Maremma Toscana

Made, I think, from a Bordeauxish blend with some Syrah, this was a medium to full-bodied wine with concentrated blackcurrant fruits, toasty oak, plenty of structure and good dry tannic length. Sort of like Bordeaux on steroids? Very nice wine. €40 from Fresh Outlets.

Dom Freitas Reserva 2013 Castelao, VR Peninsula de Setubal

SuperValu will launch this (in selected stores) in very smart wooden cases of six for €50, or €8.33 a bottle from 21st July. Light with piquant cherry fruits, good acidity and some oaky vanilla. Good with lighter meat dishes and good value too.

Guardoilvento 2014 Etna Rosso

Herbal nose with some dark fruits; slightly baked and wild, with ripe dark fruits and good acidity. Lovely wine. Imported by Grapecircus, I suspect it would retail for around €25-30.

Macon-Uchizy 2014 Mallory & Benjamin Talmard

An old favourite showing very well. Medium-bodied with fresh clean green apple fruits and a touch of style. €18.95 from Searsons and other independents.

Cullen Kevin John Chardonnay 2006, Margaret River, Western Australia

I stashed this away five years ago, having written a very positive review of the wine. It is still very good and certainly shows no sign of oxidiation (or premature oxidation) but I would have hoped for a little more intensity of flavour. Still had plenty of fresh acidity, light toasty hazelnuts, and peach fruits, Good but not great.

Ch. Lagrange 2012, Grand Cru Classé, Saint Julien

A bottle I smuggled home from the Lidl press tasting, to be featured shortly in their French Wine sale at around €40. Fine, classic Saint Julien with elegant blackcurrant fruits, and a cloak of new French oak. A very nice wine, but just wish it had a touch more concentration at this price.

Croce di Febo Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2011
Fairly full-bodied (14%) with plenty of dark savoury cherry fruits, some new oak showing through and a firm long finish. Well-made wine. Organic. From Grapecircus I think and therefore probably available in Sheridans.

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Lidl French Wine Sale Part One – White Wines Preview

The Lidl French wine sale starts on the 12th September. As usual, quantities are limited, so some will sell through fairly quickly. There are, I think, fewer wines this year, but the overall quality was pretty good with some impressive wines. As in previous years, Bordeaux features strongly with a nice range of wines at around €10.

Prices are indicative and will be confirmed closer to the event. Today, I review my favourite white wines, to be followed by the reds next week.


Ernest Wein Riesling 2015, Alsace (around €10)

Very recognisably Riesling with plump apple fruits, a little residual sugar, but it works very well. Nice wine.

JP Muller Riesling Grand Cru Altenberg de Berbieten 2013 (€13-15)

Bigger, richer and riper than the Riesling above, with good mature honeyed fruits, nice concentration and a clean finish. Well-made wine and very good value.

Bestheim Sylvaner Vieilles Vignes 2015, Alsace (€8-9)

A pleasantly herbal nose and palate with decent plump fruit. Perfect sipping wine at a very good price.

Sancerre 2015, Vigne de la Taille aux Buis (€14-16)

I am not usually a fan of cheap Sancerre, but this was an exception. Light crisp and mineral with some elegant green fruits.

Touraine Sauvignon La Chardoise 2015 (around €10)

Looking for an inexpensive sipping Sauvignon? This should do the trick. Light elderflower aromas rich rounded green fruits. Fine at the price. By the way, I am not sure this is the correct picture above – there were two on tasting.


Adrien Marechal Reuilly 2015 (€11-13)

If you haven’t tried a Reuilly before, this is your chance. This small appellation in the Loire valley produces some very good Sauvignon Blanc. This was one of my stars of the tasting, a lovely lightly aromatic wine with concentrated stony green fruits and a crisp dry finish. Lovely wine.

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The Haul this weekend

DSCF6815Closerie des Alisiers Mâcon-Milly-Lamartine 2015
€14.95 from Whelehan’s Wines, Loughlinstown

I have reviewed the 2014 of this wine; a nice crisp dry white with a touch of honey and orange peel.

Etoile 2015, Domaine Begude, Limoux
€19.95 from O’Briens

Another Chardonnay, this time from Domaine Begude in Limoux; lovely wine, a future wine of the week in the Irish Times.

Viognier 2015, Domaine de Belle Mare, Pays d’Oc
€13.25 from Wines Direct

Fine. A little sweet for my tastes, but it does have good medium to rich peach fruits. Well-priced €13.25

Bardolino 2014 Cantina de Negrar
From Grapecircus, so probably available in Sheridans.

Delightful light (11.5%) summer wine with toothsome plum fruits.

Celeste 2014 Ribera del Duero, Torres

€21.95 for O’Briens and independents

Smooth lush dark fruits, beginning to develop some tertiary, if not barnyard flavours. No complaints from our dinner guests though.

Givry Clos Saint Pierre 1er cru 2012, Domaine Thenard

€28.95 from Whelehan’s Wines, Loughlinstown

Light and toothsome with maturing leafy red cherry fruits. Given the way Burgundy is going these days, good value.

Chakalaka 2013 Spice Route, Swartland
€24.99 imported by Liberty

Representing a range of very good wines from Charles Back that I tasted. A very attractive smooth big swarthy red.

Charles Mignon Cuvée Comte de Marne Gand Cru, Champagne NV
€45 from SuperValu

Very nice creamy Champagne with a core of ripe peach and pear fruit.

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