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Altano Douro 2019, Rewilding Edition

Altano Douro 2019, Rewilding Edition

€33.50 for a 2,25 litre Bag-in-Tube from O’Briens

This week a bag-in-box, or rather bag-in-tube wine from the Douro valley in Portugal. Made from a blend of Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca and Touriga Franca, this is a very attractive easy-drinking wine at a keen price. Forward, with fruit and herb aromas, juicy ripe red cherry and plum fruits and subtle tannins on the finish. This is big enough to partner most white and red meats, but supple enough to make it easy to sip solo.

I know some wine drinkers turn up their noses at bag-in-box, but I find them very useful; if I feel like a single glass of wine, or need to add wine to stews or sauces, I no longer have to open a full bottle. In the past many B-i-Bs were filled with cheap wine that you would be wary about using for cooking let alone drinking. But this is slowly changing. For a decade or more, Bag-in-Box has been very popular in Sweden, largely due to price. The 2.25 litre Altano Rewilding works out at €11.17 a bottle – excellent value for money – but it is also a green alternative to glass bottles.

The Altano Rewilding is made by The Symington Family Estates, who own Graham’s, Dow, Warre’s and Cockburn’s port as well as substantial vineyard holdings in the Douro valley. Some of the proceeds from sales will go towards the Rewilding Portugal conservation project – see www.symington.com/rewilding for details

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Chianti Classico Fonterutoli 2019, Mazzei

Chianti Classico Fonterutoli 2019, Mazzei

This week’s wine comes from Chianti Classico, the most famous wine region of Tuscany.

Supple and rounded with leather, spices and smooth rich dark fruits. The tannins are ripe and well-integrated. Medium-bodied, with a long finish. You could keep this a few years, but it is drinking very well now. 

Try it with meaty pasta dishes, roast red meats, or the local speciality, bistecca alla Fiorentina, t-bone steak grilled on the barbecue. 

I haven’t tasted my way through a comprehensive range of Chianti Classico for a few years, but there is a small group of very good wines that I drink regularly. All are from small estates, located in different parts of the region, and reflect their own terroir and house style. I see Isole e Olena as one of the most elegant, Fontodi richer and more full-bodied. Both great producers, but different wines.  I include Volpaia, Felsina, Monsanto, Querciabella, and Montevertine in this group, as well as the aforementioned Isole e Olena and Fontodi

As well as various, super-Tuscans, single vineyard and Riserva wines, most of these offer a ‘basic’ Chianti Classico that sells for somewhere between €20-35. To me, they offer the best value for money. I have been enjoying Fonterutoli for many years now; the style is quite modern with smooth concentrated ripe fruits. Fonterutoli is a large estate of 650 hectares, 110 of which are under vine. The Chianti Classico is made from seven different parcels of vines, and is 90% Sangiovese, the reminder Malvasia Nera and Colorino.

€28.95 from 64 Wines; SC Grocer , Monkstown; Sweeney’s D3; Grapevine, Dalkey; D-Six off licence, D6; Worldwide Wines , Waterford.

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El Hato y el Garabato ‘De Buena Jera’ 2018, Arribes

El Hato y el Garabato ‘De Buena Jera’ 2018, Arribes

Made from a blend of local grapes including Juan García, Bruñal, Rufete and Bastardo, this is a light, slightly pithy wine with mouth-watering crunchy ripe forest fruits, good acidity and finely etched tannins. I loved it and will certainly try it again. 

€27.75 from WineSpark.com 

I tasted a range of Spanish wines from online retailer WineSpark last week. It was an impressive line-up. I will cover more of the wines later, but today I feature one that I really enjoyed. I have to admit that I looked up Arribes on Google – it is a remote narrow region that follows the Duero River along the Portuguese border. Although vines have been grown here for centuries, it only received D.O. status in 2007. The main grape variety is Juan García and El Hato y el Garabato, set up by oenologist José Manuel Beneitez, who returned to his homeland with his wife Liliana Fernández. 

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Dão Branco 2021 Fonte do Ouro, Portugal

Dão Branco 2021 Fonte do Ouro, Portugal

Made from a blend of two of Encruzado and Arinto, two of the finest white grape varieties of Portugal, this wine offers exceptional value for money at €13.95. Fresh peach and pear fruits with a really well integrated mineral acidity. Perfect on its own but better with lighter seafood dishes. We enjoyed ours with clam linguini. 13% €13.95 down from €17.25 in O’Briens

I have always had a soft spot for both the red and white wines of Dão. The best reds are elegant, refreshing and subtle. The white wines can be equally good, with concentrated succulent fruits and a lively acidity. Typically based on excellent local Encruzado grape, they have been compared to Chardonnay in style and I can see why.

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Saint-Véran La Côte Dorée 2020, Domaine Guerrin

Saint-Véran La Côte Dorée 2020, Domaine Guerrin

This week a delicious Chardonnay from Burgundy available exclusively from Whelehan’s Wines. This has a lovely richness, with peaches and dried apricots alongside some subtle toasty oak; there is plenty of citrus acidity to keep it fresh and it finishes well. Good value for money.

€28 from Whelehan’s, Loughlinstown whelehanswines.ie.

We enjoyed ours with salmon baked in foil with butter, lemon and dill, but this would go nicely with most salmon, turbot and black sole dishes as well as creamy fish pie. Vegetarians should try it with cauliflower cheese, sprinkled with toasted almonds to complement the oak.

Saint-Véran is a part of the Mâconnais region in the south of Burgundy, a source of reliable inexpensive white wine; we in Ireland are very familiar with Mâcon-Lugny and at a higher level, Pouilly-Fuissé. Generally, the wines here offer great value for Chardonnay-lovers. The region is now starting to reach its full potential with some high-quality wines. I have generally found the various Pouillys (Fuissé, Vinzelles, and Loché) to be superior to Saint-Véran but this is one of the exceptions.

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`Catalò` Catalanesca 2020, Sorrentino

`Catalò` Catalanesca 2020, Sorrentino

This is one of the most enjoyable white wines I have tried in a long while. It has that delicious mouth-watering natural acidity shared by many of the whites from Campania as well as being full of interesting complex flavours. Relatively deep in colour with herbs, yellow fruits and on the nose. The palate is deceptively rich and full of flavour while still being light and refreshing; cool peaches and other stone fruits, minerals and almonds. Try it with light pasta dishes or salads.

€26.99 from Ely Wine Store, Maynooth; Redmonds of Ranelagh, D6; Pinto Wines, Drumcondra, D9;
Wineonline.ie

The current enthusiasm for rediscovering old forgotten grape varieties has uncovered a host of really great varieties responsible for some unique and exciting wines. With some however, you quickly realise why they were discarded in the past. This is the first time I have come across Catalanesca, but if the wine above is any indication, it has a real future in Campania.

For decades, the Sorrentino family has been growing vines in the unique fertile volcanic soils found on the southern slopes of Mount Vesuvio. They specialise in local varieties, including Caprettone, Coda di Volpe, and Falanghina for white wines and red varieties such as Aglianico and Piedirosso. And the aforementioned Catalanesca.

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Valtuille 2020, Vino de Villa, César Márquez, Bierzo

Valtuille 2020, Vino de Villa, César Márquez, Bierzo

I am a big fan of Mencía and this is a great example; a lovely, elegant wine with real style – and at a great price too.

€20.86 from WineSpark.com

Aromatic, with wonderful pure refreshing juicy dark fruits; a welcome little bit of grip from the whole-bunch fermentation, and good acidity. It all comes together nicely in a dangerously drinkable, free-flowing wine that will brighten up your dinner. Drink it cool, not chilled and decant if possible.

The grapes come from two plots of vines in the villages of Valtuille. It is made from 85% Mencía, 15% Alicante Bouschet and other local varieties. 100% whole-bunch pressed and then aged in oak casks for a year.

César Márquez is a nephew of Raúl Pérez, one of the leading winemakers in North-West Spain. Márquez was introduced to winemaking by Pérez, and having worked in the family wineries and elsewhere, has now started a project of his own. The results are impressive to say the least. As well as this wine, WineSpark.com has the lighter and fruitier Parajes de Bierzo for a bargain €16.92.

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Delheim Chardonnay Sur Lie 2019, Stellenbosch

Delheim Chardonnay Sur Lie 2019, Stellenbosch

If you are a fan of white Burgundy, then this Chardonnay from O’Briens is well worth trying out. It’s not exactly cheap but compares very favourably in price and quality with many Chardonnays from Burgundy or California.

€26.45 from O’Briens

Medium-bodied and textured with mouth-watering peach fruits, citrus peel, subtle hazelnuts from the oak-ageing, and a fine mineral streak. Lively and full of flavour, this would go nicely with most chicken and richer fish dishes. We drank ours with a traybake of chicken thighs with lemon, but I suspect it would be even better with chicken in a creamy mushroom sauce, or salmon with loads of butter.

Delheim is a family-owned winery based in Stellenbosch close to Cape Town. They supply O’Briens with a range of very well-made, keenly-priced wines, including two great Chenin Blancs and a Pinotage Rosé. The sur lie is whole bunch pressed and fermented in 500 and 225 hl. French oak barrels, 15% of them new. It is then aged on its lees for nine months. 13.5%abv.

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Côte de Brouilly 2020, Cuvée Mélanie, Daniel Bouland

Côte de Brouilly 2020, Cuvée Mélanie, Daniel Bouland

A beautifully rich smooth Beaujolais with dark cherry, plum and blackcurrant fruits. The acidity is there but you hardly notice it given the concentration of ripe fruit. The finish is long and rounded. Serve lightly chilled with charcuterie, semi-hard cheese or chicken dishes. I bought this for €24.95 from Grapevine – Onthegrapevine.ie

 

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Silice 2017, Ribeira Sacra

Silice 2017, Ribeira Sacra

Seductive, perfectly ripe soft sweet/sour dark cherry fruits; light, svelte and soothing. This is a lovely bottle of wine. I defy anyone to dislike it.

 

Try this with pork dishes – pork chops with mushrooms?

 

I have featured many wines from Ribeira Sacra over the last few years; here the Mencía grape, sometimes blended with other local varieties, produces wines with a thrilling purity of fruit and delicate balance. In fact there are probably less than half a dozen really good producers, but we can expect this to expand in the next few years. This one was new to me, but I will investigate further.

 

 

€23.95 from Searsons, Monkstown, searsons.com; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock, jusdevine.ie; Deveney’s, Dundrum; Eleven Deli, Greystones; Drinkstore, D7, drinkstore.ie.

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