This week a red Burgundy that offers great value for money. It is from Maranges, at the southern end of the Côte d’Or.
Concentrated and ripe with fresh red cherry fruits dusted with spice and a lovely long finish. It will evolve further over the next year or two, but is very seductive already; I bought a few bottles for the coming festive season.
€29.95 from Mitchell & Son, chq, D1 and Sandycove; La Touche Wines, Greystones; Morton’s, Ranelagh; TheNudeWineCo.ie.
Maranges, like Marsannay at the other end of the Côte d’Or, is one of the lesser-known, and therefore more reasonably priced names in Burgundy. Located just south of Santenay, it was part of Côtes de Beaune Villages appellation until 1989. There are seven Premiers Crus vineyards, and 90% of production is of red wine.
Founded in 1894, Domaine Maurice Charleux is situated in Dezize-lès-Maranges, part of Maranges. Today the domaine covers just under 12 hectares, of which 85% is Pinot Noir. They produce three premiers crus. The Vieilles Vignes is made from a few hectares of vines planted in 1933 and 1937.
Wonderfully fragrant with succulent, refreshing black cherries and plums and a touch of spicy oak. There are some very refined tannins on the lengthy drying finish, so it will keep a year or two, but it seems a shame not to drink it now. A bargain at €18.
€18 from Whelehan’s Wines, Loughlinstown, whelehanswines.ie
I wrote the article below about Dão for The Irish Times back in April 2017. At the time I lamented the fact that there were so few of the wines available in Ireland; that has certainly changed now. As well as the wine above, I am a big fan of the Quinta dos Carvailhas (reds and white) as well as the Niepoort Rótulo (a real bargain at less than €20) and the Niepoort Conciso 2019. Whelehan’s also has the very keenly priced easy-drinking Quinta do Correio from Quinta dos Roques for a very reasonable €15 – €13 on promotion.
From The Irish Times, 1st April, 2017
For some Dão is Portugal’s finest wine region, yet few wine drinkers have a clear picture of what the wines are like. It is often mentioned as Portugal’s answer to Burgundy. There are certain similarities; both produce lighter wines with good acidity, low in tannin, and sometimes alcohol too. Both wines seduce gently with perfume, finesse and elegance rather than power. But whereas Pinot Noir often tastes sweet (although it is bone dry) to me Dão is more savoury and often spicy with damson fruits – more like a Syrah from the Northern Rhône if you want a comparison. Either way, Dão certainly deserves much more of our attention. Not only does it offer some great red wines at reasonably prices, it also produces some excellent dry white wines too. Both red and white wines (it is 80% red) are made from Portuguese grape varieties.
Dão is a largish region in central northern Portugal. Circled by mountains, and therefore protected from both the Atlantic rains and the blasting heat of the interior, it has relatively dry warm summers, perfect for the slow ripening of grapes. The granitic soils give good acidity, and the altitude (200-600 metres) keeps things cool too.
For many years, the region, although well-known, was held back by a bizarre law that obliged growers to sell their grapes to the local co-op, who often lacked the necessary winemaking skills. The result was large quantities of very dull tannic wines. But in recent years, there has been a blossoming of local talent, as well as an influx of other Portuguese winemakers. Not only are the wines far better, they are very reasonably priced too.
Two red grapes are worth special mention. This is the home of Touriga Nacional, one of Portugal’s greatest grape varieties. You will also come across Jaen, known as Mencía in Galicia, a variety with huge potential. Then there is Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo) and Alfrocheiro, For white wines, there is Encruzado, possibly Portugal’s greatest white variety. It all adds up to an area that offers real excitement. At the less expensive end, the wines can be fabulously perfumed and lightly fruity. If you like less heavy wines, there are some real bargains, but the more expensive wines are great value too.
I featured the excellent Fonterutoli Chianti Classico a few weeks back. This is another finely crafted Chianti Classico, 100% Sangiovese from the impressive 2020 vintage. Fragrant, medium-bodied and rounded, with pure dark and red cherry fruits, with a nice ripeness, balanced by a fine acidity and easy but present tannins. Very drinkable now with red meats, but it willmcertainly keep a year or two.
Riecene are based in Gaiole, one the more elevated, cooler parts of Chianti Classico, an advantage in warmer vintages. The vineyards are farmed organically.This was tasted at the excellent Greenacres tasting in Dublin recently. If you haven’t visited the shop or browsed the website, then do one or both; they have one of the finest wine lists in the country.
Intense ripe dark fruits with a savoury edge, a little toasty oak and a long firm tannic finish. Despite the tannins, this is not a huge wine, but well-balanced and approachable now, although it will certainly keep. I would decant it now and serve with a rare striploin steak, roast lamb or something other equally substantial dish. A very good wine, with a nice quality of fruit, and very keenly priced too. It slots in nicely between the less expensive Rufo and the range of top Quinta wines from Quinta do Vale d. Maria.
€19.95 from Conways, Ratoath; Martin’s, Fairview; Thomas’s, Foxrock; Higgins, Clonskeagh; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; McHughs, Dublin 5; Shiels, Malahide; Firecastle, Kildare; The Wine House, Trim; The Coach House, Ballinteer; Ardkeen, Waterford.
Quinta do Vale d. Maria was founded by Cristiano van Zeller in the 1990’s and was one of the original group of Douro Boys – although the winemaker for a while was a girl – the talented Sandra Tavares da Silva. The estate was sold in 2017 to Vinho Verde producer Aveleda (owned by van Zellar’s cousin). He remains on as winemaker.
This is made from a blend of 20–35-year-old Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz vines. Fermented in stainless steel followed by six months in French oak, and a further thirteen months in stainless steel.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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;
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.