Crozes-Hermitage 2005 Alain Graillot
St. Joseph ‘Les Royes’1999 Domaine Courbis
Syrah ‘Sensation du Nord’ 2009 Patrick & Christophe Bonnefond
Over the August bank holiday weekend, I sipped my way through three delicious light elegant Syrahs from the Northern Rhône. Over the last few years, probably only Pinot Noir has given me more pleasure than wines from this region. Most have a seductive delicacy and finesse combined with light alcohol and a savoury edge.
Bangs per buck Alain Graillot’s red Crozes Hermitage must be one of the best value wines in the market. Both red and white sell for under €30, and both are accessible young but with an ability to age – a wonderful combination. The red is never big nor alcoholic winning you over with its subtle charms. I have drunk many vintages and rarely been disappointed. This was a bottle of 2005, given to me by a friend. It was great wine; light elegant with slightly pithy dark cherry fruits, some liquorice and a pleasing underlying earthiness. The finish was silky smooth. I savoured it over three days and it was as good the third day as the first.
The Saint Joseph 1999 Courbis was another gift, originally cellared in one of the Oxbridge colleges. 1999 was a great year in the northern Rhône. The wine did not have quite the elegance of the Graillot, but had lovely developed medium-bodied savoury dark fruits and very good length. Really delicious wine.
The third wine was a 2009 Vin de pays des collines Rhodanniennes Syrah from Christophe Bonnefond, one of the up-and-coming producers in Côte Rotie. This was made from young vines I think. It was very good, lighter than the others but with lovely purity of fruit. There was a little new oak on the finish in particular, but it never overshadowed the smooth fresh ripe dark fruits. It sells for just under €20. Mine came from Jus de Vine in Portmarnock.
IROULÉGY ARRETXEA 2009
From Terroirs in Donnybrook one of the few French Basque wines available in this country; both Wines on the Green and 64wine have Txacoli, the white Spanish Basque wine. Arretxea are the leading estate in the region and the wine was very good, especially with meatballs in a mushroom sauce. It sells for €19.50 and is pretty good value at that.
This was very good although ripe and richer than I had anticipated; great colour, ripe dark fruit on the nose, soft rounded forest fruits on the palate with a little spice and a smooth finish. It has some of the structure you would expect of Iroulégy, but the tannins are ripe and well integrated.
Yesterday was my birthday, so I opened up a couple of bottles from the cellar. Two delicious wines and one disappointment.
Trimbach Cuvée Frédéric Emile Riesling 2001 (half-bottle)
€19.99 for a ½ bottle
This is one of my favourite white wines, so I couldn’t resist buying a ½ bottle when I came across it in Greenacres in Wexford a year or two ago. Sadly the wine was completely oxidized, and undrinkable.
Gevrey-Chambertin 2006 Domaine Arlaud
This came from the Wicklow Wine Company a few years back. Arlaud do not appear in the list of superstars of Burgundy, but I have always found the wines to be very good. The Gevrey was no exception; a lovely mature wine with soft dark cherry fruits, just the right amount of acidity and a pretty decent finish too. 15/20
Bought from www.wicklowwineco.com, who list the current vintage for around
Crozes-Hermitage ‘Le Rouvre’ 2005 Domaine Yann Chave
I bought a half dozen bottles of this about five years ago, as part of my plan to buy more medium-priced wines that will improve for a few years. This was excellent, one of those wines that grows in stature throughout the evening. It had wonderful soft savoury dark fruits and very good length, with some dry tannins on the finish. I suspect it will improve further for another year or two. 16.5/20
Bought from www.thewinestore.ie a source of all things great from the Rhône. They are currently offering the Chave basic Hermitage 2011 for €25.
A tale of two Burgundies
Inspired by a trip toGermanytasting Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir), I cracked open two bottles of redBurgundyfor dinner. The first was a recent purchase from the 2010 vintage, the second an elderly bottle from the cellar.
Chambolle-Musigny 1er cru Aux Beaux Bruns 1993, Domaine Barthod
I bought six bottles of this back in the mid-90s. Having had a brilliant bottle last year, I had high hopes, which seemed dashed when I first tasted this one; quite light and acidic, seemingly past its prime. However after ten minutes it opened out into a beautiful elegant wine with delicate silky-soft red fruits and a pleasing freshness. Great wine. As far as I know, Barthod is imported by le Caveau (www.lecaveau.ie) and Nomad Wines.
Bourgogne Rouge 2010 Domaine Guillot-Broux
I really enjoyed my visit to this estate, high up in the hills of Mâcon. Emmanuel Gillot-Broux is a talented and thoughtful man making some lovely sappy light reds, and rich mineral ageworthy whites. As featured in the Times, this is a lovely fresh wine with redcurrants and summer fruits. I can see it improving further over the next year. From Cabot & Co,Westportand On the Grapevine, Dalkey for around €20.
Some of you may have seen a young Swedish man on RTE news last week, proposing to his Irish girlfriend having completed the ultramarathon course in the Connemarathon. The gentleman concerned was Hakan Eriksson, who has worked in the wine business here for a number of years, and is currently with Honest2Goodness wines. As it happened Hakan had dropped me in a sample of a new German Riesling, about which he was very excited. This is the wine:
Sybille Kuntz Riesling Trocken 2009, Mosel
Classic dry Riesling; a lightly floral nose, pristine crisp green apple fruits and citrus acidity. Fresh as a spring morning and a delight to drink.
Stockists: see www.honest2goodness.ie
Henschke Julius Riesling 2006, Eden Valley, Australia
One of the greatest Australian Rieslings I have tasted was a Henschke Julius Riesling 1997. It had wonderful mature fruit with a lovely streak of mineral acidity. This wine is not quite in the same class yet, but may get there given a few years ageing. At the moment it has light floral aromas, with crisp mineral citrus and green fruits on the palate, finishing dry. At the reduced price, it is a real bargain. I will certainly be heading off to Donnybrook Fair to buy a few bottles, and would recommend you do the same.
€16.99 down from €29.99 at Donnybrook Fair for their ‘spring clean’ sale.
Trimbach Riesling Cuvée Frédéric Emile 2004, Alsace
Trimbach is one of the very best producers of Alsace; their greatest wine, Clos Sainte Hune is virtually impossible to get hold of these days. However, savvy wine-drinkers know that the Cuvée Frédéric Emile Riesling is also a brilliant wine and at a third of the price, a bit of a bargain. Certainly it ages more reliably than most serious white Burgundy, and again is cheaper. I had the opportunity to taste a half-dozen vintages with Jean Trimach last year, and bought a case of the excellent 2002. The current vintage, the 2004, will probably be every bit as good. It has a perfect balance of sophisticated green fruits, mineral acidity, and a wonderful lingering finish. On my last visit, Greenacres in Wexford had ½ bottles on sale, perfect for two with a starter. 18.5/20
Stockists: Mitchell & Son, IFSC and Glasthule; Gaynors, Dublin 8; Kellys, Clontarf; Sweeneys, Glasnevin; Greenacres, Wexford; Cheers, Stillorgan; Superquinn ; Ardkeen, Waterford.
Pouilly-Fumé is one of those ubiquitous wines, available in every shop and restaurant, usually fine, but never likely to get you excited. Yet from the right source, it can be one of the great wines of France. I served this at dinner to a few friends in West Cork recently, and it silenced the room for a few minutes. Delicious balanced clean limpid subtle green fruits, perfectly balanced, long and dry, leaving you longing for another sip. In a sea of average wines, this stands out as exceptional. 17.5/20
Stockists: Terroirs, Donnybrook, online from www.terroirs.ie