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.
Every now and again you come across a producer that might be special. I met Hungarian winemaker Zoltán Heimann on a visit to Dublin last year. He is obviously a very bright and capable winemaker, and he is making some fantastic wines.
The Heimann winery was established by his parents, his mother making the wine and his father, also Zoltán, involved in the viticulture. They are based in Szekszárd in the southern part of the country, red wine country I am told. Zoltán studied winemaking at Geisenheim, Montpellier and Bordeaux before returning home.
The family has a passion for Kadarka and Kékfrankos, two indigenous grape varieties. Zoltán senior has been working with the local university to produce better lower-yielding clones of both varieties to improve the quality of their grapes.
Kadarka has a long history in Hungary, and was an important constituent in the legendary Bull’s Blood/ Bikavér. Handled carefully, it can produce mouth-watering fresh wines with crunchy dark fruits.
Kékfrankos is the Hungarian name for Blaufränkisch, a variety grown all over central Europe. There are several leading proponents in Austria producing great wines. The wines are typically low in alcohol, medium-bodied, with pure fresh fruits. I love them.
I tasted three wines from Heimann and was blown away by them. All had an amazing purity, lively acidity, and perfectly ripe fruits combined with a beguiling freshness.
Hungary has been making great wines for decades now; we just don’t see them here in Ireland. The Heimann wines, along with some from other interesting Hungarian producers, are imported by Balázs Rakamazi of Vinifinesse. JN Wines also import wines from the Sebestyén winery also in the Szekszárd region.
Kadarka Szekszárd 2021, Heimann
Fresh reviving red fruits and morello cherries with nicely balancing acidity and a touch of spice. A lovely vin de soif. 16/20 €26.75 – €26-28.
Kékfrankos 2018 Heimann
Dried rose petals, leafy developing leafy smoky notes with red fruits and a mineral bite. 16.5/20 €26-28
Kékfrankos Bati Kereszt 2019, Heimann
This is a seriously good wine; lovely fresh nose, dark fruits, plums and blackcurrants and floral notes; the palate has the same bright, ripe, rounded fruits and a chalky dry finish. Classic Kékfrankos / Blaufränkisch. 17.5/20 €35-37
The Heimann wines are available from the following outlets: The Corkscrew, D2; 64Wine, Glasthule; Blackrock Cellar; Clontarf Wines, D3; Pinto Wines, D9; Pete’s Provisions, D5; Elm Epicurean, D4; Margadh, D13; Provender Stores, D8.
How often have we heard the description ‘modest, quietly spoken and lets the wine do the talking’ only to meet a brash, overly confident winemaker? One of my very best trips ever was to Beaujolais with the late Tomás Clancy in 2016. We spent three or four wonderful days visiting many of the great producers of the region including Jean-Paul Brun. I had been enjoying the wines for years, so it was a pleasure to meet him, all the more so because he was genuinely modest and let us taste the wines in peace, only answering questions when asked, having given us a brief introduction to his domaine. Even the signage (see above) was modest. The wines then and now are wonderful, always light in alcohol, pure in fruit and full of character. At a recent Wines Direct tasting, I tasted five of his wines, each one a charmer. All are available exclusively from Winesdirect.ie and their shop in Mullingar.
Beaujolais Blanc 2021 Domaines des Terres Dorées, Jean-Paul Brun Delightful lively Chardonnay with lightly textured orange peel and green apples. €23.35
Roussanne Blanc Jean-Paul Brun Vin de France 2021 Made from vines planted in the Beaujolais region. Creamy, with a seductive rich texture and apricot fruits. Very moreish. Organic. €24.75
Côtes de Brouilly 2021 Domaine des Terres Dorées, Jean-Paul Brun Textbook Beaujolais; fresh slightly grippy zippy red cherry fruits, good acidity and a supple finish. It has a wonderful diaphanous quality. An unputdownable vine de soif. Organic. €26
Moulin-à-Vent Domaine des Terres Dorées 2021, Jean-Paul Brun Wow! An amazing concentration of slightly savoury refreshing juicy dark fruits. Seemingly light, but it has genuine structure that calls out for little ageing. Lovely wine. €29.25
Morgon Côte de Puy 2021 Domaine des Terres Dorées, Jean-Paul Brun
Another stunner. Restrained, elegant yet concentrated with a lovely mineral backbone and slightly chewy tannins. Gorgeous now but will certainly keep and improve. Organic. €32.70
Textbook Chianti Classico with violet and red fruit aromas; medium-bodied with dark cherry fruits. Good but not intrusive acidity and perfectly judged tannins on the finish. Try this with most plainly grilled red meats or mushroom-based dishes.
Tasted and Coravined before Christmas this was a treat on a chilly February evening. Fèlsina is based on the south-eastern border of Chianti Classico. It has been run by the Poggiali family since 1966. While the Riserva, Fontalloro, Rancio and single vineyard Colonia are all very good (as is their olive oil) I have always been very fond of the Chianti Classico.
€31.95 from StationtoStationWine.ie; Wineonline.ie; Eldons, Clonmel; The Allotment.ie.
Rich and textured with harmonious, lush, creamy soft ripe stone fruits – peaches and apricots – with subtle toasted nuts and just enough acidity. Outstanding wine. 17.5/20
The 2020 vintage is available for €53 although you may still be able to find the 2018 and 2019 vintages in some shops. From Deveney’s – Dundrum; Martins; McHugh’s; Redmonds of Ranelagh; The Corkscrew, D2; Nectar Wines; Mitchell and Son; Wineonline.ie.
I received a sample of this a few years back and wondered how it might age, so I Coravined it and tried it again recently. It is the top wine from Belondrade y Lurton, a project started by Didier Belondrade in 1994. The wines are made in a very smart minimalist winery overlooking the vines. Belondrade has 23 plots of vines, all in La Seca, one of the top wine-growing regions of Rueda. Spontaneous fermentation, fermented and aged in French oak of various age and size.
Quite delicious with easy smooth dark fruits, a lick of dusty leather, spice and black pepper. This has a lovely soft subtle ripeness and the tannins are light at this stage.
A present from my sister who lives in California, and knows I am a fan of Anthill. The winery is better known for their Pinot, but the Syrah, from a cool-climate vineyard a few kilometres from the Pacific Ocean, is equally good.
Anthill Farms are imported by Winemason and I see Mitchell & Son has the 2016 vintage for €48.95.
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.
Just back from one of the tasting highlights of the year: Spit! This is a group of four of our finest small importers who come together twice a year to show their wines. One is primarily Spanish, one Burgundian, another Italian, and one Austro-German-Portuguese, but all have a selection from various parts of Europe and South Africa.
Below, a few of my favourites, but there were many, many more.
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.