This is an, engaging and utterly charming, lightly aromatic wine, with elegant redcurrant fruits and light tannins on the finish. It has good acidity, giving it a lovely freshness and an attractive subtle earthiness. There is a wonderful purity of fruit that draws you back to the glass time after time. Well, it did me anyway.
We drank it with our weekly roast organic chicken, often the perfect match for any wine, red or white. Serve it very cool; I chilled ours in the fridge for an hour. It then warmed up as we drank it.
The vineyards are farmed biodynamically. Eric Nicolas uses natural yeasts and minimal intervention in his winemaking, fermenting in large barrels in his tufa caves. That probably makes this a natural wine, although it bears little resemblance to many that I have tasted. Over the last decade, Nicolas has built a reputation as one of the finest white winemakers in the Loire valley, crafting some sublime dry, medium and sweet wines from the lesser-known appellations of Jasnières and Coteaux du Loir. Try his sublime Vieilles Vignes Eparses (€48) if you get the chance. All of the white wines are made from Chenin Blanc. Pineau d’Aunis is, as the labels tells us, an unusual local red grape variety, a close relative of the Chenin Blanc.
Delightful fresh medium-bodied white with textured ripe nectarines, and a crisp saline dry finish. Dangerously moreish.
Grilled mackerel or sardines.
Made from a blend of three Portuguese varieties, Gouveio, Fernão Pires and Arinto, this is one of many excellent white wines now coming out of Portugal. Vale de Capucha, run by the youthful Pedro Marques, is one of my favourite producers in Portugal for both red and white wines.
€20 from Lilac Wines, Dublin 3, lilacwines.ie; The Wine House, Trim; First Draft Coffee & Wine, Dublin 8, Firstdraftcoffeandwine.com;
First publised in The Irish Times, Saturday 13th July, 2019.
This week we celebrate the French National holiday with four of the best-known names in French wine. At their best, all offer excellent everyday drinking.
There are few things so quintessentially French as a glass of fresh, fruity Beaujolais accompanied by a crusty baguette, a hunk of cheese, a few slices of ham, rosette salami and a nice green salad. In many ways Beaujolais has it all. The region is picturesque, with rolling verdant hills and quaint old villages. The wine scores at most levels too; good basic Beaujolais is a delight. Beaujoalis Villages is even better; light in alcohol and filled with crunchy fresh fruits. It is summer in a glass. In the late 20th and early 21st century, the region lost its way a bit. Spurred on by one or two critics, a few large producers began ramping up the alcohol (largely by adding sugar) and created big, over-extracted monsters that bore little resemblance to the real thing. It is perhaps not surprising that the natural wine movement – small producers farming biodynamically, and making low-interventionist wines, started in Beaujolais. Today, quality at every level has never been higher.
Further south, the Southern Rhône valley produces massive quantities of decent glugging wine. Every supermarket offers one or more, usually at less than €10 and most are very drinkable. Spend a few euro more and you will find some great wines. Like Beaujolais, Côtes du Rhône goes well with many foods, although more substantial recipes work better. I brought a bottle of the Côtes du Rhône on this page to an Indian BYOB restaurant (the lovely 3 Leaves in Blackrock) and it went perfectly with a wide variety of lightly spicy meat and vegetarian dishes. If you plan on firing up the barbecue this weekend, it will cover all of the meat options.
I cannot think about Muscadet without shellfish. I salivate at the thought of a large plate of oysters, a bowl of moules, or a pile of prawns to be picked through, with a glass of lightly chilled Muscadet on hand at all times. As with Beaujolais, the quality of Muscadet has shot up in recent years, and prices have not always kept pace. Dunnes Stores (€10.50), O’Briens (€14.95/€11.95) and SuperValu (€10) are all worth trying out too.
Our image of Bordeaux is of the beautiful large châteaux of the famous Médoc region. At the top end, Bordeaux produces some of the finest and most expensive wines in the world. But that represents a tiny part of total production. The rest is made up of small farmers producing lightly fruity wines, with good acidity and a dryness on the finish. They go perfectly with your Sunday roast, chicken, lamb or beef, as well as pork and lamb chops.
Château Roc de Villepreux 2016, Bordeaux Supérieur (Organic) 12.5%, €10.50
Light, smooth, easy red fruits with a nice herbaceous edge. This would be great with grilled lamb chops and roasted peppers.
Beaujolais ‘69’ 2015, Christophe Coquard 12%, €16
Arm yourself with a crusty baguette, some quality charcuterie and a hunk of cheese; sit out in the garden and enjoy with a cool glass of this lip-smacking light Beaujolais, with its bouncy summer fruits.
Côtes du Rhône Saint-Esprit 2017, Delas 14%, €16.95
A rich, rounded, svelte Côtes du Rhône with smooth dark fruits; as well as the Indian food above, I enjoyed a bottle with rare fillet steak, freshly dug spuds and salad, followed by some Comté cheese.
Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine sur Lie, La Louvetrie 2018, Organic 12.5%, €17.15
What could be better than a plate of oysters or a handful of prawns with homemade garlic mayonnaise, accompanied by this delicious fresh, vibrant, fruit-filled Muscadet?
This is a delicious summer red, light and juicy with crunchy red fruits. Gouleyant as the French would say, or very gluggable in English I couldn’t find a vintage on the label; possibly it was on the cork, long since recycled. Great summer drinking and good value too.
€14.15 from Wines Direct, Mullingar, and Arnott’s, Dublin 1, winesdirect.ie
We drank ours with pan-fried hake, new potatoes and the very last of the season’s asparagus.
Loire Pinot has been improving steadily in recent years, possibly partly due to climate change, but also better viticulture and winemaking. It also helps that our tastes have shifted a little towards lighter wines.
Perfect on a warm summer’s eve; light, a mere 12%, and refreshing with vibrant citrus and peach fruits. Despite the lightness, it has good concentration and length. Great value for money too.
We drank this with some queen scallops simply seared with butter and lemon juice.
Vinho Verde has come on in leaps and bounds; these days fewer semi-sweet green herbaceous wines and more light succulent and concentrated versions that are perfect with shellfish. Anselmo Mendes seems to have a hand in just about everything that is going on in this part of Portugal. Not only does he have his own winery (available through Wines on the Green) but he advises a number of other producers too. Including this one.
A very smart package arrived on my doorstep this week, from the people who handle Moët & Chandon. The famous Moët Impérial Brut Champagne is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, and has released a limited-edition bottle and newly designed gift box.
Originally christened ‘Impérial’ as a tribute to Napoléon Bonaparte, the first bottles were shipped in 1869. Apparently a bottle was smashed on the bow to bring good luck on the voyage thus creating a tradition that continues today (although not always with Moët). The Champagne spraying at the winners podium, indulged in by racing drivers (always with Moët) was started at Le Mans in 1967 by Dan Gurney. Various rock stars, film stars and other assorted celebs have enjoyed a glass of Moët and it has appeared in a number of films.
With a bottle opened every second somewhere in the world, Moët Impérial (it is pronounced Mowett) is the most popular brand of Champagne of all, with some 28 million bottles being produced every year. While I have not always been impressed by the quality of the Champagne in the past, I have tasted several very good bottles more recently. Expect bright apple and pear fruits, and a smooth lightly creamy palate with touches of grilled nuts.
The anniversary gift box with limited edition (not sure how limited) bottle is available from SuperValu for €58. A standard bottle, widely available will set you back €48-50.
First published in The Irish Times, Saturday 6th July, 2019
Now that the schools have closed, and Met Éireann is promising temperatures approaching 25 degrees, we turn our attention to summer wines again. I recently splashed out on a mixed case of white wines: two Vinho Verdes, a few Rieslings, a tasty Muscadet and a few others too. All were 12.5 per cent or less in alcohol, the Vinho Verdes just 11.5 per cent. These (if they last) will be my summer whites.
Thankfully, as our general tastes move towards lower alcohol wines – particularly with lighter white wines – buyers are providing us with a greater choice. I tend to avoid very low alcohol wines, those at less than 10 per cent, as they often don’t really seem like wine.
The one exception is German Riesling Kabinett and Spâtlese, both of which make for fantastic summer drinking. Bear in mind when buying that a producer is allowed 0.5 per cent leeway either way, so a 12.5 per cent wine could actually be 13 per cent or 12 per cent.
There is no shortage of choice; virtually every country produces something light and white. Muscadet would always be one of my first choices; it is still incredibly good value. Most of the multiples including SuperValu, Aldi, Dunnes Stores and O’Briens offer at least one. Picpoul de Pinet, often tagged as the Muscadet of the south, is another option.
Elsewhere in France, many of the white wines of the Loire and southwest France come in at under 13 per cent. I covered Vinho Verde from Portugal a few weeks ago. Semillon from Australia, Grüner Veltliner from Austria, as well as a host of Italian white wines all register as light and refreshing. But this week, I am focusing on four less well-known names, all at 12 per cent alcohol or less.
Gentil d’Alsace, once a traditional name for any wine made from various varieties, now has official AOC status. It must include at least 50 per cent “noble” grapes – riesling, gewürztraminer, muscat and pinot gris – with the remainder made up from sylvaner, pinot blanc, chasselas.
The version below, a blend of four different grape varieties from one of the most reliable producers in Alsace, is excellent value for money. Sauvignon blanc drinkers should certainly check out Tesco’s Finest Côtes de Gascogne; made from the very local colombard and gros manseng grapes, this is a bargain at €9.
The Édalo comes from Huelva, in the far south of Spain, right beside the Portuguese border. The cooling Atlantic winds make for a delicate light dry wine, made from the local Zalema grape. Argentine made from the Torrontés grape can sometimes be a little too aromatic and rich, but in the wine below, the inclusion of 15 per cent Riesling adds a lovely vibrancy to the aromas and fleshy fruit of the Torrontés. This is one of my favourite summer (and winter) white wines.
Tesco Finest Côtes de Gascogne 2018 11%, €9
Lightly aromatic with clean fresh apple and pear fruits, with plenty of brisk citrus. On its own, with seafood or soft goat’s cheese salads. From Tesco, tesco.ie
Amalaya Torrontés Riesling 2018, Calchaquí Valley, Argentina 12.5%, €17.99
Torrontés with a touch of Riesling, and it really works very well. Lightly aromatic, with subtle elderflower aromas; very fresh crisp and pure with mouth-watering peaches, finishing dry. By itself, or with fish. A seafood ceviche? From Baggot Street Wines, Dublin 4, baggotstreetwines.com; Blackrock Cellar, Co Dublin, blackrockcellar.com; the Corkscrew, Dublin 2, thecorkscrew.ie; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock, Co Dublin, jusdevine.ie; Kellys, Dublin 3, kellysofflicence.ie; Martin’s Off-Licence, Dublin 3, martinsofflicence.ie; Red Island Wine Co, Skerries, Co Dublin; wineonline.ie
Gentil d’Alsace 2015, Meyer-Fonné 12%, €18.95
A blend of Muscat, Pinot Blanc, Riesling and Gewürztraminer that is softly fruity with touches of honey and ginger, balanced by lively citrus. A perfect summery aperitif, with quiche and salad or spicy chicken dishes. From Baggot Street Wines, Dublin 4, baggotstreetwines.com; Drinkstore, Dublin 7, drinkstore.ie; Fallon & Byrne, Dublin 2, fallonandbyrne.com; Green Man Wines, Dublin 6, greenmanwines.ie; Worldwide Wines, Waterford, worldwidewines.ie
First published in the Irish Times, Saturday 30th June 2019.
Wine and all its attendant nomenclature can be confusing at times. But some of it serves a purpose; today I take a look at four wine-producing terms that are very much on trend at the moment. Hopefully it will help you enjoy that glass a little more, or avoid the ones you hate.
Whole bunch means that entire bunches of grapes, including the stalks, have been included in the fermentation. Before the invention of crusher-destemmer machines, this was how most red wines were made. The resulting wines tend to be lighter in colour, slightly lower in alcohol and have a freshness and also sometimes a ‘grippy’ element. The stalks need to be ripe, or they will impart a green herbaceous element to the wine. A producer can use 100 per cent or partial whole bunch. Others, looking for softer, richer wine will avoid it entirely.
Orange, or amber wines as most now prefer to call them, are essentially whites wines made like red wines. Instead of separating the juice from the skins as soon as they are crushed, a winemaker can leave the two together (hence why they are sometimes called skin-contact wines) for a period of hours, days or months. Depending on how it is done, the resulting wine will be deeper in colour with a pithy tannic element.
A pet nat wine – the name is short for pétillant naturel – is made by allowing the wine to finish fermentation or referment in the bottle, typically leaving a lightly fizzy cloudy wine, usually low in alcohol, and often bottled with a crown cap. This is the oldest method of creating sparkling wine, but requires a high level of skill from the producer.
Yeasts don’t sound very romantic (you won’t find a winemaker boasting about them) but many believe that local or wild yeasts, present in the vineyard and winery, are an important part of their terroir, and give their wine a unique stamp. A producer can allow wild yeasts to create a spontaneous fermentation.
However, if the yeasts are not efficient, there is a danger that the fermentation will become ‘stuck’ and the wine will spoil. Most large-scale producers use cultured yeasts to ensure a full and speedy fermentation. A wide range of commercial yeasts are available, some of which accentuate specific characters in a wine, such as aroma or texture.
Some argue that the distinctive flavour of some wines, such as Marlborough sauvignon blanc, are entirely down to the strain of yeast used, rather than any unique climatic conditions. If you want to experiment, buy yourself a bottle of regular Greywacke Marlborough sauvignon and a bottle of the wild sauvignon blanc below to see the difference it makes; both are excellent wines, made from exactly the same grapes, but taste completely different.
A blend of gewürztraminer and muscat, aged for six months on the skins. A glorious, hedonistic mix of tangy fresh zesty acidity, orange peel and luscious fruits with a lightly tannic bite on the finish. It’s a remarkable wine; pair with runny cheeses or spicy pork and chicken dishes.
From: The Corkscrew, Dublin 2, thecorkscrew.ie; Blackrock Cellar, Co Dublin, blackrockcellar.com; Bradley’s Off-Licence, Cork, bradleysofflicence.ie; Drinkstore, Dublin 7, drinkstore.ie
Menti Roncaie Sui Lieviti 2017, Italy (organic)
11 per cent, €23
Made from the soave garganega grape, this is an unfiltered, sulphur-free, organic pet nat; light, crisp green apple fruits, with a very refreshing cidery touch. A summery aperitif.
From: Sheridan’s Cheesemongers, Dublin 2, Kells, Co Meath, and Galway, sheridanscheesemongers.com; siyps.com; Green Man Wines, Dublin 6, greenmanwines.ie
Las Uvas de Ira 2016, Sierra de Gredos DO Mentrida, Spain
14.5 per cent, €27.95
A 100 per cent whole-bunch garnacha; exquisitely perfumed, with fine, delicate, pure strawberry fruits and a lovely freshness running throughout. Brilliant wine. Try with grilled pork or lamb.
From: Ely 64, Glasthule, Co Dublin, ely64.com; Baggot Street Wines, Dublin 4, baggotstreetwines.com; Blackrock Cellar, Co Dublin, blackrockcellar.com; Clontarf Wines, Dublin 3, clontarfwines.ie; Green Man Wines, Dublin 6, greenmanwines.ie; Martin’s Off-Licence, Dublin 3, martinsofflicence.ie; Redmonds, Dublin 6, redmonds.ie
Greywacke Wild Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Marlborough
14 per cent, €33.99
A wonderful, complex wine with a mouth-filling creamy texture, rich, lush peach fruits offset by good acidity, and a lingering, bone-dry finish. Pair with grilled sea bass.
From: Ely 64, Glasthule, Co Dublin, ely64.com; Baggot Street Wines, Dublin 4, baggotstreetwines.com; Blackrock Cellar, Co Dublin, blackrockcellar.com; Clontarf Wines, Dublin 3, clontarfwines.ie; the Corkscrew, Dublin 2, thecorkscrew.ie; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock, Co Dublin, jusdevine.ie; La Touche, Greystones, Co Wicklow, latouchewines4u.ie; Lilac Wines, Dublin 3, lilacwines.ie; Martin’s Off-Licence, Dublin 3, martinsofflicence.ie; Mitchell & Son, Dublin 1, Sandycove, Co Dublin, and Avoca, Kilmacanogue and Dunboyne, mitchellandson.com; O’Briens, obrienswine.ie; Thomas’s of Foxrock, Co Dublin, thomasoffoxrock.ie; wineonline.ie
First published in The Irish Times, Saturday22nd June, 2019
I wrote a few weeks ago that, given tax and duty, “value” and “cheap” do not always go together when it comes to wine. In Ireland a sub-€10 bottle can be a waste of your hard-earned cash. More expensive wines are frequently better value for money. The two great names of the northern Rhône, Hermitage and Côte Rôtie, are beyond the reach of most of us, selling for €50-€100 a bottle. The relative bargains are close at hand; between these two appellations lie St Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage. Both can offer great value – although by value I mean €20-€35 a bottle. For that you should get a wine that will transform your dinner into a special event.
In general, the wines of the northern Rhône are lighter in alcohol and more elegant in style than those of the southern Rhône, at times closer to Burgundy than to Châteauneuf-du-Pape. All are made from Syrah, occasionally with a very small percentage of a white grape.
Crozes-Hermitage, once dismissed as poor man’s Hermitage, is now responsible for some very stylish wines. They may lack the structure and concentration of wines from the neighbouring hill of Hermitage, but the best have lovely bright, fresh fruits and can age a little, too – a glass of the 2007 vintage of the Les Rouvres below was a recent highlight.
Farther north, the narrow, 50km-long appellation of St Joseph, covering 26 communes, is bigger but produces less wine than Crozes-Hermitage. It has some fantastic sites and old vines. I strongly suspect quality and prices will continue to rise, but for the moment prices in both regions are reasonable; trying to decide on just four wines this week was not easy.
I have previously mentioned the Crozes-Hermitage from Alain Graillot (€30, Mitchell & Son) and the Cuvée Equinox Domaine des Lises (€24, siyps.com, Ely 64, Green Man), and they are great wines. In addition to the Terroir de Granit below, Burgundy Direct has the tighter, more mineral Passion de Terrasses 2016 for €31.75. JNwine.com has a great range of wines from the region, including a lovely St Joseph André Perret for €27.50. Wines Direct has the fuller-bodied wines from Domaine des Remizières.
I tasted some spectacular wines from the recently rediscovered appellation of Brézème – check out your local independent for the names Éric Texier and Domaine Lombard. I also discovered a new superstar in Domaine Bott, imported to Ireland by Caubet Wines. Among the negociants, Chapoutier, Ferraton, Guigal, Jaboulet and Cuilleron all produce at least reasonably priced St Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage. And most are great value for money.
Crozes-Hermitage 2015 Grande Classique, Cave de Tain 13.5%, €19.95
This has featured before, but it is one of my all-time favourites. Beautifully rounded, ripe yet savoury dark fruits with a good dry finish. A great all-purpose wine, but perfect with roast chicken or pork. From O’Briens, obrienswine.ie
St Joseph 2016, Terroir de Granit, Guy Farge
A lovely, elegant wine with fresh violets on the nose, crunchy, juicy dark-cherry fruits and a light mineral touch. Try it with a plate of charcuterie or some grilled lamb chops. From Burgundy Direct, burgundydirect.ie
St Joseph 2016, Domaine du Monteillet, Stéphane Montez
Plump, fresh dark fruits – cherries and blackcurrants – with a whiff of spice and an easy finish. Would pair well with a seared duck breast with black cherries. From Searsons, Monkstown, Co Dublin, searsons.com; Ely 64, Glasthule, Co Dublin, ely64.com
Crozes-Hermitage 2015 Le Rouvre, Yann Chave
One of my favourite wines. The 2015 is relatively rich and powerful, with harmonious ripe blackcurrant fruits and spicy black pepper. This would handle a rare steak perfectly. From Searsons, Monkstown, Co Dublin, searsons.com
Findlater & Co. held an Italian portfolio tasting for the trade yesterday. There was a very impressive collection of wines on show at every price level. I include two of my favourites below.
Giacomo Fenocchio Roero Arneis 2017
Claudio Fenocchio was at the tasting pouring his wine, including a few impeccably balanced Barolos and a very tasty Langhe Nebbiolo. I also really enjoyed this Roero Arneis – and tasted it alongside the ‘orange’ version that had been left on the skins for 6 months. Very different but both delicious.
Nicely textured relatively rich peach fruits with tangy slightly pithy orange peel. Soft and rounded with nice grip coming through on the finish. €25 from Mitchell & Son, Dublin 1, Sandycove, and Avoca, Kilmacanogue & Dunboyne, www.mitchellandson.com.
Maria Gerari of Gianni Brunelli
Gianni Brunelli Rosso di Montalcino 2017
This was part of a very impressive range of wines on show, the Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2009 being one of my favorite wines of the entire tasting. However, it would probably retail for around €175; I also enjoyed the Rosso above. 2017 was a warm vintage according to Maria.
Beautifully fragrant – all violets and strawberries; very forward with elegant concentrated ripe red cherry fruit, and a fine line of tannin. Delicious wine. €37 from Green Man Wines, Dublin 6, greenmanwines.ie.