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Two for the weekend

This week, two wines I enjoyed during a three day visit to East Cork. Along with Colm McCan of Le Caveau, I gave a talk on religion and wine (a fascinating subject) in Cloyne Cathedral. If you ever visit East Cork, take a few minutes to visit this hidden gem, a lovely church with a fascinating history. We tasted the Viré-Clessé below, as many vineyards in the region were first planted by the monks in Cluny.

The following morning, I gave a talk and tasting on Spanish wine to the students at Ballymaloe Cookery School. I thought the Camino Real stood out against some pretty serious competition.

 

Viré-Clessé 2016, Les Pierres Blanches, Domaine André Bonhomme

Gorgeous generous textured apple and pear fruits with a lovely crisp mineral streak, finishing dry. Lovely pure unoaked Chardonnay.

This would go nicely with chicken dishes – either roast or in a creamy tarragon sauce.

I have been a fan of the Bonhomme wines for many years; they drink well young and age very well too. In the sea of indifferent wines found in the Mâconnais, they stand out as special – and very well priced too.

€22.95 from Le Caveau, Kilkenny, lecaveau.ie; Listons, Dublin 2, listonsfoodstore.ie; Ely 64, Glasthule, Ely64.com; Blackrock Cellar, Blackrock, blackrockcellar.com; MacGuinness Wines, Dundalk, dundalkwines.com.

 

 

 

Camino Real 2017 Ribera Sacra, Guímaro

Lightly aromatic with seductive perfectly ripe dark cherry fruits, a spicy savoury edge and a freshness, an elegance that draws you back for another sip. Delicious wine.

A seared breast of duck, or maybe belly of pork.

Pedro Rodríguez is one of the rising stars of Ribera Sacra, a region that has been receiving huge interest in recent years, for the amazing scenery as well as the unique wines. Made primarily from ancient Mencía vines clinging to the slate soils on vertiginous slopes sweeping down to the river, the wines can be spectacularly good.

 

€26 from Green Man Wines, Dublin 6, greenmanwines.ie; Ely 64, Glasthule, Ely64.com; Redmonds, Dublin 6; Redmonds.ie.

 

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Where do Ireland’s favourite wines come from?

First published in The Irish Times, Saturday 27th, 2018

Late last year the International Organisation of Vine and Wine, a Paris-based technical group, predicted that global wine production would fall by more than 8 per cent, or 22 million hectolitres, in 2017 from the previous year.

It estimated that the world would produce 246 million hectolitres of wine, almost 33 billion bottles. That may seem like a lot of wine, but it is the lowest level since 1961.

The drop in production is down to the weather; severe spring frosts in the France, Italy and Spain, the world’s three largest producers, followed by a long summer heatwave and drought in parts of Italy and Spain, all played a part.

It seems the best-known regions such as Bordeaux (but not Burgundy for once), Rioja, Chianti and Barolo were all affected. Apparently the fires in California had a negligible effect, as they occurred after the harvest.

The International Organisation of Vine and Wine also estimated that global consumption would be somewhere between 240.5 and 245.8 million hectolitres, so there should be enough to go around, but only just. Who drinks all of this wine? The producer countries mostly.

The United States is the world’s largest consumer, at 31.8 million hectolitres of  wine in  2016, followed by France (27.0 million hectolitres), Italy (22.5 million hectolitres), Germany (20.2 million hectolitres) and China (17.3 million hectolitres).

While China is expected to become the world’s second-largest market in the next five years market (current annual consumption is 1.34 litres per head, compared with our 18 litres per head), producers hoping for a bonanza may be disappointed. China is now the world’s seventh largest producer of wine, and this will certainly increase. But in the meantime, as an example of how the market is changing, China now accounts for 30 per cent of Australia’s wine exports, and is now by far their largest market. The same holds for Chile.

Consumption in Ireland is a tiny drop in this ocean at just over 80 million litres. Chile overperforms here, with 25.1 per cent of the market, although it is the world’s ninth largest producer, followed by Australia on just over 18 per cent. These are followed by the big three, France, Italy and Spain with a combined total of roughly 35 per cent of the market. These figures are based on volume and not value. We have always been keen on New World wines; combined they account for more than 60 per cent of wines sold.

Individual regions may be suffering, but we should not worry about an immediate shortage on our shelves. However, experts argue that we can expect more severe weather events in the future. Growing quality grapes is a complex business, and even a slight increase in temperatures will pose huge challenges for some of the world’s pre-eminent regions. On the other hand, maybe we will see more Irish wine in the future.

Four wines to try

Mas Buscados 2014, Tempranillo Petit Verdot VdT de Castilla
14%, €9.95 from January 29th, down from €13.95

A big, warm hug of a wine, filled with sweet supple jammy dark fruits. Perfect winter drinking with casseroles, roast red meats or hard cheeses. Stockist: O’Briens

Tesco’s Finest Ribera del Duero Reserva 2012
14.5%, €12 

A big, powerful red wine full of ripe dark fruits and spicy tannins. Locally they would drink it with roast lamb and pork, but this would go equally well with a juicy barbecued steak. If you usually drink Malbec from Argentina, this might be a good alternative. Stockist: Tesco

Cantina di Negrar Valpolicella Classico 2016
12.5%, €14.95 

Floral aromas with light juicy red cherries and a smooth, tannin-free finish. It slips down all too easily. Perfect with cold meats, mushroom risotto, a pork chop or lighter cheeses. Otherwise Margherita pizza sounds good. Stockists: Sheridan’s Cheesemongers (all branches); siyps.com

El Castro de Valtuille 2016, Mencía Joven, Bierzo
14%, €15.50

An old favourite that has returned to form with the 2016 vintage. A lovely, elegantly fruity wine with a touch of liquorice and refreshing acidity. Ideal with grilled breast of duck or a confit leg, but this is a pretty good all-purpose red. Stockists: Blackrock Cellar; 64wine; La Touche; Martins; Clontarf Wines; Baggot Street Wines; Liston’s; Drink Store, Manor Street; Lilac Wines; Sweeneys.

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My Top Ten Red Wines under €20 for 2016

This post came about as a result of a challenge set by a Twitter follower; to name my top five red wines for under €20. I have expanded it out here to ten wines. All have appeared in the Irish Times or on my blog before, and many in Wilson on Wine 2017, but I thought it might be good to see them all together. Doubtless they will change soon. In the meantime I have bought myself six bottles each of the Dâo, Geil Pinot, and Roka for drinking over the next few months.

 

 

DSCF7103Albizu Tempranilllo 2015, VdT de Castilla, Spain

 

I have a weakness for unoaked (or very lightly oaked) Rioja. I love the lively aroma, the pure cherry fruits and the refreshing acidity. Here they come together in an easy-drinking but sophisticated wine, great for sipping alone or for drinking with a variety or red and white meats. This example, made by a Rioja producer, from grapes grown within the region, doesn’t actually have the name Rioja on the label, but it certainly tastes like it. Worth buying in quantity for the season ahead.

 

€11.95-€12.95 from Mitchell & Son; Avoca Rathcoole; Le Caveau, Kilkenny; Baggot St wines; Blackrock Cellar; Corkscrew; Fallon & Byrne; Listons; MacGuinness; Green Man; 64 Wines; World Wide Wines.

 

 

Sa de Baixo 2014Sa de Baixo 2014, Douro, Portugal       

 

This has been one of my go-to wines for a few years now, and I know I am not alone; many of our independent wine shops do a brisk trade with it. The label has changed recently, but the wine is just as good . Succulent ripe red fruits with a smooth tannin-free finish. Light harmonious and very quaffable. A good all-rounder to drink by itself or with white meats – creamy chicken with pasta sounds good.

 

€13.50 from Mortons, Ranelagh; McHughs; Blackrock Cellar; Gibneys, Malahide; Avoca Rathcoole; Wicklow Wine Co.; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Baggot St Wines; DrinkStore, D7; Martins, Fairview; Browns Vineyard, Portlaoise; Red Island, Skerries; Probus, Fenian St; Sweeneys, Glasnevin; 64 Wine, Glasthule.

 

 

DSCF6516Borsao Garnacha Seleccíon, Campo de Borja, 2015, Spain

 

The label is fairly dazzling, and so is the wine. The Campo de Borja region produces large quantities of big ripe warming red wines, usually made from Garnacha. This is a warm hug of a wine. 14.5% alcohol, it is big, rounded and ripe with soft spicy strawberry fruits and a very decent supple finish. Fantastic value for money. Perfect for barbecues and other red meats.

 

 

€13.95 from Bradleys, Cork; 64 Wine, Glasthule; Next Door, Arklow; Searsons.com & Searsons Monkstown; Drinkstore, D7.

 

 

DSCF7060Acón Joven 2014, Ribera del Duero, Spain

 

A world away from the big tannic oaky monsters that once made up most of Ribera del Duero. This unoaked ‘young’ wine has forward floral aromas and delicious pure damson fruits. It packs a fair punch too, coming in at 14.5%, but you would hardly know it. Great value for money and perfect with roast lamb and beef.

 

€14.50 Red Island Wines; 64 Wine; Wicklow Wine Co; Clontarf Wines; Listons, Camden St.

 

 

 

Domaine des NuguesDomaine des Nugues, Beaujolais Villages 2014, France    

 

Beaujolais is finally coming back into fashion as we seek wines that are lighter in style. I spent a few lovely days in the region earlier this year, tasting the various crus. I also visited this estate. This wine is one of the best, and certainly superior to many of the cheap Fleurie you will come across in the shops. Wonderful aromas and pure sweet red cherry and blackcurrant fruits with a touch of liquorice. Patés, cheese and all things porcine, including belly of pork, ham and boiled bacon, as well as roast chicken.

 

€16.75 from Martin’s, Fairview; 64 Wine, Glasthule.

 

 

 

Roka BlaufränkischRoka Blaufränkisch 2015, Stajerska, Slovenia

 

Made by Irish couple Sinéad & Liam Cabot from their own grapes, both this and their equally delicious white Šipon are really good wines, and quite amazing for a first real effort after a few limited releases. The Blaufränkisch is a true vin de soif, with fresh supple cherry and damson fruits, but that really does it a disservice; this is a wine with plenty of depth and concentration. Well worth seeking out.

 

€16.99 from Cabot & Co;, Westport; No.1 Pery Square, Limerick; Grapevine, Dalkey; The Poppyseed, Clarinbridge; McCambridges, Galway.

 

 

 

DSCF6122Dâo Rótulo 2015, Niepoort, Portugal

 

If your tastes run to rich full-bodied reds, stay away from this wine. It is a delicious refreshing light red with a savoury edge to the clean damson fruits. Moreish, and with a mere 12.5% alcohol, you don’t have to deny yourself.

 

€16.99 from Redmonds, Mortons, Martins,Jus de vine, Green Man, Donnybrook Fair, Clontarf Wines, Blackrock Cellar and Baggot Street Wines

 

 

 

DSCF7121Geil Pinot Noir 2015, Rheinhessen

 

Charming free-flowing light supple sweet cherry fruits with a nice kick of acidity. Try it with salmon, tuna or pork. I have tried this several times in wine bars recently, including La Touche and Grapevine in Dalkey. It seems to suit all tastes, and is light enough be drunk without food.

 

€16.95-17.95 from La Touche; Grapevine; Mortons; Sweeneys; Redmonds; Wicklow Wine Co; Mitchell & Son; Listons; Jus de Vine; Drinkstore; Corkscrew; Blackrock Cellar; 64Wine.

 

 

 

DSCF5905Ch. Pey-Bonhomme Les-Tours 2012, Blaye – Côtes de Bordeaux, France

This was a really enjoyable wine, classic Bordeaux, with clean blackcurrant fruits, a seam of acidity running through, and a light dry tannic bite on the finish. I had mine with a roast shoulder of pork (Tamworth, from ethicalpork.com, excellent) and it was very good. I suspect it would be even better with lamb. Affordable well-made Bordeaux.

€19 from Green Man Wines, Terenure; 64Wine, Glasthule; Fallon & Byrne, Exchequer Street; Clontarf Wines; Mortons, Ranelagh.

 

 

 

 

 

Quite 2014 BierzoQuite 2014 Bierzo, Veronica Ortega

 

Medium-bodied and perfumed with fresh clean dark fruits; delicious, but if I was feeling flush I would go for Ortega’s Roc (at €30). I have been on a big Mencía kick for the last few years. I still love the Castro Valtuillé Joven, and the Brezo de Grégory Pérez, both widely available from independents, but I have really enjoyed this several times at home over the last eight months.

 

€19.50 from 64wine, Glasthule; World Wide Wines, Waterford; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Blackrock Cellars; Clontarf Wines; Drinkstore, D7;

 

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A Weekend’s Drinking 12th December

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Markus Molitor Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 2014, Mosel

From one of the finest producers in the Mosel, a delicious vibrant wine, with developing honeycomb to add to the green apple and pear. Excellent acidity keeps it fresh and interesting . 11.5% Vol. The perfect alternative to Champagne on Christmas morning? Imported by Tindal.

 

Mâcon Villages 2014, Nicolas Maillet

Very attractive well-made wine with easy plump apples, a touch of orange peel and lemon zest. Light elegant and moreish. Yum! €23.25 from Wines Direct.

 

The Edge Pinot Noir 2015, Escarpment, Martinborough

Light fresh juicy Pinot at a very reasonable price. A posh party wine with nibbles, but went very well with or roast chicken. €19.95 from independents, including Searsons. Imported by Tindal.

 

Valdecontina Viño de Parcela 2014, Casa Aurora

A Mencía from Germán Blanco, who makes the most wonderful Ribera del Duero. From memory, this is from his grandmothers vineyard in the hills above Bierzo. Excellent , structured cool-climate Mencía with savoury tight dark fruits. Real concentration and grip. Sadly I don’t think it is commercially available. From importer Vinostito

 

Venus ‘la Universal’ 2011 Monsant Sara Pérez I René Barbier

Two names to conjure with here. René Barbier has been one of the most influential winemakers in Catalonia since the 1970’s; this is his son, who is married to Sara Pérez, daughter of José Luis Pérez, another hugely important figure in Monsant and Priorat. Venus is her project. Made from Carignan, Grenache and Syrah, this is her ‘attempt to interpret femininity, the Earth, through a bottle of wine’, according to her website. If so, she sees femininity in fairly powerful terms. This wine has fresh dark cherry aromas, plenty of body, although not without some elegance, with a strong mineral element that runs throughout. In need of food. Imported by La Rousse.

 

Vigne Vecchie Nerello Mascalese 2005A.V. Calabretta, IGT Sicilia

A family-owned very traditional estate, located on the black volcanic soils of Mount Etna. When I say traditional, the wines are aged for 6-7 years in large 50-70 hectolitre oak casks, as was once practised by most producers in Barolo and Montalcino. The vines are 70-80 years old, some ungrafted. The result is a wine with a wonderful lifted fragrance, savoury dark fruits and swinging dry tannins on the finish. My wife commented that it needed ten years ageing until I pointed out that it already had that! The next day, those firm dry tannins remained. A fascinating wine but choose your audience carefully. Imported by La Rousse.

 

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A Modest Haul – the weekends consumption

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Mauzac Nature R&B Plageoles 2013, Gaillac
€29.50
I bought some of this wine a few years back while on holiday in France, and really enjoyed it in the sunshine over there. This sample arrived from Terroirs a few months back – possibly I should have tried it sooner. Crisp, fresh, dry and quite cidery. I enjoyed it, my drinking partner less so.

Terras do Cigarrón 2013, Godello, Monterrei
13%
Confirms my theory that Godello, even inexpensive Godello, ages very well. Very pleasant plump easy drinking light white wine. €12.99 from Whelehans, La Touche, Jus de Vine.

Poggio del Sasso Sangiovese 2013, Toscana
12.5%
Light cherry fruits, no real tannins, went very well with our Danish meatballs. Good light easy drinking.

Lieu-Dit, Saint Joseph 2006, Guigal
13%
Wasn’t sure what to expect of a 10 year old Marsanne. This was light in fruit with toasted nuts and wood smoke. Nice enough wine, and interesting to drink, but would have hoped for a little more, as current vintages seem to cost around €50-60.

Villa de Corullón, D. de J. Palacios 2012

14.3%
Coravined back in early March; excellent wine, a lovely mix of savoury dark cherry fruits with a strong mineral streak running throughout. €63 retail.


in vino érotico, Coteaux du Libron 2014

12.5%
This won the Noffla best white under €15 last year, and I can see why; a good clean fresh wine, the Chardonnay and Viognier giving it a subtle texture on the palate, the Sauvignon bringing a nice freshness. Nice wine.

Le Petit Chat Malin Blanc 2014 IGP Pays d’Oc
12.5%
Medium-bodied wine with light yellow stone fruits and custard – peaches in custard? With a crisp acidity. Good everyday wine. €12 from Molloys, Spar, SuperValu, Next Door, Gala, Londis.

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Easter Weekend – the wines

It was my birthday on Easter Sunday, so I felt justified in opening up a few nice elderly bottles from my stash.

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El Grano Chardonnay 2013, Chile
13.5%
€15.90 from 64wine, Glasthule; Baggot Street Wines; Green Man Wines, Terenure; Blackrock Cellar; Le Caveau, Kilkenny.

An organic wine made by a Frenchman who set up in the Curico Valley in Chile. Gerard Maguire in 64wine, Glasthule first put me on to this wine. It is a delicious plump Chardonnay, with great purity of fruit and a lovely freshness.


Miro Traminec 2013, Jeruzalem, Slovenia

13.5%
€20.99 from Cabot & Co., Westport or On the Grapevine, Dalkey.

Miro came over for the Knockranny Wine weekend, and put on a fascinating tasting of his wines. Included was a Traminec, or Gewürztraminer. I am guilty of ignoring this grape, mainly because I grew tired of the overblown aromas, flabby fruit and residual sugar that you so often find. Miro’s version however was lovely; lightly aromatic, spicy nose; soft textured lychees on the palate and good length. A charming wine to sup by itself or I suspect it would go nicely with Chinese or Thai food.

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Laurent Perrier Ultra Brut Nature Champagne
12%
Around €60.

We didn’t open up the bottle of Bollinger in the picture above for various reasons. The Brut Nature, has no residual sugar, unlike most Champagnes that have 9-12 g/l. It showed in the bone-dry, austere finish. I loved it, but others were a little less sure. It didn’t stop us polishing off the bottle before dinner though. Light crisp apple and brioche with an elegant bone dry long finish. Nice wine.

Riesling Cuvée Frédéric Emile 2002, Trimbach, Alsace
12.5%
The current vintage costs €50 – 60 a bottle.

One of my favourite white wines, and this bottle, the last of a case I bought, was superb. Elegant and restrained, with perfectly mature fruit. Toasty, nutty and honeyed, with plenty of acidity, I could have sipped it all evening. Despite the price (around €50) I still believe this is one of the best value white wines. It is made from several Grand Cru vineyards, and is less expensive and more consistent than most grand cru white Burgundy.

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Villa de Corullón 2001, Bierzo
14%
Around €65 a bottle.

This had been stashed away for the best part of a decade. As I had just finished a tasting of Bierzo, I thought it might be nice to try a mature version. It certainly didn’t taste ten years old with sour cherries, plums and a strong mineral streak. Good length. The leftovers were nice the following day too. Nice without every bowling me over.


Ch. Canon 1990, St. Emilion Grand Cru Classé

13%

I bought this around fifteen years ago; elegant and maturing with an attractive leafiness and some restrained plum fruits. It still had some tannins on the finish. Opened out nicely and went very well with my roast pork. Very good rather than excellent.

Ch. Coutet 1989, Barsac
13.5%

Rich marmalade and honey fruits, with a tangy long sweet finish. Very tasty, lacking the complexity to be really great, but a very nice wine.

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A Long Weekend in Wine

A Long Weekend in Wine

It was a long weekend if you include St. Patrick’s Day; that is my excuse for drinking so much wine. Some nice bottles.

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Wiston Estate Rosé South Downs
12%

Made by Irishman Dermot Sugrue, so we drank it on St. Patrick’s Day. Wonderful rosé with precise ripe raspberry fruits and developing notes of brioche. The label gives plenty of information; a dosage 8 g/l sugar; 57% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Meunier. Disgorged 12/2013

Triennes Viognier Sainte Fleur 2013 IGP Mediteranée
13%

This is what business class customers drink on Aer Lingus. Light peaches and custard with a touch of vanilla. Nice well-balanced wine that went nicely with my gnudi. Retails for €23 in Kellys, Clontarf; Corkscrew; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Sheils, Malahide.

I am Didimi from Dimi and this is my Krakhuna 2013
Imereti, Georgia
12%
IMG_1923

Surely the longest title for a wine. Krakhuna is the local grape (but then you knew that) and Dimi is the sub-region, part of Imereti. Georgia, the cradle of winemaking, is making quite a name for itself. Look out for Alice Feiring’s new book ‘For the Love of Wine’ on Georgian non-interventionist wine. This wine is made in glass demi-johns with no skin contact. Fresh with clean mineral fruits and a nice funkiness too; lovely wine. I Coravin the wine and celebrate the start of the weekend with a glass every Friday evening. Available through Le Caveau in Kilkenny, and Green Man Wines and probably a few others for €33.

Wolf Blass President’s Selection Chardonnay 2010, South Australia
13%

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This missed the photo shoot above as it was hiding in the fridge. Good medium-bodied Chardonnay, with subtle tropical fruits on the palate, with a good lightly creamy texture and the merest touch of oak. Currently being phased out, but sells for €19.99.

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Domaine Rolet Côtes du Jura Savagnin 2009
14%

4.5 years in old oak without topping up or racking. This has sherry-like qualities with intense oxidised nutty flavour and a bone dry mineral finish. Magnificent complex wine that I drank over three evenings. The back label suggested drinking it with creamy sauces, (chicken with morels being a classic match) as well as local cheeses. I tried mine with hake in parsley sauce, which was surprisingly good, and with Comté cheese, also very good. Sadly not available in Ireland yet, although I hear rumours it may appear in 64wine over the next few months; they have other wines from Domaine Rolet.

El Pájaro Rojo, Mencía 2014, Bierzo
14%
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Part of a big Mencía tasting, this was a richer style of Bierzo, from the lower clay soils. It went through malo in new oak. Textured rounded dark fruits with hints of spice, this may not have the freshness of some Mencía, but it more than makes up for this with a lovely rounded texture. Very well priced too. €16.95 from Searsons, Monkstown.

S.C. Pannell Tempranillo Touriga 2014, McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley
14%

Sleek smooth and concentrated dark fruits with a savoury touch and some perfectly integrated tannins. A gently purring, very cleverly made wine. Steve Pannell is one of the most highly regarded winemakers down under at the moment, having won the Jimmy Watson trophy in 2013, and was awarded Winemaker of the Year in 2015. €26.99 a bottle, imported by Liberty Wines.

Castello di Fonterutoli 2004, Mazzei Chianti Classico
14%

I bought six bottles of this about eight years ago, as it was being highly touted in the press at the time. I have drunk two bottles, both fine, but had I paid the full €50 retail price (I got it at a discount) I might have been a little disappointed. It is rich and rounded with very good dark fruits, a touch of wood, and some acidity too. Maturing nicely with some development. As I say, nice wine, but lacking a little Sangiovese character.

Hans Herzog Spirit of Marlborough Merlot Cabernet 2005, New Zealand
14%

I used this in a master class on New Zealand wines a few months back and coravined it. Mature, soft and leafy/herby in a good way, with ripe cassis fruit. Nothing like a Bordeaux but lovely interesting drinking. Sadly I don’t think this is available in Ireland. Hans Herzog is a Swiss winemaker/restaurateur who fell in love with Marlborough and moved there.

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Green Chartreuse shades it.

First published in the Irish Times, Saturday, 27th February 2016.

“With a pint of green chartreuse ain’t nothin’ seems right You buy the Sunday paper on a Saturday night”

So growled Tom Waits in Til The Money Runs Out, on his 1980 album Heartattack and Vine. Chartreuse has that sort of reputation. Strange then that it was created by an order of contemplative monks, and that French children are fed a drop of the Elixir Végétal de la Grande-Chartreuse dissolved on a sugar cube to ward off sickness. At a heart-warming 69 per cent alcohol, it must kill all known germs. This elixir comes in a small phial, encased in its wooden case. The monks market it as a cordial, a liqueur and a “very effective” tonic on their website. The standard liqueur is slightly less potent than the Elixir at 55 per cent.

Chartreuse traces its history back to 1609 when, it is said, a secret recipe was handed to the Carthusian monks by a marshal in the army of King Henri IV. It eventually found its way to their headquarters in the mountains of Haut-Savoie, a beautiful region an hour’s drive east of Lyon. There, the apothecary succeeded in creating an elixir from some 130 herbs and spices. The exact recipe remains a secret to this day, shared only by two monks. Eventually, seeing that it had become popular as a drink, the monks created a less potent liqueur for use as a beverage. As you can also find a similar liqueur known as génépi, traditionally made by farmers in the region, it is possible that the story of Henri IV was invented along the way.

The order was expelled twice from France, once during the French Revolution and again in 1903. On the second occasion, they continued to produce the liqueur in Spain, only returning, with tacit state approval, in 1929. In their absence, an inferior copy was offered by the new distillery owners in France.Today, the complex blend of herbs is mixed at the monastery before being taken to a distillation plant in the nearby town of Voiron. You can visit the museum, and take a very pleasant walk around the high walls of the monastery, but entrance is forbidden. There are signs outside requesting visitors to keep quiet.

There are two versions of Chartreuse, green and yellow, each flavoured with a different selection of herbs. The yellow is sweeter, flavoured with saffron, and lower in alcohol. The complex flavours of the green are intensely herbal, medicinal and powerful. There is a sweetness that never cloys; it lingers and develops on the palate, lasting minutes. It is one of the only liqueurs that ages and improves in bottle and gives it’s name to the colour chartreuse.

The monks produce six different herb-based liqueurs, my favourite being the green Chartreuse VEP or (Vieillissement Exceptionnellement Prolongé) which is the standard version aged for a longer period in oak casks. It makes an excellent digestif served chilled after dinner. Green Chartreuse is back in fashion, as a drink with water, or as an ingredient in cocktails. Skiers in the resorts above the Haute-Savoie warm themselves up with a verte chaude, made with one part green Chartreuse to three parts hot chocolate, finished with a layer of cream – a French take on an Irish coffee.The Last Word, a Prohibition era cocktail, was recently revived by bartender Murray Stenson in Seattle. It consists of one part each of gin, lime juice, green Chartreuse and maraschino liqueur, shaken with ice and then strained into a martini glass.

The final tasting note goes to Anthony Blanche in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited: “Real green Chartreuse, made before the expulsion of the monks. There are five distinct tastes as it trickles over the tongue. It is like swallowing a spectrum.”

BOTTLES OF THE WEEK

IMG_1602La Vieille Capitelle 2013 AOP Languedoc
12.5%
€10

Familiar to O’Briens customers, a soft supple rich fruity red with ripe blackcurrants and spice. Great value for money.

Stockist: O’Briens

IMG_0027Ad Libitum 2014 Rioja (Organic)
12.5%
€16.99

Very attractive textured green apple and melon fruits, good acidity and a crisp finish. Great price for a wine with real interest.

Stockists: Cabot & Co, Westport; No.1 Pery Square, Limerick.

Grégory Pérez Mengoba 2013, Méncia del Espanillo, Bierzo
13.5% €33.50

Expensive brilliant wine, nuanced and sophisticated, with wonderful smooth dark cherry fruits, a subtle oakiness, and a lovely finish.

Stockists: Sheridan’s Cheesemongers; 64wine.

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Brezo de Grégory Pérez 2014, Bierzo

Brezo de Grégory Pérez 2014, Bierzo

IMG_1620Brezo de Grégory Pérez 2014, Bierzo
13%
€17.95

Available from Sheridan’s Cheesemongers

Fresh and lively with delectable ripe cherry and plum fruits, a hint of spice and a smooth finish. Dangerously easy to polish off a glass.

Made primarily from Méncia, with a proportion of Alicante Bouschet from various 30-60 year old plots, this is fermented and aged in stainless steel to keep those delicious primary fruits.

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A WEEKEND’S DRINKING – four wines worth seeking out

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Domaine Begude Terroir 11300Domaine de Begude Chardonnay Terroir 11300, 2014
Haute Vallée de l’Aude 13%

Available for €17.99 from O’Briens

Made from organic grapes by James Begude in the cool climate of Limoux high above Carcassonne, this was one of my favourite white wines of last year. It appeared in Wilson on Wine 2016. 75% of the juice is fermented in stainless steel, the remainder in large 600 litre casks. The result is a beautifully balanced wine with plenty of zesty citrus, plump peaches and apple fruits, and hints of toasted nuts. We drank our bottle on its own as an aperitif, and with some roast chicken. Please don’t be put off by the word Chardonnay; this is a brilliant wine. I can also recommend most of the other wines of Domaine de Begude, which include a Gewurztraminer, a Pinot Noir, and Le Bel Ange,, his entry-level Chablis lookalike. 11300 is a postcode by the way.

Riesling Junge Reben 2013, August Kesseler, Rheingau, 12%

Available for €24.95 from Whelehan’s Wines, Loughlinstown

I love Riesling but generally don’t drink too much of it over the winter months, unless it is fairly rich and full-bodied. However, I wanted something light to sip before dinner, so I cracked open this bottle and was very pleased that I had. Vivid and refreshing with delectable pure Riesling fruit. Herr Kesseler is one of the finest producers of Pinot Noir in Germany, but is no slouch with Riesling either. I think Whelehan’s are currently out of stock of the Pinot Noir, but I would certainly recommend it when it makes their return. In the meantime, you can enjoy this wine, and the excellent Rieslings Lorch (€28.95) for a few euros more.

Pie NegrosArtuke Pies Negros 2014, Rioja
14%, €18.90
64wine, Glasthule; Clontarf Wines; Redmonds, Ranelagh; Ennis Butchers, South Circular Road; Wicklow Wine Company.

The previous vintage of this appeared in my book and the 2014 is a worthy follow-on. At first it seemed a little alcoholic, but after half an hour it all came together beautifully. Arturo and Kike (hence the name) Blanco are responsible for this lovely wine. The grapes are trodden by bare feet. The wine is very different to your normal Rioja, with no obvious oak at all, and intense dark fruits and minerals with some tannins on the finish. I suspect it will improve for a year or two, or served in a decanter with food now. Great wine and streets ahead of most Reserva Rioja at the price.

Grégory Pérez Mengoba 2013, Méncia del Espanillo, Bierzo
13.5% €33.50

Available from Sheridan’s Cheese Shops

Having graduated in enology and viticulture in Bordeaux, Grégory Pérez worked in several of the top chateaux before decamping to Bierzo, up in the north-west corner of Spain. This is one of the regions where Méncia is grown. This variety makes some of the most exciting wines in Spain today; they remind me a little of Northern Rhône Syrah with their delicacy and enchanting savoury dark cherry fruits. I tasted the Pérez wines at the SPIT tasting in November and thought both red and white wines were stunning. I haven’t changed my mind. This may be expensive but it is a brilliant wine, nuanced and sophisticated, with wonderful smooth dark cherry fruits, a subtle oakiness, and a lovely finish. I see it has a small proportion of Alicante Bouschet and a white grape variety, Godello, included. Only 3,000 bottles made.

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