Posts Tagged Shiraz

A Pair of Penfolds

A Pair of Penfolds

Two wines with a very similar name and label, but quite different in style. In a slightly nerdy mood, I emailed the importers (Findlater WS) to find out how the winemaking changes. The 76 is sourced from only three regions, the Barossa, McLaren Vale and Coonawarra, whereas the other includes, depending on the vintage, grapes from these as well as Langhorne Creek, Padthaway, Clare Valley and Bordertown. Both are aged for twelve months in oak, but the 76 has a proportion of new oak. Both were very drinkable, but the 76 was clearly the better wine.


Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet 2011, South Australia

Good medium-bodied ripe dark fruits – plums and cassis, smooth with a lightly spicy touch. Nice wine. Widely available for €16.99

Penfolds Koonunga Hill Seventy Six Shiraz Cabernet 2012, South Australia

A tribute to the first Koonunga Hill, released in 1976. It was inexpensive, but very good and had the ability to age really well for a decade or more. This version is big and rich and classically Australian in style, with ripe dark fruits and a good tannic structure. I suspect this will keep equally well, although it is very good now. Widely available for €20.99

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16 Stops Shiraz 2013, McLaren Vale

<strong>16 Stops Shiraz 2013, McLaren Vale</strong>

Image 1016 Stops Shiraz 2013, McLaren Vale

Rounded dark fruits with a touch of spice and a smooth finish. As with the white, a crowd-pleasing, all-purpose wine to serve on its own or with a wide variety of foods.

Available from Blackrock Cellar; Fresh Outlets; On The Grapevine, Dalkey; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Kelly’s, Dublin 3; La Touche, Greystones; Le Caveau, Kilkenny; Power & Co, Lucan; Redmonds, Ranelagh; 64Wine, Glasthule; Sweeney’s, Dublin 11; Searsons, Monkstown; World Wide Wines, Waterford.

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Winter warmers to brighten up the cold evenings

First published in the Irish Times, Saturday 20th February, 2016

I could and possibly should have written this piece at the start of the year, when half the country was underwater and everyone was suffering from storms, the cold and the rain. General misery in other words. I am not suggesting wine as a cure, but a glass or two of something warming and red over dinner can brighten up a miserable cold evening. I did not partake in dry January.

I had been suffering from a cold/chest infection (yes, that one) for an extended period over Christmas, and was unable to taste anything properly. I felt deprived, so I indulged myself in the month of January, although I observed my alcohol-free start to the week fairly strictly. I drank some very nice wines; it certainly helped me through the darkest month of the year.

Now, with March almost upon us, (and spring, according to some) there are signs of warmer weather to come. On clearer mornings I can see daylight as I return from my walk. But the days are still bitterly cold. As I write, the wind is howling outside. For the moment my rieslings and other light white wines are on hold. I have certainly been drinking more substantial wines to provide warmth and a little comfort.

I am eating different foods, comforting, slow-cooked meals, meat stews, roasted root vegetables and squash. These bigger flavours demand more robust wines. An extra percent or two of alcohol helps keep the cold out of the bones too, although higher-alcohol wines seem to be less common as winemakers decrease alcohol levels. Even after dinner, over fireside chats or snuggled up on the sofa, a rich red wine seems appropriate. I tend to serve these wines a little warmer too (but still only 16-18 degrees).

I have covered winter whites before; as a reminder, I tend to head for richer, more textured white wines too over the colder months. This means chardonnay, viognier, chenin blanc from South Africa, and southern Rhone blends that include roussanne and grenache blanc.

When it comes to red wines, remember that warmer climates tend to produce bigger, richer wines. Countries such as Argentina, Australia, South Africa and California all offer wines that pack a real punch. In Europe, Spain, the southern parts of France and Italy, as well as Portugal and Greece, have the necessary climate. The reds and whites from the southern Rhone often seem tailor-made for winter drinking.The reds cover the full price spectrum. Otherwise I look to the Languedoc and Spain for good-value winter reds. The grape varieties change a little too: less pinot noir, more grenache, shiraz, mourvèdre and malbec.

Our three wines this week vary in price. I have ignored the most expensive full-bodied wines, such as Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Plic, Plic, Plic is the sound of rain on the ground, apparently. Montsant is in the hills of Catalonia, high above Tarragona. It surrounds the sought-after region of Priorat, and can produce wines with a similar structure and concentration, if seldom the same polish. Prices are significantly cheaper though. The Casa Castilla comes from Jumilla in southeast Spain.Monastrell, known elsewhere as mourvèdre or mataro, originated in this part of the world. The wines are usually big and structured, sometimes tannic and rustic; certainly not wines to sip before dinner but great on a cold evening. This particular wine hides a warming 15 per cent alcohol very well.Turkey Flat is run by Christie Schulz, one member of a family that arrived in the Barossa Valley in 1847 with the first Silesian settlers. The Butcher’s Block (they once had a butcher’s shop too) is a classic Barossa red in the very best sense. Rich in fruit with plenty of power, this went well with my Szechuan beef stew and the remainder with grilled lamb chops.

Image 15Plic Plic Plic 2013, Monsant, Spain

Medium to full-bodied with blackcurrant fruits and a toasty, spicy touch.

Stockists: Wines on the Green; Mitchells; Baggot St Wines; Red Island; Fresh; McCabes; Clontarf Wines; The VIntry.

IMG_0030Casa Castillo Monastrell 2013, Jumilla

Slightly gamey rich, rounded plum fruits; rich and rounded with a subtle oakiness on the tail. Great value for money.

Stockists: 64wine, Glasthule; Clontarf Wines; Red Island, Skerries; Fallon & Byrne, Exchequer St.; Fresh Outlets.

ImageButcher’s Block 2013, Turkey Flat, Barossa Valley

A lovely rich full-bodied red that will provide instant warmth. Plush dark fruits with a solid backbone.

Ardkeen, Waterford; LaTouche, Greystones; Matson’s, Cork; Sweeneys.

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I have been enjoying the wines of Turkey Flat from time to time for twenty years now. In the 90’s, they always had a wonderful raw power and concentration, yet were never over the top. They seem to have been tamed a little these days, but they are still excellent classic Barossa Valley wines with real character and depth. The Shiraz is a benchmark Barossa, highly regarded, but also quite expensive at around €45. These two very tasty blends are more affordable.


Butcher’s Block White 2013, Turkey Flat, Barossa Valley


€21.99 from Ardkeen, Waterford; LaTouche, Greystones; Matson’s, Grange & Cork; Sweeneys, Glasnevin.

Made from a Southern Rhône-style blend of Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier, this wine has attractive plump nectarine and peach fruits; it is medium to full-bodied, but not too powerful, and has a refreshing crisp acidity. This would go nicely with grilled white fish, chicken (or turkey!) and lighter pork dishes.


Butcher’s Block Red 2013, Turkey Flat, Barossa Valley


€21.99 from Ardkeen, Waterford; LaTouche, Greystones; Matson’s, Grange & Bandon, Cork; Sweeneys, Glasnevin; Corkscrew, Chatham St.

As with the white above this is a Southern Rhône blend of red grapes; Shiraz, Grenache and Mataro. I am a big fan of Barossa reds provided they are not over-oaked or over-ripe. This wine manages to offer power and body without ever seeming overdone, A lovely rich full-bodied red with ripe dark plum and blackcurrant fruits that with a sprinkle of spice and a solid backbone. It stood up well to Fuchsia Dunlop’s recipe for Szechuan beef stew and grilled lamb chops the following night.

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Australia was 228 years old earlier this month, or at least that is when the white settlers arrived, as Brian Walsh of Wine Australia observed. Vines arrived a little later. Wine Australia held Australia Day tastings in London, Dublin and Edinburgh. The Dublin one was well attended and had plenty of really interesting wines on show, and quite a few producers looking for homes for their wines. I spent most of the time tasting sub €20 Chardonnay and Shiraz, and found plenty to write about over the next few months.

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I also attended an excellent masterclass hosted by the erudite Brian Walsh, one of the most experienced Aussie wine hands, and John McDonnell who lent his own wisdom and a few good stories too. Great to see John back in the saddle, even if only for a day! We tasted twelve wines, six categorised as History and six Evolution. The stars for me were the first two white wines, along with a Chardonnay, a Pinot Noir and a Shiraz/Syrah from the Evolution section.

McGuigan Bin 9000 Semillon 2004, Hunter Valley

A mere 11%abv but a stunning wine; yellow apples, lanolin and grilled nuts, with a touch of beeswax. Still fresh and vibrant. Classic Hunter Valley, one of the world’s great wine styles. An amazingly cheap €19.99, although no stockists were listed.

Pewsey Vale The Contours Riesling 1999, Eden Valley

It said 2010 on the tasting sheet but we were treated to a mature version, probably by the agents Cassidys Wines. This wine is an old favourite; I remember one glorious sunny morning a decade ago, sitting in the back of an old pick-up with Yalumba winemaker Jane Ferrari, eating bacon and cheese muffins and sipping mature Contours, while looking out over the vineyard itself. Yesterday the wine was wonderful, clean and bright with complex ever evolving flavours that can only be Riesling. Sadly I do not think this vintage is still available. We will have to age our own stocks (the 2010 is €25.99) for a decade or so. But it will be worth the wait.

Vasse Felix Chardonnay 2013, Margaret River

Classic modern Aussie Chardonnay from one of the finest exponents. Fresh clean pure apple fruits, a lightly creamy texture and a subtle toasty touch. Good acidity and nice length. Very stylish, well-made wine. €24.90 a bottle.

Dalrymple Pinot Noir 2012, Piper’s River, Tasmania

Tasmanian Pinot Noir has improved massively over the last decade. There are now some serious wines (along with excellent sparkling wines and Chardonnay). A fresh nose with cool red cherries and raspberries and a touch of oak; the palate is surprisingly concentrated and muscular, almost trying too hard, with good just-ripe Pinot fruits. €43.99 Cassidys Wines.

De Bertoli Estate Grown Shiraz 2013, Yarra Valley

Made by Steve Webber, one of Australia’s best and most interesting winemakers, this is excellent cool climate Syrah/Shiraz with a lovely savoury elegance, some crunchy whole-stem fruit and tannins. Blanc cherries and damsons with impressive length.

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