Posts Tagged Spain

As Sortes 2014, Rafael Palacios, Valedorras

As Sortes 2014, Rafael Palacios, Valedorras

image-6As Sortes 2014, Rafael Palacios, Valedorras

An exhilarating, sophisticated mix of concentrated rounded red apple fruits that fill the mouth, a subtle nuttiness and an intense saline, mineral backbone that adds real verve and attack. The combination of rich fruit and bracing acidity is unusual but fascinating. Not cheap but it compares favourably with a top white Burgundy, and is every bit as good.

I would try this with crab, grilled black sole or a buttery salmon dish.

I have written about Bolo and Louro before; As Sortes is the next step up the ladder in the wines of Rafael Palacios. One of the key figures in reviving the fortunes of the near extinct Godello vines in Valdeorras, Palacios gave a short but excellent master class in Dublin this week. I hope to get around to writing a full blog some time soon. In the meantime this wonderful wine, tasted at the master class. It is made from six small Sortes or plots of Godello, planted in the 1970’s.

€51 from 64wines, Glasthule; Clontarf Wines; Green Man Wines, Terenure; The Corkscrew, Chatham St.


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Bolo Mountain Wine, Godello, 2015 Valdeorras

<strong>Bolo Mountain Wine, Godello, 2015 Valdeorras</strong>

Image 3Bolo Mountain Wine, Godello, 2015 Valdeorras
€17.95 from 64wine, Glasthule, Whelehan’s, Loughlinstown; La Touche, Greystones; Blackrock Cellars; Sweeney’s, Glasnevin; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Baggot St Wines and Clontarf Wines.

Lovely refreshing pure plump peach and pear fruits balanced perfectly with a mineral acidity. This went down a storm at home – one of those bottles that disappears as if by magic! A good all-rounder with fish and white meats or simply by itself.

I tried this twice recently and was reminded just how much I love good Godello. In the right hands, and Rafael Palacios is certainly the right hands, it has some similarities with Chardonnay but with a character all of its own. Delicious wine worth seeking out.

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Finca el Paso Garnacha 2015, Carineña

Finca el Paso Garnacha 2015, Carineña

Image 513.5%

Lovely ripe juicy strawberry fruits with a tannin-free finish. Light enough to drink on its own, but big enough to take on red meats. This would be perfect if you are having a gang around.

Available from Searsons Wine Merchants, Monkstown; 64 Wine, Glasthule; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; The Drink Store, D7; The Wine Shop at One Pery Square, Limerick.

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Brezo de Grégory Pérez 2014, Bierzo

Brezo de Grégory Pérez 2014, Bierzo

IMG_1620Brezo de Grégory Pérez 2014, Bierzo

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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Brezo de Grégory Pérez 2014, Bierzo

Brezo de Grégory Pérez 2014, Bierzo

IMG_1623Brezo de Grégory Pérez 2014, Bierzo

Available from 64wine, Glasthule, Sheridan’s Cheesemongers

This is an enchanting fruit-filled wine with plump melons and pears as well as a touch of the exotic. There is a lovely lanolin texture on the palate, underpinned by a refreshing mineral streak. Perfect with all kinds of seafood, white meats and salads, but I would fancy it with a few plump scallops. Brilliant wine.

This is made mainly from the Godello grape, with a dollop of Doña Blanca. Godello is the grape behind Valdeorras, another delicious wine from north-west Spain. It is every bit as good, if not better, than Albariño.

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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.

Posted in: Irish Times

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La Solana 2012, Suertes del Marqués, Valle de la Orotava,

La Solana 2012, Suertes del Marqués, Valle de la Orotava,

Image 1La Solana 2012, Suertes del Marqués, Valle de la Orotava,

€27 from 64wine, Glasthule; Clontarf Wines; Baggot Street Wines; Blackrock Cellars; Michael’s, Deerpark; Redmonds, Ranelagh; Black Pig, Donnybrook.

A truly fascinating wine with lifted floral and forest fruit aromas, cool dark fruits and dark chocolate on the palate, a refreshing acidity with a mineral core. The overall impression on the palate is light, fruity and savoury all at the same time. Gorgeous wine.

Do you go head off to the Canaries for a blast of sun? If you do, then on your next visit, I suggest you check out their wines the next time. I was bowled over by some at a tasting last year. This wine, from Tenerife, is made by a modern, family-owned estate from the unknown (outside of the Canaries) Listán Negro grape variety. The vines are 80-100 years old and grown on dark volcanic soils. It is fermented in concrete tanks and large old oak casks to allow the fruit to show through. I featured this wine in the Irish Times last year. Recently I cracked open a second bottle and was still blown away.

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An Irish favourite: Rioja reigns from Spain

First published in the Irish Times 13th February, 2016

In the weeks before Christmas I spent a great deal of time standing in wine shops, inveigling customers into buying a copy of my wine book. One store I visited had two giant piles of rioja reserva on offer at a discounted price. There were other wines on promotion too, but it was the two riojas that flew out with the greatest speed. Both stacks were severely depleted by the time I departed a few hours later. Rioja, and rioja reserva in particular, has long been one of our favourite wine styles and shows no sign of losing popularity.

Most of us would be unaware that rioja has been going through a huge personality change over the last decade, redefining itself several times over. You could now argue that there are three categories of rioja, with some crossover, but generally very different in style. Yet despite this upheaval, rioja has managed to retain its position as Spain’s favourite quality wine.

Until the late 1990s every bottle of rioja was classified according to how long it had been aged in oak barrel and bottle prior to release. Under this system, there is a specified a minimum period of ageing in oak: six months for crianza, a year for reserva, and two years for gran reserva wines, At one stage the required period of ageing was even longer in each category. Some, such as López de Heredia, still age wines for 10 or more years in barrel.

Old barrels were generally used to avoid oak flavours while allowing the wine to soften and develop delicate mushroomy, leathery, earthy flavours. Nowadays, a portion of newer barrels is sometimes included to add vanilla and spice.

Classic examples of the traditional style (López de Heredia, Muga Prado Enea and La Rioja Alta 904 spring to mind) can be superb, complex wines that last forever. The only exception to ageing in oak was up north in Alava, the Basque part of Rioja, where the tradition has been to drink young, unoaked wines often made partly or completely by whole-berry fermentation. These light, acidic fruity wines went perfectly with those tapas the Basques love to eat in bars and restaurants.

Rioja expanded massively in the 1990s and at times the quality of the wine decreased. There was a downward pressure on price in Spain (where most rioja is sold) and elsewhere. It lead to some very cheap and uninspiring reservas and gran reservas. During the prolonged period of economic success in the years preceding the millennium and after, many producers started to produce a new, modern style of rioja: full-bodied wines with high levels of new oak, alcohol, ripeness and extraction. They were also very expensive.

These fruit bombs were rapturously received by much of the media and a sector of the public. They were generally categorised as simply cosecha (meaning vintage or harvest) and ignored the traditional system of classification.

More recently there has been a move among smaller, younger producers towards much lighter, more elegant wines with little or no oak ageing. Again these are simply labeled cosecha. They often come from a single vineyard, some are made by whole- berry fermentation, others simply fermented and matured for very short periods in stainless steel or cement.

While I enjoy rioja reserva, I have always been a fan of the less oaky style as well. Tempranillo has such wonderful clean, delicate fruit it is a pity to mask it with too much oak. Having said that, the best of the traditional style are unique wines.

I received a number of excellent samples from the trade for this tasting. Sadly I couldn’t find space for the wonderful LZ de Lanziego (about €20). I also tasted the fine GA2 Graciano from Curious Wines (€17.49), and the excellent Artuke Pies Negros 2014, a wine that features in my book. See for full details of the tasting.


IMG_0005Artuke 2014, Rioja

Seductive wine; supple easy sweet ripe strawberry and red cherry fruit, with surprising concentration and depth.

Stockists: Listons, Camden St; 64wine, Glasthule; Clontarf Wines

DSCF6385Cantos de Valpiedra 2012,Rioja,
€18.50/£12.50 This was an excellent cultured modern Rioja, with smooth supple cassis and subtle spice. A real crowd pleaser at a very fair price.


Image 26Señorío de Cuzcurrita 2008, Rioja

A lovely mature wine with ripe sweet strawberry and dark fruits laced with a soft, dusty earthiness, a little oak, and a fine minerality.

Stockists: Wines on the Green

Posted in: Irish Times

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A WEEKEND’S DRINKING – four wines worth seeking out


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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