Posts Tagged Viognier

The serious white wines of Rhône Valley offer good value

“White wines from the Rhône just don’t sell,” lamented one retailer. He may be right, but I hope that will change in the near future. The Rhône Valley is divided into two parts, north and south (or septentrional and méridional if you are French). The northern part is much smaller and the wines, red and white, are lighter and more elegant. The south is hot; not the sort of place where you would expect to find quality white wines. In the past, the rare examples were a little clumsy and alcoholic, yet quality has shot up in recent years. Even now alcohol levels are never feeble, but with food, the wines can really shine. The northern Rhône always had Condrieu and white Hermitage, now joined by some excellent wines from Saint Joseph, Crozes-Hermitage and Saint-Péray.


White Châteauneuf-du-Pape is possibly the best-known southern wine, but some of the more enterprising producers in other nearby villages such as Vacqueyras, Cairanne, as well as Côtes du Rhône Villages and the Ventoux now make small quantities of interesting wines.

They are invariably made from a blend of grape varieties that include Grenache Blanc, Bourboulenc, Marsanne, Roussanne, Clairette and increasingly, Viognier. Typically they have a sumptuous broad richness that goes really well with food, as well as the all-important acidity that retains interest and balance. They make a great partner for barbequed fish, chicken and pork as well as grilled butternut squash and sweet potato. They can take robust spicing, even a little chilli, and certainly herbs. As wine lovers travel the world looking for alternatives to white Burgundy, the serious white wines of both parts of the Rhône are starting to look like good value. True, there isn’t a huge amount under €15, but if you prepared to pay €15-€20 for a white wine, there are some excellent wines that offer great value. And once you venture over €20, there are some stunning wines.


Three white wines from the south are amongst the finest I have tasted so far this year. They include the Montirius below, the stunning Clos du Cailloux Vacqueyras Blanc – 64 Wines in Glasthule tell me they still have a few bottles for €38, and the single vineyard Echalas from Clos Bellane (€28.99 from Cabot & Co), one of my all-time favourite whites. I have featured the Paradou Viognier here before (€14.99, Searsons & The Drink Store). It is a delicious southern white at an amazingly cheap price given the quality. I have also enjoyed the very tasty Viognier-rich Guigal Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2014 (€16; Londis, Wexford, and Joyce, Galway). But do ask your local retailer; I would love to discover a few more!

Bottles of the week

Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2015, Chapoutier

13.5%, €14.99

Lightly floral aromas, very moreish soft peaches fruits and a refreshing seam of citrus.

Stockists: Molloy’s; Nolan’s; O’Driscoll’s, Caherciveen and Ballinlough; Cass & Co.

Clos Bellane, Valréas Blanc, Côtes du Rhône Villages 2014 Biodynamic

13.5%, €19.99

Dried flower aromas, rich exotic fruits, citrus zest and a lingering satisfying finish.

Stockists: Cabot and Co, Westport –; Grapevine, Dalkey, Dublin – ; McCambridges, Galway.

Domaine de Fondrèche Ventoux Blanc 2015

13%, €19.95

Rich peaches, lemon zest and toasted nuts, all in one lovely mouthful.

Stockists: 1601 Off Licence; Green Man Wines; Drink Store, D7; 64 Wines; Searsons.

Montirius, Le Domaine, Minéral 2015, Vacqueyras

14%, €25.60

Floral and lightly honeyed, with wonderful voluptuous rich textured yellow fruits, underpinned by a reviving mineral acidity. Brilliant food wine.

 Stockists: Clontarf Wines; 64 Wines.

Posted in: Irish Times

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Eco Viognier 2015, Chile

Eco Viognier 2015, Chile

Image 7Eco Viognier 2015, Chile, (Organic)



 A very tasty refreshing Viognier from Chile; light and brimming with citrus and peachy fruits, this is a well-made well-priced wine.

With oily fish; mackerel, salmon or maybe sea bass.

Even inside its home territory of the Northern Rhône, Viognier varies from light and refreshing to rich and flabby. Get it right, and you get a combination of zesty acidity and luscious slightly bitter apricots and nectarines. However, cheaper versions often have very confected sweetish flavours. This is one of the better examples I have tasted recently.

Stockists: Searsons, Monkstown

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Eight Green Bottles – a weekend’s drinking

Eight Green Bottles – a weekend’s drinking


Before the health brigade get going, this included Thursday, there are two of us and, as you can see, not everything was finished! From right to left.

Domaine Begude Le Paradis Viognier 2015, IGP Pays d’Oc, Organic

I don’t think the agents (O’Briens) are importing this, but they should certainly think about it. Just what you would expect from a cool-climate Viognier; lovely clean peach fruits, good acidity and a crisp dry finish. It doesn’t have the richness of Viognier from warmer climes, nor the bitter fruit-stone finish, but this is a very well-made refreshing wine.

Le Mas 2014, Coteaux du Languedoc, Domaine Clavel, Organic
€14.70 from Wines Direct

Jean Clavel was one of the great personalities of the Languedoc. His son Pierre now produces the wine. This is a lovely easy-drinking fruity wine, warming, lightly spicy with plums and a tannin-free finish. Great value too.

Domaine des Nugues 2013, Beaujolais Villages
€16.75 from Martin’s, Fairview & 64wine,Glasthule.

A delicious Beaujolais, humming with elegant crunchy red fruits. A wine of the week in the Irish Times a few weeks back.

Vouvray Sec le Haut-Lieu 1990, Domaine Huet

Dug out from the cellar and should have been dug out years ago. Old, madeirised and past it, unless you are into very orange wine.

Stemmler Carneros Pinot Noir 2012, USA

A present from my sister, who lives in California, last year. Nice wine – meaty, even v slightly bretty?, with clean ripe juicy plum fruits. Quite substantial and concentrated. very enjoyable with my roast chicken.

Tio Pepe Fino En Rama, Jerez

I love fino and I love the en rama style, which tends to have a bit more character.This is lovely; fresh, tangy, bone dry with almonds and citrus peel.

Verus Furmint 2014, Ormoz, Slovenia

A mere 12% but a delicious fresh fruity light white wine – will appear in the Irish Times a few weeks hence.

Dveri Pax Sipon/Furmint Ilovci 2011
€20.99 from Wines on the Green

Don’t be put off by the vintage; this is lovely wine. Will also appear in the Irish Times shortly.

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Percheron Chenin Viognier 2015, Swartland, South Africa

<strong>Percheron Chenin Viognier 2015, Swartland, South Africa</strong>

Percheron-Chenin mk 5Percheron Chenin Viognier 2015, Swartland, South Africa
€11.95 from World Wide Wines, Waterford; Blackrock Cellar; MacGuiness, Dundalk; Redmonds, Ranelagh; Le Caveau, Kilkenny; Green Man Wines, Terenure.

Horse lovers will be aware that Percheron is a breed of draft horse, originally from the west of France. It appears on the label, as the producers have apparently bought some to work in the vineyards, as is currently very trendy. The wine is pretty good, a blend of 80% Chenin Blanc, South Africa’s workhouse (sorry!) grape variety and 20% Viognier. Put them together and you get a light, clean, fresh wine with peaches and apricots, a subtle creaminess and a dry finish. Try it with prawn dishes.

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Viognier de Rosine 2014, IGP Collines Rhodanniennes

Viognier de Rosine 2014, IGP Collines Rhodanniennes

Image 712.5%

A thrilling combination of peach and pineapple fruits, a touch of ginger and plenty of balancing acidity. Elegant and perfectly formed.

Expensive but worth every last cent. Stephane Ogier is one of the most talented winemakers in the Northern Rhône, responsible for some exquisite Côte Rôtie and Condrieu. This is actually one of his less expensive wines, from a single 3 hectare estate planted by Ogier in 2000, situated between Côte Rôtie and Condrieu.

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

Posted in: Top Drop

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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.


Wiston Estate Rosé South Downs

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

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

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


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.


Domaine Rolet Côtes du Jura Savagnin 2009

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

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

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

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

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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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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Viognier 2013, Terre d’Eglantière Vignerons Ardechois, IGP Ardèche

Viognier 2013, Terre d’Eglantière Vignerons Ardechois, IGP Ardèche

DSCF5854Viognier 2013, Terre d’Eglantière Vignerons Ardechois, IGP Ardèche

Available from Red Island Wine, Skerries; Hole in the Wall, D7; Deveneys, Rathmines; The Wicklow Wine Co.

Sumptuous rich textured peach and apricot fruits overlaid with grilled nuts and toast and a hint of honey. A nicely balanced full-bodied wine that coats the mouth with flavour.

Try with rich fish and seafood dishes, or roast pork with apples or plums.

Les Vignerons Ardéchois is a large company, made up of fourteen co-operatives and over 1,500 growers. It produces almost 60 million bottles of wine a year. Despite its size, it succeeds in making a series of sound reliable wines at keen prices, and one or two real gems such as the Viognier above.

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