Tag Archives: Cabernet Sauvignon

GLEESONS-GILBEYS PORTFOLIO TASTING Feb 2011

"Stuck in an appellation" Saint Emilion

A day in a wine writer’s life. I get up, dress, eat my porridge then phone the Guinness Storehouse to see if they have a wheelchair. Oh dear, apparently they don’t. I should maybe make it clear that my request stems not from the previous night’s over indulgence but from a knee operation. The Storehouse is The Land That God Forgot for us D4, southside wine scribes – can’t get there by public transport, there’s no parking and a cab costs a fortune. Ah, well, needs must…

I grab my crutches and limp up the road towards the taxi rank. Three traffic jams later I arrive at the Gleesons Incorporating Gilbey’s Portfoilio Tasting, bit of a mouthful? No, it’s a lot of mouthfuls, 41 tables, groaning with wines from all over the world as well as ports, sherries, brandies and beers. Here’s a flavour.

Before I kick off I’ll issue the usual caveat. This is a personal view of a tasting on a particular day. Other folk may love wines I hated or hate wines I loved. Make of it what you will.

Scanning the catalogue I find lots of old familiars, known quantities. This saves me time. For instance, while I know that, say, Les Charmes de Magnol Medoc 2008 is going to be of merchantable quality it won’t excite or surprise so I pass. The Cheval Noir Grand Vin de St.Emilion 2005 (€18.50, selected independents) on did surprise and pleasantly so, good budget claret.

Louis Latour, as usual, have quite a presence but, as ever, I find you have to get into the upper echelons of their list before thye start to charm. Louis Latour Montagny (Super Valu €19.99) is much more inviting than their Chablis. Simmonet-Febre’s Chablis (€18.99, O’Brien’s) was nicer, less steely.

On the Chateau de Sours stand I re-encounter owner Martin Krajewski, nice man. His Petit Cantenac St.Emilion 2008 (€22.50) has plenty of potential. The Bordeaux Rosé,  as always, was well up to the mark (€14.99, independents).

I’m a massive fan of the wines of JCP Malthus as people who read my Herald and the old Sunday Independent columns may have noticed! Bordeaux, Barossa, wherever there’s a roundness, a loveliness, a warmth about them and something that just shouts “Hey, this is bloody good winemaking”.  Area Manager Myriam Carrere tempts me to a vertical – 2006/7/8 – of Ch.Teyssier St.Emilion – I seem stuck in this appellation at the minute – the 2008 promises much but if you can find it, buy the ’06, it’s simply stunning. Entry level Pezat was good as ever. Seems to be some confusion as to whether this and Ch.Lacroix are the same thing. I came away none the wiser.

Can’t help thinking that Jaboulet Ainé have lost their way.Though Caroline Frey has expunged the bad winemaking of Jabs from ‘90s days the newer wines still seem to be struggling to find a house style. Maybe I just liked the big ruggery-buggery wines I remember from the 1980s? Anyhopw, I think they’ve lost something in power, shape and robustness while recovering the finesse that  went missing for so many years.

The delightful Anne Trimbach is in Dublin to present the wines of this brilliant house. Unlike some of their Alsace rivals I can’t think of one wine in their portfolio that doesn’t hack it. Everything is ‘sorted’. Trimbach Alsace Riesling 2009 (€15.99, SuperValu, O’Brien’s, independents) is a classic of the genre.  As for the Cuvée Frederick Emile 2004 (€34.99) every wine lover should have at least one bottle squirreled away for a joyous occasion.

Next table, Gruner Veltiner, Austria’s signature from ex-hippy Laurenz Moser. Named ‘Singing’, ‘Sunny’ and ‘Charming’ (€15.99-€24.99, Donnybrook Fair and independents) the wines are as beguiling as the titles. German wines, happily, are back up and bouncing, after a rocky couple of decades.

Lingenfelder’s German riesling and gewürztraminer (€13.99, independents) with their engaging bird and hare labels should be sought out and bought.

Black Tower roll on, now with added varietal choice. Stick with the Riesling, honest wine for the €9.35 ask. The sylvaner is a bit grim.

Moving up the price scale, if you can still find Lo Zoccolaio’s Barolo 2001 for the stated €37.49 (McHugh’s had some) grab the merchant’s hand off, this is classic kit.

The Dalmau Reserva Rioja 1985 at €85 is daft money, considering you could have, as alternative, 4 bottles of the very quaffable Marques de Murieta Reserva 2005 (O’Briens, Dunnes, Molloys) and a taxi home. This wine, for me, wiped the floor with the popular Faustino equivalent.

The Bodegas Portia Prima Ribero del Duero 2007 (€25, selected independents) is currently dead sexy. Baby brother Ebeia Roble 2009, almost half the price, is good too.

Simonassi Malbec 2006 was decent for the money (€9.99).

Vergelegen Cabernet 2004 was good kit but at €29.45 I can think of a couple of dozen reds I’d rather drink or lay down. The better South African wines still impress, rather than charm.As a ‘how to’ they should look at the complexity St.Hallet are cramming into St.Hallet Old Block Shiraz 2005 (€34.95) , the 2004 of which I remember from a big Aussie seminar last year where it kicked sand in the eyes of a good few more expensive shirazes. The ’05 has all the poke of  a traditional Barossa red with lots of other nice things revolving round the glass.

Chileans Terra Andina gave us a well-priced Reserva Pinot Noir from Leyda (€10.99, Donnybrook Fair, Centra) and an electrifying, invigorating Sauvignon Blanc (€9.99) that carried more than a hint of old-style Marlborough before the Kiwis started shining it up.

More? Luscious the Lane ‘The Gathering’ Semillon-Sauvignon from Adelaide Hills (€22, independents); Hunter Estates Chardonnay from NZ, always class; and St.Hallett Old Block Shiraz 2005 (€35, O’Briens, Tesco) up there with the Barossa’s biggies.

Best of the budgets? No question. I give you False Bay Chardonnay, from South Africa’s Western Cape – classy stuff at ridiculous (€9.80, Londis, independents) money from Paul Boutinot, the Manchester maverick behind, among others, Chat en Oeuf (€9.10, Superquinn, Centra), one I’m always plugging for value. The 2010 False Bay Chardonnay is clean, non-cloying, more European than New World and altogther a worthy example of the sort of Chardy that should put noisy chavs like Pinot Grigio back in their box.

Can’t quit without mentioning the wonderful Julia Kennedy, whose organisation, as usual, was pluperfect. Great ideas of hers to get Fingal Ferguson there with mum Giana’s cheeses and his own salami, a huge quantum leap from when he started a few years back. The new mortadella, in particular, was a wondrous product.

Julia is off now to pastures new, Gleeson’s loss is Dillon’s gain.

WINE TRIP TO LANGUEDOC-ROUSSILLON

On my travels again. This time in Languedoc-Roussillon, following in the footsteps of Louis XIII by staying in an immense historic edifice, Chateau de Pennautier. The chateau is but a short car ride away from the famous walled city of Carcassonne. I’m there as a guest of Nicolas whose family have inhabited the chateau since 1620 and his wife, Miren. Now lovingly restored, Chateau de Pennautier is available for corporate functions and also occasionally houses guests like myself who are there to taste and assess the quality of Lorgeril’s wines.

The Lorgeril company is in the forefront of the movement to revive the fortunes of Languedoc-Roussillon by upgrading its wine production. Geographically, the area is huge, producing around a third of France’s wine but it used to be a byword for mediocrity. Now things are changing and changing fast, for appellations within the region such as Faugeres, Saint-Chinian, Minervois, Cabardes, Fitou, Boutenac, Cotes de Roussillon-Villages and Limoux are producing clean, classy, modern wines that fully reflect the terroir – that word again – in which the grapes are grown. It’s maybe worth re-emphasising that ‘terroir’ is more than just the soil; other components include the sub-strata, the micro-climate, the alignment of the vineyard, even the altitude. I find it helps to think of ‘terroir’ as ‘a sense of place’, a bolt-on goodie that helps take wine far beyond being fermented grape juice, enabling the imbiber to get maximum enjoyment out of the glass.

Though Lorgeril’s export manager, the convivial Frank Flugge, might deny it, the company’s approach struck me as remarkably antipodean. “No, we don’t grow the viognier here. We bring it over from one of our other estates” might have come from a winemaker in Marlborough or McLaren Vale. At any rate, it’s far removed from the rigidity of the old guard up in Bordeaux and shows the open-mindedness and flexibility of the Languedoc-Roussillon wine people in the quest to upscale the wines.

The ones I tasted paid tribute to their efforts. Cabardes, the appellation in which Chateau de Pennautier is located has devised a set of interesting rules. Traditionally the grapes grown were an assortment of both Bordeaux and Rhone varietals – cabernet sauvignon often stood next to syrah; merlot to grenache; cot (malbec to you) to cabernet franc. What was grown where, the philosophical locals didn’t much care. When the appellation was formalized the stipulation became that a wine could consist of a minimum 40% of either Bordeaux or Rhone and 50/50 became a commonality.  Again, akin to the Aussie approach where they see no heresy in mixing, say, cab sauv and syrah/shiraz in one bottle. Lots of parallels here.

Dunnes Stores retail Pennautier wines here. The unoaked Ch. De Pennautier “Classic” Cabardes Rouge is  a well upfront mélange of dark fruits – plums, damsons, blackcurrants – easy drinking, without the big alcohol wham that all-too-often accompanies new world reds. I’d almost defy anyone not to like it.

Grading by the altitude at which the fruit is grown is not an original idea – the coffee people did it many years ago, separating plants into Arabica and Robusta – but Lorgeril’s decision to label their superior wines, made from selected grapes from more elevated sites, “Terroirs d’Altitude” has something to commend it. The sensitively oaked Château Pennautier AOC Cabardès Terroir d’Altitude red took silver at the International Wine Challenge last year. I’m not a fan of ‘stickering’ as you’ve probably realised but I can say that this wine is as good as it gets for the €11.34 ask and when, as you occasionally do, you find it ‘on special’ for just of €9, I’d regard it as a ‘must buy’. Other wines that impressed were the clean, understated Marquis de Pennautier “Terroir d’Altitude”, Vin de Pays D’Oc Chardonnay (€11.39) and the beguiling AOC Cabardès rosé (€9.95).

Lorgeril have a number of other properties, including Château de Ciffre which straddles the appellations of Faugeres (my nomination for ‘one to watch’) and St.Chinian. Traditional wine merchants Mitchell & Son stock, among other Lorgeril wines, the genuinely exciting Château de Ciffre “Terroir d’Altitude”, AOC Faugères, red (€16.95) and the warm, uncomplicated user-friendly Rhone-like Mas des Montagnes Classique, AOC Côtes Roussillon Villages, (€11.95).

One the last morning we killed time in Carcassonne, not the World Heritage hilltop site but the working town down in the valley. Locals are apt to be rather scathing about it but we thought it a decent place in which to spend a few hours, with a large food market, a more than adequate supply of bars and a very fine deli.

WHAT THIS PLACE REALLY NEEDS IS A NICE COALMINE

One of my normal occupations at this time of year is to draw up a list of wine heroes – The ‘Grape Expectations’ Awards for those individuals or companies who’ve gone the extra mile to bring us decent drinking. It’s very much a virtual award, no plaques or tacky glassware, no framed certificates, just a nod in the direction of the good guys. This year, however, it’s the bad guys who are occupying my thoughts. Like the villains of this piece.

An Aussie friend, Ian Parmenter, public face of Tasting Australia, Adelaide’s prestigious biennial food and wine festival, lives in Margaret River, Western Australia. It’s a significant wine area, making its mark in particular with top notch Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay majoring on subtlety and charm, without the full-throttle intensity of those from hotter regions. Margaret River is home to esteemed producers like Cullen, Mosswood, Vasse Felix, Xanadu, Leeuwin Estate, Cape Mentelle, Howard Park and more. Many of the wineries boast highly-rated restaurants.

A coastal area, it enjoys a warm, maritime climate. The core of the region is the attractive town of Margaret River itself. Throughout the area, scenic delights are manifold – beaches for walking or surfing, rivers for the fisherman, rolling hills, Karri Forest, everywhere abundant wildlife. The locals have encouraged tourism and developed it while maintaining the region’s beauty – there are no theme parks here. Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? And it is, I’ve visited four times and Margaret River has never lost its attraction. Alas, Ian tells me there are signs that the idyll could be about to end.

King Coal is the reason. The black dictator that scarred the face of a once rural England, Scotland and Wales has raised his ugly head again. A company called Vasse Coal has submitted proposals for a coal mine at Osmington, a mere 15k away from the town of Margaret River, with seams under the region. Two further proposals are on file. As old Bob Dylan wrote “Money doesn’t talk, it swears” – Ian informs me there’s every likelihood that the Western Australian authorities might give this nebulous scheme the go-ahead.

Barmy, criminal, suicidal or what? We complain daily and with justification about our own politicians but I don’t think even Cowen, Lenihan and Co would sanction mining for coal under the Ring of Kerry.

So it goes… Chilean press tasting, Dublin

I’d be failing in my duty if I failed to say that the recent ‘Good Value Wines from Chile’ tasting at the Radisson Golden Lane was a smidge short of whelming.

I tasted the guts of a hundred wines, culled from all the major regions and found fewer than a dozen to excite me. I should have maybe prefaced this by saying, to the public, that most of the wines on show were very competently made, with simple, primary fruit characteristics that might well appeal. None of these wines will do you harm and the over-sulphiting that used to be a feature of many Chilean wines is now a thing of the past.  Neverthess, aficionados – and I don’t mean wine snobs – may well find that the ‘Wow!’ factor may be easier bought from some other region of the globe.

The Sauvignon Blancs were almost universally lamentable. The principal virtue of this largely ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ grape is its capacity to refresh, to wake up the senses with minerality and green fruit sensations. Amazingly, some unnamed Chilean winemaker found a way to make Sauvignon Blanc that tastes like unoaked Chardonnay and everyone seems to have followed suit. Of those meriting a mention Secreto 2009 (€13.99 Redmonds, Mitchells, Drink Store, The Goose, Next Door, On the Grapevine) was decent kit; Casa Lapostelle 2008 (€12.99 O’Briens, Nolans, D6, Jus de Vine, Wine Well, Sweeneys) gave me a little more than ‘nice’. Torres Santa Digna 2009 (€11.99 Donnybrook Fair, Kingdom Hall (Tralee), Oscars, Gourmet Shop, Mitchells, Redmonds) stood out like a shining beacon with the fruit/acid ‘balanceometer’ quivering properly towards the right – best of the bunch by some way.

The Chardonnays were, in the main, tinned fruit, albeit quality tinned fruit. An unusual blending with Carmenere put much-appreciated vivacity into Oveja Negra 2009 (10.99, Stacks, Fresh, Nolans of Kilcullen, Cahills of Cork). When I tasted the familiar Montes Classic 2008 Chardonnay (pretty widely available, €11.49) I was jolted out of my comfort zone. This wine used to be ‘mainstream’. Now it stood out as a rock in a calm sea. Hey, I thought, this is actually pretty well-made wine. Old fashioned, yes, but solid and substantial in a style that winemakers, in their quest for modernity, marketability and ‘easy-peasy drinking’ have largely rejected.

I thought there would be more fizzers. The one that was there, the Cono Sur Sparkling, a NV from Bio Bio was brilliant value for the money, capable of taking on some decent Aussies and wiping out 90% of Prosecco. (14.99, Bunch of Grapes, Egans, Savages, Brooks, Joyces, Wine Well, Redmonds, Next Door, SuperValu, Dunnes).

The reds, by and large, were in like vein. Big, upfront, rounded, with nothing the wine newbie could take exception to. But the majority were boring as hell. As with the whites, there were some shining exceptions. Morande had a bloody good shot at making budget Pinot Noir which said all the right things. A tad one-dimensional but at €12.99 (World Wide Wines, Bin No 9, 1601 Kinsale) what the hell. There are quite a few one-dimensional NZ Pinots at nearly 3 times the money come to think of it. Cono Sur’s 2008 Pinot, too, represents remarkable value for the niggardly €9.49 ask.

I’m not a big fan of Carmenere singles but I did like the 2008 Carmen Reserva (Redmonds, SupeValu). A hard sell at €15.99, though.

Most of the Merlots were baked like jam tarts. I do believe the French should have made the taking of cuttings beyond the boundaries of Bordeaux a guillotining offence. The Torres Santa Digna 2008 (€11.99 Ardkeen, Micthells, Redmonds, Jus de Vine, Cork’s Terenure) just about passed muster.

Estampa, with their 2006, made a pretty creditable stab at making a pleasing blend of Carmenere, Cabernet (Sauvignon and Franc) and Petit Verdot (€12.99, independents). Many of the producers preferred to vinify their varietals separately, a policy I’d question, though maybe, as a marketing proposition that’s ‘way to go’.

Wow! At last a wine with real chutzpah. Pizzaz even! The 2006 Vina Maipo Limited Edition Syrah 2006 ticked every box,vibrant, complex, savoury. Then I saw the price – €29.99 in Dunnes Stores. If this came down to under €20, I’d buy it.

The Montes Limited Edition Cabernet/Carmenere (€13.99 Next Door, Unwined (Swords)) gets my vote for Best Value on the day. Cracking, complex proper wine and affordable to boot.

Best of the ‘around a tenner’ reds was the 2008 Santa Rita 120, honouring the patriots who helped win the revolution. Maybe Guinness should knock out a ‘Devalera Limited Edition’?

And so it goes… maybe I’ve painted a bleaker picture than it warrants. My feelings are tinged with disappointment that this nation, with its army of keen young winemakers and variety of terroir, doesn’t seem to do ‘complex’ reds, at least not until you fork out twenty euro, sometimes not then. Contrast ‘the new’ Spain, for instance, where there are so many exciting wines here in Ireland  for around €15. As for the whites, how much nicer are, say, the Rueda Verdejos than the Chilean Sauv B’s for around the same wedge.

One last thing. How on earth could the Decanter people give the 2007 Indomita Reserva a trophy? They must surely have had a different bottling for ours (cork not screwcap, by the way) was evincing what you could only call ‘reduction ad absurdum’.

So it Goes…

john41This Week’s Decent Drinking

I make no apologies for making this week’s WOTW a wine you are unlikely to be unable to buy. The 2000 John Wade Cabernet Sauvigon/Merlot/Cabernet Franc I opened tonight I picked up at the vineyard on a visit to Denmark and Albany, at the bottom end of Western Australia in 2002.

In 1982, John Wade created the award winning Wynns – Coonawarra “John Riddoch” , a wine that was named Best Red Wine in Australia on two separate occasions..

John, a graduate from Wagga, if memory serves me right, began his winemaking career in the Hunter Valley. At Wynns, he quickly achieved promotion from assistant winemaker to winery manager, a position he held for six years. Afterwards, he worked in Western Australia, as consultant winemaker with leading Great Southern producers Alkoomi and Goundrey and was then appointed senior winemaker with Plantagenet Wines, a position he held for six years.

His work is not limited to Australia. John has undertaken vintage work in France – at Chateau Senejac in Margaux and Chateau Pontet-Canet in Pauillac. In 1995 he worked as winemaker at the new Tenuta di Trinoro estate in Southern Tuscany.

In 1986 John founded the Howard Park Winery and in 1992 established the Madfish Bay label, currently popular in any number of Irish restaurants thanks to importers, Nicholson’s. After leaving Howard Park he has worked as a wine industry consultant. When I met him in Denmark, WA in May 2002 he was making wine for a number of vineyards in the Great Southern region and was also tending his own vines. All the grapes in the wine we drank last night were grown on the estate.

vines at Denmark, WA
vines at Denmark, WA

I opened John’s 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon/ Merlot/ Cabernet Franc last night and pretty impressive it was too. The stellar, fragrant and uber powerful nose struck a chord with everyone at the table. Denmark’s cool climate enabled the wine to tip the scales at a mere 12.5% ABV giving the wine a definite Left Bank Bordeaux feel and allowing the herbal notes of the Cab Franc to escape from the fruit and shine. Lovely!

To return to something you CAN buy, the Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc 2008, less minerally aggressive than many Marlborough NZ examples, is well worth the asking price, especially at the ‘on special’ €10.99. I’m always looking for decent whites around a tenner since The Dark Lady of My Sonnets gave up drinking red, and this one sure fits the bill. From O’Briens.

In The Shadow Of The Andes

“Welcome to Santiago” said Christian, the driver assigned to me by Wines of Chile. For the next six days he and I were to tour vineyards at the rate of three a day, clocking up a sniff/slurp/spit of nigh on 400 individual bottles in a mission to assess the progress made by the country’s winemakers.

Chile, a slender stick of a country, is dominated by the Andes, the South American backbone that separates it from its neighbours. It reminded me a little of South Africa’s Cape where from almost every vineyard you have a view of Table Mountain but I was unprepared for grandeur on this scale. The Cordilleras de los Andes, to bestow their proper name, are the highest mountain range outside the Himalayas.

Vinis vinifera, the wine grape was brought to Chile by the conquistadors at the behest of the army of priests who came in their wake. Initially a lacklustre red grape, the Pais, was the favoured communion variety but this has thankfully been supplanted by Cabernet and Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon blanc, Carmenère and, latterly Syrah as Chilean producers began to emulate what their Californian and Australian counterparts had done so successfully, i.e. give the world a wealth of clean, fruity, easy-to-drink wines.

The majority of Chile’s vineyards are located in the Central Valley, a depression lying between two mountain ranges, stretching out like a three-fingered hand. Here the hot sun and the rich, fertile soil makes grape growing a picnic. The adjacent slopes give some necessary respite, ensuring the grapes don’t turn to raisins before they can be gathered. Rivers criss-crossing the valley provide water for irrigation. The high grape yields do inhibit quality however and it took some time for Chilean producers to realise this. Fortunately, a new and well qualified generation of wine makers has emerged; many have worked overseas, in France, Australia or New Zealand and all are passionate about what they do. Everywhere the talk is now of ‘green harvesting’ – thinning the crop in summer – and of ‘stressing the vines’ – making them work harder to produce less but better fruit.

Our initial destination was Errazuriz, long established as the dominant winery in the Aconcagua Valley where we were introduced to Chile’s own signature version of the Cornish pasty, the empanada, a favourite food for high days and holidays, albeit that this was a more sophisticated version than the norm, filled with corn and ricotta. We ate under a shady arbour adjacent to the impressive visitor centre. Wine tourism in Chile is, compared to, say, California or Australia is in its infancy but Errazuriz seems to have embraced the concept earlier than many of their peers.

In the afternoon we journeyed to the San Esteban winery which possesses what is almost certainly Chile’s highest vineyard. From the summit above we gazed down on new plantings of Syrah and ancient Indian rock paintings which feature on the labels of San Esteban’s top red wines, cuddled in new French oak and designated In Situ.

We drove back to Santiago as the sun was setting. Tired as I was, I succumbed to the temptation to wander abroad and was delighted to find a thriving restaurant and bar quarter a mere stone’s throw from the hotel. Enjoying a local beer I dithered over whether to patronise what looked like a stolidly traditional Chilean restaurant or content myself with a tapas or three. I decided on the latter and was soon seated in a stylish establishment owned by Torres. This enterprising Catalan winemaking family were early to spot Chile’s potential, acquiring their first property in Curico in 1979. An Torres innovation was to replace the traditional rauli (beech wood vats) with stainless steel. By the mid-nineties everyone else had followed suit, a significant factor in Chile’s progression to making clean, modern wines. Torres’ tapas proved delightful and, by Dublin standards, inexpensive, three dishes including some excellent foie gras, two glasses of wine (a red and a ‘sticky’) and an espresso for around e27 including a tip, symptomatic of the value for money I found everywhere when dining out in Chile.

I was collected at 8am next morning, further evidence, if any is needed, that a wine trip is not all sybaritic junketing. Our first visit was to Cousino Macul at Buin in the Maipo Valley. Their wines were introduced into Ireland by the Ecock brothers in the late 1980s, when their quasi-European styled Cabernet found favour with critics. Alas, standards plummeted in the mid nineties and I was not expecting a great deal but the wines I tasted went well on the way to convincing me that Cousino Macul is set to recover its reputation.

Maipo is home to much of Chile’s finest Cabernet Sauvignon and a whole lot more besides. Carmen and Santa Rita, both well known brands in Ireland, are under the same ownership and share the same valley but with their own delineated plots. Among both feature plantings of Carmenère – from ‘carmine’, red, nothing to do with the winery although it happily espoused the grape – which has come to be regarded as Chile’s ‘signature’. The story of its rise to fame is an interesting one; Carmenère is an old variety of Bordeaux where it is also known as Grand Vidure and now largely extinct in its homeland. The grape was identified in Chile in 1994 by a visiting French viticulturist in the middle of a patch of Merlot. Further investigation brought the conclusion that most of what was thought to be Chilean Merlot was, in fact, Carmenère. It’s hard to see why the confusion occurred. The leaves look nothing like each other and Carmenère is a tardy ripener whereas if Merlot was a spud it would be a ‘first early’. However, confusion there was. It is generally accepted that Carmen’s Alvaro Espinosa, one of Chile’s pioneering modern winemakers was the prime mover in transforming Carmenère from a thin, harsh, aggressively capsicum-scented varietal into the fragrantly aromatic charmer can be today by introducing the concept of drastically thinning the vines to allow full ripening.

In late afternoon, we transferred our presence to Santa Rita on the other side of the valley. The company, owned by a giant conglomerate headed up by Don Ricardo Claro, has a luxurious hotel, set amid 35 acres of landscaped parkland. Alas for the lay tourist, accommodation is restricted to guests of the winery.

I tasted Santa Rita’s wines in the company of export manager Andres Barros. Later, before dinner, I found Andres talking to a distinguished-looking gentleman who turned out to be non other than Don Ricardo himself. After a brief introduction, the Don turned to us and said “I wish to do the tasting. And I wish Ernie to tutor my friends in my wines.” How could I refuse? I had to swallow hard before telling him I didn’t think Chile ought to grow Merlot.

Next morning I was at Cono Sur where I first glimpsed the efforts that Chilean viticulture is making to get to grips with organic and biodynamic methods, particularly when a flock of geese, employed to eat burrito grubs, scurried out from beneath our wheels. The winemaker told me of the war waged on the rapacious red spider by its otherwise benevolent white cousin. Encouraging this ecological conflict obviated the use of a poultice of chemicals on the vine stems. It amused me to see that vineyard workers, many of them elderly, had full-suspension mountain bikes as their preferred mode of transport. The wisdom of this could be seen later that day at Luis Felipe Edwards’ estate as we whizzed up and down precipitous slopes in a 4X4 truck to view vines planted in spots you’d think were impossible to harvest.

Besides Torres, other significant European families play a role in Chile’s wine industry and there is no doubt that much of the quality hike has derived from their involvement, as exemplified by Lafite Rothschild at Los Vascos whose wines are definitely French-styled with a striking degree of ‘backbone’ and Marnier-Lapostolle whose flagship, Clos Apalta now has, at Colchagua, its own ten million dollar’s worth of purpose-built winery-cum-architectural statement, one of the wonders of the wine world.

Ireland is an important market. Mont Gras has its European export manager based here. To my delight, when I visited the winery I found Hans Liebrand newly-arrived from Dublin and we enjoyed catching up on the craic during a memorable hilltop barbecue.

The final part of my trip was spent visiting Leyda, Casablanca and the San Antonio valley. These areas, nearer the coast, enjoy the benefit of being cooled by the winds that blow over the Humboldt current. The white wines, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc in particular, have a restraint, elegance and delicacy exceeding that of their inland cousins. At Vina Leyda I found an exuberant experimental blanc de blanc made by the method generally accredited as being the best for sparkling wine (nudge, nudge, wink, wink!).

In San Antonio I enjoyed a reunion with Maria Luz Marin whom I’d last met in Dublin on a damp autumn day. Maria Luz was one of Chile’s first female winemakers, an inspiration to the many talented young women following in her wake. Her Pinot Noir is, for me, one of Chile’s flagship wines. Other masterpieces include her Laurel Vineyard Sauvigon and a new Riesling.

Conclusions? The primary one is that Chilean wines are upwardly mobile. Everywhere I found an intent to pursue the holy grail of quality. Yields are being reduced (though they are still too high); rows are being re-aligned; cooler areas are being explored and planted – watch out for Bio-Bio in the far South. Wine tourism is being initiated – the fine restaurant at Vina Morande to which people take the two hour drive from Santiago for lunch will serve as a role model for others. I can’t wait to go back; though, next time, I will extend my stay. I want to see more of this gloriously diverse country.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Gilbeys Portfolio Tasting – Oct 14 2006 – REDS, FIZZ and STICKIES

As tastings go this one was pretty good. Some decent whites, some nice surprises and even the big Burgundy houses didn’t entirely disappoint though they face stiff competition these days.
So it was on to the reds and here, in amongst the average ‘it’ll do’ wines and the occasional duffer I did find some really thought-provoking stuff…

*Santana Tempranillo, Vino de la Tierra, Bodegas Castillianas e7.99
A bit unrefined but definitely robust, cheerful and value for the money.

Wild Coast Shiraz-Cabernet, SE Australia 2004 e.7.99
A bit jammy. The above Tempranillo is better.

Louis Latour Bourgogne Pinot Noir La Chanfleur 2005. e14.99
The Burgundians are finding it inmcreasingly hard to deliver for this sort of money. This one is no exception.

Joseph Drouhin Rully 2003 e19.99
A wee bit metallic but, overall, a good demonstration of what Burgundian Pinot can do without costing an arm and a leg.

Joseph Drouhin Chambolle-Musigny 2001 £47.50
A bit ‘bretty’ for my taste but definitely off the pace for the money.

*Goats do Roam Red, Western Cape 2004 £9.99
Used to be excellent. Now has become more stylish and refined but maybe a tad less interesting as a consequence.

**Navraro Correas Coleccion Privada Malbec, Mendoza 2004 e9.99
Exclusive to Dunnes Stores
Cheerful, characterful wine with lashings of fruit. Not much you could get better than this for under a tenner.

**Santa Rita Cabernet Sauvignon Limited Release, Valle Centrale 2005 e.11.99
On special at SuperValu/Centra at e.7.99
….and worth every last cent. This is what Chile does so well, budget cabernet. Quite French in style, mellow and surprisingly delicate.

***Pezat Bordeaux Superieur, Jonathan Malthus 2005
It was only a barrel sample but the third I’ve tasted in recent weeks and I’m going to say what I said when I tasted the first one at the winery. IF THERE’S A BETTER BOTTLE OF RED IN IRELAND FOR E15, PLEASE TELL ME WHAT IT IS!
packed with rich, joyous, vibrant rich fruit, caressed and carefully handled – a total class act – see my Sunday Indo column Oct 28th

**G ‘Le Garagiste’ Gilbey Commemorative St.Emilion Grand Cru 2004 e26.99
Had a hard time following the luscious Pezat but a retaste proved it to be elegant and well made and it will certainly improve in bottle. The merlot shines through.

Chateau Laforge Saint Emilion Grand Cru 2003 e58
Has what I consider the drawback of a lot of the 03s – schizophrenia! Huge hit of ripe fruit upfront and, as it quietens down, a dilute quality in mid-late palate.
Doesn’t cut it for the money.

Moulin de la Lagune Haut Medoc 2000
e25
Second wine of La Lagune, pre the arrival of vinobabe Caroline Frey. Again, my views on claret are running contrary to the flow but I’m finding that once the fruit starts to dissipate many of the 2000s don’t have a great deal to offer (despite all the hype). This is one such.

***Chateau La Lagune Haut Medoc 3eme Grand Cru Classe 2001 e45
Beautiful, accessible claret and, like many of its ’01 counterparts, drinking delightfully as of now. They make fantastic restaurant wines. Classy and classical gear.

*Fortius Tempranilo Navarra, Bodegas Valcarlos2003 e7.99
Uncomplicated cherry fruit kick. People will love this for the price.

*Fortius Reserva, Navarrra, Bodegas Valcarlos 1999, On special e9.99, down from 15.99
Nicely made wine for ‘now’ drinking especially at the lower price.

Faustino Seleccion de Familia Rioja 2002 e13.99
On special at Carry-out group and others at 9.99
Unremarkable stuff from Ireland’s favourite consistently under-performing Rioja house. Buy the Fortius instead.

**Portia Ribera del Duero 2003 e17.99
Solid, impactful, dignified stuff from the sexy ‘new Spain’. Good weight of fruit; liked this a lot.

**Fairview Pinotage-Viognier Coastal Region 2003 e14.99
Take the grape that should have been strangled at birth; blend in 10% of another grape I habitually detest and what do you get? Bloody good wine, actually. All the skidmark rubber smell of pinotage, all the icky blowsiness of viognier gone, gone, gone. I take my hat off to Charles Back. You should try this!

**Fairview Pegleg Carignan, Swarrtland 2003 e19.99
Delicious delicate cherry and Victoria plum fruits. Smashing stuff.

**Domaine Ferrer Ribierre Empreinte du Temps Carignan, Vin de Pays des Cotes Catalan 2005 e14.99
Oh dear! An interminably lengthy, nigh-unpronounceable name, a self-effacing grape, an unknown area and a naff monochrome label will prevent this wine, made from 128 year old vines, from having an audience.
A pity, because it’s only delightful. Do get to a good independent and seek this one out.

Santa Rita 120 Reserva Especial Shiraz, Valle de Maipo 2005. e11.50
A worthy attempt by Santa Rita to hike upo the lacklustre 120 collection. Solid, but a tad boring.

Santa Rita 120 Limited Release Petite Syrah-Syrah 2004 e1.99
Curious. A reversal of the Fairview P-V above. They’ve taken two nice grapes and made something akin to old-style pinotage. If you like licking warm tarmac it might be for you. Otherwise, hard to take.

***Envoy Grenache-Shiraz-Mourvedre, Barossa Valley, Colonial Estate 2004 e19.99
For me another Jonathan M superstar. Courageous, stonking winemaking worth every penny and more of the asking price.

**L’Explorateur Barossa Valley Shiraz, Colonial Estate 2003 e19.99
Big,chunky, in-the-tradition Barossa shiraz whose extrovert character masks a lot of class. Drink now or will improve if laid down.

Crozes-Hermitage Selectionne par Louis Jaboulet, Paul Jaboulet Aine 2002 e10.99
Crozes of this nature used to be really good value but this one (probably the vintage that’s in it) is hard and unlovely.

Hermitage La Chapelle, Paul Jaboulet Aine 2001 e95
Shame on you! What used to be one of my all-time favourite wines is now a pale shadow of itself. What seems to be a combination of apathy and neglect seems to have set in and La Chapelle no longer has the capacity to excite. Let’s hope things improve when The Fair Maid of La Lagune gets down there to sort the compacent buggers out!

SPARKLING

*Gratien & Mayer Saumur Brut Rose NV e17.50
Honest, well made fizz for the money. Nice refreshing attack.

*Champagne Laurent Perrier LP Brut NV e39.99
Pleasant, well made, crisp clean appley acidity. Good value.

***Champagne Laurent-Perrier Ultra Brut NV e55
Wonderful! Outstanding champagne in its price bracket. Clean, lean and refreshing, tinged with excitement – an element many of the others in this price range leave out.

*Champagne Laurent-Perrier Cuvee Rose Brut NV e65
Good, but unless you can’t live without the rose tints, buy the Ultra Brut and save yourself a tenner.

Champagne Laurent-Perrier Grand Siecle Alexandra Brut Rose 1997 e150
Near-exquisite but the Taittinger equivalent, the Comte de Champagne Brut Rose knocks it for six for equivalent money, in my opinion.

SWEETIES

**Thomas Barton Reserve Sauterne 2005 e19.99
Impressive rich Sauternes. Great wine for silly money. Look out for the chunky bottle.

Paul Jaboulet Aine Muscat de Beaumes de Venise Le Chant des Griolles 2003 e23.99 or (37cl) e12.99
Unless you have a very very sweet tooth and a shot palate buy the Sauternes above.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Wine notes March 2006

Chateau La Grave Rose 2005, Minervois e10 Rating 14/20
At certain times of the year, wine tastings, large and small run back to back, like buses when you don’t need one. February is one such month. A tasting most of the wine scribes are loath to miss is that organised annually by the Searsons – a long-established, family owned wine merchant blessed with a great portfolio. Among the aristocratic Vega Sicilia Unicos, the Yquems and the ageing Crus Classes put out to lure us to attend I sniffed out some lesser known gems. Like this lustrously vibrant and intense rose that, for my money knocks spots off many dearer alternatives.

Cotes de Duras, Sauvignon Blanc, Honore de Berticot 2005 e10 Rating 14/20
From a tiny and unfashionable appellation south of Bordeaux, this Sauvignon has more in common with smart Sancerre than with the New Zealand style of rakish acidity over dessert gooseberry fruit.
Quite subtle, fat without being fatiguing and a lot of class for the money.

Rueda, Eylo 2005 e11 Rating 15/20
The rise-and-rise of hitherto unknown parts of Spain continues. A blend of Verdejo, Sauvignon Blanc and Viura maintains interest on the palate. The intense flavours eventually transmute into a long lime-and-grapefruit finish. This is exciting wine.

Chateau de Navailles Jurancon Sec 2003 13.75 Rating 15/20
One to impress your friends for many of them won’t have heard about Gros Manseng. This essentially Basque grape doesn’t make it much further north than Gascony. Jurancon was one of France’s earliest Appelations Controllees and it was here, as far back as the 14th century that the concept of a cru was first introduced. Henri IV and the writer Colette were both big fans of the region’s wines. This one is hefty and generous with a style all of its own.

Graacher Domprobst Riesling Kabinett, RvK 2002 18.00 Rating 18.5/20
Charles Searson will kill me! “Even if you talk it up,” he says “Hardly anyone buys German wines.” I got the feeling he’d rather I devoted space to something else. All I can say to you wine lovers out there is: get over the throat-clearing name; put aside all your prejudices. Okay it’s ‘off-dry’ there’s no racy acidity but but so what? This wine is simply sensational and, for the money, an absolute steal.

Rasteau, Domaine St Gayan 2003 e14.75 Rating 16/20
Domaine St.Gayan’s 2000 Gigondas was huge, bourgeoning, exquisite. The violet-and-cracked-pepper nose was alone worth the asking price. The 2002 I tasted was lovely, more laid back and the ’03, not out yet, promises the extrovert tendencies of earlier vintages. Meanwhile, the Rasteau, its baby brother gives you shedloads of dark plummy fruit, hints of dark chocolate and cinnamon and a sophistication elsewhere unattainable at the price. Buy.

Mas en Gill, Priorat Coma Vella 2002 e32 Rating 18.5/20
A winemaking revolution in the 1990’s after 400 years of ‘same as was’ made this remote Catalonian sub-region upwardly mobile. Terroir is all the rage and these guys have some of the best. Grenache, Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah combine to make a stunningly intense, unbelievably smooth, myriad-flavoured red, delicious now but, I reckon, of great longevity if laying down wines is your thing. Could become an icon.

Heartland Wines Director’s Cut Shiraz, Limestone Coast 2004 e22.50 Rating 17/20
Heartland Wines was started in 2001 by a group including Ben Glaetzer, Vicky Arnold, Grant Tilbrook and Geoff Hardy, savvy people all. I’ve previously praised Ben’s The Bishop Shiraz in this column. The Director’s Cut seems more laid back, a staging post between the lean elegance of the Northern Rhone and the exuberance and lust-for-life of the Barossa, if that’s not too contrived (it was a long day!). And though I’m not generalk a fan of Shiraz-Cabernet mixes I found myself loving the heather, mint and cornstalk nose and the opulent mouthfeel of Glaetzer’s new Godolphin 2004 e38 Rating 18.5/20

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Wine Notes from Oz – October 2005

Don’t know if many of these will hit the shelves in Ireland, but if they do there are some goodies worth seeking out.
The first batch come from the Riverland, the engine room of Australia’s wine industry therefore not Jack White territory. Nevertheless, amid the big boys there are some boutique producers getting to grips with unusual (for Oz) varieties such as Petit Verdot, Tempranillo, Barbera. The interest in Petit Verdot in this region is massive. of course ‘the little green thing’ has its heart and home in Bordeaux where, in good years it adds complexity, elegance and a slightly spicy lift to the produce of many chateaux. In poor years the damn thing doesn’t ripen at all. So unlike ‘the weed’ (as one Aussie winemaker described it to me) Merlot it highly heat-tolerant, important in this low lying sun-baked region.

HOW TO READ ERNIE’S RATINGS
18-20: Unmissable.
15-17: Stylish wine, some excitement.
13-14: Decent drinking.
10-12: Reliable & value for money.
8-9: You may like it, I didn’t.
Under 8: Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Long Row Sauvignon Blanc 2005 (Angove’s)
Angove’s used to be represented in Ireland by O’Brien’s. They make some fabulous brandies and pretty passable wines. This one, from old vines grown on narrow T-trellises had good depth and a nice weight of clean citric fruit. Personally I thought it didn’t have quite enough acidity to keep things interesting but I should say I was in a minority of one.
Rating 13/20

Kingston Estate Verdelho 2005
Liked this one! Lovely perfumed, waxy nose with a little lime lift coming in on the back end. Quite a substantial wine with, on the palate, apples giving way to an apricot tinge and a long, mellow finish. Easy drinking and at 12.5 ABV, not falling over stuff.
Rating 15/20

Hardy’s Stamps Rose 2005
In the UK this sells for 4.99 so I suppose it’s a 9 euro-odd wine. If so, it’s a bargain. A 60/40 blend of Grenache and Shiraz, cold fermented with an aromatic yeast it was smartly put together with a wealth of strawberry fruit lingering on the palate to quite a refined dry finish.
Rating 14.5/20

Pennyfield Petit Verdot 2003
Low yield – 7-8 tonnes per hectare, basket pressed. Some goes into new oak, some into older barrels, a split of French and American. Critics were split too, some felt the American oak was a tad overwhelming. personally I thought it was lovely with a voiolently herbal nose, touch of beeswax in there and a good weight of plummy fruit and a whiff of black pepper. Acid balance was spot on so the 14.7 ABV wasn’t at all apparent. Loved the lingering finish too.
Rating 16.5/20

Southern Secret Petit Verdot 2004
Of the two, this was the critics’ choice, ‘cept mine. It announced its presence with an impressive herbal nose, then, on the palate, red berry fruit giving way to blackberries and currants. I thought there were some dark caramel tones in there that spoiled the finish but no one else ran with this. Therefore, I gave it the benefit of the doubt and lifted it into the ‘interesting’ category.
Rating 15/20

Omerstown Shiraz 2004
Fragrant nose, good weight of sweet fruit, maybe slightly cloying on the palate, long finish. Definitely better with food. The overall impression was this wine is something of a Penfold’s Koonunga Hill clone.
Rating 13.5/20

McGuigan Vineyard Select Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
Minty, herbal nose, entirely in charcater with the variety. 85% riveraldn fruit with a dollop of Barossa to beef it up. A very smart well-made commercial wine that punched above it’s weight, selling as it does in Oz for $6.50.
rating 14/20

Nissen Hut Fortified Mataro 2004
All the character of a great port, for bobbins prices! If this wine ever appears in Ireland I will snap some up. I look at my tasting notes and I’d only written one word “Yes!!!”

2005 SAUVIGNON BLANC

Sauv B is the signature variety of Adelaide Hills, probably Australia’s Marlborough. Tim Knappstein, perhaps the doyen of the region, summed it up nicely when he introduced the tasting “Sauvignon Blanc makes simple wine. It’s really made in the vineyard. All the winemaker can do it not mess up too badly what was made in the vineyard.”
All the wines were screwcapped.

Hahndorf Hill
Mineral bite on the nose, slightly herbaceous. on the palate, chiefly green apples with a little hint of raisin fruit. Good length, interesting wine.
Rating 14.5/20

Longview
citric notes, some balsam and a little tobacco on the nose. Gooseberry and stone fruit on the palate, plus a whack of citrus.
Good long clean finish.
Rating 13.5/20

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Wine Notes June/July 2005

Craggy Range Te Muna Rd Sauvignon Blanc 2004 15.50 16.5/20
Smart as paint bristlingly mineral Sauvignon Blanc with heavyweight apple and citrus fruit framed by the gravelly aftertaste. Distinctive, interesting, hugely enjoyable Cloudy Bay chaser.
Redmond’s Ranelagh,Claudios Georges St Arcade, Thomas’s Foxrock

Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Merlot 2002 c28.99 18.5/20
Hard to imagine that this sensuous, serious wine was made from grapes from vines only a couple of years old! Rich, fragrant, decidedly Bordeaux-busting Merlot made with love and care. Violets, mint and herbs on the nose and subtle silky fruit on the palate plus that star-spangled magic powder aftertaste that copperfastens the authenticity. I could drink this every night.
CGA; BN9; GEL; Bradleys, Cork; RED; LYN

Château de Bastet Côtes du Rhône 2003, ‘St. Nelly’. e11.50 13/20
More organic/biodynamic wine from the sure-footed Mary Pawle. It was only after I’d given this wine a private road test that I noticed it in this month’s tasting. Unabashed, either I got it wrong or I got a much better bottle than the panel! Delicate, beguiling and not too bucolic or ‘in your face’. Excellent value, too.
SQ; CHC; LCS; QCC

Oaky Toasty 2003 Bordeaux Blend enot yet available 13/20
Hard on the heels of a stelvinned white Burgundy, of which more anon, came this further example of La Nouvelle France. A bottle that could hold Cologne or posh olive oil; brash, funky labelling and a cosy back label, revealing that this wine was casked in AMERICAN oak. Well, Bordeaux’s Grange it ain’t but it was well-made quaffable stuff, loaded with vanilla, herbs and ripe fruit. I await the price with interest.

‘Vinifera’ Gamay 2004, Touraine AC e16.50 16/20
Henry Marionnet is perhaps the finest Touraine producer and this lovely Gamay, made amazingly from ungrafted vines (how brave is that?), is the sort of wine you could give to a visiting Martian and expect him to return enchanted. Vibrant, rich cherry flavours, so enjoyable and, of it’s kind, unique
Le Caveau, kilkenny

Château de la Negly La Cote, Coteau du Languedoc AC 2003 e12.45 17/20
Grapes from old Carignan vines married to an equivalent quantity of prime Grenache, this stellar wine would eat the face off 9 out of every 10 Châteauneuf du Papes we’ve come across lately. Great meaty whack of fruit augmented by wrinkly black olive overtones and a whiff of clean white pepper. So enjoyable.
LE CAVEAU, Kilkenny

Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru AC ‘Morgeot’ Viellle Vignes 2001 e41.50 19/20
The rise-and-rise of Vincent Girardin continues! Normally I wouldn’t dream of featuring a wine this pricey and esoteric but I just had to tell you about the trippy experience which I see from my notes involved ‘the feeling of sitting in a lemon grove eating freshly-cooked pork crackling’. And that’s only the nose! Huge WOW factor in this wine.
LE CAVEAU, KILKENNY

Thelema Ed’s Reserve 2003, SA e21.95 15/20
Gyles Webb was in Europe when we called at his Stellenbosch estate. But we did meet his wife Barbara and her mum Ed – possibly the only mother-in-law ever to have a wine created in her honour! And what a good wine too. Barrel-fermented Chardonnay in a brisk, non-cloying style. At the price, the poor man’s Hamilton Russell and that’s by no means a put down.
VJ/OTG/GEL/GIB

Domaine de Saint-Lannes 2002 Cotes de Gascogne e8.99 14/20
Another example of O’Brien’s new-found ability to unearth delicious wines from hitherto unregarded corners of France. Made from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Tannat it yields dark brambly fruits with cinnamon and coriander notes and at a nowadays modest 12% ABV it’s as easy on the head as it is on the wallet

Champagne Duval-Leroy ‘La Fleur de Champagne’
e34-35 17/20
With a platoon of relatives arriving from foreign parts the last month has been a bit of a Champfest. Cream and quality biscuits, almonds, hazelnuts and clean fruit, everybody loved this one.
SELECTED INDEPENDENTS

Dry, delicate, delicious with only the faintest high octane whiff by way of signposting the variety, Speckled House Riesling 2001 hails from Australia’s Adelaide Hills. Weighing in at a stripling 10.5% ABV, it won’t have you on your ear while exuding charm and class in every mouthful. The 2002, tasted on Australia Day was just as good. It’s available from the excellent Inis Wines – Tel: (074) 954 2940 and from good independents, guide price e19.49. Rating 16.5/20.

‘Delicate’ is not a word that describes the Paul Osika 2001 Heathcote Shiraz from Victoria. This big, bouncing boyo tips the scales at a colossal 15% ABV. Yet it proved once again that, if the winemaker is skilled enough, particularly with New World Shiraz, humungus alcohol levels are no bar to enjoyment. It has to be said that the two old friends who shared this bottle with me had no sense that the wine was so pokey. Me, I loved it. Karwig Wines (021) 437 2864, around e26. Rating 17.5/20.

From what could prove to be one of the landmark tastings of 2005. Argenina’s Cafayete, the region of origin. has the benefit of high altitude and hence a long ripening season, so this Cabernet, aged a year in new French oak, is not the usual New World blackcurrant fool, it’s a proper wine, subtle and understated with the tannins resolving nicely and all the leather, spice and other tricky bits you can handle. A tasting begged two questions: (a) Why can’t the New World make Cabernet with this much character and restraint? And (b) Why can’t the French give you Cabernet anywhere near as good as this for anything approaching the money? Michel Torino Don David Cabernet Sauvignon 2003, around a heartwarming e12 from Mitchells and good independents (importers Classic Drinks, a new company, appropriately enough from The City of Culture – 021 451 0066). Rating 16/20

Not that the French are sat on their butt smoking Gitanes. A deal of hard work by the guys from Mouton-Rothschild (and a tad more Semillon in the blend) has placed Mouton Cadet Blanc 2003 a lot more class, placing it firmly in the Good Value table. For about e12 it’s more than a match for many of the New World fruitgum fests. Widely available. Rating 13/20

Now for the Holy Grail, drinkable wine for e6.99. At amazing new “that’ll do nicely” contemporary wine palace Eno in Monkstown, Co Dublin, I found Zohak Mendoza the name – the red’s a rough party quaffer, the Chardonnay, in contrast, is quite polished. Rating, Red 10.5/20, White 12.5 I believe it’s a one-off, though, so step on it.

Going upscale, I encountered a lemon-refreshing Piemonte white, San Silverno 2002 that certainly won’t disappoint at e9.99. Rating 13.5/20. In the same emporium, surprise, surprise, I came across a well stylish Italian Pinot Noir. There is a middle path between a bag of over-ripe Southern soft fruit and the vapid offerings of Burgundy in a bad year and these guys have found it. At e29 I won’t be drinking it every night but Bressan Fruili Pinot Nero 2000 will make a pleasing occasional treat. Rating 16.5/20.

I love vertical tastings. Recently we sampled 6 vintages of Zuccardi Q Tempranillo from Argentina. The diversity was immense: the ‘97 all spice, cracked white pepper, morello cherry and orange peel; ‘98, more fragrant, apple and bramble hints coming through; my favourite, the 2000, a broad-shouldered muscular, developed wine of great length. Worth grabbing a few bottles of the hefty 2002 and putting them aside, especially as the suggested rrp of around e18.99 looks a king-size bargain. rating 17/20.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]