Wine Notes June 2006

La Rose du Monbousquet 2005 e11.99 O’Brien’s Rating 14.5/20
As a change from my usual Chateau de Sours I’ve been drinking this blushing beauty – O’Brien’s. Rose, in my opinion, is one of the hardest wines to get right. Too much acidity and you may as well go suck a lemon. Too much fruit and you are bored after a glass. Not with this one. Fragrant aromas of watermelon, rose hips and strawberries assail the nose. Juicy, round and fruity it makes an excellent aperitif.

Craggy Range New Zealand Pinot Noir Te Muna Road 2004 e28.99 RED, BN9, TOM and selected independents Rating 18/20
We’ve waxed lyrical about Craggy Range before and we’ll probably do it again. Now the 2004 is in town I was able to do an interesting comparison with the 2003, one of my favourite Pinots. The 2004, if it’s possible is even more elegant and restrained. Te Muna means ‘special place’, pretty appropriate as the wine, in my opinion, is one of New Zealand’s top 3 pinots, the others being Ata Rangi and Felton Road.
The Te Muna Road story is an interesting one. Craggy Range Vineyards bought this patch of land for a song. It was prone to drought in summer and was some way south of the accepted good winemaking area that had attracted many premium producers. Early moves towards an ‘appellation’ delineated a crescent shaped edge of the river terrace formed by the Ruamahunga and Huangarua Rivers on the northern side of the township, about 1000 hectares of deep gravelly, free draining soils that once formed the old river bed and with the low rainfall and similar temperatures and wind patterns, it was thought to be homogenous from a viticultural point of view. Rules and regulations were defined by the new ‘Martinborough Terrace Apppellation Committee’ and in 1991 the ‘Martinborough Terrace Appellation of Origin’ system was adopted. Vineyards not on the delineated land were not considered part of the appellation. Where the gravels stopped, the appellation stopped and if the soil change ran through the middle of an existing vineyard, well too bad. Alas for the bureaucrats, Craggy Range were too big to offend and when winemaker Steve Smith sought to prove that the Te Muna region was in fact an outcrop of the main terain it was ‘game, set and match’. Today the appellation is simply called ‘Martinborough’ and everyone is happy, especially as the wines are gaining international acclaim.

Le Chardonnay de Pesquie Vin de Pays de France 2004 e11.99 Rating 13.5/20
Albarino Dona Rosa Rias Baixas e13.95 Rating 15.5/20
Both from Donnybrook Fair
They say in my part of South Dublin that you have to get dressed up if you want to shop in Donnybrook Fair. Well, maybe because when it comes to ‘smart’ the wine department is certainly getting it together. The restraint and class of the Chardonnay came as a bit of a surprise, for a co-op made wine bearing a simple VDP label. It’s no tropical fruit orchard so might not appeal to fans of Australia and Chile but it has charm in abundance.
The Albarino is quite another matter. This grape has been taken up by wine writers looking for the next big thing. Inspired by the quality of the Martin Codax, importers too, started to put their shirts on Albarino. Sorry to say, but recent tastings don’t bear out the early claims and two out of every three are real dull duffers. This one is good vibrant kit and well worth the money, particularly if you are looking for a change from the usual suspects.

Nipozzano Riserva 2001 Chianti Rufina e?? Take Home and good independents Rating 16.5/20
Volpaia Chianti Classico 2002 e18.99 Wines Direct e17.85 Rating 16.5/20
I’ve had something of a Chianti fest of late. It’s a nostalgia kick I think, putting me in mind of warm days on the terrace at Villa Mangiacane looking over the valley to the Duomo in the distance. Two Chiantis in particular struck me as worthy representatives of the old and new styles. The Volpaia is in the modern idiom, warm, approachable, huge somehow, in spite of the modest (13%) ABV. The Nipozzano is a Rufina, not to be confused with Ruffino, a producer. Rufina is a separate zone to the North East of Florence, well away from its siblings. For one reason or another it was included when Chianti was defined as a specific wine region several hundred years ago. Rufina’s long, warm and dry summers and particular terrain produce well-structured wines that stand up particularly well to ageing. The 2001 was holding back some of its elegance I felt and would benefit from putting away for another couple of years. Good job I’ve got another bottle.

La Vi Canevel Colli Trevigini IGT Prosecco e14.95 Sheridans, Galway and Dublin Rating 16/20
About as much fun as you can get for the money with its elegantly bulbous bottle and rough-hewn cork held down with string in the traditional fashion. The wine’s good too. Prosecco is sombre and serious wine, you don’t need an excuse to open it. The Charmat method makes some of the world’s worst sparklers but, employing the aromatic Prosecco grape, the guys in the Veneto achieve a liveliness and charm that budget Champagne just doesn’t have. Smart, summery, highly recommended.

First Rosé of summer
Prosecco Raboso e11, Marks & Spencer Rating 14/20
Good fizz is always welcome, good cheap fizz even more so and when you get good cheap pink fizz, well… This smart and very different sparkler gets its hue from blending a proportion of red Raboso grapes with the Prosecco. The informative back label tells you to drink within three months and that’s what you should do; else it will fade like a racehorse with my fifteen stone aboard. As of now it’s showy and extrovert, one for the garden on a summer’s day.

Friendly monster
Verget Bourgogne ‘Grand Elevage’ 2004 e38 (check price), good independents (Woods Wines) Rating 18.5/20
A very long time since I’ve come across such a whopping concentration of flavours in a 13% wine.
What is this stuff, declassified Meursault or what? Behind the plain label there’s every nuance of flavour a Chardonnay lover covets – the melons, the creme fraiche, the lot. Everyone should drink at least one bottle of this, not cheap but probably the cheapest way of finding out what great, nay, exceptional Burgundy is all about. Jean Marie Guffens, aka The Mad Belgian, is the driving force behind this dynamic Burgundy negociant firm. He’s irreverent, irascible and iconoclastic. Upon hearing that the Wine Spectator had declared one of his 1997 white Burgundies one of the best of the vintage he avowed “I went down into the cellars and told some of my assistants, ‘We must be doing something wrong.’” He’s not.

Subtle Charmer
Cookathama Riesling 2004 SV e11.49 Rating 16/20
First-rate Aussie Riesling from the unlikely area of Victoria’s King Valley. Less astringent than the Clare, Eden Valley or Adelaide Hills brigade, this bargain makes superb food wine, sublime with those shelfish and creamy sauce pastas that seem so appropriate at this time of year. Smart kit for not too much money.

Gentle giant
Laurent Miquel Nord Sud Syrah, Vin de Pays d’Oc 2003 or maybe 2004, E9.99 Dunnes Stores Rating 15.5/20
I was pleased to see this one make it into John Wilson’s excellent ‘101 Great Wines for Under e10’ for it’s been a favourite of mine for a few years. Made by a talented young winemaker with Irish connections, it’s big without being brash and soft without being sentimental. Getting on towards being the ultimate summer red.

Lay one down
Archidamo 2001 Rei di Sparta Primitivo di Manduria DOC, e11.99 O’Brien’s Rating 15.5/20
Lord knows when I received this sample but I’d put it down in the cellar and the label was almost worn off. I drank it last night, as accompaniment to clapping away on the keyboard. It was superb, the tannins still holding the wine together and myriad nuances of flavour leaping out of the glass – raisins, plums, violets, nuts, all sorts of things. It could have stayed down there anothr couple of years, too. The savvy Aussies do this all the time – buy two, put one away, that is – even with moderately-priced wines. They like to surprise you by dragging up the 1998 Woollyback Creek Shiraz and love to hear your grunts of appreciation. Try it on your friends, but not with aenemic Bordeaux from a bad year please.

Love in a cold climate
Banfi Le Rime 2005, e13.99 RED, TOM, BN9 and selected independents Rating 14.5/20
If you are looking for a white wine you can chill nigh unto death without it going all steely on you, try this. Another surefooted winner from the Tuscan giants, a lovely balanced pairing of un-mucked about with Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay. Aromatic, fruity with refreshing acidity, you could make this your summertime ‘house wine’ it’s so easy to drink.

Time Traveller
Katnook Founder’s Block Shiraz 2003 e12.99 MCC, MOL Rating 14/20
Coonawarra is better known for its Cabernet than for Shiraz. Nevertheless this sassy, savoury wine stands up to be counted, delivering solid, impactful fruit backed by spice and pepper. I was intrigued by the perky gold top (reminded me of the ‘Ernie’ song though…. aaaagh!!!) which I first thought was one of the new Zork closures. This would certainly keep for a further few years.

Tesco Finest South African Chenin Blanc 2004 e8.99 Tesco rating 13.5/20
Tesco have gone through more changes over the past few years than a stripper working three shifts! UK driven they came up very fast to oust J.Sainsbury as the poll-topping supermarket wine shop. Then, just as fast, they endured a pperiod in the dolldrums. Now they are back on the up, leading the charge with some smartly-sourced wines to grace their ‘Finest’ range. This is one, a good example of the strides South Africa has made with Chenin since they stopped dunking the grape in oak. Tangy and full-bodied, but in no way cloying.

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