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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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