Bordeaux 2014 En Primeur

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2014 was almost another disaster for the Bordelais. Every winemaker we spoke with said that in mid-august the grass around their vineyards was lush, thick and green. The ground was sodden and the temperatures had been low and cool. Roughly one month before harvest when many had already written yet another vintage off, the rain suddenly stopped and the sun appeared. The race was on.

It stayed sunny and hot right through harvest time making 2014 somewhat of miracle vintage. The wines are there or thereabouts with some appellations fairing better than others but most making respectable wine, thanks in part to a ripe and juicy Merlot harvest. Some producers seem to have panicked, picking early, using oak and sulphur awkwardly and heavily extracting the grapes, presumably to give some semblance of structure to the wines. They needn’t have done so, as some of the finer wines we tried were slightly lighter in body and were showing very well. Not every Bordeaux vintage has to be broody, muscular and long lived.

*A note on the wines below: We did not taste in every appellation but managed quite a few.This is a quick breakdown of the better wines from the appellations we visited and a few shockers thrown in for good measure. I didn’t want to go into comprehensive detail for each wine;some notes are purposely short and to the point. I also purposely have not given a points rating for each wine.

If some expected Chateau are not mentioned, we either did not taste them or they failed to impress. We tasted with the Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux, an organisation consisting of 133 Grand Cru estates of equal and measured quality. Anyone looking to hear about the most famous top 5 growths look away now; we didn’t get an invite…

Listrac – Moulis – Haut Medoc – Medoc

The tasting for these appellations took place in the wonderful Chateau de Lamarque.

Chateau Clarke – Firm drying tannins, good concentration, black dark fruits.

Chateau Fourcas Dupre – Lovely balance, keen acidity, gravel soils really showing through. This will be good value.

Chateua Fourcas Hosten – A lovely wine, good structure, plenty of fruit.

Chateau Chasse-Spleen – A really nice effort with strong tannins and lots of Cabernet showing through on the nose and palate.

Chateau Maucaillou – Tannins abound, the wine is rich and full. Good.

Chateau Poujeaux – Very well structured, firm, pleasing, lots of ripe fruit.

Chateau Beaumont – High percentage of Merlot, 45%. Something slightly out of balance with this wine. Nose had a vegetal funk and the palate did not seem pure. Perhaps with time it will settle.

Chateau de Camensac – Nice fruit, firm but ripe tannins, a good wine but not for long aging.

Chateau Cantemerle – A lighter style. Sadly the alcohol was showing through too much. Not so hot.

Chateau Citran – The nose was promising with a sweet violet aroma but ultimately this wine is disappointing.

Chateau Coufran – “The Pomerol of the Medoc” – Merlot dominates this wine, plush, velvety and sappy. Very nice.

Chateau La Lagune – One of the finest wines of this first session. The nose is perfumed and delicate. The wine itself has excellent character and although it is a much lighter style that other wines of the region, this is its strong point. A elegant wine for the mid-term.

Chateau de Lamarque – Thankfully our hosts have also managed to make a fine wine in 2014. Nose of plums and sweet cassis with floral notes. Drying tannins and a long finish. Impressive though not for the long term.

Chateau La Tour Carnet – Certainly the best wine in this first session. Like La Lagune they have made a very balanced wine with lots of charm. It is deeper and richer however. Certainly on my list of buys.

Chateau La Tour de By – Mineral driven and expressive. Loads of good Cabernet fruit and earthiness coming through. They have done a good job here.

  

Pauillac & Saint-Estephe

The tasting was held at the beautiful, but mud and rain swamped, Chateau Lynch-Moussas.

Chateau d’Armailhac – Straight off this was one of the best on show from 2014 Pauillac. The tannins are ripe but firm and dry. There is loads of the vineyard in this wine, you can feel and taste it. There is a darkness and a broody nature here too. Finishes with brambly fruit and touches of bitter, yet pleasing, sloe berry.

Chateau Batailley – 82% Cabernet. 15% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot and 1% Cabernet Franc. A higher percentage of Cabernet than most in the region. The wine is good, well made and solid but not a classic.

Chateau Clerc Milon – The nose is very expressive with sweet raspberry fruit and lovely fragrant spices. The palate is long and seamless with balanced acidity. This one is very good and maybe even poised for greatness.

Chateau Croizet Bages – A sweeter softer style than others in the region. 11% of the wine is press wine. You sense that there was bit of nervousness here when it came to the winemaking. They have used good quality fruit and the results are not bad at all but it lacks something. Confidence perhaps.

Chateau-Puy Ducasse – The nose is meaty and ripe. The wine is big, dark and tannic yet is already showing a great structure and quality. One of the best.

Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste – Overshadowed by the other Grand-Puy. Lacoste have made a wine that has lovely ripe fruit, long drying tannins and plenty of spicy character. The alcohol sticks out awkwardly at the moment, which is not great cause for concern just yet. A fine effort from a great estate.

Chateau Haut-Bages Liberal – The wine is edgy and dark. Its not initially friendly and you wonder. Its like a surly teenager, loads of potential just a bit dumb at the moment. The fruit is there in ample amounts and it will evolve. Muscular and tense, they have gone at it a bit heavy, but I sense it will be a long haul and will come good.

Chateau Lynch-Bages – 69% Cabernet and 75% new oak. This wine is polished and ready for show. Loads of plum and currant fruit, floral and expressive, graphite and stones and pencil wood. Sort of what you would expect really. A job well done.

Chateau Lynch-Moussas – Our hosts went all guns blazing on the oak in 2014. The wine has a toasted spicy character which threw me a bit. I cannot say I fell in love with this one.

Chateau Pichon-Longueville – 80% Cabernet and 20% Merlot. No messing about here. Great structure, powerful  and has a really long finish. A top class wine for the future.

  

Saint-Estephe

Chateau Cos Labory – A good wine showing lots of stony mineral character and rich fruit.

Chateau Lafon-Rochet – Wow. This is super and ticks all the boxes. Long dark finish.

Chateau Ormes de Pez – This estate has always impressed me and 2014 is no different. The fruit is there with a great colour, density and persistence of flavour.

Chateau de Pez – Another winner from Saint Estephe. The style is softer and rounder than other estates, I suspect higher levels of Merlot, giving a real plummy and fleshy quality.

Chateau Phelan Sugur – This wine, although fine and well made, was somewhat less convincing than others from the appellation.

Saint-Julien 

The tasting was held at Chateau Leoville Poyferre

Chateau Beychevelle – They have gone for a Merlot dominant blend with 51% and 39% Cabernet, the remaining 10% is split evenly between Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. As you would imagine the wine is rich and velvety with plenty of cherry, plum and kirsch flavours. Solid without being a standout.

Chateau Branaire-Ducru – 65% Cabernet, 27%Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc. Decent, plush tannins, approachable and fine.

Chateau Lagrange – The nose is leafy and full of fresh blackcurrant aromas. 76% Cabernet. I found this one to be a bit of a blockbuster. Full and powerful, it will need time to show some actual nuances.

Chateau Leoville Barton – Showing real purity and strength. The wine is more Pauillac than Saint-Julien. A very long dense profile with years ahead of it. This will be an exciting wine.

Chateau Leoville Poyferre – 60% Cabernet and 40% Merlot. This wine is straightforward, but in the best sense. Its pure, pleasingly approachable already with the Merlot giving a softness. Perfect earthy undertones give it just enough complexity.

Chateau Talbot – Unfortunately I didn’t get to taste Ducru Beaucaillou(one of my all time favourite wines) but Chateau Talbot was for me the best of the Saint Julien Appellation that we did sample. Excellent balance with a very attractive savoury and spice element (reminiscent of tea cake). The nose is rich and floral and the palate has ample depth to deliver for many years.

Margaux

The tasting took place in Chateau Dauzac

Chateau Angludet – Oak really began to feature in the wines of this classic appellation. Angludet has produced a great wine in 2014 with lots of savoury and metallic oaky notes on the nose. This will settle in time and certainly add character to the wine.

Chateau Brane-Cantenac – A similar story but perhaps more elegant. Blackcurrant fruit mingled with nervy green and spiced oak. One for the future.

Chateau Cantenac-Brown – A very impressive wine again with resonating oak. The fruit is dark and bitter and contrasts perfectly with a sweet licorice finish and plenty of alcohol.

Chateau Dauzac – Loads of blackcurrant fruit here with a cooling and clean minty freshness coming through. The palate is well balanced with a classic earthy element. This has the taste of the appellation and will be a good buy.

Chateau Giscours – Good without being overly impressive. Just a well made wine from a very respectable estate.

Chateau Kirwan – Kirwan have come out on top in 2014. The wine exudes power and presence. It has a great structure and already tastes complete. Lots of dark black fruits, firm tannins and a long warm finish.

Chateau Labegorce – One of my absolute favourites of the appellation. The nose has a wafting sweet cinnamon spice with bundles of ripe black fruits. Firm, balanced, lingering.

Chateau Marquis de Terme – Classic and very good. Always a great effort.

Chateau Monbrison – 72% Cabernet and 28% Merlot. The wine is very drinkable and tasty even in this young raw state. Perhaps not for the long term but will develop into a lovely short to medium term wine.

Chateau Rauzan-Gassies – Well balanced with dark licorice and berry flavours. Worth a punt.

Chateau Rauzan-Segla – Rich yet approachable sooner. A lighter, softer style than most from the region. A very nice wine.

Chateau Du Tertre – Disappointing vegetal cabbage nose initially. The wine is decent on the palate and has plenty of nice fruit. Considering the other quality available from Margaux in 2014, it would not be on my hit list.

Saint Emilion & Pomerol

The Saint Emilion tasting took place in Chateau Clos Fourtet while the Pomerol tasting was held at Chateau Petit-Village

Chateau Balestard La Tonnelle – Wonderful nose. The palate is ripe with great acidity and poise. A lovely one.

Chateau Berliquet – Disappointing

Chateau Beau – Sejour Becot – A good effort and will deliver in a few years.

Chateau Canon-la-Gaffeliere – 55% Merlot, 37% Cabernet Franc and 8% Cabernet Sauvignon. Canon-La-Gaffeliere is a shining example of the best that 2014 has to offer. An excellent wine with pitch perfect fruit and a long satisfying finish.

Chateau Cap de Mourlin – Some green unripe and bitter flavours in here. They have not hit the nail on the head.

Chateau La Couspaude – The aroma of this wine is unusual and not in a particularly good way. The palate is dry and overall the wine fails to deliver.

Chateau Dassault – A really nice wine with rich floral aromas. The palate is dry with lots of plums and fig in the finish.

Chateau La Dominique – Not a bad wine. Plenty of positives just not a star.

Chateau Clos Fourtet – A solid wine that delivers on all levels. Again not the pick of the bunch but with enough of everything to age well. Will it be worth the price? Lets wait and see.

Chateau Franc Mayne – 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. The wine displays a ripe sweetness on the nose. The palate has firm grippy tannins. The oak is standing out at the moment but its not a problem. The finish is warm and spicy. If this wine is keenly priced it would be a good purchase.

Chateau La Gaffeliere – Mmmm. “Difficult” is a word that stands out in my notes. It is extremely extracted. This has given the wine an almost bitter hawthorn and sloe berry taste. Touches of green fruit in there also. The oak has given it coffee notes. Where are the ripe sweet fruit flavours and velvety tannins? The finish is long and I suspect the wine will come around with aging. A gamble.

Chateau Grand Mayne – Nice nose of raspberry, plums and oak. A good wine that I would buy.

Chateau Larcis Ducasse – Tannic and dark but with enough of everything to see it through. This one gets a yes.

Chateau Larmande – Touch of cabbage on the nose. Surely that will settle in time and the wine is not bad on the palate. A bit underwhelming.

Chateau Pavie Macquin – A good wine. Lots of potential. But the price will determine its quality level. If its expensive then it won’t be worth it.

Chateau La Tour Figeac – Surprisingly there were little hints of unripe fruit in here also but I actually do not mind that so much as I find overtly ripe wine a bit boring. This is very good with a plummy soft character.

Chateau Troplong Mondot – Very rich and dense. Tannic and firm. Black cherry and plums on the palate with spice and cocoa. Very Good.

Chateau Villemaurine – Oak on the nose. The palate has a round creamy texture with warming spices. Pleasant.

Pomerol 

Chateau Beauregard – Wonderful fragrant nose of sweet plums. The palate is inky and dark with a good structure. Very tight but will soften and age well.

Chateau Le Bon Pasteur – This was one of the better wines in the Pomerol stall. Although softer than some, the balance of quality fruit, tannin and acidity are very evident. Perhaps not for the long term but fine nonetheless.

Chateau La Cabanne – The nose has distinct woodland aromas. The palate is very tight and dry with touches of green fruit and bitterness.

Chateau Clinet – The nose is truly lovely with fragrant Christmas cake spices and dried fruit. The tannins are firm yet ripe. It tastes less ripe than it smells, as though some grapes were slightly under-ripe. And although that is not on everyone’s wishlist, it is attractive here as a counter balance to the sweet spiced nose. I liked it, and feel it is a very good wine.

Chateau La Croix de Gay – with 98% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc there is no beating around the bush with this. The nose exudes hawthorn, kirsch and plums. The palate has dense chewy prunes, eau de vie and violet flavours. A top class wine (if you like Merlot).

Chateau Gazin – The nose was not so inviting and a bit funky. The palate is muscular and meaty with strength and depth. In time perhaps the fruit will shine through.

Chateau Petit-Village – The first thing I noticed was the super colour. Most en primeur wines have a great colour anyway but the 2014 from Petit-Village was striking. A lovely Merlot nose of fragrant plummy fruit with touches of prune, kirsch, licorice and thorny wood. Very promising.

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Conclusion: Bordeaux 2014 is a moderate to good vintage and I feel will be remembered as a return to form. The wines if keenly priced will help Bordeaux to regain a good position after the greedy price hikes of 2009 and 2010 and the fairly average and even poor vintages of 2012 and 2013. There are certainly some wines among what we tasted that I will strongly consider buying.

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The Grape that Launched a Thousand Wines

Historically wine was much sweeter than it is today. Most modern wines are fermented to a dry style and it is a trend that may continue for some time, especially now that sugar has become the new enemy of human health. Riesling’s ability to express itself in such a diverse number of ways is not only one of its greatest assets – a great wine for every situation – but also lends to the confusion many people have with it. As tart as lemon or as rich as dried apricot, Riesling always maintains drinkability due to its outstanding balance of natural acidity. Stereotypes exist in all walks of life and Riesling has been labelled with many.

One of the most incriminating of these stereotypes is its association with cheap and sweet post war German wines, namely the dreaded ‘Liebfraumilch’. Some Riesling is sweet, this is true, but so is Coteaux du Layon, Sauternes, Tokaji, Vin Santo, Port and a host of other wines worldwide. Yet Riesling often makes people, who know no better, shudder at the thought of it. The traditional Riesling bottle can make them run a mile not to mention labels printed in old German script. And yet it is in Germany that the most alluring and haunting Rieslings are found, thriving in perfect cool climate and stony soils. Although it makes quite outstanding wines in a number of regions worldwide, both the controversy and the purity, it must be said, stem from its homeland.

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The Mosel river’s reflective nature offers much to the microclimates.

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70 degree gradients, great scenery, even in winter.

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Rows of quality vines with grass growing between i.e. natural viticulture, no weedkillers. Deep slate soils beneath.

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Reporting from the field…

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Reinhold Haart, a most brilliant and generous winemaker. We sampled 14 of his wines!!

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Goldtropfchen TBA…a stunningly rich and oily complex wine.

After a recent short trip to the Mosel region to talk “the new and the old Riesling” with a handful of world class producers, we decided to revisit a tasting where Ben Mason of Wine Mason(formally Origin Wines) was our guest. Ben is well known for being a big Riesling fan and supplies Dublin with some fantastic German wines. He suggested that people today are much more open to Riesling than in the past with the chances being that most new wine drinkers have never even heard of Blue Nun or the kind of commercial slosh that was the face of German wine for decades.

On the night in question we got through a range of styles but in the end almost all wines ended up being from Germany! Alsace was not there, northern Italy almost was, Chile was not there, neither was Washington state nor New Zealand. Australia surely? No. South Africa did however get a seat at this very ‘Deutsche Wein’ table. This is the problem, and the joy, of being told to “bring a bottle of Riesling” as a guideline for a wine night…

The wines on the night were as follows:

Robert Weil, 2012 Trocken, Rheingau, “Keidrich Klosterberg”

Von Winning, 2012, Pfalz, „Deidesheimer“

Emrich – Schönleber, 2008, Nahe, Riesling GG „Frühlingsplätzchen“

Paul Cluver, 2010 „Close Encounter“, Elgin, South Africa

Gunderloch, 1996, Rheinhessen, Riesling Auslese, „Nackenheim Rothenberg“

Paul Cluver, 2012, Riesling, Noble Late Harvest, Elgin, South Africa 

The Robert Weil has a beautiful waxy nose of grapes, herbs, ripe stone fruit and bergamot. The palate is initially clean and crisp with fine acidity but this wine changes, finishing somewhat clunky and unbalanced. The soils and position of the Klosterberg vineyard lends a full bodied character to these wines. The trocken is fermented out to a drier style with increased alcohol. This combined with a big weight of rich fruit means that, this vintage at least, is heady and needs more acidity to counteract. Weil is a great winemaker working in the Rheingau region but this wine from his entry level range and perhaps just this vintage (2012) is not quite realised. Some more time in bottle might just sort this. If scores mean anything the same wine from 2013 has been highly rated.

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Von Winning’s wines are polished and sophisticated with attractive labelling to boot, showcasing the dominance of wines from the Pfalz region. The nose although floral and peachy had a peculiar vegetal or geranium like aroma, which could be deemed as a slight fault. The palate initially tasted a bit extracted, too much ripeness perhaps or heavy skin contact maybe. On second taste however it really emerged with loads of clean sherbet like flavours and acidity racing through. Very expressive when given some time to open up.

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The Grosse Gewächs Frühlingsplätzchen is a red slate and gravel vineyard site which translates directly as “spring cookies” but really means “spring place”, the plätzchen denoting a nice or ideal site (platz). Winter snow melts first here which usually results in longer growing season. Situated in the Nahe region, it is close to the Rhine though not actually in sight of it. The nose is rich and herbal and haunting with apple, peach, spice and even celery. The palate is wonderfully balanced, with refreshing acidity and linear fruit. There are no distractions here. Top quality juice from Emrich – Schönleber.

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After three German efforts we went all the way to the southern cape. We are blessed to have the wines of Elgin pioneer Paul Cluver here in Ireland. They are a benchmark for greatness in the new stream of quality coming from South Africa. The nose has ripe melon, loads of apple and mint. The palate is luscious and rich, again showing loads of apple and sweet lemon. With very precise acidity and only 9.5% alc. this wine really demonstrates how dynamic Riesling is.

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The aging potential of Riesling is legendary. With our wines getting progressively riper the well aged 1996 Gunderloch Auslese from the Rheinhessen was poised to make its mark. The extraordinarily complex nose had intense aromas of honey, marzipan, tea and apricot. The palate was a revelation – sweet red apples, dried apricots, pears, honey, fig, caramel, lemon acidity throughout and a herbal tone on the finish. It simply kept delivering. Long lasting and very rare.

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We finished by upping the ripeness even further, returning to Elgin with another from Paul Cluver. His 2012 Noble Late Harvest Riesling is a wonder. The exotic nose is full of Gewürztraminer expression – green tea, lychees, floral, pineapple and chamomile. Yet it is a Riesling! A super sweet wine with oily richness and classic acidity.

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Riesling really is one of, if not, the finest white grape varietals. It makes wines in a multitude of styles from far flung corners. With aging potential and complexity these wines are ideal with a host of cuisines and remain good value relative to many other quality wines.    

DCW – March 2015

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Drink Your Red Wine Cooler and Other Things….

Ani Glass

  • DublinWineCollective looks at some ways of making your wine taste better.
  • Does our lack of willingness to engage with wine as a cultural subject mean we could get left behind?

For roughly the last twenty years annual wine production has gone into overdrive. Consumption has doubled across the globe and this trend looks set to continue, especially if, as we hear, China’s newly prosperous non-elite are turning to wine in a big way.  Accordingly, it looks as though suppliers need more wine- and need it now. There are no massive reserves and there is no time for recent vintages to sleep in a dusty cellar for a decade or more, the market is too thirsty for that. Wine is big business and the styles have adjusted to suit this frenzied demand. Vines are being planted at an astonishing rate. To quote Bob Dylan, ‘Things have changed’.

 Without directly saying that the rise in consumption and subsequent rise in production has meant an across the board reduction in quality, let us suggest that there is something within that notion worth keeping in mind. Cheap does not always mean good value. The price of wine at both ends of the spectrum has and still appears to be fluctuating dramatically. At one end there are customers paying too much for something they are hoping they will like; at the other end are collectors paying too much and hoping what’s in the bottle is what written on the label. It all seems a bit of a gamble really. Need buying wine be such a gamble? In addition there are issues relating to erratic weather patterns and possible climate change which are really beginning to compound the pricing problem.  We may not be able to do much about the price of wine but being aware of changes in wine style can help us to enjoy that pricey glass or two just a bit more.

 We have never read the words, “Treat this wine with ignorance”, on a wine label.

 So what are some of the changes the average wine drinker could take on board? To begin with ‘room temperature’ today is positively balmy and we are often drinking red wine a lot warmer than it should be. Many restaurants and wine bars in Ireland are guilty of this; this can only be attributed to lack of knowledge or indifference. Red wines often suffer an agonising fate. Far too many establishments leave open bottles of wine near coffee machines or other heat sources and furthermore pour red wine into warm glassware. We have never read the words, “Treat this wine with ignorance”, on a wine label. Yet this happens repeatedly. This is where the customer, needs to find a voice, solo or collectively. If your café latte was cold and sloppy you would notice, you might even complain. If your wine is too warm or too cold for that matter, firstly would you know and would you have the knowledge and confidence to say something?

 This is where lack of knowledge leaves the field clear for poor standards in quality and presentation. The drinking culture here in Ireland calls for beer and cocktails to be ice cold, white wine to be ice cold and red wine to be room temperature. But this is outdated and insufficient information, at least regarding wine.  For some time now an increasing amount of wine producers are dropping the recommended serving temperatures by a degree or two on the back labelling of their wine bottles. They are doing this for good reason.  Most of the red wine produced and drunk worldwide in the last 15-20 years has been designed not to be cellared and needs little or no aeration or decanting. Today’s commercial styles are riper (often too ripe), less tannic, contain higher alcohol and are fruitier, making them more immediately palatable to new generations of wine drinkers and not necessarily existing connoisseurs or enthusiasts. Many of these modern red wines simply do not need to be served at 18˚-20˚c or even at 16˚c.

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Fruity red wine from Spain. Yummy?

 The old rule of thumb about drinking red wine at room temperature applied to a cooler era before modern insulation and central heating. Perhaps even more importantly, it was adopted to suit medium bodied red wine, such as classic Bordeaux claret, which rarely if ever, had alcohol levels above 12.5% and needed airing and some elevation from cellar temperature to soften out the tannins and unlock the aromas and flavours. Not many wine makers choose or are able to make such wines today. By drinking fruit driven red wines slightly cooler, they will deliver fresher tasting fruit with livelier acidity and have an overall more balanced taste. Your palate and your food will thank you for it.

*(It must be noted that roughly 20% of wines produced today are still most certainly suited to  cellar aging and are not commercial wines so to speak).

Serving wine at its best possible temperature can not only eliminate many perceived issues with the wine but it also helps to separate and distinguish wines by exposing their flavour profile. So where do white wines fall in this thermo debate? We now know that serving smoked salmon, quality cheeses, cured meats and even tomatoes at a normalised air temperature before eating them will not cause food poisoning –on the contrary it releases the real nuances and flavours and often improves the texture.  On the other hand, excessive chilling of a food or beverage will essentially dampen most of its flavour (ice cream may be an exception). Sadly with white wine this happens far too often. White wine need not be frosting your glass and giving you pains in your teeth. Champagne and Fino sherry should be very cold indeed, but full bodied, oaked and aromatic white wines do not need to be so heavily chilled. 

Reasonable Industry Standards

A public display of wine expertise can sometimes irritate but it is much rarer and certainly is not nearly as damaging as lack of knowledge. That said we realise that everyone has their own way of doing things. Furthermore, if there is one thing that informs the entire subject of wine, that is its subjectivity. So if you are happy with ice-cubes in your white wine or you like to leave your red wine by the fire for a while before drinking it, then carry on, each to their own. In industry however there are reasonable standards that should be adhered to. The thought of serving cold or lukewarm food to a paying customer is inconceivable, so why then should serving wine at an incorrect temperature be tolerated? Food knowledge has thankfully come a long way but wine is still floundering some distance behind. This limited knowledge creates fertile ground for complacency and enables some within the industry to get away with a generally undetected lowering of standards to widen profit margins.

The customer is always right you say? Deep down we all know that line is like cheap wine, it never gets better and it’s used too often.

With contemporary restaurant service so mixed in its style, approach and execution, what actually transcends to the old and new dining generation as ‘today’s industry standard’ can be quite confusing. In general, the trend has been to make the dining experience more relaxed and informal. That’s fine; we can do informal, but must we also dispense with knowledge and professionalism through casual and often untrained servers to gain a relaxed atmosphere? Is the service industry to be dictated to solely by the wines being offered by importers? And what has happened to all the passionate sommeliers and consummate wine waiters when it comes to wine lists and wine service? These are three questions to which there is no evident response at present. 

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The lack of real professional knowledge in bars and restaurants has left a glaringly obvious void; this in part has been filled by self-appointed critics. Today every second person is a critic, taking photos and writing reviews on mobile devices. Food and wine have become so fashionable; it seems to be only important to show that one is involved without actually having a clue. The days of the chef and waiter being the professionals and the diner enjoying the time spent dining are gone. Casual untrained industry staff is partly to blame for this muddying of the waters, however the people that employ such standards are holding the keys. As a non-wine producing country with a somewhat disjointed food and wine culture (that is we eat and afterwards we drink or we don’t eat at all) Ireland needs to engage with wine on a cultural and gastronomic level otherwise the norm will forever be to accept mainstream wine for the purposes of ingesting alcohol. 

A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing. Clearly we must rely on the experience and knowledge of the server or sommelier, backed by the establishment, and the knowledge of the consumer. The customer is always right you say? Deep down we all know that line is like cheap wine, it never gets better and it’s used too often.  Furthermore there is a lot of misinformation floating around in our glasses these days. Words for wine faults are often used without the knowledge to back them up. “Corked”, “Vinegar” and “Oxidised” are the three most heard and sometimes for good reason, though more often, we suspect, wines are simply being served incorrectly either by staff that are not bothered or have no wine experience. The difficulties that professionals face include convincing the customer, if they are not already aware, that a particular wine is the one that will suit their palate. It is a performance backed up by knowledge and experience.  Sometimes they get it right and sometimes they don’t.  After all if a customer orders an €80 bottle of wine and then declares it is corked or worse still, ‘not what they expected’, what should an establishment do? What professionals can and should do is try to ensure not to serve faulted wine to a customer in the first place. Here in lies the difficult part.

Detecting a fault in a wine is difficult enough in its own right; if that wine is too warm and soupy then finding faults can be all the more difficult. To complicate matters further the aromas given off from warm wine can often be unbalanced, displaying acrid chemical, alcohol and sulphurous tones. Technical faults are just that, faults (in the product) and not so to speak the fault of the waiter or the establishment. It may be embarrassing yes, but to bad mouth an establishment for having corked wine displays a certain lack of understanding. To be less than pleased that they served it to you is however acceptable and fair. 

Mainstream is Easier

In summary, it must be concluded that many wine drinkers know little about the particularities of wine. Wine has become commercialised with more and more people drinking it. But our knowledge of wine is limited and the resulting trend is to follow the mainstream (a glass of Pinot Grigio will do). This is fine and not so unusual in a country which produces a minuscule amount of its own wine and has really only began to develop a wine drinking culture (outside elite circles) in the last thirty years. We have some catching up to do. There are two sides to this issue. The other being that the people serving and selling the wine are equally ill-informed and are unable to offer insights and choice to customers, hence we stubbornly don’t expand our wine horizons. Collectively we are not a discerning bunch and if this continues, we never will be. Of course as a nation we now like to drink wine; and that may be all that matters from a commercial point of view. The problem with this scenario is by not engaging with wine and expecting more from it, we allow the overall standard to drop, something price pressures will only tend to exacerbate. Our wine importers are forced into importing mainly what sells and not necessarily what a more knowledgeable public would in fact enjoy more. Many of the great wines of the world, entry level and high end, never make it to our shores because we don’t know what we are missing and therefore do not create a specific demand for them. But it is not all our fault; our cash-strapped Governments tax wine to such a prohibitive level that we have little choice but drink cheaper quality wine domestically and fork up for the same wines with criminally inflated prices in the dining arena. 

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Wine in Dublin is now being ‘poured’ from 20 litre pressurised containers. Is this another step towards a completely generic wine world?

 Given this knowledge gap, how can restaurateurs and sommeliers restore service standards and promote better quality wines? One essential is the provision of proper training to staff and encouraging those staff to engage with customers could be an answer.  This is already happening in some of the city’s better establishments but regrettably there remain many others who clearly don’t know or care about what they are pouring into your glass. If your server/sommelier is clearly enthused about a particular wine and takes note of what food you plan to eat, then the wine part of the dining equation can suddenly move away from being a stressful one towards a rewarding one.  You can also do your part to revolutionise your palate, by trying something different!

 A few of our thoughts and tips:

  • When alcohol is heated it evaporates. When red wine is served too warm, the alcohol aromas and esters emerge from the glass and mask the fruit aromas. The flavour is also dramatically changed. It can taste jammy, cooked, rubbery or even burnt, while leaving us with that non-refreshing hot alcohol burn in our throat.
  • If drinking red by the glass and you think it is too warm then send it back and request wine that is closer to cellar temperature; if you are drinking a bottle at least ask for an ice bucket or for it to be chilled down a little.
  • By lowering the temperature it is as though you put all the components of the wine back together again in order for the true expression to show. At home if you are lucky enough to have a cool cellar or wine preserver style fridge then drink your wines straight from that. The wine will ‘come up’ to temperature and evolve as you enjoy it.
  • On the other hand if it is too warm to begin with, it won’t get any cooler, tasting progressively warmer and off balance as you drink. When dining out simply ask your server to let you feel the bottle before it’s opened. It should be nicely cool (not stone cold) but certainly not warm.
  • Be careful not chill red wine too much, this will dampen the flavour too much and the tannins will become raw and metallic tasting. It is a balancing act and no different from other beverages we consume. The correct temperature is essentially the one we like.
  • If red wine is served to you a bit on the cool side, lucky you, relax a bit and let it evolve in the glass and enjoy it as it changes and comes up to an ambient temperature. This won’t happen too often, believe us.
  • White wine can offer similar obstacles and is often served much too cold. We don’t proclaim that the topic is straightforward rather we are gently suggesting not to drink richer full bodied white wine at 4˚c, try 8˚c-10˚c to start with and see how you get on. With reds try chilling them in a normal fridge for thirty minutes before you open a bottle at home or place in an ice bucket for a few minutes; 13˚c-16˚c will do wonders for it.
  • Many people want an instant hit from a glass of red wine, needing it to be big, rich, warm and satisfying all in the first taste. Remember wine is evolving, and aged wines may have been in a bottle for more than ten years. Drinking it at the right temperature means you will enjoy it to the last drop, essentially the structure of the wine holds together. You might even discover that wines or grape varieties that you previously did not like, now taste very different.
  • A little note on corked wine. If there is a tiny piece of cork floating in your wine, it means one thing and one thing only and that is that there is a tiny piece of cork floating in your wine. It’s clumsy yes but not as bad as say receiving a glass with lipstick on it. Corked wine on the other hand is a negative smelling chemical reaction within the wine itself which can come from many sources but mainly from a naturally occurring virus within natural cork, hence the reason the term ‘corked wine’. But that is a whole other day’s work.

~ DublinWineCollective ~ November 2014

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The Accidental Winemaker

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     Roughly thirty minutes north of the city in the heart of Dublin’s agricultural belt is not the kind of place you might expect to find grape vines growing and wine being produced. Three miles, as the crow flies, from the sea and nestled up a country road we found David Llewellyn ‘punching down the cap’ with a pick-axe handle. This is wine making in the raw. The 2014 growing season, which has just been harvested and described as ‘brilliant’, (as was the previous year of 2013) appears to have spurred Mr. Llewellyn on into bringing the wine part of his business to the next level. He has recently experimented with different techniques (resulting in varying degrees of success), better summers have delivered bigger riper yields, and he has ripped up unsuccessful vines to focus on certain grape varieties.

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The system of vine training is an adaptation of ‘Viennese Curtain’

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This section of the farm contains two rows of mixed grape varieties which are grown for part of the year under protective covering

     David is a fruit farmer first and foremost, and wine is something he “just fell into”. In the 1980’s he travelled to the south of Germany near Lake Constance to work on a farm, totally unaware of the fact that the farm was also a working winery. After his tenure there, not only was wine firmly on his radar but he had also acquired knowledge of how to grow and prune vines, how to harvest, and even how to press grapes and make wine. Upon returning to Ireland he kept an interest in the subject but mainly through the propagation of grape vines for sale in nurseries and to garden centres. Through his links in Germany he manage to acquire high quality vines – not just table grapes – but wine varietals that we all know such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Schoenburger, Sauvignon Blanc and the quirky Dunkelfelder. Alas he,“couldn’t make it work as people would buy one vine for novelty factor; they had no clue how to look after it.” The propagation and sale of the young vines was a slow business and so in 2002 he eventually decided to transplant what leftover vines he had growing in pots into sites on his property. This, to David, seemed like a normal enough thing to do, given that he already had an abundance of fruit trees, mainly pear and apple, for his by now growing cider, apple juice and apple vinegar business.

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David shows us his recently planted rows of Rondo grapes. A hardy variety that will ripen outdoors in Ireland but this year succumbed to slug damage, eventually giving a limited crop.

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Apples for pressing. The farm’s mainstay.

      It started much as hobby and admits that he is still very much learning and experimenting as well as being at the mercy of the weather. Production has grown from about 350 bottles a year to about 650 last year, most of which is sold in boutique wine stores in Dublin, the remainder he sells on the markets at the weekend. Having rooted up his Chardonnay vines which he felt made bland wine in this climate, the row will be replanted with yet another red varietal, Cabernet Franc, which he hopes to eventually blend with his juicy and plummy Merlot. This accidental winemaker certainly seems to be turning a hobby into a more focused and serious project. Are there aspirations of a St.Emilion-esque red with a blend like that? Clearly not and although he does manage to ripen his vines under plastic cloches, David is well aware of the limitations of the climate here and even his own operational facilities which on his website he describes as traditional and not high tech. “Wine making in Ireland is still, and will remain very much a niche,” and this he attributes to the cost and amount of labour needed to grow grapes successfully, not to mention making palatable wine from them.

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A chardonnay grape with ‘noble rot’. They tasted rich and complex with that distinctive sweet wine muskiness.

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Going, going, gone. The last intact Chardonnay vine will be also be removed to make way for Cabernet Franc. This late bunch had some noble rot and grey rot combined.

     But what about the wine to hand? We were treated to a taste of the still fermenting Rondo, a varietal well known in Britain, which he made a minuscule amount of this year. The wine was soft and ripe, akin to a Beaujolais nouveau. The Cabernet Sauvignon had a wonderful waft of black fruits and fermentation gases arising from it. The Merlot was plummy and velvety with a lot more definable structure than the Rondo. Finally we tasted the just pressed Dunkelfelder. Dunkelfelder is part of a group of grape varietals known as teinturier; a French term meaning dye or stain. The flesh of Dunkelfelder is a deep crimson red. Most red grapes have clear juice, but a small number – the teinturiers – not only have a deep skin colour but rich dark juice also. Dornfelder, Germany’s second most planted red varietal after Pinot Noir, and Alicante Bouschet, a variety still very much in use in Portugal and southern France, are two others that share this red flesh trait. The Dunkelfelder had a very deep colour with a fleshy palate and was reminiscent of the leafy green character that Cabernet Franc can give. Often used as a blending grape on the continent to add depth of color to a blend, David vinifies his as a single varietal.

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Dunkelfelder; part of the teinturier strain of red fleshed grapes.

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The juice from Dunkelfelder already resembles red wine.

      We have tasted Lusca wines in that past, the brand name under which the wines are sold, and some of the earlier vintages were lean and piquant, with minimal structure – something that certainly could be attributed to Irish summers, limited yield and David’s own trial and error wine making techniques. We can genuinely say with pleasure that the 2014 vintage tastes promising, while 2013 was bottled back in June and the reports are complimentary. There is not enough wine produced at Lusca to make a serious impact into the Dublin wine scene but David Llewellyn has great enthusiasm for his little wine project. He is not the only one!

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Raw and purple Merlot

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This year’s Rondo grapes suffered setback and were small and late. The vines are young and will develop better fruit each season.

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DWC October 2014

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Bordeaux 2010 – time to reflect?

2010 is a vintage that has been heralded in Bordeaux and beyond. Some say it was even better than the previous monumental year of 2009 and everybody is well aware of the ludicrous prices that it reached. But what makes a great wine? More to the point, what makes a great Bordeaux wine? The classic vintages of the last century such as ‘45,’47, ‘49, ‘61’ ‘82 and even ‘90 were all, among others, praised for being otherworldly (the other world that is Bordeaux) and in time have all reached legendary status. Is it plausible to expect that the wines made at the beginning of this century are the same style as the wines of the last century? That is a debate that could potentially go around in circles. A fact that needs no debating is that in the 1970’s many winemakers and growers, worldwide, began using technology, chemicals and modern techniques both in the vineyard and in the cellar. Today, in all walks of agrarian life, there is recognition of soil damage; the death of the natural symbiosis between soils, microbes and plant. Similarly vines need insects, weeds and diversity to thrive. They cannot stand alone in weed free, microbe devoid sterile soil and expect to produce grapes of any complexity. The soil essentially becomes starved of nutrients and dies after years of chemical application. Fruit is produced but wine makers have resorted to longer ripening, over-oaking and excessive extraction to get something resembling ‘fruit’ from their grapes.

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Our concern centres around this point: have the ‘great’ Bordeaux vintages of the last decade produced wines of true complexity and diversity or are they just super ripe, micro-oxygenated and stylised for the export market? A great Bordeaux wine should be a thing of beauty yet have enough forceful character to enthral even the top tasters. With regards to comparing classic vintages to today’s wines, all we really have to go on is the memory of others that have tried the wines before us as they gloriously matured.

The 2010 growing season was perfection in Bordeaux. Climatic conditions were outstanding and the crop was so good that some said the wine would make itself. (*Note to self: When it comes to wine it may be prudent to err on the side of caution and beware the overly confident winemaker). It has been proven that poor vintages can produce surprisingly interesting and even excellent wines, due to the added dedication of the team producing the wine. When faced with adverse conditions humans often over achieve. When everything seems to be going great we can easily take things for granted.

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In theory good fruit should produce better wine; luck, terroir and skill are also part of the equation. When a wine region experiences consistent yearly weather patterns, the wines, although perfectly well made, can become prosaic and basically boring. Some of the New World wines suffer from being the same year in year out. This is wonderful for marketing and consistency but for the discerning wine drinker this soon becomes tiring.  As Bordeaux is a somewhat marginal climate for merlot and cabernet sauvignon, on those more challenging or only ‘good’ years, the wines can be nuanced and extremely interesting with savoury touches and pleasing leafiness. The vines have to struggle a bit and this can actually give greatness. When a perfect vintage occurs the vines can easily produce luscious berries. Here in lies the quandary for Bordeaux. Many winemakers in the region are not used to working with such a crop and simply do not know how to get the best results out of it even if the fruit is great. Should they make wine as they have always done or should they try to achieve 100 Parker Points with a gutsy, extracted and ripe wine? The market can play havoc with traditional and knowledge.

None the less the DWC were intrigued as we sat around the table for a recent tasting. Our guest taster that evening was Fiona Cashin from the Wine Cellar at Fallon & Byrne, on Exchequer Street. It was not so much the 2010 vintage but more so the merlot component that had initially sparked our interest. The Right Bank area, although not all classified in the way Saint Emilion is, still has an underlying and fairly strong dose of elitism. The artisanal approach taken by many producers further stretches the distance between the wine lover and the few that can enjoy Chateau Le Pin (to use an example). For all its glory and prestige Chateau Latour produces upwards of 180,000 bottles on good years; Le Pin maintains a higher level of exclusivity by making a mere 6,000 per annum.

Merlot being the preferred grape on this side of the Gironde is able to handle the cooler clay soils found on the Right Bank. Cabernet sauvignon fades quite quickly in Pomerol and Saint Emilion. Thankfully something that does not fade is the glorious second wine of many producers, perfect for poor folk such as us.

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The first wine came from the shelf of a Bordeaux wine shop and was highly recommended by a local enthusiast.  The 2010 Chateau Martet originates near the town of Saint-Foy-la Grande on the eastern edge of the Bordeaux region. Red wines from Sainte-Foy-Bordeaux must be produced from cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec or petit verdot and this vineyard has been devoted to viticulture since the 13th century. The wine itself had lush, velvety tannins with rich plum fruit, truffle, black raspberry and mushroom. A very well balanced wine with great acidity and a lingering finish. It is always a pleasure to taste wines like this especially when they are not available on the shelves of your home town.

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Next up, was a bit of a ‘wild animal’. Fleur de Clinet is the second wine of Chateau Clinet, a winery which finds itself on the edge of the Pomerol plateau. Traditionally Clinet made wines on the richer or riper side of things. This wine is produced predominantly from fruit purchased in 3 vineyards of which are all in Pomerol region. Red plums, dark cherries, kirsch and liquorice suggested an evolving wine, one which also had powerful aromas of earth and farm. Is that desirable? Some say it is a fault while others adore it. Either way an intriguing wine; but we felt it was a bit young with some years ahead of it.

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Following that was again the second wine of a fine chateau and oddly enough another wine that had been purchased in France and brought here to Dublin. The Esprit de Pavie is 65% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc. In essence all that a right bank blend should be. It gave rich black fruit, cherry and smokey bacon on the nose and initial palate. Gorgeous acidity and dry tannins were just about coming together with spices, plum and chocolate. An excellent, powerful and still young wine.

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Unfortunately the fourth wine, a reserve from Chateau La Couronne, was badly oxidised and undrinkable.

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In conclusion, aside from a non-typical out of condition fourth, we found a different side of Bordeaux. Overall the wines were great, well made and very enjoyable. But they were all just a touch ripe, a bit over-extracted and not so Bordeaux in style, rather more southerly in their taste and expression. The 2010’s are still young and need time. Could it be that the classic vintages of the last century tasted like this in their infancy? The improbable ‘correctness’ of these 2010 wines is something of a concern albeit a good thing for marketing consistency and quality. With that said we prefer shier and moodier Bordeaux rather than this brash ultra-ripe expressive Bordeaux. Time may prove that sentiment to be foolish. Let us wait and see.

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Nebbiolo ~ The Fog Is Lifting

The Fog Is Lifting~Dublin Wine Collective clears the air with Nebbiolo

 BreathBorgogno

An old Italian proverb ~ “Il buon vino non vuole frasca”. Its literal translation means good wine wants no branch; this implies that good wine doesn’t need to be advertised. We at DWC are coming around to this idea but for a different reason; in fact we are a little reticent to tell all about our latest tasting. Not that we expect to set any trends but it may be a natural reaction to want to keep something hush for fear it becomes the norm. Heaven forbid! It’s a bit like having a favourite quiet place for coffee that you hope never gets overrun. With that said we can safely assume that Nebbiolo is not going to become the next Argentinean Malbec any time soon.

The Dublin Wine Collective welcomed Colin Murray [CM] from RetroVino Ireland to the table to help lift the fog on this Italian enigma. Admittedly there was a sort of nervous anticipation in the room as bottles were pulled from bags, corks popped and sniffed and decanters carefully filled. This grape commands attention and patience. It offers so many experiences that one struggles to find the vocabulary with which to express its nuances. Be warned however, an evening of tasting Nebbiolo can cause a sort of post exam exhaustion to descend, leaving the mind feeling drained and floaty. It’s nothing to fret about though! By chance we ended up with two Barolos and three Barbarescos, so to give the DOC Langhe Nebbiolo a chance we snuck in a sixth wine at the end to add a broader perspective. Tough job…

Our first wine of the evening was the 2010 Guidobono Barolo. Although young, this wine has immediate appeal. It is not a Barolo that needs to wait for a quarter of a century before it can be approached. Does that put it in a ‘modernist’ category for Barolo, perhaps, but who cares? The wine is great and that’s what is worth talking about. On the nose there are abundant sweet raspberry and strawberry jam aromas. The fruit is dense not ethereal and is complimented by a fragrant floral quality. The palette again gives a richness of fruit that is not found in older style Barolo. Dark stone fruits mingle with some herbal gin-like qualities, apt tartness and lovely cherry stone bitterness. There is a touch of liquorish also and as it opens up it is ever evolving. Coming back to the wine later it had pleasing dried damson tartness with a salty olive finish. Food matches that were suggested included truffeled risotto and game birds. €32-€36

Guidobono: Modern Style
The next wine was brought by our guest taster Colin Murray. The Castello di Verduno 2009 Barbaresco turned the table on the previous entrant. Nebbiolo was beginning to show us what it really is capable of. Here is a wine that when poured seems to have a dense and powerful shroud of “fog’” in the glass. Not a literal fog of course but aromas of “old church wall”, “dusty flowers” and even “whiskey” but not in the alcohol sense. We were bemused and wondered where the fruit was. Is this why Nebbiolo got its name and not due to climatic fogs that settle in the Monferatto hills?! A debate ensued about traditional production values and the use of large Slovenian oak botti V’s the modernist approach of French barrique. CM remarked, “The fog needs to lift on this one” and lift it did. After much swirling and sniffing, dried flowers, sweet cherries and an almost overwhelming aroma of burned orange zest powered through. It did not stop there, two hours later it was still wafting of incense and orange oil like a scented candle; truly interesting, if a little odd. As for the palette there were slightly greenish plums, cherries, almonds, sloe berries, juniper, tar, earth, oak, orange peel and a drying phase that made you want to take another sip or sink your teeth into some food. It is fair to say that we loved this wine for its eccentric character. It was perfectly balanced with acidity and alcohol and the tannins were just beginning to loosen out. This would match well with ripe Tallegio cheese, rare roasts of beef and again wild game. Shockingly good value at €30-€32.

Orange Peel Aromas
The third wine of the evening was again a Barbaresco from Moccagatta. This 2004 vintage hailed from the Basarin vineyard close to the village of Neive. The nose offered floral richness, raw meat, violets, fresh mint, truffle, mushrooms, wet oily tar and loads of dark black cherry fruit. A truly magnificent nose that just kept giving and giving. The core was still a deep ruby colour even after ten years displaying just a touch of that characteristic tawnyness that we find in aging Nebbiolo. This wine is in it for the long haul. The palette again has lashings of amazingly rich and sweet fruit. A dry tannic wine with wonderful acidity that just brings it all to life; speaking of life this wine has loads of that left in it also. The fruit remains fresh and fills the mid palette, as though it were a Barolo but in a more elegant manner. The finish is long and lingering with remnants of dried tart cranberry and plum. Although the price is significantly more than the first two, this wine is worth the money. “Something of a rich Burgundian Pinot in it” was one comment. With only 8000 bottles produced and that was ten years ago, it is not an easy wine to find, but there are a few bottles out there if you know where to look. We felt privileged and satisfied to drink this elegant and fascinating wine. Try with a rich ragout of wild boar, porcini and parpadalle; cheeses and dried Italian sausage or on its own. €47

Perfection: Moccagata

The real face-off now began with another 2004 vintage from a celebrated producer, only this time a Barolo. The Borgogno winery began as far back as 1761 and was quite recently acquired by the Farinetti family in 2008. We assume what was in our bottle was all pre change over. The riserva wine has spent five years in large oak casks and a further two in bottle and was only released in 2011. So does Barolo really need all that aging and coaxing? With this particular gent ‘absolutely’ would be the simple answer. The initial nose was quite tight and shy. Cherries soaked in kirsch, cognac, vegetal tones, oak, broken dusty tobacco leaves and even some animal hide or dog like smells were coming to the fore. At this point CM piped up and said, “If the last wine was taking off its clothes, then this wine is merely tipping its hat”. Shy indeed. In time it did open up somewhat and the palette showed an exciting wine with loads of potential. It just has not all come together quite yet. It is more of symphony orchestra tuning up rather than playing an actual concerto, but what fine musicians they are. Concentrated black cherry fruits, spices and oak permeate through on the palette. This is a heady and ethereal wine that packs a punch. Although the wine has 13.5% alc. there is unexpected weight here. We agreed that it is a mammoth bottle of Barolo, but commands more time. The fruit is there in abundance but it needs to integrate more as the oak is still nervy and a touch intoxicating. Wait five years and you will see something really special emerge from this one. Food wise it is hard to say but no doubt a range of seasonal and rich northern Italian specialities and meats will compliment perfectly. Curiously the winery’s website has a video of their vineyard exploits playing out like a Spaghetti Western accompanied by the theme tune from ‘Django Unchained’. Tarantino fans? €70+

Iconic & Broody

The fifth wine was again a Barbaresco. Being a 2001 vintage it was opened and decanted at least two hours before we got to it. Produttori del Barbaresco hails from probably Italy’s most famous cooperative of the same name. A high end wine that is produced in massive quantities! They view this bottle as their most important wine, though it is their entry level style, as it defines Nebbiolo for them and is in essence the face of the co-op. Further to that they are ‘solo Nebbiolo’, not wishing to distract themselves with any other varietals. Not such a common occurrence in a commercial wine world. The 2001 vintage was a slight concern at bottling in terms of under ripeness and a little of this shows through. That said it is sort of charming. Mingled in with all that fruit there are touches of ivy, green almond and oak which acts as a sort of restraint for what’s to come. The wine is brilliant and stylish with loads of spiced fruits, cherries, cinnamon, tar, lilacs and coffee. After 13 years the tannins show no sign of abating. The acidity is razor sharp and it all comes together in the glass to reveal a masterful wine. “Co-op’s often do a great job in Italy-which is not always the case in other countries”-CM. And here we certainly have the evidence of that. A smashing wine that can hold its own with many single vineyard Nebbiolo’s or individualist rock star winemakers. Tremendous value €19-€22.

ProduttoriFantastic co-op wine

Our final wine was an added treat to explore Nebbiolo of a different style. The 2005 Langhe Nebbiolo from La Spinetta is a wonderful wine from Giorgio Rivetti’s family run estate. It is 100% Nebbiolo but this juicy fruit forward style seems as though it could contain a touch of something else, perhaps a drop of Merlot but alas the colour is trademark Nebbiolo, transparent, tawny and brick. The nose is rich and earthy, full of raspberry and blackberry fruit, cinnamon, tar, mushrooms and stone. The palette delivers similarly with meticulously balanced fruit, alcohol and acidity. Aged in 80% new barrique, there is modern familiar drinkability to this wine. It has all the elements of Nebbiolo but none of the complications. The tannins have rounded out and this smoothness helps this wine to glide. At nine years old you can certainly taste the age with the fresher fruits on the nose giving way to more preserved red fruits, leather, cherries and some interesting botanicals and anise. It drinks like an Italian from a touch further south. Nonetheless a solid contemporary wine with loads of charm. €25

La Spinetta Langhe DOC

 

Final Thoughts ~ whether it was the constant battling with incessant fruit flies or just the cognitive nature of Nebbiolo, it was a tiring but enlightening evening. The discussion veered towards wine lists across the city. Sir Robert Scott Caywood pin pointedly said, “Compromises are for relationships, not wine”. The wine industry here in Ireland has great relationships with producers, suppliers and its customers. Why then do we not see more wines like these on wine lists? Are we compromising a richer wine culture for the sake of what sells? There are a few establishments willing to pour Nebbiolo by the glass and they are to be saluted but they are the exception. This grape makes stunning wines that should be every chef’s gastronomic dream; yet this begs the question, “Do our chefs adequately match their food to their establishment’s wines?” If they need a starting reference, then point them in the direction of Nebbiolo. Yes it is tannic and big and can be austere but it is more often elegant, refined and magical. Given that Nebbiolo is readily available in Ireland, surely the time has come for the wine drinking public to become more acquainted with its charm.

-DWC August 2014

Diversity of Nebbiolo

Diverse Styles

Trademark Colour [with heavy end of bottle sediment]

Tawny Nebbiolo colour with a heavy end of bottle sediment

Class of '04

Class of ’04

Tawny, Brick Red

Tawny; Brick Red

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War of the Rosés

War of the Rosés – DWC asks, “Should any wine have to fight so many clichéd battles?”.

On an unseasonably damp Wednesday evening the Dublin Wine Collective sat down to taste what the vast majority of wine writers worldwide might describe as a ‘seasonal wine’. A quick glance across the internet tells us that ‘Rosé season’ will soon be drawing to a close, so we should all quickly grab some bargain bottles and light the barbecue, others quip about summer lasting as long as we keep drinking Rosé. Oh dear! Are these writers the same ones that tell us Champagne is for toasting the New Year and to take care when choosing Riesling in case it is too sweet?

Some wines have reputations for all the wrong reasons. Rosé wine drinks better when somewhat chilled but that should not limit it to only being consumed when the sun is splitting the stones. Similarly Rosé wine may have a colour spectrum from pale coral through to electric pink but that does not mean it has been designed only for the ladies and flamboyant men. We could rant on and on about its supposed shortcomings but lets get down to business.

Our Recommendation: Dispense with trends and marketing schmaltz.

Our Tip: Drink Rosé warmer than most whites (10 ̊c-12 ̊c), not just above freezing point.

Our Objective: To deduct if the Rosé wines we selected were indeed good wines in their own right (or otherwise) and not whether they were good ‘Rosé’ wines. Colour is important. Taste is everything.

The Brief: A still Rosé wine from anywhere, at any price and produced from any grape(s) varieties.

Clichéd Rating System – #Rock#Music#Song#Titles#References

The first wine was the 2013 Domaine de Terrebrun from Bandol AOP. The Bandol appellation, along with others such as Cassis and Bellet, are where some of the finest examples of Provençal Rosé originate. Everything about this wine is classy. To begin with the producers clearly thought about the label and how they wanted the bottle to be represented on a wine shelf or table. The colouring and design of the label sits perfectly against the background hue of the wine. The wine itself has a fine and delicate colour of onion skin, pink pearl and rose gold. The nose has strawberry, crab-apples and blossoms, watermelon, spices and ginger root. The palette is rich and rounded yet very elegant. There is a smooth almost cream like quality to it without it ever being sickly. The acidity is perfect. Made from 50% Mourvedre, 25% Cinsault and 25% Grenache, this wine displays some interesting red wine characteristics. Forget about bracketing this wine as just a great Rosé, this is a great wine, complex and intricate. There is a real sense of provenance here; it knows where it is coming from. We discussed what strength of meat it could pair with. Thinly carved spring lamb or pork belly would both work perfectly and if this wine found itself sitting in the middle of the Christmas Dinner table you would not be left wanting. This is a serious wine. Far too fine and complex to match with incinerated chicken wings and sausages in the garden. Prepare a fine meal instead, invite good company and polish the good glasses – “Red is the rosé that in yonder garden grows and my rosé is fairer than any…”.

There is a real sense of provenance here; it knows where it is coming from.

There is a real sense of provenance here; it knows where it is coming from.

Elegant label.

Elegant label.

Staying in France for our second wine, the 2012 Dominique Piron Beaujolais Rosé made quite an impression. Produced, as expected, from 100% Gamay grapes, this wine delights in its no nonsense approach. The colour is a deeper coral and peach. The nose initially had a bit of Gamay funk which dissipated revealing violets, ripe peaches, strawberries and earthy notes. This Beaujolais has searing acidity which immediately gives it food appeal. Although a medium bodied wine, it has a decent level of richness to challenge that acidity. Tart red berries, olive, orange peel and hawthorn combine to give a well balanced savoury style rosé with a little kick of white pepper in the finish. Pair with meaty roasted fish, tomato based fish soups and even more earthy meats such as offal and Toulouse sausage – “Axl Rosé”.

Gamay Rose

Beaujolais is not always the whimsical fruity nouveau. The region also makes stunning white wines and clever Rosé‬s!

100% Gamay

100% Gamay

The third wine had no passport either and so we remained within the borders of France and headed south again to Provence. This time it was the turn of Chateau Beaulieu 2013 ‘Cuvee Alexandre’. This colourful drop hails from the less specific Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence appellation. With a more pinkish colour and a nose of candy, cream soda, peach, mint, herbs, bubblegum, currants, strawberries and roses this wine is a more adventurous style rosé that is less grounded in the notion of typicity and terroir. It is more fun, more relaxed and bit less serious than the wines that preceded it. A blend of 35% Grenache, 30%Syrah, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cinsault make this wine a bit of a mongrel. The palate has soft strawberries, apples, red pepper and sweet poached rhubarb. It is not exceedingly complex and is a little pricey for what it delivers but still a well made wine that would be more of a contender for the garden and grilled food – “Whole lotta rosé”.

Rose 4

Provence. The heartland of Rosé‬

At last out sprung a German! Dieser rosa Deutsche was the stylish 2013 Wagner Stempel hailing from the Rheinhessen region. The wine has a wonderful deep rich salmon colour and a faint spritz which helps to give it a kind of fresh breezy feeling. The nose has pink grapefruit, sherbet, citrus, cut herbs and confected tropical fruit. Although not exceedingly complex, it is not trying to be. It knows exactly what it is and has a sort of direct linear approach, which is a good thing! The beauty about this wine is its exacting simplicity, which in turn draws you in and focuses your attention. 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Sankt Laurent give this aromatic wine a really very interesting quality. A great food wine, this would stand up amazingly next to Malay or Thai kitchen and at any time of the year. One might even say it is a manly wine. A voice at the table proclaimed, “This Rosé has balls” – “Guns N’ Rosés”

The Sophisticated German

Our fifth and supposed to be final wine was from Lisboa in Portugal. Sadly the wine was so badly corked that the cork alone was polluting the table with its noxious aroma. It all had to be moved quickly aside – “Bring me dead flowers in the morning”.

We miraculously ‘found’ a fifth replacement bottle. Back to France with the Domaine du Rouge Gorge 2012 from Faugeres. This pinky blend of Syrah, Grenache and Cinsault offered a nutty pistachio and red fruit nose. The palate had some ripe fruit but the acidity was just not there. There were flavours of waxy oily fruit and berries, which frankly were not very appealing. This wine is fine. But ultimately it disappointed in comparison to the others. It sort of let the show down. All evening the DWC had been fighting the corner on behalf of Rosé for it to be a respected food wine that can be brought to the table across the four seasons. But this lackluster effort reminded us that there are plenty of poor Rosés out there and that we were indeed lucky to randomly select some great ones – “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rosé garden”.

Once again the DWC must add that we are not funded. There are no backhanders, freebies or odd bottles left on our doorstep with a ‘rate me kindly please’ ribbon around the neck. We are having great fun tasting these wines and learning a lot from each other in the process. We are serious about our wine, we love the stuff and for this excellent Rosé tasting we brought what we wanted to bring. Being only able to drink and taste so much, we feel it is better to focus on five wines as opposed to skipping over ten. For all the great Rosé from California to South Africa and from Italy to Chile, it was nothing personal, you just did not get randomly selected. But we know you are out there!

Rose 2

Gorgeous Range of Colours

 

Rose 3

The Chosen Few

We would love to hear your thoughts on Rosé wines and this or any other article.

DWC August 2014

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The blood of Jupiter

Dublin Wine Collective sips the blood of Jupiter…

Last Wednesday we were back around the table. Glasses, maps and corkscrews at the ready, all proper geek stuff. The theme was Sangiovese from anywhere in Tuscany. Blends were permitted as long as Sangiovese was the main component and expressed the grape’s characteristics. What are the characteristics of Sangiovese you may wonder? Italy is an amazing food nation and over the centuries Italian wines have developed with food in mind. They tend to be savoury, acidic, perfumed and most of the time not heavily oaked. Northern white wines such as Soave and Gavi di Gavi can express, amongst other things, flavours of grilled almond, artichoke and green olive with reds commonly attached to tastes such as cherry, black olive, bay leaf, porcini mushroom and wild rosemary and thyme. Combine these with vibrant acidity, drying tannins and fantastic ripeness and you will see that Italian reds are really set up to match rich flavoursome food. Although Barolo may be the king of wines in Italy and the juicy reds from Valpolicella are massive commercially, Sangiovese still remains the national indigenous grape of Italy and it is in Tuscany where we find it at its best. Cin cin! (eh…don’t say that in Japan).

Characteristics and Tips:

  • It is a cross of two traditional Italian grapes, Ciliegiolo and Calabrese de Montenuovo.
  • Best from Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti, Bolgheri and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.
  • Decant good sangiovese; it will reward you for doing so.
  • Don’t ever serve these wines too warm. They become muddy, soupy and totally off balance. Serve them at cellar temperature and enjoy that acidity!
  • Flavour profiles include cherry, plums, kirsch, almond, walnut, coffee, bay leaf, black olive, porcini mushrooms, earth, leather and tobacco.

 

Our first wine of five was the 2012 Morellino di Scansano from Poggioargentiera. Morellino di Scansano DOCG is an Italian red wine made in the hilly environs of the village of Scansano in the Maremma region of coastal Tuscany, which has an ancient but obscure tradition of winemaking. Morellino is the local name for the Sangiovese grape variety. Morellino must contain at least 85% Sangiovese and can be made in a young un-oaked style which may be released the following March after the harvest. Poggioargentiera make a number of very good wines, some using ancient indigenous local grapes such as Ciliegiolo, here however we are dealing with Sangiovese. The nose although not very complex and a bit closed to begin with it, did open up to reveal some black fruits, sweet Morello cherry, under ripe blueberry,  marzipan, dried wild herbs and lavender. The palate again was basic enough and a bit hot. The fruit seemed a touch baked and we put this down to the bottle being a bit warm to begin with. After some cooling down it came around and proved a moderately interesting but not riveting wine, lacking a bit in acidity and richness.

Villa di Capezzana 2009 Carmigiano DOCG was the next pour of the evening and brought us forward dramatically in quality and finesse. Carmigiano is a low altitude region that overlaps with Chianti Montalbano. The winery is known for its consistency from its entry level Barco Reale all the way to the delicate Vin Santo. The Villa di Capezzana is however their most historic wine. The nose started out with lots of cherry and black fruits backed up by black olive, earth, almond and wild herbs. The palate was sumptuously rich and full. Ripe fruit abounds though the alcohol may just be beginning to peak its head up. It is an elegant wine displaying plums, sundried tomato, dried herbs, and leather and tobacco notes. The oak is evident, a touch green perhaps, and lends a mint leaf quality. Other notes included – “Sour cherries, bitter olives, fruit peel, fine acidity and a groundnut oil finish make this 80% Sangiovese (20% Cabernet Sauvignon) an inspired choice.”

Tradition is still very much alive in the Italian wine scene. Unlike Spain which has awed and bombarded us with its big fruity oaked wines and bodegas designed by famous architects, Italy still holds onto much of the old guard. Modern stainless steel technology, climate controlled cellars, the use of new oak and even modern politics are not exactly welcomed with open arms at Montevertine. This I.G.T Toscana 2008 contains a blend of 90% Sangiovese, 5% Canaiolo and 5% Colorino and is made by the controversial Martino Manetti. His by now famous public racist outbursts do leave a nasty taste in your mouth and it is here the DWC must conclude that some ‘traditional’ standpoints are better left in the past. Manetti’s ignorant slant on humanity is a pity because the wine really is glorious. The nose is floral and fragrant with lilacs and ample fruit. The use of oak (always old) is minimal and is there more so to hold the wine up without adding much of its own characteristics. The palate has sour cherries, mulberry and tinges of green tomato. This is an old fashioned food wine that tastes great and with only 12.5% alcohol and racing acidity clearly gives two fingers to modernism and the outside world.

 

Dispensing with controversy we moved on to the 2003 Brunello di Montalcino ‘La Casa’ from Caparzo. Brunello was the first appellation in Italy to receive the DOCG status. No other wine is required to age for as long before release, 5 years after harvest and 6 for a reserve. This 100% Sangiovese, although not a riserva, is maturing well and has taken time to reveal itself. 2003 was a difficult hot vintage; that much heat and fluctuating weather conditions can play havoc with acidity and be a real nightmare for a winemaker hoping for freshness in his or her wine. But the crew at Caparzo have managed admirably. The nose has sweet ripe blackcurrants and cherries, arguably from the high temperatures that year. It is floral and nutty with almond, walnut, oak and olive coming through. The palate has sweet plums, boysenberries, mocha, kirsch, menthol and smokey tomato richness. The vines are grown in the renowned ‘galestro’ (schistous) soils of the region. As a varietal Sangiovese (and its many clones) loves to show off the characteristics of the given terroir it finds itself in. With still firm tannins that are certainly integrating and rounding out, this wine is in stark contrast to the wine preceding it. It is a modern, upfront, ripe and bold Brunello emerging out of a difficult vintage. Difficult vintage it may have been but the wine is seamless.

We wrapped things up with a bit of an enigma. One hour earlier the Salco Vino Nobile di Montepulciano had been poured. This 2006 effort from Salcheto needed time to evolve. It initially had a slight waft of cork much to our disappointment. However this chameleon dusted itself off and came out fighting. The DWC have noses like hound dogs. Most of us can smell cork taint a mile away even in its faintest form but this one had us somewhat stumped. One minute a shadow of it was there then it was not. ‘They’ say your sense of smell very quickly becomes used to certain aromas and can often cancel them out which then leaves it difficult to separate and pinpoint from others. The final word after much debate… we collectively agreed that the wine was not corked, at least not to any level worth bothering about. The nose did offer tightly wound black fruits, tobacco, herbs and leather. The palate had dark cherry fruit, tobacco, and dates and prunes all shouldered up by firm tannins and chocolate nuances. As previously mentioned, this wine needed time to open but the complexity demonstrates again that Sangiovese can take on many different roles with one consistent outcome; greatness. may-july 2014 103

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In the valley of the sleeping giant…

Loire Valley - Chenin Blanc - DWC

Loire Valley – Chenin Blanc – DublinWineCollective (DWC)

What happens when you put five people who are passionate about wine around a table? The same as would happen if there were twenty: differing palates and opinions. Throw a Chenin Blanc spanner in there for good measure and the range of differentials grow legs (pun intended). The Dublin Wine Collective chose Chenin Blanc from the Loire as a subject to chew over for our inaugural meeting. Chenin Blanc is a Noble Grape variety and its birthplace is the Loire valley in France. Also known as Pineau de La Loire, it is believed to be a parent of Sauvignon Blanc. In South Africa it is known locally as Steen and it has put roots down in the western U.S. as well. It sparkles, it shines, it can be bone dry, off-dry and even lusciously rich in its varietal characteristics and in its ability to showcase itself on many levels. One thing it always brings to the table is ample acidity and for that, we love the juice of this grape!

In today’s commercial white wine sector, Chenin Blanc hardly gets a look in and is glaringly overlooked on most wine lists. In Dublin, you would be lucky to find more than one on shop shelves! With the ubiquitous Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio all but cornering the ‘everyday’ white wine market, grape varieties such as Riesling, Viognier, and Gruner Veltliner (or GruVee) and Chenin Blanc must cut niches for themselves. Only a discerning few know of Chenin’s remarkable quality and potential to age and match extraordinarily well with rich foods. We had anticipated that there might be some crossover of well regarded appellations from within the region with more than a good chance of getting multiple Savennieres, Saumur or Vouvray. As it turned out we ended up with three wines from Montlouis – is it en vogue?

A toast was offered to start the proceedings with a sparkling wine from Touraine by the excellent Jean Francois Merieau. He produces a terrific wine called “Bulles” meaning ‘balloons’. The 2009 vintage consists of 80% Chenin Blanc and 20% Chardonnay grown on calcareous clay and broken limestone. Made by the Methode Traditionelle, this wine can match and beat many well known Champagnes for a fraction of the cost. Aromas of appealing green and yellow fruit are held up with confident secondary notes of zest, earth after rain, marmite yeast and toast. The palate is decisively clean and fresh. The Chenin brings fine acidity, ripe fruit and balance; the Chardonnay gives a full opulent richness to the mouth feel. The finish has touches of sweet spice. As the wine warmed up the fragrances were quite fantastic and complex. Although the sparkle does not last very long this is a serious bottle of wine for toasting, as an aperitif or indeed to match with rich, fried hors d’oeuvres.

The first chosen wine was the 2012 L’oie Blance ‘Clos du Porteau’. Described on the label as ‘Chenin Sec’, this wine sets a great standard for the varietal. The nose offers pear, apple, mild oak aromas and a hint of earthiness. The palate has unbridled acidity and good length with lots of pure apple, citrus and herbal flavours. Hailing from Montlouis sur Loire it offers a more youthful modern style of Chenin and in some ways this showed through in the glass. Some alternative notes from around the table spoke of variables such as ‘white flowers, quince, white chocolate and hints of hay’. As a first wine and standing alone it is a fine example of Chenin Blanc’s potential to deliver. Something was lacking to make it a real winner, but a solid wine none the less.

Next came the well known Mineral + 2012 also from Montlouis Sur Loire. The colour is just great and the wine looks and smells impressive in the glass. A powerful fragrant nose of sweet golden apples, nuts, Turkish delight, vanilla and pears makes this Chenin so inviting, at least on the nose. The promising nose really is stunning; the palate however does not deliver on this promise. Yes, there is loads of fruit and a big medium plus body and nice richness. Lemon balm, sherbet, pears and herbs are present but there is a spiky sweetness that attacks your teeth, without trying to be an off-dry or medium sweet wine. It moves dangerously close to that sort of stewed overripe style that is a bit too hot and throaty for a wine with only 12% alcohol. This wine is well made from quality fruit but it is unbalanced on its own and needs food. Sadly, we agreed that another way to dampen down the heat and heady fruit would be to chill it down quite a lot, which would be a shame given its wonderful bouquet. A good wine but a bit awkward.

The third wine hailed from Vouvray. Domaine Sylvain Goudron 2012 Sec offered lots of lemon peel and hints of green on the nose. This wine was all about the mid-palate. Razor sharp acidity and focus. Not overly complex but we don’t always need that. Match this with sweet seared scallops to help fill out the mid-palate and fuse the acidity and it will be glorious.

The very skilled Jacky Blot followed with his Domaine Taille aux Loups ‘Remus’ 2011, again from Montlouis. This is a cognitive wine. The nose is rich and complex with wafts of the rich spicy sweetness that you find in rum cask whiskeys. It is floral and perfumed covering a wide spectrum of intriguing scents from butterscotch to damp wool to vegetal. Notes included: golden apple, quince, candied ginger and pistachio pudding, with a leesy, oily texture. That gorgeous texture is balanced by an integrated, linear acidity and herbaceous flavours of lemongrass and orange bell pepper, lingering kernel smokiness and medicinal aromas. The palate is perfectly balanced with great acidity. It oozes class…pear and apple brandy tones and a bitter walnut finish. A great wine.

It was purely coincidental that the wines got better or stayed on par as we continued. Clos du Papillon 2008 Savennieres from Domaine des Baumard continued on the trend of superlative Chenin’s. The nose is beautiful; we all agreed that there might be touches of funky botrytis in there. At 14.5% this is a big wine, rich and intense and massively strange. A sleeping giant by all means, this wine could age for years to come. What exactly do you do with a wine like this? It is hard to pigeonhole or define as a show of notes from around the table gave us “clove and cinnamon baked Asian pear, king oyster mushroom and figs in syrup. It has dominant aromas of ginger, quince and sheep’s cheese. All you need is a cracker! You could put this wine up to bat with an Alsacian Pinot Gris, luxurious yet there is that gorgeous Chenin acidity. See what we mean and go out and get a bottle. Another top of the bus wine.

The last wine of the evening was simply electric. A deep, rich golden colour and a nose so inviting you almost don’t want to taste it. Buckets of aroma place this wine firmly top of its class. ‘Insane acidity” wrote one mentally stable taster… “Pitch-perfect balance and flair”. This wine from Saumur demands to be served by a dedicated sommelier with Michelin star food. Let’s not fool around or under estimate the potential of the Chenin grape. When it is presented like this it can go round for round with the best Chardonnay or Riesling in the world. No need to wax lyrical about fruit or finish here. Positively outstanding. What is it? Domaine Guiberteau ‘Breze’ 2008.

So there you have it. Chenin is a class act. It is complex, full and has mouth-watering acidity. It is a food wine. Don’t chill it too much. Take care of it. Don’t drink it just to drink something. If you open a bottle of Loire Chenin Blanc it deserves your full attention.

-DWC- *Note: On the night the wines were not tasted in any given format. The bottles were opened and served ad hoc so no preference was given to price or producer. As some of us work in various related retail businesses we have decided to stay neutral in terms of promoting particular wine outlets and therefore have not stated where the wines can be purchased. You can search online or contact us directly for that information.

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