Some Easter Tipples and 15% Back at O’Briens

It has been a fortnight of celebration here in Ireland.  Last week saw the St Patrick’s day festivities and this week will see the commemoration of the Centenary of the 1916 Rising on Easter Sunday.  To help us celebrate, O’Briens Wines are giving 15% back on your Loyalty card when you buy 6 bottles of wine.  There is also a 6 For 5 deal on Irish craft beers, so below are a few recommendations to help celebrate this long weekend in style.

IMG-20160322-WA0001

Wicklow Wolf, Children of the Revolution IPA, €3.95/500ml

First up is a celebration IPA from the lads in Wicklow Wolf brewery.  This beer got some great press when some bored whingers with nothing better to do with their time accused the brew of being aimed at children due to the name.  Surely if your kids manage to get their mits on beer you have bigger things to worry about?

Keeping in style with their regular bottles the lads have subtly blended in the shadow of a Tricolour on the label to distinguish it from their Free Ranger IPA.  A deep golden colour in the glass, this beer has a warm white grapefruit and orange peel nose.  Made with a medley of 5 different hops, it unsurprisingly has a satisfying hoppy finish alongside refreshing citrus flavours.

The Irish Wino’s Verdict:  This beer is the best to come out of Wicklow Wolf yet.  Refreshing and easy to drink (possibly dangerously so!) I reckon this Centenary Celebration brew will sell out quickly, so stock up if you see it.

 

Conde Valdemar Gran Reserva 2007

Bodegas Valdemar, Conde Valdemar Gran Reserva Rioja 2007, €19.99 (down from €33.45 for Easter) O’Briens

The first wine comes from the consistently impressive Bodegas Valdemar; a family-owned winery dating back to 1889 and now boasting its fifth generation of winemakers.  Only produced in the best vintages, their Gran Reserva wines are made from carefully selected estate-grown Tempranillo, Mazuelo and Graziano grapes.

Unlike most other countries, Spain has imposed a legal definition on the terms Reserva and Gran Reserva appearing on wine labels.  This wine is aged in oak barrrels for 26 months before being left to develop in bottle for a further 4-5 years.  Even then the wine is subject to the strictest of standards and only the crème de la crème will achieve the Conde Valdemar label (the 2008 vintage fell at this final hurdle).

The care and attention that go in to making these wines means they are capable of ageing incredibly well and tend to develop a rich meaty and balsamic character with time.  Last year I tasted a number of older vintages, dating back to 1973, and they were still deliciously vibrant.

 

The 2007 above has a lovely perfumed and floral nose, helped by the small dash of Graciano in the blend.  The oak is still quite evident (spice, coconut, vanilla), but is balanced by ripe cherries and deep black fruits, as well as an attractive fresh tobacco aroma.  In the mouth the wine really packs a punch of bramble fruits and sweet spices; as well as a more savoury character on the finish from the long ageing.

The Irish Wino’s Verdict This wine is a perfect match for an Easter Sunday roast beef.  If you have the patience (and dosh!) grab a few at this price and lay them down for a few years; they’re a great addition to any budding wine cellar.  If you like this, try rooting out Bodegas Valdemar’s excellent Maturana- a long-abandoned Rioja grape variety that is being rejuvinated by a couple of pioneering wineries.

Chateau-Les-Auzines-AOC-Corbieres-2011-Cuvee-Les-Hautes-

Château Les Auzines, Hautes Terres Rouge Corbières 2011, €12.95 (down from €14.95 for Easter) O’Briens

The second wine has a suitably Irish connection.  It is made by Laurent Miquel and his Irish wife, Neasa, in their organic estate high in the hills of Corbières, in the south of France.

1

The picturesque village of Lagrasse in Corbières

On the nose this wine has deep red fruits- cherry and overripe strawberry- from the Grenache, as well as some darker bramble fruits and black pepper from the Syrah.  In the mouth it follows through with the bramble fruits, sour cherry and some balsamic notes from the ageing.  It has a long, pleasant finish.

The Irish Wino’s Verdict:  This wine is screaming out for a nice rack of lamb and mint sauce.  At €12.95 this is a very good value wine from a top producer.

Lidl Premium French Wine Launch

A couple of times a year the giant German discounter, Lidl, offer a Premium French Wine range, where you can grab some terrific value top-end wines from some of the best French wine regions.  Today, 22nd February, sees their latest offering; but be quick- quantities are limited.  Below are my best value picks.

Ernest Wein Alsace Pinot Blanc AOP Pfaffenheim 2014, €9.99

n=5600975Coming from the Alsace region, located on the French side of the German-Franco border, this wine is made from the Pinot family of grapes (despite the varietal label name, they are often a blend).  It has a lovely weight on the palate and a refreshing citrus zip of preserved lemons; alongside stone and white fruits like peaches and pears on the long, satisfying finish.

The Irish Wino’s Verdict: Gets my nod for best value wine here.  Ready for drinking now, but maybe squirrel a bottle or two away in case we are blessed with a couple of sunny days this year; perfect for barbecued fish or chicken.

 

Roesslin Alsace Riesling AOP 2014, €9.99

n=5600981As with the Pinot Blanc above, this wine has a lovely weight in the mouth, but offers much more citrus fruits- fresh lemons, limes and bramley apples.  It also has a complexity to it: white fruits, fragrant flowers and some slatey minerality.

The Irish Wino’s Verdict: This is a great value Riesling- fresh, fruity and fragrant.  Will match the same foods as the Pinot Blanc above, but would also stand up to a mild curry or shish.

 

Chablis AOP 2014, €12.99

n=5603581 (2)

This is terrific value Chablis AOP; it hints at the attributes of top-end Chablis, but at a fraction of the price.  As with all Chablis, it is made from the Chardonnay grape (don’t tell that ABC* friend of yours!) and offers steely minerality alongside mouth-watering granny smith apples.  With wonderful acidity and a long length, this is terrific value.

The Irish Wino’s Verdict: It is difficult to find good quality Chablis at a reasonable price but this wine certainly ticks both those boxes.  Complex and elegant: a very good value wine.  This is an excellent food wine and would be a perfect match for shellfish- mussels in a white wine sauce or oysters.

*ABC= Anything But Chardonnay.  A popular, but grossly unfair designation towards a grape that produces some of the finest white wines in the world: white Burgundy and Champagne for a start.

 

Citadelle Ducyprès Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux AOP 2014, €9.99

wine

Although Bordeaux is better known for its high quality red wines, it does produce some fabulous wines from white grapes- both sweet and dry.  This wine is bone dry and comes from the northeastern Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux region.  The main grape is Sauvignon Blanc, so offers a crisp herbaceous, grassy character and high acidity; but there is also a nice roundness to the body and more than a touch of peach and spice, suggesting a splash of Semillon (the most important grape in the sweet Sauternes wines).

The Irish Wino’s Verdict: An interesting alternative to all the New World Sauvignon Blancs that are so popular right now- Bordeaux is where the grape originated and this wine proves it can still make some very fine, affordable examples.  Enjoy with any dish dominated by a rich white sauce: fish in parsley sauce, or a true carbonara.

 

Château Quattre Cahors AOP 2009, €12.99

n=5603567Whilst we’re on grape origin stories, this wine from Cahors is a blend dominated by the Malbec grape.  Although now better known for the powerful wines coming out of Argentina, Malbec originates in the southwest of France and was an important part of the Bordeaux blend until a severe frost there killed most of the vines in the mid-20th century.  However, the nearby Cahors region persevered with the grape (although usually calling it Auxerrois or Côt) to produce solid, tannic wines with an intense bouquet.

This wine is from the excellent 2009 vintage.  It has rich, heavy black fruits- blackberry and ripe cherries- as well as a nicely integrated bit of vanilla, spice and toast from the oak ageing.  The 7 years ageing have given it some savoury meaty and balsamic notes.  Big tannins come from the touch of Tannat grape in the final blend.

The Irish Wino’s Verdict: Forget silky elegance- this is a big and bold, hearty wine.  The high tannin and fruit will match perfectly with a big juicy steak or succulent leg of lamb.  Although it is already 7 years old, this wine could easily age that long again and accentuate the more savoury elements.  Very good value for such an aged wine.

 

Château de Carles Fronsac AOP 2008, €17.99

n=5600517 (2)

The little-known Fronsac appellation is a small region bordering SaintÉmilion in Bordeaux.  It uses a similar blend of grapes to its more illustrious neighbour, but often offers superb value.  This Merlot-dominated wine is still fresh and fruity, despite its age, but does show hints of its 8 years: forest floor bouquet and a balsamic touch alongside silky tannins that have smoothed out with age.

The Irish Wino’s Verdict: This is an elegant, silky smooth wine.  8 years of ageing has given it a wonderful complexity and it is drinking perfectly now.  It is rare to find a Bordeaux of this age and quality under €20.

Lidl Christmas Wines

Once viewed with a certain degree of skepticism, the German discounters have fundamentally changed our supermarket habits.  Not only because one can buy scuba-diving equipment and a welding torch along with their groceries, but because Lidl and Aldi bring a practical efficiency to shopping-small ranges of good quality products at a consistent and competitive price.  Their wine range is no different, where the quality is constantly improving in an attempt to entice the well-heeled through their doors.

Their bare-bones approach means they don’t offer the service knowledge or rare, niche wines offered by an independent wine specialist, but their unrivaled buying power means they can offer superb value at the budget end.  Over these next two posts I will recommend some of the best value wines offered by Lidl and Aldi.

Lidl White Wines

Cimarosa New Zealand Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (€8.79)

For the past number of years New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc has been on the crest of a wave that doesn’t look likely to break any time soon.  Consequently, the prices have steadily increased and it is hard to find good wines under €15.  This example from Lidl is a great bargain at €8.79.  On the nose it has the typical cooler Sauvignon Blanc notes of freshly cut grass and green vegetables.  On the palate it offers a touch of passion fruit, with a lovely acidity and weight of mouth feel.  This is a lovely wine at an extremely competitive price.

Engelberg JP Muller Alsace Grand Cru AOP Riesling 2012 (€12.99)

To some the second white will be a little from left-field; a fantastic introduction to Alsace Riesling.  The Alsace Grand Cru appellation designates the prime vineyards and (theoretically) best wines within the greater Alsace region, which borders Germany in east France.  Strict quality criteria, such as grape yields and minimum ripeness levels, have to be met to qualify for the designation.  Many consumers are
wary of buying Riesling, uncertain of whether it will be sweet or dry, but it is a wonderfully adaptable, aromatic grape that should be explored and most Alsatian wines are dry (sweet wines will have Vendange Tardive or Sélection de Grains Nobles on the label).

This wine is dry with an enticing smokey minerality, offering soft white and tropical fruit on top of red grapefruit flavours.  There is a hint of floral and a lovely rich mouth feel with a satisfyingly long finish of pear and lime.  A delicious wine that will reward the adventurous!

There are a number of other budget wines worth an honourable mention;

Cimarosa Australian Chardonnay/Colombard 2014 (€6.49),

Cimarosa Californian Chardonnay 2013 (€6.49),

Macon-Villages AOP 2014 (€9.99),

Roessslin Alsace Riesling AOP (€9.99).

Lidl Red Wines

Baturrica Gran Reserva Tarragona DO 2007 (€7.99)

The first red is from Catalunya in northern Spain.  Made from a blend of Tempranillo (Ull de Llebre in Catalan) and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, it is aged for 2 years in oak before bottling, before being cellared for at least three years to integrate the oak and smooth out the tannins.  This long oaking and ageing process produces a complex, full-bodied wine with big notes of vanilla and toast alongside more balsamic and meaty flavours.  However, like any good Gran Reserva there is also more than its fair share of red berries and blackcurrant fruits present that belies the fact it is 8 years old.  A big bold and rich wine similar to a Gran Reseva Rioja, but without the same price tag.

Chateau Sigognac Medoc AOP Cru Bourgeois 2010 (€12.99)

This Bordeaux is a lovely alternative to the Spanish bruiser above.  2010 was a great vintage in Bordeaux and this wine shows all the complexity and finesse one would expect.  Loads of black berried fruits and hint of smoke and spice, this wine has great body and good round tannins.  It finishes with a rich and long length of blackcurrants and pepper.  Delicious claret.

 

Lidl Sweet Wine

n=5204320

Vidal Pillitteri Estates Canadian Icewine

 

Vidal Pillitteri Estates Canadian Icewine, 20cl (€18.00)

Icewine is one of the most fascianting methods of wine production.  The grapes (usually Riesling) are left on the vine until winter begins.  Only when the temperature reaches – C, and the grapes freeze through, are they hand picked (usually at night).  The grapes are pressed immediately, leaving behind the frozen water and releasing a small quantity of juice- intense with concentrated sugars, acids, flavours and aromas- that is slowly fermented.  Because of the lost water weight, it takes roughly ten times the quantity of grapes to make an icewine compared to a regular dry wine.  Due to these demanding production methods, icewines can be prohibitively expensive, but the Lidl example is fabulous value, despite the small bottle size.  A little glass will go a long way.

Coming from the Niagara region of Canada this complex wine has terrific apricot, honey, peach and pineapple flavours.  It’s sweetness is tempered by high acidity, leaving your mouth feeling fresh, with the long lingering kiss of honeyed fruits.  Enjoy a small glass of this with dessert.

O’Briens Christmas Value Crackers

 

With Christmas only a week away, many of us will be suffering from significantly lightened wallets and stretched credit cards.  So, with the presents wrapped and the Turkey picked, it’s time to look for some good value wines to lighten the financial burden of the festive season.  This weekend I will conduct a Supermarket Sweep to bring you some of the best affordable wines available across the country.

After bringing you some of O’Briens’ offerings from their Fine Wine Sale last week, today I pick a selection of their best value wines to help toast the festivities on a budget.

La Rosca CavaCatalunya, €14.99 (down from €17.99)/ Craigies Dalliance 2013 (37.5cl), €4.75 (included in 6 for 5 Craft Drinks promotion)

Many of us like to start our Christmas dinner with a drop of bubbly and there are some fabulous offers on Champagne in O’Briens, such as the excellent Lanson Black Label NV (€34.99).  But to stick to a budget I recommend La Rosca Cava.  Produced in the heart of Catalunya by one of the great Cava houses, Cordoniu, it is made in the same laborious method as Champagne, so shares some characteristics with its better-known French counter-part; at a fraction of the price.  This wine is fresh, fruity, with a little bit of bready complexity.  Easy-drinking and a lovely round mouth feel from the soft mousse of bubbles, this is a great alternative to Champagne or Prosecco.

Alternatively, why not try a quality sparkling cider and support a local industry.  Craigies Dalliance 2013 is a lovely dry Irish cider, whose refreshing zest and creamy texture resembles a sparkling wine more than a traditional cider.  Made from bitter cooking apples it offers a lovely medium-light body and great complexity from 15 months ageing on the lees.  Terrific and complex, it’s time to take a good look at quality Irish ciders again.

Bellow’s Rock Chenin Blanc, South Africa, 2014, €10.99 (down from €15.99)/Bougrier Sauvignon Blanc, Loire Valley, 2014, €9.99 (down from €15.49)

O’Briens are offering a terrific range of styles across their value white wines this year and this list could have taken a full post by itself, but I managed to limit myself to the two wines above on the basis of greatest quality for money.

The Bellow’s Rock Chenin Blanc is my go-to everyday white wine at the moment and would still be good value at the original €15.99.  The grapes for this wine come from the cooler southern coastal region of South Africa, which keeps the natural acidity and balance in the wine.  Fresh citrus and tropical fruits give a wonderful food-friendly wine, with great balance and a long, satisfying finish.  If you are entertaining a crowd this Christmas, this wine is sure to be a crowd-pleaser.

If you prefer something more classic, the family-produced Bougrier Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley is a lovely, easy-drinking wine with all the hallmark flavours of a cool-climate Sauvignon.  Produced in stainless steel to retain freshness, it offers lemon, lime and grassy notes, along with some pear and enticing minerality.  A solid, good value wine.

If it was difficult to limit this post to two whites, the reds picked themselves.  This is not because O’Briens don’t have a great selection at the value end: they do.  And an honourable mention must go to Marcus Eguren’s Protocolo from Spain and Bellow’s Rock Shiraz from South Africa, but the two wines below offer unbeatable value for money.

Réserve De Bonpas, Côtes du Rhône, 2013, €10.99 (down from €14.99)/Luna Argenta, Puglia, 2013, €12.99 (down from €18.49)

The Réserve De Bonpas is a classic Southern Rhône blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre.  The Grenache is dominant and offers up delicious crunchy red berries to complement the black fruit, spicy pepper and cinnamon from the Syrah.  There is very little oak and the soft, accessible tannins means this wine is dangerously easy to drink.  There are many Southern Rhône Crus selling at twice this price that couldn’t hold a candle to this wine.  Superb value.

The second red is an interesting offering from Puglia, in the far south of Italy. Luna Argenta is made from Negroammaro and Primitivo grapes, some of which are left on the vine long enough to begin to raisin. This loss of water concentrates the flavours (and alcohol) in a similar way to the Amarone I recommended last week, but at €12.99 offers superb value.  Full bodied, but silky smooth this wine is full of rich black fruits, cherries and vanilla; a delicious and very moreish wine.

 

Longview Epitome

Longview Epitome

Longview Epitome, South Australia, 2013 (37.5cl), €15.99 (down from €16.99)

Dessert wines are some of the best value, not to mention underappreciated, wines in Ireland. Labour intensive and expensive to produce, sweet wines are the perfect accompaniment to desserts and cheese boards. The sweet wine above hails from the Adelaide Hills in South Australia and is only produced in favourable years from low-yielding Riesling vines, whose fruit is left hanging on the vine long in to the growing season. This extended ripening period allows the fruit build up sugars, whilst retaining the natural acidity of the Riesling grape. Rich and sweet, this terrific value wine offers honey and candied orange, overripe citrus fruits and floral notes. The luscious sweetness is balanced by a lovely acidity to ensure the wine does not feel cloying; a perfect way to round off your Christmas dinner.

A Day To Celebrate

gay flag

Over the past few years it has been rare that Ireland finds itself in the international news for positive reasons, but today is certainly one of them.  The first country to offer the electorate a vote over same sex marriage and looking likely to be the first country to pass that vote.  And by a landslide no less.  There seems to be a real positivity in the air, enhanced by the beautiful May sunshine: almost as rare as a positive Irish news story.  So, what better way to enjoy this beautiful and historic day than a barbeque with a few good Sauvignon Blancs from the O’Briens wine promotion?

 

Mionetto Vivo. WAS €17.99. NOW €14.99.

Mionetto Vivo. WAS €17.99. NOW €14.99.

Ok, this is cheating slightly, as Sauvignon Blanc only makes up a tiny part of this blend, but how better to kick things off than with a bottle of fizz?  Relatively light in alcohol (10.5%), this is made in the Extra-Dry style, meaning it has a little residual sugar sweetness.  Alongside this touch of sweetness is a lovely rich body with hints of pear and stone fruits.  This is a little more expensive than some other Prosecco (more fizz pressure=more tax!) but well worth it for this celebratory day.  Complex and easy drinking, this will pair up with plenty of foods- oysters or buffalo mozzarella aperitifs spring to mind.

O’ Briens Off-Licences: Was €17.99. Now €14.99.

 

Châtelain Desjacques Sauvignon Blanc. WAS €14.99. NOW €9.99.

Châtelain Desjacques Sauvignon Blanc. WAS €14.99. NOW €9.99.

This is a lovely dry, classic Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley.  Dry with lovely high acidity, and fresh citrus fruits, enjoy this chilled with chicken or cheese dishes.  This is great value for under a tenner.  Excellent value for a good barbeque wine.

O’ Briens Off-Licences: Was €14.99. Now €9.99.

 

Ara Pathway Sauvignon Blanc. WAS €15.49. NOW €12.99.

Ara Pathway Sauvignon Blanc. WAS €15.49. NOW €12.99.

If you prefer a bolder, fruitier style Sauvignon Blanc, the Ara Pathway from the extremely popular Marlborough region in New Zealand is certainly worth a look.  It is very aromatic with notes of cut grass and herbs, peaches and passion fruit.  It also has a lovely stony minerality adding some lovely complexity.  This is an extremely easy drinking wine and would go great with grilled white meats straight off the barbecue.

These are just a few good value suggestions to try on this historic day.  But whatever you do, enjoy your weekend and appreciate what the people of Ireland have achieved.

Happy Drinking.

HB.

M&S Bin End

Ireland has the highest rates of wine taxation in Europe.  Any bottle of wine, regardless of quality or final price is subject to excise duty of €3.19.  This tax is also subject to VAT at the standard rate of 23%, effectively making a bottle of wine €3.92, going straight to the government coffers, just for entering the country.  Every facet of wine making must then be added to this price, which is also subject to 23% VAT.

To retail a bottle of wine in Ireland for €5, taxation will account for an eye-watering €4.34!  This is why I have never recommended a bottle under €5.  Until today.

Marks and Spencer Grenache Noir 2013. Was €9.80. Now €4.90.

Marks and Spencer Grenache Noir 2013. Was €9.80. Now €4.90.

Shopping in Marks and Spencer in Liffey Valley yesterday, I spotted their Grenache Noir from the Rhône Valley was reduced from €9.80 to €6.40.  Deciding it was worth a punt at that price I popped one in my basket.  When I got to the till I smugly found it was reduced further- to €4.90.  Surely it was worth that?

I’m glad to say it was.  A blend of Grenache and Syrah, it is a simple, easy-drinking, every day wine with nice red and black fruit and a touch of spice.  The finish is a bit short, but better than many wines twice the price.  And although you won’t mistake this for a top Rhône wine, you won’t find another wine as good for this price.

I presume Marks and Spencer are discontinuing this wine, so at €4.90 it won’t last long.

Rating: DECENT 2.8/5

Value: EXCELLENT 5/5

Two Reasonable Pinot Noirs

Pinot Noir can be a very frustrating, but extremely rewarding grape variety.  I have heard anecdotal stories of grape growers pulling their hair out of their heads and then pulling their Pinot out of the vineyard.  Whether true or not, it does illustrate how difficult this variety is to grow.  This prima donna grape demands conditions to be just right- it’s picky about the location of the vineyard, it demands a cool (but not too cool) climate, the vine needs constant pruning and attention.  And then even if it does grow for you, its thin skin and tight grape clusters make it susceptible to disease and rot!  If you can get it as far as the bottle, it remains a bit of a diva- ageing in an unpredictable and often disastrous fashion!  So, at this point, you are probably asking why someone would bother growing it.  Firstly, it grows in regions too cool for other red grapes to fully ripen- New Zealand, Germany (where it’s called Spätburgunder), Canada, Oregon etc.  But more importantly, when conditions are just right, Pinot Noir can create some of the greatest silky smooth, alluring, feminine wines in the world.  It is the principal red grape variety in both Burgundy and Champagne, propelling these areas amongst the most eagerly sought-after (not to mention expensive) wines in the world.

So, let me get to the point here.  Pinot is hard to grow, doesn’t grow in many regions and is in high demand, making it generally more expensive than wines made from many other grape varieties.  So, as I mentioned in Sunday’s post, I decided to pick up these two Pinots in Tesco’s recent 25% Off Wine Sale.  They were both reduced from €15 to €10, with a further 25% off in the sale.  They would have to be pretty poor wines to not deserve a punt at €7.50!

Wave Series Pinot Noir 2013. Tesco Was €15 reduced to €10.

Wave Series Pinot Noir 2013. Tesco Was €15 reduced to €10.

The first one I tried was the Wave Series 2013 from the Leyda Valley in Chile.  Made by Carmen, this wine has been heavily promoted through the Summer- some of you may have seen their old VW camper at some of this year’s festivals.  Many in the wine industry have been enthusiastic about the potential for Chilean Pinot Noir for quite a while now, with Leyda Valley deemed as one of the areas to watch.  I’m desperately trying to find an affordable example, so this wine, usually priced at €15, had to be good value for €7.50, right?  Wrong.  Very Wrong.

The nose was nice- full of brambly black fruit, cherry, white pepper and meaty notes.  But in the mouth there was nothing other than a wave of burning alcohol.  It felt like I rubbed Vick’s on the back of my throat, hiding any fruit or spiciness that I got on the nose.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I like throwing back a few shots, but if I wanted that burning sensation I would have had some of the Absynthe I bought in Poland last month!

This is a perfect example of how a wine can be terribly out of balance.  The alcohol on the label stated 13.5% alcohol, which is a lot less than many modern New World wines, but because there was not enough fruit, and tannin (the mouth drying effect of a wine), the alcohol was very noticeable.  In good wines, the alcohol will be balanced by the other components of the wine (fruit, tannin and acidity), lessening that unpleasant burning sensation.

Rating: POOR 1.5/5 (and maybe even generous at that!)

Oyster Bay Pinot Noir 2012. Tesco Was €15. Reduced €10.

Oyster Bay Pinot Noir 2012. Tesco Was €15. Reduced €10.

The other Pinot I bought in the wine sale, Oyster Bay’s 2012, was on the exact same promotion- €15 to €10 with the additional 25% reduction making it €7.50.  This wine is produced in Marlborough, a region on the northern tip of New Zealand’s south island.  Better known for its world-renowned Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough seems to turn any grape it grows to gold right now and has excellent conditions for growing Pinot Noir- a cool climate, suitable soil and plenty of sunshine.  Although this is not one of the best examples from New Zealand I have tried, it is infinitely better than the Chilean attempt above, and at €7.50 was a steal.  Even at the €10 promotional price you would struggle to find a better Pinot Noir than this one.

The nose is lovely and fruity with red cherry and plum over a little hint of vanilla coming from the oak in which the wine was aged.  In the mouth, this wine is everything the Chilean above is not- a lovely balance of red fruit with light silky tannin and only the slightest hint of alcohol, despite only having 0.5% abv less.  The let down is the finish, which is disappointingly brief.

This wine would pair beautifully with pork or lamb.  Or why not try it with a nice meaty piece of Swordfish.

Rating: GOOD 3.5/5

In conclusion, although both of these producers are huge conglomerates, Oyster Bay puts absolute emphasis on the quality of their wine to drive the brand.  Wave Series, on the other hand, could do away with the marketing campaign around their VW camper van and pay more attention in the winery.  Hopefully you guys will vote with your pocket.  I know I will- as long as the New Zealand wine stays on promotion it is my new go-to Weekday Pinot.

Happy Drinking, HB.

Bertani Lugana Collezione

Bertani Lugana Collezione, Lugana DOCG 2012. O'Briens Was €16.49 Now €10.99.

Bertani Lugana Collezione, Lugana DOCG 2012. O’Briens Was €16.49 Now €10.99.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first time I tried this wine was at O’Briens Wine Fair last October and loved it so much I picked a bottle on special, threw it on a wine rack and forgot all about it.  Seeing it on special again in O’Briens this afternoon made me root it out and try it today with a risotto dish I am trying desperately hard to taste like anything other than salty play-doh!

Made on the slopes of the hills running down to Lake Garda, Lugana is a Northern Italian wine made from the Trebbiano grape.  Pale gold, this is a silky smooth wine with plenty of nice stone fruit, warm lemony citrus and a touch of minerality.  For the sale price it is a pretty nice, easy drinking, food-friendly wine, but would hesitate to buy it at the original price.

On a better note, the leek and pangasius risotto turned out perfectly- I realised a scoop of mascarpone is a great cheat to get it nice and creamy!

Rating: DECENT 3/5

Masi Wine Tasting

 

masi

Who you drink wine with is a lot more important than where you drink it.  Wine is made to be enjoyed with friends and one of my best memories is tasting wine in a garage winery in Toro, using the concrete floor as a spitoon!  However, sometimes a location suits the occasion, and tonight’s Masi wine tasting in The Adam’s Suite of The Shelbourne Hotel was a fitting venue to try their elegant Italian wines.

 

Hosted by Findlater and O’Briens, the president of Masi, Sandro Boscaini, was the guest of honour, giving a talk and guided tasting to a room full of eager wine lovers.  Making wines in the romantic setting of the Veneto region, the stunning landscape bounded by Lake Garda and the Alps, Sandro is the sixth generation of his family to make wines.  And from one evening in his company, it is obvious to see his passion for wine making.  This passion for food is ingrained in the Italian psyche and I’ve no doubt Sandro would be as equally passionate making bread as he would making Amarone.  As he says himself, the land is the most important factor in food, followed by the ‘magic of fermentation’, be it a cheese or a fine wine.

 

Appassimento

Masi pride their wines on being a marriage of tradition and innovation.  In the strictly controlled DOC system of Italian wines, it can be difficult to make an innovative wine, but Masi have consistently pushed boundaries and marry new techniques with traditional methods.  Leading from the front in this fashion sees some of their wines fall in to the second tier of Italian wine classification (IGT), but is a refreshing attitude from such a well-established winery.  One of the methods Masi are particularly adept at using is appassimento.  This is a traditional wine-making technique whereby fruit is partially dried on mats to remove some of the water, leaving shrivelled, raisined grapes that offer much higher concentration of sugar and flavours.  This method is traditionally used to make Amarone and Ripasso red wines in the Valpolicella region.  Masi, not content with simply making red wines, have utilised this technique to produce a stunning rosé and white wine.  Falling outside the top DOC tier, but widely acknowledged for their elegance and innovation, these wines are known as Supervenetians.  Surely this slightly comical name alone is enough to give them a try!

 

Wines

Producing world renowned, quality red wines- Masi have been shipping here to Ireland for 25 years- many of you will know how good (and often expensive) their reds are.  Instead I want to concentrate on their rosé and white, as these were the star of the show for me.

 

Rosa Dei Masi, 2013

Rosa Dei Masi 2013. O'Briens €19.49.

Rosa Dei Masi, Venezie IGT, 2013. O’Briens €19.49.

This wine is made with Refosco, a grape usually high in tannin and acidity- not suited to making elegant rosé wines.  Undeterred, Masi used appassimento to lightly dry a small quantity of the grapes, helping to bring down the acidity and soften the austere nature of Refosco.  The resulting wine is elegant and smooth, full of ripe raspberries and cherries.  It is lovely and dry with a very long, pleasant finish of red berries.  This is excellent on its own, but would be even better with food.  Pretty much any Italian fish or meat dish would do nicely.  It’s a little expensive, but for a special occasion wine, on a nice sunny evening (if we get any more!), this is absolutely perfect.

 

Rating: EXCELLENT 4.5/5

 

 

 

Masianco, 2013

Masianco, Venezie IGT, 2013. O'Briens Was €19.49 Now €14.99

Masianco, Venezie IGT, 2013.
O’Briens Was €19.49 Now €14.99.

Masianco is a blend of Pinot Grigio and Verduzza.  As with the rosé above, Sandro wanted to improve on the Pinot Grigio grape, believing it to be a bit too light on the finish.  To give it a bit more body, Masi use Verduzzo grapes that have undergone appassimento.  Usually reserved for sweet wines, this process gives the Verduzzo a lovely honeyed complexity and creaminess.  The wine has a lovely balance of sweet wild honey and fresh acidity alongside fresh peach and pear leaving an incredible finish.  Again this is a great wine and is reduced in O’Briens at the moment if you wanted to spend a little more on a special weekend wine.

 

Rating: EXCELLENT 4.5/5

 

It was a great night and for only €15 each (through DiningRoom.ie) including a €10 O’Briens gift voucher to spend on Masi wines, it was terrific value.  Grazie Mille to Sandro and all involved.

 

‘Wine is the companion of life, companion of friendship’.

-Sandro Boscaini, President Masi Agricola.

 

Selbach Riesling Incline 2012

Selbach Riesling Incline, Mosel, Germany, 2012.

O’Brien’s Off Licence. On Special €12.99 (from €14.99).

How can you not adore Riesling?  It is one of the most versatile grapes in the world, right up there with Chardonnay, sharing the Noble Grape status.  Unfortunately it is this range of styles that means it shares a lot of the negativity from which Chardonnay suffers.  In the case of Chardonnay it is its ease of growth that has led to the backlash.  Led by the ABCs (Anything But Chardonnay), that grape has been over-cultivated and over-oaked in some regions, diluting its potential in many people’s minds.  But then again, many of the very best Chardonnays in the world will not mention the grape anywhere on the label- Chablis and Champagne are the two most striking examples.

Riesling, on the other hand, can suffer in Ireland from its very versatility.  Although there are fabulous examples of New World Rieslings, from regions as diverse as Washington Sate to South Australia, it is generally considered a predominantly German grape.  And let’s face it, German wine labels are not easy to understand.  By law, German wines must include a lot of information on the label to ensure the consumer knows what they are buying (on back label for wine above).  This is very helpful if you can decode it, but very confusing if you can’t.  One of the pieces of information required is how sweet the wine is, measured by the residual sugar content (degrees Oechsle), and unless you know how to decipher the label, you may end up with a sweet wine not to your liking.  On the very first date with my girlfriend I ordered a Riesling and immediately went down a few notches in her estimation, as she then equated Riesling with peripheral plonk wine.  Luckily she stuck around for my scintillating personality and is now more of a Riesling groupie than me!  So I urge you to try this fabulous grape variety, and a great place to start would be the wine above.

Although containing some residual sugar, it has lovely balance and is as fresh and crisp as you like.  On the nose it is full of fresh lemons, limes and green apple, as well as tropical fruits.  The fresh mango and pineapple aroma reminds me of eating those fruits in a kind local woman’s wooden, single-roomed home-on-stilts on the side of a dirt road in rural Cambodia a few years back, and surely that is a good enough reason for me to fall in love with this wine straight away?

In the mouth this wine is medium bodied and off-dry, with a lovely zip of acidity and tart green apples, pears, lime and those juicy tropical fruits.  It has a lovely mineral hint of slate on a very nice, long finish that lingers in the throat.  This is a simply stunning wine, and only ranks on the second tier of German wine classification.  Germans have known how great their wines are for decades and this proves there are some great examples here at reasonable prices.

You can pair this wine with big flavours, like Mexican and Asian chilli dishes.

Rating: EXCELLENT 4.5/5.