Priorat- Part I

 

priorat

After returning home from an unforgettable Catalan wine trip last week, the holiday hangover (figurative and literal) has dissipated just enough to thank a few great people who made this trip possible.

We started the trip in the daddy of Catalan wine regions- Priorat DOQ.  One of only two premium-tier wine regions in Spain (alongside Rioja DOCa), this is a rugged, parched landscape, with steep, low-yielding vineyardsGarnacha and Cariñena (Grenache and Carignan to you Francophiles) make up the bulk of the production.  These are powerful wines with deep forest fruits and a minerality that comes from the slate and quartz soil, known locally as llicorella.  Generally high in alcohol, don’t plan on doing much for the rest of the day if you have a couple of glasses during the siesta!

Many thanks must go to Patrick Webb of Coast to Coast wines.  Together with his partner Anna, we spent our first day visiting fantastic wineries across Priorat.

The highlight was a trip out to Celler Burgos Porta– a remote organic winery, set in a steep valley, run by the indefatigable Salvador.  If you want to check your fitness level, try trekking around a Priorat vineyard in 30 degree heat after this guy! Still, the fantastic Mas Sinén 2008 at the end makes the effort that much more worthwhile!

Later in the day we spent an exhilarating, if bum-numbing, hour and a half travelling through Juan José Escoda’s (Jou) Prior Pons vineyards in his trusty, well-travelled ‘office’ (an old 4×4 stacked with files and rock samples!).  Growing on steep hillsides around the town of Vilella Alta, this unforgiving terrain is constantly threatened with drought; when we were there in June, they had not had any rain for over six weeks.  This low rainfall means the fruit gets great concentration of flavours, but the yield per plant can be as low as 300g in older vines, one-fifth that of neighbouring Penedès!  This is a key contributing factor why many Priorat wines can seem expensive compared to other Spanish regions.

Prior Pons’ Planets is available in O’Briens Off-Licences nationwide and offers a good value introduction to Priorat DOQ.  Well worth a try.

Check out the blog next Friday, when I’ll post about a morning spent with two generations of one of the biggest names in Priorat- René Barbier of Clos Mogador.  Until then, sláinte and enjoy the weekend.

HB.

Sunny Saturday Reds

The forecast says today is set to reach 20 degrees across parts of our fair isle (cue thunderstorms and egg on my face!). So if you plan on taking advantage of our 24-hour window of summer with a BBQ, here are a few suggestions to match your grub.

O’Briens have a fantastic summer sale at the moment, so if you’re in the mood for a juicy BBQ steak I recommend these two great reds. The first is from my favourite red wine region in Spain, Ribera del Duero, by one of its top producers, Torres.  Celeste Crianza is a staple on Miguel Torres’ lunch table at his private Mas Rabell restaurant; if it is good enough for him, surely it’s good enough for us mere mortals!

Torres Celeste, Ribera del Duero.  O'Briens: WAS €21.99. NOW €17.99

Torres Celeste, Ribera del Duero.
O’Briens: WAS €21.99. NOW €17.99

Unlike the over-oaked behemoths that we sometimes find in northern Spain, this Tempranillo is full-bodied but fresh, delivering juicy blackberry fruit and a long peppery finish.  This is a great price for a terrific wine; I was in Catalunya last week and it was the same price in the supermarket there.  Considering Ireland’s scandalous wine taxation I would consider this a bargain.

Porta 6, Lisboa. O Briens: WAS: €12.99. NOW €9.99

Porta 6, Lisboa. O Briens: WAS: €12.99. NOW €9.99

For something a little lighter on the pocket and the palate is Porta 6, from Portugal.  A blend of Tempranillo (called Tinta Roriz in Portugal) and local varieties, this offers plenty of warm forest fruits and floral notes.  Like the Celeste above it has lovely freshness and acidity to balance the weighty tannins and spicy finish.  Excellent value and worth grabbing a few bottles at this price.

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

Aussie Highlight

This is a great time of the year to be a wine writer.  Following the madness of Christmas, the wine industry refocuses on expanding and presenting their new and popular wines at trade tastings.  Luckily I often blag my way in to these events and get to taste wine on a Thursday at midday.  It’s not a problem, it’s research!  Besides, unfortunately there are always spit buckets provided and use is encouraged!

Last month saw successive Thursdays host the New Zealand and Australian wine fairs.  Although we think of them as near neighbours, truth is the two countries are seperated by over 1,500km of ocean.  And the gulf in their respective wine industries is just as great.  New Zealand’s wine industry is tiny on a global scale, but from Sauvignon Blanc to Riesling, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to Bordeaux blends- it seems they can do no wrong at the moment.  Meanwhile Australia is trying to regain some of its lost dignity in an unforgiving industry fuelled by fickle consumer trends.  The world couldn’t get enough of the bold, oaked Aussie Chardonnay for years, until very quickly it fell out of fashion.

In hindsight it is very easy to become snobbish and deride that style of Australian wine, but we must remember that those wines are not stacked in a sandy warehouse somewhere in the Outback.  They were sold.  They were drunk.  And for years they were enjoyed.  Luckily for us, the Australians seem to have learned something from the experience.

Where once Chardonnay was planted anywhere a vine could fit, the Aussies went back to the drawing board to see what varieties best suit which terroirs.  Now the Australians are experimenting with new regions and varieties.  For me Australian Riesling will stand along Shiraz as the premium wine vanguard that will recover the fortunes of this vast country’s wine industry.

And what of the Chardonnay leftover?  Well, some of it is still stuck in the 1980s- plodding away producing bulk wines with little character.  However, much of it that suited the land upon which it was grown is still there and producing good quality fruit.  Modern winemakers are looking for these better sites and rescuing them from the ignominious fate of producing Aussie bulk wines.

One such winemaker is Lisa McGuigan, who was over in Europe during January to launch her new range of wines.  I met up with her at the Australian Wine Fair in Dublin last month.

Lisa comes from one of the Hunter Valley’s most distinguished winemaking families and her father was Chief Executive of McGuigan wines.  And although they are probably better known  for bulk production, McGuigan also produces top end wines.  Lisa helped create and launch their premium Tempus Two wine in the late 90s.  However, despite its success, she felt that marketing obligations meant she was moving away from her first passion- winemaking.  So, in 2011 she set up Lisa McGuigan wines, a small bespoke winery with the intention “to make the best wine… from great little parcels of fruit.”

Having her father as a consultant undoubtedly helped, but it was Lisa’s drive and passion for a wine that she could proudly stand by that drove her to produce the range she currently has.  Alongside the beautiful top-end Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir in the Platinum Collection, she also has every day wines under her Wilde Thing label.  Just like their creator, these wines have a quirky, fun look.  There’s nothing stuffy or snobby about the bottles- looking more like craft beer labels than traditional wine labels.

The Silver Collection Chardonnay was lovely and fresh, with tropical fruit, lemon and flowers wafting out of the glass.  Although not stocked here in Ireland yet, this is a fantastic alternative to other Aussie Chardonnays at only €9.  Very good value considering the tax man is taking half of that here in Ireland.

Wilde Thing Cabernet-Shiraz. Promo Price €8.

Wilde Thing Cabernet-Shiraz. Promo Price €8.

However, for me the pick of the range was the Wilde Thing Cabernet Sauvignon- Shiraz blend.  If this really can be sold at the quoted promotional price of €8, this is the best value wine I have tried so far this year.  A lovely vibrant ruby colour, this is an easy-drinking wine with fresh blackberry and plum fruits and a little touch of spice on the finish.  The alcohol is quite high, but doesn’t dominate the wine.  Excellent value and a great alternative to similar New World wines.  Hopefully we’ll see it on our shelves in Ireland before too long.

 

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.

 

American Innovation- Spann Vineyards’ Betsy’s Backacher

IMG_3121

Spann Vineyards, Lot 10 Betsy’s Backacher, Sonoma County, California.

Ambassador Wines NYC,$21.77.

European wines rose to their position of dominance through tradition- which is best exemplified by the QWPSR (Quality Wines Produced in Specific Regions).  Whether it is the AOP of France, the DOC of Italy, or the very precise (confusing?) German wine classification system, each essentially does the same thing- ensure the end buyer can expect a minimum standard from the bottle of wine they purchase.  By controlling nearly every aspect of wine production, from grape yields and varieties, to use of oak, the wines of each European region will display a certain homogeneity and sense of place, creating worldwide demand for many of the finest examples.

However, it can be argued that this unwavering set of restrictive rules can also hamstring innovation in Europe.  If you step outside the traditional rules, you  lose the branding of the region in which your grapes were grown- a bottle with Bordeaux on the label is going to command a greater price than one that says Vin de Pays, so few wineries can afford to innovate with restricted grapes.  There are, however, occasions when innovative wine makers step away from these restrictions and create something fantastic- the Super Tuscans in Italy are a prime example.  These wines have their roots in the Chianti DOC in the north west of the country in the 1970s.  At this time over-production and restrictive DOC rules were seeing a steep decline in the popularity of their wines.  A group of renegade wine makers took a risk and introduced Bordeaux grapes to their blend to produce the ‘Super Tuscans’.  Falling outside the DOC these wines were labeled as table wines, but soon began to command impressive prices as their popularity surged, proving that there is a demand for good wines, not just wines that have the backing of a regulatory body.  More recently, the Languedoc region of southern France has cast off its bulk wine status and is embracing grape blending innovations.

All of this is a long-winded introduction to the wine above, which was produced on the other side of the world, in Sonoma County, California.  Unshackled from the interference of European regulatory bodies, New World wineries often have more freedom to express innovation and have some fun with their grapes.  More importantly, they have a ready and willing market to sell it in to.  Produced by Spann Vineyards, and named for the steep vineyards the grapes grow on, this wine is a blend of seven grapes.  Unlike European wines, the blend is a mix of white and red grapes and are from different vintages- again almost unheard of in European still wines.  It was first created for the workers in the vineyards and close family and friends, but word of its quality spread quickly, so was Spann made the wine available to the public.  I bought this bottle on the other side of the USA, in a small wine shop on Second Avenue in New York, and I’m glad I squeezed it in to the suitcase to bring home.

It is a deep, vibrant red in the glass, smelling of spice, tobacco, sweet red cherries.  A hint of vanilla from the oak is in there also.  The taste was fabulous too- freshness, fruitiness, spices, mint all hitting the palate.  It is quite heavy bodied, but very fresh and clean with a good long finish of sweet fruits and tobacco.  This wine is not meant to made to be cellared or lain down gathering dust, but drunk young and fresh with friends.  I like wineries that don’t take themselves too seriously- or for that matter New World wines that try to be European.  This is an all-American, fun, quirky wine.  Just a shame I only had space in the suitcase for the one bottle.

Rating: EXCELLENT 4.5/5

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.