Sunday, August 30, 2009

Marks & Spencer Wines

In June in this article John Wilson of the Irish Times rated sub €8 wines from a number of retail chains and M&S came out best, so I decided to try some. I haven't reviewed any wines from M&S as it is not especially convenient for me although I do like the food. In this case we decided to try the meal deal or whatever they call it whereby for €12-50 you get a main, a side, a dessert and a bottle of wine.

It turns out there is a limited range of items in each of these categories and when we got to the meal deal wine section there was only one red available - Le Froglet Shiraz 2008 (at right in picture). I suppose I should have been wary given that they had branded this a Shiraz rather than the usual French Syrah, but as it was effectively free I saw no issue in at least trying it.

I decide to give the Shiraz a fair go and decanted it for an hour or so before trying it. Initially there were two dominant flavour, harsh oaky tannins and blackcurrant. these flavours did not meld at all, they were just there, two peaks of taste dominating the skyline. There was no balance or roundness here although we gave it another half an hour but it didn't improve so I poured it down the sink. I'm not sure who this wine is aimed at, people who like Aussie shiraz will hate the oak and people who want A French Syrah won't be happy either, looks like there ain't no such thing as free lunch. Note: the list price of this wine is €7-99.

So we had to open another M&S wine. I chose the Popolino Rosso Sicilia, a cheeky €6-49. No grape varieties are mentioned on the label but according to someone on the interweb, this is made from Nero D'Avola and Sangiovese. This had the classic bitter cherry flavours initially and not much else but we persevered and after a while this rounded out into quite a decent wine, the bitterness receded and some fruit come to the fore along with some acidity. All in all, quite a pleasant wine, once decanted and great value at €6-49.

The other two wines I got were a 2008 Montepulciano D'Abruzzo at €9-99 and a 2007 Corbieres at €9-49. More of these anon.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday LiveBlog - Cave de Rasteau Signature Cotes du Rhone

Another Friday, another LiveBlog. This time with the second of two wines bought last week in O'Briens.

9-30pm - Have just arrived back from our local hostelry, where they have just converted their pizza restaurant into a Steak-on-a-stone place. They serve you a barely cooked fillet on a piping hot stone platter and you slice pieces off and cook them yourself. Sounds dubious but with a nice piece of meat this was rather good. Anyhoo - I forgot to decant the wine before leaving the house so I've just done it and had a first taste. Herself is "not overly fussed", I'm undecided as yet. Initially it has the "Cotes Du Rhoney" flavours - let's see how it develops.

10 pm - I like this - it's a little light but pleasant drinking. It appears that this wine is made by the same mob that make the Ortas Rasteau , also from O'Briens, which is very tasty. Herself says its opening up a bit but tastes a bit "new worldy" - hmmmmm. We are now 42 minutes into Nick & Norahs infinite playlist, its not bad for a chick flick. Also speaking of "42", happy birthday to a certain reader of this blog.

10-40 pm - This is developing some depth of flavour and complexity at the end of the bottle. Its not a fabulous wine by any stretch but its decent, well priced and if you are a Cotes du Rhone fan you probably won't do wrong by this.

11 pm - I'm on my last mouthful and the wine has developed some tannins at last, not too much just a little dryness at the finish to complement the fruit, spices etc already present. It has evolved into a properly balanced wine, not one for the neophyte, but anyone with a yen for this style of wine should not be disappointed.

Here endeth the post - 1:19 into Nick and Norah, moderately charming and inoffensive - not unlike the wine.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

First Whiskey Audit

Apologies for another Whiskey post but I figured a blog is a good place to do an inventory, which I intend to do on a sixth monthly basis.

Single Malt Scotches (L-R)

Bruichladdich Moine Mhor (3 different years)
Desc: A strong (50%) dram, sweet and peaty. A special edition which was a gift from Herself. Works well with a drop of water.
Remaining: 0.8 bottles

Lagavulin 16yo
Desc: My favourite Islay. Smooth and smoky and very peaty.
Remaining: 1.4 bottles (thanks MP!)

Highland Park 16yo
Desc: A delicious all rounder from the Orkneys. I regularly press the 12yo on non-whiskey drinkers as a good starting point. Curiously, as much as I love the 12yo and the 18yo the 16yo is a little disappointing, a little light, perhaps my expectations were too high.
Remaining: 0.6 bottles

Glenmorangie Original 10yo
Desc: The Classic from the 16 men of Tain. Recently rediscovered this and fell in love anew. A couple of others in the range I'd like to sample from the recent tasting.
Remaining: 0.1 bottles (dang!)

Talisker 10yo
Desc: Another all rounder, this time from the Isle of Skye. A lightly peated, spicy malt that I also give to guests.
Remaining: 0.5 bottles

Blends & Other bottles (L - R)

Desc: A present from June, an occasional change of pace from the single malts
Remaining: 0.8 bottles

Woodford Reserve
Desc: A present from MP, an impressive bourbon. Light years ahead of Jack Daniels et al. Although not as smooth as a single malt.
Remaining: 0.5 bottles

Lark Distillery SingleMalt.
Desc: A present from JP & MP all the way from Tasmania. A different and slightly less refined malt from our Antipodean cousins, another nice change of pace.
Remaining: 0.5 bottles

Bushmills Malt 16yo
Desc: A nod to my own heritage, a big warm sweet whiskey.
Remaining: 0.4 bottles

Bushmills Malt 12yo
Desc: Haven't opened this yet although I expect good things after the 16yo
Remaining: 1 bottle

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Il Meridione Nero D'Avola

This is the second of three wines I got in O'Briens Beacon on the weekend.

The only remarkable thing about this wine is how unremarkable it was. Like the Tesco Finest Nero D'Avola, this was a little bit disappointing.

Name: Il Meridione
Year: 2008
Price: €9-99
Notes: There was nothing at all wrong with this wine but even drinking it I couldn't describe exactly what is was I liked or didn't about this wine, or even what the major flavours were. It just was what it was. Not one I'd buy again.

Next: Another OT Whiskey post

Sunday, August 23, 2009

O'Briens Wine Specials

As is my wont, I went to OBriens in the Beacon and returned with only their specials (and the obligatory Protocolo). Still excellent, although Herself maintains I am sublimating my historic desire for Shiraz with this fruity little number, and perhaps she is right.

Secondly, I picked up a Signature Cotes Du Rhone 2007 from Cave de Rasteau, it was on Special for €9-99. Thirdly I also bought a Sicilian Nero D'Avola 2008 from Il Meridione, also at €9-99. I'll revert on these as soon as I have sampled them.

As you can see from the picture above I've got a new decanter, sort of. Herself was out in the new Ikea during the week and she picked up a few odds and ends including the decanter above. I think it may actually be a water jug, or perhaps a vase by design, but I don't care, it looks nice and it pours well and it was only a fiver.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Glenmorangie Tasting

This is another in an occasional series of (OT) posts about whiskey. A whiskey tasting isn't wholly dissimilar to a wine tasting. You look at the same things, colour in the glass, aroma, taste, finish etc. And I would maintain there is as least as much variety in single malt scotch whiskeys as there would be in a given region of wine. Although there are only about 100 single malt Whiskeys in Scotland and...the metaphor breaks down so I'll stop now.

Anyway, myself, GS and Grandad D made our way to the Westbury on Thursday evening, after a quick pit stop in Waggamamma (Lots of Whiskey on empty stomach = recipe for disaster), where O'Briens had organised the tasting with Glanmorangie's master blender Rachel Barrie, one of two, I think female Master blenders in Scotland. After a quick powerpoint history of Glenmorangie the tasting finally began.

Tasting Note 1: On the night we were encouraged to taste the drams neat first then add I part water to 2 parts whiskey. I tend to drink almost all whiskeys neat almost all the time which is contrary to the accepted wisdom that a few drops of water "open up the whiskey". I prefer the strength and zing in the mouth the undiluted expression. I sometimes add water to Cask strength whiskeys as they are often just too big on their own. We did as requested anyway and in some cases it worked, in others, not so much.

Name: Glenmorangie Original
Age: 10 years
Colour: Golden
Aroma: Honey
Taste: Fruity, sweet and spicy. As Rachel said this is a very complex whiskey for the price (c€40). They analysed it using a Gas Chromatograph and found 143 distinct aromas. (not on the night obviously). I have a bottle of this at the moment and I love it.
Water: Didn't try

Name: Glenmorangie Lasanta
Age: 12 years - Standard 10 years plus 2 years in Oloroso Sherry casks
Colour: Dark Gold
Aroma: Sweetness, fruit
Taste: Quite fruity, but not overly so. Warming, taste all over the mouth and a very long finish. My favourite on the night.
Water: Didn't try

Name: Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban
Age: 12 years -Standard 10 years plus 2 years in Port pipes.
Colour: Copper
Aroma: Wood, nuts, oranges
Taste: Chocolate, mint, spices, clean aftertaste.Much narrower flavour in the mouth. This is an intriguing whiskey that I will return to, complex and unusual flavours.
Water: No - not a good idea

Name: Glenmorangie Nectar D'Or
Age: 12 years - Standard 10 years plus 2 years in Sauternes barriques.
Colour: Golden
Aroma: Sweetness, fruits
Taste: Quite sweet but a little soft and oddly zingy on the tongue. Not for me, this one.
Water: No - not a good idea

Name: Glenmorangie 18
Age: 18 years - 15 years in ex-Bourbon casks and 3 years in Sherry casks.
Colour: Deep Gold
Aroma: Oranges
Taste: Perfume, leather, oranges. A huge whiskey with a big full, complex flavour and a lingering finish.
Water: OK with a drop.

Name: Ardbeg 10
Age: 10 years
Colour: Pale
Aroma: Peat, lots of.
Taste: A big stonking peaty Islay malt. Salty, savoury and smokey. I'd like to taste this against 10yo Laphroaig and 16yo Lagavulin and see how it matches up to these (my fave Islays).
Water: Works well here.

Tasting Note 2: per Rachel - 60% of the flavour of the whiskey comes from the maturation/wood.

Tasting Note 3: per Rachel - When sampling neat whiskey you are really tasting the maturation, whereas when you add water you are tasting the flavous imparted by the distillation.

Last Note: I met Dave, I think, from the Irish Whiskey Society at the event, website here. If you are in Dublin and are interested in all Whisk(e)ys (not just Irish), this seems like the place to be.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Pimenta 2007

On Wednesday, Herself was going to Donnybrook Fair to get a few bits so I asked her to pick up a bottle of Pegos Claros, unfortunately there wasn't any so she picked up a bottle of the wine at left. Pimenta from the Alentejano regions of Portugal.

I have had a good few Portugese wines of late and they have been consistently good. This one was made with Touriga Nacional, Aragones and Trincadeira grapes, none of which I have heard of.

Name: Pimenta
Year: 2007
Price: €11-99
Notes: Like the Pegos Claros this wine was quite delicious. Surprisingly complex, a little fruit, lots of structure, complexity and a lingering finish. It tasted like a much more expensive wine. DF comes up trumps again.

Tomorrow I shall wax lyrical and OT on the Glenmorangie tasting.

Monday, August 17, 2009

O'Briens Glenmorangie tasting

I know it's a bit OT but I'm going to this Whiskey tasting on Thursday with Grandad D and GS. I am a big fan of Glenmorangie so I was delighted to get the last three tickets - so in your face all you non whiskey tasting ticket getting persons, or something.

Granny G - I promise I'll bring him back in one piece.

Decanters and other bites

The above picture answers the second difficult question with decanters, namely, How do you dry a decanter? The solution is to put it upside down on a kitchen roll holder, carefully cushioned with a small piece of the aforementioned kitchen paper.

If you don't have a decanter, buy one or buy a glass jug in Dunnes for a fiver, either way do decant your wine. I have found, with reds anyway, that even a cheap-ass wine tastes better after an hour in a jug. The above decanter was a freebie given to Herself as she walked around Cornelscourt, like I said price doesn't matter.

As you can see from the above shape, washing it is a bitch, which is the first difficult question; How do you wash a decanter, if you can't wash it properly a dirty red film build up inside. I had been recommended Steradent as a way to clean decanters but as I have most of my own teeth I didn't have any to hand. So I tried the next best thing, dishwasher tablets - the answer to the first difficult question with decanters. Simply add a tablet - let it dissolve for a few minutes ands then swirl it round vigourously til the red stuff comes off.

On the review side - we drank the Baturrica Tarragona last night. Meh. Definitely not as good as the last time. Same wine perhaps but I didn't really enjoy it, its OK and perfectly drinkable and at €6-99 it ain't bad value, but it's not for me.

Looks like most of the cheap Lidl wine is a bust. Maybe Superquinn next or M&S.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Lidl Rioja Montecielo Reserva 2004

Well, it was Friday night. We were at home again, due to out un-hectic social life so I decided to crack open one of the four Lidl wines I bought earlier in the week and stick on a DVD (Woody Allen's Bananas - not as funny as I remembered from previously).

Name: Montecielo Reserva
Year: 2004
Price: €8-99
Notes: This started off well, the classic Rioja flavours all present and correct. The finish however was dissapointing, slightly sharp a little unpleasant. Overall, there is much better value to be had if you are looking for wine in Lidl, the Montepulciano for one. The fact that the Reserva wasnt't great also bodes ill for the Crianza and the Joven. Drop me a line if you've tasted either. Disclaimer: I've been drinking a lot of this recently which doesn't help the Montecielo's case.

Next: Decanters and me - All you never wanted to know and were never bothered to ask.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Lidl Redux

I wanted some cheap beer so I headed off to Lidl for some Grafenwalder, at €1-15 a pop for a 500 ml can, it ticks all the boxes; it's cheap, cold and beer flavoured. Not to mention its tastes pretty OK. Anyhoo, while I was there decided to again buy some cheap-ass wine, most of which I had tried before and see how they all taste six months later.

Of the four wines above, the Rioja is the only one I didn't buy in the famous and very early in my blog-life post.

Lidl Montpulciano 2007 - €4-89. At this price I should have bought a dozen, but I only got two and we had one last night. It tasted a little sharp at first, I didn't decant it (long story), but it smoothed out and became rather tasty, just let me repeat FOUR EIGHTY NINE for a decent wine!!

Lidl Batturica Tarragona Reserva 2002 - €6-99. I owe this wine an apology, I said here that this previously tasty wine had become nasty. Now I realise that the 2002 was theGran Reserva and the 2004 was the Reserva, some difference.

Lidl Sangiovese di Roma 2007 - €6-99. I hated this last time, all the booze must have clouded my memory, dang.

Montecielo Rioja Reserva - 2004 - €8-99. They also had the Crianza and the Joven but I figured I'd start at the top. If the Reserva's not nice then there's not much point with the younger and cheaper versions.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Post Wedding Blues

Well, it's all over. The troths have been plighted, the consummations have been consummated, the unendurable hangovers have been endured. The wedding wine went down very well, particularly the red, and it also stood up to the the BBQ food the next day too.

BE presented me with the wine at left as a thank you for being best man. Its a 2001 Chateau Lynch Bages, my favorite wine of all time. Over years I've had many vintages, '78, '82, '85, '88 and I have a 2000 in my cellar*, which June gave us , along with 5 other 2000 Bordeaux, as our wedding present. There's 3 left, the Lynch Bages, a Chasse Spleen and a Palmer.

From looking at vintage charts, the 2001 is drinking now so when BE gets back from honeymoon we will crack it open.

* it's a cupboard in the kitchen. Not ideal I know but I don't have a cellar.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

O'Briens - Update

Well, we've drunk all three...

The Protocolo 2007, with much trepidation we started on this. Thank all the stars this is pretty damn special. It's got it all; fruit, acidity, tannins, balance and finish at a bargain price. If you paid €20 for this you would not be disappointed.

The Torbreck Old Vines Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre. While I appreciate that it is well made wine, this is not my cup of tea. Herself put it well when she said she found it "syrupy". It's a modern take on a Rhone wine but it hasn't enough structure, for me, to match up to the fruit. However, if you like Oz Shiraz then this is a step up from the standard fare (at the discount price).

Lastly, the Saumur-Champigny, La Bretonniere. While this was pleasant, we both found it a touch light. Again, well made, with nice acidity, typical French fruitiness but not enough body for my perhaps jaded palate.

Next: A small Hiatus while BE get hitched, I'll report on how the wine BE & GG chose goes down at the reception. Let the record show I recommended the Chateau Guillou but was overruled 8-).

Sunday, August 2, 2009

O'Briens - Bank Holiday Wines

O'Briens were having another of their occasional discount weekend so I took a trip up there (the huge Beacon shop) withe a view to seeing what was on offer that I might like.

First off a got a Protocolo, I don't think I can leave O'Briens without one of these, especially as it is still priced at €8-99. I have just this second noticed that the wine I had previously was a 2006, the current bottle is a 2007. This should be interesting to see if the 2006 was a fluke or if Marcos Eguren has done it again. I have converted several people to this wine so I hope it won't disappoint.

Secondly I got a Torbreck Old Vines Granache Shiraz Mourvedre, Tomas Clancy seems to like it. I have had this before but can't remember if I liked it. It was discounted from €19-99 to €12-99 so it may be great value and worth a punt therefore.

Lastly, and for a change of pace a Saumur-Champigny from the Loire, La Bretonniere. I have had mixed results with this appelation before but have had a couple of nice ones from O'Briens before and it was discounted €2 to €11-99, so again worth a punt. It's 100% Cabernet Franc and the vineyard is owned by Bollinger, if you're interested in these things.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

La Domeliere Rasteau Cotes du Rhone Villages

As I said a couple of days ago, I got the above for €7-99 in Dunnes Ballyogan. Wine at that price is very hit and miss and I didn't have huge expectations going in. By the way, I seem to be drinking nothing but Rhone wine these days, its not intentional, I just buy what appeals to me when I'm out.

Name: La Domeliere Rasteau Cotes du Rhone Villages
Year: 2007
Price: €7-99
Notes: Very nice, a little more cherry-ish than the two recent Vacqueyras I've had along with a little spice in the mix. Another very well balanced wine that would appeal to most palates. A frickin' steal at €7-99.

Adelaide Hills Tasting September 3rd

John from Wine Australia, Ireland let me know about a tasting of Adelaide Hills wines on September 3rd in the Royal College of Physicians, Kildare St. I have to admit I'm not all that familiar with wines from here but I'm going to go and I'lll try to bring some of the other winebores along. Admission is €15.

Details of the evening are here