Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Xmas Cheer from O'Briens - Part 2 and Leo Sayer*

Since my last post, we've only had one of the three remaining wines and it was the Ferraton Le Grand Courtil Crozes Hermitage 2007- (€26-95). As I noted at the time I bought this by mistake and was hoping this wouldn't prove to be an expensive mistake.

I opened this for our house guests from France the other night in advance of them bringing us out to our super local resto The Box Tree in Stepaside. After an hour or so in the decanter I was a little bit disappointed at first taste, as my guest rightly pointed out, we were expecting something more full bodied, and while it was perfectly pleasant at this stage it was not a wine worth 30 notes.

To its credit, it improved over the next hour or so and did develop some length and complexity in the glass but as to my chances of buying it again - sadly it's a "no".

As yet undrunk are the Schloss Schönborn Riesling Trocken 2006 - (€16-95) and the Clos Du Val Merlot 2006 (€15-99 reduced from €22-95) .

*This review should probably be taken with a pinch of salt as me and, my now identically monikered friend, had already polished off, by this stage - A bottle of Bolly (NV), a sixpack (6X 355ml) of Brooklyn Lager and my famous Bombay Sapphire (double) G&T, before this pre-dinner bottle of red.

At the Restauraunt, we each had a pint (Guinness for him, Belfast Blonde lager for me), 500ml of a cheeky Touraine, a bottle of Chateau Neuf Du Pape (I can't find the wine list online, and I can't, understandably, remember their names). This was followed by an after dinner whiskey (Black Bush for him, Bushmills Malt 10yo for me) and then off home with us, where we cracked a bottle of 16yo Lagavulin, which needed a beer chaser and then...

Note 1: Herself was present for all of this but remained relatively abstemious.
Note 2: Do not try this at home - Experienced professional drinkers carried out this reckless activity.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Xmas cheer from O'Briens - Results Part1

Hola Amigos, apologies for the delay. Between work in Edinburgh, Xmas shopping and working from home this week (Best Decision EVER) I haven't had much chance to blog. Anyway - below are some micro reviews of a those wines that I have sampled out of the dozen odd I got on special in O'Brien's last Friday week.

Rizzardi Pinot Grigio 2009 - (€10-99 reduced from €11-89). I didn't love this, this time around, for some reason. Perfectly fine but nothing to write home about.

Clos Du Val Zinfandel 2006 (€15-99 reduced from €22-95). I have been wanting to try this for years and at this bargain price it was sold out when I got everything else. However, I popped in between snow showers on the off chance and got lucky. The girl in the shop said it was her favourite wine so I was sure not to be disappointed, but I was. Again, there was nothing wrong with this wine, some fruit, reasonably balanced but not a world beater and definitely not worth 20+ euro, but may be worth a punt if you like your U.S. zins.

Ferraton Plan de Dieu Cotes du Rhone Villages 2009 - (€9-99 reduced from €12-99). Very nice indeed, we both liked this a lot. Nicely balanced and a big finish.

Domaine De Nizas Coteaux de Languedoc 2007 (€12-99 reduced from €16-45) Bought this as a punt and lucked out. An elegant and exceptionally well balanced wine, great value as priced.

Mas Belles Eaux Les Coteaux Languedoc 2006 (€13-99 Reduced from €19-45). Fruitier than I had expected this was still a classy wine. Big and bold and not for the faint of heart.

Gerard Bertrand Pic Saint Loup 2008 (€9-99 Reduced from €14-45) Another two bottles drunk and still performs very well. Would be a perfect wine to entertain with over Xmas.

Rizzardi Tacchetto 2009 (€12-99 Reduced from €16-99) This the only wine on the bunch to date that I didn't like at all. It reminded me of a cheap, new world cab sav. From looking at the reviews on this page on the O'Briens site, I seem to be in the minority, so I just don't know what to tell you.

That's it so far. As I drink the rest of them I'll let you all know how I find them.

Looking forward to Xmas eve, we'll start with a bottle of Bollinger NV, and then the second last bottle of June's wedding gift, from the depths of my "cellar", a Chateau Chasse Spleen Moulis-En-Medoc 2000.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Xmas cheer from O'Briens

I have bought precious little wine of late, most due to weather related difficulties; being stuck in Edinburgh or trying to get there and the associated knock-on effect onto my free time. I got stuck in Edinburgh Airport on Thursday night so I did some research on the OBrien's website. I noticed they had 150 wines on special,and I haven't stocked up for Xmas, so I went along yesterday armed with a printed wish-list.

I didn't get everything I wanted and I bought a couple of wrong-uns (so to speak) but on the whole I think It was a successful trip.

First the whites:
Schloss Schönborn Riesling Trocken 2006 - (€16-95). I had intended to buy a slightly different Riesling from this producer, which was on special but ended up with this which is not on the O'Briens website (that I can find). Everyone raves about Riesling, I've been underwhelmed with the last couple of (reasonably expensive) ones I've had, perhaps this will change my mind.

Rizzardi Pinot Grigio 2009 - (€10-99 reduced from €11-89). I've had this a couple of times (different vintages I suspect) and really liked it.

Now the Reds:
Clos Du Val Merlot 2006 (€15-99 reduced from €22-95) Had another bottle of this recently and can't praise it enough. A slightly fruitier version of a good Pomerol at a fraction of the price. I had intended to get a bottle of their Zinfandel also but it was all gone - alas.

Ferraton Plan de Dieu Cotes du Rhone Villages 2009 - (€9-99 reduced from €12-99). I've drunk gallons of their other CDR "Samorens" and this had a good write up so...

Ferraton Le Grand Courtil Crozes Hermitage 2007- (€26-95). This was a mistake. I had intended to buy their cheaper Crozes Hermitage "Le Matiniere", on special at €13-99. I'm sure it will be nice (If I don't return it) but the plan was to only buy from the specials.

Domaine De Nizas Coteaux de Languedoc 2007 (€12-99 reduced from €16-45) Bought this purely from the blurb on the website, but I do think there is huge value in Southern France.
Have just dcanted for drinking tonight - will update tomorrow.

Mas Belles Eaux Les Coteaux Languedoc 2006 (€13-99 Reduced from €19-45). Robert Parker gave this 90 points, who am I do disagree?

Gerard Bertrand Pic Saint Loup 2008 (€9-99 Reduced from €14-45) Another wine I had again recently and it was delicious as usual. I bought two.

Rizzardi Tacchetto 2009 (€12-99 Reduced from €16-99) Bought this one because I have liked all of their other wines that I have tried, and it's pretty good value for a Bardolino.

Monday, November 29, 2010

This is just to say

It's late. I'm tired. I was at the airport at 5am. And again at 12pm. Four journeys. Lots of snow, icy roads and flashing ABS lights. No flight to Edinburgh, though. Lack of appreciation for efforts from powers that be, check. Same again tomorrow or (shudder) Prestwick, check. Rant over, check.

Anyhoo, many thanks to all concerned for my birthday dinner on Saturday, chez Papa and Grandma. We started with a Chateau Carbonnieux Pessac Leognan Graves 2004/6?, followed it with a Chateau Calon Segur Saint Estephe 2000 and finished with my present from my eldest bro, a Yalumba Museum Muscat dessert wine, it was delicious, so sweet and so cold.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Links und Recht

Another link post cos I'm too tired, hungover and snowbound* to review anything...

Interesting piece on tasting notes here from WineRant.

Kevin Ecock's take on Organic, BioDynamic etc. here for all you budding eco-weenies.

I really wish I could make it to this, I was at John Wilson's version a year ago.

Thanksgiving Wine recommendations here, I guess you could use them for Xmas.

Last night I ended up drinking, along with a large quantity of Oban 14yo, a few wines I had blogged about from O'Briens. Our host had been to said shop and ended up selecting one of these, one of these, and a couple of these, quite without reference to YHB's opinions.

We didn't get to the Minervoios, but the Pic Saint Loup was very tasty and the Clos Du Val Merlot was fantastic, again. BigNose didn't like it, for some reason. More for me so...

*Not really - 4WD to the rescue.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Simply Wines Xmas Wine Fair

Part 1 [Saturday] - In which I talk about the wines to be drunk..

Although I am only five minutes away I had never been down to SimplyWines on the Ballyogan Road, I had some spare time on Friday so I popped down. One of our guests tonight doesn't drink much red so I figured I'd pick up a couple of Chateau Bauduc, Gordon Ramsay's house white. If it's good enough for him...

As luck would have it the shop was quiet so I was able to spend a good while with main man Ian and I tasted a good number of reds. I was looking for a red to have for my (and BS's) b'day dinner tonight chez nous. I settled on the two reds, and the aforementioned white, above to have with our experimental chicken. Left to Right they are...

Cable Bay Marlborough Pinot Noir 2006 - €17-60 (Reduced from €22). I hadn't intended spending €18 odd on a wine on this occasion, but I tried this and loved it. Quite an Old-World style of Pinot and I hope the guests like it as much as I did.

Chateau Bauduc Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2009 - €12. Liked it on the day, about to have some more.

La Forge Estate Vielles Vine Carignan 2009 - €12 (reduced from €16). Inky purple in the glass, lots on vanilla on the nose and unusual on the palate. I'll be interested to see what the guests think of this - it'll be the after dinner wine, I think the Pinot should go well with the main course.

Part 2 [Sunday]- In which I talk about the wines we have drunk

All three performed well on the night although I think the Carignan suffered from being drunk immediately after a splendid Chateau Tertre Daugay Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé 2003, brought along by BE from his stash. It, the Carignan, didn't seem to have the same vanilla, oak and fruit that it had in the shop, but I have another bottle so I'll try it again on its own and see how it fares.

On the whiskey side BigBog helped me break the seal on my newest Scotch purchase a bottle of12yo Old Pulteney Single Malt, from the "rugged town of Wick on the tip of the North-East coast, facing the Moray firth". Have just looked on Google maps and it does indeed look quite rugged. The whiskey spends some time in Sherry casks and this imparts a gentle sweetness to the dram, and a singular addition to my whisk(e)y press.

Friday, November 12, 2010

This port (in a storm)...

After the harrowing events of last evening, (flying into Dublin airport in a propeller driven plane, into the teeth of a gale, stone cold sober), I felt in need of some nice wine, a haircut and a non sequitur. As luck would have it all are available on Upper Baggot St. After being correctly denuded (you'd be surprised how hard it is to get "3 on the top, 1 on the back & sides" right), I ambled into Oddbins across the road.

I nearly bought a South African wine, any South African wine in an effort to prove myself wrong that there is no decent value SA red out there*. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted the wine, at left. It's a Quinta das Setencostas Alenquer DOC 2007. The last time I had this wine, about 2 years ago, I was enthused enough to buy a case immediately, it was that good (I suspect it was the 2005, btw). My eldest bro is also a big fan, as were various punters I entertained with said case.

Since that day I have not seen it in Oddbins or anywhere else for that matter. I have just decanted a bottle and am trying to remember what I liked about it. It was inky purple in the glass, big and spicy on the palate. In my memory it was made with the Touriga Nacional grape but now that I read the label I see it is made with Castelao, Camarate, Tinta Miuda and some Preto-Martinho; that's me told.

Update to follow, disappointment probability - 20%.#

**Update - this was very nice indeed, more fruit forward than I remembered but not overly so. Lots of spice and depth made this a delicious tipple.

* I appealed for examples on Twitter to no avail...

Friday, November 5, 2010

Whiskey, and lots of it.

Yes. It's that time again. My semi-annual wallow in my only other (legal) vice. Given that I am going through Edinburgh Airport every week I've surprised myself by only having bought two (litre) bottle so far. These were a Speyside (Cragganmore 12yo) and an Island (Talisker 10yo). I am aiming to get at least one Highland (Glenmorangie perhaps) and an Islay (probably Caol Isla 12yo) before Xmas.

I may then dip into the Lowlands, or else with a solid base of Whiskey in the cupboard, I may sample some whiskeys outside of my comfort zone; Jura, Auchentoshan, Glenrothes, An Cnoc, or one of a few others that have caught my eye.

Anyhoo - here's the bit I'm sure you all have been waiting for:

Single Malt Scotches (L-R)

Caragganmore 12yo
Desc: I brought this Speyside out at the last Poker game and the lads loved it. Very smooth and a good whiskey to give to a non regular drinker.
Remaining: 0.8 bottles

Talisker 10yo
Desc: I also brought this out, but it proved less popular. It's a little peaty, a little salty and I think rewards the more adventurous drinker.
Remaining: 0.8 bottles

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: 0.6 bottles

Lagavulin 16yo
Desc: My previous favourite Islay. Smooth and smoky and very peaty.
Remaining: 1 bottles (thanks MP!)

Bowmore 18yo
Desc: My new favourite Islay, even though I drink it only rarely.
Remaining: 0.6 bottles

Springbank "Longrow" Gaja Barola 7yo
Desc: A non-Islay peaty beast with a whopping 55.6% alcohol, this whiskey is delicious with a drop of water. This also spends the last 2 years of its life in Barolo casks. Who'd a thunk it?
Remaining: 0.5 bottles

Blends & Other bottles (L - R)

Jameson Original
Desc: The standard expression. Had this recently at a neighbour's house and was very pleasantly surprised by it. Warm , spicy and intense.
Remaining: 0.9 bottle

Bushmills Malt 16yo
Desc: A nod to my own heritage, a big warm sweet whiskey.
Remaining: 0.2 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: 0.4 bottles

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

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: 0.4 bottles

Monday, November 1, 2010

Mystery Amarone and a welcome arrival.

Just a quick post from out foreign like. We had the wine above on Saturday night, one of our guests ( I think it was BigHead) brought it along recently. It was a Cantina Di Soave Amarone Della Valpolicella Rocca Alata 2007 and delicious it was too. It started off with some nice acidity and a little cherry fruit and over the next couple of hours it developed into a wine of some depth and complexity, with some gentle tannins creeping in at the finish.

On the local front, a new Gastropub opened up in Stepaside village, The Wild Boar along with its its sister restaurant The Box Tree, which is due to open November 1st. Both are courtesy of the man behind One Pico, Eamonn O'Reilly. Before the Amarone above, we ventured down there with Little Bill (tm); I had drawn the short straw and was driving, so no wine for me. The service was friendly, and a little haphazard, but the food was a revelation. Top quality nosh at rock bottom prices, my pork belly main with [stuff] was €11 while Little Bill's (tm) fish and chips (€7-95) was crisp light and gorgeous, freshly battered and something I'd have been well happy with myself.

I can't report much on the wine front, there was no wine list to be seen, only a few wines available by bottle and glass on the specials board. Herself had a glass of the Montepulciano with her fantastic rib-eye and it was perfectly fine. I'm sure the wine list issue will be resolved with the opening of the main restaurant and I'm looking forward to going back.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A couple of chancers from Blackrock...

Finally made it down to Superquinn in Blackrock for my habitual Friday fish (It's not a religious thing - I'm a Pastafarian), but they do nice fish. Thus forearmed with three large pieces of hake, I wandered down the aisle to the wine and picked up the following:

Collioure Cuvée des Peintres 2009 - €10. This was part of the last wine sale and the blurb says: "Made from a traditional blend of Southern French grape varieties (Marsanne, Rousanne, Grenache Blanc), a third of this wine is fermented in oak to add complexity to the final blend. This wine has a fresh and fruity nose with notes of white peach." It comes from Banyuls-sur-mer which is near the French-Spanish border on the Med.

I read some good things about it at the time of the sale, so I reckoned it was worth a punt. In fact, I'm going to open it now. [Time Elapses, for a while then - POP] Yum. Crisp, nice acidity, some delicate fruit but I ain't getting peaches, maybe a hint of tropical fruits? Very pleasant all round, though.

Next up a Sammicheli Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 2007 - €7 - reduced from €11-99, I think. A Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano for €7 is always worth a punt. It has been decanted and is (not literally) hovering over my right shoulder as I type.

**Update** - This proved to be a perfectly acceptable tipple, a little light but with some nice cherry and dark fruit flavours. Definitely worth a look at this price.

Lastly I have not had a drop of wine on my new work commute, yet. I guess I appreciate the grape all the more on weekends.

Really lastly, for those of you who missed the media blitz, YHB (and three other Irish wine bloggers), were featured last Sunday in The Sunday Tribune in an article by Lar (also from Thanks again to Lar - full article here.

Friday, October 15, 2010

I am ze pahty pooper...

I did a quick run around the Beacon quarter earlier today, first stop was a "bazzer" (that's Cork slang for a haircut - get your mind out of the gutter) and then onto Dunnes. We are having the usual suspects over for dinner tomorrow to celebrate BigHead's 40th and I wanted to buy some wine to go with the slow cooked lamb shanks.

I had to buy some veg. in Dunnes so I deciced if I could get find decent wine there, so be it, otherwise it was across the car park with me to O'Briens. Luckily they had lots of this - Art de Vivre Saint Chinian 2008, Reserve de Gerard Bertrand. I loved it last time and at €8-99 it's good value. I also picked up an Arthur Metz Gewurztraminer 2009 (€9-95) which I have just sampled and to be honest , I'm not loving it. It's perfumed, sweet, peachy/apricotty and a little syrupy, perhaps I'm just not in the mood for that style of wine tonight.

On the red front I picked up a Chateau Pennautier Terriors D'Altitude 2006 (€9-00). Way back when, (July to be precise) Lar from Sourgrapes turned me onto their basic red (€6-95) which was delicious and a steal at that price. At the time I noticed the Terroirs D'Altitude but didn't try it. Tonight is the night.

Lastly, we'll be starting the wines tomorrow with the Meursault at left, it's the last of several bottles I got for my birthday last November, and I'm looking forward to it. The shame (or the joy for us wine drinkers) is that three of the attendees tomorrow don't really drink that much wine and will (probably) not partake. More for the rest of us, I guess.

**Update** I enjoyed the Meursault, but I think I was the only one, and to be brutally honest I enjoyed it somewhat because it tasted the way it should taste, rather than the fact that I liked it hugely. I should explain; at the last couple of tastings I have attended (and I don't get to many) I have tried some expensive (mostly Aussie) Chardonnays and they have quality of flavour that was amply present in the above wine. Leading me to believe that a good chardonnay ought to taste this way.

So, while this was undoubtedly a very fine wine; a) it may not be a wine to impress non wine buffs with and b) at this stage of my wine education I don't think I'm getting enough out of wines like this to justify buying them.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Results of the Dalkey Jury

I bought the following wines in On the Grapvine on Saturday, a Domaine de Bisconte Cotes Du Roussillon 2008, and a La Cabotte Colline Cotes Du Rhone 2007, both wines were about 11/12 euro.

The Domaine de Bisconte is popular - I was informed, and no wonder. I don't know what I was expecting but not a young, fruit-forward, New World-like wine. By no means unpleasant, it was a bit too jammy for me, but if you like your New World wines, you won't go wrong here.

The La Cabotte was corked. I tried the cling film rescue trick and it took the edge off the TCA but the wine remained stubbornly undrinkable. I was 0 for 2 in Dalkey, unfortunately, but I will go back.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

I heard it...

Hola, amigos. It's been a while since I blogged at ya. I'm still trying to find some equilibrium given my current UK commute and today is the first chance I've had to put pen to virtual paper in two weeks.

By chance, or by design, we had a couple of hours to kill this lunchtime in the Killiney/Dalkey area so off we popped to Dalkey village for a read of the paper and a nice lunch. After a distinctly poor lunch in a large well-known Dalkey pub (three different dishes - two poor, one average and not cheap either), we wandered disconsolately through the town and found ourselves near On the Grapevine, a Dalkey wineshop whose blog I read.

We had previously been in the local O'Briens where I wanted to sample a Valpolicella Ripasso which was open for tasting, but there were no clean glasses. One sale lost there, I suppose.

Happily we stumbled across On the Grapewine and I had a good peruse and the lady in the shop was very helpful and suggested the two wines pictured when I said I wanted a reasonably priced red to go with a steak.

The wine at the top of the post is a Domaine de Bisconte Cotes Du Roussillon 2008, which is decanted and is sitting temptingly just behind me, and which has been flying off the shelves of late, apparently. The wine immediately above is a La Cabotte Colline Cotes Du Rhone 2007, their blog post about it is here. Both wines were about 11/12 euro, (I lost the receipt). I even got a loyalty card but as I am in Dalkey about once every three years, I don't think I'll fill it up.

I have to say I don't normally shop in independent off licences, purely based on the fact that my local supermarkets are much more convenient, but it was a revelation to see row after row of virgin (new to me) wines. I shall have to get out more.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Site News and some fine Wines

Well, it's finally happened. From tomorrow I'll be commuting a lot for work off to parts foreign. I expect that I won't be able to blog as much as I have been doing (on average twice a week) for the last few months. Given the commute, family time will be at a premium so if I can get one post a week out I'll be doing well.

The content of this blog normally comprises budget, supermarket wines with the odd fine wine thrown in just to mix it up a bit. This is one of these times. The Occasion was a significant family birthday and the food and wine (apart from Herself's chocolate cake) were supplied by various other family members. A great time was had by all and special thanks to Big Sis for hosting.

The wines on the night were as follows:

Louis Roederer Cristal Brut 2000 - Much better than the last time we had this back in June. Crisp, toasty with lots of zing.

Domaine Hubert Bouzereau-Gruère et Filles 2006 Meursault - From a small family operation, this was buttery and very smooth. We had this with some hard-carved leg of Iberico Ham brought back from Spain, yum.

Chateau Lynch Bages 2004 Pauillac - An old family favourite, I had not had the 2004 before and it was very good. It had a hard job against the peppery beef main course but it held its ground.

Cru Barrejats 1996 Sauternes Fantastic, I'm really getting a taste for Sauternes, pity I can't afford to buy any.

Lastly Big Bro had brought a tincture of Armagnac from 1940, yep 70 year old Armagnac, in honour of another family occasion. YHB and Herself were the only ones who really liked this, surprisingly.

Anyway, I'm off now - I'll see you next time I see you.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Superquinn Autumn French Wine Sale Final Report

Last week I bought four wines in the Superquinn Autumn French Wine Sale, here are the results on the last two...

Saumur Cabernet Franc 2009 (€7 reduced from €10-49) This was not bad, not great but not bad. There was some nice raspberry fruit and some decent tannins but I don't think the various elements gelled to form a cohesive whole.

Rare Vineyards Malbec 2009 (€6 reduced from €9-99) Initially this tasted a bit cheap and cheerful, but as we slowly finished off the bottle the original slight harshness wore off and the flavours rounded out a bit. Again, not bad and for €6, what do you expect? But for a few quid more I'd drink this every time.

I should also say that there are several old favourites of mine on the sale that deserve a mention:

La Baume Viognier (€8 reduced from €10-65) - Delicious with lots of peachy fruitiness.

Superquinn Classic collection Petit Chablis (€10) Crisp, lean and lovely.

Domaine Cristia Cotes Du Ventoux (€7 reduced from €14-99) Spicy and Rhoney and great value as priced.

Chat En Oeuf (€8 reduced from €11-99) A budget Chateauneuf that really delivers.

Domaine De Brunely Vacqueyras (€12 reduced from €17-99) I wouldn't pay full whack for this but as priced it's a big beefy bargain.

There are a few more expensive Bordeaux but I haven't had much luck with them over the last 18 months. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A morning in the Yarra with Kevin Ecock (and Phil Sexton)

A couple of weeks back I was at a consumer tasting of Yarra valley wines organised by John McDonnell from Wine Australia with special guest Phil Sexton from Innocent Bystander/Giant Steps. Kevin Ecock reproduced my report of the evening tasting on his blog here, and also said some generous things about my blog.

In return, I'm reproducing his report on the trade/press tasting held the following morning. There weren't that many wines in common but it seems the wines I liked, he wasn't crazy about and the wines he liked I was lukewarm about! The only thing we both strongly agreed on was the 2004 Harry's Monster Giant Steps, which we both loved. Anyhoo, here is his report...

Yarra Valley with Phil Sexton - Regional Hero

Phil Sexton is a wine maker, brewer, pilot, cheese and coffee aficionado, storyteller and seemingly all round interesting and happy guy. Wines of Australia did well to bring him in to Dublin last week for a series of tastings in their Regional Hero programme. Readers of this blog know that Wines of Australia do things well and do 'well things' often. Last week I reproduced Willies Wine Blogs take on a Yarra Valley consumer event. Phil also presented a Morning in the Yarra to the trade and press in Fallon and Byrne. It was a substantial tasting and packed full of nuggets of info from Phil.

Phil Sexton sold a successful winery in the Margaret River in Western Australia and chose to begin again in the Yarra. I had always assumed (usually a a mistake) he meant that he'd looked around Australia. Not a bit of it. Seems he looked all the way from Oregon to New Zealand. A bag of cash really does give you freedom. His choice therefore was based on what the Yarra was uniquely capable of. He set up the Giant Steps winery slap bang in the middle of a small town called Healesville. I wrote up a bit about Giant Steps after I visited it earlier this year. It's a fantastic place and its a winery I'd love to work at - even if I had a choice of Oregon or New Zealand! Everyone seemed to be drawing positive energy from everyone else. That includes the baker, barista, waiting staff, wine makers and just about everyone really.....

The Yarra has a diverse range of ancient rocks and soils. It's a relatively cool area; serviced and is visited often by a Melbourne population eager to buy wine; it specialises in Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sparkling wine and it looks absolutely fantastic.

Yarra in purple just East of Melbourne

Our tasting last week began with the 2004 Yarra Burn Blanc de Blanc. (Most of the wines at this tasting had been included to show how brilliant the Yarra is and are for the most part not available in Ireland. Indeed Phil sourced some of the rarer wines himself). Phil told us with a great deal of sadness that Constellation Wines had just announced it will shortly close Yarra Burn down. Unbelievable and further proof that the likes of Constellation shouldn't be allowed near wine. This is iconic sparkling wine of the highest quality. It is a skilled and living work of art.

2008 Donny GoodMac Chardonnay
: Very charming style with crisp lean edges to ripe citrus fruits. Fabulously long and peppered finish.

2008 Chardonnay Tarraford Vineyard, Giant Steps
: Complicated bouquet showing 'gunsmoke' (Phil), warmed nuts and a rich fruit sauce. Great intensity here. Love the wine until the finish - too sudden!

2008 Chardonnay Sexton Vineyard, Giant Steps
: Fruit dominant nose yields to complexity and intensity leads to extreme and well balanced acidity holding a rich and balanced citrus dominated fruit together expertly. Fabulous wine.

2008 De Bortoli Chardonnay
: Warm nose showing heat; soft and only marginally interesting. Leaves too much to the end, revisit.

2008 Yarra Burn Bastard Hill Chardonnay: Lean tight and rich.Super acidity, fantastic depth of quality. Extremely fine example of high quality cool climate chardonnay from Australia.

2008 Yarra Yering Chardonnay: I wrote a full page of notes on this wine and I expect most people won't like it at all! Bizarre. Loads of buttered effects on nose leads to soft and voluptuous style; very big fruit but also a very buttery finish. This wine shows texture and warmth and wine making like no other.

2008 Pinot Noir Gladysdale Vineyards, Giant Steps: Fine and light pour; intense young raspberry; enticing perfume showing oak and rose well; tannin a tad lighter than the fine acid; tantalising wine.

2008 Tarra Burn Bastard Hill Pinot Noir
: (only 200cs made) Rhubarb and beetroot; captivating warmth to the nose; soft and warming on palate; silky and smooth; loses its pure varietal character as it progresses to the finish.

2008 De Bortoli Riorret The Abbey: (Riorret is Terroir backwards...) Found this quite young and in need of time. Showing a bit rough and ready and dumb for my liking.

2008 Yering Station Pinot Noir: Big style with very ripe dark plums and some sweet liquorice; palate is rich, warm and inviting. This is a very obvious wine and would work well as a teaching aid to the Yarra.

2008 Harry's Monster, Giant Steps: (Cab Sauv, Merlot, Petit V and Cab Franc)Big fleshy and well peppered; tremendous palate with super big fruit; needs to be as tannin and acid come in quickly; mind you they both stay respectful and not aggressive!

2008 Punt Road 'MVN' Cabernet Sauvignon: V small nose with leaf and berries looking out; soft and intense wine; everything is super extracted; savoury strong varietal effect; has a brilliant future.

2008 Dry Red Wine No. 1 Yarra Yering: Expressive; obvious, precise and excellent fruit. Incredibly well defined. Clean as a whistle, very attractive; this is outstanding. Seamless blend (Cab Sauv, Merlot, Petit V and malbec) and very soft tannin hovering in the background. long, well structured and soft wine of immense charm and pedigree.

2008 Jamsheed Yarra Syrah ' Silvan Vineyard': Rich young purple ruby with enormous nose of rich dark and soft fruits balanced by pepper and spice. Game and earth lead to dark fruits and buckets of tannin and acid. Rich, big and long; exquisitely built, strong and muscular and excellent all round.

2006 Yering Station Shiraz Viognier: Full depth ruby; dirty and toasted; clay and dried brush wood; lifted palate with bright notes to the fruit; some beetroot and rhubarb leading to black olives and dried herbs; well structured but also a bit clumsy with the odd tannin stumbling about. Superb finish.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

At long last - I get to the Sale.

I finally made it down to Superquinn in Blackrock to see what's left of the sale. I had a shopping list in my head and I would not be deterred. However, the best laid plans etc. The wine that I had been most looking forward to was the Rare Vineyards Carignan Vielles Vignes which has been getting lots of love in the press and in the blogosphere. I was a victim of its success, however, as it is now sold out, although the nice man in the shop said he thought there was some left in the Ranelagh branch.

I swallowed my tears and bought some other stuff, left to right the wines are:

Charles Vienot Macon Lugny 2009 (€9 reduced from €12-49) Had a quick glass of this before dinner last night and was impressed. A nicely balanced Burgundy.

Etienne Barret Crozes-Heritage 2008 (€11 reduced from €14-99) Drank this last night. Lots of plummy fruit, some surprising spiciness and a vanilla finish. Great value as priced.

Saumur Cabernet Franc 2009 (€7 reduced from €10-49) I have a soft spot for Reds from the Loire. If done right they can be interesting and unusual; the blurb says "This fruity wine is attractive and easy to drink" This description is often the kiss of death, but we'll see.

Rare Vineyards Malbec 2009 (€6 reduced from €9-99) I couldn't get the Carignan so I got this instead. Part of an attempt to reclaim Malbec from Argentina, I guess, it was originally a French grape - one of only six allowed in Bordeaux wines, now sadly underused in that area.

Lastly, a wine I got in the sale in an on-line shop - a Corbieres Le Fournas 2008 (€8 reduced from €10-99) as Kevin Ecock said in his review of the sale:

"This wine from the Hautes Corbieres in the South of France was sent in more in hope than expectation. After all, its a Grenache, young vine Syrah and Carignan blend. The grapes are hand harvested and there's only 25,000 bottles made each year. This is not typical supermarket fare and it would need a brutally honest, fair and experienced tasting panel to even appreciate it - dense purple, serious wine"

Firstly this is indeed a serious wine, not for the faint hearted. On the nose it was full, rich and spicy and then the fun started. Apart from the dark fruit and copious spice there was initially an undercurrent of something, maybe overripe fruit, I don't have the palate to place it. Herself did not like it, at all. After a while however, the flavours rounded out, harmonised and the tannins kicked in like a melonfarmer. As Kevin pointed out, this is not a bog-standard supermarket wine, but it's definitely worth a punt if you want to expand your horizons. We drank it without food but I think with those tannins, it's crying out for accompaniment, something hearty I would think.

We are off to Town Bar And Grill tonight to celebrate seven years of captivity. They used to have an interesting wine list, back in the day, including an interesting selection of Californian wines. I'm curious to see what the list is like after their near death and resurrection.

** Update - We had a L’âme de Familongue, Terrasses du Larzac 2006 from the Languedoc with our meal which was delightful and decent value to boot.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Wine Australia Yarra Valley Tasting

Last night myself and a couple of likely lads had the pleasure of attending another one of John McDonnell's Ozzie tastings. This evening it was the turn of the Yarra Valley, a cool area just north of Melbourne. John was joined by Phil Sexton of Innocent Bystander/Giant Steps wines.

Phil gave us a potted history lesson on the Valley e.g.
  • Viticulture only really started there in the 60's.
  • The Wine output of the valley is tiny by Australian standards.
  • There are approx 600 vineyards and about 120 producers.
  • In terms of temperature the Yarra is warmer than Burgundy but cooler than Bordeaux
  • Bushfires in 2009 nearly destroyed the entire crop.
We started with a glass of Domaine Chandon NV - I liked this a lot. It was toasty and creamy and I'd have been hard pushed to differentiate between this and Champagne in a blind tasting. Fool your friends for the modest price of €20

The main tasting was divide into the sections by varietal; Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Shiraz.

The Chardonnays

2009 Innocent Bystander Chardonnay (€14-99) - Big fruity nose, quite acidic and citrusy on the palate. Not subtle but tasty.

2009 PHI Chardonnay (€32-95) - Lovely, much more depth of flavour, less sharp and a bit minerally. Twice the price of the wine above though.

2008 De Bortoli Yarra Valley Chardonnay (€30-00 - pictured) - Best chardonnay of the night for me. Lots of fruit, big round flavours, smooth and a huge finish.

2006 Yering Station Chardonnay (€18-99) - Soft and creamy, again lots of acidity here.

The Pinot Noirs

An interesting tidbit from Phil - "Pinot Noir expresses its origin ruthlessly" i.e. you can't make Burgundy anywhere else. Terroir is King.

2009 Innocent Bystander Pinot Noir (€14-99) - Sweet on the nose, quite acidic with some nice berry fruit. Good value at this price.

2009 Shelmerdine Pinot Noir (€22-95) - We all loved this. With some gentle acidity, this was oaky, smokey and very long. Very good value for this complex wine.

2008 William Downie Yarra Valley Pinot Noir (€49-99 - pictured) The star of the night for me. This guy only makes Pinots, nothing else, and it shows. A supple perfumed nose, raspberry fruit and some gentle tannins made this one special. The most Burgundy like - and yes, also the most expensive, I'm not a cheap date.

2008 Yering Station Pinot Noir (€18-99) - Not bad, plummy and oaky. Perhaps suffered in the tasting from following the William Downie.

The Shiraz's

2008 Innocent Bystander Shiraz (€14-99 - pictured) - A gem, with 2% Viognier this was sweetish but not sickly, very tasty. Phil maintains this is the only Shiraz on the night to taste of Pink peppercorns, as opposed to white.

2007 De Bortoli Shiraz Viognier (€30-00) - A little bigger and rounder than the Innocent Bystander but not enough to justify doubling the price, in this blogger's opinion.

2006 Yering Station Shiraz Viognier (€18-99) - perfectly fine but I didn't think it was as special as the brochure made out. Tasty and rich though.

2004 Harry's Monster Giant Steps - (€18-00) - This is a very unusual blend of 25% of each of the following, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz and Petit Verdot (I think). This was fantastic; big, bold, fruity, tannic. I'd love to get more of this but I don't think it's imported to Ireland, boo!

Lastly we had a 2009 Innocent Bystander Pink Moscato, which I thought (sorry Phil), was vile. I do like me a sweet wine but I just couldn't get behind this highly original concoction. However I was definitely was in the minority, so what do I know.

We then had supper accompanied by a 2008 Innocent Bystander Pinot Gris and a 2006 Little Yering Shiraz Viognier. They were both fine, I wish I could tell you more about them but by this time I was famished so I concentrated more on the grub than the vino, apologies.

I did learn, however, than Pinot Gris (or Grigio) is a red grape. But when the juice is left in contact with the skins, the result is foul, hence Pinot Gris (or Grigio) grapes normally make white wines only.

Big thanks to John and Phil for a very enjoyable evening in the Yarra Valley.

**Update 1 - Kevin Ecock has posted this entry as a guestpost on his blog, thanks Kevin.

**Update 2 - Thanks to John McD for the images above.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Gerard scores again

Point the first - Superquinn Autumn French Wine sale. All of the wines that are in the sale should be available to order as part of an on-line shop. There is a serious lack of joined up thinking when only half (I'm guessing) the wines are available. I wanted to try the Rare Vineyards Carignan Vielles Vignes and their Malbec as well (both reduced to €6), but these were nowhere to be found on the shopping site. I also ordered some of the Crozes Hermitage Etienne Barret (€11), but alas this never arrived.

I did pickup a bottle of the much talked about Superquinn Calssic Collection Petit Chablis and I liked it, very lean and dry and a nice change from all the fruity white we've been sampling of late. The other successful delivery was of a Domaine Sainte Croix Corbieres le Fournas 2006, which I did not like at all last time but has been singled out by Kevin Ecock and others as delicious, so it's worth another try. The Brochure for the Sale is here.

Point the second - The title refers to Gerard Bertrand (not, alas, Steven Gerrard) whose Pic Saint Loup I have been enjoying very much of late. In Saturday's IT, John Wilson recommended his Art de Vivre Saint Chinian 2008, Réserve de Gérard Bertrand, a snip at €8-99 in Dunnes. I'm a sucker for a recommendation so I picked up a bottle on Saturday. As John said in the article "This combines a rustic touch with some attractive mellow dark fruits, and a smooth finish". I can't add much to that except to say that it was very, very tasty, and it did taste "rustic"; I'll be going back for more. Note: Dunnes (Beacon) also stocked the Art De Vivre Corbieres 2008, which has to be worth a try also.

Point the Last - I'll be attending the Wine Australia Yarra Valley Wine tasting this Wednesday 15th in Fallon and Byrne, please come and say hello. I'll be attending with a couple of burly fellows from Laois and Lisburn respectively, but don't let that put you off. I'll be the short, fat, speccy bloke knocking back the vino like it's going out of style. See you there.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Pascual Toso Malbec 2009

We received a present from a neighbour last weekend, a Pascual Toso Malbec 2009 from Mendoza, website here. After being opened and decanted for about an hour and a half we tucked in. Immediately we were impressed. There was some nice plummy fruit, delicate tannins and a long finish, this was a very well balanced wine; reasonably fruit forward in a New World style but with some lovely structure to balance it out.

If you are having a steak or like your Malbecs then you will not go wrong with this wine.

About two weeks ago I picked up a few disparate bottles in Superquinn, Blackrock. We drank the last of these last night. It was a Vina Albali Gran Reserve 1999 (€6). When I bought it I said "This wine is probably very tired... and priced to move, but you never know".

I hate to say I told me so, but I was not wrong. This wine was tired, with not a lot going for it, some fading fruit and vanilla flavours and a sharp, and slightly unpleasant taste on the finish. Herself liked it, but there's no accounting for taste, she married me after all.

**Update - Nov 12 2010 - Saw this Malbec in Donnybrook Fair for €9-99. A steal!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Waipara Hills Pinot Noir 2008

Last Friday in Superquinn I picked up a Waipara Hills Southern Cross Pinot Noir Central Otago 2008 - €12-00 reduced from €15-99. This was a Gold Medal winner in the International Wine Challenge 2010. I've been trying to broaden my wine palate in recent months by drinking a lot more white (and even the odd rosé) and also by trying to get into Pinot Noir.

In my, albeit limited, experience you have to pay a tidy sum for good Burgundy, the cheap stuff, like cheap Bordeaux, is simply not worth it. The obvious alternative is to look to the New World. I know there are some excellent Pinots from Oregon, Washington and the cooler regions of California but I never see them over here.

The obvious next stop is New Zealand. The wine at left is from the Central Otago region which seems to be the up and coming place for NZ pinots. In the glass, this wine was much darker than expected; a lot of NZ pinots I've had recently have been very light in colour and delicate, almost weedy to taste. This was more full bodied, still medium to light but with some substance.

There was some nice plummy flavours and Herself got some oak (according to the website this spends 7 months in French Oak), and some gentle spiciness. On the whole this was a nicely balanced and elegant wine. At this price its well worth a punt.

According to Decanter - Wiapara is the new Marlborough, who'd a thunk it?

Second Lastly - I got a couple more of the delicious Pink Elephant Rose in Superquinn - €5 a pop, anticipating a lovely sunny Saturday, looking out the window at the lashing rain makes me realise I should never mess with the weather gods.

Lastly - I'm giving up Beer (not Booze - what am I, crazy?) for the next month as an experiment to see if it has any effect on my ever expanding waistline, so if I'm in bad form you know the reason why.

**Update - I'm back on the beer. It's a long story but basically I'm going to be stressed with work and work related travel for the next while and doing this without the crutch, and in fact, comfort, of a pint is not on the cards at the moment. I hope to return to this worthy goal once things have settled down.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


More links including a link to a link site with links to some of the sites I've linked to here.

Kevin Ecock on the Superquinn Autumn French Wine Sale.

Glass of Wine - a new wine blog to me.

My Grape Escape with a timely missive on Rosé.

The Grapefruit speaks of wines for the season of Autumn.

WineIreland - A fantastic Irish Wineblog aggregation site by Lar from SourGrapes. It's been up a while but I am only linking to it now.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


As I mentioned recently I picked up a cracking Languedoc in O'Briens Beacon recently a Pic Saint Loup 2008 from Gerard Bertrand, and last Saturday I got to test this selection against the discerning palates of June and BigNose. I had picked up the last three bottles hidden on the shelf so I figure it's selling well with the South County Dublin wine cognoscenti. All our guests liked it a lot and it went well with the lovely Moroccan tajine Herself had made for the occasion.

At the very tail end of that night we opened the Penelope Sanchez Garnacha Syrah 2009, which I had grabbed in Superquinn in the sale for a modest €8. Given the time of night and the depth of tiredness/emotion quotient I was presently surprised that this held up well. Big, fruity and quite spicy in that Grenache/Rhoney way. It's from the Campo de Borja region of Northern Spain, which I had never heard of until now, I confess.

Lastly and in the picture at left is a Chateau La Raze Beauvallet 2005 Medoc, this was on offer in Tesco, allegedly reduced from a stiff €19-99 to a more reasonable €9-99. I have had no experience of this Chateau so I checked their website, where I learned the blend is 60% Cab Sav, 39% Merlot and 1% Petit Verdot and I also learned that they haven't updated their website since the 2003 Cru Bourgeois Classification was annulled, a fascinating story as detailed by thewinedoctor here. I'm not expecting too much from this but it should be a reasonable tipple.

**Update - We Drank this on Sunday and it was very average. Bizarrely, it had a cracking nose, rich, full and complex. Alas, on the palate it was quite modest and uninteresting. Certainly not worth €20 and I'd struggle to justify it at a tenner as priced.

BTW - I'm you are a geek like me (and you probably aren't) - you'll love Scott Pilgrim Vs The World, I did.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Superquinn - Rosé and the rest

As a member of the Superquinn wine club I got an email recently about how various of the wines they sell had got on in the International Wine Challenge 2010, consequently they are having an Award Winning Wine sale with some very attractive wines at reasonable prices. So off I popped.

First thing I saw on arrival in the wine section was a man giving out free samples of a Rosé. I know Rosé can be drunk anytime but if you are like me, you only ever drink it on holiday. I have fond memories of eating sardines washed down with some delicious Minuty rosé on the beach in Cannes (before the crash, of course).

It turned out I know the man (long story). The wine itself is Pink Elephant, from Portugal. I had a taste and liked it. Crisp with some nice acidity and not too sweet, the way I like my Rosé. I got a bit of a shock when he told me the price - €5. I bought a couple straight away and we tried one later with our fish supper - very pleasant it was too. The wine claims to be ideal for spicy food and this seems to prove it.

I also picked up some other reds on sale. From left to right they are:

Pink Elephant Rose 2009 - €5 - As described above

Penelope Sanchez Grenache Syrah 2009 -€8 - Took a punt on this.

Waipara Hills Southern Cross Pinot Noir Central Otago 2008 - €12-00 reduced from €15-99 - Gold Medal winner in the International Wine Challenge 2010

Vina albali Gran Reserve 1999 Valdepenas - €6 - Silver, Best In Class in the International wine and Spirits Competition 2007. This wine is probably very tired at this stage (being 11 years old), and given that it is priced to move, but you never know.

Ch Camplazens La Garrigue La Clape 2007 - €12-00 reduced from €15-99 - "Trophy" in the International Wine Challenge 2010 (not pictured). I was given a 2004 of this last year and liked it. The 2007 was very different; big, bold and fruity.

We are entertaining tonight so I bought more of the Pic Saint Loup, which is a bleedin' steal at €9-99.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Results of the O'Briens jury...

We have now finished the last two (of three) wines that I picked, seemingly at random, from the various specials on offer in O'Briens Beacon.

First up (at left) is the Gerard Bertrand Pic Saint Loup 2008, (€9-99 reduced from €14-45), a Couteau De Languedoc. I knew I recognised the name, in turns out I have drunk his Tautavel many times from Dunnes and he also makes the same for Tesco Finest (I think).

This wine is a blend of Syrah, Mourvedre, Carignan and Grenache and comes from the small Languedoc Cru of Pic Saint Loup, and very fine it was too. Well balanced and elegant with a long finish, I would heartily recommend this at this, even at full price. O'Briens link here.

Last up the the La Piuma Montepulciano D'Abruzzo 2009 (€7-99 reduced from €9-99). I had thought this might be a bit "cheap and cheerful", but we were pleasantly surprised; there some nice plummy fruit and some nice acidity to make this a perfect pasta/pizza wine. Very good value as priced.

Next up: lots of wines I bought in Superquinn today, including (drum roll) two bottles on Rosé.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

More random wines on Special offer from O'Briens

After returning from Hols, I decided to partake of one of my favourite wine pastimes, which is going to O'Briens in the Beacon and randomly picking three reds on special. I have done this many times and the results are generally good. From let to right they are...

Gerard Bertrand Pic Saint Loup Coteaux du Languedoc 2008 (€9-99 reduced from €14-45). No idea what grapes are in this but I like the look of it.

Ramos Tons de Duorum 2008 (€9-99 reduced from €12-99). From the acclaimed winemaker Jose Maria Soares Franco, apparently. We drank this on Sunday and it was OK. Drinkable but not memorable in any way. I didn't really have my blogging hat on, I apologise.

La Piuma Montepulciano D'Abruzzo (€7-99 reduced from €9-99). Hmmm, this could be a bit "cheap and cheerful". We'll see.

Post Holidays Blues (and reds)

Well, I'm back after a very relaxing two weeks in the (genuinely) sunny south east. We drank a decent amount of wine, all the while struggling to find a source of decent affordable wine.

Greenacres in Wexford town is exceptionally well stocked with "quality" wine but boy howdy they ain't cheap; it's like the recession never happened.

Pettits Supervalu (also Wexford town) is not stocked with wines I would buy (to put it kindly), they do the Masi range which I would have chosen if I hadn't found an alternative.

Tesco (the new gargantuan-sized shop in Wexford town) stocks all the usual suspects, if that floats your boat, I availed of some when entertaining.

Supervalu in Rosslare Harbour was a bit of a hidden gem, lots of solid wines to choose from and a couple of interesting wines tucked away, more of that below.

I'm only going to comment on a couple of the wines sampled over the two weeks, most of the rest have been reviewed here before and some I won't review to avoid insulting those who brought them down 8-)

On one particular night our guest had brought down a Woolaston Estates Nelson Pinot Noir 2005. As I have mentioned before I only seem to like expensive Pinot Noirs; pricey wines from NZ and good Burgundies. This wine proved no exception; delicious, complex and with a very long finish.

On the same night I took punt on a Concannon Central Coast Petite Sirah 2006 which I found in the aforementioned Supervalu. This was a curious wine, lots of tannins and some nice dark fruit. We had it on its own but I think it would definitely benefit some food.