Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Whiskey Galore*

As I mentioned here, I got a couple of bottles of the amber nectar up North in Sainsbury's. From left to right they are...

Sainsbury's Highland Single Malt 12yo - £18-99. I had intended only to get the Dalwhinnie, but I couldn't resist a punt on this. Had a quick sip on Friday night at cards and it was decent if unremarkable, a bit like a simplified Glenmorangie maybe, but good value at this price.

Dalwhinnie 15yo - £23-98 (reduced from £29-98). One of the poker boys, McGuyver, had a bottle of this way back when and I remember liking it and seeing as it was on special I plumped for it. And it was good, very good. Smooth and subtle, delicate and smoky, made in the highest distillery in Scotland, for what it's worth.

One whiskey I was tempted by and may buy next time is a Japanese whiskey. The Japanese are big into their whiskeys and make some very nice malts, I believe, never having had any. They have a Yamazaki 10yo for about £28. If it ever goes on special I'd be tempted.

*Two bottles isn't really a feast but I've been running low...

Monday, June 28, 2010

So far so average...

To date we've had the first two of the four reds I got in Sainsbury's last week.

We started with the Sainsbury's Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2009 which cost a whopping £3-49. Throw in the exchange rate and you're looking at a wine that would cost approx. €4-50 down here, so expectations were low. This wasn't bad. It was medium bodied, fruity in a slightly cheap and fizzy way, but perfectly drinkable. I don't think I'd serve it to guests, but as a cheap (the operative word) everyday drinking wine it is perfectly fine.

Next up was the Piccini Chianti Superiore 2008 - this cost me £7-99, which is pretty good given that I saw the standard (green label) Chianti in Tesco for €15-99 today. Unfortunately this was corked. I'm not an expert in detecting this taint but I knows it when I tastes it, and this was tainted. Apparently you can remove TCA (the chemical responsible for the taint) with Cling Film (other brands are available).

Lastly we also popped open a Montana Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009 over the un-seasonably warm weekend, Herself has gone mad for NZ Sauv Blanc so this was the latest version to be sampled. Also, this was a present so I can't quote a price, but I'd say it retails for around the €13 mark. I have to say I really enjoyed this, initially I though it a bit light and fruity but it grew on me as I sat on my fat ass in the sun, eating delicious cheesy NI-sourced Quavers.

Next up - A Whiskey Post.

Friday, June 25, 2010

It's grim 'Oop North'

Well, I'm back. After an odyssey north to the "six counties" as they used to be known. Just inside the six counties if truth be told, the picturesque town of Newry. We needed some Gin, Vodka, Baileys (for Herself only, I assure you), so I figured I'd check out the wines and the whiskeys (which will be a separate OT post).

There wasn't quite the selection I had been hoping for but I think the prices justified the purchases (when you add in the 1.22 odd exchange rate). The wines I got are as follows (L-R)...

Ravenswood Lodi Zinfandel 2007 - £8.99. This is supposed to be very nice if very fruity wine and a bargain as priced. Tomas Clancy in the SBPost loved the 2006, check out the article here.

Chemin Des Olivettes - Coteaux Du Languedoc 2008 - £6.39. This won a Gold medal in the decanter world wine awards and sounds like a meaty treat. I don't kn ow who the Winchester Wine School are but this is what they thought...

"One for the Worzel Gummidge fans: this is a rustic, wonderfully gnarly style of wine with flavours of wild flowers, ripe cassis and sweaty horses. Like I say, not for everyone…but the meatiness makes it very food-friendly in a classic southern French way. 7/10"

Piccini Chianti Superiore 2008 - £7.99. I have had a couple of Chiantis from Piccini and all have been very good, see here. So high hopes for this one. The bog standard Chianti (orange label) was there also at about £6-50.

Sainsbury's Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2009 - £3.49. They had load of own brand wine so I picked out this as a sampler. I'm not expecting much but for about €4-50, it's definitely worth a punt.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Nostalgia - It ain't what it used to be...

A few years back we used to drink a lot of Bestue. It was our Party wine, tasty but easy drinking, perfect when entertaining a large group. It was available from Dunnes at about a tenner a bottle, and although I can't remember exactly what vintages we used to drink, it was pretty consistent.

I happened to be in Dunnes Ballyogan the other day and noticed it on the shelf, given that we are low on everyday drinking wines I grabbed a bottle, a snip at €7-99. I duly opened and decanted it and we tried it after my modestly titled "best spaghetti sauce ever" (with home made garlic bread) and it wasn't good. Perhaps our palates were all garlic'd up but it tasted a bit sharp at the start.

I suggested we give it some time and it came round after a while. It was fruity and medium bodied, inoffensive but not a wine I'd now serve to guests. Perhaps it's our tastes that have changed in the last three or so years since we have had it or perhaps this vintage '07, isn't up to snuff. Either way, not one I can recommend.

Next: I'm off up North to buy booze in Sainsburys, report to follow.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Links, ftw.

As is customary I have trawled the highways and bye-ways of the Internets to find just four gems from the blogosphere for your enjoyment...

This needs no Explanation - How to open a wine bottle with a shoe, from SourGrapes

An exploration of that much maligned grape - Merlot, from My Grape Escape

A very comprehensive post on the whole Cork Vs Screwcap Vs whatever, from Wine for Normal People

An amusing post of the New Pope's House, from The Grapefruit

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Teeth of the Lion*

Last night we tried my two new purchases from Dandelion Vineyards what I got in the SQ NewWorld wine sale, which started on Thursday. As you can see above I got a couple of the Shiraz Rieslings and a Pinot Grigio.

We had the Pinot Grigio with some alarmingly expensive Monkfish, also from SQ. €20 for enough fish for 2 adults and a child? And even BBQ'd we thought it wasn't great, although Little Bill (tm) loved it, from now on I'll stick with Hake. Herself didn't really care for the white, I rather liked it. It had lots of crisp acidity and some restrained fruit. I think she missed the Sauvignon Blancs of the couple of weeks.

The Shiraz Riesling was an interesting beast. I guess I wasn't expecting a fruit bomb, for some reason, but this wine was very jammy. Given that the Riesling represents only 5% of the total I supposed I shouldn't be surprised. It was certainly beyond the ability of my neophyte taste buds to discern any Riesling influence, but I did like it. As I am (obviously not - Ed.) tired of saying I like something else apart from bags of fruit in my Shiraz; some elegance, some structure, and this delivered. Not as big as a Bin 389 but with a hint of velvety tannins. I'll be curious to see what this will cost at full price. I will "cellar" the other bottle and see what happens, the label says it has the potential to age.

Lastly, we sampled some more NZ Sauvignon Blanc last night, a Rockpool 2009 from O'Briens. Not bad, another one from the Astrolabe stable, €11-95 reduced to €8-99. At full price I'd go for the Durvillea first, but as always, your mileage may vary.

* The word dandelion is a corruption of the French "dent de lion"

Friday, June 18, 2010

In the nick of time..

As I promised, I made my way down to the Superquinn New World wine sale today. As expected, most of it is cheap, fruity, lowest common denominator wine I wouldn't buy even heavily discounted, but I was intrigued by a new Aussie producer Dandelion Vineyards , who had a variety of wines on show including a very unusual grape pairing of Shiraz and Riesling.

When I got there, there didn't appear to be any of this left but after badgering the (helpful) staff I found a few bottles on a shelf. I guess I'm not the only one attracted to this unusual pairing. Given the 3 for €20 deal, I grabbed two of the Shiraz/Riesling and one Pinot Grigio from the same producer, which I have just sampled and its very pleasant and "Italian" in style as I was told in the shop.

More tomorrow on the unusual hybrid which I am decanting now.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pimenta Redux

As a break for ourselves from the relentless onslaught of cheap French wine I got here I decided to pick up something, anything else, just for a change, while I was in Donnybrook Fair. The wine above I had almost a year ago and I really liked it then. This time around I thought it was a little jammy and New-Worldy at first. Later on it developed somewhat, filling in the holes surrounding the blackcurranty fruit with some substance. Plus it was discounted to €9-95 from its usual €11-95, so worth a punt at that price.

The Superquinn New World wine sale starts today but before I comment on it, I wanted to post a link where you could look at what is on sale, unfortunately and stupidly, you cant see what is on sale unless you pretend to sign up for online shopping or are already a customer and even then you have to jump through hoops to find the right page. THIS appears to be the URL but I don't think It'll work unless you have registered fully or partially.

Rant over. The selection isn't great. Mostly stuff I wouldn't touch at full price. Some decent producers but not the wines I'd want, no Yalumba Viognier, no Oyster Bay Pinot Noir, although there is an intriguing Dandelions Shiraz Riesling, which I will have to try, if only to see if that grape mix works. More tomorrow after I do some shopping.

Monday, June 14, 2010

It's a kind of seaweed - apparently.

Last week I tried one of Superquinn's own brand range, to whit their 2008 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, which myself and herself both liked a lot and at a tenner it's great value. Given that a) we drink very little white and b) almost no NZ Sauvignon Blanc at all, I decided to pick up the above wine in O'Briens, it's a Durvillea Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008, €14-99 reduced to €11-99, for comparison purposes.

I liked this a whole lot, Herself claimed to prefer last week's SQ offering but pffft. This was a nicely balanced wine, lots of gooseberry fruit and medium bodied and it went very well with a packet of Chilli flavour coated peanuts* (her accompaniment, not mine). I noticed on the label that this wines is produced by Astrolabe, who also make an Atrolabe Voyage Sauvignon Blanc, which I am always seeing in O'Briens and has been recommended to me many times.

As fate would have it I was at another b'day do on Sunday and the white wine being served was none other than the aforementioned Astrolabe. It may have been the fact that I ruined my palate with chili dip and beer beforehand but I think I preferred the Durvillea, it seemed more rounded and complex in style. What the differentiator between these wines is I couldn't get from the website, btw.

* On a similar theme, do you know what goes really well with a Gin and Tonic? Meanies, that's what.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The boy done good

Its been a little over a week and I've had a chance to sample three of the wines I got here.

I got six of Chateau Cailleval Cotes De Bergerac 2005 and have been told, by the lady of the chateau that this should improve for a number of years. I intend to put a couple in my "cellar" but for now it's drinking well and very tasty. Its reasonably easy drinking, fruity but not overly so. Hopefully it will mature over the next few years.

We had the in-laws over for a very wet Bank Holiday BBQ and I decided we would have some of the three Chateau Tonneret St Emilion 2006, to go with the large hunk of beef generously provided by D&G. This was described to me as "a simple St Emilion, not for keeping" and so it proved, Herself really liked it. Given I have three of the the 2007 to "cellar", we'll probably drink the last one of these now.

The last of the three sampled so far is Chateau La Peyreyre Haut-Medoc 2005. This proved divisive when bought, although it was early morning and one of the tasters was very hung-over so I wasn't sure what to expect. On opening this was a little sharp and unbalanced. Two hours later however and it had all come together nicely and had become probably the best of the three, a big well balanced complex animal. I suspect has the ability to age well but I'm not sure I'll be able to resist drinking it .

Lastly, a few posts back I put up a link to Kevin Ecock's review of all of Superquinn's own brand range. The only new one I've been able to try so far is the New Zealand Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, Kevin said "Just what the punter wants from NZ. €10.00". If you like this style of white then you will love this version. Delicious and great value at a tenner.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Two Antipodean Aristocrats

Last Saturday, myself and Herself were treated to a delicious tasting dinner in Gordon Ramsay at the Ritz Carlton in Powerscourt. We had eaten here once before and had loved it, we were also looking forward to the fact that we would be dining at the Chef's table in the kitchen. If you are a foodie, and we are, you would be fascinated to see how a top class kitchen operates for an entire service. Gordon was not present and there was no shouting, no bad language, just order and control.

We had a tasting menu and in my humble and relatively inexperienced opinion, if you are going to go to a top class restaurant it's the only way to go (if you can afford it - and I can't). Our host had already chosen the wines and after some lovely champagne in the bar (Bruno Paillard Premiere Cuvee), we moved into the kitchen and onto the white a - Framingham Malborough Riesling. I liked this but I didn't love it, I'm sure it's an extremely well made wine but the style was not for me. I like my whites to be bigger and bolder, either fruity or austere and minerally but I think this was maybe too subtle for me. (Ed. - that wouldn't be the first time)

The red however, was something of a triumph although initially I blanched when I saw the label. It was a Mitolo Serpico Cabernet Sauvignon 2004. If you are a regular reader of this blog you'll know I have a somewhat fractious relationship with pure Aussie Cab Sav's. See here and here. What I didn't expect was a marvellously balanced, silky tannin'd, fruity gem. Blind, I would have said Bordeaux, but eyes wide open it was slightly more fruit forward that its old world cousins, but still with great length and complexity.

I'll have to relate that after dinner I also sampled some Chateau Art d'Guynaisse, which brought me right back down to earth, literally. Anyhoo, muchos gracias to our hosts again.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Birthday BBQ Bonanza

Last Tuesday night I attended a family birthday BBQ for Papa, who generously opened his "cellar" and produced some very fine wines. The other main topic of interest for me on the night was this humble blog, whether I would be blogging on the wines, the anonymity or lack thereof of this blog, whether I am an idiot who knows nothing about wine etc. Lots of interesting stuff and I will be doing an in depth examination of some of these issues very soon.

Let's get on with the wines, I did take pictures with my phone but the crappiness of the camera and my increasingly unsteady hand meant that the pictures are of insufficient quality to put up.

First up was a Louis Roederer Cristal Brut 2000. Unfortunately, this had not aged well. It seemed to be a bit flat. I have never had Cristal before so I was disappointed that this example didn't seem to be drinking well.

Next up, a Puligny-Montrachet Jean Claude Belland 2004. I do love a Montrachet, even if I rarely drink it due to our impecunious circumstances (the last time was here). So I was really looking forward to this. Alas, at first sip I was not pleased. Both myself and Eldest Bro thought this wasn't quite right, there was a little metallic sharpness present that was hard to get past. If it was just me who had thought this I would have been happy to write it off as my own error, but as I was not alone I waited 'til the second bottle was open to see it was the same - we were 0 for 2 at this stage so I was praying for success. Happily, the next bottle proved a winner. I really liked it but this is a very austere wine, dry and minerally, and probably in need of food to set it off. This is not a white for the faint hearted, or anyone who grew up on fruity sauvignon blancs.

Onto the reds, yay! One of my all time faves up next, Chateau Lynch Bages 2000 Pauillac. I had a bottle of this on Xmas eve and loved it. This time up I got some Blackberry fruit and lots of chewy tannins. For the first time I got that Cabernet fruitiness which to my mind often overpowers all other flavours in Aussie Cab Savs, but here its part of an integrated package.

Unfortunately, any wine following the Lynch Bages has a lot to live up to and so it proved. Next up was a Chateau Labegorce 2000 Margaux. This just didn't do it for me, it was perfectly drinkable but the fruit didn't seem well integrated and the wine as a whole wasn't balanced as I like it.

I had assumed, naively, that the 2000 Bordeaux would be appreciably better than the 1999 but I was incorrect. The Chateau Latour-Martillac 1999 Pessac Leognan was my wine of the evening. All supple tannins and velvety fruit, delicious and very fine. I could have drunk this all night but we had to move on.

We moved on to Chateau Haut-Bages Averous 1999 Pauillac, the second wine of Lynch Bages. As the evening wore off and taste buds became clogged with wine and meat , the wines had an increasingly tough job to do, this red acquitted itself well though. It obviously didn't have the depth and complexity of its bigger brother (who does!) but it was well balanced and very drinkable.

Last of the reds was a Chateau Haut-Pontet 2000 St Emilion Grand Cru, I have to confess I don't have a strong recollection of this wine, so lets assume it was great. There, done.

Lastly, a little sweetness to finish off the evening, a Chateau d'Yquem 1994 Sauternes, I was a d'Yquem virgin before this night and boy was it worth waiting for. I do not have a sweet tooth, although you'd never know it to look at me, but I loved this wine. Sweet as sin with lots of orangey fruit, the finish on this went on and on.

A big thank you to Papa for the meat and the wine and to Grandma for everything else.

Next up, either a long existential piece on the nature of blogging, identity vs anonymity, family vs friends and all that sh*t or some reviews of the first couple of the Bergerac/Bordeaux wines I got here.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Links Ahoy

As has become my custom (well, I did it once before), I had a look around at some of the other non-commercial wineblogs looking for articles of interest to pass on to your good selves...

Kevin Ecock - a comprehensive review of the entire Superquinn Classic collection here as the number of wines grows to 42.

Sour Grapes - A new Bordeaux book by the always interesting Oz Clarke here, I'm going to have to buy it I think if only for the fact that I was practically breathing Bordeaux last night (post to follow)

Grapes of Sloth - A humorous post here on 2009 Bordeaux.

The Grapefruit - A few interesting facts about wine here.

Next up is a review of all the lovely wines from Papa's birthday bash.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Fruits of someone else's labours

The Boys (BE & GG) returned safe and sound from Bergerac on Sunday, sailing through customs this time. Note to any wine travelers 1) Always say all the wine is for yourself, 2) Get all receipts made out in your name and 3) Keep all the receipts handy when you arrive back on-shore.

So I went round last evening to see what my stake had been spent on and I was pleasantly surprised. Last year I picked up red, white and Monbazillac (the local sweet wine) from Chateau Cailleval a small "mom and pop" vineyard in Pomport near Bergerac. At the time the 2005 wasn't bottled and I opined here, that I wanted to go back and get some. Fair play to the lads they went and bought a couple of cases and they tried it and said that it was very nice indeed. I also asked for another bottle of the Chateau Haut-Theulet Monbazillac 2004, which materialised in re-branded form as a 2005 Chateau Cailleval Monbazillac 2005 this year.

Being a bit skint this year I didn't order too much wine, so the balance of my order was made up of Chateau Tonneret St Emilion 2006 & 2007. The 2006 is for drinking now, while according to the Chateau owner the 2007 needs another year. I also got some Chateau La Peyreyre Haut-Medoc 2005, opinions were divided on this; BE liked it , GG not so much. They were told it needs at least another year in the bottle so we'll see next year. Lastly a single bottle of Chateau Gaubert St Emilion Grand Cru 2005 to lay down. I've had various vintages of this over the last couple of years and it has never disappointed.

Here's the full list:

6X Chateau Cailleval Cotes De Bergerac 2005 - €8-20
3X Chateau Tonneret St Emilion 2006 - €8-80
3X Chateau Tonneret St Emilion 2007 - €8-50
Chateau La Peyreyre Haut-Medoc 2005 - €7-80
Chateau Gaubert St Emilion Grand Cru 2005 - €11-50
1X Chateau Cailleval Monbazillac 2005 (50cl) - €10-90

I'm going to crack open a Chateau Cailleval Cotes De Bergerac 2005 tonight, report to follow.