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.