A Very English Evening

Around about the time that we first were locked down, I was fortunate enough to receive a supply of wines from East Devon, from Dalwood Vineyard and Mike Huskins. Included were a few bottles of the 2016 Brut, Seyval Blanc/Pinot Noir Sparkling Wine, which picked up a Silver Medal at the 2019 IEWA, and a Bronze at the 2019 Decanter World Wine Awards.

Before I restarted my Blog Posts, I wrote a review of the first bottle I drank not long after, and last night we popped the cork on another, no special reason, just fancied a bit of fizz, and I knew what to expect, perfection. rather than repeat myself with a further review, I thought I would share what I wrote at the time of the first bottle, and my opinions haven’t changed, aside from the fact that I wish I had ordered more!

“Let me start by stating that fizz, be it Champagne, Traditional Method, Cava, Prosecco, or any other bubbles, rarely rocks my boat, and aside from celebrations, would not be a regular in my glass. Having said that, I had heard really good things about Mike Huskin’s Dalwood Vineyard Brut 2016, and with a few bottle arriving last week, it seemed a good time to see if I could be convinced that “fizz” isn’t just for weddings and Formula One Wins!

Dalwood’s Brut in 2016 was a blend between Seyval Blanc (70%) and Pinot Noir (30%), and once the cork was gently removed, and a glass poured, the immediacy on the nose was of ripe green apples, straight away, which I can already associate with Seyval from my sampling of the still wine from Dalwood with Seyval as the base of the blend earlier this week.

The colour was light gold, and the stream of bubbles looked impressive. A stronger sniff and the notes of the bakery were there, indicating the autolysis. I subsequently learnt that the wine spent 30 months in second fermentation in the bottle this way, before a very low amount of dosage, 4g in the 2016, as I was ready to savour the full flavours.

A crisp cool explosion onto the palate, with good acidity, but totally balanced by the Pinot, as Seyval at its peak is high on the acidic front, leaving enough to get the mouth watering, but no hint of burn. Those green apples, along with pear, more of the candied type than from the tree, and a yeasty bread/biscuit note, emanating from the time spent on second fermentation were to the fore.

Absolute dryness gave a wonderful texture to the wine, without puckering at all, and the finish remained fresh, leaving those apples lingering in the mouth long after the swallow. I read how someone had described the lingering flavours as that of Apple Crumble, and while the thought didn’t hit me at the time, this is a very apt description.

While I may not have been totally converted to making “fizz” an everyday wine in my house, this particular version has certainly raised the thought that it will appear more likely. An excellent English Sparkler, well worth seeking out if you are ever down in East Devon, and one that compares very favorably with higher priced offerings from the Continent.”

An Unmarried Woman – Sicily

Yes, this wine’s name evokes the local dialect, and Sketta, roughly translates as Unmarried Woman. I know not why this name was chosen for this wine, but if this is an example of unmarried women in Sicily, then there will be plenty making the flight there.

In recent months, Sicily has featured high on my wine choices, although, up until now, it’s mainly been the reds of Etna, the Nerello Mascalese’s, and the Nero d’Avola’s on the island. However, between my Wine Clubs, I have a number of Whites on the shelves, and I decided that this would be one to try.

Grecanico is the grape on the label, which is synonymous with Garganega, the Northern Italian grape of Soave, and a little research told me that Cantina Marilina is run by two sisters, Marilina and Federica Paterno, whose father, Angelo, had bought the 60 hectares on a hillside in the southeast of Sicily near the town of Pachino, after 25 years working in the industry locally.

Opening the bottle, the colour immediately hits you – Deep golden, dare I say, even Orange. Whether it was this amazing colour, the photo does not quite do it justice, or not, but the first aroma I noted was marmalade, the golden type from Sevilla sprung to mind, quickly followed by a surprise, petrol hints. It was fleeting, but it was there, not something I was expecting, but it didn’t detract at all, in fact, it enhanced the experience.

First sips showed the honey texture, and a zingy punch of acidity, before the cacophony of fruit came through, There was apricot, there was lime, the citrus giving the tang, then there was orange peel, that marmalade sensation, and raisins floated around the palate. On the finish, there were notes of caramel too, that lingered as the glass was put down, demanding a further raise to the lips to make sure the pleasure was maintained – It was…

The vineyard is organic, grown on calcareous soils, extended skin maceration leads to the wonderful colour, with fermentation in concrete tanks for six months, before finishing off in the bottle for three months prior to release.

The wine marries well with what you would expect from Sicily, with seafood in abundance on the island, and pasta with green vegetables, and shellfish would be perfect. It may not stay Unmarried as a Wine, a perfect wine as a change from Soave, seek it out.

Albarino at it’s Best

A very enjoyable Albarino indeed. One of the dangers of any style of wines becoming popular, is the tendency to dumb down the style to cater for the popular demand, maintaining a common level. I’m glad to say that this wine does not fit into that category, it’s an excellent example of the grape, blended as it is, 70% albariño, 15% caiño , and 15% Loureiro.

On pour, a delightful deep straw yellow appearance abounds in the glass. The nose has what you expect, with lemon citrus, hints of apple, and slight floral notes. The first thing that grabs you as you take the first sip is the tangyness of the acidity, mouthwatering delights, before mellowing into the flavours of the tropics, with mango, peach, that zesty green apple, and of course, the citrus of lemon and grapefruit. An almost cream like texture adds to the overall enjoyment of the combinations of flavours.

The finish to this perfect glass lingers long after the swallow, and left on the palate is that hint of salinity, not powerful, but there, and reminding you that the Ocean is not far from the birthplace of the wine.

All in all, an excellent example of the quality coming from Galicia, and one to look out for. It should be widely available, as Emilio Rodriguez and his team created just short of a million bottles in 2018, seek it and you won’t be disappointed.

A Green Treat of Verdicchio

It’s been a busy time in recent weeks. Still working from home, into Week 20 now, and it seems a long time ago that I was last in the office, back on March 16th. Since then, its been like living in a live action reworking of Groundhog Day. On the plus side, I’m loving the commute, which now takes 20 seconds, instead of 40 minutes. With the economy starting to return to existence, I won’t say normal yet, this has had be working long hours to get as much done to get things going as I can, in my own small way – Taking up a lot more time than the first month or so of our original Lockdown.

But I have been able to enjoy my wine collection, and this last weekend I opened up a bottle I have been eyeing up for a while, just waiting for the right moment, and right food to go with it. The wine in question being the 2017 Fattoria Coroncino Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Il Bacco from the Wine Club, and as the picture shows, with a picada of Italian meats (OK, there was some Spanish Serrano in there as well as Parma), and cheeses closer to home, with some decoration of tomatoes and cucumber, and a dash of pickle, the Verdicchio came out.

dav

The wine is from Marche in Ancona, and is a DOC wine. Under the DOC regulations, 85% of the wine must be Verdicchio, with allowable blending of Trebbiano and Malvasia to smooth out the final product. Unfortunately the web site of the producer is in Italian, and a little out of date, so I cannot be clear what, if any, addition was made in the 2017.

Nicely chilled, and subject to my 20/20 rule, the pour enlisted a yellow colour, with maybe a hint of green around the edges,,,,,,,, Now, my Italian isn’t proficient (OK, non-existant!), but I think that Verdicchio gets part of it name from Verde, which means Green, so maybe I was on the right track.

I was somewhat surprised by the strong nose, as my thoughts of this grape do not recall strong aromas, but there were clear floral, elderflower twitches on my nostrils. On the palate, the citrus fruit flavours came through, lemon, grapefruit, and quite strident acidity, puckering up the lips, but with the fruit balancing out, leaving a fresh, vibrant aftertaste. I had read somewhere in my studies that Almonds were a distinguishing feature of this grape, and maybe there was a hint of the nut left on the tongue, but I wouldn’t say I would have picked that out from the citrus flavours if I hadn’t remembered something from my old books.

Certainly an excellent wine, and yet another great example of the Wine Club Experience. In my constant quest to expand my knowledge, the delivery of the unknown from the Clubs helps to increase the range of flavours, and varietals to experience. Wines I may not find locally here in Ireland, or wines that even if they are on the shelves, I may not have reached for.

The wine went perfectly with the picada, and I would highly recommend picking this up again, if I could.

The Monthly Wine Club !

When I started out on the Learning Curve, to discover new wines from new regions, new varieties of grapes I had never experienced, I was in a slight dilemma. While I could look up grapes, regions, and wines, I would be tempted to stick to places I knew, grapes I was slightly familiar with. I needed a way to get out there and find new wines, within a reasonable budget, and without any preconceived ideas of what to buy.

Looking around, I discovered a Wine Club run by an online company here in Ireland, Wines Direct. They do have a physical presence out in Mullingar, and also an outlet in Arnotts, one of Dublin’s iconic department stores, but the Wine Club caught my eye, with their Explorers Club. It was exactly what I was looking for:

Are you getting bored of the same old wines? Join the Wine Explorers Club and get 6 exclusive wines delivered to your door every month. Just choose your level and whether you want a red, white or mixed case. Then we scour the globe to find new artisan wines for you to explore. Every month, 6 carefully curated bottles will appear; each with its own tasting notes, food pairings and information about the winemaker.

And so, some two years, and over 150 bottles of wine from all four corners of the planet, later, my latest arrivals were delivered yesterday. They have three levels of membership of the club, and I plumped for the top line, hoping that this would give me the chance to explore wines I would not have gone for on the shelf. In these two years, I have yet to be disappointed, aside from the fact maybe that I didn’t have a full case of some of the excellent wines I have received. Having said that, if required, you can always order more of any of the wines from the store, or online.

I thought it would be interesting to showcase this months delivery, to share what I have in store in the next while. This months selection arrived yesterday, and, as ever, the eclectic range of three whites, and three reds, was spread across different countries, with this month seeing three Italian, two French plus a trip down under to Australia. Each month sees different arrivals, never duplicated, a tour de force of the Wines of the World – A True Exploration.

(For more information, click on the highlighted areas).

Domaine de L’Hortus Grande Cuvee 2018 by Martin Orliac – Val de Monteferrand IGP

First up being a trip to the Languedoc, and Domaine de L’Hortus, and a blend of Chardonnay (40%), Sauvignon Gris (30%), Viognier (20%), and finally Petit Manseng (20%), with a mix between the barrel fermented Chardonnay and the steel used for the others. From the cool climate area of Pic Saint Loup, a Grand Vin in the making, and one for a special occasion I feel.

Cantina Marilana “Sketta” 2018 by Marilina and Federica Paterno – IGP Terre Siciliane

Next up, a trip to Sicily at the foot of Italy, and Cantina Marilana, for a wine made with very little intervention, concrete tanks for fermentation of the Grecanico grapes, extended maceration on the skins, and with six months in tank to fine naturally, before a further three months in the bottle before release, the sisters who run the family 60 hectare winery, in the southeast of Sicily, have come up with a winner here.

Coriole Redstone 2017 by Mark Lloyd – McLaren Vale

To the other side of the world next, and a trip to the McLaren Vale for a New World Shiraz, from the deep red soils of the region, and the Coriole Vineyards. Hence the name of the wine, with the grapes aged in old French oak for twelve months, and with some of the vines dating back to 1919, this results in a Shiraz, or Syrah as the grape is known in Europe, richly coloured, and packed full of flavours. As in most of the Clubs vineyards, organic practices are carried out, showcasing the wines.

Chateau Fongaban 2015 by Pierre Taix – Puisseguin-St Emilion AOC

Back to Europe and Chateau Fongaban, with a trip to the cradle of wine in France, Bordeaux for this Merlot domninated/Cabernet Franc blend from the St Emilion Satellite appellation of Puisseguin, a name with a Celtic connection, with Puy being the Celtic word for The Hill of the Powerful Wine (see, you learn something new everyday!). Aged in old oak, I expect to find powerful aromas of dark cherry and spice when I open this, although I think I will put this one away for a few years.

Stefano Accordini Classico 2018 by Stefano himself – Valpolicella Classico DOC

The last two bottles see us back in Italy, with first a trip to the north east, on the hillside close to the River Adige and Lake Garda to Stefano Accodini. As is always the case with the Club, a family business, produces this blend of Italian grapes, Corvina (65%), Rondinella (30%) and Molinara (5%), a luscious red full of Morella cherries and red berries. Hand harvested, with a week on the skins, before four months resting in tanks before bottling and release. One to drink young.

Castellari Bergaglio 2018 by Marco Bergaglio – Gavi DOCG

Last, but by no means least, and to the north west, between Piemonte and Liguria, the Gavi DOCG area, and the Cortese grape produced by Castellari Bergaglio. Another white that benefits from the careful hand of the winemaker, keeping the juice on the lees after a soft press, with fermentation taking up to 20 days, before a short maturation in bottle, and again a wine to be drunk young, although with the body here, it will keep for a few years, and retain its honeyed flavours of melon and figs without losing quality.

So, there we have it, a tour of my Explorers case this month. Over the two years, the Club has taken me on a journey of discovery, form Argentina and Chile in South America, via Australia and New Zealand, to the traditional European Classics of Spain, Italy and France, with trips to Germany, Austria, Portugal and Greece along the way. Traditional grapes we all know and love, to new varieties I have trouble pronouncing, especially the beautiful indigenous grapes of Greece, such as Xinomavro and Thrapsathiri (yeh, go on, you try!). I look forward to continuing the journey.

NB. I would stress that this is purely my thoughts on the Wine Club I joined, I have not been paid to promote the Club, or any of the wines described.

Three Wines Around the Med!

A loose title for a piece on a weekend of sipping wine while still on Virtual Lockdown from the CoronaVirus, as clearly any trips to the Mediterranean this year will only be achieved via the medium of the wines, and foods coming from the countries that border on the waters.

First up on Friday evening was a bargain buy from last summer, which had snuck under the radar. a 2016 Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore from Sartori di Verona. I picked this up last year from Supervalu here in Dublin, as part of a deal, for only €8.66 a bottle. An excellent blend based on Corvina and being a Ripasso, it could be thought of as a leftovers from Amarone. But it’s much nicer than it sounds. Ripasso style takes the skins after Amarone has been made, and goes again with the Valpolicella, a second fermentation, with the word Ripasso translating as “To Go Again”, which is exactly what they do, creating a more complex Valpolicella.

Dark Red cherries were prevalent, there was spice, there was an earthiness which defied the risotto that we ate alongside, and the length was staggering for such a bargain wine. Normally I would expect a wine like this to be heading around the €15 euro mark as a starting point, so a bargain buy, and having kept it hidden (by accident) for twelve months at home, it was even better.

Saturday saw me moving from the the Veneto region of Italy to a new world for me – not in the “New World”, very much in the Old World, to some the potential cradle of grapes being made into wine. To Turkey we sailed. This came about due to a conversation with a Sommellier friend who heard I had some Bolivian Marselan in my cellar, so a deal was made to swap for something interesting he had, and so, we swapped, and I received a bottle of KAV from Doluca Wines.

Kav is a blend of Bogazkere and Okuzgozu grapes, both indigenous to Turkey, and I confess, I had never heard of either, nor can I pronounce them! Bogazkere translates as “Throat Burner”, a robust tannic grape, from Southeastern Anatolia, which is combined with the Okuzgozu from Eastern Anatolia, an aromatic red grape, with a crisp fruity character. These grapes are known as Bulls Eye Grapes, as they are far larger than one normally sees.

The blend is aged in 225 lt. French oak for 12 months before a further 2 years of bottle ageing, to acquire a full-bodied, fruit driven, fig and dried fruits abound, in a very dark coloured, but remarkably well balanced wine. Yes, the tannins were there, but the more aromatic grape certainly hit the Bulls Eye and softened the Throat Burner, to reveal an excellent wine, and one really worth seeking out, retailing at under €20 here in Ireland. We drank with a robust Venison Stew, which paired perfectly.

Sunday saw a switch back to France, and the Languedoc. For the past few months of lockdown, every weekday morning has found me logging into Instagram Live at 7.30a.m. (Irish Time), and the Vineyard Rambles of Katie Jones from Domaine Jones, in Tuchan, in the Aude department in France. Every morning, Katie takes us to one of her many small vineyards, and will be taking us through to harvest and beyond as the summer progresses, well worth checking out on InstaLive, at DomaineJones.

As a result of the rambles, I sought out the wines that Katie produces, with a diverse range of grapes, from the Languedoc faithful, Grenache & Syrah, to more interesting variatals of Grenache Gris, Carignan and even the Hairy Grenache. Unfortunately no importer here in Ireland (you’re missing out guys!), so I went direct, and purchased a mixed case direct from the winery.

The first wine from the selection to be opened was the Along Came Jones, “Difference” 2018. A Grenache heavy blend, combined with Syrah & Carignan, The very interesting cartoon of a label is worth checking out on its own, telling the story of Katie’s arrival in the region, but once opened the initial colour of the juice leapt out at me, red cherry, along with the fruit aromas which were jumping out of the glass. The wine took me straight to the Garrigue, the limestone hills of the Languedoc, and the wild vegetation that abounds. Rich herbs shone through, bay leaf, rosemary and thyme, (although, no parsley or sage!), and the Carignan spices also came through. Medium bodied, soft tannins, and a truly wonderful finish, lingering long after the swallow.

All in all, an excellent weekend haul, and a journey around the Mediterranean, where I long to return, although that looks like it will be delayed to 2021, along with other travels, In the meantime, we can explore the regions through the wonder of wine, I hope you will join me on the journey. In the meantime, tune into Katie’s Insta Live at 7.30 in the morning, and wave as you watch and listen to the rambles.

Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio – The Tears of Christ.

Yes, another wine review, albeit brief. This is a wine I was totally unfamiliar with, and grapes, I confess to never having heard of. A 90/10 blend of Caprettone and Falanghina, in this 2017 edition, both indigenous grapes to the Napoli area, and rarely seen at this level. Some years the blend has additional “Greco” added, but this year saw the propensity of the Caprettone. The Italian name translates as the tears of Christ, and the producers are Cantine Matrone.

This wine came from my Italian Wine Club, Rimessa Roscioli and they have a wonderful way of sending tasting notes, videos, from the producers themselves.

Andrea Matrone

But back to my own experiences. We were having monkfish, steamed in the oven, with a spinach risotto for dinner, so the bottle was chilled in the fridge before I extracted it with 20 minutes to go before serving up the food, as is my want. The colour of the first pour was amazing. I was not expecting such a golden shade in the glass, especially on such a relatively young wine.

The nose was less striking, in fact,somewhat disappointing. Maybe it needed time to develop, and I have seen reviews which indicated that the aromas expanded on day two after opening, but I would have to make my assessment solely on a single evening. There was a distinct lack of fruit coming through on the nose, some floral notes were there, but there was an overiding sense of minerality, wet stones, and a salient hint too.

Although the nose was lacking something, on the palate, the flavours did come through. A medium plus acidity level, and a firm texture, honey like in its viscosity, gave way to the fruit. Pear and green apple came to mind, and, surprisingly, there were red fruits in there too, amongst the earthiness and mineral components noted on the nose, a touch of raspberry.

The wine did compliment the food, and certainly the savoury notes from the earthiness worked well with the monkfish, which is of course, a very full bodied fish in itself, meaty and firm, which is how I would rate this wine. A full bodied trip to the volcanic terroir of Italy, and a journey I would be happy to return to in the future.

A Gamay in the Cote d’Or

Domaine Huber-Verderau “Les Chanterelles” Cuvee No.1

Just south of Beaune are the villages of Pommard, Volnay and Meursault. An area of the Cote d’Or, well known for its Premier & Cru white wines, and where reds are concerned it is Pinot Noir that is the expectation. However, Thiebault Huber founded the Domaine Huber-Verderau in 1994 on the family estate, and he now operates four hectares of vines across the three parishes. As a biodynamic producer he works on minimal intervention, and it is with the 60 year old Gamay vines, that he cannot replace (by law!), a rarity this far north in Burgundy, that he produces this wine, an 80/20 blend with Pinot Noir.

The grapes are de-stemmed and fermented in concrete vats, before resting on lees for nine months, resulting in a elegant wine, and the vintage I was to enjoy was from 2015.

Upon opening, the aromas of fresh red fruits were prevalent, along with a farmyard funk, more associated with the Pinot’s here. I noted strawberries and raspberries, with maybe some lingering cherry on the nose. Once in the mouth the acidity was modest, as were the tannins, but there was definitely a hint of sour cherry, and although only a 12.5% alcohol level, there was a peppery spice adding to the overall complexity. The concentrated flavours lead to a lengthy finish to a smooth, well balanced, delightful wine, I enjoyed, paired with bacon ribs, pepper sauce, potatoes tossed in Olive oil, which despite the saltiness of the ribs, which fell off the bone I might add, pulled out the fruit in the glass. I finished off the evening with Comte and Shropshire Blue Cheeses, which also coupled well.

Another interesting and enjoyable wine imported by Wines Direct, to whom I am grateful for the information as the Website is lacking detail for this particular beauty. I will be tasting another of their wines later this week, the 2018 Les Constances, a more regular Pinot Noir, it will be interesting to compare notes.

Stop and Smell the Rosé

L’Hortus de Bergerie Pic Saint Loup 2019

rose

This wine came to me last week as part of my Wine Club Tasting evening, carried out Zoom. Due to the fact that I wasn’t planning to drink all the bottle in the following days, my Coravin was used, and the wine placed back on the rack at the end of the evening,

At the tasting, it scored highly, on flavour, acidity, body, and length, although we didn’t take a vote as such, it was probably the highlight of the night. So, last night I returned to the shelf, and pulled the cork on this. I’m glad I did,

I have a confession to make – Rosé has never been my go to wine, even in the warm summer days, sat out on the balcony enjoying the airs. My prejudice would always have been for a light red, a Pinot or a Gamay, or maybe a chilled white, Rosé would have come a poor third in the past. That changed last year, as I was introduced to a number of excellent Rosés at a tasting event, and my views have softened towards the style.

This particular wine comes from Domaine de L’Hortus de Bergerie in Pic Saint Loup in  the Languedoc region of France. I have enjoyed their Syrah and their Syrah/Mourvedre blended Reds before now, excellent wines in their own right, so my expectations were high that this would be a worthy entry to my Rosé list. It didn’t disappoint.

The wine is a blend of Syrah, Mourvedre and Grenache and is pressed lightly and vinified in much the same way that a white wine would be, before spending some four  months in steel tanks, before bottling at the end of winter, and released to the world.

The wine is a healthy shade of salmon pink, quite deep, and the nose displayed red berry fruits, with a hint of something spicy awaiting the taste buds. Fresh and crisp, chilled to to 20/20 rule I apply to Light Reds & Whites (Reds twenty minutes in the fridge before opening, whites in the fridge for the day, and taken out 20 minutes before drinking) – In this case I treated it as a White, so nicely chilled…

The initial acidity was medium in strength, delivering a tang to the mouth without being overpowering, subsiding to produce those red fruits, strawberries, raspberries and the tang reminiscent of red grapefruit. The spiciness was likely emanating from the relatively high level of alcohol for a Rosé at 14%, and added to the length of the finish, and left a lasting impression on me.

Overall, an excellent example of Quality Rosé – Criticisms of some Rosé wines tend to comment that the wine was watery. This is certainly not the case with this wine, certainly medium bodied, leaning towards a full roundness in the final assessment. We finished the bottle with dinner of simple grilled port steaks, with an apple sauce and potatoes tossed in olive oil and black pepper, and the wine held up well across the food. 

Highly Recommend: –  

Domaine de l’Hortus. The Montagne Massif de l’Hortus mountain cliff. Pic St Loup. Languedoc. Mourvedre vines facing south. France. Europe. Vineyard.