Unboxing My Wine – The Tingle…

The Complete Set.

I wrote quite recently about the beauty of being in a Wine Club and the excitement that comes with every arrival – a journey into the unknown. Opening the box and pulling out one joyous adventure at a time, wondering what the next delight will be.

(As I’m sure you can work out, if you would like more information on the wines I describe below, I have provided links to the Winemakers, the locations and even the odd link to a poet! Just click on the link and you will be whisked away).

Last week, my latest arrival was delivered from my Irish Wine Explorers Club from the wonderful folk at Wines Direct, and needless to say, I was far from disappointed with the gems that sprang forth.

The first out of the box was from the Loire Valley. A 2018 vintage Domaine Masson-Blondelet, Sancerre AOP, from the family run estate in the heart of the Pouilly-Fume Appellation. When I went over to their website, I found some of the best technical sheets I’ve seen, giving full details of the wine, and well worth a look for the geek in us all.

Next up, was the Pessoa from Portugal, Vinho Verde DOC wine, and I understand this is VV but not as you know it, made from the Loureiro grape, but in a Kabinett style. The winemaker, Jorge Goncalves, although Portuguese by birth was brought up in Germany, and studied wine making at Geisenheim University before travelling the world to hone his skills, reaching South Africa where he learned the secret to blend New World fashions to the Old World elegance, and he returned to Portugal to start up his winery, named after Fernando Pessoa one of Portugal’s most famous poets and writers (See you can learn more than just wine here!).

Third out of the box, and the first Red was a wine I have had the pleasure of before in earlier vintages, this being a 2018 Monastrell from Jumilla DO in Spain, and the Altos de La Hoya old vines of the Olivares Fernandez family. I’m looking forward to the deep ruby and dark fruits of this one.

Next up, the third of the white wines, and a Fiano from Coriole. Now, anyone who knows me, will understand that I have a huge love of Italian wines, and whilst I would never be presumptuous to believe I know all the makers of Fiano from Campania or Sicily, this was a new name for me – WAIT A SECOND – Underneath the name of the wine were the words McLaren Vale, definitely a new region of Italy to me! Yes, this Fiano is the first to come from Australia, and the hands of Mark Lloyd’s family. Another find from the folk at Wines Direct that will be enticing me to sample very soon.

Only two to go now, and these would both be red, unless I am very much mistaken. And lo and behold, it was back to France, after out surprise visit to South Australia, and back to the Loire Valley, although this time for a Cabernet Franc from Chateau de Montdomaine , from the hands of Frederick Plou and his wife Louisa, “Le Breton 2018“. This will be a good wine to eat with a hearty French dish such as boeuf bourguignon or a coq au vin, so it may lay on the shelf until later in the year. I have heard that the family make an exquisite Malbec, so knowing my love of that grape, I’ll be looking out for that in the future.

The box is nearly empty now, and the last bottle is always tinged with sadness as I reach into the empty sleeve of the winebox, knowing that it will be a month before I have the tingle of excitement again. But, I was saving the best, unknown to me, for last Рwith the emerging bottle being a Bordeaux, the label indicating Chateau La Fleur St Georges from Lalande de Pomerol AOC, the second wine of La Fleur de Bouard, on the right bank, in that wine mecca of the west of France. The winery is owned by the De Bouard family, who, for the connoisseurs amongst us, own the 1er Grand Cru Class̩, Chateau Angelus of Saint-Emillion. Hubert de Bourd de Laforest has put as much pride into developing this gem as he has with every other wine he has been involved with in producing over more than 25 years in the profession. Again a wine for a hearty occasion, a beef dish, maybe stretch to some game, definitely one to savour me thinks.

So, the box is now empty, the wines are now on the rack, and while the excitement of unpacking the case is now over for another month, I have so much to look forward to from this months selection. Before you know it, another arrival will be sat on the table awaiting opening, and the journey around the world of wine will begin again – I’ll let you know……..

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.

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.

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.

A Weekend of Wine

A Holiday Weekend here in Ireland, and three bottles opened and consumed over the period. An Italian sandwiched between two from Spain, with varying degrees of success.

Neleman Nucli Blanco 2019 – Valencia DO

First up on Friday was this blend of Macabeo and Sauvignon Blanc from Derrick Neleman from Godella in the Valencia DO. A fully organic, vegan friendly wine, where the grapes are grown around 600 masl, with the cooler nights and warm days leading to a long ripening season, before seeing the inside of stainless steel tanks and three months on the lees.

The colour of the wine is straw yellow, and the nose shows significant features of Sauvignon Blanc, or at least Southern Hemisphere SB, with tropical fruit, hints of melon and grapefruit being dominant. I am not aware of the mix in the blend, but clearly Sauvignon is dominant, as the nose did not resemble White Rioja, where the Macabeo is known as Viura, far more stringent.

The first taste was puckering, as the acid bit into my palate, before mellowing somewhat and the fruits developed in the mouth. Citrus fruits, the tropical melon and pear where there, and a hint of newly cut grass was hanging around the nose as I drank. The finish was medium in length, with a 12.5% alcohol level not leaving too much to savour.

All in all, whilst I wouldn’t rank this above a Sancerre or Pouilly-Fume from the Loire Valley, it compares with New Zealand SB’s, and if you enjoy those old favourites from Marlborough, such as Cloudy Bay or Greywacke, this might appeal. Nothing outstanding in my book, but with the right, light seafood, on a summers day, this would be very pleasureable.

2015 La Palazzola Umbria Rubino

Saturday night swung around, and we were having a second helping of the Venison in Red Wine that I had made earlier in the week, while clearly cooking enough to emulate Feeding the 5,000! As this was a very rich dish, it was time to open up a strident Italian, a hearty Bordeaux Blend from Umbria. With 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 15% Merlot I knew I was in for a kicking of Tannins. This Umbrian Rosso comes in under the IGT , rather than the DO, given its International Grape make-up, but don’t be deceived that quality suffers classified as such, far from it.

The nose was full of fruit. Plums, black cherry, blackberries, they were all there, and not overpowered by the vanilla and tobacco from the 12 months ageing in barriques that this wine undertakes. My first thoughts were that this may have been uncorked a little early in its life, being a 2015, and I know that this wine will appreciate over time, bringing out more secondary and tertiary aromas as it develops, but that doesn’t take away from the excellent aromas coming my way. I should point out that I did indeed decant for an hour before serving, and it was clearly nicely opened up when I tasted.

On the palate, the tannins were not as strident as I had expected, with a medium level of acidity balancing out the tannic qualities, and allowing the flavours to be the key factors as I explored. Dark fruit was in abundance, those plums, black cherries, blackcurrants, all to the fore. There were spices trying to get out, some pepper, black rather than white, with a fiery element, not really from the alcohol, which only came in at 13.5%, and hints of an earthiness, those tertiary notes, which will no doubt come to the fore in the future as the wine extends. There was certainly a good length to the finish, and the wine worked wonders with the remains of the Venison, another perfect paring of game and wine.

This wine came from my Italian Wine Club at Rimessa Roscioli in Roma, and I wouldn’t hesitate to pick more of this up, maybe putting some away for some time to see how, and if, it would appreciate with age. While on the subject of Rimessa Roscioli, they have just set up a wonderful new, (free), Wine Community, consisting of Videos, Fora, Classes, and an open Community of like minded wine fans, focusing on Italian Wines, obviously, but a wealth of information, really worth checking out – Here’s the link.

2017 Guerinda El Maximo Crianza

Last, but not least of the Trio over the weekend, saw me heading back to Spain, and a trip to the Guerinda Mountains in Navarra, and to Bodegas Maximo Abete and the wine names after Maximo, the founder of the winery, The Maximum! A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and of course, Garnacha (Grenache), sourced by my “other” Wine Club here in Ireland, Wines Direct, who also supplied the Nucli Blanco. The vines grow on the very steep hillsides of the Guerinda Mountains, at an elevation of 700 masl in Vallervitos.

Maximo passed away a few years ago, but his two daughters, Yoanna and Maria Abete, along with Yoanna’s husband Juanma Lerga, are continuing the legacy created by their father, and this wine certainly does justice to the founder. A deep, black lagoon of wine cascaded into the first glass I poured, the Cabernet and Merlot hiding the more subtle shades of the Garnacha, and on the nose, dark fruit was prevalent, with a peppery spice element, plummy and hints of violets.

However, on the palate, the Granache came back to the fore. While it may have lost the battle on the colour front, it won the taste test, pushing the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot back behind it, and bring its juicy fruits, raspberries and cranberries to the front, while allowing the blackberries to linger a while, passing through. The high alcohol content of 14.5% (hard to find Garnacha much lower), gave that warmth as the juice slipped down the throat, and with a medium acidity level and the low tannins dominant from the Garnacha, there was a hint of almost sweetness in the aftertaste.

Certainly the last wine of the weekend didn’t disappoint. We paired it with Turkey Meatballs in a peppery sauce, over gnocchi, and in truth, this wine would have gone well with the Venison on Saturday night, but it worked perfectly with the Meatballs, and again, a wine would I would be happy to add more off to the cellar. Perhaps more an everyday wine, rather than one to lay away a while like the Rubino, but certainly comparable, and worthy of the table.

Conclusion:

A good weekend at home, still under relative lockdown thanks to Covid19, although we can get out and about locally, shopping, exercise etc. One of the positive sides of being confined to quarters, so to speak, is the ability to try out new wines, and new recipes to match. The three wines we had over the weekend were perfect examples of this, and I would recommend all three.