Monday, November 27, 2017

Italy at the AC Wine Club November 2017

This month we looked at a range of Italian wines. The results were surprising!!

We began with a very unusual wine. It was a skin contact Pinot Grigio. This, in effect, makes it an 'orange wine' ie made as they do red wines where the grape skins are allowed into the fermentation. This extracts colour. The natural colour of the Pinot Grigio grape imparts a copper or tawny hue into a wine. 99.9% of all Pinot Grigio wines on sale have been made without any skin contact and so are white wines only.   

Attems Cupra Ramato Pinot Grigio 2012 

This is a fabulous wine that almost no-one liked at all!! It needs to be opened for a while longer than we gave it. It is monumental after a few hours ... recommend decanting. Intensely floral with fabulous structural integrity ie acid and fruit balance! Because it is an older vintage it came across as a bit stewed when it was first opened - my mistake. Sorry guys. It was astonishing later on .....

Image result for MArks and spencer lambrusco

Lambrusco 2016 secco (Marks and Spencer)

A dry red Lambrusco! Sparkling. This was a surprise when it was poured as everyone was expecting a white wine. Liked by everyone on the night. I love this for its exuberant and yet dry fruit. Rich and delicious. Excellent wine.


Bosco Prosecco Frizzante (Spar and Eurospar €8.99 to end of Dec)
Great value. Loads of soft pear and honeysuckle elements. A crowd pleaser. Liked by everyone on the night. Frizzante Prosecco wines are Ireland's most popular sparkling wines. Low in alcohol good value fun!

Duca di Sasseta  Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Reserva  (Lidl €14.99)
                                              Top class style and great value wine.
Really liked by the Club even though it took a while to explain that this is a Sangiovese based wine from Montepulciano in Tuscany and not a Montepulciano grape from anywhere else!
Smooth, warm, rich, light tannins, touch of balsamic, lots of stewed tea in the background.

Tenuta San'tAntonio Valpolicella ( Classic Drinks)
I have always been a fan of Valpolicella and as it happens managed to visit this winery many years ago. (At the time no-one spoke any English. Awkward enough ...) It was run by four enterprising brothers and the wines they were making were absolutely fabulous. Judging by this Valpolicella they still are! (I can still remember that it was there that I tasted, for the first and only time, a Reciotio di Chardonnay!)
This is a 70/30 blend of Corvina and Rondinella grapes showing a typical deep cherry imbued ruby colour and an intensely aromatic bouquet. Palate has a great depth of rich cherry/red berries with moderate tannin and a finely sculpted acidity. Really liked by the Club members.

     Photos from way back in 2006 of Tenuta Sant'Antonio

Gianni Gagliardi Barbera d'Alba 2014 (Classic Drinks)
Gagliardi is pure genius stuff. Situated way up in Piedmont they make Barolo of the highest order where a ton of attractive fruit meets masses of structure. Anyhow that's Nebbiolo. We'll have to make that another night. I had none to show!!
This time around we had the Gagliardi Barbera d'Alba.  
I'm also, as it happens, a Barbera fan where softness and rich fruit combine so well. All of Gagliardi wines are exceptional and its great to see them well distributed here.  

Nicosia Etna Rosso (Marks and Spencer €15.50) 
Sicilian wine of the highest pedigree.(Grapes: 80/20 Nerello Mascalese/Nerello Cappucio). Oodles of red berry cranberry like fruit. Excellent softness and depth and a really fine length. Great 'teaching wine' for anyone who might be wary of Italian reds. Shows southern warmth to a tee!

The point was well made this month that Italy is treasure trove of unique grapes and wine styles. Its also a well that wine drinkers can visit again and again and not grow bored or jaded. It is always exciting!  

Next Month: December 3rd. It must be Sparkling.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Navarra Wines on Song as the AC Wine Club Returns

Following my (excellent!) column on the Wines of Spain 2017 in Hospitality Ireland this month I focused the AC Wine Club's attention onto tradition v modernism in Navarra. Great theme. Great tasting. Just to emphasise how tradition can work alongside modernity I also included two wines imported by Cassidy Wines and made by the ever brilliant Jose Moro in Ribera del Duero

Bodegas Ochoa is a fifth and sixth generation winemaking family. Their wines are excellent and are imported by Comans Beverages. I like to showcase them as they show how good the region can be even if we follow the simple brand architecture where entry level joven (unaged) white and red wines are followed by aged Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva styles.

Tandem Wines is a small high quality producer set up as recently as 2003 by Alicia Eyaralar and Jose Maria Fraile and imported by O'Briens Wines. Their emphasis on fine fruit forward wines is exemplary.  

The Navarra region allows a very generous combination of the grapes Garnacha Tinta, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Graciano and Mazuelo, Pinot Noir and Syrah for its red wines. Red wines account for 94% of the regional output. White wines are made with Viura, Chardonnay, Garnacha Blanca, Malvasia and a Moscatel. As these can be blended and aged in a multiple of combinations Navarra is, to an extent, capable of making some of the most diverse ranges of wines found anywhere in Spain. 

For more info on Ribera del Duero have a look back here to our tasting from last April. This really is a great little wine club!!

Bodegas Ochoa  Calendas Series 2016
Calendas Blanco de Bodegas Ochoa

Viura, Chardonnay, Moscatel

No ageing at all and shows clean, crisp, lines with fresh fruit bursting from the glass.  Value wine. Drinking well. 

Bodegas Ochoa tells us they took their 'inspiration for the name from those ancient cultures when humankind and the whole of nature were ruled by the moon, which measured time and marked the birth of new life. For the Romans, the moon marked the Calends of March (their New Year’s Day) which, interestingly, coincides with the spring awakening of our vines, when our wine begins its lifecycle.
The slogan for this series is “The moon is always there, even if we can’t see it”. It is meant to reflect our respect for the course of Nature, which is an essential part of making quality wines'.

Tandem Inmacula 2014

Viura, Chardonnay

Tandem Ars Nova  2013 

Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot

No pumps. Just gentle fermentation and then gravity fed to concrete tanks for a 24 month ageing followed by a further 9 in 300l oak casks.

This is a wine that clearly loves where it came from as it brings every bit of the mountains and their vegetation with it - berries galore and layers of soft, enveloping fruits. Gorgeous.

Image result for malabrigo cepa 21

Cepa 21 Malabrigo  2011
Ribera del Duero
Tinta Fino
5000 bottle production

Extraordinary wine showing how a 'cool climate' wine with an almost limitless fruit can be made in a warm climate. Mind you its a harsh winter they have in Ribera del Duero and the grapes for this have been grown in a cool, breezy high altitude vineyard. Intense. Forgiving. Tender. Absolutely 'modern' wine in the very best meaning of the word modern. 
Emilio Moro Malleolus 2013
Ribera del Duero
Tinta Fino
A completely exquisite wine. If you want to see how majestic a traditional style of wine from Ribera del Duero can be then you really must try this at some stage. It has an incredible smoothness, very full and immense dark fruit notes with an endless length. This is a complete wine and a great credit to Jose Moro. 

Oak fermentation (300litre French barrels) and lees ageing have given this wine immense character, depth and definition. Inmacula is latin for 'without blemish'. The palate here is soft and fabulously interesting. Some found the oak here not to their liking. I think its perfect ....

Overall the wine is astonishingly (!) well made and great value at 14.95

Calendas Tinto de Bodegas Ochoa

Bodegas Ochoa Calendas Series Tinto

Tempranillo, Garnacha

This is fine wine for everyday drinking. Full fruit. All good. Clean as a whistle, value wine.

Bodegas Ochoa Reserva  2009
Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot

Ochoa is a quality label. I love the fact that this wine is first treated as the house crianza (explains why Ochoa Crianza ia always so good) and then further aged to Reserva level, bottled non filtered and may throw a sediment (this one didn't!) and always ages with fabulous grace, softness and elegance. Great example of Navarra Reserva style

                                                       Image result for bodegas ochoa reserva

This was a great tasting and one where everyone learnt a lot. Our November meeting will take place on Monday the 6th - Italian Selection.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

May June Came Together in Portugal

As the Bank Holiday Mondays clashed with our first Mondays of the month meetings we had both our May and June meetings on Monday May the 29th. I know. The First Monday became the Last. It worked!

Portugal was introduced as a land of extremes from wet in the Minhos to baking and often too dry down south in the Algarve. Everything goes in between and Louise Wilson's fabulous book 'The Wine Lovers Coloring Book' was used to illustrate the regions!!! I kid you not. The book was very popular on the night ...  well done Louise. Mind you, the wines weren't half popular as well ....                                   Another great tasting at the AC Wine Club


Quinta da Lixa Vinho Verde 2015
We began with a Vinho Verde from O'Briens Wines €12.50. Surprisingly some club members didn't like this style. Thought it had the whiff of something unpleasant ....  Comments were disparaging towards the bouquet as not suiting a Club Tasting but would do very well on the patio, beside a barbecue on a very warm day. Positive , I'd say! (I know what they mean because in blind tastings its that whiff that often gives this wine away .....)
Crisp style of wine with exact acidity, long flavours from a lot of fruit and a pleasant touch of sweetness ( fact sheet says this is a dry wine...!?). The very obvious petillant hung around as a bubble corona in the glass. Sunny day wine made from a blend of Alvarinho, Loureira and Trajaduro. Gave us a great opportunity to talk about the Grapes of Portugal.

Monte Velha 2015 An Alentejo White from Esparão
A wine made by Australian and long time Portugal resident David Baverstock. This is modern Portugal where white wines are crisp, clean and essential summer time fare! I like nearly everything bottled under the Esparão label but keep coming back to Monte Velha as a really fine 'teaching wine'. In the warm (and warming!) Portuguese sunshine its not easy to coax freshness from its grapes and keep them that way all the way through to the retail shelf. The grapes here are the Antao Vaz, Roupeiro and Perrum (Palomino). Antao Vaz is THE white grape of the Alentejo. Remember it because its a winner!
Image result for monte velho wine

Boas Vinhas 2011 Dao
Whites from the Dao region (just south of the Douro) tend to be rare beasts (in Ireland) these days. This fella is a tad old bit that in itself has advantages. The grapes used here are the Encruzado and Cercial Branco. The former of these is a specialty of the Dao region and gives its wines quite a rich assortment of perfumed fruits but also a sort of resin or a wood-sap quality. The Cercial is used mainly for acidity, bulk and light perfumes. A bit of age brings out the resin style as a nuttiness and this wine excels in this regard. Really good for creamed pasta dishes and lightly roasted meats


Image result for opta daoOpta Dao 2012
Interesting that member (in good standing!) Br liked this because it resembles a St Emilion. Good call. It has developed an earthiness with age. Made from Touriga Nacional, Alfrocheiro and Tinta Roriz it has a bricked ruby of medium depth, a red-fruit earth bouquet and a soft rich palate. I always find wines from Dao interesting
Distributed by Classic Drinks

Segredos de Sao Miguel  Alentejo 2016
Fabulous wine. Ripe fruit bursting from the glass. Agents Grace Campbell tells us that this is Ireland's leading wine from Portugal. We could all see why. It really is a wine you would want to purchase a second time. Acidity is excellent, tannins are soft - very much a 'smooth and silky' number as stated on the Corkscrew website who are selling this RIGHT NOW at only €60.00 for 6 bottles! where they show you the most recent Gold medal this wine has won

Segredos de Sao Miguel Alentejo
Image result for pocas vale de cavalos douro 2012

Pocas Vale de Cavalos Douro 2013
This is the unfortified Douro Superior red wine from Port House Pocas Junior. It is one of the wines that shows ho far the Douro has progressed with its unfortified offerings. This si  sensational in that it has an absolute presence and a really enormous 'fruit - quality - structural ratio'.  A classic blend of the Port grapes Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz and Tinta Barroca it's a classy and very rich style. Sipped on the terrace this is the complete accompaniment to a 'summer holiday novel reading session' as the sun sets and a light chill enters the patio...! 

Colours of Portugal       R- L: Alentejo, Douro, Dao. 



Tuesday, April 11, 2017

April 2017

The First Monday of April came along with an unexpected rush! Sorry for the late reminder. Mind you, great turnout .....

Kevin (that's me) brought a selection of wines that had been presented to him on a recent press trip to Ribera del Duero in northern Spain. He began by giving the Club a brief introduction to what is arguably the greatest region for growing Tempranillo in Spain.

Up to the 1970's this was a very poor region with at most 4 operating wineries. Vega Sicilia didn't count! Today there are over 400 wineries and most of the best sites are planted and farmed with a fabulous attention to both detail and hygiene.

Why is Ribera del Duero such a great vineyard?

It is Spain's highest vineyard area ranging from 800 to over 1000m above sea level. This produces a truly impressive diurnal range during the growing season and an annual variation from +42 to -20celsius! ). This ultimately produces an intense concentration of both fruit and structure into the grapes which are then translated into memorable wines.  

The central part of the administrative area hugs the Duero river with just the right combination of soils that the local clone of the Tempranillo grape - the Tinta Fino (Tinta del Pais) excels in a manner not found anywhere else. (see below for a photo of a selection of soils, vistas and meticulous neatness)

Ribera del Duero was 'found' and introduced to the world by visionaries such as Peter Sisseck at Hacienda Monasterio and Pingus and also by the timeless legacy of Vega Sicilia.  Other local estates, such as Emilio Moro, that had been farmed for many generations, were then discovered by admiring overseas markets just at the right time to allow them to prosper.

Modernity and traditional values sit easily beside one another in Ribera. A great example is where Jose Moro at Emilio Moro continues to develop an absolutely incredible family winery at Emilio Moro while at the same time has developed the ultra modern Cepa21 to make a completely different style of wine. The brilliant and Venerable. The brilliant and New.

Back to the tasting!! I'll write another blog on the region. When I do, I'll let you know.

Member Deirdre brought the Mystery Bottle and chose to intoduce it half way through the tasting. Once again it was a great addition to the evening and (once again) was an honest purchase that didn't try to fool anyone. Mind you, as it was a Cotes du Rhone Villages that's exactly what it did in the end!! In blind tastings they really do have the ability to end up in Chianti, northern Spain as well as France itself.....

This was our Ribera line up:

They reflected a number of things:

Wines from Ribera are dominantly red (permitted varieties are Tinta del Pais (Tempranillo) Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Garnacha Tinto with the latter often used in the Rose styles. White wine can only be made from the local Albillo grape (see below).

Red wines
Roble /Joven: between 3 and 12 months in barrel - released young
Crianza: 12 months in barrel - released on 2 to 6 years
Reserva: 36 months in barrel and bottle with at least 12 in barrel - released 3 to 10 years 
Gran Reserva: 60 month in barrel and bottle with at least 24 in barrel - realeased after Dec 1st five years after harvest

Garcia Viadero Albillo 2016 

This is mouthwateringly superb wine. Amost no-one makes a straight white Albillo in the region. This not because they have no potential. It's because the reds are so good! That's a pity because this wine screams quality with a lifted lemon and peach bouquet and a finely sculpted palate of minerality and ripe citrus fruits. I would go out of my way to find this. Loved by the Club. see Bodegas Valduero here

Martin Berdugo Barrica 2015

Martin Berdugo has a winery that is so new it positively sparkles! (the old one burnt to the ground after a lightening strike ... )  Barrica is referred to as a 'semi crianza with a stroll in the wood'. This is intensely fruited with soft and agreeable tannins - a hallmark of the region - and a long, deeply satisfying finish.

Ribera del Duero Crianza 2013

This was a bottle from the Consejo (governing authority) and used as a 'type example' of the style and vintage. It didnt disappoint. The ageing is on both the colour (slight tawny) and the nose. Great balance in the mouth. Tannins (once again) soft and inviting while the fruit is big, broad and bold.

Martin Berdugo MB 2011

MB, we are told, is 'Sophisticated'. In fact it's more than that. It's complex also. Compared to the 2013 a softness enters the equation here. The nose has less of the onbvious primary fruits and a lot more of the rich depth associated with good ageing. Ribera wines are 'fruit forward' This MB shows why as even with ageing the quality of the Tinta Pais takes centre stage and shines through.

Valduero Reserva 2011

There is so much to talk about with Valduero that it needs to be left to another day! Welcoming, homelines, honesty, warmth, charm, integrity .... they all fit well here.. This is a wine that might very well last for the next twenty years. It is charming and subtle and packed tight with nuance.

Read more here

This was another great night at the AC Wine Club. Hope everyone learnt lots and had a great time! Next Month we are held up with the Bank Holiday Monday so we'll meet on the the second Monday of the month instead. See you all then.

Friday, March 31, 2017


Member Brett brought a mystery bottle to the Club for our March meet. It was good fun working out what it was.

It was one of these!!!

The loose (very loose) theme of the evening was to 'not to give up on a wine after a first impression'. So we had a number of wines that were sort of surprising.

Corsican Nature Muscat Doux from SuperValu  2014 €6.99
I suppose the price was because they couldn't sell it at a higher one. Probably because as the Doux tell us it's quite sweet. The gas thing in Ireland is that if we taste sweet we turn away but if we are fooled into believing that a wines sweetness is in fact its fruitiness then we love it!! Case in point are
a lot of the GAllo wines, Blossom Hill and even McGuigan Black Label.
This Muscat is a great summer time drink. Serve it ice cold to dampen the sweetness. Then enjoy its rose petal lychee style.

This contrasted (very sharply) with :

Torreon de Paredes Sauvignon Blanc
A Chilean wine from a label that always carries its fruit with distinction. This shows as a very good
halfway house between an exuberant Marlborough NZ style and a traditional more reserved one from the Loire. Lots of fresh cut grass and a crisp heart to a long finish. Nothing exceptional but well made and memorable.

Now go back to the Corsican for a reality check on sweet v fruity.

Rioja Cebrel Joven Lidl c €6

I always like this wine for its great value and honest to goodness fruit. It didn't disappoint. We then compared it to its more expensive cousin from the same store.

Cosada Morales Rioja Reserva Privada c €14
Excllent style. Lots of soft oaking has spiced up the middle palate, bouquet and finish here.  Still, most of the members preferred the Joven!

Then we had the Mystery Bottle! It turned out to be very instructive as it had been brought up from France as part of a wine buying spree in France last summer. As it was a mostly Sauvignon Blanc based wine from Bordeaux it contrasted fabulously with the riper Torreon de Paredes. (It was served here as up to now we didn't know if it was a white or a red wine!! It was:

Domaine de Ricaud Entre Deux Mers 2015
I love Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blends from Bordeaux. Sadly the Semillon element is missing from so many Bordeaux whites these days. It showed well here with a fine textural palate and a stalky
mock aged bouquet. Good wine showing a bit of lees work creaming up the palate. Members twigged the Sauvignon straight away. Good for the members! Great for cheese and for ageing a couple of years.

Next up we had the Torreon de Paredes Cabernet Sauvignon
This is a wow and shows why Chile can be considered one of the finest growers of Cab Sauv in the
world. Delicous, strong and yet restrained. All round a good one.

Great tasting so far. I wanted to show how the Cabernet flavors can be rounded up. I introduced rustic elements onto the palate. To do this I opened a wine from Portugal - Porta 6 from O'Briens Wines. Great wine. Slightly roasted, very rich and yet soft tannins only. It was universally given a big thumbs up on the night.

Then I asked them to go back and try the Corsican --  again!!

Finally. I sometimes grab a bottle on the way out the door. Just so they could put the Corsican sweetness into context I brought a 10year old half bottle of Magnotta Limited Edition Sparkling Vidal Ice Wine 2006 from Canada. I'm a Canadain ice wine lover ....sin sceil eile.....

Now Vidal makes a white wine and this wine was no longer sparkling! It wasnt white any longer either!! Other words were used. Tawny, Magnificent, Sweet, Acidic, Brilliant. Raisins and light fudge compete with apricit and peach. Must be in excess of 200g res sugar per litre. Now this makes the Corsican seem positively dry!! Why is it tawny brown? No idea. The blue glass and my wardrobe should have protected it! Fascinating stuff

The AC Wine Club wuill meet again on the First Monday of April See you there.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Take to the Slopes with the Wines of Austria

         My latest column for Checkout Magazine was on the Wines of Austria. I opened with, 'A few years back I was presented with a cd by Austrian wine producer Willi Opitz titled ‘The Sounds of Wine’. It was a recording of his wines as they fermented in his cellars in Illmitz near the Hungarian border. Clearly it was unique!

         This month the AC Wine Club had a look at five wines from Austria. Unique. It's a word that sits comfortably alongside most of what Austria produces. Others are Interesting, Quality and Very Food Friendly.

The white Gruner Veltliner makes up about 30% of the Austrian trade. While its hallmarks include crisp, fine acidity, peach blossom and a spiced, long finish this months' two wines from Laurenz V showed just how versatile it's wines can be.
Laurenz V, Singing Gruner Veltliner 2013

Blossom bouquet, gentle fresh fuit, rich crisp palate and a fine finish with distinct hints of spice.
Universally liked by the Club. Excellent lifestyle wine. Would be fabulous 'By the Glass' or at a wine bar lunch.

Laurenz V, Charming Gruner Veltliner 2008

Yes. 2008!  Does this grape age well and if so, what happens to it?  The Laurenz V website tells us that 2008 was a 'winemakers vintage'. It was a perfect harvest and the fruit taken for this wine from the Kamptal Region spent 6 months on its lees in stainless steel tankes before bottling.

Obvious darkening with slight tawny hints but still clear and attractive. Nose has some damp earth elements and a bit of empty cigarette box allied to a persistent ripe peach skin. Fabulous alert palate with soft fruit and plenty of it supported by a rich acidity. The finish was mellow! The middle palate here is truly fabulous. Does Gruner age? Yes it does!! Or at least this Charming 2008 has. (Distributed By Gilbey/Gleeson)

Domane Wachau Terrassen Riesling Federspiel 2015

Wachau is reputed to be one of the most beautiful wine regions in the world. Domane Wachau is a co-op in the region and takes grapes from about 400 local farmers. That sort of makes it very, very influential. Good thing then that it's wines are so good. (recently taken on by Cassidy Wines for the Irish market)
TheTerrassen series of wines are made from grapes grown on rocky sites that are in themselves too small to make a wine. (The 'Federspiel' is a local designation of ripeness and roughly translates into about a 12.5%vol potential and uses the falcon as its sigil.) 
Absolutely fabulous wines. Loads of juicy citrus fruits with an immmensely impressive, brilliant and  balanced acidity. This is all about ripeness, freshness and length and does not show any developed Riesling effects such as old cheeses etc. Very much one for New World style aficionados.
Rabl Riesling Steinhaus

Rabl Steinhaus Riesling Kamptal DAC 2013

Imported by O'Briens Wines this is a classic where acidity meets rich ripe fruit and fair dose of ageing Riesling bouquets where whiffs of sewing machine oil fumes are noticeable. Love it. 

The term 'Minerality' is tossed around the wine trade often without having any apparent meaning. Here's a wine that might explain it! Terroir is where a wine comes from. It is the totality of its genesis. Sometimes this throws up a grape where fruit ripeness balances in with acidity in a way reminiscent of licking  freshly split limestone. I'm not talking flint here but 'tongue tingles'. That's minerality and this wine has it in abundance.   

Heinrich Red Burgenland 2015

I am an absolute fan of a number of the red grapes grown in Austria - I always hanker after St Laurent and love the Zweigelt. This Heinrich Red (Liberty Wines) is a blend where Zweigelt is to the fore (followed by Blaufrankisch and St Laurent) and shows very well with its light, almost austere, palate entry only to blossom into fresh bramble fruit. This in turn brings it back to the ripe and freshly scented bouquet. Interesting colour - rich cherry!  Really fine example of a modern wine trade. Burgenland, and epecially the Neusiedlersee in SE Austria, is home to 'ripeness'. As such, it is capable and produces some of the finest dessert wine styles in the world. It also ripens red grapes!! 

The AC Wine Club meets on the first Monday of each month
Village Centre, Ardclough Co Kildare.

We know nothing. We learn lots.