Monday 31 May 2010
Friday 28 May 2010
A while ago Superquinn launched an own label ‘Classic Collection’ range of wines. The idea was that these wines would represent classic grapes from classic wine regions at affordable prices. The range has now risen to 42 different wines. That’s impressive. I attended a tasting of the range recently and found wines that are well worth recommending. It should be noted that, due to volcano flight delays, the Chilean wines had not arrived for this tasting. I will bring these to your attention at a later date. At all times bear in mind the value offered here is very good indeed.
CLASSIC COLLECTION French Sauvignon Blanc – Very acceptable. Soft and not aggressive. Good patio wine. €7.00
CLASSIC COLLECTION White Bordeaux – A muted Sancerre style. Very French Again very acceptable. Rise above the patio to accompany a warmed salad with vinaigrette. €8.00
CLASSIC COLLECTION Muscadet Sur Lie – A bit ordinary. Pity. Finish is good though. Don’t drink on its own but throw it a steamed cod. €8.00
CLASSIC COLLECTION White Burgundy - No. Doesn’t work at all. Far better examples in the market. €10.00
CLASSIC COLLECTION Petit Chablis – I cannot stand this wine but I can see it attracting an audience. Very lean (bracing acidity) and very dry. €10.00
CLASSIC COLLECTION French Chardonnay – Confected and makie up style of wine. Can’t find any redeeming factors here. €7.00
CLASSIC COLLECTION Pinot Grigio delle Venezie – Not bad at all. True to variety with light pear and melon. €7.00
CLASSIC COLLECTION Soave – Almost there. A dull and flat style showing some almond and pear. I’d like to see more verve. €7.00
CLASSIC COLLECTION Australian Chardonnay – Won’t upset anyone. It’s a ‘big tank’ style of wine where simple primary fruits are important and nothing else matters! €8.00
CLASSIC COLLECTION Australian Semillon Sauvignon – I like this a lot. Good smokey background. Serious palate. No green leaves but a lot of good fruit. €8.00
CLASSIC COLLECTION New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc – Very herbaceous green pea aromas and flavours. Just what the punter wants from NZ. €10.00
CLASSIC COLLECTION South Africa Chenin Blanc – Tiny fruit definition doesn’t lift this from being quite ordinary. €TBC
CLASSIC COLLECTION Colombard Chardonnay – This surprised me! I liked how it was made and what it is doing even though I dislike it myself! Fresh and fat fruit fills the palate. €7.00
CLASSIC COLLECTION Pinot Grigio Rosé delle Venezie – Rose petal water in a light and innocuous sense. No point to this wine. €7.00
CLASSIC COLLECTION USA Zinfandel Rosé – Superquinn buyer described this as “sweet as f***”, mmmm, right. Nothing wrong with the wine but it is very, very sweet! €7.00
CLASSIC COLLECTION Red Burgundy – All bit ordinary. Reasonably accurate though and better than quite a few of its kind already in the market. €12.00
CLASSIC COLLECTION Red Bordeaux – This is OK. Nothing to jump up and down about but then has anyone tried some of the branded Bordeaux’s (Mouton excepted) recently! €10.00
CLASSIC COLLECTION French Merlot – Merlot with a very big plummy colour! Seems to have been concentrated before being bottled! Punter won’t care. It’s juicy and goes down well. €7.00
CLASSIC COLLECTION French Shiraz – Grand. Acceptable. Errs on the soft side and tries too hard to be commercial. Otherwise its almost there and won’t disappoint a burger. €7.00
CLASSIC COLLECTION Cotes du Rhone 2008 – Not a big bouquet but a good palate; rich and plumy, well structured. Good stuff and can handle a steak. €7.00
CLASSIC COLLECTION Valpolicella – Good cherry colour; a bit tough and lacks elegance with a stewed fruit at its heart. Don’t like the wine making here. €7.00
CLASSIC COLLECTION Valpolicella Ripasso – Cracker of a wine. Love everything about it. Best in tasting. Well defined, clean lines, holds itself on the plate with ripe and interesting fruit showing cherry tinges and ripeness all to lovely finish. Great value. €10.00
CLASSIC COLLECTION Montepulciano d’Abruzzo – Pretends to be big but really comes across as a bit of a bully with a lot of tough juice. €8.00
CLASSIC COLLECTION Chianti – Truly awful stab at making a chianti. Tough and smelly. €8.00
CLASSIC COLLECTION Australian Cabernet Merlot - This works and gives us a sweet and sour style ripe and rich fruit. Well structured and very commercial. Excellent reception wine. €8.00
CLASSIC COLLECTION Australian Shiraz – Boot polish and hot style. Doesn’t work at all. €8.00
CLASSIC COLLECTION South African Pinotage Shiraz – Good idea for blend. Accurate wine with good fruit and varietal definition. Palate has a green pepper edge to it that some won’t like. €TBC
CLASSIC COLLECTION USA Ruby Cabernet Shiraz – Peculiar wine. A mish mash of lots of very odd flavours. €7.00
Thursday 27 May 2010
We'll be back. The Dipsos 'aint finished yet!
Tuesday 25 May 2010
Andrew opened these wines and then followed the tasting with a spectacular lunch at which he showed off his Peter Lehmann 2001 Reserve Semillon and the oh so soft Peter Lehmann 1997 Eight Songs Shiraz.
2003 Stelvin closure: Bright and alert with a fine developed bouquet showing light blue cheese and rich ripe citrus fruits. Finely tuned palate with tremendous succulent fruit edged by a talc like acidity. Acidity and structure are well balanced against the fruit and are not allowed to take over. Will age well.
2001 Stelvin closure: Well developed bouquet showing well; obvious and strong with varietal fruit to fore; lemon and lime with good depth of interesting fruit; good cheese, lime and mineral nose; lively palate. Back palate grows brilliantly in the mouth. Super structure throughout. Showing very young.
1997 Natural Cork: I could say its simply dull, flat and uninteresting but that would show a bias against this style of wine where a savoury lime element replaces strong varietal one. Wigans puts this dullness down to the cork closure and says he will never go back to one again.
1994 Natural Cork: Not as dull as 1997 but dulled nonetheless. Shows a developed varietal nose where there is very little cheese cum diesel but a lot of tertiary aged development. No vibrancy left in the wine.
All Natural Cork save the 2005 under Stelvin. It will be stelvin for our market all the way from here on in. Wood used was all American oak up to 1995; increasing amounts of French oak were introduced from '95 to '02; now it's about 90% French. In addition the wine prior to '98 spent up to two and a half years in oak, now its only 18 months. All Barossa fruit; 2009 has allowed Eden Valley/Barossa fruit into Stonewell for the first time.
Winner of Jimmy Watson trophy 1990. This put Peter Lehmann onto the map and he hasn't looked back since. Andrew Wigans has made all 31 vintages of the Stonewell Shiraz. This was his third. In fantastic condition and drinking with verve and enthusiasm. Impressively smooth and velvety with no end of charm and deeply seated rich fruits.
1990: looks good but seems dull on nose. Dull but smooth palate. Fine earthy character doesn't rescue it from seeming to be dropping away.
1991: Looks great and good lift on the nose of vibrant aged fruit. Quickly disappoints on the palate with a background of old soggy wood showing through a thinned out fruit.
1992: Ageing well. Fine mahogany. Smooth and rich with lots of developed aged character but no tainted age. Lots of good berry fruit left in this wine in a warming and interesting way.
1993 Rich browned pour leads to a wine showing too much all at the same time. All a bit clumsy and up front and far too tannic at the finish. Not aging well.
1994: Good looking wine and pours well; poor nose; soggy wood; fine big leiderhausen finish but mid palate is scary. Not good.
1995: Well browned tawny looking good. Fine peppered nose with a ripe fruit driven palate showing good smooth effects. Strong and interesting flashes throughout with a tannic structure that suggests excellent further ageing.
1996: (Andrew Wigans says this has shown well elsewhere this year). Poor wine here. Had an almost youthful appearance but then descended into a woody mess.
1998: Outstanding wine showing quite brilliantly. Looks good and rises with a tremendous lift of light pepper, liquorice and deeply ripened cherry notes; chocolate and herbs sit easily in a big palate with additions of ripe fig and strong fruity notes. Love the use of wood here which really does allow an amazing fruit to express itself to perfection.
1999: Muted on the bouquet which was a bit of surprise as the palate has a fabulous array of all the right 'pieces', It's almost a case of you name it and you'll find it. Nothing very expressive though. Its fast asleep, soft and inviting and so lacks oomph. Shows so well on the finish that I'd be more than happy to have a few bottles around in a few years time.
2002: First of the obviously young wines; lots of useful elements and few unusual ones. Super mouth feel, weight acid and tannin with a strong sense of 'Australia' about it with light mint and eucalypt character melded onto the darker nature of the grape. Winning wine that has it all and has been 'worked' very well at the winery. One to watch. (Andrew reports that this was the coolest vintage in Stonewell's history)
2004: Super young pour - you just know its going to hurt! Still closed on the nose; fine elements throughout, crunchy and chewy tannin; immense fruit married to delicate wood; acid and earth wine. Allow it to age.
2005: First Stonewell under Stelvin. Not as young as expected. Vibrant and lively fruit showing excellent pepper and dark fruit elements. Very big and full style wit immense depth. Wine to keep and a wine to drink! Is this, as some suggested (and one objected to), the result of the screwcap or is it a result of the vintage? Ah, the benefits of time. Let's wait and see.
Monday 24 May 2010
Domaine Chandon is very pretty place. Don't mind the banks and then banks and then more banks of technical looking fermentation vessels. This is a true 'tank farm'. No, look at the view and the peaceful evening looking out onto the vineyards with a bottle of Chandon Prestige Cuvee 2002.....ah, but I'm running ahead of myself! We were greeted by enthusiastic winemaker, Glenn Thompson.
He brought us into the winery and basically told us that they are fabulously successful and just seem to keep expanding all of the time and the French really do leave them alone to get on with it and they now produce 8 million fizzing liters a a year and now have access to 2 million liters of reserve wines and hey you must compare our '97 vintage with our '07 one! And we did. Both the wines and the numbers are truly impressive. The wine formerly known as Green Point and now named as Domaine Chandon is memorable.
Then I mentioned the word Sabrage - call it sparkling courage. (Sabrage is the art of taking off the neck of a bottle of sparkling with a sabre - or something that looks and acts like a sabre!) Seconds later Glen was back with a bunch of bottles, safety glasses and yes folks a sabre! I knew the theory. It was time to go the whole way. One whack and Glenn had his neck off. Two whacks and mine was off - clean as a whistle.
Wines tasted with Glenn also included Chandon Brut, Chandon Vintage Brut '06, Chandon Brut Rose, Chandon Prestige Cuvee 2002. The latter spent 7 years on its lees and showed an immense depth of fruit minerality, acidity and freshness! Not massive on autolysis, this is a flavour driven wine that attacks most of the senses all at the same time. Good wines, good surroundings and good people.
We drove on to the village of Healesville where Phil Sexton chose to build his Giant Steps winery. Yes, a winery in the town. What a great little winery. Winemaker Steve Flamstead explained how they designed and then built the winery from the ground up only a few years ago. Talk about Toys for the Boys! Look it up at the Giant Steps/Innocent Bystander.
Phil Sexton is a young (well he still looks it!) and bright lad who had already completed a few careers before he built the Giant Steps winery in Healesville in 2006. (Pilot, brewer and winemaker owner at Devils Lair in WA to name a few). Its a quirky and very engaging place where there's as much attention given to the ambiance, food and gift shop as there is to the winery itself. The whole place is one big fun palace. To say this is a haven for passion is only beginning to describe the venture!
Love the wine! Giant Steps may be a more serious proposition than Innocent Bystander but both are brilliantly made. (Ireland only sees the Innocent Label) Both Phil and Steve gave us a wide ranging tasting and then treated us to food and a stack of wine from the restaurant. I liked the way they showed us around the restaurant wine menu without favouring their own wines. This is a list of their favourite wines from all over Australia and this is a good place to show them off.
Wines tasted from the winery: a savoury Innocent Bystander Pinot Gris, a big wine fresh heart '09 Innocent Bystander Chardonnay, an outstanding Sexton Vineyard Giant Steps Chardonnay '08, a fantastically 'long' Tarraford Vineyard '08 Chardonnay, a very cool Arthurs Creek Vineyard '08 Chardonnay, an Innocent Bystander '08 Pinot Noir (this is GOOD), Tarraford Vineyard '08 Pinot Noir, my favourite wine the Gladysdale Pinot Noir '08 (extraordinary perfume), Sexton Vineyard '08 Pinot Noir ' Innocent bystander Shiraz, Harry's Monster 2008 (Bordeaux blend; brilliant style and not a monster at all!) and finally flavour and favour of the month the Innocent Bystander 2010 Moscato which is now being filled into kegs for pub use across Australia.
What a day and then we stayed at the Healesville Hotel. Shared bathrooms and more than a touch of granny's B&B. Nothing better before we headed back to the airport in the morning and on up to the Adelaide and The McLaren Vale.
Wednesday 19 May 2010
Touchwine Ireland 2010 takes place this Sunday at Monkstown Rugby Club/Pembroke Cricket Club in Sandymount.
What's on offer?
Well lots of fast and furious touch rugby to start (2pm - 4.30pm). 12 teams looking to win the crown from the 2009 winners Ely Wine Bars.
So will Ely Wine Bars retain their crown or will ex Ely employee Kevin Mc Mahon's Wild Goose Grill take the day?
Will the Wolf Blass Eagles soar over the Xanadus? Will the Tim Adams Terroirists scare off the Wine Dipsos? Hey that's my Team WE NEED MORE PLAYERS!!
Will the St Hallett Wild Ferments get stuck against Grant Burges Barons? Will Febvre Dead Arm Cassidy Wines?
Join us on the day to find out.
Wine makers joining us on the day:
Chester Osborn (d'Arenberg), Willie Lunn (Yering Station), Glenn Goodall (Xanadu Wines), Andrew Wigan (Peter Lehmann Wines)
Wine Tasting from 5pm
John Wilson (Irish Times) has selected his match day 22 wine team (Wilson's Wallaby Warriors).
With a powerful, robust pack, a zippy, elegant, racy back line and a versatile and an 'always have one in your fridge' subs bench,
it's a strong line up. Coach Wilson will be with us on the day to present his team for tasting.
Children’s Entertainment. from 4.30pm Face painting and Clown entertainment for the young to enjoy.
So we are building towards a great day. Players, friends, supporters, families and wine lovers are all welcome to join us.
The Cost…free (except for the bar–b-q), though donations for our two charities Focus Ireland and the Hutt Street Centre) will be encouraged.
Tuesday 11 May 2010
Monday 10 May 2010
All the talk in the Yarra is about the extreme bush fires they had a year ago. Evidence is everywhere. People died. Houses disappeared. The stories of what the sounds and sights of the fire were like are truly harrowing. Most vineyards were spared and aside from smoke taint for the year in question its now business as usual for the vineyards of the Yarra.
Our first port of call was at the de Bortoli. We were met by winemaker David Slingsby-Smith (call me Slingers mate..) he gave us a tour of the vineyards which are very, can I use the word, pretty.
Windy Peak Shiraz Nouveau
Yering Station Yarra Valley
Friday 7 May 2010
We were asked (by the Ambassador no less - mind you when he heard the frosty reception his suggestion received he said he was only joking!) to make sure we used correct Italian pronounciations when reading Italian labels. Eh, yeah OK and I suppose the same applies in reverse? Like, don't ask for a pint of Guinness in Dublin unless you have the dialect clued in? 'Ri, givsa pine, bud,' should sound great with a Milanese accent!
Thursday 6 May 2010
Both Cliff and Stuart are passionate winemakers. They have a deep understanding of the wine making process and and offer an immense insight into local terroir and its effects on the grapes which they grow and work with. Woodlands and Stuart are both unashamedly Bordeaux fanatics. We were treated to their 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon. Well worth the praise and awards being lavished onto it as one of the top Cabernets in the whole of Australia. Have a look at the local geography/geology on the Woodlands website. Its a model of how a boutique winery can project itself.
One of the great lessons I learnt from the guys was the value of understanding local terroir. The Margaret River wine region has more than one distinct sub region (even though its little more than a 100 x 25kms in size) and it really does make difference where the grapes are grown - it matters a lot. So, if you see Willyabrup on the label as opposed to Wallcliffe treat them as you would Bourg or Blaye versus Pomerol or St Emilion!
biodynamic philosophy and even brought us into her vineyard to 'feel' the soils. (see photo). They looked good enough to eat - lucky worms. Cullen is at the very top end of Australian wines. It's a fine endorsement of biodynamic principles. The Cullen story however is very much a mother (Diana) and daughter (Vanya) one based in a vineyard begun by Dr Kevin Cullen a GP from Perth. Look it up at http://www.cullenwines.com.au/
Cullen appeared under blue skies and the sight of Vanya Cullen up to her breeches in a very busy winery playing with an amazing new basket press. She took time out to explain her