Tag Archives: Germany

Last-Minute Christmas Wine Help!

So it’s Christmas eve-eve, and you haven’t picked up wine for the coming days yet.

No worries, there’s still time, and to help I’ve picked out some favourites from a few importer/retailers around the country, so that hopefully some of my suggestions below shouldn’t be too far from where you live.

Please not though that for the sake of brevity I’ve picked out only a tiny selection of wines I’ve sampled recently from importers that have invited me to their tastings, so obviously this is by no means a definitive or exhaustive list.

As such the best default course of action – as I’ve always strongly recommended – is to go into your local independent off-licence (not supermarket) and tell someone there what you’re looking for; you’ll almost always end up with something exactly what you’re looking for and usually something better than expected, as well as supporting local businesses. Win win.

There are a couple of whites and a couple of reds from each supplier that I think will be pretty fail-safe for the coming days, covering both party wines and special bottles.

Good luck and merry Christmas!


NATIONWIDE: O’Brien’s

Wth outlets now in Cork, Limerick, Galway and lots of other places, you’re not too far from an O’Brien’s and their great range of wines.
Open Wednesday 23rd & Thursday 24th: until 8pm or 9pm (click here to check your local store)
Brocard Chablis – now €18.99
I covered this recently in my post about the recent O’Brien’s Fine Wine Sale, and I’ve no problem recommending it again: simultaneously steely, mineral and generous, this is textbook Chablis at a great price.

Château Fuisse Saint Veran – now €19.99
Though I would normally choose the more expensive wines of the Château Fuisse range – such as the Pouilly Fuissé ‘Tête de Cru’ I reviewed in the O’Brine’s Fine Wine Sale post, for €20 this is a great introduction to the brand and a fantastic white Burgundy in general. Zingy and refreshing but with some of that creamy oak influence underneath, this is perfect for those recovering from the oak overload of old.

Bellow’s Rock Shiraz – now €9.99
A consistently very good wine that’s always excellent value, this has all you’d want from Shiraz but without the usual blowsy, over-cooked characters: weight, balance and drinkability. An above-par party wine.

Monte Real Rioja Reserva – now €13.99
I continue to be perplexed as to how O’Brien’s continue to source this wine at this price. Rioja Reservas usually start around the €20 mark, but Monte Real often appears well below €15, which shouldn’t be possible given the quality. Still, take advantage while you can and buy a case or two then this comes on sale: it has all the trademark Rioja characteristics of dark fruit with vanilla and leather over a silky supple palate. A real Christmas winner.

 

KILKENNY: Le Caveau
An award-winning Burgundy specialist, it would be remiss of me not to feature some of my (slightly) more affordable favourites from the iconic region
Open Wednesday 23rd until 10pm, and Thursday 24th from 10.30am – 4.30pm

Olivier Leflaive, Bourgogne Blanc – €20.40
And excellent basic Bourgogne from an iconic producer, this ticks all the boxes and comes in at barely a shade over €20. Really highly recommended.

Vincent Girardin, Savigny-Les-Beaune ‘Vermots Dessus’ – The 2011 I tasted is €28.70, but the last bottles of 2006 are currently on sale for the silly price of €15 Complex and creamy with excellent length, this is a really excellent, characterful Burgundy.

Louis Boillot, Bourgogne Rouge – €26.50
Beautifully fragrant and smoky, with sweet red fruit and a herbal tinge. Soft and generous and surprisingly complex for a basic Bourgogne.

Maison Ambroise, Cotes de Nuits Villages – €28.90
My tasting notes say that this tastes of Christmas, so no better time to grab a bottle then! Clove and baking spices are overlaid by brambly red fruits and a lush expressiveness.

 

GALWAY: Cases Wine Warehouse
A great outlet run with passion, yet not lacking in some great-value finds
Open Wednesday 23rd until 7pm and Thursday 24th from10am to 3pm

Autoritas Reserva Viognier – now €9.95
I had this marked as “Very Good Value for Money” when it was €11.95, so now it’s Excellent Value for Money at the discounted price for Christmas. A surprising treat for the cost, it’s full and rich with peach and honey, though beware the 14% alcohol!

Lady Sauvignon – €11.95
Another bargain from Chile. Though it’s typically expressive and flavoursome in the New World style, I found the acidity to be a little less aggressive than we come to expect from the style. Everything else is in place, such as the grassy pea characteristics. One to buy in bulk.

Mister Shiraz – €13.95
Yes, you guessed it, Mister Shiraz is the partner to Lady Sauvignon above. But I’m not featuring it just to complete the pair: I found this to be much lighter than expected, which is a pleasant surprise as New World Shiraz at this price tends to be over-blown. Still, it’s deep and satisfying with blueberry and blackberry flavours.

Bagante Mencia – €13.95
One of my favourites from the Cases tasting a few months back, and again great value for money (a running theme from Cases it seems). I wrote about this for TheTaste.ie before, and I’d recommend it again: juicy, fresh, lively and all pleasure, it’s fun and sun in a glass.

 

BORDER COUNTIES: JN Wine
The famous JN Wine company has its wholesale business both north and south of the border and offer a mail-order service to match, but as it’s too late to avail of the latter then you’ll have to hop over to their store in Crossgar, Co. Down, to grab some of the bottles below.
(For more you can read a recent profile on James Nicholson – the JN of the company name – in the Irish Times here)

Sartarelli Verdicchio Classico – €14.99
I found this to be very good value for money: fresh and easy with approachable tropical fruit, but the palate still has some weight and seriousness to it. I’d say this would be a very versatile choice at the Christmas table.

Weingut Salwey, “Salwey RS” Weissburgunder – €21.99
Weissburgunder is the German name for Pinot Blanc, and this is a fine, rich example of the variety: it straddles the line between freshness and creaminess, giving sprightly citrus fruits over a lightly waxy palate. I’d recommend reading this post by Frankie Cook, where he gives a more detailed post on the background of this wine.

Bodegas Paco Garcia, Rioja Crianza – €18.99
Ah yes, where would Christmas be without Rioja? This is a younger Crianza style though, and as such is fresher and livelier than the Reservas we’re usually used to drinking. I thought the texture of this wine was excellent to, giving an all-round, crowd-pleasing quality drop.

Domaine Fournier, Bourgogne Rouge – €24.50
Yes, another Bourgogne Rouge, but when done well it really is excellent and the ideal Christmas wine in my opinion. Fournier produce another excellent example, with the texture of this wine the first thing to catch my attention, followed by some clove and Christmas spices. A really delicious wine.

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Highlights from The Corkscrew Winter Wine Fair – Part 2

 For Part 1 – which included my sparkling and white wine choices – click here.

Looking back over my notes now I realise that I regretfully missed quite a few wines that I would really loved to have spent some time over: a tableful of Portuguese dry wines ruefully skipped; another table that held nothing but sherries, a missed opportunity to  fill in a major gap in my knowledge; the reds of Domaine La Perriere and Domaine Sagat, whose whites I really enjoyed; the first ever craft beer section; and so on.

But such is life, and these things roll around again. Anyway, below are some reds that jumped out at me on the day:

Allegrini La Grola 2010
€27.95 from The Corkscrew, Mitchell & SonWineOnline.ie

A beautifully rich and intense wine, herb-tinged and deliciously structured. Another cracker from Allegrini, and an interesting mix of 80% Corvina, 10% Syrah and 10% Oseleta, the previously ‘lost’ grape native to the Veneto recently ‘resurrected’ by Masi.

 

Rodet Bourgogne Pinot Noir
€15.99 from The Corkscrew

For me the generic ‘Bourgogne Pinot Noir’ is something of a minefield. Burgundy is the home of Pinot Noir and where the best expression of the grape can be found, albeit at a price. The more affordable bottles – simply labelled Bourgogne (i.e. Burgundy) – mostly don’t do the region any justice and tend to be thin and cheap-tasting in my experience.

But this is the best generic Bourgogne I’ve come across. It’s noticeably light but has a lovely mineral streak over some delicate savoury flavours. Refreshing and elegant.

 

Niepoort Rótulo, Dão 2012
€17.50 from The Corkscrew

Dry Portuguese reds are definitely in the ascendancy at the moment, but it’s a style I’m ashamedly not familiar with. Interestingly,  Niepoort have opted to prioritise – nay, exalt – the Dão region very prominently on the colourful label ahead of the historic and famous Niepoort name, or indeed even its given

It’s very intense, taut and concentrated but with elegant floral and dark fruit flavours; the tannin is just right and calls out for food. But I won’t event try and pronounce the grapes: Touriga Nacional, Jaen and Alfrocheir.

 

Ziereisen Tschuppen 2011
€23.95 from The Corkscrew

“This is Pinot Noir”, said the man behind the table (who I later discovered was Ben Mason of Origin Wines). “Or do you mean … Spätburgunder?” said I, twinkle in my eye. “Ho ho ho” we chuckled together, knowingly, for what fun we trade insiders have .

Seriously, this was an amazingly impressive wine, a steal at under €25. It toes the line between the New World and Old World style of Pinot deftly, taking the savoury elegance of the latter and combining it with some headonistic richness of the former. A really notable wine.

 

Château du Cèdre Heritage Malbec 2011
€14.95 from Le Caveau, The Corkscrew, TheWineShop.ie

Another great value wine from Le Caveau with fresh, juicy, ripe sweet fruit. Given it’s organically produced the value is even more impressive.

 

Chaume-Arnaud Côtes du Rhône 2012
€16.55 from Le Caveau, MacGuinness Wine Merchants

Another VGVFM (Very Good Value For Money) wine; medium-bodied, spicy and noticeable tannins that cry out for some meaty food. A traditional blend of 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 20% Cinsault.

 

Maison Ambroise, Cotes de Nuits Villages 2010
€28.90 from Le Caveau and MacGuinnes Wine Merchants

A delicious, fresh wine of cherry and red berries but also an underlying savoury note, light but packed with flavour, really beautiful. Again organic; chapeau to Le Caveau for sticking their neck out and producing such ethical, delicious wines for such amazing prices.

 

Mouchão 2007
€38.95 from The Corkscrew

An incredible, amazing nose of smoky complexity. Outstanding stuff, deep, intense, multi-layered, meaty, taut and with tingling acidity. An outstanding heavy-hitter, made predominantly from Alicante Bouschet with a small percentage of Trincadeira

 

Château de Pierreux Brouilly Réserve 2007
€24.95 from The Corkscrew

A Beaujolais no doubt! I’m usually wary of the region, which I’m aware is a sweeping generalisation, but good examples for me tend to be few and far between, diamonds in the rough. This is one such wine, though; smooth and delicious with some gentle spice , noticeable tannin and a lip-smacking finish.

Danish Wine … Yes, Really

There seems to be a perception by the public in general that wine is only made in in warm climates – basically, the Mediterranean, South America, South Africa and Australia. I’d be the first to raise my hand and say that, despite massive progress in recent years, wine is still a relatively complicated subject for the common punter to grasp, but I’m still taken aback by how many people still don’t realise that wine is made in places like Germany, let alone the fact that they produce some of the world’s finest.

Or if they do, a wry look overcomes their eyes followed with the words “ah, yeah … Blue Nun,” followed by a wistful (or pained) gaze into the middle distance as sickly sweet-fuelled exploits of a few decades past are recalled. In other words, countries like Germany, Greece, Lebanon and Slovenia, for example, are usually associated by the masses not for their fine (or rapidly improving) wine scene, but instead for beer, corruption, war or being mistaken for Slovakia, respectively.

Even then, despite knowing that wine can theoretically be produced anywhere between the 30th and 50th parallels north and south of the equator – which encompasses a ginormous area of the world and quite a few countries you definitely wouldn’t think of – I’m sometimes surprised to hear of wines being made in areas I never would have thought of. Just last week, for example, I heard on the radio that wine is produced in all 50 of the United States of America, including Hawaii and Alaska – again, not theoretically impossible but something I would never have thought feasible at least.

Degnemosegaard

So I was surprised to discover, on a recent trip to Copenhagen, a Danish wine called Degnemosegaard. I shouldn’t really have been that surprised – I recall reading this article in Decanter a few years ago about a new German wine region being established on Sylt, an island that straddles the border of Germany and Denmark (click here to see where it is). So it wouldn’t take a great leap of imagination to assume that they could make wine in Denmark proper.

But to come across a bottle in Copenhagen, ready and willing and commercially available, brought this odd reality to life. It was picked up in the incredible new addition to Copenhagen called Torvehallerne, a market involving over 60 permanent stalls under two separate roofed sections covering everything from the usual butchers, bakers, and cheesemongers to a paleo café, a Cava bar, an organic spice seller, a Francophile deli and one shop that sells nothing but lakrids, that God-awful liquorice they love so much over there. It’s what CHQ in Dublin could and should be, but isn’t and probably never will.

So, back to the wine; ready to get tongue-tied? Degnemosegaard Vinlaug is based nea the town of Skibby, located on the large Danish island called Sjælland on which Copenhagen is located, itself only 60km down the road . Founded in 2002 with the first harvest in 2005, they produce two reds and a white. The reds are made using grapes I’ve never heard of – Rondo, Regent and Leon Millot – and come either as a “Red Cuvée” or, in a decision that is achingly stereotypical of the region, a “Light Red Cuvée.”

While the Mediterraneans name their cuvées – or ‘blends’ – after lovers, poems, goddesses,  legends, historical landmarks and any other host of romantic things; where the New World wineries choose locally unique flora and fauna, geological oddities, discoverers or abstract notions; you can depend on the Scandinavians to go Route One and call it straight. Red Cuvée or Light Red Cuvée it is, then.

But it was the white we had in Copenhagen, their “Hvidvin,” which means, er, ‘white wine’. It was made from Solaris, another grape I never heard of. In fact when I picked up the bottle first I mused about their naming of the wine as ‘Solaris’, pondering whether it had something to do with the Northern Lights visible not too far north of the country, or perhaps the little daylight the country receives in the depths of winter and the resultant astral array, or maybe some esoteric anecdote relating to the winery. That was until someone standing next to me Googled it and discovered that Solaris is a grape, created – created! – “in 1975 at the grape breeding institute in Freiburg, Germany by Norbert Becker” (Wikipedia). How fun.

So despite all romanticisms dispelled – a very Danish situation I’d have to say – we were nevertheless intrigued enough to buy a bottle between us. Three of us chipped in because it cost 150 kroner, or just over €20, for a 500ml bottle, meaning the equivalent of around €30 for a regular bottle. Not cheap for a curiosity.

Degnemosegaard FullSo, how did it taste?

I suppose we got off to an inauspicious start when the girl wrapping up the bottle said, smiling and with some pride, that it was “a very Danish wine, very Danish … it’s very sour.” Glancing sidelong at my friends with an eyebrow raised, I assumed that there was something lost in translation; perhaps she meant acidic, or tart?

Nope. Sour it was, and how very so. The initial bang of vinegar softened out – once my tastebuds were suitably numbed – to a sort of unripe green apple flavour and its associated violent acidity. There wasn’t much more beyond that I’m afraid. I desperately desired some seafood to perhaps soften out the acidity or at least put it to work, but sitting as we were in an IKEA-clad apartment in the centre of Copenhagen, fresh shellfish weren’t exactly at hand. The bottle wasn’t finished.

So an interesting, if cautionary, tale, but it was fun to have Danish wine in Denmark. Believe it or not we actually make our own wine here too: Lusca, based in Lusk, just outside of Dublin, and not too long ago Longueville House in Mallow, Co. Cork made their own wine too, before scrubbing up the lot in favour of more palatable – and commercially sensible – apple trees from which they now make their lauded cider.

In fact, in the spirit of things I might grab a bottle of Lusk wine soon and report back. A ‘Weird Wines from Weird Places’ series, anyone?

 

Degnemosegaard Solaris Hvidvin 2010
www.degnemosegaard.dk
Kr150, approximately €20, from Omegn, Torvehallern, Copenhagen
100% Solaris