Tag Archives: Masi

Brosé, Pink Wine, Blush: A Rosé By Any Other Name…

We seem to have an unusual aversion to rosé wines here in Ireland. Only 3% of all the wine we drink is pink, which is some distance off the 10%-11% figure recorded by our neighbours in Britain; even the US is experiencing a boom in the style, with the hashtag “#Brosé” doing its best to undo old perceptions of rosé as being “just a girls’ drink”.

The lack of knowledge about rosé might be a factor. Many believe that it’s just red and white wine mixed together, whereas in fact that’s rarely the case (though I’ve one such rarity below) and in fact it’s illegal to do so in Europe (except Champagne, but that’s another story). Others apparently believe that rosé is just red wine that’s been ‘watered down’.

Brosé, Pink Wine, Blush A Rosé By Any Other Name…

In fact, since red wine gets its colour and flavour from its skins, then the less time the grape juice spends in contact with them then the lighter the colour of the wine. So in theory rosé can be considered a really light red wine … simple really (well, it can get a little technical, but that’s for another day).

Either way, the inference of these popular misconceptions is that rosé is somewhat inferior, which couldn’t be further from the truth: instead of comparing them to reds and whites, rosé needs to be considered a style in itself rather than a pale (or dark) imitation of the others.

So if you’re looking for a nice rosé this Valentine’s Day, look no further than the list below. But before you do, I’ve a huge admission: I’m not such a big fan of rosé myself.

I do appreciate the style, but I don’t instinctively seek it out. If anything though, this should serve as a stronger commendation to the below wines – if they’ve managed to bowl me over, then they’re sure to turn even the most sceptical wine drinker.

And, of course, these would all work great around the world’s annual celebration of love. Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

Brosé, Pink Wine, Blush A Rosé By Any Other Name…JN Sparkling Saumur Rosé

RSP €23.95 from JNwines.com

First, a pink bubbly: this is a special bottling for importer/retailer JN Wines made by Bouvet-Ladubay of the Loire region in France and made from the often-overlooked Cabernet Franc grape (and I’d really highly recommend their regular white sparkling too).

It has a lovely ripe strawberry-and-cream character, and the palate has a  deliciously creamy mousse also. Thankfully it manages to avoid the cloying sweetness than can befall sparkling rosés at this price point, and indeed it has a slight bitter edge at the finish, which sounds off-putting but is actually great asset to have when it comes to pairing with food: think poached salmon or charcuterie.

Brosé, Pink Wine, Blush A Rosé By Any Other Name…Miguel Torres Santa Digna Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon Rosado

RSP €13.99 and widely available: e.g. Mitchell & Son, Dublin; Jus De Vine, Portmarnock, Co. Dublin; Sweeneys  of Glasnevin, Dublin; Ardkeen Stores, Waterford; Bradley’s, North Main Street, Cork; O’Driscoll’s of Ballinlough, Cork; Amber of Fermoy, Co. Cork

Though not necessarily unusual, a rosé (or Rosado in Spanish) made from Cabernet Sauvignon is nevertheless not common, at least here in Ireland. Which is a shame really, as the result can be spectacular, such as this one from the Chilean outpost of the famous Torres family.

Expect blackcurrant, of course, but also some cranberry and redcurrant that only Pacific Cabernet Sauvignon rosés can offer.  It is also somewhat weightier than most rosés that we’re familiar with – so much so you could say it’s not too far off a light red wine. Delicious with cured sausages, meat pies and many pasta dishes … and, remarkably, it’s even perfect with notoriously difficult sweet-and-sour Chinese dishes.

Brosé, Pink Wine, Blush A Rosé By Any Other Name…Kir-Yianni Akakies Rosé

RSP €16 from Grapevine, Dalkey

I recommended this rosé before, and I was so impressed I felt it beared repeating, especially given the pink theme for this time of year.

Similar to the Miguel Torres above, this 100% Xinomavro from Greece is more akin to a light red than a rosé, but it dials up the beefy, meatiness more than its Chilean counterpart above.

The Amyndeon appellation in north-western Greece, from which this wine is sourced, is the only Greek PDO for rosé wines. It has smoky, macerated strawberry and raspberry aromas with a balanced medium body. Again it would be great with some charcuterie and even lighter meat dishes such as pork.

Brosé, Pink Wine, Blush A Rosé By Any Other Name…Masi Rosa dei Masi

RSP €18.99 from Baggot Street Wines, Dublin; Ardkeen Stores, Waterford; Fine Wines, Limerick; Nolans of Clontarf, Dublin; Redmonds of Ranelagh, Dublin

I’m a long-time fan of the family-owned Masi winery in Italy’s Veneto. They’re most famous for establishing the ‘ripasso’ tradition with Campofiorin as well as their beefy Amarone Costasera.

A couple of years ago they released an innovative rosé made 100% with the native Venetian Refosco grape, produced by semi-drying a portion of these grapes on traditional bamboo racks using the ‘appassimento’ technique. This process helped soften out the often harsh aspects of the Refosco grape and added some ripeness and complexity of the final blend.

It has fresh raspberries and wild cherries over a zippy palate, making it great with food such as antipasti, light pasta dishes, shellfish and seafood. It’s worth mentioning its elaborate rococo label too, perfectly romantic for this time of year.

Brosé, Pink Wine, Blush A Rosé By Any Other Name…Flaxbourne Sauvignon Blanc Rosé

€15.99 from Marks & Spencer

Here’s an unusual one for you. There’s no denying that we’re a nation of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc lovers, so why not go off-piste a little with a rosé version?

They’re cheating a little here in that it’s actually a blend of 97.5% regular Sauvignon Blanc that’s ‘tinted’ with 2.5% Merlot, but the result is a not-unpleasant strawberry-tinged version of the New Zealand ‘savvie’ that we’ve come to know and love.

So if you or a loved one are a die-hard Marlborough Sauvignon fan, add a twist and a bit of spice to Valentine’s Day this year with this approachable oddity.

This article first appeared on TheTaste.ie

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.

Richie at Masi

A Visit to Masi: Part 2 of 3

This is the second post of three – click here for the first post, and here for the third.

The Cellars

From there we descended to a couple of unassuming rooms that contained some of Masi’s experimental endeavours. Scores of bottles, both in racks and boxes, were tagged at their necks with hand-written labels and containing ancient grapes resurrected and unusual varieties vinified in various ways.

Oseleta is one such grape that Masi has ‘resurrected’ after having being forgotten or ignored for decades. In typically Masi fashion they have raised this baton and carried it proudly. This is a grape historically disregarded for its difficulty, producing tannic and harsh wines, but Masi have been unafraid to take the bull by the horns and have been experimenting in a multitude of ways in order to coax the best out of what they have come to see as something of a prodigal son returned.

These experimental bottlings sat beside square barrels, another Masi trial but one abandoned given the difficulty of keeping the multiple corners watertight, as well as other regular barrels made of weird and wonderful woods, and cross-sections of a number of soil samples taken at various points in the Veneto in Masi’s effort to identify the perfect sites for their plantings.

Masi Experimental Barrels and Bottlings
Masi’s Experimental Barrels and Bottlings

From there we descended again to their cellars proper, where hundreds of barrels in various sizes, shapes and woods were spread across a maze of irregularly-sized rooms. These also included walls of bottled Amarone that lay ageing, tightly packed in dark hulking masses, as well as some mosaics, sculptures and some ornate barrels – one of which, filled with Amarone, was to be signed by the winners of the upcoming Masi Prize ceremony only a few weeks after our visit.

The barrels ranged in size from the regular barriques you see in winery photographs and which hold 225 litres of wine, right up to fusto Veronese which hold 600 litres. I think there were some old-school botte that held 1,000L+, but by now my head was swimming so excuse me if I’ve forgotten a few details!

Needless to say it was a fantastic endeavour, but the best was yet to come.

The Tasting

We emerged, blinking, into the bright reception hall of a modest Masi’s villa which sits next to their workaday offices, from where we were led to the left to a dining room where a full tasting session was laid out for us.

I was aware of a tasting of wines at the end of the tour, but not to this extent: a beautifully delicate room complete with walls adorned with frescos of orange trees and windows framing the beautifully hazy Venetian countryside outside held a long mahogany dining table with each place complete with official tasting mats, booklets, pens, pre-poured glasses of wine and packets of grissini to nibble on. Now this is how you do a wine tasting!

The Incredible Tasting Room at Masi
The Incredible Tasting Room at Masi

After a short video introduction we began with the Serego Alighieri Posessioni Rosso 2011, a blend of Veneto’s Corvina and Molinara with Tuscany’s Sangiovese. Serego Alighieri was a descendent of the poet Dante Alighieri, he of The Divine Comedy fame, and Masi now produce wines on behalf of the current head of the family, Count Pieralvise di Serego Alighieri. Their property in the Veneto was bought as far back as 1353 by Pietro Alighieri, Dante’s son, who had followed his father into exile in Verona from Tuscany and had stayed in the area after the poet’s death. They don’t do history by halves here in Italy.

Anyway, this wine is their entry-level one, and accordingly is a light, fruit-forward, spiced cherry quaffer for every day drinking. A nice simple start to the tasting.

Next was Masi’s own Brolo Campofiorin Oro 2009, the next step up from Masi’s ‘sort-of-Ripasso,’ Campofiorin. This differs from the regular Campofiorin in that instead of the standard Venetian blend of Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara, the latter in this case is swapped out for 10% of Oseleta, the resurrected grape mentioned in my last post.

But I found this to be somewhat ‘hot’ and overpowering, which with a little time in glass gave up some clove and pepper characteristics along with some savoury notes. However this ‘big brother’ of an already powerful wine I think needed some extra time in the bottle to mellow out.

The regular Campofiorin for its part, though not tasted that day, is soft and supple and more easily approachable than the Brolo Campofiorin Oro and is widely available here.

We then moved on again to another Serego Alighieri wine, this time their Valpolicella dell’Anniversario 2009. I had this before and loved it, and this tasting was no different. It’s a really premium Valpolicella, leagues away from the everyday Valpolicellas enjoyed on more casual occasions. Rich, deep and surprisingly aromatic, it had notes of dried fruit due to some of the blend containing apassimento grapes and had fantastic length with a nice bit of subtle grip at the end. On return I got come violet and dried tea. A delight.

Then it was on to the first of two Amarones, beginning with Masi’s flagship Costasera 2008. It has in intensely concentrated nose that with some time reveals tobacco, leather and again some clove and tea leaves. These repeat themselves on the palate which carries an illusion of sweetness due to it glycerine content, which is increased in the apassimento process. A huge, bear-hug of a wine, but one to be approached with caution, both due to its intensity and its alcohol, the latter of which comes in at a whopping 15%.

The next Amarone was the Vaio Armaron 2006 from the Serego Alighieri estate which, though containing the same grapes and undergoing the same apassimento process, spends extra time in wood and bottle, hence the two year difference between this and the Costasera. The result is, if possible, an even more concentrated wine, though more perfumed than the Costasera. However it was slightly rougher, I felt, than the supple Masi Amarone, with more spice and raisin/date notes evident too.

Claudia suggested that while the Costasera is best served with food, the Vaio Armaron is better on its own, but I found myself disagreeing. The Vaio Armaron was that bit more tannic and acidic than the Masi Amarone, which I felt would suit food more, while the smoothness of the latter better befitted sipping on its own.

Finally, we ended the incredible tasting with Casal dei Ronchi 2009, Serego Alighieri’s Recioto, basically a sweet version of Amarone. This was very fruity and generous on the nose with cherry and redcurrant, but it lacked enough supporting acidity to make it that bit moreish. That said it wasn’t cloying, but the end impression was pleasant yet fleeting. Though not available in Ireland, the Italian price of €28 per 500ml bottle meant that the resulting price-quality ratio left a lot to be desired.

In all it was a revealing and worthy tasting, one thoroughly enjoyed, though I didn’t expect half of the six bottle selection to consist of Serego Aligheri wines. Which was no hardship, of course, especially given that we were staying on the incredible Serego Alighieri estate itself, of which more in the next post…

A Visit to Masi: Part 1 of 3

This is the first post of three – click here for the second post, and here for the third.

In September I finally made it to the home of Masi, just north of Verona in Italy’s Vento region. I say ‘finally’ as Masi have consistently been one of my favourite wine brands since I started in the wine trade, having worked and developed a close relationship with them over the last five years or so.

Apart from their truly lovely wines at multiple price points, their efforts within and beyond the realm of winemaking in Veneto are wonders to behold.

Masi’s motto is ‘Veneti Valori,’ meaning ‘Venetian Values,’ which refreshingly is not some empty marketing slogan but instead is something of an maxim of the company that permeates every decision they make, from winemaking to cultural initiatives and beyond.

This almost parochial zeal and their efforts to maintain and develop traditional winemaking methods is truly admirable, especially when pursued in that intensely passionate yet jolly way that is seemingly only possible in family-run wineries such as this.

The Boscaini Family
The Boscaini Family

But Masi takes these ‘Venetian Values’ further, extending their influence into the arts and culture scene of the Veneto. One example is their annual “Masi Prize,” which for the last thirty years has celebrated and highlighted the successes of those with Venetian roots in their respective professional fields.

From this they developed the offshoot “Fondazione Masi” which itself aims to cultivate and develop those very characteristics that are lauded in the Masi Prize, thus completing a cycle of patronage that, again, is not for the marketing ‘optics’ but instead, from what I’ve seen, is a sincere and earnest effort to develop and promote the arts and culture of their locale.

But not everything is in sepia for Masi, with cutting-edge initiatives nestling comfortably aside old-school techniques. For example, instead of a single winemaker they have a “Technical Group” that makes informed, scientific decisions in place of the caprice or ego of a single winemaker; they experiment with ancient grape varieties long forgotten but resurrected via modern cloning methods; they use barrels of different woods and shapes; ancient techniques are developed for use in new countries and new varieties; and much more besides.

The Masi Technical Group
The Masi Technical Group

So between the tangible quality of their wines, the less tangible efforts in the cultural sphere, the admirable mix of tradition with progress, not to mention the terrific warmth and good humour I’ve encountered in every level of their organisation, it’s been easy to fall in love with this staunchly proud northern Italian wine company.

So come September a trip to the Veneto – the choice of which, ahem, may or may not have been influenced by all of this in the first place – meant that I could finally visit a place that has for too long been number one on my list of wineries to visit.

The Drying Lofts
Claudia
Claudia

Our tour was serenely conducted by the affable and charming Claudia and involved an incredible wine tasting at the end. But more of the latter later.

Claudia led us first to Masi’s famous drying lofts, where freshly-picked grapes are laid out to dry on bamboo racks. This method, which is native to the Vento region and traces it roots back to Roman times, results in grapes that will have lost 30-40% of their water content in a process called apassimento.

The result of this is that with less water the flavours of the grapes are concentrated, and from here one of two traditionally Venetian styles of wines are produced.

Firstly, a wine can be made using only these semi-dried grapes – which, for record, are Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara – with the result being the famous Amarone, a big, beefy wine full of concentrated flavour and coming in normally at a whopping 15-16% alcohol. They recommend it be drank at the end of a meal – slowly – hence Amarone often being called a ‘contemplative wine’.

Otherwise a Ripasso can be made. Traditionally the grape musts (the used skins, seeds, etc.) used in the production of Amarone were added into regular Valpolicella wine, the high sugar content of the musts kicking off a second fermentation, increasing the alcohol and adding more complex flavour. In other words the usually light, bright and cheery Valpolicella is ‘beefed up’ into something that some call a ‘baby Amarone.’

Masi were the first to commercialise the Ripasso method as it happens, but over the years have diverged away from using leftover Amarone musts and instead use the fresh semi-dried grapes. The reason for this, I was told by president of Masi Sandro Boscaini during his last visit here a couple of years back, was first and foremost quality and freshness. Though the traditional method has its place, it was felt that the result was often similar to making tea from a used teabag. A strong analogy, and one that perfectly encapsulates Masi’s way of doing things: tradition, yes, but not at the expense of quality.

So an alternative was found: instead of using leftover Amarone musts why not use fresh apassimento grapes? Tradition is maintained, and the end product is improved. Again, pure Masi.

But, back to the tour.

We were incredibly lucky to have timed the tour as we had – during the harvest – so that when we arrived at the drying lofts the grapes were being laid out to start their slow apassimento process.

Laying out the grapes
Laying out the grapes

In this over-marketed and media-saturated age we’ve all become immune to the abuse of terms like ‘hand-crafted’ and the likes, but it was reassuring to see that in Masi at least when they say that the grapes are laid out on the racks by hand, then they are actually laid out by hand, bunch by bunch, carefully and slowly so as not to bruise the grapes.

This was the sight that greeted us when we arrived: a team of Masi employees – unusually older than I expected (isn’t the more laborious vineyard work done by travelling students and the likes?), kitted out in fresh Masi t-shirts and working intently, yet slowly.

Having enjoyed Masi’s apassimento wines immensely for the last five years, seeing this process happen before my eyes was akin to meeting a hero, and I must admit, geekily, of being a little giddy at the time watching it unfold in front of me.

The drying racks are made of bamboo as per tradition – a typical Masi choice. Of course there are more efficient ways of carrying out this process nowadays, for example by using special drying crates to sort the bunches in the vineyard – thereby removing a costly step in the process – and/or then using heaters to accelerate the drying process.

But Masi don’t do traditional for tradition’s sake, as we learned earlier, and the use of bamboo racks isn’t for the benefit of the marketing department. Again, when Sandro Boscaini was here, he made a very interesting parallel: in the days before refrigeration the bet way to preserve salmon was by smoking it; nowadays of course this isn’t necessary, but it’s still done since a beneficial corollary of this technique is its flavour enhancement.

A bamboo rack
A bamboo rack

Likewise it is not entirely necessary to use slow, laborious drying methods on bamboo racks these days but the truth is that this process allows for better quality results. Simple as that.

And in a family-run business, where quality and pride take the place of the profit margin and shareholder demands of more commercial organisations, decisions like this are taken with an eye to future generations, not year-end balance sheets.

But Masi are no luddites, and their drying lofts are nevertheless regulated by complex high-tech atmospheric regulation system that ensures the grapes don’t go mouldy and that conditions are as ideal as they can be to produce the best wine possible. Again, Masi’s trademark blend of the old and the new.

So what was to others a simple drying loft was to me the very essence of Masi: its history, present and future; its philosophy and morals; its tradition and progress; all rolled into one innocuous room.

The WC Club – Argentina

Last week saw the first sitting in 2013 of the WC Club, which stands for, well, the Wine Club, eh, Club. I found myself honoured to be invited to this gathering of like-minded wine lovers, the first meet of the club in some time, and indeed I felt a little trepidation, like my first day at school.

A wine topic is chosen in advance – whether geographical, varietal, etc. – and each attendee is expected to bring along a bottle fitting the bill. Each wine is tackled individually, preceded by an informed presentation from its benefactor, then studiously examined and discussed in a balanced, erudite fashion. Marks out of 100 are given, with extra points going to wines at €12 and below. The meetings are decorous and abstemious, and finish early in time for bed and the Late Late Show.

The topic of this congressional was Argentina, so much of my spare thought that evening was taken up wondering whether the wines were Argentine or Argentinian. I’ve Googled it since and still don’t know any better. Either way, here’s what was on the table that night:

Marks & Spencer Fragoso Chardonnay 2011, €12.00, M&S[singlepic id=13 w=320 h=240 float=right]

Lanolin and butter on the nose and medium-bodied on the palate with your typical touches of tropical fruit, but not enough to warrant any sort of excitement. I thought it was lightly oaked, but no, it was completely unoaked, much to my surprise.

There was a little something on the nose also which those in the trade call ‘funky’ – and no I don’t mean in a swinging sixties way – but a sort of ‘barnyard smell’ which oftentimes can be attributed to a little excess sulphur which is yet to ‘blow off’ or dissipate given a few minutes of air. Ok ok, enough wine euphemisms: it’s a ‘farty’ smell, but it’s relatively normal and not uncommon with screwcapped wines as they provide a tighter seal which can exacerbate the issue. But it’s all grand, really. Seriously!

Anyway, this wine was found wanting and had a harsh jarring quality which, as you can guess, is not exactly good. All in all it was an experience to have an Argentinean/Argentine chardonnay, but I wouldn’t pick up this bottle again.

[singlepic id=15 w=320 h=240 float=left]Lo Tengo Torrontes 2010, €10.99, O’Brien’s

Bought for its shiny holographic label of Tango dancers, this was thickly aromatic on the nose – almost sickly sweet, like air freshener. But my God it tasted awful: harsh, alcoholic, a paint-stripper quality with a note of peach. Completely unpalatable, but others found it fine which confused me. What’s odd is that this came from O’Brien’s who should know better, though on reflection I wonder if it was a bad bottle.

Michel Torino Don David Reserve Malbec 2010, €13.99, Redmond’s of Ranelagh[singlepic id=12 w=320 h=240 float=right]

The lovely people in Redmond’s must have been wondering what on earth was happening in the Argentina section of their shop that evening as three of us sourced our wines from there. Joan brought this one, which was, she proudly pointed out, from the highest vineyard in Argentina at 1,700m.

This was quite closed on approach, meaning that it was quite hard what to make of it initially. When this happens in wine you need to leave them breathe a bit, so after a few minutes of frantic swirling we got some decent dark fruit character, plums and the like, but what really showed was its minerality, which I wasn’t really expecting from an Argentinean malbec. Some likened it to a metallic, blood-like taste too, which I suppose wasn’t too far off and suited the whole ‘pair with steak’ maxim well. It was too tightly wound for the duration of our tasting and would have been better had it opened a bit more, but it was generally agreed that the quality was excellent.

The fact that we were sniffing, sipping and postulating throughout the tasting was testament to this fact, because you never exert any brain power on €6 supermarket wines (which is one reason they’re so popular I suppose).

[singlepic id=20 w=320 h=240 float=left]Masi Passo Doble 2010, €14.39, Redmond’s of Ranelagh (and not, ridiculously, €16.50 in Superquinn)

This is the one I brought, the South American venture of renowned Italian winemaker Masi Agricola. It’s a blend of 70% Malbec but also 30% of the indigenous Venetian varietal called Corvina, and not only that but the Corvina is semi-dried by laying it out on bamboo racks, concentrating the flavours and adding plenty of oomph to the end product.

The result is a big, rich, full-bodied wine, very up-front and generous with the fruit. Baked summer berries, blueberries and dried raisins were what I got on the palate, then later some dried cranberries. The balance is great and some lovely integrated tannin decided to gently announce itself after a while, though some found it a little too drying. It was a big, friendly, approachable drop, but therein lay its weakness: some, and eventually I too, found it maybe a little simple; delicious and generous yes, but not much complexity.

Oh, and the price? €14.39 in Redmond’s of Ranelagh, but stupidly enough €16.50 in Superquinn Rathgar. It pays to shop around, and it’s always so much better giving the customer to your local offie.

Las Moras Malbec 2011, €10.99, Redmond’s of Ranelagh[singlepic id=14 w=320 h=240 float=right]

This had a smokey, spicy nose, but was nevertheless a bit shallow. Unfortunately the palate wasn’t much more impressive with a whack of alcohol showing up the lack of balance, a bitter tang which probably indicated poor fruit, and some residual sugar which was probably the winemaker’s attempt to make it palatable. Not offensive, but a no-go for me.

[singlepic id=18 w=320 h=240 float=left]Andeluna 1300 Malbec 2011, €12.99, Louis Albrouze

This, interestingly enough, was the only Argentinian (or Argentine? Gah!) wine that Louis Albrouze stocks in his fantastic offie on Leeson Street, so much given over to the Old World as he is. It come from vineyards that are, in light of the Don David, only a paltry 1,300m above sea level.

This was very much chocolately on the nose with some distinct smokiness and spice but also cranberry and black cherry. On the palate it was rich, full-bodied, had decent tannin (though more evident than the Masi), some nice oak (and therefore some vanilla), but in all it was also, like the Masi, a little simple overall.

Santa Rita 120 Merlot, €cheap, From Everywhere[singlepic id=11 w=320 h=240 float=right]

Yes, you read right. A late-comer, who shall not be named, didn’t read the brief correctly (or at all) and showed up with a wine that was from the wrong country. And a bland supermarket brand too. But, being game wine enthusiasts we decided to give it a go. The result wasn’t pretty. It was stalky and green, sulpherous, acrid, confected shite. I’m not a wine snob but I’ll have to call out a shite wine for what it is, and Santa Rita 120 is definitely that.

So who won? By a nose it was the Don David, then the Andeluna, then the Masi, though personally I would have put the Masi ahead of the Andeluna. Interestingly, though we didn’t pour out large glasses, we seemed to have no wine left, so theoretically we each drank a bottle of 14% alcohol wine each, which didn’t feel right. Either way it was felt that another bottle was in order to a Chateauneuf-du-Pape appeared out of nowhere but, alas, I had an early-morning drive ahead of me so made my excuses, and lived to wine another day.