Wednesday 2 June 2010
TOUCHING on the subject of en primeur a couple of weeks ago, I never thought I would be returning to the subject again so soon but there has been tremendous interest from our readers.
En primeur is the process of buying wines before they are bottled and released onto the market. In a good year - and 2009, particularly in Bordeaux, has been been described as nothing less than outstanding - you can make anything up to 40 per cent savings.
All the talk right now is about the classed growths, your Château Latours, Lafite, Mouton Rothschild and Margaux. But top châteaux only account for around 3 per cent of the wines produced in the region.
And if conditions were perfect for making fines wines at these superstar houses, then it had to be the same at many of the lesser known vineyards.
But remember en-primeur prices are based on the tastings and judgements of a team of experts - who have been wrong in the past - and that the value of the wine might only show a small appreciation over the coming years - or none at all.
If you want to take a punt on the 2009 vintage then seek out a reliable broker or importer, like Stuart Smith at FromVineyardsDirect (01 845 6745) or check out their website www.fromvineyardsdirect.ie where a selection of solid wines from reliable châteaux are on offer right now at excellent prices.
Château Maume 2009, a predominantly Merlot based wine, is offered at €72 a case. With taxes, duty, and delivery charges paid, the wine will be delivered to your door in late 2011 or early 2012 at around €8.60 a bottle.
I tasted the supple Château Maume 2004 recently and it was still drinking well. My notes record that it cost €12.65 when it was bought at a Dublin wine shop in 2007. So you can see the savings that can be made.
Grand D’Arte Touriga Nacional 2008
€12.99 and available in good independents
Touriga is Portugal’s greatest red grape. This excellent example comes from a region influenced by the Atlantic, making for a wine that retains that characteristic violet nose with a wonderful soft texture, well integrated tannins and excellent length.
Jacob’s Creek Reserve Chardonnay 2007
€12.89 (€11.35 on promotion) widely available
Believe me, Jacob’s Creek make excellent wines - and the quality just gets better, particularly in the reserve range. Peach and citrus aromas with generous hints of oak, white peach and citrus flavours on the palate which is soft and has nice length.
A THANK you this morning to all of you who have emailed with wine queries and seeking advice on wine selection.
Most of you will have already received my suggestions for those special occasions you are planning for and today I want to answer some of your more general questions.
Maureen Gibson from Dublin 9 asks: Does the vintage year on the bottle indicate quality? The short and simple answer to this is that only a small proportion of wines age gracefully and improve.
Well over 90 per cent of the wines bottled each year are fruit-driven and meant to be drunk young - the whites are best within the first two years of bottling, the reds within three.
Wines from the southern hemisphere (Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Chile and Argentina) where the weather tends to be uniform from one growing season to another, the vintage, or years means little.
In the northern hemisphere where there can be a lot more fluctuations in temperatures and conditions the vintage play a more important role.
I have been told that jumbo teabags with oak chips are often added to wines to add flavour, please tell me this is not true, writes Geraldine Breen from Swords, Co. Dublin.
Unfortunately it is true - but usually only in cheap, mass-market wines that need the added flavour to disguise bad fruit.
Before we had stainless steel and plastic, oak was seen as the perfect material to store wine while it matured.
Winemakers then discovered that the oak, particularly French and American, imparted to the wine certain flavours that were desirable.
Winemakers did become a little heavy-handed with wood and we began to move away from over-oaked wines. However, when used properly it certainly adds to a wine’s flavour profiles and pleasure.
Keep your emails coming. If you have a question, or are looking for a bottle for a special occasion email me at email@example.com
Mooiplaas Langtafel White 2008
Stellenbosch, South Africa
€11.99 from good independents
Almost 50-50 blend of Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc from this highly regarded producer. The Sauvignon adds wonderful freshness and a nice citrus tang while the Chenin adds some body and length on the palate and some tropical fruit flavours.
Torres Gran Vina Sol,
€12.99 and widely available
Chardonnay forms the backbone of this aromatic wine with local grape Parellada giving it a lift on the back palate. Gentle oak hints on the nose with notes of ripe peaches. Soft, pleasant palate with some weight and a nice vanilla finish.
TWO words dominate the wine world right now - en primeur.
Put simply, en primeur is the business of buying wine early, while it is very young and still in barrel, taking a chance on its quality and getting it at a knockdown price.
You pay upfront for the wine, up to 18 months before it is bottled and released. The advantage is that it is considerably cheaper - and you just might be getting a great vintage at a knockdown price.
Wines from Burgundy, the Rhone, Bordeaux, and Port, are the ones most commonly offered en primeur.
Every spring the great cru classé or first growth Bordeaux houses sample barrels from the previous harvest.
After the tastings, the wine trade release a limited amount of their wines at an opening (the en primeur) price. This is sold in strict allocation to wine brokers in Bordeaux, known as negociants.
Before a grape was picked back in September, the 2009 Bordeaux vintage was seriously being talked up by these negociants.
And after the spring tastings it was compared favourably with the 1947 vintage - rated one of the greatest of the last century.
Rewards can be huge if the wine matures as predicted. Chateau Latour has topped the ratings. Back in 1982 (another excellent vintage) a case of this first growth wine cost €300 en primeur the following year.
The same case last year was selling for in the region of €13,000. A nice return in anyone’s book.
The chances are the 2009 vintage will be exceptional. But it also means that the rest will be very drinkable - and affordable - Bordeaux.
Do you have a question about wine, or are you looking for a bottle for a special occasion? They why not email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and see if I can help you.
Motueka River Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Marlborough, New Zealand
On offer at €7.99 in Tesco outlets
There is lots of light, flavourless Kiwi Sauvignon around right now. This, however, has refreshing tropical fruit, lemon-lime and grass aromas and a clean, dry lemon and pear palate with medium length. A great value wine.
Aranleon Crianza 2007
Utiel Requina, Spain
Around €10.99 from good independents
Rich blend of organic Bobal and Tempranillo grapes (with 10 per cent of Cabernet) from the exciting Spanish region of Utiel Requina, 100km inland from Valencia. Intense red colour with a floral and spice nose. Ripe cherry flavours with a hint of oak.
SULFITES get a bum deal from some wine drinkers. They are blamed for bad tastes, headaches and, increasingly, for that ‘morning after’ feeling.
But sulfites, which occur naturally in wine, are vital in the winemaking process and also in its preservation. Bad tastes are more often caused by oxidation or cork taint.
Minute amounts of sulphur dioxide are added during the wine-making process to stop fermentation at the right time. It can also be added as a preservative to stop any spoilage and possible oxidation.
The introduction of sulphur dioxide also protects the wine from bacteria - and without it the freshly pressed grape juice would quickly turn to vinegar.
Developing a headache after drinking wine might easily be explained by the amount you have consumed. That ‘oh well just one more glass’ syndrome could have been the measure to upset your system.
You might get headaches after drinking wine by itself. If that is a recurring problem then try it with some food. That will definitely make a difference in how it effects you.
Histamines, which also occur naturally in wines, may give you a headache brought on by an allergy to them. The histamines are more prevalent in red wines. Switching to whites might bring you relief.
Those who are highly sensitive to histamines might try a proprietary anti-histamine allergy treatment. They work well for many sufferers.
But take all the necessary precautions. Seek advice from your doctor and follow the medication’s instructions.
And don’t get too worked up about the sulfites in wine. Most bottles on our shelves contain less then 10 parts per million.
Do you have a question about wine, or are you looking for a bottle for a special occasion? They why not email me at email@example.com and see if I can help you.
Domaine Des Lauriers Picpoul de Pinet Prestige 2009
€11.99 from good independents
The white wine of choice for locals on the French Med. Heavenly with oysters and mussels, the Picpoul grape makes wonderfully refreshing, crisp, tangy, lime and pear flavoured wines with nice mineral hints and excellent acidity. Keep it a secret!
Pink Elephant Rose 2009
Estremadura, Portugal Rosé
€6.99 and widely available
This rosé blend from Portugal is becoming the wine of choice with spicy, Asian food. The vivid pink colour leads into a nose of raspberries and cherries. The fruity palate has lively acidity and a little sweetness. Bring on my curry please.
MANY of the most common grape varietals - Cabernets, Sauvignons, Merlots, Chardonnays and Syrahs for instance - are referred to as noble grapes.
They are the backbone of some of the most recognisable wines produced. But Riesling, the most noble of all white varieties, struggles for recognition.
In Germany’s Rhine region, where the grape originated 700 years ago, Riesling is seen as the most versatile of grapes, capable of producing spine-tingling dry wines or the sweetest of dessert wines.
The wines have sweet, fruity flavours, aromas of flowers and fruits, high acidity and petrol notes when aged.
Its those petrol or kerosene notes that tend to turn wine lovers away from the grape. How can a wine have such an off-putting aroma as petrol?
This characteristic develops with age. When young the best Riesling has aromas and flavours of green apples, pears and minerals, with great acidity and freshness. That acidity allows the wine to develop.
Riesling grapes are also very terroir expressive, soaking up through its roots flavours (that minerality for instance) from the surrounding environs.
For those who have been ‘put off’ by those German styles I recommend the great south Australian Rieslings from the Clare and Eden Valleys.
The grape variety has been grown in these two regions for over 170 years. The warmer climate helps develop thicker skinned grapes that have a slightly oily texture with beautifully balanced, fresh lemon and lime fruit flavours when young.
The two regions, within comfortable driving distance of Adelaide, are reasonably close but produce two markedly individual styles.
The Clare Rieslings are elegant, with lemon zest aromas great minerality and green apple flavours. Eden Valley wines are characterised by lime zest on the nose, steely dry on the palate with lime juice flavours.
Petaluma Hanlin Hill Riesling 2009
Clare Valley, Australia
€17.99 from good independents
A golden hue in the glass with characteristic floral and lemon notes on the nose, along with hints of ripe mango and lychees. Lovely flavours of honey, orange blossom, apricot and delicate spice on the palate and a lingering finish.
St Hallett Riesling 2006
Eden Valley, Australia
€15.99 from good independents
Great structure yet delicate wine. Still quite light on the palate with a wonderful lime tang and fragrant blossom aromas. Lingering flinty and lemon finish. This wine is a real stayer and will develop over the next five years.
THE mistake we make when trying for a wine and curry match is that we tend to pair them all with a single favourite varietal whether it be red, white or rosé.
Think about it - matching half of the world’s cuisine with just one wine - and you soon realise how ridiculous that proposition really is.
Thai green or red curries, robust or subtle Indian dishes, spicy Chinese fare or Vietnamese food all need to be treated differently when choosing a wine.
Think about the intensity of the spices in the dish before making your selection. One word of warning, trying to find a match for a meal with a high level of heat from chillies is nigh on impossible.
With lightly flavoured curries and subtly spiced dishes, chilled, aromatic, off-dry whites (like gewürtztraminer) are a safe choice. Simple, fruity reds or rosés (lightly chilled beaujolais perhaps) work well.
The abundant acidic flavour of vinegar and yoghurt found in many Indian curries can make them difficult to pair.
Years of ‘experimenting’ has left me pairing mild curries such as a Korma with a cool Viognier - low in acidity but with enough body to stand up to strong-ish flavours.
Spicy and medium flavoured curries I match with a soft, fruity, low-tannin Merlot, and for a highly-spiced, powerful curry I head for a Zinfandel, a red packed with juicy fruit and some spice that can stand up to even a Vindaloo.
The Thai New Year arrived recently and the most popular wine on many restaurant lists was Pinot Gris from France’s Alsace region. Thai food flavours are sweet, sour, hot and salty. Gris has a touch of sweetness (residual sugar) and muskiness that can match the spices used in this cuisine.
And before you ask, a simple match for fish and chips (minus the vinegar) is a chilled Cava!
Hugel Gewurtztraminer 2006
€13.30 from good independents
A nice golden hue in the glass with characteristic floral notes on the nose, along with hints of ripe mango and lychees. Lovely flavours of honey, orange blossom, apricot and delicate spice on the palate and a lingering finish.
George Duboeuf Beaujolais Villages 2008
Around €12 and widely available
Delicate cherry colour with a wonderful ripe strawberry and raspberry nose. Light, soft berry fruit flavours - dominated by crushed strawberries - on the palate with gentle tannins and a pleasing freshness and clean acidity. Nice, soft finish.
WE start with a question today: What countries are the largest wine producers in the world?
I doubt you would have trouble naming the top four - France, Italy, Spain the the U.S. - but the fifth? Germany, Australia, Chile, South Africa and New Zealand are all possibles. But it’s Argentina that rounds out the top five!
The south American nation has a wine making tradition stretching back five centuries. Way back then the grapes (Criolla Grande) were planted by missionaries to ensure a supply of communion wine.
Later, as the country’s population increased with mass emigration from Italy and Spain, domestic wine varieties arrived from Europe and Argentina developed a real taste for wine.
But what was produced was high volume, low quality wines. Domestic demand for these table wines sustained the industry and so high-yield vineyards for bulk production developed with the red Criolla Grande and Bonarda varieties being the largest plantings.
Then, about 40 years ago, domestic wine consumption - as high as 90 litres per person, per year - began to fall dramatically. The wineries looked to Europe for new markets.
Vineyards began to pull out old vines and plant international varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Syrah and Malbec. But it wasn’t until the 1990s, when massive financial input helped modernise the wineries, that Argentina became recognised as a producer of quality wines.
Reds remain their top wines, led by single varietal Malbec or blended with other international varieties. There has also been large plantings of Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah and Tempranillo in recent years and they are beginning to produce interesting wines.
Torrontés is the most popular white variety, capable of making clean and refreshing wines. But red is where its at in Argentina and they remain some of the best value wines available.
Norton Privada 2006
Currently €16.39 at O’Briens Wines
One of Argentina’s high-end wines - and a bargain at €16.39. A real treat with that Sunday beef or lamb roast. A powerful blend of Malbec, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon with lashings of black fruit and spice flavours. Well structured and with a lengthy finish.
Michel Torino Coleccion Malbec 2009
Under €9 and widely available.
Malbec’s growing reputation in Ireland has been spearheaded by this excellent entry-level wine. Distinctive plum aromas on the nose with hints of oak. Fruit flavours on the palate are underpinned by generous spicy notes. Well integrated wine with soft tannins and a nice round finish. Best choice to accompany steak.
A COLLEAGUE received a rather expensive cut glass decanter as a present last Christmas.
The container has pride of place in his cabinet - but doesn’t spend much time there because every bottle that has crossed his door since January has been decanted.
He has been very democratic about this practice. A supermarket special costing less than €6 or a Bordeaux costing five times that have all got equal treatment.
They are decanted and left to ‘breathe’ for the same amount of time before being poured. Watching him go through the motions, I can’t force myself to tell him that modern wines rarely need decanting!
Winemaking methods in the winery have changed so much over the past two decades that the need for decanting - to remove any sediment from the bottle - is rare these days.
The sediment is the solid material that settles to the bottom of the bottle. It is harmless and can be a sign that the wine is of an older vintage, has been hand-crafted - and not filtered before being bottled.
It might not be the prettiest thing to look at in a glass but sediment is perfectly okay if you happen to drink it but it can taste quite bitter.
To decant an old wine pour it slowly from the bottle into a decanter - or any another clean bottle or receptacle. Stop the procedure when you to see the sediment enter the neck of the bottle.
Wines made to age in bottle can throw a sediment. It evolves as the tannins and pigments in the wine start to break down and thus create the particles.
Decanting your wines before drinking only exposes the liquid to its biggest enemy air and it will start to oxidise and die. So leave it as late as possible to open your bottles.
Gavi 'la Battistina' 2009
€9.95 from O’Briens Wines
A dry, crisp and aromatic unoaked white made with the Cortese grape. The zesty is all apples and pears with a hint of lime. The palate is dry but quite zippy with stone fruit flavours, great minerality and good length. Perfect with a plate of steamed mussels.
Cranswick Estate Shiraz 2008
South East Australia
€13.99 in good independents
A medium-bodied (not in your face) Australian Shiraz that is lightly oaked with characteristic ripe blackberry fruit flavours, and nice undertones of spice, black pepper and vanilla. The wine has some complexity and a lengthy finish. Great with roast meat dishes or with a selection of mature hard cheeses.
LET’S set the scene - a nice restaurant with a superb menu, exciting young chef in the kitchen, good company, and a lengthy wine list.
Food has been ordered and time has been spent poring over the wine list. Then the wine waiter arrives with your selection. The bottle is opened with all the usual ritual, and a sample presented to you for approval.
You taste it - and immediately realise there is something wrong. But what? You can’t send the wine back just because you don’t like it only if there is a genuine fault.
The biggest peril is cork taint, or TCA (2,4,6-trichloroanisole), the serial killer of wine, which accounts for more than 80 per cent of the problems after a bottle has been opened.
TCA only forms in the wine after bottling. It cannot be detected until the cork is pulled. Its then when you get the characteristic musty, moldy or wet cardboard smell.
The fault is a set of very undesirable aroma and flavour characters that are imparted to the wine following contact with the cork. Six chemical compounds have been found to contribute to cork taint.
How to avoid it? Think screwcap - particularly for whites and everyday wines. This closure provides a very good seal and is easy to open.
How good are they? I recently tasted some whites from Australia that were bottled under screwcap in 1985 and they still tasted fresh. Even some French winemakers have switched to closure.
I still like cork. I believe that the complex red wine aging process is better served by this closure. The trace amounts of oxygen that get through cork play an important part in the wine’s evolvement.
But for everything else it’s screwcap. They have helped reduce the number of faulty wines from almost one in ten bottles to almost zero.
Vieux Chateau des Combes 2007
Saint Emilion, France
€14.95 at O’Briens Wines
Excellent Bordeaux at a great price. Based on Merlot, with a good dash of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, this blend would go perfect with roast lamb. Very approachable with red berry fruit flavours and a hint of oak. Easy drinking with nice, soft tannins and good length.
Vega Real Roble 2007
Ribero Del Duero, Spain
€14.99, widely available
AN enticing ruby red colour leads to an nose of ripe raspberries and hints of oak. This great value Ribero Del Duero offering is made with the Tempranillo grape and has a deep red with an intense raspberry nose. Palate is bursting with soft berry fruit flavours with nicely integrated tannins and a balanced finish.
THE level of alcohol in wine is an issue these days as we become more health conscious.
Drinking too much of it, whether in wine, beer or spirits, can raise levels of fats in the blood, leading to high blood pressure - and possible heart failure.
An increased calorie intake is another side effect, which can lead to obesity and a higher risk of developing diabetes.
During the 1980s, alcohol levels - particularly in wines from California and Australia - reached up to 16 per cent. Winemakers believed that this is what the market demanded.
But many of these alcoholic fruit bombs were unbalanced. The fermentation process - where the natural fruit glucose (sugar) is turned into alcohol by yeast - was either lengthened or extra yeast added.
Australia now leads the way in producing low alcohol wines. The preferred process is quite natural. The grapes are picked slightly earlier which results in less sugar, and therefore less alcohol.
The most common chemical process is what they call reverse osmosis, or the spinning core method, which removes alcohol from the fermented grape juice.
I use my own tried and trusted method. if I want to cut back on my alcohol intake I drink cooler climate wines - or choose grape varieties that traditionally produce lower alcohol wines.
And remember the benefits of just consuming wine in moderation - reduced risk of heart disease.
Research also suggests that alcohol consumption, in conjunction with high intakes of fruit and vegetables, could explain the phenomenon known as the 'French paradox'.
The French diet is considered quite high in fat, especially saturated fat, but the death rate in from coronary heart disease is relatively low. A glass or two of wine with meals - and those vegetables and fruit - seems to do the trick.
Lindemans Early Harvest Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2008
South East Australia
€11.99, widely available
One of Australia’s modern low alcohol wines. The alcohol is quite low - 8.5 per cent - but it doesn’t unduly affect the finished product. Nice passionfruit and melon aromas on the nose while the palate has the characteristic fruit flavours of Semillon and the citrus
flavours of Sauvignon. Balanced, with a crisp dry finish.
Brown Brothers Chenin Blanc 2007
South East Australia
€10.99, widely available
One of Australia’s icon family-owned vineyards. Pale straw in colour with citrus, tropical fruit and melon aromas. Crisp dry palate with some green apple and melon flavours and a hint of vanilla and honey. Well balance and decent length.
MALBEC, the red grape originally from France that Argentina has made its own, is currently wowing the U.S., while the continued healthy sales of Chilean and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc in Ireland and Britain keeps the grape at the top of the popularity charts this side of the Atlantic.
Yes, new world wine regions are very much in vogue. But given a fair shake by the consumer - and a little more exposure in the media - I believe that two very proud wine nations much nearer to home could be just as popular.
Portugal and Austria are currently producing some of the best value and most exciting wines available.
The problem is that the people who make them just don’t talk them up enough - and their respective national marketing bodies don’t get the necessary funds to do a proper job at highlighting their undoubted quality.
Austria’s grüner veltliner grape, is capable of making complex, full flavoured, spicy whites with a distinctive white flower and cracked pepper edge to them.
The nation’s rieslings are worth seeking out too, as are their reds made with the zwiegelt and blaufränkisch grapes. But it is the grüner veltliner, or gru-vee, as it has been dubbed, that has become quite trendy.
The wines of Portugal have become a personal favourite in recent years.
The Prova Regia Arinto was my 2009 white wine of the year and I think the encruzado grape, with its sophisticated and subtle bouquet and delicate apple and peach flavours, is just waiting to be discovered here.
And the reds of Portugal, from grapes varieties like touriga nacional
tinta roriz (Spain's tempranillo and also known as aragonêz), baga and castelão are to die for. Get along to your local, friendly off licence and discover these great wines soon.
Esporão Reserva 2005
€14.99 from Superquinn
A big, hearty, deep-coloured red blend of trincadeira, aragonêz and cabernet sauvignon grapes with chewy plum and blackberry flavours and a slightly roasted savoury edge. Nice hints of oak on the palate too. A chunky wine that goes great with all red roasts and steaks.
Winzer Krems Goldberg Grüner Veltliner 2007
€14.99 at dood independent off-licences
A very enticing fruity yet minerally nose leading into the grape’s characteristic peppery spiciness on the palate with some green apples and a hint of citrus. The wines has nicely integrated acidity with a medium finish.
WE have had a ‘bad’ winter. A little snow, cold snaps, rain and gloomy days and we all feel sorry for ourselves.
But nothing we have suffered this season - or any other - could compare with the natural disaster that befell Chile recently in the form of that 8.8 magnitude earthquake.
Yet such is the resilience of this nation’s people that despite the unfortunate loss of life and massive destruction their industry already has them on the road to recovery.
The Maule Valley, Chile’s oldest wine producing region was particularly affected by the quake but thankfully it now transpires that damage is not nearly as bad as feared.
Figures suggest that just 12.5 per cent (valued at €184 million) of the country's cellared wine has been lost.
While the Maule region bore the brunt of the damage, Cachapoel, Colchagua, Maipo, Casablanca and Bio Bio also suffered minor disruptions.
But Rene Merino, president of Chile’s most important wine export association, said the industry’s infrastructure has been built to withstand earthquakes.
He added: 'Most of the damage in wineries was done to the old buildings which are used as offices and for tourism. Modern wine facilities were not affected and vineyards have not been damaged. The 2010 harvest is little affected.’
So, while choosing a bottle over the next week or two can I suggest that by enjoying one from Chile you can help.
And while at it why not trade up slightly - you will be pleasantly surprised at the quality of your purchase.
For years we have thought of wines from Chile as been cheep, cheerful and reliable. Now is your chance to discover what exceptional quality and value is available in the €12 to €15 price range.
Santa Rita Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2007
Central Valley, Chile
Around €12.50 and widely available
This wine has a brilliant yellow colour with green hues and and intense aromas of citrus fruit and maracuya with a herbaceous backdrop. Concenrated on the palate with good acidity, firm structure and excellent persistence.S Blanc has a nice mix of citrus flavors, most notably grapefruit.
Vina Maipo Carmenere 2007
Maipo Valley, Chile
Around €12.99 in Dunnes Stores
Dark, solid ruby red in the glass with a wonderful nose of spicy chilli with a some vegetal notes in the background. Hints of chocolate and coffee on the palate over great dark berry fruit flavours. Soft tannins with a long finish.
OUR nation has played a pivotal role in the wine history for hundreds of years.
Many of the Irish nobility and soldiers who fled the country after the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, either ended up serving in continental armies or in Bordeaux, then the centre of the wine business in Ireland.
Within five decades these families were so influential that they were exporting almost 4,500 tons of claret back to their homeland - four times the figure sent to Britain - in 1739-40!
To this day some of Bordeaux’s greatest vineyards bear Irish names - Château Phélan-Ségur (after Frank Phelan from Tipperary), Château Léoville-Barton (Anthony Barton from Kildare), Château Lynch-Bages (Michael Lynch from Galway) and Château Kirwan (Edward Kirwan from Wexford).
Many others, including the world famous Château Margaux and Château d’Yquem, have long standing Irish connections. And we must not forget our links in the sherry business, with names like Garvey and O’Neal.
That great wine tradition has been carried into the modern era. In Australia wines made by the Barry family (originally from Armagh) in the Barossa Valley, the Tyrells (from Sligo) in the Hunter Valley and the Cullens (from Clare) in Margaret River, are amongst the best not only Down Under but in the world.
And in the important U.S. wine regions of Napa and Sonoma in California, the descendants of emigrant Irish families like Paul Dolan (Wexford) and James Concannon (the Aran islands) make some of America’s most prestigious and sought after wines.
Coincidentally, James Concannon was born on St Patrick’s Day 1847, and as we prepare to celebrate on March 17, here are three modern wines with strong Irish connections.
Chateau Haut Garrigue Semillion Sauvignon Blanc 2007
€12.45 from O’Briens Wines
Sean and Caroline Feely moved to Bergerac in southern France at the start of the new millennium and have already built a sizeable reputation for their marvelous organic vineyards. This Sémillon/Sauvignon Blanc blend is made with the fruit of vines that are over 50 years old.
It is a crisp dry white, well balanced with nice peach aromas with a palate that has hints of gooseberry and citrus. Great seafood wine.
Cullens Mangan Vineyard Sauvignon Semillon 2008
Margaret River, Australia
€26.99 from good independents
A fresh and zesty 70/30 per cent blend of organically and biodynamically grown Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon made by one of Australia’s iconic winemakers, Vanya Cullen. Only wild yeasts are used in the fermenting process. Lemon, honeysuckle and floral aromas lead to a crisp, fine lemony finish. Not too high a price for such an iconic wine.
Bird In Hand Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
Mt Lofty Ranges, Australia
Around €20 from specialist wines shops
Andrew Nugent (no relation, but his ancestors come from Co. Cork) has a growing reputation for his wines from this South Australian vineyard. Great sparklers, merlots, shiraz, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay are joined by this excellent Cabernet Sauvignon.
Blackberries, spice and cassis on the nose leading to a complex palate of soft berry fruit and nicely integrated tannins.