Alpha Zeta “S” Soave 2012, Italy — €12.99

THERE are few wines more iconic than New Zealand’s Cloudy Bay which was founded in 1985 and whose intense pungent Sauvignon Blanc became a benchmark for the varietal in that country.

Alpha Zeta “S” Soave 2012, Italy — €12.99

I remember in the late 1990s only a small number of Irish off-licences stocked the wine, and even they would just receive 12 bottles per year, such was the demand.

This shortage led to Cloudy Bay gaining cult status and becoming even more sought after by collectors and wine enthusiasts.

The brand was sold to the luxury goods company LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy) in 2009.

The mystique has dissipated considerably now that vineyards have been expanded to produce well over a million bottles annually, and you will find Cloudy Bay stacked high in UK wine warehouse shops, and readily available here in Ireland (although at a premium price).

For the first 25-odd years the winemaker was Kevin Judd, but he departed soon after the arrival of LVMH.

Judd is now quietly doing his own thing with his new venture Greywacke, named after the iconic river stones that are found throughout the vineyards of Marlborough. For now these are (relatively) good value wines, but I suspect cult status beckons.

Judd  uses long slow wild yeast fermentations for his top Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. This natural approach is thought to be incredibly risky by most winemakers.

Greywacke wild yeast Sauvignon (€32.99 — Greenacres, World Wide Wines, Red Nose) has wonderful intensity, warm peach aromas and an oily richness on the palate that gives the wine huge length and intensity without bludgeoning the palate into submission as can sometimes be the case with New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

All the wines below are from Liberty Wines, Greywacke’s (generally excellent) importer.

BEST VALUE UNDER €15

Alpha Zeta “S” Soave 2012, Italy — €12.99

Stockists: Bradleys, No. 21 Coburg St., World Wide Wines, Greenacres, Corkscrew.

Liberty have an excellent Italian range and I like this deceptively simple Soave, a name that was once much maligned (they also import Pieropan’s excellent Soave range). Lemon zest and clean fresh aromas with good ripe pear and citrus fruit flavours on the palate. Serve as an aperitif or with a creamy pasta sauce.

Vigneti del Vulture Aglianico del Vulture “Pipoli”, Italy — €14.99-15.99

Stockists: Vineyard Galway, Corkscrew, Jus de Vine Portmarnock, Bean and Berry Wexford.

From Basilicata in the far south of Italy in what could be called the ankle of Italy. Classic Southern Italian flavours with raisins, chocolate and spicy aromas. Good depth and concentrated red fruit flavours perfect for a spicy pasta sauce or rich braised meat dishes.

Familia Castaño “Hecula” 2011, Yecla, Spain — €14.99

Stockists: Vanilla Grape Kenmare, World Wide Wines, Mortons Ranelagh, Martins Fairview, Bean and Berry Wexford, Carpenter Brothers Carlow, Counter Letterkenny

This is 100% Monastrell from a small region near Alicante. This has had some new oak contact which gives a spicy character, but mostly it is pure sweet plum and fig flavoured fruit that comes through on the palate.

BEST VALUE UNDER €25

Greywacke Marlborough Pinot Gris 2012 — €22.99-23.99

Stockists: Greenacres The Corkscrew, www.wineonline.ie, World Wide Wines Waterford.

Made from fruit grown on gravelly clay/loam soils. Half the grapes were fermented in French oak barriques using wild yeast and the other half in stainless steel using cultured yeasts. Fine peach and apricot aromas with a good soft brioche character on the palate with elegance and richness on the finish.

Greywacke Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2012 — €23.49-24.99

Stockists: Bradleys, Wines On the Green, www.thewineshop.ie, Mitchells, O’Briens, The Corkscrew, Drink Store, World Wide Wines.

This is fresher and more punchy than the wild version but with lovely elegance, a fine citrus freshness and a rich mouth-filling mineral finish with a hint of tropical fruit.

Tinpot Hut Pinot Gris, Marlborough 2013 — €19.99

Stockists: Bradleys, No. 21 Coburg St., Florries Tramore, World Wide Wines, Clontarf Wines, Mitchells.

I liked this weighty but fresh tasting version of Pinot Gris from Tinpot Hut (who’s Sauvignon featured here a few weeks ago) which had a lovely suppleness in the mouth with a creamy dry finish.

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