Time to confess. I’m a European nationalist (if such a thing is possible), if I could afford it I would buy Paul Smith over Ralph Lauren, Citroen over Chrysler, Bordeaux over Napa Valley, Cornas over Barossa.
Of course as soon as I say this I remember the first time I tasted Leeuwin Estate Art Series cabernet or Ridge Monte Bello from Napa. Speaking of Ridge, Lough Erne Estate is hosting a Ridge wine pairing dinner on March 14, in its Catalina Restaurant which will include some older vintages — ring now as there may be tickets left.
I hadn’t tasted Leeuwin Estate wines in a few years but they are now in the safe hands of Pembroke Wines which held a portfolio tasting a while back. The 2012 Art Series is gorgeous — ripe and fleshy with bright black fruits but also a restrained and fine-boned elegance. I recommend two other Leeuwin Estate wines below.
Pembroke Wines is managed by Harshal Shah who has worked in wine everywhere from Thailand and India to Australia and South Africa and joined with Andrew Keaveney of Morgan Wines to establish Pembroke in 2016. Pembroke has a diverse international range while Morgan Wines focuses on fine Bordeaux and the wine estates of Baron de Ladoucette.
As well as De Ladoucette Morgan Wines also includes Marc Brédif from Vouvray, champagne Comtesse Lafond, and chablis Albert Pic; while Pembroke’s range includes Salon and Delamotte Champagne, Ch d’Esclans, Opus One, Dominus and Duckhorn from California, Clos Figueras from Priorat and Hamilton Russell from South Africa.
Pembroke is also strong in Burgundy and I loved the wines of Benjamin Laroche, Château de Meursault and Maison Marchand-Tawse (especially their Puligny Montrachet and a lovely delicate 2014 Volnay 1er Cru with lingering ripe red wild berry fruits). I also liked the Alsace wines of Mélanie Pfister of Domaine Pfister.
You may have noticed some new wines in Aldi in recent weeks as its ‘Wine Lover’s Sale’ has been running since early February. There is a varied mix with 11 wines from eight countries. I recommend two below. Also I recommend a similarly fragrant fresh white from Albet-i-Noya.
BEST VALUE UNDER €15
This wine has no added sulphur but instead uses wood from rooibos and honeybush plants to naturally preserve the wine — a new one on me. Bright red fruit aromas with a hint of tar (and a hint of rooibos tea — possibly my mind playing tricks!). Soft and juicy on the palate with some bitter almond and herbal notes on the finish.
Zibibbo is the Sicilian name for the ancient grape muscat of Alexandria, a cousin of the rather finer muscat à petits grains (as used in Rivesaltes, Beaumes-de-Venise). This has bright honeysuckle and orange flower water aromas, a weighty but dry palate and a decent hit of acidity on the finish.
Quay Co-Op; Fields SuperValu Skibbereen; Letercollum Kitchen Clonakilty; Mortons Galway; Little Greengrocer Kilkenny.
Made from organic chardonnay and xarel-lo grapes near Barcelona. It has aromas of sweet lemon and citrus with a touch of tropical fruit. Lively on the palate with elegant lemon and ripe apple flavours and a dry finish. Try with some shellfish or maybe with a creamy pasta dish.
BEST VALUE OVER €15
Redmonds, Mitchell & Son, Whelehans, Donnybrook Fair
Hamilton Russell is based in Walker Bay 100km east of Cape Town on low- yielding Bokkeveld shale and sandstone soils. Only chardonnay and pinot noir are released under the Hamilton Russell label and both are exemplary. The 2016 pinot is warm and ripe with sweet red fruits earthy and herbal notes, structured and subtle, complex and very fine.
64 Wines, On the Grapevine, Grape and Grain Leopardstown
The Leeuwin Art Series 2012 cabernet sauvignon is outstanding (see above) but the estate also makes some very good wines at cheaper prices. The Siblings series includes a fine sauvignon blanc but this shiraz is the star of the range — floral (violet) and spicy dark fruit aromas.
Donnybrook Fair, On The Grapevine Dalkey, The Wine Library Dun Laoghaire
Margaret River makes some of the more restrained Australian wines given its cool maritime climate. The Art Series chardonnay is one of Australia’s best but this is more approachable — lime and lemon zest aromas mixed with white flowers, ripe pear fruit flavours tinged with citrus.