The dominance of New World wines in the Irish market has led many consumers to focus on particular grape varieties so this week I’m encouraging you to look at blends.
A small trend I have noticed in recent years is a return to blends by both large and small New World producers, and it is no surprise as blending gives more flexibility to a winemaker.
This is especially true in years where the weather has been less consistent, and nowadays no year is typical.
In regions like Bordeaux they have always understood this — Merlot softens astringent Cabernet (or Cabernet beefs up the sweet Merlot) and Semillon can give depth and complexity to Sauvignon.
On the French shelves of your local wine shop you will increasingly see a new designation called Vin de France which does not have a geographic designation.
In these wines producers often mix regions and grapes and for inexpensive wines this makes perfect sense.
Of course in Sancerre and Burgundy it isn’t possible to mix in grapes from other regions or use anything other than whatever your vineyard gives you, no matter the weather.
Another mini-trend is a move towards fresher styles. Santa Rita’s winemaker Carlos Gatica has been experimenting with lighter styles and blends in his Secret Reserve range.
He is using cool climate Casablanca and growing at altitude and in warmer areas he is dry farming to reduce yields and vigour, and mixing the cool and warm region fruit to create wines that go better with food — a welcome trend.
There is a mix of new and old world wines in my selections below, none of which I have mentioned before. The two Santa Rita wines are often on special offer at around €10 but are worth the €12 or €13 at which they usually retail.
The three over €15 are from the same producer in South East France and all contain Grenache. Red Grenache is the main grape in Cotes du Rhone and Chateauneuf-du-Pape where it is almost always blended with grapes like Syrah and Carignan. White Grenache also benefits hugely from blending as it can be rather limp on its own.
BEST VALUE UNDER €15
Santa Rita Secret Reserve White Blend, Chile — €11.99
Stockists: Tesco, Dunnes, Spar
A blend of Riesling (73%) from the cool Casablanca Valley, Viognier (18%) from the warmer Colchagua for fragrance and a small amount of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. The nose is dominated by the Viognier mixed with more steely mineral aromas from the Riesling – ripe and fresh on the palate with balance and texture and a hint of green apple on the finish.
Santa Rita Secret Reserve Red Blend, Chile — €11.99
Stockists: Tesco, Dunnes, Spar
There was no information on the exact blend but they do reveal this to be mainly Cabernet-Merlot with added Syrah, Carmenere and Petit Verdot to beef up the flavours. Ripe red fruit aromas with a touch of prunes and sweet plums – ripe and lush on the palate with a bit of structure and complexity on the middle and finish.
Vinha do Monte, Herdade do Peso 2013, Alentejo, Portugal — €14.99
Stockists: Bradleys, Amber Fermoy, 1601, Eugenes Kenmare, Baggot St. Wines, Vintry
A blend of fairly typical Alentejo grapes – Aragonez (Tempranillo), Alicante Bouschet, Alfrocheiro, Trincadeiro and some Syrah. Deep purple colour, bright fruity plum aromas, soft and ripe with a nice dark fruit intensity on the finish. Good for grilled meats and barbecues if the sun ever shines.
BEST VALUE OVER €15
Domaine Lafage Cote Est, Cotes Catalanes 2014, France — €16.99
Stockists: JJ O’Driscolls Ballinlough, Martins Fairview, Sweeneys Glasnevin, Vintry Rathgar.
A blend of Grenache Blanc, Chardonnay and Marsanne, a trio of grapes you are unlikely to find anywhere. Lemon and pear drop aromas mixed with white flowers like lilies (from the Grenache), fragrant and fruity and with just enough acidity on the finish. Try as an aperitif or with shellfish.
Domaine Lafage Cuvée Centenaire, Cotes de Roussillon 2013 — €20.99
Stockists: JJ O’Driscolls Ballinlough, Drink Store D7, Sweeneys Glasnevin, Vintry Rathgar.
More serious than its sister wine above with the white Grenache blended with 20% Roussillon which gives it a nervy edge – which white Grenache often needs.This also has floral aromas but is more mineral and fresh with lingering stony green fruits on the finish. Try with spicy food.
Chateau St. Roch “Chimères” 2012, Cotes de Roussillon Villages, France — €22.99
Stockists: Sweeneys Glasnevin, Martins Fairview, Swans on the Green Naas, Independents
A blend of 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah and 10% Carignan grown on black slate soil. Almost black in colour, aromas of blackcurrant and pencil lead with touches of coffee – ripe and soft with dark fruit on the palate with a touch of earthiness. Fine complex Grenache blend - try with grilled lamb.
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