THE RETURN of the Wine Geese tastings as part of The Gathering have been the highlight of the wine year and Cork has been particularly lucky as almost all the tastings have been in the real capital.
L’Atitude 51 wine bar on Union Quay have been the driving force behind many of the tastings and I was very pleased to help present one earlier this month with wines with Philip Grant of Chateau Bellevue la Foret and Neasa Corish Miquel from Laurent Miquel.
Some of the Laurent Miquel vineyards date back to the 18th century and Philip’s vineyards are even older but there was a distinct contrast of styles in the wines they presented. Bellevue la Foret, for example, is very much cherishing tradition by focusing their efforts on the fragrant but temperamental Négrette grape native to the Fronton area, while Laurent Miquel recently planted a 14ha high altitude vineyard with Albarino from Galicia and has had huge success with his Viognier — more usually found in the Northern Rhone.
Both Philip and Neasa had interesting stories to tell about working in France and it was clear that the openness and flexibility of Irish people was a bit of a mystery to the French. L’Atitude 51 kindly provided canapés to match each wine and show off their flavours, with the Albarino and smoked salmon paté a particular highlight.
We finished with a taste of Philip’s 2009 Optimum (€35) which is a blend of Négrette, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah produced from old vines in a low yielding vineyard. The wine was dense but supple and had lovely restrained complex fruit flavours and a subtle spicy character and was a fascinating contrast to Laurent Miquel’s top wine Larmes des Fées which was more new world in style. ¦ For the diary: Thursday, Dec 5 — Wine Geese tasting by John Wilson — Ballymaloe pop-up wine shop Brown Thomas Cork, free; Friday, Dec 6 — christmas food & wine tasting — JJ O’Driscoll Ballinllough, free.
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BEST VALUE UNDER €15
Laurent Miquel Nord Sud Viognier, Languedoc — €11-€12.99
Stockists: Dunnes Stores, SuperValu, Tesco
This is well worth buying given how rare it is to find decent Viognier under €15. Night harvested to preserve acidity, fragrant ripe stewed peach aromas with weighty flavours of white peaches and ripe apples. Viognier loves air, according to Neasa, so this tastes even better decanted or the next day.Laurent Miquel Albarino, Languedoc — €11-€12.99
Stockists:Dunnes Stores, SuperValu, Tesco
Aromatic pear, peach and sweet lime aromas with good weight and character and lingering lemon zest flavours on the finish. Easily the best Albarino I’ve tasted under €15 — excellent with shellfish.Chateau Bellevue La Foret Rosé — €13.99
Stockists:1601 Kinsale, Ardkeen Stores Waterford, O’Donovans, Drink Store D7, Martins Fairview
Made with 50-60% Negrette along with Gamay and Cabernet Franc. Juicy red fruit aromas, including red currants and raspberries — soft ripe fruit on the palate, but with good grip and a dry finish. This is my favourite match for spicy winter-warming Indian curries and Thai or Vietnamese food.BEST VALUE UNDER €25 La Foret Royale 2008 — €16.99-€17.99
Stockists:O’Donovans, 1601 Kinsale, Ardkeen Stores Waterford, Drink Store D7, Vintry Rathagar, Martins Fairview
Made from 55% Négrette and 45% Syrah. Dark red colour with aromas of liquorice, tobacco and spice along with black and red fruits. Ripe on the palate with solid supple fruits and a slight peppery finish with a hint of chocolate. Drink with a rich winter casserole.Larmes des Fées 2006, Henri et Laurent Miquel, 100% Syrah — €25
From an ancient vineyard with low yields — ripe cassis and plum aromas with herbal touches, full-on sweet dark fruit and a lingering spiciness.Chateau Hourtou, Cotes de Bourg Bordeaux 2010 — €19.99
Stockists:Vintry Rathgar, selected independents
Classical Bordeaux aromas of pencil parings, plum and blackcurrant fruits, green pepper and cedar. On the palate the wine is restrained but complex with touches of spice and sweet baked fruits. Good Bordeaux is getting harder to find under €20 so watch out for this one.
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