When I tell people that I write about wine they immediately ask “how do I get a job like that?” The answer I generally give is that I have no specialist skills but I do think about the wines I taste and drink a lot more than most people.
My selections this week are from two grapes that will always make you think a little — Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Neither of these grapes are recommended for beginners and even experienced wine drinkers can be put off by overly tannic Cabernet and the petrol aromas to be found in some Rieslings, especially those with a little age.
Many German winemakers will tell you that the petrol/kerosene aroma is a characteristic of the grape, but new world winemakers (especially Australian ones) view it as a fault in very young wines and I tend to agree.
As for older wines (and all Riesling ages well), I have learned to live with it for the other complex flavours that also develop.
The petrol aroma, we now know, is trimethyldihydronaphthalene, but lets call it TDN for short.
The aroma is caused by a range of factors such as low yields, warm weather, high acids in the wine and it tends to increase as the Riesling ages in the bottle.
There is a good discussion of the subject by Tom Stephenson here — http://goo.gl/krYpZ5
Riesling is also challenging for older consumers as they assume it will be sweet like the inexpensive German wines of the 1970s and 80s. In fact these days you will struggle to find a sweet or off-dry Riesling (excluding dessert wines such as the excellent Seifried St Agnes Riesling I mentioned in December — No 21 Cork and Midleton stock it).
Lidl’s sale continues and they have some good inexpensive Bordeaux if you would like to test your palate on the king of red grapes, but remember that Bordeaux winemakers often soften out the structure of Cabernet by blending it with Merlot and the sun does this job in warmer countries like Chile and Australia
BEST VALUE UNDER €15
Vistor Wilhelm Grand Cru Rosacker Riesling 2013, Alsace — €12.99
Riesling suits Alsace well and this is a good inexpensive example with only a hint of petrol. Fine light crisp style with apple and citrus aromas and just a hint of spice — lingering sweet apple pie flavours but a dry finish.
Chateau Prieuré Blaignon 2010 Bordeaux — €10.99
The Medoc on the left bank of the Gironde Estuary is mostly Cabernet country as the stony soils suit the grape. This is a good example of a Medoc cab at a good price but made in a slightly austere style so get in some steaks to cope with the blackcurrant leaf and fruit flavours.
Aviary Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Chile — €8.99 (was €12.99)
Stockists: Carry Out and Cost Cutter Stores
I’ve mentioned the Aviary range before but not its Cabernet. The Reserva range is on special offer from March 12 until stocks last. Green bell pepper and blackcurrant fruit aromas in a solidly ripe style with some cherry and vanilla on the centre and a lingering chocolate touch to the finish.
BEST VALUE OVER €15
Domaine La Roche 2008, Pessac-Leognan, Bordeaux — €19.99
Classic pencil lead and blackcurrant aromas typical of Cabernet Sauvignon from the stony (gravelly) soils of Graves/Pessac with lots of development left. Dry chewy structure so definitely needs food and perhaps decanting an hour beforehand.
Tinpot Hut Riesling 2012, New Zealand — €19.99-€20.99
Stockists: Bradleys, Jus de Vine, Fallon & Byrne, Mortons, World Wide Wines, Florries Tramore.
Tin Pot Hut is a very consistent producer and I have recommended its Sauvignon Blanc in the past. A hint of petrol, but mostly big ripe lemon and lime aromas, sweet yellow apples on the palate with crisp and lingering tangy lemon on the finish.
Heitlinger Riesling 2013, Baden, Germany — €16.75-€17.99
Stockists: Karwigs www.karwigwines.ie, Baggot Street Wines, Deveneys Dundrum
Heitlinger Estate’s wines have appeared here before and the current vintage of its Riesling has a lovely tropical fruit aroma with touches of peach, pineapple and boiled sweets. Lively and very crisp on the palate, with a zingy fresh finish.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved