Up until recently my favourite wine trivia question was “what is the world’s most planted grape?”
The answer used to be the Spanish grape Airen (mainly for brandy), and while Airen is now third, sadly the correct answer is more predictable — Cabernet Sauvignon.
Since the 1970s the whole wine making world has been trying to recreate the flavours of Bordeaux’s left bank and this quest has gathered pace in recent years with plantings everywhere from China to Georgia.
In 1976 California Cabernet hit the headlines for the first time when their wines beat Bordeaux in a blind tasting and in 1979 it was Torres’ black label Mas la Plana which beat out wines such as Chateau Latour and Haut Brion in a blind tasting run by French guide Gault-Millau.
The first commercial vintage of Mas la Plana was 1970 so this year they celebrate the 40th release of what is now accepted as one of the worlds great Cabernets, probably the only contender in Spain at the moment (although watch out for the likes of Vallegarcia in La Mancha).
I tasted a few of the older vintages this year, both here and in Spain and my favourite surprisingly, was the light chocolate and cinnamon touches allied to fine graphite and cedar, that were still to be found in the 1971 —remarkable, given that this was only the second vintage.
Elegance was a hallmark of all the vintages I tasted and better years such as 1982 and 1996 are still ageing well. The current release (reviewed below) is worth laying down if you have the space and patience.
All the supermarkets (especially Lidl) and most Independents have some good Bordeaux offers for Christmas and I recommend a few below along with some fellow travellers.
For the diary: Nasc, the Irish Immigrant Support Centre Wine Tasting Fundraiser in association with O’Briens Off-Licences to mark International Human Rights Day, December 12, at 6.30pm. Cost: €20; at Nasc, Ferry Lane, Dominick Street, Cork. Tel: 021-4503462, email@example.com
Wine for the Festive Season with Colm McCan and Peter Corr, at The Farmgate Restaurant, Midleton, Thursday, December 4, at 7pm. Talk & tasting, €10. Proceeds to Midleton Hospital.
Wine under €15
Crémant de Bordeaux NV, Bordeaux, France — €14.99
There are some voices in the wine world that disapprove of sparkling Sauvignon Blanc but I’m not one of them as I actually think the green apple and strong citrus flavours work with fizz. This is bone dry, has a light lemony freshness and refreshing sherbet apply fruit on the finish.
Domaine de La Bastide 2013, Coteaux d’Enserune, Languedoc — €10.00
Loupiac is the other side of the river from Sauternes and makes similar (but lighter) honeyed dessert wines. Light fragrant orange peel aromas with honeyed acacia-scented fruit on the palate and a touch of acidity. Serve chilled with mince pies, fruit based desserts or with cheese.
Domaine Bois de Roche 2013, Loupiac Cuvée Prestige, Bordeaux — €12.99
This had me fooled as I assumed it was Bordeaux given the packaging. It is in fact a Languedoc IGP (the new name for Vin de Pays) with Merlot, Cabernet and also some leavening Grenache to add some spice and softness. This is light and fruity and very good for the price.
Wine over €15
Fleur Quercas Saint-Émilion Grand Cru 2008, Bordeaux — €24.99
While 2009 and 2010 got all the publicity don’t forget that 2008 was also a very good year (2007 is best avoided). This is classic Saint-Émilion with cedar and blackberry aromas, complex ripe fruit and finely textured lingering black plum fruit flavours.
Chateau Teyssier Saint-Émilion Grand Cru — €18.99-€19.99
Stockist: O’Donovans, Jus de Vine, McCabes, Selected Independents
This is a Jonathan Malthus wine that is seriously under-priced at the moment due to over-stocking by the importer Gilbeys/Gleesons (who were recently sold to C&C). Malthus is a cult winemaker and makes up-front fruity wines. This is ripe and rich and packed with spicy soft plum flavours, recommended.
Torres Mas la Plana 2010, Penedès, Spain — €47.99
Stockists: SuperValu Skibbereen, Ardkeen Stores, Castle Off-Licence Tralee, O’Brien’s, Joyces Galway, Redmonds Ranelagh, www.wineonline.ie
The 2010 vintage in Penedès was a little cooler but fruit ripened well and Torres believe this will be a classic vintage. Dense ripe black fruit aromas with a touch of violets, complex dark fruit flavours with chocolate touches.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved