Old World Charm
John Pierce

Star ratings have been kindly contributed by three colleagues with different scoring systems so rather than try to average them I'm publishing all three.  They are RS - out of three; MD - out of four and JH - out of  ten. With the exception of the first party they are all much more generous with stars than I.  And a bit of difference of opinion is good too.

1. Domaine des Brosses, Alain Girard, Sancerre, 2004
RS , MD , JH 7/10

Domaine des Brosses is 9 ha on limestone at the foot of the Sancerrois slopes; The winery has been here since 1875. Alain Girard took it over and got his AoC in 1973. It has two vaulted cellars said to merit a visit and an enormous cedar of Lebanon. This is classical Sauvignon Blanc: Cut grass dominates, with gooseberries, cat's p***, , asparagus, green apple, green leaves, grapefruit. An elegant softness and wonderful mouth feel follow. Girard’s wines are renowned for their richness and purity of fruit. A very classy wine. Some thought it lacked complexity.
Jus de Vine €15.99, McCabes  €16.99

2. Sipp Mack Pinot Blanc, Alsace, 2004
RS , MD, JH 8/10

Domaine Sipp Mack is owned and worked by brothers Jacques and Vincent Sipp, the 9th generation of a winemaking dynasty stretching back to the 17th century. The estate, based in the picture-postcard village of Hunawihr, comes from their mother's family, the Macks. She married Jean-Francois Sipp from nearby Ribeauvillé, and the name Sipp-Mack was adopted. The estate covers 17 ha, with vineyards in Hunawihr, including just under a ha of Riesling in the Grand Cru of Rosacker, as well as in Ribeauvillé and Bergheim. The Pinot Blanc is pale yellow. Aromas of acacia flowers and pears. Well balanced palate with good acidity and long finish. Residual sugar: 10.4 g/l. Sipp Mack wines are always over the top, in the most fantastic way. Try their Gewurtz – It’s amazing!
Jus de Vine, Mitchells €12.99

3. Herrenweg de Turckheim, Muscat, Domaine Zind-Humbrecht, 1997
RS , MD , JH 8/10

Well, Muscat tastes of grapes. Pat Smith, one of our local Rhone experts, recently gave a passionate exposition of ‘all wine tastes of grapes’, but … Olivier Humbrecht has won wine maker of the year so many times that it's embarrassing. He won the Legion d'Honneur a few years ago as well. Even his Sylvaner is better than many a Gewurtz. Parker says it’s past maturity, gives it 89/100, and - I quote – “Phenomenal aromas of tangerines, acacia blossoms, and sweet cherries explode from the 1997 Muscat Herrenweg de Turckheim. Since older vines produce lower yields and Muscat generally sells for a pittance compared to other varieties, Alsatians tend to replace their vines that are older than 25 years. This wine, crafted from 50 year old vines, has an intensely assertive character crammed with candied orange zests and spices. It is concentrated, massively flavorful, and exceptionally long in the finish. One of the few wines to work with asparagus, it can also be matched with spicy foods, or as an aperitif.”
Jus de Vine, Mitchells €29.99 (all gone!)

4. Bonizio, Sangiovese de Maremma, Toscana, 2003
RS , MD , JH 6/10

Recommended by Tomás Clancy recently, a Sangiovese at this price has to be worth a try. If I think Sangiovese I think Italy, Tuscany and Chianti. Another value Tuscan wine made from the region's classic grape, this has sweet ripe berry aromas, and on the palate develops some nice raspberry flavours and a soft finish. Approachable now but with potential for ageing.
Maremma is the south-east of Tuscany, near the sea (although the vineyard is a bit inland). Produced by Cecchi using modern vinification.
Dunnes Stores €8.99

5. Pesquera Tinto, Crianza, Ribera del Duero DOC, 2002
RS , MD , JH 8/10

This is from the people who bring you Condado da Haza, El Vínculo and Dehesa La Granja. Cherry red colour reveals its youth and fruitiness. Its aspect is clean and appears to be glyceric. The wine’s intense bouquet reveals the best dark fruit marked by impeccable wood aromas. Hints of fallen leaves and spices such as vanilla. Starts off smoothly, becomes lush with abundant ripe tannins and an excellent balance between its acidity and alcohol content. Have with roasts, farmyard poultry, veal stews as well as semi-cured cow’s and goat’s cheese. Tempranillo 100%; 13% Vol.; Eighteen months in new American oak barrels and 6 months in the bottle.
Jus de Vine €19.99

6. Torres Nerola, DO Penedes, 2000
RS , MD , JH 8/10

I think it’s fascinating that the Torres website is in Spanish, Catalan, English and Swedish! This is Syrah and Monastrell – which is now known to be unrelated to Mourvedre. I wanted to do their white Xarello/Garnacha but couldn’t find any. Pleasing notes of fruit (raspberry, ripe cherry) on a backdrop of toast and spices reminiscent of mocha coffee and vanilla, acquired during its ageing in French oak. As it says on the bottle, its velvety palate is complemented by its firm and elegant body. The Mas Nerola vineyard is situated in Conca del Barberà, within Middle Penedès. The 78 hectares, situated at 480 metres above sea level produce Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Parellada, Garnacha Tinta & Syrah
Jus de Vine €19.99

7. Villa Tonino Baglio Curatolo, Nero d'Avola, Sicilia IGT, 2003
RS , MD , JH 7/10

Beautiful deep red. Dense and concentrated. Big, beefy, cherry and prune flavour with refreshing acidity. Rich and ripe with plenty of spicy fruit. Good bitter finish. A food wine with a modern feel. Very good. 13.5% According to David Whelehan “the one grape which defines the Sicilian character … a wonderful, black grape with a true personality. Aromatic, dark, mildly spicy and reminiscent of ripe, black cherries, Nero d'Avola also shows pronounced hints of earthiness and liquorice.” Decanter says: “Warm, rich, herbaceous and toasty. Dense and concentrated with layers of spicy tannic flavour. Drink 2007-10.” The Curatolo family has been producing excellent Marsala and creditable wine for over a century. Since 1999, consultant winemaker Alberto Antonini has brought modern winemaking skills. Oak aged for six months and made with minimal handling.
Imported by Liberty Wines; good off-licences €1

8. Jean Leon Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva, DO Penedes, 1983
8a. 1979
(beat the '83 into a cocked hat, IMHO)
RS , MD, JH 4/10
I took a risk with the ’79 and it was brilliant – dreamily good and no signs of fading (apart from one dissenter). Brilliant red colour with ochre rim, a sign of its oak ageing. Intense varietal aroma, complex, with notes of quince jam and prunes, reinforced by the aromas of oak ageing (vanilla, toast, smoke, etc.). On the palate it offers a meaty and velvety attack. Good structure with sweet tannins, accompanied by notes of quince and dried fruits (toasted hazelnuts), it retains good ageing potential, with a long, persistent and pleasing aftertaste. 85% Cab Sauvignon; 15% Cab Franc: Controlled temperature fermentation in stainless steel vats with maceration with the skins for around two weeks and later ageing for 2 years in French and American 230-litre oak casks. Bottled in May of the third year in the winery with a minimum of 2 years further bottle ageing before release from the winery. Alcohol 13.5 - 14° vol; Serve 18º - 20ºC. Ideal for fine game, all types of meat, especially red meat, poultry, stews, rice dishes and cured cheeses. From Torres!
Some history:  Travelling as a stowaway in a merchant vessel, young Ceferino Carrión (Jean Leon) made his way to New York City and later to Los Angeles in the 1940s. He found work as a waiter at Villa Capri, a typical haunt for young Hollywood stars. It was here that he met the likes of Judy Garland, Grace Kelly and most importantly, James Dean, who would later enter into a partnership with Jean Leon to open one of Hollywood's most luxurious restaurants, La Scala, in 1956. La Scala was a Beverly Hills landmark, frequented by actors, famous directors and influential politicians. With all this fame, one thing was still lacking for Jean Leon: finding the "perfect wine" to suit his taste to be served at the tables of his dearest friends. This led him to embark on a journey around the world to find the best land suitable for growing grapes and making wine. The journey returned him to his native Spain, to the heart of Catalonia, where he purchased 150 acres and set up a winery using not the native grapes of the region, but noble French varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnday).
Current vintages from Mitchells €21 - 23.  Various old vintages from the winery at €24 - 34

9. Crozes Hermitage, Tête de Cuvée, Yann Chave, 2003
RS , MD, JH 8½/10

Remember the Gerard Chave white Hermitage? No relation to the maker of my favourite white Hermitage, this guy knows how to make wine. The basic Crozes Hermitage has a nose of not-quite-ripe berry fruit; more like a green fruit pastille as it warmed up. Big hit of ripe fruit on the palate, with crunchy tannins and a good burn (13.5%) This is 100% Syrah from the North Rhone. Today managed by the son, Yann Chave, the domaine continues to progress adhering to a strict vine cultivation process (organic fertilizing, care of the terroir) and wine-making process (no yeast). The Tête de Cuvée is his top wine; unfortunately it’s exceptionally hard to get from the importers, Woodford Bourne (who caused me a lot of grief but delivered in the end).
Jus de Vine, On the Grapevine €25

10. Domaine Claire Mayol, Vin Doux Naturel, Albert Mayol, Banyuls
RS , MD , JH 10/10

I would normally use Domaine de la Rectorie, Cuvée Parcé Frères, but since Colm Brangan – a very nice man - went out of business I’ve been unable to get it.  I had to go to the maker of this rather excellent alternative, Jean-Philippe Saguy, for these notes:  Encepagement: 100 % Grenache Noir. Terroir: Coteaux en terrasses, face à la mer, exposition sud, terre schisteuse. Vinification: Longue macération de 30 jours après mutage sur grains. Elevage: 12 mois en fûts de chêne puis conservation en cuve à température constante en cave Mariages: Apéritif, melon, foie gras, desserts, chocolat. Service 16/17°C.  We tried it with 70% cocoa chocolate. Absolutely gorgeous (with or without the chocolate).
Mitchells €20

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