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Copy of the newsletter sent to subcribers to the Movies and Booze segment Moncreiff show on Newstalk 106-108FM on April 8th 2011. Subscribe at email@example.com
Movies & Booze on Newstalk on the Moncreiff Show 8thApril 2011
Wine by The Gargle Guru Martin Moran MW
Manchester United beat Chelsea in the Champion’s League last Wednesday and while all the Red Devils’ Irish fans cheered there were plenty of others collectively known as ABUs (Anybody But United) whose hearts sank as Rooney slotted home the winner.
The wine world isn’t so different as Cabernet and Chardonnay were for years, you could say, the king and queen of grape varieties. They excel in their native French regions and have been copied, ie planted, all over the vinous world. Their relentless success though created something of a backlash with some consumers and critics styling themselves as ABCs (Anything But
Cabernet or Chardonnay). The problem for Chardonnay, in particular, was its ubiquitous nature – every country, A virtual A to Z from Austria to Zimbabwe was growing and selling it and the fact was that plenty of them were oaky,
bland and boring. They even named a character in the 2003 TV series ‘Footballers’ Wives’* after the grape while
Bridget Jones seemed to drink it instead of tea for breakfast. Anybody with any remote sense of cool switched off and bought something else. Pinot Grigio’s day in the spotlight was about to dawn, which is busy becoming almost as ubiquitous
and is even blander.
It’s time to then, I think, to rediscover Chardonnay. The classic examples, of course, never went away but the copycat ones have improved out of all recognition. The over oaked and over ripe tropical fruit bombs have pretty well disappeared. In their place we’re seeing more refreshing, lighter wines with less, if any, oak. Chardonnay from the New World these days tends to taste
of pear and peach rather than pineapple and melon and there’s rarely any chance of having to pick splinters out of your gums as the practice of fermenting with oak chips has all but ceased. The more expensive versions, fermented in oak barrels, tend to use fewer new barrels so the spicy vanilla character they contribute is less pervasive than ever and they’re getting harder to tell apart
stylistically from the original fancy French model.
Also, since the original Chardonnay girl Bridget Jones was first knocking it back new cooler climate regions making more refreshing styles have started sending wines here. If you see them, check out Chardonnay from Leyda, Casablanca, Bio Bio or Limari in Chile, from Tupengato in Argentina, in Australia from Tasmania, Margaret River, Yarra Valley or Adelaide Hills to name just a few or Otago or Martinborough in New Zealand. American versions tend to be expensive but can be very good. The wines of the north west from Oregon and Washington are especially good as are Sonoma, Carneros and Russian River in
The grape’s home is Burgundy and all those famous names such as Chablis, Meursault, Macon, Corton Charlemagne and Montrachet are made using the variety and all are very different. Elsewhere in France there’s an ocean of it from the south under the label Vin de Pays d’Oc but my favourites come from Limoux, where grapes grown at cooler altitude give more refreshingly acidic and Chablis like results as shown with today’s tasting.
Even if you don’t like United, ABUs have to admit they’re good at what they do and it’s about time ABCs admitted the same about Chardonnay.
Wines Tasted on The Show
Domaine Begude ‘Le Bel Ange’ Chardonnay 2010, VdP d’Oc, €8 in Superquinn.
Grown at 1000ft in Limoux this unoaked Chardonnay also has a splash of Chenin Blanc and its deliciously crisp and fresh flavours are led by citrus and pear. A bargain alternative to Chablis. One of the star buys of the current Superquinn French sale. Great with oysters or stir-fried prawns.
Lone Range ‘Heretaunga’ Chardonnay 2009, Hawkes Bay, NZ, €11.49 in M & S.
A star turn at this week’s M & S press tasting. Made for them by this critic’s favourite New Zealand producer, Craggy Range. This is barrel fermented but it’s oh so subtle with the wood adding just a gentle nuttiness and creaminess to attractive light peach fruit. You might mistake it for a smart €15-20 Burgundy if it was served blind. Serve it with fish or chicken in a creamy sauce.
Superquinn’s French sales is on at the moment. It’s virtually the same
as that last Octobe whichI reviewd on winerepublic.com. Dunnes too have a sale
on until April 12th. My advice is too ignore the alleged half price wines and pick up any of Gerard Bertand’s Art de Vivre
Corbieres/Minervois/Coteaux de Languedoc reds at €7 or their Portuguese reds.
Martin Moran MW
* in 2003 65 people in England & Wales called their daughter
Chardonnay or Chardonay (sic)! It was even 28 in 2008.
Copy of the Moncreiff show newsletter that went out after the show on October 29th
I’m tempted to say here are some monster reds for Halloween but that would be unfair, since I’d like to think that the tasted today are all well made, balanced reds rather than screamingly big and butch. Two of them, at least, should be the kind of wines that could perform as liquid central heating* if you have a party and venture outside into the freezing night air.
Today’s theme is Languedoc in Southern France. This just may be the most interesting place in France to be making wine at the moment. It’s not one of the classic regions like Bordeaux or Burgundy and has had to struggle to make a name for itself over the last decade or two. And struggle it has. In the 1980s 10% of the planet’s wine was made here and much of it contributed to the infamous wine lake. Since then many vineyards have been ripped out, some co-operatives closed and many have struggled to scratch a living. Those struggles though have perhaps made it more dynamic than the classic regions. There are a variety of appellations like Minervois, Corbières and Coteaux de Languedoc using grapes like grenache, syrah, mourvèdre, carignan and cinsault for the reds and bourboulenc, picpoul, marsanne, vermentino and grenache blanc for the whites. But, it’s also were all the varietal wines labelled as Vin de Pays d’Oc comes from and that can include almost any varietal you can think of. All in all, it gives a smart producer plenty of ammunition to work with.
I’ve just returned from working as a cellar hand for one such smart producer, Gérard Bertrand. Bertrand is a former French rugby player who, whilst still playing, inherited his family’s estate after his father’s untimely death, Domaine de Villemajou in Corbières. After his playing days he set about expanding the business and now has six estates and also works with a number of other growers and co-ops in the region. He’s mastered the trick of gaining size and scale but hanging on to the ability to make high quality, interesting, good value wines when big so often just equals bland. He has wines available in Ireland through Dunnes, O’Briens, Tesco and M & S. I found his range to be very clean modern wines, true to their origins without being over the top and extracted in an attempt to ape the success of Chile and Australia.
Another dynamic and expanding producer in the area is Laurent Miquel, whose wines you will also find in Dunnes, O’Briens and Tesco. They are based at Ch. Cazal Viel in St Chinian and have made something of a specialism of syrah for reds and viognier for whites. Laurent’s wife, Neasa is Irish and visits these shores regularly to promote their wines.
Another interesting producer to look out for is Jean Paul Mas, producer of the ‘Arrogant Frog’ range available from simplywines.ie.
Wines Tasted on the Show
Gérard Bertrand ‘Art de Vivre’ Corbieres 2008, Dunnes, €8.99, (from 3 Nov €7.99 or €14 for 2)
This is a serious bargain, as it’s produced at his original estate of Dom de Vilamajou (€16.95 in O’Briens) in the Boutenac sub district of Corbieres, which was recently elevated to a new ‘Grand Crus de Languedoc’ classification. It’s a big estate (140 ht) so not all of it can be sold under the main label at premium prices and some of it is bottled as simple Corbières and sold to supermarkets here and in France.
Laurent Miquel Nord Sud Syrah 2006, VdP d’Oc, Tesco, €9.65.
This has plenty of blackberry fruit and liquorice like spice without being as jammy or fruity as an Australian Shiraz. A good partner to hearty winter stews.
Aigle Noir Pinot Noir 2007, VdP d’Oc, M & S, €8.99.
Made at Bertrand’s estate in Limoux, Domaine d’Aigle which sells at €14.99 in O’Briens. The name means ‘Black Eagle’. This is classy pinot noir for this money with typical cherish fruit. A classic choice for duck or turkey.
*Alcohol of course doesn’t actually warm you, in fact it lowers the body’s temperature but sipping something like strongly alcoholic does give a sensation of warmth.
Martin Moran MW
http://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/a200808203.html – an article about the region by renowned writer Jancis Robinson MW who has a house in the area.
http://love-that-languedoc.com/ – a blog devoted to the region.
http://www.andrewjefford.com/node/681 – leading wine writer Andrew Jefford highlights some of the stunning and expensive wines of the Languedoc