Jean Smullen reviews 2017 Lo Lo Albariño DO Rias Baixas and 2016 Chateau du Chatelard Fleurie
Today we have two wonderfully summery wines for you to try. A light refreshing crisp white from Galicia in Northern Spain and a beautiful wine from the Fleurie Cru of the Beaujolais region in France. Nothing says summer like sunshine, outdoor eating and a light fresh wine to go with your food!
2017 Lo Lo Albariño DO Rias Baixas €14.95
Stockists: Carry Out; Lilac Wines, Fairview, McHugh’s Malahide Road & Kilbarrack; Coach House, Ballinteer; Ardkeen Stores, Waterford; No 21 Group, Cork; Daly’s Boyle, Co Roscommon & many other independent off licences, nationwide
Spain has a wine culture as historic as France or Italy and offers a startling variety of wine styles and grape varieties. Spain is the second biggest country in Western Europe after France, however it is quite lightly populated which goes a long way towards explaining how it manages to have Europe's largest acreage under vine, without being Europe's largest wine producer
In addition to this, many Spanish vineyards are growing vines which are over 40 years old and therefore producing smaller yields. A good deal of work is now going on in the vineyards with new vine varieties and new training, pruning and rooting techniques.
In recent years winemakers have been quick to take new technology to their bodegas and many of the most modern wineries in Europe are now to be found in Spain.
Spain's improving reputation for white wines is largely down to two regions, Rueda and Rias Baixas. Rias Baixas (meaning high estuaries where the vineyards are planted) lies in the far north west of Spain. It is a cool verdant area, with plenty of rain, populated by Celts (quite like Ireland). The climate is cool and the best wines are light and elegant with plenty of refreshing lemony acidity. The most popular and best grape variety is Albariño, but other local white varieties such as Godello and Trexiadura make some delicious light wines.
There is a theory that Albariño was originally a clone of Riesling brought from Alsace by Cluny monks in the middle ages, other theories speculate it is related to Petit Manseng from Jurancon.
Whatever its origin Albariño is the new Sauvignon Blanc in terms of its growing popularity among white wine drinkers. The Albariño grapes for Lo Lo come from young vines in the Val do Salnés sub-region of Rías Baixas. Cool-fermented it has lovely hints of green apple, lots of acidity and gorgeous stone fruit peachy flavours, Perfect with any sort of fish dish.
2016 Chateau du Chatelard Fleurie €21.00
Stockists: Carry Out, Karwig Wines, Carriagaline, Ice Box, Balbriggan
There are lots of myths churning around the wine trade about the Beaujolais wine region. When you start working in the wine trade you learn them as follows: Beaujolais wines smell and taste of bubble gum; Beaujolais only produces red wine; Beaujolais wines don’t age; Beaujolais has 10 Cru; THAT bit is true but most people can only ever name eight of em!
After spending four days in Beaujolais recently, here is the REALITY… Beaujolais wines are enormously diverse, complex, fresh and interesting. Beaujolais does not have a “standard style”, Beaujolais wines DO age incredibly well. Beaujolais is one of the few wine regions in the world to make natural wine long before anyone knew what natural wine actually was. Beaujolais makes extremely good Chardonnay, though not a hell of a lot of it (2% of the region’s production).
Beaujolais also make very an appealing dry style rosé that would give Provence a run for its money in terms of value and quality. Beaujolais has 10 Cru and the two no one remembers are Régnié and Chiroubles, which is sad, because some of the best wines I tasted on this trip came from Chiroubles which is the Cru with the most granitic of soil. Granite based soils tend to give a softer style of Beaujolais which I personally found to be very appealing.
Just so you know, the 10 Beaujolais Cru are: Régnié, Fleurie, Saint-Amour, Juliénas, Brouilly, Côte de Brouilly, Chénas, Morgon and Moulin-à-Vent.
Today the region has in-depth soil maps which highlight the regional typicity. Gamay is a terroir transmitting grape variety which means the soil it is grown on really does matter in terms of the style of wine produced. Chalk, clay, limestone, sandstone, golden stone, volcanic rock and alluvial soil make up the vineyards to south of the region where you will find the Beaujolais AOP and Beaujolais Village vineyards. In the north of Beaujolais, the soil structure is made up of clay, granite, blue stone, pink granite, sand, limestone, and manganese-rich granite and this is where you find the cru vineyards. Another key factor influencing quality in Beaujolais is the age of the vines. Most wineries we visited had vines that were between 40 and 100 years old
The 2016 Vintage produced a fresh Beaujolais style of wine. Despite hailstorms in Spring summer brought ideal condition for ripening and hot dry weather at harvest means this wine had fine tannin, lifted fruit and perfumed aromas. One of the aromas that followed us all over Beaujolais is Peony rose, a charachteristic of many of the wines. This wonderful scented aromas was to be found in abundance. Fleurie has mainly pink granite and clay soil, the AOP was created in 1936 and Fleurie is probably the best know of the Beaujolais Cru on the Irish market. This wine shows what Gamay is capable of. A wonderfully fresh wine with loganberry flavours balanced by beautiful acidity.
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